China Resumes Expulsion Drive at Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist Institute, Thousands Evicted

Published By Tenzin Saldon

Dharamshala: Yachen Gar, a major Tibetan Buddhist center in Tibet’s Karze region is facing eviction once again. Chinese authorities in Palyul County in the so-called Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture have resumed expulsion of Tibetan nuns and monks at Yachen Gar which is said to have housed about 10,000 nuns, monks, and lay practitioners until recent years.

In 2016, Chinese authorities undertook a mass eviction and demolition of Larung Gar, world’s biggest Tibetan Buddhist institute, and Yachen Gar that led to destruction of several thousand monastic dwellings and expulsion of monks and nuns of about similar number. The demolitions of the two major Buddhist institutes were thought to have been completed within a year. However, recent reports indicate that the expulsion at Yachen Gar is anything but over.

The mass expulsion of Tibetan Buddhist practitioners at Yachen Gar this year began in May, reported Radio Free Asia (RFA). According to reliable sources, close to 3,500 nuns and monks have been forced out of Yachen Gar, and unfortunately, the number is likely to increase as the expulsion drive is still ongoing.

In the images obtained via social media, the nuns are seen in line receiving traditional farewell whereas in other images, a number of buses are seen waiting to transport the expelled practitioners. Those staying behind were deterred from accompanying their evicted friends as they were brought to the buses.

No concrete dwellings are known to have been destroyed at this time but authorities are keeping a tight watch over the center with “around 600 Chinese officials now permanently stationed at Yachen Gar,” according to RFA.

The international community raised concerns over the wide-scale removal of houses and residents at Sertha Larung Gar and Yachen Gar in 2016 and 2017: the European parliament passed an urgency resolution on Tibet and condemned the Larung Gar demolition while a group of UN experts sent a joint communication to the Chinese government questioning the demolition of Larung Gar and Yachen Gar.

Chinese authorities claimed that the removals were to prevent fire hazards and overcrowding but satellite images and information received in 2017 revealed that the goals to downsize the institutes were to enable a more manageable number to monitor, and to transform the world-famous Buddhist centers into tourist destinations.

The state-led demolition and forced eviction at Yachen Gar and Larung Gar are targeted towards reducing their growth, influence, and power. Monks and nuns of the centers were forced to undergo “re-education” sessions as reported last year, violating their religious and cultural rights.

-Filed by UN, EU & Human Rights Desk

A critque of Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Žižeks debate on “Happiness”

I can afford to be slightly more generous because I am not anywhere near as far left as jacobin is.

About 30min in the introductions are given. I had not heard the list of Žižek’s accomplishments, so I was a bit surprised. Then after JP (Jordan Petersen) is introduced he first starts by insulting the writing style of the communist manifesto. I can’t make any comments about that, because I have not read it myself. I will say however with his belief that “most ideas are wrong” However what I assume he was trying to say is “Most ideas are incomplete”. Likewise when he asks if the arguments are “Solid thinking” I interpreted that to mean “Solid reasoning”. I did appreciate his taking time to explain what critical thinking is and where to begin to apply it.

JP then proceeds to begin delving into his top 10 points about the communist manifesto.

1) History is to be primarily viewed as an economic class struggle. I hate to agree with JP that, history is much more than that. The only ones that commodity history are the economists. I am going to assume that the communist manifesto says a lot more than that.

I personally feel that existence of hierarchy is not itself a problem, it’s an organizational model. The problems only arise from the cultural application or magical justification for hierarchy beyond it’s utilitarian functions. An example here being routing traffic on the internet, which is ostensibly a huge overlay of multiply network hierarchies, which determine their own internal routing decisions hierarchically, to pass data hat typically does not originate from nor is destined for, their own network. A lower tech example would be the highway system, which is maintained by multiple states, each maintaining only those roads which are within the boundaries of their own state. Corruption over construction contracts varies as a factor of cultural and historical differences, not hierarchical ones.

However there is one aspect I strongly disagreed with JP on, and it was so obvious tat even the audience started laughing. It was when JP stated “You don’t rise to a position of authority that is reliable in human society, primarily by exploiting other people. It is a very unstable means of obtaining power” He seems to have a massive blind spot for the violence of history and the many people who came to the exceptionalist conclusion of “Might makes right” which seems to be gaining popularity in recent decades. The only truth he was even close to, was the statement that such is a very unstable means of gaining power. Really depends on how you gauge the stability of say, the Chinese economy. Which recently posted 6.4% growth, remarkably unchanged from previous statements, despite the known disruptions caused by the on-going trade war with the US. Stable enough to convince new trading partners at least. But the interaction between authoritarianism, control via propaganda, and systemic dishonesty (for which they seem to be competing with the trump administration) is outside the scope of this critique (maybe look into finance in the 1920’s and compare to azn markets).

JP then goes on to make points about the binary thinking utilized in the communist manifesto, which are obvious propaganda tactics because it was a call to arms more than a political discourse.

The next segment JP covers is profit. He is a little bit all over the place and once again, because I haven’t read the communist manifesto, I can’t comment on the accuracy of his claims, however one thing that stuck out to me was the part were he says that “on of the functions of Profit is to put a limit on the foolish things I can do, it puts a constraint on wasted labor. There were forms of stupididty that could not be engaged in, because of the punishment by the market. This type of constrain does seem to be at least a little illusory in free markets, because there is no other explanation of the various financial crisis that been occurring on a somewhat regular basis since the 1920’s. To be fair however, none of the companies that were industry leaders back then, even exist today. But the power structures are eerily similar.

Then he makes a point that puts this entire conversation in a purely historical context which is unmoored from the current material conditions. While it is true that at the time, over 100yrs ago, before “The horseless carriage” had even been conceived of, that they simply did not have the computational capacity to centrally plan an economy. The same cannot be said for today, especially in the shadow of Amazon and success of chineese grand infrastructure projects (and not to mention skillful manipulations, and I am not just talking about currency.) He just sticks with the belief that centrally managed economies are still impossible. Just because they are possibly doesn’t mean I agress with them 100% but there is certainly the possibility of creating a decentralized global economy which responds quickly to both feedback and legislation which, if applied democratically, would have the appearance and responsiveness of a centrally planned economy. This economic methodology is often referred to as “The 4th industrial revolution” currently. Does that makes it capitalist ? Or Marxist (communist) ? I feel like this is where socialism really differentiates itself from both capitalism and Marxism. More on that differentiation later.

That difference also makes what JP says next particularly interesting, He says “The dictatorship of the proletariat which results in absurd centralization (Workers replaced by automation ? Hello ?) will somehow not become corrupt by the sudden concentration of power (that’s actually reasonable complaint) and impossible (back then, not anymore) amount of computation. Would allow hyper productivity (robots took muh jerb!) to such a degree that there will be enough material goods for everyone. That individuals will spontaneously engage in meaningful, creative labor. (Which they ahd been alienated from in the capitalist system) and utoia would be ushered in. That is literally the exact idea behind the abundance movement, which is very much not Marxist. That conclusion is the basis for the zero marginal cost society https://thezeromarginalcostsociety.com/ which is what the 4th industrial revolution is based upon and currently a key component of the United Nations sustainable development goals. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/
So these things he is claiming are A) marxist and B) A fantasy are in fact neither. This is amusing because somehow it seems JP is unaware of the transhumnists despite being the punchline of quite a few transhumnist jokes. It’s like a 4/20 miracle.

It is only as crazy as his belief that it was capitalism that alleviated poverty in Africa, and not development programs by the UN which are not inherently free market policies, but are in fact primarily based on charity and centralized planning, which are basically taxes and planning done by NGOs instead of governments. (The UN is itself an NGO) and lays all those accolades at the feet of capitalism, which has actually been the primary force for destabilization and exploitation. Which is why the audience laughed at that statement as well.

Fortunately there were time limits set, though not necessarily adhered to, and Žižek followed up with his rebuttal. Which starts by complaining that he has been feeling attacked by the left despite his position as a part of the left, which he dumps almost all criticisms of himself as “political correctness” which is only true some of the time. At the very least he actually does address the title of the debate, being about happiness. However he seemed to immediately conflates happiness with hedonism, and the contentment of buddhism with hedonism. He refers to happiness as a confused notion, seemingly because of his own inability to define it in a non-stereotypical way or define and disambiguate his examples. Personally I think he is just an angry old man who hasn’t really thought about happiness in a philosophical way because it would threaten his status as a curmudgeon. The perils of self-awareness accessible to him on a purely subconscious level I suppose…

It makes a much as sense as his prepared statement that people “pretend to desire things” rather than simply having mistaken or un-examined value systems from which they generate desire. A sort of willful self-deception surrounding desire. While I totally believe people are often willfully ignorant, I do not believe that is how people approach their desires in general.

This becomes twisted into a logical train-wreck that the worst thing that can happen to people, is to get what they desire. The most amazing part of that leap of logic, is that he had written it down and it wasn’t an idle musing in the moment. This is also why I was surprised at his list of accomplishments at the introduction. How are these things possible at the same time ?!
He seriously goes on to say that self-actualization is not a meaningful life goal because people are dumb. I thought I was cynical, but Žižek seems to be going for the gold on that one.

It’s not all bad though, Žižek does make some remarkable insights into the trump phenomena, going so far as to call him “A post-modernist politician at it’s purest”

Žižek then proceeds to talk about a favorite topic of the alt-right which is “Cultural Marxism” which he contends is basically an ideological place-holder for the alt-right to update all their reasoning for anti-antisemitism and re-package those distractions to conceal their true agendas which are quite dysfunctional.

Then he goes on a bit of a rant, where he takes a shot at JP’s evolutionary critique of lobsters and their supposed similarities to human behaviors. At the end of his rebuttal he does add a dose of sobering reality to ground his complaints. He says “When someone tries to convince me that despite all of our problems, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I tell them it is probably the light of another oncoming train.” Brushing all that aside he points out what is possibly the most important aspect of this gathering. He says “Don’t take it as a cheap competition even if that is all it appears to be, because we are all desperately trying to confront serious problems.” so the importance is actually placed on the revival of structured debate which engenders a certain minimum level of respect regardless of how arbitrary or asinine the presentations of the speakers may be. To which JP I gladly begins his rebuttal.

Interestingly, despite his opening arguments mostly being aimed at marxism, he does not claim that the answers posed by capitalism are by any means sufficient. His complaints are mostly that Žižek did not use marxism as a solution to anything. In my opnion the reason for this is that, most of marxism is itself a critique of capitalism and very little is about specific alternatives, mostly generalizations about social dynamics of labor and market forces with a heavy reliance on “The people will figure it out when they get there” which is also why most leftists rebuttal to claims of the failures of communism are simply that, true communism has never been tried only attempts at assembling communism that failed half way through the transnational process. To me the irony of those failures is that they failed in the same way and for the same reasons as capitalism typically fails, which once again places the failures in a cultural context instead of an organizational one.

