Saturday, September 30, 2023
Friday, September 29, 2023
Thursday, September 28, 2023
'We are where we are today because of the Liberal Old Guard’s inaction,' Parkland survivor Kyle Kashuv wrote:Professor Steven Pinker, hailed as a free-thinking intellectual, slammed efforts by Chris Rufo and others to stop woke indoctrination in schools.Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard, shared an article from anti-Trump news outlet, The Bulwark, headlined, "Ron DeSantis, Chris Rufo, and the College Anti-Woke Makeover." The piece slammed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for appointing six people to vacant seats on the thirteen-member board of trustees of the New College of Florida, one of whom is Rufo. Through his investigative work and advocacy, Rufo has led a movement to counter progressive orthodox in schools, corporate offices and at universities.
"How not to fix academia: The always-wise @cathyoung63 exposes DeSantis & Rufo's takeover of New College FL: ‘Stoking the culture wars, rallying the Trumpist base, and using the power of the state to defeat bad ideas is not the road back to sanity,’" he wrote.
How not to fix academia: The always-wise @cathyoung63 exposes DeSantis & Rufo's takeover of New College FL: "Stoking the culture wars, rallying the Trumpist base, and using the power of the state to defeat bad ideas is not the road back to sanity." https://t.co/W2BzR10oCS— Steven Pinker (@sapinker) January 29, 2023
Rufo responded Pinker saying he and others like him have "presided over the decades-long collapse" of academia.
"Boomers like Steven Pinker presided over the decades-long collapse of standards in academia. Now they want to lecture sanctimoniously about ‘how not to fix academia,’" Rufo tweeted. "Sorry, buddy, we're not going to listen to people who can't even open their comments. We're in charge now."
Boomers like Steven Pinker presided over the decades-long collapse of standards in academia. Now they want to lecture sanctimoniously about "how not to fix academia."— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) January 29, 2023
Sorry, buddy, we're not going to listen to people who can't even open their comments. We're in charge now. https://t.co/f6pbpYNWpw
He added, "The complaint about using ‘state power,’ meaning constitutionally-mandated democratic governance, to correct the ideological corruption of *public universities,* i.e., state institutions funded by taxpayers, is ridiculous. Amounts to ‘the people can't regulate the state.’"
When one Twitter user asked how Pinker could be blamed for the woke takeover of academia, Rufo tweeted, "His cohort has pushed an empty, 1960s-style boomer interpretation of ‘Enlightenment values,’ while ceding all institutional power to left-wing racialist bureaucracies. They want credit for their words, while ignoring their deeds. We shouldn't give them a consolation prize."
Many Twitter users slammed Pinker for criticizing Rufo's work.
Author and Daily Wire show host Andrew Klavan wrote, "I love it when the left wants to teach children racist CRT and demented sexual theories, and when people like @realchrisrufo say, ‘No, thank you,’ suddenly it's a ‘Culture War.’ If the left didn't want a culture war, they shouldn't have opened fire."
Sky News host Rita Panahi called out Pinker for appearing neutral until it’s time to condemn conservatives.
"He’s not into ‘culture wars’ that’s why he posted a video of himself celebrating Trump being ousted," she wrote. "Funny how all the radical Left ideology pushed isn’t a ‘culture war’…only when conservatives push back."
Journalist Shant Mesrobian appeared to parody Pinker’s approach to the rise of wokeness.
"The road back to sanity is to keep podcasting about the woke mind virus and hope it all works out in the end," he wrote.
Evolutionary biologist Colin Wright tweeted, "Yup. Op-eds are a useful first step to identifying the issues, but at some point you actually need to do something. Academics are not equipped to solve problems like this, because they're taught that all they have to do is write about a problem and peer review will save the day."
Parkland survivor and commentator Kyle Kashuv tweeted that the time is long past for inaction.
"He wrote a really nice letter in my defense during Harvard. But we are where we are today because of the Liberal Old Guard’s inaction to stop the capture of institutions by Leftist radicals," he wrote. "Princeton is lost and no amount of kumbaya from Robbie George will save it."
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Slavoj Zizek, "Absolute Invariants in Physics and Society"
The Albanian prime minister Edi Rama told the following joke at an international conference: “Russia is considering unifying its time zones because there is a nine-hour difference between one side of the country and the other. Then the Russian Prime Minister went to Vladimir Putin and said: ‘There is a problem. My family was on vacation and I called them to say good night and it was morning and they were at the beach. I called Olaf Scholz to wish him a happy birthday, but he said they would be there the next day. I called Xi Jinping to wish him a Happy New Year, but he replied that they still had the old one…’ Putin replied: ‘Yes, it happened to me too. I called Yevgeny Prigozhin’s family to express my condolences, but his plane has not taken off yet.’” This joke brings us directly to our topic, namely the problem of simultaneity, in which Putin obviously thinks he lives in a block universe where the future (of the bomb exploding on Prigozhin’s plane) already exists now for him as a privileged observer.
It is well known how special relativity theory relativizes the notion of simultaneity of two events: “That no inherent meaning can be assigned to the simultaneity of distant events is the single most important lesson to be learned from relativity.”[i] The basic idea is clear: there is no absolute position in spacetime; every movement is a movement with regard to a certain observer; something moves with regard to the position of this observer. Since there are dozens of sites explaining the paradox this thesis involves, let’s quote a popular description of Einstein’s thought experiment consisting of a moving train with one observer midway in the train and another observer midway on the platform as the train moves past:“A flash of light is given off at the center of the train just when the two observers pass each other. The observer on the train sees the front and back of the train at fixed distances away from the source of the light flash (since the front, back, and train observer are all in the same inertial frame). According to this observer, the light flashes reach the front and back of the train at precisely the same instant of time—that is, simultaneously. On the other hand, the observer on the platform sees the back of the train moving toward the point at which the flash was given off, and the front of the train moving away from it. This means that the light flash going toward the back of the train will have less distance to cover than the light flash going to the front. As the speed of light is finite, and the same in any direction relative to the platform (regardless of the motion of its source), the flashes will not strike the ends of the train simultaneously. /…/ For both observers, the speed at which the light traveled is constant, but the distance traveled (and thus the time consumed in covering the distance) varies depending on the relative motion of the observer.”Can we then decide if one observer is right and the other wrong? The conclusion that imposes itself is that “neither one can be shown wrong, and that a simultaneity in one inertial frame need not be true outside that frame.”[ii] Sabina Hossenfelder draws the general ontological consequence of this paradox:“the physics of Einstein’s special relativity does not allow us to constrain existence to merely a moment that we call ‘now.’ Once you agree that anything exists now elsewhere, even though you see it only later, you are forced to accept that everything in the universe exists now. This perplexing consequence of special relativity has been dubbed the block universe by physicists. In this block universe, the future, present, and past exist in the same way, it’s just that we do not experience them in the same way. And if all times exist similarly, then all our past selves – and grandparents – are alive the same way our present selves are.”[iii]Let me quote also an explanatory passage by Sean Carroll: “for objects spatially distant from each other, there is no absolute simultaneity. A faraway event might be in the ‘future’ or in the ‘past’ of some nearby event, depending on one’s frame of reference. The slightly more slippery point is: therefore, if I want to attribute reality to all things ‘now,’ I have to attribute it to a set of faraway events that might be in the direct past or future of each other. And therefore, I pretty much have to attribute reality to the whole four-dimensional universe, including events in my own past and future.”[iv] The logical implication of this reasoning is that one cannot ask, independently of the observer’s frame, if an event A is in the past or future of an event B; it is neither. From the perspective of one observer, B can be slightly in the future of A, and from the perspective of another observer, it can be slightly in the past.
