Third wave Existentialism [CCafe 9/18]

A curmudgeon council like that probably needs more than a soundtrack and a few visuals, though they certainly wouldn’t hurt. :thinking:

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The focus here – which we really didn’t get back to directly in our chat – is the sixth volume of Colin Wilson’s “Outsider sequence”, first published in 1966, entitled The New Existentialism. As the back-cover blurb puts it,

[The book] deals with the ideas of such thinkers as Husserl and Wittgenstein and shows how they relate to the ‘classic’ existentialism (freedom through self-realization in a meaningless world) of Heidegger, Kierkegaard and Sartre. Wilson’s ‘new existentialism’ is an attempt to show how recent developments in understanding of consciousness, of ‘peak experiences’, aesthetic and mystical, and of language, can bring back meaningfulness, and provide twentieth and twenty-first century man with a relevant and satisfying philosophy.

He apparently wanted to originally call it phenomenological existentialism but opted for a simpler, more easily pronounceable moniker. It’s a short (ca. 175 pp, including front matter), but interesting take on existentialism as he found it in his day (what Wright/Caruso would call “second-wave existentialism”), and is an excellent example of how what one assumes and presupposes going in actually determines (and, yes, @Mark_Jabbour, I’m using that word quite consciously in this context) what comes out in the end; the biblical adage of “seeking and finding” is generally true, it would seem). He figured Heidegger and Sartre with their negativity simply got it wrong; there are lots of reasons to think there is meaning in the universe.

Wilson certainly wasn’t a heavyweight in 20th-century literature (though he had his moments in the spotlight) but he was an accessible and readable author (his non-fiction, at any rate); I found his “Outsider sequence” informative and thought-provoking. He sort of lived on the “road less traveled”, you could say. If nothing else, he had the courage to do his own thing. In some regards, I suppose you could call him one of the British “beat generation”, even if they really didn’t have one.


Don’t disagree. 1966 was right at the beginning of the last cultural revolution, which featured existential, or humanistic, Psychologists, such as Rogers, May, Maslow (who coined the “peak experience” idea. It’s basic tenets were: 1) an emphasis on conscious experience 2) a belief in the wholeness of human nature and conduct 3) a focus on free will, spontaneity, and the creative power of the individual. I could argue that that movement was the beginning of the “therapeutic narcissistic” culture that dominates the USA today. Anyway - I’m a big believer in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, and The Peak Experience - had one just this past Monday. Damn, be something if I could dwell there, but then they’d turn to the mundane.
It’s that damn science (neuroscience) screwing with all the fun, was Carruso’s point - thus the question, What if Free Will is just an illusion? I think Richard Tarnas let that slip out in a YouTube video I watched with him. The more truth science uncovers - the more dire the real world becomes, and that the universe is really “Dark Matter” (shit) and doesn’t give a hoot (projection) about us … and so … where’s my stash?

could be, power of positive thinking is not to be taken lightly, but like you said Ed, “nobody gets out alive” and so … maybe there is a heaven? or in the least - a Noosphere? Wheeee

Just having some fun, folks.


That was a great listen, fellas. I really enjoyed it. It was good not being there; I liked not hearing myself. At the same time, the dialogue itself, the exhchage of thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, anecdotes, arguments—the bits of Zen and history and neuroscience and evolutionary biology (and pushback to all of the above)—was dare I say thought-provoking and educational. I’d say you’re a hit!

I hope you’ll do it again, though next week I will try to be there. I am wonderering what the topic will be…


Me too! The cafe is almost a:sunglasses: peak experience! A 13,000 footer v. a 14,000 peak? Sometimes, less is more.


Well, that depends a whole lot on what you think it’s telling you, and that depends a whole lot on what you believe (which would be conscious, otherwise they’re (probably unspoken) assumptions and presuppositions) going in. I know that lots of work is being done here, but what are they really finding out. They can talk all they want about nets and networks and various functional areas, but I keep coming back to my neuroscientist buddy Manfred Spitzer and his three brains. They can’t explain them, so what we’re left with at bottom is plasticity, which is a fine notion, but it may not be as explanatory as they would have us believe.

