Embodied Pleiotropy and Cognition

Pleitropy is an interesting concept: How a single gene/mutation has distributed effects in the organism.

Difficult to conceive of the complexity of evolution that would ensure organism fitness through single mutations.

Illustrates how single genes are responsible for networks of functioning. Isolating a single gene function presents difficulties.

Genes operate within a symphony of interdependent networks.

Changes in genes impact not only the distributed network of processes it expresses, but concurrent networks within the organism, which in turn effect the functioning of that genes effects.

Genes are embodied.

You can imagine the parallels to embodied cognition, and the concurrent distributed network of cognitive processes that give rise to emergent conscious phenomena.

I think a central takeaway of embodied cognition is that the phenomenal “self” can be reduced to ego. And ego is an adaptive survival mechanism. But self/ego doesn’t actually exist. It’s just a reflexive process that accumulates through habituation, habits which we identify as self .

Cognitive theories struggle to account for the mechanism of sentience because they haven’t accounted for the mechanism of ego, the very mechanism which allows the cognition to adapt to novelty and change and persist, which follows a path dependency because of habituated cognitive processes.

Reflexive in the sense that the organism and world are not separate entities, but interdependent, working on each other. When the organism changes, the life world changes, when the life world changes, the organism changes. The external world is not pregiven, and cannot be represented as an accurate ideal of what is, because the organism essentially defines the world.

This, along with the fact that the reflexive relationship between the organism and world is actually comprised by not one “conscious process”, but regulated by distributed layers of concurrent networks possessing this reflexive embodied relationship with the life world.

You can conceive of these networks as individual communities of builders or societies of agents working amongst themselves and/or with other communities of builders. It is an ecology or economy of builders. They do not exist independently, but they do not exist as one whole.

The process of developing cognitive structures is as fundamental as the cognitive structures themselves, because there is an inter-action among them and with the life world of lived experience as they develop and evolve.

Meditative Phenomenon

I had an interesting experience while doing some meditation today.

Typically meditation is just an observance of thoughts. Surveying the percolating mental contents that arise moment to moment, coupled with reflection to identify the source of these thoughts. But mostly just letting thoughts and feelings wash over and through me, and opening myself to the moment. Relaxing. Releasing physical and mental tension.

However, I’ve been giving a lot more thought to the phenomenal conscious experience, inspired by recent readings.

I was closing my eyes, aware of my breathing tempo, and observing my thoughts. But I became acutely aware of my sensations.

Not just their existence, but their source.

This conscious experience is permeated with sensational qualities. The five senses color every thought, imbuing conscious experience with this texture that I take for granted. These senses are atomized as “pre given”. They just appear.

But I began to reflect on their source.

My eyes are closed, and yet permeating my conscious awareness are sensations. They just are. In. On. Throughout. They almost sneak into the periphery. But then you go there, and they are not. They are no where.

Where is the source of sound? Not outside me, but in me? Where is the source of touch? Where does it begin to appear in my conscious awareness? Is there an edge I can peel up and look behind?

And so I sat there, and began a process of identifying these sensations, and observing their source. Or at least, attempting to.

This process of mindful observation resulted in a streaming recession of awareness. Not sleep. But into this bleeding edge of consciousness, where all my senses began to strip away, and almost unplug, which created a certain timelessness.

I kept reeling back and forth between this state, trying to stay “aware” or “conscious” while turning my reflective gaze back into this source, but each time I’d be flung into this event horizon.

I realized this is an interesting meditative exercise: observing the source.

If for no other reason than it facilitated this mind bending effect

Ideology and Identity

The ideological cosmology of religion is a powerful tool for transcending differences and creating a meta unity.

I suspect, on some level, differences in ideology are really differences in what is defined as sacred and profane. They demarcate the boundaries of experience, of what is to be explored, and what is to be forbidden. A population of groups with conflicting definitions threatens cosmological disintegration, which results in massive fear and violent reaction.

I’ve been reading about European history recently, and specifically the history of the North Sea, and consequently the origins of Great Britain starting with the invasion of the Romans in 43AD.

Civilization in general has been a fascination, and trying to understand how and why western civilization, beginning with the Babylonians, Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Greeks, and Romans, managed to continually enlarge their reach in ways that no other civilization had done before.

I’ve always had intuitions about the power of religion and the unique role of written language as a vehicle for absorbing tribes and communities into these nation states. When I first learned that the word religion means “to bind together again”, it stuck with me as being having a peculiar role in the formation of institutions, which in turn assimilate populations into an order and structure that serves as an identity.

And I’ve always suspected the fall of the Roman Empire was somehow linked to the decline of their religion. There’s a curious coincidence of secularism, and the fall of the Roman Empire.

What struck about the history of Britain was how conflicted this island had been from the arrival of the Romans, to about 1200AD. Invasions, immigrations, multi ethnic communities populating such a small island, and the enduring violence and bloodshed during that time is astounding.

There was a single central figure, however, King Alfred, who was the catalyst that seemed to rectify this disunity, and create a national identity.

What was most intriguing, was that King Alfred had visited Rome before he became king, and was fully christianized. Apart of this devotion was his potent emphasis on writing and recording history. He was a man of letters, and during his reign, he quite literally began to write the Historical narrative of Britain, which was inseparable from his mission to Christianize the country into a United whole, beginning with his Angle Saxon Chronicle.

Up until then, none of the other tribes had a written language with which to preserve their pagan religion. Some had primitive runes, but there was no literacy.

King Alfred not only introduced Christianity, but he used literacy as a means of recording the historical identity of Britain through his religious vision.

When you look at other countries at the time, such a Denmark, they have no written history. European History began with religion, began with the preservation of sacral text, of symbolism and rituals and rites contained therein. Prior to the introduction of literacy, history is merely an inquisition of piecing archeological fragments together. The narrative is applied retroactively.

Religion is cosmology, and cosmology is identity. Preserving this requires the introduction of a standardized common history which possesses continuity, a living memory.

Buildings and art are as much an expression of this cosmology as text, but text contains the logic that transcends the boundaries of immediate community.

Artificial Memory

I’m reading the book The Art of Memory by Frances Yates.

Memory is something we don’t think much about in contemporary society, but historically it was of paramount importance.

Artificial memory, or utilizing images within the mind’s spatiotemporal framework, was foundational for the development of civilization, and I dare say consciousness.

