Squaring the Circle: Humans and Technology


Last weekend, I attended an herbalism lecture where the excellent Sam Perry spoke about Chinese medicine.

Sam focused on the relationship between culture and medicine. Medicine is a product of culture, like clothing, vases, and frescos.

He spoke about Chinese symbols, yin and yang, the tai chi symbol, the sinusoidal shape of the yellow river in china, and the color yellow, and then he offhandedly mentioned the circle in the square.

Squaring the Circle is an ancient paradox and hermetic symbol.

The problem is this:

Can we create a circle and a square with the SAME AREA with only a straight edge and a compass and use a limited number of steps?

The answer is NO. This was finally proved mathematically in 1882, so the mystery existed for a long time.

This problem had mystical dimensions. The circle in the square was used as a symbol for alchemy: transforming lead into gold. The circle in the square was also used to describe the relationship between spirit and matter.

Discrete Steps and Devices

The structure of this problem reminds me of computation. A universal turning machine, a type of computer, reads and writes symbols on a tape.

The theory of computation asks what we can solve and in what period with what physical limitations.

I wonder what is different between the computational engine of a hammer and nail and what is the computational engine of a straight edge and compass.

The Solution!

As it turns out, you can create a circle and a square with the same area, but just not with these tools and a discrete number of steps.

We can use new tools like the Quadratrix of Hippas (which I do not entirely understand), infinite steps, or non-euclidian geometry.

Can a circle turn into a square? What is the relationship between the shape of a thing and what the form contains?


How does the circle shape become the square without losing anything?

This is the mystery of transformation. Ancient myths like Ovid’s Metamorphoses tell how gods turn into trees and humans turn into animals. In China, the 64 hexagrams of the I-Ching describe different types of transformation. Alchemy is about transformation, lead into gold, the individuation of a person from a Jungian perspective.

Squaring the Circle is about tools and processes, about creating a machine for transformation. But there is a limit to the transformative power of a machine. What is this limit? The natural world, life, quantum physics, chance, or just more transformation?

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Book Review: Queering Philosophy


Two weeks ago, I binge-listened to the New Books podcasts: film, anthropology, and philosophy.

Sometimes I like to be quiet and feel the ideas come from within me, but it also feels good to get a drink from an idea firehose and see what sticks.

One of the conversations that stuck with me was with Kim Q Hall on her book Queering Philosophy.

Why should you be interested in this topic? Read on…

The meaning crisis

Fake news is news that is not factually correct. Deep fakes are photorealistic images and videos of real people, made by AI, of fake scenarios and events. What is real, what is fake, what is important, and what is not important?

John Vervaeke, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, says the root of the crises we face: mental health, economic and political turmoil, and environmental degradation is a crisis meaning.

We do not know how to reason anymore. We do not know how to decide what is meaningful.

Reason is broken

Socrates was a gay shaman. Socrates and his “frens” like Aristotle and Parmenides, created new ways to make meaning from their world – and from this, we got western philosophy. And maybe a lot of other things like inequality and war, but also perhaps things like science and this fantastic computer.

Our world is different from the world of the ancient Greeks. I am less interested in how a boat disappears beyond the horizon and more interested in why the algorithm suggested that I buy baby formula.

One way to support a new way to reason is to Queer it.

Queering Reason

Could we use a different word? No.

“Queer” is embedded in personal lived experiences, activism, and social convention.

Some ways to queer philosophy include:

  • Using methods of queer activism to change the discipline such as a focus on archives and personal stories. Even Hall’s book includes personal anecdotes which I consider queering.
  • Examining the “normative” (straight) habits in both the academy and in ideas.
  • Make philosophy more embodied. Thinking happens outside the mind as well – as Annie Murphy Paul writes. Queerness is often expressed in the body and in movement and action. And queer bodies are often treated differently than straight bodies.

Ideas and Experience

People say that Freud’s thought could only come from a neurotic.

I often say people don’t have ideas, ideas have people. But these people have lived experiences.

Queering philosophy is one way* we can oscellate bweeen the traditional (dominant) narrative and the personal story: between myth and psychology.

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*Others include feminist thought, critical race theory, and disability studies.

