StairsEver since I studied the sociology of sociology I’ve been fascinated by recursive activity. I’ve heard professional speakers speaking about speaking and read writers writing about writing.

The current edition of the New Yorker features a translation of Wislawa Szymborska’s compelling poem Reciprocity (subscription required). It is a wonderful play on the idea of recursive activity. Of worlds within worlds. Mirror shades.

I found this Italian translation which I have rendered into English for the benefit of anyone who does not have a New Yorker subscription.

There are catalogs of catalogs.
There are poems about poems.
There are plays about actors played by actors.
Letters in response to letters.
Words used to clarify words.
Brains occupied with studying brains.
There are griefs as infectious as laughter.
Paper emerging from waste papers.
Seen glances.
Conditions conditioned by the conditional.
Large rivers with abundant contributions from small ones.
Forests overgrown by forests.
Machines designed to make machines.
Dreams wake us suddenly from dreams.
Health needed for regaining health.
Stairs leading as much up as down.
Glasses for finding glasses.
Inspiration born of expiration.
And even if only from time to time
hatred of hatred.
All in all,
ignorance of ignorance.
and hands employed to wash hands.

The last two lines alone summoned, for me, images of manicurists who don’t know what they don’t know, but (working backwards through the stanza) with every breath they take, have an opportunity to speak tolerantly with occasional customers.

And, of course, the whole silicon chip industry and Moore’s Law has been driven by machines designed to make machines that have enabled tremendous advances in cognitive science by corporations where careers are downsized as often as they advance; where patents filled with footnotes are written on recycled paper; where the sum of knowledge is made up of a multitude of small contributions; where the Light of Consciousness itself can awaken us from this dream of our limited and limiting conditional existence. Klik-Klak, pattern patterning.

At least that’s what the poem seems to be saying, at first glance.

Open systems born of counter-culture (redux)

In response to an interview with Silicon Valley VC Peter Thiel in the Weekend FT on Dec 20, 2013 my letter defending hippie values was published a week later:

Of the many sweeping statements made by libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel during his “Lunch with the FT” interview (“People are not trying hard enough”, Life & Arts, December 21), none seems as wide of the mark as his claim that “when the hippies won … the idea of progress came to an end”. As someone who lives and invests in Silicon Valley, Mr Thiel should be familiar with the well-documented connection between 1960s radicals and innovations around open systems computing and the origins of the personal computer.

Open systems grew out of the variation of the Unix operating system developed at the University of California at Berkeley – hotbed of the 1960s counter-culture in the US. Open systems innovation led to a revolution every bit as real as the one hoped for by those manning the barricades on Telegraph Avenue.

Homebrew Computer Club founder Fred Moore was an anti-war activist. Club members Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs engaged in “hippie pastimes” such as phone phreaking, experimenting with LSD, and seeking spiritual enlightenment in India. They then went on to found Apple Computers, hardly a sign that progress had come to an end.

New YorkerNow, a long article in the Jan 13 edition of the New Yorker by Evgeny Morozov, details various elements of the rebellion against establishment ownership of the means of production–from the Arts & Crafts movement of the early 20th Century through the Whole Earth Catalog of the 1960s to the hackers of the 70’s and the Maker Movement today.

Whole Earth Catalog founder and computer revolutionary Stewart Brand contrasts the nature of the rebellion on different sides of the San Francisco Bay:

Around Berkeley, it was Free Speech Movement, “power to the people.” Around Stanford, it was “Whole Earth Catalog,” Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, people like that, and they were just power to people. They just wanted to power anybody who was interested, not “the people.” Well, it turns out there is no, probably, “the people.” So the political blind alley that Berkeley went down was interesting, we were all taking the same drugs, the same length of hair, but the stuff came out of the Stanford area, I think because it took a Buckminster Fuller access-to-tools angle on things.

Morozov writes that, in addition to Fred Moore, another leader of the Homebrew Computer Club was Lee Felsenstein. A veteran of the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, he wanted to build a communication infrastructure that would allow citizens to swap information in a decentralized manner, bypassing the mistrusted traditional media. He founded the Club to help counter the power of IBM, then the dominant manufacturer of large and expensive computers, and make computers smaller, cheaper, and more useful in political struggles.

