Tag Archives: Life

Wanna Make a Name for Yourself: Answer One of These Questions

In The Guardian today, there’s an article that lists “20 big questions in science.” If you want to be famous (at least in some circles), answer one of the questions. Of course, there are some ‘answers’ to the questions already. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say that there are some hypotheses or that there is some ‘general knowledge’ in the domain of the question. However, there don’t seem to be any definitive answers, yet.

Here are the questions with a few thoughts after some of them:

1. What is the universe made of?

2. How did life begin?

3. Are we alone in the universe?

If pressed to give an answer on number three, I’d probably say something to the effect of: given how big the universe is, mathematically speaking, isn’t it more likely that there is other life out there somewhere than isn’t?

4. What makes us human?

5. What is consciousness?

On number five, I remember reading a very intriguing article in The Atlantic this past winter that explored the question: what does it mean to be conscious? It approached this question in the context of anesthesia. If this question interests you, this is one way to delve into the topic.

6. Why do we dream?

While there are many theories on why we dream, one of my favorite ways for interpreting dreams is through Jeremy Taylor’s method. This method also outside the context of dreaming.

7. Why is there stuff?

8. Are there other universes?

9. Where do we put all the carbon?

10. How do we get more energy from the sun?

Number ten, while also making you famous, would likely also make you extremely wealthy unless you went the route of Jonas Salk and polio.

11. What’s so weird about prime numbers?

12. How do we beat bacteria?

13. Can computers keep getting faster?

14. Will we ever cure cancer?

15. When can I have a robot butler?

16. What’s at the bottom of the ocean?

On number sixteen: when you realize that 95% of the ocean is unexplored, it sort of gets you curious about what might be down there. More than that, 99% of the Earth is water. There’s a lot we don’t know about the planet we inhabit.

17. What’s at the bottom of a black hole?

18. Can we live for ever?

19. How do we solve the population problem?

20. Is time travel possible?

On number twenty: if this turns out to be true, that would make for some interesting ethical and moral dilemmas.

When Was the Last Time You Took the Long View?

I really like psychology. I like it so much that even though I’ve already got a couple of degrees in it, I continue to learn/read about psychology. I also really like magic and illusions. There’s something about the mystique of believing that what you’re seeing is actually happening — even though you’re sure that it’s probably some sleight of hand. While some may think that magic and psychology aren’t related, they most certainly are. Just for fun, here’s an article from Psychology Today of 5 Amazing Psychology Magic Tricks.

Naturally, my interest in these subjects led to my desire to go see Now You See Me. As Jon Stewart said a couple of weeks ago, “Morgan Freeman’s in it, so it’s gotta be good.” I thought it was pretty good, but that’s probably more a result of the “life lesson” that I culled. Now, what I’m about to talk about may be perceived as a spoiler, but I’m not talking directly about the plot. I won’t mention any characters or anything specific about the movie (even though it would help with analogizing), but as I said, some may consider even what I’m going to talk about as a spoiler.

Can you think of one moment in your life where something changed? A moment to which, had you chose differently, your life would be completely altered? Maybe you think that if you’d gone to a different university your life would be very different. Or maybe you think that if you’d chose to take the job offer from company X instead of company Y. What about those smaller moments, the ones that don’t “seem” as powerful, can you think of any of those that might have had that same impact?

Watching this movie reminded me to take the “long view” on life. Not only when thinking about the ‘bigger’ life decisions, but also the smaller, day-to-day decisions. It’s truly impossible to know how what you’re deciding today will impact your life in 10 years. Impossible! One can speculate, yes, but that’s all — speculation. Even the best forecasters are terrible.

