Sunday, May 28, 2017

"Socialists Don't Understand Economics"

What bugs me about economics (should I perhaps say "modernist," or "capitalist" economics?)... it's like a pre-cybernetic understanding of cybernetics. one takes one look at the diagram and says, "Oh, I see, that's how it works." instead of emphasizing the modularity and intrinsic flexibility of the whole economic apparatus, potential (hoped for?) stability is enshrined and the corresponding equilibria are supposed to form the "boundary conditions" for our lives, dictated rigidly from the maxim that profit-maximization is the ultimate rule of human organization. it's self-unsconscious schizo-technics which purportedly describes "natural law" but in fact provides an optional schema for collective asocial action. It's as if someone says to you: My way of life is the only way of life: in fact, it is already yours too, you just don't know it yet, here, I'll help you to understand the errors of your ways...

The trick seems to be this: rather than understanding scale as an emergent property of nature's "laws" (possibilities), one reifies small scale objects at the cost of becoming skeptical of the larger. "Group reasoning" starts to seem a dubious concept, and such things are banished to the realm of fiction and fantasy. one assumes the large scale theory to be perfectly locked into place by the small scale theory: rather than communicating as parallel, concurrent, interlocking processes, theories dictate one another hierarchically, the lower always already pushing the higher's buttons and levers and substituting values in for variables, so to speak. Thus the dynamics of an economy work exactly like in Hamiltonian mechanics. After all, what is a firm but a collection of molecules, and what is an economy but a collection of firms? And determinism is therefore locked into not only the descriptive theory but the prescriptive one: what is correct/right/just is to follow the rules. If someone tries to inhibit firms in their inherent function, they should be suppressed with all the force appropriate for self-defense. Of course the Keynesites and Viennites disagree on exactly how this self defense of principle should be carried out. "Freedom" means, in any case, the freedom to follow one's already determined nature. Of course you're a dog; we all are.

when someone says left-bottom types "don't understand economics," I wonder at them for a moment. Do they think that hearing the good news of capitalism one more time will really pound it into my head? how many times is it supposed to take? it all reminds me a bit too much of the Franciscan horror story that unfolded here in Christ's name, right up on that hill there (you see the cross?). The truth yet haunts those who don't honor the displaced dead. As soon as the native problem had been dealt with, the pale folk began to pat themselves on the back and revise the story: it had been a loving mission full of calm light and holiness! The Truth had been brought to this place, it had been cleansed. And they built that pointed Gothic arch (yes the one that still stands) to celebrate it, or maybe as a grim warning to all others who dare stand in the way of progress.

The big bland bourgeois termination of history - world tour. As if we were the only ones going around blowing down houses. Only we're not and the world said "no," and seems to scream it louder and louder as the years pass. At this point, self-immolation and even "autistic screeching" is a more compelling argument than whatever this battered ideological pulp can be stirred into by lazy pseudo-intellectuals. And the workers are getting rowdy again. They're starting to see through the bullshit and the guys upstairs are starting to whisper again: How do we shut them up and keep them from talking?

It's written all over the walls of Facebook; Marx's face jeers out in meme after meme. His specter casts shadows in the immaculate white spaces between posts, a grim omen for those who don't keep their eye on the clock.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I just had a dream of a place... all I want to do is go back.

