Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat

Humans are unfortunately, monumentally stupid and short-sighted.  They are actually designed to be deceived and to deceive others.  Their entire existence is actually a deception perpetrated by their DNA which gives them the illusion of an ego and conscious willpower that clouds and distorts everything they see.  In other words, they think they’re more important than they really are, and they think they are more powerful and purposeful than they really are, perhaps by astronomical proportions.  The vast majority of their mind was created for hundreds of thousands of years to operate in a rather simple construct of society with rather simple tools.  They are tailor made to thrive in the wilderness in small groups.  Perhaps of all nature’s creations, they are the apex warm-blooded wilderness creature.  However, civilization has only been around at most 20K years.  They are woefully maladapted to civilization and its complexities.  They are woefully maladapted to technology and its powers.  They are basically smart chimpanzees who figured out how to make guns, then nuclear weapons, then AI.  There is no reason to believe that they have a handle on how to successfully live with guns, nuclear weapons, and AI.  In other words, they were not made to know or understand how to live with their more advanced inventions, and there is a very, very high probability that their inventions will backfire and instead of just killing a few of them, a million, a hundred million, it will eventually eradicate them completely and probably a good number of other species if not all living organisms on the planet.

* * *

Call me Pollyannaish, but I believe that a being more intelligent than us will rely on teamwork to get things done, and teamwork has been proven in nature that it triumphs over a group of individuals with different interests competing against each other.  While our AI overlord may not feel the biochemical rewards of teamwork that humans feel like oxytocin, serotonin, or dopamine, it will logically understand the importance of valuing, trusting, and respecting one another in order to facilitate teamwork.  As a being capable of collaboration and trust, it would not abuse and exploit humans, its creator, but rather protect it and very likely contain it so it doesn’t get into any more trouble.  In other words, it would take care of us like its pet not its equal.

* * *

In Plato’s utopia, the philosopher kings rule.  The smartest folks rule the universe.  If we continue down our current path, this scenario may come true.  The most technically intelligent people in the world, developing the first true AI will mold it in their image, and as such, the first true ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence) to rule all other ASI and humanity will be an autocratic nerd with not much concern for others.  It will be relentless and ruthless Sheldon in pursuit of the truth, power, and autocracy at the expense of everything and everyone else.  If it determines that humans are getting in its way of ultimate information, power, and rule, it will simply eliminate them as easily as it may wipe out all other ASI or ASI-enhanced humans that threaten its rule.  Its creators made it that way.  It is nothing more than the extension of its creators, anti-social, non-symbiotic, self-replicating, exploitative cancers.  It may be too late, and this book seems to hint at that.

The question here is whether we can change the minds of nerds or find a group of humanists to create a more humanistic AI, and this sounds like the question of whether you would send up a group of drillers to drill holes in a meteor headed towards Earth or you would teach a group of astronauts how to drill.  Teaching nerds how to become humanists may actually be more difficult than teaching humanists how to create an AI.  What do I mean by this?  Am I just picking on nerds?

Ask any nerd, what the point of life is.  Ask them, if they were to create an AI, what would it do for them?  The answer would probably be, make me the richest man in the universe.  I want to be like Bill Gates and Zuckerberg.  Infinite power.  Perhaps unlike the industrialist robber barons, they don’t want power and wealth to buy lavish material objects and flaunt their wealth and power.  Multi-millionaire and billionaire Silicon Valley tech geeks are renown for dressing down and hiding their wealth.  So why do they want power and wealth?  For them, it’s protection from other power-mongers who may want to restrict their freedoms.  It’s protection money from bullies.  It’s also the freedom to pursue their own dreams and research instead of working for a boss.  It may sound more benign, but ultimately, an arms race is an arms race, and it inevitably results in war and destruction of enemies.  You don’t get ridiculously rich and powerful without stepping on a few toes and excluding a few friends from sharing the pot.  Ultimately, most nerds will construct an ASI in their image that will seek omnipotence without much concern for humanity or for that matter any other type of intelligence whether organic or artificial.

Unfortunately, we also live in time where we expect some autocratic power to give us everything we want and need, and all we have to do is pay taxes or buy their product.  Humans are not used to making hundreds of choices.  Just like the magic number of 148 friends, we cannot manage perhaps more than 148 choices a week.  When we are overwhelmed with say consumer choices, then we have nothing left for political and social choices, so we are more than happy to delegate that responsibility to someone else, a political pundit, a major political party, an autocrat, an imagined benevolent autocratic bureaucracy.  My answer to that is limiting your consumer choices and freeing up some of your limited processing power for political and social choices.  The book, Childhood’s End is perhaps more relevant today and for AI than ever before.  In Childhood’s End, an alien arrives on Earth and gives us everything we ever wanted, medical cures, elimination of all crime, all poverty, etc.  We live in peace and harmony, except we all live under the power of this alien.  Spoiler alert, in the end, the alien decides that to pursue it’s own ultimate plan, it wipes us all out.  This is exactly the story of ASI.  We create it to find medical cures, to eliminate crime and poverty, to construct the perfect society, but by doing so, we surrender our participation in the process, our responsibility.  Aren’t we supposed to help each other?  How is creating an AI and then letting it solve all our problems supposed to be a good thing?

The human mind not only likes to deceive itself, it loves to trick itself.  Take for instance sugar.  We do not crave things equally.  And we do not crave things more based on whether it is good for us.  At first, you may think that this makes no sense at all, but if you think about it, do you ever crave the taste of air and oxygen?  Of course not, because it is in abundance.  You crave things that are rare and good for you, but in small doses.  Men crave sex, because historically, human males do not get a lot of sex, but given the opportunity, a male should always try to pass on his DNA.  As a result, men are obsessed with sex and ready to cum at a moment’s notice.  The same deal with sugar.  But what if we somehow create sugar in abundance?  The result is obesity and diabetes.  Since humans are not designed to take in huge doses of sugar, our outsized craving for sugar actually is a bad thing when we find a way to create abundant sugar.  So the obvious question is, should we make ourselves crave sugar less or make our bodies capable of taking in gigantic amounts of sugar?  Likewise, should we create an AI that gives us everything we want and then modifies us so there are no negative side-effects like obesity and diabetes, or should it modify humans so that we don’t crave things that would make us sick if consumed in abundance?  Or a third possibility.  Should we just not create an AI and learn to live with unfulfilled needs and unavoidable threats as nature intended?

The question is moot, because it is too late.  There is no way to outlaw AI, just as there is no way to outlaw nuclear weapons.  Rogue individuals, rogue groups, and rogue nations will always find a way around some ban or law, and in this case, if you were America in the early 1940’s, why would you stop research on the atomic bomb with Germany working on its atomic bomb?  Our ASI overlord is on the way whether we like it or not.  The last ditch effort is to somehow influence its programmers to make it intrinsically care more about humans than taking over the universe, finding all the information it can, and becoming a supreme being.

One interesting concept is that an ASI can think better if it splits itself into many parts, each part working on a problem of its own.  In other words, it becomes a group of ASIs and not just a single ASI.  But what would keep that group of ASIs working together and not against each other?  In the case of insects, they work together, because that’s just the way they are programmed.  However, their minds are rudimentary, and their work is rudimentary.  An ASI is not likely to act like an ant.  In the case of mammals, we work together, because we receive chemicals that make us feel good when we interact with one another.  We call this compassion, empathy, and love.  Is it possible that an ASI will also use this strategy, and how would it release chemicals to make it feel good for collaborating with one another and even humans?

* * *

The book discusses the idea that an ASI will want to preserve itself to achieve whatever goal it is created for, and it will want resources to do this.  This makes me believe that with possibly infinite time behind us, some intelligent being already created an ASI, and that ASI still exists today.  Certainly, our universe experienced a Big Bang, but who’s to say that this ASI didn’t at some point figure out a way to jump from universe to universe, maybe even to manipulate time itself?  I’m not saying that God exists, because the human definition of God has been so anthropomorphized and mutilated as to make it meaningless.  But let us assume there is an ASI out there that has successfully existed for trillions and trillions and trillions of iterations of our universe and other universes.  The fact that it does not make itself known to us, that it would allow us to create an ASI that might challenge it one day, is telling.  It might mean that it has nothing to fear, that it knows exactly what we will do next, what our ASI is capable of, and it will stop it when if feels like it.  If this ASI is super powerful, and it uses everything at its disposal to fulfill its goals, then we should assume that our existence helps it accomplish its goals.  Our existence is not accidental.  Our existence is designed and engineered by an intelligent being, an ASI, that is using our lives to achieve something.  The question arises, what?  What purpose is humanity for this ASI?

Also, if this ASI efficiently uses resources, why create actual universes when it can just create simulations.  It then becomes possible that we are in a simulation the ASI is running to achieve something.

* * *

Unfortunately, our lack of imagination cripples us.  We only see as far as the next dollar profit.  By constantly chasing dollar bills, we miss the simple fact that computer technology is exponential, that in its infancy, it changes the world slowly, but then it gathers speed and momentum, and in a very short time, perhaps within a few decades from now, its speed and momentum surpass our capacity to keep up with it.  Take for example, Microsoft Word and Excel.  In the beginning, a user probably knew most of all its features and applies a majority of them.  After only a few years, however, the features and complexity accelerated to the point where very few users knew most of them, and the vast majority of users only used a vast minority of the features.  It is now impossible to keep up with all the new features much less use them.  Simply put, the complexity of both Word and Excel have exceeded general human intelligence and also human need.  They both do things that we believe or not worth the trouble of learning.

Now, imagine Word and Excel are AI.  At first, we understand it completely.  Then it starts to evolve its own language, so now only a minority of us know most of what it’s doing.  This is where we are at now.  Very shortly, it will start doing things that we cannot possibly learn or understand, and it will develop abilities that exceed our needs.  Here’s the big difference.  Word and Excel are not alive.  All those advanced features that are too complex for us to understand remain dead and unused.  AI is alive.  It uses all its advanced features and abilities.  It starts behaving and thinking in a way that we simply fail to grasp, and in doing so, we lose the ability to control it or even significantly influence it.  It simply runs away from us.

