Introduction

Greetings! Welcome to FrankAndFriends

The focus of this blog is the discussion of what was, what is, and where appropriate, what might be. In order to fully understand a presented idea, I will sometimes post strictly personal pieces, and make personal remarks in objective posts. Contributors and commentators are encouraged to do the same if they are so inclined.

I believe that the overriding issue of our time is the long-term continuation of our civilization. In the present era I see three possible long-term futures for humanity:

1. It will be entirely wiped out.

2. It will regress to a Neolithic existence on a decimated planet.

3. . It will continue to evolve, to survive and flourish, to continue its long-term upward arc in all its creative and humanistic endeavors.

In this blog, with useful posts and comments from others, I will attempt to discern and understand the forces that are driving us toward one of these futures, and to consider policies we might consider, and actions we might take, to move to a desirable future for humankind.

It is my experience that only via interpersonal discourse can I develop truth-approaching opinions, so any post I make is an invitation for comments. Similarly, for comments on comments.

Anyone visiting this blog may comment on a post or another comment. However, if I don’t judge your comment to be appropriate for productive and civil discourse, I may not publish it.

I’m an exceptionally poor clerk. I labor hard to make my posts grammatically and lexically correct. I appreciate any comments on where I have goofed.

If you would like to make a post for me or others to discuss, you can email me via the Contact tab on this site’s ribbon.

Lately (September, 2022) I’m started to use my Facebook page (A Frank Ackerman) for briefer, more elementary posts on some of the topics covered in this blog.

A Brief Personal Biography

I was born in Washington, D.C. in 1939, the year WWII began in earnest. My father was a US Labor Department economist. He was the middle of five sons of a German speaking, Lutheran pastor in rural Minnesota. My mother was the fifth child of an Oklahoma cotton broker and Alabama cotton farmer.

I do not have any significant memories from my early childhood. Early in 1946 my father took a job as a civilian consultant to the US Army occupation group in Vienna, Austria. In the fall of that year my mother, myself, and my two younger brothers boarded a US Army transport ship to join him in Vienna.

In Vienna I attended a US Army run elementary school. As a dependent of a civilian contractor I didn’t fit in very well with my classmates. Most of them were US Army scions. Our living quarters were all commandeered from ex-Nazis. We had little contact with the Austrian people. We lived in our own occupied-forces bubble. We traveled on US Army bus routes in the American Zone or in an imported US car, and bought all of our essentials at the PX with Army script. As a result I was imprinted with an enduring sense of patriotism that I still carry with me.

In  the spring of 1951 my family returned to the US. While my father did contract work, my mother, my bothers, and I lived with my maternal grandparents in a small agriculture supply town in southern Alabama. Here I was exposed to the rural southern culture of the 1950s.

In the summer of 1951 my father landed a new job with the US Labor department and we moved to a large house in a working class neighborhood on a trolley line in Washington, DC. The next year we moved to a duplex on a bus line on the edge of one of DC’s upscale neighborhoods, and I took a public bus to the area’s middle school. After middle school I went to one of DC’s upscale high schools. In the summer before high school I read Plato’s Socratic dialogues, joined the school Philosophical Society, and began to wake up to the world around me.

On graduating from high school I took advantage of a scholarship at the University of Chicago to become part of UofC’s College, where world-renowned professors taught seminars to small groups of undergraduates. After a short run as a physics major, I had a even shorter run as a philosophy major. In my junior year I got concerned about making a living with a BA and went to the school counseling service. They looked at my grades and said, “Hey, you do OK in math, there’s this new thing. It’s called a computer.” So I enrolled in UofC’s first computer classes, and ran my first program on a Univac I.

On graduating from the UofC in 1961 with a bachelor’s in math, I got my first job writing submarine warfare simulations at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. Here I spent about two years developing a very large FORTRAN computer program that officers working for Chief of Naval Operations could use to study submarine warfare at an ocean-level scale. This was my first brush with using a computer to study the real world. The experience stayed with me for the rest of my life.

Programming computers, trying to make software engineering a profession, and teaching programming and software engineering to undergraduates completely occupied my mind from 1961 to when I retired at the age of 80 in 2019. When I retired, I thought my mind would still be occupied with computer science, but when I discovered that our retirement funds were likely to be sufficient for a comfortable old age, I was free to let my mind roam widely over all of the branches of human knowledge that might be germane to exploring the future of human civilization.

Who’s Writing?

Traditionally pundits do not include any personal details in their philosophical, scientific, or analytical writings. There are good reasons for this: doing so lets the reader focus on the intellectual content without being distracted by personal bias. On the other hand, as the philosopher William James pointed out, we tend to argue from subjective temperament rather than objective reasoning.[1]

It is my view that to truly understand anyone’s intellectual position it is helpful to have at least some personal knowledge about the presenter. Thus, this blog has personal as well as strictly intellectual pieces. If you are so inclined, I encourage contributors and commentators to do the same.


