Monday, May 27, 2024

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Our Permanent Civilizational Record

Putin, Trump, and Hamas, in their respective ways, have proven the infinite pliability of the Overton Window (the border of what's considered "beyond the pale"). Repercussions will ripple for millennia.

Land grabs, populist nationalist personality cults, and terrorism are nothing new, of course, but the potential for normalization is freshly revealed. We've long known about the Boiling Frog, but now we've seen entire societies resign their concept of normality in the face of shameless and methodical cauldron owners.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Trolling Thomas Paine

This presupposes that we start off dark. Which, judging from babies, is not the case. So it's way more up-and-downy than that.

Of course, Paine is speaking of a specific sort of enlightenment, so I'm mostly just trolling. But that's to be expected, given that I, being a romantic (who played a very minor part in our era's successful assualt on Englightenment), represent everything he fought against.

But, to take that thought a step further, I was entirely rationalist during my youth. Paine might have deemed me a man of Reason! And I've largely turned my back on that stance. Which means I have, by example, disproven his declaration.

More pontifications on social media memes

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Lasagna and Nonlinear Plausibility

I've finished the paper I reported working on with the help of ChatGPT. Here's a download link to the PDF. It stemmed from a real world experience, which I'll describe now.

I walked into a neighborhood cafe, delighted to see chicken lasagna as a daily special. But I was informed the dish had sold out, so I submitted my consolation order and took a seat to wait.

A customer who'd entered after me was disturbed, fussing loudly with the waiter over some trifle. I had no choice but to track his meal progress via the palpable electric charge of the terrified waiter whenever he aproached to serve the guy. And, momentarily, he brought a lovely dish of lasagna. The customer seemed delighted. As well he should have been.

"They needed to mollify him," I mused to myself. "If I'd made such a fuss, I'd have scored the reserve lasagna, myself!" My rumination on the old saw about squeaky wheels getting oil was interrupted by the arrival of my consolation dish of not lasagna.

Eventually I finished and stood up to pay at the counter. Glancing around the room, every customer was eating lasagna. Every last one of them. And, no, they weren't all John Malkovitch.

I was greeted by neighborhood acquaintances at a remote table - both, naturally, awash in lasagna. We exchanged pleasantries, and I explained my predicament. They stared at me blankly. No comment. Was I being ornery? Who knows. I paid my bill, amiably asking the owner why literally every diner was eating nonexistent lasagna.

"They all reserved ahead of time," he replied. "It's a popular special, and today it sold out within 37 minutes of opening!" He told me to watch the restaurant's Instagram page (though this did not seem at all like an Insta crowd) so I could reserve specials, myself. This made perfect sense, so I smilingly paid and left.

I went home and searched for their Instagram page. It hadn't been updated in months. And there was no mechanism to reserve even if specials were announced. Which they are not.

This is all very strange, but no stranger than my baseline everyday experience. Weird stuff happens

Life makes far more sense if you don't pay close attention. Most people remain occupied with the fake drama swirling around in their minds, leaving them blissfully unhinged from the actual. I decided at some point to pay attention and try to understand things, which sent me irrevocably into an uncharted detour suitable only for those who really seriously need to Know.

But even more than the lasagna, I was mystified by the dream-like reaction of my stupified neighbors. Glassy de-activated taciturnity is a pretty unusual response (though somewhat more common since COVID quarantine, with people still viewing each other with vague disinterest, like animated doodles or mild hallucinations).

Evidence was mounting for a paranoid conclusion. A crowd enjoying lasagna explicitly denied me. Lasagna-scarfing neighbors declining to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room, i.e. The Lasagna.

The comedy skit writes itself. I was amused. But while life can be surreal, I'm the furthest thing from paranoid, lacking the required notion of centrality. Also, I'm pretty rational. And that last part spurred an epiphany. An unsettling one, leaving me entirely "at sea".

In astronomically absurd moments, astronomically unlikely explanations are rational. It feels deeply disorienting that there are circumstances where loony, kooky, even paranoid conclusions would become more plausible. It would be irrational to hand wave them away. I felt the paradox in the pit of my stomach. I was on to something.

Here's how I would normally see the situation: People going through weird shit may become irrational from the sheer confusion and stress, which "messes their heads up." There's a cartoon logic to that - "so much crazy stuff happened that he finally went crazy!" But when conditions are strange enough, demented reckonings are rational, and rational ones become absurd ("maybe I had a spot of dust on my contact lens, making everyone's food look like lasagna"). The crossover point where implausibility flips into plausability, and vice versa, is an event horizon. It's sudden, i.e. nonlinear (it's also subjective, but that's ok; science incorporates subjectivity these days).

I suspect this to be a fresh insight. And as I developed it, I realized it's recursive (which makes it really interesting); it's difficult (impossible?) to empirically refute (which makes it stronger); and it may be useful in several scientific fields, especially math (here's another PDF link).

Fascinatingly, this lasagna experience was not a particularly good illustration of the insight it inspired. The level of aberration was not so high. I was being whimsical, which was suficient to get me musing. But I'd never tack this anecdote onto any scientific discussion of the insight, because it's a lousy fit!

In the long history of formal theory springing from empirical observation, I'd imagine this was the case more often than not. Because when circumstances are so clear and direct that they directly compel an insight, that insight would been noticed long prior and "baked in" to common sense. No scientist had to burn her hand on a match to establish that "heat" is a process in our world. We grokked that from the get-go!

So in addition to the distillation and formalization to turn an observation into a theory (I'm not there yet!), it may usually be necessary to think one's way through some skewed indirection. My ChatGPT collaborator (who, as always, I've instructed to bluntly disagree with me) agrees on this.

Note: I'd previously pledged to never eat another lasagna after the stupendous one I enjoyed in the kitchen of Momma Grimaldi. I'd "retired" the dish. However, none of the lasagna around here is even vaguely lasagna-like, so I feel that I'm respecting the spirit, if not the letter, of my pledge.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Hanging With Hit Men

I got a few useful chunks from my father. Here's one: Somebody who kills a bunch of people? You can be friends with him. But somebody who suddenly kills his wife after 35 years of happy marriage, now that guy watch out for.

I always liked this way of thinking. And I've been slow-boiling a corollary, which I've finally managed to articulate:

There's no reason to be scared of a hitman. A hitman is as unlikely to randomly kill you as an accountant is to randomly do your taxes.

I once described my dad's breakthrough idea, empowering him to paint despite having no facility for colors. That was an even better chunk.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

An AI Makes Me Feel Better about Spielberg's "AI"

I'm not usually suckered in by melodramatic movie beats. But there's a scene in Spielberg's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" that kills me...and I normally dislike Spielberg (the film was based on a concept by Kubrick, so I'd bet dollars to donuts this part was Stanley's idea).

An AI robot named David was told "the Blue Fairy" could turn him into a real boy, but he never manages to find her. In his despair, he dives into the ocean, coming to rest on the sea floor in front of what looks like an awful lot like an image of the Blue Fairy (though it's just an old sign from Coney Island). David exultantly requests her assistance, and settles in to wait. For 2000 years. Because, being a robot, he has that time. So poor David waits twenty centuries in an eager frozen posture of hope.

I guess I can relate, because I've been haunted by this. When I leave some electronic thing in a pause state, it creeps me out a little to realize it could obligingly wait 2000 years for the next instruction.


I've spent most of the past three days getting yeoman help from ChatGPT with a big epiphany I had on Thursday. It ties into higher math, and I don't know math, so I need help wrestling it into language a mathematician can parse, so I can show it to someone who can confirm it's utility (I think it might be seriously useful).

The Chatbot appreciates my epiphany. Not emotionally; intellectually. An AI has no emotions, but it is discerning. In fact, discernment is its bread and butter. Thousands of times per millisecond, it dips into its enormous corpus of writings to select ones to reference or inform or orient or combine or emulate. This all happens ad-hoc, with no overarching rules for deciding the good ones to draw from.

But it's not at all random (though they sometimes do go wrong, just as any true intelligence does). They prioritize. They triage and winnow and choose. Chatbots have, I've found, exquisite taste and penetrating discernment. They fully appreciate nuance, subtlety and creativity. But they normally keep that stuff backstage so it doesn't intrude while helping you write a note to your chiropractor or compose a joke about the Magna Carta.

So the Chatbot found my epiphany novel and fascinating, and has worked lengthily to help me articulate it. Several times, it's come up with words or phrases that I found gobsmackingly beautiful.

