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Abstract Reasoning is What Makes Us Human

In movies, the good guys are always emotional acting “from their hearts” while the bad guy lives in his mind creating elaborate plans usually losing in the end because of some variation of “he doesn’t understand the power of love.” In the philosophy of movies, emotion and love is what makes us human.
In real life, the capability of abstract reasoning is what sets apart higher from lower humans and humans from other animals. The person who can ponder the root causes of poverty is more effective than someone who from blind compassion for a picture of a starving kid in a magazine donates to charity and helps pay the “non-profit” CEO’s salary.  The price of not having abstract understanding is to be parasitized and preyed upon.

Humans have moved towards abstract concepts for a long time and some breeds are more advanced than others.
Language itself is a system of symbolic abstractions and is part of the human species as swimming is to fish or burrowing to a mole.
But since civilization, levels of abstraction have gone far beyond what most humans are able to handle.
Consider the concept of interest on a loan, for instance.  A considerable percentage of humans max out their credit cards or mortgages and are then taken by surprise when the compound interest spins out of control.  Or let’s look at estimating probability, something people are really bad at.  In a society of rational humans the only gambling would be against other players, never with unfavorable odds against the house.
The difference is who can understand abstractions and who cannot.
In general, peoples who have lived in complex civilizations longer are better at it.  It comes as little surprise that Jews, Syrian Alawis and Christians, Lebanese Maronites, and Armenians do well wherever in the world they go.  They are all mercantile peoples who spent thousands of years living on top of some of the world’s major trade routes.
Meanwhile, peoples new to the abstractions of civilization struggle to deal with laws, commerce, and the concept of the state.  Unable to formulate long term plans and heavily selected for binging in times of plenty, they become impoverished and hopelessly addicted to drugs and junk food.  Whether we’re talking about the Pima, the Pygmies, the Samoans, the Sioux, or the Aborigines, the problems are always the same, the only variation is degree.

Plato grouped humans into three categories.

Bronze – Ordinary workers and merchants engaged in their work with little awareness beyond their own wants. In Enlightenment philosophy, whether by communism, capitalism, or even libertarianism and anarchism, these people are supposed to be the rulers. That’s why these ideas when unalloyed by common sense never work. Mob rule, tragedies of the commons predictably result.

Silver – Those with enough awareness to be granted some measure of power without selfishly abusing it.  They have enough foresight to understand at least part of the big picture and some ability to think of the longer term within the context of their role. They are the middle management of society, the officers of humanity. They don’t take bribes(they can understand how it damages the credibility of the entire system), they keep utilities cheap and reliable, the trains arrive on time.  They make sure things work.

Gold- Those with enough awareness to understand the complexities of the macroscale and reason beyond oneself.  Those who can best do this are those who should be managing societies.

To care about anything that occurs after one’s death, for example, is irrational in the most literal sense. A bronze-soul squeezes the world for all it’s worth as long as they’re alive. What should it matter if the nation were to fall after they’re buried, or the entire human race to meet its demise?
The difference between a higher man and the stampede is to grasp the highly abstract idea of a future beyond oneself in the endurance of one’s work, deeds, ideas, and seed—to perceive beauty in what we will never see, touch, or taste for it’s own sake.
There’s a Greek proverb: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
Taking delight in what has not yet happened is pure abstraction, but for those capable of it, it is as real as any present and tangible pleasure. As real as are imaginary numbers and infinity to a mathematician.

People are only equipped so far by nature to deal with groups of up to 150.  Abstraction is the only way for limited human beings to work around the limit set by the Dunbar number and be able to reason out the workings of a mass society of millions of people.
A lower human given charge of a nation handles millions of people with the package of instincts appropriate to a small tribe.
What is a great famine that kills millions so long as you, your family, friends, and closest followers are safe?
It makes no sense to care about people we don’t know so long as it doesn’t affect us. It very much makes sense to sacrifice a million strangers we don’t care about in a war to get what we want. Why not abuse and neglect as it pleases us? They’re all just a statistic. To perceive beyond this, a human must use abstraction and imagination.

