Value-Fact Distinction?

There is this thing called “value-fact distinction”; it points out to the difference between “what is” and “what ought to be” (in Persian: «باید و نباید» vs. «هست و نیست»).

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1. As a child I was not aware of this distinction. I think it is quite natural (a default setting) to experience the reality based on emotions and values and judge the world based on how it benefits us, as opposed to objective investigation out of mere curiousity.

That is, morality is – wrongfully and as a default mindset – assumed to be as objective as rationality.

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2. As I grew up I started to spot relativity in our ethics and morals. I was convinced that factual statements are objective and can be evaulated as true or false, but ethical statements are subjective and right vs wrong is a matter of taste or perspective.

True/False and Right/Wrong duality may “feel” alike, and we apply both to our decision-makings in life. But we should not mix them while investigating the world: If we set out to inspect the objective reality, we should stick to the facts staying away from the subjectivity of ethics. Mistaking right or wrong for true or false is a trap.

Or facts are objective; values are not.

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3. The weird thing is that the distinction between facts and values is fading again for me. They are coming together like when I was a child, but this time in a different way.

I ask what if facts and values are both a matter of perspective, in a fundamental way. That both rationality and morality are subjective?

Kids may know some things better, prior to their culturally biased upbringing.

Sporadic on the simulated reality

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Simulated reality

Elon Musk amongst others brings some meta-statistical argument to show that we are more likely to be in a simulation than not; that we are most definitely not flesh, but words made flesh.

I don’t know how we can take someone’s word seriously, whose self is just an avatar in a simulation. That someone want to colonize Mars merely does not give more validity to their words, especially when they’re themselves made of words!

So what he is popularizing is given credit to the philosophers Nick Bostrom (2003) and Hans Moravec (1998) earlier. And I have found modern instances as old as Alan Watts (1972) expressing the same argument (here as the first fantasy out of three).

Transcending yourself, your simulators and theirs!

Whoever said it first, what matters is who did it first!

Saying that our bodies are not hardware and is instead of the sort of information/software is probably an unfalsifiable claim. It is like placing an object next to its meta level of existence and yet comparing them as two similar things. It is paradoxical like Russel’s antinomy that deals with a type of whether a set can be a member of itself or not. And in my opinion is as valid as saint Anselm of Canterbury’s ontological argument to prove God, brought a thousand years ago.

But well, if we are in a simulation and we can one day prove it, then we have understood things about those who programmed us. So why not continuing to extrapolate the transcendental cascade to know things about those who programmed them? And may be even hinting our simulators that they may be in a simulation too, and in what kind of simulation even.

Maybe that’s why they simulated us…

How to find out? With a simulation may be. Like program something that could tell us what’s going on beyond us and here’s the catch: beyond our creators and also their simulator!

A cascade of interventionist Gods

Now a deeper philosophical question is not whether we are in a simulation. As it can be interpreted differently based upon the definition of the God/simulator and is an unfalsifiable claim, a matter of faith. The more interesting question is, assuming that we are in a form of a simulation, is our creator an interventionist e onor not! i.e. Whether we are in a supervised simulation that changes sometimes based on how we act (are there miracles?), or alternatively we are just given a bunch of rigid rules and then left alone to compute.

Which itself boils down to whether our simulators are supervised by their intervening God or not.

If our creators are interventionist, how about their Gods? An interventionist God may be beyond us and so appear to us as having free will but for those who made that creature, itself could only be a type of abandoned code left to go down its own path. That cascade logically never ends.

Simulation depth

Opening this discussion, there can be follow-up questions:

What kind of simulation are we in? What are its boundaries and limits compared to our regular manmade type of simulations? Are we in a familiar type of simulation; say a huge multithreaded discrete finite algorithm? Or could it be fundamentally more complex than our currently familiar notion of algorithmic computation, a simulating program?

If we are role playing in a discrete and finite type of computation, then a full history of space-time can be given in a humangous binary file or technically a large integer on the tape of a Turing machine. And then we are some chunks of information on it; enumerable combination of finite symbols rendered locally or globally frame by frame, discretely in time (basic notions known in complexity of computation).

And in that scenario, will that universal machine even differs if a tree falls in a forest but no one is around to hear it? Will there be a sound calculated when there’s no ear? Or is it more likely (and efficient) for that simulation to go only as far as the observer goes?

