Optimism in the Future

Even though I haven’t heard from many people besides family and a couple close friends,     I remain optimistic overall.  I get much of my optimism from reading science journals and intentionally looking for humanitarian efforts stories online.  Reading these stories from sites like futurism.com, human progress.org, future timeline.net, among many youtube science and tech sites helps to keep me optimistic overall.  I know we have problems.  But I just became sick and tired of always hearing how bad everything was and how it was never going to get better.  I have been hearing about how bad the world was and how bad everyone was since I was old enough to listen in on conversations.

Growing up, I almost never heard my elders or teachers have anything good to say about the future or the world in general.  That bothered me for many years.  I have been hearing dire predictions for years, yet most of them never came to pass or turned out to be manageable.  Several years ago I finally had enough.  So I forced myself to do some research and find out what was actually going right.  I had to do a lot of research over the last several years to see what we were doing, where we were going, and what had already accomplished.  We are doing some really cool things in the realms of science, technology, and humanitarian efforts.  You just won’t hear about them on Facebook or the news.  Granted this is not a license for problem solvers to get complacent or lazy.  Humans have an incredible ability to see into the future and spot potential problems long before they happen.  Not only do we have the ability to see what could happen, we also can plan and change accordingly.  And we change and plan so well sometimes we forget what the original problems were to begin with.

I haven’t spent much time on Facebook or twitter lately.  I still go to Facebook a couple times a day just to see what’s up with friends and family.  But, for me, Facebook is the internet’s version of looking in the refrigerator and hoping there’s still some left over pizza from last night.  Most of the time you’ll get stuck with hot dogs, moldy cheese, and old lunch meat, but sometimes you get lucky. I still drop in on my tech enthusiasts’ groups, but I don’t participate much beyond liking articles that are being shared.  Unfortunately, mental illness and social media don’t mix well.  Not much I can do about it besides staying away when I don’t feel well.

I still stay awake quite late most nights.  It seems to be when I get the most research and writing done.  But at least I’m still getting enough sleep.  I do enjoy the quiet and solitude of the overnight hours.  I may have odd hours and odd practices, but at least I can still function with my mental illness.

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Thoughts on Normal People and Bad News

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Just been in the mood to avoid people as much as possible the last several days.  I leave my apartment only a couple times a day and check Facebook only once or twice a day.  It’s not that I think I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown, it’s that I want to avoid planting the seeds for one.  Listening to most people lately is like listening to a skipping MP3 (or broken record for my readers over fifty).  I don’t want to hear about the weather, or how much you hate your job, or how much of a thoughtless jerk your significant other is, or how everyone who doesn’t agree with you on politics or religion or economics is the devil’s minion.  I just really no longer want to hear it.  I’ve had my fill of negativity and snark.  Talk is cheap and snark is free but wisdom is ignored it seems.

One of the reasons I got back into science in a big way was that I got tired of hearing how bad people sucked and that civilization was going to collapse any day now.  I also watched all these doomsday scenario shows like The Day After, Red Dawn, Armageddon, Independence Day, 2012, The Terminator series, etc. that said we were all going to die any day now.  At this point  in my life, after seeing “88 reasons for the return of Jesus in 1988”, Y2K fizzle out, 9/11 and the resulting never ending wars, the Great Recession, the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012, Occupy Wall Street come to nothing, and the election of our current crop of politicians, I just yawn and laugh at every other predicted end times or end of civilization b.s. I see every other week.  You normals really have an amazing ability to believe any type of nonsense that gets repeated enough.  I find it tragic because many normals are worrying themselves sick over things that never come to pass or are easily solveable.

After years of hearing nothing but doom and gloom, I wanted to hear what was going well for a change.  Growing up, I rarely heard anything positive about the world from my elders or teachers.  I had heard from about second grade on that American students were the dumbest in the industrialized world.  If that was so, I reasoned, then why don’t we improve the school system and stop blaming the kids.  The looks of anger I got from my elders were like I just said the Ten Commandments were bogus.  I never did get an answer from my elders.  I also never got answers from my elders when I asked if things suck so bad, why doesn’t anyone do anything to change them.  I swear, the mark of a chronically sane individual is to gripe and moan about a problem but not do any thing to solve said problem.  I’ve seen it my entire life.

