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The Singularity

Much has been written about the so-called “technological singularity“. This is when machines are given sufficient intelligence to play a big role in the future of civilization. According to the wikipedia article, such a future is hard to predict.

We should not forget, however, that there has already been a singularity and we are living it. I call this the “subsistence singularity”, that occurred when mankind was freed from always searching for food, as every other animal must do. The outcome of this prior singularity, in existence for tens of thousands of years, could scarcely have been predicted. We are still trying to understand its implications even though we are in its midst.

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Work-Life Balance or Integration?

There seems to be a raging debate right now between work-life balance (WLB) and integration (WLI).

WLB means you have an active life outside of work that provides a source of gratification that is not work related.

WLI means you can work anywhere and anytime, but you are also not completely ignoring your life.

I say ignore all these categorizations. I suggest that the pundits who try to foist these categories on us are not qualified.

The idea of “work” and “life” being separate are relatively recent in human history. When we spent all our foraging for food, I don’t think we had the luxury of differentiating work from life. Genetically, we are hunters and gatherers, always looking for our next meal. Psychologically, there is no imperative to create work life balance or anything. Different strokes for different folks. Whatever gives your life meaning — go for it. Don’t let anyone hold you back from the life you want to lead.

About Schmidt Indeed

A fantastic movie. Here is an interesting commentary on it — related to the pursuit of happiness.

Speaking of which: “the pursuit of happiness”. Isn’t that a strange phrase to put in a founding document for a government? So individual, and so disconnected from “duty”. More on this later.

My Proof That Adam Carolla is Mis-Guided Regarding “Families and Education”

Reference: Adam Carolla Show podcast 3/13

Let’s get one thing out of the way: just because Adam Carolla (AC) is wrong, does not mean the people he criticizes are correct.

AC suggests that societal ills are caused by a lack of emphasis on families and education, and then goes on to suggest that social ills (poverty, crime) that weigh on certain minority groups more than others is because those minority groups don’t emphasize family and education sufficiently.

Assuming the premise above is correct, let’s try to understand why this might be the case. Why is it that certain minority groups emphasize family and education less than other minority groups? AC will say: I don’t know, it just is! Either AC is stupid or a liar, because with a little thought, it’s easy to understand. And with understanding, one can develop effective counter strategies. With no understanding of root causes, the “families and education” (F&E)  mantra will continue to be ineffective.

Let’s think about one minority group that seems to be AC’s focus: African Americans. Why might it be that African American (AA) families as a group emphasize families and education (F&E) less than some other minority groups? Could it be related to the conditions of slavery that brought most of these individuals to the US? Let’s ask this question: are all peoples of the same race as AA similarly less focused (in aggregate) on families and education? If one were to go to an African country and focus on the upper classes in that country, who are nearly all black, might one find more emphasis on F&E within that upper class group?

In other words, the explanation for why certain minority groups focus less on F&E than other minority groups has to do with historical conditions associated with that group. In the case of AA, that history clearly involves a heavy dose of exploitation and subjugation. Let’s all agree to call slavery a social ill. Was that social ill (that of enslaving others) caused by a lack of family togetherness and poor education? Given that very educated people from wealthy intact families were pro-slavery, it’s hard to believe AC’s thesis that “all social ills would vanish were families to be intact and there would be a central focus on education”. I think I’ve effectively invalidated that point. (Another example might be Nazi Germany. Caused by lack of emphasis on families and education? Really?)

It’s not hard for me to believe that enslaving a group of people, denying them their rights, denying them education, and then “freeing” them to fend for themselves in a society that is hostile to them, would lead to a larger share of such people being parents who lack certain skills. (Larger compared to those who had basic civil rights). These poorly adapted parents beget children without good parenting skills, etc., and the cycle persists. Similarly, a group of people who were never enslaved, and who were part of a culture that values education, will be more likely to value education themselves. That creates a positive cycle.

The root cause of “lack of emphasis on families and education” is exploitation and subugation. Knowing this, what is the appropriate remedy?

 

The Seeds of our Own Destruction

It has been written many times that advanced civilizations may contain the seeds of their own destruction. The idea is that our primitive natures do not change as fast as technology, so our capability to destroy ourselves is combined with a primitive mind-set derived from our evolutionary heritage.

I would argue this seed is already planted, and that we have already started our own self-destruction. The modern world is really not that new.

Nearly all of mankind stopped foraging for food thousands of years ago. Our need to make food our primary obsession has been gone for quite some time. Yet, our genetic makeup and propensity for survival are based on the need to constantly seek out our next meal. Seeking our next meal is fundamentally who we are. This requires a certain level of aggression, paranoia and fear. Psychologically, we need to keep looking for food. In reality, we don’t need to do that. This discrepancy explains modern humanity, as it explains humanity for the last few thousand years. Attempts to create utopian societies that do not take our fundamental natures into account are doomed to fail. We do what we are meant to do, according to our genes. We cannot escape this.

The Many Stages Of Self-Deception

OMG! I have way too many things to do. Too many deadlines. I can’t finish the project by tomorrow.

Wait! I’ll just have to put off that snowboarding trip I was planning. Then I can get it done.

That gives me 12 hours more time to do it! No problem.

(Wastes 10 of those hours on the web).

OMG! Deadline is approaching. I better get started. Getting started now.

Wait! I’ll just forego one night’s sleep. That gives my six more hours. No problem.

(I could keep going…)

 

 

Consciousness and Survival

The origination of consciousness was possibly a huge survival advantage. The advantage comes from being self-aware and aware, via an imaginative facility, of how other species may react to our selves. In this way, one can thwart attempts from hostile species to destroy us.

Consciousness led to a corollary need: the need for meaning in life. I can understand a vague connection between being aware of your self and then needing to feel that that self has meaning. The need for meaning led to religion.

Seeking meaning seems fundamental to atheists and religious people.