Category: Ideas Page 1 of 2

climate change - fear porn

Fear Porn

The internet and TV news is jam-packed with fear porn. Fear porn is stories and ideas that intend to fill us with fear. Unfortunately, many of us are addicted to this kind of information and even seek it out. Even though it isn’t good for us, or even what we want, we keep consuming it, either by choice or because it is the only show in town.

I recently read an article in the Guardian, that was about a woman who decided she wasn’t going to have children because of climate change. The article went into how there is a growing number of people who shared and follow this ideal.

The general position of the movement is that people are the problem. Or better yet, too many people are the bane of all the earth’s ailments. This means to followers that having kids contributes to the existential crisis of global warming. Halfway through the article, it is pointed out that having fewer kids will not have much of an effect on climate change. In essence, the assumptions about the problem are deeply flawed.

It Is About Fearing The Future

At this point, the article changes it’s tone and goes into how these people believe the world is going to hell and that the future will be horrible. It explains that the amounts of pollution going forward, is going to be severe and temperatures will be so high, that the world won’t be a safe place. I may be exaggerating the point, but the general sense is that these people believe we are in environmental end times.

I get the feeling that many people fear that the world is going to hell. Some also believe we are destroying everything mother nature has given us. Along the same lines, some people think we are essentially creating a lifeless future.

No doubt, this could be a possibility. But it seems that a lot of the information we get from the media is full of a sense of fear. This fear, in turn, encourages us to stay inside and avoid all the terrible things that might happen if we go out. Being stuck inside and afraid of going out, we consume more media that then fills us with more fear. As evidence of this, my mother warns me about going for walks at night; she believes it is dangerous to be outside after dark.

It may be true, that the world is headed to hell in a hand-basket; and all our fears could be real. But public intellectuals like Steven Pinker, a Harvard Professor, suggest we live in the safest most peaceful times in all history.

Blame The Media

But the mainstream and alternative media are trying to make us believe the opposite. It is not all their fault; we seek it out and love junk about how terrible the world is. As an example, look at the popularity of true crime stories. These stories are manufactured entertainment about horrific events. In this sense, they make crimes more real, even though most of us would have forgotten about them.

The media is part of the problem; no doubt they make a point of focusing on how horrible things are. In part they have to because that kind of content pays the bills, fixed eyes are great for advertising. And to some extent, this is what people want, at least that is what gets them to read and watch more. And these days, in a world led by ad-clicks and attention, content creators have no other choice.

Of course, amazing things are happening all the time, but they don’t pay the bills, so they get less coverage. But even worse, when it does get covered, we tend to write it off as cynical or sad. In a sense, a lot of good news is instead a different kind of bad news.

Could This Be Fear Porn

This brings us back to the idea of fear porn. I can’t say the only reason why people watch porn is because they want quick and visceral sexual satisfaction. But that seems to be the case and is also the case with fear porn. Rather than beating around the bush, fear porn jumps right into inciting fear.

The reasons why fear porn is so popular may have something to do with our biological responses to it. On one hand, it may induce a fight-or-flight state into our minds. Equally terrifying, we may live in a society addicted to the stress hormone cortisol. Either way, fear porn appears to exploit these two systems for nefarious purposes.

I am an occasional consumer of fear; my flavour of choice tends to be financial information. I’d argue that it is true, but in reality, it is nothing more than fear-inducing facts. You could even argue, it serves no purpose other than filling me with fear about the future. The facts may be accurate, but I can’t do anything to stop what is coming, so being fearful makes little sense.

Watching this kind of ‘news’ makes me feel strange, but afterwards, I seek similar feelings. Along the same lines, I have a friend who is into AI and automation, for him that is the kind of fear he seeks. This is like my fear of the economy and the lady from the articles fear of global warming.

The lady in the article was avoiding having children because of the hellish future she saw. I would suggest, that the only way one could have come to that kind of conclusion, is by watching way too much fear porn.

This isn’t to say the concerns of fear porn aren’t real, who knows what the future will bring. But, all this fearful information is hurting us and making our lives more stressful. Fear, uncertainty and doubt are at memorable highs, yet statistics show, this is one of the safest times in history.

It seems the personalized internet has created a market for fear. Because of this, we end up needing or getting more of it all the time. This pollutes our world views and makes it seem like the world is worse than it is. Like any addiction, growing desensitization leads to an increasing need for a stronger dose.

We Can Get Over The Addiction

If you discover you have picked up a fear porn addiction, it is best to accept that it is happening. From there, you can make a point of trying to control it. The biggest problem with this kind of addiction is that it fills us with fear. But it also convinces us into thinking we need more info as things can only get worse. Of course, we may have an accurate view of the future, but the future isn’t here, so what’s to say we are right? Even more, why worry about things we can’t control or do anything about?

From my personal experience, realizing I was addicted to fear, helped me get over it. Once I changed my consumption, the algorithms picked it up and suggested different content. This, in turn, makes it easier to avoid the fear I was consuming in the past.

It is natural to fear the future because the future is unknown. But rather than seeking lousy news, we should try to create a better world today. Forget about the ‘facts’ and focus on what you can do now. If the future looks terrible, stop looking to the future and focus on making now better. If you can make now better, then the future will follow. It all comes down to the idea that you can only make the world a better place by focusing on what you can do yourself.

Knowing that clicks and attention drive our online lives, it is fair to say that someone is profiting off of our fear. If that is the case, how can we even be sure we are being told the truth? Could instead our fear be feeding the beast in an attempt to increase profits? Either way, too much information about a terrifying topic isn’t doing us any good.

If the above doesn’t work, look around. Things are way better than they seem from the information on our screens. Try it for a day or two, avoid everything online and only watch what happens around you. You will be pleasantly surprised to see how peaceful and calm the world is. Life may be getting worse in some ways, but it is also getting better in many other ways.

We should avoid or ignore fear porn, then it will be easier to embrace a more positive outlook. Because after all, the world is a pretty safe place for most of us.

about being back in school

Having Dreams About Being Back In School

I’ve recently started keeping a dream journal. Keeping a dream journal is something I have done in the past, but have found a new passion for recently. One of my first observations is that I have a lot of dreams about being back in school. Some of these dreams have found me at grade school, others at high-school and some in college.

