Archives for category: limited rationality

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.

‘What?!?’

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‘.

Until thirty one years ago, the Eastern half of Europe was self isolated behind the Iron Curtain. Which had suddenly disappeared in a matter of months.

Nowadays, when SARS-CoV-2 has forced each of us to shelter in place and our nations to self isolate behind the borders, we have not only the opportunity but also the obligation to re-evaluate our take on many of the things we took for granted.

The most important one being our Weltanshauung. The way we see the world.
The fact that we have convinced ourselves – simply because our lives have been good enough, that we’ve been doing things the right way.

Marx’s communists had been convinced that dialectic materialism – supposedly backed up by science and a generous political doctrine, was the way in which humankind was going to built its future.
Not the best way, the only way!
For which reason, no transgression from the official line was allowed.
Solutions were to be found only where the official doctrine mandated that answers might have existed.

Communism had fallen. Mostly from within.
Which has prompted those on the other side of the fence to consider that their vision had been better. Which was obviously true.
Slowly, people on both sides of the previous fence have started to convince themselves that their vision was the only correct one. The only alternative had proven itself to be a failure, didn’t it?
Which seems also true. I know of no better alternative. For us. I know of no alternative which would be more helpful for us. Only the fact that I’m not aware of an alternative doesn’t mean much. The alternative might as well exist. Or not….

And here’s the problem.
Marxism had failed for no other reason than those who followed it behaved as if they were convinced that Marxism was perfect. They were implementing the Marxist doctrine by the letter. Not that its spirit was any good… long discussion. My point being that arrogance was built in the Marxist spirit. Marx had actually given carte blanche to his adepts to impose communism, by force, to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, the last 30 years had convinced me that many individuals belonging to the dominant culture, to any dominant culture, have a hard time keeping their cool.
Too many of them reach the conclusion that ‘theirs’ is the best way. That all the rest are wrong.
Which conviction has a malignant consequence. It makes them deaf. They no longer consider any other option but theirs.
They no longer hear anything but their inner voice.

For all it may be worth, here’s what I learned about liberty during the last 30 years.

Liberty as breadth.
Liberty is the breadth of the opportunity field where we might search solutions for our problems. But no matter how large that breadth might become, we’re never ‘out of the woods’.
Liberty is but an opportunity, never a guarantee.
We are the ones still responsible for the solutions we pick. For the simple reason that we’re going to bear the brunt of the consequences.

It is easier to search for solutions in a freer environment. Hence better solutions might become available sooner. But it’s still our job to look for them. To experiment. To widen our scope.

Liberty as a form of social interaction.
We can relate to freedom in at least two manners.
As an individual goal – ‘I want to be free’/’I want freedom for my people’, or as a ‘manner of doing business’.
We are free, together, because we respect, and trust, each-other. We are free, together, because generations and generations of us have build a social arrangement based on mutual respect. A social arrangement which includes certain mechanisms which attempt to bring things back on track whenever disturbances appear.
Some of which mechanisms have been put into formal law, while others have remained in the ‘public domain’.

When we put these two visions together, the ‘binocular’ image starts to develop ‘depths’.

A social group may enjoy freedom – a wider opportunity field, only as long as its individual members – all of them, enjoy their individual freedoms. For only as long as all individual members are free to roam the entire opportunity field discovered/maintained by the community.
And as soon as some individual members start to corner portions of the opportunity field for themselves… the whole social mechanism will grind to a halt.

Sooner rather than later.
The more intense the desire of the individual members to increase their ‘own’ individual liberty, the narrower the aggregated opportunity field becomes.
Each of the individuals guarding their plot means each of them staring at their feet. Individuals become more interested in guarding their fences rather than in raising their eyes to the horizon.

People obsessively defending their past will never be ready for the future.
Meanwhile individuals charging ahead with no consideration for the rest of the team will soon find themselves stranded on thin ice. With no one around to help.

Messages which are knowingly incomplete, false or both at the same time.

Why?

Because they have no alternative, want to achieve something or need to survive.

