Aesthetics, Relative Beauty, and Perceived Reality

There is a tendency in philosophy to want to dissect properties of the world around us in absolute terms. That is to say, fields like ethics should be an absolute, rigorous, rational system. For the most part, I agree, especially regarding ethics. However, I cannot in good conscience conclude that aesthetics are absolute. Objects do not contain within themselves the property of being beautiful, the concept of beauty is wholly dependent upon the perception of the observer.

I am not saying that beauty is purely a matter of personal taste. The difference is that you as an observer are hard-wired to find beauty in a specific way. Moreover, you are hard-wired with a certain perceptual set which is very similar to the perceptual sets of other humans. Therefore, there is a great deal of agreement on exactly what constitutes beauty. I’ll proceed by degrees. A person whose senses are normal will find, let’s say, a landscape beautiful. Someone who is blind, on the other hand, does not perceive the landscape as beautiful. Backtracking, what about someone who is colorblind? Do they have the same perception of beauty as humans? Probably not- a flower which is made beautiful by brilliant colors but whose shape alone is ugly would just be ugly to a colorblind person. What about the other direction? Insects capable of perceiving different wavelengths of light than humans, how would they perceive flowers in ultraviolet? A bat “sees” textures as color-analogues because the world its mind constructs is derived from sonar data. Plus, it’s useful for a bat to be able to pick out tiny and obscure insects from the inky sky. We can see a candle on a mountain a hundred miles away, or instantly hone in on a small red dot on a sheet of paper. The bat can see a faraway mosquito on a dark night similar facility. After all, color period is purely a construct of our minds based on wavelength data. Color itself is not a property of the object. Texture and other observed properties such as temperature or weight are completely imaginary- but they represent real-world data about the surface matter distribution, thermal energy, and mass of objects, respectively. When you feel sandpaper, it feels rough. That’s because your nerves are detecting a slight tearing resistance when you touch it. And even that is because of the distribution of particles on the surface. The property of “roughness” has nothing to do with it- that is a label our minds ascribe to objects because it is more efficient and useful to think of discrete objects with internal properties.

Consider a sword. A sword has the property of being sharp, and therefore also has the property of being dangerous. Would you say that dangerousness is an intrinsic property of the sword? What if, instead of frail carbon-based humans, the earth was populated with hardy, golem-like men of stone? Sharp objects would be unable to harm such creatures, so it wouldn’t be useful for them to ascribe swords with the property of being dangerous. Well, sharpness is the same, albeit more rudimentary. Going back to our golems, let’s say that a sufficiently sharp object could indeed cut them. I would like to use a diamond drill as an example, but because that works in a fundamentally different manner than a sword it makes for a marginally confusing example. Instead, we’ll consider a neutron whip device. This as yet science-fiction weapon is basically a sword that is an invisibly thin, high-energy sword. When you wave it across something it can even sever the bond between atoms. Even edges significantly less sharp than that would be able to damage the golem creatures, and would be perceived as sharp and dangerous in a manner similar to our perception of swords. Swords would fall on the golem’s spectrum of sharpness about where a squashed butterknife does for us. Sharpness is not an intrinsic property, it’s a useful label we apply to appropriate objects in reality.

We can’t even define what a “thing” is without inappropriate abstraction. Where does the river end and the sea begin? Where do you end, and where does the rest of the world begin? The knee-jerk reaction is to say your skin represents a sort of shell that you are inside, and the rest of the world is “out there.” But this is clearly wrong because you are not a closed system. What about the inside of your lungs? That’s air in there- is that you, or is that the rest of the world? What about your gastrointestinal tract? The human body treats anything in the GI tract with similar caution and procedure to anything outside of your skin. At what point does the food you eat cease to be the world outside, and start being you? A skeptic would certainly believe it happens somewhere between when someone grows the food and when its atoms are actually running your cells. What I’m saying is that while it is currently the case that you control your own body, and while it is true that mind and body are deeply entwined, the body is not the relevant element. If the body’s influence on the mind could be minimized, duplicated, simulated, incorporated, whatever, then the mind could part ways with it and be unchanged. So you could, say, upload your mind to a computer and retain your identity in full.

On a related but tangential note, Seneca the Younger once said, “Let Nature deal with matter, which is her own, as she pleases; let us be cheerful and brave in the face of everything, reflecting that it is nothing of our own that perishes.”

Essentially my first point is that while we can derive absolutes such as codes of ethics, and we can create meaning within our own minds, we cannot abstract reality beyond the physical. The universe is presented completely “as is”, with no disclaimer, warranty, or money-back guarantee. Objects are not even “objects”- it’s just a sea of particles. And because objects are a mental construction, ascribing properties to them is further construction. Grouping them together- you guessed it. More mental construction. That which is, in the purest, strictest physical sense “really real” is completely and utterly flat. All the depth to life comes from our minds and our perceptions. For example, a flower’s beauty is nothing more than our perception. However, to say that it is “nothing more” than our perception is misleading, for consciousness and perception together may be the most miraculously powerful force ever conceived of.

