Monday, January 19, 2015


Today I had a revelation, as if waking from a long dream that resembled reality all too closely, right down to the fine details.

It was an ordinary day, like any other really; I woke without the overly-enthusiastic assistance of my alarm, hovering in bed for a stew of hazy minutes, unsure of what there was worth getting up for, or what possible disadvantages there may be to staying in my makeshift incubator. I eventually slipped away when the bed wasn't looking, gliding quietly from the magnetic sheets, seamlessly merging with the comfort of my already worn-clothes on the other side. The few steps between the bedroom and the kitchen went without a hitch, bringing me parallel with the sink where I immediately filled my glass with the local brew, emptying the cool fluid into my awaiting gullet in 10 smooth gulps, counted out consecutively in a satisfying rhythm. Slam! The glass breaks the late-morning silence as it connects with the startled worktop, signalling the real beginning of another day.

Between the daily de-cluttering and breakfast, I heard a faint sound, at first like a silky whisper brushing gently against the ear, hinting at words and phrases as if building to a peak, but then suddenly dying again. I thought nothing of it, and so returned to the chorus of chores patiently waiting for me in various pockets of space around the house. After rallying the emptied cups from the remnants of yesterday, somewhere between the living-room and the kitchen, I became conscious of the sound again. Initially it just appeared to be noise, but the more I concentrated on it the more I heard, and the more I understood. It slowly dawned on me, like a dense grey cloud bringing with it the certainty of storms, that this noise, this constant background radiation had been here all along, contentedly resting in a safe corner of my mind somewhere. Like looking down at your arm to notice blood dripping from an unacknowledged cut, to both simultaneously ponder its origin and awake to its effect at the same time, this moment brought with it the sudden and horrifying realisation that these seemingly benign sounds were in fact voices. And there were lots of them, with no single locus, no definitive ending, chattering away in turns, each one as eager as the next to recall their stories, spill their guts and bare their disembodied souls to me as if I had enquired.

Understandably worried, I immediately called up my doctor who mistook my malady as merely English idiosyncrasy. Exasperated, full of, but nevertheless lost for words, I mustered one of many emergency French sounds that was undoubtedly invented for such an occasion. And like a sheep protesting the removal of its wool at the start of a long winter, I said “….baaaaaaaah!”. Apparently, my nasal objection was a hundred times more effective and comprehensible than any of my previous word-strings had been, and so in the condescendingly polite and impatiently calm manner that they only teach at medical, school she asked me about the voices. 

“Describe them to me” she said. “How many of them are there?”. 

“Well, hmmmm....first there's...the Party Man”, I tell her, almost accidentally articulating a question mark on the end of my sentence. Silence at the other end of the phone. 

“Ze party man?” came the confused reply, as if I had slipped into an alternate dimension, one in which I was cold-calling potential customers in hopes of selling my services as a low-budget children's entertainer. 

“Yes”, I replied reassuringly, “he doesn't stay long, but when he comes he's usually in high spirits. He tells me that it's my birthday, but at the same time, he says that the party we're going to have will be as if it's my birthday. It's quite confusing. Maybe it's a sort of riddle, or one of those 'if a tree falls in the woods' philosophical questions”. A longer bout of silence. I remove the phone from my ear to check that the battery hasn't died on me or that I've lost the connection. 

“I...see....” came the voice eventually, like some trapped gas skeptically escaping a rather comfortable imprisonment. 

“Who else?”, she probes, as if the infamous Party Man's tricks had once again failed in keeping a group of eight-year-olds occupied for the five simple minutes it takes to prepare a birthday cake, thus flunking his audition with the doctor.

Well, there's another guy, equally as friendly as the first, but even more cryptic in what he says. He tells me to come down from the mountain, implying that I've stayed atop this mountain for some length of time, and that now Spring is here I should return home, wherever that is. Do you think I should interpret these voices like dreams? Is it all metaphorical and emanating from my sub-conscious? Repressed feelings perhaps?”

