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What Makes You Happy?

March 16, 2010

When I was out for a walk yesterday morning I got to thinking, “What is it in my life that makes me happy?”  I thought it was worth writing down all the things in my life which I look forward to every day.

After thinking on it for quite a while, I determined that around 90% of all my pleasures in life come from having leisure time and learning new things.  A huge portion of my happiness comes from learning.  There are other things which interest me from time to time, but nothing quite gives me the thrill I get when I’m alone in my study working on various research pursuits.

I don’t know which area of research I’d consider most primary.   I’ve never been able to decide among various fields of research.   Here are the main things in life I pursue and am interested in these days:

1. The nature of the mind

Every time I watch a sci-fi movie, and there’s a robot on their spaceship doing some task for them, I just can’t help myself.  My thoughts start to roam and I think how wonderful that idea is.  To build a robot which has intelligence like a human being.  A robot capable of thinking and doing various complex actions.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather build for humanity.  If God came down from heaven and said, “Jason, if you could invent one thing, and I will supernaturally infuse you with knowledge as to how to build it, what would you choose?”  I would choose knowledge as to exactly how the brain works, and all of its logical operations.  Then I’d use that information to build an artificial life-form which could replicate itself and then dispatch those robots to relieve humanity from all toil.

All the robots would be linked together to a master “brain” server, where all the knowledge of humanity is stored.  There’d be robot “terminals” in every city, which looked and spoke like people, and you could sit down with them and ask them anything.  That would be so amazing.

Not only this, but I love learning how the mind works, and attempting to build such things.   It’s just so much fun.

I would be talking with my robot all the time.  I’d be coming up with various theories related to the economy, scientific pursuits, and more, and then I’d ask the robots to confirm of disprove whether I’m right.  All my lab assistants would be robots.  They’d sort through all the data, help me perform meticulous observations, and then let me know what they find out.   It’d be incredible.  Humanity would progress by leaps and bounds.

There would no longer even be a need for money.  Nobody would ever be forced to do anything.  Robots could build us all mansions and do every crummy job we hate.  And they wouldn’t mind it either.  They’d just mindlessly do our bidding programmed to smile at us, always replying, “I’m happy to serve.”

Of course, if I knew exactly how the brain worked, in every way, I’m sure I’d genetically modify myself to where I wouldn’t even need the robots to process information for me.  I’d modify all of us humans and give everyone super powerful minds which could communicate telepathically, and everyone would know everything.

I’d program my brain to be perfectly photographic, capable of remembering literally everything exposed to it, never forgetting new information.  I’d vastly enhance its capabilities to process information.

That pursuit of wanting to understand myself, and the mind, is really what fuels my love of philosophy and neuroscience.   I love studying artificial intelligence and programming computers.

When you watch a sci-fi movie and there’s this rogue scientist guy down in a lab someplace, dimly lit, science equipment all around, working on some crazy invention, that suits me perfectly.  That’s exactly the sort of person I am.

2.  Physics Research

I’m interested in everything related to the universe and engineering.  I love learning how to build things and how everything works.

Sometimes I find myself reading technical engineering books for no reason at all.  Most people find no interest in water pumps, but I do.  Ultrasound machines?  Sonar?  Wind turbines?  Give me books and specifications on it, and I’ll sit here and study it all.

I find joy building things.  Study hydraulics and water pumps, and construct an enormous water fountain and install it in a lake.  Install lights as well and let everyone enjoy it at night.  Or build a high pressure hose which can literally cut through thick rock.  Take a giant rock and make yourself a statue.

I love just walking around town and knowing how everything works.  It’s neat knowing I could build a cell phone jammer and place it in city park, leaving everyone’s cell phones within a two mile radius inoperative, receiving nothing but static.  If I was given the right equipment, I could build you one right here and now.   If I knew the encryption I could start talking to everyone, “Mwhwahahahaha.  All your phones belong to me!” … “Who is this?” … “Hmmm, I wonder?”  *Click … static*

Ten years from now I’ll really be capable of doing some crazy stuff.  I mean crazy.  Knowledge is power.  It’s weird knowing how electrical meters work and how easily they can be manipulated if you need some more power for your lab but are short on funds (LOL).

Or constructing a magnetically levitated train, and understanding exactly how it all works.  That’s just bad ass.  It’s literally like you’re floating in the air zooming all over the place.

And how could anyone not be interested in the universe?  Quantum mechanics?  General relativity?  My gosh, how could you NOT be fascinated?

