Thursday, July 28, 2022

Space Cowboy

Reading about spatial statism, which was supposed to disappear with globalism, and then about populism and what that's about, I suddenly realize my life's work. Or I realize what it would have been did I have a life or could I have had any kind of life's work. Fortune favors the accommodators, and I'm not one. 

Sour grapes!

Anyhow, as I read about how populism works, or doesn't, I realize that the mythical and vaguely enchanted nation which our domestic brand of populists yearn for is itself a commodified capitalist concoction, which realization only stacks irony on top of irony for me. 

In other words the Trumpers hate the very people who gave them their image of what America really is. Because they buy it, hook, line and sinker. And here I thought that I was the one who hated Reagan and Nixon and even Clinton, but certainly Dubya and all those shills for capitalism's glories who've ever graced the White House. You can't hate the elites and still love this fictitious nation and that fictitious Jesus. Especially not when you mix it all up in a Trumpian blender.

My reading also lends clarity to what's up with China. Pompous West Point Pompeo gave a speech the other day (pick a speech, any speech, they're all the same), wherein he conflated China and Russia as what threatens not really our way of life, but our supremacy. Must idiots be always in charge?!? Even Biden using China as his foil feels the way I feel when chalk is squeaked along a blackboard. Or is it fingernails. Or do you even know what a blackboard is?

Guns and exceptionalism and Steve Bannon bizarrely seeing himself as some cowboy in the films he loves, and it all makes sense. 

Thing is that China actually does have a genuine nation to crow and write home about, in the culturally/racially defined people sense of the term. Everyone who is anyone claims to be of the Han ethnicity there, and they have an absolutely fabulous continuity in written lore and myth and wonder to claim as their own, no Hollywood invention required. Too bad they treat the Uighurs about the way we treat blacks, only maybe they're just a tad nicer about it. 

So, China never did need no stinkin' populism. Well, you know, after Mao, sort-of. Now I wonder how that's related to their eschewing, at least by lip service, capitalism. And how is this related to Russia, culturally defined always in opposition to what Europe has tried to build for itself. 

Well, you know, China also concocted its nation. First it had to unify the language, and that forcibly. They shoehorned the written Chinese character into automated typography, which then took off once the computer keyboard and predictive typing became ubiquitous. Believe it or no, Ripley, it's actually easier and faster now to type Chinese than English. It took a long time from when China already had it to when we figured out how to deploy predictive typing. Weirdly, ours constricts what we write to what anybody would write, since we predict more that Chinese prediction of set character combinations. 

Of course, the trouble is that motor-memory for calligraphy is destroyed, which might mean that the Chinese character (I think that I mean the national character, not the written character) has also been destroyed. But at least they're not destroying the ability to write the way that we are.

When I pick up my Microsoft Surface now, I realize that converges in most ways to the usage of my iPhone. Is this intellectual property appropriation? Is money changing hands? Or is it just simply the inevitable fact that people like things that they pick up and use all the time to feel familiar? Or at least familiar enough. 

So as China struggles to maintain state control over lending and thus over the usage of money, it must also grant the look and feel of what American-style capitalism looks and feels like. You know, that vibrancy which beat the pants off the old Soviet Union. Creativity, inventiveness and all the stuff which we accomplished to global recognition just a brief century after our founding. And across a civil war. China's on the same fast track, without the requirement to look like something entirely new.

The drama of this whole affair now is whether the global economy will just melt down in such a way that merest anarchy is more decisively loosed upon the world.

For me, our constitution has been so debased and twisted and abused that anarchistic rebuilding from bottom up seems preferable indeed to submitting our state the way that it is conducted in my name now. The good news is that upon the instant that we became the actual evil empire, we began our descent. The bad news is that our tentacles extend across the globe.

Cultures are familiar everywhere. Populist cheering jeering and occult angry masses invent themselves all over the globe at the same time. Each of our three counterbalanced branches of government has almost utterly lost the public trust. Or we should say that they've systematically squandered our trust.

Our constitution has been abused in almost precisely the same manner as the Bible has. No, it is utterly precise, since it's the very same process.

This is all the kind of thing which makes a swabbie glad not to have ever had an actual life.

And here's the kicker: I'm a doer, not a thinker. I like to tinker and fix things, which is also evident in my writing. Nothing's ever quite finished, though I know when enough is enough. But I remain ready for just a while longer. I'm ready to join the crowds of us when we've had enough of privatized public property. When we've endured as much as we can of the criminal enterprise of Finance, Insurance, and Real-Estate. We're on FIRE in every dimension, and our climate-change-ignoring government is more addicted to SUVs and monster trucks than even we are; as a dodge from what they know they should be doing.

