What difference does it make?

I was just thinking about today’s subject. Actually, this is a little embarrassing, I was trying to come up with a clever tweet about it. I’m been trying to get a little more active on twitter, and a few other social media platforms too. I exist, notice me! And I want other people who I may reach out to cold to have some reference, just so they see that I’m actually a real person. This series of writings is another illustration actually! Ok, but I digress. Today’s subject is does any of this even matter? Why get bent out of shape? My initial, unscripted response would be no, none of it matters. What you do or don’t do isn’t going to materially shift the events of the world, or the place of the world in the universe for the most part. And I am not advocating for complete anarchy and chaos to be clear – I do not condone anyone harming another person. But if you stay neutral, don’t bother anyone else, who cares? What you accomplish or don’t, does it really make a difference? I guess that would be my most honest answer to the question but I think there are holes. Let’s get into it.

Going back to my tweet. I had another string of messages earlier that I wanted to build on. The topic there was the recent demos of GPT-3 artificial intelligence capabilities. It can now write simple software from written descriptions, and it can do some creative writing as well. I was impressed, but also thrown for a loop a little bit, since it seems like the list of things machines can’t do continues to dwindle. What does this mean for people in the future? I was feeling a little unnerved, and wrote about it. And combine this with our climate related challenges, corona, general income inequality, racism, and you can easily talk yourself into a pretty bleak future. Thinking about it can get you down in the dumps. So I wanted to end by negative string with something to the effect of, why worry about it? Yes, we’re all on a collision course with disaster with no possible escape. And it can be tough to feel powerless against what’s ultimately leading to our demise. But you are powerless, and the sooner you accept it and resist the urge to fight against it, the better off you’re going to be! Who cares! I wanted that to be the crescendo. It’s all futile, why waste your time thinking about it. But I couldn’t find a way to phrase it so nothing published yet.

I can try to further expand on my beliefs here. First, a person has to accept their place in the world and universe. One of 7.5 billion people, god knows how many animals and other living things on this planet. Yes, we can have an outsized amount of interactions or in the case of truly exceptional person, even an impact on the world, but that’s not likely. To put it mildly. What you touch, see, and impact is small in scope. You’re not changing the world. You’re just a part of it, along for the ride. That’s not to say nothing you do matters. You can impact your area – your family and friends, the city you live in, and maybe where you work too. And your choices can touch the lives of others too – through how you choose to allocate your funds, the projects you work on, and even things as simple as making an effort to be friendly. So I am not completely fatalistic! And it’s worth putting in the effort to keep you in the positive column. I keep using positive, negative, neutral. What I’m trying to do there is create a ledger of what you as an individual do while your’re alive. Your rating would be the aggregate of all your contributions to society, the sum of each and every thing you do. The goal would be stay at neutral or higher. And you will take in benefits from this naturally. Be nice to people and more often than not they will reciprocate. Work on things that are important versus chasing money and you will have a better sense of worth, etc. This is the level where I think what you do matters a lot since it can leave you in a better state of mind.

But when you start to drift into matters that are further out there, more abstract, and less direct to your daily experience, thinks get more iffy. Iffy meaning questionable to worry about? The first example that comes to mind is politics. You watch it, and it becomes a little frustrating. People spewing out rhetoric, pursuing their individual goals while wrapping them in a veneer of I’m doing this for you! And the mistakes and gaffs, general incompetence. It’s hard to follow without getting disheartened or very frustrated. So why bother? Well in the example of America, you have a civic duty to vote and be involved as a citizen. I think that’s the argument. But how far do you take it? Do you have a responsibility to understand foreign policy and international affairs. To keep tabs on government oversight? To cut through layer upon layer of conflicting stories and information to try to figure out what’s true at even a basic level? Look at global affairs then. I torture myself by reading lots of international news, and why? Probably, if I’m being honest, the reason is so I can have an opinion? So I can impress my peer group? And also there’s an element of interest in there too, but why let it get you worked up. Anything that’s happening on a global stage is well beyond my pay-grade obviously. And I think, I’m going to go out on a limb here, this is going to be the way it is for the rest of my life. So why let it consume you and influence your mood? Whatever is going to happen is going to happen anyway.

I liked that quote by Amos Tversky – When you’re a pessimist and the bad thing happens, you live it twice. Once when you worry about it and twice when it happens. I wish I could apply this logic in my daily life, but regardless of my shortcoming I do think it makes good sense. Where would this breakdown? If you had a business connection depending on what’s happening at a macro level, if you or someone close to you is directly affected, if macro events put you in real physical danger. These are all legitimate reasons to be concerned, but do they change the fact that you have no control over the macro environment? Sadly not. So you’d be better off not worrying about them even if they will affect you. Worry is not the right word here. Maybe consume you would be better? Enrage you?

People, and I put myself in this camp to be absolutely clear, are looking for reasons to get worked up I think. Yes, that’s purely anecdotal, my opinion. And there are so many reasons for someone who’s a motivated to find something! I prefer the stoics way of thinking here – focus only on those things that you can control. Wow, I wish I could live this way too. Aspirational. But wouldn’t that simplify life? Think about how much of the mental clutter you run through each day is stuff that wouldn’t reach the bar. And if it was all gone? That might be destabilizing in a different way since you would have a lot less to distract yourself with. But think about what you could do with that extra energy, if you put it back into things which you do control? How you use your time, how you treat others, etc. That first bucket of things that are worth caring about above. You could have a real impact on others, and in doing so lift yourself up too!

Maybe that’s the point I’m trying to make, in a long-winded, confusing way. Worrying about the future, and trying to read the tea-leaves is an unproductive drain of your energy. Business people, day traders, politicians aside. I’m not sure what to tell you if you’re in that camp. Repent? But if you’re not, don’t get bent out of shape about what’s happening around you. Focus on what you’re doing and the direct contribution you can make to your surrounding area.

I forgot about one other point I wanted to cover, in the context of whether or not it’s worth your energy. Protesting, activism, making your voice heard. Another set of actives that are not only encouraged but revered in the US. I appreciate the spirit, and can believe the argument that the people making their voices heard in large numbers is the only way to force things to change. Especially as it relates to politics, inertia and money interests are tough to overcome after all! But I still do wonder if that’s the most effective way of spending your time as someone who is eager for change. I think that activism and protests are trying to force the issue, to force an issue to a head. And there might be very good reasons to do that, especially if there has been a prolonged period of time where nothing has been done. My preference would be for everyone to use at least some of that energy to focus on what they can do to set an example through their behavior, and through direct contributions to their local communities. Very much a grassroots focus versus chasing institutional change. The areas and people who have been oppressed are going to have to save themselves, or at least make headway while the much longer term goal of forcing the institutions to change their ways. It’s absolutely not fair, not arguing against that, but we’re just looking for an approach to yield the fastest change. Maybe it’s not an either or type thing, but instead a balance between the two. And the grassroots stuff is going to take a long time, and not be glamorous. I have no way of knowing, but I think it could be more impactful though. Ok, I hope that doesn’t get people angry, just one person’s opinion!

Thanks for reading and I will speak with you tomorrow. 49 Minutes. 1797 Words.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *