Paying for other people’s choices

Sooooo?

This tweet doesn’t seem to have  anything significant to say, UNLESS you have already bought into three unspoken assumptions:

  • Individual responsibility is bad.
  • Forced transfers of benefits are good.
  • Lower taxes are bad (or, taxes are good).

I can easily visualize Peter Coffin’s ancestors whipping the peasants for not being able to afford their taxes. Because taxes are good!

Why they’re good, we have to extrapolate again: the assumption is that the money will be spent on something BETTER than what the person who earned it would have spent it on. You know, like secret CIA black ops in resource-exporting countries, involving torture, assassinations, and the occasional “pacification” of villages.

As for individual responsibility, that gets back to the core assumptions of Modernity: reality is plastic, you can have anything you want if you throw enough technology or government at it, you can transcend cause-and-effect.

Of course, this offer isn’t open to everyone! For every “positive right”, or privilege, someone else must have an obligation to supply it! This is true even if you express the problem in terms of collectives: some class of people must have the responsibility to produce more than they consume, if another class of people has the privilege of consuming more than they produce. That’s why he advocates for taxes and benefit transfers.

Aside from the issues of what happens to parasites that kill their hosts, or what happens when you run out of other people’s money to spend, the big question is what happens, after a long period of time, if you rescue one class of people who aren’t responsible for their own choices, at the expense of another class of people who have to pay. Specifically, what do you get, more good choices, or more bad ones?

What do you think?

Had enough of being called “white trash”?

Something that puzzled me for a long time was how I managed to be a low-status man.

I made good money, worked for a name-recognition company, owned our family home and some investment rental property free-and-clear.

I have a marketable degree from an admittedly 2nd-tier public university; it’s all I could have afforded. I have a sesquipedalian vocabulary, which implies I’m well-read, and what used to be considered genteel manners, though things have changed in modern times. Nowadays, especially in the coastal areas of the USA, manners are associated with staff in service occupations. “Yes, ma’am. No, sir”.

The problem is lack of “indicators of success”: I don’t live in a sufficiently exclusive neighborhood, drive the right car, wear suits and ties, and post photos from exotic vacations.

None of those things would bring me happiness. A lot of high-living, high-status celebrities get mixed up with drugs, booze, and sexual vices trying to change their moods, because they’re not happy. Furthermore, the long-term health of my bank account requires that I invest in income-producing assets, not “use assets”. I also have a family to support; a lot of my peers gave that up to afford a higher standard of living.

So it’s a choice I made. I’d rather have peace-of-mind than short-lived status.

Now here is another observation: the longer governments and economies last, the more socially and economically stratified they become, and the more rigid the class system. Consider that in a hunting-gathering society, the man with the highest status goes hunting with the man of lowest status. His hut is in the midst of everybody else’s hut, and his standard of living is only slightly higher. The man of highest status does not feel the need to isolate himself from men of lower status: there’s no such thing as “exclusivity” in his world.

It takes a threshold of civilized infrastructure and culture to create and maintain exclusivity. Even after it exists, you don’t get to just inherit high social status; you have to fight for it. In early civilizations, there’s frequent changeover at the top. Aside from assassinations, kings used to regularly die in battle, the last one in Europe being Charles XII of Sweden in 1718. While brute force is not exactly “merit”, at least it required some of what Nassim Taleb would call “skin in the game”.

Entrenched, rigid, anti-meritocratic class structures tend to get entrenched after long periods of economic stability. They tend to end when governments destabilize as the result of rapid economic change. A good example would be the fall of Europe’s aristocracies in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution: you had people who inherited titles of nobility reduced to fish-mongering for a living because they failed to adapt to a changing economy and government. Other people who had been skilled craftsmen became wealthy hiring cheap labor to start factories.

We’ve had a long period of relatively stable economy and government. As a result, we’ve gotten quite socially-stratified. You can really see it in the attitudes of high-status people in the coastal cities of the USA. Here are some candid remarks that the Dean of Pierson College at Yale University included among her Yelp reviews:

“To put it quite simply: If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!”
(implication is that whites are too stupid to recognize or care about quality)
Excerpt from review of Koto Japanese restaurant

“These are not good and overpriced. They are ice cream mochi which are small in size and easily become freezer burned if not stored well … I guess if you were a white person who has clue what mochi is, this would be fine for you.”
Excerpt from review of The Mochi Store

“seriously I don’t care if you ‘lose your job.’ (I’m sure McDonalds would hire you.)”
Excerpt from review of Retro Fitness

These are just snippets from a few reviews; there were a lot more of the same before she deleted her account after it turned into a scandal. She refers to people who serve her as a customer as “morons” and “idiots”. Aside from the insults, she uses coarse language (not repeated here) freely for someone who calls other people “trash”. She also apparently gets into a lot of confrontations with the staff of various venues.

She got caught because it never occurred to her to hide her prejudices; that’s the way that people in her social circle refer to middle-class and working-class whites. She posted using her real name, and bragged about reaching a noteworthy threshold of reviews. Some curious students decided to look up her reviews, and were surprised by what they saw.

The meaning of “white trash” depends on who is using it. A lot of middle-class whites naively assume that it only refers to uneducated hillbillies living in squalor. Actually, in the dean’s world of ivory-tower exclusiveness, it is far more broadly-applied than that. It reaches right up through highly-skilled people like me who have to live simply to live sustainably in a highly-competitive local economy.

