As trans/post-humanists, we should more than agree that people are prone specifically to the cognitive bias of never wanting to admit to being “wrong.” Ego and social status in real time takes precedence over logic or honesty. I’ve posted several articles in the last year about how people’s minds change primarily when they are observers to a conflict, not when they are involved in it (makes sense with fight or flight and shit). The chances you convince someone to really honestly take a good look at their own subtly sexist behavior, for example, is pretty damn close to zero. We as a society have not practiced moral transhumanism, critical self-inquiry, enough to fundamentally re-orient our values around accuracy and efficiency instead of “rightness” and”wrongness.” Under the former scheme, learning something new or finding out inconsistencies about oneself would be seen as an occasion for celebration, as one becomes more effective and one’s mental models become closer and closer to reality. There is no use or reason for shame over being “wrong,” but alas, natural selection programs you in ways you had no consent or intention over, and people continue to fight foremost to save face or win arguments, not to better themselves without shame or improper use of humility about that betterment. We all find ourselves moving in some direction somewhere along the spectrum of the statistical likelihood of correctness, and no one has ever been born with right knowledge so we have all been there, leaving no reason whatsoever for shame or pride about incorrectness/correctness.
Anyway my point here is that, whenever you find yourself in conflict with someone, remember who your target is: the people passively listening. Their ego is not on the line, and if they change their mind, they can do it quietly and pretend they always felt that way, avoiding socially-programmed shame over imperfection. I know a lot of people assume I’m like some sort of hysterical nut case because I write inordinately long posts and comments on facebook, including on my own posts, and its basically as if I’m constantly talking to myself. I do that on purpose. Over the years I survey people and find out that even when no one comments or likes, many people have read what I wrote and it affected them. That’s why I write the way I do: because I am posting there to CAUSE CHANGE, so I investigate my tactics and evaluate their efficacy, and I choose tactics based not on what makes me look cool or gets the most likes or develops the social commodity of a niche identity. That is what it takes to be a radical, and that is why it pisses me off so much to hear played out stories people made up about how they spit in a cop’s face once, or people just echoing the buzz words and performing activities that bring them social capital.
The difference is severe. People who do the latter are not radicals at all, it doesn’t matter how many good quotes or ideas they post. WHY are they posting them? That is the question of importance. What is the goal, who is the audience, what is to be accomplished? Because our actions should whenever possible be designed to achieve change, or else we are just a bunch of little Eichmanns for a new fad, for social bonding capital, whose actions are in total self-serving no matter how much talk we give of egalitarianism. It’s not the statement, the thing itself, that matters; everything in life is relational. Everything should be looked at as a utility: the important part is what it DOES, not what it IS. If your claiming of being a feminist only DOES make you belong more comfortably, but doesn’t cause you to partake in critical self inquiry (the fearless moral inventory of radicalism), then your claim is garbage, it doesn’t matter what it IS.
What is the best course of action in one case is almost always totally different in another case, because there is no such thing as static correctness. Actions are only correct in what they achieve, how it relates to the surroundings and goals of the individual. And it’s a good thing, too, because only people truly interested in goodness can then arrive at the correct actions, and we can tell apart the imposters and the mussoulinis and fad followers from those who act simply in the interest of goodness. I call this “authentication.” If we authenticate with others based on static points, like use of certain terms or subscription to certain ideals or reading of certain books, then we are absolutely bound to be infiltrated. I’ve been saying this for years: the reason punk rock has become just another form of high school is that people who couldn’t win popularity in that group became attracted to punk and radicalism because it has a clearly laid out prescription for belonging. It’s basically like making all your passwords “password.” Anyone can hack it.
Interesting enough, we are finding in physics now that the central dogma is timelessness. The timeful nature of reality has been stripped because of mathematical platonism. We have this idea about the timeless laws of physics, but why on earth should we assume there exist timeless laws? It’s an unjustified assumption, just like the assumption that anyone who talks about being prole and hating dreadlocks and freeze peach must be a good person. It’s far more nuanced and relational than that.
Lee Smolin’s “Time Reborn” got me thinking about this. In it, he proposes what he calls “soft determinism,” which led him to think about the possibility that natural laws go through natural selection; i.e., that it’s possible that the laws of physics change with time. If there’s one constant in life, it’s the usefulness of mindfulness of assumptions. If there is one thing that makes me a powerful person, it’s the strength of my critical self inquiry. I check and recheck and second guess to hell everything that I assume, constantly. Yes, it can be debilitating, but it produces real, honest knowledge trending closer and closer to truth.
It’s delusional to assume the static existence of right and wrong, to assume that someone spitting the same rhetoric as you must be as good and ethical as you are. Anyone can spit rhetoric. The ethical person never takes someone at face value, even themselves. They look deeper, they look at how actions relate to environment, they don’t judge others ethical or less than ethical based subscription to a particular ideology. I mean think about it, for all yall know I could be a bigot in real life, just because I write about anarchism doesn’t mean we can assume I’m one of the “good guys.”
Each and every individual has to assess and criticize and question and second-guess each and every other individual in order to create a just society. Any static rule or trend is bound to fail in some situation or another– gay nationalism is a perfect example. But when we put queerness on a pedestal and judge all queers as “correct,” we have failed in our duty as rational, independent agents of social computation, and have injected delusion into our worldview.
