I've spent most of my life collecting knowledge, so that by now I have collected some. I've also done a fair amount of living, so that my knowledge is not purely theoretical, but also stood up to practical scrutiny. Having hit the age of 40, I find myself knowing things that lots of people do not seem to know, and which no one seems to bother to tell them.

If you're a person growing up today, many of the things people tell you are true. Many of the ideas you're receiving are better than the ideas that prevailed in the past. At the same time, you are not being told many things that are true, because they are incongruous with the better realities people are trying to create as they tell you stories.

People do not lie to you with ill intentions. What they're omitting, they themselves might not realize. If they're aware, they omit it because they think not telling you will make you a kinder person who makes fairer decisions. And perhaps it will.

However, in your ignorance, while you try to be a good person, you'll act ineffectively at best, and at worst create damage, because you do not know real things which you weren't told. This missing knowledge forms black holes in your perception which, even though you do not see them, affect you with an invisible pull. Your optimistically planned trip through the universe will be derailed by black holes you do not know about, because it's inconvenient to tell you about them.

I'm not recruiting for a political party. I tend to be agnostic and centrist. This is my attempt to point out some black holes. It's what I wish my children knew, which I know their teachers won't tell them. It therefore spans a variety of topics.

In-group / out-group dynamics

Probably the most harmful tendency of humanity, everywhere, is to degenerate into in-groups and out-groups. I have seen this form in several countries, and it results in the formation of two camps: typically liberals vs. conservatives. These terms should be interpreted loosely: the basic driving factor aren't ideas, but affiliation itself. Groups like the police often consider themselves an in-group: everyone who's not affiliated with them is an out-group, or at best a neutral bystander. Gangs, of course, are their own in-groups, and they consider other gangs – or society at large – as their out-group.

It's easy to see how identifying with a criminal gang can create problems. What's not so obvious is how identifying as a "liberal" or a "conservative" or an "American" or "the police" or a "rationalist" or a "Shia" or a "Jew" is much alike.

The fundamental problem is that all group alliances encourage you to disregard principles in support of your allies. Groups reward this and consider it "loyalty". If you uphold principles at the expense of your allies, that is "betrayal", and you can be punished for doing the right thing if it harms unscrupulous allies. You "should" have been loyal to them!

In the way of examples, look into Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange (Anything to Say?). If it's not clear how punishing even flawed whistleblowers engenders corruption, look into how fellow police retaliated against Donna Jane Watts, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, because she pulled over an officer who was going 120 mph.

Much systemic injustice and corruption is due to in-group / out-group dynamics, which is a failure to apply principles to your allies because you value allies over principles; and because you will lose allies if you value principles more.

Our civilization is built on respect of principles over allies. If we do not have principles, we can't have civilization.

This is not just a problem when the police retaliate against law-upholding officers. It is a problem intellectually, when we are goaded into "liberal" or "conservative" camps because we don't mind trading integrity for safety in numbers.

It's deceptively easy to get pulled into this, especially when you realize you're already considered an out-group by others. For example, you might think of yourself as an individual who happens to believe in the right to abortion because it's compassionate and consistent with how you understand reality. You come across some other people and you realize they consider you "one of those liberals" based solely on this one opinion. This makes you feel threatened and creates a natural instinct to band with other "liberals" so that you might gain strength in numbers against the "conservatives". All of a sudden, the "liberals" are your allies and you feel pressured to adopt "liberal" views on a host of topics without looking very closely at the arguments. In fact, those who do look at the arguments and take nuanced positions may seem like betrayers of the "cause" who need to be cleansed so that they don't threaten the group's ideological strength.

It so happens that the liberals have some fair points, and the conservatives have some fair points, and the validity of the other group's points is not easy to see when you've swallowed a narrative hook, line and sinker. When we fail to recognize another group's truths, our offenses against them continue, and this strengthens, rather than weakens, that group.

The last thing we should want is to win. A victory of one group silences the other, and since their truth was a necessary ingredient of society's functioning, society degenerates into a dystopia. Dystopias are group dynamics where one group conquered another. The winner then suffers dysfunction because they excluded the truth of the defeated group.

