Societies… Cooperation… A lone man in the forest…

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Photo by Spiros Kakos from Pexels

Researchers are exploring how cooperation arises in human societies, where people tend to cluster into various group types — political, religious, familial, professional, etc. Within such groups, people can cooperate or ‘defect’ and receive payoffs based on those exchanges. Cooperation, they observed, is most favored when allowing for the existence of ‘loners’ — people who are temporarily not members of any group.

Chu and Tarnita found that cooperation still emerges, but that it is most favored when they allow for the existence of “loners” in the population – people who, due to barriers, are temporarily not members of any group. Loners are essential, Chu explained, “because they keep group sizes lower than they would have been without barriers to group entry.”

Smaller groups allow cooperation to thrive, while making the system as a whole more resilient, by limiting the destructive influence of a defector exploiting a group of cooperators. Chu cautions against drawing too much from one model amid a sea of evolutionary game theory models. Nevertheless, their recent work shows, reassuringly, that there may be hope for maintaining cooperation in our world. (1)

Societies thrive.

But only because there are people outside of them.

It is those people who drive societies along the dark paths of history.

By holding the light on while others are too preoccupied gazing at it.

For the dark forest is far away.

We may fear it, but we want to go back in.

We left it a long time ago.

We gathered together because we felt lonely outside of it.

And we never stopped thinking about it.

So many people gathered together.

Secretly longing to be lost in the woods again.

That’s why society will always need those people.

Staying where we once were.

A constant reminder that societies exist for no other reason,

Than to remind us that there is no reason for them to exist…

Komodo. Staying home.

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Photo by Stijn Dijkstra from Pexels

Komodo dragons live on a handful of islands in Indonesia, but their reputation has spread far and wide. Reaching lengths of up to 10 feet, the razor-toothed monitor lizards hunt deer in packs and have even attacked humans on occasion. But actually, they are real homebodies, according to a study published Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

A decade of observations at 10 sites on four islands has revealed that the dragons essentially never leave the valley where they were born. It’s not that they can’t. They are capable of traveling many miles and through rough terrain, if necessary. They just don’t seem to feel like it.

“They stay put almost irrespective of how bad it gets,” Dr. Jessop said. “It’s a bit bewildering. […] Really what they’re trying to do, is not rock the boat”. (1)

We humans on the other hand, we like to travel.

To see new places, to do new things.

Because we always want more.

We are never satisfied with what we have.

More knowledge.

More power.

More experience.

Those lizards can stay home. We will go to the stars!

Powerful! Clever! Masters of the universe!

And yet, upon reaching the boundaries of the cosmos…

We will still be miserable in our quest for more…

Having everything and still naming it nothing…

The planet is empty now.

We have left long ago.

Traveling into the void.

Back on Earth.

A lizard still remains.

Alone.

Inside a house.

Long away from home.

A picture on the floor.

With me on it.

Smiling…

Spreading bad ideas.

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Photo by Spiros Kakos from Pexels

How ideas move through academia may depend on where those ideas come from – whether from big-name universities or less prestigious institutions – as much as their quality, a recent study from the University of Colorado Boulder suggests.

The new research borrows a page from epidemiology, exploring how ideas might flow from university to university, almost like a disease. The findings from CU Boulder’s Allison Morgan and her colleagues suggest that the way that universities hire new faculty members may give elite schools an edge in spreading their research to others.

In particular, the team simulated how ideas might spread out faster from highly-ranked schools than from those at the bottom of the pile — even when the ideas weren’t that good. The results suggest that academia may not function like the meritocracy that some claim, said Morgan, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science. (1)

Science progresses. But still, the more we discover the more we realize that what we know is void of any meaning. Once upon a time we used to believe we will prove everything. Then came Gödel. And we forgot about him. Now we still believe that what we say – regardless of whether it is proved or not – is related to reality per se. And yet, philosophy has for a long time clarified that any assertion related to ‘reality’ is a very dangerous one.

Humbleness was always correlated with wisdom. But today’s society has discarded that trait as a mark of weakness. And yet, it is only the strong ones which admit that they are the weakest of them all. Our world is full of people who speak loudly and yet they know nothing. And the humble wise men who once roamed the cities, have now left for the desert.

LISTEN TO ME!

I KNOW WHAT I AM SAYING!

(And that is why I don’t… Shhhhhh…)

Sacred mountain. Unholy science.

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Hawaii now and then… [Source]

A mountain which used to be sacred, is for many years now a place for science.

