Dr_seven t1_jadny3h wrote

>“Brains also have an amazing capacity to store information, estimated at 2,500TB,” Hartung added. “We’re reaching the physical limits of silicon computers because we cannot pack more transistors into a tiny chip. But the brain is wired completely differently. It has about 100bn neurons linked through over 10^15 connection points. It’s an enormous power difference compared to our current technology.”

This part in particular made me squint a little bit.

For starters, we don't fully grasp how memory works in the brain, but we know it isn't like mechanical/electrical memory, with physical bits that flip. It seems to be tied to the combinations of neurons that fire, of which there are essentially infinite permutations, leading to the sky-high calculations of how much "data" the brain can hold....but it doesn't hold data like that, at least not for most humans.

The complexity of this renders it impractical to easily model on anything less than the largest supercomputers, and even then, we aren't actually modeling brain activity in the sense that we know why Pattern X leads to "recalling what that stroganoff tasted like on April 7, 2004".

The reason this is important is because it means that, while we may be able to stimulate neurons in a lab in a way that makes them useful for data storage, it isn't necessarily the same way that human brains store information- indeed, human memory would be a horrible baseline for a computer, considering the brain's preference towards confabulation of details at the time of recall that are not consistent with the reality. Most people's memories of most things are inaccurate, but close enough to work out alright. That's the exact sort of thing you don't want from a computer's memory.

This is compelling stuff, but we have a long way to go before we even understand what we are dealing with in practical terms.


Dr_seven t1_iwvvn4z wrote

>But in light of our real challenges ALL those "internal purposes" are secondary or even tertiary. Who gives AF if a state 'has done its job just fine' when harvests are failing due to a forever-unhospitable nature.

I agree completely.

>Democracy might be good or not so good at tackling its own aspirations. But while it does, it is using up attention, trust, time, and resources.

I think one problem might be that the "democracy" we have today is a pretty limited and inflexible version of it. Certainly, the liberal capitalist model seems to have failed.

>And my implicit/suggested value (collectively binding decision structures should solve the most important collective challenges) is "external" to all that; it evaluates the political system not by its own self assessment, but by its objective failure - not having changed the apocalyptic direction of society. > >By that criterion, (also) the democratic ideology is failing us miserably. And that made me say "not functioning properly".

That makes sense.

Ignoring the issue of implementation (naturally), what is it that forms the base failure of our systems? Is it lack of awareness of material reality, i.e. ecology, physics, and so on? Is it the manipulating media and social superstructures that restrict imagination and shunt thought into preexisting lanes of inquiry? Some mix of both?

It's entirely possible that humans, as we are, just aren't wired for making decisions at this scale and complexity. But something about that feels wrong, given how fantastic the diversity of human social adaptations has historically been. We can shape a social reality to produce almost any result- the only question is if that can be done in a way that helps us end up in the best possible place during this ongoing crisis.


Dr_seven t1_iwuyy79 wrote

>So you would generalize it: No type of (at least all PAST versions of) governance has ever "functioned properly"?

I would counter, of course they've functioned properly. States don't exist for the purpose of maximally benefitting their citizens. They exist to consolidate and manage power over a given area, it's resources, and it's people. Some states are more democratic, others less so, but in all cases, the "point" isn't long-term benefits or even necessarily anything for the common people at all. The decisions that matter within complex societies are largely made autonomously by the workings of policy and institutions, and when not sorted that way, they are made by a small number of people with disproportionate ability to exercise power, whether because they hold elected office or due to corruption, autarky, etc. I like Schmachtenberger's term "hyperactors" as a catch-all name for these people.

From the perspective of states, they have done their job just fine. It's just that no state that exists today has ever been formed legitimately intended to benefit it's citizens as much as possible in the long run accounting for externalities as much as possible. Some may insist otherwise in their national mythos, but I would hope no reasonable person takes that seriously.

The national interest supersedes the global and the human interest, by default. That's the ultimate puzzle here- the short-term favors making actions to benefit ones own group that have negative consequences for every group over a longer stretch of time. It's a collective marshmallow test, more or less.

To fix this, we need new structures, based on entirely different modes of social contract and understandings of power relations- something perhaps closer to how certain pre-Columbian societies worked may be a good place for inspiration. I don't know if we will succeed, but that doesn't really change the terms of the discussion, I think.


Dr_seven t1_iwogwar wrote

The real danger in the US is the ones FERC doesn't supervise. I'll actually politely contest your statement that most dams are federally regulated- most dams that are smaller are regulated at the state level (or at least, in my state they all are regulated that way) and those small ones are very common.

Of course, the small dams are in horrid shape and most haven't been adequately maintained in many years. They're not as catastrophic but we are still talking inundating thousands or tens of thousands of people sometimes depending on the location.

State agencies are much worse equipped to supervise such a vast field of infrastructure and so many don't, according to the correspondence and conversation I had with some engineers at my state's dam regulator. Those guys looked shell shocked and gave me like 12 hours of presentations and materials for free, saying I was the only owners representative in years to take any real interest in the dam on our property. Statewide. As in, they could not even reach live humans connected to any deeds or paperwork for most of their dams, and much of the rest was them getting stonewalled.

Silent and in the background, but terrifying.


Dr_seven t1_ivb0l3x wrote

I think it's a bit more nuanced than that- for example, the studies showing benefits for kids who socially transition only, with no medication, etc. If it was purely a "physical" situation, that wouldn't make a difference.

Speaking for myself, my personal case is certainly more physical than mental- I generally couldn't give a toss what people label me as in public, and don't generally need or request much in the way of validation. However, I'm in the minority, for a lot of folks it makes a real positive impact. I have ASD, though, so this pattern runs throughout most of my life in general, making it hard to compare my experience to the hypothetical average. I'm very rarely subject to any emotional impact from anything people outside my close circles do or say- neurotypical people in general are the opposite, often quite exquisitely attuned to others.

If I had to speculate, it would be that it's both a physical issue (tied to certain physical signs of various hormone shifts in utero) as well as a complex of mental symptoms that depends on environment, family upbringing, and broader culture. I've met some people who are more like me- it's about the physical symptoms and access to medication makes the pain recede. But, there are plenty of people for whom social validation is clearly a major component. This may simply correlate with measures of self-security or other vagaries of personality.

Edit: there's also the somewhat interesting situations wherein men receiving certain treatments for their prostate cancer develop gender dysphoria even though they are being treated as men still. Between social forces and physical factors, it seems that the physical factors win out, but that doesn't make them unimportant, just secondary.