The Annihilation of Culture

After reading Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture over at Violent Acres, I am struck by just how far the destruction of culture has gone. Not just in the sense of the article, but more generally. The question is, what is culture? What do I mean when I say culture has been rooted out and eradicated?

Culture is not, and never will be, a property of a group. That is the fundamental issue at stake here. Culture is a property of an individual. The problem here is that the word has a different meaning when you say a person has culture versus when a group has culture. In America’s heyday, what virtues were espoused as important? What type of acts were elevated to grandeur? These ideas can be attributed to culture. However my point is that the group itself doesn’t actually possess culture because the group is nothing more than a large number of individuals which happen to hold similar values and ideas regarding such matters. This is usually because of close geographical proximity or other reasons which might cause them to interact more often than with some randomly selected person. So if you apply culture in a group sense, you end up with conformity = culture. When that starts happening, no “new culture” is created and the national pastime becomes the systematic eradication of whatever culture they might have.

OK, that was a pretty strong statement. And it’s true. A group can impress itself simultaneously on an unlimited number of people because each of those people has their own brain, and is fully equipped to impress upon themselves. When you have a group identity superseding the individuality of each person within a group, everything goes to hell. A generalized weakness sets in. No one person is able to sway the massive tide of group decision. I think that this exact mentality is the inevitable side effect of democracy, and is its fundamental flaw as a system of government. Masses of people doing things they don’t want to because they think everyone else in the mass wants them to when, at best, nobody cares. Voter apathy, a general sense of being out of control.

Culture lives in the soul of each individual. Metaphorically speaking, of course. The day that each individual surrenders their culture to a group, there is no culture left because then there’s nobody in the group holding their own, leaving the group barren, and everyone in it destitute. Pandering becomes rampant. The need to please others, the need to conform, becomes a basic drive. And when your self-worth is dependent upon others, everyone else has the power to destroy you with little or no effort. A million other issues stem from this. Socially, each person represents a threat to everyone else. We cut our interactions to the superficial only, chitchat, the weather, universally agreed-upon gossip, and other “sanctioned” topics. Essentially, this constitutes a total lack of social skills, yet they’re the ones we perceive as “social.” This lunacy about “personal space” becomes an issue. We avoid conflict like the plague and call it “getting along.” Bullshit- everyone is scared of getting slammed for rocking the boat. I can name at least a hundred symptoms that are equally serious. Seeking the path of least resistance becomes habitual. Not only is this a recipe for failure inducing either an inferiority complex or blind hubris in the face of failure, but lack of ability due to lack of trial, practice, or even effort leads to consistent failure and the short-circuiting of the basic feedback loop. A reduced tolerance for adversity elevates the desire for convenience and comfort to a need. We develop the concept of a “comfort zone”- There are some perfectly natural things that the average shmuck simply cannot make themselves do- craziness! The difficulties in our lives become magnified in perceived size by their scarcity- “stress” anyone? Every sentence I raise makes me want to pump a book just on that topic into your head, but I can only follow it with one more sentence, dammit! Now, compounding some of these issues together, knowing that they’re all compounded in all possible configurations just because they’re all in the mix, let’s mix total lack of social skills with stress. You get the perception that drama is a good thing because it indicates you have a social life. Fuck that! Next, what about comfort zone with a slice of hubris? You see confident people going about their business with a paper-thin but nevertheless effective veneer of authority who have absolutely no fucking clue, doing ridiculous things like “what, you don’t wear underwear covered in pear juice on your head?” and then “there’s something wrong with you.” Back to the basic attack, effective against the masses who are too dependent on approval to live. Interestingly, comments like that assume that the other person will be affected by such a remark, with accuracy I might add. And they are effective in the first place because everyone else is too stupid and cowed by a perceived group to stand up and go “you know what? Fuck you.”

How many people would think along the lines of the article Two Phrases? They’re the ones who don’t need approval. They’re the ones who know “the group” is a paper tiger- nobody is going to back up someone who says “what’s wrong with you” who isn’t themselves cowed in the same way, or trying to simper themselves up the imaginary ladder a bit. The annihilation of culture begins with the subjugation of the individual, with the slavery of independent people to the whim of an imaginary monster. An imaginary monster whose will is invariably interpreted by a select few. A select few who had the guts to stand up and grab that authority from the monster. The pattern has repeated countless times throughout history, from religion to the government to “the people.” I sense echoes of The Remnant in this behavior, and at the same time I see the shadow of The Elites. Virtue and power, respectively.

