Valentine’s day

sunshine

 

I befriend someone I don’t know in Facebook who happened to have passed away 3 years ago.

The account itself, I could say, is restlessly active almost everyday. ‘She’ shares information from all pages as much as possible. Dog videos, articles about dangerous food products, recipe dishes, viral stories about poor individuals someone met on the streets, or simply postings of inspirational quotes or messages with religious content. Some happen to be hoaxes, some are simply 15-minutes-of-fame intermezzos, but quite a few contain solid facts. These postings frequently fill up my news feed, and most of the time, I simply scroll them through and look at other stuff.

This Valentine’s day, I saw a video made in tribute of her.

Initially, I thought it was just a joke. I thought it could be just a random website giving you funny assessment of some algorithm-based sorts (imagine ‘Be Like Bill’ in the form of a make-believe obituary). It says “in memorial of (name undisclosed)”, with pictures of her smiling, of her drinking cocktail, of her standing beside a swimming pool. It was not until I clicked through her profile – after viewing through condolence-themed posts by her friends and relatives – that I realized this person was killed in a car accident 3 years ago.

And her account remains ‘alive’ up to now, sharing all the stuff that still continue to pop out as of today.

Up to now, I can’t comment anything about it. I’m not scared of the possibility that our Facebook accounts will continue to exist even after our lives end; I’m just left wondering how the person, behind the scene, continues to preserve all the remaining memories of their deceased beloved ones, as though one part of her soul remained existing within the social media. And it still goes on, all after the three years. I can’t imagine how that person, notwithstanding his or her motive, wakes up everyday, only to become ‘her’ surrogate on Facebook, and fills up the news feed with all the stuff he or she finds interesting. I can’t imagine how strong his or her mentality is already shaped (I hope I’m using the correct description), while facing up to the reality that she is physically gone, all the while maintaining her existence in the virtual world.

Throughout my lifetime, I have heard, and witnessed, stories of losses and sadness. A close friend of mine lost her mother last year, and she keeps her ‘mother’ alive on her Whatsapp profile. Another acquaintance lost his father, while he is yet to complete his university studies. Two of my high school friends lost their younger siblings, one of whom I happened to know. And now, this person – whom I added three and a half years ago, the time when I simply confirmed anybody’s friend requests, literally – is now a virtual Schrodinger’s cat.

It brings me to another philosophical question. With virtual and real identities becoming increasingly disparate (especially with the increasing ability of artificial-intelligence), will this story become a common reality in the distant future? Is this what transhumanists will refer to as ‘immortality’, or probably a ‘brain-in-a-vat’ phenomenon?

 

 

 

Savage Chickens: existentialism in a post-it note

chicken3d

 

 

Why you should visit this website: as though human beings were not vicious enough, put the blame – at least, some of it – on the chickens.

This existentialism-themed series of post-it-notes comic strips, featuring chickens and other chickens (supporting roles include Chuck Norris, Darth Vader, Alien and Predator, Godzilla, and the chickens’ corporate master, a heartless robot), was firstly devised by Doug Savage, a Canadian cartoonist who got showered by this inspiration after a tremendous ‘fed-up’ atmosphere of working in corporate cubicles. The 9-to-5 schedule, altogether the seemingly robotic and mundane office work, for Doug, was the underlying reason why he chose to resign from his job and instead focus on time on his own hobby, by which many on his surrounding doubted if his new hobby could supplement him with incomes.

After some time, though, it works. The success of Savage Chicken itself is not possible without Doug’s full-time devotion to his chicken bedfellows.

It’s pretty hard to remain optimistic while skimming through the strips one by one here. All the chickens are, essentially, savage by their very essence – ranting about corporate world, meaning of life, love, uneasy experiences, and things that are reminiscent – despite the odd supporting roles included – of our very own reality. Looking at Savage Chickens is no different from looking at how the reality is surrounding us; we oftentimes do weird things, act strangely, talk irrelevantly, but still, though, to err is human.