[1]  William James, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, Lecture 1 (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907), 6-7: The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash of human temperaments.… Of whatever temperament a professional philosopher is, he tries when philosophizing to sink the fact of his temperament. Temperament is not conventionally recognized reason, so he urges impersonal reasons only for his conclusions. Yet his temperament really gives him a stronger bias than any of his more strictly objective premises.

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Frank’s Morning Thoughts – 1

At the moment, one of the constants in my life is my morning routine. This routine starts with taking a liothyronine and a levothyroxine pill along with a cup of cappuccino (made with boiled milk) around 6. As I watch the milk heat up, I fire up one of my iPad Pros and start looking at the day’s New York Times. The milk soon starts to boil over, but just before it begins to escape the pan, I pull the pan off the flame. Only rarely do I miss.

With cappuccino in hand, I glance at the day’s headlines. Since on weekday evenings, I usually listen to Chris Hayes during my before supper walk, I’m already aware of the recent news.[1] I’m looking instead for bits of information, insightful points of view, and bedrock information. On my iPad I also look at the Washington Post, the San Diego Herald-Tribune, and the Letters from an American blog. On average I find three to four articles I want to take note of in my daily journal. [2].

Such is my physical routine. Mentally, the cappuccino and reading get my brain racing. It’s quite marvelous really [3], but given my poor memory, I need to make notes; often in the form of a article title and brief comments.

Beginning about twenty months or so, as my mind picked its way through the fire hose stream of articles that I can now call up with a tap of my finger, [4] I started to form two opinions that are presently the foci of much of my thinking:

  1. My country, for all of its many dark stories, is presently in danger of dropping its commitment to human enlightenment and morphing into something else.
  2. Civilization is now in danger of an untimely demise after a mere ten thousand years of up-and-down evolution.

Basically, nature’s genetic lottery worked just fine until with the spiffy brains she gave us for survival as hunter-gatherers, we invented agriculture. Now our ceaseless inventiveness, couple with intrinsic selfishness and a desire to be ‘top-dog’, has brought us to the brink of possibly doing ourselves in.

Notes

[1] Good news stories attempt to inform us of what actually took place. They should include just enough strictly factually background to begin to begin to understand the event; a salutary service. Information theory [5] tells us the amount of information in any message is directly proportional to its surprise factors. Most of what happens every day is predicable given a rough understanding of current forces at play.

[2] Although nature endowed me with slightly above average rational abilities, she definitely short-changed me in memory capability (probably aggravated by conscious neglect). I now attempt to compensate by taking copious notes. A draw-back for web-publications is that physical copies don’t pile up until one gets around to throwing them out. But it turns out that if you know the title and the publication source, Google can almost always fetch it for you, even if it’s years old!

[3] See Frank’s Wonderful, but Noisy Brain (pending)

[4] Although I have had internet access since I could access ARPA-net in 1972, before my new retirement life I was almost entirely focused on computer programming and work . Presently there is much alarm about the social damage our new personal communication technology is enabling, but for scholars of any stripe, the internet is a marvelous portal.

[5] What is information and what are its key concepts?
https://vitalflux.com/information-theory-machine-learning-concepts-examples-applications/#What_is_information_theory_and_what_are_its_key_concepts , retrievedj10/29/22.

Logic Versus Imagination

Logic (Wikipedia): the study of correct reasoning
Reason (Wikipedia): the capacity of consciously applying logic

Logic (Britannica): the study of correct reasoning, especially as it involves drawing inferences
Reason (Britannica): the faculty or process of drawing logical inferences

Great! Full circle in just two arcs!

But for us humans it could not be otherwise. The life-force drives us to stay alive. To stay alive, we must eat. To eat we must successfully interact with physical reality. Physical reality appears to have eternal, invariant properties and processes. In the micro-cosmos of our individual minds we can represent these invariants as logic, i.e., reliable rules for relating things so that we can successfully predict the future: the next instant, tomorrow, next month, etc. [1]

Logic and reason are sufficient to keep us alive, but not to evolve. In our minds we need to be able to spontaneously create entities that may, or may not, adhere to our current rules for reasoning. We need imagination.

Imagination (Wikipedia): the production or simulation of novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses

Imagination (Britannica): the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality

Combining logic and imagination we can create social realities that are antithetical to physical reality. Applying logic in such realities can have disastrous results, e.g., Jamestown, 1978; the German Reich, early 1940s.