What’s interesting, is that buildings were constructed as a direct reflection of memory palaces, specifically temples and institutional buildings.

There was a methodological framework for constructing a good memory palace, which included proper dimensions, and “notae” or markers which signify loci for referencing memories, as well as the “imagines agentes” or striking symbolic images that represent “things” or “words”.

The pre-Socratics knew of these memory methods, but historians believe that these were derived from Egyptian formulations, but they were formalized by the Greeks and later the Romans, and revitalized in the Medieval period by the scholastics followed by the renaissance thinkers, but the disciplines of artificial memory methods seem to disappear soon thereafter, likely due to the advent of the printing press and the proliferation of text.

When architects of past built cathedrals or temples or government buildings, they deliberately constructed them as a reflection of an internal memory palace, and the values contained within.

This is a fascinating thought.

Physical Buildings were reflections of internal memory palaces, and the living memory of the enduring cultural values they sought to preserve.

Their dimensions, their sculptures, their ornamentations, all referenced the importance of retaining memory.

I think of modern architecture…. and how god ugly and plain and utilitarian they are, devoid of humanistic values, and what a pitiful example of a memory palace they are.

Moreover, from a linguistic development perspective, written script started out as iconography, literal images which the mind’s eye could place within a memory palace.

Images, and the symbolic power they possessed as a memory tool, were the foundations of thought, and sophisticated culture more generally.

What’s Important to note, is that for intellectuals of past who prized the role of memory, they made a strong distinction between memory and recollection.

With all the written information infused throughout our daily lives, Memory is an art that’s rarely practiced. Rarely emphasized in education. Rarely prized for its merits.

But until very recently, memory quite literally was a key ingredient to invention and discovery.

The trinity of man was: memory, understanding, and will.

Cicero’s books on rhetoric which contain the best remnants of the ancient art of memory were named “De Inventione”, and Aristotle wrote at length about the role of memory for creation.

A common definition of memory was “a thesaurus of inventions and of all parts of rhetoric”.

I find this all fascinating.

Additionally, Platonists placed the most importance on memory. The idea of a memory palace and the utilization of images situated at loci within reveals their commitment to “forms” which reveal the highest truth.

Believing in the transmigration of the soul, they believed the life was a process of “remembering” universal truths which were forgotten at birth. These platonic forms are like Jungian archetypes, which reveal themselves through meditation.

The process of creating memories, of constructing internal worlds and memory palaces, is literally a meditative one. It is the process of quieting the mind, freeing oneself from extraneous distraction, and concentrating to affix vital truths and the images representing them within the interior palaces of the mind.

This tradition was manifested most plainly in monasteries and by monks.

I wish I could relay all the idiosyncratic details supporting all this, but you should read the book.

The discipline and art of memory is an almost spiritual enterprise, in that it deals with the formation of consciousness, of expanding internal worlds.

Learning, knowledge, wisdom…. these are impossible without a robust memory. And there is an explicit art of memory that’s existed since the dawn of civilization… and which I fear is losing its power.

Memory via internal palaces and images requires responsibility and self possession, a result of self discipline and mastery.

External images require none of this, and leave man dispossessed, and open to persuasion and influence.

Anyway. It’s all very interesting.

The Problem of Spatial Compression for Linear Signaling

What makes explaining ideas or concepts to people difficult, is that my internal “knowledge” world is a spatial or visual place.

So communicating ideas takes it from this spatial world of information, and translates it into a linear string.

Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed about how to accommodate this spatial idea, full of complex relationships, and flatten it into a linear message.

If you want someone else to inhabit this world of yours, communication is the tool is get this done.

But sometimes it’s like, where do you start?

Having a good understanding of the audience/interlocutor is incredibly helpful for framing proper context. But even then it’s difficult, especially if it’s a casual conversation.

I feel like to properly articulate ideas requires a 60 second buffer to examine the idea and compress it properly into a coherent string of logical relationships before you begin communicating.

Which is why I always prefer writing my ideas out, because to me it’s akin to sketching, fleshing out the contours and outlining the substance before drawing hardened lines around core ideas, erasing superfluous strokes, and shading and coloring where necessary. Properly writing out ideas is very much like drawing in this regard.

So speaking becomes increasingly difficult with the complexity of the idea. But the thing is, most significant ideas are situated in this spatial place. So to truly communicate the significance of where it’s situated consistently seems like an overwhelming task.

In fact, it makes me just not want to talk. I end up at a loss for words.

I think if my brain processed faster, I’d be able to optimize this compression and simplification process.

Like someone asks you something, or you’re talking about something, and as you speak you keep having to stop and mentally restart again and again because accommodating all the relevant information into a simple linear message seems to be overwhelming? It’s like compressing a 3D image into a 1D signal, whatever that means.

Does this make sense?

Religious Figures

Religious people often speak like they have access to truth that others do not. They speak like they possess some divine enlightenment. Like they found the truth, and everyone else is in the dark. And they talk to people like they’re lost, like they’re blind, and ignorant, but the religious person just so happened to figure it out and find the truth, and knows best. There’s a certain hubris to certain religious speech. I find that rather than speaking with people, religious figures speak at them. Like people don’t know what’s good for themselves.

I remember growing up in the church and having this impression of “non Christians”. They were all in the dark, lost, sinning. I remember how the religious folks talk about the unsaved, like they were fallen, incapable of knowing certain spiritual realities and truths. “You need to live like this, because this is the way to live, and I know the way, because I know the truth.”

Eventually I found myself very close with these non-believers, becoming best of friends with them. These atheists, these Muslims, these Hindus. They were capable of kindness and possessed wisdom and all the other fruits of character which I was raised to believe were only accessible to Christians. I realized how silly I was thinking they weren’t capable of knowing spiritual realities and truths, despite having a different set of beliefs or faith. Some people are less reflective than others, but I found myself ashamed to think that people with different beliefs or lifestyles were any less capable or equipped to know what’s right and true.

We really can’t be compassionate with others until we’re compassionate with ourselves.

When I was growing up, I used to look up to these figures. They had it all figured out. Or they spoke like they did. In time,

I realized they didn’t. That they were just like everyone else, but masked it better.

I became wary of anyone who thinks they have found the truth. Like it’s a destination. Like something that can be had, or known in full.

