There’s a problem with money. Well there’s more than one but this is a poignant one. Having money allows you to get more money. As biological creatures we want to leave things for our offspring (usually). These two together create an inevitable growing wealth disparity, regardless of how equal we start off. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer. Taxes are the only counter force but they only function when they are a smaller force. A 100% or greater tax would simply encourage criminal behaviour.
Let’s get down the layers to the root cause: money is how we quantify power. You can eliminate money but the same dynamic will occur with raw power, be it technology, weaponry, etc. Power accumulates. It’s an attractive force like gravity. It will clump together in larger and larger chunks. The more centralized the power, the greater we can manipulate the world around us. Not as individuals but as humanity. All the great structures of the world were built when the wealth distribution was unequal. This power allows for monumental creations, but it also creates great complexity in the system. This complexity is inherently unstable. A society with less centralization and less complexity will naturally last much longer. If two societies meet, the more complex one is capable of far greater accomplishments. It will either destroy the simpler society with force or compete it out of existence.
Is there some elegant solution? Not that I can think of and I doubt it’s possible. Any means to work around this (like taxes) will be a human created system. This power dynamic isn’t of human origin, it’s a part of the universe. It’s intrinsically tied with evolution. A system we create will be itself susceptible to the exact problem it intends to solve. Power will still accumulate within it. Here I’m reminded of the self referential nature of Godel’s Incompleteness theorem and how it trashed the universal application of mathematics. Fucking Godel.
There isn’t a satisfying conclusion. We can’t solve the wealth gap, at least not in the long term. Wealth will accumulate until it reaches a point of instability and then collapse. The revolution is inevitable. As is its failure.
This can’t be taken as an argument for inaction because the scale is deceiving. Yes, all societies will fall prey to the greed of a minority. Everyone dies too, that doesn’t mean being a doctor is pointless. You do it to save people in the here and now. The present tense is always more meaningful. The future cannot trump that.
So we tax the rich and their inheritance. We plot the revolution. We plan for it to not fail.
Even when we know it will.
We rationalize our actions. Humans are impulsive creatures, our brains are not the logical thinking machines we often assume. They’re a chemical soup of hormones and tangled wires. A foundational aspect of personal identity is internal control. This isn’t something we learn. It’s an assumption you make when we say you have an identity. When you say “I”.
This urge to have control clashes with the reality of our lives. It creates a major blind spot. We deny our lack of control and claim to have always meant to have done that, or said that. Our vocalizations fun faster than our planing conscious brain. Gut reactions are instinctive feelings.
When we take a strong stance on a topic; be it offended, excited, saddened, etc, we must have a reason. So we rationalize, sometimes it’s a true rationalize, in the sense that it was actually why we did a thing. In those cases it just happens that the origin of the gut reaction matches our conscious beliefs. It may be the ideal situation but it is most certainly not the most common. The thinking mind will make the “best” argument for a given behavior. The more logical or ration a person is, the better they are at rationalizing their own behavior. That does not mean they *are* more rational in what they do. Their behavior is not more rational. In fact, it can allow them to be less rational. They can justify what they do better. The person unable to justify their actions will be forced to change themselves. To confront the consequences of their actions.
This disparity between motivation and rationalizing is how we disappoint one another. We want to be a version of ourselves that we imagine. The ethical person, the witty person, the interesting one, the mysterious one. They’re all ideals we have about who we would *like* to be, not necessarily who we are.
We react in instinctive ways to the world. We rationalize those actions to match the person we imagine we are. Too often our friends and loved ones will “trust” us to be the person we say we are. Not the one we actually are.
There’s so many levels of deception to the human experience. Real honesty is therefore impossible. We lie to ourselves far too often.
It’s why Trust is so important. The real trust. Trusting the core person, the actual person.
Part of being Conscious is having a fixation, like a focal point. The internal monologue must talk about something or see something or hear something. Fixating is a natural part of being a thinking creature. For good or bad we do it constantly.
The mind has a peculiar property where it manifests similar behaviour on all scales. It’s tendencies reflect and reverberate into every facet of life it touches. Like the fractals of a coastline, showing similarities between the pond, the lake, the ocean.
You have a personal narrative; the story of your life. Each one of us has a history which is a narrative written by the individual. We each create our own. That fixation tendency from earlier becomes enmeshed in the story.
As we age we define periods of our lives with a focal point. Like the college years or the time you lived with a bunch of roommates. It helps ground you and give you purpose. It’s also the reason you can get depressed after finishing a major event. You’ve lost this purpose and haven’t found yet a new one yet.
We rationalize it as giving us purpose but it’s not really the reason. Rarely are the fundamentals of the mind done for a conscious reason. Ultimately it’s just a reflection of a basic conscious need. That need to fixate.
Being aware of this is interesting. When I notice the fixation points in my life I find them fascinating. It’s challenging though because they’re almost impossible to track before they come on. They can be instigated for sure; having a child will certainly create a new fixation, as will a move to a new place. In the absence of an obvious one your brain will create something. And that is hard to track. Even if you’re already aware of the fixation point you’re in, predicting when it’s going to end is a challenge (again barring the obvious ones).
So why is this important? The narrative of your life is important. Your fixation points are the themes of periods of your life. The transition from one to the next can be painful but it’s also when the best self learning can be done. Seeing your past fixation point will help you collate your growth.
And as I keep saying, you only stop growing when you die.
Part 1 of a very disconnected study on Memetics
I’m going to get topical here. The USA elections happened this week. My social media feed has been some mixture of terrified, shocked, and angry. Unrelated to that, I’ve been working on this piece for a few weeks; a discussion on the death of human organisations. With the talk of world changing wars and the end of countries, it became very relevant.
