Have you thought about (HYTA) the grim reality of the world we live in?

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          When we are not overwhelmed by work or lost in our own self-preoccupation, it will eventually come to us, at least once, that the lives we lead are not quite as optimistic or as ordinary as it seems. It’s not to say that bad things exist and therefore we have reasons to be pessimistic. Rather, the entire enterprise of this world, upon whose founding principles we are forced to live by, is entirely macabre and sinister: our methods of sustenance must depend on the destruction of creatures who are entitled to living as much as we are.

         To stay alive, you must see to the assured death of an organism, rip its insides out and hungrily consume its fluids, thus absorbing its energy for yours. This is most assuredly, the indisputable governing rule of the world. When you consume food, whether meat or leaf, you fuel yourself through the destruction of organisms who would fight as hard as you do to survive. And they would, if they were apex predators, do the same to us with the same care and concern we put out on the dinner table – that is to say, none. This is a world where survival is predicated on the mutual destruction of fellow living creatures.

          And what goes on in our stomach is arguably even more repugnant. As if killing a creature isn’t enough, we  dissolve its remains into distillable sources of energy, or if we ate vegetables, the plant fiber is reduced to indigestible cellulose, making our stomach the machine equivalent of an extremely powerful blender. And what’s left, is efficiently though inelegantly removed from our body as warm urine and excrement. Imagine a majestic creature, say a rooster in all its resplendence, basking in its vigour of youth, nonchalantly strutting around. We catch it, break it, and reduce it to nothing but lumps of brown feces and a puddle of waste. How’s that for reality?

          We can pretend we have decency, or that these are ultimately means of necessity, but it doesn’t alter the fact that the logic for survival is horribly twisted – a sort of unholy matrimony between a deranged fiend and the shadowy abyss of a very dark mind. Setting aside humans for a while, every organism that has existed or gone extinct, for which each is more diverse and bizarre than the last, evolved with specific features that allow it to excel under certain environmental challenges. Long, regal claws, strapping muscles or a devilishly sharp mandible, these are all weapons of destruction evolved not for admiration but for the guarantee of landing a kill. All are built to consume and be consumed. Lives are expendable, and so dying and being eaten is a natural consequence.

          It’s easy to miss out the some of the most successful specialists in coldblooded ruthlessness (whose methods that we have only recently understood). Viruses infect very specific cells by forcefully injecting its DNA into the host cell, hijacking its machinery to replicate thousands of virus copies, and then proceeds to explode the hapless cell from the inside out so that the entire process of infection may being anew. Just like that, these microorganisms can bring down even the most powerful beings in the world, and they in turn, are destroyed when their host dies. Truly, even at the microscopic level, war is waged endlessly, all at the expense of survival. And all participants are equipped with instruments of pain, death and destruction.

          Optimism in this world, must therefore constitute some form of ignorance or pretense: those who seek religious comfort don’t bother questioning why this world is designed by a divine being who is clearly malevolent and outright sadistic; those whose nature predisposes them for cheerfulness, choose not to think so much, preferring to live life as it is. Living is a cycle, and we are, with no special exceptions, part of that. It’s not ordinary, nor is it normal, and such is the grim reality of the world we find ourselves in.

So have you thought about (HYTA) the grim reality of the world we live in?

Have you thought about (HYTA) how scarcity affects us?

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          You did never know by observing our fellow man, that many of our ambitions and hidden motives are often driven by scarcity. It can summed up in a single sentence: we want more of what’s less, and less of what’s plenty. It’s not merely a game of economics or numbers. Scarcity, of which most is the result of deliberate man-made manipulation, allows for a subtle adjustment to social behaviour, much in the same way a ventriloquist controls the movement of a dummy’s mouth. The playbook of scarcity extends even to our perception of careers, romantic evaluations and price gouging.

          Perhaps the simplest and most well-known attempt at deliberate scarcity is the diamond monopoly by De Beers. Diamonds are uncommon, but unlike precious metals, rarely face high demands and can be found in sufficient quantities. De Beers through an exceedingly successful advertising campaign and their artificial control over how many diamonds were sold yearly, created and imprinted upon most people two false associations with diamonds: In addition to be being very rare and worth every dollar you spend, they are also symbolic of love and a compulsory accessory in a proposal. In one particular advertisement, it was even suggested that spending a month’s salary on a diamond ring was a  an optimal strategy to placate a woman.

