Can People Really Think Outside the Box?

I see people as no different from computers. They have varying physical appearances, parts, and source code. As a software engineer, I know that when a computer behaves in an unexpected manner, it is usually for a reason. Sometimes, due to hardware malfunction or invalid user input but most of the time, it’s the developer’s fault. Most of the time, the error is very easy to trace. Other times, you are presented with long lines of nested errors. And under the many reasons leading up to the error, you have to hunt down the source. I must say that computers are not unpredictable at all if you know how to read them. And to read them is to have access to their source code and study the language they speak.

People are very predictable in the same way computers are. But people do not give away their source code so you have to hack them in some way. The reason why we think that unlike computers, people are impossible to read is because most of us are not inclined to noticing small details especially about other people. We notice if the person is male or female, attractive or unattractive, short or tall. We notice what they wear, what they carry, are they sitting or standing? Do they look sad, happy, angry? Are they walking slow or running fast? And other basic observations that we need in order to survive. The rest of the information are given away through talking and most of the time, people will only tell want they want other people to know.

And then there’s the subtle hint. Imagine interacting with a robot that follows the same pattern every hour of the day and then something outside that pattern occurs. For a moment, it seems like the robot is human and it sparks your interest. Same goes with people, people follow a certain behavior and as much as they want to believe that they are unpredictable, they always follow some sort of pattern.

We don’t really have much options. Every decision we make is just one of the options already presented before us. We can only think what we are allowed to think. I’m not talking about society and playing by its rules. I’m talking about our brains and how we’re programmed to be. We can never see beyond three dimensions no matter how hard we try. We invented religions to find excuses on what we cannot understand. Every time we question how an object existed, it all boils down to “God made it” or “I don’t know”. Who created God? Who created the universe? Who created the laws of physics?

We believe that everything has a beginning and an end because that’s our mind’s limit, that’s the way that the environment we lived in works, and that’s the reality for us. When we dive deeper into the root of all things, our guts explode into nothing. The thought that some things simply exist without being created or born is easy to consider but hard to imagine. Which brings me to my question, “Can we really think outside the box?” And what the hell is this box? Our we trapped inside the box to be protected from great concepts that could kill us?

I imagine the box as, well, a box. Inside, it is peaceful despite all the petty violence that humans call “chaos”. But these humans have never been outside that box. Their chaos is nothing compared to the chaos outside the box. If you were to ask an observer, that observer would say that our little box is peaceful. It is peaceful because no one is really free, everyone follows the same rule, and everything is born and dies. Humans are perfect, not compared to everything else in space. Humans are perfect humans. It’s our limitations that make us perfect.

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Can People Really Think Outside the Box?

Fragility and the Power of Suggestion

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Each time I go to the bathroom, I expect to walk into my bedroom and find myself sleeping on the bed. Not “myself” myself but a different me that’s still me. I always thought that time, aside from being the temporal dimension, is a very fragile and unforgiving one. Almost every story we hear and every movie we watch involves messing with time, turning back time, or going forward in time. People have always fantasized about time machines so they could go back in time to fix something or go forward into the future to discover something but hardly anyone dreams about living two timelines at once that are only a few minutes apart.

Sometimes you have those innocent and perfectly human moments where you have to use the bathroom but you are too sleepy to get up. Sometimes, you get up and sometimes, you sleep it off. When I wake up, I split these two realities in my head. Two, because it’s more simple to imagine. In the first reality, I get up and go to the bathroom and in the second reality, I sleep it off. Let’s invent a rule that there’s a certain hour, minute, second, and millisecond that no human is supposed to wake up but for some reason and I did. It causes a glitch where the two realities cohere. The other me got up and went to the bathroom while the other me decides to close her eyes and sleep again.

As soon as I get up, I wouldn’t notice that my reality has split into two. I would walk towards the bathroom, do my business, and walk back to the bedroom. As soon as I close my eyes and start falling asleep again, I wouldn’t notice that my reality has split into two. I would sleep and probably wake up when I hear someone walk into my bedroom. This is a spooky thought to think especially when you’re living alone like me. Sometimes, I peek into my bedroom or the bathroom to see if I am there when I am really “here”. It makes me feel like I’m going insane but I don’t see it as something so far from reality. After all, we don’t get just one.

Timelines can be so easy to mess up or duplicate because we never really notice when it happens. There is something that protects us from seeing the implications of the very small things we do each day. The butterfly effect, I bet you hear it all the time. How small causes can have large effects – as Wikipedia puts it. So let us see an example from a meta-human who sees these implications. The Flash, a speedster, is notoriously known for doing things to save other people and ending up messing the timeline. Every time he makes an innocently small change that causes good for someone, a big disaster happens in return.

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One of the greatest examples is The Flashpoint Paradox where The Flash saves his mother. Him keeping his mother alive steered another timeline into a different direction. The Bruce Wayne / Batman we used to know dies as a child. His father lives and becomes Batman. His mother succumbs into madness and becomes the Joker. Aquaman and Wonder Woman fought each other and lead a war between races which resulted into the end of the world. And it’s all because The Flash’s mother lives when she is not supposed to. That is why I say time is fragile and unforgiving. It takes very little change to make everything go so wrong.

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In the movie “Mr. Nobody”, the main character (Nemo) states several small decisions or little happenings that affected his life and other people’s lives in a big way. He stated losing the love of his life, Anna, because an unemployed man in Brazil stayed home and boiled an egg to eat. This caused a condensation and resulted into heavy rains on the other side of the world on the same day that Nemo receives Anna’s phone number after a long time of being apart. He says that he may have caused the man’s unemployment because he bought a different company’s cheaper jeans. These all lead to that exact moment that he loses contact with Anna. There were plenty of scenes like these in the movie including the part where a fragment of an eggshell dropped into the waffle batter while it was being made in the factory caused his father to stop for a moment when he bites into it which then caused him to lose track over his parked car and this lead to an accident. The car ran into a woman and kills her. In short, the small oversight of an employee from a waffle factory caused the beginning of the destruction of his family’s life, as well as the woman’s.

All these apply in real life and are probably inspired by real life. Most people do not recognize the impact of the little things we do and what more, the power of what we say. I’ve performed some experiments on the power of suggestion for quite some time. You would think that I’m not much of a talker and certainly wouldn’t have the interest in performing social experiments but I am. Perhaps, I’ve had too much fun on the experiment that you would no longer see it as an experiment but rather a lifestyle. You don’t need an army to destroy someone’s reputation and people’s lives, all you need is a single comment uttered at the perfect time and heard by the right people. The thing is, when you say something about a thing, an idea, a place, or another person, it starts to have some truth into it. When you utter the words, you bring those words to life, and as fantasy-like as it sounds, the more people who believe in those words, the more real it becomes.

If we know each other and I make a remark that someone we both know is taking advantage of women by constantly touching them and making it look “friendly”, you will consider the idea that he is. Now, if I say this in front of other women he’s close with, who had “touching” encounters with him, they will consider it too. A few may shake their heads and say “I don’t think that’s true” but the suggestion remains in the back of their minds. Every encounter they have with this man puts that suggestion into spotlight. Every encounter becomes a confirmation of the idea you planted into their minds. Such confirmations become so hard to resist and there will come a time that it is all you will see. Now that it becomes the truth, it will spread through word of mouth. Maybe it will reach the ears of new people who are yet to meet this guy and they will have that initial impression. Most of the time, they wouldn’t give him a chance to prove he’s innocent. Sometimes, they would and the confirmation phase comes to play. There you have it, you just destroyed someone’s reputation. This could lead him to getting fired, accused of sexual harassment, and not ever getting hired at all. If this man was suicidal, he’ll most likely take his already ruined life. In short, one artfully delivered remark can cause chaos or someone else’s life.

So how does this differ from the typical and petty “spread the rumors” that most teenage girls do to destroy each other’s reputation? Typical rumor-spreading does not require calculations. These rumors simply want to reach the most ears they could. They don’t target specific listeners. They could spread through texts or Facebook pages or any possible medium. And they are often first heard from sources that are not credible or people who have been known to be destructive liars. If I had the reputation for being an honest, intelligent, and credible source, people are more likely to believe whatever I say. No new findings there. If I’m the type of person who is private and rarely speaks against anybody, people will assume that whatever I speak about is big and serious. If instead of blatantly telling people something, I let myself be “overheard” while talking to a close friend and I appear to be burdened but not necessary crying or displaying “out there” emotions.. If I placed myself in a position where the people who will most likely overhear what I say are known to be talkative.. If at first interrogation, I refuse to answer their questions.. In short, if I give people the impression that my ideas are private, they assume that it’s important and must be true. After all, there’s no reason to hide something that isn’t true. Another thing to look at is if the enemy has already shown a hint of the reputation you’re trying to give him/her. If he/she does not, create that situation before making your “suggestion”. In the right place, at the right time, and with the right people, words have a powerful impact. There is no violence required to make such impacts and you are less likely to be convicted of the “crime”.

