Dreaming of Evolution

I have come upon a functional synthesis of life that seems to do a good job of resolving the million factors and objections swirling about my mind.

The Darwinian (or more accurately neo-Darwinian) view of life has never fully felt at home in my mind. I accepted it reluctantly but kept one eye open.

I crossed paths with a book titled Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer who compellingly argues against Darwinism. He is not the first to do so, but is part of a collection of biologists and academics that has been growing in size since the 70’s who assess that the Darwinist mechanism cannot be sufficient to generate new body forms.

In a word, Meyer argues that new body plans in evolution (i.e large jumps in function and form) cannot arise gradually through random mutation and natural selection because, amongst other things, the problem space of searching randomness is too incredibly vast. Life is composed of sequences of information stored genetically and epigenetically. If attempting to mutate and searching near infinite space, you’re infinitely more likely to happen upon a mutation that would make the resulting information sequence either completely illegible, nonviable, or deleterious.

To arrive through random searching where life is at today would require unspeakably more time, if at all, than four billion years.

Meyer argues that whenever new information is produced or found, invariably there is a mind at work who created that information. He would say, “random mutations cannot explain leaps of new meaningful information, but which process do we know for certain is capable of generating new information? Minds. Therefore, new body plans and thus information in evolution come from a mind.” His would be an argument for intelligent design, in the literal and not cultural sense of the term. Simply “intelligently designed” with no other connotations as to how or why.

I really like this view. It’s a functional form of logic that works well with my brain. “If we don’t know what causes new information in biology, let’s simplify to what we know to be able to generate new information in general—that would be no other than intelligence itself, as evidenced by humans’ likewise ability to generate new information.” Profoundly and mathematically unsatisfied with natural selection through random mutation, I’m happy to quickly replace my previous dogma with this one.

But I couldn’t just stop there.

Here is my own very nascent synthesis on the how part of intelligent design: how does the intelligent entity interject its code or information into our systems?

I wouldn’t have a hard time believing that the intelligence which drives evolution is our own mind’s intelligent processes. Essentially, we know that intelligence can create new information. And new information is required for major and non-gradual changes in organisms. What we don’t know is the where’s or what about this intelligence.

But using Meyer’s own method of reasoning, where do we empirically know intelligence exists? In biological minds. That’s the only known place in the universe we know intelligence to exist. So if intelligent evolution requires intelligence, and our minds posses intelligence, then why couldn’t our reproductive system coordinate with its direct access to that intelligence, and decide on how to shape the next generation?

The reproductive system literally has a hard line connection to an intelligent agent. Think about it like this: if evolution were to ask you, what could you use more of in your life? How’s your experience so far?—don’t you think your consciousness and experience could offer the asking agent some practical tips and insights “from the field” that could help you (or your progeny) survive better in your environment?

I find it very materially plausible that the reproductive system (sperm, embryonic development, etc.) relies on intelligent computation from its own host to dictate information flow for subsequent generations.

The gods that created humans were…human.

But I’ll go further, even though I’ve probably already gone too far. How does your intelligence provide the computing resources and runtime necessary for intelligent evolution to get the information it needs to carry out its processes? Here’s where a little wandering could help.

Dreams could help facilitate the process of accessing an intelligent runtime for evolution. Dreams seem to be your consciousness and intelligence at play in wildly varying situations. Almost like a diagnostic tool that asks your intelligent agent, “how would your intelligence react when placed into this or that circumstance?” Your dream when played out is then the mapping of that useful information that is subsequently imprinted in your biological seed.

New, meaningful information could certainly be generated through a process like this. Your intelligence lives out a physical life, and is probed every night how it’s faring in its environment. It’s worth noting that the intelligence runtime your dreams have access to is likely very different than, or has no obligation to be similar to, our waking conscious experience of intelligence.

We can have some fun with this: imagine if this process had you imagine how your intelligence—in its purest, inaccessible form—would respond if applied to existing as a single physically dense particle that when exploded would give rise to varying amounts of materials such as iron, mercury, helium, oxygen, and hundreds of other elements. Your intelligence is then tasked with: create intelligence in this playground. You would then begin dreaming of watching your intelligence spend billions of years designing a universe in which intelligence is reproduced with set materials and physical constants.

Our existence could then be such dream of another intelligent agent being probed in a dream how to create conscious entities via other arbitrary parameters. Another dream or dream of a dream could be asking intelligence to arrive at intelligence in a universe where there is 1/3 less iron and the speed of light is 2x faster.

Of course recursion cannot be avoided in theories like this so you start to wonder, how many levels does this dreaming go up?

There we arrive at the great limitation of our own intelligence, that takes us to an answer of one. Just one root node that is dreaming a nested web of dreams, where every dream, from the bottom to the very top, dreams of only one thing: life.


Some resources for the curious reader:

Wikipedia: Alternatives to Darwinian evolution

Apple Books: Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer

Wikipedia: Cambrian explosion

Wikipedia: Modern synthesis

Wikipedia: Mutationism

Wikipedia: Natural genetic engineering

Apple Books: Evolution: A View from the 21st Century

He said ask anything

He was small. I could have stepped on him without the slightest notice. He fluttered past my ear, circling my head a few times before alighting on my moonlit finger.

He said, ask anything.

I abandoned all disbelief and instantly asked for what I wanted most. I said: heal me.

He said why?

This question surprised me. One that it was asked, and two that I didn’t actually have a good answer. Why should I be healed? I stumbled on my words and gave the best answer I could: So I can feel less suffering?

He said, you want me to eliminate suffering?

Well, when you put it like that. I felt silly. Suffering is quite built in huh.

I repeated nonethelessingly: heal me.

He repeated why?

I was certain I knew why. It’s all I wanted. I went to speak again, but nothing came out.

I said, I’m actually not sure. I’m too young to be disease-ridden?

He said ok, when’s a good time for you to have a disease?

I said, hmm. Good question.

He said, if now’s a bad time for you, is 40 years of age good? 50? And if I heal you now, do I have to protect you from all other calamity and disease until you’re ready for them?

Oof. Got me.

All this time, I’ve been asking for the wrong thing. I’ve been after something nonsensical.

He said ask anything.

I don’t know what to ask, I said bewilderingly. I felt bad for wasting his time. So I went on my way. And he on his. Maybe I’ll see him fluttering by again. And I’ll ask more nonsensical questions.

Nearer to the truth

I’m unimpressed by space. This sentiment for me is about five days old. I’ll explain that later. For now, the religion of scientism today celebrated releases of new telescope images of deep space, and everyone is performing the act of losing their minds.

The truth is, space is not that practically interesting, nor ultimately that impressive. What’s not empty are just celestial bodies performing big body physics. What’s most mind blowing about space is its mere vastness and age, but I can entertain myself with how large numbers can grow just the same. Beyond that, space is just large rock and gas formations and a few dark spots, as practically interesting as that mountain range outside your Airbnb.

If empty space and rock matter were interesting, we’d be obsessed with the moon. Alas, it’s just another rock in our backyard.

Don’t get me wrong—space is absolutely interesting. But it’s not relatively interesting. You know what is? Living organisms. The human brain. A single cell in your body. The animal eye.

Of all the things created by the universe, including itself, nothing has so far proven to be more interesting than what we find right here behind the palms of our own hands.

Like Apple and their iPhones, today scientism celebrated a better camera. And it’s sold to us as an inch closer to ultimate truth.

The only place scientism will never have you look, is quite literally at yourself. Has the celebration of space made anyone feel anything but insignificant and nihilistic? This feeling isn’t a positive for humanity.

This isn’t poetry. If you want to study the universe—the simulator, the creator, the it, the that—if you want to know its disposition and preferences and characteristics—if you want to be nearer to the truth,

Look around.

In Random we trust

There is no word that has caused me more tangible angst and metaphysical suffering than “random.” What an absolute disaster of a word. That we let these six letters permeate and dominate our most important scientific principles is a travesty of galactic proportions.

Random is a word scientists use when they really, desperately need a theory to work, but cannot fill in that Great Gap. So they go with random, and receive a standing ovation from the rest of the circlejerk. Of the most important single question in the whole of human existence is that of our origin; Darwin devised an excellent theory, but it relied heavily on the conception of randomness.

If you take out the word random, you get “natural selection by mutations results in the gradual transmutation of one species to another.” Ok, great. But what is the source of these mutations?

“Random.”

But what in the actual fuck does random mean? I daresay it is impossible to prove some process is random by studying its output. And we must certainly not adopt anything we can’t prove, correct?

Consider this simple exercise:

A function or process yields numbers which you cannot make sense of. They have no sensible pattern. 5, 8, 450, 982, 488, 81, 2, 0, 49, 1. Purely random right? Well, let’s take a look at the source code:

printNumbers([5, 8, 450, 982, 488, 81, 2, 0, 49, 1]).

Whoops, not so random after all huh.

Consider another exercise:

A random, dumb evolutionary process executes blindly in pure chaotic fashion, starting from a single cell. After several millions of years of running this totally oblivious program, the process creates—against all odds, quite literally—an organism which understands the process which created it. This organism then goes on to linearly and non-randomly deduce the process which created it was random.

A random process created something which non-randomly understood the process which created it. Mind fucking blown. God damn random, you scary good.

A string of mutations you cannot make sense of is not random. I can think of a few better words to use:

unknowable
unexpected
uncertain
unquantifiable
inexplicable
…mysterious?

But these words are too spooky to be found in a university textbook, right? Can you imagine teaching a course in evolutionary biology at a most presti-ncious college and lecturing:

“Mysterious mutations result in gradual variations which succumb to natural pressure to conform or perish.”

It wouldn’t do. It simply wouldn’t do. Infinite hands would fly up in the air with endless questions. “Professor McRandomface, what do you mean…mysterious?” And the course would reach a deadlock.

But swap out these perfectly befitting words with “random” and no one asks a single question. Ah, yes, random. A perfectly reasonable, perfectly defined term.

And thus are mislead generations of souls to perish in the hells of eternal randomness.

Death to the word random. I will not allow it.

Battle cry

What’s left for us? There is a narrative vacuum for those who seek comfort, but I cannot imagine any future narrative that is anything similar to those of the past.

Past narratives have always concerned themselves with a supernatural being who if not orchestrates then at the very least overlooks. But scientism precludes the supernatural.

How does anyone cope with personal calamity these days? Seriously—what is the framework for suffering offered to earthlings today? What shall I pass on to my child? I have literally nothing in the way of soul comfort. And without a preternatural being, neither do you.

What does the future bring but more science? Certainly science can bring comfort. But strictly of the physical dimension.

In the past decade or two I have watched my holy trinity of narratives dissipate without replacement. The first to evaporate was the belief of our special place in the universe; special, by supernatural choosing. The second to wither away was my sense of nationalism—the folklore of our founding, forefathers, democracy, military exceptionalism. The last to leave me—and this one hurt—was the belief in scientism and progressivism; that our efforts are leading to evermore good.

All have been replaced by a hyperrealistic mindset pervaded largely by economics and capitalism. Unshakably to me all three narratives seem to be economically rooted with candy coated shells.

What does the future have to offer our progeny? What will they find comfort in when life grows difficult? I can’t imagine supernaturalism becoming fashionable again, as ridiculously effective as it is at greasing the angst of life. Nationalism can always have a place, and while it can help someone feel they belong, I can’t imagine it being useful for curing soul dis-ease. Scientism is the remaining option, and though its powers seemingly infinite, offers little emotional recourse save for the brute force chemical route.

The world—or maybe just me—is in need of an old fashioned prophet. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what the rallying cry would be. “Science!!” No, that doesn’t feel right. “God!!” Hmm no, not quite. “America!!” Yikes, no, maybe not.

What then?

Simulation Overflow: The Runtime

The universe is described as having went from a state of nothing to being everything in a trillionth of a second. You know what else has that property? Software programs. Software programs go from a state of absolute nothingness to a state of infinite proliferation every time they are turned on.

