I used to work at a company where some of the guys in engineering and tech pubs (my department) frequently went to lunch with people from nearby companies. The reasons aren’t important, but it was a cool community of friends.

One day we got an email from one of the group saying he couldn’t make it to lunch. He said, “OBE.” The next time I saw him, I asked what those letters meant. He said, “Overcome By Events.” I thought that was pretty funny, because when I was studying metaphysics in college OBE was the abbreviation for “Out of Body Experience.” (Yep, my minor in philosophy included coursework in topics such as telekinesis, bilocation and astral projection. It was a hoot.)

Separation of the cognitive from the corporeal is not what’s been keeping me from blogging. I’ve been overcome by events. Busy. Distracted. So it goes. I’ll try to settle down now and think of something to post, something for us to think about.

Have you ever felt that you are not yourself, or not in yourself? It’s possible, don’t you think? Apocryphal teachings of the Christian Church include tales of pious people who were in two places at the same time, or who traveled great distances at impossible speeds, without vehicles. Such are supernatural events, and it’s hard to believe in God and dismiss the paranormal. And if we accept that our bodies are ours but we are not in them, or that we transcend them at death, then perhaps we can transcend them in life as well.

Anyway, like I said, I’ll sit down soon and try to think of something for us to ponder.

Peace. Kyle out.

Decisions, decisions

Check out this link, the first case of an accident involving Google’s self driving car.


It’s clear that the Google car rear-ended another Prius. It’s not clear whether the other car stopped short or the Google car failed to stop. Either way, it led me to what I think is an interesting thought experiment.
Imagine you’re driving down a city street at 35 mph. On your right is a family with a baby carriage and a toddler, walking on the sidewalk. Coming in the opposite direction, meaning on your left, is a large commercial truck.

As you near the walking family, the toddler suddenly breaks from the group and runs right in front of you. There’s no way you can stop in time to avoid hitting him. You’re going to have to change direction too.
If you steer right, you wipe out Mom, Dad, and baby. If you steer left, you hit the big truck head on. If you do neither, you wipe out the little kid. You have 1 second to decide.

I hope that my brain would steer left. Save the pedestrians. Chances are at 35 mph and slowing, the driver of the big truck will be OK. And maybe he’ll see the child too, brake and steer to his right, reducing the impact somewhat. That would be nice.

The conundrum arises because this is a moral decision, not a pragmatic one. It’s a self-sacrifice, choosing not the path of least resistance but the path of the greater good.

Some people might choose to go straight ahead, or turn right. I’m not saying that’s wrong. There are arguments to make that justify that course. We’ll skip them here.

The question is this: Would a car driven by a computer be able to make a decision like that? I doubt it, don’t you? So I think self-driving cars are cool, very interesting, but they can’t replace the instinctive judgment of having a human being behind the wheel.


PCWorld: One of Google’s self-driving cars got into an accident earlier this week. But Google is claiming the auto-pilot-equipped Prius was actually flipped into manual mode when the accident happened, making this a case of user error.

Repent and Be

If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.

– Albert Camus, writer, philosopher, Nobel laureate (1913-1960)

We don’t get to see Camus quoted very often, do we? And did you know he had a Nobel Prize? I’d forgotten.  Pretty good for a guy who died at the age of 47.

It is a hard thing, not to be like a dog, always on the wrong side of the door. Or always at the end of a leash which ends no closer than Oh that’s not close enough to the best place on the planet to pee.

I joke, but I’m guilty of forgetting that peace lives in acceptance, and surrender to a Power Greater than myself. That’s how to see “the implacable grandeur of this life.”

good deeds

My thought for the day was:

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.
– Albert Einstein

I don't think that's why people are good. Well, first of all I think people are inherently good. Have you ever met a baby who wasn't? So let's boil about half of all philosophy down into a nutshell and say that we're born good, and as we grow up we learn we ought to try to stay good. And by the time we're young adults, we know that good is as good does. Just like mean is as mean does, stupid is as stupid does, etc.

Where do you suppose we are most likely to see examples of lives lived in the path of goodness vs. evil in modern times? YouTube, of course, or TV. Like this cool commercial from Liberty Mutual.

If only we could go through our days so keenly aware of the needs of those around us, and so ready to support and empower them. They made another one, just as good.

Makes you want to get out and walk around downtown, doesn't it?

I know, I'm getting chances just as good, though maybe no so worthy of a soundtrack, and I'm blowing most of them off. Was I as kind today as I could have been? No. But somebody did pause and let me merge into traffic, so maybe tomorrow it will be my turn.

I wonder how Liberty Mutual's day went. Let's hope they didn't deny any claims for no good reason. Because the Bible teaches us that the Lord is not big on such irony.

the bird’s paradox

Once upon a time, there was a rich man who lived in a great house. Every morning for a long time, there was a bird singing beautifully in a tree outside his bedroom window. He woke to the bird’s song, and it was lovely. It gave him hope.

One morning, he noticed the bird’s song was weaker, and the next day it was weaker still. It was obviously unwell. So the rich man decided he had to help the bird; after all, he had become very attached to the creature, and he was very rich and powerful. He knew what was best. He ordered his servants to carefully capture the bird, bring it inside in a cage, and nurse it back to health. Specifically, he ordered that the bird be fed the best meat, and served his best wine. In a few days, the bird was dead.

What does this, paraphrased from the writings of Chuang Tzu, tell us? Maybe that we should avoid the temptation to see the world as an extension of human existence; that we are pilgrims in a strange land. Maybe that action and inaction are the same. Or maybe this:

We are many, and we are one; we are one, and we are different.

Ah yes, I like that. Now what does that teach us about moral action in this world at war?