In my last post, I continued to explore my thoughts on value from the perspective defined in the earlier post where value relates to being sought out by others, and how valuable those others are. In both posts, I stumbled around as I tried to understand the concept that is fair to say a work in progress. I do believe that the idea of a man’s value is an essential question to pose of any man. The question is how do we measure value.
I attempted to define a scale starting with the high-end where value is defined by the network of contacts one has: how valuable are the people who know and want what you have to offer, and how much confidence they have that you can deliver both through capability and willingness to satisfy their request. Both the knowing who your “LinkedIn” profile, and the confidence in your reliability are essential aspects. Many people meet the profile requirement (who they are, what they achieved and can offer, how to contact them) that they acquired accidentally through inheritance or unearned circumstances. To be truly high value, one has to demonstrate a track record of reliability in terms of retaining that high value status. That earns the trust from other high-value people and their confidence to seek his assistance on projects that matter to them.
Given that high-value is exclusive, there must be a scale of less value where most men fall in a common mediocre value. Again, the definition depends on the quality of the network. Many men may be of indispensable value to his network, but that network is not of a mediocre quality. A dependable subcontractor may be essential to the contractor but basically invisible to the client’s executives. The lack of high-level interest is what reduces to the value to mediocre. There is no shame in mediocrity: it can bring a comfortable and fulfilling life. The life will be obscure to the public at large and especially invisible to the highest levels where one needs to be in order to achieve high value.
It is in the defining of the low end of the scale where I faltered. There must be men with value rated lower than mediocre. I insisted there must be men with zero value. It is here I trapped myself into the limits of my courage: I felt obliged to grant some positive value to every man even if they have very poor public reputations.
To get to zero value, I added a requirement for them to deliberately subtract from their baseline positive value. I invented the concept of a villain to escape the trap I set for myself. A villain is a man who hides his capabilities so that others do not discover it and so that others do not have access to it. This may be either a malicious man who uses his capabilities for personal gain (an analogy may be elusive but effective Cyber hackers), or a man who hides in order to avoid being responsible for performing his area excellence. I will expand the latter to include men who deliberately avoid working on developing their inherent talents out of a desire to not make them available. I felt this deliberate negating of inherent value to escape the trap I fell into.
There is value to this concept of villainy as an act of withholding one’s potential from society’s access. I think this deserves to dimension a person’s value. It could even work within those who earn and deserve high-value status when they must sacrifice some aspect of themselves in order to concentrate on other aspects. An example is in sacrificing the pursuit of a family life or of a local community life in order to have more opportunities to expand his high value network. That sacrifice could be significant to the extent where it is often necessary for the high-value man to have at least a wife and some kind of active commitment to the community he lives in. Part of the reputation within the high-value network is the respect for what the man also is doing domestically and locally.
As convenient villainy is to demote ones value, it is not sufficient to dismiss the possibility that some men may have zero value without any deliberate intentions of their own. I dismissed this possibility from a Christian perspective. Every man has some positive value due to the religious believe that the love of Jesus is universal. This ties to one of the criteria for value: the existence of recognition from some network. Everyone is in the network of Christ, and he is a high value. The network may be weaker than the ones described for high-value men. Christ may not seek out and specifically request a favor, and he may not respond to a request to negotiate for some assistance especially if it is a mundane type request. However, the network still exists. Every many has at least one contact, and that contact is substantial in the being of Jesus.
My Christian belief is just a belief and I share it with less than half of the world’s population. Other religions do not have this unconditional love from their deity. In such religions, there is no justification for setting a positive floor to a man’s value. There can be zero value men who are not villains.
I claim no expertise in comparative religions, and I barely understand the religion I claim as my own. However, my understanding is that nearly all religions have some kind of network system that can allow an individual to reach the attention of the deity even if it requires a series of intermediaries. A distinguishing characteristic of religions is how they define the relationship of any man to the deity.
It may be that religion is an invention of man. The invention models the deity out of the experiences of men. There is an element of modeling the god in the image of man, as most gods have human characteristics such as bipedalism that frees up the hands for wielding objects and a head with capability of making eye contact and of verbalizing commands. While this does have collaboration in iconography, I think a more important feature is how the gods are modeled after human relationships.
There are many type of relations we experience in our daily lives.
- Hunter/gatherer groups have a close relationship with nature’s providence that enables their foraging or hunting. Such groups often develop religions of animal or plant spirits that they can appeal for assistance of reward or protection from harm.
