Last month I listened to an interesting interview titled "Why People WILLINGLY Give Up Their Freedoms" with Prof. Mattias Desmet on the Aubrey Marcus podcast. Here the focus was about "mass formation", a term used to define mass events and mass hysterias like we're experiencing these days.
The discussion can be seen on Aubrey Marcus's YouTube channel. I'm not sure how the rest of the channel is, but this podcast episode was very interesting to me, if anything because it confirmed my impression of how society moves and because it gives a framework to better understand what is happening.
Here's the full video:
Here's a list of key points that I thought were worth highlighting:
[@1139 s] -- People are happy to follow the narrative of perpetual fears because the anxiety that derives from it allows for a new social bond. Bonding being something that humans crave for, but that lacks in modern large societies.
[@1247 s] -- Mass formations are a kind of hypnosis. Hypnosis is possible when someone is made focus on a narrow view of things (i.e. a virus), and away from a broader perspective (i.e. loss of freedoms). See for example anestesia via hypnosis, where the mind of the patient is being focused to the point that he/she can't feel pain in a certain spot.
Here Aubrey notices that ability to focus on something and ignore the broader picture is important for productivity and for mental sanity, so it's a double-edged sword.
[@2067 s] -- Raw intelligence of the individual doesn't matter. In a mass formation, the collective mind takes over and anyone can lose the ability to be a critical thinker.
[@2170 s] -- In a mass formation, only about 30% of the people are hypnotized in the beginning. Then there's an additional 40% that goes along, even if they may not agree, because they don't want to or are afraid to go against this vocal minority. The remaining 20-30% are those that do speak out one way or another.
[@2645 s] -- It's essential to continue to speak out against the narrative at the root of a mass formation. The hypnosis may not disappear, but it can become less deep, which may be just enough to avoid extreme deterioration of the situation (see: dehumanization, labeling as "domestic terrorist"). Note: It's also my conviction that one should never expect for a person to change his/her mind on a topic just from a new batch of information. It's a slow process of detoxification that requires time to take shape.
[@3664 s] -- Sacrifice makes for an even stronger social bonding, and it's glorified. Giving up on Christmas celebration with families, wearing masks and social distancing are all big and small sacrifices that make people feel closer to each other. It becomes a ritual, and people can go to great lengths and perform extreme sacrifices while under the spell of this mass hypnosis. Note: As an example, see the brotherhood that derives from combat during wars. Sharing danger makes for very strong bonding.
[@4224 s] -- In 1953, Hannah Arendt said that even though we've seen the decline and fall of Nazism and Stalinism, the trend towards totalitarianism hasn't stopped, and very soon we'll see a form of world-wide totalitarianism that is lead no longer by strong leader figures, but by technocrats and bureaucrats.
Nevertheless, totalitarianism is always self-destructive and it's likely that now we'll just have to wait for this new form of totalitarianism to rise and fall. In the meantime, it may be a good idea to be on the sidelines while this happens.
Questo e' un breve post sulla mia esperienza di viaggio da Tokyo a Roma sotto le norme relative al COVID-19 per Novembre. Queste norme sono in continua evoluzione, quindi e' importante aggiornarsi individualmente sullo stato delle cose all'atto della propria partenza.
Per prepararmi al viaggio in Italia (via Amsterdam) ho eseguito un test molecolare, anche detto RT-PCR, o PCR, 72 ore prima dell'arrivo in Italia (non semplicemente prima della partenza). L'ho pagato 16,000 yen, presso questa clinica a Shinjuku, che e' in un seminterrato alla destra di un hotel.
All'imbarco ho mostrato risultato del test PCR e dPLF.
L'arrivo e' stato abbastanza semplice. Ho mostrato la dPLF e forse anche il test PCR. C'e' stata un po' di confusione sulla questione di potenziale quarantena. Mi e' stato poi detto di andare e seguire le norme della dPLF, qualsiasi fossero.
Ritorno: Roma -> Parigi
Il ritorno (via Parigi) e' stato piu' complicato. Di nuovo e' servito un nuovo test molecolare, teoreticamente 72 ore prima della partenza, ma ho voluto farlo 72 ore prima dell'arrivo, a scanso di equivoci. Purtroppo partivo lunedi' alle 6:10, quindi non potevo fare il test il venerdi'.
