In reality we’re all spinning through black space in a universe which we neither understand nor control. Our brains process just a tiny fraction of the data taken in by our sensory organs and our sensory organs process just a tiny segment of the light and sound and other information which surrounds us. We can’t even predict what our next thought will be. The narrative of a separate individual moving through spacetime exerting full control over his or her fate is an illusion in multiple ways and on multiple levels, and the surest and least stressful place to stand is in full comfort with that reality.
Today, the broad consensus trust in science and journalism is in tatters… [The] loss of trust is a clear symptom of a loss of trustworthiness. Our institutions of knowledge production have betrayed public trust repeatedly, as have our political institutions. Now, many people won’t believe them even when they tell the truth. This must be frustrating to the scrupulous doctor, scientist, or public official. To them, the problem looks like a public gone mad, a rising tide of anti-scientific irrationality that is endangering public health. The solution, from that perspective, would be to combat ignorance. It is almost as if ignorance is a virus (in fact, I have heard that phrase before) that must be controlled through the same kind of quarantine (for example, censorship) that we apply to the coronavirus.
[R]eality and belief construct each other, coevolving as a coherent whole. The intimate, mysterious connection between myth and reality means that belief is never actually a slave to fact. We are facts’ sovereign — which is not to say their creator. To be their sovereign doesn’t mean to be their tyrant, disrespecting and over-ruling them. The wise monarch pays attention to an unruly subject, such as a fact that defies the narrative.
To those who categorically dismiss any information that seriously challenges conventional medicine, lockdown policies, vaccines, etc., I would ask, Do you need such high walls around your kingdom? Instead of banishing these unruly subjects, would it hurt to give them an audience? Would it be so dangerous to perhaps tour another kingdom, guided not by your own loyal minister but by the most intelligent, welcoming partisans of the other side? If you have no interest in spending the several hours it will take to absorb the following dissenting opinions, fine. I’d rather be in my garden too. But if you are a partisan in these issues, what harm will it do to visit enemy territory? Normally partisans don’t do that. They rely on the reports of their own leaders about the enemy. If they know anything of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s or Judy Mikovitz’s views, it is through the lens of someone debunking them. So give a listen to Kennedy, or if you prefer MD’s only, to David Katz, Zach Bush, or Christiane Northrup,
I would like to offer the same invitation to those who reject the conventional view. Find the most scrupulous mainstream doctors and scientists you can, and dive into their world. Take the attitude of a respectful guest, not a hostile spy. If you do that, I guarantee you will encounter data points that challenge any narrative you came in with. The splendor of conventional virology, the wonders of chemistry that generations of scientists have discovered, the intelligence and sincerity of most of these scientists, and the genuine altruism of health care workers on the front line who have no political or financial conflict of interest in the face of grave risk to themselves, must be part of any satisfactory narrative.
After two months of obsessively searching for one, I have not yet found a satisfactory narrative that can account for every data point.
|La cigale, ayant chanté,
Se trouva fort dépourvue
Quand la bise fut venue.
Pas un seul petit morceau
De mouche ou de vermisseau.
Elle alla crier famine
Chez la Fourmi sa voisine,
La priant de lui prêter
Quelque grain pour subsister
Jusqu’à la saison nouvelle.
Je vous paierai, lui dit-elle,
Avant l’Oût, foi d’animal,
Intérêt et principal.
La Fourmi n’est pas prêteuse ;
C’est là son moindre défaut.
« Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud ?
Dit-elle à cette emprunteuse.
— Nuit et jour à tout venant
Je chantais, ne vous déplaise.
— Vous chantiez ? j’en suis fort aise.
Eh bien ! dansez maintenant. »
— Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695)
|Fiddling the summer long,
Cicada came to rue his song.
With the winter’s snow and sleet,
“I was busking, you’ll recall,
— tr. JJM (1949 – )
To generations of French children, the hero of this fable is the industrious ant. But Bernard Suits (1925-2007) saw the situation from The Grasshopper’s perspective, and he wrote a philosophical novel explaining his ideas.
“But that kind of justice,” exclaimed Prudence, ‘is only the justice of ants. Grasshoppers have nothing to do with such ‘justice.’,”
“You are right,” said the Grasshopper. ”The justice which is fairness in
trading is irrelevant to the lives of true grasshoppers. But there is a
different kind of justice which prevents me from accepting your offer.
Why are you willing to work so that I may live? Is it not because I embody in my life what you aspire to, and you do not want the model of your aspirations to perish? Your wish is understandable, and to a certain point even commendable. But at bottom it is inconsistent and selfdefeating. It is also — and I hope you will not take offence at my blunt language — hypocritical.
…the whole burden of my teaching is that you ought to be idle. So now
you propose to use me as a pretext not only for working, but for working harder than ever, since you would have not only yourselves to feed, but me as well. I call this hypocritical because you would like to take credit for doing something which is no more than a ruse for avoiding living up to your ideals.”
