Interesting Question

The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another....We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created the institutions that form a real community and society of men.

- Gustav Landauer, Schwache Stattsmanner, Schwacheres Volk!, June, 1910

Selected Correspondence:

18 July 2006

Ethical value metrics

This metric reflects the expected increase in universal entropy caused by the existence of an organism over the future course of the universe compared to the organism not existing (or being killed, if that is the question). Since this is usually uncomputable due to our inability to predict the deep future in this way, we might (a) do some sort of future discounting or modify the metric to (b) only include the entropy increase of the universe for the expected duration of the organisms life.

This metric ("m") is natural in several ways:

let A and B be individuals. Let everything else be equal between the individuals unless otherwise stated and let us use the (b) metric unless otherwise stated. Then the metric is natural is the sense that:
1) if A lives longer than B, then m(A)>m(B)
2) if A does more work / consumes more energy than B, without stealing it from a more efficient consumer then m(A)>m(B)
3) (if we're counting descendents too) if A has more offsping than B then m(A)>m(B)
4) if A is bigger than B then generally 2) is implied
5) if A does not kill capriciously, then m(A)>m(B)
6) if A recycles waste and uses the extra energy then m(A)>m(B)
7) if A does not "burn down the forests" without what most people consider good cause, then m(A)>m(B)
8) descendents set up solar panels on mars or otherwise tap new
energy sources: then m(A)>m(B)
9) descendents spread out geographically, otherwise act the same: then m(A)>m(B)


Laughter is fear and relief. Fear is all around. Every step is conditioned by the fear of falling. It is the relief from primitive anxiety and alarm responses that give rise to laughter. The release of the breath that wasn't needed. That sudden surprise rendered harmless by higher perception. Wonder, when accompanied by the expression of laughter is the unknown and fearful transformed. A transformation by subconscious brain functions typically of sub second duration. A transformation that takes the unknown and therefore possibly lethal and yields up the unknown and harmless to observe. Something to be explored, understood and remembered by wide eyed curiosity. Those eyes wide to suck in the world and a memory hungry for its details. A psychological and physiological stance that makes the unknown known. A state of maximal observational learning.

Doing the Mont Park shuffle

He was clean shaven, 20 kilos heavier and one year older, but he was still Antony. The last time we met his slender build and long orange hair & beard cast him as a modern Celtic Jesus. The last time we met he believed he could see dark matter and emit ultra violet rays. The last time we met he had cursed my evil heart and run off into the night. He was my oldest friend in Australia and now found himself in the East Ringwood mental health repatriation centre.

One year ago I had received a phone call from Sydney where Antony was visiting his sister. "Julian," he said, "I want to come and see you. I want to talk about to you about Quantum Mechanics,". That's the way he said it. Quantum Mechanics.

I had met Antony when I was 14 when we were both in "hell", a school in rural Victoria and one of 37 I'd attended on during my itinerant minstrel childhood. We were bright sensitive kids who didn't fit into the dominant subculture and feircely castigated those who did as iredeemable boneheads.

This unwillingness to accept the authority of a peer group considered risible was not appreciated. I was quick to anger and brutal statements such as "You're a bunch of mindless apes out of Lord of the Flies" when faced with standover tactics were enough to ensure I got into a series of extreme fights and I wasn't sorry to leave when presented with the dental bills of my tormentors.

Antony fared better. He wasn't new and had a social deftness that allowed him to side step and keep his contempt hidden where mine exuded from every pore. ``What is the most noble emotion Julian?'' he asked one day. ``Curiosity,'' I said after some thought. ``No,''. he said, ``Anger.''

My journal from our last meeting contains the following entry:

Antony arrives from Sydney with girl in toe. A' Mid-length hair and beard, both carrot red. A' decked out in hippy attire. Strong contrast to previous 'tough man' image. Newage fruitiness is now all consuming. A' attempting to dominate J' [brother]. A' can see "dark matter", emit UV rays, is a 15th (3*5) plane yogi, 27th dan Kung Foo Spirit Master. A' casts a voodoo spell "of death" on Michael B. by "cutting the throat" of my ceramic goose. A' clearly suffering some type of schizophrenia. V. poor reality testing and is of unstable affect. Poor reality testing fuelled by reading of Calos Castenida, occult books, etc. Much worse compared to last observation circa 18 months ago, but perhaps madness (then) was concealed as hypochondria. Situation v. sad. Believe A' will be in mad house or dead within 5 years and tell him so... ...A' lucid but intensely verbalising his theories / religious wank. I try to snare A's delusions. He becomes aggressive and frightened, accusing me of "psychotronically raping" girl from last night. I push him further. He disavows my evil heart and flees into the night.
But now he was at the East Ringwood mental health repatriation centre. His smile was shaky but characteristic. His physical edges rounded off by weight gain and his imagination dulled by anti-psychotics. His limbs and jaw gently shuddered with some frequency. He still had his classical guitar and chemistry books. His sensitivity and insight were not completely gone. His diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia with co-morbid depression. The etiology (cause) of onset probably his drug synthesis experiments combined with genetic susceptibility. His prognosis unknown.

