TED Conversations

L.A. Hall

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Life is a game, I write to you as a fellow player...

Life is a game that comprises many other games: reality, society, culture, community, family, and so on. The prioritization of these games depends on the individual. The exception to the rule is that we all, by being born, by being human, have signed an agreement with reality; an agreement we may forget about in time, but are bound to; an agreement to keep ourselves alive. BUT, the 'board', per-say, of society's game -- the construct -- has gotten bigger than reality's board. More than half our planet's people live in cities, they say; a perfect example. And so, to -- now we're gettin' real deep with this metaphor -- make a move in the game of reality, let's say, find permanent shelter; you can't just go out into the woods and build a friggin' cabin, because that's illegal and in time you'll get yourself arrested. So in order to lock down permanent, secure shelter, you've got to do what? Pay for it, and to pay for it, you've got to get your hands on some money. Now you can either earn it or steal it; but either way it's the same move in the game of reality: find permanent shelter. If you want to make sure you're shelter is secure, you don't want the cops barging in your door and arresting you for thievery or extortion or whatever you'd have to do to steal money to buy permanent shelter. Instead you decide to get a job and you earn the money to pay for secure shelter. So what I mean when I say "the board" of society is bigger than the board of reality is that you can't just go out into the woods and sustain yourself. Eventually, people will find you and tell you to leave, and if you don't listen to those people, eventually they will come with guns and threaten you and you will have to leave -- all because human excess has diminished our capability to appreciate nature, and to use natural resources effectively and efficiently. We are on the wrong course.

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  • Jan 4 2013: I agree with everything I understand in your offering, but I disagree with your implied condemnation of the race. You wouldn't define your son by his negative characteristics would you? So why are you so keen to condemn humanity because they didn't get it right the first time. We may all be doomed to being the wretched survivors of the colllapse of our global civilization....but maybe not. Forget all the buildings and monuments and institutions, forget all the culture and science; It's the ideas that will remain. All but two, religion and money. Wishful thinking? About money, yes but religion is dead if the balloon goes up unless jesus, or the last immam check in to watch the show. Humanity has faced greater obstacles than this turmoil amongst ourselves. Tragedy unifies humanity and a unified humanity is a mighty thing indeed.
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    Jan 15 2013: As a fellow player, I see what you mean. Indeed there will be no more space for nature if we keeping going with the same strategy. But we can change the game, we can interconnect with nature. There was a TED talk were a British architecture had a building with trees growing on the side of it. Everything in this game always comes full circle. Come out of nowhere and going back in to nothingness. Coming out of the bushes and letting them become apart of us. I know it doesn't seem like it now, but you can't go against how the world works. There are rules to this game yu know.
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    arun ks

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    Jan 6 2013: As a fellow player, just trying to put my observation as on the game(have no idea how good i am in that).First of all, the root of game as i see it is the reason to define/ perceive life consciously has led to this perspective of visualizing life in the terms of a game. You have mentioned prioritization of the game depends on individual. listing of options(sub games of life) is the step prior to setting priority.I kind of believe this is where the game of life takes shape as an interrelated entity among several options/ games that the conscious self can predict.
    I some how didnt feel convinced with the idea of a signed agreement with reality. With reality being a part of the bigger game of life as what understood from what i read, Still thinking the existence/ need /reason for such an agreement.(may be will come back on it later)
    Coming into the part of making a move in the game of reality, as the game is individualistic as i see it. The options to make a move is wide open as long as the individual is willing to explore things with different perspective. I honestly believe the world is too big. I prefer to refine the move of permanent shelter to finding a shelter. As i honestly have no definition for what is permanent.
    An individual goes to the woods looking for a shelter assuming that he has adapted and survived till he is found and asked to leave. The way i see the relation between society and reality is created by how the rules of the game are defined by the individual. If its just the shelter that the individual is looking for then he can always move on. The world is so big to live a nomadic life till the individual wants it to be that way.
    In reality there are numerous ways in which you can continue to live in the woods, say for example by giving voice for the conservation of nature, one can come across like minded people people who work in woods. This is one such way, its the way one chooses to play that defines the game and its relation.
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      Jan 5 2013: I think society is a very powerful illusion with very real incentives and punishments that directly affect the human condition. You cannot grab an axe (in MOST places), retreat into the woods and build a cabin. A lot of America's woodlands are conserved. And why is that? Why do we feel the need to fence in little caches of nature? Because we know ourselves, our past, and this mutant vehicle of progress we ride well enough to see that we have destroyed it before, and surely will again unchecked. So we check ourselves. Overpopulation is the biggest problem, and there's nothing we can do about it. The economy of life on our planet is becoming way out of whack, and we forget that it all comes from nature. If man kills the wolf and the deer thrive, eating the mountain away, they will be left with nothing and die too. And then the mountain will be bare and void of life, and we will have nothing to take from it. And we will die. The game of reality is what destroys minds. Its what would make men with guns come after me after I moved into the forest and call me a squatter. In the game of reality, I could kill them and protect my territory, but this would be a crime, and in the game of reality, more men with more guns would come and call me a murderer, and these men would grab me and throw me in a small concrete room with metal bars. But in the game of society, I squatted (which is against the law), killed two police officers, and then went to jail. But there is such a disconnect between these two narratives. And most people are forced to explain and express their life through the conduit of society's game, when they're living and experiencing reality. "Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals." -- Oscar Wilde
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      Jan 21 2013: We live in an ecosystem. There is no denying the interdependency of our world. The metals and minerals we build our toy world out of eventually can be traced back to mines. The oil that heats us and the clothes that clothe us are of this earth as well. Economics seems to be coming up a lot. Let's look at it again, this time in comparison with nutrient cycling in an ecosystem.