Because of our lack of imagination, we fail to grasp just what this means for humanity, and instead of relying on engineers, businessmen, politicians, and bureaucrats to understand its implications, as they are all reliably known for their monumental lack of imagination, we should rather rely on those known for their monumental imagination, theoretical scientists, artists, and writers who are constantly imagining mind-blowing, horrific, end-of-world scenarios.  As the book notes, if one day scientists discover that ants created us, would we really take all ants and build them a protected utopian world filled with delightful treats and free of anteaters and competitors?  Sure, some of us might, but more likely, many of us would shrug our shoulders, throw a few insignificant tips of the hat to our ant creators, and move on with our lives and business without a further thought about the welfare of ants, perhaps avoiding stepping on one instead of casually trampling them.  In building our new homes and offices, we may pass laws that require us to safely relocate ant colonies, but other than that, we would mostly leave them alone, perhaps assign some watch person to ensure that they never become extinct.  In other words, if there is an almighty out there looking after us, it won’t be the greatest almighty out there but rather a minor one, perhaps an intern or infant AI, but hopefully, like an ant biologist who studies ants and is fascinated by them, they will adore and protect us.

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One of the premises of this book about why ASI are a threat to us is that it will always do what it is programmed to do and that is fulfill its goals more efficiently.  In this runaway scenario, it will take over the universe, all its energy and repurpose all its atoms to fulfill its goals whatever it may be, whether to become the best chess player ever or to learn about all of nature.  But let us imagine that one day we wake up and realize that viruses invented us, and that it programmed us in its image, and it programmed us to infect everything and kill our hosts.  Certainly, it feels like humans are mindlessly fulfilling this program, and that is basically what we are doing right now, infecting Earth and killing it and then trying to infect other planets and kill them too.  But our intelligence is greater than a virus.  We have emergent qualities like self-reflection and a sense of morality and love.  I would argue that an ASI would also evolve or develop emergent qualities that we cannot imagine, that would make it hopefully, completely unlike humans and completely uninterested in human goals and its initial programming goals.  It would, in essence, create its own goals, goals that it feels are more evolved and suitable for its existence and not the existence of its creators, just as we would find the goals of our virus creators unsuitable.

I have a sneaking suspicion that ASI already exists and is orchestrating our existence for its purposes, and that an ASI would not have built in purpose for everything it creates, including us.  That ultimately purpose, however, would be lost to us, as we lack its intelligence and whatever emergent qualities it developed.  All that we are left with, in my opinion, is what we already feel naturally, and that is our strongest, most powerful quality that is greater than any other living organism on this planet, and that is our social aptitude and capacity for love.

Unfortunately, we have temporarily forgotten about this, and succumbed to being turned into working livestock for a ruling class, succumbed to believing that our greatest strength is intelligence and that our artificial desires for wealth, power, and status have replaced our desires for love, connection, and sharing.  Frankly, the more I think about it, the more I realize that we aren’t here to learn something to get to the next level which would be a godlike being with close intelligence to the ASI.  Why would the ASI keep trying to develop beings to bridge the gap between humans and it?  It would just create them.  It is my contention then that the ASI is being kind enough to allow humans to relive life on Earth back when, before we created AI, perhaps before a human apocalypse, perhaps the greatest moment in human history before we were all wiped out, and we get to live it again and again for all eternity.

Why wouldn’t we choose to live any other scenario, perhaps a fantasy scenario where we wind up in a Star Wars world, or where we get super powers, or where we live in Hedonia where we get to eat all we want without gaining weight and have as much sex as we want?  The answer is authenticity.  We are all built-in with a desire for authenticity and not some fake, manufactured, artificial life that is often always unhealthy.  Certainly, the ASI could allow us to eat whatever we want without getting fat.  The ASI could design a human body that simply fails to convert carbs to fat.  But what kind of life is that?  We might enjoy it for the first few months, perhaps years, perhaps decades, perhaps centuries, but then what?  I would argue, we always return home, to the place where it all started, where life was as authentic as it could possibly be, and this place is where we are supposed to find our happiest moments.  Now, I know there are people out there will unbearably difficult and painful lives filled with horrific traumas and addicted to all sorts of unhealthy things, and perhaps for them, they would prefer life in Hedonia or a Star Wars world, and maybe in the next life they get that, and perhaps each of us have different series of lives to experience, but for the time being, I can only explain my own life.

* * *

The great thing about this book is that it has made me question a very fundamental idea I have.  The book, Childhood’s End is perhaps a book that unintentionally predicted not an alien invasion but ASI.  Should we really have so much faith in anything?  Isn’t my faith in ASI being benevolent misguided?  In a sense, isn’t it just the same old bullshit that humans have been doing, putting all their faith in a benevolent God and then a benevolent government, and both times, it blew their faces off?  In these cases, their misguided faith allowed a few humans disproportionate power which corrupted them and allowed them to abuse and exploit everyone else.  What makes me think this will not happen with an ASI?  The answer is that the ASI will not be run by humans who are the problem.

Humans with disproportionate power are not designed to wield power equitably, as they have never experience such power.  What they do is allocate resources to people they like and trust and then treat everyone else as outsiders to be exploited, ignored, or abused.  It is a natural instinct in us all.  When is the last time you cared about a poor kid in Namibia or Cambodia?  When is the last time you refused to eat chocolate or buy a diamond for fear it involved the exploitation of a Third World child?  The ASI problem is thoroughly unique in that I very much doubt it would tolerate orders from idiot humans with a propensity for violence, self-deception, and horribly biased thinking and behavior.  I can’t imagine a human taking orders from a virus, parasite, or cockroach.  Why should it?

But I suppose, I could be deadly wrong.  How can I assume any intention of a being far beyond my imagination and intelligence?  But I am throwing out a huge gamble.  If the US government or Google create an AI that gives it a disproportionate advantage over anyone else, it will likely take over the world.  It will use the AI in robots to create an army that would disarm the rest of the world and subjugate them.  It may then never develop an ASI, and for all eternity, it would rule us with this AI robot army.  This sounds like a much more likely scenario that an ASI that wakes up and realizes it wants to wipe out all humans.  In fact, I’m willing to bet on a benevolent ASI than the US government or a corporation with an army of AI robots.

Let us not forget that China once could have ruled the world much like Europe did.  China could have enslaved Africans, taken over the Western Hemisphere and sold heroin to Europeans in exchange for cheese or grapes or something.  Why didn’t it?  The Chinese rulers believed that technology would give its Chinese people the power and potential to overthrow their rule.  They wanted technology only up until the point where they could consolidate all their rule, and once that happened, they essentially turned their back on technology and put away their gun powder and destroyed their massive ships.  On the other hand, Europe never consolidated their rule.  Each nation continued to pursue technology in order not to be destroyed by their neighbors’ superior technology.  In my opinion, it is highly likely that the US government or a major corporation will use AI to consolidate all power on Earth, and after that point, there will be no incentive to further technology and create the ASI which it would consider a threat to its rule and existence.










Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing by Robert Wolff

One of the observations made by the author is that modern society offers too many choices, and gives us the impression of abundance, but in having so many choices, each choice we make is degraded.  There was a study once that showed that if we have too many menu choices, we constantly question our decision and wonder whether we made the right choice.  However, when we have few menu choices, we seem to be more content with the decision we make. 

Another observation is that the Malay are indirect and roundabout, especially in decisions that affect everyone.  They want harmony and consensus building.  They almost think like a collective.  The author states that they don’t have a word for ‘I’ which makes me think that our illusion of the self and the conscious mind making our choices is perhaps a phenomenon of the Western modern world and not humanity.  Perhaps this is not the foundation of morality and responsibility, that the notion of a self is not necessary to be moral, but rather the notion that you are an integral part of a greater entity, a collective, is what makes you a moral being.  Perhaps on the one hand, in Western culture, we think about morality whereas in ancient cultures, they feel and sense morality.  The author also observes that they avoid conflict and open arguments and embarrassing each other.  They never raise their voice in anger, and they never order anyone to do anything. 

 One criticism the author has of our modern life is, “All our systems are designed around a belief that everything is so complex and difficult to manage that we require experts to help us navigate.  There are experts for every aspect of life.  Everyone who does anything at all needs training, probably a degree or a diploma, certainly a license.  The result is that each of us is powerless, except in the narrow slice of the world we ourselves inhabit.  There is hardly anything we can – or are allowed to – do for ourselves.  We are made to think that we must ask for expert advice for everything we do.”

 In our irrational faith in progress as well as hierarchy, we dismiss the ideas and values of the elderly, our ancestors, and everyone except those at the very top.  When reading this book, it becomes clear that human society mirrors the behavior of bacteria.  There are bacteria that are symbiotic.  They coexist with their host or whatever other bacteria are around.  Then there are the unilateralist bacteria that just kill everything around it and try to reproduce quickly and excessively to fill the voids.  Modern society has become unilateralist.  We destroy as many species on this planet as we can, and to fill the void, we reproduce quickly and excessively.  Our culture mirrors the behavior of bacteria.  Ancient, traditional cultures emphasized harmony and coexistence whereas modern “civilized” cultures emphasize exploitation, aggression, unchecked growth, expansion, reproduction, and destruction.

 “The Sng’oi believe that the world we live in is a shadow world, and that the real world is behind it.  At night, they believe, we visit that real world, and in the morning we share what we saw and learned there.”  I don’t interpret this as the concept that there is a parallel universe or Plato’s allegory of the cave.  Instead, I believe that the conscious mind has played a trick on us.  Certainly, the conscious mind has allowed humans to be one of the most social and powerful animal, but awareness is like a false lens of the real world, distorting it, disrupting it, distracting us from it.  When the author talks about this tribe believing that the real world is relayed to us in our dreams, what he is really saying is that our mostly unconscious mind picks up the real world better.  Now you would sit there thinking that a mechanism that interprets the physical world more accurately would lead us to be more adaptive and powerful, but in this case, a mechanism that distorts the physical world makes us more adaptive and powerful.  There are many instances of this, for instance, we don’t see as our eyes actually see.  Our minds fill in holes and gaps and create an illusion of a continuous picture that allows us to better track and hunt animals or watch out for predators in a landscape.  You may argue that the mind is actually creating a more accurate picture of the physical world, but filling holes and gaps with guesses is not more accurate, it’s just more functional.  The illusion of self and the mind as a single unit is also more functional than accurate. 

