Epistemology, Philosophy, Societal musings

Do people really need human connection?

The typical argument given for people needing human connection is that we have evolved to need human connection. We are wired to want human connection. Perhaps babies are wired to want human connection before they can actually start thinking, reasoning and being creative to a larger degree.

But for the rest of us, does it make a difference if we have evolved to want human connection or not? Aren’t we constantly doing things outside of what we are “evolutionary wired to do.” We are evolutionary wired to live in forests, but most of us live under concrete brick walls. We are evolutionary wired to only eat nuts and berries and fish, but we eat pizzas and burgers. We are evolutionary wired to not use technology but almost all of us have phones and computers.

And the biggest one – we are evolutionary wired to pass on our genes but some of us choose not to have kids.

Humans are constantly creating, ideating, and doing things outside of what evolutionary biology dictates. We come up with reasons and ideas that make it plausible for us to do so. David Deutsch highlights this point in his book Beginning of Infinity and in his interview with Tyler Cowen.

Having laid this out, let’s revisit the question in my title – do we really need human connection? There is this fear around robot sex dolls (which in fact, I’ve written about before), and technology replacing human connection which is supposedly not going to be good for humanity. Is it really the case that it won’t be good for humanity?

What if we come up with reasons and explanations that make us okay with not wanting human connection? What if we come up with reasons that make us want to interact less with other humans? And indeed, there are cultures that are more individualistic (and have been for a long time). It is quite possible that we come up with explanations that make us want to only interact with our computers. Perhaps children playing video games already do this. Now, the reasons and explanations we come up with for not wanting human connection (and apparently going against evolution) may not be good explanations, but they could still drive our behavior towards less human connection.

And what if these explanations don’t indicate how less social connection will be bad for humanity? It may be the case that less human connection doesn’t in fact have “detrimental” consequences such as loneliness or depression. In all those studies that say lack of social connection is causing depression, could it be the case that it’s not lack of social connection, but it’s eating unhealthy food or something more bizarre like not being considered attractive by your peers? Perhaps it could be. I say this because I’m not sure if the studies that claim that lack of social connection causes depression give explanations that are not hard to vary. Depression could be the result of other reasons not accounted for. But maybe I need to look more into those studies.

Look, I don’t know the answer to my question(s). I’m just conjecturing and laying out my thoughts. But I do think there is no settled science or objective truth on whether humans (outside of babies) absolutely need other human connection. Or at least I don’t know of a good explanation that makes me believe so. Give me one and I could change my mind. Please feel free to criticize my thinking so I can improve upon it.

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P.S. Btw, I like human connection and I want it. But my point is I’m not sure if we “need” it and if there are negative consequences without it.

Philosophy, Societal musings

Where Did Open Debate Go? (ft. Ayn Rand)

Where did open debate and discussion vanish? We now seem to live in a society where it’s difficult to openly talk about “controversial” or “sensitive” topics. Ayn Rand is a good example where a lot of people automatically dismiss her writing just at the mention of her name. People simply associate it with dislike and are not willing to engage in a deeper conversation and truly understand her philosophy. Even if we do not agree with her philosophy, why is there so much hesitation to even talk about it?

Cancel culture has overtaken society and polarization has increased. 

It’s okay to have divergent viewpoints. In fact, if everyone thought the same way, we’d live in a homogenous bubble and creativity and innovation would be stifled.

Sure, there might be some objectivity to a lot of viewpoints but if we don’t even discuss them in a healthy manner, we shall never arrive at the objective answer.

I hope we can once again begin to have healthy discussions and debates with people who do not share our viewpoints.

Note: This post has been adapted from the original post on my other site Live Longer World.

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Learning, longevity, Personality types, Philosophy

Learning Something New

As I sat on my couch sipping my morning coffee and trying to get myself to be more awake, my sleepy brain began reflecting on the last few years and how my life has been enriched from all that I’ve learned. It always amazes me how much there is to learn, how learning never stops (as the cliché goes), and how much joy one can derive from making space in their lives to learn something new.

Learning something new doesn’t always entail long-term commitments such as picking up a new skill or sport. It could be as little as a 20-30 minute time commitment of reading a Wikipedia page on something new. It could be chatting with someone and picking their brain on something you can learn from them.

