Reflections on Bullshit 

Thoughts on past and present Presidents and the distinction between lying and bullshitting


Considering that throughout history, a certain percentage of all communication has been bullshit, and by means of technology there has been an exponential growth in the amount of communicating we humans do, there is therefore undoubtedly more bullshitting going on in the world than ever before. 
Secondly, it’s important to note that in the case of lying one must know the truth and choose to deceive, for it is impossible for someone to lie unless he feels he knows the truth. In contrast, bullshitting requires no such conviction. As Harry G. Frankfurt writes in his compact mini book on the topic:

“The bullshitter …. does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”

This distinction between bullshitting vs. lying highlights key distinctions between people, politicians, and more specifically: past and present presidents. For example if Obama was a liar, I think it’s fair to say that he was aware he was lying; whether his motives were malevolent or benevolent, I get the impression that he was largely aware of the truth. President Trump however, appears completely indifferent to the truth, and therefore by definition is less of a liar due to this seeming indifference. If Frankfort is correct in his ethics, and if I’m right in calling Trump a bullshitter of the highest caliber, then he is a greater enemy of the truth.  

“Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic” – Harry G. Frankfurt 

Building a Fence

Today I built a fence

I bought premium lumber

And I fastened it together with all of my best arguments


My fence is tall and grand

It defines my space

And separates what is yours from what is mine


The view from inside is comforting

My dogs do not stray

And the wind enters broken


The grass doesn’t grow here anymore

I pace around the trampled soil  

And I call out through the cracks of my planked security


Time well spent

Moving on from social media

Recently I met a 98 year old woman, she lived alone, and she seemed more active than most folks half her age. She was happy. I remarked to her that I was in awe of how much technological and social change she must have witnessed in the course of her life. She replied “Oh the stories I could tell you.” I wished that it was a sincere offer, and that I had the time to listen.  
This inspired me to think about the arrival of my 38th year in this world.  So I’ve been reflecting on life, as people do on occasion, but on this occasion I’ll do so publicly via this blog. I have almost 38 years of consciousness under my belt, what would it feel like to live for 60 more years? It’s slightly embarrassing to acknowledge that it’s only recently I have become aware of how subtle habits translate into longterm changes. Like the butterfly effect, it’s all the little things we do that seem swirl into full hurricanes later in life. With the current expected life span of men at 76 and women at 81, there seems to be ample time for storms to brew. Though a long life in the modern world comes with an abundance of choice, opportunity, and freedom to decide how to spend our time; an increasing life span also creates more opportunities for benign choices to become malignant tumors. If I only lived to be 30, my diet might not matter, nor my frivolous expenditures, but long life provides time to reap the compound interest of every habit. The longer the life, the more impact we’ll feel from the smallest degrees of deviation from optimal.
Lately, I see the tiny flutter of my current habits and wonder what hurricanes I’m forcasting for myself. Am I eating well enough? More importantly: what about my habits of mind? And my children: Are my words of guidance and advice unintentionally instilling insecurity or building confidence? Am I providing a framework for lasting happiness, or building structure doomed to collapse? Am I spending money on frivolous things? 5 bucks a day wasted at a gas station could be the difference between a comfortable retirement and 5 extra years of work. Most often, I contemplate time spent on my smartphone; how much of my conscious life is spent browsing Facebook, or doing even less meaningful activities like binge watching cat videos. Smart phones are to attention what black holes are to matter. Even as I type this criticism (on my phone), I can’t help but dismiss the irony and enjoy the allure of this technology. 
But at what cost? The past seven years has been an interesting experiment. I love learning, smartphones and the internet have made that process so incredibly easy. I wonder though, as I watch my daughters falling in line with most adults and all of their peers, if we aren’t all trading a more longterm richness of conscious experience for short term convenience.  
In the past seven years I have no meaningful memories or stories to tell of “that one time on Facebook”. I can’t imagine I’ll ever sit with my grandchildren and tell them about that crazy time I spent on Instagram, or googling random shit. And yet the average adult will spend 3 hrs and 15 mins a day using mobile apps. I know this because I googled it. On my smartphone. I suppose between social media and audible, I’m somewhere in the vicinity of that number. It’s very nauseating for me to imagine all of the productive, meaningful things I could have accomplished if that time was given back to me. And it’s not that I haven’t done meaningful things, (I do enjoy audible) or that a person can’t do both, it’s just that I’m coming to terms with the truth: This is a habit that will inevitably detract from the potential richness of my life, and my experience. 
I don’t want to someday arrive at my 98th birthday, and try to summon the memories of 75 thousand hours of staring at a phone, or a television (68 years x 3hrs/day). Currently, if I’ve spend 3 hrs a day using an iPhone for the past 6 years, It’s the equivalent to googling nonstop for 273 days. The average American watches 35 hours of television! I like to think my smart phone numbers are lower than those, and certainly my television numbers are a fraction of the average, but regardless I am certain that I’ve wasted an obscene amount of time. 

