Sunday, July 31, 2011

The goal of society

This is a bit oversimplified, but it does bring some clarity to matters governmental:

Society should be goal-oriented. At present, the only goal of society is to have no goals -- or to allow everyone to be "free" enough to establish their own goals for whatever reasons they see fit. However, you can't predicate your political philosophy on "freedom," because:

1. Where do you decide to draw the arbitrary line? How free should people be allowed to be? If you concede that there should be some limitations, then how is anyone under the guidance of the proposed system free in the first place, and why is freedom the goal touted?

2. There is no such thing as freedom without context; we can only be free from specific things. Evaluate each potential constraint on its own terms, define its qualities, determine the value of those qualities, and then issue a decree regarding the necessity of freedom from the constraint.

3. Freedom from constraints is a means to an end; it can be used for any number of ends, all with their own pros and cons. Why not cut out the archaic Enlightenment rhetoric altogether and define some real goals for your society -- per its ideals?

No leadership does not equal no regulation

Some axioms:

1. There exist transmittable information patterns which guide the course of other information patterns in the universe. The former patterns are best understood when condensed into discrete concepts, or "ideas."

2. There exist facilitators, senders, recipients, and processors of the aforementioned information patterns. These could be loosely defined as information agents, and are currently most apparent in the form of human beings.

3. Information agents should agree upon a foundational set of information patterns as "ideals." Furthermore, this set should serve as the broadest base for work. For example, "Suffering is unwanted among sentient beings" is a maxim that should probably aid in the foundation of this base.

4. Ideals, while serving as the base of society over both self-satisfaction and ruling groups, should be questioned in order to promote consistency and uniformity among information agents. This axiom is the -- or one of the -- meta-ideals.

5. In theory, a meta-ideal could be questioned by a meta-ideal another layer back in the chain, but as this process has the potential to carry on ad infinitum and has no apparent point of logical termination, it is best, for practical reasons, to avoid it and instead opt to carry out the above in a manner which encourages positive demonstrable results.

On a related note, the IEEE standards are great examples of how information can be centrally standardized without the interference of any particular group of people. No one "rules" the IEEE or keeps "the people" who use its standards "out of power," yet networking technologies seem to get on just fine; likewise, Microsoft, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, etc. do not "enforce" IEEE standards or promise punishment for breaking with them.

Of course, the difference between a truly open system promoting the establishment of standards and the IEEE is that the latter exists within a capitalist paradigm, and is therefore channeled through corporate activities. Imagine if, instead of computing organizations, standards similar to those endorsed by the IEEE existed for nation-states, and that those states, binded by the standards, no longer had a reason to exist.

Arguments against balance in the universe

1. The ratio of "empty" space to stars and planets is astronomical. If life is part of some magnificent order, then why is the universe filled with cold blackness instead of green pastures and lakes? The current compilation of evidence points toward there being very little, if any, physical advantage in existing as a complex cluster of matter -- especially the kind that moves around and consumes other clusters of matter in order to resist entropy. Almost all of the universe is hostile to large masses, and life in particular. Seriously, just exiting the Earth's atmosphere is incredibly dangerous for sentient beings. How unfortunately small our safety zone is when contrasted with its encasing!

2. Extinction events happen all the time. Was there balance on Earth during the Permian Extinction, when upward of ninety percent of marine life vanished outright?

3. There is nothing against which we can compare the universe, so any relative statement regarding how structured or balanced it is is shortsighted. The universe's processes are orderly? Relative to what?

Actually, we can compare the universe's processes to another kind of process: the human kind. I'm pretty sure that no one on Earth would think it a good idea to build a computer case the size of a stadium just to store parts no larger than those found in modern PCs.

And if someone ever did? Perhaps the people of the future would marvel in awe and wonderment at the result, but that doesn't mean that they would subsequently desire to imitate it. Fascination does not entail admiration.

Re: Entropy

So I got the following anonymous email today as a complement to a comment somewhere regarding the inevitability of the heat death of the universe:

Even if truth hurts, it is better to accept it and face the
consequences. I. e. that life is ultimately pointless and heads
nowhere. We lost. I laughed. Then cried. Soon I'm dead. Thanks. Not.

First, I want to point out that the reason for why I am writing my reply here rather than via email is because this message was sent by an Austrian remailer. I've had stranger things happen, but regardless, I'm not a fan of one-sided conversations where one of the parties isn't allowed to participate or defend his stance. The reply, unaltered, to... someone:

1. Why are you using a remailer? What are the consequences of revealing your email address to me? Is it so frightening to you to have me know who your ISP is -- or even just your mail provider? What could I possibly do with this information? Google you? Yikes!

Guess not everyone is into the idea of transparent communications.