The basic logic that underlies these conclusions is clear: we see the explosion of a star which took place millions of years ago now (much later), so it exists now for us, but it existed millions of years ago for a putative observer who was near it when the explosion took place, so we have two now’s, ours and that of the putative observer. But I see some problems with the conclusion that “everything in the universe exists now,” the future, present, and past. Can we also say that we – who observe the explosion in our now – fully exist in the future for the putative observer who was close to the star? What if a contingent event that might have happened a mere half a million of years ago (measured by in our time) were to annihilate all life on our earth? Would it not be more logical to say that everything fully exists in its own now (which cannot be synchronized with my own now)?
In order to appear to multiple observes who perceive an event in different nows, it has to “really occur” at a moment simultaneous to an observer at the same place. In other words, can we really include future events or objects into this image? How can something appear “now” to an observer when this event didn’t even take place? It can on one condition: that we reduce time, the temporal flow, to the limitation that pertains to our subjective perception – a conclusion which is for me problematic. If future also exists now, if (our) future events are real in the same sense (our) present events are, then space has priority over time; the future and the past would be all real and present for an omnipotent observer able to see the entire block of past, present, and future. However, what if time is not just another dimension of space but a crack in space, an imperfection of space which is not just epistemological but ontological? That is, what if space is in itself, not just for our limited perception, imperfect, traversed by cracks?
Next point: what happens when we imagine faster-than-light travel (and information can travel faster than light when two particles are entangled, as recent experiments demonstrated)? It’s not that, in this case, the eternal Now becomes reality, everything co-existing simultaneously. Since we still have multiple observers, the question should be specified: how will an observer perceive an object which moves faster than light for another observer? Since the speed of light is the maximum speed in our spacetime, the conclusion that imposes itself is unavoidable: for the first observer, the object will move back in time.
The paradox of travelling back in time “can occur in special relativity when faster-than-light travel is possible, because an object that moves faster than light for one observer can look as if it’s going back in time for another observer. Thus, in special relativity, you always get both together: faster-than-light motion, and that opens the door to causality paradoxes.”[v] Do we not encounter a somewhat similar paradox at the spatial level where the conjecture imposes itself that “the inside of our elementary particles has a large volume”: “they might be bigger on the inside than they look from the outside. /…/ That’s because in general relativity we can curve our space-time so strongly that it’ll form bags figures. These bags can have a small surface area – i.e., look small from the outside – but have a large volume inside.”[vi] Recall the bag of Mary Poppins, an ordinary-size bag out of which she pulls many much larger objects… Something similar also happens in our daily experience: a small car appears from outside too tight for me to enter it, but once I do enter it, I may feel quite comfortable in it. An additional point: why mention just large-scale cases like how to walk to or from Andromeda? A problem arises already with my own body: am I simultaneous with/to myself, my own body? The basic lesson of the analysis of perception is that I do not immediately see what I see: I compose/construct the mess of my projections relying on my expectations about the future and then I project this construct forwards into the now. In short, what I experience as something here-and-now is sustained by a complex backward-and-forward movement.
Here is a simple and clear description of this paradox:“We feel that we perceive events in the environment as they unfold in real-time. However, this intuitive view of perception is impossible to implement in the nervous system due to biological constraints such as neural transmission delays. /…/ at any given moment, instead of representing a single timepoint, perceptual mechanisms represent an entire timeline. On this timeline, predictive mechanisms predict ahead to compensate for delays in incoming sensory input, and reconstruction mechanisms retroactively revise perception when those predictions do not come true.”However, after all these variations on the topic of relativity, one should conclude with the crucial point that Einstein’s special theory of relativity implies two absolutes. The first one, known to everybody, is the speed of light as the maximum speed in our material universe, independent of the movement of objects and observers within this universe. The second one, less known but much more interesting theoretically, is the absolute observable, the “space-time interval between events that all observers will agree on”:“the two observers measured different spatial and temporal distances between the same two events but when they both (1) take the time interval, multiply it by the speed of light and then square it, (2) take the spatial distance between the events and square that, and (3) subtract the two numbers, then they get the same number. It is an absolute observable, the space-time interval between events that all observers will agree on.”Here we get the oft-ignored other side of relativity theory: the interval between two events can be formulated as a fact (a number) independent of all observers. However, the true paradox is that observers are not simply absent: each observer can arrive at the absolute interval not by ignoring his observations but by submitting them to the same mathematic procedure. First, you take the time interval between the two events as you perceive it (and this interval is not the same as the interval perceived by another observer) and submit it to the prescribed procedure; then, you take the spatial distance as you perceive it (and, again, this distance is not the same as the distance perceived by another observer) and square it; finally, you subtract the two numbers and you get a number which is the same for all observers… Nevertheless, since I am not a specialist in relativity theory, rather than dwelling on the details of the absolute observable (which I am also unable to do), I will shift to a homology which immediately strikes my eye here, a homology with two key antagonisms in our societies: class struggle and sexual difference.
Social classes are not an objective fact, they exist only as an effect of class struggle, which is why class difference is not a symbolic difference but the Real of an antagonism. As Lacan would have put it, there is no metalanguage in class struggle, no neutral way to describe it: every description of class struggle is already done from a position within class struggle. In other words, class struggle affects the very notion of class struggle: it appears in a different way to those at the bottom, exploited, and to those at the top. And the same goes for sexual difference: it also names an irreducible antagonism, which means that it appears in a different way to those who occupy the feminine position and to those who occupy the masculine position. However, in both cases, this “relativization” does not imply a relativistic subjectivization: there is an “absolute invariant” of class struggle as well as of sexual difference, and this invariant can be reached only through subjective perceptions and stances. In these two cases, of course, the “absolute invariant” cannot be determined as a number; it can only be specified as a basic antagonism that is in this case arrived at by way of identifying it as the common denominator, to which each of the two main class or sexual positions react.
