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Prodding existential crises

When my internal dialogue slips into the negative realm (of despair), I believe its the best opportunity to prod myself with mental enquiries: why is life “life”? What do you want to do with your existence? Does it matter anyway? I suppose I am torturing myself, but it returns some of the best insights into my life. I am fortunate enough to be capable of doing so. I have close relationships to individuals who wouldn’t prod themselves in the same way. To them, their anxiety disorder or diagnosed depression could be worsened via further negative thoughts. I suppose this is true, I am inclined to test out the outcomes of their hypothesis on them, but I care for them too much to pressure them either way.

I provoke my existentialism like fire. On occasion it burns me, or perhaps scares me, but often I’m in awe of its appearance. I have a strong mental state – it rarely wavers.  My outlook on my existence is daring and hopeful, as I am training to make the biggest impact I can. Bare with me as I bolster an image of strength, of optimism, and happiness in my life – before I detail a rather crude perspective on life in general. Life is good.

Except

Life is overall negative, at least it seems that way. I’m not suffering, at least not comparative to others (I’m a privileged white male). But I retain the outlook that life is suffering, it’s sad, pessimistic, and hard to deal with. Life by default is negative, a quality I’ve learnt that philosophical thinkers of antinatalism share. When I mean life, I don’t mean simply your interactions with life, I mean the slither of life that’s cut from an infinite slab of atoms. The unknown before and after makes me fell dull about the opportunity life offers. Like the hand of a (father) god came down and handed me a single penny “Don’t waste it all, kid.” Between these unknowns is a greater opportunity for misery, the balance of joy and fear is unbalanced. As unhappy a conclusion this may seem, I am rather happy with life. I do not deny that life contains beauty, that life itself is fascinating. But to have lived or not to have lived – I lean towards not. I don’t have suicidal thoughts – I explore the idea of how I might die: the implications, the process, the feeling, the hypothetical nothing. But I do not desire it. On the contrary, I repulse the idea of death – as much as its mystery fascinates me it also makes me screw up my hands and shout fuck you.

I do not want death, not for myself nor for anyone. But life, life is haunting and brutal. I can focus on the positives, I can do good, I intend to help, and change the world for the better (at least better in terms of living). But only my actions and others are positive. Everything else is bleak and suffering. Death is the ultimate conclusion of “Why bother”. Why do I continue to bother, I haven’t truly discovered. For now bothering to change the world makes me happy.

***

With this bleak backdrop to life, understanding my purpose in life, my relationships, my feelings, and existence itself, throws me into weariness. Not as much as some might, but it does affect me. I’m not a depressive person, but lingering in the grounds of existence leads to micro-crises. Daily bouts of anxiety and doom, depressed thoughts that ring internally loud and clear. My fortune is they rarely affect my external interaction with life. However once I hear the ringing of a micro-crisis I ring it louder and louder. So far, my mental state has been stable enough to withstand the provocation of my crises. It may be dangerous, I’m not sure – but it feels like handling a dangerous animal; its danger is beautiful. My curiosity is to see how one thought might affect it over another. I learn more from prodding my inner quarrels, letting some fall away into the known and others to snap out. Is this how most philosophers feel? After introspective queries they must emerge tired and bleak.

After my recent bout of a micro-crisis, it’s fitting that I came across an article by Venkatesh Rao advocating mid-life crises: freak out early and freak out often (FEFO). Some of Rao thoughts lead to big picture perspectives, and acknowledging the insignificance of your story. But I felt that Rao intended these conclusions to be positive, that ultimately the more FEFOs you endure the stronger your outlook is. Read it, it’s a good. The same perspective I came away from his article I intend to express (poorly) in this article.

***

So I am fine. I am fine with torturing myself. I am fine with life. I am fine with existence, until the next freak out.

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Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Thoughts on The Handmaiden’s Tale
*This post hase very little editing, is constructed to reinforce my new knowledge, and therefore not that valuable to the public. I publish it to start a habit of reflection that I hope becomes valuable to more than just me.

