Perpetual Politics

“The problem with the other side, is that they’re a bunch of know-nothing morons that try to impose their stupidity onto everyone else! They simply don’t understand the world we’re living in! Well, I guess now that we’re in charge, we can try to work with them, but you know they’ll constantly fight against us. But for the sake of the country, we’ll try to get along.”

I use to follow politics because I thought it made me smarter. To be smart is to be well-informed. And since politics plays a prominent role in shaping the world, I had to know about politics in order to truly understand what’s going on here. WRONG.

Examining politics as a means of understanding the world, is like staring at the contents of a used toilet in order to understand people. Politics is not the start of the cycle, it’s the end product — the stinky, nasty turd in the toilet.

If you take a step back and really look at politics from a wider perspective, the repetition is obvious. It’s the same situations over and over, rinse and repeat ad nauseum — oftentimes the names don’t even change. And just like the digestive cycle, if you feed it crap then even worse crap comes out the other end.

If you want to understand what’s going on here, the WORST place to start is the toilet bowl. From there you’d surmise that people produce nothing but foul odors — they’re gross, disgusting creatures that smear feces wherever they go. Yuck!

Politics will always engage your outrage, that’s its nature. Don’t get involved with potty-talk, speak to people when they’re outside the stalls. Rise above the revulsion. Focus on what you’re feeding yourself and what you’re offering to others.

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Paint on Plywood

I used to believe I was very smart. I could see through it all. I saw how everyone was full of crap. I knew society to be a charade. This world wasn’t what it purported itself to be, and I was one of the few who recognized it. I was surrounded by simple-minded fools that just didn’t get it. “Don’t you see!!? You’re being deceived!!”

It turns out, I was the dunce that didn’t get it. It’s like I’m at a stage-production filled with painted sets and actors in-costume reciting their lines — and I’m sitting there pointing out how fake everything is. Of course it’s fake! It’s a play! But I’m the “smart guy” letting everyone know how the trees are just paint on plywood. “Ha! How can you people not see that!!??”

And all the while, they’re looking at me like I’m some kinda loon. “Uh, yeah Rich, that’s what they do here, those are actors and you’re an idiot”. Whereas everyone else was simply enjoying themselves, I thought the stage-production was a form of trickery trying to fool the audience for some nefarious reason.

I thought I was the “good-guy” letting everyone know that those people on stage weren’t who they claimed to be. I was dumfounded when people wouldn’t listen. “But it’s so obvious!!” The plots are paper-thin, everything is so flimsy, you can poke the sets and they’ll fall over. But people didn’t get it. “What’s wrong with you!? Wait, are you in on it too!!??”

“These sheeple are so brainwashed by society that they’ll believe anything!” But again, it’s like I was getting mad at an audience for enjoying their experience and losing themselves in the show. My belief in my own cleverness didn’t allow me to consider the idea that I was the one out-of-the-loop.

So beware, my fellow geniuses. The fact that we contemplate existential intricacies does not make us “smart”, it means we’re the dumb ones that can’t quite grasp what’s going on here. Of course you can see through the veil of illusion — it’s see-through! You’re just the chump taking the game too seriously when all you really have to do is play-along.

Next Update

How would you make the simulation more to your liking? What would you spend your time doing?

Consistently predictable weather. “Oh, it’s going to rain solid for 4 days at the beginning of next month? And then a consistent 75F and sunny? Great!”

Consistent political environment i.e. politics is not a sport, simply a means to ensure social/economic fairness and distribute resources. Basically, everything’s run by professionals and everyday-folks don’t notice.

Schools reflect actual life instead of a hodgepodge of archaic academic lessons. For example: interpersonal communication is practiced instead of labeling adverbs and gerunds.

Food and its sources are well-respected. Farmed-animals and planted-crops are treated lovingly and humanely. Manufactured foods consist only of authentic ingredients.

All travel is safe and reliable — crashes aren’t a thing.

People do what they wanna do: gig-economy, popup shops, little eateries, micro-farming, e-sports, hobbies, makers/creators — any transactions are easy and fluid. And some people work for large corporations, doing and making impressive things.

There’s an “Ikea of engineering” that sells engineering kits. They’re not very difficult to assemble, but perhaps take a couple of weeks to put together. For example, they might sell a high-quality programmable robotic dog.

As far as what I’d spend my time doing? I would like to consume media (movies, shows, videos, games), assemble stuff from engineering kits, do some light woodworking, observe innovation and use its output (e.g. new computing devices, new transportation, new media experiences i.e. Virtual Reality), shop for stuff, chat with family, stroll around town, write a bit, and I’d like to sample and devour delicious foods.

Autonomy Day

I watched Tesla’s “Autonomy Day” event yesterday and these are my notes.

