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Machine Learning versus Learning by Humans


Rajiv 55 / 400  
Oct 21, 2008   #1
Greetings!

This is a general essay put up for comments by anyone so inclined - Thanks.


automation of learning process?



A study is meaningful if it yields further things of interest. This can be seen in studying Machine Learning. Actual applications of machine learning are trivial, nothing compared to the effort put into it. And yet the subject is interesting because it holds promise, an expectation as the name itself suggests. Someday we may automate the process having understood how we learn, and will have the tools to replicate that process.

In the literature of this subject and others of the genre, one often encounters the admission that goals once thought quite easily within its grasp, are actually proving elusive. And this is in every field of automatic learning, be it robotics, natural language processing and generally artificial intelligence. Not to say that whatever mathematical relations discovered or processing algorithms developed are not of value or are discarded. But like something magical, in spite of all this, the subject of learning is not any better understood than when its study began.

So, scientists and other respected persons in academia have started to wonder if the answers, or the shorter path to understanding learning, may not be a better understanding of the human consciousness. That is, a study of consciousness may really be the study of the subject in more generalization.

For those then, working on the subject, does this pull the carpet from under them ? No, because their interest is making machines that replicate the process which humans learn by. What they wish is that this process become clearer.

The paradigm we follow for developing an understanding of learning in humans is reverse of the one commonly taken. We begin by considering that all knowledge is known. Who by ? We wont answer that, but instead our explanation is that knowledge exists, and ignorance clouds our assimilation of it.

Instead of going into the further exposition of this paradigm, we take another pathway to show how, taken as this, the developments in machine learning follow quite naturally!

Consider movements in both axis, that is lateral and directional, where the later is towards the goal, measurable against some scale similar to how we measure progress in any development, and the lateral movement is one, in which the study shifts by making complementary developments in related areas, to have a better hold by making generalizations and enabling it to move forward confidently.

Within this simple and general framework it is clear to see that any forward progress in machine learning actually happens when it is also validated in the fields around it. Else those findings from other fields themselves become the subject which researchers use to either move everything forward, or simply repudiate the particular finding in machine learning. So learning really happens as a whole, and for the entire community, separated by interval in time which is always becoming shorter.

Turn this over , and this phenomenon is the same that all knowledge seems to converge in differing guises as solutions to problems in different fields. One can speculate of a mind that is fine enough that it can assimilate these common strands. And this is how we understand learning. We call these abstractions or concepts. They exist in a mental space and relate to events of the phenomenal world.

This is a space apprehended by the mind and its entities grasped in the mind alone. What more can we say about it? Not only machine learning, but every field considered a study, is in this space. It is continuous though our perceptions and sense of the phenomenal world conflict with accepting its being beyond space and containment.

Why insist on laws from the phenomenal world. Quantum laws are more appropriate here, but in general, we are in a different realm altogether.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Oct 23, 2008   #2
A learning process

Two forms of learning become apparent when trying to outline this process. We'll concentrate on what we can call forward learning. The other happens as though with some support, and in the background.

In a directed form of learning, we have a sense of the subject as though it lies before us. Specifically, consider learning through reading or watching a lecture video.

Some part of the subject is already in our minds in a somewhat indistinct form, and is likely, that we have some discomfort with it. This is how we describe our not having completely understood it earlier. In the coming session we anticipate more of the subject matter, as well as something which will increase our comfort with what we took in previously.

The matters we learn about are varied, and to keep our focus, we broadly classify them as the very general, like things we do with the least bit of attention. In this, the desired objective is clear to us and we strive to keep things going along a preset path.

Of yet another kind is learning of skills, where a focus is constantly required as we conduct our hands, and even our legs or feet. Here we are trying to achieve something to a level we have never before reached.

A learning even higher is, where we are not doing any actions by ourselves at all. Instead we are allowing it to happen. The effort we make is in recognizing ideas, and seeing that they are related in the way we are being instructed. When we see this happen, we feel an exhilaration, a natural event in the learning process.

In the above kinds of learning, the last most defies definition as a process. Ideas are recognized and synthesized. The newly formed idea is itself a unit and when a complementary idea is presented alongside, the two synthesize again.

The second kind of learning is more like the sharpening of a skill where extraneous factors are gradually filtered out. The objective is always clear and we proceed towards it, comparing the outcome of our effort with the goal, and correcting ourselves.

The first kind is simply following something previously done. The objective is to deflect disturbances should any come along.

Now we focus on the crux of the learning process, the synthesis of two ideas. We want to see how most learning can be explained as just this process.

Ideas come together in our mind, not because we make them, but because we allow them to. Students sitting in the same class are meant to learn the same thing. Each concept is the same for all.

