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20171231 Why the Germans, Why the Jews

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MAIN IDEA:

The main idea of this book is that Holocaust was not just WWII event, but rather logical conclusion of German cultural development of XIX and early XX century. It was caused by a few main sources:

  • German attitude to Jews as “others” who do not belong to German people despite living in Germany for centuries. This attitude created environment of at least indifference and at worst active hate towards Jews from vast majority of German population.
  • Jewish emancipation that opened way to direct competition for cognitively more effective Jews who disproportionally obtained wealth and prosperity on the relatively free market, even if they still remained barred from governmental jobs, military leaderships, and other preferable positions in society.
  • Political advantages provided by anti-Semitic positions. This came from the growing envy and resentment of left-behind part of German population. These people were not able to adjust to the world that was rapidly changing from medieval agriculture to industrial production so they blamed Jews who were disproportionally successful due to this change.
  • Opportunity of ruling classes to shift blame for whatever calamities befall Germany due to their mismanagement such as loss in WWI, to the Jews by creating such ridiculous legends as “stab in the back”.

DETAILS:

Introduction: The Question of Questions

Here author describes his interest in the question of Holocaust. Why Germans, the most technologically advanced and seemingly civilized people killed millions of Jews? One of the reasons for looking at it that author provides, is his German heritage. In introduction, in addition to key points, author describes methods of information collection for this book: published artifacts of ongoing cultural live of XIX and XX century and multiple family archives, including author’s family that demonstrated development of German attitudes towards Jews, which eventually culminated in Holocaust.

  1. Jewish Emancipation

This is the story of Jewish emancipation in Germany, which started under French influence during Napoleonic wars, but achieved relatively equal legal status for Jews only in the second half of XIX century. The first step for many Jews was to obtain self-emancipation was via education. It was greatly supported by Jewish tradition of learning and discussion that put Jew into advantageous position comparatively to general population. As usual, author refers to statistics of educational achievement, but also stresses cultural specifics of Jews that were instrumental in producing this achievement. Author also points out an interesting phenomenon when advance of democracy was actually detrimental to Jewish emancipation due to widely accepted antisemitism of the population. It was clearly demonstrated during revolution of 1848.

  1. The Anxiety of German Nationalism

This chapter provides kind of counterpart to Jewish advancement in education and business in typical German attitude of inferiority produced by long history of military defeats, indignities experienced during multiple religious wars, and later during wars of earlier XIX century when French occupied many German territories. Overall author believes that it had created a culture of low self-esteem and powerlessness. Moreover, division of Germany into multitude of states created confusion of who is or is not German. Eventually it led to movement to unite Germany into one powerful state driven by very strong nationalist ideology. Since this nationalism had mainly ethnic characteristics, the Jews being “others” had hard time to be accepted as equal members of German nation.

  1. Anti-semitism as a Political Force

Here author looks at political development in Germany caused by dramatic changes in economy and culture and finds that traditional antisemitism of masses found huge support in upper layers of society, which considered Jews competitors and attempted to slow down or even stop their progress. In addition to reference to historical events and literature author provides a very interesting story of his own family and the role antisemitism played in their worldview and behavior.

  1. The Mainstream’s Dangerous Indifference

This chapter starts with review of social-democratic movement and active Jewish participation in it. One thing here author stresses, is quite strong push against Zionism from many well settled assimilated Jews who strived to be part of German collective and hated any hint on existence of separate Jewish collective. At the same time this and other collectivistic, anticapitalistic movements possessed strong anti-Semitic current typically associating Jews and their culture with capitalism, especially financial side of it. It was demonstrated in many forms including Marx’s “On Jewish Question”. The logical outcome of it was development of national-socialist ideas first introduced by Frank Naumann. While it had strong ethnic character, its antisemitism was kind of moderate, trying to restrict Jews via economic rules setup by government, while leaving open door for them to join Germans if they accept “German way of thinking”. Eventually this movement seamlessly merged with Nazis.

  1. The War, Defeat, and Jew Hatred

This starts with 1916 Jewish census that used statistical data to demonstrate that Jews are not patriotic enough and participate less than others in war efforts. It was achieved by somewhat manipulating data and discarding Jewish specific statistical variation such as generally older Jewish population producing fewer conscripts that was presented as avoidance of service. Author also looks at details of “stab in the back” believes and how it was linked to Jews with no foundation for this whatsoever.

  1. Weak Masses, Strong Race

This is about intellectual superiority of Jews and the fact that it would not disappear when they converted to Christianity, causing antisemitism to move from religious foundation to ethnic that was growing especially strong in educated circles when Jewish competition was more and more visible. Author describes this reaction that practically led to multiple attempts to limit access of Jews to education and promotion since they were disproportionally good in various intellectual fields. Author also reviews in this chapter a number of literary work of early XX century that represented utopias / dystopias about “Cities without Jews”, totalitarian collectivism, and various ways to rid society of Jews that where pretty close to the future reality of Holocaust. At the end of chapter author reviews history of his own family demonstrating how antisemitism played out in their striving to move ahead in live.

  1. The National Socialist People’s Party

This is about culmination of German antisemitism that was NDASP and Holocaust. It reviews multiple variations of Germans attitudes to Nazis and stresses that generally it was massive support of their program, even if aggressive antisemitism was considered as somewhat not nice, but not really that relevant. However, the material benefits obtained from looting and killing Jews clearly added to Nazi support by population, especially when killing happened out of sight while benefits were quite real. Author’s review of his strong Nazi relative’s letters shows just two anti-Semitic remarks out of 500 pages demonstrating that it was not significant for him, however maintaining purity of the race and such was really important. The review of literature and attitudes shows that Holocaust was just acceptable way to take out Jewish wealth and cleanse race from intruders and as such had support of majority of Germans who, nevertheless, did not really wanted to go into details of the process of its implementation.