Advaita Vedanta and the Art of Painting


During the pandemic, I started painting with my kids. The kids lost interest, but my interest kept going.

This period coincided with a lot of personal exploration and inner work. I began a serious meditation practice, practiced yoga every morning at 4:45, and read widely in the history of consciousness.

I began to associate my painting with my inner work.

Art and Self

When I make a painting, it is a capsule of myself at that moment in time. In vedanta sometimes we talk about the self and the SELF. The universal and eternal Self and the self in the world, the ego. Experiencing the Self is to right-size the self.

Right-sizing the self is related to stilling the mind. A painting captures the movements of the artist but also the struggles, fears, the ideas in their head. When I paint, I want to remove all the mental chatter and act!

This is true for all paintings, and perhaps it is true for all art. But, the more art is mediated by symbolic language such as writing and technology, the more difficult it is to remove the mind and act as the Self.


Painting, and drawing, are about decisions.

Each mark on the page is a decision the artist makes. These decisions are embodied decisions. The artist perceives the work through her senses, and moves her hand or body to create.

Contrary to logical decision-making, we do not predict anything when we make an artistic decision. We sense-make at the moment.


When we look at art, often we have a story about the art.

Sometimes we say the work is about power, freedom, or trauma. But this story is about the mind more than the work. It is a projection.

Projection is a psychoanalytic term that describes how we bring our own feelings and mental activity to work, situation, or individual. When we project, we experience our mental projection, which is an illusion.

I want to strip away the chatter and experience the work or the individual as it is, in its naked beingness.


Advaita Vedanta is a spiritual path to enlightenment. Enlightenment is pure awakening – to live without projection and strategy and experience each moment as radically new, shining with its own radiance and the godhead.

When I see a successful painting, I feel this sense, of radical acceptance of reality as it is. It is fully embodied and of the world. It is original and surprising without the constraints of the mind.

Abstraction and representation art can both create this feeling, but in abstraction, there is no scaffolding. We are performing without a net.

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The Art of Naming


“Good software developers give their variables good names.”

A manager told me this many years ago. I assumed this showed attention to detail. For, me this statement went much deeper.

Good names build a bridge between the abstract world of symbols and the human world of meaning.

Cover Songs

I am obsessed with song covers. Creating a good cover of a song is like giving a variable a good name. It reflects an essential meaning of the song.

Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” sounds how the words mean in a way the Dylan version does not.

Speech Acts

Language is not only a medium of communication, but it also acts. In our culture, specific phrases change the world. When a judge says, “I now pronounce you wife and wife,” a marriage is created- a new legal entity.

When we write software, we create a language that acts.


A name may start as a label for a part, like “I got new wheels” instead of “I got a new car.” But, over time, this part may grow symbolic power. One day, the word “wheel” may replace the word “car.”

Language can change the way it acts. It evolves.

A New Name

This week I created a new microservice at work. Creating a microservice is momentous, and I spent time discussing the name.

Should we use a similar name as the service this was replacing? Should we use the word security or instrument?

The name and the service co-created each other. When we created this name, we created boundaries.

Did our ancestors name things?

Our ancestors named their children and their livestock, but that was about it. We live in a time of rapid innovation and name things all the time: new products, new variables, new websites, new microservices.

Names come from nothing. An object has a name because someone gives a name to something. It is a gift.

Identity, Pseudonymity, and the Metaverse

Names refer to groups, individuals, containers, and bits and pieces of all of these. Digital technology allows everything to be combined and mixed.

Naming remains one of our most primal psychotechnologies of sensemaking. Good names make sense.

Worldbuilding poetry and ai


From Song of Myself by whitman – 1 & 2 I used my worldbuilding engine (http://ex-worlding.herokuapp.com/ to make this. Then I used midjourney to create some AI visuals. I am doing some diffusion engine visuals for another project:

  Atoms whisper
        soul spears stir
eddies of wind beds as 
tongues  buzz'd whispers of night

dark-color'd sea-rocks  bank
          spectres in books 
                  filter  millions of suns
              belch’d words 
      original energy

            look through!
                 learn to read!
      take things!
                    delight alone!

