Whenever I get into a conversation with someone about free will for the first time, they will usually end up saying something like this: “But I experience the world as if I have free will.”
They are, of course, wrong. They experience the world exactly the same as someone who doesn’t believe in free will (like, for example, me).
We both experience the same thing. What is different is the way we interpret what we experience.
Here’s a good analogy.
One thousand years ago, if you asked most people about the relationship between the Earth and the Sun, they would have told you that it was obvious: the Sun revolves around the Earth. If you tried to tell them that, in fact, the opposite was true, they would have laughed in your face.
“But I experience the Sun revolving around the Earth! It’s obvious that the Earth isn’t moving because we can’t feel it moving. We don’t experience it moving. But we look up into the sky and we can experience the Sun moving around the Earth. You dumbass.”
Of course, what they were actually experiencing was the Earth revolving around the Sun. They had the exact same experience as Copernicus when he published “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres” in 1543. What was different was how they interpreted that experience.
So it is with free will. We all experience the same thing. We walk around, decisions are made; actions are taken.
The difference is that some of us interpret those things as “the laws of physics”. And some of us interpret those things as “free will”. Same experience – incorrect interpretation.
The same is true with our relationship to the universe. Most people imagine themselves as being somehow separate from the rest of the world – in it but not of it, independent from it. Again – same experience, incorrect interpretation.
There is only the universe. It’s just one thing. One construct. We are not in the universe – we are the universe.
The atoms that you’re made of are the universe. The universe isn’t some kind of blank canvas that you’ve been painted on. The universe is both the canvas and the paint. The universe is the sum total of all of the matter and the energy and the anti-matter and everything else. It cannot be divided into universe and non-universe.
Most of the atoms that make up your body today were something else 20 years ago. And they will be something else 20 years from now. They continue. The universe continues. You are those atoms. There is nothing else.
You can only be the universe. Nothing else makes sense.
I’ve always been paranoid about allowing other people to have any level of control over my business and today I got another lesson in why that’s a good policy.
For about 7 years I’ve run a Facebook group called “Cigars Australia Forum”. It was originally a standalone forum that I ran back when I was in the cigar business. Then, when the software behind the forum became too clumsy, I moved it over to Facebook. Just a bunch of 1000 (mostly) guys harmlessly comparing notes on cigars. Occasionally it got a little rowdy and I had to tell them to be nice. One a rare occasion I had to block a couple of people who were outright rude and nasty.
Yesterday, I got a message from Facebook that something about the group contravened their “community standards” – no details, just “your group has been disabled until you bring it into line with our standards”. This, of course, is coming from the company that let people like Cambridge Analytica have access to the personal data of millions of people. But I digress.
So I looked through their “community standards” page, couldn’t see anything that would my group would contravene, so I asked them to review the group and their decision.
Today I got a second notification from Facebook that the group, which had over 1000 members, has been permanently deleted. No explanation apart from “community standards”. Nobody to talk to. No way to protest or get clarification.
Now, luckily, I don’t care. This group had nothing to do with any business of mine or revenue source. I maintained it just as a service to Australia’s diminishing cigar appreciation community. But imagine if it was something important to my business or my brand and Facebook just decided to delete it? It could be devastating.
So that is why you should never trust Facebook, or Instagram (also part of Facebook) or Google or eBay or PayPal or Patreon or any other service provider with running the delivery platform for your business. If you can run it yourself, do it. If you can’t, make sure you have a backup plan if the service provider decides to pull the pin on you.
While psychopaths have probably always been around us, in feudalist societies it would have been much harder for them to rise to positions of wealth and power. Unless you were born into the nobility, it was pretty tough to get out of your class circumstances and engineer yourself into a place where you could rise above.
Think about it this way – if, as guys like Robert Hale suggest, about one percent of the population rank highly on the psychopath test – and, if this has always been true – then up until the Industrial Revolution, if you were born a psychopath but were not a member of the aristocracy or nobility, let’s say you were the son of a blacksmith, then what could you do? You didn’t have much chance of putting together an army or rising above your stations in terms of wealth creation opportunities.
If you were a plebeian in the Roman Republic, your chances of rising to power were kept in check by the tools of the aristocracy – the Senate, the army and paid mobs. During the Roman Empire, a few plebs made it to become generals and even Emperors, but they were few and far between. A number of centurions of plebeian extraction were rewarded by Augustus after his civil war with Antony with property and suddenly found themselves as the nouveau riche and a seat in the Senate – but again, these stories were rare.
Oh sure – if you were a Hun in the 5th century, you could brawl it out with some other guys to see who would be the king of the tribe, and go from there. But in the Middle Ages, these opportunities were scarce. You might be someone like Francesco Sforza who, in the early 1400s, managed to turn his father’s private army of mercantile soldiers into becoming the Duke of Milan by winning some battles and marrying his illegitimate daughter – but again, those stories are quite rare in the annals of history.
For most of history, if you were born poor, for the most part, you stayed poor.
So if 1% of the population were psychopaths, and 99% of the population were poor, that means 99% of the psychopaths were poor and, while they probably caused trouble for their immediate family and village, they never went further than that.
However – then the Industrial Revolution came along and we entered the rise of capitalism. Now those 99% have a much better shot at unleashing their psychopathy on the world. They could get an education, get a job, and use their inherent psychopathy to climb the ladder of power inside an organisation – business, political, religious, academia or military. Suddenly, after 1000 years of being kept down in their villages, the psychopaths had a ladder to wealth and power unlike anything before.
Studies show that most people who are born poor continue to stay poor, it’s true. But we live in a world where the psychopaths who are born poor, and have no qualms about fucking other people over in their march towards power – who care as much about committing an unethical act as you or I do about what we ate for breakfast a week ago – have an open playing field. Capitalism has unleashed the psychopaths on the world.
Now our job is to figure out how to ring fence them and keep them in check before they destroy the planet and all of us on it.