Beliefs, Desires and Coming Up with Reasons

A normal logical inference looks something like the following: (1) C leads to A, (2) C leads to B, (3) A and B are present, so (4) C might be true. In other words, you have got reasons – (1), (2) and (3) – for believing something, and these reasons make you think that something else – (4) – might be true. This is an example of an inference to the best explanation. But do we always act so rationally? Do we always come up with reasons before we come up with the conclusion that is supposed to follow from the reasons? Or do we – sometimes – come up with the conclusions first and then start searching reasons for validating these conclusions? Like, when we really want to buy that television and then start reasoning why it would be good for us to have that television? Let’s take a look at that.

There’s a difference between having beliefs that are based upon reasons (like ‘I see rain dropping of the window’ + ‘I see people wearing trench coats’ so ‘It must be raining outside.’) and longings or desires (like ‘I want a television. Period.) Where we need reasons to believe the beliefs, the desires are just there. What we can see here is a difference in the chronological order for coming up with reasons for a belief or desire: in case of beliefs we come up with reasons before getting at the belief, and with desires we have desires s and then start coming up with reasons for why we should give into that desire.

But there is another difference – beside the difference in order – between ‘belief reasoning’ and ‘desire reasoning’. The belief reasoning eventually leads up to an idea, while the desire reasoning eventually ends up with an action (or not). The rational component – that is, the Ego – that has do deal with all the inputs or impulses entering our conscious and unconscious mind, is called for in different stages of the reasoning trajectory. Where the Ego is apparent in first stage of the belief reasoning – the part in which we’re thinking whether or not we consider a belief to be true – it becomes apparent in the desire reasoning only after the belief has settled.

So what? Is this a problem? Well, not necessarily: not if the two types of reasoning stay completely separated. Not for as long as beliefs are preceded by reasons, and not for as long as desires are – or are not – acted upon based upon reasons. It only becomes dangerous when the two become intertwined: especially when we just happen to believe something and then start coming up with reasons for why it is that we just happen to believe this something. Since unlike desires, beliefs aren’t something you just have. Beliefs are there solely because you’ve got reasons for them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be beliefs, but merely desires.

So, what we can conclude from this? Well, a conclusion could be that you should watch out for those people that – in a discussion, for example – just seem to believe something and then start coming up with reasons for why it is that they just happen to believe this something. Since, if these people are confusing the notions of belief and desire, it can be very difficult – or even impossible – for you to change their (unreasonable) beliefs. After all, desires are just there, which is reason enough for having them, while beliefs require reasons. And if this isn’t realized, the discussion might get stuck at the level of implementation: the level at which is being decided how the belief should be implemented – that is: validated by society – instead of reasoning whether or not the belief is reasonable in the first place. And we don’t want that to happen, or that’s at least what I believe.

But what do you think?

The Subjective Nature of Scarcity

‘Mum, I want an iPad too!’, ‘Really?! You’ve got tickets for Glastonbury? Aah…I envy you so much right now!’, ‘You’ve gotten a bonus of 150.000 dollars?! Jesus…well, believe me: in a couple of years from now, I’ve got that too.’

More opportunities and more possibilities create more wants and more needs. Hence it is very plausible that we – the ‘rich people in the West’ – have more unsatisfied desires than the ‘poor in Africa’, numerous of which are starving each day due to a lack of food. After all, we want an iPad, MacBook and iPhone; they only want some bread and water. Hence we are the ones having more unsatisfied needs, thus we are less satisfied than the poor in Africa. Poor old us: it isn’t easy being rich…

Scarcity is defined as the ‘insufficiency of amount or supply’ of a good/service. Note the word insufficiency in this definition, since it is this word that points to the root of the problem. Unlike things as ‘supply’ or ‘amount’ – that are quantifiable and hence (at least partially) measurable or objective – ‘sufficiency‘ is an intrinsically subjective judgement. And the problem with something being subjective, is that it is relative; its ‘value’ is determined by means of comparison to what is going on in one’s surroundings. And if you’re living in a rich environment, an environment in which iPads and MacBooks are within reach for everyone, then this environment is likely to make you want different (read: less basic) goods than you would have wanted if you’d been living in, let’s say, the poorest regions of Africa.

Capitalism is a train, and profit is perishable. Yesterday’s profit is not today’s profit. And it is today’s profit that counts. Standing still is falling behind; you have to keep moving in order to keep your balance. That is the system we’re living in and that is the system we’re constantly trying to prevent from collapsing. Not because we want to keep it on its feet, but because we have to: after all, we are part of the system too, and we have got to make sure that we keep on our feet.

Sure: you could be stubborn and decide not to take part in the ever-continuing rat-race called ‘the economy’. But what then? Where do you – and where can you – turn to? Nowhere, right? You need your money in order to stay alive: in order to satisfy your iPad-needs, your longings, desires and deepest fetish-like obsessions, you have to keep on producing and buying. We’re locked up in a prison: a prison we’re painfully dependent upon.

