If you’re like me, you know that there are medical prescriptions or procedures A, B, and C, which if everyone followed around you, would make everyone including ourselves safer. What these procedures or prescriptions are isn’t important for the context of this article, the important thing is they exist and you believe in them. If there were no medical procedures or prescriptions which you believed would benefit us were everyone to take them, then of course this proof would be over already.
So for the sake of this web-proof, so we have something non-trivial to do, assume for a moment that such a procedure or prescription exists. It is not only good for the people receiving it but also helps others, by virtue of the fact that not having sick people around is better for the general health. Or for other reasons, whatever they may be.
Got it? There’s a procedure, be it a vitamin, medicine, diet or otherwise, taken orally, intra-muscularly, or otherwise, which we agree would benefit society, or whatever group of people we might have in mind, a school, a nation, a vehicle, were everyone in the group to undertake the procedure.
Despite this, making this medical procedure mandatory for your school/business/country/vehicle is a terrible idea which no one in their right mind would consider implementing. Why? Thanks for asking.
1 – Mandates are unenforceable and logistically infeasible
Are you sure the person had the pill or the shot? Or did they just pay somebody for a paper signature claiming they did? Are you really planning to see if the paperwork checks out for all your customers / citizens / students? Are you checking their blood and then double checking the test kit with other test kits? Maybe you didn’t think this through did you. It’s not logistically feasible to make sure all your students/customers/citizens have or had not gotten whatever dose is appropriate for their body type. In fact it’s immoral to even try, but we’ll get there soon. Are you ready to pay to jail people who produced imperfect paperwork, perhaps counterfeit? Are you ready to put people in jail who had the proper paperwork just because you need to have the jailing infrastructure in place and you know there will be mistakes? What is your plan to deal with black market certificates and doctors having a price?
2 – Mandates are unscientific – they are explicitly anti-science
Mandates require an authority to say what everyone is required to do. Science is explicitly about not having an authority but instead to use the scientific method. As soon as you have a high priest making the decisions, you don’t have to worry about people like Galileo stirring up trouble with some heresies. If you wish to be scientific you need to let people do their own experiments, read the literature, and draw their own conclusions. The proper way to get people to undergo a medical procedure is to convince them scientifically – not through threat of violence and denial of human rights or services! Making the procedure mandatory is only going to make people question it, because such unscientific methodology is immediately suspicious.
3 – Mandates are grossly corruptible
Obviously, forcing all your customers to buy product X means the producer of product X gets rich. As you can tell, this is a grossly corruptible system. Sure, it could work well if everyone is a saint but this is an unstable equilibrium. Some assholes are likely to arrive on the scene at some point, given infinite time. Sadly, this is the actual reason that medical mandates are implemented – because often people really like corruption, when they can tell themselves they benefit from it.
4 – Mandates incur liability
Not everyone is the same. Even a simple procedure like “drink a glass of water before class” which seems totally innocuous will wind up finding somebody getting the water in their lungs, or breaking the glass and cutting their foot, or having some crazy rare allergy to the wax on your paper cup. Now suddenly you are liable for their injury. Is that something you wanted to incur when you got into the business of education / transportation or whatever it is you do? It’s going to be expensive so you better hope you made a lot from the corruption bit in point 3 to cover the lawsuits.
5 – Mandates enable unnecessary conflict
It turns out that we shouldn’t design systems where people are given a chance to hurt others for no reason. If you don’ t know why then go read about the Milgram experiment. In this case, now we have some health official who can mess up any of our customers/students/citizens day if they feel like it. A really bad idea. People are going to have the medical papers ripped up in front of them and then are going to be locked up – that’s the kind of thing that happens if you embark on this path. Giving some kids guns and telling them they can fuck with people they decide deserve it – this has been tried before, go take a look at a history book to see how it turns out.
6 – Mandated medicine violates human rights and indicates psychosis
Medical freedom is a human right, and if we feel the need to control others solely due to our own insecurities and sad hearts it means we are psychotic. If we are psychotic, maybe we should at least be keeping it under wraps don’ t you think? Rather than telling everyone how sad and psychotic our lives are?
So yeah, this isn’t about whether your favorite medical procedure is a good idea or how safe it is. We agreed that it is a good idea, and that it’s statistically safe. The point is, do you really want to force it on people? Remember “Our bodies, ourselves” ? What are basic human rights to you if you think people shouldn’t get to choose their own medicine? To see people get behind mandatory medicine aka medical fascism and all it implies is really sick. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last couple decades, you’ve probably checked out thunderbolts.info and some of the “Electric Universe” EU material. Astronomy pictures of the day, controversial theories and ideas on astrophysics and space science, and a general buzz around this field of study which hasn’t been around for a while. There’s an annual meeting attracting thousands and many more popular websites and video channels that bear the name. Even before we look at some of the ideas, the amount of people coming out to study and discuss space science and astronomy is in my mind a clear win. Thousands paying travel and conference fees and without even grant money!
A little digging will show you that the thunderbolts site appeared in 2003 or so, and Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott seem to have gotten the ball rolling along with some guys calling themselves the Kronia group. Surely I’ve messed the historical record up here already but that’s not our mission here today. Rather, we are going to make some general remarks on what we have learned here and how we can improve.
Let me just come right out and say it: I love these folks. Why not? There’s a huge amount of interest and attention being given to astronomy, space physics, and plasma physics. When I was working on NASA’s IBEX mission, one of the signs of success was that our data was being discussed in Electric Universe forums. Sure, it’s not all correct, but it’s still 100% in the right direction: people trying to learn and improve our knowledge. I think we can all agree that’s a good goal right? How we go about it on the other hand, is more controversial.
Recently some (self-proclaimed) EU philosophers have encountered some serious criticism. And with good reason! There are plenty of inaccuracies here, as we would expect in an open forum. Sure, Professor Dave might seem scathing but the truth is that he’s barely scratched the surface. He never mentions theories that the Earth was once a moon of Saturn, and whole other sets of crazy ideas. He missed Ben Davidson’s reporting about anomalous ocean buoys in the early days of Suspicious Observer, and Velikovsky’s claim that locusts arrive from comets.
It’s great to have open forums!
To make progress we need to consider ideas which are non-mainstream. Every single advance has been such an idea, by definition. So, forums which don’t allow such ideas aren’t really that great are they? Well, in one way no. Enabling people to converse and seek their own answers is great for making progress in our understanding of the world. Ben Davidson’s two minute news was fabulous, I watched it from my desk at the Physichalisches Institut and from the field. The guy was up at 3 am every morning putting together a video from the very best feeds we have of our star. Robataille has some great points, give him a chance! On the other hand…
Open forums suck
That being said, open forums devolve quickly. They are filled with spam, nonsense, flat earth and worse, and it becomes very hard to figure out what’s going on. Flame wars and Godwin’s law and all that. It requires great patience and discernment to wade through these publications.
The nice thing here is that EU has shown us that open forums are important, and that we can hear new crazy ideas from them, that they increase popularity of research, and at the same time it has shown us why walled gardens and peer-revied journals are also important and necessary. Two important lessons for any academic.
