2023: Now What?

It’s hard to express how weird the year number 2023 seems. (I can go on about it a little because it’s Janus-uary, but I’ll try to not mention it again.) Honestly, I never expected to live this long. My lifestyle was never oriented towards longevity. I sought the brief exciting flight of the firework over the slowly dying coal ember.

Yet here I am, with 70 on the middle horizon, already outliving some of my peers, struggling to stay sane in a world that seems to have lost its way, and generally wondering WTF now.

I guess it’s like being permanently in recovery. One day at a time. Deal with today, let tomorrow come in its own time. And so, onto, into, and unto 2023.

Did I mention it’s a weird year number? I have yet to fully adapt to the 21st century but there are people now old enough to drink who were born in it. (Born in the 21st century, I mean, not in drink. As far as I know. Which I don’t.) Talk about feeling old.

So, it’s hard to think, let alone write about, what I see ahead in 2023.

More of the same, I’d guess. It’s hard to care when the world has turned into something I barely recognize anymore. All our worst tendencies as humans seem to have come to the fore while our character, curiosity, and intellect become artifacts of a former era.

And it has definitely gotten worse in the last half-decade or so. For years now I’ve had the sense that humanity reached its peak, collectively took a look at itself, and immediately sank into that famous Peggy Lee song.

Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.
If that’s all there is.

Because, yes, when a sad excuse for an “intelligent” species fills its minds and culture with fantasy bullshit of all stripes (and spots), that is — indeed — all there is.

§

But outside the culture bubbles, the physical world is endlessly amazing, whether it be oceans and campfires or atoms and magnetic fields. Not to mention the animal and plant kingdoms. I am fascinated and repelled by the artificial and so very false social bubbles people construct.

It’s the dishonesty that gets to me most. (Along with the willful discarding of character and class.) We’re all subjected to a never-ending stream of deliberate, often malicious, lies in the form of spam comments, spam emails, junk snail mail, telemarketing calls (often automated), and media advertising.

Our so-called news outlets, at best, spin the truth, and more and more resort to severely unbalanced reporting. Some engage in willful outright lies. Rarely, if ever, is there true journalism anymore.

Government. Dishonest? As the day is long (and often working into the night). Again, at best, spinning reality to favor our side. In some cases, weaving, as they say, a whole cloth. The political machine may end us long before any Terminator machines get a chance.

Those are the global dishonesties we all suffer. Closer to home, metaphorically and literally, it can be our employers or employees, or our friends, or sometimes even our family. And usually, the closer the source of the lie, the more it hurts.

The problem isn’t new. More than 2000 years ago Diogenes sought hopelessly for an honest person. Dishonesty seems a deeply embedded characteristic — even some animals practice it in some form. The question is to what extent we, as an intelligent species, can rise above it.

[Not that total honesty is the ultimate end goal. There is a certain mild socially necessary dishonesty to courtesy and politeness. We don’t want ever to lie, but we don’t need to spill all our beans all the time.]

Bottom line, we’re all surrounded and bombarded constantly by lies. The sad thing is that we get so used to it. The sad thing is that we accept it as the price we pay for the easy inexpensive technologically glorified lives we lead.

§

The other thing that really gets to me is the polarization and extremists on both sides. It falls under the umbrella of rampant dishonesty, but there is also a war-like mentality in play. Our side must win at all costs. Destroy the other side.

I have nothing good to say about either side, but I do think the Right Wing is more blatantly dishonest and manipulative. The Left Wing ends up being just as full of shit, but they’re more earnest about it. But there are True Believers (God help us) on both sides.

I tend to vote on the liberal side because, bluntly, True Believers on the Right scare me more — recent events demonstrated they can be effective. (The problem is they’re effective fascists.) True Believers on the Left tend to be so mixed up and ineffective they never seem to get anywhere. (The Left is the side that most invokes the notion of “trying to herd kittens.” Or that I might label as “scatterbrained”.)

Bottom line, I tend to see the Right as lacking basic humanity and the Left as having too much of it. Both have lost their way, but the Right more than the Left, I think.

FWIW, I don’t view it as “liberals” and “conservatives” because I find the division misleading. There is a Right Wing, a Left Wing, and a ton of citizen victims caught in the middle. A nation needs strong (and rational!) conservative and progressive views. The former to ground itself, the latter to prevent stagnation. Sadly, it has become a zero-sum social game with winners (almost no one) and losers (most everyone).

Well, as I mentioned recently, a favorite quote of mine is: “Every nation has the government it deserves.” (Joseph de Maistre) I guess we got our just desserts.