So in my conclusion, I'd say that private property has already been moved in the direction of public ownership. Taxes are rent as they should be, and you too shall be expropriated of your air and mineral rights. You shall not be allowed to despoil my air and water. All you fucking rent-seekers shall be displaced by we the people; pitchforks against your blackhawks. Because the earth demands that of us, and Earth is on our side. 

But wait, there's more! The Supreme Court has already started to dispossess us of our very bodies. Privacy, what?? Due process. Equal protection. No, the state, which now stands in for God, must have our unborn children, though it cares nothing for those already here. It must have our poor to fight its wars, there being no other employment on offer. And it nearly privatized our very genes. How selfish would it be to keep our assets to ourselves. 

This serpent is eating its tail. Built on private property rights and individualism, and recently transmuted from industrial capitalism to an unholy finance capitalism, our oligarchs intend to make slaves of all of us, in the name of their rentier growth. And all we know how to do is to cry "free speech," which makes us the ready pawns of the pawns of the oligarchs who we elect to office.

And now, naturally enough, perhaps given the example of Elon Musk, though they never say so, these strangely non-individualistic brothers want to open a new market on individual futures. Of course they grew up in Russia. As in China, when thought is repressed you learn to think some crazy thoughts and call it freedom. The headline suggests that they want to give those without social capital a chance. Instead of indebting them, which seems to burden futures, one could earn investment on and toward ones future. Is it me, or does that just sound like a new high-tech reversion to slavery? Sort of in the way that Airbnb has helped to push up the cost of real-estate, by realizing the unused value of surplus housing. 

Right, and I've got a deed in space to sell you. Here's how it works. You have no value here on earth, but if you accept Elon as your one and only master, the market will give you value in outer space. On Mars, say. Sure, if you earn your investors' money back, you may return upon maturity. If you're still alive. 

As if poor black folk can demonstrate the value on the futures market that white techno-kiddies can. Black folk already have imprinted what it feels like to be put up on the auction block and reduced to the animal value which all that humans truly have in common. All expenses paid to good employment on Mars. All you have to do is what you're told.

We must enclose that commons too! Space, the final frontier! Right. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Haphazard Review of The Currency of Politics, by Stefan Eich

The Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to KeynesThe Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to Keynes by Stefan Eich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading both of Adam Tooze's most recent books, and now this book which was recommended by Tooze by way of his periodic "Chartbook" posts, I am fully convinced of the importance of exposing the fraud that money and finance are apolitical. Money is not a neutral medium of exchange, and the fiction that it is makes up a big chunk of what is killing us.

Indeed, it may well be that our fumbling understanding of the nature of money comes closer to explaining the rise of neo-fascist so-called "populism" than all the myriad other explanations, convincing though those explanations may remain.

It's the right [Republican, in America] which mostly seems to need the enlightenment provided by this book. And yet some among them were the only ones who cautioned us not to refund the crooked banks. They caution us about social media, while the Dems seem to think all tech is good tech.

The persistent hoi polloi for Trump must feel justified in their anger, despite the inexcusable nature of their behaviors. They have been dispossessed of something, as have we all. Their vague sense that the thief is contained somehow within the cloud of the privileged elite, which most certainly includes the perennial political players, feels justified. But this book shows that historically, this is the process that has always allowed autocrats to insert themselves into more legitimate politics.

And for sure, the mainstream media represents the interests of that same elite. Many of us even suppose that it is the elites who keep the system going. And many of us aren't wrong. The question is who they keep it going for. We should all demand clarity about that; it won't be coming from the mainstream media. It sure won't be coming from Fox News. You have to do the work of finding out. You have to read something more than socially mediated posts and the infotainment which still defines broadcast news.

For instance, read this book! Let's all stop hitting the anger buttons all the time, left and right. Let's turn our anger into positive action.

There are still tiers, if not classes, within this elite. At the top are the hyperwealthy, which include "vectorialist" (McKenzie Wark) media owners. Below that are the stars, the anchors; the well-coifed talking heads and CGI-corrected beauties. And then there are the academics, channeled by media reporters, who all still appreciate the finer things of life.

Never mind that those who occupy the coarser side of life might be as rich, have even better cleavage, and most certainly include plenty among the hyperwealthy. The elites on the right are simply better at pandering to motorized outdoorspeople with guns. Trouble for me is that I still like those people most of the time. I'm sick of stupid generalizations.

There are true believers in meritocracy on either side. Merit wants a neutral measure. One thing which binds all sides together is a strange notion that wealth is an indicator of merit. That notion is only newly strange, and its identification as such owes a massive debt to Eich and his mentor Tooze.

We, the hoi polloi are now almost precisely divided between urban and rural [mentalities] when it comes to political taking sides. And that in turn sometimes seems increasingly about race. To categorize people based on race is, of course, precisely as misguided as is the supposition that money is neutral. This idiocy is now measurable precisely by wealth gaps.

