Saturday, March 14, 2009

How we know

When setting out on a task like this, the first thing I try to do is clearly define an objective and method for accomplishing it. Previously I talked a bit about the actual objective, identifying and perpetuating good ideas, but ignored the problem of how to accomplish it. As it turns out, this is unsurprisingly a task easier said than done. I'll start off here then by working on the first part of this problem.

What exactly are good ideas? How can we tell the difference between good and bad ideas? How do we even know what if anything 'good' and 'bad' really are? For that matter, how do we really know anything? Starting from the ground up epistemologically speaking we can't even say that we really have a leg to stand on for sure. I do my best to use reason and evidence to determine what I do and do not believe, but as the entire process is entirely subjective, knowledge is, it seems, forever untransferrable directly and must be accepted or not by each individual based on unique sets of individually constructed standards which are themselves untransferrable knowledge due to subjectivity. For the sake of my own standards I will take for granted "cogito ergo sum" as relatively unfalsifiable but no more. Beyond that I will say that I believe that all we think we know, we simply believe to such an extent that we do not consider alternative possibilities, and the things we say we do not know but believe, we hold onto in spite of acknowledged alternative possibilities which we are aware of and yet disregard for our own subjective reasons.

Taking this standard of knowledge and belief as a starting point I believe I know what 'good' and 'bad' are, at least to me. My definition of good, is simply complexity. This may be a bit unorthodox, but at a very fundamental level this I believe, is the only thing that really matters. While somewhat separate from typically accepted 'good' characteristics of love, compassion, etc. it is I think more universally applicable as too much love or compassion, or love of or compassion for the wrong things or people can in fact lead to negative consequences as well as positive. Complexity, or 'interestingness' however I would argue, always leads to positive results as greater complexity allows for greater appreciation and understanding of that complexity and as such provides the potential for experiences which are greater in nature than those possible in an environment of lesser complexity. 'Bad' then is the lack of or reduction in complexity seemingly inherent in life and existance as a whole. Humans grow old, our ability to interact with, percieve and even comprehend the world around us lessens and eventually will come to an end entirely. Likewise the forces of entropy at work in the universe reduce complexity into simplicity, theoretically leading to the eventual total colapse of complexity and existance as we percieve it in our universe.

And so, in a very basic way that which is good is that which is complex, and that which is bad is that which is simple, flat, uniform, uninteresting, and so on. I would add to this that what really matters due to subjectivity is useful complexity or 'interestingness' as the purpose for my esteem for complexity itself is in it's capacity to be observed. A tree falling in the forrest with no one to hear it does not in fact make a sound in this case, and so useless, unappreciable complexity is not as 'good' as that complexity which is observable and appreciable, which from here on I will describe as interestingness.

Of note, it may be of some concern to consider the implications of this definition of good as it does in fact mean that even conventionally negative experiences such as suffering are themselves complex compared to the potentially more casually attractive state of neutral non-experience. This is a point I intend to explore more fully in the future. Is it better to feel pain than nothing at all? Is it not better to feel happy than sad? Is life always preferable to death? There is still a bit of groundwork to be laid before truly beginning into specific evaluation of circumstances, however this definition is perhaps the cornerstone upon which such evaluations in the future will rest.

TFTD: How interesting was your day today? How much more interesting would you like it to have been?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Introduction

There now, hopefully things look a little more put together at this point. You should now see a few new links as well as redirects from and to make it slightly easier to get here. Content will be on the way slowly but surely as time allows, but for now I'll go ahead and start off with a brief introduction to what this blog is all about.

First a little background. I've been running a blog on and off for a little over a year now and ended up quite surprised by the result. As with most bloggers I suspect, my blog started off mostly as just a personal journal posted to the internet, but before too long I noticed the number of people reading regularly started to far exceed the number of my friends who I expected to be checking up now and then. Over time the scope got broader but it was ultimately still a blog about me which became less and less interesting as the focus shifted. Ultimately driven by reader comments and my motivation to really set off in a new direction I decided what needed to happen was a complete departure from writing an online journal and to instead write entirely on the more abstract elements that were already becoming focal point anyway. And so, after a good bit of kicking around the concept I'm ready to get things started with Fighting Shadows which as a concept goes something like this...

Plato invited us to imagine a cave in which prisoners are chained facing a wall, unable to see anything except the wall in front of them. On this wall are shadows cast by objects passing in front of a fire set behind the prisoners. Having been long immersed in this world of shadows, the prisoners even when released are reluctant to accept the true reality outside of the cave. Plato goes on to suggest that if one prisoner did escape and eventually discover the truth of the outside world that upon returning he would not be believed and would in fact be scorned by the other prisoners who it is suggested would even go so far as to kill him if he were to try and free them.

This allegory is I think all too easy to relate to. Ideas have a way of entrenching themselves, some good, others not so good. Since ideas lead to actions and actions shape the world, it is especially important that good ideas perpetuate and succeed while bad ideas fade away and disappear. In the midst of social, economic, and ecological turmoil, good ideas are gaining importance but still lacking in acceptance.

Assuming we can sort out the difference between the good and the bad, at what point then is it the most practical to interrupt the cycle of bad ideas? If we interrupt the flow of objects which cast the shadows the demand for shadows by the prisoners will remain and doubtlessly be filled to spite our efforts. If we confront the prisoners directly we will be met with disdain and hostility, and we will be unlikely to make any progress. And so we must direct our attention to the shadows themselves, shedding light on them and exposing them for the misrepresentation of reality that they are.

So that, in a nutshell, is it. This blog exists to fight shadows, by identifying and spreading good ideas in opposition to the bad ideas that distort reality and are the cause of distorted actions that shape the world in not-so-beneficial ways. What that really means and how I plan to go about it via this medium are up next time. For now thanks for reading and as always if you have any feedback feel free to comment.

TFTD: Does anybody really know what time it is?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Testing 1.. 2.. 5!

Welcome to the new home of my blog! For pseudo-anonymity reasons I won't be cross linking back to my previous blog though previous readers have hopefully found their way here through the forwarding info I left on the old blog. If you missed out on the past year or so of entries not to worry, I'll be starting off here catching up to the present and then moving forward in a somewhat new direction. The good news is I won't be censoring my topics so for old readers expect to see this go places the old blog never did and for new readers hopefully you enjoy this format and aren't bothered by controversial topics and strong opinions.

Overall if you're planning to follow this blog in any capacity, the one bit of advice I'll offer is to keep an open mind. I hope to challenge some perspectives, break some stereotypes and probably offend some people along the way. I'm hoping to get a lot of comments here just like on the old blog so please feel free to share your thoughts and links no matter what your take on an issue is. For now I'm off to do some more setup and linking and playing some video games before getting a real introduction post together. I look forward to getting back into this and hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. As always, thanks for reading!

TFTD: Are there ever really any new beginnings?