Friday, November 9, 2007

Why aren't our property rights over one another more transferable?

Why do people get married? If anyone ever proposes to me for a reason other than to surreptitiously steal my belongings or to get more centerlink benefits, I would have to refuse them on the basis that I could not love a man so irrational.

~ all married/engaged folks please forgive me and freely assume I'm just rather jealous :) ~

What is the purpose of a contract to love someone forever?
If you anticipate loving them forever anyway, it would seem to be pointless. I'm told it is romantic nonetheless, but how is it romantic to take a legal precaution that implies some doubt that you will love each other forever?
On the off chance that you stop being in love with them, the last thing you want is to be legally bound to stick with them. And a legal obligation to actually love them is pretty laughable. Possibly if they stop loving you you might want them to stick around regardless, but isn't that rather selfish and desperate? Anyway, surely this is hardly the contingency people have in mind when saying their vows.

Anyway, now that divorce is allowed the whole thing seems to be completely meaningless, except if understood as a way of betting large swathes of assets on the outcomes of ones emotional attachments, with divorce lawyers and priests playing casino. If this is the kind of gambling that floats your boat it makes perfect sense, but perhaps you could benefit from counselling at some point.

I propose a solution for escaping most of the potential damage of weddings while retaining the romance they apparently emanate: short term marriage contracts. At the end of, say, six months (terms such as length should be completely flexible) you renew it, or don't, and act accordingly. If your spouse forgets this anniversary you can give them a year off. The whole ceremony could be the same as before, with a minor alteration to the vows: ' sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'til death or May 17 - whichever comes first, do us part'. Plus you can have more parties later on.

(On the earlier point, if anyone is ever irrational enough to propose to me, and I usually consider them rational, perhaps I must conclude that they are irrational specifically with regards to me, so therefore may in fact love me. A heuristic for finding selectively crazy guys could be just what one needs. If this occurs then you all have permission to laugh at me lots.)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Corporate ecology

Direct competition is resource intensive. Just to compete, species and companies have to invest heaps of energy in long trunks and roots, extra hunting and massive advertising campaigns for instance, instead of expanding or improving production. To avoid these costs they move into niches. Where there are multiple species or companies with very similar habits, one will eventually get an advantage somewhere and use it to get further ahead and outcompete the others. Consequently those that survive employ slightly different tactics and are spread between different habitats and markets. The fast food diverged from the fancy restaurants way back and nestled into more isolated markets. The fast food members have since emphasised their differences through differentiation of colourful plastic toys, varieties of hamburger and corporate identity, to appeal to different prey.

Companies can even evolve according to the prey’s preferences, their appendages growing beautiful but functionless layers of plastic and coloured cardboard, along with scents precisely attuned to attract passing shoppers.

All right, the mechanisms are half different (companies at least try to steer their behaviour, though I reckon natural selection comes in there to a great extent too). And the structure of the larger system is perhaps different (unless people are the decomposers, the production chain the trophic levels…yeah, whatev).

Drawing lines and tigers

There is a problem that catches the light occasionally, and is pushed off into political correctitude, but one day will have to be met. Humans are all as good as one another. If they are stupid or disabled or anything this doesn't detract from their worth as people. This is fine - I'm not disagreeing. Animals are worth less than humans. Dead humans are worth less than humans. This is also fine, and I'm not disagreeing. However there's an inconsistency.

These views can only work as long as the gaps between these things and humans are not filled. Humanity isn't binary. There is, at least potentially, a sliding scale between characteristic humanness and, say, characteristic antness, involving variations in many characteristics. Similarly for living and dead. At what point as you travel away from normal human characteristics do you suddenly draw a line and value a creature/person a little less?

In practice as soon as you stop relating to them, but this is hardly the basis for a moral distinction. Wherever you draw a line, it must be admitted that it is arbitrary. So while we might take pride in our fair treatment of all mankind, regardless of their characteristics, we must agree that we could just as legitimately draw the line elsewhere and treat our celebratedly cared for lowest-capability people as animals.

Aside from where to draw the line is the question of why to have one. Why does a characteristic (such as intelligence or 'level of consciousness') varying among animals vary their moral worth, while the same characteristic varying among humans doesn't? Their differences are judged using different rules, but not because of relevant inherent differences.

This problem hasn't fully emerged with animals yet (perhaps more with dead people, and very little with robots), but that does little to the argument: our ethics are inconsistent.

A way to be more open minded (an experimental thought)

(As in actually open minded, not just comfortably sheltered from one's narrow mindedness)

A technique I noticed while experimenting with being wrong:
1. If you have an opinion on something, find an opposing one
2. Feel like you believe it (emotionally, not necessarily mentally - pretend you know it's true and don't think about whether it is). It doesn't matter how averse you are to it - if somebody else can believe it, there are reasons to (not necessarily rational ones). Think of that reason and try out the associated emotions. Feel loyal, caring and understanding toward the idea's followers. The important bit isn't the belief, but its emotional affects - feel something about it.
3. Stop.

