Discussion of Fanaticism

Anonymous Source

Do people not realize that what makes them cheer and applaud and boo is also what makes them heil? Probably. And that’s unfortunate, because people will form higher level beliefs that reinforce fanaticism, which is the force in question, as something necessary in society. It’s only necessary in a conservative estimate, though. Fanaticism is the fire perpetually fighting other fire. It is the patriotism against treachery. And it is integral in our emotions of annoyance, contempt, anger, hate, prejudice, as well as pride, admiration, humility, etc.. Which is why we’d be giving up a lot of life if we could eliminate fanaticism. We’d suffer less but we’d also have less of what current purposes captivate us. We’d lose our humanness. What would reptiles do with all that intelligence? Well, they’d cooperate and rationally act to develop a peaceful society. They wouldn’t love and they wouldn’t shimmy to the soundtrack of their proud egos. So a good idea is to compartmentalize whenever possible and with better design. That is, we might do well to notice this hair trigger tendency to mindless hate and disapprove and feel “morally disgusted” by things as well as the equally destructive tendency to rave and rally and praise and worship, to notice our debilitating tendency to feel unworthy as well as our debilitating tendency to become proud and feel self-assured, entitled, loud and indignant.

Fanaticism comes in two forms. There’s the active form. That’s the angry or praising form that you see in the “booing” in this song. It seems to be connected most with anger and hate. Then there’s passive fanaticism. That’s those catty back-handed insults in Entertainment News culture. But watch out again for active form in UpWorthy, the liberals who will jump down my throat for the stereotype that becomes explicit when I change “Entertainment News culture” to “upper class Hollywood female and gay/effeminate male culture,” if I dared. I feel them now, growling at their posts just ready for me to confirm that I affirmed a thought that is in some context sexist or discriminatory. How the fanatical feminists are enraged for being compared to Nazi’s in the derogatory term “feminazi,” believing themselves to be above Nazi’s (thus having contempt and being appalled) and having rage, thus proving themselves to have the emotional and behavioral traits that were exactly meant by the term “feminazi.” (But such backfires when you use it in a derogatory way, as that too is an act of fanaticism. One fanatical groups’s heretic in this case the clueless “feminazi.”) But don’t they realize, sexism, racism, etc., pervade all our thoughts, and it’s only a lack of critical correction and a lack of love and an intention to harm that is destructive? Probably not. They are the rabid conservative youth in disguise of liberal multiculturalism. But it’s the rabidity that’s the problem. It’s the nipping, the booing, the “calling out,” the combating and debating, the rapping, the show down, the victory and defeat, that is all there is and ever will be to war and what makes people suffer. (But at the same time, remember that blond long hair kid on the internet video who calls out his teacher, who preaches the truth, and has a heroic victory. The glory of the warrior, the leader, the pioneer, the innovator, the activist depends equally on fanaticism). And often people will do this fanaticism with an exaggerated or imaginary set of the stakes at hand, and will fight at all costs, being the harsh police force for whatever cause they represent, and punishing with a sense of urgency those who must be punished.

Active fanaticism is clear. Passive fanaticism is different. I must confess. I have high levels of passive fanaticism. Passivity in general but particularly passive fanaticism is associated ultimately with some form of fear. That’s what reverence is. That’s what awe is. Humility and self-deprecating Dobby. It’s when your voice trembles because of the implication of what you’re saying, often in a conversation where two people are energetically agreeing about something, probably some moral/ethical judgement about human conduct. And it moves me. I was and always have been very mild mannered, except for the compensating part of me which is outrageous, a mixture of both of which is displayed in this very status. I’ve always felt a strong sense of a teacher being my superior and wanting so much to be compliant and goody goody. And if I ever corrected a teacher I’d avoid it, but if it just flowed in the conversation then I’d try to do it in a most indirect and gentle way as possible, and I’d feel the same energy of fanaticism, but it would be uncomfortable and I’d gulp and tremble and rather not have gotten the teacher to admit the error. No wonder it might have brought me to tears. And no wonder when I watched the 2012 (or was it 2008?) Chinese Olympics opening, watching an eerie field of obedient subservience, instead of the insistent outrage or pride that comes with a sense of entitlement and strength in the active fanaticism, my passive fanaticism was triggered by the human power display, and I felt humbled along with them, and almost got a bitter sweet strong gust of fanaticism to think, “Wow, they’d do that for their leader, that is so good, kind and sweet,” when the legions of people appeared from underneath the boxes, the face of reverent mass servitude. It’s the same feeling when you say the anthem or listen to Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a Dream.” Again, doing away with fanaticism doesn’t seem like the best option, because even in a hypothetical world where there is no racism because fanaticism has been eliminated, we would lose the beautiful human brotherhood ideas of MLK’s speech or Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and those are damn good joy’s! But watch out, because it spreads like fire, and soon erupts a full spectrum of ugly and destructive fanatical events.

