Friday, 21 March 2014

What is Free Will?




What is free will? Before reading any further, let me get one thing straight- this piece is by no means religious, nor does it have any religious teachings as a pre-cursor. This is solely me pondering over this one question on the basis of fact, logic, and science. I do not mean any offence to anyone and I do not mean to disrespect anyone’s religious beliefs by means of this piece.

That being said 
let us explore the depths of what we would call free will. Have you really thought about how much ‘free will’ you actually possess?

There are certain things, however, which are imperative to acknowledge and understand before even asking ourselves the question.
First, the human gene pool, however it may evolve (or devolve), is the human gene pool; nothing less, nothing more. There can be no evolution/devolution/mutation beyond the ambit of what genes are already within this closed-system we call mankind.
Second, when we are born, our DNA defines who we are for the most part: appearance-wise, personality-wise and preferentially.
Third, the experiences we undergo in our developmental stages, together with our surroundings, institution, home, family, friends and countless other factors define who we are going to become.

There is quite a bit of interplay between the 2nd

and 3rd things. To put it simply (or actually really complicating it further, so if you are brave, continue reading), our DNA coupled with our experiences and all external and internal influences essentially mould who we grow up to be. What we prefer eating, drinking, which colour we like, what genre of songs we enjoy, what our past-times are, etc. (You kept reading. You brave thing, you. I like you). Essentially it defines who we are, so to speak.

Now, our choices and preferences are such that we tend to ‘choose’ something which is to our liking and discard something which is not.
Think about this: how many of these ‘preferences’ are really your choice? You are predisposed towards thing ‘X’. Why? It is based on your DNA, experiences and essentially all intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Where do you fit in? What part of it was really your choice?
You did not choose which parents you will be born to. You did not choose your 48 chromosomes. You did not choose how those 48 chromosomes would- with interplay- result in making you... you. (Interplay. Love that word. Interplay. Hehe). You didn’t choose what group of people would be your peers, you did not choose which of your peers would be inclined to be your friend; you did not choose which ones (out of whom were already inclined towards you) you would become friends with. You’re probably thinking that the last thing I said is utter hogwash- of course you chose your friends. Sadly, no you did not. Your personality (repeating: dictated by your DNA+ all other factors) and preferences make you feel more inclined towards certain people than others. Your compatibility, interplay of intellects (haha, gets me every time), and preferences attract you to that person, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. There is also nothing you can do about what you like to see in a person to consider being friends with them. All these ‘preferences’ that you possess are a result of all the factors discussed earlier.


This is pretty bizarre, isn't it? Well I won’t lie: it is. But think about it. What control did you actually have in the factors that surrounded you when you were born and grew up? You are simply moulded by whatever was handed to you. Later on, when you actually can (or think you can) choose your extrinsic factors, those ‘choices’ are dictated by the preferences you developed during your childhood. No matter which way you turn, you’re inevitably being dictated by who you are. That is who you are. That is your personality. That is you. But did you really have any control over how you became you?

You simply took in all the extrinsic factors and moulded yourself in accordance with your genetic predispositions.

It is not your choice what extrinsic factors will affect you in what way. Let us consider an example:
A and B are the only two passengers in a taxi driven by C. Same age, same gender, same school, same family background. They get into an accident. A and B are unharmed, but C is badly injured.
A gets out of the taxi and has a breakdown, sobbing hysterically at the sight of the blood and unable to be of any use. (Incoherent blabbing may or may not have been a part of his spaz attack).
B, on the other hand, whips out his cell phone, calls an ambulance, and tries to figure out the best possible way to tackle the situation.

Let us analyze what just happened. A was nowhere near composed, while B was the very definition of the word. Why? They went through the same ordeal. My point is: different situations have different effects on people. The effects are a result of the peoples’ personalities, tolerance, and composure. My point relating back to the topic: the experiences you had in your early developmental stages indubitably had an effect on you- an effect that you did not choose.

Anyway, I’m getting sort of tired of explaining the same thing in different ways. We can move on. We have now come to the conclusion that we are who we are by no real choice of our own. What is ‘our’ choice? Is it really just a word given to what our preferences dictate to us? The ‘people’ we become by no choice of our own- is that who we are? Where is the free will in our actions when everything is essentially just bound to happen, by our own ‘conscious’ choices which are already defined?

