Thoughts On Entropy

A collections of essays inspired by some musings on entropy, death, and equality.

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The Two Equalities

12 November, 2016 (00:41) | Uncategorized | By: hazubu

the-two-equalitiesGrowing up, I thought the happiest society would be marked by a profound equity. I saw the quality of Equity as a singular indivisible characteristic that was synonymous with the desired society. It was an afterthought that, when society become perfectly equal, we would be perfectly happy. Years later, this view was frustrated when I was reading portions of Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” where he compares the French Revolution with the American society and remarks how men generally show a greater love for equality than freedom. In pondering this section, my previously held views changed and I viewed equality in a more complex light. Due to the internal conflict posed by Tocqueville’s text and my experience with our societal emphasis on equality, I dwelt on the subject of equality for a long time. With time, I have come to see a dual nature in equality, a good side and a bad side.

As with everyone, my thoughts and feelings are built upon a series of base assumptions. From the assumptions, by which I personally guide my life, the conclusions that follow grow out of two foundational beliefs. The first assumption being the absence of a globally objective reality, the notion that everyone’s view of reality is idiosyncratic and personal, yet skewed. The second assumption being that all of our actions and efforts are performed in the pursuit of a salvation, where the salvation is defined by our individualized view of reality.

There is really not much, or anything really, that is objectively provable fact. We all have different views and different perspectives of the same world. It has been largely discussed by many, but what is in truth “real” is largely unknowable, and is certainly unprovable. A great poem has been written that conveys this point nicely. It is the poem “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Godfrey Saxe. The poem goes as follows:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

As this poem is intended to illustrate, by having an incomplete view of an object, or reality, we can arrive at wildly divergent and even conflicting assumptions about reality. Yet, each of these assumptions, though wrong, is possibly as valid or more so than the reality that stands in direct conflict. To compound the problem, there is no globally accepted authority that is recognized as having access to complete reality. However, there is a truthful reality that is exact and equally applicable to everyone. Just as one of the blind men would gladly give up his misconceptions if he were able to grasp the whole of the elephant, we, hopefully, would likewise relinquish our erratic views if we were able to see truth in it’s entirety. Man has endeavored long and hard in the search for this fuller view of truth, and, possibly, we have collectively made some progress. Frequently, newer insights have explained or even controverted the earlier held viewpoints. Yet, on a globally applicable level, we have never been able to discern the entire view with any certainty. As humans, this uncertainty eats at the back of our minds with the potential to cause immense discomfort.

The discomfort we feel comes from the acute desire, possessed uniquely by humans, for some form of salvation. We all would like a secure feeling that some conception of us is on a successful unending path. Yet, with all the differing views of reality, this feeling is difficult to come by. Frequently, in the moment we find perceived peace, something in our life derails our self-concept from the previously assumed path to joy. Many times it comes from interacting with someone who has a different view of reality.

Accordingly, interacting with others is not all fun and games, particularly when there is the potential that the person will share views that flip over our salvation apple cart. Naturally, nearly everyone wants to avoid interactions that threaten their sense of worth, where we feel cut off from salvation. People tend to strongly dislike the feeling of damnation. It is greatly more comfortable to interact with those that affirm our sense of identity, interactions that assure us that we are on the path to a true salvation.

To help us along our individual paths, we place our trust in one or more identities. These identities are characteristics that we hope will conduct us along the path to a successful life. In selecting these identities, we analyze the different factors that comprise our view of reality, either consciously or subconsciously, and generally select an identity that is most likely to lead us to success given the different factors within our ken. We use these identities for at least two purposes, one purpose is to provide hope in the face of mortal trial and another purpose is to provide a buffer zone of protection against being exposed to the true peril of our human position. These two purposes are interrelated.
One of the problems with these selected identities is that we perform all our actions in an attempt to advance our identities within our reality such that we can feel more certain in the success of ourselves. This sounds fine and all when we think of ourselves in isolation, but becomes intensely problematic once we extend this concept beyond ourselves. The problems are due to conflicts of interest. In my endeavors to advance myself, my efforts may be in direct conflict with the interests of another. In these endeavors, as I fight for my identity, my immortality, my salvation, I am unlikely to act against my interests because it would literally mean actively pursuing my damnation, those very things that form the wellspring of terror. However, I may act against the interests of others, even violently so, to prevent their advancement from cutting me off from my sought after salvation.

To make matters more difficult, as we move through the societies of humanity, we move amongst many people who are endeavoring to advance an ever increasing number of different conflicting identities. The expressions of these identities are imparted as thoughts that enter the minds of others. When we receive a thought that conflicts with our identity, we experience cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is commonly understood and I will not elaborate much on it. For those unfamiliar with the concept, there is essentially a behavioral element and an environmental element. The behavioral element may be thought of as thoughts that are within our mind that can be viewed as equivalent to our identity and the environmental element may be thought to include sources of information that extend into our minds from our environment. We need to feel that we are successful within the confines of our reality and when thoughts from the environment collide in a dissonant manner with our behavioral element, we change in an attempt to resolve our dissonance.

