Tweets from the Twit in Chief

Posted: May 21, 2020 in Philosophy

We pay attention to tweets from the twit in chief because the twit entertains us like a court jester. In this case, the jester is in charge and we are the joke.

A topic of interest to many people is whether or not time travel is possible, particularly backwards. Interesting novels have been written speculating on the possibility and TV shows have dealt with the topic with interesting stories. I have even written a short story speculating on the possibility. The purpose of this essay, however, is to think about the possibilities of time travel and some of the logical consequences.

Let’s divide the discussion in at least two parts. Either time travel is possible or it is not. It is easy to deal with the second. If time travel is not possible, then that ends the discussion. Certainly, there have been proposals that it is not because of a potential paradox. What if you went back in time and ran into yourself? Would there be two of you? Would only one of you be real? Would you recognize yourself? What if you were suicidal and decided to do it by killing your duplicate? Would you still exist? Some suggest you could not time travel back to a time of your own lifetime. A lame argument because if it were possible to go back further, the argument goes, then what would happen if you ran into your grandfather and killed him. That creates a paradox about your own existence. Or what would happen if you ran into yourself? What would that mean? Generally, these are the arguments used to argue that time travel is not possible.

Lets take the other point of view that it is possible, but we don’t have the means to do it yet. If it is possible, then you have to address the paradoxes given above and others that may be uncovered. There have been some borrowing from the world of science regarding the possible existence of multiple universes. This multi-universe hypothesis has been proposed as an explanation of some confounding physical experiments. I don’t propose to explore the argument for multi-universes. If there were multi-universes, then time travel might simply take you back to a universe remote from your current existence so that killing your grandfather would not produce a paradox since that would not change your current existence, only the outcome in the alternate universe. There have even been TV shows utilizing this idea. Still, this not that satisfying.

I wish to suggest another alternative that could explain how time travel is possible and will be done in the future. This requires an hypothesis about time itself. This hypothesis suggest that time is principally an illusion, like an optical illusion. It is a very strong illusion, one we have great difficulty avoiding if we can avoid it all. It is suggested that all time that we perceive as past and future is part of the same unchanging existence. We view time as something that changes. We feel the movement of time from past to present to future. Yet, it is an illusion. Time, like the other things we perceive is just an existing thing. Imagine, for example, that just as we move around in space, we change things. In the same manner, if we move around in time, we change things. Yet, like space, time is just a “thing” that already exists, past, present, and future, all illusions. If you are unwilling to entertain this possible perception of time, you might as well stop reading now.

If you assume that the space-time continuum is fixed, like space itself, then it is easy to conceive of the fact that all time-travel that ever will be done has already been done in what we conceive of as the future. Hence, there are no contradictions, no paradoxes because traveling in time that occurred in our perception of the future has already occurred, already changed whatever it was going to change. Someone can not, in the future which has already happened, change something in the past, which has already happened, because it has already been changed because there is no past, present and future as we normally conceive of it. So, time travel is possible, but all time travel that will be done has already been done in what we perceive as in the future.

Aside  —  Posted: August 5, 2019 in Philosophy

What is Your Source of Authority?

Posted: October 25, 2018 in Philosophy

When we were children we on an adventure that was predominated by the question ‘WHY’?.  If you have been around young pre-school children, you certainly have been asked “Why” any number of times.  Sometimes this question of “why” is repeated over and over again when our first attempt to answer seems inadequate.  If this goes on too long, which length is highly dependent on the person trying to answer the child, the child usually gets either the answer “Because I said so!” or “I don’t know why.”

As we get older and ask a superior (read boss) “why”, we may expect a reasonable, rational answers, but it is also possible we are told “Because I said so!” or some facsimile of it.  Seldom are we told by a boss “I don’t know why.”  As children, we don’t have a clear distinction around the question of authority.  In fact, we don’t have a logical system of thinking able to formulate question “Why do you have authority over me to answer my questions or tell me what I must do?”  That is in spite of the fact that we begin to formally challenge authority as early as age two.  That ignores all the challenges we make by crying when we don’t have language to give reasons for our challenge.  Our challenges to authority typically are  searches for our own autonomy.

