The Answer to Life the Universe and Everything!

So many people ask about the meaning or purpose of life. While it took me years of investigation and experience in this field to understand it, the answer is that the meaning (or purpose) of life is to have experiences. It’s really just that simple—life is about having experiences. And to take this one step further, life is about having experiences that our souls are unable to have in the spiritual realm.

As souls who exist eternally in the spirit world, which is always free from fear, suffering, and death, we choose a physical life as humans to know the experience of living in a domain where mortality is imminent.

When a being knows it can die, it changes everything. It creates fear and alters choices. When death is a potential occurrence, we think, say, and do things differently. We act out of survival. Even the possibility of injury, illness, or pain leads one to choose differently than if that person were immortal and invincible. And this is why living a human life is such an intriguing challenge for our souls. It’s not an easy challenge. It’s not even necessarily fun. It simply creates a new paradigm from which to have new experiences, experiences our souls are unable to duplicate in the spiritual realm.

I make this point early in this book for one important reason—so many folks believe that something has gone wrong in life when they meet challenges (disappointment, tragedy, suffering, loss, and pain), but life is about experiences, both positive and negative. Nobody promised us that we’d have only positive experiences. We learn just as much, if not more, from our challenging experiences as humans, and whether we want to accept it or not, this is what we signed up for as souls when we chose to have a physical life.

This doesn’t mean that negative experiences are necessary or even unavoidable. There are many ways to increase our awareness, live in the present moment, and choose our responses to our experiences such that life leans toward the positive. But no one lives a life completely free of negativity, otherwise known as challenges that we might prefer to avoid.

If you can accept that life is about experiences rather than about being happy and easygoing all the time, then the answers in this book will digest easier. Yet even if you have some resistance to this idea, don’t give up right away because you will better understand what this really means as you continue reading. And by the time you finish reading this book, you will not only comprehend this “life is about experiences” concept better, but you’ll recognize why it will provide you with a greater sense of inner peace than the belief (and expectation) that life should only include happy and positive experiences.

The above is the first answer in Bob Olson’s book Answers about the Afterlife. I would highly recommend you read it along with the other books in my online bookshelf which you can find here: books.whatwelove.org (The password is 42)

Smartphone implants are coming

Your smartphone (connected to the internet) is your external brain. Someday it will be embedded in your internal brain and the line between digital and biological will disappear. When this happens, your privacy, already mostly gone (unless you are a total luddite), will completely disappear.

It is clear that the trajectory of computing technology has brain implants as the end game. Here is a brief history of computer technology by physical proximity:

  • 60s: Massive mainframes in large institutions (far from the public)
  • 70s: Medium mainframes in large and medium sized institutions (may use one at work via terminal)
  • 80s: Home /desktop computers (one per household)
  • 90s: Laptop computers (one per person)
  • 00s: Pocket computers / smart phones (always with you)
  • 10s: Wearable like Google Glass (part of your apparel)
  • 20s: Implanted (part of your body)

As usual, technology rushes ahead while society takes a while to adjust with the younger generation embracing the new advances fastest.

What are the pros and cons of this? Here are my lists.

Pros:

  • Instant access to any and all information
  • Ability to “telepathically” communicate with anyone
  • Ability to “cure” the blind, deaf, mute, paralyzed,  etc.
  • Lucid dreaming for all via virtual reality

Cons:

  • Total destruction of privacy (already a problem)
  • People “tuning out” reality (already a problem)
  • Haves vs. have-nots (not all will be able to afford)
  • Never being able to turn it off
  • The likelihood of biological problems (botched operations, cancer from radiation)

But the main culprit, as always, will be the unintended / unforeseen consequences. Any new technology comes with these and the more powerful the tech, the stronger they will be. Only in retrospect will we be able to see what they were.


Update:

I like this quote from the Wait but Why guy:

The objectives of transhumanism strike me as the kind of thing a lot of people think is wrong or distasteful or unnatural…until it becomes commonplace. And then people can’t imagine what life was like before and would never want to go back.

I’m always in favor of getting rid of what’s “natural” for something that’s better. Sleeping in caves is natural, and it’s really great that we found a better way. Riding biological horses is how humans got around for along time, and driving cars is a huge upgrade for both the human and the horse. When it comes to the human body, I’m sure a lot more people thought the concept of the organ transplant was terribly unnatural before the technology became possible than they do now. So yeah, let’s go for it. I’m not at all attached to the biological body I was born with if we can find a better way.

That said, at some point you start running into the question “what makes you you?” I’ll upgrade any part of my existence in any way available until it gets to the point where doing so kills me by making me not me anymore. If science can replace my brain with a synthetic brain containing the identical data as my own, with the advantage that it’ll never age, it sounds great—unless I suspect that the new me seems like me and acts like me but I don’t actually have access to that consciousness. When an upgrade gets to the point where it’s essentially creating a synthetic clone of me to take my place in the world—that’s right where my transhumanism ends. The exception might be if I was going to die either way and creating the upgraded no-longer-me clone me can serve people on Earth somehow, like someone creating a clone of themselves so their family doesn’t have to lose them.

