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Your reality is constructed for you


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#1
starspawn0

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No, I don't mean physical reality.  Obviously, there is a real world "out there" that we all share.  However, you may not realize the degree to which much of what you value is some other person's vision of what matters.  This is an important thing to realize, if you are young (say, less than 40 years of age); because, one day the torch will be passed to you -- it will then be your burden to help others find meaning, and that usually entails projecting your meaning into the world for them to build on.  

 

This all sounds very abstract, so let me make it a little more concrete:  when I was younger, I delighted in trying to solve problems by esteemed mathematicians from an earlier era.  Many of them left problems for later generations to solve, the solutions of which required pushing the boundaries a little further.  The challenge in producing good problems like this is to find ones that are neither too difficult nor too easy, that are right at the boundary between the two.  

 

As I became older, I came to realize that what looked to be problems of unassailable interest, were actually merely products of the culture and age in which they were written.  An alien life-form might not find them at all interesting; in fact, might have a different cognitive style altogether, and find them "trivial", or merely "random" ("why would anyone find that random problem so interesting?").  Thus, math is more firmly a subject of the humanities than is often realized.  There is objective truth in applying the rules of logic; but deciding what to apply it to -- deciding what matters -- is not so clear-cut.

 

And now I'm often asked to come up with interesting problems, and I'm always at a loss for what to say when people look up to me.  It's not a burden I wish to bear; and yet, the alternative -- turning my back on it -- leaves the world feeling a little emptier.  

 

Perhaps another way to describe it is that we're all playing Santa Claus in some way or another, wrapping the world in mystery, hiding the cold, dark, empty void that people aren't ready to deal with.  Even people who say, "Let them invent their own meaning," don't really mean it -- because they invariably invest in a community and sense of meaning and purpose already designed for them, whether it be "progressive politics", "mathematics", or what have you.  Truly inventing ones own, unique meaning is often isolating, and the greater the distance from what came before, the more isolation that is required.  

 

When you get to be my age (not far from 50 years old), you begin to see the void more and more.  Alan Watts spoke of this often, incidentally, but using different language.  You begin to see how much value people place in ideas and problems and solutions that were dreamed-up by people you knew -- or knew of.  I have the urge to reveal there is no Santa Claus, and say, "Yeah, he dreamed that problem up in a bar in Toronto back in the year 2000, drunk.  You realize it's arbitrary, right?  What, you think if you solve that problem that God will show up or something?" 

 

But maybe none of this means anything to any of you, because you're not old enough yet.  You haven't yet found out there is no Santa Claus; or, if you have, you don't really feel it yet in your bones the way that I do. 

 

Ahhh.... how I wish I were 20 years old again, or even 30, and had my memory wiped, so I could feel the world had meaning again.  I remember all the nihilistic messages when I was that age, and nodded at hearing them; but it never really penetrated the way that it does now.  I suppose I will have to bear the torch passed to me a while longer, and share my meaning while I still exist.  It won't cover up the emptiness, but is the closest thing to it within my power.



#2
Erowind

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"No, I don't mean physical reality.  Obviously, there is a real world "out there" that we all share."

 

From the title I first thought this was going to be some postmodernist rejection of some sort. Pleasantly corrected that this isn't the case. Your post is insightful and good!

 

When you get to be my age (not far from 50 years old), you begin to see the void more and more.  Alan Watts spoke of this often, incidentally, but using different language.  You begin to see how much value people place in ideas and problems and solutions that were dreamed-up by people you knew -- or knew of.  I have the urge to reveal there is no Santa Claus, and say, "Yeah, he dreamed that problem up in a bar in Toronto back in the year 2000, drunk.  You realize it's arbitrary, right?  What, you think if you solve that problem that God will show up or something?" 

 

But maybe none of this means anything to any of you, because you're not old enough yet.  You haven't yet found out there is no Santa Claus; or, if you have, you don't really feel it yet in your bones the way that I do. 

 

Ahhh.... how I wish I were 20 years old again, or even 30, and had my memory wiped, so I could feel the world had meaning again.  I remember all the nihilistic messages when I was that age, and nodded at hearing them; but it never really penetrated the way that it does now.  I suppose I will have to bear the torch passed to me a while longer, and share my meaning while I still exist.  It won't cover up the emptiness, but is the closest thing to it within my power.

You've probably already read at least one translation of The Tao Te Ching (partial to Ursula K. Le Guin's myself.) Perhaps the book did nothing for you in which case I can't help any. But if it did, if you felt something, maybe lean into that feeling more? It's a pleasant path to walk. I was wrapped up in that nihilism myself for years, teenagers really probably shouldn't read Nietzsche or similarly downtrodden philosophers like Schopenhauer. But, and perhaps it's easier for me to say this since I am so young and my ego still holds out hope for anti-aging research; I firmly believe life and death are illusions.

