Thursday, December 30, 2010

For those in favor of addressing symptoms and small, particular problems...

Will watering the leaves of a plant allow it to grow, or do we have to water the roots?

The Venus Project: Accusations of being a cult

For obvious reasons, the Venus Project cannot be defined as a cult. However, to preempt future accusations outright, I wonder whether that organization's followers could benefit from the following improvements:

1. Stop referring to themselves as a "movement" or "project." Technically, no one has to fill out a form or endure some initiation rite in order to "become" a "member," so the Venus Project is already not a true organization -- and I understand the benefits of creating names, logos, and other concrete symbols to motivate people -- but the resultant backlash is immense. Those who have knee-jerk reactions to the proposals may not be worth our time in the first place, but their insipid outbursts and archaic rhetoric can be preempted by simply discussing the ideas themselves "undercover," so to speak -- as yourself, and not as a "member" or "supporter" of anything. While this will do nothing to correct people's underlying biases and mental obstructions, it'll at least get them interested in reforming society in a manner less hostile to their generalized presumptions as regards human activity; once that occurs, then we can worry about correcting their thinking.

2. Get more contributors to take the reins. If hundreds of people put their faces on the ideas -- as opposed to just Jacque Fresco, Roxanne Meadows, and Peter Joseph -- then there will at least be a push toward labeling others as something-ists over referring to them as part of a more well-defined, physical group or organization.

Neither of these suggestions will eliminate dissenters, but they don't have to for the same reasons that upgrading your laptop's memory doesn't have to completely prevent runtime errors and memory dumps.

Two requests for humanity

1. When presented with new information -- including that found in this blog -- scrutinize it from as many angles as you possibly can; check the information for "glitches" and flaws, regardless of the track record or authoritative status of, or your relation to, the information provider. If the provider is a close friend, person of eminent status, or someone with a history of successful ideas, this does not guarantee his sanctity or infallibility, and so his future proposals should be treated with the same degree of initial scrutiny and analysis as those of anyone else on Earth. Even when an idea or set of ideas sounds reasonable, do not ever stop checking it for errors or faults; always attack your own perspective, no matter how counterintuitive this might feel.

2. When in a state of relative ignorance with respect to a field of knowledge, be humble, and admit your ignorance; do not obstruct progress by professing an understanding of something where you possess no such understanding, or where the data is insufficient to warrant action -- or even discussion. "I'll let the two of you decide what we should do, because I don't know anything about the topic" is always the superior option where you are relatively or comparatively ignorant, regardless of what damage it does to your ego; the alternatives breed wild goose chases, clutter, "the blind leading the blind," and even social enmity.

If possible, find a way to improve the current operating system running on your computer; after all, how likely is it that it'll prove to be the last version to ever exist? Likewise, let architects build your bridges; do not interfere with their work with criticisms.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New links in the sidebar

A YouTube channel had a comment a week or two ago with a link to an antinatalism blog. As it turns out, there's a small network of antinatalism/anti-nature blogs that are worth checking out, so I've added a few of the better ones to the links section in the right sidebar. Not sure what my rarely frequented blog will do for theirs, but if you're reading this, go have a look.

What does the average person care about?

So I felt like making a list of things the average person cares about. I think it's pretty all-encompassing, but I'm sure I've left some important things out. These are great examples of why we need to reform the human value system as soon as possible.

Note: None of these applies to me -- at least, not intentionally; I like to think that they're a quick composite of the current state of society, and not targeting any group or person in particular.

I hope he doesn't know that I'm a virgin.

I better get a free sandwich because of this. This thing has no toppings!

What do you expect? He's a liberal.

What do you expect? He's a conservative.

Why didn't he thank me? That deserved a thank you.

No, I was the one who fixed it. Why don't you go ask so and so? He'll back me up. It was me, not the other guy! It was ME! 

No, I was the one who helped you, remember? What has he ever done for you? Forget about him. I do things out of the kindness of my heart! 

Jesus, how much do you think that guy weighs? He looks ridiculous.

Wow, look at that guy. I bet he has no friends.

Who did the dishes last? It isn't MY turn. It's HIS turn.

Did you hear about whatshername? Yeah, she broke up with her boyfriend yesterday!

Yeah? Well, at least I have a life!

What are you doing using that? That's MINE!

Public opinion is turning against my favorite pop star! Ugh, what can she do to be on top again?

You really think your favorite pop star is better than mine? Please! My favorite is WAY more real, and even writes her own songs. 

Hey, I'm your FAN. No one cares more about what you do than the fans. We DESERVE something new NOW. Do you have any idea how long we've been waiting?

I know that he's controlling and a jerk to other people, but I can't help how I feel about him.

If I could just manage to talk to women and get a girlfriend, I wouldn't need anything else in life.

God, I'm so socially inept and ugly. I'm a total loser.

Our sports team won last night! We're the best!

I can't eat that. I'll get fat if I eat stuff like that.

I want a smaller nose. My life is pretty good, but if I could save up the money to get my nose fixed, I wouldn't have any worries.

That celebrity wears way too much makeup. I would NEVER look like that.

You don't have a Facebook? I didn't even know that that was POSSIBLE in this day and age.

Is this fifty percent off? Better get two, even though I don't even need one.

At least I don't drive an SUV. How much of the ozone layer do you think that guy is destroying with that thing?

My friend laughed at me yesterday for being awkward in front of his other friend. I feel really bad now, because I want him to like me.

I got a B on the final. Ugh, my GPA is going to suffer because of this.

Ew, you smoke? You ARE aware that that's going to kill you and make you stink, right?

Go a few more blocks and waste some more gas to get to the other gas station; gas is five cents cheaper there than it is here.

Did you just spill that all over MY rug?

You need to get out of the house more. This isn't good for your MENTAL HEALTH.

Only poor, fat people eat at this fast food chain. That one documentary told me that fast food's bad for your health, and it doesn't cost much, so I put two and two together.

Jeez, are you still not getting this? Sorry, but you are obviously wrong about your philosophical stance, here. Ever read a book by this guy? No? Didn't think so. Go read him; he'll change your life the way he changed mine. Maybe then, you'll understand things in as much depth as I do.

You're obviously a blahblahblah-ist. Ever considered blehblehbleh-ism? Because that's what I am.

Who are you to judge me? You know what? I don't care. I don't care what you or anyone else thinks about me.

Who are you to judge my favorite music artist? I'd like to see YOU make a hit album.

Hey, do whatever you want, as long as it doesn't break the golden rule or hurt anybody else.

Being sexy is important, but ONLY if you can do it without getting surgical enhancements. It's okay to spend tons of money on your appearance so long as it doesn't involve a knife.

Who are you to tell me that I can't have children? What if my future son turns out to be the next Einstein? You would have prevented the next EINSTEIN from coming into the world.

Wow, all you ever do is talk about the world's problems. How depressing! You need to either lighten up and have a little fun or kill yourself. You hate YOUR life, right? That's what you're saying, right?

Love can change the world. Love everyone unconditionally!

My life is meaningful because I am sexually liberated. Free your inner slut; you won't regret it!

Society would be so much better if we'd get rid of all of the corporations and show nature a little respect. Down with corruption! Up with sustainability!

You don't believe in aliens? Wow, talk about having a closed mind.

There are trillions of stars in the universe, so I KNOW for a FACT that aliens are out there.

We're supposed to live in a progressive society, but gays can't marry? Unbelievable.

I normally don't get so riled up about issues like this, but what can I say? This particular one is actually important to me, and is a big part of who I am.

You have a WHAT fetish? Man, you need to see a shrink.

I didn't know you liked THAT kind of music. It's not a big deal, I just never would have expected it from you, of all people.

HE didn't show up for work today? He's never a missed a day before. That's definitely not like him, the little goody goody!

He thinks that's a funny show? What, is he retarded or something? Then again, most people enjoy their low-brow humor...

I don't care if that's my responsibility. I deserve a BREAK right now, alright? Piss off.

He sleeps in until WHEN? Jesus, what a lazy guy.

Can you even spell? I'm not going to listen to anything you have to say if you type like that.

If I could only obtain the thing that I currently desire most, I wouldn't ever want anything else. I just need ONE MORE.

It's not cheating if it's online, right? I deserve affection.

I deserve respect.

I am entitled to anything I want, so long as it doesn't cause anyone physical pain. Well, maybe I deserve most of those things, too. I work hard!

I know that it wasn't my fault, but I still feel awful. Why did I do that? I regret it so much.

I can't stop thinking about that one particular event in my life that caused me and/or those around me some degree of discomfort. Screw the rest of the world; I HAVE to focus on this. It's a big deal!

I trust my senses, alright? You can keep on telling me what you THINK you heard me say, but I KNOW what I said. I'm not wrong. How could I be wrong about this?

What school do you go to? Oh...

Did you hear what happened on the news last night?

I know that what he did was wrong, but that doesn't give you any right to talk to him like that. He's a FAMILY member.

