The temptation to ridicule is nearly irresistible, the kind of compulsion that you would think must have evolved for some adaptive purpose. But it obviously is not a tactic for conflict resolution. Is it a tactic for winning more people to your side? Unlikely. So maybe it’s just another group coherence thing, our group against the idiots? BTW, I’m as guilty as any, not signaling virtue here:

The right attitude solves everything

rusty chains
rusty chains
Gotta break those chains. Photo by Manuel Sardo on Unsplash

“No need to ask, He’s a Smooth Operator” — Sade Adu

A free man doesn’t worry about vaccines. If there’s an epidemic, somebody will make a vaccine and sell it to him. Won’t take any time at all without government interference. Somebody else will test it, make sure it works. No need to prepare ahead of time. A VC will finance the R&D for a 20:1 return. And it’s been shown time and again that people will pay everything they own to put off dying.

What if you can’t pay? Well, a free man makes his own money. There’s all…

Brenden, I find this approach to myth unhelpful. First of all, “myth” seems to be used for anything that you believe in. So why not just call it “belief”? This confusion leads to statements like this pull quote from Gabriel: “Whereas fire is sacred for the Brahmans, the scientific approach is sacred in secular modernity”. So, a metaphor wherein science is like fire, and all of modern non-religious culture is like a religion’s priestly class. This means something? The word “sacred”, too, is stretched beyond its usual meaning, perhaps (I’m just saying here) to make a meaningless utterance sound profound.

We are wired to detect reality; sometimes we err high or low

Surreally layered and colored sidewalk scene
Surreally layered and colored sidewalk scene
Bill Gore Photography

“This feels so unreal.” — Nearly all of us, sometime during the pandemic

Each of us has a brain that constructs realities for us, using our senses and memory boxes of dusty debris from the unconscious attic. Our biological survival depends on our discerning base reality from our imaginings and memories. So, the brain operates a reality detector.

But any kind of detector can be fooled. Human experience suggests that consciousness has a dimension that I’ll call phenomenal realness. Reality for us comes in different degrees.

Conscious transparency.

Philosophers have described conscious experience as being transparent. They mean that the perceived world…

A public company has less incentive for good behavior

Image: Pixabay

The personal genetic information service, 23andMe, just announced that it will merge with a Virgin Group shell corporation to become a public company. The purpose is a “more personalized and proactive approach to healthcare … [via] innovation and disruption.” This might not be a completely good thing.

The merger comes a year after a slump in the consumer genetic testing industry and layoffs at the company. The company has in the past raised considerable private capital but says it now needs the flexibility of going public to reach its goals.

You can browse through 23andMe’s press releases since its 2007…

Consciousness is an evolved adaptation for social life.

Images: T. Wade, Amboseli Baboon Research Project, Unsplash

“I think therefore I am.” Consciousness is the most private of private things. Yet arguably we develop consciousness primarily in interaction with other people, and the intensely human nature of our consciousness evolved in response to a striking rise in complexity of primate social life.

There’s strong support from science and philosophy that social evolution favored three expanding levels of our being: a basic conscious self-model, its extension into a lifelong sense of self, and the self’s anchoring of social commitments into a personal identity.

Conscious Biology

Long ago I studied primate psychobiology because I wanted to know: what is unique about…

The weaponization of bogus claims is eroding individuality.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

There’s been a rise in belief in unfounded conspiracy theories. At the end of 2020 some claim that these elaborate fictions are dangerously increasing our American political schism. Multiple causes have been suggested, including triggers from social stress and the amplifying effect of social media.

We’ll look at some aspects of human nature that leave us susceptible. And there’s a theory that these factors, working together, might even change the nature of consciousness.

The Conspiracy Complex

Or, Why Would Anything Ever Go Right?

Urizen shows his book of laws. Image: William Blake Archive

When human endeavors so often go wrongly, we blame people for making bad decisions, whether from a moral, or political, or scientific point of view. This only raises our emotional temperature without fixing problems or heading off future catastrophes. However, there are recent theories that explain that many failures stem from general dynamical patterns. Let’s look at two of these patterns. They might someday be part of a science of how to get things done, a kind of moral philosophy of the practical.

How the Deck Is Stacked

First, let’s consider what we’re up against. As in, what are the given background conditions for any…

image: tw

Brains are not just for eating

Until 9/11 I thought that the days were over when people could be immolated for having the wrong ideas about the soul. People have long been controlled by a fear that their immortal essence could suffer for eternity if they did not obey certain spiritual authorities.

“One of these mornings, the chain is gonna break.” — Aretha Franklin, Chain of Fools

Brains, Not Chains

While those chains have now crumbled for a lot of us, belief in a soul is still pretty common. …

Some cultural roots of the American Right

Borderer reivers raiding for cattle: Wikipedia

American individualism is ingrained and goes way back. Social media are just an amplifier.

The Emigrants

Once there was a planet with people on it. It was on the verge of that stage where kingdoms would disappear, so that any tyrants remaining would need an ideology to get and hold their power.

But, in these turbulent times, there was a land where the rulers of North and South fought again and again. The people who lived on the lowlands between these two kingdoms (call them the Borderers) were accustomed to being tormented and slaughtered by the contending armies, and so developed a…

Ted Wade @SentientArtifact

3 life phases. Monkey sociobiology. Medical data search/AI. Now = Sentience: its limits and artifacts.

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