Archive for the ‘The Big Picture’ Category

The nature of reality and how it informs decisions

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

So, one of the things I occasionally feel resentment about is my desire to spend large numbers of hours exploring music combined with the recognition that the world almost certainly does not *need* these things (and the odds of me being better than anyone else at creating music are vanishingly small). One thing I have thought about is how my actions would be different if I *knew* the nature of the universe.

In particular, if I knew that I was in a single-person video game style simulation, I wouldn’t be concerned about the needs of the world and just what I could get away with.. I work more than I need to to support myself, partially to help out other people and partially to hone my skills in the hopes that I can participate in either the singularity or the mass automation in such a way as to help increase the general freedom of humanity.

But, I have to go with the assumption the reality that is presented to me is “real” and that the suffering of people is likewise real. On the other paw I am not willing to be completely selfless and give all my energy into things that advantage other people. So I try to balance out time to do the things I want to do (like exploring music and artificial neural networks) with things that the world will pay me to do because presumably it needs them done (system administration and a lot of not very exciting coding, mostly)

Some of the possibilities as to “what’s going on” that have occured to me

*) This whole thing could be a accidental side effect of some other system – our type of life inserts itself into entropy flow – we might even be moving from system to system, tapping different entropy flows, without us being aware of it.

*) This could be the work of a creator or creators. That might *also* be us, or it might be a seperate, distinct entity.

*) This might be a massive multiplayer simulation. In that case, it might be that the plot is driven by our decisions or it might be that the plot is on rails.

Unlike other people I have met I tend to think the people I talk to are not me, so I tend to think whatever we’re in has some sort of networking or multiple participants. I do wish sometimes that I knew what the most efficient choices to make were in order to optimize for reducing the suffering of others, and then could do cost-benefit analysis of the various actions I am taking in order to find some sort of optimized path forward that contains adequate time of me doing the things I want to do for my own reasons vs helping others.

What if there *isn’t* a objective reality?

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

One of the topics I do occasionally worry about is what if there just isn’t a objective reality? Since we know that our minds are easily powerful enough to generate a experience of reality being created out of whole cloth, this seems possible. It would explain how for some people the Jan 6 USA misadventure was a bunch of tourists on the lawn while for a bunch of other people it was a armed insurrection, for example. It could of course go a lot further than that. It’s a worrisome concept, because it can’t be disproven – but if there isn’t a objective reality I’d really like to reprogram the simulator so that *my* reality is more what I’d like to be doing.

Another way Earth’s resource allocation is amazingly broken

Sunday, May 9th, 2021

So, I was having a conversation with a friend who pointed out that the US was dangerously close to a birthrate at which bad things would happen. I inquired further as to what they meant, because as far as I knew we were nowhere near a low enough birthrate to risk food production, power, technology, etc. It turned out what they were referring to was “the economy”.

This really underlines to me, not that I needed it underlined, how dumb our current patchwork quilt of rules surrounding resources is. Greta Thunberg had pointed out the folly of a system that exists to perpetually try and get higher and higher GDP – there *obviously must be a point* at which this will fail if GDP is tied to physical resources because physical resources available are a bounded resource.

Now, of course, our economy is doomed to failure for other reasons as well – it is tied to the idea that everyone must have a job and that simply isn’t realistic in the world of increasing mass automation, and it fails to recognize the value that many people who don’t have a official “job” bring to the overall picture.

However, if we were to chase the idea that we perpetually must have more children in order to continue to have GDP rise off a cliff, it would inevitably lead to the extinction of the human race. We have to come to understand that we must live in balance with the system we’re living off of, and we must find ways to live on nature’s interest rather than the principal.

This doesn’t necessarily have to mean losing quality of life. I still like best the idea of shaping a neurological operating system that enables us to experience vast riches by copying access to experiences from mind to mind – think of it as video games, only without the computer hardware. We might need some computer or technological help to pull this off – and we certainly will have to learn to build really trustworthy computer systems before we can do this, which will mean completely taking money out of the development of operating systems because money corrupts, in general, everything it touches, at least from a making-it-trustworthy point of view. It drives via competition it until it reaches a peak, and then it drives it into corruption and off a cliff. At least, that’s my current perspective – I gesture you to Windows 10, not to mention the state of the US health care system, as examples.

