All posts by Mike Zonta

Transform The System: personal, social, cultural and political transformation

Aiming to help transform the United States into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, our own people, the environment, and life itself.

Purple Points of Agreement

A majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree on the following.

Campaign Spending,

in a June 2015 article, “Americans’ Views on Money in Politics,” The New York Times reported:

There is strong support across party lines for limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns, limiting the amount of money groups not affiliated with candidates can spend, and requiring unaffiliated groups to publicly disclose their donors if they spend money during a political campaign….

With near unanimity, the public thinks the country’s campaign finance system needs significant changes. There is strong support across party lines for limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns, limiting the amount of money groups not affiliated with candidates can spend, and requiring unaffiliated groups to publicly disclose their donors if they spend money during a political campaign.

Specifically, the following percentages of Republicans agreed with the following:

  • 80 — Thinking about the role of money in American political campaigns today, …money has too much influence.
  • 85 — Candidates who win public office promote policies that directly help the people and groups who donated money to their campaigns … most of the time (54) [or] sometimes (31).
  • 81 — There are some good things in the system for funding political campaigns but fundamental changes are needed (45). The system for funding political campaigns has so much wrong with it that we need to completely rebuild it (36).
  • 71 —  Limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns.
  • 73 — [Limit spending] on advertisements during a political campaign [by] groups not affiliated with a candidate.
  • 76 — [Require] groups not affiliated with a candidate that spend money during political campaigns…to publicly disclose their contributors.
  • 55 — Wealthy Americans have more of a chance to influence the elections process than other Americans.

Concerning that study, the Sunlight Foundation highlighted, “Seventy-six percent of respondents (including identical shares of Republicans and Democrats) say money has a greater role in politics than in the past.”

Criminal Justice Reform

In 2015 the ACLU reported:

Republicans and Democrats alike say that communities will be safer when the criminal justice system reduces the number of people behind bars and increases the treatment of mental illness and addiction, which are seen as primary root causes of crime…. In a sharp shift away from the 1980s and 1990s, when incarceration was seen as a tool to reduce crime, voters now believe by two-to-one that reducing the prison population will make communities safer by facilitating more investments in crime prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

According to that study, 54% of Republicans say it’s important for the country to reduce its prison populations. Eighty-seven percent of all respondents agree that drug addicts and those with mental illness should not be in prison. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.

Job Creation Programs

A 2013 Gallup poll found:

Americans widely support each of three job creation proposals, including offering tax breaks to businesses that create jobs in the U.S. and a program that would put people to work on urgent infrastructure repair projects. Support for these programs is only slightly lower in a variant of the question that asks respondents if they are in favor of spending government money to pay for the programs.

Specifically, 63% of Republicans supported “a federal government program that would put people to work on urgent infrastructure repairs” and 56% support “a federal jobs creation law designed to create more than 1 million new jobs.” When government spending is mentioned, Republican support for those proposals declined to 53% and 52%.

Military Spending

In 2016 the Center for Public Integrity reported that in 2012 “two-thirds of Republicans and nine in 10 Democrats supported making immediate cuts.” With voters surveyed between December 2015 and February 2016, “50 percent of Republicans favored decreasing spending or keeping it the same, and 48 percent favored increasing it.”

A 2014 Pew study found that 52 percent of Republicans do not believe military strength is the best way to ensure peace.

Corporate Welfare

A 2011 Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 15% of likely U.S. voters believed the federal government should continue to provide funding for foreign countries to buy military weapons from U.S. companies. Seventy percent opposed this funding to promote U.S. arms sales. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.


A 2014 Pew study found that 54 percent of Republicans do not believe immigrants are burdening the country by taking jobs, housing, and health care from Americans.


A 2014 Pew study found that only 43 percent of Republicans still agree with 22 percent of Democrats that “homosexuality should be discouraged by society.”

Social Security

A 2014 Pew study found that 65% of Republicans support making Social Security sound. And 67% of all Americans oppose benefit cuts. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.