Morozov’s notes the irony that today “we carry personal computers in our pockets—nothing could be more decentralized than this!—but have surrendered control of our data, which is stored on centralized servers, far away from our pockets.”

While he criticizes the lack of a willingness of these movements to address institutional and political change, the overwhelming impact of the innovations that the counter-culture unleashed is undeniable.

Interview: Austin Hill Shaw – Creativity Instigator

Austin Hill ShawFor as long as he can remember, San Francisco Bay Area-based Austin Hill Shaw has been enraptured by creativity and the creative process. In 2004, stemming from a life-changing insight gained during a three-month meditation retreat, he began exploring the subject of creativity in earnest, wanting to understand the opportunities and challenges behind creativity’s seemingly universal appeal. Since then, he has amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding creative expression in art, science, and religion, in childhood development and adult maturation, in business and the economy, in product innovation, in both intimate and organizational relationships, and in non-ordinary states of consciousness, delving into the very core of what is means to be human. More importantly, he has striven to embody all that he’s learned, using his own life as an ongoing experiment, testing and refining his methods in his own pursuits as a writer and architectural designer.

Between The Bridge and the WaterToday, in a time of rampant job automation and outsourcing, Austin’s message regarding the importance of creativity and how to activate it is swiftly making its way out into the world. Drawing upon an innovative mix of cutting-edge science, artistic expression, and age-old spiritual wisdom, Austin presents a timely and enlivening understanding of creativity, one that ignites the full-person creative potential of individuals and organizations alike. He just released his provocative first book in his Awakening Creativity Series, a book entitled, Between The Bridge and The Water: Death, Rebirth, and Creative Awakening, and will be releasing his next book, The Shoreline of Wonder: The Path of Creativity later this summer.

Whether he is addressing a large audience or working with an individual one-on-one, Austin combines visionary insight with heartfelt empathy, profound ideas with unexpected humor, sobering seriousness with joyful irreverence, all with a remarkable sense of presence. He is a gifted story teller, one with the ability to unpack the complex subtleties of the creative process and present them in a way that can be put to use immediately. Through his keynote presentations, writing, and one-on-one coaching, and through his work with his architecture clients, Austin Hill Shaw is dedicated to helping others awaken their natural creative capacities and to share their creative gifts with others.

Find out more about Austin, his speaking and coaching offerings, and his other creative pursuits at

Pro-Track Profile

I recently talked with Austin about his background. To hear what he told me, and the plans he has to instigate creativity in the world, as well as his impressions of the National Speakers Association Pro-Track class that he is part of, click on the podcast icon below.

Tiffany Shlain’s stunning autobiographical film

Connected the FilmOn Sunday I invited my daughter to the Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley for the opening weekend of Tiffany Shlain’s latest film Connected. Since we both work at Cisco, and the movie trailer promised a discussion of internet and connectivity, I thought we’d both find it interesting and relevant to our day jobs. “It’ll be a nice Father-Daughter afternoon out,” I mentioned to Emily.

I had no idea.

Tiffany Shlain is the daughter of Dr. Leonard Shlain, a Renaissance man who was a surgeon, inventor and author. In May 2009 he passed away after a two-year battle with brain cancer. This film is an emotionally raw account of her father’s life and death; of his influence on her and the ideas on language and the brain he developed in his book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image; of
her own struggle to conceive a second child and of her eldest child’s brush with a life-threatening medical emergency.

She started work on the film five years ago, at that time her Dad was one of her principal advisers on the script. His passing both challenged her ability to complete the film and offered an opportunity to make her autobiography a point of departure for a wide-ranging consideration of the effect of the internet, connectivity and collaboration on society today.

Tiffany has been involved in the promotion of the web as the founder of the “Webby Awards” as well as an early proponent of distance learning.

The film uses animated timelines to span developments in science, technology and innovation from the Big Bang to the present day. She focuses on historical figures such as Einstein, Marie Curie and James Lovelock to detail the evolution of ideas from the era of the printing press to the web. The decline of the honeybee is seen as a leitmotif for the many threats to the planet that patriarchal, left-brained thinking has led to.

