Dr. Susan Blackmore is no stranger to skeptics. Dr. Shermer has known Dr. Blackmore since the early 1990s. When the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine were founded in 1992 she was already a rock star in the skeptical movement, having moved from believing in the paranormal, ESP, telepathy, and all the rest, to being an arch skeptic of all such claims. After earning a Ph.D. in the paranormal she devoted a decade to testing various phenomena under rigorous laboratory conditions, and continually found null results. That is, the tighter the controls she implemented and the more rigorous the research protocols, the weaker the paranormal effects became until they disappeared entirely. She went on from there to develop a theory about the neural correlates of such altered states of consciousness as Out of Body Experiences and Near Death Experiences, and after that wrote her bestselling book The Meme Machine, in which she developed a theory of how memes can be replicated and selected in a manner first proposed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, when he coined the term.
Dr. Blackmore went on to publish one of the leading textbooks on consciousness and is now working on a theory of tremes, or technological memes and how they can be replicated and selected in machines without human input.
This interview was recorded on November 7, 2018 as part of the Science Salon series of dialogues hosted by Michael Shermer and presented by The Skeptics Society, in California.
It’s that time, time for a hiatus on scheduling posts until I’m back online on the 28th of this December, which would mark the tenth anniversary of this blog. So, posts going live from here until then will all be pre-scheduled.
I’ll continue to be active on blog maintenance and in responding to activity here from visitors to the site in the meantime.
I’ve lately seen a need to address my use of social media, including this blog, how I go about doing that. It would be nice to get more traffic on the site, but that’s a poor motivator, as I’ve health, physical as well as mental, to consider. Self-care takes precedence over page views.
The next few weeks and months will be busy as my family and our cats prepare to move out of the house in at least another year’s time. No details just yet until renovations are done and we get ready to sell the condo to move to a temporary place before our final residence out of state.
I’ll miss Virginia, where I’ve lived since 1974 at the age of ten, in short, most of my life. And I’ll miss the physical company of the IRL friends I leave behind, but I’ll continue to stay in online contact with all of you.
So, December 28 will see renewed post scheduling for the end of 2018, and for early 2019. I’ll be back, and I hope year’s end and the New Year see all of you in good health and high spirits, or at least better and higher ones given the terrifying shit-show of world news during the last three years.
Vanakkam. With this installment I give you another sapient species, the Dalazinnu of Gods of Terra, the rulers of the Sodality, beings uplifted from alien animal stock by an extinct psionically aware branch of humanity known as the Kamuza. The Dalazinnu ur-species were pack predators native to the Kamuza homeworld possessing a bent for restricted cannibalism (restricted, otherwise they would quickly become extinct), and a strong sense of obedience and loyalty toward leadership in small groups. I’ve drawn as inspiration the official Traveller universe’s Major Race the Vargr, creating something out of a nightmare compared to the amicable and relatively benign if freebooting “Wolves of Space.”
Both species have difficulty in organizing in large groups, though the Dalazinnu come from uplifted big cat analogs, and have a nasty temperament. True social darwinists, and far exceeding even political Libertarians in this, Dalazinnu believe the strongest and most ruthless should rule. Pack leaders gain and keep their authority through force of arms, all four of them, and great big nasty teeth too!
Wait, WHAT?! Four arms?!
They’re based on a bilateral hexapod body structure, with two legs and two pairs of upper limbs, one with powerful muscles and thick, heavy claws, and above it a smaller, more delicate pair of arms meant for fine manipulation and weapon use. The lower, stronger pair of upper limbs is heavily padded and may be used as forelimbs in quadrupedal sprints while chasing prey.
Dalazinnu look roughly like a nightmarish cross between a bobcat and Tyrannosaurus rex, standing about 2.5 meters fully erect, with large tufted ears, patches of downy fur mixed with red scales, and three eyes, the central one a modification of a unitary gland in the forebrain. The tail is heavy, not very flexible, and used for balancing the body while standing or during sprints on either two or four limbs.
Dalazinnu are notoriously ill-tempered, and are psychologically unable to see aliens as anything other than enemies or slaves, having originated as slaves themselves before turning on their masters who bred them as soldiers. Dalazinnu are endothermic and have ravenous appetites, and will resort to eating captured enemies and slaves who disobey them. Dalazinnu have vision ranging into the near-infrared and acute hearing with a register threshold ranging into the ultrasonic. Their vocal output also ranges into the ultrasonic, and they have developed hearing aids for their slaves to better hear questions or commands when issued.
Dalazinnu have a range of genders along a spectrum, and can hormonally shift along that spectrum that as needs dictate when numbers are low. A group of roughly 2000 or more can easily serve as a sustainable breeding population on a newly conquered world.
The Dalazinnu have enslaved a species known as the Chadameer, who serve as their chief scientists, technicians, and go-betweens with aliens, due to the extreme levels of hostility Dalazinnu exhibit toward other species. A subpopulation of Chadameer with a tendency for recessive genetic traits also serves as telepaths, and are used as the chief interrogators and diplomats for other species.
You do not want to meet one of these things, much less a squad of them during combat operations, and the Sodality is known as a rogue state in the Local Galaxy. It is also effectively leaderless, due to the dominant species’ reluctance to organize on large scales. This is universally regarded as a Good Thing™, but the other powers of the Local Galaxy keep a close eye on the Sodality….
Next week will see the second installment of Cruel Parodies, my SF critter design series, featuring a twisted, hideous mockery of the official Traveller universe’s freebooting wolves of space, the Vargr, and free of copyright violations. This Thanksgiving day, though, I, bring you a recent DeviantART upload, one of my best fractal transparencies to date, City of Quartz. Enjoy the holiday or whatever other event or festival(s) you celebrate this month, and I’ll see you next week!
Last evening’s Tamil language podcast listening was productive, and vastly more satisfying progress-wise once I got myself into the right headspace to immerse myself and process the dialogue and interviews.
Setup for that takes me about 15-20 minutes of quiet thought, and at the very least a full hour of immersion, whether to speak, read, write, or listen in any language I’m studying. I should work up to an entire day of immersion when family is away for extended periods.
There’s a bit of performance anxiety in that, stemming from previous study of both Japanese and Pilipino, the former in the early 90s and the latter just before the early 2000s.
Both taught me a lot, but in both cases I was not…well…at either time, and was to my eternal regret a bit of an idiot as a student even in my late 20s.
Without getting into personal details or drama, my experiences of both left me with a difficulty in switching between English and other languages quickly or in a public context, especially for interviews or social media posting, and dreading again making an idiot of myself as a learner, this time on the Internet for all to see.
There’s also a lack of patience on my part, as I must remind myself that even in formal study it takes several whole semesters for anybody to make progress at my age in any non-native language, even with an instructor and fellow students to interact with for feedback.
Hindi, Tamil, and Bangla are not easy languages to begin with, especially for non-native speakers like me!
All of my study to-date on the current languages, ALL of it, has been informal, but still marked by progress over time, even with my biases and impatience getting in the way of seeing that.
It helps to take, even in a passing moment of introspection, and actually immersing myself in the damn languages instead of whining, a long view, to see the forests of India’s Big Three languages over time for the trees of any given study period.
Maybe I’ll always be somewhat anxious about being the village idiot of students, but maybe too I can avoid that outcome, to keep up the long game toward what level of mastery I can achieve.
At my age, I’ll probably never reach native fluency in any of them, but that’s cool. I’m not trying to pass as a native speaker anyway, not perfect fluency, only to broaden my horizons and reduce my ignorance of the rest of humanity elsewhere in some small way, however imperfectly.