What happened to that country yesterday? Someone started bombing them? Yikes. Anyway, what else is on? 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What good has economic competition done for us?

We have to enact anti-collusion and anti-monopoly laws just to sidestep the inevitable consequences of capitalism, making it obvious that harmonious competition is far from the only -- or most likely, even -- outcome of that economic system. That's absurd enough as it is, but where is the competition in the following areas of our lives?

1. Google - Who stands a chance against Google? Bing? Yeah, right. How about Google's blog service, their translation service, their trends service, their online documents service, etc.? Where are the competitors, if competition is so good and natural?

2. YouTube (now part of Google) - Does YouTube more or less hold a monopoly on Internet videos? Yes, it does. Can you name a site with any decent chance of competing against YouTube?

3. Twitter

4. Facebook - MySpace has been killed by Facebook, leaving Facebook the monopoly on social networking. Scary!

5. Other examples of advertising-based companies becoming monopolies once their sites go viral

6. Microsoft (though they've been broken into separate corporations)

7. Best Buy devoured Circuit City a few years back.

8. Hechinger was put out of business by Home Depot not too long ago.

9. Netflix is on the verge of eliminating its last competitor, Blockbuster.

Everywhere I look, all I see is monopolies, monopolies, monopolies! Looks like it's time to upgrade our systems and give up on the idea of the invisible hand.

Of course, there isn't anything inherently wrong with there being one way of doing things, but monopolies 1. demonstrate the myth of naturally occurring, perpetual competition in human societies, and of its alleged benefits, and 2. allow companies to control markets without regard for consumer input. In the future, let's allow everyone to produce goods and services, and to collaborate while continually peer reviewing one another. That way, we can promote uniformity and a kind of social objectivity -- not by accepting standards imposed by any particular group, but by working together to come to conclusions. Company A, company B, and "the consumers" will come together and talk with one another in an effort to maintain checks and balances, with company A and company B joining together to form company C always remaining a strong possibility. Kick out the profit incentive, and this could be done not to guarantee growth, but to end disagreements on how to produce goods.

See: your electric company, the public library 

"Logical" vs "moral"

Another short entry for today

Something that a lot of modern people get wrong: the idea that, so long as an action is not "immoral," it doesn't matter how "illogical" it is -- it's everyone's "right" to take it, should they so choose. This kind of faulty reasoning should lead us to remove "morality" from our philosophy, because that abstraction is unnecessary in the first place (logical is logical, regardless of to what part of life it applies), and, additionally, it allows people to sidestep real, society-wide problems. It wouldn't make sense for me to neglect my health, for example, by gorging on fatty foods all day, but that action is not immoral (meaning that it doesn't directly harm anyone else, and doesn't interfere with the principle of consent) -- it's merely illogical. This distinction allows the majority of people in today's society to completely ignore the problem of their thoughts and behaviors, and to live irresponsibly -- in a phrase, "because it's not immoral."

Let's list assertions and discuss their merits

Let's list as many assertions that presently appear agreeable to us as we possibly can -- without pointless, arbitrary limitations in the form of "top 10" stipulations, et al. -- and then discuss their merits with one another. Everyone who sees himself as possessing a coherent perspective of the world around him should just start making short, poignant assertions in number format (1., 2....) somewhere so that we can get a more direct view of his current philosophy.

I've already done something similar (excepting the enumeration of the list, but this was months ago) here. I think, however, that everyone should do this so that we can better understand where we're all coming from. So, whether it's as a comment on this blog entry, a blog post of your own, a YouTube video, a book chapter, or something else, take some time out of your day once in a while to work on a list of assertions and ideas; it'll help all of us to make sense of the world.

Just a short rumination on economic collapse

I sometimes wonder why so many portend an imminent economic collapse in the first place, but what's still more peculiar is that many such people have no sense of the hell that we're already in. Does it ultimately matter whether we can "stabilize" something if it's inherently chaotic and strife-ridden? Talk of collapse seems to imply that things will get bad soon; on the contrary, things are already bad, and have been bad since the emergence of sentience on planet Earth. Why would we want to sustain something like that?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The problem with democracy

In simple terms: When it comes to forcibly removing ideas, it prevents everyone from acting, in order to preserve, in concept, that which they view as worth acting upon. In other words, it assumes that both person A and person B hold views of equal merit, so, because person A's views conflict with those of person B, neither should be allowed to act on his views, or to attempt to manually remove the ideas and practices of the other.

Democracy: Ensuring that no one does anything, all so that we can keep our "opinions," regardless of the sturdiness of their bases.

The contradiction, of course, is that laws are still enacted all the time; the premise behind them rests on the assumption that majority rule is somehow valid -- yet, when it comes to preventing ideas from remaining in the "meme pool" long after they've run their course, a taboo exists, regardless of whether a majority is in favor of their removal.

Note that this taboo exists for all "rights" -- not just the right to freedom of speech. For example, it is permissible in a democratic society to watch sports and get drunk, because those things are part of our "inalienable rights." Causing anyone direct harm as a consequence of those actions, however, impinges on someone else's rights, so we're not allowed to do that. We can, of course, believe that it's okay to harm others in such situations, because that's part of our "right" to freedom of speech. So, then, in a sense, we have too many unjustified "rights," while we also lack good preventative measures against most poor decisions.

Insane, isn't it?

We may remain alone forever

1. Life is probably incredibly rare, given that it arose on Earth only once.

2. Where life exists, intelligence is probably incredibly rare, given that it arose on Earth only once.

3. Where intelligent life exists, it is probably impossible for it to travel beyond its star system, given that there is no evidence for the existence of worm holes, and that our fastest space shuttles would take over 150,000 years just to reach Alpha Centauri, our closest neighbor. Artificially intelligent shuttles could be sent in the place of those operated by organic lifeforms, but, in any case, we have no evidence for the existence of anything of that sort.

There are at least 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars currently in the universe -- a number larger than the number of grains of sand on all of the Earth's beaches combined, and not even representing the total number of stars to have ever existed (we can still detect leftovers from long-extinct civilizations, remember) -- and it would only take one with advanced life in almost fourteen billion years for us to have evidence for the existence of such life anywhere. If only a quarter of those stars has orbiting planets, with only one hundredth of those stars having Earth-like planets orbiting them, with only a fifth of those stars having Earth-like planets containing life, with only a tenth of those stars having Earth-like planets containing intelligent life, with only one hundredth of those stars having Earth-like planets containing intelligent life capable of interstellar travel, that means that there are currently 5,000,000,000,000,000 (5 quadrillion) advanced civilizations in the universe capable of interstellar travel.

That would come out to be about one intelligent civilization capable of interstellar travel per two million stars. If, say, only a trillion of them have had this capability for at least a billion years, even with our technology, they'd each be capable of visiting close to 6,700 stars in that time (assuming that the average closest star is only a few light-years away). That means that, even with such conservative estimates, 6,700,000,000,000,000 (almost 7 quadrillion) stars have been visited by space-faring civilizations in the last billion years. Admittedly, that's still only about 1/1,500,000th of all of the stars in the universe, but premises 1 and 2 concern me enough to prevent me from being optimistic about our ever encountering extraterrestrials. If life arose here only once out of who knows how many trillions upon trillions of opportunities, how likely does that really make its emergence?

Of course, arbitrarily stopping at a billion years ago doesn't make too much sense, anyway, given that stars have existed for almost as long as the universe has, and a trillion is only 1/5,000th of our original number of interstellar civilizations; raise it to 100 trillion existing for five billion years instead of one billion, and you get 33,300 stars visited per civilization instead of 6,700, or 3,330,000,000,000,000,000 (over 3 quintillion) stars visited in the last five billion years -- over 1/3,000th of all stars in the entire universe -- by civilizations currently existing (in other words, not counting all the ones who've gone extinct). You can play with these numbers all day, because they're highly variable and far from certain, but I suspect that even the most conservative of estimates will yield similarly gargantuan numbers of civilizations.

The question that you should be asking yourself: Where is all of their trash? If we take the scientific community's assumption that where there's water, there's life, then in our original scenario, there'd currently be (again, disregarding even the ones who've gone extinct, which, if counted, would only increase the odds that we'd find "space trash") 25,000,000,000,000,000 (25 quadrillion) extraterrestrial civilizations capable of interstellar travel. The number of stars in the universe is fairly certain at this point; the number of stars with planets orbiting them is starting to become clear, as is the number of stars with planets similar in size and composition to the Earth; we're already fairly certain that it takes extraordinary circumstances for language and syntax to emerge from the process of natural selection; as demonstrated, given human lifespans, interstellar travel is currently looking next to impossible. Are the odds of encountering extraterrestrials really as good as scientists claim?