 

More importantly, our work whatever it may be is permanent. Its imprint on this universe is real, and in times and spaces far beyond our egos capability to perceive that impact, it will still be there. We never really die, our work never really fades. We are the universe itself, creation itself. Its not arbitrary as whimsical as the circumstances may seem at times. We willed it! (Whatever it is.) The many physical forces of the universe itself put the grand opera of all existence at play leading up to those moments when we act. Why go seeking for some great conductor to imbue meaning into our existence and actions when that meaning is already glaring us in the eyes with every breath-and lack of--we take? Why be disappointed when no conductor is present? None will be found that way and the meaning to it all is there whether we perceive and seek it or not.

 

Isn't it enough to act and not act?

 

cLvg5Db.gif

 

https://terebess.hu/...tao/_index.html

(many translations)



#3
tomasth

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Everyone/everything start somewere/somewhen , its like rock climing , when your in it the other mountins don't matter only the part you find yourself in does.

 

The world is wrapped in mystery , as everyone is a newcomer to some part.

 

Some things matter more then others , inventing life extention may seem obvious in a 200 years , and some aliens may never age or thought of the idea of ageing to find it of interest , but from were human up to today stand , it matters.



#4
starspawn0

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Alan Watts describes a similar idea as my post here:

https://genius.com/A...-life-annotated
 

And come along about 45 years of age, maybe you are a Vice President. And it suddenly dawns on you that you’ve arrived with a certain sense of having been cheated, because it is just the same life as it always felt. And you are conditioned to be in desperate need of a future. So the final goal that this culture prepares for us is called retirement – when you will be a senior citizen and you will have the wealth and the leisure to do what you always wanted, but you will at the same time impotence, rotten prostate and false teeth and no energy. So the whole thing from beginning to end is a hoax.


Not only do they condition you, but they tell you what that future should be, and even what the available futures are. And even the present. And the alternative of no such plan is even worse.

#5
tomasth

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Who are they ? What specificly do those particular individual say ? Do everyone get that message ?

 

Do you have better sources for those then Alan Watts ?



#6
funkervogt

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I don't see how solving math theorems can be thought of as a pointless exercise. Doing so adds to the corpus of human knowledge. In a world where most human effort is spent merely surviving and indulging in consumption that will soon be forgotten, even seemingly uninteresting mathematics and hard science research is a shining jewel. 



#7
funkervogt

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On the other hand, I'm a nihilist and agree with your general sentiment that many of the values and notions people take for granted are "manufactured." Our elders and society as a whole indoctrinate us with those beliefs when we are young and our minds are highly susceptible to receiving "programming." It takes decades of experience as an adult to realize the truth (some never do). 

 

Why not just wallow in nihilism and give up? I like to think that humans still have the noble mission to invent AGI. Doing so would inaugurate a new era in the history of our civilization, our planet, and perhaps our universe. Humanity's purpose is to hold things together long enough--as hard as it might be at times--and to keep advancing science and technology--however slow the pace might get--until that moment.  



#8
starspawn0

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"They", as in "culture... groups of people".

 

Even your asking that question, "Who are they?" reminds me of cultural programming from my own life.  I recall when I was very young, attending an advanced studies program in a summer school, telling an instructor that "the scientists say..." and being challenged with "What scientists?!  What experts?!"  Until that point in time I had never thought to ask that question (remember, I was very, very young).   Anytime I hear that question, asked in that interrogatory way, I remember that old, skeptic woman who taught that summer class.  It's like a hallmark of skeptic-speak in my mind -- "When someone says such-and-so said, always ask who that such an so was!  Don't let them weasel out of it with vagaries and abstractions!"

 

What I have described, and what Watts described, are common facets to what is called a "midlife crisis", which is very common (it's not usually anything needing clinical help):

 

https://en.wikipedia.../Midlife_crisis

 

It usually hits people about my age (mid-to-late 40s, and on into the mid-50s).  It manifests in different ways in different people.  Some people worry that they haven't accomplished much in life -- that doesn't bother me -- others see how "empty" or "arbitrary" even the most basic elements of our lives can be.  Even values that we can argue persuasively.  "If you can argue them, then why doesn't the logic take hold?" -- and the answer is that, as anyone skilled in debate will tell you, there is usually an argument for the other side, too.

 

Regarding how values are influenced by culture, I remember hearing just the other day a Vox podcast interview with Bryan Stephenson (see his bio)

 

https://www.stitcher...wealth-50175973

 

talk about how American settlers in the 19th century and earlier didn't think of themselves as horrible people, yet they treated Native Americans as "subhuman", and so had no problems with killing millions of them over the centuries.  The author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum -- beloved by children and skeptic philosophers for his discussions on mechanical intelligence (I think Daniel Dennett wrote something positive about his work "Tik-Tok of Oz", but maybe I'm confusing him with some other skeptic philosopher) -- even argued for the extermination of native Americans:

 

https://www.npr.org/...ative-americans



#9
tomasth

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skepticism is a good code in the librery of one's cultural programming , can be a double-edge sword like that merchants of doubt book , or self questioning proper intuitions.

 

Its odd that such a crisis come at the some age , as if there is biological clock rather then a realisation about one's life or culture.

 

What people usually do if they see their previous values as arbitrary is to search why they had them in the first place and not just throw them away. They then usually search for a higher ground that put them in better state then those arbitrariness they've seen. So its an opportunity.