The book is unsettling, seems unresolved and therefore more of a blip, a small casm into the memory of the protagonist, a moment in “history” that we had forgotten. The whole setup, it’s slow build, the shifts between present and past slowly make up a landscape that seems feasible. I think that’s what I hear predominantly from readers. This scenario could occur. With the amounting political shifts around the world, the direction into nationalism posted by the Trump Administration and Brexit, and the forking and firewalls occuring across the internet, their is a feeling of unpredictability. Maybe with the advent of unicorn billion dollar startups like Uber, the notion of black swan events is being revealed. The ability for corporate giants to built into movements that circumvent local jurisdiction. The advent of exstremestan seeps from fiction into reality. The tale of a handmaiden is at once mediocre and extreme. The circumstances are only shocking if you read it from a political landscape such as Australia, or Canada, or America the country the book is set. It’s the contrast (or subtle contrast) that makes it so shocking. I wonder if a state like China or Russia would be as moved by the text. I believe Atwood drew from history to construct this narrative. Her reasoning was to make it believable she must incorporate only events that have occurred in reality. I suppose it’s for these reasons alone I enjoyed the book, but struggle to celebrate it. It’s the efforts of constructing a believable reality that I commend. But the plot meanders, or I became bored or distracted. I remember vignettes of the text, like the protagonist sneaking into the room of the angel guard, or meeting her lost friend at a bar in the toilets. It’s the scenario that would be so ordinary if in any other context. The structure and thematic chapters are written as if they are recorded, opening to music, and the epilogue, a conference of history academics recounting their research into the time period, becomes a self aware stab at the desire to record and explore history with distance and little empathy. We are retrospective machines – and the story feels retrospective but acts futuristic. It’s the stumbling of a dystopian novel that collides with Victorian sensibilities. A parallel timeline that sidestepped ours by only a few paces. It’s not an urban fantasy.

Nassim Taleb, Black Swan

Thoughts on The Black Swan
*This post has very little editing, is constructed to reinforce my new knowledge, and therefore not that valuable to the public. I publish it to start a habit of reflection that I hope becomes valuable to more than just me.

Taleb describes the complexity of randomness as it is – unknowable. Randomness isn’t statistical randomness, as he puts it ‘Ludic Randomness’ or some platonic probability. Statistical randomness only occurs within manufactured contexts like casinos or politics. These contexts would fit within mediocristan – I think this refers to the mediocre impacts of randomness – they are in some ways predictable somewhat like a fractal pattern. The unknown unknowns is true randomness – it is not just the map or our interpretation of reality – it is the territory. It is the black swan. The analogy of the black swan is we knew for century of only white swans. I.e. the “Truth” was Swans = White. Until black swans were discovered in Australia, and the truth was dramatically changed. This demonstrates two things: the asymmetry of knowledge (or truth), and the fallacy of no evidence = evidence of absence. The first, asymmetry means 100 pieces of evidence for a fact, can be outweighed by a single piece of evidence. Taleb suggests we should be sceptical of evidence, truth, or the reliance of the past. An analogy is the Thanksgiving turkey (or the family chicken); for 100 days the turkey lives a happy life until the farmer kills the turkey for dinner. From the turkeys perspective, the probability of such an event occurring based on past events was 0. But from the farmers perspective it was certain. This is the crux of Taleb’s argument against the dependence on models using the statistical bell curve: because it works until it doesn’t. I’m a little bit hungover regarding the flaws or inadequacy of this. I see favour in using the model works for most contexts – but Talebs argument is it only works within the context of mediocrestan; not extremestan. There is no evidence that a black swan event will occur in mediocrestan until it occurs within the context of extremestan. We are narrative machines – we fail to predict black swan events (true random events) because our interpretation of the territory (reality) is within the bounds of mediocrestan philosophy and models. History, or society changes through large shifts, not in small iterations. And those large shifts only occur in retrospect. We give reasons to events after the fact, point out the signs, or what caused, when in fact it was probably random.

Part of this thinking has changed the way I view luck – luck is always misinterpreted with some form of conscientious, power to choose – randomness occurs all the time. For every Elon Musk there are at least 100 others who were never published, that were just as significant. People who prevent events are never remembered because the events never occurred. Only those who fixed event that had an impact. I guess this plays into humans being fantastic narrative machines, we make sense through order and linearity. We struggle with the unknown unknowables of prevented deaths from certain technology, vs the clear known preventions of death after an event of its nature.

It’s best to view these thoughts formed from The Black Swan and Antifragile – both have the same philosophy of randomness and uncertainty. Antifragile demonstrates more about the danger in depending on certainty that randomness can not occur. If you don’t account for the possibility of randomness you are fragile, like systems of power i.e. politics. Taleb argued that the introduction of randomness, or the allowance of randomness within systems created antifragile systems. Seeking out robust models made them more susceptible to crisis like the financial crash.

The Grid, Gretchen Bakke

Thoughts on The Grid
*This post has very little editing, is constructed to reinforce my new knowledge, and therefore not that valuable to the public. I publish it to start a habit of reflection that I hope becomes valuable to more than just me.

