How to filter bad beliefs

A six step guide to weeding out truth from nonsense

A few posts back I made the case that beliefs don’t matter as much as the process in which you acquire them. This is not a problematic conclusion to anyone with any semblance of common sense, the logic being that even if your beliefs prove to be wrong, you will have been wrong for all the right reasons and also that in the long run, you are likely to have more beliefs proved right than in the case you adopt them arbitrarily. But just how do we go about choosing our beliefs? Is there a set of principles that we can use to weed out the good beliefs from the bad ones?

I believe there is. Read on to find out:

Step 1: Can your belief pass the Truth Demon test?

One of my favorite pieces of philosophical wisdom in recent months has been this article by Keith Frankish which describes the Truth Demon, a very simple thought experiment that everyone can use to test just how strongly you are committed to a belief. In summary and in slight variation to the original, imagine there is a Truth Demon that will torture you for eternity if the certain belief in question is wrong. Take god, for example. If you had to bet your soul’s eternal torment on whether god exists, I suspect that not only atheists but a large share of believers would bet against his existence. Why? Because there’s no real negative payoff in believing in god in real life. Pascal’s Wager even argues that this is a logical, rational choice. However, imagine if we modified the decision matrix to assume an infinite loss if you believed in him wrongly. Suddenly you need to be really, really convinced. The Truth Demon fits in neatly to what mathematician Nassim Taleb calls the “silent risk” of not taking payoff into account. Continue reading

Why libertarians are wrong about seatbelts (and pretty much everything else)

Nanny state laws don’t just protect the victim but everyone else too

I have made it clear in previous writings that I find libertarianism to be possibly the most morally repugnant economic ideology, and also a particularly dystopian one if put into practice. My most obvious objection to it is that is presents only axiomatic evidence to vilify the actions of the state. Under pure libertarianism, aside from the enforcement of private property and possibly national defense (the “nightwatchman state”), the state has no role to play in society. More so, forcible methods of financing for said state, namely taxation, is viewed as “theft” or even as Robert Nozick argued, as forced labor. Despite this, there is a role for the state in enforcing legislation, but this too is vastly limited in scope. Nanny state laws that impede personal freedom are seen as unnecessary and morally unjust, even if they seek to prevent undesirable outcomes. The best example is the libertarian aversion to something most people would take for granted: laws that force people to wear seatbelts.

Under libertarian logic, seatbelt laws are immoral because they take away the right of a person to decide out of their own free will whether they wish to risk death on the road. This risk is hardly questionable: motorists who don’t wear seatbelts are more than twice as likely to die in a road accident than those who wear them. It seems almost common sense that a) if you’re a motorist you should wear a seatbelt and b) the state would do good in ensuring that even the people irresponsible enough not to wear a seatbelt will not risk their own death in doing so. Libertarians will have none of that, arguing in the primacy of individual freedom over anything else. There is a slippery slope logical fallacy employed here; the argument is not so much that such a law is bad per se, but that any state that is capable of creating and enforcing such a law can create and enforce more and more severe laws that encroach on freedom. Today it is seatbelts, the next logical and inevitable step is turning into Stalinist Russia*. Continue reading

How Facebook and LinkedIn make you stupid (in completely different ways)

Encouraging bad behavior or monotony of thought

If any technology has fallen from grace in the past few years, it is social media. Gone are the days in which Facebook and Twitter were praised for their ability to coordinate mass popular movements such as those which fueled the Arab Spring of 2011. Today’s views of social media are broadly hostile to its contributions to democracy, not least by how the deluge of fake news and political vitriol have poisoned reasoned debate. If you’ve ever debated online with a Trump supporter, or a Brexiteer, you probably know what I mean. But the left (particularly young progressives) has done no service to itself by adopting the same angry, intolerant rhetoric, perhaps more worryingly, even against its own kind.

However, not all social media is the same. Recently, I read a comment about how fake news is practically non-existent on LinkedIn, the professional networking site. This raises some interesting questions on what it is about Facebook that makes it so uniquely prone to be subverted by vitriol. However, LinkedIn is not free of its own original sin.

