the collective mind and consequences for individualism

some boha from southern france. i’ve been having a lot of discussions on individualism, so i thought i would write a bit about it.

previously i provided a geometrical way of looking at minds. this is a very coarse way of looking at it, and it merely shows that my training has highly influenced the way i see things and i’m not trying to establish any theory of everything. but as a tool to analyze individuals and groups, it is excellent in the sense that it frees us from categorization and lets us loose in a multidimensional personal landscape. this personal landscape can be seen as a multidimensional halo streaming out of someone: one paragraph describing each dimension, streaming out and curling itself around that person as if it were long hair, with each strand being that paragraph spelled out. i wish i was a better illustrator. maybe some day i’ll put this into pictures

what i want to explore today is not the personal landscape, but the collective landscape. using the tools of information theory, one can predict that collectives have somewhat unintuitive properties. let’s start with a simple collective of two. if the two individuals share no mutual information, the collective will not be able to surpass the individual capacities, and is equivalent to each one working independently. this is very hard to find, since the laws of nature apply to everything, so at least that would be mutual information. we then have the case where there is some mutual information and equal information. equal information is impossible unless each individual is an exact copy of the other, which is impossible by every current standard (even clones or twins have different environments around them which change their vocabulary). this leaves the in between situation where some vocabulary is common and some isn’t. this shared information is no more than each individual’s vocabulary projected onto each other. for example, individual A has vocabulary { v1, v2, v3 } and individual B has vocabulary { v2, v3, v4 }, if we project the spaces onto each other, we obtain { v2, v3 }, and identify { v1 , v4 } as the information entropy. now, we can look at these two sets as waves interfering. the shared information gets reinforced for the simple fact that it is equal. so one would expect from this that groups will have the common vocabulary reinforced, creating a group trend stronger than the individual trend. but we also have to analyze how the edges (the entropy) interacts. if v1 and v4 are contradictory, they cancel each other out, turning the group into a reinforced version of the already existing individuals but removing any extra information that would allow for constructive development. this would mean that these individuals were better off by themselves rather than trying to compatibilize beliefs, since they can both use v2 and v3 together with their own different sets of information. together, but independently, their picture is richer than together and working as one. but this argument works the other way around too: if their entropy interferes constructively, then the group will be able to represent much more than before (remember that we consider these dimensions as bases for spaces, not spaces themselves). the same way a square is infinitely richer than a line, so is a cube or a hypercube. dimensionality, when interference is constructive, not only increases the capacity of the group but actually multiplies it. by what number i don’t know, but it wouldn’t be too hard to explore how this fits with reality.

but we don’t need to formalize things this way to understand that this already takes place everywhere. we, as a collective human enterprise, already work as i referred. it is impossible for a single human being to build any of the millions of artifacts we have, even simple things like a ballpoint pen. this is not because they are impossible to build, but because they are built collectively, expanding the individual capacity for creativity by combining all these dimensions with each other and creating a collective entity that can represent a richer space than any of its individuals alone. if we go with the ball point pen we can dissect it in several layers and it will feel like a never ending rabbit hole. the obvious question is who designed it. whoever designed it took for granted that paint, metal and plastic are real and available. but where did they come from? it is unlikely that the designer mined the metal and pigments, forged the parts, drilled the oil and so on. what i argue is that due to the limits on each individuals intellectual and physical capacity, it is impossible to build a ballpoint pen as an individual: it would require extensive knowledge in extraction, production and so on. this is obvious, but this hints at the fact that individuality is somewhat of an illusion. i’ll get to this later. what makes the rabbit hole even deeper is that there would be no need for a pen if there wasn’t a need for writing, which in turn expresses a human need to record knowledge. the invention of writing and paper must be included in the total knowledge necessary. but this time, it comes not from other individuals in the chain of production, but from the very social heritage that the designer himself is sunk in. if a culture has only an oral tradition, there there would be no need for a ballpoint pen and for the whole chain for its development. in this sense, the human collective extends not only in the present spacetime (the other individuals that are part of a chain), but also the past spacetime (the cultural heritage that gave the present its information context). in this sense, even a yogi in the middle of nowhere is not alone: he is part of a collective that extends to his own past, with him as a kind of isolated leaf of a giant tree.

this is not accounted for by most systematic analysis, but the framework i describe accounts for it by the simple fact that we are sunk in our own culture, and from it, we collect much of our most important information. for example, we might be a highly innovative poet, but the language and alphabet we write with is the same as the language of the lullabies sung to us as babies, and some words are even the same as the ones sang thousands of years ago. this transmission not between present entities, but also past entities, is one of the main reasons why the individual is little more than a specific rearrangement of the collective vocabulary. in this sense, i do not believe there even is something as an individual in the broad sense (though i do believe in individuals in the physical sense, like walking talking people).

this ties in with my criticism of modern individualism as proposed by some philosophers and economists of the 20th century, such as ayn rand. there is no such thing as an individual without a collective, and there is certainly no such thing as an übermensch without the übermenschen before him (to use the nietzschean term).

take anyone promoting a libertarian ideology (the right wing north american libertarian, not the left wing european ideology with the same name). it is impossible to find anyone standing for that ideology that has ever gone to any real world difficulty (starvation, poverty, etc, not white people problems like having no credit on their cellphone). i argue that this is a consequence of the very socioeconomic environment in which these ideologies occur: they always emerge when the individual is capable of satisfying all his needs and maybe most of his wants without knowing the process that fulfilled these needs and wants. we go to the supermarket, buy dozens of goods, most of which we have no idea where they came from, how they were made or who worked to make them, pay with an entirely anonymous object called money to someone that we don’t perceive as being in any way connected to what we just bought, effectively rendering us (the one with the money) as the origin of the goods themselves. it allows us to confuse our own individual short piece of labor (going shopping) with the incredible collective journey of all those goods (extraction, production, distribution, all of which have at least one face to them, when not hundreds). this broken empathy link is what then creates the isolated, narcissistic modern homo-economicus.