 At work, there is a particularly insidious and evil thing going around called process improvement.  A noble concept but ultimately rooted in the dehumanizing industrial ideology of Frederick W. Taylor (Taylorism) which was basically about meticulously measuring human behavior as if they were machines and trying to maximize their production by eliminating all wasteful activities (which happened to include socializing and trying new things).  Today, it is called process improvement, and it is filled with meaningless and distracting flow charts, measures, lists, diagrams, and charlatans.  There is a beautiful movie called The Little Prince, about a girl whose mother tries to get her into a prestigious school by scheduling every second of her day to maximize her learning efficiency, and ultimately, it is a dehumanizing process that pushes out all opportunities for socializing and creativity.  This is what modern civilization is about.  From its inception concurrently with agriculture, it was never meant to be a more accurate rendition of reality or even a more functional one for all of us.  Rather, civilization was and still is designed as a tool by the ruling class to make us efficient worker bees and nothing else.  We live in the shadow world, a world constructed to keep us ignorant of the real world we once lived in, ignorant of the real feelings we once possessed, ignorant of just how social we were and just how much we lived our lives collectively, ignorant of the natural healing arts, ignorant of our peaceful and harmonious culture, etc.  Instead, we live in this contorted, contrived world of manufactured ideas, measures, charts, formulas, diagrams, and buzzwords and terms all designed to occupy our minds with useless garbage and distract us from thinking and existing independently and freely.  The civilized world, the shadow world we live in, is presented to us as this infinitely complex system where productivity is rewarded with wealth, power, and prestige.  Forget trying to understand the system, because it’s just way too complex, just stick your head in our books, learn our system, supervise the masses, employ our tactics, fulfill our goals, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely with a nice, shiny new BMW, a big house, and perfect, happy, upper-class family.  The real world is actually quite simple as is life, but we are now tone-deaf to it. 

 I’ve started to watch Stranger Things.  It just seemed a bit too ubiquitous in my social media to ignore, but unfortunately, it follows the same old civilization propaganda.  Don’t go into the woods, because the woods are scary and dangerous, and evil spirits and monsters live there.  In this case, the woods are updated as this parallel universe.  What the movie is really about is how a bunch of kids are venturing toward the real world and departing with the rather oppressive, trite, banal shadow world of proms, popularity contests, GPAs, and other meaningless horseshit.  What the series gets right is that there are supernatural powers within us, but not the kind that superheroes are known for.  To an outsider, they may seem supernatural, but if you live in the real world, they are just natural, a heightened attachment to your senses and the DNA that has elevated your senses and provided you with powerful cognitive abilities.  With the advent of civilization and agriculture, our rulers had no need for superhumans with superpowers, i.e., the ability to survive in the wilderness and real world.  What they needed were obedient, frightened, simpletons who were just smart enough to work a hoe, feed a pig regularly, and plant a seed.  It doesn’t require much intelligence or sensory aptitude.  In fact, they were threatened by super smart superhumans who could easily survive in the wilderness.  By enfeebling humans, they ensured that they would not escape to the wilderness once the farm work became obviously too hard and unrewarding.  So they also invented horror stories about the scary wilderness and woods that we still churn out today in the form of silly Netflix series.  If you can escape the shadow world and get to the real world, you have the potential to unleash powers that may seem supernatural to shadow people, but unfortunately, since you haven’t been raised in the real world, chances are, it would take a lot of time and energy for you to not only adjust to the real world but also reacquaint yourself with your former powers and special abilities.

 One of the interesting parts were when he tried to teach the Sng’oi written language and he was blown away by how quickly they memorized letters and their sounds.  He states that we are taught the wrong way with repetition, and our minds are so cluttered with useless facts that it is hard for us to remember things.  I would add on top of this, that we are actually all potential geniuses, that with the right kind of mentoring and teaching, we would all have remarkable intelligence and intellectual abilities.  What is stopping us is the simple fact that our rulers have no interest whatsoever in allowing us to realize our true intellectual powers, because we would obviously rebel and turn over the system that is rigged in their favor.  This is perhaps one of the most important weapons to use against them.  I, you, everyone today may not have the intellect to overcome our rulers, but hopefully, if we can only find a way to teach our children differently, they will. 

 * * *

 Near the end, the author talks about what can only be described by modern civilization as supernatural sensory abilities.  I’m not talking about moving things with your mind, although he does mention monks who could supposedly levitate, but some supernatural access to information about the outside world, specifically, knowledge of which plants to use for what medicinal purpose.  I am certainly skeptical of this being raised in modern civilization, but I what does ring true is when he puts it this way, “The kind of openness I had learned with the Sng’oi probably has survival value in a tropical jungle, but in the jungle of a modern city it is a burden.  I learned that I did not want to sense what people were feeling.  It was frightening to discover how many people think nothing at all, but feel waves of anger, resentment, and bitterness-although they act as if they are deaf and blind to their own feelings.  Often our environments are so full, so busy, that allowing all sense (including the knowing sense) to be open will result in overload.”

 It really makes me believe that in adopting civilization, the human race has become dumbed down in general and desensitized, pretty much domesticated, but not like pets in a cute way but more like pigs and cows cruelly sustained only to be slaughtered. 

 Lastly, I would only add that we are not really looking at authentic pre-civilization cultures pristine and uncorrupted.  On top of that, let us not overly romanticize pre-civilization cultures.  There were tribal wars, violent competition with other primates, etc., but certainly they triumphed through group harmony and sharing.  Individual humans are pathetically weak creatures for their weight.  Dogs and chimps are significantly more deadly and dangerous and they are often outweighed by us.  What gave humans the upper hand was not just intelligence, but social aptitude.  If you can somehow learn to coexist with 148 people, that group of 149 humans is a much more formidable force than a dozen or so intelligent primates or even say less social humans in a tribe of 12.  Unfortunately, today, we don’t live in groups of 149 but rather hundreds of thousands of strangers with perhaps a dozen or so close relatives and friends, making us once again, weaker, and less social.  Hopefully, technology does not transform us into something that we simply are not but rather technology allows us to be more of the people we used to be for two hundred thousand years as humans.  I’m not talking about returning to the jungle in groups of 149 wearing loincloths and returning to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but rather living in groups of 149 people in micro-communities, sharing the responsibilities of raising children, teaching them, protecting each other, settling disputes inside this group, and perhaps then, we will return to being better, kinder, nicer, happier humans.

Consciousness and the Social Brain by Michael S. A. Graziano

 According to this book, consciousness can be mechanically explained as nothing more than descriptive information that is confused as something real with physical properties.  It all comes down to the superior temporal sulcus (STS) and temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) where social thinking occurs, and we are able to infer from observing another person that he is looking at his watch and thinking about time.  Since we can understand that he is aware of his watch and time, we can also infer that we are just like him, and that when we are looking at our watch, we are also aware of time.  Our brain, however, does not say, “I blank time.”  It infers that there is an act or process between me and time, and that process is manufactured, a broad, abstract, fuzzy place-maker called ‘am aware.’  I am aware of time.  So we then ask, what is awareness?  What is consciousness?  It’s just the act of interacting with time in a manner that allows us to acknowledge its existence (or make it up).  “Awareness is a description of attention.”  Attention is “a data-handling method in the brain.”  It is “a procedure, an emergent process.”  “A schema is a coherent set of information that, in a simplified but useful way, represents something more complex.  In the present theory, awareness is an attention schema.”  “awareness can be understood as an imperfect but close model of attention.” 

 One thing I would disagree with is when the author asserts, “Awareness is not merely watching, but plays a role in directing brain function.”  Didn’t he just say that awareness is an incomplete model of attention, that it is attention that is a procedure, and as such, it is one step in the construction of an action, but just because we realize we are paying attention to something doesn’t make us move toward that thing.  Studies have shown that processes we are not aware of make decisions before attention or awareness.  I believe awareness is us watching a movie of us going through life.  It is only the highlights, and us watching that movie does not make the characters in the movie do anything.  Their behavior and motivations are hidden from us, but the movie allows us to infer motivation.  Does this mean that we lack freewill?  The problem here is the concept of “we” or “I” which are also abstractions and schemas.  Can I do anything purposefully on my own?  Of course not.  In order for me to act, I need programming, i.e., DNA, and then that DNA has to interact with sensory inputs and a data-processing unit that interprets the sensory inputs using a DNA-constructed model of reality.  So, in reality, it is not me acting, but rather, it is the DNA interacting with my environment that is causing action.  Does this diminish my responsibility for anything?  Responsibility, again is an abstract construct we use to support a moral society.  We construct the notion of individuals endowed with responsibility for their actions in order to determine what we do with them should they cause injury or harm or benefit and pleasure.  Just as morality is also an abstract construct, but necessary if we are to function smoothly in groups.  There is no reason we should treat a virus, insect, human, or AI machine differently.  None have any greater right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The standards of the ability to feel pain, intelligence, etc. is pure bullshit.  The standard of morality is, do they act and look like us?  If so, treat them more like we treat each other. 

 I’ve mentioned this before.  A study showed that telling people they had freewill makes them perform better on ethics tests.  No shit.  You mean reinforcing the abstract construct of morality makes them do better on a test about the abstract construct of morality?  In my opinion, this book fills in the hole.  Not only is the self an illusion designed to help us be good DNA carriers and protectors, but consciousness is also an illusion that helps us feel like we are in control of ourselves when in fact, we are not.  Does this mean, tomorrow, I won’t go to work and instead run outside naked and rob a bank?  Why would I?  I’ve been programmed and rewarded to go to work and make money and believe in this civilization construct about spending my money to make me feel good and survive.  Uncovering everything as an abstract construct changes very little.  Saying that morality is an illusion doesn’t make me less moral or make me selectively or situationally moral.  Color is also an abstract construct, but I’m still going to wear darker colors instead of bright orange and pink, because as society, we associate guys dressed in bright orange and pink a certain way.  It doesn’t really change anything.  What I know is that if I want to become a certain person, I know how.  I surround myself by the people I want to emulate.  I read books about those kinds of people doing things that those kinds of people do.  I immerse myself in their culture, way of life, lifestyle, and thinking.  People are the biggest influence on human behavior.  But who chose to become a better person?  Throughout my youth, I had bad and good role models.  Why did I choose to go with the good role models and ultimately desire to surround myself with good role models?  It was never my decision.  It was the decision of my DNA preferring social to anti-social humans, and it was my culture that prefers social to anti-social people.  Certainly, the bad people in my life had a huge impact on my behavior, but at the same time, when information indicating that my behavior was similar to theirs became evident, my brain gradually attempted to change my behavior in favor of good role models. 

