2013-07-22

EFT: on My Relationship with Work

Being short of work just gives me too much time to think about love, sex, the taste of food, and dumb stuff like that. Well. It's genetic.
Having read this post, a friend responded:
"dumb stuff"?? Those are the best things about being alive.
So on the drive home today, this provided substance for reflection. I don't think that those are the best things in my life, in fact, I do think that the best thing about my life is the work that I have had the opportunity to do, and play a part in.
There are two different sorts of things that I find myself most frequently referring to as "work."

Firstly, there's the work that everyone talks about... what they do for money, and what I do for money is likewise frequently referred to as my work.

Secondly, there's the work that I do because I think (i) it could be done a certain way, and (ii) no one else that I know of is really making an effort to do it exactly the way that I think about it.

Sometimes the first and second overlap; often they do not.
Broadly speaking, my work is my concern with how all of human knowledge fits together. In business, this would be regarded as 'knowledge management,' and in academia, this might be referred to as 'history of ideas,' 'metaphysics,' 'metanarrative,' or 'theory of everything."

My (surely limited) understanding of the state of the problem:
While in college, I spent a bit of time looking at the then-current situation, by studying how academic communities organised themselves into disciplines (the journal / publication / documentation model) and departments (the university / accreditation / teaching model). My conclusion from that brief study was that even the best universities on Earth were neither very universal, nor interested in curating a coherent model of the universe.

There are many commentaries on this, by other authors, so I'm sure if you're interested in this phenomena and its place in history, you can go read about it.
My (extremely meager) approach to chipping away at the problem:
I do feel privileged to be one of those people who has had the time to accumulate a perspective on this subject. I study the structure of memories. I study humans, having interacted with many, and being one myself, and I study machines, having had the opportunity to interact with many, and to create a few.

In humans, memory is the ultimate medium in which we have our experiences. Our experiences of our lives are, by definition, what we can remember of them. We have names for the "things," we remember, and that helps us to remember those "things." Love, fear, desire, loathing, despair, emptiness, all feelings, tastes and smells, images and sounds, are organised into a single conscious medium... our human memories. From an appreciation of these experiences ('phenomena') we are led to a more refined understanding of the same, yet confined in the same medium which is human memory.

Our natural scientific understanding ranges from abstract modelling of that which is barely testable, to the raw substance of sensation as we experience it - from mathematics to spectronomy. Equipped with these elementary models we struggle to understand the monstrous complexity of biological systems on our planet. With similar tools, we have created a biosphere of commerce, from the lock-step mechanisms of project and risk management, to the statistical tools which we use to corale talent in organisations, and the economy of contracts which define the abstractions of "currencies," and "securities," and their interplay with "material," goods and services.

As a superset of standard theory ('science'), our literary traditions document and reflect upon the most basal gestalts of cognition, offering up uncountable mutations. These gestalts are communicated through language, and understood by minds on a global scale. We are in a century of advances in communication technology... that will ultimately result in infrastructure that will one day allow a child to promote and operationalise, within hours, to a large chunk of the species, original ideas for the benefit of the species. (I am referring to contemporary 'app,' eco-systems, platforms-as-services, and the logical progression of their development into the near future.)

I have been grossly privileged to wrestle with the mechanics of all of these, and to have understood how they could possibly fit together in human memory. To-date, my best strategy for the communication of this understanding, is to work in the field of machine intelligence. It is my hobby (or 'project') to study the design of machines that will one day appreciate all human structures of memory, in all the ways above, and which will thereafter exceed the ability of the individual human brain in doing what the human brain currently does. To be precise, I do expect machine minds to accomplish feats that are quantitatively, and qualitatively, distinct from our human thoughts today. I expect that one day, should we not run ourselves into an environmental apocalypse, machine minds will accelerate our civilisation's understanding of our universe.
Against this long-term hobby, I must of course find a way to pay for it. And at the moment, I am embarking on a decade to focus on financing the pursuit of my hobby for the rest of my life.

My work is endless, feckless, and thankless. But if I did not do it, I would be more bored than I currently am. Besides these aspects of my work, it would be nice to have a normal social life as well, but that has for a while now, been a secondary concern. Who knows, to any extent, I might change in the future. Such is life.
As an afterthought, I'm frequently reminded about the economic cost of putting process control to bear on the management of one's mental resources over the span of a lifetime. For example, as I was nearing the end of my drive home just now, at half-past midnight, on a road frequented with perhaps 2-3 cars/minute, I saw a male and female having what appeared to be an emotional discussion on the curb. I did not stop to ask if either of them needed assistance, and the potential outcome of such a situation is statistically significant enough to warrant concern. But having this in mind, I decided to put more emphasis on having a ready plan to offer assistance in the future, while heading home to put on some jazz, take a shower, and write this article. Now I wish I had more sentimental concerns, but many of mine have been temporarily discarded - who knows, I might even be permanently impaired.

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