A Few Reflections On Quantum Mechanics

For the past year or so I’ve been studying quantum mechanics.  It’s definitely not an easy subject to understand.  In fact, I’m inclined to think, epistemologically speaking, that it may well be impossible to understand with the brain evolution has given us.  But what’s irritating to me is how quantum mechanics is interpreted by so many people to justify their intuitions and wishful thinking, instead of a much truer interpretation which is the limitations on what we can and cannot know.

To faith healers, the uncertainties found within quantum theory opens a window for mind over matter.  Self-improvement groups and new age philosophers have run off with the subject taking things like entanglement to mean that you can draw whatever reality you dream up in your head to you just by believing in it resolutely.

I was watching a film made by Richard Dawkins called Enemies Of Reason, and in it you find this clip:

Reading through the video’s YouTube comments, its just very frustrating to me.  I can guarantee you that hardly anyone commenting on this video has ever studied true quantum mechanics – the type of physics studied by physicists.  It requires very complex mathematics and years of preparation and study before you’re even prepared to begin studying it.

I’m not really in the mood to write a long essay on all of this today.  Suffice it to say that I think a deeper understanding of quantum mechanics leads to the exact opposite conclusion.  It leads to a philosophy where the bedrock of reality, the very atoms and principles which govern them, operate on rules which are unintuitive and on a very fundamental level in-deterministic and blurry.  It leads to unpredictability, not intuitive certainties.  It places a fundamental limit on the extent and scope of mankind’s knowledge.

What’s unknown is unknown.  What we know is “out there”, not inside of you.  Truth and knowledge is a sort of complex process by which information is brought into your brain and then sorts itself into a sort of coherence with the state of affairs in the universe outside your body.  It allows you to predict what will happen based on the actions you choose to do.  Its a sort of accurate prediction on what you will experience in the future.  It also applies to things not present before your senses at the moment.  Quantum physics says that knowledge of this sort will always be limited and constrained within the confines of the uncertainty principle.

Those commenting on the video assault Dawkins like he’s arrogant and praise Chopra for smiling and not getting angry.  They think Dawkins is the bad guy.  It’s the complete opposite.  Chopra is the one clearly in the wrong here. Chopra is the guy promoting quantum jargon, exploiting people and celebrities for money, feeding them superstition, and keeping them in ignorance.  Then Chopra claims physicists have hijacked his word?  Physicists don’t have right to exclusively use the word in the proper context they themselves invented for it?

It irks me.  I think Richard Dawkins is right for being angry.  I too get tired of people like Chopra undermining reason and science.  The problem is, people think maturity is keeping a smile on your face at all times, even while people like Chopra are undermining physics and a deep understanding of the universe.  Peoples’ problem is they do not respect the truth.

Below I’m going to provide a video by a mathematician and eminent scientist who understands quantum mechanics.  He comes at it from the proper angle: the limits of mankind’s knowledge and the search for certainty.

I like how he begins this program.  He talks about different wavelengths of radiation, its interaction with matter and how precise an image can be built based on the different wavelengths of radiation.  Its a shame the program is so old because he doesn’t have access to a lot of computer-effects and high quality infra-red cameras, which are readily available today.

You see, our brain works by first receiving impressions from the eyes, which receive their impressions from the light flying through space.  Those light photons vary in wavelength, and depending on the wavelength of the photon, our eyes will interact and see colors.  Other wavelengths are invisible to us.  They’re not part of the visible spectrum.

Since light has wave-like dynamics, you get diffraction and interference effects, which create a sort of maximum “zoom” and level of detail you can build into say a microscope for example.  Telescopes can face similar sorts of problems.  Radio telescopes have to have huge base spans, many of them spanning huge rows of multiple dishes, because a small dish doesn’t work well due to the long wavelengths of radio waves.  Our eyes are basically small telescopes which focus the light waves of the visible spectrum onto the back sides of our eyes.  They have the same sorts of limitations.

When you really examine how those photons behave as they “fly across” space, how they can exist in multiple paths at once, and so on, you come to strange conclusions.  The atoms of our world behave strangely as well.  You can’t know both their position and momentum at the same time.  Atoms are a very blurry sort of thing where it seems at the most fundamental level, knowing everything about them is impossible.

I was actually listening to a lecture by a quantum physicist just recently.  The professor was Dr. Benjamin Schumacher, who is an eminent physicist in the field of quantum information theory.  He was talking about entropy and most discussions related to the subject talk about the disorder of a system.  Entropy is a measurement of disorder.  That definition has always been a bit puzzling to me, but then in his lecture on Maxwell’s demon he described the entropy of a system as the amount of information that we lack about its detailed microscopic state.  In other words, the more orderly a system is, the less information we lack.  If its ordered, we understand its microscopic structure and motions more.  Disordered systems with random chaotic motions are not as much understood, and if we go to understand them we by necessity modify the system with our measurements.  To try to measure the motion of something as small as a subatomic particle we’re forced to modify its trajectory so much with the measurement that we can’t get the information that we need.  To lock down the particle’s position and know it with a high degree of certainty, we have to destroy the information related to its momentum.  Likewise, measurements related to momentum necessarily leave uncertainties in the position.

You can know one or the other, but not both together with full precision.  To know some of both leaves you with a sort of blurred smudge through space.  You know it’s moving somewhere between this and that velocity and its location is generally somewhere in there.

What quantum mechanics really says is that we can’t fully know what’s going on at the atomic level with absolute certainty.  We’re forced to approximate our knowledge within certain limits, but those limits are very precisely and mathematically defined.

I think other conceptions of quantum mechanics are dangerous, and really quite ridiculous when you think about it.  If people could change their world just by hopeful thinking, the pre-scientific world certainly wouldn’t have been filled with so much suffering and toil.  Mankind would’ve thought all kinds of things and drew to themselves a better life.  The fact is, they thought up every sort of god and philosophy to cope with this very difficult world.  None of it worked.  Science on the other hand, with its deep root in observation, logic, and mutually verifiable evidence, led to a slow climb in our knowledge and control of nature.

When you turn back to philosophies like that of Deepak Chopra, religion, or new age gurus, you’re going back to  pre-scientific mindsets and those things simply don’t work.

Mankind has faced so many problems in the past because people have felt they could believe in their intuitions dogmatically.  Truth was not based on observation and evidence, but instead was based upon what they felt was the truth.  Its quite fascinating that Dr. Bronowski ends his program talking not so much about the great achievements of science but about how dangerous it is when people believe they know things when they really do not.

Quoting him:

“Its said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That’s false. Tragically false.  Look for yourself.  This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz.  This is where people were turned into numbers.  Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people.  And that was not done by gas.  It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge with no test in reality this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.  Science is a very human form of knowledge.  We are always at the brink of the known.  We always feel forward for what is to be hoped.  Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal.  Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible.  In the end the words were said by Olvier Cromwell, “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”  I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Lezand. I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died here, to stand here as a survivor and a witness.  We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power.  We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act.  We have to touch people.”

– Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent Of Man

This world doesn’t operate off wishful thinking.  I wish it did.  Instead we find ourselves in a rather harsh and dangerous world.  We have to stay on our toes.

The study of quantum physics will definitely leave you in awe.  We live in a mysterious universe.  The thing is, you can’t immediately run with those uncertainties and jump back into wishful thinking.  Men have always wanted those sorts of ideas to be true.  They’ve always hoped that things like prayer can change reality.  Today people no longer put their faith in God, but instead put faith in the weird aspects of quantum physics.  Neither will answer your prayers, unfortunately.

People have always searched for the secrets of mind over matter.  The thing is, you won’t learn anything about this reality by creating a self-referential loop with your imagination.  You’ll have to keep probing the universe for answers searching out there, not inside yourself.  The answers are waiting for you out there.

Your imagination was given to you by evolution to help you envision possible scenarios that haven’t happened yet.  It’s a form of imperfect planning.  It allows you to picture outcomes in your head before they happen, and hopefully accurately predict what will happen in the future.   When you attempt to understand reality using this system, you only create a loop back to yourself and can’t possibly learn anything about the world as it really is.  You’re forced to churn over your past experiences and link them up in new and arbitrary ways.  Religions and conspiracy theories are so crazy, mostly due to this very reason.

Big Brother And The Shadow Government

I just read one of the most terrifying articles I’ve seen in a long time.  Personally, I’m a lot more scared of our shadow government than the terrorists in the Middle East.

If you’re like most people you’re probably thinking, shadow government?  What is that?  I don’t claim to know it all, but just by reading and gathering as much information as I can, I see that this stuff is very real.  If you’re not aware of it already I’ll try to help pull your head out of the sand. The Washington Post just did a huge investigation and wrote an outstanding piece called Top Secret America: A Hidden World, Growing Beyond Control.  They’ve been investigating all of the programs George Bush implemented after 9/11 and it’s insane.  All this screams Big Brother.

First watch this video from Frontline:

The article begins:

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

….

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

Just days after 9/11, a sort of blueprint began execution constructing over a thousand different organizations, located in over 10,000 different locations across the country, most of them top-secret.  There’s even some near where I live. Enormous budgets were and are being spent on this stuff.  Clandestine operations are going on all over the place, and I fear they’re not just spying on the terrorists overseas but on you and me as well.

In an Arlington County office building, the lobby directory doesn’t include the Air Force’s mysteriously named XOIWS unit, but there’s a big “Welcome!” sign in the hallway greeting visitors who know to step off the elevator on the third floor. In Elkridge, Md., a clandestine program hides in a tall concrete structure fitted with false windows to look like a normal office building. In Arnold, Mo., the location is across the street from a Target and a Home Depot. In St. Petersburg, Fla., it’s in a modest brick bungalow in a run-down business park.

….

As a Michaels craft store and a Books-A-Million give way to the military intelligence giants Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, find the off-ramp and turn left. Those two shimmering-blue five-story ice cubes belong to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which analyzes images and mapping data of the Earth’s geography. A small sign obscured by a boxwood hedge says so.

Across the street, in the chocolate-brown blocks, is Carahsoft, an intelligence agency contractor specializing in mapping, speech analysis and data harvesting. Nearby is the government’s Underground Facility Analysis Center. It identifies overseas underground command centers associated with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups, and advises the military on how to destroy them.

