Worthless Non-Workers

Our society highly values work. This is true for Western society in general and American society in particular. Even poor people tend to mostly organize around work, such as with labor unions. Work is the defining feature of a industrialized capitalist society. Even those who don’t work are defined by the fact that they are unemployed.

Yet our society is increasingly making work obsolete for most people. In a traditional society, almost everyone works in one way or another. Even the toddler in a traditional society helps his family, including handling dangerous tools such as knives. That was still true in Western society until about a century ago.

Child labor in mines and factories was made illegal. Also, universal public education was implemented. Part of the motivation was that adults didn’t want to compete with children for work, because children would work for far less money. So, adult workers organized to eliminate the competition and store children away in babysitting centers that we call schools.

Along with mass education, there were other mass developments (mass institutionalization, mass incarceration, mass welfare, mass homelessness, etc) that also have contributed further to the non-working population. We now live in a society where most of the population doesn’t work. Meanwhile, the people who do work are working more hours than they have in recent history. Older people are retiring later and working more, which has forced young adults into unemployment and underemployment.

On top of this, offshoring of jobs, deinstrustrialization, and technological automatization has created a permanently unemployed underclass. This has hit poor minorities the hardest, but all poor people have been hit hard. The inner cities, once burgeoning centers of industry, have been hollowed out and turned into ghettoes and slums. The once great mining regions have spiraled into some of the worse poverty and desperation in the country. And the rural small family farms have been bought up by big ag that employs far fewer people (farm tractors are so advanced now that they drive themselves using GPS).

Still, we go on idealizing labor as if it is the most basic standard of human worth.

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31 thoughts on “Worthless Non-Workers

  1. I suspect that this will become a bigger issue in the coming decades.

    On one hand, Moore’s Law seems to have peaked at 28nm, so perhaps there is a limit to computer technology that is much sooner than we all thought.

    On the other hand, there’s still a good chance that robotics, automation, and similar technologies might displace a large proportion of the workforce.

    The inner cities, the Rust Belt, and the rural US is a crystal ball I fear for what might happen. The other issue here is that the rich never really got a sense of social responsibility for society.

    That’s key because if you think about it, automation is more an income distribution issue more than anything else … at least unless the robots take over.

    • “I suspect that this will become a bigger issue in the coming decades.”

      I heartily agree with that.

      “On one hand, Moore’s Law seems to have peaked at 28nm, so perhaps there is a limit to computer technology that is much sooner than we all thought.”

      I think it has barely begun. I predict the technological innovation and disruption of this coming century will make the change of last century look like a mere ripple. At some point, the culmination of centuries of change will hit modern civilization like a dam breaking.

      “On the other hand, there’s still a good chance that robotics, automation, and similar technologies might displace a large proportion of the workforce.”

      I’d say it is far more than a good chance. It is so probable as to be near inevitable and unavoidable. Either work will be entirely redefined with some kind of basic income along with a public works program to employ/occupy most of the population or there will be mass global unrest as never seen before.

      “That’s key because if you think about it, automation is more an income distribution issue more than anything else … at least unless the robots take over.”

      Not just income redistribution. It is redistribution of power, land, and resources of all kinds. It has been going on for centuries. We are seeing the playing out of the changes from the Enlightenment Age. The Enlightenment has yet to come to full fruition, but when it does it will create the possibility of a new response (just as the Enlightenment was a new response to what came before it).

  2. I don’t know how much knowledge you have about computer engineering, but I’ll elaborate since I’m a computer enthusiast. The reason why Moore’s Law peaking is such a big deal is because it means that the cost per transistor goes up after 28nm.

    That’s a HUGE, HUGE deal that the press has under-reported. The reason why we have had all of these advancements for the past 40 years is because of Moore’s Law (really it should be an observation and not a law).

    Transistors have been the driving force behind the rise of computing power. More = more powerful computers basically.

    Let me give you an example. Have you noticed that past about 2012, the phones and computers have not gotten much better than the previous years? That’s because they are now pushing the limits of physics when it comes to processing potential, at least not without increasing the cost of phones more.

    For that reason, there is the possibility that unless something new is invented that we have hit the limits of silicon. III-V materials are one area, but there’s no assurance there.

  3. I can tell by your response that you are not knowledgeable, no offense.

    The problem is, none of those articles have addressed the very serious technical challenges that one faces after 7nm. Right now Intel is struggling with 14nm. In case you have not noticed, Intel has struggled with 14nm Broadwell chips. If they are struggling with 14nm, then what happens at 7nm? The problems are exponentially higher.