Science is a Random Walk

RandomWalk
Rain on asfalt.

“Science is a random walk of accumulated literature.”

What do I mean by this compact claim is that the scientific code and its instrumentation evolve organically within an ecosystem of ideas and objects.

By scientific code I mean its language, terminologies and formulations, as well as their results and interpretations. And by its instrumentation I refer to the science-making technologies; tools and instruments.

The scientific code in its evolving journey is profoundly sensitive to its initial states as well as randomness along the way. Random elements of all kinds such as mistakes and accidents, cultural bias, geographic self-reinforcement among the scientists, charisma, manipulation by power and even the order of discoveries. All of these factors have potential to deviate scientific claims to drastically different directions.

We are limited beings trapped in a narrow set of interpretations that we call reality and therefore we are not using our imagination as much as we can to realize how things could have been otherwise. More interesting, useful, truthful alternatives do not get the chance to be seen or discussed in the dictatorship of the scientific enterprise. And scientists are behaving very politely with a fear of being abandoned, excluded or fallen in the blacklist of pseudo-sciences determined by the dominant story. And things doesn’t have to be this way.

Now speaking of the chaotic self-organized nature of the scientific random-walk, we would like to believe that there is an objective truth out there that functions as an external field and leads the scientific endeavor to get closer and closer to an “attractor” of the ultimate truth, neutralizing the effect of its random fluctuations.

This is not obvious.

How do we know that we are dealing with a controlled random walk, that there is an attractor? There may be many attractors. There may be none. There may be infinitely many with a different cardinality even. If we are destined to one thing is that we belive in destinty. And we think of science as having a destiny too. This may be an unwritten assumption but widely accepted that there’s a naturally truthful science. It may be randomly deviating people admit, but it is moving towards the attractor of the holy truth. In my experience the common claim is that not only that truth exists, we are also approaching it rather effectively. And so how can you even dare to argue over this when you are wittnessing the fantastic discoveries and the ground breaking achievements of science?

I am not unfamiliar with this world-view and can comprehend their logic, but have a completely different idea. I am saying that the myth of a naturally truthful science should be debated because it undermines the profound chaotic nature of the evolution of the scientific code and its instrumentatlity. It should be questioned because it ignores how fundamentally trapped we are in our cognitive tunnel and left alone with a very narrow and specific set of wide-spread stories that we have made about the reality.

And let’s say that the attractor of reality does exist in a sense, and that we humans are getting there because we have launched an honest journey with a solid plan. Even if so, I think without bringing up discussions like this post, such a goal is unattainable and navigating towards such a truth is impossible. We can not be sure we are on the right path, let alone the only path, if we suppress any effort to overcome our blindspots, simply because we don’t see them.

So this is what I summarize in the compact claim that science is not about the truth. Science is about the instrumental growth of the human ape, developed and expanded collectively and in a deep sense accidentally. Science is developped with the help of the limited capacities of our brain and its selfish interaction with the environment, ultimately for the sake of survival. We are fundamentally trapped in this thinking organ and besides that we do not try to keep in focus what our hard-wired biases are, as much as we should. We don’t even ask simpler questions such as how our cultural biases shape the way we think often enough. The answers can be sometimes really surprising if we dare to digg into this.

While it is still a meaningful topic to question for example how science would look like for some alien intelligent life form, I will not go that far here. I am claiming that even with the very same structure of the human brain, in a parallel version of our – let’s say – post-agricultural civilization, branched out as late as five thousand years ago and formed with a different throws of dice, the scientific code could have looked very very differently. And at this point only imagination can speculate on this important question about “how else” things could have looked like in an alternative human society. Let’s just specualte a bit. This is pure contemplation:

I think we may not have come up with Newtonian mechanics and then two theories of relativity later on, very unlikely. Instead we could have had things in between or completely different models that would still work. For example with a whole new set of definitions angular momentum did not necessarily have to imply rotation and who knows may be not a single scientist of that parallel world would have even heard of the analogy that some particles rotate around others similar to our planetary system. Imagine the possibility that Einstein’s idea of spacetime was thrown earlier than anything like Newtonian mechanics, simply on a different food diet or given another set of conflicts, power shifts and revolutions.

