Wednesday, October 29, 2014


As you go throughout your day, how do you think of your personal life? Are you a spontaneous person, a worrier, an introvert, an extrovert, selfish, selfless? I've found that most people tend to naturally fall into one of three different narratives, and typically stick with that narrative for most of their daily actions. These are either first, second, or third person perspectives, and I'll describe each one below.

I'll be using the analogy of driving a car that is your life, with you as the driver.

First Person

Description: The first person perspective is from the eyes of the driver. You look to see what is directly in front of you. You live your life in the moment, and avoid the negative obstacles in your way. You fully immerse yourself in the emotions of the moment. You look at what's in directly front of you and make the best short term decision for yourself.

Pros: With this perspective, you do not shirk from any painful or joyful emotions. You can appreciate the subtle beauty of your every day interactions. You spend very little time worrying about the future. You experience a deeper sense of the everyday experience. You are, for lack of a better word, "present".

Cons: There are a few cons with living perpetually in this perspective. You may end up simply following what seems best in the moment, not considering future consequences or long term goals. In addition, if you look behind you through the rear view mirror, you may experience past pain with the same intensity as if you were still in that previous painful moment. You see the good and bad right in front of you but don't take into account the bigger picture. Furthermore, while your joyful feelings are exaggerated, so are the painful feelings such as anger or sadness, with which some may be ill-equipped to deal. Finally, you are spending your time focused on the outside world, and become externally, rather than internally, validated. You may become outcome dependent and too much of an extrovert in this perspective.

Second Person

Description: The second perspective perspective is from the eyes of the passenger. You are focused 100% on the driver, and the world flows behind the driver seen in the driver's side window. In this perspective, you are constantly focused on self-improvement at the expense of everything else. Think of a gym rat, focusing completely on physical improvement, damned be the external world. An introvert.

Pros: There are actually a lot of pros to this perspective, and it's one that many people don't spend enough time considering. No matter what the world throws at you, you are focused on what's best for you. You are focused on making sure that the driver is in the best physical and mental shape at all times. That he is spending every free minute learning about the world around him, reading, thinking, and improving his skills. That she is carefully considering whether that slice of pizza she puts into her body is hurting or helping her self improvement.

Cons: This perspective can be seen as selfish and may shirk selfless acts. When you constantly focus just on your own self-interest, others may be unintentionally hurt by your actions. It may also be ill equipped to deal with every day emotions. It can be seen as "hiding" from emotions, which means that the range of emotional responses may be limited (both positive and negative). If some emotion crashes into the car, a lack of experience dealing with the present emotions means this person may either snap (having a disproportionate emotional response), or completely hide from the world, regressing back into oneself. In addition, the person who spends all his time in the second person perspective may be considered by others to be more selfish, and not hold relationships as long as others since he will be less compromising. Finally, staying in this perspective perpetually may result in giving up current pleasurable experiences under the guise of self-improvement.

Third Person

Description: The third person perspective is an aerial view of the car. It is always considering the long timeline of life. Looking for patterns in the past, and planning goals in the future. Looking for all the future obstacles which may come up in the road and directing the car away from them, towards long term goals. Think of someone constantly anxious about the future. Think of someone constantly ambitious and dreaming about the future. Think of someone constantly stuck in their high school mentality long after their peers have moved on.

Pros: This perspective lends itself nicely to long term thinking and sacrificing. This perspective will motivate you to contribute more to your retirement. To give up a little now for a lot later. To dream and be ambitious. This person will likely have a better future than her peers, but at the expense of cumulative happiness.

Cons: Being too much in the third person perspective leads to constant worrying. Constantly trying to avoid future obstacles in the road which may not be there by the time the car gets there. Putting all his efforts into the future at the expense of the present. Or spending all day in a depression looking at the past and upset the car is not on the path you had previously laid out. Not appreciating the current moment, and focusing too much on external goals rather than self-improvement.


Most people switch between perspectives subconsciously, depending on their current situation or even time of day. But without being aware of these different perspectives, such a person may tend to live in one perspective more than others at the expense of personal happiness.

The goal should be able to consciously switch between these perspectives. To enter a first person perspective and not hide from the present, the emotions or thoughts or sensory pleasures of the moment. But to take some time throughout the day to switch to the third person perspective and think about long term goals and consequences, and try to find patterns in one's past. To enter a second person perspective and let the world wash over us and focus on making sure you are improving yourself at every moment in an antifragile sense.

