July 31, 2013
Recently Oliver Stone completed a set of history documentaries starting with the advent of World War I up to today which he’s called The Untold History Of The United States. I thought it was incredible and everyone should watch it. It consists of ten shows, each one hour long. Here is the opening.
There’s also a companion book for the series which I recently purchased. I’ll be reading it over the next couple of weeks.
July 31, 2013
After waking up this morning, I found myself thinking about something I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older. There are people who invest in “life” and there are others who do not, and as time goes on, a huge gap develops between those who do and those who do not.
I’ve come to admire those who do things with themselves. Take a musician for example. By the time a person has reached my age (in their 30s), if they’ve seriously dedicated themselves, they’re a wonder to behold. You hear them play the guitar and watch their hand go up and down the neck doing all these complicated motions, their other hand strumming as they sing. They make it look so easy, but believe me, it’s not!
Others become expert craftsmen and can take a block of wood, or a piece of steel, and shape it into anything you ask. They can fix anything that breaks.
Some are intellectuals who have spent their lives studying different things and their expertise just glows. They may be scientists, engineers, philosophers, or whoever. They can design cars, lecture on ancient history, or design an economic plan which would fix our healthcare system.
I even admire people who have taken care of their bodies. They’ve taken the time to learn how to cook healthy meals and they have the discipline to spend some time each day to work out.
I admire people who care about this world. Who care about life. Who put effort into making it a better place. Who contribute to it.
It’s not necessarily about money, or good looks, or fame. I admire the people who make things happen in the world. I’m not necessarily even talking about the leaders of our nations. I’m referring to talented people who make things happen.
It’s a real shame that an everyday man or woman who lives their life with integrity, who did their job and their part, aren’t able to earn any real respect. Unless they were a “leader”, a CEO, the founder or some huge movement, or whatever, then their life didn’t matter.
But think of it this way. Immanuel Kant once asked us to imagine what would happen if everyone acted in the same way we did. In his wording, act in a such a way that our actions are a universal maxim. What if everyone wanted to be a leader? Who would follow and do all the work? We admire the head and neglect the body. Heads can’t exist in isolation.
I saw an article in Arts and Letters Daily, talking about young people. So many were dissatisfied with their lives, living in a typical suburban home, with a typical wife and family. They felt they didn’t accomplish anything. Isn’t that ridiculous? Our culture is sick.
“Leadership” is overrated. Sometimes I’ll play a video game and think to myself, “Who composed this musical score? Who created all these 3D character models? Who designed these elaborate cities?” Then once I complete the game, I’ll see this long list of people and it keeps scrolling and scrolling for ten minutes. I’m glad all those people are alive. They’re awesome.
I admire architects, I admire painters, I even admire skilled tradesmen, like plumbers or car mechanics. I like to walk around town and think, “Who designed these buildings? These bridges? The air conditioning systems within the buildings? The computer networks?” And on and on.
I’ve heard people say things like, “All humans care about is having sex and eating.” Really? That’s all you’ve ever noticed people doing in the world? That’s more a reflection of you, not real people. We humans have a rather simple sort of mind which always wants to reduce things to something simpler than they are. Humans indeed like to have sex and eat, but we’re much more complicated, intricate beings.
Have you ever had something go wrong with your car and think, “Geez, this is bad. It’s making some weird noises.” Then you take it to the shop and there’s this guy back in the garage, he fires up your car and listens, revs the engine a bit, looks at some belts and says, “Your problem is your [blah, blah, blah].” I’m glad that guy is around. Considering he (or she) saves us from having to buy an entirely new car, to me, he’s a very valuable human being.
Since I’ve been reading Noam Chomsky’s books lately, I also have been seeing some of his videos on Youtube. He was giving a lecture years ago in some university and a student was asking him about IQ and intelligence. Chomsky told him that whatever IQ may measure, if anything at all, it has little to do with real human intelligence.
A lot of people consider people like me, theoretical physicists, like we’re geniuses or something. It’s true, I could help design a rocket engine, write complicated software, do really neat mathematics, and other things. But you know, there’s also people who are amazing cooks and I’m not sure why they’re not held to the same level of prestige we physicists are. They really should be. I always admired my grandma at work making a delicious roast and potatoes.
I was watching some construction workers build an apartment building just the other day. This team of guys had their saws cutting boards, and other guys were taking the boards to construct the building’s skeletal structure. Others were putting in the insulation. Later I came by and saw electrical crews putting in wiring. I’m glad all those people know how to do that stuff because I sure don’t.
