Abstract thought

At some point in our long evolutionary history our self awareness became sharply focused (we are aware that we are aware that we are aware…). At that point our abstract thought which had been gradually evolving alongside our self awareness suddenly took exponential flight, overtaking most of our natural instincts.

Our abstract thought is now truly unrecognizable from nature; its original source. It causes us to perceive the world in flattened abstract shapes, categories, and hierarchies that don’t exist in nature. It makes us creative and powerful, yet awkward and even dangerous in a number of ways. Abstract thought has brought us wheels, transistors, and particle accelerators, but also leaves us with crumbling buildings, computer repair bills, bureaucracies, and bombs.

Many feel pride in the way that we have come to organize ourselves and each other into variously labeled groups and hierarchical structures in society and government. But we ought to take care to not use abstract thought for such control purposes in society because that inevitably leads to various forms of centralized power and oppression of the masses.

Instead we can reserve our abstract organizing skills for our personal needs or to use within groups of people which are so small that spontaneous order would not otherwise take affect, like our families or partnerships, and for higher creative concepts such as art, science, technology, and ultimately space migration.

It is no doubt amazing what we have managed to build and maintain our material world, which clearly stands out as separate from nature. But I assume we will eventually choose the contrary—to have our material goods and machines mimic nature, by self-replicating, self-repairing, and self-upgrading. Eventually there will be less of a need to manufacture so many abstract geometric shapes like walls, doors, chairs, and tables, in zero gravity space environments that we will someday inhabit. We may want more surface area and variety, especially in small, confined living quarters, and I imagine some beautiful fractal habitats.

Science and “spirituality”

The Cosmos is incredibly vast, ancient, mysterious, and far beyond our full comprehension, and yet no Western religion takes this into account. “God” seems to be a placeholder for the “mysterious” part, but not in the sense of being a mystery that we should feel compelled to solve. God is a placeholder for the contrary reason—so that we don’t seek knowledge.

It seems implausible that an all-knowing God would equip us with a brain more complex than many multiple galaxies combined and then blame us for our wide-eyed curiosity. Yet Christian religions claim that the bible has the answer to all questions, big and small, which they call the Absolute Truth. They have famously persecuted, tortured, and/or opposed most great scientists for thousands of years since their scientific findings inevitably rub up against this “truth”. But for those with the mindset that all truth is already written, what could be the ultimate moral driver or purpose for humanity other than to reserve a decent seat in the afterlife?

Morality and compassion were born out of the long process of our struggle for survival over our long history on Earth, and for that reason these traits are deeply ingrained in us, and will continue to be as long as we have any semblance of a free society, where each of us must carve our own path and put effort into achieving it. In a free society it is redundant to have morality be a requirement of man-made religions. In a free society we don’t need fear of an afterlife as the ultimate moral driver. We can do better than that.

There is a literal comparison that can be made, which has been suggested for ages and by now is even somewhat cliché. That is to literally equate God with the Cosmos itself, complete with it’s vast, ancient, mysterious, and all-encompassing qualities. I say we do that, and with the additional notion that our brains evolved to be used to full capacity. With this mindset, we might feel ultimately driven to use our minds to become “closer to God” by filling in our knowledge gaps. We ought to even feel “spiritually” driven to do so. So in essence, curiosity can be our ultimate driver. This is the opposite of the traditional paradigm of religion.

There is no denying that we are little conscious chunks of the universe and there is no sense in shying away from learning about ourselves and all aspects of our own cosmic home. Each of us will feel “spiritually” affected by different aspects of the world and the universe, but there is a wide enough variety—big or small, concrete or nebulous, logical or paradoxical, personal or general, reductionist or creative—to spark everyone’s curiosity one way or another.

In 1930 Albert Einstein himself said, “I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.” And the act of discovery—whether by research, experiment, the creative arts, or mental contemplation, can in turn bring on a “cosmic religious” feeling. This “spiritual” feeling or “cosmic religious” feeling, if you will, is the most honorable brand of curiosity. It is well beyond the fleeting and superficial curiosity that the bible discredits.

Society and civilization

In order to exercise our curiosity, we need free time, and that calls for civilization of some sort, and to have civilization calls for social cooperation on a large scale. But we inevitably let our abstract thought run amuck, and “cooperation” then leads to various types of control and oppression such as forced “equality”, regulation, taxation, and an overabundance of laws, programs, and “solutions”. This is particularly the doing of the political left who believe that legislation is necessary in order to control the “greed” and prejudice of individuals. However, it always involves some kind of unnatural force on individual people—much more than the “greed” of any individual does.

