Sunday, February 27, 2011

In Order

My overarching goals are as follows: To learn everything, to teach it to everyone, and to be an inspiration throughout.

This is the first time I have expressed this in print. Just thought I'd mark that milestone.

Common issues presented:

"...Isn't that impossible?" These are overarching goals that I constantly reach toward. I do not have to be able to see their fruition clearly, in fact, if I could, I would say I had poor overarching goals. My overarching goals contain supergoals contain goals contain tasks. Tasks are the first point where I assign a specific timetable, though goals have a vague one, and supergoals usually are possible within a lifetime not extended by a leap in the science of keeping humans alive.

"What if you discover that the human brain has limited capacity?" Then I will keep notes.

"But sometimes it's impossible to teach people things. You can't teach derivatives to someone who doesn't know algebra!" Yes. So I will teach them algebra first.

"How are you going to know how to teach everyone?" First: See first goal. Second: My supergoal here is to become a polymath teacher, with my current goal being becoming a mathematics instructor. Why math first? Because the worst teachers I have ever had/seen/heard of have all been mathematics instructors. Good ones exist, but math is more dependent on past knowledge than any other subject I've seen. A bad mathematics instructor can destroy a student's chances for years, if not more.

Another one that I can't summarize in a sentence but is expressed fairly well here is that I don't want to teach evil people. In reaction, I would give rational reasons for being good. If people like you, this is good. If people hate you, this is bad. Therefore, spreading happiness helps achieve later goals. We're pack animals; we like nice Alphas. Benevolent dictators have an easier time staying in power.

These three all have one answer, in a way: rational ignorance.* It is rational to memorize my notes' placements rather than all the information contained within if my brain truly has a limited capacity. It is rational to leave someone ignorant of how to work derivatives--briefly--if they do not yet understand algebra, because most people cannot learn both from scratch in a day. It is rational to help evil people become good before teaching them biases or how to achieve goals. The existence of a helpful being who will not help evil is a push toward good, which means I would be a motivator for anyone seeking to learn from me in the first place.

"How will you distinguish between good people and evil people?" I could say see overarching goal one again, but I have already stated that I will begin teaching before I learn everything. The simple answer is that I have no way to distinguish for sure. However, as a human, I do have feelings on the matter. Aaaaand someone in the audience points out that feelings aren't always correct; I can be biased, etc. So I'll say: "My goal is to spread knowledge, inspiration, and happiness. As these are my goals, I will place people who aid those goals as good, those who harm as evil, and those who do neither as in need of inspiration." It is not perfect in defining 'good' and 'evil', but it meshes with my goals and so works. I'd call it a pragmatism expression of idealism.

I can still be incorrect. That makes the instance a learning experience, bringing me full circle to overarching goal one.

* Ignorance when the knowledge would give less than the energy you would expend gaining it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Yo. Remember that thing about massive workloads? (To the tune of that add-a-verse Christmas song:) 5 college courses, 4 musical things, 3 chorally related, 2 music'lly intensive, and 1 done currently.

I will definitely be back by the second week of April, and I may post some stuff in the meantime, but I make no promises. For those of you skeptical of hiatuses ending, I would like to point out that I did just give a date and I have come back before.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


This was for a writing challenge where authors start off with one word, then pick another word that begins with the letter the last one ended with.

"Don't worry?" she squeaked, "You just told me that there are monsters, and demons, and bad things, and it's dark and I can't see, and we're out in the woods, and they're out in the woods--" I held a hand up to stop her.

"Were." I rubbed my hands in front of the flames as they ate at the logs. "They used to live around here. You didn't let me finish the story."

Elsie curled deeper into her blanket. "Well...finish it, then."

"Eat your breakfast."

Elsie scowled and bit into her sandwich, swallowing it with an exaggerated motion. I stifled a chuckle and fell into the pace of the story.

"Once, when the world was young and dim, many came before humans. Some were calm, or peaceful, or frightened. Deer and young foxes are the remnants of the fearful. You see the peaceful in the dogs you kept around your house, that quiet intelligence. The calm were free as the foxes and the deer, but would look you straight in the eye.

"Then there were the predators. They were not the oldest--could not be. To be a predator, one must hunt; the hunted must predate the predators." Elsie ate her sandwich without thinking, falling into the rhythm of the story as easily as I was. "And they were terrible. Vampires who would eat only humans, werewolves who went insane in full moon's light. Young girls, no older than yourself, would go missing, and none would know if it were vampire, werewolf, eloping, or kidnapping.

"But, brave as the flame and bright as the sun, there came a paladin. One who would stand, not because it was the proper thing to do, but simply because such a warrior could not do otherwise."

"And the warrior struck the creatures down!" Elsie cried, beaming.

I smiled. "No, Elsie."


