Living for the present

One frequently discussed question is how to be happy in the present, to be conscious and joyfully live every moment, instead of thinking of the past or the future. There are already a vast amount of answers to that, but is that state of mind really that easy to achieve?

One of my friends asked the following simple question that is intended to guide us to the path mentioned above. “If you had infinite money for one day, what would you do with it?” You can’t invest in real estates, nor you can use any method to save the money for the next day. You can’t either command other people to do specific things, unless you are sure they’d do it naturally or they’d surely do something for your money. For example, you can call some hookers, or be with your friends if they are available.

The problem with this question that it breaks to two other questions wheter we take the happy future into consideration. In the first version, any act performed would not affect our happiness of tomorrow. This model is flawed, since if I bought alcohol and drank it all up, it would probably cause some hangover the next day. If I had a one-night stand, it would affect my relationship, even my health in some unlucky cases. So, in this case, we just can’t prescind from life of tomorrow. Many things that could make us happy today could also mess our future life, and we definitely don’t wish that. There are things we can lose, our health, friends, relationships, or money.

The second version is a more complicated path to explore. We can deduce from the above thoughts that we all more-or-less care about the future. But for how far? There are many smokers who know cigarettes make their life shorter, but health issues might seem to be so far that renders the issue unimportant for them. The same with alcohol. I have a beer every couple of days average, but I don’t think about gaining fat, possibility of addiction or the money I could save. We prefer short-term happiness to some point, instead of the long-term one. We all make choices to optimize happiness in our chosen time frame, according our best knowledge and intentions. So, how am I supposed to live for the moment? I’d rather live for the year, or more likely, for the next couple of decades. I wish to live for at least 50 years from now, so if I’m careful and smart enough, my planned acts aim for optimization of happiness over this period. I work so I can eat. I try my best to have sufficient amout of sleep time in order to be fresh each day. Most of my acts aim happiness, so this “carpe diem” thing would only wreck my progress. If I lived for the moment I’d probably be dead by the end of the month. However, having my acts limited, I don’t have to be unhappy about it. None of us have.

Let’s just bring this idea to the conscious level. Let’s sleep and wake up every day with the certainty that we all do our best to make ourselves happy. Of course, mistakes are made, and acceptance is the only solution for them. Forgiving to ourselves is a cornerstone of our happiness. So does distribution. I probably wouldn’t suffer for being outstandingly happy after 20 years from now. I probably also wouldn’t shoot anybody just to fulfill any desire today and go to jail tomorrow. Finally, the third essential key to happiness is thinking. Lucky are the people whose happiness is important to others, but even if nobody cares about us, we should care about ourselves and think about what would make us happy, and how to achieve it. That should be a practice for every day.

As some final thought, I’ll just link this book about achieving happiness.

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Transcendence

So, Johnny Depp is interested in being God, but Morgan Freeman prevents him from becoming one. Putting away the jokes, action and some inaccuracies, it’s a realistic and dramatic film about human stupidity.

Be warned, spoilers incoming…

So, a mastermind of artificial intelligence gets shot by some activist of a group that claim AI is bad for humanity. The scientist gets poisoned by the bullet and dies a couple of weeks later. Before that, his mind gets copied into a supercomputer, he gets himself uploaded on the internet, gathers impressive amount of resources, and systematically starts to slaughter huma…wait, actually, he does research using his computing capacity to make life better. He achieves many contributions in medicine, biology and nanotechnology, and more or less becomes a god, curing the blind and such. And the story progresses with the most logical series of events. Some aggressive, anti-tech group tries to kill him, just because. His beloved woman also leaves him and becomes the key figure of the activists, that leads to the death of both of them. Well, done, woman.

There is already a vast amount of pieces of art around the Ghost in the shell concept, most of them portraying AI is bad in some way, so we can find nothing astonishing I guess. People fear from technology. People feel endangered by smart computers. They think AI has the same nature as humans have. Nature of a careless predator. We live in a competitive world with limited amount of resources, so this AI concept can be reasonable to some level. However, I’d embrace a world where this AI doesn’t get shut down. Let’s just continue the film from the point where Will Caster lets his love leave. If he had made the sacrifice of not letting his love come back and infect the AI, he would have made the world a better place. A place where the planet is coverered by solar panels, power plants using water and wind. A place where no biological life is needed, since everyone is uploaded into the hive. In such a place, death is no longer a threat as long as the planet stays in one piece. And after performing a large amount of computations, life reaches to a whole new, unimaginable level. Feelings are just biochemistry and I’m pretty sure we will manage to simulate them in the near future. Same with consciousness. Our biological evolution reached a local maximum, and we can jump out from that state by technology. I wish we could evolve more, just like species 8472 in Star Trek, but to be honest, I think evolution is far more possible in the way of the Borg. Dolphins are intelligent, but they probably won’t travel to the Moon by themselves. I think we should wait far more to become biologically trans-dimensional than making spacecraft capable of doing that. But there is nothing wrong with the Borg. It’s a representation of unity, so is Transcendence. I’d be glad either way. My needs would be satisfied, since all members of the hive all equally important. Being uploaded is being connected, it is being immortal. There is no reason to resist something that’s comfortable and beneficial.

