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Uncanny Valley Girls

Will try to keep this non-mopey and non-styrofoamtastic. Politics/philosophy/life:

For a good while, I've had this vague, complex idea in my head categorising conservativism as being past-looking-for-ideals, liberalism as future-building-for-ideals (not a very interesting idea taken down to this level of complexity) - to that service, conservatives fit this mold by creating an imaginary, idealised past and hold it up as ideal, and so on. It's reasonably likely I've talked this to death, at least the basics. Like any big idea, it needs a number of qualifiers (particularly as by this logic, the (American) left is idealistic and the right is pragmatic, yet in popular politics right now we're seeing right-idealism (in an oddly populist form) and to the extent the democratic party is left, it's left-technocratic pragmatism - the hysterics that populism often brings about is surprisingly powerful in misunderstanding/mischaracterising the situation. Stepping back further, in theory socialists/communists like me *are* populists, but at least in my case nothing could be further from the truth - I may be devoted to the public good, but I don't trust the public to understand the facts (and thus they're not well-qualified to try to seek the public good for themselves) - so long as the socialist movement I'd like to see refuses to take any of the lifestyle/personal privileges power might offer them, said movement would need to both lead society while building appropriate character and education in them so they would do so themselves.. but I digress. To return to the point, we can't expect the metaphor to be too expansive. The idea of any past, stripped of its reality enough, being a foundation for conservativism serves the pragmatic effect of mitigating damage caused by progressing technology (and perhaps progressing society, though I think conflating the two is too easy). The idealism of liberalism, taken in the wrong directions, is too dismissive of human nature - the ideas of socialisation, of the need for some conformity and sacrifice for the public good, of important things falling out when one simplifies social activity on its word (rather than the broad scope of things traditionally not talked about), of occasionally rude limits on individualism are things often absent in liberal dialogue.

If we were to drop these ideas into a SVD, remove the highest-order element (presumably this), and reconstitute the movements - a conservativism with no illusions about the past, a liberalism with a deep understanding of human nature preventing radical individualism, do they look alike? Not really, but the nature of both is changed (both, I claim, look considerably more intelligent). Note that neither improvement is exclusive to its side - just because the conservatives may prefer to stick to habits that have been shown to flow well with human nature doesn't mean they actually understand why these habits work, nor is radical individualism exclusively a leftist trait.

Anyhow, that's a slightly more involved sketch of part of the big picture of politics and self-improvement.

Recently, cartoonist Bizarro provided a pointer on his blog to an excellent pair of videos (by Philip Zimbardo, yes *that* Philip Zimbardo) which expressed some ideas relating to the idea - The Secret Powers of Time don't connect to politics directly (although it very well might) but it's about a similar enough kind of division that the ideas cross-pollinate.

Sequeing a bit away from the ties, his six perspectives on time people/cultures have:

  • Past-Nostalgia
  • Past-Regret
  • Present-Hedonists
  • Present-Fated
  • Future-Work-rather-than-play
  • Future-Afterlife-earners (? this form is underdeveloped in the video)
I've been thinking about how and where people I know exhibit these traits. At different times, I seem to have many of these - I tend to get stuck on the past a lot both because I've become estranged from all my social circles because of my choices, and because I was happier when this effect wern't so large. I'm not really hedonistic by any measure (although it'd be hard to tell because I'm so idea-oriented - maybe I would be more so were I happier), but there's a bit of the fatedness there in that I'm very doubtful that I can turn my life around unless I get emotional support that's not likely to show up. I am a bit future-oriented in that I have ideas about the future for society, and a large list of things I'd love to do if I could get my head together and had a partner, although definitely not in the afterlife-seeking sense. Naturally, I would like to be a bit more hedonistic and a lot more future-oriented - I simply lack the fuel. Likewise, I've tried to chart this out based on memories of people who've been prominent in my mental space (in recent times this has usually not been reciprocal, as far as I can tell). How would we step this kind of thing up to a general description of someone? I have known people who are terrified of thinking about their past, and any pressure towards it evokes habitual summoning of distractions - on the scale of nations, Turkey and Lebanon have topics enough for this; likewise the 「Don't mention the war」 sketch in Fawlty Towers. I don't get the imppression that the author suggests that one temporal mode of thinking is necessarily appropriate for all of life, particularly given his other videos. Likewise, while the distribution and attitudes of society have strong tendencies (suggested by his research), I suspect the future-looking modes are the only ones optional, in sufficiently traditional societies. On the scale of the individual, things are a bit different - the trance in which most people lives their lives can take many forms and someone might abandon some of these modes (some of them would make them less of a person, I think, but then very few people strive for or desire the kind of continual self-improvement that would eschew deep specialisation on this matter).