You’re just minding your business, buying some screws and boards in Home Depot to repair your back deck, and just across the street is a clandestine military-type operation and you don’t even know it!  Underground there’s military bases running covert information gathering!

These places are locked down with the best security systems available.  These buildings aren’t located on maps.  If you get near them the men in black are all over you.  They may well gun you down.

Outside a gated subdivision of mansions in McLean, a line of cars idles every weekday morning as a new day in Top Secret America gets underway. The drivers wait patiently to turn left, then crawl up a hill and around a bend to a destination that is not on any public map and not announced by any street sign.

Liberty Crossing tries hard to hide from view. But in the winter, leafless trees can’t conceal a mountain of cement and windows the size of five Wal-Mart stores stacked on top of one another rising behind a grassy berm. One step too close without the right badge, and men in black jump out of nowhere, guns at the ready.

Past the armed guards and the hydraulic steel barriers, at least 1,700 federal employees and 1,200 private contractors work at Liberty Crossing, the nickname for the two headquarters of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its National Counterterrorism Center. The two share a police force, a canine unit and thousands of parking spaces.

Liberty Crossing is at the center of the collection of U.S. government agencies and corporate contractors that mushroomed after the 2001 attacks. But it is not nearly the biggest, the most costly or even the most secretive part of the 9/11 enterprise.

….

Every day across the United States, 854,000 civil servants, military personnel and private contractors with top-secret security clearances are scanned into offices protected by electromagnetic locks, retinal cameras and fortified walls that eavesdropping equipment cannot penetrate

….

In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11. Each has required more people, and those people have required more administrative and logistic support: phone operators, secretaries, librarians, architects, carpenters, construction workers, air-conditioning mechanics and, because of where they work, even janitors with top-secret clearances.

….

It’s not only the number of buildings that suggests the size and cost of this expansion, it’s also what is inside: banks of television monitors. “Escort-required” badges. X-ray machines and lockers to store cellphones and pagers. Keypad door locks that open special rooms encased in metal or permanent dry wall, impenetrable to eavesdropping tools and protected by alarms and a security force capable of responding within 15 minutes. Every one of these buildings has at least one of these rooms, known as a SCIF, for sensitive compartmented information facility. Some are as small as a closet; others are four times the size of a football field.

From what everyone’s saying, most of our elected representatives aren’t even given clearance to half of this stuff.  That means we’re all in the dark as this shadow government conducts its operations, and they’re given billions and billions of dollars.  They can’t afford to pay for your healthcare, but they sure find money to spy on you and god knows what else.

At least 20 percent of the government organizations that exist to fend off terrorist threats were established or refashioned in the wake of 9/11. Many that existed before the attacks grew to historic proportions as the Bush administration and Congress gave agencies more money than they were capable of responsibly spending

….

The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, for example, has gone from 7,500 employees in 2002 to 16,500 today. The budget of the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, doubled. Thirty-five FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces became 106. It was phenomenal growth that began almost as soon as the Sept. 11 attacks ended.

Nine days after the attacks, Congress committed $40 billion beyond what was in the federal budget to fortify domestic defenses and to launch a global offensive against al-Qaeda. It followed that up with an additional $36.5 billion in 2002 and $44 billion in 2003. That was only a beginning.

Supposedly they’re gathering intelligence on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  You want to know why I don’t believe that?  They couldn’t stop the underwear bomber whose father literally called them up warning he’s an extremist.  His father! Then they don’t even deter the man from getting on the plane; but they make sure submit all of us to x-ray scans before getting on our flights!

But improvements have been overtaken by volume at the ODNI, as the increased flow of intelligence data overwhelms the system’s ability to analyze and use it. Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases. The same problem bedevils every other intelligence agency, none of which have enough analysts and translators for all this work.

….

Among the most important people inside the SCIFs are the low-paid employees carrying their lunches to work to save money. They are the analysts, the 20- and 30-year-olds making $41,000 to $65,000 a year, whose job is at the core of everything Top Secret America tries to do.

At its best, analysis melds cultural understanding with snippets of conversations, coded dialogue, anonymous tips, even scraps of trash, turning them into clues that lead to individuals and groups trying to harm the United States.

What was really suspicious is how half of the analysts who are supposedly gathering all this intelligence in the Middle East can’t even speak the languages over there.

That cries out to be investigated.  I feel there’s a serious threat looming on the horizon.  If the government were to begin recording all our cell phone conversations, monitoring our emails, analyzing our text messages, and intercepting our IM conversations, our personal liberty would greatly be a stake.  Who knows, maybe they’re doing so already.  How would we know?  What I do is know is the Patriot Act tells ISPs to send the government everything we’re doing online if they request it.  They may well be requesting it all without us knowing, logging it all away.

If all of this isn’t going on now, the threat that it could potentially happen is something we need to think about and prepare for.  I fear they will be doing all this before too long if we don’t stop them.

There’s all this talk about “cyber-warfare”.  I think that amounts to them suppressing and controlling the information found on the internet.  Apparently it’s the “hot and sexy” thing to work on these days in the CIA.

