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Internalizing Tools Through Eepigenetics

This article reflects on my journey in life, discussing the concept of epigenetics and Mike Levin, a microbiologist who shares my name and is a hero of mine. I explore my experiences in life, including falling victim to shortcut-seekers and narcissists, and how I am learning to make sure I don't lose myself to someone else. I have embraced my environment by finding my tools, and have realized the importance of incorporating VSCode into my DNA. I discuss the power of text editors.

Learning to Embrace My Environment Through Tools and Eepigenetics

By Michael Levin

Thursday, August 18, 2022

An article like this will start out here in my journal. It was actually copy/pasted out of the SimpleNote app that lets text flow astoundingly smoothly between mobile and desktop. Capture your thoughts any way possible. The most convenient and love-worthy way possible. Just capture your thoughts. Then copy/paste them into your idea-processing systems. Then if anything is destined to come of it, continue the idea on its journey to its ultimate destination. Here I believe it will be as non-blog “main” content on my freshly facelifted website. This stuff shouldn’t have to be searched for in Google. Rather it should be stumbled upon by anyone stumbling upon my website. Hmmm, remember StumbleUpon?

I’ve p laced my chips and it’s time to shit or get off the pot. SEOs never met a metaphor they wouldn’t mix. While I’ve been an SEO for most of my adult life, it wasn’t my first choice. Science and being a scientist was, but apparently I lacked the passion and commitment to pursue it. Listen to this other Mike Levin the microbiologist, something of a hero of mine and someone I may never had discovered had we not shared the same name. He topped the search engine standings for while until the congressman from California buried us both. Sigh. We’ll, who’s searching on my name anyway? It’s time to grow through a fine-tuning of my mission in life and what I’m here on this world to accomplish.

First off, I’m a dad and having brought another life into this world, helping my child with their journey is always my number one priority. But everyone’s journey is ultimately their own and I cannot let theirs subsume mine. That’s been one of my biggest stumbling blocks, because I’ve allowed not my child, but other adults to rule me for the better part of my adult life. I was still a man-boy when I came to New York in my late twenties and found myself hunted and gold-dug. It was not my first time falling victim to shortcut-seekers in life and narcissists trying to turn their men into self-objects. I was just still unable to recognize it for what it was and I fell into one of the big pitfall traps in life. Don’t lose yourself to someone else.

We’re all born with a hardware vibe. It comes from a sequence of information encoded into molecules that builds you within a system of profoundly complex relationships and interdependencies. No one is an island, but we seem to be born that way as a single cell borrowing some of the 22 trait-bundled from your mom and 22 from your dad. Just add the material world. By 2 or 3 you’re beginning to walk and talk. You couldn’t even open your eyes or pick up your head at first. Then you’re riding a bicycle and driving. Humans incorporate tools into their bodies and redefine their own being, leaving that hardware vibe they’re born with in the dust, a mere echo of who they are today. Every day, you evolve.

That aforementioned Mike Levin covers it well. DNA isn’t the whole story. Nor is your human-like consciousness that’s reading this article right now. Now, every cell in your body is its own distinct organism with its own sort of brain. We’re all just a big cooperation of those critters under the guidance of our executive function that lifts us just a bit above other animals in our capacity for self-determination—but not much. Our inner lower-form animals from which we’re built, the worm and the fish and the frog and the lizard, are still much more in control than we like to give them credit for. Our executive function’s main function sometime seems to be an apologizer and rationalizer for all their shenanigans.

But humans are able to grab themselves by their own bootstraps and lift themselves above the dog-eat-dog animal fray. We have the ability to flip-off the autopilot switch and lift our consciousness a wee bit out of the now moment to think about past, present and future as if they exist and matter. Killer cats hunting your tribe in the night got you down? Your watch guard falling asleep on the job tearing apart the tribe’s trust, cohesion and the gene pool? Maybe those wolves that eat at the trash pile aren’t so bad. They bark like a mofo at the slightest perturbance. Let’s raise one of their pups and see if they can’t ale for a better nighttime alarm than Joe the deceased. Ye ol’ technology.

