Scrolling through Raymond Carver’s poetry collection, I came across a poem titled ‘In the Year 2020.’
As a 21st century man filled with fear and confusion, I got excited at the prospect of having discovered quality perspective on the future from one of the better literary minds of the 20th century.
‘Now I will have a solid and unique perspective on modern technologies and their implications. I can now boast about AI on Medium and shock everyone,’ I said to myself and began reading.
But what I read caught me off guard. The only technology or its implications mentioned in the poem is a faucet — that too as an analogy.
‘How can it be possible? How can someone write about 2020 without any mention of technology?’ I gasped and read again.
No, Nothing about technology!
Instead, his 2020 is about someone from the 20th century getting old by then. Carver talks about old age, friends, friendship, memories, love, legacy — things human! All he talks about is human life and human relationships. That’s all!
HIS POEM IS ABOUT HUMAN LIFE. IT HAS HUMANS AT ITS CENTER!
‘Damn!’ I say to myself.
Carver’s poem reminded me that we (poets or normal people) no longer place ourselves at the center. We have already given control away to technologies. They have become the focal point of our conversations, poems, and stories. All we now do is keep technologies at the center of everything. Phones, apps, maps, followers, shares, chargers, AI, airplanes, roads, buildings, towers, systems — that’s all we talk and think about these days. Everything revolves around them today!
Everything should have revolved around us, our relationships and life. But that’s just a byproduct of technology these days. No wonder we are scared and confused! No wonder we piss our pants about AI!’
‘Now I have a solid and unique perspective on modern technologies and their implications. I can now boast about AI on Medium and shock everyone,’ I say to myself and write this.
What Wells has tried to say in this is that the primitive men were unable to form sound judgment on the important things that were happening around them. Those things spanned from the availability of their foods to illness and death. Although they tried to make guesses, they weren’t able to discover the proper cause-effect. This made them prone to fear and panic.
It was then that the older and steadier minds among them took lead and began advising, teaching and eventually commanding the multitudes. Those leaders were priests, which then gave birth to religion.
I am the proof that our modern time with computers, internet and now Artificial Intelligence, Space-Travels, Medical science, etc. is taking us into the great unknown which is making us fearful and anxious.
If the information overload — which has given us more confusion than wisdom — was not enough, the thought of machines taking our jobs, megalomaniacs stepping into moons, diseases taking our lives, have guaranteed almost nothing as we are unable to form sound judgment on what will happen tomorrow, let alone in five years time. We are confused about our livelihood and health — important things — just like the primitive men. The only thing that has changed is the tools. For example, anxiety about the availability of foods has been replaced by anxiety about the quality of foods. And in some places, quantity of it.
Although we try to make guesses, we aren’t being able to discover the proper cause-effect of all this. A quick scroll on Medium will prove this. This has made us fearful.
Once again, as per Wells’ narrative, this problem in primitive days led to older and steadier minds among them to take lead in advising, teaching and eventually commanding the multitudes. Those leaders then became priests, which then gave birth to religion.
Although the tools and mediums have changed today, we have seen an uprising of religious and spiritual pursuits on a global scale. We saw that in the mid 20th century due to bombs and we see that today due to computers, AIs, medicine, as mentioned above. The 20th century crisis had limited sources of threat from what we have today.
But a big part of us isn’t satisfied with the religious and spiritual doctrines that have its roots in spears and stones. We are today dealing with machines that threaten to be more intelligent than us. The ones that threaten to even eradicate us! We do have the option of deeming them ‘devil’ and ‘monsters’, otherwise those teachings don’t touch us in the regions we want to be touched.
If history does indeed repeat itself, what that leaves us with is to identify the older and steadier minds among us that are taking lead. Who are advising, teaching and commanding the multitudes.
In the ancient times, those leaders were called priests who gave birth to religion as we know today. Who is doing that today and what new religion is being formed from all this? Should we not be skeptical of what forms from all this?
Once again, if history repeats, they are here. They have to be here by now. So, Who are they? Is it me? Is it you? Is it us? Or is it a billionaire?
Do you also worry you are not doing enough or learning enough? Given your standard of yourself, do you think you aren’t productive enough? Do you feel like something is stopping you from being a certain place, feeling a certain way?
Even when you do manage to get rid of all distractions and do the things you ought to work on, do you feel a certain rope kind of thing pulling you into something — away from your deed? Do you also get anxious if you do not allow yourself to be pulled by that rope?
Do you feel anxious, nervous, sleepy, tired, insecure, confused, jealous, etc. most of the time?
If your answer is yes, than it implies that you too — like me — have been falling prey to the Seven Deadly ills of modern life.
I’ve been successful in avoiding all seven of these ills as of the time of this writing.
Yes, at some point of my life, I have experienced all these which makes me sit here and think that I should be sharing these ills with the world. I — with confidence — hold these ills responsible for many of my weaknesses, unproductivity and misery. They have threatened me, sucked life’s joy and beauty out of me and have almost killed me. These are serious diseases and should be cured/removed/avoided.
I will now share my personal experiences with each and communicate why I consider them to be ills.
Here we go then…here are SEVEN DEADLY ILLS OF MODERN LIFE:
Facebook: It’s been a dozen years since I deleted my personal facebook account. In between, I have created random accounts to manage my business accounts.
The major reason I deleted my personal account all those years ago was because certain people I didn’t want anything-to-do-with started appearing there. Those included distant relatives and school-bullies (teachers included).
I was going through a transition in my life which included a lot of pdf learnings in my devices, and the last thing I wanted was their face in my sacred temple. Whenever any of those people appeared through suggestions or through posts of friends’ friend, I got agitated. I was clear with myself on the fact that I did not want to befriend them at any cost. Yet, facebook didn’t understand this! It got to a point where opening a facebook app meant anxiety. I thought: I can talk to my family members and close-friends on a cellphone, having them on facebook has less reward than the risk of those unnecessary craps appearing on my screen. I deactivated and have never had a personal account ever since.
A few years ago, when I started a publishing company, I felt the need for a facebook account. I created one with the company name and created a few business pages. My sole motive was to use facebook for work. A few months later, I was fighting with a random stranger in a stupid group! I was checking my account every ten minutes. I wanted more likes and comments on my post. I was getting more anxious. Things soon started to get personal. I began adding a lot of friends…and yet again, some unwanted people appeared! I deactivated the account soon — my business didn’t go anywhere through facebook promotions (paid/unpaid) anyway. Illness because: Facebook thrusts you into the rat race.
Instagram: Oh, facebook’s younger sibling:
how late you came into my life
and how early you disappeared! If facebook is racing in a crowded city, Instagram is you reaching the posh-area. It’s not just about running here, it’s about how hip you look while you run.
As in facebook, I opened an instagram account when I started that company. I was told that it was THE platform to reach out to young and ‘cool’ people. I created my personal account and a couple of business accounts. Looking back at it now — considering how uncool I am — I wonder what was I thinking back then!
I tried to use it for work — which for me is all about expressing who I am. But what I ended up doing was checking if each post I created fit into the norm. While this may be looked upon as being business-friendly or staying relevant to the trend, my experience was such that I had become something completely different. I didn’t say what was to be said, I said what should be said!
The original me vanished and was slowly being replaced by a cool funny youth. Once again, I am neither cool nor funny and I am proud of myself for that. Whenever I went to a place that looked nice (by posh standards), my eyes searched for a spot where I could take a photograph of myself and post it with a stylish caption. When I did it, I spent every five minute refreshing the page and scrolling down the human coolness. I hated it. My account got relatively relevant, but it was me no longer. I deactivated it. Illness because: Instagram pressurizes you to fit-in.
Twitter Where do I even start on this monster?!
During the course of my life, I must have activated-deactivated twitter on more than ten instances. I start one, gain a few followers, get fed up, deactivate. I start another, gain a few more followers, get even more fed up, deactivate again…
The supposed platform for the intellectuals attracted me for the same reason. I thought I could share wise opinions and change the world. How it ended up was, I found myself intoxicated in half-baked thoughts — always looking for a line that would increase more followers than one that was actually wise. Another thing that happened to me while I pushed for those words was I hoped some significant celebrity would retweet my stuff and I would be popular forever thereafter!
Of course, that didn’t happen, so I must have been fed up due to that too…but the bigger reason I suppose for being constantly fed up was that twitter was more for show than for a pro. I was getting exposed to mediocre thoughts disguised as world-changing just because a person with a great following had said it. Words have quick impact on me and twitter’s impact wasn’t healthy. I should rather spend time finishing, polishing my thoughts and reading finished, polished ones, I concluded. And so I deactivated. Illness because: Twitter is seeming intelligent, not being one.
Tiktok Okay, I am not familiar with this as much I am with the ones above. Yet, I have been around those who are and what I have noticed is: It’s goddamn addictive!