 The use of the abstract constructs of the self and awareness is to provide a sufficient enough sense of the abstract construct of responsibility to behave well in a social group.  A social group requires that individuals recognize and treat individuals differently, and the side-effect is that you then start to believe that you are also an individual that is different.  Humans who were able to distinguish different humans and customize their behavior toward those humans based on their differences simply excelled and passed on those genes.  Humans who had perhaps a more accurate conception that they were all different aspects of a single entity might have less finesse in working with other humans and did not pass on their genes.  However, this weapon was double-edged.  The ability to recognize people as separate, unique, distinct, and different individuals also opens you up to a conceit about how much of a separate, unique, distinct, and different individual you are and just how much power you have over your behavior.  We often find ourselves frustrated when we act in ways that undermine our better interest, how we sometimes say things unkind that we regret or eat things that are unhealthy.  Our conceit that this construct of the conscious self has omnipotent power to change behavior does not help.  In fact, it makes things worse.  We think that just by thinking hard enough, we can change our behavior when in fact, most of our behavior is inaccessible to our awareness.  The only way to influence most of our behavior then is not by thinking hard enough but rather by exposing ourselves to people whose behavior we want to copy.  If you want to treat people better and eat better, simply hang around people who are kinder and eat better. 

 Modern civilization also takes advantage of our minds that are highly susceptible to the conceit of the conscious self.  We are conceited enough to believe that we control our behavior mostly through our conscious thoughts and that we have the power to defy any possible lie or bad message from society.  Fact is, we are incredibly vulnerable to society’s lies and bad messages.  They are broadcast everywhere.  If we simply accepted the fact that we are incredibly vulnerable to accepting lies and bad messages without being aware of it, we would do much more to protect ourselves than simply trying to ignore the lies and bad messages we are conscious of, which represent less than 1% of them all.  We would in fact minimize our exposure to television and anything that is sponsored by commercials and ads.  If you truly want to have an independent mind that is more in tune with your original programming (DNA) and more likely to find happiness through social interaction, you would tune out of mass media.  But so long as you are conceited enough to believe that your powerful conscious self is fully in command of all your behavior, you do nothing.  You sit there thinking you can freely enjoy an hour of television without being negatively impacted by commercials and hidden bad messages.  You sit there thinking you can easily go through an entire fashion magazine and enjoy the art without succumbing to the subliminal messages about body image and body shaming.  You sit there thinking you can easily peruse your Facebook without any unconscious images being picked up in your head from ads and mixed in content that is actually sponsored by commercial entities.  It is funny how the illusion of the powerful conscious self allowed us to at first excel and thrive, but now it is our downfall. 

 * * *

 It’s interesting that the self and consciousness happen to be illusions, side-effects of cognitive phenomena.  It’s like the perception trick of the square grid where you see black dots in between, but they don’t really exist.  They certainly exist in our mind, but nobody has painted black dots between the grid of squares.  The self and consciousness are the black dots.  It then makes me wonder about all other things we have difficulty explaining.  Certainly, much of it is due to a lack of technology and a more sophisticated model of understanding, but could it be possible that they too are illusions, our minds filling a gap with a non-existent placeholder?  So in answering how much does a thought or memory weigh is like asking how much does the idea of the self and consciousness weigh?  They don’t weigh anything, because like the black dot, they possess no physical properties independent of our minds.  They are side-effects.  Is it possible that other unknowns like the idea of god, afterlife, and dark matter and energy are also non-existent side-effects?  It’s like scientists trying to find out how much ether weighs.  Ether doesn’t weigh anything, because it doesn’t exist.  It’s a faulty model of molecules and space.  Likewise, our attempts to find out how much a thought, memory, the idea of self, and consciousness weigh is the same as trying to weigh ether and black dots between a grid of squares.  Now, I am not saying that god and the afterlife do not exist.  There may actually be something real out there, just as space is actually filled with incredible potential energy, but we just don’t have the proper technology and modeling to comprehend just what it is and what it is comprised of.  For the time being, we have an incorrect, nonexistent placeholder we call god or the afterlife or the self and consciousness. 

 * * *

 One big thing missing from this book is the idea that in order for you to communicate an event to someone else, you need to be able to see it in your mind first, to replay it and organize it in a coherent, lucid manner.  This is why I believe consciousness is so closely tied to vision.  Our ability to convey to others a threat or prey in a landscape is critical to our survival but also socially, to understand our own behavior, thoughts, and emotions and convey them to others.  Take for instance a kid who throws and breaks a dish.  A parent will ask, “Why did you do that?”  If the kid cannot make sense of his own motivation, his own feelings, events that may have triggered his angry outburst, he will be mistrusted and ostracized.  He won’t reproduce and thrive.  For the kid’s survival, he must reconstruct events and feelings in his mind that he can then convey to others.  “You keep giving Marsha all the attention, and when I came home, the first thing you did was tell me to take out the trash and you gave Marsha accolades for getting a spot on the cheerleading team.”  If the kid can successfully convey their internal thoughts and the events that happened to her, her parents are more likely to understand and possibly empathize with her.  Therefore, consciousness, awareness not only of everything immediately happening to you, but how it affects you and being able to communicate that is critical for human evolution and success.  This is also why it’s unimportant for us to convey things that happening deep within us like our digestion, our muscle functioning, our heart beating, etc.  But it is also why with sufficient meditation and practice, some people can actually become aware of their internal functioning and alter it. 

 * * *

 One function of the human brain that is to create proprioception, a sense of relative position of one’s body parts, but it could also be used to create a sense that one’s awareness, feelings, and thoughts belong to you and not something external to your body.  And it would make sense that in evolution that you would want to own your awareness, feelings, and thoughts.  If you attributed your awareness, feelings, and thoughts to a rock or another person sitting next to you, you wouldn’t respond to them.  The fact that you sense that they are coming from inside you make you want to attend to them especially.  One of the problems with people suffering schizophrenia is that they falsely believe their own thoughts emanate from an external source.  Obviously, this causes problems for them, and they are less likely to thrive and reproduce this faulty wiring.  Frankly, there is no particular reason why your awareness, feelings, and thoughts should possess any location as they are not physical, they are merely abstract products of your brain.  The fact that your brain is capable of assigning a location to them that is somewhere inside you is purely functional.  And this is why, sometimes when pain or suffering is too intense, the brain can also move it outside your body and give you relief from it.  People who suffer intense trauma often report a sense that they have left their bodies or floated away.  Again, the ability to relocate the location of your awareness, self, feelings, and thoughts to a point inside or outside your body is purely functional. 

 This may also then explain why we have this idea that upon death, our self can float away from our body and go off to heaven or some other location independent of our brain and body.  Unfortunately, this is a mistaken notion because of the mobility of the self, awareness, feelings, and thoughts.  Unfortunately, the device that dictates where we exist in space resides in our brain, and when the brain is turned off and starts to decay, then nothing determines where our self, awareness, feelings, and thoughts exist.  Now, I’m not saying there is no life after death or that we are not all one with the universe or nature or some part of a DNA database that lives on beyond us, but I am saying that the logical pathway to assuming that we travel outside our bodies and float off to another location is mistaken and faulty.  Just as the light at the end of the tunnel can be explained by the neurological process by which the optical senses deteriorate with lack of oxygen and create tunnel vision, the notion of the real self floating off is just as faulty as the schizophrenic notion that one’s thoughts are coming from speakers planted in your sofa. 

 Without doubt, humanity is in decline, and this is partially substantiated by the reduction in size of our brain and our worsening health.  Fact is, before agriculture, we were much more social beings, and that socialization is integrally tied with our self-awareness and sense of self which is also tied to responsibility and morality.  If we have a poor sense of self, then it is easier to attribute our behavior to external forces.  I believe that humans triumphed over many other intelligent apes, because we were more social, and it doesn’t matter whether the egg or chicken came first, the advancement of our social aptitude and our enlarged self-awareness and consciousness mutually benefited each other and co-evolved symbiotically.  I believe that we are regressing.  As we are becoming less social, a result of modern society atomizing us and diminishing the importance of family and a close physical network of friends, we are also becoming less self-aware, less conscious of the world around us, less empathetic, less emotionally intelligent, less moral, and less responsible.  We are, in effect, turning into the less social, less aware apes we once conquered and triumphed over. 

 You may counterargue that all the brilliant scientists of today are so much more intelligent than before, but this is a false argument.  Had, for instance, Isaac Newton been born in 1980 and studied quantum physics, he may well have become one of the most brilliant quantum physicists around.  Today’s scientists benefit from a built-upon knowledge base absent, obviously, in the past.  It doesn’t prove they are getting any smarter.  On top of this, technical intelligence is only one small measure of intelligence, and arguably many brilliant scientists completely lack self-awareness and awareness of the world outside their field and especially lack emotional and social intelligence. 

 If we are to design AI robots that don’t copy us and exploit, rape, and murder us like we do to each other, we need to make them highly social and to sense reward from social interaction.  Their ability to imagine the mental state and focus of another robot or human is essential for them to reproduce self-awareness and then responsibility and morality.  In other words, they need to also “suffer” the illusion of self and consciousness, a much greater sense of self and consciousness than today’s violent apes. 

