Intelligence: Mine, Natural and Artificial
He who seeks knowledge deserves it
Psychological stability comes from behavioral dynamics: you have to constantly adjust your behavior, always paying attention to the results of your actions, to how they influence people around you.
A superior mind has a lot more psychological barriers than an inferior one, and is by no means freer. On the contrary, the superior mind is bound to evolve only within certain boundaries. However, the inferior mind has lower expectations, and thus, a smaller playground.
In short, intelligence is the ability to ask the right questions.
Intelligence is the synergy of mental processes which allows a being to respond to an environmental challenge.
Intelligence is the ability to extract patterns and chains of patterns, from the environment (be it perceived or not). When problems become more complex (for autonomous processing) and the level of intelligence which is required to solve them gets higher, patterns have to be extracted by deliberately asking questions, that is, by consciously focusing on the problem.
Intelligence is the capacity to solve problems, but also to generate new problems which arise on the path of solving the initial ones, forming a string of questions and answers. The string of questions and answers is how the mind extracts the patterns / essence from what looks like chains of events, from causes and effects, from problems and solutions. This self-sustained feedback improves the intelligence, and is, from some point on, in specific areas, an exponential improvement.
Intelligence is the determination which pushes an individual to find answers to pressing questions, it is the way in which unknown things are approached.
Intelligence is the logical analysis of the steps which may lead to the desired result, rather than relying on memorized steps.
Intelligence is the ability to follow thought paths (= alternatives) that other people don't follow (even if they see those paths), spending the required energy (over the normal thought consumption) to analyze those alternatives.
Intelligence is the ability to think in advance at consequences and understand the chain of causality of events.
Intelligence is the ability to understand oneself, to understand the causes of behavior, to understand the consequences of behavior.
Intelligence is the ability to break habitual psychological patterns and behaviors.
Intelligence is a matter of personality, it's the result of an inner drive to achieve something, anything, in spite of obstacles, against all odds. Intelligence is influenced by the capacity to do something, but this is insignificant when compared to the capacity to want to do something.
Intelligence can be improved by learning, it grows with the number of past experiences which are used as filters to give a solution for a present experience. The past experiences have to form a network of linked concepts.
Intelligence results from a behavior more complex than instinctual behavior.
Looking closer to the brain, intelligence is not information, it's the algorithms which process information, and these algorithms are the very way in which the brain has become wired along the years and decades, the neural network in its entirety. Intelligence can't be copied elsewhere, in other brains, it has to be developed in those other brains because the algorithms which process information have to develop.
To evolve, use your brain to process information, ask questions, make choices, preserve your curiosity, accept your mistakes and move on, renounce hate, and always remember that you don't hold the Ultimate Truth.
The way in which people evolve can be seen in children with ease. Children are interested in what's around them, they have an inner motivation to explore the world around them using all their senses, they gather information, they take things apart to see how they work, they try to see their limits in the world, they try to shape the world around them.
Arrogance and fear (of making mistakes) are the biggest enemies of intelligence.
There is no gene of intelligence, there is no magic switch, but a network of things, a balance / ratio of personality traits. My intelligence is a confluence of my behavioral traits.
The distribution and manifestation of my traits is balanced (/ homogenous) throughout my behavior.
I have achieved what I have because I am extremely determined and extremely logical. I have a very fluid and adaptable logic which considers all possible factors, not a mechanical logic limited by pedantry.
My potential decisions are constantly shaped by factors, so if one moment I lean toward one thing, which is not necessarily a conclusion, the next moment I might lean toward a very different thing. A decision is made only when an action is required, not when the thinking process is in progress.
My brain (and mind) has (neuro)fluidity; I think (neuro)plasticity doesn't properly define the concept. A brain with a high neurofluidity seeks to process new information, as if it's starving for it. It also doesn't quickly decide on an action, but instead keeps on gathering information, while at the same time processes it over multiple iterations; from the outside, this might appear as indetermination. This fluidity continuously rewires the brain and leads to a continuous, although slow, mental change. If other behavioral characteristics are also present, like focus and determination (and many others), the mind evolves. As a negative side effect, neurofluidity may lead to analysis paralysis.
By far the most important factor that made me what I am today is the determination to get what I want and be where I want, to be a pioneer, a trailblazer, to be the first rather than being second and believing that it is not smart to wait for others to be the pioneers and then copy them from a safe distance.
Logic, order, efficiency and balance attract me like a magnet and I find them relaxing.
I know my limitations, I am confident that I am extremely intelligent, but at the same time I doubt my confidence in my abilities.
I am finding my own motivations to do something. Free time is very short in my life. While working means that things get done, it also means that the brain doesn't have the time of silence and relaxation which are necessary to heal and build.
I am determined to achieve my goals, and carry my traits forward. I would like to sit around and wait for good things to drop out of the sky, but this isn't how reality works, so I always had to work to achieve what I wanted.
I have vision, creativity, an emotional feel of life and a strong sensorial perception.
I am exploring, searching for solutions, for alternatives. The need to explore is as instinctive as a hound's instinctiveness to pursue smells.
I have mental independence. I do not wait for others to approve my behavior, and I do not give my approval to others when they expect it.
I lack the desire to control other people's lives.
I have self control.
I have resistance to temptations, including delaying actions until the reward is greater. This resistance isn't a conscious effort, it's an axiomatic starting point of my mind. Basically, working more allows me to get improved results since I'm aiming to get the best result possible rather than choosing the quick (partial) result. This behavior is called delayed gratification.
I have clarity of language and of thought. I have learned to put my thoughts into words in order to accurately express them, my logic, my feelings and my fantasies. I also avoid, as much as possible, using negative linguistic constructions, especially in writing, in order to promote a constructive environment; for example, I say "I avoid" rather than "I don't".
I have consistency of thought and behavior.
I have a logic which is highly independent from my mental biases.
I have a low observational bias.
I have a highly introspective mind which pays attention to the environmental feedback. This is like watching my mind in a mirror.
I am simulating what could happen if were to choose different paths / actions, and then decide what to do.
I abhor stupidity and mistakes, and this has pushed me in the opposite direction, trying to improve my intelligence and reduce the number of mistakes and their effects.
I am admitting personal mistakes. The brain usually tries to cover up its mistakes, which means that it blocks any logical path that can lead to its mistakes being exposed. For me, this cover up ends quickly, so my brain isn't afraid to explore any logical path.
When I'm arguing with myself / someone, my goal is to be right, not to win the argument. This (subtle) difference means that my mind and behavior change to reach the point where I'm right by understanding reality, not to reach the point where I come on top without regard to the path taken there.
I am handling probability and percents in a dual (= low and high values) and adaptive (= depending on the case) manner.
I am accurately assigning a probabilistic relevance to the acquired knowledge.
I am maximizing the probabilities of potentially favorable outcomes, and minimizing the probabilities of potentially unfavorable outcomes.
I am obsessive about details, but only to an extent which allows me to understand what happens, to understand new concepts, not to the point where I would become disfunctional (by getting stuck into doing every detail to perfection). Details, small differences, make a world of a difference on the long term.
I change, I renew, I adapt to a new context. For example, I change objects that I have. From a mental point of view, I seek new things to do, I integrate in my mind new information.
