Deterministic World

Part 2. Society

2. Evolution in Society

We already explored how society shows signs of determinism, and how nonetheless many aspects of it are irrational, not truly aligned with the proclaimed goals. How do any of our societal customs arise, rational or not? Why is it that we find ourselves in the present society, with its customs, morals, and traditions? Are certain values or behaviors 'right' and others 'wrong'? I argue that evolution is the driving force for society. Evolution as survival of the fittest is an accepted doctrine for how living organisms have developed to today's variety and sophistication. It is tempting to think that evolution leads to intelligence, and by inference that higher intelligence is more preferred by evolution. But evolution doesn't really have any preferences nor goals; it does not lead to conclusions and outcomes; it is simply a numbers game (just like the entropic spreading of information to all available states is a numbers game). And it is always in play - there is no way to exit evolution, whether an organism lives or dies or tries to use science to 'overcome' evolution it still contributes to evolution; this is a driving force as real and immutable as gravity or entropy [f1]. If conditions exist for an organism that can stay alive (prevent its decay into constituent elements/atoms), given enough time we might expect such an organism to arise. This would be any stable chemical reaction, the basic unit of life. Once an organism somehow gains the ability not just to stay alive but to create offspring, that organism will grow exponentially, quickly outnumbering any non-reproducing organisms. Over time the exponential growth will slow, maybe the organism will die from lack of resources, so evolution does not simply select for highest population of organisms. What it selects for is a combination of population and survivability: given a population size N how will it change over hundreds/millions of years? Organisms stable for millions of years are more evolutionarily fit than organisms that quickly die out. We can define a metric of 'species lifetime', which is the sum total of hours lived by every organism, roughly organism lifetime * number of organisms that ever existed. This metric allows the evaluation of even extinct species in terms of their evolutionary fitness. So evolution does not select for intelligence, nor lack of pain, nor philosophical or mathematical abilities. Evolution selects for organisms that are resilient (resist attack and find sustenance) and have offspring in a stable manner (prolonging the integral indefinitely vs overpopulation and rapid extinction). The 'selection' happens because over time the less stable organisms die out, by definition. What we see around us are the stable results of evolution (for the most part, since random variations always occur and are at the heart of the evolutionary process).

Intelligence gave humans an advantage in avoiding attacks, finding food, and fighting predators, so here we are. Humans who enjoyed loneliness were more likely to be attacked and did not survive, so we have a biological drive to seek social interaction and closeness. Humans who did not care about sex or raising their children did not survive, so we have a drive to seek intimacy and protect our babies (others' babies? not so much - the instinct is biologically programmed and passed on). Pain helped us learn hard lessons that kept us alive longer, and those humans who happily felt no pain did not survive - so we are subject to pain that we can't control {if we could control our pain, it would cease to have its desired effect of ceaselessly driving us to some action, thus again evolutionarily unstable}. This survivability and stability applies just as well to human affairs - the fabric of society - which significantly impacts evolutionary fitness of the individuals within the society.

Nations and religions that focused on medicine and giving care would tend to survive better than ones focused on murder and hating each other. In that sense, modern ethics and treating one's neighbor as thyself are 'right', because they lead to increased societal fitness. Killing everyone around you is 'wrong' because it leads to poor evolutionary fitness. We live in a lawful society and not in a wild anarchy, because the former is more likely to survive and prosper over long periods of time. The advancement in quality of living and reduction of pain that are seen in today's life are just happy side effects of such survival in societal experiments and trials over thousands of years. A stable organism's life could well be miserable, as long as that organism is resilient and has sufficient offspring. Birthing a baby - objectively a terrible experience for a woman - must have somehow gotten ingrained into societal expectations and biological drives of women, for if it did not those societies would have died out long ago; this doesn't reduce the pain or dangers of birth but just makes it accepted societally, something that is celebrated and respected. [f2] Nations that develop warfare capabilities can kill and destroy peaceful nations, so truly peaceful humans are eventually wiped out by evolution while aggression wins. But excessive aggression destroys a society from the inside out, so we have a 'healthy' level of aggression and violence in our stable society. Cultures that encourage lying/bribing/unwritten rules generally lead to stifled communication, and thus cannot respond to challenges as quickly or effectively as cultures that are more transparent and 'free', as long as the latter freedom leads to better defense/food production/reproduction. So we might find ethical rules: lying is bad, bribes are bad - why? Because societies in which the rules encourage lying and bribes do not do as well and eventually die out. Did we abolish slavery because it was a terrible human rights violation, or because not having slaves proved to be more effective economically and in warfare (a person choosing to work for money will do better work than one forced to work for the same money)?

Religions and beliefs that people accept will perpetuate and spread while those that people ignore will die out, so plainly illogical and incoherent beliefs are not found today. Religions that actively encourage followers to convert others will spread even more effectively than religions that don't care what others believe, so it is no coincidence the former are dominant today (and that there is a concept of heresy or excommunication) [Baba Brinkman - Religion Evolves]. Behaviors that lead to low social acceptance and reproductive opportunities will die out, whereas ones that lead to increased reproduction and survival will be stable. We can see this in family traditions: why celebrate weddings, baby showers, birthdays? Why care for your elders or children? It must be that cultures with such traditions are both physically (many offspring are encouraged and supported) and mentally (teachings of elders are easily passed down and help in physical survival) evolutionarily stable. So perhaps a culture in which marriage is celebrated will lead to more babies and devoted parents, resulting in physically more offspring who in turn perpetuate the culture.