- Agricultural groups have a close relationship to their property. Such groups may develop religions that give deference to their ancestors that bequeathed their property, skills, and stocks.
- Where trading and exchange became important, religions immerge that reflected the realities of negotiation both directly for the economic exchange, or indirectly in terms of uncontested access to a property or territory to reach a market or to extract something that the owner is willing to relinquish if granted permission. These religions had transactional type relationships with deities whose permission must be earned through offerings or ceremonies.
- Even when monotheism dominated, there remains diversity of the conceptualization of the deity in terms of its relationship to man. The deity could be a parent whose love is contingent on good behavior, or whose love is unconditional. Alternatively, the deity may be bound to a community by a contract where the god’s obligations are contingent on the community’s delivery of their obligations, those contracts may be modeled after commercial contracts or marital contracts with different implications on the religion. Alternatively, the deity may be a master or lord that demands submission of his subject to avoid his scorn and possibly gain some favor when (or if) the master pleases.
The above is only meant to describe an idea I have about how religions reflect relationships men experience in their daily lives. People recognize that relationships are crucial to their continued welfare. If religions are human inventions, then it makes sense to me that they would base those inventions on what matters most to their lives: their relationships with nature, with their communities, and often with individuals who have direct power over their lives.
This relates to the discussion of value in the past couple posts. The value in question is in context of the relationships a person has access to. If there is no relationship, there is no value. As I mentioned above, the Christian view is that Jesus’ love is unconditional so every man has access to at least one relationship, the relationship to Jesus, and a Christian society recognizes that relationship. As a result, every man has some non-zero value.
Other religions, even monotheistic ones, have conditional relationships with their deity. This is more consistent with human experience, as I described in the concept of high-value men, where there are conditions on the relationship. A high-value status is not possible if the man has nothing of high value to offer, and actually offers it. In such conditional arrangements, there will inevitably be a population who fails to meet the criteria. Such men have zero value at least in terms of that arrangement. If there is no arrangement available to a man, than that man may have zero value.
As discussed in the last post, the man may voluntarily reject any condition, and thus exclude any relationship in his life. I felt comfortable in saying such a man may have zero value, because he has deliberately made that choice, for whatever reason. There remains the possibility that he involuntarily fails to meet any condition of any relationship. Through no fault of his own, he would have zero value. The appeal of Christianity is the lower limit of value that comes from Jesus’ unconditional love. That appeal may be more of an academic appeal than a practical one. It is morally repulsive to admit that some men may have zero value through no fault of their own.
There is another possibility for a religion where the god has no interest whatsoever in human life. Like the other models I described above, this is also consistent with human experience. Humans experience inexplicable events not attributable to any concept. Sometimes these events bring welcome bounty, but often they break calamity. In modern times, we recognize this in our science of a mechanical universe where things happen out of necessity of physics irrespective of our wishes or desires. Of course, we do not call this a religion, but is at least one in the sense that reflects human experiences of his relationship with nature.
The temporary monotheism of Atenism in ancient Egypt under Akhenaten more similar to the recent scientific view that it is to its usual comparisons to Hebrew monotheism. This is at least to my understanding. In particular, Atenism has no moral imperatives on man. There is no conditions for men to meet to gain the attention of Aten. This means there is really nothing anyone can do to get any favors or protections from this god. Also, there is nothing this god has no interest in the welfare of any man or of any population of men.
I realize there is little known about this religion, and certainly I know next to nothing compared to what scholars know. However, I imagine that Akhenaten envisioned the religion initially close to how I described, equal to modern science in its disinterest in human welfare. He later took on the role of a high priest (though an exclusive one) with access to Aten, but I imagine this was forced upon him by his subjects. The population understandably would be very distressed by the prospect of not having any access to any relationship with the deity that determines their prospects in life. In my imagination, Akhenaten played through the role to pacify the masses while remaining convinced of his original concept of a distant and disinterested god.
We interpret the god as associated with the Sun, but distinguished from the usual Sun god by being specific to the disk of the sun, or of the light coming from that disk. I included an image of one of the artifacts that attempt to illustrate this god. It shows a disk with emanating rays that end in what appear to be hands that touch each person. I think the usual interpretation is that while the god is disinterested in humans, his continued providence is essential for human existence and welfare.
Looking at the same diagram from a data science perspective, it looks like a depiction of a data warehousing project. Instead of rays providing people with something, the lines represent collection of information from each individual to store in the central disk that could be a typical database symbol seen from the top instead of the usual perspective. Aten could be a representation of the current-day big-data technologies that ever expand the breadth, depths, and frequency of data collection.
