Decisions in Math

So I stumbled onto Determinism recently.  It’s something that I’ve seen and recognized for years but it’s only been in the last few months that I began to study it.  Simply put, the physical laws which we observe within the universe, the same ones that apply to us and all other living things, doesn’t make room for free will.  Philosophers have been debating this for millennia now but as we gain a stronger understanding of the universe, it’s become a rather bold assumption that we’re the ones in charge.

It’s a difficult concept for most people to wrap their heads around.  Some will suggest that if they stopped controlling themselves, they’d lay in bed and waste away.  I would suggest that they try it.  I’d bet good money they don’t last a day.  At some point, you’re going to have the urge to get up and do something.  And while you’re up, you might as well do something else. And so on, and so on.  But even if you did manage to stay in bed and waste away, it wouldn’t be because you decided to or because you chose to give up control.  It would be a result of the series of events which led to that moment.  You might think of it as a decision but the motivations, the considerations, and everything that went into that decision was present before the decision was made.  It was the only decision you were ever going to make.  What we typically think of a decision is more of an inflection point.

I was trying to describe this to a friend and it wasn’t easy.  He’s big on having control of his own destiny.  I was too.. we were very similar in that regard.  He along with most of the world don’t like the idea that they aren’t in control of their actions.  And it seems silly to suggest otherwise.  If you’re not in control of your actions then who is? If I tell myself to do something, I’m obviously the one doing it aren’t I?

A puppet is free when it believes it has no strings.

There’s a great scene in West World where Maeve is learning that she’s an AI for the first time.  The technicians tell her that everything that she does and says is according to her programming.  She persists and claims that her actions are her own and that she has free will.  To prove her otherwise, they show her a tablet with her speech algorithms on it.  She looks down and sees that the screen had predicted everything that she said.  And as she was about to comment on it, the screen predicted that too.  She couldn’t reconcile what she was seeing with her core programming and started to glitch.

Are we so different? Our programming resides in our subconscious and we behave according to our programming.  The difference seems to be that if I were to show them what they were going to say or before they said or did it, they could still choose to believe otherwise.  A remarkable and curious feature of the human mind.  I think a part of it may be that this perspective results in such a fundamental shift in how reality is perceived, that people need a clear and reasonable path to map this philosophy on to their normal lives.  You can’t just say that free will doesn’t exist.  You have to show why it doesn’t exist, and you have to show how it’s just a more honest way of seeing the world that we already know.  Easier said than done… but I had a shower thought.

I’ve said that the field of math is a demonstration and perhaps even evidence of determinism.  I’ve even suggested that an equation as simple as 2+2=4 represents a microcosm of a deterministic universe.  Yesterday, it also helped me better understand this inflection point that we call a decision.

If you thought about the number 10 and a big number 10 popped up in front of you, it would be reasonable to assume that you were responsible for creating that number 10.  If you did it 1000 times in a row and it popped up 1000 times, you would probably declare for certain that you were responsible for creating each of those number 10s.  But what if I told you that not once during those 1000 times that a 10 popped up in front of you, did you look behind you.  You were so focused on the product of the equation, that you never took the time to look for the equation itself.  For each of those 1000 times that a big number 10 popped up in front of you, there was a 5+5 behind you.  Without the 5+5, there would be no 10.  With the 5+5, the only number that would appear ahead of you is 10.

You…. are the equal sign.

That decision, or that inflection point, is where cause meets effect.  It’s where the equation leading up to that inflection point creates a product.  It’s where everything that was becomes what is.  It’s where everything that goes into making a decision becomes the path that you choose to take.  Except you didn’t really choose it because everything that went into that decision was only going to produce one path forward.  And that’s ok.  If I was going to choose to be any part of an equation it would probably be the equal sign. It’s like being in the front seat of the roller coaster.  You might be strapped in and on rails, and there’s no guarantee of safety, but you get to see all best parts as they happen and one way or another, it’s going to be an incredible ride.

Trump’s Honesty

I didn’t know much about Trump before he ran for office.  I knew he was a wealthy business person, had hotels, and was on the apprentice.  I also remember him promoting a Trump board game way back in the day.  I’ve paid close attention over the last 3 years and I’ve learned a fair bit since.  For those who take the time to understand him, he’s a fascinating person.

One of the things that’s had my attention since he took to twitter was his sense of honesty.  It was bewildering for Trump to lie so frequently and so obviously, and then to see it resonate so well with his base.  All this talk of drain the swamp had so much to do with dishonesty in how politicians interact with the public.  Yet here was a person who lied freely while his audience was chanting ‘drain the swamp’.  A lot of people write that off as a cult of personality or a result of poor education.  Both are likely to be true but I suspect there’s more to it than that.

