Saturday, August 27, 2011

Let's have a Socratic dialogue

"Socratic dialogue" is an unfortunate term for it, since nothing should ever be named after anyone (Occam's Razor is one of the most notoriously awful examples), but the practice is nevertheless quite sensible. Below, I have listed a few controversial or uncommon viewpoints for you to oppose in the comments section, if you so wish. Single a few out if you disagree with them and let's get an interrogation going until we discover, once and for all, whether the statements are truly sound; perhaps you can succeed in modifying them.

Without further ado:

Out of the government, the corporate world, and the media, the government is the most benign.

The average person is a larger problem than members of any "elite" group.

Americans are no dumber or more privileged than anyone in any other first world nation.

Feminism promotes social division and frivolity.

Courting sexual partners is a demonstration of prejudice.

All pleasurable states are nothing more than relief from previous unpleasurable states.

We should do away with money as soon as possible.

No one should have children for any available reason.

The "traditional family" model suffocates and depresses people -- or at least reduces their quality of life significantly.

There is no such thing as a mental disorder.

Anarchism is selfish and myopic.

Democracy is a terrible idea, and certainly did not originate with the emergence of the United States.

Ownership (property, copyright) creates a massive amount of waste while promoting attachment and conflict.

Attachment exacerbates suffering.

It is unlikely that there are other intelligent beings in the universe.

If life exists beyond the Earth, it must be absurdly uncommon.

Hurricanes, flus, earthquakes, school shooters, terrorists, stock market crashes, and debt are not going to get you.

We have replaced god with popular entertainment and the media.

Individualism is socially corrosive.

Capitalization, apostrophes, the multiplicity of punctuation marks, and synonyms should be done away with as soon as possible.

All words should be spelled phonetically.

Most books are a waste of time. The faster that you can glean information, the more efficient you are.

Quoting people is no different from wearing name brand clothing, showing off an expensive car, or increasing the size of your friends list on Facebook.

There should be one human language; any more than this is needlessly redundant.

Civilization will not collapse at any point over the next hundred years. In fact, it has never truly collapsed since its advent some 6-7,000 years ago.

The only state of perfection is nothingness.

Investing in [modification: Committing to] any idea is foolish, given that attempting to prove the reliability of one's senses via one's senses is illogical.

Marijuana will probably become the culprit of at least some lung cancer cases over the next hundred years.

Obesity, with few exceptions, is not especially unhealthy -- and is almost never life-threatening.

Loving your partner is the same, in principle, as favoring your race or nation over the others.

Cuddling with a puppy after eating a cow is contradictory behavior at its worst.

All competitive sports are a waste of money, resources, schooling, and brain space; furthermore, they promote social division and animosity.

We should strive to attack all ideas, no matter how good they seem. If we come to favor a particular viewpoint, it should be because, while attacking it, we found that it held up better than the opposing ideas -- which were also attacked.

Fast food is a convenient way to eat in modern society, and is usually better for you than a fatty slab of steak high in calories purchased at a fancy restaurant.

Organic foods are usually worse in quality, less delicious, and more susceptible to rot than other foods.

There is nothing particularly unacceptable about smoking cigarettes.

It is a bad idea to get high or drunk in any capacity, for such activities decrease one's judgment and physical reflexes.

Lyrics, image, philosophy, and politics have nothing to do with music.

Most people are unhappy due to their own poor decision-making skills, but rather than improve or seek guidance, they blame a group for their shortcomings -- usually the government, the corporations, the media, or their families.

We should intelligently (i.e. gradually, while maintaining a balanced ecosystem) spay and neuter all animals on Earth as soon as possible.

The Holocaust was not some brilliant conspiracy to exterminate a race of people, but rather, a poorly planned, feather-fluffing set of events aimed at merely deporting said race.

The United States's involvement in World War II was unjustified; similarly, the American Civil War and American Revolutionary War should have never happened.

We will be ruined by pleasure, meekness, and popular culture long before we are ruined by torture, statism, and Big Brother.

Failing any high school course -- or even most college courses -- will have no impact whatsoever on your economic well-being.

Those members of modern society who claim to believe in a god suffer from cognitive dissonance, and believe far more in television, work, and bar-hopping than that holy book which they have never once opened.

Washing your hands after going to the bathroom accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Charities accomplish nothing other than to generate profit for various entities while, in some circumstances, strengthening societies just enough to allow them to perpetuate their own suffering.

Exploring the planets and moons of our solar system is a tremendous waste of time and resources.

Most people speak in memorized, discrete blocks of thought patterns that are essentially platitudes. Rarely does anyone recite a "belief" from outside of his or her culture -- even if the belief is purported to be anti status quo.

We will not experience a major extinction event as a result of global warming.

Nature lovers are liars, for they despise plague, disease, insects (especially maggots!), suffocating heat, frostbite, intestinal worms, shredded animal carcasses, etc.

Most jobs exist only to help others do their jobs, or to produce more crap that we don't need.

Welfare and utility are not equivalent; consequently, the modern concept of a "job" is flawed.

Sexual orientation and desire for social bonds are largely conditioned.