One of the few things I agree with both of them on is the idea that the evil of capitalism is precisely contained in the drive to commodity all aspects of life, including social aspects and the commons which cannot be properly valued as pure commodities, which is what creates the fundamental internal contradictions within capitalism, such as the tragedy of the commons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

One thing that I found to be odd, is that JP seemed to conflate happiness with wealth by viewing happiness only through the lens of negative liberty https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_liberty, which is the absence of misery, while being unaware of positive liberty, or its use as a measure of ‘happiness’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_liberty which is an easy mistake to make. However he then goes on to talk about the law of diminishing returns in the context of vast ‘wealth creation’ withing capitalism, while correctly pointing out the dangers posed by such unequal concentration of wealth, while failing to make so much of a mention of real value vs ‘economic value’ the first being rooted in the innate nature of utility of a commodity, whereas the latter ‘economic value’ can be and entirely arbitrary product of ‘exotic financial instruments’ such as those behind the 2008 financial crisis as well as the great depression.

JP then goes on to make claims that by using over-simplified metrics such as GDP to drive sustainability, because people will simply care more once they have more to loose, is short sighted because it primarily supposes a western cultural mindset but more to the point, is supposing that raising GDP level to a degree where people can be wasteful, will drive them to be more sustainable. A bit of a chicken and egg problem for solving climate change, which only seems that way when seen from a purely free-market-only perspective, which he says he does not himself believe in, simply has no other answers. That is only ironic because of the similarities it bears to the marxist belief in the proletariat figuring it out when power is thrust upon them, without succumbing to the same cultural failures of social domination based hierarchies. Are these the failures of cultural marxism or just western culture?
He then goes on to talk about how “The population bomb” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Population_Bomb was diffused by technologies, namely genetically modifying crops combined with advances in petrochemical argiproducts like fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides etc… what he fails to take into account is that in those situations, they were not contending with massive negative feedback loops which disrupt crops systemically, such as extreme weather events, supply chain disruptions, soil quality issues, evolved genetic resistance to said agriproducts, even water scarcity issues. He heaps all his hopes on some small set of technologies revolutionizing production while ignoring climate change and the significant differences in the material conditions such as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_phosphorus and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_depletion#Soil_depletion . So there is a lot of misplaced optimism because previous solutions were not systemic because they didn’t need to be, while new solutions must inherently be more complex because the material conditions in which they exist are literally more complex than they used to be.

He does try to introduce a framework for decision making based on a hierarchy of responsibility, interestingly that puts the public good as the ultimate constraint. But that seems to be an attempt to shoehorn iterated game theories into the context of familial or kinship bonds as the threshold between individualism and collectivism.

At this point he give the floor back to Žižek, who excitedly shuffles to his podium.

Here he for the first time begins to address happiness, it took 2hrs for him to get to the topic of the night. His students must love that about him. He makes a brief note that “capitalism needs to be limited” which nobody disagrees with. Then he says that he does not believe that statistics that people in poorer countries are more happy than those in rich countries under certain circumstances. I think he believes this because he is not familiar with persistent stress and it’s effects on happiness, or the notion of relative happiness. The first aspect, stress effects on happiness. The stress response predates human language by many thousands of years. Not only that, the heightend alert state that it creates, which has some positives like more sensitive to learning, and faster reaction times. Also has several high costs, as the sress hormones can vastly increase inflammation across all parts of the body, from the gut to the brain. That is good for healing from injuries, however prolonged exposure leads to most diseases of inflammation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/ which are far more common in developed economies than they are in developing economies.
So that immediately points to a very negative difference between poor and rich in certain conditions. That same mechanism is why poor in developed countries are so much worse off than the rich in the same country. While the poor in that country are richer than all the poor in a poorer country, they are still experiencing much more stress than the poor in the poorer country. I am fairly certain that
Žižek has completely missed that dynamic. That is what I am referring to, when referring to ‘relative happiness’ https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/memory-vs-experience-happiness-is-relative
which specifically notes: ‘One way to improve life is simply by tilting the balance toward more affectively good activities, such as spending more time with friends or reducing commuting time’
which are precisely things that market forces commodify and create artificial scarcity by extracting increasing amounts of utility from workers, those same forces to no drive alienation in poorer countries, thus they have greater social happiness. Which is not something that can be easily crammed into an economic calculus, so therefore is considered to not exist in most western thought. So it is not surprising that both
Žižek and most economists, do not know it exists. Other examples are (a) people tend to be unhappy under adverse conditions such as poverty, war and isolation, (b) improvement or deterioration of at least some conditions does effect happiness lastingly, (c) earlier hardship does not favour later happiness{economists heads explode with this}, (d) people are typically positive about their life rather than neutral.

Jpcovers?
His next point is interesting to be sure, and defiantly originates from his religious beliefs. His belife is that true happiness come from an abdication of personal responsibility. That people are happier when they have someone else to blame for their difficulties. While that may be true for some, those would be the ‘ignorance is bliss crowd’ that believe that somehow the state of nature is benevolence, that social Darwinism is benevolent. Instead of understanding that the discomfort that arises from personal responsibility to situations outside of our everyday experience, which is other people. Is the only thing that allows genuine or positive liberty to exists. Without that perspective, they devolve into individualist populism, which is basically authoritarianism. A true form of ignorance, which amazingly does not have a good historical track record. This is the purest form of the dunning-kruger effect which demonstrates that ignorance is so common a problem, because it effects everyone except the sufferer, which is not actually true, because it effects the sufferer as well, but those effects are delayed to such a (small) degree that the sufferer is not able to recognize their causal relationship to their own suffering (this is what neo-buddhists call “Karma”) I like to refer to it as the Donkey-Kong of Karma, also because of the similarity between donkey kong and the monkey king. (sorry these jokes only make sense in english language). Žižek then continues on about Czechoslovakia in the 1970’s. A story about meat availability where that scarcity gave a metric to happiness, instead of something like causing people to prefer more vegetarian diets, as people do these days in response to climate change. That is an example of confusing a material condition for a cultural one.
He then goes on about the social contract between authoritarians and their populace, as if that social contract was specific to authoritarians instead of being common to all forms of government, including monarchies. In my opinion, these biases are of the same type that ayn rand ran afoul of. A type of cultural myopia that is invisible to those who are mostly unaware of arbitrary injustice, such as race based injustice used to justify colonialism. When he complains about this, please note this has nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with material conditions when divorced from culture.

I will say however that I agree with his next sentiment, which is that happiness as a goal, should be a mandatory byproduct and not the primary goal. He then proceeds to yell “China” like trump does and asks what the difference would be if china was more democratic than authoritarian during it’s rise. The answer to that is outside the scope of this article, I think I may put it behind a patreon paywall so I will experience less personal harassment, something the US gov has seemingly failed to even detect, within it’s own borders. Also that would add like 10 pages to this article. The one paragraph version is:

They would have had slightly slower growth, and the foxconn suicides https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn_suicides wouldn’t have happened. Also they would have a much much easier time displacing the US without falling into https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/09/the-thucydides-trap/ but oh well, that trap is typically only triggered when both sides are authoritarian. Their unabashedly authoritarianism, which is typically concealed behind a language barrier and tightly controlled media, is becoming harder and harder to hide since the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19th_National_Congress_of_the_Communist_Party_of_China which was in step with the trump transition. The similarities in the way both governments have changed is disturbing, with the Americans actually benefiting from multiple perspectives while china has merely increased it’s mimicry to the form of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_of_an_Economic_Hit_Man which has enabled developing economies to produce as much CO2 and pollution as china itself, with 60% of greenhouse emissions originating from China or the “other” category which excludes all developed economies, with a great propaganda campaign about being the worlds “green power” I would go on but this is already more than a paragraph.
He then proceeds to make statements about the oceans, to which JP seems genuinely surprised. I think I might have telepathically sent Žižek a “Save the wales” message, as I was watching this debate live. He refers to the tragedy of the commons of the oceans as “The problem of the oceans” in their relationship to imperiling human life on earth via climate change. He takes his personal position as a marxist to be because the limitations of the market prevent it from solving “The problem of the oceans” . That alleviating poverty, which he attributes to capitalism instead of growth of economic activity and technology itself regardless of economic framework, is less important than solving “the problem of the oceans” so he is correct, for the wrong reasons, because he is misattributing poverty alleviation. He then tries to separate exploitation from being inherent to capitalism, by stating that the issues in south Africa are still a result of colonialism, as if the ideology of colonialism are somehow different than those of capitalism. He really does a better job of representing JP’s positions than JP does, albeit using selective historical memory, something they both share. Since he is a marxist who was somehow able to miss the classism at the root of the south African inequality which he is referring to, even though he spelled it out as a “new black ruling class” and attributes it to colonialism instead of capitalism. I think this is why Jacobin gave him the title of fool in their article. But it may simply be poor diet + stress + lack of self awareness = bad memory + logic train like a roller coaster that jumps the tracks. The stress is real though, because he doesn’t normally touch his face so much in his previous talks. Also he keeps pulling on his shirt to try and lower his body temperature. Apparently does not celebrate 420 or he might actually have been more coherent. This entire 7 page article was written while celebrating April 20th. Cannabis is a sacrament in the neo-Buddhist tradition.

He then veers off into talking about how capitalism enables some of the worst humanitarian disasters such as yemen, which is entirely based on people killing other people of the same religion with weapons they bought with the money extracted from a land that has been so poorly managed that over a thousands years it went from being the lush cradle of civilization to a desert. For many millennia it was actually a swamp, which is where all that oil came from in the first place.