Aside from being cast broadly, it’s a loaded term: it assumes that poverty implies low value. I have met plenty of “hillbillies” who have fairly decent manners, and work hard. Some of them are perfectly intelligent, and simply got trapped in poverty for historical and geographic reasons. To tell the truth, I escaped poverty through sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time.

If college is truly a way up the ladder of social and economic success, there’s a gate at the base that they can’t get through, because they’re not welcome. College admissions policies block them completely from the 1st-tier universities, and financial barriers remain an obstacle at the lower tier universities. The situation has gotten worse in the last decade, with a high risk that money borrowed for college expenses won’t result in a job that pays enough to pay back the loan.

If they knew what they were doing, they could get quite a bit of credit relatively inexpensively, then transfer it to a degree-granting institution to get some credential, even if not particularly prestigious. I would suggest zooming in on specific training for specific marketable skills with a specific job or self-employment in mind. There’s still a boot-strapping problem but it can be done.

The current economic system is getting old, and is due for an upheaval. Globalization, resource-depletion, and automation will make it a challenge for anybody to stay employed at all. Most people will end up sliding DOWN, into the poverty-trap. I imagine that will include a lot of smug, stuck-up people, because they’re too complacent to see it coming.

Those of humbler origins who do see it coming have an opportunity to switch relative standing, mostly by not falling as far. If you want to be one of the winners, keep reading my blog.

I suggest losing the ego on the way. A big ego is a hungry ghost, never satisfied. Judging from her whiny complaints, my guess is that the Dean of Pierson College is not a happy person. How could she be? She’s surrounded by people she despises. From her point of view, the world is filled with “incompetent morons” who give her lousy service and serve up cruddy food. Her whole world is colored with reasons to be dissatisfied.

Don’t worry if people like her look down on you; your happiness does not depend on their approval unless you think it does. If you want to be a happy, soulful person, learn to see beauty wherever you are, and appreciate the people and things in your life.

A happy little solipsism

I’ve mentioned a few times that I will discuss the concept of Enlightenment in some depth. That will require more than one post. Here’s the first one.

I don’t think of Enlightenment as an end-state; I think of it as a process of reaching higher and higher levels of awareness. I also tend to think of it in evolutionary terms: a human’s awareness is in some sense more expansive than a frog’s awareness. That’s not to say that anything is “bad” or “wrong” about the frog; frogs are fine just the way they are. It’s just an observation that the human has more of something than the frog.

When I say “evolution”, I mean it in a very broad sense that includes but is not limited to the Darwinian sense of the word. Someone who has gained a lot of wisdom from a life of interesting experiences is more “evolved” than someone who has not had those opportunities, even if they are at the same point of Darwinian evolution. That’s why the name of my website refers to “evolving”.

One of the first big milestones of personal evolution is growing out of something called “Naïve realism”: the assumption that our senses provide us with direct awareness of objects as they “really” are.

Despite calling it “naïve”, naïve realism is openly endorsed by numerous modern philosophers and scientists. I’ve heard it passionately argued.

The belief that nothing exists outside your own mind — surely there must be some way of demonstrating that it was false? Had it not been exposed long ago as a fallacy? There was even a name for it, which he had forgotten. A faint smile twitched the corners of O’Brien’s mouth as he looked down at him.

‘I told you, Winston,’ he said, ‘that metaphysics is not your strong point. The word you are trying to think of is solipsism.

George Orwell (Eric Blair), 1984

This is a counterintuitive exchange to have written given that in the real world, inner party members think the same way Winston Smith does. The fact that they sometimes impose “reality bubbles” on the rest of us does not imply that they think that there is not also some “objective reality” “outside” of our minds; in fact, sometimes they forget their own duplicity and get caught in their own reality bubbles, finding it difficult to maintain several different mental models of reality, one for themselves, and one for their dupes. Winston Smith, and by extension Eric Blair and a lot of other intellectuals, are not the only ones who don’t understand metaphysics:

  • It’s not a “belief” that nothing exists outside your own mind; it’s lack of any means to know one way or the other.
  • No one has ever come up with a way to demonstrate that anything inside our minds corresponds to anything outside of our minds.
  • No one has ever come up with a way to demonstrate that there is any “outside of our minds”.
  • Rene Descartes tried, and failed. “I think, therefor I am” is an invalid inference. What is this “I” and where did it come from? The correct inference is “Thinking is going on, therefor thinking is going on”. You can stop right there.
  • This has nothing to do with “metaphysics”.
  • What’s the problem with a solipsism?! You don’t have to assume that there is any reality “outside of your mind” in order to be perfectly functional and happy. Quite the opposite: you can become super-functional by subscribing to a purely pragmatic view of reality whereby success, including and in particular Darwinian biological success, rather than certainty, is the goal.

Most of the time, your experiences are reasonably close to what you expect them to be, at least, enough to be functional. Most of the time, your experiences sufficiently match your expectations that you’re able to live your life as well as you have up to now. Not knowing the nature of “ultimate reality” has not had any impact on your life at all. Solipsism is not a problem!

Prof. Donald Hoffman goes so far as to claim that evolutionary selective pressure favors not those minds with the most accurate representation of reality, but instead, those with the most successful representation of reality, which is probably a function of variables like efficiency. You can’t fit the complexity of the Kosmos into your brain, so you make a lot of functional over-simplifications. Some of them might be grossly inaccurate, but to the extent they get the job done, it’s pointless to care other than to be aware of the possibility in order to change or discard them when they stop working.

Prof. Hoffman uses the analogy of a software user interface: you drag the virtual folder to the virtual trash can. But there is no physical folder and no physical trash can; the software is all electronic circuits that don’t look like folders or garbage cans.