We have examined this phenomenon on a macro level. It is now time to examine an isolated occurrence of a demonstration of ‘choice’. Everything we do, say, think, choose, has a cause. Something or the other sparks it. On any normal day, I would wake up and have orange juice. Some random day I would not ‘feel’ like having orange juice but ‘feel’ like having apple juice instead. Isn’t that really my personal choice, and is definitely NOT dictated by my genetics and personality like I keep asserting?  Well, the answer is... not really. It still isn’t my choice. How
can this possibly be anything other than my own personal free choice? Well, it is- so to speak. It is the way you want it. But it is not necessarily coming from anywhere other than your mind. There is something or the other going through my mind that resulted in this anomalous choice of having apple juice instead of orange. Maybe I reached my neurological limit of having the same thing every day and now on this particular day my threshold for tolerating the same thing every morning has been crossed. Maybe I had a dream after which I woke up feeling not the usual way I would feel. Maybe I just wanted to taste apple juice. MAYBE I JUST WANTED TO TASTE APPLE JUICE. It seems like as though my hypothesis has a major flaw. It doesn’t. Not in this case, at least. Try to apply this here:
You do things because you want to do them. Your preferences make you ‘want’ to do those things. Anomalous preferences are always inevitably the product of a thought process- conscious or subconscious. Your preferences have already been defined in your development.

The core question is: how can you choose to want something that has already been added to your preferences without any intervention on your part from the very outset of your development?

Exceptions may be when you do something you would generally not prefer doing. You would ‘choose’ to do them. But, these exceptions are not really exceptions. They are governed by external or internal factors. Something, someone or a simple thought process will make you choose whatever it is you would not have normally chosen. There will always be a thought process involved. If you choose to do something against your preferences because, say, your best friend will look favourably upon it, it is really you bending under that social pressure of acceptance, desirability, or- on a less pessimistic note- just for the sole reason of making your best friend happy (which again is not really selfless; read my piece “Are we all Selfish?”). It is your personality that allows you to go against your preferences for so-and-so reason and that again, does not make it a ‘choice’.




I hope I have confused you sufficiently. Where is the ‘free’ part of free-will? Or is it just a name 
we call it for “all intents and purposes”, with its true meaning really not being satisfied? We call it free-will because this is just the way it has been, and this control of factors over who we become is conveniently disregarded in the context of free will.



What we have, is a controlled systematic algorithm that is flexible to accommodate all types of experiences and respond in its own unique way based on your DNA and personality. It cannot- by any means whatsoever- be called free will in the true sense of the phrase.

P.S: This has been bothering me for a really long time, and any answers I have received have not been able to make me see anything differently. Based on deductive reasoning and a bit of science, this seems quite probable. If, however, you have an explanation which will disregard this whole hypothesis, I would love to be made privy to it. I want to believe it. Convince me.

P.P.S: Interplay. Hehehe. Thanks for reading. Ciao!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Are we all Selfish?

