The unaware

Editor’s note 1: The idea that we live in a multiverse made up of infinite parallel universes, also called “alternate dimensions”, or “alternate timelines,” has been defended by various prominent physicists. In one of such hypothetical universes, the following conjecture may be taking place, and reflecting upon it may be utility-generating for scholars in various timelines

 Note 2: info from “A dynamic interplay within the frontoparietal network underlies rhythmic spatial attention” by Ian Fiebelkorn, Mark Pinsk and Sabine Kastner (DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.07.038) and “Neural mechanisms of sustained attention are rhythmic” by Randolph Helfrich, Ian Fiebelkorn, Sara Szczepanski, Jack Lin, Josef Parvizi, Robert Knight and Sabine Kastner (DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.07.032)

Setting: Unknown*

The science vessel arrived at a telluric planet that harbored conscious-intelligent-life. The assessment-team gave us an interesting report. The species does not actually register much of the world around it. Their consciousness shifts in and out of focus, so what the individuals think they know about the world is constructed from limited information. Estimates of how often they are actually focused suggest they don’t know much about their world at all.

Their brains oscillate in and out of focus four times every second. In other words, their brains are built to be distractible. They focus in bursts, and between those bursts they have periods of distractibility, when their brain assesses the rest of the environment. They experience their reality as continuous, but it is simply because their brains fill in the gaps for them. The team suspects it might have offered the individuals’ distant ancestors an evolutionary advantage detecting threats.

This may be related to another interesting finding. They have achieved a level of technological development where they are more than able to resolve their social needs. Nevertheless, most of their species live in mental and/or physician suffering, and they are in the process of destroying their planet’s ability to sustain their lives. Most of the individuals are unaware of these processes. It is also likely related to their stagnation in a market-based resource allocation society, rather than progressing into coordination and planning. The end of their world is relatively imminent. It is comically absurd, but it is much sadder than it is humorous.

 

The Anger Manifesto

From an evolutionary perspective, we are simply apes with relatively advanced cognitive abilities. Now, why does a dog tremble in fear when you found he s*** the rug for the tenth time? It’s because he knows you’re going to look for him and fake-smack* the s*** out of him with a rolled-up newspaper. But imagine for a moment how he would be trembling in fear if he could understand, and know, he is going to die.

Well, that’s basically what we are. We are apes that figured out we’re going to die. This obvious contradiction between our knowledge and our survival-instincts leads to profound anxieties in ourselves. The only reason we’re not on the floor trembling in fear, pissing ourselves like our pet dogs, is because we’ve developed coping mechanisms through culture. The predominant coping mechanism for the last 10,000 years has been religion (i.e. belief in the supernatural to pretend we’re not going to die for good).

But the contradiction wasn’t resolved, because human beings also have the cognition to conclude supernatural beliefs are b*******. The contradiction is manifesting in a new form. Should the aware individual transgress and publicly disobey all aspects of culture he concludes are b*******? It becomes tight rope walking, between deviating too much or too little from culture. If you deviate too much from culture, then you become rejected by your peers, and as social apes, this will ultimately make you unhappier. If you deviate too little from culture, you lose your individuality, and become a zombie-sheep-worm. In sum, it’s a balance between being your genuine self, and not turning yourself into a fringe social outcast.

But notice the implications on our free will. We are basically confined to live out theater. In a play, you could miss a line or two. You could maybe improvise in certain cases. But generally, if you deviate extremely from the script, the play would be deemed over. Some would say it was ruined. In sum, as an actor in theater, it is unwise to deviate from the expected script. And that’s basically living within culture.

Okay, I can learn to live with tightrope walking. But we haven’t even gotten to the most f…… up part of it all. Our Super-Ape cognition has also given us the gift of exponential technological growth. This technological development has given us the ability to free every single individual from the burdens of excessive work, to protect all of us from preventable sickness or disease, among other neat stuff. But due to the social chain of events that took place during the past 10,000 years, the resources involved are allocated in markets driven by profits.

As a result, not all of us are being protected, well fed, or getting enough rest. Most of us have shitty jobs that make us feel really f****** alienated. At the same time, we read on the news how a billionaire is paying for a trip around the Moon.

Some react to this by buying V for Vendetta masks and fantasizing about revolution. Don’t be f****** stupid by the way. You’ll probably get up hurting yourself, someone else, or getting arrested; and everything would stay just the same.

But still, I’m f……. angry. I’m angry because there are old people working their balls off at a Walmart. Because I can’t miss work but the teacher called because my girl is sick. At the same time, I know it does not have to be this way. If resources were allocated through democratic planning instead of profit-seeking, there would be no old people working in Walmarts, and I’d be able to pick up my snot-covered girl at school. So, I’m pissed. But pissed at whom? The individuals who benefit today from the chain of events of the past 10,000 years? It’s technically not their fault. They are also simply actors playing their part in the play.

