Archive for April, 2010

The Meaninglessness Meme

BO: Is the reason why people avoid strategic stepping that as soon as they strategic step, they get depressed and think “life is meaningless”, so as a result they suppress the thought and try to be happy? Could this be the main reason why people conform to the majority?

FH: I think it’s a fundamental reason. You’re supposed to accept society. If you don’t conform, then you get incapacitated by the meaninglessness meme. It’s society’s last line of defense that works every time.

BO: That sounds too ingenious to be coincidence.

FH: It might be the result of natural selection. When you reject the majority opinion in a fundamental way, which no one ever does, you get overcome by intense feelings of guilt, loneliness, depression, and so forth. No one is tough enough to withstand it, so they wind up succumbing to the meaninglessness meme. That’s not looked up to by many, but at least it’s harmless.

BO: Then why do you manage to defy everyone without the benefit of moral support? Anyone joining you should have an easier time from a psychological perspective.

FH: I haven’t provided much moral support. They need impressive numbers to feel they’re part of something strong. I’m just a single human, easy to look down upon and ridicule.

BO: Why don’t you succumb to meaninglessness like everyone else?

FH: I’m not an individual.

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The Green Technology Meme and Intercompatibility

BO: Concern for climate change is puzzling considering people’s short-sightedness. Is it really a concern for humanity’s future, or just some twisted scheme to benefit industries, create jobs, and keep people busy working?

FH: I don’t know, but at some point, the hypocrisy of it has got to dawn on people. Everybody is gaga about green energy now.  In their view, paying extra money for clean technology is a good thing. So buying a hybrid or electric car, installing solar panels or wind turbines, etc are all good, even if expensive.

The way to conserve (the environment) in a capitalistic economy is to keep the velocity of money at a minimum. If I pay big bucks for something, I help stimulate the economy. First, the items I buy required resources to be gobbled up in proportion to the price of what I bought. Second, even if the product is environmentally friendly, the sellers who get my money are gonna spend the money again on other things, further encouraging needless consumption. If you really want to conserve you just need to stop buying and stop working.

BO: But isn’t it a grand thing to save the environment and create massive job growth through green technology at the same time?

FH: To me, this kind of thinking is a symptom of intercompatible memes having conquered the world.

BO: You think about intercompatibility of memes all the time, but have you ever explained it in any of your writings that are publicly accessible?

FH: Probably not. Intercompatibility is one of the key traits that enhance the survival and propagation of memes. Basically, a meme tries to make friends with all the other memes, it tries to be compatible with everything, so that it can achieve the largest possible market share. Bandwidth is extremely limited. Despite people’s predilection for multi-tasking, they can generally only listen to one idea at a time. At the same time, there’s little order and organization in the world of memes. So among scientists, you’ll have some who are religious, others who aren’t. In any specific subgroup, you keep getting people with diverse preferences and beliefs. As a result, people will have the most success attracting a favorable response from the audience by continuously marketing intercompatible memes. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Christian, a football player, or a habitual procrastinator. The intercompatible meme is compatible with everyone.

They’re so hugely successful, their short-term appeal trumps long-term competitiveness and strategic steps. I just listened to an interview with James Dines, who talked about his many books on investing. The gist of his message seems to be that if you are truthful, giving, don’t cheat and don’t steal, and such things, you achieve a higher state of being where you become happier, healthier, and even wealthier because you’re able to invest more skillfully. (Why pick him as an example? Well, among relative, friends, and neighbors, I know they are all gaga about some of the millions of authors like James Dines who use intercompatible memes to seduce their audience.)

Now, when you invest, as we all know, you basically get rich at the expense of someone else getting poor, without doing anything productive. It’s really just gambling. In fact, I think it’s really cheating, stealing, taking, and lying to yourself about it.

BO: I get the feeling that one could summarize that your view is that morality is hypocritical. And not just altruistic morality, but Ayn Rand’s version doesn’t fare any better.

FH: I think anything but a Machiavellian interpretation of reality is childish.

BO: Yet even Machiavelli doesn’t make the grade in your books, am I right?

FH: No, the criterion for making the grade is simple. Correct reasoning and relentless strategic stepping.

Blasé About Everything

BO: Please tell our readers just what is wrong with fact-based, information-intensive thought.

FH: It kills all the excitement for fundamental progress. Everyone is blasé about everything. Heard it a million times before. Unless it’s the news or the latest trend, which are superficial by definition.

Everyday conversations in everyday life are horrible. You can churn out one nonsensical argument after another. Tomorrow it’s all forgotten.

Say you have an interesting conversation with someone. Tomorrow your conversation partner is all excited about something else.

Nobody cares to persuade you. We’re all pig-headed and illogical anyway.

Every single communication is optimized for short-term reward. Notice how everyone is a master in coming up with quick-witted replies, keeping up a continuous stream of conversation, and winning arguments. Strategic steps take time, so they’re conveniently ignored.

BO: What is the defense?

FH: Cut out 90-95% of information sources.

Why do people stop strategic stepping?

BO: There are groups that seek to End the Fed. Some want to prevent the VAT, simplify the tax code, get rid of military bases, create small government, but why stop there? Why not end home mortgages? After all, doesn’t the conformist documentary film “In Debt We Trust” suggest that this is the modern version of indentured servitude?

FH: One of the best memes around today says that our leaders lack common sense. If they just had common sense, that would make things much better.

BO: So you’re saying that people just love to place the blame elsewhere instead of fixing their own thinking?

FH: Well, I mean, why bother with specific opinions on specific issues. If you’re dumb, just admit it and let smart people make the decisions. If you’re smart, how can you tolerate multiple opinions on the same subject? If different people come to different conclusions, then they must be relying on arbitrary preferences. But if so, how can they truly believe in them, knowing they’re just arbitrary preferences?

BO: Isn’t the counterargument that this is extremely dangerous when you have only one set of opinions. Besides, on most questions, there is no one right answer.

FH: That’s the classic Big Endian versus Little Endian conflict. English is written left-to-right. Arabic is written right-to-left. There’s no right answer, and that’s why it’s especially important to agree on the same standard to keep things simple.

The danger argument is just lovely. They’re too lazy to think logically, which is why they tolerate disagreement and then they come around and say you’re dangerous to try to maintain their monopoly of information-intensive quick-thinking.

BO: Look, you’re just the same. You’re merely expressing opinions every time you speak.

FH: Wholesale rejection of society is a distinct psychological event. I am the only person in the world today who has rejected society. There is a lot at stake. The minute you accept society (probably around the ages of 11-15), you submit to stupidity and self-contradiction.

BO: So in other words, accepting society means seeking the comfort of being part of the majority, since they’re in power?

FH: Maybe that’s it. You can’t eat the cake and have it, too. Either you stick to logical thought, or else you seek protection from those in power.

BO: So you’re saying everyone finds a way to do both?

FH: Sure. Every argument implies logically correct thought. And while most human communication is story-telling, argumentation is used extensively by just about everyone. Why can’t they be logical? Only because they fear losing protection of the powerful.

BO: In other words, since we’re herd animals, we believe the herd is powerful?

FH: Right, and I’d even go further and say that a lot of it becomes ingrained in childhood. So an adult who seemingly defies everyone around him (for example by clinging to his belief in the sanctity of individuals) is unimpressive to me because he learned that this was the view of those in power as a child.

BO: Surely you can’t be any different.

FH: I’m not trying to say that at all. My psychology is exactly that. I compete on the side of the strong. The strong, ultimately, are those who follow logic to the letter. Everyone else will fall.

The only true difference is that as a fascist I think long-term, whereas humanism is an intrinsically short-term ideology.

BO: How many fascists are there in the world?

FH: I don’t think anybody really ever understood fascism before me. Even I am merely a proto-fascist, not yet the real thing.

BO: So then everyone is too stupid to see that you’re stronger?

