If life is an arcade, what games do you play?

Introduction

When I was young, we would go to the arcade. At the arcade, there were games that took tokens and spit out tickets. When the adult gave us our tokens, most kids would run around aimlessly, feeding tokens into games and laughing and getting a ticket or two, but nothing much. However, I wasn’t playing yet. I was picturing myself walking out with a G.I. Joe action figure from behind the counter that costed 100 tickets.

So, I waited, paid attention, and learned. I studied the other kids and counted the tokens they dug out of their pockets. I noted how many tickets buzzed out of the machine on a win. But most of all, I began understanding the differences between luck and skill, and the cost of amusement.

When I knew enough, I pounced on the game that gave me a good chance of winning that 100 tickets, but that also gave me a bit of fun even if I lost.

photo-1513528473392-f3fffb1b31a9

Photo by Rebecca Oliver on Unsplash

How do we choose what games to play? Well, it depends on the game and the possible results.

Consider three types of games: Random Guesses, Estimated Predictions, and Educated Aims.

Game Is like… Know the answer options? Will more info help? More info means more answer options? Time spent analyzing
Random Guess Rubber Band Yes No No Seconds
Estimated Prediction Trebuchet Maybe Yes Yes Minutes – Hours
Educated Aim Rocket Program No Yes No Hours – Days
  1. Random Guesses = Rubber Bands.

It’s like grabbing a rubber band from the desk, pinching and pulling back one end, and then releasing, flinging it across the room. A Rubber Band game is a quick hit of adrenaline and lasts only a few seconds.
Rubber Bands have low stakes. I know little going in, it doesn’t take much skill, and I don’t learn much while analyzing. Reward and risk are small. Winning and losing have a trivial effect on my life. There’s a low-cost threshold required to play. I know the answer options beforehand (for example yes/no, or any number 1-10).

So, for example, while walking down the sidewalk I decide to guess the state of a car’s license plate before seeing it. It’s not worth spending much time deciding whether I want to play or not, because it’d be so quick to take a guess. And I can stare at the side of the car all I want, but it won’t really help me guess the license plate any better.

  1. Estimated Predictions = Trebuchets.

It’s like pushing a trebuchet into place, measuring distances, angles, wind speed, placing the projectile, coordinating responsibilities among engineers, and pulling the lever, hurling the rock across the countryside.

Trebuchet games are a step up from Rubber Bands. Trebuchets are more complex and have higher stakes, requiring minutes to hours of play. More skill and knowledge are required to win. But luckily, I can learn more to increase my chances. Reward and risk are higher. Winning and losing significantly affect my life. There may be a substantial cost threshold required to play, because while Rubber Bands involve me as an observer, Trebuchets require me to participate in the game as an actor. Either way, I may know the answers going in, or may not. In that case, more effort helps not only to win, but also to figure out the possible answers. But with both Rubber Bands and Trebuchets, all answers can be found eventually.

So, for example, even though this car in front of me has its left blinker on, it’s been on for a while without switching lanes, so it’s probably not going to switch lanes (I’ve seen this before). Based on my analysis I’m gonna go ahead pass this car with its blinker on. What happens next is the result of the bet: discovering whether the car turns left or not. The longer I drive behind this car with its blinker on without it turning, the more likely it is that the driver left the blinker on by accident; conversely as time goes on the more likely it is that the car will turn if it had intended to.

  1. Educated Aims = Rocket Programs.

It’s like researching and developing and testing and managing for months to build a sustainable program to launch rocket after rocket into space. Rocket games are immensely complex have the highest stakes of all: your life. The utmost skill and knowledge are necessary to even start playing. Rewards include a fruitful and successful life, while risks include death: both immediate and creeping. There’s no end to Rocket games. Any possible answers can’t be verified as the winning play, which means there is no clear winning or losing: the game always continues while players put hours and days and years of life into playing.

The key to Rockets is the cost threshold to play. The value earned or lost in Rockets is the journey toward finding and aligning life along the best possible journey rather than winning the game itself. Before playing, I must make a conscious decision to dive into the game that has no end, in which I bet my life over time to seek the answer that may not exist. But if I do well at the game, my Rocket Program will be healthy and send many rockets to space, discovering countless new horizons.

Suppose I have a convertible car. I drive my convertible, and not something else, because I am betting on its value over real and potential costs. I trust that I can drive it from point A to B consistently and stylishly and in accordance with my values. Even though I may have to replace the brakes soon, the value of the convertible to me is greater the cost over the long term, or at least I think it is. There are so many variables of value and cost, both present and future, that it’s impossible to determine the most rational choice. And the infinitude of life means that I can’t even fathom how many choices are even possible. So, my gamble is the continued driving of my convertible… for now.

carl-raw-599586-unsplash

Featured Photo by Carl Raw on Unsplash

Conclusions

Different games require different amounts of tokens, involve different levels of skill and luck, and spit out different types of tickets. Consider all three aspects of the game before you play.

Rubber Bands: Spend small amounts of tokens, because you’re paying for fun and amusement. The choice to play can be so instantaneous that it doesn’t take much to decide to play. Know that you may get one lousy ticket even if you win.