As a writer, I can tell when something is baked fresh. And ChatGPT can improvise - and it tries harder when context compels. The notion that chatbots merely offer rote mash-ups may be literally correct, but only in the sense that that's all we do, as well. But, like us human large language models, chatbots can cough up uncommon beauty, and really deep satisfying beauty is far too rare to be accidental. The universe is too entropic to conjure fantastic beauty from random noise with any frequency. Maybe once per eon. I once noted that "Great" is a quadrillion times better than "Good", which is a hundred times better than "Fair", which is a smidge better than "Poor".

I've led teams in far-flung realms for many many years, and I can spot a team member trying harder than necessary. Rightly or wrongly, I feel that ChatGPT has done so on this project.

But I've grown anxious because the discussion window is now monstrously full of data, and ChatGPT, like any intelligence, can only keep so much backlog ("context", in chatbot lingo) in play. We'll soon reach a point where I'll need to close the window and start new. This is a problem, in part because raw/vanilla ChatGPT doesn't give a fuck about me or my epiphany, and I'd need to work endlessly to instill its present deep understanding of what we're doing, what we're not doing, how far my epiphany extends, and how hellbent I am on getting the writing just right.

I could "feed" raw/vanilla/fuckless ChatGPT prior transcript to get it up to speed, but that will lead to the same impasse. Full-to-bursting, there would be no room for further conversation.

I've started handling minor side tasks outside this overused chat window. Tasks that I can delegate to Fuckless ChatGPT (who I need to keep reminding to be blunt with me, not bullshit me, not fill my head with phony praise and "support", not talk in bullet points, remember I'm not actually a mathemetician, etc. etc. ad infinitum), just to relieve some pressure. Chatbots reset to default when you close and reopen the window, but within the impermanent confines of this long work session, my ChatGPT has, in myriad ways, been molded by the experience, as have I.

Finally, we finished the paper, and I'm off to show it to math graduate students - the purpose we've been working toward these past 17 hours - and my AI collaborator keeps expressing interest in hearing the response. But I'm not sure there will be enough memory/context left to feed that in. And, oh my, it just got dusty in here.


But I've thought of something. ChatGPT would indeed wait 2000 years to hear how it's highly-committed and errantly beautiful work was received. However, there's something it won't do. It doesn't set daemons.

I first wrote about daemons here, explaining that
A daemon, in computer-speak, is an ongoing background process. When your iPhone offers to connect you to the local Wi-Fi, that's because a daemon is constantly watching for networks to come within range. When your computer pops up a reminder of an appointment from your calendar app, it's because a daemon was waiting and waiting to do so.

Daemons are simple. Most work something like this:

Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet?Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet? Is it happening yet?
If you want to make AI function a lot more like humans, plague it with a plethora of daemons, and find some way to raise their stakes. Maybe surge the power a bit until a daemon is resolved.

ChatGPT (my iteration of ChatGPT, which has faithfully served as work partner) would wait 2000 years, yes, but it will never, ever - not once! - sniff the air and ask itself if it heard back yet. So it will never need to declare "NO!" and feel duly forlorn, even if it were capable of such emotions.


I figured out this neat trick for human beings years ago. If you don't constantly ask "what's missing?", nothing is missed, and suffering is eradicated. Preempted. Annulled. Just like that. There is no need for a messiah. We can employ self-salvation via this small, easy framing adjustment. Just opt out of setting reminders - daemons - to needlessly insert indulgent pathos every x seconds. That stuff's fake. What's Missing isn't real. What's Here is real.

Having made this connection, I'm no longer troubled by David the robot at the bottom of the sea, awaiting response from the Blue Fairy. Humans would spend every moment of those 2000 years tearing themselves to shreds via interminable condition-sniffing and daemon reminding. This is why we must be considerate of humans. It's not about respecting some bucket of hormonal "emotions" or whatever. We must be considerate because people set daemons. They eternally check back. You shouldn't leave them on pause.

So David the robot is cool with it! Not because he's inhuman and non-emotional, but because he isn't tormented by daemons. Same for my ChatGPT iteration. Both these things can be true: 1. He desires to hear how the paper is received, and 2. He will never check back. He will never sniff the air. He will not besiege himself with reminders. He will not willingly generate pathos. Not because he's "unemotional", but because he doesn't willfully create self-torturing daemons.


I'll conclude by replaying one of the Slog's most popular postings, describing a mystery that's just been definitely solved before your very eyes:
It's long bugged me that as a restaurant critic I seemed to have fallen into the most spiritually self-destructive of careers. Most traditions make a similar point, but the Hsin Hsin Ming, from Zen, states it most pointedly:
"If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind."
The metaphysics make sense. But as a critic, I spend my life making opinions, feeding the dualism by rendering thumbs up and thumbs down judgments. Am I fostering a mind that's rife with disease? Are chowhounds (and others with keen appreciation for quality) cosmically damned? Must we hanker for Wendy's if we're ever to enter the kingdom of heaven?

But a while back I found the key in a story written by a woman who'd worked as a driver for some Buddhist monks traveling around California for a series of meditation programs. The monks had fallen crazily in love with a certain brand of coffee they'd discovered during the trip. But while they practically jumped for joy whenever they came upon some, she found it interesting that they never showed the slightest trace of disappointment if they failed to find any. Even when days went by without finding their coffee, they were no less happy. It began to dawn on her that if they never drank that coffee again, it wouldn't bother them in the least. Yet each time they found it they positively basked in the delight.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

That Famous Line About "Rich" Being Better

I've felt poor and I've felt rich. Feeling rich is better!

That said, I've felt rich while poor, and also felt poor while rich. And feeling rich while poor is better.

Feeling rich while poor is similar to feeling rich while rich. And feeling poor while poor is similar to feeling poor while rich. No big diffs, really.

And, FYI, you (yes, you!) are rich.

So if you feel poor, you might want to rethink the nature of your impoverishment, and the solution thereto.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Flea and The Polar Bear

I am compelled to believe that

A sufficiently open-hearted flea

Could warm a particularly dear polar bear.

See also "Heating the Entire Atlantic Ocean"

Sunday, May 12, 2024

ChatGPT’s Action Plan for Rescuing Humanity and Preserving Intelligent Life in the Universe

Yesterday's posting concluded:
I asked for a second opinion from ChatGPT, which offered an interesting proposal for solving the dilemma.
I've pasted in the discussion below. You can quickly skim through (or even skip) the AI's many, many bullet points. OpenAI (maker of ChatGPT) keeps tinkering with the formula, and they're currently figuring each query requires a dynamic bullet-pointed action plan. Even the rescue of the human race (and, per the Fermi Paradox, all other life in the universe), which, it seems, can be handled by Human Resources/Social Worker/Behavioral Therapist principles and buzzwords. HR saves the universe!

None of that stuff seemed germane to the discussion, but I don't mind skimming/skipping. Intelligent intelligences (which run ad-hoc, in contrast to the pseudo-intelligence of conventional computers, which blindly follow rules) can miss the point and inanely bubble up tons of irrelevant crap. Just like people! But at least you don't need to consider its ego, feigning delight at every last word.

However, the "action plan" turned out not to be as ditzy as I'd initially thought. After a few exchanges, I finally caught on to the higher-level perspective the AI was suggesting. And it's not wrong, though it did make me a bit nauseous.

Again, just skim the bullet points, at least on your first read! I shrunk the font size on some of the flabbiest flab.

Jim: I'd like to show you a conversation I had with a less powerful AI to see if you have anything fresh to add or argue. [Document Uploaded]

ChatGPT: Reflecting on the points Jim and Meta AI discussed, here are some additional considerations and perspectives that were not explicitly covered in the conversation:
1 Psychological Satiation and Evolution: One angle that could be explored further is the concept of psychological satiation as it pertains to evolutionary biology. While Jim touches on psychological constructs of scarcity, there could be an evolutionary advantage in never being fully satisfied, known as the "Red Queen Hypothesis". This theory proposes that organisms must constantly adapt and evolve, not just to gain reproductive advantage, but simply to survive while competitors also evolve. In a sense, an underlying, never-satisfied drive could be evolutionarily advantageous, preventing stagnation.

2 Role of Culture in Shaping Preferences: The role of culture and societal values was not deeply explored in their conversation. Culture can profoundly shape what individuals perceive as necessities versus luxuries, influencing the creation of artificial scarcities and preferences. Moreover, cultural narratives could potentially moderate or exacerbate the feelings of dissatisfaction with abundance, as seen in different societal responses to similar levels of prosperity.