FH: No, they’re perfectly capable of understanding that. They just don’t care because they think they are their physical bodies, which won’t be around to declare victory a thousand years from now.

Film Review: “The Human Spark” – “So Human, So Chimp” Revisited

BO: When you reviewed “So Human, So Chimp”, you overlooked the fact that it is part 2 of a 3-part series called “The Human Spark”.

FH: Yes, and it concludes with the idea that what makes us unique is syntax, among other things.

BO: What other things?

FH: I’m more interested in the fact that it overlooks the most obvious answer, which is the strategic step.

BO: So you have a different opinion. That’s only human.

FH: Why don’t people just continue to believe that the sun circles around the earth? It won’t interfere with making a living, making friends, and leading a healthy, happy life.

BO: So you’re saying that from the perspective of a future historian, arriving at logically incorrect decisions is just as egregious as arriving at logically incorrect facts?

FH: No, the case of the future historian is stronger than that. Decision-based thinking will supersede fact-based thinking. The decisions have to be right. Whether you get the facts wrong is not important as long as incorrect facts don’t end up dominating over the true ones in the long run.

BO: Help the reader conceptualize this by being very specific and concrete.

FH: Nowadays when you join the workforce, whatever you do is extremely information-intensive. Fact-based thinking is rewarded and in fact has a 100% monopoly. If you’re an engineer, you need a vast body of knowledge to succeed. One day you work with a windows OS, another day with a Mac, and the next day with UNIX. Multiple standards are everywhere. Everything is vastly more complex than it needs to be. Just look at how many makes and models of cars we have, and they change the replacement parts they require constantly. They constantly come up with new technologies that usually serve more to place an additional burden on us than simplify life. I’ve seen a car mechanic lament in a forum that by the time a new technology has had enough time on the market where we can correct the major design defects, it’s already replaced with a new technology, so that we’re constantly sending our cars to the repair shop. Even without specialized knowledge in the field, it’s easy to see that power windows cause a tremendous maintenance burden, when manually powered windows were reliable and easy to use. As an individual, the best way to adapt is to absorb new information quickly, to process information quickly, to make quick decisions, and constantly move on to the next task and the next task and the next task. It’s a fact-based thinker’s paradise.

The predictable result is that society as a whole becomes extremely stupid and inefficient. There’s widespread agreement on something like the income tax code. Peter Schiff recently commented in his video blog that all these lawyers, accountants, IRS officials, etc who dedicate their lives to income taxes are a huge waste. We’d be better off abolishing it. How can you express such a thought and then fail to take the next logical strategic step, which is to apply the same reasoning to the rest of the economy? How can you understand that the tax system is a waste and then see nothing wrong with trying to keep a whole population employed at least 40 hours a week?

Clearly the next advance in our evolution has got to be that we learn to minimize complexity (in particular, the information burden placed on the highest level thinkers in the system, which is our brains). We should be high-level strategists, not low-level information-stuffers. I expect people to recoil in terror as they see how everyone willingly turns himself into a super-busy drone who is spectacularly productive in terms of the amount of information processed per hour or per day, but acts like a total dim-wit when it comes to strategic stepping.

Film Review: “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial”

PBS has an interesting video on creationism versus evolutionary theory. The film is surprisingly well-made and entertaining. But somehow it seems as if a much stronger case could be made for creationism.

BO: What’s your view on evolution in a nutshell?

FH: The world is a simulation created by the bogeyman, but this simulation tries very hard to make it appear as if evolutionary theory and for that matter, the whole scientific worldview is true. Since my thinking is decision-based, the fact-based question of whether evolution or creationism is in fact true is of little interest. Since I know I can rely on the simulation pretending that science is true, my decisions will be based on the scientific worldview anyway.

BO: What is the strongest argument against evolution?

FH: That’s a good question because in the film, the creationists try to come up with examples of things for which evolutionary theory has no explanation. The flagellum and the immune system are brought up as examples. These examples are easy to counter.