Some justification for this touchy feely emotional garbage? To remove it from the equation.
I think the biggest fog over unbiased judgement is emotion. From a side of any battlefield there are fierce positive emotions radiating from your ideals and negative ones flying in from the other side. The correct side is obvious - the one supporting the good feelings! Open mindedness isn't even called for. If it is brought out it is only to declare 'I'm looking at the other side, and they look dangerous!'. But both sides are awash with emotions supporting them and driving them on. If they weren't, there probably wouldn't be an argument. Sound reasons devoid of emotional allure don't pull the crowds. To be open minded it is necessary to neutralise of emotion. But it isn't enough just to acknowledge it - 'well the other side clearly cares about X' - if you actually feel something for the arguments on your side. You have to feel both sides or none. There'll be plenty of non feeling once you're dead, and giving up feelings can be hard, so try for feeling both initially, as outlined above. It'll all fade away quickly and you'll be more open minded.

Note: do not necessarily think both sides are correct as a result. Just choose unemotionally, or taking all emotion into account.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Some half-serious, half-formed thoughts on existing and so on

So I've been banging my head against a wall (metaphorically, almost not) for about a week and a half (or years on and off) about the apparent meaninglessness of anything and the difficulty of finding anything to do that is mildly satisfying next to the absurdity of existing. This is what I've come to:

On lack of inherant meaning in anything:

- Whether there is value inherent in the universe or not (by the way there's not) doesn't matter (nothing does! lol. But that's not my point). Value that you choose to place on something is as legitimate as that which 'God' or anything else does. It would be impossible for a God or anything else to allocate value to things in any more legitimate a way. If they did, and you disagreed with them, why would their values have precedence? To give them precedence would be a value judgement. There is no better possibility than what we've got (similar to how there is no better version of free will than determinism).

- Really it's not that bad. You have the freedom (yay) to value what you think should be valued. If there were some fundamental ones one had to stick by, I'd probably whinge heaps more about that (and anyway, if not comfy with it you can probably find some place to live where some government will be willing to choose values for you - such as Australia it seems)

- It is objectively better to value things, and to value things that other people's values aren't mutually exclusive with. 'Better' is defined in terms of the value placed on stuff (yours and others') - if you value things more, there will be more value. So it will be better. If you value killing people etc. you will impinge on their (probably less messed up) experience of value quite considerably, so it will very likely not be better. In the end the goodness of anything is a practical question of whether the values of the individuals involved are fulfilled. Potential for this depends on them having values, and them not being contradictory.

Note: there is a difference between indifference and not valuing things. You can just indifferently value whatever comes along, without caring what it is (though there are still other people's fixed values to watch out for). This can kind of work.

- You probably get on alright having your own values - knowingly chosen/based on biological and environmental effects - for things like wallpaper and lunch. Just do it for everything else (I don't like AIDS because it doesn't go with my sofa).

On how to behave when the absurdity of existing at all is just so crazy that anything else seems incredibly unsatisfying in comparison:

- Violence? Tried it this arvo for a bit. Distracting, yes. Fun, hell yes. Incredibly satisfying? Not really. A viable source of income? Possibly, but would have to find richer people to mug :)

- If you really feel like hurting yourself just to feel something, physical violence is probably not the best bet. Before it hurts enough you will damage yourself, which isn't useful. Try psychological torment ;D Some good bits of emotion can be had from just thinking about this kind of thing...satisfaction from the horror of dissatisfaction...mmm it's even pleasingly recursive (I like recursion and I don't care if God does). I had some other ideas, but I edited them out, as I feel bad about depressing people, ironically enough.

-Seek satisfaction from the absurdity of existing, without doing anything about it? Just think about it and see how amazed you can be. I suspect not enough to seem appropriate, but what's appropriate?

- Try to be nice and save the world and stuff? As mentioned earlier, I think this is the inevitable conclusion I must come to, regardless of the source of it's preferability. However I'm slightly inclined not to. On further introspection, I think this is merely because I just don't want to follow all the people who are lefties or righties or whatever because they haven't thought about any of this and are just engaging in smugness about their smugness about what they blindly assume is right. It's just kind of lonely - I feel like a hipocrite and an outsider to their sentiments, which makes me angry, which makes me more right wing. This is a bad reason, and anything is going to be lonely, with or without other people to misunderstand me. So this one isn't written off - in fact I think it is still going to be the inevitable conclusion.

- Something that hasn't been done before? Hard to find and once you've done it, it's been done. Also, it is unlikely to be terribly satisfying. Things that are particularly satisfying have probably been done. The best candidate for 'something that hasn't been done and might be satisfying' is something horrendously idealistic and difficult, like saving the world (from whatever, it's irrelevant here). Which solves the problem in the last point, because when smug people with the same end goal as me talk to me I can at least say I want to save the world because it would be 'kind of post-modern'. This will at least make it clear to them if we probably can't relate to each other, and they will go away.

- Hang around and think more about it? I am probably stupid enough to be wrong about how I'm even looking at these problems. Almost cerainly in fact - to my knowledge, nobody exists who isn't impressively stupid. This is one of the more interesting things to read/think about anyway.

- Wait until one day I give up caring about whether things matter inherently or not, and be back to square one...until I stop caring about that...fuck...

- Be relieved that as a the kind of complicated biological and social thing you are, you have a good few pre-programmed preferences for things. You could chuck them all out the window, on the basis that they are arbitrary upshots of evolution. However so are you, and they are the arbitrary upshots you like, and you probably won't find much satisfaction in not having them particularly. Also it's hard to do properly and you probably can't keep it up for that long (' is inevitable to be drawn back into human drama...').

So there. I think I'll go for a combination while I look for other things to think.