"The paladin was a healer," I said. "Have I taught you to hate vampires?"

"No," she recited, eyes moving up and to the right, "The conscious ones can be good or bad as humans, and the unconscious ones are forces, and I should not hate them anymore than I should hate a stormcloud."

"The paladin had...blest hands," I murmured, remembering, looking at my own. "Many of the dark creatures were drawn to beauty, and the paladin was that. But more, a beautiful soul. People around her...wanted to be good. And the predators came out of the dark, at first to take a bite, then to feel the warmth. To bask. She healed, and before long, the healed were healing others. The warmth echoed." I closed my eyes, feeling the fire warm to my bones what had been ice for so long. So far fallen into the warmth, I started when Elsie complained.

"How come the girls are always the healers, and the boys get to fight? It's so stupid."

A smile that was neither good nor nice crossed my face. "Do you think every creature liked being warmed? The forces didn't. Some conscious ones didn't. The paladin was a warrior. The only difference between a warrior and a paladin is that a paladin is a warrior too."

A few silent minutes passed as the sun's light crept over the horizon and through the leaves. Elsie chewed silently. "You should be getting home," I said, pushing her pack over to her.

With the quiet scrutiny of a focused child, "Did you heal with her, or hunt?"

I smiled, and threw some ash on the fire and swung my pack over my back.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Doublethink and Acting

I've been reading Less Wrong. Several posts--mostly the comments section--inspired this post, but the Franz Ferdinand style sparks were the comments section on this one, and a practice SAT essay prompt asking whether we, the people, need to question authority.

Starting with the easy bit. Yes, we need to question authority. I believe the state of an ideal mind is perpetually and always questioning authority.

There is an important line to be drawn here: Thoughts and Actions.

> And of course, no matter how much you profess your love of mere usefulness, you should never actually end up deliberately believing a useful false statement.

I haven't yet needed to "deliberately believe a useful false statement" (to my knowledge), but I wouldn't be particularly disturbed if I tried to, and found it repeatedly successful. Another tool for my tool belt.

--manuelg 30 January 2008 08:04:00PM

I don't see the line in that statement. It isn't an insult to the person, because the difference, I believe, is merely one in communication. We would do the same thing.

Believing that the sky is blue allows me to behave as if the sky is green. The fact that in my head, I think, The sky is blue, the sun is yellow, and clouds are either white or gray, occasionally becoming dark enough to look black, does not stop the words, "The sky is green and there is never anything but green in the sky," from leaving my mouth. Believing that I should always question authority does not mean I believe I should always defy authority. It means that, if the authority is unjust, I have a system in place to recognize that fact. My system is probably not perfect. However, if everyone is questioning authority, and believes that this state of being is acceptable, then chances are good that someone will notice, and enough people will listen to make it possible to change the injustice.

In the absence of a telepath, what I think does not matter in terms of what other people think of me. If I need to appear to give into peer pressure to avoid being fed to wolves, then the answer is not to give into peer pressure; the answer is to give that appearance. There are places where this thinking reaches a stumbling block--"But I'm not a good enough actor. I have to believe what I'm saying or I can't say it convincingly!"

This state of mind is dangerous.

This mind says, "I can lie to myself easier than I can lie to others." Lying to one's self is also lying to others. And this lie is much more difficult to fix. A lie to yourself needs to be protected to remain, and so questions to it make more lies, before you think about it. You can't admit the truth to yourself; how could you admit it to someone else?
Parable Time
Continuing with peer pressure: Underage drinking. If you don't drink, the people you're with are going to leave you--and you'd rather not be alone in this neighborhood. So you figure one drink can't hurt...and then you're buzzed enough to figure that one more's okay...and then you get home, and your Mom asks you if you're drunk, and, well, you can't exactly lie about that one because you're walking funny and you smell something awful. You get in trouble, but tell yourself that it was your only choice to stay safe, and your Mom's being totally unreasonable, and...


If you don't drink, they're going to leave you, and you'd rather not be in this neighborhood alone. You look around and confirm, yeah, there's really no one who'd stay with you, except that one girl who's smaller than you are and shrinks in enough to basically be shouting, "Hey! Muggers! Easy target!" So you take a beer and sip at it, moving around enough that no one notices that you're not actually drinking more than a sip of the cheap, weak, beer. You also start walking a little funny, which is easy enough because there are some blasted people around to mimic and no one has ever seen you drunk, so any mild mistakes are dismissed as quirks specific to your drunkenness. You get home and decide that the people you were hanging out were all being unreasonable. Honestly, who would leave a friend like that? And the girl who always draws in on herself probably needs some help, she drank from peer pressure and you know her Mom's going to ground her for that, so maybe you should bring her a cupcake at school tomorrow to cheer her up, and find some new friends who won't ditch you for following the law...

