“Ideas are bulletproof”

Artificial Intelligence: Game Kills Players


A bug in Elite Dangerous caused the game’s AI to create super weapons and start to hunt down the game’s players. Developer Frontier has had to strip out the feature at the heart of the problem, engineers’ weaponry, until the issue is fixed.

… The AI was crafting super weapons that the designers had never intended.

Players would be pulled into fights against ships armed with ridiculous weapons that would cut them to pieces.

… weapons have been removed from the game, giving the dev team time to investigate what’s been causing the bug.


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Christopher Alexander on Despair


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Christopher Alexander on Essential Awe


“… In this conception, value is not something merely grafted onto space, as a passenger might be who carries no weight and does no work. It is part of the same nearly mechanical picture of space that we have come to believe in, and respect and trust. Yet, at the same time, in a most subtle way, it is also not mechanical. After all, what we observe is life emerging from space …

It is a structure, we can (tentatively) calculate with it, and it fits our structural understanding of space and matter. Yet it carries a bridge to life, feeling, and to our own experience of what it is to be a person: the self, which all of us contain, and are connected to …

I believe that one day it will be possible to demonstrate an experimental connection, where it will be shown exactly how the field of centers does open a door between space and self, and how, ultimately then, self and matter are permanently intertwined through the construction of this mechanism.

… Even today, we continue underestimating the degree to which we are prisoners of the present mechanistic cosmology; we have a strong tendency to underestimate the effect that this interior mechanistic view can have on us.

Consider, for example, three elementary facts: (1) in our immediate world, at normal temperature and pressure, nearly everything is made of atoms; (2) atoms are little whirling mechanisms which are spinning constantly; (3) people are largely made of atoms too.

Nearly every schoolchild learns these fats in school. We all learnt them. They are, by now, virtually a part of us … As a result, in the western world at least, there are few people alive who do not believe (‘know’) that they are mechanisms made up of millions of tiny whirling mechanisms.

… But if you believe … [this] mechanized reduction is accurate, how can you take seriously the kinds of ideas which I have described about the life of buildings, and walls, and rooms, and streets? The answer is you cannot. You cannot, because if you believe the three elementary-school facts, then mentally, you are still living in a universe in which nothing matters, and in which you do not matter. And then the life of the environment is not real either.

Ideas about the personal or spiritual nature of reality, no matter how desirable they seem, cannot affect you deeply, even if you think they do, until they can be embodied in some new picture which leaves the facts of physics intact, and also paves the way to a more spiritual understanding of the world

The whole point of the concept which I have described – of wholeness seen as a calculable, recursive, bootstrap field of centers with the consequences that follow from this view – is that within the framework this concept creates, things really are different, and the differences are visible as new aspects of the structure of space and matter. This newly seen structure not only says that things are different. It shows, through the properties of the structure, exactly how things are different.

… we can reconcile the face of being a a mechanism of whirling mechanisms, because we know that each atom it itself a field of centers, and that in the emergence of these fields, the self comes into view. We … you … I … are this instances of the field of centers

Armed with this view, we can unite our personal intuition of religious awe with our sensible scientific understanding of the world … And in this view, the work of building takes on entirely new meaning … we … realize … [that] When we make something, its selfness, its possible soul, is part and parcel of our own self.

There is, then, something very like a religious obligation to allow this self to reveal itself … It arises as a supreme spiritual obligation, which is our obligation to the matter/spirit we ourselves are made of …  it arises now, not as a religious or superstitious belief, but as a result of a new understanding of the structure of the universe.

A few years ago I went to mass in Salzburg’s great cathedral. It was at that time, one of the only places left where Mozart and Haydn’s masses were still sung every sunday. There was a Haydn mass. The church was filled with people thronging, crowding, pushing, to be there while the great mass was sung.

The high point of this mass was the sanctus. Full choir, slowly increasing rhythm, deep sound of the organ and the basses … the air became tense with the presence of this mass … At the most awe-inspiring moment, a young man pushed forward to a telephone mounted on one of the columns of the nave. He picked it up and listened. The telephone was tied to a tape-recording, giving interesting dates and facts for tourists. He listened to the tape-recording of dates and facts, while the Sanctus blazed around him.

This man became a symbol for me of the loss of awe and of our loss of sense. Unable to immerse himself … unaware of the size and importance of the sounds that he was hearing … For a while, during the 20th century, this had become our world: a place where the difference between awe and casual interest had been sanded down to nothing.

… All the efforts I have made have, at their heart, just this one intention: to bring back our awe … and to allow us to being to make things in the world which can intensify this awe.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 4: The Luminous Ground


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Summer 2016 Allergy continued: disturbanced, sleep, tick


After the first few days there was a drop in my sense of well-being. An initial blow came when I allowed a disturbance to take places – a visit to the city. I came back feeling tired, with a slight head-ache and agitation. The next day I was somewhat contained, I was able to get on the mat, but my breathing compromised. I adjusted my practice to accommodate this state of being.

