Posts Tagged ideal dave

Year in Review: Summary

I went in to give blood today, and as part of the routine questionnaire they always give, the guy asked me where I had traveled in the last 12 months.  It was an unexpected reminder of how awesome this year has been, as I thought back to the Magic Cruise, my trips to Pro Tours San Juan and Amsterdam, and all of the amazing friends I’ve met and grown closer to over the last twelve months.

One of the themes of this year’s blog, if you read between the lines, is that I am very very hard on myself.  I am constantly upset at how poorly I’m doing compared to the Ideal Dave I have shadowing me in my mind.  I am thinking again and again of all these wonderful projects I could do only to fail to find time or energy to do them.  I fail to attend some social gathering and beat myself up over it.  The list goes on.  But now, taking a step back, I can see that if I look at Real Dave, not some imaginary ideal I have constructed for myself – well, he did a pretty great job with this year, and this year with him.

The highlights of this year were:

  • the Magic Cruise, reconnecting with the folk who attended the first one and meeting some wonderful new people (can’t wait for this year’s!)
  • my 30th birthday in San Juan
  • Karaoke Mondays, especially the, uh, Thursday with the Community Cup folks and later special guest stars Tom, Aaron and PV
  • my career shift into game design working with an excellent set of people
  • the focus this blog has given me in understanding how my brain works and what matters to me
  • the multiple marriages and engagements of my friends (they keep coming, and they are all great!)

Every trip I took for work or related to work brought with it a few days of the same awesome times with those awesome people.  Every night out with friends gave me a chance to cut loose, something I definitely don’t do often enough.  And now every day I spend at work I have a lot of fun and a lot of challenges that are rewarding to tackle.

Sure, some things could be better – they always could – but lots of things are way better than I have any right to expect! :)

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Bruce

There’s a relatively famous article (it’s about playing Magic, but the lesson it teaches applies to all pursuits) I have read called “Stuck in the Middle with Bruce.”  In it, the author details as aspect of the subconscious that he names after a friend of his, Bruce.  Bruce is the part of us that needs to fail.  What? you think to yourself.  I don’t need to fail!

Or do you?

I wanted to take the lens of Bruce to my own thoughts and see if I can uncover areas in which my subconscious is influencing/sabotaging me in this way.  I guess I mean the higher Ideal Dave, who has his dreams and goals, and though Ideal Dave believes himself above the influence of Bruce, I know deep down he is not.

  • In pursuing relationships with women, I often find myself attracted to ladies who are taken.  I know I have heard that’s because I see they are valued by other men (because they are in a relationship), but maybe it’s because I’m “safe” from the risk of failure this way?  (Which, of course, is the failure Bruce desired anyway.)
  • I have often complained about my job being annoying/terrible/frustrating (jobs prior to this one! :)).  But if the common thread is me, and if maybe-just-maybe I am subtly putting myself into situations where I am not challenged, and therefore I’m again “safe…” well, maybe that satisfies my subconscious desire to fail (to exceed).
  • I am upset with my current state of fitness.  I worked out today, and I felt awful because I am so out of shape.  “I don’t have time to exercise,” I always tell myself, “there’s more important stuff to do!”  Those excuses, though – maybe that isn’t really what’s going on.  When I am out of shape, I am less likely to go out and meet new people (because I am less comfortable with myself).  So maybe my Bruce is protecting me from meeting new people, so I can stay comfortable with where I am (and not have too much shake-up).

It is hard to admit I am subconsciously sabotaging myself; even now, as I write, my logical Ideal Dave is screaming “I am in control of my choices!”  It’s like trying to catch a reflection out of the corner of your eye, and analyze subtle differences that might indicate there’s something wrong.

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The Better Me

Sometimes, I have friends ask me why I am so hard on myself.  The answer is not a particularly long one, but it might take time to explain: I think it is worthy to strive to be a more ideal version of oneself.

