Posts Tagged ‘culture’


Three Years in Turkey

by adminadam in home

In 2009 in the fall I came to Turkey — to Adana in the Southeast — to teach English as a Second Language. Now after three years in Turkey (and as many schools) I am finishing up my time here and getting to know “Illustrious Istanbul” a bit before I depart. For this summative post, I wanted to write up an account of life here as a foreigner and offer my honest attempt at cultural analysis to whomsoever wishes to read it.


This place has been interesting. There’s a lot that can be and is usually said about Turkey. I would agree with most any travel book on the culture, the traditions, noteworthy things to do and go and see and on and on. But I am interested in more than just these things. There are more subtle and profound things to be teased out. And this takes time.

On the one hand, I love the people’s general hospitality, the food, the depth of history, the ruins, and all that. On the other hand, it has been a fascinating anthropological study, one in which sometimes I am less than objective, admittedly. Interesting to note is the way the currents of authoritarian rule still seem to guide and direct the energies of the people, despite an overtly successful transition to democracy here in 1923. The old Empire fell not very long ago, and surely there were hangers-on in the new power vacuum – Islamists, Secular Bureaucrats, and other ‘Nobility’.

The new democracy that sprung from this has been a shaky one, evidenced by the many coups to take back power that have occurred in the name of “Ataturk”, the nation’s founder, and his secular-democratic principles. I now feel that all the centralization, the episodes of power-consolidation, the bureaucracies both imperial and democratic, have led to a strong DIY or “DIF” (Do-It-with-the-help-of-your-Family) disposition in the masses on the one hand, but that’s not all…

When I see the fierce competitiveness (and sometimes downright rudeness) between people — when the vehicle I’m in gets cut off on the highway, when someone cuts in front at the bank, blocks off an entire aisle in the grocery store, when I try to cross the street and just barely make it — in these behaviors I see, these experiences I have, I actually sense great disempowerment at the root of it all. And it’s Might Makes Right, through and through. (Car bigger than person? Car wins. Get the heck out of the way. He ain’t slowin’ down…) Indeed, what better impetus for such behaviors and attitudes than an entrenched, essentially authoritarian system, a culture obsessed and lured falsely by the gods of Power, Wealth, and Prestige?

It happens all over the world, but in Turkey it’s two clashing world views – Secular-Democratic-Capitalism & Nostalgic-Islamic-Imperialism — one in its end-stage having only barely begun to begin here, and one long since dead — that continue to squash the populace, press them and cage them in psychically…

It is of the utmost importance, then, to be patriotic, to support your team, your country, your leader. It is of the utmost importance to be rich — or maybe more to appear rich; i.e. not look poor… Saving face is huge; confrontation avoided if it’s not a fist fight brewing — let no one put the blame on you. Women stay home and raise the kids. Talk about shopping, and clothing, and cute babies. Whatever you do, don’t read books. Especially not foreign ones. Etc… It’s a bit of hyperbole to say everyone acts thusly. But such values and behaviors as a socio-economic-and-political outcome… This is an interesting and different way to view it all.

People fall prey to the illusions, the delusions of power, sense of control, the adrenaline of a football rivalry, the lust for wealth, for shiny things. We do it in The States, too, perhaps with American Football replacing Soccer, or maybe greater religious or ethnic tensions than Turkey has. The point being, when the system is such that you have to step on someone, on anyone and everyone to get ahead, when you don’t feel you can trust anyone but your family, when everyone else on the road is an asshole … Hell! What’s a person to do?

So I don’t really blame the individuals themselves anymore; I try to see them through this gradually-coming-into-focus economic and sociopolitical filter-lense I’ve created… Still it’s hard to be happy in a place where I can hardly cross the street without feeling like I am going to get run over, like some car is ‘purposely’ going to try to swerve towards me as it passes, where people don’t move mutually for each other on the sidewalk, but wait to see if the approaching person will first yield to THEM. It is a vicious passive-aggressiveness (and sometimes just pure-aggressiveness) that I’ve learned to cope with. Understanding the likely roots of it – scarcity, disempowerment, materialistic delusion, greed, lust for power, etc. – this has been the hardest part. For they always say, the WHY of a culture is Deep Deep Down under the surface of the water, like the body of the iceberg. Behaviors, attitudes, traditions, all are laid bare on the surface, but usually sans explanation – and if you do get one, you can count on it too, to be superficial. After all, who of us can cogently express the WHY behind our own activities and actions, those of our home cultures or even of ourselves as individuals? For example… Read the rest of this entry »


The 3rd Level of Consciousness

by adminadam in articles, education

All things considered, you will reach Level Three…


In the beginning, there was attraction. Things attract each other because they like to be closer to some things than to others. These inherent preferences are the root of all change in the universe. Because of attraction, new things emerge.

