Sunday, April 23, 2017

what's really real, really

Do we want to be comfortable, independent, gluttonous, educated, liked, or accomplished - how much of it is inherently human, how much of it is shaped by the culture we're steeped in?  How much of it is obscured by the realities of the choices we're forced to make?  What we want is largely the consequence of what we believe achievable, and what we're willing to sacrifice or risk.  What we want is really a rather complicated equation, barely touched on here.  They're both right, in a way.

Can we really blame much of our laziness on advertising and capitalist propaganda?  Or are they just capitalizing on our inherent laziness?  This is another example of an emergent process, in which the truth is the culmination of all these different factors.  It's all natural and innately human, in the sense that it's what's naturally developed.  The basic building blocks of physiology and genetics are meaningless without an environment to interact with.  There is nothing innate to biology, until it becomes a factor amidst a constantly changing world, in which life always has to adapt, even as that same life shapes the world it's adapting to.

I think a lot about what I want, and I really don't know.  It's easy to say that I want a hot fudge sundae, but not if I have to crawl across broken glass to get it.  Why the whole world feels like broken glass to me, I don't know, but it has a lot to do with why I choose not to deal with it.  I live much like the lazy slob Wallace Shawn depicts in the above clip, just trying to live as comfortably as possible.  Not because I don't want more, but because this is the culmination of all the factors in my life, some of that being the society I've had to adjust to, but there's a lot more to it, as well.

One might also forgo said hot fudge sundae, if one lives somewhere in which ice cream isn't attainable, and the fudge is terrible, or if one merely doesn't want to gorge themselves on the misery of dairy farming.  We might also want things, in theory.  Wanting some imagined version of something, realistic enough not to seem so outlandish, and yet, not realistic in our own personal experience.  The human world also seems largely both unattainable and terrible to me.  Rational or not, that's been my experience.  Am I too much of an idealist, too sensitive and discriminating, suffering the burdens of too much good taste, or not the right balance of dopamine to ever really enjoy anything real - maybe all relevant factors.

What we want can depend on what's has been rewarding to us, as opposed to what's been disappointing, frustrating, painful.  A society in which people's wants are heavily curtailed will be full of people who settle for laying around watching TV, eating ice cream, feeling angry and bad about themselves.  Caught in the vicious cycle of being barraged by media that depicts a wealthier unobtainable world, in which the advertisers' wealthier targeted demographics live.  Creating expectations about life that aren't going to be met by all the couch potatoes they're influencing, setting the populace up for disillusionment, disappointment, but plenty of ice cream to satiate themselves with.

What we want can also be discussed in terms of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, in which at the base, we have the necessities of survival.  Some might even say that we're fine, as long as we have that much.  Among those who only have that much though, you generally get a whole lot of disagreement, and extraordinarily high mortality rates for people that are supposedly surviving.  Each need is merely dependent on the level before it, but they're all important if you want a healthy civilization.

Chomsky is right, of course, that those needs are not likely to be well met, by striving only for material comfort, but "what we want" is much too simplistic a question.  We want all sorts of things, but we take what we can get.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


My great-uncle's memorial service is going to be in May.  I'd wondered what was going on, because I hadn't heard anything, but I didn't worry about it.  I'm ambivalent, anyhow.  Or rather, I really don't want to participate in anything like that, but feel obligated to do it.  These rituals we have, where we attempt to bury our dead.  I don't want to celebrate the life of people who aren't alive.  That doesn't really do anything for closure.  It's a ritual, and rituals can help us play these mind tricks on ourselves, but I don't know that I want that kind of help.

It's also a chance for family getting together, some who haven't seen each other in many years.  I suppose it makes sense that I'd think this should be more emphasized.  Reconnecting with the people who are still alive.  Taking refuge in families and relationships.  Maybe the real mind trick is the way people do exactly that, in guise of something else.  It is strange the way people use so many different tricks to spend time with each other.  Maybe I feel too far away from everyone for it to do much good for me.

I can nod and smile, I can play along, but the here and now will be the acute angst of being corralled, amidst strange people doing strange things that make no sense to me.  Knowing that they're probably offended to even suspect that I feel that way.  Just doing my damndest to play along, until I can return to the relative sanity of solitude, again.

Everything dies.  The loss of anything and everything we think ours to lose.  It sucks, in so much as anything can truly suck, but I'm often more distracted by my failure to figure out the living part.  My inability to do that is what really scares me.

At times, it seemed Daniel came closer than anyone to helping me with that.  That seems so long ago, now.

Monday, April 3, 2017

sensitive dependence on initial conditions

I've written a few times on the subject of procedural generation, emergent process, interdependent arising of conditions.  I think I've also mentioned how upon seeing "too deeply and too much" I've noted quite a preponderance of chaos, and a great deal of it appears to begin with the myriad of nuanced variables in and around any arbitrary starting point.  That is, the seed which will eventually blossom, wither, and branch in unforeseeable ways.

In everything from physics to biology to politics and economics.  It's complicated.  More complicated than humanity has sorted out as well as we'd like to think.  We sometimes know enough to push for favorable results in our endeavors, with more success than we would if we knew nothing.  Even the notoriously chaotic processes which drive the weather, we predict with some degree of reliability.  A reliability which is more pragmatic than none at all.

I'm skeptical of the very concept of chaos.  I'm inclined to think that it's a word we use when things are unpredictable for reasons we don't understand.  In science and the human condition more broadly.  We often fail to take into account even stable variables in initial conditions that can produce dramatically different outcomes.  Comparisons between similar samples, different outcomes, the result of overlooking important but nuanced phenomenon that occur within developmentally critical time-frames.  Eventually, another study or perspective might come along to correct for it, getting a little closer, but missing something else.

This occurs in every rabbit hole I've ever attempted to delve into, ubiquitous and unresolvable, but indicative that there's always more to learn. I've often found myself trying to argue that anything and everything is more complicated than it seems.  Reductionism being more a problem of assuming we have all relevant information, when that's never going to be the case, wearing blinders in an attempt to block out the confusion of everything we don't know.

Does the reductionist honestly believe it's all noise, or do they merely treat it as noise, so as not to be impossibly bogged down in their ambitions?  I'm guessing the answer to that varies.  It's probably complicated.

Seems to me that such behaviour might have developed for being evolutionarily effective.  Maybe we jump to conclusions so that we can act on them, neurologically rewarded for doing this, it becomes habitual and self-reinforcing.  Doing so produces results, from knowing to bring an umbrella, to being able to design working technology, to not being paralyzed by indecision.  It's not understanding in any comprehensive sense, but nothing ever is.