Imagine this as climbing up a hill. The teacher is standing at some point above and asking the students to move up. Unlike a normal hill, the terrain to climb in every session is different from the previous one. Sometimes the teacher shows how to move up, at other times lets the students themselves find their way up, maybe giving a little help to one or the other.

As a student, your focus is your inner world. As the teacher brings up some idea, you follow by constructing it in your mind. It should be the same, but most times when we fail to grasp something, it is because we drew a different picture in our mind. It helps to think of it not as something we draw afresh each time, but as a picture we bring out from within our mind.

Our progress in learning depends on the clarity we have with the preceding ideas. If we ask further, what is it that pulls ideas or concepts together? Is it something of itself or something different? We see that it is the relation this idea has with other learning on any related subject. As though learning something related created a gradient for this, which now makes it easier to climb.

Concepts with a similar orientation seem to assist each other. But what is this orientation towards? It's a question to ask ourselves!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 11, 2008   #3
Consider movements in both axis -- that is, lateral and directional, where the "directional" indicates movement towards the goal measurable against some scale similar to how we measure progress in any development, and the "lateral" movement is one in which the study shifts by making complementary developments in related areas, to have a better hold by making generalizations and enabling it to move forward confidently.

This is all well-written and interesting, but it needs to be explained a bit more... It is hard to follow, because you don't prepare the reader for what is to come. Where do these concepts about learning come from, for example? That said, it is also true that many essays do not explain everything... but as this is an essay intended to explain these concepts, it would be good to put more lines into the introduction parts.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Apr 29, 2009   #4
This I feel as what maybe - as opposed to what definitely is not!

Characteristics we see in individuals, do not vanish on their dying. Their own memory of their own life experience does. And learning and knowledge is of the nature of these characteristics, a modification of them.

As though these characteristics form a knot, or a clump, a seed - which germinates through birth. The character traits drive the individual, who is growing out in the body.

In human interactions it is these characteristics which rub together, as much as we allow, and sometimes more than we wish to; always leaving some impact on each other.

Then there is the objectivity of things. We interact physically with objects through a connection with an objective knowledge of their function. Say, when we want to push something big, we can use a machine whose motions and actions we are connected with, through a concrete aspect in our own mind which recieves and reacts and converts our thougths to our actions.

We may come upon some unfamiliar device and our mind may try to put together some functions in an attempt to create something coherent as a whole. Our action may be obstructed by lack of a key or some weight, or a closed door. We search for functions in our mind by which to make the whole action happen. When it doesn't, it is because we were not able to connect to some specific part of it, which could even have been knowing, who to call to find where a key is. This correct thought of the function is its objective reality. And everything physical has these, and is actually really just these, in some form or external design.

That things come together in just some particular way and no other, giving it a sense of being unique, an identity, is what we recognize as its law, its nature. And similarly, living things grow by a process which we can talk as simpler processes, down to the point we can almost say, aha - so it has to be this way. Seems so for every mechanical process too, when we deconstruct a function; we come down to its materials and it is their behaviour which seems to determine what we tried to create, a metal door, a hinge, a gear. And it is by these properties of different substances by which we recognize them, gasoline, water, wood, fabric. We work in our minds with these properties as we try to make something, which too reflects a property, correctly if we succeed, differently if if lacked some knowledge.

The unique and objective nature of a thing is independent of our capacity to come to know of it. But when we do, it is invincibly connected with us in the deepest sense. That is, its objective nature is one with ours. Almost like an extension.

Conscience, as an attributeless, substanceless, energyless entity, but as awareness, is the connection between thoughts, in our minds and the objectivity outside. Already we have two seperate layers in our minds. Memory is an almost physical one, with a connection to our bodies like a computer's memory functions; and attributes or characteristics are traits we recognize as our personalities, which essentially are who we are, growing out as our physical features as well.

We look out at the world and at ourselves limited by the development in our nature, and therefore through it. Conscience is our consciousness, with a strangely more bloated sense of itself, for each; maybe because in the process of living and thinking it often thinks of the making of things happen. Though quite outside itself and actually in the bed of a tranquil conscience, by its laws; often thinking itself as doing more than it was really involved in.

So in this bed of conscience, characteristics come afloat on losing the physical coherence of a body, existing as a potential or many potentials, and no single identity. The mould is a life-form, for it is a potential fufilled through the action of that kind. Like some seed strewn in a field, it germinates in living form, to live primarily by its innate principles. The characteristics are afloat in the bed of conscience and follows its laws. The body slowly acquires, in its immediate situation, though a collection of traits, a name for itself to whom these traits belong. There is no identity other than this, that they all act through the body, as fragments of properties; like a glass of water, a trolley, or a pear.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Apr 30, 2009   #5
This, I feel, is what may be - as opposed to what definitely is not!

