Saturday, November 26, 2022

I do not make an external to-do list.

I haven't been able to write anything in this space for a week now, due to a hectic schedule involving lectures and travel.

Meanwhile, I was feeling that there was always something in my mind, mostly unconscious, suggesting and urging to write an entry in the qualia journal. This is a phenomenon probably familiar to you all, and I find it quite interesting in terms of brain functions involved.

When you haven't met someone for sometime, there would often a "reminder" in your head, alerting and nudging you to make a contact to that person in question. When there is an overdue homework, you would be often unconsciously reminded of it. Sometimes, things would emerge out of the blue, presenting a case that it needs to be done immediately. It would be interesting to speculate how this is done in the brain circuits, possibly involving the lateral prefrontal cortex

 (LPFC), but it is also quite fascinating to acknowledge that such a cognitive process exists at all. 

I do not make an external to-do list. I have a habit of holding a mental image of what needs to be done in the short, medium, and long terms, and try to do something from that list whenever there are a few spare minutes, hopefully reducing the stack. 

Now that I have written something brief here (this entry), there are other items I need to attend to, and I would try to do so at my next available leisure.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

An oil painting of Albert Einstein reaching for a blue earth in the darkness of the universe, sprinkled with pink hearts

This is an artwork that I presented at the Peace Exhibition held in Spiral, Omotesando, Japan, from18th November to 20th November. 

It was actually open-AI's DALL-E which created the image, based on my prompt text:

 “An oil painting of Albert Einstein reaching for a blue earth in the darkness of the universe, sprinkled with pink hearts”

It is interesting to play with these AI systems. In a sense, you are fine-tuning the response of the AI with increasingly detailed and sophisticated text. In order to generate this particular image, I experimented with several tens of prompts, 52 to be precise. 

If you make your own drawing or painting, the narrowing down in the phase space is straightforward, because you are using your own hands. With an AI such as DALL-E, it becomes more of an educated guess work. While your own manual maneuver is sharply directed, negotiations with AIs are more random and full of surprises, whether serendipitous or nasty, and that, I suspect, would be a common defining feature of our lives in the near future with artificial intelligence systems.

Friday, November 18, 2022

A sense of inadequacy in Soseki's works.

I was reading Soseki Natsume again. A few days ago I finished Kojin, and was moved by the impression of the brother, who was intelligent but did not know what to do with the world in general, let alone his wife.

A sense of inadequacy is always a central theme of Soseki. After Kojin, I moved on to Kokoro, another study of the feeling of "not good enough". The protagonist of Kokoro, a young student, is nevertheless attracted to Sensei, who does not seem to be forthcoming in giving advise and mentorship.

In the latter half of Kokoro we learn the tragic event behind the hesitation of Sensei. However, I do feel that the unfortunate events that led to the reclusion of Sensei was only a visualization of much more universal and profound human condition.

In the world today, we see too many people who appear to be confident, eager to give advises to people, whether well-intended or otherwise. Soseki's Kojin and Kokoro are such fresh breaths of air because we all know that superficial people can only help us in superficial ways.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

A stone-age anachronism

The alleged falling of Russian missile in Poland is a case of ambiguities.

Whether the missile was Ukrainian or Russian in origin, the larger picture is that it is ultimately the war that is responsible. 

The world is a complex system, and events and intentions are often mixed and dispersed be. Fact-checking is useful, but we should ultimately be focused on the larger picture, in order to see things clearly onto the future.

The gist of the matter, it seems to me, is that the concept of nation states with clear national borders and the claim by the supposed "leaders" of countries to defend the territory no matter what human costs might be is now a stone-age anachronism and has no place in the world today. 

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is a shameful demonstration of the cognitive vulnerabilities of supposedly cunningly wise leaders, and should be stopped immediately, in order not to allow the merchants of death take advantage of the ambiguities that exist and would surely keep emerging like bamboo shoots after rain.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Connect the numbers and qualia directly

Numbers exist, in their natural style of exactness. We can make operations on them, and arrive at interesting relationships.

As an ideology, you might want to give formal foundations for numbers, through set theory or category theory, for example. However, as Bertrand Russell demonstrated, it is very easy to cause a havoc with self-referential structures in such approaches. These formal minimalistic frames of theory remain surprisingly futile. 

There is a human instinct which does not accept rich diversity of existence in a straightforward way. Numbers are numbers, but we simply cannot acknowledge them at their face values. 

The same goes for qualia. Although they are clearly here, people have tried to extinguish them, preferring more abstract and ultimately unproductive formal systems. 

