Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Glad Xmas tidings

For all kinds of news and good wishes, there's an ideal time. So, I was happy to take advantage of this Xmas season in an attempt to provide my daughter with a relatively clear bird's-eye view of the Cosmos as I now see it. In the domain of glad tidings, at this time of the year, it goes without saying that I'm faced with a lot of heavy-handed competition, particularly from the pope and his crowds of followers, including the hordes who hear him on TV. I'm thrilled to learn that primeval Bethlehem would appear to be getting back into the stride of Xmas celebrations, since I'm fond of that celebrated town, which I know quite well. Christianity was already a thousand years old when the Crusaders built a church there, above the alleged manger with little or no room for a newborn child. Here at Gamone, I've had ample opportunities of seeing the kind of context in which lambs are born. I've also had the privilege of lingering alone, for a matinal half-hour or so, in the crazy Greek Orthodox grotto at Bethlehem that is alleged to represent the place where Jesus was born.

The Bethlehem Nativity tale is total make-believe of the most superficial kind, but it's nice mythology. Personally, I'm far more moved by the equally absurd tomb of Rachel, on the outskirts of Bethlehem.

Today, everybody (including, probably, the Roman pope) knows perfectly well that all those stories are nothing more than stories. OK, fine, no problem. Why shouldn't we carry on telling such nice old stories to our children, and to anybody else who wants to hear them? Fair enough, but it's not very honest to transmit supposedly glad tidings to friends when the alleged news is obviously false, like the tale of Bethlehem. Today, that's called disinformation [from the Russian dezinformatsiya of circa 1950].

My own glad Xmas tidings are based exclusively upon science, reason, logic and philosophical cogitations of a non-religious kind. Trying to expound this subject to my daughter provided me with an opportunity of translating my thoughts into French... which was an excellent exercise for somebody like me who wants to straighten up the ideas in his mind.

I don't intend to try to summarize here, in my humble Antipodes blog, the sense of the Cosmos... as I sense it. For the moment, I shall content myself with this portrait of an intellectual actor who has enlightened me in a primordial fashion: Alan Turing. His conclusions have accompanied me constantly over the last half-century, ever since my discovery of computing. I referred to him at length in my book entitled Machina Sapiens. Insofar as I might evoke the hero concept, Turing is certainly one of my greatest intellectual heroes. Why? He made it clear to us that a theoretical universal computing machine is capable of computing anything and everything, including tasks that have been relegated to the domain of so-called artificial intelligence. Before you can get around to comprehending the sense of the Cosmos, you have to assimilate this seemingly modest but extraordinary conclusion of Turing, which would appear to justify all present and future activities in the domain of so-called virtual reality, including the perfectly plausible science-fiction notion that we humans, today, might in fact be virtual-reality puppets. To be truthful, Alan Turing was simply talking about everyday digital computers such as our delightful Macs. During his short and tragic time on the planet Earth, my hero was unable to imagine the amazing and almost unthinkable phenomenon of quantum computers. But that's another story, infinitely better than Bethlehem...

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