And what is software—like us—but an animation of electricity into different patterns and formations?

In thinking about the nature of our existence in the past, I had imagined that our simulation was contained in some external, irreconcilable environment. But come to think of it, if our own universe is the animation of electricity into different formations, perhaps the container is more of the same, and is thus less containing and more fencing. In which case, I have more hope that we may one day make that eternal discovery.

I read somewhere that it is most curious that man views the death he had been under for billions of years prior to birth, as more comely than the impending death which he approaches, which would go on for another innumerable billion years. Are they not the same? You feel after precisely as you did before—that nothingness that is so hard to describe or ponder.

I was laying down the other day, minding my own business, and watching some untopical video about perhaps some supply chain this or logistics that—perhaps some Wendover video—when suddenly I was struck with a thought that ejected me from my world. What if we never discover the nature of all this? See, given all the infinite existential angst we ignore to live a productive life, I had at least found closure in the fact that while we may today be clueless, surely we are progressing towards uncovering this great mystery. If not by 2200, then surely by the year 2,000,000 we shall have it all figured out. But, two million years is pocket change for this brazen universe. It may go on for another fifty billion years without the slightest clue it even exists.

Can it be that it continues to proliferate for another dozen billion years, and whatever consciousness within truly still has no idea why it exists or by what will it does? How tragic. How truly lonely, depraved, and tragic. I am ok today living in complete cluelessness, but only because I hope that our collective efforts are somehow pushing us closer to some thread of hint as to the nature of these string vibrations.

As stated, all signs point to this being a simulation in the absolute literal sense—a meticulous software program that went from not existing, to existing instantaneously as soon as the run script was called. Which begs the question, what is the runtime of our simulation? Is it virtualized, or does it run natively in the host environment? Well, this is much easier to reason about when we consider our own simulations. In which environment does our software run? Software appears to run in a virtual world with no equivalent or transfer between ours, but really, software very much runs natively in our own world. Namely, software is an arrangement of electricity into particular formations—that same electricity which animates us. Humans and software, in this light, are not so different from one another.

Does our simulation have any interest in exposing its nature to us? Well, suppose we were to build some impeccable simulation of our own with beings that can wonder. Would we want to show them our world at some point? I think actually an astounding yes. We love showing off our creations, to those who would listen, like an evil villain loves exposing his intricate plot. We love to show others our world, like getting someone to listen to a song you like or watch a movie you can’t stop thinking about, if for no other reason than for that person to corroborate our sanity. In that same way, if you create a simulation and manufacture a being within whom you fall in love with, in the platonic sense, then it might actually be a very particular—and pressing—goal for you to introduce your world to them.

In the past I thought it unspeakable that we might one day interface with the externals of our simulation, the same way I would find it impossible for a character in a software program to escape the confines of their program and interface natively in ours. But if in fact all simulations, recursively speaking—the one we’re in, the one that simulates us, and the ones we create—if in fact they all exist in the same environment via unique and particular electrical formations, then I find this thought not so unspeakable, but perhaps only a matter of time until the electricity figures out more interoperable formations.

SAGE

I didn't think I'd see this for another decade, let alone in my lifetime. When my symptoms related to gadolinium exposure from my single-dose MRI contrast agent get particularly bad, I go deep down the Google rabbit-hole in search of hope, which I typically try to avoid for this particular case because I'm afraid of what I might read. If you haven't been following the last two posts, I suffer from a condition known as Gadolinium Deposition Disease, which developed immediately after a one-time administration of a gadolinium-based contrast agent for an MRI scan.

The disease was first classified by radiology textbook author and then professor of radiology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Dr. Richard Semelka. The man is brave, because it is difficult even for me to share the state of my condition due to the simple but depressingly lonely fact that no one believes you. No one believes you're unique in suffering from a disease elsewhere unfounded, from something as common as a contrast agent. If it's this hard for me to talk about it, imagine how hard it must be for an academic to go against all current literature and corporate incentives and choose to believe his patients. Not an easy feat for doctors.

The disease and its classifications have stayed relatively on the fringe for the last several years, but this appears to be changing.

Published November 16 2021, The American College of Radiology published an official report on SAGE: Symptoms Associated with Gadolinium Exposure. They're strictly maneuvering to avoid the "disease" classification, a direct nod to Dr. Semelka, and instead publishing a suggested list of symptom reports that are seemingly on the rise.

You can find me in the right-most category below:

Official whitelist symptoms include (which for the record are not ephemeral and I have been experiencing for 16 months now):

  • Headache
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Clouded mentation, "Brain fog"
  • Distal extremity and skin thickening, discoloration, and pain
  • Painful tendons and ligaments
  • Tightness in the hands and feet
  • Peripheral neuropathic pain

The bolded entries above are the ones that most afflict me.

Here's the thing. If it was just pain, I'd be somewhat ok with it. I would feel like my lifespan wouldn't be affected by say joint or muscle pain. What troubles me the most is the numbing of my hands and feet (which I suppose is encapsulated by "peripheral neuropathic pain.")

Do you know that sensation you feel when you awake after having slept on your hand and it's alarmingly numb and abuzz? I feel this wonderful sensation randomly throughout the day in my hands and feet. I'll be typing something and suddenly my hand will start to vibrate with numbness. This is the worst symptom of all, because it scares me as to what the underlying mechanics could signify.

After publishing my last few posts, I have heard from several people who've told me they are due for a scan and hadn't the faintest idea what contrast was—they likely would have just acquiesced to the doctor's orders. They are now armed with the information I wish I had to decide if contrast is worth the risk.

Please do yourself a favor before undergoing any medical procedure or drug: do the research. It's scary what you may read sometimes. But believe me that the alternative is ten million times worse.

I leave you with this description of what GDD is like, via Dr. Semelka's blog:

GDD falls more in line with classic medical knowledge: it is an allergy—and more specifically a T-cell disregulation type of allergy. [It] is essentially like a peanut allergy, with the difference that the micropeanuts of Gd have durable retention in your body. In the case of GDD, it is a million micropeanuts hammered into your skeleton and skin.

Gadolinium

I wrote this post on April 7, 2021, but never published it. I guess I just didn't want the disease to define me. Surprisingly, it also takes a bit of courage to publish something that goes against the official whitelist of negative medical interactions. Most people believe a hospital would never give you a drug or chemical that is known to be toxic. But of course, every drug has its interactions. I publish this now because without public bug reports, nothing gets fixed.


I wonder if on that day when two women were walking past me on a hiking trail and I heard one very clearly describe gadolinium in angst—I wonder if thousands of people had talked about gadolinium before, but I hadn’t been listening. Or if I had just once again won the lottery. This time, in proper entropic fashion. My last two rolls of the dice had also won me the lottery, but not in the way you would expect. The anti-lottery.

Yeah, gadolinium has been very interesting to me lately. I hear the word everywhere. I was listening to a popular Spotify playlist and in one of the songs, I could swear she’s singing it: gadaaaliniuummm. But my wife pointed out it’s just spanish.

Gadolinium is a heavy metal in the lanthanide group in the periodic table of elements, along with neighboring rare-earth metals scandium, neodymium, terbium, and other metals you've never ever heard of. It’s toxic to the human body. You couldn’t find it if you tried, and generally don't need to worry about encountering it. Unless, that is, you happen to be dabbling with body imaging technologies. MRIs in particular.

The medical complex is expert at euphemisms. They call it “dye.” When you perform a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) scan to see what may be going on in your body, they need the result to be colored or "contrasted." They need something to seep through your body and permeate your skin, muscles, and veins, to draw contrast to the background. Wonderful terms, these dyes and contrasts. When really, it’s just a poisonous heavy metal.

I was incredulous when, laying down beneath the MRI scanner, almost naked save a medical gown, the technician approaches my side with a needle and pouch, and tells me to extend my arm out. I thought, wonderful, a hospital with a sense of humor! Ha—good one nurse. Surely there is no IV required for an MRI!? But she wasn’t laughing.

Oh, you’re serious aren’t you? Well then, what on earth is this?

It’s a contrast dye that illuminates the results of your scan.

O..oh. Um. Is this necessary? I wasn’t prepared for this.

Yes, the doctor ordered it. They don’t like to do MRIs without it.

Wha..uh. What are the risks?

1-2% of people get an allergic reaction, but nothing serious. Just drink a lot of water for the next few days to cleanse it out of your system.

The decision I made next would be the single most consequential decision of my life.

Is that ok? If it makes you uncomfortable we can call the doctor.

Na, doc’s a busy guy. Let’s do it. Those odds don’t affect me. I’m not a "1-2%” type person, know what I mean?


You know, when you think allergic reaction, you don’t quite think one long permanent reaction. You think of something that causes trouble momentarily, but dissipates eventually. Your immune system attacks a target it deems malicious, and, in most cases, defeats the antagonist. But what if the antagonist is un-extinguishable? What if you couldn’t simply kill the intruder, because they aren’t living in the first place? What if your immune system targets something as heavy as…metal?

What you have there, my friends, is a lost cause. What you have there is…

🌈Gadolinium Deposition Disease 🌈

Gadolinium is the name of a toxic heavy metal. Deposition is the depositing and permeation of this metal throughout your body. Disease means the host should get comfy with its new friend.

What are the perks of this disease you ask? Imagine feeling radioactive, but without the promise of quantum consciousness. Your skin stings, zaps, and glows with the cold feeling of metal vibrating and slithering through your veins and skin from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep. When in the day it makes its way into your brain, you get what can best be described as brain fog. I like to call it dizziness. You just get dizzy. And all you can do is wait for it to pass. Do you like bone pain? There’s a lot of bone pain with GDD. And a dizzying variety of other symptoms.

My friends and family ask, when I haven’t seen them in a while—how are you doing? Feeling better? Lol. is a good word for my reaction. This is where it helps to remember the “disease” classification. This isn’t temporary.

I’ll be celebrating my sixth month with GDD in a few days. The first three months I suffered emotional catastrophe the magnitude of which I had never experienced before. Before, I was healthy. Or, health wasn’t really something I thought about. But now I’ve had to come to terms with: I have a disease. It’s difficult. I remember crying early on, I’m not ready to have a disease. I’m not ready.

But there are coping mechanisms. As the months begin to pass, what happens is the person who was disease-free begins to fade. The death of my former self. And it pains like the real thing. But as with death, acceptance is inevitable. You stop mourning the loss of your past self because you forget who you were in the first place. In the first few months, I wept for my wife to show me memories of how I had been just two months prior. I could not remember who I was. Was I perfectly happy before all this happened? My wife assured me that she still recognizes me as the same person I’ve ever been, and that “perfectly happy” would not be her first two words of choice. Somehow this is reassuring.

The world of GDD is dark, complex, and, unfortunately, nascent. It’s a woefully experimental field. There is no known cure. And Big Gadolinium will do what they can to undermine the legitimacy and severity of the disease. It’s quite shocking to anyone in the medical community that gadolinium contrast agents would be toxic. “We give it out like candy,” a doctor friend told me. “No way it’s toxic.” But he’s come to learn, as I have, just how perilous this field is.

I suppose I can’t blame pharma-capatalists at their slow response towards complaint of dis-ease from their products. I’ll be honest and say that sometimes even I don’t believe my own users when they tell me of bugs in my product. It takes a large swarm of people experiencing the same issue before I'll finally recognize it as real, and prioritize it. So I guess today I am part of the swarm of users reporting bugs in some pharma company’s product. And they’re at the point of hmm..not sure if I believe you. But more and more doctors are speaking out after recognizing the undeniable harm this long-accepted practice is causing.

One of the world’s foremost experts on radiology and MRIs, Dr. Richard Semelka, having authored numerous papers and university textbooks on radiology, is in fact the author of the 2015 paper first describing Gadolinium Deposition Disease. In a blog he keeps, he talks about the risks and criticisms he’s had to face to speak out against something as widely accepted as gadolinium-based contrast agents. His treatment is a process known as chelation, which involves chemicals that are injected into your body that scour it for heavy metals, which are then redirected to the kidney for excretion via the urinary tract. But there are risks. The treatment is likely what you would call “beta”—some may have bug-free recoveries, others may not. The factors are not all known.


