Posts Tagged ‘Progress’

How Did EUROPE Become So SUPERIOR?

February 19, 2017

MGRA: Make Great Reason Again!

Europe is an emerging phenomenon, now towering over the entire planet, from her possessions, colonies (Africa, Americas, Oceania, much of Eurasia), culture and mental grip (world culture, United Nations, etc.) Hey, don’t flaunt European colonization of the entire planet too loud, that’s not PC! Instead watch with glee the Islamists being crushed in Iraq and Syria by European proxies…

Europe was initially named from a Phoenician princess. (That, per se, is revealing: Europe came from the Middle Earth!) Europe, as a cultural phenomenon articulated by progress, is thousands of years old.

The Romans had long been technology dependent upon the Celts for metallic military equipment (a domination which was to last 3,000 years). When Caesar invaded “Long Haired Gaul”, and reached the Atlantic, he was stunned by the thousands of tall, ocean-going warships that the combined Celtic Navy had mustered (Roman ingenuity devised a specific device, the Corvus to turn the superiority of Celtic tall ships into a way to defeat them). 

Circus Maximus, 20 centuries ago. Still the World’s Largest Stadium. On the left side, the Imperial palace on the Palatine Hill (significantly larger than all the palaces of all present Western leaders combined!)

Circus Maximus, 20 centuries ago. Still the World’s Largest Stadium, More than 600 meters long. On the left side, the Imperial palace on the Palatine Hill (significantly larger than all the palaces of all present Western leaders combined!)

Contrarily to the usual myth, European superiority did not start with English superiority in the 1700s (that was mostly the fruit of English and Dutch conspiracies which turned out well, while the female Prime Minister of France overturned all the alliances, insuring French defeat in a seven-year world war!)

But Europe did not emerge by accident, but from culturally inherited moods, thus epigenetics, more than 100,000 years old. Yes, the climate, and the geography played a role, lighted the fire, and keep re-lighting it, from Enlightenment to Enlightenment. The fire of progress.

Unsurprisingly, regressive potentates put into question “Occidental values”, suggesting they are yesterday’s intrinsic evil. Sergey Lavrov, the powerful, long-standing Russian foreign minister declared in February 2017, that the time had come for a “post-Occidental world order”. According to Lavrov, one should wipe up all international institutions and replace them, Trump-like, by negotiations, state to state (as Russia is by far the world’s largest state, with the largest nuclear force, one can see how it would profit from it! The same holds for the USA.) This cannot end well. Russia is fundamentally a European colony (as the USA is). It should not forget how Europe got so rich. It happened through the universalization of advanced values.

Ah yes, because Europe is rich: In territory, Europe, through its (“ex”) colonies, owns much of the world: the Americas, Oceania, and all of North Eurasia are European colonies. Civilizationally, legislatively, Europe owns the world, with the possible exception of North Korea, and the irritant of a few (partly) Muslim Fundamentalist states.

Let me rephrase this, lest it gets misunderstood: the United Nations Charter is basically an improved rewriting of the Declaration des Droits de l’Homme of 1789. In turn, the French Revolution basic constitution was a writing of practiced established by the Franks, a full millennium earlier (including the outlawing of slavery, mandatory education, and the subservience of religion to state).

How did this happen? How did Europe achieve supremacy?

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Did the “Protestant Ethics” Make Europe Rich?

This is an opinion Anglo-Saxon supremacists love to claim. It’s mostly BS. First, the “Protestants” introduced only a minority of the inventions which made Europe strong and innovative.

Second, the presence of the easiest to exploit, richest coal beds in the world surfacing in England and North West Germany have nothing to do with “Protestant ethics”, but everything to do with steam-powered industrialization.

Third, one would have to define “Protestant”. Hint: it’s a French word. The “Protestant” movement started shortly after the fascist Christian church tried an encore with the First Crusade (after having nearly collapsed civilization in the Fourth Century already). Thus, the Protestant attitude and ethics is very old, and a reaction to Roman and Christian fascism… but not at all what Anglo-Saxon superiority maniacs have in mind.

The Greco-Romans were number one in trade and work ethics. 10,000 cargo ships plied the waves of the Mediterranean, every day. Later Italian and Alpine republics under the protective umbrella of the Frankish Roman empire invented most of the present “capitalist” set-up, complete with state bonds to finance Florentine armies, etc.  

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Did Colonialism and Slavery Made Civilization Rich As The Haters Of Progress Claim?

The traditional Politically Correct, Europhobic, European hating point of view is that slavery and colonialism made Europe rich: This is, erroneous, even ridiculous, on the face of it: the region of the world, Europe,  which outlawed slavery within, 13 centuries ago, would have been made rich from slavery.

However, in energy usage, per capita, Europe was the richest in the world, by 1000 CE. Actually some of the richest parts of Europe had no contact whatsoever with slavery and colonialism, for example, Switzerland (and many parts of France, Germany, italy).

The truth is much simpler, much more human: the exponential of understanding in Europe, and its subsequent mastery of nature, was the engine of European wealth. Europe succeeded better, because it was the part of the world where the essence of humanity, understanding and mastering nature, was able to express itself better.

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EUROPE BECAME RICHER IN THE LAST MILLENNIUM, BECAUSE EUROPE WAS SMARTER. Institutionally. Spiritually. Thus, Epigenetically:

It started with smarter laws, and the mentality of respecting them (“Dura Lex, Sed Lex” said the Romans; Law Hard, But [it’s the] Law). So institutions and moods were in place for European supremacy, 25 centuries ago. Those characters were the direct cause of the astonishing ascent of the Roman Republic.  

Rome got blocked in its eastward expansion by the Greco-Persian empire in the Iranian plateau. Factors in Rome’s failure to conquer Persia: Caesar was killed, the Republic caged (by Augustus and the plutocracy he headed). More importantly, Persia was part of the West, in the deepest sense. Babylonian kings (Hammurabi!) had imposed the notion of universal (republican) law, a full millennium before Roma became a village. Also Mesopotamia had invented and used much of the fundamental alphabet, science and mathematics, which spread westward.  

Rome itself was a baby fed, and educated by colonialists: the Etruscans, who had last come from present-day Syria, and the Greeks, who had colonized south Italy, including Naples (a deformation of the term New Town in Greek: Neo-Polis).

Not that all of the inventive mentality of the Occident started only around the Mediterranean, its Fertile Crescent and Egypt: the Indo-European colonizations started from Central Asia, targeting both Europe and India. The Amazons, a most anti-sexist civilization, was part of it, way back (more than 4,000 years ago), and we inherited some of this anti-sexist mentality (which may well have influenced anti-sexist Crete, as Crete was in trade with the Northern Black Sea region, where the Amazons thrived.

India played the crucial role in inventing the modern numeration system. Meanwhile, in the West, the drive to ever more powerful technology had ruled for at least 100,000 years: Neanderthals and Denisovans could only survive in north Eurasia through extensive technology. So they invented pants, dogs, and the usage of fossil fuels (already 80,000 years ago).