So, we have all this anger at nothing and everything. What the f… do we do with it? F…. The only plan I can come up with is to vote “left of center”, or try to support whoever is two stances to the left of the “conservative-white-men stance,” and try to put my cliché grain of sand in grassroots bottom-up initiatives to help me sleep at night. It still f…… sucks for most of us. I found the combination of music, comic books, weed, and yoga helps. But I guess everyone has their own self-care combo. Find yours. Good luck.

 

Comparative Economic Systems in the Graphic Novel “Superman:RedSon”: A Literary Victory of Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism

Superman: Red Son is a three-issue prestige format comic book mini-series published by DC Comics that was released under their Elseworlds imprint in 2003. Author Mark Millar created the comic with the premise “what if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?” It received critical acclaim and was nominated for the 2004 Eisner Award for best limited series. (From Wikipedia)

Spoiler Alert

Within the graphic novel, after the death of Stalin, Superman becomes more involved in the planning of the Soviet economy. Living standards and economic development in the Soviet Union rapidly surpassed the United States. Eventually, all but two countries (USA and Chile) decided to join Superman’s Soviet Union.

There are various interesting aspects here. First, the graphic novel implies the Soviet economy’s problems were not structural in nature. It was simply a technical problem that Superman resolved by crunching the numbers. Also, the reference to Chile is clearly a nudge towards Milton Friedman’s role in Pinochet’s regime. In other words, the novel is still framing this hypothetical alternate world in terms of capitalism vs communism.

The downfall of Superman’s Soviet Union was more of a personal choice. Lex Luthor tricked Superman into reading a note that read “Why don’t you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?” Superman realized he had become the Omniscient Social Planner. Even if Superman’s world was better off, he had ethical problems with what he had become. It was not his place to decide. In other words, throughout the novel it is clear Superman’s planned economy was superior than capitalism. Similarly, the Soviet economy’s “fall” ends with a scene showing Luthor (in this incarnation as a sort of anti-hero that ultimately helped humanity)  impressed with Superman’s notes on economic planning. The glimpse of Luthorism that followed gives the reader the suggestion that Luthor’s utopia was definitely not capitalist. On the contrary, it continued with its planned nature, apparently incorporating a higher emphasis on the participation of scientists.

In sum, the graphic novel “Superman: RedSon” is simply a beautiful literary victory for Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism.

 

An open letter to science-deniers and science-ignorers

Many of this journal’s readers have assumed an attitude of science denial, or at least of ignoring recommendations from the scientific community. This could be in areas such as politics, nutrition, and/or in parenting (which is certainly the most ominous among the examples provided).

I recently stumbled upon a quote from Steven Kotler’s Tomorrowland which I find quite relevant:
Science is not always factually accurate, but it’s usually directionally accurate. It is the result of torturous investigation, vociferous argument, and hard-won consensus. One of the best tests of veracity is when conclusions reached in multiple fields begin to strongly overlap.

In other words, it is true the scientific community constantly flip-flops on issues. Today, you follow their advice, only to be told in the following decades it was total nonsense. Obviously, an understandable knee-jerk reaction is to ignore scientific advice, and “go with your gut.” While understandable, it is nevertheless suboptimal.

It becomes an issue of probability. The question is: under which course of action does the individual minimize unwanted or unpleasant outcomes? Statistically, it is more likely that your “gut” will lead you to unpleasant or unwanted outcomes. Your “gut” is essentially the sum of your acquired knowledge, but also including your prejudices, false beliefs, and lack of knowledge. In most cases, scientific research is more likely to give good advice than your “gut.” If you cannot accept this, you are most likely an arrogant douche.

Best regards,
Casey Flaherty

Why you should listen to your parents and should not get a tattoo until you’re 25 years old: Bounded rationality in the context of young adults

The current state of knowledge in the natural sciences argues the human brain does not completely develop until approximately 25 years of age. In particular, young adults have relatively more difficulty estimating the potential negative consequences of their actions due their incomplete brain development. In Economics, the argument would be simply that rationality is bounded at varying degrees throughout the individual’s life.

Thus, if a rational individual with less than 25 years is made aware of this information, the rational choice would be to give more weight to advice from adults over 25, such as parents or older siblings. This has profound policy implications for adolescents and young adults who do not want to listen to their parents.

Comments on the 20th Century ‘Multiple Discovery’ of ‘Star Trek’ by Rodenberry and Soviet writers: Implications for Full Space Communism and Techno-barbarism

Audiences have been introduced to works of science fiction that take place in a future where hunger, disease, crime, poverty, and states have disappeared on Earth, while humans explore the galaxy and routinely encounter alien species. These fictional future humans have very high ethical standards, and try with all their might to not intervene with other civilizations in ways that are disruptive to their own development.