Human beings are selfish creatures. It’s as simple as that. There is absolutely NO action a person takes without a selfish reason. Even seemingly selfless acts are inherently selfish. Let’s take a few examples to better understand what I mean.
“X” is a rich guy. Feeds a poor person “Y”, gives him a home.
Why?
Maybe he likes the praise he gets from people who witnessed his generosity. Maybe he likes the thanks he gets in return.
Seems simple enough. Not quite. Let’s twist it a bit. Let’s say “Y” never shows any signs of gratitude. Let’s say no one witnesses “X’s” generous act. What reason would he have now?
It’s simple. It’s the same rationalization that everyone has when they do something for someone else without looking for anything in return. The truth, my friends, is that they ARE getting something in return. It doesn’t have to be verbal, doesn’t have to be tangible. The answer, quite simply, is that they get satisfaction. We crave satisfaction, we crave happiness. The happiness one gets from doing a selfless act, in itself, is a selfish motive for doing that. Maybe we don’t pre-meditate doing it. We may even not think about the happiness we may or may not get. We do it anyway. Subconsciously, the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are etched into our minds. Hence subconsciously we may convince ourselves to do a ‘good’ act because regardless of you consciously thinking about the sentiments attached to that act, you will always know at the back of your mind exactly how you will feel if you go through with it.
It’s a very simple concept. But it’s just as hard to understand and accept. No one wants to be told that their selfless acts are the offspring of a deep-rooted innate desire for satisfaction. No one wants to accept that they are just like every other human being on the planet, all doing things for selfish reasons. Let’s consider another example.
“X” is a letter in the alphabet.
Sorry. I couldn’t help it. Moving on…
 “X” is in the military. He saves “Y” at the cost of his own life.
Why?
There could be multiple explanations. None of which are selfless. Now at this point you’re probably thinking ‘how could this guy POSSIBLY claim that giving your life to save another is selfish’. Well, you’d be surprised.
The first explanation, like I mentioned before, may possibly be because “X” knows how war heroes are remembered, revered, almost idolized. He wants that attention, regardless of it being post mortem. The question arises, why would his subconscious still think it would make any difference to him if he is no longer alive? Ladies and gentlemen, humans have experiences most of what planet earth has to offer. We have been exposed to countless number of combinations and circumstances. But never have we been able to experience anything like death. We might claim to have had near death experiences, or thinking that sensory deprivation tanks take us into that feeling of not existing. Sure, plausible theories. However, no one can prove or disprove them. Which means, no one knows for certain what death feels like. Our minds do not have a fixed deep-rooted idea of death. We can merely speculate. And for that very reason, death is never a deciding factor in any of the judgments we make. What we actually do consider- and it is VERY important that you understand the difference- is pain, serious injury, and the fear of not knowing what will happen when we die. We are not afraid of dying. We cannot possibly be afraid of dying because none of us know what it even is. What we ARE afraid of is the UNCERTAINTY revolving around the concept of death. Of being unsure of what is going to happen.
That being said, I now realize how off-topic I went. Still, I think that was a pretty constructive hypothesis.
The second reason why “X” may save “Y” is, once again like I mentioned before, because of the ideas of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The two reasons may co-relate to a certain extent but there is a thin line separating them. In essence, “X” knows it’s a ‘good’ thing to save another life, be it at the cost of his own. Subconsciously, we may convince ourselves to do that act knowing the satisfaction we will get at its completion. But then the problem again arises… at the cost of his own life? Reiterating once more what I said; we do not know what death is hence it is not a deciding factor in one’s decision making process. “X” may be apprehensive about serious injury, but he will go through with saving “Y” solely because he is convinced it is the right thing to do. Even if he is not ‘remembered’, the thoughts right before he dies would be ones of utmost satisfaction. For doing the highest service one can for a fellow human being.
Let’s take another example. Let’s bring love into the occasion. We all know emotions sometimes may defy logic. This just might get tricky.
We will now see what “Y” does to honour the fact that he was given a second chance at life.
First off, he pays his respects to “X”. Next, he does something ‘selfless’ for his spouse “Z” without anyone knowing.
Why?
Self gratification. He felt good about it. He loves “Z”. For some people, acknowledgment for doing something for their loved one gives them immense happiness. To others, just the mere knowledge that they did something selfless for their loved one without anyone else knowing is enough to keep them satisfied. This is a subjective standard; varies from person to person depending on their nature.
But in essence, everything everyone does has a selfish motive. The only ‘problem’ as I like to call it is that we have stereotyped some selfish motives to be selfless. Some things are seemingly more selfish than others, but in essence no act is completely selfless. It can be NEARLY selfless. But never quite gets there. Just like we can get to 99.9% the speed of light but never 100%, it’s the same thing with selflessness. You won’t ever get there. Some acts may seem COMPLETELY selfless to you, but not from the actor’s subjective view. Some things appeal to him, which may not appeal to you and vice versa.
Seems legit. Still, not quite.
What about sacrifices? Things people do which they do not personally like, but do them anyway for someone else?
Let’s break it down. Don’t look it as what act the person is doing and their preference. Look at it this way: by doing said act, that person is pleasing someone else. Subsequently, by pleasing that other person, the actor gets satisfaction. The chain of sacrifices can be as long as you want, but in essence the answer will always be simple. You just need to break it down.

I hope I’ve managed to provoke some thinking into the matter. Any arguments would be welcome. I don’t claim to be right. This is merely a hypothesis designed on the basis of rational thinking to help me comprehend the world the way it is. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Thanks for reading.
Cheers!

P.S: Thanks to Umair Khan, who inception-ed this into my head 2 years ago. Credit goes to him for the idea (which I heartily disagreed with at first).

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Breaking Stereotypes


The glass is half full. Or is it half empty? The fictional world we create in our heads about the importance of petty things is commendable. We give meaning and authority to things that will otherwise have no affect on our lives whatsoever. Giving social and moral norms precedence over our own autonomy, it is us who ensure the propagation of this system that has been created. Breaking stereotypes is one of the most important matters that may be resolved, given the open-mindedness of individuals. Why must we associate certain things with certain emotions, why must we judge? What comes of it? Unproductive conversations, inefficient thought processes and a lack of personal autonomy are just a few of the byproducts of adhering to norms set by society and the world as a whole.

