Posts Tagged people

Difficult People and Hugging Day

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Who’s the most difficult person you’ve known in your life, and what would you like to tell him or her?

It’s interesting – as I was pondering my answer for this question, it really started to come down to a series of friends and acquaintances in my life who I felt got on my nerves, or with whom I constantly felt like I was arguing or struggling.  Honestly, though, that probably reveals that *I* am difficult, not particularly them, and so I don’t feel comfortable singling out any individual and calling them the most difficult.

On the other hand, I did want to relay a little thing that’s stuck with me over the years.  I read somewhere (or maybe heard on the radio?) that there’s a fine line between genius and evil genius.  So, if you are worried about your above-average intelligence child growing up on the maladjusted side of things, the story claimed that ten positive physical interactions (shoulder pat, hug, etc.) a day would be an excellent preventative and way to keep the young “genius” grounded.

Ever since then, I have imagined what it would be like to have a Hugging Day, where I just literally hug every person I interact with that day.  Other than the inevitable harassment problems, I think it would be an interesting social experiment to gauge difference in reaction *after* the hug.  (I imagine there would also be variety of reaction *to* the hug, but I’m less concerned about that.)  I think it’s very hard to be negative towards a person who is making physical contact (in a nonthreatening way).

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People Impressions

Friday, November 5, 2010
What makes you notice someone?

I read this question as “what do you first notice about people,” but I suppose you could read it as “what does a person have to do to be [cool / interesting] enough to warrent attention?”  Since I generally give attention to anyone I’m around, I didn’t really see what I could say about the second quoted question beyond the obvious – stunning looks, hilarious banter, eye contact.

As for the first restatement, I think this varies a bit depending on context.  For people I work with or participate in activities with, I really admire and respect talent without hubris.  Or, I guess, people can be sure of themselves, but not dicks about it.  That’s the kind of general character that I notice and enjoy being around.  For people that I hang out with generally, I would say I notice sense of humor and awareness of what’s going on around them/how well they read other people’s emotions.  Unsurprisingly, these are qualities I have identified and promoted in myself, so naturally I notice them in others.

I guess that’s the crux of what I notice in others – how well they do at the things I do, and how aware of themselves and others they are.

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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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