I realized there were many who possessed a humility, who didn’t claim to know, but were committed to seeking the truth, and they speak like the pursuit of truth is an endless journey. They realize that self deception and ignorance is a feature of humanity, and have the humility to journey on despite that feature, despite knowing there is no arrival, but seeking truth nonetheless. They don’t claim to know anything. They just possess the desire to know.

Pub

I’m in a pub, located somewhere near Times Square. “Let me blow your mind” by Eve and Gwen Stefani plays overhead. I’m drunk and short of breath. Drunk Shakespeare happens at 10am. I just received a scotch on the rocks. My chest is tight. I think of high school, of J. I have a miniature bouquet of carnation flowers on the table before me. Memories.

Dark Room Analogy

I pretend not to teach, but to inquire; and therefore cannot but confess here again,–that external and internal sensation are the only passages I can find of knowledge to the understanding. These alone, as far as I can discover, are the windows by which light is let into this DARK ROOM. For, methinks, the understanding is not much unlike a closet wholly shut from light, with only some little openings left, to let in external visible resemblances, or ideas of things without: which, would they but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man, in reference to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them.

What is Hard Work?

Read this article and it inspired some thoughts.

When I say “I worked hard” for this or that, I’m implying additional sacrifices that similar peers don’t make, won’t make, or can’t make.

Doesn’t mean that I am smarter or that the hard work paid off/was warranted, or that hard work leaves me entitled to something. It simply indicates sacrifices above and beyond the typical expectations.

But typically, hard work, going above and beyond, sacrificing what you value most, namely time… time to do or invest in other things that may be pleasurable… yields rewards. Albeit not always tangible. These rewards are less about what you get and more about what you become in the process of sacrificing.

I worked hard in college. What did that mean? I sacrificed a lot of time toward my education and leadership or academic extracurriculars or my part time jobs. I didn’t party as much. I didn’t have down time. Full course loads. Packed scheduled between and after classes. To achieve goals.

There are people who spent less time studying than I in college, and they got better grades. But I didn’t work hard in grades 1-12 compared to my peers, and the hard work they put in allowed than to be more efficient and productive in college. While my peers were studying for the AP’s, I was partying. Their hard work and sacrifice paid off. Now I had to make the sacrifice.

Some people work hard to get to a certain level, then never put the same level of hard work in again. They coast. Maybe because they don’t feel the external pressure anymore, not from parents or school, and they want enjoy life. That’s good.

Sure hard work is relative when you think of time spent working. Who can say whether two people are working “harder” than the other. By what measure? Output? Depending on the job, this is a difficult thing to measure.

But sacrifice is pretty straightforward. There are only so many hours in a day. The greater portion of them you spend to achieve your ultimate aims is a function of hard work.

Hard work is sacrifice. It’s a function of time, but also intensity, which is a function of focus, which requires emotional investment. This is devotion.

I believe that life is reaping and sowing.

Farmers must obey the seasons. They sow in the spring, cultivate in the summer, reap in the fall, then save their harvest through the winter and prepare for spring.

There are lots of proverbs about farmers who have equal plots of land, but get different yields.

Some farmers are conscientious, some are not. Some are tedious in their preparation and planning, some are not. Some don’t care and tend to their crop until they reap, others inspect and prune and eradicate weeds and insects and nurture their crop.

I feel like hard work is character.

It’s habits.

Daily habits.

Its not about what you get, it’s about what you give. You don’t work hard for a reward. You work hard because that’s who you are. Because that’s the habits you’ve conditioned into yourself to embody, so when any challenge is presented, your default is to solve it with the same tenacity and diligence and conscientiousness that you have always done. This makes you dependable, and valuable.

Whether this is enough for the world is another matter. Whether your hard work manifests into tangible rewards like money or status or power is another matter.

But I believe hard work is pretty straight forward.

Do you make the sacrifices? Do you go above and beyond expectations to solve a problem, to accomplish the task? Do you persist until it’s completed?

Some tasks are more important than others.

My colleagues have families. They work hard and make sacrifices being family men, and they can’t devote the same to their job. A single bachelor is able to work harder as a result, assuming work is their highest value.

I don’t think saying you worked hard implies a level of entitlement.

“I think the issue is that when people say they’ve “worked hard,” they’re implicitly suggesting superiority. I’m deserving of reward, not like those people who are lazy (“those” people being immigrants, poor people, liberal arts majors, whoever it is you seek to contrast yourself against).”

I think any well adjusted person would agree that in life, we don’t deserve anything. Literally.

Life’s not fair.

Life is hard.

So what.

Time passes.

Whether you work hard, make sacrifices, or go through the motions, and indulge whenever you can.

The difference is, while time passes all the same, who you become as time passes is different.

I genuinely believe that hard work, sacrifice, persisting through struggle… is what creates character.

Character is most evident in hard times.

Character is not appreciated or obvious in easy times.

Character is resilience.

When things get hard, what do you do?

Buckle down, grind through, persist, stay disciplined?

Or do you try to find some way around. Or just stop all together. Find an “easier” way? Lie cheat steal?

Time passes the same for everyone.

But who we become while that time is passing depends on our willingness to work hard. Our willingness to make sacrifices. To go without.

I struggle to relate to the author of that article.

Hard work seems tied to a self-awareness which believes that personal responsibility can influence desired outcomes

Why work hard, make sacrifices, if outcomes were certain?

Certain because of privilege, or inferring the future will be like the past.

Certain because a belief that no matter what you do, you can’t chance fate.

Certain for whatever reason.

But when you take personal responsibility, and expand the sphere of influence to every conceivable facet to influence a desired outcome, you are incentivized to work hard, make sacrifices etc

This can actually turn into a complex topic.

Because what actions you take while you work may determine different levels of productivity.

You can work hard spinning like a hamster wheel, with minimal productivity.

So effort alone is not an indication of hard work.

Hard work also can be obligatory. Working two jobs to live semi-comfortably to support a family.

Or work one job and go to school and sacrifice some things for the short run for more opportunities in the long run.

Doing the minimum expectations isn’t hard work, necessarily.

You can be a farm hand. All farm hand work is manually laborious. I guarantee any farm has farm hands that work to different levels. Some are considered hard working, some are not.

Is it just to get a job done? Is it do get a job done that exceeds expectations? Once? Time and time again?

