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Thoughts On And For A Structured Existence

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“Light Bulbs And Enlightenment”: Thomas Edison’s Ironic And Misguided War On Sleep

  edisons-prophecy-a-duplex-sleepless-dinnerless-world-literary-digest-nov-14-1914

 

      Thomas Edison, perhaps referencing Plato in “Laws” (“By nature, prolonged sleep does not suit either the body or soul, nor does it help us to be active in all this kind of work.“),  ushered in the Age of Electricity and the electric light bulb in 1879. But with the brilliance of the “inventor” came the dogma of the “businessman”:

Everything which decreases the sum total of man’s sleep increases the sum total of man’s capabilities.

The historical irony of Edison’s exhortations are manifest: the man who resisted sleep and promoted sleeplessness, ultimately died of complications of Type 2 Diabetes. Obesity and diabetes are consequences of the electric light’s disruption of sleep/wake cycles and circadian rhythms:

electric-light-particularly-at-night-disrupts-human-circadian-rhythmicity-is-that-a-problem-royal-society

The poets and playwrights of the Age of Enlightenment and Romantic Era knew the value of sleep for health and well-being:

to-sleep-by-william-wordsworth-1770-1850

Sleep allows the brain to process, retain and discard the day’s images and information, a process of “forgetting” stress and strain as Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” bemoans:

henry-iv-part-ii-o-sleep-o-gentle-sleep

Levinus Lemnius (1505-1568) wrote that one should sleep eight hours as it “…repairs and raiseth up the tired mind and spirits that are exhausted with constant studies and lucubrations”. Time will show “….wise men at their end know dark is right.”

“Poetry Must Be Difficult”: Artificial Intelligence And The Coming Renaissance In Literary Culture

     In awarding the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature to T.S. Eliot, the Swedish Academy cited the “horror vacui (Latin for “fear of empty space”) of modern man in a secularized world, without order, meaning, or beauty” that Eliot wrote about and confronted. This demise of Literary Culture, bemoaned for over 100 years, commenced with World War I and its aftermath.

Popular Culture has evolved from war and debasement of authority in the 20th Century. The Information Age provides on-demand entertainment and, as Eliot and many others would describe, pseudo-culture to billions of people. A supermarket of easy to understand programming.

But Cultural Literacy is challenging and comprehensive:

T. S. Eliot, review of Metaphysical Lyrics and Poems of the Seventeenth Century Donne to Butler Times Literary Supplement, October 1921 and Selected Essays 1929

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could usher in a new Renaissance, a “reinvented version of Humanism“. AI algorithms will access great works of classical antiquity and Western Literary Canon, and, aided by 190,000 word vocabularies (Shakespeare’s plays use 33,000), will write original, comprehensive and allusive literature. Curated AI is now publishing poetry and prose written only by machines.

The School of Athens Fresco by Italian Renaissance Artist Raphael 1511

Eliot wrote thatpoetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion”. Machine learning, unemotional, evolving with experience, offers a “predictive” quality. Will history and Literary Culture predictably repeat themselves with Plato and Aristotle at the center?

“My Kingdom For A Nail”: How The Conquest Of The Veneti In Gaul Launched The Roman Empire

Julius Caesar (100 – 44 BC) completed the defeat of Gaul in 51 BC, extending Rome’s reach to the English Channel, creating the imperial foundation that launched the Roman Empire (27 BC – 395 AD).

Caesar wrote of battling the seafaring Celtic Veneti, whose fleet of superior, larger ships (with no oars) were made of heavy oak transoms fastened by long iron nails “the thickness of a thumb“. Only by slashing the halyards of the Veneti’s leather sails did he disable and defeat the enemy.

Hand-forged iron nails (10” and longer) revolutionized Roman shipbuilding (bigger warships and merchant fleets), fortified military camps (“Castra“), and siege engines. Military Engineering progressed steadily from each conquest, merging and perfecting innovations of other cultures on a scale that the world had never seen before. Size matters in world domination.

Rome’s insatiable need for iron ore demanded improved metallurgy,  conquest of distant territories, and the stable administration of mines in those lands, including Spain, Portugal, Austria, Britain, Egypt and Carthage (Tunisia).

Five Iron Nails from Roman Fortress of 83 AD  at Inchtuthil in Scotland excavated in 1960 photoA Roman Fortress in Britain (Scotland), dating to 83 AD, was excavated in 1952-65 and found to have 750,000 iron nails buried in a pit. Distant outposts used the same heavy hardware throughout the Empire.

“For the want of a nail”. Not this kingdom.

 

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