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European Progress Mentality Is At Least 100,000 Years Old:

Cro Magnon men lived in present day France, then a tundra which was fully surrounded by enormous glaciers, and the icy sea. Cro Magnons survived in the same way Neanderthals and Denisovans did before: using the maximal high-tech they could develop. They may have inherited few Neanderthal genes, but they inherited in full the mentality of the Neanderthals.

This is an important point: mentalities, even culture, can pass down the generations, even when genes do not. In particular, the importance given to culture, progress, understanding can live in a landscape, partly from the landscape itself.

The mentality of progress, with the advent of agriculture, became ever more crucial, as the ecologies got ruined, and new ones had to be manufactured.

It is the gigantic scale of severe, yet profligate Eurasia, a demanding, yet technologically rewarding environment, which made the evolution of superlative ideas possible, more than anywhere else, by constant interbreeding of exotic facts and logics.   

It is western Eurasia, North Africa, and the Middle Earth (all the way to India) which provided the best, largest incubator. Therein the Occident, but it is nothing without the mood of progress at nearly any cost.

That mood barely survived Christian fascism. Yet, the Franks were able to found civilization again, on a better basis, within two centuries of the Roman collapse, using superior ideas (no slavery, mandatory education, the church as a tool of the state, elections, etc.)

This was the first Enlightenment, post-Greco-Romans. That superior institutional set-up made the “West’ by the year 1,000 CE, not only richer than Rome, but richer in energy use by inhabitant, than any other place in the world. By then European technology and science was leading (even the invention of “black powder” was a complicated story, where Mongols and Europeans, not just the Chinese, played a role). As Europe became ever more technology dependent, the urge to understand things for sure (“science”) became ever more important.

A succession of “Enlightenments” went on… to this day. The acceleration after 1500 CE was just part of the singularity of understanding we all share into today. in many ways, it just repeated, and re-imposed, constitutional reforms which were made first in the Seventh and Eighth centuries, by the Imperium Francorum (soon to be relabelled “Renovatio Imperium Romanum”).

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PC Is The Perfect Con Against Humanity:

Right now the core of the machinery of what made civilization progress and be ever more superior is threatened. Friends have told me Trump threatened “reason”. Well, their reason (they tend to be in the 1% or serving the 1%, those “friends” of mine). There are many facts and possible logics to animate them, out there.

Consider Brexit logic: it is sheer madness, the madness of rage unbound. As in Trumphobia, Europhobia is motivated by a deep pain which arose from earlier events. (Clinton fanatics hate Trump because of the pain Clinton, Bill, Bush, and Obama, inflicted on them.)

An Arabic scholar wrote to me, saying there was no reason for progress (yes there is, just as on a bicycle). A Jewish (real) friend pointed out that many of the attacks against Europe also stealthily promoted the annihilation of Israel (correct).

The rabid, hateful, anti-European logics out there have doubled as outright attacks against honorable reason. Accusations of racism have been hurled, just to avoid debates (both Trump and your truly were subjected to this; many attacks against me were made snapchat way: erasing the fighting words full of hatred within minutes, after they were widely distributed, a method to practice defamation… without being able to prove it).

All we need to know is that never before in the history of the biosphere has the potential be greater for extreme catastrophe. Or extreme progress towards more mastery of nature by life. In any case, superior reason will adjudicate.

Patrice Ayme’

No Philosophy, No Progress, No Civilization

September 17, 2016

Progress is necessary: all ecologies, and thus technologies, get exhausted, or exhausting. Civilization rides a bicycle, and cannot long stop anywhere.

Progress does not happen out of the blue. It is instigated by the love of wisdom (philosophy). The progress of humanity is propelled by exerting a mind, one mind, at the highest level, first, and find a new idea, or emotion. And then to make that new wisdom blossom, and propagate throughout society. How exactly this happened can help figure out how it may happen again.

The explosion of philosophy in Ancient Greece was not sparked by Socrates (contrarily to legend). The reason for the veneration of the trio constituted by Socrates, his student Plato, and  Aristotle, student of the latter, is rather sinister. Socrates launched a weasel denunciation of Direct Democracy. demolishing it because of technicalities. That turned into the Politically Correct justification of more than 20 centuries of fascism (“monarchies”) from Eire to India.

Thus Socrates was a sort of famous counter-revolutionary. He helped demolish what he profited from, Athenian civilization (Aristotle did much worse, he demolished democratic civilization itself, promoting instead a fascist plutocracy led by his most intimate friends). The ascent of wisdom and progress was fully evident by the age of Pericles, decades before. Pericles’ top advisers, including his wife, were top philosophers. They promoted the concept of Open Society (lauded in Pericles’ Funeral Oration). Arguably, the concept of Open Society, and the progress of mind it brought, was important than the entire work of Socrates.

But to understand the rise of wisdom in Greece, one has to go much earlier than Pericles’ generation. The great legislator Solon, a bit more than a century before Pericles, replaced the draconian Draco style of legislation with the opposite orientation. 

On The Left, Representation Of Solon In The US House Of Representatives. On the right, a statue of Solon.

On The Left, Representation Of Solon In The US House Of Representatives. On the right, a statue of Solon.

Solon was born around 638 BCE. He was also a poet and war leader (he secured to Athens the possession of the island of Salamis through battle and Sparta’s arbitrage). Solon replaced systematic execution for any crime, by subtle and appropriate laws. More controversially, he erased debts (the ones in the know, his friends, profited from it).

Solon launched Athens into that Open Society managed around ideas and progress. Solon was a great traveller, and left Athens for more than a decade. Even earlier, Homer played an important role, with his tales of how the deepest emotions mess up with the world, or lift it beyond heavens. 

So why was Greece so wise? Because that’s how it rose to prominence. 

Similarly, the renewed rise of wisdom in the European Middle Ages did not happen just in the famed “renaissance” around 1450 CE. It had started much earlier. A full millennium earlier, when the Franks founded their civilization on tolerance. By 650 CE, the Merovingian Franks, by then the great power of Europe, thanks to their control of Gallia and Germania, outlawed slavery (under Bathilde, the slave who became queen). That was followed by nationalization of the Catholic church, fighting off three massive Islamist invasions, mandatory education, total religious tolerance, and a “renovation of the Roman empire”. By then all religious establishment had to teach everybody secularly, founding the university system. 

The Economist wrote a critique of “The Dream of Enlightenment” (by Anthony Gottlieb) “on some of the great Enlightenment thinkers, including Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, Rousseau and Voltaire…

They were freelance philosophers working independently of the universities, criticising mainstream views and liberating thought from its academic straitjacket and neo-Aristotelian dogmatism. They were dangerous thinkers all, one publication away from exile, imprisonment or worse for their radical views on religion, politics and morality. Spinoza was the subject of a cherem, the equivalent of excommunication from the Amsterdam Sephardic synagogue; Locke disguised his authorship… spent a number of years in self-imposed exile; Hume chose to publish his “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” posthumously; and Rousseau fled to England when persecuted in mainland Europe”. 