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness – read consciousness, they realize that no ‘communication event’ will ever be complete. That nobody will ever be able to communicate everything they know, about the most insignificant subject, to anybody else.

Then what? Stop talking?
Or assume personal responsibility for everything that leaves your lips?

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness, they realize there’s more in life than mere survival.
As soon as their consciences bloom – in concert with the accrued influence exercised by the ‘environment’, individuals set goals for themselves. Which goals become integral part of the ‘ongoing project’. Of the self-actualizing conscience. Achieving, or failing, each of those goals leaves an indelible mark on the conscience itself. On the manner in which each individual relates to their environment.
Since achieving is far more ‘satisfying’ than failing, conscience is naturally biased towards ‘achieving’. If the ‘environment’ ‘allows’ it, the bias becomes more and more ‘slanted’.
The messages used by the individuals – by their conscience, to be more precise, will increasingly serve the purpose of achieving goals rather than the purpose of ‘honest communication’.

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness, that conscience wants to survive.
Mind you, not the person but the conscience.

‘?!?
Conscience cannot exist without the mind/body which supports it….’

OK, tell that to people who believe their souls are going places after their mortal bodies expire. Then try to demonstrate to yourself, honestly, that those people are wrong. That there’s no chance for their belief to be ‘true’.

But metaphysics are hard.
Let me give you a far lighter example.
Smoking. Or drinking. Driving fast. Eating that extra piece of chocolate…
Don’t tell me you never did anything ‘foolish’. That you never lied to yourself: ‘This cannot happen to me. Chances are so small that … Only this time….’

‘But otherwise nobody would ever be able to ‘leave their houses’. We’d be all completely paralyzed with fear…’

Yeap! That’s exactly what I mean. Conscience needs to lie to herself in order to remain functional. Otherwise she would not allow the physical body who sustains her to assume any risk.
They would both suffocate.

Practical reason:
“All the forms of rationality so far considered involve proceeding from one belief to another. But sometimes people proceed from belief to action. Here desire as well as belief is relevant, since successful rational action is action that satisfies one’s desires.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

On behaving reasonably:
The standard of behaviour is external. Generally, the law examines only conduct, not the excitability, ignorance, or stupidity that may cause it. The courts determine what the hypothetical “reasonable person” would have done in the situation. Such standards also demand a degree of foresight in anticipating the negligence of others—especially of special groups such as children.
The reasonable-person test presumes certain knowledge—e.g., that fire burns, water may cause drowning, and cars may skid on wet pavement. Community custom will influence such presumptions, such as the practice of driving on a certain side of the road even on private roads, a situation in which laws do not apply.

The Supreme Court on Monday (June, 2018) ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who had refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. The court’s decision was narrow, and it left open the larger question of whether a business can discriminate against gay men and lesbians based on rights protected by the First Amendment.

““Why aren’t you wearing the mask?” Jesse asked the customer on a recent day at a store in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. “I am not here to question what you believe in. These are the rules. I am just asking you kindly to wear the mask.”
The customer, Genevieve Peters, who was recording the entire exchange, refused. “We are in America here,” she said, “Land of the free.” Then she turned her camera on other shoppers, who were less than amused: “Look at all of these sheep that are here, all wearing this mask that is actually dangerous for them.”
Jesse, identified only by his first name in the video, telephoned the police, who did not arrive. Finally, when Ms. Peters left the store, others customers burst into applause.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/15/us/coronavirus-masks-violence.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage)

‘The reasonable person test presumes certain knowledge’ … that businesses are allowed to ‘weed out’ customers based on the Bill of Rights… and that Covid-19 is a hoax…

‘Sheeple’…

Regulations don’t really work unless they reflect the mindset of the majority…

And here’s how it works.

The rule about driving on the ‘right’ side of the road is observed without much need for enforcement.
Because the consequences are clear. And consistent, unless you drive a tank.

People had the same problem with condoms.
Until HIV came along…
Nowadays very few people engage in casual sex without one.

Give us time and … if SARS-CoV 2 will be around for long enough…

SARS-CoV 2 lock-downs have intensified the already heated discussion about ‘rights’. About “our rights”. Which have to be defended “at all costs”.

