4 things I believe in

fri23jun2006—25w174d47%— 09h20m00s—0utc

I feel naive and pretentious today, and I feel like writing down some of my fundamental beliefs in whatever simplistic terms my 21 years are able to muster. These are some of the rules that I’ve gleaned throughout my life, those by which I want to live my life, and those thru which I choose to conceive the world. They are not written in stone, they’re not hold-come-what-may, nothing is, but they are among the more hold-more-stubbonly-at-least that I’ve got. And they are in turn based on some even more fundamental certainties: that knowledge is better than ignorance, that love is better than indifference, that technology is better than helplessness, that liberty is better than slavery.

The form I’ve written them in is not arbitrary, I believe each of the 4 axes (knowledge, love, technology, and liberty) can be approached in basically just 3 ways:

That which is looked for can never be attained.

Reasons vary but self-flagellation is among the more common: we’re simply too stupid, too egoist, too different, too irresponsible, too brutish, etc. Or perhaps the gods are simply too wily, too treacherous, too twisted, or too evil.

This is not only the laziest attitude to take, it is plainly false and misleading, for we’ve all understood something, loved someone (however briefly or faintly), achieved something thru technology that we wouldn’t had been able to do alone, and been part of free societies (your family, your friends, spontaneous commercial activity…).

It is the opposite of action, the opposite of hope, and it is embraced only after a lifetime of the most demeaning indoctrinations (see Religion).

That which is looked for can be attained sometimes, but usually not.

The usual attitutude, it at least acknowledges everyday experience. Though not necessarily harmful, it shortchanges its believer and generally leads to apathy, because we give up too easily.

In it most dangerous form, it borrows from the previous attitude, either casting us as unworthy searchers of the particular instance or wrapping it up in mystical mumbo jumbo à la élan vital.

That which is looked for can always be attained.

This is the only creative attitude and the only one with any merit. For it is the only one that spurs us to action, blaming the responsibility for improvement squarely at us (and that’s why this attitude is so hard to even entertain — laziness is just so comfy). It is the only empowering attitude, the only one that offers hope, tapping boundless creativity and ingenuity that would otherwise remain dormant.

In its root it is simply another face for the fundamental problem strategy of assuming there’s a solution:

I have found there are ways to foster finding useful analogies when working on problems. First, you need to assume up front that there is an answer to what you are trying to solve. People give up too easily. You need confidence that a solution is waiting to be discovered and you must persist in thinking about the problem for an extended period of time.

Jeff Hawkins, On Intelligence

And do note that it cannot be falsified: if that which is looked for has not been attained, even after a million millennia of trying, this does not imply that it is not attainable, just that it has not been attained yet, that we still haven’t tried hard or smart enough. It is thus, to a degree, an act of faith, but one which we, and we alone, are responsible to carry out.

And so here they finally are, 4 things I believe in:

Anything can be understood.

Intelligence itself, Mind, Consciousness, Emotions, Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Anyone can be loved.

Anyone. I repeat: Anyone. Gender, Age, Race, Class, Nationality — they’re only bothersome hurdles, not insurmountable ones.

And mind that I’m not talking here about sexual love or romantic love, I’m not talking about the love whose opposite is hate, I’m talking about the one whose opposite is indifference.

Anything can be done thru technology.

Universal Translation, Space Colonization, Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Life, Uploading, Time Travel, Eternal Youth, Immortality, Abundance, Artificial Reality, Godness.

Anything can be done thru liberty.

That is, anything can be done thru voluntary agreements (the free-market, nonprofits, open source, whatever). In fact, I believe a substantially bigger claim: everything that can be done thru coercion (that is, thru violence or its threat), be it for good or for ill, can be done better thru liberty.

Applied, this means that private money, private law, private health systems, private roads, private intellectual property protection, private police, private FDAs, private militia, private philanthropy, etc. are not only possible but preferable to their modern, illegitimate incarnations.

Follow me on Twitter!  |  Back to ELZR.com