As if

What are we collectively trying to do?

Governments are supposed to be the platform for our collective will. It isn’t anymore. Now what?

Everyone seems to think they know more than they do. The sheer diversity of opinion alongside the strength with which these opinions are generally held should give us all pause. Can we really justify our own beliefs? What does it even mean to “believe”?

How do we operate together without requiring identical belief structures?

Bracketing is required. Our beliefs, values, and actions are mutually reinforcing and interdependent.

We don’t seem to generally be capable of not believing something/anything even when we have insufficient evidence.

The world at the scale of the individual human is to a fair extent fairly easily verifiable with our own senses and checked with the senses of our friends and neighbors. The further any topic strays from this scale, the more difficult it is to verify.

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly this entails a situation in which our largest concepts are almost universally unverifiable; these include our worldview and sense of self.

Given our predicament, it seems prudent to admit, since despite our preferred metaphysics and individual lived experience that our individual worldviews are fundamentally speculative, especially to each other, regardless how real it feels to us.

If we are capable of this then we might be capable of coming to a more rational and mutually beneficial collective arrangement by finding a way of individually recognizing that despite our personal beliefs we can choose to behave as if we are all in this together. As if every one of us individually and collectively matters. As if we share something irrevocably in common despite our differences and that our lives might very well depend on it.

I’m not sure if anything can beat the cold, calculating cheesiness of maximizing positive sum gains for Earthlings. That’s what we call a win-win.



How to Read for Grad School

Miriam E. Sweeney


In graduate school the work load increases and students will find that they are expected to master two to three times the material that they were used to as an undergraduate.  This can be intimidating to the point of overwhelming a student into paralysis.  Following these tips should help you master your readings instead of allowing the readings to master you!

1.     Read Strategically, Not Linearly. Reading for graduate school is different than reading a book for pleasure.  When we read for pleasure we often start at the beginning of the book, reading carefully in a linear fashion.  If you do this with your academic material, it will take twice as long and it is likely you won’t retain the right kind of information from the reading.  Instead of reading linearly, read strategically.  As an academic reader your job is to mine the text you are reading for information. …

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The Day After: James Galbraith on Brexit

Radical Political Economy


By James Galbraith,

The groundwork for the Brexit debacle was laid last July when Europe crushed the last progressive pro-European government the EU is likely to see – the SYRIZA government elected in Greece in January 2015. Most Britons were not directly engaged with the Greek trauma. Many surely looked askance at the Greek leaders. But they must have noticed how Europe talked down to Greece, how it scolded its officials, how it dictated terms and how it made rebellious country into an example, so that no one else would ever be tempted to follow the same path.

If the destruction of Greece helped set the tone, Leave won by turning the British referendum into an ugly expression of English nativism, feeding on the frustrations of a deeply unequal nation, ironically divided by the very forces of reaction and austerity that will now come fully to power. The political effect…

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I have some questions

What kind of tools do we need in order to begin going about giving a thorough and well reasoned answer to the question, “What the fuck are we doing?”

What kind of ideological and/or social models do we have? What are their respective predictive accuracies and in what dimensions? What is the human species doing collectively, as a species? Are we a distributed network of consciousness? How intertwined are human limbic systems/other parts of the subconscious? What would it mean to use a better understanding of the science of human nature to intentionally model social organization on successful biological systems? Brains? Is “money is the blood of the social body” a useful metaphor? How well can we answer any of these questions in particular without answering other questions – in this set?/ not in this set? To what extent is strife a function of our inability to agree to what our symbols mean and what reality is? Are humans the platform for a battle of memes/ social software that determines the organization and hence patterns of energy flow of society through human agency? Should game design play a larger role in public policy? Should public policy be determined and executed more organically? Is the current centralization of power a threat to the survival of the human species? Why aren’t public policies generally required to be tested before they are implemented? Is it possible to have a governing social software system that optimizes social experimentation? Are there enough values that enough humans agree on to make conscious collective progress as a team despite our differences? What would it be like to all feel like we’re on the same team in some important sense? How does each of us as an individual relate to society? How much of our interactions are dominated by bureaucratic and monetary interests? How well mapped are other ways of organizing human collective action? How do we maximize human psychological healing? What questions do we think are the most important to pursue? If contexts determine which traits are selected for, what responsibility do we have to the manner in which our contexts are created? How does a social system that causes mass extinction maintain legitimacy? Why do I find it so difficult to live my life intentionally?

Certainty is original sin.

How many times have you known you were right about something and then find out you were actually wrong? Is it still reasonable to presume that that feeling of certainty is perfect? We are ignorant of our ignorance regularly.