Throughout the history of human existence, the role of authority has played an important role and to a large extent power of one person over another still establishes the authority of one person over the other.  Religion also deals with the question of authority.  This has changed over the eons from the shaman to the priest or the holy scriptures.  In the secular world, we tend to rely on answers derived by the “scientific method.”  Over time, things change.  That is just the nature of the creative human existance.  The understanding of what constitutes “the authority” on things spiritual or secular also changes.  Who is the authority that we rely on today?

Much of the turmoil we experience today in the general decline of church participation or the willingness to ignore the consensus of scientific thought, for example, on climate change is the open question of what is our authority base.  In the West, the empahsis on the individual has consequences in authority as more and more people say they rely on themselves to know what is right or wrong, true or false.  It has the effect of setting people adrift, grabbing onto whatever seems most comfortable or least challenging to their thinking and way of living.  It ignores the fact that we are imersed in a culture whose characteristics, languages, and patterns of thought were not created by us.  They were not even created by people of positional authority, but by the language in which we swim and the culture which we enherited.

This search for a new basis of authority is an unfinished task, but in the long run, it will be invented by the creative nature of human existance.  Wish I would be here to see the outcome.



Thought About Political Gridlock

Posted: October 8, 2018 in Philosophy

I was wondering how we resolve the current (2018) political gridlock and polarization in the US.  It seems that national politics is in a state of hostility and working across party lines is a sure way to be defeated in the next election.  The parties value the success of their party now to such an extent that exercising power when in the majority and being obstructionist when in the minority is the rule.  We like to call out the hypocrisy of those who when in the minority ranted and railed about the practices of the majority only to exhibit that same shift-flip-flop when in the majority.  It is so bad, that most Americans have very low regard for national politicians even while re-electing those in their own identified party or simply failing to vote in disgust at the whole affair.

So, is there any resolution to this state of affairs?  I will admit that this suggestion would be difficult to achieve because of the lock the two-party system has on elections in the US.  It is one place that the two parties agree, locking out any other parties, rendering it very difficult for other parties to form and if formed to gain access to the electoral processes.  Yet, it occurs to me that one of the ways our political system might be improved is by the successful introduction of additional political parties.  OUCH, you might react.  How could it be better to have more of what we detest?

One of the problems is the growing inability of members of one of the two parties to cross the divide and work with the other party.  We are too polarized.  You would be defeated in the primary.  So, the party in power, if it can herd its members successfully, can control the legislative agenda so that we get partisan agendas, ones along the extremes, not ones in the center of our citizens’ willingness to support.  We get protests against all odds.  We get declining faith in our political institutions, no matter what party has power.

But suppose there were, in fact, multiple parties reflecting the many points of view in our society today.  It would then be necessary for the parties to form alliances in order to get things done.  In effect, politicians would have to make compromises in order to get the votes to pass legislation.  There might be a substantial party, but if it were not in an absolute majority, it would have to compromise with some members of other parties to gain support for legislation — similar to the parliamentary systems of Europe.  And compromise is a good thing, working across party lines.  Of course, there are no guarantees that this would improve the laws, but it would, in my opinion, offer a better chance.

It seems to me this might be worth exploring in today’s troubled environment.

People as Corporations

Posted: October 15, 2015 in Philosophy

Corporations are not people.  They are superior to people.  They have rights people don’t have.  They are not treated the way living human beings are treated.  So why can’t we all benefit from this superior existence.

There could be advantages to society if individual persons could incorporate themselves as a corporation.  It seems to me we could get rid of all the prisons.  Corporations are not put in jail or executed, they are just fined if they break a law or even kill people.  Corporations are not required to be sequestered and prevented from doing business for a certain time as their penalty for breaking the law.  People are jailed; corporations are fined.

This is something that might be fleshed out in more imaginative ways.  Exactly how many benefits do corporations have that are denied to “real” persons?  How could this fiction of corporations as persons be exploited to disrupt this fiction?