    The other issue is the poor quality of reporting in the media, even sometimes in the tech media. The problem is much more serious this time than before. Typically whenever engineers are asked “Is Moore’s law dead”, their answer is, here are a lot of difficult technical problems. They are harder than before (they get harder for each node). We don’t know if we can solve them, but if we cannot, then it’s over. If we can, then Moore’s law can continue.

    The majority of journalists tend to translate that into speculation about Moore’s Law ending each time (sometimes they raise fair points quoted by engineers), but often, they tend to adopt a “Boy who cried wolf attitude”.

    There are limits. Even Gordon Moore would agree.

    First, there’s the fact that a transistor simply cannot get smaller than an atom. That leaves a couple of more decades. The other is the speed of light for latency issues.

    The other is the nodes. They have been exponentially rising in costs per node, which has led semiconductor fabs to be concentrated in a few owners.

    Heat and leakage are the enemies here for reasons of physics. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle reigns supreme here. It is not possible to resolve the precise location of an electron and as you get smaller, the problems of quantum tunneling become exponentially more serious.

    Second, clockspeed is an interesting one. Around 2004-2005, the end of massive single threaded scaling by raising clockspeed hit the physical limit for silicon. This was known as Dennard scaling. Silicon mosfets were reaching unheard of power densities and it simply could not get much faster. You’ll notice that the MHz has not really gone up since about 2005.

    That leaves only 2 areas – increasing the number of cores or increase the performance per clock.

    The number of cores is a tricky one. Amdahl’s law becomes a bottleneck. Some things scale very well (this is known as “embarrassingly parallel”). Some things do not and this leads to very limited gains for multicore CPUs. In general, desktop applications scale poorly and sever applications scale well.

    The performance per clock is much harder to do well. Getting more instructions per clock is technically hard. It may very well be that there are physical limits here as well, since the rate of progress per generation has been slowing down.

    The second one can only be breached if silicon is abandoned. Graphene has been featured in the media a lot. For that to work, it needs to be not much more expensive than silicon, be scalable, and there are a myriad of technical challenges.

    It’s been suggested that ASICs might buy a few generations of progress. AMD has been pushing this one hard. I think that there’s definitely potential, but it’s not a long term solution.

    Again, I find myself in a position like engineers (even though I’m not one). Here are a lot of technical problems. They are harder than anything before.

    If any one of these problems is not solvable, then the rate of progress in computing technology slows considerable in hardware. Software might progress for a bit (provided computing power is not the bottleneck which it often is not), but hardware will slow down.

    In other words, in order for Moore’s Law to progress at a rate that happened before, EVERY single problem that I have raised above MUST be solved. Otherwise you run into the laws of physics.

    I actually think that progress will continue, but computers will end up like cars. Incremental improvements per generation, but not as ground breaking as before.

    If you have not noticed my analogy, desktops, laptops, and smartphones are heading in that direction right now. Each new generation has a bit less marginal improvement than the last. You no longer “need” to get the latest to enjoy the benefits of the latest software to the fullest potential.

    • “I can tell by your response that you are not knowledgeable, no offense.”

      I can tell by your response that you are not knowledgeable about history, no offense. People have been making pessimistic predictions about technology innovation ending for as long as the technological age has existed.

      It isn’t just about Moore’s law, as I explained. Innovation and massive technological advances aren’t likely to slow down. However, they may shift into entirely new directions..

      Anyway, I never claimed that Moore’s Law wasn’t slowing down. I simply was arguing that it might not mean what you think it means. Or rather I was arguing that no one knows what it means. I have less faith in people who make predictions about the future because 99.999999% of all predictions turn out to be wrong.

      “The problem is, none of those articles have addressed the very serious technical challenges that one faces after 7nm.”

      Your narrow view doesn’t address the larger factors beyond that one issue.

      Your pessimism is unrealistic. Pessimism always seems reasonable and realistic, to the pessimist. I say this as a pessimist. I’ve just learned that pessimists turn out to be wrong so regularly that I take pessimistic predictions with a grain of salt, as I do with optimistic predictions. Pessimism most often is just a lack of imagination, and we all lack imagination to varying degrees, especially about the unknowns of the future.

      Even if the prediction of Moore’s Law slowing down turns out to be true, it isn’t likely to cause all human progress to slow down, as it is just one factor among infinite factors. I just don’t buy your pessimistic belief. You see everything with a pessimistic view. It doesn’t matter the subject or the evidence. Your response is almost always basically the same. When you repeat your pessimism, I will challenge it… just as I will with someone who is repetitively optimistic.