The question that I never hear adequately addressed is how and why beneficial mutations occur at a high enough ratio relative to disadvantageous mutations to make evolution possible. You would think that beneficial mutations are rare and if they do occur, the harmful mutations that occurred alongside would outweigh them. This problem could be overcome if mutations are rare enough, but then you need a lot of time. Given the vast literature in evolution and my relative ignorance, it’s quite possible that this gets addressed in many places, but I think it should be part of any introductory treatment on the subject. I haven’t seen this discussed in the numerous works I’ve read that were geared towards laymen.

Evolution makes more intuitive sense for, say, bacteria because they have such short life spans and are so great in number. But our species evolved from monkeys over a period of around 6 million years and our population size has been rather small during most of that time. Given that our peak reproductive age is around 15-20 years, that’s not a whole lot of time. There are something like 3 million places in our DNA that are different from individual to individual. A recurring theme in evolutionary history is that evolution tends to occur in brief spurts rather than in a slow, gradual process. Intuitively, it just doesn’t make sense.

Let’s do a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation. Say, there’s a tribe with 50 people in it. They make 25 children over a couple of years, but because of the high infant mortality, only 10 survive. These 10 children differ in millions of places in their genetic code. You would think that a random mutation is more likely to be harmful. It is, after all, a mistake in replication, not a change that an intelligent planner came up with. So if one of these children has the ability to digest cow’s milk (the ability to digest cow’s milk is a favorite example given by evolutionists to show how quickly beneficial traits spread through a population), it’s hard to see how this trait makes much of a difference.

It’s hard enough to believe that a single genetic mutation has a good chance of spreading. For us to develop the ability to speak, it presumably took a number of coordinated changes to give us a useful result. Well, maybe over billions of years, it’ll eventually happen, but when you’re dealing with a time frame on the order of a million years it seems like a leap of faith to believe it happened randomly.

Today, we have millions of software engineers who try to use their intelligence to produce complex instructions for our computers. Getting them to work in a beneficial way is painstaking work and requires horrendous amounts of time to remove the flaws. How evolution manages to create working systems vastly more complex with relative ease seems like the single greatest question begging for an explanation.

BO: But if the bogeyman controls the simulation, why doesn’t he simply adjust the numbers (such as the amount of time we’ve been evolving) so they’re more plausible?

FH: Maybe our evolution is so unlikely that it’s like winning the lottery a billion times in a row. Maybe it takes a googol universes each with 100 billion galaxies containing 100 billion stars to make it happen without divine intervention.

BO: What are the most important thoughts that went through your mind watching the movie, whether or not they’re related to evolution?

FH: The educational system (which, of course, includes parents, the mass media, churches, the economy, etc, that is to say, all of society) doesn’t produce enough interesting variations among our youth. All you get is a bunch of clones who differ from each other in the most irrelevant ways possible and then they celebrate that as diversity and individuality.

BO: There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ambition on the part of people. So many dream of being the next revolutionaries.

Can people’s behavior be explained in terms of genetic evolution?

BO: You ended our last conversation saying that people are too dumb to comprehend. What about your idea that people’s behavior is almost exactly consistent with what one would expect if the only thing that mattered was genetic evolution by means of natural selection?

FH: People’s behavior is remarkably consistent with what they should do if genetic evolution mattered. They’re always trying to climb up the social ladder, so they’re always in the best possible position to find the best mates and provide the optimal condition for raising a family. If something doesn’t present them with an opportunity to climb up the social ladder, they’re not interested. That’s why despite the huge readership I had with some of my websites over the past decade, none of my ideas ever catch people’s interest for long. They’re interested in what gets them ahead in life whether it’s building up a network of social support (friendships) or pursuing a career, or some hobby. If they see it won’t get them recognition, they lose all interest. That’s why I’m so confident that all of today’s morality is pure bullshit, and they’d support all the opposite ideals, if only it helped them get ahead in life.

BO: Yet many people nowadays choose not to have children. Are you sure that their behavior is as consistent and predictable as you make it sound?