From what I have inferred, a situation seems much more foreboding than it actually is if you haven’t been exposed to it. Lack of knowledge about a certain matter is what instigates fear in our hearts. Associating Africa with famine, Middle-East and South Asia with terrorism, these connections are not our fault. The media plays a pivotal role in developing what we seem to think of as our own personal opinions. We are dictated by the mechanisms of “civilization” and we still seem to believe that we have individualistic concepts. At some point or the other, there is a common overlap between the mindsets of two “individuals”.

Coming back to the lack of information inciting fear in us, think about it for a minute. Let’s take an example for the purposes of understanding. Depending on what sort of background you come from, your opinions fluctuate accordingly. A person raised in the west may believe that consuming alcohol is morally fine, whereas someone who grew up in the Middle East may believe that consuming alcohol is palpably wrong and goes against their religion and social norms. Once again, by stereotyping the mindsets of people in their respective regions, I have proven that I am no different from the rest of the world. However, the point I am trying to make is that no individual is an individual. Our immediate surroundings define who we are.

The conflicting mindsets of the regions around the world subsequently result in generations to come to have conflicting ideologies. That being said, I still believe that we cannot have a Utopian world in which everyone is like-minded and doesn't fight about matters pertaining to fundamental belief. Through the ages, humans have evolved, not letting go of their beliefs. Co-existence, however, was lost somewhere along the way.
You have religious views, well; we all need a feeling of righteousness. What seems to be the issue with other people having differing religious views? By asserting your views and condemning other views are preposterous and incorrect, you don’t end up establishing supremacy. You just look like an insecure subject who needs to convince himself more than anyone else that his views are right.

We have planet Earth to live in. Nothing more, nothing less. Let’s downscale. Imagine that planet Earth is an apartment with 2 rooms and a living room which has an Xbox, LCD screen, and a really nice atmosphere to spend time in. Now you and your room mate both want to play Xbox and chill, right? What are you going to do? Beat him half to death, lock him in the bathroom, and then have a good time without feeling remorse? Or would you try to find middle ground in which no one is being oppressed?
Well whatever you may want to do, it’s too bad because presently the former is being implemented.

The oppressed will continue to be oppressed and may think that he has no real power over the oppressor. However, people are oppressed because they allow themselves to be oppressed. But then again, the idea of being weak is fixated in their mind similar to the way stereotypes are, and so there’s a slim chance they’ll ever be able to break the cycle.
Then there are those who overdo it. Being someone who believes in equality of all races, religions and both the genders, I couldn't help but notice a few things. When the oppressed begin understanding what “could have been”, they really overdo it. Individuals of an African-American descent have pushed so much for racial equality, and for this very reason they will never get it. There is a lawsuit filed every time a Caucasian individual gets something instead of an African-American one, if they are the only two eligible candidates for it.

Similarly, there are feminists. Sure, empower women, give them equal rights, stop sexual harassment, but where is the line drawn? Feminists push for all these things, yet demand special treatment. The concept they are pushing for, is reasonable, logical. However, overdoing it, wanting to be better, filing lawsuits left right and center for gender discrimination, it once again is a reflection of their insecurity and lust for supremacy.
My question is, if someone who is oppressed takes a stand based on moral high ground, how can they be so hypocritical as to take advantage of it and raise their stand one up and aim for higher than what even morality would agree with? Are they trying to turn the tables completely? Is it revenge? Or is it a way to strike a balance: the oppressed becoming the oppressor (and vice versa) for a certain period of time until the former oppressor gets what he deserves? Disproportional attacks will not stop this war.
Once again, we have proven that co-existence is but an idealistic concept. The psychological setbacks are too predictable, yet the world seems oblivious to them and how to tackle situations without being unreasonable.

Coming back to breaking stereotypes and what society has made us, I would feel purposeful if I managed to make people understand that whatever we think that we are ‘supposed’ to do, we really don’t. We feel morally inclined to do it because society has evolved in such a way that we were never given a choice to follow or not to follow. Being children, society’s views have been etched into our psyche, giving leeway only when we attain maturity. Question them, ponder over the reason that they are there in the first place, debate on whether you would be losing your genetic personality by adhering to it. Nothing ‘must happen’. Be yourself, don’t hesitate to disagree. Break the stereotypes that have been created, think outside the box, and be an individual.

Question everything. Apply logic. Infer.

