Email discussion about Matt Taibbi

From: Ray Gangarosa

Date: 2020|7|6

Hi Friend#13

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I don’t consider myself in the same category of political commentary as Matt Taibbi. I’ve had to delay my response to your email because I have tried reading the blog you forwarded over and over again, and nothing sinks in for me (except the shocking news that China is exporting hair from Uighurs in concentration camps). My eyes glaze over, and even though most of Taibbi’s examples seem familiar to me from the news, I can’t see how he’s weaving them into the narrative of his blog. That’s a sign that he’s too sophisticated for me. 

I’m coming from a much simpler place. I am an unlikely blogger, for the same reason that Western philosophy was the only course I ever flunked — I have never had any interest whatever in reading other people’s opinions presented as their own personal gold standard of reality. Recently, my inclinations have changed a bit since the news has dominated our lives in the Trump era, and op eds have become such a powerful focus for protests, but Taibbi’s blog that you cited shows the limitations of my attention span for opinion pieces. I don’t think I’ve resisted reading other people’s opinions out of being arrogant and opinionated. Instead, I tend to gravitate in my own worldview that the diversity of everybody’s combined life experiences will contribute to a comprehensive composite that will “work out the kinks” in our collective misperceptions and reach cooperative implementations. In fact, I have always found myself unable to read philosophers because they were the ones who seem too opinionated, attaching so much weight to their own life experiences that they think that all of reality should conform to it. I find myself wanting to ask them, like a child, “What makes you think that your opinion is true? What makes you so sure something else or someone else’s opinions might not be true instead?”  

Lest you think me hypocritical for blogging my own ideas espousing my own worldview, I’ve gotten to this point kicking and screaming the whole way. I much preferred developing my ideas privately and keeping them to myself. It’s only the urgency of our out-of-kilter world that now forces me to convey both my ideas and my opinions about them. 

Nonetheless, I don’t see these ideas as being intrinsically based on my opinions or life experiences. I just have always started with a belief I developed early in high school that there’s a science to how things work. That belief was always accompanied by a feeling that our opinions easily and inevitably would get us out of sync with the path we should take, compared to a perspective informed by that kind of scientific knowledge. 

What may be different about my blog is that (I think) I’ve finally found the first threads of the science that expresses how life binds to reality. I think I also can prove why traditional philosophy, based as it is on opinions founded on specific people’s unfiltered human life experiences, is very unlikely to mesh with reality — the combinatorial explosion of possible independent personal experiences makes the philosophic method (stochastically speaking) “almost certain” to get untracked from an arbitrary ideal trajectory informed by the nature of reality. That’s why the institution of dictatorship will necessarily fail at the outset of the stage when humanity takes collective responsibility for civilizational design and transformation. The role of diverse opinions will be to work through the fault lines inherent in the chosen civilizational trajectory, since nobody’s individual life experiences will have much insight into designing, operating, and navigating that path, and the emphasis of governance will have to shift completely from fiat to cooperation. 

So, what you’ll (hopefully) see in my blog is a (hopefully) coherent theory of how life solves the equations of the chemical reactions that make it function. I have then inferred through mathematical induction arguments how those principles apply to all levels and thus — after some intermediate concept development by comparison to health in organisms — might provide guidance to the trajectory that humanity should follow for our civilization. My opinions do come into the picture, and like Matt Taibbi, I will cite examples from the news to establish my perspective, but even beyond that, it’s predominantly the scientific foundation that provides a basis for suggesting ways to chart a civilizational trajectory, not my opinions or individual life experiences. 

There are many nuanced “eddy currents” that arise from my position, which have only recently come into perspective for me. Most notably, the Schrödinger equation that is my main focus and reaction-diffusion processes derived from it have heretofore been thought not to allow trajectories or even to manifest coherently in the macroscopic world. Only very recently (in 2005), it took dramatic, simple, easily observed, and inexpensively reproducible experiments to prove otherwise. With that experiment, you can see and plot both trajectories and waves in bouncing oil droplets on a water bath. Much of my own journey of discovery antedated such a realization (which I only made for myself around 2017), so I have had to recalibrate a lot of ideas that were formed before then. What I’ve come to suspect only recently is that unicellular life and a sleepwalking civilization seem stuck in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, concluding that particle-wave duality prevents seeing either independently and forces collapse onto some mixture of both, dependent on details of the observer and observation. On the other hand, the divisions of labor inherent in multicellular life allow different parts of an organism to view sharply defined particle trajectories and wave actions — embedded in feedback networks but not dependent on observation details. 