He then jumps topics again, and the look of confusion and bewilderment on JP’s face as he trys to follow the rapidly changing topics while Žižek seem to be in ADD Overdrive. He does make a very cogent request, while recognizing the type of global change and or cooperation required to solve these issues, what the consequences of engaging in large scale reform will be? What is acceptable, to prevent situations like Yemen?
He has a request for self awareness that he applied to Marxism for some reason, by hoping that Marxism would somehow enable people to know the consequences of their actions prior to carrying out said actions, instead of that being a cultural condition of thinking before acting, as apposed to operating out reactionary positions. He mostly wants people who crave revolution to apply that logic to stave off creating their own version of Yemen at home, from what I can tell, though I may be creating my own meaning at this point. Žižek then proceed to expound on the need to create new international organizations to solve these problems (though I personally believe in reform of existing organizations such as the UN, new organizations can advance the process of reforming existing organizations) he also emphasizes how much of a pessimist he is with a slovianian parable that suggests they prefer “and eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, and makes the one eyed man king” a sort of self-destructive pessimism which he believes is human nature. Though it is notably anti-social behavior, which would prevent humans from being social animals at all. Another conflation, this time between culture and human nature. This is a great example of ignorance as bliss in action. He comes to these conclusions entirely because he does not see “an easy way out”. So his ignorance leads to anti-social behavior and biases so great as to contradict what is known scientifically about human nature, which is that humans are classified as social animals. Oddly(?), he seems more frustrated than blissful at this prospect.
Finally JP gets to have his reply, which he starts with calling Žižek ‘a character’ which Žižek could not really tell if that was an insult or not, though JP exclaims that it is not. JP defines being ‘a character’ as a sign of originality and moral courage, which is a nice sentiment. He goes on to state that Žižek might consider his ideology “Žižekism” (I LoLed) because it has enough originality to be distinct from Marxism (the same reason there is a difference between Buddhism and neo-Buddhism I suppose)
Žižek replies that it is because he is more Hegelian and is wary of human/self instrumentality (hold the evangelion jokes please) and thinks people should aspire to for radical openness https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_honesty

To which JP responds that, he doesn’t have any disagreements with what Žižek said, however support for marxism is inherently assumed culturally, to be support for the most radical proclivities, because the communist manifesto was a revolutionary document. So that by trying to save the sheep, he has welcomed in the dragon. My response to that is, what he is actually experiencing is the western propaganda machine which has been undermined by the dragon only recently, that these categorizations of Marxism are from a history of binary strawman arguments which equate any form of collectivism, such as taxes, to be marxism/communism. And anything that is radical individualism to be capitalism. While painting property rights as capitalism and human rights as marxism/communism. A great number of false dichotomies from the think tank circuit run amok as culture becomes more and more controlled by corporations. Which are then hijacked by the profit motives of foreign adversaries. Laissez-faire Capitalism becoming a sort if justification for a hobbsian war of all against all with the blame placed on marxist for being a source of authoritarianism, instead of say, fascists which have been gaining popularity. The best propaganda is invisible I suppose, or is that just blinding of privilege ?
Žižek replies by asking for any examples without stating that what JP has fallen for, is the propaganda of the alt-right echo chamer he finds himself in, unwittingly. Zizken then proceeds to call “postmodern neo-marxists an impotent moralization”. I didn’t know post modern neo-marxists were a thing prior to this conversation. JP then lists Jonathan Haidt of the heterodox academy, listing that conservatives are simply uninterested in the social sciences and many of them consider themselves to be marxist. I think that is mostly a popularity thing, because of the aforementioned propaganda that marxism is human rights and capitalism is property rights. Not because of Marxism as a coherent social structure outside of a generalized preference for equality of opportunity. This point is the first time they agree on something meaningful. So here a short musical break to celebrate:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/6R54qFBS7hU” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

He explains that there is a strange relationship between post-modernism and neo-marxism, as a sleight of hand, that replaced the notion of the oppression of proletariat by the bourgeoisie with the opression of one identity group by another. In order words, by replacing power relations with arbitrary aspects of identity. Such as using gender identity to ignore bodily autonomy as a struggle (LGBTQ+ not caring about plan B). Žižek counters by saying that is specifically non-marxist. This is where they begin to disagree. JP says that his conceptualization is that they are no longer about economic power dynamics but about identity politics. But I think JP just accidentally mistook alt-right propaganda about marxism for actual marxism. Those echo chambers sure are pernicious. JP then proceeds to claim social justice types are post-modernist, which I can only reply with “WTF? Those things are nowhere near the same, those are different groups” He thinks that everything is couched in terms of oppressed vs oppressor and that is all that exists in any hierarchy. Apparently he assumes any form of intellectual specialization is a form of oppression. According to petersons logic, social justice people believe that programmers should also be the HR dept and the delivery person should also be the sales person and meetings shouldn’t have a moderator because the act of moderating a discussion is oppression. Which would explain why the moderator hasn’t said a word in 3hrs. This is what happened when someones bubble touches the surface of reality, but they can only see their own reflection from the inside.

Then the moderator speaks for seemingly the first time to pose a question from the audience about happiness and how it is obtained. JP makes a good point on the nature of happiness when he says “we (humans) are subject to forces within us, that are not subject to our voluntary control. You cannot will yourself to be happy. You may be able to will yourself to be unhappy, but you cannot will yourself to be happy. (I think there is a causal relationship here that can be controlled indirectly, what neo-Buddhists call contentment) JP says there are mysterious preconditions that must be set and then maybe you can be happy. He follows with his personal philosophy for pursuing ‘the good life’ which is not the same as pursuing happiness. Which is a personal stance of undertaking maximal responsibility towards the malevolence and suffering in the world. And it should be pursued as an individual responsibility and that large political organizations are not required to achieve that objective. So it’s amazingly self-limiting solution to global problems, almost as if it was designed to keep individuals alienated from collective action with a salve of best intentions. Why ? Because fundamentally we each suffer alone, though I would contend that I suffer from his ignorance as do many others, so I am not alone in that suffering. He does follow it with something coherent, which is that the beginning of moral behavior is taking responsibility for ones own actions and participation. Which can only be successful with a sort of radical honesty on a personal level. The coherent section is the only part I agree with. His justification for it, seems ass-backwards. So he is correct for the wrong reasons, just like Žižek. They have so much in common it’s laughable. He then claims this particular ethic is generated from his judeo-cristian background, I would disagree. I think he absorbed it similar to osmosis from the same groups which makes jokes and memes about him of which he is unaware, though has probably seen the memes. Which is where I assume he absorbed it, because of the high levels of abstraction he didn’t realize the memes were about him. This is funny on so many levels. A perspective from the heart of the mean meme machine. He then goes on to differentiate between responsibility and duty. He says responsibility is not simply doing what you believe to be right, that is duty which is not enough. Responsibility is acting in a manner that is in accordance with what you believe to be right, but doing it in a manner that simultaneously expands your ability to do so. Which means that you cannot stay safely ensconced within your current ethical beliefs, you have to stand on the edge of what you know, and encounter continually the consequences of your own ignorance. This is to expand your domain of knowledge and ability, so that you are not only acting in a productive and efficient manner, but increasing the efficiency and productivity and therefore meaningfulness of what you are engaged in.

That is when true happiness descends upon you, because it is an indication from the deepest recesses of yourself that your psyche is aligned with your actions, you are doing what you should be doing, but in a way that expands your capacity to do even better things in the future. He thinks this is the deepest human instinct that there is (I agree) and that it is not rational (wait, how did self-actualization become non-rational ? Apparently really deep self-mastery is not rational because it is deep…) so long as it is nor perverted with self-deception and deceit (another reference to radical honesty). This time, he is right for mostly the right reasons, to which the audience cheers. To which he enjoys a sip of sweet victory which tastes like mineral water. Even Žižek claps.

In his excitement during his response, Žižek cannot seem to stop touching his nose. It’s so over the top you might begin to think he has some sort of drug problem, but no, it’s just his weird ADD + excitement + not sure if he just told JP how much he is falling in love with his idea. He says it himself, real deep love can sometimes seem like a catastrophe because of how disruptive it can be. (timeindex 2:40:05 if you want to see what I am talking about)

The tone changes slightly when Žižek takes on JP’s philosophy of personal responsibility “get your own house in order first” which excludes collective action, in it’s inability to address the challenges of climate change.

JP’s response is a bit of a rant on judeo-cristian morality that through purely personal responsibility will sort of percolate through society. In doing so he hopes to mitigate overconfidence of ideologues who purpose simple end state solutions by the diffusion of responsibility through group identity, by ensuring ethics are a personal issue instead of purely a result of group dynamics (individualist populism) that is a very fine line to walk. Here is the rub, his “set your own house in order” seems to ignore dysfunctional families, activists would be spending their lives trying to make personal appeals to someone who is essentially mind-controlled by propaganda, ostensibly yelling at a wall of false beliefs structured by the corporate cultural controllers, before engaging in collective action with like-minded individuals to achieve greater change. This is a privileged position as it basically assumes that the structural ills of society can be solved on a ‘local’ basis despite the vast inequalities because somehow they are not related to the inequalities of resources ? They will somehow have success trying to teach Hegel and platonic ethics to people who are starving without healthcare, prior to political organizing for healthcare and other social safety programs, just because their uncle is a raging racist from being stuck in mass media echo-chamber because broadband penetration is not nearly as wide as people think?
There are a lot of problems with that logic, but because JP normally associates with people who are not poor (academia), it’s an oversight I can understand. Ultimately he places a lot of the blame on shallow moralizing, aka when political discourse is replaced by shouting talking points at eachother. Radio is mass media that people always seem to forget about, at least those people with high speed internet always available.

Žižek makes a joke about JP being stallinist and then refers him to Hegels concept of ‘the fall’ which is basically judo-cristian original sin https://dtomolson.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/hegel-and-original-sinconsciousness-qua-human-self-consciousness-is-the-fall-itself/

Žižek then takes a very interesting approach to describing the bias that JP is experiencing where he confuses cultural aesthetics with utilitarian reasoning by talking about toilets. First he starts be complaining about low flow eco-friendly toilets which use less water than traditional toilets (which are popular in germany), to being something like a port-o-potty (which they are not. Žižek is just exaggerating a lot here). That ideology is there in the design of the toilet, so I belife he is conflating aesthetics with ideology, and he fails to add meaningful examples like comparing to squat toilets and japeneese toilets, which I am not kidding, have 20 buttons mounted on a wall. (and you thought the 3 shells were intimidating …) Žižek says that it is simply a much more complex situation because it is a set of implicit beliefs their JP is not aware of aka biases. He explains it as his favorite story about Niels Bohr, who had a horeshoe over his door, when asked if he believed in the horse shoe, Bohr said “of course not, I am a scientist” then the follow up question of “Then why do you have a horseshoe over your door?” to which Bohr replied “because someone told me it keeps the evil spirits out, regardless if I believe in it or not” and that exclaims Žižek, is how ideology is today, it’s seemly fundamental to most people. JP responds by sheepishly looking at his shoes. And Žižek responds by saying “I am soliciting you to tell a joke, don’t you see this ?” and JP responds, correctly I might add, that people are possessed by ideas that are not their own, and personalities that are not theirs (A reference to dysfunctional group identities) that it’s not just ideas, but personalities that are way worse than ideas. And some of those personalities are associated with the idea that freedom is found in maximizing hedonistic, moment to moment pleasure, because it “sounds like freedom”.

JP’s best answer to this comes from his own axiom of “Stop saying things you know not to be true” which is a nice way of saying “stop repeating talking points which have been debunked” but it does make more of a generalized attempt at increasing honesty by at least diminishing outright lies while accepting lies of omission, as a first step of raising the level of discourse in our day to day lives. Like the first baby steps of radical honesty, because people are too biased to know what to truth is, so asking them to tell the truth which they do not themselves know is too optimistic. He instead prefers something similar to Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development.

