The Bias of Success

I’m rather grateful for the time I’ve spent playing Texas Hold’em.  It’s a brilliant game for teaching people about life.  In this case, about what it takes to be successful.


Many if not most would define a successful hand as one which you’ve won.  I would argue that a successful hand is one which you’ve played to the best of your ability.  I think this highlights a dynamic which we see throughout society.  Perhaps far too frequently right now.

In Texas Hold’em, each player is dealt two cards.  They then must play those two cards as best as they can with the 5 community cards dealt to the middle of the table.  If more than one player makes it to the end, the best hand wins.  When you’re talking about playing the hand that you’re dealt, whether in life or in poker, what you’re really saying is do best with what you’ve been given.

When you’re playing against experienced players who understand the mechanics of poker, you’ll often see them lose hands which they played exceptionally well.  Sometimes they run into someone else who also played their hand exceptionally well, but more often than not, it’s someone who was dealt a more advantageous hand, or someone who benefited from the community cards more than anyone else.  Typically, this is called a bad beat.  Even at the highest levels of poker, we see this happen from time to time.  In most cases, the undeserving winner of that hand will apologize with a smile as they’re collecting their chips.

So why is it that most of the world assumes that a win means they did good?

I suspect that evolutionary biology plays a role here.  Positive reinforcement encourages you to connect your actions to your outcomes.  If something good happened, figure out what you did so that you can make it happen again.  Action = Outcome.  The problem with this mindset though, is that it ignores other important variables.  A more realistic equation might be: Nature + Nurture + Circumstance + Action = Outcome.  In the case of poker, that might look like: The cards you’re dealt plus your knowledge of the game plus the community cards plus how well you play that hand, equals a win or a loss.  Assuming that your actions were solely responsible for your outcome is just as erroneous as assuming that your actions had nothing to do with your outcome.

I think another influence here might be the places we work at.  I spent the better part of the last 10 years at two of the largest companies in the world.  I can’t tell you how many times I was told, “at the end of the day, the score board is the only thing that matters.”  In both cases, they were talking about sales.  I’ve also spent plenty of time serving on boards for non-profit organizations where people loved to talk about how unfair the world was.  I’m not sure which side of this coin is more frustrating.

Those who have had success tend to take credit for their success, thinking it was a result of their actions.  Those who have not had success tend to credit their circumstances, thinking there was nothing they could’ve done.  They’re both wrong.  The reality exists somewhere in the middle and the sooner we get there, the better off we’ll all be.

Perhaps my favorite example is that of Warren Buffet’s ‘Ovarian Lottery’.  As most people know, he’s one of history’s most accomplished investors.  What some may not know is that he’s been able to maintain a level of modesty and humility rarely seen in that tax bracket.  When asked about this, he says he got lucky.  Lucky doesn’t refer to the work ethic or business acumen he developed as a kid.  It doesn’t speak to the education he earned or the Dale Carnegie course he took to deal with his fear of public speaking.  It doesn’t refer to the level of integrity he maintained throughout his career.  And it certainly doesn’t reference the sheer amount of hours he spent honing his craft.  Those were things he could control, and he did them to the best of his ability.  Where he got luck, as he tells it, is with where he was born.  He was born a male when women weren’t expected to do much more than be married off.  He was born white when a minority in a senior role was rare.  He was born into a family that knew plenty about investments.  And he was born in a country that absolutely valued the capitalistic skill set he would eventually develop.  As he tells it, had he been born into a village in Africa, he probably wouldn’t have fared so well.

I’ve always looked up to the guy.  When I heard him say that, I couldn’t help but agree.  It was a shift in my perspective.  I was humbled and now tend to be more grateful for what I’ve been given.  We control much less than we think we do, but it’s important to recognize that what we do control, matters tremendously.

The decisions that we make, ultimately shape our lives.  But perhaps not the way we expect.  In poker, it’s said that luck favors the backbone, not the wishbone.  Beyond poker, it’s said that luck favors the prepared.  Both reference the same dynamic.  True success is is not a matter of luck, but rather the cumulative effect of many good decisions.  The decisions of how we choose to spend our time, who we choose to surround ourselves with and what we choose to learn about.   Over time, these kinds of decisions will have a more of an impact on the opportunities we’re presented than just about anything else.  It’ll also ensure that we’re ready for them.

And if that’s true, perhaps a win is a moment of good fortune, while success is a journey of good decisions.