Epilogue: A Story with No End

Here author reviews his points: German antisemitism came from feeling of inferiority and losing competition to Jews in rapidly changing environment. The cultural envy of Germans in process of formation of their nation to Jews who possessed outsized cultural influence on practically all world of Christianity. Probably one of the most important part of this process was moving away from individualistic values of enlightenment to collectivistic values of early XX century that defined Nazi society development practically until its end. Author also points out irony of history when Germans moved to mass murder driven by envy and hate even if by this time their achievement in education and advance in profession catches up with Jewish achievement. He ends this book with reference to Bible and its story of Cain who killed his brother because of envy and need to feel equal and states that these feeling will never go away and things like Holocaust could happen again and again.

MY TAKE ON IT:

It is a pretty good history of German antisemitism, but I do not think that the main explanation of it by using envy is sufficient. I think it is deeper than that. The hate of Jews was around for such a long time and became internalized so deeply that it became unalienable, albeit somewhat hidden, part of many cultures of the world. Actually, the role of envy is somewhat overstated because Jews are hated even if they deprived of opportunities and stay permanently poor as it was in Russia or Middle East for centuries. I would look at another reason for hate: Jews are permanent troublemakers. Whether it is new religion based on monotheism, or new theory of relativity in physics, or new secular religion of communism and socialism, or rejection of this religion in the name of economic and political liberalism, or whatever, Jews always prominent in creating and promoting the new ideological and cultural staff, which in turn always has negative impact on whatever part of society, quite often majority, benefits from status quo. Consequently, it is typical that Jews are hated even in places where there are no Jews for centuries or at least for decades as in Europe after Holocaust. One needs only look at attitude of United Nations to Israel to see a multitude of charming examples. Probably the only culture in the world that naturally embraces Jews with all their troublemaking is America, which is itself is mainly nation with culture of troublemaking: always changing, always inventing new and discarding old, always moving somewhere, typically without really knowing where, but confident that it will be a better place than here and now. I guess, as long as America maintains this culture Jews will be fine.

 

20171222 – More than Nature Needs

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MAIN IDEA:

The main idea of this book is to demonstrate that seemingly exceeding capacity and power of human brain comparatively to what is required for survival does make sense from evolutionary point of view. The book designed to demonstrate specific, consecutive, and evolutionary meaningful steps that necessarily led to development of human intelligence as necessary tool for developing language and cultural technology of its acquisition. All this is based on analysis of languages and their development and use.

DETAILS:

  1. Wallace’s Problem

The Wallace’s problem is an explanatory problem of human brain, which is significantly more powerful than it should be from strait forward evolutionary point of view. For example, our close relatives – apes have quite a bit less brainpower, but nevertheless survive just fine. So why would humans have such a powerful mind is a puzzle, obviously if we disregard religious explanation. Darwin’s explanation was incomplete and it mainly refer to mind and self-consciousness as side effect of other facilities such as use of language. Author breaks down the problem into three parts: escape from animal communications, acquisition of basic structures of language, and development contemporary abstract languages capable to support self-consciousness. The book is an attempt to look for answer for these questions in details and, in process, resolve the Wallace’s problems.

  1. Generative Theory.

This is about generative theory of linguistics. It starts with Chomsky and his idea of innate language structure, which by now is mainly discarded. It then proceeds to review some half dozen theories from standard to minimalist.

  1. The “Specialness” of Humans

This chapter looks at specificity of humans comparatively with all other animals in their development and use of language. Author discusses relative weight of genetics vs. learning in language acquisition and overall treatment of humans in scientific studies. In process, he comes up with notion of Evo-Devo that is evolutionary development biology, which studies genetics of organism and how it was produced by evolutionary development. After reviewing the idea of component feature author moves to what he calls “the ladder to humans”, which means researching primates on the way to understanding humans. All this done based on detailed review of scientific literature.

  1. From Animal Communication to Protolanguage

It starts with characterization of language as the 8th major transition in evolutions after such heavies as origin of life, multicell organisms, and so on. After that author goes into discussion of appearance of cognition and how it linked to appearance of language. He provides evidence pro and contra of high level of cognition in animals and pre-human relics. He follows it with discussion of evolutionary pressures, especially intergroup conflict that he designates as “Confrontational Scavenging and Displacement”. In short, with intergroup conflict clearly providing advantages to the group. This advantage is capable supporting higher level of coordinated planning and actions. Consequently, the importance of means of communications became very important. Obviously, this created a very strong evolutionary pressure for development of a language.

  1. Universal Grammar

Here author discusses an idea of universal grammar, which was pretty much discarded by the latest scientific developments. However even if it is so, the direct link between brain’s development and language structure is strong and author discusses in detail how it is build and specific algorithms used for these processes.

  1. Variations and Change

This chapter moves away from biological evolution to cultural one and starts with discussion on variation and need for it from the language side. It establishes connection by defining change as temporal extension of variation. After that author looks at linguistic specifics such as word order, tense modality, grammatization of relations between words, and other objects. At the end author looks at causes of change and objections to his model.

  1. Language “Acquisition”

Here author looks at language acquisition starting with commonly accepted Language Acquisition Device (LED). After that he provides an alternative model and uses child language acquisition process to demonstrate how it happens, starting with One-Word stage, then Two-Words, then Telegraphic Speech and all the way to comparing English and French as examples of different ways of negation. Also, interesting here is discussion of an Error as the source of Insight.

  1. Creolization

This is about mixing process when people with different languages interact, in process creating some linguistic mix useful for communication. Author discusses continuum of creoles existing in Caribbean and other places and how language changes from one group to another demonstrating failure of innate language model explain this process. He also reviews children language vs. adult and various pidgin variations.

  1. Homo Sapiens Loquens

In this last chapter author summarizes his position providing an analog of human development as 3 rooms and elevator, where the first room is confrontational scavenging niche. After spending long enough time in this room humanity moved to the second room: symbolism, leaving behind other group surviving species such as ants and bees. When symbolism had developed enough, the move to the third room becomes inevitable. This room is self-organizing brain or in other words cultural learning ability that humans developed. This last room contains an elevator that is language, which allowed humanity quickly moving up to become dominating species. At the end author summarizes his position in such way:

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MY TAKE ON IT:

I believe this is a good model of human development and I would add that the idea of Wallace’s problem could be entertained only if one forgets that the main competitor of a human being in his/her struggle for survival is another human being and in this struggle to have more powerful brain and be able to outsmart another human is the necessity of survival. Moreover it is not limited to an individual, but also extended to a group. As anybody who ever thought about huge military experience of humanity understands, the functionality provided by the brain: planning, communication, ability for direct synchronized action of the group of individuals, and ability to correct these action per results of feedback analysis, are necessary tools of warfare. Obviously the people who are better at it get to obtain more natural resources and consequently to pass more of their genes to the next generation making brain a necessary survival tool without which humans could not survive pressure from other humans.

 

20171217 – Patient will see you now

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MAIN IDEA:

The main idea of this book is that contemporary medicine is not capable to keep up with technological developments and is bound to be substituted by the new medicine that will be not only patient centric, but also patient controlled and directed with the technology providing all necessary support via access to information, data collection devices that patient can use, and doctors relegated from CEO of treatment to highly qualified supporting specialist who would take over only if patient is mentally incapacitated.

DETAILS:

Section 1: Readiness for a Revolution

  1. MEDICINE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

It starts with the discussion of old phenomenon of the “difficult patient”, the one who does not trust doctor without questions and trying to get access to medical information and even participate in decision-making relevant for them. Author makes point that with Internet and access to all kind of medical devices from blood pressure measuring machines to portable EKG patients can and do produce their own medical information and analysis based on Internet medical websites. After that author discusses his own experience with portable devices and concludes that they do bring qualitative change in access to collection of information together with increased levels of education led to rise of smart patients.

  1. EMINENCE-BASED MEDICINE

This is a look back at traditional medicine when doctor was practically the only entity with access to data and final decision maker, whose decision was not to be challenged, except by other doctors. In addition to looking at this historical situation author brings a personal story about his grandparents who were not well served by the medicine of 1960s. Moreover, he applies it not only to some individual doctors, but to overall condition of medical knowledge, which as any other knowledge, when start moving to scientific method is continuously developing and changing, in process removing or at least dramatically decreasing medical authority. Author provides a nice table of medical tests that proved to be inadequate, meaningless, or even harmful in the view of newly acquired data:

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  1. A PRECEDENT FOR MOMENTOUS CHANGE

Here author discusses impact of the new technology such as smart phone combined with Internet and compares it with the previous revolutionary change in information technology: Printing press. Here a couple of graph he provides to demonstrate consequences of such information revolution:Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 8.30.52 AMScreen Shot 2017-12-17 at 8.31.00 AM

  1. ANGELINA JOLIE: MY CHOICE

Here author moves to our time providing quite a dramatic result of individual making very challenging decisions about her health based on her understanding of scientific information specific for her not only current, but also probable future medical condition. Since this individual is very famous, rich, and is subject of admiration by millions of people, her very public decision-making had a significant impact on the huge number of people, medical industry, and market for genetic analysis.

Section Two: The New Data and Information

  1. My GIS

This chapter starts with comparison of human body with Geographic Information System (GIS), which provides multiple layers of data about environment. Author believes that similarly to GIS it is possible to combine multiple layers of data about a person that would allow prevent and/or quickly react to any deviation from optimal health conditions. Here is a nice picture of all these layers, which follows by brief explanation of each layer:

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Social Graph and the Phenome: It is about individual within his/her social environment.

Sensors and Physiome: Biosensors collecting all kinds of health-related information from heart activity to blood pressure, mood and everything in between.

Imaging and Anatome: This layer includes more complex and expensive scanning: MRI, CT, X-Rays, and other methods to evaluate person’s anatomy at any given moment in time.

Sequencing and Genome: Personal DNA analysis

The Transcriptome: This is about transfer of information from DNA to RNA and correspondingly expression of genes, which turned out to be a complex and important process in its own right.

The Proteome and Metabolome: This analysis of body proteins, autoantibodies, and metaboles – compounds resulting from body’s metabolism

The Microbiome: This is an analysis of all other organisms that are included into our body, but have different DNA than our own: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and what not. Interestingly enough, it represents at least equal amounts of human and non-human content.

The Epigenome: The side chains and packaging of our DNA. This staff can actually change genes expression causing all kinds of problems. It is cell specific and can be decoded similarly to DNA.

The Exposome: This is about our environment with all nice things like radiation and pollution exposure to which could be tracked and analyzed as a factor in condition of body.

All together these areas of analysis could provide information for pre-womb to coffin health maintenance that author envisions in such way:

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Author discusses in some detail how it could work for a couple of examples, specifically how it would apply to cancer:

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  1. MY LAB TESTS AND SCANS

This starts as somewhat panegyric to Theranos, which is currently not in such a great shape, but main point is still valid: patients should have unlimited access to all testing results relevant for them. Moreover, the emerging technology promises lab on the smart phone when various attachments allow measuring all kinds of electrical, mechanical, and chemical signals produced by a body. Another emerging technology: Lab in the Body: that is imbedding sensors into human body to analyze all kinds of processes occurred in there without sending any external signals in any form. Author also discusses side effects of multiple scans and necessity to use these scans wisely. The final part of the chapter is about miniaturization of scanning and possibility of pocket MRI linked to one’s smartphone.

  1. MY RECORDS AND MEDS

This chapter is about medical records, needs for their transparency to patient and to doctor. It actually becoming critical because of the huge amount of powerful medicines that interact in extremely complex way very much outside of human ability to trace and understand it.

  1. My Costs

Here author discusses costs, as usual pointing out to contrast between costs in USA and elsewhere. Here is a nice breakdown for this issue:

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Obviously there is a lot that could be improved by making prices transparant and removing diconnect between payor and user of medical services. Obviously it is mainly separate and huge issue.

  1. MY (Smartphone) Doctor

This is about access to medical knowledge that is changing dramatically with advance of medical websites that help to establish diagnosis, develop treatment plan and do all kinds of things that before required doctor’s full involvement. An interesting result is the decrease in number of physician visits by 17% despite aging of population. It coincides with improvement in outcomes. Another point is that increasingly challenging environment for doctors leads to decrease in their numbers and availability. Here is a nice picture of multiple factors impacting them:

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Section Three: The Impact

  1. THE EDIFICE COMPLEX

This is about hospital stay and need to move treatment as much as possible to outpatient care or even to patient’s home. Author recalls his experience as young cardiologist when even simple procedures required long hospital stays, contrasting it with much shorter stays now. Author discusses hospital of the future, which goes far away from simple bed to complex technologically heavy site that provides constant monitoring of patients, protection against infection and external interferences. But most promising development is advance of technology that could make hospital if not completely eliminated, then reduced to emergency use only.

