Archives for category: fail better

Well… Money doesn’t get spoiled as easily as bananas do…

On further consideration, money can be understood as a tool with many uses.
Hoarding, for instance. Bananas, among other things …

And, as with all other tools, the responsibility for its use falls squarely on the user, not on on the tool itself.
Tinkering with the tool won’t change that, ever.

My point being that monkeys would also hoard bananas if bananas were hoard-able.
There’s nothing wrong with that. For as long as the hoard is meant to feed the hoarder till the next crop, of course.

Hoarding is bad only when done for its own sake.

And this is something for philosophers to study, not for scientists.
The teachings of the Chicago School of Economics had been very scientific yet following them was what brought us where we are now. Into a very uncomfortable cul-de-sac…

Blindly following them… mislead precisely because of their scientific nature!

‘From virus? What?!? And from which one?’

From none in particular.
From all of them, since all viruses are nothing but information!


Most biologists consider viruses to be something ‘in between’. Not exactly ‘life’, since they cannot replicate themselves, but something more than mere matter.

Only this approach sets very straight limits to how we understand life itself.
Or should I rather use ‘narrow’ instead of ‘straight’?
‘Narrow’ as in ‘not wide enough’ minded?

“Information which perpetuates itself”.

Does this sound right for you?

We. humans, are individual human beings. ‘Social’, indeed, but, nevertheless, individual. It’s our individual-ness which sets us apart from our nearest cousins. Chimps and bonobos.
It’s our individual-ness which sets the parameters of our world-view. That being the reason for our attempt to define life as a characteristic of the individual organisms which happen to be alive.

This being the moment when I feel the urge to direct your attention upon a seminal book.

Hmmm… the Origin of Species…

If evolution is about ‘Species’, then what about life itself being more about species than about individuals?

What about life being more about the process through which information is passed along from one generation to another than about an individual organism being alive or not?

In this sense, ‘virus’ would belong to the realm of the living, right?

40 years ago, the car manual was about how to adjust the carburetor.
Nowadays it starts with a stark warning. “Don’t drink the cooling liquid!”
Then it teaches us how to use the infotainment system and how to adjust the electric seats…

In those times, most of us – regardless of what country we lived in, had nothing fancier than a washing machine. And a TV set capable of receiving no more than 12 channels. But we had a lot of time to spend with our friends and relatives.
Nowadays, our houses are choke full of appliances designed to make our lives easier… So we break our backs working to pay for this paraphernalia! And we get so tired in the process that when we finally get back home, late at night, we’re so exhausted that we cannot do anything else but watch one of the 200+ channels our cable feeds into the huge TV which dwarfs everything else in the living room.

Meaning that we wrap up most of our days watching yet another mind numbing news-bulletin… which informs us about how bad tomorrow will be… unless we follow whatever advice that channel is determined to ‘sell’ to us!

According to Alan Hayek – the guy who claims the copyright for the relevant entry into the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the wager doesn’t make any sense unless you consider that God is, however remotely, possible.

Now, that I grabbed your attention, let me point it to the subject du jour.

The face mask!

To wear or not to wear one…

Strangely enough, many of those who believe in God are adamantly refusing to wear a mask.
They don’t actually see God yet they find the world as THE argument for His existence.
And, at the same time, they refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the Covid 19 pandemic. Which had already killed, or hastened the death of, more than 1.2 million people worldwide.

OK, almost no mask – specially the ones worn by us, civilians, is 100% fool-proof.
But wearing one is far better than none at all…
OK, most of us would weather the infection with relative ease.
But some would die!
Then why spread it around?

For that, if you didn’t already know, is more than half of what the masks do!
They make it harder for those of us who already have it – but don’t know it yet, to spread it around.

Help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by protecting yourself and others. Keep in mind that you may have the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

You still consider it to be a muzzle?

Why? Only because it is mandated by the government?
And you don’t trust your own government? While living in a democratic country?

But since when do you rely on your government to tell you which is the sensible thing to do?

Being married doesn’t come with such a huge array of ‘perks’.
Specially when you know how to cook a meal. Wash your underwear. Use the vacuum cleaner. Own a dishwasher…

The main ‘attraction’, for me, being the presence of the person I married.
The daily interaction with her.
Sex included!

