The Entanglement of Compassion and Liberty


Column by Glen Allport.

Exclusive to STR

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Hidden yet Fundamental Connections
I am fascinated by quantum mechanics, and particularly by what is called the quantum enigma (also known as the measurement problem). Among the most startling aspects of this enigma is that consciousness and physical reality are connected in some fashion, such that at the quantum level – the level of atoms and sub-atomic particles like photons and electrons – unobserved particles are not solid entities but merely clouds of probability. Conscious observation is what prompts a particle to assume specific physical reality. Indeed, the physical world – meaning the entire universe – may be created by conscious perception. Given that the role of conscious observation at the quantum level is well-proven and (almost) beyond dispute – which is not to say it is understood – it is unsurprising that some well-known and well-respected physicists believe that stars and galaxies also decohere (from clouds of probability into actual physical objects) upon observation, just as subatomic particles in the physicists' laboratories do. Is that idea too pedestrian for you? Perhaps you'd like to test-drive the "many worlds" interpretation, in which each possibility is resolved on observation into in its own newly-created universe.
Who would make up such crazy explanations? Answer: very smart people who are driven to desperate, counter-intuitive thinking by the consistently bizarre results of experiments. The explanations that physicists (and others) have come up with for those experimental results are bizarre only because the results themselves are bizarre. Nothing resembling a "sensible" explanation fits the actual, observed behavior of particles on the quantum level.
As we shall see later, the harnessing of quantum effects may be necessary to bring consciousness into being, so the connection between consciousness and quantum reality may be a two-way street.
There are similarities in the connections between consciousness and quantum reality, and the connections between compassion and liberty (or between love and freedom, if you prefer). The two sets of connections are not identical but both sets of connections are profound, fundamental, powerful, unavoidable (one cannot "finesse" one's way around them), yet easily missed. Indeed, most people seem not to perceive these connections – hardly surprising in the case of quantum effects, but more perplexing in the case of liberty and love, because those connections are not only quite real but central to the happiness and welfare of every human being.

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Impossible Behaviors

The famous "double slit" experiment is an excellent introduction to quantum weirdness. Send a stream of subatomic particles (photons, say) through a slit towards a screen behind the slit, and you get a nice "bell curve" distribution of hits on the screen, with most in the middle and the number of hits tailing off towards either end. Graphing the results would give you a curve like this:
Add a second, parallel slit, and you get the interference pattern you’d expect, just as you would using water waves in a similar experiment. The crests and troughs of the two daughter waves (one wave from each slit) add to each other, in places canceling each other out (one trough + one crest) and in other areas intensifying the wave (two troughs or crests at the same point). A graph of photon hits on the screen in this interference pattern might look something like this:
But – here’s the "can’t be happening" part – send the photons through the double-slit apparatus one at a time until you’ve built up a pattern, and you STILL get the interference pattern instead of the bell curve. What is it, exactly, interfering with those individual photons? The most common answer: Each photon is interfering with itself. How? The unobserved photon exists only as a wave of probability, not as a particle, and thus acts as a water wave would: sending a daughter wave through each of the two slits; these two waves interfere with each other – thus an interference pattern is built up on the screen even from the one-at-a-time release of photons.
Now suppose you put a detector at each slit so that you KNOW which slit these individual photons are going through. The photons somehow notice this and – perhaps peeved at being spied upon – return to acting as if there were only one slit, so that instead of an interference pattern we again see a bell curve distribution. (Actually, the effect is not absolute, but instead reduces the interference significantly).
An individual photon somehow interferes with itself if (and only if) there are two slits in our experiment rather than one, AND if the slits are unobserved during the photon’s transit. Or perhaps something else equally weird is going on, but whatever the explanation, somehow a single photon "knows" that it should participate in creating an interference pattern when there are two unobserved slits, and that it should participate in creating a standard bell curve pattern when only one slit is present or when the slits are under observation. 
Quantum weirdness shows up in other equally impossible ways, such as entanglement. Two entangled objects influence each other’s behavior instantly (yes, faster than lightspeed) across any distance. How? We have no idea. Another party trick nature conjures up in the quantum realm is what might be called reverse causality: a future event for one particle can determine what happens in the present for another particle. (See the book Biocentrism [discussed below], pp. 56-57 for a good example, or "Back From the Future" in Discover Magazine). These are not rare or isolated events: bizarre behavior of one type or another shows up reliably in even the simplest quantum experiment. Indeed, much of the modern economy only exists because of such "impossible" quantum behavior. Your computer (and anything else using transistors), your monitor, your DVD drive (and anything else using lasers), and a great many other modern wonders would not function without quantum effects. A lot more quantum-enabled technology is under development; the 21st Century is just getting started in more ways than one.
Beyond allowing for Donkey Kong, supermarket price-scanners, and other hallmarks of the modern world, quantum physics shows us that physical reality (or, depending on the interpretation you prefer, the version of physical reality we experience) is created by consciousness. Without conscious observation, the universe consists of probabilities instead of concrete, specific realities. This stunning observation (and it IS an observation, at least on very small scales) has been verified repeatedly in thousands of experiments.
Cue the Twilight Zone theme: Is your living room really there when you are out of the house? Maybe not. The sub-atomic particles that your living room is made of aren’t really there when you are away, except as clouds of probability, so is there any reason – other than your insistent but fallible common sense – to believe your entire living room doesn't become a cloud of probability waves whenever you leave the house – or even when you just walk into the next room? As mentioned, there are other ways the probabilities might resolve, such as to instantiate every possibility into its own universe – the "many worlds" interpretation.
All of this is so bizarre and counter-intuitive that for the most part, physicists avoid dealing with explanations for such behavior in favor of simply using the equations of quantum theory – which are stunningly accurate – to do whatever research or other work their jobs entail.
The weird phenomena described above are not in dispute, at least at very small scales. They are unexplainable with current knowledge and theory, and are strange beyond description, but the actual, measured phenomena are not in the least controversial. A century of experiments have proven that the phenomena are absolutely real and perfectly reliable – which is why they can be used as the foundation for so much modern technology. 
Some popular books and films (What the Bleep do We Know!?, for example) assert that quantum physics also proves the existence of ESP and other such abilities, but few physicists agree. There is tantalizing data from a number of experiments (see Lynn McTaggart's The Field for an overview) but most of the physics community is annoyed and embarrassed at what it sees as the misuse of quantum theory to support the existence of events, powers, and abilities that most physicists do not believe are supported by the data.

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The Connections Between Love and Freedom
As I said earlier, the quantum enigma reminds me of the connected nature of love and freedom. In particular:


One cannot fully describe or understand either love or freedom without reference to the contributions of the other quality. For instance, taking away another's freedom – whether with actual slavery or some lesser form of coercion – is the opposite of loving them; love includes allowing others to live their own lives and to make their own choices, good or bad. Viewing the human world through a lens that focuses only or mostly on one of these qualities, or which lacks understanding of how they support each other, necessarily creates an unbalanced and incomplete understanding of the human world.


The linkage between love and freedom (or compassion and liberty, if you prefer that wording) is such that low levels of one quality bring about lower levels of the other quality.

For instance, a police state is not conducive to love and compassion. Police states (i.e., unfree societies) are toxic to love and thus reduce the levels of love and compassion in society. The defining characteristics of a police state include coercion, cruelty, and callousness – opposites of love. Coercion is not only unloving, it is actually a crime in most jurisdictions. Coercion also makes it more difficult for people to feel and to express love. Why, then, are societies organized around authoritarian governments that use coercion for funding and for so many other things?

From the other direction, a society of unloving sociopaths has little chance of becoming (or remaining) free and prosperous. Empathy and compassion for others (which lead to ethical behavior, charity, and kindness) are necessary for the long-term health of any society.

High levels of one quality encourage high levels of the other quality; more love includes and encourages more freedom (loving people don't feel the need to control others). More freedom also includes and encourages more love. These correlations are not as strong as they might be; widespread understanding of the importance of both love and freedom is therefore also needed to ensure against drifts into cruelty or tyranny. For example, many people who show empathy for others can be made to believe that coercive government is a good way to support compassion, despite the historical record of impoverishment, mass murder, and other horrors shown by large, supposedly compassionate governments, and despite the inefficiency and tendency to corruption that, for obvious reasons, characterize even the best of governments.

