Death by Suburbia

What is the American dream?

For most people in the world, it’s the ability to come to this country where they have freedom and rights; to escape from persecution: religious, political or otherwise. People have flocked here in droves over the past hundred years and have achieved success, at least in their view: 2 1/2 kids, white picket fence, perfectly trimmed lawn and a dog.

That was the old American dream. Those kids have grown up and that dog is dead. So I ask you: for those kids who were born in America, what is their American dream? Does it even exist anymore?

I’ve gone around and asked a few friends about what their goals in life are, or have been. Most of them have been the same: if the person is a student, it’s usually something about doing well in school, getting a good job and living a long, comfortable life. If the person I ask has been in the work force for a while, then the answer is usually something about providing enough opportunities for their children to live a better life than they did. Some have said that they want to enable their kids to choose a career that they both enjoy and can make a comfortable living doing (sometimes implying that they don’t enjoy their own careers).

It’s quite possible that I’d receive a different set of answers if I asked people who lived outside the PNW (or any first-world country, really), but I’m sure it wouldn’t vary that wildly.

That’s not the life I want.

I don’t want to live a life where I’m stuck in the corporate machine, where I go through school only to become a slave to someone else, where I can try to do my best to make it up the ranks to make more money and live a more comfortable lifestyle in luxury and wealth. If I have kids, I certainly don’t want them to be thrust into this corporate machine, either.

When I was in China, I attended a church camp for youth students. The theme of the camp was, “Dreamers,” where we asked ourselves, “what is God’s dream for us individually?” Even if you don’t believe in God, I think there’s a valuable perspective to gain here:

The trick to finding out what this dream is is to find something that falls under these three criteria:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What do I enjoy doing?
  3. What does the world need?

Simply put, this is what we believe we’re made to do. If you don’t believe in creation, then you can believe it’s your destiny. Whether or not you embrace it is your choice.

If you can figure this out for yourself, you’re already way ahead of the curve. Most people never figure this out and end up just dying without realizing their dreams. Put enough thought into it and you might end up figuring it out.

I’m not entirely sure what my dream is yet, but I think I’ve got a pretty good idea.

Rotting away in a corporate office is not it.

Juju

This will be another scrambler of a post. Sorry.

I like to think of myself as a person who has many hobbies. Some of these hobbies require more time and money than others, but the common factor between all of them is that they require some level of interest to be enjoyable.

And it seems like everywhere I turn, these hobbies are slowly dying. Attendance diminishes over time and people are fine with just getting by at the minimum level of skill.

To that, I say: why?

If you’re going to spend time and money on some sort of activity, why don’t you get to a point where you’re not bumbling around? Most things in life are much more enjoyable if you’re at a certain level of competence. Maybe my satisfactory level of competence is higher than that of many others, but I’ve never been pleased with just scraping by in my hobbies.

I’ve spent a long time trying to figure out why people have this attitude; it seems to be more prevalent than it was a few years ago. I haven’t been able to come to a solid conclusion, but my hunch is that it’s a combination of an individual person’s nature and the instant-gratification attitude of the information age.

People aren’t so used to spending time to hone their skills anymore and will try to find shortcuts to learning. But usually those shortcuts will tell you how to derive an answer and won’t actually teach you how to get there. The derivative of x² is 2x. I know that because I memorized it, and I have no idea what it means or why.

As I’ve said in many of my previous posts, I’m really interested to see what the future holds. How are we going to act around each other? How much face-to-face time will we get with one another? How empathetic will the world be? We won’t know until we find out.

Franklin

Casual post ahead:

It’s obvious that the advent of technology has come with many direct benefits to society, but there are quite a few side effects that are often overlooked. One of them is:

Respect.

Our views of respect have changed drastically over quite a short amount of time, and I’ve got a feeling that I know why.

