Posts Tagged ‘Survival’


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.


Jobs and Work

 

What do you do? Where do you work? What’s your job? How do you earn a living? These are some of the ways we ask each other about our livelihoods. We tend to overlook the significant difference between a “job” and “work”.

 

The difference between a job and work by a loose analogy is the difference between duty and passion. A job is something you have in order to do other things that you like to do. You don’t have to like what you do on a job, you just have to perform in order to be paid, preferably fairly with money which you can use to buy the stuff you want to have and live a life, outside of the job, that you prefer to live. Typically, when you have a job, you celebrate TGIF on Fridays and Groan when the alarm goes off on Monday.

 

In contrast, having work you love to do is stimulating, affirming, pleasurable, rewarding with or without a fair compensation. Typically, with work you love, Monday mornings are energizing and having to quit work on a Friday is hard to do. Work gives us self-value. Work has a sense of contribution to the world, to be a worthwhile way to spend your time. Others need not benefit from our work, but we are rewarded when our work is appreciated and adds value to the lives of others.

 

Too many people think they will be satisfied to have a job that pays them enough, no, more than enough to live life outside of the job. Some people realize that satisfaction with life comes from having the right kind of work to do as opposed to having stuff or lots of money. Sadly, some people only discover this after they retire and discover that work that they freely chose to do is more rewarding and life affirming than the job or jobs they had for the past 40 years.

 

If you are one of those lucky ones that has work to do that you love to do with an added benefit that it supplies your needs in life, rejoice. If not, reconsider how you spend your time chasing money in a life-sucking job in order to have the stuff and a life once the job hours are over.


There was a community that was very religious.  Someone, a long, long time ago wrote about God.  They all believed this writing was holy and to be believed to the word as long as they ignored certain words of warning.  It was a very comforting faith because no matter how difficult things were today, this book of writings about God promised that there was life after death and all you had to do to have that extended life was to utter certain words, with sincerity and passion.  And when you had done that, you could go your way, do your thing, ignore those who had not uttered the words, make serious purposeful mistakes, be forgiven, over and over, rape the land, pollute the sky, poison the oceans, and be forgiven, assured that there was an infinite future, a wonderful reward that would last forever.

Now if you did not utter the words with sincerity and passion, fully meaning what you said, it did not count.  You would be destined to live forever in a kind of hell along with all those who did not utter the magic words.  But, if you meant it, truly, you were safe and secure knowing that all the others who had done so would be with you in this great place of reward after you died.

One day, somebody who did not believe in magic said there was a problem in the world.  They had observed that by raping the earth, polluting the sky, poisoning the oceans, and oh yes, burning up some goo that the earth had been incubating for thousands, and thousands of years in a little more than a hundred years, the natural world was protesting.  But the faithful did not worry because their future was safe and secure, even after they died, forever.  They even believed that the earth would end but they would get their reward.  Their writings told them to multiply and subdue the earth, so they did.  They were inventive and used the goo to grow more food, build great engines, and populate the earth.  No problem if this was not sustainable.  They had a promise.   They would be going to the great reward and those who did not believe in magic would be left behind in their hell on earth.

Over the years, many of the believers died.  Nobody ever heard from them again.  Even so, those still alive believed they would see their deceased friends in the future in a great place of reward.  Meanwhile, the rape, pollution, and poisoning continued.  Then, one day, it did get warmer, the polar caps did melt, the oceans did rise, storms became severe and frequent, fires were common, water, oddly enough, became scarce.  The great experiment called homo sapiens was called to account.  God, as it turned out, was part of nature itself.  Judgement was administered.  The experiment ended.  This time, there was no boat to board to save a few for the future reclamation of the earth.  Believer and non-believer alike were gone.  Their friends, if they were enjoying their great reward, did not care.  They got theirs.  They just assumed the rest went to hell.

Belief like this is not enough, maybe not even the correct way to live!


Heaven or Hell?

