Sunday, June 05, 2016

Making Sense of the Absurdity of the Real World of Human Affairs

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I dearly love those profound opening words from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (1859) because for me they summarize the best description of the human condition ever composed by the human mind. As any student of history can attest, back in 1859 Dickens was simply stating that the current times are no different than any other, and that it has always been this way, and that there has always been some element of absurdity in the real world of human affairs. In fact, many religions in the past featured first-order approximations to explain the above. But for once our times may truly be different because of the advancing effects of software on the world, and that will be the subject of this brief posting.

As I have stated in many previous postings on this blog on softwarephysics, I started this blog on softwarephysics about 10 years ago with the hopes of helping the IT community to better deal with the daily mayhem of life in IT, after my less than stunning success in doing so back in the 1980s when I first began developing softwarephysics for my own use. But in the process of doing so, I believe I accidentally stumbled upon "what's it all about" as outlined in What’s It All About?. Softwarephysics explains that it is all about self-replicating information in action and that much of today's absurdity stems from the fact that we are now living in one of those very rare transitionary periods when a new form of self-replicating information, in the form of software, is coming to dominate. For more on that please see A Brief History of Self-Replicating Information. Much of this realization arose from the work of Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore, Stuart Kauffman, Lynn Margulis, Freeman Dyson and of course Charles Darwin. The above is best summed up by Susan Blackmore's brilliant TED presentation at:

Memes and "temes"

Note that I consider Susan Blackmore's temes to really be technological artifacts that contain software. After all, an iPhone without software is simply a flake tool with a very dull edge.

So to really make sense of the absurdities of the modern world one must first realize that we are all DNA survival machines with minds infected by memes in a Dawkinsian sense, but the chief difference this time is that we now have software rapidly becoming the dominant form of self-replicating information on the planet, and that is inducing further stresses that are leading to increased levels of absurdity. As I outlined in The Economics of the Coming Software Singularity, The Enduring Effects of the Obvious Hiding in Plain Sight and Machine Learning and the Ascendance of the Fifth Wave one of the initial tell-tale signs that software is truly coming to predominance has been the ability of software to displace workers over the past 50 years or so. The combination of globalization, made possible by software, and the automation of many middle-class jobs through the application of software, has led to a great deal of economic strife recently. Economic strife is not a good thing because it frequently leads to political absurdities like the 20th century Bolshevik Revolution in Russia or the rise of National Socialism in Germany. Economic strife can also lead people who are economically distressed to take up very conservative political or religious memes that condone violence, as a way to alleviate the growing pain they feel as they become alienated from society by software. So once again, the appeal of simple memes that purport to alleviate economic distress, or to eliminate the perceived heretical thoughts and actions of others, are on the rise worldwide, and these simple memes have naturally entered into a parasitic/symbiotic relationship with social media software to aid the self-replication of both forms of self-replicating information. In recent years, this parasitic/symbiotic relationship of such simple-minded memes with social media software has led to the singling out of groups of people for Sonderbehandlung or "special treatment", leading to acts of terrorism and ethnic cleansing throughout the world.

Please Stop, Breathe and Think
So before you decide to blow somebody away for some strange reason, or even before you decide to vote for somebody who might decide to blow lots of people away for some strange reason in your name, please first stop to breathe and think about what is really going on. Chances are you are simply responding to some parasitic memes in your mind that really do not have your best interest at heart, aided by some software that could also care less about your ultimate disposition. They are just mindless forms of self-replicating information that have been selected for the ability to survive in a Universe dominated by the second law of thermodynamics and nonlinearity. The memes and software that are inciting you to do harm to others are just mindless forms of self-replicating information trying to self-replicate at all costs, with little regard for you as an individual. For them, you are just a disposable DNA survival machine with a disposable mind that has a lifespan of less than 100 years. They just need you to replicate in the minds of others before you die, and if blowing yourself up in a marketplace filled with innocents, or in a hail of bullets from law enforcement serves that purpose, they will certainly do so because they cannot do otherwise. Unlike you, they cannot think. Only you can do that.

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Steve Johnston

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