I begin to imagine that my multi-tasking doctor is struggling with a particularly fiendish crossword puzzle during my consultation. “Baaaaaaa....”, came the reply, half-expecting me to help her decipher what six letter word beginning with D, might be a large sea animal with thick, greyish skin, and live mainly in the Indian ocean, surviving on a diet of plantlife. I continue: 

“There's the bright and cheerful woman with an often piercing voice, who uses martial arts to obtain her dinner, a man who refers to me as 'baby' and repeatedly requests to see my thong, a melancholy woman with her heart on fire and another who talks to rocks for moral support. There's a man who recounts his road trip through America following the Mississippi river, who appears later on to tell me that I can refer to him as 'Al' if I wish. I hear another, who always talks so quickly, but who apparently has the lungs of an old woman. He tells me that it's better to be sick in the head than sane in the city. On occasion, a rebellious young man who refuses to accept the ways of modern society tells me the story of how he expresses his non-conformist sentiments by throwing objects on the floor. They are numerous, faceless, unforgiving and relentless, they greet me with exuberant cheer the instant I awake in the mornings, and they interject when I am mute. They follow me, in their hundreds to the four corners of the earth, nagging at me like a rabble of needy children, making unreasonable and incomprehensible demands. I am powerless to make them stop or even to stymie their stories, they are stripped of sympathy, unanimous in their interrogation, and wholeheartedly heartless. I don't understand them or why they insist on talking in code, or why they even talk to me at all!”

Wait just on one minute please, Mr Sing, I have someone else on the line.”


Before I could conjure another one of those emergency French sounds, a second bout of dumfoundedness was interrupted by the tinny, upbeat melody of some ska, beamed down via a distant satellite to ease my pain, while the ever-intrigued doctor set about reading the winding Wikipedia entry on the manatee. Sea Cow redirects here.

Mr Sing”, I say to myself, trailing off. At that exact moment a voice chimes in over the music as if all along he had been calmly waiting to give his personal diagnosis;

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pattern Recognition

It was around ten years after being given my first SLR camera that I finally began to take an interest in studying photography, as opposed to simply using my camera as a tool to record images of places and events that I felt were significant to me alone. In the same way that I had once wanted to understand how I had become strong through seemingly random training and lack of structure, I now wanted to take my unconscious and random non-approach to photography and to develop it into something focused, thoughtful and with greater purpose.

Initially, my ideas for projects were clumsy attempts that involved simply transposing certain scientific/rationality concepts from written ideas onto the photographic medium. At this time it was clear to me that I had something concrete that I was passionate about and wished to express to others, but I lacked the means by which to do it at all, let alone coherently or artistically. I felt that the complexity of the ideas was too great to be compressed into a form that lacked words, especially considering that my subject of interest was often something that didn't immediately lend itself to visual representation to begin with, such as cognitive biases for example.

At some point I think I gave up in trying to make my interests match my preferred medium, but my love or attachment to photography is what made me continue seeking a way to do so. But when I left the house in the summer of 2013 I had no pre-defined subject or idea which I wished to express, and instead went on the search for one in my local surroundings. Having moved from London almost a year earlier, to the small dormitory town located within viewing distance of the plastic paradise known as Disney, I asked myself the important question 'what is particular or specific to this environment?'. With fresh eyes, or at least with a different pair of glasses on, I looked at my town, searching for something of note in amongst everything that had become so extremely familiar.

Walking up and down the long, rigid roads reminded me of how strange the town had at first seemed to me, and deliberate focus on this aspect of its design re-awakened and slowly reinforced a sense of intrigue that remained with me until the day I left. It was the streets that had captured my imagination, but it was the trees lined along them that I finally decided to concentrate on and to make the subject of my first series.
The systematic placement of each tree served as a reflection of the overall design of the town, and as I would later come to conclude, it was a reflection of Man's nature in general.