Political parties, governments, religions, and any other organizations created by humans, are all larger memetic structures. A Memeplex. Studying the lifespan of these organisms can help us understand what is going on in the larger picture. There are two methods to learn about them, a sorta micro and macro approach. Macro would be viewing history through the lens of Memetics and seeing what traits and tactics are successful. Micro is studying human psychology and how it influences these larger structures. I’m taking the latter approach today.
The Loop of human consciousness spirals in or out over time. This is magnified in a memeplex. The extreme fringe elements of any organization will gain greater and greater dominance as the memeplex ages. Conversely, the opposite may happen. Traits which originally rendered the memeplex unique will fade. It becomes a bland, grey husk of what it once was. This is the spiral out and the spiral in. The manic and the depressive. One of these two mental states will mark the end of an organism.
This magnification means the cycles of revolution are a necessary feature of a memetic creature. When humans combine their minds it creates something unstable. Like an atomic nucleus, the balance of internal and external forces get out of whack. It creates a half-life for any memeplex. Hell, the long term stability of the human mind is questionable. Put them together and you get some monstrosity that will gravitate to an extreme. An extreme that will eventually kill it.
There’s a tendency to see memeplexes as permanent structures. They live past our own lifespans so we see them as immortal. From the perspective of a standard human, it makes sense. The apparent immortal is simply that which outlasts us. Governments, religious institutions, corporations.
When a memeplex is new, it’s quickly forced to deal with an ultimatum; to adapt or die. A majority end up with the latter. They refuse to change, relegating themselves to death by obscurity. The rest run the risk of losing any sense of their own identity through too rapid change. Only a small proportion can survive to maturity.
A Memeplex that reaches maturity is ones that has fully outlived its first generation of hosts. These are what seem like givens in our lives, the Apparent Immortal. They are not. In reality, they have a ticking time bomb inside them.
Insanity will kill them.
We call capitalism efficient but it’s not. Well it is in a sense, if you give it a limited scope for that efficiency. Economic Efficiency. It minimizes the cost for the buyer and maximizes the profit for the seller. The invisible hand guides it to the point of equilibrium. If that’s all you care about then it’s great, but any sane person will have more values than that. The environment, resource usage, economic equality, work/life balance, ethical treatment of animals/people. All of those things are secondary to the real goal of our economy.
I’ve seen this first hand on construction sites. Efficiency is guided by contract bidding. A company makes a list of what must be done and companies don on the contract, with the lowest bid winning. The overall job is parceled out so there are multiple contracts on site with different companies Then when work is being done each company is simply trying to maximize their own profit. If it saves them money to throw stuff out and reinstall ne material then they will, despite the increase in material waste. If the work they’re doing needs to be done as stipulated in the contract, but it is known that the work will be removed for some extraneous reason, it is still done. If the work will clearly cause problems for one of the other companies, but it is supposed to be done at that time, it’s still done. Occasionally the different companies will foster more positive relations and work together, but it’s rare and only when not at the expense of profit. A wasteful and stupid idea.
It’s fucked up and obvious to anyone who’ll pay attention.
But costs must be minimized, that’s all that’s important.
A friend of mine recently had an interesting birthday idea that involved friends writing eulogies for them. It got me thinking on the idea of eulogies, specifically how they help us cope with life. Looking at life from the perspective of being dead is a far better view than we often take. A Eulogy makes decent peoples lives sound worth it. They don’t have to write a bestseller, become a famous artist or a grand inventor; they just need to have lived a good life. It shows what’s really meaningful in life; to have been a positive influence on those around you.
I’d often advise against seeing ones life from the view of being dead but that’s because of a particular pitfall I’ve seen often. It’s when you get too wrapped up in the idea of making your life into a story. You are not a story. Stories are fiction, they are not real. Stories about real people are still fiction, it’s just that there’s a massive amount of editing going on (how often are George Washington’s bowel movements mentioned?)
In a circular way, this flawed view from fiction is what necessitates the value of the view from death. We learn about so many great people in history or in the current media and we idolize them. Fame is, by definition, not something we can all achieve. We often forget this, seeing the good, yet common life as a failure.
Fictionalizing your own life can lead to very negative behaviour due to this disconnect. Eulogizing a living person can show you the value of being average. It’s good so long as you understand the caveat.
Rope playing games, as I play them, are a collective storytelling experience. There are rules that create constraints but the rules do not make anything of real value. It’s the creativity of the Gm and the players. The Gm creates a world and conflicts for the players. The players take on roles and imbue the main characters of the story with vitality. A GM without players has a background without a focus. Players without a GM have no adversity to overcome; It’s a meaningless power fantasy.
In a way, it’s a collaborative author. Players + GM = a better author than the sum of the people’s skill. The GM is paramount, but not because they have the most to offer story wise. They have to do two competing things at once. It’s both their job to contribute to the story And be the arbitrator of logic. When the players outthink the GM or when they just act in an unexpected way, the GM must check their own ego. They may have had plans for the story which now wont work within the logic of the game.
The really profound moments are when the Gm teases out character growth from a player. Finding complexity in a character and forcing them into a conflicting situation. Getting emotion out of a fighter or making the pacifist want to fight. It requires an ego check because the great moments are from the players.
So the ultimate point of why I’m rambling about this, the crux of why I’d explain this to a non-gamer:
Collective storytelling is important to our psyches. Tall tales around a campfire, a shaman’s myths, the bardic tales: they’re responsive stories. The teller uses the audience to make the tale dynamic. Books, TV, Movies, even theatre; they’re all meant to divide the teller from the audience. RPG’s are a sort of modern invention that harkens back to a need long forgotten.
The new Campfire.