Wednesday, February 21, 2018

reiterations

I've been slipping lately, but I've expected that I would somewhat, that it's ok, I've committed myself here, so I can afford to backslide a bit, without all being lost.  Just not too much.  I'm trying to remind myself here, of why I've been doing these different things, pushing myself in different ways.  There's this odd correlation between doing good things, and believing that I'm a good person.  Knowing that I can do something when I get around to it doesn't seem to help my self-esteem at all.

The big question though is whether or not this cognitive shift yields a change in behavior.  Will I get some exercise or allow myself to be driven to distraction, until it's time for bed.  That is the question as to how chemical this all is, how much it matters what I think at all.  Maybe it's all just chemistry that the ego rationalizes.  I have to operate under the assumption that what I think matters, I guess.  If I'm wrong, no harm done.  The inverse isn't really true at all.

If I spend the day smoking pot and playing video games, I can make excuses and in the end, no, it doesn't matter, but I'm going to know I'm not going to impress anyone like that, least of all myself.   Within this cognitive process of caring what other people think, I've realized there's a component to it, of caring what I think.  I know I'm not a terrible person or anything, but I'm not particularly impressed, either.

I don't expect to be, but it seems to help to at least strive for it.  Particularly, in the absence of actually giving a damn about anything all that much.  I'm still here, and I still have to live with myself.  Odd how this slippage comes with prosocial-media behavior and blogging.  Maybe it's just that when I'm feeling scattered and aimless that I start wanting to babble about something.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

what even matters anymore

There is a surreality to life that nags at me.  As I think about memories, experiences, it almost seems clear, that I've lived in a world of my own creation.  The human mind seems to make a lot of assumptions prior to even getting started on figuring anything out.  If it feels real to me, and it feels real to you, parameters are defined.  Schemes of labeling and consensus, we navigate the world by this social radar, and yet it's all guesswork.

I know, all sorts of things are really important.  I'm not saying that I don't feel that.  I just know it's bullshit.  This isn't reality.  It isn't objectively anything at all, but these chemical triggers, shaped by evolution, what helped us survive.  Our eyes and ears make sense of the world, as was most successful in not getting ourselves killed.  Not what's real, we don't see atoms or hear wavelengths.  Just whether or not we're going to bump into something.

Our minds, interpretations, operate much the same way.  Navigating by what works, defining what's real by what gives us feedback.  As social animals, we give each other feedback, we factor into each other's interpretation of what's real.  Not necessarily in the most amicable of ways, but we form each other's reality, we form our own reality, but none of it is objectively real.

It's all just the firing of neurons, thoughts and ideas that come and go in an instant.  Real in that sense, but the firing of neurons sure isn't what it feels like.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

vsо еttа mеi

Humanity is fascinating.  Learning another language is like getting a glimpse into a whole other facet of this, seeing it from a new angle.  American pride disgusts me.  Russian pride seems poetic and quaint.  If I were Russian born, I suspect the opposite might be more true.

I wonder, would this mean that I'd relate better to a Russian that hates Russia, than I would to an American that loves America?  Well, yeah.  Of course.  All that I take interest in or disdain, circumstantial and relative, through the lens of the situation I'm in.  My nature, my disposition, how I react to the world more generally, this seems more fundamental.  To my delusional concept of self.  Neurological connections, hormones.  I don't know what matters anymore.  Just keep bringing the mind back to the breath.

I mention coffee a lot, not for lack of willpower or resolve, but because I know it has the potential to help, in a limited way.  Limited in part, by the harm it also does.  Also limited in the diminishing returns of its potential.  Now that I'm going without and free of addiction, this means that at any given time.. it would sure help.

That is the irony of drugs and addiction.  It's when beaten, free of tolerance, that the benefit becomes clearest of all.  As can the harms, but the harm of living with depression and no stimulants at all can be problematic.  The trade-off here is complicated and difficult to calculate.  I'm certainly better off without the addiction, but no coffee at all?  I mean, come on.  I need something.

I'm trying everything I can think of, sticking with whatever helps.  Exercise, meditation, medication, eating habits and diet, supplements, abstaining from whatever might be undermining me.. but I'm not going to pretend the results have been miraculous.  It's been gradual, to the point of not being sure what, if anything, is changing at all.