Now before you diagnose me of psychopathy, I’m saying all of these based on my observations and these techniques have become second nature to me. As crazy as it may sound, I perform such acts on good people and I rarely waste effort on revenge unless I need to stop someone that’s causing too much damage to others. You can reverse the intention by suggesting that someone has positive traits but people are more likely to believe the negative – negativity bias.

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For the highly analytical people, the power of suggestion is a subtle weapon of mass destruction. They know its importance and they utilize it. Perhaps, the best example of this evil can be found in the television series “Gotham” when Nygma decides to destroy Penguin after finding out that he ordered to kill his girlfriend. He orchestrated subtle hints that lead Penguin to kill one of his staffs, blurt something out that isn’t good for his reputation as mayor on national TV, make a fool out of him, break his heart, shoot him, and throw him into the river. Intense, isn’t it?

I guess the whole point of this insane article is to never take for granted every little detail. It’s a trait I find hard to find in most people and as arrogant as I may sound, I am amazed of their surprise and ignorance when the outcome of their actions is handed over to them.

Fragility and the Power of Suggestion

Flipped.

This is the sea, so clear that you can see it reflecting the tall buildings and the clouds up in the sky. Its blue is so gentle and peaceful. If mermaids existed and died, this would be their heaven.

Imagine fishes jumping from the waters to the skies. Imagine the birds crashing through and diving in the waters. The birds don’t die, they fly. They fly, not in the sky, but under the water. In the sunset, you’ll see sea creatures of all colors swimming in the sunset. Their colors marries the orange and puple sky. And as they swim across the sun, it’s as if they are getting eaten by this big red orange crystal.

This is not the sea but still it’s clear, gentle, and peaceful. This is a picture of the skyline. The same old view that I always take a picture of except this time, it’s flipped vertically. I lied to you, this is the sky. If I drew fish shadows in the sky, you’ll be more convinced that it’s the sea but I didn’t have to because if you believed me the first time I told you that this is the sea with a reflection of the clouds and the buildings, you probably want to believe that it is the sea.

They say the only way to tell a good lie is for the liar to believe in the lie himself/herself. There’s also a saying that if you kept repeating the same lie over and over again, it becomes the truth. No lie detector in the world can recognize the lie which is your truth.

There are multiple universes, each with a different reality, and we’re always so thrilled to imagine what these universes look like. Our narcissistic selves can’t help but imagine what our other universes’ parodies of us are like. And yet all these universes we imagine look all too familiar. What about the exact opposite of our world? The very obvious tweak – a simple flip.

Who are we to say that the sky is not the sea? Who are we to say that we cannot swim in the sky or fly in the sea? I used to dream of boats and big ships sailing the skies like it’s the norm. It always left me feeling lost but fulfilled. It makes me think that for some time, I belonged somewhere else. I lived in a place where everything was flipped. It was magical and it’s my favorite fantasy.

Flipped.

How do we know what we know?

I took this picture yesterday morning before 6AM. I was having breakfast with a co-worker. There are plenty of cats in the city and before this cat has gotten my attention, other cats have been stealing food from other people sitting near us. This cat walked towards the front door and stopped there. The cat didn’t walk in or anything, just stayed there as if thinking about his/her order. I laughed, took my phone out, and took a picture. Curious, my co-worker looked and shook his head. I asked, “If you were to give a deeper meaning to this sight, what would it be?” He said, “Boundaries”.

The cat knew boundaries, indeed. But it made me wonder, how does the cat know this? Why don’t the other cats know this? Maybe the cat doesn’t know boundaries at all and perhaps, the cat has his/her own reasons for not walking in. Then my perspective switched to humans and the rules we follow and more specifically, what we refer to as “common sense”. Where does common sense come from? Why do we “just” know what we know?

I asked, “If you were to give a deeper meaning to this sight, what would it be?” He said, “Boundaries”.

I read some pretty interesting books related to quantum mechanics. Some of the lines that really stick to me is what Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, said about common sense. “Common sense has no place in Quantum Mechanics.” And if I’m any good at remembering the words I read, I recall him saying that we are often trapped in common sense. Ironically, it made perfect sense to me. Complex thoughts occupy my mind every day and I find it hard to explain such thoughts. After reading my thoughts through these books, written and thought by someone else, everything became clear. It’s as if someone said what I’ve always wanted to say and freed me from a dungeon of insanity. Of course, I am sure we’re not the only ones who share the same views on common sense and that gives me relief.