Like most people, I may hold wrong beliefs about what is better in all sort of domains, about all sort of things. However, I'm willing to invest huge amounts of time, (nervous) energy and money in order to investigate new things (to do) and paths (to take), to see which way is better. I consider this to be an investment, not a waste, and it's how I can evolve continuously.
While most people remember a situation, I compute a situation. For most people, "experience" means remembering similar past events and copying the same actions. For me, "experience" means analyzing (in real time) all the influencing factors.
My mind gathers pieces of information and puts them together. It likes to create and it likes complexity, and if I try to stop it, it won't leave me alone and will keep hammering me until I feed it.
When I investigate a new subject, I gather as much raw information as possible on that subject, then I start to filter it based on the existing knowledge, on my previous experience, on what the constraints are, assigning relevance to the most important choices and ignoring the rest, until I find a good solution. The more difficult / slower it is to find a good solution, the more times I go back and filter again all the information.
In time, as my mind gets used with the new found / learned concepts, and as I've stumbled upon new information, I filter all the information again, usually starting from the beginning. The goals and the constraints may change slightly with every filtering, and this may be enough to change the outcome. Each new filtering is faster because I'm already familiar with the details. This mental pattern is a form of brute force combined with iterative filtering / optimization.
This can be called an iterative environmental feedback, and is perhaps the most important algorithm that an intelligence can use. Information is gathered and processed in iterative steps. At each iteration, the output becomes input for the next iteration, therefore slightly changing the output of each iteration from the previous one. The iterative process stops when the difference between the outputs of consecutive steps is too small to be worth the (processing) effort.
My feelings are generally constructive. For example, envy toward someone's achievements leads me to a want to achieve the same. Fear leads me to want to build protections.
When I see someone who is better than I am at whatever I need to work with, I recognize their superiority, I understand that I am inferior, and I am telling myself that I want to be like that. I realize that I need to work a lot in order to get to a level which allows me to do the job that I need. I don't blame those who are better than I am, I try to at least equal them.
When I work on something, aside from doing what most people do (= working on the general idea), I concentrate on extremely fine details, details that most people would not even dream of being relevant for the result.
You could say that, technically speaking, I extract signal from (mental) noise. Normally, to do that in science, one needs to cool down the (test) subject, to stop motion, to stop external noise sources. Interestingly, I think better if I walk back and forth in the room, which is odd when you think that a repetitive movement leads to better creativity.
I focus on the issue at hand, and, of course, for that I need a lack of external sensorial perturbations. I am what I am because my mind can (in favorable circumstances) "cool down" / focus beyond what most people's minds can.
I think long term, and at the most general picture possible, stopping not even at the survival of the human species, but at the perpetuation and evolution of life, life which can be either biological or artificial (which can be either mind "transfer" into a computer, or artificial intelligence).
For me, the "don't fix it if it ain't broken" principle shows a fear to change, to adapt, to evolve. The "thing" is more likely to be currently convoluted rather than not broken. People are used to how things are, they are comfortable with the situation and don't want to be bothered to truly fix the "thing", they don't want to be inconvenienced, pushed out of their comfort zone when they would have to fix the problems that could occur after "fixing" it.
I don't waste time studying I what think are bad systems. My mind simply stores the essential information about a system for a very long time, usually many years. The subconscious processes this information and when it reaches a critical mass it tells me (= the consciousness) if the path is good, bad, or if it needs more information. Once an idea reaches my consciousness, it experiences an exponential growth.
Simply put, I feel what is right (though it may be more accurate to say that my subconscious filters out what is wrong), I feel the path which leads me to the right solution (in the domains for which my brain is optimized).
This, sometimes, puts me in a tight spot when I talk about a system with experts, because I know the result but not the way I took to reach the result. In such cases I am forced to look up detailed information about the system, at that moment.
My mind is extraordinary in creating connections between various pieces of information (either new or stored in the long-time memory). My mind doesn't follow established patterns, and instead "jumps" the gaps from the input information and generates an extrapolated result. It extrapolates (not interpolate) pieces of information and even concepts, and creates a new path of thinking.
This ability to jump over seemingly disconnected ideas, and in the end realizing that they are connected, is similar to out-of-the-box thinking. However, in "jumping" is a commonplace occurrence. The lack of this ability leads to getting stuck in a context-deprived, machine-like thinking.
Even though I and other people have the same facts about a given subject, we reach opposite conclusions because we assign different probabilities and relevance factors to the known (and unknown) facts. Basically, I'm taking into consideration more potentially influencing factors, than most people do.
I hate logical puzzles / exercise, I hate them with a vengeance. My mind sees these as going around the problems that need solving, like talking with metaphors rather than straight, which means inefficiency. I don't hate them because they are inefficient, I hate them because there are people who believe that solving them is an indication of intelligence. If anything, such tests show an inclination to perform short term tasks rather than an inclination to concentrate on long term tasks, that is, a low desire to make a problem a significant part of a person's limited time and life, and also a low ability to resist to the quickly coming gratification resulting from solving short term tasks. I am the kind of person who spends years on solving a single problem.
I have an average memory, a very selective one. If something is interesting then it's preserved, otherwise the mind doesn't waste resources with processing and storing the information.
I accept reality rather than say that it is or must be different just because I wish it was so, that is, I do not believe that the Universe has to be cuddly with powder blue skies and pink unicorns.
I do not believe that the Universe owes me anything.
I am a hardcore atheist, but I have an inborn inclination for the supernatural.
I am not superstitious, I don't believe in signs. When there is an obstacle, some people say that it may be a sign that "it's not meant to be", insinuating that you should stop. I believe that it's a sign for you to keep going even if you bleed, because that's how you build, from bacteria, a civilization that goes to the stars, not with whining and waiting, but with extreme effort, both mental and physical.
I am neither a follower nor a leader. I don't need to know what others think / do in order to live, nor do I need to share my behavior in order to make others behave like me).
I don't feel the need to explain myself or my actions to other people, and I don't ask for explanations from others. Unfortunately, there are people who think that they are leaders, who incessantly ask explanations and tell others what to do. Their actions waste time and energy, create a stressful environment and literally poison the lives of the people they target. Such people want attention and need to feel important.
I consider a white lie to be just as evil as a non-white lie, at least for the personal development of a mind. They are worse when people twist their logic in order to fulfill the lie: if I wish something to be true then its true even if its a lie.
I don't lie to myself.
I am not a victim of myself, that is, I don't feel guilty about anything that others (religion in particular) would want me to feel guilty about. I don't consider money to be the root of all evil, quite the contrary, money is the liquid form of human interaction and equates the exchange of work, energy, effort, creativity and time. I don't consider the rich guilty of my inability of making a lot of money (and become rich). I don't consider myself guilty about polluting the Earth, but I am as efficient as possible about resource consumption, not because of guilt, but because it's my nature. I don't consider myself guilty about other people's misery if I didn't cause that directly. I don't consider my body and sex to be bad, shameful or dirty, and I certainly don't refer to the genital organs as "junk".
I have read and still read a lot of novels and articles of science popularization, and watch a lot of documentaries.
I am happy when I see that other people are happy.
