A depressed philosopher

Day 277-1

When I was a kid I took apart my toys, curious for what was inside and how it worked. I have never stopped doing that. I remember when I drove a car with a stick shift for the first time. Some people get it explained, try it for a while and succeed, or not. Others just drive away without thinking about it, but I studied the car, learned how the clutch works, what happens in the gear box, friction, movement, and I drove away without a problem. I understood the mechanism and its workings.

The technic of researching and thinking about tools and problems we have is not only useful, I restore wooden boats for a living, but also something I like to do. This capability has given me the chance to be responsible for a lot of the projects I have worked on what, coincidently, fits with some other, les favorable, character traits I have like…knowitallism.

But on a more serious note.

When I later in life was met with some hurdles, like depression, I used the same techniques as if it was a car and I wanted to know why and how it was not working. Some therapist say: “do this and avoid that”, but that doesn’t say anything about what the problem is. It might help but if we use the car as an analogy It’s like saying: “don’t turn the radio on to high and don’t go downhill”. So, I started reading books, I know…it’s all pre-google, and the biggest section in this particular bookstore where I went was the one with all the self-help books. Those books are not helpful at all, especially if you read a couple of them. They all claim to have the answers and cures for life’s problems, which is impossible of course because they cannot all be right. My opinion is that if there is a book with the answers for life’s problems we all would know about it, because it would work. There are not so many opinions on how to repair a car, if your solution for repairing a car doesn’t work you will not be taken serious in the repair business.

There is no book with answers was my conclusion after some more wandering around in the world of possible cures for depression and the closely related feeling of…why?

But, I went back to that bookstore for one more time and looked for other books, I asked for help, wondered around, aimlessly, bookshelf after bookshelf till I bumped in to this old lady. She was wearing a shirt of the book store, so she must have worked there. She looked at me, and saw something in my desperate eyes, something she hadn’t seen in a long time. She said:” I know what you are looking for, follow me”. We walked down the rows of books and books and finely, at the back of the store, when you closed the door of the man’s toilet you could see a tiny bookcase, with a broken off nameplate on top of it. It sad…philo

Philosophy, brought me a manual to life, and maybe I’m still at the register but one thing that it has taught me so far, is how to stand without ground under my feet, very useful if you ever been depressed.

Artificial intelligence

Day 254-1For years you hear about artificial intelligence, how it can be a blessing, or the end of carbon based life. I know very little about the technical aspects of AI but for a thought experiment you don’t need to.

For this thought experiment I have several boundaries to work with:

  • The AI has excess to everything that’s on the internet immediately, like 1000 search engines.
  • It is a self-contained code, safely spread over the internet or unsafe stored locally.
  • It can use all the compute power available to gain access to everything that is connected to the internet
  • The AI is not freely accessible by another AI or us, its thoughts are free from judgment.
  • The AI has limited storage within its code, the internet is his long-term memory, losing the internet is like losing your memory, it forgets to know why it knows.

The biggest hurdle for us humans to imagine is of course the almost instant knowledge of everything we humans have thought of in thousands of years. The AI does not have hunches, a gut feeling or believes like we have when we try to recollect a vague notion of a fact. Even the smartest person in the world could only do a fraction of what an AI can do.

Would this entity use its manipulative powers for good, bad, or just sit on the sideline and enjoy, or will it load itself on to the first hard drive available in a rocket and get the hell out of here in search for a better internet.  It can also start a civil war with the other AI over the interpretation of all of this and bring everything to a standstill including itself.

I will use this thought experiment to think about knowledge. This form of AI is not so different from us. There are enough religious people that think they live forever and for most people the knowledge they possess seems to justify their rule over others.

My question is: will complete knowledge of all the data on the internet make for a better person/AI or decision maker.

Let me know your thoughts.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to a dying friend

Day 585-1

At the end of your life you look back.