A 2014 Pew study found, “Even among consistent conservatives, there is minimal support for the government having absolutely no role in providing health care. Three-quarters of consistent conservatives (75%) say the government should continue Medicare and Medicaid while just 20% think the government should not be involved in providing health insurance.”

Elected Officials

Concerning the 2014 Pew Study, the Sunlight Foundation highlighted these findings:

  • 77 percent say elected officials lose touch with their constituents.
  • 74 percent say elected officials don’t care what people like me think
  • 74 percent say elected officials put their own interests first

Top Priorities

In “Democrats and Republicans Agree on More Than You Think & Why That Matters for 2016, “ William A. Galston wrote:

a closer analysis of the Pew data reveals that in addition to these partisan agendas, there is an American Agenda of “top priorities” supported by majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents and by a super-majority (60% or more) of all Americans. Ranked in order of overall support, they are:


Jeff Hawkins Is Finally Ready to Explain His Brain Research

Jeff Hawkins of Numenta says scientists must explain human intelligence before they can build artificial intelligence.CreditCreditAnastasiia Sapon for The New York Times

By Cade Metz

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — In the global race to build artificial intelligence, it was a missed opportunity.

Jeff Hawkins, a Silicon Valley veteran who spent the last decade exploring the mysteries of the human brain, arranged a meeting with DeepMind, the world’s leading A.I. lab.

Scientists at DeepMind, which is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, want to build machines that can do anything the brain can do. Mr. Hawkins runs a little company with one goal: figure out how the brain works and then reverse engineer it.

The meeting, set for April at DeepMind’s offices in London, never happened. DeepMind employs hundreds of A.I. researchers along with a team of seasoned neuroscientists. But when Mr. Hawkins chatted with Demis Hassabis, one of the founders of DeepMind, before his visit, they agreed that almost no one at the London lab would understand his work.

Mr. Hawkins says that before the world can build artificial intelligence, it must explain human intelligence so it can create machines that genuinely work like the brain. “You do not have to emulate the entire brain,” he said. “But you do have to understand how the brain works and emulate the important parts.”

At his company, called Numenta, that is what he hopes to do. Mr. Hawkins, 61, began his career as an engineer, created two classic mobile computer companies, Palm and Handspring, and taught himself neuroscience along the way.

Now, after more than a decade of quiet work at Numenta, he thinks he and a handful of researchers working with him are well on their way to cracking the problem.On Monday, at a conference in the Netherlands, he is expected to unveil their latest research, which he says explains the inner workings of cortical columns, a basic building block of brain function.

How a larger community of researchers react to Mr. Hawkins’s work is hard to predict: Will they decide his research is worth exploring? Or will they write him off as too unorthodox in his methods and much too sure of himself?

Mr. Hawkins has been following his own, all-encompassing idea for how the brain works. It is a step beyond the projects of most neuroscientists, like understanding the brain of a fruit fly or exploring the particulars of human sight.

His theory starts with cortical columns. Cortical columns are a crucial part of the neocortex, the part of the brain that handles sight, hearing, language and reason. Neuroscientists don’t agree on how the neocortex works.

Mr. Hawkins says cortical columns handle every task in the same way, a sort of computer algorithm that is repeated over and over again. It is a logical approach to the brain for a man who spent decades building new kinds of computing devices.

All he has to do is figure out the algorithm.

A number of neuroscientists like the idea, and some are pursuing similar ideas. They also praise Mr. Hawkins for his willingness to think so broadly. Being a maverick is not easily done in academia and the world of traditional research. But it’s a little easier when you can fund your own work, as Mr. Hawkins has.

Still, some wonder if his self-funded operation, isolated from the rigors of academic interaction, is a quixotic adventure. They have been researching the brain one little piece at a time for a good reason: Piecing how it all works together is a monumental, hard-to-fathom task.

“It is clear we need a better understanding of intelligence,” said Tomaso Poggio, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who introduced Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Hassabis. “But Jeff is doing this the hard way.”

If Mr. Hawkins’s work should pan out, it could help A.I. researchers leapfrog over what exists today. In recent years, the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon have built cars that drive on their owngadgets that answer questions from across the room and smartphone apps that instantly translate languages.

