Archive for the ‘Spiritual/Religious’ Category

Neural networks and what you can’t let go of

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

I had a interesting thought the other day about natural neural networks and people who hold beliefs that are not reality-verifiable or are even likely to be false. This thought started in looking at climate change deniers and people who believe religions that don’t appear to match the reality I’m experiencing, but it’s gone a bit further than that.

This is more of my hand-wavy guesswork.

It has occurred to me that one of the major problems a NNN faces is that subnets will tend to build major nexus points. These nexus points would appear to us to be core beliefs – or even just important beliefs. Once one of these beliefs is built, and a whole lot of connections to a whole lot of other subnets route through it, we would naturally be extremely resistant to removing it because we literally would be less able to function without it. In the case of religious (or religiously political) people – and I probably fit into this somewhat – letting go of their religion would make it far more difficult for their mind to work for a while – it would be somewhat similar to having a stroke. Major confluences of subnets which represented key ideas would no longer be valid – and it would likely be difficult to remove all of the traces of subnets like these, especially since there is a lot of redundancy in the way NNNs tend to wire. We may be extremely resistant to throw out cherished ideas – even when they’re proven wrong – because throwing them out makes it difficult for us to function at all, because all sorts of traffic is routed through them. They end up forming the underpinning for our personalities and decision trees.

I think if this is true, this is something we all need to understand and figure out the implications of. Christians brag of their faith being unshakable – but it might well be if Jesus showed up in person and told them they were wrong they would not be able to accept or integrate it because their faith is often loaded virally on them when they’re very young and ends up forming the physical underpinning for large portions of their mental structure.

Inevitable neurological war, part duex

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

So, I discussed in a earlier article a inevitable neurological war that I see set up entirely too often. You can find that article here if you’d like to review the bidding.

I submit to my audience that Christianity as I see it implemented on Earth, at least amongst a number of it’s adherents, sets up a similar inevitable neurological war. Subnets have to decide whether they’re going to submit to the idea that God is Love, and Love keeps no record of past wrongs, or submit to the idea that God is Justice, and will torture you for all eternity for the mistakes you make here. Both messages are contained within the same religion – along with a very nice bit of code to make it both viral, and not self-updating.

In other words, it’s malware. It sets up a neurological game of Go, very likely in order to make it easier for the Powers That Be to control us by limiting the amount of use of our 10^11 neurons we can make.

Now, I don’t deny that some people manage to transcend this feature of it. I don’t doubt they are the ones for whom the idea of God being Love is the important one, and them as have a broad and complex definition of Love. I wouldn’t deny that Love will occasionally deliver you a difficult lesson. I do continue to insist that the only way that Love would place you in hell for all eternity is if you A: asked for it and B: continued to ask for it, repeatedly, for all eternity, knowing that that is what you were asking for.

At this point, I’ve got my eyes out for neurological games of Go in general. I’ve come to suspect that the operating system loaded by entrainment into most humans has a very high suck factor and that A: we can do better and B: we should do better

So, one of the things I’m weeding out in my own mind is neurological games of Go that have no end and benefit no one.

As I’ve talked about, I’m pretty sure that you can experience amazing things – and quite desirable ones – if you get the *correct* neural operating system loaded on your minds.

Lack of faith

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Now, as a result of some of my activity on facebook, I have been threatened, yet again, by Christians. (Well, threatened-by-proxy, I’ve been assured that they have certain knowledge that God is going to torture me for all eternity for the things I think, believe, and say.)

This strikes me as having a profound lack of faith. They think A: that I’m going to believe that they know anything about love, when they’re threatening me with eternal torment, not for my actions mind you but for my thoughts and beliefs? B: that God is so powerless that he needs people like them to do his dirty work of threatening individuals?

I hate this behavior. I haven’t really come up with a effective response to it – although hopefully at some point I’ll write a article in here that I think is so good that I can just post that article instead of racking my brain for what you say to someone who thinks it’s a good idea to add more pain and fear to a system that already has too much by threatening you about things that are, as far as I can tell, fundamentally unknown and possibly unknowable.