This is what happened, as literally as I can say it.
Insides were contsantly becoming outsides, the borders of all things changed whether you looked at them or not. I was at work on a pizza.
Then she scooped me off with a seductive proposition, grinning at each other, "That's not a no," Yer damn right it isn't. So long as I was cool to menage. Couldn't forget about my munchies tho. We tried phones but the digits wouldn't sit still. She told me just find them in the hotel towering up, right there.
Never did find my way back to that 'zza, even re-past the bistro right back down to my kitchen outside the conference center and parking garage. That infinitely descending promenade was damn slippery. I fell too high, waaay too high, only settling by force of will into softness of autumn trees. The promenade was all different now, snaking or slithering here, arching sublimely there, everywhere following hidden geodesics, with boxes of matching ferns and flowers popping up everywhere. Constructed out of perfectly solid granite cubes with no desire to remain so. I had no choice but to try to find my way in Hotel Hedon.
The elevator up is a jumble, people here are serious in suits flocking like geese on cue here and there. I find the boyfriend, with another girl naturally, but he hasn't seen here since I have. I go trying doors and that's when it gets weird. On the upper floors, things grow twisted dark and confused. I'm in too deep and masturbatory monsters lounge with their slave-fantasms, spiked organs on tentacles with eyes watching me as all colored juice blows up in their faces, I've eaten way past my fill, dark room cornered, comic book frames with red ragged words spelling out my misery...
Nothing but vile toxic darkness... gradually gradually subsiding into
And scchooop back in front of the knoll, just past the bistro where we discovered numbers don't work. Something isn't right... some sort of simulation? I started wandering down again, it was day, time to go to work? Excuse me i just... I have nooo idea what's happening right now or to me. What is this? An old soul half materialized... face untwisting and zoop and "how do you do, youngling? Oh ho ho, you're in for it." This is only my second day here!
He calmly strolled off into oblivion, with some purpose I could tell. But what was mine, pick up these, fruits scattered about? They just change shape the moment you touch them. I wonder what happens if you hurt-move an animal-form, they can't be real animals? Which is it, a dog fox aardvark raccoon? Won't sit still but.. my it certainly acts real. hesitant but trusting, I pet it's chin, and suddenly I stop wondering, I will leave them be...
So many souls. So maany. Noise from down there but no fury. What are we doing, who are you? She doesn't know she's here yet - thinks she's still wheelchaired back in her own life. She's hanging on a ledge and I'm just above her now, she just stares without motion. Get up, get up! Youre big and bold and beautiful, look at your legs! And I drag her up and she comes to and the crowd cheers, and now I'm in the flow, up a fractal staircase to a concrete clearing. "My mood wheel needs a spin, help me, young man."
Together we heave the red-orange iron trefoil, It won't go any further, it's getting lodged in the floor. "That's just enough, just enough so she's in the circle now, you see? And you're a crow, right on the edge here." Aaahh yes I do see, the women here have been together a long time, whatever that means here and now it's blue-green out of the rock again, it could go anywhere, be any thing... I'm off, on the promenade again...
I begin my descent and awaken.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