2. When the ostensibly true "hurts," I embrace the pain for the greater good. What hurts more than the truth, though, is the human species' insistence on promoting absolute certainty with regard to epistemological claims. I find it fascinating that you are able to predict, with such alleged precision, events trillions upon trillions of years into the future. The time scales involved in your claims are absurd to imagine; as a result, your conclusions are even more so.

3. Current predictions regarding the heat death of the universe do not utilize the life variable, because doing so would make any subsequent claims baseless and erratic in conclusion. Life -- and, consequently, intelligent information agents, both artificial and organic -- resist entropic decay by actively seeking to keep themselves indefinitely open as systems. Given that I have no idea what the universe will look like in a trillion trillion years, I have no idea what the implications are for both the success and the failure of these processes. I also have no idea whether one outcome or the other will result; the future of information is more uncertain now than it has ever been in human history.

4. We are presently unable to detect approximately 95% of the universe, and only speculate that it exists because we can measure its effects on the 5% that we can observe. In what ways intelligent information agents will be able to utilize dark energy a billion years from now is unknown.

Something to keep in mind, here, is that, if protons decay into nothing at some point, the universe will not be empty afterward; on the contrary, it will be filled with energy -- so much energy that the energy content at this instant will be laughable by comparison. If current models of the universe are accurate, then dark energy will continue to expand the fabric of spacetime for, potentially, eternity. Does this mean anything for intelligence one way or another? No, because we don't know what dark energy is.

5. During Einstein's time, we only had evidence for the existence of a single galaxy; today, we are aware of hundreds of billions. Furthermore, recent evidence in the field of astronomy has pointed toward the possibility that the universe is at least 250 times larger than we've been thinking it is, and that, as a result of inflation, the light cone spanning the diameter of the visible universe is minuscule in contrast to the vast distance separating our central point of observation from all of material reality outside of the cone.

The moral of the story is thus: Never forget that your time period containing all of the answers to the universe's mysteries is an immense coincidence for you, and that everyone to have ever thought this has been wrong to date. Sometimes it is better to accept that we do not know much about our bizarre situation than to feign authority out of some psychological need to feel secure in our certainty that, yes, the universe is a fatalistic place, and there's nothing that we can do about it.

It may feel good to believe that everything is okay, but feeling secure in our certainty has the same effect regardless of whether we're sure that it's all okay or that it's all terrible. I can tell from your reply that you are consoled by your indisputable grasp on truth; it is, after all, easier to accept that everything sucks -- or that everything is wonderful -- than it is to accept that our context is a gigantic unknown. It's human nurture to tend toward confidence and security, after all. Not having an answer causes discomfort. We can't have that!

Having said all of the above, I have no hope for the future, and think that the most likely outcome for life on Earth is that it will all get eradicated when the sun becomes a red giant. If this does happen, it will be a horrific event, but it is possible that afterward, there will never be any horrific events anywhere ever again. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

My take on the non-identity problem

As posted previously here:

The non-identity problem forsakes the essence of sentient organisms, because no sentient organism truly has a discrete identity to begin with. You, for example, are probably much more "me" than the seven-year-old kid whom my memory bank has essentially tricked me, for evolutionary reasons, into thinking is me. I likely contain very little, if any, of the original chemical content of that seven-year-old kid -- and my reactions, propensities, ideals, and general disposition are all drastically different as well.

So, then, if there are no "selves" to begin with, what we're actually dealing with are sensations. If we could push a button that removed all the meat and bones which encapsulate the nerves that do the feeling, we'd realize much more quickly that there are no more hard boundaries between one bundle of nerves and another than there are between one asteroid and another. Even the Earth used to be two "separate" planets billions of years ago -- before they collided with one another and formed what we call "Earth" today.

If you spill two drinks onto the floor at the same time, you clean them up as one mess; you don't view them as separate problems. Sensation is no different. In fact, with every child that gets "spilled" onto the carpet of the world, it should become even more prudent for us to initiate a cleanup. If we can quantify our progress, it should be in electrical signals eliminated -- not persons.

Another way of addressing the non-identity problem is by alerting whoever is wielding it to the fact that proactive maintenance is often considered preferable in business environments over retroactive or reactive maintenance. To prevent a server crash, you implement a backup policy on your network; you don't overload your computers or up the heat in the server room intentionally "just for fun" and then correct any errors after the fact. Why should it be any different for living things merely because they possess the illusions of free will and individuality?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

People are uninformed and lack direction

I once watched a film with a strong environmentalist slant to it which criticized overpopulation and, on some level, the individualistic capitalism required for there to be unregulated reproduction in the first place. I agreed with a lot of what was offered, but not all. However, I appreciated the effort.