Our civilization depends on valuing principles over alliances, especially intellectually. There should be no sacred ideas. It's OK to think some ideas are awful. But it's a descent into dystopia to punish people for having ideas at all.

I will now, of course, immediately go into some of those ideas. :)

Conspiracy theories and the inexplicable success of Jews

You may have heard conspiracy theories which only crazy people could believe, like that Jews run the world. You may believe such theories are completely untrue. I must correct you instead that they are only partially true.

This type of conspiracy theory comes from the failure of a majority of the population to comprehend that IQ, while not an absolute metric by any means, is the single best predictor in all of social science, and that Jews of European descent have an average IQ which is an entire standard deviation higher than average. With our rear-view vision, this can be explained as a result of centuries of persecution where survivors who maintained their Jewish identity intermarried and the rest became non-Jewish or were killed. The Jewish high IQs correlate highly with debilitating genetic disabilities, so that organizations exist to help couples avoid unfortunate pairings through genetic testing.

A result of this is that 30% - 50% of US billionaires are "Jewish" (depending on what that is), 20% of Nobel laureates are Jewish, and lots of other metrics like that. Jews are 0.2% of global population. And yes, "the Jews" control the media. Maybe not in a conspiratorial way, but to an extent that's meaningful and real, they shape editorial policies.

This state of affairs could be called a "conspiracy" in that it's in the interest of Jews to cultivate social norms which would prevent another Holocaust. "Multiculturalism" in the West seems to be motivated by this, even though Israel itself decidedly does not practice these values. However, any "conspiracy" appears to be more a matter of influential people sharing the same mindset, rather than meeting covertly to decide what to do. Unless you count the board members of US corporations incestuously sitting on each others' boards, or the annual meetings of the Bilderberg Group.

Conspiracy theories in general

You should believe many conspiracy theories are to some extent true. Organizing for a common purpose, i.e. "conspiring", is how humans have functioned forever. If someone is trying to convince you conspiracies do not exist, they're trying to fool themselves and/or you. This does not make fringe people less crazy for believing all the conspiracies are true.

Many conspiracy theories are stupid. The idea of 5G causing Covid is stupid. Pizzagate is stupid. QAnon is stupid. Faked moon landing and flat Earth are stupid. Who all conspired in 9/11, however – I find there are reasons to doubt that.

Black Americans and institutional racism

Most relevant institutions in the US today are actively inclusive and anti-racist. If that wasn't so, you wouldn't get fired for speaking against it – or for challenging what looks like a hoodlum writing graffiti in a way that seems only vaguely racist.

This wasn't always the case. 60 years ago, black motorists needed the Green Book to avoid unsafe towns and find places where they would be welcome. 100 years ago, there was the Tulsa race massacre and the lynching of Mary Turner.

In the US today, multiple types of affirmative action have been implemented since the end of segregation. Organizations of all types are incentivized to find and promote competent people of color. There exist literal quotas, and the trouble with meeting those quotas is finding the competent folks.

In media culture over the past 10+ years, black role models are represented out of all proportion to their actual existence. This portrays a false picture of the black community as if it's not plagued by problems that actually plague them. Their statistical outcomes then seem inexplicable and must be the result of racism – it can't be some other thing holding them back. The media does not identify any problem that might hold black people back; at least, nothing except racism.

This willful ignorance has proliferated so much that telling you about statistics is now racist. The people who collect the statistics must be racist. The concepts in the statistics must be racist.

The following is from the BJS report on Criminal Victimization, 2018:

In a trend that's consistent from 2001 to 2015, less than 10% of all murders involved offenders and victims of different races. Yet, blacks (13.3% of the population) killed as many people as whites (77.1% of the population). Although interracial murders are a minority, blacks killed many more whites (400 - 600 per year) than whites killed blacks (150 - 250).

By far the most convicted murderers – 90% in the US – are males. This holds independent of race. Black men – 6.6% of the population – are responsible for 36% of all murders. This is benevolent undercounting: it does not count a large portion of murders where the race of the offender is not known.