It might be possible to bypass the barren land of formality altogether and connect the numbers and qualia directly, in the context hinted here.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Anne Shirley emerged in my mind as Carl Jung's amina

When I was 10, I was in the public library, looking for books to read. One particular volume was in the shelf, and the back of it appeared to be shining.

That was the Japanese translation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. I checked out the book, read it, and immediately fell in deep resonance with it. I went on to read all of Anne series. When I started to learn English at the age of 12, I was immediately interested in reading the Anne series in its native tongue. I was fifteen when I read Anne of Green Gables in English in its entirety. To this day, I regard this particular series of experience as one of the defining moments in my life.

It is difficult to say what made me so attracted to this juvenile novel. With the benefit of hindsight, it would appear that Anne Shirley emerged in my mind as Carl Jung's amina, an idealized image of someone of the opposite sex. Anne Shirley's enthusiasm, imagination, and the power to change the world through language helped me develop psychologically and cognitively when I was a teenager. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Mastodon and twitter

In the last few days, some people have suggested mastodon as an alternative to twitter. 

I signed up, and I like the cartoons and feels.

Having said that, I think I would stay with twitter as my main social network service for the time being, even with the havocs caused by Elon Musk.

I am of the opinion that people are making too much fuss about the perceived ill-advised behaviors of the serial entrepreneur.

Even with some damages, the platform would stay viable and a first choice for exchanging ideas for the time being, in my opinion.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Talk by Prof. Stuart Hameroff at The University of Tokyo Komaba campus

It is such a quantum pleasure to welcome Prof. Stuart Hameroff at the University of Tokyo Komaba campus. This would be an informal, in-depth seminar attended by people (faculty and students) interested in the science of consciousness. Prof. Hameroff will be accompanied by Mr. Hidehiko Saegusa from the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. 


Prof. Hameroff with Sir Roger Penrose

1700-1830 on the 22nd June (Wednesday) 2022, at Room 1313, Bldg. 13

Hosted by Ken Mogi and Takashi Ikegami.  

Inquiries to

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Of course afterlife exists. Afterlife 3 by Ricky Gervais review.

I enjoyed Afterlife 3, written and directed by Ricky Gervais.

As is well known, Mr. Gervais is an atheist. In Afterlife 3, however, there seemed to be a nod at the idea of the afterlife, in an attempt to be humane, rather than ideologically pure, in the script and acting.

After all we are all in this together, this life on the earth, and the gist of the attitude is to share. The symbolic bench scenes capture the spirit of coming together, acknowledging each other's miseries and imperfections.

If there is a young soul who has a genuine interest in the afterlife, what should one do but to convey a warm heart through kind words? In one of the unforgettable moments of the series, Mr. Gerais says that he believes there is an afterlife to a child who is undergoing chemotherapy. A true sign of humanity.

The lemon scene in episode 2 was brilliant deep, signaling a watershed moment in the psyche of the series, foretelling the enigmatic but deeply satisfying final scene of people and a dog walking on the greens. A superb ending to the whole series. 

Saturday, January 08, 2022

The Lost Daughter. Life is actually about a lost doll.

The Lost Daughter, written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, is a complexly rich statement on womanhood and motherhood. There is that enigma about the doll, which remained unresolved until the end. However, rather than giving an exact landing point for the doll mystery, it would be more appropriate to leave it there, like life's many intricacies that just happen and leave us fundamentally changed in the process.

Life is actually about a lost doll.

The stellar performances of the mature (Olivia Colman) and young (Jessie Buckley) Leda are unforgettable, the latter reminding me again of the superb film I'm thinking of Ending things.

A Psychodrama succeeds when it depicts fully the extent of the complexity of depth of the human mind as it happens, not within the confinements of ethics and ideologies ("humans are and should be like this" and that kind of thing), and The Lost Daughter does just that. 

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Seeing Tokyo Story is a great training for not crying in public.

On 26th of December last year (2021), I had the delight of viewing Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story in Cinema Onomichi. Onomichi, needless to say, is the place where the beginning and the end of the film was located. It was magical to walk out of the cinema, just after the film finished, into the real Onomichi of today. The sun was setting, and everything was embraced in golden reddish light. The sudden transformation appeared to present before me the magic of the cinema and the world we live in at the same time. I could almost cry.