One cannot underestimate the terror generating new thinking brings. Most of the top thinkers where on the run, or in terrible trouble, fleeing here and there, from Giordano Bruno to Kepler, Galileo,  to Descartes, Hobbes, etc. In “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), Immanuel Kant used the motto Sapere aude (“Dare to know”) 

This all started five centuries earlier. By 1100 CE, the great philosopher, lover and songwriter Abelard was called “our Aristotle” by Peter the Venerable, head of Cluny (the largest religious establishment). Abelard fought Saint Bernard. Cathars and later Vaudois appeared in short order. Abelard got excommunicated, then readmitted to the Church (?), etc. 

It was even worse under Islam. A bit after the war between Abelard and Saint Bernard, the famous Ibn Rushd (“Averroes” in Western historiography), an Islamist judge, philosopher and doctor to Caliph (of Spain) was banned, and his books destroyed for writing “The Incoherence of the Incoherence” against a religious fanatic who had attacked philosophy in The Incoherence of the Philosophers  (Ibn Rushd got rehabilitated, shortly before his death, after a great victory of Caliph Al Mansour). 

In the next five centuries, many thinkers would be legally executed. Executed for offenses such as printing books; the Sultan Francois Premier of France (soon imitated by the Sultan of Turkey) outlawed printing for a while, under the penalty of death, some of Rabelais’s friends and printers were burned alive; Rabelais himself, a well-connected top doctor, was not touched, but implicitly threatened. This courage is what the Enlightenment was built on.

Bringing people together on yesterday’s consensus is easy. Politicians love to do that. Philosophers, the real ones, do the opposite: they bring people asunder, down to the bottom of their souls, to establish tomorrow’s consensus, with superior, yet unborn ideas. The greatest leaders were definitively either advised by philosophers (for example, Charlemagne, and the US Founding Fathers) or philosophers themselves (Cicero, Caesar, Clovis, Solon, Pericles, Queen Bathilde, etc.)

We are the thinking species. Yet thinking means creation, anew. And creation means destruction, at least neurologically speaking. Loving is giving, yet the gift of really truly new thinking, is a gift of destruction. This is definitively a paradox, common people have a hard time embracing the concept and the mood behind it, as they rather embrace the mood that being a sheep in the flock is much safer.

No wonder humanity is ambivalent about real philosophers, except when they are safely dead already. 

Patrice Ayme’

FREE TRADE FALLACY

March 7, 2016

We have just one civilization today: everybody, among common folks know what everybody else thinks. Yet, as resources previously used, such as fossil fuels, falter, civilization and the understanding of the universe which makes it possible in its present state, have to progress (not enough scientific and technological progress as needed, was the proximal cause of Rome’s failure). So it is crucial that really new, and correct, ideas be introduced (and not just in science).

If Those Are Best Friends Who, What Is The Enemy? Cockroaches? Those Among We The People Who Are Viewed As Cockroaches?

If Those Are Best Friends Who, What Is The Enemy? Cockroaches? Those Among We The People Who Are Viewed As Cockroaches?

Yes even countries such as Saudi Arabia are part of this global civilization. And Saudi Arabia is fully part of the debate of what civilization means, and what it will have to consist of, looking forward. Watch France give the Legion d’Honneur to the heir of Saudi Arabia, and its Interior Minister, arguably the principal ideologue of the hardening of the Saudi line, inside out. So, in other words, while France fights the Islamist State (“Daesh”), France gives the nod to the hardening of the Wahhabist doctrine of Saudi Arabia (which, historically, was very minor in Islam), the ideology of ISIL. The results are increasingly strange: Salafist/Wahhabist terrorists attacked police and soldiers in Tunisia today. The security forces fought back. The coordinated assaults were shown, live, on the Internet. One could see young passersbys applauding the security forces in full combat (at least 28 terrorists got killed, plus seventeen fighting police and civilians who applauded the police).

Such contradictions are rife, all over the world. Look at “free trade”.

Globalization Of Trade Without Globalization Of Law Results In Plutocratization. This Is Exactly What Happened To The Roman Republic, & Why It Faltered

Globalization Of Trade Without Globalization Of Law Results In Plutocratization. This Is Exactly What Happened To The Roman Republic, & Why It Faltered

Free trade, well done, is indeed excellent. However, the West has been exporting science, technology and know-how, while not investing in a way commensurate to making this sort of export sustainable.

In other words, here is civilization’s problem: the learning, teaching, and research functions have been starved, relative to what the (critical) situation requires.

The result has been a collapse of manufacturing and related high worth employment in the countries who recently led progress in science and understanding (with the result that, like Republican Rome, the knowledge and wisdom of the most advanced countries is increasing faltering relatively to the flow of new ideas which civilization need to survive).

To make matters worse, said “free trade” has happened in the shadows. So-called high-tech companies have made fortunes, while paying no taxes: France just hit Google with a 1.6 billion Euro tax bill. Such companies and their principal owners had found ways to escape most taxes, thus starving the governments, hence the fundamental research their trade rests on.

So free trade can work, but only if it’s fair. As it is, most money flows are hidden (in so-called “Dark Money” and “Dark Pools”), and the owners are also hidden (thus escaping taxation and corruption charges, not just against them, but also against the politicians they influence).

Last week European Commissioners were caught promising ExxonMobil that the Transatlantic Trade Pact under negotiation with Obama would allow companies such as ExxonMobil to escape local legislation, including labor, taxation and pollution laws.

So the Republicans may be lunatics. But, in a world already ruled by lunatics, they are no doubt welcome.

Fair, just, and profitable  international trade requires a registry of all ownership and detailed trading activity, worldwide. Otherwise the sort of Republic we enjoy worldwide (as institutionalized by the United Nations) will know the same fate as the Roman Republic: an increasing sinking in the turbid waters of mindless will to power and tyranny.

Patrice Ayme’

[P/S: A shorter, trade only version of the preceding essay was selected as a New York Times’ “Pick”. Since I have complained stridently about NYT’s censorship, I have to be fair and to recognize appreciation too!]

Solar Roads

October 15, 2015

Solar Roads Versus Objection Mars:

Long ago, when the sun had not set yet on the will of the West to progress, a poet was visiting my home. He read some of his poetry. Humanity had just reached the Moon. The poet loftily declared that we did not need the Moon, we needed to fight hunger.

Later, the malaria parasite mutated, becoming resistant to standard treatment. Now it kills more than 1.2 million people a year. A typical objection to colonizing the Solar System is this:

“as I see it – Scott’s movie (even if I’m a sci-fi fan and I love some movies of him as well: Blade Runner is definitely a masterpiece) is a mere conservative propaganda aiming for people to agree that these extremely expensive missions to Mars are more important than saving African children from ebola, helping Syrian refugees, letting Europe be democratic yet or supporting laws against free guns in the US … Save the “american” astronaut, guys!” The answer is crushing, it holds in one picture:

French Truck On Solar Photo-Voltaic Road: the Future Has Arrived

French Truck On Solar Photo-Voltaic Road: the Future Has Arrived

There is nothing “conservative” about missions to Mars. Quite the opposite: such missions are fully progressive. They force humanity to progress.

Disease in Africa has to do with lack of governance. Lack of hospital has to do with lack of governance. In the Ebola epidemic, the countries that were struck were struck from lack of organized health care.

