Friday, 29 July 2011

Why cry, Christians?

The critique thing is currently on hiatus, partly because I can't be bothered, partly because it isn't really that popular. But I will, maybe, finish it if I see anything that sounds unbelievably wrong in the Fun Theory Sequence. In any case, what I'd like to talk about today is something a little antitheistic, not entirely, of course, I'm just following a train of thought I had recently. If you are a religious person, I suggest you don't read this so we don't have a bit of a falling out. It's sad to lose antinatalists from the cause.
     Recently I had this thought: Why do Christians, and members of other religions who believe in a great afterlife, cry at funerals? Because they think the deceased may be going to hell? In most cases, no they don't even think that. Because they miss them? Why? They'll see them in about 20-40 years or so. It's a long time, but its nothing to mourn over, surely. The only reason I can see why the religious cry at funerals is because of the inherent, in-built fear of death inside us. Anyone who truly believed that their kin were going to a greater place than in life would be happy for them, instead of being upset. Do Christians cry out of joy when one of their loved ones die? I doubt it.
     Another accidentally irreligious thought I've had is why religious people cry at all. Why ever be upset or in a poor emotional state? Your deity has made a great world for you, even though humans have ruined it a bit. You can't possibly be unhappy if you're religious, if the scripture is as soul-strengthening as you say it is. And yet there are tonnes of depressed religious people out there. I don't understand myself why Christians, specifically, don't just rely on God a little more, because that's something they're really supposed to do. For example,if faith can move mountains, then why do services exist for people to move their stuff to a new house? Why is it that God can be relied on to help you get through a tough situation mentally and 'spiritually' but never physically? Maybe he's omnipotent, omnipresent and omnibenevolent, but he's pretty lazy. I guess the same sentiment has been made before me as the 'Why Won't God Heal Amputees?" conundrum. Why is it that God only works his magic when the situation could be explained away by science? On this documentary on people jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, one kid was apparently 'miraculously' saved by a seal, and then attributed it to God. To God, nothing is impossible. Any power used is never depleted. Why then, did He send a seal? He could have sent an angel, easily. Why didn't he? Angels were all over the place in Biblical times, so why not one in the world now? Would certainly save a lot of souls and convert a lot of people. But no, a seal. Which could have done that on its own, by coincidence. But maybe I'm wrong here. Maybe God has to make sure that people don't convert based on any pesky scientific evidence lying around, they should convert based solely on 'faith' (a strong religious upbringing in the family/horrible fear of the unknown). Though the problem with that is, early Christians supposedly had hard evidence to believe with. Angels, Jesus's resurrection, prophecies coming true (could be said about any religion, really), and yet, they God doesn't seem to care to give anyone any kind of show these days. There are two scenarios that could explain that: (a Jesus has already come back, and everyone good has been taken up already (would certainly explain why this world is so hellish). No need for any attempt from God to give the unworthy goats any table scraps (like the Canaanite woman, haha). OR (b 'God' is a concept that cannot even be defined, let alone imagined, and therefore any proposition of Him/Her/It existing is illogical from the get-go. It's like saying Shirpadoodles exist. When someone asks, "What's a Shirpadoodle?", they reply, "No one could ever know".

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

LW: SW Part II

When I thought about writing this part, initially I just thought, I've already criticised the main parts, how could Eliezer possibly go wrong now? The rest could simply be logical deduction, etc. It wasn't. This whole sequence is turning out, to me, to be the biggest crock of shit I have ever read.
Complex Novelty
"In Permutation City, Peer modified himself to find table-leg-carving fascinating and worthwhile and pleasurable.  But really, at that point, you might as well modify yourself to get pleasure from playing Tic-Tac-Toe, or lie motionless on a pillow as a limbless eyeless blob having fantastic orgasms.  It's not a worthy use of a human-level intelligence."
Yes, exactly. You could do that. No, just because your own human intuitions about what is 'horrifying' and what is 'wrong' tell you that an existence like that is bad, does not mean, again, that you are right. You have a website about defeating human biases! How could you have missed the fact that you don't need complex fun, if you can modify yourself to be happy all the time doing whatever it is you want. It's extremely simple - from your point of view (an OBJECTIVE point of view), the image of a life of manufacturing table legs is horrible, but from the point of view (SUBJECTIVE - superior point of view) of the person doing this, they would be absolutely satisified - FAR MORE SATISFIED THAN YOU LIVING IN YOUR WORLD OF NEO-BOREDOM AND MEANINGLESS CHALLENGES. The rest of this article is the design for a life inferior to one that may be possible in the future, so I will not attempt to attack it.
Continuous Improvement
The madness seems to have subsided - for now. At the conclusion of this article he appears to have come to believe that the hedonic treadmill is a bad thing, NOT BECAUSE IT IS AN ENDLESS CHAIN OF SUFFERING, but because he doesn't think the universe could cope with transhumans constantly trying to improve themselves and thus becoming 'happier' - along with the new evidence that people generally just drift back to a set-point of happiness. I think I'll reserve calling him a hypocrite if he seems to be going about the other articles this way, but I really doubt it. Rationality as a world-view? Try coming to your conclusions without being biased one way or the other (in this case, he is biased in that he believes that the human mind should not be tampered with). What would I conclude if I were Eliezer? Simply that happiness is good, therefore most of it is the best. Therefore we should modify brains to be as happy as possible, and MOST OF ALL to suffer as little as possible. No boredom - no non-satisfaction - no desires. That's the Buddhist way, it's Occam's way, and it's also, I believe, the right way.

