Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Start-ups and puzzles.

I think I am a detail person. I can get lost in details, making sure that everything is just the way it should be. Even the innocuous areas are covered and catered for.
Then I like to step back, often before I have finished the task in hand too. I step back to gain a glint of context. To make sure that the perspective is right, and this is when I go a little crazy.
One by one, I see the related tasks pop into view. All require and deserve the care and attention that I have been giving my current task. I see it all and know that it is an incredulous task. Not merely daunting but soul shattering.

Slightly over the top, I’m sure I am however this can often stop me in my tracks.
Why though should it affect me this way? It’s a common problem surely? Undoubtedly it is, I’m just not sure I accept the common solution for the common problem.
A mammoth task is normally always broken down into smaller and smaller ‘bite size’ chunks to make the task more palatable. Sure, this is a fine solution and will always have application. If one person takes control, they can easily maintain perspective, and easily step out of the problem and make sure they are still on track.
The problem I have is when it gets to that next stage, when it becomes too much for one person. The chunks seem to get smaller and smaller the more complex the overall task and before you know it the context is thoroughly lost.

I think an example of this is something we have been seeing a lot of recently. I’m thinking about when a small start-up rapidly surpasses a massive corporation. I believe that a corporation gets so diluted that it can no longer see the complete problem. At which point it takes a small start-up to identify the problem that the corporation are not addressing and solve it quickly. They are in a position where the context is fresh on their mind. Everyone is eager to make a difference and they know their piece of the puzzle intimately and know that once it is complete, how it will fit with the rest. The main problem after the start-up is established is of course to stay on top. Often with the shear weight of that task the new kids on the block can fall apart. Perhaps that’s a discussion for another day?
Can you think of a time when a problem has been broken down so far that its constituent pieces can no longer be related to each other?

Yours, whilst trying to perfect pesky puzzle pieces,


PS: not all tasks overwhelm me like that, just sometimes I feel the delay whilst I try to process it all…

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Happiness as a Statistic

I heard a statistic the other day that frightened me. Well, frightened me more than the standard obligatory fear you get when you hear any statistic. The frightening number was that around 30 million Americans suffer from depression and that’s only the ones that are being prescribed Prozac, Valium and the other happy pills. There is also a very similar percentage of ‘depressed’ people in the UK as well; two countries that are meant to be on the forefront of economic growth.
Although this fact is scary in of itself, the scarier thought is that is appears to be hip to talk about happiness at the moment. Governments, sociologists, bloggers, economists all have something to say about it.
What I am worried about is that scientists are starting to understand what a happy brain should look like, the patterns in static that indicate elation. What worries me is that we could get the wrong end of the stick and prod and poke our brains chemically, sonically or physically to bend the waves from a sad face to a happy one. Happiness from the inside out if you will. Not in a Buddhist way of course, in a cold utilitarian way.
I just think of the Philip K. Dick conceived box that enabled you to dial in an emotion. ‘Please press one for happiness, press two for depression, press three for love…’ In a world where psychiatrists hand out anti-depressants like the Easter bunny hands out Easter eggs, this is surely the next step.
In a pessimistic way I wonder if happiness becomes another statistic that governments are rated on what route we will take. Will we download the emotion of the day through our technological gadget of the moment? Will we have a Monday pill which makes us forget the weekend happened and makes work the most exciting thing to happen to us? Will we opt for the artificial Orwellian future?

Press one you say?


Sunday, 16 January 2011

How vs Why

As I sit here and contemplate the universe... Well I don't do it all the time, though it is always fun to rationalise the world and I don't suppose I have gotten to the Universe yet. They tell me its big?

Right, subject mater: Ever wonder how a thoroughly educated individual can be utterly and unabashedly stupid?
Well, my thoughts on it boiled down to the following. Like the universe, the world is big and like the universe, the world is populated by many congealed masses. As one of those congealed masses in this world, strewn out amongst , it is very easy to feel small.
Faced with the enormity of the world like this an individual (I know I do this) will break down the infinite variables and possibilities into manageable chunks, and they will do this in such a way as to make it as easy as possible. The less time it takes them to get what they want out of one chunk, is more time they can spend on other chunks.
None of what I have said so far is bad, or even a hairs breadth from a sane way to deal with it all. The problem I have, comes from what a person does to break it all down.

Here I talk about the difference from seeing cause and affect, and knowing what relates the two.

An example! To add context to my blabbering... A simple one is using a TV remote. Most people understand that if you press buttons on the remote, the TV reacts. However not many people understand why it works.
Obviously in this situation the difference between understanding these two is not so profound. The off button makes Trisha go away or the off button transmits and infrared signal to the TV receiver which cuts the power.