I have a feeling that religious mythology serves to create mental models that are more functional than the default, without regard to whether or not they correspond to anything “outside” of the practitioner’s mind. By “functional”, I mean that they help process experiences, typically the bad ones like conflict, suffering, and death. This is why Muslims would still be winning the “Clash of Civilizations” even without the help of our profoundly atheistic ruling class. It’s not so much that they’re winning as simply displacing a civilization that is dysfunctional and dying after discarding some critical “cultural technology”.

The problems start when your mental model doesn’t help you process your experiences, because your experiences take you completely by surprise, and usually an unpleasant one at that.

This happens commonly because of

  • incomplete data
  • inaccurate data
  • translation errors in the process of interpreting what the data mean

The fact that our experiences do sometimes get out of synch with our mental models of reality seems to imply that something other than our own mental models is driving the process, but that assumption adds nothing to our knowledge regarding what that “something” might be. “There is this thing called a ‘hocnonest’. I don’t know what it looks like, sounds like, or anything at all about it, other than that it exists.” In other words, we’re still trapped in a solipsism. All we really know is how well our mental models have served us up to now. What we’re really measuring them against is our experiences, or “new data”.

Translation is the process of turning raw data into something meaningful to you, ultimately, qualia (that is, subjective conscious experiences, like red, or the sound of middle C on a piano). For example, if you look at an apple, you’re not experiencing the apple directly; you experience neurons reacting to a chain of events that started when photons were emitted by the apple and some of them reached your eyes. Then there is an extremely complex translation process from that into neural impulses. There are possibilities for mistakes and data loss along the way.

Someone might reasonably ask “ah…but how do you know that?” The answer is that I don’t; that’s my mental model of how the process works based on other people’s experiments. It’s not particularly accurate; a lot of details are missing, and I might have made some mistakes. It’s good enough to serve my purposes, until the day I get unexpected feedback.

Imagine trying to get home again using a defective map, while being absolutely 100% certain that the map is a perfect representation of the experiences you will have as you try to reach your destination. You keep running into the same obstacles and falling off the same cliffs, no matter how many times you retrace your path and try over again.

This is how people

  • make bad decisions that mess up their own and other people’s lives
  • never learn from their bad decisions, because they never understood what caused the problem
  • get stuck in their problems
  • develop personality disorders like borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder

Ask yourself why people fall in love with their beliefs, or get angry when their beliefs are challenged.

If you assume that your mental model of reality IS reality, then it never occurs to you that it could be mistaken. So, whenever you find evidence that doesn’t fit your model, what do you do? You discard the evidence!

That’s called “confirmation bias”.

This is how you get people who have beliefs that aren’t based on any evidence at all. They might have formed a belief because of something a high-status person told them, or because of purely conditioned associations. When they experience contrary evidence, they discard the evidence, rather than the belief, out of hand: “facts don’t matter”. Some people never realize that their mental models of reality are defective because they don’t care.

I often hear them expressing sentiments like “I want this to be true”, after hearing a lurid and obviously fictional story that validates one of their political beliefs and offers them a pretext to do something violent. These are the ones who will go so far as to manufacture “evidence” in the form of hoaxes in order to try to “prove” what they already want to believe. I don’t quite understand the psychology of this phenomenon, but it seems to have something to do with “This is true. I can keep it true by creating evidence for it and making other people believe it too”.

I used to call this “magical thinking”, but I gave up on that expression because many people use that expression to mean something else, that I don’t want to confuse with my intended meaning.

This habit of cherry-picking data according to whether it validates cherished beliefs is how you get all sorts of irrational behaviors even without any symptoms of mental illness.

  • ignore evidence that the building you are in is burning down and you need to evacuate. Instead, wait for an authority figure to tell you so
  • be aware of evidence that a sexual predator is sexually abusing children, but do nothing about it, or even try to help hide the evidence, even without any personal stake in the situation
  • join a cult and if rationalize why the cult-leader’s prophesies never happen as predicted
  • remain in an abusive relationship with someone who has a personality disorder or is mentally ill, after buying into the same mind-space
  • be needy for the approval of others, especially high-status individuals
  • consciously or unconsciously rig an experiment or falsify the data
  • believe whatever the government and media claims without requiring confirmation by independently-obtained evidence, even with ready access to such evidence.

These are all common behaviors. It’s not uncommon for firemen to find the charred remains of patrons of nightclubs and dance-halls still positioned around tables next to their drinks, because nobody told them they needed to evacuate. It’s not unusual for investigations into child sexual exploitation to discover numerous people who were aware of what was going on, but either did nothing, or even took steps to cover it up. It’s not that they wanted children to be sexually abused; it’s that they literally think that if there is a discrepancy between what they believe to be reality, and evidence, that the evidence is wrong. It’s like if you drain the barometer of mercury, it will start raining. In cults, usually only one key central figure has a “dark triad” personality; most of the cult members have perfectly normal psychology.

Some professional scientists are among the worst offenders of all! They tend to be over-confident about themselves and their beliefs. They’ll go through all the motions of removing their own biases through double-blind experiments, then blatantly rig the experiment. Scientists are some of the favorite subjects for “mentalists”, who are entertainers who use cognitive illusions to mystify their audiences; the scientists assume they aren’t prone to cognitive illusions so they can’t figure out how the mentalist keeps tricking them over and over and over again.

Eduard Bernays had the idea of using scientific authority for promoting propaganda. And since scientists are not particularly resistant to cognitive illusions, they make perfect dupes to trick other dupes.

Sometimes the wisest thing you can say is “I don’t know”. Sometimes you get ahead by unlearning information and discarding beliefs.

Whenever you have a problem, there is a process you can go through to either resolve it quickly and efficiently, or realize that your time and attention would be better spent elsewhere, instead of getting stuck in it. It makes you more resourceful and more effective. It also makes you more persuasive and helpful within your social circle, because you can show them how to solve their own problems instead of telling them, and then they’re more likely to see it for themselves instead of rejecting your advice out-of-hand.

There’s another process that you can go through to start responding more to the evidence of your senses, and less to purely conditioned associations, so that you can let go of beliefs that keep resulting in unpleasant surprises. It takes a little more work than the other one, but accomplishing it is another milestone on the way to Enlightenment.

Subscribers will have a chance to learn how to perform these processes to increase their resourcefulness and ability to adapt to new situations.

What Dr. Deepak Chopra needs to learn from Prof. Nassim Taleb

Photo by Mitchell Aidelbaum

I am writing in the spirit of “iron sharpens iron”. I expect that enlightened people don’t take criticisms personally whether intended to be personal, or as in this case, not. I have deep respect for Dr. Deepak Chopra.

He has been involved in some incidents worth discussing, because there’s a lesson in the back-story that someone could learn from, if not necessarily him. Dr. Chopra keeps posting insulting tweets aimed at President Donald Trump. While some of his fans chime in with their own barbs, others are offended, which means that it’s costing him some good-will from potential customers and allies.

He also makes a lot of remarks that appear to be calculated to win the approval of what you might call “globalists” (those working towards one world government, mostly via regulation of international trade, and also some occasional outright military conquests). Like the time he lectured the rest of us about the need for open borders just before arriving in Israel! The state of Israel doesn’t just build walls around itself, and do its own extreme vetting of immigrants, who have to be either Jewish, or chattel with no rights to citizenship; it also builds walls around its captives in neighboring economic colonies, and transfers Palestinian lands to settlers, who receive government subsidies. Palestinians who need emergency medical treatment sometimes die at the checkpoints. More recently, he was lecturing to us as a guest of hosts in Saudi Arabia, a country whose government sponsors invasions of its neighbors and terrorist attacks worldwide. Really, did he think we wouldn’t notice, or call him out?

He’s OK with them having a wall, but not us.

 

Here is another of his recent exchanges:

Another double-standard. What does he mean by “qualify”? How come “competition” is good for some people but not others? What about affirmative action?!

If competition is good for some individuals, is it good for corporations? Is it good for other countries too, or just the “western” countries? Why doesn’t Dr. Chopra address Americans’ reasonable concerns that they are competing against labor pools that they are forced to subsidize?! What about unilateral trade barriers? Currency manipulations? Trade cartels? Government-business cronyism?

This is blatant virtue-signaling; there’s no principle here except unilateral self-interest.

Regardless what you think of President Trump, something is not right here. Some other time, I’ll explain what is meant by the term “enlightened”, in the context of referring to practitioners of certain spiritual disciplines. For now, let me just say that it doesn’t make sense for someone who is supposed to be “enlightened”, or at least reasonably far along the path to that destination, to engage in that kind of behavior.

Let me be clear here: I’m not referring to hypocrisy, which, while relevant, is not the bigger issue; I mean it doesn’t make sense at all. Enlightenment is a transformational experience. It’s not something you think or know; it involves a radical transformation of your personality, and how you interpret your experiences.

These changes are typical:

  • You become super-rational as the result of losing a lot of your purely conditioned beliefs and associations that cause you to have irrational or evidence-resistant beliefs. If you think in terms of Pavlov’s dogs, it would be as though they figure out that the bell has nothing to do with being fed, and start making a conscious decision whether to respond to it or not.
  • You act less out of impulse and unconscious habit, and more out of consciously weighing future costs and benefits.
  • Your behavior becomes less overall reactive, and more overall proactive. More of your behavior is planned, rather than just a reaction to circumstances. In NLP terms, you’d be said to be “at cause” rather than “at effect”.
  • You stop making moral judgments based on fear and habit. You either become a sociopath (like Adi Da or Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh ) or a saint. The only difference would be whether your feelings towards others are hostile or benevolent.
  • Your sense of “self” and “other-than-self” are dissolved and replaced with a new and more adaptable sense-of-self. You stop acting in order to maintain consistency with a self-image; you can act out of character any time you need to in order to solve a problem. You might even reach a stage where your personality keeps adapting optimally to current conditions, and I don’t mean over the years, but within seconds!
  • You develop more ability to simulate various different perspectives other than just your own self-centered perspective. You become more aware of other people’s perspectives, “objective” perspectives, and even a sort of “God’s-eye” view of things.

It happens at a profound level; it’s not a superficial attitude or self-image. It would be more like if an ape could make a plan to rewire his neurology, and eventually start thinking more like a human, except that in this case it’s going from human to the next level higher. It’s evolution as a conscious process instead of random selection, although random selection will still decide if it’s successful or not.

Dr. Chopra’s virtue signaling is, if anything, a regression to a lower state of consciousness. Why on earth would he casually set aside so much work to reach a higher state of consciousness, just to try to score a few points with the globalists?

But wait! It gets even more ridiculous. Does he actually win any points? Read his Wikipedia entry:

Deepak Chopra is…a prominent figure in the New Age movement.