Incest Porn

In my prime, I was probably just as interested in porn and masturbation as any other stereotypical male.  Perhaps one of my most embarrassing memories was being walked in on by a friend back in grade 11.  I still maintain he didn’t see anything, but holy shit was that awkward… then embarrassing when the rest of the school found out… and then a highly entertaining memory.

As the years have passed, it’s become more of a functional effort for me.  Sometimes it’s to help me get to sleep, sometimes it’s to de-stress, sometimes it’s because I saw boobies on TV and wasn’t sure what else to do with myself.  I’ve always enjoyed watching porn for a very different reason though – as a reflection of the human psyche.

If you were to ask 100,000 people what their sexual preferences or fantasies were, I don’t think you’d get an honest set of data.  I think most people would respond with some variation of vanilla + light bdsm.  If you were to take a look at the major porn sites right now, they’re dominated by incest porn.  Thanks Glasses Morty…

There’s an honesty to porn.  In the privacy of your own home (and incognito mode), you tend to care less about what people think and more about getting you to that mind-blowing orgasm.  For me, I’ve been through several phases but it’s always revolved around female pleasure.  Something about a girl looking like she’s experiencing levels of pleasure she’s never experienced before is totally my jam.  And when I think about who I am as a person, I see an alignment there.  One of my favorite states of mind is when I introduce someone to something they’ve never experienced before, and they have an awesome time.  I’m also super competitive and want to be the best at everything, including her body, haha.  So what does it say about the current state of the human condition when porn is being dominated by an incest fetish?

If I were to go onto any major free porn site, I’m saying close to half of the videos listed are either mother-son, brother-sister, or daddy-daughter.  Some aren’t even incest related, but they’ll toss it in the title for more clicks.  As someone who has a younger sister who lives in LA that has flirted with the idea of being a stripper, the last thing I want when watching porn is a reminder that the girl in the video could be my little sister.  As someone who has a complicated relationship with his mother, hearing ‘do you like that, son?’ is a quick way for me to lose all interest in what I’m doing.  The daddy-daughter stuff?  I’m not a fan of unbalanced power dynamics.

When I wanna watch porn, I now literally have to skip through the first 5-10 minutes of story line or risk it being ruined for me.  Kinda.  Because every once in a while, there’s one that I’m into.  In trying to understand what I was enjoying about it, a few things came to mind.

First and foremost, it was a step-sibling dynamic.  No incest, just pretend incest.  Second, there was no jacked up power dynamic where the brother was blackmailing his sister or something weird like that.  The stuff that I was into was when there were two good looking people, living under the same roof, not related, super attracted to one another, knowing that it’s taboo, and caving into their desires.  Hmm… that’s kinda hot isn’t it?

And when I think about the popularity of this genre and what it tells us about the people who are watching it, I see a few interesting elements.

First is the evolution of the blended family.  Blended families are becoming the norm which means step-siblings are more common than ever.  That means we’re putting a whole bunch of teenagers and young adults, who aren’t related to each other, under the same roof.  From time to time, at least one of them is going to be attractive.  And we’re expecting the other sibling not to be attracted?  But their parents have told them that they’re brother and sister and brothers and sisters don’t have those kinds of feelings or engage in those behaviors.  That’s like preaching abstinence to reduce pregnancies.

Next is the taboo element.  Remember when BDSM was taboo?  Anal?  Gay sex?  Even blow jobs were taboo at one point.  They all follow the same pattern of a bunch of people collectively deciding it’s wrong and trying to shame the rest of us into complying.  But then a few people explore those boundaries, find out it’s totally awesome, and the dynamic starts to shift.  Eventually the people who tried to impose limitations on sexual freedoms start to look silly.  In some cases, you feel sorry for them.  In others, you swear they’re doing all kinds of kinky shit when nobody’s looking.

Finally, and perhaps the most subtle.  Or maybe just something I see… is this dynamic of doing what you know makes sense even when others tell you that you’re wrong, or a bad person for doing it.  If you were gay, at a time where the world was telling you that you shouldn’t be gay, I would imagine that being with the person you wanted to be with was an incredibly liberating and joyful experience.  This dynamic of going against the grain when you know you’re right is something that exists well beyond sex.  It’s how great investors invest.  It’s how great love stories are told.  It’s how great leaders change the world.  It’s also why teenagers consistently push the boundaries which their parents impose on them.  Whether it’s staying out late, skipping class, studying less than you should… most kids aren’t doing these things because they’re trying to sabotage their future, it’s because they think that they’re more capable than the limitations being place on them.  In the case of incest porn, I think it just comes down to…. she’s hot, I think she’s into me, we’re not related as much as dad and his new wife would like me to think so – and there’s your fantasy.