At this point Skepticus broke in with a laugh. “What the Grasshopper means, Prudence,” he said, “is that we do not yet have the courage of his convictions. The point is that we should not only refuse to work for the Grasshopper, we should also refuse to work for ourselves. We, like him, should be dying for our principles. That we are not is the respect in which, though no longer ants, we are not grasshoppers either. And, of course, given the premise that the life of the Grasshopper is the only life worth living, what he says certainly follows.”
“Not quite, Skepticus,” put in the Grasshopper. “I agree that the principles in question are worth dying for. But I must remind you that they are the principles of Grasshoppers. I am not here to persuade you to die for my principles, but to persuade you that I must. We ought to be quite clear about our respective roles. You are not here to die for me, but I for you. You only need, as Skepticus put it, the courage of my convictions up to a point; that is, courage sufficient to approve rather than to deplore my death. Neither of you is quite prepared to grant that approval, though for different reasons. You, Prudence, because, although you believe the principles are worth dying for, you do not believe they need to be died for; and you, Skepticus, because you are not even sure that the principles are worth dying for.
…it is possible that with accelerating advances in technology the time will come when there are in fact no winters. We may therefore conclude that although my timing may be a bit off, my way of life is not wrong in principle.”
“The operation was successful but the patient died,” put in Skepticus.
“No,” replied the Grasshopper, “it’s not quite like that.
…The ideal of prudence, therefore, like the ideal of preventive medicine, is its own extinction. For if it were the case that no sacrifices of goods needed ever to be made, then prudential actions would be pointless, indeed impossible. This principle, knowledge of which I regard as an indispensable first step on the path to wisdom, the ants seem never even to have entertained. The true Grasshopper sees that work is not self-justifying, and that his way of life is the final justification of any work whatever.”
John Danaher makes the same point less joyfully in the context of automation and UBI.
Two Kinds of AI
Computers are made of billions of switches that can be (virtually) wired together in flexible way. The switches can only be either on or off, and there are only three things that their connections can do:
IF: If switch A is on, it will turn on switch B.
NOT: If switch A is on, it will turn switch B off, and If switch A is off, it will turn switch B on.
AND: If switch A and B are both on, that will turn on switch C.
Computer programming, including AI, is no more than an arrangement of many such switches to form logical structures. There are two approaches to AI:
- The programmer can think through the entire logical process, account for all contingencies, and create a decision tree “by hand” that incorporates all the knowledge and logic necessary to do a job in a wide variety of real-world circumstances.
- The programmer creates a generalized learning tool that watches human behaviors in billions of different circumstances. The result is a black box that does the right thing. There is a decision tree based on criteria that no one has mapped out, so no one understands it.
Both approaches are being deployed. For example, Google’s original autopilot car was programmed manually (A), but the system advanced when learning ability was added on (B). The Tesla autopilot system is built by computer learning (B) from the ground up.
One of the most advanced systems using approach (A) for general computer intelligence is called Wolfram Alpha. (Stephen Wolfram is a certified computer supergenius, and has an elite team working with him, developing Alpha over the course of two decades.) You can try it out by typing any question into the yellow box.
Google’s search engine is programmed by approach (B). It is constantly learning by monitoring computer searches by billions of users, following their clicks to learn what it is they were trying to look for. Try typing the same questions into the Google search box.
Computer learning is way ahead of manual programming
This little experiment was designed to show you that approach B is miles ahead of approach A. Face recognition, voice recognition, natural language understanding, medical diagnosis…all are based on computers learning from humans. Anything impressive that computers can do today, they learned by emulating humans.
This is why I don’t think computers are poised to surpass human intelligence and creativity and judgment. They will continue to do some of what we do faster and more reliably, but they’re not learning how to do things that humans can’t do. Current AI technology is completely dependent on learning from humans.
Ray Kurtzweil, director of engineering at Google, is another certifiable supergenius who personally created some of the first milestones in AI back in the 1970s. Kurtzweil coined the term Singularity to describe the coming time when computers become better than people at the task of designing computers. He argues that the computer designed by the computer will immediately design a computer that’s more powerful yet, and computer intelligence will expand exponentially in a short period of time.
I think he’s not being realistic about what constitutes “intelligence”. There are aspects of intelligence that are outside the purview of computer capabilities.
Is the Human Brain a Computer?
Back in the 1940s, Alan Turing developed the theory of what a computers is and what it can do, and he proved that a broad class of machines with very different architecture are all equivalent, just slower or faster versions of the same set of capabilities. So much of what has been written about AI, both by computer geeks and philosophers, assumes that the human brain is a computer, with all the power and all the limitations of a Turing Machine.
It’s not true.
Human brains can do the things that computers can do, though, compared to computers, they’re pretty slow and prone to errors. But our brains do things that computers are not designed to do. We empathize, we intuit, we create, we receive and transmit ideas without knowing where they come from.
Telepathy is part and parcel of our thought process. There is overwhelming experimental evidence for telepathy. Sigmund Freud and WIlliam James, both pioneers of Western scientific psychology, knew about telepathic abilities from their own experience and from their studies. James wrote that the human brain was more akin to a radio receiver than a computer, and that consciousness lives somewhere outside the brain, outside material reality.