      We all know about the cyclical flow of the economy. We all know a big part of this recessions slow recovery can be attributed to people's baseline economic ignorance that 'my spending is your income' and vice-versa. So when people, like they have been, try and do something they believe to be in their best interest: save -- in times where the entire economic engine is crippled, the entire engine starts to slow down; and that's because collectively, we can't save. We need to give back.

      Now, lets look at ecosystems. It all starts with solar energy, which shines down on organisms called producers (plants) that make the nutrients they need from compounds and energy absorbed from their environment. Then, organisms called Primary Consumers (herbivores) feed off of these, where secondary consumers (carnivores) then feed off of them. There are also omnivores (like us) that eat both, and decomposers (like vultures and fungi) that feed off of waste and dead organisms, breaking things down into chemical nutrients that can again be used by producers.

      Again, this is common knowledge to a lot of people; but I don't think parallels are drawn enough. In the cyclical flow of the economy, nutrients can be equated to money. Nutrients are the currency that make things work. And when we -- like we have been for a long, long time now -- think to place ourselves outside of this ecosystem nutrient cycling loop, we pave the way for its complete dismantling; and when we do that, we pave the way for our own destruction.

      You cannot take without giving and expect it to go on forever. This dream is fast and distracting
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    Jan 3 2013: I'm reading Walden right now. Thoreau had so many invaluable insights about social constructs. In the last section I read, he talked about how people, by endeavoring to reside in homes worth more than themselves, end up -- in a way -- selling themselves to the house. You know, in order to have the house, you need money; in order to get money, you've got to get a job. Those two things -- house and job -- consume the lives of most people. A great deal of people in the past -- some who consider themselves martyrs of their own utilitarianism -- have spent what little freetime this life of unenjoyable excess has afforded them desperately seeking relaxation, escape and sanctuary. What we forget, though, and this is something Thoreau tells us (although not in this language), is that you can always opt out of the game of society -- as Thoreau did when he went to Walden pond with nothing but an axe and found a life bare of excessive comforts, but rich in contemplation and thought. This is the world we all ought to live in. He employs a wonderful bird metaphor. The great songbirds go about the land, collecting what they can, using their own will to construct a home; and these songbirds sing beautiful songs to us. But we -- Thoreau asserts -- are becoming cowbirds and cuckoos: laying our eggs in nests that others have built, and delighting no one with their beauty. We are the wrong course, and I do not know what to do.
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    Jan 3 2013: "you can't just go out into the woods and sustain yourself." Um, yes you can. I know a lot of people who do. And they maintain their natural resources effectively and efficiently. You just have to know where to look.

    And it's not human excess that is the problem, it is human greed.
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      Jan 3 2013: Just out of curiosity, Linda, where in general do you live that you know many people who have gone into the woods and sustained themselves? What kind of living conditions have they set up? Is it a case were they are ready to move at a moment's notice, because it seems like sometimes people do come along and tell you to move.

