Monday, February 29, 2016

Distributed Thoughtware and the 2016 Election

When's the last time you formed an opinion in a vacuum?

The mere fact that you're reading this blog indicates to me that the answer is "before the internet existed, if not before that." The idea that anyone who isn't some sort of information junkie would end up on this site is laughable.

What's less laughable is this: you haven't had an independent thought since (at the latest) Web 1.0.  

Let's get this part out of the way: language and culture shape what thoughts we are capable of having and how we express them. No human being has had a 100% independent thought since the invention of language.

But 100% independent thoughts are not what I'm talking about, so let's skip the petty definition game.

What I mean by "an opinion in a vacuum" is "an opinion not subject to internet crowd-sourcing." An opinion that was not directly influenced by the briny churn of  ideas super-colliding on Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Reddit/Web 2.0.

Personally, I can't think of an opinion that I've had that wasn't eventually influenced by the internet hive-mind. I'm old enough to still read paper books, but even on the occasion that an initial thought is inspired by traditional media, I'm almost certain to post it to the internet hive-mind for comment. If an opinion doesn't make it to that stage, it's usually because I forgot about it. It literally wasn't important enough to remember.

Our minds no longer functions as individual computers processing away at individual programs. We don't swap data a little at a time, from one terminal to another via floppy-disks and punch-cards (books, newspapers, conversations). We're plugged in, distributing our thought-programs over the network. It's Distributed Thoughtware, and we're all a part of it.

Here's the bad news: you will never have another opinion of consequence that will not belong to the Distributed Thoughtware. If you were born after the invention of the internet, it is likely that you have never had an opinion independent of Distributed Thoughtware and never will.

This means that almost everyone voting in the upcoming election has had their current opinions formed by the internet. Not their underlying biases, mind you, but their knowledge of the current situation and how they interpret it. I'm not talking about Twitter comments displayed during the debates or Marco Rubio's Instagram account, I'm talking about the hive-mind formed by their Facebook friends, Twitter feed, and so on. The people who, to a certain extent, do your thinking for you (more accurately, with you).

At first glance, Distributed Thoughtware seems immune to control. How can you control billions of minds at the same time? How can you clamp down on the Truth when it can be uploaded from anywhere? As long as there's one person who can see through the lies, it will get uploaded and distributed. Game, Set, Match against tyranny, right?

You can't control billions of people by physically (electronically) restricting what they upload. Someone will always get through, again and again and again. This is what actual totalitarians do, and it's usually ineffective. There are always workarounds and holes to exploit. Maybe Chinese internet activists will never take down the Communist Party, but the Communist Party will never be able to truly take down internet activists.

You also don't control billions of people with Shadowbans (as Twitter may be doing) or bans for inflammatory material (as Facebook does). This is what soft totalitarians do, and it too is usually ineffective. If anything, half-measures that toy with algorithms behind the scenes explode more violently than full-on totalitarianism. You only have to resort to half-measures in societies that believe in freedom of speech, and societies that believe in freedom of speech will react violently to underhanded censorship when it is exposed.

 Whatever is suppressed by the ego or superego is redirected into the id. Whatever is suppressed by the conscious mind empowers the subconscious. Repressed speech festers and explodes.

So how do you control the billions of minds that make up our Distributed Thoughtware? You say something so big - whether because it is brilliant or ridiculous - that it crowds out everything else.

This is why Donald Trump runs the table. It's because he has set what program we will run since his "Mexicans are rapists and murderers" speech. Everything is a reaction to Trump, not an opinion in a vacuum. We are all, as terminals connected into Distributed Thoughtware, running the Donald Trump application whether we want to or not.

This, in combination with the libidinal energy pushed into the subconscious by soft totalitarianism, is what propels Trump to victory. We can't talk about anything else. Our software is too busy processing the Don.