                        Smoke ripples blood and air and
          embraces, a reaching  third hand:
                 green leaves 
                 wood soil 

rising from bed  
       crowded with perfumes 
                       mouth forever play
                             shine and shade sound
beating vines &

Exercise: The First 10 Minutes of Star Wars


Back before the pandemic, when I taught a class called Computers, Robots and Film, we would watch clips of a movie and then use a phenomenological approach. Forget narrative and story, what do the sounds and sights of the film say?

I could write a book on the first 10 minutes of Star Wars, or any film. Here is an example.

The Face

In the first few minutes of Star Wars we see closeups of the faces and expressions of the rebels, but the Storm Troopers all wear masks.

We can talk about the face and humanity, expression, or feeling. We can talk about the storm trooper mask as the commodification of an individual. Unlike theater, we can talk about film, a medium that allows nuanced facial expressions. We can even talk about philosopher Emmanual Levinas and the notion of infinity and the face of the other.

The importance of the face continues throughout Star Wars, but no spoiler alerts.


The most colorful creature in the first 10 minutes of Star Wars is C3PO – the robot.

C3PO is gold. Everything and everyone else is black, white or grey. There is the occasional red Phaser shot or smoke and flash from an explosion. The other color is blue on R2D2.

Color matters in any visual form. It creates a feeling and a mood and communicates to us in a pre-conscious way. We can call this a correspondence – what do the colors correspond to?

No Life Forms Detected

Towards the end of the 10 minutes, the two robots leave on an escape pod with Princess Leia. Two Imperial Troopers see the pod and note that no life forms are aboard. They leave it alone.

Life form was not a good test of value. What does it mean to be alive? Is this even a useful distinction? In our world, with rapidly advancing AI, we may soon be asking the same question. But perhaps we should be asking something else.

Perhaps it is the Storm Trooper that is not alive.

By experiencing a part, we can understand the whole

In philosophy, the relationship between the parts to the whole is called mereology.

What meaning do senses give us? Often, it is more than we know with our rational minds. Focusing on what we perceive through our senses is an exercise that I use a lot. It is a form of grounding ourselves in the current, something we don’t know enough – but if we open up to our senses, we know more than we think.

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Teaching Mediums


Teaching college classes on zoom during the pandemic was unpleasant for me. I would feel drained by zoom and eventually burnt out.

All my classes were discussion classes, Computers, Robots and Film, Cyberspace Issues and Ethics, and even learning python was a discussion class.

But zoom and the pandemic highlighted all the different places education happens: online zoom, online software cohort-based classes, online asynchronous classes, youtube lectures, discussion groups, in-person classes and meetings, and the home.

What does it mean to teach a class?

I recently read bell hooks’ Teaching To Transgress, which helped me think through what it means to teach within a university.

I taught my film class, and I thought, why film instead of short stories? When I taught on zoom, I thought, why take a college class and not join an online discussion or listen to @FilmCritHULK?

The internet and pandemic have expanded the places where education happens. For example, Game Studies Study Buddies Podcast by @rangedtouch is a conversation between two academics. There is an associated discord, and I would think about the difference between this and a class.

Situations and Experiences

Today I am exploring a constellation of feelings. I can reduce this to a situation – why teach a class at a university instead of having a podcast?

I find myself in a situation where sometimes I have the opportunity to teach at a university. I do not have a podcast.

I enjoy teaching and learning – discussion and transformation. I have the experience of being a filmmaker and a computer scientist and thinking and reading deeply on topics I teach.

Life offers opportunities for us to engage with the world. Some opportunities feel more demanding and out of reach, and some options feel close to being realized. It feels more accessible TO ME to teach a class at a university than offering a Teachable online Teachable course.

What I feel Today

Why teach a class? Why take a class? Why listen to a youtube tutorial? Because we all have a constellation of options available to us to satisfy our desires and we pick those that feel the most accessible and that most fully satisfy our desires.

If you are interested in more work like this, please check out my newsletter, The Rewrite: https://therewrite.substack.com/

And here is a piece I wrote on learning and containers: https://medium.com/@hackerm0m/spaces-and-containers-9227f2d9b840

Fasting in the Woods


My friend @technekai and I always go on crazy adventures.