          Yet, if you tried to sell your diamond ring back, as most would already know, stores have no interest in buying them. From an economic point of view, diamonds are worthless, much in the same sense that chocolates and roses are absurdly expensive (because people are buying them in mass) only on Valentine’s Day. Still, these associations have clearly stuck. Whether it’s the modern movie or TV drama, some kind of love is all too often linked to the necessary purchase of diamonds of some kind. By generating a sense of limited diamond supply, De Beers’ monopoly allowed them to build a credible sense of scarcity so that it felt legitimately OK to splurge on a thing of little value.

          But there are more serious issues at work with scarcity. As a fallout from China’s one child policy which saw many daughters aborted, drowned or abandoned, there are now disproportionally more men than women. This demographic advantage has empowered women: they can afford to be picky, to choose money over love and don’t have to worry about being unmarried. In an interview with a 34-year-old Chinese marketing executive, she said that when she caught her husband having an affair, she immediately divorced him without hesitation. Her explanation was simple: even though she was getting older and had an 8-year-old child, there were so many men that she knew it would be easy to get married again.

          What if men became few and far between? The reverse would be true: women will compete with each other, hold each other to some levels of distrust, are more likely to marry earlier and only consider divorce as a very last option. In short, what seems like rational and normal thought processes, are all an indirect and very subtle influence of scarcity. A simple gender disparity is enough to alter the methods, motivation and thoughts behind a population. It’s surprising (or maybe not) that scarcity can turn otherwise great friendships into strict competitions and transform honest manoeuvers into sly deception.

          And of course, deliberate scarcity is needed even in education and college entries. The number of applicants who can be allowed into prestigious programmes must be artificially controlled to give a sense of value. The intake of doctors and lawyers is purposefully, for better or for worse, carefully moderated by their corresponding agencies so as to preserve a careful limit on quality as well as quantity. It wouldn’t do to have too many people successfully become doctors even though it’s possible to accommodate them. And so, many gated man-made obstacles are present: the bell curve allows fine tuning of only the best, and various interviews and placement tests help thin out the lean from the slim even further. And so we will complain about the limited candidacy options, but still remain unhappy if there too many practitioners. There’s rarely any middle ground to be had.

          However, though scarcity can be applied (and manipulated) on a very broad level, there’s a huge functional difference for the individual. For those who have found their significant half, scarcity may simply be the unique composition of the person who means so much to them. Are there other people out there who are more beautiful, intelligent or successful? Of course. The basis for comparisons are endless, but because of either memories, history or emotional attachments, this in itself creates scarcity for that individual – no one else comes close. This person’s signature presence provides a deep emotional comfort and warm human tenderness that hits all the right notes. Individual scarcity then can simply be seeing someone for who they are and placing value on characteristics others may not find as desirable.

          Finally, scarcity can only mean so much to certain people. For those who never intend to be lawyers, the limited entries to be a barrister is no impediment. And for those who build a different relationship, item scarcity is not about a diamond ring but whatever in itself that has the deepest significance to them. It may be a rock, a book or even a pen. Scarcity is a powerful overriding psychological effect that finds its mark in everything we do.

So have you thought about (HYTA) how scarcity affects you?

 

Have you thought about (HYTA) the funny thing about living in a developed country?

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          The irony about living in a first world country is that while those in the throes of poverty worry about whether they will find enough food to survive the next day, we instead spend most of our time obsessing over what we should eat next. And instead of having to worry about whether we might be a victim of violence or crime, we puzzle over how best not to lose a life on a hand-phone video game. Oddly, the most important survival skill in a modern world isn’t so much about staying alive as it is about finding the next big thing that grabs our attention. Left to our own devices, and if trends and memes are any indication, the majority of people are constantly gravitating towards new fads.

          In fact, there’s an argument to be had that what’s the current trend may not be particularly interesting but nonetheless, many people feel obligated to be part of a larger group determined to ride this modern high. In short, it feels good only because everyone is doing it. This group identity gives participants a sense of being part of something larger than life even if the activity itself may not necessarily be a quality experience. The throngs of people who flocked to playing Pokemon GO did so not because it offered the best gameplay on the market, (you will easily find a great deal of games that are mechanically far more dynamic, polished and engaging on virtually any platform) but because not participating in this social phenomenon is like giving up an exclusive ticket to a higher social echelon.

          Or consider that Twitch streaming (and other similar services) allows you to watch someone through video on demand so that you can be entertained by what the streamer is doing right now. Rather than spending time giving thought to the quality of life we should aspire towards, we would much rather follow the antics of a streamer or youtuber through their videos, photos and tweets. Instead of working towards developing an independent point of view, we are far more likely to track their little bits of gossip and in the process, also adopt their perspectives. It’s somewhat puzzling that we would have more interest in following the lives of others or chasing down the latest trend as opposed to using this information to reboot ourselves.

          There’s also something to be said when many people in different parts of the world are, at this very moment, starving to death and in sharp contrast, tens of thousand of viewers are simultaneously tuning into a streamer who sit in front of an abundant buffet of exotic food, gorges himself, and tries to give you his entertaining appraisal of fine dining. This isn’t a disparagement of the format itself – a modernised world has different needs that requires new industries and innovation to meet. But isn’t it funny that neither our attention, satisfaction or happiness are properly satisfied despite the seemingly limitless entertainment choices in front of us? We simply move on to the next new thing, from fad to fad, video to video, and so our attention wanders again.

          So have you thought about (HYTA) the funny thing about living in a developed country?

Have you thought about (HYTA) why everyone should learn a little logic?

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          Wherever we tread, frontiers new and old are often beset with numerous arguments all vying to persuade us to give up our time and money for various causes. For the untrained mind, the inability to differentiate the structure of one argument from another can have dangerous consequences. Some arguments, no matter how you salvage them simply do not hold up, even if you wished otherwise. And studying logic, of which both critical and good thinking are a part of, is a first step for calming a modern mind that’s susceptible to very predictable fallacies and rhetorical tricks. Knowledge of fallacies and the structure of arguments allow us to take apart the lies of politicians, the shaky framework of the religious and supernatural, and commit to higher quality life decisions.

          There are some psychological phenomenons that are particularly important to be aware of. For example, while teamwork is rightfully encouraged in every situation, it’s too easily accompanied by group think, a cognitive behaviour that results in sacrificing critical thought and personal identity in order to adopt a group belief. And in a recent study, our brain can become attuned to repeated acts of dishonesty such that it’s possible to no longer feel any discomfort even when partaking in criminal activity. Knowledge about the inner workings and hidden rationalisations of our brain are extremely useful to know but they must be tempered with the realistic expectations that we are still likely to easily fall into the same traps we’ve learned about.

          Even among friends and family, we should still recognise that casual conversations often follow some structure of an argument. That is to say that people are always persuading us to do, adopt or respond to something, and we are similarly doing the same to them.

          Here’s a simple example in the context of trying to figure out if a student is lying. Which answer is correct?

If John overslept, John will be late.
John didn’t oversleep. Therefore:

(a) John is late
(b) John isn’t late
(c) John overslept
(d) None of the these follows.

          The only logical answer is the last one. A majority of people attempting this will often pick (b). If John didn’t oversleep, anything could have happened, and not necessarily that he would be punctual.

          Our untrained gut feeling is often wrong, and learning how to pay attention to arguments in a rapid-fire discussion is incredibly challenging but necessary. In addition, there are circular arguments that go around in an endless loop. It may seem easy to pick them out, but they can be especially difficult to detect.

          For example, someone might say ‘There’s no greater argument for the existence of God than this beautiful world being the truth of his Existence’

          On the surface, it sounds like an inspiring and meaningful quote. Yet, after some analysis, it’s really saying this:

(1) This world is proof of God’s work.
(2) Therefore, God Exists.
(Repeats indefinitely) God exists because this world is proof.

          And here’s another one:

(1) The Bible says it is the word of God
(2) The word of God cannot be wrong
(3) Therefore the Bible cannot be wrong
(Repeats indefinitely) The Bible is the word of God.

          Logic endows us with necessary intellectual self-defense. If we can make a case for instructing children on why they should learn to read maps and develop independence, the acquisition of logic should be a compulsory modern-day survival tool. And for that, no one will need to delve deeply into the intricacies of logic. Only an introductory course will be enough to yield modest results.

So have you thought about (HYTA) whether logic is an important tool to have?