  1. Open Sesame

What author here wants to open is access to medical data so he starts with reference to open source software and the proceeds to discuss Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) that allow learning without attending expensive classes, and finally renames them into MOOM, where the last letter stands for “Medicine”. He looks in details at cancer specific MOOM and then discusses information flows and role of government in opening access.

  1. SECURE vs. CURE

This is discussion on privacy and its increasing disappearance in all areas including personal medical data including genetical information. At the end author expresses his believe that all medical data about person should be owned by this persona and hope that it would help with privacy issues.

  1. PREDICTING AND PREEMPTING DISEASE

This is about changing the whole approach to medicine from mainly reactive process to proactive when service delivered not in response to complain, but rather continuously on regular bases with stress on preemption of disease rather than treating it when symptoms become obvious. Here is a nice diagram demonstrating author expectation for future changes in life expectancy resulting from this:

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  1. FLATTENING THE EARTH

This is about globalization of medicine both in term of collecting data and providing services across borders. It goes through usual trope of need to help poor countries, development of cheap substitutes for technology and medicines, but most interesting are a couple of graphs that demonstrate that overall deaths due to infections and other diseases of the poor actually fall way below deaths from the same diseases that rich people die from:

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  1. THE EMANCIPATED CONSUMER

The final chapter is kind of summery with the stress on the main point of this book: switch to patient directed medical services based on technology with doctors involved mainly in consulting roles and high complexity specialty service. Here are two pictures presenting this vision:

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EPILOGUE

This is pretty much list of references to various forms of what author calls iMedicine Galaxy starting with smartphone:

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This also includes various imagining technology that allow scanning of one’s own internal organs condition and other digital appliances. Author completes it with graph for overall medical data transfer and processing:

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MY TAKE ON IT:

I think this is a wonderful book with lots of good ideas and, very important, lots of information about technology available now for anybody who wants to be in control of his/her own health. I am pretty sure that direction of development that author describes in this book is not only valid, but practically inevitable. I would only add that, in my opinion, author a bit underestimate value of personal relationship that could potentially develop between individual providing health service and patient. With all these new devices, information processing, and soon coming fully developed AI the role of healer will change. It would stop being mainly technical processing, when doctor really does not know patient as human being and mainly treats this patient as body, not that different from mechanic treating car in repair shop. It would become more friendship like continuing relationship with specific goal to provide psychological, technological, and informational support from a person dedicated to such support for just a few or maybe a few dozens people. It would be probably mainly something like regular monthly meeting with discussion of individual about mental and physical health based on recommendation of AI developed with use of readings from multitude of scanning devices constantly monitoring individual’s condition. I guess it would require completely different skillset much less related to butchery than it used to be in the past and is still prevalent in present.

20171208 – Big Lie

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MAIN IDEA:

The main idea of this book is that contemporary leftists’ claim that they are anti-fascists is not just false, but rather completely opposite – they are fascists. Their claim that Fascism and Nazism were right wing movement is the Big Lie and in reality both initial Fascism as it appeared in Italy and Nazism in its German form were leftist movements ideologically closely connected with contemporary leftism and its American political expression –Democratic Party. It is not a new idea, but author brings some interesting historical material to support it. Author also suggests starting active denazification of American political scene to rid country of this murderous ideological bacillus.

DETAILS:

One: Return of the Nazis

The book starts with review of contemporary events when leftists started violent campaign against freedom of speech, racial equality, and recently elected president who seemingly dead set to fight back against leftist collectivistic ideas as they were implemented in America over the last few decades.

Two: Falsifying History

This chapter is interesting by its multiple examples of close ideological relations between socialism and fascism, claiming quite convincingly that back then in 1920s both movement recognized and even celebrated their similarity of ideas and methods. Author refers to a number of ideologues of early fascist movements especially to Giovanni Gentile who developed ideological foundation of this movement.

Three: Mussolini’s Journey

Here author refer to development of founder of fascism Benito Mussolini who started as regular socialist, achieving significant position within this movement. However after the WWI clearly demonstrated superior ideological power of nationalism over power of international socialism, Mussolini moved to merge these two ideas into powerful mix of National Socialism.

Four: A Democratic Party. Secret

Author starts this chapter with Hitler’s ideological development and his embrace of anti-Semitism. From there he moves to concentration camps, genocide, and winds up with Andrew Jackson – founder of Democratic Party. Author accuses Jackson of genocide against Indians, but does not explain why this genocide was expressed in continuation of traditional American pushing of Indians further and further west, rather than just plain annihilation as it was the case with classical Nazi genocide and actual meaning of this word. At the end of chapter author discusses slave labor, Nazi labor camps, and Nazi death camps, trying to demonstrate that these widely different institutions were created for different purposes, for different objectives and, most important were managed differently to achieve these objectives. Therefore, author asserts, contemporary Democrats’ attempts to equate slavery with genocide are deeply ahistorical and plainly dishonest.

Five: The Original Racists

This chapter is about long and colorful history of racism in progressive movement, its previous incarnations as communism and fascism, and its current incarnation as ideology of Democratic Party. It starts with interesting and historically very valid point that fascism, as it started in Italy was not a racist movement. Italian fascists perceived “national” part if their ideology not as ethnic, but rather as nation-state based term so Jewish Italians could be and were as integral part of the movement, as any other group of Italians. Only later in Germany fascism incorporated traditional German anti-Semitism in conjunction with American racial inequality ideas becoming genocidal Nazi movement. Author also demonstrates an interesting mix of anti-capitalist ideas with anti-Semitic ideas when “Jew” is permanently linked to ‘Capitalist – Exploiter”. This is especially funny because it kind of demonstrates ridiculousness of these Jews: from Karl Marx to Leo Trotsky to contemporary activists of Democratic Party who in their anti-capitalist zeal become deliciously anti-Semitic.