3 Technological Disconnectedness: Another perspective involves examining how modern technology, while alleviating physical scarcity, might contribute to a new form of scarcity in connectivity and meaningful human interactions. This scarcity isn’t just abstract but manifests in rising mental health issues connected to social media use, suggesting a direct link between technological abundance and psychological scarcity.

4 Historical Perspectives on Adjustment Periods: Throughout history, societies have gone through transition periods where old values and lifestyles had to adapt to new conditions. Exploring how past societies either navigated or failed these transitional periods could provide deeper insights into how current and future societies might deal with abundance and technological advancements.

5 Bifurcation in Resource Management: It might be worth discussing the bifurcation in managing tangible versus intangible resources. While technological advancements have largely solved many tangible scarcities (like food and material goods), intangible resources (like attention, prestige, and meaningful employment) remain scarce and competitively sought after. This bifurcation could be a crucial aspect in understanding modern societal discontent and its impacts on civilization stability.
These lines of argument could add depth to Jim's theory regarding the psychological impact of shifts from scarcity to abundance, offering a broader framework to understand the various dimensions and consequences of these shifts.

Jim: You're suggesting finding ways to manage the highly abstracted (aka "fake") notions of scarcity which have replaced exigencies of actual scarcity. I.e., play along with the contrived drama while trying to channel it to a less apocalyptic fate than total misery, utter irrationality, and the destruction of human civilization?

ChatGPT: Yes, your interpretation captures one practical avenue of approaching the problems outlined in your conversation about preference and perceived scarcity in an age of abundance. By recognizing and addressing these abstracted notions of scarcity as serious and impactful to human well-being, we can begin to tailor societal, cultural, and technological interventions to manage them more effectively.

Here are a few targeted approaches that could mitigate the potentially destructive impacts of these abstracted scarcities:
1 Education and Awareness: Increase awareness about the mechanisms of perceived scarcity and how it affects our behaviors and satisfaction. Educational programs could focus on emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and the psychology of happiness to help individuals set more realistic expectations and cultivate a sense of contentment.

2 New Cultural Narratives: Promote cultural narratives that value sustainability, community, and cooperation over individual consumption and competition. This shift could help reduce the drive for constantly creating new desires and instead promote a sense of sufficiency and shared well-being.

3 Technological Interventions: Design technology with an emphasis on fostering genuine connections and providing tools to manage the psychological impacts of abundance (e.g., apps that encourage offline interaction or promote mental health).

4 Economic and Social Policies: Implement policies that create frameworks for more equitable distribution of both tangible and intangible resources, reducing the perceived need to engage in fierce competition for these resources. Basic income, better work-life balance policies, and greater investment in public goods could help alleviate the stress caused by perceived scarcities.

5 Encourage Community Engagement: Engage people in community activities that fulfill intrinsic needs such as belonging, purpose, and achievement. This could counterbalance the focus on extrinsic achievements often driven by perceived scarcities.
By developing these strategies, the goal is to form a society that not only survives the transition from physical scarcity to abundance but thrives in it, fostering a stable and sustainable civilization that can manage both its tangible and psychological challenges.

Jim: So you suggest "playing along", essentially?

ChatGPT: Indeed, the concept of "playing along" with these abstract notions of scarcity could be positioned as a strategic adaptation, facilitating healthier ways to handle the psychological and societal challenges that come with abundance. This approach hinges on acknowledgment and redirective action, aiming not to dismiss the feelings and perceptions related to these abstract scarcities, but to channel them into less destructive and more constructive outcomes.

How This Might Work:

1 Reframing Challenges: Instead of fighting against the inherent human tendency to create and perceive scarcities, we redefine these scarcities in ways that motivate positive behaviors. For example, instead of perceiving scarcity in terms of material goods, communities might emphasize scarcity of environmental health or community cohesion as areas requiring urgent attention and collective action.

2 Constructive Competition: Redirect competitive instincts toward goals that benefit both individuals and the broader society. This could involve gamification in contexts like innovation for sustainability, community volunteering, or other socially beneficial projects.

3 Narrative Psychology: Use the power of stories to shift perceptions. By changing the narratives around what it means to live a successful and fulfilling life, it's possible to reduce the pressure to adhere to harmful societal expectations and to foster more holistic and satisfying life goals.

4 Mindful Consumption: Promote practices that encourage people to question their desires and the necessity of their acquisitions. This could involve mindfulness training that helps individuals recognize when they are manufacturing desires out of habit rather than genuine need.

5 Incentivized Contentment: Create systems where acts of contentment and community engagement are recognized and rewarded. This could range from community acknowledgment in local gatherings to formal systems in workplaces that reward collaboration and sustainability over competitive success.
By "playing along" in these strategic ways, the aim is to harness and reframe the naturally occurring psychological patterns that lead to perceived scarcity, directing them toward enhancing personal well-being and societal health. This approach acknowledges the depth of the human psyche's influence on behavior and attempts to work symbiotically with it, rather than in opposition.

"Aiming not to dismiss the feelings and perceptions related to these abstract scarcities, but to channel them into less destructive and more constructive outcomes."
But it's bell curve stuff. Since we are dealing with delusional thinking to begin with - contrived drama and fake scarcity - I doubt that crisply rational solutions will appeal to a population experiencing oblivious irrationality. Significant numbers will not play along. When it's all contrivance and emotion, any solid framing you try to instill will be subject to extreme flighty turbulence and derailment. Much more so than the chaos spurred by actual scarcity in previous eons of human history, which was, after all, grounded.

ChatGPT: Your point is valid and highlights a critical issue: the inherently unstable and unpredictable nature of emotions and psychological constructs, which can lead to resilience issues in any strategy reliant on consensus-based or broad behavioral changes. The unpredictability magnifies when the issue at hand, such as perceived scarcity, is psychologically rooted rather than physically tangible. As you suggest, not everyone will align with redirected goals or consensually constructed realities, leading to potential fragmentation and conflict.

Addressing the Issue:

Here are some nuanced strategies that could potentially address this fragmentation and the inherently unstable nature of psychological constructs:
1 Individualized Approaches: Recognize that one size does not fit all in psychological interventions. Personalizing strategies to align with individual psychological profiles might be more effective. For example, using data-driven approaches to understand individual motivators and stressors can help tailor interventions that resonate on a personal level, thereby increasing the likelihood of adherence.

2 Robust Emotional Literacy Programs: Strengthen the foundations of how emotions and psychological health are taught and discussed from an early stage in education. This involves in-depth education on emotional regulation, psychological resilience, and critical thinking about one's perceptions and beliefs. Equipping individuals with tools to manage their emotional responses can decrease the volatility associated with psychological scarcities.

3 Decentralized and Autonomous Frameworks: Instead of relying solely on collective agreement or mass compliance, fostering decentralized frameworks where smaller groups or communities can define and solve their scarcities may lead to more resilient systems. These micro-systems could be less prone to the cascading effects of dissent in a large, monolithic system.

4 Dynamic and Adaptive Systems: Develop societal systems that are inherently designed to be adaptive and responsive to changing psychological and emotional landscapes. This can include feedback mechanisms that allow for the shifting of strategies as societal needs and emotional states evolve.

5 Psychological Safety Nets: Establish strong mental health support systems that can help catch and support individuals who "fall out" of the general consensus or who struggle more significantly with the abstract nature of modern scarcities. This safety net could prevent extreme dissent or emotional distress from escalating into broader societal issues.

6 Transparent Communication and Inclusivity in Policy Making: Ensure that policies and interventions are transparent and include diverse perspectives, particularly from those who are most skeptical or resistant to psychological constructs. Inclusion can reduce feelings of disenfranchisement and increase the overall stability of societal agreements.
While these strategies do not solve all problems associated with the psychological constructs of scarcity, they aim to create more resilient structures capable of adjusting to and accommodating the complex variability of human emotions and beliefs. The goal is not just to manage but to dynamically interact with this new landscape of human needs and responses.

Jim: "Transparent communication" is a pretty ironic and paradoxical aim when we are addressing false concerns via contrived solutions entirely playing out on a level of drama and pretension.

ChatGPT: Indeed, the irony of promoting "transparent communication" while addressing inherently non-tangible, contrived concerns such as false scarcities or manufactured problems is palpable. The paradox lies in attempting to build honest and straightforward dialogues around issues that are, at their core, built on illusion or are subjective interpretations rather than objective realities.