      I ask because I sometimes dream of doing this too, but I don't know how you'd do it here in Southern California.
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        Jan 3 2013: You can't do it in southern California. But there are a few pockets of the US where it can still be done. You can definitely accomplish this in third world countries. It is really, really hard and I do not recommend it. It might sound romantic to hunt and fish for your own food, but hunger is real if the hunt was not successful.
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      Jan 3 2013: But what you need to understand is that one of the biggest reasons that this has happened is because society has become foremost, it has spilled over into uninvited lands it has no business in. Humans, I think, are meant to live in a confluence of man and nature. Our current course destroys these places. Cities are rich in man but poor in nature; national parks are rich in nature but poor in man. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I think we've got to move towards a society that raises self-sufficient individuals. We need to live with nature. It isn't really a choice, either, it's a matter of how big we want the isolating boxes we build to be. The bigger the boxes, the less we will grow up to understand the key to our fate: nature.
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        Jan 4 2013: No, society is not foremost. The individual is foremost and has created society (at least in the US) to meet the needs and desires of the individual. Like I said greed.

        We used to live in harmony with nature a mere two hundred years ago. It was the break up of that society into the society of the individual that caused the disharmony. I want, I need, land, space, food resources electricity yada yada. If you have it, I can take it from you manifest destiny etc.

        I would be happy if we could just move towards a society where people actually worked instead of live off the resources of others...

        Watch Thoreau, he was a dreamer not a realist. He ALWAYS went back to the city.
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          Jan 4 2013: One of the great untold stories is that many hunter-gatherer tribes have lived unchanged since the agricultural revolution. These folks were around long before civilization, and I believe will be around long after us.

          He did, yes, but only because the construct of society has become so large that it's a game you 'can't' opt out of. You need more than yourself to live in the wild; but to live in the wild with a tribe? That is the paragon. If Thoreau had found his tribe of axe-wielding dreamers, they would have gone out into the world to make their way, but everyone is too captivated by the tinsel of worldly success. We don't need to learn how to make more; we need to learn how to need less.
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    Jan 3 2013: We certainly ARE on the wrong course.

    Did you know that in my town (in South Carolina), it is illegal to feed a homeless person? It's not illegal to feed a homeless cat or the birds. Just humans. But people here in this fundamentalist christian part of the world, do not see the cruelty. They don't even see the contradiction between their religion and their actions.

    I disagree that it is human excess that has caused our problems. I believe that it is fear that stems from a culture based on principles of scarcity.
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      Jan 4 2013: The very study of this scarcity that is the source of your ignorance. If you know something you will not be effect of it.
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        Jan 4 2013: The study of scarcity is the source of ignorance? How ignorant. Knowledge is not ignorance. Learning does not lead to ignorance. Learning leads to knowledge.

        I understand that my post offended you because you are an extremely fundamentalist Christian. But if you are a real christian, you will not judge me so harshly, because Jesus said "Judge not" and as you judge others, you shall be judged"
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          Jan 4 2013: The very definition of economics is the study of scarce resources that have alternative uses. This is fundamental to the "malady" you describe.
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        Jan 4 2013: You're not quite right there, Pat. The definition of economics is resource management. A study of economics involves more than just a study of our current fiscal paradigm. Ours is scarcity-based. There are abundance-based models, but those models do not use money (and i do not mean that money is replaced by barter - though that is another model)

        One cannot undertake a study of economics by studying only that which is here today. That would only be a study of that which is here today.
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          Jan 4 2013: The definition of economics IS the study of scarce resources that have alternative uses PERIOD.

          Happy New Year TED Lover
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        Jan 4 2013: economics plural of ec·o·nom·ics (Noun)

        1) The branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth. (this definition pertains to the study of our fiscal paradigm)

        2) The condition of a region or group as regards material prosperity. (Core principle)

        Economics is derived from economy
        [ih-kon-uh-mee] noun, plural e·con·o·mies, adjective, adverb.
        noun: 5) the disposition or regulation of the parts or functions of any organic whole; an organized system or method. (The previous 4 definitions realate to our fiscal model only)

        When one economizes, one conserves.

        Protect from harm or destruction.

        Our fiscal model certainly doesn't protect from harm. It is the cause of MUCH harm, and when the fiscal sh*t hits the fan, that will be patently obvious to all.

        I have not found an authoritative definition of economics that matches your description. PERIOD.
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          Jan 4 2013: TL

          You learned me some stuff about the constitution. I'm just trying to learn you some stuff about economics. But you have your preconceived notions that prevent you from hearing me.

          "A distinguished British economist named Lionel Robbins gave the classic definition of economics:

          Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.

          What does "scarce" mean? It means that people want more than there is. This may seem like a simple thing, but its implications are often grossly misunderstood, even by highly educated people. "

          From here:

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        Jan 4 2013: Anyone who uses that definition is speaking of our current fiscal paradigm. Context is everything. Our current fiscal paradigm IS a scarcity-based paradigm, therefore the study of it is the study of managing scarcity.