Uninterrupted supply of short-length videos with provocative music in the background that give you everything from the dance moves of that relative of yours to the review of that obscure restaurant in town means Tiktok has enough going-on within it to make you forget to turn off the stove. It doesn’t even allow you to get bored.
Although I do not use this platform as much, what I do know is that the more you enjoy shorter content, the more tedious longer works get for you. This means your patience dies and only quick stimulation can satisfy you. Depth gets boring. I don’t think all those are qualities you would want to miss.
Given Tiktok’s popularity, it has facebook’s rat-race quality within it. Also are twitter’s half-bakedness and TV with even more mediocre channels within it. This could only mean one thing: DISASTER!
Tiktok also seems to normalize otherwise embarrassing behavior. While it’s good not to get embarrassed at what you do, it is better for us all to not have normalized certain things. And there are lots of those certain things in Tiktok! Illness because: Tiktok satisfies your darkest urge.
Reddit While I had — without much intent — used Reddit a long time ago, I went back to it with purpose last year when I wanted to promote a link. I created a username and joined subreddits I thought would be relevant for me. Within a few days, I forgot the work purpose and started enjoying the opinions I and discussions I could read there. A few days later, I started posting comments and posts. A few more days later they started to get noticed. I wanted to post more. Comment more. I let my urge flow. I let it flow to such an extent that I still remember a morning where I shivered, fumed in anger trying to think of a reply to a comment of mine. This continued for a while.
Reddit is like school. There is knowledge there but you don’t pay attention because it is not provided well. There are bullies, and there are good guys. There are teachers. But one thing there is that, you don’t matter. YOU the person, the individual with an identity, with a context, doesn’t matter there. While it may be a nice thing considering how all other social media platforms exploit YOU, the discussions in Reddit don’t get humble and serious for that very reason. Illness because: Reddit devalues ideas.
Quora: It’s not at all a good idea to search all of your curiosities in Google. We should be able to answer certain questions ourselves — by reading and thinking about them. Yet in google you have the option to listen to credible people. It’s worse to ask random people about your curiosities in Quora. The flux of opinions you get means you will forget about thinking-for-yourself and turn into a mere pinball in the game of opinions of others. Illness because: Quora habit won’t let you think your own answers.
(Bonus) Entertainment Websites: Websites about sportsmen, movie-stars, musicians, etc. They are built and written to prove to you that the heroes they present and the works they do are superior to you in every way. That you are not like them. That you missed out being like them. That you should consume this and this to even slightly resemble them. Illness because: You can do better!
With experiences in all this, I have finally found some respite on Medium. It has allowed me to freely express ideas as these without having to worry how my neighbor will judge me, or how unkempt my hair must be, or will a Phd. from xyz trust me.
As of now, I don’t consider Medium to be among these ills. Hope it won’t get into the top seven anytime soon!
Before getting into why books should be read books in hardcopies, let me give some background.
This mind of ours is a weird thing of which we still have a lot to decode. When you think you have unearthed its mechanisms, it surprises you with something else. I mean, look at it, all I had done was sleep with a book in my bed last night and this is what I thought I this morning:
Hardcopy books are something you feel. The smell, the weight, the cover, the design, the font — it all adds up to the overall experience of reading a book.
In many ways, they are like wine. You don’t say this wine gives me this amount of buzz so I better drink this amount of whiskey. You don’t say it. It doesn’t work that way. Wines have their own essence and it is not just about the alcohol.
Similar are hardcopy books: You don’t say this book gives me this information so I better watch a video on YouTube or listen to an audiobook. You shouldn’t say it. It shouldn’t work that way. hardcopy books have their own essence and it’s not just about the content within it.
In fact, we humans don’t work that way. We aren’t utilitarian. We want beauty. We imagine. We philosophize. We want love. We want to feel. If we were only utilitarian, you wouldn’t have this thing called computer in your hand right now. So stop bothering hardcopy books and go enjoy your shorts!
It’s beneficial to step back and observe the human race from a distance, forgetting about your own goals and concerns for a while. In the true Schopenhauerian ‘will-less contemplation’ sense.
The distance has to be perfect. In true Nietzschean sense:
Do not stay in the field!
Nor climb out of sight.
The best view of the world
Is from the medium height.
The view from this distance is worth every sight of it. I mean, just look at us:
The leader of animals, dwelling in this blue marble sort of thing which itself hangs in empty space in a monotonous cycle. Yet, we aren’t inspired by our mother: we don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. We want ‘progress’, we want to grow into something else.
‘Everything has to evolve,’ we say, ‘the earth that you see today wasn’t the same a million years ago!’
We are unique in this sense. We come up with these half-baked theories and understandings of the world and justify our actions. In fact, we come up with particularly those theories that justify our actions. It’s like we as beings only see what we want to see. Our desires are primary. Knowledge comes later. For instance, we don’t say, ‘look how disciplined earth is towards her father…’. We don’t say it because we do not like discipline. We do not want to settle. We want to eat and grow. Eat and grow even if our diet turns us into matricides. But we will come up with some theory to justify that too!
Who are we, by the way?
Some say they have evidence that some god created us, some prove that we are a result of a natural process. But I think both those views are misleading. Distractions. To hide a simple truth: we are nothing!
Yes, we are monsters who like to consume and grow but apart from that, we are absolutely nothing! Kill us now and I don’t think that ‘god’ will even notice. Yes…yes the universe is conscious through us…But what I also get is that it is yet another justification for our existence and appetite.
So the answer to the question above is this: we are nothing apart from greedy monsters. We should have long ago said to ourselves that we are greed manifested in physical form. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Greed is a virtue. It is a virtue because it ensures survival. How else does a creature like this, which believes it has conscience and knows of what it has done in the past, continue on?
Another verification of our nature is through what we worship. Among us, we revere the ones who are the most greedy. While we do this, we are doing nothing else than appreciating our essence. There’s nothing wrong with it. Once again, how else do we go on?
Enough about greed. It’s our driving force. It’s our essence.
Yes, we love science not because we love to learn, we love it because it equips us with powerful guns — and a shot at a good career, of course!
Then there’s entertainment. Our fuel. We of today need it more than the real one. Once we thought the grass was green on the other side and that was our meaning, but then globalization happened. We saw the reality.
If we had meaning other than greed, we would probably be celebrating love and all other feelings. But we have no time nor energy for those things because they consume more. They trigger our imagination. They do things to us. They make us think more. What we need is the emptying of the thoughts. How else do we reset from the exhaustion of constant want? — No, not with a Dostoevskian novel in hand. That’s why, the bulk of us today watch people review movies instead of we ourselves watching one. The former is engaging, the latter stimulating.
‘I watched it, so you don’t have to.’ = ‘I live life, therefore I don’t want you to.’
Humans = Greed + Entertainment. Where everything done for both is pragmatic while if you seek to feel the truth with your flute, you waste your time.
‘What’s your real job?’
Where are we now?
Our biggest achievement is that we have managed to build computers. If we ever needed anything to prove to ourselves that we are superior than the rest, computers have done that for us. They have shown to us that we are capable of creating an entirely new being from scratch. They are our ego inflations. No wonder the most greedy do business on it! And we talk about artificial intelligence now as if we are scared, but what we are actually doing beneath is gloating at our accomplishment. We won’t allow any other being to rule over us! The so-called best among us don’t even allow a normal human being to enter into their territory without years of worship and application.
We have created vessels to take us to the stars. We look at the sight of rocket launches and floating stations with a deep glad sigh. ‘We have achieved so much,’ we pat ourselves in the back. It’s another one of those things that has validated our superiority. One has seen fishes swim and birds fly in the air, who has seen a creature reach the outer space! We try to convince ourselves that going to a different planet will somehow solve our problems where in fact all we are doing with those dreams is trying to fill the void: we are nothing! With a fantasy:
‘May be we will encounter god — who has been sleeping — along the way and wake Him up. Or we will encounter other clever beings like us and life will be meaningful again.’
Meaningful as in new wars, new politics, new golds…
So what else do we aspire to?
What is happiness, anyway?
A neurological condition arising out of the perception that an individual has attained what it set out to attend. It could have meant a lot once upon a time, but not anymore.
What has the individual of today set out to attend?
A piece of cake in this celebration of human coronation. A few more views, a few more likes, a few more subsribers, a few houses, a few more sex, a few cars, a few more countries. A few more hours of forgeting of the existential dread.
What is the lesson humans teach each other?
Don’t kill yourself. You too can eat and grow. That’s the meaning you’ve been after.
Yesterday was the first day of my new experimentation:
Stopping the flow of a regular habit.
The habit = Regularly watching senseless videos on YouTube.
Yesterday, I successfully tolerated all my impulses to touch the YouTube app on my phone or press y + Ctrl Enter on my laptop web browser.