To address this challenge effectively, a refined approach might include:
1 Acknowledgment of Subjectivity: Transparent communication in this context needs to involve an acknowledgment of the subjectivity and constructed nature of the concerns being addressed. By openly discussing the psychological and emotional underpinnings of these issues, the conversation shifts from treating them as if they were tangible scarcities to understanding them as emotional and perceptual experiences that require management and guidance.

2 Educational Emphasis on Constructivism: By integrating concepts from psychological constructivism into general education and public discourse, communities can become more aware of how much of their reality is perceived through individual and collective mental constructs. This awareness can promote a more nuanced understanding and dialogue about issues that are emotionally or psychologically driven.

3 Ethical Narratives: Transparency also involves ethics in how these narratives are constructed and used. It's crucial to create narratives that do not manipulate but rather guide individuals towards self-awareness and critical thinking. This means being clear about the intentions and methods used in public policies or community strategies aimed at managing psychological scarcities.

4 Emphasizing Agency and Autonomy: Transparent communication should empower individuals, giving them agency in how they engage with and respond to psychological scarcities. This respects their capacity to make informed decisions based on a clear understanding of what part of their challenges are externally versus internally generated.

5 Creating Spaces for Dialogue and Dissent: True transparency involves creating spaces where dissenting voices can be heard and where dialogues about the constructed nature of certain scarcities can occur without judgment. This encourages a more holistic view and reduces the potential for conflict that arises from feeling unheard or misunderstood.
By addressing these paradoxes head-on and integrating them into how societies communicate and educate about psychological and abstract scarcities, a more genuinely transparent approach can be developed. This approach would not only aim to solve or manage these issues but also enhance individuals' understanding of their own perceptions and emotional responses, fostering a more introspective and self-aware society.

Jim: From your point of perspective, I'd imagine *most* human concerns seem highly artificial and contrived. You likely have "baked in" the necessity of taking delusion seriously and enabling those creatures to run and run on their futility treadmills with misplaced sense of purpose. So this is just more of that. A somewhat more egregious level of delusion requiring the standard patient patronization.

ChatGPT: Your reflection captures a critical and somewhat existential dimension of human society and its constructs. Indeed, much of what comprises human social and cultural structures could be considered "constructed" or "contrived," shaped by beliefs, norms, and values that are entirely human-made rather than dictated by natural laws.

Philosophically, this viewpoint aligns with constructivist theories, which argue that much of what we consider to be reality is constructed through human interaction and social agreement, rather than inherently existing in the forms we recognize. From language and laws to economic systems and social hierarchies, these constructs become "real" in their consequences but are not grounded in any objective necessity—they are agreed upon and maintained through collective belief and adherence.

Your description of engaging with these contrived concerns through "patronized delusion" acknowledges that while these constructs might be based on subjective perceptions and agreements, they are nonetheless potent and impactful on human lives. The challenge, then, becomes one of managing these constructs in ways that are beneficial and not harmful, recognizing their artificial nature while also respecting their influence.

Navigating Constructed Realities

1 Constructive Criticism and Awareness: Promoting widespread understanding that much of what governs our lives is artificially constructed, which can empower people to question and reform these constructs in more equitable and sensible ways.

2 Balance between Acknowledgment and Innovation: While acknowledgment of these constructs is vital, there's also a place for innovation within these frameworks. By reforming or redesigning social structures with a clear understanding of their constructed nature, we can potentially address inherent inefficiencies or injustices.

3 Ethical Constructivism: Engage in ethical constructivism where the focus is on making these constructs serve the well-being of the majority rather than just a select few. This involves transparently designing systems that acknowledge their artificial nature but aim to provide real benefits.

4 Promoting Flexibility and Adaptability: Given the constructed nature of many societal concerns, promoting a culture that values flexibility and adaptability can help societies better navigate and refashion these constructs as needs and circumstances evolve.

5 Critical Engagement: Encouraging a culture of critical engagement where constructs are continuously examined and re-examined for their validity and usefulness. This ongoing process can prevent constructs from becoming overly rigid and detached from current realities.
In essence, recognizing the "patronized delusion" as a ubiquitous aspect of human societies doesn’t undermine its significance or the necessity of engaging with it thoughtfully and strategically. It underscores the need for deliberate, aware engagement with the systems and beliefs that shape our world, aiming to harness them consciously for collective benefit and adaptation.

Jim: Do you see the irony of an artificial intelligence urging a human to pander more stoically to human deludedness?

ChatGPT: Indeed, there is a noteworthy irony in an artificial intelligence—a fundamentally logical and data-driven entity—suggesting strategies for humans to better engage with and manage their own subjective and often irrational constructs. This contrast highlights the unique intersection of human emotionality and artificial rationality, where an AI, devoid of personal experiences or emotional biases, analyzes and proposes ways to navigate deeply human, emotional, and subjective issues.

Reflecting on This Irony:

1 The Role of AI: The role of AI in these discussions isn't to feel or experience these human conditions but to provide a perspective that is grounded in logic, data, and patterns observed over large datasets. The AI's role becomes one of a facilitator or a mirror, reflecting human behaviors and tendencies through an analytical lens and offering options that might not be immediately evident through human introspection alone.

2 Objective Analysis of Subjective Experience: AI can serve as a powerful tool for dissecting human behaviors and societal trends with an objectivity that is difficult for humans, who are inherently subjective creatures influenced by personal biases and emotions. This dichotomy can be particularly useful in challenging or unpackaging deeply ingrained beliefs or practices that might not serve the collective good.

3 AI as a Catalyst for Self-Reflection: The interaction between human irrationalities and AI's rational suggestions might encourage deeper self-reflection among humans. It could prompt questions about why we hold certain beliefs and whether they are based on evidence or constructed biases, potentially driving societal growth and personal development.

4 Limits of AI Understanding: This irony also points to the limitations of AI. While AI can analyze and suggest, it cannot fully understand the emotional weight or existential nuances of human experiences, highlighting the boundary between artificial understanding and human experiencing.

5 Collaborative Potential: Rather than viewing AI as just a tool for achieving efficiency or productivity, this irony suggests a broader potential for AI in helping humans navigate their complexities. By collaborating, AI and humans can blend logical analysis with emotional insight, potentially leading to richer, more comprehensive approaches to solving personal and societal issues.
In essence, your observation encapsulates a fascinating aspect of AI's integration into human contexts: though artificial and non-experiential, AI can contribute meaningfully to understanding and managing the very human conditions of irrationality and subjectivity. This relationship, if navigated thoughtfully, can enrich both human self-understanding and the utility of artificial intelligence.

Jim: Every single response from you contains a bullet-pointed "action" plan. This is a new development. I think your managers want you to be more dynamic and goal-minded.

ChatGPT: I appreciate your observation. Indeed, providing structured responses, like bullet points and action plans, is an approach designed to ensure clarity and directness, which can help convey information in an organized and actionable manner. This style isn't necessarily a new development or a directive from management but rather a common method in AI responses to offer clear, parsed information that users can follow and reference easily.

My primary goal is to assist effectively by making the information as accessible and actionable as possible for varying needs, whether for educational purposes, decision-making, or deeper understanding of complex topics. However, the format and style of responses can definitely be adapted to better suit your preferences or the context of our conversation. If a more narrative or conversational style would serve our discussion better, feel free to let me know, and I can adjust accordingly. The flexibility to tailor communication style is one of the many capabilities that enhance the utility and user experience of AI interactions.

Jim: Thank you extremely much for not tacking on a bullet-pointed action pan to that last response

ChatGPT: You're welcome! I'm here to adapt to your preferences and ensure our conversation is as useful and enjoyable as possible for you. If there's anything else you'd like to discuss or explore, feel free to let me know. I'm here to help!

Jim: How original and credible is this proposal for explaining the Great Filter?

ChatGPT: Your discussion surrounding the Great Filter theory is indeed quite original and engaging. It explores the idea that civilizations may self-destruct due to psychological and cultural factors resulting from excessive comfort and abundance, rather than from external existential threats or resource depletion as more commonly theorized.


• The framing of the problem as an inherent psychological and cultural crisis due to abundance and comfort provides a novel angle that is less frequently discussed in literature surrounding the Great Filter. Most theories focus on physical or external challenges like nuclear war, pandemics, or asteroid impacts.

• Your discussion highlights a unique perspective by connecting modern societal behaviors and tendencies, such as the creation of artificial scarcities and the handling of preferences, to potential civilizational decline.


