The First Layer of Communication

Physical

Communication, even in the most abstract sense, requires motor output. While neuroscience research may be gravitating towards controlling things with brainwaves, even Stephen Hawking uses motor output to communicate. Even if people began thinking at each other via devices strapped to their heads, that communication requires a physical medium.

Each medium is a foundation for a different type of communication as well as any resultant spontaneous culture.

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Focus and Flow

Learning to juggle has multiplied my diligence in all areas of my life. I spend my time with friends and family in more fulfilling ways. I can more easily relate whatever I’m learning in school to something fun.

But why?

Juggling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment… it’s just very carefully throwing objects up in the air and catching them repeatedly. So how could it have such a strong impact on my life?

Because before juggling, the central theme of my life was school… before family, before friends, before myself, was always school. When I went to college, I no longer had my family to prod me along, and nor did anyone else.

The idea that motivation is a superpower is one of the most ubiquitous and pervasive cultural memes that I have encountered across members of this entire generation.

Motivation is NOT a superpower; in fact, I’d argue that the superpower here is the capacity to KEEP one’s internal motivation after getting through college.

The real death of motivation is when the product of YEARS of work is simply hypothetical. We bust our asses week after week, month after month, and year after year, and far too often the most tangible results of our efforts are in the form of letters, numbers, or hopefully a very important piece of paper.

When was the last time you poured hours and hours into a school project and emerged with the sense that you were capable of doing something that you weren’t before you did that project?

When was the last true sense of achievement from having pushed your own limits and abilities?

For some (such as me), the grades just stopped feeling validating. They were hypothetical. Hours and hours of work, and for what?

And what happens if you screw up? What happens if, despite so many hours of work, some grave error becomes a monolithic testament to your ineptitude and the worthlessness of your effort?

But see, that’s how you learn how to juggle: you drop the ball. Over and over again. Many, many, many times. You drop it… and after a while, you don’t drop it as much. You drop it less and less as time goes on.

I juggle because the effort that I put into juggling has rewards that are tangible. If I put enough time into learning a trick, then I am actually capable of doing something that I could not do before. While the practical application is negligible, it’s also not hypothetical.

It’s exciting. After years and years of effort being poured into the ethereal intellectual maelstrom we call education and academia, I now have something to remind me irrevocably that my effort produces results.

There’s no interpersonal argument involved about worth… I know it’s just a parlor trick, but I learned it and did it just because I wanted to. Imagine what I can do with better reasons?

Every type of effort (like studying crap that I don’t care for) feels much easier after a good juggling session. If I don’t feel like learning a new trick, I just let my arms flow through more familiar patterns and meditate.

Ever been “in the zone”?

I argue that having an easily accessible activity that you can use to “zone out” and has a tangible result is essential to mental health. It should be something that leaves you with something to show for your time spent doing it, especially because you flowed through it meditatively.

And do it regularly.

I can’t stress the result part of this enough. Activities like reading are great, but unless what you read inspires you to write, draw, or make something besides conversation that ceases to exist once forgotten.

The only way to adjust your productive output is to make things. Juggling has inspired me to start writing again, and even try my hand at drawing and music, simply because it reminded me that I can put my effort into something and have something tangible come out.

Many of us may ~know~ this implicitly, that we can learn anything if we just throw enough effort at it… but trust me, it’s a lot easier to live by it when you actually do it.

Artificial Intelligence

I am of the opinion that artificial intelligence, as portrayed by Sci-Fi cultural elements as a synthetic computer system created by humans that is capable of cognitive functions at least equivalent to (although usually unfathomably superior to) those of the modern human being.

I feel that this is categorically impossible. Computers operate on explicit logic, and even quantum computers, whenever (if ever) those are figured out, will necessarily operate deterministically if we are to derive any direct utility from them. Any computer system that does not produce a predictable output from a given input is not useful for information processing.

But let’s humor this idea. What do we have that is called A.I. so far? We certainly have very sophisticated and complex machines that can dynamically react to data that’s supposed to represent sensory input… there are systems that are using recursive feedback loops that can actually adapt to new environments and, upon being introduced to new digital function libraries, can ‘learn’ how to integrate the new ‘sensory input’ into their feedback loop systems. Some have called this the precursors to identity and self-awareness, but I wholeheartedly disagree.