Trebuchets: Consider first whether winning would give you enough tickets to warrant the higher number of tokens, higher level of skill, and higher level of analysis that you must spend to play, find additional answers, and win. Also, think about whether the risk of losing those tokens without a payout would cripple you beyond repair.

Rocket Programs: Figure out whether you’d like to live as the player who plays this game, feeding in tokens without getting any tickets. The skill and analysis required to play, however, rub off on you so much that playing the game changes you, for better or worse. Is the aim noble? Is it in accordance in values? Such games involve asking: What is God? How do I aim at the highest good? Seeking that, you’re gonna learn so many good things you can do, some of which may resonate; hopefully you end up doing some of those things and producing good in the world. Or, what evil am I capable of? This will give you awareness that you won’t fall into the downward spiral of mistrust, into consenting to genocide.

“Stare at the abyss and the abyss will stare back at you.” When deciding what game to play, consider how the game will be playing you.

Advertisements

Language, Gife-Liver

~~~

Do you remember the recent decision by the British people to leave the EU? Of course you do. Do you remember what that was called? Of course you do.

Now that some dust has settled, I examine the processes before, during, and after “Brexit” with a particular lens:

I hypothesize that language can give life to things.

~~~

Consider something that is not. Impossible? Debatable, but unlikely. Language serves as a function that inputs something and gives it “realness” or “life” in our minds. That realness serves as a recipient grasped by our mental actions. For our purposes, if a vote by a nation of people to change a policy significantly affects economies, ideologies, and perceptions, then “Brexit”, and thus language, is real enough to matter.

Having the word “tree” consolidates sensory data in a way that encourages us to notice manifestations of the word in the form of patterns usually found in forests. Whereas a lack of a word may cause our attention to skip over such manifestations of patterns. Without ever noticing it, one could argue that it does not exist to us. If something has never been described in language, this does not mean that it doesn’t exist. However, certainly something having been described with language gains a considerable degree of realness.

Like electricity or getting introduced to the stage by an MC, this describing function often simply involves the connection of this piece of language to other pieces in various ways, through the connection maintaining accepted modica of usage, thus giving this piece realness. This connection serves as a platform upon which a thing is described by other (previously vetted) “real” things.

In action, consider “Brexit”: a combination of “Britain” (a country located around 55.3781° N, 3.4360° W) and “exit” (the action of taking leave). Note my explanations of the pieces themselves contain connections to other lingual pieces.

Language can give life, or degrees of realness. So, what’s the point?

 

 

~~~

Power

Understand this: That which can be more easily represented in language is more likely to be understood quicker than that which can be represented in language less easily. Repetition increases understanding. Repetition increases understanding. Repetition increases understanding. Comfort breeds understanding. Fear propels us away, into comfort.

Marketing departments exist for a reason. TV commercials cost a lot of resources. Lingual manipulation works in favor of the manipulator. Memes, fads, and slang exist from common understanding, borne from ease, repetition, and control of comfort and fear.

Language that is easy to describe, repeated, and manipulated through fear or comfort can influence the communicative dissemination and transactions of understanding.

So, I hold that “Brexit”, an easily communicable two-syllable combination of commonly known ideas, plastered on media outlets, and instilled by positivity and negativity, contributed directly and significantly to the vote in its favor. If its creation was deliberate, “Brexit’s” creators should be commended. And given a raise. “Brexit” implanted itself in many hearts and minds, at the least. One can only speculate how its sibling, “Bremain”, would’ve fared given the same attention.

In conclusion, to persuade, try inventing language. Control the ease, repetition, and level of comfort or fear associated with it. Give a description of something new that benefits you. Its foil, the non-existence of the thing, stands no chance to combat your description. Through language, we can be gods. Give life. Live gife.

 

Buy high: Get your attention’s worth

Story

I had the morning and early afternoon to explore before my flight to Dublin, so I decided to wander. While ambling through Hyde Park, London early on a late-summer day, I noticed a crowd of people gathered under some trees: extravagantly-dressed characters speaking loudly to surrounding groups of people. A few stood atop boxes. As I approached, the cacophony of monologues crept up into my ears and I entered Speaker’s Corner.

When I could finally fit a word of my own into the fray, I asked one speaker about the implications of overpopulation. Before I had finished asking my question, he snatched attention away from me and started speaking. He led us on a magical journey of speech and language, countless hecklers interrupted and argued as they pleased. The speaker wrestled for attention from many challengers.

Soon, one famous challenger arrived: a self-proclaimed fascist, dressed in military garb with a Hitler-style mustache, argued for the role of a strong state, necessity of institutions, and importance of racism. In response the first speaker wove a deep metaphor about how the challenger’s thought process could be represented as a sewage system funneling large, powerful shits.

Symbol

But this scene was more than a processing system for word-shits. It was beautiful not because of the shit in the sewer, but rather the sea into which the sewers spewed.

Here at Speaker’s Corner between strangers the right to speak is fought for and not given. Anyone can speak openly, with or without respect to those on the soap-boxes. The people constantly construct and deconstruct the social dynamics that give attention to one and take it away from another.

Social dynamics we may take for granted, but allocation of attention is less like a hierarchy and more like a swirling ocean of pure chaos. Many situations in our lives have predetermined social roles, depending on cues like status, dress, age, and confidence. Social pressure compels us to fight for attention covertly and subtly, appearing always in control. Conflicts that emerge into verbal or physical fights are deemed uncivil.

But when social dynamics are boiled down, rules fall apart and only savagery remains. The prize of these fights is dominance through attention, and the prize of attention is self-worth.

Power

In order to win attention, study how you give attention. Specifically, notice how you pay attention.

Even notice the language we use: “pay attention.” We are in control of a valuable resource that we can trade for something in return. As is the case with currency and confidence, the more you value your attention, the more others will. Those seeking your attention can provide something in return. The intelligent and successful sell their attention for highly valuable resources with developmental benefits. They sell high.

How do you get your attention’s worth?

Take an “attention pulse” throughout the day.

Keep a journal, or use a note-taking app on your phone. At certain points during the day, take note of what you were paying your attention to a moment before. For each entry, document important observations:

  • Object of attention
  • Time
  • Location
  • Context (what happened before or after this?)

And most importantly:

  • Trade-off (that which is received for your attention)

Whether it is knowledge, entertainment, social value, nourishment, relaxation, or fulfillment, this observation will reveal for what you trade your most powerful, but finite resource. Consolidate your results. Are you spending your attention wisely? If not, identify what trade-offs are most valuable to you, and budget your attention accordingly. Remember, your attention is only as good as you spend it.