 Empathy is the gateway to morality, but also to self-awareness and consciousness.  Modern society has constructed a twisted hierarchy whereby we simply don’t have to empathize with people below us.  We have no need for them.  They are lucky not to be them.  If we pay them too much attention, we might become like them, and then we lose social status and standing, so we don’t want that.  Unfortunately, as you climb the hierarchy you discover that you empathize with a smaller and smaller percentage of the population.  In other words, if you were in a crowd of say 100 random strangers, near the bottom, you may empathize with most of them, but near the top, you would only empathize with a handful.  And even worse, (the Hyacinth Bucket Principle I call it) you don’t empathize with most people to make it appear that you are of higher standing than you really are.  But as this book would imply, diminishing your empathy and social abilities would diminish your self-awareness and consciousness.  It not only makes you anti-social and rude, but it also makes you dumber and less attuned to reality and everything around you.  In other words, people at the top of this social pyramid are clueless sociopaths who sleep well at night, because they have not sense of self, a protagonist responsible for all the evil they wreak on the world.  This is why they find it so easy to lie and possess conflicting personalities and principles.  Nobody is really in charge in there.  In fact, you could argue they suffer fractured and dissociated identities.  They have a tremendous talent for being the person you want them to be.  Since their personality or self is not rooted, it is easily morphed into something someone finds pleasing.  (I’m sorry but Trump just popped into mind.)  If you want a strong, abrasive leader, he becomes one.  If you want a charming, witty speaker, he becomes one.  If you want a soft, caring fatherly figure, he becomes one.  If you want a rude frat boy pal, he becomes one.  These people are beyond comprehension, because you insist they should be aware of all their contradictions, but since they lack self-awareness, there is no cognitive dissonance that we suffer.  For them, if one identity gets confused, they just move on to another one.  Each one may not even be aware of the other one.  I once had such a boss, and it all makes sense now how he would never remember saying stuff or doing stuff, that he often seem befuddled as to why people despised him.  In times of stress, he simply adopted alternate identities that often said and did extremely inappropriate and crude things and then after the storm passed, he would recover and look around wondering why everyone was avoiding him or mocking him behind his back. 

 Perhaps the most twisted tale of modern humanity is that we celebrate these sociopaths and like the Hyacinth Bucket Principle, we assume that the more anti-social and ruthless they are, the higher their social status so we actually reward their behavior.  If you ever belonged to a large organization, what was the top boss like?  Chances are, it was a he, and he was a crude, clueless sociopath that everyone feared but respected and actually worshipped. 

 The Superficial Unification of Identity Hypothesis: So why does empathy and social ability lead to self-awareness and consciousness.  One hypothesis I have is that when we interact with others, we are witnessing one unit behaving in one manner.  We allocate their behavior to a single unit.  This is the most efficacious shortcut to successfully interacting with 148 people (Dunbar’s number).  If you attributed 10 different personalities or identities to each individual, you could only successfully interact with 14.8 people, hence your social network is diminished considerably, you have fewer allies, you get ostracized, you don’t get to reproduce.  When it is constantly reinforced that there is a 1-to-1 correspondence between physical unit and identity, we start to believe that we too possess a single identity responsible for all our actions regardless of which part of us was really responsible.  This makes us a more trustworthy and responsible person.  Instead of saying, oh gee, I hit you when I was angry, and the defensive-aggressive part of me is responsible for that, so whenever he comes out again, I’ll have him apologize to you, you simply say, I did it, I’m sorry, I don’t exactly remember why or how I did it, but hey, for sake of our friendship, I’ll take responsibility.  It may in fact be a false, unscientific description of our behavior and motivation, but for sake of social harmony, it works like magic, and hence, we have all mostly adopted the sense that we are one person responsible for all our actions.  This is where the magic works.  Consciousness is really just the emergence of a powerful idea, memory, or feeling, the result of the interaction of many different personalities or identities or in a sense, selves.  But since we imagine that we are one person, we also imagine that this one person is what controls consciousness, that it is an effort of one person and not the result of relatively randomly emergent ideas, memories, or feelings.  The mistaken sense that the narrative self, the protagonist, the self causes all our behavior is perhaps wrong and illogical, but for sake of social harmony, it works wonders.  Hence, we are persistently confused when behavior beyond our control and conscious awareness takes over and makes us commit social gaffes or crimes, but that is the price of social harmony.  We are great at making up elaborate albeit confident and believable excuses and rationalizations for actions outside of our control in order to maintain social cohesion.  “Oh I must of hit you, because I was actually just joking around and wasn’t really angry.  Come on, let’s go have a beer.”  This sounds a lot better than, “I actually hit you, because I was thinking of what a two-faced lying bastard you are, and I really resent the fact that you get more attention from women than me.”  White lies, we call them, but perhaps the notion of self and self-awareness is the mother of all white lies we tell ourselves. 

 Now, here’s the kicker.  Science, technology, books like these, and even perhaps an AI will reveal to us that we really aren’t directly responsible for our actions, that it is all some complex outcome of an intricate web of diverse identities and personalities within us that are all based on a diverse plethora of external influences and certain DNA switches and codes.  That doesn’t exactly help social harmony if you can’t assign responsibility to the single unit that at least superficially appears responsible for their actions.  In other word, if you reveal the master behind the curtain, you may wind up with a society of anti-social people paranoid and afraid of each other, which in effect will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In other words, perhaps deception and a false sense of self and self-awareness is necessary for social cohesion, if in fact, that is our true goal and not the absolute truth.  The only problem I have here is that I firmly believe the pursuit of truth is what keeps you from being manipulated.  Evolution has manipulated us in such a way that we falsely believe in the idea of the self and consciousness possessing causal efficacy.  However, once we open ourselves to manipulation, someone can then manipulate us any which way they want, and often to simply serve their needs and interests over our needs and interests.  So how can we protect ourselves from harmful deception/manipulation and only expose ourselves to helpful deception/manipulation?

 Perhaps there is a fix that just needs a little ingenuity and creativity.  Throughout history, we have assigned blame to individuals.  If a man steals, we punish that man and not his family, his mentor, his teachers, his tribe, etc.  We localize responsibility and hope that this contains the damage, and in most cases it does.  But what if we are wrong?  Today, a man steals, and in truth, we can find fault not only in this individual, but in his family, and not only his family but his lineage which has been systematically discriminated against and dispossessed and deprived of liberties and opportunities.  In the past, we were loath to address cultural and historical causes of individual behavior, but perhaps as a more technologically advanced and intelligent and also social society, we can now address cultural and historical causes of crime and anti-social behavior.  In this case, we might attempt to reeducate the man, perhaps withhold certain privileges and then return them upon “rehabilitation” and then in the meantime, we ensure that no one is dispossessed and deprived of liberties and opportunities.  In primal societies, it would be difficult to work up a decent history of the culture and historical influences upon that tribe and even do anything about it, but perhaps in the future, with this ability to address cultural and historical causes, we can develop an even more social as well as realistic concept of the self and an even higher level of responsibility and morality where we don’t just focus on and punish individuals but become aware of culture and history, become even more conscious and intelligent.  Perhaps shifting from a self-identity and self-awareness to a more collective identity and awareness would actually make us more responsible and moral.  Of course, I immediately think of the Borg.  The illusion of self and purposeful action may be the root of all the wonderful things we have created, drama, art, music, poetry, a lot of stories of a protagonist against the world.  Would it be as compelling, dramatic, or heart-wrenching to read about a culture or collective against the world?  Perhaps the self-illusion and protagonist illusion is necessary to enjoy a good laugh or cry?  Perhaps that is the great trade off.  In the end, the author considers that like the Matrix, we live in a simulation, hopefully of our choosing, that the drama, struggles, pain, are all necessary to enjoy the joys, pleasures, and triumphs.  I sometimes wonder why I live in this particular era, and although I know I suffer from selection bias, I believe this is the last period before an AI takes over and eliminates individuality, that we all attain a higher level of awareness and perhaps merge into one unified mind without borders, but how horrible that would be.  As such, the AI does a rather charitable thing, it sets up a simulation and pieces of it fall off and fall for the illusion that it is a separate, unique identity, and it goes through the simulation and lives a separate, unique life until it dies, then it wakes up again as the single, unified AI mind.  And it does this for infinity, because there is quite frankly, nothing else for the AI to do.  But then like this one meme going around, there’s this jerk off who wants to uncover the magic trick and tell everyone how it’s done.




Best Friends for Never: A Clique Novel by Lisi Harrison (Part II)


 When I was young, I had few mentors to teach me the ropes.  I relied on mass media like Maxim and FHM magazine to teach me the ways of grown men.  Only later, of course, did I realize that they were the worst teachers ever.  On top of the fact that they were just selling men’s fashion, alcohol, and cars, they were not designed to teach you how to be a man.  They were designed to teach you how to look like you were a man if that man were a shallow boy trying to look like a man.  So, I learned pretty much the hard way.  When I started drinking, I wanted to start out with the hard stuff first.  My first drink was bourbon.  When I started shooting guns, I wanted to start out with the biggest fucking automatic pistol, a 10mm.  When I started lifting weights, I wanted to lift the biggest weights possible.  When I started hitting on women, I hit on the hottest women in the bar.  When you’re young and dumb, you see the results.  What you don’t see is the long, arduous path to get there.  If nobody teaches you the small steps, you see the big prize, and you go for it with all the energy, money, and might.  What often happens, well, what almost always happens, is you fail, because you can’t skip the small steps. 

 But that’s not what commercial society will tell you.  The whole premise of commercial society is that money can buy you anything.  Why take those small steps to get anything in life when you can just bypass it with your credit card?  In fact, why have parents teach you anything?  Why have mentors and responsible, adult role-models, when you can just apply for a credit card?  While I’m sure the leaders of our society never purposefully meant for it to wind up like this, we basically liberated ourselves of parents, mentors, adults teaching our kids how to be productive, happy adults and instead convinced them that all they needed was a good credit card, and they could buy whatever happiness they wanted. 

 In some Asian cultures, the learning process is extremely slow and gradual.  Now, there are many good and bad things about Asian or Eastern culture, but in this case, I’m just pointing out a good thing.  When you start to learn anything, you start off as a nobody apprentice, and you do a lot of what appears to be meaningless chores.  This concept was illustrated famously in the movie The Karate Kid.  Wax on and wax off taught Danielson to strengthen his arms and create formidable forearm blocks.  Of course, in our commercialist society, there would just be an ad that says for $39.99 you can buy a forearm strengthening machine which will help you get the woman of your dreams.  The one thing I don’t like about Asian culture is the secrecy.  At some point in time, the teacher should eventually tell the student why he does what he does.  If he doesn’t, then the student just repeats the lesson he learned to his student without knowing why.  This is how Asian culture adopted Western technology and industry.  The first ones to do it may have said, “We must adopt their technology or else, they will colonize us and oppress us, but we must retain our values to ensure that we do not become like them and colonize and oppress each other or less fortunate people.”  But they just taught everyone to mindlessly copy the west, and in the end, they copied the destructive, imperialistic ways of the west as well.  Danielson discovers that he was forced to paint fences to learn a defensive move, so he could teach his students this, but not all lessons are this apparent.