For white collar jobs things seem different.

Some people seem to not have to invest as much emotionally into work and still achieve higher productivity. They may spend more or less hours. But the work they do is excellent, complete, professional, i’s dotted t’s crossed. Impeccable.

Some people have to invest a lot emotionally to achieve productivity. They are emotionally involved with their work, and it drains them. They can’t separate. They pour themselves into it, and maybe overtime, to achieve a similar result

I still think that perfect practice, the hard work and sacrifice of pursing excellence at your craft, provides compounding returns to your skill and productivity over time.

This goes for musicians, athletes, artists, sales people, technologists and programmers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, everyone.

Hard work is an investment. That’s how I see it. I feel like their is an emotional element to it.

Everything is hard before it becomes easy.

I think of the biographies of great thinkers and doers.

There is a hallmark to their work.

A devotion that never sleeps.

A devotion to their craft, to pursuing excellence, to refining their methods.

Focus is critical for hard work. And without an emotional investment, I’m not sure this is possible.

Spending time on an activity alone is not hard work.

But it’s usually a requisite

Or a symptom of that emotional investment

Entropy

Does biological evolution flourish in high entropy environments?

I think of anti-fragile. Tangentially, Lindy’s law.

I think it does, within reason.

I was thinking that high entropy environments, ironically, are most conducive to life

Within reason, of course.

High entropy as in high energy, high disorder.

Was thinking about how biologists determine where to locate the highest areas of biodiversity on a map. Like sloped areas, valleys on land or sea. Warm areas, with higher radiation and temperature. Areas with high water velocity. Humidity, to capture the heat. Anything that promotes disorder.

I’m sure there are other factors comprising high energy/entropy environments.

I was thinking of geologic landscapes. Areas of high entropy are like warm climates with high precipitation, where there is high water erosion, perhaps from elevated topologies/mountains, that then precipitate on the valleys below, which capture the high energy rain flow in streams and rivers and the particle/debris/ mineral nutrients along with it to enrich the soil and just create disorder from erosion and flooding and upheaval.

Or thermal vents located on the abysmal sea floor, and the abundance of creatures that proliferate at these high temperature chemical rich areas in an otherwise stable, cold environment.

Or the Cambrian explosion, which just so happened to be associated with the hottest global temperatures.

It’s like evolution thrives in disorder

Which is just interesting

Biodiversity appears greatest in high entropy areas. Just disordered

I get that like, super high temps would be lethal. And my idea of high entropy is just limited to what’s on earth. I’m sure Venus could be considered high entropy? Could it? Not a very hospitable place for life…. or is it? We don’t know. Not for life as we know it anyway.

I just think it’s interesting that on a genetic level, disorder, entropy, etc seems to promote fitness….

It’s weird.

Equilibrium would seem to make sense… like safe and secure, predictable. But that’s not really what leads to strengthening. Perhaps it leads to a fixedness. But when the environment changes, the organisms eventually have struggling to adapt and die out. Like an inertia.

Or maybe not.

Perhaps life doesn’t die out, just the organisms who evolved to the equilibrium state and adopted a fixedness die, and the other simpler, less complex organisms eventually evolve to fill the new void.

What is Nationality?

Is nationality the same as identity?

Nationality could be just a way to index your place of birth.

It could also be a way to identify with a culture.

The United States is unique in that respect because of our short history, and because every citizen is the product of immigration.

The melding and accepting of cultures is an uniquely American ideal. Perhaps this cosmopolitan ethos has expanded to other counties with the increase in globalization.

Nations were once very monocultural, and that was a “good” thing, which reinforced the nationalistic identity assumed as citizens.

But technology has bridged cultural gaps in terms of knowledge access and transfer and exposure, via the proliferation of media and information, and the ease of travel.

Europe, once taking great pride in its monocultural institutions, has many countries that are nearly as diverse as America.

This cultural pluralism is hotly debated. Is this diversity a good thing? Or is it a bad thing? When is it good and when is it bad?

I feel that diversity is a good thing when people reach across the aisle and seek to understand others, and minorities do their best to assimilate into the prevailing institutions, bringing with them their unique cultural values as contributions to expanding thought and perspective and ideas of legacy institutions.

It’s bad when there is no assimilation, when the majority is no longer tolerant, or the minority holds too tight to their culture, and refuses to adapt.

I’m an American. I speak “American” (English yes, but clearly a different accent, and often a different dialect depending on the demographic I’ve been socialized by).

Do I identify with American values? It’d be difficult to deny this. They are generic enough. Freedom and liberty? Sure.

I’m not the most patriotic person.

I’m mostly aware of my nationality when I travel, and I’m exposed to traditions and values and social etiquette that’s hidden in the folds of society when your submersed there.

Attitudes toward education, elders, women, technology, work, eating, health, vacation, etc, etc.

Culture is a hidden force that’s only revealed by exposure to radically different ways of living.

A force in the sense that it has shaped and molded our character and constitution in ways completely hidden to us without a contrast to compare to.

I know many who have never left the town they were born in. What does culture mean to them? “I am the way I am and I can’t be any other way!” And they you travel, and the world opens up and exposes these “other ways” of being. And possibility can finally bloom. Or the fear and discomfort of this “difference” causes a retreat back into the familiar, and a disdain for the “other”.

I find books produce the same effect.

Beliefs and assumptions and values are imbued throughout our psychological development which eventually become a more and more rigid identity that become more and more inescapable the longer we refuse to explore alternative ways of living and thinking.

The brain is plastic, so anyone can change. But it requires a more radical force to create this change if mind, because habits of being are so deeply engrained.

No one can escape the process of enculturation. But we can become aware of it, and choose our influences more wisely.

But individuals and groups behave very differently.

Mass psychology has a mind of its own, and often individuals would reject the mass psychology they see as detrimental in others, though they themselves participate in it.

I see the Christian disdain for Islam, and find it fascinating that more parallels aren’t drawn between the two. Gross generalizations projected onto the other, completely blind that they are active participants in the same mass psychology by a different name.

I like the Socratic attitude of being a “citizen of the world”.

That should be the response.

There are universal values which encourage the flourishing of humanity that no nation can claim as their own.

We should identify as citizens of the world. Humanity is one. Differences are a matter of perception, and dialog typically resolves those differences with understanding.