      I’m just not convinced by your dour pessimistic attitude about everything in the world. I tend toward intellectual humility as radical skepticism, which is pessimism about all certainties. You feel more certain about your predictions of the future than I do. I see the future as a vast unknown, both of risks and potentials. I see no more rational reason to be pessimistic than to be optimistic.

      If you don’t like my challenging your pessimism, I’m just going to constantly annoy you. This is my blog, after all, and I’m going to state my views.

    • I’m sorry for being irritable. But I’m really not in the mood to argue about whether pessimism is realistic or not. I have no freaking clue about the future.

      I just get tired of both pessimists and optimists. Few people seem to be able to look to the future with expectation and curiosity as much as with questions and doubts. All I’m certain about is that everything is in a state of change. And yet that could be said for the entire history of civilization, to varying degrees.

      Focusing on a single issue like Moore’s Law seems like missing the forest for the trees. It doesn’t and can’t tell us much about where we are heading as a species and a civilization.

    • Your comment rubbed me the wrong way. Specifically the very part you began with:

      “I can tell by your response that you are not knowledgeable, no offense.”

      That was such a pointless comment. I never claimed to be knowledgeable. I simply pointed out that other people who are more knowledgeable than I have other views, specifically about interpreting what it will all mean in the long term.

      That point just went right over your head. You were so eager to be right that you didn’t even carefully read what I wrote.

  4. “That point just went right over your head. You were so eager to be right that you didn’t even carefully read what I wrote.”

    When I want to argue something, I stick to the facts.

    If you want computers to be faster, then you have to explain how else they can be faster other than Moore’s law. That’s the only reason why they’ve been getting faster over the past 40 years. Certainly graphene, III-V materials, and a few other areas hold some promise, but they are highly uncertain technologies … and very expensive.

    The other issue left unaddressed is the cost per transistor, which was the lowest at 28nm. Finally, one issue that you could have accused me of overlooking was the marginal advantage per node shrink, although that might actually make the future seem even less favorable.

    I’m saying here that in all probability, computers are going to end up like cars – you’ll see incremental gains per generation, but the pace of progress will decelerate. The only exception to that rule is if consumers and society suddenly decide to pay more for them. Then we might see some pretty decent gains.

    Either these problems are solved – or you hit the laws of physics. There’s no real other way.

    This is like energy. To get an object to move a certain velocity, it’s going to be KE = 1/2mv^2. There’s no other way. You can generate more energy yes, but that’s about it. You cannot change this law.

    I’m disappointed in your response. I had expected factual reasons.

    I’m reminded of this article:
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/10/when-science-brings-bad-news/

    The last part “Burn the observatory” is the most interesting part there.

  5. Sorry if I come rough, but judging by your responses, you seem to think that if enough people were educated, perhaps to study computer engineering, had enough imagination, that this would happen, that we would get a sort of Technological Singularity as per Ray Kurzweil.

    The problem though is that as transistors get smaller, the hit the physical limits of physics themselves:

    As discussed, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal, which leads to electron leakage, which leads to heat, and that makes the whole thing “not work”. That problem becomes exponentially bigger.

    In my previous post, I described

    KE=1/2mv^2

    You cannot change that law. It’s like lifting something. You cannot reduce the amount of energy needed. Perhaps you can generate some sort of new energy source that can generate more energy, but that’s it.

    “Your pessimism is unrealistic. Pessimism always seems reasonable and realistic, to the pessimist. I say this as a pessimist. I’ve just learned that pessimists turn out to be wrong so regularly that I take pessimistic predictions with a grain of salt, as I do with optimistic predictions. Pessimism most often is just a lack of imagination, and we all lack imagination to varying degrees, especially about the unknowns of the future.”

    Ok let’s think this over. What have i done? I’ve stated a ton of technical problems. Either those problems get solved, or technology will slow down and stagnate in the field of computers.

    I hope I’m wrong. There are even some technologies I’ve offered in the previous post that suggest there might be reason for some hope.

    But unless someone has those technical problems solved – it is entirely realistic and within the laws of physics.

    That’s the issue. If you’re right, then the Kurzweil singularity happens.

    If I am right then the singularity never happens. The pace of progress in computer technology slows down to a point similar to that of cars.

    I suppose one benefit if that is right is that computers do not completely replace humans.

    But from where I am standing right now, you can:

    1. Argue that some new technology will overcome those technical problems (in that case what technology, how, why, and the costs, along with the constraints – make an assumption here)

    2. Deny in a manner similar to how global warming denialists argue that burning oil, coal, and natural gas will not increase the world’s proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    I hate to say this, but you’re leaning on 2. These are physical problems, not political problems. Politics, I agree, with enough action can be solved. Physics … unless there is some truly advanced way to do so that is beyond my understanding and that of every scientist/engineer on earth, it’s not happening. Not with the laws of physics of this universe.

