Why Does Science Become More Elegant? Because All The Pieces Fall Into Place

It’s a little appreciated fact that the Ptolemaic model of the Earth’s orbits was an ugly-assed model. If you think that the earth is at the center of things, here’s what you come up with to make sense of the motions of the other planets and the sun. The first part of the video shows the loopy, spirograph of messy complexity of the Ptolemaic model. The second part of the video shows how all the pieces fall into place once you put the sun at the center of the solar system.

This is the clearest possible example of this is Occam’s Razor: Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

In other words, all things being equal, the simplest explanation is the truth.

Why does the Universe work that way? Well, it’s because the Universe is out there doing its thing and it takes a long time for humans to figure it out. But gradually we acquire the tools to acquire evidence that brings what we observe in conflict with what we believe.

Over time, a movement of people developed who decided that we should speed up this process by deliberately trying to create situations that would break our illusions. We call these situations experiments. We call the people who do it scientists.

The problem is that their conclusions sit in dusty journals which humans don’t like to read. Instead, what fascinates humans is the social behavior of other humans. Why do people do what they do? What are they up to?

When the internet emerged, we brought our cultures with us and the result is that people who in the previous environment never would have succeeded are now doing really well. Some have no ideas to move like Kim Kardashian. Some have simplistic, utopian fantasies like Piggy. Some have a group of people to demonize like…well, lots of people. And it’s all very Mean Girls. Everyone is off in their shitty corner of the high school cafeteria talking shit about each other.

Even the people who are causing all the division, don’t like what’s happening. Just ask Regina George.

 In fact, they may be the people who are most freaked out. And people who are the most freaked out are the ones who prove what a dangerous thing a little knowledge can be. They’ll take what they know and run to some extreme. In the process, they’ll do incredibly damage. They’ll become extremists and fundamentalists. In this environment, that’s an easy path to power.

We are divided. And it’s pretty clear based on a long reading of history that that division won’t last forever as we know from the opening of the Romance of The Three Kingdoms.

“The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been (話說天下大勢.分久必合,合久必分)”

The question is how quickly do we unite and what do we unite around. Because humans are so bad at causal reasoning, we have a long history of uniting around utopian visions that turn into nightmares.

We should be trying to unite around reality and the reality is that individually we’re terrible at figuring out how to generate cargo. It’s only when our minds come together and we test each other’s ideas that we begin to piece together reality.

We probably even control the uniting. We can use our knowledge to control what humanity unites around. I think it should be around the idea that idea sex among the most intellectually diverse community is how we solve problems. The only thing is that there are people at the center of every clique on the planet who won’t want to admit they’re out of touch with reality because that would mean losing their social power. So, what do we do?

Well, like any high school movie, the community is healed once the Queen Bee or Queen Bees get revealed for the divisive bitches they are. Of course, at the beginning of Mean Girls, the other plastics don’t think they’re bitches. That’s the nature of the bitch. She forms a shitty clique around her by making everyone obsessed with her. Oh my God! Regina George is the best. Until, the unglamorous underdog (Toto) figures out that these people are bitches and they need to be publicly embarrassed to save them (and us) from them.

If you think life stops being like high school, just because we get older then you might want to apply Occam’s Razor and see if you can eliminate some of those assumptions 🙂

Yeah. The words get fancier. But the social dynamics don’t change. And they have to be managed in the same way.

There’s always an awkward moment right after the little kid laughs at the Emperor for having no clothes. What the fuck did she just do? She just laughed at the Queen Bee. But then people realize that actually they’d been waiting to do that all along. And, as they let rip, the tension is broken. The Mean Girl goes away and licks her wounds and then comes back having realized she was being a bitch. And then, we all get to go to the prom and have the best time.

That’s what Toto wants. He wants the most awesome prom possible. And it turns out we don’t get there until we humiliate the Queen Bees and reveal that rather than being the best they’re actually bitches.

That’s when the internet turns into mankind’s greatest asset because we have a culture that uses it the way it should be used: massive idea sex. Given our long history of believing weird shit, we should all just let go of the idea that reality rests in any one person’s head and accept that it’s something that emerges from the largest and most intellectually diverse community challenging each other’s ideas and trying to as quickly as possible pop each other’s delusions. The best part is that the way to do that is with humor. We get to have fun doing this.

But the question is what vision emerges when all the pieces fall into place? Well, I don’t totally know. But this much seems clear to me. It’s been evolution all along.

Genetic Evolution = Cultural Evolution = Capitalism

The Blind Watchmaker = The Invisible Hand

Very few people see that right now. And that’s partly because there’s no controversy.

When Galileo challenged the idea that the earth was at the center of it all, he was challenging the Church. What?!? He did what?!? Oh, shit! He just took on Regina George. Fuck. What’s going to go down?

Science has no controversy. It’s the pre-eminent intellectual authority. In its early days, it was enough for science to challenge religion. But, now, science is the champ who has been at the top for so long that no one dares challenge it. Without competition and controversy, things turn bloated and sluggish. It’s our job to read the science, understand it and then figure out how to use it to create controversy that draws the public in so they engage with the ideas.

