Stop And Have a Feel

Universal health care, and universal basic income. These are two topics that liberal peaceniks love to go on about. Different groups of people have different opinions about these ideas and many objections. However, these objections all seem to be rational reasons involving implementation. I wonder what they would think if they took a moment to really feel what these things would be like.

For the liberal peacenik crowd UHC, and UBI would feel like security. A major source of anxiety and fear would be removed from their lives. They would be able to turn their concerns to other issues and could rest in the comfort of knowing that if they chose to volunteer their time for good works there would still be food on the table, a roof over their heads at night, and some help if they met with an accident.

For the impoverished, these things would be nothing short of a godsend. Desperation would flee from their world view, and they would be able to focus their minds on things they want, like education, a chance to engage in life, and no need to turn to less than legal means of making ends meet.

For the (dwindling) middle class, and the small business owner, this would feel like more people with the means to frequent their businesses. More people would be able to eat out at restaurants. More people would have the funds to support local shops. In addition, UHC and UBI would mean relief from twinges of guilt when catching a glimpse of the current truth on their news and social feeds. The inconvenient truth that people are starving in the streets. Children are homeless. Desperation haunts our nation. Once UHC and UBI were in place, you would feel that these issues were at least being worked on.

For the big business owner, this would feel like a release from the headaches of providing health insurance for their employees as that would be handled by the government. There would also be the feeling of assurance of a population where everyone has at least some disposable capital to spend at the businesses in question. Lastly, I think that all business owners could get a good amount of comfort from knowing that their employees want to be there, rather than needing to be there.

I am aware that there are a whole slew of logistical issues with implementing UHC and UBI, especially in my country (the United States.) That’s the cool things about humans though, when we want to get something done (usually for a reason sourced in some kind of emotional investment, positive or negative) we figure it out. My point with this post is that maybe if we let ourselves deeply feel what living in a society with UHC and UBI systems in place, we will be sufficiently motivated to make them work with minimal adjustment pain along the way.

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A Red Dwarf Fan Meta-Theory

*WARNING: This post is written with the assumption that the reader is not familiar with the Red Dwarf series. It also contains some minor spoilers. No major spoilers occur.*

As I have mentioned before, I love me some Red Dwarf. I’ve watched all 11 seasons a number of times now, and seasons one through four so many times it’s silly. The series started in 1988, and season 11 was released in 2016. They have taken years-long breaks a number of times. With 29 years of the show existing, an entire generation has grown up with it. The fan base is very strong, despite the inconsistencies which haunt the show. These continuity errors may be part of the charm of the show. The producers and writers obviously care more about good laughs than they do about maintaining a self-consistent world. There are dozens of these errors, and with every episode, they keep accumulating. Most fan wikis online have a section dedicated to these mistakes, with fan theories attempting to make sense of them on an individual basis.

Some examples are:

  • One of the main characters, David Lister, states in the first episode that he is ranked #169 out of the 169 crew members of the mining ship Red Dwarf. In season 4, Arnold Rimmer (another main character who caused the accident that killed everyone but Lister aboard the Red Dwarf in episode 1) is tried and convicted of 1,167 counts of murder.
  • David Lister at one point mentions he has never read a book. Later he insists he has read books. Oh, and in a couple of episodes, he is shown reading books (including a cat book written in smells).
  • Rimmer states that his father had committed suicide, but later is driven into a depression when he receives a letter from his mother informing him that his father has died.
  • Lister states he is an “enlightened 23rd Century guy”, yet a clock seen on the day he goes into a stasis chamber for refusing to give up the cat he smuggled aboard shows the year as 2077.
  • The Cat (another of the main cast) says that because no one else was around he had to teach himself, and yet in an earlier episode he reminisces about learning about Lister’s cat Frankenstein (the progenitor of the cat species) during his days in “kitty school.”
  • Lister has his appendix out twice.