  6. I apologize for my response. I was just annoyed. It seems like we are having a battle of egos, at this point. And talking past one another.

    As far as I know, I haven’t any point in this discussion either said you are definitely and absolutely wrong or that I’m definitely and absolutely right. The only disagreement we seem to behaving is about context, and hence the framing and meaning of the issues at hand. The context I’ve been discussing is that of my original post and of the background from previous writings. You are focused on the one issue of Moore’s law, a subject I haven’t even been arguing about, as it is a side issue from my perspective.

    I’m not a starry-eyed idealist. You know me better than that. I suspect I’m at least as if not more pessimistic than you in many ways. But I’m also more optimistic than you in other ways. For me, pessimism and optimism are inseparable.

    When I’m most pessimistic, I’m looking at specifics. I notice the same thing with you, such as when you are focusing on a single thing like Moore’s law. But when I’m most optimistic, I’m looking at the large view and/or the longer view. History teaches me that predictions of the future are rarely correct. Both human flight and rockets to the moon were considered impossible by most people not too long ago.

    We are long past a pardigm change. In fact, the paradigm has already changed. It’s just technology, society, and imagination hasn’t caught up with it yet. We are still basically operating under the ruling paradigm of Newtonian physics, an inferior and largely obsolete model of reality. We are at a breaking point in society or else a breakthrough point.

    I’m no more optimistic than I’m pessimistic. It depends on the context. I think our ignorance and uncertainty is too great to make much in the way of any kinds of specific predictions, besides the prediction that change is inevitable and ongoing. I’m pessimistic in my doubts toward anyone who claims to know the specifics of the future. But I’m generally optimistic that humans will muddle through with progress, as they have for millennia.

  7. I’m sorry things came the way they were too.

    There is no certainty. IF there was, it would not be breakthrough R&D in a sense.

    The reason why I get my pessimism is because of my previous work and because I was with an engineering centric group at my university. They are all in consensus that computer technology is not going to advance as fast as before.

    It’s like if you hang out with a bunch of scientists and they go – hey this is not looking right and they gather the data and form a consensus. What you do is you look at their data, their thought process, and if it makes sense, you attempt to disprove their arguments. If you cannot, then it is probably correct. Note the probably. The exception is of course if there’s something they don’t know.

    Truth be told, even they don’t know, but their opinions are far better informed than anyone else, since they … design semiconductors for a living.

    The technical barriers though are extremely formidable. It’s possible that some breakthrough technology might save the day. It’s possible that it might not. The information we have so far suggests though that some degree of pessimism in computer technology is justified.

    Of course, if it turns out that software does not need extreme computer power to replace humans, then your fears may be realized still. Hard to say really. Even the programmers don’t know themselves.

    • As for computers and robots replacing humans, that is apparently already possible under present technology. We don’t have to advance much if at all to get to that point. Vehicles are already able to drive themselves, and the only hurdles left are more in terms of creating the laws, regulations, and infrastructure. We went from animal-pulled vehicles to self-driven motorized vehicles in slightly over a century.

      We also already have flying hover vehicles that anyone can easily fly, but we haven’t yet developed the power source for them. That was the problem with Michelangelo’s flying machine. It technically could fly, if someone at the time had only discovered the fuels we have now. It wasn’t objective reality that kept Michelangelo’s design from being practically implemented, for there was no reason why the fuels we have now couldn’t have been used back then.

      We have no explanation for why discoveries and inventions happen at one time and not earlier. It is a mystery. We don’t know what we don’t know. So we don’t know what is actually possible or impossible. And we don’t know all that is necessary to make the seemingly impossible possible. As such, we can’t know if we are like Michelangelo or like the Wright brothers.

    • I’m reminded of the Aztecs. They built toys with wheels. But they didn’t use wheels for any practical purpose.

      One explanation is that they lived on an island in a mountainous area. Wheels weren’t as useful to them because of this. Even so, wheels had more use for them than their imaginations apparently allowed them to realize. They could have built roads through the mountains, although it would have been more difficult. Or they could have build roads just on their island and used wagons within the city.

      The area in which the Aztecs lived is now covered with roads and wheeled vehicles have been used their for centuries after the Spaniards arrived. The Spaniards apparently found ways to build roads in the mountainous terrain.

      Our minds and imaginations limit us as much as does reality.