Speculations on Symbolic Language

I theorize that it is possible to create a language that is both semantically unambiguous, and at the same time far more flexible in terms of expressible meaning than any current language in existence.  Better, increased precision lends itself well to continuously refining whatever metaphor you may be aiming at.  I intend to actually make a true language along these lines at some point, but it’s still in the theory stage.  Right now I’m just bouncing off a general concept, but explaining it is going to be tricky.  I have a great deal of experience speaking English, so I’m going to use that as a jumping-off point, even though a symbolic language would be sufficiently alien to natural languages that perhaps the comparison is meaningless.  Like trying to explain the alphabet in the language of mathematics- it doesn’t really get the point.

Alright, in English, we use constructs of nouns, verbs, and adjectives primarily.  A symbolic language as I envision it would use no such distinctions.  All units of meaning would be derived similarly from basic roots I will refer to as “atoms.”  An atom refers to the strictest-sense semantic meaning, such as “run” being reduced to “the act or essence of running-ness.”  Words would then be distinguished by formative types. Since there is no similar element in English, I’ll switch over to Lojban here.  Lojban uses articles such as “la” or “lo” to change the significance of the word that follows. For example, “la” essentially indicates that the following word is a proper name. An atomic language could use separate words as indicators, but I think it would be more convenient to merge the two together into a new entity.  The closest I can describe using English would be if an article such as “the” or “a” were included in the use of the word that follows.  Anyway, the effect is a new unit of meaning, such as “some dog”, “all dogs”, “a specific dog I have in mind”, etc. rather than just “dog”, which would be more along the lines of an atom.  Typefiers, once integrated like this, can begin to become more flexibly used.  For example, new ones such as the typical, stereotypical, connotative, subjectively experienced, perceived, observed, etc. etc.  Which ones will end up being used are anyone’s guess.

The second important element is the relation of symbols.  Once we have the bare-bones atom being specified so it’s useful, we need ways to further elaborate on what we’re talking about.  English tends to mash this area up badly, using “that” in very loosey-goosey fashion.  For example, “the dog that runs”, “the dog that is fat”, “that yappy dog” etc. etc. A specific relation, such as possession, can be laid out in explicit logical terms such that the first term applies to the second term.  So if we have two specified atoms, we connect them with a relation.  So we could say “(some person)-possesses/owns-(that dog, that I have in mind)”, indicating that we don’t know who owns some dog that we’re pointing at.  Once again, there are many relations possible from traits or characteristics to associations to physical causation, etc. etc.  Note that we’re still crafting a single entity we would commonly refer to now as a noun.
Also note that pretty much all the complexity is optional, used only if you have additional information to convey.  You could just say “that dog” as a subject, or you could use endless relations and connections to end up with a single subject, either way it’s treated as a single symbol that happens to be composed of other symbols.

OK, now we’ve established how to talk about what we commonly refer to as nouns. Before starting in on verbs or descriptors I think I need to make a distinction- all symbols would be treated essentially the same way, and atoms would be the fundamental building block of all forms of meaning, be they verbs, nouns, properties, whatever.  Types would transform their use.  So “dog” as an atom could become a singular noun, a group noun, a generalized dog, an unknown dog, a stereotypical dog, etc.  Or, it could become the property of dog-ness, the act of being a dog, etc. In order to reduce this abstraction back to nouns, verbs, and adjectives, a great deal of flexibility and subtlety is being glossed over.

Alright, let’s make a sentence.  The parentheses would enclose a single word-unit.  “(some person)-possesses-(that dog) (the act of walking)-with-destination-(some specific location)-with-property-(the quality of speed/haste)”

When written out in English with all the parentheses and haberdashery it’s obviously cumbrous. But consider what such a sentence would look like if atoms were bound to one syllable, enclosed on both sides by a consonant, and their types preceded them consisting of a single syllable, beginning with a consonant and ending with a vowel. Relations would be one or two syllables, beginning and ending with a vowel.  Using C for a consonant sound and v for a vowel sound (noting that a vowel sound could consist of multiple vowels- such as “ou” in “bout”), the sentence would fit into something like this framework, at the lengthiest and most explicit:

CvCvC–vCv–CvCvC CvCvC–vCv–CvCvC–vCv–CvCvC

I count exactly 16 syllables; this sentence is that long. Impressive, eh? It’s important to note that I intend speech to be rather more interesting than the pointlessly simplistic example I just gave- that was baby talk.  But baby talk is itself impressive considering I outlined it in about 1,000 words.  Given more words you could talk fluently, albeit boringly.  And the words are all in the structure of atoms, so they’re easy to learn.  More significantly, in my opinion anyway, is the immense expressiveness of such a free-range system. Basically, I think grammar should just get the hell out of the way and let you talk. In any case, the language (currently called S) is still heavily in progress.

Homeopathy, Magic, & the Placebo Effect

Homeopathy is essentially the practice of prescribing water. Every homeopath doctor will tell you that there is not a single particle of “active ingredient” in the solutions they sell you. This is probably a good thing because they put things like poison ivy or rattlesnake venom in there before diluting it to nonexistence. Studies have authoritatively shown that it has no real medical value beyond a simple placebo. However, here’s the issue; even if we know that, should we still practice it?