The less people you know, the happier you'll be. The more wants and desires that have to be accommodated, the more that compromise becomes a necessity, and knowing less people means attending less funerals.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A pragmatic approach to ideas

This has already been touched upon numerous times, but I'd like to once again stress that we should go about forming "opinions" by rigorously testing all ideas prior to implementation. The questions that we should be asking ourselves when initially considering an idea are:

1. Does the idea work?

2. If the idea works, does another one work more efficiently?

All ideas must be able to pass the test of falsifiability before being considered for implementation. If we can't see results from a test of the idea, then no one should hold an opinion regarding its practical validity.

Avoiding optimism bias

If a potential quality that you're contemplating is desirable to you, consider a potential quality of similar likelihood which is undesirable to you before deciding to chase the former quality.

For example:

1. The odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 20 million*. Yeah, those numbers are outrageous, but I'm going to play the lottery, anyway. You never know!

2. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 20 million*. Phew, that's good to know. That's one less way of dying that I'll ever, ever have to worry about. It's basically a guarantee that it'll never happen to me.

Funny how we think about things differently depending on whether they benefit us -- even when the data are exactly the same in all instances! Regardless of what topics you're entertaining, always be sure to control for optimism bias during the decision-making process.

* These odds were fabricated for the purpose of the example.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

One more utilitarian post for the road

Premise 1: An action was taken.

1. The action was imposed on a sentient being.

2. Therefore, the action was bad.

This conclusion is false. Not all bad actions are imposed on other sentient beings; some only affect the self. In this sense, they may not be "immoral," but they are nevertheless foolish. Likewise, not all imposed actions are bad, for reasons stated below.

Premise 2: An action was taken.

1. The action caused harm -- regardless of whether it violated a sentient being's will.

2. Therefore, the action was bad.

This conclusion is also false. Harm is inherently bad, but causing harm is not, for some harm leads to a reduction of harm overall.

Premise 3: An action was taken.

1. The action was imposed on a sentient being, and/or...

2. ...the action caused harm beyond being a mere violation of the being's will.

3. The action prevented a much worse kind of harm from emerging elsewhere.

4. Therefore, the action was good.

This conclusion is true.

Sometimes, you need to kill the killer, lest he continue with his deeds uninterrupted. 

The next phase: Meta-conversations

Attracting people based on any particular present position is myopic. In retrospect, it may have been better for this blog to have stuck with detailing how to formulate ideals and make decisions than to have mentioned or endorsed any specific ideals or decisions. In the future, I would like to hold discussions regarding process management, premise formation, qualitative analysis, and logic; in short, I would rather discuss how to come to conclusions than give any of my readers any specific conclusions to revolve around and rally behind.

It may be the case that my conclusions -- tentative though they may indefinitely be -- are sound, but I am more interested in how a reader might have come to the same conclusions as myself than in the mere similarity of our positions. If, for example, your antinatalism leads you to choose vegetarianism, that does not entail that all vegetarians are antinatalists, or that congregating with vegetarians without any quality control is a sensible practice.

Note that I say all of the above not because I am interested in censorship or stifling important discussions, but rather, because there should be an order to this process, with specific ideals coming into play much later on after everyone has established that they utilize similar mental algorithms for processing information.

As a final thought on antinatalism, I will say the following (note the lack of generalizations below, as I am myself an antinatalist):

1. Many antinatalists are concerned solely with refraining from reproducing, and have either weak or nonexistent socio-political philosophies; in other words, they are often far wiser than most when it comes to being proactive (in at least the fundamental sense), but could use some improvement when it comes to being retroactive.

2. Many antinatalists view the world from an anthropocentric standpoint, meaning that they are solely concerned with the end of human reproduction. They may understand that animal suffering is bad, but they very often have no ambition to do anything about it beyond becoming vegetarian.

3. Many antinatalists view "the" problem as life itself (or, in more sensible cases, sentient life). The more accurate position to take, from my perspective, is that of "the" problem being a lack of intelligent management and regulation of the universe's energy processes -- or the mere existence of energy and work in the first place.

Furthermore, if sentience were distributed in discrete executable files to volunteering computers, such computers could call sentient processes for any given duration and turn them off on demand. In this scenario, a computer without any capacity to feel pain or pleasure could make calculations on a level of sophistication comparable to that of a human, and would only call conscious, sentient experience to the fore -- or "wake up," if you will -- when it felt like it would be fun or educational to do so; this would solve the problem of deprivation.

Of course, if such experiences, through repeated observation and testing, were demonstrated to be too risk-laden, then they would be phased out -- though, again, any conscious experience would be undertaken voluntarily, without impinging on any other conscious experiences or requiring anything other than self-contained information.

In summation:

Symptoms: Sentience; deprivation/desire/discomfort
Causes: Lack of intelligence; presence of existence

We either become gods and attain absolute, one-hundred-percent certainty that our ending the universe means that it's all over forever, or we volunteer to learn and explore, given that we cannot undo our births and that some of us suffer when contemplating death. Preventing future births, while a good thing, is no more credible as a rallying point than any other philosophical position, be it the unlikely existence of a deity or something as crass as rights-based activism. The discussion of how to properly use your brain is the only true rallying point -- for now.