To unpack that principle, I want to first speak to worthiness.  I don’t know about other people, but I like to analyze why I feel the way I do when I have a strong feeling about something but don’t have an immediate logical answer.  This is a process of self-discovery, sure, but I think it’s also like flexing the muscles of awareness and of logical-emotional connection — two things I am terrified might atrophy!  (Well, maybe not terrified of them atrophying, per se, but I don’t think I would like the Dave who had, e.g., less awareness and/or less logical-emotional connection.)  I feel guilt and regret when I have made a decision or taken an action and I feel it was “wrong”.  But why do I feel this way?  That led me to considering what outcomes at worthy, and to think of decisions/choices as a means to try to achieve those worthy ends.

I would even go so far as to say that for thinking free-willed beings, the essential purpose of choice is to have the opportunity to achieve a “good” path from among many alternatives (however the thinking being defines it).

So, how do I determine what ends are worthy?  Well, I know I am not perfect – this I can determine via self-observation, and general feel, and even comparison to other individuals.  So I identify areas in which I’d like to improve, often subconsciously, and predict-project a Dave who has made those improvements.  This is a Better Me, a more ideal version of myself.  I don’t like to think in terms of Best Me, or Ideal Dave, when I am making decisions.  I kind of have a rough sketch of that guy in the back of my mind, but for choices, I always want to be moving toward a Better Me.

Yeah, doing this can make me hard on myself – sometimes shockingly so – but I think it’s worth it, and I think it’s the Right thing to do. :)

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Second Chances

I realized I haven’t really covered that many of my principles over the course of this month, either because I haven’t had the time to sit down and expound upon them, or I had something I really wanted to talk about that was more currents-events-y.  Today, though, I wanted to touch on one that I definitely stand by even after discussing with others how and why they feel the way they do: giving people second chances.

I believe everyone deserves a “second chance”. But what do I mean when I say “second chance”?  I really mean that I judge a person’s ability to be responsible by their intent, not by their performance.  Of course, you can’t measure intent directly (whereas you can measure performance), but I tend to view a person’s performance as a way to judge both their ability (are they competent?) and their motive (are they a reasonable person to “trust” at this task?).

For me, the best measures of whether someone should have another crack at something is whether they intend to do it well.  If the gap is in their competence, and after seeing them try, I feel like that’s the barrier, I will try to make sure they get education or training or what-have-you before letting them do it again.  But if the gap is in their intent, game over.

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Falsify

I hold some beliefs that are not falsifiable.  For example, I hypothesize that humans are free-willed, but no currently-imaginable experiment could falsify that statement (prove that it isn’t true).  I think that there are plenty of “reasonable” hypotheses that are worth considering despite the fact that they are not falsifiable, and this post is an attempt to explain why I think that is true.

The notion of falsifiability is intrinsic to the Scientific Method: we advance our knowledge of the universe and the correctness and applicability of our theories by constructing tests for that knowledge and/or those theories.  Tests can only show that a theory is wrong (i.e.falsify it) – this is because any number of possible reasons could apply, and no test can account for all of them.  A test CAN account for one of them, though, by showing “this isn’t the reason, it must be something else.”  There are three very key implied aspects to this application of logic:

  1. A (semi-) objective observation has been recorded (that-which-we-theorize-about)
  2. A predictive, testable hypothesis can be constructed about the observation.
  3. Experiment can be constructed that falsifies AT LEAST the hypothesis in #2.

But there is a deeper question at hand: should the hypotheses for which no tests can be constructed be considered?  Such a premise is “nonfalsifiable,” or as Sam likes to say, “not even false.”  What is the meaning / truth value of such a theory?  “Humans are free-willed,” or “God exists,” are two such hypotheses, where no observation can be recorded relevant to the falsification of the hypothesis.

