node created 2019/09/29
Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.
Philip K. Dick
Why not just cut out the middleman and eat from a bag of sugar directly?
For if the doctrine of free-will has raised up fanatics and persecutors, who, assuming that men may be good under all conditions if they merely wish to be so, have sought to persuade other men’s wills with threats, fines, imprisonments, torture, the spike, the wheel, the axe, the fagot, in order to make them good and save them against their obdurate wills; if the doctrine of Spiritualism, the soul supreme, has done this, the doctrine of Materialistic Determinism has produced shifting, self-excusing, worthless, parasitical characters, who are this now and that at some other time, and anything and nothing upon principle. “My conditions have made me so,” they cry, and there is no more to be said; poor mirror-ghosts! how could they help it! To be sure, the influence of such a character rarely reaches so far as that of the principled persecutor; but for every one of the latter, there are a hundred of these easy, doughy characters, who will fit any baking tin, to whom determinist self-excusing appeals; so the balance of evil between the two doctrines is about maintained.
Another part of me wonders if they were being positive to the point of lying about it lest they be seen as a "negative person". Why? Because as the sewer rats have shown us, speaking the truth about badness brings out the teeth and the claws. They will take you apart for daring to pipe up about something that just does not make sense.

They can have their dishonest positivity. Someone has to deal with the actual problems in the world, and it starts by admitting they exist.
The general idea of [the Green New Deal] was to mobilize some kind of cooperative fight to defeat the very real threat of climate change, and to overcome our addiction to fossil fuel and the consequential CO2 emissions and pollution. Many very talented people have created a lot of good ideas and solutions to the oncoming disaster.

I don't think that people realize how much this pandemic is a walk in the park compared to whats coming down the road. I don't think people want to think. I think they want to stick their head in the sand and ignore the fact that there have been many calamities in human history. Perhaps they never heard of the 10s of millions of people who starved to death in Asia less than a century ago. That was a walk in the park by comparison.

Finally, I think that people don't realize how many of the technologies that they so happily embrace (without understanding how they work or where they came from) are the result of the same scientific process that has led 11,000 scientists to tell us that our time to act is growing very short.

That's the general idea of it. And I feel sorry as hell for today's wonderful kids who will have to pay with a miserable life (those who survive) for the willful ignorance of their parents and grandparents.
note how the whole story was flagged off HN
This kind of "meritocracy" is more like if we held an arm-wrestling tournament, declared the victor to be our new feudal lord, the next 6 runners up to be knights, and everyone else to be peasants. Our position in this new society was based on "merit", but that can't necessarily justify the difference between nobles and serfs.

We could even re-run the tournament every year. We could make sure no child gets extra time in the weight-room because of her noble parents. We could decide that arm-wrestling is stupid and brutish and so, in a glorious revolution, switch to speed chess. None of it would address the question of justice.
Half of Reddit has their own political ideas that they are sure will make the perfect society, but if any one person was given absolute authority to realise their perfect society, then it's gonna be a shitshow no matter how smart they are, because society is way too complicated for any one person to have a fully rounded view of.
We may underestimate, perhaps half on purpose, the camp-like quality of our cities even in ‘normal’ times, and accept that it is sometimes necessary for cities temporarily to become camps. But bare life is not enough. We don’t just want to be preserved, we want also to live.
Virtuous intelligent people, the wise, are habituated and developed in the direction of truth and away from lies, deceit and bullshit. They have a sensitivity to the truth and the value of truth. Bullshitting requires and in turn reinforces a kind of mental dullness and blindness. It leads to a kind of degeneration of the mental faculties. If you don't care about the truth—only the parochial effects of your petty machinations—then you are frustrating the intellect and its grasp of reality. You are reinforcing vices while weakening the capacity for discernment and the strengths and virtues needed for proper intellectual function and receptivity.

It's a bit like what happens when an intelligent coward is met with contrary evidence. He will turn away from the truth and go to great lengths to rationalize it away, and in doing so, he will blind himself to the truth. Making that a habit through repetition only deepens the vice and unravels the mind, making it increasingly difficult to dig yourself out.
In the United States, we have 260,000 billboards; 11,250 newspapers; 11,556 periodicals; 27,000 video outlets for renting video tapes; more than 500 million radios; and more than 100 million computers. Ninety-eight percent of American homes have a television set; more than half our homes have more than one. There are 40,000 new book titles published every year (300,000 worldwide), and every day in America 41 million photographs are taken. And if this is not enough, more than 60 billion pieces of junk mail (thanks to computer technology) find their way into our mail-boxes every year.

From millions of sources all over the globe, through every possible channel and medium — light waves, airwaves, ticker tapes, computer banks, telephone wires, television cables, satellites, printing presses — information pours in. Behind it, in every imaginable form of storage — on paper, on video and audio tape, on discs, film, and silicon chips — is an ever greater volume of information waiting to be retrieved. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we are awash in information. And all the sorcerer has left us is a broom.

Information has become a form of garbage, not only incapable of answering the most fundamental human questions but barely useful in providing coherent direction to the solution of even mundane problems. To say it still another way: The milieu in which Technopoly flourishes is one in which the tie between information and human purpose has been severed, i.e., information appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose.

All of this has called into being a new world. I have referred to it elsewhere as a peek-a-boo world, where now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment, then vanishes again. It is an improbable world. It is a world in which the idea of human progress, as Bacon expressed it, has been replaced by the idea of technological progress. The aim is not to reduce ignorance, superstition, and suffering but to accommodate ourselves to the requirements of new technologies. We tell ourselves, of course, that such accomodations will lead to a better life, but that is only the rhetorical residue of a vanishing technocracy.