Tools are like that. They get added to the tapestry of complex interdependence that makes us us. Dogs aren’t in our DNA, but they might as well be, like bones and eyeballs and fingers and all those other tools we actually have incorporated into our physical bodies over time. We didn’t have rigid inside parts as the single celled blobs we started out as. At some point it tasted silicon and said yuck! I don’t want to replace my flagellum with that. It would shatter like glass. But the chalky foamy metal calcium which is also available in slightly less abundance? Yum! I’ll make me some shields and swords and stilts out of that stuff. Random mutations? I think not. Intelligent design? Of course, but not from some dirty. From the organism and a system of non-genetic inheritance that allows it—called epigenetics.

We evolve ourselves through force of free will. Random circumstance might lead to an organism having some proto-intelligence insight, but that calcium gets put to use as some quite literally internalized tool. It’s like a amoeba sucking in a hammer floating around in the primordial goo. The amoeba’s like now I have a hammer, Ho Ho Ho. Watch out paramecium. Same thing happened with organisms internalizing whole other organisms making animal-B a permanent ongoing part of animal-A as is the case with the mitochondria found my the thousands floating around as little energy-giving powerhouses in each and every one of the cells that we’re built out of. We don’t need chlorophyll for photosynthesis like plants because one of our ancestors gobbled up an anaerobic little critter that got passed down without it being encoded its genes.

Scale-up to human size like today in your life. Same thing. Sure, you’re born with your 23andme profile. Luck of the dice, as it were. The first hand you’re dealt. Factor in where, when and to what circumstances you’re born and you’ve got one nutty game of poker in the game of life. Games all just channel aspects of life so it’s no big surprise eternally popular ones like poker are channeling some of the big important points. We’re all dealt some hand, but how we decide to play that hand is up to us. Blame is for losers. You’re in the game, aren’t you? You want to play, don’t you? Maybe you’re just here as a curiosity seeker and your hearts really not in it. Well then, die young. Maybe you’re really into it but what happens early in the game was so awful and unlike your expectations that you… we’ll, you again, die young. The great twenty-eights of deeply emoting passionate artists and all that. Winehouse and Leger and Hendrix, oh my!

Fpzt Like any game, there’s ups and downs. The risk and the thrill and the discovery is what makes it fun. It’s not that we all need to be dopamine seeking extreme sports nuts. No, maybe serotonin is your drug. Adrenaline junkie or warm and fuzzy cozy cuddler, we each find things in the game we value, our own answers to questions we didn’t even know (in our human consciousness) that we had. Yeah, yeah, this is all right on the edge of spiritualism and that eternal soul stuff. But who knows? Certainly not us, at least not for sure no matter what any religion or scientist tells you. That’s what makes the game so great. Ultimate answers are withheld until the end. Maybe. Maybe forever and there’s just oblivion. Who knows? But don’t let that get you down. You’re alive now and I’d call that nothing short of nigh impossible. The odds were against it and every little experience you have as a conscious being is gravy. So show a little gratitude because, you know, just in case.

I’m over fifty and just getting started. I’ve scavenged my environment and found my tools. I’ve tasted glass and I’ve tasted solidified foam. I’ll build my bones from foam, thank-you-very much. If you’re using VSCode, you’re building your house from glass. Or would that be straw? Either way, beware the big bad wolf of time and vulnerability to change. Gonna incorporate VSCode’s source into your DNA? You’re gonna also need a platform that supports a web browser there in your DNA too. Oh, and NodeJS running in the background as a server. A pointer device, don’t forget that. And not the “main”VSCode because the license won’t allow it, so you need the free and open source version. And once VSCode is internalized, are you going to use it to keep a journal? A to-do list? You know, all those things you can do with text files in your life that’s so valuable? What’s that? The user interface is made mostly just for coding, so you’ll need something else too?

Well, why not just start with the eternal and we’ll-licensed vim as your text editor so you can build your house from bricks? Little choices like which text editor you use manifest in big ways in your life, consequences cascading down to all the little things in ways you’re hardly aware—like a fish not understanding water. All that stuff that vaguely bothers you today might be because you never took up vim as your text editor. It’s “good enough” and ubiquitous (always there) because it’s smaller version vi is part of the Unix standard. Oh, you should take up Unix too—or Linux rather because Linux has broader hardware support today, better free and open source software repositories you can immediately tap into and start using, and a system for scheduling and automation called systemd built-in that’s accessible without too much effort.

All these tools I’m advocating are free and open source and of the eternal type. The Unix philosophy https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix_philosophy states much of it clearly. What’s not clear is further stated well by the Free Software Foundation https://www.fsf.org/about/ Tools like software becomes a part of you, a bit of your evolving vibe and who you are as you learn and master it. One should evolve tools and things built from them that will shatter like glass inside your body when our under any stress, like the glass blowers needing to make money off of you, or the ravages of fashion, fads, trends and time. Unix, and thus Linux, is greatly impervious to the ravages of time. Or maybe more accurately is aging well, delivering on its Noah’s Ark-like promise of portability and survival. Python’s not as fundamental yet, but PERL missed its chance as the default language of Linux distribution, so Python is on its way. Lastly, git. Always lastly, git.

Nothing’s perfect, least of all git. git reset –hard HEAD^^^ …which is read while pantomiming a head-smash on each caret. The same guy who made the Unix-clone Linux made git. He named Linux after himself (Linus Torvald’s) and in one of the greatest acts of self depreciation, self-awareness and redemption for that massively megalomaniacal act (he didn’t know it would become so popular), he also named git after himself. Linus is an enormous asshole. He suggests it’s surprising dumb people are still alive. He’s gentle Finnish demeanor belies the raging opinionated git beneath. He wouldn’t still be in the game as the leader of his team if he wasn’t. Linux wouldn’t have had the massive uptake if he wasn’t. Linus isn’t perfect, but when good-enough goes free and open source mainstream with longevity, you’ve got bones. Lean into it.

Unix was perfected by the same Bell Labs people as who made Unix in the form of the Plan 9 OS. Who uses Plan 9? What’s best does not always win. Even stuff with the best marketing does not always win. What wins is what’s good-enough, is released early enough so that it becomes adopted by a critical mass of people, and which becomes too important to fail. If the original providers of the tech disappear or don’t license it well enough, it’s reverse engineered like Linux or picked up by someone else and continued, like vim. The original vi text editor program on which vim is based was written by Bill Joy, one of the no longer active grandparents of Unix. But Dutch programmer Bram Moolenaar picked up the pieces circa 1987 on the Amiga computer and the world is a different and better place today because of it.

Vi is not as clumsy or random as VSCode; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. Bill Joy actually said he would have written vi differently because we are not as resource strapped as we were back when vi was written—the age of timesharing, expensive computer time, and painfully slow dial-up connections. Every keystroke and every bit mattered. Vi was thus constructed as an efficient “language” to control text from afar. j is down and k is up. Sure, we might be able to stream movies forever today, but what if you want to edit that textfile on Mars or that device you managed to connect to in order to change a config file? Vi and it’s descendants like vim and nvi are relevant in every use-case including making your daily common text-editing work easier. It’s got a steep learning curve, but once you get into the zone with vim, it’s like a superpower and nobody and nothing can take that capability away from you.

Python? Oh, Python. How Guido can Rossum misnamed you. He’s Dutch and not Scandinavian, but he shares the Viking proclivity to name the icy place Greenland and the green place Iceland. Python is not the constricting alpha-male macho bro language the name implies. Python is soft and gentle, once embracing you in its coils it will adopt you and raise you as its own, making you in many ways as powerful as a C programmer, but without a lifetime of commitment. If you want C for ultimate power, you can have it. It’s built-in. But if you only want to kick the tires of coding here and there, or just get your work done while learning as little as possible, it’s got you covered there to. Under Jupyter Notebook, the “Hello World” program is just that. ‘hello world’. You don’t even have to press the Shift key. And perhaps the greatest argument in its favor that it’s something you should maybe consider trying is that it is still as popular as it is today and only growing, even in the face of JavaScript, the one language to rule them all.