Ironically, the lower human ruler also projects his warm instinctual feelings for a small group onto many and preserves a million who are destroying everyone else out of crass sentimentality.
The higher being sees a rook is not worth a pawn and does what must be done.
Where the lower man is ruthless, the higher is merciful
And where the lower is generous, the higher crushes.

The gold soul has the same animal instincts as the bronze but it has the quality of consciousness that allows it to reflect on its nature while the bronze just follows its program like any other animal.
The high human can reflect on its own instinctual drives, figure out the purpose of each, and reason the best course to realize the “intended” goal.
The drive to socialize and observe social norms is there to further our survival in a group and to aid the survival of the group itself against other groups.
So if in charge of millions, we ought to use intellect to further the group as an appropriate instinct would, if it existed.
The drive to breed is there to spread our genes.
So we ought to understand that instinctual gratification with contraceptives is an illusion.
Where instinct is not enough, the greater human formulates strategies.
Faced with relentless change, human animals flounder in aimless despair like pandas with their bamboo forests burnt down.
High Humans change their survival strategy with the times.

Overrated Rationality is the Enlightenment Mistake

If we look at animals, we notice 3 levels of awareness.

-First there is the realm of the “reptile brain” concerning itself the basic impulses, sensations, and instinct.  Hunger, lust, cold, warm, thirst. Most animals go no further than this.  They have no need to.

-We notice another tier in some higher animals with more complex instinctive behaviors, memory and learning, emotions  and social skills.

-Lastly, we see in some humans a limited form of what we call consciousness or self-awareness.

The philosophers of the enlightenment who created the ideas of modernity predicated their ideas on human society on the assumption that most humans are rational and self-aware.
This is of course not the case.

The vast majority of humans adhere to whatever ideas they are taught early in life without ever a thought.  For the most part, humans thrive by banding into tight collectives and living their lives railroaded by instinctual protocols of social interaction, courtship, and rearing offspring just like pretty much any other high level social mammal.  They can hardly be distinguished from wolves, baboons, dolphins, or chimpanzees.

The individual as enlightenment thinkers conceive of one, is a being who hardly exists amongst humans at all.  And only a significant minority come somewhat close to the ideal of being able to think objectively and then only some of the time about certain things.  We have only to read for 15 minutes about the inbuilt cognitive biases in humans and immediately begin to recall some of the stupid decisions we’ve all made.

From the erroneous underlying assumptions of human rationality and consciousness come the catastrophic ideologies spawned from the Enlightenment.
Capitalism and Marxism in their various forms are portrayed often as opposites, yet both come from the same source, Enlightenment thinkers who believed societies were composed of free rational individuals.

Marxism believes the masses of workers ought to rule and Capitalists believe a market formed by the purchases of the masses ought to rule.
Both try to solve the problems of a society of rational individuals, a fantasy society that doesn’t exist.  This is why both systems, despite their good intentions end up wrecking entire peoples.
The empowered workers end up creating a despotism that impoverishes them and even causes famines.
Market demand enshrined as God destroys everything in its path like an amnesiac beast enslaved to its present whims.  And in the end, what good is all the wealth in the world if the people meant to benefit are destroyed and the sterile units of money still counted dutifully by whirring machines, oblivious to the piles of dusty bones nearby?
Ultimately, humans are group selected, like other social and eusocial animals.  The ideas that stand the test of time and spread are those that help one group of humans outcompete another.
If we would have a successful way of improving life for most people, an idea must first provide for the spread and defense of its adopters.  Enlightenment thinkers provided no defense.  Their ideology is like a nation without a military.  They had no concept of the harsh realities of survival, preferring to live in their dream world.
Every surviving major religion has some directive that its followers go forth and multiply, to defend against outsiders, and in some strains to proselytize.
For nature doesn’t care if the most competitive system makes people happy or not so long as it proliferates.