In sum, love and freedom support and ultimately require each other. It can appear otherwise for a time (for a few decades under "compassionate" versions of coercive socialism, for example) but never for long – and if you look closely, you will see that cruelty and the destruction of love begin right at the beginning.

The connections between compassion and liberty suggest that these two qualities are not distinct and separate, but are entwined at a very deep level. These connections between love and freedom are not speculative; you can see them at work throughout history and in the present day, something I have elaborated on in previous columns. Always and everywhere, diminishing one quality harms the other.

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Back to quantum theory for a moment and to the books that sparked my thoughts for this column. The Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner is a gentle but detailed introduction to the subject. After describing quantum theory, its history, and the facts discovered by experiment that create the enigma, the authors discuss ten different, current interpretations of quantum theory – all of which are staggeringly bizarre. (One of these interpretations may be "true" – meaning "a good explanation for what is actually going on" – but physicists do not agree on which interpretation that might be). Physicists do agree on the data and on the equations of quantum theory, and the authors assert that "not a single one of [quantum theory's] predictions has ever been wrong" – but again, the meaning of quantum theory is another story. What sort of universe does quantum theory describe? That question is up for grabs.
Here again, this mirrors the situation in psychology and in our views of human nature generally. The many schools of thought on personality theory, on child-rearing, on politics, on morality, and on other topics related to the nature of human beings AS human beings (as opposed to as collections of sub-systems, such as cells, organs, and so on) show that on the subject of human nature, we are still in a pre-paradigmatic state. No single, widely understood and widely accepted framework exists that describes human nature and which makes useful, accurate predictions about the human condition. (In this case also, such a framework may have been formulated but no framework on the topic, regardless of accuracy, is universally – or even close to universally – agreed upon as correct). Result: dozens of mostly-contradictory political viewpoints and many views of what humans are like and thus of how children should be treated, of how other adults should be treated, and of nearly everything else that affects the human condition. Rather a mess, in other words.
Inevitably, some of the paradigms (or frameworks or systems or theories or philosophies or whatever you prefer to call them) created over the centuries for understanding the human condition have been better – more accurate, closer to reality, more in tune with our genetic heritage, more conducive to healthy personal and social outcomes – than others. Some frameworks have reliably led to mass poverty and starvation, or to frequent human sacrifice, or to constant war, or to other widespread and severe misery. Other frameworks have generated healthier results. Ideas matter, and in this area they matter a lot.
I'll return to the topic later in this essay.

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Does Consciousness Require Harnessing Quantum Effects?
For a more detailed look at quantum theory, focused especially on how it relates to consciousness – including and especially in the sense that quantum mechanics may play a central role in creating consciousness – consider the 1989 classic The Emperor’s New Mind by Roger Penrose (not available as a Kindle or other eBook, sadly. The Quantum Brain: The Search for Freedom and the Next Generation of Man by Jeffrey Satinover is another good read on the topic – and an easier one – that is available for Kindle).
There is enough math and difficult reading in The Emperor's New Mind to put many people off, but Penrose himself suggests readers skip whatever sections they get stuck on – basic understanding of the idea does not require knowing every detail. In any case, much of the text, including a terrific description of the double-slit experiment and other cornerstones of the quantum enigma, many with useful diagrams or drawings, will be quite readable by anyone interested in the topic.
Penrose is describing quantum theory merely in preparation for the main point of the book, which is to describe and defend his belief that certain types of quantum actions within biological structures (he discusses some possibilities) bring consciousness into being. This would mean that no amount of algorithmic computation could ever create consciousness, and thus that that no classical computer will ever become conscious. Without specific biological structures (or, one assumes, artificial copies that are functionally equivalent) at work harnessing specific quantum interactions, all the computing power in the universe will never create a self-aware machine. I hope Penrose is right on this score; we have too many humans without empathy for others as it is, and a conscious machine might or might not be programmed in a way that would lead to empathic behavior. Furthermore, even the best programming can be changed over time (version 1.2: now with less of that pesky empathy!) or can lead to unexpected and negative consequences (a common SciFi theme, as in I, Robot and Terminator).

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An Infinite Stream of New Universes, and Thoughts on the Fundamentals of Knowledge
One of the best-known interpretations for the quantum enigma is the "many worlds" idea, in which an infinite number of new universes are constantly splitting off from this one. For example, in this interpretation, Schrodinger's famous cat – either alive or dead in its box, depending on whether or not cyanide has been released by a mechanism triggered by the non-predictable decay of an atom (and ignoring the likelihood that the cat's consciousness is enough to collapse the wave function) – is not in a superposition state, not in the form of a probability wave waiting for an observer to collapse the wave, not dead-and-alive at the same time inside the box (as, for instance, the Copenhagen interpretation would have it), but fully alive in one universe and dead as a rock in another. You aren't collapsing a wave function (now more often called "decoherence") when you look in the box: you are merely learning which of those two universes you happen to be in. If your kitty is alive, another version of you is opening the box in another universe and finding a less pleasant outcome. Did I mention this is happening not just with you and your cat, but with you at every moment of your life, and with every other person at every moment of his or hers, and probably with every other conscious entity, from dogs and (ahem . . .) cats down maybe to insects or even lower life-forms – no one knows "how much" consciousness it takes to affect quantum actions – at every moment in time, forever. This would seem to be a LOT of universes – hugely more than most discussions of the idea would lead a reader to believe. Imagine trillions of gigatons of mass (a huge understatement) coming into being instantly, along with the intricate details of every cell in every living thing and the billions of galaxies – each with billions of stars – that each new universe contains. Imagine an infinite number of these new universes coming into existence at every moment in time for every sentient being. Questions immediately arise, such as "How can I find out the email addresses, phone numbers, and Twitter accounts for my friends in some of these parallel worlds?"
Zillions of brand new universes being created every second? Who could take such a thing seriously?
Big-name physicists, that's who. Michael Nielsen is quoted in Wikipedia as saying that "at a quantum computing conference at Cambridge in 1998, a many-worlder surveyed the audience of approximately 200 people… Many-worlds did just fine, garnering support on a level comparable to, but somewhat below, Copenhagen and decoherence."
That says something about how relentlessly bizarre quantum reality is, as revealed by actual experiment. In The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World, David Deutsch writes that "the 'many-universes interpretation' of quantum theory . . . remains at the time of writing a decidedly minority view among physicists. In the next chapter I shall speculate why that is so despite the fact that many well-studied phenomena have no other known explanation."
As the Nielsen quote above shows, not everyone agrees with Deutsche that there is "no other known explanation" but The Beginning of Infinity is a great read, far more engaging than most popular books on science. Deutsch writes with infectious enthusiasm and displays great clarity and depth of understanding on the nature of science and of knowledge. He argues "that all progress, both theoretical and practical, has resulted from a single human activity: the quest for what I call good explanations." (Quantum theory includes a great many observations, predictions, and powerful equations, but it is not yet an explanation. The various interpretations of the quantum enigma are attempts to explain the eerie behavior we find at the quantum level).
Deutsch makes (what I believe are) some head-slapping errors, as in his brief remarks about the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, but the man also points out (in a theme that runs throughout the book) that "All observations are, as Popper put it, theory-laden, and hence fallible, as all our theories are." Fair enough.