Six: Disposable People

Here author discusses typical progressive thrust to mark some people as a burden to society and either limit their functional ability, especially in reproductive area, or even completely dispose of them via mass murder.

Seven: American Fuhrers

Here author moves to the overall estimate of XX century Fascism expansion coming to conclusion, quite different from common historical narrative that it happened in Europe, but could not happen in USA. Actually author provides quite a convincing thesis that it did happened here by comparing actions of FDR administration and actions of Mussolini, and Hitler before these Europeans embarked on aggressive wars and eventually Holocaust. Here there is an interesting story of communications between all 3, which could be qualified as mutual admiration society. Also interesting is author’s analysis of leftists tricks that turned Fascism, which is inherently super big government idea, into something opposite by Roosevelt rhetoric such as: “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself”.

Eight Politics of Intimidation

This chapter is kind of mosaic linking together violent methods of various leftist movements before they came to power from Fascists in Italy in 1920s, Nazis in Germany, and all the way until contemporary Antifa movement in America. Author looks at its leaders from practitioners such as Hitler and Mussolini, philosophers such as Heidegger and Marcuse, and financiers such as Soros.

Nine: Denazification

The final chapter refers to the process of denazification that American occupation forces conducted in Germany after WWII cleansing out from all political and governmental positions former active members of Nazi party and suggests that similar process is necessary to implement to stop fascistic increase in government power under Obama administration and use of this power against American conservative movement, which is real anti-fascist force today. However author calls to use democratic methods: election and political education of population, rather than respond in kind, even if author himself experienced prison term in America as result of his political activities, albeit the formal reason was inflated violation of law limiting donation to political candidates.

MY TAKE ON IT:

I think that author characterization of Fascism as left wing political movement correct and well supported by historical material he provided. I also agree that contemporary American society, especially its young generation, are contaminated by these twin bacilli of big government sickness: Fascism and Communism. However I do not think that it could be easily resolved via election and democratic process mainly because left, as of now, is in control of educational system and generally capable to impose their political correctness on all institutions of society. To overcome this control one need to attract wide masses of population, including those who are currently depend on government, to some new ideas that would be more attractive than current ideas of satisfactory lives live with support of the big government.

The young generation should be convinced that the big government is bad for them because even if they are lucky enough to obtain place in bureaucratic hierarchy their live within government will still be miserable. Even if they would have better access to goods and services they will be subject of abuse by whoever is higher in bureaucratic hierarchy than they are.

However if they are not that lucky and wind up outside government hierarchy on handouts, their live will be miserable because these handout will be necessary small and of low quality due to the lack of incentive for productive people to produce.

Convincing the young generation that they will be much better off in free market open society than in big government hierarchical closed society is the challenge of our time and continuation of American experiment fully dependent on our ability to respond to this challenge.

 

20171201 – Scienceblind

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MAIN IDEA:

Author formulated the main idea of this book as an attempt to convince people that two ideas are correct:

  • We often get things wrong because “our intuitive theories in several domains of knowledge carved up the world into entities and processes that do not actually exist”.
  • To get world right we need not just change believes, but to change the very concepts that articulate these believes.

DETAILS:

  1. Why We Get the World Wrong

This starts with the story of milk consumption causing infection deceases before advent of pasteurization in XIX century. Traditionally milk was consumed fresh on site in villages, causing no problems, but the development of cities led to delay between milk production and consumption consequently giving time for bacteria to develop. Author uses it to demonstrate how difficult it is to get people to understand and believe scientific data. As usual it supplied by reference to the poll that demonstrate big numbers of Americans believing in all kinds of weird unscientific staff. After that author goes a bit into epistemology discussion about representation of the world via what he calls “intuitive theories” build on “causal knowledge” from observation and experiences versus representation of the world via theories produced via scientific method. The difference is conceptual and author demonstrates it by comparing explanatory theories for the same phenomenon by these two different approaches.

PART 1: Intuitive Theories of the Physical World

  1. Matter: What Is the World Made Of? How Do Those Components Interact?

This starts with discussion of human misperception of the world. As example author brings tall vs. wide glasses and conservation problem, then he moves to atoms and difficulty to understand general emptiness of the world. It is supported by multiple experiments with children and adults demonstrating all kind of variances between intuitive perception and scientific modeling of reality regarding material density, volume, weight, and such.

  1. Energy: What Makes Something Hot? What Makes Something Loud?

This is an application of the same approach to energy, heating, and cooling. Author traces development of ideas about heat and cool from ancient world to its current understanding as a function of molecular movement. There is also an interesting discussion here of extramissionist vs. intramissionist believe about flow of information in vision. Similarly, author discusses misconceptions about electricity that is often believed to be a flow, rather than transfer of energy.

  1. Gravity: What Makes Something Heavy? What Makes Something Fall?

This is another set of examples about misperception, this time about gravity. As the previous one it is heavily reliant on experiments with children to demonstrate how human intuitive perception of gravity works. It also includes funny mental experiment about a ball oscillating around the center of the earth.

  1. Motion: What Makes Objects Move? What Paths Do Moving Objects Take?

This is another discussion on disconnect between people’s intuitive understanding of motion as the process driven by some internal force, which is known to be incorrect since Newton. Also, future trajectory of movement often predicted incorrectly due to failure of considering all forces. At the end of chapter there is a bit of discussion on educational method to overcome this problem.

  1. Cosmos: What Is the Shape of Our World? What Is Its Place in the Cosmos?

This is about human perception of the Earth and Universe and how it developed from the flat Earth believe into contemporary Cosmology. It has some interesting staff about children and how they individually going through the same process.

  1. Earth: Why Do Continents Drift? Why Do Climates Change?

This is an application of the same idea to the geology and climate. It is again intuitive theory of everything not always consistent with knowledge obtained by painstaking analysis and experimentation. Obviously people who are not familiar with this knowledge tend to repeat usual staff that they come to intuitively or acquired as children from not well-educated adults. Author provide an interesting breakdown of attitudes to global warming:

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Typically for his surroundings, author seems to suport alarmist position based mainly on famously non-real 97% of experts. In process he somehow manageded to miss that all empirical data of the last 20 years contradict alarmist models and show no significant warming despite increases in CO2.

