Friday, November 30, 2012
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
The World Belt; A Global Vascular System
By John Taylor; 2012 Nov 16, 169 BE
For centuries farsighted writers, scientists and engineers, most notable among them Jules Verne and Buckminster Fuller, have put forward ideas to improve our infrastructure. The most difficult of these megaprojects remain undone, including domed cities, moving sidewalks, pneumatic tube transit and modular housing. Others, long dismissed as utopian pipe dreams, are already completed, such as train tunnels below the Alps and under the English channel, not to mention satellites and GPS location. Wikipedia's article on megaprojects lists hundreds of other schemes, all formerly impracticable, that present technology allows and which are in various stages of planning, including some already under construction.
One megaproject is so daunting that nothing like it has ever been attempted. This is the World Belt, a long corridor of superconducting power lines crossing and joining the continents. This energy grid would both deliver electricity and store it. The peculiar properties of superconduction permit power lines to act as a huge storage battery. This is the ideal enabler for green energy, wind, wave and solar, all of which are intermittent. These high voltage direct current (HVDC) lines are actually more efficient transmitting electricity over long distances than our present grid, using alternating current, is over much shorter distances.
This world belt would permanently shift the balance of electrical power towards green energy. As Buckminster Fuller tirelessly pointed out in his public talks (two of which I had the honour of attending), one side of our planet is always bathed in sunlight while the other languishes in darkness. A global grid connecting these shifting dark and light halves of Earth would pay for itself very quickly. It would transmit energy from where it is free, bountiful and unneeded to where it is in demand, from bright to dark areas, from warm to cold regions, and from low population desert areas to those with a high population.
Once the global grid makes the entire energy resources of the planet available anywhere at a very low price, it will be economical to undertake a similar and parallel megaproject to reorient the all-important area of transport, transit, travel and tourism. A rapid transportation line running near or alongside the World Belt's power lines could derive power directly from this energy grid.
Together, these two, power and transport, would constitute the vascular system first of continental union, then of a global democratic super-state. This technical development allows us to move ourselves and our stuff from one place to another with a speed and efficiency approaching electronic communications, which is virtually instantaneous. It will permit our built world to enter into the third dimension; as Fuller pointed out, until now we have built only two dimensionally, scratching the surface of earth. Our internal processes can be seen from above, like bacteria, amoebas and other unicellular creatures. Once we have these veins and arteries, however, we can build in every direction, erecting floating cities on the ocean, flying domes in the air, and boring underground, into mountains and underground.
Ambitious projects like this require undreamed of integration and interdependence, however, not only physical but mental and spiritual as well. We are unlikely to move forward in this direction without the advances in politics, religion and education that John Amos Comenius laid out for us back in the middle of the Seventeenth Century. We discussed his analyses and proposals at length in the first volume of this series, Beyond Borders. Once we remove our habits and mental blocks, we will learn to balance our lives in an integrated way. Then, we can erect the machineries of world democracy, of which megaprojects such as the world belt are only an outer expression.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The Trans-Earth Skyway System
The first volume of Cosmopolis Earth was about John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) and his plan to build a stable democratic republic beyond national borders by raising up confederations based on the continents. Comenius proposed a particular division of labour among leaders designed to prevent the concentration of power that causes tyranny. He proposed a schedule for this unification that would do it gradually, over several generations, through a series of successive ten year cycles.
I am now working on the second volume of Cosmopolis Earth. In it, I will speculate about implementation of these decade-long cycles that Comenius proposed, concentrating especially on the infrastructure that is needed to carry out global integration in as soon as two or three hundred years. As with the first volume, Beyond Borders, I will share early drafts here, on the Badi' blog and mailing list, over coming weeks and months.
