Concentrate / Decentrate

Concentrate                     -                      Decentrate
Hyper-                             -                      Hypo-
Life                                  -                      Death
Multiply                          -                      Divide
Limited                            -                      Unlimited
Real                                  -                      Ideal
Flawed                              -                      Perfect
Creation                            -                      Destruction

Within every living thing there is a tug of war, consisting of the the pull towards life, and the pull towards death. The life urge is conservative, the death urge expansive.

Life is defined by the process of limitation; a thing is only a thing because of all the things it is not; from a sea of infinite possibility certain characteristics are chosen, at the expense of others. Infinity is bounded.

Death is the return to infinity; the unbinding of what has been bound. If life is synonymous with 'limited', then death is synonymous with 'unlimited.'

As humans we have an urge towards expansiveness - the need to constantly explore new territory - that must be balanced by the imposition of limits. A lack of boundaries allows us to adventure to far flung places, full of mystery and novelty - but whenever we travel to extremes we also dance with death.

Concentrative thinking is centripetal. It focuses to a point. It borns gravity. It “charges” by multiplying low potential into high and cold into heat.

Decentrative thinking is centrifugal. It expands into space. It borns radiation. It “discharges” by dividing high potential into low and heat into cold.

The journey toward gravity simulates life and the opposite journey simulates death in the forever repeating cycles which, together in their continuity, simulate eternal life.

[Walter Russell]
A New Concept of the Universe, p. 14-16

One of the characteristic patterns of capitalism is of things getting concentrated into ever smaller spaces. Of things becoming more tightly packed. Of extremes.

Some examples:

- money and power is concentrated into fewer hands, producing extreme wealth/poverty.

- people are concentrated into smaller spaces, producing areas of extreme density (cities) and extreme sparsity (countryside).

- pixels are concentrated into smaller spaces producing extreme definition (HD).

Unchecked concentration leads to extremes.

For instance, the more you gather separate things together into one entity, and the tighter you pack them, the more mass you create; the more you concentrate flavours, the more exaggerated is the affect on the tastebuds; the more you focus talent into one area, the greater are the potential products of that talent; and by focusing wealth and power in fewer hands, the more extreme things can be done with this wealth and power.

Its akin to taking a long-slow wave - with shallow troughs and peaks - and packing it into a very small space. Its highs and lows are exaggerated - higher highs and lower lows - but its duration, its lifespan, is significantly shortened.

Imagine an athlete who trains so hard that they surpass all previous achievements in their field. They push their body to its limits, but in doing so wear it out in a very short space of time. They burn brightly - brighter than anything thus far - but their flame is extinguished unusually soon.

A high peak is always followed by a swift and steep descent. The brighter you burn, you shorter you shine: this is the eternal balance.

Through concentrating things we have made certain advances that would not have been possible otherwise. We have reached extremes that would have been unattainable if things were more evenly spread. These are the victories of capitalism.

Capitalism is, amongst other things, a pattern of runaway growth. It is unchecked linear progress, an infinite line moving into infinite space. In disregarding limits, it ends up going to extremes.

The longer it continues, the more tightly things will be packed, and the more extreme these things will become. It is turning a beach full of sand into a few boulders of sandstone.

If you want to make sandstone then it is 'good'. If you want a beach full of sand then it is 'bad'. Each have their downsides and upsides.  

As ever, the critical factor - the thing that determines 'bad' and 'good' - is context.

In light of the current problems that face us as a species, we cannot afford to keep wanting a few boulders of sandstone. We must begin to think in terms of sand, and beaches.

A supernormal stimulus or superstimulus is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.

For example, when it comes to eggs, a bird can be made to prefer the artificial versions to their own, and humans can be similarly exploited by junk food. The idea is that the elicited behaviours evolved for the "normal" stimuli of the ancestor's natural environment, but the behaviours are now hijacked by the supernormal stimulus.

'Supernormal stimulus'

In semiotics and postmodernism, hyperreality is an inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies.

Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins. It allows the co-mingling of physical reality with virtual reality (VR) and human intelligence with artificial intelligence (AI).

Individuals may find themselves, for different reasons, more in tune or involved with the hyperreal world and less with the physical real world.


Concentration leads to hyper-stimulation leads to addiction:

- Food                                        - extreme tastes
- Pornography                           - extreme bodies
- Drugs                                      - extreme highs
- Social media                           - extreme connectivity
- Films & video games                - extreme sights & sounds
- Music                                      - extreme sound

The point that nearly everyone in the debate is trying to evade is that the collection of extravagant energy-wasting habits that pass for a normal middle class lifestyle these days is, in James Howard Kunstler’s useful phrase, an arrangement without a future.

Those habits only became possible in the first place because our species broke into the planet’s supply of stored carbon and burnt through half a billion years of fossil sunlight in a wild three-century-long joyride. 