Anyway, my point remains. We *MUST* design a better resource allocation system or we must accept that humanity will be extinct within a century. Our current system will chase ever increasing GDP off a cliff.

We almost certainly are *above* the carrying capacity of the planet – we can see this in ever dwindling supplies of all sorts of key resources. We need to be reducing our population, and our current RAS will not encourage that. When people talk about how Americans are having less children because they “cannot afford them”, that sounds like *good* news to me

genetic algorithms and fitness functions

Friday, April 30th, 2021

So, I can’t remember if I’ve written about this before or not, but it popped into my head last night and I thought I’d write about it some more in any case.

It’s generally taken for granted by most adherents to darwinism that the fitness function in play on Earth is whether or not a organism survives to reproduce.. and I have to admit, given the results of DNA tests this has a high degree of plausability, however it is easy to imagine a situation where it isn’t actually true, or it’s true but future incarnations of DNA sequences depend on fitness results beyond mere survival.

I am of course thinking about my kittens – often a kitten will ‘survive’ (which just requires coming home with a nonzero amount of coin in it’s little kitten pouch on it’s collar) but still be culled by the algorithm because it’s not good enough (for example, only the top 10% of kittens usually move on to the next generation, and there are also things (like asserting buy and sell at the same time) that will get a kitten cut.

If there were things like this in play on earth we might not be aware at them, both because it would be easy to develop both fake and real DNA (this is the assuming-the-operator-of-the-universe-is-Loki sort of thing) and also because we might have real DNA but still be living a iterative series of lives in which only the top few percent of each generation move on to the next simulation. And that’s before we even get into discussions about the multi-world interpretation and the possibility that we are wandering from universe to universe based on the decisions that we make.

A interesting idea to play with is how something like a genetic algorithm might interface with something like quantum immortality. Not a particularly *happy* idea, though – if no one can actually die, then the people who draw a bad hand genetically will end up worse and worse off.

Absent Friends

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

So, the other day I called a friend I hadn’t talked to in a few years, and discovered I had again waited too late to call someone back. It’s not that they were dead (although I’ve had that happen too) – but the conversation went something like (me) Hi! (them) Hi, Buddy! (me) How are you doing? (them) The grass is in the chest (me) What did you say? (them) I see. It didn’t improve from there either. Dementia strikes again ;( If there was any connection between my statements and their responses I couldn’t find it.

In some ways I think it’s actually harder when someone is fading in that way than when they actually die. Because there’s this tantalizing ‘almost’ about the link, like there’s this sense that you’re just in a bad reception area and if you moved things would get better.

Another reminder to stay in better touch with the people I love 🙁

thoughts

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

So, I ran across a tape of myself from my young adulthood, which I found kind of horrifying to listen to. I can’t decide if it was the pretentiousness or the privilege that bothered me more. I guess I would like to think I’ve grown up some since then – what a long strange trip it’s been.

I’ve often mused about how if I hadn’t been exposed to scary random violence as a child – which was in essence nobody’s fault, it was a case of mental illness – things might have ended up much better with one of my relationships – it wasn’t that they were all that violent, it was that I could not handle even the slightest whiff of violence because it resulted in bits of me replaying earlier traumas, as it were.

It does often bother me that the person who exposed me to random violence as a child is still triggered by things I did that I have already apologized for, but never considers that I might have problems with the things they did or that they could possibly owe me a apology. Then again, maybe 20 years from now I will think I was in the wrong in everything. I don’t know.

Listening to tapes from my childhood and young adulthood was .. sad, and weird, and hard. I guess I thought I’d do better than I have done, in relationships, in friendships, in life adventures. Of course, I still haven’t let go of the illusion that I will someday be a rock star. Just gotta climb one more mountain first. (Undoubtedly I am a much better musician than I was at the start of COVID, although whether I’m good enough to draw a crowd remains unknown. I have to sort out this paw injury issue and then shed for another 500 hours and then I’ll probably be ready to write and tape some more.

