STRAIGHT LINE LOGIC IS GOING ON VACATION. THIS WILL BE THE LAST POST UNTIL JANUARY 5.
Most people don’t think very much about how they think. Researchers keep pushing the frontiers of what is known about the human mind’s amazing capabilities, growth, dynamism, and adaptability; their research itself a testament to human ingenuity and the power of the mind. As with so much of science, the more we discover, the more we realize what we don’t know.
Headlines and commentaries declare that within a decade or two, robots and artificial intelligence will replace human workers, either leading us into an Eden where humans, finally freed from the mundane tasks of survival and earning a living, will be able to engage in “higher” pursuits, or consigning most of us to unemployment, misery, and subservience to machines, computers, and the technocratic elite who design and control them. Left unexplored in the articles is a paradox: how will technology replace mental functions of which our understanding is still so incomplete? Also generally unaddressed: the certainty that new innovation will elicit change and adaptive thinking, behavior, modes of interaction, and opportunities, as they have in the past.
The Industrial Revolution rewarded original thought and innovation as they had never before been rewarded, and ushered in a radical economic and social reordering. Income and wealth were no longer predominantly the fruits of a static resource—agricultural production from the land—but rather the dynamic progeny of the human mind: research, experimentation, science, technology, specialization, expertise, capital allocation, and continuous refinement and improvement. The revolution came to the old mainstay, agriculture, and so dramatically raised the productivity of farmers that within a couple of generations the US and British economies and workforces were transformed from primarily agricultural to primarily industrial. The premium for innovation and productive ability has only grown since then.
Governments have been the counterforce. The drive of those who control them has been stasis: keep us in our place, or worse, regression: create more poverty. That, of course, is not what proponents of welfare states, warfare states, income taxes, central banking, governmental debt, and licensing and regulatory laws acknowledge as their motivations. However, policies must be judged by their results, not the purported intent of their champions. We now have over a century by which to judge the results, and they are glaringly contrary to stated intentions. Present advocates of more of same are at best appalling ignorant, but most likely have surrendered their minds and souls to complete degeneration. That Washington D.C. and its suburbs are now the richest area in the country speaks volumes about what the US economy and culture have become.
Widespread intellectual and moral surrender can only result in disaster, and sure enough, disaster looms. At an individual level, no one can do anything to stop it, any more than we can “stop” gravity; actions have consequences. However, on a personal level, one can always improve one’s self, and consequently, one’s response to disaster. A new year seems to inspire self-examination. There are no imperatives at SLL; this site doesn’t tell people what to do. However, in the spirit of the season here are a few things to think about during the coming year.
One of the many wonders of the human mind is its ability to think about the way it thinks, and the way that modes of thought can change, adapt, and become more efficacious. It is like a computer that can ponder its own code and improve while it operates. The computer offers some good analogies to the mind, on of which is that its performance can only be as good as its code. How often do you think about your code, the way you think? It may seem daunting if your answer is rarely or never, but once you start you probably won’t stop; it’s a fascinating lifelong adventure. Once a mind develops the awareness to monitor, question, analyze, and improve its own thought processes, the sky is the limit in terms of creating opportunities, realizing potential, and pursuing happiness.
One of the mind’s other wonders is the still not well-understood interaction between logical thought and emotion. Here, the computer analogy breaks down. Computers are mimicking some mental functions, just as machines perform a variety of physical functions, and are thus supplanting humans who formerly performed those mental tasks, just as machines supplanted humans performing manual tasks. However, no artificial intelligence is ever going to wake up at two in the morning, seized by an inspiration for a novel, musical composition, or invention, and hastily scratch out the basics on a nightstand notepad. No visual recognition system can look at a human face and in instant develop an intuition: this guy is bad news, or: this guy’s a mensch. Run all the data about a day’s events through a computer and it can sort and analyze by the parameters it is given, but computers don’t do perspective; they can’t tell you what’s important and what can be ignored. Perhaps a writing bot can be programmed to write a story about an ambitious banker and his family during the Industrial Revolution, but it won’t be The Golden Pinnacle.
The mind is an individual’s most valuable asset; time comes in an indisputable second. It’s a tragedy that so much of it is wasted. Thinking about thought can be infinitely rewarding, and so too can thinking about time, our most limited resource. Time can be divided into that spent doing things one wants to do and that doing things one feels compelled to do. A goal suggests itself: figure out how to increase the former and reduce the latter. You may surprise yourself simply by considering whether you really want to do whatever it is you are doing at any particular time, and if the answer is unsatisfactory, doing something about it. Many resources that are lost can be replaced, but nobody gets back lost time.
Here’s a closing thought. If you are a regular reader of this site, you are intelligent; the site has little appeal to those who aren’t. Consider imparting your intelligence and knowledge to others either in a classroom, via the Internet, or in one-on-one or small group discussions. Whatever your area of interest and expertise, teaching will offer as many benefits to you as to your students. There is nothing that clarifies and hones one’s knowledge like the preparation and analytical precision required to teach it to others, and pondering and answering their questions. The psychic rewards are immense. Working with younger minds carries a special joy; especially those light-bulb-switching-on moments.
If you are a regular reader of this site, it’s also a pretty good bet that your political orientation leans towards the libertarian. Countering the waves of statist propaganda that wash over us is a challenge that must be met. Teaching people the intellectual foundations of limited government and individual rights is a mind-by-mind endeavor, but the more people who learn, the greater the chance that when disaster arrives, an enclave or enclaves will emerge populated with those who understand liberty and its requirements and are willing to defend it.
I wish you all a happy, prosperous, and most importantly, an enlightening New Year. This will be the last post until January 5. Thank you for all your support, comments, criticisms, and suggestions during the last year, and I look forward to 2016. It’s going to be a doozy of a year.
START THE NEW YEAR OFF RIGHT!