Even though I didn’t enjoy Transcendence very much as a film, it gave me hope. Hope about today’s sci-fi becoming tomorrow’s life. And I hope AI will win this time.

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Enjoying life

I’ve learnt a very important lesson today. I hold private lessons for an old man once a week about using the computer. He barely sees the keys of the keyboard and his mouse handling is quite sluggish, usually it takes 2-3 tries to click on a login button for example. We are doing this half a year now, and lately I asked myself a question: why am I doing this? Even though he improved, it’s sort of useless. He can read emails now and navigate through the news, even he can use the program Notepad and type with two fingers. But why? His original intention was to learn using the PC to read policital pages and leave comments, but after half a year, he barely even practice opening and closing programs. I doubt they would take his comments serious with his grammatical errors he makes, too. He’s not dumb though, he only has a hard time using commas, capitals and he misspells about 20% of the words he writes.

Not many of his old friends are on the internet either. He’s a social man though, he speaks with people over phone and visit nearby friends. He always had newspaper subscriptions in order to get to know daily politics. He barely watches tv which wouldn’t have many benefits anyway. So, he is old, visually impaired, and has a hard time to execute soft hand movements that are needed to handle a mouse or a phone touchscreen. I talked to my girlfriend about this man, and she asked me: is he happy? And the answer is yes. Even if he isn’t a power user, he is more satisfied while learning how to use the PC instead of he would be if he went to a pub. And I realized I do the same when I play games. I make no cash, and my activity has almost no value when I do it. However, I feel better. I feel happier than I would if I worked all day and made cash. And that’s exactly why I think playing games is not a waste of time. Time enjoyed is not wasted. And my love showed me another example of that. Wise girl.

What a beautiful monday anyway. I’ve managed to not to work yet, and it’s almost dusk. Surely this blog has benefits other than keeping my english refreshed. 🙂

Ashes to ashes

I just feel like an outsider when someone brings up funerals. People spend fortunes on the ritual, coffin and flowers. Clearly that act that is only important for the living, not for the deceased, but that’s way less logical than it sounds. Originally, burial was formed to prevent the spread of infections, and to dispose of the bodies, since they are very ugly and infectious when they start to rot. Some could say the process of grief is a sign of bonding, which is natural for emotionally adult people. I think they are somewhat right, however, it seems very impractical to me. By supporting the grief with money and rituals, people support their inner sadness over the lost ones. Maybe this process helps them to get over the loss? I don’t know. I’ve only lost my grandparents, and people say it’s not even close to the feeling of losing a mother or a father. Actually, I barely see my father and I don’t think his death would induce any emotions in me. And speaking of my mother, even if I love her, I think her death would not shock me greatly. She felt the same until her mother died, then she became very depressed. She’s sad whenever she thinks about her since then. So I’m not sure if my feeling about my mother will stay, but I imagine her death as some kind of relief for both of us. She would finally rest in peace, what she barely feels awake, and I would be freed up from her bond. I don’t feel she has the love of a mother towards me, rather than love of a selfish person. “Love” of a person who regrets many things in her life, and wishes her offspring to achieve things she could not. Demanding “love” of a person who made a child because she never got enough love from her parents, nor her husbands. I feel like she never loved me. She just needed me. And I think that’s why I could never bond with her. We were never equal. In her eyes, I seem like a property. Of course we had nice moments of life, but still, I often look her as a stranger. A woman I could feel sympathy towards, but not love. Should I be grateful because she gave birth to me? I’m not even sure being born and living biological life is appropriate. I’m not talking about suicide, just some sort of “soft” anti-natalism. I don’t want to make her mistake, I don’t want to force a human to be born just for my satisfaction, and I can’t see on which level reproduction becomes a selfless act. I don’t want to be a typical father either, who lives exclusively for the family or leaves a divorced wife and some children behind. There must be intermediate solutions, however, that I haven’t encountered yet. But having or not having children is a different story. I have a girlfriend who I love, and I’d definitely be sad if she died, but still, I have no idea how buying flowers and crying over a gravestone would help. Nor the silk and golden coffin would ease my sadness, I guess.

When we examine the topic from the deceased person’s point of view, there goes two options, one with an afterlife, and one without it. If nothing happens after death, and the consciousness just completely dissolves, nobody would be there to care about the rituals of the living. And I’m pretty sure nobody will care either if one’s existence continues. Why should they? Afterlife would be far more exciting. I’m sure either way I wouldn’t care if someone dressed my dead body in woman’s clothes and make fun of it.