You see: Sometimes like attracts like and sometimes opposite attracts opposite. When opposites attract, you’ve got a pair, a couple. That pair is now another unit and the process starts again.

The pair, the new unit, can attract an opposite or a like, or it can just drift along. When like attracts like, it can end there, like an oxygen molecule made up of two oxygen atoms, or it can continue to attract like, like a carbon atom. When things continue to attract like, bigger and more complex things get created.


Sometimes a thing will attract enough of just the right stuff that a copy of itself is produced. This is self-replication. Self-replication is one of the most powerful forces in the universe because of exponential growth. One becomes two, two become four, four become eight, and soon the universe is full of things.

Now, sometimes a self-replicating thing makes a copy of itself with a mistake in it. The thing with a mistake will either be better, worse, or the same at making copies of itself. If it’s better, there will soon be more copies of the new thing than the old thing in the universe. The only way for new things to get created is by a complex series of mistakes that turn out to be better after all.


We are self-replicating things. We are the result of a billion years worth of mistakes that turned out to be better after all. Yay for us!


One big mistake that turned out to be better after all was that, of all the animals, we alone can communicate complicated ideas. We can tell stories. We can share recipes. We can make complicated plans. Even dolphins and whales can’t do these things, we think.


These ideas that we communicate are called memes. Memes are a kind of thing. Memes live in our minds.


Like all things, memes have inherent preferences; they fit better with certain things and they repel certain other things. Some memes naturally fit better in people’s minds; some memes naturally fit better with other memes.

When a group of memes fit well together and pull the strings of someone’s mouth and vocal cords so that they pass them on to others, a new, self-replicating thing gets created. This new thing is called a memeplex. Again we can see the power of self-replication in this: One person tells two, two tell four, four tell eight, and pretty soon the whole universe is full of people sharing the memeplex.

Sometimes even a self-replicating memeplex makes a mistake in copying itself (murphy’s law!). The memeplex with a mistake in it will either be better, worse, or the same at making copies of itself. We can see the pattern: If it’s better soon there will be more copies of the new memeplex than the old in the universe. The only way for a new idea to gain acceptance is by a series of copying mistakes that turn out to be better after all.


All our belief systems, religions, and governments are the result of a series of mistakes that turned out to be better at making copies of themselves after all.


Every new idea we think of immediately becomes transformed by copying mistakes that change it into something that is better at making copies of itself after all. A key part of the idea may be sacrificed to something better for copying. The only control we have over the spread of our ideas is in making them as resistant to copying mistakes as possible.


When we are born, our mind is courted by meme after meme after meme, all the result of thousands of years of practice (on the part of the memes), practice at getting themselves copied into fresh new minds.

This is Level 1: We have our instincts, born of millions of years of our genes and bodies striving to make copies of themselves — soon our minds become filled with memes and eventually we may develop a map of life that mostly makes sense. So we start with our instincts, a body, and a developing memeplex.

As we grow, we learn to speak a language that we believe expresses anything we want to say. We use geometric and physical concepts that we believe explain anything we encounter. We know stories and myths that we believe relate to all of life’s trials and tribulations. This is Level 2: Our inherited trajectory. We have our roadmap, born of thousands of years of the memes in our minds striving to make copies of themselves.


Each of us has a purpose here. When the memes are quiet, it is possible to feel when we are on purpose and when we are off purpose. Conversely, when memes run the show, it is the purpose of the memes that gets served.


Once we realize that there are millions of memes battling inside our mind, there arises the possibility of influencing the outcome of that battle. Until we realize it, there is no possibility. The battle can be influenced in three ways. First, by noticing the memes. Second, by detaching from them. Third, by obtaining clarity of purpose. When these three steps are achieved, we can begin to select our memes consciously. We select memes that keep us on purpose. This is Level 3: Conscious Selection for a Purpose.


A purpose is not a goal. A purpose does not feel like guilt, shame, or vengeance. Guilt, shame, and vengeance are emotions used by memes to gain mastery over your life. By choosing memes consciously, we can eliminate the control that memes have over those emotions. A purpose feels fulfilling, satisfying, joyful, and powerful.


