Tag Archives: love

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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Filed under & Philosophy, Essays, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Prose, Uncategorized

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


Filed under & Philosophy, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Uncategorized

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


Filed under & Philosophy, Essays, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Journals, Uncategorized

Chapter 58: What Have You Done to Him?

The boy fell back onto the bed, his whole body twitching violently.

“What have you done to him?” Ellen shrieked. She held the boy’s head and upper torso in her naked arms, keening and rocking back and forth, “What have they done to you, my love, what have they done?”

You understand what has happened to you, don’t you?

Ellen looked from Lem to Yani and back to Lem. They stood next to the bed so calmly as though nothing had happened. All of a sudden an over-powering hatred welled up, taking over, and she leaped at Lem from the bed, pummeling him in his face with her clenched fists. “What did you do?” she screamed at them.

Yes, I understand. Bear with me … I haven’t got the hang of thinking like this … so that I hear you and you hear me.

Lem held Ellen’s wrists while she resisted, kicking wherever she could. “Why did you do this?” she pleaded. “You monsters … both of you!”

“Ellen please!” Lem held Ellen close so that she could not maneuver or kick, but he was careful not to hurt her. “He asked me to do it. I couldn’t refuse Father’s request.”

Ellen spit out her next words piercing everyone’s heart, “And if he had asked you to kill him, would you have done it?” She hung limply, suddenly exhausted in Lem’s arms.

Lem released his hold on Ellen and guided her gently to the bed. “I can fix Father up but it will take a little time. Please let us think. He can’t talk yet but he can think.

How is it that I can think but I can’t talk or move?

Thoughts don’t have any moving parts at least not any that are real. Talking and moving are another matter, literally another matter. You need to reprogram your associative memory, your white matter. You don’t have much time left to do it, so I will help you reassociate.

“How can you two stand there doing nothing when he is having a seizure like this?” Ellen asked incredulously. “Do something!”

Ellen my love, please, for my sake, trust Lem and Yani. I’ll be ok. Just this once I need to be alone with Lem so he can help me get back on my feet. I’ll be as good as new. I just need absolute quiet. I need everything around me not to move.

Ellen looked around her, from Yani to Lem and back again. Then she looked at the boy twitching in bed beside her and her eyes widened.

Yani put a robe around Ellen’s shivering shoulders. “Yes, Ellen, that was Father thinking,” Yani said softly to Ellen. “Come with me. I’ll make you some hot cocoa and we’ll sit in the kitchen. I promise to explain everything to you.”

Yani put her arm around Ellen, who was so fragile at that point that she could have shattered like glass, and guided her gently out of the bedroom to the kitchen.


Now where do we start?

I think we should start with stopping my epileptic seizure. I might hurt myself.

Alright. Can you feel me inside you now?


I’m going to detach your corpus callosum temporarily so that the seizure will stop.

The boy no longer twitched. He lay still in his bed, his eyes looking at the high ceiling.

Thanks. That’s a lot better.

Your right and left brain hemispheres are going to start thinking independently of each other, because the corpus callosum is detached. Don’t be disconcerted.

Maybe I can have the two hemispheres communicate with each other like you and I are communicating.

It doesn’t work that way. Both hemispheres think they are you.

That’s stupid. Who constructed it that way?

Nobody. Let’s continue. What next?

I think we have to take all the neurons that were attached to my amygdala, detach them and reattach them to neural pathways in the neuronal axons in my cerebral cortex. That’s going to take an awfully long time, isn’t it?

Don’t worry about it Father. There is a higher dimension in which I am replicated in multiple spaces at the same time. Do you remember how I engaged the entire Sap army? Nobody else at the Refuge offered to do it, so I volunteered.

Yes, I remember. It’s like that? How will you know what to attach to what?

I’ll copy my own neural programming, more or less. You’ll start out like me but you’ll end up pretty quickly like you as your experiences change your neural patterns.

What about my feelings toward Ellen?

I won’t touch your memories or your judgment, but your emotions will be replaced by your logic.

How will love survive that?

Love has its own logic.


Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Not Much of a Poem

This isn’t gonna be much of a poem.

I shoulda been dusting the piano and books,

And, after that, load the dishes into the dishwasher.

Like I said, you’d better skip this’n and go on to the next.

If truth be told, his shoulders were quite narrow

And there wasn’t enough flesh on his bones

For her comfort,

But love had a perfect body.

And if truth be known, her hips were rather wide

And her legs, well,

That’s why she wore slacks, I guess,

But love had a perfect body.

These days, he takes his time combing those few strands of hair

And the spoon trembles on the way to his mouth.

She likes to even out the edges of the chocolate cake,

But love has a perfect body.

Some eyes can see love’s perfect body

And some can’t.

I s’pose there’s nothing to do about it,

There’s nothing to do.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


Filed under Poetry

Soon We Will All Turn into Poems

Every year just before the Day of Remembrance for Israel’s Fallen the Army radio station broadcasts a two-hour program (http://shir.glz.fm/), called in Hebrew “עוד מעט נהפוך לשיר” (soon we’ll all turn into poems), of the poems or songs that soldiers wrote before they were killed in battle. Although some of the songs or poems may be about bravery in battle and esprit de corps, most are about love, the possibility of death, and the sadness of unlived life. Most of the poems and songs were written during a last leave at home and hidden in a bedroom drawer or recorded in a notebook when none of his friends were looking and found in a blood-stained pocket. Whether you were gung-ho or not inside, you were always gung-ho for your buddies. I remember that too back in ’83 before going over the border. This day, the Day of Remembrance for Israel’s Fallen, which always comes the day before Independence Day in Israel, always adds a twinge of sadness to our insanely festive celebration of independence.