And the thing is, theoretically, I’ve already accepted Jesus’s salvation, back when I was a child. So it shouldn’t matter that I now think the whole thing is akin to a computer virus, except designed to run on human minds instead of state machines. (It’s a collection of information that says ‘make a copy of me or you’ll suffer eternal punishment when you die’. And people tend to infect their children with it when said children are young enough to not think critically about the validity or lack thereof of the information contained in it. Plus, we tend to generally accept anyone who claims authority – see the Milgram effect for more on this)

I don’t doubt that religion has had some good effects, and I don’t doubt that it would be useful to have *something* that virally loads on us. I just doubt a lot that *this* should be the something. Surely we at this point have evolved memetically and in our knowledge about the universe to the point where we can write something better than the Abrahamic religions?

I find it hard to believe that I’m a bad person because I tend to value reality-testable truths over those which fail basic reality testing. I find it *really* hard to accept that the majority of people in the world think that I should be tormented for all eternity. (And, what’s terrifying here is, if we are in fact God as I have hypothesized, and they get to vote, I suppose that’s what they’ll do. I just hope some of them will be at least somewhat aware of the fundamental immorality of their action when they do vote to torture me indefinitely – as I said, not even for my actions, but for thoughts and beliefs which match the reality I’m experiencing.

Now, I have no doubt at all that some of my mental illness and some of my experiences surrounding religion are tied up in each other. I had a nightmare last night in which I was being hugged by $PERSON and it morphed to me being gripped by something hard and metallic on all sides and a voice was telling me “I am SATAN!”. One of those nightmares that is scary enough to wake you up – I don’t know that it was actually valid or sane for me to be as afraid as I was, but it took me several minutes to accept, with some relief, that I was awake and that what I had been experiencing was a dream, not something real.

Now, a conventional Christian would take this as proof that the devil is real. I take it another way. I think that when the devil was described to me as a child I patterned some of my neurons while imagining what such a being would be like and that collection of patterned neural associations / subnets is still in my mind. Your own religion perpetuates the devil, Christians, by having children imagine him you make him real. Is it any wonder that I hate the religion? It seems like all of my periods of insanity have at least some religions subtext and content, and one of the strongest reminders of how little my well being mattered to my parents was them applying pressure to me to go through with confirmation when I already had serious doubts about the validity and usefulness of the religion they were pushing down my throat.

I don’t disagree that neural networks need some form of patterning to be moral – the default behavior of a NNN is to be completely amoral, and if no set of associations that includes morality is loaded, you end up with Hitler. I just think that we could manage to load associations that resulted in moral behavior without loading associations that ended in nightmares, not to mention insanity. I do wonder if part of the problem with religion is that it’s incompatible with my personal choices re: neural topology, which obviously from looking at my experiences compared with other people’s is not the same as everyone else’s.

So, yes, Bill And Ted, please come teach us how to be excellent to each other. And Christians, please stop threatening me with your God that can’t be bothered to show up and explain himself after having left me with a book that contains unresolvable contradictions and things which are obviously false unless *e has been in a regular practice of altering reality, but has mysteriously stopped about the time our ability to take photographs came along. I have enough trouble with religion already without you adding fuel to the fire.

Faith

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

So, I got into a argument on facebook with some anti-deists about whether it takes more faith to believe in intelligent design or evolution. The point I was trying to make is that initially, from the perspective of a child or someone from a pre-scientific era, it takes more faith to believe in evolution. Believing that you can get things like a high resolution eye out of randomly flipping bits, then seeing which collection of bits lasts longer does take some faith. You have to have enough faith to continue learning about the process beyond what they will teach you in school. Evolution does stand up as a valid theory after deeper research – but it takes a leap of faith to believe that a process so random and blind could lead to something as advanced as we are.

What takes even more faith is believing that the universe isn’t the product of intelligent design. The number of things that you can do inside it make it seem much more like a sandbox game than anything else. Electricity. Radioactivity. Semiconductors. Photons. At some point it starts to look like it was designed to make it possible to build cool things here.