FH: I imagine that if they were consciously aware of how perfectly their behavior matches up with trying to ensure the best possible future for the genes, there might be more of a willingness to rebel against it. As for children, evolutionary biologists like to point out that if it wasn’t for contraception, we’d be making plenty of children, and the choice of having children wouldn’t be there.

BO: But aren’t there lots of crackpot philosophers and the like who hold on to unsuccessful ideas, even though it doesn’t work in their favor (from the perspective of genetic evolution)?

FH: I agree that only the average person succeeds in living their lives for the sake of their genes. Everybody else is still a hopeless conformist. Every crackpot philosopher always defends conventional morality and memes with strong market representation at a fundamental level.

BO: Aren’t you defending memes with strong market representation at a fundamental level because you insist on logical reasoning, which is precisely that?

FH: Even those who are against logical reasoning use arguments to back up their point of view, so presumably they believe those arguments to be logical. (This meme has market representation because Robert Nozick mentions it in “The Nature of Rationality”.)

BO: Is people’s inability to go beyond memes that have market representation indicative of a fundamental shortcoming in their intellect?

FH: No, there are plenty who understand evolution quite well. After understanding evolution, I would expect them to be unable to accept a society that still clings to the paradigm of genetic evolution.

BO: What’s the alternative?

FH: Memetic evolution.

BO: Why is this so hard to accept?

FH: In genetic evolution, you have sophisticated mechanisms in place. Genes don’t compete individually. They are organized and compete in units called organisms. When genes are killed, powerful emotions kick in (pain, grief, etc). Memes are disorganized and have no emotions that evolved to defend them.

Proponents of memetic evolution have to create the missing organization and channel emotions to defend memes.

SETI: Is it not obvious that we’re the only technologically advanced civilization in the Milky Way?

BO: What do you make of SETI researchers who apparently see nothing wrong with searching for extraterrestrial life within our galaxy?

FH: I don’t know how to explain it. Everyone from celebrities like Carl Sagan and Steven Hawking to lesser known researchers seem to talk as if it were a reasonable possibility. Clearly, they have heard the argument against it (I’ve actually read an argument somewhere that’s pretty close to this): the diameter of the Milky way is only around 100,000 light years. The universe itself is over 13 billion years old. How long after the invention of large sailing ships did it take us to explore the farthest reaches of earth? Less than 500 years.  How long before we spread to the rest of the Milky Way? A few million years, assuming no major technological breakthroughs that would allow us to travel faster through space than scientists now think is possible. So if you’re looking for other intelligent life in the Milky Way, you’re actually gambling that by some incredible fluke, after billions and billions of years, our species just happened to emerge at exactly the same time (plus or minus 500,000 years) as some other species.

BO: Isn’t the counterargument that maybe they don’t have the same adventurous exploratory spirit that we do?

FH: Everybody in science talks about evolutionary theory. They study in mind-numbing detail how exactly life has been evolving. They can’t possibly think that a species will voluntarily confine itself to one particular region when it has the opportunity to spread. Especially when they have zero faith in our own species to render free-market economies obsolete.

BO: But you gotta admit there are too many possibilities to consider in order for you to draw such a sweeping conclusion that we’re the only intelligence in the Milky Way. For example, it could be that advanced beings migrate into some form of subspace or alternate universe rather than colonize the visible universe.

FH: Come on. Why not do both? Maybe their resources are too scarce to do both? In that case, they’d flood the galaxy claiming every last resource they can find. We’d have been wiped out millions or billions of years ago.

BO: Maybe we’ve been seeded by aliens.

FH: Get real. That would be like us trying to build skyscrapers without the use of cranes.

BO: How so?

FH: Evolution by natural selection is painstakingly slow. You can explore a lot more a lot faster by engineering it yourself.

BO: But maybe there is a reason you and I haven’t thought of, yet.

FH: I think the real issue here is that somehow people aren’t able to strategic step. I’m not even doubting the goal itself. Obviously, as the author of the The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence, I think it makes no sense to look for outside intelligence. But I’m saying, that even if I agreed with SETI, there seems to be a mind-boggling contrast between the technical ability and high level decision-making. It’s almost like there’s a law where the higher-level the decisions that need to be made, the dumber people become.

