Comment 1

Desensationalizing news and questioning reality

I’m really struggling with this whole “blame Russia” hysteria. I’m troubled by DT winning the election and it seems like a cosmic joke. I’m horrified by the people appointed to be in charge of departments that are supposedly for the common good, when they have all built their careers on enriching private individuals at the cost of social good. Secretary of education that sells private education. Secretary of state that runs the world’s largest oil company. Not that any of it is surprising. If you have been paying any attention behind the the scenes for even just a few years you know that the USA has been functioning as a private enterprise for the very rich for the past 30 years. Private prisons. Private healthcare. Private schools. Private mercenary squads in faraway deserts and during peaceful protests at home. Oil lobbyists setting the foreign agenda. The media faithfully reporting on it all, as though it was business as usual. Normalizing neoliberalism became their modus operandi. So there was press and it was free, but it did not speak truth to power.

The media likes to harp that the USA is not just a democracy, but the GREATEST democracy in the world. Well, that’s just silly. The US is huge. It is a very, very hard body to govern even when things are going well. Small countries can have good democracy. Population 10 millions or less. The US should be grateful if it has any semblance of democracy at all. So I think that is the notion we have to challenge first. The US is not a democracy. Stop saying that. It’s just not part of the equation and we can’t diagnose the problem unless we are operating within reality. In fact, Princeton University proposed that the US is an oligarchy just three years ago. It’s a sovereign state operated by a wealthy elite. The only difference is now everyone can see it.

Reality. I keep coming back to this word. It’s everywhere right now. This election, this alternate universe we find us in, Westworld on HBO.

Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?

westworld-doloresThat’s the opening line from the show. It’s a good one, because once you start to question what is real you’ll never get any sense of security back. What if our reality is just a computer simulation? The Matrix (1999) is one of the best movies ever made. Did we invent machines or did machines invent us so we could create the machines? Questioning reality has a long tradition in science fiction because it’s one of the most unsettling things to do.

So I’m struggling with the idea that the world’s only current empire, with over 900 military bases across the world, a bloated $700 billion military, and a global intelligence gathering system, is blaming another old world oligarchy of tampering with their elections. The same empire which has a 60+ years history of interfering with elections, down to assassinations, all over the planet; that less than 3 years ago was proven to be tapping the phones of world leaders everywhere.

The kettle here is pitch black.

Let’s remind ourselves again how empires thrive. Perpetual war. That’s how the elite gets rich. But the only way to maintain perpetual war is to keep the population in a state of constant fear. Once the fear lets go, the peasants will be less willing to send their able sons and daughters into perpetual war. Fear requires an “other”; a serial killer stalking in the night, or, when dealing with a country, a population seen as less than human. Russia was an awesome other. Strong, iron-willed, savage. Even though Russia essentially won WW2 with their loss of over 20 million citizens and was our ally they quickly became the enemy. For over 50 years the fear of the USSR kept feeding the war machine of the west. Pockets grew fat. Then the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. For the first time in history we dared to utter the words “world peace”. But then the Towers fell in 2001. The Middle East became the other. An entire religion became the other. But it must not be working so well since we are back nipping at Russia’s feet. (Not saying Russia hasn’t done awful shit, but this century it limits itself to mainly doing awful shit to its own population.)

In science you start with a hypothesis of how things may work, then you set out to test it. If it tests well, you form a theory and send that theory into the world to be proven wrong by other brilliant minds. Most theories are wrong. That’s why science is slow. The theories that can stand up to the scrutiny are usually small and kind of basic. Because that’s the level that humans are at right now. We are small and kind of basic and we make a lot of mistakes.

I heard an interview with a cognitive psychologist with a background in artificial intelligence last week on the fantastic You Are Not So Smart podcast. It blew my mind. You should really go listen to it because I will probably butcher his brilliance with my interpretation. Donald Hoffman said that humans are probably not equipped to understand what’s outside our reality because one’s reality is deeply connected with one’s biology. Through millions of years we have evolved to hone specific skills for dealing with our impression of reality, skills that it benefits us here. That makes sense. Our tail evolved away – we didn’t need it anymore. So understanding the reality outside our reality is probably not possible; our biology won’t allow it.

He likened reality to a computer desktop. If you want to compose an email you don’t need to understand what is happening inside the machine. In fact, that would probably just confuse most of us. Instead, we need a shiny icon on the desktop that says ‘email’ that we can click on. Our reality is the desktop. We don’t look under the hood because it makes no sense, it even impairs our ability to perform the task of sending emails. So we don’t question our reality because it won’t make it easier to live in it. It will probably make it harder, no, definitely harder.

But he has a theory. It’s a whopper. When thinking about reality we like to hold certain things as constant. Maybe it’s all a computer simulation but certain things are real, right? Things like atoms and molecules. Time and space. Quantum physics. That was definitely my assumption when I think about these things. Maybe we are just one endless universe among endless other endless universes but atoms were a thing. Part of the machine to construct reality. So he asked the very simple question no one else had before; what if they were not? What if all those things were just another part of the desktop that allows us to experience reality, not the machine itself.

Whoa, right? Strip an assumption down to its bare bones.

Then he did some super brilliant math and came up with an equation to test his theory. He sent it out into the physics world. Most thought he was nuts. But no one has been able to dispute his theory yet. So it still stands. It’s on the internet. You can take a crack at it if you like, cos that’s how science works.

My point with all this is don’t settle for the knowledge you have. I understand this whole “fake news” sensation that is sweeping the country can seem a bit scary. It’s scary not to know what to trust in. It’s scary to learn that what you held as truth may, in fact, be not. But as a child of the internet with a reasonably good education I don’t think it’s too hard to spot fake news. I ask myself: is this a tabloid story (personality-based)? Then it’s not news. Is this grounded in conventional science? Climate change is, but chem trails are not. Logic then dictates that I should be more worried about climate change than some unproven internet theory that no real scientist has taken an interest in. Is this information directly coming from the government? If it is, proceed with caution. Mainstream media these days tend to parrot the government with little critical comment. Most things the government does is benign but when it comes to conflicts and contracts there will always be corruption. One of the best advice ever given when it comes to investigative journalism and discerning reality is follow the money.

Don’t settle for information coming from just one source or outlet. Be skeptical of anything that is sensational. Reality is rarely sensational. This reality, our reality, it follows patterns of human logic which is essentially “how can I manipulate this situation to benefit me?” That might be trite and boring but, hey, that’s what evolution told us to do. Study history. Study history from multiple angles. With one foot firmly planted in history it will be hard to pull one over you.


1 Comment

  1. Profound! And scary! I don’t understand the term ‘neo-liberal’. Neo-Nazi’ means, literally ‘new nazi’. But ‘neo-liberal’ mean ‘new capitalist’! This is double-speak come of age!

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