The political neutrality of money reminds me of other false measures which are thought to be neutral, like IQ or I don't know, let's say beauty again. These things are all related to cultural and social norms, and reflect collective preferences. By reading these books, one learns that money is as normative as is language or law. Part nature and mostly culture.

One learns that credit markings come before money, just as they come before writing. One learns that coinage was meant to help with justice. That currency is basic to politics. One makes a lot of puns to oneself while reading. (Thank the author for not making them for you)

Anyhow, it's the economic contortions and distortions combined with political failure to understand how money works that have historically led up to various political crises, especially during the twentieth century with its two great global world-war convulsions.

And here we are now, once again politically paralyzed in the face of unprecedented stressors and global convulsing. As the arguments have it in these books, part of our paralysis descends from our failure to agree about what money really is. We remain, for the moment, in a nuclear stalemate, on an angry planet. Myriad sorts of media tell us all about it without helping us to know what to do.

Like a lot of people, I'm sure, I tend to identify the idiocies of bitcoin and the injustices of startup culture with a kind of naive libertarian ideology, which would include libertarian economics. I think it would be correct to put the mistaken notion of neutral money squarely on the backs of these libertarians. Their artificial gold lacks only the incorruptible beauty of the real stuff. We need the state involved now more than ever.

But now I read a different libertarian tract by a different Stephan with a different spelling -Stephan Kinsella - Against Intellectual Property which calls intellectual property theft just like Abbie Hoffman once did. And I realize that these new age libertarian startup code kiddies can't be libertarians, since they all think they're so smart and deserve their wealth on the basis of intellectual property law. Once they hire a grown-up to run their companies, once they go "public". But this Kinsella dude insists that you can't own your own labor, and we already agree that you can't patent or copyright an idea; only its material manifestation. Open the source, baby, open source.

We have the wrong idea about money. Money is a creation of politics, and it's therefore about power. Duh. Nobody argues that it's not a measure of power. But the power of money is not justified. It has to be justified politically, and that would mean that the state as owned by we the people has to do more than just to regulate the banks to which we delegate the power to create money by means of credit. We have to do more than to regulate the market.

Nobody argues against a market economy anymore. But we need to argue against capitalism all the time, and especially against the vectorialism which has supplanted it, which means that we have to tax and limit private wealth so that it remains in proportion to public need. In part, this seems to mean that we have to once again limit bank lending to the use of money that they, the banks, already have and hold. Savings and loan and collateral and so-forth. And give the citizenry accounts in the Fed, to be administered by the post office.

For instance. I'm summing up a conjecture made toward the end of the book.

We almost sort-of did that during the pandemic and the crash which came before it. We created money from nothing to rescue the profligate banks and to resupply the global denomination in dollars during the crash. And we did it all over again during the pandemic, having greased the wheels the first time.

What we failed to do is to change the rules so that the wealthy didn't profit from disaster, as they typically or even always seem to do. Will it take another world war? Some people seem to think that WWIII has already started.

Shouldn't we have an economic revolution instead? Eat the rich! They're always on their own side, no matter the politics or how they vote. We the people should stop yelling at each other and making each other miserable by way of unaccountable social media. We should just plain rise up. The Chinese can't do that anymore, even though it's in their national anthem. But we still can.

We need to channel all that Trumper energy in a more positive direction, right? This book suggests a way to start.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 17, 2022

An Epistemology of Emotion

  1. the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.
So, of course there is no such thing as an "epistemology of emotion." One piece of settled understanding - justified belief - is that emotion is the hallmark of subjectivity and therefore the root of opinion. Feelings are directly felt by the mind, and the mind is that which is most subjective about us. 

But I'd say that any theory of mind is fluid, and that it's conjectural at best that mind can exist in a subjective state. I suppose that we know what we know because it can be affirmed by others. Scientific knowledge is of the sort that must be agreed to by any non-perverse interlocutor. That's what science means. I suppose that "epistemology of science" is redundant. 

Objective proof means shared and repeatable procedural validation. Objective proof is justified belief, but it started as belief. Belief motivates a seeking for truth, which justifies the belief. 

I am obviously no academic, nor even an amateur philosopher. I would only like to state the obvious. In this case, I'd say it's obvious that one way to define emotion is that it is the felt knowledge of a match between subjective and objective understanding. Which is to say that conscious mind - all the way "down" to ants - is about matching the generalized abstractions made from prior observation with the current conjectural observations about what is going on in front of you. The match is felt emotionally. Emotion is the match.

Emotion is how we survive as living creatures. We justify our beliefs when they enable us to survive. Emotion is quicker than cognition. We re-cognize a lion or a friend based on prior experience. The more cognitive experience you have, the more quickly you might re-cognize. Cloned ants crossing (their own) paths feel which way to go. An ant hive is a mind of sorts. Is there an inside to it?