Bussy-Saint-Georges is a real-life SimCity, where a small inventory of building shapes and colours are pasted into place and connected via a lattice of confusingly similar roads that appear as a modern attempt at perfection through symmetry. Given a chance to start it all again from scratch, it appeared that man had decided that form was paramount, and that the perfect form was the straight line itself.
Being careful not to ignore the biophilia of the new residents, each street was endowed with a set of trees which ran in rows along their length, with sometimes as many as four rows per street, two for each side of the road. Mindful of the perfect design and the grand scheme of things, the workers took their time in making sure that each tree had a uniform distance between itself and the next, and a tolerance of up to two feet was established.

Having ruled out depicting each street as an ultra-long panorama made by stitching hundreds of images together, I settled on photographing each individual tree in sequence, starting at one end of the street and ending at the other, or the point at which the sequence ended, whichever came first.
I made an effort to exclude all traffic and pedestrians from my compositions, but opted to leave in other non-important elements such as parked cars that often made it difficult to continue shooting in the loosely standardised way I had chosen. I felt that it wasn't necessary to be as strict and rigid with each photo like is evident in the work of Bernd and Hilla Bescher, as my focus was on the effect created by viewing a large number of images in sequence, where the role of any individual photo was to provide further support the group to which it belonged. Furthermore, my interest was never in creating a typological piece, but instead to create a sort of snapshot of specific areas within a designated locality.

During this period, photography became an instrument with which to collect evidence, in the same way that a crime scene photographer collects evidence, or records the scene for its information content and not its aesthetic content.

An example of one of the montages from this series can be seen here in the form which it was originally intended: 

While I carried out this work I had the notion that a transhumanist society was inevitable, based on the many ways in which man changes himself and his surroundings, from small modifications like body marking and use of simple tools to augment abilities, to more pronounced changes like reconstructive surgery, and the mass extraction and transportation of materials such as stone and fossil fuels. This initial project therefore serves as a relatively gentle (perhaps too subtle?) introduction to this idea, further backed up by other works which have grown out of an exploration of themes such as Nature and the nature of man.

I chose to create this video for a number of reasons; the photographs being in digital form easily lent themselves to manipulation in many different ways, and the idea of passing information through numerous filtering processes in order to highlight the changes was something I had already thought about. The second reason for using the photographs to produce an entirely different result came from the idea that each medium has its own specificities, and that in fact, just as passing dirt through a sieve is one example of a filtering process, each different medium that exists acts a filter too. This basic idea was introduced to me through the book 'Amusing Ourselves to Death' by Neil Postman, who was in turn influenced by the philosopher Marshall McLuhan, known for the phrase “the medium is the message”.

Although conceived at different times, these two similar ideas bled into one-another, and have come to form what is currently my concept of 'Environment'.

This video represents just one of many possible derivatives of the source material. The photos themselves are intended to be viewed in real life, either as part of large-scale montages, or as individually framed prints arranged in order.

In an earlier experiment I decided to take the Ten Commandments and to pass them through Google Translate via every possible language from English and back again, to see how the translation process would affect them. During this process it was evident that there were many opportunities for errors to arise which would simply become compounded as the process continued to play out.
Another idea I have, of which this video is a first iteration, is to take an image and to pass it through various processes in succession. For example, an image can be changed/translated/re-interpreted as a sound, and likewise a sound can be processed to become an image using similar software. Colours on a computer are represented by numbers, numbers can be represented by letters or positions and so on, an image being printed produces a sound which can be recorded and used to represent that unique event.
Each process has its own characteristics which influence the final output, as well as our experience of the information which has been processed and is being presented – digital photography uses the presence of photons in order to induce a unique combination of binary numbers inside a computer, which can then present this information visually. Behind the press of a button and the click of a shutter, there are all manner of abstractions and computations going on without our awareness of them. And likewise, this is true of our own visual perception of the world.

I have deliberately created thousands of abstractions, each an abstraction in itself, and combined them into video form (another abstraction), and then uploaded it to Youtube where it has undergone further degradation, and perhaps more importantly, it has been released into an entirely different environment.
The importance of environment or chosen medium becomes increasingly apparent when one works across multiple platforms and means of expression, ranging from the written (typed) word, to the printed image. For example, the default view on Youtube places the video slightly to the left of the screen, which in turn effects the feeling of 'balance' in the video, which consequently caused me to switch the positioning of the images, so that now the JPEG is on the left with the pixelated equivalent on the right.