I was just beginning to read the book, “Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril” and an interesting parallel occurred to me. The human being, as best we know, is the only species that can contemplate its own death. We despair when events like Columbine and now Aurora are presented in every media outlet. As I grow older and notice that there are many people my age and younger are dieing every day, I think about my own demise and wonder about the legacy I will leave behind. It causes me to invest a bit more time and attention to my grandson. It also activates me in my volunteer work with community organizing and study about the impact humans are having on the planet.

In reading Moral Ground essays which outline the dire indications of a planet in peril, it occurred to me that contemplating death is more than personal. Many minds are now contemplating the extinction of not just their own persons, but the extinction of the human race as we head toward a cataclysmic crash of the planets systems. The dinosaurs did not see their extinction coming, or so it seems. But while we think of ourselves as the exception to almost everything on the planet, we have been blessed or cursed with the ability to imagine a future. And that future, as a logical extension of what is happening today, is one of extinction– not just of individual species of which we take little notice, but of our own human species.

This lead to an idea or thought experiment. Suppose for a moment that on planet earth, we happen to be living in the afterlife of some other existence. That is, we were living someplace else and then, from where ever that was, we died and now, our spirits were sent here on planet earth for our after life. The question comes up– are we living in Heaven or Hell?


The most important value shared by all of mankind is GROWTH.

Consider that as humans, we are dependent on growing up.  Growth is considered to be a positive, even essential aspect of life.  We look around and we see growth positively valued everywhere we look.  We want our gardens to grow.  We want our children to grow up.  We want to grow our own abilities, to learn, to be able to be more proficient, more successful.  Growth is one of the values we all share in common.  It is part of the environment in which we live, so much so, the values associated with growth go unnoticed, unobserved.

Growth is good!  Who does not want their net worth to grow?  We all look forward to the day that our financial obligations are smaller than all the assets in property and money that we claim ownership of.  We abhor the idea of negative financial growth lest we find we are bankrupt.  To increase the opportunity to grow financially while limiting the risks we have to endure, we form associations with others, limited partnerships, corporations.  We invest assets in these corporations expecting a return, not only in dividends from the profit of the company, but also, we hope, in the increasing, growing value of the company and hence our stock investment.  We are counting on economic values to grow.  Our expectations of gain as well as the expectations of gain of those managing the companies imply there will be growth; growth in profits, growth in asset value.  The whole of our economy, in our nation, in other nations, in the world as a whole, are dependent on growth.  Hence, growth in consumers, growth in population is desired.  It leads to additional needs for food, housing, clothing, entertainment, information, health care, transportation, etc., etc., etc.

In the United States, the economic need for constant, continual financial growth is running out of places to grow.  Hence, we see an effort to devalue governmental services in favor of commercial enterprises.  Private prisons help the financial markets grow.  Private schools allow for profit, for financial growth in a previously non-profit segment of society.  Parks, roads, utilities, transportation, police, fire station services, health care, military services, to name a few– all of these are game for creating new growth for the financial sectors of society.  And since growth is good, even when prompted by greed, a pernicious form of growth, why not make all activities of life “grow-able.”

There is a problem with the supposedly good value of growth.  It is not sustainable?  It is a simple fact that the resources of this planet though enormous, are limited.  Growth forever is not sustainable.  The problem is the short term existence of any single individual to mostly less than a hundred years.  Growth is probably sustainable during that brief horizon today, probably during the next few generations, but not indefinitely.  The problem with growth is how culturally embedded and revered growth is, how acceptable as a fundamental principle of goodness it is for most people.  Yes, some people see the problem of growth in limited areas, but not generally as a whole.

Unfortunately I don’t have a solution except to call attention to what seems to be generally invisible.  We live in a “growth is good” milieu much as a fish lives in water, unaware of the universe that surrounds it– it just is.  To be able to advocate for a sustainable world, we first must come to terms with the fact that the growth value must be recognized and ways to sustain the world explored before we pass some tipping point.  WE must learn in what ways growth is positive and in what ways it exhausts the resources of our planet.  We must come to terms with externalities of specific acts of growth as well as its benefits. If we don’t come to terms with this problem of the growth value, mother nature will take care of it for us or our progeny or our lack of progeny.