Of course, it’s probably not a good idea to always be taking the long view, but every once and awhile (monthly? weekly? daily?) it’s probably a good idea to check-in with that long view and see if you might be taking something too seriously. It’s really hard to know whether what’s happening to you in your life — right now — is a good thing. Maybe this time of hardship will make you appreciate  something that’s going to happen later. Maybe this time of hardship is teaching you about what it’s like to have hardship, so that when you no longer have this hardship, you’ll have more empathy for those that do. As I’ve said before in regards to thinking about whether something is good or bad — we’ll see…

Tying Up Loose Ends — Again

Earlier this year, I did a where I talked about a number of ideas in one post. This served a couple of interconnected purposes: 1) it emptied my “posts to write” list, and 2) it allowed me to flood that list with some new ideas. (I said the purposes were interconnected.) My list has again started to grow a little bit, so I thought I would do another one of those to flush out the list. There are a couple of ideas that I won’t include in this post because I do want to write a “fuller” post on them, so look for some posts in the next few days about “balance,” “The Stockdale Paradox,” and the idea that “every game (in a season) counts equally.”

The Enneagram — Through my exposure to transpersonal psychology, I was introduced to the . I don’t know this for a fact, but my suspicion is that the Enneagram is highly underutilized relative to its helpfulness in understand one’s self and others.

Life’s all about making decisions — One of my interests is “decision-making.” Books, literature, research: I’m fascinated by how humans make decisions. On that note, one of the things I’ve learned is that life is — really — all about making decisions. More importantly though, it’s important to put yourself in situations that allow you to make good choices. Let me say that again: “It’s important to put yourself in situations that allow you to make good choices.”

Measuring outcomes in the non-profit sector — I’ve talked before about my time with , but I also had a class in this summer. The thing that struck me the most about the non-profit sector is the lack of ways to measure outcomes. That is not to say that there aren’t ways to measure outcomes in the non-profit sector, but when compared to the for-profit sector, it seems that, for whatever reason, there aren’t as many established and agreed upon ways to measure outcomes.

Reframing your life — Many people, myself included, sometimes get caught up in choosing things they want to do (career-wise). An important realization on that front: it’s not what you want to do for the “rest of your life,” but simply, what you want to do “for right now.” Meaning, it’s okay to change your mind later and move into a different position, field, or industry.

Psychological reasons why good people do bad things — I came across this a few days ago that recounts a number of reasons why good people do bad things. I think it’s really important to understand the underlying psychological concepts that contribute to these errors in “decision-making.”

Art Imitating (Rather, Predicting?) Life

I was reading this past week’s edition of The Economist and came across an . Specifically, the article was addressing how 3D printing was (or could) change the face of manufacturing. If you’re not familiar with 3D printing, it is exactly like it sounds: printing in 3D. From : “3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file.”

As I sat there listening to  gnaw on a stick, I found myself looking beyond the yard where my eyes landed on the railroad tracks. Tracks that have been there for nearly 150 years. Tracks that were the focal point of commerce for quite some time. Then I thought, how the railroad was a revolution in its day — how it took over for the horse and buggy. But the railroad wasn’t the end of the evolution of transportation. Later came the invention of the car and the invention of the plane.

In briefly reflecting on how , I couldn’t help but think of how 3D printing could be just as revolutionary as some of these other inventions through history. And in thinking about 3D printing — specifically — I couldn’t help but think of Star Trek. Do you remember the To refresh your memory, a few of YouTube clips: , , and  (though this last one is a clip of it malfunctioning). There’s been a lot written about how Star Trek has presaged inventions that later came to be (). I might add 3D printing to that list (or any), too.

The thing that really got me thinking, though, was when I compared the to the 3D printer (or replicator). People who know what life is like without the computer often express their disbelief for how small the computer is when compared to its ancestor. “It used to take up a whole room! Now,I can put it in my pocket!” They would exclaim. There’s no doubt that the computer has evolved a great deal from its early days, but I wonder if this will be true of 3D printing? Will the cost of having a 3D printer be such that everyone can afford it? Will the speed at which it prints be so fast that people will laugh at how long it used to take for things to print?

The rate at which technology is able to invent something and then invent something that is twice as good at what it first invented is growing exponentially. It’s hard to believe that just over 100 years ago, the was invented. I’m not sure how far 3D printing will go or if it will take off and be as ubiquitous as computers, but I think it most certainly has a chance.

Remembering What’s Important to You: Lessons from Hurricane Irene

With much of the for the potential effects of , I can’t help but think of what an opportunity this could be for many people. I keep hearing the figure being quoted as how many that are potentially affected by this storm. That’s just about 20% of the population of the US (think: 1 in 5 Americans). That’s a lot of people. I would call this an opportunity for some because of the chance these people will be given to reflect on what’s important to them. Let me explain.

