A Pair of Essays

The System is a Little Frayed at the Seams


In life, there are certain things we have control over—such as where we decide to work, or go to school. And there are other things that are out of our hands. Even then, the things we feel we have control over could slip away at any moment, and the things that we feel are beyond us—such as the state of the world; and sometimes, the state of our own lives—are really more up to us to determine than we realize.

One of the strange and unique things about existence is that we each, essentially, live in worlds that are separate from those of the people around us in all but the most superficial of ways—i.e., the physical. And in fact, it is merely our perception of the physical that determines how we feel about it, and which, in doing so, determines what is there. (“One man’s heaven is another man’s Hell,” right?)

Because, if you really think about it, which is more important: an object (say, a toy from your childhood), or how that object makes you feel? To someone else, that toy that elicits nostalgia is maybe just another piece of useless junk on the pile. And that is because the majority of this world is relative to the person perceiving it.

But then there is this remarkable thing that happens when enough people believe the same thing: sometimes, whatever it is begins to seem like the “right” thing or the “wrong” thing, or, stranger still, the “Reality” of things. The statement, “History is written by the victor,” is evoked here. But for a more relevant example, just look at advertisements, which say, “Coca cola – cool! Beer – Manly! Thin and pretty – Important!” When, really, it’s all inherently meaningless and, oftentimes, incorrect.

So while pure water might, in fact, be the best thing to quench your thirst, people instead think of a Coke. Or while fruit and salad and vegetables might be both the best thing for them and the best tasting thing, properly prepared, people say, “A Big Mac would really hit the spot,” in large because that’s how they’ve been conditioned to think… well, and also because the food is physically and psychologically addictive. (Just think about the weird cravings you get for Mickey D’s and tell me there isn’t something unnatural about that.)

But, as a species, we would be perfectly happy without McDonalds, Frito Lay, and T.V. dinners if we had never had them in the first place. So, sure, this food is probably comforting to those of you who grew up with it, or eat it all the time, but it is far from ideal. And yet it has become a part of our diets anyways. (Sort of like how we use shampoos and conditioners with ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which has been suspected to be a carcinogen and to cause canker sores when used in toothpaste. And who cares if it doesn’t cause cancer? Just the fact that we suspect it should set off warning bells in the public consciousness. Sort of like how certain Red food dyes (No. 2, 40, and 106, according to an Oxford Toxological science journal) cause DNA damage in mice. I mean… holy fuck, are you serious, American Food Industry? Is it really that important that our disgusting, store bought pastries are that particular shade of pink or whatever?)

But if water and natural foods really are so much better than Coke and Cheetos, why don’t we eat them instead? Wouldn’t we, as a society, be able to see through the bullshit of T.V. ads? And if these ads aren’t informing us with anything valuable, on the whole, then why do they work so well?

It is because they suggest a unifying image of a new reality that we all create. And a reality that, in the grand scheme of things, is about as “real” as the idea that ‘women are less intelligent/competent than men, and thus are incapable of voting rationally,’ or that ‘people of differing skin colors are subhuman'... Both ideas since determined to be fallacies by a significant enough number of people that they are now unacceptable to most; both ideas which were once considered indisputable truth by just as significant a number of people.

Now, you might ask, “What, exactly, is the ‘Grand Scheme of things’ then?

And the answer is simple, really. (Because let’s take things one step at a time.) The Grand Scheme is this—we are a species that has lost pieces of its nature and has settled on reclaiming it through watered down visages labeling themselves as “Freedom,” “Liberty,” and “Love.”

We call cars, money, and the internet “Freedom.” We call ‘Not getting shot at, or beaten by the police on the way to work,’ “Liberty.” We call “I don’t want you to be how you are, but I love you anyways; and, I worry because I love you,” “Love.”

But we have become the worst kind of prisoners—the kind who shut ourselves in cages and mindlessly throw aside the key. When things are “Good enough,” when we believe that you have to have “good days and bad days” and “That’s just how life is,” you aren’t giving yourself full credit for your power to completely change the world. And I don’t mean the material world—I mean the world you live in and the way you see things.