No, we don’t have it every day! It would be nice but we’re not sexual athletes…
Which brings me to the point I was trying to make.

We’re currently isolating because of Covid.
She had lunch with some of her coworkers, one of them had it – a-symptomatically at that moment, and now all of them are quarantined. Rather mild symptoms for all of them, a week into the whole thing.

‘Isolating’ means that we no longer share a bed. That we no longer eat together. That when we need to talk to each other we wear masks and stand as far apart as the geography of the room allows it.
And, of course, no sex!

Which, for both of us, is a real loss! Specially for me…
I’m almost 60 now. I don’t expect to remain ‘fully functional’ for very long.
Five more years? That would be some 250 weeks…
Loosing two of them for nothing isn’t my idea of a ‘fair deal’!

Hope I made you laugh. Or at least smile.
Even if this isn’t a laughing matter!

Put your mask on!

Culture is to human communities what DNA is to biological species.

It transports vital information from one generation to the other. Hence providing a venue for survival.
Furthermore, both culture and DNA can change in time. Hence providing a venue for evolution.

The difference between culture and DNA being, of course, the fact that culture is way more fluid than DNA.
DNA changes only once for each generation – what you get at birth is what you’re taking to the grave, while culture is in constant flux.
No individual organism has anything to say about their genetic information but almost every human is capable of learning almost anything.

Now for the historical part.

Stage one.

Veneration of the elders. The elders were the depositories of the common knowledge. Hence everybody took good care of the ‘data bases’.

Stage two.

Somebody learned to write.
Elders were no longer indispensable. More and more information could be ‘warehoused’ in alternative ways.
A structure was needed to manage the new ways of dealing with the vital information.

Stage three.

The state is born.
At first the structures which insured that culture was passed from one generation to another had been rather empiric: kingdoms, monasteries, etc.
Soon after the Enlightenment things had become more rational. Cultured people became nations and the academic scholars gave us the state. As the structure charged to make sure that culture and people stay together. Hence providing for the nation’s survival.

States who had been in constant contact – read rivalry, kept each-other fit. Or else.
States ‘removed’ from reality – geographically, by becoming too powerful to care or both, had experienced a natural decay. The people at the top of the food chain had forgotten about those at the bottom and those at the bottom had lost faith in their leadership.

States too weak to survive – for various reasons, have succumbed while those too powerful for their own sake have eventually imploded.

Psychology to the rescue.

Culture is more fluid than DNA for a reason.
DNA follows exclusively the laws of nature while culture is heavily influenced by us.
We, men, are the measure of all things.
All life heavily transforms the place it inhabits.
So do we, humans. Only we do it willingly. On purpose, that is.

Now, that we have amassed so much information – about life in general and about how we relate, as agents, to the entire process, we have reached a reckoning moment. What next?

Are we going to choose the path of the cuckoo or that shown to us by Hokule-a?

There is no such thing as a soul?
OK, then how do you explain what happened the last time you encountered a soul-less person?
You didn’t?
Good for you only I have my doubts.

Either a divine gift or an emanation of the human mind, soul is what separates us from the animal realm.

Or this is how we see things…

After all, we are the ones who believe it is normal for us to eat animals and who consider it a tragedy for one of us, humans, to ‘return to nature’. In any circumstances…

Anyway, things are complicated… Until recently – historically speaking, some of us were comfortable with the notion that skin colour determines the ‘quality’ of one’s soul. Caucasian plantation owners used black slaves to work their land and Arabian rulers used ‘white flesh’ to adorn their harems…

Further complications spring up when we consider the fate of the soul.
Is it going anywhere after it’s ‘host’ passes away? To some other place? Does it come back to fulfill its Karma?
Or it literally goes to meet its Maker? As in ‘for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:18)’?

And when does this soul appears in earnest?
The moment when we leave the womb? A few years later, during the process through which we become conscious human beings?
Or, as some people choose to believe, in the very moment when each of us has been conceived by their parents?

As an aside, what about those conceived in a lab? Do they have a soul?

What about sexes? Are feminine souls equivalent with the masculine ones?
What happens to a transgender soul?

Are we a natural occurrence? A product of evolution? In a constant process of ‘improvement’? Obviously imperfect but, generally speaking, striving to ‘fail better’?