And fanaticism has probably come into existence as a society forming mechanism. Our ancestors probably became more functional as they gradually accreted a social nature whereby they can inflict shame on others with enough contemptuous confidence, intimidate others to feel proud, and feel ashamed and defeated and get out of the way of those who didn’t make whatever mistake it was that was unacceptable to the community resulting in the trial and shame. We’ve seen this in modern times when feelings and actions of patriotism or non-patriotism were debated as matters of national security. And I would assume that the conservatives who would argue that “in these times of crisis” unpatriotic sentiment be witch-hunted out, haha, or rather, how they’d word it, were themselves biased. And fanaticism has been around for a while and survived it’s own social system natural selection. It’s taken on a life of it’s own in sports, religion, gossip, the arts, romantic courtship, competitions of all sorts, and any longstanding social institution, almost like a society of different fanatical systems feeding on the human society they created. We are the hosts of fanaticism systems. Fanatico-ideological hybrids feed on our lives like we’re a basic renewable resource to them, which we are. It’s quite amazing once you see the ways it’s infiltrated the moves we make in life and ensured its continued survival. But fanaticism is based just on an emotion that we have as a result of our social nature and have in response to environmental systems, and we can recognize it. I feel it in my throat and chest and my eyes water. But just pay attention, the next time you hear yourself clapping, booing, cheering, saluting, “respecting,” revering, hating, loving, degrading, admiring, praising, etc.., and pay attention, because this is the moment where all there is to war and human turmoil and all there ever might be to the potential for human life is born. This moment of human fanatical social emotion, connected to all the things that’s important to us, can be seen as making our life fulfilling, promising useful applications, or causing harm, sustaining ignorant, irrational life destroying systems.

Roseanne, I Liam, in a contained and mindful act of fanaticism commend you for your lack of solemnity and use of humor in a place where people rabidly and fearfully demand solemnity and mindlessly boo you. But look. I just used “mindlessly” in a fanatical way, to degrade them, and imply they are stupid and meet other typical fanatical criteria for social rejection. Anybody who has joked or made light of disasters and atrocities, I commend you as well. I cannot escape fanaticism and can’t ideally harness fanaticism, especially in actions like these, public ones, which are subject to the chaos of other fanaticism ignorance misinterpretation rashness, etc., but hay compartmentalized love and humor doesn’t necessarily give rise to an equal and opposite hate in the reverse circumstance, and not all fanaticism has to be fundamentally bad. Actually, if you identify as a libertarian, what do you think about this? How old are you?

Fanaticism is everywhere. From the basic interpretations of every motive of every human gesture, such as the mock-formal style of declaration I, Liam, used above. Everyone is always watching to go “oh snap, oh no he didn’t” and that has filled all our evaluations of actions with fanatical interpretations. We can’t escape it. Let’s just be careful. And also, in trying to be careful, I don’t any longer want to commend Roseanne or anyone, because now I’m recognizing that even that mild statement on such a hot topic is divisive and provocative, and I don’t mean to be contentious or involve fanaticism at all, except what’s require to get your attention and appeal to you not thinking I look ridiculous typing up this long status on my facebook wall. Now maybe I look cowardly for trying to be so agreeable, but watch that fanaticism there. Especially the fraternity bros have this sadistic hate of, they use a term that begins with the letter “p,” less macho guys. Anyways, let’s just be careful and aware, and even more careful and aware still. Uh, oh, that sounded bossy and corny, and also like I’m a narc or a wet blanket. So uncool… Oh, there’s fanaticism yet again in the cool/uncool appraisals. It’s inescapable.