At the end he provides summary of intuitive approach:

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PART 2: Intuitive Theories of the Biological World

  1. Life: What Makes Us Alive? What Causes Us to Die?

Here author moves from non-animated world to the world of living and dying. He goes through somewhat long discussion of children’s perception of these issues as typical example of intuitive theories, summarizing it in such way:

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  1. Growth: Why Do We Grow Bigger? Why Do We Grow Older?

This is kind of about lifecycles and human destiny to grow old and eventually die. Here is a nice illustration:

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Once again author looks at intuitive theories through the prism of children’s perception, discussing vitalism, essentialism, and other theories of the past. An important point for author is that practically all intuitive theories treat live not only as qualitatively different phenomenon than unanimated material world, but also as the one that could not disassembly into material elements. Obviously contemporary science rejects this idea and maintains that live is just a specific form of material worlds and could eventually be created from material components.

  1. Inheritance: Why Do We Resemble Our Parents? Where Did We Get Our Traits?

Here author goes into discussion of scientific conceptions and misconceptions in genetics. Here is the nice sample when only the first two statements are scientifically correct, but all 6 are believed by majority to be true:

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Overall the misconception usually come from poor understanding of the level of complexity related to genes expression and interaction with environment, leading sometime to believe that too much predefined by genes and concequent unjustified passivity in controlling one’s live.

  1. Illness: What Makes Us Ill? How Does Illness Spread?

The discussion of illness starts with phenomenon of disgust as a preventive mechanism for poisoning and other similar threats. Important difference here is that intuitive theories usually treat it as given, while science shows that a lot of it learned. Author provides quite a few examples of this in children and even in adults who change their attitude and behavior in relation to environment when new for them information about diseases become available.

  1. Adaptation: Why Are There So Many Life Forms? How Do They Change 0ve! Time?

This is mainly about Darwinism and evolution vs. creationism. It is also about popular misconceptions about genetics neatly illustrated by this picture were left side represent scientific view and right side popular view:

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Author also stresses an interesting phenomenon that misconceptions often persists even in people who had specific education in the field with probably the most funny being an inability of many people to understand that morality has no place in the struggle for survival in animal kingdom and could be applied only to humans and a few other group dependent species. Another persistent “misconception” – Lamarckian adaptation, which lately become less of misconception when it was found by biologists that some ability to retain newly acquired adaptive feature and transfer it to the next generation does exist, albeit in somewhat week form.

  1. Ancestry: Where Did Species Come From? How Are They Related?

This is continuation of discussion on evolution, this time directed to the past. The misunderstanding here is popularity of teleological approach of development from lower forms of live to higher. Here is traditional representation of this view:

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In reality there is no define direction of development and it is just random transformation of live when changing conditions demand it, continutation when there is no such demand and extinction when demands for survival are so overwhelming that available diversity within species under pressure could not provide necessary features to overcome it. Here is more realistic presentation of evolution:

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  1. How to Get the World Right

The final chapter is about how to avoid intuitive theories and obtain more scientific understanding of the world. Author stresses that intuitive theories usually based on perceptions and experience, while scientific theories are complex, come from formal process, which is difficult to implement and which requires a serious cognitive effort to digest. Nevertheless, he makes a serious effort of convincing that it is necessary because misconceptions about reality lead to errors in judgement and actions, eventually hurting people. He supports this idea by providing such examples as vaccination when intuitive theory led its supporters to pretty bad consequences.

MY TAKE ON IT:

This is an interesting look at the problem of forming worldview consistent with the real world. In my opinion author is relaying too much on children to demonstrate intuitive theories of the world, making it way too simplified. I believe the problem, and it is a big problem, is that contemporary education does not provide people with tools to understand scientific method, its applications and limitations. Besides, author seems to be too much of an academic to understand that in real world people more often had to act based on intuitive theories that are good enough to predict consequences of actions in real world even if these theories are not really formulated, but rather just a product of experience. A good example could be takes form author’s first chapter about misconception of mechanics of the world: when two bullets one shot from the gun in perfect parallel to the floor, and another one just dropped. According to author they both hit the floor simultaneously because the only force that causes bullet drop is gravitation, which is equal for both bullets. However, in reality everybody who ever shot a gun knows that it would take much longer for flying bullet to hit the floor than for the dropped bullet. The shooter knows that from experience and, if he is not educated in physics and pressed to explain, he could come up with some idea of inherent driving power instead of correctly point out that real world is complex and bullet spin, air resistance, curvature of the earth, wind direction and so on. So, we have an interesting situation here when simplified, primitive education gives result inconsistent with reality, while intuitive non-scientific theory provides for better results. Here I think author is missing a very important problem that causes well educated people to buy into such hoaxes as global warming: difficulty to understand that real world is extremely complex, while science is generally simple and limited, so any prediction claiming to be scientific should be founded on multiple full-scale experience with phenomenon that one is trying to predict. Therefore, it is not possible to predict future climate and even weather over long term, because there are way too many unpredictable variables, some of them like son’s radiation levels, being much more influential than content of greenhouse gases in atmosphere. In other words non-theoretical common sense based on experience is just another way to comprehend reality and it is not less scientific than formal science in terms of predicting power, while lack of explanatory power does not make it less useful.

 

 

 

20171124 – Civil Wars- A History

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MAIN IDEA:

The main idea of this book is to review the very notion of civil war from various prospectives starting from historical, then moving to philosophical and legal approaches, and finely completing it with contemporary political analysis. Probably the most important inference here is that civil wars are way too complicated and mainly depend on participants’ ideas about themselves, their group, and their opponents therefore it should be treated as the great opportunity for historical approach, rather than legal or philosophical.

DETAILS:

Introduction: Confronting Civil War

It starts with somewhat interesting complain that a lot of history research dedicated to wars, but very little of it to civil wars, while in reality civil wars, especially over the last 70 years after the end of WWII, are much more common than wars between states. Author discusses cruelty of civil wars that often goes way beyond cruelty of wars between states, especially in relation to non-combatants. However the main stress is not on this, but rather on the “generative” role of civil wars that author puts under investigation, claiming that this is a book “in ideas”. It makes sense because ideas are usual drivers of Civil Wars, unlike territorial and political conquest that drives regular wars. Author defines development of ideas about civil wars based on three points:

  • Difference between civil war and revolution
  • Legal meaning of civil war
  • Proxy wars of Cold War period, including decolonization wars when external power played significant roles in internal conflicts.