This article espouses a viewpoint I have held for a long time regarding alternative medicine, but in a fresh way. I’m going to expand still further on it. Despite the fact that homeopathic remedies have no medicinal value, their patients still consistently report being cured or at least relieved of symptoms. So we know the patients actually fare better than if they had received no treatment whatsoever, although the nature of the treatment is irrelevant provided it doesn’t actively harm them. So essentially the homeopaths are making an absolute killing by selling gullible people a completely non-effective product. If only it were so simple.

The truth of the matter is that the placebo effect is a product of presentation, and presentation alone. So when you buy homeopathic remedies, you are paying the price of the product, competed down to whatever level, plus a little on the side for the vendor. However, the primary cost of selling placebo remedies is facade. A homeopathic hospital or doctor would need the authority, accreditation, imposing building and lobby, realistic-looking bottles and labels, etc. etc. Inventing a rationalization, and even going so far as to list plausible-sounding side effects. You are paying for a magic show. And the strangest thing about it is that it does in fact work, like magic. Perhaps this explains the immortalized human tendency to want to believe in magic. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a bit.

The absolute truth, undiluted? The human mind is capable of magic in every sense that counts. We can understand and manipulate the world around us. Consider a device such as your iPod. It’s magic, seriously! Let’s assume that magic actually existed- essentially you’re talking about a different set of physical laws of the universe which humans can take advantage of. We already do that! It’s not easy, but if you expect magic to be free then you’re just a child. That’s the appeal of Harry Potter- free power. And I can tell you that Rowling’s representation of a wizard world is ignorantly constructed to the extreme. I should make another post about this because I can blast Rowling for hours. Nothing personal, but her poor scribblings hedge out great minds like George R. R. Martin, and Rowling was making millions while Martin quietly ascended on the New York Times’ bestseller list. Modern culture as a whole can be either quality or commercially viable, but not both. That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, though.

Anyway, back to real magic. Clarke’s Third Law is even more general than Clarke ever knew. Technology itself is indistinguishable from magic, because technology is the exploitation of natural phenomena. Magic would be the same, only you might do something like psychically move energy from the air into a specific object, thus setting it on fire with the power of your mind. This is impossible, so instead we concentrate energy in, say, a match, using the power of the mind. Magic as a concept is so appealing because it is unfamiliar. There isn’t anything remarkable about a match because you’re used to them. But someone who could stare at some tinder and foosh! That would be something, huh? More importantly, the common conception of magic is the ideal of free power that somehow easily just breaks the natural structure of things. Somehow, we won’t explain why, you can wave a wand and say a word, and whatever you wanted will just happen. It also gains further appeal from the idea that it is somehow just barely not accessible. We fantasize about receiving massive fortunes, too, but a barrier of pragmatism tells us that there is simply no way anyone would be stupid enough to mail us a check for a billion dollars. But maybe, just maybe, there lies within ourselves the secret to mentally starting that fire. In reality? You’re right- learn how to make a fire and guess what? You can make a fire. But you can’t do it effortlessly, you have to learn how and then implement that knowledge, and often neither task is easy.

Consider, say, mathematics. It seems very unmagical. However, you’re working with the theory behind our brand of real-life magic. Presumably in Harry Potter there should be some rhyme or reason as to why things work the way they do, and why saying X and moving your wand in pattern Y produces result Z. But because it’s a flight of fancy catering to part of you that wants without price, you don’t have to understand any of that, you can just do it and it will somehow work. Trust the teacher, as it were. As an interesting aside, how in hell did they discover any of that stuff? “Let’s wave our wands randomly with random words that sound Latinesque and see what happens!” The horror! The HORROR! Imagine that a warehouse stuffed to bursting with millions of different prototype skunkworks weapons fell through a timewarp, giving a band of A.D. 400 Christians enough firepower to pummel a modern state to green and glowing waste slushee. The problem, of course, is that they can only figure out how to use it by trial and error. It would be worse than that.

Anyway, my point in the magic tangent is that our minds are capable of magic in every substantial sense. And there is a second sense, beyond that of technology. The wackjobs are on the edge of their seats, hungry for a new sympathizer- no, not the first time and not this time either, crazies. Humans have the power to control their own minds. For the second time, the well-adjusted readers are probably going “What? Duh!” Being self-aware is more magical than we know, because we have the power to consciously adjust our own thoughts and behaviors. A squirrel does not. And yes, the squirrel is my typical example of a lesser life form. A squirrel has no control over its own behavior, being essentially hardwired from birth. With intelligence, however, it becomes advantageous to the organism for the genes to begin to cede control. Humans are still highly genetically influenced, but much less so than less intelligent creatures. This is because unintelligent creatures, if they weren’t provided with a model by their genes would act, well, unintelligently. However, intelligent creatures can actually learn and encode information in their brains that their genes can’t interpret. Thus, the genes start to provide psychologies instead of instincts to provide a framework for the brain to operate within rather than explicitly mandate its instructions. This is rather like programming a computer- just recently we have seen the shift from data that can be predicted to the point where programmers are being forced to consider data which they could not predict, and instead provide frameworks for the handling of data, allowing the computer to decide so the programmer doesn’t have to. The program when it’s running is like the human brain when it’s active and running- i.e. in each living human being, and the code the programmer writes before compiling is like the genetic code before it’s used to make a person.

