Shield

Photoshop-7

When I was in my early twenties I thought for a brief moment that I had all the answers in me, like most people do when their young. After living in different parts of the world, and looking around, I realized that the world is more complex, my inexperienced certainty seemed to be baseless. I started asking people about their thoughts on specific subjects, and got different answers or none at all. I realized that people either have an opinion, are clueless or don’t care. The ones with an opinion often use it as a shield to protect themselves in a discussion or when confronted with undermining facts. The problem with a shield is that as long as it works there is no need to change it, as long as you stay around like minded people your fine. And if you’re among strangers you hold it tighter. These people have their opinion and I wondered where they got it from, or if they ever doubted it. How can you not doubt your opinion? If the next 10 people you meet have a different one, you cannot all be right.

If you ask people to lay down their shield, to step back and look where their opinion comes from, they often cannot do that, don’t understand the question, or get angry. It’s hard to recognize that you don’t know, and that you are vulnerable without a shield.

 

Behind that paper thin wall

 

Day 599-1

I’m rereading the book Human all too Human from Friedrich Nietzsche. I have read the book before, and if I look at it I can clearly see the evidence of that. In this book Nietzsche writes in aphorisms, short pieces that are mostly self-contained, they are not clearly linked together. The advantage of this is that you can read one aphorism and think about it separated from the rest of the book. I have been doing that for the last week, but because I also wanted to write about the aphorisms and tried to analyze them, I used more time than I thought. It made me wonder how much I really understood them when I read them for the first time 15 years ago and read the book in a couple of weeks. Maybe I am so much slower now. Or was I less critical in the past and skipped over the bits that made no sense to me back then?

Continue reading “Behind that paper thin wall”

Before and after Newton

“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.”. (Genesis 11:1)

“So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous”. (Exodus 9:24)

“Allah hath turned some to apes and swine,”. (5:60)

Day 273-1Why is religion still around? Most people in the world will drive a car, make a phone call or watch tv. All these activities are made possible because of science, the same science that can disprove most of the claims from the different religions. Religious people don’t except the scientific method if it disproves their beliefs but except it the moment they get in a car, made possible by science.

Everyone that bases their actions on, tradition, hearsay, voices, or old books should by now know that the “they stand on thin ice”.

  • You can see a clear evolution in religious traditions like the concept of an “eye for an eye “to a justice system or the role of the woman in the household. The strict “god given” rules are more flexible as time goes by taking away strength from their claim of divine inspiration. Claiming that something is tradition and therefore true is in this light difficult. If you claim the newest tradition/laws as true then that contradicts often the original traditions or law books.
  • Many stories and rules in the different books and religious laws are themselves based on an oral tradition wherein stories go from one to another. Our modern historians or the police use hearsay but never as the only source, and these stories are often debated as to filter out the truth. In some religions there is also a tradition to debate the origins and validity of their thousands year old books and laws, but as everybody knows that has studied ancient history the evidence for these theories are thin and surely not enough to base a whole religion on let alone prosecute people and fight wars.
  • In most religious traditions hearing voices is a big part of their (written)belief. Throughout the ages and in many cultures, people that heard voices had often a special place even if they made no sense. This changed slowly and nowadays we have a whole industry to calm these people down. But if you genuinely heard voices or not, it’s not hard to imagine that a charismatic person can pretend to hear voices and give his wishes more convincing power. There are many reason why people (claim to) hear voices but like with hearsay it should not be a basis for a religion that can be so destructive.
  • The old books are al based on the first three points and can be dismissed.

Imagine you want to put together an IKEA shelf and the book with instruction was based on tradition, hearsay, and people with voices in their head. You might think that any way with IKEA manuals, but I guaranty you that there is a lot of science involved in making these manuals and furniture.

Even the most religious person in the world has probably some modern equipment that was made with science that contradicts his belief. And if people say that they “just know that God exist” you just ask them if they would fly in a modern airplane where the engineer that designs the wing just “knows the right shape”. As modern people we should know that saying that it feels right doesn’t make it right. That’s a sentiment from a time when people believed in witches, talking snakes and a flat earth.

Science can also be used for evil like a weapon. But a weapon itself is not dangerous, it becomes dangerous if it gets used in the name of some beliefs.

I know that there are a lot of peaceful religious people that use their personal god as a guide and strength in their life but there are better ways to find a guide in this life. One is to just look around and get amazed by nature and how lucky we are to be part of it, science is the tool to see and understand even more of it.

Fill your mind with science because an empty mind can be filled with nonsense.

 

The unexamined life is not worth living

Day 588-1

“The unexamined life is not worth living” Words supposedly spoken by Socrates at his trial, where he chose death over exile. For Socrates philosophy was very important, he is famous for his questioning of people’s beliefs, where he tries to guide a participant on to a path of doubt in his own reasoning and assumptions. There is a lot more to it but for now I want to focus on the “unexamined life”. I think that everybody “examines” their life, more or less. Of course, I cannot speak for everybody but it’s hard to imagine a person that has not once in their life looked in the mirror and thought…?

But Socrates is off course not thinking of the general questioning and doubt we all have as proof that we “examine our lives”. Most people answer their questions in the most economical way, by using the answers that are easily accessible to them. There are your parents, family, teachers, villagers, society, culture, church and more. All these entities have readymade answers, your parents don’t see it like that, but they give you what they got from their parents and the same goes for the teachers you have or the church you go to. Most of the time it is all in good faith, but if you look to a society controlled by a dictatorship for instance, you can find literal guidelines in how to behave and what to teach your children, something that is not so easy to find in a Democracy where there are other, harder to unravel, forces to control society.

Our brain is evolved in such a way that it doesn’t like to doubt. Our brain protects our consciousness from the conflicting information it receives by giving our consciousness the idea that all its ideas and world views are coherent. That makes sense when for instance you’re an ape, jumping from branch to branch unable to inspect every leaf that moves and every sound there is. The ape brain had to filter the information that was important and discard the rest. We humans do that still on a lower level with the input from our senses. This is called selective attention. But it also happens with more evolved brain processes like our capability to reason. A well know example of that is cognitive dissonance wherein conflicting ideas get resolved by suppression and avoidance.

As human being it’s difficult to be sure what is right and wrong within your own mind. In the world of inventions and speculations about the universe they came up with the scientific method. In this method the scientist not only have to prove their theory, they also must try to disapprove it, and let others try to replicate the theory and method of testing. It’s a little bit more complicated but the more refined this system became over the years the more fantastical wonderers the scientist came up with. In other words: the more they tried to circumvent their own bias mind, the better the result.

But for the silent chaos in our head the scientific method doesn’t work, we cannot be judge, jury and prosecutor at the same time in our own head. But we can start with something. What I just wrote about  is not unique, it’s not common knowledge but with a little effort you might except that the things you know have a reason that you know them. That doesn’t say much about the validity of those ideas, but the fact is that you have those ideas and they could have been different. And that is a good starting point in the world of philosophy. You don’t have to kick out all your values, but start wondering why you have them and the way they are.

Philosophy is not an easy path if you want  peace of mind. There are many ways you can dull the senses enough to go on living in reasonable happiness, most people do, the numbers don’t lie. But progress has brought us a lot and it’s in a great part because of some remarkable individuals that started “thinking outside the box”. If you want to make the world a better place for all of us, then a good start would be to start questioning yourself. Imagine if everybody did exactly that.

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” Friedrich Nietzsche

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 delve 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?

Continue reading “Death, meaning and cancer”

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