Preliminary Research Report for the Second Volume of Cosmopolis Earth
Researching the second volume of Cosmopolis Earth, I started with the keyword, "world belt," which I have been using for several years to describe the sort of infrastructure that I expect to come about as democracy goes global. Unfortunately, "world belt" turned up nothing on Google. Did I forget the real name, or is it a false memory? Or did the proposal for this project, run by engineers who were inspired by Buckminster Fully, I thought, just die? However, I did find something fairly close, called the "Trans-Earth Skyway System," though. The site describes this as a,
"projected global network of elevated, electric transportation corridors, containing three major subsystems, 1. The Electric Superhighway 2. Sustainable Energy Grid 3. Trans-Earth Aqueduct." (http://www.summitbridge.com/index.html)
The site includes a map of the world showing how this "skyway system" would join and encircle the coasts of each continent. Passengers would ride in hypersonic trains through transparent tubes held high in the air, looking down at the scenery through glass observation windows. Because these tubes are evacuated, travel could take place at hypersonic speeds, tens of thousands of kilometers per hour. This is very different from the idea of Buckminster Fuller, who envisioned these tubes running mostly underground, which would allow for completely integrated, containerized intermodal transit. That is, passengers would ride in an independent seat capsule or cabin, and be switched invisibly from one mode to another, say, from an automobile, to a truck to a train to an airplane.
I suppose that the suspended, high-rise transparent tubes of the Trans Earth Skyway System (TESS), if technically feasible, would be ideal. Why not enjoy the scenery as you travel the continents? There would certainly would be less disruption if the TESS tubes flew overhead. The anonymous author of this site suggests that the land under the tubes be devoted to natural parks,
"Construction of the entire system will simultaneously establish a worldwide ecological economy, and literally unite the world beyond war."
I do not necessarily subscribe to this "build it and they will unite" approach, but if humankind ever did build an integrated transit, power and housing scheme, it would surely already be well on the way to unification on the global level. The TESS plan arose from another proposal, the Summit Bridge.
This is a proposed bridge across the Bering Sea, joining Alaska to Russia. We would start by building an artificial island at the midpoint of the Bering Sea, with two bridges joining it to the continents of Asia and America on either side.
"Welcome all peoples, this is the reunion of mankind, the global movement to end all war and terror on Earth, by construction of Summit Bridge and the Trans-Earth Skyway System." (<http://www.summitbridge.com/declaration_if.php>)
The site tells an interesting story about how this idea came about. It seems that in the depths of the Cold War, a certain US Air Force pilot flew his fighter plane along this flight path to the USSR. He did it as a peace protest, running the dire risk being shot down, which in turn would have started a nuclear confrontation. The site displays a map of the island and the bridge joining it to Alaska and Russia.
The construction of this Summit Bridge would mark the first time in 11,000 years that the Americas would be connected to the vast super-continent of Asia. It would be an historic event, which would then lead to the TESS, a rapid train connection of every continent with every other. While expensive to construct, it would just require that we redirect a portion of the massive funds now wasted on armament, weapons research and the military.
Instead of eliminating defense budgets, that is, the money could be redirected into the Summit Bridge, and then universalized to the TESS megaproject. This would contribute more to real defense and security than anything that mere military expenditures can promise, since it would make every continent part of the same homeland. Undoubtedly, since defense budgets have expanded tremendously, to the tune of trillions of dollars per year, there should be more than enough funds available not only to finance the TESS, but also to build it entirely out of crystal, gold and diamond.
Next time, I will discuss the other features of the TESS proposal, some of which were entirely new to me.
Sunday, November 04, 2012
0=0, The equation of Faith
I had a discussion the other day with a dear but unbelieving friend about what faith is. Is it following blindly a set of ideas? Is it what the New Atheists say, holding to an irrational belief in the teeth of evidence? What does faith mean, anyway? I was reminded of a passage from Tolstoy's Confession, which influenced me quite a bit over the last few years. It defines faith as a sort of commitment to life; whether that life is present or eternal, there is the rub. Tolstoy holds that faith, belief in the value of life, starts by recognizing this formula, 0=0, ephemeral life equals nothing. Once that is honestly acknowledged, faith is whatever remains. It is what we value then. I will share the whole passage, but first, a brief discussion of the definition of faith.
First, I agree with my unbelieving friend that faith has several meanings, and that they tend to bleed into one another. This causes a great deal of equivocation. The result is distancing, a horrible sort of mental incompatibility where someone will believe in one thing, and fail to hear what those with other beliefs are saying. They may be close enough to hear one another's words clearly, but, in the image of the Qur'an, they resemble two people standing apart, at a great distance, shouting to be heard. So great is the chasm, the effort to communicate so arduous, that both give up even trying to comprehend. As Heraclitus put it, they know "neither how to listen, nor how to speak." (DK 19)
"Those without understanding when they hear are like deaf men; of them does the saying bear witness that `they are absent when present.'" (Heraclitus, DK 34)
Soon, each side begins to see the other as willfully ignorant. And again, there is the rub. The Qur'an teaches that will is of the essence of faith. No matter what, it is always a conscious decision to believe, or not to believe. That is why, ultimately, we are responsible to God for what we believe. There is a huge gap between us and Him because we have willed it to be so. Otherwise, God is "closer than their life's vein." Here is how Tolstoy understood his journey from distance to proximity, from belief in this life to belief in One beyond:
"If it had been thy Lord's will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! No soul can believe, except by the will of God, and He will place doubt (or obscurity) on those who will not understand." (Qur'an 10:99-100)
From Tolstoy’s Confession
"Rational knowledge led me to the conclusion that life is meaningless; my life came to a halt, and I wanted to do away with myself. As I looked around at people, I saw that they were living, and I was convinced that they knew the meaning of life. Then I turned and looked at myself; as long as I knew the meaning of life, I lived. As it was with others, so it was with me: faith provided me with the meaning of life and the possibility of living."
"Upon a further examination of the people in other countries, of my contemporaries, and of those who have passed away, I saw the same thing. Wherever there is life, there is faith; since the origin of mankind faith has made it possible for us to live, and the main characteristics of faith are everywhere and always the same."
"No matter what answers a given faith might provide for us, every answer of faith gives infinite meaning to the finite existence of man, meaning that is not destroyed by suffering, deprivation, and death. Therefore, the meaning of life and the possibility of living may be found in faith alone. I realized that the essential significance of faith lies not only in the `manifestation of things unseen' and so on, or in revelation (this is simply a description of one of the signs of faith); nor is it simply the relation between man and God (faith must first be determined and then God, not the other way around), or agreeing with what one has been told, even though this is what it is most often understood to be."
"Faith is the knowledge of the meaning of human life, whereby the individual does not destroy himself but lives. Faith is the force of life. If a man lives, then he must have faith in something. If he did not believe that he had something he must live for, then he would not live. If he fails to see and understand the illusory nature of the finite, then he believes in the finite; if he understands the illusory nature of the finite, then he must believe in the infinite. Without faith it is impossible to live."
"I looked back on the course of my internal life and I was horrified. It was now clear to me that in order for a man to live, he must either fail to see the infinite or he must have an explanation of the meaning of life by which the finite and the infinite would be equated. I had such an explanation, but I did not need it as long as I believed in the finite, and I began to use reason to test it out. And in the light of reason every bit of my former explanation crumbled into dust. But the time came when I no longer believed in the finite. Then, using the foundations of reason, I began to draw on what I knew to put together an explanation that would give life meaning; but nothing came of it. Along with the finest minds that mankind has produced, I came up with 0=0, and I was utterly amazed at coming to such a resolution and discovering that there could be no other." (Tolstoy, Confession, pp. 61-62)
Saturday, October 20, 2012
I am preparing a small book on the proofs of God's existence. For the next several weeks I will be posting often on the Badi' blog selections from my notes, sometimes preliminary essays to be included in the book. If you are overwhelmed, just email me and I will pull you off the Badi' mailing list. As a former atheist, this topic is more fascinating for me than for some.
Going through the labyrinthine passages of a university library many years ago, I stumbled upon an excellent book called "Oriental Humour." It featured some of the startling and often profound jokes and koans from Japan, Korea and China. One is so famous that it has entered Western culture, too. We know of it as a Zen koan, but according to this book, it is also a Korean proverb,
"One hand finds it hard to clap." (Korean Proverb)
One meaning of this proverb is that a given spiritual experience is not enough, we need social feedback; we need religious experience. In turn, society needs spiritual experience as well. However much an individual may feel affected or transformed by a given state of consciousness, the reality of it only lives on when others share in it, or at least when they benefit from the changes it had on us. I think this may be why Jesus, when he declared, "The Kingdom of God is within," used a word that also can mean, "The Kingdom of God is among (you)."