On Organismic Computation

On Organismic Computation

This is introductory, so I skip over a lot of very interesting questions, which I have every intention of covering in detail later.
        Here I wish to introduce a new theory of computation, which relies heavily on biological and cybernetic intuitions. It in no way erases Turing theory (theory of Turing machines), but offers another branch from the same tree. Right now, its connection with Turing theory is not completely clear. It is not a priori contradictory to suppose that some living organism may have computational power equivalent to a Turing machine. It may be that a framework will be useful which distinguishes biological information from classical information. In that case, one could just as well have classical Turing machines as quantum and biological Turing machines. This piece already hints at how such a concept might be used.
        However, it should seem obvious that in most cases, living things are nothing like the mathematical objects laid out by Turing. First, they cannot expand themselves arbitrarily in the aid of a single computation; they are subject to economy. Also, as one observes animals continously navigating the Earth through time, discrete "input" and "output" phenomena are not present except perhaps in social animals. Indeed, to the animal itself, the only thing distinguishing "input" from "output" appears to be intentionality. The traditional account is that one passively recieves input, while one actively and rationally achieves output.
        Allowing that some actions and behaviors are not entirely intended or "enacted", the picture becomes muddier. Also, any tangible output is also part of the input; feeling muscles exert is a result of exerting them. Hence it is only by an animal's own distinction between "inside" and "out" that it seems coherent to think of oneself as a computational device at all, if one's intuition of "computation" is guided by Turing theory. (Don't take me to mean that only animals "compute" - they are only the most viscerally obvious example).
        Presumably, this border between organism and environment is only explicitly given to the organism itself, i.e., it perceives the border more clearly than any other. If "input" and "output" depend on the situation of this border, it seems to me then that no theory which gives only a first-person (phenomenological) account of "input" and "output" can distinguish individual organisms' computations from cooperative computations undertaken by multiple individuals. That is, to each organism, it would symmetrically seem that the other is just a part of the environment feeding it input. The communicating parts should be in some sense "aware" of one another if they are to truly cooperate.
        So if we're gonna make this work, we need to expand the framework.
        The first step I'd like to take is following David Deutsch in conceiving of computations as consisting of arbitrary physical processes/motions. The paradigm is this: One prepares the computational apparatus, a physical system, in a state (along with input), and allows it to come to "rest," i.e. achieve some stationarity. If one can establish a correspondence between the set of input states with the domain of some function F, and if the "final state" resulting from each input corresponds to F(input), the apparatus can be said to compute F.
        Quick remark. The Church-Turing thesis in this setting becomes "Every physical process can be simulated by some other physical process," which is quite a thought provoking idea, but a bit to the side of my goal here.
        Physical automatons can be defined on this basis. At the very least, if a physical "theory of everything" is mathematically possible, we suspect their "transition functions" could be given by the theory. Theories we have now illuminate this. If one had system that could be relied upon to behave classically, its evolution would be given by the equations of motion. A "pure" quantum system would evolve according to its "rules," whether given by Schrodinger time evolution or something else [e.g. in theories of quantum thermodynamics in which entropy increase is the "rule"]
Here metaphysics enters the picture a little too strongly to ignore entirely. Idealists may find the rest contentious, but materialists won't find cause to object. I treat the mind as if it consisted solely of physical processes/motions. An idealist theory is probably possible, and would interest me greatly. Perhaps a dualist theory would have elements of each.
        Leaving philosophy behind, a physical Turing machine is achieved by simply expanding the above automaton to include expandable storage. Lord knows how you'd build one. But it's easy to define and imagine. In fact, the chief engineering difficulty would be getting to run itself; if it has human help, almost any place in the universe can be turned into a Turing machine: just write on it! However, my claim is not that any organism is a physical Turing machine, i.e. that it's life constitutes one, but I do take certain similarities as my starting point for a theory of organismic computation.
        A finite automaton's evolution, or the output of a Turing machine, can be computed by anyone provided a complete set of transition functions, which determine the "motion" of the machine. It doesn't matter if the word "motion" is metaphysically precise, only that the system presents itself as having changed. Quantum theory doesn't allow us to ascribe to arbitrarily precise "states" to a system in terms of observables quantities, i.e. points in a Euclidean phase space, but such descriptions often suffice for very large systems. Taking that into account, I prefer to use "motion" in a way that remains vague, to describe qualities of observed systems rather denoting the use of any particular mechanical theory.
        Now we're ready. The basic idea is that any repeatable motion can be, in principle, used to help decide something. Motions need not be reversible - they must be reproducible in the same sense as a scientific experiment or DNA sequence. Given a decent knowledge of possible motions, all that's needed to compute is some way of acting on whatever it is that's moving, in order to "start" it from a desired position.
        Our seed will be intuition about "performing actions." Expanding my own intuition, I find a few key characteristics. Of course, this is a potential branching point from which alternate theories might grow.
0) Actions are possible motions of a whole. This to say they are physical processes thought of as being "contained" in a name-able place; spatially bounded. Call this t
1) Actions can be referred to by names, whether or not they can be related in detail through writing or not. On this basis we can have say we have at our command a structured collection of actions. (Which can be studied mathematically, presumably). If one were navigating a written flow chart while making a decision, certain actions are obviously possible: Go back; Go back and change answer; Reset. We can imagine it working the same if the person had only a mental image of the diagram, rather than a written copy.
2) Actions modify the present in its entirety. Specifically, they may even change knowledge of themselves. One can forget what one just did to get here, even departing from the original idea altogether. This has the consequence that actions need not be functionally reversible even if one has complete control of the system, regardless of thermodynamic considerations. The obvious example is erasing a white board that contained necessary information that no one present remembers.
3) Actions work analogously to mathematical functions. They transform what is present, and would allow for a reproduced state to transform the same way any number of times. I'll speak on this below.
A word is necessary on the characteristics of biological "states." I'd argue that organisms are necessarily uncertain of the configuration/motion of the material which constitutes them. It's conceivable that some microscopic part could be re-arranged independent of all sensory apparatus as well as of all mental computations. Either "bodily state" could correspond to the same quality of existence. This recalls an idea from classical thermodynamics, a principle that many microstates may correspond to the same macrostates.
        It'd seem that tiny bits nevertheless add up to something. Just by experiencing the moment and performing measurements on the organism, it is impossible to detail its constitution in terms of imperceptible parts. (I could conjecture an information theoretic theorem applicable to arbitrary systems which can be considered "aware," or even "organized," but I'll leave that for another time.)
This uncertainty has the consequence that we're never sure exactly what we're acting on, so that even though we suppose actions work essentially by transitioning where we're at into where we're going, that principle isn't enough to control yourself with arbitrary accuracy, since you can't know your departure or destination precisely. I've made no mention of quantum uncertainty.