  8. Hey Benjamin, I stopped over after reading your comment on Haidt’s book (Righteous Mind) over on Amazon.

    I’m sorry to kind of jump in the middle, but I had a few quick questions (partly based on your list of interests and your Amazon reviews). I get the sense that you’re open to parapsychology, and also have a rather wide ranging interest in mysticism.

    I’m curious if in regard to this issue (advancing technology and the future of work) you’ve given any thought to the implications of a non-materialistic view. Or for that matter, in regard to political issues in general.

    My primary background (though I’ve read a great deal of the world mystical literature) is in the writings of Sri Aurobindo (who you may know from your integral interests). He was, as you may be aware, an activist (called a terrorist by the British) in the early 20th century.

    Around the time of World War I, he wrote some profound (at least, I think that are) essays on government and society (collected as “The Human Cycle” and “The Ideal of Human Unity”. I still find them much more interesting than anything I’ve seen come out of the integral movement (including spiral dynamics).

    Well, that’s enough for now. I just wanted to say hi, really. Nice blog!

    • Hello Don! Welcome to my humble blog. Feel free to jump in the middle of anything.

      My mind is open and my curiosity is wide-ranging. I don’t have any strong opinions about parapsychology and mysticism. They are among the many things that interest me, though, and long time interests at that. I do think the world is a strange place and that we are far from having it figured out.

      However, I don’t write much about them. This is partly because I don;t know how to write about them that would be meaningful. I’ve had a few weird experiences in my life, but I honestly don’t know what to make of them. I tend to leave my weird experiences uninterpreted. They are what they are and they don’t need to be anything else. I don’t expect to have all the world make sense to me and all events to be neatly explained.

      I was raised in new agey New Thought Christianity and Christian Science. I’m fully comfortable with talk of woo. I take it all in stride. I’m pretty much agnostic, neither believing nor disbelieving, and yet always wondering and my wondering can go far afield. I try to take experience on its own terms, without projecting anything onto it.

      I know of Sri Aurobindo, but I can;t say I know a whole lot about him. He is just a person I have seen mentioned a lot over the years. I don’t recall having read anything by him. Maybe I’ll eventually read some of his writings. Is there a short piece that would make for a good introduction?

      I’d gladly discuss any of these topics with you. To start things off, let me give you a direct response to the topic at hand. You wrote:

      “I’m curious if in regard to this issue (advancing technology and the future of work) you’ve given any thought to the implications of a non-materialistic view. Or for that matter, in regard to political issues in general.”

      No, I can’t say I’ve specifically given any thought to this, at least not in a direct way. But I’m always interested in the deeper trends and what they imply. The larger context of my thinking always involves “non-materialistic” factors in many different ways. I would include much of politics as “non-materialistic”, as politics has a lot to do with worldviews/reality-tunnels, states-of-minds/predispositions, shifts in consciousness/paradigms, etc.

      You might enjoy the piece I’ve been working on for a couple months now. It is about the connections of the present to the past, including the distant past: the early modern revolutionary era, Enlightenment Age, Axial Age, the bicameral mind and its breakdown, and maybe a few other things for good measure.

      All of civilization seems radical to me… and mysterious as well. We don’t truly understand why changes happen when they happen or why they don’t happen elsewhere at other times.

      The theory of bicameralism interests me most of all. If you look at the changes that happened, mere material causes don’t explain why the human mind changed. We know the human mind changed and all of civilization changed along with it, but we don’t know why.

      That fascinates me.

      • Hi, yes, I’d be interested in seeing your paper. In our book on yoga psychology (Jan, my wife, is my co-author) we use Sri Aurobindo’s yogic perspective to explore the changes in human history. In line with the general yogic view which sees biological evolution as a reflection of an underlying process of the emergence of consciousness, he sees outer human history as reflecting the unfolding of the “mental” consciousness (Jean Gebser wrote a more Eurocentric view of this in the 1940s).

        the breakdown of the bicameral mind could be understood in neuroscientific terms as a shift from a balanced brain (left and right hemispheres) to an unbalanced one in the West, toward left brain attention styles.

        You may have seen some articles by Harvard neuroscientist Stephen Kosslyn in the last year or so disputing the whole left right brain thesis. I’m afraid he doesn’t understand the subtlety of the non-popular, scientific view of left right differences, so eloquently presented by British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist in his ‘Master and His Emissary”. The key is not the pop notion of reason vs emotion, but rather 2 different styles of attention, the left brain responsible for narrow, objective focus, and the right for wide, open, focus. The left deals well with the quantitative, the predictable, the measurable, the right with the unpredictable, qualitative and nonlinear. Sri Aurobindo (who was a master of Greek and Latin) describes this in terms of the dominance of the rational intellect in the West, whereas as the East (india and China in particular) developed rationality (Nagarjuna, Confucious, etc) they did not lose touch with intuition (Zen, particularly in China and Japan, for example).