I’ve won the anti-lottery twice so far. First, for a medical procedure performed in 2019 that still causes me some discomfort to this day. And second for the MRI in 2020 to check on that procedure. The disease arising from the latter has quadrupled my previous discomfort and angst.

But, life is handsome. We have the chance to roll the dice once more. Isn’t that something? I can perform chelation treatment for a good chance at recovery, but with a 1-2% chance of making my situation even worse.

Surely you can’t win the anti-lottery three times in a row?

Hold my beer.


January 2022 Update

At the time of writing this post, I was still heavily contemplating chelation therapy. Ultimately, I decided against it. To me, it's like chemical surgery. And I will avoid surgeries like the plague itself. Chelation could make things better, but it could also make things worse. And as uncomfortable as this disease is today, it can definitely be worse. There are people who have had eight or more contrast injections. I just had one. For them, the disease is crippling. People have lost their jobs and relationships. For me, it's painful and uncomfortable. But I can still walk. I can still type. I can still do just about anything. I just can't do it as comfortably as I did before. This I can accept. But I cannot accept walking into another medical setting, getting another medical injection, and walking out worse than I came in. I simply won't take that risk. So I've decided to live with it.

For a more recent recount of my experience, read 2021.

2021

I recently added the ability to view all posts of an author on Listed, having found no such way to do so with the current iteration. In previewing this page on my blog, I began reading some of my older entries from 2017, 2018, and 2019. It had been just the right amount of time for them to read like new to me. I look back at that person in wistful reminiscence—my struggles seem almost romantic from here. But I knew it was hard then too.

  • 2017 was an era of exploring what it takes to build a successful business.
  • 2018 was getting into some groove, but struggling with productivity, clarity, and growth.
  • 2019 is closer to the modern era, which was defined by the painful, regrettable, elective surgery for a topical cyst in April 2019. This would turn out to be the most consequential event of my life.
  • 2020 had only a few scattered stories, none of which have the diary-like qualities of previous years.
  • And 2021 is me being upset about the state of the world, which is an unusual departure from the style of the last few years, in which I had explicitly avoided current events.

In all, the surgery from 2019—almost three years ago—still causes me pain to this day. But this isn’t the worst of it. In October of 2020, unsatisfied with the healing progress, I decided to get an MRI to try to see if there may be something going on under the hood. During the MRI, the technicians—following doctor’s orders, and largely medical protocol—injected a “contrast agent” into my veins as part of the MRI scan, to help get a clearer picture.

The surreptitious injection turned out to be a toxic heavy metal known as gadolinium, and this metal is retained in your skull, bones, and blood for the rest of your life, even from just a single dose. For most, it doesn’t cause any problems. But for some unlucky few, a devastating disease can develop where a permanent immune response is mounted to the permanent presence of gadolinium in your body, causing a heap of painful and unpleasant symptoms every. single. day. It’s a horrible dream that I haven’t been able to wake up from.

The consequence of that injection is the longest, most painful story of my life, but is not the point of this post.

I miss the simplicity of my 2018 conundrums. Just worrying about how to be productive. How to organize my days. Whether to write every day in the morning or in the afternoon. How to improve or grow a product.

Today I’m adulting pretty seamlessly and have no such problems.

I don’t struggle with productivity. I just get it done.

I don’t struggle with personal or professional growth. It’s mostly a straight shot from here.

I don’t struggle with existential angst. I’m comfortable with the uncertainty.

I don’t struggle with boredom. The days are short.

I don’t struggle with my wants, desires, fears, hopes, or goals. It’s all pretty well internalized.

I struggle with pain. Physical, bodily, internal and external pain. The feeling that my body is deteriorating, or not functioning properly. The angst of not knowing what impact this relatively unknown and not widely accepted disease will have on my life expectancy or quality.

The sadness of not knowing to what age I will see my daughter grow.

I was talking to my friends the other night over a game of Rocket League about my condition, wondering how different my life would be if I hadn’t underwent those traumatic experiences. Wondering what I’d be doing that very night if I were "normal" and not dealing with a symphony of physical symptoms and excruciations on a daily basis.

Well, you’d probably be doing exactly what you’re doing now, was the consensus. And they were probably right.

I said I felt unlucky. That if only I avoided this one super rare incident, I’d be living a totally healthy life now, and my problems would just be topical spiritual conundrums circa 2017 and 2018. I could have just coasted until I was 60, developed an old-person’s disease, and died the “normal” way.

My friend, who has worked in emergency rooms and hospitals and has seen all the horrid ways people die, remarked that it’s quite a misconception that people think they will live healthy until 60, then suddenly develop a disease and die. Nope, he said—it’s not sudden. It rarely happens like that. You’re never too young to get a head start. We’re all constantly just…dying.

And these are the kind of thoughts I entertain myself with today.

In looking back at my posts, I saw there were large 6-month gaps of no writings, which could have helped me identify who I was then and what I was struggling with, to help me understand today how different I am from the person I was then—with the hope that I am still perhaps who I’ve always been. So I decided to write this checkpoint.

2021 was me coming to terms with the uncertainty of an “earlier than expected” death.

2022 is at least me writing about it.

A thousand signs

Outside the place where I lived many years ago in the bustling city was a one-way, dimly-lit side street, branching from the busy road and into the quiet neighborhood. The parking on the street was unpermitted and unassigned, but when I’d walk my dog at night, I’d see the same cars nestling in their usual spot. One of the cars was a small pickup truck with a large caged wagon attached for collecting metals and scraps.

The neighborhood was new and old. Of the old was really old; the red-brick building occupying the south side of the street must have been at least 75 years old. On the north side of the street was an abandoned lot with junked cars. One day, with no warning or announcement, a sign spontaneously appeared on both sides of the street. Henceforth, the sign announced, this was to be permitted parking. You must acquire a permit for your vehicle, and display the permit at all times, lest you risk citation or tow.

