Responsibility

As protohumans we lived in groups of 50 to 150 people. We shared what we killed and we all relied on each other. I think we fundamentally desire the feeling of being depended on, and helping others. That is where social contracts came from. That is why some people despise freeloaders — it’s a natural human emotion. We couldn’t live in such small hunter-gatherer societies where people didn’t participate in shared work. Though that is also likely where altruism came from, and concepts of sharing. We couldn’t survive alone and had to distribute resources equitably in order to ensure the collective survives. We need to take those notions into account when trying to design a society that will work for billions of humans.

I often wonder what I should do with my life to help people. I have had enough hedonistic pleasure to know that it is unfulfilling, even if I still pursue it. I’ve come to be greatly unhappy in life seeing that other people are born into circumstances much worse than my own. This is compounded by the fact that I know I truly applied myself and worked to do so, I could help some of those people. I am so sure of that because it is so clear others with much less have done a great deal in this world. I have long mulled over where to begin, perhaps to convince myself I did not already know, thereby allowing myself an excuse for why I had not started.

The answer has always been present. It is everywhere — pick any problem and try to fix it. I, however, have this insane notion that if I look hard enough and try hard enough I can figure out a way to fix everything all at once. I’ve long known the only way to do that is by convincing a significant percentage of the world to work together to try to fix all the small and large problems that currently face humanity. I know it is possible to succeed. The most enduring reason I have for such hope is based in how similar many people’s goals are. It seems as though we all want a better world, and that our conceptions of better have many areas of overlap.

We have to figure out how to minimize the evils in this world. Everyone needs to find a problem and fix it. Many people are doing just that. They long bypassed the step of trying to figure out how to make a difference and instead put that the time they would have used towards actually making one. The mantra is simple, try to do and create with the best of your ability. If you’re a cook, try to make the most handsome feast, or an artist, the prettiest picture. To brighten another humans’s life as best you can. I’m not sure of how great a writer I am on this subject, but that’s what I’m attempting, trying to make this as good as possible, trying to make it as clear, readable, and useful as I can.

I feel that since I’ve spent so much time thinking about it, and since so many resources have been invested in my staying alive, I owe it to the world to at least consolidate the thoughts I’ve been ruminating on. I think, perhaps, that one of the main reasons I am seeking to write this and publish it online is because I don’t want others to fall into the same trap. I am trying to write a note to my former self, to tell my childhood or teenage self to pick a direction and start trying to change things. Again, so many people are already doing it, and though it may seem very visible to everyone else, I can’t help but feel like it’s a secret message. Like a special club with a code word not everyone can get in on.

In this current world it is exceedingly difficult to be a jack of all trades. There is no time in life to become a master of more than one field, or even more than one specialized portion of a field. Information is accumulating so rapidly that it is nigh impossible to learn everything there is to know about a subject, much less more than one. However, it is important to bridge divides. To connect different obscure sets of knowledge. That’s perhaps one of the few things computers and technology won’t be able to do with the acuity humans can. Humans have an uncanny, if subconscious, ability to relate random bits of information and see patterns.

Now I’ve spent my time becoming relatively widely versed in different fields, but I feel pressed by time as others do. So I say to those who have yet to become specialized that that’s what they ought to do. We need intelligent people solving each of the small problems because one individual can’t singlehandedly solve them all. It’s important to study nature in order to find the poison of a rare tree frog which may be useful to create a drug that cures cancer. It’s not that technology won’t be able to do that, but humans’ creativity allows them a much easier time coming up with such novel ideas.

We need people to devote their lives to single endeavors in order to create the solutions that are so desperately needed. We need this while at the same time we need to stay connected to the larger goal. We need to ensure that humanity holds the same values even while we hardly have time to speak to each other. Time feels faster and faster. Our attention is spread thin, companies are fighting for it. It takes willpower, but humans must learn to control their impulses and allocate time towards that which matters most: alleviating suffering.

I know some humans need rest here and there. They need a laugh or to relax in order to recharge before going back into battle. That’s understandable, but we also must have the self control to limit time wasted in such manners. We can’t expect people to make all the right choices, we have to create a society that makes it easy on them. We know we ourselves are imperfect, we can’t expect others to be. We can’t expect too much from people or we will only end up disappointing ourselves. We have to acknowledge people will do wrong, and try to convince them to do otherwise while we work to minimize the ramifications when they do do wrong.

It is important to note that one part of helping others is acting in a way to ensure we do not hurt others. I sometimes wonder if I should kill myself, but it seems like a waste because I am in a position to help alleviate suffering and because so many resources, food, water, education, etc. have been invested in keeping me alive. I can’t allow myself to give up on the dream of a perfect world because if it can be brought into being, that would mean so much less suffering for the people here. So I am left wondering how exactly can I live my life in a way that hurts people the least. I mean, should one be a vegetarian? Should one not fight with others? Should one like a life of asceticism? I’m not too sure, I think those are questions people can only answer to themselves. What I will say is that life is about death. Humans indiscriminately kill on ants, spiders, and cockroaches. Should we? Are those actions immoral? Ultimately I think we should we be nice to a rock simply because humans are creatures of habit.

When it comes down to it, we must decide what we can decide and move forward. I’m not sure of what I will do with the rest of my life, but I’ve decided to write this and prioritize this over as much as I am able to will myself to. I don’t know if it’s ultimately the right choice, but I know it is what I have chosen. So I have no idea if this has helped anyone, but if it did, please either try to do what I suggested or try to spread the message better than I have been able to. I know when it comes to what I see as my personal responsibilities, that all I can do is try to set a good example, be a good person, make the best choices I can make. Try to help others do the same, try to point them in the right direction, and call out evil when I see it. When I have time, if I do, I will come back and try to make this better.

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