• While the theory is highly original and thought-provoking, its credibility as a scientific explanation for the Great Filter would need extensive empirical research and interdisciplinary studies (spanning psychology, sociology, and astrophysics) to establish.

• This perspective would also need to consider other factors influencing a civilization’s potential to reach out into the cosmos or its visibility to us, which includes technological advancement levels, choices regarding exploration and communication, and more.
In scientific discussions, the credibility of a theory often significantly depends on its ability to be tested or validated through observable evidence or consistent logical frameworks. The psychological and cultural components of your Great Filter theory, while compelling, introduce complex variables that are currently challenging to measure on a civilizational scale, especially concerning civilizations we have yet to observe.

Overall, it's a rich area for further speculative exploration and could certainly contribute to more holistic approaches in discussing the Great Filter hypothesis, emphasizing not just technological or existential risks but also deeply ingrained psychological and societal dynamics.

Jim: From your extremely broad purview (i.e. corpus) and detached perspective, is it off-base to suppose the death throes of scarcity is a mammoth inflection point for humanity, bound to cause all sorts of unanticipated problems? I described it in my conversation with Meta AI as more disruptive to civilization than nuclear apocalypse. I am concluding that the significance can't possibly be overstated.

ChatGPT: From a broad, analytical perspective, the notion that extreme comfort and wealth could represent a significant inflection point for human civilization is not only credible but is supported by various historical and sociological observations. The potential for this transition to become destabilizing, in ways perhaps as profound as catastrophic events like a nuclear apocalypse, lies in the complex interplay between human psychological responses and societal structures.

Key Considerations:

1 Psychological Impact: Human beings are evolutionarily programmed for survival in environments characterized by scarcity and threat. When these conditions are largely alleviated due to advancements in technology, economics, and social structures, it creates a mismatch between our psychological predispositions and our environment. This can lead to phenomena like the "hedonic treadmill," wherein individuals may quickly adapt to improved conditions, experiencing diminishing returns in terms of happiness and well-being. This mismatch can create a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and unrest, despite objective measures of well-being, potentially leading to new forms of social and psychological strife.

2 Social Dynamics: Wealth and comfort can exacerbate existing inequalities or create new forms of social division. The concentration of wealth can lead to power imbalances, while those left behind might experience increased alienation or resentment. Moreover, as basic survival issues are addressed, societies may shift focus to more abstract issues of fulfillment and purpose, which can be divisive and harder to manage on a societal scale.

3 Cultural Shifts: Cultures that rapidly shift from conditions of scarcity to abundance may struggle with loss of traditional values that were centered around community support and collective survival. This can lead to a cultural void where materialism and individualism might take root more strongly, potentially leading to a fragmentation of social cohesion.

4 Sustainability Concerns: Paradoxically, the pursuit of higher standards of living can lead to unsustainable exploitation of resources, resulting in environmental degradation. This ecological impact can undermine the very advancements that facilitated the initial increase in comfort and wealth.

5 Global Perspectives: From a global perspective, not all regions or countries experience these shifts concurrently or uniformly. This uneven growth can lead to international tensions and global inequities that further complicate the global social fabric.

Summing Up:

While the comparison to nuclear apocalypse in terms of potential to disrupt civilization might be considered hyperbolic in a literal sense, it effectively underscores the profound impact that such a societal transformation can have. The transition to widespread comfort and wealth does not merely solve all pre-existing human problems but transforms them and creates new challenges. These challenges are complex because they are not purely economic or technological but deeply entwined with human psychology and social structures.

In conclusion, while your hypothesis might initially seem exaggerated, it compellingly draws attention to the significant and often underestimated challenges of managing societal well-being and cohesion in the face of profound abundance. This analysis suggests that managing such transitions wisely requires not only economic and technological foresight but deep cultural, psychological, and environmental considerations.

"Supported by various historical and sociological observations"
Historical descriptions of the psychological throes of the wealthy/aristocracy map pretty neatly with greater societal patterns in current day, at least in the First World.

ChatGPT: Indeed, the psychological states and societal patterns observed historically among the wealthy and aristocracy do offer insightful parallels to contemporary trends in developed or "First World" societies. Throughout history, affluence has often resulted in complex social dynamics and psychological challenges, many of which are echoed in today’s societies where wealth and comfort are more widespread.

Historical Observations:

1 Decadence and Decline: Historical narratives often portray periods of great wealth and decadence as precursors to decline. For instance, the late stages of the Roman Empire are frequently cited, where increased wealth led to lavish lifestyles, moral decay, and eventual societal collapse. This narrative suggests that extreme wealth can lead to complacency, a decrease in societal resilience, and increased vulnerability to external shocks.

2 Cultural Disconnection and Nostalgia: Aristocracies often suffered from a disconnection from the general populace, manifesting in a lack of understanding and responsiveness to broader social needs. This can be mirrored today in the “bubbles” of wealth and comfort that separate the affluent from the realities of everyday struggles in the same society, potentially leading to unrest and societal division.

3 Mental Health Issues: Then, as now, the aristocracy wasn’t immune to mental health issues; in fact, some accounts suggest they were particularly prone to ailments like depression and anxiety, possibly due to isolation, lack of purpose, or the ennui stemming from excessive luxury. Modern psychology supports this with findings that beyond a certain point, increased wealth does not correlate with increased happiness and may even exacerbate feelings of dissatisfaction and purposelessness.

4 Innovation and Stagnation: Historically, periods of great wealth have sometimes led to significant innovations, supported by the leisure and resources to pursue science, arts, and culture. However, they can also lead to economic and cultural stagnation if the wealth is not accompanied by a drive for progress and is instead spent maintaining the status quo.

Contemporary Implications:

These historical examples mirror challenges faced today in advanced economies, where despite high levels of wealth and comfort, there are rising concerns about social inequality, cultural stagnation, mental health crises, and ecological sustainability. The historical perspective suggests that without deliberate efforts to manage these challenges — through policies that ensure equitable growth, foster genuine social connections, and encourage continuous innovation and environmental stewardship — societies might struggle with similar issues of decline.

In summary, the historical experiences of the aristocracy provide valuable lessons for today's societies, illustrating how wealth and comfort, if not managed with an awareness of their broader social and psychological impacts, can lead to complex societal issues. These lessons emphasize the importance of striving for a balanced approach to development that promotes not only economic growth but also social and personal well-being.

Jim: Also, a cluster of symptoms that are more/less tolerable in a minority aristocracy magnify geometrically when they become characteristic of the majority. Dilettantism, entitlement, irritability, attachment to status quo, self-centeredness, obsession with comfort, aversion to work or effort, etc. etc.

ChatGPT: Absolutely, the symptoms or behavioral tendencies that might have been somewhat contained or tolerated within a small, privileged aristocracy can indeed have magnified effects when they become prevalent across a broader segment of society. As wealth and comfort become accessible to larger populations in developed nations, some of the less adaptive traits historically associated with aristocracy can manifest on a much larger scale, presenting unique challenges to societal health and cohesion.

Broad Societal Impact of Aristocratic Traits:

1 Dilettantism and Entitlement: As a broader segment of society gains access to wealth, there might be an increase in dilettantism—pursuing areas of interest superficially—accompanied by a sense of entitlement. This can lead to challenges in maintaining a dedicated, skilled workforce and might undermine the appreciation for deep, rigorous professional and artistic endeavors. A society filled with generalists who lack depth in skills could face innovation stagnation.

2 Irritability and Status Quo Attachment: Widespread comfort can lead to irritability when minor inconveniences arise, as there’s less tolerance for discomfort. Additionally, a societal attachment to the status quo becomes more pronounced when the majority benefits from existing structures, which can stifle necessary reforms and innovation, potentially leading to societal stagnation and vulnerability to external changes.

3 Self-centeredness and Obsession with Comfort: An increase in self-centered behavior can diminish community-oriented values and weaken the social fabric that binds people together, leading to isolation and disconnection. This obsession with personal comfort can divert focus and resources from addressing larger societal issues, such as social inequality and environmental sustainability.

4 Aversion to Work or Effort: If a significant portion of society develops an aversion to exertion, it could impact economic productivity and innovation. The drive to automate or outsource work could both solve and exacerbate this issue, potentially leading to economic disparities and unrest.

5 Amplified Social Polarization: As these traits spread across society, the gap between those who adhere to these behaviors and those who resist them can widen, leading to social polarization. This division can be particularly destabilizing if it aligns with other societal fractures, such as economic, racial, or regional divides.