I do have a few fans.. which is interestingly different. I have a lot of friends I miss – there’s some irony here in that I often go missing for weeks or months at a time as I get interested in something and start chewing on it, but now that all of my friends are also doing that I find the holes in my life difficult. I do sometimes wonder how many people would even notice if I disappeared tomorrow. Then I remind myself I’m lucky that number isn’t zero, which it almost certainly isn’t.

So I guess I’m kind of in a Harry Chapin place – our story in the journey between heaven and hell, with half the time thinking what might have been, and the other half, just as well. I do hope post-COVID I do a better job of living my best life, with maybe a little bit less time writing code that won’t matter 5 years form now and a little more either writing code that *might*, writing music, or seeing friends. Love you all, miss you all. I’ve had entirely too many reminders in the past year that you never know when people are going to check out.

Input filters and whether we’re setting ourselves up

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

So, as I rant about conservatives, one thing that worries me is that I may be somewhat a victim of confirmation bias, or worse yet, input enhancement.

I’ve talked before about how every adhrent to every religion sees their religion validated in the world – and my theory that part of how this is achieved is by filtering out all the data that is obviously inconsistent with their beliefs. At times I worry – as one does – that the reason I see all this horrible behavior from conservatives is that I have come to expect it – and I’ve come to expect it because I’ve seen it, and I’ve got a self-reinforcing suboptimal setup for my input filters.

The challenge there, of course, is to expect something other than what I’ve seen.

Advice I would give my child

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

So, I’ve been mulling over things that I wish my parents had told me – and of course, given that my memory is a swiss cheese, they probably *did* tell me some of these and I just don’t remember it.

Anyway, I figured I’d make a few blog posts on the topic over the next few years and see if anything good popped out.

#1: The important thing is not who you love or what you love, but that you love. Get involved, get engaged, be interested in your life. If your life isn’t interesting to you, adjust things until it is.

#2: You are the author of your own story, and you get to decide what kind of character you’re going to be. You don’t get to decide what happens to you – that’s something the universe will decide – and your ability to bend the universe is much much smaller than it’s ability to bend you because of the relative size of you and the universe. However, you do get to be whoever you want to be, and that’s important. Make sure you are the hero of your own story.

#3: If you stand upon the shoulders of giants, you can achieve wonders. This doesn’t mean that you need to get a education as sold at a ridiculously high price from the commercial education system, but it does mean you should learn from those who went before you. Libraries and the wikipedia are both free. Read and learn and try things and fail and get up and try again.

#4: The master has failed more times than the apprentice has tried.

#5: It is worth doing hard things. Dare to be a badass at something even though it costs you thousands of hours of hard work. You’ll like yourself better for it.

#6: My friend Cygnostik has a great quote – “Everybody is born unique, but so many die as copies.” I could also quote Enigma here – “Don’t accept average habits. Open your heart and push the limits.”. You are only here for a limited time, you are going to die as we all do. Try to make the time you’re here worth having come.

#7: Thus far, when I look back on my life, most of the things I regret are the things I *didn’t* do.

#8: One of the secrets of life is balance – in particular, balance between risk and reward. There are a lot of things that risk-averse people will tell you not to do that have significant rewards. On the other paw, there are also a lot of things where the risk outweighs the reward.

#9: Don’t do anything you don’t want to remember having done.

#10: Another song quote “You’ve got to do what you can to keep your love alive – try not to confuse it with what you do to survive.” Almost none of us are lucky enough to get paid to create the art we want to be creating, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage your creative side early and often.

The awfulness of comments on the internet / polyamoury

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

So, back when I was young and idealistic, I thought the internet would end war and result in people finally having hoenst conversations and result in us looking beyond superficial things and in general make everything roses. I now look at the comments on news posts, youtube posts, etc, and realize that Anonymous is right – none of us are as cruel as all of us.

This is particularly depressing when I look at comments on the polyamory articles on Medium. We’ve been trying to make happy monogamous pair-bonding work for years and largely failing, and yet every commenter feels the need to speak superiorly about how of *course* polyamorous relationships are going to fail. The unstated subtext is “because humans are made for monogomy” which we most certainly are not – it’s *really* clear that we’re wired to fall in love over and over, and we’re not really wired to want to let go of people in our lives.

