bits of wisdom

just things in my head so i wanted to put them some where before i forget

lifehacker is surprisingly philosophical some days
here was a link about the top regrets of a person, and it also links to a post by PG

PG claims that all of these regrets were a result of some omission
omission to our dreams, friends, family, feelings, desire for happiness.
but i think otherwise.

i don’t think life can be lived perfectly so there must be regrets. and because life is finite there must be compromises
life is some of those compromises, work instead of family time, family instead of dreams, friends instead of feelings.
according to the original blog post, it says that the common regret of most males was working too hard
but i’m going to go on a limb and say that they were probably upper middle class who could afford a private nurse during their last days.
and any of you think the wealth to afford that luxury is possible without spending some good number of hours working (or using someone else’s money)

having said that, PG is right about this:
“If you had to compress them into a single piece of advice, it might be: don’t be a cog. The 5 regrets paint a portrait of post-industrial man, who shrinks himself into a shape that fits his circumstances, then turns dutifully till he stops.”

which brings me to my second piece of advice.
it comes from a reddit post
it’s a beautiful analogy about passion, and how a passion starts as a seed, and it is fragile during its early days. we must nurture and feed it day after day and our passion will grow.

that’s how we develop passions, by training ourselves to see beauty in the seemingly most ordinary things. this analogy applies to surprisingly many things, like trying to feel a certain way, learning habits and it’s centred around the idea of perseverance

another piece of advice is for living. the five regrets mentioned above, even if turned to commands, don’t really guarantee happiness. i’ve mentioned it before but the key to happiness is mastery, autonomy and connectedness. the reason why you feel happy after having a connection with a stranger whom you will never see again is connectedness. Connectedness i believe is one of the largest reasons to feel happy. You feel alive, feel like you’re a part of the world. If you’re not connected, then you just feel like you’re isolated from the world, no feeling of self-worth. It’s the ideas of causation, of being a part of the world and being able to influence things around you.

the last piece of advice learnt from QUORA is one about being smart in life. what’s the difference between a kind person and a kind person who gets used as a tool:

“You can, however, minimize your vulnerability and be less of a target to others if you act with integrity, stay organized, don’t cheat or lie, keep good records, and be competent at what you do. When you say you’ll do something, do it and do it well. When you say you’ll be somewhere, be there. If you don’t think you can do something well, don’t agree to do it.”

Simply put, be smart and don’t be stupid.

That’s all. Any of you want to leave some bits of wisdom for me?

astrophysics life principles in simple terms

so we established the meaningless point of life.
the next point is deciding how we want to live that life.
we can live it simply for pleasure but in the end we will always sink lower and lower.

there’s two things to remember.
nothing is ever about you. (pale blue dot)
don’t get caught in the moment.

the other thing is to live for yourself.
you can’t live for anyone else because it’s not going to be able to get you through the rough patches.
self confidence that you can change the world. (we are made of atoms of the universe)
do things because you want to do them.

and if you find yourself doing something you don’t want to,
don’t get caught in the moment.
remember it’s never about you.

living by a principle.

This will be a long post. I will be presenting how I think I want to live my life ( at least for now)

i saw a video the other day, inventing on principle and i think it gave me some insight into how i want to live my life. If you’re interested, the non-computer science, philosophy part of the talk starts at 35:45

Bret Victor says that there are three type of people in the world
1) craftsman – he believes that many programmers are just very glorified craftsman, confined to some particular skill i.e. database engineer
2) entrepreneur/academics – problem solvers, taking an open problem and coming up with a solution.
3) people who live by a principle

I want to expand on this last one: people who live by principle.
they are not mutually exclusive from type 1) and type 2) . There are also type 3) people who are  very good at a particular skill or at solving problems, the difference is that there is no common theme connecting all of their skills and achievements. Type 3 people first identify a moral, cultural wrong in our society. Then, they spend their whole life trying to fix this problem.

But identifying that principle takes a really really long time. You catch glimpses of it now and then. It’s only after you experience lots of different things that you find it and spend a lot of nights thinking before it comes to you.

I have a very crude version of my principle so I wanted to share it with you.

The moral wrong:
a) People who need the most access to resources i.e. food, education, technology are not getting access
b) People who have access to those things waste it.

I want to give access to people who need it by convincing people who have it to share it.
This can only be achieved through increasing the sensitivity people have towards suffering, especially teenagers.
I believe that people who want to save the world should have the funding to do so.