Here is another story from Oriental Humour,
"A man called at his landlord's and said, `I didn't know at all that you were ill. When I came back home today, my wife said that you had ophthalmia. How do you feel now?' The landlord appeared from within the dark doorway, squinting. He replied, `You're welcome, I feel better since yesterday.' Looking at him, the man said. `I see that you are not only suffering from ophthalmia but there is something wrong with your eyes, too.'" (Blyth, OH 549)
The authors of the book commented: "The great fall of man is that we use words that are meaningless, words like `God,' `infinity,' `the absolute,' `perfection,' and `opthalmia.'" A fable from Aesop (AE180), illustrates another divine lesson. It is that, as God puts it in the Bible, "my ways are not thy ways..." The story is called, The Ass Carrying Salt,
"An ass loaded with salt was crossing a river. He slipped and fell into the water and as the salt melted, he got up with a lighter burden. He was pleased at this and another time when he was loaded with sponges. He came to a river. He thought that if he fell in again he would come off lighter, and so he slipped on purpose. As the sponges filled with water it turned out that he couldn't get up and was drowned."
The fate of this ass shows the dangers of drawing spiritual conclusions from material evidence, and vice versa. Great is the incompatibility between these ways of thinking in our own lives. We can only judge of a religious experience by whether we walk away a better person, or have a lighter conscience. If we get stuck and drown, we know to avoid such things in future. Difficult as this is, how much harder it is to judge fairly the spiritual lives of others. Still, if large numbers of people live many generations in a given faith, we know that its beliefs cannot be wholly invalid. On the other hand, if a certain belief drowns its adherents in hatred and prejudice, it will not last long anyway. In that case it is not unreasonable to reject it and to consider its adherents as, well, asses.
The skeptic generalizes on the evidence of bad experiences by some and dismisses the entire enterprise of faith A Priori. For them, belief is a quagmire, a failure and a sorry waste of time. H.L. Mencken's famous quip sums up this rush to judgment,
"For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing."
Others are not so hasty. Religion, after all, is a cultural universal. No society in history is known to have survived long without some sort of ritual, prayer, belief in God or gods, or other expressions of faith. As the proverb goes, "Big ship need deep water." Mind and consciousness need to take in the infinite, if only to recognize our helplessness before it. Having done so, we feel the better for it. Another proverb says,
"Stand far, see better."
Even the most skeptical can benefit from stopping and entering into communion with the eternal, in whatever way works for them. We might take, for example, a walk in natural surroundings. Trees and grass have been around for hundreds of millions of years, after all, so every natural place is like a very ancient cathedral. Or we might enter a place of worship and there converse with God, or, if we prefer, with our higher, more distant and detached self. To stand in a place designed to reflect the aspect of infinity is always to be illumined, and later to see everyday problems in a different perspective. Of course, we can often gain spiritual maturity just from our daily service to others.
"On the morning I began my new job was an excavation company I found myself standing knee-deep in mud, holding a shovel. `You know, Jerry,' I remarked to the boss, `I signed on with this outfit to learn how to operate heavy equipment.' `Don't worry,' he said with a grin, `by the end of the day that shovel will be heavy enough.'"
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
This Month's Philosopher's Café will be on Thursday, October 11, at 6:30 p.m. in the Wainfleet Library’s meeting room.
This month’s topic is:
“Mankind is One”
What is the PhIlosopher’s Café?
A second Thursday of the month destination
for provocative, insightful discussion
around ideas and issues that matter.
. Everyone welcome. Drop in for a lively
. There is no fee to participate.
. No formal philosophy training required;
real life experience desired.
Wainfleet Township Public Library
31909 Park Street P.O. Box 118
Wainfleet, ON LOS 1VO