        Even though actions can in theory be symbolized, I'm assuming they are known qualitatively. So applying the last paragraph, of course we're never sure exactly "which" action we're performing; microscopic prescription eludes us as well as description. So we never where we are or what we should be doing, but if the phenomena of my "actions" are in any way tied to mechanics (and I think they must be), we can assume (hope?) that some mechanical theory could give a more precise account of a particular "action" (whether or not know that theory now!).
        So I think it's safe to assume that actions "do something," whether or not we know exactly what it is. That something may not be deterministic in the sense that an action produces the same outcome from a given "input" every time, but we can be sure to find a pattern in the outcomes. (Even if the pattern appears "random" and unordered, its disorder can be described.)
        Recalling that mathematical functions serve to abstractly link between two structures (domain and range), it seems that actions, at least at a theoretical level, play the same role as a function on the "state space" of the oragnism's computational workspace.
        The epistemology of actions and their "mathematicity" should definitely be explored. But not now. Onward...!
        Now you can see that actions can be allowed to play the role of acceptable input symbols to an automaton or Turing machine. A family of transition functions d(s,A) could equivalently describe all possible motions. The alphabet of actions represents abilities and limitations for computation.
Note that "what is acted on" also influences what can be computed. Suppose you have a large supply of pencils and paper. Now suppose instead you have only a beach of sand to write on with a stick, which can be counted on being erased by the waves "forever." Whatever could be computed by someone (e.g. solving a mathematical problem according to a precise theory) with the aid of these slates, the consistent loss of information on the beach would surely have some effect. On the other hand, if the paper or pencils run out, and one has no means to acquire more, there is an upper bound on how much info can be processed with it (assuming a minimum readable symbol size). It is not clear whether either has "greater" power a priori (remember, there is no general hierarchy of computational devices in terms of power). Locally, a computer sees no difference between the slates (factoring out bodily mechanics!); writing out a few lines of an equation for instance, before any waves come or supplies run out.
        I'd rather express the above axioms more clearly, specifically in reference to the body of an organism. Its living state is referred to as well.
1) Actions operate on what is present, to produce patterns of behavior.  Actions on a bodily state are repeatable if the bodily state can be reproduced.
2) If the body were to return to a previous state and perform a known action repeatedly, a pattern would emerge in the resulting processions of states. I'm using the word "pattern" in a broad enough way that even "no pattern" or utter randomness counts. If it can be perceived, if it can be known, it can be studied and described, at the very least in one's own internal language. [Actions are "mathematic" in a broad sense]
3) This pattern is the basis for symbolizing an action by some letter, e.g. "A," or by words deemed appropriate (such as the Hamiltonian operator in quantum mechanics). Likewise, the ability to recognize states of self justifies symbolizing them. We can thus make formal statements like A(s = pattern. Here "A" acts on (s, an organismic state.
        Formalism can at times be useful, and I propose it only as a potential tool. We can consider the algebraic properties as well as spelling and grammar of various alphabets.
A(B(s). This is an action applied to a pattern. We should interpret it as a pattern of patterns: The action A applied to any state which follows the pattern B(s). Concatenating actions with complex behavior seems to exponentially increase the trajectories one must consider. Seems like fertile ground for mathematics. Beautiful harmonies may lie within even simple alphabets of actions.
        For instance, any cycle would surely be of great interest, if its factors varied widely and unpredictably in their behavior: A(B(C(D(E(F(s = F(s. We can imagine information being created and destroyed arbitrarily, yet in some sense still being "preserved" by virtue of the structure of the systems behaviors. Is that crazy? Of course, this apparent preservation could be considered a coincidence. However, it does suggest a scheme in which actions for keeping a specific piece of information can be encoded concisely, if indeed such cycles happen at all.
The "=" identifies results, not processes, so that the above equation cannot be interpreted to mean that doing F feels the same as doing F, then E then D and so on, just that doing those would result in the same long term pattern.
        Another interesting possibility is that the action one performs changes imperceptibly. After a long enough time the result may be perceptible (like a big swimming pool with a slow leak.) Letting A^n = B, supposing the drift to be uniform, we can go back and differentiate the results of the various A^k's (provided we made some decent record of the throughput during the drift).
        The formalism allows a distinction to be drawn between actions which historically led to a similar outcome, and compositions of historical parts into historical wholes and decompositions of wholes into parts:
        A(s = B(s for any particular s is distinguished from A(x = B(x for every possible input x. As you can see, this expresses neatly something that is awkward with ordinary English, so at the very least the formalism is efficient. In particular, a decomposition such as A(x = C(B(x that holds for every x in some "problem space" denotes knowledge of how to stop and resume A. It would suffice to record B(x, then to reproduce this state later and enact C.
        This gives us a nice way to think of actions as being wholes consituted of parts. It's hard to say how fine we could in principle refine the resolution of a sequence... it seems this would serve as a measure of how "automatic" the action feels. If an action can't be decomposed, its inner workings must remain entirely mysterious. One simply does it. For me, adding 1 to a number is a bit like this. That automatic-ness can be taken as an axiom, as in Peano arithmetic.
        Compared to machine-like computations, the most glaring characteristic of living computations is that they don't start and stop discretely. Life consists of unifed, continuous operation. The closest analog to "halting" is an apparent lack of motion (as well as some idea that the system won't spontaneously leap into motion). One must decide what to make of the throughput as one goes.
Organismic computation may depend on a living, thinking, feeling subject to "run," so long as its aware of itself. This means that we can "call" functions involving intuition, preference, quality. Any intuition an animal has can in principle be relied on to influence a decision, whether or not it can be codified as a written rule or simulated on a deterministic machine. This should be developed much more.
        "Programs" on such devices therefore can be written entirely in "pseudo-code," translated according to the organism's ability. Any confusion about how a program should run is somewhat analogous to an error in compiling.
        The success of spoken language for teaching manufacturing and engineering processes to one another is an example of this. Theories of arts and music are also an example. "Play a low G," (in the context of some understood instrument) serves as a pseudo-code whose actual "instructions" would be ultimately carried out physiologically. You don't need to go over and physically move a person's body into position to conduct an orchestra!
        I want to emphasize again that I'm not claiming anything about the totality of an organism's processes. It is possible to think many phenomena of the mind this way, and it seems to me powerful but in no way "ultimate."
        Thus far, the narrative of a living computation is this:
Symbols or simulated objects are prepared in a mental context or actual or simulated environment. One need only some momentary evolution rule to "let the system fall" (flow) where it may. If one is trying to make an important decision, likely one has some idea of what acceptable or non-acceptable results look like. Settling into one of these categories would have a clear implication for the decision.
The evolution may dictate that there is no "halting," i.e., no decision is reached. Or the device may halt, but it's answer may be indistinct or ambiguous. A key feature of living computation is that an organism decides when to cease a computation.
        Whatever the result, it is witnessed as living information. The quality of this info can be interpreted however is useful. For example, to work with a classical Turing machine, one would naturally translate the qualities and symbols apparent in the mind into bodily actions to influence the machine, and likewise the machine's behavior to influence further mental computations.