The post-production work behind this video is much greater than the many hours I spent taking the original photographs, although ironically, the time spent creating this piece was dramatically reduced by certain software that allowed me to automate many of the repetitive tasks that made up the bulk of the work. Before I discovered this software however, while clicking almost endlessly with the right button on my tired mouse, it occurred to me that in order to produce a piece intended to be a reflection on filtering effects and the characteristics of a medium, I would have to become machine-like myself. In the end though, my repetitive interventions were only necessary insofar as beginning or restarting the the software that I had programmed to do the real work for me.

Beginning with the raw files taken from the camera I then processed them using Adobe CameraRaw in order to give a full-size reproduction in JPEG format. A copy of this JPEG file was then resized in order to save rendering time, as each of the 732 total images would then have to be processed with AudioPaint in order to produce an equivalent WAV file for each. The full-size JPEGS were also reduced to a size of 6x9 pixels before saving a further copy at this size. The colours from each 6x9 image were then copied and pasted one by one into a template made of 6x9 squares, although with a total size of 635x950 pixels. This reproduction was then saved as a PNG file which can then be infinitely scaled up or down without negatively affecting its appearance. If I had manually created each PNG file using the mouse only and without ever making a mistake, the minimum amount of clicks it would take would be around 158112 – 4 clicks to select a single colour, to change the tool and to paste into the template, repeated 54 times to fill each square in the 6x9 template, repeated 732 times for each image in the series.

The final MP4 file is 264 MB and 1 minute 13 seconds long.
Each full-size JPEG is between 2.22 and 5.12 MB.
Each PNG file is between 6.37 and 8.98 kb.
Each WAV file is between 17.2 and 34.4 kb.

The size of a real tree is approximately 0 kb.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Challenge

It is with a sincere sense of urgency that I take it upon myself to call to your attention a matter which I feel insists on immediate resolution.  Firstly, permit me if you will, a few moments in which to paint you a picture so that you may come to fully comprehend, as I have, the grave nature of what I am about to discuss. 

In my explanation I hope that nothing shall be left wanting, and that by the time I have finished there be no remaining doubt in the reader’s mind as to my position and the consequences proposed herein.

Consider that man is an animal like no other - an animal so deeply entrenched in the language with which he describes himself and the world around him, that his perception has become inseparable from words themselves.  These intangible abstractions are the hidden forces that drive the human machine to action, and give purpose and meaning to an otherwise lifeless and unresponsive existence. 

Words are our filter through which we view the world, and as such, great responsibility must be exercised when using them.  The reckless manner in which words are commonly expunged from the human oesophagus is characteristic of a far less considerate and deliberate attempt at communication than any use of language that will suffice here. 

Objectivity provides us with the knowledge that any attributes we may assign to a particular article or phenomenon are not innate properties of the thing itself, but moreover, they serve as a greater insight into the workings of the mind that ascribes such qualities. 
By way of example, consider the immediate emotional associations that spring forth when recollecting the image of a sky laden with thick cumulonimbus clouds.  For many, the thought of an occluded sun seems entirely inseparable from the ideas of depression, lethargy, demotivation, and ennui. 
Counter to these impermanent labels that appear to naturally adhere to the notion of overcast skies, we can see how they might begin to come unstuck if we were to imagine ourselves as inhabitants of an almost perpetually arid land, one in which dark skies would signal the welcome possibility of rain.  In such a scenario it seems inevitable that we would have come to associate the same phenomenon with an entirely different set of feelings and words with which to describe them. 

In light of this observation we may go so far as to conclude that by changing the language we implement, we could in turn alter our standard viewpoint in addition to our emotional responses. 

We each have strange relationships with our responsibilities, particularly those that we perceive as being bestowed on us against our preferences and which are not directly necessary for our continued survival.  When we unconsciously label something as being a means to an end, it cements its position as an unavoidable obstacle, something that we might often resent, perhaps due to some inability to accept the inescapable.