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Biocentrism and Thoreau
In dramatic opposition to the many-worlds interpretation, biocentrism is the view that the universe does not actually exist in any concrete form except when and where it is being observed. Yes: that means the computer you are using right now ceases to exist when you leave the room or even when you just look away for a moment.
On the one hand, that idea seems insane. On the other hand, it is exactly what we observe at the quantum level: particles exist only as waves or fields of probability until they are measured or otherwise observed – when they either decohere into actual particles, instantiate into a multiple universes, or – something. This has now been seen even in larger molecules, incidentally, not just subatomic particles. Biocentrism insists it is true for stars, galaxies, and your living room as well as for electrons and such. Real scientists hold this point of view. John Wheeler of Princeton, for example (a towering figure who held many prestigious awards), believed in a "participatory universe in which observers are required to bring the universe into existence" (from Biocentrism, below; italics in original). When conscious observation began, the universe – or the observed portions of it, anyway – collapsed from a cloud of probabilities into a real state. Wheeler is quoted (in the Wikipedia article about him) as saying "We are participators in bringing into being not only the near and here but the far away and long ago."
Bob Berman and Robert Lanza make a detailed case for this mind-bending view in Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. There are a few chapters of a personal nature that I found off-topic, but the rest of the book is a joy to read and an excellent, detailed look at what quantum mechanics might actually be telling us about the universe. The authors quote many famous figures in physics, as you'd expect, but also Thoreau (repeatedly), Emerson (ditto), and other non-physicists. I remember wishing, while reading this book, that I could talk with Thoreau and ask him to clarify some of the things he wrote in light of the modern understandings that underpin quantum theory. When Thoreau wrote "But all these times and places and occasions are now and here" and (of Walden)

I am its stony shore,

And the breeze that passes o'er;

In the hollow of my hand

Are its water and its sand
– did he mean such things only poetically, or did he actually entertain a view of reality similar to biocentrism?
As espoused by Berman and Lanza, biocentrism includes denying the reality of both space and time, which the authors see as constructs that life uses to understand and deal with the underlying reality of "all time is now" and "every point in space is one" and "the universe itself is in my conscious mind, NOT 'out there' in any real sense" (my words). If this is what Thoreau and various others in history meant, then I am even more impressed with them than I was before – not because I have any sense for what those ideas might mean, but because coming up with a biocentric view of reality, much less intuitively understanding it, without the prompting of quantum theory, suggests that something interesting is going on in that person's mind.
Lest I give the impression that biocentrism is yet another New Age example of taking quantum ideas as an excuse to claim that humans can time-travel by simple means of will (or other such over-reach, as most physicists see it), I should point out that Berman and Lanza explicitly disavow such things. Like the many-universes interpretation, biocentrism simply takes known and uncontestable experimental results and builds an interpretation (an explanation, as Deutch would put it) for those results.

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The Love & Freedom Connection is Far More Important to Understand than the Quantum Enigma
Quantum effects and many other things went unnoticed or misunderstood for millennia because relevant objects, effects, or underlying causes were undetectable (or nearly so) until enabling technology was introduced. The microscope let people see single-cell organisms for the first time, leading to a new paradigm of infectious disease and to breakthroughs in medicine and public health. The telescope let Galileo and others see the heavens in dramatically-enhanced detail, bringing new understandings about the solar system and the cosmos generally. Technology was needed to enhance human perception in these cases, just as technology was needed to begin exploring the quantum world.
But the human condition requires no technological advance to make it visible to human beings. Special tools and modern technologies are not needed to see that people are healthier and happier when they have freedom and love in their lives. Something else – such as psychological defenses – must be in play.
Freedom and love each have deep and startling effects. Simply reducing coercion in a society (that is, increasing freedom) is incredibly powerful and positive. Hong Kong went from serious poverty in 1950 to stunning prosperity in a single generation under Britain's (relatively) laissez-faire administration, while right next door in Mao's mainland Communist China, millions of Chinese with the same genetic and cultural heritage were suffering severe, ongoing poverty and repeated mass famines. When China itself began giving people more freedom – especially economic freedom – after Mao's death, the nation rapidly became an economic powerhouse, lifting hundreds of millions out of grinding poverty and saving who-knows-how-many from starvation.
All of that has been widely reported. For that matter, a few minutes of research will show you that the Chinese economic miracle is strongly concentrated in areas of China where government regulation and other interference are lowest. When the government mostly looks away and allows people to run their own lives and businesses, then people create the lives they want – and they don't want grinding poverty or other forms of misery. The process is messy (as it was in America in the 1800s) but then, life is messy. The clean-up comes as a natural result of prosperity; people begin to feel more concern for the environment, for safety, and for other first-world values when their basic material needs are met.
Likewise, the benefits of a gentle, loving early life are easily visible and on display in many places today and throughout history. Infants and children who are not traumatized and who experience consistent love are physically and emotionally healthier throughout life. The beneficial effects of love (and, conversely, the negative effects of unlove and of early trauma generally) are staggering – far stronger than most believe.
And the link between love and freedom, you ask? What about the non-quantum entanglement that pushes one of those qualities in the direction the other is heading, and which makes it difficult to maintain high levels of one in the face of low levels for the other?
I suggest Alice Miller for a starting point; she produced some of the strongest, best-documented, and easiest to understand writings on the topic I know of. Her classic For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence (paperback only, I'm afraid) links early cruelty not only to individual acts of violence but to national insanities such as Hitler's rise to power. For a quick web link, consider Adolf Hitler: How Could a Monster Succeed in Blinding a Nation? (and please don't hold the child-like site graphics against the essay; those graphics reflect the nature of The Natural Child Project and it's intended readership: mostly parents of small kids). If you don't fully buy the idea that LIBERTY and COMPASSION (or however you prefer to word it) REQUIRE each other, then PLEASE read Miller's For Your Own Good, at a minimum. Many of the columns you'll find in my STR archive address the same topic.
Mankind either removes its blinders on the connections between love and freedom, or future generations will know very little of either quality.
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Glen Allport's picture
Columns on STR: 111

Glen Allport co-authored The User's Guide to OS/2 from Compute! Books and is the author of The Paradise Paradigm: On Creating a World of Compassion, Freedom, and Prosperity.


GeoffreyTransom's picture

A pretty good article, but I dislike the use of the shorthand that conflates a system with the way a system is MODELED in pedagogic and research tools. (I've spent a decade post-academe in financial markets, which are full of people who think the 2-asset model is the real world, and that the Solow-Swan model is what the actual macroeconomy looks like).

The probabilistic approach (modelling particles as probability densities) dominates quantum theory at present, but in all likelihood it simply reflects incompleteness in the theory rather than something that is genuinely inherent in the physical universe.

Likewise, quantum 'entanglement' and action-at-a-distance relies heavily on the idea that physical proximity in R4 (space-time) is a useful proxy for proximity in other dimensions: the idea that other dimensions exist is no longer even at issue (when I first became interested, in the late 1970s, it was HOTLY contested; now it's a question as to how MANY there are).

As an example; in R4, 'distance' is meaningful; in the macro world a large change in any co-ordinate renders information-exchange more difficult. So if I am at [X1,Y1,Z1,T1] and you are at [X2,Y2,Z2,T2], then unless ALL FOUR dimensions are 'close' (to within a few metres and seconds) we cannot communicate directly without technology.

However consider if R5 is 'red-haired-ness' (call it 'G'); my red-haired-ness is quite low (but non-zero... ginger-beard unless I shave). You might be a full-on bloodnut [G=100], or a Chinaman [G=0] - you could be ANYWHERE on the Ginger spectrum, and the 'gap' between our relative levels of Ginger does not impede almost-instantaneous communication (unless G=100 and the ginger in question has been drinking) if we are proximate in R4.

Now consider if R6 is 'literacy' and R7 is 'internet connectivity' (I know these are not akin to 'physical dimensions', but bear with me).

If both of us have high R7 and reasonable R6, we can exchange information almost at will across R3 and T (T only in one direction at present) - even if one of us is a drunk Ginger (although as G approaches 100 and D [drunkenness] rises above 60, R6 [literacy] drops sharply).

OK... this is already book-length, but bear with me for a few more sentences.

If ANY of the 'higher dimensions' enables spacetime-invariant transmission of information (i.e., transmission of information regardless of the interactee's position in R4), THEN quantum entanglement is not even interesting as a concept. It's like asking "How did that fat guy in Australia tell the guy in the US what he thought over such a great distance?", ignoring the cable coming out of the back of my computer.

It will become clear as humanity continues to research dark matter (and the even MORE bizarre 'dark energy'), that the constraints we thought we faced in R4 are almost entirely non-binding. The first thing that we will come to understand is that information - having no mass - is not bound by R4 constraints and can change co-ordinates (including bidirectionally in T) without hindrance.

One last thing - don't anybody for a minute think I'm getting all 'New Age' in my old age: not a bit of it. But the universe - the hard,. cold, dark universe - has non-hippie wonders that we will uncover that will make late-21st century man look back on early-21st century man, the way we currently look back on societies that had not developed writing.

WhiteIndian's picture

Why "hard, cold, dark universe" when the part in which we've adapted is warm, soft, and light, and alive? Is warm, soft, light, and alive too hippie-ish?

I think such a rigid, frigid description acts more as a mirror than a lens.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

I used that set of adjectives because the vast vast VAST majority of the observable universe is cold (near-absolute-zero) and dark (night-sky dark, not 'nuclear bunker with no generators' dark).