People who lose their will to live (before their children are self-sufficient) and accept suicide, or take careless acts, or don't enjoy sex, will also die out. Thus we have a biological drive for self-preservation, intimacy/sex, and a continuous glimmer of hope even when unwarranted. Indeed we have evolved psychological defenses to protect ourselves from the most powerful and direct threat - our own intelligence. Kids initially don't know any better than to not hurt themselves, but eventually learn to avoid pain and thus limit their actions to ones that don't cause pain. Similar experiences arise with emotional/mental pain or suffering. Even the dumbest human today could easily figure out how to kill others or themselves. In our advanced society, one could even set up a situation that leads to a quick and painless death. Why don't people take such actions? "A permanent solution to a temporary problem", says the suicide hotline, but doesn't a permanent solution sound nice? I cannot physically set up a situation leading to my death - not out of a primal fear of pain, but because of powerful psychological defenses that force me to stay alive. Our brains are designed to find logical, unyielding solutions to complex problems - this is necessary for continued survival and prosperity - harvesting food, fighting off predators. Yet if our brain had no limits on 'staring into the void', we would readily conclude that death is an optimal choice, and the sooner the better, to minimize risk of potential future suffering and pain [f3]. Does this sound crazy? Does it sound crazy because of your societally-instilled beliefs? Of course societies that believed this would die out, so today's society supports/caresses us/shields us from the void through life-affirming social connections, family gatherings, traditions, and religious beliefs. [f4]

The emergence of religion and mythology universally in all cultures is indicative of a general human function for religion. Perhaps it truly is a psychological defense to keep us from realizing how small we are and how much we don't know and can't control, an acceptance that everything is OK because there is a fatherly, strict but caring and powerful, figure (or multiple such figures) watching over us, just like our fathers when we were little kids. To make us strive to do our best, learn from the environment and survive, evolution has given us an urge to learn new things - a curiosity - which is an urge as real as hunger and avoidance of pain, though less sharply defined and harder to identify. It is a strong urge, strong enough to force us to explore and learn - perhaps the most difficult intellectual function that any animal undertakes. This urge must lead us to keep questioning: why? Why does it rain on some days and not on others? Why is this year's harvest worse than previous? Why do people behave the way they do? Why do we exist? Religion arises to fill this spiritual gap and thus satisfy our curiosity for learning and understanding the world; it is undeniably comforting to have a coherent set of explanations for how the world works and why, and what we should do in this world. Answers to these big questions that support spreading of such knowledge to others in society will then come to dominate the people's thoughts even if originally society had started out without such answers (which it must have, many thousands of years ago). The answers don't have to be correct, they just have to be evolutionarily stable - leading to improved survival of the society. {why are religions so supportive of lots of births?} They don't even have to be coherent, but most people will find plainly inconsistent explanations difficult to believe [f5] and will replace them with self-consistent explanations. The specific nature of the self-consistency will of course be a consequence of human brain structure, so we might not be surprised that religious texts follow a similar format to epic works of fiction or mythology, the stories within are all appealing to and created by human minds. [f6]

Religion also comforts people and justifies their existence by playing to the evolved need to be part of a social group - and what better way than to be part of the ultimate power group (god's chosen ones/heaven). Conversations with others and social dynamics are then also a distraction from the void - a psychological resort to keep us busy with interacting with others and meta-problems (ie let's make nice food to celebrate a birthday vs it doesn't matter we're all going to die anyway). Work itself is another effective distraction, keeping the mind busy enough on everyday tasks of life that it doesn't have to confront death; it is often heard that people who don't have any job become adrift/aloof, bored and aimless, and eventually come up with some arbitrary (perhaps even obsessive) patterns so as to make themselves *feel* useful - whether it's beating every video game, keeping a well-trimmed garden, or writing books on nihilism - or perhaps they go crazy and never quite recover to being a 'useful member' of society. [f7]

Embedded in this evolutionary scheme, our brains adapt and accomodate based on the reality we experience - that is, in a relative way. There is no absolute reference for how we should live and interact with others. This leads to interesting and unjust phenomena that clearly refute any notion of a unified world order ie religious teachings, human control ambitions, absolute morality. While in the USA a criminal is tried in court, in Libya he may be burned on the street and stoned. Who is to say one approach is better than the other? We only have the societal evolutionary survivability criterion, as we did for species evolution - as long as the culture survives and perpetuates itself, its ethics stance is evolutionarily stable. This is the only real-world quantitative definition of "good" that we have. Relativity occurs on everyday scales even within a culture, because children don't know any better than to learn from their parents; an abused child will say his parents are "great" because other kids say their parents are great and the only reference this child has for great parents is his own. It is not a matter of the child not being able to make a judgement or lying, but rather that he has nothing to judge against, as he can only be aware of his own experience. Beyond the potential for unrecognizable abuse in children (and adult) relationships, relativity makes commercial and governmental decisions flawed and provides an opportunity for 'ripping off' others. This can be countered by fair and rationally set prices/laws/punishments, but in a society we have no such means without a governing agency and the governing agency has no reason not to make itself profit above all. Who will govern the governments of the world? Only physics and evolution have this power, so while individual humans compete under societal constraints [f8], governments compete with each other on the raw playing field of physical laws - it is no coincidence that the most powerful governments have the most powerful physically destructive and wide-reaching weapons.

Another artefact of evolutionary development in society is the widespread preference for novelty and progress (as opposed to a reversion to the past), creating rather than destroying, reaffirming life, what I would call 'positive solutions'. This is because positive solutions are evolutionarily stable, while negative solutions tend to die out over time. Consider the use of fossil fuels and its contribution to industrialization, this propelled societies into a much-improved lifestyle (including increased survival and destructive ability) compared to societies that remained unindustrialized. But the discovery of the necessary technological principles and their application to real devices could only have happened in societies which encouraged this sort of exploration and rewarded inventors' efforts. This could not have happened in societies which strongly upheld following previous generations' footsteps and avoided novelty. Will such innovation prove to be stable over thousands of years? Perhaps the societies that stay close to their roots (farming/hunting/gathering) will be more stable in the very long run (once fossil fuels run out). For the moment, innovation seems to provide significant benefits onto societies, so the 'developed' societies of today support innovation. The societies that innovate can win against others in competition for resources through technological superiority (even when it's not labeled as such, competition for resources always exists as long as there are finite resources); thus even physical human survival improves in innovating societies, at the cost of the non-innovating. The dark history of North American takeover by technologically advanced European societies provides clear evidence of this evolutionary preference: societies that valued growth and advancement won in physical competiton against societies that chose to live in (relative) equilibrium and harmony with nature.

