We are Robots

some robots have PHds


We are robots.

Now some of that is necessary, you don’t want to have to think yourself to sleep, or to sneeze or to have to go to the bathroom.  It’s good if it just happens. That’s biological, but even psychological, if you automatically recoil from loud noises, or feel your heart beating if you’re surrounded by an encroaching mob with bats—all of this automation is desirable.

Nonetheless, it is striking how little we think for ourselves or make our own decisions.  How often do we do something just because we can?

This is not about being a pretentious contrarian, or an anti-establishment anarchist.  What is more interesting for me is realizing how little we actually think for ourselves about what we believe in, what we’re told and what we do.   This can be in regards to large scale authority-social-establishment issues, but it can also be trivial small things that one believes in firmly, for example:

– You can only eat cereal in the morning.  Says who? And what if you have a bowl at 6:00 pm, what will happen?

– Why does “fuck” or “cunt” offend you but “gosh darn it” and “stupid fool!” don’t?

– Do you only get hungry at 12pm or 1pm? Why can’t you eat at 11:00 am or 2:00 pm? I bet you 90% of people in offices have never even tried to go to lunch at 2:00 pm because “everybody goes to lunch at 1”.

– Is it true that you can’t go out on a Tuesday or Wednesday night?

etc etc

Or on more broader issues, consider:

– Why is alcohol legal but marijuana isn’t?

– How are you sure that Mohamed/Jesus/Buddha/etc hold the absolute truth but that Mohamed/Jesus/Buddha etc don’t?  Is it primarily because of how you were raised?

– Why are you embarrassed if someone sees you naked or if you see someone else naked?  Why are you just fine in a bikini but you’re flustered in underwear yet it’s the same coverage?

– I’m sure you know of some beleifs people were certain of hundred years ago that are now flat out wrong or completely irrelevant.   How sure are you that none of your pillars of belief today will not go the same way in a hundred years?

etc etc..

In concluding—how often do we expose ourselves to viewpoints that challenge our world-view?  You don’t have to get in deep this can be 5 minute skimming of an article presenting a position you disagree with, listening to a speech, etc.   I think it is good to question.  To ask questions.  And again I’m not saying to be a weirdo, don’t kill the vibe when you’re out at the club talking about philosophy and quantum mechanics for god’s sake.  Also don’t take regular and consistent questioning to mean you should ‘worry’–don’t get all brooding and miserable. For me this kind of thing actually frees me and makes me less uptight.

So remember asking questions will develop independence, it enriches one’s life, and for the trivial stuff it adds variety and adventure to your life!

PS. Two great books on this are Prometheus Rising by Anton Wilson which I’m just finishing and Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina who has a lot of comments on personal power and responsibility.

Six guidelines that will improve one’s life

There’s a few that I’ve been meaning to articulate as some point of compass for how I’d like to live my life.

I have finally been able to articulate something, and here are a few guidelines of the moment to which I aspire to live buy.

1.Do not be a bitch. Do not be a punk.

Basically what I mean by this is that I want to be dependable, and add value to friends.  I don’t want to be  unreliable, and I don’t want to be someone that diminishes others i.e. someone that is just not able to let others shine.  This can be subtle.  For example consider the following scenarios:

  • You’re with a group of friends and someone tells a captivating story and you immediately jump in to steal the thunder. “oh, that’s nothing. Look what *I* did….” etc.
  • You’re out with a guy friend that is running game on a girl that you also kind of like, but so far he has the upper hand.  It is time to say goodbye, and instead of being a good sport and leaving them alone for their “final” goodbye, you hang around lingering as the third wheel.
  • You’ve committed to going to a party with your boy, and you decide not to go out for no good reason at the last minute.  Because it’s raining or something irrelevant like that.

Basically looking to suck attention away from others to yourself is being a bitch, and being unreliable–not coming through when you said you would is being a bitch, and chronic oneupsmanship is being a bitch.

2. Money? Not a problem.

I am not “rich” at all but I believe finances is about not only the literal physical amount of money you have, but also your state of mind towards it.  I want to avoid a state where my day to day activities are motivated by the checkbook.  That means that I am avoiding  penny-pinching.  It means that if give my friend $20 for $16 movie tickets and he hasn’t given me back the $3 change it’s not keeping me up at night.

Also this means that I’m not dismissing good ideas immediately just based on money.  For example, if someone asks me “Let’s go to the beach in a few weeks”, and I immediately reply or think, “Nah.  I’m broke”.   I am not saying to be careless, but money shouldn’t be the reason that one doesn’t dream imaginatively, and enjoy their every day lives.

Lastly on this note, it’s about freeing yourself from self-imposed shackles.  I figure if one obsesses over dollars, they’ll certainly obsess over thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, so even when you have money you’ll be caught up in the same thought pattern.

3. I am not a woman.

I’m not a female.  Women are different than men (they really are—I mean do guys go to the bathroom in pairs?). I like being a man and would prefer to be generally more masculine than I am feminine.  That means I will not gossip, be moody, be catty, etc.

There’s A LOT more to this, but I’ll leave at this.

4. Pride and Joy in the success of others.

I want to practice being truly happy for the success and accomplishments of others.  This past weekend, I attended a friends debut fashion show, and visited two friends at their new homes.  One had a beautiful 2-garage 4BDR house in the suburbs of DC.  The other had a chic, modern condo right in the City—a great place for a young couple to be.  I was brimming with excitement for all three friends–I was truly proud of them.

If we’re honest, when others succeed, two destructive thought patterns tend to fester.  Either we feel some resentment or hostility for the persons success, or we beat ourselves up for not being ‘good enough’.  Both mindsets are harmful if allowed to take root.  I’m striving to make sure I don’t dwell in either headspace.

I view the success of others as an inspiration, and I am grateful to have close examples of the possibilities that life offers.  Besides, even from a purely selfish perspective, you should want friends to succeed.  If you have friends with money, friends that can open up different social circles from what you have, that are well networked, etc, that enriches your life and offers the potential for future opportunity.   Don’t hate!

5. Bullshit doesn’t concern me.

Basically by bullshit I mean trivialities that don’t matter that we worry about anyway.  Like worrying about the order in which cc’s appear in an office e-mail.   Or wondering if person X will hate you if you don’t invite them to your party—something that’s not under your control.   Worry should be reserved for events that deserve worry.

In this I’m including stuff like celebrity gossip, and entertainment awards, and reality TV.  Mild curiosity is ok—but being emotionally invested in this stuff is really pointless.

6. Nobody’s better than me, but I’m not better than anyone either.

I’m working on not being intimidated by status.  Status can be very intimidating and turn people into supplicating suck-ups.  That status can be from fame, from an authority position, or in the case of women it can be from looks (how many times have we men been guilty of doing something for a girl ONLY because she was very attractive?).   If status intimidates you, the sinister flipside is that by definition, you’d also expect others to bow down to you.   If you think others are better than you then you subscribe to a hierarchical world view in which just the way you see some above you, you see some below you.

How do you treat service personnel?  Do I ever find myself thinking, “I’m above, this person talking to me like that”? etc.  At work when you walk past people of a lower seniority do you ignore them, but always greet people who are senior to you?

These are principles that I’m going to strive to refocus my life on.