        On another subject, here’s a practical experiment. It’s very simple, but it can tie in to the evolution of consciousness very easily:

        1. Notice thoughts arising in your mind. Attend to them simply as sound. Sounds arising in awareness.

        2. Now, shift your attention to sounds arising outside the body. Shift back and forth – sounds arising in your mind, sounds arising outside the body.

        3. Now attend to both simultaneously – sounds arising in the mind and sounds arising outside the body – what would it be like to consider them as arising in the same “space” of awareness? Both arising simply as sounds in one unbroken field of awareness? Is there any discernible boundary between the sounds “in” the mind and sounds “outside” the body?

        4. If this makes any sense, try it for other senses. Visualize something “in” your mind (if you don’t think you can visualize, ask yourself what the relationship is between your kitchen and bedroom? Can you tell, visualizing it, what direction to go to get from the kitchen to the bedroom? If so – and I’m sure you can – then you’re able to visualize). So visualize something eyes closed, then open your eyes and look at an object in the room. Go through the same process as above ending with the question – is there any discernible boundary between the visualized object and the object in the room.

        I think you will find that it is possible to encompass all experience as “arising” in one space of awareness.

        If you get this, you can get a feeling for what happened some 2500 years ago. Gradually, a false boundary appeared, becoming much stronger in the West. This is what initially led to dualistic, Manichean religion (sorry, don’t’ know how to spell that) and to the more deficient forms of gnosticism), and the absence of that boundary led to non dualistic philosophies in the East. We are now, I think – and this is what Wilber is dimly feeling his way toward – coming to a time when this boundary has to be overcome, but without losing the gains made in the West – in other words, a marriage of East and West, right and left brain.

        All within one space of awareness.

        • “biological evolution as a reflection of an underlying process of the emergence of consciousness”

          Consciousness is the great unknown. Beyond consciousness, the conscious mind cannot go. All we know is consciousness and yet we can’t know consciousness in itself. Whatever the ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ may be, everything humans perceive and think will be filtered through and interpreted according to consciousness.

          “the breakdown of the bicameral mind could be understood in neuroscientific terms as a shift from a balanced brain (left and right hemispheres) to an unbalanced one in the West, toward left brain attention styles.”

          I’m still coming to terms with what the bicameral mind means and what its breakdown means. I’ve been reading a number of articles and books. I do feel confident something strange happened to the human mind during that period. What that was and why it happened is, well, complicated. I haven’t come to any firm conclusions as yet, assuming I ever will.

          “You may have seen some articles by Harvard neuroscientist Stephen Kosslyn in the last year or so disputing the whole left right brain thesis.”

          I’m not sure I’ve come across Kosslyn’s work. I don’t normally keep up on brain hemisphere research. It was only recently that my attention was brought back to the subject.

          “I’m afraid he doesn’t understand the subtlety of the non-popular, scientific view of left right differences, so eloquently presented by British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist in his ‘Master and His Emissary”.

          McGilchrist’s work is one of the many books I obtained these past months. I haven’t started reading his book yet, but I will soon. I have read a number of reviews and articles about his ideas, and so I know the general theory he presents.

          “The key is not the pop notion of reason vs emotion, but rather 2 different styles of attention”

          What do you think of McGilchrist’s view in relation to Jaynes’ view? At this point, I have more familiarity with the latter.

          “I think you will find that it is possible to encompass all experience as “arising” in one space of awareness.”

          I’ve spent many years meditating. I get this perspective on awareness. It is a helpful perspective to keep in mind when thinking about this topic.

          “If you get this, you can get a feeling for what happened some 2500 years ago. Gradually, a false boundary appeared, becoming much stronger in the West.”

          As I read some more, I’ll have to explore what this means. My curiosity isn’t idle. I’m very interested to know what this says about modern consciousness and modern society.

          “This is what initially led to dualistic, Manichean religion (sorry, don’t’ know how to spell that) and to the more deficient forms of gnosticism), and the absence of that boundary led to non dualistic philosophies in the East. We are now, I think – and this is what Wilber is dimly feeling his way toward – coming to a time when this boundary has to be overcome, but without losing the gains made in the West – in other words, a marriage of East and West, right and left brain.”

          Yeah, I was also thinking about Wilber lately and others, My mind is still in exploratory mode at the moment. What I’ve been writing is more about intuiting and articulating the connections. I’ll have to consider further over this coming year what these connections might imply, specifically in terms of how humanity is continuing to change.

