A Note About This Blog

This blog is my personal blog. It’s in no way a professional blog. This is where I try out ideas, post more personal things and try on different hats. If you’d like to see my more professional work, I encourage you to check out my posts at the Florida Student Philosophy Blog. I hope you take the posts here with the spirit they are intended and with a grain of salt. This is, after all, my little playground for thoughts and ideas.

A Couple More Pounds Down

This morning I weighed myself, like I usually do, and noticed I dropped a couple more pounds. I’m not stressing over my weight. It’s a different game this time around. And it’s starting to flow naturally.

On Logic and My Favorite Bookstore

A while back, I went to my favorite bookstore in DeLand, Florida. There, I got the book Logic and Philosophy: A Modern Introduction.

Even though I don’t teach logic anymore, it’s important to keep up the skills. This little textbook has exercises to do to keep me sharp. I work logic problems throughout the week.

My favorite bookstore, as I said, is located in DeLand, Florida–the city I went to undergrad in. It’s a quaint little city and a quaint little, independent bookstore: The Family Book Shop of DeLand. I highly recommend going there if you happen to find yourself in DeLand.

Stalking Awareness

Last month was National Stalking Awareness Month. So I learned a bit about it.

In general, stalking is defined as any unwanted attention directed toward a person or group. Women are more likely to be victims of stalking than men–and stalking is a behavioral indicator that can lead to violence.

I have friends who have been serious victims of stalking in recent months. Because of that, I have also taken some precautions of my own, learning from them.

UPDATE: Please also see the Wiki on Cyberstalking.

Bye, Bye, Christianity.

I have been going to church and involved in Bible study for over a year now. After some consideration–and really trying–I’ve decided Christianity is not for me.

My counselor agrees that I shouldn’t delve too deeply into it, too. There’s a fine line between craziness and spirituality. I don’t want to blur those lines, wherever they may be.

So, bye, bye, Christianity. You helped me get through some things and I will always appreciate it.

On Stigma

Stigma–or, rather, discrimination–regarding mental illness is very common. Most people, alas, are unaware of the stereotypes and biases they hold in their head regarding mental illness.

I have been an advocate against stigma and discrimination for several years. I’ve seen far too many instances of bias and discrimination. I couldn’t help but be an advocate.

I have volunteered with organizations and have watched others grow. The organization I am currently watching–and it’s one to look out for–is Students With Schizophrenia. Founded by Cecilia McGough (Penn), Students With Schizophrenia aims to assist and help college students diagnosed with schizophrenia. Look for Students With Schizophrenia at a campus near you.

Four Pounds in Five Days

It’s been 5 days since I started my new diet and exercise regimen. So far, I have lost 4 pounds.

I am taking this routine a little simpler than I have in the past. There’s no pressure to lose weight, no external forces weighing upon me to shed pounds. It’s simply something I want to do–and if it doesn’t happen, so be it.

As I said before, I’m much more laid back than I have been in the past. This new-found peace is much more healthy than attitudes I’ve previously had.

Weight Loss And Fitness

I’m in therapy. My therapist makes me do actual work. I get cognitive behavioral therapy. One thing I’m supposed to do is take at least one walk per day. Because it’s been cold, I have stopped that routine. As a result of that and the holidays, I gained a few pounds. So I’m ramping up my weight loss and fitness goals. I re-installed SparkPeople on my phone this morning. It helps me track my calories and exercise. Here’s a before picture of me. Let’s hope I can meet my fitness goals!

 

PsyCom.Net

Recently, a representative from PsyCom.Net contacted me. If you haven’t heard of PsyCom, it’s a mental health website that was started by the renowned Ivan Goldberg, who developed a depression assessment. The representative from PsyNet thought my readers may be interested in checking out the site. So I encourage you to check it out!

Wearing Glasses

I’m vain. I admit it. For the longest time, I wouldn’t wear glasses. However, sometime last year, my contacts scratched my eye. My eye turned out to be OK, but it left an emotional scar. I’m afraid to wear contacts now–even though my doctor said it was fine to do so. So, recently, I got a new pair of glasses–after having my last ones for three years. So far, I like them. They go with both my causal and professional looks.

Oppenheimer’s Jewishness

If there was anyone I’d want to write my biography, it would be Ray Monk. He and I knew of one another mostly through Facebook because of our philosophy backgrounds. Ray is an amazing person and is also a superb biographer.