The theological threads that follow from application of these concepts to the most important issues of human civilization suggest that humanity was never ready to apply such insights before now, so they got systematically rejected from human experience and thought. To conclude that we, as individuals and as a civilization, are embedded in natural feedback networks poses moral questions and imposes profound responsibilities that everybody would prefer to ignore. Even ideas I was developing that seemed at the cutting edge bumped against harsh realities — for example, corporate accountability alone couldn’t end negative externalities because even most beneficial industries can’t fully pay for incidental social costs they impose. By analogy, if the goal is to end all cruelty against animals, vegetarianism only gets you so far. 

Here I think the intrinsic purposiveness of life applies all the way up to civilizational levels and timescales, since the future of all life is so dependent on the course that human civilization follows. I can attest that the principle of sensitivity to initial conditions becomes very personal to anyone tinkering with the thought of an advice column to human civilization! 

For the longest time, I thought the detailed notebooks I have been compiling could only have been explored and developed posthumously. The dilemmas raised by my work seemed too difficult to resolve, and the only way it seemed possible to address them was to suspend action on it until the challenges of a future era would suggest — or compel — applications. In fact, it was so difficult to keep all those ideas in mind, even for myself, that I envisioned that deep learning and artificial intelligence would be required to assimilate the whole body of thought. 

Adding an appendix to my father’s bibliography gave me an incentive and forum to try to pull all the ideas together, and a few months after we published his book, I envisioned exploring the policy implications in a Clinton administration after the 2016 election. That’s not how things turned out, as has been painfully evident for the last four years. 

A lot of other evidence, from the intimidating end times narrative of the Book of Revelation embraced by fundamentalists to the personal and social overlays in quantum science that imposed the Copenhagen interpretation with an iron fist, suggest that high energy barriers were needed to prevent contamination of the concept of civilizational design before humanity was ready to pursue it intentionally and collectively. The future of life on earth will depend so much on humanity’s initial awareness of intentional civilizational design during this embryonic stage that it was critical not to contaminate it the way scriptural and fictional narratives of the end times have blended into a cultural mess (witness the “Left behind” series and the QAnon movement). The whole scientific method, literally focused on a reductionistic paradigm that literally obscures awareness of any big picture, is practically designed to create such barriers! And the whole scientific establishment is founded on those methods and locks its participants into funding sources predicated by coloring inside those lines. 

My own personal experiences wrestling with the implications of these ideas and their significance for the future of humanity give me a deep appreciation of why nobody has tried to venture into these uncharted territories. The Internet allows a single researcher to conduct the equivalent of a dissertation literature search almost overnight, but the implications of each expansion seem too upsetting to pursue until the whole picture comes into focus. In academia, the last grant takes precedence over the next new idea until the whole team is ready to write a grant proposal for that infinitesimal nudge. A bigger perspective becomes so unattainable as to be considered unrealistic, impossible, or downright kooky. 

I think that conservatives’ antipathy against rigorous journalistic standards of the mainstream news media stems not just from their ability to uncover inconvenient truths that politicians would rather hide, but more pointedly that human culture has a gut feeling that there’s more to life than just jumping from one fact to another. It’s like all the proofs of non-Euclidean geometry that were advanced by amateurs through the method of reductio ad absurdum  — disprove a conjecture by showing its assumptions led to untenable contradictions — until mathematicians came to realize that those “contradictions” were whole new real worlds, and that one form could even be understood intuitively as the curved geometry that sailors had practiced for millennia in navigating across the globe! 

Then factor in the countless dead-ends, forgotten paths, and other obligations that get in the way of any such journey and it’s clear why nobody in their right mind would even consider taking on this intellectual venture — especially in the publish-or-perish environment of academia that would seem the most natural forum for getting the ideas out into the world. In many very real ways, it has taken a kamikaze mission to put myself in a position to begin mapping those thus far forbidden zones. As some of you know, I’m very fortunate to be able to chuckle at the irony of that last statement! I’ve also been very lucky to be able to support myself through this time-consuming and expensive hobby involving a completely unfunded full-time effort for 40 years. 