In the case of sexual difference, Lacan has already shown the way in his “formulas of sexuation”: each sexual stance (masculine, feminine) is defined by its constitutive antagonism. The masculine stance is that of a universality based on its constitutive exception, and the feminine stance allows for no exception but remains thereby non-all. (In her classic analysis, Joan Copjec demonstrated how these two antagonisms repeat Kant’s “scandal of pure reason,” the couple of dynamic and mathematic antinomies of pure reason.) The absolute invariant is here the gap of the immanent impossibility of sexual rapport (Lacan’s “il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel“), and this non-rapport takes the form of two symbolic “contradictions” (universality with exception, non-all with no exception).
It is important to note how Lacan’s four formulas cut diagonally across two “logical” couples: instead of a universality without exception and a non-all set with an exception, we get a universality with exception and a non-all set with no exception, the underlying idea being that a universality is constituted only through an exception. This is why we should absolutely avoid reading the formulas in a vulgar “phallic” way: the phallic signifier as the exception that makes masculine totality, the surplus which sticks out, and the feminine set as “non-all,” with a gap (hole) in its midst which calls to be filled-in. What formulas of sexuation imply is precisely that the hole and the exception do not fit each other because they are one and the same thing in a different space (which is why, as Lacan put it, phallus is a signifier of a lack, while the hole is not an exception but comes as an excess).
And things are homologous in class struggle. The fact that class struggle logically precedes classes means that not only the rapport between classes is antagonistic (“il n’y a pas de rapport de classe”) but that the identity of each class is in itself antagonistic. The ruling class operates in a masculine mode; it is an exception which totalizes a society (which is why it perceives all other classes as a threat to social unity). It is, then, an exception in the well-known sense of an illegal element (violence out of law) which sustains the rule of law. The exploited class is non-all (dispersed, not totalized), and for this reason it has no exception to sustain its unity. When such an exception emerges (as in the guise of the Stalinist Party), it reintroduces the logic of class power. And, again, these two subjective stances are the two ways to deal with the “absolute invariant” of class antagonism that constitutes our societies.Notes:
[i] David N. Mermin, It’s About Time, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2021, p. 9.
[iii] Sabine Hossenfelder, Existential Physics, London: Atlantic Books 2023, p. 11.
[iv] Personal communication
[v] Op.cit., p. 177.
[vi] Op.cit., p. 181.
Monday, September 25, 2023
If the political system decides that your country joins the EU, you're in it. The function of the political system is to make such collectively binding decisions. Functional differentiation hasn't always been there according to Luhmann. It's the basic characteristic of modernity.Modern society is functionally differentiated. The transition to functional differentiation happened, according to Luhmann, between the 16th and the 18th century. Before that, Society was characterized by what he calls stratified differentiation. This refers to different strata, roughly comparable to the different hierarchical levels in feudal societies, like the aristocrats, the clerics, the craftspeople, and the farmers. Or if you prefer, it's also roughly comparable to what Marxists call "classes".Before modernity, the differences between social strata structured life. What people did, or didn't do, what they could and couldn't do, depended on if they were, let's say, Farmers or Aristocrats. Today, what we do or don't do, what we can or can't do when we study, Vote, or watch YouTube, is conditioned by social systems like education, politics, or media.No matter which social system Luhmann analyzes, he's always interested in how it emerged between the 16th and 18th century. This is for him also the period in which modern mass media emerged, at that time in the form of print media like books, the newspapers. Before the 16th century books did exist but who read what, how, why, and when, was conditioned by the strata people were in, and most people didn't read at all. Before the 16th century, books were not mass media because, there was no mass media system. Instead books played an important role in the church, and for clerics, for instance, the different function systems have. Different functions, that's what distinguishes them. But that's not all. They're also communication systems. That's what defines them. It's what they do. They communicate. And they can be distinguished because they communicate in different ways.Well, all systems communicate through language. They also often communicate by other means specific to them. Think of money in the economy, votes in politics, or grades in education.For Luhmann however, the most basic communication difference between the different systems is their code. Its code is unique to each system. The legal system, for instance, is built is built around the code "legal:illegal". All its Communications, its institutions, its functions, revolve around this code.In the academic system, or the science system, the basic code is "true:not true". When academics publish a paper or present a lecture, they tell others what they find to be true and not true. Others then respond and contradict them, but they must use the same code.The purpose of the code is to enable the system to produce more and more communication of the same type. It enables the system to respond to itself, to connect present with future communication, and thereby to reproduce itself basically endlessly.By using their codes, systems distinguish themselves from one another and achieve what Luhmann calls "operational closure". The communication of a system can only be continued with more communication of the same system. In academia, you respond to an academic paper with another paper. You cannot effectively respond with a song or a prayer. But if I just read out my academic papers here on this channel, no matter how brilliant they are, this channel would soon be dead.Because of operational closure, we normally understand immediately to which system a communication operation belongs. If you give money to the waiter, it's understood it's the payment for your coffee and not a declaration of Love or an encouragement to vote for you in the upcoming elections. Of course misunderstandings, or corruption is possible, and it happens often. But we regard misunderstandings as misunderstandings, or corruption as corruption precisely because they violate the operational closure of systems. System boundaries were crossed, and that's not okay. Yes, systems are operationally closed, but crucially, systems are at the same time also cognitively open to one another.
Every system communicates about all the other systems. Academics write about law, Politics, the media, you name it, the law regulates Academia, the media and politics. Politicians are keenly aware of what the media say, of what is going on in the economy, and sometimes even do politics in response to what academics say is the truth.
Systems need to take note of what's going on in all the systems around them. As Luhmann says, they are constantly irritated by their environment.
What is more, systems often are structurally coupled to one another, somewhat comparable to symbiosis in biology, two or more systems can enter into mutually formative relations.
Almost all systems today are structurally coupled with the economy, for instance. Just one example, in professional sports, the economy and sports are structurally coupled. The teams are at the same time businesses. What a football club does economically has a symbiotic effect on how well it does in sports, and vice versa. And yet operational closure must remain. Players are bought and sold, but not goals or points. If goals or points are bought, that's corruption which can and does happen, but each system can only continue to function if such corruption is regarded as corrupt.
Crucially Luhmann calls himself a radical constructivist. For him, social reality, like money in the economy, or points in sports, is constructed. But constructivism is no anti-realism. Something is real not despite, but because it's constructed, like this video, for instance. Just as economic value is constructed in the economy, or political power in politics, truth is constructed in science or academia. Again, this doesn't mean that it is not valid. To the contrary, for truth to be really valid, it must be constructed in science, and not, as in the past, prior to functional differentiation, for instance, by the pope. Unlike in previous times, there are competing truths in science. And all scientific truths are on principle, falsifiable. What's constructed can also be reconstructed, or even deconstructed.Human Social constructivism is, at the same time, the theory of social Evolution. Darwin proposed that biological reality is not the result of intelligent design by a Constructor named God, but an effect of complex system environment Dynamics. Biological reality evolves, it's not created. Similarly Luhmann proposes that social reality too is not created by individual human agents like kings or some philosophical geniuses, but evolves.
