The Matrix was a documentary

31 03 2019

Interesting article from The Conversation

Incredible as it may seem, the end of March marks 20 years since the release of the first film in the Matrix franchise directed by The Wachowski siblings. This “cyberpunk” sci-fi movie was a box office hit with its dystopian futuristic vision, distinctive fashion sense, and slick, innovative action sequences. But it was also a catalyst for popular discussion around some very big philosophical themes.

The film centres on a computer hacker, “Neo” (played by Keanu Reeves), who learns that his whole life has been lived within an elaborate, simulated reality. This computer-generated dream world was designed by an artificial intelligence of human creation, which industrially farms human bodies for energy while distracting them via a relatively pleasant parallel reality called the “matrix”.‘Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real?’

This scenario recalls one of western philosophy’s most enduring thought experiments. In a famous passage from Plato’s Republic (ca 380 BCE), Plato has us imagine the human condition as being like a group of prisoners who have lived their lives underground and shackled, so that their experience of reality is limited to shadows projected onto their cave wall.

Read more: The great movie scenes: The Matrix and bullet-time

A freed prisoner, Plato suggests, would be startled to discover the truth about reality, and blinded by the brilliance of the sun. Should he return below, his companions would have no means to understand what he has experienced and surely think him mad. Leaving the captivity of ignorance is difficult.

In The Matrix, Neo is freed by rebel leader Morpheus (ironically, the name of the Greek God of sleep) by being awoken to real life for the first time. But unlike Plato’s prisoner, who discovers the “higher” reality beyond his cave, the world that awaits Neo is both desolate and horrifying.

Our fallible senses

The Matrix recalls several philosophical thought experiments. Warner Bros

The Matrix also trades on more recent philosophical questions famously posed by the 17th century Frenchman René Descartes, concerning our inability to be certain about the evidence of our senses, and our capacity to know anything definite about the world as it really is.

Descartes even noted the difficulty of being certain that human experience is not the result of either a dream or a malevolent systematic deception.

The latter scenario was updated in philosopher Hilary Putnam’s 1981 “brain in a vat” thought experiment, which imagines a scientist electrically manipulating a brain to induce sensations of normal life.

Read more: How do you know you’re not living in a computer simulation?

So ultimately, then, what is reality? The late 20th century French thinker Jean Baudrillard, whose book appears briefly (with an ironic touch) early in the film, wrote extensively on the ways in which contemporary mass society generates sophisticated imitations of reality that become so realistic they are mistaken for reality itself (like mistaking the map for the landscape, or the portrait for the person).

Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving in The Matrix. Warner Bros

Of course, there is no need for a matrix-like AI conspiracy to achieve this. We see it now, perhaps even more intensely than 20 years ago, in the dominance of “reality TV” and curated identities of social media.

In some respects, the film appears to be reaching for a view close to that of the 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, who insisted that our senses do not simply copy the world; rather, reality conforms to the terms of our perception. We only ever experience the world as it is available through the partial spectrum of our senses.

The ethics of freedom

Ultimately, the Matrix trilogy proclaims that free individuals can change the future. But how should that freedom be exercised?

This dilemma is unfolded in the first film’s increasingly notorious red/blue pill scene, which raises the ethics of belief. Neo’s choice is to embrace either the “really real” (as exemplified by the red pill he is offered by Morpheus) or to return to his more normal “reality” (via the blue one).

This quandary was captured in a 1974 thought experiment by American philosopher, Robert Nozick. Given an “experience machine” capable of providing whatever experiences we desire, in a way indistinguishable from “real” ones, should we stubbornly prefer the truth of reality? Or can we feel free to reside within comfortable illusion?

Read more: Why virtual reality cannot match the real thing

In The Matrix we see the rebels resolutely rejecting the comforts of the matrix, preferring grim reality. But we also see the rebel traitor Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) desperately seeking reinsertion into pleasant simulated reality. “Ignorance is bliss,” he affirms.

The film’s chief villain, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), darkly notes that unlike other mammals, (western) humanity insatiably consumes natural resources. The matrix, he suggests, is a “cure” for this human “contagion”.