This analogy is reinforced by the architecture of his time where new temples were built without ceilings are walls that obstruct the view of the disk. This is like our modern ambitions of Internet of things (everything being connected to the cloud) and of ubiquitous sensors of every variety possible so that nothing in modern world is hidden from data collection.
Aten is the often feared end-state of the current technological revolution where some artificial intelligence will process the accumulation of the continuous collection of observations of every individual’s life. In this concept, the lines may represent a two way path. The little hands at the ends may both collect data from individuals and offer something that allows them to continue.
The difference between Aten the god of the disk of the sun and the current AI/Big-Data may be a simple translation of symbolic representations of the endpoints of the lines, and a redrawing of the disk as either a cloud or a barrel.
Admittedly far-fetched, but I can at least imagine the possibility that Akhenaten recognizing this in his time. By the time of his reign, he was surrounded by hieroglyphs that recorded events from people no longer present, and these records restrained what his civilization could do. Also, he was aware of his own obligation to add his own contributions to the record. Unique among other ancient civilizations, Egypt was submerged in data in the form of voluminous records in engravings and papyrus rolls. These records had a unique influence on human life, and it represented a new relationship of man: a relationship to data instead of to nature or to other humans.
Viewed in this light, there is a need for a new deity to represent this new relationship. Thus Aten was born. This is a different kind of relationship because the engravings are permanent so there is nothing to negotiate. No amount of ceremony or offerings will change the texts. Even by his time he would be aware at the unsuccess of entirely erasing or burying old texts because their remnants would keep showing up. His successors found the same thing in that despite their efforts to erase this heretic, they became exhausted before completing the job, and today we have a substantial record of his time that survived this attempt at erasure.
Looking at the carving closely, I also see a correspondence to a theory I described in this blog where I reverse the historical timeline. The standard interpretation of time has zero as the time of the big bang, and the current time is some positive value of the elapsed time since then. This is fully supported by the successful science we built on inference and causation. I look at things differently when I look at data. While continuous progressive time is useful for science, a regressive discrete sequence of timestamps is the foundation of data.
For science, causation propels the future events. For data, there needs to be the provision of fresh timestamps and there is no guarantee that a new timestamp will be provided. Similar to how a computer may need to reboot, during which time it ceases to collect data until the system is restored, nature itself may at any moment cease to provide any new timestamps. We would not know this happens because there would be no timestamps to record that discovery.
Looking at Aten in this perspective, the arms reaching out from the central disk may not be offerings of benefits or instructions. Instead, it may represent the offerings of another timestamp to allow one to experience another moment of life so that it may be recorded.
Translating this concept onto a deity makes that deity more terrifying than any other deity. No matter how fearsome the other deities are, they need fresh timestamps to carry out their intentions. If the central disk withholds any fresh timestamps, than everything stops. In this concept, Aten is awesome at a level so much above the other gods as to make those gods irrelevant. Ultimately, what matters is the providence of another timestamp so that we can experience another instant of life that may be recorded. Furthermore, we have to pray that even more timestamps are provided so that others may experience our record.
I imagine the central disk as a role of tickets from a ticket window at an amusement park. You exchange something to get a set of tickets where each ticket allows entry into some concession. When you run out of tickets, you have to to replenish your store so that you can experience more of the park. This may ultimately be what is happening with Aten. He is handing out tickets, but this is something he does not have to do. He may be like the amusement park where there is a closing time after which no further tickets are handed out.
Also, like the amusement park, he is not ultimately interested in whether the patrons gain any enjoyment from the tickets. He only hands out the tickets and watches what happens.
The worship of Aten may have been futile in terms of influencing him, but it was justified to express the concern that the supply of timestamps may end at any time.
Aten is the ultimate of monotheists because he has no relationship with any human. He just hands out timestamps and watches. There is no opportunity for human negotiation for special favors and there is no demands on what the humans must do with their timestamps. There is no baseline value to any particular human. There is no baseline value to humanity as a whole.
Under this concept of Aten, there can be a more coherent understanding of the recent discussion about man’s value. By default, every man’s value is zero. To have value, a man has to do something with the timestamp he is given. In particular, he has to spend that timestamp on actions that builds and grows his relationships along a scale that has a high-value end. Such effort is optional in Aten’s mind. The motivation for man is that if he plays his provision of timestamps well, he will reap rewards for himself as well as those in his network.