Thinking of an organism as a computational device ---

        In the literature of physics, devices appear as abstract objects which "do things" at a theoretical level. One need not specify how to instantiate them in order to employ them in diagrams which indicate function. The theory of electronic circuits is a great example of this. It is also used in daily life. For writers, a pen is something that lays ink on a surface. Beyond that, the specifics of its operation need not concern you (unless you want to repair it or build a new one!)
        Let's just say a computational device is any physical system that performs computations. Then if an organism can set up by itself, any automaton, the organism may operate on it by a set of rules to perform computations, and is naturally a computational device.
        You and I have many routines that we use to help make decisions involving various "inputs." Is the way blocked? But it's not clear if these are mathematical functions like those computable by Turing machines. We call a machine a "computer" because we suppose it correctly computes known values. But usually we're trying to find out something we don't know.
        Just saying this, I've left it as a matter of conjecture whether an organism's mind can be described solely in terms of computations (defined as they are here). Whether or not that's true, thinking organisms can employ computations in their lives, which is obviously the case for humans.
This is why I'm not sure it's appropriate to call an organism a "computer" or "machine" of any sort. It can compute functions, but it's not obvious whether everything it does can be considered a computation. If a computation "happens", but it didn't involve anyone "reading" or "writing," is anything performing a computation? I think it's a bit like asking about falling trees in deserted forests.         It'd seem awareness makes some difference; natural processes become signs in the light of consciousness, and only in this light.
        However, just about any well understood biomechanical aspect of an organism could in principle be used to encode, communicate, or compute something. I refer you to the literature on DNA computing. So it's also not insane to think perhaps organisms can be considered holistically as computers. If that's so, what is it that they compute?
        Biological "state" and information must be explored in far greater detail. If we can consider a topology on all possible (and known/remembered) states, then organismic computations are almost like topological automata. Maybe this suggests a useful framework. It allows us to talk about how actions interact with the intrinsic structure of the "state space." My first idea for a topology is to define a closed set surrounding some (s as the of the region of states which are accessible from (s given some resource limitation. Considering all possible self-imposed resource limitations up until the limit of the actual pool, we generate the topology of states. If we allow time to be a resource as in traditional computer science, we get a time topology. Time is a bit odd, though. As in quantum mechanics, we shouldn't expect it to behave exactly like energy. Much more later.
        It is fascinating to note that we can count using physical representers (such as stones), or entirely within the mind using symbolic means, or indeed with electronic systems like the one you have before you. Thus many computations seem to (spatially) exceed the organisms that use them.                 Cybernetic aspects of computation, as well as fundamental aspects of cooperative computation will be explored in my next essay.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Call to self-empowerment and self-policing [pamphlet]