Chopra believes that a person may attain “perfect health”, a condition “that is free from disease, that never feels pain”, and “that cannot age or die”.[11][12] Seeing the human body as being undergirded by a “quantum mechanical body” composed not of matter but of energy and information, he believes that “human aging is fluid and changeable; it can speed up, slow down, stop for a time, and even reverse itself,” as determined by one’s state of mind.[11][13] He claims that his practices can also treat chronic disease.[14][15] As of 2014, Deepak Chopra lived in a “health-centric” condominium in Manhattan.[16]

The ideas Chopra promotes have been regularly criticized by medical and scientific professionals as pseudoscience.[17][18][19][20] This criticism has been described as ranging “from dismissive [to] damning”.[17] For example, Robert Carroll states Chopra attempts to integrate Ayurveda with quantum mechanics to justify his teachings.[21] Chopra argues that what he calls “quantum healing” cures any manner of ailments, including cancer, through effects that he claims are literally based on the same principles as quantum mechanics.[15] This has led physicists to object to his use of the term quantum in reference to medical conditions and the human body.[15] His treatments benefit from the placebo response,[6] and some argue that his claims for the effectiveness of alternative medicine can lure sick people away from medical treatments.[17] He is placed by David Gorski among the “quacks”, “cranks” and “purveyors of woo”, and described as “arrogantly obstinate”.[22] Richard Dawkins publicly exposed Chopra, accusing him of using “quantum jargon as plausible-sounding hocus pocus”.

It goes on and on like that for some length. These are all gross misrepresentations of his positions. And he’s not a New Ager either. Instead of trying to explain how he’s being misrepresented, I’ll explain some of his real positions on things to the best of my ability and in good faith:

  1. He is skeptical of the tendency of modern medicine to interpret and oversimplify every medical condition as a chemical imbalance that is curable or at least treatable with chemicals (that is, drugs).
  2. He believes that our reactions to our experiences are at least partially a function of how we interpret them. An example would be that someone who interprets a roller-coaster ride as “thrilling” has a much different reaction to it than someone who interprets it as “terrifying”. Same experience, different reaction. This principle applies to our experiences of disease and pain as well.
  3. He believes that pure consciousness exists and is primary. Your mind doesn’t exist inside your brain; your brain exists inside your awareness—at least, to the extent that you realize or could realize that you have a brain. You are not in the room; the room is inside your awareness. It should be noted that aside from being harmless, this position requires no belief in something like “metaphysics” and is perfectly compatible with Science as long as we don’t politicize Science.
  4. He believes that the only way to transcend human suffering is by reaching a higher state of consciousness. For him, the path to get there is more-or-less westernized, watered-down Buddhism.

All of these positions are repulsive to the Modernist mindset of the globalists. The first one calls into question the value of drug therapies that create long-term income-streams via drug-dependency. This one is not just unacceptable, it’s grounds for blacklisting and harassment. Bear in mind some of the globalists’ ancestors made their fortunes in the Opium trade.

2 through 4 are violations of the Modernist principle that if it doesn’t have mass, it’s not real. It’s not uncommon for extreme materialistic scientists to claim that the mind doesn’t exist at all; that it’s an illusion: “You only think that you’re thinking!”

Aside from his thoughtcrimes, he has also offended by being Indian. Even though more Buddhist than Hindu, he’s still too Hindu for their tastes.

Strange gods

The globalists don’t like Hindus. There are probably some genetic issues at stake: the globalists seem to be covert racists even though that’s one of their own favorite accusations against others. They calculatedly size up various ethnic groups, judge them to be assets, dead weight (resulting in various aboriginal peoples facing extinction by displacement and economic starvation if not outright genocide), or potential rivals (in which case a “human rights emergency” or false-flag casus belli will suddenly appear to create a pretext for invasion, followed by ethnic cleansing), and then constantly accuse others of hostility against their favored assets. But given that a few of them have Pakistani spouses or lovers, there might be some cultural issues that explain the difference in their attitudes towards the two groups, who are genetically similar but culturally different. Perhaps a stubborn, conditioned bias against rival gods that has persisted longer than their commitment to their own gods.

Now compare and contrast to Nassim Taleb:

  • He’s Lebanese. Strike one.
  • He’s orthodox Christian. Strike two.
  • He has publicly criticized some high-ranking globalist agents, including Thomas (“Shouldn’t we be helping ISIS?”) Friedman. He frequently refers to them as “Intellectuals Yet Idiots”. Strike three, he’s out!
  • He has publicly criticized the concept of globalization per se. Strike four?
  • He too is skeptical of modern medicine. Strike five?!
  • He has discussed the phenomenon of Mithridatism, which opens him up to accusations of promoting homeopathy, even though they are distinct concepts. This alone would be a career-ender. Strike six!
  • He pointed out that homeopathy produces benign placebo effect. While this is true, anything other than an unqualified denouncement of any and all forms of alternative medicine is extremely taboo. Strike seven!
  • Is on record for criticizing Modernity’s favorite pet, “Scientism”. Strike eight!
“If you see fraud & don’t say ‘fraud’, you’re a fraud!”

To the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, Prof. Taleb has neither reached nor is actively seeking something like “enlightenment” in the samadhic sense that I am using; the concept might be culturally unfamiliar to him. His references to religious practices tend to be more immediately pragmatic and mythic than esoteric. He is, however, quite clever and original in his thinking, enough to attract the attention of other intelligent people to himself, and his background knowledge of his own and neighboring cultures and history is impressive. He probably speaks about 3 or 4 languages fluently, and seems to be comfortable with Latin.

Unlike Dr. Chopra, he doesn’t go out of his way to ingratiate himself with the Establishment. I’ve never seen a single clearly virtue-signaling tweet, but rather a lot of provocative ones.

