Quarantine Art

I tweeted a sketch of the view from my balcony, from an abandoned project to make a proper art piece, and slashdottir made this rather snazzy quick study out of it. Sometimes twitter is very liminal. Also check out people’s interesting art projects.

Predictable Identities 27: Craving and the Pill

This entry is part 27 of 27 in the series Predictable Identities

Kaj Sotala suggests a predictive processing-informed model of suffering in which a mind is stuck oscillating between two unpleasant interpretations of the world, each one disconfirming the other’s prediction in a painful way. 

Normally, a brain confronted with two contradicting views will pick the one matching incoming evidence and discard the other. But the brain also generates cravings, and they can break this resolution process.

Desires are manifested in your brain as a prediction. When you want pizza you predict the sensation of pizza in your mouth. If there’s no pizza currently in your mouth you can resolve the discrepance in two ways. Though your action, by grabbing a slice, or by updating and giving up on the pizza prediction. A craving is a desire that you can’t give up on, one that comes from a place too deep to overwrite with disconfirming evidence.

When you’re craving [money/sex/power] you predict strongly that you have them, to the point of almost hallucinating the orgy on your private jet. The lack of a jet or a confident plan to acquire one disconfirms the prediction. But then the craving rises again and overwrites the realization that your goal is unattainable, each prediction and disconfirmation creating mental suffering in an ongoing cycle.

There are two ways to break the loop of craving and suffering. One is to fulfill the desire, which works great (until another craving arises). But there’s another way: if you can convince yourself utterly that what you’re craving is unattainable, then your brain will suppress the loop at the stage of predicting the craved outcome. You will never get what you wanted, but the suffering will ease.

The internet has a term for it: blackpilled. The black pill must be completely impenetrable to work. If your brain can imagine even for a second that your craving is satisfied the cycle of suffering will continue. 

It is almost impossible for people to cleanse their soul of hope entirely unless in the grips of severe depression. Direct evidence of the world is too noisy to conclude anything with such certainty. The black pill requires a community and an identity reinforcing it, to convince one fully of their hopelessness.

Liminality?…Well, there’s a free sample!

One of my favorite jokes in Herge’s Tintin comics is a bit in Prisoners of the Sun (1949), where the Thompson twins ask Captain Haddock what’s in a pile of sacks on the dock labeled “guano.” The captain umms and ahhs a bit, but then a seagull poops on one of the Thompson twins’ hats, and the Captain brightens up, having been handed the perfect short answer: “Guano?… Well, here’s a free sample!”

For those wondering why sacks of bird droppings would be on a dock, guano was once a major industrial commodity, an input for nitrogen fertilizers and explosives. The rise of Chile saltpeter as an alternative, and the adoption of the Haber-Bosch process after World War 1, slowly made it obsolete.

A few years ago, I was challenged by a Twitter friend to explain liminality, and I came up with a thread in response that I think is still roughly right. But if I were asked today, I would gesture vaguely at the world around and say, “Liminality?… Well, there’s a free sample!”

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Now Reading: Pandemic Edition

Just updated my Now Reading page. I have suspended my regular reading queue for the most part (except for continuing to work through Terry Pratchett) and made a special section for Pandemic reading. Here’s a quick rundown on what I’ve been reading/plan to read, and why.

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Pandemic Dashboard: 3

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series State of the Pandemic

Unanticipated Consequences

Accidents down, so insurance companies refunding some premiums. Billboard advertising down because nobody out to look at them. Crime down.

Beyond Fat and Lean

Food getting tossed at farms while people face shortages. Toilet paper panic is partly legit because office/commercial toilet paper supply chain is different.

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Pandemic Dashboard: 2

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series State of the Pandemic

Flattening the Curve

We’ve moved on from the innumeracy edition to the “spot the inflection” phase as bureaucrats everywhere try to solve for the flattening and claim success.

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Scorpio Season: A New Talk Show

My friend Lisa (@niftynei) and I decided to start a talk show. It’s called Scorpio Season, since we’re both scorpios. You can subscribe to it as a podcast, or watch/listen it on YouTube. At the moment the video version is just the two of us as talking heads, but we might throw in some graphics in future episodes.

Scorpio Season is a show about everything… in alphabetical order. Since we both have a lot of random little interests that are all over the place, we figured it would be a good, discordian disorganization scheme for our improv ramblings.

The first three episodes, A-C are up.

The first two episodes featured A for Astrology and Aesthetics, and B for beefs, bitcoin, and Biden/Bernie. If we get to 26 episodes, we’ll cycle back to A. As you might guess, in the most recent one, there’s a lot of C for Coronovirus here, but also C for Cartoons.

The next episode is D: for David Deutsch, Doja Cat, and Dark Age. That will be up soon.

Pandemic Dashboard: 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series State of the Pandemic

I’m starting a new blogchain to track the COVID-19 pandemic, in a new, modular, block-based format. Each part will be a variable number of tweet-sized status assessments in titled blocks, coded red/green/yellow, like so:

Flattening the Curve

The innumeracy of the initial versions has given way to an appreciation of the actual level to which the healthcare system will be overwhelmed, but no actual solution.

I call this format a blocktrace dashboard: a dashboard in the form of a blogchain of blocktraces evolving across parts. For this first dashboard, I have 15 status blocks, most of which I think I’ll be tracking for a while. But most updates will probably be 3-4 blocks. If you want to make your own blocktrace dashboard to track the pandemic (or anything else), scroll to the bottom for the how-to. It’s really easy in WordPress.

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Domestic Cozy: 12

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Domestic Cozy

Ever since the coronavirus crisis broke out, multiple people have been telling me I “called it” with this domestic cozy blogchain. I didn’t. What I did call out is a longer-term soft trend caused by unrelated forces — social, cultural, and economic — that happens to be eerily well-harmonized with the necessary hard response to a pandemic. We’re entering an enforced condition of what I call hard cozy, which is acting like a strong tailwind for the domestic cozy trend already underway. This picture popped into my head thinking about our current state (I’m also reminded of my 2014 post, Demons by Candlelight).

Enforced or voluntary, soft or hard, one way or another a vast fraction of humanity is suddenly being forced to discover The Great Indoors.

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Masks All The Way Down

This is a guest post by James Curcio, an excerpt from MASKS: Bowie & Artists of Artifice (Intellect Books), available now

Bowie appeared unusually prescient when it came to the Internet, and what its social significance would be, though he maintained an amount of pre-millenarian utopianism. Perhaps this prescience is more akin to an optical illusion; he was already well on his way, having spent most of his life plumbing the rewards and dangers of the mask before most people had even recognized the unmooring power of anonymity or the virtual. Although an ever-shifting world of masks may be navigable to aliens like Bowie, many have not found themselves so well equipped. This is surely the fraying future society he imagined when he penned the character/interlude ‘Algeria Touchshriek’:

I’m thinking of leasing the room above my shop to a Mr. Walloff Domburg
A reject from the world wide Internet
He’s a broken man, I’m also a broken man
It would be nice to have company
We could have great conversations
Lookin’ through windows for demons
Watchin’ the young advance in all electric 

Digitization has yet to allow us to flee our material origins. If we shut ourselves offline, we do not regain some unity with the silent heart of the world. Those who go permanently offline and return to the village of the future may find it is falling in on itself, the windows cracked and soot-stained. It is eerily silent, with not even the sound of coyotes howling in the distance.

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