And all the major intelligence agencies and at least two major military commands claim a major role in cyber-warfare, the newest and least-defined frontier.

“Frankly, it hasn’t been brought together in a unified approach,” CIA Director Panetta said of the many agencies now involved in cyber-warfare.

“Cyber is tremendously difficult” to coordinate, said Benjamin A. Powell, who served as general counsel for three directors of national intelligence until he left the government last year. “Sometimes there was an unfortunate attitude of bring your knives, your guns, your fists and be fully prepared to defend your turf.” Why? “Because it’s funded, it’s hot and it’s sexy.”

And just like any nefarious operation, it all operates on a “need to know” basis.  Even four star generals are often kept out of the loop.  It’s all fractured, people only knowing what pertains to them and their operation, not understanding the big picture.

One military officer involved in one such program said he was ordered to sign a document prohibiting him from disclosing it to his four-star commander, with whom he worked closely every day, because the commander was not authorized to know about it. Another senior defense official recalls the day he tried to find out about a program in his budget, only to be rebuffed by a peer. “What do you mean you can’t tell me? I pay for the program,” he recalled saying in a heated exchange.

Am I just being paranoid?  Maybe.  But I’m thinking we need to get a lot more paranoid.  This smells a lot like the beginnings of a police state to me.  I don’t like it one bit. If the economy goes sour and we sink into a major depression, people start rioting and protesting, and all of this stuff ramps up in intensity… I don’t like it at all.

U.S. – An Empire In Decline

It’s nice when you’re not alone in your opinion. It seems Harvard professor Niall Ferguson sees the world about the same way I do, at least on economic issues.  He is a historian with his primary emphasis directed on economic and financial affairs.  When he wrote for Newsweek back in 2009 he said:

Now, who said the following? “My prediction is that politicians will eventually be tempted to resolve the [fiscal] crisis the way irresponsible governments usually do: by printing money, both to pay current bills and to inflate away debt. And as that temptation becomes obvious, interest rates will soar.”

Seems pretty reasonable to me. The surprising thing is that this was none other than Paul Krugman, the high priest of Keynesianism, writing back in March 2003. A year and a half later he was comparing the U.S. deficit with Argentina’s (at a time when it was 4.5 percent of GDP). Has the economic situation really changed so drastically that now the same Krugman believes it was “deficits that saved us,” and wants to see an even larger deficit next year? Perhaps. But it might just be that the party in power has changed.

Niall Ferguson, An Empire At Risk, writing for Newsweek.

The New York Times is filled with inconsistencies like this.  They warn us that deficits are terrible and will destroy us economically – that is, until democrats are in power, then they become the key to our economic prosperity and recovery.  It’s a totally inconsistent economic perspective and it’s just more of the same left/right partisan bullshit, pitting us off against one another.  I’d have more respect for Krugman if he were consistent, but he’s not.

What happens when Republicans are in power?  Wars, eroding civil liberties, increasing presidential power, bailouts to big corporations and banks, and the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer.  What happens when Democrats are in power?  Wars, eroding civil liberties, increasing presidential power, bailouts… It’s the same.

Professor Ferguson just recently gave a lecture in Aspen talking about these issues.  The article is found here.

Harvard professor and prolific author Niall Ferguson opened the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival Monday with a stark warning about the increasing prospect of the American “empire” suddenly collapsing due to the country’s rising debt level.

“I think this is a problem that is going to go live really soon,” Ferguson said. “In that sense, I mean within the next two years. Because the whole thing, fiscally and other ways, is very near the edge of chaos. And we’ve seen already in Greece what happens when the bond market loses faith in your fiscal policy.”

Ferguson said empires — such as the former Soviet Union and the Roman empire — can collapse quite quickly and the tipping point is often when the cost of servicing an empire’s debt is larger than the cost of its defense budget.

“That has not been the case I think at any point in U.S. history,” Ferguson said. “It will be the case in the next five years.”

….

The affable British scholar tried to keep it light. He used a stage whisper to tell the Aspen Institute audience, “I know you’re not comfortable with the word ‘empire,’ especially just after the Fourth of July, but you are the Redcoats now.”

He said the U.S. is now deeply in the red as a country because of a combination of the Great Recession, the resulting federal stimulus and financial bailout programs, two wars, the Bush tax cuts, and a growth in social entitlement programs.

“By combating our crisis of private debt with an extraordinary expansion of public debt, we inevitably are going to reduce the resources available for national security in the years ahead,” Ferguson said. “Because as a debt grows, so the interest payments you have to make on it grow, even if interest rates stay low. And on current projections, the federal debt is going to be absorbing around 20 percent — a fifth of all the taxes you pay — within just a few years.

….

Ferguson said the financial crisis that started in 2007 has “has accelerated a fundamental shift in the balance of power,” with the U.S. shedding power and China absorbing it.

“I’ve just come back from China — a two-week trip there — and the thing I heard most often was, ‘You can’t lecture us about the superiority of your system anymore. We don’t need to learn anything from you about financial institutions and forget about democracy. We see where it has got you.’”

….