See also The Earth has a Cancer


The Ultimate Machine

The Brain as a Machine Created by Evolution

By Cecil Denney

This essay necessarily deals with a complex topic. If, as is proposed, man is little more than a biological machine, then how does one explain the ability to enter into an analysis of this perplexing situation? First of all, it has to be acknowledged that use of the term “machine” may evoke too rigid a mental image to be the best description of the concept being explored. There is no perfect example to serve as a perfect analogy. Machine seems to imply automaton like behavior, but if an automaton, then the human experience is far from the image drawn.

To begin with, the brain, the neural network that produces the feeling of consciousness, of self direction, of free will, is a most exquisite mechanism. Operated by chemical and electrical activity; organized into a variety of members dedicated to specific functional activities, it is extraordinary. Yet, it is ordinary in so much as it is carefully replicated in design in millions of operational systems in the world. Even though the design is replicated, the result of this design occurs in such variety of networks that no two are likely to exist that are physically equivalent. One brain which contemplates the complexity of the construct of brains is yet incapable of fully communicating to another brain the exact physical experience of a given thought.

One has to marvel at how inputs and outputs of the brain permit the rest of the brain’s support systems, the body, to function. One has to marvel at the symbiotic relationship between brain, body, and the millions of co-hosts of bacteria that make up the human experience. We are, individually, communities of such complexity of interrelated co-dependencies, that it is unlikely human brains will ever fully grasp the full spectrum of the communities. Although each community-individual is similar to other community-individuals, yet no two are likely alike.

The brain receives “signals” from its host support system, the body. Five inputs are commonly understood, eyes, ears, taste, smell, and touch. But, it also receives signals from its own internal operation. There is also noise in the inputs, both external inputs and internal ones. The brain is per-conditioned to organize inputs and will not necessarily distinguish between clean and noisy inputs. If the noise is too great, one experiences hallucinations; visual, auditory, taste, smell or touch phantom signals as a result of trying to interpret and integrate the noise into its highly organized structure. Dreams reflect this effort to integrate random firings of brain signals during sleep.

The most complex experience of the brain’s function is the experience of consciousness. The machine, the complex neural network, experiences a feedback mechanism in which the feedback becomes integrated as new sensory information creating a looping structure. It integrates the feedback along with current sensory information to create the illusion of consciousness. This system, however, contains a number of flaws due to the basic physical structure and limitations of the “machine” itself. This allows us to experience and be “aware” of visual illusions. It also contains limitations on how the looping attends to various sensory inputs, focusing on some and totally ignoring others. This is the bread and butter of a magicians trade, taking advantage of the brain’s inability to maintain attention to multiple points of focus simultaneously. The hypnotist can in effect place the brain in such a tight feedback loop that it is attentive only to actions suggested by the hypnotist.

The brain is a “meaning” machine. In its symbiotic relationship with its host, it is driven to insure continuation of mutual support, survival. To do this, it must assign values to external events that can support or hinder survival. This is a process of attaching “meaning” to experiences, ones that support survival and those which threaten survival and those which seem to have no value one way or the other. Every brain must develop its own “meaning bank”. We are not taught, but we do learn. From a very early age, we seek the “why’s” of existence. We are intrigued, as infants, by novelty and learn through all senses. The brain attempts to organize all experiences and sensations. It is assigning meaning to its inputs, Our brains are DNA wired to do this. It is highly practically oriented, ignoring some and incorporating other experiences. This practical orientation we call “meaning.”

