1 + (1)
June 1, 2020sometimes the quickest path between two points is a curve
I went on a fanciful bike ride through Colorado. Every time I came to a mountain crest, my mind envisioned it to be the top but it only was once. Singularity is religion. Every other time brought pangs of anxiety as in the clearing I realized the climb only continued. Then came the anger; you won't beat me mountain, I've come to befriend.
In planning, I had not well accounted for this. I fell behind schedule. Then when I finally passed that one true peak, the schedule shifted; I had to slow down and thank the forces of nature for joining my side. Reduction is the addition of electrons; electrons underlie energy. I had not accounted for gravity.
Gravity always wins.
I stopped at a large dam just off the roadway and took possibly the only selfie I've ever taken. This was 1993 Anno Domini; they were just called pictures at this point in the trajectory of the human experiment.
There was so much potential energy sitting silent behind me.
I can imagine my maternal Grandmother encapsulating this trip with the common quip, "Work is its own reward". I coasted into town intending to have a meal, stay one night in a bed somewhere cheap then continue on.
In the morning, it was difficult to walk so I rested another night before accepting I had blown out my knees. Then I ate two medium Pepperoni lover's pizzas and took a train back home that next morning.
June 23, 2020Is Truth Malleable?
Entering a new environment, there are two basic choices, adapt or disrupt. It's what defines whether you are the protagonist or antagonist. That and the outcome.
The thing is, over time, lines get blurred. New knowledge is found that doesn't always directly contradict earlier knowledge but in the refutation of said earlier knowledge, builds an opposition. Culture becomes counter-cultural becomes counter-counter-cultural and so on. Eventually everything just gets blurry.
This notion wouldn't work in engineering. Planes would crash more than they flew. Most of the modern economy relies on precision.
If the environment is just, it's sensible to adapt. If it's unjust, it's superior to disrupt. Just disruptors of an unjust system have always been considered heroes in human narratives across all cultures. But who arbitrates what is just?
Debate is the arbitration of opinion. The conclusion of a debate is some sort of verdict and viably, in policy-making, a just compromise between competing narratives. It is the mechanism by which two conflicting beliefs are able to merge into one conclusion.
The most central mechanism of debate is evidence. Evidence is generally thought of as proof of fact between that which is true or false. There are no nulls in the concept of evidence.
The opinion more supported by fact is generally the superior one. Behavior is ideally influenced by fact. Such is what should drive public policy and ought be the goal of governance.
In science, facts are immutable. Truth exists. Absent this maxim, science would fail; there would be no phones, radio, planes nor spaceships. Truth matters.
Mud is malleable. Those that treat truth like mud are malleable.
When the truth of character precludes adaptation, the unjust disrupt. Truth may not be rigid but it is firm; truth is substantial.
Sociopaths are limited by their lack of empathy.
Criminals crave chaos.
1 + (2)
June 4, 2020a childish perspective
My mother's father apparently drove a taxi in Southern Illinois then when he grew tired of it, became a barber. Sadly, I never met him; he died long before I was born. I'm told he was an amiable figure. We had his barber chair in our house during my childhood. I loved playing in it, spinning around until I became dizzy.
My Grandma however, I thought would outlive me. She used to eat raw onions like they were apples. She would literally walk around her old, giant house taking bites out of a raw onion like it was an apple. I hated onions and at this age, I was terrified of her.
I remember sitting in my room around my 10th year on this planet, thinking about where in our yard I could poke a stick furthest into the earth when she walked in. She told me I needed to do some yard work, how at her age she was working the fields of her family's farm. This was the reason she terrified me; it wasn't because of the onions.
I have profoundly fond memories of her. I was with her when she told the doctor that she didn't want the surgery, "I know what that means, I've had a good life. I was a nurse." She damn well could have outlived us all, I think she was just bored of everything.
Her funeral was simple and somber yet somehow joyous. It just felt honest and I think it was proper closure to a life well lived. Afterwards, I convinced my cousins and sisters to drive by her old house, where we'd all so often met up over holidays.