Reading A Book About Dreams

The reason I got into recording my dreams again, is that I read a book on the science of dreaming. It talked about all the different scientific discoveries related to dreams. This included information about how lucid dreaming was first verified as a real phenomenon.

If you aren’t sure about what lucid dreaming is, in the most basic sense, it is becoming aware that you are dreaming. Many people may have become aware of this idea because of the movie Inception. Inception is about corporate espionage done through tapping into peoples dreams. Though taking control of your dreams the way they did in the movie is a very advanced form of lucid dreaming.

As for the verification, it was done by observing eye movements that had been previously agreed upon. The idea being, that while someone is lucid, they can look around in their dream, following a pattern. The assumption was that those eye movements would be observable in the real world. The experiment was successful and created a foundation for further research on the topic.

Dreams Are About Balance

One interesting idea from the book was that dreams are a way for our minds to deal with the events of our day. In a way, dreams provide us with a way to try and make sense of what has happened. Or, they can be a way for our minds to find balance with what we have experienced. In this sense, they even us out psychologically. This balance can be helpful when things aren’t going well, but it can also provide balance when things are going good. There is also the view that dreams are a way for our minds to reinforce the things we already believe.

In the extreme, when a dramatic event happens in our lives, dreams are there to help us deal with those emotions or help us work them out. From this perspective, reoccurring dreams can be there to get us to take actions on things we have been ignoring or refusing to address. At the same time, they can occur to remind us of the feelings they are inspiring in us. This last explanation is interesting when it comes to dreams about being back in school.

Due to my reoccurring dreams about being back in school, I decided to look up the meaning of those dreams. Many of the descriptions I found suggested that these dreams are reflecting our emotional states in school. The explanations, also said that these sorts of dreams are often negative because many of our experiences in school were negative. School might not have been bad, but for many of us, it was the first time we experienced challenges.

In this sense, we have dreams about school because we are experiencing similar emotions as we had back then. If your life is stressful now, then dreams about school might be a reflection of the stress you first had while you were in school.

For me, my dreams aren’t so negative. But many of them are about missing a class or having an exam or assignment that I am not prepared for. These kinds of themes seem pretty typical from the various dream descriptions I read.

The Meaning Of Dreams About Being Back In School

Putting this in perspective, it would have been stressful to miss an exam or not be ready for an assignment. So our minds have created associations with those emotions and experiences. On top of all of this, because they happened early in life, they are a sort of emotional foundation for many of us.

That said, on a grand scale of potentialities, I could imagine much more stressful dreams, then those about school. At the same time, work isn’t as stressful as school was, at least in part because I’ve been able to work out ways of dealing with it. On top of this, surprise exams aren’t that common anymore, but unexpected events might be.

I get the impression that many of our first emotionally significant events happened while we were in school. Now, our minds use those experiences to try and give context to what is happening in our lives now. When we are young and in school, we lacked experience, so everything is new and an opportunity for learning. As we get older, we have new experiences, but now our minds try to fit them into the templates of our past. This isn’t to suggest that the things we learnt in school were any more important than what we learn now. Instead, they are the first experiences we have so that makes them significant.

Missing an exam would have made us feel unprepared and unready for what was coming. Having a similar experience now feels the same way because it reminds us of those memories. Our school experiences would have been our first glimpse of ‘real life.’ Other things could have happened since, but for our ‘work-life,’ exams and assignments seem like a perfect predecessor.

Saying this doesn’t mean I’m sure that this is the cause of our dreams. The truth is, we don’t often know what our dreams are about, and many factors often influence them. But if we humour the view that a lot about what we know in life came to us as kids. School is the archetypal setting for lessons to be learnt.

What These Dreams Mean To Me

Using that idea and being honest with myself about what these dreams mean, it likely has to do with the time I spend on my writing. As a child in school, writing was often a traumatic event; it would have been a massive point of conflict and self-doubt. Those same emotions are likely haunting me now. Subconsciously, I may be wondering if my work is good enough. Further, it could be about questioning if I am living up to the standards I’ve set for myself.

From my perspective, these interpretations make sense. That said, these aren’t the only possible explanations. What else could explain these reoccurring dreams about being back in school? I’m not sure, but I’m not in school these days, nor am I considering it, so any explanation would likely link back to learning.

Have you had dreams about being back in school? What do they mean to you? Let me know in the comments below.

horoscope was right

My Horoscope Was Right!

Most weeks I check out my horoscope, but this week my horoscope was right. It isn’t so much that I believe in them, or think they are real. But they are usually positive and motivating in some way. I know the argument, horoscopes are written so generally that they apply to everyone. I also realize that they come from random people on the internet, who get paid to make up positive statements. But these facts don’t concern me. No doubt they are valid criticisms, but they don’t have anything to do with why I read my horoscope.

Horoscopes Aren’t That Crazy

In a philosophical sense, there is no denying that the day you were born has some effect on the life you live and the person you become. For a quick affirmation of this, consider the book Outliners by Malcolm Gladwell. He talks about how when looking at successful Canadian hockey players, a majority of them are born in the first few months of the year. From personal experience, I can verify that being born at the end of the year makes a lot of things more difficult. I played hockey as a child but was always smaller and weaker than my teammates. By the time I caught up in size, it was the next season and a new league. Once again I was one of the youngest kids on the team.

The thing is, much of life is influenced by coincidences of time. Sure they are often human conceptions, like age ranges for school or hockey teams. But, there is also something deeper to all this, that is not a human creation. Take, for example, the seasons. Being born in the summer versus the winter must play some role in the people we become. For one thing, consider the different foods our mothers may have eating because of the seasons.

All in all, it would be difficult to make an argument that could stand the strict regiment of science, but it doesn’t seem all that crazy a claim to make. When we are born during the year, has some effect on who we become. How much it matters in comparison to genes and other factors would be harder to quantify. Regardless, when we are born is a part of the equation. I’m not claiming that the things a horoscope says are right, only that there is some foundation behind the idea. After all, the idea of a horoscope must have come from somewhere, right?

My Horoscope My Life

Now that we have our investigation of horoscopes out of the way, we can get to the story. A few Fridays ago, I was talking to my manager about work and asking him questions about our company. He seems pretty open-minded, so I can be honest with him. He knows that I like to write and am working on some books. While we were talking, I mentioned my dream was to write books as my job. We also talked about how I’ve been afraid to take chances and do things out of the norm.

