Blind Brain Theory is Blind to its Biggest Test

A very short version of a much longer critique of the “blind brain theory” posed by R. Scott Bakker (link at the end).

Science is just that, science (like neuroscience, for example) … but it isn’t “everything.” It can aim to reduce “everything” it encounters about our world to something that goes through the “scientific process” in attempts to fit that “thing” on a tee-shirt, but science isn’t ever going to replace philosophy or our exploration of our world (I’m using some heuristics here to avoid writing a book).

Where would science (and it’s scientific process) start if philosophy didn’t exist, for example? There wouldn’t be a philosophy of science … so are we to just start experimenting? About what?

We don’t have (as a species) enough of a knowledge base to be completely “eliminativistic.” Why? We don’t know (nor ever know) all of the “states” that must be eliminated, and therefor will always have a need to explore our world (Universe / Cosmos / cognition etc…) in some non-scientific way.

There will eternally be some need for some type of philosophical exploration, especially for Homo sapiens. To make any assumption that our heuristics could always be 100% correct, and that we could ever be 100% eliminativistic of all that is “not real”… would be asinine.

We aren’t that special. But because we are conscious, some members of our species sure think we are.

So why this competition between philosophy and science? Who cares if some philosophical exploration doesn’t pass some test of “scientific rigor” or doesn’t reduce down to what “is”?

It’s quite simple actually … Our species is eternally curious about the world we live in, and that curiosity combined with our evolutionary gift of what we call consciousness (not the “woo-woo” kind) puts all of the overly reductionist, eliminatavist “blind brain” theories to the very same philosophical AND (eventually) scientific tests those theories will never pass.

EDIT:  I’m going to be posing in the longer version that if BBT were true, it would invoke a “Blind Brain Paradox” of increasing introspection and philosophical exploration … not eliminate or reduce it.

On “Transparency Is Good For Society” versus “Privacy”

The fact that transparency was brought in as a justification for a “better” society is telling.  Here are my two points…

1.  Why do you think transparency “seems” to be a thing that society “gains” from?  Think about the motive behind that idea.  There are multiple layers to the motive, some are okay (I suppose), and some aren’t (corporate, advertising, tracking, NSA, etc…).

Transparency is marketed as “better” partly because of the media itself, so that companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google et al can make their money.  If we weren’t “transparent” at all, they couldn’t collect our content and tailor advertising to us (as an over-simplified example).

So the version of transparency we encounter in our society is an illusion … and a follow up question would be “How was society before all of this ‘transparency’ we have now?”  My answer … in the big picture, about the same specifically as it refers to transparency defined by all of us exposing ourselves online via the media tools available (each with a profit-driven responsibility to investors and shareholders).

That being said … the one big caveat to this being there are specific situations where the idea of transparency can help society.  I am concerned (big picture) about our overall ability as a society to properly manage that transparency when you factor in the totality of the interests in using this transparency as a tool for societal improvement.

Short version:  Any media tool can be used for both good and bad purposes.

Which brings me to #2…

2.  We tend to harbor the illusion that privacy always means “something or things bad we hide from everybody else all of the time.”

That is[1] hardly[2] ever[3] the actual[4] case in reality.  Not never the case, because privacy is also a tool of sorts … so it can be used for both bad and good purposes.

So, from a societal standpoint … which is the basis of your question…

Privacy is absolutely necessary to provide the opportunity for honest, good, and well-meaning people in our society (most people) to have a place that is difficult (hopefully impossible) for any part of the rest of society (containing those wishing to harm) to exploit that place of privacy in any way.  A place of privacy is what allows us to be truly human, to be ourselves.

Yes, that does include the “bad” things like allowing “bad” people that same privacy.  But the way I see it, our privacy is one thing we cannot sacrifice in the name of some societal mission to accomplish other objectives (whatever those objectives may be, which aren’t always clearly defined).

Bad things will always happen, and taking privacy away (in the name of some version of full transparency) won’t solve that problem.  It will merely change the kinds of problems we encounter (which will likely be just as “bad” as the problems we had with the opportunity for an area of privacy, just in different ways).

