Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2018-08-19T19:50:44Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com August 19. http://ranprieur.com/#7c3ad97ac61da63ea55f1517cab5fd476e14f306 2018-08-19T19:50:44Z August 19. Fascinating article, My Life as a Psychopath. The interviewee sees psychopathy as a morally neutral alternate way of being, and argues that our perception of it has been skewed by looking at criminals, just as it would be if we looked at the criminal segment of any other kind of person.

This has got me thinking about the ways I'm different from most people. I've never been to a professional, but I think I would be diagnosed either aspergers or schizoid, if not barely neurotypical. I can see, in action, a kind of collective subconscious that other people are tuned into, that I'm not part of. People just seem to know the right way to do things without ever being conscious of it. This includes social behavior, like bantering and touching each other, and also athletic instincts, and also a kind of mass spatial awareness. I noticed on my recent trip, that when I'm on a crowded street, it takes my full attention to not constantly bump into people, and everyone else seems to be doing it with no conscious attention at all.

I'm not sure that I have what people call "body intelligence", or that I've ever had a "gut feeling". In my novel I have a brain-injured character say "I feel like the clumsy puppeteer of my own body," because that's how I've always felt. My body gets hungry, thirsty, sleepy, sometimes it wants to go for a run, but more often I have to drag it around to do stuff it doesn't want to do, and it never volunteers anything spontaneous (except restless legs syndrome).

The psychopath interviewee says a few things that I can relate to, including this surprise: "Most people feel trust as an actual emotion. I never knew that." For me, trust (or lack of trust) is completely cerebral. I tend to trust people because it's simpler to assume that things are as they seem. I also find it helpful to define "love" in terms of actions rather than feelings. For my entire life, I've been getting in trouble for not showing enthusiasm -- and yet, when I actually do get enthusiastic about something, and show it, people get disturbed. I think this is what John Lennon meant by "You've got to hide your love away."

August 17. http://ranprieur.com/#9908b584dd75518cc604562dcebf1e003328cb78 2018-08-17T17:30:29Z August 17. A few more links. Brutalist Web Design is about moving web design back to being simple and functional. There's also some good stuff in the Hacker News comment thread. A deeper issue is why almost every website adds more and more clutter, and you almost never see it go the other way. Maybe it's just that the people who make decisions about web design can't stand doing nothing. By the way, "brutalism" in architecture is not named after the English word "brutal" but after the French word for raw.

Thanks Erik for this good article about how human color vision is heavily influenced by culture, starting with the evidence that ancient people didn't see blue.

And some music for the weekend. I've never been much into electronic music, but this album is really creative: Autechre - Chiastic Slide.

And when we were in Glasgow, we went to a great live show by a psych rock band called Helicon. This is their best song, Seraph.

August 15. http://ranprieur.com/#2cd80360fe214415405518bffc0d0d828662584d 2018-08-15T15:10:40Z August 15. Some stuff from the subreddit. This post has a ton of good links: Looking for subcultural communities; the more diverse, the better.

Let's ditch the dangerous idea that life is a story. I actually do think that life is a story, but I also think that the self is an illusion, and the middle of the article covers that angle. I don't see a contradiction. The person you think of as "you" is a player in a story that you can never fully understand.

Finally, a comic about the feeling that life would be better after a hard crash. Maybe it's not true yet, but it's becoming closer to true all the time, as our society adds more rules that put personal safety and economic growth above all other definitions of quality of life. Or you could look at the Hindu trinity, and say that we're going more and more toward preservation, and away from creation and destruction. The pendulum has to keep swinging, and we only imagine the most extreme scenarios because they're so much simpler than what's really going to happen.

August 13. http://ranprieur.com/#392259a530cd50d7d721693dd2a90fbef085bc19 2018-08-13T13:50:29Z August 13. I'm back in Pullman. It's great to have everything in English again, and to be on a computer where moving the cursor is not like doing surgery. I even like the smoky air from the summer fires.

I want to make it clear: I'm glad I went to Europe. It was really good for me. But mostly it was a long series of challenges and ordeals. Everyone has things that they feel uncomfortable doing, and if possible, we arrange our lives so we don't have to do those things. For me, three big ones are 1) navigating social landscapes where I don't know the rules; 2) dealing with people in uniforms; and 3) spending money. I just did all of those things repeatedly for a month, and now they bother me less. But it felt more like boot camp than a holiday.

If I go to Europe again, I might buy an unlimited rail pass, even if it ends up being more expensive than buying tickets individually. Because in addition to transportation, I would be buying lack of stress, where there are no consequences for missing a train, and also buying the freedom to improvise. Or I might just stay the whole time in one place. I'd also like to do a trans-Atlantic cruise, because it would be more chill and less dehumanizing than flying, and I hear some of them are really cheap.

Here's a quick best of Europe list. Best beer: Campervan Leith Juice, Edinburgh. Best Asian food: Co Chu, Berlin. Best Italian food: Ristorante Rigoletto, Mettman, Germany. Best Mexican food: Topolabamba, Glasgow. Best museum: National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. In that museum was the thing with the best name: the logboat of the Loch Glashan crannog. Best public parks: Maastricht, Netherlands. Best public toilets: Princes Square, Glasgow. Best travel seats: National Express buses, Scotland. Best mall: Fünf Höfe, Munich. Only drinking fountain I ever saw: Friedensplatz, Bonn. Best art collection: railroad graffiti around Dusseldorf.