I stopped watching the news because [1] it doesn’t really exist anymore and [B] politics and general social behavior makes me ill at heart. I prefer my own bubble of science, math, nature, craft beers and burgers, dogs, and nice chats. The rest of the world is beyond my ken, control, or caring.

Simply put: Fuck it!

§ §

So, yeah, 2023: more of the same all around, I assume.

That means more quantum mechanics. And math. Sorry (but not sorry). I love that stuff. In part because it’s a never-ending source of all the more there is to learn. A perpetual mountain to climb. Writing about it forces me to be very clear on a topic, so it’s a helpful form of homework.

I won’t get into it here (and I’ve touched on this plenty in the past), but the more I learn, the more I doubt quantum mechanics as we know it. It has always had a whiff of Epicycles to me. Given what a wavefunction really is, and given its apparent probabilistic nature, I find it harder and harder to take seriously. We need a revolutionary new view (as Copernicus, Newton, or Einstein provided).

My goal continues to be what it’s been: learning the math well enough to solve the Schrödinger equation and write some animation code. I’ve come a long way, and while the goal isn’t imminent, I think it’s now at least in sight.

§

Way back in 2013, I did two related posts, Color My World and Color Redux. They were a basic exploration of how color works. There was an intended third post I never got around to. At this point, I don’t entirely recall what that third post was supposed to be about, but I still have some images I was going to use. Ten years later, it’s probably time to toss those images. Or write that post.

§

Two topics I probably won’t write about again: Baseball and POV-Ray. I still follow baseball and watch what I can, but it’s not something that seems to occupy my mind the way it once did. I just enjoy watching a game. (I was so into it at one point that I wrote over 25,000 lines of Python code to extract game data for all 30 Major League teams from MLB and generate all kinds of charts and stats — see this post for an example.)

Making POV-Ray models is so time intensive — so much detail work to make anything interesting. The last model I made was adequate, but nothing to crow about. It would be nice to finish (or even get a good start on) the model of my own place (interior only), but I doubt I’ll ever finish that baseball park or theatre building. Or improve my Enterprise.

I do like using POV-Ray to help render animations when they benefit from being 3D. I can use code to do most of the work. Here’s a good example:

See my YouTube videos for more examples. I do plan to write a post about the collision algorithm and how it was a perfect opportunity to use rotation matrices.

§

I do want to write about Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German Lutheran pastor who was hanged because of his opposition to the nazi party. Bonhoeffer wrote a bit of text that has resonated with many ever since. In it, he writes (bold emphasis mine):

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless.

A key point he makes is that evil smart people are rational and can sometimes be made to see reason. Education works with them. But evil stupid people are a far greater menace to society because nothing works with them. Trying to change them is futile and frustrating. The only hope is convincing them to change themselves — a fraught and challenging task.

[FWIW: I lean towards virtue ethics (over consequentialism or deontology), but it does require minds educated for critical and broad thinking. Deontology, a system of laws, can be followed blindly, but all modes require a judicial process for conflicts. One might question the advocacy system, though.]

§

No doubt I’ll sometimes post about science fiction or mysteries or TV shows or movies or dogs. Or whatever. The whole point of the blog is whatever.

Bottom line, 2023, weird as it sounds, will be like the other years: who knows what will happen here, there, or anywhere!

§ §

Funny how some interests persist and become permanent parts of your core while others don’t. The funny part is you never can tell which until after something turns out to be a passing interest. Or fades from whatever initial thrill it gave you.

Baseball versus science fiction is like that for me. Both go back to childhood, but I was far more into SF until 2010. The enlarged interest in baseball has endured but cooled off the last few years. Science fiction (and science), though, turned out to be lifelong passions.

But given all the things that have faded, for one reason or another, I think I need to find a new passion. Something to get really excited about.

Stay moving forwards, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

13 responses to “2023: Now What?

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Here’s a six-minute video that gets into Bonhoeffer’s text:

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Here’s an even shorter one:

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Heh. I like the way the last four posts stutter into the new year: 2022 … 2023 … 2022 … 2023 … 😄

  • Mark Edward Jabbour

    “It’s hard to care when the world has turned into something I barely recognize anymore. All our worst tendencies as humans seem to have come to the fore while our character, curiosity, and intellect become artifacts of a former era.” hmmm, can’t say I disagree. Sounds like you are mostly ambivalent if not apathetic?

    From my perspective (FWIW) this decent into deceit began with the CIA. I read (don’t know if it’s true) that Creative Writing instruction in universities began (in the 50’s) so as to train operatives how to better lie.

