Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1149 and Human Nature

I am experiencing a waning in my desire to be online. Not because I don’t wish to be in the thick of things, but because I simply don’t have as much I want to contribute when I am myself under stress. And it’s all stress now unless you simply stop caring. And I still care.

It’s human nature to be stressed at the available problems. I’ve got access to all kinds of problems now on my phone. So I am stressed.

I don’t have any reason to be participating in any stress but my own at the moment except that I see a lot of available problems because I am always watching.

I’d rather pay less attention. But paying attention is what pays the bills. Ted Goia says we’ve gone from art to commerce to attention to dopamine

An uncharitable view of people who sell art, commerce and informations or blame Athens, Jerusalem, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley if you must. In that order.

I suppose this view of information technology as unmitigated casinos of sin is true in a world of addicts. I don’t think we are all addicts. Nor do I think anyone who sells something addictive is a drug dealer.

I’m neither an addict nor a dealer but here I am selling and consuming information nevertheless. I’m not a Kardashian but I’m not a Buddha either. Maybe at best I’m Kim Kierkegaard. The sickness into death compels me to poast.

If we are all addicted to the constant influx of other people’s bullshit then I suppose the attention economy has moved to the addiction economy. We are addicted to the dramas of humanity and some of our dramas are more or less real than other.

A screen grab from a friend of the scariest thing in the world. An attention whore.

Except I don’t particularly want to be addicted to anyone’s bullshit right now. I’m not even all that interested in my own. I’m sick of my bullshit. Why should I pay attention to yours? At best I’ll pay attention to the bullshit on Netflix’s Love is Blind. I don’t mind if it’s packaged for sale. I actually prefer it. At least it wraps in an hour.

I’ve got a few basic principles that orient my life. I believe humans can make decisions for themselves. I believe most of us aren’t at all good at it because we are reactive impulsive animals with just the barest capacity for reasons.

But that capacity exists and it has separated us from the animals. We shall remained chained to the consequences of knowledge. I understand the impulse to blame that bitch Eve. But we’ve got the apple of the tree of knowledge so it’s time to accept paradise is lost.

Anyways, good luck surviving the churn and try not to fuck people over. Good faith is all we’ve got. Try to deliver value and not suck more resources than you deliver. Bow to the thermodynamic Gods and climb the Kardashev scale. Or keep up with the Cardassians. Are you sure you know how many lights there are? Better Google it to make sure.

Captain Picard getting Cardassian in the loop reinforcement learning. I mean torture. There are four lights.
Categories
Aesthetics

Day 1144 and Parsifal

I’m just going to ramble this one as the synthesis on it isn’t worth the energy to me tonight. I’ll work on that another day if I get around to it.

My mother’s interpretation of the legend of Parsifal is that we cannot succeed at our quest if we do not ask the right questions. I suspect it has something to do with the innocence of a pure heart asking the right questions but frankly this is a bit beyond my own experience of the Waldorf Steiner system.

Parsifal (or Sir Percival) was a Knight of King Arthur. His story is told by the troubadours of France and Germany, notably Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach. The Parsifal story stands between the past age that looked for secrets of the spirit and the coming age that was going to search for the secrets of matter.

In this engaging retelling of the legend of Parsifal, Charles Kovacs’s critical commentary offers Steiner-Waldorf educators an unrivalled insight into teaching the story of Parsifal and will aid in lesson planning

Parsifal and the Search for The Grail

This feels relevant to me in the context of artificial intelligence making computer programming more accessible. Prompt engineering is simply asking the right question. Enabling more people to specify exactly what they want is terrifying because it might enable more people to ask the right questions and get an answer.

If you depend on people not being able to ask the right questions without your guidance you’d probably oppose it too. I believe that there is a religious aspect to our entire approach to artificial intelligence and we must grapple with it as surely as the Reformation shook the Catholic Church.

Categories
Aesthetics Chronicle Travel

Day 1138 and Novel New Experiences

I’ve been straining my capacity to absorb new experiences. The privilege of relative material security lets me do the work of actively seeking out more variance and novelty.

I was reading up on the basics of neuro plasticity on Perplexity and learned that we think of plasticity in a few ways. Neurogenesis is the growth of new neurons.

But the type we mostly mean when saying neuro plasticity (or learning new things) is from “synaptic cells plasticity” forming new neural connections.

Without that adaptability we couldn’t change in response to new environmental conditions or in response to injury or disease or other stresses.

I’m am inside a few new high variance experiences right now which I hope will yield new neural connections. I find it to be a bit stressful as it’s a lot of novel inputs in a short period of time.