In my opinion, heavy top-down legislation is as outmoded as superstition and most religions.

It is ironic that many of the same people who deem themselves as environmentalists insist that human society be so un-natural. It isn’t even a compassionate view. Heavy legislation mocks our independence, insults our intelligence, devalues our judgement, weighs on our psyche, and lessens our dignity. Furthermore, it results in multitudes of unintended consequences in society that often unexpectedly hurt those who are less fortunate to begin with. Consequences can be hard to trace back to their original source because of the complexity of large group dynamics, so misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions run rampant in society and this cyclically leads to more and more top-down legislation.

Consider, once again, the holistic causal nature of the universe. Just as it is free from bosses or middle management or other types of micromanagers, so too can our societies be.

In fact, our large group interaction is the one area where we humans should still manage to fit in with nature, because with such great numbers of people we can act as an organic interweaving of influences. Self interest and cooperation are the biggest knitting needles, and as two of the few primitive instincts we have left, they are the perfect competing factors. Entire societies and economies naturally grow out of these two simple instincts, where processes bubble up from the creativity of many individuals, through our interconnections.

This is usually how societies take shape in the first place, but never how they finish. No completely free society has grown past a certain point and continued to be left to its own devices long enough to see what greatness could come out of it. Sure as day, a few people pop up out of the crowd and impose control over many, far beyond what other animals are capable of. We impose so much artificial order and structure on ourselves and others that the governing body eventually rivals that of the people. And when governments outgrow the people in influence, a nation becomes top heavy and eventually crushes under its own weight.

The path to freedom is two fold.

One is to vote for freedom (decentralized control) wherever possible. It is much easier to add laws, regulation, committees, and bureaucrats than it is to take them away. So, voting in the direction of freedom is basically for the purpose of slowing down the inevitable pace toward tyranny. In that spirit, we don’t want more laws for freedom (for instance, more pro-gay-marriage laws), but rather less laws against freedom (declare that marriage is not the business of governments to begin with!). If no laws invaded our lives with other people’s outmoded views, then we wouldn’t need to be so concerned with other people’s views.

And two, to teach a rudimentary form of chaos theory in grade schools, alongside Euclidean geometry so that kids go through life with a better understanding and appreciation for how the natural world works, including large group dynamics (spontaneous order). Fractals and natural processes could give a visual illustration in contrast to angles, circles, cubes, and examples of human-made objects and organizational methods, which are best described by Euclidean geometry and born out of abstract thought. By showing the stark contrast of nature and human abstract thought, children would gain a better awareness of how we control and manipulate our surroundings and each other in society. If our schools taught these lessons it would be impossible to devolve into tyranny out of sheer ignorance.

Longevity

Now consider the possibility of super longevity, i.e. living as long as possible. Think of it as more healthy years rather than more “old” years.

A simplistic and rather typical view of population growth is that more people means less food per person. But population and food supply do not have a simple linear relationship if the relationship is viewed over time. We are creative minds who work together to improve our condition, so more people can very well mean more food. Other arguments against longevity range from, “It’s up to God when I die”, to “I’d get bored if I lived so long”, to “Being ‘old’ for so long would be horrible”, to the most popular fear of overpopulation.

Longevity does not mathematically effect population. The amount of offspring per couple is what affects population. The poor tend to have more offspring for various practical reasons, so longevity is best viewed as an economic issue. Healthy societies that are better off economically tend to have less offspring per couple, and therefore their population growth might taper off and even decline over time. Healthy economies tend to attract large influxes of immigrants, but can better handle large populations in general.

Think of how many more healthy years we experience now with our current average lifespan of 80 years than we did when 25 years was the average lifespan. Longevity allows more time to gain experience and wisdom and to connect with following generations to properly pass along lessons learned. Ultimately some will choose to make another giant leap for humankind and permanently migrate outside of the Earth-Moon system. Long lives will suit us better for the exceedingly long journeys that we will want to take.

As little conscious chunks of the universe, with an ever expanding curiosity, we will need long and healthy lifespans as we chip away at our knowledge gaps as we get to know our “God”, the Cosmos.