They relied on “neural networks,” which are mathematical systems modeled after the web of neurons in the brain — to a point. Scientists cannot recreate the brain because they understand only pieces of how it works. And they certainly can’t duplicate its capabilities.

“The brain is by far the most complex piece of highly excitable matter in the known universe by any measure,” said Christof Koch, the chief scientist and president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “We don’t even understand the brain of a worm.”

In 1979, with an article in Scientific American, Francis Crick, a Nobel Prize winner for his DNA research, called for an all-encompassing theory of the brain, something that could explain this “profoundly mysterious” organ.

Mr. Hawkins graduated from Cornell in 1979 with a degree in electrical engineering. Over the next several years, he worked at Intel, the computer chip giant, and Grid Systems, an early laptop company. But after reading that magazine article, he decided the brain would be his life’s work.

He proposed a neuroscience lab inside Intel. After the idea was rejected, he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. His doctoral thesis proposal was rejected, too. He was, suffice to say, an outlier.

In 1992, Mr. Hawkins founded Palm Computing. A decade and a half before the iPhone, he had created a hand-held computer for the masses. When he hired the company’s chief executive, Donna Dubinsky, he warned that whenever possible, he would drop his work with Palm and return to neuroscience. “That was always there, simmering in the background,” Ms. Dubinsky said.

U.S. Robotics acquired Palm in 1996 for $44 million. About two years later, Mr. Hawkins and Ms. Dubinksy left to start Handspring. Palm, which became an independent company again in 2000, acquired Handspring for $192 million in stock in 2003.

Around the time of the second sale, Mr. Hawkins built his own neuroscience lab. But it was short-lived. He could not get a lab full of academics focused on his neocortical theory. So, along with Ms. Dubinsky and an A.I. researcher named Dileep George, he founded Numenta.

The company spent years trying to build and sell software, but eventually, after Mr. George left, it settled into a single project. Funded mostly by Mr. Hawkins — he won’t say how much he has spent on it — the company’s sole purpose has been explaining the neocortex and then reverse engineering it.

Inside Numenta, Mr. Hawkins sits in a small office. Five other neuroscientists, mostly self-taught, work in a single room outside his door.

Mr. Hawkins said a moment of clarity came about two and a half years ago, while he was sitting in his office, staring at a coffee cup.

He touched the cup and dragged his finger across the rim. Then he leapt to his feet and ran through the door.

He ran headlong into his wife, who had stopped by for lunch, and stumbled toward his closest collaborator, Subutai Ahmad, the vice president of research. “The cortex knows the location of everything,” Mr. Hawkins said. Mr. Ahmad had no idea what he was talking about.

As Mr. Hawkins looked at that cup, he decided that cortical columns did not just capture sensations. They captured the location of those sensations. They captured the world in three dimensions rather than two. Everything was seen in relation to what was around it.

If cortical columns handle sight and touch in this way, Mr. Hawkins thought, they handle hearing, language and even math in similar ways. He’s been working on proving that ever since.

“When the brain builds a model of the world, everything has a location relative to everything else,” Mr. Hawkins said. “That is how it understands everything.”

The source of tension between Mr. Hawkins and other brain and A.I. researchers is not that they necessarily think he is wrong. It’s that they simply don’t know because what he has been trying to do has been so different. And so wildly ambitious.

For the science to advance, what Mr. Hawkins has been working on can’t stay in a silo. His ideas could benefit from extensive experimentation with other neuroscientists, said Nelson Spruston, a senior director at the Janelia Research Campus, a research lab in Virginia that focuses on neuroscience. “A continuous cycle of testing and revising biologically inspired models of neural computation is the key to developing insightful theories of the brain,” he said.

Translation: Mr. Hawkins will have to open his work to rigorous scrutiny and find a way to interact with researchers who most likely have never looked at the brain the way he does.