The most universally detested feature of life, rued by man, woman and child alike has to be this thing called ‘work’, and more specifically, that which we refer to as our ‘job’. 
In the French language the expression ‘devoir quelque chose รก quelqu’un ‘ means ‘to owe somebody something’, while the term ‘devoir’ refers to a piece of homework.  Here, in plain sight, you can see the concept of debt inextricably linked to the notion of work. 

In the ancestral environment, all work would have been directly correlated to the survival of the individual and their kin, and if any concept of ‘work’ was to exist in the mind of a hunter-gatherer type it would have had very different connotations to those that exist today, and not because of any obvious differences between primitive and modern languages and the brains that implement them.

Where work in itself was once the ‘debt’ that must be paid in order to live, it has now become a more abstract intercessor in the chain of survival and prosperity.  Work simply bestows credit upon us: credit which can be exchanged for goods and services, credit that we may never actually see except as numbers on a screen.  Now a different kind of ‘debt’ also exists, one which if paid off, will not feed, clothe, or protect us from the elements, but one which exists solely as a bi-product of a society in which people are separated from reality by their jobs. 
Ironically enough, jobs have made it easier for us to neglect our survival-based responsibilities by virtue of their intermediary and often unpleasant nature.  It is relatively easy for Neanderthal man to go out and hunt when he gets hungry or becomes low on food, but by comparison it is much harder for modern man to extract his lifeless body from beneath the bedclothes in order to attend to his ‘duties’, duties that will no more feed him than the paper on which his earnings are printed will nourish his cells.  

Having a job indicates that one has submitted to external forces in order to achieve some greater good, but it tells nothing of the silent grudge that one is burdened with in the process.  To counteract the feelings of cognitive dissonance that accompany the reluctant acceptance of any profession, people have invented a myriad of ways to make-believe that it is their job that is important, and in the process they have confused the means with the ends.  This is what is referred to as a ‘lost purpose’.

When compiling a C.V we note our previous labours and provide a list of our past duties, with the intention of conveying to any potential employer how noble we were in fulfilling them and preserving the vision of our superiors.  The curriculum vitae is the soon-to-be-workingman’s opportunity to upset the balance between himself and those who administer responsibilities, by making words work for him, and by employing choice phrases. 

All of this should serve to demonstrate how strongly the aversion to jobs is embedded within the human psyche, and how much of a pivotal role words and associations play in shaping our perceptions.  It is with this in mind that we at last arrive at the crux of the problem which I have yet to illuminate, and is as follows. 

Once you accept the initial premise that words have very tangible effects on how we view life, and you also agree that for the most part the word ‘job’ has strong negative connotations for all those that use it, then it should logically follow that you also accept the position that we can no longer continue to refer to fellatio as ‘giving a blowjob’. 

For the time being we shall ignore the misnomer introduced by the prefix ‘blow’, which has no doubt led to much embarrassment the world over, and is wildly misleading when used as a purely descriptive and not euphemistic term. 

The idea of giving as discussed earlier is profoundly entwined with the concept of paying back a debt, which is emphasized even further by the addition of the word ‘job’.  And when viewed as a complete phrase it has the cumulative effect of dampening the metaphorical, and not euphemistic, spirits of the potential performer. 

There is an old, familiar saying intended to warn of the dangers one may encounter should he fail to maintain certain boundaries in life, that is along the lines of ‘never mix business and pleasure’.  This is exactly what the offending phrase does in the mind of the listener, and it does so in spades.  I must assert that ‘blowjobs’ be cast off into the domain and darkened bedrooms of those sadistic and masochistic folk, for whom such painful association and delegation of drudgery is appropriate.

