Jonathan Cloud::Life, Examined Reflections on the Human Project, & on the ironies & opportunities of the 21st century.

JC Sketch NYC 2004

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"An unexamined life is not worth living." (Socrates)


UN Environment Award,
received 1985.

      UN Environment Award (1985)

This is my personal web site, workspace, and web log. It is where I present myself professionally, as a speaker, a mentor, and a business advisor. In addition, it serves as a place for things that do not have a home elsewhere. Principally, at this point, this includes my work on "the Human Project," a multidisciplinary inquiry into the continuing evolution of our species. This is the underlying theme of all of my interests: given the reality of history, what is our direction as humans, as the most "advanced" expression of the force of life in our corner of the universe?

My principal everyday focus is on creating the Sustainable Business Incubator as "Entrepreneur in Residence" at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Institute for Sustainable Enterprise. I am also available to speak on a number of topics to groups of any size; my presentations are informative, interactive, and entertaining - and they make the point that we face both an overwhelming challenge, and an overwhelming opportunity, to transform our world.

My work is spread over several dozen web sites, personal, political, and professional. Some of these are listed below, with brief descriptions. Once this listing is more or less complete, it will give a good overview of my interests, preoccupations, and dilemmas.

The photos above include my grandfather Herman Bernstein, my mother Hilda Cloud, my sister Joyce Abell, my daughter Ilana, and my wife Victoria Zelin-Cloud. For more of my posted photos, click here.

The Bias in AI

January 30th, 2024

The more I play with ChatGPT, the more it seems to me to have a bias — a bias toward the conventional, toward an incorrectly “balanced” view, as well as a superficial tone and an attraction for clichés and bad writing.

As an example of what I’m talking about, consider the Chatbot’s response to Jonathan Rowson’s recent provocation on war and peace:

“Do we have a theory and practice of peace that is worthy of the risks and challenges of the 21st century? If not, how do we expect to survive? And if so, what would that look like?”[1]

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Can AI Systems Learn to Behave Ethically?

December 24th, 2023

A dialog with ChatGPT — published in Medium and at A World that Works.

November 25, 1944

December 10th, 2022

If you count back approximately 270 days, you arrive at February 29, 1944 — and yes, 1944 was a leap year — and it’s around this time that Hilda and Joe made love or, to state it more bluntly, had unprotected sex, and I was conceived. It was a Tuesday, under the sign of Pisces. Perhaps a foreshadowing of the Age of Aquarius, though apparently astrologers disagree as to when the Aquarian Age began or whether it has even started. So much for astrological precision. Or even relevance. I assume they were already married by then, since my mother had to formally divorce my father a few months after I was born, though I don’t know for sure.

At any rate, by November 25 I was born a Sagittarian, a straight shooter, “the centaur of mythology, the learned healer whose higher intelligence forms a bridge between Earth and Heaven. Also known as the Archer.” None of which I knew at the time.

In fact, the first story told about me is that when Hilda brought me home from the hospital she found Joe in bed with another woman. Somehow I also knew — perhaps my mother told me — she was a woman of color. He was, above all, a lover of many women. He was also an alcoholic, a newspaper reporter — indeed city editor of the Washington Post — and an inveterate liar. He gambled on the horse races and mostly lost. I saw him only half a dozen times during my childhood. The last time he was with a minor Hungarian princess, to whom he had spun stories of wealth and fame, both of which forever eluded him.

What little I know about him is probably wrong. I was told he was born in Redwood City, CA. has a “Joseph James Cloud, born in Washington City, California, USA on 10 May 1901 to Charles M Cloud and Lucille Cochran.” But that “Joseph James Cloud passed away on 31 Aug 1980 in Woodland, Yolo, California, USA,” and I doubt that my father could have lived that long. By 1953, when Hilda and I moved to Mexico in order to distance ourselves from Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Unamerican Activities Committee, he was already in declining health. He had also decamped from Maryland to parts unknown in order to avoid having to pay child support, or so my mother told me. Indeed everything I am recounting here came from Hilda.

I don’t remember a thing, though in my mind’s eye I see myself in swaddling clothes, being carried by her down the steps of the George Washington University Hospital, which at the time I imagined looked like the photo above (but probably did not).

[Continued at tssf.atg-host]

Latest Reflections (July 2022)

July 4th, 2022

A momentary pause in the midst of marginally-managed chaos. So much is going on, both good and bad, forward and backward. And yes, it’s still accelerating. The Earth’s population hasn’t leveled off yet; currently, it is estimated to be 7.96 billion (but see for today’s calculated number). The rate of growth has however leveled off, from 2.2% to 1% per year during my lifetime. Eventually, the population will stabilize, but the question is, at what level?

