Archive for May, 2010

Film Review: Mind Over Money – $20 auction

NOVA has a new film called “Mind Over Money” where they show an auction for $20. The only catch is that the second highest bidder must pay the amount he bid, but gets nothing. In the end the winner pays something like $28 for the $20 bill and the second highest bidder pays $27 for nothing.

This is a neat exercise to do with a group of logical thinkers who are not allowed to communicate. They need to be given some quiet time to map out their strategy first. The result is a textbook example of “independent derivation”. Logical beings come to the same conclusion.

The only reason the auction turned out bad is because of speed and volume. Humans are trained to pit themselves against each other. I can assure you that within 1000 years (or 100,000 years, depending on how long speed and volume is sustained) this $20 auction will be played by children with an intellect comparable to contemporary 10-year-olds. They will have one person bid $1 and then split the $19 profit.

I accuse all 6.8 billion people alive today of being fact-based fools guilty of sustaining speed and volume. Be ashamed of yourselves.


1000 Year Forecast

BO: For the record, please make a concise list of forecasts for the next 1000 years, by which one can later judge whether you’re a crackpot philosopher or the only intelligent high-level thinker on this planet.

FH: Memetic defense among today’s population is quite low and evolutionary forces should push it higher, though such forces will take centuries rather than decades to be felt.

Today’s recipe for spreading a movement is to get the word out. The competitive traits of memes have mostly to do with speed and volume.

There are two basic thinking styles. One is optimized for winning arguments. The other is optimized for correct reasoning.  With the exception of mathematics, the hard sciences, professional sports, and many other endeavors where ideas are constantly put to the test, all thinking today is optimized for winning arguments. Of course, the speed and volume (domination) is so rampant that even within those disciplines, important ideas aren’t recognized until they catch on. Thus, several of Einstein’s groundbreaking papers were published and initially ignored.

The importance of winning arguments can be seen in the prevalence of missionaries, salespeople, advertisers, recruiters, real estate agents, counselors, dating coaches, and the like. In other words, whoever screams the loudest (or manipulates most skillfully) will get people’s attention, trust, and money. From the standpoint of memetic warfare, they’re incredibly skilled in memetic offense, and at the same time have an incomprehensibly weak memetic defense.

The competitive advantages of memetic defense are enormous, as they practically render all of today’s offensive tactics ineffective. Memetic defense also removes disagreements as personal opinions are everywhere a phenomenon of speed and volume (domination). Opinions (or beliefs) are mere protective armor and serve to make memes immune to logical argumentation. On the surface, it may seem that opinions are the ultimate memetic defense, yet the problem is that whichever opinion ingrains itself into one’s mind first, wins. This is a clear example of speed domination. The fastest meme wins. Which meme is fastest? Most likely the meme with the largest market share. In other words, the meme with the greatest volume. This is the reason for the term “speed and volume domination”, or “speed and volume” for short.

Memetic defense is all about countering speed and volume. You don’t want the meme to plant itself in your mind just because it did the best marketing job, because it was quicker and able to spread in greater number. You want to counter all the short-term competitive traits of a meme and reward all the far-sighted traits of a meme. It is interesting to note that the only person I know who has expressed a similar idea to this is Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf. His thoughts often revolve around the tradeoffs between short-term and long-term thinking styles, and as should be obvious from history, he settles on a shorter-term strategy that will allow him to achieve great things within his own lifetime. If this short-sightedness was his ultimate failing, then everyone else has failed even more miserably by shifting all thought to even more shorter-term concerns. The contemporary obsession with creating jobs for the people shows humanity at its most despicable. The Keynesian stimuli given to economies all over the world would have Hitler fuming (were he still alive). Hitler dreamt of creating an empire that would last 1000 years. I think the next advance in human evolution is rather an empire that will take another 1000 years to create.

No wonder that among 6.8 billion people (or shall we call them sheeple?) we cannot find a single taker. It would require what Hitler touted as the Aryan’s greatest virtue: self-sacrifice. Convinced that human nature precludes any such idealistic movement from gaining a foothold, the 6.8 billion merrily go on to find themselves jobs they’re passionate about.