Sorry if I'm not looking at these articles in any great detail: it's far easier to just skim through them. If I'm missing anything let me know.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Less Wrong? So Wrong: Part I

 In the next few days I will be critiquing Less Wrong's Fun Theory Sequence from an Antinatalist perspective. Please don't think I have some kind of vendetta against this website, by the way - it's a good website, and I agree with a lot of what it has on it, but I disagree completely with the fact that despite how they are 'rational people' they don't realise that antinatalism is the ultimate conclusion of rationality. Read this blog if you're interested in logic and cutting edge philosophy - otherwise, don't.
 Prolegonmena to a Theory of Fun
Absolutely right when it is pointed out that heaven would be incredibly boring. But what this post is leading up to - and what it is trying to say, is that to persuade critics of transhumanism otherwise, one simply has to build a world EXACTLY LIKE OUR OWN HORRIBLE ONE, but with more cushions and safety gates, so no one gets hurt too badly. I don't get how the hell that is all even transhumanistic. A third-rate group of anarchists could create a place like that NOW, regardless of whether the singularity has been reached or not. The main problem I have with this is simply that, though this world may be all well and good for the people having fun, it doesn't take into account the extreme lack of purpose to the whole thing. In this sequence I think Eliezer mainly goes on about not modifying the human brain very much, for some strange reason (Evolution is not your friend, dude!), which would essentially result in lots of existentially angsty people, who like now, don't see what the point is at all. Have a game in virtual reality, rediscover scientific principles, learn something new, etc., why? What is the fundamental worth of living to run more pleasure chemicals through your brain? Wouldn't it simply be easier being dead?
High Challenge
This one I just don't get. Yes, humans are made to get bored with easy tasks quickly. No, just because you can create a world in which their boredom can be constantly monitored and ended, doesn't mean you should keep the boredom in the first place, EVEN IF YOU CAN EDIT IT OUT WITH POST-SINGULARITY TECHNOLOGY. Staring at a screen saying 'You Win!' could easily be the best thing in the universe for posthumans, if you modified them that way. "A happy blob is not what, being human, I wish to become." - Why? That's not based on rationality. That's based on your own human reality defence mechanisms. If happiness is the best thing you can hope for, and suffering is bad, then why the hell should you keep the suffering just to keep things the same horrible way that nature has always kept things? I agree with David Pearce so much more than with Eliezer on this topic, as you shall see.

I plan on doing a review on two of these articles a day. Please poke me if I'm slacking!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

When left is right, when right is wrong

Recently I've been mulling over this almost eerie thought: the ordinary goal of an optimistic, life-loving, pronatalist person is to cherish the life that they have, and in doing so, make decisions to live their lives as best they can. But for me the situation, and the outcome, are completely opposite to this. I don't cherish my life, in fact, I want it to be over as soon as possible (but must wait for my loved ones to pass on first). And as a result, my modus operandi must be to waste as much time as possible - since I find my life to be worthless, I must therefore treat it as such and engage in the things that will make life flow in as quickly as possible. These basest of activities, I am guessing, include things like watching cheap, dirty entertainment on television, or pissing about on the internet when I could be trekking the Congo, you get the idea. But, oddly again, time is said to flow quickest when one is enjoying oneself - I think some scientific studies show this, more or less. But owing to my unique mental situation, enjoying myself will often simply result in more pain and suffering - mood-swings are quite prevalent in whatever I have, so as a secondary rule to living my life consciously, I must actually avoid the things that could make me happiest! To consciously live my life, I must unconsciously live my life in shallow distractions, and in order to be happiest long-term, I must be unhappy in the short-term! The situation I'm in is quite absurd, which is only fitting, because the same can be said about the universe in which I live.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Would you care?

Your name is Glrx. You are an inanimate block, surrounded by other inanimate blocks of varying colours and sizes - but we won't get into what that leads to. Most of your day consists of thinking of using all your power to delete yourself from existence, while other blocks simply use their power to acquire Zoks, which are dirty pieces of paper. You never really saw the point in all the dirty paper, as being inanimate, blocks really had no use for them at all - except that, dirty paper vastly increases a block's lifespan, acting as a power-store. You don't want to die slowly, though, so you get enough dirty paper just to last without suffering on a day-to-day basis. But really, you don't see any point in it all. Dirty paper can distract you - but other than distractions, what is the point of going on? Why distract yourself from something you don't even want in the first place? But you see, this would all be well and good, if not for the fact that each block has some love-blocks - blocks who created another block in order to have something to do away from dirty paper - who 'love' (whatever that means) the block they created out of selfishness. But if Glrx chooses to press delete, these love-blocks will suffer. But if Glrx doesn't, it will suffer. Now one could simply say that two sufferings outdo one suffering, so Glrx should continue on, by moral utilitarianism. Except Glrx doesn't have a conscience. Inanimate blocks, being inanimate blocks, do not possess empathy, as their main function is to take dirty paper from each other. Should Glrx care? You see you may wholeheartedly answer "Yes!" to this, but Glrx does not feel your knee-jerk reflex kicking in. All he knows is the absurdity of the situation: inanimate blocks with dirty paper? What the hell? Why should he care for just another inanimate block? Is it because he could have been born as another inanimate block? But just because he could have been doesn't mean he was - there is actually no sound basis for saying why he should care at all about the needs of others, because there is no sound basis either for saying why he should care about his own needs. But if he is about to commit an act that is based on his own needs alone, and therefore on his instinctual emotions, then if Glrx were a human, he would have to be consistent and weigh his needs and the needs of other people alongside each other, because both are equally irrational, and not based on logic alone (but on logic AND an assumption). But Glrx, as an inanimate block, not having this function, happily (for once) erased himself from Blockworld. If only I were an inanimate block, and not a sewer of atoms, and could choose as he did.