These chickens, indeed, are no more than reflection of ourselves. You don’t have to face existential crisis after reading through these strips though; just enjoy life as what it is, full stop.

Link: http://www.savagechickens.com/ 

Understanding the limitations of mathematics to predict the future: Ronald Meester at TEDxLeiden

 

Before you watch the TEDx talk, here is one important question. What is the similarity of:

1. A dike designed to withstand a very huge, catastrophic flood with a probability rate 1 : 1000, or which means, a catastrophe can only happen once in a thousand years?

2. A news article which reports that many children born in 21st century will live up to 100 years old?

3. A computational model which can ‘accurately’ predict that a political party’s program, on certain measurements, can either increase or decrease 50,000 votes for every step it takes?

The answer: all these mathematical models are thoroughly false. Full stop.

Reality is not as simple as mathematical models can always predict about every decision we make. One of the most fundamental flaws in it, despite its overpowering usefulness in modern technologies (like Google), is that it can’t make uncertainties certain. Engineers can proudly say that the dike they design can withstand a flood for a millennium, but who knows if God, universe, or aliens you name it, decide to play dices with our fate? That’s where, even our most sophisticated knowledge of mathematics, becomes greatly fallible.

Ronald Meester, a statistics expert, gives this TEDx talk with one very simple, yet abyssal, message: we can’t predict the future. Accept the uncertainties. Full stop. Listen to his talk and think deeper.

Analyzing Kafka

kafka

 

 

This is how Kafka interprets the world: a man wakes up to find himself transformed into a huge bug (literally) with no obvious cause. An ordinary employee was, against his own destiny, detained by unknown agents, and put into trial for unclear reasons. A lonely old man is disrupted by two rolling balls with origins totally unknown. And these all resonate pretty well with the oftentimes disturbing, and incomprehensibly enigmatic, reality of our universe.

The Atlantic provides an in-depth analysis of Kafka’s literary realm. Read the full article here.

Excerpt:

Kafka created “obscure lucidity,” Erich Heller wrote in his book on Kafka. “His is an art more poignantly and disturbingly obscure,” he added, “than literature has ever known.” One thinks one grasps Kafka’s meaning, but does one, really? All seems so clear, yet is it, truly? A famous aphorism of Kafka’s reads: “Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities of escape, again, are as many as hiding places.” Another runs: “A cage went in search of a bird.”

As with Kafka’s aphorisms, so with his brief parables. The parables, Walter Benjamin wrote, are “never exhausted by what is explainable; on the contrary, he took all conceivable precautions against the interpretation of his writings.” Whatever these precautions may have been, they were inadequate, for the works of Franz Kafka—apart perhaps only from the Bible and the works of Shakespeare—may be the most relentlessly interpreted, if not overinterpreted, in the modern world.

‘We’ don’t ‘do’ politics

real life vs politics

 

Most of the smart people I know want nothing to do with politics. We avoid it like the plague—like Edge avoids it, in fact. Is this because we feel that politics isn’t where anything significant happens? Or because we’re too taken up with what we’re doing, be it Quantum Physics or Statistical Genomics or Generative Music? Or because we’re too polite to get into arguments with people? Or because we just think that things will work out fine if we let them be—that The Invisible Hand or The Technosphere will mysteriously sort them out?

Whatever the reasons for our quiescence, politics is still being done—just not by us. It’s politics that gave us Iraq and Afghanistan and a few hundred thousand casualties. It’s politics that’s bleeding the poorer nations for the debts of their former dictators. It’s politics that allows special interests to run the country. It’s politics that helped the banks wreck the economy. It’s politics that prohibits gay marriage and stem cell research but nurtures Gaza and Guantanamo.

But we don’t do politics. We expect other people to do it for us, and grumble when they get it wrong. We feel that our responsibility stops at the ballot box, if we even get that far. After that we’re as laissez-faire as we can get away with.

What worries me is that while we’re laissez-ing, someone else is faire-ing.

 

Brian Eno

 

Source: Edge