US police are not necessarily racist. Minority officers are equally as likely to shoot minority suspects as white officers. The police kill twice as many whites as blacks – more if you count white hispanics. They kill blacks disproportionately because they encounter them more. This is not unrelated to the above-average proportion of black criminal offenders.

Why do more people not know this? Because typical media reporting now looks like this. This article makes the US as a whole look like a criminal hellhole. What the article doesn't say, and what you must intuit, is that a large majority of offenders as well as the victims were black. Most of these crimes did not happen in white neighborhoods.

US police therefore do not suffer primarily from racism. They suffer from an in-group / out-group mentality that is corrupt in favor of the police. US police approach their duties with incorrect principles. They are trained to be reckless and overly aggressive. They get away with too much, and they are too fast to use violence. All of this must change.

If shouting "racism!" is how it changes, this may be better than nothing. But victims are people of all races.

But if not institutional racism – what is the cause of poor outcomes for black people in the US?

Not all black people have poor outcomes. This is one data point. Certainly, it is plausible to argue that the views of successful black people on the racism they did not encounter is a form of survivorship bias from their own success.

Nevertheless: one plausible factor is culture. People who grew up in ghettos report condemnation by their peers for "acting white". This is acting in ways that are conducive to success: going to school, reading books, doing homework, ditching the "urban" dress code and speaking "white". Successful blacks are often viewed as tantamount to race traitors.

Another factor is family. Black, Hispanic and Native American children are much more likely to grow up in single-parent families. Asian children are more likely to have two parents, and Asians in the US are more successful than whites.

Another factor is genetics. We agree race is only skin-deep and hardly well-defined. Yet we don't consider it offensive that top athletes, not merely in the US but the world, not in one discipline but many, are disproportionately black. This is more pronounced than even the proportion of Jews among Nobel laureates, and it is not offensive to observe.

Yet it is offensive to observe that this success in one area might come with a statistical trade-off. This trade-off is that, even if the concept of race is poorly defined, having "black" features is correlated with lower performance on intellectual tasks that our economy values. This is true not only in the US, but worldwide. There does not exist a very prosperous black country: at best, Botswana ranks below Costa Rica in per-capita GDP, and Costa Rica is a factor of 5 behind developed countries. When African countries are not being exploited by white men, they're being exploited by the Chinese.

What we call "exploitation", these days, are consensual transactions between economically unequal parties. Why have the parties been unequal for so long, in the first case? Why haven't Africans been doing some exploitation? They have, but they're exploiting other Africans – even enslaving them, as in the history of the Atlantic slave trade.

History is messy. This does not in any way excuse the atrocities of Belgium with King Leopold II, and the consequences it created for Congo today.

It is abominable to us that, when American founders proclaimed it self-evident that all men are created equal, they did not even consider this incongruous with their treatment of blacks. It was "obvious" to them that "men" and "blacks" are unequal. We are right to tear down their statues: they criminally underestimated the humanity of all people.

Nevertheless: they saw differences that were obvious to them, and shadows of these still persist in statistics today. People would like to tell you these differences do not exist. They do exist, and they are visible in criminal victimization, murder rates, the number of single-parent families, and general life success. It is still no reason to treat people as subhuman, just like men are not subhuman because we're much more likely to be murderers than women.

What this tells us is that policies based on pretending that differences do not exist are going to be ineffective. When this becomes apparent, the choice will once again arise to double-down and find more subtle racism which surely must be the cause of bad outcomes. Or perhaps, one day we will start to think of new policies based on a truer reading of facts.

American prisons as cruel social welfare

Not all people are employable; not just because they lack education, but because even education cannot help them. The US Army determined it cannot use people with IQ below about 83. If the US Army, which wants all the people it can get, can't use people with lower IQs, then the rest of the economy hardly can. But such people are 10% of the population.

