Memories are fragile, easily lost, easily altered

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The view from my bedroom in the morning

If you have not watched Ghost in the Shell, go do it, even if you are not an anime fan. The movie is heavy on tech, in a futuristic world where human-computer interfaces are commonplace, and makes you wonder if we are heading towards a similar world (just look at what Elon Musk is doing with his new company announced the same week the movie was released)

Fun fact: despite what it looks like, the city shots were filmed entirely in New Zealand, not Hong Kong/Japan/any other Asian city you can think of.

I was first acquainted with the series from the Stand Alone Complex VCDs that I bought (and still keep – yes, Veee-CDs… Shows how long it has been around!). Now the series has been brought onto the Hollywood big screen amid lots of talk about whitewashing the characters. I understand some of the arguments about why this might be the case but look, a human brain in a cyborg body should not be bound by pitiful discussions about race and whatnot! She can be any race she wants to be!

In the movie, Major gradually comes to the realisation that her memories are not what they seem to be – they had been “written” into her, false memories implanted so she can serve her corporate overlords without questioning her dubious past. In that way, while Major remembers 100% of her history,  her brain’s memories had been susceptible to alterations.

As a human being I am equally susceptible to memory loss over time. This morning, as I lay half-awake in bed, fragments of memories of the past floated to me and I caught myself realising that I could not tell whether they actually happened, or were past memories being jumbled up in a big mess. Did Sydney really have that nice beachfront cafe, or was it Melbourne? I visited that place when I was such a tiny kid I can’t really recall anymore.

Then I start to think in more recent terms, and the same type of questions came up. What was at Nara when I visited (except for deers)? Was the steak I ate at Kobe really that good? We tend to remember the general details, the broad strokes, but our brain is programmed to lose the specifics over time to prevent being overwhelmed with details.

Our memories are so fragile. And that is why I have decided that from today onwards, I will make a much more conscious effort to take more photos around me. It can be as mundane as the photo above, a view so integrated into my life that that I have taken for granted. But one day I will move away from here, and had I left it to my brain, memories of this place will begin their long-term decline. We are blessed with technology in so many ways, so why not use it to preserve the moments and thoughts that we hold dear?

 

Can humans change personalities as they grow older?

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Traditional thinking suggests that once past our puberty years, we tend to settle down into a more stable, mature personality that persists all the way till our twilight years. Yet this study from Psychology and Aging suggests that contrary to what we think, our personalities in childhood can be very different from what it will be during old age. Granted there were limitations in the study, it does seem to conclude that our sense of self – our values, principles and behaviour – can and does change over time.

What does this mean for us when it comes to learning and development?

  •  It just goes to show how we can continue to grow and learn, to the extent that we may even have our personalities changed by it. Over the years, as we continue to take in new information, we make the decision on what gets through to our heads and what doesn’t. This in turn either reinforces our current way of thinking, or serves as gentle prods in reshaping our thought patterns, resulting in the observed drastic changes to our personalities over a longer period of time.
  • We do not have to be stuck in the past. I think, very often we like to trap ourselves in past paradigms, thinking that things will be the same forever and ever. But we can change, and should embrace and celebrate it. Where I am coming from is the fact that I find self-limitation (in everything I do) to be quite a stumbling block at times. My lazy brain keeps telling me that my circumstances will not change and I should just take it easy, but I have to make the conscious effort to remind myself not to think in such parochial terms. For there is so much unfulfilled potential, so much unfinished business that needs to be done.

1Q2017 is done and over with, now time to continue building upon the things that I have started!

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation

I read an excellent post from the Art of Manliness here, from which I note the following observations:

Notions of success are personal. “Thoreau wasn’t ambitious for the traditional status markers held up by society, he was ambitious for something else: life. Life at its very essence. Life in its fullest form.” How many of us buzz around life like busy bees, without stopping to smell the roses? Or get so caught up in our endless pursuit of wealth that we fail to see that that the journey there had been filled with lessons and meaning that we never thought to consider? Has financial security and a big bank account balance become the only measure by which we can consider ourselves to be successful? Thoreau certainly did not think so.

External vs internal pursuits. “Approaching the world with imaginative openness, Thoreau lived for intense insight and for direct experience… His aim was to know himself, and to preserve this self sovereign in the face of the pressure to conform to deadening conventionalities.

To Thoreau, his rich sense of the inner world provided more than enough stimulation for him. This compared to our “busy lives” mentality seems incomprehensible at first, but I realise that introverts can relate. The blog post states that Thoreau was mostly homebound and rarely traveled far from home, yet he was able to live such an enlightened life. Most people constantly seek more things to add to their lives – more money, more friends, more hobbies, but Thoreau’s point was that these external pursuits will create an endless cycle of coveting for “other things”. His solution was to instead look within, to rediscover the minute things already in his life and to rediscover the “worlds within worlds”.

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Can’t help but insert reference to Inception here 🙂  what lies within our own “world within world”?

Deep sense of appreciation of nature. What can city-dwellers learn?

As a city-dweller, I am not privy to the sights and sounds of the big outdoors. I can’t just decide to take the weekend off and venture deep into the forest for a field trip, or take in majestic views of a mountain complete with the calm stillness of a giant lake. Thoreau had these “props” that he used to stir his curiosity; what can people who live in cities use?

We have little nature reserves and parks in Singapore that most of us will admit to visiting “many years ago”… why not give them a second try? Perhaps something new will spring out of an otherwise seemingly-boring nature reserve? Or as I would often like to think, perhaps the interactions with one another, understanding someone else’s perspective in life is enough stimulation to begin the journey into my own inner life.

Job Security? Whose World Do You Live In?

It is no secret that the fund management industry has been under siege of late. Flip any newspaper that covers the financial services industry and you will see how active managers are finding it harder to justify their management fees, while fending off criticism on their inability to produce returns in excess of the benchmark. Banks are letting go of their employees to lower their costs from shrinking top lines.

With that said, certain sectors within finance have been more insulated than the others when it comes to layoffs. Having been on the buy side, I can attest to this. But I recently heard about the newest round of layoffs from a company I worked for previously. To my knowledge, they have never had to reduce their headcount here in the Singapore office. Up till now.

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Job Security? Please look elsewhere… perhaps in a galaxy far, far away

I had thought that people working there would be very safe against the usual banking-style hire and fire cycles. But it seems like business conditions have become so dire that they have no choice but to cut costs this way. It is yet another reminder to myself that there is no such thing as job security – even in workplaces where you think you can park yourself till retirement comes.

It also reminded me that we cannot rely on having just one source of income. The traditional “iron rice bowl” concept just doesn’t exist anymore. I do acknowledge that there are still companies that have many employees hanging around till they retire – and congratulations if you are in one of them – but for most people, that idea should no longer exist in their minds. Even so, most people still stick to having just one source of income i.e. their jobs. What happens when the axe falls?

I am big believer in diversifying sources of income. There are many ways to do this. Investing (be it stocks, bonds, funds, property etc) is one good way to achieve this. But doing so requires you to put up quite a large sum of money upfront. To those who do not have so much spare cash lying around, it can be difficult to start.

But there are so many other things that one can do to diversify. Starting a small project on the side that doesn’t take up too much time is a good way to dip your toes into the water. If you have a skill or knowledge that you can leverage on to earn extra income, why not? So many people talk about being disengaged from work. If they were to tap into their existing pool of experience and knowledge, and harness it to generate some spare cash, who knows what that could bring in the future?