Thursday, April 17, 2014

Living With Risks & Uncertianty

We all live in constant fear of risks and uncertainty. The sole purpose of all our entire lives seems to be to remove those risks and uncertainty.

Well, risks cannot be entirely banished, as the recent unfortunate aviation incident demonstrates so clearly. However low the risk, so long as the risk exists, it will happen one day. To the general population, there may be, for example, one unfortunate person in a million. But to that one person, the probability is either zero or one - whether it will happen or not. The laws of probability is good for insurance companies or companies that profit from selling protection from risks. But probability has no meaning for a particular individual.

As individuals, we deal with uncertainty. Most of the time, either we know or we do not know - we do not have foreknowledge. If we know the future, there are many things which we will no do now - like eating and drinking excessively and working too hard. And there are quite a few things too that we will do - like making lots of money.

All our lives, the things we do are our responses to uncertainty. The native farmer prays to the god of heaven for rain, and the god of soil for fertility. The poor urban dwelling prays for good business, even if he or she is selling cakes for breakfast. Poor families produce many children as insurance against infant mortality and having sufficient food to eat everyday with more people scrounging to feed the parents. Resourceful poor parents work and save to send their children to good schools in the hope of better incomes in future. At work, employees play politics in order to secure their careers and to be at the top of the pack. Boys and girls, regardless of their looks, work hard to beautify themselves in order to be attractive so as to secure companionship or economies of scale.

Midlife crisis, which seems to hit those who are successful, arises when there is no more financial uncertainty. When people are financially independent, what do they do, apart from playing the stock market pretending to maximise their return on investment in a game of roulette and many theories are formed. Midlife crisis happens when all the things we have been taught and learned when we were young become useless information because they are not useful to us anymore. Now that I have enough money, what do I do next?

Those who find a second career survives. Those who do not die a lonely death.

Of all the things we are taught in life, there is one thing we are not taught - how to die. Maybe because death is not an uncertainty, death ceases to be a problem. Death ends all problems for the person who dies.

But if we are going to make the best of our lives - before we die, we must have death constantly in our mind, so that we do not forget that we may be dead in the next moment. This frame of mind, although seemingly sick, is a very healthy response to the problem of death. While death may be certain for every mortal, the time of death is still uncertain. Every moment is potentially the last moment, and hence we must live the moment as if it is the last moment. There is a growing movement on how to live the now. Our own simple reflection should be able to tell us how we should live.

Taking the world as a whole, uncertainty has been banished by knowledge and the result of knowledge is clarity - not cleverness. But human beings do not know everything, so there is still be scope for learning - until, I suppose, when our own minds become clear. We have also globally solved the  problem of wealth by printing money, now made easier by electronically generated numbers. We now live in a virtually secure environment, doing very little and playing with on-off lights or electrical pulses. The current flotation of the world with excessive cash is rearranging the wealth of societies and nations - those with money are happy, those with no money simply die. As the world becomes more conducive for procreation, as a result of success in healthcare which keep infants and the very old alive for a long long time. The greatest uncertainty in all these advancement is the natural environment without which humans cannot survive. The natural environment is the ultimate means of savings for human kind - if the survival of human beings is a concern. If not, we know that the cosmos will continue to evolve, and the age of humans will soon be gone - in universal time. Human beings are here on earth for the moment.


walla said...

A: A brilliant post by the blogger?
B: A sterling one. Precise yet liquid.
A: So anything to add?
B: Doing so would be tasteless.
A: (scratches chin)
B: Something ails you?
A: You always have something to say on anything.
B: An unsavory habit, one may say.
A: Go on. Make my day.
B: You should make your own. In the final analysis, we all do our own. Our days are as good or bad as we want them to be.
A: All in the state of mind then?
B: Some say in the state of body as well. It's all about chemistry.
A: Ah, undoubtedly a subject in which you are peerless?
B: Although chemistry is just one of many sub-branches of secular knowledge, it carries its basic feature. A set of principles applicable to a multitude of forms yielding different characteristics.
A: Do you think we'll have a satisfactory total unification some day?
B: If only Lorentz had known the works of Riemann, he could have bypassed Einstein whose theories stand to this day for the macroscale inasmuch the Standard Model stands for the microscale.
A: But that's sub-branch physics! Ok, supposedly the stringed brane gauges hold the key. What next?
B: Then we will have an equation for the graviton in much the same way Dirac derived one for the electron with a mathematical reflection of fine spectral spin.
A: Aren't i glad you're not saying anything on economics.
B: I'm dismal and dismayed enough as it is.
A: But why should you leaden your brow at this age?
B: Try this. When the weather is poor, the supply is less so the price is higher. When the supply is surplus, the price is lower. It seems there is not just an equilibrium of prices but also an equilibrium of profit. An invisible hand determines the limit of achievement.
A: But the profit is large?
B: No, the profit is eaten away by rising production costs and ruinous multiple taxes. Unless something drastic is done, that's a constant trend and one day soon it won't be worth it.
A: Save on fertilizer. They are costly.
B: Do you know what happens when you do? The fruits become light but the bunches holding them harden. So it's hard to harvest and labor costs will increase just to harvest something of reduced commercial value.
A: So stop harvesting and let the trees rest.
B: You can't. They need to be harvested or else they will become anemic.
A: Then be statistical about it. Chop off the non-fruiting male trees and plant more fruiting female trees in their place.
B: No again. Every block must have some male trees to excite their female counterparts.
A: That's interesting!
B: That's life. Even botanical.