I did not weep, as I had to give a public lecture soon afterwards. Seeing Tokyo Story is a great training for not crying in public. For me, it seems that I tend to shed some tears when I feel that I have touched some truths in an abrupt manner. Just being exposed to a sad scene does not trigger that magic circuit in me. With Tokyo Story, there are many scenes which reveal generic human truth, so there is a genuine risk of weeping in public, albeit in the comfort of the darkness of the theater. I did weep rather heavily when I saw Tokyo Story in London, while I was doing postdoc in University of Cambridge. I felt that the dry crack within me was filled with serene water. 

Monday, January 03, 2022

The power of the dog then leaves an unforgettable impression, like the soil under our feet from which greens flourish and flowers bloom.

A few days after viewing The Power of the Dog, my mind is still vibrating in the recollected afterglow of impressions I received from this film. The casting is superb, and I do think it is Benedict Cumberbatch's best performance in career so far.

There is something enigmatic about the film, and I do not claim to have deciphered the mystery. I think the taming of the wild and unpredictable, the power of the dog, is a common theme in contemporary society with which we can all identify and shiver. It is a nuisance and should be cleverly phased out. And yet, we see at the same time that love, life's vital forces, and a sense of community all arise because of the power of the dog, which we utilise and then shamelessly discard. The power of the dog then leaves an unforgettable impression, like the soil under our feet from which greens flourish and flowers bloom. 

The score by Jonny Greenwood was very original, eerily piercing, and totally profound.


Sunday, January 02, 2022

Albert's Regrets.

For some time, I have been thinking of writing a fictional work titled Albert's Regrets. When you think of the life of Albert Einstein, you would think that his greatest regret scientifically has been the fact that he could not complete his unified theory of physics. He might regret his treatment of his first wife, Mileva, both on personal and professional terms. Some estimate that Mileva contributed to theory of relativity much more than is usually thought.

Albert's greatest regret, however, would have been the signing of the letter to President Roosevelt to develop the atomic bomb. There was historical urgency to do so, to be sure. On the other hand, when you know Einstein's deeply pacifist views, he would have been the last person you would expect to be involved in such a conduct. So there is a genuinely profound food for thought in the circumstances in which Albert Einstein wrote that crucial letter.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Ecological sharing in bonsai.

I wrote about this in my forthcoming book The Way of Nagomi, and I think the editor did not cut it (although at this particular moment I am not that sure). I think the Japanese art of bonsai is a great way for plants to share the ecological space.

When you see a great tree, it is all beautiful. At the same time, it means that the tree has a monopoly on the ecological niche. When you have bonsai, a tree can fulfil its life potentials in a limited space while allowing other entities to enjoy the adjacent spaces. 

This, I think, is the most beautiful aspect of bonsai.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Nietzsche phenomenon.

I think there is what could be tentatively called the Nietzsche phenomenon. Friedrich Nietzsche was a great philosopher. His philosophical writings are full of inspirations and poetic repercussions. His ideas about life are superb. I love his conceptualization of the apotheosis of dancing. I endorse his prediction that the future would be centered around comedy rather than tragedy, as exposited in Gay Science.

Towards the latter part of his life, his passion seemed to have shifted to music, partly inspired by Richard Wagner. However, Nietzsche's compositions were at best mediocre. 

So how could someone who is a genius in one field be quite lagging in another, although he or she shows passion for that alternative activity? That is the Nietzsche phenomenon, or Nietzsche syndrome.

In general, perception and action are separate, so it is no mystery that one could perceive good music but is unable to produce one. Genius could be compartmentalized, so that one who excels in one field is quite awkward in another.

Having said that, perhaps it was Nietzsche's interest in music, together with the personality and mindset accompanying it, that made Nietzsche's philosophy great. His writings are musical after all.

Thus, the Nietzsche phenomenon might explain the makeup of some geniuses. Even if the output is poor, passionate interest in one field might improve the performance in another.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The ageing of the Japanese mind.

Tokyo Aircheck #3

The other day, Japan's prime minister Yoshihide Suga made some remarks on Tokyo Olympics in the Question Time at parliament. That is quite usual, but what was unusual was that Mr. Suga made some personal observations on the games, citing his memories of the 1964 Tokyo games which he experienced as a boy. The fact that the recollections, delivered in warm tone, failed to fascinate the public imagination seems to tell more about the status quo of Japan than Mr. Suga himself.