In particular, we talked about houses, I said I’d like to buy a home, but they are too expensive in this area. He said I could get out of the GTA or move to another province where prices are more affordable. I said that was an interesting idea, but I couldn’t do it because my family wouldn’t be happy about it. With that idea, we got into talking about doing things because we want to live a life for other people rather than ourselves.

That point resonated with me, because after I had graduated from college, I considered moving back to Korea and teaching English. It wasn’t so much that I liked the job, but rather the different lifestyle and adventure. At the time, that was what I was seeking, yet, that was also the kind of change I was afraid to make. I didn’t pull the trigger because I was worried about what other people, my family and peers, in particular, would think of my life trajectory.

Back To Work

After the conversation and over the weekend, I was working on my book and editing a section related to being yourself. In that section, I talked about jobs and career paths. I point out that we sometimes do things because they are valued by others, rather than being what we want. The advice I was suggesting in the book, is the same advice I should be following myself, but am sometimes afraid too.

After those events, I returned to work on Monday and checked my horoscope, like I usually do whenever I remember it. For context, I work at a media company that publishes horoscopes every week, so those are the ones I read. To be consistent, it seems necessary to point this out.

Based on all the things that happened the week before reading the horoscope, it seems to make sense and be on the same wavelength as me myself. Again, I acknowledge that this is a coincidence, but it still seems too accurate.

Here is what my horoscope said:

You’re the first one to admit that you often end up living your life according to the expectations that others place on you, rather than following your own needs. The New Moon in Aries will stir up the independent spirit within you. No longer will you feel invisible. It’s time to stand tall and make yourself known as a mover and a shaker. Work out your own requirements and make them a priority. If your head starts to spin and your emotions swirl, you’ll know that you’re doing the right thing. You’ll soon be celebrating. My horoscope’s source.

Of course, this isn’t perfect, and I do look at them every week, so I have fifty or so chances a year to find a match. But still, this seems too accurate to be random.

What exactly it means was yet to be determined. But the coincidence of coming across this horoscope after having that conversation is far too significant to ignore. I had something big on my plate at that time, and that was undoubtedly influencing my perspective. But would that awareness make a difference, at the time it was still to be determined. Regardless, it would be a good idea for me to try to be more conscious and aware of what I want. It would be better for my sanity if I were to ‘live my life instead.’

The Horoscope Relates To My Life

It has been a few weeks since I originally wrote this story, but a couple of things have come to light. The first is that my manager announced that he would be leaving his job and moving to another province. An interesting turn of events considering the advice he gave me during our conversation. As for myself, I was oftered a great job, which if I were to do what other people expected of me, I would have taken. But knowing I need to do what is best for me, I decided to stay at my current job. Reason being, it gives me more time and less stress so that I can focus on my goals as a writer.

In some ways, this may seem like a leap. But at the same time, that horoscope helped put the job opportunity in perspective. I considered taking the job, and the reason was that in the rational perspective of having a successful IT career, it would have been the best choice. But that isn’t what I want, and that would be living up to other peoples expectations over my own. On top of this, the week that I was considering the job offer was one of the most stressful weeks in the last year or so. My head was spinning and my emotions were swirling. With that in mind, writing this story is more in line with my wants and desires. By writing more stuff, I am getting closer to the life I want.

Surely things like this don’t only happened to me. Have you had a similar experience with your horoscope? If so, let me know in the comments below.

science in a lab

Pop Science vs Real Science and Scientism

Scientism is the belief that we have everything figured out. In some ways, it is a problem of pop science vs real science. It suggests that we understand what is happening and assumes there is nothing new under the sun. Simply put, it suggests we know everything there is to know.

Scientism goes deeper, it is the belief that we can quickly explain everything around us. In a sense, there are no hidden forces at play. In other words, it is the idea that we know everything there is to know because of “science.”

Many people, mainly non-scientists tend to hold this belief. Meaning it is often regular people who think they know how the world works. When they talk about a topic, they may say things like, “that isn’t scientific” or “science doesn’t back that up.”

The truth, however, is that these people don’t know much about real science. Often people are fixated on an inaccurate ideology that try to explain how the world works. Even worse, the truth is that people often don’t understand the basics of our day to day experiences or science in general.

There Are Many Unknowns

So much of what we think we know is unknowns or incomplete sets of facts or data. It is estimated that there 45 billion different types of bacteria in the world. So far only about 1 million have been identified.

It is the dominant belief in the scientific community that the universe has more matter than can be explained by observation. So it is assumed that there must be some other type of matter, this additional source is called dark matter. But dark matter has not yet been discovered or observed. In a sense, it isn’t genuinely known to exist, but the math says that it should.

We all walk around with the assumption that we are consciously experiencing the world around us. However, science hasn’t yet found the seed of consciousness or been able to completely map out the parts of the brain that create awareness. Scientists have been able to figure out how parts of the brain relate to parts of the body and functions, like speaking. But a complete overall assessment is not something we can expect anytime soon.

The broader universe is often missing from our understanding and explanations. Put into perspective, we are a tiny little dot next to another tiny dot, next to a vast open space with billions of other small dots. The thing is, we are so small and know nothing about what is happening on all those other small dots throughout outer space.

The point is that there are so many unknowns, that surely we can’t comprehend how much we truly know. Even worse, we don’t know what we don’t know. Being fair, in many fields, like microbiology, as described above, we could say we know less than a fraction of a percent of the facts.

What People Think Scientists Do?

What scientists do, is hard to say, as it isn’t always clear. But there is a seeming belief that scientists know a lot about everything. They are often seen as the authoritative source on all questions related to science, any science at that.

Take Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson as an example. These guys are so-called superstar scientists, although only one of them is a trained scientist. They are often seen on TV and talk about what they know and think. People have faith in their expertise and feel that they are valid sources of information. In many ways this is true, they know lots of things, but to what extent are they an authority on what they are talking about?

People also have a vague sense of what a scientist is due to what they see on TV shows and movies. We like characters like Sheldon Cooper and the other personas on Big Bang Theory. But these are more extreme examples of genius or nerds, rather than scientists per se.

What do Professional Scientists do?

Scientists are generally super experts on super specific niche topics. Which is to say, a scientist may be an expert on the electron spins of a particular atom. Or how species of insects, birds or bacteria interact and reproduce.

To do this, a scientist tends to spend years working hard at making a discovery in a particular niche. Sometimes they even spend years replicating work that has already been done. Or they make developments that are a small addition or update to an already made discovery.

The point is that professional scientists are looking at something very particular. So they spend years becoming a specialist on something that only they and a few others know about. They are not experts on a vast range of topics; instead, as a scientist will tell you, they are experts on something very particular.

All this said, training as a scientist teaches people to realize how difficult it is to know something for sure. For this reason, scientists are often more aware than regular people of how little they truly understand and comprehend.

How is Scientism Applied?

This is the problem, often people don’t know the facts or don’t do the science. They may say they have heard things on TV or read summaries in magazines, newspapers or on the internet. But most peoples knowledge is often limited to what could be called pseudoscience.

Consider the Gell-Mann amnesia effect, which is described as “the phenomenon of an expert believing news articles on topics outside of their field of expertise even after acknowledging that articles written in the same publication that are within the expert’s field of expertise are error-ridden and full of misunderstanding.” [wikipedia] The Gell-Mann amnesia effect is an example of the problem with pop science vs real science.

To honestly know something you must ask an expert or read the original research, but then you only know the facts about one particular perspective. Also, you won’t know all the facts, just some. Science is more of a dialectic than a one answer fits all. There is also the risk of trusting too much in the expertise of other people. Are they indeed an expert in the topics they speak about? Do they know anything more about the subject than you do?

Where Do We Find Scientism?

Scientism often applies to complicated systems or topics that science can’t explain or make sense of. It is true that we can’t prove that God exists, but it is also true that we can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. Herein lies the problem, is the god question even a testable hypothesis? If it isn’t, then it isn’t a topic to be covered by science and is instead a question for a philosopher.

A perfect example of pop science vs real science is Global warming. Inevitably humans pollute and make a mess of the planet. But it is difficult enough to predict tomorrows weather. How can we be sure about a substantially more complex global weather phenomenon? This isn’t to say climate change isn’t a real thing, just that it is incredibly complicated and saying that science has an answer is missing the point of what science can tell us.

Scientism is taking hugely complicated issues, and saying they are solved by science. At the same time not ever having read a single scientific paper nor understanding the methodology or interpretation of the results for yourself. Science and the world are incredibly complicated, the simple answer is often straightforward for a reason, and that is that it isn’t accurate.

More Could Be Possible Than We Think

People often discredited strange ideas quickly based on the assumption that they are not within their expectations of what is possible. It is easy, to say that something has been explained or isn’t real because it hasn’t been proven by science.

But the problem with these sorts of statements is that they are founded on the assumption that the question has been asked. Even worse, often the person making the comments rarely have been exposed to accurate information on the topic. For most people, this is a matter of pop science vs real science. Popular science is what people hear about, real science is mostly out of mind.

Undoubtedly, specific facts have been proven false by science, but on the other hand, many questions have never been put to the test. And that is a concern, how much science has to be done before we can say the science is out on a topic?

Take astrology as an example, admittedly the simplified representation of it sounds fake. But how would you create a valid experiment to test it? How would you gather the evidence, and how would you test your hypothesis? Has anyone done this before? Is it even worth doing?

This is the predicament with many complicated questions. We can’t test them, at least not quickly and they often aren’t profitable enough to honestly examine. In many cases, we can stick with the pragmatic Occam’s razor, which states the most obvious and straightforward explanation is usually correct. At the same time, without evidence, we don’t have an affirmative, just an assumption.

Most of the things we take for granted as being false or fake haven’t been considered, and we have no real reason to believe them to be true or false. We just don’t know. But then, if we are honest, we don’t know many things, and in fact, we hardly know anything. But that isn’t the way we usually act.

Maybe We Don’t Know Much About Anything

This is the thing; science has mostly gone after the low hanging fruit, it has only tested the obvious and practical. There could be way more things to discover, and there are tons of things we know nothing about. This being the case, we should assume that we don’t understand rather than being sure that we do.

We often have the false sense that us humans have got everything figured out, but that just isn’t the case. It is quite the opposite, we hardly know anything about the world around us and are often only grasping at straws.

We can look to experts, and they can give us answers, but for a lot of questions, they are just as limited as we are. I’m not suggesting that you avoid a doctor when you are sick, rather know when an expert is indeed an expert and when they are a talking head.

In truth, we don’t know what is possible or what is right, because, for the most part, the science is still out.

theory of everything

A Theory of Everything

We all have dreams, and it is often hard to live without them. We figure we should be able to meld the world into the image we have of it. In doing this, we feel we will live more fulfilling lives.

Some people are better at this than others, and it seems to come to them more naturally. They appear to know what to do and how to make their dreams a reality. Simply put, they can follow through with their goals.

Some people have the lives we dream of, and this may make us feel powerless. We think at times that we can only imagine having similar experiences. But instead of seeing this as an obstacle, we should see it as a source of motivation. Other peoples success is proof that our dreams are possible and their efforts can act as a guide for us.

Everything is Truly Unknown

Most of what we take for granted as truth is unknown. Most of what we think we know could also be explained in another way. Without a doubt, the world around us seems confusing. Yet it functions as a perfect operating system.

Random chance could account for more than we are willing to accept. Most of the time we don’t know what is indeed happening and our best efforts are often educated guesses.

To confuse things more, discoveries like quantum physics put a damper in our understanding of the world. This new mystery creates potential problems that we didn’t know existed before. As a result, it forces us to question what we currently take for granted.

We can try to use these new theories as tools for a better understanding of the world. But when you think about it, the world they create is outside the scope of what we can currently understand.

Taken seriously, these ideas and theories could be world-changing. In a sense, creating a new starting point, from which we need to reinterpret everything.

Our Brains, the Pattern Finder

The world is a confusing place, yet we are still able to make some sense of it. This is to say, our brains are doing a decent job of perceiving. We can use our previous experience and knowledge to make sense of what is happening around us right now.

Our brains are perfect pattern matching systems. The brains aim is to take the chaos of the world and make it into a meaningful picture. Put another way, our minds take in our experience and match them to things that have happened in the past. This back and forth feedback loop of information creates the world we experience.

We often seem to forget how important our brains are. Surely we know that we need them, but we overlook how they are actively creating the world around us at every moment. Without our mind would there be a world left to see?

The World as a Known Thing

The world exists as a chaotic system of random happenings and chance. Our brains take in these arbitrary inputs and make a consistent, meaningful experience. From this perspective, the world of the known is created by an intuitive process.

Gravity and evolution appear to happen in the world, but these explanations come to us from our minds. In truth, we create these ideas and processes to make sense of what we see happening outside of us.

In this view, the world becomes real because it is known to us. From here we work with what we have and see as possible. But the thing to remember is that the universe exists in a flux. The reason it looks consistent is that our minds create patterns to make it appear that way.

Why Are Things Difficult?

Through living, we learn about how the world works. We build up a sense of how things are and what we need to do to create the things we wish to see.

Further, we learn to be reasonable and work with what we know. This means that while the real world is unknown, we exist in a version of it that conforms to our experience and expectations.

In fact, the more we know, the more rules we must deal with. These rules determine the steps we must take to get to our destinations. Even more striking, the more we believe in the rules, the more power they have over us.

As children, anything and everything is possible. As adults, we are surer of our limitations and the obstacles in our way.

We may still have our childhood dreams, but now we have tons of rules that create barriers to making them real possibilities.

In this sense, we have built a world out of our understanding, and so we must work within its self-imposed structure. In a sense, the rules we create, dictate the steps we must take.

How We Find Success

By being reasonable and following the rules we have defined, we get the results we expect.

From our experience, everything seems to follow the rules. A person builds a successful business because they worked hard and did what they were supposed to. An author writes a great book because he dedicates the time and has the life experiences.

All things follow from assumptions, so all things come from expectations.

In the chaos of the world, success could come from random chance. Yet, it is more likely to happen if we follow our self-defined rules. This isn’t a steadfast law, but what we believe must be true. So by working within expectations, we increase the possibility of getting what we want.

In a sense, success comes from a formulation that arises out of what we want and what we have seen. Even if the rules are fake, they still define how we must interact with everything around us.

Summing It All Up

How do we get the world to match our image of it? To start, we need to dream and set goals. Our dreams and goals become the building blocks for what can be.

In turn, because our rules define what is possible and how things need to be done. We create a set of processes that we must follow.

From here, we build up a new world, where we follow our processes and make our dreams real. When we know what we want, we know what we need to do.

By following our rules, we move forward and ensure that the world is shaped to match our expectations. We can create what doesn’t exist by believing it is possible.

In time the things we dream of become real, and we find the world we hope for.

fake news

All News Is Fake News

Fake News has been around forever, well, at least as long as there has been news. But recently it has become a sort of joke about what the press has become. Fake news is said to be a threat to society, but not for the reasons you’d expect.

We are told that ‘fake news‘ is out to trick us and influence us into believing things that are not true. That may be the case, but at times, the label is used to censor voices that are not approved.

Fake news is a perfect tool to silence dissident voices. The problem is that it comes at a time when it is difficult to trust the so-called good guys.

We think we know who the good guys are, but can we trust them? Can we be sure that they are even trying to tell the truth? After all, they have been wrong about many issues over the years.

Consider these examples, most of the popular news sources were sure that Donald Trump would lose the election. They were confident that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And they were satisfied that no severe economic issues were coming in 2008.

Being cynical about what seems to be happening to the mainstream media. The use of Fake news could be about lost revenues and jealousy rather than truth.

The traditional press is getting killed by new media, like alternative news and YouTube. The changing of the guard could be an incentive to try and silence those who are profiting from this transition.

The 24 Hour News Cycle

There are different types of fake news with varying degrees of falsehood. Absurd conspiracy theories are not at the same level as CNN. But it would be difficult to believe that CNN wasn’t fake to some extent.

Suggesting this isn’t to point the finger at CNN specifically, as Donald Trump did. Instead, it is to make light of the fact that CNN is the biggest name in the news.

Profits power CNN, and it is without a doubt a business. Earning money for news means that its primary aim is ratings and ad revenue. This motivator also suggests that the primary drive isn’t information, but entertainment. Even worse, this means sensationalism needs to be a part of the day to day news cycle.

Compounding this, 24-hour news sources are often a mix of news and opinion. At the best of times, it is hard to tell the difference. Usually, the only thing we can be sure of is that it is likely a mix of the two.

The Problem With Political News

Another kind of fake news comes from sources that have a different political agenda. By necessity, a different political view comes from a different worldview.

Our worldview is an all-encompassing filter of what goes in and comes out of our minds. Meaning our worldview changes the way we see the world and events.

People on the left and right often have conflicting views. A lazy but popular option is to call the other opinion fake. When you disagree with a person’s worldview, most of what they say will not make sense to you.

Ideology creates a subtle form of fake news, as the falsehood comes from political views rather than facts.

Obvious vs. Hidden Bias

When someone is racist or sexist, their bias is often apparent. In a way, it stands out, in part because we are primed to notice these sorts of differences in people.

But other types of biases are much less clear. A great example is the bias of someone who grew up in America. This bias wouldn’t be apparent to most Americans, but Canadians can spot it.

There are always biases in people’s worldview. These biases are influenced by where someone comes from and how they are raised. Professional journalists tend to have a lot in common. They usually live in major urban centres and attended university. They will also have grown to respect news, as they choose it as a career.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, only that it is a factor in anything they produce. Unfortunately, this worldview is not obvious, yet plays a significant role in any content created.

To be clear, when people say fake news, they often mean false or untrue news. But I’d argue, it is more subjective and based on the personal views of the speaker.

Bias Becomes Invisible When Everyone Shares It

In newsrooms, schools, businesses and families, people tend to share similar beliefs. The sharing of views means that any bias amongst them is not visible or noticeable.

The deeper problem comes from human nature, as we often connect with people who we agree. In a sense, we unintentionally create a bubble where we usually only hear opinions with which we already agree.

Due to this problem, we also get less exposure to outside or controversial ideas. Control like this influences the way we perceive events and how we make sense of matters. The difficulty that comes from this is that it is common with the people around us, so it acts like a feedback loop. Our opinions now feed the views we hear about later.

People don’t intend to repeat biases. They are merely trying to be honest about what they believe.

Trusted Sources

When it comes to the news, we go to our trusted sources. We go to the places that we believe we can rely on to be honest. But these sources do the same thing for their information. They use similar sources over and over again because they believe they are truthful.

The problem with this is that it relies on a regression to the past. You believe the story today because the story yesterday seemed to be true.

The problem with a trusted source is that we always go to it for facts. But this means that they have informed our current opinions of what the facts are. For this reason, our views of what is trustworthy become cloudy.

For something to be a fact, it must come from a trusted source. But this reliance is circular, as we use what we already know as support for what we accept today.

What Are Facts Anyway?

There are often few facts for any event. If there is a shooting, we may know who the victim and shooter were. There are also the other W’s like ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when.’ But much of how the story is told is coloured by hidden bias.

If the story has a social justice aspect to it, it implies moral signalling. When race is a factor, it will bring its own assumptions. If there is a lot of depth that brings previously held ideas with it.

For simple events, the facts may be apparent. But most events are complicated, and complexity creates obscurity.

Science takes years of study to certify a single fact. How can a story written in a day get anywhere near the truth?

Besides, not giving all the facts may be a form of lying. The choice of what to include can often paint a different picture.

On top of this, it is impossible to get the whole story, as some angles are hidden or undeclared.

Now To The Risk Of Censorship

The biggest concern with fake news is that it creates a justification for censorship. The left and right label things as fake news to have them removed from public discussion.

Another issue is that if the news doesn’t come from a trusted source, it is by definition fake. This is dangerous because it stops less popular ideas from gaining traction. But it also can act as a barrier to entry for new news sources. If a story isn’t from a trusted source, it can be shadow-banned without notice.

Control like this creates a situation where only the editors of existing trusted sources can decide what is right. In a sense, they get to choose what the truth is.

An aggregator like Facebook also gets to decide what is real, because they control what you see. They can easily block stories that make them or their sponsors look bad. Censorship has already happened many times with Google and will continue in the future.

The risk is that if we are willing to label things as fake, then the line becomes less clear. This kind of censorship takes away our choice and inevitably controls what people say in public.

Is It Bad?

Yes, but fake news is only a problem if we let it get out of control.

It’s often impossible to know what is right, but letting someone else decide is extremely dangerous. We need to make better choices as consumers, and we need to choose our sources and not let someone else decide for us.

In the end, it is all fake news, and the real story is often only a matter of opinion.

robot and ai

What Happens When Robots and AI Take Over?

We take our rights for granted, we figure they are a regular part of life. We also assume we will continue to have these rights and privileges forever.

But what if we only have these rights because we were born at the right time in the right place. What if these rights and privileges only exist because they make us more valuable to the state. Said another way, we get them because they make us better workers.

If this is true, does it mean in time things will change? What if our economies stop functioning the way they do, could these motivations disappear? If collected taxes reduce or governments run out of cash, will they stop protecting us?

Even the most fundamental right, the right to vote comes from the idea that we are valuable to our countries. In exchange for working, we have the right to have our voices heard.

Here Come The Robots

Robots and AI are poised to take over the world by doing most of the work. Will we be valued for our ability to work when a computer can do it better? If this were to happen, we would stop being valuable to the economy. If we aren’t of value, our opinions will stop mattering as well.

In Canada, we have what we call free healthcare, though we all pay for it. The main reason our governments use our tax dollars to pay for this service is that it helps us work better. In turn, working better is of value to the corporations that pay taxes to the government, so it works out.

If we get sick, the health care system repairs us so we can return to work. When companies no longer need us, they won’t want governments to pay for our healthcare. The same reasoning would go for education and public transit.

Consider Today’s Homeless

Today, we can already see this happening in ways. Homeless people tend not to contribute to the economy, so they slip through the cracks. In a sense, they become invisible.

In practice, without an address, it is difficult to vote. Even worse, it is hard to get a job or an ID. As people become “useless” they fall away from societal support.

Proximity also relates to our consciousness of people. As we see people less, we have fewer thoughts about them, and their importance to us decreases. Seeing people as useful is unfair but is often how our social connections work.

On a grand scale, as more jobs get replaced by robots and AI, more humans will be forgotten. People, in general, will become less valuable as they will provide less value.

Is there an easy way out of this situation? Will there be a future for the regular people who don’t create AI and robots?

Some companies will try to slow down this transition due to its cost. But at some point, it will become impossible to avoid letting the robots take over.

What Will The Future Bring

In the future, owning a robot or AI may be the only way to make money.

Even worse, the people with all the money now will also have all the robots and AI. With this, the gap between the rich and poor will grow even more extreme.

This future sounds scary, but is there something we can do to avoid it? What can we do to prepare?

We need a better democracy. Also, we need a political system where people matter more than money and efficiency. We need to figure out better ways to reward people for the value they create.

memes not genes

The Power Of Memes

The Selfish Gene was a paradigm-shifting book on the ideas of evolution. Near the end, Dawkins talks about the power of memes and how they play a role in our evolution. Memes turn out to be a significant factor in our development that is often not considered.

When thinking about genes and evolution, the process often seems slow. Our genetic evolution can only happen from one generation to the next. In reality, it takes many generations for any significant change to occur. Most of us will be dead before any meaningful changes can happen.

Evolutionary timelines are where memes become essential. You could even argue that they are a driving force in our collective evolution. Given recent history, memes are what has made us who we are.

Memes Are Like Genes

Genes have a desire to survive, so they do whatever it takes. Survival in this sense means living on into the next generation. Being passed onto offspring and continuing to live is their ultimate goal.

Survival is especially necessary for genes because when their host dies, they also die. Unless they have been able to pass themselves on, they will be gone forever.

The power of memes is like the power of genes, except instead of being in our DNA, they take up space in our minds.

Meme survival requires that they stay in peoples minds. But they can also survive in books and recordings. The memes found in the bible have had a long lifetime. But even those memes are only a bleep when compared to the longevity of many of our genes.

Evolution in Individuals and Groups

Genes, influence the evolution of our species and groups of individuals. Memes do the same, but if you were to see something happening, it would almost always be in the evolution of memes. Genes are slow and can take generations to pass on.

A virus is an excellent comparative example. The spread of the flu is a method of evolution, as it can act as a culling mechanism. At the same time, it pushes genetic information into infected people, who can then pass it on.

Memes can be learnt fast and change a person in an instant, thus acting like a virus.

From this perspective, people change via their ideas. Facebook as a meme has had a significant effect on the lives of many people around the world. It has caused an evolution of behaviour and a substantial change in lifestyle. This change has been in the ways of individuals, but this also affects the groups.

The Layers of Languages and Ideas

As a child it is easy to pick up a language, at least it seems that way. It is in our nature as children to pick up on what is happening around us. Noam Chomsky suggests this is the case because all humans have a built-in universal grammar. Which could be described as structures in the brain that make picking up languages possible.

Later in life if you learn a second language, you build it up on top of your native language. In this sense, every new word becomes a reference to another word. This is in a sense, the power of memes, they make up everything inside of our heads.

When you start learning a language, you think in your native language then translate to the new one. You continue to use these references as you move forward.

As you get better, the new language builds on its own. Developing structures is also how new ideas and memes work. We have base ideas or groundwork for what we know. From there, we build up new ideas branching from the old and creating new structures.

As we learn new memes, they build on the memes we already know. Our ideas and thoughts layer on top of each other. Layering also means that the meaning of a meme comes from the memes that came before it. Evolution, in this case, is an adaption of our cognitive environment.

What we do is a response to the environment, both physical and mental. The physical environment introduces us to ideas, and our minds adapt and respond. As we evolve in a cognitive sense, our minds change and become something new. From here, our new mental framework acts as an influential factor.

Stories Change Actions

Our stories influence our actions. They lead the way even when we don’t realize it. Memes make up our stories, so memes affect our efforts.

A great example of this is our story about money. Money has no intrinsic value and doesn’t mean anything on its own. It is pieces of paper with ink on them. That said, the stories we tell about money are what gives it its power.

The story is what matters. It gets us out of bed in the morning and has us rushing to work. But the story also tells us it is ok to get a couple of drinks after a, particularly stressful day.

In this sense, we could say stories are a sort of virus of the mind. It gets in, infects us and has us doing things we didn’t do before.

If stories can change our lives and lead us to do things, then we can see them as influencers. Ideas and memes are the genes of action. For this reason, the power of memes is important, because they have the ability to change us and our actions.

If you want people to do something, a good story is a significant first step. The better the story, the better the influence. The easier it spreads, the faster that the meme becomes viral.

Ideas Are Contagious

Like the flu during the winter, Pokemon Go spread across the globe in a few weeks.

Throughout time, the speed at which ideas can travel has continued to increase. Centuries ago, it would take years for an idea to spread across a country.

With the printing press, ideas started to move much faster. Now, we find ourselves in an age where ideas can spread like wildfire. According to Marshall McLuhan, this is because we live in a global village.

China is well aware of this issue and has made significant efforts to lock down ideas. The risks of ideas are part of the reason why the great firewall exists.

In the west, we have a so-called problem with fake news. There are calls to control and moderate stories and sources.

With the right environment, ideas can spread and replicate. In time, they become more prominent than they were ever intended. They can even become something completely different. The power of memes is that they have so much potential, often much more then we expect or can understand.

As social networks grow the world will become smaller and ideas will pass around faster. This passage of memes is causing a global evolution.

Ideas Can Change the World, And That is The Power of Memes

Ideas can spread fast and change the world in the process. Like Google has taken over the search world, dangerous ideas can do the same thing. As the technology to spread ideas becomes more available so too will viral ideas.

Unfortunately, with evolution, things don’t always go in the ‘best’ direction. Evolution is about adapting to environments, but that doesn’t guarantee peace.

With our new found power comes a risk, what if a dangerous viral meme comes along. At the same time, we can have optimism as a great idea could bring us to paradise. Unfortunately, we never know which ones will take hold, so we never know what the future will bring.

bitcoin

Bitcoin Made Super Simple

Did you know you don’t need to own a whole bitcoin? Parts of a bitcoin can be bought and sold.

If you mention Bitcoin or people hear about it on TV, they will ask ‘What is a bitcoin?’ The answer can be simple, or at least it seems like it should be.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency. Decentralized means there is no bank, government or individual who controls it. Instead, it’s powered by a network of computers that share information.

A cryptocurrency is a digital asset based on cryptography. You can think of cryptography as complicated math.

When people think of currency, they often imagine something they can hold in their hand, like a coin or paper. Handling with your hands is not the case with bitcoin, in fact, you can never have a bitcoin.

Bitcoins are on the block-chain. You can’t ‘have’ or ‘own’ bitcoins, rather you hold the ‘password’ to send and receive them.

You might be wondering, what is the blockchain. It is a chain of blocks. For bitcoin, a block is 10 minutes of transaction time. During this time transfers of bitcoin are recorded in a ledger. A ledger is a digital record of the ins and outs from different accounts. To keep things simple, you can see it as an online spreadsheet.

Say I send 0.005 bitcoin to my mom. The ledger would record: Rob -0.005 -> Mom +0.005 (March 5, 7:18 am)

The ledger keeps a record of all the transactions that occur over the 10 minutes of a block. During this time bitcoins are created, and the transaction is recorded.

During the block, math is done to create a long, complicated number called a hash. The hash then represents the block.

That number is created using the hash from the previous block. It also uses some other input numbers, but the details are not crucial for this explanation.

This new number and the previously created number are now chained together. You can look at one block and figure out the previous block number or hash. The linking goes on forever, all the way to the first block.

Where are bitcoins?

When people have bitcoins, it sounds like they are stashed on a computer or cell phone. On the ‘Big Bang Theory’ bitcoin episode, the guys talked about their bitcoins being on a USB drive.

This is a good metaphor but isn’t correct. You can not hold bitcoins, or put them on a USB drive. Bitcoins only exist on the blockchain, the ledger we talked about earlier.

Bitcoins are exchanged from person to person, but they never go anywhere. The thing that changes is the account or the keys.

When someone has bitcoins, they only have the ‘key’ or ‘password’ for a bitcoin address.

It may seem confusing but think of it like online banking. Your money is in an account. When you make an online payment, the money is transferred from one account to another. But along the way, no one ever holds or sees the money. For the most part, it is stored on computers and is only numbers on screens.

When you use bitcoin, you ‘sign’ transactions with your private ‘key.’ You then use the public ‘key’ of the person you are sending them too. In this case, the ‘key’ is like an account number. Afterward, the blockchain ledger is updated, and the coins are ‘moved.’ In reality, only the permissions on who can move the bitcoin changes.

There are many ways to store bitcoins, but all of them are secure ways of saving the ‘keys’ to your account.

The non-physical aspect could be a problem for some people. Bitcoin isn’t something you can hold, touch or see. But then again, any money in a bank account is the same.