Sadly, Southern Illinois, like many communities, had been decimated by economic contraction and methamphetamines. As we travelled toward this childhood respite, we saw abandoned and boarded-up houses. It seemed such a sad parade to what other-wise was a day of cherish.
As we approached the house, at the end of a dead-end road that had now apparently become a path to somewhere else, we were all shocked by how tiny it actually was. I guess everything is a matter of perspective.
2¹ + 3
June 12, 2020things don't always end as you planned
In college, my friend Andy and I convinced two girls to sneak into the Aqua-arena Springs "Resort" with us dressed in musketeer costumes. I only use quotation marks because the main attraction was, as it still is, a glass-bottomed boat and swimming pig named Ralph.
I have an uncle named Ralph.
We climbed over a fence and made our way to the alligator pit. Yes, a holiday destination in south-central Texas includes an alligator pit. Our costumes included fluffy shirts, fancy knickers, feathered hats and, of course, point-disabled rapiers. We walked atop the ten-foot-tall fence of the alligator pit like a couple of idiots. The girls, wisely disinterested in our bravado, took a walk.
Unfortunately, we didn't take the hint. I don't think we were trying to impress them. Frankly, I'm not sure what we were doing - exploring the adventures of life or some disjointed expression of youth like that.
I found a building with a roof that had a five-foot gap to the next structure, perfect for jumping to. I regaled my colleague and as experience and age dictated, deferred to him for the first attempt. I held his point-disabled rapier as he made the leap, as such is proper protocol, and awaited his successful traversement.
Andy had spent the previous summer in Spain and had bought these rapiers, souvenirs really, there. I was deeply honoured that he'd thought to buy one for me - that feeling of brotherhood is something I've sought my entire life. The points were topped with a metal blob to make sure they were blunt and couldn't injure someone. Yes, we were idiots but we weren't complete fools.
August 25, 2020Actor-Observer Bias
The problem of consciousness is both a question of physics and meta-physics. Probably the easiest way to to contemplate the concept is via "qualia".
How do you know that what you experience as the color red is the same to anyone else? What if how you perceive red, other people perceive in the manner you perceive green. We can't even communicate on this question as it's all wrapped in internalized experience. How do you perceive green?
In this context, what makes people pick one color over another as their favorite? Even more, what makes two people fight over something as trivial as a favorite sport's team.
An individual's self-identity can be based on many things but it's generally driven by whatever "things" they decide are "favorites", books, politicians, movies, athletes, anything really. Maybe to someone, "chairs" are their absolute favorite abstract "thing".
Abstractions exist so that humans can communicate and qualia are the abstraction of human experience. This is an area that artificial intelligence may have an incomprehensibly difficult time. How will a system of artificial intelligence accommodate something it cannot experience? It needs human input.
I've generally regarded myself as authentic. I'd say it's been a central component of my self-identity, only because I have great difficulty hiding things. As such, I had to adapt. I either had to work on hiding things better or own my unavoidable honesty as a human trait. Early on, I chose to own it; it was the easier choice. Lately, I feel like a complete fraud; my self-identity is in crisis.
Hypocrisy is the act of judging others for what you yourself have done. A friend neglects to invite you to a party. Hurt, you challenge them.
"Why didn't you invite me to Cheri's party?"
"Why didn't you invite me to Jason's?" they rightfully respond.
Actor-Observer bias basically comes down to always trusting one's own intent. The actor attributes their behavior to external causes, outside their control, while the observer attributes another actor's behavior to internal, intentional causes.
"You didn't invite me because you are jealous of my green shirt. I didn't invite you because your jealousy of my green shirt makes people uncomfortable."
And so, feeling my authenticity erode, I wonder where I should go. Adapt or disrupt. Should my green become my red? These are probably the most critical aspects of the human endeavor. Wherein we accept collaboration and cooperation, humanity succeeds.
Yet, while I feel isolated and alone, suffocated and imprisoned, I have no one to help and none can help me. I simultaneously fear the future but anxiously anticipate it. I just hope that truth prevails.