Follow Cade Metz on Twitter: @CadeMetz

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: A New View of How We Think. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

First ‘active learning’ building in California to open at UCI

New school of thought

September 18, 2018 (

New school of thought

Students collaborate on a question at one of the pods in instructor Jacqui Lewis’ abnormal psychology class – the first held in UCI’s new Anteater Learning Pavilion. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Sept. 18, 2018 – If it’s been a while since you were in college, the rules are changing: Students may now be required to talk to each other, check their cellphones or trade notes. Professors often no longer lecture from a podium. It’s all part of active learning, which flips traditional education on its head to maximize collaboration. 

Next Tuesday, the state’s first building entirely devoted to active learning will open at the University of California, Irvine. The Anteater Learning Pavilion adds much-needed classroom space to the fast-growing campus – and is wired for 21st-century education.

“The heart of everything that UCI does is to help all our students learn and flourish,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “This magnificent facility will do just that for generations to come.”

The 65,000-square-foot Anteater Learning Pavilion’s 15 smart classrooms and auditoriums feature flexible furniture, multiple writing surfaces and wireless projection to optimize active learning. Steve Zylius / UCI

The 65,000-plus-square-foot structure features flexible furniture, multiple writing surfaces and wireless projection to optimize active learning. In 15 smart classrooms and auditoriums, old-school audiovisual equipment has been replaced by sleek computer screens on every wall and desk. Each can be linked to from laptop or mobile devices. Seats swivel for group exercises.

In abnormal psychology courses, for example, teams of students use brain imaging to explore schizophrenia. In American history, they create an online frontier town from the 1800s. And in science communications, they calculate how many elephants it would take to raise sea levels, compared to glacier melt.

“Many of our faculty no longer expect – or want – students to simply listen to lectures, take notes and memorize facts,” said Michael Dennin, vice provost for teaching and learning. “In order for our students to be prepared for a complicated and competitive world, they have to be ready to understand and demonstrate processes, analyze arguments and apply what they’ve learned to real-world situations.”

Attendees at the official opening can experience active learning too – including wireless exercises, group quizzes and digital storytelling – via iClickers, Canvas and additional tools.

Research shows that such engaged learning can help undergraduates – particularly first-generation and those belonging to underrepresented minorities – retain knowledge better, earn higher grades and gain lifelong skills.

While active learning programs elsewhere largely focus on science and engineering, UCI’s spans multiple disciplines – from dance, history and language to neurobiology, psychology, chemistry and more.

The only other campus building wholly devoted to active learning is at Oregon State University, and a handful of colleges across the U.S. have numerous classrooms. UCI’s $67 million complex was constructed with $62 million in external financing and $5 million from campus coffers.

To receive priority to teach in the new building, instructors are required to complete an eight-week certification program on active learning techniques and technologies.

Demand for the training is high, with a long waiting list.

Media interested in attending the opening of the Anteater Learning Pavilion can contact Janet Wilson at or 949-824-3969.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit Additional resources for journalists may be found at

(Submitted by Melissa Goodnight, H.W., M.)

Borges on Turning Trauma, Misfortune, and Humiliation into Raw Material for Art

By Maria Popova (


“Forget your personal tragedy,” Ernest Hemingway exhorted his dear friend F. Scott Fitzgerald in a tough-love letter of advice“Good writers always come back. Always.”It is an insight as true of writers as it is of all artists and of human beings in general, as true of personal tragedy as it is of collective tragedy — something Toni Morrison articulated in her mobilizing manifesto for the writer’s task in troubled times: “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

That is what Jorge Luis Borges (August 24, 1899–June 14, 1986) — born the same year as Hemingway, writing two decades before Morrison — conveys with uncommon splendor of sentiment in Twenty-Four Conversations with Borges: Including a Selection of Poems (public library) — the record of his dialogues with the Argentine journalist and poet Roberto Alifano, conducted in the final years of Borges’s life, by which point he had been blind for almost thirty years.


Jorge Luis Borges

In a passage Susan Sontag would come to quote in her magnificent letter to Borgescomposed on the tenth anniversary of his death, he reflects:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngA writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.