The more I reflect on it all, I realize how small a part I am, and how important it is that we structure society in a way that we all can earn a good living, and that we’re all valued. That’s why I spend so much time studying economics and politics. There are scumbags sabotaging our economic system and destroying the ability of everyday men and women to earn a good living, all in their pursuit of short-term profits. Somebody has to care enough to understand the world, all the lies, and all the scams, speak out about it, and help usher in changes.
Then again, don’t misunderstand me. I struggle with a a totally different streak which runs within me. Some people in this world invest in “life” and become really good at their “thing”, whatever that may be, but there are so many people who never do anything with themselves. So many people spend their time in front of a television screen, watching reality shows. They’re stupid, boring, and contribute little to the world.
I almost feel bad saying this, but over the years I’ve spent a lot of time reading books and studying things. Other people who haven’t done the same can be so boring, and well, stupid. You’ll be with them in the restaurant or wherever, and they’ll be arguing the dumbest things you’ve ever heard in full bravado. They’ll be going on and on about how President Obama’s a Muslim socialist wanting to set up death panels for our healthcare system. They have no idea what “Obamacare” is, what’s really in it, or what it will or will not do to their premiums.
The more intelligent you become, the more lonely you feel because most people are not very smart. That sounds like a contradiction to what I was saying earlier, but I’m talking about a certain type of intelligence. They may be a brilliant artist, a skilled technician in some field, or a very handy mechanic, and all of that is very wonderful, but they don’t understand politics, science, history, economics, philosophy, or any of those sorts of things at all.
They have terrible ideas about what’s wrong with the country and we have things like Fox News and talk radio to blame for that. It’s really sad. Corporations pay big money in advertising to these networks who work tirelessly to spread ideas which benefit the few at the expense of the many.
Democracy can’t function if people only have knowledge related to their trade. They have to better understand how we come together as a society, how it all works, and what’s going on.
I was about to say that people too often vote against their interests, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s even true. Our parties today are two sides of the same corporate coin, and our political debate is caged in this narrowly accepted spectrum of ideas.
People today are too atomized. The only political muscle they exercise is going to the voting booth every couple years to vote for two parties which have long since abandoned their interests. But you know, in general, people aren’t as dumb as you may think. If you look at Gallup polls, the majority of people are deeply concerned about what we’re doing to the environment, they want to see banking reforms, they want universal healthcare, they want the wars to end, they want us to stop policing the world, and so on. Problem is, there’s little legitimacy in our democracy anymore. The corporations are in power and they do what they want and what they want is to earn more profit. The more I learn about it all, the more disgusted I am.
July 29, 2013
How is everybody doing? It’s been a while since I’ve written a post about what’s going on in my life.
This summer has been pretty busy for me. As some of you may recall, I was hired by a scientist to work in his laboratory studying the properties of crystals which are used in quantum computers. It’s been quite a learning experience. I’ve learned that I have little interest in doing actual hands on research in a laboratory. Most of the work itself is very tedious. You have this shelf of different metals and chemicals in jars, and you slowly measure small amounts of these substances, place them in vacuum sealed tubes, melt them, heat them, and do all kinds of things to them. After a very long process you get your crystal.
Then you take that crystal and do various experiments on them, which takes a long time. Just soldering the crystal onto the little “holder” to lower it into the liquid helium can take over an hour. One of my initial jobs was to design a faster process to mount these crystals into the holder and perform various experiments. Dr. Hor came up with this design for a stainless steel tube contraption with this holder built into it. I had to do lots of tedious research related to different temperature sensors to mount on the holder, and then I also had to write software to take data from the digital equipment. We have all these really sensitive voltmeters, current sources, temperature controllers, and I’ve been writing software to read the data from these devices, perform calculations, and then pass that information on to Dr. Hor for his analysis.
There’s a lot of other labs interested in our results and crystals, so Dr. Hor is often flying off to conferences leaving us guys in the lab, sometimes not being sure what to do next.
The equipment itself mostly uses an interface called GPIB. Sometimes I’d spend an entire day just fighting a voltmeter to take data readings properly. I’d fight and fight and fight and the stupid thing would keep freezing up my program. It’d read data for ten minutes and then freeze up. I’d want to throw things and scream, “What’s wrong with you!” In order to understand the problem, I’d have to read detailed specifications on the GPIB system, how it works, and exactly, in minute detail, how to program it. I remember sitting back in my chair thinking, “There’s no way I have to write low-level code to manage the GPIB bus…” One voltmeter wouldn’t listen to me, no matter what I told it to do. I’d send it an *IDN? query, and it’d just send me back a data reading. IDN is supposed to respond to me, “I’m a Keithley Nanovoltmeter, blah blah”, instead if just gave me its current voltage reading. Turns out it has a little switch on the back. It was in “talk only” mode.
