Category: Musings

Giving Up

When you are so exhausted and/or sick that your body doesn’t listen. When you seemingly can’t do anything or have lost all “will” to do anything. When you can’t progress in any meaningful way in any area. Give up. I think I would consider myself a dopaminergic person, I set goals and those goals become more important to me than almost anything. I don’t often STOP and just look around or be thankful for everything I have. I definitely do, but definitely not as much as I should (I don’t, for example, take stock every day and thinking about it). I should. I think a lot of meditation and its benefits spring from doing (seemingly) very little and just existing and being okay with “just existing.” I see it in Oliver a lot too, he REALLY wants something and will stop at nothing. I get that he’s a kid and he doesn’t have emotional control yet, but I’m willing to bet that he’ll be (eventually) one of those people that gets SUPER into something, you know, goes really really deep and spends a lot of time on it. In computer science terms I’d say a dopaminergic person is someone that heavily “depth-first” in terms of a search strategy. Instead of looking around, testing out a ton of different things, going really broad and general, a dopaminergic person looks somewhere FAR into the future, sets a lofty goal, and then just bangs their head against the wall (metaphorically speaking), pushing and striving until they succeed or until their head hurts too much.

That’s the subject of this post. I think the “depth-first” strategy is FINE but the problem often becomes time itself. Say you like Physics. Maybe you want to be a PhD in astronomical physics (the reason for this, let’s just take as a given), or you want to study Physics your whole life. You can do this! The problem is you need to give up A LOT to get there. You might not realize you have to give up a lot, you might not realize at the time you set the goal T(0) that you might actually want those things at a later time and you might not even recognize that the you of T(0) when the goal was set is not the you for all time. At a certain point motivations and goals (and limitations) change, you might not be able to proceed. It’s a question of meaning/value (similar to other posts I’ve made) and the trick isn’t to just not set any lofty goals, but to

OOPS, have to give up (baby is awake), value judgement shifted (writing this post WAS important, but now Baby >>>>>> Dada’s thoughts)

Unreasonable Post

I have no reason to write. I had no preconception of what I “wanted” to write about. I’m basically forcing myself to write this. Why? It’s like a message in a bottle (good song by the Police), I’m just writing because…nothing? Writing is good? Writing in and of itself is a good thing. Writing is the equivalent of conscious thought and thought, even meandering or nonsensical, is good? I added the question marks because I’m not certain that just any writing is “good writing.” I actually think that most of life is sifting through the massive amounts of TRASH thought in order to find (if lucky) the good thinking or the “correct” thinking. What is good or correct? At the very least it could be logical thinking (1 + 1 = 2), if someone tries to say something like “1 + 1 is actually equal to 3″ then you know right then and there that it is wrong/trash/not worth your time. So applying logic is one great way to sift through the trash.

 

Another good way to find something worthy or correct or whatever would be to apply previous experience (empirical evidence). So if I start to watch a bad show or movie and it seems very similar to other bad shows or movies (again, objective logic is a good foundation), I can tell via induction that this will, most likely, be a bad show or movie. So while this is not hard evidence (like a clear violation of something) it can be a nuanced way of sifting through trash.

 

The first way (logic) is safe, but the 2nd way (a developed sense over time) is at least something that can be improved upon. Often, I read things or see things and QUICKLY lose interest, because I think my 2nd sense of feeling that this will be a waste of time is very strong. Maybe logically the person or book or game or whatever didn’t do anything wrong, but I can feel (subconsciously) that there’s something wrong.

 

I think this sort of gets at a larger topic which is your brain, biases, relying on feeling/emotion/”gut” instinct V. constructive thought, logic, etc. You obviously need both but I think that objective reality is “better” in so far as it is slower but higher in accuracy. Most of the time the tradeoff is such that you’re better off just reacting via instinct, but that’s sort of a trap. In situations you aren’t familiar with there is no built-up library or put another way the training data for your mental model is sparse and you are much more likely to react poorly. The counter to this thought is that it’s very hard to live objectively, even if you know you are biased/emtional/etc. you can only really mitigate this effect (but not eliminate it).

 

The best of both worlds (objective reality meets lived experience) works within the confines of leveraging instinct but having it balanced out by objective reality. I think of gamblers that are VERY good at calculating odds instinctively/based on years of experience, but even these gamblers will know that their ability to function is impaired when they drink too much or they are angry or any number of factors. Maybe the gambler makes a rule like “I will only drink 1 drink every 2 hours” or “after losing a big hand I walk away from the table” or any number of rules aimed to mitigate the effects of feeling. The other piece is that you should look at things objectively OVER TIME. So for example, you may FEEL that you aren’t losing weight or whatever your goal is, but if you measure it you might see a different story. Maybe you THINK/FEEL that your life is terrible, but actually analyze it based on the possible outcomes of what COULD HAVE been your life. Taking stock of things is very important and should be done every few months if not more frequently.

