[W]e did a study in which capuchin monkeys received either a grape or a piece of cucumber for a simple task.
If both monkeys got the same reward, there never was a problem. Grapes are by far preferred (as real primates, like us, they go for sugar content), but even if both received cucumber, they’d perform the task many times in a row.
However, if they received different rewards, the one who got the short end of the stick would begin to waver in its responses, and very soon start a rebellion by either refusing to perform the task or refusing to eat the cucumber.
This is an “irrational” response in the sense that if profit-maximizing is what life (and economics) is about, one should always take what one can get. Monkeys will always accept and eat a piece of cucumber whenever we give it to them, but apparently not when their partner is getting a better deal. In humans, this reaction is known as “inequity aversion.”
You don’t have to eat it now. If you leave it one more day, tomorrow it will be perfectly ripe and you’ll be glad you waiting a few hours to let enjoy its magnificent sweetness.
I actually came to the conclusion that thinking is not something done by a single person. We have a false model of what thinking is. Because you can’t really think by yourself, can you? You have to create someone else in your mind to explain things to, and to have an imaginary conversation with. This idea was inspired in part by the philosopher of cybernetics, Andy Clark, who proposed something he calls the extended mind hypothesis. Basically, the argument goes like this: Say you’re doing long division on a piece of paper instead of doing it in your head. Clark asks why the piece of paper is not just as much a part of your mind while you’re doing that calculation as the part of your brain that’s doing the math. He says there’s no reason at all.There are a million similar examples that philosophers like to trundle out—you have a bad memory so you write everything down. Is that piece of paper then part of your mind?
“Mind” isn’t “brain”— the brain is just an organ; your mind is the dynamic interaction of various moving elements that culminates in thought. Philosophers like Clark are willing to take that argument this far, but the question that never seems to occur to them is this: when you’re having a conversation with someone else, is their mind part of your mind? Nowadays, many philosophers of consciousness like to note just how razor-thin this thing we call “consciousness”, that self-aware part of our mental operations, really is. The average person can rarely hold a thought for more than three or four seconds, eight at the most, before the mind wanders. It’s very unusual to be fully conscious for more than a tiny window of time. That is, unless you’re having a conversation with someone else, in which case you can often do it for long periods of time, especially if the conversation is with someone you find particularly interesting. In other words, most of the time we’re conscious is when we’re talking to someone else, or otherwise interacting intensely; during moments in which when we’re not clear whose mind is whose. So consciousness is interactive, it’s dyadic or triadic. It’s a fallacy to imagine that thinking is something you largely do alone. On some level, of course, we already know that. But I don’t think we’ve even begun to explore the full implications.
I see protest as a genuine means of encouraging someone to feel the inconsistencies, the horror of the lives we are living. Social protest is saying that we do not have to live this way. If we feel deeply, and we encourage ourselves and others to feel deeply, we will find the germ of our answers to bring about change. Because once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy. And when they do not, we will ask, “Why don’t they?” And it is the asking that will lead us inevitably toward change.
So the question of social protest and art is inseparable for me. I can’t say it is an either-or proposition. Art for art’s sake doesn’t really exist for me. What I saw was wrong, and I had to speak up. I loved poetry, and I loved words. But what was beautiful had to serve the purpose of changing my life, or I would have died. If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.
“An Interview with Audre Lorde.” American Poetry Review
The bottom line is, I think, very clear; there really are planets everywhere, and they must number in the hundreds of billions in the Milky Way.
Thus, the sheer abundance of planets profoundly impacts the nature of our exploration of the universe and our quest to understand our own significance or insignificance. There is nothing trivial about the discovery of planetary plentitude, because it means that we are finally on the cusp of seeing whether a statement made two and a half thousand years ago is correct or not:Despite where we find ourselves, on a small rocky world, there was no reason to believe that the universe would make planets as efficiently as it seems to. Our situation is merely one data point, and a horribly biased a posteori one at that, and our models of planet formation are, to be quite frank, struggling to keep up with the flood of new data. Nonetheless, from the point of view of astrobiology and the search for life elsewhere, planetary bodies remain the primary, critical, target. There are simply no other environments in the cosmos that offer the same potential for diverse and complex chemistry in multiple phases of matter, and the potential for such long-term equilibrium (albeit a dynamic type of equilibrium with energy and chemistry in both sporadic and cyclical flux).
“To consider the Earth as the only populated world in infinite space is as absurd as to assert that in an entire field of millet, only one grain will grow”
- Metrodorus of Chios (Fourth Century B.C.)
Sleep is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death; and the higher the rate of interest and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.
So wrote Arthur Schopenhauer, comparing life to finance in a universe that must keep its books balanced. At birth you receive a loan, consciousness and light borrowed from the void, leaving a hole in the emptiness. The hole will grow bigger each day. Nightly, by yielding temporarily to the darkness of sleep, you restore some of the emptiness and keep the hole from growing limitlessly. In the end you must pay back the principal, complete the void, and return the life originally lent you.
By focusing on the common periodic nature of sleep and interest payments, Schopenhauer extends the metaphor of borrowing to life itself. Life and consciousness are the principal, death is the final repayment, and sleep is la petite mort, the periodic little death that renews.
The same impulses that form criminal gangs inform the creation of all male-bonding groups. Examples of male organizations formed with these same principles include: football and sporting clubs; music bands; forms of priesthood; religious sects; and military and para-military organizations. ‘Police and tief’ are in fact cut from the same cloth. They are just boys in different types of gangs! The seminal book Iron John by Robert Bly uncovers the real workings of this male impulse to organize this way.
Gangs appear when the male ‘initiation rituals’ of a society fail. The boys that fail to feel included as ‘citizens’ begin to create groups that resemble gangs. Middle-class nerds may create comic book clubs. Lower-income boys with their backs against the wall may form gangs… The reason we are losing the war on crime is because we fail to understand the twin edged sword of this mystery of male behavior- and the role of Culture.
Gangs are an international historical phenomena occurring in all ethnicities, in all geographic regions, from rural to urban societies. To hear some commentators one would believe that gangs and criminality are strictly an African male phenomena! Here is an interesting fact: hillside communities breed gang formation. Why? Because of the distance of young males ages 12- 27 from civic services and the cultural civilizing centre. The Yakuza from Japan, the Mafia from Sicily, and the outlaws of the American West- all emerged from mountainous areas. But let’s look at our own country. Where are the communities that have collapsed the most? The hills: Laventille; Bagatelle; Big Yard… We are not the first country dealing with collapsing lower income, hillside communities- and there are international precedents in terms of solutions.
Medilin in Columbia- once the deadliest city on earth- was rehabilitated by the visionary intervention of its former mayor Sergio Fajardo. Fajardo’s philosophy was, “Our most beautiful buildings must be in our poorest areas.” With that he transformed ghettoes into areas of safety, entrepreneurship, and international tourist destinations. Working closely with all stakeholders, including the police, Fajardo rewarded communities who brought down their crime rates with major civic buildings- libraries, museums, community centres… Within 4 short years the community was unrecognizable. He brought centres of citizenship to the hillsides! To dispossessed boys… The East Port of Spain Growth Pole and Heritage City which activists got into last year’s Budget provides these sort of visionary interventions. Hopefully we shall see the implementation of these progressive social policies to accompany police action.