Men have greater variability in their abilities than women. A possible cause could be that men are less stable because we only have one copy of the X chromosome. Whatever the reason, this greater variance is observed in many ways, and it means more men are exceptional positively as well as negatively. The same variability which produces geniuses, which can help society greatly, also seems to produce people society cannot use.

This 2015 article in The Economist expounded on the topic of economically useless men, but having the political leanings of The Economist, it stopped short of the obvious conclusion: that there's nothing for these men to do to become employable. It is not just that they won't; they can't.

The US has a strong culture of individual responsibility, which is likely an asset more than a flaw. This culture, however, prevents direct welfare payments to people who could maybe find work – except that no one will have them. Such people have to be supported by people they know, or they need to resort to crime. Once they resort to crime, they go to prison.

The US imprisons more people than any country in the world – more even than China with 4 times the population. Much is said about the injustice of putting poor people away for 10 or 20 years for non-violent drug crimes, while white collar criminals get away with a handful of years.

Part of the reason is that the US, with its individualist culture, can't just give money to people who are unemployable. Taxpayers would not support that. Such government largesse can only come with punishment, even if it costs more this way. Housing a single prisoner costs the federal government $36,000 per year on average, while the cost in state prisons ranges from $20,000 to $70,000. But only if you are in prison, the taxpayer will pay for your lodging, and cover your three meals a day.

Black men are fewer than 7% of the US population, but they are half of all men in US prisons.

Women represent only 9% of US prisoners. Yet, black women are 29% of all women in prison.

These numbers are not caused by institutional racism. This does not mean there isn't racism, but the driving cause of these differences are the different rates of offense.

If these large discrepancies were driven by racism, it could be argued that since only 9% of US prisoners are women, that is caused by sexism against men. There is sexism against men in the justice system. But such sexism is secondary to the different rates of offense.

We accept that rates of offense are vastly different for men and women. We do not accept when they correlate with something as superficial as race – especially when the boundaries of race are so arbitrary and inconsistent. And yet when athletic ability correlates this way, that's OK.

The war on drugs is of course awful. It was started by Nixon as a political weapon and has grown into a monstrosity out of all proportion. Many more drugs should be legal, and drug addiction should be treated as a medical issue, not criminal. The policy goal should be treatment.

Money as social accounting

Money solves a real social problem, and the problem is rampant freeloading. You can recognize would-be freeloaders: they are those who complain the most loudly about the existence of money.

One argument goes: most people enjoy some kind of work. If it wasn't for money, people would still work; it's just that everyone would do what we enjoy. Wouldn't that be so much better?

The answer is no. If everyone just did what they enjoy, conditions would not exist to do it. We'd be too busy facing real problems that require work no one wants to do – like getting clean water to your house and sewage away from it. As we face those problems, we would realize that we can more effectively solve them if we develop some kind of accounting. For example: I do one hour of my unpleasant work, as long as you do one of hour of yours. Voila: we invented money.

All of us enjoy when we can get decent customer service. But work in customer service is probably the closest thing we have to torture. If we want someone to do it, we need some kind of accounting. That accounting is money.

The seeming unfairness of money comes from that work is rewarded not based on how unpleasant it is, but based on how much value it creates for everyone. It is difficult for some to believe that working in an air-conditioned office creates more value than shoveling dirt and cleaning toilets. However, working in an office creates bulldozers that shovel a whole lot of dirt, and toilets that need less cleaning, and robots that vacuum the floor.

It is difficult for some to believe that people who "only organize" are also doing actual work. Actual work should involve nuts and bolts, or at least drawing or difficult equations. Organizing people is mostly answering emails and phone calls, which looks like socializing. For god's sake, some people even do it while playing golf.

Besides running a tiny business, my appreciation for organizers comes from years of playing World of Warcraft, and seeing which guilds kill bosses and which don't. The guilds that kill bosses rest completely on a handful of organizers. You may think that because you joined the raid and you're topping the damage meters, you're the one doing real work. If you simply joined to play, you're there for the ride and you're having the fun, not the work. The people who organize the raid are putting in more time than you, they're doing it out of your sight and usually without thanks. Without their effort and ability to put the right people together, you'd be in a raid that can't kill any bosses at all. I've been in lots of those raids.

