Archive for November, 2015


Saturday, November 28th, 2015

So, as most of you know, I’m against spanking children because I’m against A) violence B) pain C) making someone else suffer. However, I had a interesting and disturbing thought this morning. Children need to learn that having violence directed towards them feels awful, so that they’ll understand not to direct violence towards other people. I was worrying, slightly, that only children who have never been spanked (or children without violent siblings) might never develop the degree of empathy to understand what it’s like to be the recipient of violence. This probably isn’t valid – I am curious how many mass shooters weren’t exposed to any violence, and how many were exposed to far too much. I don’t know of any way to get data on this, but it would be interesting to know whether mass shooters tend to come from abusive families, or families that never exposed them to the idea of violence.

One thing I do note is that the world in general seems to do a good job of trying to ratchet up fear and anger. A lot of our current political system seems to be designed to break people into two equal groups and make those groups angry at each other. Long term, it doesn’t seem possible for this to work.

Of course, I do feel a bit like a one-eyed man in the world of the blind. That no one else is even discussing value, only money, for example – that our government doesn’t discuss value on the floor of the senate and house, only money – that they make decisions that destroy value in order to make money, repeatedly, and no one calls them on it. That no one discusses the difference between their conscious experience and what’s actually happening.

One thing I do find encouraging is that I do see a lot of signs that a lot of people, or at least a lot of my friends, recognize that the world’s religions are fundamentally flawed. And just today, I read a article about how India is granting personhood to dolphins. I suspect personhood should be granted to any creature that we can get to prove to us that it is aware of itself. I don’t know exactly how to do this – people claim dogs fail the mirror test, although vision is not their primary sense and they do seem to pass a scent version of the mirror test. I’m pretty clear that dogs are people, and cats, and pigs. I’m not sure about sheep and cows. I know chickens are not people, and things with distributed nervous systems like crabs and lobsters.

Heinlien did a great discussion of personhood in the start of Moon Is A Harsh Mistress when he was talking about Mike the computer who was clearly a person, even though he wasn’t a human. In Heinlien’s theory, it takes a certain number of large associational neural networks, be they artificial or natural. I tend to think he had the right idea, although it’s a very interesting and odd thought that being a person is a emergent property. What’s really odd is that the human mind seems to have sufficient capacity to be several people (something I am more aware of than most people).

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

So, I have three major financial goals at the moment. I achieved one of them this year (unless my situation changes drastically, I will be able to pay my taxes in full in April, having already paid half of them via estimated payments) and I promised myself that if I did that I would buy a piece of particularly expensive software I particularly covet (Vienna Strings, which is like Ivory for stringed instruments). I am having second thoughts – partially because of guilt over the fact that not all my friends are doing well, although I am helping out several of them, there’s still more who are struggling – and partially because there is repeatedly a little voice that tells me I should really get over my dream of going pro with my music, since I’ve still got so far to go to be there. I haven’t really decided what to do about it..

stream of conciousness

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

So, I spent a fair amount of time avoiding facebook and other social sites over the last few days.

My reasons are that I don’t want to expose myself to the latest horrific disaster about which I can do nothing.

I’ve come to accept that cops are going to shoot innocents, religious nuts are going to use their religion as a excuse to hurt other people, and countries are going to fight incredibly stupid wars. I’m slowly coming to understand that there is a group of people – and for the most part it’s the group that’s interested in having power – who would far rather build hell than heaven. But I have enough nightmares of my own without tuning into other people’s. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I don’t think caring is a good idea. The worst part is I can trace a lot of this back to the actions of the united states. My tax dollars at work.

Recently, someone on my facebook pointed out that if I pay taxes, I help finance our army, and our school of terrorism which trained Osama, and our drone strikes. There’s not a lot I can do about this. Our “democracy” gives us precious little power over the Powers That Be. I don’t even have any reason to think our votes are counted accurately, and after reading about how electronic voting machines are made, I have a lot of reasons to think they’re not.

But I can choose my own actions, and I choose not to be exposed to the people that are being hurt. I can’t stop them from being hurt, so if I expose myself to the trauma TV, all I’m doing is hurting myself and therefore adding to the net misery of the universe. It’s a net loss for everyone.

I do wonder if all these attacks would be as popular if everyone reacted to violence by turning away. And the truth, painful as it is, is that 140 people is insignificant in terms of the number of people that will die on any given day. As Blue Oyster Cult says, “Another 40,000 coming every day.” That number has probably gone up as the world population has.

And, if you really believe we have a immortal component, this isn’t really such a tragedy. They’ve logged off of Earth, but they’re still around somewhere. We’ll see them again soon enough.

Is it really a good thing for us to all wallow in pain and fear? Why do we do this to ourselves? I remember after 9/11, the news ran constantly with images of the planes striking the towers. And no one really talked about our part in all this – how we used Osama as a pawn in the cold war, and got some of his family killed, and maybe that’s why he was so angry – and how we trained him in our school of how to be a terrorist in the first place.

Part of the problem, clearly, is the religious texts. But I’ve tried talking to religious people, and they don’t seem to see the inherent contridiction between there being a all-powerful God, and there being a number of contridictory religious texts lying around. I really wonder what they think – God *can’t* remove the ones that aren’t the truth, or he *won’t*? Really, I think it would do us all a lot of good to throw the past away. But religion appears to write itself into neural networks in a way that disables their ability to think critically about it’s contents, or recognize that, in the case of Islam and Christianity at least, it has a very high “this makes no sense!” factor.

At this point, I’m fairly convinced that a lot of my own insanity is wrapped around the fact that some of my mind accepted Christianity and some of it rejected it. I’m fairly sure the part that rejected it is the better person. I know there was a way to see it that made it a good thing, but it wasn’t how I saw it. And I can’t see it that way now. I can see it *enough* that way to understand where Christians are coming from. But not enough to think we should keep this and expose our children to it.

But, it still hurts. It still keeps me awake at night. I still wrestle with it, over and over. If we could stop believing so many stupid things, we could have heaven here and now.

I struggle so much with the idea that I seem to be smarter than a lot of the people around me. I’m convinced this must be something that’s wrong with my mind, that makes me incorrectly evaluate my own intelligence. Or that I’m not seeing the people around me as they really are. Or something. And really, there’s no objective way to measure, and my intelligence hasn’t bought me much. It hasn’t bought me my dream career, or my freedom. I’m so convinced there’s something wrong with the way my mind is configured, but I haven’t been able to change enough to be free.

A long time ago, when I was more inclined to lie, I told a lot of lies that I experienced later coming true. Sometimes I wonder if I should tell people I’ve achieved lucid dreaming to see if it happens. Or at least a end to the nightmares.

I have spent some time struggling with the old Calvinism thoughts, only brought up to date with a more complete understanding of what our minds are. Do I really have free will at all? Am I really making decisions, or does it just feel like I am? Am I just playing a tape? If so, where does it end?

I also sometimes feel like maybe we’re all the result of some incredibly simple, Conway Game Of Life process that was left running on a enormously powerful system. That there is no God, that the system is just burning idle cycles. Maybe we’re all the result of the hashing algorythm for a far more advanced race’s Bitcoin.

I think if there is free will, it must be partially in when a neural connection is made or not made. We must be choosing the shape of our minds. I really want to think there’s some bigger overarching pattern that will make what I’m currently experiencing fit into a beautiful complete picture when I see it from above.