Generally, we resolve our dissonance by either adopting the new thought, finding other thoughts to contradict and minimize the new thought, or finding a middle ground that accommodates both thoughts. Another, important aspect is that when we resolve our dissonance, we attempt to avoid situations that could reignite the discomfort we had just expended great effort to resolve.

On a societal level, the resolution of this cognitive dissonance has an entropic effect over the course of time and this tends to drive society towards one of two possible states of equality. These states of equality could be described as a nascent equality and a terminal equality.

When a person or people clamor for equality generally, we tend to think of it in terms of income, race, gender, ideological, or any other type of division that could be made among man. Sometimes, we try to distinguish our yearning for equality as a desire for equality of opportunity as compared to equality of outcome. However, at the heart of this yearning is the desire that all feel, as individuals, for security. Secure in the feeling that our personal identities will be successful. The problem we have with inequality is really nothing more than the glaring reminders that spark internal frustration at the tenuous nature of our personal situations from seeing those who we think are either better or worse off than ourselves according to some quantifiable measure or recognizable point of distinction.

When we are faced with inequality, be it either economic, or a mere philosophical difference, it offers the opportunity for dissonance to arise within ourselves. We see these differences and compare ourselves to one another. The inequality exists because we find that we are manifestly different and the way we determine our value is dependent on that difference. For example, a rich man and a panhandler meet. They will likely realize their differences and make assumptions about one another based on their manifest differences. When faced with this inequity, the two individuals find some way to use the manner in which the difference was manifest to buttress their self worth.

This process has been playing out throughout history. However, recently the communicative unification of the world has changed the effects of responding to manifest differences.

Historically, people have lived in isolated communities. Within these communities, many generations would likely have passed out their lives`, rarely seeing much beyond their immediate community. As such, their providential location tended to provide an identity that was measureable against the success of the neighboring communities. Not too infrequently, these communities would sally forth against possible encroachments against neighboring communities through acts of war. Thus, throughout time, war functioned as a sort of measuring stick for comparing the success of different communities. Other measuring sticks that have existed, include colonization, proselytism, athletics, among other human endeavors. In these communities, equality was not present, by any means. At least, in the way that we think of equality. Frequently, people would vest some individual or organization with demi-god like status. Then the success of the Demi-God would be our own success.

But the struggle of conquesting communities appears to be transitioning into a global, single community where the people identify themselves by their past communities only when expedient. In contrast to the previous way of aligning one’s identity according to locality, it appears that people are now aligning themselves more according to ideology. Technology has only helped entrench people within their desired beliefs. Now when we have itching ears, we don’t have to feel lonely in our dissonance, but we can proactively search throughout the world for our own personal echo chamber. This ability to seek our own, has led us closer to the ability to find a world where we become entrenched in our isolated identities. Eventually, we will find a world where we have no expressed commonalities and all of our interactions with others will be violent conflicts. In this state, we will have found what I refer to as the “terminus equality”, where our thirst for the success of our identity can only be had upon the destruction of all other identities and all people have the same feeling. Then everyone will seek a mutually assured destruction, but instead of countries fighting, the combatants are individuals. Equality will then be had because all will be equally dead.

In contrast to the horrors of the terminus equality, lies the peace of the nascent equality, I use the term “nascent” because this type of equality exists at the birth of rationality. The nascent equality differs from the terminus equality in that everyone finds their worth in the same identity(ies). Further, when one acts, the actions are performed in the interest of the whole instead of for oneself against the whole. History does not provide many examples of this equality on a societal level, but small groups have found the peace that this equality affords. For example, families, cities, and religious groups can approximate this equality. However, on a humanity level scale, it may have only existed at man’s dawn, regardless of how you believe that came about. Since that moment, mankind has probabilistically marched from that distant unified past, to an ever increasingly splintered and fractured future.

There is a reason why humanity moves away from one equality to the other equality. It largely has to do with the nature of the nascent equality. At this state, everyone has to rely in an identity that does not provide any distinguishing characteristics from your fellow man. However, under the threat of death, maintaining the nascent equality becomes difficult. Essentially, the community identity has to provide a way to overcome the threat of death for the members of the community. For many, misunderstandings and different experiences may cause some to feel that the previously held identity fails to provide the needed solace from life’s trials, whether or not the identity in reality did overcome mortal trials. As the individual begins acting under the new identity, they generally begin acting in some ways against the interests of the previous identity and frequently find some way to gauge their new self against the measurables of the old guard. The moment that an individual raises the flag of individuality within a previously unified community, that community begins its slide toward the terminal equality.

Essentially, as people rely on different identities, they will act against the interests of others in the hopes of advancing and ensuring their success over death and the perils of mortality. Frequently, those who are acted against will experience the actions against their identities as impinging on their self worth. As such they typically try to form coalitions of communication around aspects of their identities, shutting off communication between the disparate groups. Each time an individual acts against the interests of another it has the tendency to cut them off from someone, resulting in the formation of different groups. As this process repeats and repeats, society becomes increasingly fractured. With each passing dispute we become more reliant on laws and boundaries to hedge us in, to protect us from the fears of life. Eventually, as we become even more splintered, our laws break and we find ourselves on the brink of the terminal equality.