Same goes for organizers in the economy. Despite what warehouse workers think, Amazon is not built on their backs. It is built on the back of Jeff Bezos. Jeff Bezos gets paid the big bucks because he organized and maintains the damn thing. If you want to be paid the big bucks, you go and organize the big thing. And don't just take the company he built, like when communists nationalize things. It will help you develop some respect if you try to go and actually build it.

It does take luck to succeed. But it also takes effort, talent and competence. Business owners tend to be economically conservative because they understand what it takes to run even a small company. Folks who don't value organization are victims to the Dunning–Kruger effect – a tendency for humans to underestimate how much knowledge we're missing.

This does not mean Jeff Bezos has a higher intrinsic value than anyone else. All sentient beings, not only humans, have intrinsic value. Humans are quick to ignore the intrinsic value of others when it's inconvenient – not just non-human beings, but people in other countries. Yet, equal intrinsic value does not mean Jeff Bezos is not entitled to his share in the company he built, or that his shares – which would be worthless without him – should not have their market value.

Sound money is fiat money

The 2010s were a decade of cryptocurrencies. Besides a handful of honest contenders, most of them have been get-rich-quick schemes and attempts to cash in on a fad. I wrote my thoughts about that a few years ago. To summarize, I think cryptocurrency is innovative, but in its current form, not useful.

Along with cryptocurrencies, a motivated argument has come around where people try to convince you fiat money – paper or digital money issued by a central bank – is somehow inherently corrupt. The implication is that fixed-supply currencies are fairer because they cannot be printed and don't depreciate. Bitcoin has been touted as some kind of gold 2.0, as if gold is a good thing and something to which a currency should aspire.

Fixed-supply currencies are in fact the worst, and the only thing gold has going for it is that it's a Schelling point if we don't have coordination. You can expect gold to be useful as a currency again if society collapses. Outside of that, gold has no advantage, and fiat money is better.

First off, money is a form of social accounting. The purpose of money is not to stuff it in a mattress to save for old age. The way to save is to invest and hold a stake in the well-being of the economy. Even Socal Security is a way to do this. Money in the mattress is not an economically useful investment, it's a liability. Such money does not help build anything, and if people release it at once, it risks devaluing money.

What matters is not if a dollar today does not buy as much as in the 1970s. It matters that a dollar today buys approximately as much as yesterday and tomorrow. It's helpful if the dollar slowly depreciates, so that people do not stockpile. In order for money to be useful, it has to be spent and invested.

If gold is the accepted currency, an isolated group of people can't even have social accounting until they have mined some gold first. This is counter-productive, and the people rewarded are those who mine gold instead of those who grew crops, when the group may actually need crops for survival.

But let's assume the gold is mined and is the accepted currency. You have some gold, but it is anonymous, valuable and easily stolen. So you're thinking to put it in a safe. But building a secure safe would take a big chunk of your savings; and a cheaper, less secure safe just tells thieves where to find your gold.

All your neighbors have the same problem. You realize you can pool your money and build a big community safe with 24/7 armed guards where trusted accountants will safekeep the gold. The thing is built and is called a bank. At first, you pay the bank to guard your gold, and it's much cheaper and safer than building a safe of your own.

Then the bank manager realizes: all this gold is simply sitting here, almost no one actually withdraws it. Meanwhile, people outside want to build factories and houses that would attract more people to our area, improve our standard of living and pay for the investments in the long run. But these investments cannot be made because the people lack the gold. Why don't we loan out some of the gold to people who seem promising? Most of the loans will work out, the bank can make money and we can pay our depositors interest instead of charging them to store gold. This is called fractional reserve banking: the bank loans out the deposits, and keeps a fraction of them in reserve.

This all works out and people move gold to the banks that pay interest instead of charging to store gold. But then a rumor arises: a bank has made some big loans that are going to fail. Depositors are going to have to take a "haircut". Whether the rumor is true does not matter. Even if you know it's not true, even if the loans are sound, others are rushing to withdraw their gold. By five in the morning, a long line has formed, and you better be in the front if you want any of your gold. This is a run on the bank. The gold is withdrawn and the bank goes out of business, even if the loans were good.

What happens to the money supply in this process? Suppose banks maintain a 10% fractional reserve (a realistic figure). This means they loan out 90% of deposits. The people who take out the loans use them to make a payment, and the receiver of the payment puts the money back into a bank. Then that bank loans out 90% of that money again, which is 81%. This is again deposited and loaned out, this time 72.9%. This continues indefinitely.

This infinite series sums up to 1000%. For every 100 units of gold that exist physically, banks create liquidity equal to 1,000 units of gold. What happens if times are good and banks reduce their fractional reserve to 5%? The same 100 physical units of gold create 2,000 units of liquidity. What happens if times are bad and banks increase their reserves to 20%? The 100 units of gold now create only 500 units of liquidity.

How does this affect prices in the economy? Prices are determined by availability of gold, not its physical quantity. When times are good and loans are going out, availability of gold surges and prices skyrocket. When times are bad and loans aren't going out, availability of gold drops and prices tank. When prices tank, contracts and leases at previous prices cannot be fulfilled. Contracts are defaulted upon, people are fired and the economy contracts further.

How is this solved? With deposit insurance and a central bank to manage the supply of money:
  • Deposit insurance guarantees most depositors are safe, even if there's a run on the bank. As a result, there aren't runs on the bank, because there's deposit insurance.
  • The central bank can loan money to banks at an interest rate. This indirectly affects the rates at which banks are loaning and controls the availability of money. If there's too much money in the economy, rates go up. If there's not enough to go around, rates go down.
  • The central bank can create money. If banks aren't loaning because times are bad, availability of money shrinks to a fraction of what it was, without any change in the amount of currency. The shrinkage can destroy the economy if the central bank doesn't compensate. One way to compensate is by creating a ton of money.
Banks are not free from corruption, but mechanisms like these are essential to the stability of an economy.

What would be an improvement on our system? Perhaps when central banks create money, they should give it to people instead of just banks. Then the new money would stimulate the useful economy, instead of inflating the stock market.

Children are not born blank slates

You're not going to raise your child into whatever. In fact, apart from what you imparted in genes, your parenting has little effect on the adult character of your child. If you adopted, your parenting has little long-term impact. This is not to diminish adopting: in its best form, it is a loving relationship and a kind giving. But it is not the child's forming; and this is something that surprises some adoptive parents after they adopt.

The only way parenting changes what a child is going to be like is by damaging them. Parents can damage a child through neglect, physical abuse or mental abuse.

If you take your child to all of the possible activities, and fill up their schedules 24/7, this does not make you the best parent. If it imparts anxiety upon the kid, this can damage them and be abusive.

I'm a father of two very different children. One is enormous for his age, the other wiry. One is tolerant, the other sensitive. One is teachable, the other hard-headed. I can tell you these differences are not due to different parents. They existed in each child from day one. The children responded differently to us in each stage of development.

When you see poorly behaved children, this is not necessarily the fault of the parents. If you think you'd do better with the same child, think twice. If a child is well-behaved, this doesn't mean the parents are skillful. If your kids were well-behaved, this may say as much about your genes as your parenting prowess.

There does exist parenting prowess. It is characterized by things like patience, insight, and knowing what approaches will work with a child, in what situations. People who have these talents are able to handle and not damage even very challenging children. TV shows that seem to showcase such super-parents do not actually show that: they are merely distorted narratives.

It would be nice if all kids could be raised by excellent parents. But reproduction in developed countries is already below replacement. If we insisted that only excellent parents can reproduce, humans would go extinct in a matter of generations.

We can't even insist that people with an ongoing mental condition should not reproduce. 1 in 5 adults have a diagnosable mental condition in any given year. Even if they all sought therapy, and even if the therapists were effective, there aren't nearly enough therapists to treat them.