However, Tiffany takes an optimistic view of the potential for the interconnected world we inhabit to discover a way out of the crisis. By focusing less on linear text and more on pattern recognition and images, she suggests the Web might begin to undo the centuries exaltation of the masculine, left-brained approach to problems.

As Adi Da Samraj has written in Not-Two Is Peace, Only everybody-all-at-once can change the current chaos. Tiffany’s stunning autobiographical film holds hope that the interconnectivity made possible by the network will indeed become a platform for a sensible resolution to the challenges we all face.

Coming to Theaters

Connected is currently playing at selected theaters in San Francisco, Berkeley and Mill Valley, CA. Over the next six weeks it opens in Portland, OR; Monterey, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Seattle, WA; New York, NY and Denver, CO.

Book Review: Tasting the Moon, by Meg Fortune McDonnell

Full disclosure: I first met Meg Fortune McDonnell in 1980 when I arrived in California to join the community that grew up around the spiritual teacher she describes in her memoir. Unlike Meg, who embraced a relationship to her teacher that lasted a lifetime, I was more of a dilettante, dropping out of the community in 1986 and, for the last ten years, re-approaching as a friend and advocate, not a full-blown practitioner. I have a profound respect for Adi Da Samraj, a teacher who has authored over 80 books of spiritual insight, as well as a prolific artist. (For a taste of both, go to and, respectively.) I also appreciate that the story Meg tells is of value not just to those who share an interest in this particular teacher, or even those who are sympathetic to the possibility of spiritual life in general, but to anyone with an interest in a different perspective on the meaning of life.

Tasting the Moon Tasting the Moon is a challenging book, 723 pages of observations on the meaning of life, death, transcendence and everything in between; fortunately it is written as a page-turner that makes compelling reading. The author, Meg Fortune McDonnell, dedicated herself to learning from an unusual spiritual teacher she met in the mid-70s and she’s stuck with ever since. She tackles the rewards and challenges of spiritual life head-on.

As a first-hand report on what one expert called “the most penetrating social & spiritual experiment on the planet” (p. 199) her story deserves to be widely read.

The things I liked about this book include:

  • She tells a story that is hers alone, with the constant reminder that “your mileage might vary” as well as a gentle admonition “not to try this at home”. The most compelling thing about the book is Meg’s voice. She writes in wonderfully clear prose that speaks directly to the reader and throughout the book she uses “Excellent Phrasing” (a playful name her teacher gives her, pgs. 85-86).
  • Her honesty. I can only guess at the discriminative choices she made as she trod the fine line between being totally honest with herself and yet sensitive to the privacy of her friends. The use of her own name is a courageous “coming out” (p. 221) in a society where having a guru is so controversial. This, coupled with the decision to use fictional names for everyone else except Adi Da is a wise move (even though many members of her community must be having a fine time second-guessing who is who.)
  • Her scholarship and learning, which she wears in a refreshingly light manner. I got a huge kick out of her early references — having read many of same books she had before she encountered her teacher (Castaneda; Kerouac; Orwell; Bettleheim) — and then enjoyed hearing about the many books I’ve not read from the list of traditional spiritual texts Adi Da introduced her to, and the way she weaves anecdotes from multiple traditions into the story.
  • Most of all, her obvious love for the guru and the many wonderful descriptions of her spiritual experiences in his company, occasions in which the power of his blessing fills the room and transports her to remarkable states of awareness.

Her story begins in small town Ohio and encompasses the experimental lifestyles of the late 1960’s and early 70’s. She shares her enjoyment of the “gob-smacking delicious” life in a rural tipi; teaching in the inner city; dance-therapy and improv theater. She followed in the footsteps of Kerouac and Kesey until, as for me and many of my friends, someone gave her a copy of a book by Bubba Free John (Adi Da’s earliest teaching name) and she landed up on Polk Street in San Francisco in 1975 where she met the “earth-mothers with big hair and slight men with big brains who greeted us and helped us get started.”

