Ronda Rousey, Charlie Sheen & Donald Trump Walk Into the Star Wars Bar

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Ronda says to the bartender, “Shot of bourbon with a beer back, please.”

Charlie then orders, “Double shot of bourbon, no chaser. I prefer to go bareback.”

Not be outdone, Trump asks the bartender for a triple shot with a vodka chaser, explaining, “Any more than three shots and I usually end up on the floor casting vomit spells the rest of the night, but what the hell, right?”

The bartender pours the drinks and while handing Trump his vodka chaser wryly comments, “May the fourth bewitch you.”


 

Although my opening pun seems to explain the title of this article, it was not the inspiration for it. The title came from pulling a few keyword subjects out of Google’s biggest searches of 2015. It is an obviously blatant attempt to opportunize on the internet’s most popular themes. And while I will certainly take any traffic that comes this blogs way, I really am trying to make a larger point here. Much of what you see on the internet has its genesis in similar logic. Capitalizing on popularity without much regard to the quality or originality of content. That is what makes ad revenue and that is what gets the greatest response at websites and in social media.

Author Bret Easton Ellis, perhaps best known as author of the cult classic novel American Psycho, recently wrote a piece sharing some of the same concerns I have been having about internet culture. In ‘Living In the Cult of Likability‘ he discusses how technical aspects of social media lend themselves to an ever-narrowing channel of groupthink, compulsive approval and unearned validation. He further goes on to discuss what this means in a Reputation Economy. While I think he is mistaken in suggesting that we already have a RepEcon, he is absolutely right about what this behavior would mean to such a paradigm. A saccharine, plasticine dystopia. In the words of Quasi’s Sam Coomes…

“A cardboard world of painted skies, ’cause we all must agree to believe in the lies.”

Where Ellis misunderstands a reputation economy is that he sees the early evolutionary markers of the thing as the thing itself. A RepEcon is not really possible alongside scarcity and currency-based economics. It cannot be achieved until certain technological and sociopolitical advances come about. Yet despite the fact that we do not have a RepEcon, we do have a lot of the early indicators of one. As I have discussed in the past, online rating and review systems as well as the way that social networks are structured and how monetary rewards for online content operate are all glances into the future in their infancy. In them we can see how a RepEcon might operate, and based on that, Bret is absolutely correct to be concerned and a bit horrified.

Should a future in which reputation is the economic status of the individual ever happen, and that reputation is determined on the metrics, culture and validation symbols that are intrinsic to the burgeoning progenitors we have now, it will be a neon Idiocracy.  The internet has become a bastion of pandering, marketing and manipulation. At the same time it has also increasingly become a source of identity, status and passive consensus. The combination of these things is that the most popular content is often the most calculated and manipulative garbage which then becomes culturally canonized by our most basic desire to gain acceptance. It is creating a feedback loop in which what we want and what we are given are increasingly narrowing in scope into the most basic things we can agree upon. We are told what to like, which then sends back a signal about what we like, which then is used to create more of what we were told to like to begin with. And every time these symbols travel around that feedback loop these lose more of their signal and become ever-degrading symbols devoid of any substance except that which can be exploited by opportunists as another way to manipulate us.

The sad part is that in social media, we do most of this to ourselves. The vapid patterns of behavior in Facebook and elsewhere are self-replicating patterns of self-validation and consensus gathering. From posturing the perfect life to expressing ourselves ever more simplistically through the appealing reductivism of memes, we are creating a lowest common denominator of the individual by which we are identified by ourselves and others, especially the predatory opportunists. These forms continue to reduce human experience and distill it into a picture of normality which we are then invited and inspired to achieve. The current forms of online reputation gathering and display work not to create value from the reputation of the individual, but from their acceptance of and aspiration to a false construct of normality.

And there are far more insidious ways that technology is catering to us against our best interest. One researcher believes it will be possible to derive our emotional states from how we are using our mouse. He plans to use this technology as a tool for web designers and marketers to cater to the responses of their users to certain types of content and formatting. Using the information, site administrators, content creators and advertisers can then produce online materials geared for the lowest common denominator. Big Data is watching our every move and figuring out how to best profit from it. It is spawning more and more technologies to measure our responses so they can be used to manipulate us into behaviors that profit those funding Big Data. It does so at the expense of the individual and at the complexity which drives human progress towards greater harmony by creating an illusion of harmony that is nothing more than an intellectual trap.

Where my original vision of the RepEcon was starry-eyed and wistful, I have come to see some of the catastrophic pitfalls should that reputation economy be based on the values perpetuated by the current forms of social media, internet culture and these technologies intrinsic technical structures. A healthy reputation economy requires healthy sets of human values that strive towards higher complexity, not more meaningless consensus constructed from the manipulative paradigms of the industrialist era. If our values do not improve and come to recognize the beauty and strength of outsiders, eccentrics and other staples of a healthy intellectual community, then the RepEcon will evolve humanity into a pitiful Idiocracy of desperate infantile behaviors seeking validation by denying their own individuality.

I have a few more upcoming articles about the RepEcon planned for the near future, just as soon as I get done spending the loads of cash that flow in from this blog. Don’t be afraid to click those share buttons just below. 😉

The Golden Rule Is A Terrible Way To Treat People

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The Golden Rule (TGR), which states that one should treat others as they themselves wish to be treated by others, is pretty much the standard moral foundation of all cultures; especially in the western world. However, the entire premise in helplessly flawed, which can be demonstrated logically, emotionally, spiritually or by any other metric. A simple explanation will suffice for a beginning.

No two people are exactly identical. Not only do we vary by shape, size, genetic make-up and other physical factors, our entire subjective world is completely unique to each one of us. Our inner world- our thoughts, our desires, our fears, our passions, our joys, pains and everything else about us is completely one-of-a-kind. Given this basic understanding of the nature of individuals, it would be absurd to assume that other people wish to be treated how we do.  Let us explore some obvious examples.

The most glaringly obvious demonstration is the existence of masochism.  A masochist is an individual who likes to experience domination, insult or injury at the hands of others. The opposite is the sadist, who likes to experience the same things, only at the expense of others. It would be quite simple to dismiss masochism as a valid argument if all masochists were extreme examples whose proclivities were simply mental aberrations or psychological deviants. Yet there is a whole range of masochism and the large majority of of those displaying this characteristic are otherwise normal, healthy people who just happen to like pain, humiliation and surrender in safe doses. While that is perfectly valid, if these people assumed we all desired such treatment and attempted to provide it, many of us would not be very happy about it.

A still somewhat obvious example of the problem of TGR that has a lot more real world application is the personality division between introverts and extroverts. Again, the scale here is entirely grey with all possible points between represented by some individual in the world. Introverts, not necessarily opponents of human interaction, prefer some control over the timing, duration, subject and method of interaction and often require processing periods without which they are stricken by anxiety. Extroverts, on the other hand, prefer most kinds of interaction over none at all; with loneliness as the chief cause of their anxiety. We can see how an extrovert might attempt to avoid their own negative states by initiating interactions, however if their target is an introvert, that attempt to alleviate might become a cause of stress for the other person. While both personalities and sets of expectations are valid, they do not necessarily mix well, which can create a zero sum game. Even two introverts or extroverts might ‘rub each other the wrong’ way if timing, method and other factors have differing levels of desirability to the two participants.

The Golden Rule is inflexible in navigating the desires and needs of others by starting with the faulty premise that they are the same as our own. Besides the two above examples there exist as many differences between individuals as there exist individuals. Even though a large part of the human experience bears some categorical similarity between us, the details differ absolutely. Even when we wish to do right by others via attempts to cause them to reach universally pleasurable states through our actions, we may have no idea how to get them there. The map to pleasure, pain and everything in between differs absolutely for all people. When we send others on a journey that they find insufferable where we found it delightful, the destination is unlikely to be the same or to bear the same effect.

Yet there is a rule almost as simple and beautiful as TGR that we can use to guide our interactions with others-

DO UNTO OTHERS AS THEY WOULD LIKE DONE UNTO THEM. IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT THAT IS, ASK. IF YOU DO NOT CARE TO ASK OR HONOR THEIR WISHES, LEAVE THEM ALONE ENTIRELY.

Almost every social, political and economic institution in the modern world denies the basic right of those who just want to be left alone; or at least have some control over when, where and what kind of interactions they have. Because the modern world is predicated on force, only the needs of very few individuals are ever met, and never even then completely, no matter the expense to others they compile in their attempts. Centralization of power and control made up of systematic hierarchies are attempts by the few to have all of their needs met by the many. That is why collectivism is never about the greater good, but about the good of those who are able to define and enforce their own ideas about the greater good, whether directly or through subterfuge. A civilization predicated on authority is one that ignores the most immediate and enduring truths about our existence as individuals.

We are not the same. No package meant to contain and serve us all could ever please any. By allowing these forces of authority to command the central tenets of existence for all individuals, we only insure the misery of all. We have attempted to create a balance between good/bad (right/wrong, happy/sad), etc.) by removing the opportunities to ever reach the heights of these possible states. In doing so we have robbed ourselves of our very meaning, sentencing the individual to a life of servitude to an idea that no single individual holds.

The Golden Rule is a great example of our faulty moral ideologies. By following its faults we can begin to see the world we live in a more honest way. The world we live in is largely constructed from fear, which we then try to alleviate through absolutes like TGR. Yet when we see how incompatible absolutes are with the variance between individuals, and since we undoubtedly exist experientially as individuals, we should not allow ourselves to be guided by or force others to obey absolutes. Unless they want to, which you should verify via their own answers first, and not just what you would want.

Star Trek and the Reputation Economy

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I am both a huge fan of the Star Trek Franchise (especially TNG) and a huge critic of the widespread interpretation of the show as some sort of perfect and attainable utopia. Widespread militarization, existential malaise and a number of other issues actually depict a sort of perverse, juvenile sketch of utopia. Yet there is no doubt that it has been highly influential in how we think about the future as well as an inspiration in the development of technologies.

images-1The most common reason given for the perfection of the fictional Star Trek universe is that it has evolved past money. It is often suggested that money was the greatest cause of past evils and ridding our species of its use allowed us to make leaps and bounds forward.  This is a rather unsophisticated simplification of human economies that does not apply to current humans who do not possess the technologies that make Star Trek possible. However, we are beginning to see some of the technologies in the show become real possibilities. Take the medical device, the Tricorder, which inches closer every year thanks to the sort of competition that people in the ST universe are too evolved for.

imagesYet the real reason that the ST universe can afford the luxury of abandoning currency lies mostly in the very specific technology of the replicator, which can provide humans with basic needs with matter created from unlimited energy. Well, it seems that we may be close to taking some of the first steps towards replicators as scientists claim they will soon be able to create matter from light. Now all we need is the free unlimited energy to power it and Voilà! Utopia.

As other technologies already available begin to make large scale production and centralized political and economic systems obsolete, we are already beginning to see the rise of new economic paradigms. It has suddenly become likely that the luxuries afforded to the ST universe will be available to us in the near future. As that luxury increases we will move away from Industrialism and most of its economic paradigms, as well as its social and political ones. Soon it may be possible to leave the slavery of wage employment and produce things of value to ourselves and others, not for mere survival, but for living.

Click the photo to read more about the reputation economy on Advanced Ape
Click the photo to read more about the reputation economy on Advanced Ape

The Burgerican Dream

the burgerican dream

Once upon a time the world came to an end. It just stopped doing what it was doing and through a series of FUBAR’s and SNAFU’s the number of TechnoApes dwindled down to nearly nothing. Nobody knew exactly what happened, but Alien Space Bats were strongly suspected. The few people who remained after humanities exodus from Earth gathered in small groups. These groups were characterized by a common interest shared by the members. In a small cattle farm in the midwest a few dozen such individuals collected around a mutual love of hamburgers. They called themselves Burgerica.

The Burgericans rebuilt their entire society around the production and consumption of hamburgers; as well as french fries and salads. Their social, political and economic systems were all maximized for burger production and consumption. Labor was divided so that there were those who farmed the raw materials and those who processed them into consumable forms. The two groups traded their products for the others and lived in harmony. But as time went on, the processes necessary to lead to hamburgers became more efficient, and the community grew.

Soon there was not enough work for all of the Burgericans, so they expanded their economy by having a new segment of the population which cooked and served the burgers to the other tradesmen and women. This worked for awhile, but soon people began to notice that some people made better burgers than others, and some suppliers and farmers had better practices than others in terms of efficiency and food safety. So a new segment was created of those who regulated the production, service and quality of burgers. But the community continued to grow and processes became more efficient and once again there were not enough jobs.

Since everybody was generally busy all day long farming and processing and serving and regulating, there was not enough burger consumption to keep up with supply. In order to decrease the supply and increase consumption there was a new segment created. This segment consisted mostly of people who were unhelpful or disinterested in burgers. They were given useless and mostly meaningless busywork and in exchange were allowed to consume hamburgers and french fries and salads.

Farming and processing are pretty hard work and for most people, serving burgers was pretty undignified. So people began flocking into the regulatory jobs as well as toward the busywork and consumption. Soon the number of people grew even more and the strain on the resources necessary to create hamburgers for everyone began to show.

When the farmers and processors and servers began to complain about their burden and warn the others about the imbalance of their system they were scorned. Burgers are everybody’s right, the others would say. We should all have equal access to burgers, they said.

The farmers and processors and servers tried to warn them that they were not saying they didn’t want to provide burgers, only that they could not provide burgers to everyone with a resource crisis looming. It was simply unsustainable. Besides, they added, most of you aren’t really doing anything but making our jobs more difficult or running stray errands that don’t produce the burgers that we all value and rely upon.

Yet the regulators and busyworkers would not hear of it. In fact, they began to insist that they had even more rights and access to the dwindling wealth produced by the hamburger economy, not just for themselves but for their families as well. So the farmers and processors and servers gave in, because there was nothing they could do. They were outnumbered and their way of life relied on keeping a steady supply of tasty burgers and fries and salads, so they pushed themselves and their resources to the very edge.

Finally it became apparent to the farmers they could not provide enough meat. The processors and servers felt the shortage and begin to feel the strain of a demand that could not be met. When the regulators and busyworking consumers caught wind of this they went nuts. They demanded and demanded that there were more and more burgers but their demands were pointless. It was not possible. Soon they began to fight one another for hamburgers and then they fought the servers and then they all fought the processors and then the processors joined them to go give the farmers hell, but they were all gone.

The farmers saw what was coming. They took their families and some meager possessions and equipment and went off to settle new lands. They left behind all that they had built in Burgerica and went off on their own. Amongst them they decided never to specialize again. Every farmer would produce, process, serve and regulate the things that they found valuable. Where there was mutually shared interest in one another’s products, they would trade. But they shunned a system of centralized authority and economic processes and instead traded and self organized through voluntary consent which relied upon every individuals talents, values and reputation.

And they lived happily ever after. Except for when they didn’t, because that is how life goes, but that was okay because their wisdom taught them that fighting it just made it worse.

Face Value: Reputation Economy

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Before I can tell you what Face Value is it will be necessary to explain the reasons why I began to envision it in the first place. I began my political philosophy very young as an anarchist and as I went through the growing pains of critical thinking I drifted into the stateless left until I could find no way in which those ideas did not necessitate a state of sorts. So eventually I began to adopt the ideas of an free market voluntaryist, individualist anarchist and/or libertarian. In the recent past I have disregarded the leftist idea that money is a social curse and stuck close to Austrian economics and free market ideology. Recently this began to bother me. No matter how I tried to reconcile the rest of the ideas about liberty with the idea of money, I could not make them stick. The problem itself is not political one, I realized, but a human one. Money itself rewards immorality. It is easily hoarded by those most willing to step on their fellow humans for it. And at the same time I can not believe that humans are themselves evil. Of course a small percent of them have psychotic or sociopathic tendencies, but overall humans were better than money disparity could account for. So I looked at money itself as the cause of the strife and suffering that it brings humanity. If the fatal flaw in money was that its acquisition creates immoral behavior then indeed the old saying was true. Money is the root of all evil.

Now, lets take a look at a snippet of the history and mechanics of money. During the dawn of the Agricultural Age humans began to specialize. In doing so it often became necessary to trade indirectly for a few reasons. First, commodities like carrots grown by a farmer would not be available to trade in the middle of winter. It would be convenient to tally the farmers contribution to his community in his time of abundance so that he could still purchase goods in the off season. Secondly, direct trade would mean that trade was only possible when both parties wanted each others goods or services. In order that everyone could trade their own production for that which they chose, the market created money as a sort of placeholder for production.

At first it was simple enough to trade with abstract items chosen by the society to represent wealth. As communities began to trade with one another it was necessary for a currency itself to carry the value which it was intended to represent. Therefore money soon became commodities itself, like gold or silver. Things whose scarcity gave them a sort of universal value. While this guaranteed that the money was of permanent value, it also opened up a new game. If commodities like gold could be used to exchange for the production of others, then one could expend effort simply in collecting the exchange commodity without the need of producing things of practical human value, which is far more work. So slowly a few clever humans began collecting money itself and with it they bought power and influence and eventually they created the state to protect their money and to gain more power. Eventually the state just issued abstract currencies which represented the sum of its own vast wealth. And so the production of the average man became just a way of growing the markets to collect more wealth for the state and the elites who control it while the average man was left to fight over the meaningless and intrinsically valueless pieces of paper the state issues us to create the illusion we are not just doing their bidding while we spend their pretend money in their company stores.

Yet if this seemed dishonest, the next step in money was even more delusional. Realizing the limits of commodities to back up money among growing populations, yet under its spell, the elite began to issue their own currency apart from the state. This new currency was based purely upon speculation. The bankers provided the speculation and in return charged interest on the usage of their currency. When populations soared and more money was needed they simply devalued the currency already in circulation to lend its value to newly minted currency and charged interest. The more the bankers speculated on the amount of trade and the necessary amount and value of currency, the more interest they collected. But they had speculated nothing, because if you haven’t guessed, this game is rigged. So now the elite not only had most of the worlds wealth in assets, they had also figured out how to steal back even the fake money they issued us. Yet we are forced to toil harder all the time just get some more of that bogus money to pass back to them in order that we might have food, shelter and fuel enough to survive. Even amongst the riches of our world. Think of a slave master who would issue his slaves money, let them compete over the easiest jobs and leave them no choice but to make all purchases from the masters very own store. This is where we are at.

And what of all these jobs? Today the politicians cry is jobs. The people beg for more jobs. Yet these jobs are often meaningless and unfulfilling. They are busywork. An economic shuffle to keep us in our place. To keep us from creating our own lives and our own purpose so that they would not interfere with theirs. And jobs themselves are becoming obsolete. Even today most work is unnecessary, and quickly becoming more so in due to technological innovations which lead to automation and at home production. Jobs are finite because there are far more humans alive today than there are necessary things to be done. The elite have created an endless menu of meaningless labor that destroys the very soul of the individual forced into the elites economic system through means of aggression.

As human civilization evolves again, as it has in ages past, we are coming upon a time in which information itself will be the most valuable commodity. Information itself is infinite, so it leaves the ability for every individual to create information and thus value infinitely. But value itself is still vague. If value is not represented by resources, commodities or labor, then what? To answer that question I must ask another. What gave resources, commodities or labor any value to begin with? The answer is simple. Consent. Consent that is not manufactured by an outside agenda is created through interactions between individuals in the form of morals, ethics and social values. In the final perspective it is human morality, ethics and morals which creates all economic value. How strange then that money led us astray from its very foundation.

So what then if moral and ethical behavior was in fact currency itself? How then could a few psychopaths and sociopaths prey upon the majority of us if their immoral and unethical behavior intrinsically prevented them from gaining any economic value with the rest of us? Why then would anyone ever collude with their evil for personal benefit if there were no benefits but were strong economic repercussions for inhumane activity? If good deeds created economic prosperity not only would it require moral and ethical behavior, but it would cripple the avarice and hubris created in others by the trap of money.

Now before I tell you what Face Value is, let me be very clear about what it is not. It is not the means to the end itself. It is not a final solution. It is not a new master.

Face Value is simply a means towards a society without money and the state. A beginning of the journey into the future of humanity. A tool using the best current technologies to open us up to the idea of doing future human economic interactions via morality and ethics by playacting them first in a purely social environment. Face Value is a new social networking site turned upside down. Instead of you telling everyone about yourself, everyone else uses it to tell everyone else about you. In this way, much like the rating systems at Amazon, Angie’s List and Rate Your Professor, every user would build up a rating based on a number of criteria and on their interactions with others online and in real life. This is essentially putting both individuals and human morals, ethics and values on the free market to determine the kinds of traits and activities human consensus finds worthy of rewarding us for.

Now before you begin to point out all of the awful ways this will inevitably be used at first, let me remind you that the plan is a long term one. Along the way we will work out the bugs and hopefully others will create similar systems to compete with Face Value and push the forward more quickly with more great human minds working on the problem. But to ease your mind just a bit let me explain some of the measures we have already thought of. First of all, you could not ever delete another persons rating or review. Should you choose to dispute it then it would go into a disputed section and the two parties would be forced to seek out a third party mediator which they both agreed upon and whose ruling they agreed to follow, who would then make a ruling on the case and the disputed rating or review would then either be deleted by the posting party or it would go on permanent display on your Face Value profile.

Everything in your profile will include specifics so that you may be judged not on merely an average of responses but also on the content and context of them. And even though Face Value would rely most heavily on ratings and reviews you could still list personal achievements, ideas or attitudes for others to help determine your character. In time, we hope, this would weed out not only immoral and unethical behavior; but it would also decide which morals and ethics are important.

We do not think that bigotry, hatred or greed could survive very well in such conditions. We do not think that the authoritarian state could survive very long if those interested in administering such a thing were prevented the ability to act improperly. Why would power or protection or war be needed when every individual and action was being judged and those who acted inhumanely were sanctioned for it? We do not believe that the vulgarity of excess created by human markets in which wealth and power for the few was the main agenda could survive for long. These processes destroy our world, our humanity and civilization itself. And if they are not curtailed, they will eventually destroy our species and much more. The destructive force of money combined with the exponential growth of human populations is a recipe for disaster. In order to survive this transition from the Industrial to the Information Age we must rethink economies that enslave and pillage. We must begin to drift away from a medium of exchange predicated upon a currency which invites our destruction and towards one based upon the value of each individual based upon their deeds and contribution to their community. Not on whats in our accounts or in our pockets but by the Face Value of the very lives that we lead.