Learning something new is exciting, wonderful and enriching. Oh, how fascinating the world can be to a curious soul!

My reflection spurred in me the desire to pen down a few of the things I’ve learned in the last few years and how my life has been so thoroughly enriched by each of them. And since writing this blog is on the list, I’ll dedicate this post to one of my first blog pieces 2 years ago! Here goes:

Writing:

No surprises that this is first on the list! I started writing this blog about 2.5 years ago simply because I wanted to write more and pen down my thoughts. I had been writing privately in my journal and for some classes in college for about a year before I started this blog, and I had a hunch that I’d enjoy writing more. But I had no goal in mind of writing for someone else or growing an audience, and till date this blog is mostly posts I’d want to write for myself! As I started writing more and more, I realized that writing helps me think better. In fact, I’ll often write notes and “realizations” to myself that are not made public. These notes clarify my thinking and help me get a better sense of myself.

Over time something happened that I didn’t expect when I initially started writing – I fell in love with writing! I began to experiment with new styles of writing, finding my own style, and eventually decided to write a short book documenting lessons I learned from my father growing up. The book is a tribute to all father-daughter and parent-child relationships. Writing the book was difficult, but it was also one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences I’ve had. I had been wanting to document my memories with my father for quite some time and I’m so very glad I finally did it.

Earlier this year, I also started writing another book which would be a fictional story depicting a more sovereign world and sovereign individuals, but that’s on pause for now. Perhaps I’ll pick it up later.

Longevity Science:

Many people ask me how I got interested in longevity science and eventually started writing on it! I’ve been into fitness for a few years now, but it all began with a high-protein spread that I was trying to make in my kitchen to satisfy my protein needs post weightlifting along with my taste buds. As I was trying to figure out how to position my protein spread, I came across the ketogenic diet and started reading up on all its benefits. I was blown away by the fact that there is so much scientific research done on the ketogenic diet and how its benefits went beyond weight loss. This led me down the path of nutrition science (I know that a lot of it is very personal, but I do think there are some generalizable rules such as sugar being toxic or cruciferous vegetables having anti-inflammatory benefits). Anyway, one thing led to the other and I found myself geeking out on longevity and aging science, which more recently has advanced to longevity biotech too.

I love writing about longevity science and my goal is to write about it in the simplest manner possible such that even a child can understand it. I really want to spread the word on it because I strongly believe that understanding some of the science-backed benefits will help people take better care of their health and realize how some of their actions may lead to onset of age-related diseases such as cancer. As such, I write about longevity science and practical tips to slow aging in the form of conversations, stories and graphics / comics. If you wish to take better charge of your health and learn a bit about longevity science, my newsletter Live Longer World is the place for you! You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter where I post quick tips on optimizing health and slowing aging.

Vipassana Meditation:

I did my first 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in the summer of 2019 and it had a profound impact on me. My first retreat was therapeutic and coming out of the retreat I felt a lot calmer and happier. I had always been one to introspect but it probed me to observe my mind further. Hands down, it was one of the most difficult experiences. Following the retreat, I continued my practice of meditating on a fairly regular basis and it helped me a ton in understanding myself better. I did a 2nd retreat in December 2020. The 2nd time was a lot different – instead of my mind constantly going to my past, I was more in the present. Since then, I actually haven’t been great with my practice partially because I haven’t made time for it, partially because I sometimes just don’t feel like it, and partially because all my hiking adventures (which I’ve been doing quite a fair bit – see below) are meditative in themselves.

Finance to Startup world

I worked in Investing for 3.5 years post my undergrad in Finance. While I did enjoy parts of it, over time I started to realize I didn’t really love it and my work (and life) philosophy is borrowed from Richard Feynman who was a huge proponent of people working on something they love. I was constantly starting side projects and coming up with new startup ideas, so I knew I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial. Earlier this year, I finally made the leap. I now work at a Series A startup called SafetyWing and it’s a lot more aligned with what I enjoy doing!

I have to say that culture, work styles, and ways of thinking and making decisions is very different in the Finance vs. Startup world and it’s been quite interesting to make note of that and also learn new startup-y ways of doing things.