Here we have a biological system with the capacity to process limited sensory input from its environment, make an approximate record of the experiences and then incorporate the recorded experiences as if they were additional sensory input sources building even more complex records. The system as a whole over time builds a model of experiences and memories in a process we call learning by experience. Furthermore, the building of the model also takes place in a feedback loop that the system experiences a state we call consciousness being little more than the amalgamation or current sensory input and internal feedback from “learned” experience, models of what is perceived as an external reality. With the ability to attach symbolic forms to certain models or memories, we can then manipulate the symbols to create new and novel combinations which in turn create new and novel models.

The ability to symbolize a mental model into what we call a word and then to utter that word as an external sensory input to a disconnected brain (another person), we can create an exchange of approximate model recall. The model recall process having been processed as a symbol requires the recall of a memory experience which in most cases does not exactly match between two brains having not shared the exact same sequence of external sensory events from the exact same physical location at the exact same time. Hence, the passing of symbols between two brains may share symbols, but not exactly the same “meaning” being derived from unique model experiences.

With sophistication, symbol passing can approximate closer and closer common understandings between two or more brains through a process of specialization of symbol meaning. This specialization is common in areas of science where precision of meaning is necessary to derive practical outcomes that can be shared among many distinct brains.

Even more curious is the meaning behind that which is symbolized by the term “logic.” In this domain, multiple brains agree on how symbols can be reliably manipulated so that novel outcomes can be produced through the manipulation of symbols alone and then accepted as new reliable input. So, the rules of logic can be adopted by the biological systems as a way to manipulate symbols that represent defined external realities in order to provide reliable conclusions, ones that can be replicated by multiple brains that have agreed to the rules of manipulation. The brains then draw conclusions about the probable truth of certain symbolically formulated combinations.

In all cases, there is a symbolic root, a root below which there is only a neural network that has formed in the brain and about which there is nothing to say except “look at that network.” Like a string of DNA which codes for a specific amino acid, we can point to it, but not necessarily explain why it happens. Or, if we do offer an explanation, we just invoke a new more descriptive root cause to which the question “why” can still be applied till eventually we just get to “because that is the way external reality seems to be.”

This raises the question “What is true?” or “What is the nature of Truth?” At some point, if it all yields to “that is just the way it is”, then we end up with what is commonly referred to as “belief.” That is, what is true is just what is true regardless of the brain’s interpretation. The question of interest is whether or not the brain can ascertain what is true. Is the extent of the brain’s reliance on what sensory information it can manage sufficient to reveal what is true? More likely, it will determine what is useful to survival, true or not. In this regard, then, the brain relies not only on sensory information but constructs of neural networks it contains to arrive at conclusions about reality. This is where belief enters the picture.

Belief is itself based on both conscious and unconscious models constructed in the learning process by the brain. It is composed of direct experience and other-brain induced experience, what we were told using the symbolic nature of language which we have asserted is imperfect in communicating equivalent meaning. Belief is unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable symbolic or emotional memory of or model of some idea (neural network). Belief is experienced as assumed truth. In some cases, that assumption can be tested against an external reality. In some cases it can not.

There is a bias toward belief firmly reinforced by experience whether that experience be direct sensory information or indirect via symbolic manipulation from symbolic sensory input, language, what we have been told is true. This bias helps the brain build models around these symbolically represented models which we might call concepts or ideas. The bias has to do with survival in that it requires less real physical energy consumption for the brain to work from internal models than to build such models in the first place. In the same sense, it conserves energy to maintain or hold onto a model versus questioning the model or even changing the model. Therefore, once a belief is settled into a model neural network, it has a bias for maintenance versus questioning or change.

This bias can be observed in all areas of human existence. Even scientists who have chosen to struggle with a methodology that allows for the introduction of revision and change based on experimental evidence have a tendency to resist changes to their world models. Some change only in the presence of overwhelming evidence that their closely held scientific beliefs are questionable. For the non scientist, in domains where beliefs are not built on proof or fully sensory input, beliefs can be more tightly held. Belief’s not based on the methodology that permits free questioning of beliefs can be created and maintained by symbolic input from other grains, influence by culture, influence by groups to which a brain feels an attachment. These beliefs can be held firmly over time only so long as affiliation with other brains remains in tact, but once that affiliation is broken, there is an opening for belief revision. However, there is a tendency for one brain having broken one affiliation, to seek a new affiliation that continues to reinforce the brain’s belief systems. Since virtually every affiliation, made up of unique brains with unique experiences is itself unique, when a brain changes affiliations, it is also likely to find some of its beliefs challenged and faced with reevaluation. That is to say, changes in the environment, whether it be through association with other brains or with external sensory reality, can force a dissonance that leads to changes in belief.