What if things are the other way around? What if the neurochemical/hormonal phenomena that they are measuring are not causes but effects? What if the chemical/electrical process don’t generate thoughts/feelings/memories but rather are how thoughts/feelings/memories manifest in a “world of matter”. We long thought of ourselves as souls with bodies (and we managed to banish the notions of the soul and psyche), but what if in actuality we’re souls/psyches with bodies?

This is what I think Sri Aurobindo is saying. It’s very clear that this is what Steiner is saying. Do we really have a sound reason to simply reject what they are saying out of hand? Remember, the underlying or root meaning of “empirical” is “experience-based”. One form of experience is measuring, which in some circles has become the dominant form, but it’s certainly not the only form , and what if switching perspectives produced stronger explanatory results? You never know till you try, and I think some folks are trying that. That’s what I think Hammeroff and Penrose and Tipler – just to name a few who immediately spring to mind – are doing.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying.


Just trying to focus back to the topic regarding biological determinates, determinism in general, v. technology’s impact. Take hurricane Florence and the Carolinas. Sans technology, maybe 5, 6 million (who knows) maybe most, 18, 19 million people/souls would have died. But, for sure, some would have survived. And then … who knows? But as it is, b/c of technology, almost everyone lived, survived; but are now dependent on others to sustain them. (Other people’s money.) Compassion? Guilt? Politics? God? Altruism? Do you have a choice? Did those there, at the scene, have a choice? Risk your life, or save yourself? What determined what an individual did in any given moment? Who lived and who died? … All those questions/answers are unknowable, yes?


If I’ve asked you once, I’ve asked you a million times not to exaggerate. :wink:

Million-death natural disasters are rare. The last one were the floods in China in 1931 that claimed between 1 and 4m lives. The most recent natural disaster on record was the 2004 Indian-Ocean earthquake/tsunami which resulted in an estimated 280,000 deaths. It is not clear that technology was the sole mitigating factor, but my guess is warnings per radio transmission had some positive effect. Still, that was a natural disaster. I’m not sure the most recent storm events (to paraphrase George Carlin) fall into the same category.

At the same time Florence hit, Mangkhut struck the Philippines and China. Difference in death tolls 26 (43 vs. 69). Which technology was the deciding factor here? (Given the fact that about 21,000 die each day of starvation, points to the biological limits of human existence, but apparently with all the technology at our disposal, we can’t figure how to mitigate that disaster … or maybe we are all just Malthusians at heart but are reluctant to show it once a disaster makes the news.) The tsunami was an exception, but the storms are the rule.

Everybody regularly affected by natural disasters has been doing whatever they can within their circumstances to mitigate the effects. Yes, we call that technology but it covers such a wide range of actions and approaches that it’s hard to see how it – like biology, for me another extremely broad brush – has direct and traceable influences on individual decisions, which is really your point, isn’t it?

What particularly caught my eye regarding the survivors was:

Well, that was true of all of them before disaster struck. Only the focus of that dependency has temporarily changed, not the fact. Even though we have come to recognize our individuality, the fact that we are individually identifiable persons, we’re anything but free of dependency on others. You’d have to show me the example of the truly independent and self-sustainable individual.

Having said that, it is still an open issue whether we – be it in crisis or in non-critical situation – have free will. That is a different matter all together.

Nothing. Nothing determined it. Given the myriad conscious and unconscious factors involved, in light of each individual’s nature, nurture, and nativity, each person made decisions regarding what to do about themself and others at a most likely indeterminable number of points along the experiential continuum.

Like you said during our conversation: free will may be an illusion, but it appears to be a necessary one. We all know the consequences of determinism, and the cultural/societal consequences would be devastating. So, it seems to me that the best working hypothesis we have at the moment is that we have free will, we can/may/must choose, and we must bear the responsibility of those choices.

