Arquivo da categoria: Interdisciplinar

10 Razões pelas quais estou indo embora

Ao longo dos últimos anos, milhões de pessoas imigraram para os EUA, pelas mais diversas razões. Algumas delas são Einstein, Schwarzenegger, Freud, Pelé, Elon Musk, Rodrigo Santoro, Anthony Hopkins, Max Tegmark, Edir Macedo, Steve Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Aubrey de Grey, Bob Marley, John Lehnnon, Ang Lee, Isabel Allende, Ironicamente Levi-Strauss, Chaplin,  Yao Ming,  e Yo-Yo Ma.

Tomemos o exemplo de Elon Musk, o verdadeiro homem de ferro, gênio, bilionário, playboy, filântropo, pai de 5.  Originalmente Sul-Africano.  Because when children like Elon Musk attain the kind of self-awareness that leads to questions about environment—Where in the world can I go for the license and the room to do what I must do? Where in the world are my peers?—they always, and still, come to the same conclusion.

Elon Musk knew when he was a child. A remarkable conviction for a child to have, and all the more so because there was no specific dream attached to it. There was no “to build rocket ships” or “to make millions” or “to design computer software.” Instead, Elon (pronounced ee-lon) had this thought, consciously, literally, and at the age of 10: America is where people like me need to go. That is where people like me have always gone. A place that was the photographic negative of apartheid South Africa, a place less encumbered than any in the world, ever, by fear.

“It is as true now as it has always been,” says Elon Musk, the man who is endeavoring—as preposterously as he is credibly—to give the human race its biggest upgrade since the advent of consciousness. “Funny how people seem to have forgotten that. But almost all innovation in the world takes place in the United States.”

Não sou nem de longe inteligente como o Elon, e por isso, o que ele percebeu aos 10, eu percebi aos 26. Mas em verdade, minhas razões positivas para ir para os EUA são fáceis de encontrar. Qualquer imigrante pode dizê-las. Vou concentrar-me aqui em lhe contar as 10 razões negativas pelas quais vou-me embora. As razões pelas quais preciso, e quase todos precisamos sair daqui.

Digo quase todos porque creio que essa afirmação seja mais válida para quem tem score alto no big 5 personality traits em Conscientiousness, Openness to experience e Extroversion.   Para vocês, minhas razões pelas quais “Nessa terra a dor é grande a ambição pequena, Carnaval e Futebol”, cada uma divida em 5 partes; O que é? ; Exemplo Prático; Porque é Importante? ; Como tranformar sua vida nessa direção; O que você ganha com isso?

1) Dever Ser e a Falácia Naturalista

O que é?

Dever não é Ser, Bom não é Verdadeiro. (E a Falácia Naturalista)

 O raciocínio, ao ser utilizado para pensar a maneira que o mundo funciona deveria funcionar de uma maneira não enviesada, e isso significa basicamente uma das coisas mais difíceis de se aceitar para algumas pessoas, que é que o mundo não tem maior probabilidade de se comportar da maneira que você deseja somente porque você assim deseja, o mundo funciona como funciona, e ele não leva em consideração nem o que você considera moralmente bom, nem como você crê que ele deveria ser. Suponha que astrônomos descubram que não haverá um eclipse na terra pelos próximos oitenta anos, e que por alguma razão a mídia mundial divulgasse a notícia como chocante, com o seguinte título: “Toda Uma Geração Humana Ficará Sem Poder Ver Eclipses.” Bem, se as notícias fossem suficientemente convictas, provavelmente haveria uma grande quantidade de pessoas que fortemente desejariam que houvesse um eclipse em suas vidas, do fundo do coração. Mas não é bem provável que alguém começasse a realmente acreditar que haveria um, independentemente de quantas pessoas concordassem que o mundo seria um lugar melhor se houvesse. Isso é facilmente compreensível para qualquer um, mas o mesmo raciocínio não se aplica, por exemplo, à maneira que as pessoas tendem a pensar sobre a natureza humana. Se mostramos a alguém um estudo que diz que algumas pessoas são mais inteligentes que outras biologicamente, ou que homens têm maior probabilidade de estuprar porque nossa espécie é neotênica, a maioria das pessoas diria: “Blasfêmia! Você está tentando justificar terríveis comportamentos baseado na natureza e portanto sua concepção de natureza não pode ser verdadeira. ” “Justificar” é uma palavra bastante ambígua e traquinas, já que pode significar tanto justificar eticamente como logicamente, o que são significados bastante distintos. Nos dois casos considerados, a pessoa que mostra o artigo está de fato tentando justificar logicamente uma razão pela qual algumas pessoas são mais inteligentes e também a razão pela qual algumas pessoas tem tendência a estuprar. Esse tipo de justificativa significa que ele está tentando dar uma explicação, uma maneira de ver, de porque as coisas são como são, de quais fatos do mundo, juntos, geram alguns fenômenos como inteligência diferencial e estupro. Dizer que esses fenômenos são altamente determinados por predisposições biológicas para uma arquitetura cerebral escrita no código genético não é em nenhum sentido possível concordar que essas coisas sejam boas, não é senão concordar que elas são reais, ou muito provavelmente reais.

Por outro lado, a pessoa mostrando os estudos não está tentando mostrar que o mundo deveria ser assim, a maneira como o mundo deveria ser não é o estudo da ciência, nem da filosofia analítica, é o estudo da política, filosofia moral e ética, religião, tecnologia etc…

A compreensão do fato de que a natureza não justifica eticamente nada, ela apenas justifica logicamente, é um importante aprendizado para qualquer um que queira discutir a respeito das coisas do mundo sem um viés ético. O viés ético vem da falácia naturalista, como G. E. Moore chamou esse tipo de desentendimento, ou da confusão entre dever ser. A falácia naturalista e o problema da confusão do que é com o que deveria ser, são, na minha opinião, os fatores dirigentes por trás do relativismo que estupidifica e massacra a possibilidade de aprendizado. São a principal força que opera contra a possibilidade de aprender em nível individual, grupal e institucional. São a desculpa perfeita para manter seus preconceitos e seu nível de conhecimento atual, e fingir para si mesmo que se está justificado.

Exemplo Prático.

Disse um sábio chinês: A morte dá sentido a vida.
Respondeu Ivain: Qualquer idiota pode lhe dizer porque a morte é horrível, mas é necessário um tipo muito particular de idiota para acreditar que a morte seja boa.     

Porque é Importante.

Fiz meu melhor ao longo de anos para convencer as mais inteligentes mentes dessa ideia simples, obviamente verdadeira, mas a falácia foi mais forte. É necessário partir para onde ela já foi eliminada. Um lugar onde não confundimos “Coisas totalmente absurdas proferidas por figuras de autoridade de maneira misteriosa e sem explicação” com “sabedoria”.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Nunca deixe um argumento pronto que ouviu há anos dominar sua capacidade de raciocinar sozinho, e procure investigar se sua crença não foi causada por um fator ambiental tal, que se você tivesse nascido na situação oposta, teria  a opinião oposta. Se vivesse num universo em que todos os seres humanos tem vidas parecidas com as nossas, salvo que são imortais, você inventaria a morte? Você defenderia a morte? Você lutaria não só pelo direito, mas pela obrigação de morrer, de maneira lenta, angustiante e imprevisível?

O que você ganha com isso?

A capacidade de pensar fora da caixa dos preconceitos que a sociedade lhe impôs. A chance de viver uma vida melhor do que a que o sistema programou para você.

2) Não se importe com o que os outros pensam. Eles não pensam.

O que é?

Não há uma maneira agradável de dizer isso. Mas ninguém ao seu redor faz ideia de absolutamente nada. Somos uma espécie jovem que apenas agora atingiu um estado mínimo de globalização e compartilhamento de conhecimento. Peter Thiel, o primeiro investidor do Facebook, filósofo bilionário e criador do Paypal sumariza bem ao falar de como ninguém sabe o que fazer com dinheiro:
Acho que isso realmente é o que acontece em grande medida: Você começa um  negócio bem sucedido, você vende a compania ou ações. Você ganha algum dinheiro. Questão: O que você faz com o dinheiro? Você não tem ideia, porque… ninguém sabe o que fazer com nada. Então você dá o dinheiro para um grande banco lhe ajudar a fazer algo. O que o banco faz? Ele não tem ideia, então ele dá o dinheiro a um portfolio de investidores institucionais, e o que eles fazem? Eles não tem ideia. Então colocam o dinehiro num portfolio de ações. Não numa ação específica, porque isso sugere que você tem opiniões, ou ideias, e isso é perigoso porque sugere que você não participa [da ideia prevalente de um futuro indeterminado mas otimista]. E então o que as companias fazem com o dinheiro? Disseram para eles que eles devem gerar free cash flows (fluxos de caixa livres) porque se eles fossem investir o dinheiro em coisas específicas, o que é um problema porque sugere que você tem ideias, e essa é uma das piores coisas nessa visão de mundo de um futuro indeterminado, aleatório mas otimista que domina a sociedade atualmente.

Exemplo Prático.

É muito comum as pessoas fazerem as principais escolhas de suas vidas confundindo razões instrumentais (como o dinheiro) com razões finais (como “nadar numa piscina morna 2 vezes por semana com amigos comendo churrasco). O exemplo mais comum é fazer um curso de graduação. A pergunta que fazemos as crianças e adolescentes sempre é “o que você quer fazer de faculdade?” quando evidentemente deveria ser “Que problemas você gostaria de resolver?” “Como você pretende ajudar os outros?” ou algo similar. Não é de se admirar que todos se sintam perdidos na faculdade, afinal, até chegar nela, lhes foi dito que a faculdade era o objetivo. O mesmo vale para empregos.

Porque é Importante.

Absolutamente nada do que você faz deveria ser sem propósito. E a cadeia de “Por que?”, a qual qualquer criança é capaz de proferir para seus pais tem necessariamente que se encerrar em um de seus objetivos finais. Se ela não está fazendo isso, você não deveria estar tomando essa ação. 

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Para cada ação que leve mais de 10 minutos, imagine uma criança adorável lhe perguntando por que você vai fazer aquilo. Assim que você chega numa razão final, ela sorri, lhe dá um chocolate e lhe abraça. ex:

  •  Procurando imagens para o TCC -> Ter um bom TCC -> Ser aprovado na universidade -> ter um curriculo interessante a empresas  no Rio de Janeiro -> Viver no Rio de Janeiro -> adoraria poder ver o mar pela manhã e caminhar na lagoa aos sábados.
  •  Dançar forró -> Dançar forró
  • Fuçar o facebook de fulano -> fulano tem ideias interessantes -> ler ideias interessantes
  • Ser promovido -> ganhar mais dinheiro -> enriquecer -> ser rico -> XXXXX

No último caso a cadeia de raciocínio não se encerra num valor final, e a criança esperneia e chora até você abandonar aquela ação.

A parte mais fundamental é descobrir o que de fato são seus objetivos finais, sobre o que falarei mais a frente.

O que você ganha com isso?

Não passar pelo problema apontado lindamente por Lehnnon: Life is what happens while you are planning the future. Isto é, não viver uma vida em busca de objetivos instrumentais.

What we are doing is we are bringing up children and educating them to live the same sort of lives we are living… in order that, er, that they would-may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same things so it’s all retch and no vomit — it never gets there. (Alan Watts)

3) Seu recurso mais valioso é o que você ignora consistentemente

O que é

Você sente isso  na aceleração da internet, nas maneiras cada vez mais viciantes de se manter um usuário conectado a um site, nos balões vermelhos lhe avisando de cada nova atualização do Facebook. Você sente isso quando vê que cada dia mais tem menos tempo para os amigos, para as leituras, para meditar, para estar só. Mas não é imediato perceber o que é o problema. O problema é que o mundo está acelerando a capacidade de invadir seu espaço psicológico e dominar sua mente. Sua atenção está sendo sequestrada por gangues cada vez mais eficientes. E se você não lidar com esse problema de maneira atenta e tomando a perspectiva de terceira pessoa, vai se tornar um marionete de um sistema que evoluiu exponencialmente rápido para extrair seu tempo, recurso, motivação e dinheiro, e está cada vez lhe arrancando mais, até que sua alma se dissolva completamente num autômato desajeitado.

Exemplo Prático.

Existem pessoas que não usam ADblock, pessoas que pagam pelo farmville, pessoas que pagam por cartas cada vez mais caras e raras de Magic (como eu), carreiras cada vez mais concentradas de pasta base de cocaína, músicas cada vez mais proeminentes em seu apelo aos instintos básicos, como o funk carioca. Existem pessoas que se perderam para sempre dissolvidas em séries americanas cada vez mais incrivelmente cativantes. Milhões de brasileiros assistem novela. E se você se sente superior por assistir Breaking Bed, Lost, Friends, How I met your mother, ou jogar GTA V, Civilization IV ou passar horas por dia checando sua caixa de Email e Facebook, pense de novo. Obrigado por fumar:

Porque é Importante.

Quando ligam na sua casa para vender um seguro de bla bla blá as oito da noite, você se revolta. O mesmo deveria acontecer quando a Folha, o Estado, a Veja, a Men’s health, ou qualquer informação sobre os afazeres da Jennifer Anniston ou a Miley Cyrus penetram sua retina e se alojam confortavelmente em seu cérebro. É absolutamente evidente que é a seguradora quem lucra com aquela ligação e não você, se não eles não ligariam. Você sabe disso. O que você esquece é do contrário. As grandes coisas da vida. Aquilo que mais lhe interessa, seus objetivos mais caros, profundos e finais nunca vão ligar em sua casa para perguntar se você os deseja. Raramente uma pessoa se dá ao trabalho de contar grandes experiências e com o advento da internet, isso ajudou-nos a descobrir coisas interessantes. Mas todas as coisas da vida que estão na intersecção “se você soubesse que é uma possibilidade, ia ser espetacular, incrível, uma grande oportunidade, e divertidíssima para você” e “não é lucrativo nem particularmente desejado por outras pessoas” estão no lado escuro da lua.  Ninguém virá falar sobre elas, e encontrá-las deveria ser um esforço seu, afinal, são as coisas que você mais valoriza, por definição.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Elimine a informação que é arremessada contra seu crânio pela mídia, destrua seu Newsfeed do Face com o app Newsfeed Eradicator. Instale o ADblock, pare de fumar e se pergunte, toda vez que você clicar num hiperlink “esse seria um bom momento para desconectar o cabo da internet por 20 minutos, para ter certeza que eu não entre numa cadeia interminável de hiperlinks?
Precisamos sair daqui porque da mesma maneira que aqui se confunde misticismo misterioso arcaico com sabedoria, aqui se confunde “dieta de pouca informação” com “neurose”. É um estado de calamidade pública e privada.

O que você ganha com isso?

A oportunidade de descobrir quem você é e o que você quer. Tempo para pensar, criar, dançar e sentir. E um estado mais relaxado e menos taquicárdico diante da vida.

4) Tome a perspectiva de terceira pessoa sobre si mesmo semanalmente

O que é

Lembrar-se de pensar tanto na desimportância global da sua ação e suas preocupações, como da importância que você espera que essas coisas tenham em diferentes fases da vida. O que realmente interessa quando você olhar para trás no futuro, ou  quando você olhou para frente no passado.

Exemplo Prático.

Conjectura de Caleiro: Ao olhar a vida na direção inversa, partindo do dia em que morremos, a incerteza sobre quantos anos temos nos faz muito mais tranquilos e menos competitivos com relação a pessoas que, na contagem normal, tem nossa idade, mas parecem estar mais “avançadas” em alguma coisa do que nós. Se você não sabe se tem 25, 35 ou 50 anos, faz muito menos diferença ser o CEO ou não da companhia, estar dando aulas de inglês ou morar com seus pais.

Porque é Importante.

Acredito que 80% das pessoas parariam de se preocupar com 80% de suas preocupações cotidianas se pensassem assim. E provavelmente deixariam de fazer muita coisa desnecessária, e finalmente teriam coragem de tomar aquela iniciativa que a tanto vem postergando.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Passe cinco minutos perguntando a si mesmo se ao olhar para trás, em 20 anos, ou aos mais românticos, em seu leito de morte, você se arrependeria mais de tomar essa ação ou de não tomá-la. Aja para satisfazer aquele sujeito que não está tão mesquinha, egoista e pequenamente imbuído no seu contexto específico e suas circunstâncias atuais. Pense no que você recomendaria a outra pessoa nessa situação.

O que você ganha com isso?

A garantia de poder olhar para trás e cantar My Way ao fim de sua vida. Esse sim é um objetivo final que vale a pena ter.

5) O triângulo das 3 vidas possíveis (Experiencial, Otimizadora e Altruista) e descobrindo onde você se encontra nele.

rgb-triangle

O que é

Até onde compreendi, existem apenas três direções para guiar nossas ações e vida que fazem sentido. Todos os pontos do plano contidos nesse triangulo são logicamente sustentáveis, e possivelmente defensáveis como forma de vida, como distribuição de alocação de recursos psicológicos. Qualquer ponto fora do triângulo, dentro ou fora de seu plano, é um erro e deve ser corrigido. A descrição das extremidades dá o limite máximo de uma característica. o baricentro portanto seria alguém que age igualmente nas três direções possíveis. Isso pode ser feito tanto mesclando numa só ação dois tipos de objetivos, como também distribuindo seu tempo entre ações distintas na proporção em que o seu ponto dista de cada extremidade (quanto mais próximo, mais tempo dedicado aqula atividade).

  • Uma pessoa vermelha deseja mudar um aspecto do mundo de uma maneira específica: Gaudí construiu estruturas específicas com um determinado design, e optimizou o mundo para que ele tivesse mais dessas estruturas. A palavra chave é otimizar, é o pensamento cibernético, é maximizar a probabilidade de que algum elemento do mundo seja de uma determinada maneira, é Rockfeller, estabelecendo como Nova York será, é uma criança construindo um barco de lego. É definir um conjunto de objetivos e encontrar o conjunto mínimo de ações que garante que aquelas modificação serão feitas. É o que liga o engenheiro e o artista.
  • Uma pessoa verde é um altruísta. Não existe altruísmo ineficaz exceto como falha cognitiva. O altruísmo é querer maximizar o benefício aos outros independente de quem eles sejam (um altruismo puramente intra-familiar por contraste seria uma pessoa vermelha, ela deseja um mundo com uma propriedade específica para um grupo específico). Um altruísta eficaz tem seu modelo de vida em Peter Singer e Paul Cristiano, e no momento, dado nosso nível de desconhecimento dos problemas do mundo, se ocupa de compreender melhor quais são as tarefas mais importantes fora a única que sabemos até o momento, evitar riscos existenciais, que cortem permanentemente o potencial futuro humano. Bostrom pode ter encontrado a única certeza ética que temos até o momento, e Elon Musk pode estar tentando alucinadamente resolver esse problema. Mas qualquer outro altruísta só poderia estar procurando novas certezas, ajudando Musk a nos colocar em Marte, ou financiando uma dessas duas tarefas. Qualquer outra atividade, de visitar centros espíritas à distribuir o sopão, de promover o software livre a melhorar a educação brasileira, de doar tempo para o movimento muda mundo, é ou um erro epistêmico (um desconhecimento a respeito de algum aspecto do mundo) ou uma forma atravessada de misturar uma sensação quentinha no peito (causada ou por aspectos vermelhos os azuis) com imaginar a si mesmo como um altruísta. É um auto-engano ou um equivoco. E as únicas pessoas que sabem isso e vivem isso estão lá e não aqui.
  • Uma pessoa azul é um experiencialista, o foco de seus desejos e objetivos não está num objeto descritível fisicamente, mas num conjunto de experiências, ou tipos de experiências. Ao invés de querer mudar a cidade de São Paulo, ele deseja saborear as melhores lasanhas de São Paulo. Ao invés de querer aumentar uma quantidade objetiva de vidas de infindável diversão que alguém viverá no futuro distante caso a terra não seja destruida e atinjámos a maturidade tecnológica, ele quer sentir o prazer de resolver uma determinada equação que, por acaso, levará a humanidade a conquistar o espaço. Ou até mesmo ele quer a experiência de ter feito um ato genuinamente altruista, de ter visitado a extremidade verde por um dia. Mas na sua cadeia de porquês, o ato de altruísmo não está sublinhado, a sensação de executar o ato de altruismo é o último elemento da cadeia. O mesmo vale para um grande projeto vermelho, como escrever um livro. Um experiencialista que escreve um livro almeja não um mundo que contenha aquele livro, mas a sensação de escrevê-lo, a sensação de ser lido, a sensação de ser reconhecido como um autor e assim por diante. Um verde ou um vermelho poucas razões têm para usar drogas que comprometam sua habilidade de mobilizar a matéria, um azul não padece do mesmo tipo de desconforto. Não há problema em viver numa tribo por meses, passar um dia no parque, ou até assitir uma série viciante, porque a própria experiência tem valor.

Exemplo Prático.

Você doa seu tempo num sábado para a campanha do agasalho, mas acha que está fazendo uma ação verde. No entanto, sua ação é claramente vermelha. Você acha que quer escrever um livro para que ele exista (vermelho) mas na verdade, o que você deseja é tornar-se atraente (azul). Você acha que fuma maconha porque isso lhe dá boas ideias (vermelho), mas fuma pela experiência (azul) ou por vício (fora do triângulo, já que não é justificado).

