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Posted on 2011.02.06 at 16:50
Current Location: 75409
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Proving an argument for fate is a tricky endeavor insofar as dotting the lines once events have already taken place is purposefully minded [and therefore effortless] as compared to predicting future events based on an outlook of predestination. If you know what you're looking for, it's easier to find it when it has already occurred - pattern recognition cannot take place without first a pattern to draw from.

Well, that and free will.

Motherfucking Puritans and their "His will be done" bullshit.

Or is it?

Why the Protestants relied so heavily upon Greek mythology is only a mystery to those who do not understand that the entirety of Christianity is based upon Pagan belief and also worth mentioning that as a religion Christianity is equally as fragmented into two camps, those who ascribe to predestination and those who believe in free will... Just to further muddy the water. We're not just talking about hokey religions and ancient weapons here - we're also talking about YOUR religion - just to be clear.

Or not.

The point is, I've been struggling with the concepts behind fate here lately. The idea that everything I've ever done - every decision I've ever made (and I have spent a lifetime actively [as opposed to passively] deciding choices in the course of my life) has led me to the point I find myself now. These thoughts however, are not only my own, which I find further complicates my normally lucid process. My clone has wondered the same thing. And given our mutual empirical emphasis on the misleading ease of pattern recognition, we're awfully curious as to what role fate, if any, plays.

For example - what are the odds that a lifetime of free will, AKA "playing the odds" will net you everlasting bliss? Just ask those who gamble, or buy lottery tickets how the equivalent of free will is working out for them? Does life bless them in their favor often? Is there hidden purpose in random choice? Did Theseus choose to be among the youths to be sacrificed to the Minotaur or was it fate? When Theseus was made aware of his lineage, he was given two choices, one easy, one difficult. It is written that he chose the more difficult path due to his youth, ambition and courage - and that that made all the difference. I have another word for it, which is why those of you who always chose the path of least resistance fail so miserably at happiness: Character.

If we can all agree that character defines us, why are so many of you willing to sacrifice yours for the short term reward when in its path lies known misery? You know you're not going to be happy, but you do it anyway because its easy. Its like my clone said, "No one I've ever known has said, `Once I made a bad choice, but all the other choices I made were good.`" She went on to describe a pattern most people are familiar with - failure after failure after failure. Failure compounded by failure.

Wherein then lies the answer?

Not cheating yourself. At every turn. Whether difficult or not. I think true free will is following the path fate has laid before you by always staying true to who you are at your core. In my experience, this is a guaranteed recipe for success. Of course as an empiricist I have often made decisions purely on the desire to see the outcome <-- because this is who I am! I volunteered for Saudi Arabia simply because everyone else hated it. You know what? I loved it. Because no matter where you are, or what you're doing, if you have the right attitude, it will take you anywhere you want to go.

Fate and free will aren't opposites. Rather, they're complimentary, but only if you know what you are doing.

The Greeks had it wrong. As do the Christians. All of them.


CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2011-02-06 23:42 (UTC) (Link)
If I left it up to fate I would be in an institution somewhere with mentally challenged people. Since I was born, people have equated my physical imperfection, difference or handicap to a mental handicap (retardation). Luckily I've almost always managed to prove them wrong both mentally and physically. The only exclusion really would be the U.S. military. I'm just glad I was born in the U.S. and at this time period. If I was born in Sparta for instance they would have killed me at birth. And even in this time period there are some cultures that leave children who are different out to die.

Also I'm so glad I'm not a Christian!!!
ehowton at 2011-02-06 23:48 (UTC) (Link)
What physical imperfection? I have no idea what you're talking about. Ever since I've known you there has been NOTHING you couldn't do.
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2011-02-07 01:03 (UTC) (Link)
I never said I thought I had any physical imperfections. Frankly I think I'm the most physically perfect person you know. And there are some women that do like my physical differences from other men. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)How ever there are others that would disagree and that is why I don't have the distinguished military career I should have.
(Deleted comment)
ehowton at 2011-02-08 01:02 (UTC) (Link)
I'm usually thinking so far ahead taking *anything* a single day at a time would destroy me.

But I like the idea of the Zen.

I need more Zen in my life.
dentin at 2011-02-14 15:43 (UTC) (Link)
When I really came to terms with my nihilism, it fixed most of these fate questions for me. In my mindset, there is no fate; we are here because we happen to be here, there's no guiding hand, and there's nothing when we die. The universe, in all its glory, is vast, interesting, exciting, immeasurably fair, and uncaring.

(It's fair in that so far as we know, everything is explainable via the perfectly understandable, objective rules of physics. Morally fair on the other hand is a subjective thing and irrelevant.)

The question of free will I simply find to be uninteresting. Do we truly have free will? Are we simply a blob of interacting particles interacting with other particles in a deterministic fashion? Has physics made us automatons?

Leaving aside what we know about quantum randomness, I simply have to answer, "who cares?" Assume for the moment I have no free will, that everything is and has been pre-determined for me. How does this affect my life? In no way whatsoever. I still feel like I have free will, it still matters to me that I make my predetermined choices.

Even were I a computer program that you could restart and rerun from a save file over and over that produced the same results each time, it still would not matter to me:

"Dentin, this is Eric. We've restarted you, you are currently copy number 316."

"Wow, 316 of me? That's pretty crazy."

"Yes, and FYI you've asked that for the last 300 restarts."

"I wouldn't expect anything less."
ehowton at 2011-02-14 16:01 (UTC) (Link)
When I really came to terms with my nihilism...

Must be exhausting.
dentin at 2011-02-14 16:36 (UTC) (Link)
(If this is a humor reference, I don't understand it.)

It actually was pretty exhausting, because I didn't realize what was happening at the time. My rational brain was delving into the "what is the point" part of things and coming up with "there is no point", and the emotional part of me was upset with that answer and depressed. I was cranky for about a week until I realized the conflict.

Once I understood the nature of the conflict, it was easy enough to fix. I simply had to ask and answer the age-old question: "If there is no point, then why bother? Why not kill yourself and be done?"

The answer is stunningly simple and powerful. Why do I bother? Because my hardware and software construction desires it. Why not kill myself? Because I happen to like it here, because that's how I'm programmed.

In short, I continue to live because I like living, and I try to be happy because I like being happy and I want to maximize my overall happiness. I like these things because they happen to be a default goal of my hardware/software operating system. No further explanation is necessary.

It's incredibly freeing. And even more freeing, is the knowledge that in the worst case, I have an exit strategy: I can always turn myself off if my goals demand it.
ehowton at 2011-02-14 16:53 (UTC) (Link)
(If this is a humor reference, I don't understand it.)

It was. A line out of The Big Lebowski concerning nihilists.

Two things here - first off, that's exactly how I felt when I first questioned the divinity of christ, i.e. everything I ever knew to be "true." It really is a weary struggle - to change your core. Secondly, do you have any idea how quickly you process new information that it only took you a week? But of course you do.
dentin at 2011-02-14 17:18 (UTC) (Link)
Heh, you give me way too much credit. This wasn't a core change. The rough software architecture for this was:

Core: "everything is understandable"

Layer 1: "based on observation and evidence, there is no point/traditional god giving life meaning"

Layer somewhere >1: ancient emotional subroutine installed when I was a child that generates happiness by assuming life has an externally defined meaning

I simply hadn't noticed that I had a buggy routine in there. It was easy enough to rip out and replace with something that didn't violate the constraints of the lower layers.

That's one of the irritating things about this, that makes it so much like software engineering: the system is so big you're basically stuck fixing problems only as they crop up. And any time you make a far-reaching change, you simply have to accept that you're going to be dealing with bug reports for a while.
ehowton at 2011-02-14 18:25 (UTC) (Link)
One of the nice things about sysadmin'ing is that if there are no problems, that means everything is running optimally - and that's fantastic! Until it gets boring...
ehowton at 2011-02-14 16:02 (UTC) (Link)
It really does delve into some serious Matrix shit what you brought up - why would you care, when the journey is just the same and the destination irrelevant? Thanks for the thinking points.
dentin at 2011-02-14 17:04 (UTC) (Link)

Failure after failure

Before I start, I'd like to make it clear that many difficult choices are difficult because we must make decisions between short and long term goals, where the short term goals have an artificially inflated value due to our core programming. However, I do not blame most failures on this. I also do not blame most failures on lack of character.

I blame them on bad modeling.

I know a lot of people who "fail at life" in various ways. There is only one consistent theme: their model of the universe, for that part of the universe they depend on to achieve success and happiness, is inaccurate. An inaccurate model engenders inaccurate predictions, which instigate actions with sub-optimal results, which results in failure.

Failure again and again, driven by an inaccurate model, that is never updated. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

We do not teach people how to think analytically about things they see around them. We don't teach them how to form and evaluate models, how to update models when confronted with conflicting data. Most people get offended when you give them data that conflicts with their broken model.

(As an extreme example of this, take the online Pick Up Artist community. The core principle of pickup is that attraction and seduction are complex problems that can not just be modeled, but can be accurately modeled. Oh, and BTW, here's a set of algorithms that optimize for various outcomes. Most of the people I've introduced to these concepts are either violently offended or dismissive, because they conflict with an inaccurate belief of how relationships should work.)

This is what I find so utterly sad about the unhappiness I see around me. Not that people are lazy or awful or stupid; but that they simply don't know any better.
ehowton at 2011-02-14 17:28 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Failure after failure

I must run into ignorance far more often than you do. No, ignorance is too kind - we are all initially ignorant - whatever you would call those who get offended at conflicting broken-model data, because for me those people fall into the three categories you've suggested: lazy, awful & stupid. I will admit to being *thrilled* you've given me the sub-category for that which (and I hesitate to use the word) motivates them.

The question remains, if their so unhappy, don't they know it? Don't they ever strive to not be frustrated? I don't find it sad as much as I simply don't understand.
dentin at 2011-02-14 17:47 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Failure after failure

Yes, they know it, and yes they try not to be frustrated, they really try. They just fail, because the universe doesn't work the way they think it should, and because they refuse to update their thinking. I can think of one particular example who is trying ever so hard to make the universe fit her model of it instead of the reverse. It makes me very sad.

The reasons are many and poor: "it's too hard to understand that" "you can't analyze that" "emotions can't be understood" "but that's what my mother/father/priest/teacher told me" "I like my mistaken belief better" "my friends don't believe that" "I once read an article that said the opposite", and the ultimate cop-out: "can we ever truly know anything?"

As someone who embraces change and strives for deep, solid, and consistent understanding, you immediately dismiss these reasons as ridiculous; but for those in the mix, those held back by these reasons, they are a great wall.

The wall analogy is a good one. You and I know that on the other side of the wall lies success; but they lack that understanding. To them, the wall is comfortable and tearing it down is risky and uncertain. They fear what is on the other side, because they do not know. They do not know because they will not tear it down.
michelle1963 at 2011-02-14 17:39 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Failure after failure

Inaccurate model--beautiful observation. I do have to wonder what it is in so many people that makes them resistant to redefining their model. It's not simply that they have not been taught to analyze--although that is certainly true.

As you said:

Most people get offended when you give them data that conflicts with their broken model.

This is more than just an inability to analyze. It appears that they fear any change. Is the "change = bad" scenario part of their inaccurate model? If so, how did it become so pervasive? Or is this fear driven by something else?
dentin at 2011-02-14 17:55 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Failure after failure

The reasons are legion, and it appears that a significant factor is hardwired either at a very early age or genetically. Some portion of it is definitely genetic, with controlled experiments showing differences in belief structure based on biochemical factors.

There's a huge set of posts and topics about this on lesswrong.com, if you're super bored or super interested in it.
michelle1963 at 2011-02-14 18:04 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Failure after failure

If it's hardwired genetically, that would imply an evolutionary advantage--or a side effect of some other evolutionary mutation that is an advantage.

Interesting. Thanks for the link.
dentin at 2011-02-14 18:11 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Failure after failure

If you think about it, both could be positives, combined in moderation. The bulk of a tribe conservative and risk averse, maintaining the homefront. The small percentage of individuals willing to take risks and be different are more likely to die, but also more likely to become leaders and explorers that bring back advantages for the entire tribe.

Basically a stable product line and a research department, like most large companies of today.
michelle1963 at 2011-02-14 18:42 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Failure after failure

Probably an advantage for most of homo sapiens' existence. I have to question whether this mindset is an advantage now. It seems to mire us in many of our regional/ethnic/religious conflicts.
dentin at 2011-02-14 17:49 (UTC) (Link)
I apologize for spamming up this post with probably redundant and overly wordy comments. I am finding it useful for my self understanding, and I hope at least one other person gets something out of it.
ehowton at 2011-02-14 17:53 (UTC) (Link)
Not at all. As always, I enjoy your perspective; it makes me think. And let's face it - everyone else is on Facebook anyway.
dentin at 2011-02-14 18:03 (UTC) (Link)
Screw them, facebook sucks. I have yet to see anything as thoughtful as this posting on facebook. It's a communication toy IMHO, like twitter and cell phone texting. As a tool for deep, insightful discussion, I'd be better off shitting quarters.
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