You told yourself the truth, and so reacted to the truth, rather than a comfortable, confining lie.

If anyone has a counterexample short of telepathy, I would love to expand my knowledge.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


It was not dark. If you envision shadow, the vast and endless black of the space between stars where some things can exist, in stasis, you miss the point. If you see utter, swallowing, dismal blackness that seeks to destroy, you miss the point.

The place was lack.

We are naturally predisposed to feel odd around lack. Not because of any shared experience, merely because of the lack of experience. If you are there, there is a being there. Vacuum should be true lack, yet we assign it a value in our heads. Even if we could only explain that value on that level between heart and head that gives the best and worst of poetry, or the true meaning of "space".

We cannot experience it in reality. We are. Nothing including us can ever have lack. Even removing ourselves from the equation, nothing can include a live us for long.

Nothing is terrifying.

We get hints of it. Loneliness. Darkness. Silence. Your heartbeat speeds. Your breathing grows heavy. Nothing there, but we're so used to it, there must be something, we can't handle there being nothing, but where, where, where...

The unthinkable. Nothing is there.

Alone in the dark.

What is so interesting is how easily we accept when this lack isn't our focus. It's our default, in the back of our heads. Think about a memory, or a vision, or a thought. Walk through memory, creating nothing new. Start at the center, your focus. Take one step out. Two. Three. Still within consciousness' soft glow. Eight. Ten. Twelve. Twenty-seven. Stepped past the light, past the black, to the default, to the lack.

And yet you've carried your focus with you. Named this realm. Lack. If you feel nothing, that still lacked. If not, if the sweet tang of blood, fear, sweat, the sweet touch of wonder, curiosity, love, the shimmers of novelty follow you, you move further from the realm of lack.

Here you stand. Not one foot in each world. Both feet along the blurred line. Go back two minutes, this realm was lack. Go forward some moments, the realm has no difference from any other reverie. Slowly, slipping, the focus blurs the lack to the have.

Welcome back.

You're home by now. Even if you stay. Especially if you stay. Home is where the heart is. This place glows now only with you. You made this space. The thoughts are yours.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Two days. That was all it had taken, poring over the rulebook and knowing his pride, to get a private audience. There were guards outside, and I was unarmed. I spoke.

"How many traitors do you have who claim to be with you, do you think? Half?"

"You've been in prison the past five years. Do you really think I'll fall for that?" Inside, I snarled at him for that. Just as I'd taken every loophole to get here, he'd taken every loophole to keep me there. I hadn't done anything but think.

I radiated calm. "You mean I've had five years in the heart of your base." Jack twitched.

"Five years, where all I had to do was talk, and all I had to talk to were your own. And you, you were so kind, you rotated them." There's a sheen to a man's cold sweat that I've never found anywhere else. He had it. "Now, in five years, I couldn't turn everyone, you're thinking. But there were such lovely people there; they spread the message for me." I smiled fondly in a reverie. "By the end of the first month, I remember they were coming in already knowing. Already having the first seeds of ideas planted, saplings, even. And the loveliest thing was that I was a conversation starter."

Jack shook.

"Because I had my ideas, and they had theirs, and they were compatible." I cocked my head to one side and smiled wide as a cat. "The reason rebellions take so long to get off the ground is that it takes people so long to talk to each other. And I"--tapping my chest--"am communicative."

He stared at me, hands shaking, forehead shining, breathing uneven.

And then...he lied. He straightened his back, raised his chin, steadied himself on some inner pillar, and lied from his crown to his toes. "You're bluffing."

If I am, then I am doing better than you. But I don't let all of that show, just enough for verisimilitude. "Really? You pride yourself on being strong-willed. Even if you have some doubt in the back of your head about how you compare to the general population,"--a wince--"you must see enough of yours. You think yourself stronger than they are. And minutes, I have given you pause. You doubt. What could I do with five years, when I can work my way up, when I can use the more open-minded and weaker to echo me? Could I convince you?"

The open-minded and weaker parts of his mind echoed and whispered, She could. She could.

We shared a long look, and I watched the inner pillar of his. Moving slowly, but at the speed of shared thought. Marble. Then diamond, harder, brittler, hiding nothing. Then glass. A wavering attempt to hide and it was chalk. A stumble and it would fall.

He stumbled.


He gasped at my words, from my lips and echoed. I saw the thoughts. They were what I would think.

I'm alone. I've always been alone. No one cares. I'll die alone. I willed him to finish the thought, to think what I prayed I would think in his place.

Nothing. He fell.

I knelt and put a hand on his shoulder. I said what I prayed someone else would say, were I in his place.

"You're not alone."

He stared at me. It was an interesting experience, looking into someone's eyes as he put himself back together.

He thought it.

And I will help anyway.
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart