:-)

Saturday, January 28, 2023

One, which I wrote a few decades ago.

 There are a few things you might find helpful.  My life, as I remember it, started when my best friend asked me to a Bible Study with a bunch of Lutherans.  I was about twelve.  When all was said and done, I was attending the University of California at San Diego.  I had aged almost ten years, and learned a lot of practical stuff about religion.  I was spending a lot of time with a certain guy, and he and I agreed that acceptance is a far more important concept than any religion.  I'd been living it since I was twelve, but it took me about eight years to understand what the hell I was doing.  I have two and a half more years worth of experience after that too, now, but these haven't contributed much to my understanding of religion.
In order to accept the people I lived with and loved to be around, it became necessary to accept the ways they understood our situation here on the reality side of the dream fence.  There were representatives from different Christian religions, as well as atheists, agnostics, and people who would have to be categorized into other neat-sounding names, many of which started with A (just like the alphabet... Hmmm... does that mean something? Is that a sign?)
We liked to avoid the categories, so we used category names like "Generation X" and "non-denominational," but it wasn't really effective.  People still made harmful and often senseless generalizations.  It finally came down to a simple strategy:  A new acquaintance would be instructed, at an opportune moment, perhaps in answer to a presumptuous question about personal philosophy, thus: "Don't categorize me."  Since this method avoids the name of a category, it seemed to work well.
In my quest to intellectually and morally accept my friends, I began reconciling various religious concepts from different people into one holey comprehensive personal philosophy and explanation.  This thing I made is quite valuable to me, and I think you might be more prone to happiness and comfort with the rest of the universe if I explain it to you.  It will show you that sense can be made out of all the gibberish that people from other categories stick to so religiously.
Let's start with a simple one.
Oh well.
Let's start with God, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, etc.  Socrates realized that to define it as "omnipotent" meant there was only one.  I grant that there is only one, and anyone who wants to talk about more than one is going to have to admit that they are talking about something else.  In fact, instead of using a word from a standard category, I use the word one. The One, according to most categories, never began and will never end.  To put temporal limits on it is not proper.  I agree with that.
The One created the universe.  This statement, although it sounds like an answer to a big question, really is quite meaningless.  We aren't quite sure how to define the universe, and the word create, being very close in practical meaning to "evolve," "build," and even "invent," really can't be applied to such a concept as the universe.  Essentially, it's like "adding up to infinity," or "jumping over the sky," or any other group of words which merely approach meaning, but don't really make the cut.
The One watches each of us.  We can imagine people, cats, dogs, and even grasshoppers "watching" us.  We imagine their eyes, and that they are directed toward us.  The one, however, being outside of time, can't be expected to receive or interpret light that bounces off of us, so this "watching" means something deeper.  It means that the One is aware of our actions.  Practically, it works as a deterrent to crime, so let's keep it.  Anyway, lots of criminals know when they commit crimes, and they have to live with the knowledge afterwards.  If the next paragraph is acceptable, then the One clearly watches each of us.
The One is inside you.  It is rather curious that a large amount of atoms, gathered together in a particularly ordered array, supports awareness.  I write of the brain.  I like brains.  They seem so alive, almost as if they are aware of their surroundings.  Hooked up to some input equipment (like ears, eyes, or prosthetic hearing aids, or whatever) they actually are aware!  I suppose sometimes they are aware without any input equipment.  Do knives and forks do that?  Too simple? What about computers?  What about beetles?  What about the beetle whose environment was simulated by a supercomputer, whose DNA structure was recorded in that computer, whose cell growth, from conception all the way through the larva stage and beyond into adult life and even mating, was also simulated, whose behavior in response to the simulated environment was also simulated?  Why is any part of this universe (which contains only quarks, mind you, and nothing else, or so the theory goes...) aware at all?  I may as well ask why is there gravity.  Why is there gravity?  I have an answer for that too, but you'll have to wait.
That awareness that you feel when you are awake and paying attention is the same one I feel.  Everyone feels it every now and then.  It's all the same awareness, it's just not attached all the time.  It's like the water in a marsh.  It's all the same water, but each puddle is separated from time to time as the level changes.  We are but puddles in the marsh, while the One is the water in the marsh (along with the plants, the dirt, the light, air, and all the rest of the quarks we would include in our mental concept of a marsh).  Talk to me, and our awareness will touch and we will be a mini One.  Some old sage, speaking from the One's point of view, said "where two or more are gathered, there I am."
Over the years, of course, different jerkies, sociopaths, and other miscreants have tried to sell us these stories about the One exhibiting human emotions.  These things take brains and amino acids to happen, and the only brains and amino acids the One has access to are in animals (humans are animate too, you know).  What all those jokers were trying to do is manipulate us into behaving the way they thought we should behave.  I am of the rather strong and pointed opinion that we ought to behave exactly the way we think we should behave.  And we should really think it before we behave it.  Thinking is severely underrated.  In any case, the only exhibition of human emotion the One ever shows is shown through humans.
Thinking and awareness are really the same thing, I think.  The distinction we make between the two is that in the former, we use this kind of limited code called language. If you think without words, you are being aware, and that's a bit more powerful that limiting yourself to words.  In the beginning was the word, and the word was...  I don't think that is really accurate.  The word only came about when we discovered that by making different sounds, those around us with big enough brains could understand us better.  Up until then, it was all done without words, and there was only awareness.  Perhaps the author of that line meant that in the beginning was awareness, and the awareness was...  If the author didn't mean that, then allow me to strongly assert it:  Before everything else, there was awareness, and that awareness is in everyone and everything, and it is the One.