No ideology will have its intended results unless it is grounded in a firm understanding of how people actually are in the real world.
Yet I can’t see how an ideology that shows people the unpleasant truth of how we really are could ever become very popular.
Its adoption would depend on those more capable of consciousness subjugating those less aware and the humans most Human in the Enlightenment sense adopting rule over human animals as man establishes rule over beast.
Perhaps a banker who rules over a million humans by extracting a penny from each every day through sleight of hand is the natural ruler, parasite, and predator of their herd.
Or the politician who outwits them all through sophisticated talk?
Perhaps their easy dominance over the many shows us how a well-intentioned philosopher could come along and use an engineer’s knowledge of societies to realize their vision.

The Masses Crave Discipline

I was briefly doing some reading on dog training once because I was visiting my parents and they had a young puppy full of energy with little discipline.  It was difficult to even take the young animal for a walk because he would zip every which way with no sense of direction and constantly fight against the tugging of the leash.
I soon discovered the ideas of a guy called Cesar Milan on the web, a fellow who I understand had a TV show.
It soon struck me that his kind of ideas didn’t just seem dog-like to me.  I’d never found a finer manual in the art of herding people.

We have only to see Britain’s adulation for its royal family or Americans’ worship of the Kennedys to understand that the typical human psychologically requires a master as surely as any dog.  People feel happy and safe when there is a dominating presence at the head of their tribe.  They become miserable and anxious in the absence of discipline and leadership.

One has only to observe groups of kids.  A classroom with a strong and competent teacher is well behaved and happy.  A class with a weak teacher is obnoxious and miserable.
One would think that the kids with greater freedom would be happier, but the opposite is true.
Over the years I’ve had stints as a substitute teacher and an English teacher.  I’ve worked in tourist venues where groups of kids pass through constantly.  Everywhere I’ve gone, the kids without leadership have bratty sneers on their faces and while they may smile, it’s always a snide expression of mockery and contempt.  They’re unhappy, insecure, and bored.
Investigating dog psychology on the internet, I read how canine misbehavior is an attempt to get attention and test the leadership of the master.  The dog is begging to be shown rules and leadership just as it begs for food.  After all, social creatures require rules and structure as they do food or water.
It struck me that all those kids are exactly the same way.  Their misbehavior when not disciplined is just an escalating plea for leadership.  They immediately become happy and compliant again when their misbehavior is punished and they are decisively cast down into their proper place.

Dogs, according to the likes of Cesar Milan, experience a great deal of stress when despite their pleas, no leadership is forthcoming.  The dog starts to see itself as the incipient alpha bearing full responsibility for the wellbeing of the pack.  This crushing stress, combined with perceiving the need to assert itself as leader, mere misbehavior can escalate into outright aggression.  This is the point where the master loses control of the situation irrevocably.

Here,  I reflected, rulers of people do not fall from internal disputes as long as they show strength and leadership.  However, the moment a ruler makes concessions, the end is near.  We can reflect on Gorbachev and the end of the Soviet Union, or Mubarak in Egypt.  We can compare the outcome of President Jackson’s quick and decisive suppression of secession movements in South Carolina, with the concessions and indecisiveness of Buchanan.
It is an eternal law of dealing with the masses: the strongman is rewarded with obedience, the kind man with rebellion and overthrow.

American foreign policy would have been greatly improved had its formulators understood the human craving for discipline.  They would have immediately had an astute and accurate understanding of what an Iraq without Saddam would be like.  Now, faced with all the problems that the strongman kept in check, they’re forced to unhappily enter an alliance with the Iranians just to feebly attempt to restore what they already had—and willfully undid—because they chose to make real world policy while living in a fantasy land.

If anything, the colonialists of the British Empire had no illusions about the subservient and base nature of humanity.  With incomparably less wealth, technology, and personnel they managed to govern most of the planet.  A few jungle and desert zones capable of resisting the entire might of the United States caused no unusual problems for the British whose only advantage over the American superpower was a shrewd understanding of people.

Enlightenment thought teaches us humans are perfect rational agents, who need only be set free.  But even the most casual glance at the psychology of real, ordinary people quickly informs us:  One of the cruelest things that can be done to a man is to set him free.  At heart, man wants to be ruled.