I had seen the guy to whom the pick up truck belonged. He was in his 60s, but he was active and fit; almost buff. If we caught eyes while walking my dog, he would say hello, and I’d smile politely and say hey. He used to have a dog, he told me, until he had to give her up because bodily pain and back problems overtook his ability to care for her properly.

I’m no permitting expert, but I was somewhat certain that the city would give him a hard time for his business-sized pick up truck. I wondered where on earth he would park the thing if he couldn’t acquire a permit.

But he had found a different solution to the problem.

As I was walking my dog the next day on the north side of the street, I looked into the abandoned car lot and noticed something peculiar: plopped askew on the ground was a sign, similar to the one I saw the day before. “Permit Parking” it announced. I looked across the street by the big red building, and sure enough, no longer was there the sign there just yesterday. Someone had dug it up and thrown it across the street.

Ha. So now what? If there is no sign to convey that parking requires a permit, how enforceable can it really be? Yet I thought surely whoever dug up the sign was waging a losing battle. There’s no way you can turn permitted parking into a free for all by just digging up the sign and tossing it out. Right?

Nothing really changed over the next few days. Everyone assumed their usual opportunistic spot. Probably most inhabitants hadn’t noticed the sign in the first place to notice it was now gone. But then, just like it had before, the intruding pole miraculously reappeared. Nope—the sign said—this is definitely permit parking.

The very next day the sign was missing again. Not in the abandoned car lot this time. It had probably been taken to some abandoned pier, blindfolded when it was shot in the back and dumped in the ocean. The same cars, including the now increasingly smug pick up truck, continued to park, unpermitted. I thought surely this couldn’t go on much longer. Eventually, the rules must be followed. This war cannot be won.

A few days later the sign was reinstated, this time with bolts to the ground. And the very next day—nay, that same night—the sign had once again vanished without a trace.

This must have happened a few more times, until one side finally gave in and accepted defeat.

This whole saga was years ago. I drove by some months ago to the same street, and there it was, magnificent as ever: the raggedy old pick up truck with its overflowing haul of junk appliances. And, no sign. You, me, anyone could park there.

I can never really say for certain whether the old man was the sign killer. I just figured he had the most to lose by its presence. But I respected his will for survival. And for saying fuck you, I live here, and I’ve lived here far before this sign and its under-qualified originators ever wished for its existence.

So it seems, if ever a permit is required of you to perform an unalienable action, a viable course of action is to simply say fuck you. The collective will is immeasurably, unstoppably more powerful than the will of those maliciously designing and edging their way past your most uninfringeable boundaries. A thousand signs have been placed before you.

I know what the old man would do.

The great external

One thing religion does well is externalize blame. Why are you poor/sick/alone? Because god deemed it so. Even more, he may have a special plan for you. This framework of externalizing cause and effect to a third party seems an important dependency of the human process, given its relentless survival against all odds and reason. It is a core human process, because we understand our powerlessness to change most things beyond our diet and morning routine.

If it takes believing for god to exist and manifest, then today god flickers dimly at 35% opacity. For most scientifically minded individuals, there is no god. And there certainly isn’t a reason driving events. Random is a word that has by now beaten most of us into submission. But externalize we must, so if not god, who? Us.

In science, we are god. We did not create the playground, but we play freely within. If you take god out of religion and salt-bae in a dash of science, you end up with a framework which finds less galactic ways to externalize blame.

Today there is a prominent idealogical system, which in the future might very easily be classified as a religion, whose main feature is externalizing blame. The reason you are poor/sick/alone is not because nature is cruel, the world chaotic, and resourcefulness unevenly distributed, but because there are human and systematic forces working to suppress your up-and-comance. The main feature of this idealogical system is that almost any malady can certainly be traced back to an aboriginal or ongoing wrong (a defining feature of most religions).

It may not be the truth, but it certainly keeps the story going. My incredulity at the audacity and mind-bending rational gymnastics this framework takes is likely akin to an observer a couple thousand years ago lamenting traditional Abrahamic religions as pure fairy dust. Sure, you’d have been right, but it wouldn’t have mattered too much.

The simulation ultimately doesn’t like you to think you’re just a flimsy dispensable meat bag swimming in a bloody lagoon. It finds ways to project meaning, and most importantly, causation.

Science client

I wrote a post last week about a concept of freedom which I later deleted. It was too obvious, direct, basic, simple, and I felt dirty afterwards. I like participating in current political trends sometimes with friends, but definitely try to avoid it on the internet. A friend once told me that if you find yourself arguing the same national talking points as everyone else, you’re too plugged in. Someone living their own life in their own world would hardly have any clue what the current trendy debates are. So I’ll aspire to this for myself.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to shut out current events in recent months and years because it’s no longer abstract the way current events used to be. It used to be that what you saw on the news was far removed from what would actually play out in your life. Today, that gap appears to have all but disappeared. The more it gets closer to me, my home, and my family, the more incited I become to lash out and say something, and just be another annoying voice in the sea of endless internet voices. I’ll try my hands at another approach here that will hopefully make me feel not so dirty afterwards.

In cryptocurrency, there are largely two types of wallet software: there are wallets that download the entire blockchain to your computer (many, many gigabytes), and verify the integrity of every transaction manually and ensure the blockchain is, well, the chain it’s purported to be. Let’s call this a trustless wallet. And there is another type of wallet software that connects to a central third-party that has already downloaded the entire blockchain on their server, and instead conveys to you, “listen, I’ve downloaded this whole blockchain so you don’t have to, and trust me, everything looks good. Here’s your balance.” Let’s call this a trust-me wallet.

Now, if you want to be a fundamentalist and act in the crypto network the way the gods intended—fully trustless and decentralized—you would download a trustless wallet and thus wait like three days for the entire blockchain to be downloaded onto your computer. But after that initial cost, you now run on the network the way it was intended—not trusting anyone but the source of truth itself: the chain.