We have heard much about the potential perils of AI, but perhaps there is something in Agent Smith’s accusation. In raising this tension, The Matrix still strikes a nerve – especially after 20 further years of insatiable consumption.

“Renewables” – reality or illusion?

27 03 2019


Originally posted in the Methane News Group (a considerable additional amount of information and discussion can only be seen by joining):

Lately I have fielded some rather interesting perspectives on “solutions” to climate change; not just here but in many other groups as well. I have pointed out that the ideas proposed as solutions are in fact just ideas; most of which require substantial amounts of energy not only to build, transport, erect, maintain, and replace at the end of their service life, but most of which serve no useful purpose to any other life form on this planet but us. Not only are these ideas unsustainable; if they don’t benefit other species, then they are ecologically extinct. Building a sustainable future means that we must incorporate ideas and things that interact with our biosphere in a manner that provides some sort of ecosystem service.

“Renewables” do not fit that description, so they are patently unsustainable.Ladies and Gentlemen, “optimism must be based in reality. If hope becomes something that you express through illusion, then it isn’t hope; it’s fantasy.” — Chris Hedges

I have spent a great deal of time lately discussing the issue of “renewables” and since this has been so pervasive as of late, I decided to draft a new file specifically for this purpose of outlining the facts.Before proceeding, please view this short video featuring Chris Hedges:

Recently, I discussed the fact that “renewables” are not a solution, and in fact, are actually making our existing predicaments worse. A considerable number of individuals are questioning these facts using all types of logical fallacies. I understand these questions; as I once thought that “renewable” energy and “green” energy and other ideas would save us as well – as little as 5 years ago. As I joined more climate change groups, I recognized the constantly repeating attack on these devices as non-solutions; so I decided to find out for myself once and for all, precisely whether they would work or not.Before going into further detail, I need to explain that IF these devices had been developed and installed back in the 1970s and 80s, along with serious efforts to quell population growth and tackling other unsustainable practices, they may have been beneficial.

However, the popular conclusion is not simply that they do not work (to serve their original intended purpose); but that they are actually causing more trouble than if they hadn’t been built at all. Many claim that these “solutions” are better than utilizing fossil energy; but this too, is an illusion. Having said that, please note that this article is in NO WAY promoting fossil energy; fossil energy use is every bit as bad, if not worse, than these devices; AND its use created the desire to build these devices in the first place.

Many people are utilizing a false dichotomy to justify continuing to build and use these devices. Using them creates no real desire to learn how to live without externally-produced energy, a loss we ALL face as time moves forward. Once the fossil fuel platform that these devices currently depend on disappears, so will the devices. Some individuals claim that we can continue to extract resources, manufacture, transport, and erect these devices after fossil energy is no longer available. This is true only on a MUCH smaller scale than the energy systems we have today, and only in small localities. On top of that, the systems of the future will continue to degrade over time and eventually, electricity will disappear altogether. Given this imminent fact, it makes little sense to continue building these devices, recognizing the environmental damage they are causing which only promotes the continued use of fossil energy as well.In order to comprehend why these devices are such a delusion, one must understand many different predicaments at once.

First, an understanding of energy and resource decline is critical. Secondly, a thorough understanding of pollution loading is essential, especially of the electronics, rare earths, mining, metals, plastics, and transportation industries. Understanding climate change and how our energy “addiction” has propelled it and continues to fuel it is absolutely necessary. Comprehension of biology along with the ecological and environmental degradation of habitat destruction and fragmentation is also necessary.

New information is constantly being made available as well, highlighting yet more reasons to stop building these devices. They are little more than energy “traps” that chain us to the same paradigm that is already killing life on this planet. The secret to resolving these issues isn’t a “new or different” energy source. It is eliminating the energy addiction altogether.The reason that eliminating energy addiction altogether is the only real strategy towards living a sustainable lifestyle is because of one seriously inconvenient fact: the diminishing returns on increasing complexity along with the fact that continuing to build these devices requires the continuation of mining, energy use, and industrial civilization – the very things killing all life on this planet.

As a system increases its complexity, the returns on that increasing complexity decrease. As we find more new ways to reduce the harm caused by energy use, misuse, and abuse, we continue to increase the complexity of producing said energy. Resistance and friction cause losses in motors, and inefficiency and sheer transmission losses produce yet further losses in all electrical systems. All these losses produce waste heat, no differently than traditional mechanical systems.