What does comparatively matter in 2015?

This is based on my experience of what people are generally focused on. And what really, comparatively, matters.

First, a lot of people seem to place all their eggs in the basket of AI. Specifically, AI based on current computer architectures. Ethically, in terms of effective altruism, and in terms of raw efficiency. Even in terms of consciousness, for most people who care about consciousness.

This would be absolutely rational if you had a reason to think that a von Neumann computer architecture could solve the phenomenal binding problem. But since there is no reason to think it would, the effort seems fundamentally misguided. Not in intention, or in terms of correct effort. Understanding intelligence and consciousness are of prime importance. Indeed, far more important than what most human thoughts are directed at.

That said, this misguided effort will still be of tremendous value. By having people focus on computing in a utilitarian and philosophically motivated way, we will do a lot of progress in the area, faster. Which is absolutely great, in general. Being highly competent, as a civilization, in computing technologies is a great start! But it is not the end. At some critical point, people will realize that phenomenal binding itself has to be addressed. What is it? Why do brains solve it? Do brains solve it on their own?

A sufficient number of people are working on that already, that focusing on what will be the focus in the future is nonetheless what has the comparative importance. What is it? Well, consciousness studies themselves. Without assuming that your particular procedure of choice (which currently happens to be statistical learning by serial computers for most people who think about this) will produce consciousness. you can go ahead and study consciousness itself. But what do you study here? You can’t, so far, put consciousness in a petri dish and analyze its chemical structure.

What you can do, however, is to study the computational capabilities of consciousness. Thus, infer its computational role in the survival of species. By describing what consciousness is capable of in rigorous mathematical ways, you can reverse-engineer the reasons why natural selection recruited it as the medium for representing world-simulations.

More so, I predict that by reverse engineering consciousness’ computational capabilities, a wide variety of new applications will be discovered. We will find how to solve a variety of computationally challenging problems using conscious experience. The computational comparative advantage of consciousness, as a computing substrate, will be revealed. Such comparative advantage must exist to begin with, or natural selection would not have recruited consciousness to solve problems related to representing the environment.

How do we study this comparative advantage? 

Look, I don’t know. There could be many obvious ways of doing so that simply escape me right now. After all, not many persons are thinking along these lines (and thus, again, why starting to work on this is comparatively highly efficient). But I will start by making sense of visual experience. I think that by characterizing our visual pattern recognition abilities in computational ways we can start to make a headway in describing qualia’s computational capabilities. Of course visual experience is a very specific kind of qualia. It also happens to be one where a lot of functional properties can be mathematically captured. We represent a 3D Euclidian space. Not any space. And thus many geometrically grounded questions can be formulated. For example:

How fast do the interpretation about the visual scenery propagate?

To what extend do the local *interpretations* matter? And to what extend do global interpretations of a scene propagate downwards to the specifics? How fast are these transitions?

How do images that represent semantically distinguishable forms inhibit the existence of contradictory representations with semantically opposed qualities? At what speed do these inhibitions propagate in the visual field? (again, the question focuses on the experience rather than on the neural substrate or any other specific preferred or assumed substrate besides qualia).

All of these questions can be formulated in very rigorous ways. And then tested empirically with psychophysics. We can start to ask these questions and to find answers. And thus, to characterize the computational characteristics of consciousness as such.

This work will certainly be synergistic with the current approaches. No doubt. But to optimize the balance of minds on each part to have the most synergistic mix, more persons could shift to the study of consciousness as such. That’s why this is the current comparatively most important matter.

Why should we care about the computational characteristics of consciousness? 

Because there is a comparative advantage to consciousness as a computing substrate, there must be applications in which consciousness is the single most efficient computing medium! That should motivate any practical-minded person. But, what should be even unsaid since how obvious it is: Consciousness is also the very source of what is valuable! By understanding and becoming capable of engineering it, we could finally produce value itself directly. Any utilitarian should be extremely excited about this possibility.

