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  • Category Archives Semantics
  • Brain as Computer Revisited

    I think modern psychology has latched on to the brain as computer model of the brain and do their detriment.  It’s an easy thing to fall into.  A computer has an operating system, files, and programs.  As long as everyone has the same operating system, programs will work seamlessly on any computer you try to run them on.  Therapies seem to presuppose this brain uniformity and when one doesn’t have a brain like this they’re left not knowing what to do.  For example some therapies try to strengthen one’s positive voice in their inner monologue.  But what if they don’t have a positive voice to begin with?  Therapies claim to work seamlessly on all brains (at least ones acculturated to western values).  But the brain is messy, there is no operating system/programs/files trifecta.  I know my experience has been just tearing apart the things therapists tell me, clearly seeing them as false.  But for some people believing what makes them feel good is preferable to believing what is factual.  But my brain doesn’t play that way, especially because eventually wishful thinking will bite you in the butt.  There is some understanding in the psychology profession that therapies aren’t supercultural and that’s a good start.  But even within western culture there is such variation from brain to brain.

    I actually think the brain is more organized like a regime.  Depending on where in the world you go there can be many types of regimes.  Democracies, dictatorships, failed states, tribal power sharing arrangements, etc..  sometimes it’s better to work with the patterns of thinking that are already there than try to go full on and try to throw them all out.  Just like it’s not a good idea to forcibly change regimes in the Middle East.

    See original post

  • being opaque

    Skimming this article on tech diversity, something that has always bothered me as an aspie is how opaque people are.  How they’ll use a whole ton of words to say nothing.  I think by and large conservatives are less opaque than liberals.  This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing but I think it explains why a lot of times the two camps feel like they are talking past each other.  One of my favorite founts of wisdom Gordon Livingston is a conservative and a good example of not being opaque.

    I’m also not saying not being opaque means ones words are full of integrity.  Un opaque words are easier to parse for people who don’t pick up social cues so even if they are flat out lies they get latched on to.  But I think when one is opaque and lacks integrity it is seen as more sinister than people who just flat out lie to your face.


  • Men Without Chests [somewhat NSFW language]

    I read The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis and most of it went right over my head.  However he does talk about there being a third element in a man besides his brain and his carnal urges.  This third thing, the chest, consists of objective truths, Aristotelian virtues like duty, kindness, and temperance.  The thesis is modern society is stripping these things away and once these objective grounding truths are gone there is nothing standing in the way of propaganda swaying a person whichever way the masters’ please.  One can look at the approval of aid in dying that has jumped up precipitously (to 70%) in the last ten years.

    Then there was this thing called the Tao which isn’t very specifically defined but has the feel of all the moral laws of traditional cultures east and west.  Basically what was instilled in people to keep them behaving.  But he would say there is something innate in man that interacts with these codes, like humankind were supposed to live like this.  Sexual taboos come to mind, like how even in ancient Egypt there were sex acts that were verboten that one had to answer for in their afterlife.  And of course the most important of these codes was the golden rule.  Societies that were taoless, like Nazi Germany, and Soviet Russia, didn’t have these things and propaganda took right over.

    I look at morality like the tradition where the king stands up everybody else has to.  Morality is caught, not taught and cascades down to the powerless from the powerful.  What has taught me I was living in a taoless society is how the people and institutions in power (in my case mostly Christian ones) over me have treated me throughout the years.  As Eminem said in the song “Who Knew”, “You want me to fix up lyrics while the President gets his dick sucked?”.

  • So now even millennial suicide bombers are too narcissistic:

    Mustafa Hamid, a former high-ranking Egyptian volunteer with the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, described his own frustration with many of the later waves of volunteers arriving to that conflict. “One of the negatives that emerged from the jihad, and which continues to have severe consequences today, was the tendency for the youth to focus not on success and achieving victory and liberating Afghanistan, but on their desire for martyrdom and to enter paradise,” Hamid wrote. This overriding preoccupation with becoming a martyr meant that participation in the conflict, “became individual instead of for the benefit of the group or the country where the fight for liberation is taking place.”


  • Is Everything Wrestling?

    Can you smell what The Rock is cookin’?