Is the brain a quantum computer? Quantum computers as presently conceived and designed seek to operate predictably by minimizing “errors”. In fact, all the engineering difficulties that are associated with development of a quantum computer come from the need for computations to take place reproducibly. Quantum computers of this design will be enormously fast Turing machines. The human brain may be a quantum computer of a different ilk, a design that thrives on quantum “uncertainty” as an entry point for consciousness. This is what Stuart Kauffman’s findings about superposition states in neurotransmitters suggests to me.
But that’s speculation. In any case, it’s certainly true that our brains are doing things that no computer of any design presently contemplated can duplicate.
Doomsday meets unbridled optimism.
After laying out the case against humanity as a unique predator species, laying waste the earth’s ecosystems in a short-sighted spree of pillage, after making clear that where we are headed is extinction…
Dr. Bush reminds us that the Western ‘scientific’ view of death is erroneous, that, in fact, fear of death and our unwillingness to face death are the driving force behind our alienation from nature, directly connected to anthropogenic ecocide.
He tells stories of three patients whom he brought back from death in a single long day (when he was a resident), all of whom reported that during the time that they were dead they had felt unconditional acceptance, a deep knowledge of belonging and rightness and harmony.
He offers his own vision, that if we the living can reflect to one another this acknowledgment of perfection, this unconditional acceptance, the extinction will be averted.
If any place in our experience is a hallowed, spiritual environment it is the birthplace of a child. If we could remember the experience, how amazing it must have been.
When we were in the wombs of our mothers, we could hear muffled sounds, the voice of our mother, of family members, the barking of a dog, the closing of a door. It’s muffled, but we can hear it. We can see the light filtering in through the wall of the mother’s womb. We can see transitions of shadows moving by, all in red hues, like an internal sunset happening all around us. And then there is a peaceful darkness in the night. Silence, and we have our mother’s heartbeat right next to us, and, holy of holies, we have a protected space.
Then, suddenly, at the end of 9 months during which we have only known this peaceful, protection, we have a catastrophic where intense pressure is applied. We are covered in microbes as we go down the birth canal, microbes, a whole body of life that your immune system has never seen before, but now it’s coding us. We are in transit, in a dark tunnel, feeling tremendous compression. Our heart rate is 180, spiking to 250 at moments because of the intensity of the pressure. We feel the fear of death. We think we must be dying. The light is gone, we are being crushed.
And then sudenly we are in the light. The pressure is gone, and we can’t believe the beauty around us. The face of our mother is mind-boggling. There are a thousand colors just in the iris of her eye, and we stare at that, and then there is a halo of color from an explosion of filaments out of her head, creating a rainbow effect and it is all we want to do for awhile, to watch that rainbow. There’s the extraordinary scene of greens and blues unfolding when we first look outside. Our first sunset. We can’t believe how beautiful the world is.
Then, we go through a forgetting. We forget the birth and the newness of the world. We forget the magic that we are alive in this moment. We stop noticing that we are in an exquisite miracle of beauty every day. We learn to show up each morning in the same carpeted cubicle.
Love is not a thing to be grasped. It is an experience. It is how we react when we recognize beauty. If you feel detached from love, or that you don’t know what it is to love, stop trying to generate the emotion of love, and just witness the beauty, and let your body respond. — Dr. Z.B.
“What we have now is a completely neurotic population… Where did this sudden fear of germs come from in this country? Have you noticed this? The media, constantly running stories about all the latest infections – salmonella, e-coli, hanta virus, bird flu – and Americans, they panic easily so now everybody’s running around, scrubbing this and spraying that and overcooking their food and repeatedly washing their hands, trying to avoid all contact with germs. It’s ridiculous and it goes to ridiculous lengths… bunch of goddamn pussies! Besides, what do you think you have an immune system for? It’s for killing germs!… Let me tell you a true story about immunization okay? When I was a little boy in New York City in the 1940s, we swam in the Hudson River and it was filled with raw sewage okay? We swam in raw sewage! You know… to cool off! And at that time, the big fear was polio; thousands of kids died from polio every year but you know something? In my neighbourhood, no one ever got polio! No one! Ever! You know why? Cause we swam in raw sewage! It strengthened our immune systems! The polio never had a prayer; we were tempered in raw shit! So personally, I never take any special precautions against germs. I don’t shy away from people that sneeze and cough, I don’t wipe off the telephone, I don’t cover the toilet seat, and if I drop food on the floor, I pick it up and eat it! Yes I do. Even if I’m at a sidewalk café! In Calcutta! The poor section! On New Year’s morning during a soccer riot! And you know something? In spite of all that so-called risky behaviour, I never get infections, I don’t get them, I don’t get colds, I don’t get flu, I don’t get headaches, I don’t get upset stomach, you know why? Cause I got a good strong immune system and it gets a lot of practice…”
— George Carlin (1999)