Mia madre contatta una clinica che gli assicura che potro' fare il test il sabato. Al sabato il ragazzo allo sportello ci dice che il molecolare non si fa il fine settimana. Gli diciamo che ci era stato detto altrimenti, fa una chiamata e da l'ok per il test. Poi ci dice che il risultato sara' disponibile per lunedi'. Gli diciamo che serve per domenica, chiede di nuovo e ci da l'ok.
Il test prenotato e' multilingua, ovvero con diciture sia in italiano che in inglese. Questo e' importante. Le diciture anche in inglese sono essenziali. Alternativamente c'e' un modulo con diciture in italiano ed inglese che si puo' compilare per convalidare un test che e' solo in italiano. Questo modulo va pero' firmato da un dottore.
Poche ore dopo il test, arriva un risultato parziale delle analisi (avevo fatto anche le analisi del sangue, oltre al test molecolare), con la riga relativa al test per COVID mostrato "...In Corso", e sulla destra una spiegazione del valore ideale con "Negativo" ed una descrizione addizionale in italiano ed inglese. Notare che questa e' solo una descrizione di esempio sulle aspettative del risultato finale.
Arriva poi un'altra email con un link per accedere al ministero della sanita' dal quale ottenere in Green Pass, tramite codice fiscale.
Domenica non arrivano piu' aggiornamenti sui test da parte del laboratorio. Tecnicamente ho il Green Pass che mostra risultato negativo, ed una sigla che riconduce al laboratorio che ha fatto il test, piu' i risultati parziali del test da parte di quel laboratorio. Quindi nel peggiore dei casi le cose sono riconducibili, ma con un processo di spiegazione che non e' ideale.
Lunedi' mattina vado per imbarcarmi per Tokyo via Parigi. La signora al check-in mi dice subito che non posso partire perche' mi manca questa "applicazione Cocoa". Non so di cosa parli, penso che si tratta forse di una applicazione cartacea o di una traduzione sballata (Cocoa e' anche un API di Apple). Alla fine riesco a persuadere la signora dello staff del fatto che ho istruzioni piu' aggiornate, e mi fa passare con il Green Pass da 72 ore.
Scopro poi che Cocoa e' una applicazione di contact tracing sviluppata intorno alle olimpiadi. All'arrivo in Giappone viene forse richiesto di installarla a gli utenti di iPhone, mentre a chi ha Android (come me) si chiede di installare Google Maps (ed abilitare il tracking).
Ritorno: Parigi -> Tokyo
A Parigi 5 ore di attesa. Un'ora buona la passo in fila per il check dei passaporti. Una situazione infernale, col senno di poi forse migliorabile se avessi corso subito per il cambio, senza fermarmi diversi minuti a confermare il cancello sul pannello dei voli.
Aspetto le 3-4 ore rimanenti in una lounge senza preoccuparmi. Mi dirigo poi verso l'imbarco con il Green Pass alla mano e mi viene immediatamente detto che non posso partire, che devo avere un altro modulo. Spiego che il modulo e' opzionale, l'importante e' avere i dati richiesti da quel modulo. Ovvero nome, cognome, passaporto, data del test, clinica che ha eseguito il test.
Lo staff delle linee aree sembra provare un particolare gusto nel silurarti subito le aspettative di partenza, come se niente fosse.
La palla passa poi ad una signora dello staff giapponese dell'Air France, la quale mi dice che serve il risultato del test dalla clinica. La situazione e' molto movimentata, con un altro paio di persone in una situazione simile, tra cui un francese con due bambini sui 3-5 anni che penso stessero tornando dalla madre in Giappone, e che tentava disperatamente di trovare informazioni sulla clinica dove aveva eseguito il suo test. Bambini seduti a terra chi sa da quanto, distratti con i contenuti di una borsa aperta e la signora dello staff che si scusava con loro in giapponese.