The police's presence/organization is so often justified to me by a cinematic, white picket horror fantasy of a band of dangerous men coming into your comfy house at night and having their way with your curvy, dolled wife (bird-of-paradise). It takes a certain kind of learned stupidity to think locking yourself in a box is going to keep you safe.
Why is it "just obvious" that we need to divide labor like we have? Into cops and robbers? It seems "obvious" to me that it's terrible and needs serious revision. Creating a difference in powers has led to system-wide abuses, and reinforces the systematization of those abuses at every political level. The institution won't spontaneously heal itself, because it is engaged in an unjust war with its own constituents. Individual officers with desire for reform balk at the enormity of the task and the enmity of the institution to any type of change. They've got to organize.
Meanwhile, I feel constantly forced into bizarre political contortions just because of a dude with a gun standing behind a long chain of "because I said so"s aka financial contracts. Ask him why he's doing what he's doing, and he'll give the same answer. There's no sense to it, just the raw differential. All because we have willfully disempowered ourselves for the sake of the drama of a campfire tale. ("And then, right as the bad men we're about to do a bad thing,.......... wait for it........ the heroes BURST IN, and said, 'I AM THE LAW.'")
But this cute little fable (the good order defeating bad chaos) has no fuel in daylight. Look around you, size up the dudes you see. There are not that many dudes much stronger than me. Yes, I'm large, but it only took about 5 years to develop the strength I use daily, and not more theory and pracitcal guidance than is available all over the internet (google "body building"). Start now. 2 smaller men whotrained that hard could take me, in a contest of muscle strength alone.
And that's the hinge of this whole thing - teamwork, or it's lack - you feel you're alone in the world of men and have no one to count on than the king's men. Perhaps it's your heroic/erotic idealizations that have contorted you thus, and offer you now some lure or sweet treat. Couldn't be further from the truth, tho!
There are enough good, average men, to take on the oversized bullies that arise.
All we have to do is stay alert and police OUR OWN COMMUNITIES.
Why is that so hard? Is it because we don't trust each other? Then LET'S LEARN TO TRUST ONE ANOTHER!
It's not that hard!
Is it the guilt of force...? If you're prepared to call the police on someone, you're already emotionally prepared to use force on them, unless you hide your mind from the true nature of police power. Denial is weak - we want you to be STRONG. Yes, me, and all on the side of world peace. It's better for us if you're strong.
Is it because it's a tough job and you don't wanna do it? Because all of a sudden it's your ass on the line - and not someone else's, FOR yours?
This is what I mean by "you're disempowered." When you are a coward, and everything about your society tells you that's right.
Well here I am. It takes no magic talent to understand yourself as a potent thing. All it takes is the will to looking deep within yourself - this will to depth and understanding IS real power, and that is where you can start to empower yourself.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Plastic Addiction is a Tendency to Reduce Earth's Health

Occassionally my distaste for plastic is met with some type of scorn and confusion by capitalists who style themselves as rugged and pragmatic. "It's cost effective in the short term, what could be wrong?" They haven't hit rock bottom yet.
The problem with this statement is a narrow view of "cost." Insisting that individual human costs are the only ones relevant, we cut ourselves off from the wider truth - we're hurting the community.
Their apparent confusion is confusing to me, because the stuff is obviously appalling to any ecotherapist. Most plastics are clearly designed against all life - that's precisely what makes it so effective as packaging. Of course, these days, there is enthusiasm for biodegradable plastic - but it does not suffice to say "abracadabra." The problem is that to effectively store perishable items, one wishes to protect them from hungry, persistent, self-producing life - to form a barrier whose strength against invasion and corruption should increase with the desired time of storage. The problem is not that we simply haven't yet invented good enough technology - it is that mathematics leads us to suppose there is an inherent "competetion" between our ability to stabilize perishables, and the health of the planet.
Perhaps the simplest "first" guess to describe such a relation would derive from the notion of a conservation "law:" first we divide the living world into "human-stored" or "rigid" parts and "non-owned" or "fluid" parts. Then, supposing a given quantity which describes the health of the system, its "total accessible parts" or "workspace," we have
rigid + fluid = total.
However, it's not quite this simple, since there are some rigid parts which are not actually human owned - things like rocks. Perhaps, an optimist could assume that for every human permutation which hardens living "fluid," wild life softens some non-human "solid." Carried on long enough, this logic would convert the whole vivable planet into self-unconsuming void, so this isn't very optimistic afterall. That is, given finite raw material, a process which consumes it must halt in finite time.
It is indeed the case that ("well-tuned") life tends to soften up hard, dead rock and gradually organize it into a healthy living system. However, it seems that humans have an easier time figuring out how to sabotage life than life does mutating ways to deal with that sabotage. Plastic is the prime example of this. We know some existing life eats plastic - but clearly, it is not evolving this ability (and using it) as quickly as we are turning food-for-many into food-for-almost-nothing. Look to the gyres for clear evidence.
This means that all you have to do to clog up and eventually kill any living system is to introduce a high enough mass of plastic into it. This is what we're doing to our planet right now - to the biosphere, life itself - using fossil fuels which cost millions of years of planetary processes to quickly convert organic material into plastic, that is, healthy matter into less healthy matter. Every piece of plastic you consume makes you complicit in this derailment.
 Ordering another to produce it for you doesn't absolve you.
What are you gonna do, look away? You can bury your head in the sand as long as you want, but the longer, the worse it gets. Eventually, the beach is gonna fill up with plastic and you won't be able to dig in the sand any longer without cutting through it.
Or perhaps, "someone else" will deal with your problems for you? Some for-profit scientist, some beneficient capitalist will again rescue us from our own thoughtlessness? Perhaps they will appear with a swell of symphony music from the loudspeakers, and we will hail them as our rightful Ford and savior.
So what then, you just have to pay for your credential to work in the plastic-eating industry? You're still just a peon who can never reach the top - still a contempted, pathetic thing that no one reallywants except insofar as you are profitable to them. You're just there to run the machines someone else made and ordered you to run - still a slave to another's intellect. An epsilon.
As optimism fades into the realization that inventing lifeforms is actually much harder and costlier than destroying them, we have to consider the long term: If we hope to solve the problem of plastic with a plastic-based lifestyle, how long can we continue trying various avenues of research before the search for a solution actually becomes futile - until the health of human-colonized systems diminishes so greatly that we can no longer keep up the research? Until mere survival becomes our overwhelming concern, and our plastic-filled world becomes a fixed assumption?
What happens when we can no longer negotiate our heads through the sand?
I don't know, but it doesn't sound fun.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On Health