In what he called his “light moment,” Ferguson said, “I think there is a way out for the United States. I don’t think its over. But it all hinges on whether you can re-energize the real mainsprings of American power. And those two things are technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

I’ve been saying the same things on here for a long time.  Our situation is eerily similar to Greece.  As Professor Ferguson points out, the looming crises will jump out of nowhere the second the costs to borrow more money increase due to fears of ballooning debts and deficits.  And that sort of thing happens in an instant.  That’ll set off a chain reaction and destroy this economy driven by borrowed funds.  This is exactly what Alan Greenspan is telling us as well.

This is scary stuff.  Sure scares me.  The recession we’re in now is bad enough, but a much bigger depression around the corner?  Even more unemployed?  The Fed has told us they have no more guns to stimulate the economy.  Interest rates are already at the floor. Ugh.

*Sigh*.  And you guys wants some more bad news?  I’m sure that’s just what you want.  🙂

Japan is in a financial mess just like we are.  Guess who they just recently elected into their House of Councillors?  A pop idol, Junko Mihara.  Here she is.  She’s a lovely lady.  I don’t know much about her music, but I’m sure she’s talented.  I have nothing against her other than, uh… she’s unqualified for a position in government?

You know, imagine if you ran a big corporation which you’d built from the ground up.  You’re wanting to step down to focus on other things.  So you’re assembling a team to manage the company in your absence.  When interviewing potential applicants for key managerial positions, who would you hire?  I doubt you’d hire a woman like this.  You’d say, “There’s nothing here in her resume to indicate that she knows how to run a company.  She’s never studied business.  She doesn’t have an MBA.  She’s never took an economics course in her life.  She has no experience in this sort of thing.”  You’d kindly tell her she’s unqualified and say, “Next!”

But when it comes to those who run our country, we don’t think of it that way.  We look for people we feel we relate to.  We want someone we could sit down at the bar and have a drink with.  Well, would you want your friend at the bar running the country?  Probably not.  But people have all sorts of strange contradictory ideas running through their heads.

From what I can tell, their thought process runs something along the lines, “Celebrities like Junko Mihara have money, so they can’t be bribed off.  They seem to care more than the crooked elites running things now.”  And maybe that’s true, but there’s a lot more to these things than just caring.  They have to know what they’re doing as well.

Well, maybe people understand these situations.  Voting someone like her into office is probably an act of desperation.

Greg and I have a business concept we like to use called the “miracle man.”  When your company is performing poorly, and things aren’t going well, you always look for a miracle man.  Every failing entrepreneur we’ve ever met was always searching for a miracle man.  If only they could get their product into the hands of the right distributor, then it’d all work out and they’d make a ton of money.  If only the right investors found their plan.  If only they could find component staff.  If only… If only… The burden of responsibility and hope was always shifted onto someone other than themselves.  Needless to say, they never progressed.

Miracle men are always an act of desperation.  You’ve given up all hope in yourself and are slowly falling to the ground, arms extended hoping someone will take your hands, lift up you into the skies, and then fly away with you into bliss everlasting.

Miracle men come in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes they’re religious deities.  Sometimes they’re a real or even an imagined romantic lover.  Sometimes they’re politicians.  What they all have in common is that people place all their hopes and dreams in them.  They also tend to blame them for everything that goes wrong in their lives.

Maybe sometimes we need a little prop and brace when we’re about to fall over.  It’s also nice to have someone help us back on our feet when we’ve fallen down.  But I don’t think we can ever ask someone else to carry us.  Each person has to live his or her own life.

When it comes to politics, people always tend to forget that they’re the ones with all the power, not the politicians.  Problem is, they don’t unite.  Their enemy is the Republicans or the Democrats instead of the banking elites.

We All Love Lindsay Lohan!

There’s few things as fascinating as the life of Lindsay Lohan.  Whether she’s drunk crashing her car into the side of your house, snorting cocaine and passed out in your backyard, or found in your local strip club sliding up and down the pole, Lindsay Lohan is sure to make front page news!

I don’t have to tell anyone her story.  We all hear about it everyday. Whether it be from the front page of the New York Times, the special report on Fox News, or progressive’s own Huffington Post, everyone wants in on some LiLo action.  Take some article headlines:

“Lindsay Lohan checks into rehab in LA”

“Lindsay Lohan quotes 50 cent, ‘Watch Yo Mouth'”

“Michael Lohan refuses to Believe Lindsay Lohan Stopped Taking Prescription Drugs”

“Lindsay Lohan gets punched in the face for her birthday”

I have no idea what Mel Gibson did, but for whatever reason it seems the media’s angry with him.  So what do they do?  They put his name in the same headline as Lohan. Believe me, you do not want that to happen.  That immediately associates you with trash, drugs, and whore’ishness.  She’s become a sort of media weapon that they’ve built up and use on whatever target they want to nail.

“Mel in threeway with Oksana and Gloria Allred?  Where’s Lindsay Lohan?”

“Lindsay Lohan has a rocky birthday; more vulgarities from Mel Gibson?”