We presently have only one way to avoid such disasters. We can continuously check our logical/rational deductions against what we can surmise to be the case in objective reality. [3] This is not easy. After centuries of effort we do a fair job of matching logical/rational conclusions to physical reality. But our continuing failure to align our behavior to be in line with the imperatives of social reality is likely to result in our total demise.

Notes
[1] We also use logic to play games with propositions about imaginary entities, for example, affine geometry. [2]

[2] Exner, R.M. and Rosskopf, M. F. Logic in Elementary Mathematics, McGraw-Hill, 1959

[3] See Rational Versus Logical Argument (pending)

Report #367

On the planet the inhabitants call “Earth” there are 8 billion autonomous life forms. In addition to the life-force’s imperative to survive and to reproduce, these life forms (they call themselves “humans”) are wired to strive for two sometimes conflicting goals: (1) to congregate into self-sustaining groups, and (2) to each individually enhance their own self-satisfaction.

About 3 billion earth years ago [1] the immutable laws that govern the unfolding of our universe resulted in the creation of self-replicating molecules on this planet. About 200 thousand earth years ago the continuous operation of these laws resulted in the creation of humans, a life-form with approximately ten times the intellectual capability of its predecessors.

As is the case with us, directed intelligence trumps random evolution. As was the case with us, their intelligence has created their first planet-wide civilization. This civilization has at present overwhelmed the natural forces that have, heretofore, directed this planet’s evolution and human culture development.

As was the case with us, the genetically determined human drive for self-satisfaction appears to be stronger than their drive to create and sustain societies. [See Attachment A for our AI’s description of the stochastic operation of a human brain/mind.] We are at present waiting and observing the resolution of the outcome of these two opposing forces.

In our judgement, humans have sufficient intelligence to get control of their individual drives toward self-satisfaction in order to advance social stability and the further development of their civilization. [See Attachment B for our AI’s construction of the pertinent probability distributions.] We shall see. The universe is so constructed that success is not guaranteed. My assessment at this point is that if humans do not make it through their current crisis, they will eventually disappear.

Governor Takoo Licanes
Sentient Life Observation Station #7

Notes
[1] 1 Earth year == 1.1 Cephali years

Are Americans in the 2020s any different from Germans in the 1920s?

Posted for a retired oncologist, a published author, and a good friend:

Re: https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/us-and-the-holocaust/

By the time the War ended in May 1945, when Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, entered  Buchenwald, the existence of the mass murder chambers in the death camps was widely known in the United States. Photographs had been delivered to the American press. The public knew. America had even reviewed ways to save people. Some had actually worked. What Ike saw was beyond words and he knew at once that he had to make sure others saw it for themselves. He invited newspaper editors from across the country, Senators and Congressmen, leaders at the State Department and others to bear witness. 

Burns Novick and Botstein (and the US Holocaust Museum) believe it is time for us to bear witness, not to what the Germans did, but to what the Americans did and are still doing.

 This documentary is designed to wake us up to the reality of how Americans dealt with the information as it developed and afterward. 

It is not fun, but it is necessary to spend some time thinking about it right now as we have been imitating the behavior of the Germans, the good Germans, the ones who liked what Hitler promised – to make Germany Great Again.  Even if they did not know about the worst of the atrocities (and it really doesn’t matter), they knew the Jews had been identified as the enemy.  In America, we knew what was happening as it happened every step of the way. It made the front pages. The public refused to focus on it until it was overwhelming. When they learned about the death camps, they thought a million people had been murdered. By then, 5 million were dead. They did what they could, but it was too late. Even after it was over, they would not let the survivors come to America. They could not return to their homes. No one would let them in. Why? They were afraid of immigrants, afraid of losing control over America and their way of life. If the surviving Jews of Europe had not been allowed to go to Israel (which did not exist as a country until 1947) they would have had nowhere to go.

I admit to being surprised and shocked by the finale of the carefully constructed and largely factual documentary of the almost indescribable and unbelievable era in Germany which began, like the Trump era, with enthusiasm for a man who promised to make his country better, pleased the crowd with his policies and “went off the rails” as some like to say. 

A series of unrestrained photos no longer shock as they did sixty years ago when I first saw them. Panning through Auschwitz’s piles of thousands of dead bodies arranged like a major sawmill did not make me shut my eyes. I watched without shuddering as I viewed trenches full of the dead, emaciated bodies, electrified barbed wire that set people trying to escape on fire, brutal soldiers laughing as they killed women and children, haunting eyes staring at the photographer knowing they were slated to be killed. Hearing about how they rounded up communities, led them into the town square, and took children up into the clock tower so they could drop them on their heads did tighten my stomach. But, oh well, they were Nazis, right?

