#ThoughtExperiment – Self Sacrifice: Apocalypse Edition / 11.08.17

Consider a hypothetical scenario;

A catastrophe faces humanity – everything and everybody is doomed.
Some cruel twist of fate dictates that only you can avert the apocalypse.

To do this, you have to give your life in a heroic, but painful fashion.

The caveat; you will never be remembered for this act. Your sacrifice will go completely unnoticed.

No glory, just ‘the right thing’.

The choice comes down to dying now, in anonymity and perhaps doing the ‘right thing’. Or dying later, alongside everyone else, perhaps your loved ones.

You’d have no conscience to nag you because you’ll be wiped out with everyone else (…unless you happen to believe in some kind of meritocratic afterlife… perhaps)

There is an old saying that, paraphrased, ‘glory is eternal’; this is a lie.

Whatever good (or, dare I say, bad) that you do, will eventually be forgotten. The paper or hard drives that hold the information about you will eventually fail and never be replaced. The people who hold you in their memories will eventually pass away.

Knowing that, would you still be willing to ‘do the right thing’?

Can you find a better reason to do the ‘right thing’?

Is the ‘right thing’ even right for you?

“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi”

#ThoughtExperiment – Quantum Mechanics vs. Free Will / 11.08.17

On free will…

First, your thoughts;
As we understand it, your thoughts are tied to electrochemical processes in the brain
Electrochemical processes which, at their root ,
Are tied to subatomic , quantum processes
Which are random
And by their nature unknowable.

…Here we have randomness

Secondly, your desires;
You can choose to act upon your desires or not
But you can’t choose your desires.
…Here we have determinism.

Neither randomness, nor determinism, are compatible with Free Will.

Obviously, you are not ‘a robot’.
Or, if you are, you are at least a fleshy robot that is, much more unpredictable than a regular robot.

Inspired by things I read in ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow ‘ by Yuval Noah Harari 

Photo by MassiveKontent

#Idea – Should ‘body positivity’ come with a caveat? / 11.08.17

Some studies of anorexics show that the media’s use of size 0 models has helped ‘normalise’ the idea of being dangerously skinny.

Basically; these ultra-thin (and often unhealthy) people are presented as ‘models’ – defined literally as “a standard or example for imitation or comparison.” (dictionary.com definition).

You know what comes next: emotional and physical suffering to the many who try to follow this example. Some people even die from consequences related to underweight.

Which means that the fashion industry has something else to answer for (…asides from overpriced merchandise and what is arguably a wasteful approach to the use of clothing).

The flip side of the ‘cult of size 0’ is the ‘body positivity’ movement – which, in reaction to these ads implying that we are ’not thin enough’, tells people that they are fine – no matter how big or small they are. Which seems reasonable.

However, while fat may be fine on a cosmetic level (after all, it’s your body and you get to make the aesthetic choices), there’s no disputing that that the more overweight you are, the worse it is for your health.

Article about weight - black and white model photo
Photo by Engin_Akyurt (Pixabay)

Caveat: I’m not saying that there are not ‘healthy fat people’, but I am saying that statistically, the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to suffer from (and die of) complications related to your health. Most of us agree with this – and there is an enormous volume of medical literature that agrees.

Which brings us back to body positivity…

Isn’t it equally as reckless to promote the idea that being seriously overweight is ‘OK’? To normalise overweight and the ill-health that often accompanies it?

Put another way, is this a moving of the ‘aspirational’ needle from one extreme to another?

People don’t usually talk about this because we are so afraid of offending people who take commentary on overweight as attacks on them, personally.

We know that overweight people are bullied, purely for their weight (‘fat shaming’). And we know that the same thing happens to thin people (‘thin shaming’), so we can see where they are coming from.

Yet, it is important to draw the distinction between the use of empirical data to inform people about something, and criticism/bullying. Put another way, it is important to be mature enough to accept feedback as feedback, not an opportunity to take offence.

black and white model photo
Photo by Engin_Akyurt (Pixabay)

For those on the other side, it is important not to roll over and allow people to use political correctness as a metaphorical sledgehammer; a means to ignore data and quash healthy debate.