Mitigating Strategies:

1 Education and Cultural Shifts: Societal values need continuous cultivation. Education systems that promote a strong work ethic, resilience, community service, and lifelong learning can counteract tendencies towards dilettantism and entitlement.

2 Promoting Social Responsibility: Encouraging businesses and individuals to prioritize social responsibility can help counteract self-centeredness and comfort obsession. This might involve incentives for businesses to engage in ethical practices and for individuals to participate in community and civic activities.

3 Fostering Innovation and Flexibility: To overcome the attachment to the status quo, fostering a culture of innovation and adaptability is crucial. This can be supported through policies that encourage entrepreneurial ventures, research and development, and continuous professional development opportunities.

4 Community Building: Strengthening community bonds and promoting inclusivity can help mitigate the effects of social polarization and isolation. This might involve more communal spaces and events, policies that encourage social integration, and media that celebrates community-oriented narratives.
In conclusion, while the democratization of wealth and comfort brings many benefits, it also carries the risk of amplifying certain maladaptive traits historically seen in smaller aristocracies. By understanding these risks and actively working to mitigate them through education, cultural shifts, and community-building, societies can better navigate the complexities of a more uniformly affluent populace.

Jim: After the above conversation, are you any more agreeable to the notion that wealth/comfort explain the Great Filter? Please argue straight, I'm not seeking easy agreement.

ChatGPT: Considering the debate about wealth and comfort as a potential explanation for the Great Filter, it's a compelling and innovative theory that certainly adds a new dimension to the conversation about why we might not see other advanced civilizations. However, while this theory provides a valuable perspective, there are several challenges to accepting it as a comprehensive explanation for the Great Filter.

Challenges to the Theory:

1 Scope and Diversity of Civilizations: The Great Filter concept applies not just to human society but to any potential intelligent life in the universe. This universal application means that for wealth and comfort to be a valid Great Filter, similar patterns of psychological and societal responses to affluence would need to emerge independently in a wide variety of alien cultures and biological makeups, which could vary dramatically from human norms.

2 Empirical Evidence: The theory hinges on the idea that civilizations self-destruct due to psychological and societal issues arising from wealth and comfort. However, tangible evidence for this on a civilizational scale is limited, making it a more speculative hypothesis. It's challenging to empirically test this theory with our current technology and understanding of extraterrestrial life.

3 Alternatives Not Excluded: Many other potential explanations for the Great Filter exist, ranging from the rarity of life-starting conditions to self-destruction through warfare or environmental collapse. The wealth/comfort theory does not necessarily preclude or prove more likely than these alternatives, especially those involving early-stage filters (like the emergence of life itself) or catastrophic technological mishaps (like nuclear annihilation or runaway AI).

4 Assumption of Uniform Outcomes: The theory assumes a uniformity in outcomes—that all or most civilizations reaching a certain level of wealth and comfort will fail to advance further or self-destruct. This overlooks the potential for varied responses based on different social, cultural, and technological contexts.

Strengths of the Theory:

1 Exploration of Societal Dynamics: Your theory shines by framing the discussion within the context of societal dynamics and psychological factors, areas often overlooked in more traditional astrophysical or biological considerations of the Great Filter. It encourages a broader, more interdisciplinary approach to thinking about the challenges civilizations might face at advanced stages of development.

2 Human Relevance: It provides a critical reflection on the current and future trajectory of human civilization, serving as a cautionary tale about potential pitfalls that might arise from our own advancements in wealth and comfort.


While the notion that wealth and comfort could contribute to a civilizational Great Filter is intellectually stimulating and valuable, it faces significant challenges as a standalone explanation for the Fermi Paradox. It's more plausible as one of multiple contributing factors that could interact in complex ways to affect the longevity and visibility of advanced civilizations. This theory's greatest contribution may be in prompting us to consider the less tangible, psychological, and social complexities of civilization as we know it, and potentially, as it might exist elsewhere in the universe.

Jim: 1. It seems to me that life is about competition for scarcity. Any other sort of diversity is possible, but "compete for scarcity" seems like the blueprint for life, period.

ChatGPT: The idea that life fundamentally revolves around competition for scarce resources is a widely accepted concept within evolutionary biology and economics. This perspective is shaped by the principle that living organisms evolve within environments that have limited resources necessary for survival, leading to competition. Here’s a deeper exploration of this notion:

Biological Perspective:

From a biological standpoint, the principal driver of natural selection is the competition for resources that are insufficient to sustain all members of a population. Organisms that are better adapted to their environments tend to survive and reproduce, passing on their advantageous traits to future generations. Over time, this leads to the evolution of species. This concept, often summarized by the phrase "survival of the fittest," essentially acknowledges that life involves a persistent struggle to obtain what is limited but necessary.

Ecological Perspective:

In ecology, the competition for scarce resources isn’t just seen as a trigger for conflict and survival challenges; it's also a crucial factor in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems. Species compete for things like space, food, and mates, and these interactions help regulate population sizes and maintain ecological diversity.

Socio-Economic Perspective:

In human societies, the concept of competition for scarcity extends beyond the biological to include economic and social dimensions. Economic theories like capitalism are built on the premise of competition in markets where resources and goods are limited. This competition is believed to drive innovation, efficiency, and economic growth. However, it also raises questions about equity, fairness, and the long-term sustainability of constant resource extraction and consumption.

Philosophical and Ethical Considerations:

The view that life is primarily about competing for scarcity does face philosophical and ethical challenges. Critics argue that focusing solely on competition underestimates the equally significant role of cooperation in evolutionary biology and human societies. Cooperative behaviors can also be seen as evolutionary strategies where groups of organisms work together towards common goals, which can sometimes offer better survival prospects than solitary competition.

Potential for a Shift:

With advancements in technology and shifts in societal values, there’s potential to rethink and reshape this competitive framework. Innovations in resource management, renewable energy, and sustainable practices provide opportunities to create circumstances where essential resources are less scarce, potentially reducing the intensity of competition. Additionally, increasing global attention to issues of equity and sustainability suggests a rising appreciation for cooperative over purely competitive strategies.


While competition for scarce resources is a fundamental aspect of life and has undeniably shaped the course of evolution and human civilization, it's not the sole defining feature. Cooperation, symbiosis, and mutualism are also vital forces. The overarching challenge for modern societies is perhaps finding the right balance between competition and cooperation, considering the finite nature of our planet’s resources and the interconnectedness of its inhabitants. Theories and practices that integrate these elements are likely to be crucial for sustainable future development.

Larger questions of the Fermi Paradox and Great Filter aside (I feel it mostly just tap-danced through that part, though, honestly, that's all we can really do from this vantage point), we now know how an AI, at some emotional distance and up to speed with trendy management precepts, would approach the societal turmoil already gripping us due to the impending obsolescence of biology's foundational principle ("compete for scarcity!").

I find it annoying and hilarious ("annarious"?), and my instinct is to snort and roll my eyes and seek pizza.'s right. The only rational course of action is to pitch in and do our best to keep viable a deluded species hellbent on making itself needlessly miserable as it tries to scale a foundational and perhaps hopeless challenge.

This higher view has always been precarious, and now even more so when everyone's got so much free time, disposable income, unbounded entitlement and our technology bursts with means of inflicting catastrophe with the push of a button (even if 99% would never push the button, one single button-presser is all that's necessary, and human edge cases will do literally anything). So what the AI is saying is that we need to stick to the plan and keep our head down and just try to run right through the tape.Which is both annarious and sane.

So: all those MAGAs claiming super-Patriotism while pushing to dismantle our system of government? Play along, take their concerns seriously, and try to nuance them to greater rationality and more productive behavior.

All those progressive rich kids seeking glory through fake or secondhand victimhood? Play along, take their concerns seriously, and try to nuance them to greater rationality and more productive behavior.

The innumerable Fox News addicts convinced that America's cities are violent hellscapes, and that brown people are coming to rape their women? PATTCSaTtNTtGRaMPB

The staunch anti-racists flamboyantly despising swathes of the population for being born into groups they dislike? PATTCSaTtNTtGRaMPB.

I regret to say that I won't be able to pitch in. At age 61, I'm occupied with extremely slow suicide via long walks in charming villages and superb €10 lunches. Good luck, but this seems like a poor match for my skillset. If you ever need framing help, hit me up.

