....the very idea of a cause is emergent and abstract. It is mentioned nowhere in the laws of motion of elementary particles, and, as the philosopher David Hume pointed out, we cannot perceive causation, only a succession of events. That means that, just as they determine the final state of any option given the initial state, they also determine the initial state given the final state, and the state at any time from the state at any other time. So, at that level of explanation, cause and effect are interchangeable…..
There is no inconsistency in having multiple explanations of the same phenomenon, at different levels of emergence. Regarding micro-physical explanations as more fundamental than emergent ones is arbitrary and fallacious.
Consider a tree. A tree, in its semi- “frozen” state, is a computer powered by sunlight. A tree in New England reacts to the length of the day, running a different program in the summer than in the winter. It figures out when to shed its leave and when to sprout new ones. A tree processes the information that is available in its environment. Its proteins, organized in signaling pathways, help the tree figure out how to grow its roots toward the water it needs, how to activate an immune response when it is threatened by pathogens, and how to push its leaves toward the sun it craves…….A tree is a computer that, just like us, cannot run MATLAB, but unlike computers and us, it has the knowhow to run photosynthesis. Trees process information, and they are able to do so because they are steady states of out-of equilibrium systems.
Compared with the reality which comes from being seen and heard, even the greatest forces of intimate life- the passions of the heart, the thoughts of the mind, the delights of the senses- lead an uncertain, shadowy existence unless and until they are transformed, deprivatized and deindividualized, as it were, into a shape to fit them for public appearance. The most current of such transformations occur in storytelling and generally in artistic transposition of individual experiences. But we do not need the form of the artist to witness this transfiguration. Each time we talk about things that can be experienced only in privacy or intimacy, we bring them out into a sphere where they will assume a kind of reality which, their intensity nonwithstanding, they never could have had before. The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves, and while the intimacy of a fully developed private life, such as had never been known before the rise of the modern age and the concomitant decline of the public realm, will always intensify and enrich the whole scale of subjective emotions and private feelings, this intensification will always come to pass at the expense of the assurance of the reality of the world and men.
Only someone who no longer had any sense of what constituted happiness could ever have confounded happiness with this rage. Yet, the scene we entered had been tirelessly reproduced…The music was loud and aggressive. If it held the heat of love it equally held the heat of fury, and it could not be described as friendly. Passion is not friendly. It is arrogant, superbly contemptuous of all that is not itself, and, as the very definition of passion implies the impulse to freedom, it has a mighty, intimidating power. It contains a challenge. It contains an unspeakable hope. It contains a comment on all human beings, and the comment is not flattering…they saw what their history had taught them to see. I did not know then, and I do not know now if one ever sees more than that. If one ever does, it can only be because one has learned to read one’s history and resolved to step out of the book.
The value of money has been settled by general consent to express our wants and our property, as letters were invented to express our ideas; and both these institutions, by giving a more active energy to the powers and passions of human nature, have contributed to multiply the objects they were designed to represent.
Thus, form- in its specific idiom, style- is a plan of sensory imprinting, the vehicle for the transaction between immediate sensuous impression and memory (be it individual or cultural). This mnemonic function explains why every style depends on, and can be analyzed in terms of, some principle of repetition or redundancy.
Tragedy itself is proof of the fact that the Greeks were not pessimists.
To fill the hour,- that is happiness; to fill the hour, and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them. Under the oldest mouldiest conventions, a man of native force prospers just as well as in the newest world, and that by skill of handling and treatment. He can take hold anywhere. Life itself is a mixtue of power and form, and will not bear the least excess of either. To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. It is not the part of men, but of fanatics, or of mathematicians, if you will, to say that, the shortness of life considered, it is worth caring whether for so short a duration we were sprawling in want, or sitting high. Since our office is with moments, let us husband them. Five minutes of today are worth as much to me as five minutes in the next millenium. Let us be poised and wise, and on our own, to-day. Let us treat the men and women as if they were real: perhaps they are.
At this point one may note that men must be either pampered or annihilated.
Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.
All of life is more or less what the French would call ‘s’imposer’ - to be able to create one’s own terms for what one does.
They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.
Although the shrewdest judges of the witches and even the witches themselves were convinced of the guilt of witchery, this guilt nevertheless did not exist. This applies to all guilt.
One of the rules that emerges from a consideration of the factors that promote self
sacrifice is that we are less ready to die for what we have or are than for what we wish to have and to be. It is a perplexing and unpleasant truth that when men already have something worth fighting for, they do not feel like fighting.
Discontent by itself does not invariably create a desire for change. Other factors have to be present before discontent turns into disaffection. One is a sense of power. Those who are awed by their surroundings do not think of change, no matter how miserable their condition. When our mode of life is so precarious as to make it patent that we cannot control the circumstances of our existence, we tend to stick to the proven and the familiar. We counteract a deep feeling of insecurity by making of our existence a fixed routine. We hereby acquire the illusion that we have tamed the unpredictable. Fisherfolk, nomads and farmers who have to contend with the willful elements, the creative worker who depends on inspiration, the savage awed by his surroundings they all fear change. They face the world as they would an all powerful jurty. The abjectly poor, too, stand in awe of the world around them and are not hospitable to change. It is a dangerous life we live when hunger and cold are at our heels. There is thus a conservatism of the destitute as profound as the conservatism of the privileged, and the former is as much a factor in the perpetuation of a social order as the latter.
About nobility I cannot be sure that the decline, not to say, the disappearance of nobility is anything more than a maladjustment between the imagination and reality. We have been a little insane about the truth. We have had an obsession. In its ultimate extension, the truth about which we have been insane will lead us to look beyond the truth to something in which imagination will be the dominant complement. It is not only that the imagination adheres to reality, but, also, that reality adheres to the imagination and that the interdependence is essential.
Three main factors prevent people from realising that the order organising their lives exists only in their imagination: a. The imagined order is embedded in the material world. Though the imagined order exists only in our minds, it can be woven into the material reality around us,,,,,b. The imagined order shapes our desires. Most people do not wish to accept that the order governing their lives is imaginary, but in fact every person is born into a pre-existing imagined order, and his or her desires are shaped from birth by its dominant myths. Our personal desires thereby become the imagined order’s most important defences. For instance, the most cherished desires of present-day Westerners are shaped by romantic, nationalist, capitalist and humanist myths that have been around for centuries…..Even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order……c. The imagined order is inter-subjective. Even if by some superhuman effort I succeed in freeing my personal desires from the grip of the imagined order, I am just one person. In order to change the imagined order I must convince millions of strangers to cooperate with me. For the imagined order is not a subjective order existing in my own imagination – it is rather an inter-subjective order, existing in the shared imagination of thousands and millions of people…..There is no way out of the imagined order. When we break down our prison walls and run towards freedom, we are in fact running into the more spacious exercise yard of a bigger prison.
Yuval Noah Harari
Yet if we take the really grand view of life, all other problems and developments are overshadowed by three interlinked processes: 1. Science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing. 2. Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness. 3. Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves. These three processes raise three key questions, which I hope will stick in your mind long after you have finished this book: 1. Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing? 2. What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness? 3. What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?
Yuval Noah Harari