A Reflection on SOPA/PIPA Protest Day (Jan. 18, 2012)

Here's a prediction:

At some point in the next five years, the internet will declare war on some other entity, such as a country. 

Yes, I realize that “the internet” does not have a unified political will. But I am considering Marshall McLuhan's statement “The medium is the message.” There are going to be differences in emphasis between various online power groups, but they will all understand that their existence can be threatened by the old guard with their old-style politics.

They're already threatened by people with big money — that's what SOPA/PIPA is all about, isn't it? And with Wikipedia's black-out protest, and the associated copy-cat protests, they're striking back. It's a minor thing this time, but ... next time?

I predict that SOPA/PIPA will get passed within 4 years, in some diluted form, probably with different names, because the power of money is, well, powerful!  And then the rascally tech-heads out there will find work-arounds, such as underground, possibly distributed, DNS servers. If things get really bad, some hackers will set up a parallel internet, using packet radio perhaps.

It's just the old “copy protection wars” writ large, isn't it? Somebody makes a lock, then somebody figures out how to pick that lock.

Let's see how good I am at being a clairvoyant prophet. I'd rather be wrong, this time. But we'll see.


Kentucky Koan Dog

Story # 1

The old man was asked about having his house broken into by thieves. They had been startled to find him in the front room, asleep in his armchair, alongside his ancient dog, who was also asleep. When asked why he kept the dog, he said, “We'll both die in a while, but if she's awake that might be a while longer.”

Story # 2

When asked,“Does your dog have a soul? Does it have Buddha nature?” the old man laughed. “You can take that up with her.”


Way Clever

A million zillion pieces of stupid
making one piece of intelligent.
A thundering herd of industrious ants
Carrying off your picnic.

Thank you, Mark Ty-Wharton, for the idea behind this one.


How Much Thought?

How much thinking is actually necessary?

An iguana, when it catches a largish fly going by, might have a moment's satisfaction. Its satisfaction (and perhaps ours, too) is a lessening of desire. The iguana has eaten that fly and is less hungry by that amount. If there is no peril the iguana ceases thinking.

But it is not inert! On the contrary, it is alert! It is listening, watching, aware to its surroundings. This is all it actually needs at this moment. So, no thinking.

Inside the Iguana

It is tempting for us humans to see an iguana sitting there and suppose that it is having deep thoughts about the universe. But it's far more likely that it is not thinking. No thought is happening.

Inside that iguana's brain, nothing is being modeled apart from the present moment. It doesn't have to project into the future because it doesn't have to work out:

“Where will that fly be, given its speed and probable trajectory, so I can aim my tongue precisely to that point (allowing for the travel time of my tongue as affected by wind and my general well-being)?”

What, you thought it was easy being an iguana? When they need to think about the future, they do so. And they're darn good at it.

Note: Iguanas do not actually think in English. 

Inside the Human

Of course, iguanas don't have the options that humans do. 

Does our bonanza of options mean we should be thinking continually (or nearly so)? Alternatively, can the thinking actually end when it becomes overly arbitrary? Is the thinking ever … done?

Part of the mind — call it ego or programming or whatever — refuses to accept that the thinking might actually be “done.” It will cheerfully get out of the way for a while, particularly if this results in pleasure. But it does not want to be turned off and called up by some other part. It does not want to, well, die. It cannot let go. 

And yet … “it” does let go, sometimes. We've known moments of peace. Why does “it” always come back?

Some sages seem to be saying that it will always be there. But it doesn't have to co-opt the survival instinct, arrogating unto itself the necessity to live, live, live!

It doesn't clearly see that its abeyance is not truly its death. It does not see that it is part of a larger organism,  which can call upon it when it is needed. It does not trust this process, even though it has seen it happen.

It does not see that I, and it, exist as part of a larger context.

Outside the Human

What does it want with me? Oh, yeah, it's made of memes. It's surviving.

It's just another bunch of replicators, doing what replicators can evolve to do: survive. And if that means invading an organism's brain and co-opting its survival instinct, so be it.

This is survival we're talking about. Yes, even memes about love and puppies must infect countless hosts to have a fair chance of being passed on. The better a meme convinces an organism to identify with it, the better its survival rate.

The Blex

The organism can realize that it is spending a whole lotta time on a one-subject thought. Wouldn't the organism get bored with thinking about the same thing? Apparently not. The organism might, however, notice that the memetic infection is rather costly, despite the rewards it offers.

And such rewards it offers! I'm reminded of the story of Jesus taken atop a high place by The Devil, and shown all that could (in theory) be his!

Hmm. What shall we call “it”, though? I won't call it “The Devil”, because that's a fictional character. I won't call it “ego”, because that might sound like something entirely inside us. What is “it,” really?  It is almost entirely made of replicators from outside the physical organism. It doesn't really matter what we call it, but let's call it something. I call it The Blex.  (Short for The Belief Expanse. If you don't like that name, you can call it The Collective Mind or whatever.)

The Blex's program, if activated, offers rewards of accomplishment, riches, sexual excitement, triumph, victory! All this can (in theory) be yours! All you must do is run The Blex's program!

Note: Let's not blame the outside world for the entirety of The Belief Expanse — The Blex. Many beliefs I infer from my life's “story.” I have nobody to blame for these beliefs but myself, but they all get tossed together into a big belief salad. Your beliefs would infect me if they could, and vice-versa. Hence, it's all The Blex.

How Much Guidance?

Unless we opt to live in isolation on an island, some parts of the program (such as social rules) are necessary; some (like how to make fire or operate a computer) are useful. How do we keep only the parts that are edifying? To put it another way, can we pare down the program load to a bare minimum? If so, who  or what decides which bits continue to guide us?

It makes no sense for the program itself to choose which bits are kept resident, but this is indeed what we do. Constantly. In fact, many times we have become confused and genuinely believed that we were the program. A case of mistaken identity! But alongside all that nonsense going on inside us, there's that other part — that right-brainy part, perhaps — that seems capable of deciding when to call up which bit. 

In times of crisis, what is guiding us? When a seemingly higher ability takes us over, and there's no time to think or even feel but still we do the right thing ... what is guiding us?


It seems to me that in such cases a humble, unadorned, unthinking part of us is choosing which bits of the program are relevant. Call it “right brain” if that works for you. If you want to say, “But that's Jesus inside me, guiding me!” (or Jehovah, or Allah, or Pure Doingness) go ahead; this article's almost over.

Could we to some extent actually live in that highly effective state? How much thinking is actually necessary?