Friday, August 12, 2016

Issues of Economics and Afterlife in the Election

Multiple things to discuss, some “yang”, some “yin”:
(1) a group really serious about economics has been trying to decipher what real content there might be about the two candidates (my reply to them item (1) below);
(2) Trump’s spiritual advisor shows up on TV, and he mentions he is worried he will not get into heaven if he is not elected;
(3) for me, it was the second day this month of “frustration/withdrawal’, enough minor frustration that I skipped some action on cybersecurity;
(4) an astral dream, moderately instructive. I will focus on (1) and (2)... 

To the economics group:

I have been amazed at how thin the economics has been in all the election discussions in the US this year.

I really enjoyed it in 2009, when a friend working for the staff of the Joint Economic Committee, got me invited to speak at a meeting in the SVC (attended by the head of CBO) on "green jobs" -- on a serious technical analysis of WHICH green jobs programs result in more and better jobs, and which just throw away money. BUt even in that year, I remember folks who would evaluate programs based on HOW MANY jobs are directly funded, per environmental objective. I remember people who were truly puzzled when I asked: "Which is better, a program which issues one person to screw in a lightbulb or one which uses 1000 people to screw in that same light bulb?"  It was really scary to me that people with an influence on economic policy or budget decisions should have any troubles with that one.

Three moments were especially striking to me on CNN on these issues this year:

(1) The positive moment when Kaine explained how his objections to TPP in its present form involved mechanisms on enforcement rather than standards as such. The biggest damage of the past few years has been related to implementation and administration as such, and it was great to see someone showing signs of having visited planet earth.

(2) When Trump presented his "uncle economic plan, his "most expert" advisor said "Ah, duh, they should know that a $15/hour minimum wage is not good for them. It's not good, because if it goes that high, we will simply automate them out of having any jobs at all. We probably will anyway, that's our plan." This reinforced my impression that today's entropy in IT development and deployment is one of the pillars of rising inequality both of wages and of power, a trend which threats our very existence if we see far enough ahead.

(3) Today, I was also a bit put off when Clinton started her economic speech glorifying a plant in Michigan exemplifying what may be the most egregious makework pork barrel waste in US history, "brown jobs" dreamt of by folks like Shelby and Lamar Smith, as part of new policies which have already destroyed much more of America's technology base than most imagine.

Would EITHER Trump OR Clinton have the optical resolution needed to reverse the huge losses which have already occurred? IN my view, it is Cheney who planted the weeds, at least in the government sector, but they have been allowed to spread... and my instinct now is to ask questions about diversifying portfolios. 

The discussion of jobs versus debt has been very shallow in Europe, and polarizing in a very destructive way, but here ... as one of you just noted... it has hardly even been discussed!!

I have certainly seen "a hundred people screwing in a lightbulb" in the medical sector, one of the keys to balancing jobs and growth versus debt... along with the nonproductive variety of tax break. At least we know that Hillary Clinton has made serious efforts in the past addressing the first-order inefficiencies in those sectors, inefficiencies which, among other things, result a low ratio of total jobs created per dollar of government debt. (Or just waste of scarce resources needed elsewhere.)

By the way, the most intelligent high-level discussion of jobs versus debt I have seen was from the White House" of Japan, where they actually measured jobs per dollar of debt in a serious way, and noted how some programs ("three pillars of ecoeconomy") were crafted in a way which delivered three times as many jobs per debt as all the usual stuff (like truly middle class tax breaks or infrastructure construction, though multipliers actually vary as a function of current conditions). But for the EU, I believe that a combination of  certain types of R&D WITH streamlining of electricity market design (as summarized at, not a balanced summary but still viable) could solve the near-term jobs problems with virtually ZERO additional government debt. I really worry about the risk of wasteful "brown jobs" due to insufficient filtering of how government money gets spent (as in the SLS work).

Best of luck,

I have gone into a lot more detail on all these issues before, so will not elaborate here. Have not given up on mainstream possibilities for renewable energy breakthroughs, but the bottom line remains death by iron triangle and such.


And so, what about Trump making it to heaven?

Hope for afterlife has never been one of the things driving me to explore spiritual reality. Until 1967, I basically accepted that there is no such thing as a personal afterlife, and that our natural desire to have enduring positive impact should rationally focus on what happens to other folks (humanity, family, folks we respect, life on earth, some weighted sums of variables) as a result of our actions, added up over all the times when our actions do have consequences. In 1967, I started wondering what is really going on here, and I was driven for years more by curiosity, by the drive to understand, than anything like personal immortality. But gradually, I did look twice at “afterlife,” to try to figure out what the implications are of new things I learned.

Very early on, I resonated with folks who argued: “As a first approximation, expect your new life after death to be like your life now. If you are full of pain and fear and death now, you will be surrounded by the same in your new life; the only thing different is that all the ‘world’ around you will reflect those emotions.” As my mother became older, I once even sent her the video “What Dreams May Come,” which portrayed this idea very vividly, based on the book of the same name by Matheson.  (The book was a little more sophisticated than the movie, and may have reflected some of the thoughts of Swedenborg.) In that viewpoint, one would say to Trump: “Unless you die this year, where you go depends on what kind of world you create around you in your immediate surroundings, your personal relations especially,  whether you win or not.” Also: “It is not really a binary choice of heaven versus hell. That idea was just a typical political PR outcome, based on how excited people were by something Dante wrote. Jesus himself said ‘My father’s house has many mansions.’” One of the things I was entertained by in my first years of exploration was a book “In My Soul I am Free,” full of entertaining stories like that.

But how true is that picture?