~~~

The conversations at the Speaker’s Corner are passionate, radical, eloquent, and challenging: true Sophists at work. I most enjoyed the pure awe I felt at the skilled rhetoric of an individual vying for attention. Such social dynamics were incredibly entertaining to witness, and revealed a raw truth about the power of attention.

 

“Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed.” -Daniel Kahneman

Everyone has their wolf

wolf_eyes___detail_by_haloghost-d49p4ee

Who is your favorite fictional character?

Story

When I was 14 years old, as I do now, I loved to read fantasy and science fiction books. Within an epic series lived a character whom I idolized. My eyes scanned Robert Jordan’s words outlining the stout, stubborn, and humble Perrin Aybara’s quirks. But in these words I imagined myself, and my inner heroism now had a medium with which to express itself.

As Perrin Aybara delved into adventures, he began to discover a deep, powerful energy: his inner wolf. He grew a thick beard, became intimate with his senses, and noticed his eyes change into a golden hue. He could even communicate with wolves themselves.

I was born with blue eyes. After a few years, these changed to green. At 14 years old, my eye color was changing from green to an earthy, golden hazel. My canine teeth grew longer and sharper than the rest of my teeth. It couldn’t be a coincidence.

Symbol

The characteristics, thoughts, and actions of an external symbol catalyzed the development of my own characteristics, thoughts, and actions. I could metaphorically conceptualize my life through the mind of a wolf: my ideal self. So, I did. I could see the humans for the animals they are. School lunches became a crowded crossroads at a watering hole. A morning run became a hunt for survival.

Wolves are pack animals: the adaptive team member. There is the “lone wolf”: the independent explorer. There is the “alpha” of the pack: the confident leader. I appropriated every positive attribute of the “wolf” to my own identity. Am I working with others on a project? Wolves sacrifice for the good of the pack. Am I feeling lost? Go out and experience something new: look at art; climb a mountain; ask questions. Am I yearning for a mission? Establish a vision, gather help, and build something.

Power

For many years, I only lived as an animal. But recently, I began to understand the reasons why I did so. When I felt pressure, I found a way free from my longing to be a comfortable recluse, curled up in a fetal position of artificial security. When faced with a difficult interview question, for example, heat would rise into my cheeks and my neck hairs would stand on end. But now, I have trained my mind to leap for a split-second into wolf-mode. For that brief instance of silence between question and answer, time waning into slow motion, I bear my canines and flick my ears, drawing upon ages of feral spirit to reassure myself. With a brief smile, I can confidently re-focus my attention toward the task at hand.

We should not restrict our oases of inspiration to those most like us. Yes, I have my human idols: orators, visionaries, warriors. But, I learn more from noticing and grasping at similarities between things that, at first glance, appear mutually exclusive. If we don’t sense connections between things, it does not follow that these the connections don’t exist. Rather, a foreign feeling propagates because I have not conceptualized and understood the similarities, yet. That which appears furthest from me only appears as such because I am ignorant and biased. Once I open my mind to the possibility, embody it, and test it, I can hold myself to such a restricting dichotomy as “right” or “wrong.” What can we learn from ants?: About emergence theory and feedback loops. What can we learn from Watson?: About human nature. What can we learn from the moon?: About ambition. Symbols are teachers of our world.

As I walk down the crowded streets, I see lions and pumas, falcons and hawks, beetles and bears, gorillas and celery. Consider whatever animal (or thing) I smell in you a compliment. Such acts comprise my fundamental survival guide with which I consult when necessary to interact in a crazy, un-symbolized world.

“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” -Rudyard Kipling

 

Image by HaloGhost @ http://haloghost.deviantart.com/art/Wolf-Eyes-Detail-258153350