Home Isn't Where The Heart Is

February 6, 2019

Where is home? --asked Schrödinger's cat. And the question went unanswered, of course, for he was tragically in two places at the same time.

 

At the turn of the century, the masses stood in awe as the machines started mimicking humans. Unbeknownst to the hairless apes, their biped fellows were behind the circus entertainment pulling the strings as code monkeys. As in a carnival's mechanic ride, the levers could be seen from behind the clown mannequins, some of the white paint already starting to peel off. It was a horror-show. Yet, relentlessly, the question persists: where is home?

 

Ask yourself: What makes me me? Some time ago, the smart read of dumb people said that Karl Friston had the answer. You are you, whether you're a unicellular organism or an entire society, whenever you are minimizing the energy wasted by adjusting whenever you expect something and it doesn't happen or doesn't happen as expected. Of course, mathematically this is expressed in a tremendously convoluted and obscure way, and few persons claim to understand Friston's free energy principle. This is no obstacle, though, for AI gurus all over the world to make the pilgrimage to the renowned scientist's office and pick his brain on how to make the perfect synthetic intelligence, one that is unrecognizable from a human one. Tests have been already made, creating two AIs and putting them to compete in a scenario. One is goal-oriented (win a chess match for example) while the other is free energy saver, so to speak. While the former wins at the beginning, the latter tends to behave more humanly and learns and learns, eventually beating the other in a wider range of scenarios not necessarily involving rewards. But, are humans that?

 

I doubt it. The more I read about Friston and the free energy principle, the more I see evidence of the typical utilitarian monomania that defines the left brain hemisphere, i.e. cutting the wholeness of experience into tiny little pieces, then attempting to find the primal, basic one that explains everything around and makes it susceptible of manipulation. It's sexy, I give it that. But too sexy not to be taken with a grain of salt. Why do you think Marxism is so appealing, for example, particularly among the intellectually lazy? Because it takes an enormously complex world and brews it all down to economic friction. Furthermore, Marxist or not, the world as it is has an overpopulation of economists precisely because of the seductive idea of a system of thought that pretends to have the key to all doors. Grandma barked all the time that if a human claimed to have all the answers then that human was drunk and I shouldn't expect a treat and a pleasant belly rub from him.

 

The main difference between cats, particularly Schrödinger's, and us, dogs, is that we live the here and now, henceforth we're more satisfied with existence. The apprehension of Being in its entirety is only achieved by turning off the need of the brain's left hemisphere to freeze everything into a mini-laboratory of vivisection and, instead, let it flow. Be present. That's the key. In the continuous flow of existence, to exist is to flow with the context that surrounds us and the things as they reveal to us. If you don't believe me just ask Husserl. The funny man had a thing or two going on for his thought. Paramount was the search for truth  despite the flux in which we are condemned to exist. When he spoke about reductionism it wasn't the reductionism of the logical, manipulative side of the brain.

 

So, where's home? The dictum of the home as the place where one's affections reside is deceiving. Poetically speaking, it is a metaphor indicating that the place where our mind wanders to is where our residence is --instead of where the body is situated. But, what if the mind and the brain are one and the same? Or what if the biological sustenance of the apparatus on which the mind is nested requires the satisfaction of ongoing needs in the physical here and now? And what if the mind is pathologically sheltered in a place that simply does not and will not exist? My mind often wanders to a land of milk and honey, for example; it's just that instead of milk there are bitches, a lot of fancy French Poodle bitches, all of them in heat, and instead of honey the green grass is covered with succulent chicken treats. This is normal for a dog that wasn't castrated --thank heaven! But that place will never materialize, mind you. Still, my heart is there sometimes. So, is that my home? I sincerely doubt it.

 

I once ate a bone so big that I thought my stomach was going to protrude sideways forever. The vet massaged my tummy for what felt like an eternity while the laxative did its thing. At that moment, with my life on the balance, I thought about where else would I rather be. I realized, though, that this was a paradox. Friston's entire idea is a succession of paradoxes. If I am perennially trying to reduce the gap between my expectations and reality, I am never there for I am chasing ghosts. My trance was, as every moment in life is, a coin flip. Either one survives or dies. Where's the "free energy" fluctuating? At best, it is a truism. Like saying that what makes us living things is breathing. Doh!

 

Frankly speaking, a meta free energy principle would be much more convincing as an approximation to a principle of Being. And, still, it would be merely an approximation. The awareness of continually measuring one's reaction between expectation and reality is, in and by itself, a way of Being in the world through conscious self-reflection. That, my friend, is you being you. In the moment. Fully. Home is everywhere.

 

 

 

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