He personally is probably blacklisted from the inner circle on account of his own thoughtcrimes, but astonishingly his work on risk management is not. Up to now he still has no trouble getting speaking engagements, including a few where he has stood up and made inflammatory comments. Somehow he has avoided total blacklisting without kissing any asses. How is this possible?!

My guess would be that his work on risk-management has made him sufficiently valuable to people who matter that he is tolerated. What about Dr. Chopra? While a Machiavellian flavor of “dark enlightenment” (the inherent moral crisis resolving to sociopathy, not sainthood) could be extremely useful to the Establishment, first of all they’re going to reject it out of hand because it’s incompatible with a lot of their Modernist assumptions, and second, there are probably hundreds of other pandits they could get it from if they had any interest. Talk about competition!

His attempts to re-package enlightenment to be more palatable to Modernist tastes (aka “Buddhism Lite”–tastes great, less filling) haven’t earned him any big-name clients that I am aware of (Oprah Winfrey? is she even a client?), nor have they been effective enough to propel the clients he does have sufficiently into Übermenschlicheit to have raised his own batch of movers-and-shakers. He knows people like Oprah Winfrey and Ken Wilber, but Sri Wilber not only has the same problem, his star has probably already peaked and is fading. At least Wilber eats his own dog-food and doesn’t behave like a cuck.

What Dr. Chopra should be doing is repackaging enlightenment for leaders, not just followers. That’s what I’m working on. You’ll notice that my own avatar is a warrior, not a monk.

Now here is Prof. Taleb’s Wikipedia entry for comparison:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Arabic: نسيم نقولا طالب‎‎, alternatively Nessim or Nissim, born 1960) is a Lebanese-American essayist, scholar, statistician, former trader, and risk analyst,[1] whose work focuses on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty. His 2007 book The Black Swan was described in a review by The Sunday Times as one of the twelve most influential books since World War II.[2]

Taleb is an author,[3] has been a professor at several universities, serving as Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering since September 2008,[4] and as co-editor in chief of the academic journal, Risk and Decision Analysis since September 2014. He has also been a practitioner of mathematical finance, a hedge fund manager, a derivatives trader and is currently listed as a scientific adviser at Universa Investments.

He criticized the risk management methods used by the finance industry and warned about financial crises, subsequently profiting from the late-2000s financial crisis.[5][6] He advocates what he calls a “black swan robust” society, meaning a society that can withstand difficult-to-predict events.[7] He proposes antifragility in systems, that is, an ability to benefit and grow from a certain class of random events, errors, and volatility[8] as well as “convex tinkering” as a method of scientific discovery, by which he means that decentralized experimentation outperforms directed research.[9]

Sounds much more respectful in tone than Dr. Chopra’s entry.

I’m not aware that it’s ever come to it, but I suspect if someone like Sam Harris ever came down on Nassim Taleb like he does on Dr. Chopra, Taleb would quickly recruit an army of K-selected trolls to take down him and his entourage of creepy sycophants. Dr. Chopra’s r-selected sheep would be useless in a fight; every sheep for himself!

Prof. Taleb is aware that there are costs to maintaining and speaking your own mind. He’s got some rules about how to maintain what he calls “skin in the game” or “soul in the game” (depending on the level of commitment), that have to do with not making yourself an easy target, or as he would say, “fragile”. I have a feeling that they’re going to come out in his upcoming book, “Skin in the Game”, though a few have already trickled out in his previous books and his book previews.

Takeaways:

  • People who don’t make money kissing asses don’t have to kiss asses.
  • Ass-kissing is expected, but not rewarded. All it does is confirm that you’re fragile.
  • Fragility is not a virtue. If your enemy has you up against the wall by the throat, it’s not because you’re a pacifist. If you want to be virtuous, first pin your enemy up against the wall by his throat, and then have mercy on him.
  • People who make themselves useful to leaders and doers get more respect than those who make themselves useful to followers and flunkies.
  • People who surround themselves with sheep have no one to rally against the wolves.

Reading list:

Latest book by Dr. Chopra:

Contrary to the subtitle, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with discovering your cosmic self; it’s a criticism of the materialistic view of reality. Telling me that I’m not a meat-puppet is not the same thing as telling me how to be the best spiritual being I can be. The book ends right about the point at which it would make more sense to start, or at least up-sell the reader to the next step: “Buy my home-study kit and become the Übermensch you were meant to be!”

A few earlier books by Dr. Chopra:

Prof. Taleb’s books for lay-people (Incerto):

Is Modernity the final paradigm?

The revolution gave a mighty historical impulse to the new Soviet generation. It cut them free at one blow from conservative forms of life, and exposed to them the great secret – the first secret of the dialectic – that there is nothing unchanging on this earth, and that society is made out of plastic materials. How stupid is the theory of unchanging racial types in the light of the events of our epoch ! The Soviet Union is an immense melting pot in which the characters of dozens of nationalities are being mixed. The mysticism of the “Slavic soul” is coming off like scum.
Leon Bronstein, aka Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed

There is a high cost to being human: we can anticipate suffering and death before they actually happen. Most animals suffer only in the moment; lacking enough brainpower to anticipate events more than a few minutes into the future. If they have a limbic system, they might be afraid of a predator, but they don’t realize why they need to be afraid: they are not aware of their own mortality. They suffer, but they remain functional as long as they live. The problem with being human is that our anticipation of suffering is prone to turning into a constant anxiety that destroys our motivation to live.

We’re also meaning-making beings. We’re always looking for meanings and patterns, even to the point of sometimes imagining meaning or patterns in random events. We get frustrated and upset when we can’t find them, like after reading a novel that leaves the protagonist bewildered, and the main point of tension unresolved, or after listening to atonal music. Specifically, we look for meanings in our experiences of life.

The English language does not have much native vocabulary to describe these kinds of problems, so we borrow words and concepts from other languages and cultures:

Samsara is a Sanskrit word that refers to the cycle of birth, suffering, and death.

Anicca is a word in Pali, rendered “anitya” in Sanskrit, referring to the fact that good things and good times don’t last forever.

Dukkha is a word in Pali, rendered “duhkha” in Sanskrit, referring to the dissatisfaction humans have with the unpleasant aspects of life.

Anatta is a word in Pali, rendered anatman in Sanskrit, has to do with our egos making our suffering worse.

I’ll refer to them in their Pali versions, because that was the language used by the Buddha when he defined them. Anicca, dukkha, and anatta are called “the three marks of existence”. According to the Buddha, you can’t avoid them; you have to change yourself so that you can come to terms with them.

Angst is a Danish (and German) word for anxiety or fear. Existential Angst refers to when people suffer from a chronic anxiety about what they interpret as the meaninglessness and futility of their lives. Sometimes it builds up into bouts of panic or depression.

As a coping mechanism, many people distract themselves with hedonistic pleasures, some of them addictive. In Nature, pleasures tend to be rewards for success in obtaining the requirements of life. Humans, on the other hand, can artificially reward themselves without having earned it, to the point of being like the rats in psychological experiments who keep pushing the button that stimulates the pleasure center of their brains until they starve to death for lack of doing anything else. Rats don’t have that problem unless humans put them into that situation in order to simulate the situations humans put themselves into.

A few people distract themselves with an insatiable longing for power. They assume that if they were powerful enough they could order a solution for the problem of dukkha. This assumption motivates empire-building. As military technologies become ever more destructive, humans rationally try to avoid war, but the stakes just keep increasing. We have fewer wars, but we’ve already had one nuclear war, and risk exterminating ourselves with the next one.

Not everybody is writhing in existential Angst, and the symptoms don’t happen all the time, but as long as they’re impacting some of us, and especially some of the smartest of us, they’re impacting all of us.

I can’t prove it, but I suspect that civilization isn’t possible without keeping existential Angst and broken motivational dynamics under control. At least one missing element needed to sustain civilization is a time preference that is shifted from immediate to delayed gratification. Civilization requires planning and capital accumulation. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” doesn’t promote civilization.

Starting even before they are civilized, people come up with cultural solutions that makes civilization possible: they start telling stories from which they can derive meanings by which to interpret their own suffering, which helps them cope with it in a non-destructive manner.

As people become civilized, some of their stories, specifically the ones that have the most survival value for their hosts, evolve into religious mythology. Contrary to popular usage, “myth” is not a synonym for “fiction”; some stories are based on real events that were inspiring. Myths are stories that we derive meanings from that help us process our experiences in life-affirming ways. Whether or not they are fictional isn’t relevant to their purpose.

Taking the stories as narratives of actual historical events doesn’t seem to be necessary for their purpose. For example, traditional Buddhism includes myths, but practitioners of Buddhism are not required to take them as literal historical facts. More likely, when belief in mythology as historical fact is required, it’s because religion got mixed up with politics, and the requirement serves as a loyalty test.

Now for the big question: is there some point at which accumulating technology and infrastructure render religion obsolete? In other words, does civilization ever reach a point where life gets so comfortable that there’s no more dukkha?

“One of the numerous things in heaven and earth that these philosophers didn’t dream about was this” (he waved his hand), “us, the modern world. ‘You can only be independent of God while you’ve got youth and prosperity; independence won’t take you safely to the end.’ Well, we’ve now got youth and prosperity right up to the end. What follows? Evidently, that we can be independent of God. ‘The religious sentiment will compensate us for all our losses.’ But there aren’t any losses for us to compensate; religious sentiment is superfluous. And why should we go hunting for a substitute for youthful desires, when youthful desires never fail? A substitute for distractions, when we go on enjoying all the old fooleries to the very last? What need have we of repose when our minds and bodies continue to delight in activity? of consolation, when we have soma? of something immovable, when there is the social order?”
Aldous Huxley writing as the character Mustafa Mond, Brave New World

The founders of Modernity are usually reckoned to be Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud, though truth be told Marx and his operatives seem to have overshadowed the other two in terms of total impact. Here are some of the assumptions of the mind-set called Modernity:

  • Life is a pointless absurdity, without any purpose or meaning.
  • There is no God.
  • Religion is superfluous, and an impediment to something called “progress”.
  • Science is the ultimate, and possibly only, means of obtaining real knowledge.
  • If it doesn’t have a physically measurable property like mass, then it’s not “real”.
  • Objective perspectives are the only real perspectives.
  • The economic “Law of Scarcity” has been transcended. The means of production already exist; the question is not who builds it; the question is who controls it, and how goods and services are distributed.
  • Reality is plastic. It can be anything you want it to be, as long as enough will exists to commit to the change.
  • Ideas, systems, and people that don’t function as means to an end, can be MADE into ends in themselves.
  • Concept of moral hazard is obsolete; any natural consequences for behaviors can be resolved with government intervention.
  • Humans are a tabula rasa. They can be anything you want them to be.
  • Any human cog can replace any other; they’re all interchangeable because they’ve all received the same standardized education though 12th grade and the same required core subjects in college.
  • Psychological manipulation is a more efficient means of obtaining compliance than threats of violence.
  • Anything you want, you can get from a partnership between government and technology.
  • Modernity, like Communism, is inevitable.
  • The governments of the “western” countries are benevolent in nature.
  • The policy of “Mutually-Assured Destruction” prevents rational heads of state from dangerously escalating wars.
  • The end state of government is world government, which is the final revolution.