Fans have grappled with these puzzles for years. They have come up with quite creative (and consistent to the show) theories to explain each of the consistencies in turn. I have been playing with a global meta-theory that might account for all of these continuity errors in one go.

In the opening episode, we learn that the ship’s computer, Holly, has an IQ of 6,000. That’s not too shabby. We also learn that Rimmer is incompetent and that Lister has a cat aboard which is against Space Corp regulations. Captain Hollister discovers that Lister has a cat, and demands that it be turned over. Lister refuses, and as punishment gets put into stasis for the remaining 18 months if his tour of duty. Lister comes out of stasis, with no sense of the passage of time, to discover that Rimmer caused a radiation accident which killed the whole crew and that Holly had to wait 3 million years until the radiation faded to the point where it was safe to bring Lister out. In the meantime, Frankenstein (who was pregnant) gave birth and (despite the radiation) a race of feline humanoids evolved in the ship’s hold. Holly resurrects Rimmer as a hologram to keep Lister sane, and the ship makes is slow turn back towards Earth. The notion of Holly acting to keep Lister sane is clue one in my meta-theory about what’s really going on in the show.

In the early seasons, Lister has a tendency towards tall tales and jokes. You can never be quite sure if what he is saying is the truth, or if it’s a put on. As the show progresses, all of the regular characters take on this tendency, and by the later seasons most of their interactions start out (and often end) as elaborate jokes. This is clue two.

Red Dwarf sports several recurring themes. One starts in an episode featuring the “Despair Squid”. This leviathan like sea creature has evolved a peculiar defense mechanism. The ink it squirts is psychoactive and sends its victims into a hallucinatory world where they are confronted with scenarios designed to drive them so far into the depths of despair that they eventually kill themselves. Some variation of this animal forms the basis of a few of the episodes and ends up being the driving force behind an entire season.

Another recurring trope is virtual reality. During a handful of episodes, the crew whether voluntarily, or not voluntarily visits virtual realities through in a number of ways.

The repeated entrapment in artificial reality that occurs throughout the series is clue three.

The show starts off with some far-fetched conceits but generally feels like a solid science fiction sitcom. As the seasons stack up the adventures of the crew, along with the entities they meet, get steadily sillier. This is clue four.

In a few episodes we revisit the idea of stasis. Sometimes errors with the stasis devices on board ship become the impetus for an episode. On other occasions the crew uses stasis technology to sleep through periods they could not survive waiting out. This is clue five.

So, what’s going on in this crazy show? Here’s my theory: Lister has not yet left stasis. When he initially goes in, a minor malfunction occurs. He is not perfectly sealed out of time. Instead, he is just conscious enough to dream. Holly, having an IQ of 6,000 realizes this, and develops a way to project information into Lister’s dreams so that Holly can keep Lister’s dreams directed in a way that will not cause Lister to realize he is trapped for what feels like decades. In other words, we have never gotten out of episode one. All the characters in the crew slowly take on Lister’s tendencies towards tall tales because they are, after all, all really facets of Lister’s mind. The theme of the imposition of virtual reality is how Holly keeps Lister from getting wise to what’s really going on. The despair squid is Lister’s subconscious trying to alert him to what’s happening. The lack of continuity is because Lister doesn’t give a smeg about such concerns, and really can’t be bothered to accurately remember all the little details.

In short, (nearly) the whole of the Red Dwarf series is the dreaming mind of a man not quite stuck in a state of suspended animation.

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A Brief Glimpse of my Neurosis and the Nature of Evolution

I have always been curious about how the mind works. Since I only have direct access to mine, I have spent a lot of time over the years watching it. Meditation has definitely helped in this regard. For the most part, it’s a fairly banal bit of business, but occasionally it does something interesting. I’ve noticed this mostly happens when I have an “Ah-hah!” moment. Usually, this occurs when a problem I have been ruminating on for some time finally moves a bit forward. One of those leaps happened today.