Many people go about their daily schedule without much thought for what happens outside of this schedule. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with this, but just to say that this is common for most people. They get up in the morning, go to work, come home, , go to bed, and repeat. Unless there is something that shakes up this routine, many people will continue on in this way for a long time. Layman’s terms of says that an object in motion tends to remain in motion. In this instance, the object is the person fulfilling the routine. Unless something interferes with this “motion,” the motion will continue.

The prevailing opinions about events like these tend to revolve around words like . While this viewpoint is understandable, I would hasten and suggest reading the wise words of “” My point in raising the idea that an event like Hurricane Irene can be seen as an opportunity for some is that this shake-up, this wrench in their otherwise “object in motion,” could allow someone to see that they aren’t necessarily doing what it is that they want to be doing. Maybe they’re working at a job that they aren’t passionate about. Maybe they don’t know what their passion is. Maybe they aren’t spending enough time with their spouse and kids. Maybe they don’t have a spouse and want one. Maybe they wish they could have travelled to Europe, Asia, South America, or Africa. Maybe they wish they could have travelled to (or within) North America.

There are any number of things that could be realized as a result of an act of nature such as this one. Not everyone has the willpower to take a break (or ) from their routine to see the things that they wish they were including in their lives. Maybe it’s the of an event like Irene that some people need to be able to see the things that they’re missing out on in their life. While it may not seem like it at first, this is wonderful! Remember that there are those of us who, even when the wrench obstructs our object in motion, will condemn the wrench for wrecking our routine rather than take a step back to examine what the wrench’s purpose might be.

Let’s Treat All Cars Like School Buses: Drive Safe!

According to the , “Fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled” has been trending down since 2005. In 2005, there were 1.46 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This means that for every 100 million miles traveled by car in the United States, there were 1.46 fatalities. That may sound like a rather low number, but consider that since this particular statistic has been kept, the highest this number has ever been was back in the first year it was kept, 1994, when the number was 1.73. In the years following 2005’s number of 1.46, we’ve seen the number go to 1.42 in 2006, to 1.36 in 2007, to 1.26 in 2008, and to 1.13 in 2009 (numbers for 2010 were not reported as of the writing of this post).

Looking merely at the statistics, this number seems to be trending downwards more than in any other 5-year period since 1994. While on the face of the statistical trend, it’s great, but really, should this number be above zero?

As I was driving home the other day, I saw a school bus van. Immediately, even before I could read ‘school bus’ on the side of the van, I was able to recognize the color of the van and know that it must have been a school bus. Typically, when I see a school bus, I tend to slow down (even a little bit). I would guess that the fair majority of the population would do the same. Why do we do this? Well, in part, . More than that, I slow down when I see a school bus because usually, there are kids on-board, and who wants to cause an accident that harms children?

As a nation, and maybe a species in general, we tend to look more favorably upon our young. That is, when faced with a moral dilemma upon saving people, we almost always save the child over ourselves (or other older people in the group). There are many different theories as to why this is, but I won’t get into them. I’m more interested in our behavior in the car around school vehicles. We slow down when we see school vehicles, but why don’t we slow down when we see other vehicles?

Shouldn’t we drive with the same care and caution, all the time, that we do when we see a school vehicle? When we see a school vehicle, something about the vehicle stands out (), and we immediately are more cautious with our driving. I think we should be just as cautious around other cars as we are around school buses. What if all cars were painted the same color as school buses? Do you think we’d be just as cautious around other cars as we are around school buses? My guess is that the attention-grabbing feature of the color would soon fade as we all became accustomed to seeing that color on every car.

But shouldn’t we still drive as if every car is a school bus? Every car on the road carries “precious cargo” — another human being. All life, old, young, middle-aged — is precious. All life is worth preserving and caring for. There needn’t be any fatalities when one is trying to go from point A to point B. It’s just unnecessary. Wouldn’t you want someone who makes a turn down a windy country road, who sees the light blue color of your car to slow down a little, because you’re approaching from the other direction? I certainly would.