How do you mine Bitcoins?

At the risk of making things complicated, let’s stick to the basics. Bitcoin works on something called proof-of-work. What this means, is that a computer on the network proves its dedication by doing work.

Every ten minutes or so, new blocks are created, for this, work needs to be done. The work consists of trying to figure out a huge number. The number is massive, but it doesn’t need to be perfect, only close enough.

During this time bitcoin transactions are recorded. A unique transaction is written showing new bitcoins that got mined.

There are lots of computers doing this at the same time, so whoever gets there first wins. If many computers get there at the same time, there is a little bit of randomness to determine who wins.

Proof-of-work means showing all the attempts or guesses at getting the right number. That processing is the work, and you could see it if you wanted to.

One way that people make this more manageable is by joining a pool. A pool is a group of computers that pool their computing power and distribute the work. The idea being that with more computers, it takes less time, as one computer doesn’t need to do all the work.

The rewards of mining is an incentive to keep the network alive. You can make money by supporting the system.

One last thing, every four years or so, the size of the reward gets cut in half. Smaller production, in part, limits the number of coins, but could also push up the price.

Who created Bitcoin?

Satoshi Nakamoto is the creator of bitcoin. But, no one knows who he is. The prevailing view is that his name is a pseudonym for someone else or a group of people.

No one knows for sure, and there are lots of theories but nothing substantial. Regardless, whoever they are, they must be smart and knowledgeable.

Part of the mystery of bitcoin is the story of who created it, for now, no-one knows. But if that were to change, that could take away some of bitcoins magic.

How does the price get set?

People are more concerned about the price of bitcoin than anything else. But how does the price get set?

The idea is that there is a limited supply. At the same time, in the future, fewer will come into being each day. In time, there will be no more new coins.

With regular money, more is made whenever the central bank decides it needs it. With bitcoin, there is a predefined limit to the supply. In total, 21 million bitcoins can exist, and only that many will ever be.

The supply is also limited because many bitcoins have been misplaced forever. Meaning whoever owned them, lost the ‘keys’ to the account and will not be able to move them.

Scarcity is part of what drives the price, and people want to have something when there is a limited supply. Others believe that bitcoin is the currency of the future, so they keep it with the hope of getting rich.

It is hard to know how much bitcoin is worth. But for diehard fans, that is not the goal. They want to see a future where Bitcoin is part of our day to day lives. They want to be able to trade bitcoins for products and services, not money.

In this view, the price of bitcoin won’t matter. What will be more critical, is the price of things in bitcoin.

Should you buy bitcoin?

Don’t ask me! Bitcoin is too complicated for most people at this point.

Will it be worth something in the future?

If you are into the technology, it might be worth playing around. And if it stays around, it will get easier to use, and more people will jump on board.

If you want to become rich, that is another question. Some people believe bitcoin will be worth a million dollars, while others see it going to zero.

If you believe in the technology, it is something to try out. And at least if you understand it, you can make a better choice.

trouble finishing a book

Trouble Finishing A Book, Try These 4 Things

A few months ago I sat down to write a book, but I kept struggling to get started. I was having trouble finishing a book. I realized I was missing something and needed a better process.

After some experiments and thinking about what worked in the past, I came up with these four ideas. Because of them, I was able to write 30 chapters in less than two months. 

1) Keep It Simple

I see a novel as a series of short stories within a big story. This process works for me because of this understanding. If you focus on the whole book, it might seem impossible to finish. Huge ideas are daunting and challenging to get on paper. Even worse, if the challenge seems too great, you might get discouraged and give up.

The best way to avoid this is to break your big story into smaller more manageable pieces. When you are thinking about what you want to write, write down each piece of the story in a list. If a single story ends up being too big, break it down into smaller pieces. Add each of these new stories as a separate item on the list.

The simpler each story is, the better. This will make it easier to write each one, and that will make you more likely to complete your book. If you are having trouble finishing a book, it is essential to focus on keeping things simple.

2) Paper Checklists

Checklists are super simple and an often overlooked tool for planning a book. They are an indispensable tool to help get your story finished.

The best way to make a checklist is with paper and pencil. The idea of using an app seems promising, but some real paper is always superior. With paper, it will always be in front of you. Also, you won’t get distracted by your phone when you look at your list.

The first step is to think of every major event or story in your book and write it down. I try to write one sentence, and if there are more details, I add them below later.

You can reorganize the stories if that will help with the flow. It is also helpful to separate your stories into different sections if necessary. This way you can keep track of the different parts of your story, rather than getting caught up in the whole book.

Another benefit of a checklist is that every time you finish a story, you get to check it off. This gives you a feeling of satisfaction and encourages you to do more. The good feelings and motivation compensate for the time it takes to make a list. When you are having trouble finishing a book, it is helpful to work with a checklist of chapters.

3) Make Writing A Routine

Rather than focusing on a single story and putting time aside when you can, it is much better to make a routine. A routine means dedicating regular time to focus on working on your book.

The ideal plan would be to set aside time every day, or during the work week. During that time, work on one of your stories. What I did was set a daily goal of getting one story done. So I would sit and write till it was finished.

The importance of a routine is that once you get your book or novel completed, you can start working on something else. A routine also helps, because you get satisfaction from the process of writing. If your only goal is to finish, you won’t have a reason to write again. When you are having trouble finishing a book, you need to make sure writing is part of your routine.

4) Clearest Stories First

At first, focus on the stories that are already in your head. If you already know them, they will come out faster. It is useful to get them out because you won’t have to think about them anymore. It will also give you a chance to see what you have and what you need to fill in the gaps.

Knowing what you have, you might want to reorganize your book. You may want to add new stories or change the order of the existing ones. This is why a pencil is best, cause you can erase and rewrite.

Getting the most important stories done is a great way to get yourself in the mindset for success. When you see progress with these stories, you will get the motivation to do more. When you are having trouble finishing a book, focus on writing the most evident most essential parts of the story first. This will help you figure out what to put in the spaces in between.

The Takeaway or How To Get Over Trouble Finishing A Book

If you want to finish your book and be more productive, you need a system in place. The ideas above should give you a good starting point. But you may need to tweak or add to the process, so it works better for you.

It is great to finish your book, and if you have a good process, you can always write more. With each effort, you can improve your process and write better books.

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