Determinism and Choice (or lack thereof)

Hi all,

I’m really not nailing these posting dates. Sometimes it feels like too much to write days back to back. Then again, I guess that’s the consequence for falling behind.

Today I want to think about how the future plays out. In retrospect, everything appears a lot clearer than it did in the moment. I would like to explore the idea of determinism, the philosophy that all choices are determined by the course of past events. What this means is that each action is simply a ripple of the action before it, and that nothing in the present can occur out of choice––each action is already pre-decided by the past.

When following this thought train further, this implies that free will, the ability to make conscious choices out of many possibilities, cannot exist because every “conscious” choice was already pre-determined.

So…does that imply the future is already decided based on the present? Yes, and no. If you were able to input every single factor that affected a situation into a computer and process the result, assuming you accurately modeled the situation, the expected result would occur in real life as well. For example, if in the future I was to write a philosophical discussion, we could simulate this by accounting for my surroundings, the computer and its keys, music playing in the background, time of day, how I was feeling emotionally that day etc. Even for such as simple case, the possibilities are already countless.

As this example illustrates, even the very near future is challenging to properly assess. As these near futures are combined with other near futures to try to predict a further future, the possible worlds ascend off into infinity. What this means is that even with unlimited computing power, it would only be possible to eliminate failed realities as we got closer and closer to the desired event. Eventually, the computer would be left with only one choice as the event happened in real time.

I’m not sure what this concept is called exactly, but the reasoning implies that predicting the distant future would not only take immense computing power, but also only be capable of producing probabilities rather than certainties.

Continuing onward, since each future is determined by an earlier future, eventually this timeline hits the present. Going further backwards, the present is determined by the past.

Image result for past present future

Eventually, this regression through time leads us back to our births as individuals. From our very first breaths, do we have choice? We aren’t capable of preventing ourselves from breathing, as this instinctual process is automatic. Each moment onward, our surroundings (parents/guardians, household, relationships) end up shaping our decisions. So, from the moment we are born till the moment we die, the idea of choice remains illusory rather than grounded in reality.

Although some may argue that in each moment we are capable of making a choice to change the future, we must consider if this is really a choice? Based on the conditions surrounding the person, their decision has already been made. Whether it’s through assessing all of the traits that impact the result, relying on gut feelings, or simply flipping a coin, all of these results can be determined in the moment of the present leading to the future. The factors leading up to the choice have already occurred/been reasoned out, hence why there is no ambiguity in this regard. Similarly, how the person feels in the moment is determined by all the interactions they have had with the world in the past few moments as well as their entire life. If the coin lands heads and the decider makes a choice, as the coin shakes to a stop, the side which is up has already been determined. Nothing is unpredictable in the immediate future as long as we are willing to assess every factor leading up to it.

 

That’s my case for determinism and the idea that free will does not exist. I think I’ll cover a case for free will existing in the next post.

 

Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

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Running In Reverse

Hey all, sorry for being late, again. Today (Friday but 2 days late) is poetry day.

I have a weekly reminder on my phone, but the past 2 days have been pretty rough.

There was some inexplicably disastrous friendship drama, and a few of my close friends had a falling out, me included. It really stung, because some fundamental differences in values were revealed. I realized that some people were what I wished they weren’t, and some were surprisingly who they were.

Personally, my belief is that a core value of wanting, and needing to improve after mistakes and pain is necessary to be happy whilst achieving what you desire and more. Attempting to pretend a problem doesn’t exist is not only unacceptable, but grounds for distancing a relationship. This is alright in your own life, even if I disagree with you, but when the problem affects others it must be addressed with honesty and cooperation.

For me, this is because small underlying differences if not discussed bubble up later in larger issues, and with time become explosive eruptions. Rather than pretending the ground isn’t surging beneath our feet, it’s simply better to acknowledge and agree to disagree, or acknowledge and agree to analyze, work together, and grow as people. Agreeing to disagree, however, does not mean that this same issue will be disagreed upon repeatedly in the future…it should be thought about privately, and only confronted when there is insightful discussion to be had.

When I realized that some of these friends simply wished to pretend that everything was alright and normal. Everything was not normal, so I made a choice. This choice was not to be cold and burn ties, but simply to refrain from extending a deeper friendship with these individuals. The choice to bury problems engenders the discussion of honesty…because if we cannot be honest about our values, there is no way we can have honesty on issues constructed upon these values.

Right now, I wish to share a poem on the events of the past few days, just about how I feel based on these experiences.

 

Running in Reverse

Just a crack in the dirt, they said

Nothing to worry, press onward

Let’s build on this foundation

a friendship.

 

 

Just a line in the sand, not in rock

The wind blows, and changes yes?

Protect the weak sprout yet not

the sapling?

 

Just once, a compromise of value

We all have differences, you know

They said we could laugh and play

in harmony.

 

But it’s not just a crack in the dirt

Nor simply a line in the sand

Not a singular loss of values

but untruth.

