Friday, May 27, 2016

I used to be Afraid of the Dark

My older brother slept in a pitch black room.  I idolized him for that because I was afraid of the dark.  I idolized him enough to eventually develop the habit myself. Now I love the dark.  There are a couple ideas that helped me make the transition, and I want to help you make it too, though not in a literal sense.

One idea is that a lack of light is a disadvantage to a victim just as much as it is a disadvantage to an attacker.  I wasn't really afraid of real attackers though.

I was afraid of ghosts and wraiths and poltergeists.  No physical evidence has ever been produced showing that something supernatural was responsible for any kind of suffering.  I eventually mastered something I call "apophatic" reasoning, which is a term I got from Mark Passio.  The lack of physical evidence for supernatural causes of human suffering is powerful when you understand how quickly and forcefully such evidence would spread.

Supernatural causes, philosophically, are impossible.  "Supernatural" means beyond the nature of the universe.  "Cause" identifies a relationship in the nature of the universe.  Supernatural, philosophically, is a euphemism for "I don't know enough."  Roll a die and it will land on a number.  Can you predict the number?  No, you can't, not if you roll it properly, and it's balanced.  That doesn't make the number supernatural.  Maybe you'll roll three sixes in a row.  That also does not make it supernatural.  If you continue rolling sixes and you cannot get the die to land on another number, then you can pretend it's supernatural, but any decent physicist will offer to analyze your die to see if it's loaded.  Perhaps he will not find the reason.  Would you then call it supernatural?

I wouldn't.  To give up the hunt for the reason your die lands only on the number six is to abandon one of the best faculties human beings have, reason.  It takes a lot of humility to study such a die for weeks and continually admit that you're still "in the dark" about why it always lands on the same number.  Humility is valuable.  It stops us from believing fairy tales.

The non-literal sense in which I wish to help you not to be afraid of the dark is to encourage you to keep looking.  Whatever it is that makes the die always land on six is a metaphor for how we improve the world.  Most people give up, and that's a metaphor for accepting fake authority, also known as relying on government.  When authority is not fake, it does not use punishment.  It has no use for punishment.  It even encourages the kind of thing that fake authority punishes, because that kind of thing (going against the advice of authority) provides great learning experiences.

Governments and police are fake authorities, which is why they punish people for breaking their laws.  A law is a discovery about how the universe works.  Watch a dog with a bone.  If another creature approaches, the dog growls, "This is my bone.  Get away or I'll bite you."  Humans, well, sane humans, do this too.  Perhaps we don't bite (or growl), but we demand that our property rights be respected.  At least we make that demand to other humans whom we view as equals.  Some of us don't make that demand to fake authorities, and that is because we are, figuratively, afraid of the dark.

When we speak truth to power, we are insisting that a balanced die will land on random sides when "rolled properly," no matter how difficult it is to show why a particular die doesn't have this characteristic.  After listening to some lectures on physics by a guy name David Harriman, I blame Immanuel Kant for the idea that it makes sense to give up on finding a reason for the unexpected behavior of the die.  I also lay part of the blame on him for the legitimacy of fake authority.

People like Victoria Roberts and Nancy G Edmunds use fake authority to hurt people, either because they derive some benefit from it or because they don't know any better.  Either way, I wish I were closer to them (geographically) so that I could confront one or both of them.  I'm not afraid of the dark any more.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


I joined Mensa a few months ago.  I found a place where members can enter a bio, so here's what I put:

I have always wanted to be a teacher.  I went to UCSD's Teach Education Program (TEP) for one year and decided that there was too much red tape.  Years later, I read John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education, and then a few years after that, listened to his Ultimate History Lesson.  The knowledge I gained that way vindicated my abandonment of the TEP.
I ended up being a teacher anyway, though not in any official capacity.  I learn software (or write software) and then teach others how it works and how it fails.  I learned about bitcoin and now I explain it to anyone who is interested.  I buy bitcoin from those who need to sell it and sell it to those who need to buy it.

Jeff Schmidt wrote a book called "Disciplined Minds" in which he points out that most people who go through a higher education curriculum to get a degree, doctorate, or other credential start out with a view to doing the world some good, but the system through which they get that piece of paper degrades that view, slowly (though he doesn't say so, not inexorably) replacing that view with the brass ring of monetary gain, peer approval, and public stature.  I was lucky that I chose the humble path of becoming a teacher, wherein this trend is more obvious.  Had I pursued math, physics, chemistry, or something as complex (and continued living off my parents and inheritance, and perhaps even putting myself in debt), I imagine it would have taken me longer to feel this change.

As a software engineer after the dotcom bust, my ideals were intact and I started looking for tools that would leverage the Internet in the advancement of mankind.  The increasing density of communication provided by the Internet seemed to offer an excellent opportunity for individuals with great ideas to have their voices heard.  I researched the idea of what is now known as "crowdsourcing" the search for quality writing.  A friend of mine suggested taking a look at slashdot, since it allowed members to register their opinion of comments on news stories in a way the machine could use to identify what the group liked best.  On that site, I learned about Condorcet Voting, so I looked for a site that was using it and didn't find any.

I then started  With my writing site, I slowly learned something which is now, finally, gaining traction: There is rarely a single "best" choice for a large group, whether we're talking about candidates, pieces of writing, or things to do.  The ideal way to handle it is to allow the large group to break into smaller groups of people who share the same sensitivities.  That means politics is no good.

My friend Brian Gladish challenged me on using the Condorcet Method to elect public officials, pointing out that any political election involves forcing the minority to submit to decisions made by someone they don't agree with.  It's a lesson running Litmocracy for five years drove home for me.  During that time, I followed Brian's libertarian thinking to its natural conclusion, which is voluntaryism.  Now I am the volunteer webmaster for a site that existed for many years before I ever heard of it, called

School was designed, as Gatto's work shows conclusively, to remove the unique features of children that make them difficult to control, but excellent and conscientious adults.  It's the same thing Schmidt was talking about: normalize and regulate the individual so that all the individuals going in come out roughly the same, prepared to do whatever an authority figure tells them to do.  Stanley Milgram studied that too, and found that it's a horrible scourge to the human race, but subtle enough that most people let it go.  Lord Acton put it this way: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  J.R.R. Tolkien turned it into a long saga in which two basically innocent people let it ultimately drag them into a pit of lava.

Tolkien's tale offers us hope.  The reason they both fell into that lava was because one of them knew that's where the ring belonged.  So who am I?  What am I?  I am, to most people, a meat suit, kind, intelligent, hopeful, cynical about authority, but optimistic about normal human beings.  To myself, I am the spirit of disclosure, an old soul working on a problem "The One" created for itself, which is this: How quickly can consciousness make an otherwise mechanistic universe identify and then maximize and realize the potential for joy?  I shine light in dark places, and encourage others to follow suit.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Welcome to the Uber Economy

This came to me today through a comment on a post at  The comment was made by a friend of mine who calls himself Ned.  Here is his comment:

Here are some leads a friend sent me that reveal a number of ways of avoiding the command and control authorities of centralization. Some are already covered in David's fine essay, but a few may be new to denizens of, at least they were new to me.

Free Your Mind