Senegal got one, just one, imported Ebola case. The patient got cured, and that was it. Even Mali, with better governance, in spite of a Jihadist invasion, was able to contain a few imported cases. Meanwhile, several countries next door, which are intrinsically much richer (Sierra Leone, Guinea. Liberia) saw thousands of deaths, and containment came from the efforts of NGOs, France and the USA (mostly).

When France pulled out of Africa, some particularly smart critic told a senior French government minister that the argument of “freeing” Africa from alleged colonialism made no humanitarian sense: there was no “colonialism” to speak of, and who was going to pay for one hospital every 100 kilometers in the world’s second largest continent? The minister smiled, and said: “this is precisely the point, we will not incur that expense anymore.”

Two capabilities save children in general: a) good governance. b) science.

When considering a Mars mission in this connection, one has to answer if the Mars mission will improve governance and science. Governance itself is a science. A mission to Mars is “expensive”. How much? 100 million dollars? 200 millions? How much would a Mars colonization program cost to launch? Two trillion dollars?

According to the International Monetary Fund, subsidies for fossil fuels are more than 5.5 trillion dollars a year. Enough to set-up a village on Mars, with existing technology.

Now going to Mars would force drastic progress in, say, fuel cells. The technology of fuel cells was invented for the Moon mission. After Obama became president, the research funding on this field was yanked out (probably to send money to businessmen such as Elon Musk).

Mars colonization would force enormously innovative research in energy technology, for example fuel cells, and nuclear energy (both fission and fusion).

Nothing else will.

Syrian refugees? Mars will not save Syrians? Nothing is more removed from the truth. Mars, the god of war, is what is needed in Syria, fighting for Goodness, instead of having Mars fight in the name of the devil Assad, as was mostly done so far.

The 300,000 dead in Syria, the eleven million refugees, have been caused by the rule of a single, cornered man, Assad, son of Assad, and the clique surrounding him. To solve the Syrian refugees crisis, Assad’s rule ought to be terminated, so that he could be replaced by generals open to enough democracy to keep Syrians in Syria.

Unfortunately the Franco-American decapitation strike against Assad was called off by Obama, for reasons so far unexplained. So the massacre keeps on going, with forces under the orders of Assad killing at least ten times as much what the Islamist State kills.

Fossil fuels consumption, should it go on for a few more decades, will bring the global temperature up five degrees Celsius, and massacre the biosphere. It has to stop, but can be stopped only with plentiful, cheap, new energy sources.

That, or massive war (killing billions).

How? Science to the rescue. Without evoking the spectrum of nuclear energy (fission and fusion), Solar Photo-Voltaic (SPV) is here. Normal solar panels were developed for space missions. Without space colonization, they would not have been developed. Yet, solar panels are fragile. Or, more exactly, were fragile until now.

A giant French construction company (Bouygues) deposed patents to cover-up solar cells with various materials to make them tough. Glass can be made as hard as steel. Then Bouygues engineers drove more than a million vehicles above the toughened-up panels in a few test cities (Chambery, Grenoble). Now the first solar road is under construction. Four meters of said road can satisfy a house’s needs. 100 square meters (twenty meters of the linear road depicted) are enough to drive 100,000 kilometers with an electric vehicle. If 25% of French roads were covered, 100% of French electric needs would be covered.

The future, the good future, is here: it’s enough to let science roll. But science needs challenges. Such as Mars colonization. If (very serious) scientists and mathematicians need bananas, such as the Fields Medal and the Nobel Prize, certainly humanity needs bigger motivation, and bigger prizes than that!

You want morality? More morality? Then you need a bigger science. And the way to get a better science is by setting higher objectives, greater passions, more exacting thoughts. Progress, the Will to Progress, is a mood. It cannot be confined to moral progress, because the universe juggles with evil. Moral progress means technological progress.  Mars colonization is no moral objection. Objective Mars is a moral imperative.

Patrice Ayme’

Science, Mars, Or Moral Bust

October 14, 2015

In the first democratic debate, Hillary Clinton said she was “a progressive who likes to get things done.” Let’s hope they will be less plutocratic than the “things” done by her husband. Meanwhile the question came up from others that going to Mars, or similar colossal techno-scientific progress had no humanitarian value. Before a more organized rebuttal, here goes my poetical opinion:

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Science, Mars, Or Moral Bust

Many are the passions

Many are the tragedies

Against tragedies goodness,

All too often contend in vain.

Lest emotions move men and fate

Out of complacency, indifference,

Careers, self-admiring seriousness,

And obey the call of love for mind, sentience..

Yet, even when passions move us,

Towards the noblest goals, with the best intentions

All too often we find there is nothing

We can do at all, against pain and suffering:

When our magic, our science, come short..

To feel right and think right,

Does not mean we can do right.

For enabling goodness we need the powers,

The very powers which feed from,

By, and with, the Dark Side.

Power itself is dark.

Yet noble, and fundamentally us.

So yes, by any means,

Go to Mars.

It will nurture new emotions,

Wealth of transcendent emotions,

Not just lofty and intricate thoughts,

Humanity define.

We have always gone to Mars,

Ever since we left leafy trees.

We will stop,

Only when our fundamental lust,

What defines us,

Progress,

Dies with us.

 

Wingsuit Philosophy: 400 Million Years Strong

November 28, 2014

 

If Life is Quantum, why do Quantum assemblies jump off cliffs and peaks in wingsuits, with a high probability to be blown to bits? (See flying off the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey, Mont Blanc Range.)

Is it the love of danger? What else? Indeed, most of these ladies and gentlemen, when interviewed, insist that they love life. And most of them, indeed, seem to enjoy life, and are extremely lively.

Flier Jumped Off Peuterey (Peak on the Right)

Flier Jumped Off Peuterey (Peak on the Right)

Wingsuit flying is an extreme form of extreme sport. It entangles extreme neurological control, extreme speed, and extreme terror. Plus extreme contempt for probabilities. In other words, all what makes man tick where it counts most, in what counts most, in battle.

The film concludes with a list of more than two dozen wingsuit fliers known to have died in 2013, while practicing their passion.

The first attempted wingsuit flight, more than a century ago, was off the Eiffel Tower (then the world’s tallest structure). The gentleman long hesitated before jumping. He received a significant hole in his head. However, an autopsy revealed that he had died of a heart attack during the flight (so great was his fright?). Frenchmen invented the modern suits in the 1990s. Tubes inflated by air pressure rigidify them. The explicit aim was to land with them (to do this, I believe a 6 meter wing span is needed, thus further, hard, but imaginable, progress in material science).

Wingsuited Corliss Popping Balloons Before Zooming Into A Gorge

Wingsuited Corliss Popping Balloons Before Zooming Into A Gorge

So why is danger lovable? Danger is not just lovable, it is adaptative, in the evolutionary sense of the term. That means that, for human beings, to love danger present greater advantage that the alternative. Can I prove it? Well, wingsuit flying and all sorts of behaviors potentially lethal to those who indulge in them, are only explainable by the thrill of danger. If this thrill is perceived as more valuable than life, it’s that life cannot do without it.