Another! I see this still, and I have seen it a lot. College students are faced with many questions. About what they want to do with their life, whats the next step for them, what's the meaning of life... etc. And in the face of so many questions it is difficult to give any of them the time they deserve. So one important question they ask is 'How do I get a good job?' They know that they want to do something with their lives but they don't know what. However, when they look at the world around them, they see that educated people, with degrees, masters, PHDs all seem to have the good jobs and more answers than questions. So there you have the answer, if you want a good job, you need to go to University. That is the inevitable 'How' the darkside. The shortcut that can lead to so many problems. It is such an easy route that I do not blame anyone for going down it, it is just a shame that it is so dangerous. Again, I should add, that not all people come to this conclusion.

Faced with the quick answer to 'How,' what reason is there to ask 'Why?' Especially when answering a why question is so much harder and takes so much more time
So they go to Uni, come out with a degree (mostly) and then face the world, expecting a job, expecting to be experts, expecting answers. Funnily enough, none will come that easy. Going to Uni has posed more questions for them, to which they have asked how to get around them rather than why.
How do they get a good grade? Tick the boxes for what gives you points towards grade.
Why do they do this? Because it is far easier than truly understanding the depths of the field they are learning.

I think that it is so important to always try to understand why. Not only because actually understanding the way one thing works will enable you to understand another more fully but also because it will give you so much more.

I'm sure there are many examples people can think of where either they, or people around them have settled for how over why.

Yours, still asking why,

Victor Blemish

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Bigger Picture

It frustrates me how people really do struggle to see the bigger picture. Sure, it is hard, astronomically hard. One action, or inaction can do a lot to change the course of things. Though, if you add one action to the actions of billions of others and sure enough you have a bigger picture, like the pixels which now display you this blog.
Now, I started with 'see the bigger picture' earlier when I really should have stipulated that I in truth mean perceive. A very subtle difference though I assure you it is there.

For example I remember a joke on Facebook a while back. (I know there are other more rewarding stories, though this makes it easier to make my point without distracting you!) The joke was if everyone went out and ‘panic bought carrots’ on a particular day then there would be a shortage of carrots

Har har, sure, the concept is hilarious, though when the stunt is finished it just ends up that everyone has a lot of carrots and there is no link back to the real world. None of the participants seem to get it.

So, earlier I may have implied that you should use perceive in the place of the word see in my first sentence. What I should have used is comprehend. I say this because they see the carrots, they perceive the fact that many people have many of them though the miss the part that they were part of something greater than themselves. (Remember its not about the carrots, its about the, ‘being part of something great’ I know there are more poetic examples of the masses making the difference. Just right now, I’m trying to take about something else.)

These people don’t comprehend that they have bought just a few of millions carrots and then become part of something, or if they do it is very quickly lost to them. Things like this happen all the time; people say that they don’t recycle because ‘nobody else does.’ They say, ‘sure I bought some carrots, but if I hadn’t bothered there would have still been millions of carrots purchased.’

All this and I haven’t really touched on what I consider the bigger picture yet…
We (plural) have the power to literally change the face of the Earth (singular) but we just don’t comprehend the bigger picture. So slowly we damage, destroy, grow and gluten en masse. Despite this though there are still people (singular) that notice and try and remind us (plural) that if we just step back and take a look at what we are doing we would probably be appalled. This little girl tries to tell us, of which I am sure there are more.

I don’t blame us of course. As I said at the start it is hard to comprehend the actions that we take now fundamentally affect the culture, the landscape, the moral and ethical choices of future generations. Neuroscientists tell us that this kind of thinking is hard. We are still running on the programming of our oldest ancestors, where it is we and those close to us are more important than the rest.

If I now appear to be barking down from upon a high horse I should dismount it now and say, that although I see the lack of comprehension I have no answers for how to solve it, or how to address the problems that we have and will have caused for ourselves. I only suggest that the best course of action is to realise that we truly never fully comprehend it all and we should always act upon that belief. If we start from there and work up it will surely be hard to go wrong no?

Yours indignation on behalf of the world

Victor Blemish

PS: this isn’t actually the post I planned to write. It was a lot less heavy and dark. I do believe there is hope! And although we will always find it difficult to comprehend the bigger picture at least we are trying.

PPS: I was going to link a load of interesting articles etc in the text but I decided to do the extras here:
Neuroscientists talking about morality wrapped up in a neat little podcast
Then the little girl

Monday, 30 August 2010

Getting it out of your head

I have lists. Numerous lists. Some that hold a physical form and some that are just whispers in my mind. Not as many as some but a fair few nonetheless. One of these lists contains subjects that I want to post about and on this list is written the words ‘Getting it out of your head.’

Obviously the link has now been made as to why I am commenting on the lists I make, however my point still eludes. I create these lists in their physical (or digital) form to clear my clouded mind of all the busying and bustling ideas and information that resides within—as trivial as most of them may be. I find I need to do this. I feel that it is terribly important if I am ever to progress on anything. It’s one of my perpetual attempts at shoehorning structure into my life and one that has stuck! I must say though that as interesting as this may be for me, this was all I really had to talk about on the subject and I didn’t think that it should be classed as good post material. It lacked substance as I really wasn’t sure why I liked to get as much of it out as possible and I wasn’t sure if it even helped.

