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Reflections

August 30, 2021

I had a decent amount of fun writing this one. This post contains two sections. The first one is about what I currently consider to be humanity’s primary problems. I think various interesting topics can fall under any of these: consider the danger of machine learning an ethical consideration, as well as a potential education issue, for example. (In fact, many things in life are education issues.)

The second section of this post is all about my thoughts on various aspects of life, after going through a period of self-reflection and introspection.

Humanity’s most important problems

  1. Ecological collapse. At our current trajectory, we are on the path of self-extinction, which begins with our planet being devastated by various natural disasters. If the biggest polluters don’t act, we cannot win this battle. Individuals have some power, but large companies and industry hold much more sway over this than we’d like to admit.

  2. Loss of specialisation. I think we are quite complacent in how we build far too often on top of existing foundations. Due to the nature of society, people need to be better at more things (in general). As a result, specialisations seem to be dying out, which is an unfortunate development. This might eventually cause problems in real life, with the loss of knowledge.

  3. Lacking education. Misinformation and disinformation are way too prevalent on various social networks, and newer generations are not equipped to differentiate the right from the wrong. “Doing your own research” is a common phrase that is nonsense in many contexts, because unless you are a specialist you have to accept you cannot grasp some concepts correctly to make judgments about right and wrong. In a casual setting, it is very hard nowadays for folks to be able to admit that they are wrong - and this problem is not only a problem in a casual setting. I believe capable teachers are not being paid enough or not teaching because the private industry is capable of offering better wages.

  4. Ethical considerations in regard to new technology. I’ve talked about this before, but as our technology advances, we have to be careful about thinking through what it is that we are doing to enforce the correct and ethically responsible usage of said technology. Our legislation is currently hopelessly behind the times.

Thoughts on aspects of life

These are personal perspectives. I believe that people should follow their own beliefs, but for those who are curious… here you go. Feel free to totally disagree with me on some of these.

The Mind

I think we should take good care of ourselves, and the first thing you should focus on is your mind, because it can help you in other areas of your life.

The mind is our most powerful weapon, while simultaneously our most dangerous opponent. One thing I heard not too long ago is this: “in a conflict with your mind you are always the loser, even if you win, because a part of you lost the argument”. It is generally not worth fighting your mind. When dealing with anxiety or internal conflict, it is almost always better to address the problem, redirect your thoughts or to surrender than to fight your mind.

We should take good care of our minds, because depression and anxiety can be debilitating forces that will lower your quality of life. Thankfully, we can do something about that using various techniques, including therapy and meditation.

Relationships

Clear and honest communication is key to maintaining long relationships. Do not lie to each other, and most importantly: try not to lie to yourself. Maintaining long term close relationships often requires a bit of work (healthy in case of compromise, unhealthy in the form of actual one-sided sacrifice). If compromise becomes sacrifice, your relationship is probably compromised. (I apologize for the pun.)

Lies and deceit will undermine trust. Relationships without trust are worthless and to be discarded, because if you cannot trust a person, you are building on a crumbling foundation. You may wish to repair trust, which is possible in certain situations. You may need to cut people who are dishonest or of no value from your life, no matter how painful.

Romance

Attraction and sexuality are complex matters that are not easily discussed in our society. I believe establishing boundaries and communicating clearly is extremely important in order to live a healthy life, especially if intimacy is involved.

There’s all kinds of people out there, but for me, monogamy is the right way to live. I understand that it is possible to be attracted to multiple people at the same time, but I also believe that you should be able to decide who you want to be with; you should not play with people’s emotions. I understand that some folks might be polyamorous, but to me, that seems like having your cake and eating it too: I just don’t want that in my own life. As usual, others are free to do whatever they wish.

Spiritual

I was raised somewhat Catholic, but consider myself not religious (agnostic, leaning atheist). For humanity as a whole, religion had a historical purpose, but is a reason for much cultural disagreement in our current society. Different belief systems and a desire to follow a “canon” truth or story filled with prejudice and problematic rhetoric seem like a great reason for conflict.

I think religious scripture, if taken as the literal word of a deity, may be dangerous. The more closely you adhere to the literal interpretation of these (ancient) words, the more irrational your behaviour might seem to be. You have to be able to accept reality as it is today, and understand the historical context of the original scripture.

The way religious institutions (congregations, etc.) can bring people together may prove to be helpful to society, if not done for the wrong reasons. I also believe religion might naturally disappear over the next few centuries, or at the very least evolve significantly. (Assuming humanity sticks around for centuries, which might not be so obvious given our current environmental concerns.)

Politics

On the political spectrum, I’m divided on various issues. I would consider my general political leaning to be fairly liberal. I believe in enforcing freedoms, but I understand why some prefer a more hands-on approach to government that enforces more rigid rules. I believe it is hard to draw the line sometimes. I do believe in government, no matter how ineffective it might be.

I also believe that capitalism, in general, has had many negative effects on our society and has seriously impacted our home world. I do not believe we can easily distance ourselves from capitalism since money is a universal force of power in the world at this point. As such, it will always be the loudest voice in the room - until it is too late. I do not believe that radical change will turn the tide, humans are humans after all.

I believe in science and scientific progress. It’s perhaps strange to write this down, but it’s true and important, especially in the times we live in. There’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, which is unfortunate. We don’t know all there is to know, but we do seem to edge further away from ignorance as time moves on. Let us hope this persists. It is my mentality that we should let experts do their job.

Lifestyle

I think a healthy lifestyle means paying attention to what you eat, how much you work out, how much you sleep, how you deal with stress. These are important and you should always put these first. Without proper sleep or proper fitness, you will always be living a more muted life than you could be. Take care to identify reasons for stress in your life, and find out how to mitigate unneeded stress. A bit of introspection is required to accomplish this.

I believe that one should limit (or even better, eliminate) their use of alcohol and drugs if at all possible. Obviously I’m talking about mind-altering substances here, not about taking drugs or supplements for medical purposes. I personally do not consume alcohol or drugs for this very reason.

Also important to note: sometimes it is easier to not expose yourself to particular addictive behaviours (“non-exposure”) than to actively avoid temptation (“resistance”).

This can apply to anything, whether it is a video game addiction or an alcohol addiction. It’s why a change of scenery often helps when dealing with the detox process, because you often remove yourself from the problem in question.