Deity Makeover

I've been staring into the headlights of a fast approaching Christmas. I wanted to write a little seasonal verse but nothing worth writing has crossed my mind. Maybe it'll happen in the next few days.

In the meantime, here's a pastiche that I threw together for a comment on Making Light. (Not exactly thrown together, since it took me a couple of hours, but it's definitely not polished.) The topic under discussion was how fictional characters feel about the way authors manipulate them.

"You are old, Father Yahweh," the fabulist said,


Come the dawn I'll wake to see
Bright evening lights in gay Paris
Perfect infidelity
I shall be hers forever

What drove me crazy when you split
Was how you both could not admit
Our triangle had turned to shit
Divergence is forever

I loved you both, but saw the day
When you would drive yourself away
To save me from her selfish sway
And make me yours forever

Now I lay me down to sleep
With nano-scanners probing deep
Multi-meating's safe and cheap
I'll be both yours forever

Squid Sonnet

My love is like a red, red, rising fear:
"Diablo Rojo!" seeds divers alarums.
And though her compass barely spans a year
One night lasts like a lifetime in her arms.

Her myriad lips leave more than bites of love
With pointed pearls to ring each puckered cup.
A full commitment's what she's thinking of;
I understand she'll never give me up.

Too clingy? Maybe. We both know the rules
And she won't get this from another guy.
My siphoned siren scorns those beak-shy fools
Who thrash and gurgle as they say goodbye.

   They're naught to her. I'm sure she'll never hurt me
   'Cause I'm her main; I know she won't dessert me.

Future Enhancements

We substitute technology at will
to engineer away the strange and weak
so long as we have funds to foot the bill.

First horns, then aids, ear implants, next: a pill?
New spectacles? Now lasers trim and tweak.
We substitute technology at will.

With help now Jack can bend his way to Jill
and saline slugs lend jugs a fresh physique
so long as she has funds to foot the bill.

Most drives our genes had honed us to fulfill
we've seen subsumed by our hedonic streak.
We substitute technology at will:

from barbell tongues to toys that throb to thrill,
to plastic partners styled in cyborg chic,
so long as we have funds to foot the bill.

Soon brain enhancement should extend our skill
to help us guide the docile and the meek.
We'll substitute technology at will
so long as you have funds to foot our bill.

(Villanelle inspired by a discussion on Making Light)

Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

I simulate my death in different forms
in alleys, in the parks and public places
where no one wants to see. The stoic Norms
keep eyes averted, busy signs for faces --
they quench their need for drama with a screen
that's passed the censors, children's moral guards,
and focus groups. My deaths are all obscene
invasions of their trembling house of cards.
Perhaps a little morbid girl? Oh, no!
I want the contrast cranked right up to ten,
to clock the whole dynamic range, to throw
the switch and die and die, then try again.
Who cares if passers-by refuse to look?
Death makes an awesome coffee-table book.

Quantum Confusion

Versified argument continues over at The Digital Cuttlefish.

What it has shown me is that, as staggering as it seems, there are still working physicists who insist on a Copenhagen interpretation with a strict requirement for a "conscious" observer. *sigh* It's enough to drive one to Kuhn. At least the bulk of the physics community has given up on anthropocentrism.

I also stumbled across David Chalmers' (tongue in cheek?) Law of Minimization of Mystery: "consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so maybe the two mysteries have a common source." It seems about as useful as Tim Minchin's
Peace Anthem For Palestine.

Quantum computing abhors decoherence;
It's there with no conscious observer to see.
Still there are mystics with stubborn adherence
To quantum descriptions that need me or thee.

Puzzles abound at the limits of science:
Mysterious cans full of worms to mislead.
Why mix up disparate cans in defiance
Of reason, experiment, logic or need?

Mind in behavior and cells and potentials
Is yielding a torrent of useful results.
Clutching at yet unexplored non-essentials
Works better for book-deals and starting new cults.

The Conversation Continues

Verse versus verse continues in the discussion over at The Digital Cuttlefish. This is another extract.

A phenomenon is "observed" when an observer becomes aware of it. This requires the observed system to affect the ultimate observer system, which is known to be localized in the brain and probably in the cerebral cortex.
Zeh, H. D. (1979). Quantum Theory and Time Assymetry. Foundations of Physics, Vol 9, pp 803-818 (1979).

This was no time for sleep;
This was no time to eat;
There were comments to write
Using metrical feet.

All that old, old, old phi -
All that phi had to die.

We shoveled the verses;
Thoughts shoveled them back,
Until out of the blue came a Quantum Attack.

It was Little Cat Zeh, a dualist dealer
And out of his hat he extracted
    A Wheeler!

Zeh implied "Let's make space for a god of the gaps:
All things that my Wheeler observes must collapse!"

You see, if we grant this wild Wheeler admission
And let his conceit go, then superposition
Descends on all universe parts unobserved
And keeps all their possible presents preserved.

"Oh no!" I said, "Cuttle, please fetch me a mop.
This anthropocentric conceit has to stop!"

I called up a friend who'd seen all this before
And told him the problem...

Copernicus swore.

Seussian Symbol Grounding

When the photons from my futon
Find the focus of my eyes
They will kick my cones and rods,
Thus causing signals to arise.

I cannot span the spectrum
But my special cells respond
To their windows on the wavelengths
From the wondrous world beyond.

My cortex then combines the cues
And cottons on to patterns;
With fancy feature filtering
The futon form unflattens.

My nervous networks notice
Both the novel and mundane,
Matching models, melding motifs,
For my memories to retain.

In my Hebbian web of me-ness
Not one neuron stands alone:
Every concept gains its context
From connections that it's grown.

Yet my net of wet connections
Are not abstract facts that lack
Any impact, since they're cinched
To visceral states from bliss to wrack.

(As you may have guessed, this was part of a continuing discussion over at The Digital Cuttlefish.)

Symbol Grounding

The Chinese Room won't save your "soul"
Old Searle has dug himself a hole.
You see, a man within his room
Need not be produce of a womb
Since OCR and lines of code
Could lift that secretarial load.
The "understanding" must have been
Performed by Searle's adept machine.

Once you see Searle's dopey drone
Can lack a brain and flesh and bone
You'll see the Chinese Room's a joke
That shouldn't baffle clever folk.
Alas, the ruse has gained esteem
And thrives - a most persistent meme -
In those who can't complete their weaning
From outmoded views of meaning.

My symbol grounding doesn't mess
With idle infinite regress -
No turtles, turtles, all the way,
No eyes that other eyes survey.
But every part of how I think -
Every symbol, every link -
Finds routes to run to states all real:
The correlates of how I feel.

This was a comment I posted on The Digital Cuttlefish's Daniel Dennett's Darwin Day Delivery in response to another commenter.


I felt driven to compose a reply to The Digital Cuttlefish, but it's time consuming for slow writers like me.

Isn't it queer?
Are we but hosts?
Robots of robot machines
Rid of our ghosts?
Send in the memes.

What is it like
Knowing at all?
Zombily Bayesing our nerves --
Store, then recall.
Are they just memes?
Send in the memes.

Easy to claim, "Freedom evolves!"
Making the term we're defining the thing that it solves,
Nailing that feeling of agency down to its seat
Inside a blind
Theatre of meat.

Learning is fun.
Shall I explore?
Using the memeplex of science
I can learn more.
But would these be memes
Not shared with my teams?
Perhaps there's a flaw.

Memes can be rich:
Memes everywhere
Driving the dualist dreams
Into despair.
But we're more than memes
Though sometimes it seems
Non-memebots are rare.

(With apologies to Stephen Sondheim, Daniel Dennett and Sue Blackmore.)

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