As we’ve seen, there’s no shortage of wealthy people who are fans of Trump.  One of them is a friend of mine and we’ve been debating the topic of Trump for nearly 3 years now.  My friend is a good man, runs a good business, and really does value things like honesty.  Early on, I kept asking him why he was supportive of someone who lied so often and so freely.  At first he denied the lies.  So I kept pointing them out.  Then he said that it was par for the course in politics.  So I showed him stats that suggested he was in a league of his own.  He said my fact checking sites were biased.  He had barricaded himself in… so I had to try another approach.

One of his favorite authors had a blog which talked politics and economics, and I wanted to see what he had said about Trump.  There was a very interesting line about “taking trump seriously, but not literally.’  Something clicked.  If you took Trump literally, then he was a very dishonest person and not very smart.  But if you took him seriously, well that didn’t require him to be intellectually honest.

I really does seem like we’re approaching some type of grand tipping point here.  One of the things I keep seeing is a battle within our own minds between thought and emotion.  They’re very different parts or the brain that have evolved for very different purposes.  100,000 years ago, the emotional part of our brains were far more valuable to us than the logical side.  But in a world full of abstract concepts and so heavily supported by technology, thought has become more valuable.  I suspect that this is something that’s rarely thought about, let alone discussed.  But I think that tension exists and it’s manifesting in a variety of different ways.  Including Donald Trump.

Trump doesn’t have an intellectual sense of honesty.  It’s rather obvious at this point as even my wealthy friend has conceded.  Now it’s not about what he says, but rather about what he does.  He’s seen as a ‘salty sailor’, the kind of person who cusses and isn’t politically correct, but also the kind of person who wouldn’t hesitate to pull you out of a burning building.  For the record, I don’t think captain bone spurs is pulling anyone out of a burning building.  Trump hasn’t demonstrated much of an internal compass outside of self-preservation and ‘winning’.  For him, I suspect life is a zero-sum game where nothing really matters besides beating your opponent.  In that context, he’s found intellectual dishonesty to be far more advantageous.  But it’s not the only form of honesty.

I still see Trump supporters talk about how honest he is.  And when they make references, I kinda get it.  He’s willing to say all kinds of things that your average politician wouldn’t be willing to say.  Much if not most is misleading or inaccurate, but the topics his willing to talk about aren’t.  I would think to myself that if only he would actually be honest on these topics, this would transform politics in the best way.  But there’s still something here.

It dawned on me this morning… that Trump is intellectually dishonest, and emotionally honest.  He has no emotional filter.  When you see Trump, you get Trump.  There’s this wonderful authenticity to him when he brags or when he gets angry, because that’s actually him.  That’s not the polished politician who we’ve become accustomed to.  We’re used to politicians presenting themselves the way they think we want them to present themselves.  The end result is a product which we all known is a front.  Hillary Clinton probably would’ve been a fine president, but the people couldn’t get through her emotional dishonesty and she paid the price for it.  Curious that American politics finally made us choose between dishonesty and dishonesty.

For decades, we’ve wanted to see behind the veil and know who these leaders really are.  Trump was the first President to be emotionally honest with the people.  Perhaps, in many ways, Trump was the first president that we really got to know.  Even better, the whole world will probably get to know him a lot better over the next couple years as the Mueller report pulls back the curtain on the rest.

 

A solution to steroids in sports

With this picogram nonsense coming out of Jon Jones and the UFC, I’ve been thinking about this problem again recently.  I find it quite interesting.  The idea is that you don’t want anybody taking performance enhancing drugs to avoid giving anyone an unfair advantage when competing.  But where do you draw the line on what’s a drug, or enhanced performance, or the difference between a fair and unfair advantage?

Most of these fighters are on a scientific diet that includes a range of daily supplements.  The optimal fuel for your body is undoubtedly an advantage.  But some supplements are considered fair use and some aren’t.  Some are outright illegal.  It seems like we’re putting all kinds of things in our bodies, looking for that added advantage.  If so, avoiding the banned substances list seems more like a guideline than a requirement.  Tito used to always say that if you weren’t cheating, you weren’t trying.  I learned that if you want to change someone’s behavior, you can’t just tell someone that they’re not allowed because they’ll just look for a way around it.  You have to give them a better option, and let them choose it.

I have a friend who still says give them all the roids they want and let them go to town.  Considering how entertaining things were back in the days of Pride, the fans would certainly benefit.  But I would protest and say at that point, it’s not a competition of skill but a competition of chemistry.  I would also suggest that it would be danger to the fighters as they would trade years off of their bodies to go faster and harder today.

When GSP stepped away and criticized the prevelence of steroids in the sport, I was still a little skeptical.  I was skeptical because I knew they were doing drug testing and assumed a professional standard.   But I also just didn’t know that much about it.  Then USADA showed up and it couldn’t have been more obvious.  Not only were a ton of fighters testing positive for PEDs, many of those who didn’t, looked like deflated versions of themselves.  It would seem like we’ve reached an even playing field, but I don’t think that’s the case.

