#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

#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
(etc.)
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
Yes,
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

Yeah
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

#ThoughtExperiment – ‘Intellectual Consumerism’ OR how being ‘well read’ doesn’t necessarily count for anything

Disclaimer: you are more than enough

One for my fellow bookworms and knowledge junkies…

Considering the times you live in
You’ve been able to take in far more, and far ‘better’ information than the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Jesus, Buddha, Pythagoras, Einstein (etc.)
You’ve been able to read more ‘great’ books
(…and maybe more ‘not great’ books)
You’ve been able to access nearly unlimited culture and art through the wonders of the information superhighway
Learn about almost anything you want
Look up more information than you could ever consume for your entire life.

Yet,
On an intellectual or philosophical level
You have not necessarily made ‘better use’ of this information than these people.
(…though I probably don’t know you and even if I did, this would *not* be a judgement on how you have chosen to spend your entirely unique existence).

Anyway
What I am getting at here is this:
Perhaps reading more is not the solution,
Nor reading better
(…both of which can be seen as a type of intellectual consumerism also predicated on the idea of you not being enough).

Perhaps the solution is what you make of this information
These books you read
Conversations you have
Artworks you scrutinise.

black and white art photo
Photo by BarbaraALane (Pixabay)

After all, what you think about
Will determine what you do
And thus the trajectory of your life.

So,
Could you find alleviation for the human condition
Standing in a check out line?
Or utter profundity in an episode of Jersey Shaw?
Maybe – I’m sure some people have
Was it Bodhidharma who found enlightenment staring at a wall?
(…no sacred books, 7 day meditation retreats, dogma, gurus or online bootcamps required).

Ensuring that you expose yourself to the ‘right’ stuff is relatively easy
So, I suppose the question is how do you make ‘more’ of what you are exposed to?
That I don’t know.
This is the big mystery.

Of course, it doesn’t matter anyway, unless you want it to.

#ThoughtExperiment – The Tall Monkeys / 06.03.17

Imagine a group of monkeys in an enclosure…

They are all dressed in costumes of varying appearance and quality

The enclosure is full of possessions

These possessions are distributed unequally

Naturally

Some monkeys have managed to acquire more elaborate costumes and more possessions than others

When you look at the monkeys

Perhaps you admire the monkey’s craftiness or strength,

Evident in the means it used to acquire more possessions

(…or perhaps you don’t?)

But in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a monkey with more things than the other monkeys

And maybe next week another monkey will have taken some of these things away from it

.
You do not judge one with more possessions as any ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than any of the others

(…do you?)

black and white monkey photo
Photo by warriorwoman531

No, if you were to make such a judgement

You would try to do this by a glimpse into its character

…insofar as you can get to know the character of an ape by observing it for a few minutes through the glass or bars of an enclosure.

.
Don’t underestimate anyone

Conversely

Don’t overestimate anyone

Because in many ways,

We’re not so different from these monkeys

Though we do have slightly cooler stuff and more sophisticated explanations of the status quo.

Cover Photo by wwarby

#Idea – The economy will keep growing until it can’t anymore

I am clearly not an economist but hear me out for the next 10 lines or so:
So,
Our current economic model
(…that is to say, the way in which our global economy operates)
Bases its pursuit of infinite growth
On a planet of finite resources
And
Do you know what else pursues infinite growth with the constraint of finite resources?
Cancer
And you know what happens with cancer given enough time?
It either goes away
Or kills its host

Photo by Vincepal

#ThoughtExperiment – Your assumptions and how to use them

First, it helps to be aware that you have assumptions
(…we all do, I assume?)
And probably that you make more assumptions than you think you do
(…we all do, I assume?)

Next – to consider the importance of your assumptions:
They are necessary to simplify
This particularly complex universe in which we all find ourselves

Think about it –
Imagine not being sure that gravity will work today
Or that night will follow day
Or that you need food to survive
It’d be difficult.

So, there are certain things that it helps to think you’re ‘sure’ of
(…I assume)

But, remember:
There are probably less things to be sure of than you think
(…like we said: complex universe, complex world, right?)
And
Such assumptions often get in the way….
Of learning something new
Or examining something deeply
Seeing more of what something is
(…and not what you think something is)

Assumptions can get in the way of your thinking through things
And certain assumptions lead you to bad places
Bad thinking and what comes with it
Closed minds in places of power
Closing doors on other people,
Which, by extension, holds us all back

suffering photo
Photo by Björn Bechstein

More terrible examples include prejudice and hatred: racism, homophobia, sexism, war, genocide – the list goes on
From assumptions about ‘other’ people being ‘bad’
Or consider the various idiotic decisions that you didn’t ‘think through’ at the time
Things you just assumed would work, or happen
…and didn’t
And that ended up costing you in one way or another
(…and we’ve all been there, I assume?)

Yeah, assumptions can be bad.
But, like everything, it’s not all bad – and usually a matter of degree
Like we said, maybe not best to doubt the sunrise.

Moderation is a mostly recurrent theme in our universe.

So, what follows?
Perhaps try to notice where you apply your assumptions
(…it is certainly not always obvious)
Think of it as ‘epistemological troubleshooting’
A way to make better informed decisions about everything
And by extension, live a better life

Enquire more
Question more
Question others
Most especially: question yourself

How?
Every now and then, ask yourself:
“How possible is it that this thing that I think is true
…isn’t?”
And consider:
What makes you so sure that you’re right about anything, anyway?
(…or everything?)
Do you like to be ‘right’ about things?
If so, why?

shouting photo
Photo by cotaro70s

And
If in doubt of your ‘wrongness’,
Remember how complex this universe is
And that many human assumptions are, and have been
Wrong

Remember that you have been wrong before
And you will be wrong again
Repeatedly
(…even if selective memory has erased many such instances from your recall)

Perhaps remember that old cliche: most all of us assumed that the earth was once flat
Until it wasn’t

Consider what to ‘save’ your assumptions for
Start to doubt the nature of certain things and you will perhaps become a little insane. Or a lot insane.

And
You can also verify stuff:
“how much evidence do I have…
…for this thing that I believe to be right
…actually being right?”

Also
Perhaps try to catch some of those assumptions when you make them
…even though you’re always making them
(and that’s OK)

Someone once said
”When you assume you make an ass out of u and me”
(lol)

And, do remember
No matter how hard you try
(…assuming you try)
You will never be free of your assumptions
Ever.

TL;DR:

Notice where you make assumptions
Challenge them
And
Perhaps see things differently…

smiling dog photo
Photo by csaba peterdi