Professor Noel Sharkey from Sheffield, better known as one of the judges on the BBCTV show “Robot Wars” knows a thing or two about robots and artificial intelligence. He’s made a plea for more debate about the use of robot planes in warfare. (see link)
He’s said, “An international debate is needed on the use of autonomous military robots. A push toward more robotic technology used in warfare would put civilian life at grave risk.”
Actually, when you look at the statistics objectively and compare them to large conflicts, like WW1 for instance, a war that kicked off mechanised slaughter, then it’s bloomin’ obvious!
The BBC report says that,
Between January 2006 and April 2009, he estimated, 60 such “drone” attacks were carried out in Pakistan. While 14 al-Qaeda were killed, some 687 civilian deaths also occurred.
What this means is that 49 times as many civilians as combatants were killed!
This is truly horrendous.
Now lets look at the statistics from the dawn of mechanised slaughter, the war to end all wars, the war where the Last Tommy has just died….?
World War 1 Stats
In WW1, Germany invaded France, and the war was largely fought in Belgium and France. On the battlefields and surrounding areas, many civilians died, as well as combatants, (source statistics here). Here we go:
Military Deaths = 1,397,800
Civilian Deaths = 300,000
Military Deaths = 58,637
Civilian Deaths = 62,000
Even including all countries involved, the statistics are stark. Forget about the actual (huge) numbers – look at the proportions:
Total Military Deaths in WW1 = 9,721,937
Total Civilian Deaths in WW1 = 6,821,248
So overall, 0.7 civilians died for each soldier.
Terminator: Rise of the Machines
If we scale up the drone usage deaths into a global conflict sized scenario (and knowing the military, this is exactly what they’d do), and using the military deaths in WW1 as a starting point, how many civilians would die as the armchair pilots sought their foes?
9,721,937 x 49 = 476,374,000
This is about the whole population of Europe!
Professor Starkey is completely correct. If this is not a definition of the term “putting civilian life at grave risk“, then what is?
…and this is without attaching nuclear weapons to the planes…!!!
Of course, the effect of the usage of these machines and tactics is hardly likely to win over the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen (the current targets) when every time one flies over a whole family is wiped out, is it? So you have to ask yourselves,
If ‘The West’ is really trying to ‘win hearts and minds’ as they say, then what the fuck are they playing at?
in other words,
It looks like the real game is to continue the ‘war against terror’ to ensure that our people stay cowed and afraid and to justify the existence of the ‘military industrial complex’.
Just like the government in the film, “V for Vendetta”.
Exploring the Simultaneous Nature of Cause & Effect
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Finale, Episode – “All Good Things…”
"The Trial Never Ends": Q and Captain Jean-Luc Picard discuss the collapse of the anti-time eruption.
I’ve just watched the double episode finale to the TNG Picard series just after the cyclists finished their ascent of Mont Ventoux in this years Tour de France. It was “All Good Things…”(see link, link & link for full episode info)
In a nutshell, Picard, by the absolute faith that his crew have in him, across three different life-times, undoes a space-time anomaly of their own creation which saves life on Earth…
What I saw was a fine dramatic representation of the Buddhist principle of karma transcending time and space, and the principle that karma (all that we and our lives are) can be changed both backwards and forwards in time; The simultaneity of cause and effect!
Well! While all fine and dandy as a piece of fiction, how can I say that this is what it’s really like?
Nichiren Daishonin, the 12th century Japanese Buddhist monk, in a letter to the grandmother of Jibu-bo Nichii, one of his disciples, tried to explain a bit of the history behind a ceremony for the dead to her. (A Buddhist service held for the repose of the dead. Such ceremonies were conducted annually, usually on the fifteenth day of the seventh month.) In it, he says, almost a conclusion to his explanation,
The Venerable Maudgalyayana put his faith in the Lotus Sutra, which is the greatest good there is, and thus not only did he himself attain Buddhahood, but his father and mother did so as well. And, amazing as it may seem, all the fathers and mothers of the preceding sevengenerations and the seven generations that followed, indeed, of countless lifetimes before and after, were able to become Buddhas. In addition, all their sons, their wives or husbands, their retainers, supporters, and countless other persons not only were enabled to escape from the three evil paths, but all attained the first stage of security and then Buddhahood, the stage of perfect enlightenment. – On Offerings for Deceased Ancestors, WND, p820
I’ve highlighted the crushing significance that summarises the whole letter, both in it’s literal summary and as it’s sense and meaning. Nichiren is saying that we can affect the past from now, as well as the future. Like Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek episode, the past, present and future are as one, overlapped, affecting each other in a miraculous way.
It’s as if the arrow of time , something everyone experiences in their daily lives, does not exist.