Porque é Importante.

É fundamental se situar nesse triângulo. Na medida em que houver qualquer verde em você, é fundamental saber que há pouquíssimas ações legitimamente verdes. A cada ação, é interessante saber se sua razão é azul, vermelha ou verde. E ao longo do processo, compreender onde se está na escala do roxo (que liga o azul e o vermelho) serve para orientar e reformar seus objetivos de curto médio e longo prazo. E para distribuir seu tempo.
Precisamos sair daqui porque menos de 100 pessoas dentre as 7 bilhões vivas e as 70 bilhões que já existiram compreendem plenamente a extremidade verde. E por isso mesmo ela é de extrema importância. Todos os atos verdes feitos no passado foram feitos, por assim dizer, por acaso. Mas agora isso não é mais necessário. Lá há mais vermelho que aqui. Lá, existe verde. Eu gostaria de dizer que aqui somos azul-arroxeados, como provavelmente sua intuição está lhe fazendo pensar agora. Mas na verdade, aqui somos apenas confusos. Ninguém sabe o que fazer como nada, lembrando as palavras de Thiel, um dos 100.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Localize seu ponto no triangulo. Toque-o, pense nele consistentemente. Verifique até que ponto suas ações estão deixando uma extremidade valiosa de lado. Você é um azul, mas achava que era vermelho? Corrija isso.

O que você ganha com isso?

Para cada ação, você saberá que deve tentar encontrar sua “projeção” mais próxima no triângulo, já que nenhuma ação fora do triângulo é justificada (se eu estiver correto). Essa simples heurística irá regular muito melhor seu tempo e pensamento sobre como viver.

6) O diagrama de Venn que decide o próximo projeto.

O que é

Diagrama Venn Ações  vida

Exemplo Prático de um erro:

As poucas pessoas que procuraram um pensamento diagrâmico chegaram a uma péssima conclusão, de diagrama de venn para a vida.   Eles acreditam que a vitória está na intersecção de

O que você amaO que você pode ser pago para fazer, Coisas nas quais você é bom. 

Um problema desse diagrama é que ele confunde dinheiro com valor. O que é valioso para você não necessariamente, mas possivelmente envolve dinheiro. A bolha correta diria “o que produz valor para você”.   Outro problema é que ele mistura valor (vermelho) com amor/tesão (azul) sem deixar isso claro, e muitas vezes, dividir o tempo é melhor do que tentar fazer um multitasking colorido interatividades, misturar todas as corres leva a um marrom opaco e feio, dividi-las em sua pintura pode gerar uma linda composição. Um outro problema, muito mais grave, é que ele não leva em conta contrafactuais, o que aconteceria se você não fizesse aquilo. Para objetivos azuis, experienciais, todo o valor é perdido quando você não faz aquilo, mas no caso dos objetivos verdes ou vermelhos, a situação é muito diferente. Nesse caso é necessário se perguntar o que aconteceria, exatamente, se eu não executasse aquela ação. Alguma outra pessoa ou agente faria a mesma coisa? Se sim, o valor verde ou vermelho gerado seria o mesmo. E vale a pena partir para outra atividade.

Porque é Importante.

O diagrama que decide os projetos que valem a pena executar (a intersecção amarela, entre o verde e o vermelho) só tem valor para o verde e o vermelho, que tem objetivos no mundo. Mas para objetivos fora do campo da experiencia, fora do azul, só as ações e projetos amarelos são justificados. Não faz sentido, em objetivos finais vermelhos ou verdes executar qualquer ação fora do amarelo.  Apenas objetivos azuis ou objetivos instrumentais devem permitir-nos sair do campo do amarelo.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Use o diagrama, nunca faça nada vermelho ou verde que não esteja na intersecção amarela.

O que você ganha com isso?

Seus objetivos de fato vão acontecer, e você não precisará se resignar a fingir o feng-shui da sua casa está ampliando a harmonia cósmica, que rezar é eficaz, que astrologia diz algo fundamental sobre a realidade. Você estará de fato agindo no mundo, e não se enganando a respeito. Suas ações terão consequências de verdade. Ao invés de inventar desculpas para porque você falhou, você estará sempre em busca de como conseguir de verdade. Dá medo né? Esse medo impediu muita gente de ir pra lá, então por um efeito de seleção, é lá que estão aqueles que ultrapassaram o medo.

7) Esvaziamento da mente e libertação da criatividade

O que é

Usar um sistema Getting Things Done para liberar espaço psicológico e motivacional. Um sistema Getting Things Done é um esquema desenvolvido por David Allen, que uma vez implementado, faz com que cada pensamento só tenha que passar por sua cabeça uma vez. A mente é para ter ideias, não para retê-las, ou re-têlas.

Exemplo Prático.

Não faz a menor diferença quanto você pensa hoje sobre a conta que só pode pagar amanhã, quanto pensa no ônibus sobre  a proposta que só pode escrever no computador, e quanto lembra que precisa de leite quando não está no supermercado. Se seu sistema para lembras as coisas é o cérebro, ele não foi feito para isso, e está sobrecarregado. É necessário externalizar as ações que tem que ser feitas por seu eu futuro. E estar sempre com a mente livre para criar. A única coisa que você precisará se lembrar é checar seu GTD diariamente. Melhor do que todas as perturbações que estão na sua cabeça sobre o que tem que fazer na próxima semana, não?

Porque é Importante.

Tempo, stress, habilidade de manejo.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

https://thepiratebay.se/search/getting%20things%20done/0/7/0

O que você ganha com isso?

Paz mental interior.

8) Você é resultado do ambiente ao seu redor. Modifique-o de acordo.

O que é

Você é a média das cinco pessoas com quem passa mais tempo. – Jim Rohn.
Elon Musk decidiu onde estar aos 10 anos. Eu aprendi aos 26. Tim Ferriss considera esse o melhor conselho que ele já recebeu. Cito Milton Friendman: I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.

Eu estou indo embora para mudar a mecânica de incentivos que me circunda. Para ser parabenizado por pensar e não ter de ouvir a pergunta: “Você não cansa de pensar?” Para odiar a morte e não ser recebido com desdém e desaprovação, para poder querer mudar o mundo e não precisar explicar porque não estou ocupando minha vida com valores familiares, para falar sobre equações e gerar sorrisos, para escrever longos textos e não ser considerado entediante. Estou indo cercar-me de “5 pessoas” muito melhores do que eu, às quais eu admirarei e com as quais aprenderei, e como um primata social que sou, serei paulatinamente adestrado a ser awesome, sem conflitos internos causados por incentivos externos.

Exemplo Prático.

Como a criogenia é mais tabu do que a bondade, quando passei a falar mais de altruismo eficaz, eu esperava receber mais aprovação e menos olhares e comentários normativos – isto é, olhares cuja função é que um terceiro, que veja o olhador e o olhado, considere que o padrão de um grupo é a opinião do olhador – Menos repreensão social. Infelizmente não é o caso. Querer ser congelado para talvez viver centenas de milhares de anos incomoda a moral das pessoas exatamente o mesmo tanto que tentar ser quantitativamente bondoso, tentar, de fato, fazer o bem, e não ter a experiência azul fingindo que ela seja verde. O verde incomoda tanto quanto o desejo de viver.  Como é possível que essas coisas incomodem é algo que só tomando a perpectiva de terceira pessoa, bem distante, eu consigo aceitar sobre as pessoas. Que alguém realmente se sinta na necessidade de justificar o não altruismo, e também de defender a morte, é algo que só pode ser aceito depois de muito respirar fundo e aceitar a medíocre condição de espécie levemente mais inteligente que as lesmas. Me deixa confuso, me dá asco como um pedaço de carne esburacado repleto de baratas, e me lembra que para onde vou não há baratas, ou melhor dizendo, é possível ignorar baratas com uma dieta de informação adequada e factível.

Porque é Importante.

First, they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then, you win – Mahatma Ghandi
É importante porque pula as fases dois e três.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Responda 100 perguntas sobre você no ok cupid, vá no algorítmo de busca de  Friend Match, e Love Match, e anote as cidades onde mais tem gente que pensa como você. Mude-se para lá.

O que você ganha com isso?

Nunca mais ter de ouvir sua tia explicando como o papa é uma pessoa pura e importante cujas opiniões são particularmente sábias logo após voltar do Future of Humanity Institute em Oxford.

9) Tome a perspectiva Meta sobre si mesmo

O que é

Quando estiver numa conversa, não pense apenas no discurso que está de fato sendo falado, mas nos discursos subliminares. Primeiramente, é claro, nas intenções que aquela pessoa tem com aquela conversa, e naquilo que você quer extrair daquela conversa. Depois em quais instintos podem estar causando seu padrão de fala e gesto. E ainda no que consciente ou insconcientemente está sendo sinalizado ali.

Exemplo Prático.

Frequentemente eu me encontro em conversas sobre relacionamentos pessoais de outras pessoas. Em particular relacionamentos românticos. No entanto eu efusivamente prefiro os universos em que é impossível conversar sobre relacionamentos amorosos, presentes passados ou futuros, com terceiros. Eu só lembro disso quando tomo a perspectiva Meta e percebo que de alguma maneira ou o meu instinto, ou a vontade da outra pessoa dominou o curso da conversa, e estamos fazendo fofoca como um chimpanzé faria catação de piolhos. Isso abre a possibilidade de dizer que não gosto de falar sobre isso e sugerir outra conversa, de transformar a conversa numa intersecção desejável (por exemplo falar sobre relacionamentos em geral, o que me diverte muito), ou de dar o máximo do que suponho que a outra pessoa queira extrarir da conversa o mais rápido possível e sumir dali para falar com alguém que queira salvar o mundo, discutir o cortex visual, ou dançar contato improvisação.

Outro bom exemplo é fazer atividades de cortejo na web. Cortejar alguém de outra cidade por exemplo é extremamente ineficaz, e só no nível Meta é possível perceber que a razão (instinto + vontade de estabelecer um relacionamento pessoal envolvendo toque) pela qual você está subconcientemente fazendo aquela atividade não é justificada, e mudar de ação.

Porque é Importante.

Principalmente para combater nossos vieses instintivos. A tendencia humana é fazer fofoca, falar sobre autoridades e celebridades, falar sobre a vida sexual e moral de amigos em comum, e falar sobre os eventos recentes (por exemplo o último episódio de uma série ou um terremoto no japão, ou a nova ministra da educação). Todos esses assuntos são 90% dos casos irrelevantes (não se encontram na intersecção amarela, e não são azuis). Assim sendo 90% do tempo fofocado deveria ser gasto em outras coisas.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Não tenho certeza. Como o instinto está em você como está em mim, é difícil contê-lo. É bom estar atento. Com pessoas mais abertas, estabelecer explicitamente a regra de não fofocar – e não falar sobre como seu porre foi homérico etc…   Uma ideia boa que nunca consegui testar é imprimir numa camiseta uma lista de coisas que você não quer conversar a respeito e de coisas que quer, de modo que você pode apenas culpar a camiseta por não querer fofocar, e ao mesmo tempo fornecer de pronto uma lista de tópicos para que seu interlocutor escolha aquele que mais interessa.

O que você ganha com isso?

Não saber o nome da mulher que casou com o príncipe inglês. Falar frequentemente do que realmente lhe interessa. Ser considerado um bom ouvidor por procurar saber o que realmente o outro quer da conversa. Manter uma conversa por mais tempo trocando de tópico toda vez que a outra pessoa pareça menos interessada. Não ser um chato que só fala de si mesmo.

10) Leve a vida a sério

O que é?

Levar a vida a sério é pensar, sentir, viver e ondular da maneira como pensa esse texto. Não é escrever textos, não é analisar tudo minuciosamente, é levar as coisas a sério. Você só tem essa vida, eu também. Viva cada dia da sua vida como se daqui a quatro anos você fosse morrer. Se vai jogar, Jogue. “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well” – Dennett.  Levar a vida a sério não é cuidar bem dos móveis da sua casa. É poder cantar my Way no seu leito de morte. É poder ser o autor do livro “My Wicked, Wicked Ways”, é ser um jogador da NBA, se aposentar e escrever um livro de costura para homens. É jogar volei com um gatorade e chamar 40 pessoas por telefone para um piquenique (nos tempos pré Facebook). É criar uma copia perfeita do falcão negro. É usar drogas como Timothy Leary. É deixar de ser CEO da Mycrosoft para acabar com a doença que mais mata pobres no mundo. É roubar um selinho na quarta série. É só começar projetos que você realmente levará a cabo. É abraçar homens sem dar tapinhas nas costas. É penetrar e ser penetrada no melhor sexo da sua vida. É levantar 150 kg do chão. É correr um triatlon. É escapar do “its all retched and no vomit”.

Exemplo Prático.

Eu costumava brincar de dividir alguns amigos da classe alta paulistana em aristocracia decadente e aristocracia triunfante. A aristocracia triunfante é o processo bem sucedido da geração dos pais de vender seus medos e suas morais aos filhos, impedindo que eles vivam de maneira autêntica e própria e tornando-os, portanto, cidadãos de bem. A aristocracia decadente, evidentemente superior, é a geração de filhos que foi por caminhos alternativos àqueles oferecidos por seus pais e pela família Marinho e acabaram-se tornando, em alguma medida, anomalias da estrutura social da alta sociedade. E Paul Graham explica bem esse problema em Why Nerds Are Unpopular. Basicamente o custo de sinalização de se tornar aquilo que a sociedade espera de você é tão alto, que não sobre tempo para ser obcecado com alguma coisa (nerd). E também em How to do what you love:  “The advice of parents will tend to err on the side of money. It seems safe to say there are more undergrads who want to be novelists and whose parents want them to be doctors than who want to be doctors and whose parents want them to be novelists. The kids think their parents are “materialistic.” Not necessarily. All parents tend to be more conservative for their kids than they would for themselves, simply because, as parents, they share risks more than rewards. If your eight year old son decides to climb a tall tree, or your teenage daughter decides to date the local bad boy, you won’t get a share in the excitement, but if your son falls, or your daughter gets pregnant, you’ll have to deal with the consequences.”

Porque é Importante.

Porque leu na veja, azar o seu. Assim como o papa, Nietzche e tantas outras figuras célebres, lembrem-se que as pessoas que construiram a sociedade são apenas macacos. E seus pais também. Seu pai. Sua mãe.

Como transformar sua vida nessa direção

Vale o mesmo que no caso da falácia naturalista. Se imagine na situação inversa. Você é uma outra pessoa muito diferente. Você alternativa se modificaria para tornar-se mais parecida consigo? Se não, então você deveria se modificar naquela direção alternativa. Elimine o Status Quo bias.

O que você ganha com isso?

Em uma palavra?  Tudo.

Anúncios

Two Discussions About Spreading Vegetarianism as a Cost Effective Meme to Make The World a Better Place

Pablo Stafforini: It is really, really hard to produce a convincing argument against same-sex marriage–almost as hard as coming up with a credible defense of meat consumption.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Pablo, as a long time follower of thy’s anarcotranshumanism I would expect you to accept eating meat on the basis of increasing the total ammount of conscious animals in the universe. If it were not for our meat consumption, there would be far fewer cow brains hanging around…..

Pablo Stafforini::Diego, there are three problems with this argument. First, it assumes that non-human animals raised for food have on average lives with a preponderance of happiness over suffering. This assumption is highly questionable in light of the ap…palling conditions present in modern factory farms. Secondly, it ignores that other sentient beings would likely exist if the land and resources currently allocated to factory farms was given a different use as a result of diminishing demand for animal products. Finally, it neglects the effects of vegetarianism in raising public awareness of the significance of non-human animal suffering. Because most people are not utilitarians and subscribe instead to a common-sense morality that regards edibles as things devoid of moral status, the interests of non-human animals currently raised for food are not going to be taken seriously until humans stop eating such animals altogether.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Though smart, I think those are insufficient reasons for anti-consumptionists. First, most

http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=125


countries that produce meat do not have particularly bad coditions for cattle’s life, at least no…t in Brazil, the main exporter. I would be shocked if Nozickian cows in Brazil would rather die… On the second, if there was no cattle, only a few tropical territories would comport other sentient beings, most grass farms would just be dedicated to agriculture. On the third, I think non-vegetarians build up a strong tribal hatred against vegetarians when they are confronted with the fanatical ones. People would be more friendly to primates if they didn’t connect that with having to abstain from their favorite chicken wing. Sure your arguments shifted my probability density distribution for “Against X For (meat-consumption)” but I do not think their strenght has tipped the balance.

Jonatas Müller Your second problem goes the opposite way for me: wild animals should in general have lives which, if not bad in average (they probably are), have some extremely bad parts, so I’d see their existence as a negative (and their destruction a g…ood/neutral side of cattle farming). Beef seems to be one of the least objectionable types (along with fish), while chickens and pigs have it much worse (both live in bad conditions, pigs may have more sentience and chickens more suffering per kg of meat). Raising public awareness to animal well-being seems to be the most important effect in avoiding meat.

Pablo Stafforini: The state of cattle is not representative of that of animals generally, since cows suffer less on average than do members of all the other major species raised for food:

http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-per-kg.html

On the second ob…jection, I refer you to the detailed investigation of Gaverick Matheny and Kai Chan:

http://research.ires.ubc.ca/kaichan/articles/Matheny_and_Chan_2005_JAEE.pdf

I’m not persuaded by your reasoning regarding the final objection. Do you really think it’s possible for the man on the street –as distinct from the sophisticated utilitarian– to take the interests of all animals seriously while he continues to eat some of them?

Jonatas, I fully agree with your final point: I am myself a vegetarian primarily because of the effects that public advocacy of this diet has on other human beings (though I didn’t originally stop eating meat for that reason). Concerning t…he second objection, it is unclear to me whether the sort of animals that would exist if factory farms disappeared would on the whole suffer more or less than factory-farmed animals currently do. (See the paper cited above for further discussion.) Of course, things become quite complicated if we treat vegetarianism as part of a package deal including a general commitment to minimising suffering, since such a commitment would also require us to alleviate the pain of animals in the wild.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Nice paper. “However, if chickens were made to have lives of reasonable worth, then as long as they had lives that were perhaps 10% as pleasant or valuable as the lives of wild animals, then chicken meat and egg purchases could increase the… net amount of moral value in the world.”
It tipped the balance against pork. I’m unpersuaded with chicken’s given their tiny brains, and if my position on consciousness were not based on this

http://www.biolbull.org/cgi/content/abstract/215/3/216

maybe I’d be willing to tip it for industrial chicken.
So bye bye pork, and let’s go for wild chicken…

Thor Ribeiro: I can even see the cow wondering in proper Elisabethan english, “Would it have been better, had I not lived at all?”

Leah McKelvie: Assuming that the Jonatas and Pablo are talking about lacto ovo vegetarianism and not a vegan diet, I disagree. The interests of nonhuman animals who are raised for food are not going to be taken seriously by people who merely give up eating their… flesh. In fact, that’s an indication that they don’t take their interests seriously at all.

Promoting something that reinforces speciesism is not only a bad idea in the long run, it doesn’t even make sense in the short run. It sends the false message that vegetarianism makes a significant difference in actual animal suffering. It often doesn’t. It can even increase it, if someone goes from eating beef to loading up on eggs and dairy, or goes semi-vegetarian and starts eating chickens or fishes instead of beef.

Jonatas Müller It may also be an intermediary step which may increase the chance for taking further steps. Though what you said applies to the acts of eating or not some meat, there are also the close acts of talking to people about it, making publicity, …eventually convincing legislators to make animal conditions better (with support from other “semi-vegetarians” or whatever they are called), discouraging use of animal furs, inventing in vitro meat or other meat alternatives, etc. These are all hard to quantify individually, but I think that together the people who take these actions can have a considerable result.

This may be even more powerful than being completely vegan, because if a vegan person has a non-vegan child, then all the efforts are in vain in a global sense.

Diego Coelho Caleiro: Let me disagree with Jonatian hypothesis here. As natural selection taught us, it is NOT always the case that the intermediate incremental steps towards a value-peak are better than their immediate neighbours. This is true meme-wise as wel…l. Just like the best order of ammount of appendix to have is (best) none (Intermediate) small (worst) very small, the best order of how much animal originated stuff could be (best) 0 (medium) current standards minus pork and industrial chicken and (worst) vegetarian that eats dairy and eggs.

We all carry an appendix because evolution sucks as a designer, maybe utilitarians ought to consider the possibility that we should all maitain a meat-eating life even though there are better lives in an ideal world.

In any case, both issues will be corrected by transhumanist technologies, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology, in the unlikely event that we survive the 21st century.

There is WAY more value at stake in terms of catastrophic risks f…rom human technology and natural causes than there is for vegetarianism. We just feel like discussing vegetarianism because feeding habits occupy large space of our savannah brains (take Kosher and muslim anti-pork as tribe determining examples)
I’ve delved into the discussion because it was intelligent and with someone I admired for long (Stafforini), that is, for fun.
But a real utilitarian should know better than trying to argue people out of their feeding habits and work avoiding actual cataclysm that could destroy 80% of earth’s biodiversity

 

Two Years Later, another Discussion Unfolds…

G Diego Vichutilitarian How about we are a social species, therefore we’d better share eating rituals. Evil meme-clusters have always thrived through making their members unable to eat things that other groups eat. I would not like Effective Altruism community to do the same. What do you guys think about private vegetarianism?