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Well of course. We can’t know what might have happened if things had been different from what they were, nor why a person does what they do when they do it - thus fiction. Without technology there would never be 20 million people living in the Carolinas impacted by the hurricane, so in a sense it’s silly; but I did spend some time (wasted?) thinking about it - what if? What if there were no advance warning, and what if all those people had no means (personal automobiles) to get away? And what if there was no help coming? I like real life disaster/adventure stories - like the woman who died on the Appalachian trail, the earlier one I linked about the young men in the Amazon jungle, and the story of the Soccer team’s plane that crashed in the Andes, and Joe Simpson’s “Touching the void”. Just this AM I came upon Tara Westover’s story - check that one out! Anyway, cheers.

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And let’s remember the cinema. Watch Jeanne Moreau have an existential crisis. Sexy depression.


I am very sympathetic to existentialist phenomenology today. At least I look for an ontology of non-static, a kinetic of being as “something that comes” to the world. The central idea of ​​all existentialist thinking is that existence precedes essence. There is no God who has planned man, and therefore there is no fixed human nature to which man should respect. Man is totally free is the only responsible for what makes of himself (Sartre and some others). First we exist, and only then do we constitute the essence through our actions in the world. Then nothing can ever be explained having as its starting point a given and definitive human nature. There is no sort of essentialist determinism. Existentialism, in this way, places man in total responsibility for what he is. But at the same time, it is strange to think that existence is something individual or the liberal view of man. It would change to: “coexistence precedes existence”. We would have to see in operation a passage from the being-there of existential philosophies to a (be-with) relatable. An interpenetrate. A kind of solidarity that excludes the rest of the world. However, being free means being among friends. “Freedom” and “friend” have the same root in the Indo-European. Freedom is, fundamentally, a relational word. Curiously, too, Marx defines freedom as a successful relationship with the other. Individual freedom represents to Marx a cunning, a trap of capital. “Free competition or free competition”, which rests on the idea of ​​individual freedom, is only “the relation of capital to itself as another capital, that is to say, the actual behavior of capital as capital.” "Only within the community with others does the individual have the necessary means to develop his gifts in every way; only within the community is it possible, therefore, personal freedom "(German Ideology).
On all the considerations so far shows that Kant’s definition of space as a possibility of being together must be replaced by a doctrine which is this: being together is what makes space possible. The so-studied theological and metaphysical notion of the trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) comes into the world in a way to rebut Newton and his idea that each body occupies its space and that two bodies can not occupy the same space simultaneously, , the Trinity with the idea of ​​shared space, interpenetrating, symbiosis, perichoresis. The three are in themselves and at the same time in the other two. A type of alliance, therefore, always in a “three in one”. This is the first theological theory about how three things can coexist in the same place.
That from the beginning there are intertwined particles that are never alone. With psychoanalysis, we have the individualistic fallacy that individuals and atoms are the last particles from which the world is made. But that goes too far. We need to take on a more “molecular” basic layer. If we move from the molecule to the atom, we lose sight of what we are trying to analyze. An empty atom can not tell you anything. In the end, Kant, in his time, was aware that reason itself was modeled on orientation in space. Only he takes space as static and not with an analytic of kinetic place. From nonexistence to existence and that “points to nonexistence”. The “being-in-the-world” comes to a “furniture of the world”, however, with the ontological narrative we must understand that the world is not a furniture populated by pieces already in advance constituted. The world is populated by that constant movement, which travels, transits between the elements, but not as something immutable, but as something that transits along with the transition, something that moves in itself, transforming itself as it changes in space and in time. Not “being-in-the-world”, but rather, “being-entering-the-world”. An analysis of the place as “coming to the world”, that is, an old notion coming from the tradition of Socrates and a cosmology. Instead of substance, why not think of relationships? A dose of pragmatism always brings thought to action and the future (utopia - Dewey’s prophecy or Rorty’s hope). It is not the world that speaks, it is we who speak. Gasset will speak of the man conceived as existing and this does not separate from the world. Foucault treats the body as space and place, that is, the body would be the opposite of a utopia as it speaks in “The Utopian Body”. It also reinforces this view Merleau-Ponty when speaking that the body is not in space, lives in it. Any thing, entity or entity exist, therefore, they are. What it is is, we have an ontological condition for each entity.
But then you could ask what it is, it’s … what? This is already a direction of the being of each being for the being, the horse is the horse, the stone is the stone (the being for each being). There the being comes in as a verb not of connection or predication, but as an ontological existence. All beings are, therefore, have to be, but all beings to be are something, deny the being and end up being “being something”, when we work with the furniture of the world we have the beings, but when we work with the condition of the entities we work with being, is (the difference of ontic and ontological). This is how Heidegger works when he says about the “forgetfulness of Being” and when he says that “Only a God can save us” referring to the growing scientific-technical that would in turn annul the Being of the beings.