We are a culture consuming itself with information, and many of us do not even wonder how to control the process. We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend, believing that cultures may suffer grievously from a lack of information, which, of course, they do. It is only now beginning to be understood that cultures may also suffer grievously from information glut, information without meaning, information without control mechanisms.
"Technopoly"
The Screen and the Job have displaced almost everything else is our lives. Loneliness is just a primary symptom.

The Screen, whether it’s TV, computer, or phone, has supplanted almost all social interactions. This manifests itself in things like SitComs on TV (just a bunch of friends or family hanging out) or Social Media on phones. It’s very easy to fill the social needs of right now with a Screen. But under even a minuscule amount of self reflection these are revealed as hollow substitutes for real human interaction.

The Job has completely taken over as a driving force in evaluating choices. The average person has to consider all options in the light of both the current employer and the specter of tomorrow’s. Moving across the country for a high paying job? Great! Moving to be closer to friends? That’s a career killer.

No wonder we are lonely. We make choices in the short term that optimize happiness, often at the expense of our relationships. Ghosting is not just for dates now. Then turn around and make choices in the long term that optimize employability at the expense of all else.
I've noticed a fairly big distinction in what I learned as science and the philosophy of science as it was practiced up until around the last 20 years or so and now.

Science was based on rigorous falsification. Scientists actively tried to prove themselves and other scientists wrong. Science has always been more about, 'well we know it's not all of these things, so it's probably that until we prove that wrong too'.

Sometime in the last couple decades, it's stopped being like that. Instead it's, 'my models and data say this, so it is this and everything else is wrong'.

Science at this point is really only authority driven because journals and even governments charge exorbitant prices for access to them, cutting out a vast majority of the population from actually partaking in any part of the scientific process.

When all you get is contradictory news reports on a handful of selected research from journalists that barely understand what they're reading, you're going to be stuck with an elitist authority driven system.

There's zero reason for this in todays world other than control and profit. Even within the scientific community, there's 'caste' systems, financial guardianship and other such barriers, keeping again, many people from learning and partaking.

Science isn't hard, it isn't magic, it's a systematic way of looking at the world through observation and falsification. That is all science is. Anyone can do science. I've taken groups of kids, volunteers and many people and in short time, taught them to do science.

It's just people don't really get taught to do this. It's easier to control a population that's trickled information through 'authoritative' sources than it is one that's educated and capable of thinking for themselves.

This is stuff I was literally taught in school, by other scientists. Like, we were actually taught that most people need to be given only the information they need to know, because essentially they're too dumb to understand and scientists should just run things in the world. I'm not making this up, we were actually told this by several of our professors.
Personally I'm a major proponent of native GUI applications conforming to their platform's UI standards, and I'm also a proponent of users being able to theme their environments. In my opinion the purpose of personal computing is to empower the user. Users should be able to control their work environments and their workflows as they see fit. Unfortunately I feel that this philosophy of user empowerment has been slowly challenged, where the user experience is being controlled.
Ideology may set rough attractors and no-go areas, but it's naive to think that our current battle lines have been drawn by individuals independently pondering their own positions.

At a deep level, our experience of reality has become wholly moderated by mass media. Reds and Blues are watching different channels, and thereby experiencing different realities. It's as simple as that.

Nonconformance to a media narrative is punished by all, in a distributed fashion. If you express an independent point in a Blue flavor, you will be attacked by both the ever-present Reds as well fellow Blues for breaking rank (and vice-versa, obviously).
Centralized communications are, on a long enough timescale, an existential threat to a free society.
I would never call the existence of bloated software a consequence of progress, but rather a sign of decadence.
Success today has to be defined in formal or quantifiable terms not because anyone actually consciously chose to do it, but because it's the only way you can put it in a computer, which actually was supposed to exist to empower people. It's pretty sad honestly.
I know this goes against the ethos of high-tech, but humans don't have an imperative to be as productive as possible. They don't have to make the most use of their time. They don't have to get as efficient as they could. These are metrics that work fine for our machines, our code. But humans are not machines. Sure, we shepherd the machines, and sure sometimes we are in rivalrous dynamics that increasing efficiency has a payoff, but it is never the goal in itself.

The real "currency" we have, if we are using the term in the sense of denoting essentialness, is our humanness, our mortality, our psyches, our connection with other people and seemingly mundane but meaningful parts of our lives. I mean, look how many of us started baking their breads and enjoying it. It is not a wise use of the "currency of time", but it is part of life very well spent, as our internal reward mechanisms have been telling us.
It's also a really convenient place to get news, because since all news sources are government approved then there's no fake news to worry about.

Comments like this remind me that totalitarianism doesn't need to be forceful or hostile, implemented by a shadowy government from above. People themselves will often happily serve as salesmen for the regime - with a 0% commission, to boot.
These articles scare me. Another one with exactly the same message: Things are worse than we thought, it was already bad, we are not coming close to doing enough to save us, there isn't even much of a plan.

And then I see most of the west handling covid-19 just like we handle everything: No clear direction, minimal effort, leaders asleep at the wheel, politicians trying to get the better of each other, rich people get richer.

Climate was an important theme in our last elections, but even the green party had no clue whatsoever, and the voters made it clear they did not even remotely care.

Now Covid-19 is easy stuff compared to the climate. I was hoping Covid-19 could serve as a wake up call for the cost of incompetence in our organisations. But that does not seem to happen.

Covid-19 has a pattern I also see in the climate: First, nobody cares for some theoretical crisis far away, then its in our countries but still not personal, and by now everybody knows about a specific person who died. Climate is a theoretical crisis far away for now.

So how do we proceed from here?