The individual

The big difference between the West and the Rest is the concept of the individual. Something that has been ‘forgotten’ or more realistically ‘suppressed’ in this our ‘post modern’ world. It is something easily missed if you do not have a rich background not in pure history but in social, economic, philosophic and practical history.

Starting with ‘the rest’ there is what is most likely an evolutionary base state of biological relatives, clan and tribe, those who we are of and who we know.

For a million years our ancestors operated in family groups, hunting groups, nomadic bands, of varying sizes and proximity depending on resources and most likely personal power. The family group was the natural base unit, not our family of mother and father but a more power based prime and his or her immediate family and then close relatives and a relational entourage.

While in the most basic state this family group could be either maternal or paternal in nature in most cases it would be physical in basis and paternal, with occasions where circumstances lead to a maternally lead or co leadership. Not getting into the development of language and our brain it is very likely that this development was biased by the ‘natural’ circumstances and lead to a paternal bias.

In the nomadic hunter gatherer state there is no real demarcation between family discipline, clan rule and religion, it is all one and the world is alive with thinking alien beings because our ancestors would have no conception of self as different from other. Superstition, ghosts, magic are all in the world. Like us these people would tend to idealize the past and childhood and so elders and then those who have passed develop a powerful mystique leading to ancestor worship.

As sedentary habits developed along with more complex societies and more hierarchy, ancestor worship tends to develop a formalized place in the society and the head of the family develops a priest like persona. As the hierarchy develops with time and population the family heads of the leading families develop into an aristocracy. Hierarchy being ‘natural’ the head of family is the most important figure and all others subsidiary. Often the mate of the leader is next most important, often symbolically, sometimes with nominal power. Then come heirs and possible heirs along with direct and near relatives. Then depending on the circumstances of time and history, would come lesser relatives, entourage members, hangers on, servants…slaves.

Thus evolves the PaterFamilias the GodFather, the ClanHead the chief, the chieftain, the king. As the sedentary society develops to a certain extant it becomes more possible for some surplus of resources to be accrued and then used. This may be communal at first but the chief has a big say and the chief can use the surplus to ‘pay’ for certain things. For protection, psychic, physical, social. As in any possible society the chief has a small inner circle, the circle members have circles. The nearer the chief you are the more power you are likely to have. Though, as with feral cliques today, individual members may be extremely marginal to the group.

This is the world we first start to see in recorded history. These societies became highly sophisticated and wide spread though far from global, or even continental in scope. In these societies the head of family was the only really important person, all others were subordinate with their self defined by their relationship (inherent and developed) to the head the main measure of their importance. They were not individuals they were members of sub classes and ‘knew their place’ in the society and would act to suppress anyone who stepped out of line, because it destroyed that understanding of worth.

Even the PaterFamilias was defined by position and if they fell from that position they were essentially non persons. This is something one should take into account when reading history in this historical past, actions that to us seem illogical were often driven by what we might see as a pathological need to maintain their place in society. It happens today but it is really pathological now because we should not define ourselves by our position and relation to others, though we do, a ‘natural’ hang over from our deep deep past.

In that world the old gods, demigods, demons etc explained much that had once been explained by animistic magic. It was always about heirarchy and your position vs the ‘real power.’

Into this world came the monotheistic religions. There were multiple starts and they most likely had philosophical links one to the other over hundreds or even a few thousand years. But eventually there was Judaism with its powerful emphasis on the god and a personal relationship to god for all members of the faith, though the relationship has a strong blood line connection which limited the impact. Then came Christianity which expanded the potential for membership to all mankind.

We can talk forever about the reality of the Christ and the Resurrection and many other events of the epoch but they are beyond the scope of this discussion. What the church that Paul created out the fabric of Jesus of Nazareth’s life did, was call out to those who felt hollow in the ancient regime, whose life as defined by their relationship to the PaterFamilias was empty of real meaning. Everyone has worth, everyone has a connection to the Christ, to God. You have inherent value equal to anyone else but no more, you are responsible for your actions and responsible for what you leave behind in this world.