 

Can we be frank with each other

If we don’t perceive the divide

Constantly bury our principles

for this?

This is toxic––running in reverse

 

All of these views expressed are not intended to be laid down as fact, in a dogmatic manner, but simply as my world view for building deeper relationships.

Apologies again, for the late post and somber tone.

 

Thanks for reading,

Take care, and have a great day

Rushing By

Hello all,

First day back, second semester junior year. I’ve been thinking a lot about where I’m headed, what I’ve achieved leading up to now. Sometimes my feelings are challenging to comprehend––jubilation, fear, passionate, pained––fluctuating as the tide.

Some of these milestones are approaching so fast, like the earth rushing up to meet a skydiver (although really, the skydiver is meeting the ground).

 

In 2 months, I take the March SAT, hopefully for the first and last time as part of the college process.

In 2.5 months, I will assess my results in building relationships and ask a girl to prom. Praying I have the guts to do it, and the friendship to get a yes.

In 3 months, I take the first heavy round of AP tests, with the potential to realize my french est entièrement poubelle among other subjects.

In 5 months, school ends and college apps begin. My future rests on decisions to travel to far away places (not Stanford), and whether a school is willing to accept me.

 

and before I know it, the first phase of my life will be over. In a blink of an eye, life will change again. It’s times like these that cause us to pause for a moment and realize the indifferent simplicity of reality. The world doesn’t pause or consider the gravity of our personal situations. Time continues to flow, pressing onwards with its insurmountable force. Although we can seize the moment, endeavor to hold it close and swim against time, in the end there is no possibility of gaining ground.

Because of this, perhaps it’s better just to embrace the present. Maybe I should look around, take everything in and live the moment. Even when looking to the future, our only choices are to live in the present, or become lost looking out to the world around us. Yes, we can attempt to observe, predict what comes––and through this process we may navigate to where we wish to be in a future present––but this does not detract from the simple appreciation of the present for what it is.

Tomorrow, I head back to another day of life, pursuing small goals with meaning only to me, working towards larger ones that may hold weight in the eyes of others. But even with how rapidly the moment departs to be replaced by another, I hope to cherish each one, for better or worse.

 

Thank you for taking part of this contemplation with me,

and have a great day.

Review of Principles by Ray Dalio

Evening y’all,

sorry forgot to post yesterday, but hi I’m here.

I think I’ll add some reminders to my phone to make it harder to forget to post on schedule.

I think most Sundays (Mondays sometimes if I forget lmao) can be something more thoughtful and deep, or the book review every other week.

Today I’m going to talk about the book I’ve been reading since my dad gave it to me for Christmas, called Principles by Ray Dalio. It’s a combination of narrative and reflection from and about Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater (most successful hedge fund worldwide), and how he lived a meaningful life in his eyes whilst creating a lifestyle that promoted wellbeing and achievement.

This book is well-written and offers insights into how to deal with yourself and others, illustrating with real world examples and references to his company. Dalio emphasizes the idea of radical transparency and truth, a type of tough love that breaks convention by casting aside white lies and social politics in favor of thoughtful discussion and disagreement. By separating emotions from logic, he was able to construct a culture where capable people used radical transparency to establish an idea meritocracy––a culture in which ideas are dissected and contrasted, and value of person is determined by their track record and knowledge in the field. A significant portion is devoted to the discussion of principles, values formed and revised from resolving problems and internalizing them into the decision-making process.

Dalio outlines processes and tips to help you move towards your goals by evolving and improving. One process has 5 steps:

  1. Have clear goals
  2. Identify problems, and have 0 tolerance in letting said problems prevent you from reaching your goals
  3. Diagnose the problems to find the root causes
  4. Design solutions to solve or bypass the problems
  5. Execute solutions to reach results, recycle

Processes like these are examples of what Ray Dalio tackles roadblocks in his life, and that he lays down in words for the reader.

Overall, the theme seems to be part self-help, part biography that takes you between the present and Dalio’s life. He does an excellent job of outlining what he finds important and segmenting the book into sections. Most importantly, he establishes that his methods are not the only way to achieve success, but simply that they created an efficient path of feedback loops that allowed him to ascend to the level he did.

The book is structured into two parts, life principles taken from his experiences, and work principles taken from work, and also allows you to easily reference sections if you need to brush up on any of the principles he covers.

 

Ultimately, I would recommend reading this book extra if you manage people in life or at work, or simply to learn more about the journey to success and what it takes.

 

Feedback would be great, since I feel a bit shaky about this review. Maybe I should include ratings, or include more critical notes. May read some book reviews before I get around to the next one.

Thanks for reading, and take care

Drift Away

Good evening,

I was thinking maybe I can structure each of the 3 times I post a week to include variety, and also more predictability.

Today I guess I just felt in a more poetic mood, with the rain tapping lightly against the roof with light music in the background.

This poem is called Drift Away, 3 stanzas of free verse. No rhyme scheme, nothing complicated. I wrote this, inspired in the moment by feelings of wonder as well as torment.