Facebook and our second life

The key point to consider about social interaction on Facebook is the low, in some cases no-existent, negative payoff of bad behavior. By bad behavior I will consider the three main ones that are prevalent on that site (in no particular order of severity): 1) fake news, 2) extremist opinions (mainly racism and misogyny), and 3) hostile discourse. None of these three are present in “real life” interaction, at least in civilized environments, to the degree that they are found in social media and there’s two main reasons for that. The first is payoff. There is a lot of discourse on social media whose content or tone would be met with a punch in the face in real life. If not a punch, at least some other form of visible disapproval that could cause embarrassment or a reputational hit, such as walking out on a dinner conversation, a formal complaint to superiors, etc. People on social media suffer very few consequences for the material that they post or share but in turn, gain considerably from the approval of like-minded individuals which are easier to come across in the global society that the internet creates. Facebook almost makes stupidity a rational choice. Continue reading

Steven Pinker’s dangerous optimism

How to defend the status quo by giving humanity props it doesn’t deserve

Are we high on humanity? Despite the pessimism over the return of right-wing populism, religious fundamentalism, gun violence, and stagnating prosperity in the West, two recent events can give us hope that some degree of optimism about the destiny of our species is not entirely unwarranted. For starters, we recently accomplished the singular feat of sending a car to space, orbiting permanently (and pointlessly) around the globe in order to remind us of the supreme narcissism of its previous, earthly owner Elon Musk. The other, is the publication of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, a quasi-sequel to his bestselling The Better Angels of Our Nature. Both books follow the same basic plot line: humanity has never had it so good. By every measurable standard of progress, we are leaps and bounds better than any generation before us. Stop complaining.

If optimism is a religion, the Canadian-born Pinker is its high priest. The religious analogy is not unfounded: Pinker defends his thesis with a zeal that is uncommon outside of theistic circles, admonishing his critics and presenting absurd arguments even in topics where he has little or no academic authority. In a recent article in Popular Science, he argues that we should not fear AI being smarter than humans any more than we had to fear airplanes being faster than eagles because “someday they will swoop out of the sky and seize our cattle”. For someone defending the use of reason, an argument like that almost begs ridicule. Sadly, his perennial defense of human progress comes with an unfortunate by-product: it becomes a thinly disguised support of the economic and political status quo. If this makes you uneasy, just remember how much wealthier and healthier you are compared to your great-great-great-grandfather.

End of story, so it goes. Continue reading

How to know that you know nothing

Our lives are dominated by beliefs and faith, not truth and facts

The Thinker

In this age of fake news, conspiracy theories, and denial of science, we rarely step back and analyze the process by which we construct our beliefs. The smarter ones among us know that as a minimal starting point, we must be capable of understanding the difference between opinions and facts, even if a lot of what we would like to think of as “facts” aren’t exactly so. In fact, practically the entire body of knowledge of the social sciences and humanities are closer to opinions than they are of facts since they are not consistently replicable; for many of the humanities disciplines they are not even meant to be so. How do we know that anything we know is true? The basic premise of truth is that of a proposition needs to correspond to a fact. As Aristotle stated over two thousand years earlier, “to say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”. However, how do we know that these facts are true? Could we exist in a truth-less universe?

This is not the plot of a future episode of Black Mirror. We’re living in it already.

The only thing you know

There is only one truth in this universe that we can believe in without equivocation: that we exist, even if in what form we exist remains unknown. We all conceive of ourselves as human beings, an evolved carbon-based life form with a sense of consciousness but it is not an exaggeration to think that we might be bits of software code inhabiting some alien Matrix-like simulation. Yet the fact that we are able to understand our own existence is true. The only truth. And even assuming we have no free will at all, that every single aspect of our life has been scripted either by a divine being or that same alien simulation, we are still able to know we exist even if we are not in control of our own existence. Note that this not quite the same as Descartes’ famous statement of cogito ergo sum (“I think therefore I am”). You can actually not think and still be aware of your own existence much the same way as microscopic organisms without a central nervous system actively avoid getting killed, that is, losing their existence. Continue reading

Plucked Chicken Award 2017: Aung San Suu Kyi

A Noble Peace Prize winner that allowed a genocide

Aung Suu Kyi

When Plato described man as a featherless biped, Diogenes the Cynic came to his Academy with a plucked chicken proclaiming “this is Plato’s man!”. The Plucked Chicken Award will be awarded every year to the human being that best represents the folly of our idealization of our species.