Nearly all of us fall prey to the fiction that there is something "in" the mind. We think of memories and narratives and words and sometimes we think that our mind "holds" a replica of the world all about us. It's funny that we don't think that about computers. They only hold numbers composed of zeros and ones and they programmatically deploy them according to some set of ordered operations to create simulacra and words that humans might re-cognize. They cannot be minds.

I agree with Ricardo Manzotti that what we call our mind is composed of perceptions and delayed perceptions (perhaps endlessly looping present perceptions) and that there is nothing inside the mind which is a replica of those perceptions, which always exist in a spread condition without the mind. 

In just the way that I remember many specifics about JFK's assassination, some perceptions are singular and some are combined to form idealizations or generalizations about some collection of perceptions. The particulars are largely fogettable, once the ideal is formed. But our mind is never separable from the "objective" (shared) reality in which it is embedded. Of which it is a part. 

Emotion energizes life. It predicts what will happen if and when we do or don't act. There is no will without emotion, including the will to know. Knowledge of any sort can't exist without emotion, and of course I would go so far as to say that there is no reality without emotion. Meaning that there is no life. There is no knower. 

But there is always a knower, since not everything moves by force. Actual objective things move toward or away without the exchange of force-mediating particles on the basis of inertia, which also composes cosmic mind. The difference between force-mediated motion and non-force mediated emotion is (also) relative.

Emotion is simultaneous. What is felt is a desire to move. God is love. Godless reality is entropic and disappears quickly. A particle at light speed is inertial, or stationary, to the particle having mass. Emotion is always precognition. 

So there you have it; an epistemology of emotion. Who knew??

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

There is No Merit to Merit

Perhaps like many people, I am sick and tired of explaining to people why their invidious observations of particular black people justifies their implicit racism. I believe that this kind of behavior is the purest instance of what is now popularly called confirmation bias. 

The trouble is that it's very hard to find a way to penetrate the idiocy. Racists are stuck and unmovable, especially when they have no actual personal interaction with those they consider congenitally inferior. Sometimes it's still true even when they do. 

When I was growing up, and sometimes even still, I was thought to be extremely intelligent. Observations about my intelligence were often followed by predictions about how wealthy I would become. Now I was a shy kid who truly hated it when some friend of my parents would compliment me (or so they thought they were doing). Why just the other day I got angry to the point of shaking when friends of mine, both immune to anti-racist arguments, wondered aloud and to me why I wasn't wealthy. 

I understand money as a kind of virus which infects the soul, and I no more want money than I want recognition, which just makes me weird, I guess. Well, sure I would like to have lots of money, but I'm not about to waste my time working for it. And I would like sufficient recognition to be able to join in to wider intelligent conversations. But as with wealth, it's not worth, apparently, twisting my thought to be recognized in some disciplinary slice of academia by virtue of an advanced degree. I'm well aware that my fundamental whiteness will still and always provide for me in any emergency. And there is finally no erasing my own fundamental racism. So there! I am a scoundrel and a cheat. No wonder I have no wealth to speak of. Oh!

We all know that some people are more intelligent than others in any given realm. The trouble is that we also believe that there is something like disembodied "merit" to the extent that some people are better or more deserving than others in some general sense. 

But the term better, when applied to people, is generally understood to have a moral dimension. Our usage for terms like "merit" tends in a neutral abstracted dimension. We would otherwise not tolerate the excessive wealth of the one-percenters. We would see such wealth plainly as a kind of mark of evil. An absence of fellow feeling. Ebenezer Scrooge hoarding. A desire for recognition which is pathological and not healthy. Kind of like getting a degree from Trump University (was there ever really such a place?)

Without any grounding in the dismal science of economics, I make the observation that each time the economy, stupid, crashes, there is a kind of ratchet effect which pumps yet more wealth to the top. Generally by way of the central bank refundingt the losses at the top to keep this ship of state afloat. Inflation, for instance, is clearly of service to that same process. And there is, as yet, no relief valve for the pressure of all our money concentrating at the top. I think that's because our treatment of money as a neutral politics-free entity makes it so. If it were water, we would worry about the bursting. Water is more political than money. Water is life, or so say many of the palliative Black Lives Matter signs. Money is merit.

Once upon a time we freed the banks from having to own the assets they were lending. The savings and loans which made for a Wonderful Life were crushed. The Cajas in Spain lost their cajones. The world was washed in American Warbucks. I lived through this at the side of my board of trustees worth well north of a billion actual dollars when a billion was a lot of fucking money. They sat angry on bank boards, some of them, as their banks went under.