Maudgalyayana gets killed
Of course, faith is behind all of this; but if we accept both tales at face value there is much to commend it and the value system for life that they support. Here’s how it panned out for Maudgalyayana….
He was a disciple of Shakyamuni, (the person we call “The Buddha”, idolised in many lands). Maudgalyayana was supposed to have supernatural powers, such as mind-reading, out-of-the-body experiences and walking through walls. He also brought bad karma upon himself by killing his parents which led to his death at the hands of bandits. To change his karma, he studied the Lotus Sutra, so that later, when he met the bandits he ignored his powers and did not defend himself.
Harry Patch fought at the Battle of Passchendaele in World War I
Shakyamuni said that even supernatural powers are of no use to avoid one’s karma, especially when it is so heavy… That’s what was said and believed at the time.
But is it true? Is any of this possible?
I believe it is so. We can change the past as well as future. Harry Patch who died today aged 111, recalled shooting a German in the leg so as not to kill him (see here), just after seeing a young man die. He said,
“I fell in a trench. There was a fella there. He must have been about our age. He was ripped shoulder to waist with shrapnel. I held his hand for the last 60 seconds of his life. He only said one word: ‘Mother’. I didn’t see her, but she was there. No doubt about it. He passed from this life into the next, and it felt as if I was in God’s presence. I’ve never got over it. You never forget it. Never.”
When they reached the enemy’s second line four Germans stood up, and one ran forward pointing his bayonet at Patch who, with only three rounds left in his revolver, wondered what to do. He then deliberately fired at the man above the ankle and above the knee….”You’ve got a memory. You’ve got a brain about the size of a tea cup. I’ve got a memory that goes back for 80 or 90 years and I think that memory goes on with you when you die. And that’s my opinion. Death is not the end.”
Experiences like this can be rationalised into the mere electrical workings of the brain. But in a way, Patch’s actions shaped the rest of his life. He didn’t die early, and maybe had the well-known “survivor’s guilt” for not doing so. But like the fictional Jean Luc, he has communicated across the ages and affected people because of it. Without being a Buddhist, his actions have nevertheless been Buddhist.
The follow up to the quote above (from a BBC documentary), is that his three chums were blown to bits 6 weeks later. His not un-natural words were;
“If I had met that German soldier after my three mates had been killed, I’d have no trouble at all in killing him”….
The thing is, he didn’t. The order of events was different and as in the Star Trek story, who’s to tell what’s what?
Planck’s Constant and Entanglement
J B S Haldane: My own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
It’s been said that if Planck’s Constant were slightly different – or maybe not so constant – then we ourselves might have the supernatural powers to be able to walk through walls like Maudgalyayana. In fact, the physics says that this must be so! The natural repulsions of atoms would be different and matter could diffuse through matter with less interaction (or be totally inert depending which way it went).
F. W. Dyson, A. S. Eddington, and C. Davidson, "A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun's Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Total Eclipse of May 29, 1919"
Surely this is a definition of supernatural?
Entanglement is another “spooky” quantum property. Einstein did not like this because of the “simultaneity” which went plain against his experimentally provable Relativity theory (Edington proved this because light bends near large masses). But it exists and experiments have now been done that confirm (at least so far) simultaneous action at a distance. (see Was Einstein Wrong?: A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity). So experiments prove both instantaneous action at a distance and space-time bending….
Surely, this also is a definition of supernatural?
“My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we cansuppose.” – JBS Haldane
…although a better version, attributed to Edington goes,
“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”
Nichiren, in his explanatory letter to the grandmother of Jibu-bo Nichii, follows the passage above with a quote from the Lotus Sutra saying,
Therefore, it is said in the third volume of the Lotus Sutra, “We beg that the merit gained through these gifts may be spread far and wide to everyone, so that we and other living beings all together may attain the Buddha way.”
This is also similar to a further sentence which I say twice every day,
But those who practise meritorious ways, who are gentle, peaceful, honest and upright, all of them will see me here in person, preaching the Law. At times for this multitude I describe the Buddha’s life span as immeasurable…
When Patch first spoke about WW1 he said, “For eighty years I’ve never watched a war film, I never spoke of it, not to my wife. For six years, I’ve been here [in the nursing home]. Six years it’s been nothing but World War One. As I say, World War One is history, it isn’t news. Forget it.”
He obviously hated everything about WW1. But for his last 11 years, after living a life of gentle merit, he finally spoke and told his tale. Like the Venerable Maudgalyayana who changed his karma, bathed in the ‘queerness’ of the universe, Patch changed his by finally telling his story after sowing the seeds so long ago. He’s made sure people don’t forget it. The Star Trek episode “All Good Things…” touched on this also. Where the past meets the present, which meets the future.
when you are happy, you should remember that your happiness in this life is nothing but a dream within a dream
It’s as if there is a common strand of semi-known knowledge across all of humanity that just needs to be awakened.