From the dietitians, to the nutritionists, to the supplements, to the substances on the banned list, everyone’s looking for the best fuel available.  And rightfully so, it’s a big part of performing at your best.  And most of it, when used appropriately, is good for your body.  People often forget how frequently steroids are prescribed by doctors.  So here’s my wild idea, what not put together a team of medical specialists and task them with creating a healthy regiment of supplements?  I’m sure you could apply this to other sports but we’ll start with the UFC.

Each fighter is given a weekly check-up by a member of the medical team.  The check-ups will help the medical staff to track and monitor the athlete’s health over time.  On the first check-up, the fighter will be given the option to fight naturally, or join the enhancement program.  If you choose to fight naturally, you’ll be issued a banned substances list and receive standard testing.  If you choose the enhancement program, the ufc will cook you up a tailored PED cocktail and ensure that you have the diet, training, and recovery regiment to support it.

It’s important to give fighters the opportunity to use PEDs or not to use PEDs.  Those who choose not to and find success will be rewarded by the fans accordingly.  But for those who do, the objective will be peak health and not peak performance.  If you prioritize peak performance in the short-term, you’ll start to make trades for the athlete’s long-term health.  This is an important distinction and at the crux of this approach becoming corrupted.  The purpose of using PEDs isn’t to create the most violent fights but rather to increase the short-term and long-term health of the athletes.  In doing so, we hope the fighters will exceed their physical limits, that they recover more quickly from their injuries, that they will become injured less frequently, that their careers will be extended, and that their health in retirement will be optimized.

In the current system, PEDs still exist.  Right now, according to the UFC, the testing system is simultaneously so accurate that it can test for amounts that ‘shouldn’t be testable’, yet so inaccurate that plenty of PED users have found ways to navigate the system.  While I think they’re full of shit on a range of things, they have a point.  You can test right down to the picogram, and still have people figure out how to game the system.  It’s a perpetual game of cat and mouse where the mouse is never truly caught.  You gotta give them an option that they’re rather have.  For those who want to use PEDs, let them.  Get a program tailored specifically to their body and training regiment, by medical professionals, who are looking out of the health of the athlete, and can monitor them on a regular basis.  Not only would athletes be far less motivated to find their own PEDs, it would be very difficult to include additional PEDs into your body when you’re already been monitored on a regular basis by a medical staff.  For most fighters, I don’t think it would be worth the effort.

The net result should be a higher caliber of athlete.  Once which is chemically enhanced, but since when are chemicals not fuel and since when are we not biological machines?  As long as long-term health is the priority, this could push science in a meaningful direction.  As it is, most R&D for PEDs is based around avoiding detection and maximizing short-term performance.  If we change the priorities, we change the motivations.  If we change the motivations, we change the R&D.  All of the sudden, the chemists and biologists are looking to better understand the body and what we put into it.  The data coming out of a research center like this could end up being highly valuable to the world.

Where I draw the line with the right

The city I live in is relatively progressive.  Not necessarily in a ‘leftist’ sorta way, but more so in a classic liberal sort of way.  In this landscape, it’s difficult for right-wing nonsense to get any kind of traction.  But that’s not to say that I don’t see it.  I have a close friend who has started following some of the center-right media like Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder.  He’s been testing me with some of his nonsense.  So perhaps it’s time to call it out here too.

Trans people are people.  I don’t think we’d be in this free speech mess around gender pronouns if we hadn’t collectively been giant assholes to transgender people.  Throughout history, we’ve treated those who we didn’t understand with contempt and history has never looked kindly upon it.  It happened with people from unfamiliar cultures, it happened with people with unfamiliar skin colors, it happened with people with an unfamiliar sexuality, and it happened with trans people.  Conservatism has never been on the right side of human rights because the role of conservatism is to avoid change.  If those who are different are understood, accepted, and appreciated, they don’t special protections.

Full-time work needs to pay a living wage.  There’s a suggestion that a minimum wage is a bad idea.  Apparently, by allowing businesses to pay wages lower than the current minimum wage, workers will make more money.  That open market model only works if two forces are firmly in play: A strong incentive to pay the workers as little as possible (to maximize company profits), and a strong incentive to pay the workers as much as possible (to maximize talent acquisition).  If the incentive to maximize company profits is stronger than the incentive to maximize talent acquisition, there is a strong downward pressure on wages.  That downward pressure can be so strong that someone working 40 hours a week may not make enough to make a living wage.  If we’re in an environment where the cost of living is rising quickly, it gets even worse.  And who benefits?  Clearly it’s not the worker.  The business will benefit from better margins, but for how long?  An underpaid workforce is more of a liability than an asset.  When business owners under pay their employees less, they rely more heavily on social assistance programs.  These programs are funded by tax payers, and not the ones who aren’t making enough money to pay any significant tax.  Paying your laborers less than what it costs them to live a middle class life is a terrible idea for any economy.