4. Even if it were possible for intelligent extraterrestrials to contact us, it is highly unlikely that they would have any groundbreaking, philosophy-altering information to give us. They would possibly be able to help us, but what they knew would likely not change our assumptions regarding anything meaningful. In other words, understanding the functionality of a particular process is all that is required in order to ascertain whether that process is worth perpetuating; you don't need to know every minute detail at every scale in an infinitude of abstraction.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A proposition

The following already exist in our society:

- Abstraction techniques
- Meta-analysis (especially in the field of psychology)
- Peer review
- The scientific method
- Process management
- Systems analysis and development
- Meta-cognition
- Qualitative analysis
- Risk analysis
- Cost-benefit analysis; theories of opportunity cost
- Lists of logical pitfalls and fallacies to avoid during debates
- Set theory
- Information theory/systems theory
- Relational/regression analysis
- Iterative, cyclical, incremental, agile methods for improving systems
- Information transparency

The problem is that they do not exist concomitantly, and so are incoherent within the mess that is our bureaucratic, emotionally-driven society. The integration of these systems components, if you will, into a cohesive whole will be necessary for alleviating and terminating the negative consequences of sentient existence -- so let's get started! If you regularly perform any of the above processes or utilize any of the above tools and methods in a specific, concentrated area of your life, please start utilizing them in ALL areas, regardless of how contra it may be to your worldview and justifications for existing.

Is it communism?

Preface: I am NOT a "member" of either the Venus Project or the Zeitgeist Movement. The below is an attempt to address accusations made by dissenters of those projects that they are inherently communist -- but with, perhaps, my own take on what a future society should look like. For the most part, this "rebuttal" does ally itself with the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project, but 4. and 5. in particular may differ slightly from those organizations' propositions, and I make no attempts to hide this fact.

1. Anarcho-communism and perfect communism are nothing like Stalinism, or any other implementation of state communism. The early Communist parties were afraid of revolt, so they adopted authoritarian practices. If our economic models are similar to perfect communism, that does not entail all of the negative consequences of what was essentially state socialism. Most of Europe is already socialist today, but no one has a knee-jerk reaction to its healthcare policies, for example, because those policies were implemented in a way that was completely dissimilar to that of the policies of the original Communist parties. In any case, while associating true communism with Marxist-Leninism or any other variant of state communism is itself erroneous, more importantly, each of the tried economic plans is contingent on the existence of scarcity, ownership, private property, etc. -- and, therefore, state mandates, hierarchy, top-down approaches, and lowest-common-denominator distribution of resources.

If the criticism is not that communism = state communism, then it is often that communism as an ideology has existed for over a hundred years and has never been effectively put into practice. This is basically a concession that it is a "good idea" (our economic models are not communist, though they are very similar), but that no one will listen. If this is the case, then the person making the assertion needs to stop attempting to convince those attempting to convince the world that it's not going to work, and start attempting to convince the world! Wouldn't that be so much more meaningful a use of his time?

Attempting to convince me to stop convincing others is not going to work itself, so you're being doubly inefficient by trying, and hypocritical to boot.

2. We have no interest in empowering the proletariat. In the future, humans will not just freely work alongside one another at will; they will also delegate monotonous tasks to machines. Marx had good ideas, but they were limited to his particular time period, and were thus naive and myopic -- in essence, resultant from the conditions and variables of the current system, and not from anything outside of it.

3. The economic system is just one of several internetworked systems which play a key role in the functioning of society as a super-system. Two "communists" may agree about the problems of means of production, private property, and social hierarchy, but that does not mean that both understand the various technical and social issues which currently plague our societies. Saying that our goals are "communism" is akin to saying that a computer system is an instant messaging application running on the system software.

So we and "communists" both enjoy using that same application; what does the application say about our respective practical solutions to foundational problems, or our goals and values? Further, what does it say about the entire, emergent system which we are developing? Reducing or relegating any set of ideas to a predefined category is an error of categorization borne from faulty qualitative analysis; an idea possessing a quality found in another idea that is part of a particular category does not mean that the former idea is also part of the category, and to think otherwise leads not only to errors in cognition, but to social enmity and conflict as well. Additionally, even where an idea is a member of a particular category, we cannot use non-defining qualities shared by members of that category to make assumptions about the idea.

4. We need a justification for human life before beginning work on the design of a new system. Communism does not provide this, because it is merely a vague economic model; it says nothing about scarcity, technology, infrastructure, the meaning of the universe, epistemology, meta-cognition, methodologies, process management, the scientific method, the nature of value, eliminating social biases, etc.

5. Communism is flat-out wrong in assuming that we can be "free" to access resources as they are made available, regardless of who we are. Rehabilitation, confinement, and conditioning centers will all be necessary in the future -- though, as abundance increases, and all fundamental human drives and desires come to be properly satiated with minimal time spent feeling deprived, there will eventually no longer be an impetus for most traditional, obvious forms of human conflict. After this, we would simply need to monitor conditioning centers carefully so as to allow memes and concepts to run properly and efficiently on their host minds, while controlling environmental stimuli to the greatest extent possible. This process will become easier as the human mind is augmented via nanotechnology and other cognitive enhancements.

Marx's communism was missing a necessary element that was not entirely developed in his time: the scientific method and its corresponding methodologies and principles. Rule by an ungoverned majority who simply wish to oppress dissenters in the name of their precious "free access to resources" or "control over the means of production" is NOT something that happens to peer reviewed communities in any form. So, yes, checks and balances will exist, as they do in democracy, but they will have some rational basis, and they will not come in the form of any one particular person or group of persons -- they will be contrary ideas. In other words, in our model, if a "senator" makes a decision that defies the views of someone who has written a letter to him -- and it is concluded that his decision is best, based on a number of variables and calculations performed by several parties -- that does not guarantee that the person who'd written the letter will not be "senator" for a day when his or her next idea is more agreeable and logical. Context will be stressed, and no one will have an absolute, indefinite role to play.

This may all sound like we're setting ourselves up for oppression, but do scientists "oppress" one another by prohibiting the publishing of poorly conducted studies, or by invalidating published ones with new or current research? Do architects "oppress" their peers by determining that they do not understand how to build bridges? Does Wikipedia "oppress" its users by disallowing the publishing of irrelevant or frivolous articles (well, they may be too lax)? Meta-analysis already exists in psychological circles, so why don't we implement it on a more fundamental level? True oppression only occurs in the face of scarcity; everything else is simply a matter of listening to the ideas that exist. What reason would anyone have to develop a bias, then consequently ignore new information, in a society like that proposed? How would he or she benefit from boosted social status and ego in a world without social hierarchy?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Defining people

A human being, in the abstract, can be defined as a biochemical process -- and its corresponding systems, input, and output -- genetically distinct from, and incapable of genetic recombination with, processes and systems which meet the morphological and genetic criteria for "non-human." Technically, all physical objects to which symbols or concepts refer are interrelated, making their separation and definition arbitrary, but the concepts which are constructed from those objects can be given definite shape for the purposes of analysis and ideation. Words and concepts, therefore, can be given absolute definitions, because they are artificial in construction, while physical objects and other referents cannot undergo such objective abstraction (they are still necessarily abstracted by our sense organs, and we have no way of knowing what the true source of the abstractions is, however). Because of this, out of pure, practical necessity, we must give shape and constitution to any arbitrary set of objects or abstractions with which we interact, and human beings are no exception.

However, there are two erroneous ways to define a human:

1. Reducing him or her to one or several particular qualities or sets of qualities. Examples: Defining someone as "smart," "athletic," "fat," "black," "quiet," "artsy," "an atheist," "a liberal," etc. Obviously, this is problematic, because humans are complex organisms, and to reduce them to arbitrary facets of their so-called personalities is to gloss over essential nuance.

2. Assuming that the qualities which are currently applicable to him or her will always be applicable, or are applicable regardless of context. Examples: Defining someone as a creationist and consequently ignoring his or her attempts to have a philosophical discussion under the pretense that his or her beliefs are unshakable; defining someone as quiet after having interacted with him or her in only one kind of environment.

By all means, indicate where an "ism" applies to a person in the sense that it is something with which they agree (only if they universally agree with it, though), but refrain from indicating that the person is an "ist," and from any of the above. Tangentially, when it comes to "isms," it is important that you do not espouse any yourself, as it is impractical to invest in a belief, or to believe in anything at all; making probability assessments, then subsequently taking practical action to test the utility or efficacy of an idea -- all while never assuming that what you are acting as though you believe to be true actually is -- is the only way to live -- for now.

Also, many "isms" are bound by entirely independent qualities, making them pointlessly arbitrary and impractical. For the most part, discuss ideas individually; do not coin words for sets of ideas unless it is practical to do so, and above all else, where a proposed quality is not inherent in the definition of a predefined category, refrain from placing an idea sharing the quality into the category (unless it meets the actual criteria, of course).

Example illustrating the different kinds of isms: "Atheism" is simply the absence of a belief in a god, while "liberalism" contains so many concepts in its definition that it would be incredibly impractical to ever associate it with how you view the world.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On categorization

Categorization and definition are essential aspects of human reason; they give practical shape and meaning to concepts, and are therefore unavoidable during the process of understanding. Although this is currently the case, we must also realize that all definitions and categories are ultimately arbitrary, as their referents are purely conceptual; meanwhile, physical referents found in the "real" world are in fact interconnected with their surroundings, and mutable.

