We feel

But why?

We feel not as sensory input

Not as distinct, deterministic sensory input that describes the explicit logical constructs of our world.

Cause and effect. Reference and reason. These are what we know and understand and verify and validate for reasons that at the very least are evolutionarily advantageous.

But why do we feel?

What is this dimension of perception that manifests as a sort of ever-shifting stained window between me and my reason?
What is the purpose of this negativity that vivifies dissonance and blurs order?
Why does my attention too frequently become seemingly restricted to some event or person, even hypothetical, such that I am incapable of productivity and am rendered helpless, unable to do much beyond FEEL about something?

Why?

When the Conveyor Ends

With maybe a few exceptions, everyone who reads this was probably in school for the vast majority of their lives (since I somehow don’t think many 36+ year olds follow me), and many I know are still in school. I’m starting to understand some of the purpose of school in the greater context of society, which was only possible by actually not being in school for an extended period of time for the first time since VERY early childhood. The perspective I’ve gained has revealed to me a very perverse contrast between the student’s concept of ~Society at Large~ and the idea of the student in the greater context of society.

Read More

Narratives

So while at the FireDrums festival, I wrote a bunch of crap… and one particular crap has been ruminating in my mind for a while now…

And after reading some Žižek, I really am inspired to expound on some of it…

It’s about internal narratives… how I’ve observed that when we (people) invest a lot of time thinking about someone (or any hypothetical being, including deities), real or fictional, we very commonly create internal narratives.

These narratives are the difference between how we think about things versus how we think about beings, minds, or forces of will. We don’t (normally) create narratives for things or ideas of things, but we do for people, characters, and the ideas thereof.

Read More

The First Layer of Communication

Physical

Communication, even in the most abstract sense, requires motor output. While neuroscience research may be gravitating towards controlling things with brainwaves, even Stephen Hawking uses motor output to communicate. Even if people began thinking at each other via devices strapped to their heads, that communication requires a physical medium.

Each medium is a foundation for a different type of communication as well as any resultant spontaneous culture.

Read More

Focus and Flow

Learning to juggle has multiplied my diligence in all areas of my life. I spend my time with friends and family in more fulfilling ways. I can more easily relate whatever I’m learning in school to something fun.

But why?

Juggling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment… it’s just very carefully throwing objects up in the air and catching them repeatedly. So how could it have such a strong impact on my life?

Because before juggling, the central theme of my life was school… before family, before friends, before myself, was always school. When I went to college, I no longer had my family to prod me along, and nor did anyone else.

The idea that motivation is a superpower is one of the most ubiquitous and pervasive cultural memes that I have encountered across members of this entire generation.

Motivation is NOT a superpower; in fact, I’d argue that the superpower here is the capacity to KEEP one’s internal motivation after getting through college.

The real death of motivation is when the product of YEARS of work is simply hypothetical. We bust our asses week after week, month after month, and year after year, and far too often the most tangible results of our efforts are in the form of letters, numbers, or hopefully a very important piece of paper.

When was the last time you poured hours and hours into a school project and emerged with the sense that you were capable of doing something that you weren’t before you did that project?

When was the last true sense of achievement from having pushed your own limits and abilities?

For some (such as me), the grades just stopped feeling validating. They were hypothetical. Hours and hours of work, and for what?

And what happens if you screw up? What happens if, despite so many hours of work, some grave error becomes a monolithic testament to your ineptitude and the worthlessness of your effort?

But see, that’s how you learn how to juggle: you drop the ball. Over and over again. Many, many, many times. You drop it… and after a while, you don’t drop it as much. You drop it less and less as time goes on.

I juggle because the effort that I put into juggling has rewards that are tangible. If I put enough time into learning a trick, then I am actually capable of doing something that I could not do before. While the practical application is negligible, it’s also not hypothetical.

It’s exciting. After years and years of effort being poured into the ethereal intellectual maelstrom we call education and academia, I now have something to remind me irrevocably that my effort produces results.

There’s no interpersonal argument involved about worth… I know it’s just a parlor trick, but I learned it and did it just because I wanted to. Imagine what I can do with better reasons?

Every type of effort (like studying crap that I don’t care for) feels much easier after a good juggling session. If I don’t feel like learning a new trick, I just let my arms flow through more familiar patterns and meditate.

Ever been “in the zone”?

I argue that having an easily accessible activity that you can use to “zone out” and has a tangible result is essential to mental health. It should be something that leaves you with something to show for your time spent doing it, especially because you flowed through it meditatively.

And do it regularly.

I can’t stress the result part of this enough. Activities like reading are great, but unless what you read inspires you to write, draw, or make something besides conversation that ceases to exist once forgotten.

The only way to adjust your productive output is to make things. Juggling has inspired me to start writing again, and even try my hand at drawing and music, simply because it reminded me that I can put my effort into something and have something tangible come out.

Many of us may ~know~ this implicitly, that we can learn anything if we just throw enough effort at it… but trust me, it’s a lot easier to live by it when you actually do it.

Artificial Intelligence

I am of the opinion that artificial intelligence, as portrayed by Sci-Fi cultural elements as a synthetic computer system created by humans that is capable of cognitive functions at least equivalent to (although usually unfathomably superior to) those of the modern human being.

I feel that this is categorically impossible. Computers operate on explicit logic, and even quantum computers, whenever (if ever) those are figured out, will necessarily operate deterministically if we are to derive any direct utility from them. Any computer system that does not produce a predictable output from a given input is not useful for information processing.

But let’s humor this idea. What do we have that is called A.I. so far? We certainly have very sophisticated and complex machines that can dynamically react to data that’s supposed to represent sensory input… there are systems that are using recursive feedback loops that can actually adapt to new environments and, upon being introduced to new digital function libraries, can ‘learn’ how to integrate the new ‘sensory input’ into their feedback loop systems. Some have called this the precursors to identity and self-awareness, but I wholeheartedly disagree.

