vote for jellyfish or for fascist – deep science lessons from the choice
For the next week or two, my two higher assignments are: (1) to maintain the watch over the Presidential nominations; and (2) to prepare a plenary talk on “data mining to support human (intelligence)”, for an IEEE conference. It is interesting to see new insights which emerge from thinking about both at the same time, while also talking to Luda and Chris here. But let me start from things we have all experienced this week.
Should we vote for a jellyfish or for a fascist? Please do not give in to the usual human response of feeling insulted. I did not name names, and I understand that the candidates are all relatively intelligent and complex human beings well beyond the simplified stereotypes these words suggest... and yet, would anyone really have troubles understanding what I am getting at here? Does anyone really imagine this is not an important part of what we are deciding here? What kind of political correctness blinds us to such basic aspects of the reality we are living in? Will YOU be voting for a jellyfish or for a fascist? Does the question worry you? (It should!)
In fact, these extreme words, “jellyfish” and “fascist”, are really just a useful and colorful way to illustrate a variable in psychology called “tolerance of cognitive dissonance,” which plays a huge role not only in politics but in everyday life and in basic science. Years ago, rearing a child who behaved more like Donald Trump than like a jellyfish (but no not a clone of either one), Luda recommended a book called “Hunters and Farmers” about the deep problem we have in US schools becoming ever less able to support the great potential contributions of folks who are ... not like jellyfish and not like the kind of traditional farmer discussed in the book. (The farming industry has actually changed a lot since those old days, but that’s another matter.). Our schools really do have a problem in overly rewarding smiling compliant jellyfish, who easily believe and remember everything you tell them, even if it is riddled with contradictions within itself and with observable reality; some teachers call those kids “sponges.”
I have had conversations with folks who were close enough to Albert Einstein, and also with Lennart Johansson (inventor of the best of the three working Stirling engines on earth, something the mainstream folks and the big companies were never able to do). They described Einstein as “autistic” – but what does that mean? There is a huge bureaucratic literature on “autism” which is maybe a bit less illuminating than reading the US tax code from front to back (which I once did back around 1971-1972, when it was only two fat volumes). A decade or two ago, the New England Institute ran a major international crossdisciplinary conference on ... the depths of the human mind. Most of the speakers seemed to be advanced researchers in Freudian psychiatry. There was another plenary speaker, Temple Grandin, spoke for autism... and people agreed it was mainly a matter of overdevelopment of the right hemisphere of the brain. In fact, there was a famous deep study in psychology interviewing twelve leading mathematicians (including Einstein, Von Neumann, Hilbert, ...), which concluded that eleven out of twelve were very heavily “image dominated” (i.e. right-brained) and only one was balanced (Von Neumann).
So which was Einstein – right-brained or intolerant of cognitive dissonance? Hunter or autistic? From what I have heard, a combination of both... but it is best that I not go too deep into that one example right now.
Which is Trump like more – Einstein or like fascists? In truth, I myself share an extreme genetic trait with all three of them – low tolerance of cognitive dissonance. That IS a genetic trait. Whether one is born like that, or born like a sponge, or born in an in-between state, there are special challenges in how to reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of what nature does to us. In every one of these cases (except for some of the fascists and except in my old age), there also coincidentally happens to be an unusual high level of testosterone, a hormone which also provides unique potentials and risks.
It is natural that all of us here felt some empathy for Trump, at least at the start, given shared traits and shared frustration with forces of corruption threatening the very existence of humans on earth. But for me... I am ever more aware of just how deeply fundamental is the Spirit of Truth. Trump’s attacks on jellyfish... hell, that was embarrassing but true in a very fundamental way. But what he said about Bill Clinton, and what he says about energy and education and the economy in his book... shows that we differ quite a lot when it comes to respect for the Spirit of Truth, without which none of us will come out of it all alive. Is he just posing for the cameras?
Doesn’t look like that.
Ironically, in a kind of double twist logic, I see that more clearly as I think about the National Review story on Trump, Trump versus Reagan. The National Review included an attack saying: “Trump is not at all like Reagan. He does not go for the moral highground. He does not have the purity of vision of basic conservative principles. Hell, he even funded Democrats for many years.” Well, folks, I remember Reagan quite well, and even had very close contact with the spiritual forces (NOT ME!) which propelled Reagan ahead. Too bad I can’t say more; there are some rules here, folks. Reagan was a union organizer, and appeared very clear in his support of labor... until he “saw the light”: and resolutely forced all that out of his mind. Yes, he too had a bit of intolerance of cognitive dissonance. One of the pitfalls of that trait is a tendency to repress data which do not agree with one’s philosophy; I have worked very hard to discipline that tendency in an extreme way, but it requires a conscious effort to do that. I see no evidence at all that Trump differs from Reagan that way, that he has that kind of discipline. In time, he may well learn it, as he is not stupid -- but a few years of learning time could be a total disaster for the US and the world.