It is probably impossible to prevent a Donald Trump presidency at this point. It is definitely impossible for any other Presidential candidate to stop Donald Trump at this point. But that doesn't mean that the Donald Trump presidency will mean anything. The hivemind will keep processing Trump, and will keep interpreting this processing loop as a win for Trump, as long as he is an outsider. That changes once he's elected.

Once Trump is elected (and barring a second Black Swan event, he will be elected), he will have to start taking definite actions instead of gaming the Distributed Thoughtware (more accurately, in addition to gaming the Distributed Thoughtware). People will support Trump as a middle finger to the establishment, but will they support him as President? I know plenty of people who backed Obama up until the inauguration.

I'm not alone in predicting that Trump will take the presidency, so let's talk about what happens next. That way, you can check to see if I'm just talking out of my ass in a few years. Falsifiable predictions, people!

Scenario #1 - Trump proves to be a completely ineffectual president. The backlash hits the Right hard and delivers the nation into 1,000 years of Socialism. Our Distributed Thoughtware rejects Capitalism and Right-ism in general as hard as Geocentrism. See also: Trump proves to be an actual Hitler, ushering in 1,000 years of Socialism.

You'll know I was right because Donald was a terrible president and the world moves noticeably to the Left for a generation.

Scenario #2 - Trump proves to be an amazing President. The political establishment and mainstream media are proven drastically, undeniably wrong. The Right makes major gains, but the largest change is a decentralization of opinion-making. Our Distributed Thoughtware has a whole new set of Administrators, almost all of which were not associated with the Old Media at the time of the election.

You'll know I was right because Donald becomes the most beloved president since Reagan and mainstream media viewership/readership drops off sharply (ie, faster than its current rate of slow death). 

Scenario #3 - Trump proves to be roughly as effective as Obama. He makes some gains for his side but fails to deliver on the promised Candyland utopia. The Right and the Left remain about as balanced as they are now (with a slight advantage to the Right). Our Distributed Thoughtware still moves towards decentralization, though not as sharply as in Scenario #2.

You'll know I was right because Trump has favorably ratings at the end of his presidency roughly equal to what Obama has now (roughly 48%) and the mainstream media dies out at a faster rate than it is now (though a quickly as in Scenario #2).

Interestingly, none of these scenarios retard the growing ubiquity of Distributed Thoughtware. In all cases, the inability of the political establishment/mainstream media to stop Trump moves us away from centralized opinion-making. When a cartoonist, a self-help guy, and a professional troll have more insight into the national mood than any given poli-sci PhD, journalist, or politician, our confidence in the system plummets.

Scenario #1 is the only one in which our Distributed Thoughtware fails to grow geometrically. If the Establishment can get one thing right - Trump would be a terrible President - then they retain a shred of dignity. There is a fig leaf: "We might not understand anything about the real world, but at least we understand the political world."

But even Trump becoming the worst president in history wouldn't slow the death of the Central Thought Systems. It only means the Center's death isn't as fast as it could possibly be.

Why? Because if you love Trump, you already hate the central media/government establishment and want him to smash them. Even if Trump fucks up the country, you're unlikely to start loving Big Brother. If you hate Trump, you already hate the central media/government establishment for failing to stop him. And that hate will grow stronger in November, and stronger still when the country goes in the toilet.

I suppose that if Trump fucks up the country (and the global economy by proxy) so badly that no one can afford to use the internet anymore, that might disrupt our Distributed Thoughtware. But you'll be too busy knifing another hobo over a can of beans to remember that some internet jackass' prediction failed.

Speaking of which, here's how you'll know I was wrong:

Scenario #1 - Donald Trump fails to become president because he loses the vote. This excludes an assassination or massive, documented voting fraud. If Trump is not elected, I was wrong. If there are accusations of voting fraud, but no real evidence, I am still wrong.

Scenario #2 - Donald Trump is a terrible president, and there is no backlash against the Right. Also, Trump is a terrible president and we become less dependent on Distributed Thoughtware (ie, there is a resurgence of the traditional media/trust in the establishment).