Arbitrary categorization is often a major problem in our society resultant from poor understanding of the mechanisms of causality and relation, or the populace's inability to properly conduct qualitative analysis. However, it is important to abstract this problem into two major groups, given that categorization is occasionally a necessity of being human:

1. General categorization: Often problematic, but sometimes temporarily necessary for the purpose of discussion or deliberation. If I give a name to a set of concepts that I find worth implementing, that does not automatically imply that I will not consider casting off the name as soon as new data becomes available. However, any form of categorization becomes a problem as soon as I decide that, because each member of a category shares a given quality, they must necessarily share all qualities. For example, all apples grow on trees, but not all apples are red. Sadly, this principle of multiple qualities is often ignored when people conduct qualitative analysis.

2. Categorization of new ideas by predefined groups: More or less always problematic, as it attempts to force new concepts and memes to "be" older ones. This is usually done in order to gloss over the nuances of the new concepts, thus trivializing them and relegating them to the status of having already been tried and tested.

Note, also, that a set of concepts can exist within a category without any particular generalization being inferred from their interaction. For example, categorizing a person who participates in the welfare system as "poor" is not the same as stating that all poor people are uneducated drug addicts; the latter is poor induction at its worst, and quite pervasive in today's society.

Put succinctly, there are two distinct errors of categorization:

1. Inferring that qualities not inherent in the definition of a category apply to all members of the category. Example: Some obese people are lazy; therefore, all obese people are lazy.

2. Assuming that qualities shared between a category and an unassociated idea imply that the idea is actually a member of the category; assuming that any quality shared by members of a category is a defining quality of the category itself. Example: Existentialism rejects a personal god; therefore, existentialism is the exact same thing as nihilism.

Update: Upon giving this further thought, I think that I've pinpointed a third error:

3. Inferring that, because a good or bad idea is a member of a given category by default, any associated idea, or the category itself, is absolutely good or bad. Example: Existentialists do not believe in god; therefore, existentialism is good. Antithetical example: Fascism is oppressive; therefore, the concept of impinging on so-called "freedoms" is bad.

Idearchy - continued

Ostensibly all governmental systems, no matter how open, transparent, or docile, should be named, if only to provide a proper framework for their operation and maintenance. Unfortunately, however, most new ideas get pigeonholed into predefined groups, because, in being so prone to categorization, humans tend to prefer convenient guesswork (defining a set of ideas as being the same as a previous set based on superficial similarities) to innovation (birthing an entirely new paradigm) -- even where such a practice is a derived necessity of the circumstance. When discussing a new system, emphasizing social mobility, uniformity, and resource trust connotes communism to some, for example, while emphasizing lack of representation or centralization connotes anarchism to others. Given that neither of these economic and governmental models is very well-designed, it is imperative to avoid any association with them; being explicit in outlining the tenets of a proposed future governmental system, then, is of utmost importance.

In the future, if there ever becomes a need to upgrade to a more efficient model, then it should be done, but in the meantime, it appears reasonable to tentatively conclude that rule by ideas -- idearchy -- is superior to rule by individual humans or groups. The logic behind this concept is simple: Humans are receptacles of memes just as much as they are agents; furthermore, they are prone to lapses in judgment from time to time, no matter how reasonable they may generally be. Therefore, without true memetic redundancy, a governmental system is set up to fail; in other words, should a leader ever "malfunction," without a backup leader, you've essentially ensured the annihilation of your system. Checks and balances may suffice to the end of preventing such catastrophes, but so long as they are rooted in the concept of an individual or group as representative, they, too, are inefficient. This is because:

1. They generate waste by insisting that decisions be made exclusively by "authorized" individuals or groups, regardless of the extent to which the scientific method is actually applied in situations.

2. They exalt majority rule while insinuating that reality can be reduced to subjective opinions.

The former reason to not trust representative governments demonstrates the mechanistic inefficiencies inherent in their design, as it reveals a totally unnecessary, invisible boundary in place between "the people" and "the government." Why does it matter who proposes a good idea? Do I have to be a congressman to be able to make an important decision for society? What if my idea is superior to its competitors, but no one cares, because I am not in a position of power? Such apathy is an expression of what is known as the appeal to authority fallacy -- that logical error which leads its hosts to believe that, since a person has been elected into office, for example, he or she will have superior ideas to those of the "average" person. If a populace is not informed enough to make its own decisions, then it necessarily follows that it is also not informed enough to vote those into power deemed capable of doing it for them. This realization should cause us to reject the democratic model in favor of rule by ideas, and to stress educational reform -- if we truly want to encourage objectivity and innovation.

The second reason to not trust representative governments pertains to the scientific method, and how it can be used to make informed, rational decisions in society. An idea should not be considered worthy of implementation solely because it is popular, and to think otherwise is to commit the argumentum ad populum, or argument from popularity fallacy. Put simply, one unbiased perspective is superior to a consensus among a hundred biased perspectives. Creationism, for example, might make us feel good inside, but we shouldn't submit to the constraints of that belief system simply because the majority of the world is invested in religion.

Why should action be any different? Simply disagreeing with your representatives and their corresponding voter bases is not enough if all that it terminates in is your grinning and bearing the situation; if you don't think that something makes sense, then you shouldn't do it (except in cases where prison time and other penalties prove impractical, of course).

Finally, consider that ideas inside of minds are analogous to files on hard drives. When discussing the data stored on those latter devices, how often do we deal with the devices as wholes? In other words, if I want to download a file from the Internet, I don't fly to where the host is physically located and confiscate the hard drive on which the file is stored. Why, then, should I elect a leader, when I can directly download his good ideas instead? Where biases prevent a person from making rational decisions in particular areas of policy, we would do well to attempt to override those biases; where no such biases exist, we should listen. I don't have to find all of a person's ideas to be rational in order to find some of them to be, so why aren't we dealing with individual ideas instead of with groups of ideas running on faulty cognitive hardware?

If one person has the best idea in a given scenario, then his idea will lead the way, but if his idea in a second scenario isn't that great, then the group will opt for a superior competing idea -- no leadership required.

Remember: We don't have ideas -- ideas have us.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Life is probably incredibly rare

1. There is no space trash anywhere near us. Even if a super-intelligent race of extraterrestrials, with a civilization a million years ahead of us, were to exist, they still would have existed in a more primitive state at some point in their past -- perhaps recklessly sending out radio signals, or exploring nearby star systems without much in the way of deliberation. Where is the cosmological fossil record?

2. All life on Earth has descended from a common genetic blueprint; there is no evidence that, even in the earliest days of life on Earth, other attempts at life ever competed with our blueprint. While life evolved in one of the early oceans, why didn't it evolve separately a hundred more times in different parts of the same ocean, or in another ocean altogether? Perhaps one genetic lineage came to predominate over the others, but we have no evidence for this, and a few years, at the least, of isolation could have allowed for the other lineages to thrive in their respective niches.

More to the point, why doesn't life simply emerge at any time, anywhere on Earth? Even if it would get quickly consumed by "our" life, shouldn't it be happening billions of times per year, everywhere? Remember that we are all descendants of a single, microscopic organism; given the vastness of the oceans in contrast to such a small piece of chemistry, you'd think that if its emergence were so simple with the requisite conditions in place, we'd be finding new life all over the Earth -- even if only for a few minutes at a time before it got cannibalized (and who's to say that it wouldn't become a threat to the order of life here? "our" life is quite resilient, so wouldn't other strains also be?). Yes, the chemical composition of the Earth is different from what it was four billion years ago, but we have no evidence for any other life forms ever living here -- ever! On top of that, it took over 400 million years after the Earth cooled before life got started. That's quite a long time, and when it did happen, it only happened once, in the form of a tiny, microscopic cell amid miles and miles of ocean.

3. We haven't been able to recreate life in a laboratory in over fifty years, and still have no idea how it emerged here in the first place. None. A planet with the requisite conditions for life does not necessitate that life will exist on it -- it merely makes life possible there. The actual spark that initiated our evolution still eludes us. What if life occurs once every 300 trillion trillion tries? If the odds of a coin landing on its side are one in a thousand, and a coin actually lands on its side the first time you flip it, that does not mean that you flipped it a thousand times! Perhaps, then, from the complete data set of planets harboring life, Earth is an outlier or minimum for the time it takes for life to evolve, rather than an average.

One incredible accomplishment does not a great man make

"Stephen Hawking is a great man. He contributed immensely to our understanding of black holes."

"Socrates was a great man. Without him, we'd be missing out on invaluable philosophical insight into the nature of reality."

"Beethoven was a great man. Wow, writing beautiful music while clinically deaf! Incredible."

