Even More Mulling: Themes, Readings, and Bacteria

I. The Apparent Direction of My Writing

The Fogbanking Blog, an only-vaguely-planned expression of my day-to-day thoughts on my reading, revolves around my interest in building things that consciously change behavior. I’ve posted notes and summaries about alternative historiographies, convergent evolution, games, design, organizational behavior, culture, apologetics, and philosophy with that same broad theme: the artificial is a subset of the natural. Social reality is built right on top of physical reality and is just as important to the human mind. Humans are reasoning but not necessarily rational creatures (for good reason- it’s expensive to be deliberative all of the time), and we are empathetic and tribal. Heuristics, mythologies, interfaces, and institutions exist to reduce human cognitive processing cost, and are mostly a good in that they improve our productivity, productivity that sometimes leads to improved living standards.

 

II. Deep Play

Earlier this week, Aeon magazine posted a new article by Venkatesh Rao: Deep Play. The article talks about ecosystems, institutions, and scenius. Highly recommended. The Mars/Africa question is the kind of Diamandis/Gates divide I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when I was writing about UpWingers (they’re both UpWingers). I’d like to read more into scenius.

 

III. Endosymbiosis

Scenius makes me think about microorganisms. It sort of makes sense, doesn’t it?

One of my favorite ideas that I learned in the last few years was the concept of the “microbiome” [Alt: much shorter articlewikipedia.]

Neuronal Lineage: Daniel Dennett claimed that neurons have a lineage as single-celled organisms independent of humans for over a billion years. He was explaining how unlike other organs in the body, the brain is a mass of constant “coopetition” between neurons for influence (putting a little more literalness on the parliamentary metaphor). It was in this video, a long lecture/discussion on the mind. As usual, Dennett had some really illuminating analogies ready that make me pretty jealous to be honest.

Mitochondrial lineage: It’s a bit more well-known that mitochondria, the “power plant” organelle in our cells, evolved from independent creatures and still harbor its own distinct set of DNA. (This mDNA is exclusively matrilineal- children only get their mother’s mDNA.) SAR11, one of our mitochondria’s evolutionary cousins, is possibly one of the most abundant microorganisms on Earth, covering our ocean’s surfaces (and providing plenty of interaction for a relationship to form between them and other organisms).

 

IV. Why Weird Politics

Why not read weird politics?

The bipolar dialectic in American Politics constrains certain political possibilities. In campaigns, opposition seems to define even more than advocacy does. Between Left and Right, there is common grounding and understanding of what the issues even are, even if the two sides use different vocabularies. There’s also the idea of ‘the moderate’, which is a bit semantically confusing. Is a moderate one who holds some proportion of beliefs from the two tribes? Or is it about intensity of belief? Nobody really knows or cares. In the general elections everyone is more moderate than thou. All political talk incorporates bipolar tribal affiliation that mirrors the obvious voting strategy of all Americans: if you consider yourself to the right of the Right, you vote for the Right.

The Neoreaction, though, is starkly different. They deny some of the common stories that help keep our personal political identity clear to us inside our tiny Overton Window. They reintroduce ideas we once had names and opinions about in alien ways that seem arguable (instead of insane and unworthy of consideration) in the given frame. They would not be able to answer questions about contemporary issues in sixty seconds during the debates, because the quiet assumptions of the mainstream beliefs are not invisible or agreed upon by the neoreactionary. It’s this quality, not an odd search for new policy beliefs, that I think is so interesting in reading foreign or uncommon political beliefs (so long as they’re articulated well- many political beliefs are uninteresting because they are senseless).

I want to reintroduce another [now defunct] blog’s stages of policy acceptance (mentioned here):

  • Unthinkable (the vast universe of physically possible but not coherent/conceivable options. An idea I’ve committed words to in the past)
  • Radical (Conceivable but not acceptable for considerations of feasibility, advocacy (no one is driving it forward) or social acceptance (‘morality’))
  • Acceptable (A coherent, socially acceptable option.)
  • Sensible (A commonly understood option, one with resources and advocacy)
  • Popular (An idea that the public feels that it knows and wants)
  • Policy (An option that is accepted and implemented.)

The idea of an Overton Window might also be applied to other behaviors, such as less-common mind-states (I’ll mention more about that below, with Julian Jaynes).

 

V. Future Reading

I’m going to start reading “Surfaces and Essences” late next week. I’m also going to start (at no doubt a slower pace) Julian Jaynes’ “The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, a book that has apparently influenced a lot of people I respect, and one that I didn’t even know about until I read these two posts.

After that, I’m going to start digging into Game Studies again. An opportunity I’m interested in is gaining speed, and it requires me to start reading up, so I’ll also take that opportunity to share some thoughts and summaries there, too, in a couple of weeks’ time.

 

VI. Misc. Links

Aeon Magazine has a films section now. Just watched the Future of Humanity Institute one.

I’m priming myself for the Jayne book by reading what Daniel Dennett saw in his argument. I’m doing this because Jayne’s book is older than me, and so I don’t expect to be blown away by cutting edge neuroscience. I’m reading it for a different purpose.

Drugs: Ribbonfarm’s The Eternal Hypochondria of the Expanded Mind, on drugs and minds. Same topic but with a mildly Moldbuggian twist from the Last Psychiatrist. Finally, a bit about fighting conceptions with crack addiction and agency from New York and Chicago.. These go well with the links in Part V.

I do wonder how many Senators have done hard drugs. Not that I could reasonably expect that to make a difference to their policies, which likely reflect what they think their districts want- it’s why I can’t really take that Florida congressman’s hypocrisy too personally.