Plucked Chicken Award 2017: Aung San Suu Kyi

The Plucked Chicken Award is not about identifying the “worst” public figure in the world. Awarding it to a tyrant would be a waste: purely malicious despots are too one-dimensional. They are boring, and not truly representative of the complexities of human behavior (sorry Trump, all in all you’re not really that interesting). Instead, the prize goes to the person who best demonstrated exactly what humans really are: tribalist, murderous hypocrites. And nobody in 2017 did that better than the de facto Prime Minister of recently turned “democratic” Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi. Let’s recall what made her worthy of this award. On paper, Suu Kyi was an international darling: a tireless opponent of the military junta that had governed Myanmar (or Burma as it was called) since 1962. After her party won a huge victory in the sham 1990 elections, she was put on house arrest. For these actions, she was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and perhaps more importantly (for some), a Bono-written U2 song in 2000 (“Walk On”) as well. But as the junta’s control over the country gradually slipped, she was freed from house arrest in 2010 and later allowed to contest the 2015 elections which she won by a landslide. Continue reading

The battle of beliefs

Why neither side is right in the US campus crisis

I was recently listening to a speech by NYU moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt on the problem of free speech on US campuses. For those who don’t know who Haidt is, he is the author of The Righteous Mind, an excellent book that summarizes his moral foundations theory. The theory has it that morality is a multi-dimensional concept composed of care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty, which he theorizes all have some evolutionary origin. Left-wingers, by and large, have their moral fabric dominated by care and fairness, with much less importance attached to the other four. Right-wingers, however, hold a certain level of importance to all six dimensions, although less than left-wingers on the care and fairness front. When these morals clash, we have it why both sides fail to reconcile their difference, a good example being the burning of the flag which would trigger the right-winger’s loyalty foundation which is absent on a left-winger. Or homosexual marriage, which would trigger their sanctity foundation. In contrast, the support of welfare policies by the left is in line with their care and fairness foundations.

Haidt, however, is also well known on the internet for being one of the most vocal antagonists to radical progressives (disparagingly but not incorrectly called social justice warriors or SJWs) on US campuses. It’s not hard to see why: Haidt himself was embroiled in a major dispute with an oversensitive student who objected to a word used in a video shown in one of his classes. The ridiculously overblown situation can be read about in an open letter to the dean by the offended student, and do note the transcripts of the “homophobic” video as well as Haidt’s apology which seemed to look like he was in front of a student inquisition (complete with applause from the offended masses). In 2015 Haidt co-authored a widely read article on The Atlantic, titled “The Coddling of the American Mind” (it’s a long but recommended read), which explains the possible origins and the consequences of radical political correctness on campus. Continue reading

Fuck happiness

Life satisfaction is about having control

Few things have poisoned the mind of humankind more than the misguided belief that the pursuit of happiness is the overarching purpose of our existence. Worse still, we know this is not true and yet we desperately try to believe it, making our failure to be happy even harder to bear.

Before continuing, it is necessary to first define what happiness is. By most reliable accounts, happiness is a state of well-being where positive emotions dominate and there is a sense of satisfaction in one’s life. Contrary to most people’s Facebook and Instagram profiles would suggest, this should not be confused with the euphoric but fleeting moments of joy that most people experience on a semi-regular basis. Indeed, when one considers this distinction it becomes clear that true happiness really cannot be captured in a photo or in a statement, as it would be impossible to distinguish whether this reflects a state of mind or a temporary rush of joy. Which also means happiness can’t be faked. As everyone knows from *those people* on your Facebook or Instagram feeds who keep on shoving their supposedly amazing lives down everyone else’s throats, it’s almost a truism that the “happier” people are on social media the more likely they’re simply compensating for their inner misery or insecurity. Given that happiness can’t be detected and joy can be faked, most studies of happiness resort to measuring it through self-observation, which in turn complicates the comparison of happiness across countries even when using a less culturally-biased metric such as “life satisfaction”.

