Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2022-12-09T21:30:51Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com December 9. http://ranprieur.com/#430f91399a9055ddda60d1d36aebe59732b27491 2022-12-09T21:30:51Z December 9. Five links about animals. Physics study shows that sheep flocks alternate their leader and achieve collective intelligence. Basically, when a bunch of sheep are deciding how to move around, they "give full control of the group to the temporal leader, but there is also a rapid turnover of temporal leaders." When are humans going to finally be as smart as sheep? Seriously, if rich people had to spend most of their lives being poor, they wouldn't be so clueless. And if they knew they had to go back to poverty, they would make sure it doesn't suck.

Two from PsyPost: Encounters with birds linked to improved mental wellbeing for up to approximately 8 hours. And Listening to birdsongs might help to alleviate anxiety and paranoia

Australia: How 'bin chickens' learnt to wash poisonous cane toads

And a thoughtful article, How Rats Are Overturning Decades of Military Norms. The rats are being used to detect land mines, something dogs can also do, but dogs are a good fit for military culture, rats not so much. So the rat personality is percolating up to change the vibe of the human organization.

December 6. http://ranprieur.com/#4b19387ea9161c45473b893253a89f9c35f5c22b 2022-12-06T18:00:52Z December 6. Last week I mentioned three questions that philosophers shrug off while religions tell you what to think. The first, "What is the meaning of life?" is too hard, but I will say this: If life is not totally meaningless, part of the meaning must be to feel pain. As Edward Abbey said, the world could not have become so fucked up by chance alone. This leads to the second question: Is there a motive or intelligence behind seemingly random events?

Some people call this karma, and according to the strawman version of karma, some uncanny agency will make sure that everything good you do is rewarded, and everything bad you do is punished. This is easily disproven by common examples like abused children or Henry Kissinger. (In this context, I don't want to even talk about other lives.)

And yet, for me, the intelligence of chance is obvious, so I'm trying to find a way to think about it that's not wrong. First, I think it's a weak and subtle force, like the effect of the moon on the ocean. The moon is not going to save you from a storm, or a sinking ship. And karma is not going to help you in a war zone, or if another person has total power over you. But in good times, you may be able to work with it.

Second, karma doesn't care about good and evil, or reward and punishment. Those are human concepts, and "heaven and earth are not humane." (Tao Te Ching 5.1) What karma does, imperfectly, is make you live in your own value system. If you think jaywalkers deserve to get hit by cars, it's dangerous for you to jaywalk. If it's not wrong for you to steal, it's not wrong for other people to steal from you. Valuing the happiness of others makes it easier for you to be happy.

But when I look at the movement of events, I sense something more than a dispassionate force that keeps balance and gives us what we ask for. I sense a playfulness, a preference for surprises, that makes me prefer the word fate to karma. Fate is like a cat. If you feed it, it might be nice to you, but it has its own motives, and don't tickle its belly.

December 1. http://ranprieur.com/#0b5acd040864cbb934f70288fcf89384e55ca956 2022-12-01T13:10:07Z December 1. This blog is going to fizzle out if I don't start writing about the stuff I've been thinking about. I don't want to call it "theology", but lately I'm interested in questions that are more often faced by priests than philosophers.

Supposedly, philosophy covers everything, and actually tries to figure shit out, while theology covers God and begins with faith. But I have a degree in philosophy, and we barely poked our heads outside of our faith in objective materialism. It was good training in precise thinking, but not unlike a degree in architecture, in that we practiced technical skills on dull hypothetical constructions, while dreaming of castles in the sky.

What is the meaning of life? Is there a motive or intelligence behind seemingly random events, and if so, how can we work with it? What happens after we die? These are questions that academic philosophers shrug off, while religions tell you what to think.

I already wrote about the afterlife five months ago, and today I want to take another shot, with more brevity. The simplest answer is that this life is all there is. That's also the most prudent answer, because it centers you where you are.

But I don't think it's true. Physicists and mystics agree: the apparent physical world is observer-dependent, and mostly empty. You could say mind comes before matter, or perspective comes before being, or relationships come before things.

In that case, whose flesh avatar am I, anyway? In the simplest model, it's just God with a quintillion fingerpuppets. Or you could say we're all waves on the ocean.

But if there are levels between us and the One, that's where faith gets fun, with hierarchies of angels and the machinations of karma. There's a popular idea that we're passing through multiple lives, making progress toward some goal. I prefer a competing idea, that we're already there.

Kurt Vonnegut said he thinks the meaning of life is just farting around. I imagine my life as an episode of a TV show, and the next episode could be another human working out the same issues, or that was cool being human, but now I want to be a tree. What happens when you die? Whether you become a demigod, or a bug, under the hood it's the same dream engine, just God on the couch changing channels.