An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

9 October 2005

When an opportunity for service arises when the occasion calls upon our position or knowledge or ability in a way that allows us uniquely to contribute to a friend or a project or even an idea then we must treat the event as though we had found a brick of gold while plowing in the field. 

- Josh Mitteldorf

8 October 2005

Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936.  Fifteen million copies have been purchased over the years, and even now Amazon consistently ranks it under 100.

"Why read this book to find out how to win friends? Why not study the technique of the greatest winner of friends the world has ever known? Who is he? You may meet him tomorrow coming down the street. When you get within 10 feet of him, he will begin to wag his tail. If you stop and pat him, he will almost jump out of his skin to show you how much he likes you. And you know that behind this show of affection on his part, there are no ulterior motives: he doesn't want to sell you any real estate, and he doesn't want to marry you. 

Did you ever stop to think that a dog is the only animal that doesn't have to work for a living? A hen has to lay eggs, a cow has to give milk, and a canary has to sing. But a dog makes his living by giving you nothing but love."

7 October 2005

The Chambered Nautilus

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

6 October 2005

Back to the Future

Kurzweil's vision is considered radical because he extends exponential trends up and up into the future.  It may be that he's too optimistic, and that limits of many kinds will be encountered.  But it also may be that he is not radical enough:  Sometimes change can be discontinuous.  Sudden events can make the world qualitatively different from anything about which our experience from the past may inform us.  Some of the possibilities are apocalyptic, and don't belong on this page; but I'll dwell here on the utopian...

World travel and intermarriage may erase race, and with it, racism.  World governance may become a real possibility, and with it, world peace.  Better communication breeds deeper trust.  Sustained prosperity inspires an end to greed and acquisitiveness.  The prospect of long and secure life span dispels the fundamental anxiety that we have previously thought to be a part of who we are.  

Science continues to deny the reality of experiments in which ESP is demonstrated.  Science cannot tell us how a homing pigeon navigates, or how an yoga master controls his body, or what 95% of the universe is made of.  In thinking of the future, it is appropriate that we remain humble, and open-minded beyond all imagination.

5 October 2005

A generation ago, Ray Kurzweil was a pioneer of three artificial intelligence technologies that have matured into consumer products: music synthesis, optical character recognition, and voice recognition.  Now, Kurzweil is a visionary of the future, heralding the denouement of simultaneous revolutions in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and robotics.

"We are making exponential progress in every type of information technology. Moreover, virtually all technologies are becoming information technologies. If we combine all of these trends, we can reliably predict that, in the not too distant future, we will reach what is known as The Singularity. This is a time when the pace of technological change will be so rapid and its impact so deep that human life will be irreversibly transformed. We will be able to reprogram our biology, and ultimately transcend it. The result will be an intimate merger between ourselves and the technology we are creating...

...Some commentators have questioned whether we would still be human after such dramatic changes. These observers may define the concept of human as being based on our limitations, but I prefer to define us as the species that seeks and succeeds in going beyond our limitations. Because our ability to increase our horizons is expanding exponentially rather than linearly, we can anticipae a dramatic century of accelerating change ahead."

New Scientist article  Kurzweil biography  Book notice 

4 October 2005

Tashlich

In the Jewish calendar, this afternoon is a good time to feed bread crumbs to the fish. Go to flowing water, and throw away guilt and self-criticism. Start a new year with pride in your values, solidity in your intentions, and patience for those unforseen obstacles internal as well as external that appear on your path. If we were to insist on planning for all such impediments before we set a goal, how narrow would be our vision, and how limited our ambitions!

3 October 2005

OCTOBER is the treasurer of the year,
And all the months pay bounty to her store: 
The fields and orchards still their tribute bear,
And fill her brimming coffers more and more. 
But she, with youthful lavishness,
Spends all her wealth in gaudy dress,
And decks herself in garments bold 
Of scarlet, purple, red, and gold.

She heedeth not how swift the hours fly,
But smiles and sings her happy life along; 
She only sees above a shining sky;
She only hears the breezes' voice in song. 
Her garments trail the woodland through,
And gather pearls of early dew
That sparkle till the roguish Sun 
Creeps up and steals them every one.

But what cares she that jewels should be lost,
When all of Nature's bounteous wealth is hers? 
Though princely fortunes may have been their cost,
Not one regret her calm demeanor stirs. 
Whole-hearted, happy, careless, free,
She lives her life out joyously,
Nor cares when Frost stalks o'er her way 
And turns her auburn locks to gray.

- Paul Laurence Dunbar