Sometimes it’s story-tellers,
Sometimes it’s traumatised soldiers,
Sometimes it’s scientists searching for truth…?
We all know it, we all know how to behave. But we forget.
A Dream within a Dream
I suppose that all sentient beings are questing for “truth”.
Sometimes we need some proof, like the scientist.
Sometimes we need emotional trauma, like Harry Patch.
Sometimes though, the truth is self-evident, and is a belief, derived from universal truths beyond time and space, elucidated by an enlightened one and transmitted as a belief system and a way of life.
This later one we call Buddhism.
As Nichiren said, a dream within a dream…. the proof for this truth lies within the words and actions of ordinary people searching for this truth….
When the world makes you feel downcast, you should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, remembering that, although the sufferings of this life are painful, those in the next life could be much worse. And when you are happy, you should remember that your happiness in this life is nothing but a dream within a dream, and that the only true happiness is that found in the pure land of Eagle Peak, and with that thought in mind, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. – The Fourteen Slanders, WND, p760
The inter-connectness of all things is how The Buddha described it. His last words have various translations into English, but they all convey the same meaning that the universe is transient and an exhortation to do one’s best!
“Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!” – link
“All created things are impermanent. Strive on with diligence.” – link
“Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation. Do your best.” – link
“Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” – link
See Harry Patch’s death today in my previous post here.
Harry Patch fought at the Battle of Passchendaele in World War I
Breaking news is that Harry Patch, the very Last Tommy, is dead. Only a week after Henry Allingham died, he’s gone too. In response to Henry’s passing, I went and ordered a few of their books from Amazon. Because of the time lag, I haven’t even read them yet, so when I do, it will have extra poignancy, I suppose.
When chanting this morning, I finished at 11:11 by my atomic clock. I thought about the significance of the 11th hour at that moment.
Lance Corporal Henry John Martin at Passchendaele
Now I find that Harry Patch has died at the age of 111. 08:52 BST apparently. All these people in the pictures I took at Passchendaele in 2003, died when Harry Patch was there in WW1. The little plaque for H.J. Martin was propped up against one of the big wall plaques, so I took this photo as I thought it wouldn’t last long. I don’t know who placed it.
Harry Patch later said “War is a calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings”.
It’s a funny old world. We’re still doing it.
This is him at Passchendaele a couple of years ago.
Muhammad runs away from Mecca to escape persecution. From this point forward, huge swathes of the globe took up Islam, Islamic empires spread across, Africa, Asia and half of Europe; the legacy of which self-evidently exists today. Okay, there’s huge argument about this, but some people take this as the day. Personally, I don’t know enough about it, but I need something to match the post’s title, and other writers do take this as the day. Wikipedia says this, and who am I to argue?
The Muslim dates are in the Islamic calendar extended back in time. The Western dates are in the Julian calendar. The lunar year is about 300/309 solar year. The Hijra is celebrated annually on 8 Rabi’ I, about 66 days after 1 Muharram, the first day of the Muslim year. Many writers confuse the first day of the year of the Hijra with the Hijra itself, erroneously stating that the Hijra occurred on 1 Muharram AH 1 or 16 July 622.
All dates given above may have occurred about 89 days (three lunar months) earlier. The Muslim dates may be those recorded in the original Arabic calendar and their month names may not have been changed to account for the (probably three) intercalary months inserted during the next nine years until intercalary months were prohibited during the year of Muhammad’s last Hajj (AH 10).
Speaking to 13th century feudal Japan, Nichiren the monk said that the calamities and disasters befalling the people were all due to incorrect lifestyles. He insisted that all people were equal and free, that they should pay heed to people who were obviously skilled in their chosen field, and that they should do their best in the limited lifetime available.
Largely, he was ignored, and so half the country starved because of self-interest and malice.
And this is exactly the place where we find ourselves now across the globe. We live on a world of limited resource, where many people choose to live their life by stealing from others, either as individuals or nations. Nichiren’s words have as much relevance now as they ever did. Here’s part of the writing:
I have pondered the matter carefully with what limited resources I possess, and have looked a little at the scriptures for an answer. The people of today all turn their backs upon what is right; to a person, they give their allegiance to evil. This is the reason that the benevolent deities have abandoned the nation and departed together, that sages leave and do not return. And in their stead devils and demons come, and disasters and calamities occur. I cannot keep silent on this matter. I cannot suppress my fears. – WND, page 7, “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”
Daisaku Ikeda has some similar words about today; he says:
The powerful may appear great, but in reality they are not. Greatest of all are the ordinary people. If those in power lead lives of idle luxury it is because the people are silent. We have to speak out. With impassioned words, we need to resolutely attack abuses of power that cause people suffering. This is fighting on the side of justice. It is wrong to remain silent when confronting injustice. Doing so is tantamount to supporting and condoning evil.