Or are we an imperfect ‘artifact’?

Cause this is the only issue on which there is a consensus… Everybody is convinced we’re ‘defective’. From the staunchest believer to the most rabid atheist…

I really have to stop. And go comfort my soul with something nice.

Charles Darwin gave us “On the origin of Species”.

We’ve summed it up ‘the survival of the fittest’.
And behaved accordingly. Including some of those who should have known better. “The world of the selfish gene revolves around savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit, and yet, Dawkins argues, acts of apparent altruism do exist in nature.

I reckon all of you know – or at least have heard of, Richard Dawkins.
Compare his celebrity with the relative absence from the public scene ‘enjoyed’ by Ernst Mayr.

And what’s so special about this Mayr guy?
‘Evolution is not as much about the ‘survival of the fittest’ as it is about the ‘demise of the unfit’ ‘

Get it?
In fact, there is no such thing as ‘the fittest’ when we speak about evolution. ‘Fit’ is relative while evolution is a process. Fit is about ‘this moment and this place’ while evolution is about the ability to adapt. To change when needed.

And what has any of these to do with “exploring the consequences of our limited conscience”?

Well, it was us who had interpreted Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ as ‘the survival of the fittest’ individual. It was us who had lionized Dawkins’ ‘Selfish Gene’ and left Mayr’s ‘True’ Evolution in relative darkness…

To sum it up, it is us who are are obsessed with something we call ‘success’.

It is us who keep forgetting that the mighty dinosaurs – maybe the most ‘successful’ animals ever, had been the first to disappear when ‘shit’ had struck. And that is was a meek mammal which had inherited the Earth.

It is our success craving conscience which is highly biased. And I’m not at all sure this is a good thing. In the long run, I mean.

What if our self awareness, otherwise known as conscience, has evolved in order to understand, accept and mitigate randomness?

There’s no evolution – hence no life, without randomness.
Yet life, anyway you look at it, is about maintaining a certain degree of order.

Whenever there’s so much randomness that life can no longer adapt to it… evolution stops.
Whenever structures become so big/rigid that they find it harder and harder to evolve, they eventually succumb to an otherwise survivable amount of randomness. Dinosaurs and too big to fail corporations versus mice and flexible operators.

In a nutshell, self-awareness is about not being ‘fooled by randomness‘.

And to avoid the deepest pitfall we’ll encounter during this never ending journey – randomness will always be wider than our individual ability to encompass it, we must keep remembering that conscience is selfish. Untrained, it is more about protecting itself than about helping the entire ‘individual’ to survive.


Yes, it’s hard to believe!
But what other explanation is there for so many of us continuing to smoke after finding out, the hard way, that this habit might actually kill us?
I use this example simply because I still remember the cigarette I smoked when I last visited the grave where rests a woman I loved dearly. And who is no longer with us because of lung cancer.

Too often our conscience will prefer to rationalize away new information than accept that past choices could have been better.

I’m certain all of you are already too familiar with ‘confirmation bias‘.

In nature, most organisms feed on other organisms.
Deer eats grass, wolf eats deer. Scavengers and microbes eat poop and corpses. All together ‘eventually’ enrich the soil. Allowing for more grass to grow.

One way to look at this is to call it ‘fight for life’. ‘Survival of the fittest’.
Yet this entire ‘carnage’ has a very interesting ‘conclusion’.

A fine tuned ecosystem. Which has lasted, as a system, for a couple of billions of years. Becoming more and more elaborate in the process.
And which has survived – as a system, I repeat, momentous events.
Asteroids, geomagnetic reversals, continental drift…

The ecosystem has been so stable that it allowed one creature to evolve so much as to develop a special trait.
Which has eventually given birth to ‘reason’. To ‘rational behavior’.

Which means that while wolves eat deer to satisfy their hunger we start wars to satisfy our egos.

We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.

Carl von Clausewitz

Which wars have proven to be so destructive that we finally found a way to dissuade ourselves from starting new ones. New majors ones… until now…

And if you don’t have any clue about what I’m talking about, click on the next word.

Don’t fret. It is actually a very rational concept.
Not reasonable at all, only rational.

I was inspired to write this by David Sarac’s Twitter profile.
“Theory of evolution points to the conclusion that becoming, not being, is the essence of reality”

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