The spirit of London will prevail ..

There is an enchanting exhibit at Madame Taussads in London called ‘The Spirit of London’.

The spirit of London is a ride in a ‘black cab’ that takes you on a journey back in time through the history of London from Sir Francis Drake, Shakespeare, wars, famines, the blitz, the swinging sixties etc.

The point of that brief but magical ride is: The spirit of London prevails despite all that it encounters ...

Since the first time I saw it, many years ago, it has remained unchanged and I have seen it many times when I take visitors to Madame Taussads

Ironically, over the last three months, I happened to see the same ride thrice.

Once with my son, then with my sister when she was here from India and finally with my godson, when he was here from Germany.

After seeing it three times in as many months, I was getting a bit bored of it ..

But today, that ‘spirit of London’ has taken on a new meaning ..

The last week has witnessed unprecedented scenes of riots in London

The riot, as the great Dr Martin Luther King said, is the voice of the unheard ..

But the revered Dr King was referring to human rights and not the ‘right’ of the rioters to help themselves to designer shoes and HD TVs

Being born in India, and having seen real poverty, there is something strange about watching these rioters helping themselves to designer branded goods i.e. they are not helping themselves to ‘food’. (And in a curious twist, the homeless who probably do really lack food, are not rioting!)

In most parts of the world, poverty means ‘no food’.

These riots was not poverty driven

Strangely, in a span of a few weeks, we have gone from Royal weddings to riots.

But the spirit of London is strong in my view

As someone who runs a niche business in London, I am happy to call myselves a ‘capitalist’.

By that I mean, a capitalist is a ‘cathedral builder’ – someone who looks at a block of stone and adds value to it to build a cathedral.

And the strength of London, and its spirit, rests in that basic ‘creator’ ethos over the millennia

By capitalists, I mean the businesses like 150 year old House of Reeves, which was burnt down, but I am sure will rise from its ashes stronger with the support of the community and the small Turklish shopkeepers who defended their businesses

While even the likes of Robert Mugabe has taken it upon themselves to remind us that there are ‘no fires in Zimbabwe’ (but we should remind him that there are no free elections in Zimbabwe either!), this is a time to remind us of the spirit of London.

Finally, I cannot ignore the role of ‘mobile’ and ‘ad hoc networks’ in this riot.

What to make of the malevolent ‘flashmob’ driven by Blackberry messengers?

Mobile devices and technology are tools but they lead to fundamental changes in society (and I have been saying this in my books and blogs for a while – Would you hire a woman who maintained a f**k book in college and The girl named Facebook: The Russians (and the Egyptians and the Libyans and the Tunisians and ..) love their children too ).

Specifically, Internet related technologies are breaking down hierarchies and creating fluid, often ad-hoc networks, for better or for worse.

While our prime minister calls for a ‘fightback’ (and people in the UK will support any such efforts), the reality is: We are living in a new era where politicians are demonstrably less empowered.

What is the solution?

Maybe a decentralization of power and a reduction of hierarchy (aka – a more network oriented governance) – and there is already talk of that idea –  In this crisis, our cities need local leaders with real power and even ultimately to a more Swiss canton like system of government ?

This debate will continue but I believe that the spirit of London will prevail and will see us to a great Olympics in a year’s time

Image – Madame Taussads

A row of electric buttons – Google is not making us stupid it is making us like Henry Ford ..

My latest book is about the mind, meditation and its implications for human evolution..  Hence the findings that Google Is Ruining Your Memory to be interesting ..

A recent study suggests that even if you may have a little deficit in your memory with age, the internet is speeding up the process. Not because it’s damaging your memory, but because you’re simply using the internet as a crutch. The information is at your fingertips, so you don’t have to remember.

In my view, this ‘study’ follows a long line of similar work that states the obvious.

Others who have engaged in this scaremongering include the likes of  Nicolas Carr ( who seems to have made a career out of Internet bashing and Google bashing ..)  and the  neuroscientist Susan Greenfield who claims that social sites such as Facebook are causing alarming changes in the brains of little children.

But I believe that instead of making us less intelligent, the Internet is making us more intelligent by being selective .. and the model for that type of intelligence is Henry Ford

The findings of this study made me remember a section in Napolean Hill’s classic – Think and Grow Rich in which he describes how lawyers for a Chicago newspaper attempted to prove that Henry Ford was ‘ignorant’.

The attorneys asked Mr. Ford a great variety of questions, all of them intended to prove, by his own evidence, that, while, he might possess considerable specialized knowledge pertaining to the manufacture of automobiles, he was, in the main, ignorant.

Mr. Ford was plied with such questions as the following: “Who was Benedict Arnold?” and “How many soldiers did the British send over to America to put down the Rebellion of 1776?” In answer to the last question, Mr. Ford replied, “I do not know the exact number of the soldiers the British sent over, but I have heard that it was a considerably larger number than ever went back.”

Finally, Mr. Ford became tired of this line of questioning, and in reply to a particularly offensive question, he leaned over, pointed his finger at the lawyer who had asked the question, and said, “If I should really want to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer any question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts.

… Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action.

There is a lot to be said for this response from Henry Ford and it indicates an optimistic evolution path for humanity!