Part I: Roads from Rome

1: Inventing Civil War: The Roman Tradition

The first place the author goes to – Rome, which he considers inventor of civil war. It came from Roman tradition to call wars by the name of opponents so then opponent belongs to the same civic community the war becomes civil. After that author goes into details of Roman and Greek notions of internal conflict: for Greeks political war was inconceivable, but for Romans it became nearly routine. Author allocates a lot of space to Roman internal conflicts because they often had clear character of class war for political power.

2: Remembering Civil War: Roman Visions

Here author refers to idea that “forgetting is the best defense against civil war”, then proceeds to discuss civil war between Caesar and Pompey. This was practical consequence of lack of civilian control over military leaders who managed to build personal loyalty of troops to themselves that was exceeding loyalty to the Rome. Author points out the story of Cicero’s promotion of military leaders and attempts to define differences between various types of internal conflict. This follows by more or less retelling of history of Roman conflicts.

Part II: Early Modern Crossroads

3: Uncivil Civil Wars: The Seventeenth Century

This chapter starts with discussion about influence of Roman writings related to civil wars on development of European culture. They popularized notions of civil strives and variety of forms of control over society somewhat different from what was usual at the time. In process it probably created intellectual environment susceptible to raising weapons against other members of the same society. By seventieth century it all moved from domain of history and literature into domain of law and actual implementation. As examples, author discusses Hobbes ideas and actual civil war of British Parliament against the king.

4: Civil War in an Age of Revolutions: The Eighteenth Century

This is about comparing civil wars and revolutions. Author believes that the difference is that civil wars are contained within a nation, while revolutions tend to expand all over the world like communist revolutions. He also notes that overall revolutions have some positive connotation, while civil wars are ugly beasts. Author reviews a works of a few historians and then looks in details at XVIII century writer Emer Vattel, the influential thinker on laws of wars and revolutions. After that author moves to American Revolution and controversy about extent of it being civil war between patriots and loyalists as much as revolution. Finally, discussion moves to Burke and his analysis of American and then French revolutions / civil wars.

Part III: Paths to the Present

5: Civilizing Civil War: The Nineteenth Century:

This starts with American Civil war and Gettysburg Address and, more interesting, with General Order 100 drafted by Francis Lieber that defined legal code for the conduct of war 6 months before Gettysburg. Author discusses the legal and philosophical meaning of civil war in XIX century when ideas of Enlightenment become dominant in the Western world. Author points out that Confederacy never accepted that it was Civil war. For them it was war of Northern aggression not different from any other wars between different polities. Eventually the range of attitudes in emerged in Western civilization goes from the notion that all wars are civil wars because of humanity being a whole, to infinite variety of non-civil wars between citizens of different entities: national, religious, territorial, and any others that do not accept each other as members of the same group.

6: Worlds of Civil War: The Twentieth Century:

Both trends fully matured in XX century when on one hand some perceived WWI and WWII as civil wars within mainly western society, while on the other hand any diverse entity came under pressure from inside when groups small and big demanded independence and initiated wars of divorce. Author reviews this development, especially its diplomatic and legal details using example of Yugoslavia and Serbia civil wars that outgrew into international conflict. The second part of the chapter is about philosophical approach to war with lots of attention paid to Rawls and his classification of wars:

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Conclusion: Civil Wars of Words

In conclusion author discusses contemporary implications of wars designation as Civil or International conflicts that could and do create not only different psychological attitude, but also often lead to international involvement, including military, on one or another side of conflict.

MY TAKE ON IT:

I think that the differentiation between civil and. international wars is important because it often defines level of savagery the war is conducted with. Except for some very specific cases when war was waged with purpose of annihilation of other, the civil wars are usually more savage that international. The wars are always between groups and humans are always belong to the multitude of groups from small group of their close family to the big group of their nation, to the huge group of their religion and/or philosophy. Therefore, any war’s character depends on what people are fighting for and what is breakdown of groups that are fighting each other. I would define the civil war as the war where significant groups of individuals belonging to one political entity, but irreconcilably diverse in their attitudes and believes fight each other with objective to suppress, eliminate, or expel their opponents. The good example would be revolutionary wars including decolonization when significant number of people are quite satisfied with existing situation and resist change while others could not tolerate status quo any more, like it was during American revolution when 1/3 of population were Patriots, 1/3 Tories, and 1/3 Neutral who eventually sided with Patriots due to deprivation brought on by British army. In this case the internal conflict between colonials with different approaches to relations with British polity, they all belonged at the time, outgrew into international conflict between two nations, when colonials formed the new American polity. Quite different development occurred during American Civil war when American polity containing diverse states developed into two groups of states with irreconcilable differences in all significant areas: economically, legally, philosophically, and politically, leading to armed conflict between them. There were no 1/3 of abolitionists on South and even if majority of Northerners were indifferent to slavery, tariffs, or any other disputes with South, they had strong enough support for Union to fight for it. Interestingly enough, end of formal conflict did not really end the war, but rather continued for another 10+ years in the form of irregular guerilla warfare waged by Southern Whites against Southern Blacks supported by transplanted Northern Abolitionists until more or less acceptable for all accommodation was achieved in the form of segregation. In this case the war that started as war between states within Union outgrew into the civil war of two racially and ideologically different groups living on the same territory under umbrella of the same state.

20171117 You brain is your time machine

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MAIN IDEA:

The main idea of this book is to review the notion of time in all its complexity from all possible angles: historical, psychological, physiological, mathematical, theoretical physics, and even mental time travel in literature.