          • Ben, I don’t mean to be overly self-promoting, but I really think you’d like our book. I think it deals with a lot of the topics you’ve been writing about. It’s “Yoga Psychology and the Transformation of Consciousness: Seeing Through the Eyes of Infinity”. And as I always tell people, if you don’t like the book, you might enjoy listening to the CD that comes along with it:>) You can get it over at Amazon.

          • I’ll check out your book sometime. The problem at present is that I already have way too many physical books and your book isn’t available in e-book form, at least not on Amazon or Google. I live in a small apartment and it is filled with thousands of books. I feel like if I get many more physical books that I’m going to have to get rid of a bunch at the same time. I wish I lived in a large house with every wall a bookshelf, but alas that is not my good fortune. I’ve solved this problem by recently buying mostly e-books, when possible. Do you plan on releasing your book in e-book format?

          • we will but probably not for 2 years. That’s fine – check out integral world, you’ll get a sense of it from the excerpts there. There’s also quite a bit at http://www.ipi.org.in, click on blog, also at my other blog, https://beyondthematrixnow.wordpress.com/about/

            on the other hand, if you would like to get rid of all your ebooks and physical books, read this: https://beyondthematrixnow.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/krishna-prem-on-consciousness-and-form/ and then read the Life Divine. That’s all you need:>)) (not really, but pretty close!)

  9. Don – I was just now reading some of your writings. I came across this:

    http://www.integralworld.net/salmon16.html

    “most of Indian philosophy was not really about supporting one view or another, but training people to take varying and often opposing views in order to better enable them to release all views.”

    I like that. It fits my own attitude toward knowledge and consciousness. I sometimes call myself a radical skeptic, although maybe it would be more accurate to say I’m a radical agnostic. Some people have a hard time coming to terms with that. There is a simple insight at the heart of it, but it is challenging.

    As you further explain,

    http://www.integralworld.net/salmon3.html

    “Many accept the idea that the perceived world is a construction of the mind, but assume that the real world is that which physicists have described—a world of subatomic particles, electromagnetic fields, and so on. However, as physicists themselves have been telling us for more than a half century, these too are mind-constructed concepts and may have little or no resemblance to a mind-independent reality (if there is one). According to physicist Werner Heisenberg, “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”

    “It seems that, if we were to truly accept and absorb this fact, the effect would be earth-shattering. But for the most part, this idea seems to have had little effect on our thinking or behavior. Some, like physician Herbert Benson, have taken into account the interdependence of mind and matter by speaking of psychosomatic or “mind-body” medicine, intending by this term to convey the sense of a psychosomatic unity. But if we were to work through the implications of what Sacks, Heisenberg and others have told us, we would, similarly, have to speak of all of nature (that is, experienced nature) as a psychophysical unity.

    “So why is it that no matter how often we hear this, we forget it as soon as we return to our everyday pursuits? As Owen Barfield put it, “we have proved that nature is psychophysical but we are determined to forget it as quickly as possible. Even our experts themselves, even science forgets, whenever it is not at the moment actually engaged in investigating perception or otherwise bypassing nature’s macroscopic objectivity. We know, but our basic assumptions remain opposite to what we know. They arise therefore, not from clear thought but from force of habit; and they are all the less easily eradicable and all the more compulsive because they are only half conscious.””

    Consciousness itself is radical. It is the ground of our entire sense of reality. So, it is the ground of any reality we can speak about. Anything else is mere speculation and declaration of belief.

    This goes to the heart of why I think of all of civilization as radical. Civilization has been a process of the transformation of consciousness. We don’t understand why anything changes, but we by looking at all the data we can begin to see that there is something incomprehensible going on, one might even call it mysterious (I would).

    Reality is a strange thing. It is hard for us to face this simple truth in our everyday experience. We seek to quickly forget it as soon as possible and to return to comfortable certainties or rather mindless assumptions.

    How much have you written about Jaynes, McGilchrist, Jaspers, and other similar theorists on early human/social development? Do you cover some of that territory in detail in your book?

    • Hey again – I’ve written a bit about McGilchrist over on the Indian psychology blog – http://www.ipi.org.in. Also some cool stuff on spiral dynamics. But no, none of those folks in the book. We have about 3 pages on indiviual development in chapter 2 – mostly drawing on Robert Kegan (who I assume you know from Wilber’s writings). Chapter 11 is about development in human civilization, tracing it back more than 100,000 years. I worked very hard on that chapter – probably at least a month or two 40 hours a week, and really like it. it helped me work through much of what I found problematic in Wilber’s view of development but never had a chance to think through. The key is that development is completely meaningless – to me – if you only look at our ordinary surface consciousness (what Wilber refers to – borrowing as he so often does without acknowledgement – from the Indian tradition – as the “gross”).

