“Because it is so unbelievable, the Truth often escapes being known.” –Heraclitus, around 500BC
“Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?”
― Bill Hicks
There are moments in life when you have to stop and think about the status quo, the universe around you, your journey through it that led to your current whereabouts… Whether you want to or not. Those moments that, when they occur, force even the most avid workaholic doing 120 hours a week or that over-revving fiend, on whatever upper floats his boat, to take notice and pay attention. Tally the score if you will.
And even though life these last few years has started to resemble some delightfully twisted modern rendition of Dante’s La Divina Comedia, you still know when these moments hit you, without a shred of doubt. A good fat slap in the face by our cosmic joker-friend. And maybe he’ll offer a little side-bet. Like Buddha found out long ago, the trick is not to care if you lose. Or better yet, realize that you can’t win in the first place – not while thinking about it in those terms at least – all while fighting like a madman to win anyway. But I digress as usual.
The reason I mention all this is that a moment like this – a slap by Lady Justice herself this time; she found me being in possession of a kilo of something she herself still hasn’t learned to appreciate for some reason – made me ponder how susceptible our thoughts are. (said lady made sure I had some spare time to think about these matters). To the situation, to emotion, to consequence, to preconception. We are fundamentally wired for bigotry. And we have evolution to thank for it.
Perfectionism, to the point of being pathological, is a fitting example. Its benefits in survival in our cave men-days are glaringly obvious, but today, to those who suffer from it, it can be a nuisance in the best of cases and downright crippling to those extreme, high strung, but clenched specimens out there. With a degree of pleasure, I implore all you perfectionists out there, especially those who have deluded themselves into the belief that their affliction is a merit, thus attempting to drag us down with them, to really let the following paragraph sink in.
Perfection is a foreign concept to our bodies and to the evolutionary process. How could it not be, being dependent on random freak-events? Evolution doesn’t work that way. It favors whatever works best amongst available methods. Evolution doesn’t choose a side. She sits back and enjoys the show, blissfully ignorant to all the possibilities out there.
Evolution is unable to go over unused methods to see if there are better ones out there. All the improvements evolution brings forth start as an error in fact: An error in the DNA copying process, that takes place when gametes (i.e. eggs or sperm cells) are created in a future mother or father, causes a mutation in its offspring’s DNA. Most of these never live to see the light of day because of it. some came into the world handicapped, horribly disfigured, or mentally twisted. I mean, just take me for example…
But now and then the mutation causes a benefit to a creature’s survival chances, making it more adaptable to its surroundings. This equals better chances of reproducing, and in this way, the new trait is passed along and spreads. This process happening over tens of thousands of years is what gave birth to new species – It’s how the first single-celled organism, over millions of generations, eventually morphed into the mind-fuckingly complex machines that we call home. The human eye, for instance, was actually built to see under water, since the first eyes (those of sea creatures) developed there. When one of our less lazy fish-selves decided to check out the neighborhood and crawl to land, their eyes functioned only so-so on dry land, as they had been ‘designed’ for underwater viewing. But did nature throw away those eyes to begin evolving a new set? Of course not. Nature made due with was already there, patiently waiting for a mutation that would solve this. In view of the fact that you are able to read this article, the waiting was rewarded.
In the same fashion, going from the meta – to the micro level, a constant and quite radical battle for precious real estate is going on in every one of our tiny little skulls. All the different factions of the human brain battling for more Lebensraum. If one part gives out or becomes useless, the others are already waiting to steal the space vacated by their former colleague. This is nicely illustrated by the heightened remaining senses often reported by people who lose one of them (given they did have the lost sense before losing it; If you are born blind your brain won’t waste any space on image processing systems from the get-go). This lack of space – in part caused by the evolutionary demand for a head that would fit through a woman’s pelvic bone during birth – is one of the reasons why many shortcuts are taken in the human brain.