 

The final piece of advice would be to live as the Stoics do. No matter what has transpired before, just imagine your previous self as “some other person” and then imagine that this person is dead (like, they just died). Now think about who you WANT to be, in this moment. Then live that. It’s so much harder to do than to say, but the concept is sound. If you can de-identify with who you were and begin to identify with who-you-wish-to-be, then you’ll be able to start acting it out.

Who cares?

One thing that’s been in the back of my mind for a while now is “Who cares?” or “Who gives a flip?” when it comes to MANY things in life. You’re not supposed to care what others think but in almost any endeavor it DOES matter what others think (will you get funding? will you be judged favorably? how many likes will you get?). Essentially “the group” is always incredibly important, whether that’s the people in your neighborhood or your peers or colleagues or customers. You’re always dancing to the others’ tune OR, and this is a big OR (and it’s exclusive), it might be considered MEANINGLESS. You can define your own meaning (look up logotherapy) and honestly a lot of what you do will be local and won’t matter to anyone (like this website). But if what you are doing matters to YOU, that is the most important thing. Nobody can tell YOU what YOU should value or hold meaningful (actually, people can and will do this, but ultimately it’s up to you). I want to expand upon this and I think I will later but for now I think it’s important to know that almost everything you do won’t matter to the VAST MAJORITY of people. However, it will matter, to some. Locally you could be HUGE. Locally or within your small circle you might be the best X, which is nice.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I usually dislike truisms like this (hey reflexive property, x=x, wow, who knew), but in this case I think it’s interesting to look at the concept of insufficient information when problem solving (you know, what all of us do all our lives). You can never have “enough” information, and your mind is subjective, so what might be “good” or “enough” for you might be bad or insufficient for someone else.

 

Today I saw a pen on the floor. It was a pen that my son had opened and put the cap in his mouth (a choking hazard). The day before I had taken the cap and pen and put them out of reach of him. To see the pen on the floor amongst his toys made me upset and I immediately asked “Did you put the pen back?” or “Why did you put the pen back?” (in a snarly/angry tone) to my wife. In my mind, there were only 2 people that could have put the pen back, myself or my wife and I knew I didn’t put the pen back so I assumed she did. This was wrong. There was ANOTHER possibility, there was more information. In fact this was a pen identical to the pen from yesterday, there were 2 pens! It’s logical that however the first pen got among his toys this one did too. I hadn’t concerned that, based on my (limited) information, I had made the logical assessment.

 

This problem is a HUGE problem when scaled. WW1 is a great example. All of the major powers could claim they were acting “defensively” and that “if there was going to be a war, now was a logical time to do it” (well, maybe not Russia). My point is that acting logically, which is I agree the most sensible approach to life, doesn’t always give the best results, and ESPECIALLY not when information is limited. We all need to make decisions, and make them relatively quickly, but for BIG things (like long-term, life-changing decisions) it’s wise to gather A LOT of information to aid the decision.

 

Logic though is sort of a trap. It’s like, if humans were completely logical they would be very easy to predict/manipulate (more so then they already are). I think that’s part of the message of Dune. Machines, in their cold logic, destroy humanity since humans are static/predictable to a fault (their own destruction). The good thing about humans is that we have illogical local phenomenon that are based on logical long-term outcomes (i.e. natural selection). I might think something is a bad idea, like, I don’t want to have sex with anyone, it’s a hassle and it can be frustrating, etc. but biologically my body is saying “no, no, you WANT to do this and there will be chemical rewards if you do.” I will stop for now, but leave you (the reader) with the concept of incomplete information. What about your life could you add some more information to in order to produce more favorable results? What should you read up on? What ARE your big decisions?

15 Minutes And Your Post Is FREE

I only have 15 minutes before my daily stand-up. I challenge myself to write a post in that time.

This post will be about how understanding is more important than knowledge or almost anything else. As my Windows PC boots up I’m just emailing myself (to save time).