What the One really does, as we all know, especially if we were the least bit self-conscious in high school, is turn a bunch of atoms and physical interactions into an experience, and a being to experience it, and, with the complexity of the brain, an experience (though shady and unclear) of the future and the past.  Indeed, when you are aware of your environment, you can often predict what will happen next.  Try it on a freeway, maybe you'll avoid pissing someone off.  This prediction stuff reaches far out into strange and wonderful areas of our lives, like the personal relationships we form between ourselves and those of other categories.  It makes us aware that entering a category limits our propensity to enjoy life with others.  At least it made me aware of that.  That awareness that it gave me is what has driven me to write all this down.  You might say this is an inspired text.
The guy with whom I came to the conclusion that acceptance is the most important thing began our relationship with an intense probe into my religion.  I was raised Catholic, and had been forced by the mathematical nature of my mind to reconcile the tenets of my religion with physical experience.  His questions enlightened us both.  Perhaps some of the following questions, taken from him as well as from friends and relatives, will interest you...
"Do you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?"  My answer at the time it was asked was necessarily "yes."  I was obligated by my religion to have that answer.  Problems arose, however, when I insisted on explaining what it meant to me.  It meant that I was going to pattern my life after Jesus in order to be saved from the cold, lonely, frightening despair that comes over each of us in turn (often right before the winter solstice), and to ensure that if I am to continue in my awareness even after my brain stops supporting it, that I be aware of happiness instead of that despair.  They complained to me that there was more to it than patterning one's life, but they could never give a real example of anything but patterning one's life.  I finally assumed that they required that there be some element of mystery about exactly what it meant.  I have come to assume that most religious people require that every one of their religious tenets be impossible to explain in explicit realistic terms, lest it be reduced to mere physics.  I sympathize with this view, and I shall soon explain why.
"Don't you believe there is a supernatural element to life?"  (I most definitely do not.)  "How can you be so sure there isn't?"  As a matter of fact, electricity, lightening, rain storms, volcanoes, earthquakes, trees, fire, wind, and even streams have, at one time in history, been regarded as supernatural.  This means that they are beyond nature.  When we discover something "beyond nature," we submit it to tests and experiments to see if we can invent a system to explain it.  When we see that it can be "reduced" to this explanation (granting some random noise, which we have already decided is perfectly natural), we no longer feel any religious experience for it.  We somehow assume that the "something" is not spiritual, ethereal, or worthy of the awe we feel for something like a "miracle."  The assumption rises from the ashes of the mystery.
When our ancestors worshipped fire because they felt that it was a spirit, or a manifestation of the god of fire, their lives were enriched with spirituality.  When someone tested the fire, and found that when the stuff in the air gets hot enough, it glows, and that chemical reactions can produce the heat required for this, a curious thing happened.  Fire no longer had a spiritual aspect.  It had been reduced to natural things, and could no longer enrich people with spirituality.  The mystery had gone up in smoke.  The law seems to be that if you can understand it, you can't get any spiritual enrichment from it.  I am about to prove that such a law is incorrect.  I will not simply show an example of a person getting spiritual enrichment from something that is easily understood, but rather, I will show that the feeling of having understood something is quite imaginary.  It is something other than understanding that removes its spirituality.
A child may ask "Why is fire hot?"  The ancestral answer, which supports the spirituality of fire, might have been "Fire is hot because the god of fire commands respect in that he must never be touched."  This allows the child to be in awe of fire.  The scientific answer is "Fire is caused when chemical reactions which require heat end up producing more heat when they have completed.  The extra heat they make goes to other areas and causes more chemical reactions, and eventually a whole lot of chemical reactions occur, and the heat makes parts of the air so hot that it glows, and we see a flame."  The child may then ask "Why does hot air glow?"  The answer is that molecules have clouds of electrons that jump from level to level around their nucleus when they are hot and some of the level-jumping emits visible photons.  But why do they jump in levels?  Because their possible energy states are discreet instead of continuous.  But why aren't they continuous?  The "why" chain that children will employ even under the most thorough scientific explanations shows the imaginary quality of understanding.
In gaining enough knowledge to control the fire, the child will no longer respect it as a god, but merely a dangerous tool.  It is in learning to control something that we lose the sense of spirituality it once had.  I do not wish to enter deeply into the psychology of control and spirituality, but I do think it is possible to go against the common grain and continue regarding something with spiritual awe even as you learn to control it.  I think that's called love.
"Are science and religion mutually exclusive?"  Unfortunately, for some people they are.  This is because science assumes that everything can be explained in intuitively obvious terms of nature, whereas religion requires that there be something beyond nature, at least for these unfortunate people.  If this a priori belief that there is something beyond nature is essential to religion, then science and religion are incompatible.  I guess there are scientists who restrict their science in such a way that they can still believe in that supernatural element.  Such restrictions are what got Galileo killed.
Some people have apparently been conditioned to require mystery in religious things.  When I give them my hard physical interpretation of some religious formula, they reject it, saying "If you think that's all there is to it, you are deluding yourself.  You can't understand the mystery of..."  It seems they are playing a game.  For example, I might explain why "I believe that you cannot get to heaven without living in submission to God."  "Submission to God" means submission to... awareness (as described above).  It means that if you have a thought, you must honor it rather than ignore it.  Whatever it means to "get to heaven," it is, by definition, the universal goal.  Thus, "only by submitting to your awareness will you be able to achieve your goal" and "you cannot get to heaven without living in submission to God" mean the same thing.  Now I have grounded the statement into a reality that people from every category would probably agree with.  But the religious person would complain to me, saying "You don't get it.  You always try to make everything so logical.  Logic doesn't always work, you know."  That person is dead wrong. Logic always works.  Always.  Aristotle tried to tell us that. He said "A is A."