All brains suffer from a structural affect to create the illusion of consciousness and free will. More likely, the environment in which brains develop are so sensory rich and complex that an individual brain can not experience inputs as only illusions. As this essay is written, even the author writes it with the illusion of being creative, free thinking, conscious so as to be observing itself. It is virtually impossible to avoid the illusion because it flows from the structure of the brain itself.

Because we can observe our environment, and because we can construct changes to it, we have the illusion of individual creativeness. However, this illusion is nothing less than the artifact of the complexity of multi-brain interactions forcing changes in models held by the brain. This complex web of interaction naturally, because of defects in reasoning and defects in interpreting sensory input, arrive at incorrect but creative conclusions to the input, both external and internal. Feedback loops similar to those contained in the structure of the brain itself exist in multi-brain environments. They create the concept of the whole being greater than the parts individually which is true because of the creative aspect of inter-brain interactions in large complex exchanges of symbolic sensory sharing. This sharing creates a kind of change that appears to be intentional, intelligent, non-automaton, creativeness. Unfortunately, it is a simple artifact of the interaction of a bunch of neural-network machines.

What about the illusion of “wants”? That is, the brain-body symbiosis is motivated or is activated to physical motion or symbolic written or spoken actions to declarations of future expectations by the experience called “stress.” The stress can be physical or mental, but it has the effect of causing action until the stress is removed, either by stress relieving neural-network action or by physically experiencing a counteracting action that reduces or removes the cause of the stress. This illusion of wanting something then is nothing more than environmental changes or neural-network activity consistent with the overall brain neural-network.

So what of love, hope, beauty, goodness, wonder-of-nature? What of honesty, integrity, faithfulness, loyalty? What of all these abstract concepts? Given that the brain is a electrical-chemical soupy neural-network these abstractions are structured networks of electrical and chemical reactions stimulated from internal and external sensory experiences. There is little more to say. They are real in the sense of experience while simultaneously being simply illusions, artifacts of the overall structure of the brain.

One might conclude from this exposition that the author is cynical, depressed, discouraged, or simply paralyzed into a discouraging fetal position, ready to exit this sense of reality. On the contrary, it is a hopeful understanding of sentient life in that it can be improved upon. It seems possible that artificial, that is to say not occurring today in nature, forms might be generated by this illusion of consciousness and creativeness to themselves experience consciousness and creativeness. Today, we refer to them as robots. It seems likely these will evolve to represent the next stage in the evolutionary process. Although today we perceive of robots as becoming the servants of human kind, they will most likely become superior. One day, there may no longer be a need for human forms and these evolving entities with consciousness and creativeness will perceive themselves as having evolved from nature, being created by nature, their predecessors, humans. Who knows? Certainly, it is not within the capacity of the current human system to know how or when this transformation will occur, but it will not take more than 10,000 years, a mere blip in the history of earth.

cecilden@gmail.com

Ecological Sustainability

Posted: March 29, 2012 in Environment
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Arguments from Scripture – NOT

 The church has a historical reliance on acting out what it believes is God’s Will. The expression of God’s Will is articulated in the scriptures revealed over thousands of years to the people willing to listen and to grow in their understanding and world view. Today, we find many people who no longer find scripture to be compelling. Many find the concept of God, as the church tells us, is revealed in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. They find the explanation of the origination of sin a concept from a mythical story in the Garden of Eden superstitious. As a mythical story, they find the necessity of the death of Jesus a strange explanation for redemption or even the need for redemption.

