Essay: Tough

There are two types of toughness in people and I have encountered both types many times during my life. Most would describe these types of toughness as mental and physical, which I don’t necessarily disagree with, but what is interesting is the interplay between the two types.

When thinking about this, I envisage it as a matrix with four boxes – mentally weak, mentally strong, physically weak, physically strong. This is an over simplification, of course, as many degrees of mental and physical rigidity exist, but this framing helps in illustrating some interesting points. If one continues with this matrix one sees that four different combinations exist – mentally weak and physically weak, mentally weak and physically strong, mentally strong and physically weak, mentally strong and physically strong. Again, this is an oversimplification of any persons ability to deal with adversity, as circumstance and situation plays into how a person copes with the particular type of struggle they are exposed to.

For instance, if a person has to endure grueling physical hardship such as being lost in the mountains with a heavy backpack in cold and harsh conditions – physical toughness will act as a buffer and protect the mental state. I view this as two “health-bars” like the ones you have in video games. If your physical toughness bar reaches zero, you start to feed of you mental bar. In other words, your physical rigor and ability acts as a buffer and preserves your mental state. If your in shape, it takes longer before you have to rely on mental capacity and willpower to push yourself onward. Further, how quick your physical and mental bars are depleted depend on how you are situated in the matrix. If you are physically strong your bar depletes slower and if your weak it slides down faster.

To my experience people that hold both weak and strong extremities in the matrix at the same time is uncommon. I know they exist, but seemingly the people I know have varying degrees of a weak and strong combination. Again, remember that this is an oversimplification of peoples character and ability. When I did my compulsory military service in the army, I encountered the physically strong and mentally weak type often – and it is not pretty when their physical meter gets depleted. Seemingly, these guys never had to work off of their mental capacity, as they are naturally so strong and have such great endurance, that they never needed to feed of anything other than physical ability. This seems like a cliche from a Hollywood movie, but its a cliche for a reason.

However, what is much more interesting to observe is people who are the other way around – physically weak and mentally strong. One summer a friend of me and I was going for a four day hike in the mountains. The first day the weather was good and we made camp not about 10 kilometers from our initial point of departure. As spirits where high we drank all the booze and ate all the goodies the first night. This was not a problem as the plan was to stop by a tourist lodge to resupply the next day – we thought. When we woke up the next day the weather had turned sour and my friend, who was not really used to the mountains, did not have a rain coat, woolen socks or a beanie. Further, his sleeping bag was not insulated enough and he managed to come down with a pretty bad cold during the course of the day. I damned myself for not making sure he had what he need, but I did not want to act like a parent watching a kid.

On our way to the lodge my buddy’s physical bar was severely drained and I could see that he was struggling. His physical bar was at rock bottom when we reached the lodge, only to find that it was closed and we basically had no food left. My friend did not loose his temper and stayed composed although his physical bar was obviously drained and he was fueling himself of willpower. During the next two days he did not act out in desperation, although he was sick and hungry, and that is because he is mentally strong. His mental meter does not leak like a river, but rather like a slowly dripping broken tap.

I would much rather rely on a mentally strong person than a mentally weak one, no matter what their physical abilities might be. Seemingly, the mental has the ability to override the physical and therefore is more valuable in challenging situations. In my experience, when the going gets tough, the mentally strong gets going.

Essay: Binary Existence

As artificial intelligence is dawning upon the world and space as we know it, it is increasingly necessary to understand what makes human life worth living, as it may soon be challenged by the “next” form of life. In order for us to live with the machines, diving into why human life is worth living and what is needed to have a worthy existence as a human, has perhaps never been more important.

There is a commonly accepted notion people have that opposites is what makes life worth living, in so far that we would not appreciate the good without having reference to the bad and terrifying. Furthermore if this line of thinking is extrapolated it seems apparent that nothing can exist without a counterpart. For nothing to exist, something has to observe the nothing and, thus, something have to exists. If nothing observed nothing, then there would be no proof that nothing exists. Based on this line of thinking, everything that exists, even existence, is based on binary relationships. Try imagining how you maneuver throughout a normal day in the life. You sleep, then you are awake. You are hungry and then you are full. You walk or stand still. You open and close the door. The glass is full or its empty. Our processing of the world is based upon assessments of binary inputs that our brains react upon as we maneuver.

Further, computers, and therefore artificial intelligence and robots, are created out of the binary codes of 0’s and 1’s. To my understanding, this can be understood as sending “open” and “close” signals, and when put together in endless matrices you create patterns which computer programs and robots operate through. Also, every conceivable number or value that exists in our current scientific paradigm can be described by the numbers 0 and 1 when stringed together. Is this, then, a coincidence and the only way in which humans can develop intelligence as we ourselves operate in a binary way? Or is this a deeper truth which the entire universe is built upon, and therefore the only way in which something can be built and exist?

If or when the singularity is reached and artificial intelligence is capable of constantly renewing and bettering itself, will perhaps a different paradigm than the one we currently live in be discovered by the robots? If so, there is no guarantee that we will understand or be of any use in the new paradigm and the human existence may therefore become forever obsolete. Furthermore, if binary relationships are deleted from the human existence, without us evolving into the new paradigm, our lives will not be worth living. Therefore, we should all hope that binary relationships is the building block of all that exists, even outside of what we can ever fathom.

Essay: Advanced And Basic

A few weeks back I met a girl at a bar through a friend of a friend. As we got into talking she explained to me that she was a model. After telling me this I immediately sensed that she was getting defensive and an explanatory onslaught regarding how hard the job was followed. In this barrage she told me that she viewed modeling as acting and that her job is to portray the massive array of human feelings that exists.

She said this in a way which made it seem like she believes there is mystery and something unfathomable about it – portraying all the mysterious and hidden feelings of man. I could in no way disagree with the nature of her job, but I quickly questioned one thing. Is there really that many human emotions? Is it really that mysterious and isn’t this similarity in feelings between humans what makes us able to relate to each other?

The girl agreed with me. That I was probably right, there are not that many emotions a human can experience – but that there are many levels and degrees of those limited emotions and expressing those is a great challenge. I agreed and the evening continued without any revisiting of the subject.

This conversation kept me thinking. I have for some time been contemplating a notion I have that most peoples lives in our day and age is so advanced and still so basic. People engage in what is at least for our planet highly advanced work-activities, but still what we strive for is experiencing basic feel-good emotions produced by the human body. When the NASA-scientist or the tech-developer comes home from work and is finished with conquering the stars for the day, he/she engages in simple activities which man has always pursued for pleasure. Playing with the children, building something, going for a walk, working out – whatever. But in the end, all these simple leisure activities is done because they make you or others, and therefore you, feel good. And the feelings the NASA-scientist is seeking are likely to be the same ones that the garbage man pursues. This is, though, mere speculation based on a comparison of chemicals and physiology and impossible to truly know without having the recollection of having lived another life as another. But the pleasurable human emotions, however one might experience them, are what everyone seeks to be exposed to. Therefore, what is a intriguing to me is not the basic part of peoples life, but the advanced.

On some level it can be argued that the advanced part of peoples lives, for most its their work-life, only serves as a vehicle for acquiring resources which creates freedom to experience good emotions through leisure. Some people, though, spend the advanced part of their life trying to further and better the experience for humans and other living and dying creatures. But even that mission boils down to enabling the experience of pleasurable emotions. If a person sacrifices or devotes him/herself to something, it is usually for the good of others and/or the personal satisfaction altruism brings about. In other words, so good emotions and wellbeing can be experienced in the future.

It is arguable that life in itself has intrinsic value, but is it really worth anything if it is not possible to experience good things from it? Would life be inherently valuable if terror and pain was all that could be experienced? Perhaps the chemicals in our bodies which makes us feel good is why it is worth living. But naturally, if we felt good all the time the good would not be as sweet anymore – Yin and Yang and all that jazz.

I wonder how the model girl I met at a bar through a friend of a friend would portray my feelings on this subject in a photo-shoot. I think getting the levels and subtleties right might be challenging. Though not impossible. She has probably also felt how I feel, but perhaps to a different degree and from another thought.