What’s more, Reagan was not nearly so pure as he was presented by National Review. Sure, I revere his perpetual search for “the moral highground,” and his attack on corporate welfare – but I share Huffington’s disappointment about how his supposed followers created the very worst corporate welfare in the history of the US, an anticompetitive parasite which has grown to the point where it really does threaten to kill its host. I was even elected Vice-President of the Conservative Club at Lawrenceville (google it – not a hotbed of poor people or liberalism)... back when it meant respect for Barry Goldwater (or Ayn Rand), who defined conservative principles as a matter of freedom. Reagan’s unholy alliance with those who would seriously oppress the rights of women (and the demographic stability of the US), and who would seek a Supreme Court which treats one sect’s canon law as the supreme law of the land, is a violation of true conservative principles far more serious than anything Trump is doing! Yes, it is understandable, but so are other things which get people killed, and I would put some priority on staying alive.
It was really sad for me to hear how even Rand Paul does not speak up when the FBI is used by Lamar Smith directly as a kind of Roman Imperial Guard to try to assassinate Hillary Clinton. Talk about the Republic and basic principles! And no, I am not ignorant of cybersecurity realities. Those are part of WHY I am especially upset by what is being done to Hillary Clinton! For the FBI, I strongly recommend the book “A G-Man’s Journal,” which chronicles what the FBI was like – from an extremely well-placed and thorough source – up until the sordid last chapter. Reversing that last chapter is one of the very most important things we need from the next president, to avoid the kind of collapse discussed in my recent blog post on global strategic issues. But Rand Paul is not there where it counts. Lots of excuses for continuing to take money from.. certain people, who do not really care about freedom in practice.
If I were a Republican in Iowa, no question – I would support Kasich as hard as I could for the nomination. No guarantee he would get far, but I agree with one thing with Lindsay Graham: “Why choose between being shot and being poisoned?” But voting for a jellyfish is just as bad, when those jellyfish have forcefully not learned the lessons of the Iraq war, where listening to Cheney and to the people Cheney listened to (and got money from, if you count Halliburton) is the real cause of the “Third Caliphate” problem we face now, and when they are STILL listening to puppetmasters who want to create a war between US and Israel versus Russia and Iran. OK, Christie is not a jellyfish in what you see... but he has swallowed the line coming from the Third Caliphate hook, line and sinker, and he does not have the discipline to get past that to the data he has forcefully suppressed. Kasich is of course human and fallible (like all of us), but there is at least hope, in that he really does show some sensitivity to and respect for the Spirit of Truth, without which we don’t have any chance anyway. His record shows that he is tough enough, like Trump and Christie. (Cruz combines a lot of traits which could kill us, not worthy of elaboration here.) There is at least real hope for him.
But what about the choices on the Democratic side? (Of course, we are many months away from the time when the people and the noosphere choose between Republican and Democrat. The essence of the core system is to keep an open mind right until the election... unless one of the candidates proves that he or she is a total disaster.)
Had a nice conversation with Luda about that this morning...
Somehow, I mentioned how the mice in fields are more like those “sponges,” just adapting. I mentioned how SOME kinds of farmers, like most of the peasant farmers in China in the warring states period, also had to live like mice... adapting to whatever came their way... like the “grass” in the I Ching. The yin side of life.
But what about the yang side of life, and intolerance of cognitive dissonance?
It turns out that tolerance of cognitive dissonance is related to certain terms in the mathematics of VERY advanced neural networks (the kind one would need to properly describe the higher intelligence of the brain of the mouse). It is like one of those “arbitrary parameters” or “cognitive style parameters” one cannot avoid even in building good nonlinear function maximizers, let alone brains. There is no “right” and “wrong” value, or “smart” and “stupid” value, for such parameters; the DNA system of mammals has ITSELF evolved (a process sometimes called “metagenetics”) to give us a lot of variation in parameters which call for one value in one environment and different values in another.
So if intolerance of cognitive dissonance occurs even in mammals without words, where are they? (And when will researchers in animal behavior catch on? Did they already to a fuzzy degree?)
My immediate thought – “if mice are like jellyfish, yin type creature, who are the fascists of the mammal world?” Immediately I thought of dogs or wolves. In fact, lots of true black shirt Nazis (or Stalinists) would be happy to be compared with wolf pack. We once had a beautiful picture of a Siberian wolf mother, standing in deep snow, with a look of immense love in her eyes and a display of really serious teeth... smiling... don’t bite her cub!! But in fact, wolves are extremely social animals; as with people, there is some confusion here with what comes from things LIKE words....