Racism still exists.  Racism exists, sexism exists, ageism exists… there’s no lack of ways in which we try to generalize others to their detriment.  I wish we could solve them all at once by understanding that prejudice leads to inaccurate understandings and bad decisions.. but we have to start somewhere.  And I’m not interested in addressing controversial racism like who got kicked out of a Starbucks or who’s modelling a black panther costume.  I’m talking about that KKK shit.  That sand n*gger shit.  That BUILD THE WALL shit.  That is some of the ugliest behavior I’ve seen in western society and the right needs to do a better job of standing up to it.  Everyone on the right wishes the moderate left would call out their more extreme counter-parts.  Well everyone on the left wants the same from the right.  It can’t be a, ‘sure, we all know that racism exists but it’s not the problem here.’  Without racism, we wouldn’t have Trump.  Without racism, we wouldn’t have a government shutdown right now.  Without racism, Fox News wouldn’t have been fear mongering around a migrant caravan.  It might not be at the center of all our problems, but it does seem to make most of our problems worse.  Identity politics exist on both sides, and both sides need to hold their crazies accountable.

Stop cherry picking your science.  Climate change is real.  Humans have contributed to it significantly.  The scientific consensus here is over 99%.  Why are you still arguing this?  I understand if you’re a stake holder in the fossil fuel industry, but otherwise you’re just being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.  Even if it wasn’t man made, our window of opportunity for maintaining an ecosystem that’s habitable for humans is closing.  We should be all hands on deck, but the right is dragging their feet.  If you have no interest in listening to scientists on this, then you’re about as useful as those on the far left which ignore biology to advance their gender politics agenda.

Religion.  Religion exists across the political spectrum, but the right seems to have their own approach to it.  The evangelicals denounced a democratic president for having an immoral character, then celebrated Trump on the basis that moral character isn’t an important consideration.  The religious right also argues that abortion is a religious issue when the bible offers no such guidance beyond telling you how to do one.  They’re also quick to point out all the flaws of religions like Islam, while failing to acknowledging the dark history of western religions or the issues of today.  And to make it all worse, politicians are now abusing religion again, excusing their actions as some twisted act of god.  Next time you see a politician say “well that’s what I believe”, look closely.

Feminism is a big deal.  I’m not talking about the man-hating variety that seems to be pushing it’s way into the mainstream today.  I’m talking about a movement that started centuries ago.. maybe even millennia.  It’s about our species evolving to the point where men didn’t have to be hunters and gatherers, and women didn’t have to forage and care for the kids.  It’s about men no longer having to go out and do hard labor and women being able to join the work force.  It’s about moving past our traditional blueprints of what men and women were supposed to be, and exploring the freedom of what we can be within a modern society.  One of the smartest things western society ever did was bring women into the work force.  There’s still more ground to cover.

You overestimate your abilities.  I used to assume that people who were wealthy were naturally hardworking and very smart.  Then I started to meet some of them.  Many of them were smart and many of them were hard working, but what they were more likely to have in common was an inflated sense of ego.  They took responsibility for their actions, and since they were successful, they were responsible for their success.  But then I would look behind them and see an incredible amount of support.  More often than not, it included a good family, a private school, an ivy league education, connections, and an inheritance.  Bit of a stretch to say you’re responsible for all those factors too.  What I’ve noticed from the right is that tend to equate financial success with human value.  Those who find a path to financial success overestimate what their contribution was to that point, and underestimate what was already in motion.  And then they dismiss those who are less fortunate as lazy or uninspired.

You’re selfish.  Something else I’ve noticed about the right is their tendency to be selfish, after they’ve ‘made it’.  When I was younger, I wasn’t all that interested in helping my fellow human.  It was about being as successful as possible, as soon as possible, and then helping my fellow human.  I see a lot of people take a similar path, but when they arrive at success, they’re much less interested in helping others.  Now it’s about paying the least amount of tax possible, or doing away with social assistance programs that you don’t personally use, or avoiding giving money to the homeless ‘because they’re just gonna use it on drugs anyways’.  And what I find remarkable is that liberals do this too, just not when they’re poor.  The rich shouldn’t give to the poor out of sympathy.  The few should invest in the many, because none of us truly do anything on our own.

Your immigration policies suck.  Besides the fact that they’re currently rooted in racism, they’re also shortsighted.  Most people would be surprised to find that children of wealthy families make ill-equipped leaders.  But it’s not that hard to understand why.  When you go through adversity, you experience challenges that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.  Parents who have fled to the US from a harsh environment provide a powerful and unique environment for children to grow up in.  That home is more likely to produce a world leader or Pulitzer prize winner than someone who was so rich that they didn’t need to bother learning the local language.  Written on the statue of liberty is, ““Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, where you escape from terrible conditions and are given the chance to make something of yourself.  This is the secret sauce of the American immigration policy. If we close the doors to all that have made us great, and only open our doors to those who are already ‘great’, I think we’re in trouble.

You can be an argumentative dick.  I know, because I used to be one too.  Back in university, everyone was for gay marriage but me.  I had no issues with gay people… or them getting married.. but I didn’t like that everyone was agreeing with one another on something they hadn’t really thought about.  So I said I was down with them being legally married, but wasn’t OK with them appropriating a ceremony from a religion which was expressly against gay marriage.  I may have had a point, but I was arguing for the sake of arguing.  I see this happen from the right so often.  You realize that your up against someone who hasn’t quite thought things through, and rather than help them get there, you pick them apart and try to make them feel like they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Meanwhile, it’s quite possible that they had a point and just weren’t able to argue it effectively.  Or maybe they had a good idea but didn’t quite know how to make it a reality.  Fantastic, you won that argument.. but at what cost?  At what point is the pursuit of truth more important to you than ‘winning’?

The relentless spin. If I were to guess, the right is more intelligent than the left.  It’s not that a ‘right-wing’ ideology produces smarter people, it’s that intelligence lends to success,, success lends to wanting to keep things as-is, and wanting to keep things as-is lends to conservatism.  You know, conserving the good life.  So when the less fortunate get together and say things aren’t fair, we need change… you say that things are fair, that you’re an example of how to be successful, and to just keep working hard.  But then the less fortunate notice that there are far more hardworking poor people than rich people.  At the end of the day, the left might not have the best idea for how to get things done, but they are often right about what needs to be done.  And no matter what they present you with, you’ll spin it to your favor.  If you were up against someone who could debate you properly, you’d look absolutely foolish.  But the mainstream media doesn’t provide that format so everyone’s left speaking into their echo chambers.  I can’t tell you how many times colleagues of mine have tried to spin the most ridiculous Trump lies into something reasonable.  Recently, they’ve started to give up.. suggesting that it’s not what he says but what he does.  Well he’s behaving like the most compromised or corrupt politician in modern American history.. and you’re still trying to spin it.

You don’t want a meritocracy.  I’m a big fan of equal opportunity over equal outcome.  So is the right.. it’s one of their primary arguments against social security programs.  The left hasn’t been able to wrap their head around the concept in a way that fits their ideology.  I think the political spectrum is generally clueless about what a meritocracy really entails.  For example, there’s a good chance that in a true meritocracy, most top CEOs would still be men.  But you know what else happens in a meritocracy?  Those responsible for educating future generations aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.  But perhaps the most powerful example, in a meritocracy, inheritance wouldn’t exist.  In a meritocracy, you receive resources in exchange for the creation of value.  The more value you produce, the more resources you have to work with.  In that model, someone like an Elon Musk would be one of the most well resourced individuals in the world while someone like Trump would be broke.  But in a world where Trump can leave billions in wealth to his children.. something’s not right.  In a world where future generations of your family can enjoy substantial resources despite having not created any value… something not right.  In a meritocracy, Harvard isn’t filled with legacy students and lucrative internships aren’t filled with people who’s parents know an executive at the company.  That whole idea of an inside track.. the powerful helping the powerful.. none of it exists.

 

If we could find a way to cast aside all the nonsense… from all sides of the political spectrum… and come together to be effective for the greater good… we could probably do something pretty darn special.

Markets look like they’re being propped up.

The only thing that moves the market up is more buyers than sellers.  The only thing that moves the market down is more sellers than buyers.  But we’re talking about dollars, not people.

I pulled my money out of the market ahead of James Comey’s hearing last summer.  I was concerned Comey would say something that would lead to a Trump version of the Saturday Night Massacre.  I was wrong.  Although not by much, apparently.  As it turned out, Trump did try to fire Mueller but was stopped by his White House counsel who had to threaten resignation to stop the order.

Fortunately for me, I knew a market pullback was inevitable against Trump.  As of last week, I’m back to beating the market.  While that serves as a bit of an ego boost, that’s not what I’ve been paying attention to.  I’ve been watching the market lose ground for months now, but something looked different over the last couple weeks.  The market looked like it was being propped up.

There might be those who suggest that such speculation is irresponsible.  That so much volume moves through the market that it would be impossible for anyone to make a significant or reliable impact.  Or that high frequency trading machines occupy most of the volume so it wouldn’t be that simple.  Or, isn’t market manipulation illegal?

The Chinese government intervenes with the Chinese stock market on a regular basis, guiding things towards and outcome which they’d prefer.  It’s being reported that the Saudis are doing the same thing every time bad news hits.  But not America right?  Prior to the great recession, JP Morgan rallied his fellow millionaires and bankers to buoy the market.  The purpose was to lift the public’s confidence in the markets.  It’s genuinely the core purpose of market manipulation, to give the general public a false sense of security.  The wealthy can’t control the markets, but they can certainly influence how the public sees it.  Fortunately for everyone, markets move in cycles.