On the other paw.. Conway’s Game Of Life demonstrates that you can get extremely complex behavior out of extremely simple systems. And we have no assurance that the experience our senses are delivering to us is *directly* from the metal of the universe, so it’s possible that all those nifty things are in fact coming from just a few very simple rules. If you had a really big Game Of Life system that was turing-complete, all the rest of the neat behaviors could be coming from code. Potentially code we created.

Anyway, I wanted to talk for a minute about Christianity, and for once I won’t be ripping it to shreds. I wanted to comment about a somewhat odd subject – Noah’s Ark and Young Earth Creationism

Now, it’s obvious on the face of it that the literal story of the ark is completely impossible under the current rules. That does not in fact mean it didn’t happen.

Why? Well, it’s easy to extrapolate from our current technology and say that in 50 years or so we could create a experience of a universe like this one. It’s *not* a far leap to say that someone already has, and that we’re inside some sort of simulation. Said simulation would not even have to be running on a conventional digital computer – it could be running on the neural network of a life form much more advanced than we are. Hypothesize a world where it’s practical for a whale to have a 10^20 neuron brain, and then have us be the imagination of said whale, and there ya go. Or hypothesize a species that has telepathy, and minds the size of ours, but uses their spare capacity to run alternate personalities behind a hypervisor wall. Again, there you go. There’s a ton of different ways that this story can have gone down that leaves us inside a virtualized environment.

At that point, there is absolutely *nothing* to prevent the people *outside* the hypervisor from messing with the reality *inside* it. So, Noah’s Ark is impossible on the face of it, for a whole host of reasons – https://ncse.com/cej/4/1/impossible-voyage-noahs-ark goes into a lot of detail about all the various flaws, of which there are *many*, in the idea of Noah’s voyage being a real historical event, so I won’t reproduce their excellent work or detract from it by attempting to do a less-well-researched version. This doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – obviously for the flood to have happened at all, we either would have had to have massively different topology, or a lot more water, so it’s clearly something that required some reality bending. Once you start accepting that a operator from outside the virtualized environment was messing with reality, the sky is the limit as to how much messing about could have occurred.

Do I think it actually happened? No. And my biggest reason for this is there isn’t a clear candidate for a deity communicating with us. Aside from voices in our minds, which might be mental illness, might just be us talking to ourselves, and might be any number of other things, there’s no God speaking. Nor is there one religion – despite God having to have the ability to edit reality in order to make things like the flood occur, we’ve got a plethera of religions, all insisting they are the One True Religion. So I don’t believe, because if there is a God, said being seems to be walking me down the path of not believing. But I understand the choice *to* believe, because I recognize that it’s not impossible that those events occurred.

Continued, sort of, in the next article

On the impossibility of omniscience

Friday, October 21st, 2016

One of the ideas that I find interesting is that it is basically impossible for anyone or anything to *know*, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are omniscient.

Now, I understand that in the context of the Bible, there was no way that God was going to be able to explain this to people with the level of understanding that the authors of the bible had. (If indeed the bible involves any divine inspiration at all, a subject I leave up to another discussion at another time)

However, from where we sit today, it’s easy to give a mental model for knowing why you can’t know – the virtual machine inside a hypervisor.

As a omniscient being, you have no way of knowing if you’re hypervised. It is entirely possible that it *appears* to you that you are all knowing but your knowledge is limited in scope by a hypervisor. If you’re anything close to really being all-knowing, you know this. The VM running under a hypervisor certainly *thinks* it’s in control of the hardware, and entirely aware of the state of same, but it’s clearly not *actually* in control of the hardware or aware of it’s state.

I see no reason to think that individuals, or even deities, can’t be hypervised – in fact I think it’s likely that we *are* hypervised. I think elsewhere I argued why both intelligent design and evolution would quickly land on hypervision as a way to get more done with less resources very quickly.