In summary: if you are looking to kill yourself, you must take into account that you are acting to satiate your own desires, and in doing so are following your gut, as it were. But since you should be consistent about things if you want to act properly in the world, you must follow your gut with regards to morality, and weigh the sufferings of others after your death with your own suffering when your death has not occurred. If you are a sociopath, congratulations, you are not acting inconsistently by choosing to die, and can therefore base your death on the assumption that you can follow your gut. If you aren't, hard luck. You and I are in the same boat, on the river Styx. (Note: There is a loophole, as described above - if your suffering is greater than the combined suffering of all the people who would miss you, it should be plausible that one could go through with the act).

UPDATE: As of this post I no longer accept that this loophole is possible, since suicide is a harm. I offer a MUCH, MUCH better alternative to this, which actually may be something more of a solution.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Logic as an amplifier for morality

What I would like to talk about today is a rather simple, if provocative, statement: that morality is only partly inherent, and the negative utilitarian morality that most easily follows from the logic of more suffering = bad feels absolutely non-intuitive if you look at it more closely.
Humans naturally have no qualms about killing and eating animals, despite how most animals have more matching genetic bases in their DNA than non-matching bases. Animals feel pain, suffering and some can even recognise themselves in a mirror. But looking at tribes and religions, you can see that no one up to modern times actually cared much about animals (tribes kill animals indiscriminately for food instinctively, religions often describe animals as having been made for humans to eat).
Most governments these days, even the very liberal ones, use punitive laws, which make absolutely no sense given the old adage: two wrongs don't make a right. Increasing the amount of suffering in the world is always wrong, so punishing people by deprivation in jail is wrong (though I would agree that removing them from the populace is necessary to stop the suffering of other people BUT NOTHING MORE THAN THAT). 
Stanley Milgram's experiments show clearly that humans do not always put their morality above authority - even with no action taken towards themselves, no loss of anything, or gain of anything, people could be persuaded to give electric shocks to others. If one realises that suffering is simply bad, then it seems strange to lose your morality and inflict it because an authority figure commands it (various genocides can be attributed to this simple flaw in human psychology).
Racism is only thought of as wrong today due to the large amount of social conditioning we have amassed over the years.No racism is not inherent, but the drives that create it are this way. If you are in a different, competing group to someone, you will eventually grow to hate them, or at least feel a large amount of hostility towards them. This has been demonstrated with studies on children in a camp environment.
Sadism (Schadenfreude)
Humans have some degree of Schadenfreude in-built, and as the Stanford Prison Experiment shows, hatred against a differing group can build up to almost sadistic levels. Humans do not always feel empathy - especially not for those who are different, or perceived as 'evil'. This makes no sense from a negative utilitarian point of view.

Why is Negative Utilitarianism superior? Because it works on the simple premise that, again, suffering is bad, and anything bad we should necessarily want less of in the world. Now I've argued elsewhere that perhaps morality isn't as soundly based on logic as we think it is, but currently I am a Negative Utilitarian because I cannot rid myself of my empathy, and because I believe that the fact that I could have been born as someone else (as far as I know) means that I should care about other people/animals.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Is Confidence All That Matters?

I agree with the authors of this article, and of course with Sister Y who provides the link, that happiness is probably something that is mainly predetermined once we have reached a certain age (and our neural plasticity declines). The problem I think is that there are two kinds of depression - reactive depression, which can be observed in runt chimps who are not very high up in their social hierarchy (perhaps as a signal to those above them that they are submissive and not to be attacked), and the mental illness, "depression", which can be observed in wild estnihils regardless of their positioning on the social ladder and regardless of what entertainment is provided to them. I do think however, that if our happiness is being environmentally dampened, then that can quite obviously be fixed. But the main component for happiness - our happiness potential, is pretty much determined by fate. I can observe this quite easily in myself, having never been consistently happy for more than a day or two. But one thing I did notice once, when I was younger than I am now, was that some of the self-help websites gave way to a strange phenomenon in me: they helped me build confidence, and in doing so, made me sort of ok for a period of time, until I forgot to keep doing those exercises (in this way it was akin to muscles). I don't think I was all that happy, but at least, I was doing pretty damn well socially, and I wasn't contemplating death every five seconds. Humans are very similar to chimpanzees genetically. Now don't misinterpret the statistics here - 1% difference in DNA is actually very large from the point of few of the proteins encoded. But still, I believe in some ways that the same kind of emotional reaction to social standing has an effect - though it may be put into conflict due to the fact that we no longer live in tribes (those of us who are reading this right now). If one could tap into the alpha status - if one could delude oneself into believing that they were 'top dog', then some sort of well-being could be assured for as long as the person kept on exercising those traits of dominance. This goes back to what I was saying about chimpanzees - the higher the status, the happier in general they are, regardless of any genetic predispositions. Is this why otherwise ordinary people feel that their lives have been turned around by self-help hacks gurus? As a final thought, I wonder if people's confidence increasing as they get older is something to do with the fact that older primates are more powerful, and hence are placed at a higher position in the social command structure. Still, I have no evidence to suggest that my experiences on this matter were not simply another outburst of hypomania. But now that I'm on a mood stabiliser, hopefully I can get back to you guys on whether or not all this speculation has led to an answer. I would liveblog my feelings on a day-to-day basis, etc., but I simply cannot be bothered. Until next time, bye.

Monday, 18 July 2011

My blog! I have neglected thee!