The last piece I’ll mention is that if any of what I’ve written here has relevancy, the real story is appreciating the diversity of porn because it’s indicative of the diversity of sexual desire, which is indicative of the diversity of humanity.  Some people are into big, some people are into small, some people are into feet, some people are into dressing like stuffed animals.  If we could understand and accept that 99.9% of the time, sex is about pleasure and not procreation, we’re in a position to realize a sexual revolution.  As long as there’s consent, do what feels good.  The doors that will open, the marriages that will saved, the minds that will be blown… could be very exciting times ahead.

Thought Vs. Emotion

I grew up with an unemotional father while my mother and sister were on the other end of that spectrum.  I was probably a bit of a drama queen in my own right when I was a kid, but I seem to have grown out of it.  Now I’m known for my lack of emotion.  In trying to understand the sequence of events that led from there to here, I’ve noticed some interesting dynamics.

The first was bullying.  I grew up in the kind of neighborhood where fragile didn’t last.  As far as your peers were concerned, it was their responsibility to toughen you up.  For others who have been through this, they’ll know that this kind of behavior was more likely to come from my friends than from people I didn’t get along with.  Even now, we tease each other relentlessly, but I’m happy to have gone through that.  When the worst names you’ve been called come from the people who care about you most, you have to decide whether it comes from a place of hate or a place of love.  When you realize it’s a place of love, you start to realize that the intentions behind the words are far more important than their definitions.  That’s when I understood that words would only have the power that I gave them.  Today, even if it’s at my expense, I’m just as likely to laugh at a good joke as the people around me.  I can’t remember the last time I felt sad or hurt because someone said something mean to me.

From my perspective, being ‘triggered’ is an emotional state of over-sensitivity that comes from people reacting to a word’s definition without understanding the intent behind it.  Even if someone called me the worst name imaginable, with the most malicious of intent, they still wouldn’t get an emotional reaction out of me.  If anything, it would be a response of compassion.  Regardless of who I am or what I’ve done, what that person is saying has everything to do with who they are and the way they experience their reality.   If they’re overwhelmed by the need to lash out at me, they’re probably not in a very good place.  If I can, I’d like to help them get beyond that.  I can’t help but think that if we understood this dynamic collectively, we wouldn’t be so divided.

Back at University is when I first noticed myself becoming less emotional.  I think it probably started with trying to be the guy that I thought women wanted me to be – the tough guy who doesn’t cry.  I’m sure it was a lot of posturing at first, but eventually things started to shift.  There were several moments where I felt like I was forced to choose between breakdown and cry, or dig deep and march forward.  I never chose to breakdown and cry.  I’d blast some Eminem, and tell myself that even if my collar bone is crush or crumble, I will never slip or stumble.  I persevered – and was stronger for it.  Eventually, I got knocked down so many times that getting up and pushing through became second nature.  Eventually things that would’ve derailed me before barely phased me.  It was like I had gained so much momentum that I started feeling like a freight train that could crash through just about anything.  I think that’s when I started associating emotion with weakness, and a lack of emotion with strength.

Then my dad got sick.  He meant the world to me.  Everything I do now, is still, in some way for him.   When he was first diagnosed, he was given weeks to live.  I was the first one he told and he asked that I not share it with the rest of the family until he better understood what we should do next.  It was a completely unemotional conversation for both of us.  We had been presented with an impossible problem to solve, but we knew that being emotional about it wouldn’t improve our chances of getting through it.  In my family, we tend to choose our time rather than let our time choose us.  The tough old bastard lasted nearly 2 years.

As we were getting closer to the end, I remember reaching out to a friend and telling her that loosing my dad would be the hardest thing I would’ve gone through.  I told her that every time I went through something like this, I became less emotional.  I was concerned that after this, I wouldn’t have any emotions left.  I didn’t know what it would mean or how it would affect me.  My whole life, I was told about how important emotions were, but I had become so strong without them.  It was confusing.

