The words and sentences below may probably come across to you, the reader, as ramblings of an "over-thinker". Please ignore grammatical errors. :)
I think I've reached a point in my life where I have the amount of free time needed to start thinking about some "big" questions: "Is time travel possible?" "Are there really multiple universes in which I exist(s)?" "Do dogs think about philosophical questions?"
It's probably the latter point (re: dogs and philosophy) that has spurred me on to consider investing my free time in attempting to understand the views of some notable philosophers, and to try and better understand the real world and some abstract concepts such as time, and life (I will talk about this in this note).
Maybe it's the fact that I've started to become more conscious of how short my lifespan really is. According to this website: http://www.aihw.gov.au/life-expectancy
"...a boy born between 2009 and 2011 can expect to live to the age of 79.7 years and a girl would be expected to live to 84.2 years".
This got me thinking though - "How long will I really live?" I'd say the majority of people born in the year 1994 have not died yet, so who is to say that we won't be able to access reverse-ageing medication in our lifespan? What if we were able to transfer our consciousness to an artificial brain and live on as "ghosts in a shell?"
I started looking into methods of prolonging life. I know, it is a bit selfish, but I do enjoy "living". I know a lot of people out there don't enjoy life - life can be tough - nature is not all beautiful, but that is the reality of nature (yes beauty is an abstract concept, but you get my expression).
If I could prolong my life I could have the opportunity to pursue more "dreams". I would have more time to play video games, read books, watch movies, see the world.
It's occurred to me that many popular pastime activities are considered "time-wasters". Video games, for example; I really like playing video games, and I extra enjoy video games that emulate different realities and allow me to consider things that I would have otherwise not consider in my lifetime.
In The Last of Us, you play as a grizzled middle-aged man transporting a young girl immune to zombies to some scientists in hope of searching for a cure for humankind. As the player, roleplaying as Joel, you start developing affection for this young girl, to the point that when the game presents you no alternative in terms of the choices you can make due to narrative decisions the developers decided on, it doesn't matter anyway (for me) because it felt natural that I would kill a doctor in order to save her.
I'm not going to talk too much about The Last of Us, or video games in general, I just wanted to point out that playing video games allow me to think about questions that I would otherwise not consider in my lifetime, and this gives video games purpose for me, the same way there is purpose for many people to read fiction books, or watch Game of Thrones.
There is purpose to recreation; to play video games; to read manga; to watch TV shows that you downloaded from torrents acquired on TPB.
That said, I do not personally condone acquiring TV shows, music, video games, things that you would otherwise pay for through torrents and filesharing, but I do not want to get into a debate regarding copyright and piracy in this note.
Anyway, tangent aside, we spend our times working, studying, making money, doing business and other "adult-y" things so that we can make enough money to pursue pastime activities which some people deem as "time-wasters" which seems like a paradoxical reality to me.
What then, is the purpose of life?
Going back to methods of prolonging life, and probably what started my internal debate regarding what my personal philosophy of living is: Cryonics.
I am not a scientist. I do not study biology. I am quite uneducated to be honest. I didn't take chemistry or biology or physics in high school. I did take Environmental Systems and Societies, but to be brutally honest I was quite a bad student and at the time I did not appreciate the importance of the subject material and regarded the course as a waste of time (to my regret nowadays).
I do however, take interest in a lot of "things". I enjoy reading popular science topics such as theories regarding the multi-world interpretation of the universe, the possibility of time travel (etc.). I know there are a lot of skepticism regarding these "theories" but these things are still interesting enough for me to spend my time reading about them, and in turn, writing my thoughts about them.
Enter, cryonics. From what I understand, it's a proposed idea by some scientists as a way to prolong life for the people living now.
I'm just going to insert a definition of Moore's Law that I took from Wikipedia here, bear with me:
"Moore's law is the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years".
