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You're Not Stupid. You're Human.


We often forget that we're human.


It seems like a silly thing to forget, but it's true.


How does this happen?


Well, it's a very simple process.... in our minds, we have:

  • A group of ideas that we associate with 'people' or 'humans' or 'humanity', and

  • A totally different group of ideas that we associate with our 'self' or 'me' or 'mine'


Ideas we have about humans are things like:

  • People have 10 fingers

  • People like sweets

  • Humans are a product of evolution

  • People are dumb

  • Humanity is lost

  • People can be bad

Ideas in our minds about ourselves are:

  • I'm smart

  • I'm successful

  • People like me

  • I'm funny

  • My car is cool

  • I'm good at my job

  • I deserve my stuff

  • I'm a good person

  • I'm fair and honest

  • I would never do something like that

We keep both of these lists in our head, yet never take the time to compare or reconcile the differences.


If we did, we'd discover the lists are almost identical because humans are all almost identical. Every human that's lived in the last 50,000 years ... about 107 billion people... has almost identical DNA.


To be more specific, our bodies have 3 billion genetic building blocks, or base pairs, that make us who we are. Of those 3 billion base pairs, only a tiny amount are unique to us, making us about 99.9 percent genetically similar to the next human.


So, while we keep the idea of our selves and others separate, and while there are some real differences, fundamentally the differences are minimal.


That's why:

  • Shoes have the same basic design

  • Faces have the same overall structure

  • Ladders exist

  • Phone numbers are formatted XXX-XXX-XXXX instead of XXXXXXXXXX

  • Everyone sees with their eyes and smells with their nose, instead of the reverse

  • Etc.

It's also why xenophobia, racism, and hatred of others exist. Because despite people essentially being clones of each other, there's a big differences in our mind between our self and others.


But why? Why is my self image so different than my idea of everyone else?


The short answers is: biology.


 

Life is fundamentally ONLY self aware and self interested.


That's just the base programming of all life, from algae to trees to humans to birds.


We often use words like 'selfish' and 'altruistic' to quickly represent differences in this, but there's a more accurate way to describe it.


'Altruism' is often associated with the idea that you 'treat others equally to yourself' or even better. But, this isn't really what's happening at all.


It's far easier and more accurate to describe all behavior as purely 'selfish' or 'self interested', and that variations (like 'selfishness' and 'altruism') result from how we define our "selves".


A better definition of the 'self' includes:

  1. Our classic biological self - the physical body that we occupy, and that we usually talk about in evolution (ie. My self passing on my genes to my offspring).

  2. Our informational self - which represents the self image we have in our mind of who and what we are (ie. what I imagine to be me). The term 'soul' or 'spirit' is often used as a spooky description of this information, but that's a poor understanding and erroneously mixes fundamentals of physical things with information.*


Before we get into the difference between the classic 'physical self' and the 'informational self', the difference between a "physical thing" and "information about that thing" is pretty easy to understand:

  • Look at something nearby.... a chair, a cup, the floor, a person, your cell phone... whatever.

  • Now close your eyes.

  • Do you still have an 'image' of that thing in your mind?

  • Try again?

  • Was the image better the second time?


The difference between a real, physical thing and information about it is that simple.


We do the same thing with our self:

  1. We have a physical, biological body

  2. We also have ideas, images, and information about our selves that make up who we are (which extends us far beyond our biological limitations)

We often use the terms 'my' or 'mine' to designate our relationship to these 'extensions' of our self:

  • My hand

  • My pants

  • My coffee

  • My phone

  • My Mom

  • That grade is mine

  • It's my country

  • My vote

  • My teeth

This is all part of our informational self... or the information that we have about who and what we are.


When we make this list and examine it, we suddenly see a pattern. Our behavior, and the level of care that we allocate to something, is purely based on how it fits into our definition of our informational self.


So:

  • We care for our self, and the things we consider part of our self

  • We ignore and don't care for everything else


Some examples... how does behavior change when:

  • My hand is hit by a hammer... vs a stranger's thumb

  • My pants split went I sat down... vs a comedian's

  • My coffee is spilled... vs someone else's coffee

  • My phone needs to be recharged.... vs everyone else's phone

  • It's my Moms birthday... vs my neighbor's Mom's birthday

  • That grade of mine is the best in the class... vs a random classmates being the best

  • My country lowering taxes... vs another country lowering taxes

  • My vote counting... vs your opponent's vote

  • I brush my teeth every day... vs how often you brush other people's teeth

The behavior, and level of care, for each... obviously... is quite different.


Care for our extended self is prioritized. Care for those that we have not included in the extension are not.


Thus, what I imagine happens to "my stuff" happens to me.


I never imagine what happens to "others", and so I can't care about it.


So, 'altruism' or 'loving one's neighbor' or 'multiculturalism' is extending your definition of yourself, and thus extending and growing the things that you allocate care to.


This is where emotions come in.


 

Emotions are simply a socio-behavioral reactions to (or "signals" of) what we imagine our state to be, at any given moment.


We often get emotions wrong -- by correlating emotions with state, when it's really just the reaction to what we imagine.


An example: car trouble.


Imagine that your car was overheating, and should be turned off to keep it from being damaged or broken:

  • "Emotions" are like the little dashboard "Check Engine" light that pops up and signals that there's a problem

  • The "State" of your car... is that there's a problem, and it's in the process of or about to be damaged

These can be faulty.


The care can trigger a check engine light, even if nothing is wrong. And the engine can be damaged without ever triggering the check engine light.


In the same way, our information can be wrong. We can imagine that something is good because it feels good, when it's really harmful for ourselves or others. We can also imagine things to be harmful that aren't harmful at all.


How it works in practice is pretty easy to see:

  • If we hear a knock at the door, and we imagine that it's a bear trying to eat us, our emotions will be authentic and identical regardless of what is actually behind the door.

  • If we believe that there is a murderer on the loose in your neighborhood, you will feel and react as if there's a murderer on the loose in your neighborhood.

  • If you imagine that there's a boogeyman under your bed that comes in your sleep to steal your soul, your emotions with authentically reflect what you imagine is real. Even if it's entirely mistaken.


Emotions, are simply a reaction to what we imagine.


And so, are useful in helping people understand what information is being used to motivate feelings and behavior.


However, while authentic, they are not proof of any other truths about reality.


Meaning, how you feel confirms nothing about the information that created it, except that you've successfully imagined it.


It's the same reason some people cry at movies, and some don't.


Of course, you can imitate and fake behavior. Acting is a thing. And the emotions we have to movie, paintings, toys, and cartoons are as real, authentic, and valid as if they weren't based on fiction.


However, as humans, our biology doesn't enable us to understand or evaluate our experiences successfully.


Much as our legs don't allow us to jump building or run 100mph, our mind has amazingly low limitations.


It turns out that our overall "well-being" fits nicely within these 2 definitions:

  • Our Physical / Biological state (Health), and

  • Our Informational state (Happiness)

While there is has always been a lot of speculation and confusion about these, their fundamental structure is grounded in physics and biology, and so seem fairly well grounded and unchanging.


Effective science and technology have been the only ways for us to understand and modify our own physical or informational well-being.


Luckily, it's fairly simple and easy to learn.


Unlike what you may have learned, none of this makes you stupid. Or weak.


It simply makes you like everyone else: human.


And the better your information, understanding, and tech, the better your well-being and overall life can be.


 

*This follows directly from the Effectiveli monistic cosmology and ontology, specifically that:

  1. Only 1 thing exists in the universe - Physical matter that takes different states

  2. Information and information storage is a unique property of physical biological things which can read, write, store, and imagine this information, or technology.

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