The last time I saw him when he was coherent was when he had decided to stop eating.  He had picked his time.  I teased him a bit about being difficult and the weight he had lost.  He smiled.  I think he appreciated someone who wasn’t feeling sorry for him.  I knew that was going to be my last conversation with him so I wanted to avoid making the mistake that every macho man makes.  I broke down.  I told him that I loved him and respected more than anyone else I had ever known.  I could barely get the words out but I didn’t care.  Nothing was more important to me than him knowing how much he meant to me.  He looked at me, said happy to hear it, and shook my hand.  I laughed off the tears and thanked him again for everything.  Some people might think that he probably could’ve done a better job of saying ‘I love you too’ or something to that effect.  It wasn’t his style – nor was it needed.  What he helped me understand was that love isn’t a moment of passion or words, it’s a lifetime of action.  I had no doubt that the least emotional person I had ever known loved me more than anyone I had ever known.

My dad passed away about a week later – within hours of me taking him off the oxygen.  He was surrounded by friends and family.  We all cried.  I tried to be strong but I wasn’t that strong.  Within hours though, I was dialed in.  The bankers, the accountants, the lawyers, the executor, the bills… all me.  It was so rewarding knowing that I was able to shoulder these responsibilities, the kind of things my dad would’ve been doing to make sure the family was taken care of.  His shoes weren’t mine to fill, but his family was my family and I would always make sure they were taken care of.

I spent the next week in the zone, making sure everything was looked after.  Once I ran out of responsibilities, I went back to work.  I hadn’t shown any signs of emotion since watching my dad pass and I was concerned.  As important as it was for me to be strong for my family, it was more important that I be strong for my family for all the years to come and I didn’t want to risk having emotional baggage.  So after work each night, I did my best to allow myself to be sad.. and bummed out.. and miss him.. and to let those emotions run their course.  I did, and they did.  A funny thing happened though.  At the end of the week, I could almost hear my dad asking ‘how much longer are you gonna keep this up?’.  I thought, you’re right, I’m good.  Time to get back at it.

This wasn’t a Jedi mind trick that I was trying to play on myself.  I understood that it’s tough for a kid to lose a parent, but that it’s nothing compared to a parent losing their kid.  This was part of the natural order of things, and my father had lived a life worth living.  Rather than mourn his death, I chose to celebrate his life, and let his legacy inspire me to become greater than I could’ve otherwise been – allowing me to create a more positive impact on the world than I was previously capable of realizing.  Sadness, sorrow, love, and all these other emotions were a natural reaction to having gone through something, but it wasn’t until I had a chance to think and truly understand my situation that I gained this perspective.  It was as if emotion was the physiological reaction and biochemical experience while thought was what let me understand what had happened and allowed me to rise above it.

My dad had left a modest sized portfolio to the kids and I was responsible for it.  It was through my work on that portfolio that led me into my role as an investment advisor with a major bank later that year.  For the first time in my life, being unemotional was like having a super power.  In understanding the psychology of the markets and working with individual investors, you quickly learned that emotions were the enemy of investing.  When the market had gone up for a while, people felt safer and more optimistic it would keep going up.  That’s usually when it would start moving in the other direction.  This was especially true when the market was in a deep correction.  People would run for the hills, looking to stuff their money in their mattress when the market was in rough shape but this was always the best time to invest.  If you invested emotionally, would you almost always buy high and sell low.

A big part that role was research.  I put a great deal of time into studying great investors like Warrent Buffet as well as great CEOs like Steve Jobs.  As I continued to learn what made them tick, I also payed close attention to the qualities they had in common.  Musk, Zuckerberg, Gates, Cook, Buffet and others were all remarkably bright, inspired leaders, and unemotional.  That was the tier of human being I was aiming for, so the virtue of being unemotional was reinforced yet again.  It became something I was proud of.  It let me make rational decisions while emotions drove others to make irrational decisions.  I started to see emotions as something which clouded peoples judgement more than anything.  But I was still human.

I don’t think it would be fair to say that I didn’t have emotions, but I became very good at not letting my emotions impact my thoughts.  If I noticed that they were, it was a moment of weakness and I was quick to correct it.  Even now, I look at emotions as something to be understood and that once they’re understood, they become thought.  I can’t imagine how confusing this must’ve been for the girls that I dated.  But that’s also where I had to face the reality of thought versus emotion.

I was convinced that thought was a higher form of cognition than emotion.  You couldn’t think hate, you could only feel it.  I would say the same about fear.  Prejudice was often rooted in emotion or an incomplete thought.  I looked throughout history at some of humanities greatest accomplishments and greatest failures.  The accomplishments were heavily skewed towards great thinkers while the failures were often attributed to someone letting their emotions get the best of them.  Another thing I noticed throughout history is that as a species we seemed to be getting less emotional – suggesting that there might be an evolutionary angle.

