Applying the objectives for existence

I recently wrote the page about my objectives for existence. In this post I discuss what the personal implications of this are.

Before going any further, I should discuss the issue of whether the objective of maximising knowledge is personal. The objective is about how I would like the world to be, and not directly what I personally should do. However, at the same time, my choice of what objective I would use is rather arbitrary, and therefore personal.

Other people could quite easily have chosen a different objective, and still end up working towards fulfilling my objective on most issues. For example, there are many people who are moderate Christians, Muslims, or Hindus, who also care about environmental causes (only due to reasons based on different underlying philosophies). Because these people work towards a common goal, they are still (unintentionally) helping to maximise the future potential for knowledge creation and preservation, and so it is still good to support their efforts. Their religions are culturally interesting, and worth preserving information about as a form of knowledge, but at the same time, having people actually believe them as anything more than as a cultural tradition limits their freedom to think critically. It is also makes them more vulnerable to those who exploit their beliefs for their own good. I plan to discuss this further in a post on my views on religion at some point.

In my story on the objectives for existence, I discussed how self-interest and other human behaviours can get in the way of knowledge creation and preservation. I acknowledge that I am personally vulnerable to these same behaviours, and it takes some conscious effort to avoid them.

It isn't feasible for me to work too much against the way I evolved, but there are still things which I can do. Managing my career to be friendly to my objectives, speaking out about issues I care about, and making an effort to help out with efforts relevant to achieving my objectives are all things which I can personally do.

I have been told, when discussing such topics, that not everything should be about achieving the objective, and I should sometimes just have fun. I don't really agree with the former part of the criticism on a philosophical level. After all, if I am just a bag of atoms, pleasure and enjoyment are just neurological pathways in which impulses are sent along certain nerve cells, which are just made of chemical substances. So I don't really think hedonism or any such views have any deep meaning to me. However, the suggestion that I should sometimes just have fun brings me back to the topic of this post. I am human (cue Human by The Killers - great song!), and to function well, I need to have fun and relaxation sometimes. Having fun and relaxing is therefore not an aim of life for me, but rather, it is necessary step to achieve my aims.

I will also note that over the years I have experienced quite a bit of peer pressure to use various intoxicating substances, of varying degrees of legality. Intoxicating substances, especially the addictive ones, are very interesting to learn about because of all the interesting biochemical pathways they trigger in the brain, and the receptors they can be identified to bind to, and how much this tells us about the actual functioning of the brain. Intoxication and addiction target areas of the brain that have evolved for specific functions, and subverts them in way which is different to why they evolved - so generally they help neither survival, nor the furthering of knowledge development. With the possible exception of drugs like caffeine (and possibly mental performance enhancing drugs like Ritalin, Provigil, and Inderal, although I can't say I've ever tried them), which could be taken in a controlled way to help productivity, most of these substances would actually have an overall negative impact. I do occasionally consume small amounts of alcohol, but this is predominantly for social reasons - I don't think I would drink alcohol at all, or miss it, if I thought I wouldn't feel at all stigmatised for not doing so. I think that the stigma about people who don't drink has been created over the years by those who profit from selling alcohol - it is yet another form of exploitation of the people by corporates. I plan to write a more detailed story on my views on drug / alcohol law reform some day - and about how at present the victims (addicts) of illegal drugs get victimised twice - once by the dealers, and once by the legal system.


Grab-bag of unstructured responses

1) I don't recall reading anyone recently who's thought about this in as much detail.

2) The middle of your song reference reminds me of what I know by reputation about Nietzsche, and some songs by the Magnetic Fields:
- All My Little Words
- You Must Be Out Of Your Mind
- No One Will Ever Love You Honestly

3) Michael Nagler covers related matters, especially relaxation, in PACS 164A, which is available on YouTube.

4) I'm fairly sure that conspicuous consumption and addictive drugs (of which alcohol and tobacco are the obvious ones) have important roles in sexual selection, which crosses the durability of any plan affecting large numbers of people.

5) The site's demand that we choose high security passwords is an impossible hurdle for most people. I can cope with it only because I have technical assistance from software that most people won't run. (Apple Airport Utility's password assistant)

6) Good luck.