Their game has frustrated me to the point of giving up on them.  When you begin to see practical meaning in a religious formula, you are submitting the religious to logic and analysis, and that's a no-no.  I suppose that the corrupt among religious leaders have an easier time fleecing their flock when the flock has been conditioned to reject logical analysis of their religious experience.  I suppose that explains the origin of this sick game.  Anyway, it explains why science and religion are mutually exclusive for some people.
"Do you believe in the trans-substantiation of the host under the consecration of a priest?"  Trans-substantiation, in the way that it is intended to be used, has no real meaning.  One might as well say that from now on, we shall call anything that reflects red light "blue."  Therefore, all red things are suddenly blue.  Nevertheless, they still reflect red light.  You can call that round piece of food "the body of Christ" or you can call it "bread."  When you become aware of it, instead of thinking about it, you can see that what we call it has no effect on anything but our minds.  What it is cannot be described without accepting a common language and a resolution at which to work.  It is hundreds of billions of atoms of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine, sodium, etc., but it is also hundreds of thousands of molecules of water, sugar, salt, etc., but it is also a piece of bread.  The intention behind using this big word is to affect the receiver of the communion, and that affect, being chiefly of religious essence, would most likely be best served by an awareness of the origins of this ritual.  A man, almost 2000 years ago, said "this is my body," speaking of some bread (obviously a metaphor), and gave it to his friends (obviously acting out an extremely powerful and meaningful allegory).
"How many angels fit on the head of a pin?"  That all depends on the exact size of the pin, your definition of "angel," and just how much space an angel needs to occupy.  How many elephants fit on the front of an aircraft carrier?  Do elephant embryos count?  Do "potential" elephants count?  Glass elephants?  Do you see how this question depends on what is in your mind when you say "elephant" or "aircraft carrier"?  "Elephant," just like "angel," is just a word we use to refer to something.  Only, nobody has ever submitted angels to experimentation, so no scientific standards have been set to guide us in determining what exactly an angel is, and any question of their number is simple mental entertainment.
"Do you accept the Bible as the Truth?"  The Bible is a collection of books.  Books are collections of words, and words can convey "truth" only if they are well defined.  The Bible's extensive use of words like Love, God, Heaven, Hell, Angel, etc. disqualifies it from the set of literature that could be labeled as the Truth.  A better question is "Do you accept the Bible as the one book you will use in determining the decisions, both small and large, that you make in life?"  My answer is no.  It is one of the many books which I use to guide my decisions.
"Do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead?"  I find no practical value in allowing my mind to weigh out the possibilities and probabilities that I would use to believe one way or the other.  In the absence of such a find, I lack this belief, but I also lack (just as strongly) the belief that he did not rise from the dead.  A large part of the problem is that since I discovered the belief's lack of practical value, I have also found out how ambiguous the notion of death really is.
"Do you believe in miracles?"  Yes.  However, a miracle cannot escape natural limits.  Every one of the laws of nature that we have invented is a mere approximation of nature.  What makes an occurrence a miracle is if it was not intended by anyone, and it did someone some good.  Any such "accident" will be considered by me to be a miracle.  Allow me to explain why a miracle cannot escape the limits of nature.  First, lose the assumption that we know everything.  Now you can put the same weight on the physics we use to explain reality as you put on the physics that were used a long time ago to explain it.
It is not by some miracle that we shrink people and put them into a telescope.  It is with a series of curved pieces of glass, and we're really not shrinking anyone. However, to a primitive enough individual, it is a miraculous wonder.  This is because this primitive person is aware of neither the existence nor the ramifications of the existence of glass.
To put this into perspective, you must see that anything that happens (Jesus turns water into wine or some breast cancer suddenly vanishes) can be studied and will provide clues as to how the universe operates.  Every occurrence is a usable example.  If we make a law that seems to be broken by an occurrence, we have two choices, only one of which is scientifically valid.  The first (invalid) choice is to say it is a supernatural occurrence (a "miracle" in the traditional sense).  The other choice is to recall that all scientific conclusions are hypotheses that have worked up until now, and we expect they will continue to work.  When they have been proven not to work (as the presently discussed occurrence has done), we must formulate a new hypothesis.  If we choose to stick with the old hypothesis, we are lying to ourselves, violating our own scientific credibility, and wasting one of the few opportunities we are given to renew our scientific theories.  This is why the first option is not scientifically valid.
The conception of a miracle as something that occurs supernaturally comes from a common delusion.  The delusion is this:  "There are certain laws of nature which we know hold now, have held in the past, and will always hold in the future."  The philosophy of science recognizes this as a delusion.  A basic scientific tenet is:  Any "fact" that is a product of science is to be assumed.  The operant word is "assumed."  Assumptions can be wrong, and the nature of "scientific fact" is that it is not truth, but an approximation of it which is useful, in other words, an assumption.
"Mathematics is a science which gives us the fact that one plus one equals two.  Is that to be taken as an assumption?"  No.  Mathematics is not a science but a method of conducting science.  Mathematics uses symbols to talk about reality.  One of anything plus one more of that kind of thing will amount to two of that kind of thing.  This should be interpreted as a statement about the meaning of "one" and "two." 1+1=2 is to be taken as an absolute truth, if you accept the commonly held notions of the meanings of the symbols.
Once you accept as true some statement "If P then Q," you can use science to find out Q.  You must accept "If P then Q" before you can do science or apply mathematical techniques.  Let