BO: Is it not a social limitation in that they’re aware of all the arguments, it’s just that they sort of democratize the higher-level thinking. I believe in Jesus. You don’t. But we have this implicit agreement that we’ll tolerate each other’s opinions as equally valid.

FH: That’s probably the right way to think about it. In essence, people will agree anything, as long as the majority opinion pressures them to do so. So, for example, if Hitler had won WWII, we’d now be sitting here shaking our heads at the atrocious short-sightedness of humanistic thinkers. “How could people believe such nonsense as equality?” everyone would be saying.

BO: But it’d still be pure conformity?

FH: That’s exactly what I think. The logical correctness doesn’t matter. Without realizing it, people are hopeless conformists.

BO: So in other words, the only way forward is an insistence on correct reasoning. Trying to get people to fight for your cause or converting people over to your ideology is a waste of time?

FH: It’s a total waste of time in that you’re not doing a fucking thing to change people. If tomorrow, Hitler is in charge, everyone will be saying that they were anti-Semites all along, that they believed that all along.

BO: But will they really believe Jews are evil?

FH: If everyone around them believes it, it will feel just as correct as freedom and democracy does to them today.

BO: Isn’t it kind of amazing that such an obvious idea wouldn’t bother anyone else?

FH: I don’t know what to make of it, really. They’re too dumb to comprehend.

Film review: “So Human, So Chimp”

Yesterday, while writing my last entry (Hopelessly Conformist), I looked for the “Ape Genius” video on PBS, so I could include the link in my post. At first, I found the wrong video. It was called “So Human, So Chimp”. After watching this movie (http://video.pbs.org/video/1383599160/), Brian O’Connor asked me about it.

Brian O’Connor: What did you think of “So Human, So Chimp”?

Future Historian: Well, first of all, a more appropriate title would have been “Like Chimp, Like Human”, except that I agree with Jared Diamond (author of The Third Chimpanzee) that we’re really just one of the three species of chimps on this planet: regular chimps, pygmy chimps (i.e. bonobos), and human chimps.

Movies like “Ape Genius” and “So Human, So Chimp” are extremely annoying in showing humans’ exaggerated opinions of themselves. Instead of using the contrast between humans and other primates as motivation to make fuller use of our mental abilities, the humans in these films are satisfied observing how much smarter we are.

BO: Stop talking in such vague and general terms.

FH: One idea that was repeated a few times near the end of the movie is that humans are clearly more collaborative than other apes because we create cities, governments, religions, bla bla bla.

BO: On what basis, does the film claim that apes are not as collaborative? They’re social animals, like us.

FH: I guess, the thinking is that some of the chimps try to attack humans, especially strangers who come near them. (The humans are protected by a transparent wall, so no one gets hurt.) The human reporter and the scientist remarked that they were collaborating in creating this film even though they had never met each other before, something the chimps would be unable to to do.

BO: And on what basis do you claim that humans are equally uncollaborative?

FH: That’s not hard to demonstrate. Just compare the sexual behavior of bonobos and humans. Humans are far more possessive and controlling, and exhibit an extreme unwillingness to share sexual partners.

BO: Why do you use a relatively minor aspect of life as a counterexample? What about the cities, governments, and religions we create?

FH: I don’t think it is minor at all. I think it’s a big part of the reason why 90% of GDP is useless. The worldwide obsession with GDP and jobs growth is better thought of as a symptom of us competing for sexual privileges.

BO: Hold it there one second. Are you saying that if humans were as sexually promiscuous as the bonobos, our economies would collapse?

FH: Absolutely. This is a very important driving force of the world economy. The true reasons people go to work is far different from what they imagine them to be.

Now regarding the cities, governments, and religions, no humans have ever purposely formed a group and decided to collaborate by saying “let’s create a city, government, or religion”. They are primarily things that emerge without a conscious decision. Besides, how many people do you know whom you would credit with a significant scientific or political achievement?