If you don’t have the time or space for that, and instead want a convenient solution in which you are ok delegating trust to another central, third-party source (which happens to be most people), then you’re likely to end up using a trust-me wallet. This is fine and functional, but is not the “true” use of cryptocurrency, and if 100% of people used a trust-me wallet, cryptocurrency would cease to exist.

The beauty of science, as with the beauty of cryptocurrency, is that it was designed to be trustless and completely decentralized. Nothing “counts” as science unless it’s confirmed (replicated) by all the nodes, just like a transaction in the cryptosphere doesn’t count unless it's mass-confirmed.

In today’s politicized science environment, most casual people run trust-me science clients which regurgitate science emanating from a central source. This is fine, so long as not 100% of people are running this software. You need unreasonable fundamentalists who play the game the way it was meant to be played: lacking central authority (decentralized) and replicable. Science at today’s scale is largely impossible to replicate by individual nodes like you or me. So in most cases we’re forced to pick a central authority and take their word for it.

This isn’t to say science emanating from a central authority cannot be true. It’s only to say that science emanating from a central authority is centralized, third-party science. That there exist fundamentalists in the cryptocurrency ecosystem who say, I reject all trust-me clients and want to run my own node to ensure the long-term integrity of the system, as unreasonable as it may be, is how the integrity of the system is preserved. Without them, these systems could not exist.

The Metaverse

Facebook has recently market-rebranded as a “metaverse” company. Ostensibly because they are a VR company, and there is supposed to be an implicit connection between VR and the metaverse. But the metaverse is not waiting to be built.

It’s already here.

Perhaps influenced by Ready Player One, there is this idea that the metaverse must be in 3D, and can only be experienced in high-fidelity VR. This is nonsense. The metaverse is more like a Pokédex than it is the actual fictional universe that Pokémon inhabit. The metaverse is the rolodex of characters and objects whose ownership is indisputable and infrangible.

Specifically, NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain is the world’s largest decentralized trading game, and is precisely the metaverse that has long been prophesied. It needs nothing more to be so. Does a fictional universe really need 3D renders to be experienced? Can you not read mere words on a page and be excessively captivated by a book? So it is that the JPEGs on the Ethereum blockchain are a universe of characters and items, whose ownership is indisputable, whose objects are hotly desired, and whose characters enthrall you with their personality, backstory, and potential.

This is the metaverse. It’s already here. And its lack of central authority is more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.

No fucking Facebook account required.

There is no team

I’ve come to learn there is no such thing as a “team”. Only very productive individuals. You can’t take a group of average individuals, make a team out of them, and produce above-average results. In fact work quality and efficiency decrease with team size. The most productive unit is the individual.

This is a sort of anticlimactic realization for me. Back when I worked on Standard Notes solo, I had always been mystified by how large teams operate and produce. How did companies like Apple, with team sizes of hundreds and thousands, coordinate to ship frequently and speedily on a consistent basis? From the way I see it now, my answer would be: they hire great individuals. And the rest is automatic. I had a friend who worked at Apple who had likewise been previously mystified by their magic. After he saw what the insides looked like, he said, psht, I could start a company like Apple. He was unimpressed.

There was no magic. There was just a group of individuals working under the same roof.

This also removes mystification from the hiring process: there is no surprise result when hiring and integrating an individual in a team. You will get from that individual exactly their productive power and nothing more. I daresay you also can’t coach, manage, or train someone to be more productive than they innately are or are capable of.

So, to build a great team, hire great individuals. It sounds obvious, but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s kind of not. When you’re on the ground-level not pontificating from a birds-eye view, it’s easy to think a B-player integrated into an A-team still makes for a great result. It won’t. It brings down the group average.

There is no magic. There is no team. There are only really productive individuals. A great team spontaneously forms when a group of really productive individuals collaborate. The magic is in the collective human processing power.

Simulation Overflow: Intervention

In previous posts on simulation theory, I had written with full certainty that our simulation was based on non-interventionist principles. That once a simulation was created, the simulator would not dare interfere in its rote operation as not to taint its outcomes, so that the simulator can observe what interesting results become of each unique fork of a simulation. I had also surmised that the purpose of a simulator creating simulations is for its own intellectual amusement.

I want to make clear that my musings with simulation theory are not just a pastime, but unfortunately what I actually base my spiritual—or lack of spiritual—beliefs on. So it’s quite important that I ascertain I am working with the most reasonable model possible.

An unshakeable thought, however, has recently struck me.

A few months ago I planted a row of several dozen arborvitaes in my backyard, in an attempt to create a privacy barrier between my neighbors and I. The summer here has thus far been dry and rainless, so it was imperative that I gave each plant at least a couple gallons of water 4–5 times a week. For the first few weeks, I was watering the plants by hand. My garden hose flow rate was about a gallon every 20 seconds, so I’d spend about a minute hovering over each plant with the hose until it got its daily dose. Needless to say this was an excruciatingly boring process that sucked me out of half an hour each day.

I decided automation would be key if these plants were to have any chance of survival. So I set up a simple drip irrigation system. You have a long black flexible poly tube that you run through the plants in a horizontal S pattern. Where the tube meets the root of each plant, you pierce a little hole. You connect the tube to your faucet, turn on the water, and droplets of water begin dripping from the holes onto each plant. Slowly but surely, each plant gets its fill.

Initially I had the tube running on the ground level, zig-zagging through each plant in the aforementioned horizontal S formation. On one plant the tube would meet the roots from the front, and the adjacent plant would meet the tube from the back. I had this system running for about a week before noticing the results were suboptimal: only one half of each plant’s root area would be watered. So on some plants only the front half of the soil would be moist, and on other plants, the back half.

I decided to refactor the setup so that instead of zig-zagging on the ground, the poly tube would instead zig-zag through the center of each plant, elevated about 1 foot off the ground. The redesign process was extremely painstaking, but it was the right thing to do. The end result was that each hole in the tube met the plant directly at its center. When the water flowed, drips would begin splatting and hitting the branches and landing in random locations, but overall the distribution pattern meant that I now saw a perfect ring of moistness around the roots of each plant: both halves, front and back, got an equal amount of water. Problem solved.