As Sherlock Holmes noticed, when one has eliminated all other explanations, what’s left is what is going on.

The usual suspects, the loud vegetarians, mosquito lovers, peaceniks, Dalai Lama worshippers, partisans of the intrinsic goodness of man in general, and of the extreme placidity and sanctity of themselves in particular, will meekly bleat that from such violence comes the undoing of man. Assuredly, they will reckon, loving danger leads to war, mayhem, and horror of horror, violence, to put it in one hated word.

Yet, what is man if not the creature of ultimate force? Violence is how man was built, one mutation at a time.

After these vigorous considerations, I went running more than twenty miles in the mountains, some of it above 8,000 feet. Never mind a little snow and ice: the greenhouse presents advantages in late November. At some point I met some mountain bikers: ”What are you doing, so far from anywhere?” I did not tell them I was philosophying, as I already looked crazy enough with my skimpy outfit (running is higher metabolism than biking).

Back in the land of computers, I stumbled on an interview of Jeb Corliss, an expert of “proximity flying” (see above). He reached pretty much the same conclusions as yours truly, in an interesting article with a stupid title:

“Courting popularity has never been a priority for Corliss. “Listen,” he tells me, “I talk about the deaths. I talk about the disasters.”

“And if you die?”

“If I die, I want that footage on TV the next day.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because this is not chess. This is not backgammon. This is not . . . ” (Corliss racks his brain for a yet-more-contemptible pastime, and finds one) “golf. This is dangerous. I believe that footage of fatalities is way more important than film of some guy flying across a beautiful meadow. What we are doing here is very important. I believe that flying is what evolution is about. Think of the squirrels.”

“OK.”

“At the beginning, there were probably only a very few squirrels that even contemplated flying from tree to tree. The other squirrels thought they were crazy. I imagine hundreds of them died in the attempt. But then, in the end, one of them managed it. Now that, to me, is evolution. And now we are evolving, through technology and through skill. I liken what we’re doing in proximity flying to the first animals that left the water. We are evolving and growing. And becoming stronger. What else,” he asks, “is the purpose of life?”

The usual suspects, if they have time to stop grazing their pastures, will call the preceding Nietzschean, or Hitlerian, and condemn it. But that would be wrong on both counts: Nietzsche hated evolution, and Hitler loved regression. Corliss’ philosophy wants progress. That philosophy, which has been mine, ever since I reflected in the wastes of Africa, is very close to Lamarck, and… Sade.

400 million years ago, during the Devonian Period, the earliest tetrapods derived from the lobe-finned fishes.

It is an important point that, although plants did not need brains to conquer the land, brainy animals, having brains, had to decide to conquer land.

Strict “Darwinists” speak as if they cannot understand this, and brains are just what genes do (see in particular Dawkins). Does that mean they never decide anything, except what class and genes gave them? (Lord Matt Ridley, one of the most strident advocates of total gene control, and of plundering the planet, is a major and most propagandizing plutocrat; believing “genes” control all means class controls all).

Yet, that’s obviously wrong: if all and any fish had been so terrified of land that they had not tried to crawl on it, all the mutations in the world would not have made the vertebrates conquer land.

For 400 million years, our brainy ancestors took great chances, and very few of those who took the greatest chances, that is, the most lethal chances, could reproduce. They died early, they died hard, but they tried something crazy, to give some mutation a chance… And, as we will see in a companion essay, a chance for this mutation to appear!

Without the will to progress, there would have been no progress. There would be only plants, bacteria, viruses.

Patrice Ayme’

(Thermo)Nuclear Base Load Energy Soon?

October 16, 2014

As you unwittingly wait to board Ebola Air, let me distract you with a more palatable, albeit philosophically related, subject.

Sustainable energy means wind and PV (Photo Voltaic). Other possibilities don’t work enough to make a global dent. (At least not yet, by a long shot.)

Except maybe for tidal and current power, used in Europe since the Middle Ages (exploitation of sea currents is tested on a grand scale in Europe presently; a related possibility would be to use thermal differences in the ocean; but barnacles are a problem).

Solar thermal is controversial: it occupies so much space, zap birds, insects, etc.. Its one advantage is that the energy, heat, can be stored overnight. Geothermal works only in very few, small places (elsewhere it generates earthquakes for reasons similar to fracking).

Hydroelectric is sustainable only in conjunction with nuclear (to refill the reservoirs… Although don’t tell that to California’s empty dams).

The riddle of wind and PV, is that they work only occasionally: one needs base load power. When the sky is black grey with little wind, and it’s very cold, and it lasts for weeks, in a typical Euro weather in winter, a marais barometrique, one needs power. This is the so called “base power” (it’s supposed to be around 40% of peak demand).

Dishonest pseudo-ecologists have, in practice, pushed for fossil fuels base power (because they hate “nuclear energy”… not that they know what it is). All too many (pseudo) ecologists claim one can fight the CO2 built-up catastrophe, while having a fossil fuel base load.

That cannot work: any fossil fuel infrastructure added to the grid cost a fortune, billions of Euros and, or Dollars, for just one plant (typically with a cost around 3 billion). So one cannot add such a plant to not use it. Once built, it will be used (especially if a third of the grid capacity is made of them!)

And there is no, nor can there be, for theoretical reasons, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). CCS is another lie. Herds of noisy pseudo-ecologists have been lying about the coming of CCS. (CCS works only in half a dozen very special places: it’s typically re-injected right away where it came from, a gas field.)

Real ecologists such as yours truly, know that there is just one ecologically correct possibility for base load energy that can be imagined at this point: nuclear power, new nuclear power. That’s what has to be developed to replace fossil fuel base energy. As I said many times, second (or the identical third) generation nuclear power plants were, are, military in disguise (they produce Plutonium, crucial for bombs). So, just on non-military-nuclear-proliferation grounds, they should be shut down.

There are plenty of fission techs that could be made safe and fruitful (including some burning nuclear waste).

And then there is thermonuclear fusion.

In nuclear fusion, light atoms combine into stable forms (mostly Helium 4) and release excess energy. There no nasty waste (as this comes from heavy nuclei). However 80% of the power is as a neutron flux. In the 1920s, it was guessed that fusion generated the power of stars.

In the 1950s, tricks were found to use the X ray light of a plutonium bomb to compress thermonuclear fuel, and heat it up to get a short, but mighty fusion: the H bomb. The first one was much more powerful than expected.

The old joke is that controlled, sustainable thermonuclear fusion has always been, and always will be, the energy of the future. However, we generate roughly 10,000 times more fusion (per unit of fuel) as we did in the 1950s (this is roughly as good a progress as the famous “Moore Law” of the doubling of the power of computer chips, every two years, but at a tiny fraction of the cost: it cost trillions to develop computer chips).

Table top sustainable thermonuclear reactors are for sale. Nuclei are accelerated, using electric attraction, collide, and fuse. Those reactors generate neutrons (neutron beams can be used for all sorts of application, including medical). At this point the efficiency of these reactors is insufficient for gainful power generation (but it’s imaginable that tweaks  to this tech could generate much more energy than it uses).