People who do want to save the world need to apply for grants every time they need money. And it’s only worth their time if the amount of money is sufficient.
This is akin to making workers at a for-profit write about reasons why they deserve their pay.
Thus, grants are highly inefficient ways to give out money for people to save the world.
But in today’s society, it is much more unlikely for NGO’s to receive funding than it is for for-profits.
The reason is obvious and simple. The fundamental problem is that an NGO’s impact in the world can’t be valued in monetary terms where as a worker’s work can.

The end goal for any organization I understand is to be self-sufficient, whether that means through their normal operations or through donations (for NGO’s)
Some form of an ethical problem arises. What separates charities and for-profits? Is the only difference between them that charities ask for you to voluntary give them your money while for-profits mandates an exchange of money for their services.

There is an undeniable benefit of becoming some sort of a for-profit. They are naturally efficient on monetary terms at least.

My idea of poverty seems to fit with Hans Gosling’s explanation of poverty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZoKfap4g4w

Having said all of this, I think I need to make a new disclaimer for my benefit that I’m always wrong. Sometimes we assume we’re correct and other people are always wrong because 1) we don’t have same information 2) if 1) is not true, then the other person is just stupid 3) if 1) and 2) are not true, then the other person is just deliberately ignoring the truth.

*WARNING* let’s all die.

credits to Jim for his beautiful thoughts.
there is no meaning for life. the reasoning i used is here.
we could be a controlled experiment, a simulation.
so how do we beat it? to leave the matrix, you must die.
i won’t and how many people will?
humans are biologically wired to be survive. we cannot stop breathing and try to suffocate ourselves even if we want to.
if you try to suffocate yourself with your hands. at some point, you lose consciousness and you relax the grip on your hands.
according to evolution, the ones who mentally wanted to live continued. the ones who didn’t want to live were purged off. we are the offspring of the ones who did.
so no, we won’t suicide (at least I won’t)
the way to live “the meaningless life” is to live it the way you want. don’t let someone else dictate.
and of course you would want to live a happy life.
to do that, take advantage of the flawed human nature:
we can be deceived, we adapt and we are selfish.
the selfishness relates to a belief that everything we do is hidden under the guise of selfishness.
even if you think of a situation in which a mother decides to let her son live, you can also think of it as selfish situation. because the one who passes the gene wants the offspring to live.
adaptation is also biologically favorable. for settling into new environments, new foods. it’s biological that response to a stimulus decreases over time.
if we get the same reward from doing the same thing, it is much less likely for us to do it the tenth time than the first time.
and deception. we can deceive ourselves to be happy. It’s a misunderstanding that happiness is something you find. many studies show that in fact happiness is a state which you achieve, “flow”. happiness comes from competence, autonomy and relatedness. and how happy you are I guess depends on which of those you value the most.
so we’re actually not that rational at all.
you might be wondering what’s the reason for going this far and returning to the same conclusion you did before embarking on this thought experiment.
for one, i think the way you live life is fundamentally changed when you realize this end goal. you now live a life that you know truly belongs to you.
and if we are really an experiment, you never want the subjects to know that they are in an experiment. but by arriving at the conclusion that we could be an experiment and changing our behavior because of that, we have defeated the experiment.

life, no correct way to live it.

this is a sequel to the previous post.
looking back at that post now, i feel like my conclusion was pretty crappy.
“I would like to have the choice to live many human experiences, feel all the human emotions, explore the universe with human knowledge and engage in a life of giving.”
that’s because living “different” experiences is really ambiguous, and anything we do including living on the streets, being incarcerated can be said to be living another human experience. so i realize i was being a bit vague there.

there’s also unresolved issues related to money, to what extent should you base your choices on money. i talked about money previously and how we need to rely on to a large extent, money to live in this world,
money is strangely powerful. there’s a chinese saying that is 钱不是万能,但没有钱万万不能,which translates to money cannot accomplish everything, but you cannot accomplish anything without money.

as i said before, i don’t think money itself is evil, because eventually there had to be an abstract quantifiable construct that was used to signify value. this was the only way for trade to happen. but money should never be the reason you decide to do something, so not 100%.

i had prepared to talk about value in economics in this post but that explanation got too long and is now included here. but the important thing to realize is that value in economics is very similar to value we assign to choices when we’re making decisions.

the value of something has multiple contributing factors. a pair of canvas shoes may be x, but a pair of Toms cost more because we added in how much extra we are willing to pay for their charitable work of giving another pair of shoes to kids in developing countries.