Some experiences translate as shared reality which has the same rules anywhere there are humans. But adjusting to new social mores is always jarring.

I’ll only briefly mention it, but this is the first time I’ve been somewhere that the call to prayer is a normal prominent feature of daily life. It’s rewriting synaptic ritual time for me. I like it more than I would have imagined.

Categories
Travel

Day 1126 and Modern Miracles

I am in transit at the moment. I’ve never calculated how many times I’ve flown on an airplane but I’ll presume I’m in the triple digits.

It’s not a new experience but it still has the power to astound me. That ugly bags of mostly water had the cognitive power and social coordination skills to lift our species to the sky still astounds me. How we’ve come to view this as anything but miraculous is beyond me.

Flying over Southwest Montana

And yet we become inured to wonder so quickly. Two women on my first flight were complaining about how awful air travel is these days. A common complaint and one I agree with generally.

Prosperity has made air travel as common as taking a bus for Americans. So I suppose the privileged few who remember a more glamorous time can’t help but tut tut about hoi polloi ruining the experience. American Airlines is less miserable than Greyhound, but you’d never know it based on the kvetching.

We’d been stuck on our plane after landing for twenty minutes or so. We’d arrived early so no good deed goes unpunished.

It was the first leg of my journey but seemingly the end of theirs as the two compared how long it has taken to arrive to their destination. Multiple flight delays and rerouting had given one woman a 40 hour transit for what amounted to regional travel.

I’ll be transiting over multiple days. It’s simply how it’s done at this point if you are going internationally. It’s obnoxious, time consuming and exhausting. And yet the miracle of our species achievement is still clear to me. I hope I still feel that way further into my journey.

Categories
Aesthetics Media

Day 1111 and Angel Numbers

I like a little “woo” in my life. Anytime I hit a particularly interesting number in my daily writing I tend to do a bit of collective consciousness spelunking across the shared spaces of the internet.

Unsurprisingly, 1111 sparks quite a bit of interest across pop culture numerology depictions. The first search results were women’s interest magazines.

Women’s Health with the uplifting new beginnings represented by 1 before associating 11 as a doubling of 1’s energy as a “master number” with spiritual insight, enlightenment, and intuitive understanding.” Sure, I want an intuitive understanding of my life’s new beginnings. Good job magazine editors. Groundbreaking.

Cosmopolitan, that sexy staple of American feminine mysteries, went a bit further and called 1111 an Angel Number and curated an ecommerce shop of 1111 products including oud manifestations candles, bracelets and Etsy prints.

Cosmopolitan used the power of artificial intelligence to curate a shop for even the most random of number generators.

Because what good is hidden knowledge of divine intentions without an affiliate marketing link program with it? I’d love to know if search engine optimization on numerology combined with attractively curated e-commerce affiliate content hits the Cosmopolitan P&L in any meaningful way.

Crunchier new age websites were equally amusing. MindBodyGreen kept at the message of intuition and messages from your divine power. Synchronicity showed up on every internet tidbit from Wikipedia to good old WikiHow.

Glamor Magazine at least gently reminded readers that apophenia is an error of perception. Who knew Condé Nast was the publishing house for skeptics? Perhaps they need to be a trusted brand or nail salons won’t subscribe in bulk across the nation to their magazines.

But if you really want lean into your pattern recognition and the subtle schizophrenia of Internet apophenia, my original source Women’s Health helpfully leans into “service journalism” by sharing that Kabbalists 1111 is a sign from God or divinity itself.

This is because the ancient Hebrew name for God, Yahweh or YHWH, when written resembles four ones.

Women’s Health Numerologist’s Interpret 1111

I will caution readers that I don’t know if any of this is true. Obviously my goofy posting shouldn’t be seen as having the same rigor as a LessWrong epistemic status post. While I like a post-rationalist, I don’t know if any of the consumer friendly versions of ancient wisdom is true. I wouldn’t be taking my reading of the Talmud from magazines typically dedicated to recipes and workouts myself.

Women browsing random bits of pattern recognition at the grocery store or on their phone really is the stuff of fluff and the stuff of fear. Who knows what bits of knowledge might lead us astray.

Best case scenario you end up with a nice Oud candle that helped keep Cosmopolitan quiz writers paid. Worst case scenario, you might summon a malevolent algorithmic rabbit hole determined to fill your feeds with angels and demons.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1105 and Other Writing

For as much fluidity as my daily writing habit has achieved, I can still get caught up in a synopsis. I have relieved any pressure to make a daily dispatch (which took some effort) but a quarterly or yearly one can get me to glitch. I like to add more information to my modeling like any self respecting nerd. As much as information integration looks effortless it is actually a laborious process. I read tens of thousands of words every single day.