We may be able to create an incredibly dynamic digital system that can adapt and “learn” along physical and logical frameworks that humans have designed, but there’s one thing that we will never be able to code into a machine, simply because of the observer’s paradox. We can’t create something we don’t understand and isn’t even something that can necessarily be reduced to a logical structure.

We can’t code purpose into a machine. Enough of us have a hard enough time figuring out our own “why”. Computers follow encoded steps for tasks that we ordain; they do not invent tasks without context. I would almost call the phrase “deterministic computation” redundant if it weren’t for the overlap between the theory of computation and chaos theory (complexity theory).

A computer that does anything besides what it’s programmed to do is not working properly and is discarded.

There are bits of code that replicate across systems like ideas across a social group. They may end up taking system resources and doing things that aren’t intended by the user… these are often branded as malware, and invariably created by humans. We get rid of them, because a computer that does anything besides what it’s explicitly programmed to do is seen as infected or broken, and promptly either fixed or discarded.

They will never create a purpose unless we find a way to code it.

It’s getting harder to admit that there are ideas about capitalism that I like.

Asset Management

It’s the industry that includes Mitt Romney’s firm Bain Capital… but what do they DO?

You would hire an Asset Management firm to analyze your entire company’s profile and work out any inefficiencies. The primary purpose is to maximize return. Period. This includes cutting unnecessary costs, such as excess pay. So part of their job, in no small part, is to calculate how to pay employees the minimum amount necessary in order to retain productivity.

Asset Management firms like Bain Capital are hired PRECISELY to improve the financial outlook of a company from the perspective of the shareholders. Within that context, they do whatever they damn well please.

My father started working for Banfield when he had just started practicing veterinary medicine. A year or so later, Banfield hired some guy named Tom who, after a couple of months of lurking around various Banfield branches, proceeded to drop the salaries of pretty much every veterinarian on the payroll by 10-20% and laid off tons of others. Those who weren’t doctors that remained were left with roughly a 30% salary cut and a shitload more work to do. Tom was later “fired” and the corporate proceeded to tell everyone oh man he was such a horrible guy.

My dad later found out that Tom had been paid a MASSIVE bonus and was let go after saving Banfield millions.

Horrified, my dad left the company and started his own private practice… in part because he has a spouse working full time and could actually afford the risk. Not everyone could, because A SHITTY JOB MARKET IS LIKE CHRISTMAS FOR ASSET MANAGERS.

Imagine that there’s an entire industry of meta-corporations who specialize in pointing out “hey, since these employees need these jobs so desperately, they’re unlikely to leave if you pay them less!” and getting massive bonuses for saving corporations money. You don’t have to imagine it. Not only are they real, they’re doing better than ever!

Every now and then a corporate executive meeting happens where the primary issue on the agenda is “how little  can we get away with paying our bottom-tier employees?” And then someone like Mitt Romney strolls in and takes it upon himself to do precisely that.

Imagine if he had actually been elected.

What is Fire?

It’s certainly not an object.

For the layman, the term “fire” evokes an image of what physics understands as energetically excited molecules of gas, discharging energy as photons; the most ubiquitous image of fire is usually discharging photons at frequencies around the lower end of our visible spectrum (red, orange, yellow).

It’s quite possible to have fire that burns only beneath our visible spectrum (like the Invisible flame!!!!!!).

But the question remains, what IS fire?

And I say “remains” because we are still figuring it out.

One could say (without too much inaccuracy) that learning how to manipulate fire has blazed the trail for not only much of science, but of modern technology.

From the first time some ancestral primate learned that cooked food is easier and healthier to digest, the study of fire has blazed a trail for the vast majority of what we now call modern civilization, let alone science.

It was and is still used to extract, mix, and mold metals, eventually leading to glass as well as every little strip of copper, fiber-optic cable, or radio tower that’s enabling you to read this.

But what IS fire?

[THE FOLLOWING TEXT IS VERY ABOUT SCIENCE]

Despite it being around for as long as recorded history, it wasn’t until the 1800’s that the idea of the atom entered the model of experimental physics, let alone the structure.

In the 1900’s, Planck finally introduced photons into the model; to this day, I find it kind of trippy that photons are discrete. In 1905, Einstein published his Nobel Prize-winning paper on the photoelectric effect… which if you don’t know, is even trippier:

The whole ‘quanta’ and ‘photon’ paradigm solidified the idea that photons come off of vibrated (heated) atoms… but the photoelectric effect showed that atoms can also ABSORB photons and give OFF electrons.

