Category Archives: & Philosophy


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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The Paradox of the Heap

There is an ancient Greek paradox, called the Sorites Paradox, originally attributed to Eubulides of Miletus. “Sorites” is Greek for “heap”. The paradox goes like this: suppose you have a heap of sand and then you start removing one grain of sand at a time. At what point does the heap of sand stop being a heap.

You can reverse it: start out with one grain of sand and then add another grain and another. At what point do your grains of sand become a heap?

Now, we can apply this paradox to more interesting categories of subjects.

A child is shamed by a number of his classmates and hangs himself as a result. Let’s say hypothetically the number of classmates involved in shaming the child was five. Say one less classmate shamed him. Would he still hang himself? Say two less? Three less? Let’s reverse it: say one person shamed him. Then two. Then three. At what point would the child be so ashamed that he would take his own life?

During an average week, there are one or two mass shooting incidents somewhere in America. A mass shooting has been defined for statistical purposes as gun-related deaths or injuries of at least four people. We could go back over the years and add up all the gun-related deaths and come up with a mind-boggling number. My question is this: at what point in the future will we collectively decide that enough is enough and pass laws to regulate who gets legal access to guns and rifles? A million? Ten million? A hundred million?

At what point does the murder of non-combatants become genocide? At what point does it become a Holocaust? A thousand? A million? Six million? We know by studying history that the actions of Hitler and the Nazi party led to the Holocaust. How many of those actions does another nation’s leader have to take before we can say that these actions will lead to another holocaust? One? Ten? A hundred?

We can study history and learn its lessons, but that does not necessarily mean that we will know how to apply those lessons to our present or future situations.

Shimon Peres once said that we should spend more time studying the future than studying the past. How do we study the future? We start out by asking ourselves what we want and then figure out what we have to do to get from now to then.

But there are things we can never know with any kind of precision, like how much cruelty, injustice, unfairness, deprivation, derision, ridicule, or invisibility can a person or a group of people take before they can’t take any more? What can we do? How do we know that what we are doing to someone is the last straw for him or her? Immanuel Kant provided the answer in his Categorical Imperative. He said we should consider what would happen if everyone did what we are thinking about doing. Kant asserted that if everyone did it and it would lead to the destruction of society, then it would be immoral; otherwise, it would be moral, or at least not immoral. I would suggest a slight alteration of Kant’s assertion for our purposes: if everyone did it before you and it is something you wouldn’t want done to you, then your doing so should be treated like the last straw, should be avoided, and another way should be sought.

The Freedom Paradox is that we are free to do or say whatever we want, but we are not free of the consequences of what we do or say. Everything we do or say has consequences, like the ripples a stone thrown into a pond cause. Although we can never know all the consequences of our actions, we must take responsibility for them as adults. The law may let us off the hook on certain of those consequences, but the laws of morality and reality do not let us off any hook whatsoever.

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What We Know and What We Believe

For most of us, who don’t have direct access to experimental evidence, there’s not much difference between what we know for sure and what we believe. Please reread the first sentence. I am not being a Doubting Thomas or a cynic. I’m just asserting an obvious fact. Only a few people, scientists and lab technicians, have direct access to experimental evidence. Only they can test a hypothesis, control the inputs, and measure the results. When the results are valid, interesting, can be replicated and pass peer reviews, then and only then can we read them and form our own opinions about the results. Our opinions are based on our beliefs: our belief that the tests were rigorously controlled and statistically significant, the results were replicated independently, the peer reviews were objective and the hypothesis is consistent with our other beliefs.

Most of us may say that we know something for sure, but what we are really saying is that we believe that something to be true.

I’m not even saying that science is a religion because that would be a disservice to both science and religion. Both have their own domains and rules of validity. Not many of us possess the time or the resources to verify hypotheses about objective reality. If all of us had to verify scientifically whether the ground beneath our feet is solid (which it is not), we never would have descended from the trees of our local savannah a million or so years ago.

