Your apparent aversion to computers and technology in general is understandable in the face of the B.S. we all get from technocrats, bureaucrats, etc. But Robert M. Pirsig really had the right ideas about technology. Maybe we should fear it, but that doesn’t mean one should retreat from it, run away from it.
Buddha or God is — or can be — in the machine, too. Machines aren’t totally devoid of personality or even soul — if the machine user enters into a personal relationship with God.
All the same, I must take strong exception to the notion that computers can really think on their own, that artificial intelligence is a kind of life or consciousness.
Here’s a quote from J.R. Lucas, Oxford philosopher. I got it from D.R. Hofstadter’s, Godel, Escher, Bach.
Hofstadter is wrong because his whole book is, from one point of view, a long-winded and hypocritical critique of Lucas (hypocritical because while he pokes fun at Lucas’ erudition, his whole book is saying, “Hey, you can’t have a thought-out position if you don’t know all this that I know.”). From another point of view, on the grand dialectic of things, Hofstadter’s book is entertaining and thought-provoking.
But anyway, based on what I know about the debate (and computers in particular), Lucas is right:
However complicated a machine we construct, it will, if it is a machine, correspond to a formal system, which in turn will be liable to the Godel procedure for finding a formula unprovable-in-that-system. This formula the machine will be unable to produce as being true, although a mind can see it is true. And so the machine will still not be an adequate model of the mind. We are trying to produce a model of the mind which is mechanical — which is essentially “dead” — but the mind, being in fact “alive,” can always go one better than any formal, ossified, dead system can. Thanks to Godel’s theorem, the mind always has the last word.
Just got Issue 99 of The Sun and wanted to say Whoopie! A get-down-and-boogie issue! Your piece (you seem comfortable writing longer — do it some more . . . what the hell, you own it); Bo Lozoff’s accurate and congenially loud-mouthed appreciation of the “New Age”; and Steven Hendlin’s letter-response to Lozoff’s earlier criticisms (I sometimes wonder if those of us along the spiritual circuit don’t go a little knee-jerk negative when psychologists, philosophers, etc. investigate our turf with carefully-defined terms that may, but do not necessarily, betoken an untutored, heartless, neurotic, ’fraidy-cat academic) . . . all of it made me feel as if I’d just finished a good, filling, and spicy meal. No pablum parlor this! Keep the pepper coming!
I’m always interested in what Robert Bly (Issue 96) has to say because invariably he challenges some of my basic beliefs. However, I feel The Sun interviewer let Bly escape unchallenged on some pretty off-the-mark statements.
When Bly said, “Rather than getting a massage to remove tensions . . . you could say what’s the matter with tensions in the body?”, or described bathing negative emotions in “the violet light of the heart” as revolting, or reacted against hiring someone “to teach us to think intuitively,” I wanted more from the interviewer than just placid agreement.
Well, Robert, you can keep your tensions and your negative emotions, you can play out your fantasies about doing battle with dragons. Keep on writing poetry, and tell us more about dealing with masculine energies. But when it comes to spiritual matters I look to higher authorities than you. I have my doubts about someone who is still hunting and killing animals, renovating his sauna, and caught in admiration of grief as being the door to the emotions. I question whether such a person is truly progressing on his path, and I don’t respect his opinion as to how I should travel mine.
I’m still young but I recognize age doesn’t necessarily mean wisdom or right choices. I examine my negative emotions, let some of them ride their course, bathe others in white light, accept my errors, ride my dragons instead of fighting them, give and get massages because I feel tensions are not a penance we must pay for being alive in our bodies. Most of all, I view my drama cheerfully, recognizing that life is pretty humorous.
I still loved the article because it was challenging.
In this past year my immediate universe has been torn asunder. Personal physical pain. My vigil as my husband battles cancer. My astonishment as our lake floods and endangers home and property.
Throughout all this, your little magazine sustained me. The coming year will be reflective as I analyze the changes brought about by stress.
My cup is always half full — negative and positive. I struggle on to keep a balance with the positive on the top.
I wanted to thank you for the Editor’s Note on Fighting (Issue 99). Fear is something you don’t hear men speak about very much. Consequently, I feel very isolated in my fears at times.
I have always been afraid. I think the bullies have always been able to sense this, even today. I know the avoidance, the humiliation, and the hoping it will go away. I even know the conflict about taking karate.
Three years ago, I started taking karate. A year later, a friend introduced me to The Sun. It wasn’t long before I started reading some books and then wondering if I should be involved with something like karate. Well, I’m still with karate and I’m still with The Sun.
I stayed with The Sun because I enjoy it, learn from it, and it helps me get through some rough times. And the same is true for karate. Thanks again for sharing your fears and thanks for The Sun.
I’m down at school this gray Thanksgiving morning to try and clear my desk so that I can be out of town next week and not come back to even larger stacks. I found your request for help about halfway through the clutter and decided that I had procrastinated long enough in responding. I have written down two names of teachers who might subscribe and would like to order a gift subscription for a minister friend who cannot afford a subscription.
My daughter, Sarah, introduced me to The Sun several years ago when she worked for you while she was a student at Duke. Ever since then I have been a regular reader. It’s hard to express the ways your magazine reaches out to me. All I can say is that it is unlike anything else I read. It simultaneously supports my journey to be alive and healthy in a predominantly sick society and challenges me to stay in that society and exercise what gifts I have to help make it healthier.
The Sun is necessary. Keep your voice.