Seeing as what you are reading now is an open publication with no peer review, lets just jump into it. I have always loved open forums and some the ideas of the EU, and so this post is really intended to get the attention of EU proponents and tell them what I think is wrong with the EU. So, here’s a brief list of a few constructive criticisms.
“The Mainstream says: and “NASA says”
This is something you hear in a lot of EU posts and videos, and incidentally something you hear all over the place in other forums. It’s nonsense. NASA doesn’t say anything, people say things. “The mainstream” can’t say anything because it’s not a person. It’s time to realize: the media is you. If you are working on understanding NASA data then you ARE NASA. You are the mainstream. Own it. If you have beef with something specific that somebody said, that’s fine – mention who they are, and what they said, and why it’s wrong. Otherwise, we should stop pretending there’s some fictitious person with agency. It only detracts from our scientific arguments. Some EU material claims that mainstream astronomers don’t recognize the importance of plasma and electromagnetic fields. This is nonsense, as most everyone is taught that the observable universe is all plasma (99% plasma and the rest is dust) and that electromagnetic fields are the dominant force. There’s no need to pretend that there’s an enemy here folks, or to paint ourselves as controversial.
Einstein was Wrong
Well sure, Einstein would agree. And we will always see people who don’t like relativity and Einstein in open forums, this was well established before the WWW in the days of the newsgroups. However for the EU this stuff really has no place. Why? Because Einstein was arguably the biggest proponent of EU. Special relativity is at the heart of any electromagnetism textbook. Einstein told us that the universe is electric – not only the forces between the particles but the very ideas of distance and space themselves! SR is the original EU. Sure, we should be open to other concepts of space and time, but really – it’s shocking to see so many people supposedly pushing an EU agenda not seeing that SR is EU. One way to summarize special relativity is to say that the theory supposes that the universe is electric, that electricity and magnetism form the basis for space and time – that light defines straight lines and geodesics, as well as the meter and the second. From these assumptions follow the usual relativistic ideas of length contraction and time dilation. Don’t you think it’s odd that a forum supposedly for discussion and advocation of the importance of electricity in understanding the universe would find so many people using it to suggest that it’s wrong to suggest the universe is electric?
What’s this got to do with EU? Well it’s an open forum, so it’s all up for consideration. However things may have gotten a bit out of hand with political affiliations or something, because it seems there is a lot of butthurt rhetoric on this topic in EU forums. Maybe I missed something but y’all gotta step up and go back to doing some science and stop feeding the trolls. This would include, for those that wish to discuss the topic, recognizing that glaciers have been disappearing along with natural ski areas, that ocean life has been drastically curtailed by overfishing, that we are living in a mass extinction, that the CO2 to O2 ratio is higher than ever before as we change the atmosphere in the anthropocene age, and various other worrysome tidbits of basic observation such as deforestation, desertification, and more. If you want to talk about this stuff, go ahead, or else focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Mixing a little bit of climate change politics into your report on this or that space physics topic? Not very productive. Are there some politicians and charlatans leveraging climate change to support misallocation of resources? Maybe so, and if you think so – it’s worth pointing out. However, probably our opinions on this should be left out of our report on current solar wind conditions don’t you think?
Theory Y is wrong
Yeah, well it’s true. They are all wrong. Of course the big bang is wrong, how could we possibly get it right? We don’t even have a clue how galaxies work, we are hardly about to figure out how some much larger structure which we can’t even define works. However, this is not the basis for an article or video. Rather, we need to find a replacement for Theory Y where that theory stops working. Do you follow me? Claiming the Theory Y is wrong is a great introduction to a paper about Theory Z. Without Theory Z, we don’t have an article. So we gotta come up with better theories instead of just bashing the existing ones. We can claim the big bang is wrong until we are blue in the face, unless we come up with alternative explanations for redshift, nucleosynthesis, and CMBR, we aren’t doing a thing.
You couldn’t make this one up, yet there it is – in EU forums all the time. People who think that math itself might be to blame. Or something? Did I get it right? The trouble is, math is just a subset of language. We wish to communicate with each other here do we not? Using symbols right? Well then, blaming symbols for our mistakes is hardly the right idea. We need to use them correctly and clearly, sure. Of course it’s possible to lie and to make inaccurate statements using language and math, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying does it? This is really a terribly broken argument and sure, you might expect such broken arguments once or twice in an open forum but this one keeps popping up all too often.
Sure, the case of Barnard (of Barnard’s star fame) is worth considering, a successful astronomer worthy of great admiration who refused to study advanced math. However, he didn’t suggest that math was a bad idea, he just preferred to go and make astrometrical observations instead. Perfectly reasonable.
Birkeland Currents all the way Down
Yes, there are currents. Yes, often they may be classified as Birkeland currents. But when and how? What are the sources and sinks of current? Waving our arms and saying “Birkeland currents!” is not enough to explain every astronomical phenomenon in existence. It’s going to take a lot more work. Sure, there is a lot of interesting symmetry between geological features and plasma discharge etching features. Between ancient drawings and plasma discharge shapes. However the fact that two things look alike is not enough to be a scientific theory. I remember over a decade ago on a tropical field trip we noticed a plant with leaves that looked a lot like some plasma discharge features. Were these too electric universe effects? Of course not.
We need to describe how astronomical bodies build up charges, how discharge is initiated, how currents can form and last and what the charge carriers are, to name a few things missing from a lot of our theories.
The way forward
I would like to see some of the theories presented in Electric Universe forums reach a level of completion that allows them publication in Astrophysical Journal and in other top-tier peer-reviewed journals. Typically these kinds of forums undergo a progression, from open-controversial, to closed-establishment. Arxiv.org is a good example of a forum which was open which is now mainstream and edited. The folks looking for an open place to leave any preprints, no matter how controversial, now have to go to vixra.org (or elsewhere). The cliche is “first they ignore us, then they fight us, then they join us”. I would not be surprised to see some EU venues become walled gardens and established institutions with peer review which don’t allow the most controversial opinions to be published. Then, we will see the next “contorversial” forums arise. The cycle continues.
What could be more important to us than organizing human behavior? Well perhaps pure abstract knowledge and discovery. However, leaving that aside for now, lets focus on organization of human behavior. Companies, nations, universities, institutions, economies, and ecosystems. Families and communities. Foundations and corporations. How should they be run and what should they do? How can we work towards responsible stewardship of our resources? How can we ensure the survival of our body, life on Earth, and voyage to the stars? How can we best enable the pursuit of happiness?
All this is important stuff I imagine you agree dear reader. Well then, we ought to be discussing these things and thinking about them, and making progress in our ideas. Sometimes however, we are prone to get stuck. These discussions run into dead ends and despite pushing and pulling on the ideas and systems we simply stop making progress. Scary stuff. The rhetoric of “capitalism vs. socialism” is one of these instances, where it seems we have been stuck for a century or so, and so we will endeavor to finally and permanently discredit this type of rhetoric here, and point towards a better way forward.