My thoughts are this, you can memorize things, you can “KNOW” something like (Einstein was a Jew), but I think understanding is more valuable and is also more contextual. Einstein was a Jew, true, but I understand that he didn’t believe in God per se, he believed in a “mover” or a “divinity” that followed an established set of rules. He believed in the God of Spinoza, a sort of “God is in everything” type of belief, not a “God is my personal savior and he told me not to have sex with other men.” So I think it’s really UNDERSTANDING that needs to be put forth. How can you show you understand? Well, I think it comes down to results. Like, if you UNDERSTAND how building muscle works and you want to prove it, then show it by building muscle. If you want to show that you understand operating systems, build one that can perform the various functions of an operating system. That’s a bit tricky though, in that you can create without understanding (children for example). Understanding another human being is fairly difficult but a worthy pursuit. One thing that really helps with understanding is TIME and THOUGHT and ACTION. If you think about something, then try something out, you can then look at the results. You might not understand, but at least you can say “I applied stimulus X for response Y” which is a whole lot better than ASSUMING X (without results).

In short, SCIENCE!

-Pat

Be The River

Hello my fellow rocks, looking tough and acting hard. Just wanted to post about a concept I’ve been kicking around in the old lump of neurons that is my brain. I’ve lately had trouble doing things I used to love (say reading for example). I think it’s because compared to competitive gaming everything else is a lower dopaminergic “fixx” (this sort of relates to a few other recent posts, but no, I will not bash terrible Medium articles giving no evidence or wisdom). What I do want to express is this: change happens gradually, and it’s not our abilities that really define us, it’s our choices (that’s a bastardization of a Dumbledore quote, I know this because Joe used to keep a series of quotes on the wall and that was one that stuck out in my mind). So in essence I’m not sure it’s “everything in moderation” (I hate that saying, it’s like, “would you like some CRACK COCAINE?” “why yes sir, everything in moderation, I’ll just take the tiny pipe”).

I would say the true test is to identify those things that you WANT to change, that you know would be GOOD to change (for you and for others around you), and just do THE BARE MINIMUM (at least at first). It’s like that song below, “one thing leads to another” in that if you want to do something (for me, let’s say reading). I’ve been having great success with this, essentially I’m not committed to reading a book, but reading A PAGE of a book, sure, why not. Hence the title, rivers seem weak or not very effective as agents of change, but they are always moving, they are always “working,” it’s our human failing that we can’t see the long-term effects of things. Change happens gradually and then all at once they say, but that’s not true, change is always happening and it’s only when there are moments, checkpoints or whatever, where you step back and say “damn, I have six pack abs” (now I sound like that Medium writer, let me tell you about how successful I am, not recognizing that to be “successful” you essentially have to take advantage of the hard work of others). My point before being side-tracked is that if you want six pack abs go on YouTube there are a million ways to get them! No, seriously, my point would be if that’s what you really want, do 1 SINGLE CRUNCH or PLANCHE FOR 5 SECONDS. Make that your daily routine (actually bad example because if you’re fat you could have abs but never see them because you eat crap and counteract any exercise), slowly, gradually, elevate, wear down that “rock” until it no longer stands in your way. You’ve got time, use it. STAY SOFT AND WET (play on Goggins stay hard)!

Response To Yuppie Medium Article

So I was perusing the internet, as one does, and I was wondering what’s the difference between addiction and dedication. In a previous post I sort of got into dopamine/serotonin neurotransmitters and also how if you do something enough you go from pleasure to pain. I was thinking “if dedication is doing something after motivation runs out, to the point where it may be painful but it’s just a habit that you’ll do anyway, how is that different from addiction?” Instead of a thoughtful or clinical answer I first saw a link to “Dedication is in relation to the deity; consecrate whereas addiction is bad or evil” (I didn’t click that link). The 3 or 4th link down was this…

 

https://medium.com/@cherylcadelinelee/addiction-dedication-11408e813b04

 

So to be honest I didn’t read this whole article, just the first few paragraphs, but even then. This author, predictably, is “addicted” to…guess what? WORK! Wow, such a painful addiction to work. The next line read something like “for example, I’ve written this post in 5 cafes in 3 different countries” I can almost hear a “tee hee” afterwards. Like “I’m such an addict, I work so hard traveling around and writing Medium articles in a cafe.” I’m writing this post, from my apartment, 5 AM because my son happened to sleep over his grandparents. Now I have it good, I’m not complaining, except about people like this. I stopped reading the post and clicked on her profile only to find

So Suddenly, I see. (This is what success looks like.)

Wow, shocking, another article/not-so-humble brag about herself! Is this the best page rank (or whatever Google uses similar to it) has to offer?!

Pat’s Search For Meaning

What is meaning?