The solution to our collective quandary is a simple one, made even simpler for you the reader, as prior to the writing of this essay, and over the course of many late nights spent experimenting by pure trial and error, I had already formulated a word-perfect replacement for the diabolical expression that we have all tolerated for far too long. 
At the heart of this campaign to reinvent the face of oral sex is my long-deliberated proposal to replace the aforementioned archaic saying with the expression ‘to take the suck challenge’, and the reasoning is thus:

Besides the two being almost exact opposites of one another, by utilising the expression ‘to take’ instead of ‘to give’, we are presented with a far more favourable set of connotations with which to draw from.  Challenges are exciting, and free from the weight of commitment or necessity, and the use of our novel phrase has the effect of spurring on the participant and casting them in the new role of competitor whose goal is no longer to simply get the work done or to pay off a debt, but to take on the challenge and win at all costs.

We must empower ourselves to break the restrictive shackles of language, and to escape from this hidden enslavement under which we all toil.  We must resign ourselves to never again under any circumstances, give or receive another blowjob.  Likewise, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by superficial accolades such as ‘employee of the month’, which only serve to keep us hopelessly caught in the illusion that our jobs are important. 
Now that I have put down the groundwork with this essay and its many elaborations, the real challenge of bringing this new phrase to the public awareness lies ahead, and is left for you to seize firmly with both hands and a youthful vigour.  So to you concerned and willing reader, I say this:

Will you take the challenge?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Little Update

I began 2011 injured and out of action, not knowing at the time that I was destined to finish it in a similar state. 

After suffering a sprained ankle at the end of 2010 I was left to navigate the following months on crutches, remaining mostly confined to the house, and more specifically the couch.  I don’t recall how I whittled down the hours until I could walk and then finally resume training again, but it is safe to assume I went a little insane. 

No sooner had I returned to the gym that I re-injured what I believed to be one of my hip flexors which had been a problem the previous year.  I resigned myself to squatting deeper with lighter weights and devoting even more time to stretching, resting and remaining mobile.  My training around this time consisted of high rep goblet squats holding plates of up to 40kg on my chest, barbell hip thrusts, single leg band resisted back extensions, suitcase deadlifts and so on. 

Then suddenly one morning in late February I woke with the feeling that my eyes were crossed and was so dizzy that my stomach churned violently, unable to vomit anything up.  The dizziness subsided enough to let me sleep again until I was awoken much like before.  A short trip to the hospital revealed...nothing, only that the dizziness might be caused by an underlying inner ear infection.  At the time when this happened I was still in Finland, but a few months later I returned to London to unload all of my problems onto each of the general practitioners at my local surgery in succession. 

Every time I visited the doctor, my blood pressure was measured and found to be elevated, although initially I was reassured that this may simply be a reaction to the stress of being there.
After much stalling I was eventually prescribed medication to help combat the the dizzy spells which had made the precious months a blur of disorientating discomfort.  Due to protocol, I had to wait one month during which I would take the medication before I could be seen by a specialist.

Still none the wiser as to the cause of my vertigo, with my problems common knowledge between all four doctors, they decided to call a round table conference on my behalf.
The outcome of this meeting, besides making me feel special in some obscure way, was that it had been decided I would undergo a series of tests to hopefully shed some light on what may be behind my symptoms.

Lacking any definitive diagnosis outside of being labelled a young hypertensive, a number of tests later I am still no closer to being treated, let alone cured.  I have had a blood test, two urine tests and an ultrasound scan on my kidneys, I have worn a 24 hour blood pressure monitor on two different occasions, and lastly had an echocardiogram and worn a heart monitor for a further 24 hours. I am currently waiting to see a cardiologist next week. 

But as if all that wasn’t enough, as a precaution before being referred to a physiotherapist about my persistent hip flexor/leg pain, the doctor ordered an x-ray of the hip area.  A couple of weeks later I would be notified that a fracture was found on the right side of my hip near my pubis. 
I racked my brain but couldn’t recall any falls within the last year, which left me thinking that it’s likely I have been training with the fracture for some time, and may even have begun weightlifting after the fracture was originally incurred.
Cue more hospital visits and a second x-ray.  I was seen by a specialist in wrist fractures who pointed out that I have impingement in the hip due to the femoral head being convex instead of concave.  No mention of the fracture at all, but as I write this I am waiting to be seen by a specialist in hip fractures at the end of the month.