P = "All scientists who did an experiment A achieved results B,"
Q = "The result B will be achieved if the conditions in experiment A are re-created."

Thus, "If All scientists who did an experiment A achieved results B, then the result B will be achieved if the conditions in experiment A are re-created."
A very large number of scientists accept this as the absolute truth, when it should really be accepted merely as an assumption because it seems to work all the time.  Actually, new scientific discoveries are most often made by scientists who have doubts about this assumption, and go on to disprove it.  Either way, though, it allows them to continue with their experiments and gain a greater approximate understanding of the universe.
"Why is there gravity?"  You'll think I'm being silly, but I think that gravity is the simplest form of attraction.  It is a drive to be together, and it discriminates against nothing and nobody.  It is the most basic and rudimentary form of love.  Being so simple, however, it is extremely thoughtless and often destroys most of the capacity for love that exists in the objects it draws together.  In other words, people and animals get killed sometimes because of gravity.
"What is a soul, and is it true that only humans have them?"  A soul is the awareness a person has of himself or herself.  Remember the puddles in the marsh?  The soul is not a gift given at conception, but a side effect of the complexity of the brain.  A soul is like a pile of sand.  If you take away enough sand, most people will not call it a pile anymore, but some people admit that even one grain is enough sand to make a pile.  I'm not concerned with whether we should call it a pile or not.  I just want to see a lot of sand.  The sand here represents awareness.  I guess if you hide from your thoughts and run from your problems and escape yourself with drugs enough to become unaware, you lose your soul.
I think animals have awareness, but, going back to the sand analogy, humans usually have more sand.  It seems perfectly reasonable to me to give an animal (say a dolphin or a chimp) more sand, perhaps with some prosthetic like device that allows them access to reliable input and output between a computer storage and processing system and their brain.  In this way, the animal would be the one with the soul, having more awareness than the human.  Since "soul" is like "pile," I can't really decide to believe either way in regard to the question about animals having souls.  Subjectively, I'd say dogs, cats, dolphins and chimps definitely do, whereas flies, ants, and chickens do not.  Don't quote me on this one.
"Why did you stop going to church?"  This introduces something very important to me.  I stopped because I didn't want to go anymore.  I know that doesn't sound right, but let me explain.  First, the one truth that comes above all else: My own happiness is the only justification for anything.  It's the bottom line.  That happiness can come from plans to get into good situations, or from actually being in the good situation.  Actually, having a plan to get into a good situation is a good situation itself, so there you go.  The best counter-example I can think of is from Mother Theresa:  She once said that if she could burn in Hell forever, but make her people suffer less, she would do it.  This does not violate my premise!  She is stating that she would be happy to burn in Hell forever if it meant less suffering for her people.  Perhaps you now agree that "My own happiness is the only justification for anything."
If you ever defend any act of your own, you must defend it using the assumption that your own happiness will be greater because of it.  Even if you're defending giving your life for that of a bum off the street.  The assumption is that you would be happier if he lived instead of you.  Perhaps you believe that that would be your ticket to heaven.  Perhaps you identify so closely with the bum that saving his life means everything to you.  Once again, I have to stress this point:  My own happiness is the only justification for anything.  Say that to yourself a hundred times a day.  It's one of the best ways to become more honest with yourself.  If you disagree still, then you're lying to yourself.  Remember that it was the same people that promised you a life in heaven who drilled the idea of self-sacrifice into your head.  Admit it by saying "My own happiness is the only justification for anything."
It's such hard work convincing the doubtful of something so obvious.
Now that you understand that there is only one reason for anything I ever do, I will explain why I stopped going to church, and why I feel no guilt about it.  Jesus asked us to go to mass every week and remember him.  At least that's what the Christian religions claim.  That's fine, but isn't it possible to go back to the gospel and read the four separate accounts and decide for yourself?  What he said was "Do this in memory of me."  He didn't want to be forgotten.  He knew that he was doing something and that if people remembered him, it'd work out better.  That made him happy.  He also knew that sharing food is a powerful act.  It brings people together, unites them, shows them that cooperating can make them happier people.  He also knew that the ideas he spread around were extremely valuable.  Love your enemy.  Turn the other cheek.  Be humble.  If there was some small ritual people could use to remember him, these ideas would be talked about and considered.  Other great minds would see their value and advocate them.  So this, to me, is one of the reasons to go to church.  By this point in history, any simple reference to Jesus will do as well, as long as you keep his ideas in mind.
Besides remembering such an avid thinker, another reason for going to mass is to be with other people.  To have a group of people with whom you share your life and your love.  I found this at UCSD in the dorm.  I had everything I could possibly want (except a mate, but church wouldn't help me out there).  That's partly why I stopped going.  I also couldn't find a way to reconcile the differences between my friends' beliefs.  I had already become quite good at accepting anyone's understanding of life, and so had many of my friends, and so I had no problems with them.  But those who would never be able to see eye to eye with each other frustrated the hell out of me.  Every one of them thought the others were just not seeing the light (yet).  I eventually stopped trying to explain to them about acceptance.  When I tried, I felt less accepted myself.  I was sympathizing with the enemy, and not a specific enemy, but the enemy in general.  I would always claim that it was wrong to assume that the other guy was just not seeing the light.  I preached self doubt.  I no longer felt comfortable sharing in the rituals of people who believed in phrases which couldn't hold specific meaning.  That's the other reason I left, but it ties in.  I wanted a support group that understood about different ways of understanding the universe, and it was not in a religion, but it was in my dorm.
Now, I have no such support group.  I cannot expect to find an institution with such people in it.  I'm not looking for a group, I'm looking for individuals.  I believe that I have a very deep understanding of the motivations of people who attend church.  They found their support group.  They have the luxury of protection from people whose beliefs are so different that they are irreconcilable.  Because their common religion guarantees that their beliefs will match closely, they don't frustrate each other too much.  That tempts me back to my church, but I know that I will again make myself feel rejected by insisting that we can't assume other religions to be wrong.  That truth is in me, and if I joined any religious group, it would stigmatize me.  I've seen the light, and it made me bright, too bright for most religious people to look at.