Here’s a simple choice: eat some meat (at the very least, thereby consume about 10 times its weight in plant matter – that which it took to produce it [and don’t forget the water consumption that went into its production], require a sentien

t being to experience suffering for almost its entire life [factory farmed meat], and pollute the earth with excrement the animal produced while it was alive) or eat some non-animal-based food.

You make this choice EVERY TIME you eat.

Lukas Gloor 

  • That strikes me as a very weak argument, Diego, as the reasons for veganis(his)m aren’t arbitrary dogma but instead about the very thing Effective Altruism is about.

    Jenna Gatto 

How much plant matter does a person need to eat over its life time to get all of the nutrients it needs, especially when you cut meat out of the diet? And if you think about it that way, if for every ounce of meat you eat does that mean you

 need to eat 10 times that amount of plant matter to get the same nutrients, and what type of resources went into that before it got to your kitchen table?
Not all animals we eat have suffered, and I know I’m “lucky” that a large majority of my diet comes from animals either I, my father, or my family hunts and fishes for me to eat, but is that still not a question of economic stability to be able to afford those products in the grocery store that are not factory farmed.
Human and pet excrement can not be composted for organic farming due to the amount of chemicals that we eat on a regular basis. If it is not composted it goes into a sewer somewhere. And while in NJ we are lucky enough to have systems that have been updated since the 1970s, I now live in a place where combined sewer outflows still predominately exist and therefore flow into local waterbodies. So if people cannot eat organically, which is still something that has a lot to do with education and social standpoint, we too are polluting the earth regardless of whether or not we eat meat.
Essentially you need to give up anything that has gone through a factory, and eat only things you can grow and hunt yourself to be able to live in a way that can live up to the statement you have made. And while I too wish this was possible for everyone, this is a much bigger step then the choices people can make at a grocery store, especially if they are not financially able.

Adriano Mannino ‎”Private vegetarianism”? WTF. From a utilitarian point of view, it’s very clear that we must promote *public veganis(his)m*. If you can convince just two people to go vegan, this already has *twice* the impact of your own private veganism. So influencing others (in order to establish/via establishing social norms) is much more important than your private consumption.

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

  • Okay, I’ll try one last controversial idea, then I’m done: People have very strong opinions (not at all rational) about eating, and sharing food. Those, it seems to me, are inscribed in one’s head at some point in life, just like swear words. We allocate prejudices in an emotional part of us. This is why swearing in other languages doesn’t feel weird.

My guess is that being vegan is sufficiently disconforting for you and people around you that 1)You lose more influence in other Effective Altruist goals than you gain by eventually causing vegetarians 2) This one I claim strongly (90% conf

idence): You spend a lot of cognitive energy on finding food, and specially on discussing food. If this energy was spent on charity evaluation, donatable work, or technology research, it would benefit all sentient beings much more.

3) This is also true if it was used just to donate/develop in vitro meat, which fosters the same goals. I think it doesn’t feel the same because eating rituals, like swearing and politics, have highjacked part of our moral brain (safer for

 memes to be there). *META: this discussion is going to my old blog, if you’d like me to take off your name, please tell me now* 4) The timing doesn’t seem right to help farm animals yet. Too many humans suffering from Malaria, Schistosomosis, Tuberculosis, Ageing.

5) This one I claim mildly (50%): It seems to me that people who end up promoting eating rituals got stuck in the same way some atheists stop their intelectual life once they can forever battle against those who are not yet atheists. Sure 

you can spend a life vociferating against God, and sure, there is no God, but as Luke Muehlhauser said: “Atheism is just the beggining”. Becoming a vegan is awesome, it means you understand sooo much… but it seems to me to be just the

Adriano Mannino 

Diego, what’s your point? Opinions can be strong *and* absolutely rational and justified.
Do you have an argument against anti-speciesism? The issue has been debated for 40 years now and not a single halfway rational arg

ument in favor of speciesism has been produced.
Do you have an argument against consequentialism?
If not, then it’s obvious that “private vegetarianism” is utter nonsense.

Ah, now you’ve added a second and third comment. I’m afraid you are wrong. We are utilitarian anti-speciesists/vegans and not stupid. It’s totally false that we spend a lot of energy finding and discussing food. We don’t.

We do, of course, support in-vitro meat. But we believe that anti-speciesist meme-spreading has the greater marginal effect. And for psychosocial reasons, it’s very important to combine it with the spread of veg commitments. (Your “eating ritual” talk is totally misleading.) So long as people have no problem with continuing to eat food that causes unnecessary suffering to non-human animals, we have not succeeded in spreading anti-speciesism.

Read this: http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/veg-ads.html and this http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-nature.html, for instance.

And this:
http://masalladelaespecie.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/questions_priority_interspecies.pdf

<<8. CONCLUSIONS
We have seen that there is a wide difference between the number of humans and the
number of those nonhumans who are harmed due to their use by humans. Of course some of
the figures and estimations that have been considered here are obviously approximate, but
they are based on real data and seem to be reasonable ones. Figures concerning well-being are
more speculative: obviously so, since we lack any data which could actually make
experiences accessible. However, they are plausible enough to allow us to consider the
question in a fairly realistic way. Given this, it seems we can draw some conclusions from the
line of reasoning presented above.
By now, the main one is likely to be expected. No human activity directly affects
negatively a so high number of individuals as humans’ consumption of nonhumans does. And
we all can make a change here. Hence, in as much as we accept any of the different normative
criteria mentioned above (maximization, additive equality, maximin, sufficiency concerning
outcomes, as well as responsibility and equality of means or lack of oppression) we will have
to give up the consumption nonhuman animals.
In fact, the reason why this practice harms
so many animals is simply that each of us as individuals contributes to it. And, as it has been
argued above, the gains we obtain out of that practice do not compensate the harm nonhumans
suffer. There is a huge asymmetry between the enjoyment humans get from being able to
experience some tastes and the harm that nonhuman animals suffer due to it at an individual
level. This can be assessed in a very simple way. Consider the life of a trout in some fish
factory. Suppose someone eats that trout in one meal. Two things must be weighted against
each other here: (a) The cost of the difference between the enjoyment that the one who eats
this trout gets from that meal and the enjoyment he could get from eating a meal without
animal products. (b) The suffering and the deprivation of enjoyment which death implies that
has been inflicted on that fish. Suppose, for instance, that the meal lasts twenty minutes (that
is, 1200 seconds) and that the animal has spent close to twenty months in the fish-farm (let us
say 600 days). Suppose, also, that this trout which could have lived for some six or seven
years. According to an intrinsic potential account, this means that this animal suffers a
deprivation of five years of life. This means that the difference between a minute of the
eater’s enjoyment of that meal and a minute of his possible enjoyment had he chosen a nonanimal meal is equal to almost one month of suffering for the fish, plus a deprivation of three
months of life (assuming the intrinsic potential account). Or, that such a difference during a
couple of seconds of tasting is equivalent to a day of suffering plus the deprivation of more
than three days of life for the fish. Of course, if we assume an account of the harm of death in
relation to the maximum level of happiness the results are still more asymmetric. Similar
equations can be considered for other animals and other meals.
But there is an even more significant consequence that is suggested by what we have
seen thus far, which may affect us not just as potential consumers of nonhuman animals but
also as agents with the ability to transform our surrounding reality. We may think that we not
only have negative duties not to engage in unjust practices. We may also accept that we
should do something to stop them. If so, we should note that the conclusions presented above
entail that spreading an animal-free lifestyle is a far more efficient way of improving the
world than working to improve the situation in which humans are. This conclusion seems at
first paradoxical. But it is far from being some odd consequence which we can infer from
some peculiar theory. Quite the opposite, it follows from a wide range of positions that are
commonly held. In fact, it seems to follow quite naturally once we set aside our speciesist assumptions. This also suggests that challenging speciesism might be the most useful task we
can assume if we want to make the world a better place.>>

Adriano Mannino 

Speciesism is false. If we accept that, and given the enormous amount of domesticated and especially also wild animal suffering there is in the world, it follows quite trivially that anti-speciesist meme-spreading is more important than the..

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

1) ($6000)/(917+238) = $5.19 to create a new vegetarian. *Terrible calculation which does not factor work-hours of the gigantic veg-crowd, and most important, opportunity cost due to disconfort caused (which I admit is not measurable)* 2)

 The paper you indicated has the same issue….. Also , it calculates based on obviously false assumptions, like that the life of a trout is one of suffering. Or that farm cows (which when a child I took care of often) are suffering all the time. They may suffer when dying, when being vaccinated (so do we), when being separated from children-cow (so do we). 3) We agree that factory farming sucks, and I don’t eat pigs on that basis (unless in discorforting situations) 4) Paper also uses “deprivation of years” as indicator of suffering, but clearly an animal does not suffer if it does not exist anymore, for this one, the Logic of the Larder argument works. 5) I’d suggest, as life advice not related to Veg, that one link is maximum one can send per discussion and expect being read, though I made an exception here 6) I am also in favor of being a vegetarian, say, twice a week, something which preserves some animals, does not activate neuro-triggers of morality, and spreads the word, without causing unconfortable discussions in which people feel attacked, and assassins, which sometimes happens with non-vegans in discussions. 7) You argue a good case, and if the facts you pointed out were true (if the paper was mostly true) I would follow to your conclusion. I suggest we agree on opinions of the form “If XYZ is the case, the world should do WFP” we are disagreeing over XYZ being or not the case. 🙂

Adriano Mannino 

Ad 1): The crucial figure, calculated in the above link, is this: We can prevent about 100d of suffering on a factory farm by donating a single dollar (!) to the Humane League or to Vegan Outreach (the actual number may be several times hig

her). Which human-related cause trumps this? Please tell me.
1.1) Most suffering (by *far*, see 
http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-nature.html) occurs in nature. That’s why anti-speciesist meme-spreading is likely to be extremely effective in the long run. Animal farming seems doomed anyway (in-vitro meat is just around the corner). But we have to hurry up and put anti-speciesist memes in place in order to ensure that we will abolish wild animal suffering when we have the technology to do so (this is an argument for targeting powerful people too). If we also factor in the urgent need to prevent future (Darwinian) panspermia and terraforming, we’ve got a good candidate for the title of the most important ethical issue.

Ad 2): The paper is not based on these assumptions. It does say that any kind of animal farming is based on/reinforces speciesism (which is true and which provides a strong reason to oppose it). Also, it’s a fact that *the vast majority* of farm animals are factory farmed and have terrible lives.

Ad 4): Whether we accept Logic of the Larder reasoning or not, animal farming should be abolished. Speciesism must go and we can’t credibly argue against it if we support slaughtering non-humans for trivial purposes because people wouldn’t even dream of subjecting humans to this kind of treatment. If we focus on suffering, then the Logic of the Larder does not apply; if, on the other hand, our focus is a happiness/suffering balance, then it does apply but the conclusion that we should abolish factory farming still stands: Opportunity costs. With the resources that go into animal farming we could be creating many more (and happier) sentient beings. And as I said, we absolutely need anti-speciesism in order to save the gazillions of animals that are suffering in nature. But we can’t promote it if we accept practices that people would never accept and would in fact consider most serious crimes (!) if done to mentally equivalent humans (“human farming”).

Ad 6): Why should we shy away from activating morality-triggers? Anti-speciesism is a very basic moral meme and it’s important that more and more people understand and accept it as that – and more and more people do, there’s some data suggesting that the number of vegans has been increasing exponentially. (By the way, if for whatever curious reason you’re not ready to join the cause, *at least* abstain from hurting it by describing what we’re about in terms of “eating rituals” etc.) An ethically similar historical struggle was anti-racism. Would you have suggested not activating morality-triggers there as well? And I hope you realize that it’s simply unavoidable that there will be uncomfortable discussions and that (some) people will feel attacked. I totally agree that we should try to minimize negative emotions, though, and my tone of voice is usually different from the one I’ve chosen here. But you’re a fellow rationalist and I was – quite frankly – shocked by the “private vegetarianism” proposal, which strikes me as extremely irrational and harmful (given utilitarianism, which, I take it, is a shared premise).

Ad 7): As far as I can see, you should follow to the conclusions. Or you should provide better arguments to block them and prove us wrong.

The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering www.utilitarian-essays.com

Adriano Mannino 

Addendum to 1.1): Anti-speciesist meme-spreading is important for in-vitro meat as well. We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge of getting society to accept this “unnatural” product (compare the tragic fate of genetically modified food in

 Europe). If people accept that species-membership is no reason for discriminating against sentient beings and to consider their well-being less important, they will be much more willing to switch to in-vitro meat and promote it structurally. It’s extremely important to speed this process up.

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

1) On Wild-Suffering. Sure, wild suffering is awful, and I hope for less of it ASAP. I don’t think the best avenue for getting anti-speciesism is to start by changing to veto-this-food people’s eating habits, because I think that is pretty

 fucking hard. There must be lower hanging fruit out there. 2)If there is one thing I can claim being really immensely good at, it is dodging lone-bystander bias. I am the first transhumanist,immortalist, cryonicist, and perhaps singularitarian in my country (185 000 000 people), and I fought against accusations of crazyness and social stigma from a very early age.You should consider VERY INFORMATIVE *that means, a lot of bits, or the equivalent of a large N study* that despite having done all that, I have not managed to establish dietary restrictions under socially constraining situations (going out with friends, visiting girlfriends family etc…) This is not only non-pork or non-redmeat situations, but also trying to implement a kurzweil slow-carb diet. It is just massively, massively hard to summon the energy of fighting this battle every meal out. And I am, along with the science of positive psychology, and Shawn Achor, of the opinion that we have a single candle of willpower. When we burn it, it burns for all things we may need willpower to, and we are short of that amount. We have to learn to divide the candle wisely, for if it burns up we enter “what the hell mode” and if it doesn’t, there is only limited quantitites of it.

Adriano Mannino 

So that’s Brazil? What about the “gigantic veg-crowd” that you mentioned above? It should make veg life quite easy. I know some Brazilian vegetarians and vegans and they seem to be doing OK. 😉
Actually, there’s been a big debate within the

 animal rights movement about whether there is lower hanging fruit. One might think there is – but I have come to accept the conclusion that there is not. Animal welfare reforms are very costly and don’t do too much in the end (and my country – Switzerland – is the paradigm example). I don’t think we can avoid promoting veg eating (and an expansion of veg agriculture and the veg supply) if we are to promote anti-speciesism. (Incidentally, animal farming is also one of the primary causes of global warming, which might increase global catastrophic risks. And it probably also increases the planetary biomass and thus the amount of wild animal suffering – which might well be the main reason to fight it. Furthermore, animal farming is co-responsible for world-hunger: 1kg of meat = up to 10kg of soy and other plant food that could be eaten directly.) As I said, people who get the anti-speciesist meme *will want* to avoid products based on animal exploitation. Also, you shouldn’t underestimate the positive psychological and social effects of behavioral veg commitments – they greatly assist meme-spreading. Last but not least, veganism has become *very easy* to practise in many countries. In Switzerland it’s basically a matter of which shelf you go to in the store (and you can get veg food in every restaurant). As for social difficulties, I think there are easy ways to minimize them and to even make being veg a fun experience. For one thing, there is a growing consensus among young and rational people (i.e. within most of my social circles) that there’s an ethical imperative to go veg. Many of them can be converted very easily – and if you’re not the only one doing it, it’s fun (and psychologically positive!), you can try out new stuff, offer to cook for non-veg people etc. And I think it’s possible to talk about it in a friendly and non-antagonizing way to non-veg people. So is it really a “battle” that needs to be fought out every meal again? Not in my experience. And if you encounter people who don’t respect your dietary choices (!), why don’t you tell them that they should go fuck themselves? OK, let’s make an exception for the girlfriend’s family. But otherwise there’s really no reason to waste time with stupid people. (That’s bad quite independently of the veg question anyway.) And if you spend time with the right folks (namely young and intelligent people), the veg thing should be no problem and you should find many great and low-cost (in fact, almost free) anti-speciesist influencing opportunities.

I congratulate you on standing up for transhumanism etc. I agree with all those causes (though in part only for instrumental reasons, e.g. I don’t think that death per se is a problem, I think the abolition of suffering should be our focus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolitionism_(bioethics)http://www.hedweb.com/abolitionist-project/reprogramming-predators.html – so I’m with the Pearcean brand of transhumanism/transanimalism, not with Bostrom or the Singularitarians), but I believe that spreading anti-speciesist memes as fast as possible and making sure that technology will be used to abolish (wild) animal suffering too (which might well be the dominant factor in the utilitarian calculation!) is *even more important*.

I agree about willpower and the candle analogy. But as I said, it’s quite difficult for me to believe that it’s “so fucking hard”, socially. Also, I’m not sure whether you have granted the issue enough priority. We might disagree about what the most important thing is, overall, but I don’t think utilitarians can reasonably disagree on the fact that anti-speciesist/veg meme spreading and donating to animal charities is very important and cost-effective indeed. *At the very least*, I believe, one must admit that anti-speciesist meme-spreading is more important than the poverty-related causes that www.givingwhatwecan.org promotes. I wonder whether your assessment of how hard it is to be veg would be different if you had granted the issue higher priority? And if it does deserve higher priority, then it also has a greater claim to the willpower-candle.

Abolitionism (bioethics) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abolitionism is the bioethical school and movement that endorses the use of biot…See More

Adriano Mannino 

One last point. You write: “Steering Transhumanists and Singularitarians as close as possible to their dreams…”
Unfortunately, there are many transhumanists who are speciesists or even egoists (they’re especially numerous among immortali

sts and cryonicists, a bit less so among singularitarians, but still to an alarming degree – see the irrational reactions of the Less Wrong crowd when confronted with anti-speciesist arguments or considerations in the philosophy of personal identity that undermine egoism). I’m not saying you are one of them, but the quote could certainly have been made by them: It’s about achieving “our dreams” etc. I am *deeply morally opposed* to those guys. It’s not about “our dreams”. It’s primarily (if not exclusively) about abolishing suffering in an impartial and objective way. So let me be frank: I wonder whether your opposition to prioritizing anti-speciesist/veg meme-spreading had anything to do with an understanding of “what it’s all about” in terms of “our/my dreams” rather than in terms of the best possible impartial minimization of suffering (and, maybe, the maximization of happiness).

David Pearce 

When are we ethically entitled to harm another sentient being? The Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009)
http://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanist-declaration/
boldly expresses our commitment to the well-being of all sentience. Payi

ng for nonhuman animals to be factory-farmed, exploited and killed so we can eat their flesh is impossible to reconcile with such a commitment.

Of course we’re all prey to weakness of will. But does giving up meat and animal products really call for heroic self-sacrifice? Humans are not obligate carnivores. Our only excuse is not just lame but weak-minded: “But I like the taste!”

Transhumanist Declaration

humanityplus.org

G Diego Vichutilitarian 

I suggest we have a fundamental disagreement over what should be preserved. I think our values should be preserved. Values that can only be states in language, thus only formulatable by a species that commands language. I think that the values that should be preserved are some mix of Yudkwosky’s CEV: “That in which we would agree if we grew smarter and stronger togheter.” and David Lewis’s dispositional theory: “Lewis offers that X is a value to you (roughly) if and only if you would desire to desire X if you were perfectly acquainted with X and you were thinking and deliberating as clearly as possible about X.” I am doing a masters on what that would be. I do not think that negative utilitarianism is the best form of it. Personally,emotionally, I am a positive utilitarian, increasing positive feeling as I go about. I think some form of simple utilitarianism is probably the best pragmatic approach (for it maintains agreement among those fighting for the worlds good, without in-group out-group bias and stupid minor disagreements unworth fighting over). If new persons would arise whose commant of emotions, intelligence, cooperation, friendliness, and love are greater then our own (augmented humans, aliens, computers) I would gladly ascribe them the task of determining which values we would like to preserve. While this does not happen, I’ll do my best to understand things that we value, summarize them, and improve quality of CEV, or reduce the existential risk of permanently curtailing our values. Yudkwosky’s Fun Theory is very bad (probably his life lacked fun), Bostrom noticing that Flamboyant displays are great is very good. Richardson and Boyd noticing Double Inheritance in culture is very good, and Seligman and the Positive Psychology crowd have been assessing a lot of useful info, with PERMA being the summit of values we currently have. I’ll try to build on the shoulders of those giants, and output a serious well build, wide list of which values we should preserve, and why. Wish me luck! Thanks for the discussion. You too David!

 

Altruistic Awesomeness, Your Challenge

So you woke up in this universe, containing not only yourself, but a planet in which you live, a few billion galaxies, religious grandmothers, cookies, weekends and downloadable series which you can watch any time. Eventually you noticed people are way more intentional than cookies, people always want something. Everyone told you, also, that you happen to be a person.

Then you asked the obvious question:  ¿What do I want?

Let us assume you are a very intelligent person (we know you are ¿right?)