Some undisclosed assumptions of Modernity:

  • Policy-making processes are best kept hidden from public view. The visible government exists to create an illusion of transparency and public involvement.
  • Two-party democratic systems are the best way to create an illusion of choice. Most people will take one choice or the other without noticing the double bind.
  • Violence without any warning remains an option when other means fail. The police, or in some cases the secret police, summarily execute you, and then the media do damage control to maintain the illusion of government benevolence.

Examples of Modernism would include:

  • Art styles consisting of random splatters or dabs of paint, or canvases painted solid with a single color.
  • de Kooning’s “Woman” series.
  • Theatre of the absurd: la Cantatrice chauve, l’Avenir est dans les oeufs, En attandant Godot, etc.
  • Fiction in which the protagonists are all too human, never learn anything, and never become better people.
  • Atonal music.
  • Socialism and Fascism converging. Eventually it doesn’t matter if government owns everything, or mega-corporation owns government; one way or another it’s a monopoly on ever-increasing power.
  • Laws, policies, and social welfare schemes set up specifically to solve problems resulting from bad choices. If the solution creates its own problems, then solve that.
  • Scientifically-defined crises, such as “global warming”, as pretexts for political agendas.
  • Drugs to “cure” scientifically-defined “ADHD”.
  • Political activism (versus minding their own business)
  • Political propaganda subtly planted into popular entertainment, books, toys, and games.
  • The New World Order

On top of late-stage Modernity is another layer of assumptions known as “Post-Modernity”:

  • There is no such thing as an “objective” perspective.
  • YOUR facts don’t matter.
  • Cultural artifacts and meanings pre-dating post-modern times are oppressive, and should be systematically destroyed.
  • Culture, society, and the economy should all be restructured for the benefit of those who are needy in one way or another.
  • Human roles should be assigned according to needs, not ability. In other words, there are no such things as “job qualifications”; if a job requires someone to be able to life 100lbs, someone who can’t physically lift that much weight should still be considered for the job, it being the employer’s responsibility to provide a tool or additional staff to meet the lifting requirement.

“Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth–‘the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.”

Excerpt from a student letter to the administration, published by Reason Magazine
Pomona College Students Say There’s No Such Thing as Truth, ‘Truth’ Is a Tool of White Supremacy
Demand expulsion of conservative journalists for reporting on campus illiberalism at Claremont
Robby Soave, posted Apr. 17, 2017 4:40 pm

Examples of Post-Modernism would include:

  • Art styles that are about distorted or interrupted meanings.
  • Classic operas reimagined to modern tastes, or repackaged into anomalous contexts rendering them absurd. EG Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” reconfigured to end with a lecture about Feminism, or Wagnerian opera reconfigured to end with a suburban cocktail party.
  • Modern opera, or pop musicals, about one or more events that most people would find horrifying, without trying to find any meaning to the horror.
  • Art styles that profane the sacred, like “Piss Christ” or “Dung Mary”.
  • Fiction where the author sympathetically treats a protagonist whose thought processes or behavior show symptoms of personality disorders, sociopathy, or psychopathy. Instead of learning from the problem, the author is seemingly celebrating it.
  • Ugly “deconstructionist” architecture where form doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with either function or aesthetics.
  • Critiques of culture that project something going on in the critic’s head onto the work being critiqued. For example, Susan McClary’s claim that the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is a reference to “the throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release.”
  • Social Justice Warriors. An obsession with politics, and minding other people’s business.
  • An explosion of invented genders; 31 now recognized by the municipal government of New York City; 51 currently recognized by Facebook.
  • Invented non-gendered pronouns.
  • Coercively-enforced requirements to recognize invented genders and use non-gendered pronouns. You MUST use “xe” and “hir” or you will be expelled, fired, censored, have your business shut down, or otherwise punished.
  • Regulations requiring that hiring decisions made according to the needs of the job applicant, without regard to requirements for the job, or the employers needs. For example, a manager might be required to hire someone with a criminal record, even though they retain vicarious liability for the employee’s actions.
  • Regulations requiring that housing decisions be made according to the needs of the renting applicant, without regard to the needs of the apartment owner. For example, the apartment manager can’t say “no” because the applicant is a drug dealer or a prostitute, even if the apartment owner can be held liable for the renter’s activities by way of civil asset forfeiture.
  • Universities where arts and sciences have been replaced by political activism.

Over time, infrastructure does accumulate, but some of it becomes obsolete, and resources to feed into the means of production DON’T accumulate; they remain scarce forever. Accumulation of infrastructure is not a blank check; you don’t get to write off scarcity, or for that matter, entropy. Modernism and Post-Modernism look like bottomless pits of need and consumption that use up all the accumulated wealth that preceded them.

“Marxism remains the philosophy of our times because we have not gone beyond the circumstances which created it.”–Jean-Paul Sartre

To me, M. Sartre’s claim makes it sound like Marxism is an end in itself, not a solution that leads to some other end. Modernity and Post-Modernity don’t seem to be evolving into anything else other than more of the same.

What do you think? Is Modernity inevitable? Where does it lead—Utopia, or a dead-end? If it does end with extinction, so that you can’t push through it, where can you go instead?