It is natural to assume that because happiness produces such a pleasure mental state that we should make it our life objective. This is actually one of the prime delusions of our species. Because when you analyze our main decisions in life, they are mainly geared towards one thing: control. Control over our lives, and control over the lives of others which have influence in our lives. This control is done to mitigate our primordial fear of uncertainty against the many threats we face to our lives and livelihoods. Take, for example, our natural proclivity (certainly in the more individualistic Western world) towards status-enhancing behavior. What is the point of status if not to elevate us to a more secure place in society? What is the point of money if not to give us more means to control our lives and our surroundings? It is telling that most people are aware of the (scientifically-backed) notion that money does not increase our happiness from the point beyond where our basic needs are satisfied. Despite this, they continue to seek more money even when this extra wealth may actually makes us more miserable. As one Harvard Business Review article summarized: Continue reading

The fear of misanthropy

Why we fear fearing ourselves

Misanthropy is a frightening concept.

It is the only worldview that maintains without equivocation that the human condition is corrupt by design. Misanthropy, unlike most religions, denies the binary nature of good and evil; there is no salvation, no redemption from what we are. No son of a deity will come forth and sacrifice himself for our sins in the hope of bringing us closer to god. No holy book or moral code will suffice to make us free of sin. Furthermore, misanthropy also does not see good and evil as a spectrum. Most of us can agree that there are degrees of goodness and degrees of evil: for all his notoriety, the recently deceased mass murderer and cult leader Charles Manson is not in the same category of malice as Adolf Hitler. However, it is far more complicated to compare Hitler with Udai Hussein (one of Saddam’s two sons), a man who would on occasion crash a wedding, rape the bride and murder the groom for sheer amusement. Hitler may have ordered a genocide, yet to him even this had a twisted purpose to make Germany great again. Hussein’s crimes, which included murder, torture, and rape appeared to be entirely wanton and random, an almost feral sadism that could only be explained in one way: that he could get away with it by virtue of being the son of a dictator.

Barring mental health disorders which explain much of the behavior of some truly malicious people like serial killers, much of the psychological evidence suggests that evil has more to do with circumstance than nature, as Hannah Arendt explained in her controversial classic, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). Put people in a situation where they can dehumanize others who have some discernible difference (race, culture, ideology), deindividualize themselves from the moral consequences of their behavior, and be immune from the legal consequences of it, and you have a perfect formula for brutality. It is telling that no society resists this formula, although it is true that many people within them do. If you find this notion hard to accept, imagine for a moment that the government of any Western nation, be it the US, UK, France, or Germany, decided to sanction the murder of Muslims. Does anyone seriously believe that the better angels of our nature would prevail to stop the killing spree that would follow? Would “good” non-Muslim men and women go out into the streets and risk their lives to oppose the murderous hordes or would they simply cower in their homes and wait until the bloodlust was satiated, happy that they weren’t the ones being hunted down? Now just think that the only thing stopping this is the signature of a president or a prime minister.

The fear of misanthropy (misanthrophobia?) is therefore the fear of fearing ourselves. It is the fear of accepting the darkness inside each other (including oneself) and knowing that while we may share 98.8% of the genetic code of a chimpanzee, we also share 99.9% of Hitler’s and Udai Hussein’s. There is no more frightening thought than this.

Artwork credit: Virginia Hovendon, “In the Shadow”

Wanktivism in the social media age

Or how to promote thought without actually thinking
This is you on a social media high

This is you on a social media high

This piece is Part II of this one

I’m pretty sure you have at least one Facebook friend who makes P.C.U’s causeheads look as lazy and apolitical as The Dude from The Big Lebowski. These people don’t just stick to a cause for a week before picking up a new one, they barrage your Facebook wall with a post about every real or imagined social ill in the world. In real time. 24/7. An infographic of how meat consumption is causing climate change is followed by a Marxist blogger’s post about the IMF and World Bank being root cause of global inequality, followed by a fact-meme reminding you that the West African Grey Lesbian Rhino is now extinct, then a video of (insert left-wing Latin American leader from a socialist wonderland where there are bigger queues to buy toilet paper than for the launch of a new iPhone) denouncing corporate profits, and finally the latest batshit crazy conspiracy theory on how the US is guilty of everything wrong in the Middle East in collusion with Big Oil, Big Pharma, the NRA, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Israel, Blackwater, the Illuminati, the Vatican, and Gap for Kids. Forget that half of what this person posts is factually wrong, and that the other half is of dubious intellectual value because it is written by such a biased source that there’s as much objectivity as a Breitbart book review of The Elders of Zion. This person is on a mission to remind you that they’re saving the world, one meme at a time. And if you dare question them then you’re also part of the status quo, surely hoarding some of the profits of laissez-faire capitalistic greed with your grubby porcine hands.