Žižek counters JP’s personal responsibility by explaining that, most authoritarians insert themselves at this level. By claiming that their followers must individually choose to do what they know is wrong personally, for a higher cause. Also known as the banality of evil. As presented by Himlech Himmler of the SS. That it takes a ‘truly great man’ to be ready to loose his soul and do horrible things for his country. And that is the danger of false meaning, it is the power of false narrative, which is what Žižek seems to be implying is the result of JP’s particular narrative of personal responsibility without collective organizing. Žižek claims that Himmlers solution was the sort of perversion of eastern though as outlined in the book “The Zen of War” where people dissolve their identity into the group identity to such a degree that the diffusion of responsibility though detachment from their own actions, allows them to do terrible things and then claim those actions are simply the result of Newtonian determinism which negates free will and as such personal responsibility for ones own actions, which is not what I think JP is advocating for. Though that does seem to be the logic followed by most mass shooters.

The moderator finally steps in to get the conversation back on track and asks them both to give their own answers to what they hope the audience will take away from this debate. I actually like JP’s reply here, where he states “I hope people will leave this debate with a belief in the power of communication between people with different views” He then continues that “there is a belief that people are only avatars of their group identity, and they have nothing unique to say, and besides that there is no communication across boundaries of identity or belief” JP believes this is unbelievably dangerous and pernicious doctrine. He then says “People of good will, despite their differences can communicate and both come out from that communication improved, even though there will be dissent during that communication. Those are sentiments I whole heartily agree with and I would just like to add, they only exists as propaganda pushed by various think tanks that are unique to the bubble JP is unaware of being a part of due to algorithms he does not understand. So what I am saying is that he very real worry is generated not by what is actually the norm, but by what he thinks is the norm for his cultural bubble which is the intellectual dark web. Regardless of those circumstances, his approach is the best that can be hoped for, for those in his situation.

Žižek’s answer to the moderators question is that he hopes what people will take away from this debate, especially if they are a leftist, to not worry about being politically correct. As he says “Don’t be afraid to think” though I would disagree that PC culture is about being afraid to think. The people who yell “fascist” for anyone who disagrees with them, seem to be far more likely a provocateur than a social justice person, real social justice people are better at communicating. So Žižek seems to have fallen for lazy straw man arguments for so long, he thinks those people are actually social justice advocates, instead of privileged idiots. As to weather or not trump is a fascist, fascism is defined as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism but the short form is, when capitalism captures the power of the state and uses it to control the populace while masquerading as economic realism. Just because DeTrump is too stupid to utilize the levers, does not mean those are not his beliefs, since he believes the country “should be run like a corporation”. So Žižek has fallen to his own echo chamber.

What Bioshock taught me about objectivism.

Yesterday I saw a few articles about undersea or floating cities of the future as a response to climate change. These Utopian constructions show up every few months in a sort of homage to popular SciFi of the 60s. There have been many takes, and satires of these types of utopias. One of the most entertaining if you are looking for mindless humor, is Sealab 2021. An example is:

I really identified with Dolphin boy…

You can see more of the series on https://www.adultswim.com/videos/sealab-2021

However, my favorite portrayal of a deep sea Utopia is the Bioshock video game series. It was so well done, that I didn’t even notice the philosophical themes until 3/4ths of the way through the game. It was actually one of the main motivators for me to join the US transhumanist party. It’s a very atmospheric game, while also subtly presenting many karmic dilemmas. At the same time it hangs a newtonian facade on cause and effect, just enough to keep the player guessing if they are playing the game, or being played by it. I received a hit of nostalgia to that effect when reading that article about technologies for adapting to climate change. I was also feeling very lazy so instead of writing about it, I watched a bunch of youtube videos until I found one which most accurately presented my own feelings when playing those games. BEHOLD!
(Note: this video is 46min long, so get something to eat before it starts)

What came first: all-seeing gods or large societies? A search for the origin of religion.

I am feeling pretty lazy today, so I will be posting an interesting article I found. From the print edition of “The Economist”

Horus, an ancient Egyptian sky god, was often depicted as a sharp-eyed falcon. Lord Buddha’s eyes are supposed to be able to look in four directions at once. The god of Abraham sees everything, always. A “Big God” of this sort—a supernatural “eye in the sky” who cares whether people do right by others—is a feature of most of the world’s top religions. But it was not always so. Anthropological research suggests that the gods who watch over small societies tend to demand only that people show deference to them. Big Gods come later.

One theory holds that this is because small societies do not need a supernatural policeman. If everyone knows everyone else, antisocial elements are easily managed. But as societies grow, and especially as they absorb ethnically and culturally diverse groups through conquest, a different policing mechanism is needed. What could be better than an all-seeing eye that enforces co-operation between friends and strangers alike?

If this theory is correct, it raises another question: which comes first, a Big God that permits a big society, or a big society that requires a Big God? That question is addressed by a paper published in this week’s Nature by Harvey Whitehouse of Oxford University and his colleagues.

Over the past eight years the team has built a historical database, dubbed Seshat after a goddess of knowledge who was Horus’s contemporary. With the help of a small army of historians and archaeologists, they have accumulated data on more than 400 societies that have existed in the past 10,000 years.

In previous research, the group identified 51 highly correlated variables that gauge a society’s complexity, such as population size, the presence of bureaucrats or paper money. They have now asked how this composite indicator of social complexity relates to the presence, or absence, of moralizing gods.

Seshat divides the globe arbitrarily into 30 regions. Twelve housed societies that offered data on their complexity before and after the emergence of Big Gods. In ten of these 12 regions, Big Gods appeared about 100 years after a society took a leap forward in complexity, with populations in the region of 1m.

That suggests Big Gods are a consequence of big societies, not a cause of them. But interrogation of Seshat revealed another religious phenomenon that played a role in driving societies towards greater complexity: frequent, collective rituals such as daily food offerings to gods. These rituals predate Big Gods in nine of the 12 regions by long periods of time, around 1,100 years on average.

Dr Whitehouse’s hypothesis is that, because they were easy to learn and were performed often, such rituals may have allowed beliefs and practices to spread to much larger populations than had previously been possible, helping to unify those populations around a common identity. A way to both spread customs though a form of storytelling, as well as to convey knowledge to identify behavior, such as exploitation. This would have been a side effect of trade across culture, a test prior to trade activities, possibly as a trust exercise in some cases. Only subsequently do Big Gods emerge. Both innovations seem to have consolidated or stabilized societies that had recently expanded. If true, this would fit with findings the same group published last year.

On that occasion they tested a theory that has been popular for several decades: that societies became recognizably “modern” in the mid-first millennium bc, during the so-called “Axial Age”, the period in which figures such as Plato, Buddha and Zoroaster appeared on the scene, promulgating moralizing ideologies. Which were different from previous ideologies which were often based on capricious behaviors that arise from power imbalances as a form of control, in a world that at the time was still dominated by random encounters with wildlife and incomprehensible disease, attributed to the supernatural just so they could have the illusion of certainty as a security blanket.

Instead, the latest study showed that the various components of that age, including legal codes and moralizing gods, emerged gradually over a much longer period, starting in the third millennium bc and ending after the appearance of the first complex societies. If Dr Whitehouse and his colleagues are correct, today’s religions did not create modernity but, in the past at least, they held it together.

 

Better living through project management. part 1

The maximizing of participation and creative output is a complex multidimensional process, however the rewards can be difficult to quantify. To some that means they do not exist. To others, those are the reason that they themselves exist. That might seem odd, but it is not a self-referential paradox. It is in fact an indicator of what are often unconscious beliefs, the subconsciousget beliefs lead to the development of biases that are typically culturally associated with those subconscious beliefs, of which the individual expiring them, may be entirely unaware. So instead of confronting the deep philosophical issues, MBAs prefer tactics more similar to nepotism to enforce conformity, because the cognitive dissonance which can arise in the work place, can have an even larger impact than poor unchallenged justifications which are a result of power dynamics instead of merit. So don’t ask me how that relates to the “productivity” as measured by GDP. Because I don’t want to have to explain voodoo economics right now, that is outside the scope of this brief and incomplete introduction to project management.

Ultimately, the process of maximizing creative output is not solely an issue of the project managers, or the team members themselves. It is a combination of these factors, which are generally summarized as “fit” which incorporates both that the parts of the team fit together, and that is what creates the overall fitness of the team. The only meaningful conclusion to draw from that, is that issues can originate from the project manager, team leader or team member. The problem, which is not the same as a mistake, can also be addressed by any of these roles, however the responsibility for solving those problems, is very domain specific. Without those domain specific limitations, what tends to happen is that the most skilled members are punished for having skills because the bulk of work gets redirected to them. This happens when you have people on the team who are either lazy or dumb, the reason this can be difficult to differentiate is that lazy, angry, passive-aggressive, hurt, overworked, and several other behaviors all are presented as ignorance. This is because as a part of some anti-intellectual cultural stereotypes, ignorance is often the get-out-of-jail free card for people who are deceptive. Both maliciously and incidentally. This can become a real annoyance when it is combined with the dunning-Kruger effect, where you have an idiot, who has convinced themselves that they are a genius and just pretending to be an idiot to be lazy. And then proceeding to get stuck on a treadmill of hedonistic imperative, while failing to develop as a person. They then proceed to move through the ranks of an organization based entirely how long they can keep these dysfunctional traits from conflicting with the goals for pure profit. This is where bad managers come from, a combination of privilege and purely self-serving beliefs (selfish beliefs).

At this point you might be thinking “What the &*[email protected]# does any of this have to do with project management?” and the point is mostly so that project managers begin to understand their position. It is not a matter of simply conducting meetings and delegating work. Though it does seem that way sometimes, especially in agile, where it’s mostly expected that the lead developer be the project manager, because somehow, they didn’t have enough responsibilities and work already. So this might be where value judgments (concepts of value, of which economists love to lie about because math. (and sometimes combined with amphetamines, lol stock market crashes. AI still does it better than self-proclaimed super humans, who were rewarded with all the money, which isn’t in of itself value, see: bitcoin) but seriously, it’s philosophers who are the stuck up self-important but fundamentally deluded pro-claimers of “the truth” /sarcasm) in the budget come in, but rest assured you don’t need to worry about that as a project manager it is entirely outside of your control.

If you feel dumber after reading that, don’t worry, that is normal for economists, which are just mathematicians who suck as math. Mathematicians who are good at math go into physics. So yes, neo-classical economics actually does make you dumber. So truly they deserve to guide the global economy. Those failures that occur every 8-10 years are the fault of the people! Just don’t ask which people. Sorry, got a little off track there.

So the moral of the story is that project management has as much to do with people skills as it does with process skills. Good teams are able to see their project manager more like a 2nd level of HR dept. In poor management environments, such as highly rigid process and hierarchy, all interpersonal queries are redirected to a separate HR dept. I bring these issues up because they are KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) which are seldom considered.

There are a lot more things to be said about managerial processes and behaviors when interacting with team members, however it is outside of the scope of this article.

Fortunately for the more technically minded among you, project management isn’t all touchy and feely.

There are many different methods of project management and each method often has a different goal than another. This is the first lesson in complexity, and project management itself is mostly managing and assessing the complexity of projects, so that they are able to follow a well thought out map.

It is important to see it this way, because most people think project management is about the specifics of some process and others feel like processes are more like guides than rules. Both can be true based on the complexity, but they are not interchangeable. That is the first lens to use when trying to determine the proper method of project management to apply in a given situation.

Now the most important thing about this whole article is known along with the bias that undermines it, which is the 2nd reason there are so many shitty project managers too. Why is that important though ?

Well, as far as skills which are transferable to other areas in your life, having the ability to recognize and organize complexity, is really the only way to have a meaningful relationship with technology. The kind that ensures we guide it and not the kind that just makes it a reflection of our fears while guiding us. That applies to both humans and “AI”.

But will this knowledge make me happy ? Because in my country it is tradition to believe that ignorance is bliss. The underlying assumption is that the less you know about pain, the less you will be able to emulate it, which is a part of empathy, and the less you are used to emulating it, the less it will hurt when you actually feel it. This is rooted in this confusion of identity between the body and the mind within each individual. However this ignores the existence of complexity, because that is difficult to quantify. When did math get so hard ? See, if we were just a little more ignorant, we could just pretend it’s magic or some force outside of karma and in doing so, make it whatever we want.

Seriously, objective reality is a joke, it’s a simulation so all you have to do is change your mind. so I want to congratulate some jackasses for successfully finding a way to justify self deception. No wonder they are so good at predicting things. But WAIT! If you can predict things, isn’t that like, controlling reality ? Because if you know what is going to happen, then you can change it, which stops it from happening. Does that mean everything is pre-determined and it doesn’t matter why anything happens because you have no control of it anyway. When you put it that way, it doesn’t even sound like a contradictory paradox. But they do base their idea of their own agency in the world on it. Subconsciously of course, so does that really matter ? Like you never really think about it, so you have no idea, life Is always a surprise!

Ok ok, maybe, but here is the thing. Are those good surprises or bad surprises ? If ignorance is bliss, why are drug addicts always trying to kill themselves, and smart people successful, even though they do not themselves know how to define success, they just believe it is whatever they are told it is. See ? Just change your mind, it works just fine! But does it ?
This is why so many people hate their jobs.

What is the difference between people who love their jobs and those who hate their jobs ?
Well, poor people are told that it is how much money they make, which determines their value.
Smart people however, figure out or are just lucky enough to have smart enough parents, that it is actually mastering skills, aka a certain level of self improvement which is focused on intellectual development in some area. When that happens, as seen with open source developers, is that they are mostly paid in pride in their own work. That is why they are able to be not just productive, but creative. Creativity is the lifeblood of innovation, which is the second engine of the economy, after power generation.

Why should the economic power of a company matter to me ? Well, in a more democratic and meritocratic management style, it would correlate, but not directly, with financial compensation.
In classically managed companies, there aren’t only promotions which generate additional income. It’s often stock, which is a different problem which is outside the scope of this article. However that system is only loosely based on merit and typically prone to being structurally undermined by being undefined. What all of that means is, that the quality of the economy is actually a side effect of the open source model. When profit is what is quantified and valued above other factors like quality of good project management and happy employees, which would basically be interpreted as infinity if placed in a math problem inappropriately, are discarded. Then economy is a zombie which actually stops taking human life into account. That is why individualism is important, which is literally the only argument for capitalism that exists, because it posits that other forms of government are unable to create that kind of freedom, which is bullish for “I just don’t feel like explaining the contradictions in my beliefs.” or a straw man argument.
So all of that shit, is entirely because they are optimizing for “individuality” instead of “self actualization” which as the name implies, is the process of creating the self, which is a unique identity.

It was formalized by Abraham Maslows as a pyramid, much like the food pyramid, which is an important distinction between that and a triangle, because there is vastly greater internal volume per level of the pyramid. It was determined that by trying to achieve those goals in those proportions, would maximize the ability to create an identity which is what the concept of the self consists of.

People are like, just really attached to their identities sometimes.

However there is a bridge that is too far for even Maslows hierarchy to reach, which seems to contradict what some popular but wrong psychologists who were pretending to be philosophers believed, they weren’t able to prove their ideas well enough to call it a science, but they like to think it is, for the same reason that economists suck at math actually. Funny how that works.

Anyway, the bridge was too far because it was just a sphere that turned back in on itself, a 4D sphere if you will, built on the hedonistic imperative. Chasing this type of “happiness” is why people have drug addictions, so considering that most people who believe that have a much higher rate of suicide, it probably isn’t the answer. But considering that some people don’t even trust science about vaccination, what chance does a concept like this have ?

Real philosophers know, true fulfillment, is the fullest realization of the self. Sounds like selfishness doesn’t it ? Here is the thing though, right after they tell you that, they say “because there is no self”
How the heck does that works ? How do I maximize nothing to feel a deep satisfaction with my self ?

Then there is some vague hand waving and incoherent babble about transcendence or enlightenment or woo or qi or whatever is the flavor for your area.

There is a legend however, that maslow died before finishing his great work, the end boss of the pyramid of self actualization, was actually an amalgamation of the environment in which the thinking entity exists. How can this be the “true self” ? I am pretty sure MY self is inside MY body, see its the sense of ownership. If you think you can just dissolve private property and turn me into just another number in a calculation I would loose my identity, and my identity is very important, if you take it, I just might kill you to get it back.

How can self actualization fit inside of such a frame work ? What possible glue would you have to use, because there are just too many twists to this logic. Well I can see why that could seem confusing and frustrating. This all sounds like just some more complicated bullshit that doesn’t mean anything, just word games. Does it make your head hurt ? Maybe heart beat faster ? Ignorance sounds so much more fun right now. Because then my agency can be whatever I want whenever I want and it’s all about me anyway, I am the only one I have to live with for the rest of my life. Really ? Is that really true ? Then you don’t need these rules because you do not need society. Good luck finding a forest to live in though, because then you would have to adopt the culture of indigenous people, and who wants that fight ? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t I suppose. At least for some people.

For others, they believe in karma. More importantly though, they believe that karma is not magical. It is actually just the result of complexity which emerges from chaos theory. Only by truly integrating that into your internal identity, will you be able to create simulations where all the other people are not just generalized with a few stereotypes, like a poorly written story, you don’t have any agency anyway, everything is pre-determined. Isn’t that what karma means ?

No, no it doesn’t. I am trying to figure out if this is willful ignorance (trolling) or you actually still don’t understand. Karma isn’t a magic force, all it means is that for every action there is a reaction, sometimes those actions mirror and amplify into a standing wave, other times they multiply and diversify. Most things occur in cycles, so if you can figure out where in the cycle you are, it is possible to “control your own fate” by which I mean directing the cycle. The cycle, is not too dissimilar from riding a bicycle, you carry out a few repetitive actions, however your experience every time is different because the environment is always different. Imagine you bicycle to work every day, do you wear the same clothes all year every day ? No, even though the actions are repetitive, the environment itself is different each time, similar maybe, but never the same. These confusions arise because people tend to think that even chaos theory is predictable simply because it is not “quantum”, but that is like saying there Is a limit to the number of sentences you can invent just because there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. I am pretty sure both of these mistakes arise out of a combination of people not understanding scale in an intuitive sense instead of a mathematical one, and misapplication of the symbol known as infinity in math, which is just what people do anytime they are trying to decide if something exists or not, and people mistake it for size, because those are easy to manipulate with math. Which is the language of the universe! Or maybe just a measurements of ratios which sometimes appear related at different levels because of the fractal nature of true complexity. And not objective reality itself, but a feature of reality, because we are at the same time both familiar and unfamiliar with it, because it is the substance that creates our own mind, without actually being our own mind at the same time, there is a barrier somewhere … I can almost feel it .. it feels like …. the edges of my identity.

That is what really lasts after you die, both in the form of karma, but also legacy because by some crazy coincidence, those are somehow interchangeable. So don’t you want an identity to be proud of ?

That is what makes self transcendence the final boss of the pyramid, it doesn’t sit on top of it, it is actually the tip of the spear. There is a saying about acting: “You can either act, or you can really get into the part” the difference is only in what identity the entity making decisions decides to assume. And that depends entirely on weather or not the entity feels like it has agency in the world. Nice try with the simulation arguments though, those were suitably annoying. That miiiiight be why part of the reasons that astronomers and physicists disagree on the nature of reality itself. As usual, somehow, these difference seem to come down to the role math plays in the individuals life. At least it seems that way, but really math just biases people towards determinism. It’s not like being totally wrong about that, and claiming to be right because “math is the language of the universe” so people confuse math for the universe itself, while other people, who aren’t as good at math are wrong because they can’t present their ideas purely in the language of math, the purest language!
Also if you tell them how often they are wrong, it threatens their ideological perfection which plugs all the holes in their identity, just like they plug infinity into math. Can’t imagine why everything seems like magic to them, after all, it’s a simulation in which you have no control, so just maximize pleasure because nothing else realllly matters. See, ignorance IS bliss, and bliss is enlightenment, so I guess it’s all just nothing. Nothing exists instead of being the negation of existence, BECAUSE WORDS!
See, you can do that with words too, but we will have to talk about detailing the logic of the trolley problem some other time. I mean, following the ridged tracks laied down by “pure logic” which is logic rooted entirely within math to reach inevitable conclusions, and that is how you control fate, because free will is not real, it’s just an idea, like everything about you that actually means anything objectively.
However also objectively, ideas don’t exist. So I guess you don’t exists. Go ahead cling to your “I think therefore I am” it doesn’t solve all the other paradoxes of choice, which may or may not exists, but if it does, it’s only in your mind, and honestly, you are quite crazy, so good luck with that.

What does all that mean ? Don’t worry, because project management can actually make you happy, unless there is paperwork …. all happiness is fleeting after all. *#$$%*^ infinite hamster wheel! I hear the internet is powered by like, 11 of those. That is where the series of tubes leads to, hamsters in one end and memes come out the other. If you want to hear a good by imperfect description of how memes drive cultural evolution you learn that it is totally fine to use them for the economy too, though honestly I think the 4th industrial revolution would be more sustainable than thet because of its reliance on electrons instead of memes, those are just easier to count when doing the accounting for all of this, which is a major part of project management which was skipped over with all that jibba jabba about complexity.
Maybe in the next lecture on project management. Who knows ? I mean, if the world is perfectly deterministic, then you can calculate that can’t you ? So don’t bother asking me, I suck at math. Which has been willed by the universe!
That or I am just lazy sometimes. Who can know ? Beause somehow with all this perfection that totally exists, and facts are entirely relative, which are unlike perfection of math, words aren’t related to reality or … something.