Consider what this preference for innovation means in daily life: a chemical plant is seen to pollute nearby ponds and aquifers, which is troubling to the humans residing in the area. The positive (innovative) solution: develop and install new types of filters, regularly monitor the area for leakage, research new chemicals that are less polluting. The negative (non-innovative/reverting) solution: shut down the chemical plant, or reduce its output. In terms of actually reducing pollution, both the positive and negative solutions are effective, with the negative one being much easier and more elegant to implement. One might argue the positive solution doesn't even achieve the desired goal of reducing pollution: there are new chemicals used in making the filters, more workers' time (and energy) used in installing and maintaining the filters, and once there is less pollution released the chemical plant may as well increase its output for greater profits. There is a parallel in the computing world: if a computer program runs slowly, a negative solution is to not run it (or run less often), while a positive solution is to optimize the program or to make a better CPU. We easily favor the positive solution, but once the program runs faster it incites us to run more programs, or more resource-intensive programs, until we end up right where we started: despite better technology we still face slow execution speed.

Our economy values consumption, so the companies that take negative solutions to their challenges end up overtaken, chewed up and spit out, by the companies that take positive solutions. Societies that use such a 'greedy' economy survive and prosper more than societies that use a conservative economy; this economy is effective because it is a reflection of our individual greed and thirst for more/better. On a small scale, individual humans who choose positive solutions end up more successful (evolutionarily) than those who choose negative solutions. We have survived with our brains for thousands of years, so we have a built-in bias towards positive solutions. Physics doesn't care about the distinction between positive and negative solutions, so we should see 50% positive and 50% negative solutions to be in equilibrium with the physical world constraints. Yet we have a blindness towards negative solutions, and with our current ability to use more and more resources, we have the luxury of using almost 100% positive solutions. We never have to give anything up while still 'improving'. So we've fought off disease and famine but chosen to keep our reproductive rate, sending the world population skyrocketing. We've realized the benefits of fossil fuel use but chosen to increase rather than maintain our work output, polluting the entire atmosphere. We've designed advanced weapons but chosen to continue designing increasingly powerful counter-attacks rather than live in peace with other nations. We've installed amazing communication and transportation networks but chosen to keep loading them to capacity rather than showing disciplined restraint so that everyone can have faster access. It is in a sense the tragedy of the commons, yet it is more subtle because humans making the decisions do not have to be conscious of the larger impact they will have; evolution will ensure that those who (by whatever logic) choose positive solutions will outnumber those who choose negative ones. And this is another psychological defense, for it keeps us from seeing the ultimate negative solution: death. I could keep worrying about student loans, finding a job, finishing this book, going to work tomorrow. Or I could just die (it will happen sooner or later anyway). But I can't truthfully accept death as a solution, it doesn't feel right; death is a negative solution - one that doesn't seem like a solution at all.

A final effect of successful societies' fascination with positive solutions is an inability to 'turn back the clock', to return to the past. In any call to revolution or change of society, it must be recognized why the present-day society operates the way it does - its historical roots which lead to a given course of societal evolution. Many campaigns for change are thus misguided, focusing on symptoms and not the reason why the symptoms have emerged; pulling off a leaf or two instead of cutting down the tree. Because features of society seen around us today are evolutionarily stable, simply pushing back will not influence the features, or maybe temporarily suspend them just for a re-emergence later on. Consider the agglomeration of businesses: small 'mom and pop' stores getting bought out and replaced by big, impersonal, national chains. Some vocal proponents call for a return to the past, a dismantling of the big stores and replacement by small, family-run businesses. Sounds doable, right? If the president were king, he could just shut down all the big stores and encourage the creation of small stores. But, crucially, small stores was how our society lived a long time ago. Big stores emerged out of a society which originally had only small stores. So if we shut down all current big stores, we are returning to an 'earlier time', and we know that since such an earlier time we witnessed the emergence of big stores. So we can shut down current big stores, but they will re-emerge soon afterwards because the evolutionary forces are still in place. Why should we call for a return to small stores when the society which had small stores chose to create big stores? It is not the cold-hearted businessmen who shut down small stores, but the individual consumers consistently choosing bigger over smaller stores, in turn acting upon their human nature and desires. Indeed it is easy to experimentally verify that the big stores have better variety and lower prices compared to small stores even today. Isn't it quite short-sighted to call for a return to small stores in such a system? Consider also organic foods. A long time ago, all food was organic, grown by hand. Since that time, we have invested serious effort into developing various pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and medicines that increased production and profitability. The use of 'non-organic' techniques in farming was preferred over 'organic' techniques by consumers, who gave companies that used the new technologies a greater profit. Isn't it similarly short-sighted to just claim that we should go back to 'organic' farming? Wasn't there a good reason to shift away from it in the first place? One must wonder whether these 'organic' proponents have some monetary stake in the creation of marketable 'organic' brands. Similarly with wealth inequality: at one point there were no super-wealthy individuals in society, and starting from that point individuals have been able to emerge as super-wealthy because of how our economy is set up [The Great Leveler argues that inequality can be traced all the way back to the earliest groups that chose domestication over hunting and gathering]. So can we just say: "kill the rich, that will solve everything"? Unless we truly change the economic and societal forces - and these forces emerged by evolutionary trends because they made the society using such an economy more successful in survival - we can expect to end up, once again, right where we started. Some people even proclaim their want to return to a 'natural life', blithely ignoring that people who evolutionarily thrived in such a life devoted themselves to creating new technologies and comforts that led to the emergence of today's lifestyle. In a society that has evolutionarily developed to value change/innovation/growth, any calls for a 'return to the past' must be seen as idyllic and a bit callow.

