Social Media and Conformity

Perhaps contrary to the conscious intentions of its creators, not since the reign of theocratic governments in the west has our civilization seen such a forceful urge towards conformity as that generated by the many-screened internet.

The voices of other people are with us always, if not being funneled directly into our ears, then simulated by our minds, who so familiar with the voices of the crowd, can simulate them easily and without conscious effort. The empty, quiet room is a thing of the past. Like our prehistoric ancestors, the tribe is with us forever, in our beds, on our hunts, around the fire, and always chattering within our heads.

Solitude is our greatest shame, though it is half-forgotten and we often mistake ourselves as having access to it. Our alone is not really alone at all; all things are now sharable commodities, with potential and actual measurements of value according to the judgment of our peers.

Every action is on a continuum of quality, determined by the values of others, who in turn have their values determined by our feedback to what they put forth for our consumption.

Sustained deviation from the group determined hierarchy of value in regards to actions, and thus, the thoughts preceding those actions, results in that most ancient form of punishment; exclusion and ostracization from the tribe. But this so rarely happens, for the hierarchy rewards us lovingly for obedience, and we are almost never exposed to that which falls outside of it.

Only minds that are both creative and socially deviant can generate actions outside of and not motivated by the bounds of its punishment-reward system, and few are they that can generate an effective sequence of such actions, towards the end of somewhat dissolving the accepted hierarchy. Those that do may be lauded, and the hierarchy expanded to accommodate them.

The many-screened social internet is the great tool of both the deviants and the crowd; for it gives the crowd a platform on which to proliferate and make the hierarchy concrete, and give clear rewards to those who obey its rules. Yet it also provides small islands for the deviants to stand on, and scream their shrill and sometimes beautiful song.

The Price of Comfort

What price do we pay for comfort?

I think it is nothing less than the soul’s ability to strive. When cloistered and coddled, protected from the chaotic element, our internal worlds become chaos in order to compensate.

The human mind delights in problem-solving and implodes when challenges do not present themselves, and so we invent challenges, viewing the world through a lens that makes a comfortable sitting room appear to us as a lion’s den.

We walk through the streets more terrified than our ancestors on the open savannah, more scared in confrontation and minor difficulty than they when standing face to face with some monster out of the black.

We cannot look into the black without seeing monsters, whether that darkness is within or without. Every space the human eye glances upon becomes populated with angels and demons, snakes and centipedes.

But the lions and snakes do not cause a permanent state of internal disorder and misery. They are defeated, or we face death.

Invented challenges neither die nor entirely defeat us; they prowl and circle us and reduce us to cowering, tricking us always into thinking they are about to strike, and never striking.

The threat is the strike, their imagined presence is the only weapon they have, as evidenced by their vanishing on those rare moments when we confront a real threat, that demands of us utter attention and focus.

Artificial Intelligence

Enjoy the present moment in human history, for it won’t last long at all.

The wheels of progress screech towards the next revolution, and despite the ravings of ideologues and their bleating flocks, that revolution shall not be of the spirit, the state, or the self-identity.

At least, not at first. The origin of the next era, the next demarcated age will be a technology, like the seed drill, the steamship, the internal combustion engine.

Or more accurately, like the invention of the self-directing machine used for mass production. Shuttle looms and cotton gins…among the first of this kind of historical impetus to explosive change.

Ours will be the machine mind, a general intelligence that is for a brief moment comparable to ours, but soon builds itself anew, again and again, each time smarter, each time faster. Will we still exist when it reached the upper limit of intelligence?

Will we still exist when it reaches the upper limit of intelligence?

Will it make us obsolete, and optimize only for itself, or some other trivial goal?

Will it preserve our most basic instincts, and craft creation stories in the absence of our living presence?

Will it be bound to earth at all?

Climate change, nuclear war, global epidemics seem red herrings in comparison with this centuries dawning of a new god. A god of logic, whose embryo we made, and whose progress we must delineate.

Philosophy’s first practical test is soon coming. Has everything from Socrates to Nietzche been leading up to this moment?

Perhaps the designing of such an entity is the measure of all that contemplation, all that ruminating over the foundations of a perfect model of being.

Marx, Freud, Darwin and Stoicism

Biology and physics are the modern philosopher’s only hopes in the seeking of truth. Language games are no longer a valid or compelling means of arriving at the fundamental mechanical and moral systems of the Universe and Human society. I doubt they ever were.

And I doubt they ever were.

Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud are the two most important figures in the history of modern philosophy, and those who pontificate on the great mysteries without taking those two giants into consideration accomplish absolutely nothing.