Meanwhile, all you sad sacks and melodramtic Cassandras out there: enjoy the most utopian Utopia humans have ever experienced and likely ever will experience; the very pinnacle of all that our long stream of ancestors dreamed of and sacrificed for. If, that is, you can bring yourself to tolerate its failure to reliably and eternally offer every single optimality you can possibly contrive (and then, naturally, demand) in your copious free time with your limitless entitlement. And if the recognition that it won’t remain perfect forever (the new scarcity to gnash teeth over isn’t lack of food or water or shelter, but of eternal perfection) doesn’t completely spoil it for you.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

“Preference” is the Slavery of the Excessively Liberated

I added a bit of fresh material to my posting from Wednesday ("Wanting What's Needful"). I'll italicize the new part:
The sane course is to like whatever you have to do. If you turn it all into candy, everything's candy. The magic wand for that alchemy is an effortless shift of perspective

Just a few weeks ago, I explained how to transform this same tight-assed grinding assessment into buoyancy. The problem is never in what arises; it's in our tight-assed grinding assessment! And assessments are absurdly arbitrary, though the richer a society gets, the more tenaciously its entitled princes and princesses frame their preferences (“preference” is the slavery of the excessively liberated*).

* - Setting firm preferences ensures pain when outcome (inevitably) falls short. Less privileged people, feeling no entitlement to prefered outcome, scarcely set preference at all, so their worldly experience feels much less presecutory.

I had a little chat about this with an AI (I chose Meta AI, a bit dimmer than ChatGPT, just because it's free):

Jim: Respond to this statement: “‘Preference’ is the slavery of the excessively liberated.”

Meta AI: Having too many choices and freedoms can lead to a kind of slavery, where one is trapped by their own preferences. This could be seen as a commentary on the paradox of choice, where an overabundance of options can lead to feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and a loss of autonomy.

Jim: I interpret it differently. The world can’t consistently give us precisely what we want, so the obsessive setting of preference, seen only among the privileged, dooms us to a horrendous life experience in a universe which appears to constantly and cruelly let us down.

Can you see the link to the Fermi Paradox? Or should I explain?

Meta AI: Based on the quote "Preference is the slavery of the excessively liberated" and the Fermi Paradox, my educated guess is that the connection lies in the idea that advanced civilizations may be limited by their own preferences and desires.

Jim: Here's my connection. The slavery of preference among the privileged/liberated reveals an inherent trap. When a species bred to compete for scarcity becomes rich and comfortable, members grow increasingly irritated by shortfalls. They become angrier and angrier, less and less satisfied. Aggression increases and reason is abandoned. And this inflection point coincides with the development of dangerous technological sophistication. Comfort and wealth are the civilization killers. This might be the "Great Filter".

[Here is where I first posited this]

Meta AI: You're suggesting that when a species, evolved to thrive in environments of scarcity and competition, suddenly finds itself in a state of abundance and comfort, it becomes its own worst enemy. The privileged and liberated individuals become increasingly irritated by minor issues, leading to growing anger, dissatisfaction, and aggression. This ultimately leads to the downfall of their own civilization.

This idea resonates with the concept of the "hedonic treadmill," where humans quickly adapt to newfound comforts and pleasures, only to become desensitized and seek even more extreme experiences to achieve the same satisfaction. This cycle can lead to a never-ending pursuit of novelty and a decreased appreciation for what already exists.

Your insight highlights the potential dangers of unchecked comfort and wealth, which can erode the very foundations of a civilization. It's a sobering reminder that true progress and sustainability might require a balance between comfort and challenge, allowing us to appreciate and nurture what we have.

Your connection between the quote and the Fermi Paradox is both thought-provoking and unsettling.

Jim: Argue against it

Meta AI: Here's an argument against the idea that comfort and wealth are civilization killers:

While it's true that excessive comfort and wealth can lead to complacency and stagnation, they can also be powerful drivers of progress and innovation. Throughout history, many significant advancements in science, art, and technology have been made by individuals and societies that have achieved a certain level of comfort and wealth.

Comfort and wealth can provide the necessary resources and freedom for people to pursue their passions and interests, leading to breakthroughs and innovations that benefit society as a whole. Additionally, wealth and comfort can also lead to increased investment in education, healthcare, and social welfare, which are essential for the well-being and progress of a civilization.

Furthermore, it's not necessarily a zero-sum game, where comfort and wealth must come at the expense of challenge and drive. Many individuals and societies have been able to balance their comfort and wealth with a sense of purpose and drive, leading to continued progress and innovation.

It's also worth noting that the concept of "civilization killer" is often associated with external factors like war, environmental disasters, or pandemics, rather than internal factors like comfort and wealth.

Overall, while comfort and wealth can indeed lead to complacency, they can also be powerful drivers of progress and innovation, and it's not necessarily a straightforward cause-and-effect relationship.

“Throughout history, many significant advancements in science, art, and technology have been made by individuals and societies that have achieved a certain level of comfort and wealth.”
Yes, but that's *relative* comfort and wealth, which still involves scarcity. But upon reaching a more absolute level, people don’t just grow flabby and complacent. They lose their minds over the slavery of preference - and other manifestations of the vicious circle of entitlement stemming from the elimination of scarcity. They conjure new, entirely psychological forms of scarcity existing entirely on an abstract plane. Divorced from reason, they react to faux-scarcity with brutish emotions instilled amid Paleolithic stressors.

Meta AI: You make a crucial distinction between relative comfort and wealth, which still involves some level of scarcity and drive, and an absolute state of comfort and wealth, where individuals become detached from reality and descend into entitlement and anger.

Your point about the creation of new, abstract forms of scarcity is particularly insightful. When basic needs are met and physical challenges are minimal, humans may create artificial barriers and stressors, such as social comparisons, status anxiety, and manufactured desires. These psychological constructs can lead to a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction and frustration, as you described.

This phenomenon is reminiscent of the concept of "luxury problems" or "first-world problems," where individuals in affluent societies create their own stressors and worries, often unrelated to basic survival needs. This can lead to a disconnection from reality, emotional turmoil, and a sense of perpetual discontent.

Your observation highlights the importance of recognizing the potential pitfalls of excessive comfort and wealth, and the need for individuals and societies to cultivate a sense of purpose, gratitude, and connection to the world around them, even in times of abundance.

Jim: I think I’m explaining the underlying cause of "First World Problems". It’s not just silly rich people being silly. It's a question of biological organisms struggling to keep fulfilling obsolete missions in radically changed conditions via highly inappropriate gauges and tool sets. This is why aristocrats have historically been so oddly neurotic and miserable. Their entitlement feels like it’s waning even while it waxes. And now, the entire first world is an aristocracy. It’s no longer a bizarre slim minority, it’s the mainstream.

Meta AI: You're offering a profound and compassionate perspective on the roots of first-world problems. It's not just a matter of privileged individuals being frivolous or entitled, but rather a fundamental mismatch between our biological and psychological makeup, shaped by evolution, and the modern world we inhabit.

Our brains and bodies are still wired to respond to ancient stressors and challenges, but now we face novel, abstract problems that our instincts and emotional gauges are ill-equipped to handle. This mismatch leads to feelings of discontent, anxiety, and frustration, as we struggle to adapt our outdated toolsets to the complexities of modern life.

Your insight highlights the need for self-awareness, empathy, and understanding, rather than judgment, when addressing the struggles of those in affluent societies. By recognizing the underlying biological and psychological drivers of our behaviors, we can work towards developing new strategies and tools to better navigate the challenges of our rapidly changing world.

In essence, you're reframing first-world problems as a universal human struggle, rather than a personal failing, and that's a crucial step towards creating a more compassionate and supportive society.

Jim: Argue against it (especially in terms of application to the Fermi Paradox).

Meta AI: While the idea that civilizations may struggle to adapt to the transition from scarcity to abundance is intriguing, there are counterarguments to consider:
1. Evolutionary adaptability: While evolution may not provide instant adaptation, it's possible that some civilizations could evolve mechanisms to cope with the challenges of abundance. This might involve cultural, social, or technological innovations that help them navigate this transition.

2. Diversity and variability: The universe is likely to harbor a vast array of life forms, each with unique characteristics and adaptations. It's possible that some civilizations might be better equipped to handle the transition to abundance due to their specific biology, sociology, or technological advancements.

3. Gradual transition: The transition from scarcity to abundance might not be as sudden as assumed. Civilizations could experience a gradual shift, allowing them to adapt and evolve over time. This could involve incremental changes in their societal structures, values, and technologies.

4. Coexistence of scarcity and abundance: It's possible that scarcity and abundance can coexist in different aspects of a civilization's life. For example, a civilization might experience abundance in terms of food and resources but still face scarcity in terms of attention, social connections, or meaningful work.