I fully believe that ethical goodness is a product of honest, critical self-inquiry; and because of the nature of us as beings formed by natural selection, we are certain to be imperfect at that task, in the same way that I can’t see the sun rise in China due to the nature of my localized existence in space and time, or I can’t see in infrared because of the nature of my physical body. There is no god, so unless we become gods, no matter what, by the very nature of physical existences localized in space and time, we cannot hope to have full or perfect knowledge as individuals (This is why I believe so much in the brain to brain interface. Summer Speaker once told me they thought ideas of talent were oppressive. I responded that talent is inevitable simply by the nature of ourselves as existences localized in space and time. For instance, people on alpha centauri will always be more talented at describing alpha centauri than I ever could, unless I become one of them, at which time I’m necessarily sacrificing my special talent for observing what is going on on the earth with utmost accuracy.
Thus, our only hope of ethical goodness lies in developing billions of checks and balances– a society of people who have worked to develop a respect and ambition for truth alongside wariness of claims of truth. I call this the power of multiple perspectives. Imagine if Cassini flew by and snapped an image of a yeti. Well, that’s outlandish! Under what circumstances would you come to accept that there are yetis on Saturn’s moons? Well, if you sent many probes of different kinds, brainstorming ways they may fail and one by one cutting out possibilities until the last remaining possibility of any sense is that they must exist.
Another example: we may wonder if mathematics is a construct, or if it is fundamental to the fabric of the universe, but we will never be sure. We can only hope to become more and more sure as more and more independent societies somewhere in space contact us and we find, they all have prime numbers (this is where postmodernism came from; some people saw this inherent uncertainty and exclaimed, “We cannot know anything ever!” Again, a perfect instance of delusion– who is to say truth is determined by 100% correctness? Maybe the truth is not static, but instead it is in its very nature probabilistic, as in, “there’s a 90% chance it will rain tomorrow,” or, “I think, therefore I am– excluding the possibility that God and LaPlace’s demon have all conspired to mislead me.” What right do we have to see truth in its natural form as it exists in this universe, and to reject it because it doesn’t fit our assumptions that truth is timeless and always 100% certain?
In the same way as with the process of coming to accept there is a Yeti on Saturn’s moons when multiple probes of different sorts agree, we are all probes of one another’s level of connection to reality, and this requires fierce independence (that’s why the scientific method rests so firmly on independent verification– and also why our science is so impotent: hegemonic forces of scientific fact are by nature self-similar, so they produce a runaway train of values. Should we really be surprised that in a capitalist society, most science is geared toward entertainment and vapid hedonism? Too many scientists are too similar in that they are capitalists or accept capitalism, and this produces a terrible skew in the ethical correctness of the values and goals of science. There isn’t enough independent questioning and diverse perspectives to call into question the externalization of costs that capitalism so famously operates on, and which leaves people my age most likely without a future.
Should we be so surprised that an ideology that assumes infinite growth and production should bias science toward entertainment and pointless building up of wealth at the cost of the existence of life on Earth? No, it’s not surprising. Subscribing to or accepting capitalism even on a subconscious basis requires the implicit assumption of endless growth. What need is there for conservation and stewardship in a world of endless growth? None. And that would be all right and good, if only our assumption was correct. Alas, hegemonic forces of culture seed delusion into our worldviews through acceptance of implicit assumptions, whether that acceptance is conscious or not. Thus, mindfulness is the absolute most key practice all radicals should engage in. Assuming we go to an afterlife may be pleasing, but when the whole world subscribes to this without reason or evidence, it’s no wonder at all that we are left with a world that is being thrown down the toilet.
Just because 100 people drink the kool aid doesn’t mean it’s a good idea– mainly because those 100 people are too similar to one another, promoting the ability for collective delusion. Goodness comes from accuracy, and accuracy comes from fierce independence and an absolute respect for truth, whatever that may be. This is why delusion and mindfulness are at the heart of my mental models of the world and my formulation of anarchism and radical ontology and epistemology; deciding to select these concepts as the key forces at play was the product of a lot of careful observation and reading differing opinions and questioning myself to a debilitating level for decades (And also why I’m certain to die of a heart attack unless I become cyborg. I know, hard to believe, I didn’t select those concepts just because I’m a hysterical vagina-having-person that likes to rant and think they’re better than everyone else and thus decided it was in my interest to claim I possess an ultimate handle on capital-T Truth, contrary to popular opinion– even though I’m constantly saying there’s no such thing as absolute certainty in the universe, but people like to gloss over that because it doesn’t fit the tyrranical egotist picture they want to paint of me).
This questioning should lead not into the fatalistic rejection of the possibility of right knowledge that characterizes postmodernism (which as an ideology stands so boldly and spits in the face of reality– you’ll never find a postmodernist robbing a bank because there’s no such thing as the truth that they will most likely die or go to jail, so postmodernism itself is a delusion in schism with day to day reality and proven foolhardy even by the actions of those who subscribe to it, since *relationally, in time* we can analyze their actions and see quite clearly they believe in truth. Otherwise, why not jump off a building and try to fly? You don’t see many postmodernists doing this, even though such an action is clearly justified in the lens of the bullshit they are spewing. That’s okay, though, we live in a spectacle where people are concerned about identity over truth, and the postmodernist has achieved their air of scholarly superiority through endless and absurd deconstruction.
This critical self questioning should instead move from characterizing reality into characterizing problems as relates to individual goals and desires, and designing solutions that make sense with this acquired knowledge, this trendline-of-probability-pointing-in-the-direction-of-truth we have so painstakingly arrived at (understanding that refining the truth of a universe can never be a finished project unless you become the universe itself), with such a model equipped with proper error bounds and quantification of uncertainty like all good science. That solution, in its most atomic and universal form, for us, in our time and place, is the ethical duty of all of us to perform rational, independent checks and balances on ourselves and others. I believe that all honest inquiry would uncover this fact of the duty of accurate social computation being indispensable for a liberated world. The torch is now yours to carry.
“Long live impudence!”