DETAILS:

PART I: BRAIN TIME

1:00 Flavors of Time

It starts with presentation of variety of attitudes to the notion of time:

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After this author moves to describe history of time, or more precisely of its discovery, since the time not always was something that was consciously perceived by humans. Here author traces it from initial vague notions to mathematical perception of time as the fourth dimension of the space/time continuum. Author also looks at neuroscience of time understanding, eventually completing this chapter with philosophical understanding of time divided into the two contradictory camps: Presentism when only the present exists and Eternalism when all time dependent events exist exactly like other 3 dimensions of the space that is if we are only at one specific point at any given time, nevertheless any other point on time dimension also exists. Finally, author discusses plurality of time as used in language and human perception, positing that at the core is time as measured by clocks.

2:00 The Best Time Machine You’ll Ever Own

This is about imaginary time travel and human brain as the best time machine that is. It properly starts with H.G. Wells and touches on multitude of other images including mathematically sound 4D space. The characteristics of the brains as time machine are:

  • It remembers past in order to predict future
  • It tells time
  • It creates sense of time
  • It allows mentally travel in time back and forth.

Author also looks at the time as a teacher that teach us that cause and effect must be continuous in time and space; that cause must be before effect; and that time follow clearly defined direction that could not be reversed.

The next part of the chapter looks at human the brain and synaptic causes and effect that happen there.

3:00 Day and Night

This is about human perception of time periods of a day and circadian rhythms that control them. Author discusses multiple experiments with isolation when person has no way to identify time of the day. In such cases time seems to be shortening in the mind so 170 days feels like 150 or so. Authors discuses in details how it all works and how various cycles in body starting at molecular level influence perception of time with significant variance from astronomical time.

4:00 The Sixth Sense

This is also about subjective time perception, but it is more about such cases as dangerous situations when time seems to be standing still. One interesting part of it is variance between prospective and retrospective time perception. Author discusses the link of both types to the memory. When time is filled up with events it runs fast and posts a lot of information into the memory. Correspondingly if there are no events, just waiting for something, it moves slowly and leaves very little to recall. The contemporary perception of a long and short times usually changes when it becomes memory. Long, one-day delay at airport becomes barely recallable, but one day walking around of tourist attractions contains multitude of memories good enough for a few days. Author also discusses cause of slow-motion effects:

  • Overclocking – mobilization of organism causes all processes to accelerate, creating illusion that person thinks and moves faster than in reality
  • Hypermemory – this is an idea that slow motion is post factum illusion created by assigning the event very high value and import.
  • Metaillusion – since reality is always just a construction of brain, the slow motion is constructed on the top of normal perceptions with magnifying effects.

These illusions relate not only to time, but also to space and all other perceptions.

5:00 Patterns in Time

This starts with discussion of relationship between time and language when different timing defines meaning of speech including such low level as difference between P and B defined by time allowed for air release while speaking. Timing also plays a big part in defining emotional content of the speech example is “not” jokes. After that author goes to time relevant aspects of motherese, fully timing based Morse code, time length perception of sounds, songbirds, and music. The chapter ends with discussion of neuro mechanics of length of time perception for sounds and similar events.

6:00 Time, Neural Dynamics, and Chaos

Here author moves to time measurement methods starting with regular clock and then moving to Supra and Infra period timing, the idea based on brain time processing, which is not necessary some kind of oscillator like in time measuring devices. This leads to a discussion of timing of the sequence of events such as rain drops and ripples generated by them and similar case of synaptic plasticity. It is connected to the idea of state dependent networks, which are basically core of processes in the brain discussed in the bulk of this chapter.

PART II: THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL NATURE OF TIME

7:00 Keeping Time

Author starts here with introduction of idea of temporal telescopes that allow us to look into the past or future. At first it leads to the discussion of atomic structure of the brain, formation of neurons, and such, then author moves to various time related devices from calendars to clocks, pendulums, and other oscillators that are at the core of time measurement.

8:00 Time: What the Hell Is It?

Here author goes back to the meaning of time and links it to the meaning of existence referring to previously discussed notions of Presentism and Eternalism, whether it is arrow or double-headed arrow or some other notion developed from fancy ideas produced by physicists.

9:00 The Spatialization of Time in Physics

This is about theoretical physics approach to the time as just one of dimensions of continuum, relativity of time and its dependence on speed. Somewhat unusual trick here is an attempt to remove inconsistency between eternalistic presentation of time/space and human perception of time moving from past to future via current by claiming that it is just neurological illusion of existence of now. Author poses a funny question if the block universe is compatible with neuroscience, but could not provide a clear answer.

10:00 The Spatialization of Time in Neuroscience

This is a look at the time beyond physics from purely human perspective. Author finds that even here time is considered as a dimension of space, albeit somewhat strange because one can move along it only in one direction or, alternatively it is moving through. Here is a nice illustration of these approaches:

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At the end author kind of connects time perception to general human susceptibility to illusions.

11:00 Mental Time Travel

This is about relation between time and brain. The brain actually could be considered a tool for mental time travel that allow analyze past and predict future from primitive prediction of future spatial position of running animal to plan on achieving some specific objective many years in the future. Author cannot help but mention human tendency to allocate much more value to the close future than to the distant one.

12:00 Consciousness: Binding the Past and the Future

The final chapter is about human mind ability to connect past and future, calibrating one’s behavior based on known actions and result in the past, and ability to predict future results, making live somewhat predictable, but a lot less than everybody would want.

MY TAKE ON IT:

The time is an interesting notion that I somewhat straggled back some 40 years ago when I did my classes in theoretical physics. Somehow I could not connect the clear and simple mathematical concepts of theory of relativity with common sense and experience of everyday live. Author discusses this kind of problem in his presentation of philosophical dispute between Eternalists and Presentists and he seems to be inclined to support the Eternalists approach. I on other hand learned over all these years that when there is any inconsistency between theory and common sense the latter should be treated preferentially just because it’s analog character guaranties inclusion of much more relevant information, albeit at the expense of being imprecise. I guess, in other worlds, I am convinced Presentist, even if this view is not supported by theoretical models of speculative science. As to the neurological and psychological side of the time, I think that compression of the past is natural feature of human memory, while ongoing present leading to unpredictable future that one will have to live second by second is inevitably seems to be slow moving unless one is in process of psychological flow. In short the Externalist’s spatial model of time as dimension is good for mathematical modeling and useless for living one’s live. The latter activity would be done much better if time were treated as a limited resource spent carefully.