Buddhism and Stoicism

Buddhism and stoicism are highly compatible with each other.

Stoicism is fairly simple. Here is a (too) short summary:

Our normal impulse is to see misfortune, loss, death, and the choices of others as primary concerns, since they can significantly affect our lives. But this is where the Stoics deviate from our natural inclinations. They offer a bold new take: a thing doesn’t automatically become your concern just because it might affect you. (The Only Thing You Need to Get Good At)

Be sure to read the article linked above. It provides more information and links.

The NSA database

I wrote the piece below on July 5, 2013. I am reposting it today because I think it is right. A major issue is who controls the database and how do we know who that is and how do we control them?

At the bottom is a video with whistleblower Bill Binney, who worked at the NSA for thirty years. He brings up these same questions. ABN


Firstly, that database is a sociologist’s wet dream. It is without question the greatest sociological analytical tool ever to come into existence.

The NSA database—using just metadata alone—is capable of discovering and describing in near-perfect detail nearly all social networks in the world.

It is possible that some very secretive groups figured out which way the wind was blowing twenty years ago and have kept away from all electronic surveillance since then, but I doubt that even they can be certain that their membership is not known, or knowable, to the NSA.

In addition to being able to find and analyze all, or virtually all, groups and networks in the world (secret or otherwise), the NSA almost certainly has the capability to reach back years into the content of those groups’ phone calls and other forms of communication.

This makes the database even more than a sociologist’s wet dream. It is also a tool for exceptional good or evil.

First, the evil—anyone with access to the database can spy on virtually anyone anywhere and use the information gained to blackmail, steal inventions or investment ideas, bribe, intimidate, or otherwise do bad stuff behind the scenes.

For the good, the database has the power to figure out groups that are doing bad things and stop them. The database could be used as a massive national and international “lie-detector” or “shit detector.” Just about any group of people up to anything unsavory should be discoverable through the database.

So who controls it? Is there one person at the top? Or a group? Who watches the group?

I am all but certain we will never be rid of that database. If by some miracle the US destroys the NSA database, some other country will surely set one up.

So liberty and goodness now mean that we have to figure out how to make sure the people controlling the database are good people. That they will never do bad things with the information available to them.

How do we do that? Is there any conceivable politics that can bring that about? We need databases watching databases all of which are controlled by groups that are watched by other groups. If we have perfectly reliable lie-detectors, could we establish groups like that? Is there any way forward other than massive transparency of everyone’s life?

It looks to me like our traditional political system is finished. Checks and balances and individual rights are meaningless in the face of that database.

Why The Black Community is Poor !

I do not think for a minute that this is all there is to this subject. But this is a big part of it.

This video highlights ethnic differences within the black community, a factor of major significance.

This same factor exists within the white community. Many whites come from serf or indentured-servant backgrounds that strongly resemble slavery. Many whites have bad families and criminal histories.

The same is true for Asian communities in the US. Many arrive in the US with good educations and a strong work-ethic, but many do not. At the end of the day, each one of us is responsible for our own behavior. And each of us has to deal with whatever legacy or family background we have.

Some side notes:

  • My understanding is that in Britain, the Igbo people from Nigeria have higher IQs than whites. I wonder if MyNameIsJosephine is Igbo.
  • The American Rust Belt, both urban and rural, now “supports” a white subculture that is all but destroyed due to loss of jobs over many decades. We see many problems within these communities—drugs, suicide, crime, aimlessness.
  • Obama should have been speaking more like MyNameIsJosephine instead of pandering to BLM during his presidency. I believe he worked a divisive angle on these issues primarily for his own political self-interest as he perceived it and not for the good of the black community or the USA.

Could Mysterious Cosmic Light Flashes Be Powering Alien Spacecraft?

Bizarre flashes of cosmic light may actually be generated by advanced alien civilizations, as a way to accelerate interstellar spacecraft to tremendous speeds, a new study suggests. (Source)

In Buddhist cosmology, there exist billions of world-systems, each of which contains billions of worlds. This has always sounded like a description of galaxies to me.

The hypothesis that “fast radio bursts” could be evidence of alien spacecraft is presented in the linked article, which also has a link to the study itself.

Reason is signal organization

If we view the universe as being made up of signals rather than matter, what we call “reason” looks very much like a method for organizing signals.

We can visualize this and from our visualization imagine other ways signals organize.

We say something is reasonable when we cannot find elements that do not seem to be in place among elements that do seem to be in place.

In this respect, the term “aesthetic reasoning”—musical, visual, poetic, etc.—makes good sense. It explains how the elements of an artwork are put together, how they are organized.

Engineers generally reason in more utilitarian ways then artists, but there is a great deal of overlap between these pursuits.

Not all reason works only with tangibles and how to organize them. We also fit things  together in our minds by what we normally think of as reasoning, inference, intuition, purpose, and so on.

In many cases, it is simpler and easier to think of signals than matter.

Signals organize into networks that signal other networks and receive signals from them.

A more “reasonable” network organization will work better than a less reasonable one. This type of network will tend to evolve.

Is morality a fundamental part of nature?

Viewing nature as a signaling network shows its advantage with this question.

Instead of asking where our moral sense comes from, we ask instead what makes for a good signaling network?

The answer is “good organization.”

By “good,” I mean efficient, well-made, good use of resources, easy to maintain, rational, etc.

You are a signaling network.

A well-organized you will probably tend to be morally pretty good and wanting to get better at it, depending on your conditions.

Of course some people view “morality” as whatever is in their best interests. And that is a type of moral thinking. When it is found out, though, most other people, very reasonably, do not like it.

If we view nature as the evolution of signals and signaling networks rather than as the evolution of matter, we will see that changes in signal organization are fundamental to the evolutionary process.

In this sense, it is the most ordinary thing in the world that you, a complex signaling system that is conscious, would consciously seek good organization and/or want to adapt your organizing principles, both objective and subjective, to conditions that impact you.

Conditions that impact you are signals being perceived by the signaling network you think of as yourself.

Your adaptations, both small and large, will encompass many moral considerations and choices.

Morality can be viewed as a kind of organization. The networks that make up your being must organize their relations with the world around them and other sentient beings. We make many moral decisions when we do this. These decisions are an integral part of how we are organized.

Last night I heard a drunk swearing at his friend from the street. “You fucking bastard…” etc. Not well-organized, but still he was yelling a local version of morality and this was fundamental to his networks and behavior.