From what we see around us in society today, and with the above arguments as to why this is evolutionarily stable at this point in time, we can reason back to better understand human nature: humans enjoy gaining and exercising control over nature and technology (leading to the preference for innovation), power over others (leading to various persistent inequalities), comfort in life (leading to various technological and practical lifestyle advances), and predictability/certainty (leading to religious and scientific studies on the nature of the world, as well as everyday 'rituals of certainty'). Today we are at a point of many evolutionary firsts. We are witnessing the first human generation raised with access to handheld electronic devices - will these children see electronics more as living objects due to such early exposure, will their cognitive abilities be improved or worsened or unaffected by such interactions? [f9] For a few decades now, and for the first time in human development, humans can survive without being part of a family or any consistent large group - are we seeing the effects now in greater promotion of individuality and questioning of family/religious values (as in queer and atheistic movements)? We now have increased freedom and ability to interact with the people and media we enjoy (todays' time watching TV shows might have been early humans' time to tell stories and bond emotionally) leading to both ultra-popular celebrities and completely neglected 'lone wolves' - will this help or hurt future generation survival? By genetic evolution timescales, it was not so long ago that antibiotics and vaccines were developed and used in society, saving those humans who would have otherwise faced an evolutionary demise - will this eventually make our society evolutionarily less fit in fighting disease? [f10] Humans have, for the first time in Earth's history, found a way to use millions of years of fossil fuel energy in just tens of years of extraction [f11] - there are no signs of our growing use even stabilizing any time soon, so what effects can we expect to see? Humans can now access natural sources of various chemicals, concentrate them, and use them for plastics/electronics/drugs/advanced materials, then eventually dump it all in a landfill (in a state much less amenable to future use/extraction, such as metal-coated plastics, microparticles, water-soluble molecules, or circuit boards) - how will this affect material availability and environment quality for future generations? The modern society thrives on novelty and progress, so pondering these issues is not really a concern; even if the issues are mentioned from time to time, the money goes to the manufacturers and producers, not to the idly-sitting worried academics. I don't think anyone has the answers to the above questions, so we continue to blindly run into the future.

The picture of the world that this evolutionary view paints is a cold and uncaring, cruel one. In trying to find a scientific basis for consciousness - the one thing we might say defines our lives - we see that consciousness and all associated experiences are simply a consequence of particular molecular arrangements. Given an appropriate brain structure and chemistry, conscious experience will arise. It is an impersonal and uncaring process - if the consciousness can only suffer helplessly, nature doesn't really care. So, we have the terrifying situation of "locked-in patients" who show signs of conscious thought/imagination seen in brain scans [Dehaene], in an otherwise fully paralyzed body, completely helpless yet alive and capable of feeling real sensations. How could this ever be considered just or fair or purposeful? [f12] Ultimately consciousness helped humans survive and proliferate so was evolutionarily selected and thus I find myself conscious, and afraid of death and pain, needing to continually satisfy urges like hunger. Our only purpose in life is to increase entropy - survive long enough to raise kids, and all our urges are programmed for this. We've managed to ease the suffering of everyday life through technological comforts, medical treatments, and education. But we haven't changed anything about the point of our lives - or lack thereof. Each one of us would fight to protect our own self, but looking at a bigger picture of all our selves, what are we really fighting for? Why is no war a 'good' thing - because it leads to less suffering - but so would a quick death. Evolution made us afraid of death though, so we live on in this unstable, vulnerable state of easing our suffering yet continuing to exist and be exposed to future risks, while also exposing our children to even greater risks. [f13] Evolution has been a cruel and vicious process, where the unfit organisms' death was the typical case - survival into old age was unexpected and rare. Most of the trees and animals and bugs in a forest are young ones, because as they grow their chance of dying increases along with time exposed to such a chance.

Diseases in society - there is a stable level on evolutionary terms. Animals would be 'better off' if all diseases were eliminated and then the immune system would not be necessary, but in such a situation diseases will rapidly evolve and spread since there is no resistance to them. Given a long enough time scale, it is not possible to have an absolutely healthy population... It is similar with government: in an ideal just and fair egalitarian society, there would be no need to spend resources on a government/police, but in such a situation groups that form hierarchical power-concentrated government structures can fight and win against power-diffuse groups.

Human life was seen as precious because death was common, and societies have evolved to value life above all else, mentally blocking the reality that children will be exposed to suffering in their lifetime. Earlier I had mentioned the "cult of I" and how it leads us, as a society, to irrational reasoning and actions. For instance, being OK with poverty/crime being caused by "external factors" (that we axiomatically don't look into further or care about) and at the same time jailing individual criminals because of their inappropriate actions like they have complete control over their lives. Now I posit another cult: the "cult of life". I refer to it as a cult because the vast majority of people get indoctrinated into it as babies, and usually have no need or desire to question this set of beliefs, nor even to bring it to a conscious level (ie to actually see it for what it is). They can lead a content life of focusing on the next day's tasks, getting a promotion, impressing their parents, taking care of their children. Worrying about consciousness and the meaning of life is for academics like me with too much free time, as for better or worse I do not spend time on marriage or children and the associated daily tasks. It is in a sense a luxury and certainly not what evolution designed me for - not too long ago I would have been dead if I wasn't an active part of a life-affirming group, but now I can be alone and live long enough to think and write these thoughts. Why am I alive? My parents had sex. Nothing magical, not a blessing, just sex and then a kid as a result, like all other mammals. Should I still be alive? Since I am alive now I will fight for my life, but I could have died long ago. This sounds like a bad thing - but why? This sentiment that human death is bad is a core and unquestioned belief of the cult of life. Just as the cult of I claims that a person is responsible for their own choices and their own well-being, the cult of life claims that human life is precious at all costs. Both lead to grossly irrational and self-contradictory actions.

