Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ways of Being


This is a followup to my previous post on concrete vs abstract thinking, and how one should notice and be aware of these different thinking patterns.


The first is concrete. This is the way of being in which you are actually out doing the work to achieve your goals. Very present to your five senses.

Examples include:
  • Feeling the sweat in your palms.
  • Feeling a cool breeze on your face.
  • Listening to music. 
  • Chatting with a friend and noticing some blemish on their skin.
  • Feeling a runner's high and sweating.
  • Eating.


The second category is abstract ways of being and they can be broken down into two subcategories.


The first abstract way of being is what I'll call "Self-Viewing". It's how you view yourself. What roles in life are you playing?

Are you a:
  • Mother
  • Father
  • Banker
  • Friend
  • Adventurer
  • A nice "good" person
  • A happy person
  • Powerful
  • Confident
  • Comfortable
  • Good
  • Evil
  • Intellectual
  • Ambitious
If you have low self-esteem, this way of being may be categorized by:
  • Lazy
  • Failure
  • Marginalized
  • Victimized

It can be past, present, or future driven. This is mainly based on your perspectives on yourself.
  • Past driven:
    • Who was I at different ages?
    • What roles did I play to others in my life and to my own life?
    • (Although that ties more into the next subcategory and really doesn't exist on its own.)
  • Present driven:
    • Who do I want to present to the world right now?
    • Who am I being?
    • What do I want to do today?
    • (This can be called masks you put on)
  • Future driven:
    • "I'm a good person who life is going to go well for me."
    • "I'm an adventurer and am going to go skydiving soon."
    • "I'm going to get this promotion, because I'm a good worker."
    • "I'm going to get married and be a good wife in 10 years."


The second is what I'll call "Self-Reflecting" It's a personality which really has moments of self-actualization and personal growth. It's taking a good hard look at your life, and really wondering if you're going to reach your goals as quickly as you want, or if you are in the position of life that you want to be. It's being vulnerable and honest with yourself as to your true intentions of doing things, and an internal side of you which you wouldn't share with the world.

It can be past, present, or future driven, and is categorized by a vulnerable state in which you're acutely aware of your own motivations.
  • Past driven:
    • "I screwed up and I'm sorry for hurting you."
    • "I'm not where I want to be in life yet."
    • "I've been able to really achieve all my goals and things are going pretty well."
  • Present driven:
    • Think of sitting around with a friend and sharing your dreams together.
    • Looking in the mirror and happy with what you see.
    • Looking in the mirror and not happy with what you see.
  • Future driven: (this is very similar to the self-viewing future driven type)
    • "I really want to be married by 30."
    • "I want to buy a house in the next 15 months after I can save enough money but I'm struggling."
    • "Things look like they're going to be interesting for the next few years."

It can be present, past, or future oriented. It's categorized by being acutely aware of your own motivations.


There are so many combinations of how you can view yourself, and also so many things you can reflect on, every person's abstract ways of being may be present differently. But my guess is that there would be common threads between people, whether it's defining their role in life by their career, or relationship, or bank account, or fitness level. Whatever it is that people quantify their worth in life.

Another open question is: are there combinations of ways of being in any given moment, an amalgam of ways of being, or are they mutually exclusive ways to think?  My guess is that we switch between these ways of thinking and interpreting the world (concretely, self-viewing, self-reflecting) so rapidly, that it simply appears to be a combination or at least smooth transition.

If you are constantly shifting your thought patterns between concrete and abstract thinking as necessary, that may be an evolved trait, beneficial to the survival of the species to structure thinking as such.

It's also possible that in a given moment, you are truly experiencing a combination. Such as:

  • Concrete + Self-Reflective: Sitting on a beach with a Pina Colada, self-reflecting on your life combines.
  • Concrete + Self-Viewing: The next moment stand up and figure out what you want in the world and focus on the future as you feel the sun on your face.
  • Self-Viewing + Self-Reflective: Reminiscing about the past with a friend, with fondness but also happy awareness of who you are now.


Understanding these categories of ways of being is important for self-awareness and for our understanding of why we are the way we are, as a species.

This is a nice concept which ties together abstract/concrete ways of thinking (thinking about ways of thinking is inherently abstract) with how we live our lives in a very concrete (excuse the pun), practical sense.

I will follow up with another post about masks people put on, on top of these ways of being, and how that fits into evolution and the purpose of life. Additionally I'll be tying that into my ways of visualizing the fifth dimension from back in July. Stay tuned! Lots more to come.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Life as an Optimizer


150 years ago, Darwin presented his theory of evolution and natural selection to the the world, and it was met with shock, indignation, curiosity, anger, excitement, and a slew of reactions from both the scientific, as well as the theological, communities.