Those words have a nice embedded double entendre, too: physical vs anthropomorphic emotional-projection.

* Hard like a rock, or hard like the 1000-yard stare of a US soldier at a checkpoint in a land that isn't his?
* Cold like ice, or cold like the soul of an IDF soldier helping steal land from people who've lived on it for a hundred generations?
* Dark like a movie theatre, or dark like the mind of anyone who believes in the primitive racial-supremacist lunacy of the Old Testament?

I also think those words accurately reflect the disposition of the universe towards some bunch of self-important naked monkeys on a slightly-interesting ball of rock orbiting a not-special little star in a backwater of a galaxy that is indistinguishable from a hundred billion others.

The more we inculcate the 'we are nothing special' view, the better: the human conceit of 'specialness' has caused enough agony and depravity when directed just at our own little mildly-interesting ball of rock and its inhabitants - if we don't get rid of that trope before we blunder out into the stars, we deserve to be extinct.

Lastly... when considering the staggeringly tiny bit of the universe that we occupy, you should also consider just how much of it is relatively inhospitable to our poorly-evolved meatbags. Most deserts, a good chunk of any decent-sized mountains, the liquid environment at any depth greater than about 40 feet, the polar regions - all of those places will kill a naked ape in a relatively short period of time.

Mother Nature (to personify the natural world for a sec) is indifferent as to whether humanity extincts itself or is extincted by a mutated germ or virus, or a comet, meteor, supernova, or any of the planetary-scale ass-whipping-phenomena; we're about as important in the broad sweep of cosmic history as chlamydia.

The thing is, deep down I am perfectly happy with being an insignificant hairless ape whose entire life is less than a blip in the timeline of this tiny little planet, which itself is hurtling through a vast void. We each of us have that nanoscopic sliver of time, sandwiched between eternities of non-existence.

Anybody who can't make peace with their insignificance will be shitting bricks, crossing their fingers and hoping for God as their last heartbeat approaches - and that's the ultimate in lacking self-awareness.

That said, I am also a utopian extropian who plans on being alive when we get past the knee of our tech development curve... so I will zip up my mind, upload it to a nanobot a few million atoms across, download everything ever written (and know it instantly)... and spend eternity playing Reversi.

WhiteIndian's picture

It was a stone groove, my man!

Symphony of Science - 'Our Place in the Cosmos' (ft. Sagan, Dawkins, Kaku, Jastrow)

A minor aside: the lunacy in the OT doesn't reflect the primitive; Jerusalem and fantasies of streets paved with gold are rather city-Statist.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

That video was awesome - the best use of vocoder I have ever seen (WAY better than the Cher song that made it acceptable).

I am a big lover of Sagan - the man knew how important altered states of consciousness are to developing a proper sense of self (and to make one's philosophical life more productive: the myth of the 'stoner' is simply dumb, since weed is mostly a force-multiplier). The man made it clear: he smoked weed EVERY DAY.

That said, I have never smoked anything in my life - edibles suffice, along with 'primitive' ingestibles - from peyote to mescaline to mushrooms to morning glory tea... and one day I will do a proper ayahuasca experience.

Imagine how awesome humanity would become if we forced ALL candidates for political office to undertake a (non-pharma) hallucinogenic experience: the Cheney types would trip balls and horrify themselves when they looked into their inner abyss and it snarled back at them... they would find that deep down they are so monstrous that they don't really even care about themSELVES.

You're right about the OT critique though - the foundational myths of any 'nation' are almost always intensely statist. The cock-snipping and willingness to kill one's own kids in exchange for power is the sort of thing we're encouraged to associate with 'primitive' cultures, in order to misdirect us from the fact that the really horrifying behaviour is decided upon by nicely dressed people speaking in gentle voices in palaces.

Michio Kaku's observation is something I have banged on about for a decade -

We could be in the middle
Of an inter-galactic conversation
And we wouldn't even know

Any civilisation that is a generation more advanced than we are, will not require little grey dorky bodies, will not need to speak through a meatbag, will be 1/50th the size of a virus, and their radio traffic will be encrypted and thus utterly indistinguishable from background noise. AND they'll be able to interact with us mind to mind if they so choose... but they would feel no need to. They would not be hostile - they would be utterly indifferent to us.

Glen Allport's picture

What a great reply! Lots of interesting ideas in your mini-essay, Geoffrey.

I feel the same way you do about " . . . the use of the shorthand that conflates a system with the way a system is MODELED . . ." and tried to be clear that everything of an *explanatory* nature in quantum theory is conjecture, and that there are multiple, conflicting views of what might actually be happening, but it's difficult to completely avoid writing in a way that uses such shorthand, because otherwise you get annoying levels of repetition.

One of the things that strikes me whenever I read on the topic (including reading your comment above) is that different writers, physicists, and schools of thought see the experimental results in VERY different ways, and in fact often describe the results themselves (of famous experiments) differently. This is true to an extent in every field, I think, but seems to especially characterize physics. Many people in the field have clear and hardened views (Deutch's assertion that "no other known explanation" fits the data than the many-worlds idea, for instance, versus the late John Wheeler's Copenhagen-esq, biocentric view). If there is any *proof* worthy of the term that clearly supports one view over the many others that have been advanced, I haven't seen it. This is true for the "extra dimensions" idea, as well, and for every other bit of explanation in quantum physics that I've seen. You'll find dissenters with solid arguments on every explanatory idea, not to mention the explanations no one has come up with yet -- which might well include the *best* explanation, given that we still can't reconcile quantum theory with relativity theory.

I suspect you're right about the "non-hippie wonders that we will uncover" -- interesting times lie ahead.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

Thanks for the nice response, Glenn.

As I've mentioned here and elsewhere, I am an arch-contrarian in my investment strategy (my favourite Commitment of Traders indicator is what I call the 'Dumb Bull Ratio', and I use BPI and CCI extremes to position AGAINST the crowd)... BUT when it comes to the nascent ability of human ingenuity to open up the mysteries of technology I become almost almost quasi-religious. So I'm a HUGE fan of Kurzweil, Drexler and their ilk (I even have difficulty disliking Aubrey de Grey).

For me it all goes back to Richard Feynman's 1959 talk - "There's PLENTY of Room at the Bottom" - I read it in the early 90s, and read Drexler's "Engines of Creation" the same week. Back then, the second half of the 21st century was the likely target date for nano-assemblers and strong AI... and Kurzweil then said "Nah - it'll be here by 2029 at the latest". And he's been correct - or even slightly LATE - on other things (like the human genome mapping projections).

Last year, the Cray XK6 continued the trend set by Chinese supercomputer Tianhe-1A in 2010 - we went past Moravec's estimate of the human brain's theoretical processing capacity in 2008 with 'Roadrunner' (Moravec's estimate is equal to about 1 petaflop)... Tianhe-1A hit 2.5 Petaflops.

Cray's XK6 can (theoretically) scale to 50 petaFlops, but is already delivering a 20PFlop machine (which is well above the upper bound for human brain simulation). Moore's law just got pwned.

And supercomputers don't have to dedicate processing power to running a liver or spleen, dragging its meatbag to the toilet for a shit every 19 hours or so, or wondering whether its wife fancies the milkman or if Ron Paul will get any media attention. (What I am getting at, is that human cognition involves MASSIVE redundancy and also a large processor load dedicated to systems 'support').

When (not if) we get Strong AI, and the technological acceleration begins in earnest, our interaction with and understanding of the physical universe will be so fundamentally altered that our current understanding of the 'state of nature' will seem childish and silly by comparison.

I can't wait. We will find out that the universe is even more awesome than we already know... and we will learn that the 'tragedy of the commons' only exists due to the primitive awkwardness of our production technology.

WhiteIndian's picture

The Death Cult likes to first dehumanize and degrade that which it wants to abuse and destroy. All part of the war on "primitive" life itself, Mother Earth and her Children. Well, not children. Meatbags.

"The only good meatbag is a dead meatbag."

Nips, Huns, Injuns, SandNiggers and no-good-Shit MeatBags.

