Hope

25 Sep

I decided to focus on philosophy because I hoped that it would assist in pointing the way towards a magnificent future.  Also, my mind is eerily optimized for it.  Philosophy alone won’t ever do it, surely, but perhaps it’s not as useless as its detractors claim when taken as one aspect of an intellectual whole.  I felt that any tragedy at all was still too much, and I hoped philosophy might give a glimpse of a perfectly civilized future.  This requires, among other things, an intense and potentially awkward study of human subjectivity.  How good are we at knowing how to help, for example?  I decided to not worry about how awkward it might look from the outside.  I figured that my mind would not be free enough if I worried about such things.

Have I gotten defensive about the freedom to let the mind go out of normal bounds?  Yes!  I felt that it was very important to do that kind of thing.   We won’t see our backwardness until it’s in the rear-view mirror.  Hasn’t it always worked that way?  So, I feel that making present assumptions the unassailable standard is a fitful thing to do — I believe doing so will eventually make losers out of all of us.  We need a few loony philosophers and artists, right?  Some may argue that it’s all basically relative and hopelessly fragile, but what if there is direction to it?  Do we really know until we dig in?

Aiming for Utopian shores is an absurdly ambitious and potentially futile goal, but I found it very motivating.  I never thought I was nearly talented enough to do it, but it’s about all I could believe in.  Here we are in this crazy world.  Why not try to shoot the Moon?  And Mars, of course.  What else is there to do, anyway?  How many times in life does one hear, “that’s just the way things are”?  It doesn’t feel right to say that when your Grandma is going senile or when children are starving.  I got tired of the half-assed attitude towards life.  There are plenty of examples that anyone could think of.

There is, of course, the wonderful sort of work that Bill Gates and many others do.  It’s amazing, and I hope everyone on the entire planet is eventually behind the push.  Love can never be too powerful!

I also found myself wondering how systems of life work.  How do the processes of these systems result in various outcomes?  That’s more like the way a biologist, game theorist, and/or complexity scientist might see it.  It doesn’t really sound moral, but I feel it’s extremely important to recognize the bare physical aspects of these systems.  Without that, I don’t know how it’s possible to have a lasting effect.  Engineers may not be ethicists, but good luck delivering the love of bounty without em’!  I find that attitude appealing, because I think there is a substantial human bias towards more “obvious” sorts of sentiments.

I thought that there was a subtle problem in merely saying, “this is the right thing to do!”  I know when something feels right, but I found that my sentiments could mislead me.  I felt various actions ought to be interpreted in light of the finite(ie, mutually exclusive) ability to do x, y, or z at a given time.  It’s easy to bias in favor of the short-term, for one, but this kind of outlook is not necessarily a reliable long-term approach to quelling tragedy.  As such, I thought it might be very important to consider “counterintuitive” possibilities.  That means risking a mind so open that the brain occasionally flies out with wings and a cowboy hat.  And there are streamers, too.  It happens.

I suspect that most human conflict is little more than a pointless relic of our history, instincts, and ignorance.  Much of this behavior is not “rational” in an age on the cusp of AI and advanced genetic studies(if one assumes these items really are near).  Why not?  Because the Universe makes the (meta)rules.  Our DNA, our bodies, and our minds are all running on top of the world.  As far as I can tell, the most wonderful and potent way forward is unlikely to be strictly relative to any given primate’s present DNA.  I bet that we’re all going to be equivalent at that finish line.  It could be a quantum leap of partiality.  I’d imagine that it could eventually be figured out without a bunch more horrendous conflict, too.  Computers, science, and maybe even a dash of philosophy might just do the trick in time.  It makes much more sense for everyone to work together so that we can understand our position and grant future humans, creatures, and so on, a world much more wonderful than our own.

It’s easy to get lost in the nasty parts of the thing.  Evolution has been a brutal process, and it still seems difficult for human beings to set things right.  It’s easy to succumb to self-pity and false macho(Whoa, look at this picture of animals eating each other alive!  Darwin and stuff!).  But maybe the view is very different if one summits the local peak in order to extend the horizon just that much more.  Imagine what might be seen from the highest peaks.  What might one see from an intellectual spaceship?

Put another, more provocative way:  what kinds of instincts would extremely advanced and civilized beings have?

 

I’m quite loose with the humor, but I never mean it personally.  If it’s in bad taste, it’s only because I’m ignorant, idiotic, and/or oblivious.  I don’t usually worry a lot about my personal image  — partly because I wanted to keep my mind as free as possible(that whole subjectivity thing again…).  I don’t care a whit about superficial differences in people, and I find it redundant to say things like, “I respect women.”  Even saying it feels odd to me.  Of course I do.  I take it for granted!  I find it whimsical to say or to think such things.  Sentience is sentience.

The whole method of trying to get beyond typical subjectivity naturally lends itself to misinterpretation, as the general expectation is that everyone is following a given standard of (subjective) common sense.  My concern, however, is that it is often these very standards of subjectivity which suppress higher insight.  We might eventually get a rigorous expression of this.  Thomas Kuhn and Celia Green, among others, have already staked us to a hell of a start.  There’s Bayes, but I think there will be more than that.  Subjectivity is an incredible philosophical topic for a variety of reasons, and I think there’s a lot more to learn about it in the flesh and in the soul.

A key observation about subjectivity: it is necessarily finite.  As such, it can never make all the leaps at once.  It’s reminiscent of William James in the Will to Believe: there is a budget of skepticism and hand-sitting.  We have to make a lot of rough assumptions and commitments just to stay alive and keep things running.  Surplus affords us some luxury of skepticism, exploration, invention, etc, and sometimes that leads to dramatic reconceptualization of what it means to be human.

 

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