She suggested we go on a “vision quest” in the New Jersey Pine Barrens this year. I did not read the fine print and ended up spending 108 hours in a 10-foot circle surrounded by shrubby oaks, blueberry bushes, and pitch pines with no food and 4 gallons of water.

I logged my experience in 70 journal pages and counting, but I find it challenging to articulate what I did and how I changed.

Here are some reflections:

I don’t want a frappuccino

Our first stop after the ques was a Starbucks in Ocean Township New Jersey.

I looked at the pictures of frappuccinos and thought how delicious it would be to have a crushedwith sugar and – and with caffegone I had done without sugar and caffeine for at least two weeks.

Suddenly I felt this not for me. The frappuccino is not for me. I was offered all these options that look so appealing, but I didn’t want any of them.

The world gives us many options and tries to sell us them. But these options are not for us. We don’t want them.

Seeing with my heart

I would sit in the morning and watch the birds as they drifted down from the top of the pitch pines like leaves on the wind.

In my nonduality practice, I observe without labeling. For example, I watch a bird but do not label it a bird, or watch a leaf without calling it a leaf. I want to label and analyze everything, so this practice is hard.

To shift out of an analytic mode, I look with my heart. I set my intention in my chest and feel out – not look out. To feel with the heart. It to feel it is not to think. What does it feel like to be with a lover, a child, or an old friend?

Listening to nature is relational not analytic.


“Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest one of all.’ said the evil queen in the Snow White fairy tYou cannot escape yourself when

You cannot escape yourself when you are in a 10-foot circle in the woods. All of nature is a mirror and just like in the fairy tale, the mirror does not always show you what you expect.

I had a hand mirror that I used for my twice-a-day tick check. One day I looked in the mirror and found a tick on my upper thigh. I should not have needed a mirror to see the tick – it was in plain sight. But I could only see the tick in the mirror.

If we see with our eyes, tools help reorient us.

What does it mean?

I will not spend my life on a vision quest in the woods. I have a family, a job, an artistic practice, and a community. But I wonder, what is my relationship with nature and with technology? The dichotomy seems bright to me; maybe everything is natural, but not everything is nature.

Right now, I have more questions than answers, but I have an open space inside that I don’t feel compelled to fill with false desires.

Last Ani*mystic post


This post closes the 2022 edition of the M&A book club. The final chapter of ani*mystic recounts Gordon’s ayahuasca retreat. This was my favorite chapter because I love travelogues, descriptions, case studies, and journeys.

I read this chapter a month ago – and took a photo of some pages that I wanted to remember – but I am too lazy to pull them up. Aya introduced me to a new word in her last post – orans. It means a lifting up of the hands – like the JudeLaw in The New Pope (great show).


I am into mudras:


Mudra means seal. When I do yoga, or meditate, I use different seals to activate or draw energy into different parts of the body. I have been looking also at planetary seals lately – that block different planetary energies. One of my favorite movies is The 7th Seal, by Ingmar Bergman. Similar to station 11 it features a traveling theater troupe during an apocalypse. What are the 7 seals? In the Book of revelation there are 7 seals that guard an apocalyptic book. And guess what there are 7 traditional planetary bodies.

But seals are everywhere – even Jesus used mudras:


Back to Ani*mystic – last chapter. In The Dawn of Everything Graeber and Wengrew say that people traveled and exchanged things in the past not for economic value but for entertainment, travel moments, and as relics from vision quests.

Gordon went on a vision quest – and the quest had a structure that the community shared in and then he brought back some new understandings, some momentos, AND this book – Ani*mystic.



I am reading Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Wahl and chapter one is about questions.

I am all about Questions…. Asking a question is an art. It is the art of machine learning, of the oracle, of the tarot, of the dissertation. Asking questions opens the world – it is the art of Socrates.

Here is what TS Eliot has to say on the matter from the book:

“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? […]
What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in community, […]
When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? “We all dwell together
to make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?
Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.
T.S. Eliot (1934)”

Excerpt From: Daniel Wahl. “DESIGNING REGENERATIVE CULTURES.” Apple Books.