Vestiges of Slavery

If you define slavery as the condition in which a person can be bought and sold by others and that corporations are persons according to USA law, then slavery in the US is alive and well.  This idea was introduced to me in the book “We The People” by Buck and Villines.

A traditional for-profit corporation is owned by its stockholders.  These stockholders, through their agents, the board of directors of the corporation, are the declared owners of the corporation.  The CEO may have lots of influence, may even be one of or a major stockholder, but he does not own the corporation in his role as CEO, only as he or she might own stock, capital rights, in the corporation.  The board does not own the corporation even though some or all of them own stock.  They are owners only in the proportion of capital, stock, they own.  The board is elected by the capital investors at large to act in their interests, usually limited to their financial interests, in growing the capital value of their stock and in the dividends that might accrue from profits proportional to their capital interest in the corporation.

Thus, in this regard, the stockholders are the true owners and collectively have the right to direct (command) and possibly sell the corporation — which in the US at least is declared to have the property of personhood.  This is the classic definition of slavery.  Of course, we don’t have empathy for the corporation as a person per se. Stock holders might, but usually don’t have empathy with those that define the corporation through their creative capacity or their day to day labor.

Given this strange fact of the existence of slavery of a corporation because a corporation by law has the characteristic of personhood and entitled to all the rights of such personhood, it seems to shed questions as to this apparent disconnect with reality.  I would suggest that what is wrong here is the idea that a corporation has in fact, in reality, the property of personhood.

Interesting to think about?  Maybe it can become the basis for some change in the personhood of corporations?

Story of Behavior Modification

The passengers in my car demonstrated a nervous twitch, especially as I approached stop lights. Out of the side of my eye, I could see them moving their foot toward the front of the floor board to step on an imaginary break and grabbing the arm rest. My wife in particular was beginning to complain more about my driving. “It was red!” she would say with some disapproving tone. Yes, I did frequently see the red of the red light as I raced through the intersection at the last moment. “If I stop too quickly,” I rationalized, “I would have been rear ended by the guy behind me.” I knew that was an exaggeration because my heart would ramp up a bit myself. Of course, it was a real pain to have to stop and wait and wait for the light to change. So after one close call and a frightened yell by a passenger, I knew I needed to do something about this potentially hazardous habit. But it was not that simple to just quit. It was a very strong habit cultivated over several years.

I had heard of behavior modification as a technique to change behaviors. Would that work here? How? After some thought I decided to make a game of it. I decided that if I was the first person in line at a stop light, it meant I had stopped instead of driving through. If I was second in line or further back, then I had no part in deciding to stop as it was necessary to avoid hitting the car in front of me. So, I made some rules. If I was first in line, I would award myself one point. If I saw red on a light as I drove through an intersection, I would loose all my points and have to start all over. I decided that was not harsh enough. Instead of losing all my points I would go to minus 10 meaning I would have to successfully stop ten times before I even got to zero. I did not count the number of times I got set back to minus 10 because it happened a lot the first couple of months. In the third month I got as high as plus 20 once only to get set back to minus 10.

I decided that making my game public to my friends and co-workers would help apply social pressure. People would ask me how I was doing, what my score was, and what the rules of the game were. Some even began to play the game too. It amused me that some wanted to know if they were following the rules correctly. I had to explain that is was not a real game, that they could make up any rules that would help them accomplish what they wanted to accomplish. After about six months, I finally reached a score of 150. I decided that I had probably been successful in modifying my behavior and could stop playing. It worked! Ever since then my wife and other passengers ride with me with more comfort or at least they don’t stomp on the break on their side of the car and I don’t see red as I pass through the intersection any more.

I am now an advocate of self made games. Something you want to change? Make a game out of it with rules that will help you change the behavior.

Aside  —  Posted: November 6, 2014 in Education, Humor, psychology
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What about Fossil Fuel?

Think about it.