In order to correct this misuse of my time, I will first attempt to find better ways to spend my time than on social media.   Hopefully his blog is the first step in phasing out social media time altogether. And with any luck, it might even become a better outlet for those who care to keep in touch to do so. Maybe through this blog we can create more intimate, meaningful ways to share ideas, and stories.  My hope is that 75 thousand hours from now, this will feel like time well spent. 

The Smart Fridge 

Imagine refrigerator technology has progressed to the point of food replicating. Any meal can be made instantly. All one must do is purchase the raw food constitute, and fill the top compartment on the refrigerator. Due to fierce competition, the goal of refrigerator manufacturers everywhere is to sell as much raw food constitute as possible.  Fridge researchers have found that the best way to maximize the amount of time a consumer spends using their refrigerator was to have the refrigerator prepare their favorite food item, and present it to them each time the door was opened. Thanks to big data, the refrigerator developers have access to records of every meal you’ve eaten for the past ten years, and it factors this data into the snacks it prepares. Since the goal is to maximize the amount of times you open the door and eat, the snacks are small, unfilling, but perfectly tailored to your preferences. Almost irresistible. Machine learning combined with big data has allowed your refrigerator to know better than you, what foods you’ll binge on, and it presents them to you endlessly. Our smart-fridges eventually get updated and link up on the web. Now I can open my fridge and eat things my fridge friends are currently tasting. I can send a “yum” notification when they post something good to eat. My friends get the notification and run to their fridge to see what the notification was all about, and their refrigerator serves up several of their favorite, delicious morsels. All of this yum notification business exponentially increases the amount of time spent at the fridge. Raw food constitute is consumed in millions of tons each day. Much to the fridge developers delight, refrigerator binging becomes part of the pop culture. Everyone spends several hours a day tasting delicious creations served up by our smart-fridges. 5.5 hrs on average. The population becomes extremely obese, but no one cares because cooking is tedious, and the social pressure to own a smart fridge is high. 
Machine learning discovers that smart-fridge users are more motivated to eat durring episodes of depression. Knowing this, fridge developers place long delays between when a yum notification is sent and received to manipulate people into feeling like no one “yum-ed” their post. Since the amount of yums a person receives on a food post has become analogous to social value, AI has determined the exact amount of time delay to trigger depression eating and maximize fridge time. After further analysis, machine learning and AI discover that the food posts which prompt outrage inspire the most fridge time and over-eating. Usually the outrage is in regard to the unethical eating of cute animals.  Outrage almost always goes viral. The more outraged one appears, the more ethical they feel and are perceived by their online community. Refrigerator culture becomes a vehicle for depression and outrage. And what’s worse is that the refrigerator social media infastructure became the perfect tool for tyrannical politicians to manipulate the public. They use food to manipulate certain voting demographics, paying refrigerator developers to over feed the opposition’s voting base making them lethargic and sleepy, while simultaneously targeting their own voting base with caffeinated treats on voting day. Eventually refrigerators become integrated with the human body, pumping food directly into the stomachs while probes notify the tongue and brain of the various flavor combinations. This is a highly anticipated innovation, which bypasses the tedious and very annoying task of chewing and swallowing all day long. Finally free to bask in steady stream of sensual flavor and social gratification, humanity quietly eats itself into oblivion, completely enslaved, and completely content.