Mostro il risultato temporaneo dei miei test clinici, mandandolo via email per poter essere visionato sull'iPad Mini della signora dello staff. Nel marasma, grazie anche allo schermo piccolo dell'iPad Mini, riesco a far passare la descrizione di esempio di risultato "Negativo" come quella effettiva. Quell' "...In Corso" viene ignorato. Non e' una bugia, ma e' una semplificazione sicuramente utile al caso. Mi viene contestato comunque il fatto che la data ha la denominazione solo in italiano "Eseguito il" e che potrebbe essere un problema all'arrivo. E' stato anche importante che nel test figurasse il tipo di campionamento come "Nasopharyngeal".
Salgo sull'aereo e scrivo a mia madre della situazione precaria. Mia madre prontamente va nel laboratorio a contestare ed in pochi minuti ho il risultato finale, pronto per l'arrivo !
Ritorno: arrivo a Tokyo
All'arrivo escono prima i passeggeri in transito e poi gli altri. Ci fanno sedere su delle sedie numerate e ci danno dei moduli da completare, in giapponese o in inglese a scelta. Passa una signorina chiamando il mio nome per consegnarmi il risultato del test provvisorio che avevo mandato via email alla signora dello staff dell'Air France all'imbarco, la quale evidentemente l'aveva mandata via email in Giappone in tempo per il mio arrivo. Spiego che e' un risultato temporaneo e che ho quello definitivo sul telefonino.
Inizia il processo di accettazione, con vari passaggi, tutto ben organizzato e con il classico rispetto dei servizi giapponesi. La ragazza che deve installare lo spyware sul mio telefonino, all'inizio mi chiede se puo' toccare lo schermo. Se l'ironia facesse parte del bagaglio umoristico giapponese, ci saremmo fatti due risate. Mi trattengo dal fare qualche commento sarcastico per evitare di creare una eccezione nel sistema.
Procedo attraverso i vari posti di blocco di questa lunga camminata e ad un certo punto mi si chiede il risultato del test PCR, mostro il telefonino con il PDF del risultato e viene accettato, per farmi procedere alla prossima tappa.
La procedura, di accettazione pre-immigrazione, finisce con il risultato del test salivare, con un campione rilevato all'inizio. Arrivo quindi all'immigrazione e li' il risultato deve essere su carta. Il ragazzo dello sportello all'immigrazione va da un altro ragazzo, il quale si attiva, mi fa sedere e dopo 10-20 minuti arrivano due ragazze che mi chiedono di mandare il test su un indirizzo email. Dopo altri 20 minuti circa, le ragazze tornano con il test stampato. In fine arrivano i due ragazzi precedenti, e mi danno l'ok per l'immigrazione e finalmente verso la dogana !
Al ritiro bagagli sono rimaste solo tre valige, tra cui la mia con un foglio sopra ed un cane nei paraggi. La quantita' minima di passeggeri e la lunga attesa del processo, ha dato ampio tempo al cane della dogana per trovare qualche tipo di obiezione, sono marchiato per un controllo sull'importazione degli alimenti. Li si scoprono dei tortellini secchi al prosciutto. Gli addetti dibattono per un po', c'e' un foro in una delle confezioni, mi si chiede se possono prendere un campione ed analizzare un tortellino (!), per confermare il contenuto, anche se avevo gia' ammesso che fossero ripieni, benche' secchi.
Finalmente si decide che i tortellini vanno confiscati, perche' tecnicamente nel ripieno c'e' carne. La valigia viene richiusa a forza, visto che era piuttosto piena e gli spazi erano ottimizzati.
Vado finalmente alla dogana, e l'addetto mi chiede di aprire anche lui la valigia. Apre, ispeziona, e richiude di nuovo a forza, un po' con il mio aiuto.
Ritorno: verso casa
L'aereoporto e' deserto e devo trovare un modo per tornare senza usare i normali mezzi pubblici. Alle informazioni mi danno un foglietto con delle possibilita', tutto rigorosamente in giapponese, tra cui numeri per "hired cars", ovvero taxi privati abilitati per il tragitto, per circa 27,000 yen da Narita. Opto invece per questo Keisei Smart Access Premium da 20,000 yen, prenotabile al piano sotto all'arrivo, allo sportello informazioni della Keisei.
Con questo servizio, si prende lo Skyliner da Narita Airport ad Ueno, sull'ultimo vagone che e' dedicato a chi viene dall'estero e deve dirigersi verso casa per stare in quarantena. Tra le regole da osservare c'e' quella di non lasciare la carrozza dedicata e di non mangiare o bere nulla ne nella carrozza ne nel taxi a seguire.