We may be able to create an incredibly dynamic digital system that can adapt and “learn” along physical and logical frameworks that humans have designed, but there’s one thing that we will never be able to code into a machine, simply because of the observer’s paradox. We can’t create something we don’t understand and isn’t even something that can necessarily be reduced to a logical structure.

We can’t code purpose into a machine. Enough of us have a hard enough time figuring out our own “why”. Computers follow encoded steps for tasks that we ordain; they do not invent tasks without context. I would almost call the phrase “deterministic computation” redundant if it weren’t for the overlap between the theory of computation and chaos theory (complexity theory).

A computer that does anything besides what it’s programmed to do is not working properly and is discarded.

There are bits of code that replicate across systems like ideas across a social group. They may end up taking system resources and doing things that aren’t intended by the user… these are often branded as malware, and invariably created by humans. We get rid of them, because a computer that does anything besides what it’s explicitly programmed to do is seen as infected or broken, and promptly either fixed or discarded.

They will never create a purpose unless we find a way to code it.

It’s getting harder to admit that there are ideas about capitalism that I like.

Asset Management

It’s the industry that includes Mitt Romney’s firm Bain Capital… but what do they DO?

You would hire an Asset Management firm to analyze your entire company’s profile and work out any inefficiencies. The primary purpose is to maximize return. Period. This includes cutting unnecessary costs, such as excess pay. So part of their job, in no small part, is to calculate how to pay employees the minimum amount necessary in order to retain productivity.

Asset Management firms like Bain Capital are hired PRECISELY to improve the financial outlook of a company from the perspective of the shareholders. Within that context, they do whatever they damn well please.

My father started working for Banfield when he had just started practicing veterinary medicine. A year or so later, Banfield hired some guy named Tom who, after a couple of months of lurking around various Banfield branches, proceeded to drop the salaries of pretty much every veterinarian on the payroll by 10-20% and laid off tons of others. Those who weren’t doctors that remained were left with roughly a 30% salary cut and a shitload more work to do. Tom was later “fired” and the corporate proceeded to tell everyone oh man he was such a horrible guy.

My dad later found out that Tom had been paid a MASSIVE bonus and was let go after saving Banfield millions.

Horrified, my dad left the company and started his own private practice… in part because he has a spouse working full time and could actually afford the risk. Not everyone could, because A SHITTY JOB MARKET IS LIKE CHRISTMAS FOR ASSET MANAGERS.

Imagine that there’s an entire industry of meta-corporations who specialize in pointing out “hey, since these employees need these jobs so desperately, they’re unlikely to leave if you pay them less!” and getting massive bonuses for saving corporations money. You don’t have to imagine it. Not only are they real, they’re doing better than ever!

Every now and then a corporate executive meeting happens where the primary issue on the agenda is “how little  can we get away with paying our bottom-tier employees?” And then someone like Mitt Romney strolls in and takes it upon himself to do precisely that.

Imagine if he had actually been elected.

What is Fire?

It’s certainly not an object.

For the layman, the term “fire” evokes an image of what physics understands as energetically excited molecules of gas, discharging energy as photons; the most ubiquitous image of fire is usually discharging photons at frequencies around the lower end of our visible spectrum (red, orange, yellow).

It’s quite possible to have fire that burns only beneath our visible spectrum (like the Invisible flame!!!!!!).

But the question remains, what IS fire?

And I say “remains” because we are still figuring it out.

One could say (without too much inaccuracy) that learning how to manipulate fire has blazed the trail for not only much of science, but of modern technology.

From the first time some ancestral primate learned that cooked food is easier and healthier to digest, the study of fire has blazed a trail for the vast majority of what we now call modern civilization, let alone science.

It was and is still used to extract, mix, and mold metals, eventually leading to glass as well as every little strip of copper, fiber-optic cable, or radio tower that’s enabling you to read this.

But what IS fire?

[THE FOLLOWING TEXT IS VERY ABOUT SCIENCE]

Despite it being around for as long as recorded history, it wasn’t until the 1800’s that the idea of the atom entered the model of experimental physics, let alone the structure.

In the 1900’s, Planck finally introduced photons into the model; to this day, I find it kind of trippy that photons are discrete. In 1905, Einstein published his Nobel Prize-winning paper on the photoelectric effect… which if you don’t know, is even trippier:

The whole ‘quanta’ and ‘photon’ paradigm solidified the idea that photons come off of vibrated (heated) atoms… but the photoelectric effect showed that atoms can also ABSORB photons and give OFF electrons.

Fast-forward… wave-particle duality; Rutherford discovers the nucleus, and Bohr discovers orbitals and their impact on electromagnetic spectrum emissions FINALLY WE’RE BACK TO WHAT FIRE IS.

So by the 1920’s, we finally have a better idea of why different colored flames happen.

Fast-forward again through Pauli and Schrödinger and Heisenberg and Dirac and now we’re getting into subatomic physics where Baryons, Bosons, Gluons, Leptons, Mesons, and Quarks are difficult for me to describe without getting mathy and I’m too tired for that right now… but the point I’m trying to make is that…

We’ve learned that fire is the sustained release of chemical energy… which we’ve traced to atomic, and subatomic levels… but the only way to study the release of this energy is to… well, release the energy.

So blow shit up!

Well beyond actual explosives (like the eponymous atomic bomb), we are now using particle accelerators and supercolliders (like the HLC) which are VERY complex devices used to EXTREMELY PRECISELY smash subatomic particles into each other, creating very tiny explosions that CERN is studying to contribute to the understanding of the universe that one day will hopefully finally answer the question:
What is fire?