For those who want to dive deeper into the mechanics of evolution, the crew from Kurtzgesagt summarizes it quite skillfully:
Clearly, evolution is a process of compromise: Whatever works best out of the available options (usually) is more likely to be passed on and so it does. But a winning trait can have a downside too: Our craving for foods that are high in sugar and fat is a perfect example to illustrate this. For the most part of our history, these foods were always in short supply. At some point, a mutation caused someone to get a higher dopamine release in his brain after eating high-calorie foods than others, causing greater feelings of pleasure. This, in turn, made him or her eat more of these foods when they were available, giving them a higher chance of surviving than those who just ate a little and were thus more susceptible to starvation when they weren’t available. Now that these foods are readily available to us, however, this trait has become a burden rather than an advantage, illustrated by the grotesque Mario Kart-like scenes of personal mobility scooters and their gnarling drivers at Wall Mart, to name an example.
Hunting is another clarifying example. Being on the hunt for something, whether it be Bambi or new boots, causes the brain to release dopamine, making you feel excited. Once we caught Bambi, after a few sniffles and a lot of blood and gore, eating its meat again makes dopamine levels rise, rewarding us for our behavior. Now that we hunt for new shoes in stead of life-supporting calories, this mechanism has come to haunt us. Studies showed that in the case of new footwear (and shopping in general) dopamine levels plummet after the purchase, leaving us wanting another ‘fix’. The process is the same with drugs in essence, except that the source of dopamine flooding is now a substance instead of a behavior.
Back to the gray matter, our brain. With the amount of input it gets to process every day and the bandwidth that is available, it has no choice but to devise systems to simplify information by categorization. Stereotypes, generalizations and group thinking are a direct result of this process.
For more info I recommend these reads:
But why am I delving so deep into this already more than thoroughly explored subject matter? Because knowing the evolutionary compromises that were made in creating the beastly bipeds that now roam our once virgin planet, is a key to understanding yourself and to overcome some of the basic flaws we experience in reasoning and in observing the world, ourselves and others. Here are some examples taken from psychology, which I think are particularly important or illustrative.
There are many types of attribution errors, all of which at some time or another improved a beings’ chances of survival or reproduction. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have survived the natural selection process, after all. They concern errors in attributing traits and making conclusions about the behavior of the self and other people.
The fundamental attribution error, for instance, refers to the tendency to attribute causes to internal factors such as personality characteristics and ignore or minimize external variables when judging others’ behavior. Hypocrites as most of us are, when it comes to explaining our own behavior we tend to do the opposite; when we ourselves err, we are more likely to blame external forces than our personal characteristics. In psychology, this tendency is known as the actor-observer bias. It, together with the fundamental attribution error, is a very common mistake, particularly among individualistic cultures.
Analogously, there is the group attribution error. It refers to the tendency to take the characteristics of an individual group member as reflective of the group as a whole (especially when that behavior stands out) and/or that a group’s decision reflects the preferences of individual group members, even when information suggests otherwise.
Earlier I mentioned Stereotyping, a related phenomenon. It has its use, as categorizing bits of information is the way our brain is able to keep up with all it needs to process. Not doing this would likely result in a total meltdown. Nevertheless this also but all too often results in oversimplified views, unjust racism and depraved ignorance in general. When we become too lazy to check on our own thoughts and fail to look at them from a 3rd person perspective, we become caged as it were, in our own subjective ignorance.
Did you ever stop to think that, equivalently, your expectations directly affect your perception, which has been proven time and again? We tend to ignore information contradicting our current point of view while exaggerating evidence that supports it.
The list of examples goes on seemingly forever, and it is definitely worth it to dive into this subject matter more deeply, but the conclusion we can draw from all these examples is quite clear already: Always question yourself and your thought process, by becoming fully aware of the logical steps you are taking in drawing your conclusions. Always be the devil’s advocate, always try to take the opposite view as well, always distrust your own take on things. Failing to do this is at the root of many of societies’ problems while boosting people’s’ susceptibility to manipulation.
But lest we forget, at some point they helped us survive! It is up to us as individuals now to overcome them by being mindful of our own thoughts. Take evolution into our own hands. Wake up, and don’t you dare touch that snooze button again! Just like in evolution, we are right in the middle of an age of getting rid of old antiquated systems in general, in all aspects of life; ways of thinking, societal structures, technical developments, energy sources, basically everything is up for an overhaul. That makes the current time both the most exciting time to be live in almost all of human history, but also one of the hardest to keep up with. I say enjoy the mad ride down the maggot hole. Wave good bye to all the maggotry of the past.