“Common sense has no place in Quantum Mechanics.” – Michio Kaku

How do we “just” know what we know? For me, common sense is built based on a collection of experiences and observations. We don’t have to touch fire to know that it will burn us. We know that fire will burn us because we’ve seen it burn other things or we’ve been taught since we were very young by people who have observed fire burn things. One part of me tries to be all scientific and say that as species who desperately want to survive, we developed a way to detect danger through evolution. Another part of me demands more details. Does that mean that initially, man does not consider anything to be dangerous? Does that mean that humans and other species had to die many times before realizing what would hurt or kill them? Does evolution have some sort of list of dangers that updates for every death and sacrifice? When we’re wiped out of the planet and we start over somehow, all those information are erased, right? So we die all over again.

Another part of me tries to interrupt the heated debate and failed. She said, “No, initially we already perceive some dangers. The list expands as we experience new things.” A sarcastic part of me cuts her off, “Initially? Like what, intelligent design?” The hows turn into whys. Why do we know these things? Why do things work out this way? And why do we somehow agree on the same rules of living? If I would be brave enough to share the wildest thoughts I had on random hours of my daydreams without the fear of looking like a conspiracy theorist or a mad one, I would proudly shout over and over again that reality is a drug. A drug that gives us the delusion of common sense and a familiar world. Reality is a fraud, a fucking lie, and there’s no way out of it. There’s no way to rehabilitate.

I may go as far as saying that each one of us is a computer. We are all connected to a main server called the universe. And just like a computer, we sync for updates or patches made or initiated by the server. We sleep and wake up with new abilities, memories, and strange things that we’ll otherwise classify as “not normal” if we remember how things were the day before. Perhaps, the reason why we feel so out of sync with the world when we haven’t slept for days is because we’re missing some patches or changes in our system that haven’t been applied unless we restart (sleep). Maybe when the configuration is done, we normally wake up feeling refreshed and when we wake up abruptly before the configuration has finished, we feel groggy and out of sync.

But never mind that, that’s just my brain talking.

How do we know what we know?

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Maybe I’m just one of those crazy people who believe that they belong in a land that’s not here. When I was in my teenage years, I zone out of the present countless times. There used to be a park near our house and I would just walk around. I would feel the wind in the wide open space as I walk and I would zone out. For a few minutes, it would seem like I’m floating or I’m not “here”. I’m somewhere else.

My mind wanders off to a familiar place that I know I’ve never seen in my life. I start wondering, is this really my life? Why do I seem to have memories from elsewhere? Am I sleeping? If I wake up now, where would I find myself? What is reality for me? This is how it felt for a few years. Life feels like a dream. I tried waking myself up during those walks. But then another part of me tells me that I’m wandering too far from “reality”. It tries to convince me that I am “here” and there’s no waking up from here because it’s the real thing.

I always thought life was superficial. It’s a huge fake but I cannot explain why. It’s an illusion. A dream. The more time I spend living, the older I get, the more it convinces me that it’s real. It’s like a drug that “fixes” your way of thinking so you begin to accept it the way it is and forget about where you think you belong. When I grew older, I forgot how to wander off. I forgot how to write or draw with my soul. A few weeks ago, I decided to give it another try. I wanted to tap that version of me again.

This is a comic I made. When I was younger, I had many notebooks. I was great in calligraphy and drawing. I’ve made plenty of stories and comics since I was in grade school. At some point during my high school years, I burned all of my work and I forgot about it all. After College, I got a job which pulled me further away from my previous love. My job takes place in front of the computer and I can barely write my signature properly sometimes. It’s safe to say that I have forgotten how to write ever since I started to type.

This comic strip shows how I still feel sometimes. When I turned 26, strange dreams started to occur. In one particular dream, I woke up in a dream and then another dream and then another dream. It re-opened my feelings about how I genuinely feel about this life – an endless series of dreams designed to keep us in this so-called “reality”. A programming loop, if you may. I imagine it breaking at some point, though. A stack overflow and then we would all be free. We’ll finally wake up and laugh everything off. We’ll think back on how much this illusion convinced us that it was real. Or maybe, we’ll wake up not remembering anything, just like in most of our dreams.

I’ve had plenty of nightmares and lucid dreams when I was younger. I’ve made accurate predictions based on my intuition and there were plenty of nights when I couldn’t sleep. It all disappeared when I started working. I wanted to be realistic even though inside I still know that “real” is fake. Survival instincts, I told myself. I cannot survive in this reality unless I play by its rules.

I still have a way of predicting things but this time, in a more concrete and analytical way. I predicted results based on a collection of facts. When I say that this will happen, it happens. Those close to me can’t help but wonder how I came up with such predictions but to me, it requires little effort. I’ve connected dots, bits of information, and told a story. In my head, I’ve analyzed different situations and found one, the only one that makes sense given all the information I’ve gathered, the current situation, time, and the rules of the universe we live in. To me, there’s no “prediction”, this is the only way things could happen, at least in this universe.

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