And because Paul ended his apostolic work in Rome he established what was to become the path to the individual. Rome tried to suppress Christianity but eventually, through the back door of mothers and servants, saints and heroes, it built an eminence that forced the emperor to become Christian. Probably in the hope of subverting the faith but in the very long run with the result of it becoming a form of government unto itself separated from the political world. Over a thousand years and more the Catholic (universal) Church grew and spread and reached out first across Rome and then Rome and Byzantium and then far beyond the original secular boundaries. And the bishops and their clerks did battle (usually on paper or papyrus) with the emperors, kings, dukes, caliphs, to establish the Church as responsible for the soul of all the people, high and low, while the secular rulers were responsible for right rule and ‘happiness’ of the people.

Unintentionally this developed into a foundational philosophy that defines ‘the West.’ That every person is an individual with rights and worth that are equal before God (the universe) and before the Law (the government, other people.) It also definitively decided the secular and the sacred as two realms that should not intersect. The sacred should not Rule the Secular, the Secular cannot rule the Sacred. They are different realms one focused on the individual re the Universe. The other the integration of individuals in society.

If you look out across the world, Asia, Africa, Pacifica and pointedly the Islamic world, this evolution of the Individual, and its concomitant separation of secular and personal/sacred/religion, never occurred. It is a thing that people see when described, and feel once embedded in it but it is not native to those societies. It is something quite antithetical to some of those societies while quite easily integrated in others

Islam has Sharia, demanding obedience to the one God and a hierarchy of subservience that is at odds with the individual and the separation of the secular and sacred. You have Asia which, generically and simplistically, subsumes the secular and sacred in the nation/government/hierarchy and expects the individual to ‘worship’ this gestalt (in many ways very much like Marxism.) You have much of the rest of the world ‘Africa and Pacifica’ which is still extremely tribal, with a headman and hierarchy, where the perceived ‘cult’ of the individual is destructive in that it makes the cannon fodder think they have value.

So what?

I claim that the West is defined in part, by one very simple concept. That the individual has value in and of themself. Every person matters however young or old, damaged or heroic. That a closely related principle is that the secular and sacred realms do not overlap other than in the individual and thus are separate spheres as the individual is sovereign.

Every person has value to the universe and to society. Every person is responsible for themselves in the ‘eyes’ of the universe and society. No one can be responsible for any other responsible individual.

The problems I see in the ‘West’ today are caused by a long term breakdown of education and social learning due to both knowing and unknowing destruction of teaching the young and educating the populous.

We spout platitudes about individual rights and responsibility but do not root that in a social fabric. We have allowed our societies enemies to take the reins of education both active (schools) and passive (media) and trash the reality of what came before in the banal hope that ‘a better idea’ is in the wings. The enemy boosts the narcissistic tendencies of Individualism, see gender bending, et al, to destroy the root concept of the individual as having Value in the eyes the Universe (God) and society.

The espousal of individual value is the most powerful concept in our society. This does not mean that we are free of all bonds, we are responsible for ourselves as well and that means responsible for our mind, body, family, society and universe inasmuch as it touches us. But if everyone has value then every last pervert, criminal, fool, teacher, hero is of value independent of their being or history. Self aware machines would fall under this, as well as every human ever conceived and every living thing…this does not mean we have to starve because the lettuce plant might ‘want’ to go to seed on down the line to some reasonable level of ethical behavior on our part and the part of society.

I leave you to think about this, I am putting this down as my understanding right now. Not some timeless philosophy of all. And i understand that some ramifications of the above are unsettling but that is the way of the world we live in, there is no perfection, just striving.

Paradox of the state

The paradox is that we must judge the state not according to what we would do if we controlled it, but in the light of what it could do if our enemies controlled it. It’s existence, like nuclear weapons become a factor in itself. The playwright Robert Bolt understood what the Bolivarians did not: the state can be dangerous unless it can be made predictable. As one of Bolt’s plays puts it: “the law is not a ‘light’ for you or any man to see by; the law is not an instrument of any kind. …The law is a causeway upon which, so long as he keeps to it, a citizen may walk safely.”

Batteries Batteries Batteries 

A good artcle on batteries in Power Electronics, triggered by  the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Debacle, and the not to distant past mess with the ‘hover board’ craze. The article links to a pretty detailed recent study of coming high power density battery technologies.   

The eMagazine http://www.powerelectronicsnews.com/ is a good source on power electronics across the power and technology range. A good way to keep up on a rapidly changing field.