You know, I am having trouble recently with "as opposed to"... I recently learned the word "appose," which means to place side by side, so it makes me think that I have been wrong all these years to say "as opposed to." Does anyone know about this?

We may come upon some unfamiliar device, and our mind may try to put together some functions in an attempt to create something coherent as a whole. ----> makes me think of a book called Pattern Recognition by Gibson.

I get what you are saying! Well, I think I do. Could "consciousness" be a better word here than "conscience"?
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
Apr 30, 2009   #6
It would be a little misleading for me to take your ..getting what I am saying, as making sense to everyone. For instance, why is a school's philosophy department unwilling to study this then? And, where is their objection precisely?

Is it in accepting any particular premise such as, characteristics are longer lasting than our physical selves? Or is it the definition of objectivity, as an innate property in materials? Or this, that a conscience whose only characteristic is awareness, connects objectivity outside to ourselves?

Or finally, it is the way we look at things at present that our consciousness, seeing itself responsible for actions which though happening solely as an interaction of objective laws and our own character traits, creates an illusionary effect in our minds, as being due to ourselves?

Is this not contrary to what we want to believe? Does this convey somehow to people to not apply themselves?
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Apr 30, 2009   #7
why is a school's philosophy department unwilling to study this then?

I don't think the objection comes from any logical reasoning. People seem much smarter and more ambitious than they are. A school's philosophy department is staffed by people with their own ideas, and, just like the philosophers sitting around a campfire, they are likely to forego your meaningful idea in favor of their own average ideas. Why? Because good ideas are not what we want! We all want to express ourselves.
FreedomMoto 1 / 5  
Apr 30, 2009   #8
Do I have this right? The process of creating a program that creates programs, independent of the problem we're programming for the program to solve. Right?
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 1, 2009   #9
In which case I thank you very much for reading my essay and your comments on them. It's more than what anyone else has done !
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 1, 2009   #10
Your welcome! I have had similar problems with similar people!
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 4, 2009   #11
Understanding is a 'seeing' and I don't even wish this to be taken as an original statement. When we 'see', we may put our mind more into the observation and extract more. At the same time and at another level a picture is formed and we add to its details till we say - aha, now I understand. The visual picture has in contrast many objects and we can see them mostly at once, the entire forms we wish to identify. The picture forming in our mind seems in this sense to 'appear' a little slowly.

As I walk into a room that I have never been in before and take in the objects, the setting, the people present. I might find myself involuntarily gazing at something longer. Without any effort that I would recognize myself making, I have started to assimilate the forms, relating them to something already in my mind, mostly an expectation of what I thought I would see here, but as likely, it is a feeling of anticipation of what I would find and who would actually be in the room...

If this was a visit to someone's home for the first time, as this person spots and acknowledges me, I find my mind moving into a high gear of observation. I notice the attitude of other individuals around, but unconciously I notice too the quality and the types of things in the room. All of it is making an impression. In some almost unconscious way this adjusts my own attitude as I address not the person alone I came to meet, but this entire context.

There are a few more expected moments as I become situated, by gestures the person makes towards a place to sit, offers me something to snack or sip upon. Maybe next, introduces me gently to the conversation happening there, then shifts his attention to the persons he was engaged in that conversation with. The others in that group are taking you in, more so those who were listening at the time you joined in. The person who was leading the conversation has a look of controlled patience waiting for the ripple created by your arrival to subside that he may continue to make his point.

The host is the fulcrum and even as you may start to listen in to the people talking in your group, you notice the expression on his face. Try to read something there of what he has to say of the person talking, or is it some pleasure on seeing you, that you have come, which would be if he were a close friend or relative. Is there some concern as he checks your expression, if you are entirely comfortable, for unlike himself, the others are likely to be strangers to you.

Such is human nature, or more so because this occasion is in all likelihood a social one, the greater interest is in the new, the off from the expected kind, and you feel the interest shifting to making out just who you are. For until then only the host knew you, and you are of some importance to him to have been brought here in similar company, and everyone stands back to hear your introduction and what you may bring to this gathering.

You feel some sympathy for your friendly host and are aware this is not easy for him. He may now say, " This is Rajiv, I am not sure what he is doing exactly. So I'll let him tell you that !"

So, you introduce yourself "I've been writing for a while now, nothing to publish, more to make sense of the difficulty I personally feel in trying to connect the culture here with that in India."

"And what kind of sense is that ?" someone asks.

"What bothers me is that I have to dumb myself down. That is, I feel pressed to give way in most situations to react as someone making less sense of it would do. "

He responds " So you are saying that even though you would ideally say something else, you feel compelled somehow to phrase yourself differently. And this isn't just because you do not speak the language well enough? "

You want to say "No. Since even an illiterate person, grown up here in US is able to navigate himself in commonplace conversation in shops, while walking along the streets, and other such times. Something else inhibits this from happening with me. But in India, there is no sense of this stifling up at all".
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 6, 2009   #12
Awesome, thanks for sharing this!