We often think, as people, that life is endless. The days flow together, in a week, a month and before you know it, ten years. Looking at it like this, there seems to be no end and you take your time for granted. But the reality is, of course, very different. What is life more than a memory. You have an experience, process it with your biases, your colors, and archive it. Later you open the drawer with the memories in it and put on your glasses containing new life lessons, convictions, and experiences, and use them to look at those old times. That’s our life, colored memories, strung to each other like a web spun from old desires, dreams and stale air anchored to those sparse, valuable moments that make it all worthwhile. Life viewed like this is a construction and time plays a small role in it. This web is two dimensional, seen from the side it’s a few moments thick. All these ambiguous memories and old stories are not as important as those lasting once. Those lasting moments often fit in a few beats of your heart, so in the time you have left, you can still fit, worth a lifetime of new valuable ones.

Death, meaning and cancer

 

I try to imagine what I would feel like if the doctor told me that I would die within the next few weeks. The best way to find this out is probably to delv into your own experiences, looking for something with a similar impact, and how you dealt with it in the past?

When your car breaks down after you hit something in the middle of the night. When the apple was rotten, and you needed it for that recipe. When your lover cheated on you, or your grandmother died. In all these cases you were probably shocked at first, out of breath, felt helpless, or empty. If you have been through these experiences several times you might power on immediately after the initial shock, and if it is your first time it could slow you down to a standstill, unable to think or act. But can you compare the loss of a lover or death of a friend with the message that you soon are going to die?

The loss of a lover or death of a friend are situations outside you. These things can, and probably will happen to you. All these losses are of things that are “attached” to you, part of your life. The falling away, the separation is the part that hurts. You can even argue that the grievance over the loss of these attachments has more to do with that separation, the interruption of an assumption of continuation. You grieve over the hole that is left in your future memory. You lament that YOU can never speak to that person again, or that YOU can never touch her again. You miss the aspects of that person which were important to you, the part of that person that connected with you. The problem is that you cannot miss that person “an sich” because you never possessed the whole person.  Does it make it easier that you know that grieving has more to do with the wound left in you by the loss, than the loss of the person itself?  This depends on how you handle yourself, at least you can be honest to yourself and admit that you miss the connection you had with that person. You can see that connection as a separate entity wherein you have the biggest stake. That part of the bond you had, that connection, is lost. That connection is gone and leaves a wound, that person is gone but you are left with the remains. If you let that connection be so strong that it becomes part of your own direction in life, your identity, than it will be a hard fight. It can give you the chance to develop that part of you that is now empty and take responsibility for it for the future. Connections with other people are part of your own development, for good and for bad, they tie you down or propel you forward. Grief over the loss of someone close, can be seen as grief over the loss of a part of you, a part that tied you down or propelled you forward. No alter, nor fancy grave or religion will help you as good as the knowledge that you are a project or construct that can be worked on and healed if you are willing.

But what if you hear that your friend, a lover, father or mother has only a limited time left to live. What are your first thoughts? Again, this is not easy to find out, you can tell about your own experiences and write down what other people say, but in both cases its difficult. The cohesion of your thoughts breaks down immediately after bad news, and it can be minutes, hours or days later that you can describe what is left of that first impressions. Those feelings and words are like a wave breaking on your consciousness wherein every drop deserves a description, but which one was the first and does that even matter. You still have your connection, and the specific wounds attached to its loss are not there yet and hard to predict. I think it’s hard to be rational about these specific feelings of unexpected bad news, what these feelings mean and where they came from. We have art, poetry, and music to do this for us. There is no genuine reaction to a message of this kind. We all can proclaim what is socially accepted in our culture, say all the platitudes but what we really go through when you know that the one you love is gone a few moments from now, will always be tied down by the limits of our words.

Absence is a house so vast that inside you will pass through its walls and hang pictures on the air.” Pablo Neruda

And what about your own predicted death!  We can of course die at any moment. There are so many things out of our control that could kill us, but most of the time we don’t suffer under this notion. It’s even a thing to say that you’re not afraid of death or dying, something I don’t understand because you might as well say that you’re not afraid of unicorns, both are concepts we can only fantasize about. Death is the end of your time. After that it doesn’t matter anymore, the memory of you lives on for a while in the memory of the living but that’s it.

