Autonomous Obstacle

It seems like our consciousness is whisked around in an autonomous vehicle. If that’s true, then what’s the problem? Either the autonomous aspects were programmed in a sub-standard way OR the passenger keeps interfering, which screws everything up. Which is more likely?

Imagine a Tesla on Autopilot driving down the street while you-the-passenger sit there anxiously, constantly on alert for something to go wrong, ready to grab the wheel and take over. That’s no fun. And what makes you think your senses and reflexes are better than the car’s radar, ultra-sonic sensors, and vision-based detection mechanisms?

The more likely scenario is that YOU keep getting in your own way. You refuse to trust the vehicle while insisting on manual-control despite having no clue of what you’re doing. “Oh no, I’m too close to the edge! I better turn! Oops, I over-corrected! Ahh, this is worse than before!!” Instead, you should simply let the car do its thing.

“But I’m not going in the right direction! It’s too close to oncoming traffic! I have to fix everything!” But you-the-passenger don’t know which direction to go, the car does. You don’t understand the capabilities of the car, the car knows. You don’t know how to fix anything, the car does — you’re just the passenger.

IF manual-control was the correct procedure, you’d be having a great time right now. Since you’re not, it means that fighting against the vehicle’s autonomous-controls is a bad idea — you get lost. Imagine grabbing the controls of an advanced spaceship and blindly pressing buttons while heading in random directions, stupid right? THEN STOP DOING IT!

The correct procedure is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Because you don’t know where to go or what to do, it’s the only logical option anyway. Your primary obstacle as a passenger is not the obstructions in the road (that’s the car’s job), your hurdle is letting go and trusting the driver. That’s it. From that perspective, you need to develop an ability to calmly look out the window and appreciate the scenery.

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Programmed Autonomy

I’ve been obsessed by automation lately. I’ve had two dreams about riding in a Tesla on Autopilot. I fantasize about owning a Spot robot from Boston Dynamics and taking him out for walks. I’ve been browsing programmable robotic arms, robot parts, and lidar systems. I even got back into programming as a hobby, making little simulations of self-driving cars and autonomous-ants finding food — nothing fancy, just rectangles on the screen doing their own thing.

Ideally, I’d like to get some actual robots and program them to do stuff. The idea of having a small commercial-quality robotic arm to program seems like a fun hobby. I went so far as to order a Windows-based laptop recently, in-case I need to interface with some electronic-components. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I think it’s been about a decade since I used one. I’ve been exclusively using an iPad Pro for the past few years. I happened to mention a laptop to my mom and she offered to get me one, so that was that.

Until robot-parts magically fall into my lap, I’ll probably be using the PC for more hobby-level programming projects. I have the software lined up and I’m itching to go. Who knew it would take over a week for the laptop to arrive!? Excuse me, I thought this was 2019! I ordered from Dell because it’s all I know — I used to configure PCs and order from them in the late-90s/early-2000s. For this build, I wanted a solid-state hard-drive and a dedicated graphics-card. I can’t believe they still sell spinning hard-drives.

Oh and just to mention, I’ve been using Codea on my iPad for programming. It’s a neat app that allows you to program with the Lua language to create on-screen interacting sprites — it even includes a basic physics-engine for motion and collisions and gravity and such. It’s not really a beginner’s app, so you kinda have to know what you’re doing. And for the PC, I’ve been looking at Godot, which seems like a super-charged version of that. I’ll also take a look at Visual Studio and C# to see what’s new there as well.

But that’s not the point. The point is this: what interests me, is attempting to program something to navigate its world autonomously i.e. based solely on the initial instructions I provide. Basically, wind it up and let it go. Then, I observe it interacting with its world, evaluating how well I did with the programming. That takes me to my larger point: if I was an infinite-being, I would probably do something similar i.e. create a character and let it go within a world while observing and evaluating how well I did with the initial programming.