Yes, I am going to get back to the placebo effect, the title was not lying to you, dammit. That was related, albeit perhaps only in my own mind… Anyway, the placebo effect is a predictable outcome of a hunter-gatherer group lacking useful medicine, but possessing much older fear, pain, illness, etc. responses that still serve them well. Consider the pain response- it is very useful for indicating damage or distress to the body, but once it has served that function it is no longer useful, it’s just painful. But the organism cannot be permitted to have a “pain switch” because otherwise it would just leave it off all the time. So the genes instead force the organism to experience pain, but have a different individual have the ability to make it go away. So we start seeing medicine men practicing voodoo or prayer healing or whatever. Once the individual has recognized that something is wrong, and presumably already attempted on their own to solve the problem to a limited degree, and it may turn out that nothing can be done for them. In which case, the pain then serves as a survival disadvantage because it’s distracting, disabling, whatever. In such a situation it is highly advantageous to have the individual notify others in the group of their problem, thus assuring that the pain signal was received, and then give the sufferer a “free” mechanism to make the pain go away, as long as they are convinced by someone else. Interestingly, this leads to a whole host of societal changes, such as tribes rallying around a medicine man’s ideas, and using different brands of arcana as methods of establishing unity, mind control, subservience, and even extracting payment of utility from third parties.

So we return to homeopathy. One particular brand of arcana no longer useful for establishing unity or subservience, but quite effective at extracting payment. Interestingly, even though the vendor is parting with nothing, the buyers are in fact receiving a service. So I think that in an environment where it is possible to empirically prove that the remedy does not work, yet where it continues to work, the process should be promoted. I also think that different alternative remedies have different target audiences, or they wouldn’t coexist. Acupuncture seems to be more effective because the people willing to undergo it know they are going to have hundreds of needles inserted into their bodies by a complete stranger. They’re damn ready to get over whatever it is they want to recover from, and they have some hardcore faith in the process. Homeopathy, on the other hand, is for the less committed sufferers. The stranger is essentially giving them water to drink and convincingly claiming it will cure them. Now, I don’t even believe in the process but nevertheless I’d be prepared to try it if a doctor told me there was no formal medication for whatever I was suffering from- if it wasn’t too expensive, anyway. However, the fact that less belief is required means that the placebo effect is less potent.

Now, I’ve covered a huge amount of ground with a hop skip and a jump and would like to point out just a few of the connections that I didn’t get to make before due to the damnable nature of linear text. Firstly, you should have noticed a clear correlation between medicine men and religion. Here’s a connection; religions concerned with healing all tend to require especially firm and unyielding faith- the acts of Christian faith healers are an excellent example. The link between strong faith and healing is more or less direct. A different connection, although genes control the framework of our thoughts, couple that with sentience and we can modify those frameworks however we want. However, the process is very obscure to most people. A simple example; let’s say you want chocolate. How do you become happy? The most common answer would be, eat chocolate. I’m saying virtually everyone on earth would answer that way, and absolutely everyone in the United States, minus me and, what, three others? The better answer is to just stop wanting chocolate. How very Stoic of me. No, seriously, why not? Though I obviously can’t prove this, I’m thinking that those monks with the freaky powers up in Tibet that we hear so many myths about are just like us, but with the critical difference that at least one, at some point, unlocked the power of the placebo effect and could apply it in diverse ways. Not feeling cold, evading sickness, sharpened perception, precise motor control, etc. etc. The list could be pretty much endless. The process would essentially allow you to hardwire your own choice to whatever the maximum human potential for any given act or activity would be. Anything you could psych yourself up to do, you could just choose to instantly receive all the benefit of psyched-up-ness without needing to go through all that effort and usually brutal psychological side effects like irrational disloyalty, blind faith, obedience, submission to manipulation, etc., etc. It’s speculation, completely unfounded, but maybe, just maybe, there’s something within us capable of free power.

Material Identity

If you were to duplicate yourself exactly, would you be the same person? It seems like a stupid question, but it is possible that in the near future this exact circumstance will come to pass. Obviously the classical interpretation of an atom-for-atom duplicate, like a faxportal, will remain a figment of science fiction imagination. However, with the rapidly expanding processing power and storage capacity of modern computers, it will soon be possible to contain an entire human brain within a computer. We also need to uncover more of the deep workings of the brain’s systems, but with increasing brain scan resolutions this should become easier as well.