Scenario #3 - Donald Trump is an excellent president, but the country still moves permanently to the Left. Also, Trump is an excellent president and we become less dependent on Distributed Thoughtware (ie, there is a resurgence of the traditional media/trust in the establishment).

Scenario #4 - Donald Trump is a mediocre president (with an approval rate of ~48%) and the country takes a hard, hard turn to the Left or the Right. Also, Trump is a mediocre president and we become less dependent on Distributed Thoughtware (ie, there is a resurgence of the traditional media/trust in the establishment).

So there you go. Three ways I can be right and four ways I can be wrong. Now sit back and enjoy Super Tuesday.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

[BTT016] "How can a Just God..."

Previous: [BTT015] "If the Death and Resurrection of Jesus..."

Question 4. “How can a just God punish people for sins that occurred in a timeline which no longer exists?”

In a certain sense, individual sins are committed at discrete points in Time. God does not hold us responsible for sins we do not commit. Although the strict Calvinists among us may say that God has predestined "vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction," (Rom. 9:22) and the less strict may say that God's foreknowledge allows Him know our sins before we do, I know of no theological system that claims God will punish us for sins that we at no point actually commit.

So then, if Time is recreated without sin, doesn't this mean that all humans would suddenly become sinless? God may justly condemn humans for sins they have not yet committed, but can He condemn us for sins that were un-committed?

For example, let's say God goes back in Time and makes Genghis Khan be born as a sinless human being This means that he would not have killed and raped his way across Asia and Europe. This in turn would mean that all of the humans he killed would have lived (longer), the women he raped would not have become pregnant (with his children), and a substantial percentage of the human race would not be related to him.

In this scenario, is Genghis Khan responsible for the sins he would have committed in the original timeline? All evidence of his crimes has disappeared, all his victims are spared, no sin can be laid on his account.

Once again, this question betrays Marty McFly-style thinking. From the in-time perspective, changing history changes what sins are committed, but the eternal perspective gives us a different picture.

Moreover, this question also assumes that God the worst part of sin is the harm that it does to others. Murder is wrong because it ends the life of a fellow human being. Stealing is wrong because you deprive someone else of what belongs to them. Our common assumption is that the worst part of sin is that it harms others.

Of course, looking at the Scriptures, we see something quite different.

Christ tells us that it is not the consequences of physical acting out of a sin that matters most. If you murder in your heart, you are just as guilty as if you had stuck a knife into a person's heart. On the other hand, the law of Moses provided cities for refuge for those who accidentally took human life. What matters most is not the physical act of ending a human life, but the state of the heart in relation to the act.

This is not to say that physical acts do not matter - in the New Testament faith without works is dead, in the Old Testament accidentally coming into contact with an unclean object still defiled a person. But the heart from which the act flows is still given precedence over the consequences of the action.

If I intend to toss a ball to my friend, but it hits him in the head, killing him, I have taken human life, but I have not committed murder. If I toss a ball to my enemy, hoping that it will kill him, but he instead catches it, I have not taken human life, but I have committed murder.

In this way, we see that it is not the temporal consequences of our actions that matter most to God, but their eternal consequences. Matthew 10:28 tells us "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." It is more terrible to commit a sin and be thrown into hell than to be sinned against. A murder does temporal damage to his victim, but eternal damage to himself.

I think part of the answer to the Problem of Pain is that death and other temporal pains are not the worst thing that can happen to us. The worst part of murder is not the end of a human life (it would end one day anyway), but the staining of an eternal human soul. The worst part of theft is not that a person loses some money (that will turn to dust), but that a soul has lost innocence.

It is not that the ending of a human life is not serious thing (or else it would not be a sin). Intentionally desecrating the image of God present in all humans is a grave offense, but we can say that one thing is more important than the other without lessening the importance of the second.

In weighing the relative importance of keeping my children clothed and keeping them fed, I say that both are essential. I would sacrifice my own comfort to secure either one. But when it comes down to it, if I could choose only one, I would choose to keep them clothed above keeping them fed.