The reasons of experiment were:
I got aware that I was watching way too much senseless videos
I worried about how those videos might be affecting my feelings and imagination
I wanted to find out if watching videos contributed to my constant agitation and anxiety.
The worst part was that I had developed the habit of playing nonsensical cricket discussion videos on YouTube in the background every time I tried to go to sleep. The app on my phone tells me that Monday alone, I watched around 4 hrs of videos on YouTube.
So, yesterday morning I thought it would be a nice idea to go cold-turkey on my video-watching habits and see what changes take place in me.
Achievement: I didn’t watch a single video.
I’ll go over a couple important things I was thinking yesterday. It was surprising how long it had been since I thinked with such flow. It appeared as though my habit of watching videos had turned off my brain.
One major change I would like to express right away is that I slept well and dreamt vivid after a while.
Anyway, here are the thoughts:
Be careful on whom you listen to: Listening to ordinary people on a regular basis can be disastrous to your life. Ordinary people: They are those who aren’t related to us and who aren’t our friends; they are those who aren’t mature in an intellectual and emotional sense. Now, it’s not hard to notice that platforms like YouTube, TikTok and more or less all social media are filled with such people. Regularly listening to them, especially on sensitive topics, means we are being deliberately or unconsciously led by ignorance because they don’t care about us (since they don’t know us) and because they aren’t mature enough to teach us. Which, as you may imagine, is not at all healthy.
People who don’t know us but have have devoted their life to learning— even if they are strangers to us — might have acquired some wisdom to impart. If their hard-earned knowledge might not be useful to us, they might not be harmful either. But any bicky-dicky with an opinion can provide us nothing but senseless information.Even the advice that they give can have serious consequences to our thinking as what they provide aren’t the product of care-for-us or hard-learning.
There are many with the habit of sharing their intimate information on the internet, which gets videod and then commented on by random strangers. My point is, if sharing our feelings on social media (or hearing about your problems there) was to solve our crisis, why would we need friends/families, why would we need art and why would we need education and learning? It won’t work. Our issues work deeper than the level at which social media interactions occur!
Is my video watching, my mental weakness? — Noticing how even a short abstinence from video watching had opened the floodgates of my thoughts, I wonder if I watch videos or stroll around the internet when I am afraid to think for myself or weak to use my own imagination.
When I go on a YouTube video watching binge, I have the choice of selecting from millions of videos, which allows me to skip or fast-forward a video if I don’t find it to be as mind-numbing or enjoyable as intended.
Which may imply that I have been using videos as a means of sucking-up all of my thoughts — to escape from my own head — which I do think is a weakness because, in ideally world, I would want to solve my thought-problems rather than ignore them.
What I did during the break, however, was read books and what I found amazing was that reading a book now feels like a meditation. Now, considering how some thinkers of the pre-internet/TV days condemned too much of book reading as a sign of reading-so-you-don’t-have-to-think, one can imagine how deep they lived than us!
Is video watching a form of manipulation? — When I was younger, I remember learning a common success lesson from my grandfather and from some ‘you can do it’ book: ‘Successful/great’ people don’t spend their time around petty people or gossiping. They dwell in great ideas and deeds. While thinking on my bed, I wondered if any successful person (not in financial/social sense but as in the master of his/her art) of today would spend their time watching senseless YouTube videos. They would probably be either honing their craft or reading a great book on life.
This made me question if senseless video watching is equivalent to spending time around petty people and gossiping. Which would mean such watching is a form of manipulation from the ‘system’ side — to keep you ordinary, to keep you a sheep! Why else would such platforms exist?
That’s it, those are some significant thoughts that I thought during the break of a single day. I will see if I can sustain this discipline for a little longer. If I can do it, I will definitely share what days of absence has taught me. But if I can’t, there wouldn’t be much point sharing.
If I can continue this break, it may teach me the advantages of video watching and I may end up watching even more of them. It may also mean I will quit video watching altogether and maybe, become an activist.
We talk about the world moving ‘fast’ today but Europe in the 18th century must have been faster. Yes, these express technological developments are blinding and who knows how long it will take for us to finally understand what has been happening for the last 20 years or so, but Europe in the 18th century must have been at a different level purely due to the amount of ideas being thrown around — new ideas about ourselves, our world, new ideas about ideas!
It was the time after the Renaissance and giant thinkers such as Descartes, Locke, Leibniz; time of men of science such as Kepler, Hooke and Newton. New interpretations of classic ideas were happening, art was developing, science was emerging and philosophy was changing — humanity was becoming something new!
It was in this mood that one of the definers of that space-time, the most popular interpreter of those years and people emerged: Voltaire and it was in this mood that his classic Micromégas appeared.
I had read on Wikipedia that this particular work of fiction was science fiction but my preconception got the better of me and it told me it was an exaggeration— after all what kind of science fiction could an 18th century philosopher write when science wasn’t even SCIENCE yet!
But I was surprised (and angry at myself at this habit of preconception).
This short story is about an inhabitant of a planet that revolves around Sirius — which is 24,000 times bigger than the Earth. His name is Mr. Micromégas. He is big (24000 geometrical paces of five feet each), he is old (600 years of age). He is a philosopher!
After being trialled for heretical observations he decides to travel the universe:
…sometimes by the help of a sunbeam, and sometimes by the convenience of a comet, he and his retinue glided from sphere to sphere, as the bird hops from one bough to another. He in a very little time posted through the milky way…
He reaches to the planet Saturn and notices that the inhabitants there were mere dwarfs compared to him (about a thousand fathoms high.) There he befiends the secretary of the Academy and they begin travelling together.
They slip from moon to moon and spring upon passing comets and they reach Jupiter. There they learn some secrets and leave. They traverse about one hundred million leagues and see two moons on Mars. They do not stay on Mars because they think it would be too small to accommodate them. So they continue on. Until…they are tired and want to rest. This is where they notice the Earth. There they resolve to land. They move toward the tail of a comet and finding an Aurora Borealis they embark. They arrive on the northern coast of the Baltic on the fifth day of July in the year 1737.
On Earth they encounter whales and think it to be the ruling animals. Finally, they encounter humans who are obviously visible to them only through microscopes and audible to them only through certain creative mechanisms. They do not believe that such small creatures could possess intelligence. They talk to humans and ask questions like — if they were happy, if they were inspired with souls, etc.
A human mathematician, astounded by the questions, measures them which makes them realize that one should not judge things by its external magnitude.
Then they begin conversing with philosophers and learn from them that the Earth-humans fight with each other a lot for leaders who never go to the place of conflict by wretches who possibly never behold the leaders who tell them to sacrifice.
Hearing about the barabarians who rule from their palaces, give orders for murdering millions the Sirian is fillied with compassion for the human race. He then recognizing that there are only few who are wise in the entire species, he asks questions about mathematics and science. Hearing the answers, he is impressed. And then he asks them about soul:
Tell me what is the soul, and how do your ideas originate?
What follows after this question is bombardment of ideas from the philosophers. Some quote Aristotle and some Descartes, some Mallebranche and some Leibniz and Locke. But all present different opinions.
A person tells them he can answer all the secrets (which was contained in the abridgment of St. Thomas) and after he surveys them from top to toe, he says that they too were made for the use of man!
When leaving, the Sirian presents a book to the humans which he says willdemonstrates the very essence of things.
What he writes in that book, I will not write here. I suggest you read, or rather experience the work yourself.
All in all I think this book manages to beautifully illustrate the speed of that age in Europe — the variety, the hope and the excitement from all the intellectual developments happening. We humans tend to get carried away a lot. It is happening today as well, with our scientific and technological progress.
After reading this book I have realized that this is nothing new. I consider 18th century Europe to be crazier and more full of doubts and imaginations than today. It was a dangerous time, for it was a time where ideas and idea-generators were popular. Anything could have been thought, imagined and envisioned. Things could have gone anywhere, but it has reached here. Voltaire surely was influential in all this.
I avidly followed professional sports once upon a time — especially cricket. I ‘liked/adored/followed’ teams, players: their style, etc.
And then philosophical interests kicked in and I began questioning the essence of my so-called passion for sports. I found ignorance and vulgarity down there so I resisted and stopped!
India’s ‘festival’ of celebration of their ‘religion’ called IPL (Indian Premier League) is on these days.
Since I am from South Asia and we have this inherent tendency to compete (psychologically at least) with each other in things that we or some of us value — cricket happens to be in my blood (at least that’s what they try to convince us of). So I decided to let the blood flow freely and follow cricket passionately again.
I selected a team I thought I should like and I have been watching matches on TV, following analysis, news/gossip on the internet and also: thinking about the game. All this after a long-long hiatus.
One major change that has occured to me since this bloody-renaissance is this: I feel satisfied! I have a ‘good’ feeling going on.