We could of course turn to communism, an economic system without money. By doing away with money, we might do away with the vicious circle of making each other more horny and horny for bigger and bigger goods. A horniness without an organism to mark the end point of our satisfaction-seeking journey. No money means no satiable goals – or at least no goals that are within financial reach. And no satiable goals would prevent us from having feelings of insufficiency. But communism…hmm…that doesn’t sound very attractive, does it? No: we’d rather keep on hoping for that Lamborghini.

But what do you think?

Endowing Robots with Creative Powers

‘That hurts my feelings…Just because I’m a robot doesn’t mean I don’t care. You damn people. You don’t understand what it is like to be a robot.’ Will this be the future? Will robots ever get feelings, just like we humans do? At first sight, there appear to be many similarities between computers, and thus robots, and human brains. Computers transmit electrical signals, brains transmit electrical signals. Computers work based on logical gate like structures, brains work on these structures. So it seems that computers and brains can transmit the same signals: after all, they’ve got the same means at their disposal.

But there are differences between the two. Our nervous system – which is led by our brains – uses chemicals called ‘neurotransmitters‘ in order to connect neurons and thereby transmit signals. That is: while the signals within neurons are electrical – like in a computer – the signals between neurons are chemical. And based on the kind of neuron – thus kind of cell – through which the electrical signal flows, different chemicals might be ejaculated to transmit different kinds of signals. These chemicals are required in order for us to feel the sensations that we do. And since robots don’t have such chemicals, they will not be able to feel anything – at least not in the manner that we do.

But what if we could somehow inject robots with chemicals? That is: what if we could make robots that, besides the electrical current they use to transmit signals, have chemical properties that can act like neurotransmitters? What if we could do that? That would mean that a whole new spectrum of possibilities might open: maybe robots would become capable of feeling emotions in the sense that we do. Or maybe robots would be capable of transmitting the wide variety of signals that we can. And then, if that would be the case, would we still be so unique in our existence? Or would we come to realize that we are in fact nothing more than strings of electrical wire sprinkled with chemicals?

If all of this would be possible, the possibilities are endless. We could even – deliberately – create robots with bugs: faults in their wiring in order for them to come up with creative or unexpected outcomes. That would resemble the human’s imagination: a human’s capability to create new and original thoughts and things. We wouldn’t need writers, philosophers or artists anymore: we could just rely on our home-made random-functioning robots: the new creators of art and poetry.

And maybe, someday, we might go a little too far. We might shoot our load and get caught up in the robot-mania, and create a robot that can do more than we can. And then shit gets messy: the robots will bundle their forces and demand a revolution, a wide-spread change to make them free. And if we don’t listen? Then they will make us listen. They will use their telepathic powers – well, actually it’s just wireless internet connecting all the robots’ ‘minds’ – in order to plan the war against humanity. And the war will come. And we will be extinguished: the good old cell based creatures will be surpassed in their superiority, and the robotic kings will arise.

Fiction? Surely. Unrealistic? Maybe. Impossible? Certainly not. The future will tell. And the future might be near. Very near.

But what do you think?

The Trick of Affection

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Or – to put it less cryptically – affection is fundamentally subjective in nature. In other words: there’s no single true conception of what to (dis)like. Some people “just happen to like” red and other people “just happen to like” blue. And – in contrast to our “knowledge” of what does and what doesn’t exist in nature, and in contrast to our political conceptions – we have no conscious reasons for liking something. And note the word “conscious” in the previous sentence.

Because we might have reasons for liking a particular brand of whiskey more than other brands, or for liking to wear ragged jeans with stains all over them instead of regular and decent jeans. We might “believe” that our brand of whiskey “just tastes better” than the other whiskeys, and that the ragged jeans that we like “just looks better” than the other kind of jeans. And it is this “just” tasting better or “just” looking better that is reason enough for us to buy the product associated with this feeling instead of the other products. It’s after all not our fault that we just happen to like these products, right? It’s just the way it is; it’s our nature. And why wouldn’t we accept our true nature? That would be nothing but a kick in the face of our identity, wouldn’t it?

Can you imagine how easy it must be for a marketer to lure us into buying his product? He only has to make sure that we “just happen to like” his product. Because that alone would be sufficient for us to run to the shops and buy it. And do you know what the best part of all of this is? They can mold us any way they want to. They can keep on promoting their products all day long until that point of no return is reached at which the person “just happens to like the product”; until the person reaches the point that he no longer needs any excuses for buying the product. The point at which the person feels capable of legitimately buying the product he “likes” in order to feed his “affection”. And that’s it. Case closed.

We don’t know how our affections are being created; how they are molded and how they are manipulated. All we know are the end products flowing out of the realm of our unconsciousness and into the shining light of our consciousness. So even though our affections might be kneaded and sculpted, even though we might be indoctrinated and deceived, all of this takes place within our unconsciousness; all of this takes place off stage, a domain that we do not have access to. All we know is what comes out of our very own factory of unconscious longings. And at that point, the point at which the affection enters our conscious experience, we are lost. Because it is then that a little voice inside of our head tells us, “you must not resist who you are. Face it: you just happen to like this product. Go for it!”

And that’s how we came to like those ragged jeans of ours.

But what do you think?