Be that as it may, now is the time these ideas have to come out. I had, until very recently, thought that a comprehensive book would be a natural forum for bringing these ideas out, and I planned to pattern mine, entitled The prodigal species: seeking purpose and meaning to human existence during troubled times, after Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel Escher Bach: an eternal golden braid. My original intent was to have my book at the publisher, ready to release the day after Trump was out of office, to have the first say at interpreting his dubious “legacy”, but pointedly not trying to influence the transition with my own ideas. Back then, I had great faith in our nation’s democratic traditions, investigative journalism, mass public protest, undercover probes by the intelligence community, the rule of law, and the integrity of some then-undefined Republican lawmaker (“To be determined”, as the Saturday Night Live skit anticipated hopefully that glorious prospective hero at the beginning of the Trump administration who would rescue all of us from Trumpism, pointedly refusing to unveil the future sculptures that would honor the brave soul!) . I anticipated that we would be able to show the rest of the world how to repel a dictator wannabe with all the tools we had built up over nearly two-and-a-half centuries of the most successful democracy on our planet. Time has shown we had no such luck or skill, and we’ll obviously have to wait until this coming election to depose him. 

However, the Republican race-to-the-bottom became too dangerous with the prospects of a second Trump administration to allow humanity the luxury of sleepwalking through history any longer — or for me to hide out in my private scientific notebooks. The disastrous prospect of Trump’s reelection seemed all-to-likely when Bernie Sanders surged to the head of the race for the Democratic nomination. I felt that the whipsaw of going from a clueless, immoral fascist to an equally clueless, self-righteous socialist would just get our country into an oscillation and maybe even a civil war instead of a convergence onto a resolving path, so I had to do something to get my ideas out before the election. Also seeing how John Bolton shirked his duty to our nation by withholding his testimony from Trump’s impeachment trial so he wouldn’t steal his own thunder planned for a book release, I realized my journey to convey a map of uncharted territory for human civilization would have to involve stepping into uncharted territory in my own life — recording my ideas on the web in a blog. As much as I relished releasing my ideas in a comprehensive book, circumstances forced me to cut my attachment to that option. 

It has taken me a while to figure out how to juggle my own learning curve with website construction, my new attention to notebook recordings and email messages that could serve as drafts of future blogs, and the need to make further progress on unfinished aspects of my theory (most notably, the mathematics of life and a proof of the existence and nature of God!). After messing up my prototype website rather badly, I found and hired a local web designer, and now these email communications are serving to prototype future blogs and simplify and sharpen my exposition of specific theoretical areas. 

However, I have no clue how I’m going to manage blogging, communicate with an audience, maintain an email list, project a presence for these ideas, interact with the news media, or anything else that might be required of me. In my solitary career, I have never supervised more than one other person at a time, and then only very rarely! Not only am I a fish out of water in a medium usually framed in terms of expressing opinions — which I pointedly wouldn’t read! — I also am in an ironic position of having far less idea how to pursue my own trajectory than I do that of human civilization! 

I guess here, reaching the point where I have to admit that I’ve run out of conclusions, there’s only one way to conclude this blog: Help! Any and all ideas are welcome! 

Best wishes, 

Ray

From: Friend#13

Date: 2020|7|7

Thanks for the thoughtful response.  My take on the exchange of information is that we are all working from a relatively small body of relatively stable working information (which we may call “science”). Even this basic foundation is essentially an inverse pyramid, the most basic and irrefutable facts at a pointy bottom, with the rest expanding into an ever rising, ever broadening mass of derivative facts each with its own constellation of divergent opinions. Some interpretations and opinions are so clearly erroneous as to be easily written off by any educated and cognizant person and can be thought of as a vaporous miasma partially obscuring the more reasonable mass of “science” at the center.  From what I gather, you are attempting to expose and explain the basic science (with some overlay of spirituality?) to the point where the miasma burns away and humanity can clearly see the hard core of science from which all life and all opinions spring. This is indeed a daunting undertaking, even for someone of your incredible energy and intellectual depth.