There’s this massive wave of wind sort of thing inside my chest and it fills me up every time I think/see/hear of the league and when the team or the player of my choice does well. I then enter the internet and drink in each and every praise delivered for the team or the player(s). The wind drives me to do that. The more I drink, the more pumped I get. Once again, that lump/pump whatever of wind has made me feel complete.
On the other hand, if the team or the player doesn’t do well, I get agitated. A strange dissatisfaction lurks underneath as I constantly find myself not just roaming around the internet trying to justify their excellence but also imagining and playing out scenarios inside my own head. If the success of my choice fills me with a wind kind of thing, their failure fills me up with a stinky gas sort of gas.
Strangely however, irrespective of their success and failure: a general ‘good-feeling’ is inside me its thought form is as follows:
Tonight there’s a match, I will watch.
There’s a match, let’s see what they’re saying.
This is one strange drive for going through the day happily. I didn’t have such drives for a long time.
As I try to interpret the various elements present in this festival that may have been responsible for my changes, I find the following:
Support for a team or player(s): Their success winding and failure gasing me.
Competitive context: The tournament structure, the number of teams and players, the various possible scenarios, stakes mixed with my personal preferences with hearing/seeing what I prefer exciting me and hearing/seeing what I don’t prefer frustrating me.
Aesthetic(?): The jerseys, the style, the video quality creating a kind of attraction and excitement.
The Sheepiness: The number of people following this crazy nuance! Their sheer quantity providing me with justification to be-there and providing me with moral assurance.
The Zone: Everything above taking me to a zone of sorts where cricket and its context becoming an end-in-itself and the most important thing in existence. This generating assurance and warmth.
With all this, I want to look into the emotional spectrum in me — strictly in context of this cricket league.
As I mentioned above, what I have noticed in me is this flapping of excitement-frustration (wind-gas).
Now, this research here lists these as categories of emotions present in humans:
I do understand how people might find the emotions absent in me available in them in this cricket context. Some might have sexual, romantic interest towards some player or even umpires.
But isn’t it strange that some people find this cricket thing to be aesthetically pleasing, awe-some, horrorful, romantic?
I mean, this here is van Gogh’s work and van Gogh works with aesthetical things:
And this here is cricket:
Now this is what German Philosopher Immanuel Kant said generated awe in him:
Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me — Translated by Lewis White Beck
Similarly, normal people associate things such as death and ghosts with horror; nature, relationships with romance.
But won’t it be strange if people find this cricket thing to be aesthetically pleasing, awe-some, horrorful, romantic?
This scenario then is thus:
Following leagues and tournaments such as the IPL takes one to a zone. The zone stands independent of normal reality and its weltanschauung is that the league is an end-in-itself and everything else in existence is a means to the league and its success.
Inside the zone, there are preferences and those preferences generate certain emotions. Limited but nonetheless. Regarding emotions, there maybe two scenarios:
The zone does not contain all emotions of life: My case.
The zone contains all emotions of life: Some cases perhaps.
In the second scenario, isn’t it crazy that something like sports can generate diverse emotions in its consumers? This task is generally limited to arts and life. Come tomorrow with more and more resources, such sports might enhance the experience for its fanatics to such an extent that people will begin to say, romantically align with its players and love them if the players justify their ‘love’ by performing as they want to OR that people will begin to get petrified and afraid if their players do not justify their interest by performing as they want! (Some call cricket a religion in India.)
Now, this I find both weird and scary!
But do you know what I find weirder and scarier? — Case like mine (1) where while such sports aren’t providing me with a complete range of emotions, yet I am spending all of my time not just consuming but also musing them!
There may be a lot of people who follow sports just for a light escape or a switch-off, in which case these sports do no harm at all. They are games and that’s it. Maybe you read/watch a Shakespeare play; live life to the fullest and come to these leagues without taking it seriously. That’s great! But what if you live in the zone so much that you stop caring about feeling the full range of emotions and merely live within the wind-gas?
I mean that’s what capitalist culture with solid support from the scientific mentality is all about isn’t it? Take social media notifications and modern comical superhero movies for instance.
Who the hell do I think I am to be writing about methods of my movie watching!
Am I a producer? No. Am I a director/editor? No. Am I a professional screenwriter or any other movie business professional? No. Am I an actor? No. Am I a critic? No.
Then why should you care about my methods of movie watching?
Let me modify one Rousseau from the 18th century:
I am not a — producer, director, editor, screenwriter, actor or critic. I am none. This is why I make this kind of list. If I was either of them, I would be too busy making movies, not these stupid how’s.
Okay with that aside, let’s begin.
What I mean to do here actually is share a formula of movie watching that I had devised a while back for my personal convenience. This formula has really helped me interpret and understand movies in context, their meanings and purposes — without which my movie watching would have otherwise slipped by as a mere one/two/three-hour pasttime-entertainment.
This formula contains multiple components and each have distinct parameters which add up for overall movie-quality.
I am sharing this for two reasons, firstly, so that it may be useful for someone and secondly, so that I may be suggested and critiqued in this so I can improve on it, hence, improving my movie watching experiences.
Before sharing the formula and briefly discussing the components, I would like to define movies in this context as:
It must be clear that documentaries don’t have anything to do here. But there is a problem, what about theatres and shows like WWE which has both live and TV audiences. For convenience sake, let’s include them as well!
But the main focus is on those 90+ minutes things which we all call — movies.
And there are no equipment and temporal boundaries. A fictional short shot with a cheap phone by a Nepali kid is as good as one by Christopher Nolan.
Here is the formula I use for movie watching —
Yes, it’s an acronym.
Each alphabet stands for one component and I mark them on the scale of 10. That is the parameter. Now let me describe the components one by one.
A — Aesthetics:
Technically, aesthetics is a philosophical study and examination of beauty and taste. But how I try to use it in movie-watching is by studying, examining and marking the ‘beautiful’ in a movie as per my taste. I don’t try to use ‘schools’ derived standards of beauty.
What I find beautiful is based on:
The set or location and costumes.
The flow of transitions and cuts
The flow of shots and scenes
Synchrony between various components.
The Overall Story (not plots/subplots)
I think all these are self-explanatory.
I try to look at all these sub-components and then try to mark the overall aesthetics on the scale of 10, with 10 being the best and 0 being the worst.
Luc Besson’s Le Grand Bleu is a 10/10 for me.
I don’t remember giving zero to any. But few Nepali movies must have gotten a 1.
R — Reality factor:
While I prefer realism in movies, it is not at all necessary for all movies to be realistic. Yet it is difficult to define realism.
Which one would be more realistic: A movie based on a fantasy setting like say, Star Wars which manages to talk about human social issues and realpolitik or some types of Bollywood movies which deal with real life settings but go so astray from life that it has no resemblance with any part of our lives at all.
So, how I try to determine the Reality factor is by checking whether the movie has managed to show any kind of truth or not, by dealing with important subjects of our lives. Irrespective of the settings and characters. Star Wars gets higher point than this:
I do think that the purpose of movies is to illustrate or show either the realities of life or the world. That is why I tend to mark movies with wisdom – highly. Whether it teaches me something important about our lives and the world or not, whether it challenges my opinions and perspectives or not – is what I try to determine.
Here too I try to look at all these sub-components and then try to mark the overall reality factor on the scale of 10, with 10 being the best and 0 being the worst.
Abbas Kiarostami’s The Taste of Cherry is a 10/10 for me,
The Bollywood movie mentioned above gets zero.
F — Feelings:
Feelings imply the ability of the movie to generate/trigger feelings and emotions in me. While a lot of movies intend to provide some kind of feeling but fail due to various factors, the ability of a movie — through its various players — to do things to me, is how I judge.
I have been using an ancient Hindustani theatre-use-evaluation method for the judgement of feelings. It is called Navarasa, or nine feelings to be played with by contents.
Those nine entities are:
Śṛṅgāraḥ : Romance, Love, attractiveness.
Hāsyam : Laughter, mirth, comedy.
Kāruṇyam : Compassion, mercy.
Bībhatsam : Disgust, aversion.
Bhayānakam : Horror, terror.
Veeram : Heroism.
Adbhutam : Wonder, amazement.
Śāntam: Peace or tranquility
I do not have a preference for this or that feeling. If a movie manages to hit me hard, I don’t care where I have been hit.
Let me provide my 10/10 movies for each (respective to the list above):
Mute (2018), Borat, (not being able to think of one), Where is my friend’s house?, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Moon/Climax (2018), One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 2001:A Space Odyssey, Stalker (Tarkovsky).
E — Entertainment:
Because entertainment and fun are very very subjective and relative things, I have put my own margin into them. Plot-flow and performance have a great hand in this.