Go back and read the last sentence.

Did that make any sense to you? Did you ask "who in their right mind would let their children starve to keep them clothed? It must be a typo. There is no way on Earth anyone's priorities could be so skewed!"

And that's my point. No one in their right mind would let their children starve in order to keep them clothed. While both scenarios are horrible to consider, one is clearly worse than the other.

Just as our minds and hearts revolt against letting our children starve to keep them clothed, so God objects to prioritizing a person's temporal life over their eternal life. And just as a good human seeks to clothe their children in addition to feeding them, so God seeks both our temporal and eternal good. He wants both our internal hearts and our external actions to be holy, but He starts with the heart.

And it does start with the heart. In the Old Testament, the prophets condemn sacrifices offered with unclean hearts and unwashed hands. In the New Testament, Jesus and Paul both condemn outward shows of prayer and offerings done with sinful motives. Even a divinely sanctioned action such as prayer to the One True God is sinful if done with a sinful intent. This is why Titus 1:15 tells us that "To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. "

So if the heart is what matters most, and the worst part of sin is the stain it leaves on the heart of the one who commits it, does it still seem unusual that God would judge us based on the state of our souls instead of our actions in Time? If sin has an eternal effect on an eternal soul, is it so strange that the effect would remain even if Time is destroyed?

And if you remain unconvinced, consider the rebel angels. Whatever relationship angels have to time, scripture indicates very strongly that they were present before the creation of our world. If angels are not creatures of Space/Time, by what means can we say that sin requires Time or temporal effects? If Hades was prepared for the rebel angels, surely God can justly punish sinners for sins which occurred outside of the Space/Time in which humans live.

Sin can only be erased by the blood of Christ, not by the destruction of Time. The destruction of the current, fallen timeline would in no way dilute the seriousness of sin. To the contrary, only the redemption of Time can satisfy the holiness of the Eternal God. Christ came to destroy the temporal effects of sin (death, disease, suffering), but His most important mission was to overthrow the eternal power of sin (separation from God, eternal death).

Next: [BTT017] Further Objections

Friday, February 5, 2016

State of the Blog: February 2016

I've been stupidly busy, is the short version.

You may have noticed that the A Brief Theology of Time series is still updating. That's because all of the posts were finished and scheduled back when the series first began. I haven't had much time to seriously write since around then.

This is 90% work-related and 10% life related. I'm thinking of going for a PhD (general distaste for academia notwithstanding, credentials are important for a translator) and have been trying to catch up on the literature in my free time.

I am working on a few projects though.

1). Archetypes vs. Tropes will probably be the next series, It unpacks the "sexist tropes" argument by looking at it from a Jungian Archetype lens. The short version is that the recurring popularity of the Damsel in Distress trope comes from the psychological principle of the Anima, not from lazy sexism. We'll also be looking some ways to handle female-driven stories that rise above the usual "man with tits" and "bad-ass action grrrl."

2). Along with the StudyOke! series, I'm working on some material on the convergence between traditional enka tropes and Azuma's moe database. This will be drawing heavily on Tears of Longing. This one will be further in the future.

3). I've been dabbling in some pen-and-paper game design and still hope to post on it. The hardest part has been figuring out the format for posts!

4). As the 2016 Hugos race heats up, I may be revisiting the Killing Vox Day series. I argued that Vox's 4GW strategy is theoretically sound and observably effective. I also argued that the only way to kill the Puppy momentum was to treat them with basic human dignity. Despite token olive branches from GRRM and a few others, the Puppies and the Hugonauts seem no closer to civility than in 2015.

After posting the series, I was eventually swayed to the basic Sad Puppy position - vote for the work, not for the author's politics (or the politics of the author's fans). This has not changed the essential point of Killing Vox Day - turning the Hugos into a political referendum will ultimately feed the Rabids, lose the high ground, and potentially destroy the Hugos.

