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I believe...
device
jducoeur
[Preface: I'm not going to claim that all or even much of this is in any way provable or scientific. (Or organized, or thorough.) This is simply a statement of deep beliefs -- ranging from the ones that I am intellectually certain of, to those which I am simply very comfortable with. The profound and mundane are nestled together here: belief is not only in the important. Questions about any of this are welcome: I'm going for simplicity rather than clarity here.]

I believe...

... all is change, and that is good. Change is life; stasis is death. Change is neither to be feared nor demanded -- change simply is.

... that the concept of the "soul" is an unfortunate meme that, 3000 years on, still tends to lead to a lot of bad decisions.

... that the concept of "I" is an illusion. The person I am today is not the person I was yesterday, much less the one I was 30 years ago.

... that each human is a mostly symbiotic ecosystem, held together by that illusion.

... the time is also an illusion, ultimately speaking. From the cosmic point of view, all that ever has been or ever shall be exists equally. ("Eternalist" seems to be one of the philosophical terms that hangs well on me.)

... that there is no heaven, no hell, no samsara: we only get the one life, and that's okay. "I" am a process that only exists in this moment, giving rise to but not existing in the next moment, and spawning a near-infinite number of other aspects of that next. So there should be little dread that that process is finite; rather, there is joy that its consequences are not.

... that we are the universe's way of making sense of itself, and are all made equally of the same starstuff. ("Minbari" is another of my favorite schools of thought.)

... the human brain is a magnificent, ornate, powerful pattern-matching engine. It has nothing to do with reason and logic, though. The surprise is not that humans are often irrational -- it is that we are ever logical at all.

... we are each the product of a million patterns imprinted upon us, most of which we aren't even conscious of.

... the truest wisdom comes from recognizing one's existing patterns, remaining deliberately open to new ones, and being conscious about which ones you give room and board to.

... all forms of media are equally capable of producing profundity and pablum, wisest truths and foulest lies.

... the deepest and most dangerous evil is spreading evil memes. A bad pattern can do more harm than a million men.

... that attachment is, on one level or another, the source of all dukkha. But it is also natural and human.

... that the best life is spent amongst, with and for one's fellow humans. The monastic life is a fair and reasonable choice for a person, but I do not find any great nobility in it. If there is no samsara, then the search for nirvana often misses the point.

... that meditation, nonetheless, in all its thousand forms, can be helpful in this world and this life.

... a good hug is the most important form of human connection. I wish I was less shy about offering them.

... programming is partly craft and partly engineering. It is only a little bit science. But above all, it is art.

... perfect coding combines the rigorous discipline of sculpting with the meditative calm of the tea ceremony. (Or vice versa, if you prefer.)

... quite deeply in many of the teachings of the Buddha. I am, in many important ways, very Buddhist.

... that I am totally not a Buddhist. Every formal school of Buddhism I have encountered dilutes the important and true stuff with far too much off-topic wankery, and sometimes miss the point entirely.

... the Buddha was a great philosopher, not a deity. Ditto most of the other "saviours".

... that there is no anthropomorphic deity, nor a cosmic consciousness in any simple sense that we could understand -- and that's okay.

... you shouldn't need an authority figure to tell you the difference between right and wrong.

... you should need neither the carrot of heaven nor the stick of hell to be a decent person.

... that I no longer hew to some of the core precepts of Masonry. That makes me slightly sad, but All is Change. Someday, I may have to actually follow through on the Mysteries Project to make up for it.

... that everything that can possibly happen *does* happen, somewhere in the multiverse. But what really matters is the probability of getting from state A where I am now, to state B in the future. That, I can influence.

... that the best life is one that is spent always learning -- every day, every hour, every minute.

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"the human brain is a magnificent, ornate, powerful pattern-matching engine. It has nothing to do with reason and logic, though. The surprise is not that humans are often irrational -- it is that we are ever logical at all."

I don't understand why you think logic is patternless, or whatever it is that makes you think that a pattern-matching engine won't exhibit logic.

"From the cosmic point of view, all that ever has been or ever shall be exists equally."
"But what really matters is the probability of getting from state A where I am now, to state B in the future. That, I can influence."

These two seem directly contradictory.

"... that everything that can possibly happen *does* happen,"

This is the only one that I strongly disagree with. Or rather, one that I wouldn't agree with without first having a long discussion about the relative meanings of "conceivable" and "possible"...

I actually do mean it quite literally (and precisely), albeit only in an extreme quantum-mechanical sense -- it seems the most logical conclusion from much of the physics I've been reading in the past ten years. I'm certainly a layman, but this doesn't seem to be an especially radical position any more, far as I can tell.

However, keep in mind the subsequent caveat. If the probability of getting from where you are now to that other state is 1 to the googleplex, it isn't very relevant. (And while I sincerely grant the possibility that, eg, I am simply a Boltzmann brain, I choose to *not* believe that...)

It seems to be the Many Worlds interpretation, in different words.


Correct -- while I acknowledge that the implications can get fairly extreme, I find Many Worlds very intuitive, and fairly consonant with the rest of my philosophy...

I don't object to the Many Worlds model. I *do* object to a common misunderstanding of it (which you probably weren't being guilty of in the first place) that I see in some ill-thought-out Alternate History fiction. For example, having there be a major change in Earth's past geology (e.g., Mediterranean Valley never got flooded by the Atlantic) -- and yet by the present day, though the politics are somewhat different, the Important People still exist with the same names and recognizably similar personal histories. It's easy to *imagine* such a world, but I do not believe such a world could actually exist.

There's a delicate distinction here. I consider it certain that, on some level, such worlds *do* exist -- just usually with such a tiny probability vector as to be largely irrelevant except as thought experiments. (For that matter, taking Many Worlds quite literally, I wind up with the conclusion that even worlds of apparent "magic" exist on some level -- just with probability vectors that are many orders of magnitude lower probability below that.)

The trick with Many Worlds is grokking deeply that odds of "10000 to 1", "10**zillionth to 1" and "impossible" are each meaningful, and very different from each other. Hence my point, which is that what actually *matters* is usually the probability of going from state A to state B...

We seem to be Silverwinging towards agreement. For example, given a universe where "magic" appears to work (due merely to lucky quantum interactions), the vast VAST majority of successor universes will be ones where that "magic" has ceased to work. And this huge inequality gets reevaluated at every Planck interval.

... that the concept of "I" is an illusion. The person I am today is not the person I was yesterday, much less the one I was 30 years ago.

... that each human is a mostly symbiotic ecosystem, held together by that illusion.


I'll buy that each human is a symbiotic ecosystem just fine. But it is held together by inter-cellular bindings and forces, not illusion.

Edited at 2014-03-11 01:46 pm (UTC)

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