All these setbacks forced me to put any thoughts of training as far out of my mind as possible, so much so that I have sometimes thought that I will never train again, and have often felt like the fox in the story of the sour grapes.  Because it is not that I don’t wish to continue, it’s that it has been really difficult to adjust to having such a big part of my life pushed seemingly further and further away over the course of a year. 

But I am back to thinking about, writing and reading about training again when I’m not actively doing it.  Some might say I am ‘living it’, and after a period of almost two years I have just begun training rings and gymnastics conditioning again. 

Having gone from training rings only, to squatting heavy and rings conditioning at the same time, then to purely leg work, I look forward to a time when I’ll be able to do both again, although I am prepared for the possibility that I may not be able to incorporate leg/hip extension exercises into my routine until next year. 

Whether I undergo multiple surgeries this year, or whatever the outcome may be, I hope to return with just as much enthusiasm to become stronger than ever, but more importantly I just want to be able to move without fear again, to feel that same sense of freedom I have felt in the past, when running, jumping and climbing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Fallacy of Intelligent Design in Conspiracy Theories

It appears that good-to-do people are spreading misinformation via the accessibility of the internet, perpetuated by paranoid conspiracy theorists and others supposedly out in search of ‘the truth’, albeit one that confirms their beliefs in the best way possible.

I imagine that some of these people must have a chip in their shoulder, and feel that they are getting less than they deserve.  Such a belief might make it easier to spot corresponding theories, such as the idea that some ‘higher power’ (your parents, the police, the government, God) is pulling all the strings, and swinging things constantly out of your favour.  And when confirming your biases feels so good, all this information seems to come together to form some kind of clear image, like faces in rocks.

Just as it is easy to see intention and purpose where there is none, as in the case of intelligent design, the same mistakes in thinking may also be the basis for believing in conspiracy theories.  Instead of seeing a hand as something we simply use to pick up objects, purpose is wrongly attributed to it, and so we say (and think) that the purpose of hands is to pick up objects.  The difference may seem small, and some may see no difference at all, but it is a significant one. 

A system that results in discrimination against specific groups is very different from one that was actively designed to discriminate.  This is even more apparent when you consider that systems and organisations are inherently composed of individual parts and individuals, who are logically supposed to achieve the same ends.  A conspiracy on such a scale requires you to see an organisation as a well-defined whole, whose intended ends are malevolent.  If instead, you break a system down into its many parts, upon inspecting each individually it becomes increasingly difficult to find the intention.  The group or at least the majority of the group, must work collectively for the same purpose in order for there to be any tangible unified goal.  A few individuals out of hundreds or even thousands, who ‘conspire’ among themselves cannot be said to affect the overall purpose of the group, even though they may have considerable impact on the measurable outcomes of their collective.

In order to see a conspiracy it becomes necessary for you to view things in black and white, and to ignore or leave out any negative cases when looking for and summing up your ‘evidence’.  Instead of seeing honest people for example, as evidence that there is no conspiracy, they will be counted as rare exceptions, regardless of how many instances are found.

Scepticism is seen as belief system, like Christianity for example, whereby upon announcing your scepticism you have also unknowingly chosen a team, donned their colours, and separated yourself from the ‘opposition’. 

Being a sceptic is different from being a religious follower in that religion is mostly a system of beliefs, whereas scepticism is more the act of suspending belief.  In order to be a true sceptic you must have good reason for your disbelief, otherwise you are most likely just being contrary, and are in no better a position than someone who blindly believes.  Although there may be potential benefits to automatic contraryism, over the tendency to believe almost anything if it’s presented in a professional-style video, complete with well-chosen soundtrack and end credits.

Scepticism threatens to take the fun out of life and the mysteries people hold dear, by actually challenging those ideas, instead of worshipping them and rejoicing in the unknown.

Inevitability's Child

I don't believe in destiny or fate in the sense of there being a 'natural order' or things happening 'as they were meant to' due to some higher power for example.

What I do believe however, is that in theory everything could be predicted given sufficient prior information.  But the difficulty or possibility of obtaining this information would seem to be the primary obstacle to us performing these calculations, and as such there may be a significant amount of things we will never be in a position to predict. 