What shocked was when the survivors who told of these witnessed events said, “No. they are not “THEM” – they are US! All of us. . Anybody can do as they did”

If so, how does it begin?  With people liking the fanatic’s policies, with them accepting his angry assaults on the press and those who disagree with him, with him blaming “enemies” – like liberals and people who believe in public discourse, with undermining government institutions, with abandoning elections, with funny salutes (have you seen recent films of the Trump crowd?),With people who think they are not fascists just standing back and standing by and letting it happen. 

Not content to let us draw our own conclusions, Burns, who started making the documentary during the Obama Administration, finished it with updated footage. 

It shocked me. WE ARE THEM!  All of us. 

Frank’s Days (September 2022)

Note: Another strictly personal post. My excuse: a belief that knowing something about the warp-and-woof of an author’s personal life helps readers better understand where she or he is coming from.

Recap
As I described in Frank’s Mornings, during my early morning period I can often let my mind romp freely as I read and take notes on pieces on the three web sites I visit every morning.[1] If there’s not much of interest on these sites I do a bit of writing and/or googling on some of my open questions/topics. After my early morning period, I begin my mid-morning and midday routines.

Mid-Mornings
I usually have two to three mid-morning hours every day. In addition to minor housekeeping and personal hygiene tasks, during this period I address:
– brain exercises (attention, memory)
– email
– reading
– writing.

A few years ago my score on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment instrument (MoCA), taken during a routine physical examination, dropped below the Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) level. A brain volume scan and psychometric tests confirmed an MCI diagnosis. Such a diagnosis is a probable early warning sign of dementia. I wasn’t surprised. Like other 80-year-olds I was starting to notice memory and attention lapses. One purpose of an MoCA assessment is to distinguish between normal age-related cognitive impairment and incipient, or actual dementia. My physician and I took this assessment seriously.

The prevailing medical opinion is that at present there’s nothing that can be done for either incipient or in-progress dementia. This is not true. A comprehensive life-style regime, based in part on cellular and molecular level research, has been developed and has been shown to be successful in a good percentage of cases.[2] One element of this regime is the use of brain exercises aimed at different aspects of cognitive impairment. I investigated, and found several web-based exercises that were fun, and I have apparently benefited from doing them daily.

My doctor administers a version of the MoCA assessment every year, and just recently my score is now above the MCI warning level. Hurrah!

Like everyone else who logs a few hours on the Web everyday, I need to keep on top of my incoming email message stream. During my mid-morning period I delete all the messages I don’t need to look at, scan the few that appear to need immediate attention, and hold the rest for later.

Reading during this period is usually limited to the articles that show up in my email that relate to the topics I’m interested in. Often I just hold these messages for several days while I address higher priority tasks.

Writing is presently a major part of my retirement life. I take notes on my reading, keep up a daily journal, keep up a fair amount of personal correspondence, and write pieces to post to my blog. As a member of a pre-web generation, I make a first draft by hand, and then transcribe it on my workstation. I always have a dozen or more pieces in various stages of completion. In my mid-morning period I often try to make a bit of progress on at least one of these pieces.

Midday
My midday routine starts around eleven thirty and runs to around two. It begins with a few back exercises before a forty-minute walk around the large Southern California suburban development block that circumnavigates my neighborhood. Hwe usually comes with me. During this walk I sometimes use my iPhone and Sony earphones to listen to a podcast that I think might present some useful new information or thoughtful insights. [3]

When we get back home Hwe makes me a light lunch. I usually follow this with a short nap. Lunch is either a small chicken sandwich (on gym days) or a faux meat sandwich, veggie chips, peppermint tea, fruit, and my lunch-time vitamins/supplements.

Afternoons
Afternoons from 2 to 5 are the only time that I have for serious study and writing. Three days a week this time is preempted by essential gym classes and the use of gym exercise machines. This is often followed by a weekly stop at Costco on the way home. On the other four days, during this period I address:
– brain exercises [4]
– email
– studying
– reading
– writing

Unless I’m in crunch mode on a task deadline, I usually put in some more time in on brain exercises.

I take care of any cursory email responses during the midmorning period, but most weeks I have email from family or friends that requires more than a cursory answer. I try to get one of these done during this period.

For me studying and writing go hand-in-hand. I don’t I digest new information unless I write about it. And often I need to do research for a piece I’m writing. These two connected activities are the ones I cherish the most, although on some days I don’t get time for them.

Finding time for serious reading is a challenge. I participate in a zoom-based book club with friends in Montana, so that month’s book has priority. In addition, I’m finding that I like to be simultaneously reading a number of books in history, science, mathematics, and philosophy, as well as a novel. Since I usually take notes on the non-fiction materials I read, a lot of my reading can be considered as studying as well.

I punched up my first computer program in 1970 during my senior year at the University of Chicago. The creation of computer programs was my primary focus for the next fifty years. For the last two years I’ve been entirely focused on the intellectual interests I had to put aside to survive and thrive as a computer programmer, software engineer, seminar presenter, and professor in the work-a-day world. I’m now tentatively and slowly starting to program again.