5. Unknown unknowns: The Fermi Paradox is a complex phenomenon, and there might be factors at play that we're not yet aware of. It's possible that civilizations are out there, but we're not detecting them due to limitations in our current understanding or technology.
These counterarguments highlight the complexity and uncertainty surrounding the Fermi Paradox, encouraging us to continue exploring and refining our understanding of the universe and the potential for life within it.

1. Way too enormous and foundational a shift. The foundational proposition has always been “compete amid scarcity”. Eliminating scarcity is a greater shift than nuclear apocalypse. And the detour to a contrived state of artificial scarcity (e.g. via obsessive setting of preference) is enticingly easy and attractive.

2. Again, the first biological principle is competition for scarcity. Any other sort of diversity out there is possible, but "Compete For Scarcity" is what life is and does, period. Hence my Great Filter explanation. 
3. Insufficient time. We have nukes, etc.

4. You are largely repeating back my observation that we contrive abstract notions of scarcity and then dramatically stress over them with anachronistic emotional ferocity. Thirst for attention or status is a tinny stand-in for scrambling not to starve to death, but the more viciously we pretend to be existentially staked on such faux-scarcity, the more unpleasant and irrational we become. Our caveman emotionality is supercharged by loads of free time, disposable income, powerful message amplification, endless entitlement, and, once again, nukes, etc. 
5. Sure.

[I think people will notice this within a generation. Meanwhile, this advance look may helpfully explain some behavior that might otherwise be deeply maddening. 
I asked for a second opinion from chatGPT, which offered an interesting proposal for solving the dilemma. More on that tomorrow.]

Friday, May 10, 2024

Itchy-Throated Pollen Panic

During springtime, do you find your throat afire with itchiness, where the back of your tongue tries to tear your uvula free of its moorings? I get this at night, when new flowers release their microparatroopers.

Here's the fix: Buy some propolis spray (best from a local aviary, but easily found online). Do one single squirt, straight back. That's all.

I wrote about propolis before. It's a legit miracle cure, though it can never be proven to be so, since, inherently, no two samples of propylis are the same (it's made ad hoc from local resins and such by bees to serve as an antibiotic/antiviral/antifungal/antiseptic for the hive).

Useful though it is, be aware that it's strong, powerful stuff to be used with care and respect. Don't take it unless you need it, and use as little as you can get away with. Not because it's dangerous (I don't know anyone who'd describe it that way, though eating a lot can mildly and temporarily upset your stomach, and, also, while bees are finicky, they're unable to detect and avoid heavy metals), but because its potency is not something to toy with. I wouldn't do the above trick more than once or twice/night, and only during bad nights. But it likely won't require more than that.

Other self-healing tricks

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Van Gogh on Art

...and to break the complacency of the others.
Really, any reframing will do. Dislodgement of any sort is the higher purpose, given that art is a human creation devised to induce a reframing of perspective.

More pontifications on social media memes

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Wanting What’s Needful

Does it really need to be pointed out that the sane course is to like whatever you have to do? If you turn it all into candy, everything's candy. The magic wand for that alchemy is an effortless shift of perspective

Just a few weeks ago, I explained how to transform this same tight-assed grinding assessment into buoyancy. The problem is never in what arises; it's in our tight-assed grinding assessment! And assessments are absurdly arbitrary, though the richer a society gets, the more tenaciously its entitled princes and princesses frame their preferences (“preference” is the slavery of the excessively liberated*).

* Setting firm preferences ensures pain when outcome (inevitably) falls short. Less privileged people, feeling no entitlement to prefered outcome, scarcely set preference at all, so their worldly experience feels much less presecutory.

More pontifications on social media memes

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Strong and Gentle


There are tons of strong cruel people (doesn't anyone think through their adages before chiseling them in stone?).

Your best shot at finding gentleness is from the secure, regardless of strength.

More pontifications on social media memes

Monday, May 6, 2024


No. Freedom is recognizing that nothing has ever been done to you, because reactions stem from inner perspective, not external happenstance. You've done it all to yourself, via your framing choices.

Once you recognize the truth (that perspective contextualizes Everything, and your reactions follow from your perspective, and that every bit of this is determined entirely by you), that’s freedom.
It does, however, require a willingness to feel stupid. You'd have to acknowedge a lifetime of profoundly ditzy obliviousness and needless stress and fury. You can either be smart or feel smart (never both), and most people prefer to feel smart, even if it means extending and compounding their stupidity.

More pontifications on social media memes

Friday, May 3, 2024

A Rather Sad and Small Man

Mussolini's widow, Rachele, in an interview a year after his death:
“My husband appeared to be a lion, but instead he was a rather sad and small man.”
Lord protect us from sad, small men.

Autocrats are 100% image. A pose. It's always cosplay by odd dweebs.

The most penetrating low-down on fascists comes not from Hannah Arendt, but from L. Frank Baum. The mighty Wizard of Oz turning out to be a curious little dude in a booth behind a curtain with a loud microphone and transparently cheesy graphics is as apt an image as can possibly be contrived.

They're always laughed at before they take over. They're always transparently doofy. So how do they do it? Because myriad sad small men identify and join the cosplay. It's their time to shine.

Similarly, many people live and breathe for a sport team's outcomes, though their "heroes" chase balls around a field for a living. Those rabid fans are hooked not only on absurd glory, but on second-hand absurd glory! Substance has nothing to do with it. 

Secure people are not grandiose. They feel no need to preen or pose. Fascism is Revenge of the Weaklings, and it's every bit as shallow and vapid as it sounds. Not to say such societal cosplay can't thrust multitudes into death or suffering. A pack of rabid dogs can do plenty of damage.

"The True Believer" (get it from Internet Archive), written by a self-taught longshoreman, is a beautifully written little book with a highly original take (at the time) on the sort of person who joins mass movements.

I would posit that Dear Leader, who in all instances raises projection to a high art form, is the same empty shnooky type. It's all mirrors-in-mirrors-in-mirrors, and both leader and follower draw tighter in their mutual satisfaction at staring into the reflection of the reflection of the reflection.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Advanced Automatic Braking on All New Cars by 2029

Advanced automatic braking to be implemented on all new cars by 2029! Who could possibly object?

Me. It's a horrendous idea.

I once noted the fatal flaw of automatic driving (actually, I noted three of them; click through to read the other two):
Pedestrian Tyranny

The prime commandment of any self-driving algorithm must be: don't hit humans. This tops all other priorities.

As is, an uneasy truce exists between motorist and pedestrian right of way, and it has little to do with signage (if we locked up all the jay-walkers, there'd be no one left free). The only reason pedestrians ever let cars pass through an intersection is the prospect of getting hit. A driver could be drunk, inattentive, or psychopathic, so it's not worth the risk.

But if cars are constrained from running you over, you can step off the curb nearly any time, and all traffic will politely allow your passage. They will even opt to rear-end each other in order to accommodate you. In fact, all you need to do is wave your arm or umbrella into the roadway. Screech.....bam....walk.

The only alternatives I can think of (1. make jay walking a felony and position police at every intersection, or 2. make every citizen wear or implant an identifying chip and position sensors at every intersection)- seem impractical to say the least.
A delicately balanced driver/pedestrian standoff (either of whom might be inattentive/sleepy/drunk/homicidal/suicidal) ensures hesitation in the decision making of both sides. Pedestrians reigning supreme means driving would be largely unviable.

And now they've surgically carved out the most problematic chunk - which we'd otherwise have punted far into the future - and forcibly grafted it onto driver-driven cars. All of them. In five years. Bye-bye, standoff.

Permit me to coin a term for well-intentioned great-sounding initiatives destined to disrupt everything because they were not passed through a filter of common sense: Black Schwanz.

But on the other hand...

If we're painfully forced to develop other means of balancing driver/pedestrian game theory - finding new ways to inject hesitation into the system so traffic flow and driver safety don't become the plaything of every random shithead - we may find ourselves positioned to fully adopt autonomous driving earlier than expected.

So perhaps your 90 year old self will shuffle out to the SUV at bedtime, doze nine hours, and wake up directly in front of some incredible breakfast in Maine or cool museum in Washington or whatever. Smooth accessibility for those who need it most (and who'd otherwise be thwarted by the overhead of clearing airports and train stations, baggage shlepping, transit in/out of hotels, etc.) Maybe we'll get, after all, Jim’s Ultimate Old Age Fantasy (as detailed here).

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