The article talks about a variety of battery chemistries including sodium as shown in the following graphic.

An enormous variety of sodium-ion battery variations are being considered by researchers worldwide as surveyed here regarding their operation voltages versus specific capacities for cathode materials (a) and anode materials (b) in order to find a combination that make them competitive with Li-ion. SOURCE: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

However the main reason I show this graphic is the incredible density of information that the graphic data presenter/artist at Macmillan Publishers was able to insert into a relatively small and simple chart. For me as a technologist this gives me the ability to data dive and compare and contrast very quickly when considering alternatives. My experience in buying reports or data repositiories of one sort or another is that the quality of this sort of chart is key to the value of the document

Burger bots…will their be riots and nuts and bolts in the streets?

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Good article at the Singularity Hub it’s obvious to me that the hamburger flippers’ days are numbered, so how will society adjust? Luddism only goes so far, the general populace will see the bitching, moaning and breaking things as what it is, the last gasps of the un imaginative and paleoProgressives unable to see it ain’t 1959 any longer.

Disaster at Fukushima set off a race to develop disaster response robots

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials are taking place this month.
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In this Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 photo, engineer Nick Letwin watches as the CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform robot, known as CHIMP, is put through some paces as it pulls a fire hose from during a preparation run at the National Robotics Engineering Center in Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon researchers are testing the new search-and-rescue robot that will compete in the U.S. Defense Department’s upcoming national robotics competition in Florida. Competitors from other schools and companies will be vying for a $2 million U.S. Defense Department prize. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-12-sci-fi-robots-readied-big.html#jCp20131215-222844.jpg

On Tuesday, curiosity and expectations were ratcheted up significantly with the unveiling of NASA’s Johnson Space Center entry, a humanoid robot called Valkyrie (R5). This is a 6-foot-two-inch, battery operated robot weighing 286 pounds with 44 degree of freedom. (The Valkyrie has seven degree of freedom arms, for example, with actuated wrists and six degree of freedom hands. Each hand has three fingers and a thumb.)

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-12-valkyrie-darpa-robotics-contender.html#jCp20131215-223030.jpg

When walking on muddy or bumpy roads, the two arms of DRC-HUBO become extra legs, enabling stable and agile movements.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-07-kaist-hubo-ready-darpa-robotics.html#jCp20131215-223213.jpg

On Monday, July 8, 2013, the seven teams that progressed from DARPA’s Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) arrived at the headquarters of Boston Dynamics in Waltham, Mass. to meet and learn about their new teammate, the ATLAS robot. Like coaches starting with a novice player, the teams now have until late December 2013 to teach ATLAS the moves it will need to succeed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials where each robot will have to perform a series of tasks similar to what might be required in a disaster response scenario.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-07-darpa-atlas-robot-unveiled-video.html#jCp

An Invisible Sword Cuts in all directions…

Kept in the Dark Secrecy is a two-edged sword
By Bill Sweetman
Read Sweetman’s posts on AW weblog ARES, updated daily: AviationWeek.com/ares sweetman@aviationweek.com
AW&ST is doing the reveal on the air forces reason for trying to can GlobalHawk :20131206-155046.jpg20131206-155104.jpgAmong other things:

Secrecy distorts debate. A House Armed Services Committee hearing
in April bordered on farce. The Air Force has been trying for a couple of years to reduce its fleet of Global Hawk unmanned air systems, because the big UAS is no more survivable than the much less costly General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, while protecting a classified stealth UAS under development by Northrop Grumman. In that hearing, Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, the USAF’s senior acquisition officer, practically had to play charades to convince Rep. John Gara- mendi (D-Calif.), whose constituents fix Global Hawks for a living, that the Air Force did have a reason for disfavoring his pet bird, without exactly saying what it was, because it was secret.

So you and I paid for hundreds of millions dollars worth of obsolete capability. And heck, the workers can’t support PACs to lobby for their livelihood…

The common shipping container, lynch pin of the consumer paradise

The Shipping Container
A Cyber Monday paean to the unsung hero of consumer capitalism: Craig Martin @ The Atlantic
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Busan New Port, South Korea (Reuters).

