Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

  • Music:

Lost and Sought

While checking up on our test boxes in the CMCL, I heard a quiet knock on the door, and faced Marcel, Kwan-Jin, and a contractor coming to check out the lab space they're taking from us (Gates move) that will become CMU's onsite research MRI centre. They were surprised to see me there (I was a bit surprised that Marcel remembered my name)... I'm not sure if I'm projecting, but mixed with the normal warmth between people who love neuropsych might've been a bit of pity. I'm really not doing what I want to be doing, jobwise, even as I'm very qualified as a systems programmer. I suppose that's a running theme in life though - I keep thinking that if only things had gone a bit differently in a few points, I'd have an awesome life and be a reasonably awesome person. Instead I'm just barely getting by and it doesn't take a lot to put me in a depressive fugue that theatens to sink the boat. Sigh. I really miss neuropsych, and I really miss those times in my life where I felt a deep tie with someone.

Honesty and masks: over the years I've accumulated a few other identities to creep past group defenses to learn. I don't often think about the propriety - I have not done so to mock said groups, but rather to understand and see if I could steer them a bit. A catholic to discuss theology with jesuits, a muslim to discuss jurisprudence, etc. It has allowed me to better understand things from all angles - one of the frustrations about the real world is that one can't easily conduct real social experiments - if you want to figure out if someone wants you as a friend given standard social implicature you have to make different kinds of offers to hang out, see which are accepted, and see which leads to later invites for you to hang out with them. Likewise, people regularly change their answers or willingness to discuss things based on perceived group membership, and in order to avoid the "you are not qualified to express an opinion" and related sentiments for various (snobby and/or justified) reasons, it can be handy to dodge that. It also is a useful exercise in seeing the world through other people's eyes - by projecting back a past for the fictional entities and making sure their viewpoints and beliefs flow from them, one better understands the relevant mindsets - this kind of ties into the idea of having debates in one's head between the perspectives that have gained a toehold - allowing deeper expression of one of the other factions, giving them a backstory and a full and separate identity..

I sometimes am a bit troubled by it though - while I never would properly vote with these alternate identities (nor did I ever have alts on Wikipedia), there are some communities where expressing a perspective takes on an especially heavy or meaningful role - where speaking up amounts to some fraction of a vote. For example, in Islam, beliefs of the Ummah are believed to be guided by Allah in a way that acquires theological/definitional significance - if Allah keeps the community within a certain range of what is just or correct, then putting on that hat and speaking in communities online acquires an additional meaning with which I'm not entirely comfortable - I've stepped beyond sweeping aside an inherently problematic "disqualification fallacy" (and related) into something that feels a bit more voter-ish. I think I'm more comfortable exchanging ideas, learning, and arguing when I feel that the only line being breached is something that should not be there. Of course, I am not religious, and I am not bound to respect the role of the Ummah in the faith for religious reasons - the surface reason that would come up in a discussion with a Muslim were I to discuss this. There is however a parallel structure in my value system, as I've shown above, that should weigh on me. I recognise as well that the ingroup/outgroup dynamic being as it is, discussing this directly with those involved is likely fruitless because they would want to protect what I consider inherently illegitimate behaviour as strongly as possible - they would want a very broad theoretical ability to exclude others from expressing views from consideration or from learning based on blood, faith, and politics. This is then a kind of value question for me - their instinct to exclude, which they would express, is exactly what I find unlikable, but I don't want to be unfaithful to my values, which can come into play here.

In some cases it does help that IRL I have a fairly complex potential identity and that my head usually resembles a big messy debate house - on some level I still am a bit uncomfortable with the posing and it makes it a bit easier that while I am at the simplest a Scottish-German Texan-Ohioan Academic Socialist Atheist, that's not all I was and it doesn't describe all that's in my head. I sometimes think about Walt Whitman's quote 「Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes」 and wonder if he's describing just the consensus-self that "gets the voice" to the world, or the inner factions that (presumably) compose us all that represent unexpressed doubts, troublesome arguments, and the other people we could be if we saw the composition of the "who am I" coalition shift to express a different mix of the tendencies inside of us. I *suspect* the first, because it'd be odd for the underwater iceberg bits to be noticed much by others, but ...

I wonder as well why I'm comfortable with the dishonesty - I think part of it is that without an intent to harm or a disregard for the welfare of others, it is difficult to be deeply immoral - it would be different to become very close to particular other people through this mask, to use it for personal gain, or to use it to mock them - these are things I would not do. Honesty is an excellent basic intuition for virtuous behaviour, but it does not intrinsically delimit what is virtuous and what is not (I felt different about this when I was younger). As I am not deluding myself, not harming others by the normal metrics I use, opening them up for disappointment, and not gaining from it (except in the sense of learning and spreading ideas), and a number of other potential issues are not relevant, few concerns are left.

The bulk of deliberations when constructing a value system deal with (imagining a completely pre-moral-construction, pre-property, pre-contract/agreement, pre-social concern version of the notion of "harm")|one must balance between two harms or decide when it is acceptable to harm another. Notions of property, contract/agreement, social concerns, and the like all give structures allowing us to abstract the nuances of the whens and hows of that into what feels like a coherent value system. A slightly different version of this would instead focus on the nearby concept of "force" (maybe, as the libertarian party does, adding the word "consent" and claiming that it is a very simple philosophy to never "initiate" "force" on another person without consent). Proposed analogy: the windowing/event loop of your graphical program is the real program and everything else is just details. We can all finally agree on the true web browser, the true word processor, even the one true program.

Feet and legs are mildly and pleasantly sore.

Tags: work

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