If this was a visit to someone's home for ...

For this part, you have a verb tense problem. You can fix it by using a colon, like this:

If this was a visit to someone's home for the first time, my holistic social experience would comprise more than just my impression of him: As this person spots...

The colon is only one of may ways to fix it.

Here, you switch from "me" to "you"; that is, after writing from the 1st person perspective, you switch to the 2nd person: The others in that group are taking you in, more so those who...
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 6, 2009   #13
Thanks for following along Kevin. Helps me a lot to write it down

I feel quite certain that for each of us spirituality never became irrelevant, we only lost our way in how to carry it further.

The term spirituality is overused now and often invites ridicule. But will we be as ready to say that it never had any meaning? To me it is obvious, that for even the most seasoned Indians here, these same things are ever-close to their hearts. Their mockery is for people who discuss it. And their reluctance to start any discussion, is that these things may be talked lightly about. Like avoiding talk about someone who is dear, but perhaps handicapped, and they wish to avoid the pain of implicit laughter to themselves and to him.

I might myself be considered such a person, and in reality there is more than a superficial similarity here. But I have always been interested in exploring the rational we can still attach to these ideas - in these technology driven times of ours.

Let me tell you my own experience in spirituality.

I had been reading 'The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali' for a few years and had discerned the central practice given there. It comprised eight stages of transformation, until the final called 'Kaivalyam' - 'Oneself alone'. The first two stages are about our behaviour and just thinking about them and what they asked for, made one get a hook on many things one may otherwise do almost thoughtlessly. This helped me connect my mind to my actions and, in time, built a foundation of who I was becoming as a person.

The next two stages are difficult to get a real handle on, and will appear even more so now, because in the present, they would probably be considered as injurious. The first, in a manner similar to the previous two, is about regulating our breath, or more about controlling its flow entirely. There are finer steps described to achieve that, but ultimately the aim is arresting the breathing altogether. The implication is that our mind-stuff and its various states are interdependent with breathing, and we can bring our mind in control through this practice.

As I started to make an effort, I distinctly remember feeling that I would succeed this time. As I held my breath for longer and longer intervals, my heart began to race. A fear of something irrevocable was rising in me, like I was letting go of something secure, and casting into an unknown space. My heart was beating with this fear. I had closed my eyes and was sitting in the posture of meditation. My visual perception started tearing up. Lighter forms were becoming an extension of something beyond them, of what had appeared as darkness until then. A bewildering realization came to me, that whether I opened my eyes or closed them, what I was percieving now was not going to change. This was actually the real situation of my normal everyday existence which had been overpowering me. I was now confronting it in its totality, and I was terrified.

Something of that nature was occuring with my hearing as well. It seemed as a voice, sounding as my own, and as though I had always been hearing it within my mind, clear, even toned and very reassuring was reasoning with me, telling me what is going on. I did not have to talk of my problems or difficulties, it was more like we were looking at them in their reality.

One significant aspect of this experience I remember was seeing myself situated somewhere, but the actions of my body seemed external to me. Events were happening, even the smallest ones, in a way which appeared totally predictable. You felt like, it has to be as this next, and everything you experienced was driven by yourself, but without any sense of willing it. Yet everything seemed to happen for the better, and every action as though you had wished for - in a sort of unravelling of yourself.

(~L~)
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 7, 2009   #14
Ahh, this is very relevant to an ongoing discussion in another thread: "secular America by Controlling fertility rates"... it's a very weird conversation over there, check it out! :)

I like the word unraveling the way you used it here. I saw a definition of Zen as : forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 8, 2009   #15
Indeed, but be warned, that thread is not for the faint of heart. Radical atheists, inveterate debaters, and other strange creatures lurk there, who may tear and rend anyone who wanders into the morass of posts unawares.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 8, 2009   #16
Kevin - I liked what you wrote in your last post there and I am on the same page with you.

No Sean, its not the species of the creatures which deters me.. but the futility of arguing. I would be happy to hear you and others on what I've written here, though.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 8, 2009   #17
It is difficult to comment on a lot of what you have written here. Most of it seems to consist of your sincerely held personal spiritual beliefs, written entirely for your own benefit. Any criticism is therefore just going to make you feel bad, without greatly improving the quality of your writing. If you were writing argumentative or persuasive pieces meant to convince other people of your beliefs, then I would happily tear into your writing, pointing out every possible weakness, quite possibly using scathing sarcasm to do so. The idea would be that in revising your writing to address what I had said, you would have to strengthen your arguments, hence your essays. But this doesn't really apply to you, and I'm not mean enough to attack someone's beliefs for no reason at all. Absent some compelling motive to do otherwise, I prefer to take an approach of silent respect.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 9, 2009   #18
.. And these are the ideas I am trying to convince the professor at Stanford with; to introduce her to the concepts in the philosophy I want her to put alongside the others.