Being very overweight may be increasingly normal in what many are calling our ‘gradually fattening’ society – but ‘normal’ is not a synonym for ‘good’.

That’s not to say that I am suggesting people should ‘be thinner’ or ‘be fatter’. I’m not suggesting anything – given the opportunity, people tend to do what people will want to do.

This is my perspective, informed by my experiences. As other people will have lead different lives and had different experiences, their perspectives will differ. However, data does not care about differences of perspective or opinion – though we may interpret it differently.

#Poem – Wanderlust / 09.08.17

You travel light
And endeavour
Forever to spend
This short life
Skirting the surface
Of a spinning ball.

Chasing the sunrise
Broadening your horizons
Until you can’t see the edges of your horizons.

Not running from
But running towards
The Great Unknown.

Awash in jet fuel
And optimism
You put another thousand miles
Behind you.

But the road is long
The world is wide
And again
You reaffirm
That The Search
Is not done yet.

What is it?
Where is it?
Have you ever seen it?
In transcendent moments?
In stop offs, brief pauses for breath,
Facebook check ins
In hotel lobbies, through telephoto lenses,
Or out on the Savannah?

Did you find it in Akrotiri
In a sunrise?
Or Akureyri?
And phosphorescent skies?
Was it there,
Amongst gutters, clamour
And all those people in Mumbai?

You may see everything
You ever wanted to see
All the major focal points
Of the Spinning Ball
And you may
Create more memories
Than you could ever recall.

Your skin may darken
And your mind may widen
And you may make friends
In unfamiliar places
Or leave this world
Full of familiar places

But a thousand years
Could pass you by
And you would never find
What you were looking for

And that would be alright in the end

Everything will be alright in the end

Photo by Anne Worner

#Poem / #ThoughtExperiment – The Family / 22.05.17

When we talk of our ‘family’, where do we draw the line?

Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, 1st cousins…3rd cousins, 11th cousins twice removed
Like a great many things, it’s all relative

Go back far enough and we all share the same grandmother
(‘Mitochondrial Eve’)
Or take this argument back further
To some sort of floppy, spineless, water based creature
From which we are all descended

Back further still to single celled bacteria
Hanging out, multiplying and swallowing each other
(…great grandparents taken to orders of magnitude and ridiculous extremes)

Even further still to the pool of amino acids
Waiting for life to happen
And bubbling in the Primordial Soup

In one way ‘family’ is defined by amount of genetic divergence between two organisms
The less divergence, the more ‘related’ you could call us
If we take the amount of genetic similarity as a measurement…

Whoever you are, you share around 99.5%  of your DNA with me

So, when I call you my brother or my sister perhaps it means something
If it can be worked out at the point our grandparents diverged
Then it really is  a matter of degree

haiku about meaning of life - black and white crowd

Put another way, all of our grandparents were the same ‘person’, up until a very recent point in the biological timeline
And so,
Maybe we can take a more expansive view and realise
That, to a great extent, all of Earth’s life is related

I mean, Jesus, you already share 60% of your genes with a chicken
At one point you and that chicken’s extremely-great-grandparent
Where one and the same

In this way perhaps we could think of ourselves as a big family;

Of carbon and trace elements
Currently animate complex matter
Source material born in the heart of a star
Subatomic material born in the Big Bang
(….again, it depends how far back you look)
Back to that old stardust trope again

black and white galaxy

Despite being an only child of an only child of an only child of an only child
I like to think of everybody and everything as my brothers and sisters
The Orion Spiral Arm Crew
Meaninglessly large numbers
Trillions or quadrillions of us;

You, me and everyone and everything

All living and dying and recycling our matter
Over and over again
All fighting the war against entropy, frailty, futility and Oblivion
Over and over again
Some searching for meaning
Most just trying to survive and reproduce
So that their children can do just the same,

Forever and ever
Until there is no space for ghosts
Until there is just space
Empty space
And what will the point of it all have been?

Photo by vishwaant