Living Slowly and Deliberately

How to stop living for society’s cookies and instead live slowly and deliberately on your terms…

Welcome my son
Welcome to the machine
What did you dream?
It’s alright we told you what to dream…
From Pink Floyd “Welcome to the Machine”

Part of living deliberately means you must begin to think differently than most of society.

This (thinking differently) scares most people. Most people stay within their comfort zones…

A simple example:

  • Waking up to an alarm clock (bad for your health),
  • Going to a job they hate (bad for your health),
  • Eating crappy food at lunch, in a hurry to get back to the job they hate (REALLY bad for your health),
  • Driving home in traffic (long commutes, bad for your health),
  • Returning home, tired, perhaps stressed out (bad for your … you get the idea),
  • Eating crappy food again while watching TV and maybe surfing the Internet (bad for…),
  • Going to bed late, to wake up again and do it all over (bad for…).

And this doesn’t factor in those people with families to support, with sons and daughters who are screaming for their Mom’s or Dad’s attention.

It doesn’t factor in the illusion that we “must” have “two income families” and let a daycare raise our children (big mistake) in order to survive.

But in the end, society has a cookie for you, if you’re good little boys and girls.

All of the sacrifices you make if you do even a few of the things in the list above, or similar things … and you get a small to medium paycheck.

Then various ripple effects begin to happen in exchange for the “cookie” of a paycheck in this oversimplified example…

You have bills to pay.

You have food to buy.

You have appointments to keep.

You have a smart phone in your hand.

You have urges for “shopping therapy.”

You have stuff to buy (for various purposes).

And on, and on…

Then, how much money do you have left? There is usually stress in the answer to that question. And even if there isn’t … if you make a “middle class” income or better, then stress follows with the ripple effect of “what to do next?”

All because of the cookie that society gives you … the paycheck.

Naturally, there are also other types of “societal cookies”…

  • Mass produced for the masses “disposable consumer stuff.”
  • Meaningless reality television programs (no, I’m not suggesting you go “anti-TV”v although some have).
  • Freebies, giveaways, and other useless garbage.
  • Celebrities who make fools of themselves in the name of meaningless “entertainment.”
  • Movie companies that keep re-hashing the “same movie” over and over again, and spinning that in such a way you keep buying the ticket.
  • News media that is nothing but junk food for the brain (ESPECIALLY when it tries to “help” you live your life).
  • Fast food, sodas, candies, cakes, pies, and other sweets that likely create cancer for you later in life, and contribute to most of the obesity in our society now.
  • Your front lawn and your back lawn (if they aren’t useful for producing food).
  • And on, and on…

You get these “cookies” as a normal part of being a good member of society. In the interest of keeping this blog post from becoming a book, I’m not going to dive into examples (like with the paycheck), but move on to why you need to stop living for these cookies.

Then, we’ll also cover some specific “how-to.”

Why You Need To Stop Living For “The Cookies”…

There is so much that the gift of life has to offer you already, so I would like you to think about exactly why you need more?

What do reality TV shows, freebie giveaways, “mass-produced for the masses” stuff and the like have in common?

Two things, actually:

1. They are disposable, or at least involve the concept of being disposable. This “throwaway mentality” in our culture only exists because we support it as consumers. It’s disturbing if you think about it. And if you’re living to be a consumer, you’re not living as a human being.

2. They are, when you think about it a bit, all mindless … and in some cases, bad for your health.

So here are several reasons why you have to stop living for these (and other) “cookies” that society offers…

  • You’re not living for yourself.
  • Usually they end up wasting your time and money.
  • They usually produce other “feedback loops,” that is, they require you purchase more “stuff,” or an endless loop of other stuff (which also has their own feedback loops) to use them.
  • They cause frustration.
  • The company that sold them to you does not care about you or your well-being (at all, ever).
  • BIG: Any entity, authority, or structure that operates as “the only way to live” or tells you “this is the right way to live” doesn’t intend on letting you think for yourself.
  • It’s time for you to start thinking and living for yourself instead.
  • It’s time to quit taking handouts from society, to quit wading through the vomit of society’s cookies, and to liberate yourself (and your mind) from the hideous “collective” that society wants to create (and force you to join).
  • In short, you’re not truly free until you can disassociate “pleasure” from society’s cookies. You need to associate “pain” with them instead.
  • And on, and on…

As you can see by now, I am suggesting a major shift in the way you view society as a whole.