Glen Allport's picture

I'm a fan of Kurzweil also, and the accelerating pace of change he talks about is such that I'm surprised at it all over again whenever I think about it or take another look at one of his charts. He does understate the negative possibilities, though -- Bill Joy is just as reasonable and persuasive but has a much darker take on what we'll get out of the coming hyper-tech. (Joy's "The Future Doesn't Need Us" at Wired, from a decade ago, is still an interesting read). One of the points I've made repeatedly in my writing is that what people choose to DO with technology -- at any level -- depends largely on their emotional health and their world view. A healthier society will use tech in healthier ways, and this factor is going to be ever-more important going forward.

WhiteIndian's picture

How to judge technology:


WhiteIndian's picture

Cage dogs of Hong Kong: The tragedy of tens of thousands living in 6ft by 2ft rabbit hutches - in a city with more Louis Vuitton shops than Paris


I know, I know, they're better off than, well something, right?

Glen Allport's picture

The widespread (and often stunning, yes) mistreatment of animals is a reminder that fostering compassion and emotional health generally are every bit as important as fostering liberty. Neither quality is sufficient on its own.

WhiteIndian's picture

You didn't read the article; people are living in tiny wire rabbit cages, sometimes more than one per hutch.

The libertarian fetish for Heritage Kong and the other Asian police state is astounding.

Glen Allport's picture

Ah, yes -- clicked over to see the piece; people in squalid conditions, got it.

The "fetish" you mention is simple awareness that HK's improvement under the Brits in the second half of the twentieth century, for example, shows (as does the history of the US, Switzerland, Sweden pre-1970, Argentina before the build-up of its welfare state, and many other places) that when government is small and leaves people alone, the overall well-being of the population increases dramatically. Mainland China is another example we've all heard of -- yes, it's a mess, a tyranny, with a corrupt and cruel government, but it is far more free than under Mao and while extremes of rich and poor still exist, there is now a solid middle class about the size of the whole US population. Those people (and their parents) were almost all desperately poor under Mao. Creating even a reasonably prosperous society out of the devastation of something like Mao's China takes years of hard, messy work, but the fact is this: freedom reliably improves the situation of the masses. Of course, when a society starts to become wealthy, government takes more and more of the wealth -- socialism is the tool of choice for this, because the people will usually cheer it on, making the extraction of wealth from the people to the government easier to maintain -- and this reduces the creation of wealth (by penalizing the production of wealth, subsidizing non-production, building expensive bureaucracies, etc) and then the overall standard of living slowly degrades. See England, Sweden, and other first-world welfare states -- not yet third-world, but heading relentlessly in that direction.

Here's a comment from the article you link to, from someone who (says s/he) has lived in both HK and England:

Open your eyes, wake up, see how a lot of the poor really live in this country, especially elderly, isolated, lonely and afraid. No hope, Feel insecure in the streets and homes. Life in HK is, on the whole, better for everyone, including the poor and old. They are certainly happier. Yes, there is extreme wealth as well as extreme poverty but also a large middle class but somehow it is a different world to UK. Better climate, great freedom, less beurocracy, cheap food, greater community, great public transport, people feel much safer and there is a 'life' about the place. There is also an absence of the envy, jealousy, bitterness see/ hear here. We have lived in both and prefer HK, often saying if we have to be poor better HK than UK.

- Turfoot, Yorkshire, England, 13/1/2012 02:37

WhiteIndian's picture

Any horror can be justified in the eyes of those profiting from it.

Glen Allport's picture

You see freedom and prosperity as a "horror"?

I'll repeat part of the comment I quoted above, from someone who has lived in both England and the UK; it certainly fits with what I've read about Hong Kong for years:

". . . great freedom, less beurocracy, cheap food, greater community, great public transport, people feel much safer and there is a 'life' about the place. There is also an absence of the envy, jealousy, bitterness see/ hear here. We have lived in both and prefer HK, often saying if we have to be poor better HK than UK."

How is this a horror?

I'm not saying Hong Kong is perfect -- it isn't. Heck, it's run by the Communist Chinese. Nor is there ANY nation I know of without too much tyranny and too little emotional health and compassion. But what, exactly, is the type of society YOU'd prefer?

While I'm at it: you DO realize that the computer you are reading this on is not something a hunter-gatherer society could produce, right? Same for modern dentistry, cel phones (or any type of phone), and almost everything else in the modern world. Some of the bad things in the world are inevitable -- no society can eliminate all pain and hardship -- and some (many) are caused by widespread emotional damage and by tyranny. Respect for the rights of others would eliminate much of the evil I've seen you complain about; treating children with respect and compassion would eliminate most of the rest.

Another thought for you to consider: I've read Diamond, but the fact is that agriculture does NOT require tyranny and evil -- agriculture creates larger and concentrated populations, of course, which makes tyranny more visible and gives it more to work with, but not every ag culture is cruel. I have friends who are Jain (the Eastern religion) and they are non-violent and compassionate to an extent that shocks. Buddhists, as a group, also tend to be gentle. Both religions grew and prospered thousands of years ago in a region where agriculture, not hunting-gathering, was the way of life. Those religions (and Hinduism, from the same time and era, which is also typically gentle but less so and less reliably than the other two) are generally less violent and cruel than some of the hunter-gatherer Plains Indian tribes, for instance. Yes, there was war and cruelty among the Indians and any other large group of native peoples you can name -- populations were small and there is less recorded history among such groups (if any), so we hear less about it, but some tribes were as cruel as any ag culture you can name.

So again, what are you advocating, exactly? How about doing a column for STR and putting it all together for us? It's easy to point to things that are wrong with the world, and most of what you point to, I agree with: I don't want people to live in poverty and squalor, for instance, and I hate the genocide that was committed against the Indians and against almost every other native group in the world. I don't think you have to sell anyone here at STR on the idea that such things are bad. Reducing the coercive power of government and teaching respect for the rights of all is STR's official position; I add, or perhaps just heavily emphasize, that children, infants, newborns, and pregnant mothers must be treated well -- with compassion and respect -- because if they aren't, the young grow into emotionally damaged adults who create damaging societies (again, Alice Miller is a good resource on that). Love and freedom are the key elements in making any society healthy, whether the society is high-tech or not, ag-based or not, or anything else. What, in detail, are YOU advocating?

This isn't sarcasm; I'm interested in hearing your position

WhiteIndian's picture

You see 2 people living in a rabbit cage as "prosperity?"

You're evading reality.

Domestication = greatly increased violence. It's just that simple, and there are volumes of archeological and anthropological evidence backing up that statement, some of which I've provided already and won't repeat again, because people complain I repeat and repeat it. Well, as you can see, I have to repeat and repeat; the same bromides apologizing for agricultural city-Statism get repeated and repeated.

Although I will repeat myself on this: the Plains Indians were a post-apocalyptic society of refugees from the Invasion further east, with double the violence of pre-Conquest tribes. It's intellectually dishonest to keep pointing to victims of Conquest as normal pre-Conquest society.

Agricultural city-Statists such as yourself have a huge system of apologetics based on nothing but Hobbesian myths. It's a way of dehumanizing 99% of humanity as "savages." (Even though that word merely means "dwellers of the woods.") Thus, you and libertarians and an-caps hold a glaring contradiction:

You glorify agricultural city-Statism (civilization), an integrated cultural system, while belly-aching about the inseparable Statism aspect.

I'm advocating nothing but this: acknowledge your contradiction and begin to check your premises upon which your contradiction is based.

Glen Allport's picture

>You see 2 people living in a rabbit cage as "prosperity?"

>You're evading reality.

Really? Here's one bit of reality I am clear on: There are poor and miserable people everywhere, including in native tribes and pre-ag cultures. Not to mention huge rates of death in such cultures from childbirth (for both mothers and newborns), huge rates of death in infancy and childhood, frequent malnutrition and starvation, and widespread conditions even WORSE than the "cage people" in Hong Kong endure -- THEY, at least, have shelter inside, and access to many things their more primitive ancestors did not.

But that isn't the point: the point is that you've highlighted a tiny group of unfortunates and are acting as if this is the condition for the mass of people there. It is NOT (and you KNOW this, just as you know that widespread misery existed in pre-ag cultures, and so are, in my opinion, being intellectually dishonest) -- and MY point, which I thought I was quite clear on, is that on the whole, modern tech and societies with at least reasonable levels of liberty HUGELY and WIDELY improve the situation of the people generally. You haven't disproved that and you won't, because it is the simple, strongly-supported truth.