What Matt Taibbi is trying to do, I believe, is to bring into focus the demarcations between fact and reality as they apply to journalism.This is extremely important at this time because journalism, for all its flaws and in spite of its clear subservience to corporate and political forces, wields the power to mold public opinion and thus drive the direction humanity will take. For all its depth, brilliance, and adherence to science, your blog and your other works will still be seen by the world as “opinion”. The great mass of humanity will continue to base their interpretations of reality on “journalism”, religion, and the words of powerful leaders (including the many right-wing demagogues currently in power across the world).  With a relatively few exceptions across history, “opinions” comes in behind these other sources of worldview.

So, you and Matt were coming from very different areas – you are essentially a scientist with exceptional verbal skills attempting to create a vision of science so clear and compelling as to blow away the miasma of misinformation surrounding it.  Matt is a journalist attempting to clearly define the boundaries between good and bad journalism – a task relatively narrow in scope and yet incredibly important.

I believe that the success of your endeavor will rely heavily on information being amplified and disseminated by the political and journalistic classes, hence the necessity for you to come to terms with “opinions”, as they will ultimately impact and reflect your progress.

Keep up the good work, and thanks for including me – I will keep up as time allows.

Friend#13

From: Ray Gangarosa

Thanks for this incredibly incisive analysis! You have articulated a truly brilliant analogy, an inverted pyramid, for understanding sources of information and causes of error. It also suggests how information and disinformation can propagate as smaller derivative inverted pyramids emanating from a transmitting source, if we think of the pyramid drawn in relation to another temporal dimension that depicts how the ideas propagate over time. I will try to relate this conceptual model of information and disinformation to design flaws that get embedded in civilizational structures | operations | functions | and capabilities but can get identified and resolved through communication and interaction between intelligent agents fulfilling civilizational roles

past: protection of weakest links (minorities → safety nets) | 

present: collective responsibility (progressives → nurturance) | 

future: individual responsibility (conservatives → steering) | 

irreversibility: theological public discourse of what’s really important to human civilization 

(all roles interacting via democratic self-governance → navigation and transformation). 

What I envision with design defects is that a multidimensional design space can get corrupted by flawed information. If all of life’s purposiveness and the shared fate of all future generations are screaming out to our generation to reform human civilization and get with the plan, it makes a world of difference that we get everything right in the foundations of civilizational design. There is more shame in corrupting the whole future of our civilization than any awful thing we could do during our lifespans. 

It’s fortuitous, but maybe not coincidental, that on the cusp of learning how important it is to build sound civilizational designs, we are led by a sociopathic liar who thinks nothing of corrupting his own government to advance his own personal interests. The optimal transition to awareness was not a presidential election that installed an immensely competent policy wonk (Hillary Clinton) but rather a supremely ignorant, stupid, incompetent, corrupt Donald Trump, who could serve as a negative example — the personification and enculturation of everything humanity has ever done wrong by sleepwalking through history — through the entire future of intentional, conscious civilizational design. Somehow, a fluke win by Donald Trump, aided by malicious foreign intervention in the 2016 presidential election intended to install him as a puppet and weaken our nation’s international power and prestige, bumped humanity on this optimal path that could pillory the Trump administration as a perfect example of what never, ever to do again. Stated in theological terms, God knows the evil in Trump’s soul and is using it to make a negative example of him and fundamentalists both, that in times of great civilizational stress, believers must henceforth always line up with God’s will and not on the side of an existential civilizational threat! 