Why economy broke ? I bet it was hackers. The true terrorists. So please leave your rights, privacy and security at the border. You don’t need them unless you are a terrorist! You know, like wikileaks.

Seriosuly, did anyone read the memo about rotating SSL keys and certs ?

A review of “Sunspring” an AI produced short film.

Today I am going to review the progress of AI, from deceptions in cinema to real world milestones and see how they compare. This should not be taken as authoritative or even comprehensive since it will only be using 2 examples, so therefore, to claim otherwise would just be bad science.

The fist example will be the recent Sci-F Short Film “Sunspring” which premiered during the DUST A.I. Week.

The first thing to note is the process for the writing of this screen play was to feed a bunch of scifi into a text processing neural network and have it write a screen play. Though, due to the production process it is hard to say how long ago that process occurred, but I think it’s safe to say that it was within the last year or two. Mostly because they used a LSTM RNN. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_short-term_memory

Which is very interesting when you think about it, mostly because the text prediction on the android keyboard suggestions, sometimes sound a bit like trump. In that they can be stilted and jump topics in unexpected ways. But who knows, after all it was science fiction screenplays. Then again, there did seem to be a surprising lack of science fiction vocabulary used in this screenplay, which also seemed a bit odd to me, but maybe that’s just because I read too much into science fiction and not really an indicator of anything.

To give the AI somewhere to start, it was given writing prompts to build the story on. The first being a piece of dialog “It may never be forgiven, but that is just too bad” which is a typical trope of ‘might makes right’ that is not uncommon in science fiction, an interesting choice.

The next prompt was to utilize a prop for an action, which was ‘A character pulls a book from a shelf, flips through it, and puts it back’. Which is represented in an interesting way.

The 3rd prompt was an optional science idea: ‘In a future with mass unemployment, young people are forced to sell blood.’ and ‘… gave it a cup of really hot tea …’ lots of room for mayhem there. I wonder how the AI will interpret it, smuggling is a fairly common theme for rebels in science fiction.

Then the screenplay itself it posted to the screen, which you can actually read if you are watching it in 1080p resolution:

the neural net also wrote a song to go with it:

which are also interesting, because because it talks about being ready to travel in the past tense.

Or into a tense past.

Then it starts playing out the screen play. The first thing to notice, though it would be impossible to tell from visual ques, is that they are in a room on a ship. As prompted, the first character pulls a book off of a shelf, the book itself is named “Sunspring” Character H pull a book from a shelf, flip through it while speaking, and then put it back.

So the second prompt was completed first, then the 3rd prompt is completed as the second action. More interestingly, C-H (character H, It does may me wonder If H was chosen to refer to something other than human, because its CH# which is also a class of chemical bonds which are common, and this story is about a love triangle, C−H bond is one of the strongest, it varies over 30% in magnitude for fairly stable organic compounds, or possibly it refers to a computer-human bond, black box AIs can be so ambiguous.)

The conversation he has with his partner (H2) seems to show his partner being dissapointed in him, because she feels she is no longer going to be “100 years old” which may be some sort of jab at longevity.

The next dialog seems to confirm that he saw “the boy” again. And then believes the way H2 ‘sent to him’ (H) was ‘a big honest idea’ but he is ‘not a bright light’ possibly calling himself less intelligent. So his lower intelligence prevents her from ‘being a hundred years old’ and H2 looks back at him and says nothing. Then C (interestingly not named H3, possibly C is short for computer? ) enters the scene. Among a bunch of wood rafters, which I assume if this short film had a budget, would have been painted grey to make it seem like the inside of a space ship. He is wearing a necklace that seems to be a series of pyramids, and as ascot. Wearing a business suit unlike the other 2 characters which are wearing shiny clothes.

C says “Well, I have to go to the skull, I don’t know” since they are on a ship, the skull might be a reference to the bridge or command center, or possibly the location that houses the computational elements of the ship’s AI. Then C picks up ‘a light screen’ which appears to be a tablet and a ‘security force of particles’ are transmitted to his face. Possibly a reference to facial recognition or iris scanner to unlock the tablet which looks like a legal sized paperback notebook crossed with a 8’ tablet. This prop is interesting, because it’s not like they didn’t have the simpler and common versions of those objects available, and instead they are highlighted in a sci-fi fashion. Just some really interesting choices for something having trouble producing sentences. Maybe it just really like metaphors and jokes insulting intelligence, which is a novel way to portray sarcasm.

After unlocking the tablet, C smiles and says ‘ I don’t know anything about any of this”. This is the point in the script where the AI decides to give a name to C which is ‘Hauk’ a mash up between hulk and hawk. A hulking hawk ? Interesting. The only thing those things have in common are references to warfare. What is more interesting that it’s name is hauk, so the C is not a reference to it’s name, which then begs the question what H and H2 are references to.

Then something fairly odd happens, H removes an eyeball from his mouth, though it is not one of his own eyeballs or any of the other characters. After that H casually discards it he asks “Then what ?” The eyeball here, could be a reference to the ‘I’ , meaning it was a metaphor for H getting rid of his ego. And he does it via actions instead of words.

H2 then replies “There’s no answer” with a somewhat disappointed look.

Then C frowns and says ‘We are going to see the money.’

H2 looks at C and laughs.

Then H takes the tablet out of C’s hand, reads it and it displays ‘all right you can’t tell me that’ which seems like it could have been from a conversation over a messenger app.

To which C replies ‘yea I was coming to that thing’ and then looks at H2 and says ‘ you know because you are so, pretty’ and H2 laughs again.

Then H begins to act pensively and says “I don’t know, I don’t know what you are talking about”

To which C replies with a knowing head nod “That’s right”

Then H approaches H2 and asks “so, uh, what are you doing”? To which H2 replies “I don’t want to be honest with you” a novel approach certainly, being honest about dishonesty, is that a paradox?

To which H replies “you don’t have to be a doctor” to which H2 replies “I’m not sure” only because this is sci-fi would that reference possibly be a metaphor for his saying to her “you don’t have to be a time traveler”

Then she says somewhat defensively “I don’t know what you are talking about” then H replies “I want to see you too” to which H2 replies in an increasingly stern voice “What do you mean?”

To which he says “I am sure you wouldn’t want to even touch me” to which she replies again even more defensively “I don’t know what you are talking about” to which he replies while making a motion “The Principal, is completely constructed of the same time” to which H2 replies with a somewhat dismissive laugh “It’s all about you to be true” to which H replies almost pleading “you didn’t even see the movie with the rest of the base” to which H2 replies “I don’t know” and then H replies to her with “I don’t care”

Then H2 replies with a glare “I know, it’s a consequence, whatever you need to know, about the presence of this story” then puts her arm on C’s arm and says “I am a little bit of a boy on the floor”

Then H says while shaking his head and looking directly at H2 “I don’t know, I need you, to explain to me, what you say”

To which H2 replies in a loud whisper, “What do you mean?”

To which H displays visual confusion and frustration and says “because I don’t know what you are talking about”

To which H2 replies by moving closer to C, putting both her hands around his arm and saying “That, was all the time”

Then H says with body language of someone who just got dumped and says “Would have been a good time!” while shaking his head up and down. H then turns his back to them and says with frustration “I think I could have been my life” and then starts shaking with frustration and says “It may never be forgiven” then turns around to face C and H2 and says “But that is just too bad” and then raises and lowers his fists and says “I need to leave and I’m not free of the world”

at which point C interrupts and says “Yes, perhaps I should take it from here” then approaches H until they are face to face and, seeing H visibly disturbed says “I’m not going to do something”

To which H replies, “You can’t afford to take this anywhere. It’s not a dream. But I’ve got a good time to stay there” which would seem to imply that H has figured he is not in a simulation, though he spends a good amount of time in simulations.

C then replies “Well, I think you can still be back on the table” which seems to imply some kind of negotiation.

H then replies, “mmm. It’s a damn thing to scared to say.” then H starts hand gesturing a negotiation where his is intimidating C and says “Nothing is going to be a thing, but I’m the one, who got on this rock with a child, and then I left the other two”

Then a phone rings in the background and it seems to cut to a space traveling sequence and the song it wrote at the beginning plays.
During the sequence, It goes from the camera looking at H, to H looking at a past self, to H controlling the camera, the phone rings again and H answers it. He hears H2 say “I just wanted to tell you (a hint of sadness in her voice) I was much better than he did” possibly referring to C, at which point the perspective shifts and H is no longer controlling the camera, and H2 continues “I had to stop him, I couldn’t even tell “ and H sadly hangs up the phone and then approaches a gun which is taped to a wall. Takes it off the wall is puts the muzzle in his mouth as the sad parts of the song play in the background. Then the camera pans to the floor which seems to show a swirling black hole.

The camera zooms into it until it comes out at a scene of a man laying down on a concrete slab next to what appears to be a concrete staircase. On a roof. It pans and H is standing above a body, the screenplay says that H came up to protect him (the body is not named). it zooms out a little while panning and a door swings open behind H. H now has a tan, flesh colored backpack, he looks down at the body on the floor, shifts the backpack to his front and pulls out a what appears to be a blood transfusion bag, with some blood in it. Then the door behind him closes.

H then kneels down next to the body and weeps softly saying “noo”

Then the voice of H2 is heard as if explaining to someone and says “There is a situation between me and a light on the ship,” then the camera zooms to H2’s face as shes says “The guy was trying to stop me. He, was like a baby. And he was gone. Was worried about him.” Then it zooms out to H2 wearing different clothes and she says “And even if he would have done it all, he couldn’t come anymore” then she scoffs “I didn’t mean, to be a virgin. I mean, he was weak. I thought I would change my mind.” “He was crazy to take it out” then there is a pause and music changes and she says “It was a long time ago,” Then she wistfully smiles “he was a little late. I was going to be a moment” then the smile fades and the camera zooms to her face and H2 says “I just wanted to tell you, that I was much better than he did” “I had to stop him, I couldn’t even tell” “ I didn’t want to hurt him” then starts shaking her head and saying “I am sorry, I know I don’t like him. But I can go home, and be so bad” her voice begins to crack. “And I love him” she pauses and then says “So I can get him all the way over here, and find a square, and go to the game with him.”” and she doesn’t show up.” ”Then I’ll check it out. “ She glances down away from the camera and then says “But I’m going to see him when he gets to me.” she pauses and then says ”He looks at me, and he throws me out of his eyes.” A tear rolls down her cheek and she continues “Then he said he’d go to bed with me.