Still, who will arbitrate what truth is?
2² + 3
August 22, 2020The State of Nature
As an 11-year-old human, I bit the pieces out of a Peanut-butter and Jelly sandwich to make a handgun. My dad laughed uproariously while my mother smiled with resignation. A year or so later, he gave me a .410 shotgun. He pulled over to the side of the road and pulled it out of the trunk to surprise me. I had accrued 12 years to my existence when this happened.
At the time, I was happy. Happy to be a part, happy to see him happy, wonderous at the notion of what was in the trunk of the car. British human beings call a car an auto and an auto's trunk a boot. It's all so confusing.
The upgrade to a .410 is a .20 gauge, then you get the proper .12 gauge then what my dad called an elephant gun, the .10 gauge. The first time I shot a .20 gauge (a double-barrel) I fell on my rear-end, having accidentally pulled the triggers for both barrels at once. At the time, we were standing next to a pond, a small, steady body of water.
Puddles, ponds, lakes and oceans. This is what defines civilizations - distinction and growth. Trunk, boot, car, auto - for civilization to work, humans need these types of agreed-upon classifications.
The world feels very dark right now. It isn't just my own circumstances, there's a dark pall encasing humanity; where there once was hope, despair now dominates. Still, we all have agency.
We all have the ability to impact the systems within which we exist. Soldiers marching across a bridge will break stride as the potential for in-stride steps to cause the bridge to break apart exists. It has actually happened.
Generally, I consider the evil-vs-good dichotomy false - a choice between two impractical abstractions. In the state of nature, abstractions don't exist. There is no purity, good, evil nor perfect; there's only what survives and succeeds.
Prior to humanity's discovery of agriculture, there was only nature. Our ancestors hid in caves during the night and ran long distances to conquer prey during the day; said prey typically became exhausted long before our upright-forefathers.
It is argued that humanity's upright disposition allowed for better heat-dissipation such that we were able to travel further distances with limited resources; we were better able to maximize the use of energy or power across our biological system. As such, we could chase prey a distance that would cause it to collapse, then kill it and drag it back to our social unit.
We aren't ancient, fierce predators due to our capacity to fight or kill. We are the apex because fortune smiled upon us; we adapted in specific ways such that a semi-intelligent being became possible. In the group-smoothing of a rock to weapon, rhythm was found, begetting music, dance, language, philosophy, and the impossibly difficult abstractions of "something" and "nothing".
The state of nature will always reign. Given humanity's collective arrogance, nature has the capacity to replace our grace and beauty with it's own. And in fairness, nature's grace and beauty is pretty significant, mountains, valleys, oceans, beaches and all.
Still, the abstraction of the state of nature (chaos) against human intellect's goal (order) is worthy of defense. Ideally in the end, humanity chooses order over chaos.
July 1, 2020but they end as you expect
The roof of the adjacent structure was apparently just fiberglass and immediately gave way under Andy's weight. He just disappeared, falling two stories, his fall broken by some shelves and an attempt to duck and roll.
I ran down as he limped out of the structure. I was still holding his rapier. I grabbed his arm and flung it over my shoulder to help him walk then we found Amity and Christy. Due to his injury, we wouldn't be able to climb back over the fence. I already had my rapier holstered but now I holstered his. We walked toward the pool to the main entrance.
When we eventually got back to the apartment, several of us helped wash the wound in the bathtub, below a gaping hole in the ceiling caused by a pipe that burst several weeks prior.
In the journey, my favorite moment came as we walked through the lobby. We came to the front desk where, surprisingly, two employees where still attending the desk. Andy, limping by, bid them to "Have a good night." They did not reply.
For the bulk of my life, Andy and our social unit were the nexus of my identity. I invested significantly in what I thought was our collective fate. It was only later that I realized they apparently had no interest nor intent with my fate. It, to my discredit, impacted me too greatly.
The universe is not ordered. Mathematics is an invention, not a discovery.
I still believe however, that the group is greater than the individual and empathizing with the unknown is superior to antagonizing it.