The law, science, and politics were not invented from scratch by some intelligent designers, they evolved historically. This is why Luhmann adopts the concept "autopoiesis" from biology. Just as biological reality evolves on its own, social reality too emerges by itself through communication.
Accordingly human agency is limited. You can eat more healthily, or exercise, or take medication, but the body reacts to this in unpredictable ways. Despite all progress in Medicine, we are not complete masters of our bodies, and much less of biological evolution.
In society too, we make decisions in politics, or the economy, for instance, but every decision, take the decision to marry for instance, produces innumerable effects. Among them many more non-intended and incalculable, than intended and calculable. And importantly every decision generates the need for more decisions. First you need to decide if to marry or not, then if you want children or not, and later, who gets the custody of the kids.
Luhmann's social theory resembles chaos theory in science, and the famous notion of the butterfly effect. Given the sheer multitude of what goes on simultaneously in the systems and the environment and the multiple effects everything has on everything else, we're not in control. The Enlightenment idea was that: social progress leads to more and more self-control. Tt enhances agency, rationality, and sovereignty. That's the modernist dream. But systems theory suggests quite to the contrary, the more Society evolves, the more complex it becomes, and the less control is possible. But no worries, the good news is if there is less control, you're also less being controlled.In hyper-complex post-modernity, we are out of control. This is the biggest difference between social systems theory and mainstream social and political theories. Most of these theories, in Academia and media alike, celebrate the sovereign individual. Both Jordan Peterson on the right, and social justice theories, on the left, do this as well.
Luhmann labels himself not just a radical constructivist, but also a radical anti-humanist. This sounds terribly negative, and pessimistic. And it probably prevented Luhmann's Theory from becoming popular in North America, with its insistence on individual human agency and free will, however Luhmann is not a pessimist at all. Just as there's nothing wrong with biological evolution, there's nothing wrong with an auto poetic Society out of human control either. That humans are not ultimately "in charge" doesn't mean, for instance, that things cannot get better. Things can, and do, get better, but only in each respective system. Science constructs better truth, the economy creates more value, and the legal system can make better laws. But how this is better, and for whom, is always relative to the system. What's better in the economy is not necessarily better from a legal perspective. There is no chance of universal consensus on what is best for all.
In a highly differentiated Society, there is no view from the top or from above, or from the outside, but I, for one, am happy to accept this. I need no system to tell me what's best for all.
This finally brings me to a crucial notion. In Luhmann's theory, already mentioned in passing. Social systems are not just communication and function systems, they're also observing systems. Luhmanns theory is philosophically rooted in Kant's theory of Reason. Kant's basic point was that how the world appears to us is conditioned by how Reason, or the mind, works.
Luhmann uses the same idea and applies it not to reason or the mind, but to society. In society, reality is conditioned by how systems observe or communicate. The idea is quite simple. The economy observes a house in terms of "value" and thereby it constructs the value of the house. The legal system observes it in "legal" terms, and in this way some people own houses while others illegally occupy them.Conditioned by different modes of observation, different social realities emerge simultaneously, depending on what is observed by which system, in which way. The same piece of cheese is a different kind of reality, for a bacteria who lives in it, or the person who eats it. But none of the two observations is more real than the other.
To make things more complicated for Luhmann, a specific feature of modern society is that we've adopted a complex form of observation. Today, we typically observe the observations of others. Luhmann calls this "second order observation". In the economy for instance user exchange value has been replaced with "market value". If you want to know how much you need to pay for a house, you can't just look at the house, and at the value of each Stone, and then count the hours it took to put them on top of each other. You need to look at the housing market, instead. There, you can see how houses are economically observed by others, and by observing the market, you find out the value of the house.
Everywhere today, in all social systems, second order observation is on the rise. Everything is rated and ranked. No one simply goes to a restaurant or watches a YouTube video. Everyone also observes the reviews, the comments, and the numbers of subscribers. In modern society we're constantly in the mode of second order observation. And this is especially obvious in mass media. Here we are always already in the sphere of second order observation. Here, you only see something as it is being seen by someone else. You observe, for instance, my observation of Luhmann's observations, as observed and edited by Phi.
Luhmann says categorically the reality of the mass media. This is the reality of second order observation.
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Friday, September 22, 2023
Selected excerpts from video above
If there wasn't multi-scale competency (frog's mouth off to one side instead if in front) the organism would be dead. Your Fitness is zero because you can't eat and you would never get to explore the other beneficial consequences of that mutation. You'd have to wait until you find some other way of doing it without moving them out. That's really hard. So the fitness landscape would be incredibly rugged. Evolution would take forever.
The reason it works so well is because, no worries, the mouth will find its way to where it belongs. Right. So now you get to explore what that means is that all these mutations that otherwise would be deleterious are now neutral. Because the competency of the parts make up for all kinds of things. So all the noise of development, all the variability in the environment, all these things the competencies do, the parts makes up for it, So that's all fantastic right? That's all great!
The only other thing to remember when we compare this to human efforts is that every component has its' own goals in various spaces, usually with very little regard for the welfare of the other levels. So as a simple example, you, as a complex system, will go out and you will do Jiu Jitsu or whatever. You'll have some call to go rock climbing and scrape a bunch of cells off your hands. And then you're happy, as a system, right? You come back and you've accomplished some goals, and you're really happy. Those cells are dead. They're gone. Right? Did you think about those cells? Not really, right? You had some bruising out, you selfish SOB, that's it. And so the thing to remember is that you know, and we know, this from history, is that just being a collective isn't enough. Because what the goals of that Collective will be relative to the welfare of the individual Parts is a massively open question.
Ends justify the means?
I'm telling you that Stalin was on to something, So that's the danger. But we can exactly know that's the danger for us humans? We have to construct ethical systems under which we don't take seriously the full mechanism of biology, and apply it to the way the world functions. Which is an interesting line we've drawn. The world that built us is the one we reject, in some sense, when we construct human societies. The idea that this country was founded on, that all men are created equal, that's such a fascinating idea. It's like you're fighting against nature and you're saying, "Well, there's something bigger here than a hierarchical competency architecture. yeah
Yeah, especially when the higher levels (government) think that they're SO SMART that they intrude upon and invade the core (economic) competencies of the lower levels, the citizens, and destroy their very means of survival and making a living. That sounds very much like the road to evolutionary extinction, a REAL DEAD END.