Most of us would agree that even today, we carry evolutionary traits that we’ve outgrown.  Physical attraction is perhaps one of the best examples.  Joe Rogan calls it leftover monkey brain and it’s often at odds with how we conduct ourselves has humans today.  I’d argue further that our minds are evolving faster than our bodies and the idea of thought versus emotion is highlighting an internal battle we’re all facing.  So thought is a more evolved form of cognition than emotion right?  I don’t think it’s that simple.

Consider the example of burning your hand while cooking.  Upon first contact with the hot surface – nothing – then comes the pain.  You don’t think the pain, but you certainly feel it.  You instinctively pull your hand away from the heat source, panic for a brief moment, and then probably go put your hand under cold water.  Afterwards, your burn is highly sensitive if not painful.  I often joke around, saying that people are much easier to understand when we think about them like robots.  Extreme pain triggering an instant withdraw, followed by hypersensitivity until a repair is complete sure sounds like a subroutine to me… But that’s a physical reaction, not an emotional reaction right?  Consider the example of being cheated on.  You put yourself in a position where you expected to be safe, but weren’t.  The shock and the pain created a sharp withdrawal, maybe even inspired a few new curse-words.  You spent time feeling hurt.  Even after you get past the initial pain, there’s some degree of hypersensitivity.  While there are variations to each the point is simply that feeling like you’ve been burned is a lot like feeling like you’ve been burned.

The overlap between instinctual behavior and emotional behavior is too significant to ignore, but I think there’s at least one more layer to this: intuition.  I’m not talking about girl who’s been cheated on and is now hypersensitive to anything that might look like suspicious behavior, I’m talking about the trusting girlfriend who’s never been cheated on whose intuition is telling her that something’s wrong, even if she doesn’t know what it is.  She can’t explain it, but she can sure as hell feel it, and that’s real.

Whether we’re talking about nature or nurture, evolution or personal growth, I think it’s reasonable to assume that emotional responses can be trained.  Back to my robot analogy, imagine the human body containing thousands of sensors.  In a body like mine, those sensors feed directly into the CPU where the CPU cross-references that sensory input with other sensor data to ensure that it’s a valid reading,  Then I scan my memory for all past events relating to this sensory input, looking for patterns that would help me identify an intelligent response.  I then cross-reference that response with my internal guidelines and if all checks out, it produces an action.  Very IFTTT.  But that’s me.

So what if someone’s cognitive process excelled at sensing where I excelled at processing?  Theoretically, they’d be working with more data, and more accurate data.  When you have higher volumes of more accurate data, patterns tend to become more obvious.  When patterns are more obvious, they’re easier to react to intelligently.

When trying to understand this dynamic, I often imagine someone being able to feel the vibrations of the universe similar to how a spider senses the vibrations in their web.  When a spider feels that vibration, it knows exactly where to go and what to do, and I doubt that involves a great deal of active thought.

So thoughts versus emotions – equal but different?

I’m not sure.  I’ve always been well-served by accepting what I don’t yet understand, and pursuing a greater understanding of it.  That’s where I rest with this now.  I think there’s a strong body of evidence which suggests that the absence of thought is primal but I’m also tempted to say that an absence of emotion is hollow.  I would joke and say that the difference between thought and emotion is understanding that the world is round but feeling like it’s flat.  Well, what exactly would it be like if we understood that the world was round but lacked that ability to feel grounded?

Perhaps thought helps you connect to the non-physical universe similar to how emotion lets you connect to the physical universe.  If this is true, and we’re expanding the reach of our minds faster than we’re able to expand the reach of our bodies, thought becomes more valuable.  As we move towards virtual and digital realities, I’ll be interested to see how emotions evolve.  If I’m right, the understanding which we’ll eventually arrive at is reminiscent of Vulcan culture.  Something to the effect of emotions are a natural part of the human condition and should be appreciated as such, but they make a better co-pilot than pilot.

Non Biological Intelligence

Had a thought.

It was that artificial intelligence was a misnomer because biological intelligence is no more real than non-biological intelligence.  I would be wrong.

While my statement would be correct in reference to the concept of intelligence, it was incorrect in reference to the world artificial  I grew up understanding artificial to mean fake, not real, or an imitated version of.  Turns out it’s a little more nuanced.  Artificial simply means created by humans instead of occurring naturally.  I’m happy I looked that up.

I had another thought.