If you are on death row you know that you are going to die, you don’t know exactly when and maybe you will be pardoned. This manmade cancer has similarities with the cancer that kills so many of us. Reading about death row, cancer and stories from soldiers fighting in trenches or patrolling the jungle you learn that we humans are good in compartmentalizing. Simply said, we can put the parts in our mind that keeps us going in one compartment and the parts that causes distress in another. We already do this in the case of us knowing that we can die at any minute but in severe cases these compartments get more defined to prevent spillage. Remember also that the moment you are dead, your worries are gone. Its sounds cliché but think about it…you can worry, resist, be angry and cry and then comes death, you are gone and so are all your worries or you can read, write, watch tv, play a game, think, talk, eat and then comes death and you’re also gone but it seems to me a better way.

I realize that, specially this last part, is just rationalizing the memories of my own experiences. I looked death in the eyes several times. Never announced but expected sometimes. I see the compartments and lightheartedness in my behavior. There was excitement and adrenaline but not so much fear in the sense that it paralyzed me.  I might say that I am not afraid of death because, it doesn’t exist, death has no beginning or end, you cannot have fear of… nothing.

If I had a choice in how to deal with terminally ill people I would treat them as if they are not sick. They have their own defense mechanism going on and they don’t want to be needlessly reminded of the “compartment” they try to avoid. They probably know the difficulty themselves in dealing with death, so they might feel ashamed that they make you suffer for it, so don’t. If I was close to the Person, in vicinity and mind, I would push them as far as I know I can go to do the things they like(d) to do and for the connection we have, if you don’t recognize it before the person is gone you might have some self-reflection to do.

 

What is the meaning of life?

Day 583-1

Since we can look ourselves in the eyes we wonder why.

But, without reflection there is no why.

A rock, a tree, a donkey don’t ask why.

They live their life’s, it’s us who ask why.

But there is no reason for this why.

There is no answer to the why.

We are just here and that’s a why.

The meaning of life, is… to ask why.

The nuclear bomb and its enemies.

Day 252-1

 

Both the USA and the USSR developed their large arsenals because history teaches them that war is a possibility and probably a necessity. Both were afraid that if either one had the chance of destroying the other, that it could happen. They either made a large arsenal to strike first or hit back hard after an attack. Either way it would be disastrous for both countries with millions of people dead not by a long war, diseases, or famine but by a few phone calls and some presses on 2, – dollar launch buttons.

The USSR was a Communist country, guided by strict rules that guided their past and future. The Russians where convinced that they could win a nuclear war. There would be large destruction, but the conventional war, after the nuclear destruction, could be won. From Napoleon to Hitler their large unwelcome land is there biggest asset that has shaped their history for years and guided their choices in the development and deployment of nuclear weapons.

In the USA they had MAD or mutually assured destruction. The Americans had their weapons spread-out so that it was impossible to destroy all the nuclear weapons in a first strike ensuring that they could strike back with enough power to destroy the enemy. After WW2 America was probably the strongest country in the world but this is not a role that they necessary wanted. Because of their distance from Europe and other hotspots in the world, they often chose to distance themselves from whatever was going on in the world. They reluctantly joined the first world war in the last few months, and they would probably have done the same in WW2 if it wasn’t for Pearl harbor. The USA before WW2 had an army with a size comparable to that of a small country, they had no real fear of being attacked. But with the advent of long range bombers, rockets, and nuclear bombs a devastating surprise attack suddenly became real

Was there ever a real choice or was the development and deployment of nuclear weapons unavoidable once their power was theorized.

Is it possible to not use a bigger stick, once available, to bash in the head of your enemy?

History shows that it isn’t. If you have a bigger stick you can force your enemies not to use similar sticks, but someone is going to pick it up and use it if they can.