According to Tesla, a self-driving car is best served via visual/camera input, just like a human driver. “Lidar” and detailed maps are crap compared to simply seeing the world as a series of still-framed images — visual cues are best. But in order to recognize what all these visualized objects are, the car needs access to a vast human-annotated database. In other words, humans must create a collection of labeled images so that the car can meaningfully interpret the shapes it detects.

But because of variances in every object, the car needs to make guesses about what it sees. In order to make guesses, a “neural network” is necessary. By inputing and labeling many pictures, the computer learns to identify images that are more likely to be one thing rather than another, in other words, it’s “close enough”. So now when the car sees an object that’s reminiscent of all the pedestrians it was previously shown, the car can assume that the unique object currently on camera is a pedestrian too.

Tesla’s self-driving technology relies on a vast array of cars-in-the-field sending data back to feed the ever-learning neural-network, which then sends updated instructions back to those cars, in effect teaching them to drive better based on the shared-experience of all the networked cars. When one car encounters a unique experience, a human at Tesla analyzes and annotates the scene and updates the database so that all cars can benefit from the experience of the first car.

A couple other things to note: For times when vision is obscured, such as fog, a forward-facing radar does come into play. For the most heavily congested areas, an aggressive driving mode seems to be necessary. The car will likely engage in a “game of chicken” where it attempts to force itself through — this means that there is a non-zero chance of “fender benders” under these conditions (but the level of aggression is going to be optional per driver).

More things to note: The cars being manufactured right now are NOT fully autonomous but they have all the necessary hardware for self-driving — and will only require software updates when ready (possibly within months). Tesla does have experimental self-driving cars on the road right-now that run with impressive results. Their timeline to a self-driving car has been incredibly fast, perhaps about 2 to 3 years.

Also something to note: Tesla’s taxis. There will be a fleet of self-driving cars available to be summoned via an app. This will be a cheaper option than current solutions from Uber/Lyft. Tesla itself will have dedicated cars for this purpose and Tesla owner’s can also add their own cars to this network (for a financial benefit).

Elon predicts that human-driven cars will become a thing-of-the-past very quickly. He expects the reliability of computer-controlled cars to become so undeniable that human-driven cars will seem reckless in comparison.

And of course: I, for one, welcome our new autonomous overlords.

Eighties Kid

The 80s!? Yeah, I was there man. I was just a kid, but weren’t we all. I was sportin a velour shirt with corduroy pants, my hair a bit too long, and sneakers fastened with newly invented Velcro straps. Those were the times man! It’s what we were wearin. Yeah I rode my bike around the neighborhood unsupervised. That’s what we did, children of the Moonwalk era — there were glitter gloves and copious amounts of hairspray spewing from large aerosol cans. Yeah I sprayed that stuff all OVER my hair! What of it!? The ozone-layer is overrated anyway.

The 80s were like, totally awesome, like, you know? That’s just like, how we spoke. Everything was awesome. And if you were from where I was from, anything better than awesome was wicked-awesome. We’d head down to Papa Ginos and play Pac-Man or Space Invaders while waiting for our pizza. The cola-wars were heating up around this time too: Coke or Pepsi. Though really, we just ordered whichever they served.

I remember going over to my neighbor’s house to play Atari. Eventually we got a ColecoVision console of our own. I even remember Pong. And TV?! TVs had two dials that cranked from U to 13 and 14 to 83 — but only like 7 channels had any shows on them — and you had to adjust the rabbit-ear antennas to get anything to come-in. Sure, your cousin had cable-TV but she lived in the next town over, and your town didn’t have cable yet — those were the breaks.

Kid-culture propagated through sleep-overs, out-of-state cousins, and summer-camps. When it came time, everyone knew the incantation to perform: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board…” or how to play “Murder in the Dark”. Otherwise, we learned stuff through music and movies. We all knew the “King of Pop” and E.T. We rebelled with our hair, our clothes, and of course our music. You don’t understand, OLD MAN! This is OUR time!

Ronald Regan was the president and my sister received Wonder Woman Underoos for her birthday. It was underwear that made you look and feel like a superhero underneath your clothes. Now that’s… wicked awesome! Sure, we had the threat of nuclear annihilation to ponder as we laid our heads down to sleep at night, and we dreamt of post-apocalyptic hell-scapes — but those were the times man. Well it was either that, or we had nightmares after watching Poltergeist or a Freddy Krueger movie.

In the 80s, phones weren’t something you carried around with you, they were hard-wired to the wall. And if you wanted to call someone, good luck! It was a shared device amongst an entire family and the person you wanted to contact needed to be in the right place at the right time. And more than likely, some random family member would answer. And the only game you played on the phone, was making prank-calls. Back then, you didn’t know who was on the other end of the line until they told you.

The food? Breakfast began with a box of Lucky Charms poured into a bowl, followed by a splash of milk, alongside a Dixie-cup filled with orange-juice not-from-concentrate. The prize/toy from the box was already gone, you’d have reached your entire arm inside when your mom first brought home the cereal-box from the supermarket. Lunch was bologna (pronounced “baloney”) on factory-made white-bread with a squirt of yellow stuff, and a box of sweetened colored liquid to wash it down (it wasn’t juice).