“What Lindsay Lohan can learn from Mel Gibson and other lawbreakers”

“Week In Review: Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson Get A Big “FU” Right Back”

I can picture it now.  There’s some rich capitalist scumbags meeting in secret puffing cigars, the lights dim, and a screen comes down showing Mel Gibson.  Silence comes over the room, a big bald fat guy leans back, exhales a plume of smoke, crosses his arms and says, “He’s become a problem hasn’t he.  Unleash LiLo on him.”


This may well have to do with our innate desire to gossip.  As we become more and more isolated within our homes, living in the dream world of our television and computer screens, we’re becoming more and more disconnected from our own lives and communities.  We fascinate on these celebrity figures and get in on the gossip.

“More Believable: Lindsay Lohan Dead Or Houston Finally Getting A Disney World?”

“Lindsay Lohan ordered to answer drug-use questions in civil case”

“Lindsay Lohan on ‘Double Exposure’: Always Wipe down your stripper pole”

“Lindsay Lohan Corrupted By Lesbian Jews”

“Don’t Take Away Lindsay’s Pills!  (All at once, That is)”

“Scoop: Waitress denies hitting LiLo – but wants to”

“Lindsay Lohan’s Spray Tan Could Set Off SCRAM”

“Lindsay Lohan in court; how we got here”

That last article comes from the Washington Post.  Their top journalists are on it!  They’re going to research it all out and give you the breakdown!  Tell you what’s going on with the war in Pakistan? … yeah, they’ll have to get back with you on that.

There’s always a reason for everything and there’s something going on with this Lindsay Lohan stuff.  Maybe it’s as simple as the elites wanting to dumb us down and think about trash?  Maybe it’s to make us feel better about ourselves?  Maybe people really click on these headlines and read them?

I don’t know.  If any of you guys out there can explain this to me, I’d love to hear your take on the Lohan phenomena.

The Division Of Labor And Specialization

These are some comments I made to a paper Mr. Andre Gaudwin wrote.  You can find a link to the original paper here.

Andre,

Your paper talks about the dangers our society faces as we specialize further and further and lose sight of the big picture. Quoting you directly:

“In the late 60s I became convinced, mainly because of the obvious insanity of wars and the apparent saneness of those who believe in it, that “we must have made a mistake somewhere throughout of our evolution.”  In the 70s, I also became thoroughly convinced, influenced by many French writers and by Buckminster Fuller, that the extreme specialization of our elites was leading humanity toward a crisis of an unprecedented nature.”

“As for specialization being the ultimate cause of this state of affairs, it is the hypothesis that I have adopted at the time and which I intended to test with my own formation as a generalist after reading Buckminster Fuller’s  Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, in which he observes that : “Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking.”

– Andre Gaudwin, Errare Humanum Est

I have a few comments to share.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re really of much use in solving this problem.

I’d like to start by asking us to look at life from the largest possible perspective; how does life begin?  Floating in the oceans carbon and other atoms congeal onto themselves into clumps and strands eventually leading to the first cells.  Over billions of years these cells die and replicate and clump together forming into larger and more complex units, in time becoming all the different forms of life we see on the Earth today.  Humanity is quite a latecomer when you look at things from this far back.  We’ve only been around for a few million years, whereas life on this planet goes back billions of years.

So as I stroll through my backyard admiring the breeze as it rustles the tree leaves, or watch the little ant scurry around the leaf litter, or spy on the water spider from above as it skips across the creek water, I find myself immersed in an ecological system of massive and immense complexity.  This environment I observe is so old I can’t even comprehend it.  Over billions of years everything from the grass, to the bushes, to the flies, to the beetles, and everything else have all formed into an interdependent system of unimaginable complexity.

We as humans evolved in the forests and plains in Africa starting a few millions years ago and are nothing but hairless great apes.  One of the distinctive features setting us apart from other species is our skill in memory, analytical abilities, our hands allowing us to use tools effectively, and our ability to learn and pass on our knowledge through mimicry and language.

What has “knowledge” been for the vast majority of human existence?  It’s been a hands on lesson from our father on how to use a spear.  It’s been remembering the locations of fruit trees and caves.  It’s been various learned motor abilities developed and acquired as we hunted and outsmarted the prey and animals we found around us.

All in all, our brains have been used for relatively simple things for the vast majority of our existence.  We’ve been a rather sparse species and it’s only very recently that our numbers have increased to anything appreciable.  We’ve formed the society and your papers deal with issues we face in that society.

Society… It’s a very novel thing to us humans.  Around 30,000 years ago (rough estimate) we begin to domesticate animals and farm our food.  We learned that we can somewhat control the environment to secure a guaranteed meal.  We start clearing away the forests to make room for farmland and in conjunction with domesticated animals we’re able to build permanent homes.  As we get better at doing this, we start to get some free time and rise above bare bones subsistence.

At this point we begin producing extra things and trading these things one with another.  This eventually leads to cities and the economy as we know it today.

When you trace out the story you see mankind slowly trying to control nature more and more.  At first it’s not very difficult.  Not much brain power is required to farm plants.  You just stick the seeds in the ground, make sure they get water, and voila.  Later you learn they can be fertilized and such, but all in all it’s far from rocket science.  Managing domestic animals isn’t much more difficult.  But we became more and more ambitious as time progressed.