You’ve probably been exposed to this rhetoric, from “both sides”. You’ve seen people whose identities have been formed around these words as somehow being enemies, whose platforms and textbooks and classes are structured around pushing or pulling in one way or another as though there were really a struggle between two ends. We blame one of these two categories of schools of thought for problems of misallocation of resources and mismanagement, poverty and destruction, and also we raise one of them as hope for salvation, crediting it for great works of humanity. Because of all the century of history of supposed conflict in intellectual discourse, we may be somewhat afraid to see this rhetoric of C vs. S tumble and fall, but don’t fear! In fact the meanings of these words can stand strong and the work which has been accomplished in laying out foundations and philosophy of these concepts is important useful work towards a better future. It is only the perceived struggle between them that must fall.
So lets get started.
Some of you might guess that we will attack this C vs. S rhetoric on the basis of its ambiguity. While its true that there is quite a lot of ambiguity in these terms, and many argue their grey area and precise definition, that is not the final discrediting we seek. Nearly all identifying words and symbols have some ambiguity in use, and yet still this does not stop us from using them to create useful labels and fight battles. The ambiguity of these terms is a start, and the different definitions used by different authors is telling as to some of the problems with this story, but there are two much stronger logical issues which make up the bulk of our argument.
1 – All institutions, economies, corporations, and nations contain and always will contain elements of both capitalism and socialism, both crucial to their survival and efficiency.
Many people say “nobody’s ever tried pure socialism” or “nobody ‘s ever tried pure capitalism”, and of course they are right. Humans are social animals and individuals at the same time, and always will be. While many refer to the United States as “A capitalist nation” (a phrase which is arguably oxymoronic), we all understand that the United States also is in a large part shaped by socialist institutions, like the military, the coast guard, the national parks, the department of education, the federal reserve, NASA, and so on. Even if we adopt a definition of these terms for which we disagree that one or another of these institutions is really socialist, we cannot deny that “We the People” has a very socialist ring to it, especially seeing as government has some influence on means of production. Meanwhile China is referred to by many as a socialist nation, but we also all understand that many parts of the infrastructure are run by capitalist institutions. Markets, investors, wealthy individuals, real estate developers, and economic freedom to open a billion storefronts every day, with an incentive present of personal wealth, are crucial to the survival and success of the nation and the people. In fact I believe most Americans after spending an hour in a Chinese city would believe China to be more capitalist than the US, because of the much greater freedom to start and run businesses without licenses, zoning permits, and the like.
There cannot be any denying that elements of both socialism and capitalism are essential in good governance and organization.
That being said, though perhaps not digested, lets move on to a second logical blow to our battle over a false dichotomy:
2 – Every individual human behavior or act can be viewed as motivated both by capitalism and by socialism.
This point is perhaps more subtle, but it is worth making, as it represents pulling out the roots of this stuck rhetoric so it cannot grow again. So we consider a few examples.
One example is the behavior of people trading in a stock market. Certainly a capitalist behavior wouldn’t you agree? Well the stock market is also to some extent public ownership of companies (companies with shares on the stock markets are called “publicly owned companies”). Ownership of the means of production by the people. You can see that from another viewpoint it can be viewed as a socialist behavior.
Another example is that of giving directions to a stranger in the street who asks for help finding an address. Because no money and no promise of goods or services is offered, we might view the act of helping this stranger as a socialist behavior. However, we could also view the act as “selfish”, in that the person giving the directions is trying to feel better, or trying to strengthen the community so that their own life will be better, or even improving their own karma. Giving proper directions to a stranger improves the social well being which further improves our individual chances to survive and get ahead.
We might view a truck driver going north with Georgia peaches as doing so solely for the paycheck they will receive, a capitalist viewpoint. However we could also view their behavior as motivated by a social desire to help the community have better fruit and health, while the paycheck is a necessary and important gesture for the work to continue.
A landlord evicting her tenant might seem from one viewpoint like a very capitalist act. However one could also view this as a landlord trying to improve the health of their social community by replacing a less productive member of the community with a more productive member.
A capitalist viewpoint might point that people do things only for profit. A socialist viewpoint might be that most of real profit is social, as money is a social system – obtained for status, power, and material goods to be used in a social context.
Perhaps one or the other “viewpoint” in the above examples seems strained to us, but none the less we cannot deny that the viewpoint exists. In fact we can go still further and remain consistent with a stronger example of changing viewpoints as follows:
Capitalism is a type of Socialism.
Socialism is a system of governance or organization in which the means of production are controlled by the people; in which things are done for the good of society, with a view towards equality at some level. One way to carry out this ideal is to use a sub-system of trade, price discovery, and individual incentives to enable people to best participate in the socialism and make the logistics work (such as selecting prices for trade). We will call this sub-system “capitalism”.
Socialism is a type of Capitalism
Capitalism is a system of governance or organization in which individuals act on their own to better their own lives, taking ownership the means of production. To best perform said betterment, it behooves the capitalists to ensure that basic services and social structures are present, so that individuals can make their capitalist and consumer choices properly. They can employ a sub-system called “socialism” to improve and form a solid foundation for their capitalist system.
Do these two bold arguments seem inconsistent? They aren’t really. Consider that biology is a branch of physics, in that all the behavior of the atoms in a biological system are described by physics. And yet physics is a branch of biology, in that physicists study models of the world around them as observed by and as explainable by the human brain, a biological system. Proper categorization depends on context, and context can shift. We should not be tempted to fight battles of Physics vs. Biology in which we push for ONLY one or the other to survive. Those who choose to improve physics do not do so by holding signs saying “END BIOLOGY”.
In some sense, our attempts to organize our behaviors have been like a driver of a car, with imperfect tires and gas tank not quite full. Rather than attempt to fill the tank, and improve the tires, we have aligned ourselves as “anti-tires” or “anti-gas” and put great effort into seeing a future car with no tires or no gas. This must be put to a stop if we are to progress in our governance and organization capabilities. We need our capitalists to focus on fixing our capitalism and our socialists to focus on fixing our socialism. There is much work to be done.
Capitalism is broken
If I said that physics was broken, would you assume that I meant that it was a bad idea to ever study physics? No, you would probably assume that I was talking about some specific theory in physics which didn’t work for some reason. After all, physics is a series of approximations. One can almost always find a place in which this or that law doesn’t quite work. In the same vein, we need our philosophers, leaders, educators, and teachers, to consider how to make our capitalism work better, not to eliminate it, as that would be an impossible and misguided goal.
The theoretical potential of individuals acting in their own interest to create an efficiency of resource allocation is real. Clearly, we seek and carry out trade, and clearly trade requires price discovery. I hardly need to reference the philosophers going back millenia who have stated this much better than I have. So how are we doing? Well pretty fucking terribly. Prices vary by orders of magnitude based on location and access, demonstrating that free market arbitrage is nearly nonexistent. It’s so bad that many people claim the black markets are the only free markets, an irony that merits reflection. People are prevented from moving goods and services and even their own bodies from place to place, by border orcs demanding “papers please”, in clear violation of the UN declaration of human rights. This has become so regular that we mostly just accept it as a fact of life. Investment shows promise of allowing intelligent people to allocate resources, but often people are pushed into “index funds” and investments go to the biggest companies removing the benefit of consumer choice in allocating resources and enabling gross mismanagement.