Why don't you tear down the essays, I'll try and build it up where it doesn't give way altogether.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 9, 2009   #19
Well, at the moment, to someone who isn't into meditation, your description of your experience sounds suspiciously like the effects of oxygen deprivation. However, science has discovered that meditation may help return us to a baby-like state of thinking, which may be more useful for certain cognitive tasks than adult thinking. You might be interested in this article:

boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/04/26/ inside_the_baby_mind/
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 9, 2009   #20
By the same token your statement sounds even more suspiciously as someone trying only to make light of what I've said. Where is the comparison to oxygen deprivation that would validate your comment. The comparison to baby_mind is an attempt to mock again. Nothing of worth to take up in what you're starting off with here.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 10, 2009   #21
Rajiv, don't take offense to Sean; that's how he gives feedback!

I love meditation, but I find the oxygen deprivation thing hilarious. Also, please please please take another look at the "baby" idea after reading Qigong Meditation: Embryonic Breathing by Yang Jwing Ming. It's the most important book I ever read! In Daoism, the idea is to use "back to childhood breathing." Oh, it is so brilliant. When we were young, we breathed from the lower abdomen, but as we reach 30 years old, we breath while moving the mid-abdomen. Later, when we are older, it moves up to the chest. In Qigong practice, the breathing is from the low abdomen, and the MIND is indeed like a baby.

In fact, the greatest masters have always been compared with little children.

Finally, remember one of Anthony DeMello's answers to this question: Someone asked, "Can you give me one example of a practical use for spirituality?" DeMello answered, "When someone says something that offends me, I can raise my spirits to heights that offense cannot reach."
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 11, 2009   #22
OK, no offense taken since you have explained this as your method earlier.

But, so I understand what we are doing here, the alternatives are, that either you believe I am saying things you've heard already, and these are not of much consequence; or you try to ascertain the truth in my assertions.

And for that, you can follow uptil a point with your own understanding and reason, but then you have to put it to test when I say something happens.

At that point, I am curious, what method you will employ?
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 11, 2009   #23
No, actually, if you read the article in the link I posted, you would have seen that the science is quite valid, and provides a very good reason why meditation can be worthwhile. Babies have a wider sense of consciousness than adults. Adults filter the information their senses give them, learn to focus only on what is relevant. Babies and toddlers don't -- they absorb everything unfiltered. So, a three -year-old can pick up a new language way faster than an adult, even learning two or three at once, because he absorbs all the words he hears, not just the ones he has learned to pay attention to. But, the kid can't tie his own shoelaces, because that would involve focusing his attention on just the shoelaces. If we never learned to focus our attention, we would be as helpless as, well, a baby. Sometimes, though, we might actually want to return to a mental state similar to that of a baby's. For instance, we all do something like that when we are trying to be creative, or to improvise. Neurological scans show that we literally suppress the part of our brain that is responsible for narrowing our focus, return to a more open state of consciousness. And why should any of this give you offense? I thought that the whole point of meditation was to increase the scope of your awareness in order to better yourself. If science has provided evidence that meditation can actually do both of these things, I would have thought you would have embraced the idea.

As for the oxygen deprivation comment, that was a bit facetious, I admit, but really, it also makes a certain amount of sense. You were practicing holding your breath for longer and longer periods of time, and breathing as shallowly as you could when you did have to breathe. This would, presumably, result in less oxygen getting to your brain. "Symptoms of generalized hypoxia depend on its severity and acceleration of onset.. . .symptoms include headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, a feeling of euphoria and nausea. In severe hypoxia, or hypoxia of very rapid onset, changes in levels of consciousness, seizures, coma, priapism, and death occur." Now, perhaps because you were inducing the state deliberately, in a controlled way, you didn't suffer the negative symptoms. But, euphoria and changes in levels of consciousness are the two main elements you describe in your meditative experience, and they are both listed as symptoms of oxygen deprivation. So, you said you were undertaking an activity likely to lead to oxygen deprivation, then you suffered the onset of symptoms associated with that condition. Just because a statement reeks of sarcasm doesn't mean there is no truth to it.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 11, 2009   #24
In India and many other Eastern countries, babies are considered as acting from a divine consciousness. Adults often interpret many of their reactions as of greater significance in many situations where maturer individuals would control the emotions they display, or become self conscious. This may have been believed in the West as well at some time, but as it did not sit well with scientific theory, it is only now coming around as being acceptable to talk about. This divine consciousness is the same being debated on the other thread.