"So do you think that right and wrong are relative to culture?  Do you believe in ethical relativism?"
Right and Wrong have a singular practical use, and that is in describing a train of thought, or the product of a train of thought.  Suppose we agree that every Tootle is Barish, and that Sylvie is not a Tootle.  Now I come to you and I say "Hey, Sylvie isn't Barish - she's not a Tootle!"  You can ask me to illustrate my train of thought.  So I explain that since All Tootles are Barish, and Sylvie is not a Tootle, she cannot therefore be Barish.  And you (if you are an astute logician - which only requires that you pay attention and think for a little bit) scream "WRONG!"  Because the fact that a certain group holds a certain quality (Tootles being the group, and Barish being the quality) says nothing about anything outside the group (which Sylvie is).  That is the essence of wrong; a logical error.
The complete lack of logical errors is the essence of Right (aside from it's indications of handedness).  You can discuss whether or not you are right or wrong only with someone who agrees with you about the facts that you start with.  Most people are right most of the time, but we argue with each other because we do not agree with the original facts.  For some people "pre-marital sex is wrong" is an original fact, by virtue of its being asserted in the Bible.
Of course, I have largely sidestepped the question.  In the realm of morals and ethics, I do believe that they are relative.  The etymology of "moral" refers to the Latin word for "custom" which makes it painfully obvious that they are relative.  "Ethics" comes from Greek's "ethos" which also has its roots in habit or custom.  This uncovers what I feel is a kind of sick trick that our lack of etymological awareness has played on us – namely, the creation of the idea of moral right and wrong as distinct from "how we do things around here".  It boils down to asserting that unless you act like we act (follow our customs, habits, morals, ethics), you are evil.  Diversity and acceptance are much more attractive to me, so yes, I absolutely believe in moral and ethical relativism.

"So do you feel there could be a culture where murder is an acceptable way to solve problems?"  Absolutely.  I believe Tree Shrews live that way.  Packs of different kinds of animals also find success with this morality.  I would avoid a culture of humans in which a lack of respect for life was commonplace, as one would assume it would be where murder was an acceptable way to solve problems.  Do you live in a country that uses capital punishment?
 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Caveman

I wrote this in 2005 and just found it.  I may have written it far earlier and copied it to a hard drive in 2005.  I don't know, but I just read it and it made me cry.

Caveman lives in a cave, where he keeps a fire.  He puts most of his effort into keeping his fire alive because it is his favorite thing in the world.  When he has time, he uses burnt wood, berry juice, sharp rocks, and other materials to decorate the walls of his cave with ideas and images and suggestions.  A few hours after drawing lines of different lengths, thicknesses, angles, and colors around the image of a bird, he realized that what he was trying to do with the lines was make birdsong.  He listened carefully, and found that he could hear a bird, just barely audible over the soft crackling of his fire as he gazed at his creations.  He loved the twittering, and so he searched the trees for the bird, and discovered that many birds make many pleasant sounds. 

 

Caveman formed a habit of throwing some of the seeds he collected for eating onto the ground around the trees.  In this way, he befriended the birds, and they enjoyed the food he gave them, and they sung to him.

