Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Einstein Enigmatic Quote

There are many attributed quotes by Albert Einstein. When you consider his prolific output of commentary, particularly on humanity's future in the atomic age, it is not surprising that there will be some variations and contemporary reinterpretations. One important quote in particular keeps appearing in so many different forms it has become hard to isolate its source. It's five main variations often read something like:

"Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."

"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

"The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation."

"The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them."

"The world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them."

When I quote someone I like to know (if possible) the context for the quote and its source. I went looking for an authoritative reference for this quote: to the internet, leading reference works, bibliographies of materials, collected archives and professional librarians. The general consensus is that, having such wide variations usually means a quote is attributed and has no actual source. I did find this though.

In the interview by Michael Amrine titled, 'The Real Problem is in the Hearts of Men' (New York Times Magazine - June 23 1946) Einstein says: 'Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that "a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels".' (p.7)

The source of that recent message is quoted in an article that appeared the month before titled 'Atomic Education Urged by Einstein' where the mircofiche archive copy of the article reports on an appeal by telegram to 'several hundred prominent Americans' on 24 May 1946 in a 'Plea for $200,000 to promote new type of essential thinking'. The telegram was signed by the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists with Albert Einstein as Chairman and the Federation of American Scientists. The text of that telegram is quoted in part and reads:

'Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We scientists who released this immense power have an overwhelming responsibility in this world life-and-death struggle to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind and not for humanity's destruction. We need two hundred thousand dollars at once for a nation-wide campaign to let people know that a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels. This appeal is sent to you only after long consideration of the immense crisis we face. ... We ask your help at this fateful moment as a sign that we scientists do not stand alone.' (Source: New York Times - May 25 1946, p.13 - 'Atomic Education Urged by Einstein')

The question to ask ourselves is when did the call for 'a new type of thinking' to enable the move to higher levels, become reinterpreted into the need instead for 'a new level' in the same problem-based thinking - and what does this pattern of abstraction say about our desire to escape from our problems?

In chasing down the quote it was interesting going through the full copy of the paper of the day. Issues of global threat, scarcity of resources, neo-nationalism, absence of political confidence and concerns for the future. The themes are still familiar now. The context of this particular request was very different. A global threat was immanent. Other quotes of the time reflect this:

"Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars."~"The old type of thinking can raise a thousand objections of "realism" against this simplicity. But such thought ignores the psychological realities."~"We must realize we cannot simultaneously plan for war and peace."~"These and a hundred other questions concerning the desirable evolution of the world seem to be getting very little attention."

(New York Times - 23 June 1946 )

As an author I realize that my words will always be taken out of context, quotes will be made selectively and intentions expressed will be changed to reflect the intention of the reader, finding support or opposition in those words for a different purpose.

Yet, I suppose the grace in our ever changing sociological face, is the source of those words will always remain, ... for those who care to look.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Desired Visual Didaction

Recently I put together a library of audiovisual materials on sustainability. The aim was a 'passive research' resource to allow a group of people to dip into new perspectives on sustainability issues at their leisure. The collection is here as a guide for others looking to find a list of the Top 30 Sustainability DVDs. They are in no particular order:

1. The 11th Hour (link)
2. An Inconvenient Truth (link)
3. A Convenient Truth (link)
4. The Age of Stupid (link)
5. Manufactured Landscapes (link)
6. FLOW: For the Love of Water (link)
7. The Next Industrial Revolution (link)
8. Who Killed the Electric Car (link)
9. The Planet (link)
10. Crude: The Incredible Story of Oil (link)
11. Up the Yangtze (link)
12. Energy Crossroads (link)
13. The Great Squeeze (link)
14. The Power of Community (link)
15. The End of Suburbia (link)
16. Escape from Suburbia (link)
17. The Corporation (link)
18. Drowned Out (link)
19. A Crude Awakening: Peak Oil (link)
20. The American Ruling Class (link)
21. The War on Democracy (link)
22. Life and Debt (link)
23. The Unforeseen (link)
24. Big Ideas for a Small Planet (link)
25. Addicted to Plastic (link)
26. The Future of Food (link)
27. A World at Waste (link)
28. Garbage Warrior (link)
29. Spirit Stones (link)
30. Blue Vinyl (link)
31. [Your Suggestion .... ]

Trusting that you will support these documentary gems and artistic entracements. There is a month of viewing there ~ and lifetimes of peoples' works.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spheres of Self

Today I was working with international bubbleologist, Andrew Suttar, on our creative kids book project ~ The Bubble Story. We began the story a year (or so) ago and a recent trip to the Children's Literature Centre reminded me of the importance of the communication of the childhood knowledge that we carry with us forever through life.

Something as familiar as a soap bubble holds in Andrew's hands wonderment and creative intrigue, the essence of learning - and more importantly a path to self-reflexive meta-cognition, so important for personal development. How then do we find a way to see ourselves? The answer is in the metaphor of the bubble ~ for we are one and in one at the same time. That is the essence of the nature of consciousness.

I seem to be working more and more exclusively in the 'qualities' of consciousness, building on from an understanding of the structures of consciousness. In these 'qualities' hides the aesthetics of evolution. What then are the qualities of healthy human consciousness in its bounded form at different stages of development in apithological integration?
Here are ten to begin with:

1. identity - autopoeitic existence
2. integration - expansion and growth
3. coherence - solidity of efficable form
4. resilience - flexibility to externalities
5. stability - homeostatic efficiency
6. adaptability - morphology to circumstance
7. variability - empathetic reflection
8. permeability - encompassing change
9. interaction - energetic enablement
10. formlessness - effortless transmutation

Now to explain that for three year olds and under.