None of these people -- nor anyone else -- deserves to be recognized, congratulated, or praised for his efforts. Here's why:

1. In at least some cases, the "accomplishment" doesn't actually matter. For example, Neil Armstrong didn't do anything important at all by walking around on the moon; he merely served as a symbol for American "superiority" over Russia. Likewise, whoever unifies the standard model of particle physics and the theory of relativity won't have accomplished anything of importance, either, because the trivial details of our existence never, or very rarely, impact how we view what actually matters in life -- namely, our capacities for pain and pleasure, and how we derive meaning from these. Knowing the math behind what causes rocks to behave the way that they do isn't going to stop lions from tearing open baby gazelles or prevent your grandmother from suffering from bone cancer. Sorry.

2. Even where an accomplishment contributes to human progress (or Earth progress, more accurately), it was always going to happen from the beginning, as the universe's infinitude of states are predetermined by the preceding states, and are dictated by immutable physical laws. Furthermore, there is no quantifiable self inside your head, let alone one capable of making decisions; every environmental response triggered by some stimulus or another is effected by your brain long before you are even aware of what's going on. Therefore, when achieving a first for mankind, you are simply doing the will of the universe; you are not, in any way, impulsively acting on your free will.

3. Calling someone a "great man" is a stupid generalization, regardless of to whom you're referring. So Socrates was an interesting philosopher. What if he'd also beaten his kids on a regular basis (I know that he never had any; this is hypothetical)? One incredible accomplishment does not a great man make; humans are far more complicated than that, and to reduce them to singular events in their lives is to commit a grave fallacy -- whether you're vying for their greatness or forever begrudging them for solitary screw-ups.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A quick rumination on decision-making

1. When living, you are necessarily always acting.

2. In scenarios and cases involving decision-making, deciding not to act is not only a decision, it's an action -- if only a negative one.

3. By living, we are slaves to physics.

4. We can choose to what we are slaves, in some cases. If we must be enslaved, then logic currently appears to be a suitable master.

5. Even if we concede that relying on our senses to conclude that our senses are reliable is nonsensical, we still necessarily act on our senses continuously by merely existing.

6. Therefore, we must always act as though we believe that a given option is the most logical, even if we have no idea one way or the other, because "not acting" is still acting, and is often less logical than some other option. Note: This refers to instances in which one action appears more logical than the others -- not instances in which we don't even have leads derived from sensory input.

This illustrates the necessity of pragmatic action in life; just because I am humble and possess a finite, relative perspective of the world does not mean that I cannot make decisions to improve reality. I don't have to believe anything to be true in order to act as though I do. Furthermore, because action is an inevitable by-product of existing, that which is perceived as the most logical out of all potential actions will come to be the logical action, while all other actions, in spite of occupying a gradient of degrees of logicality, will come to all be illogical actions. This is because, even though these latter actions differ in to what extent they are logical, they all share the quality of having not been chosen.

Note, also, that my supposition that relying on my senses to conclude that my senses are reliable is nonsensical is itself relying on my senses, as is this very statement. In other words, there is an infinite regress of assumption that must necessarily be made in order to exist as an intelligent organism, so whether something is true is entirely irrelevant to how much work we should put into implementing it in our daily lives.

A note on the future directive of this blog

In the future, I will be making fewer posts on specific, derivative problems, even if they are fairly fundamental, as in the cases of suffering, the agenda of life, the eternal struggle between logic and sensation, etc. As previously stated, solving problems requires that we first solve the problem of being bad at solving problems -- in a word, meta-cognition. Actively and pragmatically refine cognitive processes and hardware, and you'll become much better at decision-making and problem-solving. Better yet, do this in iterative increments involving lots of testing for errors, and you'll be more likely to maximize your productivity. In short, it's more important to teach people how to arrive at conclusions than that they should arrive at your conclusions (bonus points if you don't ever draw any conclusions at all, given the inability to confirm your senses' reliability without relying on your senses, and instead merely act as though you draw conclusions out of practical necessity).

Plus, there are so many descendant problems all around us that, unless we work alongside those who process data using the same algorithms and mechanisms that we do, it doesn't matter whom we choose to support; we'll never get anything done. You can agree with liberals that the war in Iraq was a dumb idea, but that doesn't make you a liberal. Most people get something right, so declaring yourself a something-ist every time that you encounter a good idea is going to be quite tedious and time-consuming!

If you agree with someone, but have different reasons from him or her for your tentative conclusions, then your agreement is ultimately trivial. It is of no practical value to share commonalities when it comes to what you think, so long as you do not share commonalities when it comes to how you think. You may agree now, but if your mode of thinking allows you to change your mind, or if the other person uses his mode of thinking to arrive at an erroneous conclusion in another realm, then you are effectively wasting time by associating or working with him -- that is, unless you can help him see his errors, or vice versa.

So, then, let's get down to business: Bad memes prevent progress, and faulty cognitive agents and mechanisms prevent good memes from doing their jobs. Until we clean ourselves up, it doesn't really matter who agrees with whom -- we're all part of the problem.

Revised problem-solving hierarchy chart

The following is a hierarchy chart that I've devised as a way to grasp the scope of the source of all problems (or symptoms, more accurately) in the universe. The idea is that, through the process of decomposition, we can granulate problems into logical sets of parent problems (causes/sources) and child problems (symptoms). This helps us to ascertain starting points in our various attempts at solving problems systematically; it also helps us to ascertain the viability of the bottom-up methodology proposed by this blog. While a top-down approach might sound more rational due to the apparently definite nature of this list, the fact of the matter is that this list is anything but definite, and life dictates that we tackle problems on a case-by-case basis while working toward a goal or set of goals.

Until you 1. methodically define the scope of the problem, and 2. decompose the problem into logical, irreducible constituents, you may make progress with respect to its parts or symptoms, but you will nevertheless remain in the dark regarding the source itself, and your attempts to solve the problem will lack both structure and coherence. We should outline everything in need of fixing in this reality; doing so will greatly expedite the process of making the universe an acceptable place.

An extant system ostensibly lacking in planning, intent, goals, and true functionality -- the universe
        I. Life and evolution (natural selection, genetic drift, et al.)
                i. Sensation (olfactory, gustatory/taste, tactile, balance, location,
                thermal, auditory, visual, mental/emotional)
                          i. Attachment and fear, which cause one another in a positive feedback
                          loop; lack of foresight in nature
                                   i. Attachment to assumptions, preconceptions, absolute notions,
                                   or beliefs of any sort; static belief systems
                                              i. Cognitive dissonance; confirmation bias; other logical
                                              fallacies and cognitive pitfalls
                                              ii. Generally underdeveloped cognitive algorithm; poor
                                              cognitive programming
                                              iii. Condescension; humiliation; dehumanization
                                              iv. Arrogance; certainty
                                              v. War and other forms of physical violence
                                              vi. Apathy
                                              vii. Other kinds of social conflict
                                              viii. False sense of security
                                              ix. Creation and maintenance of a static personal identity;
                                              egomania; self-esteem
                                              x. Attention-seeking; social appearances and statuses
                                              xi. Societal and social competition
                           ii. Depression; anxiety; fight-or-flight; fear (also noted above under
                           attachment); grief; melancholy; other kinds of negative emotions
                           iii. Sensory distractions erroneously perceived as positive
                                     i. Entertainment; pleasure; hedonism
                                     ii. Hallucinations; cognitive distortions
                                     iii. Other distractions
                           iv. Physical suffering not derived from logical errors among humans
                                     i. Predation; carnivorous consumption
                                     ii. Parasitic relationships
                                     iii. Accidents
                                     iv. Natural disasters
                                     v. General competition among living organisms

Note: All mental suffering is the result of a kind of perceived deprivation. Whether you're running for your life or looking for something to eat, all desires are the result of a negative state of being, with a termination of such states only being possible as a result of some form of pleasure or relief. No desire is positive, for all desires, by definition, require that their subjects run from a stimulus, or a sensation caused by such a stimulus. Yes, even basic drives like hunger are fulfilled as a result of organisms running away from a negative sensation toward a state of relief. Likewise, a literal, physical chase, while also initiated by a negative sensation, involves a form of relief that is chased as an object of desire.

Re: Antinatalism comment on another blog

Most websites aren't interested in encouraging discussion or ideation -- particularly where they have an economic incentive in direct opposition to anything above the lowest-common-denominator, like in the case of YouTube. You would hope that a blog service would be better in this regard than a video service, but apparently, even a purely text-based medium is prone to unnecessary functionality limitations, like comment word limits. Then again, this is Google I'm talking about...

I attempted to leave a comment on another blog today (you can read the discussion here). That attempt failed. I could break my comment up into three separate ones, but why bother? This is more efficient, and as the information is relevant to anyone who comes across it, I think that it's important to display it here, rather than solely to its originally intended recipient. Here you go:

filrabat: I distinguish between the two because most living things (especially conscious ones) do strive to survive.

