The difficult balance between chaos and order, between being a degenerate and a sad keyboard monkey

I think most rebellious people eventually ask the question “why” to life. In the previous chunk of my recent life, I was way too consumed with figuring out the meaning of life, studying my own and my peers’ actions, as well as the behavior of more simple creatures we evolved from for clues. Usually I would reduce the specific anxiety I’m trying to resolve to the form of a duality, and then I conclude that “I’ve figured it out! Humans are abstraction machines able to perceive this duality and optimizing for the optimal value on it with respect to their cultural values!” And then I’m like: Congratulations, you played yourself, because that path always boils down to us being just chemical machines. But then I had some “breakthrough” that it’s fucking useless to just point out these abstract dimensions humans are optimizing for, as it just renders us machines, and if I’m not going to off myself then I might as well play the game optimizing for average daily satisfaction.

Instead my new perspective is appreciating the complexities of this concert of dualities with no obvious optimal destination state, as I get to “choose” what my own optimal target set of values on those dualities are. Even if I am just a chemical machine designed for genetic propagation with a discrete algorithm, the ever-changing societal landscape, in addition to my own initial conditions rendering any external model only a heuristic, should make this a ride worth sticking around for and dedicating myself to.

With this new “concert of dualities” perspective, the question is, how do I pick an optimal destination in life to move towards, maximizing average daily satisfaction? Consider some sequence of life achievements which I complete in order to move towards the discrete set of life goals I set out. Career success is probably the most popular dimension to optimize towards. But if we optimize too greedily for a high value on that dimension, it comes at likely too great a cost on the other dimensions. My heroes growing up were Elon Musk, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, etc., who not only dominated their field, but more importantly had such strong passion for the field they were pursuing in. However what I realized recently is that these guys lived shitty lives: Elon Musk sees his family for probably 10 minutes a day with no breaks ever, and MJ/Kobe (more so Kobe) too were so consumed with their craft that it was their whole life, sacrificing friendships and family relationships.

I really looked up to these guys. I began to work so hard, learning computer science and machine learning concepts on my own to grind my way to the top. But then I realized these guys are fucking nutjobs all consumed by their work, so I can’t infer optimal values on those dualities from those guys any more since their destinations were too extreme. I realized that I was become a passive keyboard monkey for the craft. But I can’t choose the other side and become a fraternity star denegerate since the trajectory for that behavior policy is too extreme too and won’t pan out to anything obviously significant, or at least with any high degree of confidence. So my current state is that I recognize the dualities which define the complexity of the human experience from the perspective of this chemical machine, and am now more self-conscious and responsible – less passive – for my current state and trajectory, navigating this murky sea of optimal values on these dualities and swimming towards the gradient of my own chosen set of target values.

Written on September 21, 2020