Salgo sul treno, quasi vuoto, nel vagone dedicato, dove sono l'unico passeggero. All'arrivo a Ueno station, una signorina mi accoglie all'uscita del treno e mi porta direttamente verso il taxi privato (o "hired car"), il quale mi porta a casa, indirizzo che avevo gia' fornito al momento della prenotazione.
Ora dovro' stare 14 giorni richiuso in casa e rispondere piu' volte al giorno a controlli da parte del governo giapponese tramite lo spyware installato sul mio telefonino.
It's hard to believe how little concrete understanding there is about the fundamental question of existence.
This is probably because it's such a deep question that can't be verified one way or another, and so it's relegated to philosophy and religions. Much debate can be found, but not in an academical and scientific fashion.
Here I'd like to make a case, based on what we know today and from my very personal perspective.
One popular suggestion these days is that we live in a simulation. This may sound scientific, but I think that in the end it's a more modern and technical way of saying that "there is a God", so much for ditching religions.
Regardless of the hype and popularity, I think that this is a theory worth entertaining, and in fact it's the most plausible today, though it would not satisfy the question completely, because at the deeper level there would still be the matter of "who created the creator (of this simulation)", but it would still be a step forward (or upward).
The concept of life as a simulation was popularized in modern times by movies like "The Matrix" and "The Truman Show". The latter wasn't about a full-sensory digital simulation, but it showed a perspective of a life that was constructed in a physical setting that created the appearance of a world more complex than what it really was.
More than movies, I think that the biggest case for the idea of living in a simulation is due to the recognition of what we've been able to do with digital computers and video games.
Games are something that is very close to me. My involvement in game development came early in life and was generally a technical one, mostly focused on the real-time graphics side of things. I was always interested in simulating realistic experiences to the limit of what the hardware was capable of.
Computer graphics in games is very much about using a limited set of resources to give an impression of reality. Major optimizations are used, such as using hollow meshes of triangles that are built with just enough geometry and textures to look as realistic as possible at an interactive frame rate.
This is where "The Truman Show" analogy comes in. In the movie, the protagonist is fooled into living in what is a very extensive and complex movie set, where even the sky is artificial.
This is also what happens in video games, where virtual objects are created at a level of complexity that is necessary just to fool the player. Most games can get away with using a textured dome, (or just a cube, with some perspective trickery) to represent distant objects such as mountains and the sky, without the player necessarily understanding the level of approximation that is used for those virtual object.
In practice, players today can still spot graphics artifacts due to limitations of the hardware, but these limitations are fast disappearing as hardware evolves and 3D rendering gets closer to be indistinguishable from reality. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that we're going to simulate our own reality to a truly unbelievable degree anytime soon. My suggestion is that it's become obvious to us how relatively easy it is to construct relatively complex virtual worlds. It's certainly easier to create virtual sub-realities than to evolve in the physical world with all its limitations.
From the perspective of a software engineer and game developer, it seems obvious that given the progress that we're making into creating more and more complex virtual worlds, we are likely to live in a virtual world ourselves. In fact, to think that we're not living in a simulation, is probably akin to thinking that Earth is at the center of the Universe. It would be arrogant to establish that our reality is just too special not to be a sub-reality itself.
This would also satisfy the observation that complexity can be captured in a fractal structure (self-similarity across different scales). Of course, an observation in this reality doesn't necessarily have to be true at higher realities, but my guess would be that higher realities would be structured on something that is more evolved than a fractal, not less.
One counter argument to the idea of being in a simulation is that what is being simulated down to the atomic level is just too complex and it would consume too many resources. First of all, it's more likely than not that this simulation would be generated by entities in a universe that is far beyond what we can imagine and that doesn't respond to our same laws of physics. In that case, to our creators we would be more like a bunch of pixels in the Game of Life.
Secondarily, we ourselves have an incredibly limited perception of the potential matter in the know Universe. We have been observing celestial bodies for a long time, and we have been able to determine their movement and mass, so, in a sense we can reach very far with our deductive abilities, however that is still an extremely low resolution observation, and even as we expand our abilities to observe more in detail, it's a practical impossibility to truly inspect the far corners of the universe at the full purported resolution of the matter.
Let's not forget also how convenient are the fundamental laws of physics that restrict the speed at which particles can move (speed of light), restrict the resolution of matter (Planck constant) and how determinism is lost when entering quantum mechanics. This reminds me how in software engineering determinism can be dropped in favor of performance, like when converting an algorithm to work for multi-threading or when processing data in a lossy fashion.
Perhaps these known limitations of nature are due to our current comprehension, but they may also be hard limitations due to the complexity of the machine on which a software is running. In a sense, the conclusion by which information in this universe simply can't travel faster than the speed of light, is similar to having reached the walls of the stage in The Truman Show.
Is this all there is, or are we boxed-in from a deeper reality working on a different plane of existence ? My guess is that we are boxed-in, and we are some sort of emergent intelligence with the goal to solve the riddle and find a way out.
The flaw in this argument is that it's a very egocentric one. Here I'm assuming that humans are the key characters, but perhaps even though we're capable of guessing what the game may be about, we may still not be the species in this universe (biological or otherwise) that is equipped to solve the riddle. Maybe we have to make more powerful computers to solve this question, or maybe other life forms are the better candidates.
I've been meaning to write about this for a while, so here it is.
With the current coronavirus situation, one thing that truly upsets me is how death has been exploited and honor of those that die has been tarnished.
I've seen news of people that have seemingly died of complications related to COVID-19, and that were portrayed as poor idiots that didn't jump head first into getting COVID shots. In some cases members of the family would comment and smear the perished family member, practically outing him as a dumb victim of conspiracy theories.
A shameful death is definitely a very unpleasant scenario, and I wonder how many people get vaccinated just so that if they died by COVID, they won't be considered recipients of the Darwin award.
The press is always going to be slimy, but family members should think twice before backstabbing their beloved ones after they can't defend themselves. In one specific case, a man in the UK died and his daughter was used to admonish those that, like her father, waited to getting his jab, while he tried to inform himself... what a disgraceful thing to do. The daughter totally missed the lessons about critical thinking and respect for the dead, and instead jumped right on board with the establishment (BBC) in shaming her own father.
Institutions and their brainless lapdogs (journalists) are practically blackmailing people into compliance. One more reason to be skeptical about everything.
For a while now I've come to the conclusion that it's important to occasionally listen to the so-called conspiracy theorists to see what's their take on just about any issue.
Of course in general if you had to bet your life, you'd be better off following some official guideline more often than not (stress on "more often"). However it's also important at some point to scrutinize things, so to keep in check those leaders that are tasked to serve the population that depends on them. This is even more important when talking about leaders that were never elected and simply came to be by virtue of raw economical power.
It's important first to understand how one should go about judging information. One big issue is that people tend to see what's true or not in a binary way, however most issues are not binary. Objectiveness is hard to reach because one first needs to define the domain of what is that bit of information that one is trying to definitely categorize as truth, and then one has to make sure that information that allows for that categorization to be made, is indeed reliable.
Different domains, perspectives and resolutions can make it much harder to come to a conclusion that is satisfactory.
To establish what is true, it's then clearly a complicated and lengthy task that we end up delegating to leaders, which appoint experts that use their knowledge and, ideally, also their best judgment.
People from the outside are assured that this is a very professional, ethical and honest structure resulting from thousands of years of civilization, and that it's peak objectivity. In reality however there's corruption at every level. Leaders tend to be self-serving and experts tend to support those leaders that are a vehicle to their ambitions, be those ambitions for wealth, fame or both.
Institutions and leaders that guide them, have a great impact on everything. Corruption can be found at any level in this chain of delegation. People are promoted not because they are honest, but because they've served well those that have appointed them, and not necessarily because they have served well the population that has elected those that have appointed them.
In all this, the "conspiracy theorists", those that are skeptical of everything, are a necessary component, because they will on occasion point so some truths (often in plain sight) that are otherwise never even considered by the general public.
The idea of somehow uploading the state of the brain into an artificial one is often mentioned not just as science fiction, but also as some sort of transhumanist hope that is being worked on. This may be an interesting exercise to entertain, a research goal to pursue, but it's definitely doomed to fail, because it's a flawed idea on multiple levels.