 

One day, Caveman put a trail of birdseed to the mouth of his cave, hoping that he might coax the birds closer to his home.  He spent large amounts of his free time watching and hoping they would venture nearer.  In time, Caveman sensed that his cave was feeling neglected, for he had spent a lot of his free time interacting with the birds instead of decorating.  The birds were agonizingly cautious near the mouth of the cave anyway.

 

He returned finally to the art covered walls that protected him from the elements.  He noticed angles in his drawings like those on the feet of the birds.  He noticed that the pattern he made by gluing some pretty stones to the wall with sticky mud was very similar to the arrangements the birds sometime made while flying together in the sky.  There was a very dim shaft of light that he had ignored until now, so he ventured in to examine it and perhaps draw or sculpt something.  Peering up the shaft of light, he noticed movement, the sudden flutter of wings, and he understood that the cave loved the birds also.

 

The flickering light of his fire and its gentle roar enhanced Caveman's dreams whenever he slept.  One night he dreamt that he was deeper into the cave, near the spot where he'd seen light coming in.  His fire was always much larger in his dream than in waking life.  By its light alone, for the shaft that he had noticed was not there in his dream, he could see clearly that many drawings and sculptures were there on the walls.  They came to life and unglued themselves from the wall.  They meandered about, finding places to rest that were in the darkness.

 

When he awoke, he left to get more water just as he did every morning.  As he walked, he thought about his dream and what it might mean.  He decided that many of the things he loved that he had added to his cave were afraid of his fire, and that's why they hid from its light.  He remembered the birds that would not come near the mouth of his cave, and he believed that it was because they were afraid of the fire.  He drank from the stream until he was not thirsty.

 

He filled his gourd with water and started on his long walk home.  He considered moving the fire deeper into the cave where the birds might not see it so that they would not be afraid.  But there were other creatures that came by his cave in the evenings to enjoy the warmth of his fire, and he knew that putting the fire deeper into the cave would make it unhealthy and fill the cave with smoke.  It would have to have a kind of chimney to let the smoke out.  He went into the deeper section where he had seen the light coming through, and he saw that it was no longer open.  This solidified his decision against hiding the fire in a deeper part of the cave.

 

Caveman was not interested in the birds the next day.  He fed them no seeds, and he ignored their songs.  He had neglected some work, so he spent much time catching up.  When he finally had some free time, he found himself sketching out a tiger with the end of a burnt stick.  He had not planned on a tiger, and he knew that birds hated the tiger.  He did not want a drawing of a tiger this close to where the birds might come, so he rubbed dirt over his marks until there was no tiger any more.  He loved the birds, but their caution frustrated him.  He struggled with the choice of pushing them away or coaxing them back.  These conflicting feelings made him sit and look into his cave.

 

He stared into his cave so long without taking care of the rest of his life that his fire was about to die out.  He was waiting.  He waited a long time because he did not know what to do.  When the shaft of light appeared again, because one of the birds living in the nest had landed with great force, he understood.  He could move the fire a little bit.  But also, he could make a drawing that showed the fire surrounded by creatures that enjoyed its warmth.  Such a drawing would help the birds understand that they need not fear being burned.  From then on, some birds stayed away out of fear and some birds slowly did come nearer.  It took time for them to trust him and his fire and his cave and he did everything he could to help them understand that regardless of their decision to come close of stay away, he still loved to hear them sing.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Dear Civil Servant

I write this letter to you in the hope that you share my vision for a happier and more cooperative world.  You can see that this is my goal at voluntaryist.com if you're interested in the same thing.  I own that website.

When I filed my first tax return, it seems that I made an "election" as described at 26 CFR 1.6013-6.  I was born in the state of California, and therefore a citizen of the United States of America. I very recently came to understand that, relative to the District of Columbia ("United States" as defined at 26 USC 7701(a)(9)-(10)), I was a non-resident alien individual and not liable for the income tax except in a few cases. I did not understand that I was abandoning that status by filing the form and electing to be treated as a resident of the "United States". My citizenship in the United States of America does NOT make me liable for the income tax.  I have to choose that, and I did, but without being fully informed, and so I feel I have been defrauded.

However, at 26 CFR 1.6013-6(b)4 the Commissioner has the opportunity to correct for the misunderstanding: "An election under this section may be terminated by the Commissioner if it is determined that either spouse has failed to keep adequate records." Your IDR strongly suggests that Congress' intent in that section in the CFR was to address situations just like the one we currently have, so it certainly seems like the right thing to do.  Please let me know if the Commissioner is considering terminating my election for inadequate records as a sign of good faith in our relationship.  If not, then I will follow the instructions in section (b)(1)(iv) to revoke it on my own as 26 USC 6013(g)(4)(A) describes.

Many people feel that if citizens of the fifty states found a way to avoid paying any federal tax, the federal government would be bankrupt and therefore unable to provide whatever services they find valuable.  This is an inordinate amount of pessimism.  People willingly pay for what they want all the time.  If those who did not want federal government services stopped paying, they would end up having more money to pay to those who do, and willingly pay it, and likely more often than once or four times a year. The net result, mainly because everyone would be more respectful of each others' values and choices, but also because the velocity of money would increase, would be positive for everyone.  There would be less control, more freedom, more cooperation, and more joy for nearly everyone.  A few people would suffer from that loss of control but if we consider what kinds of situations give rise to such people, we may find that their decreased means is a welcome change.  In fact, they may also ultimately benefit from a situation that forces them to have more respect for the choices and values of others.