Life is an unstable state of thermodynamic out-of-equilibrium systems, one that cannot be sustained indefinitely even in principle. There is nothing particularly special about a living being, there are billions of humans alone. I argue that because life creates conscious states/qualia that can experience pain and suffering, to minimize suffering it is better to not create [f14] or needlessly prolong [f15] life. The cult of life meanwhile maintains that every human life (we still gladly kill animals for meat/fun) is a net positive, making it beyond the reach of rational valuation. And without rational valuation of life we become irrationally afraid and avoidant of death, which just as in the case of negative/positive solutions above is a whole 50% of real world actions (the other 50% being birth). But in our minds, births are 100% the only solution and deaths are to be ignored and avoided. We like to think every life is precious and invaluable, but everything boils down to physics and physics is a quantitative science, thus lives are also measurable and comparable - as long as one is ready to define metrics by which to compare them. It is not fair at all, but some people have objectively better lives than others. Some lives contribute to society and some take away. By forcing a blindness to such valuation we leave everything "to chance", steadfastly proud of our ignorance. These lives will continue to exist whether we valuate them or not, but if we want a 'better' society we are at best stumbling in the dark without such evaluations. Consider the elderly - dying of "natural causes" like organ failure and terrible painful diseases - they will die soon anyway. It's guaranteed that some will never be able to spend a day without care - unable to move or think coherently, in pain, spending their time on TV and distractions. Just let them die already? This sounds cold and cruel, due to the cult of life brainwashing in me. [f16] Why devote serious societal resources to keep this person alive another day - society suffers, the person suffers, and all it does is push death a tiny bit farther away, never eliminating it or the associated fear and pain and misery. So does anyone benefit in the end? It is like kids covering their eyes and pretending the thing in front of them doesn't exist - we don't want to accept the finality of death, so we keep persons alive {readily trading their vivid qualia experiences of pain/suffering just so we don't have to be sad about selfishly losing them}, but by this delusion that death will never happen we devalue their lives even more - how many elderly must spend their days in care homes without any love from their family or friends until they die and suddenly everyone is sad (or fakes it)? Why doesn't the family care? It is the cult of life - death is assumed to not exist, the elderly person is fine living their life, we have plenty of time to visit later. Why all this meaningless misery? Just accept it - the old person will die, they are not enjoying their lives, care for them and love them and let them die. Minimize their (and society/caretakers') misery by making their last days great and happy and painless, instead of letting them suffer all sorts of chronic/debilitating pains and diseases so long as they stay alive - again alive for what? So that you don't have to feel sad about the funeral, because now's a bad time for that? In facing the reality of another's death we have to face our own mortality, which may lead to realizing that parents condemn every born child to eventually die - but all thinking along these lines is high treason in the cult of life.

With an adult we have the option of letting them choose whether they want to keep living as they are or to die, which is I think morally respectable (as opposed to killing all old people, which is just as senseless and rigid as keeping all babies alive). What about the permanently ill/paralyzed/retarded, those who cannot speak or think for themselves? Some definition-diluting people call them a "blessing" but I will be blunt: they are likely to be miserable for the whole extent of their lives, never being able to experience or comprehend the normal human pleasures and interactions that make life worth living for us. Along with their suffering they will drag down the society around them (of normal people who are capable to otherwise contribute to societal progress) - requiring extensive care, new medical technologies/surgeries/drugs, and unable to fulfill family obligations thus tearing apart otherwise stable emotional/romantic partnerships. And all for what? [f17] Just so they can live a lonely/alienated, powerless, painful life that ends in a death sooner or later anyway? Call me crazy but I think this is a far more cruel torture than the alternative of a peaceful death, and comes down to a selfish reason - nobody wants to be the "murderer" (because of the cult of life) and many people like caring for others, exercising their power over a helpless patient, having a person as a "pet" [f18], or just simply helping along the delusion that death doesn't exist and everyone is alive and happy; playing god over the very matter of life and death, able to create and sustain life. Everyone (and every action) is selfish at the core, but that's no reason to make another living/conscious being suffer. There is an essential asymmetry here: we have no moral reservations about giving a conscious being no choice in being born/entering this existence, but we have the highest moral reservations about giving a conscious being full choice in dying/leaving this existence. In fact, we force beings to live even when this hurts them, as if to say "you will live and experience this world whether you want to or not" [f19] - this is at least just as cruel and cold as killing the being forcefully, and potentially more so since the act of killing can be quick while living and suffering can continue for years and the pain of death is never eliminated or even decreased, merely delayed. So disfigured, retarded, disabled, chronically ill and dependent on drugs/machines, newborns and babies are made to live, grow up, and exist as never self-aware dependents, or even more painfully at the cusp of self-awareness and realizing they will never experience huge parts of the world and they themselves are the reason their family is suffering and poor (due to paying for constant ceaseless medical care, more and more intense to keep them alive against the odds). What do these lives contribute? It hurts to see all the pain of this world and the ingenious ways to keep a person alive with no purpose and no point, no one along the line stopping to question whether they are actually creating pain by their life-supporting actions. We all die sooner or later, and if we're not going to contribute to the well-being of society/current generations [f20] then we might as well die sooner. Life is just another unstable arrangement of atoms, a large-scale physico-chemical reaction that the cult of life keeps us from seeing for how bare it really is.

