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It’s a new year!

Written by Jeff Drake
2 · 04 · 20

Hi Everybody! Oh, and Happy New Year!

My wife and I have been busy getting ready (finally) for an upstairs remodel. We’re hoping to actually get it done this year. I had been thinking that we could start in a month or two, but as a friend of mine reminded me yesterday, there is the issue of scheduling a contractor. Damn. I forgot how difficult that can be. Oh, well, we are going to proceed optimistically and see what happens. Lots of closets and drawers to go through and get rid of stuff. Thank you, Jim, for reminding me and pulling my head out of the clouds!

Wow, it’s 2020. Somehow that sounds so futuristic. I wonder what this year will bring?

I will spare you the journey I’ve been undertaking in January, going over all the events that transpired in our lives in 2019. The spring of 2019 was difficult for us. It was a very fun, interesting, and in some ways, hard year.

But right now I am focused on the future. I have the strongest feeling that this will be a year of transition, a year of significant change for me and my wife. The change that is coming at us right now is known and eagerly anticipated. We are going to be grandparents for the first time! Lisa and I are – what is it people say? Oh yeah, “over the moon” about it!

This incredible event led me to think a lot about change. I don’t mean change in general, but change that is specific and local to a family. Perhaps it’s my years of doing genealogy that took me down this path.

By “family,” I mean: Your immediate family consisting of those close to you e.g., spouse, parents, grandparents, children, siblings, in-laws, uncles, aunts, 1st cousins. Depending on a variety of factors, you might even include 2nd cousins.

I am not including the people who are related to you by blood, but not people you would consider “family.” For example, any distant cousin (3rd, 4th, etc.) or even closer relatives, if in fact you don’t know them well or even at all. Such has been my experience in discovering my half-siblings. The ones I’ve met I like and yeah, we’re closely related, but we’re not family.

A family is a social network that can sometimes look like a crazed baobab tree, to use a familiar genealogy analogy. That’s because the limbs connecting individual members to the tree can be thick (close emotional connection) or thin (more distant). But the important thing here is that they are all connected, all a part of the same tree. In such a setting a single event that happens to one or two people can have a powerful effect on other members of the family. Not just powerful, but long-lasting, effects that will last a lifetime.

Having a child is such an event. The two parents’ lives are altered in significant ways, changes that will continue throughout their lives. Also permanently affected are the two sets of grandparents, as well as all future uncles and aunts. Our lives as well, are altered significantly forever. Because we’re family, we look forward happily to these changes. And here, in 2020, the tree connecting all of us is about to sprout a new branch. And I could not be more excited about it. See? The new branch isn’t even a nub yet and already it’s affecting me. Lol! I can hardly wait!

Even excited, I am not being neglectful in my philosophical research into perception even though I haven’t posted my next Alva Noe article. The truth is I’ve tripped over a topic related to consciousness. It’s a good thing. I am going to blog about it because it’s a subject that is probably of interest to anyone who looks at nature and the world surrounding us and wonders what it’s all about. I’m talking about something called emergence.

There are several different definitions for emergence and there at least two types of emergence that have been defined (strong and weak). I’ll go into the subject deeper when I blog about it, but for now when you think emergence, think, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” A few quick examples of emergence that you will recognize are:

  • Ant colonies. You could dissect and study an individual ant for the rest of your life, but there is nothing you would ever discover that would predict the behavior of ants when they accumulate in a large number. Organized. Efficient. Self-supporting. Building intricate temperature-controlled homes. Who knew?
  • Cities, governments. Yes, same story as the ants. New behaviors and properties develop when a significant number of people gather in a specific location for a period of time. Tribes and governments form. Shit happens, or should I say, emergent shit happens?
  • Water. That’s right, water. Agua. Water is an emergent property. Scientists now have the technology to look at individual water molecules (good old H2O). What they discovered is that it takes at least 6 water molecules together before water becomes wet. If there are less than 6, then the molecules are nothing more than a 2-dimensional film on the surface, a smudge. But, add that 6th molecule of water and suddenly the molecules shift and become a 3-dimensional drop of water! How cool is that? What’s even cooler is that scientists apparently have no idea why this happens, but they know that it does. Two dimensions suddenly become 3 dimensions. Water is emergent. Science will figure this out.

I am also trying to pace myself. Being retired, I am like a kid in a candy store, with all the philosophy books and papers at my disposal to read whenever I want. So many inter-related subjects to be found under the umbrella term – philosophy of mind!

Emergence is important to my research because I believe that consciousness is an emergent property, or at least I am leaning heavily in that direction. So, while it may be a sidetrack, it’s something that I will find useful.

Another important philosophy of mind sidetrack for me is something called extended mind. This I a fascinating theory that ties in with my explaining the concepts of professor Alva Noe i.e., the brain is necessary for consciousness, but it not sufficient for consciousness to happen. Consciousness requires something more before it emerges, if you will. It requires interaction with the world. There is a sense of truth about these theories that I cannot ignore. Still, I must be careful to not get so caught up in what I would like to be true that I fall for a lie. Been there done that. It was called religion. Indeed, philosophy and science are both required if we are ever to figure out the puzzle that is consciousness.

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  1. Michael B Connolly

    Thanks for sharing, Jeff. Yes, it is looking like a fantastic year ahead. Again, congrats on the big changes coming your way!

    • jeffdrake-wp-admin

      Thanks for reading my blog, Mike!


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Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.
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