Thinking Out Loud No. 6
On optimistic nihilism, finding the others and a successful carbon removal meet up
It’s been a busy week! Let’s get right to it. In this week’s edition of Thinking Out Loud I discuss optimistic nihilism, finding the others and a recent event I helped organise around taking carbon out of the atmosphere.
I recently rediscovered my favourite Kurzgesagt video on ‘optimistic nihilism’. It’s similar in many ways to my own world view.
In short, the universe is inherently meaningless. There is no reason or purpose to any of it. We are dynamic patterns of energy that will one day cease to be dynamic, just as one day the universe will experience its own heat death. Every star will go out, matter itself will fall apart and everything that has ever happened will be lost without a trace, replaced by an everlasting and unchanging nothingness.
That may not sound particularly optimistic, but in fact it can be a source of tremendous inspiration. If the universe doesn’t have its own meaning, we get to decide what meaning we want to give it. We are free to fill our lives with experiences that we define as important, knowing that – in the end – it’s not possible to get it wrong, because right and wrong don’t exist outside of our conceptualisation of them.
Between our individual births and deaths, as between the birth and death of the universe, we get to experience what it’s like to exist. We get to find out what it means to be human, to love, to fear, to build and explore. As a species we get to find out how far we can advance and discover what else is out there.
There’s no reason why any of this has to be the case. The universe could have gone from beginning to end without any kind of conscious agents within it, and yet here we are. We may as well make the most of it.
Or as Kurzgesagt put it:
If this is our one shot at life, there is no reason not to have fun and live as happily as possible. Bonus points if you make the life of other people better. More bonus points if you help build a galactic human empire.
Find the others (and a new article)
My new article this week is a play on a quote by Timothy Leary:
Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes.
But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences.
For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator.
But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle.
Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…
This resonates strongly for me, but something is missing. How do we find the others? I’m fortuate in that I’ve found a lot of them and I think the answer lies in being vulnerable. And we can’t wait for others to be vulnerable; we need to go first.
It’s by being vulnerable that we let others see us and invite them to take a step towards us. And from those steps come the ‘small moments’ that make life worth living.
With that, I hope you enjoy my new article: Let the others find you.
Media of the week
I’m helping set up a new organisation that will advance constructive discourse around taking carbon out of the atmosphere to reverse climate change.
This Tuesday we hosted our second meetup with around 120 attendees, including investors, government, academics, innovators and students. We presented our business plan and hosted a panel discussion. It was amazing.
It’s hard to overstate how excited I am that all this is actually happening. The next step is to create the Carbon Removal Centre as a legal entity and I’m looking forward to supporting as a co-founder and Non-Executive Director.
Given the nature of the event it wouldn’t (yet) be appropriate to share images that could identify anyone, so here’s a shot I took of the stage just before we started.
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