  1. The Grid is an inquiry into the electrical system
  2. Energy is ephemeral. It’s synonymous with data. It is also instant. This collision of concepts creates an illusion of stability and constant in the minds of users. It was difficult for me to conceive of the energy powering the light above me was being generated at that very instant. Energy, electricity is not like water. It travels to the least resistant path which could be thousands of kilometers but still arrive almost instantaneously. Power is made to specifications of how much is estimated to be used. This can cause shortfalls when technology usage like AC is underestimated due to poor weather forecasting.
  3. Appropriate to comment on the Finkel Review, which proposed solutions for Australia’s energy.
    1. Most alarming, or most notable is the onus on the user and the protection of the utility.
    2. Utilities will reward customers for managin their electricity demand. How does a customer better manage their electricity. One way is they use less energy. But that’s not enough, as The Grid hammers, peak use is between 6-10, if you can manage your usage then, then everyone will be happy. But that’s difficult. Managing your electricity means utilitising electricity across the day not in one chunk. This is the advantage of IOT devices where users will be able to conduct chores like washing remotely. Or cool the house down with AC before you arrive home. The 5 – 10 is the period after the labour market ends. Air Con is here to stay and to propose users manage their electricity is asking for too much. Unbeknowest to me is the fridges large energy surplus. It sucks up 20% of the energy produced. Plus during the peak period it is opened on average 5- 10 times to it demands more. Better technology is needed.
    3. The comment on cyber security is important but not that important. Wildlife and trees causes the majority of damage, then natural disasters, then people, then cyber threats. Cyber threats is likely to increase with greater reliance on server run facilities. But at this stage it is hyperbole.
    4. Future reliability. Our generators are old. Real old. They not only need to be replaced but non-renewable energy and a focus on energy storage is key. Odd that Finkel did not mention this. It only suggested to replace with more efficient generators – energy source not mentioned.
    5. Lower emissions, a very PC term to support the utilities attempts at transitioning. Lower emissions does not mean renewable energy. It seems pathetic to only state lower – not even by what margin – instead of stating that there needs to be little to no emmisions. We have the capacity to transition to renewables but the huge, old industries that invested in coal and gas don’t wont their profits to be cut off yet.
  4. The increase in solar panels and the mirco/nano grid. Places like Hawaii are covered with solar panels. There has been a clear ideological transition from democratic, to environmental, to economic appreciation of self-generated power. The once off-grid weirdo is now the high-life power generator. Before the development of the grid most energy production was onsite in elite estates or private corporations. It was not developed for the masses, it was not conceived as viable for the masses. Now it has come full circle, people are generating solar energy which assists the grid producing ‘negawatts’ which can be subsidized. In Australia 2008 14000 small-scale solar photovoltaic units, to 2017 there are almost 1.7 million units. This is not only important for future planning of the grid, but highlights the downturn of the grid. The grid is not as needed. Except when the sun doesn’t come out it is needed.
  5. The grid needs to be able to deliver energy 24/7 otherwise they will start to lose money. This is why fuel based energy like coal, gas and nuclear is sustainable and preferred because it provides a stable output of energy. Compared to solar or wind that can generate too much or not enough, both outcomes can render the grid inoperable. This is representative of South Australia energy debate that had wind energy criticised for its statewide blackouts. The problem is not the energy source,  the infrastructure has not been improved to meet the new demands i.e. battery storage. This is which Tesla is installing a large battery farm to support the surplus of energy production.
  6. Electricity has some cool properties. It is best conceptually thought of as sentient electrons that want to return to their polar opposite. Electrons are dispelled with energy from their bonds which causes them to surge towards the path of least resistance. Electricity does not escape our power outlets because air has a very high resistance. Metal is very low.
  7. Powerlines are made of different metals depending on the length and voltage of the line. The compacitors or resistors all have a analogue capacity to shut off power supply if it gets too high.
  8. There is no baseload. It is important to think of energy usage on a continuum. It is not uncommon for generators to be turned on to meet increasing demand during the day, and turned off at night.
  9. A difficult factor in improving our grid is the grid is made up of many different stakeholders who all want to earn a profit for their investors. This can lead to issues where renewable energy generators will not be turned off, even if the infrastructure transporting the energy can’t handle the load and requests it be switched off. Seconds of no power generation can quickly amount to large profit losses.
  10. The complexity of the grid is frustrating due to the seriousness of electricity. Access to electricity has become a right. It is crucial for many lifestyles. It’s urgency in providing clean power to all is similar to water – corporations are often the first barrier to access.

A3 FINAl

I wanted to capture trauma, something intense enough in a one minute film to be consumed again and again. I represent this through flashes of memory and discovery.

I was inspired by black and white suspense films like Hitchcock. The approach of the eye was designed to draw you in, make you feel voyeuristic.

The loop structure was carried across from my first piece, but Nolan’s Mementos film was a major influence on the structure, colour design, and time deconstruction.

Thematically I was inspired by Del Toro’s Pans Labyrinth. The fairytale-like structure, with hints of magic realism, it conveys how I perceive the world and how i feel about the topic of where I’m from.

The piece moves with the music, the subject, and the camera movement. I captured calmness with a back drop of dread, movements pulled from Fincher’s Gone Girl, my Audio from assessment 2 was repurposed.