I get this is probably too subtle a argument for most people who haven’t studied computer science to grasp, and I’m trying to figure out how to put it into words that don’t require a understanding of virtualization. But I do think it’s one of those things that once you see it, you see it. You can never *know* you’re omniscient. It’s not possible.

Voting for God

Monday, September 12th, 2016

So, one of the things I have to accept is that I’m not in the middle of the bell curve on anything. So things that are intuitively obvious to me (and of course I could be completely wrong about) are things that many people are never even able to see.

One of the possibilities I consider often for God is that everyone who believes in God assigns a certain amount of neurons to the task of imagining God. If we are all connected via some sort of network we don’t understand, then these may all aggregate together to form God.

However, one thing that seems likely based on the things I see and read and hear and experience is that you get to vote for what type of God you want to believe in. It seems like your beliefs form filters that then validate the experiences you’re having. So, in essence, what you believe about God forms a basis for what sort of God you’re going to experience.

And there don’t seem to be a lot of restrictions placed on what sort of God you choose to believe in. If you want to believe it’s holy for you to shoot a bunch of people, make nuclear weapons, destroy the planet you live on.. whatever, really.. you can do that. If there’s one thing ISIS demonstrates to me – not that I needed further demonstrations – it’s that you can sell yourself just about any story you want about what $diety might be like and might want. Our neural networks are extremely programmable, and if there’s a outside force insisting your beliefs about God fit a certain pattern, I haven’t seen signs of it.

Well, I should stop there and add a few side thoughts. Any information about anyone else’s experience but mine must necessarily be treated as somewhat of a unknown. I haven’t *personally* experienced proof in a horrific God, I’ve just *heard* about it. I don’t really have any way of knowing how much of the data coming at me is from where. I need to expand upon this thought further in some future article – I’ve probably talked about it before, but it’s something I’m still exploring – but for now let’s just say, everyone’s reality might be a custom mix and I might have signed up to experience what I’m currently experiencing.

But, back to the main thread here. I don’t have any reason to think the people who wrote the various religious documents circulating were any wiser or better informed than I am. But, those of you who choose to believe in them, please consider carefully whether you’re voting for a suboptimal God by doing so. If God does exist implemented in a shared or mesh network of our neurons, then you may be degrading the experience of all of us.

When I choose to believe in a diety, generally I prefer to believe in one better than I could possibly imagine. This acknowledges that I’m in no position to get into the mind of a creature who may have many orders of magnitude more neurons than I have, while at the same time recognizing that morality doesn’t change just because you get more neurons. (Or does it? This is probably how we justify eating cows.. ) In general, the logic I’ve been using is kind of the modified golden rule here – if our roles were reversed, would our respective behaviors still seem reasonable?

good things about Christians

Monday, August 29th, 2016

To balance out the post in which I roundly criticize Christianity, I thought I’d list a few of the things that I see in Christians that I think are *good*. Obviously, as with the other list, Christians are such a large and diverse group that it’s difficult to say anything which would be true of all of them, so let’s go with things that I think you’d find in, say, 70%.

1) Belief in forgiveness, and that forgiveness is a positive trait

2) Belief in charity, and supporting and loving your fellow man

3) Belief in working together to solve problems

4) The idea that there might be something bigger than us, and that we might have been engineered

5) Encouraging the hope that the future will be better than the past

6) Encouraging empathy with your fellow man

7) Encouraging gratitude, which has certain neurological benefits I discuss elsewhere in this blog

It’s my intention that this be somewhat a dynamic and collaborative document, so feel free to comment with your own list entries.

Do I believe in God?

Monday, August 29th, 2016

So, with the recent post on religion, the question might come up whether I believe in God.

And the answer is, I don’t have a absolute, I am certain I am right, religious faith on the subject, but I tend to lean towards there being something larger than us, possibly many orders of somethings larger than us. I don’t believe in the God described in the bible – something that powerful and capable, which nonetheless is so insecure that *e has to refer to his name in all caps and has to have a throne with angels singing about how great *e is flying above it. I tend to think it’s very difficult for us to imagine beings smarter and more capable than us, something Larry Niven has talked about when discussing the challenges of writing aliens smarter than humans.