In fact there is a secondary damage to society that occurs from the cult of life. When death is de-facto dreaded and avoided, regardless of how bad an individual's life is, life itself becomes less precious, less worthy. If a slave working in dreadful conditions seeks his own death {or, in less violent circumstances, a birth strike: a birth is a vote of confidence in society}, the slave owner loses power over the slave; if all slaves preferred death to succumbing to unjust demands, the slave owner would be powerless. The worth of each individual's life is thus maintained, whoever unjustly abuses people will find that the abused people either fight back or die, eliminating the power base of the abuser. The abuser/slave owner/emperor would then be quick to cater his actions so people of his society actively want to stay alive rather than struggling/making ends meet to stay alive because that's the only option the cult of life supports. The ruling class would be always confronted by the real risk of losing their people to suicide if they decide to be abusive and take too much for themselves. But by making death anathema, floodgates are open to exploitation of living people to the highest practical extent - you can either keep your honor and suffer a lot or kiss the boss's feet and suffer less, there is no option to escape. As long as someone else is more willing than you to kiss the boss's feet, you get the non-choice of either suffering more or being even more willing to kiss the boss's feet, implicitly reducing your own life worth. Of course having someone else more willing to do this only happens because of the cult of life - more children and a growing population will lead to a more easily exploitable workforce as more individuals compete for limited resources, keeping the poor in poverty [f21] It is fucked up. We bring children into this world, and then magically they themselves are made to be responsible for their own (and even our!) survival, at risk of pain to themselves (not us!), so they must do whatever is necessary to stay alive even though they never asked to be alive in the first place. This is precisely what makes it possible for societal systems to exploit lives and turn them into menial chores. This is like being in a store where you are forced to buy something every hour, with billions of other people. Chances are, you will find all the good and cheap stuff is already taken, but you have to buy something, so you pick the least bad option, at the end you end up paying a lot for something you didn't really want. Why would anybody enter such a store, knowing they have to pay with real effort and suffering? [f22] Human life is valued only as much as we ourselves value it - mothers birthing more kids and forcing their kids to study so they can impress the emperor will result in kids who genuinely believe their life worth lies in how they are evaluated by the emperor. If these children decided to value themselves, realizing that the emperor only has power to the same extent that all his servants believe he has power, they would not compete with each other to impress the emperor, instead treating each other and the emperor as equals. Death is the one equalizing factor that can keep the brute-force subjugated people from serving a master they despise [f23]. Alas the tragedy of the commons applies here in another perverse way; because evolution has wired us to want to fight for our lives, each individual in the egalitarian society stands to gain selfishly by serving an emperor figure, by being willing to do more than another for less reward, so the inequality of power recreates itself. [f24]

The tragedy of the commons will apply on an even more monumental scale in our current relation with the environment. Acting selfishly is a physical law just as the laws driving atoms to take "selfish" actions and find a local optimum. Those who aren't selfish [f25] get beaten and outnumbered and used by those who are, until they realize they can also experience personal benefits by being selfish so they become selfish but the society pays for it. Why don't I share my room with the homeless? I don't "use" the whole room anyways, but I want it to remain my own even while the homeless don't have any place to call their own. Similarly, we don't share our fossil fuels with the future generations - because we have easy access to fossil fuels, we can use them for wholly selfish reasons like driving a bigger more comfortable car instead of riding a bicycle. In a rational society we would realize we can only use tiny amounts of fossil fuel to be in balance with the planet's fossil fuel regeneration rate, and we would reserve its use for those tasks that are crucial to achieving the greatest social pleasure. The gallon of fuel burned driving a car to work today could have been used in a society and life-saving mission sometime in the future, so the selfish use of natural resources is even counter to the cult of life: this cult's obsession is not with Life as a wholistic entity but rather with surface-level rhetoric that at its core is based on satisfying selfish desires. Our desire for pleasure and comfort is the strongest factor: despite the advances of modern society effectively eliminating untimely death, we procreate much as we did when wolves and diseases killed our children. Instead of maintaining stable population levels (1 child per parent), using new technologies with discipline so as to ensure all future generations have a prosperous and easy life with minimal labor and suffering, we worked our asses off to extract the most fuels and materials possible, as fast as possible, so that - what? So that we could have a difficult life (working 40+ hours a week for most of our lives after being in school 40+ hours a week in childhood) and extract all the resources future generations could have used, leaving them utterly stranded without an energy source and in a CO2-rich atmosphere. Why? Because we are greedy and selfish, because we don't look at the big picture, because we have romanticized views of the future as being somehow always better than today rather than accepting that sustainability means the future should be more or less the same - certainly not bigger or more prosperous. We are committing a crime against all future generations by burning fossil fuels and making as many kids as the parents feel satisfies their urges [f26]. All because we are separated from the future by an impenetrable time barrier. The future generations have no say in what we do to the fuel reserves and the atmosphere, and just like animals in slaughterhouses that have no say in what we do to them, and just like small countries which have no say in what the global powers do to them, we will selfishly satisfy all our urges, fully at their expense, because we remain ignorant of how they will feel {an incomplete coupling of information, a limited-awareness consciousness}. Again, a tragedy of the commons because the couple that "wants" 5 kids [f27] can do so and satisfy their urges or be responsible and receive only a nebulous invisible "reward" of future sustainability. [f28]