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to write about. I was just suddenly intrigued by the title of the radio program, “Soon We’ll All Turn into Poems”. For a poet, you know, it’s not a bad way to go — to turn into your poems.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under about writing, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Poetry, Prose

Whirlpool (Chapter 32: The Story)

The story is about me, I suppose, but it’s not a true story … at least I don’t think it is. I’m in this cabin … I always am in this same cabin and there is a faint knock on the door. I open the door and you’re standing there in the doorway. I say what I said to you and you respond the way you responded. I ask you to sit down and I tell you this story.

You claim you don’t recognize me. You probably don’t. There’s no reason why you would in this god-forsaken universe. But I know you. I’ve always known you … the last time … the time before that … and the time before that too. And every time I am hopelessly … but wait … I’m getting ahead of myself.

I continue with the story. You listen to the end. I’ll say that for you. You always do. You say how flattered you are to be the heroine in my story, but then you begin to look around you for the door, the window. There is doubt and the beginning of fear in your eyes. I can’t stand it, that I’m causing it, and I look away. Would you like a cup of coffee, I ask. Sometimes you say yes, sometimes no. This time you said yes. I walk over to the coffee pot, light the fire under it, spoon the grounds into two cups, and stare at the mirror, wondering whether you will still be in your chair by the time I return with the two coffee cups. You’re there or you’re not. If you’re not, then you are just outside the cabin walking slowly towards the cliff and I catch up with you and tell you there’s an easier, safer way to get down the mountain to the town. I’ll show you the way, I say. You remember the difficulty coming up the mountain and agree reluctantly to be guided by me. We walk without words until we reach the edge overlooking the gently down-sloping path meandering over the grassy mountain side. A breeze wafts up the slope, carrying the pungency of fallen leaves and over-ripe fruit. You become aware of the clicking of cicadas in a distant strand of trees and turn your lovely face in that direction. My arms ache to enclose you within them, as though they were wings folded around you. But …

But sometimes you stay in your chair. I set the coffee cup on the side table beside you. I sit down on my chair opposite you and try to keep my coffee cup from trembling. We sip at our coffees in silence. Would you like to hear more, I ask. More of what, you ask. More of the story, I answer. Go on, you say.

I jump to the end of the story. There’s not much more time. Time for what? Time for you to fall in love with me. Time for me to fall in love with you? It always comes as such a shock to you … more than anything else I say to you today. Although the thing I’ve yet to say that should have been the climax of my story, you react to that as though it were mere dénouement.

You don’t waste much time, you say. You always say that. What should I expect? You’re half my age. You’re lovely, you’re bright, and you’ve got your … These things take time to unfold, to evolve. You search your mind for every pertinent platitude you’ve ever learned, as though it were your wisdom, as though it could somehow extricate us from the terrible spiraling involution we are stuck in. You can’t rush these things, you continue saying. I feel dizzy, you say, and reach for your coffee cup but your hand brushes the side of the cup at the wrong angle. The cup is pushed over the edge of the table, spilling the coffee on the floor.

Don’t worry about it, I say. It’s interesting how every time, some details change and some remain constant. The coffee cup is always pushed over the edge. Do you want me to make you another cup of coffee, I ask. No, you say. Your eyes dart around the room, the door, the window. I hate that. I know, I’ve said it before. I still hate that moment.

You run out of platitudes to say. You run out of words to say. You have no feelings for me. Empty. Empty Dempty sat on a wall. Empty Dempty had a great fall. I don’t know when it happens or if it happens. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I never know. What happens, you ask. You begin to fall in love with me. Why do I fall in love with you, you ask. I don’t know. I never do. I ask you each time it happens why you fall in love with me. Why do you ask? So that I can use it next time to make you love me quicker, I explain sadly. Why is it so important to you for me to love you quicker, you ask. Because there’s so little time left for us to be in love, I answer.

Why is there so little time for us to be in love, you ask. Because you always die at dawn the next day. How do I die, you ask. I don’t know, I say, it’s always different. It’s always unexpected. It’s always heart-wrenching. It’s always gruesome. Do you kill me, you ask, your Isaac eyes staring into my Abraham heart. No, I say. It’s never me. Never me. I try to save you. I try to anticipate, but I never succeed.

Do you make me love you quicker each time, you ask. No, I answer. Every time the reason is different.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


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Wolf Love

I struggled a long time with the title of this collection of my father’s notebooks. A title can be the key to understanding the writings and the man himself. The wrong title can leave the door to this sometimes fierce and sometimes gentle spirit locked. I tried “Dad” as a title but it did not unlock his relationship to my mother. I tried “Al” but it seemed to cold and distant from his family. I tried “Velvel”, his Yiddish middle name, but it didn’t really describe him. I tried “Uncle-Daddy” but it was somehow too domesticated. Then it hit me. The key to my father was “Wolf”, his American middle name, which expresses his fierce and untamed love for all of us, a love with the potential to lash out at anyone who might have threatened us, a love that was as protective and sustaining as a soul could ever want or need. “Wolf Love” describes something primal, something that knows no bounds, something that recognizes no human laws. My father was not an outlaw. He was honest to a fault, to his own detriment. No, he was not an outlaw, but he might have been, if the law had ever tried to come between the objects of his love and his love. True, later on, when most of you got to know him, he became more and more domesticated. Age, debilitating pain, and disease can do that to even the fiercest of hearts. Some people thought they knew my father in his later years, but they didn’t. Only those who knew him before then really knew him and loved him because, when you have been loved by a wolf, you can’t help returning the same kind of primal love.

I think you have to carry this key inside you in order to understand the notebooks. Otherwise the following pages just won’t make any sense at all.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel


Filed under about writing, Journals, Poetry, Prose