Or are you saying you PREFER early death for most people from disease, injury, infection, malnutrition, violence, and all the other things that caused human lifespan, for most of our history, to be so low -- as little as 19 years on average, according to some estimates? Even if it's more like 35 years, that still seems a pretty cruel thing to wish for.

I'm not "glorifying agricultural city-Statism": I write columns (many of them) describing why coercive Statism of ANY type is evil and harmful. I spend plenty of time and provide LOTS of links and references in my columns -- ask the editor, who finds it time-consuming to format them all -- to support my position that the combination of coercion (or disrespect for the rights of others, if you prefer -- be they Indians or anyone else) and low levels of emotional health (and thus compassion, empathy, ethical behavior, etc) are the problem -- NOT technology, NOT agriculture, NOT ANYTHING ELSE but too-little love and freedom. And like others at STR, I have written specifically and repeatedly about the maltreatment of the Indian tribes -- if you assume those here at STR are uncaring or uninformed about the genocide against the Indians and the resulting unhealthy effects on the survivors, then you are, at a minimum, not very observant.

But there are only 24 hours in every day, and so we must pick our battles. This, I charitably assume, is why you aren't spending equal time ranting about slavery in the American South and the lasting effects of that, and of racism generally, on blacks. It's why you haven't gotten around to chiding me and others here for not spending more time writing about the mistreatment of the Jews under the Pharaohs and the Romans, not to mention under the National Socialists in Hitler's Germany. Or do you just not care about THOSE victims?

I know and support Jordan Riak, who runs Preventing violence to children is HIS chosen calling, and its a worthwhile calling to have. I see it as only part of the issue; again, both liberty (respect for others) and love (emotional health, which requires proper and compassionate treatment of the young) is MY chosen issue. Yours seems to be reminding the world of the maltreatment of Indians and other indigenous peoples, and on the idea that agriculture leads inevitably to horrors. That first is one I agree with and support (and have written about more than once). The second, about agriculture, is more complex and in my opinion, only partially correct; ag has done many things both good and bad, and the BAD can be reduced and I believe almost entirely eliminated by increasing both liberty and compassion. We can DO that; we CAN'T eliminate agriculture without killing maybe 6.5 billion humans -- and if this is what you're advocating, let us know. In any case, we WON'T eliminate ag voluntarily, although the mass extinction we have started may eventually do this as a side-effect of wiping out most humans.

Whether I am right or wrong about the benefits of love and freedom -- and frankly, I've written so often and included so many references and links that I have a hard time believing anyone could doubt those benefits, not because of my writing in particular but because I know how powerful and voluminous the data is -- this is MY chosen cause. If I had any reason to think that more love and freedom could possibly be a BAD thing, I'd rethink that focus.

You are flatly wrong about the lack of violence and other horrors among pre-ag cultures. Some were gentle and others were very much not, and there is a LOT of eviderncer for this. On the violence of hunter-gatherer cultures, including ancient ones, here's a selection from "War in Human Civilization" – this text is in the free sample available from Amazon for Kindle and Kindle software

"The picture that has emerged from these studies [of hunter gatherers] is of neither a Hobbesian hell nor a Rousseauite paradise of pre-sin innocence, but a more mundane complex. In a Rousseauite vein, hunter-gatherers have been found to have labored less, had more leisure, and been generally healthier than agriculturalists. . . . Still, periodic droughts, or any other adverse climatic condition affecting their subsistence, often decimated them. Also, on the bleak side, pressure on resources was avoided by widespread infanticide, especially of baby girls. . . . Quarrels were rife among hunter-gatherers as among the rest of humankind, resulting in very high homicide rates among most hunter-gatherer peoples, much higher than in any modern industrial society. And yes, intergroup fighting and killing were widespread among them. . . . A Neantherthal man from some 50,000 years ago, found with a stabbing wound in the chest from a right-handed opponent, is our earliest documented specimen. . . . At Sandalja II in the former Yugoslavia a group of 29 people from the Upper Palaeolithic have been found with their skulls smashed. Violent injuries were also found to be very common in Upper Palaeolithic cemeteries in the former Czechoslovakia. In the Late Palaeolithic cemetery at Gebel Sahaba in Egyptian Nubia over 40 percent of the men, women, and children buried there were victims of stone projectile injuries . . . Moreover, evidence of fighting among historically recorded hunter-gatherers, whose way of life was not very far from that of their Upper Palaeolithic ancerstors, is abundant."

Before you accuse me of painting ALL such cultures as violent, spend some more time reading my columns. I have descibed the Amazon Yequana tribe several times, for example, based on Jean Liedloff's description of them "The Continuum Concept" from her two years with the tribe [photos at]. My point is that violence, war, cruelty, and so on are NOT something unique to modern man or to ag cultures in particular.

WhiteIndian's picture


Agriculture CUT human lifespan. So you're just parroting more lies. Fact check for you

That 19 year lifespan -- that's a short, nasty, brutish CIVILIZED lifespan, and you're dishonesty trying to conflate it with Paleolithic lifespans.


"She also noted that the death of the mother in childbirth was relatively rare...[compared to] birth in more civilized communities."

~Mark Nathan Cohen
Health and the Rise of Civilization
Yale University Press


"Archaeological evidence suggests that specific deficiencies, including that of iron (anemia), vitamin D (rickets), and, more controversially, vitamin C (scurvy) as well as such general signs of protein calorie malnutrition as childhood growth retardation have generally become more common in history rather than declining.

~Mark Nathan Cohen
Health and the Rise of Civilization
Yale University Press

Conspiracy Theories?

-- "we CAN'T eliminate agriculture without killing maybe 6.5 billion humans."

That's a tired old lie.

Permaculturalists like John Jeavons have demonstrated time and time again that a human diet can be grown on 1000 square feet. But that doesn't make the capitalists any money, and doesn't concentrate calories enough to march armies, so we don't do it.

Violence and War

I never said violence and is unique to civilized people. Again, you're being intellectually dishonest suggesting that I said that. I like this passage to put city-Statist violence in perspective:

"No society can ever be fully devoid of violence, but those that aspire to such a goal only become more violent by denying its place in the world. Primitive societies did engage in violence, and without a permanent class of professional killers...To properly compare the effectiveness of such approaches to our own, we need to take an honest accounting of violence in our own society—wars, murder, violent crime, incarceration, police brutality, and the full impact of our professional violence class. We need to look also to the ubiquitous violence inherent in our social system: the threat of violence that lies behind paying your rent, obtaining your food, and every other aspect of civilized existence. Primitive societies were not devoid of violence, but they did limit it, and it was a much rarer thing. Among them, violence was something that happened. For us, it’s a way of life."

~Jason Godesky
The Savages are Truly Noble
10 May 2007

If one wants to strike-at-the-root of increased violence, it can be traced back to one thing: DOMESTICATION, that is:

Violence and control against other species leads to more violence and control against our own species.

P.S. I'm with you on the nospank and I've got Liedloff's book which is good stuff.

Glen Allport's picture

". . .a human diet can be grown on 1000 square feet." So agriculture is OK, then, after all?

I'd say "of course it is" and if we got rid of corporatism (Monsanto, oil co's, banksters, etc) and in other ways began respecting property and other individual rights, we'd have organic, sustainable ag along with honest non-Big-Pharma medical care and a thousand other things. Whether that would be enough to support 6+ billion humans is, I think, something we'd have to find out from experience. Show me a pre-ag world where 7 billion people lived comfortably, and I'll concede the point.

"I never said violence and is unique to civilized people." Maybe not, but you have repeatedly maintained that agriculture brought about violent and other negative changes for society as a whole. I'd say it ENLARGED such violence and misery, primarily by increasing the population. The potential for concentrated power brought more tyranny and thus more misery. The solution isn't to eliminate ag and domestication; it is to reduce and eventually eliminate tyranny. And the idea that there was never a "professional violence class" in ancient or primitive societies is contradicted by the existence of cannibal tribes, warlike tribes, head-hunters, and the many types of evidence for war, violence, human sacrifice, and so on. SOME ancient societies were nice; some weren't. "Primitive societies were not devoid of violence, but they did limit it." -- again, you can pick your sources, but you know full well they aren't the ONLY sources of information. Plenty of primitive societies did a very poor job of "limiting" violence, and that's in addition to death and misery from plague, famine, exposure, and so on.