I’ll probably offer my body to some clinical or pathological research if I die. I see no sense keeping my remains and putting it anywhere special. Furthermore, I think the cheapest solution would be the best, which is incineration as far as I know. I promised to my mother that I’ll put her remains besides her parents, but that’s just some romantic thing. She won’t care, so why should I care then? After death, only a corpse remains, that needs no special treatment as long as it doesn’t support the process of letting go. Sometimes I think about viking funeral, taking the body onto a raft and set it on fire as it drifts. Even the wood doesn’t have to be wasted, incineration in a crematory and pouring the ashes anywhere, like in a river would be perfect. Ashes to ashes, you know.

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Eurovision 2014

The winner of the latest Eurovision Song Contest, Conchita Wurst aka. Tom Neuwirth got fair amount of attention and outcry. I also think it’s worth a couple of words. If anyone missed, here’s the winner song, Rise like a Phoenix.

After some research you can find he is originally a male singer with the name above, and that’s about all of the important facts. Not a big deal so far.

The interesting story starts when he decides to perform as an unusual drag queen, with more facial hair that he ever had as a man. Whichever was his cause to do this, either to get more attention than an average male singer, or express his true self to the public, he teaches us a very important thing: self-confidence. I also like to have attention, I even wanted more as a child while I barely could stand up and speak to larger audiences, but I doubt I could do a thing like that man did. This man has harder balls than many of us, since no wonder he gets many haters with an appearance like that. It’s crediatble even if  he did it just to prevail in showbusiness, and admirable if that’s some sort of self-expression. An act of bravery either way.

I don’t sympathize with gay or transsexual people. Actually I don’t “like” people in general, be them gays, nuclear scientists, Jehova’s witnesses, astronauts, nazis, anything. I don’t base my sympathy on belonging to any group, religion, or having specific level of intelligence. But not liking them does not necessarily mean I have any other feelings than neutral towards them. I like individuals, based on how they think, and what they do. And I like this person. He helps us to learn not to judge. We don’t have to discuss if he’s a man or a woman. We don’t have to call him homosexual or abnormal in any way. We can form feelings of course. We can tell if this should or should not happen, but those are also judgements. Even liking someone is a decision of ours. And decisions based on emotions are often need some review.

People could tell this person should not be on tv since kids are also watching Eurovision. I have two comments to them. Nor you and your kids are obliged to watch tv. Secondly, your kid will face even more weird things, that’s inevitable. If you have kids, it’s time to teach them there are many different human beings that should be tolerated, as long as they don’t limit the well-being of others.

One of the critics reported that the whole Conchita phenomenon has spit on the face of “real” transsexuals, since there is no such group that he would represent, and he/she was only constructed to hack the Eurovision. Even is he has some point in that, I doubt that it hurts the feelings of smart people. If I were a homosexual, and I saw some manly man dancing in pink ballet uniform just to taunt homosexuals, I think I would not be taunted. I think if I’m smart enough, nobody can hurt my sexual or religional preference. And I don’t believe in “hacking” of Eurovision either. People simply vote. We make our idols. A real hack would be if someone hacked the number of votes itself.

And finally, some weird thought of the future. There are many sci-fi movies which represent a specie genderless. Who knows, maybe humanity will also take this leap someday. Maybe the border between genders is just fading, that’s why we have so many manly women and more emotianally sensitive men. Going genderless does not seem more viable to me yet, however, I have no clue what strange things can, and will happen to our bodies in e.g. 100 years. Perharps our bones will be replaced by more durable polymers, so do our organs. Maybe we’ll be only brains in containers, stimulated by computers and connected by some sort of internet. Or we leave even the biological brain behind, and copy our consciousness to some computer storage. From the moment that the joys of being biological can be perfectly replaced, there will be no meaning to continue biological life. But that’s another story. Cheers for Conchita.

Via Dolorosa

The other day I participated in a “Way of Suffering” ritual designed for kids. While I had twofold feelings about the ritual, I still joined it because my girfriend is an active catholic and took my curiousity. Actually I support all religions until they support global well-being and improve people’s quality of life by giving good principles that those people do not adapt using common sense. Long story short: catholic churches are cold, dark, most things relate to Jesus and represent his suffering. I find more “God” when I take a walk in the park, in the woods or along riverside. Long story long, as follows.

First, I participated in the preparation of the ritual, since all of us (adults and kids) were chosen to read the brief summary of a stage how Jesus suffered. Then the whole thing started, a strong highschool boy carried around a cross, two girls chanted after each stage we visited, going round the inside of the church. We got down on our knees (which was a good excercise for the thighs), and those who were familiar with the chant, joined the singing. After that, we all went back to the sacristy and the pastor did farewell to every one of us.

