Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Archive for January 2008

Deception

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I’d just barely recovered from my bad fever during the weekend. I’m surviving on Panadols to reduce my headache, so for the moment,  i will not bother to squeeze my brain juice much to writing a blog post. That’s why i’ve decided to take the lazy way out for this post – quoting directly from book!

I’m a big fan of war strategies ever since i was 13 when i had the opportunity to play Romance of Three Kingdom on my classic Game Boy. The game wasn’t enough for me, so i proceeded to read books on Three Kingdom, which in my opinion, the greatest war epic in China’s history. One man who caught my attention well was Zhuge Liang, a genius strategist, master of The Art of Management and an innovative inventor (around the year 200AD). One of the main highlight of the story was his poisoness taunting  on Sun Quan’s brilliant military advisor Zhou Yu. Basically, ZhuGe Liang outwitted Zhou Yu, a perfectionist guy, in several psychological battles and literally taunted him to death (died in illness). Although this historical event might just be a fiction, it nevertheless brought a little light in my mind – i realised in war it is not just down to brawn and intelligence , but there’s also a massive psychological factor involved too.

So, what is the most effective way of hitting the enemy psychologically in war? It should be – Deception.

All warfare is based on Deception. – Sun Tzu

I don’t think i’m able to put the words as perfectly as how Robert Greene did in his book ‘The 33 Strategies of War’, so i will just directly quote him here…

 

Misconception Perception

Since no creature can survive without the ability to see or sense what is going on around it, you must make it hard for your enemies to know what is going on around them, including what you are doing. Disturb their focus and you weakens their strategic powers. People’s perceptions are filtered through their emotions; they tend to interpret the world according to what they want to see. Feed their expectation, manufacture a reality to match their desires, and they will fool themselves. The best deceptions are based on ambiguity. mixing facts and fictions so that the one cannot be disentangled from the other. Control people’s perception of reality and you control them forever”

The hypnotic patterns

“According to Machievelli, human beings naturally tend to think in terms of patterns. They like to see events conforming to their expectations by fitting into a pattern or scheme, for schemes, whatever their actual content, comfort us by suggesting that the chaos of life is predictable. This mental habit offers excellent ground for deceptions, using a strategy that Machiavelli calls “acclimatization” – deliberately creating some patterns to make your enemies believe that your next action will follow true to form. Having lulled them into complacency, you now have room to work against their expectations, break the patterns and take them by surprised.

Shadows within Shadows.

In a sophisticated, competitive world, both sides will know the game, and the alert enemy will not necessary grasp at the shadow (deception) you have thrown. So, you have to take the art of deception to a higher level, casting shadows within shadows, making it impossible for your enemies to distinguish between fact and fiction. You make everything so ambiguous and uncertain, that even if you are suspected of deceit, it does not matter – the truth cannot be unraveled from the lies and all the suspicion gives them is torment. By creating something that is simply ambiguous and blurry, there is no deception to uncover. They are simply lost in a mist of uncertainty, where truth and falsehood, good and bad, all merge into one, and it is impossible to get one’s bearing straight.

(For the sub-chapter shadows within shadows, the author used War World 2, the battle between Nazi and Britain as an example. An English general, Dudley Clarke attempted to deceive the Germans by placing dummy tanks and planes to make it impossible for the Germans to figure out the size and location of English army, who used high-flying reconnaissance aircraft to survey and photograph the strength of English army. However, the Germans figured out the way to distinguished the fake planes from the real ones by just enlarging photos to look for struts holding up the wings. After receiving intelligence that the German managed to break the ‘code’ of the dummy planes, instead of stopping using the dummies, Dudley Clarke decided to put struts under the wings of real aircraft as well as phony ones to further confuse the Germans.)

*I think all the points in bold are extremely interesting.

I could relate all the points above to a single simple everyday scenario – Imagine if Mr.A told Mr. B that he will feign a punch directly to his eyes. But, no matter how hard Mr. B tried, he will still subconsciously shut his eyes when the fist is near the eye. There seem to be a ‘stubbornness’ in terms of human psychology or neuro-science to react to certain events regardless of circumstances. It is instinctive.

Moreover, as i have said many times before, human can never live in uncertainties.

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Written by elan85

January 29, 2008 at 12:13 pm

The Lightning Game

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1

Imagine you are the stickman above on a big blank white space. 5 lightning bolts will strike randomly on the blank space within the next 10 minutes. You have no idea when and where the lightning will strike. If you get hit by a lightning bolt, you will be dead. What will you do to ensure your maximum chances of survival?

