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The Great Battle of Fire and Light — Wait But Why

The Great Battle of Fire and Light — Wait But Why

Notice: That is the second publish in the collection. The primary one is here.

There’s a substantial amount of human nature in individuals. – Mark Twain

The animal world is a annoying place to be.

A cute bunny and two shrubs.

A cute bunny and two shrubs. And a bear.

A cute bunny and two shrubs. And a bear that is now closer to the bunny.

A bunny and two shrubs and a close bear that now has the bunny's attention.

Two shrubs and a bear that has eaten the bunny's head off of its body.

The problem is that the animal world isn’t actually an animal world—it’s a world of trillions of strands of genetic info, every one hell-bent on immortality. And in a universe that desires to show order into chaos each time potential, the immortality of anything—not to mention a fragile and sophisticated genetic code—is a continuing uphill battle. Most of Earth’s gene strands don’t last very lengthy, and genes that weren’t gifted enough at the immortality recreation are lengthy gone. The genes on Earth as we speak are the miracle outliers on each the motivation and talent entrance—such unimaginable survival specialists that they’re presently virtually four billion years previous and counting.

Animals are just a hack these outlier genes got here up with—momentary containers designed to hold the genes and help them keep immortal. If genes might speak to their animal, they’d in all probability problem a number of simple instructions:

Genes talking to a panda: Stay alive and well functioning as long as possible. / And then pass us into new containers before you inevitably deteriorate. Once we're in new containers, those containers are more important than you. Sacrifice yourself if it'll help them fulfill the first two instructions. / Yeah.

But genes can’t speak to their animals, so as an alternative they management them by having them run on specialized survival software program.

Squat orange blob with stick figure arms and legs carrying a fire torch. Label: Animal Survival Software

In easy animals, the software is an automated program that runs the animal on instinct. In more complicated animals, the software program also consists of a variety of emotions—higher-level behavior-manipulation instruments like pain punishments, pleasure treats, and emotion manipulations.

Control panel with 7 vertical sliders: HUNGER, THIRST, EXHAUSTION, HORNINESS, FEAR, PAIN, AGGRESSION

By sliding the animal’s emotions up and down, an animal’s software program makes use of the emotions like reins to maintain the animal’s objectives and the genes’ objectives perfectly aligned.

Genes need animals to conserve all of the power they will, so the software’s default settings may have “exhaustion” in a raised state.

Control panel with sliders adjusted to make the animal tired: everything lowered except Exhaustion, with Thirst and Horniness slightly above the others.

Lizard lying flat on a rock

When every part goes smoothly, the software will run within the background on low-power mode. However sooner or later, the animal will start to run low on power, so the software will kick into gear and shift the “starvation” setting steadily upwards till it will definitely overpowers the “tired” setting.

Orange software blob adjusting the Hunger slider all the way up on the control panel

Lizard pushing itself up from the rock

Lizard walking out of frame

The genes need their animal to protect itself, so the software program ratchets up the worry feeling when it senses hazard and hits the animal with a physical ache punishment when it does something that damages itself.

Closeup of an acorn shaking loose on a branch

Lizard getting hit in the head with the falling acorn

Orange software blob sliding Pain up on the control panel

Sad lizard

But genes worth copy above all else, so every time mating is a risk, it’ll crank up the horniness high sufficient to override every little thing else.

Girl lizard enters the frame

Orange software blob laying on top of control panel to pull Horniness setting as high as it can go

Lizard with neck bent backward to look at girl lizard leaving the frame

Life on Earth is an extended succession of short-term animal containers passing genes along to newer containers like a baton in an infinite relay. It’s an odd survival system, but to date, it’s worked pretty nicely—at the very least for those genes nonetheless around.

And that’s nice for genes. However it’s traumatic for animals.

The problem is that genes themselves aren’t alive, they’re only a drive of nature—and forces of nature don’t give a shit about something. Gravity needs to smoosh matter collectively, in order that’s what it does. It has no concern for the well-being of the atoms it smooshes. If the hydrogen atoms in the middle of the sun can’t deal with the smooshing, they’ll fuse into helium atoms. Gravity doesn’t care. However the necessary factor is, atoms don’t care both. In the middle of the sun, no one cares about anything, so every thing’s wonderful.

Atoms in a cluster; not caring; vaping..