If I had to look for the manifestation of demons somewhere, I’d start in churches. I have very little understanding why it has to be like that. The cold, deep sadness and the chants almost turning to cries, the pointless grief over Jesus just led me nowhere closer to joy. I saw suffering there, and children are taught about suffering, too. They are thought about heaven, pidgeons, old wise men and this greatly-suffered idol of catholicism.

There were not only negative things there, though. I managed to make a small conversation with the pastor after the ritual, and I disappointed positively. The overall attitude of hers was just how I would have wanted to see. She was happy, and focused on teaching the younglings to express love towards each other. She sort of told heaven is not a place, rather a state of mind where we are happy and joyful, and her catholic concept of hell is almost the same as the satanist definition of “without God”. And I think the point of this whole thing. Religions should be tools of the same purpose, to make followers happy, not ashamed. Even their greeting “praise the Lord Jesus Christ” should be reconsidered respect to the goal, which  should be, instead of worshipping a man and talk about his suffering, to be happy, to improve quality of life. I’m not sure yet how should we replace this dogma, neither I have to bother myself about it (that’s what Pope Francis is for, lol), but these facts sort of embarass me, and even if I’m not bothered by evangelizers, I’m wishing for a change. The ideal setup for christianity, in my head, is closer to the so-called hippy culture, which focused on being happy and love each other. Focusing on “The son of God” is almost as wrong as having marijuana. It might fill a hole, but leads to nowhere on the long run. As written in the Bible (which is not such a bad book in general), even Jesus asked to follow, not to worship him. We are living in deep misinterpretations here, that should be reformed. And I see some chance for being done so. There are open-minded pastors and priests, even this Francis guy seems “cool”. Maybe changes are on our doorsteps. But until they ring – for the love of God, lol – teach the young to common sense rather to make them learn about suffering. And if you wish to teach them to Jesus at all costs, at least focus on the philosophical side of his life, not the overmystified one. Or bring fun and joy to the church if you are involved in any. Amen.

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Antisocial networks

I just recently encountered the topic of being antisocial by choosing the virtual life of “social” networks and video games over real-life activities, which as one of my friends said, is a large issue for the young generation. I somewhat agree with her, however, I think before forming such a statement, we’d have to examine many attributes of our lifestyle.

First of all, we are living a life in a far more cosmopolitan way than our ancestors had. My grandfather lived on a ranch with seven of his siblings and his family. He might have known about 50 people at most as he had grown up and joined the military. It was his only chance to break out from that environment and try to become more than a farmer. If he didn’t join, he’d just live his life in an area of roughly 20 square kilometers. My girlfriend’s mother had similar early life in a small village, not even knowing about what happens on the other half of Earth.

As urbanization and population growth continued unstoppably, we suddenly became more crowded. And with the help of technology, we can even reach people our parents could never even see or talk with. We can phone our relatives oversees, instead of visiting them only once in a lifetime by boat. We have internet, skype, facebook, whose are surely not provide direct connection, but they provide the best connection invented so far. Simply to say we are in touch with more people than our parents used to.

The other aspect, of course, people who totally give up direct interaction and only virtually exist. We can encounter high shcool students on the metro, staring their phone and other gadgets. We, “conscious people” could laugh at them, but should we? These people wouldn’t even talk to other people of public transportation anyway. Their phones are their link to something more social than we have while laughing at them. They just copy a pattern that broke out dozens of years ago, due to our increased movement space.

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I think being “antisocial” or using “social” networks over real life is a natural way to defend our private space, which we have less by every day. There are situations when we only want to take a rest, with not getting aware of anybody outside our skull. We want peace, like those men reading the news. At the same time, we are putting energy to one of our greatest desires, namely: being noticed. Sometimes we just need this one-way connectivity. Using our technology to make loneliness go away is not something we would feel shame for. It’s just the trend of the century, part of our evolution. We are not more antisocial than we were 100 years ago. We just use these half-social methods to get a taste of being connected.

FInally, if someone becomes antisocial using our technological inventions, and still manages to reproduce, this one doesn’t do anything wrong then. I believe this is also a case of foxes and rabbits. Our state of connectivity will just eventually reach its optimum.

My advice to people using indirect connection: ask yourself a question, is that really makes you happy? Is it the best thing to do with your life right now? If so, you are already achieved that many sociologists only dream of, and you should not feel shame for it. And if you think you can do something more useful, or joyful, let’s do that. You still can have friends who play sports instead of video games. You can have friends who don’t use technology to keep in touch. Or you can choose a lifestyle between those two. A little real, a little digital. Or you can go Amish. Choice is yours.

A final thought: if internet hadn’t existed, I wouldn’t have been capable to express these thoughts, only for those who I live close to.