I just read Chapter One of A Life Inside the Center and I thought I’d jot down some quick notes here.

It seems that Oppenheimer grew up in an unusual Jewish family–one that somewhat rejected Judaism, in a sense. This, as Ray Monk argues, helps explains why, later in life, Oppenheimer would be described as having no identity. Was he able to point to fellow Jewish people and say, “Those are my people”? I don’t know. But his colleague Rabi didn’t think so.

Ray Monk is careful to point out the various ways one can be Jewish: culturally, ethnically, racially, religiously and as a nationality. I’m no expert on Jewish history, but there appears to have been a time when these things were being brought out and, some of them, such as nationality, rejected by some Jewish people themselves as a way of assimilating into American society.

Oppenheimer seems to have grown up in a household where, if there was anything it meant to be Jewish, it was morally. This idiosyncratic view–the moral devoid of the religious–of what it meant to be Jewish was somewhat new thinking among some Jewish people. But it seems familiar when one looks to Immanuel Kant, who also developed a moral system apart from the religious. Kant’s famous axiom is: act according to the maxim you could will to be a universal law. Oppenheimer grew up in something akin to a Kantian home, then.

The Real Adam Smith

It’s common to invoke “deep thinkers” for one’s political purposes. But before you name Adam Smith the pioneer of so-called free-market capitalism, it’s best to actually understand what he said. Here’s an article that will help with that.

Why Have A Military?

In the book Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons, it is argued that killing civilians does not lead to a military defeat. That is, if one wants to defeat an enemy, one has to defeat the military of the enemy. What follows from this? Well, it could be the end of all militaries. Consider the following argument:

  1. The military does not function to protect civilian populations because killing or harming civilian populations does not lead to a military defeat.
  2. The military-to-military combat is the most effective form of defeating an enemy.
  3. Thus, militaries really only exist to combat one another. Civilians don’t need them.
  4. From 3, military-to-military combat serves no purpose other than defeating another military.
  5.  We should not have militaries because they serve no purpose other than defeating another military.

This is an imperfect argument, but it seems to follow from the fact that killing civilians does not lead to military defeat.

 

The Times They Are A Changin’

I recently had a discussion with someone from Generation X about Generation Y (Millennials). This person said, based on hearsay rather than evidence, that Millennials don’t want to work, need a “safe space,” and don’t have any employable skills.

I quickly told this person that, in essence, every older generation says these same things about younger generations. If you’re a Baby Boomer, remember when your folks were worried about you listening to Elvis? Yeah. Same deal.

Interestingly, Generation X was also so maligned. We were considered bad for listening to Nirvana. You’d think by now, with this type of thing happening every generation, that we’d learn to respect the younger generation. You’d think we’d learn, to boot, to respect every generation.

I pointed these things out to my interlocutor. And then I said, “So what if it’s true about Millennials? I hope they change the world!”

Think about the complains my interlocutor had: why is working an essential value in our culture? Why only develop employable skills? And what’s wrong with being softer and wanting safe spaces–spaces free from abuse?

I assert that there’s nothing wrong with any of this. While I myself may be somewhat careerist and interested in developing marketable skills, that doesn’t mean the argument that employability should be an essential value in our society flies. What’s more, many people who complain about “safe spaces” are really just defending an abusive status quo.

The times may be a changin’.

Part Of My Family Is From Sweden. I Have Wanted To Return. Here’s Why.

Dear President Trump,

Some of my family came from Sweden. I grew up with a Swedish grandmother whose family probably immigrated here during the Swedish famine. Every year, my grandmother would send us homemade cookies, fudges and other things in a tin for Christmas. She never forgot a birthday, even with all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

For the past few years, I have thought about immigrating back to Sweden. I’ll probably stay put for personal reasons, but I wanted to let you know why I have thought this.

Sweden is (mostly) a socialist democracy. In addition, it always ranks high for business–higher than the U.S. Life expectancy and happiness indexes are higher than the U.S., as well. What’s even better, Sweden is one of the best places for gender equality and a much better place for women to live. Sweden has given birth to numerous wonderful ideas and has given the world great thinkers.

I don’t know if you care to attract people like me. But if you do, you could start by making our country better than it is. People like me–the ones who may or may not leave America–are looking for things like the above.