Over the last couple weeks, I saw the potential for a huge market sell-off.  The kind that might’ve put us past any meaningful tipping point.  Almost every trading day started with significant downward momentum.  Yet on a regular basis, the market would have a sharp rebound mid-day.  In many cases, the inflection point looked deliberate and calculated.  Almost every day that included a mid-day rebound closed in positive territory.

For example, the SP500 closed at 2485 yesterday, and opened at 2482 today, starting with that same downward trend.  Then the market almost immediately shot up to 2507, suggesting an influx of buys.  Then the downward momentum took back over and dragged the market back down to where it started the day at 2482.  Then immediately, the market shot back up again, back to 2506 which is where it’s at currently.

There could be a variety of explanations for such market behavior, including pure chance.  But it looks rather systemic to me.  It looks like someone said don’t let the market have a bad day.  And it’s not just today.  I’ve seen this behavior on almost every day that’s closed up in the last 2 weeks.  If I were to guess, I’d say that there are some very wealthy and very powerful individuals who are spending a great deal of money to maintain public confidence in the markets.  I would guess that they see the writing on the wall just as the rest of us do, but are victims of their hubris and think they can stop what’s coming.  JP Morgan and his banker friends couldn’t stop the great depression.  I don’t think the wealthy elite and bankers of today can stop this either.

Where I Draw the Line with the Left

I spent a great deal of time and effort staying off the political spectrum.  I strongly suspect that the political divide of left and right, or red and blue is a product of the governing class.  Government reform would require a united voter base.  So they divide and conquer.

Something I’ve observed is that those on the far ends of the political spectrum tend to have a great deal in common.  They’re loud.  They’re aggressive.  They assume the moral high ground.  They have questionable beliefs.  And they aren’t very reasonable when those beliefs are challenged.  I’m not the first to have noticed this either.  I think it’s referred to as the horseshoe diagram, and it suggests that the silent majority tend to agree on most reasonable issues.

On this political spectrum, it’s been well documented when the right can go too far.  Nazis.  When a right-wing ideology starts talking about racial supremacy, that’s a red flag.  When they start targeting those of a particular race or religion, blaming them for the country’s problems,  that’s a red flag.  When they start to deny science to advance their own political agenda, that’s a red flag.  An entire generation of Germans learned that in the most painful of ways.  So… if that’s where the right can go too far, do we not have similar standards for the left?  Equality is not equality unless we are all held to account.

Jordan Peterson has made this question a cornerstone of his debates.  He’s often confronted by media personalities who assume that he represents the ‘alt-right’.  In most cases, he addresses that claim and acknowledges that while conservatism and tradition can have value, there is absolutely a point at which it goes too far.  He often suggests Nazis are a clear example of when the right can go too far.  He’ll then ask the interviewer if they could give an example of where the left has gone too far.  In most cases, they can’t answer the question.  I’ve tried it myself and had a similar experience.  On the extreme ends of the political spectrum, it would seem as though you can do no wrong.  As long as you’re fighting for a righteous cause, your actions are justified.  But when both sides take this approach, and both sides believe in their righteousness, there is no middle ground.

I have no issues holding someone to account for a flawed ideology, regardless of it’s right, left, up, down or sideways.  Today, I saw a tweet that was posted to social media that has motivated me to say something.  This was a tweet by @legal_feminista.  It said:

Let’s enter 2019 with the right energy:

Trans women are women.  Sex work is work.  Black lives matter.  Rape culture is real.  Yes all men.  Fuck white supremacy.  Abolish borders.  Free Palestine.  Protect indigenous rights.  Support mental health.  Believe women.

Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to something like this as I’ve seen or heard most of it before.  But this tweet received about 60,000 likes and 17,000 retweets in about 48 hours.  This perspective isn’t an outlier, it’s mainstream.  So… let’s dig in and see what we find.

Trans women are women.  That depends on how you define women.  If gender is a social construct and not determined by biology, then sure, trans women are women.  But what about biology? If gender is a social construct, surely, sex must be biological.  Otherwise, we’re ignoring the significance of things like the female and male reproductive systems, or the Y chromosome.  And what happens when trans women start using the natural advantages afforded to a biological male to put women at a disadvantage? There are now various stories about trans women dominating against female athletes.  I’m not sure these competitors would agree that all trans women are women.  At some point, I think we’ll have to acknowledge that there is a very real biological component to being a male or a female.  But in addition to that, we have masculinity and femininity.  Part biology, part psychology, part sociology.. this is what gives us masculine women and feminine men, and really masculine men and really feminine women.  Traditionally, we thought that we should all be masculine men or feminine women and it forced many of us to pretend to be people we weren’t.  Now we’re a little more open minded.  Sex comes primarily in 2 flavors.. with a swirl here and there.  But who we become as individuals, well that’s a flavor that’s unique to each individual.  It includes how masculine or feminine you are, who you’re attracted to, how you choose to dress.. and as long as it’s consensual, it’s all good.  I genuinely think that if we had a little more love for all the unusual ways we turn out, people would be more secure and confident in who they are and less consumed with trying to become someone else.