Culture is a by product of the collective struggle of the group to make survival meaningful. We struggle to solve problems as a group, and the activities produced by that struggle become our culture. And these struggles are not only engineering or political feats. They include relationships, labor, creating beauty through art, adapting to the climate, etc.

But the struggle is universal.

Neoclassical Economics and Marxism

Ironically, many people who have reject Marxism out right have not read it.

I found Das Kapital one of the more illuminating books I’ve read from a sociological point of view.

When I was studying economics, I quickly realized there were some major flaws in the neoclassical methods we were being taught, most of which he pointed out in this Ted Talk.

My favorite class was the History of Economic Theory and Methods. It was the only class that exposed me to ideas other than neoclassical economic theory. I found this appalling. Many go throughout college and learn this prevailing neoclassical economic theory and its methods and have zero clue that other theories exist, that other philosophies exist. They might get a footnote about the Austrian school of libertarianism. But mostly your indoctrinated to believe that neoclassical economics is truth.

Considering how poorly it mapped onto my understanding of a stochastic world, and humans which are entirely irrational, and having learned about sociological theories which explain the role of institutions in imbuing humans with values which drive behaviors and purpose, I felt strongly there were more productive ways of conceptualizing an economic system. And when I took that history of economics class, I found plenty of them.

Marx had profound ideas that weren’t all that original, but were uniquely synthesized. He took many observations from Hegel and Ricardo and others and applied them to them to how the individual engages in economy. Marx was a phenomenal sociologist. Perhaps not a great economist. Alfred Marshall did a phenomenal job outlining economic forces and formalizing them, but sociology and psychology were still undeveloped subjects of study.

What caught my eye most was institutional economics, pioneered by Thorstein Veblen, which examined the evolutionary forces that shaped economic behaviors. Behavioral economics is an outgrowth of institutional economics, which has gained more widespread attention, because it accommodates irrational agents. But I’ve yet to see a comprehensive economic system that appreciates the sociological forces that account for economic behavior.

The reason why neoclassical economics took off is because of monetary policy. By operating under the neoclassical framework which can mathematize economics and human behavior, capitalists can push and pull levers to greatly impact economic outcomes. Unfortunately, as we have seen from stagnating wages, increased debt, and speculative investing, and this has not elevated the public good and the labor it represents, but has profited only those with the access to capital, which benefit from this financial manipulation, if they know how to navigate the game. The current economic system is a scheme that is showing its cracks. In the short run it can make predictions, but in the long run it falls apart. And we’re seeing it fall apart. It has no basis other than to serve capitalists with the time and money to invest speculatively. And the economic growth they point at the justify these measures has benefited only a few. Per capita consumption has increased along with debt, and wealth has decreased.

Mysticism

I’m fascinated by mysticism. Like him, I believe exploring the irrational realms is necessary for understanding. In a way, these realms illuminate areas of ignorance, which can be turned into rational inquiry. Reason and logic is not good or bad. It’s an instrument, a tool. Values determine the intention of how these tools are applied. I have an aversion to those who push back on reason and science, the same way I push back on those who proclaim religion and god’s divine inspiration is all man needs to survive. Perhaps. Many people get along fine with religion and their private spirituality. But exploring the world has lead to more understanding of the universe and our place in the universe than religion has ever done. And religion and spirituality will never be replaced by science and reason. Religion creates communities, and spirituality creates unity, both of which orient humanity to higher values, both necessary for humanities survival. But values without reason is like fire without an engine. It’s powerful and illuminating, but can be dangerous when reason isn’t there to anchor the heart to the mind, which provides vision of consequences. I don’t think being uneducated is a virtue. On the contrary. I think being educated is one of the highest virtues. But education isn’t formal. It’s not an end. It’s a continual process of action and reflection, and refining, so to continually align values with reason and experience, to create soundness and coherence and resonance with the inner and outer. Self-education is the highest spiritual journey. Accumulating understanding is not just remembering, it’s also the process of forgetting. But relying entirely upon yourself is also risky, because of our natural propensity to self deceive, by taking our singular experience as the only experience of value. Gathering with other minds, from conversation and reading, and becoming educated on the various perspectives of others, greatly enhances our ability to understand.

Books

I feel inadequate most of the time, ignorant, naive. So I read. I explore texts, converse with the authors, play with their ideas, delve into pages which become my forest of refuge, and make my home under the constellation of ideas that illuminate my interior. I feel lost. Like a wanderer in the desert. Books are my oasis. I wake, I turn, and I see my books around me. I grab one from the night before, and begin my day reading. G tosses and turns next to me. The sun drips into my room. I rise. I work. I make dinner. I get ready for bed, and open my books again. Ideas pour into me, and out of my imagination. Associations compound. I mark and highlight and notate. I look up words and references, check the citations, and buy more books.

Life is dark, and books are light. But an endless receding light. No amount of reading gets me closer to the illuminating portal I gaze after. Diffuse hazy ambient light slowly transforms into a concentrated beam which fixes my attention, which gets smaller but brighter all the time.

When my mind isn’t engaged with people and tasks, it reflects on these ideas. Ever constructing coherence to this mind which frames experience, which accommodates the pregnant possibility every moment I gaze into the world, at the world, onto the world. Books augment this frame of mind, provide ornamental structure and scaffolding to hang my perceptions upon, to yield beauty and depth to the ordinary all around me. There is an infinite abyss which gazes back at me when I stare into the world. Endless constructions that appear and transmorph from moment to moment which leave me speechless, until some “other” demands my attention, and a crystallized response takes me away.

Books contain worlds which my curiosity and wonder can’t help but explore. Repetition. Reading and absorbing ideas, impressing them deep into my soul, where they meld and mix and generate novel perspective I can call my own. I feel forever ignorant. Learning it all, consuming the knowledge, and not just reading it, but living it, gathering the primary experience which the authors report on, feels like drinking the ocean. How can I make it all stick in some impressionable way? How can I take all that I read, all that I experience, and build something useful with it? How do I shape my character and constitution in a way that gets me closer to my highest values? Reading. There are so many books, so little time. Travel. People. Work. How to do it all? How to prioritize? Reading still leaves me feeling the most ignorant, and the most empowered. I wish I could talk about everything I read, or have read. Not just popular books, but the the classic pioneers of thought who laid the foundations that humanity benefits from, but so few know it. So few know of the ocean beneath their feet. The world’s which exist under every utterance, the history and people that built these structures we all benefit from, composed entirely of ideas.