If we look at Goethe’s Faustian drama we shall see that it is a Hegelian logic of the world and history, the logic of evolution, the logic of the positive dialectic that promises a constructive definition. Such a model of thought establishes a new era of metaphysical speculation. The world moves and its movement points forward and upward. The evil of the ages appears in these circumstances as the necessary price of evolution, leading us from dark beginnings, hidden to radiant objects. Here lies the philosophical status with Faust. At the point where traditional metaphysics stumbles, in the interpretation of evil in the world, as the Christian background of this metaphysics pales with its salvation optimism, art comes to fill that gap. Mephistopheles as the central figure of modern aesthetics, is a son of the idea of ​​evolution, through which the age-old questions of theodicy and the fugacity of phenomena can be formulated in the eighteenth century in a new way and answered with a new logic. What is certain is that evil in the world, from that time, death, destruction, contamination, negativity can no longer be interpreted as punitive intervention or trials of God in human history as did the ancient Christians. And Enlightenment is not just a theory of light. It is, above all, a theory of movement towards the optical, dynamic light of the theory of evolution. Theories of evolution enter into and introduce the metaphysical inheritance in the sciences. Only they have the strength to integrate, in a comprehensive perspective, evil, decay, death and pain as a burden of living beings. Evolution as progress is modern theodicy. It authorizes the last logical interpretation of negativity, since in the evolutionist’s place we have what must suffer and what perishes, modern intellectual cynicism already puts its hands on the game so that the dead can be the fertilizer of the future. The death of others appears to him as a premise, both ontological and logical, of the success of his projects and of “his own cause.” The devil is not just an evolutionist, but he is also a nominalist. “Evil” understands itself in another way. It is seen as a “force”, as a phenomenon of energy, as a position in a polarity of nature. The devil is the first post-Christian realist. And if we subtract the horn and the legs from Mephistopheles there is nothing left but a bourgeois philosopher realistic, antimetaphysical, empiricist, positivist. It is not by chance that Faust, the incarnation of the modern researcher from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, struck a pact with such a devil.
Going to the work of Sartre called Between Four Walls, we have Inês character of the story that says "Ora! I know what I’m saying. I do not need a mirror. " In this, Estelle asks: "Do not you have a mirror? (Garcin does not respond). A mirror, a pocket mirror, anyone? (Garcin does not respond). Since you’re leaving me alone, at least try to find a mirror. (Garcin continues with her head in her hands, without answering.) Ines asks, “What do you have?” Estelle adds, “I’m feeling weird.” (She palms herself.) Does not that happen to you? , I need to feel myself to know if I’m really there. “Inês ends: You’re lucky, I always perceive myself from within.” The characters’ preoccupation with the self and the mirrors gives us the hint that the two would function as mirror in the other.No mirror will be more faithful than Ines.In hell and without mirrors, only looking into the eyes of others is that it would be possible to see.We would be closer there not to a narcissism or a “theory of mirrors” of Lacan , but of a Hegelian theory of recognition or phenomenology combined with the positivity society of which Han speaks in his works that in the contemporary scenario the other would be eliminated (or even if he encounters what Pascal and Hume denounced, the self as alhe or to any essence or content of its own).
Many take the mirror as merely an occasional decoration. Many do not realize that it is he, the mirror, who is at the center of contemporary life, that we look more into it than anything else during the day, even in the black mirrors. We want an answer from the mirror at all times. We can not get rid of him. Looking at yourself in the mirror every morning is something very recent within our customs. But we act on our considerations of ourselves as if from the caves we have done this, that of cultivating the practice of looking in the mirror. Lacan fell into this error of naturalizing the “mirror stage” into something narcissistically. Lacan’s hybrid theorem as the maker of the function of the Self can overcome his dependence on this familiar nineteenth-century cosmetic or egotechnical tool to the great prejudice of those who have been overshadowed by this psychological mirage. We have the myth of Narcissus, which rightly should not be read as an indication of a natural relationship of the human being with his disturbing strangeness of facial reflection. It is not a coincidence that the story is transmitted by Ovid. Looking at this we have to keep in mind that the eye and the face or the face and the subject and the face-object were placed in relation to each other in a new way. Narcissus wanted to hug his face in the mirror of the water, but for a reason: this one had not yet noticed, for him, his own face. His fall into the reflection allows us to think that until then, every face that appeared in sight should be the face of the other. Narcissistic misfortune is nothing more than an accident of self-reflection. A face that shows itself, that is, is a charming face, whether it be the face itself is something inadmissible before the appearance of reflection. Previously in Alcebíades, we had one of the first figures in the European tradition whose characterization shows traces of a facial aesthetic consciousness applied to its own case. Socrates decides to circumvent the vanity of his pupil, making him remain still on his beautiful face, the one of Alcebíades, to address not in the face, but in his soul. For the Greeks, the mirrors remain something unique to women. The Greek man can only have experiences of his aspect through the vision of the other. The initial experience of faciality consists in the fact that humans who look at human beings are looked at by human beings, and from the gaze of the other, they turn to themselves. The basis of Greek philosophy, the academy. . That is why Socrates is important, because he asked it to be done: the game of living thought. A “method” that he became well known for. That is why Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedrus, made it clear why he did not write books. The book always gives the same answer. The book is important, but it never contradicts, never reacts, never exalts. The book is limited in the work of creating. The book is not surprising. The book is not the living reasoning that catches the interlocutor to require him to reformulate, to re-create, to recreate. Only the other, the interlocutor can create what is fundamental to the reasoning that trains philosophizing: contradiction. That is exactly what the elenkhós, the “method of refutation.” Philosophy was born of an activity of confraternity of friends, a place of the elect, chosen, a field called skholé - the school.