In our modern day, technology has served to bring the whole world potentially closer to the terminal equality. Historically, the competition of different societies has served to provide a check on societal fracturing. Frequently, wars have arisen from time to time that force people to unify their interests under their community banner. People are generally able to unify behind a common interest in the face of a common enemy. However, when that common interest no longer provides any palpable benefits, societies begin to fracture as people search for quantifiable measures of personal success. Technology, by bringing people into progressively larger human spheres, has allowed people to more effectively find those who are most like themselves. Whereupon, they are able to form ideological coalitions that attempt to destroy any threats to their personal identity. Thus, in our day we have a proliferation of different identities and these identities increase in quantity and focus down with increasing granularity towards individuals. Due to the connectedness of the world, geographic isolation and striving are insufficient to keep our different identities in check. Thus, with each personal assertion of individuality against the interests of the whole, our society gets pushed closer and closer to the terminal equality.

I hope that I have been clear that the terminal equality is the thing of all things to be avoided. Yet, humanity’s march toward this evil moves continuously with only the rare noticeable disturbance. To avoid this end, requires the efforts of individuals and not governments. We need the identities of all individuals to coalesce around a single identity such that when a person attempts to advance themselves, everyone else is in turn advanced. Of course, this is the same condition as one would find in the nascent equality.

Accordingly, we presently find ourselves somewhere between the two equalities with a strong motive force towards the terminal equality and away from the nascent equality. So the question arises, how do we move as a world towards the nascent equality? How do we gather all the disparate identities of the world into a single mutually beneficial identity? It can only come about through universal charity. Now, the charity of which I speak is not rich people helping out poor people, although that can be part of it (but not always. In reality, the charity that is needed places the same responsibility on rich & poor alike. The charity that is needed is for everyone to identify what they are trying to become and then encouraging and allowing everyone else to adopt that identity. A society where everyone engages in robust proselytism with the intent of removing barriers that exist between different individuals.

This robust proselytism approach requires that all individuals converse and share their thoughts and feelings about the most important aspects of their life as if they were certain that they were correct, yet fully understanding that they could be entirely wrong and also being willing to be wrong. This forceful humility is not easy for people as it requires people to feel that those identities and traits that people rely on so drastically for feelings of personal security are at their heart, mutable. However, to acknowledge the changeability of self is very difficult for us to accept, as it forces us to admit that the wall we hope lies between us and mortal terror is insufficient.

Another aspect of this forceful humility, is that when we see or feel that a barrier exists between us and others, we may find ourselves impotently unable to reach across a particular boundary. In that situation, we would need the courage to cast ourselves upon the mercy of the individual to whom we are trying to unify.

This charitable approach is, in a very real sense, living by the golden rule. As we interact with others, we don’t try to analyze them and determine what parts of our identities we expose and which parts we protect because of fear of confrontational attacks to our cherished persona. In contrast, we share of ourselves with the goal of helping the other become like us, as if we were talking and interacting with one’s self. For instance, if I was able to extricate myself and form two different people, If one of us were to experience a goal impeding difficulty, it would be fairly easy for the other to act to remove that difficulty, at least initially. However, if one of those heretofore identical personas decided to let the other deal with the difficulty on his own, they would then become different individuals, with interests that could even be said to be adverse to each other.

As the charitable approach is assumed, where everyone is fearlessly working to remove the barriers in the lives of others that are impeding us from being identical in heart and mind, the entropic direction of society flips and heads toward the nascent equality instead of towards the terminal equality associated with the self protective approach. The reason for the entropic reversal is that People continuously expose their whole selves to one another without a care for their personal well being. Essentially, in the massive cognitive dissonance that ensues, the choice to avoid cognitive dissonance based on past experienced dissonance is eliminated. Thus, dissonance is always resolved by people either sticking to their guns or finding middle ground. However, when people stick to their guns, there will be no symbolic retreat to an individualized echo chamber. When dissonance arises, it will be persistent and ongoing and probability strongly favors the coalescing of the individuals in such a society even if individuals find middle ground in 1 out of every 1000 interactions.

It should be easy to see that the above approach runs strongly against human nature. In truth, for the desired coalescing, there needs to be a singular identity that is commonly applicable to all humanity upon which humanity can rely, where the identity allays the death fears that are the reason for assuming the identity. Thus, the singular identity upon which we all have to rely must be commonly applicable to all, such that temporal quantification is wholly inappropriate. Also, the identity must necessarily lie outside time. As to what this singular identity actually is can only be found as a society achieves the nascent equality. Yet, the search is worth it, though emotionally terrifying. But though hidden, the only other alternative is a place of loneliness and death. So, let’s set aside our self interest and help and be helped by others so we can find our best self. A place where we can feel safe in knowing that all our interests are the same.

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