A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Science Fiction




Science fiction was one of the interests shared with me by my late friend Jim Auden, who suddenly passed away last week. Whenever I talked about Ray Kurzweill with Jim, we would talk about science fiction works he used to read. I would go on prattling about how the singularity was near, and that neural implants were a virtual inevitability. His response was that he would not be around when that happened. I responded that he should be writing science fiction because that would be fun.

A few weeks ago, while waiting for the copier, Jim was reading a book he had seen a student reading called By the Time You Read This I'll Be Dead. After Jim responded to my inquiry about how he liked the book and I asked him to tell me about it, I shuddered and made a comment that I prefer not to dwell on the subject of suicide. Jim's arguments in favor of a right to die with dignity bothered me, but I have never taken a strong position on the issue, as my focus always goes back to what can be done with the gift of life, as I am by nature an optimistic person, and always get back to the question, "what are you going to do about it?"

The subject of death came up a few times in our conversations recently. Jim had mentioned to me that he had not been sleeping that well, and I recommended that he do a sleep study, since my bi-level BiPap machine is what keeps me functioning during the day and probably keeping me alive. Jim's reply was that taking care of his health was not a priority for him. Kurzweill, on the other hand, according to the article mentioned above, takes over 150 pills per day and hopes to live long enough to become immortal. Given the code Kurzweill has created and work on natural language, amplified by the power of Google, similar to the way the "code children" evolved fromthe work of the character Aaron in the television series, Revolution, I wonder whether Kurzweill's objective has already been achieved. Having cut my teeth during college on Icelandic kennings, and having connected with Boethius' thoughts on facing the executioner as described in Consolation of Philosophy, I have concluded that through words we are able to connect with timelessness, and wonder whether, on some level, life and death is but an illusion.

A few weeks ago, at an in-service led by Mr. Sherman, who teaches U.S. History to 1865, who I co-teach with. Mr. Sherman recruited Jim, who co-taught with him last year, along with current History teachers to be his "plants" as he demonstrated how to use Town Hall Meetings to engage learners. Joe Sherman facilitated a Town Hall Meeting with all of the other teachers to discuss which was the most important technology ever developed. Jim had the winning argument that day, that the printing press enabled spread of knowledge, making many other inventions possible. Clearly the majority were thinking along the similar lines, as one person chose the alphabet, and I chose the Internet, although other notables included agriculture, the wheel, and clothing. The leading arguments were all tools that amplified the human ability to communicate at points in history that Kurzweill and others I have been reading might describe as phase shifts.

Time to bind up these wounds and get to back to the work of preparing young minds for an uncertain future.