 

The rain falls like dust to the earth

Soft but with touch, lighting against the roof

Clouds roll in as the night deepens

Carrying the weight of drops

As time drifts onward

 

Thoughts heavy like rain

Pondering, weighing as they descend

Tapping into inner feelings

The envy, conflict, passion surface

Spirit drifting onward

 

The burden of struggle dissolves

Moonlight peers around the clouds

But then is hidden again

As the rain resumes

Washing hope away

 

 

Hope to see you Sunday

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day.

Happy New Year

Hello all, it’s been awhile.

Hope that if anyone reads this, that you had a great 2017 and are excited for the new year.

Last year, I made a bunch of ambitious New Year’s resolutions like many others, and similarly didn’t meet a lot of those goals. This year, I don’t want to make the same mistakes, so I’ll do a quick reflection of last year before I start thinking about this coming year.

Some of these goals were like reading a book every 2 weeks, running at least mile a day, being more upbeat, blogging once a day, and improving relationships. Apart from being quite ambitious, a lot of these required a lot of commitment in time and energy on a daily basis that I failed to supply as the days turned into weeks and then months. Getting up at 6:30 in the morning to brave the cold for a run seemed a lot more compelling at 10:30 the evening before than at 6:20 the morning of. Similarly, reading a book every 2 weeks sounded appealing and scholarly but came second to studying and finishing homework. Spending half an hour to write a blog post was much more difficult than outlining the rough draft of an essay due the next day.

The overall theme between all of these failures is the abandoning of longterm goals in favor of immediate returns. Rather than bite half an hour of sleep off to go for a jog, I would snooze the alarm saying I needed sleep more. Instead of improving my writing as a hobby and passion, I convinced myself that I was improving through my essay-writing.

This leads me to conclude that the issue may not even be with setting audacious yet beneficial goals, but rather in the enforcement mechanism of working towards said goals. When push came to shove, the easiest way was to cut myself some slack rather than toughen up more than ever. In the face of pain and stress, commitment was like a lone torch in a dark and windy night quickly extinguished.

Because of this, I believe a more concrete means of checking myself is necessary. Perhaps for exercise, it would be placing the alarm out of reach of the bed, forcing myself to get up to turn it off. To read more often would be to write a book review every two weeks, posting the valuable insights for others and as proof of my own diligence. Another possibility would be to create a swear jar except as a “failing to meet goals” jar, in which each day I didn’t meet a goal, I put a dollar or x amount in. Through this method, the deterrent of going broke should hopefully be enough to force myself to follow through.

Now to this year’s goals. They’re pretty similar to last year, but now reflected on a bit more and more grounded. My resolutions for this year are:

  1. Complete a sprint distance triathlon (.5 mi swim, 12.4 mi bike, 3.1 mi run). This will be tough since I quit swimming almost two years ago which kept me somewhat fit. I think I’ll have to ease back into it, making a workout plan each week that includes all three sports, in conjunction with a hard deadline by participating in an official event.
  2. Read a book every two weeks. I’m planning out a rough reading list, with major events accounted for such as testing. I think I’ll try my hand at book-reviewing every time I finish a book. Also upon further reflection, I don’t think this schedule may work out after I start college apps over the summer.
  3. Writing blog posts. I don’t know if writing a post every day is feasible given that was a goal last year, and I fell off after 1-2 months. I may make a more relaxed posting schedule, like 3 times a week, with a post on Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday or something. Less frequently is also alright, like once or twice a week given time constraint as long as the quality is maintained.

Sorry this is a few days late, I forgot to hit publish and then realized there were more tweaks to be made.

Excited, but bubbling with nervous energy for the future. Proud to say I went swimming for the first time in a long time, so getting onto that goal of getting back into shape for a short triathlon.

 

Best of luck with your own resolutions, and take care,

Pierre

Glass Crown

Cautiously touch the edge of a bubble

Peering into the world inside

It collapses to some soapy rubble

I wanted to know, I did I tried

 

To win but lose, succeed yet fail

Ascending hopes, but crushing fears

The dreams I hold are bright but frail

Elicits a smile on the brink of tears

 

Weight of my thoughts bearing down

Not knowing if I’m wrong or right

Don’t know if it’s glass or a crown

Upon my head that reflects the light

 

 

Hey all, it’s been awhile. I haven’t written since…finals? Forgive me, I’ve been busy but nowhere near enough to suggest that I have 0 time to write. I’ve been working at the lab, doing some homework, debating a bit, that’s about it.

This piece is about how it feels to be alone, outside, not knowing if you’re right, even if others tell you you’re wrong. It’s how it feels to win in word but not in heart, in spirit. It’s how it feels to want something so bad, but not knowing if you can or should, and if you have what it takes, or if it’s just fantasy.

I thought it would be appropriate to note that glass and crown are not mutually exclusive, hence the title. You can interpret that however you wish, or through the same lens as the rest of the analysis.

It’s good to be back.

Thank you for reading, and have a great day