Things have been stressful what with getting the dog and such, so I'm sorry if I haven't been as regular as I normally am on this blog. The problem topic of today is: Blog-posting. And how the hell you keep it regularly on the topic of antinatalism, when most points, if not all points, have been made already. The few things I imagine one could instead do,owing to the bulk of information available already along with the futility of repetition and repetition etc. of things said by others, are as follows:
                  (i) Report on the news, comment from an antinatalist/pessimistic perspective.
                  (ii) Try to scour for the last few remaining points that can be scraped out of the proverbial antinatalist bowl
                  (iii) Review works that are in some way relate to antinatalism/pessimism
                  (iv) Write about completely different topics
I think over the course of this blog's history, I've been doing a little of (iii), but mostly (ii). What I'm wondering now is whether the market is completely saturated with regards to (i), and whether anyone will respect me if I suddenly veer off into other topics - (iv). But still, I am guessing that quality is probably better than quantity in most people's eyes - besides, if you keep writing, eventually you will have both quantity and quality, regardless of how long it takes you to rustle up another post.Though, to be completely honest I really have no idea what I'm going to do with this blog after this post. I simply do not believe myself to have sufficient material to continue with what I was doing. The past, though, has proven me wrong on occasion, and moments of inspiration do come, sometimes. I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Until then, I bid you adieu!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Friendship and its Discontents

The antinatalist community to me is a haven; never have I found a place with so many like-minded people, with such amiable attributes about them - the greatest of all being your constant civility; while you may not always agree with me, when you do disagree, no hissy fits are thrown, no chairs are broken, and no one has to apologise. You only really see this kind of thing with certain philosophy forums, though even then, it's still a rare find to participate in such a thread there. Don't led this post mislead you - I'm not leaving any time soon. I'm simply coming onto the topic of social interaction, and coming out of my shell a bit. Comment with your social situation, or on the strangeness of my disposition.
       My approach in social situations is quite a simple one. The gameplan generally goes something as follows:
    Step 1: Find out who is the most dominant person in the room (only perform said step in group conversations)
    Step 2: Find what that person likes, and as a secondary objective find what other people like
    Step 3: Fit my malleable personality to meet their likes and dislikes, and if failing that, keep asking questions about their personal life.
    Step 4: Bathe in the brief bliss of social acceptance
I'm not a sociopath, by the way. I just happened to miss out on a rather critical stage of mental development in my childhood, and as a result, my sense of self is rather, let's say, lacking. It doesn't seem wrong to me to do what I do - it happens naturally, actually, just like with you, barring the autists among us. It doesn't seem wrong to me to misrepresent myself in any way - in fact I'd probably go to the trouble of feigning belief in Islam if I cared about my friends that much. You see, I don't 'feel' the inherent 'wrongness' of these things I do - to me it seems perfectly good, since all I am doing is maximising the amount of personal success I have and the amount of personal satisfaction I give to others. Why should I trap myself in a fakery of a character - not having a 'me' is exactly who I am. My lack of personality IS my personality. Now whether this is due to some kind of Cluster B Personality Disorder or High Functioning Autism I really don't care anymore, maybe that's true, but regardless, I am who I am, or rather I am who I'm not.

Oh and, just as a note: I hold onto my personal beliefs with great gusto, I just don't tell most people what they are and mislead them a bit. Be assured that I'm an antinatalist to the core, and would never have a child just to make someone happy. I have limits, as it were.
Comments appreciated. Now I've told my story, why don't you tell yours?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Antinatalist Book Reviews Issue II: Twain's Twisted Tale

I've been talking about this in Jim's chatroom for quite a while, though for some reason it simply slipped my mind to write about it. The Mysterious Stranger is, in my opinion, the greatest ode to misanthropy and world-weariness out there. It somehow manages to cover almost every possible mark you could come up with against the universe and against existence, though it doesn't seem to mention antinatalism, sadly. Its major plot-point is that of an angel named Satan appearing on Earth, who befriends some young boys and teaches them, through miracles, why humanity and life aren't all that great. If that doesn't already sound great, it's actually a lot better than even that description shows. Almost every line is quotable - the words are used so sparingly and so well that I'd hazard a guess at saying in being Mark Twain's last work, it is probably one of his best (though perhaps not his Magnum Opus). I read this way back before I got into antinatalism and such, but I still like it as much now as I did back then - in fact, probably more so, in light of the things I've learnt. It starts off slow by the way, so don't let that stop you - just keep on with it until you start realising how wondrous it really is, and if you don't, then you really are something of a tough cookie.
    As a bonus, you should also try to track down and watch the movie 'Goodbye Solo'. It seems to have been an independent or low-budget kind of film, but just like The Sunset Limited, it really is a great one. In fact it's hard to describe it at all without making reference to The Sunset Limited, since it is so like it in plot (a man intent on killing himself explaining to a far more upbeat man). It has a 'happy' (for people like you or me) ending, too, which is all I'll say to spoil it. It isn't as philsophically meaningful as The Sunset Limited, but it is, I'd say, as emotionally powerful as that film.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Deterministic Society

Karl recently said: "It is equally impossible to imagine any society or human collecvtive built upon the principle of determinism." I'll take that challenge if I may:
The Judicial System
I think this is the main thing you meant when you talked of a deterministic society - how the law would react to people's actions, rather than their 'choices'. My view is that in a deteministic society the outcome would actually be better for everyone, including criminals, and would make a better, more negative utilitarian world.

All crimes are committed due to either mental illness, a character fault or anger, jealousy etc. Every prison sentence therefore will not be to 'punish' criminals, but rather to reform them and make them fit into society again. If for the good of society they cannot be reformed, they will not be tortured in bad living conditions or killed against their will, simply kept away from the rest of society so as to minimise the total suffering of the world.