In his schizophrenic state he'd had phrases for the most subtle feelings. He had challenged me to deny the reality of 'psyhic vampires' -- those people look at you a certain way, trying to suck out your soul. But I found myself stumbling. There were such people and psychic vampires was a good phrase for them. He'd managed to push internal feeling onto external perception and use the change in perception to name the phenomena. But he'd turned up his gain so much feedback was breaking out everywhere. During his schizophrenic state he'd given me a gold metallic card and said with great earnestness ``Julian. I think the fine lines on this card are picking up neutrinos from the 4-5 helium cycle in the Sun. I'm sure it's getting heavier. Please take it to the Dept of Physics to be weighed''.

What delicacy there is in setting the controls on the amplifier of a human being. In the right context the tiny energy carried by the snap of a distant twig must be sufficient to cause immediate flight and a billion fold liberation of energy. An optimally perceptive brain must always be near the critical point of activing in response to its own internal noise.

When I asked about the cause of his shaking, suggesting a dopamine antagonist, he said ``No. It's one of the other anti-psychotics. If you look closely you'll notice a number of people around here acting the same way. Julian... we're all doing the Mont Park shuffle''.

Don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows

When writing I like to extremise my perceptions inorder to give them clarity. If a weather cock's tail is long, you know which way the wind is blowing. A shorter tail is more ambiguous and no tail at all is like hippies saying "energy" -- could be anything. Well, you might argue, "If there are ambiguities in reality there should be ambiguities in its description", for even in the strongest southern gale there are swirling vortices all around. Yes, but these are second order effects. It is the weather cock's tail alone that gives the sailer his direction.

-Runaway consumerism explains the Fermi Paradox.

What do guitars, lollies, lipstick, tamagotchis, padded bras, pornography, movies, opium, Ever Quest, and 98% of any Australian newspaper in common? They are all technologies of emmotional manipulation which distort our perceptions for the benefit of their masters. Language centres in our neocortex may claim to "know" they are fake, but these words only feebly suppress those primitive areas of the brain which give rise to our feelings, colour our memories and command our attention. These non-verbal processing regions of the brain have not evolved to deal such sensory sophistry. For them, sensing is believing.

Hence the feelings in a young woman's breast buffeted by the flashing lights and impossibly sonorous tones of the amplified rock star; master of a 20 KiloWatt Adam's apple and by inference a super man having the chest cavity of God. Hence the dilated pupil of a man glancing at skin tone pigments on matted wood fibres, a pattern of vision that once meant love was not only in the air but ready and willing, prostrate on the ground. Hence the wariness of the horror movie attendee when returning home and opening the door of what was, and infact still is, a pefectlty innocent closet. Hence understanding Neighbors instead of neighbors and having Friends instead of friends. Hence the poker machine addict. Hence the dramatic rise in the economic take of powerful industries built around using advances in technology to stuff our heads with false feelings and memories. Not content to be zero sum, in exchange for our wealth and time these industries generally leave us less able to function by decalibrating our emotional and intellectual repore with reality.

"But, I like it you cold hearted Lutheran, you Stoic, you stone mason, you Zeno loving stick in the mud!". Well naturally, since the whole game is to manipulate your feelings, it is not suprising that you have positive associations about your perceptual opium, is is, after all, what keeps you going back to your dealer.

Such deceptions, previously known as "Art", as in "Artifice" or "Artful" have a long history of successful human parasitation. But the industrial control of and rapid advances in the ability to successfully falsify sense data has no historical analog. I have previously argued that a possible explanation for the Fermi Paradox (why don't there seem to be any aliens, dude) is the existence of a developmental ceiling created by technological advances flowing into the perceptual manipulation industry till it gobbles up through diversion and wealth destruction all economic growth.

The credulous will not inherit the earth, but they'll get to play a game where they do. A beautiful reality and a beautiful dream.


What really seems to seperate blue-collar work from the professions is that the latter involves manipulation of human perception. The result being that long term success is more about how well you relate to other people than how well you can perform technically. There's no simple performance metric for doctors, lawyers, academics or businessmen; these are professions of perception control and not only the first two prey on inducing hopes and fears.

Many worlds

The measurement paradox seems to be going away as people have filled in the details on many worlds / environmental decoherence. This hasn't come from arm chair philosophising so much as out of real modeling problems from quantum computation. I don't understand this well enough yet to say anything meaningful, but my five second take is that it does for the measurement problem what entropy does for the arrow of time and in much the same way; by denying an independent dimension to the phenomenon and instead extrapolating it from the behavior of a statistically large ensemble. The discussion is not purely philosophical, because you need something like this if you want to think usefully about the behavior of nano sized "measurement" devices. It's not that many worlds predicts different results to Copenhagen, but that you can't think about some quantum computation problems easily enough with Copenhagen to be able to make a prediction at all. And here I give an analogy: All measurements are rational numbers but physics is full of complex numbers. All you ever do in physics is connect, through computers and brains one rational number (settings on an experiment) to another (results of a measurement). So why is physics full of complex numbers? Because they permit us to out think those too pure to use them and here follows the analogy; by the time any measurement gets into my brain it is in a form that satisfies Copenhagen since it has interacted with a macro ensemble (apparatus and my flesh) and likewise the setup of any macro experiment satisfies Copenhagen. But in the middle we may use any consistent trick that aids our thinking. The "tricks" are as real as their power to produce predictions consonant with described reality, for this, in some sense is the definition of understanding.