Like a trapeze artist, there is sure to be a moment of mid-air terror as we bridge to our new self, terror which may include status-undermining stints as professional spaghetti thrower or underemployed IP expert. Ironically, we are far less likely to experience a face-palming splat during a transition if we fling ourselves onto the next curve. Remember too, that while we may think we crave the predictability of nary a transition or modulation to a new key of life, our brain requires the dopamine of the unpredictable. It may well be that in the seeming terrible moment of transition as we leap to our passionate self, there is just enough—space, for us to discover who we really are.
"I believe that they who wish to do easy things without trouble and toil must previously have been trained in more difficult things."
Rhetorica ad Herennium, 90 BC
"Everything you’ve learned in school as “obvious” becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There’s not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines."
Richard Buckminster Fuller
"If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm."
"Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend."
Never before was there a quote that summed up my outlook on social relationships so precisely.
… And so I was able to keep my food chilled another night. Today, I checked my solar panels, and found that the charge controller was only sending 2 amps to the batteries, instead of the 4 amps it should be sending. I checked each of the 4 panels, and found that one of them wasn’t working (it’s only outputting 2 volts instead of 19). So, it seems like I have a number of issues. One is that only 75% of my panels are working, and, on top of that, they are outputting far less than they should. It’s also possible that the heat has been causing the fridge to run its compressor more often (or longer), and is therefore using up more power. Also, I’ve been somewhat negligent in keeping my solar panels oriented towards the sun, which also further decreases output. All these factors combined seems to have pushed me to an energy deficit, resulting in two nearly completely discharged batteries. I’d been planning on buying more solar panels anyway, but it looks like I should do that sooner rather than later.
You’d think life would be miserable if you didn’t have basic things like electricity or water. But, to me, it all seems like a really fun game. In the city, people have most of their basic needs fulfilled. Flip a switch, the light goes on. Turn the faucet, you get water. Talk into a phone, pizza comes to your door. Yet, somehow, people are still stressed. While people don’t have to worry about electricity or water, in exchange, they have plenty of other things to worry about. The boss, the client, the landlord, the upstairs neighbor who moves furniture around at 2am, your friend who’s inexplicably mad at you, the cable company who double charged you, the phone company and their shitty service, the waitress at that restaurant you went to for dinner who took too long to bring you your appetizers. A lot of these stresses are caused by the fact that, in the city, you’ve delegated so much of your life, that you’ve given control over your life to complete strangers. You no longer have agency over your destiny, and when something goes wrong, you’re at the mercy of other people; people who actually don’t really care about your problems, even if they’re in a position to do something about it. So, people escape to games. They play Farmville and World of Warcraft for hours and hours, because games give you back your sense of control, and you are rewarded (albeit in virtual points) for the effort you put in. It satisfies the basic human desire to solve problems, to be rewarded for doing so, and feel empowered. It satisfies a desire that, sadly, modern civilization has taken away, for the sake of comfort and convenience.
Arguably, what I’m doing out here is a game too. I’m here because I want to, not because I have to. And, it seems, anything that is fun these days, is dismissed as “entertainment”, a mere distraction, because life isn’t meant to be fun. But, when you think about it, humans, and all animals, are programmed to enjoy life functions that are truly necessary. Eating, drinking, solving problems, getting exercise. These are all fun. It’s everything else that’s not fun. Working in a cubicle. Paying the mortgage. Calling customer service. Dealing with the car mechanic. Waiting in line at the super market. The very things that we associate with modern life, turn out to be not-fun. Up here, all I did was to get rid of all that. And lo, all that remained was stuff that we naturally find pleasurable. Eating cake. Napping under an oak tree. Solving my own problems without getting put on hold by customer service. Seeing my own labor make an immediate tangible difference in my quality of life. So, yes. If that’s a game, then awesome, it’s a game I’d recommend to anyone; the graphics are amazing, it’s pretty damn addictive, and oh, you’ll lose weight and get in shape too.
Fantastic stuff from ex-Google Engineer Ryo Chijiiwa who’s now experimenting with living life as an independent out in the woods of California. He’s documenting each day of his new life over at “Laptop and a Rifle”, right from the day he quit his job at Google all the way back in 2009 till today, with details ranging from the loss of his girlfriend (and later meeting a new girl) to lessons on buying land to keeping animals off his garden. He’s also the guy behind the Chi-qoo solar power kit (Company homepage, kickstarter page from last year) that lets you charge your iPods and iPads with just solar power.
update: Here’s a talk he gave at Google Tokyo last year about his new life as well about the volunteer work he did at Ofunato, among other places, affected by the Tohoku Eqarthquake-Tsunami.