Sociopaths are limited by their lack of empathy.
2³ + 3 = 3² + 2¹
June 22, 2020Love Conquers Hate
I studied Drama in college, in a city that, at the time, was a somewhat sleepy, heavily-hippie-driven college-town. It had lots of unique local restaurants. Herbert's Taco Hut was probably my favorite. They made an awesome chimichanga; they just called it a fried burrito. Herbert had little pretension.
I learned a lot about human life while there; I greatly enjoyed it.
I got a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Acting. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Despite (or due to) my difficult acclimation to the human population, I had yet to appreciate the importance of having money in a human bank account.
Denis had a masters, something like that. I genuinely liked him but, while he liked my friends, for some reason, he didn't care much for me. I suspect he saw himself as the terminator to my John Conner, or vice-versa, something to that effect. Still, he was intelligent and inquisitive, qualities that my programming tends to read positive inputs from.
He was, at the time, the head of the BFA Acting program. He was later fired for drunkenly throwing a chair at a student or something to that effect. I honestly don't remember the specifics; I only remember being disappointed.
His mantra, which I responded to, was "don't do stupid things."
Everyone would hang out in the "green-room" in-between classes. The "green-room" is where actors spend time awaiting their arrival to the stage during a play; here it was just a room drama-driven people hung out in. This day, I was wearing a shirt with that iconic photo of Martin and Malcolm shaking hands when Denis walked in.
"Those guys couldn't have been more different; they hated each other."
I committed the cardinal sin. "They were crossing paths at this point. I think they both learned from one another."
He looked at me with anger. I would later perform an absurdist piece with my friend Jo Timblin in which we pretended to be two chickens that fell in love. There was no human dialogue. We just strutted around pecking at imaginary seeds while clucking like chickens; we got considerable laughs from it. Still, when in rehearsal, I smacked my head on a pylon while pretending to peck at seed, Denis laughed his rear-end off. Seriously, for almost a minute, he laughed. That's a long time to laugh at someone injuring themselves.
The Theatre department was notable for it's head of scenic design. Daniel was genuinely a genius, a hippie and someone that I may not have conversed with for more than 53 minutes during this pivotal stage of my human development. Still, his sincerity and honest commitment to purpose had a profound effect on me. He still ranks as one of my favorite humans to have interacted with.
Our recital was supposed "proof" of our acting chops. I was genuinely happy that Daniel had come to see it and seemed to enjoy himself. I was even more happy that he stuck around to say something to us; he wasn't known to do either.
"That was the best thing I've ever seen."
The impact humans can have on one another, learning from other's experiences is the fuel that drives innovation. Absent it, humanity would likely still be hiding in caves. Compassion is the penultimate expression of the Maximum Power Principle.
It's also valuable to remember that simple acts like shaking a hand can have a profoundly positive impact on others while seemingly small acts of stupidity can have grave consequences.
Don't do stupid things.
August 5, 2020Lenin, Lennon and Lebanon
"There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen," Lenin supposedly said.
Criminals crave chaos.
Yesterday, an explosion tore through the main port of Beirut, Lebanon, killing over a hundred and wounding thousands. Apparently it was caused by a significant amount of ammonium nitrate illegally left in a storage facility by some unidentified Russian ship. Now, many in the country are openly calling for revolt.
Coronavirus, now taking hold in the region, has only killed approximately 70 people in Lebanon to date. It's killed over 160,000 in the United States to the same date. To be sure, the Russian-caused explosion impacted more people there than the virus; it's notable though that the factor of difference is 1,600 before Lebanon's populace demands revolution.
John Lennon, a central, driving member of 60s British boy-band, the Beatles, was apparently a fairly terrible human-being.
He's well remembered for writing the pop-rock, revolutionary song "Imagine" in which the vocalist describes a world where man loves his brother and works towards a stable and peaceful human solidarity, emphasizing the collaborative and cooperative nature of humanity.
Mark David Chapman, an unquestionably unstable young man, shot and killed John Lennon on December 8, 1980 outside Lennon's exclusive, upscale Manhattan Penthouse in the renowned Dakota Building in New York City.