For example, the probability of tossing a coin and it landing on 'heads' is not really 50%, because if you design and build a coin-tossing machine you can have it land on the same side indefinitely, which is way beyond what you would expect when you just think of the coin as having 2 possible sides to land on – Probability is not a property of things.

Similarly, I'm not sure that 'randomness' really exists, and that events only seem unpredictable on the surface.  In my naive opinion randomness seems directly tied to lack of knowledge, therefore the more you know, the less random life should appear, and consequently you would be presented with a different kind of ‘fate’ in the form of inevitability perhaps.

Someone with a greater knowledge of mathematics and statistics could possibly point out the flaws in this idea for me though.

In terms of the evolution of thought, I imagine that if you work backwards, first to a time before modern science, the prevailing beliefs would have been largely superstitious, where people attributed the weather and other events to the gods and so forth.  Things would have seemed much more random and unpredictable to the average individual, and even to the most knowledgeable at the time.

Advancing even further back and it’s unlikely that the thought of gods, higher powers or any ‘powers’ at all crossed anyone’s mind.  The thought of being subject to a bunch of mysterious forces was just too advanced to occur anywhere.

Awareness of predictability is one of the things which have allowed man to manipulate the world around him in an increasing number of ways.  Discovery and observation of the existence of physical laws, and the ability to connect cause with effect has shaped human progress as we know it.  From the creation of basic tools to the discovery of medicines and knowledge of human anatomy, it all seems to be an awakening from the apparent randomness we were once surrounded by. 

So if you imagine a future that continues much in the same way, there would be things which at present we believe to be random that would be unveiled as being predictable at some point.  This is clearly true for scientific discovery, but also for discoveries on a personal level.  This may be one reason why knowing more can actually complicate things for people.  It’s not that knowledge of the facts has suddenly changed what the facts are, but that the knowledge has destroyed the mystery; the notion of things being random and the idea that you have no control, or that you do have control. 

Knowledge endows you with the burden of responsibility.  Once you no longer believe that smoking is healthy for example, you cannot hide in your own ignorance.  What you can do however, is formulate a nice-sounding story about why you will continue with the destructive act. 

Realisation that certain physical laws exist is what separates those who attempt to improve by blind experimentation, and those who heed these rules and use them to their advantage. 

If we weren’t to build upon the knowledge of others, or to make use of the information granted to us by science we would be living in a completely different world, where we may be reduced to animals once again.

Manipulation of the world around you through utilisation of the rules is not cheating, but may be seen as ‘unnatural’ if you suppose that advancement through technology goes against some unwritten code of conduct, or that there are limits as to how much we should use such knowledge to our advantage. There appears to be some kind of conflict that occurs inside the average human, a dilemma in which he cannot decide where to draw the line between what he believes to be his ‘natural’ (and therefore optimal and pure) self, and the many improvements he can make through modern technologies. 

Transhumanism appears to be the epitome of embracing human advancement to its fullest extent, and would seem to require individuals to give up certain beliefs that would otherwise prevent them from benefitting from such technology.

It’s almost as if a desire to remain the same is considered part of what it is to be human in the eyes of anti-technologists and the quietly superstitious.

Leaving things to ‘chance’ may seem like you have simply left room for infinite possibility, because ignorance can feel like a blank canvas, when in fact it is more akin to being blind in a picture gallery.  It doesn’t matter what you draw on your map, or if you choose to draw nothing at all; certain things are irremovably part of the landscape.  You can trade the opportunity to discover facts beforehand for a surprising outcome here or there, but you sacrifice efficiency along with your own powers as an intelligent being, and even perhaps that title itself.  This is very apparent when it comes down to health or physical well-being and the choices we make.  But even human irrationality itself is predictable.

I believe that some people deny or outright reject the predictability of things, in part because on the surface it undermines their ideas of free will and purpose in life.  As if knowing certain results beforehand, or just expecting-with-good-reason makes action redundant and takes away personal power, when in fact power is derived from these very things.