If I had one wish, it would be to read and converse and write and build upon these ideas.

But for now, and maybe forever, I am a hobbyist, an amateur, a dilettante. But I enjoy it nonetheless.

Social Media Digital Personality Avatars

A macabre part of me wishes Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn and all these social media personality platforms imploded and self destructed.

Imagine all these digital personalities, these faux avatars that people parade, completely disappearing overnight.

What would be left?

There’s a lot of good these platforms do. Lots of great information and knowledge that’s disseminated. Lots of quality goods and services that get exposure.

But there’s also a ton of bullshit. People making millions from exploiting boredom. Exploiting fantasy.

They do funny things. Pranks. Or post travel pictures. Or their cars or houses or savvy work life. Inspirational quotes. Or record their musings. Insert a product placement here or there, for some company or their own.

I dunno.

I just imagine…. what would happen if it all just… disappeared. What would these people do? Their lives revolve around curating and cultivating a digital avatar. It exists night and day. Static images or recordings trapped in this ether-net. Always present.

I guess it’s a permanent part of humanity now.

I’m mostly curious what would happen if the ability to self-promote en masse was suddenly taken from people.

What would they do?

I guess it’s no use wondering.

I just wonder.

I saw a post from a wealthy self made real estate developer:

Left The Bahamas, caught a flight in Florida, and made my way back to BVI.

I’ve been traveling a majority of the days in the past 2 months. It’s been crazy and stressful but also each trip has taught me something new about myself, how to run my business, and have given me new ideas to scale my impact.

If I were to give in to my stress by staying in Nashville and running my businesses from there, I wouldn’t even come close to creating the change I want to see in the world within my lifetime. I’ve got one chance and this life and I refuse to settle for mediocrity because that’s what is “comfortable”.

Your higher self is in direct opposition to your comfort zone.

What are you stuck being comfortable with? Change that.”

There’s a picture of her on a mountain overlooking an aquamarine ocean.

I thought to myself:

if a tree falls and there’s no one there to hear it, did it make a sound?

Translated:

If you do something important with your life and there’s no one there to validate you, does it matter?

I wonder.

The power of social media to validate and self-reinforce these ambition tropes is a strong force.

It’s not necessarily bad or good.

But I really wonder.

If the ability to self-promote your carefully curated digital avatar was stripped from you, who would you really be?

What would happen to all these personalities? Would they have an existential crisis?

We have a growing portion of society whose identity is directly tied to the validation of the masses.

What problems does this create?

What happens to these personalities when their fabricated digital identity is suddenly voided? And they are left with themselves, no mass validation? Just the small circle of relationships that typically accompany a person’s life. Are they in good company? Are they good with themselves?

Just curious.

This social media personality avatar phenomenon is only fifteen years old or so. Yes, there have been entertainers forever. But it’s different nowadays. People compete for seconds of the public’s attention. A few seconds of stimulation that someone reacts to, and you have a follower. Your utility as a digital avatar is to produce seconds of stimulation while they scroll through their feed. This is the value you bring to the world. Your online identity is validated by those who endorse your abbreviated ability to stimulate for moments, every day.

It’s all very curious.

Is there a lifespan to this economy? Will society grow tired of it in 15 years, and revert back to more traditional forms of community for validation? What happens then?

Curriculum

My girlfriend asked me to educate her today. She’s a professional ballet dancer, and committed full time to dance at 15, opting out of academia and going aboard to a ballet school in NYC to pursue a career in ballet.

I asked her where we should start. She said history. I thought this was an excellent place, but then my mind began to wander its way back in time, back to the beginning of history, to first origins. I then realized that the proper way to educate someone on history, might begin in this manner.

1. Philosophy — moreover, the philosophical methods of critical thinking, of asking questions, of challenging assumptions. The essence of dialog, two words, two minds reasoning in concentration to make sense of it all: the beginning of education.

2. Mathematics — the most fundamental process of abstract analytical and perspicacious reasoning, essential for understanding the relations of any and every abstract concept or idea.

3. Physics — How matter came to be, from quantum to classical to relativity to astrophysics which combines them all.

4. Geology — how planets and earth formed and evolved

5. Biology — how life came to be, and evolved.

6. Anthropology — what makes humans, human

7. Sociology — how groups of humans behave

8. Psychology — how the mind of humans develops and operates, as a result of the previous collection of events.

9. History — how humanity makes sense of the past.

10. Spirituality — how the human mind makes sense of the ineffable

I suppose these are all abstract studies which serve to illustrate a comprehensive worldview. They’re not as linear as I would like, but they do provide foundational stepping stones to more composite topics of learning.

To apply this knowledge for creative purposes would require another line of successive steps in education, such as engineering, technology, science, arts, design, and the like.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Just about finished the book Range by David Epstein

Highly recommend you read as humans— as scientists, as athletes, as businessmen and entrepreneurs, as musicians, as artists, as thinking problem solvers.

I’d make it the next book you read.

Took me about 10 hours to read, and I was filling the margins with notes.

Excellent research, anecdotes, clear writing, concise conclusions with profound implications.

This book aligns with my attitude toward voracious consumption of unrelated knowledge and understanding from disparate domains, which can then be abstracted into mental models and synthesized into robust systematic structural tools for rapid, effective problem solving.

The author is well read, and really does a great job illustrating what it means to be a generalist, and why learning slow, struggling, experimenting, and meandering your way through various domains and skills, ultimately produces the most creative minds tasked with solving novel, or as the author calls them, wicked problems.

Specialists are the best tacticians.

Generalists are the best strategists.

Specialists win the battle.

Generalists win the war.

Specialists excel when the rules are known.

Generalists excel when the rules are unknown.

Highly recommend. It’s just such an accessible read.

Intuitive, yet profound.

Re-Lation-Ships-Are-Hard

Boundaries are so important for a relationship.

I enjoy being a provider and having someone depend on me, I just don’t like when the take it for granted, or forget that i have needs, needs I often neglect at their expense.