The ah-ha moment I got to witness today has to do with a couple of things that Buckminster Fuller, Ray Kurzweil, and Terence McKenna have in common. They actually have a lot in common, but the two things that are important here is that they all had some very interesting notions about the acceleration nature of time and evolution and that they all happen to be people whose work I admire (and hence have studied.) Buckminster Fuller was famous for carrying with him a set of charts which showed the accelerating curves of a number of areas of human development. Ray Kurzweil, in his book “The Singularity is Near”, features a number of these type of charts especially focused on the accelerating development of computing power, while also showing the trend to decrease in pricing and size of said computing power over time. Terence McKenna talked about this tendency of evolution accelerating in his work on novelty theory, and his time wave zero model of time. These three deep thinkers (along with many others) have noted that the amount of change over a given period of time is accelerating. As an example I’ve talked about before, if you take the amount of information available to humanity as a whole in the year 0 AD as one unit, the amount of information humanity has doubled by the year 1500. It doubled again in 1750, then again in 1900, and again in 1950, etc. As you can plainly see the rate of accumulation of information (new discoveries, sparks of genius, fresh fields of research, etc.) is plainly accelerating.

Several mathematicians have worked on this notion as well. A pair of them calculated that by around noon on June 12th, 2012 there would be an invention on the order of the wheel, the mastery of fire, the creation of the printing press, or the development of the Internet, happening every second, and that new invention would have been propagating into general use by the human species as a whole the next second. Not only do I have no idea what that would look like, it also does not seem to have occurred. Similarly, Terence McKenna showed mathematically that on December 21st, 2012 the amount of evolution that has happened since the big bang would happen in one seconds time, and all of that evolution would happen again int the next pico-second, etc. He called this the collision of our reality with the transcendental object at the end of time. Again, I have no idea what that would mean, and again it does not seem to have happened.

All of these thinkers were quite brilliant, and their math seems to hold up. So, what happened? That’s the very problem my brain has been chewing over for the last five years. Normally when a problem like this clicks it’s because another notion collides with the first. That’s what happened. It went like this: I was watching Red Dwarf (one my favorite science fiction series) on my iPhone. I got up to go to the restroom, paused the show and stuck it in my pocket. The thought came to me, “How amazing that in my lifetime TVs have gone from back breaking cubes with bad black and white pictures to something I can keep in my pocket. Hmm, why can’t I fit an oven in my pocket? Ovens have been around for longer than TVs. What’s the difference?” What came to me was information. Information is the difference between a TV and an oven. A TV is (to a large degree) all about transmitting information. An oven is about physical material, and the transformation of physical material. That was where the second notion came in.

Most of the major traditions of contemplation on the nature of existence have some form of a “ladder of existence.” The Hindu traditions breaks it down (basically) into the gross, subtle, and causal realms. One way to think of this is that the gross realm is the waking world or rocks and trees. The subtle realm is the dreaming world of ideas, emotions, and thoughts. The causal realm is the deep dreamless sleep world of being without form. This conceptual framework collided with the theory of accelerating change over time which led to my ah-hah moment.

The material world which ovens play in is the gross realm on the ladder of existence. The information world of TV is mostly in the subtle realm. So, rather than thinking of evolution as one thing, what if we think of it as a multi-faceted affair. Some of it is material, and it obeys the rules of that realm. Some of it is informational, and it obeys the rules of the subtle world. Perhaps then what is happening with the fact that there seems to be a slow down in the speed of progress has run into a limit in the material realm. Perhaps material evolution cannot go any faster than it currently is. The informational portion of evolution may still be accelerating as it always has, but now with the drag factor of the “material evolution speed barrier.”

Of course, this is a new notion for me, and I am sure it will lead me to more areas of research and study, but it may be that I am on to something. It’s likely an old notion to other people out there. However, this moment is an example of when such a moment of insight happens to an individual.

Anyway, that’s how things happen inside my whacked out brain.

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