The next 30 years with her guru includes a comprehensive review of the varied considerations he engaged in with those close to him and the wider community. Topics covered include:

  • The evolution of gender roles and sexual politics as they affect empowered women
  • The challenges and benefits of monogamy, celibacy and alternative lifestyles for intimate relationships
  • Program management in non-profit organizations
  • Understanding the ways photography undermines a singular “point of view” to represent both Art and blessing
  • Public relations and crisis management in times of negative press coverage
  • Early childhood through late adolescent educational programs
  • The role of exercise, diet and yoga for optimal health
  • The importance for public speakers to first relate to people in an audience before presenting ideas: “Love comes first, information second.” (p. 274)
  • The ways by which true prayer can ameliorate global conflict and individual suffering
  • A dismissal of the Oxfordian theorists claims that someone other than Shakespeare wrote the plays (really!)
  • Irrefutable evidence that the Shroud of Turin is not authentic
  • Zen and the art of unicycle maintenance (again, really!)

Above all, this book is a sophisticated analysis of the process of guru devotion as a path to realization for contemporary men and women. And therein, for most readers, lies the challenge. This is a controversial topic. Meg’s book is a compelling narrative that describes the rewards experienced by an accomplished and intelligent women who dedicated her life to spiritual practice. She reviews the relevance of traditional Eastern and Western religious teaching on the value of a direct relationship with a spiritual master. While she draws on extensive knowledge of the literature, this is no dry scholarly analysis. Her story is enlivened by her first-hand reports of out-of-the-body experiences; dreams; boundary-less awareness and the experience of witnessing at close quarters a being who was able to “compress infinite awareness, the eternal state of being…into a human body” (p. 628)

Her major accomplishment is to have shared what it was like to fully heart-participate with Adi Da during his life on this Earth, to “taste the Moon” and tell the tale for the rest of us to enjoy.

Good drama is surprising and inevitable

An interview with playwright David Mamet in the Weekend FT has a useful discussion on the challenges of compelling writing:

I take the opportunity of having this master craftsman in front of me to ask about writing. He commences by defining where others go wrong. “Anyone can write five people trapped in a snowstorm. The question is how you get them into the snowstorm. It’s hard to write a good play because it’s hard to structure a plot. If you can think of it off the top of your head, so can the audience. To think of a plot that is, as Aristotle says, surprising and yet inevitable, is a lot, lot, lot of work.”

So what is the basis of drama? Mamet gazes at me blankly as if the question is naive, then elucidates in one long sentence. “The basis of drama is … is the struggle of the hero towards a specific goal at the end of which he realises that what kept him from it was, in the lesser drama, civilisation and, in the great drama, the discovery of something that he did not set out to discover but which can be seen retrospectively as inevitable. The example Aristotle uses, of course, is Oedipus.”

Indeed, there are certain truths which speechwriters can heed to maximize the dramatic impact of a talk:

  • Good theater “shows” rather than “tells” an audience.
  • The audience can envisage themselves within the story.
  • A dramatic story is not just based on character and personality, but on plot. Aristotle defined this as the “arrangement of incidents” and the way these are presented to the audience is the structure of the play (or speech).
  • The speech must have a beginning, middle and end: an inciting moment, climax and resolution.

There’s a lot more about the importance of plot applied to corporate presentations in Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate.

Guest Posting: The Global Crisis is Deadly, Dangerous – and it can be Overcome

Dennis Bumstead was General Manager of, and is now an adviser to, the Global Cooperation Project. He is an adviser to new initiatives, Four Years Go and the Green Tea Party, and a seed group member of his local Transitions Town initiative in Lake County, California. After teaching, at M.I.T., and at London and Antioch Universities; consulting to Fortune 500 corporations and working for The World Bank, for the past decade he has been recovering, by, amongst other things, working in the non-profit world – since 2006 with the Global Cooperation Project, promoting the ideas in Not-Two Is Peace by Adi Da.

The Global Crisis is Deadly, Dangerous – and it can be Overcome
by Dennis Bumstead, PhD

“The future is either going to be catastrophic disaster, or it is going to be the turnabout moment in human history, in which humankind will step out of its dark ages of “tribalism” into a new mode of human cooperative order.” Adi Da, Not-Two Is Peace, The Ordinary People’s Way of Global Cooperative Order.