At the world’s ports, rows of stacks of shipping containers in an array of colors create a rich metallic vibrancy. On construction sites they are used as storage boxes. They can be seen lying prone and rusting in abandoned plots. They perch on the back of trucks speeding down the motorway. On flatbed cars they trundle through railway stations, box upon box upon box.

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Tokyo (Reuters)

McLean (U.S. truck operator Malcom McLean’ the container systems inventor) understood that a transition to container shipping would require the complete redesign of the entire freight transport infrastructure: rail cars, ships, trucks, cranes, dockyards, everything. As a starting point, he commissioned the container engineer Keith Tantlinger to design a new aluminum container, and to reconfigure a decommissioned tanker vessel, the Ideal-X, to accommodate the new containers. Tantinger also developed a further piece of equipment, the container spreader bar, which enabled the container to be lifted without the need for stevedores to attach roping. As the economist and historian Marc Levinson has noted, the design of the spreader bar meant that “once the box had been lifted and moved, another flip of the switch would disengage the hooks, without a worker on the ground touching the container.” Container freight was all about increasing the speed of movement and reducing the cost of labor. Although the Ideal-X sailed for the first time as a container vessel in April 1956, it was not until 1970 that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) agreed on the standardized sizes and certain fixings for containers (or ISO Containers as they are formally named).

Hoover Institute: When the Obama Magic Died : a good ‘outsiders’ synopsis

When the Obama Magic Died
by Fouad Ajami (Herbert and Jane Dwight Senior Fellow and cochair, Working Group on Islamism and the International Order)
I think this piece has it about right, this is what many saw – felt but could not get through the roar of the adoring crowd. I was not part of the crowd but I was not part of the resistance. Going back to ’08 I could not stand what I saw as a broken republican candidacy any more than I could vote for Obama. In ’12 I wanted Romney even more than in ’08 but ‘the base’ couldn’t warm to him, the democratic machine worked and the wheels were still on the obfuscation machine run by the media who loved Obama’s ‘message + appearance molds reality’ approach.

Now of course we live with what we have…and the problem is that the neither side can compromise due to ‘true believer ittis’ although both need to. I believe it’s the President who should bow to reality the deepest because his approach and to a significant degree his policies have been shown to be deeply flawed. However the other side ( which is not the republican establishment who are ‘middlemen’ in this epoch) needs to take the momentum of change and shift it onto a more libertarian / non governmental track.

Much of the economic malaise even much of the health care ‘problem’ (which has never been as awful as demagogues make out) revolves around bad tax policy, over regulation and too much state control, not too little. Much of this can be fixed in a reasonable fashion if the ‘sides’ could stomach working together.

3 factions vie for the MidEast, Should we care? Yes but it looks like we’re on the sidelines…for now

Seems a clear eyed look at the Middle East, a mess as always, trending rapidly nuclear…what me Worry?

After the Pax Americana: Three factions vie for influence and dominance in the Middle East.
by JONATHAN SPYER PJMEDIA


  • The Iranian block: Assad’s Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon– replace the U.S. as the dominant power Gulf area, build a contiguous alliance from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and into the Levant. It is committed to acquiring a nuclear capability to underwrite and insure this process

  • The MB block: Turkey, Qatar, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood– the Sunni Islamist alignment that a year ago looked to be on the march across the region. They have lost power in Egypt and in Tunisia, the new emir in Qatar is not aggressive. And in Syria, al-Qaeda and Salafi-oriented units now form the most active pillar in a confused insurgency which shows signs of turning in on itself.

  • The monarchist block: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (excluding Qatar) and in the shadows Israel– they survived the recent wave of popular agitation in the Arab world, which instead took its toll on the “secular,” military regimes. But Saudi Arabia sees the MB as an existential threat and was infuriated by the Qatar-MB nexus. Nuclear Iran’s potential domination of the Gulf and the wider region is also an existential threat. Saudi support for and cultivation of allies in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere should be seen in this light.

  • So the Saudis are engaged in a political war on two fronts, with an acute awareness of the high stakes involved.

    The Iranians and their allies have a clear-eyed view of the obstacles to their ambitions, ..

    The Turks and the Muslim Brotherhood also well understand the nature of the power political game. Their current dismay reflects their recent setbacks in it.