On the news, we hear about war and poverty; death and decay; financial collapse. People are depressed; drugs are required; there isn’t enough money for health care for everyone… etc. We might even think, “I should lose weight; get a shiny new pair of tits; eat [insert brand] food,” and we hardly even know why anymore because there is so much information in the world! You are assaulted by ads all the time, espousing conveniences and products and trying to get into your head in any way they can think of.

And so we forget. We forget that shampoos and soaps can smell great and work great and not have harmful chemicals in them; we forget that all these time saving devices—microwaves, canned foods, etc.—are only freeing up time for us to work our asses off at a 9-5 grind, and they are also unsatisfying, unhealthy, and not worth the sacrifice we are making for them. We have given up free time so we can work more to pay more for land, gas, cars, entertainment, and everything else.

But here’s the thing: We don’t have to. We just don’t know any better on the whole. Corporations pay for everything, and they dictate perception. They employ lobbyists to tell Congress what to do (using money to persuade them, naturally), which tells us how to think. I mean, just look at milk, from cows. You probably think, “Milk=calcium=good,” right? But where did you get that perception from? Probably all those “Got milk” ads, I bet. I know I did.

And if we weren’t so busy being inundated with advertisements which pay for us to watch the television that helps us escape from our lives which help us ignore the world and ourselves until we finally fucking die, maybe we would get up and go for a walk through the woods, play in the streams, drink in the ephemeral beauties of Earth… maybe then we would have a use for all that calcium we’re trying to keep in our bones.

Walk into any New Age bookstore though, and you will find a totally different perception of reality stacked upon the shelves. A perception that says that we are all inherently the best of the best and the worst of the worst, and capable of anything. And that the only way to change the world is to start with ourselves and decide, each of us, on our own, what is right for us; simultaneously the most selfish and selfless thing you can do—by becoming a better human, you are making every facet of your life better, as well as the lives of those around you (at least the time they spend interacting with you.)

Which reveals an interesting aspect of humanity: what truly and genuinely benefits one truly and genuinely benefits all. (And I’m not talking about getting a new car—that can be both positive and negative and it’s all relative—I mean recognizing the deep, beautiful nature inherent in all of us and wading through all the muck and bullshit passed down through the generations.)

Because here’s the truth: We are a beautiful species, deep down. And sure, it might be a little buried, but it’s there. We are each fully capable of saying, “You know what? I am ready to be happy,” and picking up something like “Autobiography of a Yogi,” or “The Tao Te Ching,” or, Hell, even the Bible! But read the new testament like you mean it, guys; the poor thing has been so thoroughly swamped in cultural mythos that a vast number of people simply rely on other people's perceptions to tell them how to feel about it, either demonizing it without attempting to understand it, or simply taking it for granted that when priests and pastors say "focus on this," that they should.

But think about how many of the clergy don’t, at all, embody what Christ was talking about, and can only seem to remember the one painful-seeming moment in his life; because we are a culture that, insanely, equates pain with love. (“I hurt you because I love you,” sound familiar?) And so we wear crosses around our necks--exalting the "sacrifice" in physical pain--and wait for Christ to come back to Earth and save us, instead of following the path of love and joy that he taught and saving ourselves right now.

And here’s the amazing thing: If everybody got to go to their exclusive Mormon/Christian/Whatever “Heaven”, those of us “left behind” would have a heaven all our own. Because this Earth is Heaven, it is “The Garden of Eden,” it is Paradise. It is simply frightening to believe that because it means that we, humanity, are what needs to change, and not the world around us.

And while change is hard, the source is simple, too. It is love. That’s all. Just love… made of compassion, empathy, understanding, and grace. Love for ourselves… For the people around us... For life and all its qualities. For the beauty of the ups and downs. The dark and the light. For death as our liberating, rejuvenating companion day to day, rather than an entity of which we are afraid.

Because life without death is crowded, confusing, and out of balance. And life without love is monochromatic. And the Earth without us is a confoundingly beautiful rock floating through space, with no one to appreciate it, muse over it, and love it as we should ourselves.



An Essay On Technology and Religion


Notes about the Essay: I apologize for the fairly rough nature of the following essay. I would like to note that I whipped it out in about 30 minutes before trudging off to a soul sucking job while living in Portland, and have yet to get around to rounding the edges and clarifying certain concepts that currently require greater logical leaps to understand than I would like... Just so you know...