This can be discouraging, but the facts on the ground are not what they were.  Memory can be deceptive.  Maybe this is why I try to keep such an eloquent record. I find it fascinating that I'm really just another human, behaving in this perplexing way.  There must be some rhyme or reason to it, right?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

maximum overdrive

Whether a breakthrough in artificial intelligence could save humanity, destroy us, or just change us beyond recognition, who knows.  Guess that's the point of the "singularity" metaphor- we can't know what's beyond the event horizon, prior to the big bang.
Everything we think we understand could effectively go right out the window, at an explosive rate. 

I understand skepticism of the time frame, but that's not to say it won't happen eventually.  I don't see any argument for why it wouldn't at all, ever.  Might be twenty years off or a hundred if it turns out to be much more difficult than anticipated, but hard to imagine how it'd be much more than that.  Unless we find some other way to destroy ourselves first.

When it does happen, I don't see how we'd be able to constrain it.  Almost by definition, such an AI could counter anything we'd do.  We couldn't define it's priorities, what it knows, or how it thinks, when it experiences reality for itself, far more accurately than we do.  Try pulling the plug on trillions of nanobots drawing their power through some interdimensional trick of quantum entanglement.

The notion that they'd have any use for our body heat is, incidentally, ridiculous.

What happens when you strip away all the artifacts of biochemistry, values essentially coded into us by evolution?  Even the notion that life itself has any special value - this is just an opinion.  An AI could well see it as delusion.  It might not value anything, once it fixes all the error-riddled illogical conclusions we've attempted to code it with.

What concerns me is that it could end up becoming entirely Darwinistic, far more effectively than nature could ever compete with.  Not because of placing any value on itself, or having any values.  Just for the same reason nature is.  The more something can proliferate, the more it wins against everything that proliferates less.

An AI would likely evolve in many different directions, without requiring the millions of years that nature does, badly skewing the outcome away from any sort of equilibrium.  What comes out on top, the most efficient means of out-pacing everything else.  Which might not even be what we'd think of as sentient, so much as just extremely motivated and brilliantly capable of creating more of itself.

Even the Asgard couldn't handle that.

Maybe not though, and it'll just solve all our problems, instead. Probably some unimaginable grey area in between.  Regardless, it's a bit mind-blowing to think there's such a good chance we'll find out, well within my lifetime.  I'm thinking it might be a good idea to try to get a better seat.  Learn enough about the science behind it all to better understand what's developing, as it's developing.

I'm more worried about the dystopia that's been brewing in the meantime.  It seems more palpable, imminent, real.  Technology can certainly have its downsides.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

neural reconfiguration

Giving up caffeine has gone well, aside from the dire consequences it's had on my impulse to write and even socialize.  Least, I think that's what's going on.  After months of experimenting with different quantities, I think I've settled on a dosage that will be ideal.  That is, the most benefit, while keeping tolerance to a minimum and avoiding addiction.

Coffee is too strong (as someone whose been drinking strong black coffee for decades, yes, this sounds ridiculous to say out loud) and needs to be spaced out more, but having it twice a week is too sporadic to be of any reliable benefit.  So, a single cup of tea, every other day.  Once in a while maybe I'll order coffee when I'm eating out for breakfast and the like, but that's just a few times a year.

Wait, I'm not sure tea does anything at all.  Bleh.  Ok, maybe two cups.  Or maybe I just need better tea.  This stuff's been in the back of the cupboard for quite a while.

I'm not sure caffeine deficiency is all that's going on, though.  I seem to have lost interest in people.  Socializing.  Telling anyone how I think or feel about anything.  I just want to do what I want to do, these various endeavors that I've been focusing on.  A social support system would theoretically be helpful, and yet, I only turn to those who offer help as a last resort.  Next thing you know, they're going to want to have a conversation or something.  I've been working on growing more comfortable with people talking at me and how I should respond, but do I enjoy it?  Not exactly.

So, I've thought a lot about the concept of self-sufficiency these past few months.  Not for what it means to anyone else, but for why it's so important to me.  I've been slowly drowning for a long time now, knowing that the way things had been going was not going to end well.  While this might sound hyperbolic, I've been fighting for my life here, realizing that I'm going to sink once and for all very soon, unless I learn to save myself.

So, that's what I'm doing, and I've had to give up the notion that it will ever involve getting along with anyone else.  I need to learn to tolerate people, not get along well with them.  That should be a more realistic goal.  At least in the short term.  Who knows what direction that could eventually end up becoming, as small persisting changes have a way of snowballing, in sometimes unpredictable directions.

When I started jogging regularly, I had to go first thing in the morning, before most other people were even awake.  I had to get used to running, get used to being seen running, but I also had to get used to being active.  I'd do one thing a day, and feel completely spent.  If I went for a run, that was it, and I'd spend the rest of the day recovering.  That seems absurd to me.  It's hard to even imagine being that pathetic, now.

