At the outset, I’ll admit that this is another purely speculative piece. I enjoy “testing” the boundaries of both accepted science and mystical tradition, in the hope that each might see there’s something of interest in a fusion of the two. Let’s examine telepathy, for example: the ability (?) to send and receive thoughts or feelings, from mind to mind. And if you think that telepathy isn’t real, then I urge you to spend some time really exploring the work of “psychic mediums”. Of course there are charlatans in that field. Of course there are experts at “cold reading”, some of whom might not even know that’s what they’re doing. But to dismiss it all as fraud and charlatanism is to miss the fragments that depict something else at work.

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The Enneagram

The work of G.I. Gurdjieff – at least, the notes published by his students – contains several “diagrams” that he used to try to convey the mechanics of the diatonic octave. One, such diagram is the enneagram, the name of which derives from two Greek words: “ennea” (nine) and “gramma” (drawn). A great deal has been written about this diagram, since Gurdjieff introduced it to the Western world and a great deal of that has been proven to be based on false assertions [1]. Today, it is perhaps best known as a guide to nine “personality types”, and although this might be an effective tool for psychological analysis, it ignores some key aspects of the enneagram as taught by Gurdjieff.

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The Art Of Living

One of my “pet” projects is to make versions of my board games that can be played online – just between myself and my friends. This project is as much about extending my understanding of the programming tools that I use, as it is about a way to enhance a Skype/Zoom meeting. (My friends, who used to live nearby, are now spread across Europe.) I am now on my third or fourth iteration of the project: each time starting again with what I learned in the previous attempt. And in doing so, I have noticed that just about anything that we do repeatedly, whilst paying attention, results in a growth of “art”. And yes, I do mean “art” in terms of craft, as well as in terms of aesthetics. The more we use a tool or a medium, for instance, the more we grasp, intuitively, how its form and function intertwine. And the same is absolutely true of life itself.

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Humans (Channel 4)

I have, just recently, been catching up on the Channel 4 series “Humans” – now available on Netflix as well. This was/is a jewel of a programme, amongst the morass of reality TV and “game” shows. It is well researched, regarding AI – though sometimes a bit “dramatic” – but what I like, particularly, is the way it explores morality. It doesn’t just contrast different moral positions in some ghastly “cartoon” but (I think) demonstrates the complexity of public, personal, corporate and ‘state’ morality. Its characters – both human and ‘synth’ – are often brought to face and to question their implicit morals. And, of course, there’s the big, underlying questions of when a machine is not just a tool and when a human is less than human.

If you’ve not yet seen it then seek it out. But be prepared to think about your own morals. This is not “Love Island”!

Public Good

If you look at it bluntly, the job of any government is to redirect private money into works (infrastructure and services) that deliver “public good”. And all the fuss and fanfare that is democratic politics is simply a means of deciding how to prioritise that “public good”. It allows a society to balance the level of redistribution against the general, public perception of needs and fears. But in taking a “consensus” view, democracy invariably puts the power over public spending into the hands of a majority who have – it turns out – very little “need” and quite a lot of fear. And – I suggest – the problem with that is that it emphasises public spending on “defence” above “cure”.

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Digital Transformation

This (past) week saw the publication of a review by the Public Accounts Committee of the NHS plans for “digital transformation”. I won’t go into their criticisms of the proposed programme of work. I used to work in public sector IT and I am pretty sure that most of the criticism arose because the PAC took an “outline” programme of work as if it was a “final plan”, just needing approval for funding. But it spurred me to think about the challenges of “digital transformation” that any enterprise faces.

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Stand And Deliver!

Like most people, I suspect, I am receiving an increasing number of “fake” phone calls, the object of which is to make money from me. Some are obvious scams, like the automated calls that claim I have been subject to fraud and I should “press 1 to talk to an advisor”. Like I am ever going to do that! Or those that claim to have detected illegal activity on my internet connection. Some are a bit more subtle, such as the calls that claim to be from “market research” companies, only wanting to ask me three quick questions. The aim of those latter is to enable rogue operations to send out offers, on the basis that you’ve given your permission by answering those questions. And amongst those [illegal but relatively benign] calls are a few that copy the technique for identify theft. It reminds me of the old times of highwaymen – or perhaps of the stage-coach robbers of the wild west.

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The many impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are no doubt causing a lot of businesses to look at their costs. With reduced revenue from sales, one obvious target for cost reduction is staff salaries. There are already rumours that we face a decade of low wage rises and logically we will also see a significant rise in measures such as “zero hours” part-time contracts. But maybe business managers are overlooking the single most important factor in the viability of any business – and that’s “productivity”. In simple terms, productivity is the amount of value created per man hour of staff time. A business with high productivity – even if it has a low staff count – can survive adversity much better and can take advantage of new opportunities much faster. But actions such as freezing wages, or making staff incomes less reliable – far from making workers more “hungry” for whatever income they can generate – dampen down productivity. So what does improve productivity?

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It’s very easy to tolerate the actions of other people when those actions don’t disturb our own comfort. We don’t even think of that as tolerance. It’s just “stuff happening”. But as things get closer to home – as the threat to our comfort rises – we have decisions to make. Will we tolerate the intrusion or will we react? Britons are famous for grumbling, but it is a form of emotional release. We try to find other people who could be allies against the intrusion, if it gets worse. Grumbling is a social signal that the limit of our tolerance is already close. We might even get up the courage to complain!

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