Perhaps the most well-known is Star Trek, which first aired in 1966. Curiously, a similar work was published in 1962 as a Soviet novel titled Noon: 22nd Century, written by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

Trekonomics author Manu Saadia explains one can find a first sketch of most of Star Trek’s themes not only in Noon: 22nd Century but also in the Strugatskys’ subsequent books as well. It is unlikely Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had heard about them. They were not translated until several years after the finale of Star Trek The Original Series. Saadia notes: “In a way it is even more intriguing to think that Roddenberry could create the Star Trek universe, along very similar lines, without even knowing of his Russian counterparts’ existence. Same broad conclusions, from the opposite side of the Iron Curtain.”

Both space utopias had similar economic processes behind them. Humans have overcome scarcity and no longer have to worry about providing for themselves. Our needs and desires are all taken care of by technology. Most notably, this future economy does not require currency or market mechanisms to produce and exchange goods. Monitoring and communication through a process of continuous feedback direct the flow of supply and demand harmoniously. This is similar to what economist David Laibman calls an economic system of multilevel iterative planning. This paper argues this is also an example of Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism.

After further analysis, it is not surprising that Roddenberry and the brothers Strugatsky simultaneously came up with such a similar vision of future Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism. “Multiple Discovery” or “Simultaneous Discovery” is a common and vastly documented phenomena. Famous examples include the simultaneous development of calculus by Newton and Leibniz, and the simultaneous invention of the telephone by Meucci and Graham Bell. The list of strangers independently and almost simultaneously developing grand ideas or inventions is quite extensive.

While many conceive history as a succession of geniuses with world-changing contributions, history may be more aptly described as a succession of Multiple Discoveries or Simultaneous Invention. Most discoveries or inventions are simply the product of piecing together previous discoveries and inventions. If the necessary pieces of the puzzle aren’t there yet, the discovery cannot take place. As soon as all the pieces are available, the global race is on to see who are the first to piece them together. In many occasions it is actually much more than two people. The First Law of Thermodynamics was roughly developed by five different people during the late 1800s.

 

The idea that something cannot take place until the necessary material conditions are present resonates with Marxist theory. Thus, the simultaneous conceptualization of a high-tech interstellar post-capitalist utopia is understandable. By the 1960s, technological development was advancing at unprecedented speed, and many were convinced the crisis-generating and dehumanizing contradictions of the capitalist mode of production were intrinsic features of capitalism. In contrast, many science fiction writers envisioned technological development would lead us to a robot-ruled apocalyptic future.

Labor-saving technological development can lead to profoundly different outcomes depending on how the benefits of these developments are distributed. If only robot-owners or anti-human sentient robots benefit from this technological development, we may encounter a new form of barbarism. If this technology is utilized in a communitarian fashion, we may encounter a Trek-like space utopia. Science fiction’s technological paradox resonates with the crossroads Rosa Luxemburg warned we have encountered. To paraphrase, either we transition to Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism or we regress into [techno]barbarism.

Karl Marx’s Boils: A biographical note on praxis while covered in smelly pus-filled lumps

This blog’s first domain (marxsboils.wordpress.com) was a tribute to the pus-filled lumps historically misidentified as boils in the body of Karl Marx.

Most of Marx’s biographies mention he suffered from bouts of painful and incapacitating boils that frequently halted his work and made his life a living hell. However, dermatologist Sam Shuster published an article in the British Journal of Dermatology that concludes Marx’s famous boils were in fact Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS).

Combing through Marx’s correspondence, Shuster noticed the frequency and location of the lumps were not consistent with boils, but with this rare disease. According to MayoClinic, HS is a long-term skin condition that features small, painful lumps under the skin. They typically develop where the skin rubs together, such as the armpits, the groin, between the buttocks and under the breasts. The lumps may break open and smell or cause tunnels under the skin. HS develops when hair follicles become blocked and inflamed, and no one knows exactly why this occurs. It is not caused by an infection, it is not contagious, and it is not due to poor hygiene. It should be noted that it follows that Shuster’s findings cannot be utilized to argue Marx had poor hygiene.

MayoClinic adds that the location, drainage and odor of the sores can cause embarrassment and reluctance to go out in public, leading to sadness or depression. While there is no cure, treatments were developed during the 20th century to help control pain, promote wound healing, keep new lumps from forming and prevent complications. These did not exist during Marx’s lifetime, so his life was quite painfu, marked by wounds that never healed, and new lumps consistently forming.

Many researchers who have dived into Marx’s biographies have noted that he was quite evidently an asshole. He may be summarized as a rude and condescending man.

Reading more about his condition may foster more understanding towards his foul personality. Also, the fact that he made such profound contributions in theory and practice while being covered in painful, stinky, pus-filled lumps is an undoubtedly impressive feat. Furthermore, it suggests Marx’s contributions would have been even grander if he had lived without the painful, stinky, pus-filled lumps.