The description of the experience I gave is much more than euphoria and a change in the level of consciousness. I am curious, why, do you not address the experience and its many facets I wrote about?
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 11, 2009   #25
Well seeing how you breeze through whatever you may come upon here, you appear not unlike one of the machines you rever. You come here, having programmed yourself to give the poor sops who put their gibberish here, just so much of yourself - convinced that they are still better off for whatever you throw their way.

You do not expect to learn anything your self here at all. That learning, you'd rather memorize and take without even a pinch of salt from the journals you browse, just to keep up this charade, for yourself and the others you believe.

Do you then go to your club in some old english style part of your town, where you and your cronies puff your cigars while you admire each others polished shoes and plaid socks, and drink bloody marys? You raise your self worth by pretending the world is still white and black, and will always be that way. And then you tell your buddies how brilliantly you wrote on this forum of heathens, or is it something else you call them, and then you stagger out late in the night pretending the bobbies think you guys as the 'lads' and 'good ol sports'?

Pathetic!
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 11, 2009   #26
Hmmmm . . . I seem to remember saying this:

Any criticism is therefore just going to make you feel bad, without greatly improving the quality of your writing.

Then, you said to be critical anyway. I see, however, that I was right in the first instance.

You have quite a flawed image of me, btw, because of course, like most people, you see others as adopting essentially the same attitude as yourself. You see, you care about the ideas you profess, they are to you a part of who are, and so your self worth is in fact bound up in them. You take an attack on one of the ideas (that meditation may merely be the physiological effects of starving your brain of oxygen) as an attack up yourself, because you happen to believe deeply in the power of meditation. On the other hand, it doesn't matter to me, either way. I just want to provoke discussion and debate, thoughtful reflection. That generally means presenting the opposite point of view to whatever is being posted. If you read through the other thread, you'll notice that I start out arguing in favor of some conception of God and an afterlife. Only when the resident atheist's posts became weak, and the other posters began arguing the same sort of things as me, did I switch and start arguing from an atheistic standpoint, one that denies the validity of mysticism and spiritual practices such as meditation.

You over-sensitivity, I should point out, is indicative of great arrogance. I do not generally talk about you or the other posters on this site when I am out with my friends. For that matter, I generally do not think about you or the other posters at all when I am not on the forums. This, btw, is true of most of the people you meet. They don't really think about you when you are not around. If you stop and think about it, you will realize that this is a good thing, that might inspire more relief than sadness.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 13, 2009   #27
I apologize for allowing my baby_mind to take over earlier. Here is the other response, maybe the kind I should have given in the first place.

I was twenty-two. For many years I had been resisting the direction I was finally taking. Life should be fun, and challenging as well, but never so bleak that you lose control altogether, have no choice but to fall into despair. That was the reason I had resisted this direction.

I am not going to say what made me change. Or why I now felt ready to face my fate. But I had taken the steps which brought me to the door where my future would unravel.

I arrived, the month and year I can still remember, on april of '78 at my parent's home, in a state of mind that may have surprised them too, though they wouldn't show it. They knew better than I did that there was a certain inexhorableness in the march of these events, and I was where I had to be.

Five years earlier, my dad had taken an early retirement from his previous employment, and put his money in starting a small engineering workshop in an industrial town close to Delhi. He was a patient of asthma and sometimes his asthma attacks were so severe that he would sit up in bed, shoulders humped, and breathe with a painful and laboured sound, sometimes for hours. I had come to dread that sound, for it was in the night that he'd have these attacks. There is a lot of emotion tied with that, but I will be able to gradually bring them up I hope.

It was easy enough to set up the workshop, buying and erecting a couple of power-presses, a few lathes, some necessary instruments. Then he hired a local as his foreman and some three or four workers. The idea was to take orders from a motorcycle manufacturer, which too had recently come up in this town. This motorcycle factory outsourced almost ninety percent of their work to small manufacturing units like our own workshop. For every component there were at least three manufacturers and the factory could drive their prices and control the supplies as per their requirements. The inspector of the incoming supplies could turn the stringency of his checking up by just a notch, and the lot would be returned.

All this was specially true for the lowest rung of the suppliers, those who had joined this business recently. They often found themselves scrabbling just to pay their workers, becoming obligated to their own suppliers as well, as they would have bought materials on credit from them. It was for these reasons that a workshop owner's life became very stressful.

His not being an engineering oriented person, made my dad vulnerable to those around him who were. After a few foremen were ejected, the one who settled in had sense and tact to wield his skill knowledgebly enough, that he was never thought so much in the wrong to be fired, and yet appeared by virtue of a little technical knowledge he possesed of some value. He hid his own personal designs behind this veneer, something which surfaced much later. Such a person is even more deadly to have close to you and begin to rely upon, as he slowly sucks your confidence in doing even the things that you could do well. But then, this is what reality is !