For some of you, it will pass as “Yep, knew that already…” (although I would challenge, then why are you reading this?).

For still some of you, you’re wondering “Why on Earth would I suggest the major shifts that I will suggest in this post?”

Because of one word … indoctrination.

Yes, you’ve been indoctrinated into a way of living that suits the society, culture, and civilization it is suited for. That is not necessarily the way you “must” live.

In future posts, I will return to your individuality, your privacy (something you’re entitled to, not that you should have to fight for), and the lifestyle you think is best for you.

But for this post, it’s time for a little “how-to” to help you on the path to a life that YOU dictate, not some institution, authority, or society … at a pace that you control…

How You Can Start Living For Yourself Instead, Deliberately…

I am not going to dictate that everything I provide in these “how-to” sections will work for every single person at the same level. So, take what you will out of what I am about to outline here.

Let’s get started…

I would like you to consider 3 starting points that pertain to the theme of this post (society’s cookies):

1. I would like you to think about your job (or whatever it is you do for a living).

Do you work a lot of hours per week, because you think you have to? Who invented the 40 hour week anyway?

Do you really “work” for all 40 hours (or more) every single week?

The answers to those questions should tell you a lot about our culture in the United States.  Work for work’s sake, the mistrust of workers, and the “slave-ish” mentality. All of it is bad for your health.

Other cultures are much different (which doesn’t mean they are perfect, either, not the point). So, why do you do what you do?

Is it a job you hate?

Leave (on your terms, not mine). You’re throwing your life away (and it’s a short life). Why would you want to keep throwing your life away? If you’re health suffers, will your work life be leveraged to maintain that bad health?  (More doctor’s appointments, eating poorly, etc…)

Think about that. Make changes. Live deliberately, on your terms, and quit letting our overzealous, competition-oriented society TELL you how you must work.

On the flip side, there is the accountability for you, too…

You cannot blame your current circumstances wholly on society. Think critically about yourself, are you doing the best job you possibly can? If you need to “put food on the table” are you working on creating the circumstances that will allow that to happen (e.g. managing your money properly, see #2)?

Go to your library, get a card, and read self-help … help yourself to be the best person you can (and most resources at your library are free, which is good). And above all, do what you want to do for “work.”

The questions and the links will help you to form your own “blueprint” here (not direct how-to).

Next…

2. I would like you to think about the stuff you own.

Do you own too much? Like most people, you probably do.  But I would like you to start thinking about a concept called “minimalism.” Not the “art minimalism,” but the movement based around serious analysis of what you own.

I will include something I’ve written before on this topic:

On Minimalism

I’ve been asked… “Joe, what is minimalism to you?”

Here is the beginning of that answer (it’s a DEEP subject)…

It’s a mindset. You begin to think deeply about your life, the impact your life has on others, and how you can contribute. This, in addition to the traditional “less than 100 things” mindset for extreme minimalists (of which, I am not).

It’s a set of guiding beliefs. Minimalism isn’t “something you do,” it’s a lifestyle choice. Much like diets… it won’t work unless you totally commit your entire life to it.

It provides “relief” when you commit to it. You will, no doubt, feel very differently once you commit to the lifestyle choice it represents. I felt relief, because I no longer had to “buy stuff” just to feel good … instead I just felt good because I didn’t have to maintain and worry about stuff.

It’s more than “stuff.” Reducing the number of things you own is only one very small part of minimalism. Minimalism translates into other parts of your life, how you spend money, determining how much you need, reducing your carbon footprint, creativity, the environment and others.

And on, and on.

As you can see from this short post… minimalism is much more than just “living with less than 100 things,” which quite frankly, is an extreme minimalist mindset. I’m not comfortable with that currently.

What I have done is reduce (drastically) the number of items I own, giving away or selling my excess stuff that I felt I had to “keep” at one point… and no longer feel I need.

  • I think differently about my impact on the world.
  • I think differently about how I interact with others.
  • In short… I think the idea of minimalism made me think differently overall.

Could it do the same for you? Who knows?

But I’ve noticed that there are a few misconceptions about minimalism as a lifestyle choice. Most of these misconceptions seem to come from some “rules” about minimalism.