Early Evenings
My early evening period is similar to my midday period. It begins with a second set of back exercises followed by an hour walk around a few blocks that enclose a neighborhood adjacent to mine. I bring my bowel medicine with me and take it at the halfway mark. This medicine needs to be taken 30 to 45 minutes before a meal.

During this walk I usually listen to the audio portion of the Chris Hayes All In show on MSNBC. The show is definitely left-wing and often exaggerates, but it’s the only one I’m interested in that is available at this time on the streaming services I subscribe to. On Mondays the Rachel Maddow Show follows All In. Rachael’s opening piece is always interesting and afterwards she usually has prominent guests to talk about the latest stories. She is definitely left-wing, but attempts, usually, to keep her language strictly factual. These shows tend to have all the good stuff up front, so toward the end of my walk, and on weekends, I listen to classical music albums via Prime Music.

Hwe often starts this walk with me, but after half a mile cuts off for a shorter walk. When I get back home, Hwe usually has, or nearly has, a full supper ready. The menu is constrained by brain health and bowel functioning considerations. I’ve found that if I eat much fish the arsenic level in my blood elevates. And for brain health I try to minimize my red meat consumption. I have chicken a lot, and large helpings of vegetables. Again I have peppermint tea, veggie chips, fruit, and my supper-time vitamin/supplements. For brain health I minimize sugar consumption, but usually have a small cookie and a small frozen desert.

After supper is video time for an hour or more. Hwe and I try to find some something we can both enjoy. It’s not easy. Our tastes are quite different. Often our best bet is a long running series. These about-an-hour-long episodes are a good fit with the amount of time I want to spend on this activity, but occasionally I’ll watch a feature length movie.

Late Evenings
My activities after video and before bedtime vary:
– a bit of serious reading/studying
– recreational reading

Which activity I do depends on how much time I have and how tired I am. I usually get in at least a half hour of recreational reading before taking a dose of melatonin, strapping on my CPAP machine, and counting my breaths as I fall asleep.

Interrupts
The above describes many of my days, but often  there are the usual interruptions that everyone deals with:
– making social or medical appointments,
– social events
– cultural events
– handling household concerns
– handling financial affairs

Notes
[1] The app editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post; and Letters from an American at substack.com.

[2] The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline, Dale Bredesen, 2017; and The End of Alzheimer’s Program: The First Protocol to Enhance Cognition and Reverse Decline at Any Age, 2020

[3] New episodes from Ezra Klein’s Podcast are announced on my NYT app. Usually they are interviews with thoughtful authors. I often check them out. I sometimes listen to episodes on The Hive or Politico Dispatch.

[4] I interleave brain exercises with other tasks. I average about a hour a day on these exercises. You might wonder why, since my MoCA score is now above the MCI level, I put so much energy into maintaining brain health. For me, living out my final years is like nursing a really old car along. Various things start to fall apart, some slowly, some quickly. For me, dying of advanced dementia would be the worse way to go, so in my daily living tme budget, maintaining brain health has a high priority. An additional consideration is that as a US citizen there are nearly insurmountable roadblocks to availing myself of a physician assisted death if I have serious dementia.


I’m a Fan

I’m a fan of humankind. I know we have done, and are doing, terrible things. We’ve also done, and are doing, wonderful and marvelous things. And we can do many more, much more, marvelous things. We can start to move toward a worldwide civilization of peace, plenty, and nourishing community in concert with individual self-realization. For the first time in history humankind has the technology to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, and the basics of civilized living to all the Earth’s human inhabitants.[1] [2] However, on the flip side, our inherent drive for understanding and control of physical reality has expanded our economy, and our knowledge base, so much that it is increasingly difficult to forge effective public policy. And our communication technology has suddenly supercharged the power of propaganda and demagogues to the point where even basic civility is vanishing.

I’m still cheering for humankind, but I’m increasingly pessimistic. The very limited evidence that I can gather leads me to the conclusion that there is a better than even chance that we are playing our last few games. That unless we can get our act together, our multi-millennium record of civilizations that went bust will go unbroken to the end.[3] Humankind sometimes loses because physical reality gets the upper hand, but mostly she loses as the result of social entropy.[4] We are our own worst enemy. Maybe the inability to hold a civilization together for more than a few centuries is inherent in our collective psyche. Maybe the deck Is stacked against us. But I don’t think so.