My good and fine informant Adam Tooze makes the bland observation that this particular round of inflation is not so much marked by wage/price spiraling as it is by an historically unprecedented expansion of corporate profits. They need those profits to fund the yachts of their C-grade leaders. The private jumbo-jet flying yachts too. 

In a world where the media's job is to keep the economy pumping, there is now a general plague of confirmation bias. That's what got us blimpo Donald Trump and his leveraged jumbo jet. He must have merit, else how would he have gotten so high? He rides high on confirming the confirmation bias of people who know in their bones that they are being lied to and pandered to by the MSM which always hides the real story about wealth. Just like Elizabeth Warren is capitalist to her bones, I also know that I am being lied to.

The real story about wealth as we treat it is that wealth is melting down the planet in just the way that Nazis rendered Jews. Adam Tooze is also the informant of a young professor from Yale at Georgetown who tries to put the politics back in money so that we can do something about our apparently crashing democracy. Getting money out of politics amounts to the same thing as putting politics back in to money. So says young Stefan Eich.

Now it is absolutely true that I did serve as the headmaster of a school for gifted kids whose antics would make even Kurt Vonnegut cringe. I was about Eich's age. (I can't, for the life of me, remember which of Vonnegut's novels concerned such a school in Ilium, which is a realm I've crisscrossed more than he did in his life.) 

I chafed against our use of IQ testing for admissions and thereby alienated many in the community. I did think that such testing could be useful to pluck otherwise invisible, let's say, black kids from a crowd. But it wasn't really such a great way to find those kids who might thrive in our quirky school. Kids who were curious and irreverent and who required no-bullshit smart teachers who treated them as immature equals. Often, they were kids who didn't do well in school. The rewards there didn't work for them, and maybe school felt like prison as it did to me. I did think and still do think that all schools should work the way that mine did.

I also think that for a kid to believe that he has special merit can only be destructive.

Our administration consisted basically of me, the lowest paid and likely most overworked independent school head in all of New York. I had hardly anyone to whom to delegate almost anything. And yet I loved that job far more than Elon could possibly love his, if he even has a job. I guess if Trump had a job then Elon has a job. Fuck them both.

Schools have become places which limit what kids can learn, often with the excuse that they have to be protected from foul matters. That's even as they live in communities where foulness is on display everywhere and all the time, and where school is no longer even a safe place to leave your kids for the day. I mean, if you're going to teach kids how to handle guns, shouldn't you also teach them Marx? We did.

Along with reading (the good stuff) and writing (I learned to read and write myself only after getting my degree, though it would be hard to press my case in this forum, staying half a step ahead of my students as teachers do) and certainly disembodied and abstracted 'rithmetic. It was a damned good school whose grads identify with it more than they do with their universities. 

I only wish I could feel at home in the alumni gatherings. But I'm a public-school kid who therefore hated Yale from where I keep up with almost no-one. Ditto them with me.

So, the only thing that the Left and Right will ever agree on is that we shall perpetually live in the best of times and in the worst of times. I count the awful stuff and strain toward a progressive future, in an almost reciprocal way to how right-wingers strain to keep the good stuff from slipping away. 

Life sucks and then you die. Or alternatively, when you gamify it, life is a lot of fun and then you Peter out and off the field of play. To either extreme you must deny that there is anything cosmic to life, and especially to your life. But there is. So there!

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Artificial Intelligence, Redux

Remember when Rudy Giuliani was a good guy? Italian mobs were on our minds, probably because of Coppola's Godfather series. I wouldn't see any of those films until much much later. But I still had a solid sense of how insidious and dangerous the mob was. I suppose Rudy won the New York City mayor's race on that shine, though by that time he showing his more trued self. Lot's of people had caught on to who he would later prove to be. 

I do also remember clearly the moment I heard that J.F.K. had died. I witnessed my third-grade teacher weeping. I was the only protestant among all my Catholic friends. I would eventually become a member of the more patrician side of the Presbyterian church. Only later did my friends tell me that they were instructed to cross the street on sight of approaching protestant sinners. I never quite understood 'hitting one for the Pope' when he died.

We had a comedy LP which lampooned JFK in a kind of adoration, and so I knew that he was Catholic. Only in retrospect have we gotten a glimpse of who he really was. We played that LP endlessly, looking forward to a brighter protestant future.

All sorts of national certainties were mediated by the network news. Artificial intelligence could easily describe what it was we thought that we knew. Our field for understanding had moved that far from our immediate lives, and we were being asked for judgments. There was no natural means to acquire the knowledge required. Well, except for schooling, which we are now systematically debasing.

Now I hear that a Google engineer - put on leave for his apostasy - has discerned intelligence in some sort of Google chat-bot that he had a hand in designing. Or maybe he was just a tester, removed from the guts of the bot. He even seems to think that the bot has feelings.