We live in our worldview, and our worldviews are subconsciously created. The utility of sensory representation is in meeting homeostatic needs more tightly coupled to physical reality. The utility of higher order representations like metaphysics are selected for primarily and historically by our social reality, but it all feels equally real. We all know we’re right. The extent of our fervent disagreements should have been a hint that the strength of our convictions aren’t correlated with their accuracy. Consciousness is an experimental reality engine. The feeling of certainty is selected for because of our sociality as a species. You need to take your thoughts with a grain of salt. Consciousness is the press office of your body/brain.

I think people think we need certainty, because they like the feeling. I’m telling you to keep the feeling. You still get to feel certain about uncertainty. The feeling of certainty is a feeling. It can be separated from our ideas.

Attention trains neural patterns. Spend more time with your senses and your brain will be more tightly coupled to physical reality. It’s good to spend time in your mind too, but don’t get lost there. Your mind can’t tell you who you are because it doesn’t know what you are. We hear the outlines of a story and then we think we know. All us so called conscious creatures sleepwalk through our reality assuming they already know the nature of a consciousness we are just beginning to understand. This is was Socrates was talking about when he said, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing,” and “Wisdom begins in wonder.” Because we know now that experience is fundamentally representational like software and not physical or material. But experience is still experience of something outside of experience.

When you put your headphones on the music sounds like it’s coming from inside your head.

You’re sitting wrong. Sitting without holding your torso up with your core muscles is bad for you in a way that exercise can’t compensate for, just like exercise can’t compensate for putting junk food into your body.

You’re not ready for the next natural disaster. If you were rational you would be. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

You’re predictably irrational.

If you believe that all your beliefs are true you’re wrong, and you don’t know which things you’re wrong about. One thing less now maybe.

We live in an economic system where unemployment is inevitable. The rules of this economic game are determined by the government. And government policy influence is determined by economic class. According the recent research “America’s policymakers respond almost exclusively to the preferences of the economically advantaged.”

So we live in a game where we officially make the rules, so we’re free right? But was does it mean that we don’t make the rules. But we really do make the rules, just not always the official rules.
There’s guaranteed to be unemployed people in the current economy, purely structurally, but the poor are “moochers”?

I’ll tell you who the moochers are. They’re the fucking banks and energy companies. “consider that Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS in fiscal 2011 … even though it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion! And Citigroup (NYSE:C) made more than $4 billion in profits that year, along with a $2.5 trillion bailout, but paid no federal income taxes.”

“Of the top 20 region-sectors ranked by environmental impacts, none would be profitable if environmental costs were fully integrated. Ponder that for a moment: None of the world’s top industrial sectors would be profitable if they were paying their full freight. Zero.

That amounts to an global industrial system built on sleight of hand. As Paul Hawken likes to put it, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.”

The depth of our tragedy is hard to understate.

We are the meaning creators. You might be afraid that if you stopped believing something, that nothing would mean anything anymore. But in reality, the only reason anything mattered ever is because it mattered to someone. Things matter because of you. We are the source of meaning. Meaning sweats out of our pores, like sweat. 😉

But we don’t know what the fuck is going on and that we think we do is preposterous. It should be an obvious red flag. What the fuck kind of system am I seeing through that it feels normal to think that in the vastness of reality, everything I believe and can’t verify just IS ABSOLUTELY, UNDENIABLY TRUE!.

But we’re all on the same boat. This is our ultimate shared truth. Whatever metaphysics there turn out to be, we’re all in it together. And this might be it. There is no moment as consequential as now.

When the revolution comes there is nothing more important on agreeing that evidence matters and that we should focus on what we agree on;

what the evidence says the best way to come to agreements is matters.

There is power asleep in you. Never stop giving yourself the chance to surprise yourself.

You’re state of the art. For now.

“Here are the numbers: The computer scientists  recreated 1.73 billion virtual nerve cells and 10.4 trillion synapses, each of which contained 24 bytes of memory. The simulation took 40 minutes of real, ‘biological’ time to produce one virtual second.

Billions and trillions of simulated neurons and synapses is nothing to sneeze at, but keep in mind how that equates to only one percent of what’s going on in our noggins. The brain, by comparison, consists of about 86 billion neurons linked together by trillions of synapses, making for a total of hundreds of trillions of different pathways that brain signals travel through. That’s a lot of electrical impulses shooting through the brain at once, which means a hellova lot of machine power.”


And it’s you that differentiates words on a page from meaningless symbols.

What if we split the Federal budget?

If you’re an American adult your share is 25K. Based on the napkin math here: Federal spending divided by adult Americans. Let’s fire the government. If you can’t beat ’em join. I think we can do everything better.

What percentage of your monthly check do you want to automatically go toward funding a mars mission?

What percentage on agricultural subsidies?

I’m assuming we plan a smooth descent in military spending. We don’t want a military coup, but we don’t need to be spending more than the next 15 combined: China, United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, India, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Iran, Italy, Israel, Canada. The rest of the world spends the final fifth. The US military officially spends 2/5 of global military spending.