Into these ears, then, ecological sustainability presented as based on God’s Will makes no sense. Surely, it is not God’s Will that every one on the planet die. Was the human race just a grand experiment? No, they do not see the rationale for caring for the planet, creating a sustainable world based in scripture and to do so marginalizes the advocates. They look the same as those who advocate that God, who created everything, hates gay people, thinks it is ok to enslave people, is opposed to contraception. They want no part of that God and further, would prefer not to have to do anything with those who propose they speak for God because of their scriptures, the word of God.

Religious people, Christians to be specific should not attempt to argue for a sustainable world based on some interpretation of scripture no matter how confident they are that this is the basis for a sustainable world. Rather,we should adopt a more rational appeal, one based on appeals to the human value of self-interest and immortality, the immortality achieved by our surviving progeny. Whether or not one believes in an afterlife; whether or not we believe it is a “heaven” or a “hell”, we all prefer to postpone that experience in preference for the certainty of the life we have over the uncertainty of a possible life to come. We all find that adrenaline surge when frightened or threatened, that human experience of fear. And, if we are indeed God’s creatures, then this is a naturally endowed aspect of this life, a preference for not dying prematurely and perhaps not at all.

So, even the religious appeal for care for this planet on which we live should be based on the God-given characteristics of being the human creatures we are, not on some scriptural interpretation of words written long before sustainability was even a consideration on the distant horizon. We want to engage all humanity in a concern for the survivability of the human race. We want all humanity to be engaged in living as though survivability depended on them individually. This is not a Christian issue uniquely, not even a religious issue uniquely, but a fundamental necessity for every human alive today, even those with short-term pleasure as more important than the well-being of their progeny.

Rise of the Machine Age

Posted: February 12, 2012 in Philosophy, psychology
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You can write this off to my enjoyment of science fiction if you like.  The predictive ability of future prognosticators is notoriously poor so you can ignore me on that basis if you like.  But, I think the facts about the direction of our world situation make this scenario plausible if not exactly on target.  They are:
1) There is an ever increasing demand for oil which is a depletable resource.  Known resources are limited.
2)  The population of the world continues to increase and there is a limit to its growth.  The resources of the earth are not infinite.  The larger the population, the faster resources are depleted.
3)  Most people don’t care about what will happen in a 100 years.  Most of us only care what will happen in our lifetime.  This makes the first two facts of little concern to most people.
4) Human caused or natural, the warming of the planet several degrees will not allow humans to sustain their current rate of growth.
5) Information technology, materials engineering, and robotic technology are advancing at an enormous rate.
6) The economic systems and human systems addicted to the concept of growth is unlikely to change without external pressure to do so.  The pressure could come too late to save the human race or at least most of it.

We like to view the human as the pinnacle of evolutionary achievement or the favored creation of God.  It is hard to reconcile this with the statements above.  Is there anything in the works that might save this evolutionary progress?  Possibly.

We are honing in on artificial intelligence.  We are beginning to understand aspects of consciousness.  We are beginning to create machines that can repair other machines.  We are about to harness a world wide network of intelligence that can be tapped electronically.  Machines are not as sensitive to changes in the environment.  If they acquire intelligence, consciousness, they just may be more rational than humans.  So, when the human race dies out, it will be our creation that takes on the next evolutionary step of the universe.  Who knows, machines which can currently read DNA and store it electronically may in fact create a digital replica to integrate with their design.
Now you think I am crazy?  Well only if you have not engaged in thinking that evolution may not yet be finished.  Only if you just assumed humans were as good as it can get.  Only if you don’t want to think about the sad state of affairs we are making, fouling our own nest, the world.  You may think I am being pessimistic about the future.  In fact, it seems to me I am being optimistic thinking that there just might be something in the future that will be better, fairer, more just, smarter, and concerned about consequences than the current model of human.  If an intelligent robot could be repaired indefinitely, its longer view time horizon might make it much more serious about treating the world better.  And, as a machine, it would be in much better condition to explore other worlds. We won’t be around to see if any of this makes sense, but we still have hope the ingenuity of the human species won’t be wasted in a grand global melt down.