However, there is a limit as to how extreme one movie can go. Too much don’t-cares for the sake of making it artsy won’t do for me. Neither will mundane-repetitive-formulaic stuff nor pure comedy. I do have a guilty inclination — I find suspense/mystery pretty amusing.
The experience for me has to be tolerable. While a movie may have boring parts, every other factor mentioned here should work towards keeping me hooked. If it doesn’t manage to do it. It gets a low point on my scale.
Death at a Funeral (2007) is 10/10 for me, while any Bollywood blockbuster with a megastar is a 0.
H — Heroism:
This particular judgement of heroism differs from the one included in feelings. The heroism feeling mentioned under feelings is one where I appreciate the thought/deeds of character(s) in adverse situations. The toughness, the grit, the suffering, the act, etc.
But this heroism applies to movies where too much emphasis is provided to a character(s), such that they eclipse the story. In other words, heroism is where the actor or the character becomes more important than the movie and its story.
This is why it’s marking is done in reverse order. 0 is for movies with too much heroism such as Hollywood superhero flicks or Bollywood megastar ones. 10 is where the characters behave as characters and fit in perfectly with the story like in Rashomon.
T — Technicality:
This is where I look at the various technical aspects of movies which equally contribute to the overall performance and experience.
I have managed to find following important aspects:
Cinematography or Animation
Soundtrack and Music tightness
Here, the soundtrack differs from the ones in aesthetics in that this is whether or not the sound fits in with the cinema. Vangelis’ work in Blade Runner is absolutely beautiful, I do not find it apt in the movie. I felt Vangelis was more powerful than the narrative. So, it will get a high point in aesthetics but will not here.
All Coen Brother movies are 10/10 for me in terms of technicality.
So, this is how I watch my movies. I observe, analyze, mark and then add all of them up.
It may be a tedious, boring and inappropriate way for a proper experience but I found that it was the only way I could give context to my movie watching and make them relevant.
As mentioned earlier, I wrote this so that I could share the way I do it and also so that I could learn about my correctness and absurdities.
I asked myself about the future of thinking after I noticed how alert I was getting using my phone, laptop and TV.
I tried to understand the alertness and discovered that there was a voice inside my head that constantly reminded me that whatever I do in those devices is being surveilled,monitored and analyzed.
What is happening now is that this alertness is getting contagious. The hangover from device-usage is getting into my head. I am getting alert while Ithink, see or talk sensitive stuff in the same manner.
As if my thoughts and views are being surveilled, monitored and analyzed.
Is this what will happen to our thoughts in the future?
Let us begin this thought experiment by imagining a habitable planet with life. Far Far away!
The planet is revolving around its own star. Its day-night period same as Earth’s.
And on that planet, let us imagine species – Millions. With variety for procreation. Just like on Earth.
Let us imagine one species among them head-and-shoulders above the rest – In intelligence and sophistication. Just like us!
Now let us decide that the planet has had life for more than a billion years. The intelligent species there has been smarting around for more than 2 million years. Just like ours!
Now let us imagine the planet with its peculiar atmosphere, water, soil, forest, etc.
Let us imagine all this with one crucial difference — it’s intelligent species not like humans. Let us imagine them different. Yes, let them walk on two feet and let them look like us physically. But let them not be like us behaviorally.
Let’s make them different.
Let’s not make them build huge buildings, monuments and structures. Let’s not make them political. Let’s not make them national. Let’s not make them create huge corporations. Let’s not make them kill each other or creatures. Let’s not make them adhere to their own mandatory principles. Let’s not make them need any kind of superficial entertainment — Let’s make them wise.
Yes, let’s imagine them greedless, free and wise. It’s just a thought experiment after all!
They didn’t build huge buildings and structures because they are okay with distributed minimalistic settlements and structures of aesthetic/experiential importance.
They didn’t organize politically because they are okay with improvisational organizing. They understand the need of community but also realize the absurdity of politics and power.
Everyone is wise enough to mind their own business and greedless enough to not want unnecessary things. Everyone has their own land and they are fine cultivating what they need and consuming it. Remember, they are not greedy, so it will work.
Now, since they are wise as such, they did not need/want big businesses.
Nor did they have to trouble other creatures for their own amusement. They live at a distance far enough to remain untroubled by other creatures.
Since they are free and wise, they didn’t adhere to mandatory customs and principles such as marriage and children. Their population is well balanced. Whenever it seems to increase, they have the wisdom to understand it, hence, there will always be those who will make personal sacrifices. They didn’t need any forms of superficial entertainment as they don’t have any dissapointments hence anxieties.
So, what will they do? How will they live? How do we imagine that?
I propose the following:
They will spend their time in philosophical, scientific or artistic contemplation and creation. Depending on individual preferences or the need.
They won’t build sophisticated technologies. There is no need — they don’t want to conquer their fellows or the cosmos. They are wise enough to be happy where they are. They will scientific technologies though. For reasons clear! They might have computers and internet.
They have understood that the only purpose of their high intelligence is to experience and understand life and the world. Nothing else matters! All is peaceful and well.
As I went through his life and ideas, I realized how profound impact this guy and his type of thinking has had in our minds and the world today.
I will cut to the chase: The impact is damaging!
Yes, I do understand that the laptop I use, the phone I use — are all the results of innovative works done on the West Coast of the United States. And I also understand that these technologies are the very reason why I could dare to self-study and self-employ myself.
But when I looked at these people and their motives closely, a horrifying reality grimly slapped me in the face: These people wanted to rule the world and our minds, and they did!
Now there’s nothing new with people wanting to rule others. It has been happening forever. And there’s nothing we have been able to do to remove this part of our existence.
Tribal leaders talked of security, and ended up leading.
Spiritual/Religious leaders talked of material salvation, and ended up leading.
Democratic heroes talked of freedom, and ended up leading.
Communistic utopia promised of kinglessness, and ended of leading.
This has been going on forever and unless we do something radical to the collective human conscience, it will continue to do so. In this latest chapter, however, our leaders are the hollow boys from California — who talked of technological-empowerment, and have ended up leading!
Yes, once again I will say — the technology I use today is their blessing. It has helped me in my learning and creative process.
Wasn’t that commander a blessing to normal folks who didn’t know where the next attack would come from?
Weren’t spiritual talks a blessing to people when they failed to attain satisfaction through material pursuits?
Wasn’t democratic ideal a blessing to citizens when tyrants horsed around doing whatever they wanted?
Wasn’t communism a blessing when capitalistic thinking destroyed the life and soul of people who bled their sweat in work?
What I have realized is — Whenever we accept blessings, we accept reverence too! And this is what is happening to our world today: We have unknowingly welcomed new Gods because we were so blind with the blessings given to us.
But there’s something damaging about gods, that’s why we time and time again put up a struggle to destroy the old temples and jump into creating a new one whenever anyone promises to take the initiative. This damaging thing is: God rules over not just our life and economics, God infiltrates deep into our minds!
And this is why I said that the impact of Silicon Valley heroes is damaging: They are not just about technology. They have infiltrated into the deepest regions of our individual minds — therefore into our social behavior. They have become our new Gods. Like it or not!
The concept of God was to create a presence so strong within us that it penetrates deep into our consciousness and the teaching dictates our every thought and behavior. The same is with any kind of ideology. And the same is happening to us with the values of Silicon Valley.
There are a few mindsets I noticed that have come out of there:
The only purpose of life is to make it big, you shall believe!
Tell them you are denting the Universe, and they will follow
Become a king through entrepreneurship, and they will bow
Create platforms, set the rules, and they will fight
Create technologies that expose their weaknesses, and they will drool
Create technologies that encourage laziness, and they will submit
Make them dependent on you and your work, and they will surrender
Tell them the market decides, and they will feel helpless
Tell them their life will get better, and they will believe
Present yourself with daunting cockiness and — they will worship
Again, it is not about the technologies, it is about the impact these ideas have had on our minds and the world. It is about the impact this kind of thinking is having on technologies themselves.
One can only wonder what kind of technologies we might have had if they were not dictated by the ambitions of intellectually immature children with fanciful dreams! (With a lot of support from the Uncle, of course!)
See for yourself. Look at the richest people in the world today and all that have come out of that wretched valley called Silicon, don’t you see all of the above being ticked?
Look at the most powerful person in the world today, doesn’t he talk the biggest?
Look at the audacity of a person who trades in software, don’t you bow?
Look at ‘that’ platform for instance, aren’t we bashing our horns with each other?
Look at the platform that had to recently change its name for posterior goodwill, didn’t it expose us all naked?
Look at the watch in your hand, are you supposed to be told when to sleep and when to wake up? Do we need a bloody software to tell us if our grammar is correct or not?
Look at the most popular internet search service, can you even search your key anymore?
Look at the heap of algorithm-driven generic content that is eclipsing who knows how many Aristophanes, Rousseaus, Beethovens and Teslas (Nikola), don’t you feel powerless?
