What’s the Profit (কি লাভ)?

Why do it? I keep thinking about the differences in how people account for value. One dichotomy that comes up is people that want to talk and think about other people, and people that want to talk and think about ideas, without reference to people.

I remember once, on a trip to Italy, I was with a group that had hired a local guide. While the group was taking pictures of themselves and other people in the group, I was mostly taking pictures of the architecture, the sculpture, the paintings and so forth. Generally, I was not taking pictures of people. The guide stopped me and said something like, “If you were to come back, years from now, many of these things will still be here, but the people won’t be.”

He was right. I’ll probably never have that opportunity to take a trip like that with my dad again. This is true of everything, the moment will never return. It’s a variation on the theory of visitors.

It goes deeper than that, though. There’s the phrase: there are people that know the price of everything and the value of nothing. There’s a certain kind of cook who thinks it is a greater virtue to get the best price on ingredients or use all of something rather than have waste than to make food that tastes good and that people will enjoy. We do not live with such scarcity that we need to maximize calories per dollar. Yet, some people insist on it.

Culturally, you can see these kinds of values as well. For example, I make certain recipes, such as spiced maple caramels, caramel-filled butter pecan cake, idli, bread cooked in the kubaneh-style, home-made chili pickles, etc. The maple syrup in the spiced maple caramels alone would make it difficult to sell the caramels at a profit, particularly if much cheaper substitutes will be had. But, most people have never eaten anything like them.

The caramel cake takes about 6 hours to make. Idli requires at least two days of fermentation to develop interesting flavors. Bread cooked in the kubaneh style is slow cooked over 8-12 hours. Chilies can take months, even years, to fully pickle.

Some products that take a long time can make a profit. There are +20 year old ports, cheeses decades old, and so forth. But, I wonder how much is lost in a world that cannot afford to wait, that is more concerned about turning over the product and selling it than the quality, or uniqueness of the product itself.

When you start looking, you can see this everywhere. in cryptocurrency circles, people ask why the price isn’t going up, as if a cryptocurrency developed on a time line of a few years is going to generate value that quickly.

But, it seems the environment has us looking for profit. We know the price of everything and know the value of nothing. And, there is much that has value that is discarded, out of hand. Beauty, value and everything else being in the eye of the beholder.

Three Years After “Grim News”

Three years ago today, I predicted:

“So, why is the above important? It means to get to herd immunity, something like 82% of people will have to get infected and of those that get infected, 0.4% will die. Then, we can calculate:

Population * Percentage of People For Herd Immunity * Death Rate = Deaths

In the case of the United States, that works out to something like:

341,000,000 * .82 * .004 = 1,118,480 U.S. deaths”

cafebedouin, “Grim News: Cutting Through the COVID-19 Bullshit.” cafebedouin.org. April 10, 2020.

Three years later, to the day, the CDC website reports 1,127,104 U.S. deaths from COVID-19.

Zuihitsu, 2023-03

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

  • The right way is the hard way.
  • Reimagine our world and create the conditions for human flourishing, which would necessarily involve self-determination, mutual aid and freedom from governments, markets, or ideologies dictating what an individual’s or group’s life can be.
  • More awareness, more choices.
  • Behavior is a combination of someone’s: past experiences, ability to self regulate, and their core beliefs.
  • You get what you tolerate.
  • The Gruen effect is when an intentionally confusing layout makes you forget the reason you came to a store to shop.
  • …sometimes paranoia’s just having all the facts.—William S. Burroughs
  • Marginal improvement or create something new. These rarely overlap.
  • The world is full of people whose vision of the future is an idealized past.
  • If a lion could talk we would not understand him.—Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his Philosophical Investigations
  • Connecting is better than protecting.
  • The first draft of history is emotional, inaccurate and conflicted.
  • No meaning without mythology.
  • A focus on accumulation destroys the social fabric.
  • People are a living composite of everyone they have ever loved.
  • Play is the soil from which healthy adults are grown and sustained.
  • Get in early and get out sooner.
  • Competition brings out the best in products, and the worst in people.
  • For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.—George Seaton
  • Wherever the wind blows, so too will my thoughts and feelings take me.
  • Speech is silver but silence is golden.
  • Use time as a filter.