I am saying most of us don’t have direct access to objective reality, which makes what scientists do exceedingly important to us.

Even the things we believe that don’t correspond to objective reality can be very important to us. There are “provable” fictions we believe that organize and synchronize us, that make multitudes of us coherent over space and time, and that provide us social identities that outlive any individual member.

Fictions give rise to religions, nation-states, armies, corporations, tribes, families and mobs. Organizations based on fictions can be temporary or can last thousands of years. They can comprise two or more people, or billions.

One of the fictions important to me is the fiction of the soul or spirit. Today, I wrote a poem about the relationship between body and spirit.

The Spirit and the Body

Raanana, January 6, 2018

The spirit and the body live symbiotically,

Though neither needs the other,

They both enrich each other.

The body imagines the spirit

Upon which the spirit incorporates the body

With its traits of goodness and beauty

And they grow by consuming each other,

Though neither is lessened in doing so.

The spirit sees all things, but not the individual,

The body sees only the particular and not the allthing.

The spirit can see forever, but knows not the time of day,

The body knows this moment, but not what was or what will.

Together, they are God and the universe.

Because of them, there are acts of God

And the day-to-day happenings of the world.

Mike Stone

Raanana, Israel


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Roll Over Maslow

Some of you have heard of Maslow’s Pyramid, a diagram representing a man’s or woman’s hierarchy of needs. The pyramid is divided into five levels from the wide base to the narrow apex.

The first and lowest level at the base of the pyramid represents our Physiological needs: the physical requirements for human survival, air, water, and food. The inability to satisfy needs at this level means death for the individual.

The second level just above the first represents our Safety and Security needs: the absence of war, natural disaster, violence, abuse, and the requirements for personal security, financial security, health and well-being, and protection from the adverse impacts of accidents or illness. The inability to satisfy needs at this level can engender post-traumatic stress disorder and other extreme psychological coping mechanisms.

The third level represents our need for Love and Belonging: being part of a family, having friends, and having a significant Other with whom one can be intimate, both sexually and non-sexually. Not satisfying these needs can lead to loneliness, anxiety, or depression.

The fourth level represents our need for Esteem: status, recognition, fame, prestige, attention, strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom.

The fifth and highest level at the top of the pyramid represents our need for Self-Actualization: to become the most that one can be. Whatever one can do, one must do.

During Maslow’s final years, he posited a sixth level, above all the rest, which he called self-transcendence: giving oneself to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality, thinking about the ends rather than the means, to oneself, to significant Others, to all mankind, to other species, and to the Universe.

The most basic needs must be satisfied before the higher needs. Each level of needs depends on the satisfaction of the needs of the previous levels.

But then I thought about what an amazing species we really are and how there are those among us who could flip Maslow’s Pyramid over on its head, so that the highest levels become prerequisites, pre-conditions, for what were previously the lower levels, that our need for self-transcendence precedes and overrides our need for self-actualization, which overrides our need for esteem, which overrides our need for love and belonging, which overrides our need for safety and security, which overrides our physiological needs.

Yes, there are people like that.

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The Big Giveaway

During the months of May and June, during selected five-day periods, I will be giving away the Kindle versions (E-books) of all my books. I will share this with all my friends and followers, and everybody else who views my posts on the social networks to which I contribute. If you know someone else who might enjoy taking advantage of my generosity, please feel free to spread the joy to your friends. After June 10th I go back to being my usual miserly self.


Science Fiction:


If you don’t have a Kindle to read the book you want to download, click on the “READ ON ANY DEVICE” button or the “Read with Our Free App” link on the book page to download the free Kindle software to your pc, Mac, tablet, or smartphone. Then click on the Buy now with 1-Click. You will see that the cost is $0.00. Make sure you download the book during the period next to the book you want to read.

Additional Offer!

The first six people to write a review (preferably glowing) about the book they read will receive a free hardcopy paperback version of one of my books from the list above.

So what are you waiting for?