I have a term for this: wanktivism. It’s the cognitive version of clicktivism, a word used to describe activism with the minimum of effort like clicking the “share” button of something that promotes a cause or signing an online petition rather than actually doing something for said cause. If clicktivism is promoting action without actually taking action yourself, wanktivism is promoting thought without actually thinking. It’s sex without the other person, i.e. wanking. Now, being a leftist myself I genuinely find many of the causes above to be noble and worth pursuing. But for fuck sake, is it that hard to fact check what you share first? In the age of Google and Wikipedia there’s simply no excuse for not doing so, and it’s particularly appalling that people with college degrees, even postgrads and PhDs (and professors are guilty too) feel the internet is a legitimate no-reference zone where the accuracy of any statistic, article, or meme is instantly validated merely by the fact that it conforms to your existing ideological prejudices. Sometimes I feel people don’t even read anything other than the title of what they share. It’s as if our capacity to digest anything that is longer than a 140-character tweet has been lobotomized by our quest for online righteousness. What’s worse it the reaction when they are shamed in public, which as of late has been one of my favorite sports. It would seem to me that if I promoted information that was verifiably false I would feel somewhat embarrassed about it, then be humble enough to accept that it was wrong, then do the common sense thing and delete it so that nobody stupider than I shares it, thereby perpetuating the viral nature of internet misinformation.

But that is not to be. Usually the response is one of the following:

“You’re right, it’s just that I didn’t have time to read the whole piece”. Translation: I was too lazy to actually read the article I posted since the title conformed to the political message that I wanted to spread, and sharing something that someone else wrote would make up for my lack of original opinions and argumentative skills. Indignation level: mild. Likelihood of being defriended: 10-20%.

“Ok that figure may be wrong but the essence is still true.” Translation: You caught me red handed sharing a statistic that is patently incorrect but since the meme supports my righteous cause it doesn’t matter if the numbers are all fudged up. Secretly I also suspect that you are not the liberal progressive/conservative patriot you claim you are since you are pointing this out rather than siding with me by keeping quiet about my mistake. Indignation level: mild. Likelihood of being defriended: 10-20%.

“Just because I share something doesn’t mean I agree with it.” Translation: I have no way of defending what I just shared and since I cannot go back in time to undue this embarrassment, it I’ll just act like I shared it to elicit debate and discussion among my friends. Never mind that nobody actually shares stuff that they disagree with without making it demonstrably clear that they do so. Indignation level: moderate. Likelihood of being defriended: 30-40%.

“You’re entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine. Let’s agree to disagree”. Translation: I’m going to try and extricate myself from the embarrassment of sharing something that is factually incorrect by trying to eliminate the distinction between fact and opinion and since there’s no such thing as a wrong opinion then I can’t be disproven. Indignation level: moderate. Likelihood of being defriended: 50-60%.

“It’s my wall and I can post whatever I want in it. You don’t have to read it if you disagree”. Translation: I have no intellectually respectable way of crawling out of my own bullshit so I might as well just act outraged in order to paint you as being rude and aggressive. Since I don’t go to your wall and challenge your opinions because deep down I know you’ll be able to defend them, I expect the same courtesy on your part so I can erect my wall of stupidity where only people as brainwashed as myself are given shelter. Indignation level: high. Likelihood of being defriended: 80-100%.

Now if you think I’m unfair to lefties, rest assured that’s not the case. Conservatives are way worse in terms of their patent abhorrence for objectivity and facts. In fact, conservatives hate numbers more than Vladimir Putin hates shirts on a Siberian hunting trip. George W. Bush disdainfully called it “fuzzy math” because nobody likes it when numbers are used to disprove their neanderthalic opinions on global warming, minimum wages, the gender pay gap, and taxation. But at least conservatives are honest about being assholes, and they don’t have any intention of urging social change for a better future unless that future is a time warp to the good old days of Victorian poorhouses, Southern plantations, and gender relations that would make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like an episode of Girls. Of course they won’t say that because as explained earlier, we do live in a world where political correctness has consolidated itself to some degree into every day discourse, and appearing as a social retrograde carries risks insofar as you’re not wily enough to hide it through one of many carefully thought out excuses such as “it’s bad for business”, “it’s socialist”, or (my favorite) “it’s French”.