      Alright, once again, back to work!

      • Thanks for the info!

        I did see some of the McGilchrist and spiral dynamics stuff at that blog. I’ll be particularly interested to check out Chapter 11 sometime when I get a copy of your book. Maybe I can get my local public library to order a copy.

        Do you have any personal theories about what happened from the time of the breakdown of the bicameral mind to the Axial Age?

        I sense a connection between those two periods of change, as if the former directly set the stage for the latter. Others have speculated that the Axial Age was more of an effect than a cause. Jan Assman and Ian Morris both discuss this in their books.

        • Hey ben – not to put off answering you, but you might want to drop by and start a thread over at Bernardo Kastrup’s forum – http://www.bernardokastrup.com. Your questions fit in well with a lot of what we’re talking about over there.

          We’re all non materialists there (or, most of us) so any explanation I can offer would sound quite weird from a conventional view. My sense of things is that there is no physical world or universe in the way we normally think of it. We are all various centers of an infinite, boundless consciousness which is expressing itself in a playful adventure of evolution. It advances in quantum-like leaps, and has been doing so for billions of years. The really interesting thing is the leaps keep happening faster and faster. One celled organisms have been shown to have remarkable intelligence, and some level of feeling and willing too. Not much changed for over a billion years, then within a few hundred million years of each other, fish, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and a bit later, mammals and birds emerged. Not more than 50 million years or so after that, primates. And humans and pro to humans for hardly more than a million (there are charts of mine in the reading room at http://www.integralworld.net describing all this). Since the agricultural revolution, Jean Gebser tracks 4 or 5 major quantum leaps, the one occurring about 2500 years ago only one of them.

          All of this – from a million years ago to now – simply represents the emergence or manifestation of a pre-existing mental consciousness being expressed through human beings. The brain – per Bernardo Kastrup – is not anything “physical” but simply an image appearing in consciousness which reflects the inner process (“as above so below”).

          At present, according to Sri Aurobindo, an altogether new species is emerging, far more different from humans than humans are from any other animal.

          Well, don’t say I didn’t’ warn you – i told you it would get weird. Sorry:>))

          • “you might want to drop by and start a thread over at Bernardo Kastrup’s forum”

            I checked out the forum. It looks like an interesting place for discussion. I might start a thread sometime later, if I feel inspired, but not right now.

            “We’re all non materialists there (or, most of us) so any explanation I can offer would sound quite weird from a conventional view.”

            I’m neither a materialist nor whatever is its opposite. I’m an all-purpose, equal opportunity agnostic. I radically embrace my own ignorance. All that I know is in and through my own consciousness. Everything else is speculation.

            “My sense of things is that there is no physical world or universe in the way we normally think of it.”

            That intuitively seems right. The physical world is an experience within my consciousness. The question then is, what is my consciousness?

            “We are all various centers of an infinite, boundless consciousness which is expressing itself in a playful adventure of evolution.”

            When tripping on psychedelics or when in a deep meditative state, that view makes a lot more sense. But my consciousness ‘normally’ feels quite finite and bounded. I can’t say that either experience is more real and true than the other.

            All in all, I’m not entirely sure about consciousness as evolution. I see change, but it doesn’t seem obvious to me that it is evolving per se. Rather than a ‘spiritual’ evolution, I’m more likely to see the changes in human consciousness as closer to Fortean events. They are strange and bewildering, beyond human ken… which is to say consciousness is a mystery even to itself.

            “Since the agricultural revolution, Jean Gebser tracks 4 or 5 major quantum leaps, the one occurring about 2500 years ago only one of them.”

            That kind of view can be compelling. There are points in history where human society or even human nature somehow seems fundamentally different after than it was before. It is hard to know what that signifies or what is the cause(s).

            “The brain – per Bernardo Kastrup – is not anything “physical” but simply an image appearing in consciousness which reflects the inner process (“as above so below”).”

            An intriguing thought. Obviously, the perception of a brain exists within consciousness.

            “At present, according to Sri Aurobindo, an altogether new species is emerging, far more different from humans than humans are from any other animal.”

            Maybe. I guess humanity will find out. I do sense that a pivotal change is on the horizon and that, when it happens, nothing will be quite the same again. Evolution is a real force, wherever it may lead.

            “Well, don’t say I didn’t’ warn you – i told you it would get weird.”

            I’m fine with weird. I have an immense tolerance for weird. I often seek out the weird, just for the fun of it. I assume the world is weirder than I imagine or can imagine.

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