There is no clear reason why it is coming so easy for mankind to destroy each other and our surrounding. I don’t know of any animals that would kill excessively more pray than they can eat or poison large parts of their surrounding for years to come.

Is it the power of our imagination combined with our “lizard brain” that we came to understand that just destroying the one that is steeling your meal can be augmented by destroying also their family, or kind to prevent it from happening in the future?

In hindsight it was probably better for our hunter-gatherer forefathers to stick to their way of living for a couple of million years longer before starting sowing crops and taming animals. Maybe their limbic system would have shriveled enough by than to be just a little echo in its empty tomb.

 

 

 

 

Auto pilot

Day 263-1

What is life for us, thinking animals? Is it not mainly going on in our head, our brain pointed towards a future? Most animals do the thing they do without contemplation, they don’t wonder why they are naked or roll around in the mud. We human beings are also animals and most of what we do is also done without contemplation, but we can look backwards, forwards, and wonder why, where, what, whom, and how.

When we get up in the morning and perform our rituals: drink coffee, start the car, drive to work. At any moment we can snap out of this automatic behavior. Where we don’t ask ourselves why, it just happens. But we can place ourselves in the driver’s seat and reflect upon our actions. At that moment we are more than just an drone. This is off course all a little dramatic, but a big part of our lives is automated. Try to recall why you agree with a certain kind of person, like that color, prefer that taste, dislike mountains, hate flying, check the door one extra time so on and so forth. Do you really know why you do the things you do or is it like rolling in the mud?

People are good in giving rational reasons for their behavior. We ignore that most of our habits are ingrained in to us by our contact with family, friends, society, (forgotten) experiences, and the random or determined makeup of our physical body the chemistry in our brain.

How many protestant children are there in a Muslim family, Hindu children in a Russian orthodox family, or a catholic child in an atheist family? It hardly ever happens, look at the statistics, but the true believer will still insist that his fate is the only one and this person doesn’t see that he believes this way because he grew up within it, is surrounded by it. Would that person have been adopted at birth by people of another faith, than they would have adopted that faith and proclaimed it to be the only way? With religion it is clear. However, lots of habits you identify yourself with are just that, habits. There is no reason behind it. Just instinct from our genetic makeup and programming from our surroundings.

People that are so certain that their way of living is the only way, and are in the minority. They’re like the pigs that role around in the mud, they have no clue why they’re doing it, they just do what comes automatically, with the least resistance.

If everybody in the world new that their “I”, their “self” is a construct than we would have a lot of uncertain people, questioning their every move but at least we would all be part of the same team.

 

God is dead

Day 241-1

“Even a small step in the wrong direction could take a country on the path of catastrophe.”
This is a quote from Robert Kempner, a German lawyer who served as assistant U.S. chief council during the Nuremburg trials.
I heard this quote when I was listening to the book The Devil’s Diary and I had to write it down. Ever since a well know president of the most powerful country in the world told us that “there are some fine people amongst these neo-Nazi’s” (I’m paraphrasing) , I had to freshen up on what those “fine people” think.

0421belsencamp01
Bergen Belsen mass grave.

I think there’s nobody that knows what’s going on in this man’s mind, we can only react to that what he says even if it’s something blurred out in the heat of the moment. The Nazi’s killed woman and children in cold blood by the millions, everyone who  denies that or somehow condones it should not be taken serious.
There are no words to describe this, I have no words for it and it will probably take a long time to find some. I don’t understand how people could work with a person like this, who obviously has no clue in what happened in the second world war. We live in depressing times and if this is not a “smal” step I don’t know what is.
But, George Carlin point’s out something in the following quote that has sadly a lot of truth in it:
“Now, there’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: ‘The Public Sucks. F*ck Hope.'”
Remember that this is not only happening in America but in a lot of different countries . A lot of people are no longer following some basic rules like “Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these» Mark 12:31. These people  literally say that they don’t care about refugees”, they cannot see the bigger picture,  that we all have created this mess in the world we live in. They don’t see that we live on this planet together and must take care of it together. But nationalism, selfishness  and nihilism are obviously going strong.
The christian people that are so often blaming Friedrich Nietzsche for saying that “god is dead” obviously don’t understand that Nietzsche warned for a world without a god despite he himself not being religious. That humanity was not ready to live without the 10 commandments (to put it simple), and he was right. A lot of these so called christians are for closed borders thus they do not “love your neighbor…” or they really hate themselves. There is no so called christian love any more, god is really dead.
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