Look at your life, did you need all these fancy AI driven inspectors, don’t you feel duped?
Look at the confidence of those narrow-minded marketing coaches spread over the internet like cockroaches in a gutter — who promise you a navigation through the market — don’t they make you feel helpless? (Even if you ‘make it’ through their coaching, you will have already become somebody else. It comes at a price: you have to be one of them!)
And all this is damaging: they have turned our mind and the world into one pathetic automated machine whose only function is to ‘dent the universe.’ Isn’t the universe already dented enough?
I am convinced now more than ever: We have had enough of technology. They aren’t going to solve any of our issues. It’s people’s behavior that has to be mended. It’s not out of a utopian need, it’s out of self-preservation that I speak this.
A person who takes vulgar pictures of young children will continue to do so — be it on an analog camera or IPhone 13!
A culture that produces crap drama will continue to do so — be it in theatre or Netflix!
Two nations that fight with each other will continue to do so — be it in SC Sea or Mars!
A country whose people are morally corrupt will continue to deceive the public — be it through government or e-commerce!
A spoilt kid who irritates others will continue to do so — be it through his bicycle bell or 1000 cc bikes!
These toys just don’t matter if people are going to be the same.
We have reached to a point where there can be millions of articles on the internet talking about the dangers of AI for writers and yet, none have the audacity to stand up and say: Stop this AI bullshit!
I really wonder:
What kind of technologies we might have had if they were not driven by the ambitions of intellectually immature children with fanciful dreams!
Coming back to the original point, we are driven today by the ideals of: superficial living, technology/market dependence, mutual exploitation and averageness with cocky-presentation. All these are Silicon Valley givens.
Yes, Silicon Valley has given a lot more to us. And I personally thank them for it. But now it’s time to move on. Now it’s time to unlearn. It’s damaging. This is not what life is about!
And for those who care about posterity,
I think the people of 2050 will wonder:
What kind of life we might have had if those who were aware 30 years ago did not surrender to the ambitions of the intellectually immature children with fanciful dreams!
So what do we do?
We start off by unlearning the lessons taught by them and detoxifying ourselves of their influence.
Technology isn’t wrong. The ones who control it should be scrutinized. Technology can be used for self-knowing, experiences, and exploration. It has to be freed from the clutches of Lusty boys of Silly-Con Valley! and so should our thoughts and life and the world and…
Arthur C. Clarke’s famous short-story The Sentinel (the seed from which 2001: A Space Odyssey sprang) is about a monolith discovered ‘high on the ridge of a great promontory…’ of Moon by an individual in a team of Lunar explorers. The object is too smooth to be natural and had been leveled to support a glittering, roughly pyramidal structure set in the rock like a gigantic many-faceted jewel.
The discoverer is not able to make sense of that object. Looking at it, he is convinced there had once been a lunar-civilization. His first guess after that is that it might be a building or shrine. After that, he wonders if it might be a temple. A closer examination makes him realize that a lot of hard work has been done by the builders to place it there. He guesses Egyptians. His pride doesn’t allow him to admit that the work might have been created by a civilization more advanced than humans!
After throwing a small pebble at the object, he knows he was looking at something that could not have been matched in the antiquity of his own race. He guesses it might be a machine, protecting itself with forces that challenged Eternity.
Later, he realizes that the object is as alien to the moon as himself. The age of the monolith is then measured and it is revealed that the object was set there before life existed on earth. But, by whom?
Long long ago there must have been very advanced races that must have scaled and passed the heights of present-humans. But they must have been lonely in a young universe. This may have eventually prompted them to search star clusters for intelligence. But all they must have found was emptiness or mindless things. The Earth must also have been the same. The wanderers, looking at the Earth, must have guessed that a the distant future, there would be intelligence there. They must have left the monolith as a beacon that signalled the presence of other civilizations. But they placed it on the moon and not on the Earth, because-
Its builders were not concerned with races still struggling up from savagery. They would be interested in our civilization only if we proved our fitness to survive- by crossing space and so escaping from the Earth, our cradle. That is the challenge that all intelligent races must meet, sooner or later…it depends in turn upon the conquest of atomic energy and the last choice between life and death.
Clarke wrote this story in 1948. WW2 was just over and humanity was still amazed, shocked and terrified at its new-found-tool, The Atomic Bomb.
Clarke simply tries to send a message – Such weapons have the capacity to exterminate humanity. A massive world exists outside of us. We are nothing yet. We have seen nothing yet. So, we better behave!
73 years have passed since this story. Humans have survived the threat. Humans have reached further, deeper and seen clearer.
But what did humans do after reaching space conveniently?
We waged a cold-war where the outer space was merely a playground of strategic purposes! The same story continues today…
A monolith hasn’t yet been discovered. Nor has there been any concrete sign of other civilizations. There has been a constant though- Threats still exist.
Therefore, a question remains relevant:
Are we humans safe from ourselves?
Let us define Civilization as the stage of a creature where it can satisfy both the conditions:
a. build great things and
b. doesn’t have a threat from itself.
Similarly, let us define Savagery as:
The stage where a creature has internal conflicts of such magnitude that it has a threat from itself (irrespective of what it builds).
With these definitions, a weird thing appears:
Animals and creature which we call ‘lower’ and ‘unintelligent’ seem to be in the same stage of civilization as us!
Yes, they do not build rockets and computers, but they do not destroy themselves and their environment either.
So, what is stopping us?
What is responsible for our savagery? For our non-civilization?
In 1950, only the US and the USSR had nuclear weapons. Today, 9 nations possess them. While no one would be stupid enough to use them, they have become a crucial strategic tool. But that doesn’t mean, the dangers have been swept aside:
This goes to show that Clarke’s designation of savagery yet persists. In other words, we are still savages and are not yet civilized as we still have threats from ourselves, no matter what we have built.
The present Climate Crisis and the complications it has brought also proves the same.
Yes, for Clarke back then, the parameter of non-savagery was the ability to reach the vast expanse above. And man has reached there. But man hasn’t been able to disengage from the catastrophic threats imposed on itself, by itself. Outer Space is yet another battlefield!
As to the answer to the questions of what is stopping us; what is responsible for our savagery;for ournon-civilization,
This kind of threat exists today for: International-Politics.
The same organizational-structural-system that almost ended it all!
What amazes me when I hear about the past is that we haven’t been able to find an alternative political system or be harmonious with the present one- although we have managed to peek into our cells, brains and wherenot!
Nor have we been able to be brave enough to modify this obsolete system even when we have located alternatives.
What I mean by ‘obsolete system’ is that which is at constant war with itself and has the following characteristics:
In simple terms- National Systems.
Isn’t it time we moved on from nations and nationalities? Or at least establish a mechanism that will not allow us to destroy us for petty things? They were created by kings and princes with swords. For themselves! There are none left now and swords are already obsoletely obsolete things for museums.
We may have left the Earth, but we are still stuck in our own heads.
This proves that humans are still immature. Perhaps Clarke should have placed the monolith at Alpha Centauri.
From this viewpoint, it seems we humans are not civilized as long as we have the prevalent National Systems…or at least until we modify them!
I was scrolling through my phone photos when I noticed something —
Four years ago, for the first time in my life, I had edited a photo of a page from my diary with ‘Goals’ on its header.
I know, there’s nothing special there. All I had done was use the vignette tool to make the center of the page brighter.
Here’s that image:
The significance of this information is that it was the first time I had used a photo of a self-written-text as my wallpaper in order to remind myself what I was about and what I was to do. It was the beginning of thought management through phone wallpapers.
That particular photo is followed by other photos in my phone. There are a lot more photos with similar design: A page of a diary vignetted.
I guess that marked the beginning of a habit that still persists in me — Designing and using phone wallpapers for my thought-management. It has been more than five years within which I have collected some solid experience on it. That’s the reason why I wanted to talk about it.
Phone-Wallpapering for thought-management is a regular and natural activity for me. Whenever I have a new idea, new structure or a new paradigm, I either draw it in a paper, take a photo or use a photo editing app. It has proved to be useful. I like to call it: Mind-supplement-in-abstracto.
Phones are without a doubt the most useful and personal technological devices. We learn, work, communicate and entertain ourselves in them. We spend almost all of our time with them (around).
They now play a role no other technology ever has.
This possibly makes the phone screen the most viewed thing in our normal day, both in terms of frequency and duration.
Into the inner phone experience, the wallpaper or the background is the most general component. In terms of design, it is a base in which everything is built and exists. Apps come and go, change places. But the background remains!
This nature of the phone background and our high phone usage makes the background an ideal thing to replicate what we would like to have in the background of our minds.
This is why I used the term: Thought-Management. It is about using the phone wallpaper to manage our thoughts in the way they ought to be managed. In a way they will be managed!