I also once visited an Internet message board where someone who very poorly criticized the film was told to "stay the hell away" from the board if he didn't have anything constructive to add, critical or otherwise.

I find this highly ironic, since the best thing to offer the person who'd made the thread would have been education. Rather than shoo the person away for his belligerence, why not interview him? You may not change his mind, but it's equally unlikely that you'll change his mind about continuing to post on the board.

It's ironic because the film criticized social alienation, and what better way to alienate those who oppose our views than to tell them to shut up and leave? This kind of behavior is everywhere in our society; most people enjoy displaying their intellectual accomplishments, but very few are actually living by what they say. Pathetic.

Why we shouldn't leave anyone in charge

1. Leaving a set group of exclusive people in charge of society necessarily causes good ideas to get excluded from the meme pool.

2. On the other hand, getting rid of government really only means that a manmade government will be replaced by nature. This is why anarchism fails.

3. Therefore, the solution is to be ruled not by men, and not by nature, but by a methodology.

There is no President of the scientific community; on the other hand, "cryptozoologists" aren't considered real scientists for a reason.

All decisions should be made within the parameters of something akin to the scientific community; there is no qualitative difference between "We shouldn't waste resources" and "E=mc^2".

Friday, July 8, 2011

Do you think you have much to contribute to society?

It bothers me that so few people look upon themselves with disappointment. Members of Bigfoot message boards will be more than happy to provide you with their "opinion" that Bigfoot absolutely MUST exist -- even if they have no idea what they're talking about, and have no credentials relevant to zoology, biology, etc.

Why are such people allowed to provide their opinions on these topics? There is no basis for them whatsoever. Is it okay to let people provide an opinion on some ontological matter just because they want to feel like they belong to something? What if we were to let anyone form an "opinion" on how to build a bridge?

If you were to eyeball the distance between yourself and the clouds above you, what would make your opinion somehow worth considering, given the existence of measuring instruments?

Be honest with yourself: Are you providing your two cents because you have genuine business in doing so, or do you just want everyone to know that you exist? Do you have something to contribute beyond the baseline at which most opinions rest, or do you just want to be recognized? Sometimes the right thing to do is to admit ignorance, even in spite of an interest in the topic at hand, and politely step aside.

Too few people are disappointed in their shortcomings. I am very, very disappointed in mine -- not because I feel as though I've "failed" in life, but because the universe has so perfectly limited me. My brain could calculate things so much faster, judge distances so much more accurately. Most people don't think about stuff like this, because they're after social gratification rather than truth. What a great world it would be if everyone were horrified by their limitations.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Antinatalism forum

There is now an antinatalism forum.

I didn't set it up, but feel free to post. It looks like it could really use more activity.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The "nonexistent people never get a chance to choose" argument

I see antinatalists constantly struggling to crush an argument that's best summed up thusly:

Nonexistent people never get a chance to choose whether their individual lives are worth living or not. Because a nonexistent person cannot desire things, we cannot make statements regarding whether a nonexistent person will desire life if presented the choice.

Another variant might look something like this:

We don't know whether a particular person's coming into existence will be for the greater good or not, so we have no right to prevent it from happening. For all we know, a person's birth will be, at the minimum, good for the person himself.

An easy way to trump this is to alert the person making the argument to the fact that he or she is actually on step two in the line of questioning. The first step is:

Is life necessary?

If there is nothing necessary about life, then we cannot possibly justify it, given that stakes are present. We can only justify taking risks with stakes involved where it's necessary, or where the stakes are the lowest possible out of all the options. If the lowest possible number of stakes within a given scenario is zero, and the other options are not necessary, then we should choose the option with zero stakes.

Again, if you're not willing to roll a six-sided die with five amazingly pleasurable sides so long as AIDS or stomach cancer or the bubonic plague is on the sixth, please remember that every day, someone gets the "I just fell in love" side, someone gets the "I just won the lottery" side, and someone, somewhere gets the "Wow, I'm HIV positive" side. If you're okay with this but not okay with rolling the die yourself, then you are a hypocrite.

The issue at hand is NOT whether potential persons should be allowed to decide for "themselves" that their lives are good; it's whether there is a real, hard reason to fabricate the dilemma in the first place. I'm sure that ninety percent of the human population enjoys ice cream, but that doesn't give you the "right" to order a friend ice cream for dessert without first asking him if he wants ice cream. What if he's in the ten percent that abhors ice cream?

Now imagine that, not only does he dislike ice cream, but he's lactose intolerant to the point where eating even a single spoonful will cause him to vomit uncontrollably and become hospitalized.

Now imagine that eating ice cream is not of such dire importance that we can ever deem it necessary for anyone.