Human nature is used constantly to justify any widespread behavior pattern. Bill Moyer, in a PBS interview with Robert Wright (author of The Moral Animal), identifies human nature as the reason why all human cultures believe in the supernatural. In everyday life, I see human nature as the excuse everyone uses why they accept a flawed society. I cannot emphasize enough that the only motivation is to be on the side of the powerful, the majority. As there is no deeper reason for believing in human nature, the next 1000 years will show that these widespread beliefs are mistaken. I’m sure many contemporaries already realize this quite well, but sadly they have sold out on their idealism the minute they accepted society, forever killing all motivation to change it.

This leads us to the concept of fact-based thinking. An objective fact-based thinker already “knew” everything I’m talking about, and sees nothing “original” in it. It is somewhat analogous to the theoretician who thinks he knows everything about tennis and regards himself as superior to the world champion, though he has never bothered picking up a tennis racket. To the fact-based thinker what matters is what you know. To the decision-based thinker, what matters is your performance in competition.

The fact-based bias in today’s world is evidenced by the belief that there exist aspects of life that are not competition. This is a compartmentalized view of life, convenient for allowing conflicting memes to get along with one another and thus enhance their intercompatibility. Evolution implies that the universe is nothing, but competition.

This is the simple reason why the contemporary ideology is not viable. Living life for self-fulfillment does nothing to enhance the competitiveness of your kind. Living life to enjoy it is as preposterous as starting a business with the goal of shopping for things you like to own. In the short-term, you can take out additional loans, cover up your losses, and pretend everything is fine. It’s quite fascinating that for all the books and articles published on evolution, they are more inclined to draw the opposite conclusion. For example, in The Moral Animal, Robert Wright, like every other scientist I’ve heard from, concludes with some weird argument to compartmentalize evolution and present-day morality, so they can co-exist side-by-side. All this does is kick the can down the road. The world will shift from one in which we compete in the arena of business to one in which we compete in the arena of ideological (memetic) warfare.

BO: Can you specify what might trigger the shift? How do you come up with a 1000 year estimate?

FH: Some humans like to look at the accelerating rate of scientific progress and extrapolate that into the future, suggesting there will be a singularity. The conventional wisdom is that technological progress accelerates, the future becomes more and more unpredictable, especially the farther into the future you go. Nobody knows what the future holds.

Albert Einstein’s greatest complaint about universities was that one had to cram one’s mind with all this scholarly knowledge to pass the exams. In essence, my predictions are based on a predilection for simplicity. In the information age, it becomes increasingly advantageous to be able to ignore the irrelevant. In other words, I can make predictions others can’t because I’m more ignorant, and the key to achieving my ignorance is relentless strategic stepping.

In recent decades, technological trends have made the world more information-intensive, and as a result it seems more difficult than ever to transition to memetic warfare. There will be plenty of unpredictable changes ahead, but I’m not predicting what these changes are, only that over a large number of generations, those changes will tend to wear out our obsession with genetic evolution and give countless chances for memetic evolution to gain a foothold.

In any kind of organization, whether religious or corporate, there are huge inefficiencies created by all the infighting among the members. Practitioners of even rudimentary memetic warfare will gain substantial competitive advantages in existing marketplaces.

There are guaranteed to be substantial competitive pressures as a result of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence in the coming centuries. As people begin to think more about competition and evolution, it will be obvious to everyone that who has sex with whom has no more evolutionary significance.  Intellectually, it’s easy to understand that memetic evolution is where all the action is now. Conventional morality goes to shambles when the emotion of pain is rechanneled. We are genetically programmed to feel strong emotions in response to events that are of genetic significance (e.g. injury, starvation, death, sex). Artificial intelligence will likely feel emotions, too, but they’ll evolve to feel it in order to protect memes. With a simple change in emotion, genocide suddenly seems innocuous. What is genocide without pain and suffering? On the other hand, rampant speed and volume as practiced by today’s society is a prime candidate for vilification and will likely be viewed as the equivalent of the Holocaust by future historians. Make no mistake about it, humans are very flexible, and even without genetic modification, emotions can be rechanneled to some degree. Therefore, I’m living through the Holocaust now, but without the debilitating intensity of pain and suffering. I am alone now, but even if no one else cares to join me, the tides will turn when genetic engineering and AI take off. To increase competitiveness, memes have no choice but to organize. Just as genes compete in fascistic units called organisms, so memes will compete in fascistic units called ideologies (of course, I don’t really care what you call them, if anything). But whereas genetic warfare has raged on for 5 billion years on our planet, I expect memetic warfare to be over almost as soon as it gets started. Intelligence means that we can skip blind experimentation. As soon as rudimentary counters to speed and volume are devised, reason will have essentially triumphed over chaos. This is because the source of human disagreement is only speed and volume. There will still be a confounding task of how to choose among an infinite possible courses of actions, but by the time someone is faced with that challenge, they should have evolved to be smarter than I am, so I have no interest in further speculation or involvement.