While there are many encouraging grass roots efforts to change the monstrous trundling to destruction of the old global order, (take Avaaz, for just one), as yet there is still no widespread, really full consideration of our seriously threatening situation. Nothing seems to address the global totality of the escalating crises we are in.

Even thoughtful economist critics, such as Krugman, Stiglitz, Roubini and Sachs, who indicate that proposed economic solutions are not enough, confine most of their proposals to the economic and political sub-sectors of the total system.

We need change which is economic and political, but also social, and cultural, and psychological and spiritual. Truly transformative change.

The dire situation in the Third World

For those in the Third World, the escalating global crisis comes on top of system-endemic depredations of poverty, malnutrition and environmental degradation. Some two billion people are trying to survive on just two dollars a day. They also suffer the effects of the many wars which are conducted, sponsored or ignored (and always armed) by the so-called “developed” nations. Globally, we are making the absurd decision to let a third of humanity starve, if wars or preventable diseases don’t get them first. This is the great civilization, which we tell each other and our kids in school, has been “evolving” magnificently since the Renaissance!

The establishment global institutions, the corporate / governmental / military and “security” apparatus, the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, and big media obviously do useful and even many well intentioned things. But essentially they sustain the status quo, and its accruing benefits to the “developed” nations, and principally to the 2% who own and run these institutions. There is far more reporting on the “shape” of the recession (flat, double dip, etc.) than on the daily fact that under present rules of the game, the recession is a death sentence for millions of people in the Third World. These are people who would not need to die if the global system were managed for the benefit of all, instead of for the few.

Al Gore has been a sustained and effective communicative voice for environmental change. But that is only part of the problem and environmental challenges are not soluble without radical change in other arenas. Many alternative writers and activists like Hazel Henderson and David Korten likewise address critical sub-sets of the issues. Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest suggested some years ago that there is a mostly invisible movement already tackling many of the issues. That is encouraging. But most of us who have been part of that world for years or even decades know how frustrating and difficult it is to move on to the level of change needed.

A full alternative: The Ordinary People’s Way of Global Cooperative Order

In Not-Two Is Peace Adi Da addresses the issues comprehensively.

The book spells out:

  • what the problems are
  • why the existing global system cannot and will not continue
  • that it will be determined, by our understandings and actions, “in the next handful of years” whether catastrophe or regeneration ensues
  • a proposal for the formation of a Global Cooperative Forum, functioning on the basis of “prior unity” and managing the globe for the benefit of all instead of the few.

(The book does not spell out a detailed action program. That must come from intelligent, creative and necessarily cooperative response and action.)

Adi Da points out that the world’s political economy simply cannot continue, built as it is on a model of growth for the developed and depletion for the “developing”. The system as is simply unsustainable, as more and more nation-”tribes” try to get in on the so-called “good life”.

These ideas make sense to “early adopters” – those who are already have noticed that attempting to reinstall the status quo is not working and who are already exploring and engaging real alternatives.

The book is fundamentally very clear. But its offers plenty of challenges to us all – because it calls for change we all fear is impossible and it addresses the way-deep conventions of global life that we all carry into the fray.

“Something new must emerge”

Adi Da spoke and wrote about these issues all his life. Beginning with a speech on prejudice and tolerance that he gave in high school in the 1950s, in various books, and summarily in Not-Two Is Peace. He spoke about the seriousness and urgency of the global situation on the last day of his earthly life, November 27, 2008. What he said was recorded and appears as the last chapter in the current edition of Not-Two Is Peace. These are the last paragraphs :

Civilization is in crisis. The human world altogether is in crisis. The notions of security, longevity, freedom from need, and enjoyment of life are showing themselves to be illusions–very tentative, and able to be enjoyed by only a relative few. And the relative few who enjoy such life-conditions do so at the expense of others–and, in fact, on the basis of the suffering and exploitation of others.

Something new must emerge. That something new is not going to emerge from the pattern of nation-states, or even from the gathering of nation-states (in the form of the United Nations). That something new can only emerge from everybody-all-at-once–the power of humankind as a totality.