Now the needle on the gas gauge is moving inexorably toward that threatening letter E, and the joyride is over. It really is as simple as that.

[John Michael Greer]
'Renewables: The Next Fracking?' 

An enclosed social circle can quickly evolve political views, and the concentration of Britain's intelligentsia within small networks predominantly in west and north London helped to radically shift accepted ideas and prevent dissenting voices emerging.

As Cass Sunstein noted in Going to Extremes: 'Social networks can operate as polarisation machines because they help to confirm and thus amplify people's antecendent views.'

Interactivity between a group with political leanings of a certain bent acts as an echo chamber, progressively radicalising them even more.

[Ed West]
The Diversity Illusion, p. 62-3

I think that status is a hyper-normal stimuli […] what porn is to sex, sugar and salt and fat concentrated in a Frappuccino, or a McDonalds is to food - void of the actual nutrition […]

In an evolutionary environment we couldn’t necessarily have more than 150 people pay attention to us - now we can have a huge number of people pay attention to us and have it metricised with likes.

I think it is like sugar, a hyper-normal stimulus that is [unlikely] not to be bad for us, and we have to have a very mature relationship to it. Addiction of any kind - any hyper-normal stimulus that decreases normal stimulus - is going to end up being net bad for us.

I think one of the metrics for how healthy a society is, is inverse relationship to addictive dynamics. 

Addiction will give me a spike and then a crash, and then because of the crash I’m craving something that will spike me because I feel really shitty. But then I get in an erosion of baseline over time from the effects of that.

A healthier, more effective relationship to pleasure is anti-addictive. A healthy environment conditions people who are not prone to addiction, which means having more authenticity of choice. Addiction or compulsion writ large is less authenticity of choice.

If there is a healthy status relationship - in a tribal environment, where I can’t really lie and people are watching me, and know me - if I’m thought well of it’s because I’m actually doing well by everybody and I have authentic healthy relationships, as as opposed to [being able to] signal things that aren’t true, get more status though negative signalling about other people, and so on - that is the same kind of thing as the fast food, or the porn.

So I think we have a hypo-normal environment of the healthy stimulus which actually creates a baseline well being. Most people, when they go camping with their friends and they’re in nature in real authentic human relationships, they’re checking their phone for dopamine hits from email or Facebook less - because they’re actually having an authentic, meaningful, engaging interaction.

But in a world where there is a lot of isolation, [little] connection to nature and meaningfulness, that hypo-normal environment creates increased susceptibility to hyper-normal stimuli. 

Hyper-normal stimuli happen to be good for markets, because on the supply side addiction is good for the lifetime value of a customer, but is bad for society as a whole.

[Daniel Schmachtenberger]
'Daniel Schmachtenberger on The Portal (with host Eric Weinstein), Ep. #027 - On Avoiding Apocalypses' (3:11:40)

[…] globalisation creates interlocking fragility, while reducing volatility and giving the appearance of stability. In other words it creates devastating Black Swans. 

We have never lived before under the threat of a global collapse. Financial institutions have been merging into a smaller number of very large banks. Almost all banks are now interrelated. So the financial ecology is swelling into gigantic, incestuous, bureaucratic banks […] when one falls, they all fall. The increased concentration among banks seems to have the effect of making financial crises less likely, but when they happen they are more global in scale and hit us very hard.

We have moved from a diversified ecology of small banks, with varied lending policies, to a more homogenous framework of firms that all resemble on another. True, we now have fewer failures, but when they occur… I shiver at the thought. I rephrase here: we will have fewer but more severe crises.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 225-6

[Nathan] Myhrvold enlightened me about an additional way to interpret and prove how globalisation takes us into Extremistan: the notion of species density. 

[…] out of the sixty thousand main words in English, only a few hundred constitute the bulk of what is used in writings, and even fewer appear regularly in conversation. Likewise, the more people aggregate in a particular city, the more likely a stranger will be to pick that city as his destination. The big get bigger and the small stay small, or get relatively smaller.

Simply, larger environments are more scalable than smaller ones - allowing the biggest to get even bigger, at the expense of the smallest, through the mechanism of preferential attachment […]

We have evidence that small islands have many more species per square meter than larger ones, and, of course, than continents. As we travel more on this planet, epidemics will be more acute - we will have a germ population dominated by a few numbers, and the successful killer will spread vastly more effectively. Cultural life will be dominated by fewer persons: we have fewer books per reader in English than in Italian […] Companies will be more uneven in size. And fads will be more acute. So will runs on the banks, of course.

[…] I am not saying that we need to stop globalisation and prevent travel. We just need to be aware of the side effects, the trade-offs - and few people are. I see the risks of a very strange acute virus spreading throughout the planet.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 219, 317