Let’s just clear the deck here … there are NO rules you have to follow when choosing to live as a minimalist. There isn’t a nice little box labeled “minimalism” where you can open the top and discover everything about the topic.

It means different things to different people … because we are all, well, different right?

For example … personally, I do NOT have less than 100 things … and I haven’t (yet) cut the cable, and I DO own a car.

But I do watch very little TV, I only drive where I have to (I ride a bike or walk elsewhere) … and I’ve cut back boxes and boxes of my “stuff” that I don’t use and have given most of it to Goodwill (I probably have less than about 800 things, but still working on it).

I also buy locally grown food from our farmer’s market, eat healthy, walk 3 miles every day with my wife at exercise pace, drink plenty of water etc…

And, I manage my time very well, answer email once or twice a day (if that), don’t have a “smart phone,” enjoy nature… etc…

These are the easiest examples of how there aren’t “rules” I have to follow to follow this lifestyle choice.

You DON’T have to follow any of them.

If you just go through your closet, and pull out 10 things right after reading this post and send them to the Goodwill, and then don’t replace them … then you’ve made a choice like a “minimalist” would.

If you decide to eliminate soda, ice cream, and pie from your diet… you’re well on your way.

But there are NO set guidelines, this is a lifestyle… NOT a rule book.

Labels like “minimalist” mean nothing… your lifestyle choices mean everything (to you and no one else). If there had to be a “rule” to follow, I’d make it that one.

Start today with this website http://mnmlist.com (Leo Babauta on minimalism) and work from there. If you continue exploring, you’ll run into the resources you need to decide. (A good book, and another good
site).

3. I would like you to think about media, marketing, and other influences.

Consumerism, anxiety, the next war that we’re entering … and OMG Ebola!

Where does all of that originate?

The mass media, marketing, and other influences like propaganda. Let’s face it; we live in a society that imposes itself on you.

Whatever is on the news is a crisis or junk food for the brain … so stop watching it. How? Just stop, now.

If you’re addicted to the news, there is a reason, it’s addicting. Stop watching it, cold turkey. The feelings and anxiety will go away after a short time.

And you really won’t miss as much as you think. Replace watching the news with another activity, like reading one of those books from the library.

Or don’t, as I said before, this isn’t about forcing you to do anything. I’ve linked to a PDF in the word “media” that explains “why” to stop.

Marketing and advertising are also imposing (and frankly, interrupting) your life.

So let’s get some things straight:

  • No, you’re not going to look like the person in the magazine ad.
  • Nope, you’re probably not going to lose as much weight in as short a period of time as that diet or workout infomercial told you.
  • If the drug you just saw an ad for was so good, it wouldn’t need to advertise on TV to get attention.
  • You will not earn $50,000 in a week, like that other ad you just watched online.
  • No, that thing isn’t free (unless you don’t value your time), and you will get marketed to as a result of filling out your personal information so “they” can send it to you (online or offline).
  • That social network you just signed up for, and filled out your profile on? Yeah, they offer that for “free” so you’ll give them your personal data and they can tailor advertising to you. How can
    you expect to live privately if you keep doing that?
  • Those surveys you fill out online? Yep, for marketing purposes. And yes, some of them DO sell your information to other parties. Junk mail anyone?
  • Heard of the term “big data”? It’s used to invade your privacy … period. We’re losing more and more of our privacy to these companies every day.
  • And on, and on…

Marketing and advertising will only get more and more invasive as digital technologies continue to improve. The good news is … you can do something about it.

Go to http://prism-break.org, a site created in the face of NSA spying that was discovered by Edward Snowden, and use the tools there. There are a ton of them to choose from, but the site does a good job of explaining them.

The “how-to” here in almost all cases is the same … stop paying attention to it.

Think critically before you fill out surveys, “free offers,” trial offers, and call the 800-number for late-night infomercials. The promises are psychologically designed to seem “easy to do,” or like “relief” for your problems.

Don’t fall for it.

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins is a good place to start, to understand the psychology behind the advertising. There are obviously other books on the topic, but this one is the most clearly written that
I have read.

To finish this section, here are 5 things to do instead of consuming media…

1. Read, and actually finish a book this year (or more). Start with something deep and intellectually stimulating (like this for example).