Numerous fusion concepts are being developed (although not enough). The giant ITER uses the safest technology, where a thermonuclear fuel plasma is confined by exterior magnetism. But numerous alternatives are studied.

The University of Washington, and others, claim to have made a breakthrough: computers studies would show that one can tweak the geometry of the thermonuclear fuel plasma chamber in such a way that the plasma itself would generate the magnetic field bottling it away from the walls.

That does not mean that ITER is useless. Just the opposite: ITER is developing new materials to resist the mighty thermonuclear fire… which all thermonuclear reactors will have to use.

Even the famous Skunk Works of Lockheed Martin is working in the aptly named “Revolutionary Technology Programs unit” on what it calls the compact fusion reactor (CFR). At this point, it’s a containment vessel the size of a business-jet engine.

Lockheed believes it will be small and practical enough for interplanetary spaceships, transoceanic ships and city power stations… Or even fusion power aircraft (fission nuclear-powered aircraft were tested 50 years ago). It speaks of a very quick development program, with a new proto-reactor type every year.

The world economy is faltering, in great part because the global Return On Investment (ROI) of fossil fuels is quickly getting worse.

The subsidies for fossil fuels are enormous: up to a trillion dollars, worldwide, each year.

Ecologists should push to have a small fraction of this directed towards clean, safe nuclear energy. There is no doubt that a crash program on Thorium could give efficient plants within ten years (China will have a plant next year; the problem with Thorium is not whether it can work, but simply a question of regulation and ROI; understandably private industry is leery to launch itself without governmental support).

It increasingly looks that thermonuclear fusion is a plausible alternative for base load energy, sooner than one expected even six months ago.

And now please immediately board Ebola Air. Although it does not look like it, the same mindset that will help fix Ebola, is the exact same one which calls for thermonuclear fusion. The virus, indeed, has probably mutated, to become more easily transmissible. That is pure selection of the fittest (virus) at work.

In the matter of Ebola, as in all the big issues regarding civilization, there is only one optimal way out, the same as for the European Union construction: think, solve, progress, up, up and away!

Patrice Ayme’

The West: Hong Kong In Reverse?

October 5, 2014

In Hong Kong, students are demonstrating. Beijing plutocrats are throwing at them what they can: professional politicians, popular singers, and professional gangsters from the renowned triads.

This is what happens when you educate your youths too well: they get ideas, and contest the rule of the alpha male, in this case the omnipotent president Xi (who claims an official right to rig elections by choosing the three candidates to lead Hong Kong; in the West, the process is the same, but behind closed doors).

Cynics will sneer that this was the whole idea about degenerating the educational system in the West since the (world) disturbances of 1968 (which topped in the USA, France, and Prague). Precisely to avoid what is happening in Hong-Kong now.

How come the left in the West is a right? The answer is obvious: “democracy” is just a sham.

Let’s nevertheless waste a few minutes to describe the right that calls itself a left…. Now that France has a so called “socialist” government which governs on the right of the official French right, this burning question comes back to the fore, six years after Obama sold himself, body and soul, to the greediest financial sector in the history of civilization.

In the last 20 years, the self-described “left” came to power in the USA (twice: Clinton, Obama; moreover Reagan had to govern with a Congress controlled by democrats), in Germany (Schroeder, and now an union government of CDU and SPD), in Britain (a decade of Blair, Brown). France is the extreme of that: she enjoyed decades of “socialist” rule (Mitterrand, Jospin, Hollande).

The result is everywhere the same: plutocracy has kept encroaching (as depicted in Piketty’s “capital). There is even worse: the educational systems have collapsed, all over the West.

Indeed, in 1900, the West had, by far the best educational systems in the World. Now the results are eloquent. They are established by PISA, a subdivision of the OECD (the Organisation De Co-operation Economique et Development, in its original French; it was founded, and is based, in Paris).

France, Britain and the USA completely fail their new generations. Refined tests on problem solving show that the youngsters of these nations are three years late in their mental development on Asian students.

Apparently, the mental retardation has set quite a while ago, because present date politicians do not understand the problem. It’s simple, though: these countries made a huge effort in national education a century ago. Not so much anymore.

To get a good education in 1950, one went to public school. Now one goes to private school. The quality of education is just as abysmal, studies suggest. But the networking is everything

Valls is a theoretician of greed: he can’t imagine anything else as a human motivation. At least that’s what he said as much about GPA.

It’s a bit like Lenin’s apology of dictatorship. Lenin could not imagine a more effective government than dictatorship.

Valls is not pecuniary greedy, or let’s say he can wait, as the greed for power is even more direct than the one for money. My tolerance exhausted itself after he made Macron economy minister. Macron’s career is a short resume’ of the genetics of the cancer that infects the West most: a know-nothing, made into a top finance inspector who teaches the world’s most notorious bank how to evade taxes and financially conspire, thus putting himself into orbit for highest rule.

The Romans had the Cursus Honorum, we now have the Cursus Damnarum. In the Cursus Honorum, would-be politicians, after a top education, became first top officers in the Roman army. And then, only then, would go back to politics.

Because Rome had strict term limits, politics was spread among the many. For example a Consul had full power for just a month, and then, after his one year term, could not be re-elected for another year.

Here, of course I am talking of the full Roman Republic, not the diseased system which agonized for centuries after Augustus came to power. Conventional historians prefer to talk about the latter, because they are the Gibbons of the plutocratic system we have the dubious honor to enjoy.

How could the so-called left not be a right?

It’s all about how politicians are selected. First, they are most greedy. They are all about the Will To Power.

Second, if not 100% greedy, they are somewhat deranged: they really believe that, with their puny minds, and extravagantly modest propositions, in these most alarming circumstances, they will really make a difference.

Third, they give themselves what scientific psychologists, the ethologists, call “moral license”. That’s the idea that, if one has made what one perceives as a good deal, or has the right to trample others, somewhat.

Indeed, the leaders of the West now, in their collective, have rights not really different from that of the omni-president Xi and his colleagues. It is for example against the law in France to insult one of the goons of the government. The powers that the top politicians in the USA have, are awesome.

And forget about checks and balances, as the presidency of W. Bush demonstrated! The entire USA was committed to a war crime course in 2003 with as much ease as Nazi Germany in 1933.

And please don’t tell me that’s ancient history. The present war against ISIS/ISIL/ “Caliphate”/Daech springs directly from this. The essence of the power of that organization is that the tribes that the USA struck against in 2003 are now sitting on their hands at best (when they are not outright helping the Islamist insurgents).

This entire political system of the West rests on greed and delusion. It’s a system of thoughts and moods, where greed, sugar-coated with the appearance of altruism, rules.

Blossoming plutocracy is a consequence. And the more it goes, the more education, reflection and civilization, degenerate.

The type of remedy needed can be observed in the streets of Hong-Kong.

It is easy for the Hong-Kong protesters: they want what the West already has. In the West what is needed has to be invented. Looking around (Switzerland), or learning history (fully Republican Rome, Athens), will help the imagination.