A purpose mostly has to do with other people. A purpose must inherently be fulfilled by spreading hardy, beneficial memes. Every time we speak, write, create, or act we are spreading memes. To fulfill our purpose we must be conscious of which memes we are spreading. Life is largely composed of conversations. Conversations are composed of memes.

In Level 1, we are unaware of this.

In Level 2, we see the world as a solid, understandable body to be interacted with.

In Level 3, we see the world as a canvas to be painted, an instrument to be played, or a block of marble to be sculpted by us for our purpose.

We choose to do this for good or for evil. If we choose good, good is returned to us in unexpected ways. If we choose evil, evil is returned. Either way, it looks like the way we choose is the way of the world.


In Level 1, we do not understand the world and consequently fear it.

In Level 2, we replace the fear with understanding. The price of understanding is limits. Our approximate models of the universe are never completely accurate, never useful in all situations.

In Level 3, we start with a vision of what we want to create. From there we choose our models.

Sometimes a chosen model may seem insane to the other inhabitants of the little patch of space-time we happen to occupy. No matter. Men with a vision of goodwill have often looked insane in times of mistrust and scarcity.

But in Level 3, we realize that the universe is not a maze to be navigated; it is a baby to be brought up. When we give it love, clarity, and opportunity, we raise a child universe to be a joyful, giving, and successful adult universe. It is only by starting in this 3rd level of consciousness, by starting with our vision, that we have the opportunity to sculpt our little patch of space-time as we see fit.

*This meme shamelessly sculpted out of
**May it spread far and wide.


Nerd Nihilism

by adminadam in home, humor

“You can’t just go around bashing the Singularity like that!”

“Well, why not? Isn’t it due the same scrutiny as any other statistical or theoretical extrapolation?”

“No. Just no.”

“Why is that?”

“Don’t you understand?! — the Singularity is a sacred tenant of Nerd-dom, beating out even force-fields and light-sabers in conceptual God-status!…”

“I am not aware of any such thing as conceptual God-status, nor does it lend anything at all to your case this equating it with your Zeus-level memetics or whatever you want to call it. Science doesn’t care if it’s cool or if your world view rests upon its shoulders; all that matters is the truth: Is it going to happen or isn’t it? And your quick-tempered reaction to my by-all-standards-justifiably-dubious approach to the issue is self-defeating to say the least… I mean, would you want people making parody god-concepts out of your precious Singularity, much like the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn parody the God of the Old Testament? Give it a rest, please! It’s just another blogger pointing out some obvious fallacies inherent in the meme.”

“I… Ghah! I hate you!!”

“To further my point, consider how unlikely it is that we could properly imagine something so supposedly un-imagineable in the first place! I mean, where do you even start if the extrapolation leads to a wall of un-extrapolatability? ‘It’s like saying God is so mysteriously, incredibly powerful that you’re not even gonna believe it!’ To which me or any other sane, skeptical scientist would respond: ‘Ok, I’ll take your word for it. I don’t believe in it one bit then!’ Don’t waste your energy deifying such a mundane, backwater concept, that’s all I’m saying.”

“It’s not mundane or backwater! It’s brand-spanking new! It’s — it’s.. It’s the most glorious — bad-assest, mega-bajillion-power-plus-infinity concept there is! I mean, the Singularity almost guarantees us Earthly eternal bliss. And you don’t even have to believe in it to get the access-cards to the Mega-Rapture of the Nerds. It’s just gonna happen, what with all the modulation and widgetizing and hackitizing, not to mention the research and development money that’s being poured into the field of recursively self-improving A.I., which is really just the beginn…”

“Stop. Just stop right there. I’ve heard it all before. I’ve seen the wikipedia article on the Technological Singularity. I’ve listened to Ray Kurzweil speak at TED. I’ve read Vernor Vinge’s works. There’s nothing you can say. You’re not gonna convert me. I’m beyond it. I’m post-cyberpunk to your momma’s moldy Nöospheres. I’m post-singularitarian while you’re still in singularitarian infancy. I’m nerd nihilism 2.0. But you, you’re still raving about AOL 2.0!! Go home already!! Just go home!”

The nihilist turns his back and walks away, leaving Mr. S-fan boquiabierta — stunned and without a comeback.

“God I hate these playa-hater’s…” mumbles Mr. S-fan to no-one in particular. Looking off into the distance he ends saying, “Maybe I should make it a religion…. Yea, I’ll call it Singularitarianism… Yeah, I like the sound of that. It just rolllllls off your tongue…” He tromps self-righteous back to the hood, his hood, the neighborhood net-cafe, to make his plans for the future and ensure that nerd-nihilism spreads to not-another-soul…

Article: The Singularity has already happened.

