Well, I meant to post some minor updates last week, but they turned out to be trickier than I expected, and then my week was taken up by finances and catch-up naps. So maybe this week. But I’m thinking this project will go slower over the next month because I’ll be getting ready to move.
My budget is 95% done. The last little bit requires collecting some receipts and bills, so I’m organizing my boxes of papers to find them. That’s putting me in the mood to sort through my other stuff and hopefully end up with fewer boxes to move.
Last week I met a new friend. It’s called Voice Dream Reader, and it reads documents to me from my phone. This is a solution I’ve been looking for since before I even had a smartphone. It’s way better than any other text-to-speech app I’ve tried, including the iOS VoiceOver feature. The only problem is that Voice Dream doesn’t read anything with DRM, so my Kindle books are out. But I found out the Kindle app for PC will read them using the Windows screen reading feature. The voice options are limited, and having to fumble with my Surface will be awkward, but I guess it’ll do for now.
Our the topic this month at the futurism meetup was corporations. Apparently corporations started out existing for the public good, and then the Industrial Revolution happened and they became legal persons. Then in the 1970s their goal became to maximize profits for their shareholders. In my semi-informed opinion, the clearest way to rein them in is to reduce their influence over politicians.
I finished The Language Instinct. Pinker touched on a lot of topics I can make use of. One of them was Donald Brown’s work on human universals. I suspect some of these universals will make it into my framework for developing conceptual models. I think one of the main reasons Gary Marcus recommends this book is Pinker’s idea of mental modules for processing different kinds of information. It fits the idea of innate machinery for AI that Marcus advocates. I’ve added Pinker’s How the Mind Works to my reading list.
Someone on Christian radio who I listened to back in my youth (Chuck Swindoll?) said he alternated between reading different categories of books. It might’ve been fiction and non-fiction. I’ve always thought that was a good idea, but it wasn’t until this year that I’ve managed to adopt that kind of rhythm. At the moment I’m cycling through cognitive science/rationality/futurism, spirituality, and fiction. Update: It was my old pastor growing up, and his categories were the same as mine: professional development, spiritual growth, and fun (H/T my dad).
So after Pinker, I listened to Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne. Sometimes when I step back and look at the big picture of spirituality, I wonder what its central concept is, what idea leads to all the others and ties them all together so they’re easier to remember and practice. Many moons ago I brought this up with my coworker Matt, and he replied, “Union with Christ.” I’d heard this before, and it seemed like a fair possibility, so I filed it away to investigate. Wilbourne’s book came up for $2 in Amazon’s ebook sale for this month, so I picked it up.
The book is short, and I checked out the audiobook and finished it in about a day. I’d say it’s a good first look at the topic. 4/5. Especially helpful was the chapter on history. I’m always looking for references to explore. Also a couple of practices from the book have stuck with me. One is imagining Jesus as someone who surrounds me, like a character costume at Disney World. The other is mentally reframing my plans and experience in terms of things I’m doing or experiencing with Jesus.
Now, the book was full of Christianese and felt just like listening to a Christian radio show, but I can excuse it because the book was clearly aimed at a typical churchgoing audience and not people like me. When I encounter this kind of language, to get much out of it I have to translate it in my head from metaphor and abstraction into the terms of literal experience. It always takes effort.
The fact that the topic is so central for spirituality and the language is so conventionally evangelical actually makes the book a good candidate for study in my beliefs report. I’ve been looking for a catalog of the principles of Christian living to interact with so I can easily collect my thoughts on the subject. Maybe this is it.
The next audiobook in my new pattern is the last book in the Wingfeather Saga, The Warden and the Wolf King.