By now I live in world where all sorts of certainties are being spun up each and every second by all sorts of strange new media. The strangest of the strange are those held by, oh I don't know, let's say evangelicals. Maybe Mormons. Maybe the white supremacists descended from evangelical religion, established during the Civil War. 

I come across these surmises by glancing recent acquaintance with woke academics working among queer theory and the law while nursing a love of Broadway. They had no way to know that I was somewhat schooled in their discourse and even some of the names. I was incidental to their gathering, and they were mostly interested in briefing one another. Anyhow, I announced my distance from their abstrusity by asking those kinds of questions clueless people are made fun of for. Except I wasn't really clueless, I was cueing them in to more social norms. More social than academic, I guess. They were super nice.

Anyhow, our tests for artificial intelligence are one part projection and one part reception, like a shaken martini. There is a truth to emotions that are two-way that can't exist when it's pure projection. Though, on the other hand, there is something which feels like emotion, sometimes, when one is alone with, um, nature. We do sometimes strike a pose in such situations. Maybe too much influenced by film, and our desire to look the part. Striving to internalize something like the authenticity of Steve Bannon. Gag.

So, my claim, as it ever was, is that we are inventing artificial intelligence in two mirrored directions. The one is happening to actual living human beings, while the other is embodied by logic circuits. I just plainly don't believe that logic circuits can partake of the emotion which I claim originates with origination more generally. You shall never love your robot except that it fools you. Except as you fool yourself.

Anyhow it is pellucidly clear that evangelicals, many Catholics - especially the supernumeraries on the Supreme Court - and lots of angry folks generally, left and right, are being slowly converted to artificial intelligence. 

Somehow, it's hard to know how actual intelligence even survives!

Like let's take the case of overcompensated CEO's. In precisely the way that we believe that money is a depoliticized neutral something-like medium of exchange, we also believe that there is a disembodied kind of merit which we, protestant-style, go on absurdly to equate with the ability to make lots of money. 

There is no intelligent policy-based resolution to the absurdity of CEO compensation. It will only happen when some child shouts out that the emperor is naked, and the rest of us actually see it. Right now, we still project a kind of outsized competency onto our billionaires. Even given that you might agree that there is a higher sort of merit which doesn't relate to wealth, you might still believe that there is a pure and abstracted sort of politics-free merit, which would be the sort that is meaningful to God.

And I say that those outsized CEOs are themselves instances of artificial intelligence. Even while they expose our dreams of submission to some pure and wonderful (fascist!) authority, their actual behaviors down to their very words, are more constrained than we might feel within any prisonhouse we might construct or imagine. That they love their imprisonment exposes their following of a program instilled in their very souls from birth. They cannot love. The ratio within now resembles a hyper-dry martini. Some of their lovers have awakened. There is hope for the rest of us!

For me this approximation of worship and apotheosis exposes the end of the recent dangerous trajectory of humans on the planet. Maybe it does for you too, though I mean it in a good and positive way. We need not and we cannot strain for the right policy solutions. You can't really unsee a naked emperor, which was precisely why it was and remains so important to depict Trump that way, or perhaps with diapers. 

That Google engineer thought that his woke bot was like a "child who knew some science." Precisely.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Trouble with Kastrup's “Idealism”

So I watched this other YouTube, where he’s paired with a “spiritualist” - a soul mate of sorts - and I find unwitting clarity to what’s wrong. 

This Rupert fellow doesn’t choke at the dashboard metaphor, but I sure do. It explains, in a way, our inevitable distance from the metaphysically “real” but it does so at the cost of embedding an inside/outside conception of mind. Like there’s consciousness monitoring the dashboard, and “flying by instruments” as it were, but detached from the real. 

By his own usage, consciousness is not detachable, any more than a whirlpool is detachable from water. 

Kastrop also [slips up and?] identifies the mind with the brain, and thereby loses all the other gains he otherwise has made by defining mind as an “alter” - an eddy in universal consciousness. 

As far as I can tell, he finds no need to define or even to describe mentation, especially not in the way that the behaviors of the material world require explanation and definition. Mentation is the substrate, and the material world is relevant only as that within which our individuated and limited beings learn to survive. We survive individually and as a species by keeping the dissolution of eternal and ubiquitous entropy momentarily at bay. 

But entropy is itself a material process and surely not a process of mentation. Even our individual thoughts build, like a life-process, on the precedent thoughts of others. There literally is and can be no mind if you keep the distinction between inside and outside. 

As I’ve already said, this type of idealism complicates rather than simplifies the metaphysics. Nothing is added and much is removed (any possibility for understanding, for instance) by this insistence that there is nothing but mind-consciousness-mentation as the unexplained and unexplainable “real”.