"The trouble begins with a design philosophy that equates “more options” with “greater freedom.” Designers struggle endlessly with a problem that is almost nonexistent for users: “How do we pack the maximum number of options into the minimum space and price?” In my experience, the instruments and tools that endure (because they are loved by their users) have limited options."
David Brooks has a positively fascinating piece in the NYT talking about the power of things that you would think are particular but actually have a global appeal. He starts with an anecdote of his trip to a Bruce Springsteen concert in Europe.
Here were audiences in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula singing word for word about Highway 9 or Greasy Lake or some other exotic locale on the Jersey Shore. They held up signs requesting songs from the deepest and most distinctly American recesses of Springsteen’s repertoire.
The oddest moment came midconcert when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, “I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!”
That is an absolutely amazing phenomenon. He continues…
Did it occur to them at that moment that, in fact, they were not born in the U.S.A.? How was it that so many people in such a faraway place can be so personally committed to the deindustrializing landscape from New Jersey to Nebraska, the world Springsteen sings about? How is it they can be so enraptured at the mere mention of the Meadowlands or the Stone Pony, an Asbury Park, N.J., nightclub?
Brooks is not a passive observer though, he has thought about it and believes he has the answer to why people seem to enjoy, and even desire, things that are “alien” to them…
My best theory is this: When we are children, we invent these detailed imaginary worlds that the child psychologists call “paracosms.” These landscapes, sometimes complete with imaginary beasts, heroes and laws, help us orient ourselves in reality. They are structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world.
We carry this need for paracosms into adulthood. It’s a paradox that the artists who have the widest global purchase are also the ones who have created the most local and distinctive story landscapes. Millions of people around the world are ferociously attached to Tupac Shakur’s version of Compton or J.K. Rowling’s version of a British boarding school or Downton Abbey’s or Brideshead Revisited’s version of an Edwardian estate.
And here’s the kicker…
Millions of people know the contours of these remote landscapes, their typical characters, story lines, corruptions and challenges. If you build a passionate and highly localized moral landscape, people will come.
Don’t try to be everyman. Don’t pretend you’re a member of every community you visit. Don’t try to be citizens of some artificial globalized community. Go deeper into your own tradition. Call more upon the geography of your own past. Be distinct and credible. People will come.
In short, have a strong personality and the world will value you for it.
I left out some very interesting portions of the piece where Brooks applies his theory to explain Springsteen’s success that continues even to this day, which is a monumental feat, so you should go check out the full post, it’s a fascinating read with a lot of food for thought.
Carl Zimmer has a mind-boggling post up on the Discover Magazine blog titled “The Human Lake”, talking about a unique “organ” that doesn’t show up in human anatomy diagrams - “The Microbiome”, an insanely vast collection of microbes that exist inside our body doing things that you couldn’t even have imagined yet have taken for granted so far.
Some excerpts from the post, on the Microbiome - the organ you can’t see:
Our collection of microbes–the microbiome–is like an extra organ of the human body. And while an organ like the heart has only one function, the microbiome has many.
When food comes into the gut, for example, microbes break some of them down using enzymes we lack. Sometimes the microbes and our own cells have an intimate volley, in which bacteria break down a molecule part way, our cells break it down some more, the bacteria break it down even more, and then finally we get something to eat.
Another thing that the microbiome does is manage the immune system. Certain species of resident bacteria, like Bacteroides fragilis, produce proteins that tamp down inflammation. When scientists rear mice that don’t have any germs at all, they have a very difficult time developing a normal immune system. The microbiome has to tutor the immune system in how to do its job properly. It also acts like an immune system of its own, fighting off invading microbes, and helping to heal wounds.
While the microbiome may be an important organ, it’s a peculiar one. It’s not one solid hunk of flesh. It’s an ecosystem, made up of thousands of interacting species.
The microbes in your body at this moment outnumber your cells by ten to one. And they come in a huge diversity of species—somewhere in the thousands, although no one has a precise count yet. By some estimates there are twenty million microbial genes in your body: about a thousand times more than the 20,000 protein-coding genes in the human genome. So the Human Genome Project was, at best, a nice start. If we really want to understand all the genes in the human body, we have a long way to go.
On the mind-boggling levels of diversity:
Here’s a microbial Venn diagram shows the diversity in three mouths. All told, they harbor 818 species, but only 387 were shared by all three, the rest were missing from some people and present in others.
Microbes that live on the surface of the skin can get lots of oxygen, but they also bear the brunt of sun, wind, and cold. Microbes in the intestines have next to no oxygen, but they have a much more stable habitat. Microbes have carved up the human body into far finer niches. The bugs on your fingers are different from the ones on your elbow. The two sides of a single tooth have a different diversity of microbes.