Imagine Which parts of Algebra would look different beyond its symbolic representation. And then to explain our cosmos how would we expect more complex formulations – such as string theory – to have formed similarly out of a completely different context? The whole axiomatization of our mathematics and how it would state its open problems could look different. It stil can. My personal hope is that it could look more fractal, and more transcendental in a sense. Or not. But we may have not had the Euclidean dominance on our early geometries, the following Cartesian coordinates and thus the use of complex numbers in some form of electronics or any technologies that would give us functionalities similar to smartphones or chip implants. Instead remarkably different tools and languages would serve a similar purpose.

The most solid pillars of our sciences shake if we think in these terms. Even the idea of evolution itself which is the support story behind this post could be told differently. Darwinism and Lamarckism wouldn’t be exposed as distinct theories with a form of epigenetics as their compromise. Other good functioning legends could be told with a different order of discoveries and their marketing.

Well, and on the other hand some core ideas and theories could have been told similarly. And it is not quite impossible to contemplate and guess which of them. It’s very difficult to place a bet for me here but I think we would still have numbers in a sense, and mathematical constants. We would somehow know the families of π and e. We would have had telecommunication and eventually at some point we would sequence our genes and hack ourselves to the next level.

What would remain intact and what would change? This is an important question for all sciences and we do have the tools and resources to make a move towards some answers these days. It’s not necessarily expensive in terms of research fund nor environmental footprint to get on to this. Imagine we live in a world when a comprehensive digitized copy of our scholarly literature is publicly available with all sorts of accessible algorithms. We can now supervise machines to evaluate a whole body of the scientific literature in a matter of days if not shorter. Machines can now reveal contradictions and fallacies in proofs and arguments, detect and neutralize the marketing bias in scientific work to extract the quality, detect and promote ignored nobel ideas and bring up the missed gems, deconstruct existing notions to come up with new ideas, and simulate the future of the whole science itself in multiparallel versions.

None of rhis is any longer farfetched. For those of you who love brands and abbreviations, I came across SSK and SSI, one in many posssible projects of meta-science in this regard. They stand for sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) and its complementory, sociology of scientific ignorance (SSI). The maturity of these projects were the dream of philosophers such as Fayerabend and Kuhn long before the age of Big Data. That idea didn’t take off and was suppressed by other dominant codes which could make more money and thus stood the selection pressures of the scientific enterprise better, to address its demends.

Fair! They were too vague and not regirous enough. And they were not affordable at the time. Our processing power is now millions of times bigger and the immediate availability of pretty much every important scientific idea that have been created is not a dream anymore. So we can get on to such a project again.

And those of you who love stories about AI take over, would agree that if we don’t do this, at some points machines will go ahead and do it for us; or for themselves. This one is not a new story anymore, since we have probably read a piece of fiction journalism on a similar idea lately. So, crazy ideas don’t seem that farfetched when they are repeated enough or endorsed by the public.

Science is an amazing achievement and the fact that its pioneers have constantly used it to transcend itself with new paradigms, ideas and breakthroughs is simply beautiful.

Science deserves to be better than an idiocracy. While, despite its core values of a truthful struggle, like other human achievements that have become old enough in a rigid framework, it seems attracted in to that direction now. People who rightfully claim that science is white or masculine are only scratching the surface.

If you love science, care about it. Try to see its fundamental limits and so transcend it. You may still call it science and I won’t argue over terms. I think it will still not be about finding the truth; however, it is a neater struggle to serve such a purpose.

P.S. I am not viewing this post as a truthful post, either. This is just a code. It’s a rather unconventional idea in the sphere of ideas out there. Your human brains recieve it; some relate to it and some object. The process of understanding something is a set of biochemical algorithms; Logic and reasoning have that shady characteristic in common with emotions and feelings. This is why there is so much disagreement out there in the world. It’s not that people are almost always wrong. It’s because folks are different and the evolution of their worldviews take totally different pathways and so different things make sense to them based on their previous experience and knowledge. From these many ideas out there some of them get lucky enough to survive, take over and dominate for a period but it is not necessarily an indicator of their truthful. Truth may be non-monotonic in a very deep sense. It is alarming when we realize that even if the external field of reality or the attractor of truth had not existed, we would still assume them. And what I have said here has been said before in different tones and terminologies. The scientific climate has not been so friendly to those ideas and they have not got enough exposure or resources. All instances of similar claims that I managed to find have faded out due to what I think as a form of early exposure. This post is not about the truth either. You can view it as a mutation that I would like to promote. This time around it may take off somewhere around here.