So then: suddenly I remember the cat. The great cat. The Siberian tiger. With my life experience, how could I ever have forgotten the Siberian tiger for even a moment, in any context? (I remember walking towards the Shaolin Monastery projecting an image: “Coming to you now is a dragon guarded and flanked by two tigers.” No, a “dragon” in China is not at all what it is in Western culture. And Shaolin had noticeably less awareness than half a dozen other Buddhist and Daoist places I visited before and after. They make a lot of money.)
The Siberian tiger ... no words at all, totally right-brained, and totally strict about ITS kind of order. So it is amusing: was Einstein like a Siberian tiger, with sharp mathematics instead of sharp teeth ? And how does this prepare us to think about the Democratic candidates?
The media say that Democrats ask Sanders: “We like your goals, but HOW will you achieve them?” Even Sanders agrees there is an amazing parallel between him and Obama eight years ago. But as the rats have eaten more and more away under Obama, as Obama paid attention to other things... even Obama has complained (today, on TV) about life “in the bubble.” Life as something ever more like the Queen of England, in nominal control as others quietly tighten their control.
People talk about defending freedom... but when it comes to free speech and big brother... who implements the Radia software which monitors more and more of those Americans who are not engaged in physical labor under labor unions? Sanders is quite right that freedom is not JUST about what the government does directly. When the role of the government is to enhance the power of a very few favored companies, to control more and more of everyone’s life... enhancing that strangehold, and making humans ever more the slaves of such software.... is not a path to freedom. And abuse of FBI, coupled with extragovernmental filters initially set up by Cheney... well, there is a serious threat to the very foundations of life here. IN general, I don’t think Sanders has a clue about what it would take to solve this. Would he be one bit better than Obama, or would he simply continue the downward spiral of the last two or three years here?
For a moment I wondered... Sanders really has tried to “speak truth to power” about some important aspects of the problems here. Universal education and true freedom of thought and speech of individual humans are utterly fundamental to our hopes for spiritual growth and ultimately for survival itself. (“Grow or die, folks!” That’s from a lot higher up in the chain of logic than me). BUT.... HOW? Could it be that Obama was just too compliant of a sponge, while Sanders might have some of the tougher traits of Trump? Yes, in words. But no, in descending from the “300,000 foot level,” where he has lived much of his life, much more than Obama ever did. Instead of looking for the moral highground lately, he seems to be doing a reality TV parody of Trump trying to be elected at all costs.
When I took a break for tea, between the two halves of this post, I turned on CNN... and saw a horrible attack ad against Hillary Clinton. My reaction was legitimately quite visceral...I need to resist going TOO far with my knee-jerk reaction, but it is worth considering: “I hope that all the voters in Iowa will see this ad, AND that they will also see what it means and what goes with it. The fascists we should worry about are NOT just the most abrasive of the Presidential candidates, but the truly evil people responsible for this grossly dishonest ad. And if THEY would prefer a new Obama as President, if THEY view Hillary as the most serious threat to their takeover of the former Republic,
we should pay attention.”
Is even Hillary strong enough to save us from the worst risks we now face, from well-heeled antidemocratic antirepublican people who are basically just large-scale suicide bombers poised to take down the entire species? (Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged portrays some interesting images of the psychology of such people, towards the end of the book.) Maybe, maybe not. If she is elected, she will not have an easy job on her hands. But unlike Obama, she already knows she cannot afford to ignore evils directed not only to the rest of us but to her in particular. Unlike Sanders, she has the experience, the training and the allies needed to give us at least some chance of survival.
But one may hope... in any case... and of course, some of us, must just do our best.
Another part of the same larger story, maybe closer in a way to IEEE:
I mentioned to Luda a time back in 1960, when I wrote an essay for Chestnut Hill Academy on a positive picture of the future... when automation could free us from so much slavery to physical labor... (partially breaking “the curse of Adam” as they were supposedly kicked out of Eden)... when we could achieve the same level of material wealth for people with less labor... and I even drew in pencil a picture of someone sitting in front of a PC, keyboard and monitor, ordering goods from some online service without even having to go to the store (which I then viewed as a great bother).
How is it working out? With the wrong incentives and structure, and “reforms” designed by those who would reform away even democracy itself (as well as all churches who do not effectively worship Caesar as god), they are now far along in turning a great gift into a great burden. Instead of a liberation of the spirit, they are somehow turning a great gift into a source of slavery and reversion of real people and real life, undermining the most basic principles advanced by people like Jefferson, Washington and the Free Quakers. We still have a choice in principle, but will we choose life – REAL life – or choose a reality TV parody followed by a visit from the repo man, or by real fire and real brimstone?