1. Will you be staying put in one position or will you keep moving around the blank space?

2. If you are moving around, will you walk or will you run?

<……. If you are interested in this mini-game, give a thought about it first before continue reading……>

 

 

 

I asked my friends of these 2 questions and all of their answers are similar.

1. They will be moving around.

2. They will run.

 

Most people perceived there is a difference between staying stationary and moving around the spaces. Instinctively we believe, if we move around, we will have less chances of getting hit, thus able to dodge the bolts and remain alive. And the faster we run, the higher our chances to survive. But how true is that?

Logically however, there are no differences whether you move or not. Because whether you are running around or stand in a spot like a statue, you are occupying one space. Running will NOT shrink and halved your body size. Hence, you will have no choice but to purely rely on good fortune for your own survival in this scenario.

So, why do we instinctively believe that running will save our ass? I do not know exactly why, but i’m pretty sure the answer is tied to human’s biological (Evolution) and psychological reasons.

Perhaps, we are inherently wired to afraid and run away from threats and danger?  (That’s the reason why people honor heroes who do not fear death? And also worshiping God? And reading comics/manga of super heroes who have heroic personality and superpowers to overcome problems?) Perhaps, we have a natural tendency to avoid problems and be pessimistic of our own abilities? (Hence people love reading self-help and motivational books because they give them new ‘insights’? And that’s also why people ‘worship’ Law of Attraction which gives them ‘hope’?)

I do not know. The more i learn about human mind, the more strange it gets to me.

PS: I pondered about this while i was on the street after my lunch on a cloudy day.  I get frightened by lightning and thunder easily, so i guess the fear provoked my imagination a little. (and my computer’s motherboard got struck down by lightning on last Saturday! ZzZzzZzzzzZ)

Written by elan85

January 22, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Psychology

Evolution’s Design

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Note: I don’t believe in Intelligent Design. I’m reasoning this purely from Evolutionary point of view.

 evolution-poster (credit:some German website)

If you think human evolved from apes and that’s all it is, then you are clearly wrong. The image above depicts comprehensively the origin of evolution on earth (click to enlarge) and clearly, evolution is a big mess of chain-transformation. In a nutshell, the deepest root of human ancestors are not monkey and apes, rather – microorganisms. I will not touch on the microorganisms topic, as i want to talk about something more interesting , which is …

From Evolutionary point of view, is human a well designed entity or a badly designed one?

Let’s start off by thinking the superficial first. There was a time during my college days when i was sitting few meters away from two cute ladies. And so, instinctively, i tried to eavesdrop their conversation. Well, every guy does that i supposed …. (excuses!!). But the two ladies were speaking so softly, that i could barely hear them. This is when i pondered, why is my hearing capabilities so limited? And my imagination went rampant. Why couldn’t my eyesight zoom in and out just like a camera? Why couldn’t i shout so loud the other side of the world hear me?

And the thought stretched even further. Not only our five senses are limited, but our entirely body is badly designed too.

  • Human’s body are vulnerable to diseases and virus (falling sick)
  • Human’s mind and brainpower will erode as we age
  • Human’s bone and joints will wear out as we age too. Plus, it is not difficult to disable our limbs (by breaking the bones or joints)
  • Human gets tired and fatigue and we have poor resistance against extreme cold and heat
  • Human internal organs are prone to failure
  • And the list goes on and on…

 

Therefore, it is safe to conclude that human is a poorly designed entity. Basically, grade A for concept and D for execution. The imperfectness hindered the potential of human being of becoming a super-robust being, thus achieving further greatness.

But let me tell you what i believe. To conjure up an elegant answer, you gotta think deep. You gotta think beyond the obvious. Because thinking superficially is … well, superficial. Now, let me tell you why our body is, in fact, very well designed.

An interesting idea i learned after reading the book Survival of the Sickest is that every bad genetic diseases, such as cholesterol, diabetes, and hemochromatosis which resides in modern human today, have helped our ancestors survived the harsh environment at some point in their evolutionary history. For instance, European ancestors and plants residing at northern Europe have high-level of sugar in order to help them to survive the coldness. However, as these high-level-sugar-human migrate away from cold places, suddenly there is a paradigm shift between their body and environment. Their body is full of sugar, but there is no coldness to balance things out. Hence, these human have diabetes.

Therefore, back to the topic – When you question the value of a design, you have to have in mind what the design is FOR. Yes, it is true, our human body isn’t perfect. But our purpose according to Evolution is not to become a Superman or Terminator by having robust and supernatural abilities. Rather, the Evolutionary design is for Survival Purposes, just like how sugar helped people survive in cold area. With this logic, what we have within our body is sufficient enough to keep human surviving.

Allow me to draw up an analogy. Look at a car. You can easily point out many imperfectness of a car. Why can’t a car fly? Why can’t a car travel across ocean? Why can’t a car transform like Bumblebee? The matter of fact is, a car isn’t designed for such activities. A car is designed to transport human to a reasonable distance on the road. When you understand the purpose of the car, you will understand why such imperfections are reasonable.

PS: This article is inspired by an intellectual discourse in Facebook Group titled: Is The Human Body A Good Design?

Written by elan85

January 16, 2008 at 11:18 pm

Posted in Evolution

Galactic Civilizations

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I was reading a rather fascinating article on Reddit.com about the four types of galactic civilization we have in this universe. Basically, according to the article, our universe consists from Type 0, the most primitive form of civilization such as our Earth, to Type 3, the most advanced kind of civilization. In the Type 3 Civilization, these beings have mastered the capabilities of doing ‘science fiction-ish’ stuffs such as traveling through time by manipulating worm-hole, ripping space time, traveling faster than the speed of light, colonizing galaxies, creating their own universe and so on. They are basically million of years more advanced than earthlings and has mastered the art of physics.

And so i asked myself the ultimate question – these stuffs are so beyond human-like that they seem so impossible to happen. Are these physicists serious about it? More importantly, i was seeking the logic and reasoning behind these seemingly affirmed theories by physicists. And so, i searched around YouTube and i found a video of Michio Kaku explaining about these galactic civilizations.

Perfect. Michio Kaku is my living Einstein.

Part 1- Michio Kaku On Aliens, On Physics …

Part 2: Michio Kaku On Civilizations Types I,II & III

 

Nobody can explain astrophysics better than Michio Kaku do. Simple yet elegant.

Written by elan85

January 10, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Astrophysics, Cosmology

Schopenhauer’s Thoughts

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This comment was posted in Psyblog.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2008/01/schopenhauers-extreme-self-help-for.php

My comment:

Schopenhauer mentioned quite frequently of the word ‘Will’ and in this article, you had interpreted Will as ‘Desire’. But what Schopenhauer really meant by the word Will was actually ‘Instinct’. Look at a dog. What a dog does everyday is pretty routine – sleep, eat, bark at strangers, run-around, eat, and sleep (and occasional sex). They are all very instinctive.

Due to our complex nature and activities, human daily routine is not as straight-forward as a dog. But this do not change the fact that human’s behaviour are instinctive too. Fundamentally, our basic instinct do not differ much from a dog(for instance: it is instinctive for human and dog to have babies to continue the next generation.)

Hence, the argument put fourth by Schopenhauer was – Instinct creates Desire and Desire brings Suffering. (Definition of Suffering – The absence of Absolute Happiness. That means, something as mild as boredom is an act of Suffering taking place within ourselves)

Therefore, Schopenhauer maintained that the rule Will (Instinct)-> Desire-> Suffering is the ‘Truth’ in our life. We can’t change it. That’s why, we are always never satisfied and keep dwelling in the past and chasing dreams (as pointed out in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Ultimately, according to Schopenhauer, human live to endlessly seek Satisfaction (Yes, Schopenhauer meant Satisfaction, not Happiness. The difference is, Satisfaction is more of short-term joy while attaining Happiness means having it in our mindset)

One psychological condition of human being is that we always want to look ‘politically correct’ – basically we only want to associate ourselves with the good stuffs and subconsciously reject the bad stuffs (hence one of the reason why we always fool ourselves). Schopenhauer and Buddhism were merely bold enough to remind us, human, that our world is actually a world where Good and Bad stuffs co-exist together. We will have a better life and suffer less (physically and mentally) if we dare to face the reality of the ugly side of this world instead of remaining ignorant. We will also suffer less if we decide to understand and defy our Desire caused by our Instinct and stop chasing Satisfaction.

Example: Human has strong desire to gain wealth and power. But if we are never satisfied with what we have gained, we will forever go on and on chasing endless dream and having the illusion that we are happy.

Last but not least, in your points of ‘What Schopenhauer got wrong’, i have never read before where he said to ‘Avoid Problems’ and ‘Avoid People’. He definitely said something along the lines but i’m very sure it is not as how as you had interpreted.

For me, i would want to passionately read a philosopher’s work first before writing a blog post. As Ludwig Wittgenstein mentioned before, confusion in philosophy is often due to wrong interpretation and definition of words.

PS: The comment was slightly edited.

Written by elan85

January 8, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Psychology