In any case, this post is about the nature of duplication. If you were, at a stroke, to instantly copy yourself in every respect, are you the copy and is the copy you? Or is it too discontinuous a shift? I will outline an argument for both sides, and you can pick what you will.

First, my side, because that’s how I roll. OK, so, are you the same person twenty minutes from now as you are now? Most people say yes. Alright, how about when you go to sleep, are you the same person when you wake up? Most would agree to that as well. OK, how about when you are unconscious/in a coma, and then wake up and continue just as before your coma? Though some people find that questionable due to the fact that comas and persona-altering brain damage tend to go together, if you were basically similar then we can assume you are still the same person. If you’re prepared to go that far, how about this: if you were to die- as in, all life processes cease, and be brought back, would you be the same person? I don’t mean it wouldn’t change you, I mean would you still literally be the same person? As in, I would still be Evan and not Jim-Bob. Alright, let’s suppose that you die and that in order to bring you back they have to replace one atom. Hey, let’s start from second base and say they swap out a whole organ. Are you still the same person? What if they had to swap out multiple organs? What if, just for the sake of argument, they disintegrated your entire body and then recreated one exactly like it, atom for atom, before bringing you back to life? If you want, you can leave out the brain for now.

Let’s assume you’re willing to cede the fact that the exact atoms that make up your body are irrelevant- they’re all swapped out in a matter of months anyway except, I believe, for a few in your bones that take longer. That includes your brain. So if you were to materially duplicate someone it is a perfectly valid copy, and actually is that person in every respect. This means that you could teleport someone by reading the information that constitutes their body, beaming it to a constructor elsewhere, and producing an exact duplicate (let’s assume instantaneously, screw reality), and simultaneously destroying the “original.” This results in a direct spatial translation because it is the information pattern that makes up the person that is significant, not the atoms that constitute their body or even their brain. Wild, huh?

Alright, now for the rebuttal. Let’s suppose that you could create such a portal. It’s a fairly easy modification to simply omit the destruction aspect. What then? Now you have two actual duplicates roaming around, and if the copy is legitimate then the original must therefore be “false” while in fact the older copy should probably be treated as the “real and original” person. Let’s suppose then that you have the portals arranged so that they are right next to one another, resulting in a direct duplication. Though the two copies may behave identically after duplication, after that point they begin to branch, now which is the real copy? The answer must be that the original is the one whose consciousness has continued uninterrupted after walking through the portal. The copy is something else, a separate consciousness newly created. Now here’s an important question- does the copy have the memories of the original? Obviously the copy will remember everything the original experienced, as that is a necessary prerequisite of a working portal- it’s an identical copy in every respect, down to the last neuron. But it never experienced those memories, it will only think it did. If you stepped through such a portal, you would be destroyed, and a doppelganger exactly like you would take over your life where you left off, nonexistent in the void of non-information, non-reality. Don’t do it, man! Step away from the shimmering wall of light!

Since I can’t let such an argument stand unbashed, I have to counter myself. I am like a master swordsman, left hand versus right! Who will win? OK, I’ll start with the most difficult idea. Why is it necessary to have a “real” copy and a “fake” copy? This is an assumption on the part of the advocate for the opposing position which actually holds no water. On the instant after creation, they are actually identical, so whichever one you pick it could arbitrarily be the “real” one. The following instant, however, they become different. True, not to a significant degree, they would be just as different from each other as you would be from yourself one instant from now- still the same person, but now divergent. Still, there is no prerequisite for one of them to be “real” and the other false. I suspect this thinking is born of the fact that you have to kill one of them as an impostor or something like that- such unenlightened thinking is ubiquitous and tenacious. In truth, why can’t both simply be allowed to diverge? Think of it like this: a species of organisms that clones itself, like these geckos essentially is producing an exact genetic duplicate of themselves in order to perpetuate the species. When you duplicate yourself, you are creating a memetic family tree somewhat like humans already do in families, with one slight difference: there’s no sex. Dammit.

Interesting thought: meme sex. Randomly take half of one person’s memes and half of someone else’s, mix ’em together and get a new person. Unbelievably weird concept, and probably pointless if not ethically horrifying. Although I can imagine a process by which some memes might be mixed while others not, somewhat like the genetic system- since we don’t end up with a truly random half of each parent’s genes because they are organized into chromosomes which are pretty much the same in both parents, with some minor differences allowing for height and hair color and whatnot. Your memetic family would be rather closer than your genetic family because, to put it bluntly, you have quite a lot more in common with them. Some of your more distant relatives, maybe a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy you made eighty years ago might have turned out totally far-out, dude. But that doesn’t reflect on the others in the family in the same way that someone else you know doesn’t.