At this stage, AI is being largely designed and furthered by humans.  That workload is starting to shift.  At a certain point, AIs will be able to further their own intelligence and will require no more from humans than humans require from computers today.  At this point, if you can no longer say that an AI’s intelligence was created by a human, is it still artificial?

The definition of artificial suggests two things: created by humans and not occurring naturally.  Once an AI takes over the development of its own intelligence, is that development not happening naturally?  When naturally is defined as without special help or intervention, the answer is yes.  But what about when we consider the definition of nature?  Well, Google would suggest that nature is the phenomena of the physical world […] as opposed to humans or human creations.  While you could make the argument that a self-developing AI was originally created by a human, it would like someone having planted a seed saying that they created a tree.  And just like the tree, the next generation of offspring would lack any direct connection to human creation.

So by definition, artificial intelligence becomes non-biological intelligence once it becomes responsible for its own intellectual development.  Very interesting.

Solutions that Create More Solutions

I was reading a Harvard Business Review article a while back and it was talking about the dynamic of a self-perpetuating business.  An easy example is the classic ‘customer first’ strategy:

If you always put the customer first, the customer is always happy and if the customer is always happy, then they’ll keep coming back and every once in a while, they’ll come back with a friend.  As more friends become shoppers, the business grows and more locations can be opened to serve more friends.  As more locations are opened and the business scales, it can reinvest in itself, ultimately leading to better customer service.  And the cycle continues.

Good customer service is a solution to the problem of bad customer service, but it’s also a solution that creates more solutions.  There are other solutions that create more problems.  Cost cutting can be an example:

Revenues are down so you look to cut costs  to maintain profitability.  You realize you can fire your top performing employees who are being paid the most, and replace them with new talent who will work for half as much.  Next year’s forecasts are now back in line with corporate targets.  Solution?

Probably not.  Firing your top performing employees is a quick way to decimate your organizational culture and that leads to lower levels of acquisition, retention, and production.  It was a solution in that it was able to achieve reduced costs, but it also created a problem by way of significantly reduced revenues over the long-term.

This isn’t a business concept.  It’s a universal concept.  It persists in the laws of physics as well as in the truths of philosophy, and it’s one which the world desperately needs to understand.

You have the compassionate crowd who actively fight racism with racism, and actively fight against free speech to protect free speech.  It won’t work.

You have the intelligent crowd who spend most of their time picking apart bad solutions, and then defer to whatever benefits them personally, lacking the understanding that this is all a collective effort.  That won’t work either.

I’m still trying to understand why intelligence and compassion are at odds with one another, because they also share a very significant connection:

The most intelligence decision you can make is a compassionate one, and the most compassionate decision you can make is an intelligent one.

This isn’t neutral territory between the left and the right, this is the guiding star that we should all be following.  Compassion is the compass, intelligence is the map.


I Think I Just Figured Out Flat Earth

So a good friend of mine, who most would assume is an otherwise intelligent individual, brought up the flat earth thing to me a few weeks ago.  It’s not that I was unaware of it, it’s just that I didn’t expect it coming from a friend.  After a bit of teasing, I humored him and asked him why he thinks the world is flat.

As it turns out, he didn’t necessarily think that the world was flat, it was simply a fun exercise in challenging the widely held belief that the world is round.

He asked me how I knew the world is round.  I told him that nobody falling off the edge was a good start.  He said that if they had fallen off, they weren’t exactly in a position to tell everyone about it.  Then I suggested using spatial reasoning to understand how someone could travel due east in a plane and end up at where they started.  So he asked how I knew a compass would take me due east.  I said by tracking the magnetic poles and letting you know where due north is.  He suggested that with a flat earth, the north pole would be a center point and where we think we would be moving in a 3 dimension circle around the planet’s equator, we would be moving in a 2 dimensional circle around the north pole.  Ok, but that would mean that someone couldn’t circle the globe by flying due south.  Has anyone?

I don’t know any off the top of my head but that seems like something that someone would’ve done.  He said that from what he’s read, apparently nobody does.  Huh.

I was tempted to start digging for sources to see if that was true but we were at a dinner with others so I tried a different angle.  What about satellites?   He said he didn’t know enough about satellites to know either way.  What about pictures from space?  You can CGI just about anything these days.  Huh.

So l asked us both to try and wrap our heads around how many people from all around the world would have to be in on this for evidence to have not leaked.  Astronauts, government officials, physicists, pilots, military, Redbull, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking… and the list goes on.  Now consider how the scientific community has laughed this off while the flat earth community is absent of anyone with a PhD in physics.  I told him that it all seemed very unlikely.  He replied, “But it’s possible”.  I agreed, and then asked, “have you ever thought that we might be in the matrix?”