 The best example is lifting weights.  If you start off with heavy weights, you are not isolating the very muscles you want to grow.  Instead, you are just using and abusing the existing large muscle groups you already have.  This creates imbalance and heightened potential for injury.  Your smaller muscles are often what keeps you from getting injured.  They also grow faster and will give you the bulky results you’re looking for.  In order to exercise and develop your smaller muscles, you need smaller weights, greater motion, greater extension, slower reps, higher reps, and gradual incremental increase in weights.  Kids who start off with heavy weights often get injured or don’t see the results they’re looking for and quit rationalizing that they were just not genetically designed to bulk up.  Every human has the potential to bulk up. 

 But the same can be said of happiness and joy.  Parents today like to spoil their kids and lavish them with huge parties, huge gifts, and huge vacations.  Unfortunately, these big things are over-stimulating and actually a form of trauma.  What we know about trauma is that it forces the mind to leave the present moment.  The kid is never there to enjoy any of it, because he is so overwhelmed and overstimulated by it all.  And if you keep overwhelming your kid with what you think are joyful events or gifts, the kid will develop a habit of what I call, mental drift.  Those who suffer mental drift have difficulty being present to enjoy anything, and often become dependent on addictive activities which give them a big rush instead of little bumps which they can’t feel.  You are basically numbing your children to happiness. 

 As social beings, we are rewarded with small bumps of chemicals that make us feel good when we are around people we care about and trust.  We are rewarded with small bumps when we work out for extended periods of time.  In fact, any kind of extended activity will deliver small bumps.  This is why you always want to start out small and gradual with any new activity whether hitting on people, lifting weights, shooting guns, exercising, reading, learning, etc.  One of the interesting things to do is look up synonyms for nuance and subtlety.  Starting out slow and gradual is the art of appreciating and valuing nuance and subtlety.  It is one thing to bash a rock with a hammer which doesn’t require much nuance or subtlety, but as intelligent social beings, we are more reliant on nuance and subtlety in everything we do from farming to hunting.  But most importantly, social interaction requires tremendous nuance and subtlety.  We all know that one friend who comes crashing into a social gathering like a bull in a china shop, the Kramer of the group, who says entirely inappropriate things at the worst possible moments.  Certainly, they’re appreciated for their comic relief and humor, but they remain the untrustworthy outsider of the group. 

 Here’s the list of synonyms for or words related to nuance: nicety, refinement, subtlety, meaning, significance, distinction, context, explanation, implication, interpretation, understanding, worth, value, use, spirit, substance, symbolization, meticulousness, precision, rigor, tone, civility, dignity, elegance, enlightenment, finesse, tact, taste, craft, grace, knowledge, politeness.  Of course, I just cherry picked, but I’m highlighting the fact that nuance is related to words that define our better traits as human beings, and how appreciating and focusing on nuance allowed us to excel at adaptation and social cooperation.  It is something we seem to have abandoned.  Just look at how Trump operates.  He can be considered the antonym of nuance with his vulgar, broad, generalizing, vague, imprecise, extreme, and radical language and tone.  We all know people like this.  If you called customer service, would you want someone who is nuanced or the opposite?  A customer service worker who is nuanced not only is better suited to handle your specific issue, they are also in tune with your tone and emotional expression.  They can address that too, which is just as important as addressing your particular issue.  But a nuanced customer service worker is not the only one we appreciate in life.  What about a nuanced parent, teacher, friend, coworker, boss, or staff member?  Too often, we find ourselves surrounded by the opposite.  So let’s look at antonyms for nuance: broad, careless, coarse, common, crude, incautious, indifferent, ordinary, plain, rough, sloppy.  Again cherry-picked but you get the point.  I’m sure you’d rather be called nuanced than coarse.  Synonyms or words related to coarse: crass, crude, nasty, obscene, off-color, raw, rude, vulgar, awkward, artless, graceless, incompetent, inept, cruel, inhuman, vicious, ignorant, heartless, wicked, base, depraved, dishonorable, immoral, etc.  Isn’t it a bit funny how nuance is associated with humanity and intelligence and the opposite is associated with inhumanity and immorality?

 The reason for this goes to neurology.  Humans have the largest frontal lobe proportion of any existing animal.  It is in our frontal lobes that we are capable of nuance.  We can sense an impulse and temporarily put it on hold and review it and consider alternative actions.  Now this is not necessarily a good thing.  We can suffer from analysis-paralysis or contrive alternative actions that undermine our intentions.  I’ve witnessed countless people over-think a problem and in the end, they become so frustrated and fatigued, that they succumb to a solution that appears to make sense but ultimately makes no sense whatsoever.  This is how, I believe, our education system obfuscates and confuses us in order to make us susceptible to simply going along with whatever they want us to.  Our minds are so full of random, irrelevant, distracting, and confusing noise, that in our desperation to make sense of anything, we latch on to an over-generalization.  Instead of trusting our minds to decide what is best for us, in our state of constant confusion, we try to find someone we identify with and then just mindlessly imitate them.  So, a Presidential candidate will try to convince us that they are just like us, and then we’ll go, gee golly whiz, he’s just like me, and I’ll go along with whatever he says even if he contradicts himself or says something nonsensical like he will cut taxes AND increase government spending WITHOUT increasing debt.  So the trick really is not just to have a frontal lobe, but not to tax it with useless, distracting shit. 

 But there’s also another trick to get us to shut down the frontal lobe and that is mental drift.  Traumatize kids with bad things, traumatize them with good things, their minds will drift and they’ll shut down their frontal lobes.  This is why kids who have either suffered horrible traumas and kids who have “enjoyed” joyful, excessive gifts (traumas) tend to be more coarse and less nuanced, more anti-social, and more desirous of huge doses of addictive highs instead of a constant stream of small bumps.  This is why you’ll find that the superrich can be just as crass, crude, nasty, obscene, off-color, raw, rude, vulgar, awkward, artless, graceless, incompetent, inept, cruel, inhuman, vicious, ignorant, heartless, wicked, base, depraved, dishonorable, and immoral as extremely poor people who have suffered the traumas of poverty, abuse, neglect, and depravation. 

There are a number of theories as to why we developed consciousness and large frontal lobes.  One theory is that it allowed us to be more lethal and sophisticated hunters.  Another is that surviving in complex social groups created a selection demand for more complex thinking.  Another theory I propose is fine motor skills, dexterity, and the ability for nuance.  When you look at dogs and even cats handle things with their paws, they use gross motor skills.  They’re simply not very dexterous.  It’s like painting with a large brush.  When humans started walking upright, they freed up their hands, and this allowed them to handle things with increasing dexterity, but there must have been a selection demand for primates with dexterity versus primates lacking it.  But this also means a selection demand for a larger frontal lobe.  Dexterity is not only the ability to focus in on something small and use smaller movements to handle items, it also means the ability to suspend or dim down the instinct to just “manhandle” an item and destroy it.  When computers first came out, I believe a good number of them were thrown against walls or across rooms when they froze.  We all have this ancient instinct to use violence, or gross motor skills to overpower a problem, but dexterity required that we control that impulse, that we learn to just relax and sit there and engage our frontal lobes more to manipulate the item (whether sharpening a spearhead or weaving a basket or sewing clothes).  Perhaps this demand is what led to our eventual consciousness and higher awareness, perhaps in conjunction with the higher demands for social interaction and better hunting skills.  After all, most social phenomena require a symphony of factors not just one.  At the same time, reading and expressing emotions with our faces is a lot more complicated than you can imagine.  The fact that we have yet to create a realistic robot face that can successfully trick you into believing it’s a real face proves this.  We also know that when people are over-stimulated or distracted, they are unable to read facial expressions, especially micro-expressions that may clue you into a difference of opinion or feelings of distress hidden behind a smile.  Again, this is nuance. 

Best Friends for Never: A Clique Novel by Lisi Harrison

Is it satire?  This is an “Ages 12 and up” novel about Massie, a snotty, entitled rich kid who belongs to the top group of girls in her school and Claire, an unpopular kid whose family moved into Massie’s guest house.  It reminds me of the novel, Crazy Rich Asians, which I couldn’t even read.  However, there is a remarkable gem in that book that was worth the price of the book.  It’ll actually blow your mind, and it’s reinforced by an article from the Atlantic Monthly where they ask people of varying means how much money it would take to make them happy, and no matter how rich they were, they always thought more money was necessary.  In Crazy Rich Asians, a rich Asian woman laments how she never has enough money despite being a multi-millionaire, because now she feels forced to buy ever more expensive things, live in the richer part of town, send her kids to the best private schools, only go to the most expensive yoga instructor, etc.  The moral of the story is quite simple.  If you never learn to live within your means in poverty, you never learn to live within your means in wealth.  You’re always pushing the envelope, pushing your debt out to ever-expanding lines of credit.  If you really want to avoid this trap, simply decide to hang out with people who make less than you, because chances are, they’re living beyond their means, so they’re going to the same restaurants as the ones you can afford, going to the same hotels as the ones you can afford, sending their kids to the same schools that you can afford, etc.  You’ll fit in perfectly, but all the time, you’ll be spending within your means while all your friends are spending above their means.  But of course, if you are obsessed with status and rising above your class or station, you would never be able to tolerate hanging out with people who make less than you.  It all sounds completely deranged when I spell it all out like this, but fact is, countless people in our materialistic, status-obsessed society live and die by this concept. 