another thing to get out of this is that value is also a subjective measurement. your value of something for various reasons is different from the other persons which explains everyone’s unique course of action.
we do things differently because we have different value systems. we have different value systems because we have different beliefs, which means life means something different to everyone. you can look at the collection here on wikipedia. Really, go take a look at the list of Popular Views.

i said this before, but if you think about it, there really is no reason for life. why are we alive from the perspective of the universe? or even, why are we alive from the perspective of the creator of this universe if there is one. i believe there is no ultimate meaning to life, except to live. if that is true, that means we can pretty much do anything we want because there is no objective for us to really fulfill.

the answer to the question how to live life is that there is no answer. the only thing we can come to a conclusion is that you should do whatever you like only because doing what you don’t like sucks a lot.

the things i wrote in the previous post were my attempts of trying to come up with a perfect answer but i realize there is none. so i’ll try again and present my own ideas, and not same universally applicable theory.

(optional)
so here are my personal opinions which you are welcome to listen to

i want to give, comes from a world view that the world is unfair and i should help those less fortunate. i do wish this world was a more beautiful place and i hope i can push it more that way. i want to do something that may not have been possible if it wasn’t for me.

i don’t believe in pursuit of happiness or pleasure, because i don’t think it’s possible to appreciate happiness without going through sadness. and you can’t find happiness by pursuing it directly. you encounter it on the side.
and plus humans can never stay happy. we always naturally return to the same level of happiness, hedonic treadmall

i don’t believe in blindly pursuing success. because blindly pursuing it will change you if you’re not following it with your heart.

why should you ever do something? decision-making works like economics, explained in more detail at bottom of this post. if you think the cost of doing something is lower than the return, you will do it. i’m probably saying something very obvious, but everyone ascribes a value to every decision he/she make. ultimately, you pick the one with the highest value. this value consists of many things but my biggest factor is is this what i love. even 3 idiots knew that. my second factor is that whatever i need to live because i love life. money is unavoidable in that extent. to what extent should you base your choices on money? to the lowest extent which is personally allowable.

all decision making is based on the belief we can control our lives. but i realize  we are infinitely small and life is a hodgepodge, you can never expect what will happen next, because of a very fundamental property; atoms move based on probability. you need the courage to pursue an idea, but have also the same courage to let it go. don’t be jealous of anyone and don’t have pity for yourself. some people have the privilege of not knowing what they should to do or have to do. others are forced to be realistic at a young age. things happen in life for no apparent reason. a friend taught me this: you can always learn something no matter what you do. always keep an open mind. regret things you have done but never have pity for yourself.

enjoy it.

life, how to live it.

(*NOTE purpose, reason, meaning – three words whose meaning i use quite interchangeably when it comes to talking about big, vague concepts like life. they will abbreviated here as p.r.m *)

i’m old enough to stop being naive about the world and choose my life. but first the question of what the p.r.m. of life is?

what does life really boil down to? why do we want to keep breathing to survive? what is the reason for human life? i don’t think there is any reason for life. maybe we’re just part of a larger system, part of a game. But there is really no fundamental reason for life, or for the universe in fact.
there is no reason for life, so (surviving) living becomes the reason. not only to live longer, but also to enhance the process of living. The quality of the human experience comes from exploring the full range of human emotions and going to the extremes of the universe with human knowledge. A profound statement, “the universe essentially only exists as you perceive it through what you know; therefore, if you change your perception of the universe with new knowledge, you have essentially changed the universe itself.”

And that is what life should be, one that will give us choices to explore being human.

what does it mean to live in this world?
the purpose of all living organisms is to survive, the same for humans. How do we survive? Surviving used to mean nutritious food, clean water, safe housing. But in modern society, survival also requires education, housing, healthcare. Because of technological advancement, all of that is now provided by society and we need to pay for those services. The higher the price, the better the quality of the service. That’s why our world has arranged itself economically and disproportionately rewards those who can create the most economic value. This is achieved by creating value through artificial products, explaining our evolution from primary to tertiary industries. This explains why stock traders are high valued because they make money off fictitious financial instruments, options, derivatives. The greatest wealth separator is capital gain, because it’s gain that you need to work for. Average workers end up spending all their earnings by the time they die. The only way to accumulate wealth is to invest into things that will appreciate: property, financial instruments such as stock, bonds. It’s how the world ending up being for good or for bad. This is to say that money itself is not bad because it is only a means to an end, survival; it’s bad only when it becomes the purpose. To explore being human in today’s world, that requires us to delay gratification to maximize choices in the future with money or with knowledge.

what should my life be?
i don’t want to resign to a life of creating noise. what do I mean by creating noise? It’s a frustration that many jobs I am aware of create economic value by navigating this artificial society: accountants, lawyers, bureaucrats. Sure, many of their services are integral for the functioning of our society but none of these are relatable to the human experience.