Also a catalyst for philosophy,along with the presence of good friends, is a good bottle of wine. Bertrand Russell considered wine an important ingredient in the rise of philosophy.

Memories of my existential crisis return. How charming it all is. I appeared in the play NO EXIT, which you quoted from, in high school. It was very popular back then. Later in college production, I played Creon in Anouilh’s Antigone. A personal favorite. And I have recollections of playing the lead in Ugo Betti’s Goat Island ( I was miscast) and a one act by Ionesco, where I played a deranged teacher who strangles his female student. I was very good in that one. I like playing hysteria.

I am amused as I recall my youthful exposure to the Existentialist movement through plays and movies. I read Artaud and delved into Growtoski. I loved Jean Genet. Existentialism was well absorbed by most smart people in my college years. We were used to being absurd. We were already moving out of that posturing that came with it, the tight turtle necks and jazz and gatois cigarettes were not part of the package. That looked pretty corny and only the Euro trash that came to New York in droves really indulged in that. We were into platform shoes, bell bottoms and disco. It was Saturday Nite Live!

When I came to New York, in the mid seventies we watched the art house movies,viewed in dingy little theaters, viewed the great Ingmar Bergman films, Truffaut, Fellini. I had a brief affair with a French beauty, who smoked a lot, and was depressed. Her name was Claire. At twenty eight she was an older woman. I was twenty two? She reminds me of Jeanne Moureau. Although I identify as gay, I experimented a lot. That was common in those days.

Late 70’s we were discussing Foucault and some of us even tried to get into Deleuze and Guatarri. I remember buying Anti-Oedipus for a friend of mine as a Christmas present. We hung out in the cafes during the day and at the bars until 4am and then we went out to private bars, and sex clubs till the crack of dawn. As the sun arose, rats ran into the gutters, and dump trucks picked up the trash. We wandered home, back to the fifth floor walk up, and yeah there were a lot of hipsters and angels, everywhere, looking for an angry fix. It was drugs, sex and rock and roll. Queer punk was the aesthetic. Urban decay, poverty, and Andy Warhol was my neighbor. I created a small theater space off off Broadway and we played lots of weird stuff. It was post modern before anyone had called it post-modern. Then the AIDS epidemic hit and wiped out everything. Within a few years all of that was gone. Reagan and Thatcher laid down the foundations for the current Neo-Liberal circus we are currently cursed with.

