Tag Archives: science

What Is Love?

“What is love?” I asked the poet of romance.
“Tis a rapturous dance
Wherein lovers lose countless hours
In verdant bowers
And flowers
Forever bloom”.

“What is love?” I asked the advertising executive in his suit of gray.
“Tis money you pay
On Valentines Day
For the overpriced chocolates I
Want lovers to buy”.

“What is love?” I asked the scientist in his white coat.
“Tis a chemical reaction in the brain
That causes pleasure and pain,
From which few can refrain”.

“What is love?” I asked the working girl.
“Tis a pearl
I once had but then did sell
As all men know well”.

“What is love?”
I asked the rake.
He refered me to the girl above
But could no further answer make.

How The Enlightenment Ends

Yesterday (18 May) I read a thought provoking article by Henry Kissinger on the subject of artificial intelligence or AI. The gist of Kissinger’s article is that the enlightenment liberated humanity while we are in danger (by relying on AI) of becoming slaves to the emerging technology and loosing our ability to think critically. The below quote from Kissinger’s article strikes me as containing much wisdom, particularly his point about many technophiles taking refuge from solitude in technology:

“Users of the internet emphasize retrieving and manipulating information over contextualizing or conceptualizing its meaning. They rarely interrogate history or philosophy; as a rule, they demand information relevant to their immediate practical needs. In the process, search-engine algorithms acquire the capacity to predict the preferences of individual clients, enabling the algorithms to personalize results and make them available to other parties for political or commercial purposes. Truth becomes relative. Information threatens to overwhelm wisdom.

Inundated via social media with the opinions of multitudes, users are diverted from introspection; in truth many technophiles use the internet to avoid the solitude they dread. All of these pressures weaken the fortitude required to develop and sustain convictions that can be implemented only by traveling a lonely road, which is the essence of creativity”.

To read the article please visit https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/henry-kissinger-ai-could-mean-the-end-of-human-history/559124/.

The Gulf Stream

Scientists have stated that further weakening of the Gulf Stream should be avoided at all costs. The weakening of the Gulf Stream could lead to more extreme weather events, including freezing winters (in the UK) and more (and powerful) storms. To read more please visit, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/13/avoid-at-all-costs-gulf-streams-record-weakening-prompts-warnings-global-warming.

The above article reminds me of my poem “Melting Ice”:

“Under the once-solid ice sheet
We meet
A Demon some persist
In maintaining does not exist.
Deep in his throat, he rumbles;
And humanity stumbles
As yet another ice sheet crumbles”.
(“Melting Ice” can be found in “My Old Clock I Wind and Other Poems”, which is available in the Amazon Kindle store https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0735JBVBG).

Wonder

I wonder
Who makes the thunder.
Is it Thor
Who makes that roar?

The scientist will say
In a most prosaic way
That there is no deity on high
Merely electricity and the endless sky.

I sigh
For the forgotten days of belief.
This life is brief
And scientists say that there is no wonder
In yonder lightning flash
And the crash of thunder,
Yet still I wonder …

(Written in response to https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/wonder/).

Forever Frozen

When he awoke
The folk
He could neither understand
Nor command.

They looked at him with pitty
And made witty
Observations he could not comprehend.
Having no friend
He pondered on whether all that expense
Made sense.

When he had handed over his gold
They had told
Him that “centuries hence
You will be forever free
To be
Whoever you wish to be.
What matter the expense
When you can shatter
This human clay
And forever as a god stay?”

Alone
On his eternal throne
He sits
As wits
Come and go.
I know
Not whether he is content
Nor whether ‘tis the acent
Or the descent of mankind.

Or perhaps many centuries hence
Our descendants will laugh over the expense
Of the vain
Who remain
Frozen in ice.
For the dead can not be broken hearted
And a fool and his money are soon parted.

Dogbotics

A friend, who works in the field of the biological sciences, informs me of a breakthrough in the sphere of human to animal communication. The development in question pertains to our canine friends and, as a dog lover of many years, I am delighted to be able to launch this exciting story upon the world.

My friend works in the little known field of Dogbotics. I must confess to not having heard of Dogbotics until I had the good fortune to become acquainted with my friend who, being of a shy and retiring disposition wishes to remain anonomous. Obviously being, as I am a man of the upmost integrity I will, of course respect the wishes of my dear friend and not reveal her identity.

Anyway, returning to the matter in hand, Dogbotics have developed a tiny chip which (when implanted into the neck of a canine) allows said animal to speak. I must confess to having been sceptical of this development until I heard it with my own ears. Imagine my surprise (I mean shock) when my own four-legged friend, Trigger (after having had the chip implanted) addressed me in the following manner:

“Hello, I’m Fido”.