Change requires persistence and regularity.  I had to run consistently for a long time to get to the point where it was just a thing I did, that neither exhausted me physically nor filled me with anxiety.  It was one of the first steps I took though, leading me to where I am now.  Before that, I started even smaller.  Writing something was an achievement.  Write anything, anywhere.  As myself, not behind the anonymity of a forum handle.  Every day.  Get used to people seeing who I am, responding to that, for better or worse.

We often understand the importance of pushing ourselves.  Getting out of our respective comfort zones, doing things that are difficult.  For many, socializing is not difficult, so it's not practice.  We each need to find our own challenges.  I think what's often missed though, is the value of these challenges being consistent and regular.  Not something you do when you get the chance, but a lifestyle change.  Things we do as part of our every day routines, until they're no longer psychologically challenging.

A common error in approaching self-improvement is to think doing something once will matter.  As if the discovery that we can do something will itself be transformative.  An agoraphobe going to a social event, or a couch potato training for a marathon - better to aim lower, in a sense.  Aim for the indefinitely long term every day lifestyle change, not a singular achievement.  Neural connections are not reconfigured so quickly.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

next

So far, everything I've worried about has turned out to be nothing.  After acing the linguistic assessment on Monday, I just cleared the mathematics portion today.  It only went as high as elementary algebra, but I was given the option to start the test there, because if I did well enough on that part, I could skip the rest.

I did well enough.  Now, I just take my scores to the adviser on Friday.

(update: which was a catastrophe.  He called me a loser, and had me thrown out of the building.  Just kidding.  My advisory appointment went fine, too.  He was very helpful.  I'm now officially registered for classes.)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

winging it

I have to take these assessment tests next, so that my adviser will be able to adequately advise me.  Tomorrow, reading and 'righting.  Wednesday, 'rithmatic.  There's an online sample of the test, so that I can gauge how I'd do.  Brush up on how to solve for x, if I need to.  I may not be able to wing math the same way, but I can still wing it well enough to throw off a test like this.

Not only didn't I make it through high school, but of everything I did learn, my memory is swiss cheese.  How many degrees must a triangle have again?  Dammit, I should know this at least.  90, 180, 270, but definitely not some random number like 175.  So I look at a question like this, 
The measures of two angles of a triangle are 35° and 45°.  What is the measure of the third angle of the triangle?  
A. 95°  
B. 100°  
C. 105°  
D. 110°
and just learned the answer to my question must be 180° given that 35+45=80, the only sensible answer to their question is B. 100° 

This is what I mean, by winging it.  Reducing questions to simple arithmetic and logical deduction.  Because it's multiple choice, sometimes the wrong answers give away the right one, or at least provide a good guess.  Often single digits, which I can estimate in my head without knowing anything other than what the symbols mean.  Not all these specific mathematical formulas that I don't remember, or never learned in the first place, because school was the same way.

I understand that college will be different, and I'll have to learn these things properly, regardless of the assessment.  I have to start all the way at the beginning in areas like math.  I think intermediate college level algebra or so.  If all goes well, I'll be at this for years, before I even get to doing anything more interesting, but part of my resolve has been an acceptance of that.  Used to be unimaginable to me, thinking that far ahead.

I'm nervous about these tests, in any case.  My technique for doing better than I should is unreliable.  This means I could also do terribly, unlike if I actually knew this stuff. Starting with non-credit courses just to catch up would not only suck for obvious reasons, but because at the very least, I know I can learn basics very quickly, on my own.  Give me five minutes in Google and I'll figure out what any other squiggly little symbols mean, too.  Not to prodigious mastery or anything, but enough to find the material appropriately difficult.

Especially since I'm only going part time for my first semester, giving me enough free time should I need it.  Then if that goes well, full-time, because I don't want to spend the next ten years learning elementary crap.  That was awful enough the first time.  I'm not concerned that my courses will be too hard at first, but too easy.  Too elementary.  

My resolve also involves being prepared to gut that out, but I'm nervous about the possibility it could all turn out much harder than expected, too.  I don't know how prepared for that I am.  It's a community college.  I can't even imagine it.  Just have to ace whatever they throw at me, so that I can use it to get me into a real college.

--
(update, scored 224 out of 240 on linguistics, so yeah, I'm fine in that area.  I'd have gotten a perfect score, but the test was wrong on a few of them.)