At the moment the burden on the Earth is increasing. The planet is already in “overshoot” on seven of the nine (soon to be ten) ecological boundaries. So in some sense, we are already in the midst of collapse — and in which we are still accelerating, putting more CO2 into the atmosphere, degrading the environment, and continuing the loss of biodiversity. These trends need to be reversed, sooner rather than later.

To reach even the modest goals of the cities, states, and the national government, greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2024 and then start a rapid descent from their all-time high, when the temperature is actually expected to reach the 1.5°C level.

So this is the big picture, and indeed this is a large part of what I have been focused on in the process of joining and quickly becoming Earth Regenerators’ fiscal sponsor. Meanwhile, locally, we’ve moved to Rochester, bought a small house in Brighton (an inner-ring suburb), and I’m busy transforming what used to be a quarter acre of lawn into a permagarden — an orchard, a vegetable garden, and a pollinator garden.

Writing this I’m conscious of leaving out much of the narrative and of the context of how we got here, which will have to wait for another time. What’s new, though, is the intention to keep posting reflections on a regular basis, to begin to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for myself, to be able to reconstruct at least the story from here on.

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Hitler or Hillary? A Stark Choice

August 4th, 2016

Why we all need to stand up and be counted

The mere fact that Donald Trump has been designated the Republican nominee for President should give us all cause for concern. No one with such a clearly authoritarian personality has ever been a plausible candidate for the most powerful office in the world. The campaign that we see unfolding before us is not a reality show, but a sobering reality. It is not unreasonable that we should ask ourselves what would happen if we were to stand by and not speak out against it.
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Recently Discovered News Article on Rooftop Greenhouses

May 25th, 2016

Thanks to Google News, I’ve recently uncovered a 1981 article in which I was featured discussing rooftop greenhouses.

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November 16th, 2014

What I’ve gotten out of Landmark

Like a lot of Landmark graduates, I can genuinely say that I’ve gotten much of my life from my participation in the programs. I was introduced to the programs by the woman I am now married to, after having walked out of an introduction session because I considered it to be total hype and completely implausible. This was in 1985, shortly after the transformation of the est training into the Forum (now called the Landmark Forum), in Canada.

My first course was actually the Communication Workshop (now retired), which had a profound and immediate effect on me. I was 41 years old, and had already done an enormous amount in my life, including living in several countries, earning a Commonwealth Scholarship in New Zealand, moving to Toronto and then to Ottawa to work for the Canadian federal government, spending a year in Paris and visiting Israel and Gaza, and returning to Ottawa and starting a passive solar design and construction business, building houses, and moving into real estate development. I had refused to attend the Forum, but I was willing to consider that I might learn something from a course on communication, since I was having trouble keeping my thirty-five employees on track in the construction business. After four years in business I was already a half-million dollars in the hole. That the course was being led by a Montreal real estate developer also appealed to me. But I was still skeptical that this might be some kind of Scientology scam, which I’d already encountered though not fallen prey to.

Unless you’ve done some kind of transformational program such as est, Landmark, Actualizations, LifeSpring, etc. I can pretty much guarantee that you have no idea of what’s possible. In the course of as little as a weekend, your entire world view is exposed as a fabrication, a fabrication you put together in response to whatever incidents happened to occur in your childhood, and how you chose to interpret them at the time. The experience is shattering, but also enormously freeing: you see who you have become, and have the opportunity to choose newly.
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Greening the Center

November 15th, 2014

Along with many other graduates, I believe it’s important for all of us to be aware of our ecological footprint on the Earth, and set an example of social responsibility. I am interested in exploring the possibility of a project to “green” Landmark’s South Plainfield center, find out whether other centers are having similar conversations, and discuss this question with the organization.

Some of the possibilities are:

  • Developing an effective recycling program
  • Analyzing the ecological footprint of the operation
  • Conserving energy
  • Minimizing waste
  • Engaging staff and volunteers in designing ecological ways of conducting Landmark’s programs
  • Creating an ongoing “customer feedback group” for the Center
  • Exploring opportunities with the owner and facilities manager for the building and the complex, such solar canopies and/or rooftop arrays, motion sensor lighting in bathrooms, etc.)

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Biodiversity for a Livable Climate

November 15th, 2014

Biodiversity for a Livable Climate was founded in 2013 by Jim Laurie, Karl Thidemann, Helen D. Silver, Jane Hammer and Adam Sacks.  We saw an urgent need to expand the climate conversation to include the seriously underestimated positive impacts of the biosphere on the climate and physical world.  We see how appropriate human approaches to nature may be able to reverse the effects of global warming despite our inability to date to reduce emissions in a timely manner.  Our goal is to contribute to planetary regeneration through research, education, collaboration and action to restore essential global biodiversity.

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Yet Another…

November 14th, 2014

Attempt to classify, display, and keep track of everything I write or make notes on…

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