Admittedly, his name is not Fido but (as mentioned above) Trigger. However his ability to voice in any manner (other than a growl, woof or whine) is truly staggering and will improve over time (or so my friend in Dogbotics informs me). In the meantime, I must remain content with such statements as that quoted above, together with such gems as

“Woof, I feel rough, that six day old pie I found in the street earlier is giving me a sore belly. Quick, I need to go outside!”.

I shall, of course keep you fully informed of the progresss of this exciting and innovative technology.

Kevin

Cryogenics

A recent article in “The Daily Mail, entitled “Humans Frozen by Cryogenics Could Be Revived Using Stem Cells” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5462963/Humans-frozen-cryogenics-revived-using-stem-cells.html, reminded me of my poem, “Cryonics which is reproduced below:

“It is a will-o’-the-wisp, followed by the frightened or blind,
Who themselves bind
To the delusion, that the mist does not forever close
Over mouth and nose.

There are few posies for the departed,
Just an idea started
In the mind
Of those who would salvation find
In a deep freeze,
Designed to please
The ego
Of people who fear to go
Down that dark track
From whence none come back”.

“Cryonics” can be found in my collection of poetry, “My Old Clock I Wind” http://moyhill.com/clock/.

Your politics are written in your face

Researchers claim that in future artificial intelligence will be able, with a high degree of accuracy, to determine an individual’s political opinions, their level of intelligence and their propensity to criminal behaviour.

The researchers acknowledge that such software could be misused (for example to target people on the grounds of propensity to criminal behaviour even when they had committed no criminal act. They acknowledge that many people with criminal tendencies never, in fact commit crimes).

As regards political leanings, the researchers acknowledge that software will be most accurate in pinpointing those on the far-right or left rather than the majority of the population who occupy the middle-ground of the political spectrum.

While I am not a scientist (my degrees are in history and politics), it strikes me that the decline of religious faith has led to a growth in (sometimes) uncritical belief in the claims of scientists. Science is, perhaps in danger of becoming a secular religion where claims are taken as gospel (pun intended)!

Of course scientists will object that their research is peer reviewed and subject to rigorous examination. In contrast, they will contend religion is based purely on faith and it’s claims are, therefore unverifiable. Good science is certainly subject to rigorous peer review and a combination of peer review and the passage of time will prove (or disprove) the claims of the researchers.

I am, as I say above no scientist. However, on the face of it the claims made by the researchers appear to me to be reductionist in nature and overly simplistic.

For the article please visit, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/12/artificial-intelligence-face-recognition-michal-kosinski

A life of Servitude?

As a guide dog owner for some 30 years, I was interested to come across this article, “Service Animals: A ‘Chosen’ Career Path or a Life of Servitude?”, by Joy Thomas, a teacher and guide dog owner, https://www.crixeo.com/service-animals/.

In her article, Thomas examines the views of those who maintain that the use of service animals (such as guide dogs) is cruel, and contrasts them with others (including scientists and those who train service animals).

The latter group are of the opinion that most service animals enjoy their work and that the bond between a working animal and it’s handler/owner is sometimes stronger than the connection people have with their pet dog.

I have on occasions been asked whether my guide dog, Trigger gets bored. My answer is that he is with me 24 hours a day (not always in the same room but within easy call). Dogs are pack animals and crave companionship.

Being with me is, for Trigger an essential component of his security. Unlike many pet dogs he is not left alone for protracted periods during the day but accompanies me to the office, the supermarket and my favourite watering holes!

He is constantly stimulated, which enhances his wellbeing.

It is (usually) dogs that languish at home, for long periods (not working/service animals) that suffer from bordom/lonleness.

Peasants in late Medieval London faced extreme violence

According to recently published research, “Peasants in medieval London faced extreme violence”.

Skulls of peasants unearthed in the UK’s capital show a much greater number of fractures than do those of the upper classes and it is conjectured that many died soon after having received their injuries.

The researchers believe that due to the cost of the legal system, peasants in Medieval London had no ability to employ barristers so would frequently settle their disputes in bar or street brawls, many of which ended in death. Interestingly most of these brawls appear to have taken place on Sunday, which was the only day peasants had off.

In contrast the better off residents of London had recourse to legal representation to settle disputes or, if they did engage in duelling, they wore armour which greatly reduced the danger of death.

For this interesting article please visit, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4833460/Peasants-late-medieval-London-faced-extreme-violence.html.