About time to level up?
Perspective is everything in life and investing
Summary: It’s all about gaining maximum perspective. Pattern recognition forms the basis for a more productive perspective, which enables better predictions, increased likelihood of short-term survival, investments and procreation [= long term gene survival], which in turn loops back to more fine tuned pattern recognition.
The loop of meaningfulness
I derive my immediate sense of meaning from simply having fun, and from being productive(which enables more and better fun).
Let’s leave productivity out of the loop for a little while and head straight for the fun :D
The hedonistic part of Meaning boils down to good feelings in the present, or pleasurable or intense feelings about memories of various kinds.
Both purely hedonistic experiences in the now, based on neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, not to mention oxytocin; and more refined flow states during learning or creating at top capacity, belong to the category of “fun now”. Food, sex, sports, meditation, reading, playing, and partying spring to mind.
Delightful memories include things like Pride (feeling good about accomplishing or enduring something), Relief (appreciation of not having a certain burden anymore) and Reliving (a pure copy of the original direct experience). Memories include Learning new things and skills, not least putting things in perspective.
perspective is key to a
of all other things
That perspective thus attained, is key to a higher appreciation of all other things. Perspective is one of the most important factors in lending meaning[albeit subjective, since there is no absolute meaning or fate] to life. Experiences enhance your perspective, which in turn enhances your capacity to both invent more things to experience and acquire the resources to go through with your plans, as well as appreciate those experiences.
Perspective —> Innovation —> Appreciation —> Experience —>> (circling back to Perspective)
Productivity as a complement to Fun
Finally coming back to productivity, the activities of innovation, experience, learning and perspective all improve your productivity (i.e., ability to create more of value with less resources in terms of mainly time — your only truly scarce resource). Not least, the more productive you are, the more effectively you can increase your freedom to choose in favor of having fun over being yet more productive (not saying they can’t be the same thing).
Whatever type of experiences you decide to enhance with your newly gained productivity, that “fun” or “learning” will widen your perspective in yet another iteration:
Perspective —> Productivity —> Freedom —> Fun(Experience) —> (circling back to Perspective)
In a way the aim is to strengthen the productivity loop until it’s not needed at all, until all basic and higher material needs are taken care of with all but zero effort. Thus, over time you style glide from almost 100 per cent focus on productivity, toward almost 100 per cent focus on meaningful, long term, fun.
Here’s the rub though: unless the fun part features novelty, challenges, learning and growing, it ceases to be enjoyable. Thus, in practice you can’t engage in just any kind of arbitrary and mindless fun. It needs to be directed toward leveling up to ultimately increased likelihood of survival.
Meat sack survival drivers and intelligence
Human pattern recognition (“intelligence”), and the desire for perspective and productivity, evolved for survival (finding prey, avoiding predators, finding mates, identifying friends and enemies, analyzing situations and predicting outcomes).
Unless those drives are fed with novelty and learning, i.e., finding new patterns, “leveling up” to stay ahead in a Darwinistic environment, it’s difficult to reach a state of sustainable satisfaction. The organism ‘knows’ it’s losing ground if it stops improving.
Ultimately we are meat sacks, governed by selfish genes [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene], our owns and myriad others, that evolved over billions of years. All they “want” is to survive in as many copies as possible. That translates into drives of productivity and procreation, enabled by pattern recognition and prediction and greased by fun factors flooding our brains when moving in the evolutionary correct direction.
Fun factors govern our survival progress:
Pattern recognition —> Perspective —> Prediction —> Procreation (survival)
Recursivity as the building block of consciousness and meaning
Without consciousness there is no consciousness — nobody who cares, only sterile matter. But once there is a spark of consciousness, an awareness, a consideration, it feeds on itself and increases in strength and value over time.
When the conscious self becomes aware of being conscious, it strives to learn more about the concept and process — waking up in a self-reinforcing loop[thus continuing the process the universe started when nothing turned to quantum foam, congealing into energy, then matter, molecules, replicators, life, DNA, cells, oganisms, minds, intelligence, consciousness, self-conscious consciousnesses…].
Perspective works the same way. Without perspective there is no drive to get it. With too narrow a (zero) perspective, you can’t imagine searching for more to experience and thus don’t even try. But just a little taste of perspective kicks off a strong feedback loop of ever increasing appetite for, and the ability to gain, ever more perspective.
That’s is where meaning comes in. Without a perspective of the self, there is no consciousness, no reflection of the self and its context — no metacognition — no conscious memory or plan, no real past or future; and thus no meaning.
Perspective enables connections and loops, which in turn enable perspective
When we do have a comprehensive enough perspective of ourselves, on others and on reality; consciousness emerges and we can form meaningful relationships that place us in a context of increasing scope of connections and loops.
