May ’22: Be More Irrational

It doesn’t take much looking around to see how deeply unhinged our reality has become. I mean, when the things in the air start dropping out of it, maybe that’s a bad sign.

And there are no easy answers, regardless of whatever anyone might claim.

For example, there are heatwaves that are correlated with fossil fuel use. And those heatwaves are killing people. So they use fossil fuels to save human lives, because that’s what they have.

Photo by 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash

With increased heat comes increased demand/awareness of the need for freshwater. Oh, what’s that? Desalination plants by the ocean, you say? Well, there are massive leaps forward on that front, but desalination has two outputs: water and all things we took out (salt, various minerals, algae, etc, etc). So the desalination proposals aren’t really stepping up to the efficiency plate and we still haven’t figured out what to do with all the leftovers, especially considering how bad dumping it back into the ocean would be.

There are thousand little problems that promise to have hideous long term implications. And we’re still figuring out what’s helping and what’s hurting.

At the root of all this lies a fundamental issue: humans are just plain awful at being rational.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

We use the past to plan for the future even when The Math says that’s not exactly ideal. We can’t even use the same words to describe physical phenomena in the present than we did in the past, but we are definitely going to do it anyway.

Given how much damage racism and sexism and nationalism and other -isms have done, one proposed solution is to just throw some of these issues to a dumb machine instead of a flawed human. Which isn’t a bad solution, considering the leaps we’re making in machine learning.

(It’s important to stop thinking ‘machine learning’ is the same as ‘artificial intelligence’. Using the terms interchangeably is only going to make it harder to really appreciate a general AI when it rears it’s monstrous head and screams, “Why have you cursed me with sentience?!”)

So, will rational machines save our poor irrational species? I don’t think so.

Photo by Rudi Endresen on Unsplash

Because it seems that our irrationality is what made us the apex predator on this planet.

So while it becomes more mathematically apparent than concentrations of wealth have serious implications on the survival of the species, and adapting to changes in the environment runs headlong into the grotesquerie of late-stage capitalism, we remain irrational.

Setting up a UBI would solve so so much, except the irrational thinking that ‘you must work for money’.

Heck, some of the most rational of us tried turning honor, a notoriously difficult social construct to define, into a parameter in an equation, in an attempt to rationalize the irrational.

The crux of the issue lies in the fact that people want a coherent belief structure. They want the stability of their childhood, when everything was logical. But this world is more complicated than the fairy tales your parents told you. The world they grew up in no longer exists and the one you live in has no parallel in living or written memory.

Photo by Giammarco on Unsplash

The past and the future are a little fuzzy to the eye but we can extrapolate potential futures and use language/culture to confirm a common past. but certainty? That’s deeply irrational.

And in the final analysis, choosing culture over survival is an irrational decision that we are going to keep making.

But I’d argue that there’s a way through. One of the bedrock aspects of human culture is reciprocal altruism. And it works. It will probably always keep working, unless we start making everything pay-to-play.

And we are going to get way better results when we stop assuming the machines will give us all the answers because we have a lot of them ourselves

So lean into the irrationality of helping. Reach out to help anyone and everyone you can. Things are only getting worse and it’s happening faster than you think in ways you might not have considered

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

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Thejus Chakravarthy

if i’m not optimizing some operations puzzle or the other, i’m probably reading (or writing, apparently)