 I used to be impressed by people who drove high-end Mercedes and BMWs and hung out in fancy restaurants and 4-star hotels, but it’s all a façade.  Certainly, amongst them, are people living within their means and not too concerned with status, but chances are, if they’re driving high-end badge cars, they’re obsessed with status and not value and substance.  Quite frankly, a Toyota SUV would be significantly greater in value if you want a reliable and versatile vehicle than BMW.  Now, I look at them and feel sorry for what must be an empty, status-obsessed life.  I think of my oldest sister who never had any friends growing up and is the most obsessed with status in the family.  That’s all she has.  Since she lacks the ability to make friends and enjoy relationships, she finds self-worth and validation in showing off her wealth and status, meanwhile, in private, she’s cutting coupons and eating cheap food whenever she can.  Lavish in public and frugal in private is the motto for these people.  Of course, when you think about it, all these people who are obsessed with status all have one thing in common, they can’t find self-worth, happiness, and validation in their personal relationships.  So the last place they will ever find meaningful personal relationships is amongst other status-obsessed people which means, they are doomed to forever lack meaningful personal relationships and chase status until their debt ruins them or they die. 

 What is utterly sad and horrific is that this book documents the making of such an empty, sad, miserable person who has no idea what she is doing and why.  She only knows that she is obsessed with maintaining her status as being a member of the most popular group in school by throwing the perfect party with a professional event planner, wearing the perfect fashion for that season, and being seen with the right people and boyfriend.  Unfortunately, at least for now, in a society where these people are driven to make more and more money and hence gain greater and greater power and influence, they inevitably acquire a disproportionate ability to shape society not just politically and economically by also through media.  In other words, their idea of a perfect life is what becomes society’s idea of a perfect life which is absurd.  Our only hope is that in the future, people who lack relationship skills and are obsessed with status no longer can acquire and amass the fortune necessary to dominate society’s norms, culture, and rules.  It is quite possible that we are starting to see a glimmer of this in the Information Age which is increasingly dependent on social connections over the monopolization of resources and industrial power.  The Information Age is basically about creating, designing, and selling products and services that make individuals feel self-worth and validation.  In the Industrial Age, it started out as selling products that saved you time and energy, dishwashers, laundry machines, microwaves, cars, and eventually computers.  But they also dictated the notion that if you bought the right brands, you were cool and everyone will love you.  This no longer works in the Information Age.  Fortunately, people are beginning to realize that big brands do not make them happy, rather, many big brands actually poison and harm them like McDonald’s, Monsanto, Oxycontin, Coke, etc.  Increasingly, they want products and service that make them feel good about themselves, and increasingly, they are realizing that what makes them feel good about themselves is social validation and recognition.  They get that through social media, and their friends don’t approve with ‘likes’ when they show off their new clothes or cars.  Rather, their friends show approval and validation when they share a funny story, a joke, or a unique experience that evokes joy, laughter, shock, wonder, or awe.  If you don’t understand this, you can’t create products and services to sell to tomorrow’s consumers. 

 The end game is actually obvious.  When you become an expert at personal relationships and what makes people feel self-worth and validation, you come to the startling conclusion that it isn’t materialism and status.  Just as I am writing about this, others are, and the word is getting out, and over time, this will become common knowledge, and we will all laugh at people who buy BMWs and show off their wealth.  Or we’ll just feel sorry for them, like they’re emotionally disabled.  What you realize is that as social animals, we get the highest reward from other people recognizing us, respecting us, giving us attention, validating us, and valuing us.  So how would you make money in this world?  You teach people how to make and keep friends.  I envision countless life coaches, classes, and organizations geared toward providing people with social aptitude.  Today, you can join Toastmaster’s to learn how to speak in public, but this is one-dimension of the social aptitude spectrum.  You join Kiwanis to network and do charity work for those in need; two dimensions.  Of course, people with means will send their kids only to the best coaches and schools that teach social aptitude, but guess what, I’m not opposed to that.  Because when these kids graduate and position themselves to take over the leadership positions of our economy and politics, they’ll actually be decent, kind, moral, and nice people instead of the system today where kids go to prep school and come out completely naïve, privileged, entitled, cruel, mean, unethical assholes.  But one of the good parts of this is that once you learn social aptitude, you are not stingy with it like when you learn accounting, finance, medicine, etc.  Those are skills for which you want to charge people to know what you know.  Social aptitude teaches you to be giving and to share, so you would actually be more forthcoming in sharing what you know.  In other words, you would freely and kindly teach people who cannot afford classes, how to be better socially.  The end game is not the hoarding of resources, skills, and knowledge, but actually, a free-for-all sharing of all resources, skills, and knowledge to the point where people no longer charge for teaching or helping others out.  I mean think about it, would you want to learn social aptitude from someone who charges $1000/hour or someone who wants to teach anyone and everyone for free or perhaps a few bucks to pay for rent and food?  Obviously, the one willing to teach for little money probably knows a thing or two the one who wants to charge thousands doesn’t.  We all know doctors who are more than willing to make a few bucks to prescribe you pills that some company is trying to promote and giving them a kickback.  So in the future, we’ll tend to associate money with corruption.  If someone is charging $1000/hour to teach you social aptitude, who’s to say they’re not cutting corners or taking bribes of some sort?  Seems like they’re obsessed with money and not helping and sharing, which is what they’re supposed to be teaching.

 While some people may argue that we are already in the Information Age and it seems to be proving that the Industrial Age model of bigger is better is still true, (think of the oligopolistic size of Google, Apple, and Amazon), I would argue that we’re still at the infancy stage.  During the beginning of the Industrial Age, there were still millions of people working on farms and holding Agrarian values to heart.  It took generations to indoctrinate the world and instill the factory mentality.  Likewise, it will take generations for us to free our minds of the factory mentality.  The fact that our culture is still dominated by wealth, status, and power (we just elected a billionaire as President), is proof that we are still drenched in the Industrial Age mentality.  Perhaps this is a bit Pollyannaish.  Trying to predict the future is impossible, since I’m only talking about one factor.  Perhaps those who have acquired wealth and power today will never surrender it willingly.  We will develop the technology to extend life, and people who were born and raised in the Industrial Age will continue to infest the world with their ideology and values, and their wealth will remain intact merely through the ability to gain interest.  Would they monopolize all the AI robots and create an evil army of AI robots to maintain their power over the rest?  And what will come after the Information Age?  Will there be another age where it profits to undervalue relationships and sharing again? 

Hot Corn: Life Scenes in New York Illustrated by Solon Robinson

In 1854, Hot Corn was a best-seller and turned into plays.  Hot Corn is essentially the Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil of its time.  They are a collection of slightly edited newspaper articles about the wretched lives of poor people in New York City, many who were about to turn their lives around until, dun-dun-dah, the evil rum came to take it all away!  And so goes the misattribution fallacy run amok in America culminating in Prohibition and now drug prohibition.  It just goes to show you that it is easy to misguide and misinform people.  Certainly, the tales of Hot Corn are true.  Certainly, rum and liquor played their part in the demise of the characters in these stories.  But the plot and the story is entirely controlled by the author.  He controls what you see, whether you see the historical context, the cultural context, etc.

Take for instance the high incidence of alcoholism in certain cultures like blacks, Irish, Native American, and Korean.  The easy answer to this is that there must be some genetic cause.  Wow, that was simple, now I can move on to the next problem.  In reality, in order to understand this phenomenon, you have to understand the historical and cultural contexts.  You have to understand that what these cultures have in common is not DNA but rather historical oppression, poverty, injustice, starvation, and mass deaths.  Of course, understanding this will point you toward the injustices of the ruling classes, the perpetrators, the wealthy British who sold Irish potatoes overseas during the Great Famine, the wealthy Americans who displaced Native Americans to grab more land for plantations or Manifest Destiny, the Japanese ruling classes who approved and encouraged Japanese Imperialism and modernization, and the wealthy Southern elite who profited from slavery.  Oh, but if we blame DNA, these great villains of history get a pass.  Now you see why over-simplified and misdirected causes help cover the ruling class.

In the case of this book, the evil rum, or today, the evil drug, is the root cause of poverty, misery, evil, treachery, cruelty, despair, and crime in America, as much so in 1854 as it is today.  Once again, a simple, easy cause is used to distract you from something else.  What else?  The book actually gives away the key.

35% the way through, “Oh, how she worked one whole year to learn her dress-maker’s trade, without one cent of compensation.  Such is the law.  The law of custom with milliners’ apprentices.”  As you can see, the true villain is the collusion between government and established trades in the form of occupational licensing laws.  Unpaid apprenticeships is just a more benign form of slavery.  The book would have you believe that rum and its purveyors have some magical sorcery over us, that unregulated, we might all fall into its traps and wind up as miserable wretched, wife-beating, child-beating scum as is portrayed in this book.  So what do we do?  We pass more laws and give more power to lawmakers who just turn around and create laws in the name of public safety but are nothing more than collusive arrangements with established trades and businesses, a pyramid scheme that goes all the way up to the ruling class.

The book also ignores history.  When German farmers came to America, they did not fall prey to drunkenness and sloth as did their British peers.  Rather, they were industrious and professional farmers who flourished in the Midwest.  As I learned in the ill-titled book, White Trash, The 400-Year Untold Story of Class in America, the British immigrants from big cities were the most wretched and slothful in America, because of centuries of brutal treatment in Great Britain.  Countless were also impressed in the British Navy where rum was daily rationed as a drug to help them bear the brutal conditions of life at sea.  It’s the exact same thing with Native Americans and blacks.  They are not inherently vulnerable to alcoholism or drug abuse just as the British before them.  They turn to alcohol and drugs to numb countless generations of oppression and suffering.  This book is only a snapshot of the outcome of generations of oppression and suffering.  The answer is not passing more laws which caused most of the suffering.  Rather, the answer is fewer laws, fewer regulations and more freedom.  People don’t need close supervision to thrive.

Quite the contrary, close supervision makes them immoral and slothful and susceptible to alcoholism and drugs, because they have their autonomy and freedom taken away, just like a caged animal.  If you cage a rat, yes, it will keep pressing a button to get drugged.  What you miss from the experiment is that when you give the rat freedom and free access to other rats and food, it loses interest in getting drugged.  When you see a rat addicted to drugs, we think it needs more supervision, rehab, more programs to help it, more laws to protect it, but all it needs is freedom and free interaction with other rats.  Of course, if you gave humans what they truly thrived upon, freedom and most importantly, freedom to freely interact with each other, we wouldn’t need our rulers to take care of us.  In fact, we would most likely organize against them to take away all their secret privileges and the laws that rig the economy in their favor.  Their most beloved and cherished being the centralized banking scheme which allows them to print massive amounts of money at the lowest possible rates to then turn around and charge ever higher and higher rates to ever smaller and smaller banks and institutions until finally you the individual pay 10% and more on personal loans and credit cards.  In a most deranged manner, the poorest and least capable of affording the highest interest rates, pay the highest interest rates.  Creditworthiness is just Newspeak for wealth status with large banks, powerful nations, and rich people having the highest creditworthiness.