The Essay:

In the scientific community, there is often a great divide between those who believe in god and those who do not; as well, those who are religious in addition to God-belief.

The reason I have chosen this topic to write on is because of something I noticed while researching certain elements of Fallout 101’s plotline. I found that there is a tendency for religious scientists to feel that there is a limit to how much technology can grow, specifically with relation to Artificial Intelligence, and that they often felt this way because of two things: the computational properties of silicon and its limitations, and because of God’s relationship with man.

Before I get any deeper into this, I would like to mention that I am personally non-religious and undecided on God. I am only pointing out what I see. However, I do have one belief—there will always be progress, even if it comes with some amount of regression at first. (For example: Cars help us to get around, but they are also loud, dangerous, and need roads paved where trees might have once been. Eventually though, we will develop the technology or methodology to allow high-speed transport and nature to coexist. That is my philosophy.)

The things that often most interest me about science and religion are the places where they overlap, even as seemingly opposed entities. For example, the Big Bang is often interpreted as some manner of God energy; of course, it is unleashed over the course of billions of years instead of seven days, but time is endlessly open to interpretation.

Even then, there are many Christian-faith oriented scientists who are opposed to the idea of true Artificial Intelligence ever occurring in our world. It seems to me, however, that their religion supports this idea based on the following philosophy: ‘God created man in his image and likeness.’ These words can, again, be interpreted in numerous ways, but the way I read them is that we are each unlimited in our capacity to create; indeed, equals to the creator. This is not a matter of hubris, because, if that philosophy is true, then we must all be equals, having stemmed from the same place.

For proof of this idea, you need only look to child birth. One of our most basic tendencies is to create human life, equal in every way to the life that God is said to have created. And I believe that this extends far beyond that tendency.

In truth, the desire to create life isn’t a desire to “outdo God,” or to “become more powerful than God,” because we hacked the system and found a way to create a form of life that didn’t come to exist in the same way that we did. It is a desire to continue the natural process of growth and creation by accommodating the nascent aspects of the world that we now live in. (Such as overpopulation and discontentment on a global scale, which wouldn’t have been a problem thousands of years ago.)

To understand this better, consider the following: in small groups of, say, 15 to 30 families, we could create an infrastructure out of environmentally appropriate vegetables and fruits that would easily support each family on a few acres of land. (Of course, this is assuming they are in a somewhat forgiving climate; which, for 15 to 30 people, is not a difficult circumstance to accommodate.)

The goal of this example is to create families who are not only healthy and alive, but happy, too. And in fact, these families wouldn’t have to ‘work’ much at all to live—they could spend their days being in touch with the earth (gardening), breathing the fresh, clean air, enjoying the shade of their trees (which are self sustaining), and finding solace in the silent touch of nature. And when they ate their fruit and their vegetables, the food would be pesticide free; in addition, it would taste like nothing we can buy in a grocery store today, and be completely healthful.

This is the ideal towards which we, as a species, are moving: green foods, green cars, and relaxing jobs/daily routines. (Okay, eventually, America.) And in fact, Artificial Intelligence is one of the greatest supporters of the trend towards this manner of existence, which means that natural process supports Artificial Intelligence.

And while there is a lot to be said for changing the way we live—we do NOT need that many cars on the road all the time for everyone to have a good quality of life, in addition to the opportunities that America, for example, prides herself on providing—there is also the truth that creating something new is a lot easier than changing the way that people live.

(And dictatorship is out of the question; playing with people’s emotions is like playing with an atom bomb.)

So what this leaves us with is a need for a much-improved infrastructure. Which is something that A.I. can provide, assuming we find a way around the limitations of silicon, and open our minds enough to create software that will lead to full A.I.

So, given the general disposition of religions towards sentient technology, doesn’t it seem that technology is just man’s way of expressing the same creative urges that God is said to have had in creating us? Which, then, would support the idea of man as an extension of that creator, much in the same way that our children are extensions of ourselves? Indeed, if I was God, I believe I would want my creations to be better and happier than myself. Otherwise, I probably would have just said “fuck it” and blown everything up by now.

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