Despite the supposedly total universal knowledge of basic economics such as supply and demand, there are almost no shops which adjust prices rapidly with supply (airline tickets being one notable exception). People use fiat currencies to price goods, currencies which are issued at no cost, giving issuers to ability to control any prices they wish – eliminating the potential of capitalist systems to function. Monopolies form and enforce price structures with violence. How is that for some problems with our capitalism? We should get cracking on that. Not easy problems, but worth addressing don’t you think? Oddly enough, many of the best commentaries on the problems of capitalism have been published by people considered as “socialist”, an odd situation where deep and intense study of one field makes people call you an expert in another field.
Obviously we have only begun to scratch the surface here of problems in our attempts to implement capitalism and free markets.
Socialism is Broken
The tragedy of the commons. Well one tragedy is that there aren’t enough commons. Another is that people are quick to mess them up, thinking they can get away with it because the commons don’t belong to anyone. It’s nonsense of course, and our society needs to shun such actions as taboo, but we aren’t quite cutting it, as you can tell by the messes we are making. Do we need regulations you think? Well yeah, but there’s the problem of regulatory capture. Everything we try to regulate requires selecting a regulator, and now the regulator “captures” or controls the activity they were supposed to regulate, enabling the activity to continue with new bosses. In other words: corruption is rampant. A lot of our socialist systems are plagued with corruption, and playing whack-a-mole catching this or that corrupt politician or embezzling official doesn’t seem to be working. We need to use public systems that don’t allow the embezzling and secret corruption to occur. Are we doing that? Not really. We are using privately issued currency to pay bribes to regulators working with policemen who forbid use of cameras. Even attempting to allow the people to know the law is illegal, as Aaron Schwartz found out. Pretty broken wouldn’t you agree?
Again, we only scratch the surface here. Good socialists need to examine the problems and define metrics to describe how we are doing and to decide how we can improve.
A final argument
Perhaps you are still with me, but holding on to some idea that maybe socialism or capitalism could win this fight, that the “merger” and “working together” nonsense in this article is wrong somehow. Great! Perhaps you are one who would like to “End socialism”. Very nice.
Now tell me what it will look like when socialism has been ended. What will be different? What will it look like? Perhaps nations are gone, all land and services are privatized.. no more public beaches.. no regulations? But wait, what will be using to organize our new private beaches? What will be our money? Our language? Seeing as we are using money, language, and beaches, could we perhaps argue that there is some socialism going on here? Those things after all are useful in that they are equal for all individuals, and not totally owned by any individual. Can you prove me wrong by somehow envisioning a society without socialism? Probably not, because it’s not socialism that is the problem, but broken socialism that doesn’t work. We need to fix it, not end it.
Or maybe you are the one who thinks we can end capitalism? Great! The argument works for you as well. What will it look like when we did it? How will we know we finally ended capitalism? Even in the star trek borg, there are individuals, who might seek to better their status, even if its just for the purpose of strengthening the collective. You can’t really have “no capitalism”. In the end, an individual needs to eat and the food therefore can be called theirs. Sure, there are huge problems with different supposed attempts to implement capitalist systems. There are problems with physics too, and yet it would seem strange to suggest “end physics”. We don’t need to end capitalism, we need to actually implement it correctly.
Now that we have this “captialism vs. socialism” nonsense behind us, we can move forward towards fixing our organizational structures. Capitalists will focus on analyzing capitalist systems, how to fix them, how to manage and understand and index them. Can we have some reasonable markets please? Maybe some rational price discovery pretty please? Maybe a measurement of how we are doing will help. Socialists will focus on analyzing socialist systems, how to fix them, how to manage and understand and index them. How much corruption is possible in our governance systems, can we quantify this? Maybe some shared spaces and basic support structures for life on earth to continue, pretty please?
Or we could just continue as is and half of us will say “fuck gas tanks” while the other half says “end tires” as we stand around next to a stuck vehicle. Well OK, there is a cooler of beer in the back so maybe that’s what we want to do here anyway?
I’m just going to go ahead a post a single chapter from “Tales of Power” by Carlos Castenada, 1981. Enjoy!
The Island of the Tonal
Don Juan and I met again the next day at the same park around noon. He was still wearing his brown suit. We sat on a benchl He took off his coat, folded it very carefully but with an air of supreme casualness, and laid it on the bench. His casualness was very studied and yet it was completely natural. I caught myself staring at him. He seemed to be aware of the paradox [* paradox- something that contradicts itself] he was presenting to me and smiled. He straightened his necktie. He had on a beige long-sleeved shirt. It fit him very well.
“I still have on my suit because I want to tell you something of great importance,” he said, patting me on the shoulder. “You had a good performance yesterday. Now it is time to come to some final agreements.”
He paused for a long-moment. He seemed to be preparing a statement. I had a strange feeling in my stomach. My immediate assumption was that he was going to tell me the sorcerers’ explanation. He stood up a couple of times and paced back and forth in front of me as if it were difficult to voice what he had in mind.
“Let’s go to the restaurant across the street and have a bite to eat,” he finally said.
He unfolded his coat, and before he put it on he showed me that it was fully lined.
“It is made to order,” he said and smiled as if he were proud of it; as if it mattered.
“I have to call your attention to it or you wouldn’t notice it, and it is very important that you are aware of it. You are aware of everything only when you think you should be. The condition of a warrior, however, is to be aware of everything at all times.
“My suit and all this paraphernalia is important because it represents my condition in life- or rather, the condition of one of the two parts of my totality. This discussion has been pending. I feel that now is the time to have it. It has to be done properly, though, or it will never make sense. I wanted my suit to give you the first clue. I think it has. Now is the time to talk; for in matters of this topic there is no complete understanding without talking.”
“What is the topic, don Juan?”
“The totality of oneself,” he said.
He stood up abruptly and led me to a restaurant in a large hotel across the street. A hostess with a rather unfriendly disposition gave us a table inside in a back corner. Obviously the choice places were around the windows.
I told don Juan that the woman reminded me of another hostess in a restaurant in Arizona where don Juan and I had once gone to eat. She had asked us before she handed out the menu if we had enough money to pay.
“I don’t blame this poor woman either,” don Juan said, as if sympathizing with her. “She too, like the other one, is afraid of Mexicans.”
He laughed softly. A couple of people at the adjacent tables turned their heads around and looked at us.
Don Juan said that without knowing, or perhaps even in spite of herself, the hostess had given us the best table in the house; a table where we could talk and I could write to my heart’s content.
I had just taken my writing pad out of my pocket and put it on the table when the waiter suddenly loomed over us. He also seemed to be in a bad mood. He stood over us with a challenging air.
Don Juan proceeded to order a very elaborate meal for himself. He ordered without looking at the menu- as if he knew it by heart. I was at a loss. The waiter had appeared unexpectedly and I had not had time to read the menu, so I told him that I would have the same.
Don Juan whispered in my ear, “I bet you that they don’t have what I’ve ordered.”
He stretched his arms and legs, and told me to relax and sit comfortably because the meal was going to take forever to be prepared.
“You are at a very poignant crossroad,” he said. “Perhaps the last one, and also perhaps the most difficult one to understand. Some of the things I am going to point out to you today will probably never be clear. They are not supposed to be clear anyway. So don’t be embarrassed or discouraged. All of us are dumb creatures when we join the world of sorcery, and to join it doesn’t in any sense insure us that we will change. Some of us remain dumb until the very end.”
I liked it when he included himself among the idiots. I knew that he did not do it out of kindness, but as a didactic [* didactic- excessively instructive] device.
“Don’t fret if you don’t make sense out of what I’m going to tell you,” he continued. “Considering your temperament, I’m afraid that you might knock yourself out trying to understand. Don’t! What I’m about to say is meant only to point out a direction.”
I had a sudden feeling of apprehension. Don Juan’s admonitions [* admonition- cautionary advice about something imminent] forced me into an endless speculation. He had warned me on other occasions in very much the same fashion; and every time he had done so, what he was warning me about had turned out to be a devastating issue.
“It makes me very nervous when you talk to me this way,” I said.
“I know it,” he replied calmly. “I’m deliberately trying to get you on your toes. I need your attention; your undivided attention.”
He paused and looked at me, I laughed nervously and involuntarily. I knew that he was stretching the dramatic possibilities of the situation as far as he could.
“I’m not telling you all this for effect,” he said, as if he had read my thoughts. “I am simply giving you time to make the proper adjustments.”
At that moment the waiter stopped at our table to announce that they did not have what we had ordered. Don Juan laughed out loud and ordered tortillas and beans. The waiter chuckled scornfully and said that they did not serve them, and suggested steak or chicken. We settled for some soup.
We ate in silence. I did not like the soup and could not finish it, but don Juan ate all of his.
“I have put on my suit,” he said all of a sudden, “in order to tell you about something; something you already know but which needs to be clarified if it is going to be effective. I have waited until now because Genaro feels that you have to be not only willing to undertake the road of knowledge, but your efforts by themselves must be impeccable enough to make you worthy of that knowledge. You have done well. Now I will tell you the sorcerers’ explanation.”
He paused again, rubbed his cheeks, and played with his tongue inside his mouth as if he were feeling his teeth.
“I’m going to tell you about the tonal and the nagual” he said and looked at me piercingly.
This was the first time in our association that he had used those two terms. I was vaguely familiar with them through the anthropological literature on the cultures of central Mexico.
I knew that the ‘tonal’ (pronounced, toh-na’hl) was thought to be a kind of guardian spirit, usually an animal, that a child obtained at birth and with which he had intimate ties with for the rest of his life.
‘Nagual’ (pronounced, nah-wa’hl) was the name given to the animal into which sorcerers could allegedly transform themselves; or to the sorcerer that elicited such a transformation.
“This is my tonal” don Juan said, rubbing his hands on his chest.
“No. My person.”
He pounded his chest and his thighs and the side of his ribs.
“My tonal is all this.”
He explained that every human being had two sides; two separate entities; two counterparts which became operative at the moment of birth. One was called the ‘tonal’ and the other the ‘nagual’.
I told him what anthropologists knew about the two concepts. He let me speak without interrupting me.
“Well, whatever you may think you know about them is pure nonsense,” he said. “I base this statement on the fact that whatever I’m telling you about the tonal and the nagual could not possibly have been told to you before. Any idiot would know that you know nothing about them because in order to be acquainted with them you would have to be a sorcerer, and you aren’t. Or you would’ve had to talk about them with a sorcerer, and you haven’t. So disregard everything you’ve heard before because it is inapplicable.”
“It was only a comment,” I said.
He raised his brows in a comical gesture.
“Your comments are out of order,” he said. “This time I need your undivided attention since I am going to acquaint you with the tonal and the nagual. Sorcerers have a special and unique interest in that knowledge. I would say that the tonal and the nagual are in the exclusive realm of men of knowledge. In your case, this is the lid that closes everything I have taught you. Thus I have waited until now to talk about them.
“The tonal is not an animal that guards a person. I would rather say that it is a guardian that could be represented as an animal. But that is not the important point.”
He smiled and winked at me.
“I’m using your own words now,” he said. “The tonal is the social person.”
He laughed, I supposed, at the sight of my bewilderment.
“The tonal is rightfully so, a protector; a guardian- a guardian that most of the time turns into a guard.”
I fumbled with my notebook. I was trying to pay attention to what he was saying. He laughed and mimicked my nervous movements.
“The tonal is the organizer of the world,” he proceeded. “Perhaps the best way of describing its monumental work is to say that on its shoulders rests the task of setting the chaos of the world in order. It is not farfetched to maintain, as sorcerers do, that everything we know and do as men is the work of the tonal.
“At this moment, for instance, what is engaged in trying to make sense out of our conversation is your tonal. Without it there would be only weird sounds and grimaces, and you wouldn’t understand a thing of what I’m saying.
“I would say then that the tonal is a guardian that protects something priceless; our very being. Therefore an inherent quality of the tonal is to be cagey and jealous of its doings. And since its doings are by far the most important part of our lives, it is no wonder that it eventually changes in every one of us from a guardian into a guard.”
He stopped and asked me if I had understood. I automatically nodded my head affirmatively, and he smiled with an air of incredulity.
“A guardian is broad-minded and understanding,” he explained. “A guard, on the other hand, is a vigilante; narrow-minded and most of the time despotic [* despotic- characteristic of having absolute authority]. I say then that the tonal in all of us has been made into a petty and despotic guard when it should be a broad-minded guardian.”
I definitely was not following the trend of his explanation. I heard and wrote down every word and yet I seemed to be stuck with some internal dialogue of my own.
“It is very hard for me to follow your point,” I said.
“If you didn’t get hooked on talking to yourself, you would have no quarrels,” he said cuttingly.
His remark threw me into a long explanatory statement. I finally caught myself and apologized for my insistence on defending myself.
He smiled and made a gesture that seemed to indicate that my attitude had not really annoyed him.
“The tonal is everything we are,” he proceeded. “Name it! Anything we have a word for is the tonal. And since the tonal is its own doings, then everything, obviously, has to fall under its domain.”
I reminded him that he had said that the ‘tonal’ was the social person, a term which I myself had used with him to mean a human being as the end result of socialization processes. I pointed out that if the ‘tonal’ was that product, it could not be everything, as he had said, because the world around us was not the product of socialization.
Don Juan reminded me that my argument had no basis for him, and that long before he had already made the point that there was no world at large but only a description of the world which we had learned to visualize and take for granted.
“The tonal is everything we know,” he said. “I think this in itself is enough reason for the tonal to be such an overpowering affair.”
He paused for a moment. He seemed to be definitely waiting for comments or questions, but I had none. Yet I felt obligated to voice a question and struggled to formulate an appropriate one.
I failed. I felt that the admonitions with which he had opened our conversation had perhaps served as a deterrent to any inquiry on my part. I felt strangely numb. I could not concentrate and order my thoughts. In fact I felt and knew without the shadow of a doubt that I was incapable of thinking. And yet I knew this without thinking; if that were at all possible.
I looked at don Juan. He was staring at the middle part of my body. He lifted his eyes and my clarity of mind returned instantly.
“The tonal is everything we know,” he repeated slowly. “And that includes not only us as persons, but everything in our world. It can be said that the tonal is everything that meets the eye.
“We begin to groom it at the moment of birth. The moment we take the first gasp of air we also breathe in power for the tonal. So it is proper to say that the tonal of a human being is intimately tied to his birth.
“You must remember this point. It is of great importance in understanding all this. The tonal begins at birth and ends at death.”
I wanted to recapitulate all the points that he had made. I went as far as opening my mouth to ask him to repeat the salient [* salient- having a quality that thrusts itself into attention] points of our conversation, but to my amazement I could not vocalize my words. I was experiencing a most curious incapacity. My words were heavy and I had no control over that sensation.
I looked at don Juan to signal him that I could not talk. He was again staring at the area around my stomach.
He lifted his eyes and asked me how I felt. Words poured out of me as if I had been unplugged. I told him that I had been having the peculiar sensation of not being able to talk or think, and yet my thoughts had been crystal clear.
“Your thoughts have been crystal clear?” he asked.
I realized then that the clarity had not pertained to my thoughts, but to my perception of the world.
“Are you doing something to me, don Juan?” I asked.
“I am trying to convince you that your comments are not necessary,” he said and laughed.
“You mean you don’t want me to ask questions?”
“No, no. Ask anything you want, but don’t let your attention waver.”
I had to admit that I had been distracted by the immensity of the topic.
“I still cannot understand, don Juan, what you mean by the statement that the tonal is everything,” I said after a moment’s pause.
“The tonal is what makes the world.”
“Is the tonal the creator of the world?”
Don Juan scratched his temples.
“The tonal makes the world only in a manner of speaking. It cannot create or change anything, and yet it makes the world because its function is to judge, and assess, and witness. I say that the tonal makes the world because it witnesses and assesses it according to tonal rules. In a very strange manner, the tonal is a creator that doesn’t create a thing. In other words, the tonal makes up the rules by which it apprehends the world. So, in a manner of speaking, it creates the world.”
He hummed a popular tune, beating the rhythm with his fingers on the side of his chair. His eyes were shining. They seemed to sparkle. He chuckled, shaking his head.
“You’re not following me,” he said, smiling.
“I am. I have no problems,” I said, but I did not sound very convincing.
“The tonal is an island,” he explained. “The best way of describing it is to say that the tonal is this.”
He ran his hand over the table top.
“We can say that the tonal is like the top of this table. An island. And on this island we have everything. This island is, in fact, the world.
“There is a personal tonal for every one of us, and there is a collective one for all of us at any given time which we can call the tonal of the times.”
He pointed to the rows of tables in the restaurant.
“Look! Every table has the same configuration. Certain items are present on all of them. They are, however, individually different from each other. Some tables are more crowded than others. They have different food on them, different plates, different atmosphere, yet we have to admit that all the tables in this restaurant are very alike.
The same thing happens with the tonal. We can say that the tonal of the times is what makes us alike in the same way it makes all the tables in this restaurant alike. Each table separately, nevertheless, is an individual case just like the personal tonal of each of us. But the important factor to keep in mind is that everything we know about ourselves and about our world is on the island of the tonal. See what I mean?”
“If the tonal is everything we know about ourselves and our world, what then is the nagual?”
“The nagual is the part of us which we do not deal with at all.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“The nagual is the part of us for which there is no description: no words, no names, no feelings, no knowledge.”
“That’s a contradiction, don Juan. In my opinion, if it can’t be felt or described or named, it cannot exist.”
“It’s a contradiction only in your opinion. I warned you before, don’t knock yourself out trying to understand this.”
“Would you say that the nagual is the mind?”
“No. The mind is an item on the table. The mind is part of the tonal. Let’s say that the mind is the chili sauce.”
He took a bottle of sauce and placed it in front of me.
“Is the nagual the soul?”
“No. The soul is also on the table. Let’s say that the soul is the ashtray.”
“Is it the thoughts of men?”
“No. Thoughts are also on the table. Thoughts are like the silverware.”
He picked up a fork and placed it next to the chili sauce and the ashtray.
“Is it a state of grace? Heaven?”
“Not that either. That, whatever it might be, is also part of the tonal. It is, let’s say, the napkin.”
I went on giving possible ways of describing what he was alluding to: pure intellect, psyche, energy, vital force, immortality, life principle. For each thing I named he found an item on the table to serve as a counterpart and shoved it in front of me until he had all the objects on the table stashed in one pile.
Don Juan seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. He giggled and rubbed his hands every time I named another possibility.
“Is the nagual the Supreme Being; the Almighty, God?” I asked.
“No. God is also on the table. Let’s say that God is the tablecloth.”
He made a joking gesture of pulling the tablecloth in order to stack it up with the rest of the items he had put in front of me.
“But, are you saying that God does not exist?”
“No. I didn’t say that. All I said was that the nagual was not God because God is an item of our personal tonal and of the tonal of the times. The tonal is, as I’ve already said, everything we think the world is composed of, including God, of course. God has no more importance other than being a part of the tonal of our time.”
“In my understanding, don Juan, God is everything. Aren’t we talking about the same thing?”
“No. God is only everything you can think of, therefore, properly speaking, he is only another item on the island. God cannot be witnessed at will, he can only be talked about.
“The nagual, on the other hand, is at the service of the warrior. It can be witnessed, but it cannot be talked about.”
“If the nagual is not any of the things I have mentioned,” I said, “perhaps you can tell me about its location. Where is it?”
Don Juan made a sweeping gesture and pointed to the area beyond the boundaries of the table. He swept his hand, as if with the back of it he were cleaning an imaginary surface that went beyond the edges of the table.
“The nagual is there,” he said. “There, surrounding the island. The nagual is there, where power hovers.
“We sense, from the moment we are born, that there are two parts to us. At the time of birth, and for a while after, we are all nagual. We sense, then, that in order to function we need a counterpart to what we have. The tonal is missing and that gives us, from the very beginning, a feeling of incompleteness.
“Then the tonal starts to develop and it becomes utterly important to our functioning; so important that it opaques the shine of the nagual. It overwhelms it. From the moment we become all tonal, we do nothing else but to increment that old feeling of incompleteness which accompanies us from the moment of our birth, and which tells us constantly that there is another part to give us completeness.
“From the moment we become all tonal we begin making pairs. We sense our two sides, but we always represent them with items of the tonal. We say that the two parts of us are the soul and the body. Or mind and matter. Or good and evil. God and Satan.
“We never realize, however, that we are merely pairing things on the island, very much like pairing coffee and tea, or bread and tortillas, or chili and mustard. I tell you, we are weird animals. We get carried away, and in our madness we believe ourselves to be making perfect sense.”
Don Juan stood up and addressed me as if he were an orator. He pointed his index finger at me and made his head shiver.
“Man doesn’t move between good and evil,” he said in a hilariously rhetorical tone, grabbing the salt and pepper shakers in both hands. “His true movement is between negativeness and positiveness.”
He dropped the salt and pepper and clutched a knife and fork.
“You’re wrong! There is no movement,” he continued as if he were answering himself. “Man is only mind!”
He took the bottle of sauce and held it up. Then he put it down.
“As you can see,” he said softly, “we can easily replace chili sauce for mind and end up saying, ‘Man is only chili sauce!’ Doing that won’t make us more demented than we already are.”
“I’m afraid I haven’t asked the right question,” I said. “Maybe we could arrive at a better understanding if I asked what one can specifically find in that area beyond the island?”
“There is no way of answering that. If I would say, ‘nothing’, I would only make the nagual part of the tonal. All I can say is that there, beyond the island, one finds the nagual”
“But, when you call it the nagual, aren’t you also placing it on the island?”
“No. I named it only because I wanted to make you aware of it.”
“All right! But becoming aware of it is the step that has turned the nagual into a new item of my tonal”
“I’m afraid you do not understand. I have named the tonal and the nagual as a true pair. That is all I have done.”
He reminded me that once while trying to explain to him my insistence on meaning, I had discussed the idea that children might not be capable of comprehending the difference between ‘father’ and ‘mother’ until they were quite developed in terms of handling meaning. And that they would perhaps believe that it might be that ‘father’ wears pants and ‘mother’ skirts, or other differences dealing with hairstyle, or size of body, or items of clothing.
“We certainly do the same thing with the two parts of us,” he said. “We sense that there is another side to us. But when we try to pin down that other side the tonal gets hold of the baton, and as a director it is quite petty and jealous. It dazzles us with its cunningness and forces us to obliterate the slightest inkling of the other part of the true pair, the nagual.”
Seeing as I am a massive proponent for science, and seeing as the claims on the shirt are broadly correct, you might think I would support this shirt. You’d be wrong! This shirt sucks. Why? Thanks for asking.
This shirt sucks because it fails completely in its supposed effort to convince others to stand up for science. It sucks because it portrays science as something it’s not – doctrine and acceptance of authority. In fact science is exactly the opposite of this – science is a method in which one is encouraged to question authority, to question everything, and to establish via experiment and reason which hypothesis is valid.What would you think of somebody who knew nothing about these topics but accepted the statements on the t-shirt just because they were written there? You’d think they were gullible wouldn’t you. And they would be. Science is about finding interesting questions and coming up with ways to answer them with experiments and proofs. It’s not about believing everything some person with a Nobel prize says.
If we want to encourage people to learn something of science, to stand up for science, this kind of “believe these facts” thing is not going to work. In fact, if you are a real scientist, this shirt will probably make you question each and every supposed fact on it. So lets try to do better, shall we? Let’s redo each line in a way to encourage science, rather than making science look like garbage.
The oblate spheroid model of the Earth works pretty well
OK so more properly we should avoid the topic here entirely, as we are really just feeding the trolls. Nobody has ever really believed the Earth was flat, as they saw the sun (and stars) rise and set. There’s no need to go into eclipses and phases of the moon, or of the methods by which people thousands of years ago measured the radius of the Earth. The “flat earthers” phenomenon is a combination of a few things. One is simple trolling – an attempt to get your attention and exercise the power of charisma. Another is an interesting exercise in open-mindedness. Can you drop everything you know and consider this proposition? It’s really hard, but an interesting exercise. it’s also kinda fun fantasy, personally I like the way it fits into HP Lovecraft’s “The Mountains of Madness” story. Finally, it’s a knee-jerk response to people who push science as doctrine and solely believing authority – an “anti-intellectual” response to memes like the one we are attacking.
2. Maybe some vaccines work
Lets face it.. two words aren’t ever going to be much of a scientific analysis. Here, whether or not “vaccines work” depends entirely on what vaccines we are talking about and what we mean by “work”. This is apparently a hugely controversial and political topic, but often not addressed scientifically. One way you can tell it isn’t addressed scientifically is when no specific vaccine is mentioned. This is like saying “Pills work”. Well yeah, they often do in fact save lives. But that isn’t science yet. Science would be pointing out that maybe the 1976 swine flu vaccine didn’t work. It would be taking a close look at the Salk study of the polio vaccine. How about the remarkably high efficacy of the HPV vaccine in preventing ovarian cancer? Maybe this one should be recommended more strongly. How about the remarkably low efficacy of the Pertussis vaccine? Maybe that one shouldn’t be mandatory. Did somebody add some poisons to a vaccine before it was administered? Obviously we’re not going to get way into any of this here but the point is – you have to encourage people to do some research. Well, you don’t have to, but if your goal is to stand up for science then you do. Leaving room for doubt only encourages people to trust you and check it out for themselves.
3. We’ve been to Titan
Sure, we could talk more about Apollo, about the images of landing sites taken by Russian, Indian, and Chinese satellites, but really this doesn’t capture the imagination as much as some of the more recent accomplishments of interplanetary exploration. Landing on Triton is quite something, but would you believe they landed on a comet? OK so there weren’t any live animals on those missions but they’re still impressive. If we have to talk about the Lunar landing, I like to say that Stanley Kubrick was asked to be the director of a staged moon landing, but being the perfectionist he is – he had them film it on location. Don’t you think it’s a little condescending to assume that the person reading your shirt has some certain belief about the moon landing – and that you know better?
4. Contrails are left by airplanes – but maybe also by UFOs.
How many people identify jets when they see them? I don’t usually. Anyway, the “X isn’t a thing” argument is always terrible. X is a thing. Chemtrails are a thing. Bigfoot is a thing. The question is what kind of thing exactly. Anyway chemtrails went out of fashion in conspiracy writing at least a decade ago..so this item should be left off. “Atmospheric chemistry is hard” might be a better replacement.
5. You are alive during a mass extinction.
This seems more interesting to me than climate change. Nobody would argue that climate change is not real, one need only look at a city and see that the climate is different there. Adjust the AC ; climate changed. Ice ages happened. Climates change. But what about the biodiversity? That seems more likely to get peoples attention and more of a reason to study science – to know what we can save and how.
OK so how did we do? A little better perhaps? Well it turns out other people disliked this meme for the same reasons and came up with their own replacements:
I’d say they did pretty well. OK the focus isn’t really science anymore, but do we really need a t-shirt for promoting general science? Possibly not.
Linux kernel priorities often assume that your memory and disk operations have priority over USB i/o. This leads to situations where you are waiting for some files to write and your system thinks you aren’t in a hurry.
This trick worked for me, I found it on one of Peter Stevenson’s github pages.
Copied text follows. Saving here in the blog for safekeeping! You will need “Sudo su” first to write the file. Cheers!!
If your running a x64 bit Ubuntu or other Linux and find USB transfers hang at the end apply this fix:
I’m no conspiracy theorist, which is why when I first heard that the only live sports event in the whole world was the Chess World Champion Candidate’s Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia, I chalked it up to lucky a lucky coincidence. An increase in traffic for streamers like Ben Finegold, Naka, Botez, ChessBrahs, etc., for Agadmator, for creators of Grischuk thug life videos, and for others was just an inevitable consequence of current events.
But then — the plans for the Magnus Carlsen Invitational online tournament were announced. Do you expect us to believe that plans for the world’s largest online e-sports tournament ever were so quickly drafted? Or had these plans perhaps been in the works for some time, shelved and waiting for a rapid sequence of pawn moves beginning in Wuhan China? I was forced to ask: Cui Bono?
This is what I found:
Mr Virus himself, seen here with the architect of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational online tournament, and the promoter of G5 opening technologies.