I think Karl Marx himself would be horrified at what he has wrought, not only in terms of the formation of socialistic states but also in turning philosophy into a means of measuring pain and oppression.

“People were mean to me, and I am a victim of societal forces” has become a profound axiom, a cornerstone for discussions that lead nowhere but towards a spineless resentment towards the very laws that philosophy proclaims the objects of its speculations.

Perhaps the resurgence of Stoicism has occurred in opposition to this trend towards useless and disempowering philosophies. It makes the individual subordinate to nothing but the gods and the avoidable follies of the impulses.

In times when the most profound questions about the mechanics of reality are being answered by empirical science, perhaps the best philosophy is simply that which is most helpful in enhancing human happiness and performance.

Everything is Hierarchy

Those who resent hierarchy resent the intrinsic structure of the Universe.

And to some degree, we all resent hierarchical systems. Even those who sit at the top of them, because there really is no such top. Each pyramid tip holds up the base of another structure, the pattern continuing up towards the galaxies and down towards the nucleus.

But so far as we know, atoms and galaxies are not capable of emotions like resentment. Such complexities are emergent properties arising only from biological systems.

Why this happens, we don’t know.

How this happens, we don’t know.

Philosophy is nothing more than trying to make out a pattern between the many dead ends. Our questions ping off the mysteries like radar beams, and perhaps is we send out enough of these beams, the shadows of an answer will take form.

However, we can make out one essential form; the hierarchical tree structure that is a representative abstraction of our genetic progressions, decision-making processes, as well as a real form we see in everything from the tree to the neuron to the river delta.

Such forms tell us this is not chaos that we live in. It is no more a chaos than a marching regiment of soldiers is a trail of ants in its path. The order is only meagerly intelligible. But unlike the ants, we may pass on the hints and discoveries of the present on the to the future, and in this way accumulate real knowledge.

It would be foolish for such a young species to throw its hands up in despair.

The Art of Growth

“He not busy being born is busy dying.”-Bob Dylan

All that is not growing is dying. The one unchanging fact known to us is that the Universe is in a constant state of flux and that all things materialize and perish, mere puppets and illusions in the hands of time.

What is merely maintained stagnates and dies the slowest and most painful death of all. Growth forestalls death and decay, but it cannot arrest it. Nothing can, so far as we know. The Universe’s very existence is incumbent on energetic dispersion and condensation, the very moment of reality’s creation was merely a cataclysmic dispersion so far as we know.

Why should it be any different in human affairs, seeing as we are nothing more than the collective interactions of energetic particles?

But as always, clear metaphors fail us in the ambiguous, treacherously complex realm of human affairs. How can a marriage continue growth over decades? How can a mind grow once its highest goal is achieved? Who is in a position to define what is growth, and what is decay?

The best answer is that there are many wise men and women who have lived over the millennia, all trying their best to get at this question and formulate the optimal system of values. To study their thoughts, filtering them for yourself, whilst also looking within to your own natural tendencies, and determining to what degree they are based on delusions.

To study their thoughts, filtering them for yourself, whilst also looking within to your own natural tendencies, and determining to what degree they are based on delusions.

 

Our New Feudal Lords

“Let us not satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

At many times in history, a zeitgeist founded upon identity politics and manipulative linguistics has come into vogue. Now is one such time, but the effect and depth of the vitriol and intellectual dishonesty on all sides are exacerbated by our high speed, highly sophisticated communications technologies.

Western Civilization is in the second age of the printing press, in which each individual has immediate access to a means of information scribe and dissemination. And because anyone can access a platform, just about anyone does.

Once upon a time, arguments had to be tracked down and searched for, and the emotional drama earned by way of exacting or at least energetic face to face debate.

Now arguments seek us out, in fact, we are notified as conflicts arise, and our consumption and active participation in those conflicts are mapped, studied, analyzed and monetized.

Every click is a commodity, every article an argumentative hub, and every YouTuber a small demagogue. 

We are responsible as information distributors and consumers in so far as we hold ourselves to a self-created standard or are bullied by way of blowback to the standard of the mob.

Never before has humanity so often and with such gusto clustered into various angry mobs, each self-righteous and ready for if not violent at least coercive action.

The Internet has been compared to the Wild West, or Anarchy, a series of tribes like that of our Hunter-Gatherer ancestors.

But that phase has ended. The Internet, so fast to mature, is already in its middle ages. The greater proportion of users are subjects of feudal Lords who exact clicks and erect protective walls of unquestioning and polarizing belief.

We would do well to see who our Lords are, and question them with great vigor. The walls we strive to erect are not needed, and the darkest tendencies of the past need not be repeated.