Rating Societal Competencies - Government:
Thursday, September 21, 2023
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
The "New Spirit of Capitalism"
The fear of the "toxic" Other is thus the obverse (and the truth) of our empathy with the-other-reduced-to-a-fellow-man, but how did this syndrome arise? Boltanski and Chiapello's "The New Spirit of Capitalism" examines this process in detail, especially apropos france. In a Weberian mode, the book distinguishes three successive "spirits" of capitalism: the first, the entrepeneurial spirit, lasted until the Great Depression of the 1930s, the second took as its' ideal not the entrepeneur but the salaried director of a larger firm (it's easy to see here a close parallel with the well-known passage from individualist Protestant-ethic capitalism to the corporate-managerial capitalism of the "organization man.") From the 1970s onwards, a new figure emerged: capitalism began to abandon the hierarchical Fordist structure in the production process and in its' place developed a network-based for of organization founded on employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace. Instead of a hierarchical-centralized chain of command, we now see networks with a multitude of participants, with work organized in the form of teams or projects, and with a general mobilization of workers intent upon customer satisfaction thanks to their leader's vision. In such ways, capitalism is transformed and legitimized as an egalitarian project: accentuating auto-poetic interaction and spontaneous self-organization, it has even usurped the far Left's rhetoric of workers' self-management, turning it from an anti-capitalist slogan into a capitalist one.---
In keeping with this new spirit of capitalism, an entire ideologico-historical narrative is constructed in which socialism appears as conservative, hierarchical, and administrative. The lesson of '68 is then "Goodbye Mr. Socialism," and the true revolution that of digital capitalism--itself the logical consequence, infdeed the "truth" of the '68 revolt. More radically even, the events of '68 are inscribed into the fashionable topic of the "paradigm shift." The parallel between the model of the brain in neuroscience and the predominant ideological models of society is here indicative. There are clear echoes between today's cognitavism and "postmodern" capitalism: When Daniel Dennett, for example, advocates a shift from the Cartesian notion of the Self as a central controlling agency of psychic life to a notion of auto-poetic interaction of competing multiple agents, does this not echo the shift from central bureaucratic control and planning to the network model? It is thus not only that our brain is socialized-- society itself is also naturalized in the brain, which is why Malabou is right in emphasizing the need to address the key question: "What is to be done to avoid the consciousness of the brain coinciding directly and simply with the spirit of capitalism?"
Even Hardt and Negri endorse this parallel: in the same way as the brain sciences teach us how there is no central Self, so the new society of the multitude which rules itself will be like today's cognitivist notion the ego as a pandemonium of interacting agents with no central authority running the show... No wonder Negri's notion of communism comes uncannily close to that of "postmodern" digital capitalism.
Ideologically - and here we come to the crucial point - this shift occurred as a reaction to the revolts of the 1960s (from May '68 in Paris, to the student movement in Germany, and the hippies in the U.S.). The anti-capitalist protests of the 60's supplemented the standard critique of socio-economic exploitation with the new topics of cultural critique: the alienation of everyday life, the commodification of consumption, the inauthenticity of a mass society in which we are forced to "wear masks" and subjected to sexual and other oppressions, etc. The new spirit of capitalism triumphantly recuperated the egalitarian and anti-hierarchical rhetoric of 1968, presenting itself as a successful libertarian revolt against the oppressive social organizations characteristic of both corporate capitalism and Really Existing Socialism - a new libertarian spirit epitomized by dressed-down "cool" capitalists such as Bill Gates and the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
We can now understand why so many insist that Che Guervara, one of the symbols of '68, has become the "quintessential post-modern icon" signifying both everything and nothing - in others words, whatever one wants him to signify: youth rebellion against authoritarianism, solidarity with the poor and exploited, saintliness, up to and including the liberal-communist entrepeneurial spirit of working for the good of all.
Monday, September 18, 2023
The American bushtit or simply bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) is the only species placed in the genus Psaltriparus and the only species in the family Aegithalidae that is found in the New World.
Sunday, September 17, 2023
Slavoj Žižek, "Why the West will keep losing in Africa: Neocolonialism is giving birth to a wretched authoritarianism"
When Islamist forces staged a series of military coups in Central Africa – Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso – with the open support of Russians from the Wagner Group, two narratives emerged in the media. The pro-Russian one sees a rebellion of the people against French neocolonialism, linked to local corrupted elites. Meanwhile the Western media sees aspects of a large-scale plot by Islamists and Russia to establish an anti-Western and anti-liberal empire in Central Africa. They are both right – up to a point.
It is true that, until now, France has exerted a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) neocolonial rule over its former West and Central African colonies. After France granted them independence in the 1960s, peacefully, it continued to exert economic, political and military influence in la Françafrique. France retains the largest military presence in Africa of any former colonial power; it forces African countries to give preference to French interests and companies in the field of public procurement and public bidding. It imposed on its ex-colonies the African Financial Community (CFA) franc monetary zone, which is inherently unequal and rooted in exploitative practices.
However, it is clear that the “anti-colonial” uprisings in Central Africa are even worse than French neocolonialism. The future they bring is that of failed states like Zimbabwe and Myanmar: authoritarian military rule; economic regression into new lows of poverty that profit only the new and corrupt elite; ideological fundamentalism combined with a pushback against “colonial” influences like gay rights. Authentic emancipatory leaders such as Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso are a distant memory. How can it be that much of Africa finds itself in such a desperate situation, where the only choice is between bad (Western neocolonialism) and worse (fake authoritarian anti-colonialism)? The recent military coup in Gabon was a revolt against both, removing President Ali Bongo in the knowledge that this time the French army was unlikely to intervene.
One has to have the courage to reject the simple explanation that what is missing is the mobilisation of the people. If there is a lesson to be learned from the latest right-populist protests, it is that the time has come to reverse Abraham Lincoln’s famous line: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time. But you can never fool all the people all the time.” Today’s version is: “All people can avoid being fooled some of the time, and some people can avoid being fooled all of the time. But all people can’t avoid being fooled all the time.”
Any genuine emancipatory engagement of the people is a rare event which quickly disintegrates, and not just when it comes to Western democracy. Recall how, during the period of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong sent thousands of intellectuals to the agricultural communes to learn from ordinary farmers, whom he elevated into “subjects supposed to know”. One can argue that it was good for intellectuals to become acquainted with real life in the countryside – but they did not gain any deeper wisdom about society more broadly.
How to explain that there is no one privileged group that harbours an authentic understanding of society? We have to proceed in two stages. The first myth to be dispelled is that of meritocracy: whatever your social position at birth, society ought to offer enough opportunity and mobility for talent to combine with effort in order to rise to the top. In her 2017 book Against Meritocracy, Jo Littler demonstrated that meritocracy is the key means of legitimation for contemporary neoliberal culture, and that while it promises opportunity, it in fact creates new forms of social division, since class, race and gender continue to play a much more important role. To these three factors we should add a heterogeneous one, chance. In Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy (2016), Robert Frank does not discount the importance of hard work, but demonstrates that, among groups of people performing at a high level, chance (luck) plays an enormous role in an individual’s success.