The real problem is that there is no progressive guidance. A proof is my struggle in philosophical circles right now to impose the correct view on Aristotle. Aristotle was first and foremost, the greatest architect of plutocracy ever. That’s how, and why, he got to be viewed as the greatest philosopher ever.

Everybody drank the poisonous cool-aid, ever since.

Something similar is happening now, live: Krugman’s position of Quantitative Easing (giving money to the largest, most powerful banks) is (still) viewed as highly progressive… And so apparently, is austerity.

And where is the money found to fund all this austerity? Some of it is found all the way into the bone. Fundamental education (That’s now called the “Common Core” in the USA), and fundamental research.

Obama is urging schools to teach the Common Core, and that’s good. (It’s even better that it costs him nothing, as the Federal Education budget is just 1%. Always this 1% thing.)

Maybe, if he had been taught the Common Core, Prime Minister Valls would be able to logically determine he stands on the right of the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, in several dimensions.

Maybe, if he had been taught the Common Core, Obama would fund fundamental research: unbelievably, he has been cutting into the bone there… Just when everything is becoming possible, the leadership of the West is trying to make the impossible possible, by closing the future to progress.

Patrice Ayme’

Fascism As Esthetics: Celebritism

June 25, 2014

CELEBRITIES ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM TO BE

Apparently bitten by the critique that he spends his time pleasing the enemy, Paul Krugman, insists that he is no crude man. In an apparently unrelated situation, hedge fund billionaire Milner a Multiverse fanatic, has attributed his enormous three million dollar prize in mathematics and biology.

What’s the connection? Celebritism. Krugman is afraid to contradict celebrities, Milner is anxious to spread celebritism to (some) top scientists. Celebritism is the sugar around the bitter pill of oligarchism.

Spain's Motto [Alcatraz]. Want Progress? Plus Oultre!

Spain’s Motto [Alcatraz].
Want Progress? Plus Oultre!

Krugman: Jared Bernstein agonizes over the role of wonkish analysis (which spell-check keeps trying to change to “monkish”) in a political environment in which “facts and smart policy are on the run.” It’s something I worry about too.

On one side, if wonks don’t point out what we really should be doing, who will?…

On the other hand, if wonks only propose things that won’t happen, what good are they?”

It seems that Krugman does not understand that, where there is a will, there is a way. Reciprocally, if there is no will, there is no way. To propose strategies that could, and ought, be willed, eschews him.

Indeed  the case for real progress has to be made stridently, and repeatedly. Indeed Obamacare is much better than a hard vacuum, but now it’s the law, so really drastic progress ought to be proposed instead of crowing constantly about how good Obamacare is. If I want to hear crows, I go on a walk. Even Obama wants people such as Krugman to push for the right ideas.

Whereas “politics is the teaching of the possible” (Die Politik ist die Lehre vom Möglichen; Otto Von Bismarck, author of Universal Health Care in the Kaiserreich, 1883 CE), the art of the critic ought to be to present strongly what ought to be willed. Critics are not in charge of sausage making… (See Note on the “art of the next best“.)

By just presenting to the masses what is OK with the Tea Party, one becomes Tea Party. When the democrats were in total control in the first few weeks of Obama’s first ascent, they made constantly the Tea Party case, showing their true nature (somewhat on the right of Hank Paulson, who had to go on his knees just a few weeks earlier to persuade Nancy the Plutocrat Pelosi to save the economic system!)

Where there is no belligerence, there is no esperance. Wonks conk, monks honk.

Says Columbia U. mathematical physicist Peter Woit, from “Not Even Wrong”:

“The first set of winners of the $3 million Milner/Zuckerberg financed Breakthrough Prizes in mathematics was announced today: it’s Donaldson, Kontsevich, Lurie, Tao and Taylor. There’s a good New York Times story here.

When these prizes were first announced last year, I was concerned that they would share a problem of Milner’s Fundamental Physics Prizes… One oddity is the award to Kontsevich, who already received $3 million from the Fundamental Physics prize. Given my interests, I suppose I shouldn’t criticize a prize structure where physicists get $3 million, mathematicians $3 million, and mathematical physicists $6 million.

While this prize doesn’t suffer from the basic problem of the Physics prize (that of rewarding a single, narrow, unsuccessful idea about physics), it’s still debatable whether this is a good way to encourage mathematics research. The people chosen are already among the most highly rewarded in the subject, with all of them having very well-paid positions with few responsibilities beyond their research, as well as access to funding of research expenses. The argument for the prize is mainly that these sums of money will help make great mathematicians celebrities, and encourage the young to want to be like them…”

My comment (immediately published by Woit, whereas the New York Times sat on my Krugman comment for hours, since I am on the censorship list):

Milner is a celebrity. And a financial manipulator who became immensely wealthy with what Roosevelt and the Bible called contemptuously “money changing”. He profited immensely of a system, plutocracy, that is mostly about oligarchy pushed so far, that even the character of those “leaders” become diabolical.

It’s diabolical to make us believe that mathematics will progress more by giving more power to those who have more than enough to do good math.

Overall, science and mathematics do not have enough practitioners. A striking example is antibiotic research where a small effort needs to be done to find new antibiotics. To have a few individuals who are much richer will have no positive effect whatsoever. This is certainly true in math and physics.

In biology, immense greed has clearly undermined research (individuals have made up to half a billion dollar a year in that field, but one cannot find the comparatively modest finance for new antibiotics research). Making a few persons very rich promotes greed.

So why is Milner doing this? Maybe it’s subconscious. The oligarchic principle is that humanity is unworthy, but for a few celebrities who never get enough. This is what Milner is truly rewarding. His reason for being what he is. Someone obsessed by individual power.

Want to help science and math? Finance studies on how to persuade governments to finance enough advanced public free instruction in science and math, starting in preschool. Through heavy taxation of the richest celebrities, starting with Milner and his kind.

The very fact that Milner and his ilk have so much money to spend on celebrities demonstrate that they are not taxed enough. (The same goes for private jumbo jets a la Google founders.)

Celebritism makes people obsess about one not themselves. It’s deeply immoral: if our ancestors had obsessed about other people that they never met, they would have been eaten by lions pretty soon. But we are here, so they were not like that.

“Moral”, the “mores” means what is always “more”, what persists, what allows to persist. The celebrity cult, just as watching obsessively sports, or dance, on TV, is a deep offense against self-reliance. Such anti-evolutionary behaviors ought to be discontinued.

Part of the fundamental concept of fascism, is to make one, out of the many. This is great in combat, yet devastating for the collective mind. Celebritism is a pernicious way to make people obsessively love the reduction of the many to the one. Thus, it’s immoral.

Down with the prizes! Long live Gregory Perelman. Perelman solved several conjectures, including the Thurston and Poincaré), but adamantly refused the Fields Medal and the Clay Prize (one million dollars). Perelman had strong moral objections to the hierarchy in mathematics. So do I. So does Alexandre Grothendieck. Milner’s clumsy intrusion makes a bad situation worse. And Krugman’s meek bleating for the status quo ante to defend that ugly concept, pragmatism, does not behoove true intellectuals.

Plus Oultre!