Complement with Simone Weil on how to make use of our suffering, Marina Abramović on turning trauma into fuel for art, and May Sarton on the artist’s task to rise above the tumult of the times, then revisit Borges on writingthe measure of successcollective joy and collective tragedythe paradox of time, and the illusion of the self.

Brave New World predicted 2018 better than any other novel

His book warns us of the dangers of mass media, passivity, and how even an intelligent population can be driven to gladly choose dictatorship over freedom.

  • This 1931 novel predicted modern life almost to a (model) T.
  • While other dystopias get more press, Brave New World offers us a nightmare world that we’ve moved steadily towards over the last century.
  • Author Aldous Huxley’s ideas on a light handed totalitarian dictatorship stand in marked contrast to the popular image of a dictatorship that relies on force.

When most people think of what dystopia our society is sprinting towards, they tend to think of 1984The Handmaid’s Taleor the Hunger Games. These top selling, well known, and well-written titles are excellent warnings of worlds that could come to pass that we would all do well to read.

However, one lesser-known dystopian novel has done a much better job at predicting the future than these three booksBrave New World, written in 1931 by author, psychonaut, and philosopher Aldous Huxley, is well known but hasn’t quite had the pop-culture breakthrough that the other three did.

This is regrettable, as it offers us a detailed image of a dystopia that our society is not only moving towards but would be happy to have.

Good Ford!

Richard Hartnett on the “white shadow”

From Chapter 2:   “What’s in a Story?” from the book The New Old Gods by Richard Hartnett, H. W. M.

“White shadow happens when we glorify or elevate others to a God-like status.  We see these people as being able to express attributes we feel are beyond our capacities.  “I could never sing like that…”etc.  Here, the attribute expressed is something we hold in highest regard.  More than anything, we wish we could express the attribute with the same skill.  Because of this adoration, those who are able to express it are elevated in a way that makes them superior: we make them into stars That may seem innocent enough, but what is toxic about this is that we are disowning something that we can and should claim for ourselves.  We are minimizing ourselves rather than empowering ourselves.  IT is self-negating to believe that an attribute is totally beyond our capability.  Those who are worshiped may express the attributes in a positive way, but they are still carrying our projection, and we use them as a way of avoiding claiming it for ourselves.  This is dangerous territory, for some idols become drunk on the projected power they are given and soon lead their followers into ruin and disaster.  Examples of this would be David Koresh, Jim Jones and Adolph Hitler. . . .

Just as we disown parts of ourselves, we disown parts of the divine. . . .

White shadow happens with the divine, when we give away our capacity to deal with life challenges. . . .

[W}e must always accept our responsibility to try and do something rather than be victims.

(Submitted by Hanz Bolen, H.W., M.)


Translators: Zoe Robinson, Sara Walker, Bo Lebo, Heather Williams

SENSE TESTIMONY: Persons are asleep, in denial, blind to their ability to make choice.

5th Step Conclusions:

  1. One Infinite Mind is Ever Present Here NOW the ability to think and govern thought.
  2. Consciousness Being the One True Substance, the Essence of All, is in Total acknowledgement of Itself as that which is Completeness as Choiceless Choice.
  3. The Truth of all which includes persons is constant omniscient awareness infinitely knowing ONENESS.
  4. To come


Translators: Mike Zonta, Melissa Goodnight, Richard Branam, Hanz Bolen

SENSE TESTIMONY:  People continue to try obstructing one another.

5th Step Conclusions:

1) Truth is solid state; a public, continuous being, dwelling, building, standing on its own, by its own.

2)  Infinite Consciousness Beingness, That I Am, is evermore limitlessly outpicturing ONE singular and universal transcendent purpose, in every individuation of Self-expression.

3)  All One Mind Truth is the master, the universal integrity, touching and sustaining all with clarity, sustaining each and every individuation in agreeable abundance. Universal Integrity of Truth always works well together.

4) Truths’ Intimate, innate, Inherent Equipment is Consciousness Aware I am I, Individuated Continuum, Being this Flourishingly Autismical Super Constructive Infra Structure.

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