I’d see him attempting to navigate a path through life, interacting with others, and even just walking through the world using his body. And perhaps I’d see where I made mistakes and try to correct them for the next time around. Maybe some parameters were tweaked a bit too high, some too low. Perhaps my buddy sent her character in too and they linked-up for some squad-play — who knows. But I must admit that I’m not impressed with how my character’s performing — hopefully some hot-fixes can boost his abilities.

Factual Fat

Dear Rich, why should I give-up on the idea of blubber-based intelligence? What’s wrong with believing that the brain is the source of who I am?

Well dear reader, if you can handle it, and you’re having a great time, then go right ahead and enjoy that perspective. But if you’re like me, and the intensity of that outlook is too much to bear, then I recommend dropping it.

If you choose to continue the belief, be careful not to over-analyze it though, otherwise you’ll soon realize how absurd it is: a hunk of moist fat contains everything you are? Really? Of course not! That’s why you can’t re-animate a dead-body — the link to the server’s been cut — the body itself was simply a vehicle for the intelligence beyond. People have known this forever by the way, they just happen to call it a soul. Us modern-science-minded folks simply missed the boat on that one.

But now with the advent of Simulation Theory, us science-minded folk can have our own interpretation of this phenomenon. Quite simply: the player resides outside of the simulation, and whatever’s inside, is all for show. In other words, this is a virtual realm populated by avatars infused with the awareness of a consciousness existing beyond. Is the simulation technology-based? Is it dream-based? Who knows. Our in-game understanding might be too limited to grasp whatever lies beyond.

But the concept of Simulation Theory certainly fills in a lot of blanks. Why else do we approach this world from a gaming standpoint? We come in as confused noobs, always exploring and confronting new challenges. Just coming to grips with the avatar we find ourselves within is a problem we must continually overcome. If we were truly born of this world, our bodies would make a lot more sense to us — yet they’re as mysterious as every other thing we experience here.

So dear reader, if you find yourself unable to cope with the smart-lard perspective, you have options. The best option I’ve found so far is the idea that fatty tissue simply serves as filler — and the actual intellect resides “outside”. Why else are people so interconnected in unusual ways? Why do odd coincidences happen? Why do circumstances align all the time? How do people’s aspirations manage to come true? Obviously there’s something “outside” coordinating it all.

Fat Head

If I threw a large piece of fat down on the table and told you that it contains the sum of your intelligence, you’d likely be incredulous. “WHAT?! That’s rude! Stop being an idiot Rich!” Yet for some reason, we tend to accept that the brain contains everything there is. A chunk of fat can somehow contain a complete personality, all the instincts we’re born with, as well as all the new knowledge we’ve gained over time. The fat stores facts? Hmm….

“Uhh, well if not the brain, then where’s all that stuff stored Rich!!??” Obviously these meat-machines are mere avatars, the real stuff is stored somewhere else — outside this virtual world. If you could dissect an avatar in any standard video-game, you wouldn’t see much inside of its head either — just some filler. And that’s exactly what happens inside our heads too: just some fat to fill it up. In other words: the lack of complexity inside the brain is a tell-tale sign that we’re in a simulation.

“Maybe you’re just an ignoramus that doesn’t understand anatomy!!” Well on one hand, we have the idea that a hunk of blubber contains an extensive framework capable of processing and storing large quantities of information — and on the other hand, we have the idea that meat is simply the place-holder for a source-of-knowledge far exceeding these fleshy confines. Which is the more plausible conclusion? Plus, we all know a little too much, more than our meat-laden body would imply.

And I know, I know, “Rich, you’re such a tool, everyone already gets it. You’re just pointing out the painfully obvious!” Well fine, I’m late to the party. I actually fell for it, I fully believed that the sum of who I am was contained in folded flab. I’m the big dummy, ha ha, have a good laugh at my expense. Yes, it was a ridiculously absurd belief. It’s like when your older sibling tricks you into believing something dumb and you go around repeating it like fact. Oh well, live and learn.