This theory may have more implications in philosophy than people recognize.

In my previous post about Greed, I discussed about how life itself is pushing its boundaries past our atmosphere. But what is the purpose of life?


I'm fairly convinced that one of the reasons life exists is as a giant optimizer. There is a battle of epic proportions between life and the elements of the universe. Let's look at the evidence.

For millions of years, bacteria thrived on earth. Then came the dinosaurs, with their brute strength and ferocity. Yet an asteroid wiped out millions of years of evolution, with very little to show for it. So ferocious brute strength wasn't a selected trait.

Now we have humans, who have several highly selected traits such as language, intelligence, deceitfulness, compassion, etc.

If another asteroid came to earth, akin to the one which killed out the dinosaurs, several of our traits may be sufficient to maintain our species. These include:

  • Our language, to communicate with each other about the eminent disaster.
  • Our intelligence, to come up with ways to divert the asteroid and science to understand it.
  • Our creativity, in coming up with movies such as Armageddon, in order to hypothesize, via Hollywood, how we as a species might overcome this disaster.
  • Our cohesiveness, to join together between nations if necessary against the universe.
  • Our competitiveness, which caused USA and Russia to enter into the Space Race, and allowed us to push for development of spaceflight quickly.
  • Our compassion, which will help survivors get back on their feet if we end up failing to divert such a disaster.

As such, it's likely that if an asteroid came, we as a species would be able to survive, unlike the dinosaurs. In addition, it's likely that several resilient microbes, which have survived multiple natural disasters and can even live in a vacuum or extreme conditions, will also survive.

The universe is going to keep hitting life with asteroids, an expanding sun, climate change, super-volcanoes, etc., and will see which genes can survive. Whether it's small resilient microbes, or ferocious dinosaurs, or intelligent humans, or radiation resistant cockroaches. Or even cute snuggly dogs whom we'll ensure survive with us during the next natural disaster, for companionship.

This trend will continue, and after several more billion years of iterations, a lean, mean genetic code will emerge. Such a fit organism, or collection of symbiotic organisms, will be able to deal with the universe's challenges. In addition, such organisms will also have to not have internal struggles which can possibly wipe itself out (the way we fight against each other, or deal with mental illnesses, or bigotry, etc.).

One of the main purposes of life is as a giant optimizer, to see what genes, or combination of genes, are most suited for the universe's trials.


An additional point is that these are systems of genes, working together symbiotically. 

Society would likely not reach its full potential with only leaders, or only workers, or only creative people, or only strong people, or only smart people. It's entirely possible, and even likely, that a symbiotic relationship between different genes is better than any one gene (we need the plants and animals to eat, we need to bees to pollinate, etc.). Life selects genes which work well together, in addition to individual useful genes.


We obviously can't see much farther past the present besides wild conjecture. But my guess is that in billions of years, the true purpose of life will emerge, as an extremely fit organism. Such an organism will have either resilience, or adaptability, or intelligence, or whatever trait comes next, in order to handle literally any event the universe will throw at it, including hypothesized challenges such as heat death or the big crunch.

A Moral Warning

This theory can easily be misconstrued as an excuse for eugenics, or heinous acts in the theory that it's good for the gene pool.

Firstly, morality is an important piece of life which I'll be covering in another post, but suffice it to say that us humans are not intelligent nor wise enough to know which genes are "best" for the gene pool. Committing murder or genocide discounts the possibility that such genes may have dormant potential for humanity.

Most importantly, we should want as many genes to survive, to give the random selection of codons the best chance to determine what's most fit. If we don't all fit onto earth, or fight over limited land, we need to expand outwards to new planets (as I discussed), rather than try to optimize earth's gene pool by immoral acts such as eugenics.

In addition to our internal empathy (which not everybody has), logically, giving the most number of random genes a chance to prove themselves (against the universe, or as a member of a society, not against one another) is the real moral incentive not to murder or hurt others. We're going to need every possible codon combination possible when the universe starts hitting us with real issues, such as a dying sun.


Darwin's theory shook the scientific community, but it was the theological community which quickly realized how one simple thought could change our entire understanding of our place in the universe, and philosophy in general.

This understanding of life was simply not possible pre-1850's. Seeing the evidence of natural selection has opened a new door into our understanding of ourselves.

Future posts are going to tie in this theory of humans as just another cog in the evolutionary optimizer machinery, with the idea of consciousness, willpower, rational thought, and self-awareness, several of the big mysteries of our time.

Monday, March 2, 2015



Humans are naturally symbolic creatures. Thousands of years ago we started taking the dye from plants, or blood, and smearing it on cave walls, in such a way that other humans would understand the intention and thought behind the drawing. This is an example of abstract thinking. Symbolic thinking. Not relating to the "presence" or rather concrete thinking that accompanies being in the moment with a wooly mammoth. But rather creating symbols representing the event.