That row of buttons is now Google and you don’t to be as rich as Henry Ford to have access to them at your fingertips. Thanks to the Web and the Internet, Information is now democratised ..

JK Rowling on failure – very inspirational ..

Very inspiring ..

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as “the biggest failure I knew.”[42] Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. – J. K. Rowling, Harvard commencement address, 2008.[42]

source – wikipedia

Daniel Radcliffe sings “The Elements” by Tom Lehrer

I loved this video .. and always wanted to do a post about this

Tom Lehrer is genius and a polymath whose work I like .. He wrote a song called the ‘Element song’ about elements in the periodic table .. And this is Daniel Radcliffe singing the elements song ..

I was first introduced to Tom Lehrer songs by a friend in New Zealand through this song which is also a classic – (Lisa – if you are reading this, love to get back in touch!)

Poisoning pigeons in the park

RIP Peter Falk – Columbo

RIP Peter Falk – Columbo

A quote that had a profound impact on my life – Ayn Rand – fountainhead

I still remember reading this statement around age 19 in India. It had a profound impact on my life ..

“But you see,” said Roark quietly, “I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”

Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead)

Celebrating 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space

When I was a child in India, Yuri Gagarin was an inspiration.

So, very happy to be celebrating 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space

Post Transcendent Man event – Saturday 9th April 2011 London

Our friends at humanity plus UK are organizing another excellent event. I had the pleasure of speaking at the last humanity plus event in January

This should be another excellent event which is essentially a panel review and audience discussion on the afternoon of Saturday 9th April 2011. The subject of the discussion will be the groundbreaking but controversial ideas and projects of Ray Kurzweil, especially as featured in the film Transcendent Man which has its London premier earlier in the same week:

Registration and event details at the Post transcendent man event london a video preview of the film below

If you are coming, happy to meet up!

My forthcoming book – Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter – meditation as a transhumanist technology

Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter – meditation as a transhumanist technology

This is a book about meditation. More precisely, it is a book about the evolution of meditation. The title, Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter, is limiting and perhaps even a little misleading, because I hope the ideas I discuss in this book will outlive websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Most people accept that Meditation can bring about a lasting change in your life. At the simplest level, it can help you relax. But meditation, as we describe in this book, could be a lot more. Meditation could be a ‘calling’, a technology which will cause an exponential uptake in human intelligence and evolution.

A friend who read an early draft of this book called it a ‘platypus of a meditation book’ in reference to the Duck Billed Platypus . The Duck Billed Platypus is an evolutionary ‘missing link’, an interim stage. Like the Platypus, this book is evolutionary bridge between meditation as it is understood today and the evolution of meditation as spirituality, technology and an understanding of our minds converge.

Meditation conjures up images of a monk-like existence divorced from everyday life. In contrast, I propose a different image, that of an air traffic controller, where your mind receives many inputs, the stakes are high and split second decisions and intuition are a part of the job.

While the stakes are less serious for us, we all relate to this situation and if meditation can help us solve the problem, it can have practical use in our increasingly complex lives

In this book, I propose that we are now entering the fourth age of meditation (following the previous ages of Shamanic meditation, Religious meditation and ‘Leaderful/Guru Led’ meditation). In the fourth age of meditation, meditation becomes a technology that will cause an exponential uptake in human intelligence and evolution. The starting point for this exponential uptake of human intelligence is our brain and our mind. More specifically, the exponential uptake of intelligence could be brought about by a connectivity and enhancement of minds through networks and technology. In that sense, meditation is a ‘transhumanist’ technology and networks are the underlying paradigm of the fourth age of meditation.

All networks, including neural networks and social networks, have a common theme. In the fourth age of meditation, we take a network based ‘two-sided view’ of meditation. On one hand, meditation is a disconnection from the emotional attachment to the flow of messages. This is the historical/ conventional understanding of meditation. But we also explore the other side of meditation i.e. the ‘connectivity’ aspect of meditation, with it’s fascinating possibilities.

The book shows you meditative techniques using brainwave technology.

It addresses questions like:

• How will our brain evolve through transhumanist meditation?

• How can we use technology to enhance our meditative state?

• What are the future implications for society, culture and spirituality?

• If we take the approach of ‘gedankenexperiment’(thought experiment), how would the world look like as we evolve?

• How would our Identity and relationship with the world change as we continue to change, evolve and enhance our minds through a fusion of meditation, networks and technology?

One of the images from the book (using the brain and neurofeedback to meditate better)

My favourite transhumanist star trek episode – errand of mercy

What is your favourite star trek episode?

There are many discussions on favourite star trek episodes but my favourite episode (even when I first saw it as a child), is Errand of Mercy, an episode which has particular resonance in times of conflict.

Errand of mercy is about a placid, docile race of people (called Organians) which captain kirk and Mr spock attempt to sway towards their side when at war with the Klingons. The Organians are frustratingly placid .. but it turns out that they are not humanoid but have evolved far beyond the body to be pure energy.

This transhumanist vision of ultimate human evolution as pure energy was appealing to me even as a child and remains an interest with meditation as a transhumanist technology

image source: trekmovie