That’s why the term Phone Wallpapers for thought management.
Almost everyone who uses a phone keeps a wallpaper which is supposed to inspire or remind the person of what s/he is all about. After that, they look for aesthetics. It is done for symbolism. Everyone does it naturally. But what I am trying to put across is that, our thoughts are not as simple as that. Therefore, this task of phone wallpapering for our thoughts has to be taken more seriously and methodically.
Our minds are not naïve. They won’t obey what we would want them to obey! Things don’t work that way. the mind likes to counter-reason, it likes to explore, it likes to confuse! Providing it with only one vision and trying to discipline it on it is absurd.
A way to control or manage it is by using the phone-wallpaper more effectively:
The wallpaper has to be designed in such a manner that it addresses all aspects of our life and mind. The wallpaper has to address the confusions too.
Such wallpapers provide inspiration and context. But they won’t be able to address all of our questions and doubts. For instance, when a part of us is concerned with our current income and expenditure, such lofty inspiration can hardly be of use. What use of the information that we are here in this vast unknown, smaller than a speck of dust, when our bellies are craving the next meal!
Yes, I know they are supposed to provide metaphysical/spiritual base. But if we are talking about using phone backgrounds effectively, it surely has to do more than that!
If our human mind was to focus on a single thing, there wouldn’t be the need for thoughts and thinking.
I consider thoughts to be useful. Not something to suppress or extinguish — as others like to believe. Thoughts can and should be managed if we want to go to territories never gone before.
My pursuit is to open them up. To revolutionize human thinking.
If we want wallpapers to be our Mind-supplement we have to dig and design deeper.
We have to move beyond symbolism.
Here we are talking about using wallpapers to communicate to our mind all the things that we want to have communicated. A night sky wallpaper in the background with the current goals and obstacles written could be a good solution. This way our mind will notice the cosmic/metaphysical context along with the financial/moral whatever —just the way we want it!
What we can do is draw diagrams, make bullets — whatever we do to organize our mind — and set it as the wallpaper of our phone.
I have discovered space-effectiveness. Which is the art of placing certain components at certain parts of the wallpaper for the best effect. I also have my ideas about image placing, text placing, color-usage and all that. But I will talk about all that later.
My idea with this was to roughly talk about phone-wallpapering. I would love to hear how you use your wallpaper as I have no idea how others have been doing it!
A city can be defined as a geographical area which is compact, immensely interconnected and is urbanized. That is, it is modernly administered, uses and consumes advanced laws, systems, technology and infrastructure.
Our current crisis of Climate Change has some thinkers and even the United Nations proposing the idea that cities are the ideal construction that can help us overcome this crisis.
This makes it a perfect occasion to look at few of the great developments in cities in human history.
The process of knowing the history of cities involves scientific processes that are ongoing in nature. Archaeology is the most vital tool available for us to understand and know things of the ancient world. Especially of the time-period which has no written work to tell. It looks to unearth materials which are interpreted and placed in the most suitable time-period of its belonging. As new things get discovered, new light is thrown into the once unknown period and area.
With all this definition in mind. Let us see how cities have evolved.
The region of Levant is very important for archaeology. It was in Jericho of this region where the oldest known protective wall, the wall of Jericho, has been found. Along with this a stone tower has also been unearthed.
Archaeological evidence reveals that by 8000 BCE, the site grew to 40,000 square meters (430,000 square feet) and was surrounded by a stone wall 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) high and 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) wide at the base. Inside the wall was a stone tower 8.5 meters (28 feet) high and 9 meters (30 feet) wide at the base. The tower had an internal staircase with 22 steps
The hypothesis behind the wall is that it may have been built to protect its settlement from flood waters. The tower may have served some kind of ceremonial purpose. Some are also of the idea that the tower served the function of motivating people into the communal lifestyle as there have been suggestions that a population of some 2,000–3,000 persons were living there. But this varies as some estimate the population to be as low as 300. But nonetheless, Jericho is a concrete evidence on the movement of the human race from a hunting way of life to a one of full settlement.
Jericho has also provided evidence of agriculture. It has to be noted that, although modern cities tend to detach from agricultural pursuits, during the time leading up to Jericho, humans were still in a nomadic state. Hence, Jericho signifies not only the most distant evidence of a city but also of an organized settled living system.
Wheat and barley is thought to have been cultivated. It is highly probable that irrigation had also been invented.
Jericho’s settlement occurred in two phases. The one mentioned above was followed by a second settlement at around 7000 BCE. It too was a Pre-Pottery Neolithic in its nature. It expanded the range of domesticated plants and animals. Its buildings were rectilinear in structure and were made of mudbricks. Each building had several rooms and a central courtyard. Terrazzo floors made of lime decorated the rooms while the courtyards had clay flooring. Dishes and bowls were used. This phase of settlement lasted until about 6000 BCE. Towards the end of 5000 BCE, another urban settlement appeared in Jericho. It was walled yet again.
While Jericho ebbed-and-flowed, a massive city flourished in Mesopotamia where one of the earliest precursors to modern human life was found. It was where writing originated, and all kinds of technological, legal and moral basis of a collective urban life initiated. The city was Uruk.
Uruk was inhabited from its inception until c. 300 CE. after which it was abandoned and buried. It was excavated in 1853 CE. It used cylinder seals for attesting personal property and documents. It had monumental mud-brick buildings. Large sculptures and metal casting was done. Pictographs on clay tablets were used to record the management of goods and workers.
5000 BP (before present), Uruk had ~50,000 people. At its peak, it may have had around 80,000 inhabitants.The Ubaid Period (c. 5000-4100 BCE) saw Ubaid people first inhabit the region. This period is followed by the Uruk Period (4100-2900 BCE) during which cities started developing in various regions of Mesopotamia. Among which, Uruk became the most important.
The Uruk Period is divided into 8 phases but it was most influential between 4100-c.3000 BCE. It was during this time that
The city was divided into Eanna District and Anu District.
The Eanna District was walled off from the rest of the city. Anu district had a single massive terrace, called the Anu Ziggurat which was dedicated to the Sumerian sky god Anu. In the Uruk III period, a white temple was built on top of the ziggurat. From the Uruk VI period, a Stone Temple has been discovered.
Uruk continued to be relevant through the Ur III Period (2047-1750 BCE),
In 1922 CE, during an excavation of the ruins in that region, ‘The Great Death’ was discovered, which was a grave complex. Further studies revealed that in its heyday, Ur was a city enormous in size.
It used Cuneiform tablets which has allowed us to know that Ur was a highly centralized, wealthy and bureaucratic state during the third millenium BCE. The Royal Tombs, from about the 25th century BCE, contained,
Ur may have been the largest city in the world from 2030-1980 BCE, with a population of about 65,000.
Probably founded by farmer settlers from northern Mesopotamia, from the very beginning, it became a location of importance as a trade center as it was located at a point where the Tigris and Euphrates run into the Persian Gulf.
The city began to grow from a small village ruled by a priest or priest-king. There were two major dynasties: of Mesanneppada, the first king who was followed by three others: Mes-kiagnuna, Elulu, and Balulu. The Second Dynasty is not recorded and the history of which is not known.
When the Semitic leader Sargon (2334-2279 BCE) conquered the entire Sumerian land with his people the Akkadians, the Akkadian Empire ruled over the regions of Mesopotamia until it was inundated by Amorites who made their capital in a small town called Babylon. Which began the first Babylonian Empire.
The ziggurat of Ur, the temple, was built in the 21st century BCE. The ruins were uncovered in the 1930s which covered an area of 3,900 feet by 2,600 feet. It was a part of a complex that was an administrative center for the city.
End of Part 1
In this first part of our series of Short History of Cities, we talked about Jericho, Uruk and Ur. Although there have been evidence of multiple cities in the course of time in Jericho and other smaller ones around Uruk and Ur; these three stand tall on the basis of evidence gathered and the impact made.
Each should have inspired the city that followed and they collectively must have been very influential in not just the developments of cities as greatest technological achievements, but also in the development and progress of human species as a whole.
There is another way of looking at history. As the struggle of human beings to understand, organize and use their own mind. That is, their thoughts!
It won’t be wrong to paraphrase one famous sentence of history this way:-
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of thought struggles.
To validate this silly argument, let’s start by suggesting that the struggles between good/bad, right/wrong, duty/passion, ideology/compassion, ego/emotion, gods – exist inside the human cranium (mind) in the form of thoughts and thinking. As struggles of the mind!
That is why, all struggles are the struggle between thoughts. A crisis of thought management. A crisis of mind management.
Identity is the way we define ourselves or the things which we identify ourselves with. This exists in the form of thoughts. Our very existence and the proof of existence’s existence is only possible through thoughts, said one Descartes, a long time ago. But we will not go in that end of the spectrum here.