Since I know this analogy from Christian doctrine grates against your sensibilities. let me explain where spirituality comes in, as presented for those persuaded primarily or exclusively by science, but occasionally showing parallels with theological terms. The future of all life has everything riding on our generation to get the foundational designs of human civilization right — making good choices of its architecture | operation | functionality | and capabilities. That, in itself, is a translation from the analysis and synthesis of science and engineering into the profound spirituality of their never-ending impacts, for better or worse, on countless future generations downstream in perpetuity. Those who contribute to a constructive | supportive | capable | transformative edifice are building “the kingdom of God” by incorporating multicellular design principles of “the body of Christ” into human civilization. It’s really quite amazing how prescient those ancient metaphors proved to be, along with the triadic, dynamic “dance of the Trinity”, or perichoresis, that describes the ever-changing, perfectly-balanced interaction between past | present | and future (and | irreversibility, in the form of collapse or transformation). Conversely, those who spread disinformation at this critical time embed their personality defects in the structure of human civilization as associated design flaws, which further propagate through secondary and higher-order transmission of derivative design defects. Thus, baked into the cake of human civilization are some kind of transform of the patterns and processes of our lives, which profoundly influences, through sensitivity to initial conditions the future of all life || the prospects for all future generations || the ultimate capabilities of human civilization || and the toolbox we leave in the kingdom of God for doing good and vanquishing evil. Arguably, with so much at stake in the indefinite future, the way our transformed life patterns and processes (i.e., “souls”) get incorporated into the future of civilization dwarfs the significance of anything that happens in our lifetimes, especially if, as I will argue, what’s left of us after death has some perception or stake in humanity’s future. Even leaving our afterlife perceptions out of the picture, it’s enough that some version of our personality gets incorporated into the entire course of civilization, to enhance or blemish “the mind of God” as the effects of our lives on the unfolding of civilization propagate over time. 

Thus you can see that there is a mathematics of spirituality in the network theory that describes how designs get constructed and their flaws get propagated, which determines how the initial conditions of our waking up to intentional collective civilizational design maps to the ultimate configuration of the kingdom of God. Embedded in this conceptual model are lots of theological principles about responsibility, clearly extended to collective levels and translated into mathematical terms. Since I haven’t invoked any theological doctrines (except by pointing out parallels to the terms used), this “science of theology” offers a Rosetta Stone by which people with completely different spiritual beliefs, backgrounds, and inclinations can conduct an extremely diverse public theological discourse. I think that quintessential scientific-theological dialog (stripped of the trappings of religion that, by separation of church and state, must play no role in governance) really amounts to a collective agreement about what’s really important for human civilization and provides a nucleus for coming to consensus about how to navigate our civilization through its transformational design space. 

Framing this description in either mathematical terms for scientists or spiritual terms for theologians generates both a “science of theology” and a “theology of science”. Science has already started to break out of its reductionist limitations, but now we see a path for holism to take on whole new dimensions, getting way past the traditional constraints of empirically bound disciplines and suggesting entirely new applications for theory. I think that translation into either of these terms fulfills a cultural need that has long been sought, and I am hopeful that it will unravel a lot of tensions, craziness, and, to use your great term, “vaporous miasma” that obscures the scientific knowledge that needs to be used as a factual underpinning for the design. Without that solid base of factual knowledge, the foundations of the design will be weak and eventually will crumble. It’s up to us to make intentional civilizational design such a transformation of capabilities and purge it of defects that future generations and God will thank us for the legacies generated by our vision and imagination. 

Thanks for the great observations and suggestions! 

Take care and stay safe, 

Ray

P.S. By the way, here are other points I should have made in my first response to your email but only thought of them later: 

1.

The reason human opinion and experience necessarily gets out of sync with nature is because any normal (i.e., nonpsychopathic) person will try to protect human populations at all levels, whereas nature’s dynamics will not do so. Thus, nobody’s personal opinions, consistent with our cultural beliefs and practices, can propose any worldview that will track reality. And so, the real function of personal opinion and experience is to work out the system’s kinks at fault interfaces. 

2. 

Here are two other ways of looking at the limitations of the philosophical method:

  • structural: In a multicellular environment, no single cell type is uniquely “right”. Everything is locally and globally dependent on the embedding multicellular structure. 
  • temporal: Since challenges change within the organism over time, so, too, will each cell’s response. 

2020|7|6   continued — important!

other points I should have made in my response to Friend#13: 

1.

The reason human opinion and experience necessarily gets out of sync with nature is because any normal (i.e., nonpsychopathic) person will try to protect human populations at all levels, whereas nature’s dynamics will not do so. Thus, nobody’s personal opinions, consistent with our cultural beliefs and practices, can propose any worldview that will track reality. And so, the real function of personal opinion and experience is to work out the system’s kinks at fault interfaces. 

2.

Here are two other ways of looking at the limitations of the philosophical method:

  • structural: In a multicellular environment, no single cell type is uniquely “right”. Everything is locally and globally dependent on the embedding multicellular structure. 
  • temporal: Since challenges change within the organism over time, so, too, will each cell’s response.

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