This whole experience has confirmed to me that my interest in in theoretical physics, not experimental work. I want to understand what goes on within the crystal, not so much doing tedious experiments. Oftentimes the experimentalist doesn’t even concern himself or herself in what’s actually happening within the crystal, in detail. I enjoy computational physics, and to a lesser extent, writing software to take data from the equipment. As for actual lab work, I don’t like it at all. Thankfully, a person can be a computational physicist and never do lab work at all.
Other than working, I’ve been spending a lot of time this summer studying international relations, U.S. foreign policy, history, and those sorts of things. I bought pretty much every book Noam Chomsky, a professor at MIT, has written and have been reading them. I’ve never been an expert in foreign policy. Whenever I’d hear about goings on in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Kosovo, and other places, honestly, I had little idea what was going on. However, Noam Chomsky specializes in those areas and his books go into lots of detail into what actually happened and it’s completely fascinating.
For example, he’ll go back to declassified top-secret national security documents from the 1950s and 1960s and quote directly from U.S. planners, telling exactly what they were up to and their real objectives. I’ve learned so much. I’d like to write about these things some time. For example, at the end of World War II, one of our top planners was a guy named George Kennan. Well aware of our position of dominance as much of Europe, Russia, and elsewhere was decimated by the war, his top-secret 1948 Policy Planning Study 23 read as follows,
“we have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population….In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity….To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives….We should cease to talk about vague and…unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
– George Kennan, Policy Planning Study 23
Our policies have little to do with promoting democracy or freedom. We’ve labored tirelessly to set up puppet governments and systems of crony capitalism to exploit other nations. For example, large U.S. corporations will own fruit plantations, copper mines, and telecommunication companies in these poor countries, and we’ll exploit the peasants there and export everything back to the U.S. and abroad for huge profits.
A typical example goes like this. The peasants rightfully reason that they’ll never get out of abject misery and poverty unless they get these corporations out of their country. So they rise up, organize, and elect a leader who wants to socialize the country. Those plantations and mines will belong to the people and they’ll use the money to build schools and institute a much needed universal healthcare system. Well, U.S. corporations can’t have that. The media immediately starts running full boar, “Communism! Communism! Communism!” and then we’ll invade and overthrow their government.
We set up democracies there but if they vote in people who try to change anything, we literally go down there with our military, kill them, and sabotage their economy, instilling massive fear into the people. For example, under CIA supervision, we train Death Squads to defend the interests of these petty tyrants, and they’re trained to use the exact same tactics the Gestapo used. Rape, torture, bombings, pretty much anything goes. This is a picture from El Salvador when the Death Squads killed innocent nuns.
I feel ashamed of myself. My country has been doing all these things for the past hundred years and I was only vaguely aware of it.
As a kid, I used to see movies about Latin American countries and I always wondered, “Why are they so poor?” Every movie shows all these peasants out in the jungle, holding old hand-me down rifles, in rebellion against the government. Countries like Brazil and others are full of natural resources. They should be wealthy countries, with technological developments like Japan and Europe. Instead they’re all peasants living in grass huts and abject poverty. But that’s all by U.S. design. We’ve purposely held them there to exploit their natural resources.
We have policies which purposely keep them in poverty. I used to wonder why we give hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to U.S. farmers. The real purpose is two fold. 1) Those rich corporations lobby for money, and 2) it artificially pushes the price down of U.S. crops, like corn and other things. Why do we do that? It keeps all the third world countries from developing. They can’t make any money farming and can never build up any capital or wealth of their own. We artificially push down the prices of U.S. crops and third world farmers can’t compete.
U.S. corporations don’t want them developing. They’d lose billions of dollars in profits. Chomsky said something like, over a short time, 700 billion dollars in profits was extracted from Brazil alone.
Because the peasant farmers can’t earn any money growing things like cotton, corn, beans, etc., they instead grow things like coca plants, which is used in cocaine. This leads to a huge drug market which the CIA is directly involved in. That’s how they fund these massive coups and underground propaganda movements with no trail. It just goes on and on, and I read these 400 page books written by Chomsky, breaking down all the details.
I sit back in my chair here in my little study and just think to myself, “This world is so evil. Just everything around me. Lies, lies, and more lies.” The level of greed is beyond anything most people can imagine. Total exploitation. No concern for human rights or dignity. Everything is about power and control.