Let us rather go into the ancient times where different tribal groups fought and killed each other for resources.
The thing that separated tribal groups from each other and made them go for each others’ blood and bounty was their identities. Members of each tribe identified themselves as a part of that particular tribe and not the other. This made them think it was right to kill people from other tribes and not one’s own.
History shows that tribal groups fought with one another until their groups united into one. The same continued later when small states appeared.
When multiple groups united, the individual members who fought one another suddenly identified with the nemesis as one and searched for new foes with a different identity. The latest example of it is the fact that more and more people today are choosing to identify themselves as a single species called Homo Sapiens instead of identifying on the basis of their race, ethnicity, caste, class, nationality, continent etc.
Of course, there are those who would like us all to be obsessed with minor identities to exploit the sentiment of such identities for their own power-game, but it is safe to say that we all are becoming wiser by the day and learning to utilize our specific racial, ethnic identities for cultural and emotional values instead of using them to decimate each other. It is only a matter of time, and, yeah, of thought!
Our difficulties in thought management and the absurdity of what will happen if it is not done well was understood very well by some of the ancients folks who being way way way ahead of their times, worked hard to find some method to the madness.
While some came up with the idea of One identity with the entire Cosmos, a person called Buddha came up with the idea that this entire identity bullshit is the most bullshit thing in existence and we all have to get rid of it from its source in order to stop suffering and ending this identity game for once and for all. Buddha and his subsequent followers established an entire religion which is nothing but a course in thought management. Mind management!
With the identity side of thoughts aside, let us talk about our earliest tool of thought management. We are not going to talk about various forms of chemicals, which basically alter the brain neurochemically which takes thoughts to directions as per the nature of the chemical and the default character of the user. We are going to talk about a thing without which it would have been impossible for Buddha to do what he did — Language.
Many thinkers on thinking agree to the fact that it was language which allowed man to actually take a giant leap forward. Not only did it provide man with a sophisticated mechanism to record thoughts, it also allowed man to conceive previously unconceived things and communicate with each other better which only improved as ages passed by. One can only imagine where man would have ended up if not for language.
Along with it, humans had been using techniques of arts — drawing, music, storytelling, dancing to make sense of thoughts by expressing them in a systematic way. While the arts had allowed people to express what buzzes inside the cranium it was far from becoming an actually serious pursuit.
Then the Greeks beginning with the fabled Socrates ‘seriously’ began working on thought management. Plato became so obsessed with the idea of thoughts that he thought all there is- is in that form, while Aristotle took the game a hell of a lot of steps further and began the establishment of an entire system of thinking. While we can go on and on about such theoretical managers, all we will do right now is stop at Aristotle and say that the works he did opened doors to a lot of things in the domain of thought management and utility, the fruits of which we are enjoying today in the form of writing, rationalism, philosophy, science, technology, etc.
And now that we have arrived at today, we have arrived at a point in time where our understanding of our thoughts and their management are about to go to a whole new level. Perhaps, we are entering a period of significance in thinking matched only by the advent of language.
The computer is a strange machine. While all machines and tools developed by man since his ‘rise’ had been to make his task of physicality, be it seeing or running easier and smarter, the concept of computing machines took tool usage directly into the domains of the mind. While various transport vehicles must have allowed ancient people to lessen the distance between their objects of interest which they had to count themselves, tools such as abacus allowed them to make counting easier and more reliable.
If language provided voice to human subtleties, computers provided tools to supplement the brain and mind in their tasks. Beginning with simple arithmetic operations, computers soon evolved into doing heavier and more sophisticated mathematical tasks, some of the type which is almost impossible for a human mind to do. But all this to supplement human mind’s labour.
If we are to stick to the definition of computer as a device that makes human thought management easier, then we have to include devices such as navigational compass, clock, recorder, camera to the list too.
The compass provided the ability to think through directions, the clock helped keep track of time, the recorder allowed to record sounds, which is an advancement of audial-memory and the camera enabled to record images, which is an advancement of visual memory. The difference between other tools for same functions such as a drawn map, notations and drawing and these tools is that the former tools cannot be qualified as machines, they are mechanisms/methods alright but are not automatic.
In regards to the camera, the reason it qualifies as a thought machine and tools such as binoculars and telescopes do not is that- binoculars assist the physicality, the eye while the cameras assist thoughts by saving space and effort for memory.
This brings us to modern gadgeteries. While smartphones with the internet are supposed to be such thought managers, their niche is limited to integrating all other forms of retro thought machines into them and enhancing communication. Along with it, they are important assistances for other functions such as selection (eg. shopping items), distribution, entertainment and information, among few. While the amount of information they contain can surely be said to be assisting thoughts, which they certainly do, they haven’t reached to a point where they automatically as a tool allow us to understand, interpret and manage our thoughts. They are merely existing in the form of content of someone else’s language or such other forms.
But there are three up and coming technologies that can make a difference — VR, AR and BCI.
One of the founding fathers of Virtual Reality, Jaron Lanier has listed a total of 52 definitions of VR in his book Dawn of Everything. Among those are definitions that talk about VR as a type of sensory and motor organs tricking devices which can make one identify with a whole other thing and environment instead of one’s own biological body and immediate surroundings.
VR functions as an immersive technology, in that, they temporarily disconnect all sense organs from the actual identities and environment and submerge them in some other scenario, tricking the brain/mind into believing that its actual body and hence responsibility is of that which is given by the device. This way of approaching the self can have huge consequences in the domain of thoughts and thinking. It directly toys with self-identification. But it doesn’t seem to have direct mechanistic implications in regards to our understanding of our thoughts and mind in general.
Augmented Realities on the other hand can be called extended and enhanced smartphones. They provide information better and easier but I don’t see them assisting in our thought comprehension.
And then come — BCIs
Brain Computer Interfaces in this context stands for consumer-end subset of neuroimaging which are fundamentally devices that allow us to send information of our brain directly to a computing device and vice-versa. It is a product that is and will be available to any human being. This is what makes it interesting and a serious contender for filling the shoes of language.
While still at their primitive stage, ideally, BCI can be that technology that allows us to see the happenings of our brain and mind in a system that is, firstly, not our own brain and secondly, is a machine. Language, Writing and Art allow the former but are not automated machines, meanwhile, a computer is a machine but does not have the ability to help us see those happenings if not for its usage in Language, Writing and Arts. BCI can be both.
With its capacity to map the workings of the brain in a computer in real time, we can expect to have greatly enhanced understanding of how our own brain works and which part of it does what when we are involved in x,y, or z. But as mentioned earlier, this mapping is still in its primitive stage due to the technique it uses called EEG which produces weak signals and is prone to interferences and also due to lack of information about brain-mechanisms, in other words on actuation.
Yet, they hold potential and no one can deny that. Considering the amount of investment being done on them in terms of both financial and talent resources, we can be sure that their limitations will surely be overcome in the not too far future.
Imagine being able to place a device in your head that is connected to your computer and being able to see the workings of your brain when you engage in xyz in real time. Now, imagine you being able to manipulate information in your brain, not by thinking but by making changes in the program in your computer which in turn affects the brain. Further, imagine your most important desire in life, say, taking care of your family, and imagine being able to computerally store that desire in a part of your brain via a computer and programming your computer to send you an electrical nudge each time you put on the device in that specific part of your brain where you have decided to keep that desire. Now we’re talking about thought management!
Imagine being able to see everything you have thought and your pattern of thinking in a computer device with you being able to press a few keys and play around with them! All this might be possible with BCI.
As with every other tool of importance, there will be vulturesque and hyenaesque humans to take advantage of your privilege.
Now imagine a corporation such as google or facebook being able to observe everything going on in your head and manipulating the information therein as they own the device or the system related to it! Not pretty now is it?
With great potentiality come great opportunities, ergo there will be opportunists waiting to cash in in your new found glory. But with the amount of control you have over your own thoughts, may be, you will be able to deceive them at that game and actually win! All this and much more is awaiting us with BCI.
We are on the verge of a paradigm shift in thought and thinking. Not only due to the technological sophistication but also due to the nature of our lives today with crazy amounts of information and complexities, we will be in dire need of thought assistance. Our brain will just not be able to handle the incoming times.
Name any kind of thought manipulating item and we are at a juncture where that item is getting more and more advanced with each passing day. This change is inevitable. All we have to do is think really really good now.
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of thought struggles.
can be turned into:
The future of all society is the future of thought magic. Of mind magic!
We humans will have tremendous opportunities opening, the kind we are not even capable of imagining today once we get hold of the tools that will allow us to for the second time in history understand and manage our thoughts. Those tools are at our doorsteps. And so are opportunistic exploiters…
WILL WE WIN?
CAN WE WIN? but more importantly:
CAN WE BE FINALLY PUT AN END TO THE THOUGHT STRUGGLES?