If, then, an individual’s wealth and social power do not reflect their merits, what is the alternative? For most critics of meritocracy, the alternative is to trust the majority of ordinary people who are without special merit: however manipulated and embedded in everyday ideology, however brainwashed by religious or ethnic fundamentalism they are, in the long term their spontaneous sense of justice will prevail. In short, the critics of meritocracy tend to advocate some version of Lincoln’s saying.
Unfortunately, the complexity of today’s world compels us to reject this trust in the people, too. Bombarded by conflicting reports on global warming, reading that even many scientists hold competing views, how can an ordinary, poor person decide to act? Should they fight for measures that will in the short term push them deeper into poverty? When immigrants arrive, how can we blame this same person for seeing in them a threat to their established way of life? Can we blame them if, in this person’s limited worldview, the idea that they are somehow complicit in the neocolonial exploitation of Third World countries makes no sense? This list goes on and on: can we blame our person for feeling confused and perplexed by the debates about “he/she/they” that abound in the media? And are most of us, intellectual elites included, not caught in similar loops, unable to arrive at what the philosopher Fredric Jameson has called a proper “cognitive mapping” of our situation? This is why the solution is not to strive for “true” meritocracy: those who deserve to succeed on merit will predominate only when our entire social order has been changed.
To be more precise, it’s not so much that the majority is fooled, it is that they don’t care: their main concern is that relatively stable daily life continues unperturbed. The majority don’t want actual democracy, in which they can really decide: they want the appearance of democracy, where they freely vote – but where some trusted higher authority presents them with a choice and indicates how they should vote. When the majority feel they aren’t getting any clear indication, they become perplexed and the situation in which they are supposed to decide is paradoxically experienced as a crisis of democracy, a threat to the stability of the system. (This holds not only for the former French colonies, but for democracy in general.) However, when the so-called silent majority begin to care, when they feel like victims and erupt in genuine anger, things as a rule get much worse. People want to decide, to have their voices heard, and in doing so – as the ongoing wave of rightist populism around the world demonstrates – expose themselves to further manipulation, falling prey to conspiracy theories.
Is this a universal rule? Fortunately not. Rarely, from time to time and in an unpredictable way, exceptions occur; the mist dispels, clarity prevails and the majority are mobilised for the right reasons. Such moments are history at its purest – moments when years happen within the scope of a week.
To return to our starting point, is there a chance that such a moment will occur in Central Africa? It will certainly not happen as a result of our (European) efforts to enlighten the Africans. What we can do now is turn against our own neocolonialism, which feeds a false fundamentalist anti-colonialism. Many more things will have to happen, not the least being that we will have to let one of the big taboos fall: we will have to rehabilitate planning – a large-scale obligatory planning, not just vague “coordination” or “collaboration”. Groups of states will have to form confederacies with legislative and executive powers to impose measures concerning the environment, mass movements of people, military interventions and the use of artificial intelligence. Utopia? Yes, but there is simply no other way to confront the crises that pose a threat to our very survival.
Saturday, September 16, 2023
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Friday, September 15, 2023
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PUBLISHED IN FEBRUARY 16, 2004
The new issue of In These Times is a special, extra-length issue devoted entirely to the subject of socialism in America today. This special issue is available now. Order your copy today.Vladimir Ilyich Lenin died on January 21 1924, 80 years ago—does the embarrassed silence over his name mean that he died twice, that his legacy is also dead? His insensitivity toward personal freedoms is effectively foreign to our liberal-tolerant sensibility – who, today, would not experience a shudder apropos his dismissive remarks against the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionaries’ critique of the Bolshevik power in 1922?
“Indeed, the sermons which…the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries preach express their true nature: ‘The revolution has gone too far. What you are saying now we have been saying all the time, permit us to say it again.’ But we say in reply: ‘Permit us to put you before a firing squad for saying that. Either you refrain from expressing your views, or, if you insist on expressing your political views publicly in the present circumstances, when our position is far more difficult than it was when the white guards were directly attacking us, then you will have only yourselves to blame if we treat you as the worst and most pernicious white guard elements.’”This dismissive attitude towards the “liberal” notion of freedom accounts for Lenin’s bad reputation among liberals. Their case largely rests upon their rejection of the standard Marxist-Leninist opposition of “formal” and “actual” freedom, but as even ;eftist liberals like Claude Lefort emphasize again and again, freedom is in its very notion “formal,” so that “actual freedom” equals the lack of freedom. Lenin is best remembered for his famous retort “Freedom - yes, but for whom? To do what?” For him, in the above-quoted case of the Mensheviks, their “freedom” to criticize the Bolshevik government effectively amounted to the “freedom” to undermine the workers’ and peasants’ government on behalf of the counterrevolution.
But today, after the terrifying experience of the Really Existing Socialism, is it not more than obvious where the fault of this reasoning resides? First, it reduces a historical constellation to a closed, fully contextualized situation in which the “objective” consequences of one’s acts are fully determined (“independent of your intentions, what you are doing now objectively serves…”). Second, the position of enunciation of such statements usurps the right to decide what your acts “objectively mean,” so that their apparent “objectivism” is the form of its opposite, a thorough subjectivism: I decide what your acts objectively mean, since I define the context of a situation (say, if I conceive of my power as the immediate equivalent/expression of the power of the working class, then everyone who opposes me is “objectively” an enemy of the working class).
Is this, however, the whole story? How does freedom effectively function in liberal democracies? Although Clinton’s presidency epitomized the Third Way of today’s (ex-) Left succumbing to the Rightist ideological blackmail, his healthcare reform program would nonetheless have amounted to a kind of act, at least in today’s conditions, since it would have been based on the rejection of the hegemonic notions of the need to curtail Big State expenditure and administration—in a way, it aimed to “do the impossible.” No wonder then that it failed. Its failure—perhaps the only significant, although negative, event of Clinton’s presidency—bore witness to the material force of the ideological notion of “free choice.” That is to say, although the large majority of the so-called “ordinary people” were not properly acquainted with the reform program, the medical lobby (twice as strong as the infamous defense lobby!) succeeded in imposing on the public the fundamental idea that, with universal healthcare, the free choice (in matters concerning medicine) will be somehow threatened—against this purely fictional reference to “free choice”, all enumeration of “hard facts” (in Canada, healthcare is less expensive and more effective, with no less free choice, etc.) proved ineffective.