The way I see it, rights can be evaluated from two directions.
As ‘gifts’. Either gifted to us by ‘higher authorities’ or conquered for us by our ancestors.
Or as ‘procedures’. Elaborated in time by society and coined into law by our wise predecessors. Who had duly noticed that societies which respect certain rights work way better than those who don’t.

After all, societies are nothing but meta-organisms. Which, like all other organisms, function for only as long as the components interact according to certain, and very specific, rules. The ‘better’ the rules, the better the organism works.

In this sense, ‘rights’ are the code we use when interacting among ourselves. The rules we use when cooperating towards the well being of the society.

You don’t care about the society? Only about ‘your rights’?

OK, but if the society, as a whole, doesn’t work properly, who’s going to respect ‘your rights’?
Who’s going to help you when a bully will try to snatch ‘your rights’ away from you?
And bullies trying to separate you from ‘your rights’ are the most certain occurrence whenever societies cease to function properly.
Whenever the individual members of a society no longer respect each-other enough to collectively uphold their rights. Their rights.

Our rights.

Knowledge is being constantly (re)generated by us.

Everything we know, individually and collectively, has been first felt, then interpreted and finally communicated by us.

For something which has happened inside our sensorial sphere to become a piece of information we have to first notice it, then evaluate it and, finally, deem it important enough to remember. To codify it as information.

For something to make sense – whatever that means, the information we have about that something has to fit in to the rest of information we already have.

These three premises, which I hold to be self evident, lead me to the conclusion that:

Individual human beings will always have but a limited knowledge/understanding about/of the world.
A group of people are able to develop an aggregate understanding of the world which might be wider than those belonging to the individual members.
In time, a community of people will cobble together an even more complex weltanschauung. But still an incomplete one. For no other reason than the fact that the sum of a finite number of finite quantities will always be finite.

Consequences.

Since our understanding of the world is finite, determinism doesn’t make sense.
This being the reason for all authoritarian regimes/monopolistic arrangements caving in sooner rather than later. For the simple reason that those regimes/monopolies use but the brain power of those in power and waste the rest.
Our understanding of the world being finite, there is no way to demonstrate or refute God.

Which God is, anyway, nothing but a figment of our imagination.
Because of the very reasons I mentioned above.
Even if God itself would appear right now in a public square and on all the TV monitors in the world, the impression/understanding of him we would be left with after the experience would be of our own making.

Incomplete and inexact. Heavily dependent on everything else we already know.

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.
Self-awareness.
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.
MAD.

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

Acknowledgment.
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”

Nothing existed before we came around. To notice.

They were there, alright. But didn’t existed, yet.

Most dictionaries do not discriminate between ‘being’ and ‘existing’.
But I still recall, vividly, those moments when – as a teenager, I tried to make myself remarked by the girl I fancied at that moment. More often than I’d like to remember, it was as if I didn’t existed at all.
I was standing there, making a fool of myself, yet I didn’t existed at all.

Simply because I wasn’t noticed.
By the significant one.

Everything which has a temporal dimension – movement, transformation or both, incurs costs and produces consequences.

From a rock sliding down a slope to me writing this.

The difference between these two being the simple fact that no rock has ever had any goal.

You see, the rock looses some energy and mass while sliding down. It accelerates at first but since no rock has ever slidden for ever.
Only rocks never do anything on their own. Something has to happen to them first.
They do bear the costs – they wear down, break, etc., yet they don’t mind. For they are not, at all, aware of what’s going on. And, anyway, completely unable to do anything about it. Hence not at all ‘responsible’ about any of the consequences produced by whatever they had been involved in. Happened to them, actually.

Fast forward to me. I’m not only alive – hence reactive to whatever happens to me, but also aware. Aware of my own awareness even.
I notice the costs I have to pay. Hence I try to minimize them.

And here’s the gist of the matter.
My awareness drives me to minimize the costs I incur during my life AND to be very careful about the consequences of my endeavors.

Theoretically, at least…

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