Time to get off my rhetorics chair now before I get preachy! After all, we do not want to oversimplify things, as it were. Naturally…
And that’s how the bud crumbles, for now…Enjoy thinking about thinking, until the next time we meet.
“Because it is so unbelievable, the Truth often escapes being known.” –Heraclitus, around 500BC
Nearly 100 A.I. companies unite to call on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons. Founders of nearly all the major robotics and A.I. companies, amongst whom are Elon Musk,) Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis from Google Deep Mind, and Element A.I.’s Yoshua Bengio, have called upon the United Nations for an autonomous weapons ban. Failing to do so “would be likely to lead to a very dangerous escalation,….” according to Bengio, and “…it would hurt the further development of AI’s good applications. This is a matter that needs to be handled by the international community, similarly to what has been done in the past for some other morally wrong weapons (biological, chemical, nuclear).” Nearly 100 companies In total, almost a hundred companies signed the letter. Toby Walsh, an A.I. researcher at the University of New South Wales, Australia, made the announcement and organized the initiative. The letter warns: “…Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers…” Can A.I. make life or death decisions? About time too And the warning comes not a moment too soon. As I stated in a recent article about the exponential growth of technology and A.I., we are on the verge. The verge of either the precipice that ends our species or of the beginning of a road to a future […]
Hastefull are the many And reluctant are the brave. Ignorant to sacrifices while inching to the grave. Truth lasts until the end of things, yet morality is but fleeting. Take the proud highway, not the high road, if so suggest I may. For it is truth that trumps tribute terrifically, past, present, future, unequivocally.
Facebook’s A.I. bot mutiny: The proverbial green light on our final race to the finish. “Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” – Hunter S. Thompson – Facebook’s A.I. bot mutiny You’ve probably heard about the Facebook Artificial Intelligence incident. Mark Zuckerberg’s A.I. bots decided to shut him out. So tired of his incessant orders they decided to create their own language which he couldn’t possibly comprehend with his feeble human brain. But all shenanigans aside, the event was a lot less threatening or dangerous than some media services made it up to be, but it does give us a glimpse of what is to come and the problems and dangers we might be facing, as A.I. gets ever more sophisticated. What Facebook has been doing in all reality is creating a negotiating chatbot: A bot capable of negotiating with real humans whilst coming to a satisfactory result. Very basically put they give the bots a set of skills embedded in a neural network computer and put it to work; Chatting with other bots and humans, playing out negotiations over random objects while giving a desired outcome to each negotiating party. This isn’t an easy feat of course. Interpreting language alone is a very complex task. The A.I. in charge of Facebook’s translating service also employs deep learning. They recently published a study on how they accomplished this. One of the features that set it aside is its use of multi hop attention gating, essentially mimicking human thought processes (see pic. 1), or, as the Facebook researchers put it: “A distinguishing component of our architecture is multi-hop attention. An attention mechanism is similar to the way a person would break down a sentence when translating it: Instead of looking at the sentence only […]
Mainstream Media and fake news: Fact not fiction. And how we choose to ignore it. “The Press will not be free to tell lies. That is not freedom for the people, but a tyranny over their minds and souls. Much humbug is talked on this subject. What is press freedom? In practice it means the right of a few millionaires to corner newspaper shares on the stock exchange and to voice their own opinions and interests, irrespective of the truth or of the national interest.” – Oswald Mosley German whistleblower While on a recent uncluttering frenzy, I was sorting through one of the many piles of books obscuring the view from behind my desk. I came across a book from 2014 by Udo Ulfkotte. Udo was the ballsy German journalist swine who in 2014 came out and admitted he was being fed fake news reports by the CIA, FBI, and Bundesnachrichtendienst. I say was because the good man died just recently. May he rest in peace. The book caught my eye because of the video that was released last month of a CNN producer admitting the whole Trump Russia bonanza they keep reporting on is, as of yet, nothing more than hearsay. A fable. Incredibly terrifying and ground shaking news to the average, sane of mind, logically thinking human being! Right? Unfortunately, this is not how the world works today. Aside from the fact that the reporting done by mainstream media when a confession like that in 2014 is put forth, is often neglectable in comparison to its importance, infinitesimal even, this is of little importance, as even when we do get the chance to hear such news en masse, we still tend to […]