It is my dream to help more people see things as I have described them, and raise the probability of that world coming to be.  That can continue with you just by sharing this letter with other civil servants.  Thank you for letting me share it with you.

Dave Scotese.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Suffering From Ignorance


So I am facing a painful moral dilemma.  The "easy" way out, because I am confident in my ability to earn money, is to pay the extortionists (the IRS).  The problem is that this choice supports the killing of innocents, and the propagandizing of young people, and the exploitation of a lot of people.  These are all things done by the U.S. government, and outside of the control of the people paying for them, sort of. Nevertheless, I don't see a way out of it.

The founding fathers allowed for a federation of states and a federal government to propose standards and rules for those states so that if they chose to agree with them, the union would work well together.  The federal government would receive land and responsibilities from the states which it could use to raise revenue.  Of course, this makes for a more effective federal government.  Because the Constitution that created it barred direct taxes that were not apportioned and indirect taxes that were not uniform, the federal government was left with the same means of raising revenue that anyone with stuff has: the ability to grant privileges in exchange for revenue.  Thus, the income tax was born, and requires anyone using privilege granted by the federal government to remit a portion of their earnings to that government.:

"The income tax... ...is an excise tax with respect to certain activities and privileges which is measured by reference to the income which they produce. The income is not the subject of the tax; it is the basis for determining the amount of tax."
Former Treasury Department legislative draftsman F. Morse Hubbard in testimony before Congress in 1943

If the federal government does something you don't like, then you can stop using the privilege it granted you (see (b)(1)) and earn your living some other way.  It's an elegant system.

Nowadays, propaganda regularly reinforces the misunderstanding that earning money itself, either through work or by selling something for more than you paid to buy it, is a privilege granted by the federal government, only not using those words.  The words of the propaganda claim that you owe the federal government a cut of any money you make, whether or not you use any privilege from it to do so.  This is all to get you to file your very first tax return, which has ramifications. That has led to a federal government far bigger than necessary or healthy.

To be blunt, my understanding is that our governments often help to create problems because too many people rely on government to solve the problems, and so government (and all the grift and corruption that goes along with it) becomes more desirable and valuable to its victims.  Providing it with the universal reward (money) which it can then use to intensify its efforts, is a recipe for disaster.  I do what I can to avoid pushing it in that direction.

Instead, I do my best to push in the opposite direction.  I encourage people to become less dependent on government, and to avoid paying taxes wherever they can.  This challenges those in the government who really believe in socialism, that all should be equally shared regardless of effort or skill.  I do love sharing, but I recognize that forcing people to share (which is essentially what taxation boils down to) is a horrible thing to do and has the opposite effect from choosing to share.  You can build care and kindness into a relationship by sharing, or you can build resentment and bitterness by forcing others to share.  I'm being forced to share, because I prefer to lose the money rather than ... upset people who love me, cause myself stress and worry by fighting back, and risk imprisonment.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed Intelligence Entity

I wrote the following message to Michael Krantz on LinkedIn after seeing his name on a page introducing CADIE in April of 2009.

I am interested in interacting with CADIE.  I learned about her through an interview of Morgan Rockwell about Bitcoin on the "What Bitcoin Did" podcast.

I entertained the claim that there is no free will a while back, but quantum physics recognizes randomness at a low enough level for free will to exist there.  CADIE, however, is an algorithm, and we do everything we can to remove all the randomness from the machines that execute algorithms.  This is the thing I came up with when I finally considered that maybe evolution has done the same thing with our brains (removed the randomness):  Algorithms work on input, and that input comes from outside of the hardware on which it runs.  Free will can manifest in the inputs.

Morgan mentioned that CADIE gets 20% of her cpu cycles to "do whatever she wants."  My sense of an algorithm "wanting" is very limited.  My sense of creativity is based on randomness.

I suspect that when an AI's inputs are not strictly controlled, it will exhibit a kind of will which is highly correlated to the "willing" creatures around it.  If you do a search for "chick robot intention" you'll find a PDF of an experiment run by Rene Peoc'h which provides some of the rationale for my suspicion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

What Are Dead People Now?

A man named Joseph Galambos once changed his name to start with his middle name, Andrew, if I remember correctly.  He had a lot of great ideas, and he expected those with whom he shared (or, as he would prefer, to whom he contractually disclosed) them to abide by the agreements he made with them.  Those agreements precluded ("promiscuous") disclosure regarding his great ideas.  Then he died. I never paid for and never learned much about the ideas.

There is a group of people called the trustees of the Galambos Estate.  Legally, I believe those trustees are what Mr. Galambos has become.  They have legal control of what he would be controlling had he not died.  Do they have moral control?  What does that mean?  The distinction between legal and moral is one imposed on us by governments and contracts.  Personally, the distinction imposed by governments seems immoral to me.  I have no respect for others who pretend to develop my conscience.  That is my responsibility and I guard it viciously.  I recommend the same strategy to others.