Really the vast majority of the complications are very recent.  They’re rooted in the past few hundred years or so.  Back when we started this little journey of ours we had no idea what we were getting into.  People found themselves in this reality on planet Earth back before all our modern technology.  They were hungry, suffering from diseases and plagues of every sort, constantly being raided by foreigners who would steal everything they’ve worked so hard to build up, and they did what they thought was the best thing to do.  They tried to secure meals for themselves and their children, to provide shelter and security, and look out for those precious to them in a very hostile world.  We owe everything to these people.

What are the principles we learned that led to our modern technology?  Leaving out a lot of details, we first had the Egyptians and Greeks laying out the laws of geometry.  The Arabs I believe invented Algebra.  A lot of these techniques were birthed because of economic transactions through indirect exchange using money, and also the need to calculate things like property taxes.

The first major breakthrough was Newton as he laid out the laws of motion in his Principia.  Later we discovered thermodynamic processes which allowed to us build steam engines.  We also started to master electro-magnetism culminating in Maxwell’s laws.  In the early twentieth century we had the discovery of general relativity and quantum mechanics, the foundations of our modern scientific technology.

As someone who has studied these subjects to a relatively high degree of mastery, I can tell you that they’re far from simple.  Calculus, differential equations, Maxwell’s laws, statistical mechanics, quantum physics, general relativity… these aren’t the most simplistic things on Earth.

But even though these things are so complicated, mankind has striven to reach higher and higher.  But today, as you point out, things are getting almost out of hand.  The division of labor has led to massive specialization.  With all of us working within such a narrow focus we seem to be losing the big picture.  I’d like to talk a little about that.

I can see the problem, but I also see no way around it.  To control this world, which is very complicated and subtle, we are required to specialize.  The human brain is too weak to achieve mastery in every subject.  There’s no way around specialization.  It’s simply impossible for a normal human being to be a master engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, and several other occupations, all at the same time.  The knowledge and skill required are too much.

As time goes on, and our collective knowledge of this universe increases, absent some sort of major biological change to our brains, specialization will become a requirement.  That definitely is a problem from an administrative sense, as you point out.

I personally don’t think any sort of social reorganization or planning can fix this problem.  I don’t think it’s even a problem with our leaders not being educated enough (even though our leaders are far too often idiots).  As much as I like the idea of generalists and attempting to master as much as possible, as time progresses a generalist will be impossible.  There will be too much to know and you’ll be required to skim over everything at such a superficial level it won’t be of any use.

We’re coming awful close to outgrowing our means of communicating knowledge to one another.  Right now we’re still relying on that time old method of mimicry.  We watch someone else do things and learn by example.  Other methods of learning include audible speech and books (or reading from a computer screen), and school lectures from professors and teachers, which are far too slow.  The amount of time we spend in school is getting to be too long.  It already requires say a doctor to be in school for over twenty years before he starts treating patients.  (K-12 plus university training plus apprenticeship) That’s a huge percentage of our entire life span!  As our knowledge increases the time required to teach it all will only increase.

Our next stage of progress will come as we integrate ourselves with our computer technology.  It comes down to this:  nature is complicated and our brains are frail, slow, and not very powerful.  We need to upgrade our brains.

I foresee us transcending speech and books.  I don’t think we’ll have to “learn” things in the future.  We won’t have to rely on education or read books.  Today we’re born with instinctive reflexes which evolution has given us to survive within the environment we’ve lived in for millions of years.  Most of those “skills” nowadays are considered evolutionary baggage and make our social life difficult.  I think that’s all about to change.  We’re entering a new epoch.

Once we learn how to reprogram our brains, and enhance their capabilities with nano-technology, people will be born knowing everything.  New information will be wirelessly uploaded to their minds.  Every man, woman, and child will be fully equipped to deal with life.  You won’t have to worry about whether or not your father taught you how to deal with life emotionally, or read psychologists articles on how to properly console a depressed friend, or go to a trade school to know how to fix an appliance.  You’ll just know these and when you need to do it, it will come as naturally to you as a young boy being attracted to a pretty girl.  The newly created artificial instincts will be there all ready to go.  And just like our computers, we’ll be able to reprogram ourselves to adapt to our ever changing world.

This scares some people.  Honestly, I don’t know if I really care.  I don’t feel we have all that much to lose.  I’ve spent too much time reading books and looking at this place for what it is.  Life is fragile and filled with every sort of trouble imaginable.  You, just like me, have been born into this hell, and most everything we face is because evolution and this cruel universe pushed it on all of us.  I say we go for it.

Yeah, we’ll probably make a lot of mistakes as we go about altering our genetics, reward systems and brains.  We may screw up big time.  We’ll have to be careful because our mama universe is real bitch and she doesn’t give a damn about us.  But we need to go for it.  We’ll probably also end up destroying all the other life on this planet in this “civilization” project of ours.  Even so, life for our ancestors wasn’t a picnic.  It was absolute misery and hell.  The whole struggle for survival model, everyone fighting for food is ridiculous.  We certainly don’t want to go back.  That being the case, there’s only one direction to take — forward.