No, they don't. The primary agenda of single organisms on Earth is to reproduce; the primary agenda of life as a whole is nothing. In other words, the original DNA molecules on Earth were not capable, for physical reasons, of metabolizing compounds indefinitely, so they were "forced," in a sense, to do so from a basal stage, over and over again, in iterations. Because this process possessed no innate purpose and was not designed by any intelligent agent, it was ultimately conducive to glitches, which are now considered an integral component of natural selection. Again, only humans know that they are going to die; only humans care about surviving, while the general impetus for most life is simply to avoid negative sensation, regardless of in what form it presents itself. We have no innate instinct to survive or to reproduce; we have innate instincts to find big animals frightening and to have sex. It just so happens that these propensities and desires are conducive to survival to the end of reproduction, or to reproduction itself. It's not any more complicated than that, and humans can certainly maintain their urges without reproducing.

Humans hope to do it vicariously through reproduction.

Humans are the only ones who hope to do it at all. Again, our innate drive to have sex is controllable using our intelligence, so any hope to reproduce is a purely cultural contrivance. My cat most definitely does not want to see the fruits of his sexual exploits as some sign of his vicarious and indefinite existence; he never says to himself, "Ah, where are all the female cats? I must leave behind a legacy of my existence -- for the betterment of the Earth!" Instead, he is presented with a very crude form of sensory stimuli -- cries and miscellaneous visuals -- then proceeds to execute his corresponding mental program designed to terminate his newfound deprivation. You know, sperm cells are regularly killed by most female immune systems, because those systems are entirely unaware that the reproductive systems with which they interact have anything to do with survival or reproduction; so it is with all of the other crude mechanisms of life.

Suffering is a sign that things aren't going as well as they are compared to you're accustomed to. The survival instinct is very likely a mechanism that allows us a 'better than dumb luck' chance of escaping from unpleasant situations (whether through fleeing or successfully attacking a problem). The survival instinct also ensures a better-than-dumb-luck probability of reproducing. Therefore, I think the survival instinct/avoiding suffering dichotomy is more intertwined than you let on.

Let's just call it what it is and not get caught up on definitions: It's a fight-or-flight response, not a "survival instinct." It doesn't aid in the survival of the organism, because there is no such thing as survival. Life is not as complicated as you think it is; it's simply reproducing chemistry with the sole impetus of intaking chemical compounds per its particular code, with the end result being at least one copy of itself, should the organism realize its full functionality.

Response to Point 1:It’s not enough to say that “A world of intelligence and positive sentience … will always be superior to a world devoid of consciousness”. WHY is such a world superior; more specifically, in what way is it superior? As it stands, the notion of worlds with intelligence and sentience being superior to worlds without it is just a bald assertion – at best a faith-based statement (not in a religious sense, but in the sense that either you agree with the notion or you don’t).

I never made such an assertion. My statement was: "A world of intelligence and 'positive' sentience (that is, sentience absolutely deprived of negative value) will always be superior to a world devoid of any form of consciousness so long as there is no absolute guarantee that sentience will never, ever arise again in the distant future (in this universe, in a parallel universe, or in a future iteration of the universe)."

Not only did I refrain from making an absolute statement, I rebuked such statements in my own. Do you not agree that voluntary agents of monitoring and exploration -- be they sentient, artificially intelligent, or something else -- are essential in a universe where we are deprived of the guarantee that no suffering will ever occur ever again? How is the extinction of the human species going to do anything about the suffering of trillions of other living organisms on Earth, let alone potential suffering taking place elsewhere in the cosmos?

How would we ever, ever be absolutely positive that nothing else would ever get hurt in the future? Furthermore, so long as synthetic, or even biological, life forms consent to their continued existence, why do we care? They're not reproducing. If you're afraid that their existence might introduce risky variables in the future and thus allow for something to go wrong, how is that any different from the prospect of something going wrong without anyone, anywhere, to monitor and control the situation? Until we know the ratio of our own accidentally-caused suffering to the suffering of reality as a whole, the extinction of humanity is meaningless. In other words, should we ever begin to succeed at convincing humanity to stop reproducing, there should be a point during the transition where we, existing in the meantime, develop ways to end the suffering of the other sentient creatures. We could also develop new technologies capable of preparing anyone -- synthetic or otherwise -- for attempts at further investigation and exploration of the circumstance of the universe, including cures for aging, virtual and simulated realities, augmented or corrected nervous systems, and superior communications technologies.

In moral/ethical terms: If a huge rock slams into Venus, that's fine; if it doesn't slam into Venus, that's fine.

So you've been everywhere, can predict the future, and are absolutely positive that Earth is unique? Sorry, but statements of this kind are, to me, far more fundamentally erroneous than the act of having children -- irresponsible though that act may be -- because, from a purely qualitative standpoint, they are no different from any other form of faith, arrogance, belief, or certainty, and are thus both illogical and religious in composition. To me, it doesn't matter whether you say, "I know for a fact that ending life on Earth will be good for the universe, because I also know that no life will ever be possible anywhere after its heat death," or, "I know for a fact that God is real," or, "I know for a fact that liberalism is superior to conservatism" -- they're all absolute statements, with no regard for probability, conditions, or exceptions.

These statements facilitate static belief systems, which retard human progress by preventing memes and ideas from properly competing for brain-space; therefore, while I might superficially agree with you that reproducing is "immoral" (morality does not exist, so what we should be worried about is whether reproducing is practical or logical), I do not share your stance on meta-cognition and general human functioning. Maybe it's just me, but any time that someone gets caught up on a singular cause which they perceive to be the end-all problem -- especially if it is in fact descended from a parent problem, or his or her solution is just as much a part of the problem as what he or she is proposing to be the real problem -- I must look to history, where emotional reactions and witch hunts have been all too common. Reproduction isn't what's wrong with this planet; all faulty mechanisms and systems are, including systems hosting faulty logic and other unfortunate by-products of the unintelligent process of evolution.

I know that "debates" are actually counter-productive, because at least one side is always disinterested in the process of allowing ideas to flow freely through the mind, uninterrupted by other cognitive mechanisms, so I will not press this issue further; the information is freely available here to peruse and comprehend, so I have done my job. If you wish to present something new rather than to defend your "beliefs" (I neither have beliefs nor defend anything, because I acknowledge the existence of glitches and flaws in more or less all systems), you can leave a comment here (which I will not delete ;)), or you can e-mail me. I am not an anti-natalist for the same reasons that I am not an anti-anything, or an anything-ist -- the world is far too complicated, and my perspective is far too limited for me to make a definite decision, then proceed to rally behind a "cause." It simply isn't practical to behave this way.

That having been said, while you may not be receptive to my attempts to point out logical traps and pitfalls in this rather narrowly focused approach to course correcting the universe, I certainly condone your choice to not reproduce, and hope that you manage to convince as many people as possible throughout your lifetime. Good luck.

Our biggest problem

Our biggest problem is not anything external to ourselves; it's us, plain and simple. I may write a lot about the flaws inherent in biological systems, the likelihood of there having never been a designer, etc., but I do not pretend that meta-cognition is not important; in fact, understanding what makes your brain work and how to logically process data is the only way that you'll ever be able to competently address any external problem, no matter how ostensibly fundamental or obvious it might be.

On the trappings of anti-natalism

1. Anti-natalism prevents future risk, but we exist, so not only do we have to prevent new lives from emerging (if the premise that such lives would not generate positive value or permanently solve a problem is true), we also have to improve ours while they last. Therefore, we must be pragmatic and society-oriented if we wish to avoid the trappings of preoccupation with a singular cause; otherwise, we'll become witch-hunters, too attached to our particular "problem" to see the bigger picture. Plugging a leak is more important than cleaning its resultant puddles, but once you really have plugged it, cleaning the puddles becomes essential! Plus, abstaining from the act of producing offspring is not a total solution to the problem.

2. The premise that humans should not reproduce, like any other premise, is conditional; therefore, whether something of greater value ever presents itself in the future should be taken into account before we decide to make such confident, absolute assertions as, "No one should ever reproduce." Remember: From a fundamental standpoint, absolute generalizations are part of the core problem of our existence -- namely, brain logic shortcomings, which descend from the process of purposeless and inefficient evolution, which descends from the lack of an overseer of that process. Any "ism" that I can think of is part of this problem, as it is necessarily self-limiting, forever impractical and ineffective by design. Want to make the world a better place? Don't create or promote mechanisms of memetic exclusion.

Monday, November 29, 2010

To ponder

I value isolation, because in a world without memes, there are no bad memes.

I value lifelessness, because in a world without feeling, there are no negative feelings.