Sometimes asserting those boundaries can be jarring when they’re in a pattern of getting so much from you. I suppose it’s just remembering to proactively communicate, and not waiting til things build up to put the brakes on and suddenly need to regroup, which may feel like pulling away, or even pushing away, when it’s really about taking care of yourself.

G had several full blown melt downs this week

She got her period Friday, so that explains a lot

Never the less, her passive aggressive moodiness and overall demanding self was bothering me. It was all about her schedule, what she wanted, and when I pushed back she’d throw a tantrum, so I usually just go along to avoid conflict. It built over two days, and she noticed I wasn’t feeling so open to her, so she asked what’s wrong and I pretty much told her she was being self absorbed and mean, and she did not like that. Oh no. It triggered her. She impulsively said a lot of mean things. Then she was silent for a good hour as we finished grocery shopping and drove home. I didn’t say much, just asked if she wanted to talk, and she said she was processing. When we got home I sat at the kitchen table and asked if she wanted to talk. For the next hour plus she just laid into me…. I just listened. Didn’t say a word. Very mean. How selfish I was. But she kept contradicting herself, cause her complaints were ridiculously juxtaposed by all the things she knows I do for her.

My natural reaction was to defend myself, but I decided to just listen. Not take it personally. I know I love her and care for her and do so much for her. I listened as her anger and seething and biting words eventually turned to confusion and eventually she just began sobbing. I didn’t say anything. I just listened, then hugged her, against her will initially, as she tried pushing away, but I just kept holding her. She sobbed. Just pent up emotions streaming out. I just listened and held her and told her I loved her. Didn’t react. Didn’t defend myself. Said I was sorry. Eventually the sobbing and tears slowed and stopped. And she was better again.

I could easily hold everything she said against me. It was hurtful. But I realize it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t represent what she really feels for me. These issues are mostly just some unresolved father figure projections that I must overcome with love. I know she loves me. I know we all have issues. I can be cold and insensitive and stern. Even worse, I can be inattentive. I can only listen and validate her feelings and show her love, despite how she lashes out, despite the unstable emotional outbursts or moodiness that comes my way.

I felt like it was a growing experience for me. Being stoic, but compassionate. Not getting caught up in the words, but trying to see the feelings. She needs love and acceptance, attention and validation and security. All women need that more than they need you doing trivial activities and chores for them.

So anyway. Was a wild week, but I felt like I handled it my best.

“No matter what happens, I’ll love you. You can’t push me away. I’m here.” I think that implicit message created a lot of peace for her. There is more vulnerability. More acceptance of me on her part.

I think the theme I try to convey is, even if you don’t get your way, I love you. Even if I need to take care of me, and be selfish, the big picture is i do take care of you and I do love you. But I can’t make you happy by jumping through hoops or obeying every demand. And when I don’t do those things, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means I’m human and I have my boundaries and sometimes you just aren’t going to get your way. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love you or care. And you can’t get hung up on a handful of instances where you don’t get your way, where you think I’m selfish. You gotta see the big picture here.

Anywho. She’s a handful.

She knows it. But when she’s in it, hostage to her feelings, it’s all consuming, and it’s hard to get perspective, and see the big picture.

But yeah, the conflict. It’s like, I want to be strong and loving by not making a big deal out of favors, or their tax on me. But if I don’t point out the tax they have on me, she doesn’t see how much I put into it.

Like, you know if you didn’t expect so much, you’d get much more.

One of my favorite Camus quotes:

When I was young I asked more of people than they could give: everlasting friendship, endless feeling.

Now I know to ask less of them than they can give: a straightforward companionship. And their feelings, their friendship, their generous actions seem in my eyes to be wholly miraculous: a consequence of grace alone.

Her requests require me to drop everything. Massages. Carrying things. Talking through decisions and helping her figure out endless problems or dilemmas.

“G’s world”

And I don’t mind. I genuinely love helping. I love caring for her.

I just need appreciation… I don’t like when it’s just expected that I’m available to please or serve or act on her every whim or demand.

Suspend expectations, I tell her. And everything will see like a blessing.

It’s such a powerful reminder in all relationships… and it makes you so much more grateful and blessed. Expectations are the root of suffering.

I tell her, I don’t like when you expect your problems to be my problems.

I want to help. I love you. But when you just expect me to solve every one of your problems, it’s an endless road nowhere

I’m not responsible for your happiness. And you’re not responsible for mine.

I’m just a person.

You are responsible for your happiness. You choose your problems, or you choose not to have problems.

We have these conversations about “problems”. Cognitively she knows problems are in her head, but emotionally she can’t seem to let go of the frustrations that arise when she perceives a problem.

I tell her, if you look for problems, you will find them, and amplify them.

Life is a problem. It’s difficult. For everyone. Get over it. It comes with the territory. You can’t escape it.

So let’s move past problems. Let’s move toward solutions, solutions that you can do something about, where YOU are empowered.

You can spend your time thinking about anything. Time passes all the same. When you’re stuck, or run into an obstacle, acknowledge the problem, them focus on the solution, and never pay the problem any more thought.

I explained wherever the attention goes, the energy flows.

And how, when you’re about to get into an accident and hit something oncoming, whether by car or motorcycle, you look to the empty space where you can go, not at the thing your about to hit. If you focus on the thing your about to hit, you’ll hit it, no matter what you tell your body to do. Look toward the empty space where there are no obstacles, where you can move freely, the solution, and you will find yourself there, problem averted.

I was trying to think of something simple I could tell her that would help her overall attitude.

After some reflection, I realized I could distill so much into a simple idea:

When you focus on getting other people what they want, you’ll get what you want.

Find ways to give people what they want, and you’ll get what you want.

Never focus on what you want to get. Focus on giving others what they want.

That’s pretty much true for any personal or professional or life situation.

We can’t do it alone. The more you give, the more you get. But the focus should never be on getting. Always giving.

Then I explained the whole abundance vs scarcity mentality. You can only give what you believe you have: time, money, energy, attention, love, affection.

If you think you lack these, you won’t be able to give these freely. It’s a mindset.

You can’t give if you think you’re scarce, or have limited energy or feelings or time to give others.

The ultimate realization is, you have it all within you, infinite amounts. Spread it around generously, and it will find its way back to you. Focus on giving, and your life will improve whether it’s important to you or not.

It’s just the mentality that’s important, which allows you to serve others and go above and beyond and not worry about what it’s “costing” you.