The Monetary System
Since everyone is necessarily not responsible for their own success, staunch capitalism is completely immoral. However since some people could not handle money very well, and because Communism has been shown by history to be a failure, the rich will be allowed to be rich, but they will be taxed heavily and the welfare system for the poor will be extensive - so everyone has a good quality of life.

Healthcare will be free
No one can help their familial background, so it is essential that a great social service is in existence, so abusive or otherwise unfit parents can be separated from their offspring, and so that the children can be given the time and care they need to grow into mentally balanced adults. No one should be told to 'suck it up' or 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' if their life is bad. The government should instead help them maintain a quality of life equal to that of others.

There are numerous other ways that life could be improved if the government simply stopped believing in the myth of free will. Steven Pinker in his book The Blank Slate goes into them in more detail, I think. But the point is, a society like this could be possible and not collapse - in fact the UK and other places in Europe are actually becoming like this.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

I would like my ice cream with some sprinkles of Meaning, please

What exactly do people mean, if they mean anything at all by it, when they use the word 'meaning' from a philosophical perspective? Meaning to me seems to be one of those things that 'everyone' knows but no one can define - a little like qualia, in a way. You can't describe what Red looks like (though you might, with some advanced science, be able to link certain wavelengths of light to certain neuron firings in the brain), but you 'know' what someone means when they say 'red'. The same thing, I think is true when someone talks about the 'meaning of life'. What they are actually talking about isn't a definable thing - for example, if the universe were created as a video game for God's little son Jesus to play with, then that, from the standard definition, should be the purpose, the meaning for the universe. But that wouldn't satisfy anyone - it'd probably just depress them. "There must be a deeper meaning!" they might say. The thing is, by definition of purpose, that should exactly 'click' with most people's mental apparatus, and yet, it doesn't, just as a description of red's wavelength and frequency doesn't 'click' with people's understanding of the colour red. But when, if ever, does 'meaning' seem to 'work' in people's minds? Well let's look at religion. The only people, other than nature-worshipping 'atheists', like Richard Dawkins (I mention him too much here, I think), who ever claim to have meaning in their lives, or to know the meaning of life are the religious. But when they talk about meaning, they never have a clearly definable little snippet to give you. No cute little proverbs, just a feeling - just a fuzzy feeling of well-being, accompanied by some idiocy such as 'God works in mysterious ways' or 'Only God knows' or 'I'm content in God's plan for us'. They don't know the meaning of life either, but the 'meaning' switch in their brains is clearly set to the on-setting permanently. So is the endless modern quest for meaning simply a disguised quest for fulfillment in a world that is so different from our ancestral environment? Maybe - or maybe it's simply a need for religion, or some other kind of spirituality. With the vast numbers of religions out there, seen in every ancient society - who's to say that it isn't something almost necessary in humans? Perhaps it serves some sort of social function - but truth be told, it hits centres that pure pessimistic atheism at its core can never even hope to strike. I think the general thoughts on religions in the atheist-sphere is that they are simply highly spreadable meme-plexes - a series of memes that spread remarkably easily in the human mind, and in doing so, by evolutionary processes, therefore are in abundance in society. But what I'm thinking is, if this is indeed the truth, why have a meaning cluster in the brain? What is the point of it, even if religion is simply acting as a neurological parasite?

I foresee two scenarios: either religion is a necessary component of humanity, for reasons to do with society and meaning-deficiency is a real mental health problem caused by its lack, OR the meaning button evolved to broadcast happiness and contentment to others, perhaps with one's job or one's position in society, and has been corrupted by philosophy's search for answers where there are none fulfilling our human needs.

Monday, 11 July 2011

We are the Denizens of Determinism

Recently I've been having pretty severe panic attacks - not your ordinary run of the mill 'have I left the oven on?' anxieties, but crushing, existential outlooks on life. I suddenly, during the course of an otherwise normal day, freeze and buckle over from pain, and begin harboring these rather extreme feelings of no control, and of 'future anhedonia' - like I will never satiate my urges, ever. I call them attacks of the 'Free Willies', because that's essentially what it's about. I feel like a pebble in the ocean being buffeted about by wind, waves and fish, but never really, truly moving of my own free will. I find it quite horrifying, really, despite how I've been 'convinced' of the truth for quite some time. I think something I've learnt recently is that there's a difference between knowing something and living it - you can know, offhand, that there are untold multitudes of suffering in the world, but shrug it off like Richard Dawkins, or you can live with that suffering in mind, making each day of yours more and more morbid.

I've always said to people, from an early age, that Free Will is a myth, and that there is no basis for it in science whatsoever - in fact, the available evidence could NEVER lead to the conclusion of a magical pixie-dust core inside us, because even the notion of that goes against what science holds most dear: that things generally work in a logical, explicable and ultimately ordered way. Saying, 'people have free will' is akin to saying that of physics and psychology break down when and where we decide it to. But I have not been living like that, exactly. Now don't get me wrong, I am extremely mentally lucid when I am in a more, let's say, 'depressive' state, and often do live with my own ultimate powerlessness in mind. But when I'm not, and I'm in another foggy haze of near-baseline functioning, I generally believe (subconsciously) that I do have free will even though I am acting in such a blind haze that in retrospect I actually appeared to have less 'free will' than normal. I don't know if that's a problem or not. It makes me happier to do so, but at the same time, in being unaware of how the world actually works I'm setting myself up for a bigger crash the next time pain knocks at my door. But to incorporate Determinism into my daily life seems quite hard, really. I don't know how I could really ever stare in the face the sheer insanity that actually goes on in the world - is it better to be an actor on stage who is so into the play that they don't remember that they are just an actor following a preplanned script, or is it better to be an actor forced to act with a shotgun behind the stage? Like with most things, I think I'd like to just stick to my delusions in this case. Though if it turns out I've had one awakening too many, and can't get back to the philosophical sleep of most days, then I'm pretty much stuck on this setting for now. Yippee.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Eternal Recurrence Revisited