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


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Advice to Those Who Would Offer Advice to Someone Who Grieves Instead of Consolation

  1. Don’t attempt to get between a person and her love. Love is infinite. You are not. You might get caught in the updraft.
  2. Never tell a person to put her griefs into proportion. Your proportions are not her proportions. Besides, love is never proportionate. You can’t take love’s measure. If you could, it wouldn’t be love.
  3. Don’t try to measure a person’s grief by the number of tears she shed. You can’t take the measure of another person’s grief either. Grief is like war. You can know how you get into it but you can never know how you’ll come out of it. No two people grieve the same way and there’s no right way to grieve. There are officially acceptable ways to grieve, but there’s no one right way for everyone. Don’t judge a person’s grief either. That’s the same as measuring. As a matter of fact, don’t judge other people unless that’s your profession or it’s a matter of life and death. Don’t do it if you don’t really need to. You’ll almost certainly be wrong in your judgement.
  4. Finally, don’t offer advice to someone who didn’t ask for it. Consolation may be given freely, even if it’s not accepted. Consolation is just compassion.


Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


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Report from Ice Station Zebra

No, I’m not writing from some geographic location near the North or South Pole. It’s more of a place in time, my own personal Zulu time, as I drift farther and farther away from the equator of human warmth toward the eventual pole of my loneliness.

This is precisely the kind of blog post I don’t like writing. I’ve said it before: a writer should only write what he would like to read if it existed. I don’t like to read blog posts on what people love or hate. How can anyone relate to what someone else loves or hates? There is no rationale to lead one from his current emotional state to someone else’s state of love or hate. There is no justification for love or hate. It’s just someone’s reaction to something else. Idiosyncratic.

Are you still with me here?

Ok, so a few years after I had immigrated to Israel, my new country and I were in the midst of mutual adoption, and I was immersed in the ambience and culture of this modern yet ancient land, I discovered how much I loved what my new-found countrymen loved but I couldn’t hate what they hated. Maybe, if I had been born here and had experienced what they had experienced, I’d have been more like them, I’d have hated what they hate. Imagine the Wild West and the familiar cliché, “the only good Indian is a … Indian” transposed to the Middle East, and you have the environment in which I found myself. That’s not to say that everyone born in this country thinks that way.

What do I love besides the obvious (my wife, kids, grandkids, parents, and dogs)? I love the sunlight and the gentle summers and winters, but I hate the gritty sandstorms that sometimes come in from the deserts.

I love the generosity of spirit, courage, and physical beauty here that some people seem to take for granted, but I hate the lack of empathy of far too many people for others different from them.

I love that we have a democratic government but hate that many of us don’t have a democratic spirit, a spirit which values democracy above winning an election, a spirit that accepts the rule of the majority but also protects the rights of minorities, that codifies those rights in a written constitution for all to see, to know, in which to feel safe.

I love the purity of our arms, our self-defense, not that God is on our side but that we are doing the right thing, but I hate that some soldiers use unnecessary force with noncombatants or combatants who have surrendered their weapons and no longer pose a threat.

I love our genius and the intelligent conversations so common here, but I hate that many intelligent people attempt to hide what they don’t know. What I know is of less value to me than what I don’t know. That’s what impels me forward to carve out new knowledge from this vast block of ignorance. That’s right. Knowledge is created by running head first into what we don’t know.

Most of all, I love love but I hate hate.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


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Credo Quia Absurdum Est

“Credo quia absurdum est” is a Latin phrase which means “I believe because it is absurd”. Not “in spite of the fact that it is absurd”. Because. It is a paraphrase of a statement from Tertullian’s work De Carne Christi (“The Flesh of Christ”), “… it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd”. Tertullian lived around 155 – 240 AD. This paraphrase has been espoused by Christians as a measure of the strength of one’s unquestioning belief.