To the extent that I do believe in a God, it’s a God far better than the Christian one. Remember, I tend to think we are experiencing suffering for artistic purposes, not because we’re being punished – or possibly because of stupidity or technological foul-up. Despite what it says on the label (all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful) the diety described in the bible is fairly reprehensible and not at all all-powerful. (I could cite verses, but this isn’t that type of post)

I would like to see a better religion authored, but I don’t feel like I’m yet in a place of knowledge to be able to author such a thing myself – although I would refer people to a number of books which are really good tries, books like The Four Agreements and Conversations With God. I also think that The Great Divorce, even though ostensibly by a Christian, is a great book on the subject, proof that sometimes we transcend our religions or possibly that there’s a good way to load Christianity.

It’s also true that whether or not there is a explicitly defined diety, God must exist insofar as the concept has a number of reserved neurons in a number of neural networks – everyone who imagines that God exists helps God exist. This is part of the problem with Christianity – by imagining a inferior and undesirable God, they are degrading the potential God if God exists as the sum of the neurons that all of us assign to imagining God.

I do also think that insofar as our neural networks form filters which selectively inhance and inhibit data coming at us from our senses, if you have a religious-level belief in God, you will experience God even if God doesn’t exist. See earlier posts about the amount of computing power our minds represent. If this is going to happen to me, I want to make sure the God I exist is not the God of the bible.

Christians in the process of making Hell

Monday, August 29th, 2016

So, one of the things that I think I’ve gone on about a few times before is how Christians, who ostensibly want Heaven, are busy making the world Hell.

I thought I’d list a few things that Christians – not all Christians, mind you, but enough of them – do which make the world less like heaven and more like hell. Whenever someone engages in one of these behaviors, I feel they are doing the work of the devil

1) Encouraging people to believe that if they are members of any other religion, they are wrong and are going to hell

2) Encouraging people to believe that $SUPERUSER is in the business of torturing people *e doesn’t agree with – or in general, that you should fear God. We’ve got enough to fear in the world we’re actually in.

3) Slut-shaming. Sex is one of the most positive experiences on earth, but Christians have this disturbing idea that you should only have it under certain circumstances, and if you do otherwise, you’re a bad person.

4) Encouraging people with alternate sexualities to think that they are less-than, sinners, incomplete

5) Encouraging everyone to believe that they are so flawed that someone “had to die for their sins”

6) Starting or promoting wars which are primarily over resource allocation (i.e. not sharing) or religion

7) In general encouraging people to think that they are less than, often for things which have no direct bearing on the Christian doing the less-than-ing at all. “If you’re not a member of my religion, you’re not as worthy of a person” “If you don’t do well on standardized tests you’re not as worthy of a person” “If you’re not interested in learning what *I* think are the important things to learn, you’re not as worthy of a person” “If you enjoy playing with your body chemistry, you’re not as worthy of a person”.

8) Promoting monogamy as the only true way, even though we seem to be neurologically and biologically wired to fall in love more than once. The bible even alludes to the fact that in heaven things would work differently (Luke 20:34-36). Why exactly are we not doing the optimal path now?

9) Making and promoting laws against freedom, even when the freedom doesn’t harm another person. Blue laws, laws against nudity, laws against flag-burning, things of that nature. Even worse, laws against people who like to have sex with members of the same gender, even though if we were really engineered, clearly said being had to put in a fair amount of neurological work in order to make things like being on the receiving end of anal sex feel good.

10) Encouraging people to believe that they should be required to have children if they conceive, even though it’s inconceivable that a omnipotent being would connect a soul to a body that wasn’t going to be extant and, if one is of a more scientific bent, highly unlikely that bodies that don’t have a large, functional neural network are self-aware.

