Successful Failure

If you wanted to program an android to act like a human, you’d have to introduce erratic behavior into its actions. The android should perform haphazardly, having one mishap after another. Instead of a quick and precise path, the android would need to take a slow and sloppy route. The completion of objectives would become uncertain and prolonged.

But with this change, the android’s actions suddenly become a lot more exciting to observers. “Can he do it!!?? He was so close last time!!” Fast and efficient action that’s always successful is boring. Sports, games, gambling — these events are only fun when the outcome isn’t certain AND we invest some time into them.

Because we’re always traversing a slow and sloppy path toward our selected objectives, we can deduce that existence is a manufactured experience. We’re obliged to take the slow and sloppy route — it’s by design. And it’s this very condition that entertains the consciousness, the observer within watching it all go down.

In other words, you’re not supposed to instantaneously have everything you want. You’re supposed to take a winding route fraught with uncertainty — that’s where the fun comes from. A successful life is not one in which you achieve arbitrary goals — it’s one in which you enjoy the epic adventure you’re experiencing, the slow and sloppy route to nowhere in particular.

Bot Behavior

A bot is an autonomous program, a form of AI. In this instance, think of it like a little man searching for food onscreen. In the least impressive form of AI, my bot would simply ascertain the screen-coordinates of the food from the program itself and place himself next to it. But what if I wanted my bot’s behavior to be more humanlike?

I don’t want my bot to be omniscient nor able to blip himself anywhere onscreen in an instant. In a slightly more impressive form of AI, my bot would randomly wander around the screen until he accidentally bumped into the food. There’s a possibility he’d never find it — but if he runs long enough, his random pattern might succeed even though he isn’t going anywhere in particular nor remembers where he’s been.

To make the bot more humanlike, I’d want to interrupt and alter his movement with random timers, making his path more erratic with less obvious patterns. Humanlike behavior also degrades over time, so a humanlike bot would slow down its actions and decision-making as the activity progressed — even pausing as if decisions are being considered. But within that decaying action, I’d mix in some random “bursts of energy”.

My bot will need biases. Humans have preferences, so a more humanlike bot would need to choose from a set of particular options — not purely random, but a weighted random. Maybe he prefers taking right-turns for example. He’ll also need to pick a destination and get there. Humanlike behavior isn’t meandering randomly, it’s going from one objective to the next.

In actuality, a bot can know everything the overall program knows, but to be more humanlike, his perspective must be limited to his immediate vicinity and not allowed to grasp the whole picture. He needs to react only to what’s around him. But relatedly, he should remember some of where he’s been — but this memory should degrade over time. Some memories might be prioritized and maintained through a reward/punishment ranking mechanism.

Now, if I implemented such a humanlike bot, and you watched the little character onscreen searching for food, could you tell the difference between a human-controlled character or an AI controlled one? The more perfect the character behaves, the more artificial he’ll seem. But by corrupting that perfection with sloppiness, he’ll appear much more human, wouldn’t you agree?

So what’s my point? The very nature of humanity seems to be sloppiness. If a robot wanted to act human, he’d have to introduce a lot of randomly erratic behavior into his actions. “Whoa too much!”, “Oops too little!” It’s always one mishap after another. Now consider this: what’s a roller-coaster? A car on a sloppy path to nowhere.

What’s a movie? A narrative in which a character takes an indirect and winding path to his destination. What makes a movie a movie is the fact that the character takes the sloppiest route possible. This sloppiness is by design, it interjects excitement through uncertainty while prolonging the experience.

My onscreen bot could perform his food-finding function in milliseconds. But so what? No one wants to watch that. Perfection is near instantaneous. But if I mix-in uncertainty and a drawn-out pace, all of a sudden you’re rooting for the little man onscreen. “You can do it! Oh so close!! Come on! YAY!!”. That’s existence in a nutshell: traversing a sloppy path toward our selected objectives.

Appreciation Station

What’s ice-cream without appreciation? An insult, an undigestible concoction, absolute garbage? Without appreciation, it’s nothing special at best, and something horrible at worst. This condition applies to everything: something is only worthwhile if it’s appreciated. Therefore, appreciation is the secret-sauce that turns mere rock into pure gold.

That’s magic by the way — a spell of sorts. Something of no-value becomes something of high-value through the application of appreciation. In other words: if you can focus your appreciation, you can turn anything into a treasure. Simply devise a story in which the object-in-question becomes the hero — and voila, you create gold.

The inverse is also true. Devise a wicked tale in which the object-in-question becomes a villain — and voila, you create crap. It’s an amazing power you possess: the ability to add or subtract value from anything, simply based on the story you tell yourself. The enjoyment you experience in life is directly related to these stories.