I think poker should be taught in school simply for the purpose of teaching probability.

I had to concede that we might actually be on a flat earth, not because I thought we were, but because I didn’t have all the necessary information to confirm otherwise.  What I did have though, was a strong enough understanding of other related factors which created a very strong case for a round earth.  The probability of a flat earth being kept secret from the general public for decades, if not centuries, is an extremely unlikely scenario.  If we hold the flat earth to be true, it literally undoes the laws of physics that we’ve come to understand.

I suppose that’s the beauty of it all though, it doesn’t matter how much you know, you can never truly confirm or deny anything.  Even if you have all the evidence you think is necessary, you still have to concede that none of this may be real.  Huh.

So if you can’t confirm or deny anything, if nothing is concrete, if everything is on a spectrum and nothing is entirely real, how do you proceed?  Probability.  Is the world round?  Probably.  Take one step forward.

What that conversation also highlighted for me was that most people probably believe the earth is round for the same reason that people used to believe the world was flat – because that’s what they were told and they assumed it to be true.  If it’s in our nature to challenge our beliefs, why are we so surprised that we’re challenging the belief of a round earth?

From my research on the flat earth theory, there seem to be two camps.  There’s the camp of people who genuinely believe that the earth is flat and aren’t interested in seeing evidence to the contrary.  Then there’s the camp who are saying that things don’t add up, and are looking for alternative explanations.  That’s legit.  There are plenty of things that don’t add up in this world and history would suggest that governments aren’t always the most accurate sources of information.  Alternative theories to explain events like 9/11, JFK or the moon landing are a healthy measure to keep people accountable to what they tell us.  If we just blindly accepted what people told us, we’d all still believe the world was flat, or round, or in a VR simulation operated by advanced aliens.

I just wish that for the sake of conversation, we could reach a point where we could speak a little more honestly about this stuff.  Is the earth flat?  Probably not, but did you know that Antarctica is bigger than Canada and barely anyone flies over it?  I wonder what kinda cool stuff has yet to be discovered there… wouldn’t that be the perfect location for a secret Hydra base?!

Thought Vs. Emotion

I think that by most people’s standards, I’ve had a challenging life.  I also think that by most people’s standards, I brought most of it on myself – and I would agree.  I have a long history of taking things that should be easy, and finding ways of making them hard.  I’m not actually sure why I have this quality, but I am starting to understand the impact it has on my life.

Each time I put myself in a challenging situation, I had to figure it out.  It wasn’t that I lacked a support system, it’s just that my support system would usually suggest that if I got myself into it, I can get myself out of it.  Over the years, I developed a system that was effectively: Understand where you’re at, understand where you want to be, and find a way to close the gap.  I think the key word there is understand.  It was an exercise in problem solving in the arena of thought.

My father passed away in my mid-20s.  He and I were close – he meant a lot to me.  It was cancer and he lasted about 2 years between diagnosis and death.  Towards the end, I remember having a conversation with a friend about how it would impact me.  I had noticed a pattern over the years which suggested that each time I went through something like this, I became a less emotional person.  Despite all the other challenges I had overcome, I knew that losing my dad would impact me more than anything I had ever been through and I was concerned about how it would impact my emotional disposition – would I have any left?

In the month that my dad died, the first girl I thought I’d marry left me for her ex-boyfriend, I tore my shoulder, and the promotion which I had just moved cities for was rescinded.  After I wrapped up the responsibilities around my father’s estate, I decided it was important to give myself time to grieve to prevent any future imbalance.  The following week was a combination of work, family sized lasagnas, weed, and a few movies that legitimately made me bawl my eyes out (the dad scene in Warrior got me good).  By the end of that week, I figured that the best thing I could do for my father, for myself, and for those who counted on me was to rise above and move forward.  I accepted that my father may have died earlier than I would’ve liked, but I also recognized that he led the kind of life that most people would aspire to.  He had a family who loved him, he was a master of his craft, he built and sold a business, he was respected within his community, and he was the giant upon whose shoulders I would stand on.  I had to wrap my head around that death was part of the natural order in which we all existed, and that I should be proud of the life that my father lived.  I don’t know if it was easy or hard, but I did.