    Anyway, I think the “tipping point” was the OJ Simpson trial in 1994 (?). Live TV coverage of lying “works” – you can literally get away with murder. You’ve got the whole mess wrapped up in that case. Race, money, fame, entertainment, violence, smart/clever people, stupid people and most of all – lies. “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

    The 90’s were so traumatic in so many ways. And “we” didn’t get proper treatment/recovery.

    What’s next? I don’t want to go there. I’ll get myself in trouble. cheers.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I certainly have mixed feelings when it comes to people. The apathy, I think, is a response to my outrage culture generally doesn’t reach for what we can rise to but typically wallows in what we can sink to. We seem to have lost the notion of “our better angels”.

      Yeah, the OJ trial (which indeed started in 1994 and ran into 1995) was a huge “feet of clay” moment, especially for sports fans. I left L.A. in 1984, so I wasn’t around for it, but I knew the environment and once served jury duty in that courthouse. (That was an interesting experience. I should post about it.) We’d seen sports figures and celebrities misbehaving for a very long time by then, but OJ was such a family-friendly household name (that guy in the Hertz car rentals commercials!) that it was shocking.

      The 1990s also brought us the interweb. The internet began way back in the 1960s, though (I got on in the mid-1970s). Before the web it was mostly computer and science types. Before the IBM PC (1981) and Apple Macintosh (1984), very few even had access to computers, let alone the internet. That began to change in the late 1980s, and when Berners-Lee invented the web in 1990, the change went into hyper-mega-ultra-super-overdrive. You may recall when those strange “WWW” constructions started showing up on billboards and letterhead. Now, some companies expect you to access them via the web. (I infamously (in my own mind) attended an early demo of the web in 1991 or so and declared it would never succeed.)

      What was depressing was watching a venue that had once been based on sharing knowledge and having interesting debates evolve into a mechanism for separating people from their money, spreading lies, and attacking. The internet is a huge and global example of the Tragedy of the Commons. The human race, folks. There’s nothing they can’t spoil or fuck up. ‘No mountain high enough, no river wide enough,…’ (Sorry Marvin!)

      I think someone might be pulling your leg about the CIA. All sorts of government branches did keep their eyes on college campuses for all sorts of reasons, and I can see the CIA having an interest in learning how authors create fiction, but creative writing classes go back to the 19th century and, I think, too naturally follow from English classes for their invention to be a CIA thing. (Creative writing, obviously, is as old as written language.) When it comes to spies, the real-life Sidney Reilly (who Ian Flemming used as the model for James Bond) is said to be the one who changing government spying on other governments from a gentleman’s game with (unwritten) rules of engagement to the ‘do anything’ bag of tricks spying turned into.

      Humans have always been deceitful, but in the combination of population and technology we seem to have industrialized and weaponized it.

  • First Cause

    I have to chuckle a bit guys because most young people today really don’t see the world the same way as us “old guys”. (turning 70 myself in a couple of months).

    First Cause is Lee R……. so party on Wyrd and keep your chin up my internet friend.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Hey Lee, Happy New Year! Welcome to 2023.

      No, the young never do see it the way experienced people do. Good thing, too; we can get stuck in our ways. Need that young blood to keep us vital. That said, I can’t help but wonder about their values sometimes. Worst is when they never outgrow their “childish things.”

  • Mark Edward Jabbour

    “served jury duty in that courthouse. (That was an interesting experience. I should post about it.)” Yes! Do. I have a blog primed but have not wrote it. I was called for Jury duty recently, and wow! how eye opening regarding just how f___ed we are regarding “the justice system.”

    Not that CIA invented creative writing, I might have misspoke. Only that they encouraged their agents to take classes; and that they “encouraged” universities to offer classes.

    It, like “Improv” has blossomed in the last 50 years.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I enjoyed my jury duty experience (although I agree the justice system needs a major overhaul). Haven’t thought about it in a long time. It probably would make a good post.

      Yeah, ever since the interweb, and especially ever since the interweb, everyone wants to be an author. Even my sister has published a few books. (I’ve seen it said, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, that every blogger is an author hoping to be discovered. I can say the ratio of bloggers to authors here does seem much higher than IRL.)

  • Mark Edward Jabbour

    I’d love to read one of your sister’s books. If she’d like? Send me one and I’ll pay retail + shipping. ~
    “every blogger is an author hoping to be discovered.” no doubt. ~
    I’m somewhat surprised – you were selected for a jury? I never am.

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