Vox said the gloves are coming off in 2016, and that makes 2016 the critical year for the Rabid Puppies. Claims of eternal enmity and willingness to fight until the Sun explodes aside, if they can't score some undebatable wins this year, the organized movement will likely peter out and turn into your usual right-wing sewing circle. I've publicly argued that their strategy can work. I don't want to be proven right, but hey, everyone likes a nice ego-wank.

4). And of course, I'll continue looking at HBD topics, although that will stay limited to the HBD Comment Thread for the foreseeable future. There won't be a full series until I think I have something  substantial to contribute to the argument. I love a good argument, but genetics and biology are outside my usual wheelhouse.

That's all for now.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

[BTT015] "If the Death and Ressurection of Jesus..."

Previous: [BTT014] "If the Bible is the Eternal Word of God..."

Question 3. “If the Death and Resurrection of Jesus occurred in history, how can history be rewritten?”
I take this objection more seriously than any other. After all, if Time is made sinless, why would Christ come? Moreover, how could Christ be murdered in a sinless world? Teaching the restoration of Time seems to also imply that the glory of God would be lessened.

Let's start by establishing some common ground. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events inside and outside of Time. It was looked forward to not only by the people of God, but by the angels. It was dreaded by the devils, who worked in vain to thwart the promised Messiah by wiping out His chosen people.
It is looked back on by us as the rock of our faith. Paul says that if Christ was not truly raised from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all others, for our hope would be truly dead. The entry of God into our Space/Time, born fully God and fully man, was nothing less than the fulfillment of the eternal promises of God and the point of all history.

Nothing is more important than the historic mission of Jesus, and I raised this objection to myself while formulating this theory. This objection is why I searched for a better explanation of how redemption relates to Time. I did not want to accept my own theory out of fear that it might undermine the importance of Jesus's birth, death, and resurrection.

But I think there is much in Scripture that indicates that Christ's sacrifice was more than simply a temporal event.

Jesus now dwells at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33), not within our created Space/Time. In His place, He has sent the Holy Spirit, saying it was preferable for Him to leave that the Helper might come (John 16:7).
Christ appeared to John at Patmos as a being beyond Time (Rev. 1:9-20), still bearing the marks of His crucifixion (Rev. 6:5). The Lamb Who Was Slain has won an eternal glory by His willing death on the Cross, a victory which cannot be taken from Him by any means. It is a victory that transcends Space and Time.
As Hebrews tells us, while the human High Priests offered sacrifice after sacrifice for the remission of sins, Christ the High Priest offered one sacrifice for all time. It does not matter if we live 2,000 years after that sacrifice and on the other side of the world, it will not matter 20,000 years after and on another planet! Christ calls us, who have not seen and yet believe, more blessed than those who both saw and believed (John 20:29).

This is one way in which all Christians agree that the Cross transcends Time: the single sacrifice paid for all future sins. This is strange to human minds. How can the sins of the future be paid for by a sacrifice of the past? This only makes sense if we recall that God is eternal, seeing the end from the beginning; sins which are in our future are already known to Him. Even so, the entire system only makes sense if Christ's sacrifice is also eternal, transcending time to cover sins that had not yet occurred.

There is another sense in which Christ's sacrifice is eternal. Paul says that the sacrifices of the past, of Moses and David, were only accepted by God on the basis of Jesus's future death and resurrection. But this was not a mere matter of God taking it on faith that Christ would pay the price at some later date. One does not simply open up a tab with God. No, the death of Jesus also transcends into the past, making the animal sacrifices efficacious.

Hebrews says of Jesus, that "after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified." (Heb 10:12-14). This sacrifice replaces not just future animal sacrifices, but also past animal sacrifices - "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4).

Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, but the blood of mere animals is not what was at stake. If the blood of animals was what truly mattered, how could the prophets condemn those who sacrificed with unclean hearts? Abraham's faith was accounted to him as righteousness not because of burnt offerings (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-4), but because all believers, past, present, and future, are saved by the blood of Christ.