Humankind as a totality must relinquish the old civilization. It must accept that the old civilization is dead, the old civilization is gone, useless, non-productive. The old civilization can no longer provide security, longevity, freedom from need, and life-enjoyment for people. Less and less can the old civilization do anything useful at all. The old civilization is now profoundly degraded, and will only get worse with time.

A new mode of social contract must emerge–a mode of social contract not founded on egoity. There must now be an egoless mode of social contract–based on cooperation, tolerance, and universal participation and accountability. Such is the nature of the necessary global cooperative order.

In order for such a global cooperative order to come into being, there must be a core institution based on the universal participation and accountability of everybody-all-at-once. I call that core institution the Global Cooperative Forum. The Global Cooperative Forum is the necessary transformative movement on Earth. (pp307-8)


We have some time – a few years – and we need to act, boldly. Immediate global catastrophe (as predicted frequently in the blogosphere) is not likely – in the short term. For just “a handful of years”, we will see continuing economic recession together with “moderate or localized disasters” (oil spills, local wars etc.) not in the least moderate for those directly affected, of course, but not yet the complete local and global catastrophe. For now, since the South American economic crisis of ’97 and on other occasions including the global crisis of ’08, the powers-that-be have demonstrated some significant, if last minute, capacity to prevent total global meltdown and sustain some functionality, in the interests of …. the illusory status quo.

Of course, it’s true that “in the long run, we are all dead” as Mr Keynes famously said, (and as Buddhists and other wise traditions have been saying for 2,500 years or so), but if the Global Cooperative Forum, as proposed in Not-Two Is Peace, is launched within a few years, significant improvements in global functionality can be made including some, like climate management, which will take an extended time for effective reversal of damaged systems.

There are thousands of large and small efforts underway, all working for global change. Efforts like Transition Towns, to give just one example. Many of them are collected together on Hawken’s Wiser Earth site. These efforts can come into effective cooperation through a Global Cooperative Forum. No utopias are to be expected, but there are much better ways than business as usual! If we take such cooperative action the planet can reach a state of equanimity so all of us can begin to live truly human lives.

What better to do with the next couple of years?

Not-Two Is Peace: The Ordinary People’s Way of Global Cooperative Order, by Adi Da can be read on-line at

Book Review: Sum – forty tales from the afterlives

Mental Floss

You don’t have to be conventionally religious to be curious about the afterlife. Anyone reading this blog must know they will wake up dead one day. Then what? All religions have their stories about what believers should expect. And many people are comforted by such beliefs.

But for others, open to conjecture, the possibilities of the afterlife are limited only by our imagination.

Sum - forty tales of the afterlives - coverDavid Eagleman has written a wonderfully imaginative and quirky collection of vignettes describing possible afterlives. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives is a whirlwind tour of possibilities for all kinds of life after death which I found to be a wonderfully stimulating read.

There’s an afterlife where you find yourself in a world exclusively populated by people you’d known while alive:

“The missing crowds make you lonely. You begin to complain about all the people you could be meeting. But no one listens or sympathizes with you, because this is precisely what you chose while you were alive.”

There’s a free-market afterlife of “fast cars and charisma and drinking and lovemaking” which stands in contrast to the Heaven where “the harp music is maddeningly slow”. There’s a wide range of Sci-Fi afterlives where human beings are data gathering machines created by a race of subterranean beings to roam freely and map the world; or one where a race of dumb creatures who engineered us as smart machines to discover the answer to ultimate questions de-brief us by repetitively asking “Do you have answer?”.

Each chapter teases, provokes and, implicitly, pokes gentle fun at the binary options often presented by the fundamentalist afterlives of mainstream religions.

I read it, entranced, in one sitting. The one caution is that you should be prepared for acute mental whiplash as each of the 40 chapters challenges us to imagine an alternative future.

If you’d like to think outside of the box and come up with alternatives to commonly held beliefs, read a chapter or two of Sum. Then apply the same creativity to the topic of a business presentation or Toastmasters speech.

Life Caching

Candid Camera

Vicon RevueSpringwise reports that a wearable camera has been developed in the UK which can document a person’s life. Promising “Memories for Life” the Vicon Revue has been created as an aid for people with memory loss.