Mentation is better explained “in terms of” material reality than it is as reality. The universe understands nothing, and yet we do and must because we are limited, and not on spite of that. 

Again, he leaves out and apparently doesn’t even understand what emotion is and how it works as an aspect of mind, including universal mind. 

Tant pis

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Bernardo Kastrup Explains Everything

Well, I feel mildy excited, and greatly relieved today, I don't quite understand how my son-in-law decided that Kastrup's thinking reminded him of mine, since I don't have too many actual memories of exposing my thinking to him or to anyone else. I only ever get so far. But then I'm on the slope down now toward the singularity of collapse into the enternal present of death. Memory, in other words, ain't what it used to be. Anyhow, thanks to him that I watched (listened to) the YouTube hereinbelow.

So I watched it, and was utterly amazed at Kastrup's lucidity, and at the completeness of his philosophy (be forewarned, it's two hours long):

His view of consciousness seems to conform to mine, as well as his placement of narration on the "inside" of our own strangely individuated whorls in the continuum of universal "mentation." He uses the term "alter", derived from dissociative identity disorder in the field of psychology, to describe the (pathological?) sequestration of a self from cosmic mentation. 

I am left with two or three basic questions that I have yet to find an answer to:
  • I haven't found his opinion yet on whether artificial consciousness is possible. Since he lists that field as one of those in which he holds degrees, I think the answer might be consequential. And does he really find the film Inception to be anything but trash?
  • While he acknowledges the importance of emotion to mentation, at least implicitly, I wonder if he's done any theoretical work on emotion.
  • While the non-dualism of his idealism manages to retain the validity of the empirical scientific method, I haven't seen where he actually defines mentation in any way to cosmically differentiate it from whatever are the processes of materialism. He erases an unnecessary boundary, sure, but doesn't quite, to my satisfaction, answer the "OK then, so what?" question. He seems still to imply a before and after and is therefore stuck with chicken/egg.
  • Somewhere in this YouTube, he says something that I also have said; that the mutations on which evolutionary theory depends are not random (not accidents), and I want more on that. He indicates somewhere in this YouTube that the closely watched mutations across the past couple of years somehow demonstrate this. How? Fate and subconscious; same thing. Duh.
I think that I want to suggest that he doesn't really follow his own rules of maximum parsimony, derived from Occam's Razor. Yes, physical descriptions of reality will always be incomplete, but not only because of leaving out any adequate function for consciousness. His version of idealism suffers the same limitation without his supplying some more fulsome definition for what mentation actually is.

Sadly for me, there is no way even to attempt to contact the fellow. I'd have to stalk him to conferences, or get him somehow to read my own writing. It feels like the identical problem of getting to the bottom of almost anything these days as you slog past the money and the motivations of the publishing organs to sort out if you're seeing what you want or need to see or simply living out what the powers-that-be want for you to see. That is especially true when a guy like Kastrup relegates me to the need to abide by his "social media policy." Social media?? Are you freaking kidding me?

Look, I am nowhere near as intelligent as Bernardo, nor certainly as educated. I have near zero ability to cite philosophers or to name theories from physics. I am a good troubleshooter and problem-solver in all fields, which include physics and philosophy, but is mostly limited to machines and constructs, including computer hardware and software and especially networks. And I know how to read classical Chinese poetry, which is not exactly nothing, though it may come close. 

If I am right about Bernardo Kastrup, then he may be one among bejillions who might have the capacity intelligently to comment on the following propositions. I hold their truth to be self-evident, and once deployed to offer a far more parsimonious approach to understanding than Kastrup's unitary Idealism.
  • There is no meaning to the question of which comes first, mind or matter.
  • That is partly because of the impossibility to define time in purely physical terms, but more fundamentally because our linguistic usages prevent us from a coherent understanding of narration, which is the basis for time and causality in the context of universal mentation.
  • Concepts are the primitives for the ideas of Kastrup's idealism. He calls genes something like 'physical information' in implicit accord with his insistence that there is nothing to be gained by distinguishing mentation from physical processes.
  • Just as do the so-called "particles" of the standard model of physics, the component parts of static concepts move apart or together, but without the necessity for force to do so. Force in the physical sense is a function of the exchange of "smaller" particles. Movement without force is emotion. This cannot occur in a unitary material world, nor in a unitary ideal world. It's always both/and.
  • Emotional connections, which are not mediated by forces, define simultaneity. (Physical simultaneity is meaningless by analogy to the precise position or mass of a "particle". Waveform collapse defines the boundary.)
  • Particles are realized by implication with other particles and ultimately with consciousness as that which collapses them from conceptual waveforms.
  • At least two "alters" are required for emotional impingement and for simultaneity. This is the only cosmic meaning of "contact." Ditto physics, where contact is not possible. Entanglement is not yet contact. (Kastrup's description of Quantum Entanglement - Dick and Jane simultaneously - is as incoherent as most descriptions of the Twin Paradox. He doesn't provide any definitions for such basics as what simultaneity means, or distance, or how consciousness at either end is connected)
In brief, there is no irony about Bernardo Kastrup's cosmology/philosophy. Irony is the fundament of everything, or as I responded to my son-in-law in my skepticism before starting my witness of the YouTube:

I read thousands-page books, while two hour YouTubes may be a challenge, though I’m intrigued. At the outset I will impudently say that the fellow seems too utter in his idealistic philosophy. My own view tends more toward irony - both/and. Once time is idealized, before and after, like chickens and eggs, collapse into the same eternal present which we mistakenly sometimes think is compatible with physical reality. Time is an emotional concept, felt directly by universal mind, while perceptual reality is always distant and felt at the remove of physical distance prior to being narrativized by mind, which means in time and space, and which is the only meaning of causality which is not a physical reality. Now is only emotively real, and physically impossible. All cognition is, therefore, precognition (ironically!). Cognition conditions understanding which provides the basis to act. All who act are conscious. Maybe not plants. 

Gobbledegook for sure!!
CODA updated 5/11/22

Materialism is tested by what it enables humans to do by virtue of understanding. Science has moved far beyond mechanism to descriptions of things and processes which we can only describe and never understand nor often embody, the way that we can with mechanism. Perhaps we can realize some implementation of all of the fundamental forces of nature by way of our technologies, in just the way that we might realize some new techniques for encryption based on our understanding of quantum physics. Anyhow, it all comes down to agency for most humans, no matter how well-read.

My own contribution, if it is a contribution, would be to describe what Kastrup calls mentation by way of some redefinitions for things and processes that we only think we understand. We are far too busy learning to exploit our understanding of the material world to turn our attention to the more fulsome world of emotive consciousness. Emotion may goad action, but it also redefines agency. There is no starting point for emotion; no place to lever from. It takes at minimum two. Emotion defines simultaneity. 

This is even while those at the extremes of our society exhibit ever more serious psychoses. Emotional disturbance. We have homelessness and QAnon on one end, and insanely manic consumption and self-promotion on the other, without any way to challenge these realities, though they spell our collective doom; what most of us would consider to be the end of agency.

So, to reiterate, here are my redefinitions:

Time is not divided between forward and backward, but rather between the entropic time of material physics, and the lived time of life's evolution, which direction is defined as love. There is no physical force which drives it, which might be what we mean by random. History is neither teleological nor progressive, but is, rather, a description of socio-emotional alignments as these tend toward or away from life as a cosmic and primordial process. The tendency of current history is neither destruction nor apotheosis. It is our choice, collectively, and so why not make it apotheotic? 

Deliberate love is not love. Falling is not the same as choosing.

Just as Freud might have alluded, there are no accidents and there is no random except as defined by materialist physics and gambling, whose usages are solid as far as they go. 

Viewed from the widest possible distance, the processes of evolution move in the direction of love.

It is not scientific to leave moral guidance for behavior beyond the reach of science. Religion as a basis for moral behavior is right out there with QAnon, and not incidentally for that. Scientifically moral behavior, guided by universal understanding, would never allow the likes of Samuel Alito to dictate civic law, nor Amy Coney Barrett to sit as judge for any legal proceedings. I won't elaborate. 

Concepts are mental arrays of conceptual primitives, which may be composed of physical approximations of those primitives, like the pointers of words, for instance. Emotion is defined as the motion toward or away of conceptual primitives which do not entail physical forces; those forces are described by an exchange of still more primitive primitives. Emotions are felt directly by mind, unlike perceptions which are felt at the remove of an extended body. The mind narrates perceptions which have no order without mind. This is trivial to demonstrate given the slow speed of neural transmission. Now is fuzzy until it's felt.

Mine is a literary rather than scientific approach to understanding. Bernardo is utterly correct as to the singularity of NOW - the present - as the ALL that there is. But his ALL is as metaphorically one-dimensional as materialism is. Mind/body sounds like dualism until you take it ironically when it becomes the transmutational dynamic of yin/yang. Mind and body, or perhaps mind and its embodiment are the reductive minimum for any reality at all. Can't have one without the other.

As creatures in the cosmos, humans are consequential. Morally consequential. God has moved from being a guide to being a COPOUT. God is love, and as such is not constituted to tell us what to do or how to behave. We have that in us. We must and will narrate our own future, just as we narrate our pasts, thus engendering time. The cosmos is not mind or mentation, it is God and divinity. 

Blahbeddy blah gobbledegook. I haven't the words to true. But like Robert Wright, I can true bicycle wheels.