The quality of the public discourse has continued to go downhill with the advent of the Internet and the addiction to flat screens. Our minds and imaginations are confined more and more to the flat screen, rather than books or theater or face to face contacts in real time. Print culture is probably dying-I’m not sure. I read more books now than I ever did. There have been a few moments of aliveness, like the Occupy movement, whom I marched with. And there has been much underground movement that came to the surface and has had real impacts. Many young smart people and their elders are continuing to try to break out of the Matrix. Smart people like yourself, Eduardo,

There are pockets of community arising out of the ashes, out of the desperation of massive inequality and dystopian dreamscapes. I remain, however, not attracted to optimism or pessimism in their extremes but somewhere in the in between, oscillating between matter and spirit and the human condition. I am more and more feeling attuned to the microbial world, to the germs in our gut, the bacteria that not only makes it possible to digest our food, but shape fertility rates, influence mind, impact health dramatically. A war with the microbial world will not be won by humans. That would be like shooting yourself in the foot and trying to run a relay race. We are earth bound and not going to be saved by Neo Liberal Pseudo Intelligence programs. We are sympoetic, symbiotic. We continue to off load our biotic cognitive capacities onto abiotic systems and imagine we are going to realize ourselves on Mars. Fat chance. I am not holding my breath.

I imagine that the Technology we are using now can have an influence and create conditions for big change,if we use it in anarchic ways that retrain our attention, as we are doing now with Cosmos cafe and other spaces. But the real change, will be started on the side walk, in a library, in a cafe. Maybe we can learn how to amplify that in ways that were more difficult in the past as we were working in great isolation. Technology makes certain kinds of access easier. But the forces of darkness are always with us and that is a good thing. We would be lost without the Darkness.

And on the other hand, as Oscar Wilde said, " A map without Utopia on it is not worth looking at."


Somehow, I think this fits. This clip came up on my youtube feed after watching the clip you posted, @johnnydavis54, after reading the latest re’s. I can’t even remember how, or why, or when, I got turned on to Tara Westover (oh, it was via goodreads) -but her story ties into all that we’ve been having a conversation about (writing, being, learning, relationships - all that is existential.)


One more, before AI scolds me. On Free Will & existential despair …

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“As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
They kill us for their sport.” - Shakespeare.

Existential despair is as old as the hills. And there is no freedom without constraints. I dont think the free will debate is very interesting. I am not into the consciousness debate or the the God is dead debate. Seems like adolescent boy stuff to me. I am not drawn to the black or white-I like subtle shades of gray.

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The use of algorithms to make decisions for us is pervasive and in my view a threat to creativity, camaraderie, an embodied life, a spontaneous life, a life allowing contingent responses, a life of loyalty, warmth, and solidarity. Whether or not you find the question of free will intrinsically meaningful to contemplate; it needs to be grappled with in order to respond to questions raised by the increasing application of algorithms to nudge, guide and enforce choices and actions in service of commercial imperatives and the cult of efficiency, in software used by government agencies to determine eligibility for government assistance divorced from human evaluation, and self-improvement apps in pursuit of optimal behavior and emotional well being (which I don’t see as an unmitigated good because they seek to eliminate the “poor choices” that might be driven by passion and emotion by applying reason and rationalization to all our choices thereby suppressing important aspects of being human: making mistakes, experiencing pain, being flawed.)

In the original discussion, Doug referred to AI or algorithms that might “know” ourselves better than we do. I don’t think he meant “know” in the sense of conscious knowledge. What I think he may have been referring to is the ability of computer programs to predict outcomes based on aggregate data and find connections we didn’t see and may not even understand after they are discovered. The software might show us that certain behaviors we wouldn’t have considered relevant consistently lead to certain outcomes. Yes, of course a person coded that software and designed the algorithms, but the software and it’s application to collected data uncovered things the human analyst would not have uncovered, and depending on how it is programmed it can ‘make decisions’ based on human programming but play out in ways the human engineer did not anticipate (for instance the many unintended consequences of Facebook’s behavioral modification design).