Ripple or break?

Faro, Portugal - September 2016

I learned at the coastline of Faro by the Atlantic Ocean, that wind waves show two very distinct patterns. They all attack similarly but decay in two different forms: ripple or breakage.

Most distinguishable waves ripple back smoothly. They come, have their time and leave peacefully just like cultural hypes or music genres.

Some of them on the other hand crash before hitting the shore. Then there’s chaos and bubbles, like wars and revolutions, strokes and backlashes.

I think the term “wave breakage” describes a variety of phenomena of over-exhaustion. It suits financial crises better than the “bubble burst” analogy. It describes a political counter-reaction better than the term “backlash”.

“A breaking wave is one whose base can no longer support its top, causing it to collapse…”

Nature works in beats and pulses at all scales; evolution and extinction of species, rise and fall of empires, boost and decline of cultures. Ocean waves manifest similar dynamics visually; They come, leave their mark and go back in one way or the other. 🌊

Riding the wave of humanity, we will have to go back too. That is inevitable. But will our wave ripple back peacefully? Or will it break down?

Science and Truth

Science is not about the truth. It’s about our instrumental growth.

It’s a human specific language for the short-term dominance of this very species; a subjective and relative cultural viewpoint; a man-made phenomenon not only sensitive to geography and demography of its producers, but fundamentally relying on our specific physiological features.

Science is a random walk of accumulated literature largely indifferent to the reality; a set of self-reinforced terminologies that has hypnotised our collective mind.

Science is one in many possibilities that turned out to be the dominant widespread culture of our time due to a series of thrown dice with similar dynamics as rock pigeons colonized the urban landscape worldwide.

So if you take all of it too seriously you may as well think of a pterodactyl as the superior form of a flying object; the shape of a moldy bread as the most genuine form of the truth, or the last check-mate snapshot of a mediocre chess game as the ultimate possibility of a chess board.

Capitalism, Space and Time!

Or Borrowing from far and future.

I had no major problem with capitalism until I realized how the beast actually works. I don’t share destructive non-libertarian views of communism or the world views of the abrahamic religions and Islam in particular. All of these dangerous ideas have a viral code for dominance and that is exactly why they have been dominating large parts of the world.

Now what I see about capitalism is frightening me even more than its key rival ideologies. And that is its simple code:

Capitalism does not deliver its massive value out of thin air. It largely borrows it from far in space and time.

And these two problems are one.

Far in space could be wherever it outsources the suffering to make a little local joy. Whether it be ethnic conflicts, African mines, animal farms, species in the oceans or cheap child labor economies, such blind treatment of these resources by the capitalistic machine is prone to overexhaustion. And this will mean that what’s far comes closer and closer. You see it has already sneaked in to our safe bubbles and we should get the message.

And what far in time means? Future. That too gets closer and closer. I think we all agree on that. So what can stop us from facing a deserted earth full of angry human apes killing each other?

Nothing. Literally nothing. No reform, no software upgrade nothing but the shut down of the machine at least with the current model.

This choice is inevitable, or else this greedy machinary will shut itself down but only after destroying all of us together.

A bigger picture than politics

From the futuristic people of the past, also listen to Terence McKenna on politics, after the collapse of the Soviets:

Consider three or four minutes from 3:35 to 7:10, on the corruption of the two-party system of the American Republic and that the change must come from the independents. Suits our time after a quarter century. Doesn’t it? Now we get why Bernie Sanders stood no chance from within the democratic party platform.

Now let’s ask a more important question:

How can a quarter century old lecture by someone who was not even interested in politics, describe the geopolitical events of our time more accurate than opinions expressed by the up to date political commentators, op-ed writers of the prestigous newspapers and well-informed talkshow hosts of 2016?

How can experts be so zoomed in on the local events without the ability or tendency to connect them and infer more reliable conclusions?