        But if you look outside of that narrow frame of reference, you will see that scarcity-based economics is not the only economics that there are. Perhaps your preconceived notions are preventing you from hearing me.
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          Jan 5 2013: In this universe the only economics is as defined.

          The preconceived notions I have stem from the physical universe.

          You appear to enjoy being esoteric? Do your ideas stem from the Venus Project or the Secret of OZ?
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        Jan 4 2013: Pat, I know you and TED Lover don't need my intrusion in this, but I think that the Wikipedia entry for Economics gives a pretty good picture of the matters the discipline of economics tends to address. The definitions part of the article gives only the sort of superficial idea that doesn't take you far, much as standard dictionary definitions tend to capture colloquial use of a word better than the sense in which words are used in a discipline or scholarship, but the balance of the article puts some meat on the matter.
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          Jan 5 2013: Sorry Fritzie I would have to disagree mainly on the intention of the article. Any economic text should intend to bring about understanding of the subject of economics, this article does not in fact it creates more confusion. You could hardly blame them though as bogus information about economics out numbers true information by 8 to 2 in my estimation.

          The article does not even mention Hayak or the Austrian School of economics, sorry but in my best Spicoli voice that is bogus.

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        Jan 5 2013: My flagging the article was not for its details or its comprehensiveness but rather for its giving an overview of the questions economics tends to address.

        I proposed it as an alternative to addressing the question with the sort of "sound bites" dictionaries provide. A dictionary is not an encyclopedia entry, and an encyclopedia entry is not a textbook. A textbook is not a discipline.

        I don't think a short set of words tends to capture a discipline. Disputes over which short set of words is best may distract people from the level of inquiry it takes actually to understand what people interested in this field think about.

        I have no doubt that you know what sorts of questions different scholars and practictioners ask, even if you find some models far more compelling than others. We decide which models seem most realistic, typically, not by looking only at one but by comparing models for their value.
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          Jan 5 2013: I hear you Fritzie

          However I think Ted Lover has a preconceived notion that makes her dismiss any ideas contrary to her notion.

          IMO education has to be focused on application if it is not it is not education. With the most perfunctory test much of the economic verbiage can be dismissed quite easily. EG starting the the very definition of economics that alligns so many subordinate datums as with any true hierarchy of knowledge.
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        Jan 5 2013: Pat: No.my ideas stem from an exhaustive study of economics and the history of money
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        Jan 5 2013: Pat:
        Please permit me to explain where I am coming from in this discussion.

        When Einstein looked at the numbers in physics, they didn't make sense. Educated people were forcing numbers into formulas causing predictions to be in error (planetary motions). He re-thought the entire notion of how reality works and in the twinkling of an eye, he understood what is missing. Time!

        A minute on the equator or on Mt. Everest is shorter than a minute at sea level at the north pole. His answer to this prediction changed how we look at our world today. (It was proven in the 40s). The fundamental change in understanding is ultimately responsible for many of our most appreciated inventions.

        I am not saying that I'm an Einstein, however I have looked at the numbers that cause both of us such outrage (the FACTS of the national debt and a fiscal system that takes self-responsibility away from people and teaches them learned helplessness while fostering poverty for an increasing number relative to the wealth of a fewer number - & taking away fiscal mobility). As learning is my hobby, I added more information (largely from quantum mechanics) to the numbers and came up with a theory that should end most social ills.

        I am convinced that our fiscal paradigm is unworkable & unsustainable. It causes too much unnecessary hardship and strife. Rather than try to force it to work, I have reinvisioned society so that it will naturally work in harmony - just as Einsteiin reinvisioned physics. Many don't like my ideas, but then many were offended by Einstein's work - because they didn't understand it. Even Einstein didn't like parts of his own theories, but the math was indisputable and facts are facts.

        I'm not one of the "love it or leave it" types. I'm about "love it or make it better".

        The facts say that our fiscal paradigm is broken, unsustainable, and cruel. So I stand behind a different fiscal model. One that doesn't heap penalties on those made vulnerable by it.
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          Jan 5 2013: Where is the explanation of an economy that exists without scarcity?

          The current system is broken because of debt, no mystery about it, except of course the capacity for indifference.
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    Jan 3 2013: In fact society is a community of primates as a group at a large scale. With Chimps there's one that sets the rules by which every member has to play. That principle isn't different with human beings.