One thing is for sure. Humanity has reached the level of technology where it is possible for people to lead healthy lives, unencumbered by any kind of cancer (like what I get operated for on April 11, fortunately not a higher risk variety but degrading all the same)... for CENTURIES... but when I watch what they did in DC and in the financial world with the previous gift, it is clearly NOT a time when it would be humane to give another. All those perverted old guys and I will die much before our time. I wil die for THEIR sins... but so it is. Under the circumstances, I don’t see much choice. I doubt that any of the very few people on earth who really understand such technologies would be dumb enough to conclude otherwise, given what everyone is seeing on TV and on google news every day.
Maybe it is time, deep in this obscure blog, to repeat a fictionalized version of a confidential true story which I recently passed on to a family member. Names changed to protect the innocent; apologies for that. NOT the actual names... but not fiction either.
Imagine a highly confidential meeting of Dick Cheney, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI, reporting to Cheney, not Obama), Bill Gates and a Nobel Prizewinner. (Again, I apologize to them, Bill Gates especially, but true names can present hazards.)
Bill Gates: “Oh yes, we are far along in realizing your vision, Dick, of eliminating that pesky democracy nonsense from the entire world. You and your friends in the oil business will never be dragged in again to such intolerable events as the BP oil spill hearings. The glories of Trajan will be reborn. We have built two heavily guarded dedicated server farms in Alabama and in Texas, to run the entire US government, and similar server farms all over the earth to run the others. The goal is simply to achieve true rationality and efficiency, and we of the true elite certainly understand how rationality and efficiency and intelligence are what we really need in this difficult world we now live in. We are now ready for your people to download more and more government functions to these servers, where our algorithms will take it all over. Thanks to your efforts with Hillary Clinton and others like her, we will firmly establish the principle that everything must be on OUR servers, where we see and control everything, to make sure than all potential rival power centers are eliminated.”
“Of course, the goal is to bring efficiency and rationality to the entire planet, not just the US government and not just the US. This will be the core of our new business plan – the Internet of Things (IOT), aka cyberphysical systems, one integrated system which will control every physical device on earth, from power generators to pacemakers to “self”-driving cars to PCs to killer drones.”
Cheney: “That’s so great! It’s great to work with someone who truly understands what the private sector approach really means!”
Nobel Prize Winner (actually two real people in a real conversation, neither of them me): “ But wait a minute. We all know that rationality means optimizing SOMETHING.
What is the utility function that will be used here? These questoins of values are really difficult, and you should be spending a lot more money on people like me to try to help you with them.”
Bill Gates: “Values? Values? What do you mean? These will be cognitive intelligent systems, like what cognitive scientists like Hinton provide us with. Don’t worry, my man, our software engineers can take care of the values for you all. Yes, there will always be some hotheads out there who object, but our new security capabilities will be able to deal with them quickly and easily.”
Nobel Prize Winner: “But what happens to PEOPLE in this new IOT of yours? Is there any place for human beings in this brave new world you are building?”
DNI: “Oh, don’t worry about people. (smile). We have a way to take care of them. They can be part of the internet of things too, simply by being converted into things. More precisely, we can make them fully integrated modules into the IOT by deploying new brain-computer interfaces (BCI) which provide input, output and control, just as you would with a generator. We already have a variety of working prototypes; it is just a matter now of choosing, upgrading, and deploying very soon in niche markets to prepare for mass production and use everywhere. At least for everyone who has a job, and we can use reform to take care of the others.”
I was pleased to see that the brand new Star Wars movie does give a hint about how important the helmets are for the BCI. I also have to admit I felt that God (and not just the FBI) made a good decision in stopping Chakkah Fattah, who, advertently or not, was providing the strongest Congressional support for the most serious dangerous BCI work... but the risk is still there, and I hope the new President can get down lower than 300,000 feet enough to put a stop to the worst stuff. And so, the Presidential Commission on Bioethics has studiously avoided doing anything about these risks; like the Nobel Prizewinner, they have been juggling other pressures and priorities. (Most notably cash.) Yes, in this paragraph, the names are real.
Hearing this conversation was certainly one of the factors in my choosing to retire from the US government. I am simply not so young and healthy as the hero of “The Winter Soldier,” and we all have diverse roles and missions in life.
Can a drop in stock values sometimes be an Act of God? Not being God, I don’t know, but lately I have been wondering.