It get backfire if one go from a shallow view of a better prespective to a deeper one of a shallower one. (secular europeans becoming jihadists fighting for ISIS , is one , or some people convert to the same religon several times spiraling up too slow to the deeper prespective)

 

 

 

extermination others used to be a viable option for all cultures , becouse the in group of humanity didn't have other human shapes being , its only when they become so strong it becomes a real option to do so that some started to and confronted with that actuality , that viable option were changed.

 

If humanity get even stronger by tech advancements ("eclipses the industrial revolution as thoroughly as it eclipsed the agricultural revolution" to quote David Roodman) , it could actualized potentialities that confronting them would change out cultures even more then the no-extermination change.

 

 

funkervogt

 

"Humanity's purpose" (both parts) is what some question.

 

if AGI comes , it can hasten the dismantaling of the category of Humanity and doubt away purposes without finding anything higher.

(if human is the same as uploads/AGI that don't need breathing/eathing why not wirehead which is just more engeniring/programming with entropy men-handeling , so why not keep the universe natural and avoid life/artificial , type arguments)



#10
TranscendingGod

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"They", as in "culture... groups of people".

 

Even your asking that question, "Who are they?" reminds me of cultural programming from my own life.  I recall when I was very young, attending an advanced studies program in a summer school, telling an instructor that "the scientists say..." and being challenged with "What scientists?!  What experts?!"  Until that point in time I had never thought to ask that question (remember, I was very, very young).   Anytime I hear that question, asked in that interrogatory way, I remember that old, skeptic woman who taught that summer class.  It's like a hallmark of skeptic-speak in my mind -- "When someone says such-and-so said, always ask who that such an so was!  Don't let them weasel out of it with vagaries and abstractions!"

 

What I have described, and what Watts described, are common facets to what is called a "midlife crisis", which is very common (it's not usually anything needing clinical help):

 

https://en.wikipedia.../Midlife_crisis

 

It usually hits people about my age (mid-to-late 40s, and on into the mid-50s).  It manifests in different ways in different people.  Some people worry that they haven't accomplished much in life -- that doesn't bother me -- others see how "empty" or "arbitrary" even the most basic elements of our lives can be.  Even values that we can argue persuasively.  "If you can argue them, then why doesn't the logic take hold?" -- and the answer is that, as anyone skilled in debate will tell you, there is usually an argument for the other side, too.

 

Regarding how values are influenced by culture, I remember hearing just the other day a Vox podcast interview with Bryan Stephenson (see his bio)

 

https://www.stitcher...wealth-50175973

 

talk about how American settlers in the 19th century and earlier didn't think of themselves as horrible people, yet they treated Native Americans as "subhuman", and so had no problems with killing millions of them over the centuries.  The author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum -- beloved by children and skeptic philosophers for his discussions on mechanical intelligence (I think Daniel Dennett wrote something positive about his work "Tik-Tok of Oz", but maybe I'm confusing him with some other skeptic philosopher) -- even argued for the extermination of native Americans:

 

https://www.npr.org/...ative-americans

So what is it called when you've been in a "midlife crisis" since you were a teenager? And how do i get out of it?


The growth of computation is doubly exponential growth.

#11
Erowind

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/\ kinda a quarter life crisis, but tbh the archetype of x-life crisis doesn't generally fit reality. The forces of alienation, domination and oppression are exceedingly powerful in this society, even on the upper classes (they are enslaved to their gilded god after all.) It may seem reductionist to immediately tie this into class but it's really not, we live in a class system, it pervades all aspects of life and leaves both sides of the relationship wanting. In short, capital killed whatever cultural framework we had to guide us and turned it into a mere image of itself that can be bought and sold long ago. That doesn't mean there weren't eccentric misfits who have always been alienated by society but I reckon it used to be less common for better or worse.

 

Us modern folk in much of the world lack the guidance of ritual, the purpose of hard religion, the security of community, the pleasure of any festival not dedicated to the production and consumption of commodity. Our genes of thousands of years of cultural inertia and expected embodied experience have been broken. We've been thrust into an age where the vessel of our body and mind our soul is bound to are both a relic caught out of time and a machine built for a different place. Frame it through whatever lens suits you. Marxism, futureshock or some esoteric evolian musing. It is truly a trying time to be a human and I'm not sure there is any getting out of it on the individual level. I mean look at Starspawn0's post, not to imply anything offensive to him, but it reads as if he's having some conflict himself right now. 

 

I'm too busy with my much more mundane daily struggles to let these piercing abstract questions creep in right now. And besides, if I'm gonna go out the best way is to do it like Scatman John. No point in fussing over it. Live life to the fullest you can in the moment, treat people well, and don't worry about the rest. 

 

https://youtu.be/02vDkMEdIkY?t=49



#12
starspawn0

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There's another phenomenon similar to midlife crisis that afflicts astronauts:

https://en.wikipedia...Overview_effect
 

It is the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, "hanging in the void", shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this "pale blue dot" becomes both obvious and imperative.


I would say that anyone who has stared deeply into "the void" -- whether inner or outer -- could experience this.






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