Now I do work from a strategy. Which means I only adjust my tactics on a weekly or quarterly basis. And I will not be sped up on assessing the character of individuals or the caliber of their ideas if I can help it. When I need to move fast I have to do it within the guardrails of what I believe to be right.

And it’s important to remember that heuristics some heuristics don’t need regular updating. Moral codes shouldn’t need much updating. Maybe you believed the wrong layer of abstraction and have to change your priors to align with your moral code. That’s totally fine.

But you shouldn’t be changing around your code of ethics. That’s how you get criminals. Arbitrage is never permanent. Criminals can have a stronger moral compass than business people or religious institutions. This fucks with everyone. I cannot account for all sinners nor most demands for purity. I can however hold myself to my own standards and so should you.

I do what I can to telegraph my own belief systems and where I derived them. There are lots of signifiers I leave in my wake. I am a Christian. I am a capitalist. I am a Protestant. I believe in markets and judicial review. I believe some things are beyond market but all things are subject to forces beyond our control. That’s how I ended up picking Calvinism as a sect but it’s pretty niche.

I’ve believe luck is just opportunity meeting preparation and you can do a lot to increase opportunities and even more to increase preparation. I don’t like rentiers but I do like the bourgeoisie. Property rights are good and regulations are only as good as the people that make them. That’s why we I’d prefer we have fewer laws. We must act deference to our own failings as human but never so much that it harms our capacity to organize.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1083 and Uncertainty

I feel as if I spend a lot of time reassuring people that nobody has a clue about what happens next and that’s fine.

Even the brightest humans are still basically dim witted simians barely managing our fragile wetware as our environment provides constant destabilization. That we even survive that set of circumstances seems a pleasant surprise. Humans are adaptable.

I have typical fears about muddling through life but my existential angst remains in check. If I’m in a simulated environment running a set of programs given to me by God or a random super intelligence what does it matter to me?

I’m here and I like it enough to continue being alive. Sure I’d love to find out the mystery of consciousness and the nature of reality but if don’t I am happy with my lot in life. Whoever programmed me did a fine job. Thanks Mom and the wider memetic cultural movements that made me.

Categories
Culture

Day 1078 and Centering Ourselves

You’re telling me the church that tortured Galileo for the dismantling of geocentrism is against the erosion of the anthropocentrism of intellig

Beff Jezos

Venkatesh Rao wrote earlier this year on Ribbonfarm that he thought artificial intelligence was a Copernican moment for what constitutes personhood. I found his argument particularly compelling. Now as we approach Christmas, Pope Francis has weighed in.

Pope Francis has called for a legally binding international treaty to regulate artificial intelligence, saying algorithms must not be allowed to replace human values and warning of a “technological dictatorship” threatening human existence.

Reuters

I have to say this is setting off all kinds of alarm bells in the pattern recognition hypophenia section of my mind. Who might be working to use artificial intelligence for institutional control? Why would the most powerful religious institution on earth have this position? Might this be a good time to reflect on how this institution responded to the advent of the printing press? Is the Catholic Church merely seeking the same power over science as it always has?

Who might benefit from this type of institutional pressure? Certainly at the national state level we have players like America, Europe and China. At the multinational corporate level we have Microsoft. Gatekeeping technological dominance through regulatory suppression is practically Microsoft’s metier.

Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of heretical books which were deemed immoral to Catholics. I bring this up because Johannes Kepler‘s Epitome astronomiae Copernicanae was one of them.

The heliocentric heresy era of the Inquisition is worth reviewing as we as a species must grapple with the possibility that science may continue to reveal our humble place in the cosmos.

Categories
Aesthetics Culture

Day 1053 and Revivalism

You’ve gotta have faith.

I am a little surprised to find myself discussing what appears to be a genuine revivalist movement from all walks of life.

“This particular corner of Twitter” is neo-Shakerism. The singularity is always coming is coming for the computer nerds. The rationalists are pitted against futurists. Steely realists admit to having woo sensibilities about the nature of reality.

But we are also being subjected to surprisingly archetypal forms of the hero’s journey in every single news story and social media narrative at alarmingly rapid rate. A rational man is going to want to wag the dog. We do a little kayfabe. The crowd cheers its hero.

But also mere men are elevated to strange statuses. You can believe in a cause but be unsure of the martyrs and mercenaries that fight for it. I feel like if you were really that horny for the Roman Empire you’d have more dates handy on Caesars and the savior and be a little less focused on the Gladiators and the bread and circus.