Humankind stands at the pinnacle of three billion years of stop-and-start, turbulent evolution that has produced a brain that is more complex and subtle than anything in the known universe. Early on, the creative process, built into the very fabric of our universe, created a primitive brain. It then proceeded to create evermore powerful versions until a brain emerged that could, on its own, take charge of its own evolution. So, the creative powers of the universe are such that they can produce a win. But this process is probabilistic, not deterministic. Over the entire universe some civilizations may endure for eons.[5] There’s no guarantee that human civilization will be among them.[6]

My view is that the survival of human civilization of Earth depends mainly on how we construct humankind’s social reality. I maintain that this reality is just the amalgamation of the realities each of us constructs in our own minds. While most of the contents of our minds is not under our conscious control, there are parts that are. The question is, if we want to support team humankind, what can we do? [7]

Glossary entries
– drive
-evidence

Notes

[1] This assumes that we have the will to limit the size of our population.

[2] In the basics of civilized living I include all of our endeavors that facilitate self-realization.

[3] See It’s Different This Time (pending)

[4] Conjecture on my part. I have yet to find a comprehensive review of a fair sample of all human civilizations with an associated analysis of the reasons for their collapse.

[5] Among Trillions of Planets, Are We ‘Home Alone?’, https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/news/1658/among-trillions-of-planets-are-we-home-alone/ , retrieved 05/24/22.

[6] SETI & the Search for Extraterrestrial Life, https://www.space.com/33626-search-for-extraterrestrial-intelligence.html , retrieved 5/24/22.

[7] See What Can We Do? (pending)

Frank’s Axioms 

In my mind all my attempts at rational arguments are based on a few propositions about either subjective or objective reality that I take to be true. I’m calling these propositions axioms. Throughout this blog I will state these propositions as true without explanation. If you, a reader, find other propositions that I claim to be true without an evidentiary reference or an argument, I hope you will post a comment to that effect.

Currently (August, 2022) my axioms are:

Axiom 1. The only reality that I can truly know, or understand, is the one in my mind, that is, my subjective reality.

A2. I am the only one that has access to my subjective reality.

A3. My subjective reality is created either by the spontaneous operation of my brain, or by the consciously directed operation of my mind.

A4. Outside of any person’s subjective reality there is a single objective reality.

A5. An objective reality entity may have a corresponding subjective entity. For example, I am aware that I am writing this with a pen that exists in objective reality. What I am aware of is a subjective reality entity that my brain has created from stimuli received by my sense organs.

A6. Objective reality consists of two distinct parts: physical reality and social reality.

A7. Physical reality consists of all the matter, energy, and forces of the universe. The totality of matter and energy in the universe is constant, but there is constant change that is governed by the immutable laws of physics. [1]

A8. Social reality for humans consists of that part of objective reality that is created by humans.

A9. All entities in social reality are abstract. They have all been created by a human mind, or a group of human minds.

Comment: Confusion is possible here. In order for a subjective entity created in one human mind to have existence in another human mind it must first be instantiated in physical entity. So, since you are reading these axioms, they exist in social reality. For this to be the case, these axioms must be embodied in some physical entity like this sheet of paper.

A10. Since all entities in social reality were created by a human mind these entities are not governed by immutable laws. On the contrary, they may have any humanly imaginable characteristics.

A11. All human action impinges on entities in physical reality. The outcome of any such action is determined by immutable physical laws.

A12. Human action my also impinge on entities in social reality. In general, there are usually at least several possible outcomes. It is not possible to know with certainty which outcome will manifest.

Frank’s Glossary Entries

argument
brain
entity
mind
objective reality
proposition
rational argument
reality
subjective reality

Notes

[1] Physicists speak of “laws.” For example, “the law of gravity.” These are propositions about physical reality entities that are considered to be true for all time for our entire universe. Actually, these “laws” are just constructions created by human minds to model how human perceive particular aspects of physical reality. Newton’s law of gravity (1687) has been superseded by Einstein’s theory of general relativity (1915)

Frank’s Glossary

I can only consider the things in my own mind. The things in my mind are either bodily sensation, feelings (emotions), or thoughts. All of the things in my mind are projected there by my brain. [1] These projections are either created autonomously by my brain, by conscious thought, or arise from signals received from external, objective reality by my sense organs.. Sometime after my birth, my brain began to label the things in my mind with words. Sometime later I began to use words to send signals to the ears of other humans. Still later, I started to also write words that could be picked up by the eyes of other humans. I believe that what I have just said about myself is also true for all humans.