Hey, you haven't forced the dessert on him yet, so we can't say anything about whether he likes ice cream, right?

So what?

A concession to the antinatalist and voluntary human extinction communities

In a several-months-old post of mine, I said the following: is certainly possible that automated, technological means of redesigning the natural world could emerge at some point, capable of removing negative sensation from that environs. In both cases, given that we can't predict future suffering with any degree of accuracy for now, it makes more sense to voluntarily exist to the end of learning more about our predicament than it does to voluntarily disappear from the universe outright. How irresponsible the alternative must be, if it indeed turns out that trillions of planets contain or will contain mass-energy configurations similar in content and substance to whales and buffalo, and that we can do something about it!

I was reading this post today, and realized that I don't really agree with its content. A couple of thoughts:

1. As previously noted, life, if it truly does exist elsewhere in the universe, must be preposterously rare -- so rare that any attempt to find and subsequently help it would prove incredibly impractical. We don't go out of our way to search for hypothetical abducted children halfway across the world from where they were last seen, do we?

2. How are we ever going to leave this solar system? Even if we were to dispatch energy-efficient nanobots and program them to spend most of their time drifting through space, coasting off their initial energy use, how in the world would we ever find anything without at least some kind of indication regarding where it might exist?

Given these points, I have modified my original stance on this issue. There are three kinds of people to consider, here:

1. Those who would rather end their lives than suffer to any great degree. These people abhor pointless pain, and, quite reasonably, find the concept of life unbearable.

2. Those who would rather live forever, or at least long enough to mentally prepare for eternal nonexistence and/or a huge, uncontrollable unknown.

3. Those who would rather live forever, or at least some substantial period of time, merely because they enjoy life. Note, here, that many life proponents who are also death proponents would probably opt for eternal life if given the choice; their biologically programmed desires do not have expiration dates built into them, so when they say that they think death is "just a part of life," they're usually just lying to themselves.

I see no reason why all of these groups shouldn't be allowed to have things their way simultaneously. The solution, then, is to legalize assisted suicide while working on simulated realities and a cure for aging.

So, if some of us ultimately do decide to stick around, it should be for one or both of the following reasons:

1. We're biding our time until we feel more comfortable with making a decision after which there is no turning back -- regardless of how unlikely the contrary prospects are.

2. We enjoy living.

We're probably never leaving this solar system, and if we do, it's unlikely that we'll find anything of interest out there. Sure, we can look, but looking shouldn't be our raison d'être.

An Ideal Society, Part 4: Language

I'm going to make a rather bold statement:

There should be only one language.

Honestly, why the redundancy? It's not as though, if English were to "crash," we'd have Italian waiting on standby to pick up its slack as part of some array of languages. The less that we are able to understand one another, the worse off we are.

We can't solve the problem by becoming multilingual, either, because:

1. It'd be pretty difficult to learn every language on Earth.

2. If I know English and Spanish and you know English and Spanish, that's two people who each have two distinct symbols in their brains for every imaginable human conception. Multiply this waste of time and space by six billion and you'll see where I'm going with this. You should only learn a second language if you need to in order to understand someone who doesn't already know your language -- but in an ideal society, this problem wouldn't exist in the first place.

Imagine having two cars, but living alone. Imagine owning two pairs of shoes when you only need one to protect your feet. Imagine having two computer keyboards that you occasionally swap back and forth for fun. Imagine having two beds to sleep in and oscillating between them at random.

A duplicate item needn't be identical to the original in order to qualify as being functionally void or needlessly redundant. Sure, you may enjoy the aesthetic variation, the novelty, the sheer variety; perhaps these qualities supersede boredom. There's nothing wrong with this, but if you're acquiring duplicate items at the expense of something more materially valuable at that moment, then you're woefully ignoring opportunity cost, which necessarily leads to your generating wasted space.

Brain space is no different from other forms of space; it's certainly finite, above all else. Don't waste time learning a new version of something with which you're already familiar when there's much more to be learned in its place; doing otherwise promotes pretentiousness, frivolous socialization, and, ultimately, a fragmented species intermittently predominated by huge communications holes.

Important disclaimer: If you're not American, British, Australian, or Canadian and you read this blog, you're likely bilingual. Please take note that it isn't your fault that a second language has been imposed upon you by academia; furthermore, considering the gradual encroachment of the English language upon much of the territory of the other languages of the world, there may be some practical benefit in your knowing English. Just keep in mind that it'd be really dumb of you to decide to learn Arabic for fun or to show off how cultured you are to friends. In any case, this post isn't about what you should be doing with your own personal life, but what a society as built from scratch should look like.

Statement of the day

It is better to be right than happy.