Suffering: Not what your sober mind tells you

“I believe that most of us tend to underrate the evilness of suffering. The reason is that it is difficult for us, when not actually suffering, to recollect what suffering really is. We employ numerous psychological mechanisms to conceal from our consciousness the true nature or meaning of suffering, to falsify and deny it. We do this without renouncing the word, however. The word comes to designate, in our minds, only a faint copy or superficial image of the real thing; but having forgotten what the original is, we mistake it in the copy. We ascribe to “suffering” a certain gravity of evil; but it is slight compared to what we would ascribe to suffering itself, if we could only recall its true meaning.


The falsification of suffering is everywhere — in movies, in poetry, in novels, on the nightly news. Accounts of disaster routinely veer from a discussion of the agony and plight of the victims (which quickly becomes tiresome) to the description of some moving act of kindness or bravery. Often it is these descriptions that affect us the most and that provoke the greatest outburst of emotion. These are the images we often take away and that become our image of “suffering.” Suffering comes to be closely associated with stirring images of hope in adversity, acts of moral heroism and touching kindness, gestures of human dignity, sentiments of noble sympathy and tremulous concern, the comfort and consolation of tears. It turns into something beautiful. It becomes poetry. People begin to refer to “sublime suffering.” Suffering, in other words, becomes just exactly what it is not.”

– “Suffering and Moral Responsiblity” by Jamie Mayerfeld.

Reconciling memetics and religion.

Nowadays the conceptualization of the evolution of human thought as the competition between self-replicating memes (memetics) tends to be brought up in arguments against the reliability of mainstream belief systems. Richard Dawkins famously argued that just as there can be selfish genes that don’t benefit their hosts and yet thrive at self-replicating, there are plenty of cases in which memes harmful to the individual who holds them replicate successfully.

This observation is usually used as an argument against religious doctrine for two reasons. First, memetics would predict the appearance of emotionally satisfying pseudo-explanations for the things we don’t understand, such as the nature of reality and what happens after death. And second, these explanations would not in any way have to reflect true facts; in fact, truth may have little to do with a meme’s success at self-replicating. Thus, religions will probably proclaim ideas that makes them self-replicate whether or not the claims made are true.

Thus memetics may be capable of (1) explaining the existence of religion and (2) dismissing major religious claims as mere strategies for self-replication (e.g. “if you don’t believe in God you will go to Hell!”). I personally know several persons who either became atheist or at least much more skeptical of religious prescriptions after considering memetics deeply.

As far as I know neither the Vatican nor any major religious promoter has addressed successfully this new and fascinating source of skepticism.

All that is old news. Here is the innovation: It occurs to me that memetics can actually be used to defend major religions in a grounded way. See, the dumb rhetorical move from a religious point of view, which is also the most tempting and commonly made, is to attack memetics itself. Say, by spousing romantic and even fanatical views about the nature of the evolution of ideas, one can pretend that the laws of self-reproduction break down when we are talking about minds and the mystical. Or worse, proclaim that such a view makes us look like robots hijacked by memes to fulfill their purpose, and that for such a reason it cannot be the case (an instance of “too ugly to be true”).

There is, however, a rational reply that religious authorities could give, if they actually did the harder move: Embrace memetics instead of dismissing it. You see, over time we can indeed predict that any ideology will get better and better at self-replicating. Appeal to emotion may even take over rational and evidence-based argumentation. One could in principle claim that these features will be observed in any religion or ideology, specially if it has endured hundreds of years of cultural evolution.

Now here is the twist:
It may be *precisely* because of memetic evolution that the true word of God has been corrupted. We might have had it all explained to us in the past. God could have well given us an excellent evidence-based and rational explanation about what happens after death, morality and what we should do to be good people.

And yet, in spite of God’s good intentions, cultural evolution corrupted his message over time. They could say: The reason why my religion promotes many ethically questionable behaviors is not because it didn’t have a Godly seed. It is because with time, more emotionally-appealing versions of the religion gradually out-competed the original Truth. Yet, we are still connected to that seed, and our labor is to reconstruct the original message.