Once you are aware of these different ways to view your life, and how you spend most of your mental energy, that awareness will naturally lead you to start making more conscious choices regarding which perspective you live your life at every moment.

Sunday, October 19, 2014



Greed has become a dirty pejorative word in our modern culture. In this post I will not argue for or against the morality of greed, but rather present a way in which the natural tendency to be greedy can be beneficial in the long term.

With regards to morality, I will only say this: The natural inclination towards greed is amoral. Choosing to acting on it or not is where one distinguishes between moral and immoral actions.

Human greed manifests in many ways. Several of these include:
  • Food: Overeating given sufficiently available food. This results in the obesity epidemic in most developed countries.
  • Money: Greed can manifest as extreme ambition in some individuals, willing to step over others to climb the corporate ladder and acquire more monetary assets than are necessary to survive.
  • Land: The early colonizers of America were greedy, desiring to grab land for their home country (and manifesting as gaining personal glory) at the expense of indigenous populations. In addition, we developed our legal system to in part protect individual property rights, to ensure that those who greedily grabbed resources such as land were sufficiently protected by the law.
  • Natural Resources: An example of this is the consumption of oil, and the unwillingness for our society to veer very much towards "green" resources unless they are considered profitable (tying into the "Money" manifestation of greed).
  • Sex: Many people tend to have more sex and therefore children than they can actually support. Their greediness was manifested in an extremely powerful desire for reproduction, and hence sex evolved to physically release pleasurable chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. This leads to overpopulation.
Now we arrive at the crux of the result of greed. Overpopulation. In which our natural environment on earth can't sustain our greediness.


The biological definition of life is "the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death."

By that definition, we can characterize life as a self-expanding, self-perpetuating process. In essence, I would distill it down even further and state that life aims to convert non-organic matter and energy  (Einstein demonstrated these are actually mathematically roughly equivalent) into more life.

Aside: I am using the terms non-organic and organic although I recognize that it is possible that life can manifest as non-carbon-based biological entities.

Every time we burn oil so that we can harvest more corn, the raw physical non-organic matter (crude oil) is, through a long process, turned into organic life (corn).

Every time a plant absorbs sunlight to grow, it is taking the raw energy from photons and turning it into organic life (leaves) rather than allow that energy to simply be absorbed as heat by the earth.

But since matter/energy is neither created nor destroyed, it will likely eventually be converted into life by some process in the distant future.

I propose that more greedy species evolved via naturally selection, resulting in human overpopulation.

But is that such a bad thing? If our current environment can't sustain our greediness, then life will be forced to expand beyond our world into the surrounding environment (solar system). According to the Kardashev scale, this will result in a jump from a Type 1 civilization into a Type 2 civilization. 

In fact, the process of life breaking free of our current atmosphere has already begun.

So life has begun to break free of earth's comforting atmosphere by either by carrying the atmosphere with it (space suits) or by being able to survive harsh conditions (tardigrades or sea plankton).

As a species, we will be forced to redirect more of our mental capacities into figuring out how to convert the cruder materials (rocks on Mars) into organic life. Which brings us to the future.


If life expands exponentially faster than the universe is expanding, (or at least before heat death) and as long as we leave earth by the time our sun expands too large, life will reach a point where it has taken over the universe, simply converting the natural matter into supporting material (spaceships like earth).

When new life is created, right now it becomes consumed by other life as organic resources ("food").

If the universe is infinite, then there is an infinite amount of resources available to life, as it consumes and expands all. Life will find an equilibrium as the harshness of the universe pushes back against the natural desire to expand.


Greed is naturally inside us as a species. Whether you individually feel the pull of greed or act on it is of no significance. In addition, the morality of acting on greedy impulses doesn't refute the amoral fact that greed is forcing humans to expand faster than the earth can support.

Right now, there may be "more than enough" to go around as detractors commonly exclaim. But that's shortsighted.

Perhaps greed doesn't have to be such a dirty word. If we are aware of it, and can channel our greed into "moral" endeavors such as expanding beyond our earth, then we can use our natural greed for the benefit of all, and continue the conversion of raw matter and energy into life.