We, now in the information age, have access to a superfluous amount of information. The ability to find and publish information on a whim feeds our need for satisfaction that we have as human beings. Internally, we tell ourselves that since we are able to voice our thoughts with such ease to so many people, our opinions must be respected. But that’s not how respect works. I’m willing to wager that if someone has demanded respect from you, you came away from the experience with less respect for that person. Respect can’t be demanded. It must be earned.

On top of this, we try to use quantitative measurements to justify our demand for respect. Follower / subscriber counts and number of friends (on Facebook) are examples of this–as if somehow the bigger the number, the more you should be respected. Maybe you see other people with similarly high numbers who are earning much more respect than you are, and you can’t figure out why, so you just force people to respect you more.

It’s just one of those senses of entitlement you develop after spending too much time on the internet.

The Microevolution of Humankind

It’s interesting to think about how smart people are in today’s day and age.

It’s especially interesting if you compare the people today to the people of previous generations. The average IQ may have been 100 back when IQ tests were created, but I suspect it’s a bit higher now–you need at least a decent amount of intelligence to operate most of the technology that surrounds us today. Cars, phones, computers… Genghis Khan might not be able to operate a smart phone of today. Not only because it’s entirely foreign, but also because he’s quite possibly too stupid.

People in yesteryear have been entirely okay with working a menial job for a living, never leaving their hometowns. There’s a huge world out there for them to explore, but they don’t care. Nowadays, people become restless if they work a job that doesn’t seem to have any meaning beyond face value, and civilization is constantly changing. I hear that you aren’t allowed to join the US military if your IQ is below 85.

Technology is advancing quickly and humans are evolving to keep up. Our old folk are slowly being left behind, and well… sorry, but you will too. I only wonder what our technology will look like when we’re in our 80s, and whether we’ll have trouble wrapping around how to use it.

Here’s an interesting TED talk:

 

be

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we got here and the process of life. The fact that we’re here today and that we’re able to harness the world around us to explore not only the ends of the earth, but also the depths of the solar system outside of us… is mind boggling to me. This comes with two things:

The living body. Creatures are (usually) born very small and can grow to a massive size. It doesn’t take anything for this process to work except fuel, yet there’s something in that creature innately that tells it that it needs to make physical changes during its lifetime. Where is it written in our bodies to being puberty at a specific age? It’s certainly not in our brains; it’s not a choice for us to being puberty. In our reproductive systems? Our reproductive systems down have a mind of their own (though some philosophers might disagree with you on that fact). It’s just written into our DNA somewhere, somehow. What begins as a simple organism turns becomes this massively complex system of organs, vessels and neurons. It’s fascinating.

Materials. Look at all the stuff around you right now. These things are made of plastic, metal, wood… all things that come with a varied degree of synthetics and complex processes that were used to create them. The crazy part about this is that (according to the laws of nature), energy and matter are neither destroyed nor created out of nothing; simply transformed and transferred. The things around you were made with molecules that have been in existence since the beginning of time, even if they’re synthetic. We are now using these molecules to watch movies, feed our children, and explore space. Our current technology is based on the science of our fore-bearers, surely. But the products from then and now… are made up of the same things. It just looks a little different. What will our surroundings look like in the far future?

In the software industry, we call this idea Bootstrapping. To explain briefly, it’s the idea that a program can be launched in order to launch others, restart the device, or otherwise do something that’s bigger than itself. A simple example of bootstrapping is when you turn on your computer and some programs are started automatically. You can find some more complex examples in the preceding Wikipedia article.

I have a hard time thinking about bootstrapping outside the context of technology. There are important distinctions between bootstrapping in technology and bootstrapping in nature: you can update a piece of technology. A person can intervene and alter the bootstrapping process, causing it to behave differently. This isn’t possible with bootstrapping in nature, or at least not on the same scale. It’s there and it’s not going anywhere.

Sorry for missing March. Not that anyone cares.

Except me.

🙁

I’m working on a three-part blog post series. Stay tuned.