Not just that, you have a deep grasp on biological evolution, and what life is.

You understand intelligence better than average, and you know the difference between a soul and an evolutionarily designed gadget whose function is tangential to being an optimization program which optimizes for some rough guidelines brought forth by genes and memes in a silent purposeless universe.

You know human thinking works mainly through analogies, and that the best way to explain how the mind works involves some way of dividing what it does into simpler steps that can be accomplished by less intelligent systems. That is, you realize the explanation of intelligence amounts to explaining it without using “intelligence” as part of your explanation.

You know that only a fool would think emotions are opposite to reason, and that our emotions are engineered by evolution to work in a fluid and peaceful coalition with reason, not only as best friends, but as a symbiotic system.

You have perused through the underlying laws of physics, and not only you found out schröedinger’s equation, but you understood that it implies a counter-intuitive series of things, such as: There are many-worlds splitting all the time into even more worlds, and I am splitting just like everything within this model. In fact, there is a tree of greater and greater amounts of branches, so I can always trace my self back, but there are too many selves forward. You wonder if you are all of them, or just one, and which.

Everett branches of a person, splitting into the future

You basically have intelligence enough (which probably would correlate with some nice IQ measurement, on the 125+ range…. but NEVER worry about IQ, that number is just a symbol to remind you that you are smarter than most of your teachers, your village elders, etc… and give you motivation to actually DO the stuff you’ve been considering doing all this time, IQ is, basically, a symbolic statement that you can disrespect authority)

Then you thought: Wow, it turns out I feel very good being Nice to other people. I am a natural altruist.

How can I put my intelligence to work for a better world, without being sucked into the void of EVIL-DARKNESS [your choiche of master-evil here, be it capitalism, common sense, politics, religion, stupidity, non-utilitarian charity etc…]

Since you grasp evolution, you do know that there is no ultimate-morality. There is no one great principle, just in the same way as there is no one great god.

On the other hand, it seems that happiness is great, and the best parts of life, both for you, and for your friends, are those parts which are Awesome, amazing, fantastic, delicious, unbearably happy, unimaginably joyful. This of course, opposed to those parts which are miserable, unfortunate, sad, ennui, so awful you want to cry.

So you decided you want to have a life that is 1) Awesome 2) Altruistic.

Now, you ask the second question:

¿What should I do?

Then all your intelligence was put to work on that, and you started finding out what the other Awesome Altruists were doing lately. You stopped reading Vogue and Newspapers, and read about people who loved mankind and tried to do stuff. Ghandi, Mandela, Russell, Bill Gates, Angelina Jolie, Frederic II, Nick Bostrom, Bono, Bentham, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Bakunin, Ettinger, Mother Theresa, Marx, among a  few others.

“Let us understand, once and for all, that the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it.”
— T. H. Huxley (“Darwin’s bulldog”, early advocate of evolutionary theory)

You have started to analyse their actions counterfactually. You learned that the right question, to figure out what really matters is: ¿What is the difference between our world in which X did what he did, and our world in case X had not done that?

You noticed people have a blind spot relating to this question, and they always forget to ask “¿Would someone else have done that, had X not done that?” and you have stored a special cozy place in your brain that cintilates a huge neon sign saying “If YES, then X work does not make a difference” every time you ponder the issue.

So you noticed how the most important altruistic acts are not just those that have greater impact, and stronger effect. You realized that the fewer people are working on something of impact and effect, the more difference each one makes. There is no point in doing what will be done by others anyway, so what should be done is that which, if you did not do it, would not get done at all.

Applying this reasoning, you have excluded most of your awesome altruists of people it would be great to be like.

Some remain. You notice that from those, it turns out they are all either very powerful (moneywise) or tranhumanists. You begin to think about that…..

¿Why is it, you ask, that everyone who stands a chance of creating a much much better universe is concerned with these topics?

1) Promoting the enhancement and improvement of the human condition through use of technology

2) Reducing the odds of catastrophic events that could destroy the lives of, say, more than 50 million people at once.

3) Creating a world through extended use of technology in which some of our big unsolved problems do not exist anymore. (Ageing, unhappiness, depression, akrasia, ennui, suffering, idiocy, starvation, disease, impossibility of creating a back up of one self in case of car crash, not having a very, very delicious life, bureocracy and Death, to name a few problems)

It is now that you begin to realize that just like science is common sense, applied over and over again at itself, Just like science is iterated common sense, transhumanism is iterated altruistic awesomeness.

Sometimes, something that comes from science seems absurd for our savannah minds (splitting quantum worlds, remote controllable beetles, mindless algorithms that create mindful creatures). But then you realize that if you take everything you grasp as common sense, and apply common sense once again to it, you will get a few thing that look a little bit less commonsensical than the first ones. Then you do it again, a little more. And another time. All the steps take you only a little bit further away from what your savannah mind takes as obvious. But 100 steps later, we are talking about all the light coming from a huge exploding ball of helium very far away which disturbs space in predictable ways and that we perceive as sunlight. We call this iterated common sense Science, for short.

Now ¿what if you are a nice person, and you enjoy knowing that your action made a difference? Then you start measuring it. It seems intuitive at first that some actions will be good, saying the truth, for instance. But in further iterations, when you apply the same principles again, you find exceptions like “you are fat”. As you go through a few iterations, you notice the same emotional reaction you felt when common sense was slipping away while you learned science. You start noticing that giving for beggars is worse than for organized institutions, and that your voting does not change who is elected, you notice education pays off in long term, and you understand why states are banishing tobacco everywhere. You realize the classic “prevention is the best remedy”. Here is the point where you became a humanist. Congratulations! Very Few have gotten through here.

It turns out, though, that you happen to know science. So there are more steps to take. You notice that we are in one of the most important centuries of evolution’s course, because memes are overtaking genes, and we just found out about computers, and the size of the universe. We are aware of how diseases are transmitted, and we can take people’s bodies to the moon, and minds throughout most of the earth surface, and some other planets and galaxies. So you figure once we merge with technology, the outcome will be huge. You notice it will probably be in the time of your life, wheter you like it or not.

It will be so huge in fact, that there is probably nothing that you can do, in any other area whatsoever, that stands an awesome altruistic chance against increasing the probability that we will end up in a Nice Place to Live, and will not end up in “Terrible Distopian Scenario Number 33983783, the one in which we fail to realize that curing cancer was only worth it if it was not necessary to destroy the earth to calculate the necessary computations to perform the cure”.

Dawkins points out that there are many more ways of being dead than alive. There are more designs of unsustainable animals. Yudkwosky points out there are many more ways of failing in our quest to find a Nice Place to Live. Design space is huge, and the Distopian space is much greater than the Utopian Space. Also, they are not complementary.

So you kept your Altruistic Awesomeness reasoning with your great intelligence. Guess what, you found out that other people who do that call themselves “transhumanists”, and that they are working to either avoid global catastrophic risks, or to create a world of cognition, pleasure, and sublime amazement beyond what is currently conceivable to any earthling form.

You also found out there are so few of these people. This gave you a mixed feeling.

On the one hand, you felt a little bit worried, because no one in your tribe of friends, acquaintances, and authorities respects this kind of thinking. They want to preserve tradition, their salaries, one or another political view, the welfare state, teen-tribal values,  status quo, ecology, their grades, socialist ideals, or something to that effect. So you were worried because you identified yourself as something that is different from most who you know, and that not necessarily holds the promise of gaining status among your peers because of your ideals, which relate to the greater good of all humans and sentient life, present and future, including themselves, who simply have no clue what the hell are you talking about, and are beggining to find you a bit odd.

On the other hand, when you found out that there are few, you felt like the second shoes salesman, who went to an underdeveloped land and sent a message for the king after his friend, the first salesman, had sent another, from the northern areas of the land.

First Salesman: Situation Hopeless, they don’t wear any shoes…

Second Salesman: Glorious Opportunity, they don’t have any shoes yet!

It took you a long time, to learn all this science, and to deeply grasp morality. You have crossed through dark abysses of the human mind under which many of our greatest have failed. Yet, you made through, and your Altruistic Awesomeness was iterated, again and again, unappalled by the daunting tasks required of those who want to truly do good, as opposed to just pretending. The mere memory of all the process makes you chill. Now, with hindsight, you can look back and realize it was worth it, and that the path that lies ahead is paved, unlike hell, not with good intentions, but with good actions. It is now time to realize that if you have made it through this step, if all your memes cohered into a transhumanist self, then congratulations once again, for you are effectively part of the people on whom the fate of everything which we value lies. ¿Glorious opportunity, isn’t it?

Now take a deep breath. Insuflate the air. Think about how much all this matters, how serious it is. How awesome it it. Feel how altruistic you truly are, from the bottom of your heart. How lucky of you to be at one time so smart, so genuinely nice, and lucky to be born at a time where people who are like you are so few, but so few, that what you personally choose to do will make a huge difference. It is not only glorious opportunity, it is worth remarking as one of life’s most precious gifts. This feeling is disorienting and incandescent at the same time, but for now it must be put in a safe haven. Get back to the ground, watch your steps, breathe normally again and let us take a look at what is ahead of you.

From this day on, what matters is where you direct your efforts. ¿How are you going to guarantee a safer and plentier future for everyone? ¿Have you checked out what other people are doing? ¿Have you considered which human values do you want to preserve? ¿Are you aware of Nick Bostrom who is guiding the Future of Humanity institute at Oxford towards a deep awareness of our path ahead, and who has co-edited a book on global catastrophic risks? ¿Do you know that Eliezer Yudkowsky figured it all out at age 16 after abandoning high-school, and has been developing a friendly form of artificial intelligence, and trying to stop anyone from making the classic mistakes of assuming that a machine would behave or think as a human being would? ¿Did you already find out that Aubrey de Grey is dedicating his life to create an institution whose main goal is to end the madness of ageing, and has collected millions for a prize in case someone stops a mouse from ageing?

The issues that face us are not trivial. It is very dangerous to think that just because you know this stuff, you are already doing something useful. Beware of things that are too much fun to argue. There is actual work that needs to be done, and on this work may lie the avoidance of cataclysm, the stymie of nanotechnological destruction. The same line of work holds the promise of a world so bright that it is as conceivable to us as ours is to shrimp. A pleasure so high that the deepest shining emotions a known drug can induce are to deppressed orfan loneliness as one second of this future mental state is to a month of known drugs paradisiac peaks. To think about it won’t cut it. To talk about it won’t cut it. There is only one thing that will cut it. Work. Loads of careful, conscious, extremely intelligent, precise, awesomely altruistic, and deeply rewarding work.

There are two responsible things to be done. One, which this post is all about, is divulgating, showing the smart altruistic awesome people around that there are actual things that can be done, should be done, are decisive on a massive level, and are not overdetermined by someone else’s actions with the same effects.

The other is actually devising utopia. This has many sides to it. No skilled smart person is below threshold. No desiring altruistic awesome fellow is not required. Everyone should be trying. Coordination is crucial. To increase probability of utopia, either you decrease probability of distopia, cleaning the future space available of terrible places to live, or you accelerate and increase odds of getting to a Nice Place to Live. Even if you know everything I’ve been talking about until here, to give you a good description of what devising utopia amounts to, feels like, and intends, would take about two books, a couple dozen equations, some graphs, and at least some algorithms… (here are some links which you can take a look at after finishing this reading)

This post is centralizing. If you have arrived to this spot, and you tend to see yourself as someone who agrees with one third of what is here, you may be an awesome intelligence floating around alone, which, if connected to a system, would become an altruistic engine of powers beyond your current imagination.

I’m developing transhumanism in Latin America. No, I’m not the only one. And no, transhumanism has no borders.

Regardless, I’ll be getting any work offerings (¿got time? ¿got money? ¿Got enthusiasm? send it along) in case someone feels like it. I’ll also advise (as opposed to co-work) any newcomers who are lone riders. Lone wolfs, and people who do not like working along with others in any case.

Here, have my e-mail: diegocaleiro atsymbol gmail dotsymbol com

There is a final qualification that must be done to the “¿got time?” question. Seriously, if you are an altruist, and you are smart as we both know you are. ¿What could possibly be more worth your time than the one thing that will make you counterfactually more likely to be part of those who ended up the misery of darwinian psychological tyranny, and helped inaugurate the era of everlasting quasi-immortal happiness and vast fast aghasting intelligence which defies any conception of paradise?

If you do have a proper, more than five-lined intelligent response to the above question, please, do send it to my e-mail. After all, there is no point at which I’ll be completely convinced I arrived at the best answer. I’ve only researched for 8 years on the “¿what to do?” question. To think I did arrive at the best possible answer would be to commit the Best Impossible Fallacy, and I’m past this trivial kind of mistake.

Otherwise, in case you still agree with us two hundred that transhumanism is the most moral answer to the “¿What Should I do?” question….Then —> Please send me your wishes, profile, expertise, curriculum, or just how much time do you have to dedicate to it. This post is a centralizer. I’m trying to bring the effort together, for now you know. There are others like yourself out there. We have thought up a lot about how to make a better world, and we are now working hard towards it. We need your help. The worst that could happen to you is losing a few hours with us and then figuring out that in your conception, there are actually other things which compose a better meta-level iteration of your Altruistic Awesomeness. But don’t worry, it will not happen.

Here, have my e-mail: diegocaleiro atsymbol gmail dotsymbol com

Two others have joined already. (EDIT: After Writing this text there are already six of us already) The only required skill is intelligence (and I’m not talking about the thing IQ tests measure), being a fourteen year old is a plus, not an onus. As is having published dozens of articles on artifical intelligence. Dear Altruistic Awesome, the future is yours.

But it is only yours if you actually go there and do it.

Teachings of Mount Qassiun

Teachings of Mount Qassiun

There are no places better suited to a complete reflection about life than Mount Qassiun. This geological formation, a little bit younger than the dinosaurs, was forged eons ago, during the Eocene in the northeast of what has become Africa, and has been slowly making its way up towards Asia. It currently resides to the north of Damascus, in Syria, and has done so ever since the city wound up there in the first place.

Compared to the eons that guide geological time, Damascus does not seem the Methuselah that it actually is. But when it comes to human scales, it is magnificently old no matter how you look at it. One of the oldest settlements that has been continuously inhabited, Damascus is cited in a cuneiform writing dating from 3000 B.C, five thousand years ago. When you sit atop the mountain and feel the strong wind against your cheeks, while glaring at the city, you can feel the weight of time as if it has its own smell to be spoken of.

The view from Qassiun at night is majestic. As opposed to our majorly white western cities, Damascus has a dense forestation of green lights, for green is the color of Islam, and thus, of Islamic mosques. The city extends far towards south and east, with some darker areas here and there, either desertic lands or military facilities. The green lights, spread everywhere can clearly get one’s attention, and combined with the wind give a sense of calmness and deepness to the Qassiun experience that I have seldom found elsewhere.

In this scenario, one becomes inclined to think about the many layers that can be seen from that top. Think of the different systems operating in a society as an onion layer, and of Damascus itself as an onion. On the bottom layer, deep within, there are quantum mechanical processes happening at incredible speeds, these give rise to the lights we see in one sense. But those lights, the yellow ones, can also be said to be caused by the State of Syria, an institution stablished long ago which still today works as the kingdoms of old, in a mix of military dictatorship and kingdom that has sociological interest on its own. The green lights, on the other hand, can be said to be caused by another kind of events altoghether. About a thousand and five hundred years ago, a man was able to convince many of his pals that he spoke to a deity, those convinced a few others, and such a chain has continued with numbers increasing to the extend that nowadays there are six times more people who believe that man’s tales, than there were people altogether in his time. Memeplexes (complex conjugations of memes, memeparts, and culturally evolving sets of information) are powerful entities indeed, and the Islamic memeplex is the cause of all those green lights we see, at the layer of ideas. There is a layer where the cause is the man who put the lamp up there and installed it. At the core level, the origin of green light is a kind of quantum oscillatory event that emits a photon at regular intervals. This is just the story behind the lights.

Damascus has five thousand years of history, and there is a room within a house there which has had among its rulers Abraham, the founder of religions, Ramesses, god of Egypt, Alexander, the great, and myself, the appositiveless. From the watermelon seller in his ass-driven carriage, to the Saudi Prince driving his porche, there is a bit of everything in damascus. From Turkish baths to nightclubs, from restricted newspaper media, to uncontrollable DVD smuggling, all centuries live together, not in peaceful harmony, but in constant cultural evolutionary battle, bending and destroying one another along the way. From the dictator’s party’s, to the museum curator’s, every ideal is embedded into a constant battle from which only a few will flee untarnished. This cultural battleground is just one more layer of the complex onion which composes the view from Qassiun.

The darker areas remind us of political history, since they reflect the rise of the one party that rules the place, in a complex and interesting way worth mentioning here. If you ask a Syrian whether law enforcement is rigid in Syria, he will say “Not more than elsewhere” because he doesn’t want to get in trouble. If you ask a foreigner within Karybya, he will laugh and say “There is no politics in Syria”. Syria is a very well administered state. The regent family has taken all measures to avoid infiltration into its political system, that is, reformation, and disturbance of its governmental infrastructure, that is, revolution. They made sure high hierarchical positions in both police and armed forces are only occupied by people who were born in a particular village, which they can tell from one’s accent, specially one’s accent after 30 uninterrupted hours of interrogation. But of course, armed forces are not enough, so the same is valid for anyone carrying business in strategic ports, bridges, etc… When I was in Syria, I had the privilege of going around for a Jet Ski ride. Turns out nice professions like Jet Ski promoter are also occupied by people with the same accent. This is what constitutes the infrastructure which maintains Syria working the way it works.

Once such a strong system is built, it can maintain any values it may desire to maintain. The king is part of a long lineage who were born in that village, and he will be bent towards whichever customs the old and wise among his relatives wish. In Syria, they have chosen to reinforce working very hard, not having intimate contact with members of the other sex, wearing pants instead of shorts under a 45º celsius scalding sun, among other moral standards. If they had chosen to reinforce writing with the left hand, walking barefoot, or not dancing in the streets (which they do) it would have been just as effective. With that kind of power structure, anything goes. Any complex set of memes that evolved there, any group of ideas which might have overtaken the Family’s mind, will be reinforced for centuries. Most systems are capable of reprehending and undermining any bottom-top change, in Syria, the president cannot change how things work even though there is a picture of him every two stores. There is no politics in Syria told me some foreigners. There is no change, and there is no hope for change. This is how it is. Such a well composed layer deserves a whole onion itself, both for how smooth and well designed the system is (even though it had no designer, only a long sequence of incremental steps that led toward its current ways) and for how likely all this is to make one cry for the insanity of our purposeless universe, carrying out on the syrians this kind of experiment of authoritarianism that surpasses in madness the suggestions of any mice experimenter.

When we look at a city from above, it becomes natural to think of it as a hive, with the many specialized people doing their daily tasks in order to achieve some level of equilibrium. The good part of this analogy is that it shows how tiny is each persons desires, hopes, dreams and doings in relation to the whole. The bad part is that to an extend, due to their genetic intertwinedness, a hive has a level of intentionality of its own, that is, it has some common goals that can be taken as goals of the whole, whereas a city does not have such things. A city is no more than the mere sum of its dwellers and their doings, and it has no personal purpose of its own, like some institutions may have. This means that it is not likely to have self regulatory mechanisms, such as a growth inhibitor, or defense mechanisms, such as an immune system. This to and extent was my worry while I sat at the truck tire in mount Qassiun. Cities do have some sorts of immune systems, armies, police forces, firemen, are all kinds of white blood cells. My question was, is it enough.

In fact, I was not worried for the city of Damascus, or for cities in general, what worried me is that even though I spent the better part of my life studying all the layers, being able to understand both the quantum process that gave rise to the light, and the ideological warfare that gave rise to Islam and ultimately to the green light, and the psychology of humans, including the one who put the tyre where I was currently sitting, and the sociology of authoritarianism, even though I had been through all that, I did not know exactly where should we be heading our efforts. I still had doubt. Some things, of course, are for sure, as Russell remarked: “The problem with the world is that the stupid are cocksure, and the intelligent so full of doubt.” I could see with my own eyes the spread of a belief that we ought to be directed in one specific direction, the direction of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. There were four million people in front of me who were certain of this, that turning to Mecca a few times a day to praise The Flying Spaghetti monster would solve all their problems. Russell was of course being sarcastically too harsh. It is very different to be embedded within a closed ideological system from which going out means losing all your social status, and being stupid. Not all those who are cocksure are stupid, some were just misled by thousands of years of highly evolved memeplexes into believing something so absurd that only a very very stupid adult would believe it, but they were kids when first introduced to these ideas.