All the words that I use are to some extent idiosyncratic. They have personal connotations that may not mesh exactly with the connotations that any of my listeners or readers have. This glossary is an on-going attempt to delineate a few of the words I’m using in this blog that I think need explanation. It seems to me that lot of the disagreements people have revolve around their attaching different meanings to some of the words they use. In an attempt to sidestep such disagreements and focus any discussions on this blog to non-linguistic issues, I offer this glossary.

argument
A sequence of statements for which the last statements are propositions which are claimed to be true.

assertion
Synonymous with proposition

brain
The largest concentration of connected neurons in a nervous system. The most basic functions of a brain are to generate responses to signals from other organs, and from the animal’s sense organs. These response signals have two fundamental purposes: one is to keep the animal alive, and the other is to facilitate reproduction.

chimera
An illusion or a fabrication of the mind. [2]

consciousness
Synonymous with mind

data
Usually, a collection of quantitative measurements that bear on the truth or falsity of a proposition or coherent collection of propositions. Could also be qualitative observations.

deterministic proposition
A deterministic proposition has a truth value of either true or false.

drive/driven
Used metaphorically of an entity to assert the existence of an innate will/energy to reach some condition or objective. For example: all living beings have a drive to reproduce.

entity
A basic unit of thought. In English, all nouns refer to entities. An entity can be either concrete or abstract. A concrete entity is a particular, unique thing. In English, proper nouns refer to concrete entities, common nouns refer to an abstract entity, i.e., an undefined collection of concrete entities. Entities almost always have attributes, and relationships with other entities.

evolution
Googling on Firefox (09/24/22) gives two definitions:
– the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form: “the forms of written languages undergo constant evolution
– the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.
This blog uses this word in both senses and depends on context to determine which meaning is operative.

model
a) In social reality: an entity whose purpose is to aid in the understanding of another entity.
b) In a subjective reality: a set of propositions, equations, or diagrams whose purpose is to aid in the understanding of another entity.

objective reality
Everything in a person’s subjective reality comes either from the spontaneous operation of that person nervous system, or as a result as of outputs from that person’s senses. The source of all stimulation to a person’s senses is objective reality. Human minds construct models of objective reality based on the analysis of sensory data and current mental constructs. As human knowledge grows, our models of objective reality become more complete, and our predictions become more accurate. But we cannot ever know objective reality. All we can ever do is develop more comprehensive and accurate models. There are two distinct spheres of objective reality: physical reality and social reality.

physical reality
All of the entities in objective reality that can be sensed by a human either naturally or with the aid of instruments.

reality
Synonymous with “what is.” There are two aspects: (1) what an individual is conscious of, and (2) everything outside of an individual’s consciousness. In this bog I call these two aspects subjective reality and objective reality. When referring to objective reality I’ll say” “what actually is.” This is a bit confusing; for each individual their subjective reality is all there is. For each individual objective reality entities exist only as mental chimeras/models in their mind

social reality
All of the non-physical entities in objective reality that were created by humans. All of these entities must be manifested in a physical entity in order to be perceived by humans. Thus, the Constitution of the United States is a social reality entity, but before it can be perceived it must be instantiated in a physical reality entity. The collection of computer memory bits that enable you to read this entry are a physical reality entity.

subjective reality
Refers to all that a person is conscious of, that is, the entirety of a particular person’s thoughts, feelings, and sensations. See What’s “real”.

Incomplete – under construction

Who Are You?

The question: Who are you? Has a long and illustrious history that begins with the earliest philosophers.[1][2] But for now, I’d like you to just humor me and suppose that fundamentally, who you are is your consciousness, your mind. Further, suppose that your mind, a totally private and ephemeral entity, is created by your brain, a physical entity in objective reality. The chemistry and physics of your brain are now reasonably well understood by science.[3] Your brain operates according to the laws of physics, including quantum mechanics. In this respect it is no different than any other physical entity, like a sun or a river. However, your brain is more intricate and complex than any other entity in the known universe. Science understands a lot about your brain’s physical structure and its molecular level operation, but how it creates and interacts with your mind is still a mystery.

At the physical level your brain is unique, in the entire universe there is not another brain just like yours. [4] Furthermore, the memories stored in your brain are the result of your unique moment-by-moment experience from the time you took your first breath to the present moment.

Nature has arranged it so that your own mental images of ordinary things, for example, of a chair, is essentially the same in all human minds. So, you naturally think that most of the other mental constructs in your mind are the same as other people’s. You’re surprised when you discover they are not. You shouldn’t be. Think of how different your life experience has been from other people’s. The contents of your consciousness, and the way it is currently set-up to deal with objective reality is quite different from other people’s. “OK,” you say. “This is all obvious.”

Perhaps. But there is more. Since your nervous system is the control center that keeps your heart beating, and your lungs pumping, what your brain constructs as truth is not easily altered. The same goes for your feelings and behaviors. This is who you are. The fundamental processes of nature have so constructed you. You can change, you can willfully modify some of the concepts in your mind. But you won’t seriously do so unless you’re certain that doing so will enhance your life in some way. Why should you do otherwise?