The first six months were unreal in more ways than one. That I was doing this, was itself a surprise of a sort to me every time I thought about it. I had put my hand on the till where catastrophe was a certainity, and with it I felt, much of what made up my life until then. I imagined myself being gradually sucked into this maw of machines and metal, workshops and traders, all clamoring for money we did not have. The people at the manufacturer's started to appear almost like deities with the power they wielded over us, to delay our payments, or reject our supplies, or to even give us enough orders that we have enough to work with, and make some money from manufacturing to carry on.

I started literally at the bottom. I was not even the person who operated the machines directly, instead, I was the person turning the wheel of the hand press while the operator fed the metal blanks and removed them after each stroke. Ofcourse the workers were initially a little stirred by this, expecting that I would only last a few hours then move to the office and sit at the table, with papers or something of the sort.

But I had a sense of abandon, I wished something big to happen, or nothing. Because no small event or change was going to turn this ship around, as it sometimes appeared to be. And not knowing what I could do specifically, I just put my head down, caught up in that small process of my immediate operation, and let myself go into it.

This isn't much of a life, and there wasn't much to speak about after sitting at the press for eight hours. I'd walk home as it was only a few miles, and I felt the life that I had known until then slowly recede and dissolve into some oblivion. Only one thing I can remember feeling sure about, and that was that somehow, this is all I can do, and so this is all I am doing.

Six months later my dad left the management of the buisness altogether. I had somewhat of a footing, and the workers regarded me as the one incharge. And so did those outside the buisness, the ones who had payments to collect from us, and those who needed a point man to put pressure on to deliver, threatening to cancel the existing orders.

With someone who has experienced something similar, this might resonate well. It is a little like drowning and fighting for your life. Life preservation in these circumstances is an instinctive act, the actions of flailing your limbs to free yourself and give some upward buoyancy come naturally.

But imagine yourself in that situation and not even knowing which direction to pull towards. At such a time there is a notion which may arise within you. I remember it seeming like a choice almost, and as if it was of no great significance. You felt you had the choice of not surrendering despite the overwhelming odds. You clasped on to this idea, recognizing some other features of it as well, just as you might for a species of a plant growing in the wild.

Without such a support from within, it would have been impossible to keep my sanity. In that quiet hour as I walked home after work, I saw the various events arranging themselves, projecting for me what I should do next. And that is how it seemed to carry on for a long time, for nearly two years, as I struggled to break out of the vicious circle. To find something complex that we could manufacture, and with a margin of profit sufficient to turn around our downwards trend.

When you have a rope to grasp, which to begin with, only seemed like a rope, but turns into a lifeline for you. Your uncertainity melts away, and your focus only strengthens its existence. What an exhilarating feeling that is! As I happened that day to walk across the table of a design officer who I only somewhat knew, something on his table caught my eyes, and I asked him what it was. They were looking for suppliers to make this component for them, but it might perhaps be a little beyond our capability. It was a significant moment as he looked at me, seeing the eagerness, the mixture of intensity and despair, whatever it was, he was a kindly man and said to me, "Sure. Go ahead, give it a try."
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 15, 2009   #28
He was a sufferer of asthma (or) He was an asthma patient, and sometimes his asthma attacks were so severe that he would sit up in bed for hours, shoulders humped, and breathe with a painful and laboured sound. sometimes for hours.

Hyphen: engineering-oriented

I think these two paragraphs could be combined together, and you don't need to tell the reader to "imagine yourself in that situation" (as if the reader needs to imagine in order to relate. Maybe the reader has indeed experienced something similar.) Like this, as one paragraph:

With someone who has experienced something similar, this might resonate well. It is a little like ... come naturally. But anyone can imagine himself in that situation and...

The first sentence of the last para is a fragment, which I'll leave to you to fix, and the last sentence is a run-on sentence, which can be fixed with a semi-colon:

whatever it was; he was a kindly man and...

Again here:

But I had a sense of abandon; I wished...

Telling the reader to imagine the situation can be a little oppressive. An indirect route, such as commenting that "One can imagine..." might be better.

But nevermind all that; this is great insight and reflection! I only offer ideas for corrction because it will probably be used in your memoirs?

Some excellent phrases and comparisons are made here; I'm glad to have been one of your reviewers for it. The interesting challenges you faced 30 years ago make me curious about what you have been doing more recently. You are quite interesting!
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 15, 2009   #29
Thank you Kevin, your comments are deeply appreciated. I wondered though, if you could tell that this experience followed immediately after the last , the spiritual one. It was all of this happening in the background which was driving me to seek 'answers' to my predicament, that I did not feel I had the strength to face.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 15, 2009   #30
I liked how you brought up the 'will to give' on the other thread. It's counterpart 'will to power' has a certain facination to me, the kind one has for something deadly or dangerous. I see it as the belief driving many people here in US to keep the world in status-quo, as we all inherited it, in its differences. The colonizing countries having looted the 'weaker' ones, left them bereft not only of their material wealth but weakened in their psyches as well through oppresive practices.