July 18, 2013
If you’re going to control people, you have to control their thoughts, but how do you do that? There is a fascinating BBC documentary series called The Century Of The Self which I watched last week. It consists of four one-hour broadcasts. The entire series focuses around how Sigmund Freud’s ideas have been used to try to control crowds of people in our age of democracy. It’s brilliant.
We’re first introduced to Sigmund Freud and his psychological ideas of the unconscious. He discovered that underneath our conscious everyday thought lies these irrational forces focused around things like sex, procreation, and aggression. While Freud’s attempts to understand the mind were both academic and clinical (to treat neurotic patients), his nephew Edward Bernays thought it might be interesting to see if he could control these irrational unconscious drives and get people to do what he wanted.
So, Bernays decided to market himself to large corporations and soon became an extremely wealthy consulting expert. For example, he was hired by tobacco companies to get women to smoke cigarettes. During the early twentieth century, there was a taboo against women smoking and they wanted him to change that. So how do you manipulate people into buying something they don’t need? How do you get all these women smoking cigarettes which are bad for their health?
Bernays visits one of Freud’s pupils, A.A. Brill, and has him deeply psychoanalyze women. After considerable thought, Bernays realizes that the real problem with women in that era is they had an unconscious grudge against their husbands as they weren’t given any freedoms in their society. They couldn’t vote, they couldn’t work, etc. The women would never admit this. After all, they loved their husbands and would never admit that they’re angry at the fact that such a loving man was actually controlling them. So, Bernays gives them a way to outlet their frustration without them even knowing it. Cigarettes were to become “torches of freedom.”
He uses celebrities at the time to smoke cigarettes and markets them as this symbol of freedom. Though this is never directly said in the advertisements, the underlying hidden message is: Do you want to be an independent, successful woman like these movie stars? Tired of the boring life of a housewife? These women don’t need a man supporting them. They’re independent! Puff on one of these! Everything from the graphics to the ad copy all speaks to that primitive brain of these women.
Before long, women were smoking. To this day, smoking cigarettes is associated with a symbol of independence and freedom. After all, who is the man of freedom? The cowboy, riding his horse in the open field. Hardly anyone lives that life, but a lot of men want to think of themselves as free spirits, so they market their cigarettes to appeal to that unconscious drive.
When you think of brainwashing, you probably envision some man or woman strapped to a chair, staring into these flashing lights, given mind altering drugs, and scientists infusing hidden thoughts into their brain. In actuality, manipulate is much more subtle. Primal animal like passions deep within people are exploited and used to modify people’s behavior through things like image based advertising.
The whole first episode is about the application of Freud’s ideas to big business, spearheaded by Edward Bernays. The second episode is just as fascinating. The Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels reads Bernays books and is fascinated. They hire psychoanalysts to analyze all these everyday people and they learn about their frustrations living in Germany at that time. That’s when they bombard the minds of the people with these Freudian unconscious techniques and they’re all swept away. Everything from the speeches, to the uniforms, to the architectural style of buildings is all designed to appeal to the people’s unconscious hopes and frustrations. Within a very short time Hitler becomes this mythical figure, almost unreal.
You have to remember the history. After World War I, Germany was blamed for everything. Their economic situation spiraled out of control and left them with massive inflation. Many lost their life savings, their businesses, everything. A great people were being trampled on, abused, and they were all frustrated. Hitler’s message was, “You’re the greatest people on Earth! Why do you put up with this? We have the greatest history known to man!” He erects these statues from past epochs of their history, romanticized. There’s flags everywhere, fiery speeches are delivered in massive religious like halls, marching bands parade away, and on and on. For example, take this statue. It’s the eagle, soaring high in the sky, strongly carrying a symbol of their people far up in the clouds. All the statues were placed high up to get people to lift their heads toward the sky.
I’d recommend you listen to his speeches as well. Notice how they appeal to emotion and never reason.
Hitler never encourages critical thought or individuality. He wanted fanatical obedience. He tells them to believe and have confidence in him, appealing to reptilian instincts to follow the strong man. If you read books like Ernest Becker’s The Denial Of Death, you learn that there are strong instinctual drives within our brains for what he calls “immortality projects”. Even if unconsciously, our minds are always thinking of death and what we’re leaving behind. We want to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Hitler (or maybe we should say Goebbels) creates the Nazi party as an immortality project for the people, a great nation that will last forever. All of these things infuse people’s minds with meaning and purpose, especially the youth who haven’t yet to be disillusioned to the scam.