On the unbelievable levels of interdependence between vastly different species of microbes:
Such is the case for one microbe called Synergistetes that lives in the mouth. On its own up in a Petri dish (the top red dish to the right), it struggles to grow. But if you add a streak of Parvimonas micra, it can take off. It’s not clear what P. micra is doing for Synergistetes but it’s doing something really important. There are links like this between the hundreds of species in every mouth.
On how incredible an impact these teensy little things have on our bodies:
scientists have found, obese mice have a different microbial ecosystem than regular mice. And if you take the stool from one of these obese mice and transplant it into a mouse that has been raised germ-free, the recipient mouse will gain more weight than recipients of normal gut microbes. The microbes themselves are altering how obese mice are processing energy.
This is the ultimate example of unity in diversity. Amazing how so many things, so vastly different, can all just come together and work simply because the participants don’t have the concept of “the individual” built in. All the troubles we humans face today is a side-effect of “the individual”. I however, am positive there will come a time in our future when we’ll stop being “individuals” and become a single whole - a superorganism - The One Mind. On that day, our race will have evolved to the next level.
I was just reading this supremely interesting post on how all of nature, animals, plants, microbes, dinosaurs, birds etc are simply scaled up versions of a ‘master creature’, a ‘template’. The whole article is mighty interesting but here’s a relevant snippet:
What did we learn from scaling in biology? We not only learned the network theory, but we learned that despite the fact that the whale lives in the ocean, the giraffe has a long neck, and the elephant a truck, and we walk on two feet and the mouse scurries around, at some 85, 90 percent level, we’re all scaled versions of one another.
There’s kind of one mammal, and every other mammal, no matter what size it is and where it existed, is actually some well-defined mathematically scaled version of that one master mammal, so to speak. And that is kind of amazing.
In other words, the size of a mammal, or any organism for that matter, can tell you how long it should live, how many children it should have, how oxygen diffuses across its lungs, what is the length of the ninth branch of its circulatory system, how its blood is flowing, how quickly it will grow, et cetera.
But I believe this pattern goes beyond just earth and like I told my friend @praveenvasudev a year ago, everything in our universe, from planets & stars & molten lava to the beating human heart comes from a single master source, a single ‘template’. That ‘thing’, I have no idea how it looks, how it works, and what the hell it is, but while explaining it to Praveen I used the analogy of a flag waving in the wind, where the material of the flag is the ‘master source’ and each wrinkle on the flag is an object of nature - a thin, long wrinkle on this ‘master source’ might be the fan that is rotating above your head while a short, fat one could be the sound of a car horn. Each ‘wrinkle’ on this ‘master source’ gives rise to every phenomena and being that exists in our universe.
As I was raised conforming to Hindu traditions, early on in my teens I came across this concept that ‘Everything came from nothing’. At that time, I was like yeah that’s BS. But now I see what they were talking about. It’s easy: imagine a flat, plain piece of cloth that is hanging on a clothes line. While it’s fluttering in the wind there’s lots of wrinkles on the cloth, but when the wind stops, the wrinkles die out and the cloth becomes flat again - no wrinkles. Empty! Nothing! Do you see it? It can be thought of as - all the wrinkles on that cloth came from nothing! Nothing is a ‘state’, not a ‘thing’ and ‘nothing’ does not mean that the cloth has never existed.
Everything came from nothing - ‘wrinkled’ state came from the ‘nothing’ state.
While I use cloth as an anology, even flat vs crumpled paper works. Here it is…
Everything came from nothing. This is what the old Hindu smartasses were talking about - the ‘state’. And they also lend credence to my ‘master source’ theory - you can’t talk about ‘state’ without there being a common object that generates these ‘states’, and this common object that generates the ‘states’ is nothing but the ‘master source’. Like the paper above that exists both in the ‘Nothing’ state and in the ‘Crumpled’ state, the ‘master source’ has always existed. But there was a time when the ‘master source’ had no wrinkles which the Hindu ancients called ‘Nothing’ and today the ‘master source’ has lots of ‘wrinkles’ which is everything that we have in the universe - the ancients call this ‘Everything’.
Everything comes from nothing. A bit misleading since it’s not immediately obvious that both ‘everything’ and ‘nothing are ‘states’. Which is why I prefer the title of this post - everything comes from just one thing - the ‘master source’.