Not to be outdone, Orthodox Jews also have their unquestioning beliefs: God created our world and everything in it including us in one week, five thousand seven hundred and seventy six years ago, and everything written in the five books of Moses (the Old Testament) is literally true. We are not to look for the logic or the reason for what is written, but to accept it all because God commanded us to do so, even if He tells us to sacrifice our son or daughter.

While thinking about Immanuel Kant – The Categorical Imperative, I came up with a proof that either God exists but we do not, or we exist but God does not. It goes like this:

  1. The laws of physics apply everywhere in the Universe, consistently throughout it. We may not understand all the laws but they are universally applicable.
  2. Everything in the Universe must obey the laws of physics. We obey the laws of physics.
  3. God doesn’t have to obey the laws of physics. Even if we defined a special case in the laws of physics that applied to God in a consistent manner, God would not have to obey it. God’s existence represents a lawlessness with respect to physics.
  4. Since the Universe cannot be both lawful and lawless with respect to physics, either we exist in this universe but God doesn’t or God exists in this universe but we don’t.

Now I don’t have anything against Muslims. I know of quite a few Muslims who are at least as good and wise as any Christian, Jew, atheist, or other person on this planet. No condescension intended here. That said, I’m certainly glad I’m not a Muslim. The sentence for apostasy, the rejection of one’s belief in God or conversion to another brand of belief, if one is a Muslim, is death in any country ruled by Sharia (Islamic law). See The Punishment for Apostasy from Islam if you have the stomach for it.

The Saudi poet, Ashraf Fayadh, is currently waiting for his death sentence to be carried out because someone accused him of blasphemy and apostasy, which Ashraf denies. See Outrage over Saudi death sentence for poet on blasphemy charges.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel



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Obsessions on Infinity

Plato had his triangles and his numbers, abstract objects which he called universals or ideals. Such ideals do not exist spatially or temporally, or anywhere else in our physical world. The lines that represent a triangle’s sides are perfectly thin and perfectly straight. They cannot be perceived; only conceived. They existed independently of Plato’s thinking about them. Although a purist might not agree with such a formulation, triangles, numbers, and other ideals existed long before any humans thought about them and will exist long after humans; that is, they’ll exist forever.

Like numbers (yet subtly different) infinity and eternity are also ideals. If you were to throw an open bag of coins up in the air and all the coins were to land on their edges, which would be a most improbable event, but it’s inevitable given an infinite amount of time. The probability of such an occurrence would be much smaller than the probability of my winning the Powerball Lottery, especially considering I don’t purchase lottery tickets; however, given an infinite period of time (an eternity), it’s inevitable that the coins would all land on their edges not only once but an infinite number of times.

The Kardashev Scale measures a civilization’s level of technical advancement. Nikolai Kardashev designated three categories, which he called types I, II, and III. Type I civilizations should be able to use and store the energy reaching their planet from their neighboring star. Type II civilizations should be able all the energy of a star (e.g., a Dyson sphere). Type III civilizations should know everything there is to know about energy and use that knowledge to travel between galaxies. Others have proposed extensions to the basic Kardashev Scale, such as types 0, IV, and V, as well as measurements unrelated to energy. Of course the Kardashev Scale is only hypothetical since we only know about our own civilization. According to Carl Sagan, we’re at about 0.724 (Type 0, possibly attaining Type I within 100 – 200 years).

Thinking about the Kardashev Scale and its variants, I’d like to propose a variant based on intelligence. Type I would be one or more species of life on a planet accidentally acquiring intelligence (consciousness, sense of self, world view, empathy, judgment, will, etc.). Type II would be artificial intelligence programmed by an intelligent species, Type III would be artificial intelligence programmed by artificially intelligent artifacts. Type IV might represent the spread of intelligence like a virus around an entire planet. Type V might represent intelligent stars along with their solar systems. Type VI might represent intelligent galaxies. Type VII might represent an intelligent universe.

These obsessive ramblings may sound far-fetched to the casual bystander but, given all the time in the world, given an eternity, all types are inevitable.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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