It starts with awareness of the self and our connections to our top five Dunbars[The Dunbar number is the 150 people our neocortex has the capacity to form simultaneous meaningful connections with.]. With time and technology we can expand our respective circles[“zokus”, if interpreting Hannu Rajaniemi’s term liberately] to include the entire universe.
It is this reciprocal context-forming that creates meaning. My meaning arises from taking you into account (”you” in the broadest sense possible of the word: you and the rest of the universe), because you in turn take me into account: It’s our considering each other that recursively forms a loop of meaning for both of us.
Food, safety and sex => survival => perspective, productivity and fun => meaning
To recap, our genes drive us toward good feelings and fun, which can be had from, e.g., survival enhancers for the self (candy, french fries, sleep, safety), in order to increase the likelihood of copying (procreation).
Drugs and games can hijack our reward circuitry and trick the body into thinking it’s surviving or copying even when it really isn’t.
Hedonistic adaptation makes us crave more
At the bottom of it, mindless genes are merely trying to replicate like so much runaway nanotech grey goo; and our meat sacks and consciousnesses are just along for the ride.
Pattern recognition, and perspective, turned out to be very useful tools to avoid dangers, find food and mates. Hence there are genes coding for rewards for gaining perspective, being productive and procreating.
In addition, to make sure we survived in a changing and dangerous environment we evolved hedonistic adaption, meaning we constantly crave novelty and new perspective, rather than being content with the status quo.
In other words, even when we can have fun all the time, we actually can’t. Our selfish genes tell us it’s “bad” if we don’t experience and learn new things or hang out with other living things; and that translates to feelings of meaninglessness. Our organism demands oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin to feel it’s going in the right direction (the direction of copying as many genes as possible) and the conscious self strives for novelty, bonding and perspective since those tend to maximize the desired hormones and neurotransmitters.
The magic of “going places” for achieving meaning
The feeling of meaning emerges from an ever expanding perspective and sense of context (at whatever scale you see relevant), whether it’s directly related to physical survival or not.
The lowest order of survival consists of mindless genes. They know nothing, feel nothing, their “wanting” to multiply is bound by simple physical laws making one molecule more likely than another.
At the next level comes following reward chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine.
Yet higher up the the complexity scale, the metaphysical drive for novelty, pattern recognition and context (amounting to productivity and survival at the lower levels) make us feel we are going places, that there is a path with a beginning and an end.
That path is the meaning. The Path Of Meaning only exists if we do “meaningful” things, defined as doing new things, experiencing more, having deeper relationships and so on, i.e. doing things that the body can expect lead to a sustainable or increasing level of visceral rewards in terms of brain chemistry.
take one word that
resonates with your way of life
bounce it around in your head for five minutes
to create your specific word cloud of meaning
How to achieve more meaning
What should you in practice do with these insights about loops and perspective? You should think and act, with the purpose of identifying and creating your own meaning and paths thereto. Meditate, Play, Learn, Socialize
Meditate on it; set aside some time to think about your activities and your feelings about them.
What’s your version of my Perspective – Productivity – Experience – Procreation word cloud?
Record how you feel during (present fun) and directly after an activity. Pay attention to how you feel about looking back (memory fun) at an activity after a week, a month, a year.
If it felt good and worthwhile, instilled satisfaction and pride rather than shame, as well as furthered your goals and your power to do more to the same effect (productivity), it was meaningful.
Long term satisfaction is meaning. In fact it’s all the meaning there is.
Fuck and play: Take care of your physical health, preferably through sex and physically challenging sports involving other people. The organism likes moderate challenges, physical contact and simulated procreation. You’ll like it too, once you break out of that “ordinary life” homeostasis of working for the man, buying stuff and thinking you’ll just do this for now, and ‘later’ you’ll reap the rewards of life.
Read and try: Learn new things, including both physical and mental abilities and knowledge. This feeds the innate drive for novelty and pattern recognition. Not least it’s the first step to enhanced perspective and increased awareness, which are prerequisites for meaning.
Socialize: Go deeper. Get to know your friends and partner at a deeper level. Meet new people. Knowing they know you works as a factor multiplier for your sense of context and perspective.
Investing: In short, perspective is everything. A productive investigation requires perspective to contextualize whatever new data you gather to transform it into information and yet better perspective.
A company or an asset class don’t live in a vacuum, they are all subject to the same capital sloshing around in the system. With the right perspective you can better predict where it’s going next, and thus on average make better long term allocation calls.
Summary: True enjoyment and meaning, from physical activity and challenging cognitive activities, leave less cravings for empty hedonism such as gluttony and sloth. Just as perspective begets perspective, meaning begets meaning and consciousness begets consciousness; physical and cognitive health beget physical and cognitive health, thanks to satisfaction saturation a.k.a. meaning.
There, the meaning of life explained!