If you don’t see the game plan at this point, it’s clear you aren’t ready to face 1200 players on lichess blitz.
Chess conspirators, hear us now: This world is not your chessboard! We know that Caruana was too close for comfort last time, and that his high level of play rubs off on those around him, especially within 6 feet. And why does FIDE continue to fund massive biological warfare facilities? Why is reaching move 40 the de facto addition of extra time, if not as reference to the tradition of Quarantine? If you don’t believe in fortresses, then why are we all expected to hole up in them during this pawndemic? Is it not perhaps the Bat Defense opening which we should fear in blitz?
The “C” word in the title is a polemic, which has little to no use in intellectual discourse today. Lets avoid it for the rest of the article.
Why free markets might be a useful
The basic idea, as presented by too many folks to list, attempts to solve a very simple problem, which in turn comes from a very simple assumption: trade is good. Trade is good! OK, so I grow beans, you grow rice. If we trade, we can both eat beans and rice and be healthier. Make sense so far? Now the question becomes- how much rice should I trade for a kilo of beans? This is the problem of price discovery, and its difficulty has lead to an enormous amount of writing on theories of value, theories of price, etc. etc. It gets even more complicated when we are trading hours of labor, derivative products, and other stuff. So, how do we solve it?
One common theory here is that we simply let markets decide prices. This is the efficient market assumption, that allowing people to demonstrate their interests, their wares, and compare to others around them – will enable folks to arrive at a good price that maximizes efficiency for everyone involved. Intelligent people freely participating in markets would lead to an intelligent price discovery.
Sounds great right? It seems plausible and possible. Free markets could help us run our economies more efficiently leading to improved living conditions, education, and eventually a shot at life on Earth surviving.
It’s a great idea perhaps, but sadly – we don’t see it being practiced anywhere. Instead, prices are controlled by centralized organizations, usually in connection with currency issuers. “Borders” are used to prevent goods moving and making sure markets remain inefficient. Trading is regulated and taxed to prevent market price discovery.
So, lets ask now: what would free market price discovery look like?
Market participants, shoppers and traders, would have the opportunity to demonstrate their interest. Gone would be the market where people go in and purchase things for a fixed price, rather – one might expect that the price could change even as items are moved through the store. Fixed prices wouldn’t exist, as supply and demand would determine them dynamically.
Trade through intermediate vehicles, exchange commodities aka “money”, could not favor any parties over any other. This means that fiat currencies would not be used, as these currencies clearly favor the issuer over the regular users. This should not be a surprise, as fiat currencies were basically introduced specifically because of their use in manipulating markets. Clearly, any free market with efficient price discovery would not use such tokens, as they enable the price to be skewed towards the interests of a single party rather than to reflect efficiency or intellgence.
Geographic differences in price would reflect only transportation costs. This means that we wouldn’t see e.g. a gram of cocaine selling for the price of a beer in one place and the price of 50 beers in another, despite transportation of one gram not costing 49 beers. Basically, the free market hypothesis tells us that differences in price from place to place would be exploited by arbitrage and would disappear. If these arbitrageurs are attacked or removed, the market is no longer one in which free trade could facilitate intelligent price discovery. Similarly we wouldn’t see such a difference in prices from place to place in the big mac index, or in real estate, as we do today. Sure, there are some other factors than transportation costs which would enter, however – one could look and see if arbitrage were possible and it it were occuring – to determine if a free market were present.
Marrkets would be public and inclusive. Mandatory licensure, regulation, zoning, customs, and various other practices which prevent our rice farmer from entering a market are things which would not be present in a free market. The goal of a free market is to allow all peoples interests, supply and demand, to be visible so that the most intelligent and efficient price could be agreed upon. If market infrastructure providers show favor to one party or another, such a system is no longer functioning as a free market price discovery mechanism.
Education and information would be prevalent. Clearly, a market wouldn’t work unless the participants know how to use it. This means education as well as information systems that allow it to work. If at some point human society decides to start using free markets as a price discovery mechanism, the systems that are used would have to be designed so the relevant information is immediately accessible to all participants, and the all participants have had the opportunity for the relevant education in how to use the systems.
A student joked that the interpretations of quantum mechanics which I tend to support are those of a party pooper. At first I didn’t like the connotation, but then I realized hey – why not? Lets turn this into a real thing.
The first thought that crossed my mind was that I’m not in any way spoiling the good party. No way! Not me. The ability to predict basically all of chemistry, the absorption and emission lines of spectroscopy, lasers, transistors, and all this good stuff – still stands. If anything, a reasonable and demystified interpretation of quantum mechanics makes the party all that much better. Heck, even quantum computers, despite the endlessly wrong descriptions that are often given to how they work, are still a possibility for arriving at the party. That was why I didn’t like the term at first.
However, why not consider what she actually meant? She meant that the party was for those who were riding on top of the successes of quantum mechanics and pushing their condescending, pseudoscientific, and just plain fraudulent ideas. What may have begun as a misguided and sure perhaps brilliant marketing scheme by Feynman has become a free-for-all for deceiving students and promoting mysticism where it doesn’t belong. If that’s what the party is about – then yeah, I like the party poopers. I’m not going to call the cops but I will point out it’s time to start cleaning up and if the freeloaders keep hanging around too long I am going to put Kenny G on the stereo at full volume to get them out.
So without further ado lets get started with the basic principles of the Party Pooper Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics
There are always analogies with macroscopic systems to help us understand what is going on with the microscopic systems. There are macroscopic eigenvalue problems, macroscopic probability wavefunctions, and quantizations. An electron behaves in some ways like a hurricane. It has no clearly defined edge, an angular momentum, a direction of motion, and a fairly well defined center. You’re not sure if you are going to get hit by one until it happens.
When we say a system is in a superposition of states, we mean that the system has not yet exhibited characteristics that determine which of the states it is in. Macroscopic systems can also have this behavior, it is a technique of probability to use this construction. We weigh all possibilities with their probabilities to determine the expectation value of a bet.
Words like “particle” imply a certain context of the observer, that the observer is very far from the specific properties of the object. A planet is a good particle in a solar system, until you get close and have to start talking about the details of the geography.
Measurements are always probabilistic, and always collapse a system in the mind of the one making the measurement. A coin is in both of your hands equally and simultaneously, for the purposes of my calculation, until I guess a hand and you show that it is empty. At that moment, the coin’s probability becomes much greater in the other hand. This doesn’t violate causality nor special relativity.
A qubit is in both 0 and 1 state at the same time just in the same way that an ordinary bit is in both the 0 and 1 state at the same time. As soon as either one is measured, we see that it was only 0 or only 1. The difference is that in an ordinary computer or Turing machine the bits are isolated – a read head comes and reads them, and responds with electronic logic gates before looking at the next. In a quantum computer, they are not isolated – they are linked together in a very complex way such that adjusting one qubit can subtly alter many others – even before their state is read.
The beer is in the fridge. Well, you might have to look. As soon as you open the door, the wavefunction will collapse.
If the party is for fermions, the capacity is limited, I will check if you are on the guest list. For bosons, you’re all welcome to come. Keep on coming!