Even today when I try to tell people about what is going right in the world (often through science, technology, humanitarian efforts, etc.), I’m usually met with deafening silence or people telling me I’m a liar.  I’ve been called a liar my entire life, especially when I was right.  So it’s nothing new.  Not even my close friends really respond to the good things I tell them.  I’d get more responses if I took pictures of what I had for dinner it seems or posted some snarky stuff about how people that don’t think like I do are the devil’s servants.  I know things are going better in this world than most people think.  Even after Hurricane Harvey knocked out most of the Houston area, there were people from all over on the way to clean up the damage and help those in need within hours of the storm hitting.  It’s a pity that it takes a calamity for many people to see through their petty illusions of what is wrong and actually do something right.

I have decided I’m essentially unplugging from the illusions that the press and social media present.  I’m keeping my interactions on Facebook and other outlets to a bare minimum from now on.  I don’t want to hear political sermons or diatribes about how bad young people suck worse than ever anymore.  I signed up for Facebook because I wanted to keep in contact with my college and high school friends, not to listen to people gripe and moan about whatever grievance is popular this week.  For my younger readers, try not to take the garbage the press and your elders say about you personally.  They were saying the same thing about my cohorts and myself twenty years ago and we turned out just fine.  Their elders said the same things about them back in the 1960s during the Vietnam War protests and race riots.  And sadly, come 2030 or so, many of you will say the same idiotic things about your kids.  I swear our species is the only species that actively despises it’s own offspring.  Yet despite our hangups, we are advancing.  That is why I think, in spite our petty squabbles and complaints, I think humans in general are pretty cool.  I just think the illusions our squabbles create are tiresome and I’m content to watch our species advance from a distance for the time being.

I just don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.  I don’t want to hear that civilization is heading to hell in a hand basket when all the data (for those who will actually do a few minutes of google searches) says other wise.

Midnight Ramblings and Optimism

Have had my days and nights backwards for the last couple weeks.  Been getting most of my sleep in the mornings and staying up most of the night.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to be negatively effecting my mental stability.  If anything this has been the most stable summer I’ve had in years.  Granted this sleeping during the days while being up most of the night is putting a cramp on my social life.  But I didn’t have much of a social life to start with.  So I spend much of my nights listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I listen to mostly non fiction science books and some science fiction.  I still don’t watch much tv.  I’m not even really that excited about football season this year.  But I am looking forward to cooler weather.  I am glad I have made it through most of the summer with no real problems.

Perhaps I am having fewer problems because I socialize less than I have in previous months and years.  I leave my apartment only to run errands and even then I make it a point to run them in the early mornings or late nights to avoid crowds.  I have made a point of avoiding angry, irritable, and rude people in person and online.  Of course this does limit how many people I hear from or talk to.  I really don’t talk to many people anymore, mainly my family and a few friends.  Sure it gets kind of lonely but fortunately the loneliness doesn’t last long.  I’m glad I don’t have to rely on other people to keep me entertained.  Sometimes I am my own best company.

In spite not socializing much I am still optimistic overall.  I haven’t been outside of my hometown much this summer.  But anymore with the internet, I can still keep in contact with friends and family.  And I can keep myself occupied with free audiobooks, free online courses, and free music online.  I would have had to spent thousands of dollars for the things I have read or listened to online just fifteen years ago.  And I can get all this for a dollar a day in internet service fees.  And I love it.  I wouldn’t trade living here and now (unless I could be wisked a couple hundred years into the future and be exploring strange new worlds like Star Trek).  And I have some of my family members and a few of my friends to be the same way.  My best friend from high school (whom I’m still great friends with) loves speculating on future science and social trends when she’s not discussing Game of Thrones.  But I guess she gets tired of me talking about baseball and computer games, so that makes us even.  My thirteen year old nephew is going to be working with robotics and 3D printers this year in his junior high.  And to think I was impressed with the old Apple II GS when I was growing up.  I often joke with my niece and nephews that they might not need drivers’ licenses.  Now it’s looking like even I might not need a drivers’ license in ten years.  Wouldn’t hurt my feelings that much.  Sure we don’t have flying cars like Back To The Future said we would, but even that movie didn’t predict the Internet boom, smart phones, or renewable energy starting to become affordable.  I wouldn’t even have cable tv except it comes with my apartment.