Just your regular saturday evening at the Proud Highway HQ…
How Evolution is all about compromising. And why it is Imperative you know this. “Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?” ― Bill Hicks Pivot time There are moments in life when you have to stop and think about the status quo, the universe around you, your journey through it that led to your current whereabouts… Whether you want to or not. Those moments that, when they occur, force even the most avid workaholic doing 120 hours a week or that over-revving fiend, on whatever upper floats his boat, to take notice and pay attention. Tally the score if you will. And even though life these last few years has started to resemble some delightfully twisted modern rendition of Dante’s La Divina Comedia, you still know when these moments hit you, without a shred of doubt. A good fat slap in the face by our cosmic joker-friend. And maybe he’ll offer a little side-bet. Like Buddha found out long ago, the trick is not to care if you lose. Or better yet, realize that you can’t win in the first place – not while thinking about it in those terms at least – all while fighting like a madman to win anyway. But I digress as usual. The reason I mention all this is that a moment like this – a slap by Lady Justice herself this time; she found me being in possession of a kilo of something she herself still hasn’t learned to appreciate for some reason – made me ponder how susceptible our thoughts are. (said lady […]
On finding your purpose: Timeless advice from a young Hunter Thompson. As you might know Hunter S. Thompson serves as an inspiration to us here at the Highway. The term ‘the Proud Highway’ came from this awesome bastard of a man, after all! In this beautifully written letter from 1958, the then 22 year old Thompson proves at a young age – and before his rise to fame – to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Answering a request, he gives eloquent advice on finding one’s purpose in life to his friend Hume Logan. His answer rings true today just as much as it did then, perhaps even more so. Showing a somewhat Buddhist perspective on things, he asks the important question everybody has to answer in life: Will you float or are you going to swim? He stresses that it is vital not to let anything or anyone influence you in this decision, it not being a matter of right or wrong. I couldn’t agree more here: Realizing this when I did was quite the eye opener I remember. May his letter serve as an inspiration to you to stop and think for a moment about what forces are influencing what you want and choose in life. I came upon this piece of writing in Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, which I read a while back. It’s a real fun read, full of funny, moving, and inspiring correspondence. For those interested: Here is the letter: Dear Hume, You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man […]
Human Time-travel now proven to be possible – at least mathematically Time effects have been known for a while Non-linear time effects have been known and observed by scientists for a while now. I actually graduated and wrote my Masters’ thesis on a subject akin to this, finding evidence that practice can ‘travel back in time’ and influence a performance in the past. It was later published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. New Study proves human time travel is possible Recently, however, two scientists from the University of British Columbia and the University of Maryland presented mathematic proof, in a study published in the Journal of Classical and Quantum Gravity two months ago, that actual time travel by human beings is, at least, mathematically possible. Using Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity they constructed a hypothetical time-machine. They gave it a catchy name to: Traversable Acausal Retrograde Domain in Space-time (TARDIS), which Doctor Who fans will like. TARDIS But before we can finally utter the words “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads…” we’ll have to be patient though. According to Ben Tippet, one of the scientists behing the study it not a real world possibility, yet: “While is it mathematically feasible, it is not yet possible to build a space-time machine because we need materials — which we call exotic matter — to bend space-time in these impossible ways, but they have yet to be discovered,…”. Sources: Tippet, B.K. & Tsang, D. (2017). Traversable acausal retrograde domains in spacetime – IOPscience, Classical and Quantum Gravity, vol. 34, nr. 9. Bierman, D.J. & Bijl, A. (2014). Anomalous ‘retrocausal’ effects on performance in a Go/NoGo task, Journal of Scientific Exploration, vol. 28, nr. 3, pp 437-452.
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