The device can operate either on a timer—taking photos every 30 seconds—or it can be set to take photos automatically when triggered by internal sensors, which can detect body heat as well as changes in temperature, light and motion. Along with images, the camera also stores a time-stamped log file that can be enriched with GPS traces. Its 1GB of flash memory can typically hold around 30,000 images, or approximately 6 days’ worth of capture.

The appeal of the Vicon Revue is expected to broaden from Alzheimer’s patients who need a photographic record of events they might otherwise forget to anyone narcissistic enough to want to record as much about every moment of their life as possible.

So, if you were to stick one of these devices on a newborn and they lived to be, say, 70, then 4.3TB of disk storage would hold their entire lifetime in pictures. You can actually buy that much storage for around $700. What are you waiting for!

Life Caching

Springwise terms this emerging trend Life Caching and notes:

Thanks to the onslaught of new technologies and tools, from blogging software to memory sticks to high definition camera phones with lots of storage space and other ‘life capturing and storing devices’, an almost biblical flood of ‘personal content’ is being collected, and waiting to be stored to allow for ongoing trips down memory lane.

One possible future is that all of us will soon have enough of our lives recorded that no-one, least of all ourselves, will have the time or inclination to review the data we’ve collected. If you cache 100% of the life you lead for 24 hours, and proceed to review it, then the next 24 hours would be a cache of you reviewing your cache. Our lives would recede like reflections in a hall of mirrors, as we viewed ourselves viewing ourselves. Our self-obsession would become magnified.

Technology is already causing this to happen to some of us. I’ve collected 27 days worth of music on my iPod, most of which I’ll probably never listen to. I have countless folders filled with digital photographs I never look at and a blog with over 500 articles that I hardly ever read.

So what’s your point (of view)?

The end-game of this technology might well be a time when each of us holds a cache of our separate lives and yet is unable to make any more sense of it than we do of our unrecorded life. In fact, if everyone did this, life would become infinitely more confusing.

eyeballsWhat would it be like to play back all the images from even a half-dozen lives, lived wearing a Vicon Revue? Imagine a group of people in the same family or people who worked together all recording their separate points of view. What would this tell us? How would we even begin to make sense of it? Imagine they spent time together in the same room—what would it look like?

Not knowing what anything IS

This question has been addressed by Avatar Adi Da Samraj, who writes:

If each person’s “point of view” were replaced by a camera, and you collected photographs of all those “points of view” in the room—up, down, sides, all different orientations—and if you put them all together, you would wonder what you were looking at. Ten such photographs would be enough to make the room unrecognizable. In any case, no single photograph represents the room in its totality. Any single photograph is a portrayal (or an abstract representation) only—and the same is true of your perception. Your perception is only a portrayal (or an abstract representation) of the room. Your perception is not the room As it Is.

The Way of Zero Bargaining, The Aletheon, p. 1590, Avatar Adi Da Samraj.

Adi Da discusses the profound implications of this fundamental truth. He explains that neither a single room, nor the whole universe, can be accurately described, since “knowledge” about anything is limited by a “point of view”:

“Point of view” defines everything about conditional “knowledge”, whether it is “knowledge” of “self” or “knowledge” of the universe. That is the purpose served by “point of view”. That “knowledge” is the power of “point of view” – its presumed ability to escape bad luck, misfortune, confinement, death, bad results, negative destiny, and so on. That presumed power (or ability) is the purpose of the effort of introversion. It is also the purpose of the effort of extroversion. It is the purpose of all seeking.

— The Aletheon, p. 1591-2.

Understanding Life

So, perhaps a better option than obsessive life caching and a concern with squirreling away the minutia of every moment, is working to develop an understanding of life as it really is; not as an archive of separate images, but as a totality that transcends all possible “points of view”.

As The World Turns – A video of the known universe

Here’s a nice way to celebrate the end of one year and the start of another. This awe-inspiring video of the known, material, universe deserves 5 minutes of your time to watch in HD and full-screen mode (click on the second box from the right in the menu bar below.)

The Known Universe video takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. This new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

Happy New Year!