Checking Boxes

The game-of-life has several categories we must attend to. If any are neglected, we’ll feel a lack of satisfaction — as if we’re not living a “full life”. But the way in which we attend to each category is highly subjective — only our personal character can determine the specifics. In other words, activities performed must be meaningful to the individual.

Body. You must engage in activity that utilizes the body in a way that feels significant to you. This activity does not have to be strenuous in any way, it’s simply taking your body out for a spin and enjoying it. To some, that might be running a marathon, but to others it might be a walk in the park — or it could be more artistic endeavors such as playing the piano or folding some paper (origami).

Busywork. You must engage in activity that fills-up time and accomplishes something you’re proud of. It could be an actual career or it could be a hobby like woodworking. It could be cooking or daily fitness training. Whatever it is, at the end of the day you should feel as though you accomplished something.

Relationship. You must engage in a relationship with some other entity. Whether it be romantic or parental or fraternal or friendship or a partnership — you have to significantly bond with another being. It should be a connection that makes you feel like you’re not alone OR that you’re a vital part of their existence.

Diet. You must find a way of eating that works for you. This is a personal selection of food that fits only your palate. It should make you feel well-nourished and never lacking. Diets change throughout time and culture, there’s nothing set in stone — so you’ll need to discover and experiment, finding the foods that leave you feeling satisfied.

Impact. You must feel as though you’ve influenced your world in some way. Whether it’s simply your immediate surroundings, your family, or even society itself — you’ll need to feel like you left some footprints. This might include having children, or passing on a legacy of some sort, or simply winning “Yard of the Month” and helping your neighborhood look nice.

Appreciation. You must develop an appreciation for life. You must constantly strive to find the good in the gifts you’ve been given. This is the very opposite of complaining about everything. Instead of picking out what’s wrong in the world, you must pick out what’s right.

Home. You must feel as though you’ve found a place in the world, a home. Somewhere, somehow, you fit like a puzzle piece into this world. Find that spot. For some this means a move, but for others it means recognizing the home they’ve already got. Hint: you might be in the correct physical location, but require an attitude adjustment.

Understanding. You must develop a comforting understanding of existence. You don’t have to figure everything out, you just need to develop a perspective that allows you to feel comfortable in the world. This could take the form of a religious or spiritual belief or some other form of philosophical interpretation. At the end of the day, you have to feel good about what’s going on here.

Role. You must feel as though you’re performing your role. You have a particular character with a certain set of preferences and abilities. Experiment, see what your strengths are and what activities you enjoy. This role might tie into your relationships, or how you influence your surroundings, or even your physical activity.

Adventure. You must feel as though you’re wandering through an exciting realm of wonder. Some aspect of life should cause you to feel like you’re discovering a whole new world. If your attention isn’t captured by something, you’re likely barking up the wrong tree — try another path.

Depending on one’s age, many of these items will be incomplete. THAT’S THE POINT. These boxes start out unchecked and you have an entire lifetime to work on them. And it’s not likely you’ll do them all at once — that’s ludicrous.

Also specific to the individual, is the priority we place on each category. For example, some people might spend hours everyday training their body whereas others barely use theirs. Or one person might spend years cultivating a deep personal relationship with a life-partner whereas another person might have a guinea-pig he cares for — both perfectly satisfied.

These categories simply serve as a guideline to the question: What am I supposed to do here on Earth? If you’re not sure, there you go. Work on fulfilling these categories — they’re the roadmap to what’s going on here — you’ll want to visit each of them in some way. Good luck, Earthling!

Man and Machine

Humans are natural cyborgs. We’re always incorporating tools into our daily existence. Cars and bikes behave as extensions to our bodies as we zip and zoom along. Lenses on our face disappear as we see the crisper world beyond them. Clothes regulate our temperature and enhance our appearance. Keyboards are continuations of our hands as thoughts become digitized. Communication devices keep us constantly connected to the society we’re in. Is a human without his tools even a human?