With this said it remained on the list untouched and unperturbed, until today. A ‘podcast’ brought it into my periphery in a rather roundabout way. The podcast was called Choices in a series of well thought-out and produced episodes called Radiolab. The episode reignited my awe for the subconscious mind. How it is constantly recording, constantly calculating and constantly going unnoticed. It has always seemed extraordinary to me how powerful it really is. The trouble is that this is not really the subject of Radiolab’s podcast, nor does it directly link to this post.
You may have to bear with me here. Radiolab’s episode discusses how easy it is to confuse the analytical side of your brain when making choices. They mention the rule of ‘seven plus or minus two,’ which is the number of digits that the average person can remember at a time. They then explain how feeding the analytical side with this many pieces of information completely fogs it up and removes it from decision making process entirely.

The way I see it is that the conscious mind is made up of the analytical and emotional parts whilst the subconscious mind holds the information. If you clog up the conscious mind with too much information you will fail to make the right choice. Try making a decision when angry or sad and making a decision when you have lots on your mind is equally difficult. Ideally you need to clear your head of anything that isn’t relevant and go with your instinct! It’s not always going to work for many reasons that Radiolab’s episode explores. Though it surely can’t help to keep everything in your head.

So there you have it, the link from the list to the subconscious; if only we could unlock it completely.

Yours, currently crossing one off the list,

Victor Blemish

Friday, 27 August 2010

Good Vs. Evil

My brother ranted the other day. He ranted that ‘good’ is only an illusion that is reinforced by antiquated stories that get passed down through the ages. His experience is that there is no balance of ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ and only malevolent actions.
Well, that is if I paraphrased and understood correctly anyway.
These thoughts got my mind working—made the little cogs turn and essentially, if you strip away all the pessimism and anger, he is right.

‘Good’ and ‘evil’ is just an illusion, an illusion that can evoke endless emotion. A wicked act will wail in your mind. It will torment and torture you, driving you to fury! Just as a wondrous act of kindness will warm your heart and elate your soul. The concept is one that encompasses the causality of benevolent and spiteful actions
What I am saying here is that the concept of good and evil is an illusion however I am stipulating that both are illusions. If good is, then you have got to believe that evil is too.
But what does that mean in a world where all that is televised is the wrongdoing? All that is shouted about is the malice, the anger and the suffering. The evil side of the illusion is forced upon us so we must complete this two-sided illusion. We need to tell and remember the stories that fight the battle for good. We must do this because at first glance we live in a messed up world that is fuelled off stories of woe. If we don’t remind ourselves of all the good that does exist then the evil that appears to ooze from every pore of our bedraggled world will bog us down.

Now to put it in slightly chirpier a way: the world is wonderful and under every unturned rock you can find its’ hidden wonder, if you were to look.

Yours pre rock flipping,


Monday, 9 August 2010

Fwd, Bwd, Up and Dwn

As I march through life people have often told me not to look down, ‘There’s more to the world than what you’re about to step on.’

Then other people say I shouldn’t look up, ‘Get your head out of the sky son, you keep dreamin’ like that and you’ll never get anything done!’
I have definitely also been told not to look back, ‘don’t dwell on what has happened to you and what you’ve done. Obsess over the past and you are doomed to repeat it.’

And as I continue my trudge, they also tell me not to look forward, ‘With your head so far in the future you may very well end up missing the now.’

A distinct contradiction of terms that renders me motionless and suspended between the four directions. Of course I understand what they mean. As with many things, partaking in excess is not good for you, however this got me thinking.
Without the dreamers looking up at the sky and asking, ‘what if?’ The world would be so much less spectacular. Without the people watching where they are going, routed and steady. Their heads engrossed in the now and enjoying the beauty of the present, we might all miss it. If no one studied the past then we might all just forget it. Lessons and triumphs lost in the wastes of time. And finally, though no less important, without people with one foot in the future we would no doubt, never get anywhere at all.

So with that I do say that I must disagree. I disagree with those who tell me not to dream, not to reminisce, and not to think too much on what may or will be, not to watch where I am treading. I say that the world needs them all and on a smaller scale, each of us need to be a bit of them all for confidence and stability in yourself.
It cant be too healthy to be one more than another, so expose yourself in this light and really probe your decisions and see if you can make yourself a little more balanced.
Though, if you manage a perfect balance then you are far superior to me! I tend not to toil over it however. I figure as long as I look at what I am doing and assess whether it is keeping me positive then I don’t mind where I sit on the graph. As far as I am concerned that’s it, you just have to stay positive about yourself then it’s hard to get roughed up by the unpredictability of it all.

So I ask simply, ‘Where do you fit on the graph? And would you be better off marching with a different target in mind?’

Yours looking up (Currently)

Victor Blemish