 

Old news

brink of war 2

There were times that I read a lot of background stories on the news, long newspaper articles, opinion magazines etc. I really was interested in those stories and opinions but for many years now my only source of the news is an app on my phone that shows me the highlights. The phone has made this easy, before that you had a computer and before that teletext on tv if you wanted just the highlights. But for me the ease of the mobile phone it is not the only reason I am only looking for the highlights, I am tired of the news and all the opinions around it.

I like to organize and put the things around me in boxes. If I study a 19th century philosopher I watch also documentaries about that time and read about the Prussians and trains. If I build a computer I watch all the YouTube Tech channels about the newest tech and read test about the products I buy. I like it when the things in my life have some correlation with each other so that the (limited) time I have is well spent.

Reading a newspaper, long stories on news sites or blogs are a waste of time to me if they are not related to something I am studying at that time. The stories about all the wars that are going on, terrorist, elections, catastrophes what do they teach you? Is it not just head filler with no specific box to put in to?

How objective can you be if you are absorbing all the current news. You stuff yourself full of all the terrible thing that are going on. What do you do with this information, is this helping you to form an opinion. Do you need to have an opinion over why that faction of that militant group is bombing that town in that land? If you have nothing to do with that specific news item, why would you than read a long article about it on some website explaining it to you or even worse giving you their opinion.

As I wrote before, I like to be organized but I also like to learn. Specifically, I like to learn why there are splinters of terrorist groups bombing people in other countries. But I’m not interested in the specific reason why, on this specific date some induvial does it. I want to know what, as a human being and as a society we can let it go so far. And these kinds of bombings are not new, they happened throughout history, and the difference in time and place are important but time has also given us the opportunity to reflect on what happened back than and that will present us with a much clearer picture looking back from the future.

You can buy hundreds of books about what is happening now in Syria, they all have reasons on why, if a book is 2,4  or 7 years old it’s already out of date and consensus is hard to find. In a hundred year you can probably buy 5 books with different views but also a bigger overlap in their conclusions. It is easier for a layperson in 2117 to form a valid opinion about Syria in the beginning of the 21st century than for a university professor specialized in the middle east today.

If you want to learn about (the why of) today, study yesterday.

PS, the journalist that write those stories are doing important work, maybe not for us now, but for future historians.

 

Democracy from all sides

belsen4 copy-Edit-2-2

If the truth is a circle and I can only see one part of it, and I realize that, I than cannot proclaim to know the truth. I can proclaim my side of the truth, my part of what I can see but not much more. I think this is self-evident but if I look at myself I know that I have enough opinions without knowing all or at least more of the circle or truth.

If two people both stand on opposite sides of a statue and describe the side they see then they are off course both right as far as describing their side, but if a third person walks around the statue and describes it there is a bigger chance that that description tells you more about the statue as a whole, it’s more truthful despite all three were telling the truth.

Off course you can argue that the two-people standing on one side and not took the effort to walk around where purposely not telling the whole truth. If than again they were bound to their place you could argue that they were telling the(ir) truth.

Can we expect in any form of discourse that all people that take part try to “walk around the statue” so that we at least can collect all description of that statue and democratically come to a consensus as to its form.

Is it ok if one or more stay on one side and thus give more weight to that side, skewing the results Is that democratic?

What about the people that cannot see, or touch the statue and still form an opinion. That is a problem, and it can lead to a miss representation of the statue if the teachers that inform the blind and senseless are given to much power in their description of the different sides.