A while back, relatively speaking, I did a post on Eternal Recurrence, and what that might mean for one's life on Earth. What I'm now prepared to say is this: that was idiotic. As pointed out by a (sadly) anonymous commenter, I do not even know enough about consciousness to accurately say that it will be the same 'me' repeating each time. And at the same time, I'm pretty sure that now, knowing that the evidence scientifically too is pretty much scarce, that all this was simply a nice little fantasy. A fantasy geared at my innate immortality drives, which I believed suppressed for all this time. You see, I fell in love with an idea; the idea that I would relive my lovely childhood again, as I've written about here. But now I'm quite sure that this life is probably the only one, I'm left feeling quite empty. It's as if my childhood never even existed, in the grand scheme of things. It won't even take infinity years for me to repeat it, NO amount of time will allow me to repeat it. Though, the same thing goes for my troubled teens, and all the other stains on my otherwise pristine (ha!) life. I just haven't thought about this before. Life is a horrible thing, don't get me wrong, a really really unimaginably mindbogglingly horrendous thing. But, again, when you look at things relative to eternity, it's actually pleasantly short, even if I don't get to play with my imaginary friends ever again. You do your 80 years or so of hell, you check out, and your oblivion is waiting right there for you with outstretched arms. Then for the next infinity or so centuries, give or take a few, you don't have to worry about even one iota of existential scum floating around your corpse. You simply don't exist. Of course the problem with finding this pleasant is the mental block we have on death. It's easy to imagine living, because you are, but it's impossible to imagine not, because you're not. But, having taken the long length of this post to contemplate the eternity of death, I've changed my mind. It sounds great, probably a lot better than the eternal return, and that's all that matters to me.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Suicide: Immediate Future, Far-off Future, Empathy, EmpathyPlus

I think we, as antinatalists (discounting any theistic antinatalists), have a lot less to live for than the average person. We don't see living as necessary to attain some kind of long-term goal (e.g. an afterlife, immortality through children), because we know nothing will matter once we're dead. We most likely see the evils  inherent in the workplace, and in the school system, and having knowledge of David Benatar's works, realise that life is probably more suffering than good - as every bit of happiness (other than that arising from psychotropic drugs) is essentially the result of a desire - suffering - vanquished. And as I suspect most of us already know the pain and boredom and slow decline into a mental null that comes with old age. So what I'm wondering right now, is whether any, or even most of us, have decided to complete our natural lifespans. I know already that some of us intend to simply skip the whole old age thing, and I know that there are people like me, who don't off themselves simply because there are people who would suffer upon their death. But I'd like some confirmation on what exactly people are living, or dying for. As of the present moment, I think I know of a few reasons:
               1. A person may have desires or goals that bind them to this Earth, which will not relent unless they are put an end to (I think this is Franc's view - sorry if I've misinterpreted). I call this thinking in terms of the Immediate Future.
               2. A person may simplify the matter into what they want in life (pleasure) and what they don't want in life (suffering). They know that their life will most likely have more suffering than pleasure, so simply affirm that they should want to die. I call this thinking in terms of the Far-off Future.
               3. A person may, making use of their empathetic drives, realise that the suffering of the people left behind after their death would outweigh the suffering in their futures, so may decide not to commit the ultimate. I call this thinking in terms of Empathy.
               4. (I think tauriqmoosa has this belief) A person may, again making use of their empathetic drives, figure out that they might better decrease the total amount of suffering in the world by living and helping other people, and so alleviating their suffering, instead of killing themselves to alleviate their own suffering. I'd call this thinking in terms of Empathy+.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Involuntary Sterilisation

Dedicated to CM and Stacy, thanks for rectifying my views.
"but if you believe that it's okay to use force to prevent people from murdering others, then the same reasoning should apply to using force to prevent births (because birth entails death, plus a whole lot of other shit, so in most cases it's actually worse than murdering someone" - CM

It is 2110. Not everyone is in favour of antinatalism yet, but thankfully, the bulk of politicians constituting every world government are. Even with fervent opposition from several pronatalist pressure groups, the Last Law is passed on Earth and on Mars alike by every major world power: sterilising chemicals are to be introduced into the water supplies, and into the commercial food products available. People have no say in this matter at all, just as perhaps, the politicians would say, their children have no say in the matter of being born. Riots break out, terrorists detonate explosives under parliament buildings - but not for their own sakes, for the sake, they think, of the entire human race. The politicians believe however, that what they are doing is also for this sake. Who is right?
      As you may have seen from the comments on this, my views have taken a complete U-turn on this matter. I used to believe that consent was King, but I didn't particularly understand why. The thing is, people do not give consent for the police to stop them when they commit some wrongdoing - the point is, they don't have to, because they SHOULD NOT have those rights. For consent to matter you must deprive someone of something they are entitled to, and as I learnt from Stacy recently, no one should be entitled to breed. If you sterilise someone against their consent the only harm you are doing is the harm of wasting some of their leisure time. No one has the right to bring a child into this world, for the simple reason that this action, as we antinatalists have already established, is completely and utterly immoral. You do not have my consent to stop me punching you in the face. If you do it, you will be violating my rights! That is exactly how I would have thought about such an action as I have described in the above scenario - I just had a knee-jerk response to the whole thing, which was, in hindsight, almost eerily similar to my previous knee-jerk response to abortion. "It's just wrong", comes to mind.