What I’m getting at is that right now in 2017, despite the bad news we’re constantly hearing on the news channels and our online news feeds, we’re still living in some pretty cool times.  It is, in many ways, a good time to be an average person.  Sure I may not be able to ever afford a house like my parents or brother.  But I don’t need a large house in an affluent suburb with the picket fence and two car garage.  I can currently live quite well just in the apartment in the small college town I’m in.  I currently don’t need much to live a decent standard of living that even the kings and industrialists of 1900 couldn’t have imagined.  It is not, however, a good time to be a control freak or spiteful hate monger.  We’re always probably going to have problems like these but, unlike in past eras, the overwhelming general consensus is that being a dictator or hateful person are bad things.  For most of civilization’s history, the idea of the ‘divine right of royalty’ or having hatred of people different from your own little group was pretty much unquestioned by the vast majority of people.  We have made progress as a species.  And we will continue to make progress even if people take it for granted or don’t pay attention to it.  The only reason that we don’t hear about the good going on is simply because good news doesn’t sell.  Good news doesn’t sell only because we as a species are not wired to pay much attention to good news.

Working From Home For Free and Thoughts on Tech Advances

I’ve been doing this blog about living with schizophrenia for a little over four years at this point.  Even though I haven’t turned a profit from it, I consider it the best and most meaningful job I ever held.  It doesn’t compare.  The only other job I ever held that was even close to being a mental health blogger/advocate was when I was working as an instructors’ aide as a graduate assistant years ago.  I enjoyed substitute teaching classes, grading papers, proctoring exams, answering students’ questions, and doing academic research.  It’s too bad I lost that job because of my grades in the masters’ courses.  I didn’t really care to be some business hotshot; I really wanted to get my masters’ in economics so I could teach economics and personal finance classes at a junior college or small state university.  This was before I found out that the majority of junior college teachers are part timers or adjuncts.  But then, many non management employees are part timers.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is so the employers don’t have to pay benefits.  I never got benefits at any job I ever held.  That’s why I’m on disability insurance through Social Security.  If I were to go back to work, it would have to be where I was completely cured of schizophrenia.  Many insurance companies won’t cover preexisting conditions and the suggestion of single payer universal healthcare in the USA is very unpopular.  So here I am on disability and wanting to contribute.  But if I got even a 30 hour a week job at McDonald’s, that would be enough for the feds to toss me out of the program.

Since I am unable to work for money because of the current system, I have had to find other ways to contribute that doesn’t involve me making money.  That is why I blog about life with a mental illness.  Many may dismiss my work as I don’t make money from it and I don’t have a large audience.  But many people do volunteer work and don’t see any money from it.  There are people who deliver meals to elderly and disabled people, people who hand out blankets and bedding at homeless shelters, people who coach Little League baseball, people who teach Sunday school, among numerous others.  A person doesn’t have to make a lot of money (or any money) to make a difference in other people’s lives.  My brother works as an engineer and makes six figures, but I doubt he has thousands of people in over 100 different nations that have seen his work.  My parents have done medical missionary work in Panama and had a reach that way.  And they made no money from their several trips.  Sometimes a person has to do something just because it’s the right and beneficial thing to do regardless if money changes hands.

One of highest paid professions in the world is as hedge fund manager on Wall Street.  And yet do they really build anything or create anything besides moving money (most of it digits on a computer) around?  I’m not anti business but I think there are better measures of someone’s worth to a nation or civilization than how big their net worth is.  I understand if someone produces a service, an idea, or an item that many people want, then yes that person should probably make something in return for the years of thankless hard work and hard times. The “overnight successes” often came to be that way through years of quiet hard work, having good mentors and studying their fields. If this blog ever became something like a best selling book or a well watched youtube channel or lead to a career as a writer for an online journal, I wouldn’t refuse the money.  I just hope I wouldn’t forget that telling the truth about mental illness and it’s related problems should be what my work is all about.

Ideally, I would love to be cured of schizophrenia and be able to work again and not worry about having to take medications every night.  As many advances as medical science is making anymore, that might not be the fantasy it was even ten years ago.  If I did become cured, sure I would have to find a job and likely update my education.  But that would be a good headache to have.  With my blogging skills, maybe I could get a job as a technical writer.  Or maybe by then machines will have taken most of the jobs and made living so inexpensive that money doesn’t matter very much.  Just in my life in the last ten years, with so much being digitized and put for free or near free access online, I can live cheaper now than I could ten years ago.  And if things like 3D printing takes off like most technicians and scientists think it will, money will matter even less to me ten years from now than it does now.  A farmer in rural Africa with a micro financed smart phone has more computing power and access to civilization’s information than did NASA in the 1960s when they were sending astronauts to the moon and back.  We are living in some cool and interesting times.  And right now much of this can be enjoyed by even lower class people (at least lower class by modern standards) for not much money.  And I think as tech advances, money may matter less and less with each passing decade.  Maybe when I’m an old man unpaid work will be the norm because machines do most of the manufacturing or farming.  It is some cool times were in even if the ride is bumpy and rough at times.  Stay tuned.

Rant about Politics, Education, Science, Technology (or PEST)

It’s been a few days since I last wrote.  That’s because I’m beginning to feel some of the anxiety and depression I felt back in late summer and fall again.  I am convinced this is because of most of my friends wanting to only talk about politics.  I am sick of hearing about politics.  Most politicians know less about science and technology advances that are and will impact our world than even I do.  A politician can’t build a power plant or bring back jobs once automation has made those jobs redundant and pointless.  Politicians, at least here in the USA, can’t even update critical infrastructure or balance their own budgets.  And it saddens me that my country is getting to where we don’t lead the world in many areas of science and technology.  Who would have thought twenty years ago that China would be offering to lead the world on developing clean and renewable energy or artificial intelligence or genetics?  I am embarrassed by politicians of both major parties.

I don’t understand normal people.  I don’t understand how masses of people can look at facts and ignore them or even outright deny them because of the person stating said facts.  Facts don’t change because of beliefs.  You can ignore the reality all you want but eventually you won’t be able to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

I have been following politics since the late 1980s.  Since then I have heard the statistics that state that my country has one of the worst overall education systems in the developed world.  We have known this for over a generation.  Yet no major overhauls to the way children in the U.S. are educated has happened. We won’t even consider looking at what other countries do in their educational systems.  My country is going to have to radically overhaul education real soon because the information and automation revolutions will make many of the skills stressed in the current system useless.  We have seen these changes coming for years yet not even the current politicians in power seem too eager to update education for the realities of the 21st century. That’s why I, and many other people in my country, have resorted to self educating ourselves by the internet.  Learning is not boring.  It’s just presented that way in traditional education.

Too many people and politicians are ignorant when it comes to science and technology.  We have known for years about the risks of burning carbon based fuels in terms of climate change and unhealthy air to breathe.  Even if climate change isn’t happening, only a fool would deny that people are getting sick and dying from breathing the toxic fumes emitted by coal plants and gasoline powered automobiles.  That alone should have made people pour much more research money into developing alternatives.

I don’t understand some people’s love affair with oil.  Some people seem to think that we never will find anything better than oil and that we can keep using it for thousands of years.  Climate change or not, oil is a limited resource. And some people don’t acknowledge that science can and will find answers to replacing oil whether they like it or not.  I have to think had these people been born in the mid 1800s , they wouldn’t have wanted to give up their kerosene lamps for electric lights or their stagecoaches for railroads. Or if they were born during the Renaissance they wouldn’t have given up their swords for muskets or would have considered the printing press the work of the devil. But there are always going to be people who don’t want to change anything and some who are nostalgic about a past that wasn’t that great to begin with.  I guarantee that in the future there will be people who won’t want to colonize the moon or other planets just because they fear and hate technology.

I don’t understand normal people’s obsession with politics.  And I’m sure most people don’t understand my obsession with learning and science.  Science classes have always been my favorite classes.  I had to take a detour from my desired science career and studied business and economics while I was in college.  As it turned out this study of economics turned out to be a several year diversion from my true passions.  I don’t regret studying economics as it made me much better at budgeting limited money and resources.  But looking back on it I am glad I didn’t find a job in business or economics and especially banking.  I would have hated working in a cubicle and having to wear a suit every day to work.  As much as I enjoy what money can do, I also know that having a great deal of money wouldn’t mean much to me.  It wouldn’t make me feel successful or like more of a man.  Who defines what is a “real man” anyway?  Seems to  me that those goal posts are constantly shifting.  The only winning move seems to me is to not play at all.

If I suddenly had a couple million dollars, I’d probably move to Silicon Valley, rent a small apartment, try to get involved in some small start ups, hang out with really intelligent and science minded people, and essentially live off the interest of my low risk investments.  I wouldn’t buy a sports car, a large house, or even get married.  But I always thought Northern California would be a cool place to live.  Then again I don’t know.  It’s not like I fit in even with people I have lived with my entire life.

If there is a point to these rants I suppose it’s that I simply don’t understand normal people.  I don’t understand why normal fret and stress over things that are trivial but don’t care at all about potential serious problems or opportunities.  Straining at gnats but swallowing camels as far as I’m concerned.  But at this point in my life I am glad that I am not normal.  I don’t desire to be considered normal even if I am somehow cured of schizophrenia.  Normal doesn’t change the world for the better.  I want for my life anyway, for most people that encounter me and my works to be better off for it.  I don’t want to be some political hack or among unthinking crowds.

Science and Tech Advances in 2016, Part II

I tweaked my knee while exercising a couple days ago.  Today it hurt so bad I was housebound for the whole day.  As it’s almost the middle of the night as I write this I’ve had an opportunity to think and do some research I had been neglecting.  For this entry I decided to continue on in the vein of science and tech advances that have happened in 2016 that may or may not have gotten the press exposure they should have.  So here goes:

  1. Scientists at Florida Atlantic University have found gene responsible for sleep deprivation and metabolic disorders.
  2. Scientists in China have discovered that coating solar cells with graphene will allow solar panels to generate energy from rain drops.
  3. Scientists at the University of Southern California have learned that drinking coffee can lead to a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  4. Scientists in Belgium have discovered three potentially habitable planets orbiting a red dwarf star approximately 40 light years from Earth.
  5. Scientists announce Breakthrough Starshot, a concept that would send fleets of small centimeter sized crafts to Alpha Centauri at 15 to 20 percent the speed of light, taking approximately twenty years to travel to our interstellar neighbor and approximately four years to send word back.
  6. Scientists discuss creating a synthetic human genome.
  7. An extensive study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine have found no substantial evidence of different health risks between Genetically Modified Crops and traditionally bred crops.
  8. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital developed a procedure to allow long term cultivating adult stem cells.
  9. Carbon nanotube transistors outperform silicon transistors for the first time.

These are just a few examples of the scientific breakthroughs made this year that may have gone unnoticed.  I hope to make another post similar to this soon.

Blasting Mental Illness Stigma and Giving Hope For the Future

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I suppose this could be filed under rant and frustration with normal people. There are times when I feel like I’m making some difference with this blog and that I’m making a positive impact on people.  Then there are times I feel like I just as well be talking to myself because I don’t seem to be getting through to people.  Right now I feel like I’m not making any kind of positive difference.  Most neurotypical people still think it’s alright to shun and discriminate against the mentally ill.  Many still think we are dangerous and to be locked up permanently out of sight and out of mind.  Mental illness is still stigmatized by popular culture and misunderstood by the public at large.  I’m sure I have people in my Facebook friends list who think I’m just dreaming up my problems because they think I’m weak, lazy, and don’t want to do any real work.  I am definitely not making these problems up.  I would gladly give ten years off the end of my life if it meant I never had to suffer from schizophrenia again.  I’ve been fighting this mental illness since age seventeen, so for over half of my life now.  I can’t remember what it’s like not to suffer from delusions, paranoia, depression, easy anger, and excessive fear.  I can’t remember the last time I talked with even close friends about things like politics and religion without fear of having a psychotic breakdown and ruining the friendship.  I can’t remember what it’s like not living in fear and paranoia of authority  figures, whether they were bosses, landlords, or police officers.