When you bring value to others lives, you’re life will become more rewarding.

Process and Reality

You know, I was thinking today about reality.

I was reading some Alfred Whitehead, the mentor to Bertrand Russell, and he had some interesting ideas about reality.

He posited that reality is a process, a continuum of events, which he called a “society of experiences”.

He shunned materialism because it treated entities as fixed or static abstractions, while Whitehead perceived reality as a flux of events [Heraclitus], not objects, and so the emphasis is on relations, not points, not matter.

I was thinking today of what this means exactly.

I was trying to conceive a continuum of events, a process of relations, in which there were no static points in time. I have a very difficult time doing this, of course. Because whenever I conceive relations, I conceive lines among points. Even an infinite line is hard to conceive without the notion of a point, because supposing infinite lines in every direction, there are infinite intersections, and therefore infinite points, although these points are infinitely changing.

I was thinking of these infinite lines in every direction, forming these infinite planes, constituting the volume of space, which is flowing through a volume of infinite time, events connected via an infinite tether of time.

It’s very hard to not conceive points.

It’s difficult to conceive a reality which is entirely process, entirely events, entirely a continually unfolding experience.

On the quantum level, particles do not exist as points, though we conceptualize them as such. Particles exist as events. [wave-particle duality/ wave collapse via observation]

This is a weird notion.

On the quantum level, matter does not exist, only energy, which can only be experienced as an event. [Schrodinger]

Energy exists as a force, and only manifests as matter when it is concentrated, but even still, it exists as energy that is eventualizing as a process. So the whole of reality is continuum of events which are connected via relations, and entities are merely the sum of relations with other entities, with reality being the synthesis of all these relations.

In sum, every “thing” is a relation.

This becomes most evident on psychedelics, and perhaps deep meditation. Specifically with the loss of subjective perspective constituting ego loss, which inspires a kind of monism [Leibniz], when you suddenly realize all is one, and one is all. That nothing is extricable from anything else.

This whole “process as reality” position seems counter to this contemporary push for digital reality with cellular automata [Wolfram], conceiving reality as infinite monads, or digital points, which can be treated computationally.

Process as reality seems like the analog position.

Constraints

In my mind, there are physical and psychological constraints.

Constraints are context dependent. In the sense that, context determines constraints. The mind, ie attention, can choose context, by expanding or contracting its focus.

Physics presents materially real constraints. Physical laws manifest through matter, which are incontrovertible.

Psychology presents perceived constraints. How we observe or perceive matter, and how it represents itself to us, is a matter of perception.

Technology is the mechanism for harnessing energy with precision to manipulate the material world to produce intended effects.

In practice, technology is the mediator between the mind and the world, allowing the mind to transpose it’s intention into the world, and the world to transpose relevant information back onto us, in a structured way.

Technology requires energy, requires an architect, and a first mover. Technology is not yet autonomous and self replicating, i.e. not sentient life.

Psychological constraints determine the models and systems we creatively design and build, by constraining our conception of what’s possible via the contents of our mind, wrought from culture and observable experience.

By expanding knowledge and understanding, through the process of data collection via symbolic systems and observation, which we creatively synthesize with our intention through reflection, we enlarge the possible.

However, despite how clever we continually enlarge this possibility and remove psychological constraints, we will forever contend with physical laws, and the inherent constraints they contain. Even the mind is bound by physical constraints, being a byproduct of the brain, which contends with a host of physical necessities.

Technology will always be the bridge that mediates our ability to manipulate the physical world, beyond the physical capacities of the flesh.

Always Persist

You are strong. These are temporary seasons of life. Struggle is the source of strength. These are gifts. It’s hard to remember that when you feel like you’re drowning in shit, when it feels like there’s no where to go, when you feel trapped and overwhelmed and stuck.

But this is the truth: No pain, no gain.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

These moments. These difficulties. They make or break you. Persist, and eventually you will wake up stronger and better, and these big ominous problems will fade into temporary inconveniences. Always persist.

Onward and Upward

Onward and upward. Create. Generate. Conjure the spirits. Master the daemons. Never hesitate to obey these forces, to yield to their divine direction. You have genius within you. The process of prolific creation refines this infinite energy of the soul. You will become better and better at touching something universal within humanity, something humanity craves, and doesn’t know they crave.

C.S. Peirce

Peirce was a genius. One of the greatest American thinkers, and I don’t say that lightly. I first learned of him when I read his essay “The Fixation of Belief” in a formal logic class in college.

He is often referred to as a logician, but he is truly a philosopher, with major contributions to mathematics, logic, mathematical logic, semiotics, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, epistemology, philosophy of science, and many many many other disciplines, including geodetics, physics, etc

His name kept popping up over the years, and while I was blown away by that essay, I never took time to explore his contributions, or learn about him as a man, philosopher, thinker.

Recently I bought some of his books, and I’ve been blown away by how much his ideas resonate with my intuitions.

He’s considered the originator of pragmatism (or pragmaticism as he liked to call it). His two close contemporaries/friend’s were Willian James and John Dewey, but he was close with many other renown American thinkers.

I say all this because our conversations about consciousness recently are a lot more illuminating when you read his ideas and works. I recommend diving in and at least skimming some of his key ideas.

I’d type them out here, but I’d end up writing a novella in the process. A good start is to read that essay, The Fixation of Belief.

If that doesn’t turn you on, I don’t know what will.

It’s just so damn compelling. Resonating.

But that’s a mere sliver of his overarching philosophy, or evolutionary cosmology.

I had no idea that he was the originator of semiotics. Like wow.

Peirce and Semiotics

Something very interesting about Pierce that struck me while I was reading, was his evolution of thought toward the paramount of importance of semiotics, of signs, which he realized were essential to metaphysics, and understanding anything about consciousness more generally.

Schopenhauer’s books/writings in World as Representation, which greatly influenced Nietzsche, indirectly emphasized the importance of signs. The mind is a giant organ for representing the world.

The contents of mind are signs.

Signs have universal properties. Understanding these illuminate what it means to be conscious, possess it, or be possessed by it

Semiotics have been a preoccupation of mine for a long time. It’s not that these are inherent. These structures which represent the world are products of socialization, as much as they are innate to the brain/mind of man.

I’m very interested in sociology for this reason, and anthropology, social psychology, culture etc