    Great NYTimes article on truth and stories:

    This is partly because the rest of the world has caught up to wrestling’s ethos. With each passing year, more and more facets of popular culture become something like wrestling: a stage-managed “reality” in which scripted stories bleed freely into real events, with the blurry line between truth and untruth seeming to heighten, not lessen, the audience’s addiction to the melodrama. The modern media landscape is littered with “reality” shows that audiences happily accept aren’t actually real; that, in essence, is wrestling. (“WWE Raw” leads to “The Real World,” which leads to “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” and so forth.) The way Beyoncé teased at marital problems in “Lemonade” — writing lyrics people were happy to interpret as literal accusations of her famous husband’s unfaithfulness — is wrestling. The question of whether Steve Harvey meant to announce the wrong Miss Universe winner is wrestling. Did Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj authentically snap at each other at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards? The surrounding confusion was straight out of a wrestling playbook.


  • persona

    I see people over and over again underestimating people and overestimating brands.  Everyone said Apple was going to remain innovative and unstoppable even after the passing of Steve Jobs.  People kept thinking Trump was a flash-in-the-pan candidates.  It’s just part of our evolution that we gravitate toward individuals and see our world through relationships with people instead of brands or principles (that’s why a lot of brands have spokes people).  Christianity is no stranger to this claiming their religion is a “personal relationship with God”.

  • Three Weak Words

    I have always felt like “I feel like” as a phrase was disingenuous:

    Writing in The New York Times, Molly Worthen, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, calls out the three words you should stop using:

    “I feel like … ”

    They’re weak words, weasel words, conflict-avoiding words. Words that we use when we don’t have the courage of our convictions, and we’d rather hedge our bets and say something in a calculated way that sacrifices certainty for safety.

    And yet, they’re common–and only becoming more so. I’m sure you see it in your work and in your life. People who are afraid simply to say what they mean, and feel instead that they have to couch their convictions with language about how they feel.

  • On Facts

    From an After the Fact New Yorker article:

    Lynch thinks we are frighteningly close to this point: blind to proof, no longer able to know. After all, we’re already no longer able to agree about how to know. (See: climate change, above.)

    In England, the abolition of trial by ordeal led to the adoption of trial by jury for criminal cases. This required a new doctrine of evidence and a new method of inquiry, and led to what the historian Barbara Shapiro has called “the culture of fact”: the idea that an observed or witnessed act or thing—the substance, the matter, of fact—is the basis of truth and the only kind of evidence that’s admissible not only in court but also in other realms where truth is arbitrated. Between the thirteenth century and the nineteenth, the fact spread from law outward to science, history, and journalism.

  • trust in a person vs trust in God

    One of the interesting things that comes out of marketing Christianity as a “personal relationship with God” is people take that paradigm to mean one can trust God the way one trusts a person.  When one trusts a person it is an implicit expectation that they’ll deliver on something.  For example if you trust a pizza delivery company, you expect the pizza there within a reasonable amount of time.  If the pizza doesn’t come you will get mad at the pizza company and maybe leave a bad Yelp review.  But this anger shows that you respect the company in a way.  If the roles were reversed and you didn’t deliver on something you’d respect and accept the resulting bad reviews and understand that was a necessary evil to keep society running smoothly.

    Trust in God is open ended (but people selling you religion fail to mention this).  God cares about you on his own terms.  His actions are not subject to evaluation by empirical evidence, only scripture and church teaching.  That means if God comes through that’s great, if he doesn’t there’s something wrong with the way you are seeing things.  This is almost the exact opposite of how trust between humans works.  You are expected to expect nothing.  Respect is shown by submission instead of empathy.

    Of course Christians try their best to market the faith as allowing one to trust God as one trusts a person.  Of course they don’t tell you that sometimes part of trusting a person involves them betraying your trust (for example when you tell someone you have planned and are about to commit suicide).

  • Mental Health and Christianity

    Great comment on a thread on the Ex-Christian subreddit asking why Christians are so uptight about Mental Health treatment:

    Because a mental illness is essentially an illness of the consciousness, which is what people probably mean when they talk about a soul. So in that regard, mental health is basically spiritual health and that’s supposed to be God’s job. Seeking help elsewhere is basically saying that a good God is doing his job badly. A kind of action-implied blasphemy. I’ve literally heard my aunt say “there’s no way you can actually be depressed when you have Jesus in your life”. Not knowing, of course, that it’s something I was struggling with. :/

    It’s gotta be a holdover from when illnesses like epilepsy and schizophrenia were understood as demon possession. (perhaps also, ironically, as gifts of prophecy?)