Howsomeever the people who write the memetics for the human race – have I ever mentioned how much I loathe the people who write and maintain things like organized religions? – like the idea of monogamy – possibly because it makes it clear who we should be charging child support to. (They also don’t believe that the entire tribe should support the children – this is especially true of modern republicans who have done a steady and disastrous series of various types of damage to public education – a side effect of their love of organized religion combined with their love of money)

Anyway, of *course* it’s going to be difficult to be poly right now. We *don’t really know how*. We don’t, in general, know how to love very well – and we have non-stop memetics in the USA encouraging us to prioritize other things (like a new car or keeping the carefully balanced 2-party system war going – or, just keeping the war machine murdering folks in general) over learning how to love.

Part of why I’m hesitant to risk too active of a polyamorous lifestyle despite it being my ideal is I would be in essence a memetic beta tester – of some memes that are not exactly stable software. There’s also that I have managed to get in one relationship that I’d describe as a visit to hell, and also behave horribly and in damaging ways in another relationship, and also that I carry the scars of being exposed to random and scary violence as a child – while being actively poly sounds appealing, it also sounds like something I might have to wait a few more lifetimes for in the hopes that I land on some planet that *does* know about love and does care more about average happiness in the system as a whole than GDP – not to mention values feeding everyone over blowing things up more and more spectacularly.

Anyway, to bring us back to the original topic at hand – all these haters, and there are many, generally probably can’t make *one* loving relationship work, much less several, but they feel the need to dump their cynicism and lofty predictions of failure on us anyway. As with Christians, it’s their tone of lofty superiority that really bugs me. Of course, the smartest thing is for me to just stay away from such places and things – I have far better things to do with my time, when I think about it.

Down with intellectual property

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

I’ve thought a number of times about how awful intellectual property is, and how it hurts us all.

I think I’ve mentioned before that the attempts to stop piracy, including the FBI warning, cost us more man-hours than piracy ever could. I’ve talked about how patent trolls hurt us all, as do companies that won’t share their innovations. (Remember how the oil companies got access to the patents for NIMH and wouldn’t allow EV-sized batteries to be made in the USA? And ponder how we could have magsafe-like connectors everywhere if Apple weren’t such dicks – not to mention the absurd idea that the iPhone was the first smartphone

Side thought, I think part of the problem is that the worst of us are the most likely to want to control the rest of us, so historically the bosses and political leaders are often the people you would least want to have the job. I’ve often thought this about things like the presidency but I think it’s also true on a much more micro scale.

Anyway, back to the evils of intellectual property. We *all* stand on the shoulders of giants – I talk about this in Resource Allocation As A Group – and yet over and over we let people camp out on and hoarde ideas.

I think I’ve mentioned before how every song ever recorded already existed before it was recorded – this is easy to prove, just consider that every song can be represented by a fantastically large number (after all, a digital file is really just a fantastically large number) – now start at zero and start counting. You’ll get there.

I understand that content providers need to earn a living – although in my ideal universe the need to earn a living would be removed since we clearly have sufficient resources to permit people to do whatever they want and still eat and live indoors, we’re starting to deliberately do things in massively inefficient ways in order to keep enough “jobs” because we feel like people shouldn’t be allowed to eat and live indoors unless they are working. (Awfulness is a popular theme among humans, and it’s catching.)

However, we clearly have gone too far at the point that we start allowing things like DNA to be copyrighted. Which we do. We allow companies like Monsanto to bully farmers because some pollen from a copyrighted strain of corn happened to blow onto their field. We allow copyrighting of DNA that originally came from humans or animals.. sometimes even without those humans or animals’ permission. And, DNA is another one of those things that’s just a really large number, so it exists in potentia even if it doesn’t exist in a concrete manifestation.

Think about how much better the world would be if all education and entertainment was available to everyone! But, of course, the message over and over with the modern world is Thou Shalt Not Share. And maybe given the lack of success of polyamoury the message I shoudl take away is that humans really aren’t into sharing – or indeed into happiness or success. Given nuclear reactions, most sane species would build NERVAs. We built bombs. Enough bombs to guarantee extinction.

I should probably stop here before I get even more depressed about our potential future.