Best,

Jennifer

Does Finding Truth Require The Right Attitude?

I’ve become laid-back in my old age. I think I’ve also become more receptive to truth. In my quest to treat and think about schizophrenia, for example, I’ve turned in my old, piercing, rigorous mind and exchanged it for a more humble yet adventurous attitude.

In the world of academia, we often find disparate conversations going on. We find scholars who are unable to communicate with non-academics–but, worse, we find academics unable to communicate with each other.

Since I’ve always taken an interdisciplinary approach, I have tried my best to keep up with conversations in many areas of study. Interdisciplinary work is difficult. One reason why is because one has to become a translator of academic jargon–from psychology to philosophy–and then, for me, a translator from academic jargon into ordinary language.

I do my best, as any translator does, but I may miss the tiny nuances when I translate into ordinary language.

These piercing minds–which I used to possess–give us these conversations. It’s an attitude toward truth that most scholars have which constructs towers of babble upwards towards to heavens.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve taken a different approach to truth these days. I’m fond of pragmatism–in a nutshell, what is true is what works. Pragmatism is a world-centered approach. It isn’t looking for some abstract truth-in-the-sky. It is looking for truth in the world.

But is there a specific attitude one must have in order to be receptive to truth? I think there may be. One must, first of all, be an adventurous explorer, willing to try new things. In my quest for treating schizophrenia, for instance, I have had to be open to trying new medications, seeing if they work, and trying new therapies. I even prayed and undertook an exploration of Christianity because Christian psychology can re-structure cognitive processes. My exploration and willingness to try new things will be proven to work for me if my symptoms diminish over the long term.

In addition to being an explorer, one must have the attitude of a shred of skepticism, too. I know that treatments that may work for me may not work for everyone. I have to discuss progress with other people with mental illness and explore large-scale studies to see whether my treatments work for others.

Notice I focus on what works for me. Whatever works is what is true. Truth is what happens to an idea I may have. My idea becomes true just when it works.

I don’t think I need to have the piercing mind, engaged in the harsh minutia of conversations in academia in order to find truth. I just need the right attitude and the ability to explore.

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. However, the New Year coincided with some changes in me. They aren’t resolutions, but they are a general direction I’m taking my life. They range from pretty basic to seemingly difficult. They are as follows:

  1. Don’t date assholes.
  2. Go to the library more.
  3. Create a new idea.

I’m doing well on the assholes part. I think that I should date someone who deserves me, my love and what I can bring to the table. I am enough. I am more than enough. I don’t need someone. And I’m willing to wait for the right person, if the right person ever comes along.

I’m also doing well on going to the library. I’ve checked out 5 books since the New Year. This should be something I can keep up because I love reading.

Creating a new idea is more difficult. I genuinely love learning, studying and learning about other people’s ideas. This would have been around the time I would have finished a PhD had I not gotten sick. So I figured I’d do something I would have done had I finished: create a new idea. It’s a tall order. But, even if it’s a small idea, I’ll take it.

Again, these are not technically New Year’s resolutions. They are just the way my life is unfolding and it happens to be around the same time as the New Year.

On Paranoia: A Brief Reflection

I have a friend with mental illness who thinks that “the powers that be” intentionally shut certain people down by making them go insane. My friend thinks this when my friend is healthy.

I want to think a bit about paranoia: its psychological causes.

I have delved into the literature on paranoia and psychosis in general and found it, quite honestly, unsatisfactory. I propose that paranoia, in at least some cases, is caused by subliminal or unconscious (as in, subconscious) threats. Then, when these threats come to the fore, they bring with them out-of-control beliefs that constitute what we know as paranoia.

Take, for example, a person who is living their life in academia (to take an example I am familiar with). This person, we presume, has the right to academic freedom, a subset of free speech. This person–call her Sally–creates academic articles that are transgressive to current political understandings. They, theoretically, undermine the whole of a nation. Sally goes on with her life. It’s just an argument, after all. Possible implementation is for someone else. Thus, Sally herself is no real threat when it comes to overthrowing a government.

Years after creating her argument–that is, her academic paper–she starts to become psychotic, triggered by something. Suddenly, she thinks the government in many ways, shapes and forms is out to get her.