My favorite time to be awake is at night.  I love to go for walks at 2 AM in the morning, when nobody is out.  I walk out into an open field somewhere and just look up.  Though we often don’t think about it, we really do live on a rock, twirling around like a merry-go-round through space and time in the Milky Way.  Billions and billions of suns, and galaxies galore.  It’s all there, even if you don’t ever think about it.

Though it’s all there, I don’t think many people think about it.  They see the stars at night and I think it’s more of a pretty picture to them, and they don’t actually realize that those are all ENORMOUS fire balls.  We concern ourselves with our stupid jobs, and running to the little league game to watch Johnny, but all in all, the universe is still out there, waiting for someone to discover it.

3.  Economics research

Have you ever just looked out the window and thought that the entire world is rigged?  Why some people have billions and others can’t even get by?

I too wonder those things every day.  I have this obsession to learn everything about money.  Money runs this world, and I have so many questions I wonder about.  The more I study economics, the more I want to study.

The more physics I learn, the less I seem to understand about the world.  Economics is the same way.  I seem to always be learning everything I don’t know, and how my old beliefs have been wrong, whereas I’ve rarely learned the solution to the problems I think about.

I think anyone who keeps up with the world, in any capacity, knows that this world is run by the big corporations.  They buy off our politicians and their greed seems to know no ends.    With me there’s this inner fascinating with the mechanics as to how it’s all done.  I get joy in learning how it all works, even if it is depressing in many ways.

But I enjoy studying all kinds of other subjects.  History is a big one.  Lately I’ve been wanting to do a huge study into Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, but haven’t had the time yet.

What else makes me happy.  Well, I love going out for long walks outdoors.  Just yesterday I went for a 2 hour walk.  Sometimes I just start walking and do a complete lap around town.  Half the time I’m thinking about some philosophical problem, or just mindlessly walking.  Either way, I find it relaxing.

I used to enjoy driving around town, but I don’t anymore.  I’ve only driven my car like four times in the past two years.  No kidding.  I have no desire to drive.

But I absolutely LOVE motorcycles.  Hop on a motorcycle and go for a road trip across the country.  I love riding motorcycles.  I love it when you get to going fast and you can’t hear anything.  All you hear is the wind in your ears.  Imagine driving down the interstate at 70 mph then sticking your head out the window.   That’s what it’s like on a motorcycle.

Then you take a sharp turn leaning into it.  Engine rumbling.  Oh man, it’s heaven.  *daydreams.  extends arms in front of keyboard, like it’s handlebars.  Turns up some Steppenwolf*

Some people say motorcycles are two-wheeled death machines.  If I end up dieing in a motorcycle crash, at least I was enjoying myself up until that point!

Riding around Missouri on a motorcycle is just like in this clip, when they’re on the highway, forest all around them.  Trees and hills.  That’s Missouri.  It’s really nice.

I love road trips.  Not in cars.  I hate sitting in a car for that long.  But I love doing it on motorcycles.

I also love any sort of decorations for motorcycles.  Little medals and things I can hang from my saddle-bags or handlebars.

I love leather jackets of all sorts, especially if they have cool things embroidered into them.  I like motorcycle helmets, leather gloves.  I just love motorcycles and anything to do with them.

I really love playing basketball.  Sometimes I go to the gym and shoot around for hours.  I don’t even need anyone to play with.  I just love shooting three pointers.  See how many I can make in a row.

Video games are a lot of fun to me.  I have a nerdy side to me and like role playing games.  I’ll be going through Final Fantasy XIII on the PS3 before too long.   I used to play games all the time.  I still play them, though not near as much.

I enjoy all kinds of other things but those are the things I do most frequently.  I read, study, do research, go for long walks, ride motorcycles, play basketball and video games.

I’d like to add a nice girl to my life as well, but that’ll have to come when it comes.   I think that’d add a lot of happiness as well.  You’ll notice in everything listed here, it’s all done alone.  I spend most all my time alone.  Really, it doesn’t bother me being alone a lot.  I prefer it actually.

I don’t think I’ve ever understood loneliness as some experience it.  I’ve never felt a pain from being alone and not around people.  But just the other day I heard someone say that loneliness is the feeling you have when you miss friends or someone special to you.  If that’s the case, then I’m lonely at times.  Thoughts of old friends, and wanting to talk with them surfaces in me while I’m out for walks.

When I’m out with friends I enjoy one of two types of situations:  1) simple fun, or 2) intellectual conversations.  I’m fine with either.   I enjoy shooting pool, playing arcade games, eating out somewhere, miniature golf… all sorts of things really.   I also like long walks with a friend, if it’s the right company.

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