Getting to Zero

Dorothy Sayers has an essay in which she notes it’s fashionable to say you do your work to serve the community. But if you do any line of work for the community, she argues, you’ll end up falsifying your work, because you’ll be angling it for applause. You’ll feel people owe you something for your work. But if you just try to serve the work — focusing on each concrete task and doing it the way it’s supposed to be done — then you’ll end up, obliquely, serving the community more. Sometimes the only way to be good at a job is to lose the self-consciousness embedded in the question, “How’m I doing?”

Most Popular Theories of Consciousness Are Worse Than Wrong

If you bundle enough information into a computer, creating a big enough connected mass of data, it’ll wake up and start to act conscious, like Skynet.

.. And yet it doesn’t actually explain anything. What exactly is the mechanism that leads from integrated information in the brain to a person who ups and claims, “Hey, I have a conscious experience of all that integrated information!” There isn’t one.

.. This type of thinking leads straight to a mystical theory called panpsychism, the claim that everything in the universe is conscious, each in its own way, since everything contains at least some information. Rocks, trees, rivers, stars.

.. Consciousness has a specific, practical impact on brain function. If you want to understand how the brain works, you need to understand that part of the machine.

.. The explanation is sound enough that in principle, one could build the machine. Give it fifty years, and I think we’ll get there. Computer scientists already know how to construct a computing device that takes in information, that constructs models or simulations, and that draws on those simulations to arrive at conclusions and guide behavior.

The Brilliance of Louis C.K.’s Emails: He Writes Like a Politician

All this is revealing not because he’s using email to promote himself—of course he emails his fans because he wants them to buy stuff—but because Louie is so much better at this approach than the average politician. He uses the same communications vehicle as a person mass-emailing for donations and for votes, but Louie makes the genre work.

How? Because he acknowledges plainly what he’s doing. In other words, he’s in on the joke.

.. But Louie makes it clear that he knows you know what he’s doing—like when he signs off “your annoying person,” or writes something like “For any of you that didn’t go to buy it and this is just a tedious, worthless email for you, I am truly, honestly, kind of, not really sorry at all.” He tells you he hopes you’re having a great day, then immediately reminds you he’s writing to a sprawling and anonymous audience of people, as he did in January 2013:

Seeing as this email goes out to about a quarter of a million people, the odds that all of them are having a terrific day are very low. I would say at least thirty two thousand four hundred and sixty two of you are just having the worst day ever. The kind of day where, when someone smiles at you, you really want to punch them right in their stupid mouth.  And here now youre getting an annoying email from that comedian you used to like, but enough already with that guy anyway. Well, in any case…. Hello.  To all of you.

So his emails feel honest in a way that political emails don’t. Even when he gets sappy—or maybe especially then—Louie is able to strike a balance that most politicians aren’t

.. Meanwhile, here’s good ol’ Louie, back in January: “Thank you for receiving this email.  If you hated it, or you hate me, feel free to unsubscribe.  Keep in mind that I am personally informed whenever anyone unsubscribes and I cry very hard every time it happens.”