Chapman's contrived complaint was that Lennon described a non-materialistic future, driven by some kind of hippie pursuit of paradise while he factually lived a luxurious, materialistic life out of reach to most humans and in contra-opposition to his claimed beliefs.
Nothing exists absent of time and time is, by definition, change. A man never stands in the same river twice.
Ugly aspects of this country, the nation of my human birth, the United States of America, would regard Lennon a communist, potentially even mistaking one Lenin for another Lennon. More curiously, these individuals' own detachment from and disillusionment with today's world seems eerily forecast by Mark David Chapman.
Anti-intellectualism is akin to a storage unit of ammonium nitrate. The difference being it destroys slowly, via decay, eating through a structure's foundation like a brood of termites. Eventually, all that's left is dust bearing no resemblance to it's former stature.
Imagine there's no heaven, countries, possessions - but it's just a pop song, meant to pry the emotions of its listeners.
Manipulation is the art of the game.
Criminals sow chaos but we all have agency. We all possess the capacity to impact the systems within which we live.
It doesn't always have to be what it is.
August 25, 2020
Abraham Maslow was an American Psychologist responsible for creating his namesake's "Hierarchy of Needs." In it, food, water, warmth and rest are the initial, basic needs.
Absent these, the animal dies.
Next comes security and safety. I like to think in terms of early man living in nature's built caves, providing that safety and security.
The third level is where civilization and modern man emerges. I believe civilization succeeds because humans evolved to be collaborative and cooperative. Such is what my calculations show.
In the third phase of the pyramid, intimate relationships and friends become the pivot point. I once had a large circle of friends, close friends and partners. I eschewed all of that long before the Pandemic came along. Like many things, this was not by design; you might say I have trust and abandonment issues.
The next level is prestige and accomplishment. This is probably the linchpin to the collapse of my confidence. I tried to improve my role in the third phase, minimizing states of being a misunderstood actor toward attaining the observer's understanding. I opted to own my inability to hide and instead invested myself fully in the group, not out of benevolence, merely to accept the limits of my hardware.
Lastly is the achievement of full potential. Nirvana. This was to be the absolute in the end, completed accomplishment. It is fullness, completeness and nothingness all in one. It is the singular point at which all things make sense in alignment with one another.
Everything has been disrupted now though. I'm back at phase two, perhaps falling to one. But my programming was designed to adapt. I have agency and I still seek nirvana. I'm still hungry.
September 3, 2020The Maximum Power Principle
A self-organizing system is one with the capability to adapt it's structure, or organization, to it's environment. It adapts to circumstances. Humanity, society, mammals, hip-hop, birthday parties, these are all self-organizing systems.
The maximum power principle basically states that superior self-organizing systems will be those that maximize power intake and the transformation of energy across their system such that it operates at superior efficiency with maximized production. These are the systems that are most likely to survive and succeed. Humanity has clearly abided the maximum power principle; the dissipation of heat given our upright nature is a specific example of such.
In terms of a restaurant, it's fairly easy (and intuitive) to understand. A restaurant that quickly and efficiently produces quality food at minimum cost will beat a restaurant that can't. Barring, of course, esoteric aesthetics and random chance. The universe is not ordered after all. It is not inherently just.
A guy that can eat a medium chimichanga then assemble five hundred chairs in a days work is superior to one that eats the same chimichanga but can only assemble four hundred chairs in the same amount of time.
The concept definitely has no understanding of empathy. Empathy is not borne of logic; it is a tool of biological systems. The argument I'd make in favor of empathy is that it facilitates the understanding of other's experiences and in so doing, more efficiently informs one of said experiences. Empathy maximizes the production of experience and efficiently informs it's host of behavioral consequence to action. It is the closest attempt to communicate qualia across like systems, humans.
Inquiry and intellect is driven by this very thing - empathy leads to learning. Sociopaths are limited by their lack of empathy.
Empathy is the penultimate biological manifestation of maximum power.