 For an excellent video to see why I hold these beliefs, go to
NEXT WORD: FUTURE INTELLIGENCE


I was fortunate the other day to join a discussion by several workers in the home energy renovation business — the workers, not their bosses or business owners.  It had not occurred to me that because of their level of pay, they were renters.  I have been a home owner for many years, so I guess I never thought deeply about who is not going to be able to own their own home and has to rent.

The house my wife and I bought in Oregon was built in the late 90’s. It has insulation in the floors, walls, and water pipes.  It has several large windows, but they are all double pane and insulate pretty well.  My energy cost, even in cold weather is reasonable.  I think about energy cost when I get my bills for gas and electricity, but not that much between bills.

Landlords who own property to rent generally are expecting to make money on their investment.  They have to keep the property up enough to sustain the level of rent they want to earn.  But one of the hidden costs not included in the rent is the cost to hear and cool an apartment.  If you plan to rent an apartment, you definitely know ahead of time the price of the rent.  However, you don’t know the energy cost.

The energy workers were frustrated.  They were retrofitting peoples homes, but since they had to rent, there was not that much they could do to their own living arrangements.  And, they claimed they were living in high energy cost dwellings.  That’s frustrating.  But, they had an idea.  What if to be listed in the multiple listing service, a rental property had to report not just the rent, but an energy rating so apartments could be compared not only on rent, but the cost of heating and cooling.

I realized that when I have bought and sold homes as I moved, I had asked for that information in the form of the last year’s energy bills.  But it would be better if the multiple listing contained an energy rating.  You know, if that were true, market forces would suddenly come to play in favor of retrofits to save energy.  Instead of ignoring the damage that inefficient use of energy was doing to our environment, people would suddenly see the economic advantage of conservation.

So, how about it.  Do you agree?  Lets start an effort to get energy ratings on rental property and home sales, just like you get Energy Star ratings on appliances!

Survivors Mess Up

Posted: February 10, 2012 in psychology
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In a previous blog series, I outline my take on the Brain as a Model Builder.  It outlines how the brain contains models based on our experiences fed by sensory input.  It also shows how these models support illusions about the external world.  Survival is a key purpose of this model building.

Have you ever built a toy model?  Sometimes the directions are not all that clear and the result is less than satisfactory.  Have you ever tried to build one from parts but without any pictures of what the result should look like and without any directions?  If not, you can certainly imagine that you would make a few mistakes along the way.  But, is this not a lot like life?  As we try to build our brain models, frequently we have no picture or directions of what the outcome should look like.  And guess what?  We screw up.

We all mess up because we are in survival mode most of the time.  It it is not our physical survival, like eating or sleeping, then its in our social survival, like building relationships.  Building relationships is trying to create in the other person’s brain the development of a favorable model of ourselves.  But what “favorable model” means depends on our own model of just what a reasonable outcome looks like and this can vary substantially from person to person.

In my model world, I make all kinds of allowances for other people to screw up, even screw up over and over.  That’s just me.  My model world tells me it is hard to build good models of the external reality around us and that models interacting with models gets really complicated, even with the best of intentions.  I don’t think the word “forgiveness” quite fits how I think about other peoples modeling failures.  It is more an “allowance” for the complexity of surviving all sorts of model building and maintaining efforts.  I also allow that my own model may be flawed in any number of unobserved-by-me ways.

My challenge to you is to consider your own brain built or  modeling building experience and become more conscious of its built in flaws.  The brain has this one very interesting characteristic, the ability to think about itself — we call introspection.  As I have blogged in my first blog, “There is only ONE thing I KNOW for sure and it is that I don’t KNOW anything else for sure.”  To enhance the quality of life, it is good to think about ones own survival models.

Its not what you know that counts.  It is what you know you don’t know.