P.S: There are exceptions to everything, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Stereotypical Emotions


Even the most feeling-less of people can have feelings. One can convince themselves that they feel nothing. But that's not true. They have just not been subjected to a situation that triggers their feelings, and that situation may be very unpleasant.
Impartiality. What is it? Driven by circumstances, one's mind subconsciously bars those thoughts from entering the conscious mind. Puts them behind a "wall". If the magnitude of the enclosed emotions is large enough, it leaves a void in the conscious mind. A gaping hole. The sudden transition of those emotions from the conscious into an enclosed section makes the person feel empty. Something they can mistake for 'feeling nothing'. Feeling 'numb'. A strong person may be able to handle those pent up emotions for a long time. A weaker person may succumb to those emotions and vent out negatively. The 'piling' up of emotions within the 'walls' can have many repercussions. The person in question deals with it in accordance to his or her emotional stability. Some may vent in a positive manner: exercise, music, art. Some may vent in a negative manner: inflicting pain on themselves or others, causing people harm, being reckless, committing suicide.
The void cannot be filled, unless the person in question wants it to be filled. This is not denial. This is a way of locking matters up when they get too much to handle. Granted, it’s unhealthy. But a strong defense mechanism does not allow the person to deal with it and makes them 'forget' it ever happened. The unanswered question is: what happens when they eventually reach the breaking point of all the 'forgotten' emotions? Not the ones they put on pending, but the ones their minds chose to 'forget'? Because information once plugged into the brain, does NOT get lost. It just goes deeper within, and becomes harder to access consciously. You never 'forget'. You just 'lose' the memory within the vast realms of your subconscious mind.
 
Everyone and everything has a breaking point. There is no ‘unbreakable’ material that we know of in our universe. It defies the laws of physics. We generally apply the same concept when we say ‘I’ve reached my breaking point’ and so on and so forth.
Here is where I’d like to go out on a limb and say that MOST of the time, humans do not just (emotionally) break or snap. They bend. I like to think of our emotional threshold to be of a malleable nature. SurrealSuperElasticTypeThing.  Keep applying pressure, it’ll keep bending, and MOST of the time, it won’t snap. (Emphasis on MOST, because sometimes people DO snap, that much is obvious)

Some people can find a way to deal with the emotional pressure and get back to the way they were normally. Some people take a long time to deal with things, some don’t. Some can be normal, some stay scarred for a long time. It all depends on what your mind –in essence, YOU- want to do. Mourn, rebel, vent, rationalise, ignore?
The ages-old question has been: What is the best way to deal with problems?  ‘Cause let’s face it, EVERYONE has problems.

To start off, stop CREATING problems for yourself. ß What have I said? Who would create problems for themselves?
Well, don’t be surprised. People, at times, ENJOY being depressed or angry. They enjoy the sympathy they get. They enjoy the misery they feel, and then they feel sorry for themselves.
There are those who state their problems to the world at large, portraying themselves as people who have been wronged, and enjoy themselves thoroughly as the sympathy comes pouring in.
There are those who do not advertise their misery but act depressed and wait for people to ask what’s wrong. They get an ego boost as well as a sympathetic companion.
There are those who cry about their issues, then pretend to be completely fine instantly and get both sympathy as well as praise for being so ‘strong’.

It’s alright to fall into one of these categories. I’m QUITE sure only humans will be reading this. :P It is deep-rooted in human beings to be attracted towards peace, towards sanctity, solace. One can find peace in sympathy, praise, support, understanding, or simply by sharing their burdens.
Let go of things. Try rationalising WHY they happened, nothing ever happens without a reason. Vent out, in a positive manner. Refrain from depending completely on people: it’ll become a never ending cycle of trusting someone, getting shattered, trusting someone, getting shattered- with the person changing every time you decide to trust or depend on someone. Sure, you can talk about your problems, but do so to SOLVE the issues, not just to share what’s happening.

We complicate our lives ourselves. Seldom have I observed people having a conversation about their problems that leads somewhere. Very rarely have I seen two people reach a consensus on how to go about a certain issue, and more often than not, the two are not completely convinced or satisfied.
Think about it this way: it’s YOUR problem… YOU hold the power to solve it. YOU get to choose the way you think is right. Why would you want sympathy? It won’t get you anywhere. But oh well, we’re all human. We regard sympathy to be as important as water is to sustain life. You disagree, don’t you? That’s because you’ve never thought about it. You’ve done so subconsciously. Typically, we function on a system of give and take, but I completely disagree with the efficiency of it. It takes far too long, and has too many hurdles.


Strive to fix things before they get too much to handle. Trust me, if you want a problem to be solved, it will be. You just need to be willing to compromise.



P.S: To everything I have said, there are exceptions. To every category I have stated, there is a lot more that can be said. What I have written is my way of trying to understand this better, to convince MYSELF of it. So if you happen to disagree with me, fair enough. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.
Thanks for reading. Ciao!