From the Greek, logos, meaning is well…it means…CIRCULAR DEPENDENCY! Infinite loop! OROBORUS!

Ouroboros - Wikipedia

It’s a NEVER ENDING STORY!!!!

So yeah, I can’t define meaning. The reason being that it is subjective. There is no OBJECTIVE MEANING, although I think we could come close in terms of a RATIONAL MEANING, basically, if we decided that a rational goal for all humanity would be to minimize suffering. This is difficult though because we’d disagree on how to get there, there would be a lot of “WELL WE NEED TO DO THIS BECAUSE X IS SUFFERING” in the short-term V. “WELL IF WE DON’T ALLOW X TO SUFFER NOW, OUR GRANDKIDS Y (of which there are a multitude more than X) WILL SUFFER.”

Logic and reason have shortcomings. Things can be rational or meaningful when limited by time and/or objective. So to go back to the suffering example, in terms of time we could eliminate all suffering if we gave everyone a single dose of heroine. Everyone in the world takes the hit at the same time. Boom, no human on the planet is suffering. On the other hand, we might want that suffering to not return so soon (to everyone on the planet who now may/may not be addicted to heroine). So is it “Minimize suffering over an infinite timespan to the lowest reasonable level?” It reminds me of working with radiation. It’s like, you know you’re being exposed, but you do everything possible to minimize that exposure (and one of the factors is time obviously).

A.L.A.R.A. As Low As Reasonably Achievable Sign NHE-27557

So yes, we have reached a point where we can say that there IS potentially a universal meaning, but it is almost certainly going to be disputed. The idea is that if you think about the future and try to make predictions you’ll often be wrong. To AGAIN go back to the example of suffering. Let’s say we do everything to optimize to limit human suffering, we sacrifice so much in our generation (maybe we all live sustainably?). But then we get his by an asteroid. Nice try! Or the simulation ends (the robots are like, these humans did a good job, let’s just end the simulation here).

 

So starting over, as far as meaning goes, I think it’s related to dopamine and human motivational drives. We were made to explore, look for food, have sex, and die. THAT is our meaning. To search for something higher is icing on the evolutionary cake. So if you want meaning in your life you first need to recognize that you are an anomaly. You’re a sentient being, a (hopefully) being capable of reason/logic, a being that can think about the future and existence and all of these notions being the base “hedonistic” drives of your species.

So pleasure/pain will exist and there’s an interesting dynamic there but that’s a post for a later time. I think the takeaway from this post is that you will never find TRUE MEANING because it’s subjective and differs for each person. We will all suffer, but suffering is bearable if we have a reason or a meaning.

Actually I’ll get into the dopamine connection now. I think the whole “suffer for the right reason” or “have something to live for” (whether that’s work, your kids, a creative pursuit, etc.) or “a worthy goal.” That’s basically giving yourself a dopamine hit (a low one, but still, enough not to be depressed or not to suffer AS MUCH). So goals/rewards/exploration are all rewarded with dopamine (not the rewards as much as the pursuit of them). The other side of the dopamine coin is that if you have too much of it, you’ll be in PAIN if you don’t reach the same levels. So for instance if you play a ton of video games (not going to name names) and then try to interact in the real world, you’ll find it boring, you might get depressed, etc. People say to substitute video games (or other addictions) with something that will also give you dopamine hits (albeit smaller ones). So you could set a goal of cleaning the living room. While cleaning it you might be slightly less depressed than if you were just sitting around feeling bored or bad for yourself.

The problem with this is that our world is HYPERREAL as was postulated in Simulation and Simulacrum. The idea is that our world is become more and more abstract representations of reality. To the point where the abstraction is more “real” than reality. Take a flight simulator for example. In it you can experience crashing a plane in thousands of different ways. In terms of experiencing a plane crash, you’re getting a normally non-existent event OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Same with porn. You’re getting a hyper-sexualized version of sex that probably won’t ever occur in your lifetime. The problem is that your brain doesn’t know it’s a simulation (or rather, it does, but there are other parts that still light up).

Anyway, my point is that if you do something too much, dopamine switches from pleasure to pain. Like, you are craving more of something, but not because it’s “fun” or “pleasurable” but because you will get pain if you don’t. So your positive reinforcement loop becomes a negative reinforcement loop.

 

I have to stop here, but moral is don’t do anything too much (because you’ll go from pleasure to pain) and also there is no MEANING OF LIFE, it’s YOUR meaning for life. Basically, life will show you your meaning. You KNOW what you SHOULD be doing.