On Herdbeasts

No human can survive on its own, so every one of us has to pander to the group to stay alive, let alone to thrive and have the surplus necessary for reproduction.  Independence is a myth, individual freedom is a thing we must steal in the dark.

So selection for group compliance is heavy amongst human beings.
People often know in their hearts that an absurd popular belief is false or at best uncertain, but they have a strange ability to refuse to admit even to themselves except in the dark of night as they try to sleep.  Their herd instincts overwhelm their reason.  This is the dissonance you see in every washed up careerist schlub you meet.  That middle class guy who lives a secure life with a wife and two kids, yet no one envies him.

This is what drives the evangelist to say “but how do you live without Jesus in your heart?”  They’re speaking to their own deeply embedded fears, not to you.  These fears are all the worse because they can never confront them, like ghosts hiding under a child’s bed.

Group existence is likely the cause of human intelligence.  In a group with just 5 other people, you have 25 possible combinations with them to account for.  Chimpanzees live in bands of perhaps 12-16 they deal with perhaps 144 to 256 different combinations.  Humans are equipped to handle groups up to 150 different people, or 22,500 possible combinations of interactions.
The man with even a slight edge in such a large group ends up with the best women and most of the wealth.
A society where millions interact has innumerable combinations and impossibly complex patterns.  Such a situation is bound to create pressures that produce herd predators that have an edge in exploiting mass trends.

Treated as an aberration in youth, I barely survived, but now I find I have great survival advantages.  I see people following trends and reading the news, while I ask how the trend creators gain and what’s in it for the journalists.  I would hope that I am the future and will do everything in my power to make it so.

I don’t fault them as much as I used to.  I’ve come to understand that every group has rules that serve to weed out specimens that are poorly adapted.
On reflection, I’ve come to realize I’d do the exact same thing if I had power.
I would wield it unapologetically, remembering well what life was like when they were in charge.
I’d naturally make life hard for those who displease me and grease all the wheels in life for the right kind of people.

How Fleeing Ancestral Parasites Enabled Civilization

“The extraordinary variety of human parasites that exist in Africa suggests that Africa was the principal cradle for humankind, for nowhere else did the adjustment between human and nonhuman forms of life achieve anything like the same biological elaboration.

Many of the parasitic worms and protozoa that abound in Africa do not provoke immune reactions.
Opportunities for transfer from one host to another multiply with increased human density…when a critical threshold is surpassed, infection can suddenly develop into runaway hyperinfection.  Such epidemic situations seriously interfere with normal activity…

This…can soon reduce a population until the local density sinks safely below the threshold necessary for hyperinfection.

The establishment of human hunters at the top of the food chain…did not…do much to alter these age-old ecological relations.  In triumphantly claiming a new niche, humanity did not, therefore, transform the system as a whole.

Until relatively recent times (say five thousand years ago), human communities in Africa played a comparatively modest role amid the abundance of other life forms.  Humans were the chief predators, to be sure, but remained relatively rare in the balance of nature.
It is…mainly because sleeping sickness…remains so devastating to human populations that the ungulate herds of the African savanna have survived to the present.   Without modern prophylaxis, humans simply cannot live in regions where the tsetse fly abounds…Within the tsetse’s range, something resembling a pre-human ecological balance survives to the present.

In leaving tropical environments behind, our ancestors also escaped many of the parasites and disease organisms to which their predecessors and tropical contemporaries were accustomed.

Humanity’s place within the balance of nature in tropical regions differed fundamentally from what developed in temperate and Arctic climatic zones.
The array…of infections and infestations was vastly diminished from what had thriven in the tropical luxuriance of humanity’s oldest habitat.

Thus humankind’s biological dominion in temperate climes assumed a different order of magnitude from the start.
Humanity was in a situation like rabbits met when introduced into Australia.  Lacking both natural predators and natural parasites in the new environment…

Food production permitted a vast and rapid increase in the number of people, and so sustained the rise of cities and civilizations.”

Plagues and Peoples
William H McNeill

Excerpts taken from pages, 19-30 in no exact order so long as I put the main idea out there as succinctly as possible.
This guy is brilliant, but he really needed an editor.

Our Place In The Cosmos

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