Genes are like gravity—they don’t care. They need to keep immortal, they usually’ll pursue that objective as relentlessly as gravity fuses atoms inside stars. Just as there’s finite area in the middle of a star, there are finite assets within the animal world—finite land, finite shelter, finite food, finite mates—which makes gene endeavors a zero-sum recreation. One species doing higher virtually all the time occurs at the expense of other species doing worse. And identical to gravity relentlessly smooshes, genes are relentlessly grasping—a successful species will develop and increase so far as it could actually until it exhausts its advantages.

When you have got a relentless drive consuming finite assets, something’s gotta give. In a star, atoms give, fusing into greater atoms. Within the animal world, animal species give, morphing into new, mutated species—or, extra typically, going extinct.

So genes are like gravity—but animals aren’t like atoms.

Mindless evolutionary innovation brought survival tips like feelings and subjective experience and higher sentience into animals, which suggests animals are like atoms in the middle of a star…if the atoms hated being smooshed.

To genes, animal struggling is just a useful gizmo—so the animal world is filled with suffering. Genes haven’t any larger rules, so neither does the animal world—no such factor as rights, no concept of right or fallacious, no concern with equity. Animals awoke in the warmth of a universe strain cooker, enjoying an unwinnable recreation they by no means signed up for, and that’s all there’s to it.

No less than that’s all there was to it.

A number of million years ago, the genes that inhabit a specific inhabitants of nice ape began innovating in an unusual method, making an attempt out an animal container improve that had by no means quite worked earlier than: super-high intelligence. All earlier genes had passed up additional excessive intelligence of their housing because it requires a ridiculous quantity of power to take care of. It’s like operating a small enterprise and contemplating whether or not to rent an worker with a uncommon talent set who will only work for $1,000,000 a yr. Doesn’t matter how good the worker is—no one is value one million a yr to a cash-strapped small enterprise. However these ape genes tried it anyway.

They advanced into quite a lot of hominid species, all of whom have since been discontinued, except one—a saucy one referred to as homo sapiens. For them, the developments in intelligence proved to be a serious survival asset, so their cognitive capability rapidly increased, creating into an array of shiny new tools that no animal had ever possessed earlier than. Via an accident of evolution, people had gained superpowers.

That they had gained the superpower of purpose, which gave people the power to unravel complicated problems, invent fancy new technologies, design refined methods, and make real-time changes to their considering based mostly on modifications in their surroundings.

Stick figure looking up at a dark night sky with an overlay of cardinal directions

Purpose sharpened human considering, introducing nuance and logic into the method. It also affected human motivation—by illuminating the distinction between true and false, purpose made fact a core human drive.

People had also gained the superpower of imagination, making them the world’s first animal that would fantasize and inform stories and dream of locations that they had never been.

Girl laying in grass, staring up at the sky imagining herself flying

However the actual power of imagination came when it was combined with communication. People now had the facility to communicate with one another utilizing a posh language filled with sounds that characterize things or concepts—human language is humans imagining together. Communication plus creativeness is why people can assume within the massive picture and make long-term plans in a method no different animal can.

3 stick figures in a park with a shared speech bubble depicting trees in the winter

Cause and imagination, combined together, lead to one thing much more unimaginable. Without imagination, animals have a hard time wrapping their heads round the fact that animals aside from themselves are full, dwelling creatures who expertise life identical to they do. They will’t put themselves in one other animal’s footwear. With out cause, animals can’t comply with the logic that concludes that the lives of others are simply as worthwhile as their very own, and their ache and pleasure just as actual.

These two superpowers produced a 3rd superpower—one which, above all, makes people human: empathy.

Stick figure consoling another stick figure

With the facility of empathy got here powers like compassion, guilt, pity. Even clueyness. Most importantly, with the groundbreaking epiphany that each one animals have value got here the idea of proper vs. improper.

These superpowers took their place in the human mind as powerful new enhancements.

Primitive control panel with new section on the side - three glowing buttons: REASON, EMPATHY, IMAGINATION

However none of that is the actually bizarre part.

The craziest factor concerning the new human superpowers was their sudden aspect impact. Each of the superior capabilities was like a brand new stream of psychological potential, and when combined collectively, it was as if they shaped a glowing orb of sunshine within the middle of the human thoughts.

This mild was so shiny and so clear and so powerful that it was as if it had its own awareness—an awareness of itself, of the human it lived in, of the traditional software operating beside it. The human mind had grown a mind of its personal that would assume for itself.