NYC to Nomadic life

Living in a big city is very different from living a nomadic life and camping at national parks! I lived in New York city for 3.5 years before I decided to move out in the summer of 2020 (during COVID). At first, it was supposed to be a month-long trip on the West coast and at national parks. But that one month turned into over a year! In the past year, I’ve camped at 10-12 national parks and forests in the U.S., been home to India for a bit, visited quite a few different cities in the U.S., and even spent over a month in Europe! It’s been quite an adventure and I love camping, hiking and jumping in lakes and waterfalls! I’ll probably be settling in Miami for a bit come the end of the year.

Weightlifting:

Weightlifting is probably my first love! Or maybe second only to writing. I started lifting in 2017 and still remember how sore I was after my first session. I’ve definitely come a long way since then and have loved every bit of it. I can’t stop raving about all its benefits and I’m a huge advocate for getting more women to lift at the gym. Beyond making you stronger, it has tremendous cognitive benefits too. Further, as we age, it’s easy to lose muscle mass which further adds to the frailty of getting old. Lifting can prevent that. Please start lifting – it has the potential to change your life! In general, exercise is literally one of the best ways to spend your time and I’ve written a controversial opinion on how it should be made mandatory.

Tennis:

I started learning to play tennis earlier this year in April 2021 and I’ve fallen in love with the sport! (It seems like I have too many love interests…well I do enjoy filling my day with things I love) Growing up I played Basketball for my State in India, attained my Black Belt in Karate, and in general was quite athletic, so I’d been missing the fun of playing a sport once again. Doug has been my partner-in-crime in Tennis and it’s been so fun. I’m in the zone each time I’m playing and always trying to improve.

What Else?

There is more on the list but I think those are the major ones. Some of the other ones include reading new book genres, interviewing startup leaders, learning from new cultures including an egalitarian society Twin Oaks (I spent 3 weeks there), cooking (I actually do not enjoy it), and trying psychedelic drugs!

What’s to Come?

I’m trying to teach myself some drawing / comic sketching so I can do a better job with my longevity comics plus I just want to learn. If anyone has any recommendations on how to get started or beginner tips, I’m all ears! Please message me.

I’m always learning a ton about longevity and longevity biotech. I’m also always trying to experiment with different writing styles and get better at it. And what else? I don’t know! Nothing else planned but we’ll see what I stumble into :). My curiosity is my guiding force. I’ll probably update this post when I think it’s worth adding something else to the list.

People are not single-dimensional

I strongly believe that people have varied interests and shouldn’t bucket themselves into a specific type of person based on their career or particular interest. Lastly, I hope you will follow your curiosities and enrich your life by learning something new.

People are not single-dimensional and they should let their multiple personalities and interests shine. Embrace who you are and let the world see it!

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I’ll be writing a Part 2 to this post on some of my reflections from learning and starting something new, so you don’t want to miss out on that

Philosophy

On Death and the Shortness of Life

My father passed away in 2012. I have never gone on record to say this. In fact, a lot of my close friends who did not know me at that period in my life may not actually know about this. I never bring it up, and even if someone asks about my parents, I just say that they live in India (I live in NYC), and that is the end of the conversation. In reality, it took me 7 years to fully accept it, and now I am less hesitant to talk about it.

My father’s death has had the single biggest impact on my life so far. Seeing death so close to me made me realize the shortness of life, and pushed me to enhance my life in the ways I want to live it. In some ways, it made me more awake and alive to chart the path I want to tread on. It made me realize the urgency with which I should be crafting my life my way. It’s easy to lose this intensity as life goes on, but as soon as I look at my Dad’s picture on my window sill, I am reminded of my purpose again. Even so, it’s difficult to put into practice many times.

The reason I’m prompted to write this post is because I just heard the news of my uncle’s death. I couldn’t stop crying for a bit, but then I felt a strong urge to write this to remind myself and others of the brevity of life. While I’m writing this as a means to cope with the news, I also want to tell people (including myself) that death can come anytime, so please live your life with a sense of urgency. Live it with some purpose. Don’t let your life be hollow. I don’t have well-written thoughts on how to do it, so I’m going to quote the best source (Robert Greene) that I read from time to time on this subject.

“When we unconsciously disconnect ourselves from the awareness of death, we forge a particular relationship to time – one that is rather loose and distended. We come to imagine that we always have more time than is the reality. We must think of our mortality as a kind of continual deadline. We must stop fooling ourselves: we could die tomorrow, and even if we live for another eighty years, it is but a drop in the ocean of the vastness of time, and it passes always more quickly than we imagine. We have to awaken to this reality and make it a continual meditation.

Let the awareness of the shortness of life clarify our daily actions. We have goals to reach, projects to get done, relationships to improve. This could be our last such project, our last battle on Earth, given the uncertainties of life, and we must commit completely to what we do. With this continual awareness we can see what really matters, how petty squabbles and side pursuits are irritating distractions. We want that sense of fulfillment that comes from getting things done. We want to lose the ego in that feeling of flow, in which our minds are at one with what we are working on.

In the end, think of this philosophy in the following terms: Since the beginning of human consciousness, our awareness of death has terrified us. This terror has shaped our beliefs, our religion, our institutions, and so much of our behavior in ways we cannot see or understand. We humans have become slaves to our fears and our evasions.

When we turn this around, becoming more aware of our mortality, we experience a taste of true freedom. We no longer feel the need to restrict what we think and do, in order to make life predictable. We can be more daring without feeling afraid of the consequences. We can cut loose from all the illusions and addictions that we employ to numb our anxiety. We can commit fully to our work, to our relationships, to all our actions. And once we experience some of this freedom, we will want to explore further and expand our possibilities as far as time will allow us.”

There are not too many people who read my blog and this was penned down rather quickly, but I will be glad if this message makes even a few people live their lives with more vigor, energy and fearlessness.

Philosophy, Societal musings

Man’s Stages of Philosophy Formation

Shakespeare wrote about the acts of man during different stages of life. What about the process of formation of man’s philosophy during these stages? Here is my attempt at answering this question. (Disclosure: I am using the word man to reference homo sapiens)

Stage 1: Philosophy Imitation

  1. When we are children, we don’t have our own philosophy. We tend to adopt the world views of our parents and that of the different environments and people we are exposed to.
  2. During adolescence and through the time of our schooling, we imitate the cool peers and that’s who we want to be.
  3. As we grow older and enter the work force, we try to imitate and adopt the same philosophy of our career role models.
    1. It is during this stage that a lot of us perhaps face our first philosophy conflict
    2. We are exposed to this vast world in front of us. Post school, there is lack of structure and no real defined path. This, along with our past experiences with philosophy imitation, makes it difficult for us to know which philosophy to follow. We try to draw from past experiences but they may not be so relevant anymore. We imitate the ones above us (i.e. leaders at work) but now that we have some history with different philosophies, their philosophies may not resonate with us.

Stage 2: Philosophy Crisis and Search Process

  1. This is when we have a philosophy crisis and we begin a philosophy search process, if we are the type that thinks deeply and cares enough to figure themselves out (A lot of people don’t go on this search and follow the imitation game).
  2. This search could be a long, tedious and painful process. It requires deep thinking, reflection, drawing from memory and truly understanding yourself. It begins with testing different philosophies to see which one fits you best.

Stage 3: Crafting your own Philosophy

  1. After a painful search and testing process, things slowly begin to fall in place and this is the launch of the third stage.
  2. You now have a better understanding of yourself and have a draft of your own philosophy.
  3. This stage also involves testing your draft philosophy in different situations, adapting, modifying and challenging your draft philosophy.
  4. As you go through this process, you will begin to form a concrete version of your unique philosophy.

Philosophy imitation -> Philosophy conflict -> Philosophy search -> Draft of own philosophy -> Philosophy testing, modifying, adapting (constant process) -> Concrete version of unique philosophy 

Now, another problem begins. We have formed a more final version of our philosophy. Every time we encounter someone who has a different philosophy (worldview), we automatically feel more distant from this person and throw this person out of our circle. This may be fine, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other person is wrong. In fact your goals may be the same (or similar), but your approach (philosophy) to getting there and viewing the world may be different. It’s these people who share different philosophies who start to become strangers. This is why we hang out with people who are like us. This is why it becomes harder to change our minds as we grow older — we have formed a concrete version of our philosophy and we cement it further by hanging out with people like us.

Have your own philosophy but be open to interacting with those who have different ones and see where they come from. Be open to perhaps modifying your philosophy. We stop this modification process as we get older but it’s important to be nimble and at the same time not forget yourself.