2. Think. Just sit and think for an hour or two. Do nothing else, no distractions. Let your mind roam, but control the urge to do “media” stuff.

3. Write. Write 1500 words, right now. I don’t care what, just write them. Start a blog, and keep doing it, at least once a month (preferably more).

4. Talk to someone, face to face. Remember that? Talking to someone face to face? Yeah, quite a bit of the “real” world passes you by while your distracted with the social anesthetic of the digital world.

5. Connect with someone deeply, face to face. Don’t stop at talking, make one new friend … this year. You can do it. You’re not too shy, you just might not be used to this “developing relationships” thing.

Now, some starting points…

In this post, the theme was “How to stop living for society’s cookies.”

Some starting points for you to continue thinking about (in addition to the how-to provided in the previous section):

Critical thinking. We don’t do enough of it, so I would like you to take one opportunity over the next couple of weeks to think more critically about something.

This could be encountering a dramatic situation at home or work, and stopping yourself before you have a knee-jerk reaction to it. Instead, slow down, breath, and think about your reaction before issuing it.

Ask the most powerful question … “Why?” We’re conditioned from an early age to “just conform”, “just trust the government”, “just get a secure job”, and “just deal with it.” I used to follow that path. In fact, up until 2001, I was drinking ALL the “Kool-Aid” of the typical conditioned lifestyle. More here.

It’s funny how reflexive we are as humans… Someone offers something to you, for “free,” and you take it because “that’s polite.” I’m asking you to consider saying “no.”

In fact, say “no” a LOT more than you do now, to a LOT more things. It’s not rude, and you’re entitled to do it.

Only say “yes” to the things you truly want to do because you think it’s right for you. Forget the company or person doing the offering … YOU are the one with the power of decision, don’t give up that power.

If you do say “Yes,” anything that happens as a result of saying yes (even if you didn’t originally want to) is your responsibility to handle … period.

Again, these are only starting points on this theme, to get your thoughts moving in the right direction, there is much more on this topic (one blog post won’t cover it).

For reading, I will provide recommendations in related to the material covered.

In this issue, the books recommended will follow the idea of getting you to think outside of the common society and culture in which you, I, and everyone else have been indoctrinated.

As always, every recommendation is something I stand behind, and will always be a book I’ve read.

1. Steps to an Ecology of Mind by Gregory Bateson

2. Against Civilization by John Zerzan (a collection of essays written by different people)

3. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer (also his book of essays, Between the Devil and the Dragon)

That should get you started (especially #3).

Look, we’re getting close to the end of 2015, and a lot of shit has happened this year.  Some very horrible like the Paris attacks, ISIS, the politicization of climate change etc…

But for you, right now, you have a chance to make things very positive. Quit paying attention to the news, get rid of your stuff, and change your circumstances if you’re not living the life you want.

The accountability rests with you.  Make 2016 your year, and forget all of the bad stuff that is happening.  You can’t control that anyhow.

Look Up

by Gary Turk (shared here with permission)

Look Up.

I have 422 friends, yet I am lonely.
I speak to all of them everyday, yet none of them really know me.

The problem I have sits in the spaces between,
looking into their eyes, or at a name on a screen.

I took a step back, and opened my eyes,
I looked around, and then realised
that this media we call social, is anything but
when we open our computers, and it’s our doors we shut.

All this technology we have, it’s just an illusion,
of community, companionship, a sense of inclusion
yet when you step away from this device of delusion,
you awaken to see, a world of confusion.

A world where we’re slaves to the technology we mastered,
where our information gets sold by some rich greedy bastard.
A world of self-interest, self-image, self-promotion,
where we share all our best bits, but leave out the emotion.

We are at our most happy with an experience we share,
but is it the same if no one is there.
Be there for you friends, and they’ll be there too,
but no one will be, if a group message will do.

We edit and exaggerate, we crave adulation,
we pretend we don’t notice the social isolation.
We put our words into order, until our lives are glistening,
we don’t even know if anyone is listening.

Being alone isn’t the problem, let me just emphasize,
that if you read a book, paint a picture, or do some exercise,
you are being productive, and present, not reserved or recluse,
you’re being awake and attentive, and putting your time to good use.