Society uses specialization to spread mental effort among members of a community, but application of optimization algorithms shows that specialization implies local searches and can lead to convergence on suboptimal outcomes. So the workers extracting minerals from mines don't ask what the minerals will be used for and whether this is the most appropriate application. The workers extracting fossil fuels from ground reserves don't ask what the fuels will be used for. Buyers of fossil fuels don't ask whether there are better uses around than what they are about to use the fuel for. Users of fuels like professional drivers don't ask why fuel should be used or why it should be used to the extent that it is, whether the application is a worthwhile one. And it certainly sounds impractical to ask such difficult questions, for it would require everyone to know everything. Yet with greater global connectivity we come closer to a concept of global optimization, even global consciousness [f29]. This global consciousness may like to save itself and there is evidence in its favor: the internet and open access to information has played a huge role in destroying many myths/false beliefs (including religion), making more optimal choices in terms of free market competition, and the prosperous countries have stabilizing or declining population levels. But the laws of physics are ruthless - even if the global consciousness decides to save itself, what can it do against hundreds of years of continuous emissions and destruction, by the past generations, of the environment we evolved to live in? Evolution shows us that no system is truly stable (a closed cycle thermodynamically) unless all energy flows are used up by existing lifeforms, since any energy that is not used is energy that can eventually support another competing lifeform. So if we want to have an indefinitely sustainable human population we must use all the energy flows on Earth to serve our needs - leaving none for undesirable bacteria and viruses to evolve, leaving none for non-productive animals and plants, leaving none for natural/weather events that can wipe us out. This might not be possible with our technology, and certainly not with the way we're using it, so we are left with competition as a necessity. Forests provide a good example of a million-year-scale stable system (and by not using all the sun's energy, they have allowed animals to evolve and cut them down) - it is fascinating that over these millions of years, no single plant has emerged as a dominant one. Forests have different species trees and plants in continuous competition, and it is this competition which seems to be a stable state; maybe there is a lesson here for humans as well. Variety is the essence of evolution - if a single organism dominates, another organism which exploits a weakness of the dominant one now has a ready and large supply of food, so the competition of vicious cycles continues. Humans, and human societies, are part of it. We found technological ways to mostly alleviate suffering - disease, famine, labor - so we bred out of control and took all we could get our hands on, restoring ceaseless competition. The current standard of life is a temporary and unstable result of the exploitation of fossil fuels, and it will disappear within a few hundred years as society globally comes to equilibrium living conditions. It will not reappear for millions of years. The irony is that even now life has been made more meaningless by the competitive societal systems that evolved - we all work secluded and isolated jobs rabidly, ignoring any other alternatives, feeling emotionally unfulfilled leading to increased rates of depression/loneliness/suicide [f30].

The same competition is present in social interactions: early humans did not have an opportunity to interact with very many people, so the connections they made were local, likely not their favorite choices but it may be the case that people are more content with their choice when choosing from fewer items vs from indefinitely many [f31]. Today cell phones and social networks allow social connections with more people at one time (texting multiple people at once) and a choice of more people to connect with. In addition to other people, we have the choice of all sorts of entertainment - TV shows, movies, and video games. Amidst a growing population, the number of 'top' positions we care about (entertainers and close friends and politicians) stays constant, leading to greater competition and inequality and isolation. For me, watching a TV show and following the life of a fictional character specifically crafted to be socially appealing, fun, exciting, powerful, all without any risk of judgement/unfavorable interaction is much more enjoyable than spending time with an ordinary and somewhat boring friend, so I will spend more time watching TV than being with friends, and of the friends I have I will choose only the ones I most enjoy being with (because they in some way satisfy my selfish desires). But this means that the already-popular TV show gets my social interaction time while my friend doesn't get anything. It is the same phenomenon that has led to the prominence of huge chain stores and closure of small stores when free market competition is allowed to take place. By being selfish we nominally benefit, yet there are those who end up ostracized by society and longing for connection who end up suffering as a result. Interactions become shallow and easily distracted, it's just not worth all the effort to try and get to know another person and to deal with their idiosyncracies when it's so much easier to put on a TV series or text other friends/check their social media. It seems that it is only the biological urge for intimacy/sex that keeps us sort of together, but nowadays even couples will sit in front of a TV instead of actually interacting with each other because both find the former more enjoyable, breaking up on a time scale of a year or two when the infatuation disappears. While the extremes of popularity and loneliness are a product of modern society, competition and inequality in the social realm have been present even since our ancestor monkeys [The Great Leveler]. I imagine the experiences of animals are ones of pure urges/desires and seeking to satisfy them, doing the 'intuitively right' action, always following the 'gut feeling' because unlike us they do not have an ability for abstract reasoning to consider this feeling in another context. This is not to say that animals have less of a conscious experience than we do - they still feel qualia (like pain and pleasure) and certainly react to it in similar ways, but without reasoning they can never get an awareness of the bigger picture/patterns - the societies and structures they form are driven by pure evolutionary forces in a more obvious manner than with humans.

In the deterministic world there is no free will, which means there is no morality, just feelings and the world as it is. I am reminded of scenes in Earthlings where animals are skinned alive, pigs/chickens kept in tiny cages their whole life and boiled alive. Humans have certainly used such methods on other humans, and continue to do so. Where is the 'guardian angel'? Who will protect the powerless? This is our world, the tragedy is that we have the capacity to experience suffering and yet are led to benefit selfishly by taking actions that cause others to suffer helplessly. And as I work every day to keep myself alive, hoping for a reduction of suffering in the future even as I overall contribute to it, still nations stand poised to unleash suffering upon each other at a moment's notice: chemical weapons and blistering agents, weaponized and treatment-resistant diseases, crop-destroying chemical spraying and oxygen-consuming thermobaric munitions. Nature itself is busy evolving organisms that will make use of readily available food sources - humans and our plastics. Evolution is a cruel and relentless competition where it almost seems the winning move is not to play.

[f1] in fact, evolution is closely related to entropy; as the creation and life of an organism is a 'one-way' process that therefore requires energy dissipation

[f2] from, "If the mother did not feel adequately loved, safe, secure, protected, appreciated, valued, accepted and respected before giving birth, she will, in all likelihood, attempt to use the child (and later the teen) to fill these needs. If she did not feel adequately in control of her own life as a child and teen, she can be expected to try to control her son or daughter as compensation. This is the recipe for emotional abuse."

[f3] "Cultural history, as well as observation of ourselves and others, allow the following answer: Most people learn to save themselves by artificially limiting the content of consciousness." - The Last Messiah, Peter Wessel Zapffe

[f4] These are all 'rituals of certainty', designed to show members of the society that they are, for the most part, in control of their lives and the world around them - by minimizing the infinite space of all possible solutions to the comfortable well-defined space of societally approved ones. Why do we work 9-5? Why do we have 2/7 days off and in such a rigid manner? Why do we have 3 meals/day? All these little unquestioned rules and structures impose order on our lives, giving predictability and a sense of control, therefore gaining the name 'rituals of certainty'. In truth, nothing is fixed or absolute except the laws of physics. Any of societal customs can be questioned by anyone at any time, but such questioning is very difficult because without the guide of certainty there are infinite ways to try and reach an answer, one is venturing into the fog.