There is NO system that can be made 100% efficient, so there will ALWAYS be losses. This waste heat does nothing but add to the existing predicaments we already face; considering that in order to produce the energy to begin with, one must also pollute our atmosphere, water, and soil with toxins and byproducts of the processes themselves. Watch these three videos to understand why building each of these devices is a disaster in and of itself to wildlife around it. Focus on the devastation of the land that each unit sits on, as well as the habitat fragmentation caused by each road:

Here is a handy reference guide about “renewables” with frequently asked questions: Here are some links to more information that will help you understand WHY “renewable” energy is NOT a solution to climate change in any way, shape, or form:


On a particular thread which featured the story link above, I wrote this detailed observation: “Ecocide is continuing BAU, which is precisely what “renewables” will allow for. They are nothing but a distraction for three reasons:

1. Building “renewables” does nothing to solve the predicament of energy use and energy growth. Replacing one type of energy with another is doing nothing but choosing a slightly less evil bad choice.

2. “Renewable” energy will never be able to replace the concentrated energy available in fossil fuels, and this fact is missed by both the MSM and most people in society. This is a recipe for disaster as the amount of fossil energy available inevitably dwindles and countries begin to fight for survival.

3. “Renewables” can not replace fossil energy in another way besides concentration of energy – each popular device such as solar panels and wind turbines only last around 20 years. This is if they survive that long – many have met an early demise due to extreme weather events. So not only do they represent a never-ending merry-go-round of maintain and replace, rinse and repeat; but due to continued energy growth, more are constantly needed as well. That is precisely what makes them every bit as unsustainable as fossil fuels.

4. Now, for a fourth issue that hasn’t been mentioned in the first three – building “renewables” doesn’t serve any truly needed service. Human beings and all other life forms on this planet don’t actually require external electricity in order to survive. So the ONLY species that benefits from building these devices is us. Sadly, building these devices kills off species through habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation along with pollution loading and other causes.

So in effect, these not only don’t solve the issue they were designed for, they continue the same ecological destruction that we are accomplishing through utilizing fossil energy. As we continue pulling the Jenga blocks out of the tree of life, how long will it be before we unwittingly become functionally extinct through using these to continue BAU? As one can clearly see, if humans want to continue living, they have no choice but to reduce fossil and all other energy use and bring it down to zero very quickly.

Sadly, I have little doubt that this will not be accomplished in any kind of reasonable time frame, IF AT ALL (we are currently going the wrong direction and have been for the last two decades DESPITE these devices having been built and installed), given what has transpired over the previous five decades even though we’ve known about these predicaments since then.” Here are several links to files that contain yet more links to more info:

Super Wwoofer and the roofing saga….

18 03 2019

When Gerard originally contacted me from Antarctica to offer help with our Tassie Project, I really didn’t know what to expect; except I had this vision of some bespectacled scientist specialising in climatology or glaciers. The person I did get was someone who’s completely raised the bar when it comes to volunteering, working long hours for fine tucker and lots of cider…. he is after all from Normandy where they not only produce some of the world’s best dairy, but lots of apples, cider, and Calvados. And he reckoned my cider was as good as any he’d tasted anywhere.

Pointy bit all framed up….

Before breaking my ribs, Gerard and I built the remaining rafter structure over ‘the pointy bit’, which I’d put into the too hard basket through lack of no one suitable to help me here…. Gerard very quickly impressed me with his carpentry abilities, and we had the job done in a few days……

To put the roof on, I also needed some insulation. The last house was insulated with cellulose, a recycled newspaper fluffy material that in the end left me disappointed. I would have used sheeps’ wool, but simply couldn’t afford it. This time, however was different, and I ordered 18 bales of the stuff from this cobber in Northern Tasmania who specialises in it.

The wool guy could not believe how much of his product I could load on my ute!