You see, I had engineered a solution, and when it wasn’t working as expected, I fixed it. I changed things up. I knew what the desired outcome was and found a solution that was more directed towards that outcome.

So why was it with such certainty that I had ascertained in my previous posts that the simulator-thing was non-interventionist, when it could be equally likely that the thing is an engineer? In fact if the universe is fractal and likes to repeat itself at every scale, we are more likely similar to the thing than dissimilar. What does an engineer do when a design isn’t working as expected? The engineer fixes. The engineer engineers.

Does our simulator-overlord fork the universe repository every time it wants to make a change, or does it interject fixes on the master branch? I had previously been cocksure that the thing dare not intervene in a simulation past its initial creation, akin to the watchmaker theory. But if the thing were an engineer, I daresay it probably can’t help itself.

What I like about an interventionist simulation model is that it allows for spirituality, whereas previously I had been at the mercy of a cold and barren scientific interpretation of the universe that made me feel small, helpless, and at the mercy of random unfoldings which you’d be a fool to assign any sentimental value to. While more acceptable in a scholarly scientific setting, I am a human and live my life 99% outside the realm of scientific academia. Science has been absolutely useless to me, if not a harbinger of despair and isolation and a vacuum of meaninglessness.

So fuck it, the simulator intervenes. It grants my wishes when I ask for them. The events that transpire in my life have meaning. My life has purpose.

It seems I’ve arrived at…God…with extra steps.

Science™

Some thoughts on science that deeply conflict me:

  • Science largely does not exist at the scale it does today without capital. Science is funded. There is always a money trail. Take away the capital, and the only science being conducted is in high school chemistry classes.
  • Medicinal science is largely built on the homicidal tenet of when “the benefit outweighs the risk.” The risk is presented (but most times not) to you as a percentage: 1% of people who take this drug may experience a serious, non-reversible reaction. When you are afflicted with a condition, do you take the drug, in spite of the risk? The answer is: this frame has not yet been rendered.
  • No single process inside or outside of this universe knows what is going to happen next. Predictions may be made, some with high statistical ground, but they remain predictions. The only way to figure out what the next frame looks like, or next ten frames will look like, is to render them, in order. (This concept is known as computational irreducibility, and pervades a large part of our universe.)
  • Science is two things to two different camps of people: to people who have never experienced adverse reactions to pharmaceutical products or procedures, science is wondrous, and must be pushed forward so long as the benefit to risk ratio is at least 51/49. To the people whom the tail end of pharmaceutical commercials apply to (“talk to your doctor if you experience…”), health science is a con based on manipulating/marketing people to believe that their for-profit pill or procedure can save their life.
  • Science in most cases must be brute-forced to make progress. Progress is made on behalf of the human whole, but often at the expense of individuals. To develop a pill that can save the life of 10,000, you necessarily have to test it on 100 people, 10 of whom will probably die or develop irreversible diseases. To develop a self-driving car technology, some folks are going to have to get run over.
  • There is inhumane non-compassion felt by those largely on a certain side of the political spectrum that do the bidding of pharmaceutical for-profit companies masquerading as Science™. These people hold that for-profit products developed hastily which lead to some number of humans developing cruel conditions must continue to roll out, because the benefit outweighs the risk, while simultaneously holding that even a single life’s suffering is too much.
  • Science is largely at odds with the doctrine of individual liberty. You cannot simultaneously be pro-science and pro-liberty. Science is necessarily authoritarian, or at least very persuasive. You can’t choose what’s in your water, food, and medicine, and any feeling of control is largely an illusion.
  • There is likely no case in any societal setup where you matter above the average health of the population. You are expendable, because this is what it takes to organize large populations. Case in point: vaccine rollouts don’t stop when one or more people experience an adverse reaction. The show must go on. Likewise, most pharmaceutical products are not removed from market when participants experience fatal reactions. Instead, another comma is simply added to the list of reactions.
  • Medicinal products and procedures largely thrive in environments of information asymmetry: you know infinitely less about what is being sold to you than the creators of the product. If you truly knew what a procedure or product did to your body, you probably wouldn’t take it. So euphemisms are developed to make taking out your credit card easier. Case in point: when you get an MRI, they often inject you with a serum meant to help make the scan images clearer. When you ask the technicians what the product is, they give it really cutesy names like “dye” or “contrast”, and tell you that just drinking a lot of water over the next few days will be sufficient to flush it from your system. The truth? Contrasts are injections of the toxic heavy metal Gadolinium in your body. This gadolinium is retained for the rest of your life in your skull, bones, and bloodstream, even from just 1 administration. Some patients experience permanent adverse reactions to the ever-presence of this heavy metal in their body.
  • I believe there is no turning back at this point. Science is necessarily cruel, but it can likely be said that when you zoom out and inspect the stats on a wide enough timespan, the number of lives saved is greater than the number of deaths caused. On the scale of our own individual lives however, science can fuck you up, no matter how careful you are. And what does a world without science really look like anyway? It may very well be that sciencing is the primary “purpose” of this simulation.
  • Science is cruel, because ultimately aging, disease, maladaptive mutations, and death all fall in the realm of science, before we were ever present to write any of it down. This can’t be changed, but there is one thing that can be: the feigning of compassion by those who champion science relentlessly while simultaneously holding that even one life’s suffering is too much. Science and compassion cannot be on the same side of any spectrum. To those who have been on the bloody edge of science’s sword, there is nothing more painful than seeing it championed as an infallible pro-human enterprise, when in most cases it is nothing more than a profit maximizing scheme. So long as the profit is greater than the threshold of discernible unrest and distrust, the show goes on. The existence of for-profit pharmaceutical companies is not an evil. The emergent evil is the conflation of privately funded science as Science proper, and the championing of this for-profit science by the majority-share impressionables who repeat corporate talking points, euphemisms, and studies as gospel, and decry anyone who dare explore any other interpretation as blasphemous and dangerous. The real danger is feigned compassion.