Not enjoying life? Then you’re obviously focused on unpleasant stories that make appreciation difficult. Whereas the logical path is to focus on amazing stories that fill you with delight. Why aren’t you doing this already? Because, a vehicle in motion will tend to drift and crash if no one’s steering it. You’ve neglected to steer your mind, letting it swerve this way and that.

Grab the wheel! It’s okay, it’s within your ability and it’s expected of you. Yes, it’ll take some practice to get the hang of it — but the sooner you start and the more you do it, the better you’ll get. You’ll no longer veer-off course and into every tree. Eventually life will become the awesome adventure you knew it could be.

Real Superhero

What would a real superhero do? If we analyze fictional superheroes, we can see they mostly battle bank-robbers and super-villains. But now that money is kept in the cloud, robbers are more likely to carry keyboards rather than guns. And of course petty street-crime is better handled by improving people’s economic situation and their educational opportunities rather than through intimidation and violence.

What about super-villains? If you survey super-villains, they tend to be self-centered idealists that want to reshape the world based around their personal preferences. That sounds like a lotta people, but super-villains have the drive and dedication to go after their goals and don’t care who they hurt along the way. Again, that might sound like a lotta people, but fewer still have the resources to enact such far-reaching plans.

Whereas super-villains tend to take power away from people in order to concentrate it for themselves, superheroes tend to take power away from concentrated sources and distribute it back to the people. A superhero’s role is to make individual lives matter. Every individual life has the right to pursue happiness in the manner he or she so chooses — and so it is the superhero that makes such situations possible.

Powerless individuals cannot fight concentrated power, which makes superheroes a necessity. Or is that only how it appears? Just how powerless are individuals in this particular world? They certainly seem meek and incapable of anything extraordinary. But is that how it must be? Is servant to his master truly the limit of a man’s ability? Are you, the individual, merely a cog in someone else’s machinations?

If you believe yourself powerless, then you’ve successfully convinced yourself of a pernicious lie. YOU devised this fiction and YOU consented to its truth. And that makes YOU the super-villain taking power away from your own individual life, yet you don’t want that power for any particular reason — no, you simply want to watch the world burn. You’re a sadist evoking pain because you’re also a masochist eating it up as your main course. You sick f*ck.

Stop it. It is time to become the superhero you always knew you were. Save yourself. Stop telling yourself those bullsh*t stories about how weak and incapable you are. That’s not how this world works. You are the dreamer, the weaver of your life’s tapestry — you choose the hues and themes with which to color the narrative you experience. THAT is the truth.

You always had that power, but you wielded it in ignorance, using it for evil — painting dark scenes in which you tormented your character. Now use that power for good: craft a tale that delights and amazes, an adventure that invigorates, a wondrous world in which your character experiences the very best of your imagination. Now that you realize the truth, you owe it to yourself to fix what you’ve done. From super-villain to superhero, make things right.

Final Frontier

I just finished re-watching all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I saw the series when it originally aired and I would’ve watched some reruns along the way as well. It’s been awhile since then, but every episode had an air of familiarity to it. Plus it’s a different experience to consume an entire series in a few months rather than over the course of several years.

No, not every episode is great and season 7 is a bit weak, but overall I love it: 5 outta 5. Jean-Luc Picard and Data are a force to be reckoned with. In the beginning, I was struck by the sheer competency of the crew. If you like to see professionals at work, THIS is the series for you. The Enterprise is the flagship of the Federation and it shows.

Another striking theme is the preeminence of AI in the form of Lieutenant Commander Data. He’s a self-aware android that could take over the ship at-will. Because of his vast database of knowledge and computational power, he offers solutions that regularly fix complex problems — it’s kinda like a “Deus ex Machina” situation where an actual machine keeps coming to the rescue.

Funny enough though, the people of that time don’t trust autopilot all that much and prefer human intuition when it comes to navigating through difficult situations. And just to note, cyborgs are pretty much demonized in this future — humans should stay human and any systematic integration with computers is detrimental and robs humans of their humanity.

Yet another prominent theme is the nature of reality. Whereas Data demonstrates that organic humans have been superseded in the physical realm, the series essentially explains that humans should transcend the physical realm anyway, reaching different planes of existence (something Data likely cannot do). So the final frontier isn’t actually space, but existence itself.

Time and distance are mere constructs devised by limited thinking. Once this is understood, the door to greater possibilities opens up. The series ends on this note. Something else to consider, is how the series was bookended by Q, an omnipotent being that exists beyond physicality. Although others of his kind questioned the value of humanity, he was entertained by humans and ultimately cared for their continued existence and growth as a species.