On other topics, some text collage from other things I've sketched or actually written that as far as I recall haven't made it out anywhere:

  • Why do I not trust happy, well-adjusted people? Maybe it's the manipulative parts of me - other people's buttons are either highly visible or take little digging; they're easy to manip. Happy, well-adjusted people have only the common human manipulations, which are less useful and often stressful to invoke
  • At one point in reading philosophy, you find Socrates profound, because of his stype. At another point, you find him dishonest for hiding his beliefs behind a style that masquerades as prajna. At a point latter yet, you find that choice the work of a craftsman, and reacquire respect - a different respect than the original, for the choice.
  • "What would you call someone who *never* admits they were wrong, who opposes on principle an investigation of their past, who is headstrong, confident, full of bravado, more interested in promoting their friends and loved ones than any abstraction of justice? Someone who, if religious, believes in an empty god who demands nothing but these traits - no duty to humanity, nothing but loyalty to those close to them? I have a feeling that Americans would call them a hero, and that Europeans would call them a despicable tribalist."
  • Soundtrack to 「Parodius Da!」 series of game as a type of intentional deep musical kitsch. Also amusing that Konami publishes a game series as well as a parody of that same series.
  • For those who like their Snarks political - found it because someone sent me a link to one of these.
  • A historian, when weaving a narrative out of facts of history, has several several prototypes of stories in their head, and as they absorb facts, those facts guide them to select one to flesh out our past. Dialectical Materialism is a commitment to one such story, that of thesis-antithesis- synthesis and class struggle, and applied rigourously paints all of history into that same story. It is a failure in this regard for insisting that our exploration of history and the sciences meet its presuppositions - perhaps in our existing understanding of these topics we're constrained or predisposed towards ideas somewhere in our (ideally rich) cultural language, but the violence to truth is low when that fabric is rich enough. When the impoverished library of a single narrative with characters bound to be flat by inescapable class logic, the violence is great and the enlightenment lessened.
    • Likewise, the issue with Orthodox Marxism is not that it distorts Marx (it does, but we don't venerate him except as an interesting thinker), it's that it's wrong, or perhaps better-phrased, that it leads to an understanding of things that's deficient and harmful.
  • The foundations of law must be based on the framework of reality established by broad and established scientific consensus. We might imagine a subsociety which believes in a different model of dreams and a continuity of intent between real people and dream figures. They may wish to sue, or take revenge on acts they suffer in their dreams, and the insistence that the law act from the scientific frame prevents multiculturalism from leading to undecidable quandries. The mystic will find this deeply unsatisfying - to have science so privileged, and so it should be.
  • The uncanny valley and moral absolutism - How moral relativism must look repugnant to a moral absolutist
  • Thomas Merton Centreのnewsletter - speaker when honoured for defending G20 protesters: "As much as we would prefer to think otherwise of ourselves, radical lawyers are part of the System. Clearly, radical lawyers cannot participate in the System's overthrow, becausey depend upon and utilize the existing legal System to defend the rights of revolutionaries..." - I wonder if they have thought about whether lawyers might exist after their notion of the revolution. Are they the kind of revolutionary that believes that the problems addressed by law evaporate after a move to a different economic (and possibly social) basis? Do they advocate an end to the common law system (one might argue for this), an end to law itself (one might argue for this, maybe), or have they not thought this far ahead?
  • What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree, and it is from its nature only possible as an episodic phenomenon -- Sigmund Freud, "Das Unbehagen in der Kultur"
  • Nuance bears a heavy cost in communication of ideas to the mass public.
    • Complexity is considered a great cost.
    • Why is it that occam's razor and the scientific mentality not broadly accepted then? We are *so* close to being natural scientists
    • Our problem is we're a bit off - we don't demand predictive power in our frameworks, and *that* makes the theory of god, which isn't even a theory, more appealing than something complex enough to have predictive power.
    • A small adjustment in attitude and we would be natural scientists
    • The proximity of science and what we are naturally makes the jump to being a scientist possible - just a small shift and our intelligence as a species is realisable
    • Would there be nachteilen for a race that is naturally scientist?
    • Too much moral divergence?
  • Would "open science" lead to "contrarian/political" science? Would open audits of the Fed lead to ...
  • For all their famed selfishness, cats are very good at an even exchange of affection, with other cats. A cat won't continue to offer affection if the other cat does not take its turn, even as they appear to enjoy giving. People are more likely to be selfless to cats, because we get little from being licked by them - perhaps being around people spoils cats for other cats.
  • Interesting to spot the places people never go on campus - places the eye is trained not to notice. Spotting such places, which I quip to myself as being covered by a Douglas Adams-esque SEP field, has become a hobby. There's a delightful stretch of grass near forbes on which I've never seen anyone venture - curious people should try to see if they can recall it (most people will probably need to carefully walk around to spot it, I'd wager).
Amazing how many notebooks I have full of all this stuff - hard to know what's worth translating and transcribing. Quite possibly none of it.

It sometimes is amazing how just a few years scatters a social circle. Unless one has the energy to keep being Clotho, Atropos's hands win.

Unsurprisingly, no letters were requested. Oh well.

Trying to decide if I want to visit Halifax (Nova Scotia) sometime in the next few weeks. Not a fan of travelling alone, but it probably can't be helped.