A zoologist who observed gorillas in their native habitat was amazed by the uniformity of their life and their vast idleness. Hours and hours without doing anything. Was boredom unknown to them? This is indeed a question raised by a human, a busy ape. Far from fleeing monotony, animals crave it, and what they most dread is to see it end. For it ends, only to be replaced by fear, the cause of all activity. Inaction is divine; yet it is against inaction that man has rebelled. Man alone, in nature, is incapable of enduring monotony, man alone wants something to happen at all costs — something, anything.... Thereby he shows himself unworthy of his ancestor: the need for novelty is the characteristic of an alienated gorilla. — E. M. Cioran
Going against nature is human nature
Humans are biologically hard-wired not just to survive but also to create and consume things that satisfy our boredom. As a result, we have built a sophisticated collection of abstractions in the world that we currently experience, one which is continuing to expand in complexity and diversity. While we don't know what nature's objective or grand plan is or why we're designed the way we are, we discover and invent methods that oppose it to unravel its chaotic secrets and try to find our place in it.
Everything is trying to order chaos
Since the beginning of time, The Big Bang, two forces have ruled the known universe: chaos and order. It is due to order that the condensation and aggregation of primitive atoms of hydrogen and helium happened and then, the other elements of the periodic table were formed. This constitutes the basis of everything that exists, from a macro-scale (like stars, planets) to a micro-scale (like us humans).
Civilization as we now know it is another example. Our transition from a hunter-gatherer-based society to an agricultural-based one has made an ordered path to help us accomplish all the magical feats of the modern world. Everything we have invented, from language for ordered communication and expression of thought to the sciences for an ordered and systematic way to document, explain and understand what we experience as a way to order our ideas and pass it to the next generation to help them survive our chaotic reality. In a nutshell, what it offers is a path, a clear cut ordered way to live our lives.
Even our brains can be a great example of how we try to order chaos. We currently live in the age of information. We are bombarded by different facts and findings from across the globe to the point where we physically can't be up-to-date and certain of the truth. So, we try to bring order to our thinking by streamlining the amount, quality, and source of information we consume. Meditation is another method to find inner peace and order by reducing our inner chaos.
Sisyphus, a character of Homer's Iliad, was condemned by the gods for eternity to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again once he got it to the top.
We have created incredible physical structures, ideologies, and civilizations over decades and centuries. A lot of these get lost over time, crumbled to dust, or converted into something unrecognizable to the original. The more we try, create, and hold order, the quicker it seems to fail.
There is chaos in every ordered system and vice-versa, both need each other to create and destroy the things we experience in this universe. These forces seem to epitomize the concept of Yin and Yang.
The main question one may think is the 'Why?' Why does this constant cycle of order and chaos happen? Is it because of some entity beyond our comprehension or some ingenious mathematics that explains it all that we are yet to discover? This is a big question that has plagued not just philosophers and scientists, but even common folk. It feels like it is a metaphorically meaningless (in our feeble human context) war between these two great forces, not just in nature, but in our lives too.
In the pursuit of finding meaning in what seems to be an ultimately meaningless existence, arriving at a collective answer to this important question would help us find the answer behind the meaning of our sufferings and experiences in our collective existence.
Maybe this cycle of order followed by chaos and so on is all a happy accident, a random occurrence, a rarity in the universe, or maybe it happened for a specific reason by a specific entity or entities. We may never know. What we do know is that we human beings hate uncertainty. That's why we keep trying to ask more questions, unearth old problems, discover new problems, and find ingenious solutions to them, to find what reality actually is.
While all these questions may be enough to fill one with existential dread for a while, making us doubt everything we've learned in our lives up to this point, many more currently unsolvable or unanswerable questions may arise. So, the main question one might arrive at this point is whether there is a way to solve it. Have our ancestors found a way to do that? Yes, the scientific method is probably one of the finest ways to make sense of these never-ending challenges caused by chaos.
The Scientific Method, Pattern Matching, and Artificial Intelligence
Almost all of science is fitting models to data. In the scientific method, we identify a problem, relevant data is gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from this data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested. Then, we try to extract knowledge from these models/hypotheses that explain the data aptly.
Every child of any known earth-based organism possesses the ability to recognize patterns inherently. For example, babies cry to indicate that they want something and the parents would respond to that kind of pattern by a suitable action, say feeding. Similarly, the scientific method is a more streamlined path to better pattern recognition, to understand and navigate the world more efficiently.
In our ecosystem, evolution is the primary factor that shapes our physical appearance as well as our innate instincts and reactions. Organisms with a short life in a well-defined environment may have all of their behavior hardwired in, but instead of hardwiring all kinds of behavior into us for any circumstance that we might encounter in our lives, evolution has given us a large brain and a learning mechanism, a way to recognize patterns. This has allowed us to update ourselves with experience and adapt to different environments.
But learning has boundaries; there may be things we can never "learn" with our finite brain capacity, just as we can never "learn" to grow a third limb or an eye on the back of our skull or even be able to learn Kung-fu like Neo from The Matrix by just downloading it into our brains. (Yet!)
Similar to us, machines are programmed to "learn" in an organic way (in some systems like artificial neural networks). By attempting to design these kinds of systems, we can not only discover newer and more diversified types of intelligence, but also get a far better grasp of our own thought processes, and who knows, perhaps we will be able to create a being far more intelligent than our comprehension.
Recent advances in science and technology have made processing and pattern recognition in this world of unimaginably large volumes of data a less tedious task. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have given us the power to draw valuable conclusions (from assisting in formulating a diagnosis for diagnosticians to get the first image of a Black Hole) from massive volumes of data stored in data lakes all over the world. These conclusions are then used in the decision-making process of different governments, companies, and organizations all over the world.
What we need to try and derive from this kind of thought process is how to think critically, how we can form opinions based on what we know, how we have to search and find actual facts that may go against or for said opinion, how we should debate on different opinions for the same problem using the known data/facts, and finally try to come to a conclusion, by ourselves, that might not only be good for ourselves but even the people who surround us and get affected by our decisions. I think the scientific method gives a wonderful framework for this kind of thought.
While this method might help us attempt to answer the question of why or how something occurs and how we can solve it algorithmically, we have yet to understand how we should deal with such abrupt and chaotic changes, how we can debate in a proper way, how to make good decisions and try to solve "human" problems, and how one can experience and understand the world in a way that enhances emotions, which will be explored in the next parts of this article.
All views/opinions expressed are the author's musings and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which he has been, is now, or will be affiliated.
The links in the article/s are the author's recommendations to the readers to motivate them to explore more on the written subject matter and tangents from that.