Health is important, but hard to define. Some people go by their idea of normal function or appearance; in any case, the idea seems to be that health is required to satisfy one's desires, whatever form they may take (functions, motions, emotions, experiences, etc.). Since some desires are considered by societies to be taboo, the situation is a bit more complicated.
    My people, Americans, of course, speak mostly of individual health. I hear from all corners of America that society is sick, but there's clearly no consensus on what this sickness is; often side A thinks the fault is side B and vice verse.
    My proposal is that health be defined for anything that can be understood as alive (even if only partially). Any self-proclaimed environmentalist should agree that our planet seems sick; it's reasonable that we have an idea of planetary health. The story we have is that a few thousand years ago, it was only humans (in some places) that were sick. Most of everything else still ran well, comparitively.
    Throughout the Earth's history, we believe the planet assumed many climates and ecological forms. Finding remants of old organisms still fascinates us and excites the imagination. Since the system and its history are so much larger than individual humans can cope with, it is far more difficult to define "absolute health" than "relative health." So for now, considering only relativity, we need only concern ourselves with what changes health.
    Any attempt to improve the health of an animal, plant, society, or planet obviously must seek some goals. In this spirit, I propose a more or less mathematical definition.
    We must understand ourselves as partaking in the vastly complex process which is the living film surrounding the rocky earth. The atmosphere often serves to bind the biosphere together; without a nice big cushion of air, plants and animals couldn't cycle air.
    I call a being in such a situation a tangle, since it realizes itself and its actions as tangled up in as many planetary cycles as it has active consituents (air, water, carbon, energy in photons/electrons, etc.). Here I refer to a chemical understanding of the body, but I believe any unit of any 'scale' could be used.
    Insofar as a tangle can content (stabilize? fulfill? re-secure?) itself in the environment with which it is tangled, it can think of itself as healthy. I just leave it up to any tangle reading this to define its own contentment. Some distinct alterations in lifestyle may be adapted to adequately that no distinct difference in health can be noticed. In fact, there may be apparent many such configurations accessible from any given configuration.
    It's reasonable to assume that any healthy configuration becomes understood as a norm after some time, such that with increasing normalness, more subtle variations from the norm can be deteced. So deviation from a given norm doesn't necessarily indicate movement towards ill health.
    As one more fully understands the extent to which one is tangled with other accessible systems, one may see one's individual health as related to wider communities' healths. The connection is most clear when an other community member's processes are understood as being in series with one's own organismic processes. In such cooperative circumstances, slowing down the other's processing potentially limits one's own health.
    One way to decrease health, then, is to disrupt a cycle by processing its elements in a way that limit other life's access to them. Discarded plastics are a good example of this.
    If one understands a border between two systems in series, one can affect health by changing the physiology of the border. Clogging vital tubes is an easy example of this. If you were to block the pipes of a house or the arteries of an animal, you'd soon notices drastic changes.
    Weakening or destroying systems you cooperate with is by definition unhealthy.
    In human societies, killing friends might be a way of reducing one's own health, if those friends helped in some vital process (not to mention any guilt and community responses). Even if one learns to fill their old roles, it will take more time for one to do the tasks of many. Should other vital tasks pop up, the increased time requirement may leave one stretched to thin, relying to much on wearing pharmacodynamics or other tension, possibly reducing health. Is there some equilibrium point, given a situation? I don't know - but don't work too hard on the problem.
    Hurting people to the extent that they refuse to cooperate with you is often unhealthy. If the situation goes without remedy, such wounds may fester and reduce future health.
    Though complete control of the biosphere necessarily eludes humans (being as we are only a small portion of the total process), we can imagine as an ideal a complete understanding of every cycle you and I take part in. Remember that some cycles might be expected to take many millions of years longer than humans will survive. In actuality, some of them perhaps aren't exactly cycles given a time frame of even billions of years; perhaps some atoms belonging to you will end up in outer space or deep within the planet, only to emerge long after life has extinguished. It's impossible to say. However, we can expect that a substantial portion of the atoms that constitute Terran life would look cyclic if you could only get enough info. Another option to think about "non-cycles" is to just "black out" the non-living parts of the world, leaving it unspoken of, so that such material "disappears." This is actually a more accurate picture of a "cycle" (as I'm using the word) than a perfect circle - there should be some fuzzy dark part to denote our uncertainty of the total cosmos - indeed of any process we take part in.
    The total amount of you or me expected to be in cycles vs. non-cycles, then, is either a matter of quantitative analysis/estimate, or somewhat irrelevant, depending on your goals. (I'd be very interested to hear any number you might come up with - this may begin to give us an idea of what "absolute health" could mean.)
    Consider the food you eat, and any other materials required to sequester its nutrients and energy. Where will your waste go? Will it be mixed with the ocean and atmosphere? Even if a certain constituent couldn't be observed to cycle in any lifetime, it at least came from somewhere in the non-living cosmos and went back, perhaps to return some day. The faster a body like yours is able to access its re-processed waste, the more bodies like yours can live healthily at once; the more fuel flowing, the hotter the fire.
    Perhaps an eco-utopian gola, then, would be to configure our current species to cooperate as smoothly as possible. This "optimal health" would be a bit like a Nash equilibrium: no change in lifestyle could lead to greater health for everyone. What if there is a whole spectrum of such configurations? It would come down to preference.
    If you live on an organic farm (depending on type/schema), you may have a very good idea of where most of your waste will end up: cycling back into yourself and allied humans. Humans can be fickle, of course.
    Mine is a non-deterministic understanding of life, which has yielded a non-deterministic understanding of health. Being more an aspect of a continuing lifestyle than any one moment of that life, understanding our own health guides us, but this understanding being non-determining, it does not rule us. The rate of addiction in America proves it; we get into unhealthy situations more or less willingly (though not necessarily knowingly). Note that this can be understood from many addicts' own viewpoints: admitting you have a problem is a first step to recovery. Something about the lifestyle they've gotten into isn't working for them any more. This is an illustration of how "health" need not refer to any norm - rather only a relative judgment of how desirable a situation is.
    It seems that health is necessarily sustainable, but not identical with stability or predictability.
These ideas are still somewhat in experimental stages. I am interested to hear questions or critiques.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Thoughts on Mindfulness