Zuihitsu, 2023-02

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

  • It is easier to make a bad habit impossible than to not do the possible.
  • Good thinking requires discomfort.
  • Let your mind wander.
  • Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.—David W. Augsburger
  • Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.—Fred Rodgers
  • Never offer unsolicited advice. Even solicited, advice is a dangerous gift.
  • A man forgets his good luck the next day, but remembers his bad luck until next year.—E.W. Howe
  • Diplomacy and decisive action go hand in hand.
  • Unless the threat is immediate, observe and analyze.
  • Politics poison everything they touch.
  • Be last to judge and the first to embrace.
  • All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.—Blaise Pascal
  • Don’t give advice, do acknowledge reality.
  • On the utility to signal spectrum, the more the cost, the more signaling.
  • Better tools, better information.
  • The tall poppy gets cut down.
  • Rest is resistance.
  • Focus on making children string over fixing broken men.
  • We all have three voices: the one we think with, the one we speak with, and the one we write with. When you stutter, two of those are always at war.—John Hendrickson
  • Thought is formed in the mouth.—Tristan Tzara
  • Without mercy, there can be no mistakes.
  • Simple solutions in a complex world aren’t solutions.
  • Devalue effort and all that remains is morass.
  • Wonder is the helpmate of learning.
  • The best way to defeat the opposition is to lead it. 
  • Happy or smart. Choose one.
  • Always be willing to change your mind —especially if you’re smart.
  • We decide what to believe by deciding who to believe.
  • No need to separate the art from the artist, if the art is bad.
  • Social constructs, such as gender, race, etc. are picked up from our society. None of us escape them, except with conscious, courageous effort.
  • Peace is the product of clear boundaries.
  • It’s never going to be perfect. Do your best and let it go.
  • Conspiracy theories are the insecure person’s defense against a confusing world with too many competing narratives.
  • Specification is for guidance. Code is source of truth.
  • You don’t need to convince. Just do or be it.
  • I would never die for my beliefs, because I might be wrong.—Bertrand Russell
  • Truth is simple. Complexity is when truth is not understood or is there to obscure it.
  • The 10/10 Rule: it takes a decade to build a platform and another decade for it to reach mass adoption.
  • Fixing things you don’t like is where innovation begins.

Lowering Our Boggle Threshold

“Paranthropologist Dr Jack Hunter, editor of the newly released anthology Deep Weird: The Varieties of High Strangeness Experience, notes that psychical researcher Rene Haynes coined the concept of the ‘Boggle threshold’ to describe this phenomenon – “the point at which a researcher says ‘no I’m not taking that, I’m not accepting that any further, it’s too weird’.”

Hunter believes that we need to lower our ‘Boggle thresholds’ a little bit, and start paying paying attention to the more bizarre paranormal experiences – because “when we do that, we can start to look for parallels or patterns across experiences, and we see that there are striking similarities even between some of the most outrageous ‘high strangeness experiences’ and some of the most widely accepted transpersonal religious experiences.”

-Greg, “Deep Weird: The varieties of high strangeness experience.” DailyGrail.com. February 23, 2023.

A Taxonomy of Hate

I have been thinking about what distinguishes misanthropy from various forms of X-ism, whether racism, sexism, classism, or some other thing. Various X-isms seem like special cases of misanthropy. Sexism is a kind of hatred of women. Racism is a kind of hatred of one or other races.

When framed in that way, it occurs to me that misanthropy might also be a special case. It stands to reason that you could use the same construction of misanthropy, from the Greek μῖσος mīsos ‘hatred’ and ἄνθρωπος ānthropos ‘man, human’, and replace anthropos with βιο, the root of biology, or Ζωή ‘life’. If we were to construct these words, using the form of other English words, it might be misbiopic for hatred of all life. Or, you might use the way Ζωή appears as zoology to mean animals, and formulate as miszoopic.

When going through an exercise like this one, it’s interesting what shakes out. We don’t have words to describe hatred of all life. But, we do have words for hatred of human beings. We have words for hatred of women. But, we don’t talk about hatred as abstracted. It’s singular.

It reminds me of an old trope. It was said that people in the Northern United States loved blacks as a group and hated individuals. In the Southm it was the opposite. Blacks were hated as a group and loved individual people. I think there’s a step change that happens, when moving from hatred of an individual to a group.

Someone that hates a particular woman may also hate most women. But, do they hate them all? Are there environmental factors that come into play? Other considerations beyond merely being “female” that give rise to hatred?

And if we abstract out further, to the level of humanity, animals, or all living beings, doesn’t the universe of other considerations expand as well? With this expansion of confoundable variables, does it make sense to talk about hate in the context of a specific label, whether of humans, woman, or some other subgroup?

I guess where this line of thinking is taking me is that – while we can acknowledge that the prejudgments can be encoded into a social environment, reenforce it in individuals, over time, as culture is designed to do – it misses the confounding factors and gives less visibility into the problem. Your definitions shape your understanding as surely as your life experience (or lack thereof) shape it.

This is the difficult part. What is the source of the hatred? It’s because I’m a woman. It is a simple answer. But, it is also incomplete and wrong, on some level. Intersectionality is one thing. But one section being left off is in-group/out-group dynamics, which may sit above these aspects of identity informed by demographics.

For example, nationalism may drive a country to war. In war, women are raped. On what level is war a hatred of all living things? On what level is rape, in war, an issue of sexism rather than some other thing, such as projection of power?

It’s quite common for people to have hatred for others that are better off materially than themselves. Consider what happens to lottery winners. Is it hatred of those that win the lottery, or is it more abstracted, to anyone that is successful or had a windfall, such as an inheritance?

The reason I’m exploring this issue is I think that many of words, explanations and mental models are deficient to really capture what is going on. It may be that we cannot ever get to a model of reality where the map matches the territory. Maybe we don’t want such a map. But, it would be good to think through the maps we have and maybe make a conscious choice to pick ones that are more suited to our purposes.