These revealed patterns and connections could be applied for the good in our lives; but my concern is whether I am going to be able to decide what to do with that information. I may want to ignore it because it is more important to me to be autonomous than to be “healthy” or behave optimally.

And this is when I find people saying to me – you aren’t autonomous anyway since you don’t have free will. People often repeat a truism along the lines of “freedom is an illusion.” Since that viewpoint seems to be prevailing, at least in the secular world as I encounter it, I feel the need to engage and challenge it since it is leading people to surrender to and view the future being imposed on us by a few technology companies as some inevitable force of evolution or history.


I have to imagine that Google’s “Selfish Ledger” video may have been posted at some point on the Cosmos forums, but here it is. Google said it was intended for internal use and just as a thought exercise, and I actually take it as that in spite of the alarmist tone of my original post. To me it seems to have bearing not only on this discussion, but on the whole topic of human evolution which as far as I can tell is a main topic on the Cosmos site.

By the way…since this is my first time posting, I want to mention that I have been watching, listening and reading to Infinite Conversations stuff since June. I have enjoyed it immensely and it has given me a lot of stimulation and meaning and provocation. I find the regular participants in the conversations to be a fascinating variety. I love that while the conversations can be very high minded they frequently involve concrete anecdotes from peoples lives.

I find the conversation style in many of the videos to be very refreshing: people allowed to elaborate and develop their ideas at length, long pauses in which people seem to be digesting what has been said or to be waiting for a useful response rather than rushing along. I only get a little bit of that kind of conversation in my real world life, so I greatly appreciate getting some of it here.


The question of free will can be interesting to contemplate, I dont find the typical debate very interesting. One guy puts on his gloves and tries to knock out the other guy. A crude display usually follows. Other ways of working with questions interest me a lot, including poetry, art, music. There are more things in heaven and earth than can be framed in a debate.


Great to see your articulate responses @takingtigermountain. @achronon corrected me while in the discussion when I said AI could think or know, and your writing above reflects my own thinking on the matter, in a better show of wordsmanship.

I too wish for myself and others to always hold close the idea of control over our own information. Personally, I am too poor to be influenced by online product placements…too patternless on internet usage to be defined…yet still, it is all too easy for others to define me, to utilize even the littlest bits of information, whether now or in the future. @Mark_Jabbour has frequently stated that raising a child in the current wild world seems more difficult than ever…good luck to you young parents! Teach your children well. Just because it is out there does not mean we have to blindly participate.

If you haven’t checked this Cosmos Cafe episode out below, my personal algorithmic thinking has deciphered that you have an 80% chance of enjoying the content, though by enjoy I mean become even more aware of the need to be engaged and vigilant in our tragically comedic world.


Good to hear from you @takingtigermountain (preferrably “Nathaniel”, “Nat”, other?); a new voice is always welcome.

Well observed, and with what was actually lacking in the “heat of the moment”. Both Doug and I are aware that what we say and what we mean doesn’t always gibe. It “looks” like the computer “knows”, but we all know that this isn’t “knowing” as we generally know it. Your description here highlights precisely why, and whatever word describes that is the word we should be using, I suppose. I don’t know what it is and tend to react a bit to allergically to the word “know”, but at least Doug knows what I mean when I get like that.

Which is why, I suppose, my allergy responses heighten … . As with “knowing”, these outcomes look like “decisions”, but more to the point, the designer often has no idea that such outcomes are possible. Unfortunately, too often the designers act as if they do. Coming back to my “stockmarket” example, the 1000-point drop in October 2015, I believe, was a software issue. No one knows why it came about. I find such events both amusing and unnerving at the same time. But too many of us laypeople are clueless regarding the subtleties of what is happening. I’m a fan of more awareness.

There’s lots to be said for what digital technology does for us, to be sure, but a bit more insight into what it does to us wouldn’t hurt either.