What the fuck is going down over there? And as they watch the ideas fly back and forth and watch delusion after delusion get popped, they’ll get the message. Fuck. Humans believe wacky shit. That guy believed that and he got taken down. Just because science exists that doesn’t mean we’ve escaped magical thinking. What the fuck should we believe? Guess, we’d better figure it out.

Of course to really evolve those tools takes a community. We need as many minds as possible on the problem to draw more and more minds into it.

We need to highlight the most self-righteous and divisive Queen Bees in each bubble and good-naturedly tease them out of their social power. We need to identify the clearest, simplest most powerful nickname that targets the fatal flaw in their thinking. We need to figure out the comedy, memes, jokes and big social displays to create the social pressure to show that the Emperor has no clothes.

I’m not just saying that I want a community or I need your help. I really mean it. I’m signing up everyone I know. Hope you’ll do the same. If you have content or skills you want to contribute then give me a shout. And I really want to find people who can create more Mixed Mental Arts dojos. We need them in other countries and we need to remix these ideas for other language communities. This movement is happening. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you know how much culture matters already and know the problems we’re facing. Think through this strategy and if I’m missing something let me know. But this is the best thing I can figure out for how we move through this period of human history as quickly as possible.

As @mazz77a pointed out on another thread, the global culture in which we blend the different cultures to create something more powerful than what’s existed before will happen if we don’t have a catastrophe. I don’t know how likely or unlikely a collapse scenario is but I don’t want to live through it. And to deal with environmental challenges requires fast, coordinated action and that requires making humanity aware of its cultural baggage so we can deal with it asap. As I see it, our job is to midwife humanity through this next stage of the painful birth of our global culture.

For me, my big cultural drives are a relentless commitment to realism and figuring out how to create the most inclusive, satisfying, global culture. If the most effective way to do that is to humiliate some Queen Bees, then I’m down. They’re not very happy people. Isn’t the nicest thing you can do is to humiliate them sooner rather than later?

And if they can save humanity in the process, all the better. In the end, sometimes, your biggest opponents end up becoming your biggest allies. After scales fell from Saul’s eyes on the road to Damascus, he became Paul. As the Talmud, “There is a place where a repentant stands where a righteous man cannot.” People who realize they were really wrong become the biggest converts. I should know. I’m one of them. I thought because I studied science I’d eliminated all my magical thinking. Turns out, I hadn’t. I’m 100% positive there’s more wacky lurking in my brain. I need a large, diverse community of Mixed Mental Artists around to help find the holes in my mental game. Who doesn’t?

At the end of Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan’s character has a lesson to learn of her own. She decides it’s better not to talk about people behind their backs. I agree. It’s much better to say things directly and clearly to their faces. A family is only as sick as its secrets. And the same is true for the human family.

Let’s get it all out in the open. And emotionally uncomfortable as it will be, we’ll all be better off for it. Then we can hug it all out and move on with figuring out where the cargo really comes from: reality. Let’s make that humanity’s focus. But, first, we’ve get to get some attention for all this science. Watch out the intellectual Regina Georges of the world. We’re coming for you with a little good-natured teasing. But you take yourself so seriously that you won’t like it at all. But then the scales will fall from your eyes and perhaps you’ll turn from our enemy into our friend. We sure hope so. Because that is some powerful-assed social proof. And that…is how you win converts. Let’s get at it, Mixed Mental Artists. We’ve got a tribe to build.

David Sloan Wilson converted me to realizing that evolutionary thinking could save the world. It makes you realize that the same dynamics play out at the genetic level, at the cultural level and at the financial level. It’s all evolution. But it also makes you realize that the patterns of human behavior also apply at every level. And that means you don’t need fancy science journals to teach these things. You can use memes and movies about high school. And you can use that to forge a strategy for taking down bad ideas and focusing humanity on the source of all good ones: reality. And if anyone has any questions about what I’m up to or if something isn’t clear, then please, please let me know. The goal is to talk this all out.

But let’s be honest about Regina George. She’s not going to let go of power on her own. She needs to lose her social power.

 I don’t mind if I get called a home-schooled jungle freak who’s a less hot version of her. Or rather that I’m an intellectually dishonest, grade-A cunt. I do care about what ideas humanity unites around because we’ve done a million different versions of this enough…

How about we just aim straight for reality? Because if the Queen Bees get their own way forever then they will get hit by a bus of their own making. Reality bites, people. So, why don’t we focus on figuring out how to make it work for us?

Right after being born in Saudi Arabia, I was taken to the Callen house. Since then, Bryan and I have travelled the world with our Citibank fathers and somehow ended up in LA together. There we’d run into each other at family gatherings and do something that no one else in LA seemed to be doing: we talked about books. Since Bryan was kind of a big deal, Hunter and Bryan hatched a scheme to use his podcast to get on their favorite authors and professors. Out of that evolved Mixed Mental Arts and this tribe. For me, the marriage of entertainment and education is a return to how things used to be before our culture split story into two separate things. It’s exciting to be able to build on the work Katie O’Brien and I did for The Straight-A Conspiracy and expand it out to every area of life. While I play a series of roles in the Mixed Mental Arts community (including Shitty Dutch Uncle and Bryan’s #1 fan) my favorite role is as Toto who pulls back the curtain and let’s the world see that there are no wizards…only men and women who try and puff themselves up to seem important.

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