I spent the next 6 months identifying where I was in my life, where I wanted to be, and worked on closing the gap.  By the end of that year, I was headed back home for a new career in wealth management for one of the world’s top global banks.  The loss of my father was never a source of depression for me, instead, I chose to use his memory as a source of inspiration and drive.  Even to this day, everything that I do is in some way for him.

I was often complimented on how well I handled the passing of my father.  I was called very well adjusted.  However, my concerns about becoming a less emotional person seemed to be valid.  The girls I dated since likely saw the same thing.  One said that I was driven, but not passionate.  Another said that I was empty inside.  My favorite though, and perhaps the girl who understood me best, called me her benevolent robot king.  I was a high functioning human being in most respects, but I did it without what most people would call emotion.  I don’t have the wisdom necessary to make any conclusions, but I’m starting to think that there some validity to operating without emotion.

This is where I think it’s important to define the term emotion.  Google’s definition suggests that emotion is a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood and relationships with others.  For me, the key word is instinctive and I think there’s a key difference between instinct and thought.  I’m sitting here trying to think of exactly what that is and I don’t think I can define it just yet.  When I try, I think of instinct like firmware and thought like software.  The firmware came with the hardware and can be tough to update.  Software however can be updated often depending on the applications you want to run and the tasks you’re looking to accomplish.

Before modern cognition, instincts were paramount to survival.  In modern society, our instinctual drives often seem counter-productive.  Easy examples include men cheating on their spouses because of their instinctual drive to procreate with multiple partners or women searching for men with the physique and resources to protect and provide for them.  If we were to understand these types of behaviors as instinctual and left over evolutionary characteristics from a past era, I think we’d understand each other a little better.  Unfortunately, this is where ’emotions and feelings’ come into play.

In many of my relationships, I was told that I had to respect their emotions or respect their feelings.  I understood that I should respect the person and that their emotional state is part of who they are, but I didn’t understand why I should inherently respect their emotions.  Perhaps my favorite example is when a girlfriend spent the day angry at me because I had cheated on her in a dream – for the record, I’ve never cheated.  I understood and appreciated that she had sensory input that triggered instinctual fears of losing a mate but what I didn’t understand is why it was acceptable for her to ‘feel’ upset with me let alone why that state of mind should be respected.

The more rational I became, the more challenging I was for someone who was emotional.  I was still nice, I still wanted to be a good person and I was still working hard to make a positive impact in the world, but thought and emotion were often two different perspectives in the world and one often struggled to understand the other.  What I’m going to say next might ruffle some feathers, and I could be wrong, but it’s my current evolution of thought on the matter.  I think that thought is a higher form of cognition than emotion.  I’m not prepared to say that one is better than the other, or that one leads to a happier life, but I am prepared to say that on average, thinking things through is a more successful approach than feeling things out.

When I think of humanity’s greatest thinkers and what they’ve accomplished, I’m inspired.  When I think of humanity’s greatest feelers and what they’ve accomplished, I draw a blank.  When I think of humanity’s worst, I think of people who let hate and prejudice get the better of them.  Hate is an emotional state while prejudice is a lack of thought.  However, I cannot accurate say that all good things come from thought while all bad things come from emotion because without emotion, where’s the love?

This would surprise many, but as rational and robotic as I am, I still cry on a regular basis.  I’d say about once a month, I see something beautiful or something sad that touches me and gets me misty eyed at the very least.  It was the kind of thing that I would fight when I was younger but I embrace now.  Fear doesn’t really register with me the way that it does with other people, but I do have a very real concern about losing that connection because there is something that feels very human about it.  Something that I respect and appreciate about emotion is that the best moments in my life were emotional.  Happiness is an emotional state of mind.

Where I’ll leave this for today is a theory that I’m working on.  We only have one body, we only have one central nervous system, and we only have one brain.  On that basis, emotion and thought have to be connected.  Emotion seems to have a stronger connection to the body and the subconscious while thought seems to have a stronger connection to the outside world.  I think that in earlier stages of evolution, instinctual drives and internal monitors were more closely associated with survival but as we’ve created the world we live in today, it’s become increasingly important to understand the outside world.  Trying to understand the outside world with an instinctual or emotional perspective can be limiting so thought has become more important.  As the outside world progresses, we continue to develop physical and intellectual tools to help understand what’s happening internally.  Currently, I’m trying to understand what will happen to emotion if we continue along this path.  I don’t think that the emotional state will disappear completely, but I do think that it’s importance will diminish as our understanding of how it fits into general cognition evolves.  How Vulcan…