to this day, i challenge any libertarian individualist to live according to their ideology to its ultimate consequences: without any assistance of anyone else. not a distributor, not a salesman, a farmer or a worker. they would certainly starve to death if let loose on this planet. and even ayn rand ended up enjoying her social security benefits. how’s that for philosophical consistency?

videos of the final presentation

here’s a small playlist of some of the songs played. there were many other songs and i don’t have a good one of the 1st year, but generally it was a great show, we had a great time and the pipes were sounding great. i’m just not a big fan of the place: the acoustics, the lecture and the fascist nationalist books all over the place. i guess being a traditional instrument, it always attracts these governmental types. needless to say, here most folk music was distorted by fascism, and the music we’re playing was recovered by a lot of left wing activists trying to bring back “the voice of the people”. this might sound confusing, but in some countries in europe, folk has fused not with right wing extremism, but left wing groups that struggle for self-determination.

yearly final presentation of the bagpipe school

just another short heads-up. tomorrow (21/7) i’ll be playing at the final year presentation of the bagpipe school of the portuguese bagpiper society. i’ll play with the 2nd year, the 1st to 3rd years will perform. it’s at the palácio da independência, rossio, lisboa. starts at 18h30.

the video of the song by no mazurka band is from a great project called a música portuguesa a gostar dela própria, a video project that explores modern portuguese musical projects in exotic architectural settings

dimensionality and the self

more gaita asturiana

i’m trying to wrap up the more boring topics on the basis for my arguments. but for now, i want to discuss one of the consequences of seeing our interactions as dimensional.

recently i began explaining how we could see minds in multiple dimensions at once. one of the undiscussed topics of this dimensionality is that we will end up with different dimensions acting independently from each other at times. this is a way of seeing individuals contextually, not wholly, and contrasts with the accepted idea that individuals have a “personality” that is consistent. if individuals instead, are multidimensional and context-defined (i.e., who they are is defined by where they are in spacetime), this implies that the inner self is not so much an entity, but an emergent quality of a mix of the past experiences and the present context. since the present context has a tendency to activate only certain dimensions of the self, the inner self must, therefore, be contextual too. let’s see an example.

let’s say you are, a folk music lover and a left wing activist. let’s say, too, that you are playing with someone else who is a folk music lover, but a right wing activist. if the context wasn’t important and the self was consistent, there would be no possible interaction between the two individuals due to incompatibility. the whole self couldn’t fragment itself to accommodate the conflicting ideologies. usually, if one believes that selves are wholes, one could answer that the two would discuss until they harmonize their opinions into one that is mutually acceptable (even if it is agree to disagree). what i describe as dimensionality is a different idea, in my opinion simpler. depending on the context in which the individuals are, their dimensions will remain dormant or will be activated. for example, in a rehearsal or a concert, only the folk music dimension will excite the folk musician inner self of each individual. these contextual individuals are perfectly compatible and can lead a normal musical life together. if their political dimension is never excited by their surroundings they might even never discover that they have conflicting political opinions. this means that a neo nazi and a black panther can be friends, in fact, they can even be in the same band if they never happen to encounter a context that reveals their inner political selves.

this example is so common it seems almost banal. we all do this in our lives. our employers don’t know about our drinking habits, our drink buddies don’t know about our nerdy asian porcelain collection, etc. but even though we take this dimensionality for granted, we still believe in the fiction of a whole self that is consistent. it is important to understand that multidimensionality has many issues that we reject, even though they are the same process as our own behavior towards groups we are part of. for example, it is not uncommon for great dictatorships and their rulers to be great promoters of art and culture. many times they might even have great musicians in their high ranks. this is, in my opinion, because dimensions act mostly independently from one another because there is no self to provide consistency. there are contextual selves that are defined by the situation. so we could fall in love with the interpretations of the slayer general and be horrified by its killings.

this is also one of my main criticisms of the new wave of treating science as some kind of final answer to moral issues. science has been responsible for most of the slaying in the current and past century. great revered thinkers have also been many times great slaying machine designers (see Leonardo da Vinci or Einstein). what this signals is that science, like religion are independent dimensions, and that the slaying of man by man is a dimension that exists beyond them, as a cruder, stronger dimension that overrides all others.

to formalize this further and conclude, one cannot argue against an effect of a dimension A with calls to action against dimensions B and C if A is independent (if you like geometry, something like perpendicular) to both of them. this is why even though i do not believe in god (though i believe god exists through the hands of those that believe in it), i cannot join the ranks of most anti-religion activists, since usually the alternative provided is, as religion, independent (in a dimensional sense) of the issues discussed (usually authoritarianism, violence and so on).

dimensionality analysis is a way of dissecting arguments, allowing us to separate real causes (e.g., the urge to impose our view on others) from fictional causes that overlap it but end up being independent of it (e.g., doing it because god told us to or because we believe it will advance science greatly). in fact, it is probably more scientific to seek the real causes of an effect, and seeking the real active dimension of something is more scientific, even if it demonstrates that science itself has little to offer in this matter.

this type of analysis will be done further on and serves as a basis to most arguments i make. i hope this helps clarify it. by now we are ankle deep in human nature, and we’ll continue to dive deeper. notice that until now all assumptions have been kept clear. that is merely to provide solidity and to make sure my opinions are understood to the extent they have been thought, and not just something blurted out.