If other large groups of people, often called countries, collectively and officially join us in taking responsibility for governing back from the government I’m sure we could bring military spending way down.

There would obviously be intense pressure for both government agencies to clearly articulate the justification for their budget and decentralized, funded investments to judge these pitches rationally.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the telecom industry wasn’t one of the first big losers. What do you think?

Our democracy becomes literal, liquid and participatory. Why settle for a basic income as a government subject? Why not make government subject to us? Pay yourself first. This isn’t just a basic income it’s the citizen’s dividend. And then to protect your investment you help everyone who is fucked up (and costing you money).

Once we’ve pretty much settled on public debate accountability arenas we could find the mathematically ideal voting system for changing the tax rates. Nothing else is voted on. Everything else is spent on. I don’t think you can have a more fine-grained and thus ideal system of expressing individual and collective will.

How many awards for various competitions would you fund? How many people do you want to compete to figure out the best answers to the toughest questions? “According to the research, coming up with an incentive structure that looks and sounds like a game can make people actually try a lot harder.”

So why fuck ourselves over while we figure shit out? The societal (not just governmental) costs of not successfully dealing with poverty are far greater than the cost of preventing it. I think I remember someone (was it Benjamin Franklin?) saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A basic income is like a social vaccine from a host of poverty related issues related to health and crime.

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The beauty of budgetary transparency is the explicit recognition of the inextricability of public and private spending. No more of the lets cut taxes to save money (on taxes) and then spend more on the costs of not having spent that money. Indiana shut down its Planned Parenthood clinics and got an HIV outbreak.

This is 25K on top of your salary without any new taxes to start with. We could change the monetary system.

“The private sector economic costs of monetary reform are transfers of wealth from the banking industry to the American public. The replacement would be either non-profit banks operating as needed with minimum public cost such as fire departments and the postal service, for-profit banks lending time-deposits in regulated free-market competition, or a hybrid of the two (perhaps with government mortgages at a non-profit rate of 1%). The Public Banking Institute works for the public to act now for at-cost credit rather than waiting for federal reform.

Monetary reform stops the current built-in increases of the money supply through fractional reserve banking, and redirects it for direct payment of taxes for public goods and services. Each dollar transferred from bank creation to public benefit is one dollar less in public tax payment.”

“Monetary reform nationalizes the Federal Reserve (this name is deceptive so the public would perceive it as a government entity) and retain its use for bank administrative functions. Fractional reserve lending by private banks would be made illegal, with the US Treasury having sole legal authority to issue new money for the benefit of the American public rather than the benefit of the banking industry. About 30% of the national debt is intra-governmental holdings and ~16% held by the Fed; this debt would be cancelled as it becomes a bookkeeping entry with nationalization. Of the publicly-held debt of various parties holding US Securities, the US Treasury would monetize (pay) the debt in proportion to fractional reserves being replaced with full reserves over a period of one to two years to monitor money supply and avoid inflation. This means the US government would create debt-free money to pay the debt as it’s due exactly to the extent that private banks’ ability to create credit is reduced. The purpose of this is to avoid inflation.

The American Monetary Institute has a proposal called the American Monetary Act to do this. This proposal was also endorsed by America’s best-known economist, Milton Friedman, as the single most important action possible for US economic improvement. . .

The governmental cost of this reform is negligible because it simply authorizes Congress to enter money into its own account to directly pay for public goods and services. In fact, Americans would save money from decreased reliance on managing taxes.

The benefits are astounding: the American public would no longer pay over $400 billion every year for national debt interest payments (because almost 50% of the debt is intra-governmental transfers, this is a savings of over $200 billion/year). If lending is run at a non-profit rate or at nominal interest returned to the American public (for infrastructure, schools, fire and police protection, etc.) rather than profiting the banks, the savings to the US public is conservatively $2 trillion. If the US Federal government increased the money supply by 3% a year to keep up with population increase and economic growth, we could spend an additional $500 billion yearly into public programs, or refund it as a public dividend. This savings would allow us to simplify or eliminate the income tax. The estimated savings of eliminating the income tax with all its complexity, loopholes, and evasion is $250 billion/year. The total benefits for monetary reform are conservatively over three trillion dollars every year to the American public. Three trillion is $3,000,000,000,000. This saves the ~100 million US households an average of $30,000 every year. Another way to calculate the savings is to figure those amounts per $50,000 annual household income (for example, if your household earns $100,000/year, you save ~$60,000 every year with these reforms).”

New responsibility sure, but you care enough to find out who you trust that knows more about some particular issue to seek advice. Or if you’re scared, just keep the percentages the same and don’t keep any of it.
Is there anything obvious that I missed?

O yeah, “none of the top industries would be profitable if they paid for the natural capital they used.” It doesn’t make sense to continue coal power, cattle ranching, iron and steel mills and wheat farming in their current form. Let’s stop taking a loss on those.