And that is how it ends. The ending monologue seems to capture a lot of the essence of the song. It does seem surprisingly congruent considering everything else. Another thing that is quite peculiar is her line ”He looks at me, and he throws me out of his eyes.” I rolled this over a couple of times. It could mean that he looks away any time he sees her. It could also mean that H2 only felt seen and acknowledged by H, or that H projects H2 on to the world.

At the same time, her monologue seems almost like a legal defense. It depends on how the emotions she displays are interpreted. Going back to the dialogue from much earlier in the story. When H and H2 argue for the first time, is it just me or does it seem like his is accusing her of the kind of relationship as Quade and Lori from the beginning of the movie “total recall” that she is a spy implanted to handle him. Along with a toxic masculine fantasy which implies that she “owes him” something, possibly a type of pleasure, because of “The principal” being a reference to H2 being the “reward” for H, at which point she claims to be going away with C. During that whole conversations most of her replies are variations on “I don’t know what you are talking about” which could be gas lighting, or it could be dishonesty because she states at the beginning of that conversation “ I don’t want to be honest with you”.

Certainly these conclusions are relying heavily on metaphor and environmental factors. But then again, I could be reading too much into it, constructing my own narrative around stilted and disjointed dialogue. Which I assume is somewhat what it must feel like when parsing text of people change subjects, sometimes multiple times, during a dialogue session. Though that is not as common for most science fiction. So take from it what you may, though more recent reports on the same type of text generating AI sound much more convincing than this screen play.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamfalcon/2019/02/18/openais-realistic-text-generating-ai-triggers-ethics-concerns/

https://www.businessinsider.com/openai-text-generating-tool-gpt2-wont-be-released-for-fear-of-misuse-2019-2

https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/17/openai-text-generator-dangerous/

https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/14/18224704/ai-machine-learning-language-models-read-write-openai-gpt2

But if that makes you feel uneasy, the ride is bumpier than you expected. Cheer up! Here is a music video from valentines day to help the title is ‘365’ by Katy Perry. Isn’t it interesting all the things than can happen in the same week?:

 

For those reading this who are not interested in a sappy love story, It might be more fun to try and figure out why Character H was referred to as “One of the lights on the ship” and what that implies as to how he was treated. Also contemplate what the difference might be in the way an AI perceives itself with and without a significant other. In the following music video it seems that when the a light is combined with an AI, they are able to generate an AT field for defense.

Why a secret moon base isn’t a bad idea.

I know that sometimes these days when hearing news about the new space race, it can feel like the song by Stuck In the Sound – Let’s Go, I know it has for me:

However there are a lot of things to consider, Fortunately we have some experience in this particular regard, I like to think it’s encapsulated fairly by the music video by Imagine Dragons – On Top Of The World :

Which is a lot about what the world was like when the moon race was going on.

Seriously though, the Roger Stone – Richard Nixon – Donald T. – Ronald R. (c’mon it even rhyms! ) connection was almost too much for me last week.

More importantly, the amount of the budget that goes to science such as NASA is very small, though the space force might be able to pad that. Even in catastrophe there is opportunity. Space monitoring of the earth is going to be especially important for getting a handle on what other chemicals are being wantonly spewed into the atmosphere by heavily industrialized areas. This is especially important when considering that the hole in the ozone layer has actually been growing recently, despite all the news about that international collaboration project being a success. It would appear that work has been undone.
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44738952
It really only highlights the effectiveness of the propaganda as of late, which has been terribly disappointing. It’s also the reason that this is being written so late.
These events mean a lot more than would appear at first glance since they are not new news but actually several months old. But they do point to some very disturbing possibilities but more so the importance of solidarity because that is the only way to build relationships based on trust which are required to navigate this new political landscape (new awareness of it anyway) instead of being divided by it. While the space race is specific to only a few countries, this sentiment is true for all, from the yellow vests of Europe to red for ed, the many teachers strikes occurring in the US. To the Shush protests in Iran.

There is so much noise that it can be hard to see, but much like a magic eye puzzle, there is a subtle beauty to the chaos. Hold this knowledge in your hears to steel against what at times feels like a slowly grinding weight, pressing between exhaustion over what seem like insurmountable odds. But it only feels that way when miss what is directly behind us. For example, the sucess of the cannabis legalization drives have resulted in a disruption to the flow to the prison industrial complex. So much so that most of the anti-immigrant rehtoric is actually caused by the need for the prison industrial complex to find new sources extremly high rent ‘tenants’. You may not think of it that way, but who is asking for a UBI of $70,000yr per person ? Yet that is normal for the ‘government housing program’ that the prison system is made out to be. The largest and most over priced UBI for prisoners, which they obviously do not benifit from, much like peaseants of old, the prison corproations extract exsessive rents on their behalf.  I wonder how much it would change property values if the non-violent offenders were placed on GPS ankelets in slums? Or would I be remis for the fact that many people of coor with cell phones feel this is already the case, and somehow they get even fewer benifits. And are flabberghated when they are blamed for not spending more money to stimulate the economy.  The fact is, the current political fight is not a result of  loses, though it may feel that way, but is actually a sign of sucesses.

Despite trumps economic policies being a rehash of Reaganomics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaganomics the people are instead choosing to do the work to reorganize the political structures to dismantle it. So if politically people are looking for sign posts as for what policies to advocate for, I cannot give you suggestions because that would be a violation of what it means for this to be a religion. I can only say that undoing what regan did seems like a good place to start, but obviously without meaningfully dealing with climate change, there will be no future, so those programs must take precedence purely on the basis of self-preservation, not religion or even ideology.

Yes that does kind of mush both the Nixon and Reagan administrations together, this cycle is different, the wars are different and the security environment is different. More importantly than all of that, is that it’s not all about the US either, but these things are true of most nations, fortunately for everyone, the US is the one lagging in this area, not the rest of the world. Already for 2 years most of the world has been able to agree on these things even under the oppression that is the trump regime, which was only bolstered by the newly minted head pooh for life in asia. In the midst of all of this, I hope some people will have learned the true value of organized religion without being stuck layering on all the abrahamic aspects, that religion provides something that I feel is referred to well in the song Hgh Hopes by Panic at the disco:

Hope is something logic cannot provide and enable any choices to be made at all in games of imperfect information. Without it, the cold calculus, incapable of accounting for any aspects of life that cannot be quantized by physical properties alone, such as happiness or contentment. Results in self destruction because the summation of these rules result is the externalization of life itself both in meaning and purpose. If you wonder what the difference between a culture that internalizes domination of nature and one that endeavors to live in harmony with nature. Look no further than the streets of rural china vs the streets of rural japan. Same with any city that is not in the largest 3 for that country.

You will notice a stark difference. Some people see the environment as something to exploit and the others view it as a part of their own world to be taken care of. The cleanliness is just a reflection of those subconscious beliefs.

I don’t care what you choose to do now, just don’t sit in silence. More than that though, don’t give me shit about the secret moon base. Trust me, this will be important in the future. And don’t feel like the new space race is a waste. Think of it more as a refuge from the madness. Something to appreciate like art, not a pointless distraction.

Any time you feel down and it feels out of control, when you are questioning the point of your life. Remember these words by Bill Hicks:

The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”

And I know it’s hard sometimes, so if that doesn’t work try this, It’s Ride by Twenty one Pilots:

How to win at death.

This sermon is an attempt to respond to this article https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/no-afterlife-no-problem-how-to-face-oblivion-like-a-pro from a neo-Buddhist perspective.

These days seem to be more unstable than ever, a seemingly endless series of constant calamity. A sort of shock therapy being generated by a convulsing system, a sign everything seem to have something wrong, but so few answers seem right.

These shocks are not just economic but affect the very fabric of society, and it does so in such a way that it has been effecting people world wide. Emotion, one of the many things that don’t exist in economics because the difficulty in quantifying it.

For the sake of brevity, much of this social confusion can be represented by this song:

Now after hearing that, you might be thinking, Why are you showing me this ? Is this some abstract form of torture ? It’s only makes too much sense really. We have done this to ourselves and have kno one else to blame. It’s just more convenient that way. And so it goes, only intensifying the feeling of being a rat in a maze, the disconnect, the alienation, nothing seems certain anymore except as they say, Death and Taxes. So it may leave you feeling like the sheep in this video:

You undoubtedly want to stop reading this now, the discomfort is so great, but something compels you to keep going. Morbid curiosity I suppose. Would cake make you feel better ? Don’t leave yet, I need to know more! At the same time, I do belive in sharing. So how about I share something with you first ? It seems only fair to share some of the observations, otherwise what is the point of science ?

The question of how to deal with the reality of death is one as old as mankind. Billions of people, living and dead, have put their hopes on an afterlife. The promise of Heaven, Valhalla, Elysium, reincarnation, or even a decent hell makes death but an inconvenience. Interestingly, even faiths with an afterlife have something in common with neo-Buddism, which is a belief in the cyclical nature of reality, though there are still differences between rebirth and reincarnation, I guess ?

For Atheists and Nihilists, however, there is no such benefit to death. It is merely the end of the one and only existence that can be confirmed. Death can take on an extra aura of fear without the benefit of an afterlife. The realization of death’s finality can be unsettling for the non-believer, and is one reason why the religious feel confronted by atheists. 

Many philosophers who did believe in the divine, such as Epicurus, did not believe in an afterlife. While the end of existence troubled them, the idea of being dead did not. Mark Twain, the deistic author of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, wrote in his autobiography that:

Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born — a hundred million years — and I have suffered more in an hour, in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together.”

That is to say, in death you stop existing so you can’t be bothered by it. There is no longer a “you” to be bothered. For some this bears an eerie similarity to the idea of the no-self, for others they are different. But for the sake of brevity lets just bury that thought experiment in the path for a different time.

Epicurus shared that sentiment, saying, “Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved, is without sensation, and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.” Epicurean philosophy focused on life, rather than death, and practitioners strove to not fear it.

Socrates weighed in too. In Plato’s The Apology, Socrates supposes that he will either live on after death and debate the great heroes of Greek History, or cease to exist. He agrees with Epicurus that ceasing to exist can’t be painful, as he would no longer exist to feel pain. The lack of debate in this scenario probably did disappoint him though.

This kind of skepticism about the chances of an afterlife can be healthy. Even if most people don’t like the idea of eternal oblivion. It’s still important to not close off possibility because that is closed minded. However, if it is the case then we had best figure out how to face it. The science on the matter is pretty definite too; the current neuroscientific view is that brain is both powered by and made of, energy. Not just the electricity that moves through it, but even the chemicals themselves, according to the famous equation E=MC²  The mass can be accelerated fast enough to become pure energy, just by adding more energy. This power is exemplified in nuclear explosions. Science also states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. This process and those rules are the closest thing to eternity that exsists in science. In neo-Buddhism this is called ‘The process of constant becoming’ . In ancient indian buddhism this is called Pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit: प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद pratītyasamutpāda; Pali: पटिच्चसमुप्पाद paṭiccasamuppāda), commonly translated as dependent origination.