Shortly after that came another disturbance – a first jam making of the season. The preparations (cleaning and cutting strawberries) were made during an evening and the next morning (usually my time of being and practicing) we got on with preparation. I thought to practice later in the day but that did not work out. The cooking, though spacious, was agitating, lighting and keeping the rockets going for a few hours added some smoke … practice did not find me after that. However I was able to settle … and the next day I was able to engage my practice fully and pleasantly.

Shortly after that (a day or two later) there was a sudden change in my sleep. I woke up around 2:30am and had to leave bed to keep my breathing from deteriorating. That effort required (as it has in the past) two main ingredients: warm tea and alertness / attention (being awake). After that nights continued to be disrupted. It seemed that as long as I was awake I could somehow keep my breathing together (sometimes with relative ease, sometimes with difficulty) … but lying down and fading to sleep seemed to lead to deterioration. 2:30 soon felt like a regular thing. I was able to find some rest in the night, but almost no sleep.

For a couple of days, despite the sleeplessness, I was, to my surprise, still able to be with my practice with quality. I was surprised at being able to engage the new pranayama ratios (and I was very grateful that the technique was anuloma ujjayi instead of pratiloma). It took quite some hours until I could approach practice (usually not before 1pm). My appetite was also affected by all this, I wasn’t eating much before practice and I was (still am) drinking a lot of tea and that too reduces my appetite for food.

At some point (fortunately early in the unfolding) I recognized that tea may also be effecting my sleep. Iulia made for a me a mix with about 10 supportive plants … however some of them, I believe, were detrimental to my sleep … so while I still drink it, I drink less of it and only in the first half of the day.

Then a few days ago a last disturbance kicked in. During the night I felt a nausea coming on … the next morning my bowels emptied completely … and for the next 36 hours I ate almost nothing … only teas. I had no appetite for food at all. This completely drained me. A couple of days later I found a tick attached to me (not sure how long it was there)! I don’t know if the nausea is related to the tick (it may be) … but when I think of the tick … the most prominent feeling I have is that its presence is of a healing intention! Strange, I know!

Anyways the nausea knocked me completely off the mat. Only today (its been 4 or 5 days), after a gradual return of my appetite and some sense of physical strength (at the peak of this cleansing walking was a challenge) and a couple of night with some sleep I am curious about re-engaging the mat.

This year, it has been a strange meeting with allergy. Overall, I feel that my allergy symptoms are lesser. But still I feel like I’ve been through a storm … and I don’t feel it is over. A qualitative change which has not yet revealed its narrative to me.

Posted in About, Breath, Myself, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

Christopher Alexander on an Extended Physics


“… In physics, the effort has always been to take the geometry of a material system and to derive from it, predictions about the dynamic behavior, forces, and causal interactions … which follow from a particular configuration.

In art and building … Again we have geometry, but here we seek especially to derive from it, or predict from it, the harmony, gracefulness, and quality of life, which different geometries may have.

Further, still, in the study of living systems – ecosystems and organisms – we have yet a third problem . Here we have geometric structures, and we seek to derive from their geometry both the behavior of the systems (in that regards it is like physics) and the health or degree of life and coherence of the systems (in that regard it is like art and architecture).

In what follows now, I am taking the view that all three cases are to be included in a single view of matter … our picture of the matter-space of the universe must be modified in a way that is consistent with the insights of 20th-century physics … matter-space must have certain additional features, not provided for by contemporary physics, which allow us to see the wholeness as it occurs in space, thus forming an extension of the present picture.

The existence of centers and wholeness

… wholeness – a pervasive multi-leve structure created by centers throughout space, together with the idea that different centers have different degrees of life and centeredness…

Value and life as part of space itself

… each spatial region, at every scale, has a relative value, and a relative degree of life.

Time asymmetry: Structure preserving transformations as the origin of the laws of physics and biology

One of the most unsatisfactory aspects of Cartesian physics has been the so-called symmetry of time: the fact that classical equations do not, for the most part, distinguish between forward and backwards. Like a clock mechanism, the mechanistic universe can run backwards and forwards equally well … However, our world picture would be far more satisfactory if there is an overall and natural sense in which ‘forwards’ and ‘backwards’ are essentially different.

The world picture which I have been describing provides such an asymmetry in a natural way. In the physics contemplated for a world picture based on wholeness and its transformations, all laws will (I believe) fall out as natural consequences of the principle of unfolding wholeness … That principle will say, only, that the next step after a given configuration will be the one which does most to preserve and extend the structure … for the first time the possibility occurs of a natural way for understanding time-asymmetric laws as the foundation of all physical processes.

The personal quality of space

… a personal link with our own self is connected to each region of space, in that degree to which that region of the space has life or is centered … feeling – also appears in space.

The Ultimate I

To reconcile the vision of matter with the experience of personal relatedness we feel when in touch with living structure, I have, in addition, introduced the conception that living centers open some kind of window or tunnel to a ground and to an ultimate I which constitutes this ground … as the matter-space becomes organized it becomes more and more strongly linked to this ultimate ground which lies beneath it, or inside it, or throughout it.