Whilst it’s ‘local’, I was amazed to discover the wool had to go to Melbourne for treatment and manufacturing into something useful for building….. then I had to drive 400km return to pick it up, but there you go, as I constantly say, nothing we do is sustainable. Worse, he somehow stuffed up, and could only supply me 2/3 of the order once I’d got to Campbelltown, so he had to ship the rest to Hobart where I had to pick it up, another 200km return….

As we started putting the Hoop Pine ceiling over the rafters, another wwoofer called Aurelien turned up just after I broke my ribs, and he quickly became Gerard’s apprentice. Aurelien is a chemist and not used to building, and it took Gerard a couple of days training to bring him up to speed while all I could do was watch and supervise. So frustrating…….

Acres of wool….. $3500 worth…!

The process involved screwing my heavy duty battens milled on the farm, on their edge, through the ceiling, with 150mm batten screws. Aurelien drilled the holes, and Gerard put the screws in. Working with rough sawn timber is time consuming, every bend, warp, and twist has to be taken into account, but slowly and surely, it all came together. All that wool was covered with Proctor Wrap, costing $10 a metre, of which we’ve now used over 100m…. this building’s not cheap, but the expensive insulation means no condensation, a bit of a problem in Tassie I am reliably told.

All closed in, now awaiting windows…. feels amazing!

By now, Gerard became known as Super Wwoofer! He was wearing us all out, but to say it was all worth it is a huge understatement. Unfortunately, I miscalculated when I ordered the iron 2 1/2 years ago, and we were 4 sheets short of finishing the pointy bit……. more frustration, and Super Wwoofer was clearly disappointed we could not completely finish the job, but frankly, I’m stoked beyond words, and I will never be able to thank him enough for the superhuman effort he put in.

So near…..

I drove Gerard to the airport yesterday, and I would be very surprised if he doesn’t show up next year after his next stint in Antarctica to see progress.

We’ve ordered our double glazing, and I’d be disappointed if we weren’t in the unfinished house before Christmas. It’s all too exciting!


Image may contain: sky, cloud, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

The roof is now ‘finished’, except for the numerous flashings that have to wait for more work to be done, and gutters, and water tanks, and…… Glenda and I performed our own little topping off ritual with a tree strapped to the roof and a bottle of Tassie bubbly….

The windows and doors will turn up in a month or so, and we could be at lockup stage some time in May, all things being equal.

What’s one more distraction from the Tassie Project…?

18 03 2019

Life, as they say, gets in the way of the best laid plans, and this time, it has really gone out of its way…. the reason I haven’t written much here lately is due to the fact three weeks ago I fell off my rolling platform, landing on top of the short stepladder I use to climb onto it, breaking two ribs in the process. It sounds bad – and it’s not good – but it could have been a lot worse had I landed on my spine, or crashed to the concrete floor on my skull….

I spent one night in the Hobart Hospital where I was treated very well. A CT scan revealed ribs 9 and 11 broken, but fortunately, no internal injuries to my kidney or spleen…. I got off lightly, and it’ll be handy having an unbroken rib between the two that are..! You hear a lot of bad stories about the state of the Tasmanian health system on the news, but I have no complaints. They drugged me to the eyeballs, what more could you ask for?

It’s my poor wife who’d only been here a week and forced to smoothly transition from going on ambulance rides with her mother and pushing her around in a wheelchair, to doing it for me that I feel sorry for….

I was seriously surprised at how painful it all was, so much so I could not walk at all for the first couple of days, relying on a wheelchair; but day by day I’ve been improving, even walking the whole 300m to the house site within a week to check on what poor old Gerard, my current wwoofer, has been up to without me. Sometimes I’m so lucky with wwoofers, it’s unbelievable. Gerard usually works for the French Antarctic base as chief ‘fix it’ man….. he’s a boilermaker by trade, but got his plumbing ticket to get the job in Antarctica, and is a methodical worker who knows enough about carpentry to make him extremely valuable here at the moment…. there will be more about this…..

I’m slowly improving, and can now even climb ladders again, even lift sheets of iron on the roof, with the right technique, but I’m told it’ll easily take another three weeks before I’m even close to 100%… at least I’m mostly off the heavy duty painkillers, and that’s a plus.

The rolling platform, with the stepladder beneath on which I could have easily broken my back…. much safer with the brakes on.