We don’t know when an upgrade causes you to cease to exist because there’s no clear answer to what makes you you. But we’re a long way from crossing that bridge, so for now, I’m pro-transhumanism.

Ridiculously overpriced and engineered to break

Last night the door handle on my microwave broke. Shit! That’s going to be a pain to repair. I go online and see that Amazon has it for about $60 unit + $40 shipping = $100 total. Keep in mind the oven was $370 new at the store.

I then read some of the reviews. I totally agree with these two: engineered to break and ridiculously over-priced:

I then thought that guy is right: Ebay to the rescue! $60 + 25 = $85. <sarcasm>Cool, I save $15 bucks! </sarcasm>

OK, but Vancouver must have a local store that sells stuff like this? Yes, yes it does: $200! Unfuckingbelievable.

Is this what our society has come to? Do we have no recourse to this insanity? Our planet is choking in plastic waste.

Star Wars: the descent to the Dark Side

I was nine when Star Wars first came out in 1977. It blew me away. Changed my life. Became like a religion–I joke that Star Trek is good entertainment but Star Wars is religion. (It can be argued that the former was better at inspiring tech and a hopeful future however.) But of course they are just movies and flawed ones at that. I will freely admit that the dialog of the original trilogy is a bit wooden however the descent didn’t really start until Jedi. Here is the timeline:

  • A New Hope: An amazing, ground breaking, record breaking film
  • Empire Strikes Back: In some ways an even better film (although a muppet as a main character? Hmmm.)
  • Return of the Jedi: Ewoks instead of Wookies? What! Why?
  • Special Editions: OMG! George, what have you done to my childhood!?
  • Phantom Menace: WTF! Rock bottom. Unwatchable.
  • Attack of the Clones: BBQ! When will the bloodletting stop!?
  • Revenge of the Sith: What a steaming pile of Sith!

So it is understandable that I prepared to watch The Force Awakens with trepidation. Here is a review that I agree with.

There is some good news however. Some have taken it upon themselves to:

What are your thoughts?

How to measure a country

There are many ways to measure the health/success of a country. A common way is GDP per capita. There are two problems with this ranking however: first, it is a measure of money spent which doesn’t tell you how happy or healthy a population is; and second, it is an average which are susceptible to being skewed by non-bell curved distributions. While a median is a better number, a graph is most illustrative.

Another way to measure is with the HDI. This is better but still has the problem of being an average. This is where the IHDI comes in. This takes the non-bell curved distribution (i.e. inequality) into account. When we look at this measure, these are the top 10 (as of 2013):

Rank Country IHDI
1  Norway 0.891
2  Australia 0.860
3  Netherlands 0.854
4   Switzerland 0.847
5  Germany 0.846
6  Iceland 0.843
7  Sweden 0.840
8  Denmark 0.838
9  Canada 0.833
10  Ireland 0.832

A related measure is called the GPI and includes environmental and social factors which are not measured by GDP.

A fourth way to measure countries is with the GNH index. This is a newer concept and tries to capture the happiness of a population. The difficulty with this is that it’s hard to measure happiness as it is a subjective thing. Further it does not measure the society’s impact on the environment.

A fifth way is called the Happy Planet Index does measure a country’s environmental impact. Here are the bottom 10:

 

Rank Country HPI Experienced
well-being
Life
expectancy
Ecological
footprint
111  Denmark 36.6 7.8 78.8 8.3
110  Mauritius 36.6 5.5 73.4 4.6
109  Afghanistan 36.8 4.8 48.7 0.5
108  Rwanda 36.9 4.0 55.4 0.7
107  Belgium 37.1 6.9 80.0 7.1
106  Djibouti 37.2 5.0 57.9 1.8
105  United States 37.3 7.2 78.5 7.2
104  Belarus 37.4 5.5 70.3 4.0
103  Hungary 37.4 4.7 74.4 3.6
102  Hong Kong 37.5 5.6 82.8 5.8

This just goes to show that ranking highly on all measures is a difficult task. That doesn’t mean we should accept the status quo nor strive to improve things. What it does mean is that we should consider all aspects of well being (health, equality, environment, etc.) when we strive to improve things.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

When I took my Employment Counsellor Diploma Program back in 2010, I was trained in administering over 60 different assessments. One of those was the Holmes and Rahe stress scale which measures 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness. Today I learned about the Adverse Childhood Experiences study that measured 10 types of childhood trauma that have a huge impact on adult health and behaviour. Did you know about this study?

Having four adverse childhood experiences was associated with a seven-fold increase in alcoholism, a doubling of risk of being diagnosed with cancer, and a four-fold increase in emphysema; an ACE score above six was associated with a 30-fold increase in attempted suicide.

See Wikipedia and Aces Too High.

Looking after your mind should be as natural as brushing your teeth

“We rely on our minds for everything we do, so we think looking after them should be as natural as brushing our teeth” is the slogan of Mindapples, a company that promotes mental health. It’s high time we got serious about preventative mental health. Here is a 5 minute clip from a longer talk about this:

Full talk here.