What has happened here? Sally, who isn’t a threat, knows that her ideas could possibly overthrow the government if put in the right hands. But Sally herself was simply practicing free speech. In her psychosis, however, Sally knows she isn’t a threat, but she thinks other people are out to get her, anyway. She believes this because she knows that the assessment of threat has been imperfect in the past. Now, Sally is fully paranoid.

Buried within Sally is the unconscious idea that her own thoughts may be used against a government and, explicit to her, is the belief that this government is now out to get her because of it. Sally has a false belief. No one is out to get her. Panic and fear arise in her, however, because she intensely believes she is being persecuted.

This is what I think of as the landscape of paranoia. Only time will tell if my understanding is correct.

UPDATE: Here’s an account of a psychiatrist who experienced paranoia, which bolsters my view. And this patient/doctor recovered!

Making An Idol Out Of Truth

I care about truth. That’s truth with a lower-case ‘t’. I care about it a lot, honestly, which is why I’m concerned that some people have begun to make an idol out of Truth (with a capital T).

During the linguistic turn in philosophy, we learned a lot can be gleaned from looking at how we use language. These days, it is common for folks to try to smack each other around in debate with Truth, while not particularly caring about truth.

I use ‘truth’ in the ordinary language sense here. Like Wittgenstein, I’m fond of ordinary language. And I use it in a pragmatic way; truth is something that happens to an idea.

I’ve been witnessing people bash each other over the head with Truth, making an idol of it and trying to score points with it. Truth is not for point-scoring. It’s a good in itself. Some, like Berit Brogaard, argue it’s the highest good.

I tend toward value pluralism, so I don’t know that truth is the highest good. But I do know it is a good and had intrinsic value, whatever its instrumental value may be.

When we make an idol out of Truth, we lose–even if it ends up we win the argument we are having.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race?

Back when I was a TA, I got really, really good at thinking on my feet. Super good.

Time has worn on and I find myself preferring slow deliberation these days. I don’t think this is a sign of lacking intelligence, either. I think of it as both gaining intelligence and wisdom. We tend to prize quick thinking. But quick thinking can get us in trouble. Reflexes vary, of course, and can be trained. But I think our society, which can tweet in an instant, has become more and more biased and less seeking of truth due to the reliance on quickness over slow deliberation.

Take, for example, a conversation I had prior to Christmas with an expert on AI. I’m still thinking about the ramifications of that discussion. I may have a few brief thoughts, but nothing well-formulated just yet. I will talk to people about it, think it over more, and so forth, before I come to a safe conclusion.

The theory is that reflexes, if not heavily trained, are ridden with emotion, bias and other things. The more time we have to mull something over, the more likely we are to weed out those things.

One problem is that, for many people, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to deliberate. I suggest: Take a walk. Cut down on your TV time. Heck, cut down on your social media time–to spend time reflecting. We may just become a better society because of it.

“The Thinker Who Believed in Doing”

Here’s a really good article on William James and pragmatism. An excerpt:

In a world of chance and incomplete information, James insisted that truth was elusive but action mandatory. The answer: Make a decision and see if it works. Try a belief and see if your life improves. Don’t depend on logic and reason alone, add in experience and results. Shun ideology and abstraction. Take a chance. “Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events.”

I confess that I’ve become rather fond of pragmatism over the years.

On Citizenship: The Problem With Birth Tourism

You’ve probably heard about the growing trend in Russia (and other places) for pregnant mothers to give birth to their children in America. This is, of course, not a very new idea. Some see it as exploiting a loophole. These folks ask: what can be done?

Well, there’s several possibilities. Here’s a few:

  1. Do nothing. Let these families give birth to their babies and do as they wish. This could lead to many possibilities, including closer ties with other countries and the breakdown of America as a global empire.
  2. Track the families of the babies to ensure they are not threats or foreign agents.
  3. Change our citizenship requirements. This would mean changing the constitution.
  4. Extend citizenship over certain countries. This would possibly be a colonial move, but it could be framed in a more positive light.

There are different ways of forming citizenship requirements–and this is something I’ve thought quite a bit about. You see, I’ve done some work on Native American issues. I gave birth to a Native American child. She gets dual citizenship–in both the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the United States. This is because she meets the citizenship requirements of both governments. As for me, I get no benefits from Choctaw Nation. I will never be able to get Choctaw citizenship because Choctaw Nation uses “direct lineage” or “blood quantum” as the requirement for citizenship.