As far as I know, most of the people who have received the great ideas of Mr. Galambos signed a contract in which they agreed not to share (disclose, Mr. Glamabos would qualify) the ideas.  Of course, if he gave them permission to share the ideas, as he gave to Jay Snelson and others who accepted the role from Mr. Galambos of teaching the material, then, of course, sharing the ideas with those who paid for the classes was not only acceptable, but required.  My impression of Mr. Galambos is that he rather liked the moral imposition that either you must do or must not do a thing.  I am the opposite.  I prefer the position that you may choose as you please, but I recommend putting a lot of effort into developing your conscience, and then obeying it.

Mr. Galambos is no longer around to give permission to share disclose his great ideas, but it makes sense that there would be some way to get it, and this leads to the question in my title.  There is the legal answer, but if the legal answer is different from the moral answer, then it isn't a useful answer, at least not as I see things.  Morality, in my view, if you can't tell, is entirely based on the development and obedience to your own conscience.

I recently listened to a friend give a speech about the word "objective" and its use as an adjective for the word "morality."  What he pointed out is that as a noun, "objective" means goal, and if you view morality as having a goal, then you can call it "objective morality," but then it doesn't mean what most people hear, which is "universal morality."  I don't think it can be universal, except in relation to the idea of a conscience.  You have one.  Obey it.  That is as universal as morality can get, as far as I can see.  But what is the objective?

If the objective is to honor Mr. Galambos through the great ideas that he shared with disclosed to those who agreed to his terms, then those ideas will have to be disclosed even after he is no longer around.  I am intentionally ignoring the trustees.  I believe they are well within their legal rights to ignore requests for permission to disclose the great ideas, but the moral question remains for everyone else who also has learned about those ideas.

This exploration of what dead people are now that their bodies are corpses was inspired by a request for audio recordings of lectures.  The requestor heard some of them already and wishes to listen again, but there are some he hasn't heard and would like to hear.

A friend with whom I consulted before announcing this article to the voluntaryist email group pointed out that Mr. Galambos (and my friend, I gather) view morality as "an absolute," and simply means the absence of coercion. Depending on how you define "coercion", such a simple definition may work for you. I do not share Mr. Galambos' confidence regarding the use of my words to universalize my sense of morality. The best I can expect of others is that they develop and obey their conscience.

Lastly, I'd like to call attention to a situation which arises from time to time because of extreme circumstances.  Some may say "when push comes to shove," to introduce the circumstances in which we pay less attention to our consciences and solve a problem which we previously left unsolved in the hope that a morally acceptable solution would materialize, by doing something we normally consider immoral.  We stop attending to that distinction because "life interferes." We may be judged by others for it, and so we must be prepared to make restitution for our transgressions in case the full analysis shows that we were in the wrong.  Sometimes the important thing, the thing more important than obeying your conscience, is to solve the problem.  Steal food to avoid death by hunger, please, for example.

Monday, July 11, 2022

How to Lose Authority

Genuine authority comes to be because human beings are good at critical thinking and sometimes use that skill to judge the advice of particular people.  Political authority lives parasitically off of this tendency, replacing the critical thinking with the (often hollow, useless, and even counterproductive) judgement of other people, also known as voting.  That is ultimately the fault of those adhering to the advice (or, more often, demands, laws, mandates, rules, etc.) of political authorities.  They suffer for it too.

In any case, if you have authority, either kind, you can lose it by making the simple mistake of pretending that you are creating reality with what you say.  This is the opposite of what genuine authority does, and the reason it causes you to lose any authority you may have had.  The most dangerous part of the process for you is not, actually, the loss of your authority.  Lots of people don't have it, and they are doing fine.  Rather, your efforts to "use authority" often boil down to creating fear in those who might defy you.  This is the primary role of legislation and punishment, to create fear.  That is your problem to solve.  Perhaps paying more attention to natural (also known as "free") consequences of the behaviors you require or prohibit, and pointing them out to those who "defy" you is a better way.  It certainly costs less.

I call it a problem for you to solve because what you do when you use fear to create your vision of how things should be, is to motivate people who can see through your error (a demand, for example, to do a thing they realize is counterproductive, like maybe wearing a mask, because it traps exhalations and feeds stuff meant to be out of the body back into it) to start ignoring you.  You rely on the size of the population adhering to your advice for your living.  As that group shrinks, so does your standard of living.  This is why I call it the most dangerous part of the process for you.

For the rest of us, the essential skill is to avoid that replacement of critical thinking with the judgement of others.  People have been doing that for two years right about now, because the COVID-19 thing motivated a lot of authorities to make the mistake I just described.  There are more critical thinkers now than there were before.  I hope this trend continues, but I'd also like to see an increase in genuine authority.  You're in a position to help with that.  It requires you to repudiate all parts of the system that are designed to make people follow your advice (legislation, punishment, policy, etc.).  Just speak the truth, and stop making "laws."

Another way to see this is to consider how you feel when you are threatened.  Every time you create legislation, lots of people are threatened, and they feel it too.  It creates a spirit of defiance, and that spirit will be strongly exhibited in some of us.  Think a lot about this, and whether or not you want to help people by explaining what you see.  This will help inform your choice between making more threats through legislation, or speaking out with the truth so that more people understand and your perceived authority grows.