However, though I would definitely support, now, the above scene, I wouldn't exactly think it the best thing to do, anyway. It's a morally justifiable action, yes. But it isn't really a smart action - better wait until antinatalism gets more popular before you do something like that. Or else bloodshed could be on your hands.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Accidental Rape: Another Fable

Your name is Brenda. One night, at a particularly eventful party, you suddenly get into a bit of a situation with your long-time best friend John. You see, while both managing to have become spectacularly intoxicated, you and John partake in sexual intercourse. John believes, incorrectly now, that you two are an item, and that this was a great thing. But now you think about it, you don't actually remember ever giving consent to this. In fact, you remember saying 'stop' a couple of times. The problem is, John was too drunk to hear, so it wasn't as if it was entirely his fault. But at the same time, he's gotten the wrong message. John has definitely done a bad thing - but he didn't actually know he was doing it at the time. So my question to you is, how the hell do you, Brenda, tell John that he did this without ruining your friendship?

I think you all know where this is going; dear reader, you really are Brenda. In fact everyone in the world went through the same situation as Brenda, though they may not know it. A long time ago, without the knowledge of the perpetrators, you were harmed. Though your parents did not know it, by bringing you into existence they directly caused your future suffering. My question is, how the hell is one supposed to come about one's antinatalism - how does one tell one's parents about it, without deeply scarring them? I for one, am never going to do it. As much as they did harm me, and brought me into a life I don't want, I still love them, and in doing so, I'd rather protect them from the truth.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Canine Antinatalism: Is it wrong to let your dog breed?

I'm getting a dog soon. So I was wondering whether, just for funsies again, it would ever be moral for a person to allow their dog to breed. At first I started with ye..then n..then settled on just, I don't know. I ran into a rather serious roadblock at this point - being that I just don't know whether the issue of consent can apply to a dog. It is wrong for people to have children - this is quite simple, you are doing a harm to whoever you create, since they will inevitably suffer in their life, and you do not have the power to choose for non-existent people bla bla bla read the blogs in my blogroll. I think I have tackled a little with this before, but more in a consequentialist way - that is to say I believed that one must necessarily eliminate the kingdoms of life to prevent the extreme amounts of suffering that will continue after humans die. Now I'm not so sure. The problem is, again, consent is something an animal cannot give. Either they are not intelligent enough to understand the idea, or humans simply cannot express the idea to them (though since some higher apes may speak in sign language, I don't know whether this is actually possible or not). But you say, surely we don't need to have the consent of animals? They're just animals. Except so are we. And if it is wrong to forcefully sterilise a human being, then, provided you believe that the animal can't consent, it's probably wrong to do the same for dogs etc. Except I just don't know if I'm right about that. We do so much these days that animals cannot consent to, but is in their best interests. Isn't this the same sort of thing as making decisions for the mentally retarded, or for children? So if a dog can live longer, suffer less instances of cancer, and will avoid creating new lives with new suffering (though with doggy blankets and little clothes as well), then surely, if we take what is done with the mentally unfit as right, then it must be right to prevent animals from breeding, especially if it benefits them like it does with dogs. I'm still, almost characteristically, unsure about this though. Personally I think it's true that I should neuter my eventual dog just because of the benefits to him/her. But on a grand scale, it's still a little weird to say that it is in the best interests of all life that all life is sterilised - despite how not committing immoral acts probably is in their best interests. But if you do that, then why not prevent them from doing other (from a human point of view) immoral acts? You would have to muzzle and put on a nutrient drip every predator out there. But the thing is, if we are going to apply human values on how we treat animals (not killing them, not eating them etc.) we are going to have to apply human values on how animals treat other animals - especially if from my favourite negative utilitarian view that it would decrease suffering. This is going to be a lot of hard work and bother. But only for future generations, haha.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Antinatalist Book Reviews Issue I: Where is the Love for Lovecraft?

First of all, I apologise for not looking more thoroughly at the settings for this blog - I hope that at the moment I have rectified the commenting system and that anonymous users will be allowed to post. Sorry to James as well, I got your comment in my email - thanks for it!
    I've been reading the works of H.P Lovecraft recently, finding them quite delightfully like Edgar Allan Poe's works, but with this unique, almost terrifying use of the unknown and the unimaginable. But every so often, a passage just sticks out really, that summarises for me so well my mental states: in Celephais it was the man drugging himself in order to spend more time dreaming, in The Call of Cthulhu it was 'The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents', and most of all - I saw yesterday - was the entire first half of The Silver Key. It shocked me to my core to read this; I really had no idea anyone could have put my life down on paper. The dreaming wondrous childhood, the science and logic killing the magic, the struggles to find happiness somewhere else, the boredom inherent in conversation with other people, and eventually the striving to return to my childhood. I cannot recommend this enough for anyone disillusioned with the 'real' world. Do be warned, however, the style is a little archaic - you may want to read more of his works (all free) to develop a taste for it. Don't just think that The Silver Key is the end - although it is certainly, in my opinion, the best in terms of this, by no means is it the last; H.P Lovecraft's works typically have scattered little comments here and there showing the author's deep concerns about the futility of human existence from a universal perspective, the defencelessness of humanity and the strangeness of science beyond our understanding.