How difficult the present economic climate is to set up an industry here in US. Imagine the situation worsening in this same way for another ten or twenty years. You can be sure, much of what is 'civilized' will be ripped away.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 16, 2009   #31
Yes, the pressure that creates pearls! I understand better now...

As for the "will to give," it, to can be deadly, because as C.S. Lewis points out in the beginning of one of his books, it is that will to give (i.e. will to love) that compels someone to jump into the water to save someone. How does natural selection cause us to evolve such a reckless, loving tendency?

And th will to power maintains the status quo, because people want to keep their comfort. Power brings comfort, and then we say, "put up the border fence," and things like that.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 17, 2009   #32
I'm curious -- what is your definition of power? It can't be the same one I'm thinking of, because you seem to view it as a negative, rather than a positive thing.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 17, 2009   #33
Yes, that maybe so. I meant it as power over others, a societal point of view. Did you perhaps mean it as strength, as in an enhanced ability?

If I have your definition correct, then according to me, the only source of that power is a common one which we are all able to tap into on occasions. We then feel it as a surge in ourselves, in our self confidence, and generally as a feeling of getting in tune with things which matter to us at that time.

Power over others is of a different nature altogether. It is something to one individual's or a group's benefit, but at cost to others, and ofcourse I see that as negative.

Will to power - I have only superficial knowledge of Nietzche's writing. He obviously points to something positive in this. I'll be grateful to understand that from you.
Mustafa1991 8 / 373 4  
May 17, 2009   #34
I thought power was defined by its use.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 18, 2009   #35
Ha ha, good call, Mustafa! Well, what is the best way to think about the term? Sean, if you are among those who believe that "power corrupts," then power must be a bad thing... that is, if you care about whether you are corrupted!

Some people do believe that power corrupts (without exception). Gandalf the wizard believes it!

I guess I do not believe it. I have been corrupted by power, but now I guard against corruption. I think power corrupts, generally. Not absolutely.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 19, 2009   #36
Did you perhaps mean it as strength, as in an enhanced ability?

That was the first thing that sprung to mind for me. If I have the power to do something, then I have the ability to do it, which really is better than not having the ability to do it, even if I decide, for some moral reason, not to do it anyway.

Power over others, though, is a tricky thing, an illusion really, because the more you control others, the more control you surrender to them, even if you don't realize it. A master must play the role his slaves expect, and the harsher he is, the more imperative it becomes that he not let the role slip. I think power in that sense is sort of the opposite of freedom, in that the more you gain one, the less you have of the other.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
May 19, 2009   #37
What a crazy insight! Power enslaves the powerful. Well, to be perfectly accurate, the exertion that is necessary in order to maintain a position of authority over others can be burdensome... so... actually... it is not power that enslaves in that case, but rather, the encumbrance represented by the effort to play your role.

So who is free, then? Someone who hasn't got a care in the world, like Chuang Tsu, when the emperor wanted to appoint him to a high office, and Chuang Tsu opted to stay in the forest and "drag his tail in the mud."
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 19, 2009   #38
I'd say that to be truly free, one must cultivate power in the first sense. Without the ability to accomplish one's goals, one has no options, and having options is the very essence of freedom. After all, if you can only engage in one course of action, you cannot be said to have any freedom at all. One might object that one still has the choice of accepting or resenting one's fate, but this only emphasizes that freedom is a matter of having options. Thus, the more options one has, the freer one is. Seeking power in the second sense, though, involves limiting one's options, because the more power one has, the more one must act in accordance with the dictates of power. A hero may decide to stop being a hero, without any great external consequences. A dark lord is obliged to continue acting like a dark lord, though, merely in order to survive, else all of his slaves and victims should surely turn on him and strike him down.

What is it Richard III says in Shakespeare: "I am in so far in blood that sin will pluck on sin"? Having seized power through violence, he is obliged to keep using violence, long past the point where he actually wants to do so.
OP Rajiv 55 / 400  
May 19, 2009   #39
- The Bhagwad Gita, Indian Scripture(Chapter 18, verses 5~45), rendered into English by Judge( author uncertain):
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
May 19, 2009   #40
Hey, cool poem. I like the division into threes -- the good, the bad, and the sort of in-between everyday stuff. I'm curious, though, as to whether and how the "true knowledge" can be considered knowledge in a modern sense -- that is, as something verifiable through empirical evidence. If it cannot be verified, in what sense can it be classified as knowledge rather than faith? If it can be verified, how would one go about performing the verification?


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