But we’ve got people who can conjure fire and this time it’s not priests but machine learning engineers who write fan fiction about British Boarding schools that are in charge. The biggest dork you know gets to summon God. It’s not that irrational to worry we’ve summoned elder gods isn’t the of the divine right? Folk stories have some meaning right?

And like sure Bayesian inferences says maybe you should worship a Flying Spaghetti Monster. I say watch out for those Babylon death culture memetics because we didn’t have the right inference field about the sun for most of history. The trickster god can be summoned as sure as the devil. Lets remember information hygiene was not good for most of history so it paid to have some prejudices.

Nevertheless the worship of men has gods has generally been iffy. And so, and I can’t entirely explain it as evidenced by the rambling writing in doing this weekend, but the hive mine of the Internet feels like a real team effort at controlling popular opinion about the arrival of the promised land.

And sure I have recency bias. While I was in Amsterdam for the Network State Conference I was missing a gathering of what amounts to Christian hippie revivalists. Another node of my network that m feels adjacent to both technology and culture was at a Catholic divinity school in Washington D.C. Meanwhile my feed makes whisper jokes of mystery cults and computational power. Worship is powerful. I’ve talked to all sorts of rationalists into new forms of woo and, magic. We speak of queens and divas and witches. Everyone is sure that something is coming and they feel the divine.

It’s within these networks of social organization and belief where I see clashes of power and organization. There are political theorists and economists contending with what a centralized higher authority might do make for more efficient resource allocation. Appeal to authority! We have any number of radical thinkers who are essentially rogue elements of human consensus who are if they seized with a little bit of “agreed on common good” we can revolutionize how we do resource allocation. Central planning is so scientific. Tith!

I feel a little bit like the drama of everyone having access to social media has made us all participate in elaborate fan fictions about who moves the world. I see all over my timeline Zoomers staning over Schopenhauer and Heidegger and Kant as if they were secret movers of history. And they are.

We’ve got a genre of signalling on the internet where if you find a theorist whose mother wrote a nasty letter to him for being socially awkward you’d get people discussing general trauma dumping. Did you understand that? I’m sorry to say you have brain worms and you’ve been trained on a steady diet of rebellion and empire. Be safe out there.

Categories
Culture Politics

Day 1025 and Petit Aristocracy

A swirling milieu of discourse has brought a renewed focus in my inbox & timeline on what constitutes the pursuit of excellence; that old Socratic dichotomy of the individual human’s personal virtues and his role as citizen in the wider communal project of civilization. The tensions have never felt so taut to me.

Please forgive my focus on revanchist populism, but the good of the many versus the singular hero is a subject of fascination for both fascists and socialists alike. Costin Alamariu has set the warrior master return traditionalists on fire as he’s come out from under his nom de plume Bronze Age Pervert with a complex overview of the tyrannical Athenian philosopher kings and their cultivation (yes he means eugenics) of antiquity’s aristocracy.

The Marxists are just as loud. We’ve got authoritarian leaning proletarian sympathizers assessing a Marxist history of “progressive” American Wilsonian industrial fascism. And yes you will believe its philosophical impact on German National socialist ideology.

Everywhere I look, we are all debating whose rules matter, from Nature to God to man, and how we should use that authority to determine how we organize. It’s a bit surprising to see intelligentsia overcome with fervor for the proletariat and the aristocracy when you’d imagine both classes look back with disdain at the academic class.

It’s a ping ponging back and forth between the individual and his wider group responsibilities to his people from every ideological direction.

I see it in Luke Burgis and Freddie DeBoer’s concern with mimetic collapse and the recursive artistic malaise. If our system produces no truly novel art is it a failure of our elites to pursue excellence? Is it among our elites where genius and high culture produced? Or is it the opposite? Do we seek out frontiers when pushed from the boundaries of those who build and work?

Noah Smith weighed in on the extropian enthusiasm of our technical class for acceleration. The bourgeoise middle class of mercantilism has evolved to engineering and information technology to drive resource allocation.

As a post enlightenment matter, a petit aristocracy of the technical bourgeois is the most balanced of the positions between the masses yearning to be free and recognition of a desire for leadership earned through meritocracy lending a guiding hand.

As a journalist, Noah Smith is coming from a more intelligentsia orientation but the message of progressive futurism is coming from the patrician side as well. A venture capitalist like Marc Andreessen might not see himself as an elite aristocrat, coming as he did from humble beginnings, but he’s the standard barer for the titan class advocating for technological accelerationism.

I’ll fully admit to a personal bias for techno-optimism and effective accelerationism. But it could simply be self serving. Venkatash Rao thinks this mass discourse on individual versus collective responsibility is simply a whole new cope for an entangled world in disequilibrium.