I think this integration with technology is the only way forward.  There is no philosophy which will fix things.  There is no religion or belief system which will cure things.  There is no economic system which can be designed to fix it.  If people tried to love one another, and we had a more decent economic system without all the corruption, sure it’d be better, but still nothing great.  There’s only one way for us to achieve a universe where people truly are happy and prosperous.  We’ll have to improve our brains and technology which will allow us to be conscious of one another’s situations, have empathy for everyone, not just our immediate family, and gain vastly more control over the forces of nature.

As for right now, we’ve went to control this universe and its required such a degree of specialization that it seems we’ve once again lost sight of our initial goals.  I don’t think this is true however.  It’s a real battle to tie down this bull.  This Earth wants to buck us off like a bad habit.  One little screw up and we’re done for.  It’ll throw us off and won’t think a thing about it.  The fossil record shows that 99% of all other species which have ever lived — extinct.

I feel people like us are here to try to keep the ignorant masses from killing themselves.  That seems to be the current stage of history.  Our scientists are laboring away to fix these problems as fast as they can and they’re making progress.  Problem is, the vast majority of this world is filled with complete idiots.  I mean absolute morons.  They’re destroying everything around them, killing themselves, and imposing misery on themselves and everyone else.  Like a herd of mindless cattle, we have to round them up so they don’t run off the edge.  We have to be the few sane people who get on the television and tell people the truth, warning and protecting them.

When I think about our economy, no matter how much economics I study, I see it surrounded by a dark impenetrable fog.  All the tinkering our government and politicians do operates at a very high superficial level.  They work with these vague statistical aggregates and hope by throwing money around they can fix problems which are beyond anyone’s comprehension.

Take physics for example.  Study some quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics.  Just try to model a gas cloud and a few basic laws of interaction between them.  All the atoms follow relatively simple laws, all behaving in exactly the same way, yet it’s hell to statistically model it.  You end up pages and pages of equations and need computers to predict what’s going on.  Now imagine if every one of those atoms followed its own laws and did its own thing.  Then you have the economy.

Our success economically depends on all the individual actions done by billions of people.  We’re all on this ship together.  If people are dumb, corrupt and do stupid things, the Fed’s not going to be able to fix it by lowering the interest rate and throwing some cheap money around.  Major economic problems hit everyone out of nowhere.  There’s detailed and complicated forces at work which I believe are impossible to predict.  Those with some really good foresight can sometimes see an upcoming disaster, but they’re few and far between.

It’s like chaos theory.  In chaos theory a butterfly flaps its wings in the rainforest and we end up with tornadoes in Kansas.  Economically, we have some guy going in the store buying a candybar and later we end up with an economic meltdown.  Unfortunately, unlike the weather which we can predict for at least a few weeks in advance, our economists can’t even see a disaster two feet in front of us.

The only people I’ve found with some decent insight into this are the Austrian economists.  They don’t pretend that the economy can be so easily modeled and their view on the business cycle seems to me to work.  It’s just my rather amateur opinion.  If it isn’t apparent already, I don’t think very highly of economics in general.  But from my own research it seems that when the central bank starts lowering the interest rate too low the cheap credit starts flowing, that money starts pumping up some bubbles, and then they pop and we have trouble.  There’s ups and downs in the cycle regardless of intervention.  It just seems the government can sweep the problems under the rug temporarily by infusing the economy with cheap money, and over time this builds up until you have a major disaster.  Their interventions can so easily make things worse.  Occasional drug use can bring temporary happiness and mask over your problems for the time being, but it’s addictive and can destroy you quick.  Cheap money is the same.  I think it’d be better if we faced each small economic downturn as it came instead of letting the bubble build up into a mountain and then it erupts like a volcano destroying everything in its path.

That’s not to say I’m against all regulation.  There’s a lot of places for regulation, like the Glass-Steagall regulations for example.  I’m just saying we have to keep an eye on these bankers and cheap credit.  We need to watch out when they have control over the money supply.  They screw us.

I’m sorry to hear about your poor reception with colleagues.  It’s a personal flaw of mine, but I don’t think very highly of people in general.  I don’t know your life and situation, but in my own trying times nobody has ever given a damn.  It’s just how it is.  You just slug it out and keep moving.

I’ve written business plans, laboring away for years on things, trying to raise capital and get things moving.  I’d submit my plan to these investment companies and not hear anything.  Sometimes I’d get one of those auto-responder emails that says, “Thank you for submitting your plan, but … blah blah.”   Try to contact them asking, “What’s wrong with my plan?  Can you give me some feedback?” … Nothing.  Worse yet some of these investment companies charge you like $150 to submit your plan.  Then they won’t even so much as speak with you.  Talk about assholes.  I’d submit my plan to hundreds of places and not hear anything.  (Fortunately they don’t all charge money.  What would be the purpose of raising capital if it costed you a million dollars just to attempt to raise funds?  Who could afford it?)

I don’t know about you, but the sheer and utter frustration of having the biggest thing in your life, what everything your life depends on is based, being completely ignored … oh, makes me angry.  Real angry.  Sure can make you bitter about life in general.  I try to stay positive but I have to say, it can really get to me.