Fast-forward… wave-particle duality; Rutherford discovers the nucleus, and Bohr discovers orbitals and their impact on electromagnetic spectrum emissions FINALLY WE’RE BACK TO WHAT FIRE IS.

So by the 1920’s, we finally have a better idea of why different colored flames happen.

Fast-forward again through Pauli and Schrödinger and Heisenberg and Dirac and now we’re getting into subatomic physics where Baryons, Bosons, Gluons, Leptons, Mesons, and Quarks are difficult for me to describe without getting mathy and I’m too tired for that right now… but the point I’m trying to make is that…

We’ve learned that fire is the sustained release of chemical energy… which we’ve traced to atomic, and subatomic levels… but the only way to study the release of this energy is to… well, release the energy.

So blow shit up!

Well beyond actual explosives (like the eponymous atomic bomb), we are now using particle accelerators and supercolliders (like the HLC) which are VERY complex devices used to EXTREMELY PRECISELY smash subatomic particles into each other, creating very tiny explosions that CERN is studying to contribute to the understanding of the universe that one day will hopefully finally answer the question:
What is fire?

"Let’s be worthless together"

We use social media to find people that we can relate to and share ideas with people who think enough like us to communicate with us, but different enough to offer a new perspective. This is really useful in validating ideas that otherwise would’ve been totally isolated. If you can’t find anyone around you who likes a certain movie or book or TV show, then it’s harder to enjoy it… but now you can find someone on the internet who surely likes it as well, and you can share!

I am deeply disturbed by a particular idea that is being used by MANY people to relate to one another, but really shouldn’t. I’m referring to the idea that doing nothing all day and claiming worthlessness as a feature of one’s personality being used to relate to others… to become features of social circles where becoming productive (or talking about doing something productive) can result in isolation from the group. If someone talks about having done something productive with their core social circle and none of them are able to relate, then they are less likely to share or even perform future productive endeavors. If being unproductive is (or becomes) one of the defining characteristics of a social group, then this stagnating mentality will validate and perpetuate itself throughout the members of the group. This is a very bad thing for everyone involved.

The fact is that people who fantasize about an ideal life as doing absolutely nothing productive while enjoying luxuries obtained with little effort and even less responsibility are the precise demographic that validates everything that Ayn Rand fanatics stand for; it’s the people who increasingly have NO intention of doing anything unless that thing is absolutely necessary to sustain life.

And now I’m seeing this culture that seems to be DEPENDING on this void of inspiration as common context for people to relate to one another.

I’m not saying to just shut up about feeling like you’ve had an unproductive day, or week, or life… but to realize that an existential void of inspiration is quite possibly one of the worst problems to have. It’s pervasive, habitual, contagious and should not be promoted. Recognize it, but please don’t tell anyone (ESPECIALLY the people that you care about) that feeling worthless is okay and that doing nothing is part of who they are.

I’m not preaching of any definitive solution to this problem; I just want it to be recognized. It’s a very sneaky element of culture that often hides behind faces that feel uncomfortable talking about anything that isn’t primarily entertainment. It doesn’t correlate very much with wealth or academic success or anything of that sort; it’s like a recursive background process that culminates in the “Well, why bother starting now?” whenever someone considers doing something they should’ve started long ago.

Not to suggest that I know everything about how life works, but I know enough to understand that the mechanics of society measure people (to be as general as possible) by tangible productive output. No amount of wishing will change that. Shockingly enough, if you DID want to shift society into a more Socialist or even Communist direction, that would take, before anything else, effort. A lot of it.

In the larger context of life, you’re not doing your friends any good by “haha gosh we’re so worthless we have done nothing let’s entertain ourselves”.

Do the opposite. Feed your friends’ inspirations back at them, even if you can’t relate all that well. Inspiration is also contagious and idleness is its enemy. Validating and perpetuating habits of existential ineffectuality ACTIVELY creates an environment that is hostile to inspiration and drive and drags down the spirits of everyone involved.

The fear of stagnation is a rational fear; to have each day, week, month, year, come in and out with any moderate change is the stagnation of the soul and the death of inspiration. The more time is spent in this cycle, the harder it is to break. Don’t make it even harder for yourself or your friends. Please.