11) Encouraging people to embrace a system of beliefs that contains unresolvable logic failures, which damage their ability to think rationally

12) Encouraging parents to try and encourage their children not to be sexually active, promoting a inevitable neurological war

13) This may be kind of a repeat, but thinking that they are “God’s Chosen People”, and by extension, everyone else isn’t. This is again the kind of ‘I’m better than you’ thinking that I feel like is at the root of a lot of the evils of the world. In the old testament, this “I’m better than you” goes as far as “It’s okay for me to slaughter you like cattle even though a you’re thinking, feeling, self aware creature just like me because God Said So”

14) Encouraging children to imagine a being of pure evil – children have a lot of unassigned neurons, and imagining the devil literally brings him to life in their mind. (Of course, as my friend Jeremy points out, it is far from clear that the devil is evil – if he was against the being described in the old testament, he was at least sometimes for humanity, although clearly from the story of Job he wasn’t all good either)

15) Encouraging people to wait for heaven, instead of building it here now.

16) Encouraging people to believe in a $DIETY that builds traps into the world – Just one of many examples is that the bible says “Suffer not a witch to live” (Ex 22:18) but if witchcraft works, it’s clearly because the universe has a built in API for modifying reality which $DIETY would have had to have created – and if it doesn’t, then it’s pretty harmless.

17) Promoting the idea that the bible is a book we should be using as a yardstick to measure our lives. It was written by people thousands of years ago wandering around in a desert, people who knew far less than we know now, people who mistook their prejudices for natural laws. It contains numerous irresolvable logic failures, one of which I discuss above. Yes, it’s got some beautiful ideas and some beautiful poetry in it, but it’s far from a perfect book that you should make the center of your universe, in my opinion. I’m not the only person to have doubts on this subject, see this and this.

18) Attempting to slow down medical technology – in particular I’m thinking of things like Stem Cell research but I suspect this is going to come up with cloning, artificial neural networks, and all sorts of other things of that nature. Look, there’s supposed to be a all powerful diety, why exactly do you need to be the moral guardian of things which don’t hurt self-aware beings in any way and could alleviate suffering

19) Encouraging people to spend time in prayer that they could otherwise spend actually figuring out how to fix the problems that they’re praying about

20) Encouraging people to ‘trust the $SUPERUSER’ for things that in fact there might not be a superuser watching – I’d use global warming as a example of this, but I’m sure there are numerous examples

21) Encouraging the idea that if $DIETY does it, it must be moral – the “Where does a 900 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants to..” theory of reality.

22) Promoting the idea that women are “less than” men and should be silent (1 Corinth 14:34) or submissive. This is abusive to both women and men.

23) Giving a group of people temporal power who probably should not have it – I’m thinking of the catholic church here, and the pope in particular – although I like the current pope, I’ll like him a lot more when and if he comes out and says that birth control is not immoral.

24) Encouraging parents to brainwash / indoctrinate their children while they are still too young to understand the isuses and questions involved, which seems to have a very bad effect on neuroplasticity.

Christians, it’s not that I hate you – I hate the software you’re running. I love you and want you to stop making the world a worse place, because among other things you have to live here too, so you’re not just hurting me, you’re also hurting yourself.

I also recognise that it’s possible that the religion is perfect and it’s being degraded inside my neural network or that the problem has more to do with the fact that different people want different things. However, what do you do when the things you want are getting in the way of the things I want?

(See also a list of good things about Christianity)

It’s my intention that this be somewhat a dynamic and collaborative document, so feel free to comment with your own list entries.

Bible fails debug asserts

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

So, I wanted to talk a little more about part of what I’m trying to say in http://www.sheer.us/weblogs/?p=2962.

What I’m trying to say is that the bible contains a failed if-then ladder.

Let’s write it out in psuedocode, shall we?

ASSERT(God == Love) (1 John 4:8)
ASSERT(Love == Keeps no record of wrongs) (1 Corinth 13:5)
ASSERT(God == Keeping a record of wrongs and will punish you for changing this book) (Rev 22:18)

See the problem?

You can’t have all three be true at once.