We are an interconnected society of apes. Our geopolitics has roots in a deeper context, our anthropological roots. Knowing everything about the conventional world of politics is not enough to make a single correct prediction about it if we miss the bigger picture.

The explosion of articles about the personality of Donald Trump, the daily political interviews of the state media and the government-funded experts are all missing it.

The futuristic people of the past

I find it worth listening to the futuristic people of the past. These are the visionary breed who see the future better than us. Now while their futuristic stories are sometimes our trivial past, it could as well be our unforeseen future!

There’s something about their way of observing the world that makes their ideas more resilient against the test of time. Those ideas die out with a different time constant than the normal so they will eventually win over the temporary opinions of the habitual daily routines, the temporary, the mortal.

Now with that in mind listen to Terence Mckenna’s interview on the power of the Internet, from 20 years ago:

At a penetration rate of perhaps less than 1% of its current rate, the rise of the Internet is referred here as an example for “the emergence of the transcendental object”.

Mckenna foresees the rise of the citizen press, new media and grassroot journalism before the creation of mainstream blogging or digital social networking services. He ellaborates so beautifully on the social aspects of the digital disruption before the rise of new business models powered by the Internet. He has great especulations on the future of augmented reality and in other sources he had predicts the rise of data science. And he spells the long-tail theory, what Chris Anderson and other visionary entrepreneurs of the Sillicon Valley started branding 10 years later (half way between this interview and us). Fun to notice that some predictions of the long-tail theory have already failed, while Mckenna’s ideas are still – mostly – valid. And last but not the least his deep insights on the “technological singularity” and the implications of extrapolating the Moore’s [and similar] laws and the take over of AI, are neater than what people like Kurzweil did, trying to coin the term to their names.

And the striking fact is that McKenna has done the same thing in several other fields, epigenetics, linguistics, anthropology and sociology. Pretty much anything that he has been queried by his audience after he was back from the woods to give talks on his new insights.

This is the power that you get when you leave the civilization and observe merely plants for a couple of decades away from an urban settings. Some turn into Charles Darwin. Some turn into Terence Mckenna. I am very excited to have found this profile. And now if you don’t find this interesting, go ahead keep reading the morning news, the scientific paper right in front of you, or the manual of your vacuum cleaner.

P.S.1. the content of your sweeper’s manual may be still valid in 20 years, so I take that one back!

P.S.2. Many futuristic attempts fail to understand the importance of that “meme time constant”. As an example, in the expensive Hollywood sci-fi projects we see that long-term trends are masked by temporary hypes. If a movie is made today to depict 2040 you see they introduce spaceships and flying cars too early, next to the to-be-extincted numerical keypads (too late). But not even a vintage radio is seen in the scenery. In a futuristic depiction I find it unrealistic not to present the past’s profound achievements in retro style. I however understand that not many others find it as silly, just yet.

Economics is not Science

I love this daring video:

At the very least neoclassical economics is not science. It’s an elitist made-up language based on fake concepts such as supply and demand to maximize fabricated quantities in order to exhaust the nature and abuse the people.

Its higly prestigious Chicago school with their fraud models of trade and their deceptive political byproduct, neoliberalism, is responsible for much of the blind destruction of the environment and the uncalculated harms to our societies and nature.

Their influential *thinkers* and theorists are responsible and must be held accountable for bringing humanity to the disaster that it is facing now.

And the most recognized awards and medals of honor should not go to those unintelligent short-sighted charlatans. They should actually go to the people who can possibly figure out how to reverse this effect; how to take us out of the deep trouble caused by those prominent economists of the neoliberalism. After fourty years or so it is time to make a global U-turn away from the policies advocated by the Milton Friedman and his fellow politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Even so the consequences of their disastrous ideas are yet to hit us.

“Conventional economics is a form of brain damage.”

Well-said. Alter your language domain. Don’t be deceived by the illusions created by con artists. Stay real!

Technology and the Substantiality of Experience

Melvin Sokolsky - from the bubble series
Melvin Sokolsky – from the bubble series

Technology is a great thing [for us humans], but it has a negative aspect not many talk about.

It deprives us from feeling the “real experience” in accordance to how we are biologically wired. Technology builds a protective bubble around the human body that however takes care of a lot of challenges for us, leaves us peculiarly unchallanged inside. And to elaborate a bit more on the “challange of unchallended”, it unemploys and unsues the sensorimotor circuitry in our pre-historic brains. And since we percieve happiness more directly inside our brains than on the surface of our skin or outside our bodies, this can be enough to spoil a good deal of fun for us.