The Rapture of the Nerds, NOT

The Three Major Singularity Schools
Kurzweil’s TED Speech
Vernor Vinge’s Famous Theoretical Paper


Benjamin F. & Siddhārtha G.

by adminadam in home, quotes

( Individually )

If you would not be forgotten,
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worthy reading,
Or do things worth the writing.

( Equitably )

The constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness.
You have to catch it yourself.

~ Benjamin Franklin ~

( Absolutely )

He is able who thinks he is able.

( Increasingly )

A jug fills drop by drop.

~ Siddhārtha Gautama ~


Shenzhen, Maybe Five Kilos

by adminadam in education, home

So hard writing about China
five thousand years old
wielding power,
the width of their culture
not to mention mass
compared to
let’s say
America, at only
250 grams.
The concept is flabbergasting
yet awfully trite
i.e. unimpressive generally,
but if that’s your subject matter
then you gotta write about it,
and how better than in the form of a long detailed documentary.

Or you could weigh the culture using a modern scale.


Foundation for the Last Question

by adminadam in articles, home



John Stewart (source)
Member of the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition Research Group
The Free University of Brussels

Abstract: The evolution of life on Earth has produced an organism that is beginning to model and understand its own evolution and the possible future evolution of life in the universe. These models and associated evidence show that evolution on Earth has a trajectory. The scale over which living processes are organized cooperatively has increased progressively, as has its evolvability. Recent theoretical advances raise the possibility that this trajectory is itself part of a wider developmental process. According to these theories, the developmental process has been shaped by a yet larger evolutionary dynamic that involves the reproduction of universes. This evolutionary dynamic has tuned the key parameters of the universe to increase the likelihood that life will emerge and produce outcomes that are successful in the larger process (e.g. a key outcome may be to produce life and intelligence that intentionally reproduces the universe and tunes the parameters of ‘offspring’ universes). Theory suggests that when life emerges on a planet, it moves along this trajectory of its own accord. However, at a particular point evolution will continue to advance only if organisms emerge that decide to advance the developmental process intentionally. The organisms must be prepared to make this commitment even though the ultimate nature and destination of the process is uncertain, and may forever remain unknown. Organisms that complete this transition to intentional evolution will drive the further development of life and intelligence in the universe. Humanity’s increasing understanding of the evolution of life in the universe is rapidly bringing it to the threshold of this major evolutionary transition.

1. Introduction

Until recently, a scientific understanding of the natural world has failed to provide humanity with a larger meaning and purpose for its existence. In fact, a scientific worldview has often been taken to imply that the emergence of humanity was an accident in a universe that is completely indifferent to human concerns, goals, and values (e.g. see Weinberg, 1993).

Humanity has had to supplement a naturalistic understanding with beliefs in supernatural beings and processes if it wanted a worldview that includes a meaningful role for humanity in a larger scheme of things. But recent advances in evolutionary science are beginning to change this. In particular, we are rapidly improving our understanding of the evolutionary processes that have produced life on Earth and that will determine the future evolution of life in the universe. While it is far too early to tell with certainty, it is possible that the universe and the evolution of life within it have been shaped by yet larger evolutionary processes to perform particular functions that are relevant to these larger processes.

Read the rest of this entry »


3 Haiku

by adminadam in poetry


raining patterns drop
their meanings lost stopped on the
black umbrella tops



where is the exit?
lost in a supermarket
must i buy something?



work implant installed;
in the mall, in the forest,
wireless slavery.


U a Fan of Memetics?

by adminadam in home

1. Which idea is more toxic?
A. We should inoculate ourselves against the most toxic ideas.
B. It’s all subjective; we cannot objectively classify ideas.

2. Which belief would be most convenient were you to believe in it?
A. Chaos and physical laws rule my life.
B. God and fate rule my life.

3. Which idea is more useful?
A. There are a few brown eggs in the fridge.
B. Suffering is inevitable.

4. Which of these most tickles your fancy?
A. Believers get an afterlife.
B. Only non-believers get an afterlife, just to confuse them.

5. Circle the most viral concept.
A. Zeus is the king of heaven.
B. Allah is the king of heaven.

6. Eliminate the most intolerable concept.
A. Islam is a harmful belief system.
B. Astrology is a harmful belief system.

The inspiration for today’s dilemmas: Dan Dennett on dangerous memes (with great comments).