Nihilism does not apply to the current universe; however, if we can obtain absolute assurance that life will never produce anything of any degree of real, positive value, then working toward achieving a state of absolute valuelessness will become ideal.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Re: The Pragmatic Paradox

Problem 1: Assuming that conceptual systems such as "pragmatism" exist anywhere beyond their places as constructs of cognition convenience in the mind

There is no such thing as pragmatism beyond the meme; it's just a summation word used to define a number of philosophical tenets, and has no innate physical basis. Therefore, it could be stated that pragmatism -- or any ism, for that matter -- is similar to, for example, government-imposed age requirements in that both are artificially constructed for convenience, but neither can be directly deduced by the physical properties of the universe. Put simply, there is nothing preventing us from inventing a new ism similar in scope and definition to pragmatism, but with one additional or one less tenet; ultimately, it's just a word, while its individual constituents are what we should instead be discussing. Even if "pragmatism" weren't useful, again, it's just a word for a handful of concepts, so if any one of those concepts were independently functional, it would be ideal to implement it, regardless of the flaws inherent in "pragmatism" itself.

Problem 2: Assuming that pragmatism has no use

It sounds like your professor is confusing the utility of pragmatism with the lack of useful ideas in his life. Just because you're incapable of inventing ideas of practical merit doesn't mean that the ideal itself is impractical; everything around us has been implemented as a result of its practical value. "I don't see any use in thinking up useful ideas" is a non-sequitur, and even contradictory, as you've pointed out. More likely, the intended meaning was, "I don't see any use in any of MY ideas, so looking for useful ideas must not be useful." Is this more accurate interpretation any more logical? No. In fact, it's so stupid that it actually succeeds in reducing philosophy to its semantics component, all for the glory of some adorable platitude and a bit of ego sex. Tell him to grow up!

It's not about emotion...

It's about psychology. Our psychological dispositions are each composed of an array of complex experiential data derived from various constituents of sentience, including sensation deprivation (desire), fear, mental sensation (emotions), physical sensation, visual sensation, auditory sensation, olfactory sensation (smell), thermal sensation, balance sensation, and gustatory sensation (taste). These constituents are, as part of a continual process of psychological development, the root cause of all destructive tendencies inherent in sentient organisms, from preferring junk food to healthy food to falling in love with a person who's wrong for us to selfishly favoring those whom we have feelings for over others. They're also all fundamentally negative by design, and stem from an imposed, baseline state of discomfort which can only be relieved by death; furthermore, discomfort is imposed by unintelligent physical forces for the ultimate goal of preparation for genetic reproduction, and nothing more.

With this in mind, it should be quite obvious that sensation is the only physical quality which possesses de facto value in the universe -- until proven otherwise, that is. Therefore, the reduction of its adverse effects should be a prime directive of our civilization, not only in localized instances, but also where the continual, unregulated creation of new sentient life occurs.

Conclusion: Human psychology is not a prerequisite for logic to run as a process on sufficiently capable systems. Furthermore, in being so frequently prone to corruption, human psychology actually hinders the advancement of logic everywhere that it exists alongside that mechanism; in fact, the sheer intensity of subjective sensation as perceived by organic memory stores makes it an extremely effective motivator for individual, multicellular organisms; thus, it retards the logical process of improving reality, as the more effective it is for individuals, the less effective it ultimately is for sensation as a phenomenon. In other words, the required immediacy of action of an organism in dire situations precludes the possibility of practical, comparative analysis being carried out while free from intervention in the form of emotional and physical biases.

I don't want a balance between emotion and logic; I want the outright elimination of all that is negative -- and thus, valuable -- in the universe, and will continue to want this until it is demonstrated that other forms of value exist outside the realm of chemical-based sensation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I don't live to feel good or be happy

I don't live to feel good or be happy, and I think that anyone who does is disgusting. Happiness is a short-lived (sometimes lasting only a few seconds) mental sensation which, because of the reward pathways in the brain, creates a false perception of value. When the sensation dissipates, like any other addict, we immediately want more of it, and will stop at nothing until we have more, regardless of how irrational and paltry all of the little moments that we define as "good" ultimately are. This, in turn, facilitates the dichotomy of actual mental and physical sensations on the one hand, and the perception of those sensations as desirable ideals on the other. Incidentally, the perceptions are themselves generated by what are essentially false memories that do their best to "sell" experiences as things we'd enjoyed more than we really did while they were occurring. Clearly, then, we spend a preposterously tiny portion of our lives being happy -- a third of life is spent asleep, and most of the rest of the time is dedicated to the chase that eventually ends in those few seconds or minutes of satisfaction.

Desire is problematic for what I perceive to be fairly obvious reasons, but if you'd care to know more about why mindlessly filling a figurative pool over and over again is stupid, I have a story called "A desire has never been fulfilled for anyone" that you should check out (hint: if a problem that you're experiencing only goes away when you tend to it in finite intervals, and comes back almost immediately after you've cleaned up the mess, then you're perpetuating the problem, probably for selfish psychological reasons related to feelings of accomplishment -- not fixing it).

Regardless of the efficacy of repetitiously consuming and experiencing as regards the fulfillment of our desires, keep the following in mind: Everything that we crave results from deprivation. If we ignore our cravings for long enough -- especially those most directly beneficial to the maintenance of our bodies to the end of producing genetic copies of ourselves -- then the deprivations grow. Thus, in addition to faulty perceptions facilitated by the brain's reward pathways, we also experience a kind of natural punishment for failing to procure the things necessary to temporarily satisfy our urges. Does punishment for not obtaining something that fails to cure your problems make any kind of rational sense?

1. No organism has ever survived; there is no such thing as survival of the fittest. Nature doesn't care about survival of organisms; it cares about survival of genes, which almost always means reproduction.

2. Happiness is ephemeral, intermittent, and a persistent attempt at filling deprivations created by our biology; these deprivations only exist to keep us interested in our environment long enough to reproduce. If the environment, in lacking intelligence, fails to provision us with nourishment of various kinds, then we suffer tremendously as our deprivations deepen.

Given the above, it should be obvious that our enjoyment of life is not only meaningless in the long run, but also nothing more than a way to stave off horrific suffering. Taking a so-called "negativist" approach to life, then, we have no choice but to opt for responsibility, education, and discussion over hedonism, happiness, and self-indulgence. Furthermore, we must concern ourselves with eliminating the problems that we see, rather than merely with perpetuating our particular desires, or "fixing" our own problems for psychological reasons. Getting into a relationship is not going to solve your financial or health issues, let alone anyone else's.

None of this by any means implies that we should be miserable in some attempt to symbolically convey selflessness, however; we can't escape our desires, and so should humor them to some practical extent. The humoring of what pleases us in itself isn't the problem that I have with modern society; my problem is that we go far beyond humoring our desires to the point where they are the reasons for why we exist at all. In a world where an astonishing proportion of humans are below the poverty line while the rest slave away at office jobs on medication for a third of their existences, we can definitely do better.

So why is this phenomenon, this perverse self-indulgence, so prevalent in today's society? If I had to guess, I'd say that the collapse of organized religion and the rise of so-called advanced technologies has played a major role. Now that we don't have to worry about our crops seeing it through the winter, or whether the earthquake was caused by god, we're so free -- and lacking in direction -- that we've become pigs. We've fixed the means to our various ends, but the ends are a veritable mess.

The next time that you think to yourself, "The world would be so much better, if only I had _____," remember this post. Whether it's a boyfriend, a better paying job, the ability to say that you've tried some hallucinogenic substance, or a bigger apartment, remember that you will not survive in the long run, and neither will anyone else. Further, when presented with the chance to engage in discussion about how to improve our society, don't pass it up in favor of indulging in something that will make you feel good, and don't allow your desires (other than the desire to reform planet Earth) to rule your life. Maintain a balance, always!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Love is stupid

Unlike some who view love as problematic, I don't think the problem is that it isn't real; I think it's that it's an irrational, uncontrollable preference perpetuated by unfounded evolutionary incentives. This might not seem too problematic at first glance, but when you consider the huge amount of time and energy wasted -- often in vain -- to woo someone because of what makes their personality superficially intriguing, it becomes obvious that love is a very, very bad aspect of our perverted psychological dispositions. If an elderly man whom I randomly meet on the street one day is the most intelligent, productive, kind-hearted, and pragmatic person I've ever encountered, why shouldn't I work alongside him, or at least engage him in discussion, more often than I would chase after women? Why shouldn't I move in with him, buy him gifts, take him to dinner? I have no feelings for him whatsoever -- aside from the baseline feelings that I have for all sentient creatures -- but isn't that a good thing? Doesn't that make him a more objectively worthy companion than someone who makes my heart flutter?

We can't control whom we love. We can't control what kinds of foods taste good, either, but we know which ones are healthy and which ones are unhealthy. Perhaps there are loves that are healthier than others, too, but love, unlike food, is not necessary for our survival. Trapping others in our emotions and personal dramas, then, is both egoistic and selfish, for it promotes preferential thinking -- a clear sign of a non-functional civilization. Further, the preferences created by love are meaningless, as I'm sure anyone who's experienced unrequited love can attest. Everyone, no matter their gender or how their smile or confidence makes us weak in the knees, must be judged by the same standards.