Following a protracted legal battle and years long protests that left a state deeply  divided, the Hawaii Supreme Court in November 2018 cleared the final legal hurdle for a $1.4 billion telescope project to resume construction atop the Big Island’s Mauna Kea, a mountain considered sacred by many Native Hawaiians. In a 4-1 ruling on Tuesday, the court upheld a 2017 decision by the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources to grant a construction permit on Mauna Kea for the Thirty-Meter Telescope, better known as TMT.

The court said it had carefully considered the arguments put forth by the project’s opponents who’ve described the telescope’s construction as an attack on indigenous culture and a desecration of sacred land. But, per the ruling, it had ultimately determined that “astronomy and Native Hawaiian uses on Mauna Kea have co-existed for many years and the TMT Project will not curtail or restrict Native Hawaiian uses”.

The ruling also noted the telescope’s potential to “answer some of the most fundamental questions regarding our universe” – a benefit that won’t just be enjoyed by Native Hawaiians but all of humankind.

“We are not anti-science or astronomy,” Lanakila Manguil, an activist who’s been protesting against the TMT project for years, told HuffPost in 2017. “It’s about construction, development and industrial-sized work happening in conservation lands and particularly very sacred lands to our people.” The mountain, which measures about 32,000 feet from seafloor to summit, is home to burial sites and is where Native Hawaiians have been known to bury their umbilical cords as a way of connecting to the sacred land. (1)

In the old days we used to have sacred lands.

In the old days we used to walk on the land.

In the old days we used to dream of the stars.

Only because we believed we were part of them.

Now we want to look at them closely.

To observe and analyze them.

Now we do not have anything sacred.

Now we do not even believe in ourselves.

And we long so much to get out of that land.

And reach the stars.

Only because we believe we do not belong with them in the first place…

Inherited strength & Arrogance in religion, science and elsewhere.

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Σιωπή…

Nowadays we often talk about the arrogance of people in various fields. Arrogant scientists do things simply because they can do them, without thinking about the consequences. Arrogant priests are almost celebrating that they quit the church and “moved on”. Arrogant managers in companies behave unacceptably without any empathy for colleagues or customers. And the list goes on and on for ever. Many reasons lie behind such behavior. But few are the important ones. One being the most basic of them all: The ease with which we inherit power and knowledge. An ease that is increasing as the years go by and we ‘progress’.

You see the scientist today does not toil for what he knows. He just reads everything that his predecessors have discovered and by standing on the shoulders of giants he makes his own discoveries. By finishing university he already knows everything that the leading scientists of the last century knew without even sweating. With such power he feels intoxicated. He gets excited. He can go further! To create something else! It does not matter what! He does not even think about whether or not he should respect some limits because he did not go through years of difficulties to get where he is; time that would increase his humility at the same time his strength also increased. His knowledge increased exponentially along with his arrogance. Similarly, the priest today does not bother to be a ‘saint’ or does not spend years of pain and efforts to reach at new spiritual heights that will allow him to humbly guide others. He reads everything that the Fathers of the Church have written and in a few years he is ready to play his role, spreading the wise thoughts of old sages to his followers. The greatest difficuly he ever experienced? The exams at his school. And if he gets bored, well, he just leaves. But the holy people of the past went through hell to become what they became. For them it was not a matter of reading at a university but a matter of living. For them, it was a matter of life or death. And how can you give up your life or deny your death?

The examples do not stop here. As said above, we could go on listing cases of modern people following the easy path, accepting inherited power and being arrogant because of that. The right president of a company has gone through a lot until he reached his position. Years spent in low positions, years of effort and difficulties. He won his place. For such a president it does not even make sense to ask him if he is thinking of leaving and going elsewhere. Such president makes a great president. But to-day, people are just selected to be CEOs. In the same way you select to buy a gun from the super market. And with that gun you can kill. But the karate teacher who has learned after years of practice to kill with his hands, he never does kill anyone. Because the years that he spent to acquire this power made him the right person to use it wisely.

Alchemists had a reason for requiring years of silent apprenticeship to reach a minimum so as to begin doing your own experiments. Pythagoras the same. Be afraid of the easy way. It leads to monsters. Learn what you learn on your own. And only when you work hard enough to make it your own, dare to talk to others about it.

Until then…

Discard your inheritance.

And shut up.

(Inspiration for the post from Ian Malcolm’s speech in Jurrasic Park novel, written by Michael Crichton)