Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Mike Stone

I am proud to have my interview included in the Wombwell Rainbow Interview series! I am honored to be in the company of such talented voices. I also appreciated the depth and relevance of the interview questions. I felt great satisfaction in responding to them.

Mike Stone

The Wombwell Rainbow

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

whippoorwill-a7cfc858e43b02124d0c3c1516e0291f-bird-watching-art-and-illustration

Call of the Whippoorwill

Mike Stone

In his blog Mike tell us “I was born in Columbus Ohio, USA, in 1947. I graduated from Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology. I served in both the US Army and the Israeli Defense Forces. I have been writing poetry since I was a student at OSU. I moved to Israel in 1978 and live in Raanana. I am married…

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Rationality vs. Rationalization

Rationality refers to a state of mind which possesses these attributes: reasonable or logical thought processes, clear and precise thinking, thinking which is internally consistent with experience, exercising good judgment, and thinking which is compatible with one’s actions and beliefs.

Rationalization refers to the action of attempting to explain or justify behavior, decision, or attitude with logical sounding reasons, even if they are not appropriate. Rationalization (also known as making excuses) is a defense mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation.

As we can see, rationalization bears no meaningful relationship to rationality, except that we might refer to rationalization as “fake rationality”, something some of us fall back on if we think it might get us out of a bind.

Rationality does not require knowledge in order to work well, although it certainly works well with knowledge by breaking down concepts that are difficult to understand into their component parts and by integrating new concepts into existing systems where appropriate. The beauty of rationality, however, is that it helps us deal with uncertainty and what we don’t know in an appropriate manner, knowing what you don’t know, as it were.

It is clear to me, as I would hope it would be to you too, that rationality is a useful trait to have, certainly a lot better than rationalization.

Now we get to the crux of the matter: let’s say you believe that you are a rational person. You are a normal guy or gal. You exercise good judgment. Your thinking is clear to you. Your beliefs and actions are compatible with your thoughts, and vice-versa.

How do you know you’re thinking rationally? Well, for one thing, you think like everybody else around you. How do you know that? Can you read their minds? Well, nobody around you has told you that you are not thinking rationally. Maybe they are just being polite. Maybe they aren’t very rational themselves. Look, I know what I see and hear. I know what I know, and that’s that.

There are formal rules for logical implications and proofs. For instance, if one proposition implies a second proposition, that doesn’t mean that the second proposition implies the first one, but it does mean that the negation of the second proposition implies the negation of the first proposition.

But we are not logical systems, ourselves. Being biological systems, our commitment to logic is haphazard and unreliable at best, and non-existent at worst. We can be illogical and still survive for an indefinite period of time, depending on whether the person taking care of you is relatively rational, you are rich and powerful enough to hire rational people to protect you, or other factors.

Okay, so my commitment to logic does not go all the way down my cellular level. Let’s assume for a moment that I’m a full professor of philosophy and I’ve taught logic and propositional calculus for the last 50 years. Assume that logic is second nature to me. Let’s now assume, however, that the magnificent neural structures in my brain are succumbing to the insidious attacks of Alzheimer’s beta-amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and tau proteins. Assume that the cells of my brain, containing my memories, my capacity to process different kinds of information, and my abilities to muster my motor system into action, are going dark, slowly but inexorably.

Now, my question is this: what fail-safe mechanisms, if any, exist within our systems of logic that would allow me to know that my mental processes were functioning rationally or not? Obviously, it is not so difficult for us to answer that question about others; however, about ourselves is another question altogether.

If there is no fail-safe mechanism that can let us know beyond a doubt that we are not functioning rationally, then what good is rationality? Certainly the demented, the neurotics, and the psychotics have no use for it.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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“A Child Said, What is the Grass” Walt Whitman … honoring Michael Rothenberg’s Read a Poem to a Child Initiative

An unexpectedly amazing poem for your edification …

THE POET BY DAY

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou



A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
zones,
Growing among black…

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What’s my name? | Michael Dickel

A lovely read …

Meta/ Phor(e) /Play

The man sauntered up to the woman with a beard. He seemed familiar, not familial, not famous, just…familiar—a shadow that crossed her path on a distant-past sunny day.

He said her name.

No one knows her name, but her mother, and she doesn’t usually recognize her anymore.

When he said her name, he held her in his power. She knew he came from before. The other time. When life filled her with joy and dancing, when her lithe body figured in her pleasures, when her soul sought union with the sun and moon.

Clouds lifted from sea cliffs, and she saw him decades ago, his hair long, pulled back in a pony tail.

They made love on the beach, in the woods, rarely in bed.

Where have you been? She asked.

Lurking in your memory, he whispered. You seldom call me, though.


In her memory, she lurched away from…

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Independence Day 2018

via Independence Day 2018

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July 5, 2018 · 7:31 pm

Predictions

What if we all put our heads together and thought about possibilities, things that could happen but haven’t yet. In mapping out the future, let’s lump it into three more manageable categories: Near-Term (10-30 years), Medium-Term (30-100 years), and Long-Term (100-1000 years).

Near-Term would include possible extensions of existing processes and/or technologies.

Medium-Term would include possible extensions of Near-Term processes and/or technologies.

Long-Term would include possible extensions of Medium-Term processes and/or technologies.

I will start this out, but you all are invited to join by submitting comments to this post. Add your predictions to the comments. Try to detail what it will do and/or what impact it will have on us. You don’t need to detail how it would be implemented or invented. I will add more predictions via future posts, just to keep the ball rolling. Here’s my first prediction:

Prediction #1 (Near-Term)

There will be VR (Virtual Reality) bodysuits with tactile points remotely correlated to touch points on a VR glove and mediated by VR goggles projecting a virtual representation of the world, oneself, another living being, etc. The VR platform will tie together a digital representation of the senses of seeing, hearing, and touch. It will allow people to reach out with their VR gloves and touch someone they see through his VR goggles, and to feel the pressure, shape, and heat of the touch via the tactile points on the VR bodysuit. The VR bodysuit will have an embedded dense network of nodes capable of receiving digitally conveyed tactile sensations and reproducing them on the physical skin touching that node. The VR bodysuit will cover the entire body and be form fitting over all appendages. The suit itself will be breathable and weigh hardly anything.

Remote digitization of the senses of taste and smell will probably be introduced to the VR platform later.

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Everything’s an Algorithm (well, almost everything)

I started out at Ohio State University majoring in Fine Arts. Two years later, I switched majors to Psychology. When I graduated OSU, I went looking for a job, thinking I’d combine my fine arts background with the psychology I’d learned. Five out of five companies I interviewed showed little interest in fine arts, psychology, or any combination thereof. It was 1969 and all the companies were looking for computer programmers back then, so I went to work for Sears, Roebuck and Company as a computer programmer.

Sears had an excellent training program and I fell head over heels in love with computer programming. I remember my first day of training. We were told to draw a flowchart that would direct a hypothetical robot to enter our office building, go up three elevators, get off on the 47th floor, and go to our office cubicle. We hadn’t learned any computer language yet, so we had to write our instructions for the robot using basic English commands that wouldn’t lend themselves to misinterpretation, like “walk straight until you reach the first elevator” or “press the button with “47” printed on it”.

I later found out, after reading Donald Knuth’s “Fundamental Algorithms” (The Art of Computer Programming Vol 1), that a flowchart is a graphic representation of an algorithm. Knuth stated that algorithms were similar to processes, methods, procedures, or routines, but also possessed the following attributes:

  • finiteness: algorithms have to terminate after a finite number of steps. They can’t go on forever;

  • definiteness: operations (steps) have to be rigorously and unambiguously specified for every possible case;

  • inputs: data may or may not be given to an algorithm before or during its operation;

  • outputs: data generated by an algorithm’s operation that bears some relation to its input;

  • effectiveness: an algorithm must be able to be precisely performed within a finite period of time and must be exactly repeatable.

These attributes imply that not everything is an algorithm as the title of my post suggested.

Algorithms are the cornerstone of all computer and robot programming, including machine learning and artificial intelligence. The implementation of algorithms requires that the operations, cases, inputs, and outputs specified for each algorithm be converted to a format that can be processed by a specific machine or operating system. Computer hardware is built to perform certain basic operations efficiently. Unfortunately, the formats a computer can “understand” are usually incomprehensible to the average human. Computer software allows general or special purpose algorithms to be written by humans (or other machines) to operate on a specific set of computers.

Remember that algorithms are processes, methods, procedures, or routines with extra attributes. We’ve implemented them on computers and robots. Nobody ever said that algorithms are limited to just those systems though.

What about cellular organisms, bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals? What about human beings? Why couldn’t we substitute plastic for flesh, organs, and muscles, metal for bones, gold and wires for nerves, or vice-versa? What about life itself, the brain, consciousness, or love? Could there be an algorithm for life, consciousness, or love?

It seems reasonable to me to assume that life, consciousness, and love possess the following attributes:

  • they are processes;

  • the processes are probably composed of a finite number of steps;

  • the processes probably have inputs and generate outputs.

but life, consciousness, and love are currently missing a couple critical attributes:

  • we don’t know all the operations required or the cases in which those operations occur;

  • we don’t know how to go about encoding the algorithms to make them effective.

Maybe we don’t need to know all the operations involved in life, consciousness, and love. Maybe we just need to know enough to create viable processes or processes capable of bootstrapping whatever else they need whenever they need it.

There are more questions on this subject than answers. I’m ok with that. There’s no known algorithm for whittling a huge block of ignorance down to a beautiful piece of knowledge or for whittling a piece of goodness out of a huge block of evil. That’s probably because those are processes that go on forever,

or at least as long as hope springs in the human breast.

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