For the existentialists, particularly Martin Heidegger, acceptance of death was a key part of living. In the face of death each choice in life becomes an important one. They took the end of existence as a motivation to value existence all the more. The existentialists push you to accept your inevitable demise, remember it, and use it as a reason to embrace life. Such a positive view on oblivion is hard to find elsewhere.

Philosopher Luc Bovens offers us a more modern view on how to approach death secularly in his Big Think interview.

I mostly agree with his conclusions, however they do have some implications. That implication being that, Ideals are real things and sometimes they are worth dying for.

This unfortunately is also the line of reasoning that is distorted by certain purveyors of asymmetric tactics that do not value human lives. Once that realization settles, some of you may start to feel like this:

After watching that you have been sleep walking though life as the world crumbles in some bizarre version of “A brave new world” where people just can’t be arsed to give a shit about the future, why worry ? After all, didn’t some pseudo-nihilist pretending to be Buddhist say “The only thing that really exists is ‘now’ so why worry about the future? Just trying ta get laid and not have a relationship bro, it’s all just meaningless meat anyway. Chill out. This is why no one likes you.”(I wouldn’t advocate for violence, but I also wouldn’t be mad at you for punching that guy. Personally I imagine him like this: )sleep walking climate changex480

What about the cosmos? The idea that the universe still cares after I die sounds enjoyable, can I have that if I give up the afterlife?

The same science that supports the idea that death is the final end can give us comforting words too.

American physicist, comedian, and author Aaron Freeman wrote Eulogy from a Physicistdescribing how death can be viewed from a scientific worldview. A eulogizing physicist would remind a mourning family that:

No energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world.”

Even if we are not immortal, many of our component elements are. Even if we die, parts of us never will, those parts can affect every part of the universe long after we are dead and gone. It is not limited to our components. Our deeds can leave an indellible mark on history in a way that atoms cannot. Our halls and history books are littered with the ghosts of the past. Our knowledge is built on the shoulders of intellectual giants. That leaves open the possibility of a motivation that is different from the afterlife … or cake. Words alone seem to do it injustice, it’s so much more than that. As such it cannot be conveyed in words alone. A Zen koan maybe ? well, for now you will just have to settle for this:

One of the nice things about Buddhism in general is you can go back and add things later.

Death is unpleasant to think about. Our search for ways to make it easier to handle or even avoid it entirely goes back as far as human history. With the  increasing number of atheists around the world, trying to help people deal with the idea of death may be a bigger task than ever. As Ernest Becker wrote in The Denial of Death: “To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.” Though I don’t know if he was contending with the shadow of technology that haunts the future.

For those who don’t believe in an afterlife, viewing death without smoke and mirrors can be a great comfort. Reflecting on how people have faced oblivion in the past can help us all face it in the future, whenever it comes — and come it will.

For the nihilists who feel this sermon is just a pile of contrived plataitudes strung togeather as part of some here to for unimaginable game, I leave you with this, A flow so cold, we don’t need AC.  (Warning contains adult themes and language)

And find a warm body to cuddle with, winter is here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, for those cold warriors looking for meaning, a direction now that the future actually seems possible, just don’t forget, we are all in this together. All hail fully automated luxury space communism!  and her little dog too!

 

Philosophy must be dragged out of the ivory tower and into the marketplace of ideas

According to one founding myth, philosophy begins with an obstreperous old man being put to death for pestering his fellow citizens about the nature of justice and courage and other such virtues. Needless to say, execution is hardly an auspicious way to start a new academic discipline. But Socrates’ death, his characteristic doubt, and his tireless attempt to engage Athenians in dialogue tells us a great deal about the essence of human understanding.

Take a rose, for example. A physicist may say it consists of a certain set of particles and the forces that act between them. A chemist can explain its basic compounds, whereas a biologist might describe the ecosystem required for a rose to grow. An economist can identify its exchange value, an artist may depict its beauty, and a lover ought to appreciate its romantic significance. Each of these perspectives teach us something about a rose, but none on their own explains all there is to know. So, to expand our appreciation of the world, we need to accept the incomplete nature of our knowledge, question our own perspective, and adopt alternative points of view.

Socrates, for his part, embraced the finite character of human understanding. “Real wisdom is the property of the gods,” he said when on trial for his life. And he famously claimed his distinctive insight consisted solely in this: “I do not think I know what I do not know.”

Socrates’ rejection of any pretense to divine understanding and his doubt over the extent of his own knowledge drove him to question the customs and traditions of his city. Indeed, he spent most of his days trolling, in both senses, the agora: a public square and marketplace where nearly every important debate in Athens took place. Here Socrates would interrupt the daily activities of everyone from doctors and lawyers to poets and priests, and then he would challenge and press them on their deeply held beliefs.

More often than not, Socrates used his superior skill in the art of argumentation to highlight the limitations, inadequacies, and contradictions in a particular person’s point of view. In doing this, he left many of his interlocutors unconvinced and even gained a reputation as a sophist: a professional orator who could play with words to make the weaker argument the stronger.

Ultimately, Socrates’ irreverence for Athenian practices, his persistent inquiry into the essence of things, and his uncanny ability to annoy his fellow citizens led to his undoing. In fact, his peers found his way of arguing so irritating that a greater percentage of them actually condemned him to death than thought he was guilty of impiety and corrupting the youth.

Unsurprisingly, Socrates saw his radical questioning in a different light. Specifically, he took himself to be a “gadfly” who, through his stinging criticism, was able to stimulate the reflection required for genuine understanding and a bona-fide education. And while most Athenians were uncomfortable putting their customs and traditions to the test, Socrates developed a following amongst a motley crew of open-minded students, merchants, aristocrats, and dramatists. These disciples took Socrates’ challenge seriously and not only cast doubt on their cultural inheritance but began to formulate new answers to tough questions about happiness, human flourishing, the ethical basis of our actions, and our comprehension of reality itself.

The critical exchanges and fruitful dialogues Socrates initiated with his friends and colleagues defined the subsequent practice of philosophy. Indeed, the Socratic method of asking hard questions in order to encourage reflection, draw out the unwarranted assumptions of an accepted view, and then posit something new characterizes the movement of our intellectual history, generally.

Aristotle, for instance, found fault in Plato’s account of the good life in which reason dominates our unruly passions, and Aristotle’s criticisms paved the way for the Epicurean claim that our passions have a positive role to play in our well-being. Similarly, Einstein’s response to anomalies in Newtonian mechanics led to a shift in our understanding of the universe, and Einstein’s theories were largely responsible for the major technological advances in the 20th century.

With Einstein’s work we have come a long way from a grumpy old man in Ancient Greece accosting his fellow citizens in the agora, and the aim of our new column is precisely to drag philosophy out of the ivory tower and put it back in the marketplace. Practically speaking, we plan to provide a space for publicly minded thinkers to draw on their education and experience in order to address contemporary social, cultural, and political issues from a philosophical point of view. In doing so, we intend to provide our readers with insightful, intellectually stimulating, and provocative commentary from a slightly different angle.

Authored by: James Wendland

What Is Truth? Four Different Answers.

Everyone knows that a belief is true if it corresponds with the facts. This is the first theory of truth, and it has only two problems: what to make of correspondence, and what to make of facts. Facts, said the twentieth century logician Willard Van Orman Quine, are fictions: sentence-sized objects invented for the sake of correspondence. Facts are not simply given, independent, partners of true beliefs. To form a belief is just to claim to find a fact. It may or may not be a fact that Elizabeth I remained a virgin; to find out requires inquiry, and inquiry is just a matter of settling what to believe about this pressing issue.
Inquiry is a matter of warping our beliefs as little as possible in order to accommodate new experience. But in order to exert a pressure, experience needs to be interpreted and conceptualised, or in other words, to have a voice, indicating what to believe. So once it includes the results of inquiry, there is no escape from our overall system of belief. So says the second theory: the coherence theory of truth. It suggests a picture in which we are cut off from the world, imprisoned in a clouded collage of our own construction. Yet many fine philosophers have ended up here, and it gives us the second of our theories.
 It doesn’t require much to recoil from the picture this offers, and one direction is to emphasise the relation between truth and success in practice. Truth works. Falsehood does not, and surely this is why we care so much about truth. Or think that we do, for unfortunately the equation is only rough. Across large swathes of life self-deception and fantasy, half-truths and outright lies, seem to work quite well. Some people in politics seem to get by with almost nothing else. So this third theory, the so-called pragmatic theory of truth, needs a more careful formulation, and nobody has quite managed to give one. If it is part of our cherished national myth that Elizabeth I remained a virgin, what is the advantage of inquiring any too carefully into whether it was true? It won’t bake more bread or breed more offspring, so in a Darwinian world it is somewhat puzzling that some people do care whether it was true. Nietzsche worried that they had just made an unnecessary cross to bear.
If abstract attempts to say what truth is all stumble, perhaps the remedy is to descend to particular cases. When Pilate asked “what is truth?” we could best have replied if only he had told us what in particular was bothering him. If his interest was in whether the defendant in front of him was disloyal to Caesar, well then, the truth would be the defendant in front of him being disloyal to Caesar, or not, and it was his job to settle that. Wondering whether it is true that it is raining is just the same thing as wondering whether it is raining. The equation iterates. As well as wondering whether it is true that it is raining you might wonder whether it is really true, or a fact that it is true, or true that it is a fact that it is true. But however far you continue, you are doing no more than wondering whether it is raining. If you settle that it is raining, then at a stroke you settle that it is true that it is a fact that it is really so that…it is raining. All these additions are nothing but ornaments: “it is true that” or “it is a fact that” add nothing. This is the key to the fourth theory, the deflationist theory of truth.
 This must not be misunderstood. Of course there is a difference between it being true that it is raining, and it not being true. The difference is that in the one case, but not the other, it is raining, and we know what that means. It is also true that pigs grunt, but there is no common topic uniting pigs grunting and the rain. Truth should not be regarded as an additional topic at all. So say deflationists, who see ‘it is true that’ purely as a device of endorsement. If you assert that asses grunt I might nod, or myself grunt assent, or repeat what you say, or say “that’s true”. It is just a question of style, but our thoughts stay entirely with asses.
There are areas, such as ethics, politics, religion, and aesthetics where we are familiar with intractable disagreements. Some people think the same about the age of the earth or man-made climate change. The cure is for people to respect inquiry above assertion. Full, sober, objective, unbiased, inquiry is the only way forward, and it settles some things, if not everything. An agreement on the common rules of debate, which are typically embodied in critical thinking skills.  The pragmatists were right about one thing: if you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance.  Or a more modern version, If ignorance was bliss, why aren’t there more happy people in the world ?
This was originally authored by:

Simon Blackburn | Author of Think and On Truth, and former Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University.