Now, on to the somewhat simpler ideas. What is a memory and how do you know you experienced them? A copy would have equal claim to them because they are simply a pattern of information. Hell, you could give that exact stream of sensory data to someone else via MemoryTube and there you go. That’s essentially what we’re doing now, but we don’t have the capability to stream the senses of touch, smell, and taste. We haven’t even got the sight bit nailed down to matching the human eye for resolution. Yet.

Now, the destruction argument is a tough one. However, if the information is the only significant element, then as long as the pattern persists it doesn’t matter what you do to it- move it through space, time, swap out as many atoms as you like for identical ones, whatever. If you believe in a soul, then the portals are not for you because you’re not going to be able to rationalize destroying your body as a form of transportation. True, you don’t actually have to destroy the precursor copy, but that would be like acquiring a new brother every time you had to go to the grocery store. I’m all for family (kind of), but that’s a little excessive.

The Sins of the Father

This is a fundamental question that is answered in different ways in different parts of common law and morality. Do the crimes of the father pass on to the son? Well, actually the question is completely general- are actions of any kind commutative? If a group of which you are a part commits a certain crime then are you culpable for their actions? I am going to be blunt because once you start down the path to political correctness, you will inevitably arrive at the place of political insanity such as condemning Turkey for a genocide 80 years gone, sending the war in Iraq even deeper into the shitter, costing hundreds of billions of dollars and who knows how many lives, purely for internecine politics. I won’t start, but please don’t think I’m a crass person- I’m just telling it how it is.

I advocate a position of strong individualism in this respect, and though you may think you agree with me I expect you will find yourself surprised by the contradictions most peoples’ “common sense” leads them to. Before I start in, I think I need to cover how there really is no case to be made for the opposition. If your father killed somebody, how exactly are you responsible for his actions? If you are an accomplice then sure, but let’s say that you were born, raised, and grown. When you’re 35, your father kills his neighbor. I’m betting that nobody would claim that you are even partly responsible. What if he kills someone and then you are conceived? What if you’re three years old at the time of the murder? There is no difference. You’re innocent of all wrongdoing. Now, what if your father instead embezzles $250,000 and uses it to pay for your college education, and a few years after you graduate he’s arrested and jailed for it? It still doesn’t matter. Applying this a bit more broadly, let’s say you’re part of a protest to give Martians rights, and the mob turns violent. You’re just standing there with a sign while a horde a thousand strong beats down cops in front of you. By being part of the group, are you responsible for their actions? I posit that groups are purely social constructs, all of them, and that they exist as an evolutionary mechanism of unification. In modern times, we need to realize this and get past it to a world full of true individualism. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have groups, but I am saying that we have to establish ourselves as a person independent of any and all groups, with the group being merely a collection of individuals.

Ah, let the beatdown begin. Firstly, groups like the feminists are, shall we say, whipping a dead horse. There are few true misogynists left in the civilized world, and just because our grandfathers were womanizers does not give you the right to berate us for it so would you please shut up? It is incredible to me how guilty the average man is made to feel for actions which he was never a part of. Whenever sex stereotypes are brought up, it is considered completely acceptable for women to spout off about how men are stupid, crass, whatever, and then in the next breath complain about how sexist all men are. It’s disgusting, ignorant, and contradictory, now would you please stop that? When women bitch about how “oh, doctors are stereotyped as men” neener neener neener that’s actually supported by society. But if a man does something like I am right now, he gets flattened. Worse, after women start in with this stuff you start seeing men supplicate to women, which earns them only further disrespect, driving them deeper into supplication, and leaving millions of dissatisfied women with some justification for claiming all men are pussies. I agree, there are sexist people in the world, but as anyone can clearly see I am not one of them so stop dishing me their leavings.

Next, race issues. Essentially, the same deal. Yes, black people were slaves and that was unjust and horrid, but that was over a hundred years ago and everyone involved is long dead. Get the hell over it. You were never a slave, I was never a slave owner, the fact that you’re black earns you nothing. True, racist elements still exist in the country and they should be repaid exactly in kind. True, black people in the United States are generally poorer. So are you suggesting you should only help the poor black people? I agree, the poverty situation needs some thought to solve. I’m not saying everyone should be rich, but nobody should have so little money they have a hard time getting food, shelter, or basic medical treatment.

Moving right along, religion. Deep in the brain of the fundamentalist retard there is this vital need to persecute someone, dammit! No, seriously, why do religions scarcely ever get along? Because it is in their mutual benefit to have a delineating enemy. Religion as a memetic species, anyway. The human species gets screwed. “Demonstrations of faith” are clearly to the biological disadvantage of the human host, ranging from fasting to suicide bombing. So here’s your issue: you are controlled by an organism that, let’s just say, is not looking out for your best interest, like a hairworm parasite commandeering a grasshopper to make it commit suicide. So even though it isn’t entirely your fault, you still need to realize that whatever religion XYZ may have done to your people 1,000 years ago, why do you care? Or maybe just 100 years ago. Hey, I’d even go as low as 30, depending on your age. If you personally were not affected by that history, you have no duty or responsibility to react to it. Learn from it, certainly and of course, but hostility should never enter the equation. Seriously, why do you care?