Rant on American Conservative Politics

I really hate the binary political system and I really don’t mean to be partsian, but this is something that has really bothered me in my explorations of the rationale behind modern U.S. conservative politics; the rationale is too often incompatible in the context of modern science.

In virtually everything from the “bootstrap” argument in helping the poor to foreign policy decisions, the core of conservative politics is Machiavellianism that tries to paint itself as socially conscious, invariably translating their policies regarding the poor into some thinly veiled variant of tough love. As far as they’re concerned, if you are too poor to live the sort of life that they identify with, then too bad, you are incompatible with this socioeconomic system and therefor inferior. Yes, concessions and adaptations are made for the sake of not seeming sociopathic, but the only conservative social or economic policies that don’t seem inspired by Atlas Shrugged are either the ones involving religious arguments (don’t tell them Ayn Rand was a militant atheist… and I’m sure Jesus would’ve been fine with saying “guess you just don’t have what it takes to adequately feed your family” to the poor).

Modern conservative politics DEPEND on the rat race and the idea that the ONLY heights worth achieving are worth stepping on others, and that’s just the way the world is. This moral perspective is necessary to validate their policies and lifestyles in the larger context of the world… and of course, science.

I’m going to call it a rat race, because that’s what it is. Don’t tell them that all they’re doing is fighting and killing for temporary relevance on an infinitesimally small speck of dust on the cosmic scale. They MUST keep their minds narrowed and focused on Earth… but not too much on the WHOLE Earth, because that would mean getting environmentally conscious which will cut into the profit margin.

They insist that shifting the economy in THE GENERAL DIRECTION of generally improving the lives of the poor OR towards clean energy resources will trigger some economic apocalypse while trivializing the relative climate apocalypse that is actually happening. On one hand, you have the preservation of the intricate and elaborate socioeconomic systems upon which modern society is built (including poverty of course; the system simply cannot work without poverty because even thinking that it would is incompatible with the system lololol), and on the other hand you have the non-human natural systems of our world (also known as EVERYTHING ELSE ON THE PLANET that we’ve been royally fucking up for decades) which economists like to call “externalities” as a way of illustrating their marginal significance to society. Convincing them that the “everything else” part matters enough to impact their actions is terrifyingly difficult if not fruitless. An externality is anything that cannot be somehow manipulated with enough money.

…so don’t spend too much time looking up at the sky, or even thinking too hard about this planet… just keep your head in the system. Thinking outside of it can get dangerous.
…but for whom?

Social Dissonance

It’s the opposite of being on the same wavelength… it’s what happens whenever you say something that doesn’t come across exactly how you meant it.

It’s being more aware and critical of the structure of a conversation than its content.

It’s feeling the sharp edges of contrast between how you think you’re expected to communicate and your actual natural flow of thought. For some, these edges are like anchors and reference points that can be used to organize thoughts and navigate a conversation; for others, these edges are abrasive validations of social ineptitude.

I like to see social interaction as trying to cast some lines of rope from one mind across a bottomless pit to another and sending ideas back and forth using words like winches. Our minds can’t occupy the same brain, but we can throw words or gestures or any form of expression out of our minds and into reality and hope that the other person catches the other end of the line to anchor it in common context.

Sometimes the gap is small and casting the line is easy… so easy it might be difficult to resist, like being in a public place and hearing someone mention something that you’re very passionate about, knowing that you already have common context. So why wouldn’t you try?

For some, social dissonance is always just an opportunity to experiment with modes of interaction. For those who internalized a reality of being simply unable to communicate effectively with the vast majority of people around them, the aversion to or even fear of social dissonance is a survival mechanism. Two people may already share common context simply by being in the same classroom, meeting, or any gathering of people, but terrified of casting lines of hope into the abyss.

It’s that feeling of having something awesomely pertinent to say in a conversation, but not wanting to interrupt anyone, never finding the space to say it, and then being fiercely aware of the decision that the opportune moment has passed forever.

It’s being acutely aware that you don’t know how to respond, but still feeling the need to say something that communicates what you’re feeling/thinking without incurring more dissonance.

It’s confusion about the other person’s silence when you expect a response, and whether or not it’s your fault.

It’s wondering if the other person is conversing with you due to some sense of social charity or because they are actually enjoying the conversation.

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