If humans were a collaborative species, then socialist and communist economies would have trumped free market capitalism, which needlessly pits us against each other.

BO: Was there anything else that stood out in the film?

FH: The film mentioned the adage “monkey see, monkey do”. Ironically, the experiments in both films show that it is characteristically human to mimic behaviors, whereas other apes are more likely to accomplish tasks in their own way.

Hopelessly Conformist

Today, I found myself pulled into yet another heated discussion with my tactical adviser, Brian O’Connor. He was not happy at all to find out that I intended to start a blog. I’ll try to reproduce our dialogue as best as I can remember:

BO: A blog?? This is the dumbest idea I’ve heard you express in a long time. Have you already forgotten the reasons why you despise blogs?

FH: No, I still hold that blogs are a symptom of a kind of attention deficit disorder that plagues present-day society.

BO: So you’re saying you’re the latest victim to succumb to adult ADD?

FH: We don’t really have a choice, but to engross ourselves in low quality ideas. Maybe I should say low quality memes to emphasize the evolutionary forces at work. Just about everything around us belongs in the memetic trash bin. Every conversation I have with every person, every article I read online or at the library, every recording I’ve ever watched or listened to, it’s all pure conformity.

BO: Stop making all those vague and abstract generalizations.

FH: When people steadfastly cling to the idea that real estate is a safe investment, that it never declines in value, that’s pure conformity. What I’m saying is that I can show that everything else is equally foolish.

BO: And I agree with you entirely! That’s why I think it’s such a ridiculous idea to write a blog. I mean, what do you expect people who read your blog to do? Do you think there will even be a single person who suddenly wises up and says “You know what, you’re right we’ve been foolish all along. But I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to live life smart.” ?

FH: No, of course, I realize that the forces that pressure people to be conformists are too strong for me to overcome single-handedly. Whatever arguments are capable of making people question astrology or the value of investing in real estate are already out there and I have nothing to contribute. I view this blog as more of an exercise to retain my ability to think nonconformist thoughts.

BO: Unlikely. If that was your goal, why publish our conversations for the public to see? Is it not your ego that is seeking recognition from the outside world? But if so, you know darn well that only conformist ideas get positive reinforcement in this world. If you publish nonconformist views, I can assure you that the psychological reinforcement will be negative. Since you are only human, this will have the exact opposite effect from what you claim. Your brain will learn that nonconformist thoughts are not welcome, and you’ll automatically train yourself to become more conformist. If it were easy to be a nonconformist, there would be more than one specimen among 6.8 billion people.

FH: That’s actually a fascinating point you bring up. I think the mere act of seeking knowledge and information from the outside world is highly conducive to conformity. When you know things, you also know how to conform. As it is virtually impossible to resist conformity, any new human nonconformist is most likely going to be ignorant, but in this information age, that’s practically impossible, too.

BO: Give the audience the benefit of specific examples.

FH: And just who is the audience? I thought you wanted this to be a private conversation between you and me because there’s no point in making it public.

BO: You actually convinced me otherwise. This blog’s audience is the future historian, who is perpetually perplexed by our society’s inability to generate more nonconformists.

FH: For a specific example, see this PBS video called “Ape Genius” (http://video.pbs.org/video/1200128615/). It shows experiments where both chimps and human children are asked to solve puzzles whose solution results in a candy reward. There’s one particular experiment where the human children are shown to faithfully solve the puzzle as taught by the adult, whereas the chimps realize that the human adult is teaching nonsense. This is perhaps the loveliest experiment in human psychology that I’ve ever seen. It’s even more remarkable that serious scientists stare the truth directly in the eye and conveniently avoid drawing any serious conclusions from it.

Children are taught from a young age that working for a living is virtuous. This is an idiotic belief because our technology is so advanced that the inevitable result of everyone wanting to work is that 90% do useless things. Smart people stare this truth directly in the eye every day, but manage quite easily not to concern themselves too much with it.