The Happy Tectonics
The four fundamental forces:
Zeus, Aphrodite, Ares (or Mars), and Adam and Eve.
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Electric field induced by Electric field induced by
a positive electric charge a negative electric charge
Deutsch thinks that such 'jumps to universality' must occur not only in the capacity to
calculate things, but also in the capacity to understand things, and in the closely related
capacity to make things happen. And he thinks that it was precisely such a threshold that
was crossed with the invention of the scientific method. There were plenty of things we
humans could do, of course, prior to the invention of that method: agriculture, or the
domestication of animals, or the design of sundials, or the construction of pyramids. But all
of a sudden, with the introduction of that particular method of concocting and evaluating
new hypotheses, there was a sense in which we could do anything. The capacities of a
community that has mastered that method to survive, to learn, and to remake the world
according to its inclinations are (in the long run) literally, mathematically, infinite. And
Deutsch is convinced that the tendency of the world to give rise to such communities, more
than, say, the force of gravitation, or the second law of thermodynamics, or even the
phenomenon of death, is what ultimately gives the world its shape, and what constitutes the
genuine essence of nature. 'In all cases,' he writes, 'the class of transformations that could
happen spontaneously--in the absence of knowledge--is negligibly small compared with the
class that could be effected artificially by intelligent beings who wanted those
transformations to happen. So the explanations of almost all physically possible phenomena
are about how knowledge would be applied to bring those phenomena about.' And there is
a beautiful and almost mystical irony in all this: that it was precisely by means of the
Scientific Revolution, it was precisely by means of accepting that we are not the center of
the universe, that we became the center of the universe.
Danger comes from the root bad brakes and bald tires. Chain saws and wildfires. Poisonous
ideologies, housecleaning chemicals and toiletries. Powerful industrialists, alcoholic fathers.
Invasive species, illegal immigrants. Concentration camps, attention deficit disorder.
Performance phobia, identity enhancements. Pleasure, applause. Quiet moments, walking and
talking war buddies. Electoral politics, marriage and divorce. Pest exterminator, Yeats seminar.
Love affair, pencil sharpener. Whatever, matter. Ionic and covalent bonds, republican hairstyle.
Events in their mere chronology.
What is a typical place in the universe like? Let me assume that you are reading this on
Earth. In your mind's eye travel straight upwards a few hundred kilometers. Now you are in
the slightly more typical environment of space. But you are still being heated and
illuminated by the sun, and half your field of view is still taken up by the solids, liquids and
scum of the Earth. A typical location has none of those features. So, travel a few trillion
kilometers further in the same direction. You are now so far away that the sun looks like
other stars. You are at a much colder, darker and emptier place, with no scum in sight. But
it is not yet typical: you are still inside the Milky Way galaxy, and most places in the
universe are not in any galaxy. Continue until you are clear outside the galaxysay, a
hundred thousand light years from Earth. At this distance you could not glimpse the Earth
even if you used the most powerful telescope that humans have yet built. But the Milky Way
still fills much of your sky. To get to a typical place in the universe, you have to imagine
yourself at least a thousand times as far out as that, deep in intergalactic space. What is it
like there? Imagine the whole of space notionally divided into cubes the size of our solar
system. If you were observing from a typical one of them, the sky would be pitch black. The
nearest star would be so far away that if it were to explode as a supernova, and you were
staring directly at it when its light reached you, you would not even see a glimmer. That is
how big and dark the universe is. And it is cold: it is at that background temperature of 217
Kelvin, which is cold enough to freeze every known substance except helium. And it is
empty: the density of atoms out there is below one per cubic meter. That is a million times
sparser than atoms in the space between the stars, and those atoms are themselves sparser
than in the best vacuum that human technology has yet achieved. Almost all the atoms in
intergalactic space are hydrogen or helium, so there is no chemistry. No life could have
evolved there, nor any intelligence. Nothing changes there. Nothing happens. The same is
true of the next cube and the next, and if you were to examine a million consecutive cubes
in any direction the story would be the same.
The 5 colors of sadness:
disappointed, didn't get what was wanted
confused, don't know what to do next, where to go
lonely, no one to love or be loved by
sorry, unable to help or change what happened
depressed, can't get out of bed, want to kill self
Unless a society is expecting its own future choices to be better than its present ones, it will
strive to make its present policies and institutions as immutable as possible. Therefore
Popper's criterion can be met only by societies that expect their knowledge to grow -- and
to grow unpredictably. And, further, they are expecting that if it did grow, that would help.
This expectation is what I call optimism, and I can state it, in its most general form, thus:
The Principle of Optimism -- All evils are caused by insufficient knowledge. Optimism is, in
the first instance, a way of explaining failure, not prophesying success. It says that there is
no fundamental barrier, no law of nature or supernatural decree, preventing progress.
Whenever we try to improve things and fail, it is not because the spiteful (or unfathomably
benevolent) gods are thwarting us or punishing us for trying, or because we have reached a
limit on the capacity of reason to make improvements, or because it is best that we fail, but
always because we did not know enough, in time. But optimism is also a stance towards the
future, because nearly all failures, and nearly all successes, are yet to come.
As I think of things to do I do them.
Thing by thing I get things done.
That's how my father and his father did things.
I guess my mother and her mother did things that way too.
Sometimes I'm driving and I think how my father and his father drove too.
There was weather and they had problems. There is weather and I have problems.
Time exists only in the human mind. But if the mind exists, time exists.
Joy everywhere. Joy at birth. Joy at death. All joy, all times.
Copyright 2013 by Robert Ronnow. Acknowledgements.