We are here at the very nerve center of the liberal ideology: the insistence on freedom of choice—so urgent today in the era of what sociologists like Ulrich Beck call “risk society”—even as the ruling ideology endeavors to sell us the very insecurity caused by the dismantling of the Welfare State as the opportunity for new freedoms. Do you have to change jobs every year, relying on short-term contracts instead of a long-term stable appointment? Why not see it as the liberation from the constraints of a fixed job, as the chance to reinvent yourself again and again, to become aware of and realize hidden potentials of your personality? Can you no longer rely on the standard health insurance and retirement plan, so that you have to opt for additional coverage for which you have to pay? Why not perceive it as an additional opportunity to choose: either better life now or long-term security? And if this predicament causes you anxiety, the postmodern or “second modernity” ideologist will immediately accuse you of being unable to assume full freedom, of indulging in the “escape from freedom,” of the immature sticking to old stable forms. Even better, when this situation is inscribed into the ideology of the subject as the psychological individual pregnant with natural abilities and tendencies, one automatically interprets all these changes as the results of their personality, not as the result of being thrown around by market forces.
Phenomena like these make it all the more necessary today to reassert the opposition of “formal” and “actual” freedom in a new, more precise, sense. Let us take the situation in the Eastern European countries around 1990, when the Really Existing Socialism was falling apart: all of a sudden, people were thrown into a situation of “freedom of political choice”—however, were they really at any point asked the fundamental question of what kind of new order they actually wanted? People were first told that they are entering the promised land of political freedom; then, soon afterwards, they were informed that this freedom involves wild privatization, the dismantling of the social security, etc.etc. They still have the freedom to choose, so if they want, they can step out; but, no, our heroic Eastern Europeans didn’t want to disappoint their Western tutors, they stoically persisted in the choice they never made, convincing themselves that they should behave as mature subjects who are aware that freedom has its price. And here one should risk to reintroduce the Leninist opposition of “formal” and “actual” freedom: the moment of truth in Lenin’s acerbic retort to his Menshevik critics is that the truly free choice is a choice in which I do not merely choose between two or more options within a pre-given set of coordinates, but I choose to change this set of coordinates itself. The catch of the “transition” from the Really Existing Socialism to capitalism was that people never had the chance to choose the ad quem of this transition—all of a sudden, they were (almost literally) “thrown” into a new situation in which they were presented with a new set of given choices (pure liberalism, nationalist conservatism).
This is what Lenin’s obsessive tirades against “formal” freedom are about, and therein resides their “rational kernel” worth saving today: when he underlines that there is no “pure” democracy, that we should always ask whom does a freedom under consideration serve and where is its role in the class struggle, his point is precisely to maintain the possibility of the true radical choice. This is what the distinction between “formal” and “actual” freedom ultimately amounts to: “formal” freedom is the freedom of choice within the coordinates of the existing power relations, while “actual” freedom designates the site of an intervention which undermines these very coordinates. In short, Lenin’s point is not to limit freedom of choice, but to maintain the fundamental Choice—when Lenin asks about the role of a freedom within the class struggle, what he is asking is precisely: “Does this freedom contribute to or constrain the fundamental revolutionary Choice?”
The most popular TV show of recent years in France, with a viewer rating two times higher than that of the notorious “Big Brother” reality soaps, was “C’est mon choix” (“It is my choice”), a talk-show whose guest is each time an ordinary (or, exceptionally, well-known) person who made a peculiar choice which determined his or her entire life-style: one of them decided never to wear underwear, another tries all the time to find a more appropriate sexual partner for his father and mother. Extravagance is allowed, solicited even, but with the explicit exclusion of the choices which may disturb the public (say, a person whose choice is to be and act as a racist, is a priori excluded). Can one imagine a better predicament of what the “freedom of choice” effectively amounts to in our liberal societies? We can go on making our small choices, “reinventing ourselves” thoroughly, on the condition that these choices do not seriously disturb the social and ideological balance. With regard to the “C’est mon choix,” the truly radical thing would have been to focus precisely on the “disturbing” choices: to invite as guests people like dedicated racists, i.e. people whose choice (whose difference) does make a difference. This, also, is the reason why, today, “democracy” is more and more a false issue, a notion so discredited by its predominant use that, perhaps, one should take the risk of abandoning it to the enemy. Where, how, by whom are the key decisions concerning global social issues made? Are they made in the public space, through the engaged participation of the majority? If the answer is yes, it is of secondary importance if the state has a one-party system. If the answer is no, it is of secondary importance if we have parliamentary democracy and freedom of individual choices.
Apropos of the disintegration of State Socialism two decades ago, one should not forget that, at approximately the same time, the Western Social Democratic welfare state ideology was also dealt a crucial blow, that it also ceased to function as the imaginary goal able to arouse a collective passionate following. The notion that “the time of the welfare state has past” is today a piece of commonly accepted wisdom. What these two defeated ideologies shared is the notion that humanity as a collective subject has the capacity to somehow limit impersonal and anonymous socio-historic development, to steer it in a desired direction. Today, such a notion is quickly dismissed as “ideological” and/or “totalitarian”: the social process is again perceived as dominated by an anonymous Fate beyond social control. The rise of global capitalism is presented to us as such a Fate, against which one cannot fight—one either adapts oneself to it or one falls out of step with history and is crushed. The only thing one can do is to make global capitalism as human as possible, to fight for “global capitalism with a human face” (this is what, ultimately, the Third Way is—or, rather, was—about).
Our basic political choice in the United States—Democrat or Republican—cannot but remind us of our predicament when we want artificial sweetener in an American cafeteria: the all-present alternative of Equal and Sweet&Lo, of blue and red small bags, where almost each person has his/her preferences (avoid the red ones, they contain cancerous substances, or vice-versa), and this ridiculous sticking to one’s choice merely accentuates the utter meaninglessness of the alternative. And does the same not go for the soda drinks: Coke or Pepsi? It is a well-known fact that the “Close the door” button in most elevators is a totally disfunctional placebo, placed there just to give the individuals the impression that they are somehow participating, contributing to the speed of the elevator journey - when we push this button, the door closes in exactly the same time as when we just pressed the floor button without “speeding up” the process by pressing also the “Close the door” button. This extreme case of fake participation is an appropriate metaphor of the participation of individuals in our “postmodern” political process.
This is why we tend to avoid Lenin today: not because he was an “enemy of freedom,” but because he reminds us of the fatal limitation of our freedoms; not because he offers us no choice, but because he reminds us that our “society of choices” precludes any true choice.
Friday, September 8, 2023
Thursday, September 7, 2023
Today we talk about positive power, neoliberalism, narcissism as a reaction to modern life, how technology makes isolation easier, and some tactics to find peace in the digital panopticon.