I want to give.

if you think about it, the p.r.m of science as they say is to describe systematically the natural world. But we ultimately want to apply it to our benefit which will allow the human species flourish and live longer. The same applies to knowledge; knowledge is what we exploit to allow ourselves to live longer. i think the meaningfulness of the work you’re doing ultimately derives from the size of the group whose survivability you’re trying to enhance. Scientists, doctors, aid workers, have careers of giving, don’t you think?

Research is an option I’ve never considered before. I want to help people in some capacity but research seems so far removed from the actual helping sometimes. The other problem is that giving consumes economic value instead of creating it. Ideologies don’t buy bread. It’s a fear because as I said before life is about having choices. And not having money to do certain things is a restriction.

If i end up living a life chasing ideologies, I apologize. I apologize to my unborn son and my unmet wife sine I will not be able to provide them a life as good as the one provided to me by my parents.

And who is to say just living a life is easy in today’s world ideologically or not? finding a job that makes enough money to support your family and your own life. Finding a job doing what you like and also feeds you. How many have that. Scientific discoveries is also exploited to create wealth and cause destruction in some cases, weapons. There is noise regardless of what you do, and you cannot be naive about that.

I grew up having a comfortable life with no dire need to make money to survive, and i guess that gave me the chance to be naively idealistic. it also comes from an internal idealistic compass that my elementary school principal said i had. But even if that were not the case, as a reasonably informed human of our era, how can you not do anything when you see the poor, the famished and the ones in pain?

It’s all about choice. I would like to have the choice to live many human experiences, feel all the human emotions, explore the universe with human knowledge and engage in a life of giving. I discuss the full philosophical, emotional ramifications of living now but all of us have done a fair share of living already. Living starts the moment we are born. Regardless of what our lives end up being, it’s still precious because it’s the only thing we have. Even kids know that http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=armP8TfS9Is&feature=related

that feeling on my chest

today is one of those days, one of those days i have a feeling on my chest that i have a lot to say and i want it to get all of it off me. this is my pensive and i’m going to unload my brain here. it might not make any sense or have any structure so please bear with me.

i saw the health services counselor who comforted me while i was crying after one of those community value meetings last year while walking back. i had lunch with a friend i’ve known for seven years and walked back into keeny earlier today. and i hanged-out with the four freshmen friengineers i grew up with. all of these small things triggered me to think about how i’ve changed over the past year. how i’ve changed isn’t important i think because everyone, including me, changes. there’s only limited value in tracking something that changes if you don’t know if there will be any correlation. but i guess it’s like taking snapshots and it’s always thought-provoking to compare yourself now and yourself behavior.

any moment now, a person, a class, a lecture, an idea could change my life. part of that is the mystique and fun of the human experience, of not knowing what will happening next, the challenge and excitement in trying to control it but sometimes realizing that it sometimes is better to let the waves carry you. i’ve never been perfectly content with life, i’m always trying to do something more, do something differently. everyday, we’re trying to streamline our lives, do more things we like and less things we don’t want to. and greg and i talked last night about classes. i want to take other classes. i don’t want to just take engineering classes but my theory is that it doesn’t benefit me to take humanity classes if they’re not going to be my first priority. i just won’t get a lot out of it if i don’t do the reading. but if i could, a class i would want to take is on human’s function in society. what meaning, function do we as individuals give to this world or is that a question you have to largely answer on your own.

i would like to read if i had the time to or watch those movies i’ve always wanted to. it occurs to me what your life ends up being seems to be largely a combination of luck (and the workings of this big machine called society if you believe in it). i’m a pragmatist and i think it’s much easier to live life not questioning it because it takes so much time (as i am doing now) doubting my life.

i still haven’t quite decided whether thinking about life can be truly attributed to time spent effectively. i want to believe that it gives meaning to life so i can justify what i’m doing now. we tend to believe that meaning can be generated from debilitating over some of our higher purposes of life but i’m not always convinced.

we never really know what to do with life, whether to cut the crap and just live it, mood over it. as i’ve said before, my personal opinion is that life is just a hodgepodge of people, things, occurrences, basically a huge atom with electrons flying in unpredictable directions. in the end, it’s what’s hard-wired into your brain. once you’re off-balance towards one type of thinking, you’re forever off-balance. some people i know would never do this, and this already shows that i am the type of person who will mood over life.

Jason – deciding whether he wasted his time.