Still, my argument is that hypotheses like these are worthwhile, and here are my reasons:

  • Humans care about the “fundamental nature of the universe” irrespective of whether it has observable effects on us – one might argue this to be illogical, but humans are not merely logical beings (we have emotions, for example).  Since humans care, it becomes a part of human nature and therefore is worthwhile to consider despite being “unscientific.”
  • There are a lot of implicit assumptions in the use of the scientific method (see #1, #2, and #3 above) and therefore implicit reduction of problem complexity in favor of “solvability.”  Now, as a former Physics guy, I definitely understand the usefulness of “assume the cow is a sphere” thinking… but when it comes to thoughtful analysis of the world around us, we can’t ignore that intrinsic complexity is there and can sometimes be considered in addition to what is “solvable.”
  • I believe all things imaginable are possible, and if something is possible it might one day be observable.  Keeping an open mind and spending some thinking cycles on the possible-but-not-falsifiable better prepares me to handle crazy breaks in prediction later down the line, if they ever occur.  As long as I remain grounded and use the admittedly useful and incredible scientific method as a baseline for observables, I will have a leg up on understanding more chaotic, unpredictable and “basically impossible” future-observables should we ever observe them.

P.S. It is interesting to note once again that “there’s nothing new under the sun”: Hempel pointed out that this construction of the scientific method is more akin to inductive analysis (subject to statistics, not underlying predictable truths), and therefore must be enhanced via crucial experiements, or experiments that are capable of lending POSITIVE (not-just-to-falsify) evidence to theories.  His Raven Paradox is an interesting cautionary thought experiment about the perils of inductive reasoning: if all ravens are black, so therefore all non-ravens are non-black, then a green apple is evidence that all ravens aren’t black.

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Sentience

What is sentience?  Or more precisely, what is the aspect of people that I think separates them from mere animals?  Now, it’s possible that you believe humans aren’t different than animals in any significant biological way – that all of the things we define as “sentience” is really just emergent behavior from the bio-machine – but I think it’s still worthwhile to define the encapsulation of a “sentient person” and compare that definition to a normal biological organism.

I think that sentience includes self-awareness.  This is extremely hard to measure objectively, but as will be apparent as a common theme, I think there can be objective qualities to the universe (or stuff in the universe) that we can’t demonstrably prove, but we can subjectively suppose and analyze, and that activity has meaning. I think sentient beings believe themselves sentient, and that also that they think (or think they think) in ways qualitatively different than those required for survival (e.g. selected for directly).

I also think that sentience implies the capacity of choice.  That is, a sentient being can make a decision given two possible courses of action according to internal reasoning (rational thought).  Other animals will demonstrate behavior that looks like choice, but can actually be attributed to conditioning.  I’m not saying sentient beings always make “choices” (sometimes they are also conditioned) but I do think animals never do.

All this being said, I think sentience is probably more like a spectrum then the binary on/off I represent it as, here.  Just as we can use many pieces of data observed about a person to try to tell whether they are essentially sentient, we can also apply those pieces to moving them around in the spectrum of sentience.

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Brand New Day

Today, I was moving myself down into the Magic R&D area, affectionately called “The Pit,” and I realized how much random stuff I collect (or have collected, I guess) over the years.  On a day to day basis, how much of this do I actually use?  My initial guess is that I don’t use anything other than my computer, my notes and a couple books/Magic cards.

Why is this true?  Well, I think it’s because I am unconsciously practicing one of my principles: stuff is way less important than experiences and people. I would also include pets in there, which I guess are mid-way between people and stuff. :)  Interestingly, I get upset at myself sometimes for not taking pictures (stuff) when I am on trips (experiences) because my memory is not perfect and I therefore miss out over time on some of the experience.  Pictures are really a physical representation of experience but my categorical rejection of the importance of stuff prevents me from retaining them (or bringing along the necessary equipment to take pictures).

I have very few things from earlier in life.  I also feel pretty great whenever I do a Great Purge and throw out a bunch of stuff I have collected.  In fact, I was considering doing just that as I moved my desk.  I’m going to put it off a bit, though, because (1) I do have the luxury of time to think on this move, since it is “at your own pace” as per my managerial chain, and (2) I don’t want to make the mistake of letting my anti-stuff emotional motivation rule me before I have a chance to logically judge the stuff I do have.

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Would you sacrifice 1 to save 10?