In this sense, you can also apply this observation to many other aspects of life, including scientific discoveries and developments due to the development of various technologies. So, for optimists and technocentric individuals, one may believe that one day we will have the technology to reverse the ageing process, and live for ever.
Okay, back to what cryonics is; basically we freeze your whole body (or just your brains, for you frugal optimists, see neuropreservation), because we believe that due to the advances of technology in the future, we will be able to revive you once we have the technology. You will regain consciousness, and then live forever!
You can read more about cryonics here: http://www.alcor.org
I think I believe this (note, "I think"). I understand that currently we have the technology to preserve whole bodies and brains in the hope that one day we will be able to reverse this and then apply whatever technology to make us healthy again. There have been 121 patients so far who have been preserved by Alcor, and 0 patients who have been revived so far.
I don't want to spend too much time on cryonics and the ethical and moral implications (perhaps another day?) but I just want to say that...
- Say that cryonics is possible...
- Say that I undertake this opportunity and I have my brain frozen in a jar...
- Say that after centuries my memories and consciousness is digitalised and transferred to an artificial brain...
- Say that I am "reborn" as a transhuman...
- Say that this is a possibility...
"Okay, I am immortal now", I declare.
Let's say that I am living in a utopia and that I have all the time in the world and the freedom to do what I want. I spend my days playing video games, tending the garden, swapping and augmenting myself with different cybernetic enhancements. I spend my days going through human history, maybe even jumping into virtual reality simulators and experiencing what it was like to live in every single period of human history.
Let's say that this is all possible (thanks to science!). Sooner or later, I'm going to run out of things to do. One day I will get bored. I'm going to start pondering what the meaning of life is again.
Some people fear immortality. Some people fear living forever in an afterlife with their family and "friends". I don't bash people who fear immortality. Immortality is endless, infinite.
Is there a point in prolonging my life? Will it make my life more meaningful?
On the Multi-World Interpretation
After thinking about cryonics, I started to consider some other questions regarding life such as "Why do I want to prolong my life?" "Is there a point?"
I'd say that there are heaps of people out there who don't enjoy their life enough to relive it.
I want to spend some time here talking about the multiple-world interpretation of the universe, as it is another factor that made me think about my philosophy of life.
There are many schools of thought amongst physicists and would-be physicists - self appointed thinkers that derive their knowledge from popular YouTube videos (like me!) - however, the two main schools of thought are:
- There are many universes, but "other" universes are abstract concepts; the number 10 is an abstract concept in comparison to 10 pieces of chicken, which is "real" in the physical sense of the word.
- There are many universes, and these other universes are "real" in the sense that they physically exist. For example, we believe that there are other planets out there that we haven't discovered, and that they physically exist.
Read more about the multiple-world interpretation of the universe here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation
These multiple universes kind of look like a giant tree if you take a very, very long step back. Each time you come to a decision, a fork in the road, another universe is created. You take the left route in one universe, and the right route in another.
In this sense, you could interpret that Schrödinger's magical cat is not simultaneously dead and alive; that's ridiculous logically. It merely dies in one universe, and exists in another.
If you order a pepperoni pizza, you have every right to yell at Pizza Hut if they send you a veggie supreme. "I didn't order this!", you declare. "This contradicts to what I ordered!" "I can't eat a pepperoni pizza if you give me a veggie supreme!" This is a horrible analogy and there are lot of other factors (maybe they got the order wrong?) but it is the first real-world analogy I can think of (sorry).
Maybe there is a universe where "you" are reading this note on an iPad, another where you are reading it on your TV, one where you have a Google Glass on you, and you are perusing this whilst listening to hardcore indie music and Metallica was a hardcore indie band.
If you believe this school of thought, then the lines between determinism and freewill start to get a bit iffy. Do you have a choice, or do you just exist in a universe where you make decision A and go to point B?
Maybe you follow this school of thought, and you start feeling depressed because you aren't living in a universe where you inherited a wad of cash and were set for life. It can set you on a path of regret and negativity.