Being aware of concrete versus abstract thinking, and the ability to switch between them, is a skill one can cultivate, similar to cultivating the skill between switching perspectives. Here are two of a multitude of examples describing abstract versus concrete thinking in our daily lives.


Most people are very present to their bodies. They feel full after eating, they feel energized after running, they feel exhauasted after thinking, they feel enraged after an emotion. This is a concrete way to view one's body, and usually the default mode for people.

But abstracting the body allows for a slew of possibilities.


What are your goals in life? To make money? To experience joy? To travel? To buy fancy cars? To have fun with friends? To find a purpose? To be an accountant?

Whatever your goals may be, your body is a tool to achieve those goals. You use your willpower (the topic of a future blog post), to direct your neurons to move your body in certain ways throughout your day. You choose to direct your fingers to type out a line of code on the computer screen to achieve your career goals. You choose to direct your feet to push on the gas pedal to meet up with friends at a club or restaurant. You choose to use your body to walk to a real estate agent's office to discuss a potential condo, and you choose to use your neurons to consider an offer by the counter party.

In this subtle shift of perspective, your body is abstracted into simply a tool used to achieve your goals (large or small) and as such as simply a tool to implement your desires.

Your body gives you feedback, making epinephrin course through your veins in a fight-or-flight situation, telling your neurons that something is amiss. Your body can be abstracted away into simply another tool to achieve your personal goals; the same way a car gets you to the restaurant, your foot gets the gas pedal to the floor.

Our "bodies" are not a single entity, but naturally abstractions defined in our heads. Our cells and atoms are constantly changing and switching with the atoms around us. We are not a single entity but a collection of biological systems. There is no static "body", but rather an abstraction consisting of biological systems, "foreign" bacteria in a symbiotic state in your gut, electrical signals coursing through our synapses, all able to be directed to achieve our goals.

Viewing your body as such allows you to not be so immersed in "negative" feedback from your body, and see your body for how it is: an abstracted tool to achieve your goals, given the biological constraints.


One goal may be to live longer. Or to elicit a certain reaction from the opposite sex via attraction to achieve the goal of sex. Or to have more balanced hormone levels so you can feel the emotion of pride in your fitness. Or feel the joy of being full after a late night snack.

This may be a foreign way to view your body for some people, but it is a natural abstraction of our most innate goals.

By abstracting away your body, you can see it as a tool to achieve your health or fitness goals. You can think of how the feedback your brain receives from your hormones, blood sugar levels, adipose tissue, stomach wall, or others' reactions to your body (via photons hitting your eyes and sound waves hitting your eardrum).

Abstracting your body away forces you to truly think about what your goals are in terms of your body, and whether those goals are worth exerting your mental or physical energy. Abstracting away fitness can allow food to be thought of as "flavored fuel" to achieve your goals. Some ingested substances (food, alcohol, drugs) make you feel bloated, some make you feel satiated, some make you feel energized, some make you feel ecstatic, some make you self-reflective.

Abstracting your body away allows you to put substances into your body which achieves your goals. And unlike what some fitness gurus make shame you for believing, those goals can include a night of inebriation or ecstasy, a feeling of satiation after eating fried chicken, etc.


Abstract versus concrete thinking in relationships is interesting, because we naturally do both, although we don't consciously switch between the modes of thinking.

A concrete way of thinking includes thinking about the personal dynamics between you and your spouse. Being immersed in the moment bs'ing with friends late at night. The physical sensations associated with intimacy or sporting events.

But abstracting away the relationship allows you to consider the value the other party brings to your life. It allows you to consider the goals you share together (a naturally abstract concept), and whether that party allows you to achieve your goals. It allows you consider the other party's age, background, or social status; whatever tends to be important to you.

This is not concrete thinking regarding the other party (the love you two share, for example), but rather an abstract way to view the relationship.

Let me be clear: this is absolutely objectifying people, and there's nothing wrong with that (morality is another topic for another post). Objectifying people is simply a form of abstract thinking and is not necessarily pejorative.

Both modes of thinking are important, but by putting each mode of thinking at odds with each other ("I love him, but he doesn't fit in with my familial goals!") can cause a constant background stress. Once you are able to recognize the two modes of thinking, you can make a conscious choice to switch between them, and prioritize different aspects of the relationship consciously.


Be cognizant of abstract versus concrete thinking, and be more intentional about switching between the two modes. Recognize the many aspects of your life from fitness, time, relationships, travel, food, sex, money, career, friendships, which can be thought of in both concrete as well as abstract terms, and practice the skill of switching between these modes. Or at least be aware of which mode applies to a given thought.