Everything in this world is slowly being turned into the same he (Byung-Chul Han) says "the terror of the same affects all areas of life today. One travels everywhere yet does not experience anything. One catches sight of everything yet reaches no Insight. One accumulates information and data yet does not attain knowledge. One lusts after adventures and stimulation but always Remains the Same. One accumulates online friends and followers yet never encounters another person."
Now let's break down what he means by all those, and how Tech technology makes these easier. But maybe the first thing that needs to be addressed is, I'm sure, there are some people out there who hear Han say that everybody in the world is turning into the same thing, and they're thinking "What world is this guy living in, people don't have enough of "the other" in their life? That's literally the problem with Society is that people are turning people into "the other" when it's not appropriate, to this tribalism that people cling to. You know, they see someone who politically disagrees with them and they don't see another person who, all things considered, we agree on more things than we disagree on. No, they turn this person into the enemy in their world, then these people talk past each other, and they can never really have a good conversation. The problem with this world someone could say is that we embrace the concept of "the other" too much."
But what by Byung-Chul Han would no doubt say back is, "Would you call that a genuine interaction with "the other" when a person does that? Would you call that the person really encountering ideas that they disagree with? Truly considering those ideas, and then sitting with them? Or is that whole process just a poorly hidden attempt to confirm their own bias so they don't have to really get to know the person, and how they feel? In other words is this in reality just another version of narcissistic self-affirmation? Tell me if you've ever found yourself on one side or another of a political issue and you write a comment on the internet and someone from the other side claps back at you, do you ever feel like that person truly understands where you're coming from? Does it even feel like they care about knowing where you're coming from? No, there's nothing about them that truly wants to encounter difference or "the other", what they want is for everybody to have pretty much the same thoughts that they do. Everything needs to be the same to this person because truly listening to another person, setting your ego aside, feeling another person's perspective, that can be incredibly uncomfortable. it forces you to think of them as they are, something totally different than you, not just how they benefit you in some transactional way. The people trapped in this achievement Society will often have zero deep close relationships in their entire life. And the people they do have as friends end up just being transactional. You know, they increase their market value in some sort of way. They support the image they have of themselves. Their friends are good contacts to have in a networking sense. The Narcissist loves to have friends that are all the same as them and agree with them on everything, tell them everything they're doing is just fine. And this extends to the way they act when they come across new potentially perspective shifting ideas, yes in the political sphere, but also documentaries videos, podcasts, anything. They're never looking to entertain anything that's too far outside their field of view. They just want to see new ideas that are mostly kind of already corresponding with what they think they know.
Now this is another way that the narcissist denies "the other" in their life, further isolating themselves just a little bit more. Now none of this is actually trying to engage with true difference, Just an Illusion of it. In reality, Han says, "the other" is "incomparable", meaning, even looking at "the other" and trying to understand that person or those ideas by comparing them to predefined categories, even that obscures the true difference of "the other" because it's just viewing them through your own individual set of terms that are important to you. It reduces the true beauty of "the other", he says, into mere "diversity". What this leads to is a crisis of connection and a crisis of love for people in the modern world. People want everything and everyone to be the same.
You know another example of this is when someone takes a selfie, Han says, and then puts a filter on it to smooth out all the edges and the imperfections, and this turns them into some standard of beauty that isn't them. And then, Han says, when you remove the "otherness" from somebody, you can't ever really love that person. All you can do is consume them. When you remove the "otherness" from an idea, it can't ever really affect you fully. All you can do is consume it. And think of all the ways people are turned into things to consume when it comes to romance on the internet. Anyway true interaction with, and true consideration of "the other", this is what is missing for a lot of people in today's world and it makes it even easier to fall into this place, Han says, because the technology that pretty much everybody uses enables further isolation, almost like it's an addiction. When you're on the internet, for example, if you ever encounter anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, like you truly have to put your ego aside for a second and try to understand it from the eyes of someone else, you can just click off the page, you can just swipe to the next video, and the algorithm will happily go along with it for you because its job is just to keep you on the app. It doesn't really care what kind of narcissistic game you're playing. In a sense, Han says, we propagandize ourselves. Most examples of people being dominated throughout history have had some sort of symbol that people carry around with them that represents their domination. Think of slaves being branded. Think of a Scarlet Letter. Well, to Han, the smartphone is that to us, and more than that, actually, because it strengthens our form of domination. He Compares a smartphone to a rosary and Beads, you know, something that people who are under the control of a religion carry around with them and hold up at the opportune time. It's not only a surveillance device for us, it's also a digital confessional, and Facebook is the church, he says a like is a digital amen and instead of asking for forgiveness we call out for attention.
In fact, almost everything about the smartphone, he says, is utterly incompatible with true thinking and freedom. To understand where he's coming from with this point, we have to make a distinction between what he thinks is "true thinking", and "what often passes for thinking" for people. Consider what it's like to be on Tick Tock, or most of the internet for that matter. Tick tock's just a very obvious version of it. You're scrolling around from video to video, you're getting tons of information, but there's no contemplation that's going on about it. In fact that's the appeal of watching any of these Channel that hack your attention span, you don't have to put in any thought. Nothing you're watching has to connect to some deeper picture of the world that you have, it's all self-referential. Like when you watch one of these videos, it really is just some narcissist dancing in the mirror, you know making little cutesy faces, because that's what you do when you're dancing, right? You switch to another video," I've got to bake the world's largest coconut cream pie and then live inside of it for 40 days and that's it, that that's truly all the video is. And there's something beautiful about that, it's part of the appeal, but there's no depth to that experience. There's nothing meaningful about reality that those things are connecting to, with people. You're having a surface level interaction with reality and that some people wonder why it seems like most of the stuff they consume is meaningless.
This is what he meant, by the way, from that quote from earlier where he talked about "the terror of the same affecting all areas of life. You travel everywhere, but don't experience anything, you see everything, but have zero Insight. You consume information, but gain zero knowledge, lust after adventures and stimulation, but stay the same, get online friends and followers, but never encounter another person, he says, because the pace of the world is speeding up in modern times. Because you can just pull up a screen and Float from video to video, that gives you a shallow experience of the world. You can bring that shallow level of understanding to every experience that you have. If you want meaning, knowledge, truth, these things only come when you contemplate how the present moment connects to the past and the future. But there's never any time to contemplate when you're just scrolling from one distraction in life to the next. It takes someone actively making the choice to slow down, and take an inventory of how this stuff actually impacts you. Think of the person that speed reads through a book, you know just consuming all that information but then never remembers any of it after they're done reading. If you don't take the time to contemplate how that information connects to the existing order of things, all that's just gonna stay raw information, nothing more. And again, to the person trapped in that shallow narcissism never really considering "the other" that shallowness becomes the depth you're capable of having in every experience you encounter. See, that's one of the costs of blindly living in this achievement Society.