It’s an amazing thought - that all this incomprehensible complexity that we in nature are just different manifestations of a single ‘master source’. Imagine this, it could even be possible that I, a particular ‘wrinkle’ on this ‘master source’ could morph/change into another ‘wrinkle’, let’s say a beam of pure light, if I could have control over this ‘master source’. Lots of questions remain - what is the ‘master source’ made of? Who/what made/controls this ‘master source’ and why? Will the universe end when the ‘wrinkles’ stop forming? What is beyond this ‘master source’? It’s impossible to see the earth rotating without going outside of earth and into space, so to see the ‘wrinkles’ form, move and die off, can I, a ‘wrinkle’ on this ‘master source’, ever see the ‘master source’ from outside of it?
To know answers to these questions, there has to be more than just ‘thought experiments’. The ancients stated the truth but could never prove it. Someday I hope to do just that - to get off my internet armchair and show that actually, everything comes from just one thing.
This realization came to me sometime last year while I was talking about fractals and how the larger fractals are merely composed of scaled-rotated versions of itself (recursion). We can see this in our daily life - something as massive as our solar system is in fact, made of atoms that have the same structure as the solar system - bodies rotating and revolving around a central mass. In simple terms, everything (of course, trees look nothing like atoms but I’ll talk about it another day) in our universe is a mirror image of the most basic elements that it is made of.
The talk (with @praveenvasudev) soon turned to social networks and it struck me that the same fractal behavior applies here too - social networks will evolve to resemble their most basic element. What is the social network’s most basic element? Easy - social networks enable communication and the most basic element of communication is our own nervous system. This leads me to believe that if we map out social networks and all the interconnections, we’ll simply be looking at a mirror image of our own nervous system.
[Image via dapla, which shows the same fractal nature that we talk about in this post, that is inherent to all things in our universe. Here the image compares how galaxies have the same structure as mouse brain neurons.]
What does this mean? This means that social networks are the next step in human evolution - in about 500 years, there will no longer be ‘you’ or ‘they’. There is only one - ‘I’. The entire planet will be one single mind. This is the final stage in the cycle of life, imo. Full circle, or rather, spiral. Life started from a single cell and we are going back to it - a single cell(metaphorically), albeit at a completely different scale. Fractals, once again.
This leads me to other conclusions:
- Privacy will be dead. Everyone is jacked into everyone else 24/7/365. Everyone knows everything about everyone. For instance, your hand holds no secrets from your brain, what your hand knows will be shared with your brain. There is also the concept of ‘relevancy’ which covers how not everything the brain knows will be shared with the hand but I’ll detail it later.
- The future will no longer have corporations of any kind. Why? Corporations, i.e., large groups of people working together, cannot keep up with the rapidly increasing pace of change. We already see it today - there’s more and more startups than ever before as large companies cannot move that fast. As we progress towards ‘One mind’, the change of pace will be so fast that even today’s 3-man and 5-man lean startups can’t keep up as the fastest pace will be set by the 1-man team. Anyone forming a team will lose to the ‘One mind’ ensuring that in the end only the ‘One mind’ survives. That’s how there’ll be no more corporations or even teams, only individuals who have no individuality, communicating and working with billions of other similar individuals who collectively form the ‘One mind’.
- Our currency will be energy.
- No more reproduction. Not sure if we’ll even have limbs and torsos.
If you think about it, we’ve seen similar stuff before but in slightly different and less fantastic flavors - Ghost in the Shell’s Stand Alone Complex phenomenon as well as the humans plugged into The Matrix are the most famous examples I can think of.
There’s more to explore, like how I can log-in/jack-in to someone else’s brain and take over his conscious mind, etc. Again, remember that ‘I’ and ‘someone else’ no longer exist as the entire human race is now one mind, all people are jacked in to each other in the social network and thus there is no more ‘identity’ for anyone anymore - everyone’s one and the same person. But I give up some accuracy here, to make it easier to understand.
I’ll make updates and edits to this post, as I learn more, understand more, discover more and find ways to clarify stuff more. All this sounds too fantastic? Maybe, but so was landing on the moon, a 1000 years ago.
[ UPDATE: I’m wrong here and this whole post is now without merit, but I still keep this document up to show the trail that lead my present day findings ]
When I say ‘I’, it is not the mind that is me… it is the consciousness that is me. Both my mind and my body are tools that ‘I’ use to ‘do’ what I want to. People usually think that it is their brain that is them. Wrong. It feels like our brain is where ‘we’ are, only because:
- our eyes, ears etc are all situated right next to our brain and
- because our thoughts originate at the brain. I am not at the brain, nor at the heart… I am throughout my body, in each and every cell, using my brain to generate and process thoughts, using my heart to keep my brain and the rest of my body alive, using my senses to be aware of my surroundings and using my limbs to keep surviving.