As a bonus review, I'd recommend Douglas Adams's books as well for the pleasant, comical misanthropy and world-weariness sometimes inherent in his prose. For example:
'There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.'
Of course there's also the classic statement, I think a very adequate parody of people searching for the 'meaning of life', that "The Answer to the Great Question, of Life, the Universe and Everything" is simply 42. The absurdity of the universe is parodied in an assortment of places, so it's worth it to pick the Hitch Hiker's Guide up at a bookstore if you think you'd like it. Still this is only a 'bonus' review, so I'm not recommending that you read it NOW, QUICKLY and THOROUGHLY. But for an antinatalist in this big gruesome world, it's a nice thing sometimes to hear your voice spoken by another person.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Educational System and Me: On Being Pavlov's Dog

You are an upcoming bright young psychologist, looking to replicate the earlier findings of your predecessors. You line up a bunch of your test subjects, and make them wait until you ring a bell, at which point they are offered food. You continue to do this for weeks - even years - on end, and notice that even the slightest ring of the bell sets the subjects off drooling, on their feet, regardless of whether there is any food there or not. But your test subjects aren't dogs. They're human children. And despite how you've gotten the results you needed already, you just keep doing it and doing it. You keep forcing them to respond to your conditioning, your rules and your psychological tricks, so they submit to you, and force-feed themselves with any information you give them, regardless of whether they wish to learn, whether they find it interesting or whether they find it useful. The school system, for me at least, was like this. Yes, I was born after corporal punishment and a plethora of horrors had ended. But no, it's not like I didn't suffer at all. You must know what the mind-numbing absolute boredom is like - the existential crises that appear on a monthly basis, where you wonder 'Who am I? Why am I here?" with only a "sit down and shut up" as an answer. Yes, work is the lowest and deepest circle of hell, and school is only one of the minor circles, for the less sinful of us.

"But estnihil, estnihil!" you say, "What should we do instead?". It's pretty simply, really: anything else. For the kids who don't want to learn, let them play about with tools and the like. Train them, AT THEIR OWN PACE, to work at an apprenticeship. Over years and years, they'll know everything they need to know, without any of the horrible rules and regimes enforced upon them. For the kids who want to learn, simply let them learn. Let a teacher help them with things in class, but for the most part, let them get on with it! Don't ruin the best years of kids' lives by forcing them to sit like zombies, waiting for the pain to be over. You owe them that, at least. I think homeschooling is probably the closest thing we actually get to this in real life - no outrageous demands placed on children (in most cases) and no useless information learnt, and most of all, lots of time to play! Most of my life at school has pretty much been wasted, you know - I spent most of my time learning the crap that they made you learn just to keep you out of your parents' hair. Until I actually started 4th form, having spent around a decade or so in the educational system, I had learnt absolutely nothing of use at all. Everything was either too watered down, had no relevance to GCSE/A Levels or was simply flat-out boring. But I guess, with work being the way it is, maybe I should have gotten used to it? Maybe school is useful after all, to prepare one for the greater horrors that lurk in the workplace. But I for one, would have rather slept my whole childhood away than have wasted it there.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Eternal Recurrence and Me: No Nothingness - Never

One thing I've heard that really maddened Nietzsche, other than the Syphilis, was the thought of Eternal Return. Now don't take me for an idiot here, it doesn't scare me coming back again, and again, and again and so on. I won't remember that I've lived this life before, and I certainly don't remember now, so it's inconsequential, really. But what's gotten to me recently about any Eternal Return, if it does happen (I think some scientific theories may posit another Big Bang occurring after the Big Crunch, but I'm not exactly sure of this), is that it really does make what we do here count, because what we do here, we'll be doing for eternity. Now again, I'm not an idiot. I'm quite sure that free will is not at all compatible with determinism - in fact I am quite sure that free will is only really compatible with pagan magic and the 'soul', but I do believe to an extent, that our beliefs, our memes, can have direct effects on our happiness (and along with that, that believing, if even subconsciously, in free will makes life more bearable). So if this meme were to implant itself into my brain - the meme that life here is meaningful, at least in respect of future lives I'm going to have, then that makes, actually, quite a lot of difference. If the universe is a one shot thing, then the infinity before my existence and the infinity after my existence make life completely useless and completely worthless in the grand scheme of things, since only an infinitesimal portion of the time where universes start and end is spent by you, living. But if the universe is something that simply happens continually, then really you ought to try harder at life - not because of the myth that 'it's the only one you have' but because it's not the only one you shall have; by being happy now you are saving for the future.

But this is of course, not the only thing you can take from this. You can make it an argument to try as hard as you possibly can IN CASE the universe is cyclic, but you can also make it an argument to simply stop trying, so you spend more time in those happy years before you were say, depressed, and less time in the years in which you were - by suicide, for example. This was actually the reason why I attempted suicide a while back there (stopping because I realised I would be causing my parents pain in every iteration of the universe, if the universe does repeat). I know full well however, that it's easier to say 'be happy!' than to actually be happy, but I think I'd probably take more risks in this life now, knowing that it's possible I might live it again.

Of course dear reader, this may all be a vat of monkey faeces. Again, maybe I'm wrong. I say so many things on here it's quite hard to keep track of some of the more ludicrous ones, so please, tell me if you think you have proven me wrong. I won't berate you or call you names, not even in return if you do so to me. In my next post of this '... and Me' series, I'll be looking at the school system in the Anglosphere - and why I'm sick of it. If you've been wondering what's happened to me in the last couple of days, I've been going through another pretty serious depressive episode. No idea why, I'm pretty sure most of what I have is quite chemical in basis. But as of the moment, I can probably presume the day-by-day posting again.