Sex work is work.  Damn right.  Got your back on this one sister.  Making prostitution illegal is about as sensible as making alcohol and cannabis illegal.  By pushing it into the shadows, you put good people at risk.  By bringing it into the light, we give ourselves a chance of doing it right.

Black lives matter.  Yes, because all lives matter.  My issue with the black lives matters movement was that they weren’t on board with all lives matter.  I agree that racism against black people exists.  I agree that it shows up in matters of police brutality.  But I disagree that police brutality is a race issue.  Black lives matter had an opportunity to open their doors and champion an All Lives Matters movement that would’ve forced police everywhere to reevaluate how they interact with the public.  It could’ve been the solution to police brutality for people of every color.  It could’ve been an opportunity for the black community to be leaders for all of America.  Instead, ‘all lives matters’ was understood to be an attempt at dismissing their cause or taking the spotlight off the black community.  What a missed opportunity.  And meanwhile, you have prominent leaders within the BLM community speaking about black racial supremacy to crowds of cheering fans.

Rape culture is real.  Maybe.  It depends on how you define it.  Growing up, my understanding of rape was someone being held down against their will, being fully aware of the experience as it’s happening, kicking and screaming for help, and dealing with the emotional trauma afterwards.  It was easy to understand that as one of the most terrible crimes a person could commit.  I’m now told that if two people get drunk and have sex, they’ve effectively raped each other because you can’t consent if you’re drunk.  I was also told that if a woman gives consent, but changes her mind during sex without telling her partner, if the partner continues, he’s a rapist.  I think we’re losing sight of the difference between a violent rape and a regrettable sexual encounter.  By no means am I condoning any behavior that remotely resembles rape, but I do think that it’s important to recognize degrees of severity.  I think it would be more accurate to say that we have a culture of sexual harassment.  But if you stop here without asking why, you’re missing half the equation.  I don’t think men want the responsibility of pursuing women for sex.  Most are terrible at knowing whether or not a woman is interested in them.  Most are clueless at figuring out how to flirt.  And most take rejection pretty hard.  And to make it worse, in the same way that men have been socialized to pursue sex, women have been socialized to withhold it.  If we’re going to find our way out of this mess, I think it starts with honesty and respect.  Personally, I vote for women to take over the role of asking guys out for a bit.

Yes all men.   No.  This is literally sexism 101.  It’s like saying that all women are neurotic.  Or all black people are prone to crime.  Or all Muslims are terrorists.  Just because you’ve had bad experiences with some men doesn’t justify you treating all men with the same contempt.

Fuck white supremacy.  Fuck all racial supremacy.

Abolish borders.  Sure.  but how?  Who would you pay your taxes to?  What area would your democratically elected official preside over?  What would be the jurisdiction for the laws you voted for?  Or was this just about firing back at Trump for garbage immigration policies?

Free Palestine.  We should all look for opportunities to put the guns down and hash things out like like reasonable adults.  Unfortunately, religion prevents that.

Protect indigenous rights. Or maybe recognize that indigenous rights, voluntary segregation, and systematic exploitation have destroyed America’s indigenous cultures.  I think it’s time to try integration.  There’s a great deal we can learn from Native American culture, including finding a more balanced relationship with nature.  I think it’s about time we took a real look at their history, and show respect where respect is due.  And once we’ve rewritten history to accurately reflect the role of Native American’s in the development of modern western culture, we can begin to heal.  And part of that will be learning to heal as one family.  If done right, indigenous rights should be no different than any other human rights.

Support mental health.  Absolutely.  Mental health isn’t as obvious as physical health… but can be that much more impactful.  We’re waking up to this reality now.. and there’s a lot of work to be done.

Believe women.  No.  It would be just as foolish to say, ‘Believe men’.  It’s interesting because the last time I saw this, it was ‘believe the victim’.  But what happens when the victim is a man?  Is it still so believable?  The problem isn’t in who we believe, but rather the fact that we should to believe anyone in the first place.  Believing someone is assuming they’re telling the truth without knowing if they are.  Once you have evidence, you can understand whether or not someone is telling the truth.  Without that evidence, you’re left with assumptions.  While some women might think so what, it’ll do more good than harm, consider this:  What would stop someone from paying a woman to make false claims against a man?  Do you believe the woman?  Or do you presume innocent until proven guilty?  On multiple occasions, people have paid women to make false claims against men.  If we believe all women, this will keep happening.  No victim is worth abandoning the right to innocence until proven guilty.  We should trust those who tell the truth.  We should support those who have experienced hardship.  We should hold accountable, those who caused harm to others.  Regardless of what’s between your legs.

 

 

Determinism: Am I Going Crazy?