Also, social connections. Example: Person A knows person B. Person B is an X. QED, Person A is an X, or perhaps Y. Never do this. I am talking to you, yes you, the sixteen-year-old upper-middle class white cheerleader. I will hunt you down and steal your pompoms. If you can’t find the insanity in such defuctive logic then go hide in your cave and when you invent the alphabet, the wheel, and fire then you can join the rest of us. Similarly, inferring traits based on others’ testimony. Never do this either. Person A says Person B is an X. QED, Person B is an X. Hell, no. This is by far the most widespread of all these issues. It’s a bit trickier to shoot down, but essentially why in the hell are you trusting the speaker’s testimony instead of actually interacting with the person? The answer is obvious- you can’t interact with the person because everyone else has already committed this fallacy. So basically person B is fucked because one person for some human reason, plausible or insane, felt like shanking them. Groups and identity are the primary instruments of social manipulation, a form of unilateral power, which is evil.

Do not allow yourself to be manipulated on any grounds. We are all mired in a web of groups which somehow command our loyalty despite the fact that they help us not one whit. The reason? In prehistoric times, groups survived while the loners died. Social rejection carried a very real survival penalty, and was wired up to brain pain equivalent to a poke in the eye. There are countless examples, of how our brains betray us, like Social Identity Theory, Conformist Perception, Obedience, or even the Stanford Prison Experiment. Our biological brains are wired to make us survive as a species in wilderness circumstances, not to make a civilized society run well or to serve us personally in this new environment. It is our job to reprogram ourselves to make the best of our new situation. We are individuals, we are responsible for ourselves and those we choose to act for, and we motivate ourselves and ourselves alone.

“Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them. If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone.” – Epictetus

Nipping Neoracism in the Bud

After reading the article on the potential for new DNA-based racism I’ve realized that all along, society has had the wrong idea about humanity and people. Racism is just stupid because, quite simply, you don’t need a body to be human. We have demonstrated this is popular media such as with weird stories about body swapping. If you swap bodies with another person, you retain your fundamental self. Of course, you can’t simply swap bodies because your brain is completely integrated with your body- simply removing one person’s brain and replacing it won’t cut it. But theoretically you could reconstitute the salient information of one person into a different body, leaving you with the same person with a different machine under their command.

Discrimination on the grounds of a person’s skin is somewhat like discriminating against the color of their car, only it’s a car that would be extremely difficult to exit with our current level of technology. The introduction of DNA complicates this somewhat because instead of superficial details like your car’s color, your car’s DNA or structure actually has practical implications on its functionality and upkeep. Car A might get better gas mileage and car B might have a higher top speed. Car C might be impervious to having its tires pierced, correlating to an immunity to specific diseases. But it’s still foolish to discriminate against someone for the car they drive, especially so if they didn’t choose it deliberately.

Imagine in the future that it is possible for us to transfer over to computer existence or mechanical bodies. The unenlightened redneck racist assholes will undoubtedly discriminate against the early adopters, well, because they’re childish. Racism is a childlike striking out against the strange, the use of a common enemy to unify a group that they believe needs unifying at the expense of a group they believe expendable. The KKK did not appear because there was a huge amount of animosity against black people or other minorities- its members were the immature, insecure, weak, and stupid sheep who wanted to belong to a group. They were then told that they would be forced to violence if they wanted to belong, and pretend to be enthusiastic. After a while they actually became conditioned into it and the KKK used them to induct new members. No individual agent except maybe the original founders or a small core actually held the will to do harm before they were forced to it through social pressures.

It is critical that everyone attends to their own self-elevation, and rising above the  social weakness of dependence which causes so many people to behave with such insanity.  Consider a group of 100 regular people, with one more forceful individual who tells them that the rest of the group believes proposition X.  Because these individuals are dependent, and seeking interaction, they will lend strength to the illusion that this is in fact true, and even though not one other person agrees with this “leader” the entire group will nevertheless fall into line.  Even more sickeningly, they will keep one another in line.  Three of these newly conditioned people get together, each of them believing that the other two truly are part of their group and thus keeps up the act to the best of their ability.  Not one of the three has any desire to posit proposition X, but all three of them exhibit consensus anyway.  It takes a rare individual to straight up deny a group of 100 which seem to be in consensus unless they are themselves part of a group of equal or larger size.  This herd behavior is immensely profitable for companies, political leaders, and other people holding positions of influence.  The education system slants a little bit more to producing exactly this kind of behavior, etc. etc. and the rabbit slides farther down the hole.