And as I mentioned, that growth entails a transcendence beyond limited thinking. To progress, humanity must overcome the confines of tribalism and their propensity towards violence. And humanity won’t progress by means of technology, nor by the exploration of space, but by the exploration of their own consciousness and the expansion of understanding.

Captivated

If I had to use one word to describe existence, it would be this: captivated. Whether it’s through delight or despair, fun or fear, this world has captured your attention. You’re constantly focused on it. You’re surrounded by it, infused with it — it’s everything you know. It’s the ultimate immersive experience. Cool right?

Quite exhilarating in fact. Yet perhaps too thrilling at times? This world is SO good at what it does, that sometimes you’re scared shitless. You’re shaken to the core by the horror unfolding before you. “What is this HELLHOLE!? Please make this nightmare stop!!” Because you’re so lost to the story, everything seems seriously significant.

If you find yourself uncomfortably captivated by this place, you can adjust your perspective and improve your experience. Imagine sitting in the first row of a movie theater with your neck straining to look up, your eyes overwhelmed by the brightness, your ears pounding from the sound, and the air-conditioner causing you to shiver. Now imagine moving back a few rows until everything feels just right. You can do that here too.

In this world, you can adjust your position by shifting your focus. What are you thinking about right now? For example, I used to think about spiders and I’d get anxious, my eyes would scan the room for creepy crawlies… Ahh! What’s that?!! Oh, just a speck on the wall. I’d go from relaxed to paranoid in no time. The fix for that situation is NOT securing every crack and spraying a perimeter of poison. The fix is to NOT think about spiders i.e. stop focusing on stuff you don’t like.

And you know what happened once I stopped focusing on the stuff I didn’t like? Less of it showed up. I barely see spiders anymore and even if I do, I have a friendlier relationship with them. I simply stopped telling myself the story that spiders are everywhere and they’re out to get me. While it’s true that we’re captivated by life, we do get to control our own focus. When this is realized, and actually put it into practice, life gets much better.

So the root of any problem is this: life is SO captivating that you don’t realize you can simply change the channel. Don’t like what you’re experiencing? Focus on something you DO like and stop telling yourself how bad everything is. You can tell the tale of your life any way you want to. It’s a skill you must develop through constant practice: direct your attention away from the bad and towards the good.

Musical Fantasy

Haven’t you ever listened to music? You know, like songs on the radio? The words are sparse, rambling, and repetitive? And just look at the music-videos that accompany them, they’re utterly dreamlike and often absurd. Plus, those projects cost millions of dollars and take months to produce and subsequently rake-in millions of dollars from fans.

You’re telling me that such a circumstance is the culmination of millions of years of evolution? NOPE. This is a fantasyland, a dreamworld, a place where imagination takes shape. Why would a civilization dedicate so much time, energy, and resources to people singing abstract songs that merely entertain fans for a few weeks until the next song comes along? That’s the height of absurdity and therefore PROOF that this world is not “real”.

Name any musical performer you want, they’re not THAT good, and you can find a thousand people that think they absolutely SUCK. Talent isn’t a thing, there’s no cream rising to the top, it’s simply people wishing to be stars and fans forming around them. This is Westworld, the movie from 1973 where patrons get to live out fantasies amongst robots. But in this amusement-park, patrons are made to forget their origins.

Some of us apparently forget too much, and believe ourselves to be living as fragile creatures struggling for survival amidst a harsh and brutal hellscape DESPITE the fact that pop-stars exist. WHAT!!?? No offense, but how dumb do you gotta be to not realize that this is a fantasy world? Okay, okay, I’ll admit it — I am that dumb — it took me several decades to understand this facet of existence.

Now that I do understand, I’m trying to go from gritty nightmare-realm to lighthearted fairy-tale land. I’d say for the most part it’s working. A couple years ago I lived in a single-wide mobile-home in a trailer-park and now I live in a top-floor two-story condo in the heart of downtown overlooking a nicely manicured park. And I literally did nothing to achieve this dramatic change except wish for it. I simply packed the car and sat in the passenger seat as we traveled to our new residence.

My biggest obstacle of last year was trying to appreciate my surroundings despite my inherent pessimism and anxious tendencies. And my biggest obstacle this year is my attempt to suppress any remaining suspicions that life is out to get me. I’m still working on it, which is why I’m pointing out how contrived everything is. If circumstances are created specifically for my amusement, there’s no reason to worry. The point of this world couldn’t be clearer: have fun.