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Issue 43: Are Our Goals Holding Us Prisoner?

Does free will exist within a goal?

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Food For Thought

An interesting quandary to entertain – do we "live" inside our goals or do our goals "live" inside us?

On the face of it, such a question seems silly. Of course our goals are subservient to us, right? To run that marathon, to become more present for our family, to free ourselves from our uglier habits, to become the best version of ourselves we can mange. These are all goals that take place in some indeterminate future, where we can envision ourselves having accomplish(ed) the goal G in that future person F's past. The actor only exists in the present moment, the now; the motivator has his or her motivations and takes action to meet that ideal person. We chose our goals, right? But what if it's actually the other way around? What if our goals choose us?

Let's look at this another way. The present moment, now, is t = 0. Your lifespan from t = 0 goes in two directions, left until the start of your timeline (t = birth) and right until the end of your timeline (t = death). In other words, t = 0 is a snapshot on a roll of film, a derivative on a bounded line of existence.

a simple timeline

In addition to the existence of this finite line, we have to contend with the fact that the future is not just one line, in reality it is many, many lines, all with a certain probability of coming true (most are close to zero, others, close to guaranteed).

many futures, single past timeline. dead end = ☠️, continues = more life, more choices

The past is a locked in version of these futures, making the present basically a fancy singularity device – all futures get replaced with a single realized outcome.

the present is a singularity creator

Now let's create an arbitrary goal, G, for the person at t = 0 to set out to accomplish – say, make $10,000. The internal or external speaking/manifestation of this goal causes the mind to immediately leap to action, trying to find ways that it could accomplish G. Some ways might include:

  1. Go back to college to skill up in a marketable degree for two years (-$100k in student loans + two years of life) to apply for a job that pays $10k a month (~six figure salary). G = accomplished
  2. Steal $10,000 from your local bank branch (-25 years of life in jail + probably a face tattoo in prison). G = accomplished
  3. Pick up a second job, work an extra 40 hours a week for the next period of time (-40hours/week * number of weeks * loss in sleep). G = accomplished
  4. Wait until your rich great-great-grandmother passes away and argue with your cousins over her estate (-being born into such a family + breaking up that family succession style). G = accomplished
  5. ...

Any number of arbitrary n+1 futures can be created to accomplish the same goal. I.E. there are multiple ways to skin a G. However, all of these realities incur their own unique cost structure of time and space requirements. Some are objectively better than others, others yet are subjectively better than others, and some are simply dead ends.

But this is only the case if we're looking forward from t = 0, the present perspective. This is not the case when we rewind the tape of each of these futures back to t = 0. The weights of the lines, as far as we can tell out of the haze, are actually pre calculated. In other words, the futures themselves decide the options that the person at t = 0 sees. The lines play themselves out and then act in reverse. We choose from the list of available options that chose us.

The multiple lines of futures collapse on the present.

What does this mean? At any point t in your life that is not the exact moment of now, your mind and your goals have conspired together to show you a vision of a person who is likely to fall on the timeline where G is accomplished with minimal overhead cost. The only role of t = 0 is to play the film it was given into the camera and memorialize it into the past.

Some day, very close to now, perhaps you'll look in the mirror somewhere between t = 0 and t = G and realize that you are or you aren't making good progress towards the goal you set. Perhaps you'll be displeased, and you may find yourself back at the bargaining table, attempting to convince your mind to try to hop to an alternate future. Or so it will feel. That line itself, will in fact be making you think that you chose when in fact, it has gone out into the same future we envisioned and already made the case to move lines and switch strategies. Trippy, right?

Goal states happen at different times (if ever) depending on route taken

Maybe that line you move to will work, or maybe it won't. But when you look at the frozen state of the past behind you, that is the life you lived. That is who you were. That is who you are.

Even the choice of doing nothing, of letting the world filter through you is merely letting the line of time that is most probable become well... actualized. Intent and agency is the pivot, but the lines play out as-is.

Potentiality, history, pivots. Future, past, present.

Ye Olde Newsstand - Weekly Updates

I filmed a few video versions of some prior newsletter issues, if you prefer that medium. I'm working out the kinks, but hopefully I'll be able to add these videos to the weekly retinue of content pushed out each week! Likely, the video of a newsletter will lag 1+ week(s) behind the text edition.

Are GPTs Websites? [Video Version]
Video version of Issue 42

First up -- Are GPTs Websites? (Adapted from Issue 42)

Thanks for reading, and see you next Sunday!

ars longa, vita brevis,