I’ve quoted the above as a direct statement to those companies like Pacific Webworks, people like Jesse Willms and the misguided people of Utah who have misinterpreted their US constitution of freedom and capitalism as a freedom to steal from the needy as a means of amassing capital, all hiding under the umbrella “that it’s god’s work”. If capitalism doesn’t serve the people, then it has no purpose.
Nichiren’s Buddhism is now growing at a phenomenal rate. The time of change is now.
One of the final acts of the Russian revolution occurred with the attempted elimination of all of the monarchy and any aspirants thereto. This act changed history for the 20th century, it’s consequences evident even now by a powerful Russian people, proud of their history, somewhat ambivalent about the exact direction that leadership and authority should take.
On the night of 16/17 July 1918, the royal family was awakened around 2:00 am, told to dress, and led down into a half-basement room at the back of the Ipatiev house; the pretext for this move was the family’s safety – that anti-Bolshevik forces were approaching Ekaterinberg, and the house might be fired upon.
The executioners drew revolvers and the shooting began. Nicholas was the first to die; Yurovsky shot him multiple times in the head and chest. Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga, and Maria survived the first hail of bullets; the sisters were wearing over 1.3 kilograms of diamonds and precious gems sewn into their clothing, which provided some initial protection from the bullets and bayonets. They were stabbed with bayonets and then shot at close range in the head.
Trinity, the first bomb is tested by the US at Alamogordo Air Base in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Within a month, two more bombs had been dropped on Japan, effectively ending World War 2. We, especially in the West, are living this legacy still. It can be argued that the threat of total devastation (the theory of MAD) has made nations with the bomb more proactive in reasoned discussion and less likely to take arms against each other. The converse is that the weapons will one day be used again and it’ll be the end of the world as we know it…
Tyger, tyger, burning bright
Unlike Oppenheimer, who had his own bit of Indian prose in mind, whenever I see the Trinity picture I hear William Blake. It’s a beautiful picture, just as the bomb goes off. What fearful symmetry? In that split second, we see all that was and all that will be.
Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
1969 AD – Man on The Moon
On this day, mankind set off to stand on a different celestial body. Four days later, we’d done it.
Less than four centuries earlier, over much of our planet, you could be burned or stoned to death for even suggesting that the possibility existed that a “creation of god” could be imperfect or blemished, like the moon is.
Such is the progress we’ve made, yet even now, such events are like a dream within a dream. The misogynist, nationalist, creationist forces are at work, attempting to roll back the clock to a time when they ruled the roost, and their hypocritical word was god .
But for now, we can say that men bravely stood on the Moon.
Today’s the 90th anniversary of the armistice, the end of the war to end all wars as it was called. All we seem to have had here in the UK is pictures of loads of stark white, neatly arranged tombstones for weeks now. It’s as if en-masse, the people get an obligation to feel sadness, do feel sad, and then move on to something else – like the latest global atrocity to ignore (again) or to “play” kill as many soldiers in as short space of time as you can manage in the plethora of shoot-em-up computer games that exist.
I’ve seen very little of the Germans in all this. So I’ve fished about in German and come up with a neat bit in English about the German view of it all on Der Spiegel Onlinehere and here, amongst other places.
The juxtaposition of the photos with the text underneath in the Der Spiegel photo-galleries demonstrates that life is for living. To read the text accompanying the photo is a shot to the senses because of their apparent un-relatedness. But Buddhism stresses the interconnectedness of all things…. They’ve done a really good job there, I think.
A particular bit of fascinating information is that the Germans really haven’t much clue about WW1 veterans. They think the last one died last year, but aren’t sure. They don’t do parades or memorials to the dead like in the UK because of the “stigma of defeat” as they call it. They see WW1 being a prelude to WW2, which it did end up being, of course.
But at the time, it didn’t seem like that to the people in it! They only knew, like we do now, what’s happening as we speak and live. At WW1 end, they didn’t know there was going to be a WW2 any more than we now can tell what will happen in 20 years time.
However, because of the harsh terms imposed at Versailles, this set in place the German financial collapse, then the rise of Hitler and Nazism, and coupled with the Depression and certain “security” laws enacted by the German Democratic Government during the 20’s, Hitler easily strode to power, using the law to imprison and execute his enemies.
Those same laws are what our current Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, is trying to push through onto us under the disguise of “security”.
This is the real reason to look to the past. Not to feel a cosy respect for past glories, but to learn from history and ensure that the same mistakes don’t happen again.
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