I’ve never been nostalgic about the 80s, and I sure as hell wouldn’t start now. The 80s began almost four decades ago — it was my introduction to Earth as a little kid. People were dressed in outlandish outfits, had wild teased-up hair, and applied an over-abundance of makeup (women AND men). I didn’t know what to make of it. The 90s made a lot more sense to me: widespread cable-TV, Grunge music, plain-looking clothes, computers, and of course the Internet.

Dueling Perspectives

You’ll notice that much of life as a human is just trying to “keep it together”: I wanna snap! No, don’t do it! Okay, I’ll try to remain calm. Ugh! I can’t do it! I’m gonna go nuts!! No, no, smooth and steady, maintain composure. Ahh I can’t take this!! Yet if all you’ve ever known was being human, shouldn’t “being human” come naturally? Should simple daily-life contain such struggle? Hmm….

Well, unless you weren’t always human. Or maybe you’re not “just” a human. I know when I play a video-game for instance, it’s often a struggle to get the little character to do what I want. No, turn up! UP! Gah! Dumb controller doesn’t respond to my lightening-quick reflexes! Again, life makes more sense when you view it in terms of a game-character and a game-player.

Obviously, controlling the character we play-as is part of the challenge itself. The player wants one thing, yet the character sometimes does another. It’s a prevalent source of frustration in much of game playing. But the player that enjoys himself the most, is the one that shrugs it off and plays wherever the ball lies — if it ends up in the rough, then so be it.

And we know we can influence our character. We can shut him right down and sabotage everything he wants to do in this world. Perhaps he wants to go out for a nice bike ride… NO, I’m not in the mood today, we might have to interact with other people. Or maybe he wants to rent a new movie… NO, are you crazy, we can’t afford that! If you were merely a human born of this world, why would you argue with yourself so often? Hmm….

In any video-game, success comes down to syncing with your onscreen character and aligning with the timing of the game. You can only jump when the rope swings close enough to grab it. Jump too late or too soon and you fall in the hole. Oftentimes gaming comes down to practicing again and again until you can finally meld with your onscreen character.

Characters, by their nature, are limited in their abilities. The limitations are what provide challenge and make the game fun. It’s not the character that needs to change, but the player. In other words, it’s not appropriate to argue with your character all the time. The better course of action is to go along for the ride and perform the activities he wants.

But what craps that up, is when the player is too lost in the game and gets in the way of his character — the player gets anxious and takes everything too seriously. Whereas when player and character are in-sync, there’s no frustration and no need to “keep it together”. Summary: Your goal as the player is to synchronize with your character — and when you do, your life will be a lot smoother.

Magical Happenings

An excerpt from the Manual of Magic.

Magic, is the conjuring of circumstances without a perceptible progression. In other words: now you don’t see it, now you do.

Whereas perceptible progression might be like cooking a fried egg: you place a pan down on the stove, turn it on, feel it getting gradually warmer, crack an egg into the pan, watch it solidify due to heat, flip it and see that both sides toasted up, move it to a plate and voila!, it was an obvious and observable series of events.

Magic on the other hand, would be like having an empty plate, waving a wand over it, and seeing a nicely fried egg appear in its place. Yet THIS is actually closer to what I experience on Earth rather than a systematic approach. I know what you’re thinking: “Rich, you’re just a pampered buffoon that is so ignorant and so incapable, that others must continually make up for your shortcomings!”

Well however you want to explain it, I experience magic. When I’m hungry, I walk into a room where there’s warm delicious food just waiting for my consumption. I don’t know the specifics of how it got there and there’s no way I could reproduce it myself — it’s a work of art. While I could prepare a basic fried egg, this spread is way more advanced than that.

Or for Christmas, when I received an Apple Watch. I went over to Amazon, saw the low price of a Series 3, tapped to purchase, and now it’s on my wrist. How did all that happen? Nothing became something — right before my eyes. And if you try to think of every step that went into the production of an Apple Watch, it would be fantastically complicated, a procedure that I most certainly could NOT reproduce myself — so at least from my perspective, it’s magic.

If you took a thousand people, they still couldn’t make an Apple Watch from scratch — just the mining process alone would be enough to put the task out of reach. It makes me think of Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And it’s true, an iPad, the Internet, my Google Home device that I talk to — I don’t know how any of that stuff functions, and it literally took a global effort to create them. Five-thousand random people left on a deserted island couldn’t replicate most of our technology.

My point is this: we live in a world in which I can summon my desires into existence. Something’s not there, now it is. That’s magic folks. There is no perceptible progression. I don’t see the mining process, the refinement, the designing, the engineering, the marketing, the shipping — all that effort happens behind the scenes and no random-joe can replicate it. All I know is that I wave my hand above a glowing screen, an effortless action — and voila, my wish is granted.