So when you’re in public, and you start to feel alone,
put your hands behind your head, and step away from the phone.
You don’t need to stare at your menu, or at your contact list,
just talk to one another, and learn to co-exist.

I can’t stand to hear the silence, of a busy commuter train,
when no one wants to talk through the fear of looking insane.
We’re becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies
to engage with one another, and look into someone’s eyes.

We’re surrounded by children, who since they were born,
watch us living like robots, and think it’s the norm.
It’s not very likely you will make world’s greatest dad,
if you cant entertain a child without a using an iPad.

When I was a child, I would never be home,
I’d be out with my friends, on our bikes we would roam.
We’d ware holes in our trainers, and graze up our knees;
we’d build our own clubhouse, high up in the trees.

Now the parks are so quiet, it gives me a chill
to see no children outside and the swings hanging still.
There’s no skipping or hopscotch, no church and no steeple,
we’re a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people.

So look up from your phone, shut down that display,
take in your surroundings, and make the most of today.
Just one real connection is all it can take,
to show you the difference that being there can make.

Be there in the moment, when she gives you the look,
that you remember forever, as when love overtook.
The time you first hold her hand, or first kiss her lips,
the time you first disagree, but still love her to bits.

The time you don’t need to tell hundreds, about what you’ve just done,
because you want to share the moment, with just this one.
The time you sell your computer, so you can buy a ring,
for the girl of your dreams, who is now the real thing.

The time you want to start a family, and the moment when,
you first hold your baby girl, and get to fall in love again.
The time she keeps you up at night, and all you want is rest,
and the time you wipe away the tears, as your baby flees the nest.

The time your little girl returns, with a boy for you to hold,
and the day he calls you granddad, and makes you feel real old
The time you take in all you’ve made, just by giving life attention,
and how your glad you didn’t waste it, by looking down at some invention.

The time you hold your wife’s hand, and sit down beside her bed
you tell her that you love her, and lay a kiss upon her head.
She then whispers to you quietly, as her heart gives a final beat,
that she’s lucky she got stopped, by that lost boy in the street.

But none of these times ever happened, you never had any of this,
When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss.

So look up from your phone, shut down those displays,
we have a finite existence, a set number of days.
Why waste all our time getting caught in the net,
as when the end comes, nothing’s worse than regret.

I am guilty too, of being part of this machine,
this digital world, where we are heard but not seen.
Where we type and don’t talk, where we read as we chat,
where we spend hours together, without making eye contact.

Don’t give in to a life where you follow the hype,
give people your love, don’t give them your like.
Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined
Go out into the world, leave distractions behind.

Look up from your phone, shut down that display,
stop watching this video, live life the real way.

#poetry   #spokenword #lyrics   #lookup

Slow Projects

What’s the first thing you usually think of if you’re thinking about creating art, writing a book, making music etc…

Heck, you might even think of this when you are taking a new turn in life.

Making money, putting food on the table, etc…

Well, slow down.

Your project, art, book etc… is going to have to come along for the ride while you’re doing the “other thing” that puts food on the table, pays the bills etc…

See, most people have the idea of leaving their job, career etc… and going to work on their fantasy project, create their art, write their book.

But normally, for most people, they don’t have an amount of cash set aside to accomplish this dream.

I’m all for the dream, but you do have to be realistic to a certain extent as well.   Sure, you can reduce expenses, you can sell some of your excess stuff (we all have some), you can even go so far as to ditch the car and find other ways to get around.

But then you will also have to get real, there is still food to put on the table, light bills to pay etc… even at the most minimal of levels.  If you have 6 months to a year’s worth of cash set aside to pay these things, then GO FOR YOUR DREAM by itself.  Forget the “real world” and get your project completed.

For the rest of us, you’ll have to work on the side.

A good book I’ve read on this topic is “Writer with a Day Job” … which might be a good start for you.

Of course, even when you’re working on the side (which I was doing back in 2000 into 2003 while getting started on my writing career), devote 5 hours a week to your project at minimum.

Turn off the TV, quit playing around and get to work on your dream, slowly, take your time with it.

But get it done.

Because if you don’t, you’ll be completing someone else’s dream while waiting on your own.