My daughter gets to be a citizen of the United States because, in 1924, the United States granted citizenship to all Native Americans.

This was an interesting move. Some Native people wanted to be U.S. citizens, but others did not. This unilateral move is what finally gave Native Americans the ability to move forward as full citizens of the U.S. But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

Tribal nations are currently colonized by the United States. They are considered “domestic dependent nations.” As such, they have limited jurisdiction over their territories.

What does all this have to do with Russia? Well, if it turns out this is some ploy to defeat the United States, it’s clear that this will not work. The United States can unilaterally declare all Russians to be U.S. citizens. This would put Russia on par with tribal nations.

Philosophy Is Dead! Long Live Philosophy!

Stephen Hawking said at Google’s Zeitgeist conference that philosophy is dead. Hawking said that philosophers (who, ironically, developed science) haven’t kept up with recent developments in science.

But is this true?

There are certainly particular philosophers who haven’t kept up with science relevant to their area. However, there are top philosophers of physics who know about the work being done in experimental physics. To boot, when I took metaphysics, I learned about theories in physics.

What’s more, when I was a graduate student, there was a whole hot, new area called Experimental Philosophy, which includes both traditional philosophy and experimentation.

And I certainly got doses of science in my moral psychology courses, for example. There is tons of research in recent years drawing upon work in social psychology, cognitive psychology, situationism, and more. In fact, a few months ago, I spoke with a philosopher delving into the literature on situationism.

I think Hawking needs to reach out in order to gain an interdisciplinary approach–an approach I have always appreciated and undertook. Philosophy and science can interact well together. And, after all, philosophy gave birth to practically every area of study. So, let’s not throw it out just yet.

I Was A “Very Stable Genius.” Then I Developed Schizophrenia. Now, I’m An Unstable Genius.

Ask anyone who worked with me. I was 100% philosophy, 100% of the time. Effort and study creates genius. And I think I was one. A stable one, too.

I was in the middle of my graduate thesis when madness creeped up on me. It began slowly, with things I could handle, like derealization. Then, one day, I cracked. I was triggered by something in an e-mail to me. I responded by joking about it, but it really put unwanted thoughts in my head. I didn’t know how to handle unwanted thoughts, so I tried pushing them away. Little did I know that when you try to push unwanted thoughts away, they just become stronger. This quickly escalated into OCD with psychotic features–then schizophrenia.

I was full-blown mad. Again, ask anyone who was around me at the time. I was also a full-blown genius. The current going theory is that people who experience the kind of anxiety I experienced, while being top-performers, are the best of the best.

I don’t think I’ve lost any cognitive function, which sometimes goes along with schizophrenia. And I’ve been studying ever since I was diagnosed. As I said, effort and study makes genius. That, along with flexibility and imagination, gives you people like John Nash, an unstable genius.

I’ve seen memes recently mocking the president for calling himself a stable genius. Perhaps he is. I certainly haven’t mocked him for saying this.

But it’s important to understand a two things: (1) genius is about work. One doesn’t typically become a genius by not investing time into one’s area of expertise. (2) there is nothing wrong with being a little unstable. I have been known to become psychotic. So has John Nash. Each of us has accomplished things in life–and he is what many would think of as a true genius.

What many people are worried about is whether the president will do something rash in his alleged instability and, for example, bring us to war. He could. But he could also just be performing Madman Theory, which would not only scare some of us, but also our enemies. Either way, instability does not necessarily equal violence, so trying to guess the probability of the president pressing the button is currently, with the information I have, all for naught.

 

Identity And Your Career

I think one of the most detrimental things one can do is identify with their career. I find so many people who do identify with their career. When they lose a job, when they retire, they lose their sense of identity.

When one thinks in terms of oneself as how one sells one’s labor, one is really doing a disservice to oneself. It also makes one extremely vulnerable in that it makes one less flexible. Flexibility, as Jonathan Lear argues in Radical Hope, should be the virtue one aims for in our society. Flexibility gives one the ability to reach beyond one’s current or past way of life and imagine something new and different. It’s the key virtue that lends itself to creativity and imagination in forms of life.