Mount Qassiun probably carries with it’s each breath more wisdom and more stupidity than can be conceived in a human life, unfortunately, he is unwilling to share his knowledge. Few people can see the layers, fewer people can see many layers, probably, I worried, no one can see all layers. That much would be okay, but there is some amount, some minimal threshold, of how many layers of “What is going on down there” that humans ought to be able to understand in order to figure out what should be our next step, and in order to avoid global cataclysm, from natural or man-made forces. Qassiun tought me that our ignorance is vast, and that even the ignorance of those who are less ignorant is still large enough to give one the feeling of uncertainty. How few people can see more layers than I can? How many had the eight years I had to study how the world works? How many had access to the books? How many speak five languages and have been to more than fifteen countries? I daresay only very few, and this is what kept me worried, and keeps me still. If so few had such chances, what is the likelihood that we will always be walking forward? It took us so long to avoid circles, to stop following those fatherless children who proclaimed they would bring us back to the Father, to create science. Will we have enough time to get things right? To figure out the way towards a prosper future, a future which comprehends both that there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster in Saudi Arabia, nor is there reason to believe that we will necessarily survive our technology? Will we have time to make those who are smart and educated understand that those who are not educated, smart or not, have no responsibility for their own ridiculous beliefs? Will countries like Syria escape the ruling of authoritarian systems? Will authoritarian sub-societies such as continental philosophers ever realize that they too are embedded in a system in which one can dodge a question by frowning upon the one who is asking, thus avoiding any feasible progress that could possibly come from those who think anew? We do not need to extinguish religion, just to set enough people free from it that they can comprehend that design came to place from the non-complex bottom, not from the intelligent top. Once they do, we need to teach them how the green light is green. Then how come humans live in society, and how come there are sub-societies as different as the !Kung and the Monegasque people. Then how they only got to know this because Alan Turing a long time ago invented a machine that could do computations. There is so much they need to know, so many layers to be taught, so many thoughts to grasp each layer.

Qassiun is likely to be there for a longer while, observant, silent, and windy. Will it teach anyone all the knowledge of those who have been up there? No. It will just sit there, somber. I have little hope in those one size fits all kinds of answers, those which prophets extracted from lonely days at the mountain, the problems facing our world are vast and complex and, at best, those unique answers that abound the monotheistic traditions are good to solve one layer of problems. If I cannot hope any answer from this elegant mountain and it’s magnificent view, at least I can hope it will inspire others who can see many layers to think through whatever problems their world is facing at the moment, and to put their efforts into solving these problems, because if people like you, who can actually see that many layers, do not start to guide the world towards a better place, be absolutely sure that those four million people will be guiding everyone towards the one path they think is right, the green path.

Utopia The Hidden Design Part 2

What are we allowed to change?    Here and throughout this book, I shall keep the mesoscopic alone. Things of medium size are way too visible in our cognition for us to be able to change them in an interesting way without loosing track completely, going completely bonkers. From the size of teeth to the size of stars, I’d better not touch what is visible about physics.

How It Should Be in Utopia: The changes we should consider here are of two kinds, those that would make the world more practical, and those that would make it more beautiful. These notions start to pull in opposite directions after a point. As a study by (XXXX) shows that our aesthetic preference dodges from both too much complexity, and from too much simplicity. Subjects were given three classes of paintings, with different degrees of shape complexity in them. They spent most of the time looking at the most complex one, but rated the middle one as more beautiful. This makes sense, compare the sight of a savannah with the sight of a deep forest, there is more to look in the deep forest, so you focus longer on it. One of the reasons you do it is because there may be snakes somewhere around, or fellows of an opponent tribe hiding there. The savannah has widespread visibility, so you can check out for lions long before they arrive nearby.

Trees are a perfect example of the reason why evolution has given us a desire for mid-level visual complexity. If there are none, you are bound to fry, freeze, or in the best case, be found by those you’d better keep away. If there are some, you have shadow, perhaps some fruit, shelter and a hiding place. Now if there are too many, you are lost and anxious, for anything faster than a slug will take very little time between being seen by you, and getting to you. Not by coincidence, some architects found a lasting school of design a while ago called ¨modernism¨ which tries to simplify a lot the designs that surround us. Long, very, very long before this school of thought there was a style called baroque, and it was characterized exactly in the opposite way, having intricate designs, twists, edges, curves, forms, sculptures, shapes, eye lines, shadows, wings, stories, kings, gods, priests, angels, girls, animals, wheels, hair, clothes, expressions, positions…. among other things….and a few more….. you get the hang of it….. emotionally at least…. when you read this final part….. and feel that you can’t stand anymore…. those little dots….

One of the things that separates this two schools, and one I think is highly responsible for the difference between their designs, is the average visual complexity of the surrounding environment. Life was way more simple, with fewer objects and less propaganda in the baroque times. In that time, the more, the merrier, when it came to visual processing. Those brains were craving for more, for most of their visual life was an experience of more of the same. But in the time of the modern school of art, it was all different, life was rushing through our eyes, the experience of the impact of thousands of daily images, like a movie that changes it’s scenes every twenty seconds. Cars, business, industry, art everywhere, cinema, buildings, trains, and lots, lots and lots of people. When the baroque school was in vogue, we were still living in a visual Savannah, but then came the jungle, deep, intricate and metallic, and that  was just too much. We needed less. We needed something that reminds one of either a plains or the ocean, the skyline not the skyscraper… and as such, the memes of modernism achieved power within the human society… but I digress…

So, we have two kinds of changes to apply to our non mesoscopic physics, those that would make it more beautiful, and those that would make it more practical. Let us start with the latter. There is no reason why a high-school graduate should not be able to describe the fundamental physical laws in a conversation in a party, in the same vein as there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to talk about a beautiful TV series he just watched. So we must provide some simplicity to our microscopic and macroscopic physics, this is not very hard. Before Einstein, space was thought to be very simple, three dimensions, four if you count time, things from the past go to the future, things from the future go to an even further future, and things in the present become past before you know it. Light (photons) traveled in a straight line (thus not according to probabilistic waves). If the physical macroscopic world worked like the predecessors of Einstein thought it did, high school would be a much deeper experience, we’d actually be learning almost all there is to know about the mechanics of the world in those few years! Physicists would definitely feel a warmth inside, once they settled    the fear that they themselves wouldn’t be personally able to find out the most important physical laws, since they had already been discovered. Some, readers of Feynman perhaps, would protest against a simplification of physics, since the pleasure of discovery is the the pleasure of doing physics. This is partially true, and it is interesting to imagine ourselves in a territory in which it is always possible to create anew and make innovative discoveries. But we must not assume that the pleasure of discovery must be possible in each and every domain of knowledge. Something as fundamental as physics should not take eight years to be learned, and discoveries can always be made in other realms, such as applied physics, botany, or computer science, if that is the case.

There are shortcomings in choosing to live in a Newtonian world… The first one is that Quantum computation would be indeed impossible, since the behavior of micro objects would be mostly a tiny mimic of their bigger counterparts. Our current (2010) computers would not suffer, but our computational prospects would suffer a little bit. Take for instance these predictions of the possible computing power available per cubic inch    (SANDERSXXXX)   (KURZWEIL XXXX) (BOSTROM 2001)

According to the Many-World interpretation of Quantum Physics, when we do quantum computing, what we are doing is basically computing in many, many worlds at once, using their computational resources, and then recovering somehow this information into our world as a final result of the computation (DEUTCH 1997). If the universe was Newtonian, we’d have to abandon this dream, and accept a limited amount of computer power per parts of matter, energy and space available. This can be made unproblematic in one of three ways. First, accept, as some are starting to, that the level of isolation of a quantum computer necessary to do quantum computation is such that the dream would not only be unachievable in Utopia, it would also be unachievable here, in good old Earth. This may seem sober, but is quite insane, it depends on the belief that one can decide how reality behaves, and this is one of the distinctive properties of Utopia, not of reality. Second alternative: Start thinking about taking the dream of getting to know how the world works to an extreme, what is the dream of a physicists, or of an analytic philosopher? ¨To find out how the world is.¨ – Well, yes, but what do you mean exactly? – ¨ To find a set of equations that, given all the information of the behavior of all particles at a given time, it shall give you the physical behavior, future and past, of the whole of existence, everything, from the tiny speck of dust, to the grand mammoths, passing by that day in which your mum told you not to forget to bring a  coat.”  – Okay, suppose I gave you this set, would you be happy with it? – Why, of course! I hold in my own hand the whole of Man’s knowledge, right before my eyes are the eyes of tiger, the bright blue sky is at my command, I have found out the power through which number holds sway above the flux, as Russell remarked. – ¨What is is about the equations that you find so enlightening, so marvelously soft and warm and fulfilling? – ¨The whole truth is subsumed on it, once I know it, I know everything that matters!” – Do you know when is your girlfriends birthday? – ¨Well, no¨ – Do you know the feeling that inspired the poet when he composed his love poem? Do you know the courage it took for the conqueror to forget about his religious upraising and start killing in the name of vengeance? Have you any grasp of what is a family, or a master piece of art? – “No, you see, the level of description you are talking about it too high, I will only know the position of atoms, planets and similar things, for the things you are talking about, I’d have to have an idiom of translation in-between levels, so that I could find those objects among the numbers and vectors” – Then you struggle for a bunch of numbers that will give you more numbers, sometimes greek letters. It is an enormous pleasure to understand the rules that govern that which is tiny, and that which is enormous, and I do not wish to affirm that there isn’t value in knowing these things, but what worries me is that, since this particular task is so difficult, many of the world’s most intelligent people spend a live dedicated to it, as if once they had found and held strongly to the final theory, the very doors of paradise would open to them – ¨Our dream is, partly, to know everything there ever will be. We seek for more and more knowledge because it feels good to know, and it feels better to know more, why would we not want to know it all?” – Richard Rorty once said that the dream of the analytic is that there would be a moment where a part of the universe, in a finite time, would compute every single property the whole universe will ever have, once this is done, the traveling will have been complete, our journey is finished. But what about after that? Let us suppose the computational dream actually is the purpose of the universe, as knowledge seekers many times suppose. We develop a brain/mind/computer that is so enormously powerful that for a moment, it has a glimpse of all there is. In a tiny set of moments, all the computations that calculate everything, before and beneath, above and behind, around and within will be executed, the feeling that everything is what it is will be felt. Aristotle said that to say the truth is to say of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not, after the completion of the dream of Understanding, the complete truth will have been known. I see some beauty in that, but it is beauty the size of a marvelous, uniquely inspired movie, it is not beauty worthy of worship as being the one path. Douglas Adams has put a machine, in his own Utopia, that gives one the ability of contemplating the universe (probably the observable universe) in all its vastnes, way and well beyond what we can imagine. The only survivor to entering the machine, and contemplating one’s relative size to the whole universe was Ford Beeblebrox, and the reason he survives is that he enters the machine in a simulated universe made for him, and discovers he is, indeed, the most important creature there ever was in the universe. To me, sometimes, depending on my mood and level of existential anxiety, it seems like the dream of physicists, and of analytic philosophers is that they would feel like Beeblebrox, that once all the equations are there, right in front of them, they will all magically unite into a picture of an egocentric universe, that cares about you as much as the God of believers cares about them.  ¨What you bring is shocking on the one hand, but part of what I believe remains intact despite of it, there is something about those equations that will not be taken away from them, it belongs to them alone, and it allows them to hold sway above the flux, to be that which we always dreamt of. It is the property that them, and themselves alone have: Permanence. All of our lives, we struggle, in one way or the other, to persist, all we know about the world, we know because genes that were trying to persist created brains, and minds wanted to persist. We search for persistence in our children, in our jobs, in our emotional lives… we want the world to bear our craved marks in the most solid rock, we want to live on through our work, our ideas, and our beloved ones. Our hearts, most of all, wish to remain beating, to experience deep and profound happiness, peace. All this may be, partly, a distortion of our true wish, that few times escapes peoples minds, but did once, from Woody Allen’s:  ´I do not want to be immortal through my work, I want to be immortal for not dying!´ The dream of immortality may not be possible for our minds, since personal identity isn’t what it looks like[1], and also, unfortunately, we know that mesoscopic objects do not last long enough. No matter how deep our encravings (??word exist??) in the monolith, air and water shall erase our markings upon this world. No matter how many read our books, or saw our movies, memory will fade away. But the equations! Oh, they are not as fleeting! You can trust them as you can no other thing. They are valid here, as are there, they are now as will be when our galaxy hits Andromeda, they hold no matter who is on power, they stand beyond the reach of kings, queens, supercomputers and tsunamis… If our dream is a dream of persistence, and it is, there is nothing that will persist for longer, for all else changes. It changes, in fact according to them, and they describe all possible routes of change. But they themselves stay. When offered the dream of power, instead of the dream of persistence, Einstein said (????): “Politics may be for a decade, but an equation, is for eternity¨ this is what your shattering argument can’t take from us. I agree though, that all the rest it has swept, and I see, finally, the reason why would anyone not dedicate his life to figuring out the underlying physics of the cosmos.¨ – The message of persistence is a beautiful one. Persistence though, is, like Computation, Truth, and God, still a messiah. Surely, as a messiah, persistence far surpasses in muchness the dream of Power, so much the worse for Nietzsche, Ghengis Khan, and Eric Cartman.

The second alternative, when we are considering good reasons to accept the trade-off of having no quantum computing, versus having no one understanding physics seems to lead us to having no quantum computing, and abandoning the dream of the Complete Computation. It is a high price to pay, having to give up on the ultimate grasp into microscopic physical reality, but we can rest assured that the dream of Persistence, and many others, will still be strong, steady and with a soft fur in the world of utopia. Physicists do not learn the equations only if they think there is a change they will be able to one day perform the one computation, their eyes will still glare to be in the presence of those symbols that describe that, which, uniquely, and, in a sense, above all things, persists…

The third alternative consists of establishing within Utopia something very akin to what a very old philosopher thought. Leibniz conceived of a notion of Universal Harmony. He had strong within the dream of the total computation, but for reasons somewhat different of those that our physicists will offer. Leibniz was concerned with the problem of how does one thing influence another, and he concocted a worldview in which all things actually are separate, monads, he would call them. All the matter is made of monads, sort of like little balls that don’t have contact. Each and every of those would contain in itself all the determinations of movement and happenings of the whole world (that is the dream is taken for granted as a premise) and in such a way it would know when it was time to move or be moved, without actually having to touch or be touched. Things were not allowed to have relational properties, only instrinsic ones. Suppose you push something with your hand, how can it know that you are pushing it? If there is movement, we must account for it, but if two adjacent particles move one another, either one moves first (therefore occupying a space where the other one isn’t, which would give the other one no reason to move) or both move at the same time, in which case there would be some sort of precognized move on the part of the second one. This is the sort of issue that Leibniz was dealing with when he conceived of universal harmony. He decided (as old philosophers used to do) that the world was made of this simple entities, monads, each and every one of them was simple, not decomposable, and therefore it had to contain within itself all the relations it beared to other monads, present, past, and future. Basically all things inside the cosmos were simple substance achieving the Understanding Dream. His reasons for his decisions are far outside the scope of our scrutiny, but the general sense is that since he thought all true propositions are of the form (Subject)*(Predicate) and that all truths were analytical (true in virtue of their meanings alone) then it meant that all predicates were contained in their subjects, and therefore relations had to be containted in monads, not have a separate reality as relations. Once he settled for himself this interesting project of creating a world of separated stuff that contains it all, he had a very rough problem to deal with. For one, under his doctrine all sex was masturbation. How could he make sure that all the monads were acting as their inner relations would describe if there are no real relations between them? How could he make sure of the truth of what each of them contained, if those pseudo-relations did not imply the existence of any real relations such as touching, pushing, demanding from, having an orgasm in the presence of etc…? For this he provided the notion that we will be needing here, in the third alternative, the notion of Universal Harmony. As its name implies to a great extend, within this doctrine, there is a harmonic tonus to our world, the monads behave as they should, even though nothing relates to nothing. A deus ex-machina, the notion of Universal Harmony comes simply as a holy savior, that will once again bring consistence to a very interesting doctrine of substances. It is unfortunate that since the times of Leibniz much has changed, philosophers don’t get to decide many doctrines anymore, deus ex-machini are strictly forbidden, and worst of all, one cannot invoke the three letter word as the explanation of why is it that something in particular takes place, ’God’ has stopped being an explanation that guarantees that, deep within simple substance, non pecaminous masturbation is sex after all.

Merrily for us, Utopias are allowed their share of deus ex-machina solutions, the third alternative is to postulate a different kind of Universal Harmony to our world, that is a complete mapping of the better part of it into a smaller part of it, we allow the property of the Monads, and of the dream of the Understanding to exist, once, in a mind/brain/computer vast and highly accessible for mere humans to see. This computer will be able to do it not because it bears enough causal relations with the world around it that it can actually compute, through sheer empirical fact plus equations, the ultimate fate of the universe, but by equations plus chance… It is a given that the shape of the universe is such that it will compute right, and we do not have to worry about the causal details that would render the operation impossible. Not only this computation will be accurate to the finest level of detail about what is outside the computer (after all, if it computed itself there would be some trouble lurking within the math) but it also will be accompanied by the corresponding ¨Ahá!¨ feeling, which, being computationally much more simple, will be transmitted to all those scientists gathered around the machine, in proportion to how much their cognition is able to feel it. This way we can remain Newtonian, achieve, at least once, the Computational Dream, remain able to see and understand those few things of the world that actually do persist, and watch the show of all there is.

———–

By picking the third alternative, and letting quantum mechanics fade into the abyss of all that never was, we loose something that to some could be very valuable, and to many others, terrible, almost unbearable. These are the many-worlds of quantum mechanics. If we abandon Quantum Mechanics, we must abandon many-worlds, there is nothing else we can do. Either it is a probabilistic universe in which split experimenters at time2 only get to be in one place each, or it is a deterministic universe, in which no splitting occurs, and, among other fascinating things, light travels in a straight line! There are many reasons we would like to keep the many worlds, I will now try to argue that they are insufficient or false. The first reason is because we want to have more choices, in the sense of more possible futures, and it feels nice and warm inside when we think there actually is an open future out there for us. There are some mistakes already in this reasoning. When quantum worlds split, there is no fact of matter about yourself1, that is, yourself before the splitting time, that decides that yourself1 will become yourself2a and not yourself2b, that is, there is no fact of matter as to which of the two actually is you, they both are, in all possible senses. All your descendant selves, lets call them, are equally you. All your ancestor selves, in the same vein, are you. But that does not mean that all your parallel selves are you. Yourself2a is distinct from yourself 2b even though both are the same as yourself1, only living a few moments later. Sameness is not a transitive property when it comes to your-quantum-selfity, one might want to say. If A is the same as B, and B is the same as C, it does not follow that A will be the same as C, just like if Brazil won most games against South Africa, and South Africa won most games against China, it does not follow that Brazil won most games against China. What this all implies is that when you thought quantum physics was allowing you to believe correctly that there are open futures for you, you were wrong, unless your definition of ’open’  ranges over cases in which everything is determined, but more than one thing happens at the same time. In my personal target for the operations of the expression ’open future’, it includes very near the middle of the target the idea that there is one single future which is contingent, that is, is not necessarily going to happen, but is probabilistically going to be determined as time moves along. Even closer to the middle of what I understand by ’open future’ is the idea that I get to decide, above and beyond the scope of all physics, out of my pure biblical will, what I will do and how my future will be. This picture sounds as open as possible. So in almost all cases where I say ’open future’, this could be what I’m meaning. In most of the cases, but not almost all, I could be talking about probabilistic futurology, in just a few of them I would be referring to the kind of branching that many-world purports.

A yellow self lookin back into itself through time

In even fewer, I’d be referring to the idea of an epistemically open future, one in which all is determined, but since we do not know the determination (because aren’t currently achieving the computational dream) we count our subjective probabilities as open-ness regarding the future of the world. Here I suggest we stick to the definition of ’open futures’ that ranges over biblical will and probabilistic futures, but not over determined branches or subjective probabilities of a determined future. So, if we do, then you didn’t have options in the first place while you were living in quantum world, you have no reason to miss options in the all renewed Newtonian Utopia. This gets ¨What the Bleep do We Know¨ and similar quantum mysticism out of our way.

There is still work to be done, since in the Many-Worlds there is still the sheer amazing, interesting fact that we are actually living in Many-Worlds! I mean, how awesome is that? Isn’t it way more interesting to be living in a gazillion places at once? To be able to dream of the version of you (that is not you, because it is parallel) that won the lottery, wrote a bestseller, played with Yo-Yo Ma in a concert watched by billions and debunked the record holder for the 100mts? Yes, any utopian must account for that. There is no way you can say you’ve just made the ideal world and you took all those worlds away from us. There is a dream that dies when you kill parallel worlds, this is the Dream of What Never Was.