Suffering is in the mind

My understanding of suffering is informed by personal experience; then by writing of people who are into meditation and awakening; and then by 10+ books I've read so far by Seth. It is not influenced primarily by Seth, except that Seth has helped me out of the suffering.

My understanding of suffering is that it's self-created. In a nutshell, pain may exist, but pain is simply a sensation. Suffering, as generally experienced, has a magnitude and duration many times that of pain, is felt simply based on the idea of pain, and is mostly turmoil of the mind which is only tangentially related to any kind of physical problem. The physical problem is an excuse for suffering, the mind is what creates it and gets entangled in it.

Now, the idea of altruism is to eliminate physical problems, and then there won't be causes for suffering. This would work if only suffering required physical problems to begin with. The situation, though, is that it doesn't. If suffering is not triggered by physical problems then it will be triggered socially and those triggers will continue to exist in spades.

So you can fix the physical problems, and that is nice and commendable and worthwhile, but this will do almost nothing in terms of reducing the amount of suffering. That's because the suffering is a turmoil created in the mind. To stop suffering, you need to stop creating your suffering, which sounds like one of those "blame the victim" insults.

To stop creating suffering sounds simple, but it's not easy to learn. It's much like learning how to ride a bicycle, or how to stop panicking that you're going to drown when you're learning to swim. One brutal but effective way to learn is to face suffering that has no practical solution. You then have to figure out, by trial and error, how to not create it.

Seth has helped me in this a tremendous amount. I am a very privileged person, so my suffering was not caused by anything material. If the effect of altruism is to bring everyone in the world to a level of material privilege, that is a noble goal. But this alone will not cure suffering. Instead, it will clear the way for people to see, "OK, we've solved all our practical problems but we are still suffering, what now?" Then my answer is, read Seth, it's so good.

Materialist reductionism and its role in existential despair

Materialist reductionism is the belief in a world made of matter. The universe starts out objective and dead. By chance alone, over endless milennia, elements combine, complexity increases and subjective experience somehow arises.

This is an impossible philosophy. Subjective experience is fundamentally different from dead objectivity. One cannot arise from the other, no more than a banana can turn into a car.

It is the dead objectivity which is the illusion. It only exists in the mind. No one has ever seen it. The illusion of an objective world can be very convincing, but every single sensation and thought you experience is a property of the mind. The idea of dead objectivity is itself merely a thought in the mind.

If you're open to spending some time on this, I highly recommend Rupert Spira. I find him calming and very pleasant to listen to. He has tons of videos that help you ponder these questions. Check also this one: same as the one linked above.

Just because an objective dead world is an illusion, doesn't mean religions are true. If you have a voice in your head, it doesn't mean it's Jesus Christ. The reality I find the most plausible is the complex model by Seth. Seth's universe is the only one I know that's large enough to explain all phenomena I've experienced, as well as reports by others.

I do not subscribe to the universes of organized religions. Original sin in Christianity is toxic. You should not feel guilty for existing, or think you have to atone for who you are. The concept of heaven is simplistic. The concept of hell is non-divine. Many other religions are obvious jokes, even with millions of followers. A lot of New Age stuff is either conspiratorial or simplistic. Materialism is a dead end (heh). In contrast to all that, Seth's universe shines like a star.

Although organized religions are harmful, materialist reductionism is soul-crushing. It is tragic, because it is it a flat-out denial of 90% of what you are. It establishes a view in which the world exists by chance, your life in it has no meaning, and the entire universe is headed toward an unavoidable entropic death. It is the most depressing view you could possibly have, and this 1933 essay by Peter Wessel Zapffe is its eloquent epitome. It's existentially depressing. I recommend it because it puts things so starkly. I also enjoy Zapffe's snarky insight, and his wonderful way with words.

A belief in a world made of matter will zap you of all will to live, and replace it with an empty fear of dying. It is false, and for some, your intuitive sense about that is enough. As for me, I have had to replace it with something. I suggest Seth as a complex, inclusive, empowering model of the universe that engenders optimism about life. It was ahead of its time.