Of course, there’s advantages for your employer for you to identify with your career. If you are so invested in your career that you wholly identify with it, you make a good cog in the working machine. The problem, for you, is: what if the machine stops working or changes direction? What if you have to change careers or forms of life for some reason? When that happens, as it has been known to do, you will suffer an identity crisis. Instead of being able to knuckle down and move on with a different form of life–reaching for different thick concepts–you will be stuck in your old way of thinking while the world moves on without you.

So, do not place your identity in your career.

Gut Feelings: Problems For AI May Not Be With The Brain

According to recent theories, the gut and the brain are constantly communicating. This communication is so important that certain functions attributed to the brain may indeed also depend on the gut.

Having solid gut health has become an important topic in many areas, including mental health.  And, indeed, gut health may help with higher order cognitive functions and more.

The problem with current theoretical understandings of AI, then, is that it doesn’t seem to take into account that the brain is fully embodied and connected with other organs, for which it depends, as well as the gathering information from the outside world.

A recent hypothesis I heard, for example, posited that if one could create a synthetic brain, one would have genuine AI.

I want to suggest that if we really want a genuine AI, we will have to go a few steps further and create a whole synthetic human body. We may not be able to get there just yet, but if we do, we will have truly artificial intelligence.

 

Re-Tracing The Trail Of Tears: My Undergraduate Thesis

I have thought about placing my undergraduate thesis online, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. As part of my research for my undergraduate thesis, I re-traced the Trail of Tears. I visited the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and then followed the trail to present-day Oklahoma, visiting the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

After visiting Oklahoma, my daughter, her father and I went to visit family in Texas. My daughter’s father took a bunch of pictures of the time we were traveling. The above is one that sums up how I felt being photographed.

 

Meeting Hillary Clinton

When I was about 16 years old (that is, when Bill Clinton was President), I had the pleasure of meeting Hillary Clinton.

I traveled with members of Healthy Start Florida, a couple of my teachers and other girls from my school to Tallahassee for Children’s Week.

We were all interested in health care for children, which is something Hillary Clinton was working on. I sat in a group of people and listened to her talk. Afterwards, as the room was clearing out, I hiked up my dress, climbed over chairs and, finally, reached the front of the room where Hillary was. There was a large group of people shaking her hand. Still standing on the chairs, I reached over the group of people and shook her hand. I recall someone snapping a photo at the time I shook her hand, but I do not have that photograph.

At the time, while political issues were important to me, I was still rather a little rapscallion, but not really a troublemaker. As I shook Hillary Clinton’s hand, I was aware of Secret Service people looking on at me. But I was harmless.

A silly girl by nature, on the way to Tallahassee, I did snap this picture of me:

Philosopher-Soliders

John Rawls did it the traditional way. In Ancient Greece, often a person had to serve in the military before becoming a philosopher. While the two–philosophy and the military–may seem incompatible, I think they are most compatible. I will argue that, more than things like AI, we need thinking soldiers.

John Rawls, of course, became disillusioned in the military. But it has been argued that some of his best ideas–and his ideas are great–are rooted in his military experience.

The tradition of serving in the military before becoming a philosopher goes back, as I mentioned, to Ancient Greece, where Socrates served. Socrates went on to become the father of western philosophy.

When I taught philosophy at the University of North Florida, I often had former military people as students. They were wonderful.

I was a Blogger for the Florida Student Philosophy Blog, too, and recall reading an article about thinking and the military. The military, it was said, is not a place for thinking.

I want to argue we need philosopher-soldiers in the military. While it may seem that a highly organized structure, where people merely take commands, is a great way to win, I believe in this century, to make a lasting and incredible impact, we need thinking soldiers.

The military, it has been argued, shouldn’t be a place to think. After all, thinking can get us in trouble. Think of Chelsea Manning, who did think–and unleashed classified materials upon the world. However, in a military where people like Manning are not only not shunned but are the norm, the ideas that come from these minds can aid in winning.

In order to get thinking philosophers, we need to apply ancient theories to the soldier. We need, in short, courses for them in philosophy, taught using the Socratic teaching method.

The Socratic teaching method is ideal because it encourages the individual to think–and think for themselves. Far more than any other weapon we currently have, there is no replacing an active and imaginative brain. We need soldiers skilled in, at minimum, informal logic, basic argumentation, analyzing evidence and cognitive biases.