Wait a minute, there is a paradox here! If this is Utopia, you don’t give a damn about what there isn’t, after all, of all configurations of what there is, you are sitting atop the best of them…

As the Architect remarks in Matrix: Although your question is the most pertinent, it is also, the most irrelevant. It is patently false that dreaming of worse worlds cannot be a property of the best world. For one, the best world, being the best for (pick your choice between) everyone/most people/everyone that matters/me and my friends    is a world in which there are beings that do not live in their best world. It probably does not coincide with anyone’s personal best world (except if there are those whose true emotional standard for a best world is that it is the best for the chosen set). It is generally taken for granted that it is good for people to dream about their lives as better ones, and I do not see reason to fight this intuition. If it is correct, than we know that the best world differs from the best world in which no one dreams of world worse than this one in exactly the fact that people are not able to dream of their personal best world. Not only the very best, but all in which things are better for them. Not only those, but those in which the things they are currently concerned with are best for them, regardless of how those would have turned out in the long run.     With that behind us, we must now find space in a Newtonian world for parallel worlds, so that the Dream of What Never Was can be fulfilled, and surround the impounding fantasies of the Utopian peoples. Sometimes, solutions are so easy you don’t get to see them, for they are right before your eyes. We need to find space. Space, isn’t that something we have an infinite supply of already? We do not need quantum truthfulness to have an infinite universe, we do not need to protect our bubbles from much. There is no conceptual contradiction in having an infinite space with bubbles like ours inside. There would of course be some changes. Even though we have destroyed probability in the level of where is a particle going to be tomorrow, we must keep a little probability happening. We need for it to be finitely probable that a cube of 10x meters will give rise to a bubble, otherwise, there would be no bubbles and only empty space. We might want to add a proviso that no bubble shall appear within another bubble, and therefore we maintain all the Newtoneity our Computer/Mind/Brain/Dream-achiever might wish for, since he is only calculating what happens in our bubble (or a bit less, our observable universe). Also, there would not be 10^500 different possible bubbles, because all those bubbles were inter-differentiated by facts pertaining to either string theory (Wooo!) or quantum theory, and both of those were abandoned due to average high school stupidity, as you may remember. There would still be many possible worlds out there, far, far away, farther away than Far, Far Away itself, where Shrek and Fiona are wondering if their world is or not Newtonianly possible. These are the Newtonianly possible worlds. I do not know how many are them, but they are sure enough to, literally, make our dreams come true.

By now you may have noticed that in contemporaneous cosmology, and in contemporaneous speculative philosophy of physics, the meanings of a few words started to blend. Universe means three different things. Observable-universe, Universe containing bubbles (also called ’Multiverse’), and bubble. That is because usually people mean bubble when they say ‘universe’, since they are not aware that there are other bubbles out there. ‘World’ has the same problems. To make things easier, I shall establish what, from now on (but not until here) I mean by those words

Universe: By universe, I mean our bubble. If two bubbles fuse, then I mean by universe the sum of them.

Multiverse: By multiverse, I mean the all the things there are in the same level of physical reality as we are, all the bubbles. All the space in-between, if there is, all properties instantiated In this space.

Bubble: A bubble is something that looks like our observable universe, having objects, time, matter, etc… it does not have the constraint of having to be visible by a particular civilization at time, so it is not contained within a light cone, it may or not have been generated by a big bang, and contains at least energy, if not more sophisticated stuff like Helium, Cadmium, Gold and those nice people who sell ice-cream at the beach just when you need it.

World: By World I’ll mean the physical multiverse, all quantum branches that may come from it, and in general everything that can be causally related to something within this branching object, physical or otherwise. Since there are parts of the object (such as separate bubbles) that bear no causal relations to each other, we provide that will be included all the non causal stuff there may be in-between the bubbles (if such a notion makes sense. In Utopia, it does) like void, empty space, gunk, points etc…

So in utopia we have a multiverse with many bubbles, one of them being our universe, just like here. We currently do not know if the level of quantum splitting spans across the whole multiverse, just the bubble within which that particular quantum thingy is, or only the future light cone of that thingy. We do not know the size of the structure that divides when a division occurs. In any case, we have lost the many-worlds, but subtracting an infinite quantity from another does not leave us with zero. Just think of the analogous case of subtracting a line (infinite points) from a plane (infinite points). We remain with infinite points, or, in our case, infinite possible dreams being actualized elsewhere in our very own cozy multiverse. Martin Luther King can rest in peace.

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I have cheated a little bit, because we need another quantum provision for all this to surely take place. Either that, or another deus ex-machina to come save us. Just like it is true that I can extract infinite points from a set of infinite points and remain with infinite points, it is also true that I can have an infinite space, with a finite probability of generating a bubble for a finite subset of it, and not get all the bubbles I might wish for. There are two ways in which this can happen. There can be too few bubbles, or too many. Let me guide you through this… Too few is quite easy. Just imagine that there are only three possible bubbles, meaning that for any finite sphere within infinite space, only the probabilities of insurgence of these three bubble kinds are finite. No matter how big you make the sphere, it is still only likely it will generate one of these three worlds. This once again depends on what can an what cannot vary, and, as I hope we agreed in earlier reflection, we have no idea how to determine that, we just make the educated guess that some constants and arbitrary values can vary, and that is that. The other way is by having too many possible bubbles. In this case, it won’t be true that a huge sphere will ascribe a finite probability for a bubble, say, ours. In this case we are actually going to delve into domains a bit beyond our knowledge of the World, sorry for this. Let’s get going: There are infinites (called cardinal numbers by mathematicians) of different sizes. Imagine all natural numbers (yeah, like someone could do it!), they are infinite, and yet, for each of them, there are infinitely many real numbers (like square of two, Pi and some others), the math concerning transfinites is a bit too complicated, but it can be found here:

http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~nunez/web/SingaporeF.pdf

Either take a look or believe me in that there are infinites of varying sizes. Also, there are no infinites that differ by a finite amount, only by infinite amounts. The total number of natural numbers is the same as the total number of natural numbers plus 7. Since those infinites can be organized into different sizes, they can be put in order, just like their finite cousins. The number of natural numbers has been called Aleph0, the number of real numbers Aleph1 and the sequence of Alephs is infinite, like the sequence 0,1,2,3,4 …  All of this is standard math (or standard set theoretical based math, for precision), but here we are about to hit a wall. No one knows if there is a number between Aleph0 and Aleph1. We know no finite additions to Aleph0 will give us Aleph1, because any addition would give us Aleph0 again, same for subtractions of Aleph1, but this does not imply that there are no such numbers, there may be more complex operations that give us a number, previously unknown, that actually fits in-between Aleph0 and Aleph1. That is, a number that is bigger than the number of points in Natural numbers line, and smallet than the number of points in a Real line. If the notion of an unknown number sounds too heretic to fit what you consider as acceptable about the world, you may want to review your acceptability standards before finding out that there are (spoiler alert!) Illegal Numbers. Yes, you heard it right. There are numbers outside the law. This are numbers it is illegal to sell, possess, or even, under some circumstances, know! Just imagine the following scene:

Class, how much is  25399 times 8883?

Linus,  214736417, mm almost

Bill, 216736382, no no Bill, try again

Larry, 216736317!, very good Larry!

Alan,    216736327?, you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used…..

There are awkward things in the world, and I think illegal numbers stand right besides laws about bringing lions to the cinema in Illinois (?????). So let us accept unknown numbers as a possibility, and proceed with why it is not enough to have an infinite space to be sure there will be someone just like you somewhere else drinking the finest tea and playing with soup bubbles instead of taking care of the dog.

1/3 is aproximately 33,33%, ¼ is 25%, and there are many interesting fractions, such as 22/7 a number that people used, for a long time, to believe that was the result of dividing the circumference by the diameter. Let us focus our interest in those that are between 0% and 100% for these are the only ones you can use in probability (there cannot be something 110% likely). The question that concerns us at the moment is, what happens when I have one over infinite? More specifically, what is the result of dividing one by aleph0?  The answer is, nobody knows. There is no such math. Same for 100 over Aleph2 etc… when we intuitively say that one over infinite tends to zero, we are talking about the concept of limit, which involves finite numbers, not real infinites, these are useful for mathematical operations, they are cheaters, not the real deal. No one knows how to do the real deal, division operations with infinite cardinals as their divisor are not defined. This is not only true for numerators like 1, 100 or 10^7+56, it is also true of other infinite numbers. So Aleph0 above Aleph0 is undefined in our mathematics, same for Aleph1 over Aleph0, Aleph0 over Aleph1 and Aleph232 over Aleph27. Now you may be beginning to see our trouble! What if there are infinite possible configurations for a Newtonian bubble, and we live in an infinitely extend space? Are we to maintain that all the possible configurations of bubble will be realized? Suppose for illustration that the number of possible Newtonian Configurations is Aleph1, that is, the same amount as the amount of real numbers, and that total number of finite cubes of 10100mts size is Aleph0, now it seems ridiculously implausible that all the configurations will manifest themselves, there simply is no space for that to happen. The very definition of Aleph1 is that you cannot map Aleph0 into it in a one-to-one correspondence, so how can a space containing Aleph0 points instantiate Aleph1 universes? It seems like hell it cannot. But what are we to say of the opposite situation, what if there are Aleph1 points, Aleph1 finite regions, and only Aleph0 possible configurations for a Newtonian bubble[2]?

What if :

Aleph1 / Aleph0

…correctly describes the probability for a specific configuration of bubble to turn up actual, to be realized?

It seems like this should give us a probabilistic value of one. Yes, one, not infinite, because probabilities range in between 0% and 100% which is one. We want to say that if there are more finite spaces available then configurations, and they outnumber them by infinity, obviously all configurations will be instantiated, but behold the mathematical unproven intuition. The same reasoning might have lead us astray into the doomy lands of dividing by zero. Let us here maintain a skeptical position, accept that the question is open, and protest, with Bostrom (2006) that with so many mathematicians someone should have invented by now a non-contradictory math that allows us to think of infinitarian probabilities when we have to. Bostroms problem deals with ethics and infinite space, ours deals with probabilities and infinite space. To an extend, his approach to the issue using hyper-reals (a kind of number in between reals, a kind which, by now, you may even find perfectly ordinary) may prove helpful to our case, but there would still be many unsatisfactory results.

There is one more mathematical intuition that we have when talking about randomness that is quite dangerous. We always assume that all available outcomes have the same odds, that is, we always assume the die has sides of the same size. We are talking about real randomness here, not man-made artifacts that were specifically designed to equalize the chance of possible outcomes. It is a widespread vice to think that if something is random, truly random, then all outcomes have the same chance. This is false.

Randomness is not what you think it is

Think of a common die with two sides painted yellow, and the others with numbers one to four. Yellow is 1/3 likely, and any number is 1/6 likely, yet, it is completely random which of those possibilities will be actualized. Random means[3] you have no idea what will come up, not that you have no idea what is the likelihood distribution between possible outcomes. So even if it were established that Aleph1 / Aleph0 is a defined value corresponding to more than zero, and that the amount of configurations is Aleph0, and that the amount of finite spaces is Aleph1, this would still not guarantee that all configurations are instantiated, for they could be distributed in an evil way, with a part of them being way more likely than others, so that the operation of division among this others would not render values above zero.

One particularly implausible but nice looking scenario is that in which not only there are, say, Aleph0 configurations and Aleph0 spaces, but also there is an exact match between them, that is, no configuration ever repeats itself, and all, by infinitesimal chance, manifest. This is so absurd, in probabilistic terms, but so absurd, that it is completely compatible with one of the principles Leibniz used to build up his monadic system, the principle of the identity of indiscernibles, according to which it is impossible for two things to be exactly the same in all characteristics, and yet be numerically distinct[4].

We fortunately have no commitment to mathematics and transfinites when building our Utopia, we have a commitment with the mid-level world, the world of trees, glasses, love, sex, lust, 3D movies, fingers and music. We are allowed to create and abandon mathematics, this will be discussed in the chapter concerning the mathematics of Utopia, so, for now, let us just guarantee that there will be many bubbles around us looking a lot like us. To do that without having to interfere with the domain of math, we must quantize our Newtonian world, all objects and events that take place within it will take place in a finite amount of space, and there will be none that can be infinitely divisible. This guarantees that the total amount of possible configurations is finite. Let us do the wrong thing (counterfactually it is not wrong) and decree that the likelihood of any possibility arising is the same, and this will guarantee us a mathematical operation in which we multiply a finite number by an infinite one. The finite one is the probability of a bubble with configuration X appearing in a finite space, the infinite is the number of finite spaces. This operation is well defined in current mathematical theory, the result is the same as the infinite number. We do not even need to decide between infinite sizes to find out our needed Dreams within Utopia. Utopia may have an undefined infinite number finite spaces, as long as we don’t find any other reason to establish one, pick your choice. Mine is Aleph227.

So we can dream in peace, in Utopia, there are infinite universes, in some of them you are the prettiest girl in the prom, there is some epistemic uncertainty (which of those universes is the one I’m in?) which makes you feel like you have choices, even though deep in your heart you know you don’t. As Alexander Vilenkin puts it, “Many-Worlds in One”, this is the cosmology of Utopia. And the best of it, the equations fit a T-shirt! If that was not enough, your average high school student can grasp them, and a bunch of scientists and analytic philosophers can rest assured that the Dream of Computation will one day be achieved, thanks to Leibniz’s Universal Harmony, discrete physics, some ad-hoc principles of computation, and infinitely extent space, in our cozy and cuddling Newtonian-ish universe. Welcome to Utopia.

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These were only the practical requirements, but by now, we may have realized that the borders dividing practical, useful, interesting, sweet, cozy, and beautiful are not as well defined as we might have wished for. When we postulate infinite bubbles, are we looking for the practicality of dreaming? Hardly likely… we are seeking the beauty of dreaming within reality. It is indeed practical to abandon Quantum Physics, so no trouble here. What about simplifying equations? I hope baroque and modern art were both right, and for that to be true, it must also be true that the visual and mental environments became much more populated in the centuries that separate them. Our century brings with it accelerating information, accelerating people, and accelerated lives, there is no doubt we are in an age in which beauty lies in simplicity, and it is perfectly marvelous to find out that the equations that best fit our practical requirements also will turn out to be the most beautiful.

What else do we need in our physics to have beauty?   There are at least two non-classical phenomena that are in the desires of most: Teleportation (aka non-local travel) and Time Travel (aka non instantaneous travel). A few sophisticated ones might also be wishing for a zero-energy machine, a machine that theoretically produces work and therefore useful energy forever. Let us consider all of those separately.


[1] The reason for the impossibility of immortality has nothing to do with the fact that one in every two billion people reaches 118 years old. Immortality in this sense is possible, not as in living forever, but as in living some 255466 years of healthy life. The real impossibility has to do with a question underlying philosophy of mind called personal identity, and it is not time to talk about it. Not yet.

[2] Note that all the concerns about Newtonian bubbles here also apply to Einsteinian and quantum bubbles, unless there are strictly no features of space that are not-quantizable, that is, absolutely every property of  the multiverse that can vary is perfectly discrete, not infinitely divisible, nor gunky (if you are not a philosopher of physics, do not bother about finding out what “gunky” means…).

[3] The word ’random’ usually ranges over both kinds of cases, but I pledge guilty to anyone who would accuse me of semantic dictatorship, since it is true that the case where all outcomes are equally likely is nearer to the center of the target of the word’s possible ranges. Since we do not have two words, I encourage people to use ’random’ to mean any distribution of outcomes, known or unknown, and  ’equally distributed random’ for what happens in fair dice, coins, and other casino devices. “objectively random” means that a Laplacean demon, or our physicists super computer, would not be able to know in advance, “subjectively random¨ is the kind of randomness that the die has, it is your state of knowledge that is undefined, not the outcome itself (at least in a Newtonian bubble). Since you are less powerful than a supercomputer, it follows that that which is objetively random is also subjectively random, but not otherwise. Your subjectivity cannot see deeper than objective reality, for there is nothing deeper to be seen.

[4] Too see why this is absurd, consider a spheric World with only four identical spheres exactly a hundred meters away from its center, and exactly the same distance away from one another. Since there is no up or down in the universe (no outside reference), there are no properties to distinguish the spheres, except their relational properties to one another. If this still bothers you, then imagine an infinite universe in all directions, with an infinite series of spheres occupying it in perfect density and homogeneity, any two of them are now not only intrinsically identical, but also identical in all the relations they bear to any object within the universe, yet distinct. Credits to Lewis (XXXX)

Utopia The Hidden Design Part 1

Not particularly tall, nor particularly small, João de Almeida is a man of vision… His main vision was seeing a ghost when he was eight years old in his aunt’s house, and he’s been using this story as his standard way to impress others ever since. Now 41, he is a construction worker, married, with three children he didn’t manage to properly raise or love, living a half-life without any deep emotions or culture, without anything in the world he particularly cares about, including his wife, life, and kids. João could have turned out to be a better man, but not much. He didn’t pay much attention in school, partly because his teachers were stupid morons, like most in his birthplace: the countryside of a state at the northeast of Brazil called Pernambuco, where uglyness is as widespread as it is harmful to the good development of one’s aesthetic sense. The other reason he wouldn’t pay attention is unfair in an even deeper sense, he wouldn’t pay attention because his motivational system is a bit cracked up, and a little less adapted to society than the average is nowadays. We were all born with a savannah based motivational system, his was only a bit tougher than most of ours, where our softness grows with time, he remains an edgy, truculent, beasty ape. It is no coincidence João wound up being a construction worker in a 22 million people busy city, what is a coincidence is that he in particular might be remembered in the future, or at least might have a tiny inscription in written history, and that is because, today, he woke me up at 7 AM, approximately 4 hours before I wished for.

João de Almeida is part of a large class of objects about which this tale of ours is, these are the objects that distinguish what the world is, and what the world ought to be. The world would be a better place without him, and his main traits as a person, as a thinker, or as a family man are the sort of things that make us wish against deterministic views of the physical universe, to better accommodate our desire that the whole of his effect on earth might soon be erased by quantum randomness.

Philosophers, but not ordinary people,  have the exotic habit of thinking there must be an object for each and every word they are able to come up with. Usually this is taken as a reason to disregard all their locutions as mere noise, and go on with one’s life, but there is an up-side to it, philosophers create many words, and many expressions, way more than most other specialized sectors in society, thus they render our language more complete. One of the philosophers achievements was to create names for fallacies, mistakes of reasoning. The Naturalistic Fallacy consists of thinking that something should be a particular way because it is (naturally) this way. Closely related is the is-ought problem, the problem that is had by those who are unable to distinguish what the World is like from what it ought to be like, those to whom João de Almeida, AIDS, and the disproportionate success of Astrology are invisible.

I have nothing whatsoever against poor, dirty, sad, stupid, unlucky João. If something I have unbearable pity for him and all those whose life experience must be as tough as his, and whose contributions to the world stay well behind those of Beethoven, Michael Jackson or Douglas Hofstadter.  I don’t like the fact that I’m making fun of him, but I dislike this fact less than I dislike his existence. If I could choose, he’d be a funny, intelligent happy individual, whose vision actually spans entire oceans, whose dreams are made of stuff mere mortals cannot fathom, and whose achievements abound in trophies and medals that would trigger deep anger in the greek Gods. He would be one of the worlds great athletes, video-game players, and architects, his designs would be recognized from Istanbul to the desert villages in Australia, his mind worth millions and his main emotion would be love, which he would express in a constant desire to give back to the world the luck he feels he has, both while looking at his girls eyes, and while seeing the shiny eyes of those who saw his latest mastercraft. I dislike, therefore, not his existence as a particular immortal soul trapped in a stupid body living a sad life, but his existence as a set of properties that gathered by chance in a chancy unfair universe into the same person, a person that happened to be unworthy for all including himself, whom shall suffer the burden of living hell while he lasts, only to disappear afterwards into inexistence, freeing the world from a presence that brought sorrow about four times more than it brought cheerfulness.

There are many different kinds of utopias, my definition of ’utopia’ spans across a vast realm of worlds, these are worlds that will never be, for this or that reason, and that someone, somewhere, seems to think are so deliciously better than ours to be worth going into detail. I have not read and probably won’t read Thomas Morus particular Utopia, the classic book from which the term has taken its power… I know though that his project was to describe. Other utopians delve differently into their worlds, inscribing them into stories, J.R.R. Tolkien, notably, has described an utopia as the outfit clothing a particular story, the story of how The Fellowship of The Ring has tried to take the One Ring into the fire of doom, in the land of Mordor. The world of The Lord of The Rings fits my definition of utopia in as much as it actually is the dream world of some thousands of young aspiring elves all around the world, it is irrelevant that Tolkien himself did not intent to describe it as the world as it should be, as long as someone, in a stuffy sweaty underventilated room in the south of germany, finds it attractive enough to call it his personal ideal world. Words are not necessarily the only way of putting an utopia into the world, or, more precisely, to describe some features of an utopia in such a way as to carry one’s imagination across it. James Cameron’s movie, Avatar, brings into sight a world of magic, beauty unknown of and a deep non-disgusting religiousness that takes us as far as understanding a way in which the feeling of being one with the universe could be not just experienced but justified. Avatar is not a collection of words, but of images and sounds… Pandora, the amazing planet within it is very much an utopia, like Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Morus’s Utopia itself.

My own way of describing Utopia will be not the Story one, first, I will describe a particular aspect of how the world is now, then, how it should be were we living in an ideal world.

Since our task is to imagine a possible world, it is only proper to describe the constraints on variation we are subject to, that is, the borderlines and limits of what can and cannot be done in this particular attempt to describe an ideal world. To see that this is necessary, consider the following utopia:

Absolute Utopia: This World is spatially infinite in all directions, and each and every point of  absolute utopia instantiates, or realizes, an infinite amount of pleasure.

Even though it is a World vastly better than ours, it is very much less interesting for all kinds of purposes one might put an utopia to use here. In general people will vary only the aspects that they are able to intuitively think different, or to think that it ¨makes sense¨ to vary. This of course is far from consensus, like all things that ignorant people remark as ¨common sense¨.