walla said...

A: I see where you're coming from. Life is made of conflicts reflected in risks and uncertainty.
B: Now why didn't i think of that?
A: So a year from now when the GST is applied, things will get worse?
B: All those familiarization seminars are vacuous. People walk out midway because none of it can be applied to their particular industries. The implementers don't know the peculiarities of each industry. For instance, they say pay within 21 days. How when the price will only be known the following month? To add insult, the penalties are ruinously stiff. There are so many other issues you will get a logjam trying to clear things. And that includes the two-week target to refund rebates. To top all that, you should see how many types of taxes are leveled right down the entire supply chain - and all for what or who, and if i may add, to what real end? No, things are not as hunky-dory as people may think.
A: I guess that means living with risks and uncertainty.
B: Life itself presents enough of those challenges. Why add human-generated ones to them?
A: It's a matter of governance, priorities, administration.
B: Oh, how astute art thou.
A: I'm suddenly getting the feeling that you are a depressive influence.
B: Most times i feel the same too.
A: So you're inherently depressive?
B: Presumably from trying to find clarity.
A: By scintillation alone?
B: Resulting from boredom.
A: You need some distracting company.
B: That would not be fair, would it?
A: Why are you like that?
B: Because my present perception is that the residue at the base of the conical flask is uninteresting.
A: But didn't you in your younger days compounded things like a psychotropic in two steps?
B: To what end? I'll never do it for gain. It's living death.
A: And then there was that exciting moment when you had made a discovery by just playing with subscripts of terms.
B: Long forgotten.
A: Get up and be happy again.
B: Happiness is just a passing interregnum between those forlorn moments reflecting disappointments.
A: We can't always have everything working clockwork to what we desire. Life equals problems - but to be solved resolutely and cheerfully. What you need is a holiday. Away from it all. The boredom. The heat and dust and worries. The sense of fatalism and sadness that all of knowledge as we know is just multitudinous replication of certain principles numbering no more than two dozen. The sense that time flows too fast too and indiscriminately to no enduring effect. That risk and certainty give rise to perpetual conflicts otherwise laughable for their trite superficiality.
B: Now who's the one depressing?
A: Since i've jumped rail, how shall we read the last chapter?
B: Into the silence of the night, with a serenity that wafts, holding kindness and warmth in the heart, bringing all organs together in a last gasp of thanks, saying a sincere prayer for all we have to leave behind, drawing good memories of all the blessings big and small that must surely have peppered our entire journey even as we have been too distracted by the trivialities of living to notice them, and then one last look - upwards.
A: But on the other side of the planet it would be downwards.
B: Sometimes i think you're too much.

walla said...

bumi-non-malay said... be lived...

Death is the GREAT RESET...everything is Zero...nothing ...and thank God for the reality that every human is going to die.

and if you have religious belief...death is then the gateway to another Reality. That reality can be great or scary for some....

There is a limit to all good and evil one can do....that is the reality of life!! ...

walla said...

"Moonlight gleams before my bed,

Like frost on the floor.
Lifting my head I see the bright moon,

Lowering my head I think of my old home.

At Yellow Crane Tower, I said goodbye to an old friend.

It was the third month, the season of flowers, when you went down to Yangzhou.
Your solitary sail has become a distant blue dot, and all I saw was the Yangzi flowing into the sky.

We are but travellers on the world’s horizons.
Meeting thus in a common fate, what does acquaintance matter?"

(Li Po; 699–762)