There is considerable risk to the consumption of fossil fuels since it has been well established that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, a major threat to civilization on Earth. The fossil fuels in the ground that have not been extracted represent a asset on the books of major fossil fuel corporations. Even in a declining demand in the United States, there is a rush via fracking and other extraction methods to get as much as is possible right now. This poses a problem. What do you do with it?

The current effort is to send these fossil fuels over seas to support growing economies there. There is also considerable push back from citizens because of the real likely outcome that burning all these reserves can contribute to increased CO2 and exacerbate the climate problems we face.

One way to put a cap on the speed of this effort and reduce the climate impact is to prohibit the export of fossil fuels from the United States. If there were such a prohibition, then only the fossil fuels needed to meet demand in the United States would be extracted because there is no good way to store the vast amounts current efforts portend. This would have the additional benefit of extending into the indefinite future the benefits of fossil fuels which are used for purposes other than burning in generators and automobiles. If in addition, there was a growth in the use of alternative ways to generate electricity with wind and solar the US demand for fossil fuels would continue to decrease.

There are advantages to the United States. First, we could become totally independent of foreign sources. Second, it would extend the potential long term value of this source of primary wealth. It also postpones the impact of excessive CO2 in the world climate system.

So, I say: Prohibit the exportation of fossil fuels from the United States.

Aside  —  Posted: October 24, 2014 in Economics, Environment, Government, Morality, Politics, Science

The Case Against GMO

Why are the corporations so against GMO labeling?

The answer to this question is subtle. It begins with why GMO crops are created in the first place. As it turns out to nobody’s surprise it is economic, not for the benefit of the consumer. If farm products can be produced that lower the cost of production by modifying the nature of the produce itself, in theory and practice it ought to be done. That is the basis of GMO.

For an example, consider Monsanto’s Round Up ready GMO crops. Using these mono-culture GMO seeds a farmer can apply the Round Up herbicide to reduce the weeds and as a result increase the yield per acre. The GMO crops have been engineered so that they are not killed by the herbicide while the weeds are. What is worth pointing out is that this GMO is designed to make money for Monsanto and the farmer. However, the GMO is not made in a way that the consumer gains any direct benefit.

This economic agenda does not seem to include making the product more healthy for the population as a whole. It does not make the nutritional value greater. In fact, one has to question whether the food produced through the application of toxic chemicals is in fact safe. There are historical experiences that should inform us, like the use of DDT.

So, if the only value is economic, mega-corporations naturally oppose any calling attention to the GMO process. Labeling would certainly do that. So, the corporations go all out to oppose labeling because, if we all knew where GMO was being employed for which there was no health benefit and no money savings benefit for the consumer, we might become more aware and less inclined to use GMO products. GMO benefits the corporations, but not the consumers.

Every technology ever developed had unintended consequences, some good, many bad.  For example, in the case of Roundup Ready Crops, we see a number of instances.  Increased resistance of weeds to Round Up which will require a more toxic application.  We also see GMO crops “infecting” non GMO crops indicating we are not in control of the outcomes of GMO.  It has resulted in suing farmers who through no fault of theirs, find GMO products in their fields with the effect of driving some non-GMO producers out of business and us out of choice in the market.  Labeling is an honest way to help us track what is going on and give us choices in our food purchasing.

Aside  —  Posted: October 24, 2014 in Economics, Politics, psychology, Science

Capitalism versus Biosphereism

The -ism of Capitalism is best described in the following definition of the meaning of the suffix -ism.

A : doctrine: theory: religion <Buddhism>

B: adherence to a system or a class of principles <stoicism>

Hence, Capitalism is best understood as a doctrine/theory/religion or adherence to the same with regard to financial “capital”. We could summarize this by understanding capitalism as a value system, one that places ultimate value on capital. By confusing this value system with the necessity of markets in which goods and services are exchanged, the value of a sustainable biosphere in which all living systems are nurtured is lost.

The remedy to the story that Capitalism has embraced and has been sold and bought by society writ large is a new story, a new name. We need a clear and compelling story about Biosphereism, a doctrine/theory/religion that expresses the values of a sustainable world for all living systems. We need a new class of principles and a new assumption that we will adhere to.