In short, I am not my body. I am not a mass of elements that formed chemicals which in turn form my body. I am that which controlled those elements and chemicals, in the first place, to form my body. This is why all those theories where they vomit the logic that, “if earth has life then in the vast ocean that’s the Universe, there WILL be another planet that has similar atmosphere and similar elements, and therefore has life just like ours”, are wrong. It is never about elements… I’m not made of atoms, my body is. Why did I choose this planet? Is it possible that just like how we all have chosen earth to build and sustain our bodies, there are other lives who have decided to choose another planet to build and sustain their bodies? I can’t reach the answers, just like how I don’t know how I know to heal my body when there’s a cut or scratch. The knowledge, the information is in me… I just can’t reach it… yet.
So what happens when I die? I don’t. It’s my body that dies. I believe that after my body dies, I just move on to a new body, although how I choose `which` body, of `what` animal, and `where` on this planet, is, as before, information I can’t reach yet. I believe I actually don’t have choice in this matter. You see, the air that our bodies breathe out, the air that is around us, is, well, shapeless… indistinguishable from the rest of the atmosphere. But that same air can form into distinguishable structures of tremendous sizes… the typhoons and tornadoes. How does shapeless air decide to give itself `shape` and `power`, and become a tornado off the coast of Japan? It doesn’t. The air doesn’t have choice here. The air CANNOT choose either destination or its final form… it has no choice over `where` it turns into `what`. All of this is governed by the TOTALITY of ALL air on this planet. If a tornado forms in the Indian ocean it is caused not by choice but forced into it by the ebb and flow of the REST of the air on this planet. I’m the same way. Today I’m like the air in the tornado having the shape of a human, and maybe, like the air in the tornado, forced into forming a human body for myself, by the rest of the life on this planet… humans, animals and plants included. So just like how the tornado has a ‘life span’ and dies off, yet the air that formed the tornado in the first place STILL lives and moves on elsewhere(to form a gust, or a typhoon or whatever form it is forced into), after my body dies I could move on to form a lizard or a snake or a fly. To sum up the analogy in a single line: Air, which is immortal, forms `mortal` phenomena like tornadoes, gusts, storms, typhoons etc just like how I, who am Immortal, form `mortal` incarnations like humans, lizards, snakes etc; and just like how the immortal air moves from one `mortal` phenomena to the next (say after the tornado dies, the air moves onto form many gusts of wind), I move from one `mortal` form to another, say human to a horse. I don’t have choice in what I form into after my human form dies off. My next form is decided by the TOTALITY of ALL life on this planet. The same process happens for all life. Each of us moves from our mortal human forms to our next mortal form depending on the state of the rest of the life on this planet. The point of realizing this:
- Find a way to transfer memories and information I’ve stored in my brain until I die, with me, to my new body. In other words, immortality. We already are immortal, it’s just our bodies that die. But, by making our memories immortal as well, we actually bring `usefulness` to our immortality. All our relationships and experiences are preserved, meaning there is no re-learning to do. Meaning we can carry on from where we left off, with a slight delay of 12 or 13 years while we wait for our body to grow up. The people who worked with the previous body will also remember us, when we were in or past bodies, after their body dies and they form a new body. This means the whole society keeps progressing without any breaks that are caused by death and the loss of memory that it brings with it. For example, lets take a company with 5 employees today. As each one dies, due to their memory being transferred with them to the new body, they wait in their new bodies until they are able enough and come back to the same company. Their, body changes, their age changes, they die, but the people continue to be who they are. Take this and apply to all life on earth and you can see the usefulness of immortality(of memory, not of the body which will always be mortal). Caveats: there is no guarantee that the next body we’ll be forced to form, will be human. I could end up forming a snake after my current body dies. Same goes for the 5 employees, in which case things get complex.
- Find out if ‘I’ can merge with someone else to form something that is different from either of us. 1 + 1 = 2 math might not apply here as we are not made of matter. So me merging with someone else might not mean there are two of us or that I have somehow gotten `bigger` or that there is `more` of me. I don’t know what the end result would be but if all life merged, I believe we will get the `entity` responsible for things like ‘fate’, `fortune` and `luck`.
- *attached image and info in the footnote*
- 11:05 p.m Tuesday, December 22, 2009 (IST) → spelling error corrections, minor re-wording. The message of the post, however, has not been changed in anyway.
- *continue updating here what edits are made to this doc and when*
- 6:48 a.m Saturday, June 4, 2011 (IST) - Over the last few years I’ve come to the realization that ‘soul’ does not actually exist. Do magnets have souls? No. Same with humans. We are complicated magnets. Plan to link to a separate post on the topic.