Sundered Peak

through the mind of kyle tolle

The Sin of Two Extremes

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Kyle Tolle reading ‘The Sin of Two Extremes’

The universe is a complex place and humans spend a great deal of time and energy trying to understand it. Removing “unnecessary” intricacy and abstraction are two methods that let us live without getting swamped in the details. If you thought of how many billions and billions of photons hit your retina every millisecond and how your brain processes all those signals, you’d be inundated with information and soon suffer paralysis as all your faculties focused on the minutia. Luckily, our bodies and brains have evolved to let us get the information we really want; whether or not a bear is about to maul our pack-mule Teddy.

College professors are particularly in favor of abstraction. Where do you think all the models of organizational behavior, object oriented analysis, physical systems and human thought come from? They come from taking something really complex, stripping it down to bare bones, and hoping we don’t lose a few bones on the way to the museum. I really am feeling these crummy analogies today!  A few quarters ago I took an organizational behavior class and the professor presented all sorts of models.  The sheer number of models for motivation alone show  there is considerable work to be done. One model did not contradict the others, instead it complemented them. If ever a single model can be had, it will be an amalgamation of all the current, distinct models.

One of the greatest sins of knowledge is boiling down a complex system too far.  The actions humans undertake are not simply good or evil. For the sake of some discussions, it is easier to idealize the world and say that there are only two sides, but once we move out of fairy-tale land, we hit hard times. “Well, that person stole food, but it was for his starving family.” Unless you’re some authoritarian bastard or some anarchistic half-wit, you’d probably agree there is a grey area. (If you are an authoritarian bastard or a anarchistic half-wit, please, keep reading; maybe you’ll learn why you’re dumb!)

Instead of breaking all ideas, problem domains or the universe into two and only two extremes, let’s consider things to be on a continuum.  The person earlier had good intentions but accomplished them in a not so good way. If you consider the person solely evil, you’re just being harsh; if you consider the person solely good, you’re being overly lenient. Even our judicial system (as woefully twisted as it may be) recognizes a gradient in crimes. Treating all convicted criminals like murderers wouldn’t accomplish much, nor would treating them all like juvenile delinquents.

Upon reflection, I noticed that in the carnivore post I said that we need to determine whether animals are like robots or humans.  I recognize this was a huge mistake. It is not fair to say that animals are either robotic or humanistic. Labeling animals one of two ways is really nice and convenient, but it’s a bad idea because, for the most part, it hinders our thinking. A cricket’s mental capacity is obviously different from a dolphin’s and would fall on the robot-human gradient in a different place.

Most humans operate under the assumption that we’re the only beings around that are, as we’d say, human. An interesting question is, “What makes humans intrinsically different from any other animal?” Can we definitively say? I need to look into this topic, because I’m sure greater minds have pondered this. Humans share some likenesses to robots, and vice-versa.  Can we comprehend a being which would surpass us on our end of the “human” scale? That’s doubtful. Is it possible that something could surpass us in reality? It’s possible. Is it probable? I can’t even hazard a guess.

There are cases when a dichotomy is the correct division.  There are either two pennies here, are there are not two pennies here. True or false.  But then again, maybe the answer is conditional or is semantically determined, in which case a continuum would more accurately express reality.  Even “The Sin of Two Extremes” is a case of two extremes. I call the division of domains into two extremes a sin, whereas the division of domains into other than two extremes is not a sin. Sin and not a sin. Perhaps I can escape the quandary by saying that on a sin ladder it would get a 9.5. See, I even accommodate other-than-integer numbers and all! Whew, crisis averted.

If, in the future, I mistakenly repeat this terrocious (combination of terrible and atrocious) thought-blunder, don’t hesitate to remind me (kindly; my ego is fragile) via comments at the bottom.  I am also interested in hearing your thoughts. In what way to do commonly commit the sin of two extremes?  Maybe you feel Uggs are pure evil and the person wearing them is consequently pure evil? Perhaps you feel cyclists are by default retarded? I’ll stop here because I don’t want to take the fun of introspection away! I do want to hear what you have to say though; I thrive on discussion! Please post your comments on here as oppposed to twitter, Facebook or email, because they’ll be better appreciated here in the context of all the other comments!