Patrice Aymé

Note on the “art of the next best“: Krugman made a whole noise about the fact that his choice, and that there is a whole body of economics about that. The problem is that this is NOT principled. This is the art of the “corsaire”. “Corsaire”? Yes, corsaire, in French. What Krugman does not tell you, probably because he does not even know, is that this whole body of thinking (including “corsaire”, in French), comes very explicitly from Otto Von Bismarck. In other words, this mode of thinking, unprincipled, led to catastrophe. Bismarck, a polyglot, invented the “art of the next best“. Without knowing it, Krugman thinks like a Prussian imperialist.

Metacognition: Wisdom’s Keystone

June 20, 2014

Wisdom, Progress, Metacognition & The Human Condition Are Entangled

THE PAST: BRUTISH, PAINFUL, & SHORT:

Except for a few dedicated sadomasochists, nobody would want to live as in centuries passed. Take for example, France’s “Sun-King”, Louis XIV. He reigned for half a century, and it seems an enviable position. Until one learns that he had to undergo years of experimental surgery, in places much innervated, to correct an extremely painful and embarrassing infected and enflamed fistula. That prevented him to ride a horse. Or even walk. Operations were made without anesthetics.

Metacognition Holds Wisdom Together

Metacognition Holds Wisdom Together

[Keystone of Palazzo Borgazzo, Milan.]

As smaller incisions were not palliative enough, the top surgeons trained all over Paris for inventing the ways and means of the “Grande Operation”. They invented new curved scalpels. Louis kept on repeating “Mon Dieu!” during the long procedure.

The surgeons succeeded. Among other rewards, the king agreed to recognize “surgery” as a medical specialty and guild of its own (to the ire of normal doctors).

However, at the end of Louis XIV’s life, only one grandson of the Sun-King was still alive. The rest of his vast family had died of disease (although one of his heirs was the Bourbon king of Spain). Louis himself enjoyed three weeks of increasing gangrene in his rotting leg, until he succumbed. All of that still without pain killers. Overall, the Sun-King was affected with painful disease during much of his 72 year reign (dental abscesses, gout, suppurating periostitis in 1678, boils, fainting spells, diabetes, etc.)

So the past, even the recent past, was grim.

Anesthetics (aside from the traditional alcohol and opium) were invented in the mid nineteenth century. Antibiotics (bacteriophages, sulfamids, and finally penicillin) appeared a century ago or so. Until then, severe injuries were best treated with red hot irons (red hot plates in the frequent case of amputations).

***

WISDOM HAS NOT PROFITTED MUCH FROM LIFE EXTENSION, SO FAR:

The biosphere evolved over billions of years. Now it is taken over by critters who live for just a few years. Solution? Make it so that said critters live longer, thus attaching a greater value upon survival.

Paul Handover commented on this: “I presume that the ‘said critters’ refer to humans? The average lifespan of humans has increased hugely. From a life expectancy of 30 years [1] at birth in Medieval Britain, back in the 13th Century, to an average of 67.2 years for humans worldwide in 2010. [2]

That’s an increase of 124% in a little over 700 years.  Yet despite that incredible increase in lifespan, humans have shown no interest in attaching a greater value to their survival: far from it!  One might even muse that humans have attached a greater value to those things that actively harm our survival.”

Patrice Ayme: Although the average lifespan has increased, not so for the maximum lifespan. Sophocles was in his nineties when he wrote his work. Most of the famous Greeks lived very long then (because of their diet), and produced much wisdom. Elders are the ones steering civilization with ideas, for the best… Or the worst.

My expectation is that the longer human life is, the more worthy it gets, and thus, the more it is felt to be precious, hence the more philosophy emphasizing the emotions conducive to the valuation of life, will come to dominate.

With elders, or leaders who do not live long, I do not expect their wisdom to live long, either.

Indeed, up to recent times, many of the political leaders were, because of the nature of plutocratic inheritance, extremely young when they got to power (Nero, Caligula, Constantine, Justinian, Louis XIV, or the Pitts Prime Ministers of the UK, are notorious examples). So one would expect stupidity to reign, as observed.

All the adolescent leaders did was to pick up their elders’ wisdom, as they found it, and try to parrot it: Nero learned all from his clever mom, Augustus from his great uncle Caesar, etc.

For example, Augustus gained power when he was barely out of adolescence (as heir of Caesar). His rule reflected a decisive lack of wisdom relative to Caesar, including indulging in obvious crimes, something Caesar was never caught doing for all history to see (Augustus, for example had Caesarion, the son of Caesar and Cleopatra, a child he was related to, assassinated). Then Augustus made a hash of the German problem, etc.

WISDOM HAS PROGRESSED, FOR THE BEST:

Human beings attach greater value to the survival: right now, the death rate from conflict is, by far, the lowest ever. By several orders of magnitude.

The “good savage” myth of Rousseau, was just a figment of his stunted imagination. In truth, real savages spent most of their time savaging each other, as archeological findings have since testified.

Wisdom has, overall, increased. The Roman Empire was unable to handle its entangled resource, commodities, economic and ecology crises. Western Europe, around 1300 CE reached a similar population (75 million), a similar state of development as Rome at its apex, and a similar crisis. Moreover, the climate entered the “Little Ice Age”, and the “Black Death” (the plague) showed up.

On the face of it, the situation was worse.

However, the European leaders then took enough of the right decisions for Western civilization to survive and accelerate its march forward.

Why did wisdom improve?

No choice. Survival, of oneself, or, even better, those we love, is the best motivation there is. European leaders remembered the crash of civilization that was the Late Roman empire, and fully remembered that they were supposed to be the “Renovated Roman Empire”. So they renovated.

Drastic ecological measures were taken, under the penalty of death.

METACOGNITION IS WISDOM’s KEYSTONE

Metacognition Is Laid First

Metacognition Is Laid First

Civilization progresses, because technology progresses, and the latter advances, because science understands the world ever more. However this scientific progress REQUIRES and thus IMPELS, ever more sophisticated wisdom. And thus drastic philosophy.

Indeed, subjacent to science is an enormous amount of philosophy. A part of this philosophy is METACOGNITIVE. That means that it reflects not just on what we know, but how we got to know it. Metacognition is a necessary component to the advancement of science.

Metacognition is the clé de voûte, the keystone of human understanding. it is related to the Greeks’ famous “Know Thyself!”. But it is not reduced to it. It’s rather: “Find out how you know what you know about yourself, and whatever!

Recent studies have shown that metacognition is not just useful in psychology, but even, in hard core psychiatry. Really crazy people’s mental states improve when it is explained to them how their faulty cognitive system mislead them.

Interestingly (and contrarily to how the English Wikipedia has it), the cle de voute was deposed first, and the voussoirs, later (as the forces need to be perfectly balanced). So it is with any intelligence, and that’s what parents are for. Metacognition comes first. As evermore clever, and wiser, human parents fulfill their role of nourishing progress in human understanding, metacognition has kept improving.

I am confident it will reach high enough a level for civilization to survive, as long as advanced philosophers can bark loud enough to steer the sheep where the rich pastures of truth radiantly lay in wait.

Patrice Aymé