"Agriculture CUT human lifespan. So you're just parroting more lies. Fact check for you" The HIGHEST number on that chart is a whopping "25 - 40 years" (in "early modern britain"-- NOT a pre-ag society) until the present, where it's 67.2 years. Yes, I see that the number drops in the Neolithic as primitive ag gets underway, but then it goes up for millennia, and modern ag -- despite Monsanto's best efforts -- is clearly more effective at keeping large numbers of humans alive than either primitive ag or hunter-gathering. That's not to deny the ill-health effects of low sunlight, junkfood, and other modern (and quite preventable) evils.

On primitive lifespan, from another Wikipedia page:

"The life expectancy in prehistoric times was low, 25–40 years,[9] with men living longer than women; archaeological evidence of women and babies found together suggests that many women would have died in childbirth, perhaps accounting for the lower life expectancy in women than men. Another possible explanation for the shorter life spans of prehistoric humans may be malnutrition; men, as hunters, generally received better food than their female counterparts, who would subsequently have been less resistant to disease.[10]" From -- again, does this really sound like something to strive for?

You insist that the roots of violence "... can be traced back to one thing": domestication. Again, gentle, non-violent societies based partly (Jains, Buddhists, etc) or wholly (a number of primitive tribes, for instance -- surprised you ignore this) show that SOMETHING ELSE is the issue. Too much emotional damage and too much tyranny, are my answer. "Violence and control against other species leads to more violence and control against our own species." -- I agree with that entirely, although given a choice between a non-ag life among emotionally damaged sociopaths -- of which there have been plenty in such conditions -- and a mostly-healthy and largely-free life in a world where ethical domestication (meaning with less cruelty and with a focus on the experience of anything [sentient] that is domesticated) is the norm -- I'd choose the latter.

AtlasAikido's picture

I'd like to thank Dr Ron Paul for bringing this to me attention when he responded to Billy O'Reilly and called him out on his knavish ways. And my thanks to Suverans2.

Regarding The Sad Truths of Internet trolls:
1. Trolls enjoy using shock-value statements to get angry responses from others.
~Well if you don't know what is happening then of course. I am smiling of course as this is how one picks a fight.....

2. Trolls gain energy by you insulting them.
~And they do loose energy when one clues in the bar, cafe patrons as to what is going on...(trolls are never found in secluded alleys nor under secluded bridges)

3. Trolls gain energy when you get angry.
~Sounds a lot like Semper Fi shock and awe bullshit. If you doubt this follow any self-respecting 12 year old goat herder (boy or girl) overseas..

4. Trolls are immune to criticism and logical arguments. True trolls cannot be reasoned with, regardless of how sound your logical argument is. ~But I am not responding to the troll. I am responding to the audience...Whilst doing other things...

5. Trolls do not feel remorse like you and me. They have sociopathic tendencies, and accordingly, they delight in other people having hurt feelings.
~LOL. Sounds like a personal problem.

6. Trolls consider themselves separate from the social order.
~Not so. They clearly need an audience! They are cowards and cannot do their work unless others support and sanction them. Which is entirely different to defending oneself.

7. Trolls do not abide by etiquette or the rules of common courtesy.
~ Personal problems do tend to manifest thusly....

8. Trolls consider themselves above social responsibility.
~All the better to see them for what they are...Although this is clearly not sufficient...

9. The only way to deal with a troll is to ignore him, or take away his ability to post online.
~Well not until you understand what is going on. Just telling someone to shrug is asking anyone too much. Rand wrote a book on the subject (Atlas Shrugged) and still too many miss the meaning. Some miss the meaning in Aikido, but relying on just Aikido is also asking too much of anyone.

10. More information can be found here: What Is an Internet 'troll'? Internet for Beginners Study number
~ Yes it does come across like a beginners manual. Actually it is very rule based AND highly misleading. But more on that later...

Some "incoming" points as I was posting:

11. It is hardly "easier to think" and explore ideas and trade with others if one has a "troll or vandal" around...It is "submissive"--amongst other things--if one continues to give such by conceding the moral high ground...

12. Who--once enlightened--would accept let alone entertain the notion that a "troll or vandal" "provides documented evidence that YOU hold contradictions, and [that] encourage[s] YOU to check your premises". Indeed you do if you let him/her have its way with you....

13. "If one wants to strike-at-the-root of increased violence, it can be traced back to one thing DOMESTICATION" ~ This coming from a troll to his victims is how funny to you dear reader?

I will expand on what is happening in another post (perhaps)...

Best Regards,

Glen Allport's picture

Thanks for posting this.

Glen Allport's picture

This was a repeat; the intertubes are sometimes slow and I hit the "save" button a second time.

Paul's picture

It is hard to decide whether WI is a troll, or just one of those individuals who simply is incapable of constructively interacting with others. One even gets the impression he is actually trying to bring pre-ag life into disrepute by presenting his case so obnoxiously - that is, that he is a provocateur - but that makes no sense because I doubt the ruling class worries about people en masse converting to a pre-ag "lifestyle".

I'm putting my money on "troll".

The ironic thing is that if WI somehow magically found himself actually living in a pre-ag tribe, he'd probably find himself quickly expelled from the tribe if not killed outright. I'm guessing people in those societies did not put up with trollish behavior for long. It's only the post-ag Internet ecosystem that allows him to thrive (if you want to call it that).

Just in case he isn't a troll, he ought to take a look at Dale Carnegie's work.

WhiteIndian's picture

"He spoke, in passionate sincerity, discarding convention, discarding concern for whether it was proper..."

I will admit my style here is deliberately Randroidian, even if my message is anti-Randroidian.

Once again: I'm not converting anybody, or advocating anything here, even when begged to state what I champion. I'm just correcting your errors, and offer a critique of agricultural city-Statism (civilization.)

There's no "going back" to primitivism (unless we have a horrible collapse via nuclear war or other tragedy, which is actually quite likely.) But looking forward, we must have an accurate picture of what we left behind.

The Hobbesian mythology and the Abrahamic athropocentrism of Genesis 1:26 (even if secularized) are taken as gospel by most people. Including Libertarians, Objectivists, Communists, Liberals, Conservatives. They're wrong. You're wrong.

I'm here saying there's better information now, and if you're truly interested in creating a world with more freedom, you'd do well to check your premises.

AtlasAikido's picture

Who needs enemies with the kind of help? Getting back to the issues of self-ownership as they relate to this article and Jim Davies: "Liberty Stability"

WhiteIndian's picture

Are humans to be "consumed, sold, rented, mortgaged, transferred, exchanged or destroyed?" Because that's what owners do with mere property.

Therein lies the bait-and-switch con-game of libertarianism, as identified by Robert Locke in his 2005 article Marxism of the Right:

"Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics."

AtlasAikido's picture

Bait and switch (con game) is arguing points that don't pertain to this site and not addressing the issue of Reclaiming Self-Ownership.

Liberty Stability

WhiteIndian's picture

If "ownership" of your own self must be transferred—via wage or voluntary or chattel slavery—to the owners of earth's resources in exchange for food or tokens for food and resources to survive in a society, that kind of negates the "self" part. (Except in libertarian economic la la land.)

Libertarianism is all about "Thou Shalt Own Thy Neighbor as Thyself" -- even if it's just for only the most productive part of your neighbor's day. Hell, wage slavery more profitable for the owner class than having chattel slaves who have to be fussed over and cared for 24/7.

Privatize gains, socialize costs. Then bitch about the socialized costs. Neat little swindle ya'll got goin' there.

AtlasAikido's picture

TNSTAFL...As to the owning of others I see no evidence of that with the writings of glen, jim, paul, livingfreeretiree, suverans2 etc.....I see no one on this agorist anarchy indomitus site who is forcing you to transfer your ownership of yourself.

WhiteIndian's picture

TANSTAAFL is an agricultural city-Statist bromide. Before agricultural city-Statism, there was such a thing as a free lunch. Yep, for 99% of human history.

Just go out a couple hours a day and gather up some nuts. Just that easy. For free. No hard labor, no working for The Man, no slaving for money.

Despite a low annual rainfall (6 to 10 inches), Lee found in the Dobe area a "surprising abundance of vegetation". Food resources were "both varied and abundant", particularly the energy rich mangetti nut- "so abundant that millions of the nuts rotted on the ground each year for want of picking..."