[f5] after all, evolutionarily fit brains have to employ accurate physics models to hunt animals and plan for the future, and coherent explanations carry more meaningful physical content

[f6] as before, the similarity of religious stories to other fictional stories, and similarity of holy beings to the human/animal world around the culture writing these stories, is indicative of no new information content and that the stories were created by human brains to appeal to other human brains

[f7] there is a similar urge to solve problems/to be useful, which leads to the popularity of 'idle games' like candy crush - there are consistent rules and solutions are readily achievable, satisfying this urge on artificial problems instead of real-world difficult ones with no clear rules

[f8] this is not to say that these constraints are any less real and physical in content than physical laws - everything physical happens because of physical laws after all, but just that they are more removed from brute force

[f9] keeping in mind that intelligence is a social phenomenon, ie defined by societal/cultural standards and the ways children are raised by parents/society at large; it arose in the first place by evolutionary and reinforcing-cycle mechanisms

[f10] while the timescale of vaccine use is short by genetic evolution standards, population has grown exponentially so each 'saved' offspring went on to have many more which effectively speeds up the ensemble evolution

[f11] it is an insane ratio, million to one. One footstep to a million footsteps. What can we say to future generations who will not have any fuel for the next hundred million years because we burned it all?

[f12] surely there will be people who find comfort in religion, "god has a plan"

[f13] I think it is utterly thoughtless and cruel to bring children into the world. We are the one species lucky enough to have the ability to contemplate suicide and sterilization - refusing to play evolution's aimless game.

[f14] this view is called antinatalism - avoiding birth. See also [Because I love you, you will not be born - Julio Cabrera + de Santis]

[f15] this view is more along the lines of promortalism - accepting death

[f16] the existence of the Stockholm syndrome is very interesting, if we assume this shows a certain psychological defense mechanism to "accept the things you can't change" there is no reason to assume this mechanism only applies to kidnappings, it could also keep us "accepting" the state of being alive itself.

[f17] the reality of self-reinforcing cycles (see next chapters) must not be ignored. Medical institutions function and establish their usefulness by virtue of having patients in need of their care. In a twisted way, providing a cure is not in the best interest of the doctor - but being able to keep continuous money flows going is. This objectification (that also caters to the providers' desire for control over a human) is seen readily in medical settings, waiting on a doctor/specialist (their time is more important than your plebeian concerns), patients indifferently moved around/bumped/dropped on stretchers. People become similarly objectified "feel like a number" whenever they play a role of sustaining money flows, for instance college education and taxes and loans/banking and corporate work and taking part in a media/televised event.

[f18] perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising that abuse is widely documented in mental institutions. And seeing the parents care for a permanently dependent/helpless special needs child makes me ill, because the parents clearly get a sick twisted primal gratification out of forcing a helpless and always-inferior (ie not a competitor to their status) being to do things against their will, causing pain but having an excuse "the pain is necessary, I am doing this for you, sorry sweetie but this is how it must be". Chances are, the parents will in due time make another kid in the hopes of it being normal so as to 'replace' the abnormal one, leading to the notion 'replacement child', as if saying to the abnormal one "yeah, your life sucks, and it's also worthless. Now let's keep dragging you through your daily routine so we can satisfy our need for control!".

[f19] the film [Children of Darkness] depicts a teenager who impulsively self-harms - he is forcibly strapped down to a bed for most of the day so as to keep him alive

[f20] and absolutely not in the sense of birthing more kids, like the cult of life wants us to belive, but by actual work to reduce pain and increase pleasure

[f21] here we have a whole confluence of forces working against the poor - on the surface level the wealthy have physical and economic means to gain more money for themselves. Deeper, assuming the poor have more children than the wealthy, the few resources the poor parents have end up spread out over more children to care for, meaning the children will be unlikely to end up better than their parents started. Deeper yet, assuming these poor children will have to compete for similar jobs, the size of the candidate pool for these jobs (as compared to jobs that rich children compete for) will grow over time and the pay will shrink over time, so the poor children will on average end up with lower-paid jobs.

[f22] a similar level of abuse is enabled by permanent ties like 'blood family' relations - if a child is made to learn they have no choice but to love their parents, just because they're family, the parents can exercise any level of abuse and children will have no escape. If children are able to act on the possibility to leave their blood relatives and choose their own family, domestic abuse ought to decrease

[f23] see [The Great Leveler] for more on how wealth inequality dramatically and consistently decreases in times of great violence and death

[f24] such dynamics could be seen in US slavery - slaves were often willing to 'turn in' others planning an escape/revolt

[f25] it is questionable whether this is even possible, because all our actions are driven by want to satisfy ultimately self-preserving needs; even altruistic actions are taken because they satisfy some inner need. On what basis would a conscious being choose a state of suffering with no reward for itself? This seems a physical impossibility, like a spontaneous decrease of entropy.

[f26] ironically it is in no small part the cult of life's short-sightedness that is making it harder for future humans to survive

[f27] kids and babies are readily treated like objects/property when discussing how parents 'want' them, as opposed to the reality that they are individual conscious beings with their own experiences

[f28] in this light it is surprising that religion works as well as it does - maybe this is because in the past religion was armed and capable of exerting real physical force

[f29] in the same terms as our consciousness is due to a network of connections within the brain, a network of global high-speed connections can lead to an emergence of a global consciousness as an entity

[f30] people commit suicide in our society, which means whatever they experience is strong enough to overcome the single strongest biological urge of saving yourself at all costs, not to be taken lightly or dismissed with "they're depressed and should seek therapy"

[f31] [Myers, The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty]

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