I never understood the mentality that nothing can go wrong with the human brain.  We don’t stigmatize people with heart problems, diabetes, blindness, deafness, or cancer.  We as a society accept that things can go wrong with every other organ in the human body.  But as a society we don’t seem to be as accepting that things can go wrong with the human brain, arguably the most complex instrument in the currently known universe.  I am somewhat hopeful with the programs began by the U.S. government and the E.U. that attempt to reverse engineer the human brain.  Maybe we can find out why some brains malfunction and develop mental illness.  I’m not delusional enough to believe I will ever be cured of schizophrenia, but perhaps better treatments can be developed and maybe future generations can find a way to cure mental illness.  As it seems to me, the brain is probably the final true unknown of medical science.

I imagine that my friends and readers get sick of me always writing about science and tech advances being the true benefactors of humanity.  But I get far more encouragement out of seeing science and engineering advances made on what seems a weekly basis now than listening to political debate or religious dogma.  There are cool things happening in science practically every day in this day and age.  I am thrilled to hear that private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin as well as NASA are seriously talking about sending people to colonize Mars within the next twenty years.  I am thrilled that we could soon have a vaccine for HIV, which I believe will be looked upon by future generations with the same horror we now look upon smallpox and bubonic plague.  I am happy that we are finding possible ways to treat anti biotic resistant bugs.  I know some of my farmer friends will want to crucify me for this, but the possibilities of vertical farming in big cities and lab grown meat intrigue me.  Supposedly there are medications in trials that could reverse obesity that have already been tested on lab rats.  Something like that, providing it doesn’t interfere with my psych medications. would be a life saver for me as I’ve been overweight since puberty.  That alone would reduce burdens on the health care system in many developed countries.  I am anxious to see lab grown replacement organs make the organ and tissue donor system obsolete.  I would love to see driverless cars take off and make owning your own car as much of a relic as the horse drawn carriage.

We are living in some of the most exciting times in human history, if not the most exciting times.  Yet these wonders seem to be lost on most people I interact with on a daily basis.  I don’t know why people lost their sense of wonder, creativity, and possibility.  To listen to most people we aren’t advancing at all, as if everything from hear on out is going to be down hill.  I don’t understand why most people are pessimistic and fearful.  I don’t see enough people saying ‘we have problems but we’ve solved problems in the past and we will continue to do so.’  Why is it considered normal and grown up to be worrisome and blind to the beauty and possibility of life?  That is yet another idea you normals seem to be born with that I wasn’t.  If I have to be constantly depressed, anxious, angry, and mopey to be considered an adult, then screw it.  I want no part of it.  I just see too much possibility and good things happening in the world to be consumed by worry.  Even your religious texts tell you to ‘not let your hearts be troubled’ and ‘don’t worry about the future.’  Seems to me these texts need to be spoken from the pulpits more than fear, hate, and wrath.

We are living in cool times with progress being made every hour of every day.  Breakthroughs in science, technology, health, and humanitarian efforts are being made all over the world.  It’s not just the U.S. who has advanced technology, advanced research, and freedom.  The world is not falling apart.  The world is not going to hell in a hand basket.  The past is not better than the present.  And I am saddened and tired of hearing  doom and gloom from people who don’t bother to look at the facts and numbers nor look out how far we’ve come just in the last few generations, let alone since we left the caves.  Make no mistake, we will continue to make progress in spite of your complaints and fears that the world is falling apart.  The doers and achievers of the world ain’t listening to the Chicken Littles of the world.  I may not be a great achiever but I’m not listening to the doomsayers either.  I have had enough.  I have heard doom and gloom my entire life.  I have no idea how many supposed end of the world type predictions I have weathered.  I laugh at such predictions now.  I find it annoying that many people are giving themselves needless grief and sadness simply because they can’t or won’t look up facts.  We have the quasi magic Google machine and Wikipedia that would put the Library of Congress to shame at our finger tips. We just have to use them.  Keep complaining and crying if you wish, but I will continue to look up the facts and the truth.  I will attempt to dispel the myths in this blog.  To paraphrase Jack Palance from the movie ‘City Slickers’, normal people “really do worry about a lot of crap that don’t matter.”