The brain is a physical and very dynamic object, one built by cells which are living things. Neurons are destroyed continuously and are partly generated. Nutrition, physical trauma and many more subtle things, all affect the continuous changes of the brain. Neurons in time can establish different connections... everything is so dynamic and biological, it's a system so complex and so dependent on external environment that it's practically impossible to somehow recreate the necessary complete system that would operate, respond and evolve even remotely like the actual thing.
So, a digital brain that by some incredibly futuristic technology would be able to initially mirror an original biological brain, would progressively diverge from the original brain, because of fundamental mechanics but also because it couldn't possibly be exposed to the same effects, unless the digital brain would be so advanced that would for example be able to sample the blood of the host for drugs and alcohol and simulate those effect that a normal brain would have... but here we'd be talking about an understanding and a simulation so complex that by the time that one would be able to achieve that, the human brain would be practically irrelevant.
Of course one could simply decide to switch to a digital brain and go along with its relatively crude simulation, perhaps unable to process external effects related to what one ingests and breathes in. That would definitely quickly become something very different, where, paradoxically, the potential plasticity of that artificial brain may have to be limited to mimic the real thing using some arbitrary and approximative parameters. That is assuming that one may even reach that level of sophistication that today is unthinkable.
In conclusion, the digital brain replacing a biological one is just a flawed idea. If the goal is some sort of immortality, then one either tackles it from a biological point of view. The alternative would be to recreate a perfect biological simulation, basically a small virtual universe that mirrors the laws of nature, while also operating under the laws of nature (hard/impossible task in itself). Otherwise one simply decides to switch into some technology that is incredibly advanced, but simplified, and that is tweaked to mimic the real thing with some sort of containment programming put in to avoid that the artificial brain takes its own wild evolutionary path... which doesn't sound fun at all.
How many times have we heard about the ultra-rich wanting to "give back", saying that they just have too much money and that they feel the need to get rid of it.
That's of course a lie. It's just a way to avoid paying taxes, allocating that wealth instead towards charitable organizations that in exchange will accept to sustain whatever cause the donor wants to push for. It does make sense not to want to give your money to the government, but it is unfair that ultra-rich are able to do this while the rest of the population can't. Of course everyone can donate, but that doesn't buy them power and influence.
The point though it's that there's no such thing as feeling like you have too much wealth and that you have to give it away. It takes a lot of effort to reach a certain amount of wealth. One needs to own 10 millions before owning 100, and then needs to own 100 and 500 before owning 1 billion.
There's plenty of time and plenty of chances to stop becoming that rich in the course of the many years that it takes. It also takes a special drive to want to accrue that much wealth and the power that comes with it.
The general population can't normally wrap their heads around the idea of wanting more wealth and power for its own sake (or more likely, as a competition). When you live dreaming of owning a couple of houses and a couple of sports cars, you may think that anything beyond that is just gravy.
That's not how it works. To become extremely wealthy it takes a special kind of drive, the kind of drive that doesn't just dissipate. In fact, with time one may feel inclined to think that he's some kind of god figure, and may start to feel entitled to mold the world to his own image. This works for politicians as well, although those tend to settle for perhaps less actual power, but more visibility.
Four months in, quitting Twitter and Facebook (I never really browsed Instagram) feels great. As I wrote when I decided to quit, I felt that it was repetitive and that I wasn't going to miss anything. I can confirm that now.
I still have personal accounts, but I use them solely to repost posts from my business accounts, something that happens maybe twice per month. I also have a Discord chat for business, which in itself is a bit of a community. Discord has an IRC vibe to it, although it's of course corporate stuff with no privacy.
I also didn't do much about alternative socials such as Gab and Minds. I've had accounts there for a long time. When I was on Twitter I'd at least repost those tweets, but now that I'm out of the loop, I don't feel like posting anything on any social networks. I think that it's the format itself that is wrong.
What makes more sense it's to just hang out in private groups of friends on messaging apps. That's definitely more natural and also a lot safer for people that may be afraid to lose their job for saying certain things on public squares such as Twitter. Thankfully that's not my case, but nevertheless, I recognize the benefit of small chat groups as opposed to openly posting on socials where it's more likely to be noticed the day that one says something that gets him crucified.