There is no need for the United States to be afraid of developing soldiers in this way. The mind, when dedicated to the truth of things, is always a winner.

 

A Series Of Misunderstandings: Political Communication In The Contemporary United States

People use signs, signals, actions and words in order to communicate. In the United States, I’ve been increasingly worried that we are starting to use different languages to communicate with one another. I don’t mean Spanish and English. I mean our whole landscape has become so polarized and many of us live in such information bubbles that we have started “signing” in different ways, often misunderstanding one another.

This is a more charitable view than one which states we are intentionally ignoring, poking at, etc., each other.

I initially started thinking about this when I started a #DefendDACA rally. The rally turned out to be an awesome event, being televised across Central Florida. It really wasn’t my doing that the rally turned out so well. I had other, quite wonderful, organizers who made things happen.

But what opponents don’t/didn’t understand is that it takes a lot of hard work and effort in order for such an event to take place at all. I should know.

So, when you see a group of people protesting, you can assume that some of them missed work to do so, some of them had to travel a certain distance, and many other things. In other words, they have to overcome life in order to protest. That’s saying something.

The rally I organized was so successful–with many other rallies taking place across the nation on the same day–that our events made national headlines and generated a conversation about DACA recipients. That’s also saying something.

At the time of this writing, however, the president is saying he will protect DACA recipients if and only if he gets his border wall built.

So the events that have been scheduled since the rally I organized are coming down to a negotiation that will probably not fly on the part of DACA Defenders.

Let me say it again: it takes a lot of effort and work to participate in a rally. If you see successful rallies all over the country, that’s really, truly saying something.

But many opponents of DACA recipients have said things like “Get a job!” to folks who rallied. (To be clear, nearly all DACA recipients already have jobs!) It’s as if they are now speaking a different language–a language in which the effort, time and sacrifices made by protesters is scoffed at or not even acknowledged.

As I survey these actions across the country, I have just had to wonder whether some things, like various propaganda, have left people on the Right speaking a whole other language than people on the Left. This language doesn’t understand the concept of protest, making protests on the Left ineffective (if they are trying to persuade people on the Right).

That we are talking past each other now has real-life consequences. DACA recipients will be protected or not, a border wall will go up or not, depending on how we understand one another.

As someone who has only recently started to live in a Leftist bubble, I can say that many people on the Right nowadays simply do not understand–or take time to understand–arguments from the Left. Yet, I know of scholars devoted to studying the Right, so we on the Left get a translation of what’s going on, which keeps us up to speed.

We are now a fractured nation, speaking different political languages. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. We can become fluent in the language of the other, but it’s going to take some work.

My Rose-Colored Glasses: The Future of AI

Over the past few months, I have made contact with several experts in AI. This includes programmers and philosophers. I’ve come to these individuals with questions about the future of AI.

I initially became interested in AI because of universal basic income theory. Some argue that AI has and will continue to take jobs away from humans and, thus, a universal basic income will be a necessity. Then, I became independently interested in the topic.

There are those who argue that AI will never become fully intelligent. They argue it’s just not possible for an AI to pass the Turing Test, for instance.

Then, there are those who argue that AI will indeed become intelligent–and will take over the world!

I’m in neither of these camps. I favor a universal basic income for reasons independent of AI and its progression. I think, for example, it’s simply time in human history to try this new policy. Being a slave to wage labor is, in my thinking, old-school and barbaric. I think we will eventually get there, too.

It’s with the same optimism that I approach AI. I don’t envision a dystopian future, filled with killer robots. I see a world where AI can develop fully and become intelligent in some of the best senses of the word. In fact, I look forward to new bot-friends who can tell me about their new theories of ethics and political philosophy!

My view may be a minority view. If science-fiction tells us anything, I should probably expect something more sinister. But I don’t. Of course, there will be bots of different purposes and some of them may kill. But one purpose–one need that must be filled–is the human need for connection. And one way of connecting is to have enjoyable, intellectual conversations. So, I look forward to a bot who can be my friend–in almost an Aristotlean way.

Will Nuclear Weapons Become Obsolete?

I just read Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons by Ward Wilson. Nuclear weapons have been on the minds of many lately. Several of my friends worry about Trump and his ability to use nuclear weapons and the breakout of a war with North Korea. So I decided to break through some of the myths surrounding nuclear weapons by reading this book. There are five major myths about nuclear weapons, which I shall discuss.