Interesting that the Hazda, tutored by life and not by anthropology, reject the neolithic revolution in order to keep their leisure. Although surrounded by cultivators, they have until recently refused to take up agriculture themselves, "mainly on the grounds that this would involve too much hard work". In this they are like the Bushmen, who respond to the neolithic question with another: "Why should we plant, when there are so many mongomongo nuts in the world?"

The Original Affluent Society
Stone Age Economics
Marshall Sahlins, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, University of Chicago

P.S. You haven't read much "Austrian" economics if you haven't heard that an employee transfers ownership of his life, in part, to an employer. Better read up. Misean "scholar" Walter Block even defends selling oneself into a "voluntary slavery," complete with sadistically whipping such human property.

WhiteIndian's picture

P.S. Privation Property = FORCE.

Our system of private property in land FORCES landless men to work for others; to work in factories, stores, and offices, whether they like it or not. Wherever access to land is free, men work only to provide what they actually need or desire. Wherever the white man has come in contact with savage cultures this fact becomes apparent. There is for savages in their native state no such sharp distinction between "work" and "not working" as clocks and factory whistles have accustomed the white man to accept. They cannot be made to work regularly at repetitive tasks in which they have no direct interest except by some sort of duress. Disestablishment from land, like slavery, is a form of DURESS. The white man, where slavery cannot be practiced, has found that he must first disestablish the savages from their land before he can force them to work steadily for him. Once they are disestablished, they are in effect STARVED into working for him and into working as he directs.

~Dr. Ralph Borsodi
This Ugly Civilization
Simon & Schuster, 1929

Agricultural Civilization--including both capitalist and communist--is a long Trail of Tears.

AtlasAikido's picture

Is Free-Market Anarchism Unworkable? Not in America’s Roofing Industry

WhiteIndian's picture

It's not anarchy. Anarchist falsely claim anarchy where there is none, such as in the American West during the brutally aggressive agricultural city-Statist invasion and genocide. Unless you want to call a holocaust anarchist.

The roofing industry here is still operating under the the territorial monopoly of force called government. If you don't think so, try driving to get more roofing nails without a license plate on the company vehicle, or just offer a free bag of pot for every roofing job. And last I knew, roofers were still using the established government court system to settle disputes. Oh, right, now they do "give a rat's ass."

Darkcrusade's picture

The only use for philosophers is to argue with other philosophers.It is self evident,i think therefore i am. Self ownership is inherent,a gift of God.Personal souvreignty, Case in point>

A robber breaks into your house and threatens you at the point of a gun. Discretion
being the better part of valor, you give in and tell him where your valuables are hidden. But you make the decision, and you do the telling.

If, instead of a robber, it were a kidnaper after your child, it would be a different story. But in either case, your thoughts and acts are under your own control.

Thousands of men and women have suffered torture and even death without speaking a word that their persecutors tried to make them speak.

Your freedom of action may be (rights maybe violated)forbidden, restricted, or prevented by force. The robber, kidnaper, or jailer may bind your hands and feet and put a gag in your mouth. But the fact remains that no amount of force can make you act unless you agree -perhaps with hesitation and regret - to do so.

This leads to a very important point - in fact, to two important points :

1. Individual freedom is the natural heritage of each
living person.

2. Freedom cannot be separated from responsibility.

Your natural freedom -your control over your own life energy was born in you along with life itself. It is a part of life itself. No one can give it to you, nor can you give it to someone else. Nor can you hold any other person responsible for your acts. Control simply can't be separated from responsibility; control is responsibility.

Insects and animals follow certain patterns of action. Honeybees, for example, all make the same hexagonal cells of wax. Beavers all build the same form of dam, and the same kinds of birds make the same kinds of nests. Generation after generation, they continue to follow their changeless routines - always doing the same things in the same ways.

But a man is different because he is a human being; and as a human being, he has the power of reason, the power of imagination, the ability to capitalize on the experiences of the past and the present as bearing on the problems of the future. He has the ability to change himself as well as his environment. He has the ability to progress and to keep on progressing.

Plants occupy space and contend with each other for it. Animals defend their possession of places and things. But man has enormous powers, of unknown extent, to make new things and to change old things into new forms. He not only owns property, but he also actually creates property.
In the last analysis, a thing is not property unless it is owned; and without ownership, there is little incentive to improve it.>

Three miracles-

1 That there is something,rather than nothing.

2 That there is a habitable planet anywhere in the universe.

3 That there is High-functioning life.In the imago dei.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Darkcrusade,

Well said.

However, you may want to rethink your stance on philosophers, i.e. lovers of wisdom.

    PHILOS'OPHY, n. [L. philosophia; Gr. love, to love, and wisdom.]

    1. Literally, the love of wisdom. But in modern acceptation, philosophy is a general term denoting an explanation of the reasons of things; or an investigation of the causes of all phenomena both of mind and of matter. When applied to any particular department of knowledge, it denotes the collection of general laws or principles under which all the subordinate phenomena or facts relating to that subject, are comprehended. Thus, that branch of philosophy which treats of God, &c. is called theology; that which treats of nature, is called physics or natural philosophy; that which treats of man is called logic and ethics, or moral philosophy; that which treats of the mind is called intellectual or mental philosophy, or metaphysics.

    The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena; to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness.

    True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

Oh, and, prepare yourself for an attack from the atheist believers for daring to use the words "God" and "dei".

WhiteIndian's picture

By definition, atheists are NOT believers. Why do you always attack them with silly semantics, trying to make them into believers like you? Feeling lonely?

Suverans2's picture

You see, Darkcrusade, there are those who believe, (because they cannot prove), that there is a First Cause, or a Supreme Being[1], and there are those who believe, (because they cannot prove[2]), that there is no First Cause, or Supreme Being. gfywi

And, then, of course, there are those intellectually honest individuals, (IMO), who are agnostic (1870), "...who profess that the existence of a First Cause...[is] not and cannot be known" [Klein] ~ ~ Etymology Online Dictionary

[1] The American Indian, so-called, "believed in a good and Supreme Being [God], and in an Evil Spirit [Devil or Satan], and recognized the existence of inferior good and evil spirits. They believed in a future state of existence, and there were no infidels among them. Superstition [religious beliefs] among swayed them powerfully, and special men, called "medicine-men," were their physicians, priests, and prophets, who, on all occasions, used incantations."

[2] Two negatives equals a positive.

WhiteIndian's picture

You're grossly misrepresenting atheists' stated position. The word a-theist itself means absence of theistic belief. You're just trying to drag them down to the True Believer make-believe gutter in which you wallow.

Also, I'm not a "so-called" American Indian. White Indians were those who ran from agricultural city-Statism (civilization) to a Non-State society, as documented in the following:

Chapter 13. "The White Indians"
The Invasion Within
The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America
Author: James Axtell
Pubished by: Oxford University Press

"The White Indians of Colonial America"
Author: James Axtell
Source: The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Jan., 1975), pp. 55-88
Published by: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

P.S. Two positives can equal a negative. It's true! Try it out by saying "Yeah, yeah" in the back of a lecture hall.

WhiteIndian's picture

Freedom is more than a semantics game, Atlas. Freedom is the absence of coercion; you continue attempting to define it otherwise, as means of evading reality.

You also continue to evade that simple fact that animals other than humans also demonstrate reason and morality. (See "Rational Animals" (Oxford University Press,) and "Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals" (Harvard University Press))

And the lame Social Darwinism relating to property is hilarious. Show me any other specie that takes over way more land than it needs to survive, claims ownership of it, and then charges rent to his fellow species, and starves them into submitting to working for him. Really. I don't see squirrels or dolphins renting pieces of the home planet to other squirrels and dolphins.

Not even most humans have charged rent to live on the face of the home planet to their fellow species in the last 2 million years but a single culture -- Agricultural City-Statism (civilization.)

"In the imago dei?" Now you know why I call your tripe a religio-economic dogma. Can you be honest about it and dispense with the pretext of rationality?

WhiteIndian's picture

You get angry?

"That whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of judgment... Agree with thine adversary quickly..."

verses 25 and 28, chapter 2, The Jefferson Bible

Suverans2, are you one of those Convenience Christians like Tammy Faye—whatever it takes to justify serving city-Statism's (civilization's) Mammon (Money?) This is Jesus' Constitutional Gold Standard:

"Take ye neither gold, nor silver, nor copper in your purses..."

verse 25, chapter 6, The Jefferson Bible