The problem with social media, and Facebook in particular, is that it’s a lose-lose environment for intellectual discourse. That’s because due to the myriad of cognitive biases that cloud our reason and our common sense, nobody ever admits to being wrong in public, and therefore any challenge to someone’s opinions – regardless of how baseless and outright asinine they might be – will be met with an even more entrenched perspective on the same issue, exactly the same case as if they had won the debate. No matter how many times you keep shooting them down, the kamikazes of stupidity keep flying, each one more laden with indignity than the previous one, each time reinforcing themselves more and more. Ask yourselves: have you ever caused someone to change their political opinions on Facebook? I doubt it. So then why do you keep posting an endless barrage of political memes and op-eds rather than take the time to explain at length your positions and open the floor for debate? The answer is wanktivism. You want to change the world, and win the hearts and minds of those around you without doing much effort beyond clicking that “share” button. And you don’t actually want to be challenged when you do. The three litmus tests of the wanktivist are quite simple. 1) Does this person frequently post original material besides shares? 2) Does he or she make an extensive comment on the things they are sharing in order to add value to what someone else is saying? 3) Do they have a blog or do they take some other direct action in favor of their causes such as working for an NGO or participating in protests? If any of these three is true, then this person is probably not a wanktivist, they’re simply very politically opinionated. The rest of you, the ones who reduce your core beliefs about the world to a JPEG image, are.

A similar and perhaps worse social media trait that is similar to wanktivism is virtue signaling. This concept, coined by journalist James Bartholomew of the British conservative magazine The Spectator, is defined as:

“The way in which many people say or write things to indicate that they are virtuous. Sometimes it is quite subtle. By saying that they hate the Daily Mail or Ukip, they are really telling you that they are admirably non-racist, left-wing or open-minded. One of the crucial aspects of virtue signaling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous. It does not involve delivering lunches to elderly neighbors or staying together with a spouse for the sake of the children. It takes no effort or sacrifice at all.”

At least wanktivists (for the most part) appear well intentioned, they just simply don’t have the time to actually save the world or maybe they are even conscious of their own intellectual limitations to do so, hence they just share what others have thought up for them. But virtue signaling involves a subtle egotism and even, dare I say, malice. Those doing it don’t actually care about the issues at hand, it simply fits the personality (online or otherwise) that they want to project. The example above is geared towards the prototypical left-winger, but right-wingers are just as guilty of virtue signaling. They may rile against welfare to show how they believe in individual merit (forget for a moment that daddy paid their way through college, and daddy’s friends got them a job). They may complain about every union strike that made them 30 minutes late for work because they do not want to be identified with dreadlocked college students with Che Guevara posters in their dorm room (imagine them imagining themselves with slicked back hair, suspenders, and a big fat Cuban cigar). And of course, they will openly oppose any move towards gender equality or LGBT rights because, well, that would be so fucking gay, now wouldn’t it? No self-respecting alpha macho should give an inch to the feminazis lest it reveal the true size of their sexual inadequacies.

So if nobody will change their opinion regardless of how many facts to the contrary to array against them, why even bother? Does this mean that any form of online debate necessarily descends into sheer trolling? Because if you know – like I do – that arguing leads to nothing, then it’s done solely for the sake of arguing. Which is kind of the definition of trolling, albeit of a higher intellectual standard than the average 4Chan forum discussing Gamergate. But a part of me thinks that wanktivism or virtue signaling or simply every form of misinformation that people are guilty of on the internet should not go unresponded. Because as stupid and gullible as these people are, sadly there are even stupider and more gullible people out there but who just might be swayed by your argument more than theirs. And maybe after enough embarrassments and humiliations these people will think twice about posting so much bullshit, assuming of course, they don’t defriend you first. In which case, you won. Maybe just one out of a thousand online battles, but if one Facebook or Reddit soul could be saved from the fires of intellectual damnation, it was worth it. It was truly fucking worth it.