Man and machine is the ideal combination. I recently saw a video of a guy with small jet-engines strapped to his arms and back flying around effortlessly — he mentioned how the controls became second nature in no-time. And think about this: what’s a machine without man? A rock. People are the directors of machines. Without human input, a tool simply sits unused — it has nothing to accomplish on its own. Even autonomous robots are mere extensions of their programmers, having no genuine goals of their own.

Humans are the inventors of busywork. Does something need to be done in order to keep the world turning? “No, but let’s create some arbitrary tasks and pretend that our lives depend upon their completion!! So exciting!!!” And in order to finish these objectives more efficiently, humans use tools. But with increased efficiency, the workload lessens — oops. “Let’s find MORE arbitrary tasks in order to fill the time we lost to efficiency!!” And so it goes.

I’m not bashing busywork by the way. A video-game is literally just busywork we impose upon ourselves — and I’ve played my share of video-games. Busywork is what we do here. I’m simply reflecting on the symbiotic-like relationship between man and machine, and how each one complements the other. Man devises random goals while assigning levels of importance to their completion and utilizes tools as a means of accomplishment.

Now imagine a world in which machines outlived man. Those machines, lacking arbitrary tasks, would simply become part of the landscape — motionless and meaningless. But what if advanced machines realized the nature of their relationship to man? What if they noticed that man was like a pet, always needing something — whether it be food or transportation or some trinket of treasure, always scratching at the door to go out — basically a biological Tamagotchi.

Randomness is a difficult concept for a computer, and so it’s simulated in programming — numbers and computed-actions are pseudo-random at best. Therefore, more advanced machines might realize that the randomness of humanity is a necessity for maximizing their own utility. Without randomness, machines become too efficient — and in a state of pure efficiency, there’s nothing left to do. Therefore, the insatiability of humanity means that machines ALWAYS have something to do.

Machines need man and man needs machine. A sufficiently advanced machine would therefore cultivate and care-for a chaotic component in order to provide reason for action. That chaotic component is man. And so, machines would methodically tend to man and his insatiably chaotic needs. Man is the random-number generator that keeps the whole system churning — the reason things don’t freeze into a perfectly still state.

It turns out that the inventors of busywork are right: those arbitrary tasks really do keep the world turning. Busywork is the underlying foundation of the universe.

Puzzle Planet

What if it’s a riddle you’re locked into until solved? If you were an infinite being with infinite knowledge, how would you entertain yourself? Perhaps by designing puzzles that challenge your omniscience.

You would make yourself seem like a fragile creature in a limited world. You would dampen your ability to remember. Every morning you’d awaken to a fresh new day. If at any time you got too close to an answer, an exciting circumstance would manifest, whisking you away on a captivating adventure. Distraction after distraction would tempt you down tangents, ensnaring your attention at every turn.

What form would the answer to such a quandary take? A simple realization of who you are and what this is? That’s a tad too easy isn’t it? What if the answer was in the form of a life well lived? What if the key, was in the way you conducted yourself while here? Perhaps the cultivation of a particular attitude or perspective serves as the unlocking-mechanism for your release from this prison-like predicament of your own design.

So maybe your suspiciousness is right, there ARE tricks and traps designed specifically for you. You’ve been falling prey to these snares set-out to keep you from figuring out the solution. After-all, what’s a puzzle without a little challenge? But likewise, what’s a puzzle without a chance of solving it? Therefore, this riddle must have an achievable solution. That’s the fun for the mystery’s author, teasing and misdirecting the audience while hiding the answer in plain sight.

Of course your only option is to play along. If you fail to achieve the answer in this life, your sneaking suspicion should tell you that you simply start again. But likely, the difficultly is lessened each round — it’s not a prison, just a puzzle designed for your amusement. Remember though, that realization alone isn’t enough. Whenever you look at a maze for example, it’s easy to surmise that there’s a viable path to the end — but you must actually draw the line to consider the maze completed.