I sometimes wonder if the Japanese mindset, at least in the way it is depicted in the (social) media, has not aged compared to the heydays of rapid economic growth. The Olympic movement has not become old. Only the minds of some people have lost vigour, while the games of life goes on.


related video

Why P.M. Suga's recount of the Olympics became a bad PR.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Catch 22 for Dr. Shigeru Omi. #tokyoaircheck

Tokyo Aircheck #2

Dr. Shigeru Omi is a respected medic with a track record of earnest work and personal integrity, but he probably has lost the trust of Prime Minister Suga and key people in government. In Japan, the unwritten code of action is harmony. You need to keep accord with those you work with at any costs, and if you break that rule, then whatever you do, you would be judged to be unsound. 

I am not making any judgments on Dr. Omi or Mr. Suga or those government officials. I am just making an observation. I can tell now that Dr. Omi is rapidly losing influence and respectability within the Tokyo government, especially as regards his alarmist attitude to the Tokyo Olympics.

If Dr. Omi makes the extraordinary move of appealing to the IOC directly, he would lose his standing within Tokyo further. It is a catch 22 situation for the respected medic.


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Tokyo Olympics more likely to go ahead now. #tokyoaircheck

Tokyo Aircheck #1

In Tokyo, there is a growing feeling that the Olympics and Paralympics would go forward, mainly influenced by the activities and achievements of athletes. On Sunday, Ryota Yamagata set a new Japanese national record for the 100m heat of 9.95. Yamagata would have to compete in the coming Japan Championship at the end of this month to qualify for the Olympics. Then, the legendary gymnast Kohei Uchimyra qualified for the Olympics in men's horizontal bar event. Uchimura has been men's artistic individual all-around Olympic champion in the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and considering his age (32), made a decision to focus on the parallel bar to go to the Olympics.

Given the heat coming from the enthusiasm and efforts by these athletes, it is felt that the rest of us should perhaps make corresponding efforts to make the games a reality, despite the difficulties all of us are facing at this time.

Related video

Heat is up for Tokyo Olympics.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

A critique of Ramseyer paper.

A paper by Harvard law Professor Mark Ramseyer has recently been drawing controversy.

Ramseyer, J. M. (2021). Contracting for sex in the Pacific War. International Review of Law and Economics, 65, 105971.

Personally, I always felt that these historical issues should be taken in the light of human rights and universal values standards of today. Otherwise we would not do justice to the human beings that we currently are.

Reports in the New York Times and New Yorker seem to have been mainly concerned with historic facts and interpretations of them. While these are certainly important issues, reading the paper, I was more concerned by the weakness and irrelevance of the game theoretic approach that Prof. Ramseyer applied to this issue in the paper. 

Although economic analysis based on game theory has been a powerful tool, when you think of the comfort woman controversy, money is not necessarily the first thing that would come into your mind. Compared to issues of human dignity, freedom, and social and psychological coercion, not to mention the military culture at that time,  economic factors seem to be a subsidiary issue at best. 

In the above paper, Prof. Ramseyer gives some casual descriptions of credible commitments, reward and income structures, compensation for much higher risks involved, indenture contracts with a large advance with one or two year terms, etc. but fails go extend the theoretically analysis fully, so that non-trivial results are obtained which are not obvious from the assumptions themselves. This insufficient treatment, coupled with the general neglect of social, cultural, and psychological elements described, for example, in Min Jee Lee's novel Pachinko (2018), makes the Ramseyer paper largely irrelevant to the comfort woman controversy.

This is very unfortunate, especially considering the fact that Prof. Ramseyer is an excellent scholar, versed in the interplay between law and economics. It is a pity that Prof. Ramseyer failed to see much beyond that. 

Related video

A critique of Ramseyer paper

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The White Tiger is not so beautiful.

I watched the acclaimed Netflix original White Tiger. I should say I did not resonate with the film so much. The White Tiger is not so beautiful.

It tells a story of class division and political dirt in India. The protagonist aspires to climb the social ladder, identifying himself with the white tiger he sees in a zoo. The beauty of the beast inspires him to break free from the slave mentality.

Although the satire is good and the actings superb, the script and editing lacked a crucial finishing touch, depicting only the crime and not the punishment. It may be OK to be bullish in the climb uphill, but if a self-reflection is lacking there it would fall short of a literally masterpiece, let alone a cinematic one.

To be fair, I haven't read the original novel yet. I might have different impressions from the presumably more nuanced text. 

If the film had some self-reflecting element at the end, I might have been more favourably inclined. The fact that it was received favourably by Western critics appears to suggest some element of political correctness applied to the rise of India and China by the West, repentant of its colonial past, which is good in itself but does not testify for the quality of the work. In all, I see it as a great missed opportunity.