August 9. http://ranprieur.com/#7dd60c6631a24fe88394b87b943debd2794005b8 2018-08-09T21:10:17Z August 9. The other day when I mentioned economies collapsing, I wasn't clear that I was talking about the future. Here's an important post from seven years ago on the Do the Math blog, Can Economic Growth Last?

Not only can't our economies keep growing, they're not going to smoothly transition to steady-state economies, because we've never had one at anywhere near this level of complexity, and no one is seriously trying. The only thing left is collapse. Beyond that I don't feel qualified to guess, but I think a deep technological collapse is unlikely.

On another tangent from the same post, a condensed comment from Tel:

There's a lot of R&D going on right now on heat pumps that don't use harmful refrigerants, or use alternatives to the common compression/expansion models. But heat pumps all dump waste heat somewhere, so using an air conditioner to cool one place means heating up another place.

Contrast that to older methods of cooling spaces that have no such downside. I'm thinking of things as simple as shading buildings with deciduous plants, or building them tall and close together to minimize solar gain, or building for cooling air flow using stack effects, or even going so far as using airflow over cisterns or building qanats and wind towers or wind catchers.

August 8. http://ranprieur.com/#a285685671e9d43a071a94a866e4dc48cb3e10e4 2018-08-08T20:00:50Z August 8. I have two more comments on yesterday's two subjects, inspired by an email conversation.

The fires in California are not a wake-up call, because the decisions are not being made on a level where the awake-asleep metaphor applies. If every human in the world wanted to reverse climate change, it would still take years to change the behavior of the giant robot that we are all forced to serve. Everyone in America already wants to get rid of the penny, and end daylight savings time, and we can't even make those simple reforms that require no sacrifice.

Some people see a cosmic balance between order and chaos, but my favorite definition of chaos is order without control. So I see three forces: order without control, disorder, and control. I think control is not part of a balance, but purely a mistake, a mental illness afflicting humans with too much power — and a design error of systems with too much power. From the perspective of control, it's hard to even see the difference between order without control and disorder.

August 7. http://ranprieur.com/#126916072b0e643b8ba21ed2b8bfa1efa160a66a 2018-08-07T19:50:06Z August 7. No big ideas this week, just two scraps. In Berlin we had an air-conditioned hotel room, and in Munich we don't. With temperatures over 90F (32C), the difference is overwhelming. And yet, it's still only a difference in comfort. Once we get used to the heat, it doesn't make us miserable like hunger or thirst would.

So I'm thinking, with climate change getting worse, and economies collapsing, that could become the biggest indicator of social class, among people who aren't starving and don't have private jets: how cool they can keep their living space.

Leigh Ann just bought a thing with a quote from Karl Kraus, who has a bunch of other good quotes. This one is "Das Chaos sei willkommen, denn die Ordnung hat versagt." It could be translated as "Chaos is welcome because order has failed." Update: an actual German suggests "The reign of chaos be welcome for the reign of order has failed."

Is that true? To me it seems like order has failed pretty badly, and people still aren't welcoming chaos. I guess it depends on what order is supposed to do. It's doing a great job at keeping us safe, and a terrible job at stuff that's harder to quantify. From a couple days ago, this Reddit thread asks What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Only one person in the entire thread actually looks forward to doing something that society considers productive, and he's elderly.

August 4. http://ranprieur.com/#2cdad1d6454bd58fe1bbc6580612f2935b68fce3 2018-08-04T16:20:02Z August 4. On a tangent from the last post, a reader mentions that Carl Jung wasn't much into psychedelics, because "he felt that the more we learn about the collective unconscious, the more responsibility we have to act, and it was perhaps only a few who were capable of action."

That reminds me of something I heard, maybe in a Terence McKenna talk, about how there are all these entities around us all the time, and they mostly don't care about us — but if you learn to see them, then they notice that you see them, and you have to learn deal with them. And that reminds me of my own discovery (through cannabis) that most communication happens on subtle levels beneath words, levels on which I still don't even feel competent.

Unrelated, a fun link from Reddit: What's the most "Chaotic Good" thing you've ever seen?

August 1. http://ranprieur.com/#927426b636136ce8a397dd97e73218faeb78e292 2018-08-01T13:50:20Z August 1. Picking up from a week ago, Gryphon sends this Twitter post by Gwern, Maxims of Applied Demonology.

The word "demon" is used for so many things. Scott Peck's book People of the Lie uses it for something that a psychologist would call personified mental illness. I find this concept useful: that there are voices in my head, that don't serve my long-term interests, and don't want me to know about them.

Gwern's concept of the demon world is oddly heavy with financial metaphors. I'd like to see some rules of demonology from a culture without money. As a Taoist-pantheist, I would put it this way: if you go astray from the Tao, your gains will not be worth it, and circumstances will pull you back toward the Tao. When I write about "agents of fate", that's a personification of the future imposing its will on the present.

Then there's the concept of demons as trickster spirits, who might not want anything except to toy with human emotions.

Farther down in Gwern's feed, he has a critique of utopian social engineering, where he writes, "Small samples show wild gains but bigger samples show smaller, often zero, effects."

That happens in a lot of things, all the way from paranormal research to hard science, where it's called the decline effect. I see it as a universal law of reality creation. When fewer people are looking, for a shorter time, it's easier for the eye/mind to see/create what it wants. As more perspectives join, they bring reality back toward the conventional.