I think it was at this point that I stopped thinking about the possibility of multi-world realities and started to think: "Why?"
Is there a point to thinking about multi-world realities? Is there a point for them to exist at all?
Maybe this is why some people frown upon philosophy, and that it is a "waste of time"; a mere pastime activity. But I think it is good to place importance on philosophy and philosophers in general; it can dictate how you live your life; it can make an impact on your attitude towards different socio-cultural issues such as justice (etc.).
Morality and decision-making all have strands taken from philosophical ideas.
"What is life?"
How do you define existence in a philosophical sense (as opposed to the biological sense)?
I look out my window and look at the trees and ants on the wall. Are they alive? Biologically speaking yes - they move, take in oxygen, excrete wastes, they grow - but do they think? Are they conscious?
Do trees have dreams? Are dogs creative? What defines existence?
Is a rock alive? What does that even mean though?
I'm not a scientist, but I feel by observation that ants are mechanical beings. They are "alive" for one purpose, and that is survival (to my knowledge). They work together in colonies to insure their survival as a race, but I find it hard to believe that an individual ant is conscious in the human sense.
I don't believe that a single ant will "wake up" one day and start thinking, "Why do I bother gathering food?" "What's the point of all this?" "I'm going to die anyway".
Do ants enjoy living?
In that sense, am I wrong to say that ants are mechanical beings? They exist in the way that rocks exist in nature, in that they just exist. They are there. They move because that's how nature has programmed them.
What about birds? Are they aware of their own existence?
What about my dog?
I think about this for a bit, then I use the same reasoning and apply it to the human mind - perhaps it is just mechanical - the human is complex. What if my consciousness is just a physical property due to the construction of my brain? What does it mean to be consciousness?
Science has not explained what consciousness really means. We don't know if a dog is conscious or not.
But I can feel, and maybe that's all that matters, as René Descartes says:
"I think, therefore I am".
The fact is, I do exist. I do taste. I do see things. I am able to enjoy music because "I am".
I think, after much dilemma, that this is my personal philosophy on life. Maybe there is no such thing as life, because life is just an abstract concept.
"Is a living thing alive?" That makes as much sense as, "How many seconds is time?". What is the definition of time? What is the definition of life?
Maybe the definition of life is: "I am".
I am. I exist.
A bottle of grape juice equally exists. Is my worth equal to the worth of a bottle of grape juice?
If I live on top of a mountain, and do not make any difference to the human race because of my self-exile from humanity, is my existence worthless? What if "life" goes on exactly the same in a universe where I existed, in comparison to one where I did not "exist"? Does my existence matter in either universe?
Maybe that's what makes something pointless. If its existence has no significance whatsoever, so much insignificance that its own existence does not make a single difference to the observable universe.
What is the philosophical difference between positive-zero and negative-zero?
I want to have a purpose. I want to have meaning for my existence. I want to be able to contribute to society (humans and nature) in a positive way so that my existence has meaning.
In this sense, I guess I believe that a bottle of grape juice has more reason to exist then a man/woman who contributes nothing positive to society.
Sometimes, I think about what I want to do with my life. Right now, I'm studying a Bachelor of Music Technology. I want to make money by writing game music. Am I contributing positively to society though?
Some people frown upon artists because they think that "making art" is a waste of human resources. Even trees brighten someone's day.
I believe if you can contribute positively to someone else's life, you have purpose. There is meaning for you to be alive.
- If you plant a tree...
- If you bought someone some warm soup on a cold morning...
But you can't stop there, because you are still alive. You exist. You are still able to brighten someone else's day.
- You can still bake more cupcakes.
- You can still take another photo.
- You can still ring up a relative or long-distant friend and ask them how their day was.
I exist, and I want to make the most of my existence - whether it's 80 years or 8000 years - I need to find my purpose, and then I'll find the next one, and then the next.
If I take my dog for a walk and he enjoys it, I'll feel fulfilled with my life.