Myth One: Nuclear weapons shock and awe opponents. According to this myth, Japan surrendered due to the bombing in Hiroshima. The theory goes, in the popular imagination, that the bombing was so shocking that the Japanese simply had to surrender. However, this myth does not take into account various evidence that Japan wasn’t ready to surrender until the Soviets decided to enter the war, among other evidence.

Myth Two: The H-Bomb quantum leap. On this myth, the H-Bomb is imagined to be a thousand times bigger than than the bomb used in Hiroshima. However, this “thousand times bigger” is measured in yield–not in the measure of destruction. If one were to measure the destruction, it would be about 5.5% bigger.

Myth Three: Nuclear deterrence works in a crisis. On this myth, nuclear deterrence works, especially in a crisis. However, this does not take into account things like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Gulf War.

Myth Four: Nuclear weapons keep us safe. On this myth, the “long peace” we have had globally is due to nuclear weapons. This myth overlooks other factors that may play a role in keeping the peace between nations, such as distraction with other issues, closer economic ties, alliances and international treaties. Finally, it misses the fact that sometimes there are simply periods of peace and have been throughout history. So, this period of peace cannot be attributed to nuclear weapons.

Myth Five: There is no alternative. On this myth, you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. Even if we do not like nuclear weapons, the theory goes, we can’t simply unmake them. This myth misses the point that there are many inventions that never catch on and/or become obsolete.

Wilson concludes that we should do more serious thinking about nuclear weapons. I agree. And since I read this book, I have done some thinking. My current view is that war, if it should continue, should become much more like a game of chess, where one strategically targets the enemy’s military–not civilian populations. Not only is it wrong to target civilians, history shows it’s ineffective. There’s no reason why civilians, then, should be fodder to militaristic games. It won’t make your enemy surrender.

My thinking is that weapons that merely produce destruction are ineffective when it comes to military strategy. Thus, nuclear weapons will prove useful only if they have strategic value. If they do not have such value, they may indeed become obsolete.

You Should Hire “The Dangerous Ones”

I recently came across this quote by Queen Victoria:

There are segments of society who think people like artists, philosophers, the intelligencia and general freethinkers are dangerous. I won’t argue at length on this point. I personally think that while these people may be creative, innovative and overall hell-raisers, they are not what I would call “dangerous.” I have several of them as friends and acquaintances, and I feel perfectly safe. However, after having talked with people who think they are dangerous, I come to this conclusion: If you think we’re so dangerous, hire us!

There’s a precedent for this, too. The government and various companies hire hackers, for example, in order to perform needed tasks. Over time, the value of these kinds of people has become well-known.

So, if you’re looking to hire someone, hire “the dangerous ones.”

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Be At Peace

Despite the fact that I have been exhausted for the past couple of weeks, I have, in general, been at peace with myself for several months now. You may not think that a person who fell from grace when they developed schizophrenia would be at peace. But I am. In fact, I’m more at peace than when I was an aspiring professor, a TA, an RA, making straight A’s in difficult courses, and so on.

When I was in academia, I was often surrounded by critical eyes and subjected to harsh judgements. Even though it may sound silly, I often thought: Am I too fat? Am I too ugly? Am I smart enough?

I don’t know that my standards have gone down at all. But I have learned that having ambition, being excellent in what one does, and having aspirations does not mean one has to be harshly critical and judgmental. I have, in short, been around a lot of assholes who cloak their asshole-ness in terms of being intellectual. I’m certainly not saying everyone I’ve met in academia is like this, but it’s been too many for me to say it’s just happenstance.

Part of this learning to be at peace, coming to terms with myself and accepting myself as I am has been a result of going to counseling. I have a very excellent counselor. She has taught me to be more in touch with my feeling and emotions while not giving up my brain.

The result is that I’ve been able to connect with people in ways I hadn’t been able to connect before. And this has often led to interesting intellectual conversations and connections.

These days, I’m interested in a lot of things. But one thing I’m interested in is quelling our desire for harsh competition, negativity, and harsh judgements and instead focusing on cooperation and care. I have found—and evidence shows—that cooperation, not competition, leads to more fruitful results, anyway.