After this Nazi nightmare, the U.S. government was terrified. How were they going to control these new unconscious forces and maintain order? I agree with President Roosevelt that people can be rational and trusted to make sound decisions, assuming we give them reliable and accurate information. People with this same line of thinking created the Gallup polls, to rationally poll the people to hear their desires and opinions on things. That’s the right direction, not manipulation. Even in polling, asking loaded and emotional questions is greatly frowned on, as it should be.
The third episode is an equally fascinating examination of the rise of the self-help industry which arose in the 1960s. All of the sudden, everyone was obsessed with individuality. Problem was, people weren’t sure what it meant to be an individual, all they knew was that they needed to be one. There’s this huge rise of hippies and gurus and other masters offering to help the masses find themselves.
People were in the streets protesting, dancing to their rock music, exclaiming that they weren’t going to be a part of “the system”. They didn’t want to dress the same way, or drive the same cars, or eat the same foods. They were tripping on acid and felt they were infinite consciousness, all possibilities, the totality of all that is. They didn’t want to be trapped in a box.
This worried big businesses because their manufacturing processes relied on making large quantities of the same thing in order to be efficient. If everyone was wanting different things, how in the world would they know what to produce? How could they make this work?
Here comes the real irony. It turns out people aren’t infinite possibilities after all. Stanford psychologists were hired to analyze people using Freudian like techniques and it turns out that all people, even the hippies, easily fall within a few set categories. Businesses changed their marketing and product lines to match the new demand and things smoothly sailed on.
I really enjoyed the interview with this hippy guy living in this shack on the beach. Apparently he was a leader of one of these movements. He tells the documentary maker, “Out of nowhere, the corporations started making products that even a guy like me, a man of infinite consciousness, would want.” His house was filled with hippy swirls, weird lights, and strange glass windows. I paused the video and laughed and laughed.
It’s also really interesting how this “individualism” movement turned out. Whereas before, people would be perfectly content with a nice living room and kitchen set, now they had to have their own, unique kitchen and living room set, setting them apart from the person next door. Big business had a heyday with this. “Don’t be like everyone else, buy the new [fill in the blank]…” In the end, the whole movement to “find yourself” ended up being reduced to shallow consumerism, people buying things they didn’t even need, and everyone looking over their shoulders to compare themselves to someone else.
The final episode deals with politics, primarily focusing on the Clinton administration in the 1990s. In order to win the election, he started using these Freudian techniques in his speeches to appeal to different demographics. Bill Clinton is big into psychoanalysis. In his autobiography, he said that he’s read The Denial Of Death over and over.
In elections, there are two huge chunks of people, some who will always vote Republican, and others who will always vote Democrat, regardless of who’s running or their policies. Clinton knew this, so he directed these Freudian tactics at swing voters. He hired analysts to psychoanalyze everyday people in the swing states and got deep into their minds. Then in his speeches he went on and on about all these petty things that those swing voters were concerned about. Things like chips in televisions to block pornography and other weird things like that. His popularity soared in those key demographics and was elected and reelected.
Before this time, politicians had messages about the future direction of the country, about their own vision. Now politicians are becoming more and more opportunistic, appealing to short-term interests of these random people for votes. This has made it incredibly difficult to govern. Policies are no longer even coherent, appealing to the random whims of all kinds of people who don’t even know what they’re talking about. They cut funding for railroads and then those same people get mad at their leaders when the trains aren’t working well. Stuff like that. It’s complete madness and it’s swept the world by storm. It’s become the norm for politicians in Europe and all over the world.
We’ve went from a nation of self-responsible, socially conscious citizens to these petty narcissists who believe that everything should conform to our desires, even if we know nothing about the issues at all.
You guys can probably now easily see why I have a picture of Sigmund Freud in my website’s top graphic. His thought is so important to understanding the past hundred years, whether it be history, society, or individual psychology. It makes me wonder, what if Sigmund Freud had never lived? What if these discoveries of the unconscious had never been brought to light? Our culture would be totally different, the Nazi’s may have never been as successful as they were, and even our politicians would govern differently, based on reason instead of emotion. Quite a profound thought. Freud unleashed a torrent of a madness over our world. Who would have thought!
Here is the entire documentary series on Youtube, if you want to see it. If this video is taken down, just Google it and you’ll easily find all the episodes on sites like Vimeo and others.
July 16, 2013
DARPA has been sinking a lot of money into robotics research and we’re seeing some impressive progress. Their latest and most advanced robot is made by a company called Boston Dynamics and it’s called ATLAS. Check it out in the video below.