Back in university, I had this idea that the universe was unfolding like an elaborate chain reaction. I asked a friend who was taking physics and he shot down the idea, talking about chaos theory. I didn’t quite understand what he was saying but he knew physics better than I did so I left it. About 15 years later, the idea is still stuck in my head.

I’ve since learned that the idea is not an original thought and that it’s largely referred to as determinism. The reading that I’ve done on it fascinates me, particularly because it’s an area which draws the attention of mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers. For many years I’ve understood these individuals to be among the most genuine seekers of truth.  By no means am I an expert in any of these fields, but I’ve made some observations I can’t seem to disprove.

It rests on a 4 physical laws:

  1. The Law of Conservation of Energy states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.

  2. The Law of Conservation of Mass states that for any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as the system’s mass cannot change, no quantity can be added nor removed. Hence, the quantity of mass is conserved over time
  3. Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity expresses the fact that mass and energy are the same physical entity and can be changed from one to another.
  4. Newton’s third law states to every action there is always an opposing and equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.

 

Whatever the entirety of existence is, a universe, a multi-verse or something else we have still yet to comprehend, in it’s totality, it’s still a closed system.  And within this closed system, we have a set amount of matter and energy, which in effect, are the same physical entity.  In this closed system, nothing can be created nor destroyed.  If every action can only produce an equal and opposite reaction, every action operates with a fixed outcome. It’s why 2+2 always equals 4. When you ask why something has happened, you’re identifying cause and effect.  But every reaction is also an action in itself, like ripples from dropping a rock in a pond.  If you go to that last ripple that hit the shore and ask how it got there, you’d follow a chain of causation back to the rock that was dropped in.  Then you could ask why the rock was dropped.  Or how the rock got there.  The reality is that this chain of causation goes back further than even the existence of the rock or the lake.  It likely goes all the way back to the big bang.  In all likelihood, it goes back further than that.  Perhaps when the universe is done expanding, it will reverse course, eventually collapsing in on itself at the exact point and moment that another universe begins.

Anyway…

The problem with this theory seems to be the inability to prove or disprove it. If someone believes in free will, this is a direct challenge to their beliefs and they’ll want to see proof. I was big on free will when I was younger, if someone was talking to me about destiny, I’d say something like, ‘show me what I’m destined to do and I’ll just do otherwise’. Within the theory of determinism though, that entire conversation and outcome are just part of how the universe is unfolding.  As is everything that I’m discussing now.

It occurred to me that if determinism is true, it would be theoretically possible to predict the future to 100% certainty. The problem with testing that theory is that just like a math equation, to calculate an outcome to any level of certainty, you need to know the variables and how they’re interacting. Considering how interconnected everything is, and how little of the universe we’ve yet to grasp, it would be all but impossible to know every variable necessary to predict the next link in the chain. But if you could, theoretically, you could make that prediction with 100% certainty.

So if we accept that we may never be able to test this at a universal scale, can it be proven on a smaller scale? I asked myself, in what situations do we know 100% of the variables and look to predict an outcome? Nothing in the physical realm.. our efforts in predicting weather are a classic example of not being able to see the entire equation.  Then it hit me: Math! As simple as it may be, “2+2=” is a closed system in which 100% of the variables are known and we understand how they’re interacting.  As a result, we can predict the outcome to 100% accuracy. And it doesn’t matter how elaborate the equation becomes or how many variables you include. As long as you know the variables and how they interact with one another, the next step in the chain can be predicted to absolute certainty.

Once this sunk in, a lot of other things started to make sense to me. One was particularly significant though, the question ‘Why?’. When you ask why something has happened, you’re looking at the chain. You’re looking for the action that caused the reaction. Or maybe you’re looking for the action before that, or the action before that. It’s easy to do through the distilled lens of math where you tend to deal with isolated instances of cause and effect. Physics seems to be where we observe how these variables interact over longer periods of time like seconds or years. I suppose then, it’s the philosopher’s role to ask why again and again, until we realize that it is the longest of all roads and one which will always and ultimately take us back to the beginning.

Am I crazy?

I’m envisioning a flip book, the kind that you would doodle an animation with.  Each page is a universe wide, but only moment deep.  Each page looks nearly identical to the last and nearly identical to the next, but as you start to flip them you see the universe unfold.  Each page is a link in the chain of causality.  Each page leads only to the next page.  The story has already been drawn.

I would suggest that free will – the ability to make the universe as we see fit – is not our gift.  Instead, it was the universe that made us as it saw fit.  We were gifted with consciousness, the awareness of one’s self and their place within the universe.  I’ve found this awareness to be deeply humbling while providing a great sense of appreciation.  Consider that the matter and energy that makes up every bit of who I am has existed in this universe since long before I came along.  Well before our species came along.  Well before our planet was even formed.  And through some crazy chain of causation, I exist today, with an ability to recognize all this, and write about it.  And that even this moment here, is just part of the story.