I cannot say how long it will take. I say 1000 years for convenience. It is a reasonable guess, but no guarantee. Science and the industrial revolution could have begun thousands of years earlier, but it was the inevitable next stage in human evolution. I can say that people generally underestimate the ease with which humans can be reprogrammed because so long as they believe in an individual identity, they cannot properly admit that they are merely the sum of their memes, which  in turn represent nothing deeper than speed and volume. People’s most cherished values and beliefs can change radically in a matter of years because they arise from a herding instinct. While the potential for quick change certainly exists, one cannot underestimate people’s willingness to mire themselves in a prolonged rut, either.

BO: Can you give us a better idea of what specifically will change in the next 1000 years?

FH: Memetic defense requires meme controls. All large corporations are forced adhere to some kind of software lifecycle process in order to stay competitive. We’ll see the same kind of thing to control the memes in our brains. We’ll have more peer-reviews, we’ll have a design phase to determine what culture and values to instill into children. We’ll have test teams to design test cases and procedures to check what meme-ware children have acquired. Everything in the future will be video-taped and recorded. There will be zero room for privacy, and children in the future will laugh their asses off as the ridiculous notions of privacy in vogue today. They will recoil in horror at the tyranny of speed and volume of this age. Of course, by the time they read this, the word tyranny will have acquired a positive connotation and words such as freedom and liberty will have acquired a negative connotation. So in their language, I would say that they will “recoil at the freedom of speed and volume of this age”.

Another way to visualize the shift is to ask what does genetic defense look like and what might the analogous memetic counterpart look like. Our obsession  with genetic defense shows itself in obvious ways. Sexual assault and molestations are considered the worst crimes. Killing and genocides are considered ultimate crimes. We’re obsessed with avoiding death, so the abortion debate is hot, millions are spent to save premature babies and the elderly, spiritual insurance policies spread like wildfire (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, insure us against death in one way or another), and everyone seeks to improve their fitness and nutrition. There is extreme sexual repression. Prostitution is either illegal or highly disreputable. We have censorship of words such as fuck, asshole, or shitty. Women spend their lives calling each other sluts behind each other’s backs while being extremely selective in sex partners. Men dedicate their lives to achieving “success” in order to attract the best possible mates as well as to make it easier to get laid. Women, in turn, try to achieve their own “success” so as to enhance their market value in the dating market.  Genetic defense is not just a major part of our lives. That’s everything it’s about. For billions of years, all that has mattered in evolution is who gets to have sex with whom. It is self-deceptive to think that our behavior has a different meaning or purpose.

The lack of memetic defense is evidenced by people being busy all the time, meaning they’d like to accommodate more memes than they have time for. The result is speed and volume. Parents today think that cell phones, facebook, chit-chat, books, music, and TV are okay. They’re more worried about their kids having sex at a young age. Today, money is being paid for information (university degrees, books, Microsoft windows, music, speeches and sermons) because knowledge is considered something good that enriches us.

I have spent my whole life trying to free my mind from useless memes. The learning I did was a small by-product. I didn’t begin trying to acquire some knowledge until I was in my thirties.

The combination of genetic and social experimentation will eventually create beings more skilled in memetic defense than I am.  This will be the inevitable result of a world that is evolving out-of-control.