Are There Beliefs About Yourself You’ve Had To Let Go?

It is a simple fact that people change and grow over time. Have you ever been aware of your personal change, and jettisoned beliefs about yourself?

These changes can be something simple and straightforward. For example, later in life you might grow to like a food that you couldn’t stand before. Your belief about yourself (i.e. “I don’t like tomatoes”) might need to be amended, or even dropped.

But sometimes, the belief in question might be quite abstract, or even key to your concept of self. As you age, cornerstone beliefs, like political party, religious affiliation, or career aspirations might need to be tweaked. Some might even require a complete overhaul.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes a place feel like home?’


An extreme example of this would be a belief that you felt was central to who you are, one that you swore repeatedly would never change. And yet, over time, as your experiences increase, you attitude might shift subtly at first, and eventually become completely different. Has this ever happened to you?

Introspection can be a valuable tool in your mental health tool kit. Knowing what you believe in, and periodically reviewing those beliefs, can lead to your being honest with yourself. It might also lead to a mo0re fulfilled life.

Do you have any beliefs about yourself that have changed over time?

Related questions: How have you changed? What makes you you? How can we encourage meaningful conversation? What is necessary to change your mind?

 

 

Should We Pursue Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear energy , like any other form of energy, has advantages and disadvantages. Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Our knowledge of the workings of atoms and the subatomic particles that make up those atoms marked a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the universe. It also allowed a leap forward in technology, which led to power plants that generate lots of electricity.

Energy that is generated from nuclear reactions has one primary advantage: no carbon emissions are produced. Most of the world’s energy currently comes from burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon into the air. That carbon is now threatening us all in the form of climate change.

Time is growing short to find an alternative form of energy, one that does not pump billions of tons of carbon into the air each year. Nuclear energy is one such possible alternative. (As are solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and others.)


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘Is technology neutral?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Freedom or security?’


The drawbacks to nuclear power are, primarily, two-fold.

First, nuclear plants produce radioactive waste, and no one has come up with a satisfactory plan for its disposal. That waste will last for hundreds of years. The current strategy for dealing with it is to put it somewhere that seems to be geologically stable, and far from any human civilizations.

The second danger comes from accidents that produce radioactive fallout. We’ve seen this play out most recently in Japan in 2011, when a tsunami destroyed a nuclear power plant. As a result, radioactive material was released into the surrounding air and ocean.

We have an energy problem. To live a lifestyle that is common in a first world country is energy intensive, and the energy demands of the human population across the world are expected to increase for the foreseeable future. No combination of alternate energy sources can meet our current needs, let alone larger ones.

Should we explore all possibilities, including nuclear? Or are the risks associated too great — even greater than those posed by climate change? Should we pursue nuclear energy?

Related questions: What is keeping us from sustaining the planet? What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How is climate change impacting you?

 

Will Machines Develop Consciousness?

It is easy to see that artificial intelligence has been improving consistently over the last several years. But will machines ever develop consciousness?

It might seem that society has been anticipating intelligent machines for a long time. Science fiction writers have been envisioning self-directed, thinking machines ever since the word “robot” was introduced in 1920 (and even before then, as well). From Asimov’s robots to Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, fictional thinking machines have been a part of our culture for a long time.

Our modern world has ever-advancing technology. On one hand, simple robots, ones that do a very limited series of tasks, are everywhere. They populate factory assembly lines, and zip around our homes, vacuuming up our spills and messes.

On the other hand, advances in artificial intelligence have led to breakthroughs like Deep Blue beating a human World Champion in chess, or Watson winning handily against past Jeopardy! champions. And Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are becoming increasingly able to understand human speech and respond appropriately to human interaction.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘Is technology neutral?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Freedom or security?’


And yet, true intelligence has proven harder to produce in machines than some have thought. Estimates for the arrival of truly intelligent machines seem to recede further and further into the future.

Of course, intelligence is not the same as consciousness. What we mean when we refer to a human being being conscious is not obvious. And if we cannot define what exactly it means to be conscious, we may not be able to recognize consciousness if or when it arrives, via another species on earth, and alien from another planet, or from an AI we have designed and built ourselves.

Is the era of conscious machines right around the corner? Or is it in some distant future, or will it never get here at all?

Related questions: Will technology save us? What new technology do you want? What are you thinking about?

How Do You Determine What Matters?

Most people strive to live a life that has meaning; a life that matters. Key to that end, then, is figuring out just what matters in the first place.

This question follows up on this week’s Throwdown Thursday question: Everything Matters or Nothing Matters. As with many Thursday questions, the answer likely falls somewhere between the two extremes. In this case, there are some things that matter, and some things that don’t.

If that is true, the challenge lies in determining which of your actions fall into which of the two categories. You probably don’t want to spend a lot of time agonizing over decisions that don’t matter. Similarly, you do want to put in the time and effort to make the right call on something that is meaningful.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How can we maintain wonder?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you think others see you?’


But how to decide between them? One way might be to lump all the small decisions — what to wear, what to eat, when to go to bed, and so on — as being inconsequential. The big decisions — where to go to college, who to marry, which house to buy, whether to have kids — are meaningful.

There are a few problems with this. One is that adding up a bunch of small decisions can equal a big decision. Constantly being late for work (a small decision) day after day may mean you lose your job (a big outcome). And even a small decision can have a big impact. If you trace back the biggest, most important decisions in your life, often they come from small choices we made.

But it is important that we recognize what matters and what doesn’t. Or is it? Maybe we treat every decision as one that matters. Or might that leave your wracked with indecision, stressing over the potential consequences of everything you do?

How do you determine what matters?

Related questions: What is important? How can we turn ideas into actions? How much power does an individual have? What deserves your attention?

 

What Do You Wish People Knew About You?

Suppose you make a new acquaintance at a social gathering. What is the one thing you would like that person to understand about you? Is there some essential bit of information that defines you as a person?

Maybe it is your chosen profession, or a particular hobby you enjoy. Maybe you feel you are defined by your belief on some topic, or your political leanings. Some people seem to think their musical tastes, or the movies they enjoy, is important to understanding who they are.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What makes you you?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘What gives a person value?’


Similarly, even people who have known you for a long time may not know the real you. Do you ever feel as if there is a facet of your personality hidden from your friends and family? That there is something you know about yourself that others don’t seem to understand?

If you could control how others saw you, what would you choose to emphasize? What do you wish people knew about you?

Related questions: Why do we care what strangers think of us? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better? How do you think others see you?