In most Utopian visions, there are changes in aspects of the world that correspond to the upper areas of the tree of knowledge. The World of the Lord of The Rings, Middle Earth, has very different societies from our own, and it also varies in terms of biology, having quite a few other talking species. Pandora, Avatar’s world varies also, explicitly, in local physics, since it is a less massive planet than ours, allowing for a lesser gravitational pull. Middle earth does not vary explicitly in physics. Magic is possible but that doesn’t rule out F=MA. What it does rule out is the homogeneity of physical law everywhere, as consequence of some explicit facts, such as teleportation, magic, unnending holes etc… The definition of explicit and implicit variations should not bother us too much. Almost all the Utopias change the sociology of their world, since almost anyone can see and feel desperate with some of the sociological conditions of his own society. Inter-society differences in sociology are very much visible, since much of our cognition is dedicated to it, compare for instance you level of awareness of cultural differences between your own and that of  Japan, if you are Japanese, use South Africa instead. There is a lot that pops into mind. When it comes to physics though we have very much less awareness of the physical differences between our world and a world with 2 extra dimensions. In fact, since the stakes on how many dimensions are there are still out among physicists, it is reasonable to say we do not even know one clear difference between a universe with, say, 10 or 12 dimensions. We are much more aware of differences that belong to a particular kind of difference, those that in the Savannah world could turn out to be matters of life and death in the long run, for us or for our children. I see apples because those of my potential ancestors who didn’t did not exert their potential to become ancestors. My ancestors who do not see electrons or bacteria are pretty fine, thanks for asking. It is easier to imagine a world without elephants than to imagine a world without viruses basically because it is easier to imagine a world with elephants than with viruses. Elephants are right there, we may want to say. You get home tired after a day at work, you feel like you could bypass anything, nothing whatsoever will make you diverge from your couch, your destined path, ’nothing’ here may include bills, a friend’s request, the sudden memory that there is a test tommorrow, or a frowning look from an expecting wife, but it certainly is not ranging over elephants. If there was an elephant in your living room, you can be pretty sure you’d leave the couch for another occasion.

Just like there is a pattern of variation in the scope of our words when we speak, there is pattern of variation in our possible worlds when we vary them. Both are mostly unconcious. When I say ¨nothing will stop me from X-ing¨, it is proper for a well behaved senior language using individual to understand that I’m referring to ¨nothing within the set of requests he may have for my about his problems¨, not to enormous mammals in my living room. We can think of the scope of ¨nothing will stop me from X-ing¨ as being represented by a series of circles larger and larger, like in a target. Every point in our target is an object that could or not be counted among the things which would not stop me from X-ing in a particular situation. Those nearer to the center are those that in almost all cases and contexts would not stop me from X-ing, for instance ¨An electron with inverted spin in Jupiter’s biggest crater¨. In normal language use, we know that things that I someone may tell me are nearer to the center than elephants in our living room. This can also be illustrated as a conditional, ¨If someone says ’nothing will stop me from X-ing’ referring to possible things that may stop him, and those include an elephant, then they also include particular babble-babble locutions from a friend who needs a simple favor¨. We have this target in our mind automatically.

This is part of the magic of language, or more specifically, part of the magic of generative languages spoken by beings whose language instinct developed a principle of assuming that someone is trying to convey the maximum amount of useful information in all ambiguous cases. Of course cases are not so clear cut as electron-blablabla-elephant, sometimes we may actually not be sure what would be more or less likely. Is he saying nothing I can say will change his mind, or is he saying that nothing his wife can say will change his mind? Which of the dots are nearer to the center? We do not know, there is still imprecision lurking in his use of ’nothing’. Besides imprecision as to what is more or less distant from the center due to our lack of knowledge of what he means, there is also persistent imprecision, meaning that it is not always the case that conditionals will work to describe the relation between two possible obstacles, it is always the case that nothing ranges over electrons in Jupiter before it ranges over elephants in our room, but it is not always the case that it ranges over our requests before his wife’s request. We could transcribe this to our analogy by saying that, first, we put some blurring goggles that allow for the range of his use of ’nothing’ to have cloudy borders, second, we have each point being able to move throughout an area according to context, so that there are cases where clearly ’nothing’ includes me but not her, her, but not me, both of us, and none of us. If one is strict and demanding for even more precision, create a function from each context do a different target which precisely describes the circles at that moment and context, and let the whole series constitute the range over which ’nothing’ spans… Now, for every two dots, say, a phrase of mine and one of hers, there is a proportion in which one or the other is nearer to the center. If I’m more likely to be ignored when he is X-ing then it may be Me=70% her=30%   or something like that.  Now, from this analogy of a target with the scope of the word ’nothing’ we can define an object’s visibility in the use of a word as follows.

Visibility: An object is more visible to a word if it is more likely to be within the circle over which that word ranges in different contexts than another object.

The clear cut conditional cases, such as electron versus elephant will create conditional visibility. That is, an elephant is visible for the word ’nothing’ as said by mister Lazy only if an electron with inverted spin also is. Note here that there is no requirement that mister Lazy himself thinks of electrons or elephants, he may be considering explicitly only the bills that may have come in through the mail. In fact, this is precisely the point, visibility for language differs from the visibility for people. Our use of words is much more precise sometimes, and much less others, than we think they are. We take a lot for granted when we use language. We also take a lot for granted when we build utopias.

One of the critics main criticism to fantasy worlds, utopias and futuristic scenarios is that they extrapolate one aspect of the world (say, flying machines) without extrapolating equivalently another (say, computing machines) thus rendering a world with flying cars but without the internet, if our dreamer is living in the nineteen sixties. Avatar’s Pandora has low gravity, the Navi, its blue inhabitants, very similar psychology to ours and a vast knowledge of nature, but not the knowledge of an artifact as simple as the wheel. In Middle Earth there are wizards able to defeat a Balrog but unable to crush a door into pieces. The notion of visibility, to sum it up, is not as well defined in the case of   utopian creators as it is in the case of words. Our words come from a long and intrincate history of users, survivors, speakers etc….. but an utopia is the dream of one, maybe two people, and what was visible to them at the time depends not on long settled semantical rules of thumb, but on the goggles they were using the particular days they went through the process of writing theirs worlds.

One of the ways in which the world is is this: The world is a place where those who create utopias do not state clearly what they will allow to vary and what will not vary when they consider what is desirable. Can I make some twists in physics? Am I allowed to change how many fingers we have? Is it ok to suppose we are all females? Can I change the looks of Barack Obama, the president of the United States?  Can I fuse Brazil and Egypt into only one country? What about having Brazil be a dictatorship and not a democracy?  Can alchemy be a reality? What about astrology?  Can I make everyone look pretty? What about making everyone think that everyone looks pretty? Could there be only black people and southeast asians? Can I abolish the emotional state called ’rage’?

All this questions fall unanswered if we begin to ask ourselves about any particular world whether its conceiver did or did not allow himself to do that.

One of the ways in which the world should be is: A place where utopians state somewhat precisely what they will allow to vary, so that we can admire more how they made great stuff out of their materials, just like we do for ice sculptors.

Due to our psychology, it is only natural to dream of utopias with different political systems and similar laws of chemestry, physics. It is only natural to extrapolate on our technologies, but consider our psychological nature as unchaged. Since we do not want to commit the Naturalistic Fallacy once again, we are not going to let what is only natural guide our conception of what is good. I’d like to describe how the World is and how it should be in some of its aspects, in levels of complexity as different from one another as quantum electrodynamics is different from a mating ritual among birds of paradise.

Chapter One: The Physics of Utopia

How it is: According to current theories on the physics of our cosmos, there is a lot going on both in microscopic and in macroscopic level that is very interesting. Interesting, but not necessarily desirable. I’ll point out a few characteristics of the physical world as we know it, we know we live in an expanding universe, which means that galaxies and planets are getting more and more apart as time goes on. It is widely believed that this all began some thirteen billion years ago in a great explosion of energy (and mass, and time) and that ever since things have been, on average, getting more disorganized. We call this the second law of thermodynamics, and we realized that one of its consequences is that the conditions that make life possible on earth will span a limited amount of time. Another interesting fact about our world is that it seems to be composed not of little balls as it was once thought, but of many different kinds of subatomic particles, each of them having probabilistic conditions of coming up from one or another kind of interaction of particles and forces. We have quarks up and down, that together compose electrons, protons, we have some particles like mesons, with similar charge but different mass from more known particles. Some of those are said to carry forces, some of them are very stable and tend to persist once they are there. Others have either a short lifespan or a high probability of disappearing soon after appearing. All and all we currently (2010) hold, according to the Standard Model of particle physics, that there are twelve kinds of fundamental particles, and that it is quite likely that greater energy levels than the ones we are able to examine would produce even more kinds. We think so because those twelve are not completely independent, we can organize them in a table similar to the periodic table by their properties, and it is the case that as we go to right on this table, we notice that it took interactions with much more energy to find out the existence of those particles than it took to find out about the first ones. So, if each line is considered a class of particles, we have no reason to suppose that there is no more particles in that class if we were able to make the corresponding experiences.

This picture of the microscopic world is far more complex than the dreams of most physicists, basically because if you are a physicist, it feels very good and warm inside when you do not need to put many experimental values in your equations to calculate the future. A chaotic universe, in which every instant has no correlation with its antecedent is a physicists nighmare (or would be if it were detectable as such, and if physicists were a physical possibility under these conditions). The standard model of particle physics has some uncertainties yet, but it holds against the vast majority of other models we could think of. The world seems to behave as it does because those twelve particles behave as they do.

Back into macroscopic land, we have reason to suppose that the universe is not just expanding, but is infinite in extension. We can only observe a part of the universe, our particular world, but that is because light travels at a particular speed, so we can only gaze back so far, and can only gaze sideways so far. Let us assume that a light emitting object is midway between us, and the farthest distances that we can see, if its light has reached us, it has probably hit the last place whose light we can see, and beyond. This is not the reason we ascribe infinity to our universe though, since it would only guarantee that the universe is a little bit bigger than it looks. The reason is that we assume some things are homogeneous, that they behave the same way no matter where they are, these are things like the physics of subatomic particles, the relative probability that an atom under a particular pressure will emit radiation, the contraction of space that constitutes gravity when matter is around. One of those things that seems homogeneous is the likelihood that a bubble like the one we call observable universe will arise in a particular spot. It is tiny. We think it is tiny, very very tiny because we can imagine worlds with some very different standards, places where there are different numbers of dimensions, more or less extended, more or less energetic, more or less entangled with one another. Places where the physical constants vary a little bit, with gravity’s pull being a tiny bit stronger, or where they vary a lot, where gravity goes not with the square, but with the cube of the cube of the distance between to massive objects. Just because we can think these things can vary is of course no evidence that they do, so no evidence that it is highly unlikely to turn up in a universe like ours. What makes us think that they can and do vary, and that therefore we must be a tiny speck of dust in a vast or infinite space is that our universe seems very fine-tuned to allow for life. Just like we do not live in lava because it is too hot, and we do not live in air because we are too heavy, it seems that we live in the observable-universe we live because its conditions are those that would give rise to beings like us, that think about the meaning of life and dance in nightclubs. If there were too many dimensions, gravity would be too strong, if there were only two dimensions, your digestive tract would split you in half. This idea, the idea that the reason we live in ground level is analogous to the reason we live in this particular observable-universe is called anthropic principle. The anthropic principle has the interesting consequence that it gives us a reason for why something that could, on a first look, sound ridiculously implausible, be exactly what we find out around us. This is what happens when a ridiculous implausibility is necessary for us to exist. Ask yourself, isn’t it ridiculously implausible that your parents met where they met, lived as they lived, and did what they did before you were born? It is much more likely that they would have done any of the other infinite possibilities, if you sum them up. The one possibility that turned out to be actual is extremely unlikely, against all other. Yet, this one is the one that happened. Now, if it didn’t happen this way, it would not be you asking, in fact you may even have not existed. So it is less absurd that exactly that sequence of events took place once you account for your existence. This is as valid for your relation to your parents lives as it is true of human existence and  parent-observable-universes. It doesn’t matter if it is a chance of one in a million, or a trillion, or one in 10^500 (current string theorist’s evaluation of the likelihood of our particular kind of bubble amongst the bubbles) if it is a requirement for you to be there, and asking the question, and you actually are there asking the question, then this is the one thing that happened.

But who told physicists that those constants that they believe can vary actually can vary? I mean, we know a lot about our universe, but one of the things we do not know is if it is possible for gravity to be stronger, if it could have been the case that gravitational pull was pulling harder. We think it is, like we think the mass of a proton could have been a little bit different, but we base this reasoning solely in our intuitions about what is and what is not possible. In fact, philosophers of the analytic tradition spent lots and lots of papers discussing if it is the case that conceivability is or not a guide to possibility. Some people would even go as far as saying that the very notion of probability is just a way of modeling some epistemic uncertainties of ours, but that nothing is possible or impossible per se. There are the things that happen, and the things that don’t, and that is that. I am not convinced that things could not have been different on the one hand, and I’m also not convinced that if we thing something could have been different, then it actually could have been different. I do not profess to know how are we to measure the scope of all possible worlds, or of all possible physical constants within one universe, etc… This seems to me an enterprise similar to the one of someone who wished to establish once and for all that a particular coin will fall heads every future time it is flipped. He may even be right, but that is either enormously unlikely or because he is going to cheat and melt the coin right away after stating. Philosophers cheat when they pretend what we can conceive defines what is possible, and are playing a sheer game of luck when they say they have found out what is possible. So do physicists.

So far we went through the second law of thermodynamics, the expanding universe, the standard model of particle physics and the bubbles-universe theories, which state we are in one out of so many bubbles within a huge universe, quite likely an infinite one.

Back into the microscopic world, we think nowadays that both the dynamics of electrons and photons (called electrodynamics) and the dynamics of atomic nucleai (called nuclear physics) work according to quantum physics. So we have quantum electrodynamics on the one hand and quantum chromodynamics on the other hand as our ways of looking at microscopic behavior of particles. Quantum physics can be described in many degrees of detail, I’ll go with the simplest one, for a deeper and clear account, check out Yudkwosky’s ¨The Quantum Physics Sequence¨ in his blog called Less Wrong.

In quantum physics if a particle is at a point at a time, and you know it, it does not mean you will know where it is ten seconds later, even if you have a very well designed experimental setting in which you would think it is obvious you could calculate where it went. What you have is an equation that describes, for a particle, a position and a time, many different ways in which it may develop throughout time. It also gives you the relative likelihood that it will go to a particular area. So you will end up with answers to questions like: ¨How likely is it that this photon will end up in this area of sixteen square centimeters if I throw it from here through this hole?¨ ¨If a photon goes through this this hole from this source, is it more likely to end up in that area or in that area?¨  ¨How likely is it that the red quark up is in this particular cube? How much is it more likely than in that other cube?¨ ….       You get answers to those questions, but you do not get answers to these: ¨What will happen if I throw a photon there, exactly?¨   ¨What is the exact spot at which that fermion is right now?¨ ¨Give me an area such that you are absolutely sure that a photon will arrive there if it goes through this hole¨  ….        We cannot be sure of exact spots because these subatomic particles  do not behave like billiard balls, they will not go necessarily in a straight line, or end up in a particular hole, they behave like dice, sometimes they go to one place, sometimes to another. But differently from dice, they do not have the same likelihood of ending up in each place in which they can end up. You can think of this as either dice which have the same number in more than one face, or as dice that have faces of different size. Both analogies are adequate to describe possible places where a photon, a quark strange, or a meson pi might end up, given it is in a place of choice. Since there are different probabilities of ending up in areas (or volumes) of the same size, for any given quantum behaving particle, you could also represent the possible arrival places for a particle by painting the areas with a corresponding intensity of grey.

The darker the shade, the more likely it is that a particle will end up in a particular area. Now, if you wanted, you could stablish areas of one square centimeter, and paint each of the likelihood that a photon will end up there. But our quantum physics is precise enough that you wouldn’t actually need such big pixels as a square centimeter, the equations that work for tiny tiny particles are so precise that for any small area you can imagine, say 1/1000 centimeter, it will give you precisely how dark is that region. We end up not with many grey squares, but with a degradée of shades of grey, growing darker in some areas and lighter in others. This representation of the possible arrival places of a particle in a given experimental setting is a representation of something, this something was given the name of probability cloud (for volumes) probability wave (for lines and areas). A probabilistic wave, that thing physicists talk about when they say that ¨Beware! The wavefunction is about to collapse¨, is no more than the mathematical equivalent of a computed designed area of shades of gray corresponding to where is a particle going to end up if it was at place X at time Y with charge Z and neighbors H, J, K, and some other stuff…

Back to the macroscopic world, not only we have information about how many areas the size of our universe are there (Vilenkin 2001), but also we have good reasons to believe that every time one of those quantum dice are thrown, there is a splitting and many worlds, separated in all ways, become actual. We only observe particles arriving at one place, but that is because we could not be in both, or all universes at the same time. There is a copy of us there, a little bit different, but it is there, seeing the exact result we are not seeing in the Geiger counter. This is a flavor of the many-world interpretation of quantum mechanics. Some people say it may not be true, though we have interesting arguments (1995XXXX) in favor of it. For instance, I quote Eliezer Yudkowsky, on a moody day, complaining about many-world rivals, also called, collapse postulate theories:

“Well, first:  Does any collapse theory have any experimental support?  No.

With that out of the way…

If collapse actually worked the way its adherents say it does, it would be:

  1. The only non-linear evolution in all of quantum mechanics.
  2. The only non-unitary evolution in all of quantum mechanics.
  3. The only non-differentiable (in fact, discontinuous) phenomenon in all of quantum mechanics.
  4. The only phenomenon in all of quantum mechanics that is non-local in the configuration space.
  5. The only phenomenon in all of physics that violates CPT symmetry.
  6. The only phenomenon in all of physics that violates Liouville’s Theorem (has a many-to-one mapping from initial conditions to outcomes).
  7. The only phenomenon in all of physics that is acausal / non-deterministic / inherently random.
  8. The only phenomenon in all of physics that is non-local in spacetime and propagates an influence faster than light.

WHAT DOES THE GOD-DAMNED COLLAPSE POSTULATE HAVE TO DO FOR PHYSICISTS TO REJECT IT?  KILL A GOD-DAMNED PUPPY?”

Physicists do not want to reject the postulate because they want to be in only one universe at a time, not branching all the time into many many physicists, spread all over the board, wondering how is the world such a strange place. But it seems we are splitting all the time into so many quantum branches of ourselves. Let me try to restate the case of our current physical knowledge of cosmic proportions. It seems as though we live in an infinite universe which has many bubbles, these bubbles are things somewhat like our observable universe, which is one of them (or better, part of one). Since it is possible for a bubble to be born in some parts of this space, and space is homogenous, it is possible for bubbles to appear in a finite amount of space, say, 10^1000 cubic meters (or more if needed), space being infinite, there are infinite bubbles.  Every time something happens down in quantum world (that is, always, just consider there are some 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in your body, 70% of you is water, and a water atom contains an average of 18 quarks, which behave in a quantum way) this gigantic structure (our bubble) splits into many many bubbles, in some of which you dance Futterwäcken, some of which you forget how to dance and some of which have an unnoticeable shift in the electron cloud of a particular atom in a jupiterian crater.

What about the mesoscopic world? In mesoscopic land things behave as they do when you look at them, because your visibility is greater at this level, you evolved to track objects of this size, like fruits, oceans, nails, and the sun. The formalization of the way they work was made by this Newton fella, and the main difference between his equations and the ones of the standard model is that his are deterministic, that is, a bit more billiard ball like. It turns out that those mesoscopic equations are taken to be approximations of what happens when you make the quantum dance again and again and again, a few trillion times, to get an object whose size we can see. Things our size respect:

Force=Mass times Acceleration

and

F = GMm/R2

where

F is the force of attraction between two objects in newtons (N)

G is the universal gravitational constant in N-m2/kg2

M and m are the masses of the two objects in kilograms (kg)

R is the distance in meters (m) between the objects, as measured from their centers of mass

Things of quantum size don’t respect many things… The quantum equations for instance, when applied to themselves lots and lots of times do not mimic the Newtonian or Einsteinian meso-equations, meaning there is a gap in our knowledge of how medium sized stuff is made of small sized stuff. One of the reasons for this gap could be that we are not accounting for the way we split among branches in our equations, along with all other objects around us, that split our bubble into many bubbles. It is quite unlikely that this will do the trick, but it is food for thought.

Our particular bubble is growing ever bigger, and that is why the average level of energy available to do work inside it is diminishing, that is why people talk about the heath death of the cosmos. Since every day there are less and less areas with high density of energy, we can expect the world as we know it inside our bubble to be buried in a cold debris of ruin, sooner or later, after 1040 years, black holes will dominate the universe. They will slowly evaporate via Hawking radiation. A black hole with a mass of around 1 solar mass will vanish in around 2×1066 years. However, many of these are likely to merge with supermassive black holes at the center of their galaxies through processes described above long before this happens. As the lifetime of a black hole is proportional to the cube of its mass, more massive black holes take longer to decay. A supermassive black hole with a mass of 1011 (100 billion) solar masses will evaporate in around 2×1099 years.

Of course we are not so sure of all this physics yet, also even though it is rational to distribute our credence according to evidence among many different hypothesis, not to settle for the most likely, I have described for each aspect only the particular theory more likely to be true these days, not all of them and how they would be distributed in terms of epistemic likelihood.

There is a lot of uncertainty in our physical picture of the world, and as far as it goes, it is the most precise picture we have among the sciences, I cannot affirm all that was described is true, but, as far as we are concerned, this is how it is.

In The Next Chapter………

How It Should Be In Utopia, Physics…….

Two Cognitive Cases

Two Cognitive Cases

This is the first draft of an article I’m developing, I appreciate any commentaries and corrections, which can be sent as reponses.

The study of cognition can be benefited in a number of ways, and people from areas as separate as mechanical engineering, artificial systems and psychology show us that. In fact, from Gödel’s theorem to dynamic systems to molecular genetics, there is some kind of contribution that has been made to the understanding of mind. I want to present two new challengers here, to join the group of things which are useful to understand cognition. In fact to understand in general. They are Recently-Biased Information Selectivity and Happiness.

First I want to talk about selectivity. If one wants to understand more and be able to acomplish more, it is highly likely that he will have to learn (the other option being invent, or discover). We learn more than we invent because it is cheaper, in economic terms. Our cognitive capacity to learn is paralleled in the south asian countries, whose development is funded into copying technologies developed in high-tech countries. Knowledge is not a rival good, that is, the fact that I have it doesn’t imply you can have it too. Knowledge, Newton aside, has nothing to do with apples.

So suppose our objective was to learn the most in the least time, and to be able to produce new knowledge in the least time. There is nothing more cognitive than increasing our descriptive and procedural knowledge in reasonable timing. The first thing one ought to do is to twist the idea of learning upon itself, and start learning about learning. There are many ways to improve learning that can themselves be learned. One can achieve higher efficiency by learning reading techniques. Also she could learn how to use different mental gadgets to learn about the same topic (i.e. Thinking of numbers as sounds, if she usually thinks of them as written, and vice-versa). She also could simply change her material tools, using a laptop instead of writing with pen, writing in a different language to allow for different visual analogies, using her fingers to count. The borders are of course not clear between different cognitive tools. Writing in chinese implies thinking through another grammatical scheme, as well as looking at different symbols, one of this is more mental, the other more material, both provide interesting cognitive connections to other concepts and thus improve thinking and learning. Another blurry technique, without clear frontiers is to use some cognitive enhancer. Coffee, the most widely used one, is a great enhancer. Except that it isn’t. Working as a brain’s false alarm that everything is okaywhn is isn’t, leading to disrythmia, anxiety exaustion etc. Modafinil is much better, healthier, less prone to causing tension. But are these mental or material gadgets? One thing is certain, they are part of the proof that the mind-body dichotomy has no bearing on reality. These are all interesting techniques for better learning, but I suggest they are not as powerful as selectivity.

Recent-Biased Information Selectivity is a pattern towards seeking knowledge, what is informally called an “approach” to knowledge. A Recent-Biased Information Selector is a person who has a pattern of behavior. This pattern is, as the name denunciates, to look for the solution for her problems mostly in the most recent publications she can find. That is, amongst all of her criteria for deciding to read or not to read something, to watch or not to watch a video, to join or not a dance group, being new is very close to the peak. There are many reasons for which this is a powerful technique, given our objectives. The first is the Law of Accelerated Returns, as proposed by Kurzweil(2005). According to it, the development of information technology is speeding up, we have an exponential increase in the amount of knowledge being produced, as well as in the amount of information being processed. This is Moore’s law extended, and it can be extended to all levels of technological improvement, from the invention of the multicellular organism to genomic sequencing, from the invention of a writing system to powerful computing etc… Stephen Hawking (2001) points out that if one wanted to read all that was being published in 2001, he’d have to run 145 kilometers per second, this speed has probably doubled by now (2010). So Information technology in general and Knowledge in particular are increasingly speeding up. That means that if you cut two adjacent periods of equal sizes from now to the past, odds are high there is more than twice the knowledge of the older period in the newer one. If one were to distribute fairly his readings among all there is to be read, he would already be exponentially shifted towards the present. So a fair distribution in order to obtain knowledge is one that decreases exponentially towards the past. Let us say one reads 1000 pages, more or less three books, per month. So if we divide time in 4 equal periods, let’s say, of 20 years, one would have these pages divided according to the following proportions: 1 : 2 : 4 : 8. Now, 1x+2x+4x+8x = 15x = 1000. x=66 We get the distribution of pages:

66 to 1930 – 1950

122 to 1950 – 1970

244 to 1970 – 1990

488 to 1990 – 2010

In general: Let S be the number of subspaces into which one’s division will be made. Let T be the total number of pages to be read. The fair amount of reading to be dedicated to the Nth subspace is given by the formula:

2n-1 · (T / (21+22… 2S-1))

Now, this is not how we usually reason, since our minds are in general linear predictors, we suppose that fairness in terms of learning knowledge would be to read the same amount for equal amounts of time. This is of course a mistake, a cognitive bias, meaning something that is engendered in our way of thinking in such a way that it leads us systematically to mistakes. My first purpose is to make clear that the wisdom in the strategy of dividing cognitive pursuit equally though time is a myth. A first objection to my approach is that it is too abstact, highly mathematical, there are deep assymetries between older stuff and newer stuff that has not been considered, so one should not distribute her reading accordingly. Exactly! Let us examine those asymmetries.

First asymmetry: Information inter-exchange: It is generally taken for granted by most people that the future has no influence on the past, whereas the past has influence on the future. More generally, an event X2 at time T2 will not influence another event X1 at time T1, but might influence X3 at time T3. This of course is false. But we are allowed to make Newtonian approximations when dealing with the scale in which knowledge is represented, that is paper scale, brain scale (Tegmark 2000), sound-wave scale. So it is true for our purposes. From information flow asymmetry it follows that what is contained in older knowledge could have influenced newer knowledge, but not otherwise. This is reason to take the fair distribution, and squeeze it even more towards the present.

Second, asymmetry: Having survived for long enough. This is the main objection I saw against biasing towards the present, it consists of saying that the newest stuff has not passed through the filter of time (this could also be called the “it’s not a classic” asymmetry) and therefore is more likely to be problematic. I have argued elsewhere that truthful memes are more likely to survive (Caleiro Forthcoming) and indeed that is a fair objection to the view I am proposing here. This asymmetry would make us stretch our reading back again. But in fact there is a limit to this filter. One has strong reasons not to read what came just hot out of press (unless there are other factors for it) but few reasons not to read what has been for 2 years in the meme-pool, for instance. The argument is strong, and should be considered.

Third, Conceptual-Scheme Complexity: Recent stuff is embedded in a far more complex world, and in general into a very complex scheme of things, that is, the concepts deployed are part of a complex web, highly sofisticated, deeptly interacting. This web makes the concepts clearer since they are more strongly interwoven with other concepts, theories, experiments etc… The same concept usually will have a much more refined conception today than the one it had two hundred years ago. Take the electron for instance, we have learned enormous amounts about it, the same word means much more today than it did. Even more amazing is the refinement of fuzzy concepts like “mind”, “cognition”, “knowledge”, “necessity”, “a priori” and so on.

Fourth, Levels of Meta-knowledge available: Finally we get to an interesting asymmetry, that is related to how many layers of scrutiny has an area passed through. In the early days we had “2+3·5+(9-3)” kind of maths, then someone notices we’d be well with a meta-symbol for a given unknown number so we had “ X+3 = 2” kind of mathematics…. and someone else eventually figured a symbol could denote a constant, and we had “Ax+By+C = 0” kind of mathematics, there are more layers, but the point is clear. Knowledge2, That is Meta-Knowledge depends on the availability of Knowledge1, same for Meta-meta-knowledge or Knowledge3. In psychology we had first some data regarding a few experiments with rats, then some meta-studies, with many clusters of experiments with rats, then some experiments with humans, then meta-inter-species knowledge that allowed us to compare species, then some theories of how to achieve knowledge in the area, that is epistemology of psychology etc… Now, it is usually impossible to create knowledge about something we have no data about. So there is no meta-knowledge without there being knowledge first. The number of layers is always increasing, for it is always possible to seek patterns in the highest level (though not always to find them!). More publications give us access to more layers of knowledge, and the more layers we have, better is our understanding.

These asymmetries give us the following picture, if we had a fair distribution, we should squeeze it a lot towards the recent past (some 2 years before present) but resist the temptation to go all the way and start reading longterm-useless nonfiltered stuff like newspapers. A simple way to do that is to change the 2 in the general equation for a 3. Some interesting ideas on this topic of selective ignorance deserve mention:

There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace”

Robert J Sawyer – 2000

What information comsumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

Herbert Simon, Turin Award winner, Nobel Prize winner

Just as modern man consumes both too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, information workers eat data both in excess and from the wrong sources”

If you are reading an article that sucks, put it down and don’t pick it back up. If you go to a movie and it’s worse than The Matrix Revolutions, get the hell out of there before more neurons die. If you’re full after half a plate of ribs, put the damn fork down and don’t order dessert.”

Timothy Ferris – 2007

I’ve shown the names of those I’m quoting, for this gives one tip on exceptions for the no hot-out-of-press rule. That is the argument from authority. The argument from authority is fallacious in its usual form:

Source A says that p.
Source A is authoritative.
Therefore, p is true.

But is reasonable in its bayesian form (“~” is the symbol for “not”) :

Source A says that p. Source B says that ~p.
Source A is authoritative. Source B isn’t.
Therefore, it is rational to consider that p is more likely to be true until further analysis.

The other exception in which we should read what is hot-out-of-press (given our cognitive objective, as always in this article) is when it is related to one’s specific line of work at the moment. Suppose I’m studying Happiness to write a review of current knowledge in the area, this gives me good grounding to read an article published this month, since I must be as up to date as possible to perform my work. Exceptions aside, it is a good strategy to let others filter the ultra-recent information for you and remain in the upper levels of analysis. The same is true of old information, what is relevant is highly likely to have been either preserved, as I mentioned before, or rediscovered, as all the cultural evolutionary convergences show (Diamond 1999,Caleiro Forthcoming ).

First Case Conclusion:

Our natural conception of how to distribute our time in obtaining knowledge is biased in the wrong way, suggesting equal amounts of effort to equal amounts of time. To achieve greater and deeper knowledge, one should distribute her effort with exponentially more reading of more recent periods than older ones. In addition, she should counter this bias with another bias, shifting it even more towards the present but stoping short of it, with an allowance for some basic knowledge filters to operate before choosing what to read. We end up with an exponential looking curve that peaks in the recent past and falls abruptly before reaching the present.

Second case, Happiness

All other things equal, most people would not choose to have every single day of their lifes, from tommorrow onwards, being completely miserable. It is a truism that people do not want to suffer unless it is necessary, and most times not even in that case. Neutrality is good, but not good enough, so, all things equal, it is also true that most people would choose to have countless episodes of deep fulfilling happiness for the rest of their lifes, as oposed to being merely “Not so bad”. Some people have noticed that this is not so unanimous, for instance, Betrand Russell (1930) wrote: “Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact.”

I intend to discuss happiness from another perspective, the perspective of cognition. Is happiness good or bad for thinking? Supposing our cognitive objective, as we did before, let us examine happiness. Suppose we don’t care about happiness, we just want to be cognitively good. Contrary to popular legend that thinking equals suffering, and Lennon’s remark that “Ignorance is bliss”, current evidence suggests that happiness is positively correlated with (Gilbert 2007, Lyubuomisrky 2007, Seligman 2002):

Sociability

Energy

Charity

Stronger immune system

Cooperation

Physical health

Earnings

Being Liked

Amount of friends

Social support

Flexibility

Intelligence

Ingenuity in thinking

Productivity in job

Leadership skills

Negotiation skills

Resilience in face of hardship

It is hard not to notice how many characteristics there are on the list, and easy to see how many of them are related to being a better learner, a better teacher, and a better cognitive agent in general. This is true independently of what one studies, if the knowledge is descriptive such as calculus, or procedural such as dancing. There is also the evident fact that depressed people tend to loose productivity dramatically during their bad periods. This gives us good scientific grounding to believe that happiness is important for cognition, to learn better, to achieve more, and to be cognitively more apt in general. So we ought to be happier.

But should we be happier? How much happier? The reason why I started this article is that I was reading in the park, listening to some music, watching people going and coming, families, foreigners, kids etc… It was a beautiful sunny day and I had just exercized, I was reading something interesting and challenging, the music was exciting, I took a look around me and saw the shinning sun reflecting on the trees, a breeze passed amidst the giggle of kids nearby and I thought “This is great!” In fact I thought more than that, I thought “This is great! Still it could be better”. There is some background knowledge needed to qualify the power of this phrase. Once I saw a study that said a joke had been selected among thousands by internet users, therefore it was a scientifically proven funny joke. Now, I’m a happy person. In fact I’m a very happy person. It took me a while to accept that. It is hard to accept that one is the upper third of happiness, because that tells a lot about the human condition, and how happy people are. So I was pondering about this fact that people told me, and that I subjectively felt, and finally science came to my aid. The University of Pennsilvania holds an online-test called authentic happiness invetory. The website has 700,000 members. I did the test twice, with some 14 months in-between. The website provides comparisons among those who took the test, we can take these to be some dozens of thousands of people at least. The first time I did it, it showed “You scored as high or higher than 100% of web users, 100% of your gender, 100% of your age group 100% of your occupational group, 100% of your educational level and 100% of your Zip code”. One year later, the first five bars were still showing 99% and the last one 98%. Thinking I might have been in an exceptionally happy day that time, I took the test again, and to my surprise I was back to 100% in all categories. I knew I am happy, but that was taking the thing to a whole other level. So I was as scientifically comproved to be happy as that joke, I was in the very end of the tail of the curve.

Now think again about that phrase in that scene in the park. “This is great! Still, it could be better.” I was not talking about myself (as I’ve been for one paragraph now) I was talking about Man. If you found yourself in the edge of the curve you’d know what I mean. If this is the best we can do, we are not there yet. I’m not saying that being happy is not great, it is awesome, but it could be much better. I suggest that anyone who had the experience of reading all those “100%” there in the website thought the same, this cannot be the very best, there must be more. This is what brings me to the Humanity+ motto:

Better than well.

The human condition is not happiness-driven. Evolutionarily speaking, we do what we can to have more grandchildren than our neighbors, whereas this includes happines or whether it doesn’t. A mind that was satisficed all the time would not feel tempted to change his condition, so mother nature invented feelings such as anxiety, boredom, tiredness of the same activity, pain etc… Happiness, as designed by evolution, is fleeting, ephemerous (Morris 2004). How could we change that? There are several ways, the most obvious one being chemical intervention. Also technologies of direct stimulation of pleasure centers could be enhanced to accepted levels of safety. Artifacts such as MP3 players also have an effect on happiness since listening to music causes happiness (Lyubomirsky 2007), many artifacts have positive effects on happiness and in the long term may help in improving the human condition. Art, philosophy, spirituality and science have also had long term effects on human happiness. So in order to improve the human condition in the long term, we ought to work in all those bases. This would in turn provide us means to achieve our proposed cognitive goal, through greater cognitively enhancing happiness. Before moving on, I’d like to make an effort of showing a mistake that most people are likely to make, due to some cognitive biases, I’ll first list the biases:

Status quo bias: people tend not to change an established behavior unless the incentive to change is compelling. (Kahneman et al 1991)

Bandwagon effect: the observation that people often do and believe things because many other people do and believe the same things. The effect is often called herd instinct. People tend to follow the crowd without examining the merits of a particular thing. The bandwagon effect is the reason for the bandwagon fallacy’s success.

From Yudkowsky (2009):

Confirmation bias:In 1960, Peter Wason conducted a now-classic experiment that became known as the ‘2-4-6’ task. (Wason 1960.) Subjects had to discover a rule, known to the experimenter but not to the subject – analogous to scientific research. Subjects wrote three numbers, such as ‘2-4-6′ or ’10-12-14’, on cards, and the experimenter said whether the triplet fit the rule or did not fit the rule. Initially subjects were given the triplet 2-4-6, and told that this triplet fit the rule. Subjects could continue testing triplets until they felt sure they knew the experimenter’s rule, at which point the subject announced the rule.

Although subjects typically expressed high confidence in their guesses, only 21% of Wason’s subjects guessed the experimenter’s rule, and replications of Wason’s experiment usually report success rates of around 20%. Contrary to the advice of Karl Popper, subjects in Wason’s task try to confirm their hypotheses rather than falsifying them. Thus, someone who forms the hypothesis “Numbers increasing by two” will test the triplets 8-10-12 or 20-22-24, hear that they fit, and confidently announce the rule. Someone who forms the hypothesis X-2X-3X will test the triplet 3-6-9, discover that it fits, and then announce that rule. In every case the actual rule is the same: the three numbers must be in ascending order. In some cases subjects devise, “test”, and announce rules far more complicated than the actual answer.” […]

“Hot” refers to cases where the belief is emotionally charged, such as political argument. Unsurprisingly, “hot” confirmation biases are stronger – larger in effect and more resistant to change.”

Let me restate a case of the status quo bias in another form: When people make a decision, they should take only the benefits and costs of what they intend to do, and carefully analyse them. This is fairly obvious. Also, it is complete nonsense. What one ought to do when she is trying to find out about doing or not doing something is to compare that that thing with what she would do in case she didn’t do that thing. Suppose I’m a father who gets his daughter everyday in school. Then some friends invite me to go play cards, I reason the following: “Well, playing cards is better than doing nothing” and I go play cards, leaving my poor child alone in school.

 

Another important topic is how can someone be happier than he usually is, right now? What is already available? What has been proven to increase satisfaction? The rest of the article is dedicated to this topic. Gilbert (2007) has many interesting words on that, they are worth quoting:

“My friends tell me that I have a tendency to point out problems without offering soutions, but they never tell me what I should do about it.”[…]”… you’ll be heartened to learn that there is a simple method by which anyone can make strikingly accurate predictions about how they will feel in the future. But you may be disheartened to learn that, by and large, no one wants to use it.

Why do we rely on our imaginations in the first place? Imagination is the poor man’s wormhole. We can’t do what we’d really like to do – namely, travel trough time , pay a visit to our future selves, and see how happy those selves are – and so we imagine the future instead of actually going there. But if we cannot travel in the dimension of time, we can travel in the dimensions of space, and the chances are pretty good that somewhere in those other three dimensions there is another human being who is actually experiencing the future event that we are merely thinking about.” […] “it is also true that when people tell us about their current experiences […] , they are providing us with the kind of report about their subjective state that is considered the gold standard of happiness measures. […] one way to make a prediction about our own emotional future is to find someone who is having the experience we are contemplating and ask them how they feel.[…] Perhaps we should give up on rememberin and imagining entirely and use other people as surrogates for our future selves.

This idea sounds all too simple, and I suspect you have an objection to it that goes something like this… “

This fine writer’s message is simple, stop imagining, start asking someone who is there. This is the main advice for those who are willing to predict how happy will they be in the future if they make a particular choice.

Now, Lyubomirsky offers many other happiness increasing strategies. First, she proposed the 40% solution to happiness. Happiness is determined according to the following graph:

50% genes 10% circumstances and 40% intentional Activities
50% genes 10% circumstances and 40% intentional Activities

That is, Happiness is 50% genetically determined (that is, if you had to predict Natalie Portman’s happiness, and she had monozygotic twin separated at birth, it would be more useful to know how happy the twin is than to know every single fact you may figure out about Natalie’s way of life, past and present conditions and reactions to life events) , 10% due to life circumstances (This includes wealth, health, beauty, marriage etc…), and 40% due to intentional activities. So, all things considered, if one is willing to become happier right now, the best strategy is to change these last 40%, how can we do it. Here I will list some comproved ways of increasing general subjective happiness. I will not provide a detailed description of the experiments, but those can be found in Lyubomirsky’s book references. My aim here is to give my reader a cognitive tool for increasing her happiness, since I have defended that achieving greater happiness is a good cognitive strategy.

Bostrom, N. 2004 The Future of Human Evolution. Death and Anti-Death: Two Hundred Years After Kant, Fifty Years After Turing, ed. Charles Tandy. Ria University Press. pp. 339-371. Available online: http://www.nickbostrom.com/fut/evolution.html

Diamond, J.1999. Guns Germs and Steel:The Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton & Co

Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L. & Thaler, R. H. (1991). Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5, 1, pp. 193-206

Russell, B. 1930. Conquest of Happiness

Available online: http://russell.cool.ne.jp/beginner/COH-TEXT.HTM

Tegmark, M. 2000. The importance of quantum decoherence in brain processes IN Physics Review E61:4194-4206

Available online: http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9907009

Yudkowsky, E. 2009. Cognitive biases potentially affecting judgment of global risks IN Global Catastrophic Risks, eds. Nick Bostrom and Milan Cirkovic. Oxford

Available online: http://yudkowsky.net/rational/cognitive-biases