… this … would incorporate most present-day physics a it is. However, it would add essential new features making it capable of allowing our world-picture to include both contemporary physics and crucial issues of value, feeling, and mystical experience … [it] might have the capacity to contribute substantial insights to the biologists’ long standing search to find a coherent and deep of what life really is when it arises in organic nature. It would, furthermore, provide a new basis for discussion of the profound question: Why does consciousness occur in some living systems?

In order to move our discussion away from abstract speculation, and towards experience, I would like the read to consider an experiment. Dwell briefly – and for the sake of experiment only – on the possibly that you are indeed, part of some greater I. In this frame of mind, try, next time you are playing with a favorite animal, to consider this: I have found that if I look at a cat, a favorite cat, and imagine that this cat is part of the very same I that I am made of, then the cat seems entirely different, and my relationship to it, even its relationship to me, seems entirely different … the sense of wonder I feel in the cat’s presence, is enormously multiplied, and I begin to see the cat, its beauty, its familiarity, and its strangeness, almost as not cat at all, but rather as something wondrous to which I have the cherished relationship that endears me to it, and makes it part of me. One can do the same with any beloved creature … One can do it, of course, with another person (oddly, this is harder). And one can do it with a plant or a flower. It is most poignant with an animal.

I shall try complete my sketch of this difference by writing down some new cosmological assumptions somewhat analogous to the ten ‘bad’ and tacit assumptions described in chapter I, but consistent with the view of matter I have put forward.

NEW ASSUMPTION #1.  Matter space is an unbroken continuum which includes everything, both matter and the so-called space around it, all at the same time.

NEW ASSUMPTION #2. In varying degrees, any given portion of space may be more whole or less whole, more alive or less alive, more healed or less healed, connected or broken, separated or not separate.

This assumption implies that the relative degrees of life of different buildings, neighborhoods, paintings … woodlands, part of the ocean’s edge, mountains, fields, gardens, streets, chairs and spoons – is largely fact.

NEW ASSUMPTION #3. Whenever we undertake an act of construction we have the ability to make the world more alive or less alive, more harmonious or less harmonious.

… No action, and no act of building, no matter how small, is exempt from this fundamental aspect of our existence. It is there when we paint the front door. It is there when we lay out the plates for breakfast. Is is there when we choose a location for a new freeway, and it is there we when decide to pick a single flower.

NEW ASSUMPTION #4.  Everything matters.

… Our present cosmology has built into it a definite refusal to assert the importance of anything, a refusal to define any value, a refusal to define any human reality. It is value-free.

… in this [alternate] picture, portions of the world can be less alive or more alive, and because the life of a given center has a transcendent quality in which the I of the universe becomes manifested, the degree to which living self occurs in our actions then becomes a matter of immense importance.

In this world everything matters.

NEW ASSUMPTION #5. Value is a definite and fundamental part of the universe, and of the scheme of things.

… Each action is valuable, or not, according to the extent that it preserves, and extends, and enhances the wholeness which exists, or does not do so.

… different values which exist in different human cultures … appear different because each one tries to create wholeness in the context of different conditions (including those created by culture, people and society) … At root, though, what is valuable is always the same thing: is it that which does most to enhance the structure of what is.

NEW ASSUMPTION #6. Ornament and function are indistinguishable.

Once we understand that wholeness is the most essential structural feature of the world, there is no room for a narrow distinction between legitimate and non-legitimate forms of wholeness, and there is no moral or practical distinction between the ornamental and the functional …

NEW ASSUMPTION #7. Matter itself is not a mechanism: It is a potentially soul-like materiality which is essentially what we call self.

… Although this may seem to be the most fantastic of these new cosmological assumptions, it is this assumption which, in the long run, has the greatest capacity to stimulate experiment … The world is emphatically different it if is true, and if it is not true …

NEW ASSUMPTION #8. If self or I is woken up whenever living structure appears in matter, what we think of as value may then be described as the protection, preservation, nourishment, of the precious self of the universe.

… We then treat all creation … as the protection of the personal which resides in matter, and which, through our actions, may see the light of day.

NEW ASSUMPTION #9. The nature of space-matter, being soul-like, is such that the more whole it becomes, the more transparent, the more it seems to melt, the more it realizes itself, releases its own inner reality, the more transparent it becomes, the more transcendent.

If it is true that the ground of the universe reveals itself whenever order is produced  … then this … is the single most important thing that is at stake, whenever anything is being made.

NEW ASSUMPTION #10. Thus art is not merely pleasant or interesting. It has an importance that goes to the very core of the cosmology.

… the task of buildings things and shaping things is fundamental to the spiritual condition of the world, and to our own spiritual development …

NEW ASSUMPTION #11. The unfolding of the field of centers, and the unfolding of the self, is the most fundamental awakening of matter.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 4: The Luminous Ground


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