That picture sure did seem to fit my transition from Harvard to Maryland in 1975, when I moved from a graduate school dorm to become an assistant professor. My room in graduate school was an incredible disorganized mess, which really scandalized the few folks (just my sister?) who visited that room. Piles and piles all over the floor. I would have pay checks from MIT, much larger than I had had except in special summer jobs before, in envelopes lying unopened as part of big piles on the floor. It wasn’t that I was naturally messy; it was that I had so many categories of activities that the room and the small desk simply couldn’t handle them, and that my time was oversubscribed.

Here is the “afterlife” dimension: when in Maryland I started looking for a new place to live, somehow the luck of the draw systematically sent me to places like Hyattsville where the same spirit of mess continued. There was a lot of sheer inertia, somehow very powerful. But I then decided to exercise real consciousness, which I was active with by then, to try to break the pattern and create a new one. This involved the subject of visualization, a tricky subject I will not elaborate on here and now. (Though I might add that I did buy a copy of “Seeing with the Mind’s Eye”, by Samuels and Samuels, which I treasured and gave to friends years later... even though it was just one more step on the way.) One bottom line: Trump might well consider visualizing more forcibly, clearly and analytically just how he WANTS his life to be, remembering that folks around him will treat him as he treats others, sooner or later.  That applies to all of us of course; Putin is still in orbit about how he felt he was treated by Hillary Clinton. (I just hope his cyberattacks will not include our election machines in November. I have passed on some quiet technical suggestions for urgent action to a few people, but there are reasons not to make it a mass media kind of thing. I just hope Hayden’s network does not quietly enjoy the possibilities for near-term chaos, just as entertainment, even though we all could suffer.)

I was entertained by that viewpoint, even though I never believed it could be the whole truth. I also listened to some Buddhists who said: “Of course Buddha believed in reincarnatuion and in life after death. We all know that from his famous saying that a drop of water does not disappear, but merely changes form and returns to the ocean.” Hmm. What kind of people, hearing that, forget that the drop of water totally loses its identity and individuality when it evaporates or goes into the ocean? Logic and experience pushed me more and more towards my own understanding of noosphere, which is a kind of ocean of mind or soul embracing at least the entire earth – which does not at all tell us that our individual personality continues! In fact, I did not pay attention to whether my individuality would continue after death in the noosphere because “WHO CARES?” My understanding of ethics and sanity was clear enough by then that I realized that this issue is not of first order importance. Life here and life in the noosphere continue in any case, and still it is our impact in that larger sphere, weighed as is natural to our inner selves, which matters to us.

In fact, another group I had close contact with at Harvard until I left Cambridge in 1975 was the Gurdjieff group. (I never joined, though I did go as far as attending one small “sample meeting.”) I was puzzled why Gurdjieff seemed to work so hard to make his most famous writings so repulsive, but getting past that, he did have a few interesting thoughts. I also had friends who helped digest the key ideas, and pointed me to books by Ouspensky and Bennett which made more sense. How I lost touch with those friends is a mix of wild stories I only halfway know, the most vivid of which involved the Tibetan Mask of the Dead and lights going on and off at the house of Stuart Carey Welch (an easy google)...

One of the key points: if in the end, we human individuals are a kind of symbiotic organism, part “body/brain” and part “soul/spirit/noosphere”, then of course both sides of the symbiosis are part of “us” as we experience “us.” Ouspensky talked a lot about our “essence,” and about experiments designed to bring forth the part of us which would survive after death of the body part. Part of us would survive; part of us wouldn’t. I once summarized Gurdjieff’s solid core message as: “If the data is important to you, don’t just store it on RAM. Make sure you transfer it to hard disk where it will survive longer.” The core of Gurdjieff’s approach to human potential was to build up more consciousness or intelligence on the “hard disk” part of ourselves, the part housed in the noosphere. Gurdjieff also went on to  quietly note that our spiritual side itself is not exactly immortal and faces challenges of its own.

There is a nice, easy-to-read science fiction trilogy by Jane Roberts which makes part of this image vivid: she depicts people who have out of body experience all the time, but simply do not remember it because the level of consciousness in their other half is so limited. This supports Ouspensky’s position that we need to work on our consciousness if we want to remember and direct such out of body experience more than we do; simply having the experience is not so important in itself. It also suggests that LaBerge’s very credible book Lucid Dreaming is a correct way to think about that stream of development. There is a lot more experience which also fits.

But again, that was all just a stage. Maybe I will write more later about the details of later stages. A key point is that we as individuals are more or less like cells within the noosphere, and that the fate of an individual cell seems to depend on well it connects to other cells in the noosphere. Like neurons. Running for President, Trump has begun to engage with other people and other souls to a degree he has never even begun to experience before. But will those connections endure and prosper, or will the connections he has all wither so much that his very soul withers away like an old Buddhist nun I once saw, like old paper dissolving into sad powder? (Or like the souls of jihadis, whose fate is very much as described in the Book of Esdras, one of the Apocrypha found in some Bibles.) Well, I doubt he will wither that much, unless he dissolves himself completely into mindless drunkenness and herd psychology. One does not have to be President to endure that way?

In truth, I have been worried much more about the following question: if by abusing nuclear technology, or failing to stop the progression pointing to large future emissions of H2S of the ocean, we end up destroying our entire noosphere, will the afterlives of ALL humans on earth, past and future, be erased?


As for minor personal frustrations yesterday – weird behavior by radio, by google drive, and issues in sorting laundry... you don’t need to hear it.

The dream was illustrative, but maybe I should just cut this short now. I should note that the earlier “brexit” dream included lots of names of places, bus stops and trains in France. In past years, I would write those things diligently upon waking up, and checked to verify that they are real places I had never known before. This time I did not bother.

Best of luck. We need it.  

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