I highly, highly doubt that anyone you've ever loved was chosen because they were among the best and brightest of mankind. Love may not be an illusion, but its benefit to society certainly is.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remove the human element

Remove the human element from "nature," and let's see how lovely it is then. If you, even for a moment, stop projecting your own desires, psychological disposition, and relative perspective of the world onto nature, you'll quickly realize that humans are the only living things that care about, well, anything. Sorry, but that's how it is -- aside from humans, nothing cares about much of anything aside from itself or its offspring.

1. Humans are the only animals that can cry.

2. Humans are the only animals that can laugh.

3. Even though plenty of highly functioning mammals are capable of compassion, grief, and joy, they're still quite a paltry part of life on Earth. 99.9% of living organisms -- especially when we tack on the first three billion years, when no life would have been visible to the naked eye, and certainly wouldn't have been multicellular -- wiggle around in the dirt for a few days, suck up enough food in order to poop out a jillion copies of themselves, then die. There is nothing glorious, beautiful, or moving about three billion years of worms, bacteria, and parasites, and if you think otherwise, you are figuratively in love with a vile, indefensible woman solely because she is physically beautiful. Never mind her modus operandi or that disgusting birthmark; she's hot!

In other words, nature lovers are only concerned with looks, and are even in denial when it comes to the preponderance of aesthetic unpleasantness that exists in nature, though that's not what matters in this case. The ultimate point, here, is that beauty is subjective, deceptive, and even manipulative. The sooner you realize this, the more pleasant a place this planet will be for all of us.

Do you love life? Great. Now make a list of your favorite things about it, and let's see how many of them would exist without humans. Seriously, I'd love for someone to do this; I'm curious to know if even a handful of what we cherish predates our emergence. Note: I'm not referencing the objects of affection, but rather, the subjects who perceive the objects as worthy of affection. For example, yes, flowers predate humans by quite a bit, but before humans, nothing thought that flowers were pretty. Get over it.

Ask yourself this question: "What do I enjoy about being alive?" Think hard about whether any of your answers are even physically possible for an organism that is not a human being.

Do not invoke New Age or spiritualist platitudes while thinking about this; instead, also ask yourself, "Is what I'm thinking about right now observable with scientific instruments? If not, then why do I think that it exists? Who told me that it does? Are they trustworthy? Are they fallible? Am I arrogant to cling to this? Am I doing so because it makes me happy, or because I've done some thorough investigation in the name of the truth?"

Do you love nature, or do you love that work of art called Nature which mankind has conceptually fabricated? Funny how we pride ourselves on overcoming religious dogma, where answering every unknown with superhumans is the name of the game, then commit the exact same error while gazing longingly at the mess of suffocation and heart attacks taking place in the jungle. When we're not ascribing human properties to god, we're making nature out to be just another one of us -- a friendly, flower-sniffing human being. We're the crazies in Independence Day holding up the welcome signs just before the aliens blow up Washington.

When will we grow up?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

No desire has ever been fulfilled for anyone

Our desires as living organisms accomplish absolutely nothing; their continued reintroduction into the environment, therefore, only drives the problem of sentience into perpetuity. Here's why:

Imagine having a swimming pool in your backyard that you fill at the start of the summer. On the first day, you go swimming for a few hours and have a lot of fun. At the start of the next day, however, you go outside to realize that the pool is, once again, empty. So you fill it again and have a great time for a second day in a row, though you're also wondering what could have possibly happened to the original water content with which you'd filled the pool the day before.

Upon waking on the third day, guess what? The pool is empty again. You have to get out the hose, the chlorine -- everything involved in keeping the pool clean and temperate. You do this laboriously, but when all of the hard work is done, you only have an hour to actually go swimming, meaning that most of the day was spent preparing yourself for the fulfillment of your desire instead of actually fulfilling it. "The preparation, the process of getting to the point of being able to swim, is also fun," you rationalize to yourself. "The work involved is what makes it all worth it."

This goes on for two weeks. At the start of every day, you have to fill the pool all over again, and this consumes the vast majority of time dedicated to your pool-related activities. Are you accomplishing something? Are you solving the problem of there being no water in the pool? No, but the renewed problem, to your psychology, is a good thing, because it gives you something to solve every day. Unlike in other areas of your life, where solving a problem is perceived as a good thing, the renewal of this problem seems to justify itself based on the intensity of your desire to go swimming. After all, you feel like swimming matters, so it must, right?

But wait! You don't just have one desire. No, you have a multitude of them: cars to keep clean, computers to maintain. Now, every morning, in addition to an empty pool, you're also presented with a car completely covered in mud and a computer without Internet access. Every day, not only do you have to fill up the pool, you also have to wash off the mud and call your ISP. It happens every day, and despite all your efforts, none of these problems is ever solved.

Eventually, you get tired of putting up with it all, so you decide to ignore the pool for a few weeks. "It can stay empty for a little while, I'm sure," you say to yourself. But then, something happens: the deprivation created by the lack of water in the pool causes you to contract AIDS. You've been punished for ignoring the problem!

Are any of the above any different from eating, sleeping, having sex, obtaining money, or enjoying so-called fun experiences? Once we satisfy our deprivations, do they ever go away, or do they come back as strong as ever in a relatively short amount of time? If it's all in good fun, then why are we punished so powerfully for ignoring the deprivations as they deepen? Why is the chase sane or logical? Why would we impose it on a new generation, other than to satisfy our egos?

The imbalance between pain and pleasure

If I were to ask a sample of people whether they felt that life, in being full of the things they relished and loved, was ultimately worth living, even after prematurely contracting a double case of bone and stomach cancer while having no access to medical care or pain relief, I imagine that at least some of them would feel that it was; overall, they'd contend that their objects of adoration and enjoyment were worth the horrific pain.

Now, if I were to present that same sample of people with the same circumstances, but in the form of a deliberate offer, I imagine that the results would be quite different. Suppose that, instead of asking whether life is worth living in spite of contracting horrible diseases, I said, "I can give you everything -- everything -- that you've ever wanted in life, no matter how lofty or unusual. Love? Riches? Intense physical pleasure of various sorts? Simple contentment? Beauty? It doesn't matter. I can give you all of it. The problem, though, is that, in order for you to take these things, I'm going to have to make you pay by giving you both bone and stomach cancer, and I'm going to make them incredibly painful. Furthermore, I'm going to make it so that no medication can work to fight this incredible pain as you slowly die over a period of two years. Sorry, but that's the kind of energy sacrifice that I'm going to have to make in order to keep your life balanced. Still interested in the riches and the love and all the joys and wonders?"

I don't know if anyone would seriously consider the offer.

What is it about the former case that seems, at least to me, so dramatically different from the latter? If I were to guess, I'd say that it's the addition of mystery. Because the horrific pain and suffering are not being directly administered by a fellow human, there's something unknown and "beyond us" about it. Therefore, it's acceptable.

This, quite plainly, is a by-product of our evolution; when we acquired the capacity to reason by way of manipulating linguistic objects, we were not omniscient. Thus, if we were going to remain evolutionarily successful -- and, consequently, wrapped up in the meaningless agenda of life on Earth -- we were going to need to be in awe of that which we did not understand or control. Once you recognize that it's all manipulative psychology designed to promote your own survivability -- and the survivability of your offspring -- you realize pretty quickly that none of the above mentioned desirables are really worth their prices. Perpetuating them into the future by creating copies of ourselves, therefore, is incredibly idiotic, and quite criminal.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three reasons for why nature sucks

1. There are no laws in nature.

2. There is no understanding of anything in nature. Anywhere.

3. Theft and murder are just as much a part of nature as beauty. If you value laws prohibiting murder, then it logically follows that you should value the outright reformation of nature.

A beautiful woman with a criminal record and penchant for sociopathy is best avoided, so how is nature any different? A few good apples do not make the rotten ones any less rotten. Being a nature lover is quite literally like lusting after a woman purely for her looks while completely ignoring her personality -- neuroses, flaws, and all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A simple enough premise

We don't need to know everything in order to act.

Generally, there is nothing about the process of augmenting a knowledge base that changes what had already been a part of the knowledge base beforehand. For example, if I have one rotten apple and no other fruits, then happen to discover four perfectly edible apples in the future, the four edible apples do not magically transform the rotten apple into an edible apple.

If we can basically assert that something is "rotten" about life, then becoming aware of some add-on component to the universe, or something that exists outside of the universe entirely, does not magically make that rotten facet of life something worth indulging in or perpetuating.

Strangely enough, though, the vast majority of people will tell you that life is worth perpetuating from one generation to the next -- in spite of hard suffering, the lack of purpose or accomplishment, and the inability of any one organism to ultimately survive; further, they'll tell you that hardship and suffering are essential, as without them, we'd be bored all day long.

So what they're saying, more directly, is that we must all eat a rotten apple once in a while in order to enjoy the good apples. Is this premise really accurate, or will our biological drives to consume fruit rich in nutrients remain in tact without this insipid indulgence? If most people are right, then you better get on making sure there's a nasty, disgusting, worm-ridden apple in each bag you purchase. You wouldn't want to have no real appreciation for the good ones, would you?