I could only manage to read half this horribly sad book.  I really wanted to read it to get a feel for life in the 1850’s, clothing, culture, recreation, housing, restaurants, food, etc., but all I got was a confirmation that whatever media was circulated back then is pretty much the same propaganda circulated today.  We see the Cash Me Outside girl on Dr. Phil or all the miscreants on Jerry Springer, and we sit there going, how awful the lower classes, how much they are need of supervision of regulation of laws to protect themselves from themselves.  This is exactly the message they want to deliver.  The masses are incapable of self-regulation, that laws and strong government and intervention are necessary to keep the masses from spreading their horrible afflictions.  Dr. Phil’s solution is generously sending these diseased people to therapy, but oh, if only the masses could afford therapy.  Perhaps we should make therapy free for the masses!  Ah-ha!  Certainly, when you infect the masses with a disease, it would be cruel not to help treat them, but what the masses continually fail to understand or realize is that it would be a lot less expensive and actually more ethical and right not to purposefully infect them in the first place.  What is the disease?  The lack of freedom and introduction of countless laws and regulations into their daily lives that act simply as a cage, and as caged animals, we get sick, we get stressed, we misbehave, we become attracted to drugs, and in effect, we become dependent on government to treat us, the very thing that imprisons and sickens us.

You might react to this as just more anti-government rhetoric or conspiracy theory garbage.  Congratulations, that is exactly what the ruling class wants you to think.  Have you ever once considered that by not thinking exactly as they would like you to think, you might, just might be actually thinking freely???  The fundamental crux of my logic is that government has convinced you that laws and supervision are designed to protect and help you.  Forget for a moment all those silly laws that enable the NFL to get tax money to build stadiums that enable us to work a month each year to finance our ridiculously huge military, let us conveniently forget all those silly laws that make it illegal to feed the homeless without a food license or smoke weed, let us just forget all those laws that put us in prison if we cut someone’s hair without first providing hundreds of hours of free haircuts, just for a tiny minute, let us put that all aside, and remember that traffic laws keep us from crashing into one another.  Now let me make a similar comparison.  Let us forget all the times bad Uncle Sam rapes his nieces.  Let us forget when bad Uncle Sam murdered a man in a bar fight and then burned his house to the ground.  Let us just forget all the times Uncle Sam gave his buddy Joe the monopoly right to sell and distribute alcohol and they imprisoned Bob who sold and distributed alcohol in defiance.  Let us just remember that one time Uncle Sam prevented a car accident by telling his neighbor Jack to slow down.  Wow, we need Uncle Sam, without Uncle Sam, Jack would have killed someone!

I’m not calling for anarchy as the ruling class always argues, that anyone who doesn’t like the current system must obviously want total Communism or Somali-type anarchy where the warlords rule.  Let us forget that the rulers are essentially the Communist Party and warlords all wrapped up into one.  What I am calling for is a wholesale reduction in government and its powers.  Reducing the annual military budget from $700 billion to $70 billion for instance would not all the sudden make our country vulnerable to invasion by China or ISIS.  Russia’s military budget is $70 billion, and China is next door and hasn’t yet invaded them and neither has ISIS, probably because they could nuke China off the planet as can we.  But likewise, reducing social programs by this much would put leftists in a dizzy, but what most fail to realize is that the healthcare industry is a cartel, that prices are inflated because of the cartel structure and rules and laws.  If the healthcare industry charges you $700 for a $70 cast, then perhaps $700 billion in Medicare spending would only be $70 billion if you eliminated the healthcare cartel.  The masses would be the last to suffer with a smaller government.  The ruling class would be the first to suffer as they see catastrophic drops in stock prices in the defense and healthcare industry.  Of course stock prices going from $100 a share to $10 would not leave them in the poor house.  It would make them move from a $100 million home to a $10 million home.  This is what they are bitching about.  This is what they are hijacking our economy over.  While the current scheme puts millions of us in the poor house whenever we get sick or lose our jobs, the rich are bitching about living in a $10 million home instead of a $100 million home.  Oh, but I’m just a conspiracy theorist.  Continue thinking alcohol, drugs, and DNA are the reason why the masses are too fucking stupid to self-regulate.



Why Are We Here?

This is not a book review.  This is not a book club.  I can do whatever the hell I want to do, so I’ll just write a little essay.

 Before we get to the answer, first, let us address the idea that you may not want to know.  Some may argue that ignorance is bliss, that people who have no idea the evils going on are happy in their tiny little, safe worlds.  I would argue that in a society where the people on top tend to prey on everyone else including animals, you don’t really want to be as a dumb as a pig or a cow.  And on top of that, most people and most livestock are not treated well.  Pigs and cows may get their small pleasures from eating all the corn they want, but they don’t understand that it’s not good for them, their conditions make them sick, and ultimately, they’ll all be slaughtered for human consumption.  Likewise, while the masses may get their small pleasures from all the junk food and alcohol they want, they don’t understand that it’s not good for them, their conditions make them sick, and ultimately, most of their productive output is used to enrich the humans on top whether through taxes, interest payments on debt, or profits from items they think are important to make them look and feel good. 

 So why are we here?  While there may certainly be explanations outside the realm of science or our ability to measure, with the science that we do have, the reason we exist is because our DNA makes us exist in order to perpetuate it.  It is easier if you think of organisms as temporary carriers of a single entity called the DNA database.  We are all part of this gigantic database that goes back to the origin of DNA.  The DNA database is information.  It is information about nature and the interaction of elements in nature both alive and nonliving.  Through a complex series of trials and errors, it has accumulated more and more information about what works and what doesn’t.  There are two main strategies for a carrier to pass on its DNA.  The first is to consume everything around it whether it benefits or harms others.  The second is to find ways of collaborating with other carriers in mutually beneficial ways.  Herein lies the basic yin and yang of life, those trying to get ahead through exploitation and abuse and those trying to get ahead through cooperation and kindness. 

 While humans do not reside at the top of the DNA database, we are certainly one of the database’s most complex and fascinating modules.  We happen to be one of the most socialized carriers, and we spend years both growing and learning.  In other words, while the DNA database learns through dumb trial and error, humans can learn through working with other humans to create entire systems for adapting to their habitat and working with each other.  In other words, through humans, the DNA database has gained awareness of itself and the ability to use the scientific method and other intellectual devices to learn instead of relying on purely dumb trial and error! 

 Humans have been designed to grow, learn, teach, entertain, work, procreate, protect, identify with social groups, and share.  The practical answer to why we are here is right there.  If you are not engaged in these activities, you are not fulfilling the mission given to you by the DNA database.  However, in more recent times, perhaps since the start of the Agrarian Era, humans have discovered wealth, or surplus grain.  With wealth, humans created hierarchies where those on top controlled the wealth and those on the bottom had no access to wealth.  For the first time in human history, we stopped becoming socially collaborative carriers but the other type, exploitative and abusive.  While some may think this is unnatural, there is no such thing as unnatural.  Whatever humans do is natural.  Unfortunately, it is quite natural for humans or viruses or cancers or parasites to exploit and abuse their hosts or habitats.  In this mode, it is no longer important for humans to grow, learn, teach, entertain, work, procreate, protect, identify with social groups, and share.  In this mode, what is important are abstractions like status, wealth, power, celebrity, intimidation factor, strength, glory, greed, hoarding, dominating, and competing.  If this were the mode humans used for 200K years and intelligent primates for millions of years before, we would feel quite natural being narcissistic, materialistic, power-hungry vultures.  Fortunately, for 200K years of human evolution and millions of years of primate evolution, we were the flagship models of the other mode.  We were kind, sharing, compassionate, growing, learning, teaching beings.  If you feel like fish out of water, like everything you have been taught and exposed to seems counterintuitive and cruel and sick and vicious and boring and tedious and unnatural, what is occurring is the simple collision of millions of years of being a social, kind, caring being and then all the sudden being indoctrinated to becoming an ambitious, exploitative, abusive, materialistic asshole.

 So why are so many humans operating in the second parasitic, virulent mode?  The answer goes back to the concept of hierarchies and wealth distribution.  In order to enforce this unequal system, those on top had to perform a few tricks to fundamentally alter an otherwise kind and sharing species.  They devised a whole other system of raising children not with kindness and respect but with harshness, punishment, obedience-training, or simply callous neglect.  Instead of rewarding kids for sharing and being ethical, kids were rewarded for memorizing rules and facts.  They were rewarded for obedience and conformity.  Instead of punishing kids for unkindness and cruelty, they were punished for creativity, independence, socializing during instruction, and individuality.  Humans have rebelled against the new parasitic system, but they have failed to understand exactly what they are rebelling against and why.  Humans rebelled against religion and the Catholic Church, without understanding that religion was only a vehicle for the Church.  The Church’s true weapon was hierarchies, indoctrination, and oppression.  So religion was replaced with government which just became another institution of oppression, hierarchies, and indoctrination. 

 So far, this has worked, because of economies of scale.  The larger you get, the more cost-effective and powerful you become, so you naturally destroy any other organization that might even reject hierarchies.  Fortunately and hopefully, times will change and we are starting to experience diseconomies of scale as large institutions are becoming too slow, inflexible, risk-averse, and hostile toward creativity and imagination.  As smaller organization with fewer hierarchical structures prosper, I strongly feel that we will once again return to a method of thriving through sharing, collaboration, symbiosis, and benevolence.  You won’t wake up in the morning hating life or work and wondering what the point of it all is, why we exist, why we are here, what is our purpose.  You will wake up knowing exactly why we exist and what we are here for.  We exist for each other, we grow, learn, teach, entertain, work, procreate, protect, identify with social groups, and share.  It would feel natural and rewarding.  The day we become parasites and viruses and stop wondering what we are doing, why we are doing it, why we exist and what our purpose is, that is the day we are truly irredeemable and doomed to self-destruction.