In many cases technology offers the same functionality for our survival needs, but with less substance. Same outcome, less work for it. But what if “working for it” was a part of the satisfaction, that was planted in us by evolution to keep us motivated to persue tasks vital for our survival?

The main reason we have brains is sensorimotor circuitry. Some researchers claim it is the only reason. As organisms we need to act upon the world for our survival (the motor system) and in order to do that correctly we need to sense it by a sensory system. So the motor act is the primary goal and the sensory is secondary; it is needed only for the motor act to be decided correctly. Nature doesn’t care if you observe the details of the environment perfectly. Your gene code is passed on if you survive.

Now the technology sits in the way by enhancing the sensory channel and empowering the motor act. It eases the deeply emotional process of decision making, and by doing so leaves those circuitry unused and unemployed. But hasn this not made us unhappy? I used to think that technology enhances feelings and emotions since it assists and magnifies the sensory channel but at our core we are not passive sensors. We are active performers of our lives and spoiled in the comfort of our civilization we have truly lost our natural reference of comparison to our bodily similar ancestors. Lots of process that used to happen in our brains now takes place outside our bodies. Most of the signals that we used to constantly process and handle for survival does not reach the surface of our skins or don’t come even close to us. People go to the nature or gym, try extreme sports or play video games to experience those situations and trigger those condditions; It is a retro movement.

We have all heard modern-time complains about how people nowadays use digital messages instead of real ink on paper postcards, navigate the reality with GPS, and now get dates from apps without holding face-to-face conversations. The outcome is the same; conveying the message, mating or reprodution, or getting to a destination. But something is missing during the process.

Now, this familiar contemporary observations may be worrisome, but it is nothing new.

The technological dumb-down of mankind even if admitted is usually associated to the modern times. This seems to be a new trend in a couple of generations, if we take our own norms and typical lifestyles as the ultimate base for the real experience. Much of “the real experience” had already been taken away from us and before that from our ancestors for dozens of millenia:

* People express worry these days that driving skills, the real experience of navigating the roads is going to fade away with self-driving cars. But do we remember how horse riding felt before cars? Or did our horse-rider ancestors know what they were missing not to hunt an animal while running after it, barefoot?

* Spending too much time in the digital conversations and dealing with only letters and emojis makes us deaf to the intonations of the spoken language. The ability to grasp the meanings conveyed in the rise and fall of the pitch and loudness of the speech needs to be practiced. But was it not the verbal language itself that provided a parallel channel of communication and made us blind to the previous forms of communication, such as reading of emtions from facial expressions? How often do we even try to read each other’s eyes nowadays? In such intuitive social skills that were vital for tribal survival, our illiterate ancestors were more intelligent than us.

* Youth nowadays get dates for their digital profiles sometimes without composing a sentence, or having to make a face-to-face charm. An Irish man in Trondheim told me once “There was a time that people couldn’t hide behind dating profiles. You had to show up in person in real places and talk to real people and prove yourself”. As if a bar is a gladiator arena, or the spoken language itself, just like dating profiles, is not used for people to hide behind. This complain is sound but to me sounds like we would complain to our grand children: “There was a time that you couldn’t just telepathically go through a hundred thousand profiles with the chip in your brain to get a mutual date. You actually had to open an app, a real app! And had to go through profiles one by one. And you had to chat with them, for real. Like composing sentences word by word to make a connection. And then there was still a high chance that they wouldn’t match you because it was not pre-calculated!”

Much of our sensorimotor circuits are inactive since their function is outsourced to the technology. And I think that comes in an order. First the motor act, the outcome of the whole process gets outsourced and inactive, since the machinary around us does it on our behalf. Then there’s no longer need for the sensory part and so that part gets dull and dormant too.

Your worry may be right. The new generation gets spoiled by the new technology and loses the real feel of an experience. They are handed in something as functional but less sensational; less powerful, engaging, and real. Just like we were.

We know it, by comparison.
Our parents knew it, by comparison.
Their parents knew it, …

It’s been fifty thousand years folks!