It's been very interesting to watch the subtle changes in the decor at the local 24-hour Fitness, and in the fitness industry in general in the past few years. Modern "mindfulness" is definitely creeping in to every corner of commercial scene, complete with the well-composed, aesthetically satisfying yoga photos and cute tips like "stress is bad for stressed out bodies! don't stress!" Certainly, I welcome any increased awareness of holistic health in a society that has for far too long been obsessively reductionist.
What I've found bizarre, in a hard-to-put-a-finger-on sorta way, since I first became aware, some years ago, of the mindfulness movement [or is it just an industry?] is that it is in every way incongruous with the big picture of industrial life. Slowing down and smelling the roses is completely antithetical to what our controllers/managers/rulers would have us do in their ideal universe. Mindfulness, pursued authentically, would be extremely dangerous to the current socio-politico-economic order. When you start to reflect deeply enough to realize that huge amounts of collective stress and anxiety drive not only every-day production and markets, but culture, you're gonna have a tendency to take a step back and go, "wait, what the fuck are we doing here? does it really have to be so unpleasant?"
If the answer you find is "yes," then the goal of mindfulness will always be a farce, just a pose struck for the camera to fit in with a crowd or to sell another magazine: "10 great new de-stressing techniques! Learn them all and be your own master! Take control of your life! [Only $9.99! I'll take one]"
If your heart sings "NO!", you will tend to become interested in political economy in a way that puts you at the forefront of societal innovation; dangerous shit for those in power. They have an interest in stifling the true spirit of mindfulness while using it as just another management technique to maximize the efficiency of their labor force.
We can also interpret mindfulness not exactly at its word, but as just another trend in consumer entertainment, and we can see the figures in the photos as iconizations of ourselves, motivating us with their big, hyperreal, bolder-than-bold relatability. The big powerful slogans, the fit people looking all serious in their cute little outfits. It coheres into an impression of being part of a big important collective project. I also get the feeling like a Big Sibling is watching me from those posters. [And it's barking - "get to work! get fit! let's go! move it!"]
What are your thoughts on the modern mainstream mindfulness movement? I'd love to hear your comments below!