Inevitably, because of the way my mind works and because of the friends I choose, I will enter into the conversation of the importance/value/”currency” of life.  The title’s question – would you sacrifice one life to save ten? – gets at the heart of the conflict between the purely utilitarian viewpoint that I tend to loathe because it cannot encompass my morality, and the more stringent and much harder for me to articulate “principle” system that I feel defines me.

In case it was not apparent, in such conversations, nearly everyone I know answers “usually, it depends on who they are, judging based on the “worth” of the one life compared to the ten, either subjectively to them or in some more general-to-humanity sense.  I always answer “no.”  In fact, the quantity and the quality of the lives is essentially irrelevant* to me — the principle by which I have come to define my thinking on this is sentient life is special: it cannot be compared in value to other things or even other sentient life. I’m not sure exactly why I think this is true – it is a combination of a feeling of uniqueness about self-aware organisms compared to the rest of stuff in the universe, and also the agency that I believe all sentient life possesses (definitionally) – the capacity for free will.

Kant expresses this in his Categorical Imperative by saying “you should not treat rational beings as merely a means to an end, but always as an end in and of themselves.”  I pretty much agree with that sentiment.  I do, however, understand that absolutes (even moral ones!) cannot be held in spite of practicality – they are ideals to strive for, but not always to live by.

Would I kill in self-defense, or to save someone I loved?  Would I kill one individual to save my species?  Probably.  But this drives another principle, which I also believe quite strongly, the “no moral free lunch” principle: a person should be allowed to do something immoral, but they should also be responsible for the moral consequences of that action. I respect the fundamental freedom of choice – that a free-willed individual should be able to choose and not constrained unnecessarily by other individuals – but definitely think every choice has a potential (moral) cost associated with it.

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Friendship

I am having a really hard time characterizing what is fundamental about my beliefs (my principles) regarding friends.  I mean, I know that I care a lot of about who my friends are, and how I act toward them, but these are not the reasons, the principles.

Here is my first stab at the principles I think apply to how I think about friends:

  • Friends respect each others’ principles even if they don’t agree with them.
  • Friends are individuals capable of (and potentially good at!) teaching me about principles, from their own principles or from their experience.
  • Friends deserve as much attention and energy as I give myself, if I can afford to give it and I believe they desire OR need it.

I also believe, but had a hard time putting it into a distilled principle, that I broadcast to the world that I care about my friends a great deal, and whether my friends (or others) think it’s a good idea or not to obey the 3rd principle above is not really a factor in my mind.  I believe I should be giving my friends that attention and energy because I have determined they are worth it – I think they are good people.

It’s not really about increasing my own happiness (although it does make me happy to help friends) – it is about recognizing the people who are respectful (even the abrasive kind of respect – e.g. “you are better than this” with regard to childish behavior) and who are worthy teachers, and honoring them.

I also think this should be done for regular not-friend people, but I feel a stronger attachment to the people I know (and also believe I can “return the favor” to people I know more effectively).  This part, about preferentially helping my friends, might be solely about happiness… I’m not sure yet.

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Right Reasons

I believe in second chances.  But what does that mean, really?  It means I am willing to give my friends (and even to some extent people with whom I am just acquainted) the benefit of the doubt when they do something I consider a mistake, or something that is just intolerable to me.  We’re talking about results here – I give a second chance when things don’t work out.  But I do predicate that second chance on an understanding that the person did what they did for mistaken wrong reasons, or for the right reasons.  To me, the important factor is whether they were making the right choices.

I believe that humans are free-willed – we are capable of making decisions using our minds, and we are not just acting in reaction to context.  Since I also believe that many times there is a “right” thing to do, I also believe that people can choose to act in a way consistent with the “right” thing in those cases.  When a person makes a mistake, I want to forgive.  The times when I can’t are the times when I think the person is making choices inconsistent with the “right” and doesn’t want to reconsider those choices at all.

My principle, I think, is: People are defined by their choices, and merely influenced by their experiences. This is a complicated notion to get to the bottom of, however… so many assumptions are in play here (free-willed, comparable “rightness,” understanding of other people’s choices) that in many ways I am just theorizing, but I think this is illustrative of my principles.


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