Paul speaks on this subject at length in 2 Tim. 1:9-11:

"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles."
The grace given to us on account of Jesus' work was given to us before Time began. It was hidden for a time - until the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) when Jesus Christ appeared - but has now appeared. And what was given to us before Time was also given to the Old Testament saints before the revelation of the Son. Salvation was always by faith, even when the full nature of the Messiah was hidden by Time.

So salvation transcends Time into both the future and into the past - this much at least should not be controversial, though it is not often stated in these terms. And if we recall that the sin of the rebel angels took place outside Time and that human sins committed within Time have eternal consequences, it should not surprise us that sin transcends Time as well as salvation.

There is yet another sense in which salvation transcends our Space/Time. The saints who have gone before us no longer exist in this world, but in the presence of God. A salvation won within Time remains effective outside of it.
So then, it is not a question of whether or not the death of Jesus Christ on the cross will change Time itself. It has already changed Time irrevocably. All of history pointed to it before it occurred, all future history will point back to it. It led the destiny of nations, raised kings, and overthrew empires. It changed the lives of men and women, determining the eternal bliss or woe of their souls thousands of years before Jesus has His first human breath. I repeat, it is not a question of whether or not the Cross has changed Time itself. Without an eternal God leading all things to Christ, nothing would work together for good!

 This is why I feel led to believe that the nature of time will be changed: it is already being changed. Without the blood of Christ transcending Time, history would be an even greater nightmare of completely unrestrained, unregenerate human hearts. The future would be a bleak pit without hope. There would be no new earth, and no new heavens beyond it. Show me a Christian that does not believe that the death and resurrection of Christ transcends Time, and I will show you a Christian without hope in this world or the next.

This is why I say with relative confidence that the death of Christ is not limited to our current Space/Time. Certainly, it had to occur in our Space/Time to fulfill prophecy, and so that Jesus could live a truly human life, but it is an event that conquers and restores Time, not one that is a slave to it. If it makes the eternal heavens new, how much more our world of Space and Time?

 So far from undermining the historical reality of Christ, far from unmaking the temporal basis of our salvation, the recreation of Time is already being accomplished. And I believe that what has been accomplished shows the way to what is still to come.

 As we discussed in the previous section, we are not dealing with a Marty McFly model of Space/Time. Changing Time only effects beings which exist in Time, not beings which exist outside of Time. Removing sin from Time would erase the death of Christ from this world's timeline, but that, perhaps is the entire point. Christ's work on Earth was to wipe out sins, to take them on Himself. He sucks the poison out of this world.

But even if the sin of murdering God is removed from the timeline, Jesus is not a solely temporal being. As the Eternal Son of God, the wounds remain on His hands, and the glory cannot be stolen. Restoring Time to a sinless state only effects Time, not eternity. The objection makes sense if we look at the issue with the eyes of temporal creatures, but not when we look at it from the eyes of eternity.

 From the eyes of eternity the death of Christ is what makes the redemption of Time possible and what renders it inescapable. Without the death of Christ, this world could not be restored, and it is the mercy and justice of an eternal God which make sin untenable. Christ's sacrifice will not be unmade in the new order of heaven and earth, but rather has become their very foundation.

 Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is already returned to eternity. Christ's presence with the Father is the sign and seal that no mere accident of Space and Time can shake our salvation. Just as the worst horror of sin is the mark it leaves on eternal souls, so the greatest triumph of the Cross is now a part of eternal God. Our names our written on His hands. Our salvation cannot be erased because it is part of the eternal glory of God.

 This is why I do not think that the destruction of Space/Time would unmake the work of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It would remove the event from Space/Time, but while establishing it as the eternal foundation of a restored created order. I fully understand if some do not agree with me, but I want to be quite clear in stating that this is not a doctrine which seeks to undermine the importance of the Incarnation.