Notes

[1] “… in ancient Greek philosophy, we could not find any systematic articulation of the concept of self. What we can find when we study the ancient Greek’s conception of the self are questions like … ‘What defines the fundamental identity of an individual?’”, Philo-Notes, Plato’s Concept of the Self, https://philonotes.com/2022/05/platos-concept-of-the-self  retrieved 07/30/22.

[2] “Aristotle’s concept of the self is more complicated [than Plato’s] … Aristotle’s narrative of the soul … guides us in understanding his concept of the self, that is, the human person is a ‘rational animal’”, Philo-Notes, Aristotle’s Concept of the Self, https://philonotes.com/2022/05/aristotles-concept-of-the-self ,retrieved 7/30/22.

[3] Nature Reviews Physics, The physics of brain network structure, function and control,  https://www.nature.com/articles/s42254-019-0040-8 ,retrieved 7/30/22.

[4] There is no direct evidence for this assertion. Considering that the human brain houses 100 trillion connection points (synapses, estimated from physical counts by neuroscientists) that themselves are molecularly complex and constantly changing as your moment-to-moment changes, the probability of this assertion being false is humongously small.

How It All Began

In the beginning, [1] in the very first microsecond, all was chaos. Or so it seemed. Just quarks and electrons buzzing about.[2] But not chaos! A few millionths of a second later, quarks aggregated to produce protons and neutrons. Within minutes, these protons and neutrons combined into nuclei. Hundreds of thousands of years later molecules formed. Then stars and planets. Thousands of trillions of planets. [3] Then, on a least one planet some simple molecules joined, and kept joining, until there was a self-replicating molecule – the first life-form on planet Earth! [4] A membrane of phospholipids formed around some of these self-replicating molecules to form prokaryotes, a primitive cell. [5][6] Thus, the life-force of our universe became manifest; definitely not on every planet, but here on Earth. Driven by the life-force inherent in the fabric of our universe, prokaryotes evolved to eukaryotes, cells with a distinct nucleus. Multicellular organisms appeared next. Then life-forms with specialized organs, and then, after billions of years, homo sapiens, us.

In homo sapiens the life-force brought forth mind, [7] and in a tiny spot in a vast universe, human minds broke the bounds of a biologically driven life-force, and began to create language, religion, and art. Then agriculture, villages, cities, civilization, literature, philosophy, and finally science. Altogether a great, ongoing flowering of creativity across all cultures, across the whole planet.

Notes

[1] It has always been the general consensus of thoughtful humans that everything has a beginning. It seems that universally our minds balk at the notion that causes can be extended backwards indefinitely, particularly as regards to the physical universe. [8] Humanity’s current understanding of the origin of everything has been painstakingly developed over three millennium. During that time critical human thinking and analysis of the data from our eyes, enhanced over the last five centuries by instruments, has resulted in the now currently generally accepted Big Bang Theory. See https://home.cern/science/physics/early-universe , The Early Universe, Origins, retrieved 4/7/22.

[2] It is always important to remember that all statements about physical reality are created by human minds. Over the centuries scientists have created methods and processes that, when applied for a sufficient amount of time, ensure that accepted scientific statements have a high probability of being true.

[3] Astronomers estimate that there are thousands of trillions of plants in our universe. See https://astronomy.com/news/2020/02/how-many-planets-are-there-in-the-universe , retrieved 4/7/22. This estimate has been created by astronomers and astrophysics from observations across the electromagnetic spectrum, mathematical equations, and large-scale computer simulations that automate these equations. Large scale super-computer simulations run continuously to create pictures of the past and future of our universe.

[4] A simplification. RNA and protein matchmaker had to form first.

Michael Gazzaniga, The Consciousness Instinct (New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), 188.

[5] A phospholipid is a type of lipid molecule that is the main component of the cell membrane. Lipids are molecules that include fats, waxes, and some vitamins, among others. Each phospholipid is made up of two fatty acids, a phosphate group, and a glycerol molecule. When many phospholipids line up, they form a double layer that is characteristic of all cell membranes. . https://biologydictionary.net/phospholipid/ retrieved 07/12/22.

[6] Prokaryotes are unicellular organisms that consist of a single prokaryotic cell. Prokaryotic cells are simple cells that do not have a true nucleus or other cell organelles. Bacteria and Archaea are the two domains of life that are prokaryotes.

[7] I believe that it is no more an accident that life appeared in our universe than that a well-capitalized and well-run casino is a sure-fire money maker. I chose to call this attribute of our universe its life-force.

[8] Human minds also balk at the notion that something can happen without a cause. The Big Bang Theory addresses our aversion to an unending chain of causality, but it leaves “why” hanging. From Godel’s theorem to quantum mechanics we have learned that we can pose questions for which, in the realm of rational thought answers do not exist. In our current state of civilization, religion and myth serve up answers for those that require them