Up until this improvement, the early human mind was like all animal minds—powered by genetic will and run by historic software program, with one function solely: genetic immortality. But this new mind was something totally different solely—one thing operating independently of the human’s survival software.

Not only might this thoughts inside a thoughts assume its personal thoughts, it might truly overrule the desire of the genes, override the software’s instructions, and drive human conduct.

For the primary time in youth historical past, an animal was more than just an animal—it was an animal plus…something else.

Let’s call our historic animal software, which continues to be very a lot in our heads—our Primitive Mind. And let’s name this extremely superior, unbiased new consciousness our Greater Thoughts.

The Primitive Mind is the orange primitive blob holding the torch from earlier. The Higher Mind is a stick figure floating out of a glowing chest orb with arms, a glowing head, and a glowing light staff - all in a bright blue-green.

As any human you’ll speak to can attest, two minds in one animal is an odd state of affairs. Especially because the two minds typically don’t get along.

The Larger Thoughts is rational, affordable, and thoughtful. On his employees sits the light of upper consciousness, and when the Larger Thoughts is in the driver’s seat of your being, the sunshine fills your mind with readability and self-awareness. Wisdom flows by means of the Larger Thoughts’s head, and love and empathy radiate out from his coronary heart. When the Larger Thoughts is doing the considering in your head, these rays move immediately into your mind and heart and lightweight them up with the warm glow of high-mindedness.

The Larger Thoughts spends most of his time on the correct aspect of the control panel with the superpowers, absorbing their power and feeding them together with his consciousness.

When he thinks about it—and he does think about it, typically—he wonders whether or not that is all a mistake and he ended up in the flawed head. As a result of he can’t assist however notice that subsequent to him at all times is a busy ball of orange fuzz that was dwelling here when he moved in.

Through the years, the Greater Mind has come to see the Primitive Mind as a not-very-smart pet. But he additionally understands that it’s necessary to the whole system to let the Primitive Mind get what it wants from its little pet life—to an extent. The Primitive Mind is endlessly greedy, utterly untrainable, and the Larger Thoughts has discovered the onerous method that the Primitive Thoughts have to be stored in verify. As the one grown-up within the room, the Greater Thoughts does what he can, making an attempt to control the Primitive Mind and ensure that whatever it’s doing over there is sensible and matches with the overall plan.

PM (Primitive Mind) and Higher Mind (HM) each manning their side of the control panel

Meanwhile, the Primitive Thoughts doesn’t know the Greater Thoughts exists. The Primitive Thoughts doesn’t even know the Primitive Thoughts exists. The Primitive Thoughts is software—programmed by evolution to serve the desire of your genes. In its hand, the Primitive Thoughts carries your primal flame—the uncooked will of your animal genes to outlive.

The Primitive Thoughts doesn’t care about you any more than gravity cares about atoms. It’s only a truck driver delivering valuable cargo from one place to a different—and also you’re just the truck. The only concern it has with the truck is to keep it nicely fueled and out of accidents throughout this phase of the eternal voyage. The extra outstanding the Primitive Thoughts is in your head at any given time, the much less you’re like an unbiased entity and the more you’re like a truck being driven by automated software.

The problem with two minds is that there’s only one brain—leaving the 2 minds in an ongoing energy wrestle. When the Greater Thoughts is empowered, his employees lights up the room with self-awareness, offering a clear view of the Primitive Mind in all its silliness, which makes it arduous for the Primitive Thoughts to do something sneaky.

PM and HM facing each other, inside a blue-green glowing circle

But when the tides flip, the Primitive Mind’s torch grows alongside together with his affect, and the room will get increasingly smoky. The more smoke there’s, the more it blocks the Larger Mind’s mild, slicing off his access to his human and making it onerous for him to do his job.

A circle filled with smoke, a big Primitive Mind, and a tiny cowering HM.

The human, with smoke obscuring its self-awareness, doesn’t understand its mind has been converted to software program automation, leaving the Larger Thoughts pretty helpless to take back the controls. This is when humans begin hassle, for themselves and for others.

The endless wrestle between these two minds is the human condition. It’s the backdrop of every thing that has ever occurred within the human world, and every thing that happens immediately. It’s the story of our occasions as a result of it’s the story of all human occasions. We’re gonna go to all types of places in this submit collection—and wherever we go, keep in mind to remember the good battle of fireside and lightweight.


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Three Wait But Why posts about hearth and lightweight:

Faith for the Nonreligious

Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other Individuals Assume

Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

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