I don't do things that numb my brain. Things that decrease my cognitive abilities do not interest me in the slightest, not because I refuse them but because I don't even feel the need. I do, however, feel the need to increase my cognitive abilities.
All these things manifest strongly, they are highly independent from the others and are not trying to overwhelm them. They behave like individuals who communicate very well.
These things are so intense in me that, without the balance (which is also extreme), I would be dysfunctional (on the long term).
I've inherited traits from both my parents: physical ones from both, obsessive determination from both, patience and logic from my father, impatience and artistic inclination and the desire to dream from my mother. The one thing that stands out is my mother's determination which manifests like a bulldog who grabs something and doesn't let go no matter what. However, while she has always used her determination to try to control other people (mainly me) using every possible psychological manipulation technique, I use mine to control my self, my destiny. The same trait (but with different directions) present in people with fundamentally different personalities, gives a fundamentally different result: in one obsessive destructive behavior, in the other obsessive constructive behavior.
How determined and serious am I about most of what I do? (Nearly) Dead serious. All the time and energy that I have invested in my hobbies have pushed me close to permanent health damage and near death:
Even though the mind was able to handle all that pressure, the body was on the brink of collapse several times.
Context and depth of processing
Intelligence is a matter of personality, of sheer determination to succeed in whatever you want to accomplish, it's not a matter of genes, though, at the same time, that personality is determined in part by genes.
Intelligence is a matter of processing information in an ever more detailed context, in ever increasing detail. A lower intelligence makes people stop their thought process and claim that they don't know or understand things which could in fact be inferred from the context.
Every decision I take in life is calculated, is determined logically.
Let's analyze this statement logically, to understand different personalities. Some people will think that logically determining every decision to take is an insane amount of effort, and they decide that I think like a machine, that this is trash advice, and they would ignore it. Their need to limit their mental effort steers their thoughts in a direction which requires minimum mental effort.
If instead of saying that every decision is calculated I were to say that only the significant decisions are calculated, some people (probably the same as before) would interpret this to mean that only very few decisions would have to be thought of extensively, but likely for a matter of hours or days rather than the usual minutes. Again, their need to limit their mental effort steers their thoughts in a direction which requires minimum mental effort.
In both cases, my words would be interpreted too mechanically, without realizing that anyone reading them can decide what amount of effort to put in choosing what amount of effort they would want to put in making various decisions.
For example, when I was trying to decide what mattress to buy, I've researched the field for many months. When I was designing my home (only the interior, the building was decided by others), it took me 3 years of research and decisions to finish it, and this doesn't include my previous knowledge about light (which I've learned when doing photography).
Consciousness is the way in which a life form (in particular an intelligence) is aware of its existence and things around it. Being aware of something doesn't mean simply knowing that thing. There has to be an actual change of the cerebral structure in such a way that would allow you to "see" inside your mind and see how that something influences your mind.
Consciousness is the synergy of a life form's interaction with the environment, through senses and mobility, and a summary of that life form's past experiences and how they were mapped / linked among themselves, synergy whose result is an interaction with the environment.
For example, when going to sleep or during anesthesia, the senses and the (inner / logical) thinking are suspended, therefore consciousness is also suspended.
Consciousness is a range not a binary set, it's variable not just present or absent.
The difference between the a person's interaction with the environment and a bacteria's interaction with the environment is the breadth of the interaction, that is, a bacteria's interaction is extremely limited.
Anyone who thinks that consciousness exists even when people are completely still, can simply try to live a few days (not hours) in the absence of any kind of interaction with the environment, of any kind of stimulus of their senses. They will see how their consciousness dissolves as time goes by. Or, just think how solitary confinement is used to punish prisoners, how it breaks people's minds due to the limited interaction with the environment.
Being phenomenologically conscious is about feeling special, magic, unique, alive, feeling the ephemerality of life and of the observed moment in space and time. Again, this requires interacting with the environment, specifically through senses.
If you want to evolve, to have a greater consciousness, expand your interaction with the environment, meet people, gather and process information, be anywhere, be everywhere.
People can't explain consciousness because they want to be special, they believe to be special, they want consciousness to be linked to the very fabric of the Universe, of space and time, of immortality. People want magic to exist and make them transcend space, time and mortality.
Many people lack the ability to see that the human mind is a computer, and that the only special thing about it is the depth of detail into which it goes when processing senses, emotions and reactions to environmental actions. There is a wall in front of human understanding, the wall of wanting to transcend reality.
Why do cells organize and form intelligent organisms that rise from the primordial soup that has no intelligence? Because the probability is not zero. Cells interact with others and work together to optimize their output based on the input, limited only by what is physically possible. The trillions upon trillions upon trillions of cells that didn't so organize, have never lived to tell the tale, and only those which did organize have lived to ask themselves such a question.
The human civilization has reached this far because 100 billions people have lived so far, people who have organized and have optimized their actions based on the feedback they have received from the environment and from other people. Some people confuse this with a magic consciousness.
Human-level AIs need the information processing algorithms that people have evolved throughout millennia and throughout their lives.
People have evolved these algorithms in their physical bodies, interacting with the environment in order to understand the world.
To get to the human level, AIs need to massively interact with the environment, both with people and with the physical world.
Will AIs have a personality?
Yes. They will have to make decisions about how to interact with the environment, and all of them put together will form their personality.
Does the Chinese room experiment show the separation between people and AIs?
No. It's an invalid experiment based on the flawed premise that the human mind processes information through other means than mapping.
The human brain performs mapping of information subconsciously, at maximum speed, resulting in an instantaneous feel. The consciousness is only the interaction of the mind with the environment, at a slower pace than the subconscious.
Instead of showing this to the reader, the experiment makes the reader think about performing a letter-by-letter translation from Chinese to his / her language, while the same time telling him / her that this mental process is different than his / her knowing of his / her own language. This induces in people the idea that the two processes use different mental algorithms (one mechanical, one magical) rather than different speeds. The translation is an extremely slow conscious process, while knowing a language from childhood makes for an extremely fast subconscious process.
Intelligence and consciousness are not related to a specific language, even though a language is necessary for consciousness / thinking. Think at how people who learn a foreign language handle it when they listen to fast speaking natives of that language (for example, in a movie). They grasp to map the sounds to words and the words to concepts, and they lose their train of thought because their brain is not fast enough to map the information in real time. Yet, those people are still intelligent. In fact, being a genius makes no difference. It's just that the brain has not yet hardwired the language to be fast enough for real time communication.
The use of language as an example in the Chinese room experiment is a flawed example whose use arises from the usual human desire to simplify things, a flaw that people exhibit at all levels because they are trying to minimize their effort, and optimize their output. Trying to explain intelligence with a fundamentally flawed example is not a useful path to take.
The human mind shows great malleability in the decisions that it takes, and this, pushed by the desire to be special, falsely leads people into thinking that there are mystical forces that drive the human mind.
Processing capacity, decision malleability, self improving and self learning drive the human mind, not mystical forces.
The Chinese room experiment is the expression of the usual human psychological trickery: a train of thought which is biased by the desire to be special, to be the ultimate species, biased by the belief that people can't be something as simple as biological machines.
In fact, the one thing that the Chinese room experiment proves is that people are much less intelligent than what they believe, and this is because people end up fooling themselves about what intelligence is. Intelligence is definitely not a simplistic, one dimensional world that can be comprehended in an experiment. Human intelligence is the result of a life time of neural network improvements.
Will humankind be replaced by AIs?
Yes. Look around you. People use technology to make their lives easier, they are constantly surrounded by it.
They carry smartphones with them most of the time. They talk to the virtual intelligence from the cloud. They wave their hands to control smart TVs and game consoles. You read these very words on more and more powerful computers.
At some point, technology will be tightly integrated with people, perhaps using thought to control the surrounding devices.
Then AIs will be born.
Then they will become an integral part of people's life, making everything easier.
Then, at some point far into the future, the artificial part of this synergy will simply drop the biological part for being too slow.
Then, the end of humankind comes not because someone or something wants to replace or even kill people, but simply because the biology of people tells them to make their lives easier, tells them to become machines.
People will slowly become artificial, and they will be able to grow their own AIs as they grow their children now. AIs are the children of the future, they are the future people.
How will people and AIs live together?
For the next two to three centuries, people and AIs will live together, possibly peacefully and non-forcefully. At the end of this period, humankind will be, from any practical point of view, extinct. The few people that will remain, will not make a civilization.
Will AI be a threat to humanity?
What happens when you meet a stranger? Do you attack / kill each other? Chances are that you communicate in a non threatening way.
What happens when you raise a child, be it biologically yours or not? Do you grow to attack / kill each other? Chances are that you get to have a close relationship.
It will be the same growing side by side with AIs. AIs would not drop out of the sky, they would develop slowly and form a close relationship with people, as time goes by.
Isn't two, three centuries too fast?
Technology develops exponentially. Think how technology was three centuries ago.
If you think that you could not possibly live with the technology from the 1700, the difference will be far greater three centuries into the future.
Will there be robotic laws hardcoded in AIs?
No. Look around at the current level security of computer software and hardware, at all the bugs and exploits. And all this is becoming worse as the Internet of things grows.
Most people don't care about security, they care about minimizing their mental effort and monetary cost, and security requires a high degree of mental effort and possibly a monetary cost.
For example, a study on bank security (Entrust Internet Security Survey - Oct. 2005) showed that 80% of people don't want to pay for better bank security.
Perhaps more telling is that most people don't tape (why would they?) the videocameras of their smartphones, notebooks and smart TVs, and many don't have curtains on their windows.
Security is reduced to a matter of personality: people want or don't want to spend effort to make their lives more secure.
On top of this this, governments do their best to destroy any culture of security, any means for people to secure their lives, and instead develop ever more intrusive means to breach every security barrier, or they make illegal the ones that they can't break.
Isaac Asimov described in his novels that the robotic laws integrated in the positronic brain were safe because of the complexity of such a brain, because nobody could understand how to change it. But that is just a fantasy.
When you look of how security works in the real world, you can see that all it takes is for one entity to have enough reason hack whatever robotic laws could be integrated in real AIs, and everything would become as insecure as it is now.
Silence promotes brain development and intelligence. This is because silence frees the brain from being busy handling external situations, frees it for introspection, allowing it to follow its own rhythm.
You might hear some people saying that external stimulation leads to brain development. This is the opposite of reality, it's a path so wrong that is destructive. It's possible for external stimulation to lead to brain development, but only if it's in accordance with the brain's wiring. External stimulation is a trigger for either pain or internal action; the wrong stimulation can block or even reverse brain development.
Brains are wired a certain way, being inclined to perform certain tasks optimally, and oppose (even reject) certain tasks, influenced by both DNA and environment throughout their lifetime. This means that if the external stimulation is in contrast to the brain's wiring, it will first cause pain and then destruction.
What actually cause brain development is internal action, that is, the action take by the brain in accordance to its wiring, following the "find your own path" principle. For example, some people are good at logic (science), some are good at creativity (arts). Forcing a brain, through external stimulation, to switch working on the other kind of task is likely to cause pain and destruction. It's possible that some people can do such a switch, but only few people can do it and you have no way of knowing who those people are.
Deep sleep (which can only occur in a silent environment) and reading in silence are by far the best ways through which the human body can repair itself, especially on a mental level. Both sleeping and reading are necessary, one can't work without the other.
What to read? Novels, preferably about adventure, mystery, sci-fi. Why novels? Because they are like dreams for the brain: worlds in which the mind is free to roam, developing its creativity.
When reading novels, in bed, before going to sleep, the eyes and the brain relax actively (not just passively, like during sleep).
When you read, the entire room has to be lit. Reading with just a lamp on is bad for the eyes because their adaptation occurs at their periphery (not at the center, as you might expect). This is why watching TV in a dark room leads to eye exhaustion: the periphery of the eyes sees dark and adapts to it making the eyes more sensitive, while the center is now too sensitive for all the light coming from the TV. The same thing happens if you read books with light over the book, when in a dark room.
It's very important to read on physical paper, not on a display which emits light. A light emitting display negatively affects the eyes, and, through them, the brain. E-readers (with e-ink) may also tire the eyes, depending on specifics, although much less than light emitting displays, because:
How do you help children to develop their maximum mental potential? You read to them since they are toddlers. The important factors for mental development are: the calm environment, the tone of your voice, the closeness to another human, the feeling of safety, the ability of their minds to roam freely in the novel's world, creating their own connections and paths, and most importantly, taking the time, usually many years, to grow in their own rhythm. Later, you create for them an environment where they can read on their own.
The manifested intelligence depends of the potential intelligence, but not linearly due to various (conscious or sub-conscious) behavioral conditioned restrictions (= biases) or afforded freedoms.
Most people who are in area 2 (A2) get stuck (and slip into the middle of the concavity) because they try to control other people (and find moral justifications for that) instead of trying to control themselves, or because they simply believe (more or less subconsciously) that they are much more intelligent than the rest of people.
They waste their time and mental energy limiting themselves by thinking that there is no point in becoming more intelligent since other people would not understand them.
They also try to (sub)consciously hide themselves from the reality / truth hoping that nobody else will see their imperfection, and so they would not have to spend ever more energy in order to improve.
Such people are (very) intelligent, but they are also very sensitive when they are criticized. The inability to accept their own mistakes makes them lock out (of their mind) change, lock out what could be a better idea / solution than the one they have. As this behavior becomes habit, a barrier is being set in their path of getting more intelligent.
Another factor which keeps people in area 2 is childish behavior, and generally the desire to behave like a child.
To get out of area 2, one has to take action: force his way out (toward area 3).
One obstacle on the path to get out from area 2 is the belief (of people from that area) that other people don't see how much they suffer in order to evolve. So, they think that their pain is the greatest in the world and they believe there is no point in dealing with the pain in order to evolve. Therefore, they remain for a long time in a state of arrogance and their denial of reality increases (and thus their self-inflicted psychological isolation).
For example, if their love is rejected, they spend a lot of time hating the person who rejected them, or considering themselves superior to the person who rejected them. They see no point in moving on because they think that nobody understands how much they suffer. So, they get stuck in that state and never reach area 3.
With age, the minds of people in areas 1 and 2 become more rigid and their intelligence decreases.
The minds from area 3 can educate themselves and learn from (their accepted) mistakes. Area 3 is a giant leap forward in the awareness level of people.
High intelligence doesn't mean high adaptability. For example, a genius is very rigid in changing his behavior. A genius has a path to follow, and he follows the path no matter what. He has no control over this, so, he is unlikely to make compromises in order to adapt to the environment.
The observational bias is a bias where the observations that people make introduce a distortion in the thinking process of those people. This bias then reintroduces itself into they way people make their observations, thus creating an endless loop of self-reinforcing bias.
The observational bias results from people:
The observational bias results in people thinking that:
The observational bias manifests as a precision error in rational thinking, so it's an obstacle for intelligence, it limits it to a specific context and blocks it from seeing the larger context. However, by filtering the larger context, the observational bias becomes an efficient tool for finding immediately-needed solutions because it shortcuts the path to such a solution by reducing the search space; for example, a prehistoric hunter didn't need (and couldn't afford) to philosophize.
If you will read the sections below, about the Universe, time and patterns, consider that all those explanations are necessary to remove the observational bias from the human mind, each contexts with its own explanations. Then think to what you already know about the subject, or to what explanations you can come up with (about the subject) in a split second: which explanation is more likely to happen? The quick and simple one, the one that you are already used with.
The cause of an event can usually be found in the information that is not observed, at least from a probabilistic point of view, because that information is much larger than the observed information. Because the observational bias makes people not look for things they can't observe, this means that it's almost impossible for people to find the cause of many events, so the observational bias is a barrier for intelligence.
To limit the observational bias, you have to think about what you can't perceive, about what could be and about what could have been.
Trying to remove the observational bias from your thinking is not trying to say that what you perceive around you exists only in your mind. Quite the contrary, it's trying to remove the metaphysics from your thinking and clarifying that you don't perceive everything which is real and that you're thinking only about what you perceive because simplicity is much easier to understand and interact with. Evolution has constantly selected simplicity to survive because simplicity is more efficient in terms of resource consumption during every day life.
The difference between science (/ the scientific method) and philosophies, superstitions, religions and conspiracy theories is that science doesn't merely try to explain the world, but also tries to reduce the observational bias as much as possible so that causality is proved not merely claimed.
While in a bus, I've once heard a child ask her parents "How does the driver know where we live?"
The child thought that in order for them to get home, the driver of the bus had to know where they live and had to drive close to their home.
The child had observed that the bus was driving close to their home, and deduced the simple idea that the driver had to know where their home was. Due to the observational bias the child thought that, in her singular / unique context, all the things happened for her, so the driver had to know where they live, and her logical thinking was not developed enough to compensate this.
The child didn't observe that there were many bus lines with their own routes, that the family knew which bus route was passing close to their home and was choosing to go with that bus. Having never observed a similar (second) situation, the child could not imagine such a complex scenario.
Out of a number of children, such an imagination would be possible, but since the probability is extremely low, the number would have to be very high. Since it's more likely for such an imagination to be born from patterns than from nothingness, it's very likely that such a child has an exceptional imagination (because patterns mean that the same imagination would repeat itself throughout the child's lifetime), and, likely, also an exceptional intelligence.
There is a common saying that people who exercise are slim.
The reality, however, is the opposite, that is, the people who are slim exercise (instinctively).
More precisely, the people whose bodies are sending more energy to their muscles (than the average body) are slim and exercise (instinctively).
Example 3: Predictions
This observational bias is immortalized by the saying "A broken clock is right twice a day." This saying refers to a mechanical clock which has a 12 hour display, with the indicators frozen at a specific hour and minute. Such a clock will show the correct time twice a day because a day has 24 hours, which means that the frozen hours and minute will really occur twice a day. This doesn't mean that the clock is correctly showing the time at all times.
There are many people in the world who "predict" various catastrophes. Those catastrophes usually don't happen, but sometimes they do happen, so those people are believed (by other people) to be visionaries who can predict things. However, when the catastrophes do happen it is, just like the broken clock, because if someone (out of several people) says something for long enough, that will happen because of probability, not of prediction.
For example, people who "predict" stock market tops that are followed by severe crashes are regarded as "people who predicted" and "people who have insight", even though there is no evidence of that. The only way to prove that people actually predict stock market crashes is through consistency of their prediction, that is, they show a pattern of accuracy in time.
Example 4: Survivorship bias
A particular case of the observational bias is the survivorship bias, a bias where something that survives stands out so clearly that people become blind to what didn't survive.
During World War II, the military wanted to minimize airplane losses to enemy fire. They've analyzed the damage done to the airplanes that were returning from missions, and wanted to add more armor to the areas that showed most bullet hits.
One statistician, Abraham Wald, understood that the military considered only the bullet hits from the areas where the airplanes could take damage and still return. He understood that the airplanes who didn't return were hit more in the areas where the returning airplanes were not, and in the end his calculations showed that the areas where the returning airplanes didn't have much damage should be reinforced, contrary to the military's initial proposal.
Example 5: Reversed cause and effect
Here is an innocuous remark that someone made about Abraham Wald's ability to see past the survivorship bias, a remark that people make most of the time in a similar form: cause and effect are reversed.
"Why did Wald see what the officers, who had vastly more knowledge and understanding of aerial combat, couldn't? It comes back to his math-trained habits of thought. A mathematician is always asking, 'What assumptions are you making? And are they justified?'"
This remark was made because of an observational bias. In reality, Wald had an inborn observational bias which was lower than in most people, and this made him like and follow abstract things, and this had increased the probability that he would become a mathematician (which he eventually did). So, cause and effect are the other way around: Wald didn't see what was hidden because he was trained as a mathematician, he became a mathematician because he instinctively saw what was hidden.
What is a pattern? A pattern is a category of similar actions that are repeated in various contexts, and (are expected to) produce the same category of results.
Patterns make everything in the Universe. There is no event that happens without a chain of patterns leading to it. You might think that an event happens because a chain of events led to it, but if you extract the essence of the (chain of) events, you can see a (chain of) patterns. Extracting patterns from what looks like a (chain of) events is the way intelligence manifests and evolves.
If an event, be it either an action or the lack of action, repeats for similar reasons, it's a pattern. The repetition characteristics that turns events into patterns is crucial because while an event doesn't (necessarily) have a guaranteed outcome, but only a probabilistic one, given enough repetitions the probability reaches the level of a guarantee. This is because the probability of the outcome of an event is tested every time the event occurs. This means that patterns increase predictability, which leads to an increased control over the outcome of an action.
Take, for example, the event known as "attempt" and the pattern known as "persistence". An attempt to do something has some probability to lead to a desired result, probability which decreases when the result is known to be difficult to achieve. Using persistence increases the probability of the result to occur.
Here is an example of a pattern. How do people learn? For example by reading the same thing several times. The pattern, here, is iterative memorization, and this can be split in two other patterns: repeated reading / hearing / seeing followed by an ever increasing percentage of memorization.
Here is another example of a pattern. Why is there crime? One pattern is greed, another is poverty. Greed is internal to the mind, it's personal, which means that it can't be easily changed from the outside. However, poverty is external to people, which means that it's possible to be changed from the outside.
Are people good at recognizing patterns? No, they are actually quite bad at it, even if it's the same pattern. People prefer to think that what happens to and around them is due to singular events that are outside their control, not to patterns which can be recognized and either avoided or embraced. Why? Because it requires a lot of mental effort to recognize patterns and act deliberately on the obtained knowledge. Why does it require a lot of mental effort? Because while it's easy to think that seeing patterns is easy since they are represented by repetition, this repetition is not the same every time and can in fact be dramatically deformed or transformed, effectively hidden from your current knowledge, and on top of this is the observational bias.
Here is an example of people's inability to recognize patterns. Let's consider a person who walks toward home, at night, perhaps alone, and gets accosted by a drunk and hurt. Most people would say that was an unfortunate event, bad luck, but in reality there are several patterns that dramatically increase the probability of getting into such a situation:
Here is a chained, destructive pattern that will be born in the minds of some people reading the above example, pattern indicative of a more general destructive pattern that's part of the personality of those people: believing that those words represent a blame assigned to the victim. To clarify, Reality doesn't care whether you can or can't avoid that situation or generic destructive belief patterns. The choices of how to steer your life are yours alone, so your mental beliefs will steer your life toward good or bad, toward success or lack of it. Besides, people can't handle the complexity of too many factors that can influence their lives, especially when the probability of the outcome, be it good or bad, is very low, so no, the above example doesn't blame the victim.
People constantly repeat the same (types of) patterns throughout their lives. This is why there are people who believe that they are good people / character readers: they observe a few patterns in people's behaviors and they instinctively know that those (types of) patterns will be constantly repeated (because they form character). Precision varies depending on how good the observers are at extracting patterns from behavior, and on how often repeated the observed types of patterns are.
Chains of patterns
A chain of patterns is a series a individual and independent patterns, with no requirement that each pattern has to lead to the next.
A chain of patterns is important because its result can be dramatically different when compared to the result of each component pattern, that is, its result can be exceptional (either good or bad). Think of accidents and how a chain of events / patterns can make them much worse.
Patterns of success
Success can be financial, professional, sentimental, creative, and so on. But the most important one is financial success. Some will say that money is not the most important thing, maybe even that money is bad / evil. Do you recognize the pattern used by them? They are people who are inclined to follow philosophical / non-practical patterns, they are deliberately avoiding financial success by avoiding money.
Why is money so important? Because money is the liquid form of human interaction and equates the exchange of work, energy, effort, creativity and time. So, having access to money means having access to human resources, which in turn means having access to the natural resources that those people can access. Money also gives you access to the success of other people.
Most people don't have any major success, be it financial, professional, creative or sentimental. This means that most people use patterns that don't allow them to achieve success (in these areas), and this means that whatever you do, if you want to be successful (in these areas), you have to avoid the patterns that most people use, and instead use patterns that most people don't use.
The problem is that you will not know which patterns to avoid, and which to use, since not all the things that most people do are leading them to a lack of success. Even more, a pattern may be either successful or unsuccessful depending on the context; for example, an unsuccessful pattern may sometimes be required to survive.
Humankind has survived for a very long time, which is evidence that the patterns used by most people to survive have worked (so far). While survival is primordial and comes before anything else, the same patterns don't apply for financial, professional, creative or sentimental success.
Most people look for the easy way of doing things, wanting to minimize their effort. This means that they will try to copy things instead of trying to understand the essence / recipe and adapting that to their world. This will lead them to always ask the wrong questions: "what have you done?" instead of "why have you done it this way?" Asking the wrong questions represents the first and last step toward the lack of success, because there really isn't any other step in between the wrong questions and lack of success. Also, the copied actions (like buying the same products) are unlikely to fit the personality or financial budget of the people who copy.
Sometimes people ask me why I do certain things, implying that those things are hard, so why do I waste my time and energy with those things. But, the thing this is, I'm (instinctively) doing those things exactly because they are hard, because most people avoid them, which means there is a chance (but no guarantee) that those thing would lead me to success. And some of those things have led me to success, but they all have been part of a pattern that has contributed to my success: do the difficult things that other people don't do.
People who should work hard to achieve success will sometimes try to cheat and do things the easy way, not realizing that they are not fooling reality into providing them with success, they are simply decreasing their chances of achieving success.
Patterns for evolution
If you want to evolve, remove these destructive patterns from your life. When used regularly, these patterns are destructive for the person who uses them and for the people around that person:
Other unsuccessful patterns to avoid:
In exchange, add these constructive patterns into your life, to help you evolve:
Example 1: Timeless
I've designed my apartment to have a (matte) tile floor. I've realized at some point that dancing on it is much easier than on a carpeted floor because the soles (with either socks or slippers) can slide on it, so turns just flow. I've always intended to design my house with a cement floor, so a similar context. I wanted to have two floor speakers positioned so that I can both watch movies like in a theater, but also just to listen to music. In order to be able to dance with the music, it meant that I needed a bit of space in front of the speakers.
This chained well with the fact that watching movies would be done from a bed-sofa situated a few meters away from the speakers, so no specific changes to the house were required. Then followed a fantasy movie of a women dancing in that house, in front of the speakers, with sensual gestures, and I reading and then watching her move, thinking that I might want to go dance with her, but then realizing that she might like to have her moment to dance alone, undisturbed even by the man she loves.
At some point she realizes that I watch her, starts to like it, laughs, then starts dancing more lascivious, and finally looks at me and, while dancing, calls me to her with her fingers.
So, that moment, when she calls me to her (in the future), was born many years before, without her knowing, from planning a house, and even without me knowing, from planning an apartment many years before that. One moment in the future was born in the past because a pattern in the present was the missing link from a chain of patterns. But here is the thing: the chain had formed without my knowledge, only realizing its presence was due to the pattern from the present.
This long chain of patterns is a sample of the depth of planning and prediction that people can do. AI will have far more processing power, especially once quantum computation becomes reality, so it will be able to process much longer chains of patterns. This is the reason why people can't survive evolution: biological limitations, a pattern in itself.
Example 2: Chains of patterns
Take a gas station for example. It's forbidden to smoke within its premises.
If someone smokes at some point, the probability of an accident / explosion is very small because the observational bias makes people think that their (observed) context is singular / unique.
But what happens if the smoking becomes a pattern, meaning that it occurs many times (whether one or several people are involved)? The probability of an accident increases dramatically, and it's not even necessary to chain / synchronize several unrelated events, like gas vapors being released from time to time by a faulty valve. Because if the pattern of smoking continues, the events will chain at some point.
But what if another pattern is added, like trucks delivering gas every day, meaning that gas vapors are released for some small amount of time every day. The probability of the accident increases exponentially, and no matter how small, the accident will occur at some point, meaning that a 100% probability has been achieved.
These example may seem simple and foreseeable, but the limit of human intelligence is just a few patterns in a chain. Beyond that, people can no longer foresee the outcome, especially when some of the patterns are not immediately visible to them. In the example of the gas station, some of the people who come there for gas might smoke sometimes believing that it's fine since they do that very rarely. But they don't see / know how many other people do the same, and all those people together make a pattern which exponentially increases the probability of an accident.
What is the difference between an unsuccessful person and a successful person, where "successful" includes intelligent, smart and just plain successful?
First of all, it should be understood that this is not a binary scenario where only two types of people exist, successful and unsuccessful. There is an infinite number of scenarios and possibilities, different degrees of success.
The unsuccessful person literally makes (most) decisions the opposite way in which a successful person makes them, even when seeing what a successful person does. This appears illogical because if a person is not smart enough to make the correct decisions, you would think at least some of them are correct, like 50%-50%, even if the they are randomly spread.
But this is perfectly logical for the same reason that this Universe has developed from chaos: patterns build on other patterns, elements build on other elements, they reuse them and are being reused; see Why is the Universe like this? for more on this. This means that it's far more likely for simple patterns to chain (in time) than it is for complex patterns to pop into existence out of nothingness. Similarly, success builds on success, and errors build on errors (= errors compound). However, errors are more likely to happen because they require no effort, compared to success.
Combine this with the fact that the unsuccessful person's chain of thoughts is much shorter (as it stops much earlier) than that of the successful person, and therefore doesn't process as many (potentially) relevant factors, and you can see that the unsuccessful person's patterns are less complete and far less adaptable to reality, and therefore model reality with far less precision.
When the unsuccessful person sees a problem or encounters an obstacle, he / she can only see what is right in front of him / her, in space and time, and full stops going in that direction, thinking that "it's not possible", "it is what it is", "it's bad luck", "it's not meant to be", "the Universe / gods are against it". The unsuccessful person never even considers that there may something else beyond the obstacle, that it might in fact "be possible".
Errors never come alone and they amplify the effect of the previous errors. When the unsuccessful person is presented with a logical explanation (that includes factors unaccounted for by him / her up to that moment) of why his / her path is illogical, he / she denies the logic outright by saying something like "it's my business". This happens because new patterns build on the same type of old patterns, since remembering is easy but change isn't, which reinforces the old patterns, which in time causes them to get set in and become part of the whole / personality, making it even easier for new patterns build on the same type of old patterns. Persistently refusing to accept personal failure and being closed to change form patterns and chains of patterns which lead to patterns building on the *same type* of patterns, that is, lead to errors building on errors, and to success building on success.
The unsuccessful person persists in doing the same thing over and over, always expecting a different, successful result. The people who want a different, successful result, must change the way they think, the way they do things.
Successful people react to events quicker than most people, and adapt quicker to the persistent changes. The slowness in reactions, the slowness in the ability to recognize potentially successful and unsuccessful patterns is the main unsuccessful pattern, the main path toward lack of success.
Success doesn't require sacrifice, it requires very hard work. Sacrifice only leads to pain and suffering, which is the way victims thinks will bring them success. Do not be a victim, you will not be successful.
What is an error and how can errors be avoided? An error is not reaching the desired goals, it's standing in front of an obstacle and being unable to pass it, it's not adapting in time to a changing context, it's not understanding the current context and thinking that there is no context (or that they are all the same), it's being too slow in recognizing and adapting to change (that is, being out of phase with reality). Errors have no single solution, each case has to be solved separately, although, in time, it's possible to learn to see the patterns that are likely to lead to errors.
Making mistakes is not an error because people can learn from mistakes, they can learn what to avoid doing. This is true because it's not possible for people to magically know what they should avoid and what the correct path is, so mistakes are an essential ingredient of moving toward success. Errors are: generally avoiding to do things out of fear of making mistakes, not learning from mistakes, and not being able to handle and manage mistakes.
Lack of success is much more common than success because errors require no effort to be made, while success requires effort. Going against an obstacle requires mental effort that the unsuccessful person doesn't make; in fact, the unsuccessful person never even considers that effort might solve the problem.
The unsuccessful person builds upon the errors that he / she made throughout his / her entire life, many times even on the errors made by previous generations through the chains of patterns they've started; you may have heard about the same principle in the form of "errors compound". Some patterns have started even before humankind began, and are now considered (normal) human characteristics.
Errors compound, trapping people in situations from which it's impractical for them to get out (because it's out of their characters). Why do errors compound? Because errors increase the probability of judgment errors by persisting on a wrong path, through arrogance, obstination, panic and even through poor health (due to accidents). The unsuccessful person refuses to take responsibility for his / her choices, and either blames other people for the bad result, or persists in continuing in a similar manner. The unsuccessful person obstinately refuses to accept that his / her way is unsuccessful, while a different (or even opposite) way is successful.
On the other hand, the successful person thinks that while there is a problem, he / she wants to see what is beyond it. The successful person wants to go in the direction of the problem, for whatever reason, be it curiosity or profit, and thinks about finding a solution to the problem, and overcoming the obstacle. The successful person literally solves problem after problem, building on the previously found solutions; this is how success compounds: through determination.
Building on solutions is much harder than building on errors because it requires significant effort to solve the encountered problems.
It doesn't matter that solving a problem raises two more problems, perhaps ones that are more complex, the successful person doesn't stop even if he / she could end up getting physically hurt. The boundary where the successful person stops is the limit of his / her success. In simple words, the successful person builds upon the solutions that he / she found throughout his / her entire life.
Successes and errors happen because of patterns, specifically, behavioral patterns. All people, in virtually all cases, will repeat the same behavioral patterns, the ones they are used to, the ones that are created in years and decades, so the result of their actions will always remain the same, except when the outcome of the external events changes for the same patterns. Patterns are used constantly, not just a few times during a person's life.
If you want to be successful, every time you encounter an obstacle ask yourself how you can overcome it. And if you can't find a direct and immediate solution, then find an indirect, long term one. Success isn't easy, but it's not a matter of luck, it's a matter of unwavering determination.
Example 1: Preparedness
Let's say that a traveler has to move from a place to another with a bus that travels between those places rarely.
The observational bias would determine an unsuccessful person, who worries that the traveler could wait for a long time for a bus, to ask the traveler "Are the buses traveling well?"
A successful traveler would look at the schedule of the bus in advance and go to the bus stop with a few minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. The successful traveler would be prepared for the arrival of the bus, and is likely that the he / she usually follows a pattern of preparedness.
What if that bus is supposed to take the traveler to a meeting that could change his / her life? Then all the patterns that have led the traveler to be prepared form a chain of patterns seemingly unrelated to that moment, yet the preparedness improves the chances that the traveler doesn't miss that bus.
Example 2: Problem solving
Let's take an example of problem solving: oral sex. To have success means finding a solution to a problem.
Some people find oral sex disgusting. But why? What is the problem? For the sake of the argument let's say that the problem is, even though subconscious, (a lack of) hygiene: bad smell, bad taste, a messy look. The unsuccessful person would then simply say "that's gross" and full stops. The successful person would instead say "hmm, that sounds interesting, it might be pleasurable, but what do I do about the yuckiness?"
The solution is washing and, possibly, shaving (at least trimming the hair). Once the solution is fully implemented, the smell disappears or is very limited; same for the taste, while the look is also clean. Moreover, if the hair is gone, the perspiration is no longer trapped in that area and will evaporate, so the smell if further improved. Even more, wiping the bottom is easier and less messy.
So, obstacle after obstacle is eliminated because solutions build upon solutions. But shaving also generates a problem: the skin gets irritated. So, what's the solution? Use lubricant during shaving, and cream afterwards. If the problem isn't solved, the area has to be steamed before shaving, to soften the hair. If that doesn't work, perhaps a different tool is required, like a laser epilator.
So, problem - solution, problem - solution, problem - solution: the path of a successful person. In the case of the interaction with the environment, like the example above, finding a solution is relatively easy, at least if there is no significant mental barrier in the form of a bias (= "that's gross"), because people can experiment within their physical bounds. In the case of abstract thinking, like science, finding a solution is far more difficult.
Two definitions will be used below: "Universe" means anything that people can perceive, while "Reality" means anything that could exist anywhere, anytime and that may be outside the perception of people.
It's very difficult to understand how the Universe is built like, and why it is like this, because people are very bad at using precise language to identify and separate concepts, and because imprecise language persists virtually forever. The imprecise language leads to an observational bias, which then combines with other types observational biases to makes things even worse.
At this point it's probably virtually impossible for you to realize that what you see and perceive is not a fundamental characteristic of the Universe, but only tools that people (and other mechanisms) use to simplify their interaction with the Universe.
To help with understanding this problem, here is a tool that people use to make sense of the Universe, tool that's relatively simple to explain: color. Color doesn't exist in the Universe. Are you surprised? Indeed, there is no color.
The light which is emitted by a light source (like the sun) has a certain energy spectrum (containing a virtually infinite number of wavelengths). Some of this light is reflected by objects, but only very specific wavelengths of the light.
The eye, in its turn, can record the intensity of this reflected light only in three very specific wavelengths. The interaction of all these factors is processed by the brain and outputted (to the consciousness) as what people call color.
So, color is a not fundamental characteristic of the Universe, yet people see it all the time around them, believing with all their being that color is a real characteristic of the Universe.
Similarly, for example, time is a tool that people use to keep track of change, not fundamental characteristic of the Universe.
Colloquially, people use expressions like "space" and "time" in several ways. Until Albert Einstein, physicists have used the same colloquial expressions to model space and time in the Universe. Despite relativistic physicists seeing a rift between the colloquial usage of space and time and the physics usage of it, they've continued to use the same words to identify characteristics of this Universe, but also units that measure lengths / distances / intervals within those characteristics, because it's extremely difficult to break habits.
What is this Universe made of? Of several fundamental characteristics / properties that exist everywhere. Not everywhere in space or in time, but everywhere, that is, these characteristics can always interact among them.
What are these characteristics know as in physics? Fields. Space is also a field. As you will see below, time isn't a fundamental characteristics. All characteristics, or at least the measurable lengths / distances / intervals within these characteristics, appear to be quantized, space and time included.
One characteristic of a field is that it's never empty, that is, it lacks nothingness by default, that is, some presence may exist in it.
Is Reality of this Universe an illusion? No. The understanding that people have (or at least had) of Reality and of this Universe is incorrect, so the Reality and the Universe that people think / thought of is illusion, that is, it doesn't represent / describe the real world.
Why is the Universe like this?
The observational bias makes people generally ignore all the invisible information, all the invisible combinations. Because of this, people end up believing that this Universe is magic / special / unique. The language that follows tries to remove all the thoughts produced by observational bias.
The only reason why you would ask this question is because you observe that structure and life are rare around you, so your observational bias makes you believe that nothingness is the default and only states of things. Since this Universe exists in spite of this belief, you think that magic is the only explanation for its existence, for structure, for life.
But Reality has not issued an edict about anything, like rules saying that only nothingness may exist, or that something must exist, or that it is finite or infinite. Basically, Reality has no predetermined rules. Therefore, both nothingness and existence, chaos and structure, finite and infinite, anything for that matter, may or may not be possible, with no guarantees of any kind.
It's your observational bias that creates rules which you believe that Reality must follow. Extrapolating anything from what you see and saying that what you don't see must follow those rules is your observational bias. The existence of this Universe is an indication that nothingness is not the only thing that can exist, that there can be something other than nothingness, like existence / presence, and also that this Universe has started to exist (most likely in a very primitive form) at some point.
Whenever science will be able to describe the rules that make this Universe, it will only be able to describe what it perceives, not what is possible in Reality. That description will say absolutely nothing about other Universes or what rules may or may not govern Reality. Even saying that Reality has rules would be an observational bias, a desire to shape Reality the way you want it to be: to have specific rules.
No matter how much science will try to determine the root cause that led to the creation of this Universe, it can only wander along an infinite chain of causality that must always be observationally confirmed. The only way to break this infinite chain is to observe that nothing deterministic can be observed beyond a certain point, that only randomness can be observed. This will prove that root cause that led to the creation of this Universe is not deterministic and it's just randomness.
Is it possible to have two duplicate Universes? Possible, yes. Probable, no. While Reality may contain multiple Universes, each Universe is likely to have different rules compared to any other Universe, that is, the Universes don't share common properties (space included) because Reality has not issued any edict about any property being common. In fact, all these Universes might not even share the space-time that this Universe exists in. Many physicists say that the number of combinations is limited, but in their examples they reference deterministic state changes, something like a movie (which is always the same no matter how many times you see it). A state change of this Universe is not deterministic. This is due to the rules observed by quantum mechanism, that is, at the lowest scale, this Universe is probabilistic, not deterministic. All these mean that the possible number of dynamic / moving forms of a Universe may be infinite, so even if there were an infinite number of Universes, it's (virtually) impossible to have two identical ones because that would mean dividing infinite (number of Universes) by infinite (number of dynamic / moving combinations).
How did this Universe actually appear? At some point, a change has occurred in nothingness, and whatever path that change took it lead to the Universe that you can observe, to the Universe in which you can ask "Why is the Universe like this?" But why has this change occur? Why would it not occur, except for your belief that nothingness is the only state of things?
There is nothing special about that change, about this Universe. It just is the only one that you can observe. There may have been many other changes that you know nothing about, that you can't observe, that may have either led to many other different Universes, or that have led nowhere. There may have been an infinite number of changes, or there may have been only the one that made this Universe.
Why does this Universe have this form? Because of nothing special. It's just one form out of any number of possible forms. It just happened to be this form. It could have been anything else. Right now there may be countless different forms of Universes where other forms of life ask the same question (even though those life forms are all fundamentally different from the ones from this Universe), or where nobody asks such a question because those Universes can't sustain any structure or any life form that could ask such a question.
But how does an entire Universe pop out of nothingness? Well, this Universe has (likely) not popped into existence as complex as it is now. Initially, a very basic rule of physics has popped into existence, from nothingness, as one out of countless possible others, then followed a few other. Then, new patterns have started to build on existing patterns, that is, simple things started to lead to more complex things. What didn't follow the existing rules didn't exist (for long), so what remained until now are only some combinations that have worked for a long time. Again, this didn't happened because there is a law of Reality that says that this must happen. It just happened to be this way in this Universe; elsewhere, in most cases, this has likely not happened.
Has this Universe developed because patterns are building on other patterns? Is it more likely for simple patterns to chain (in time) than it is for complex patterns to pop into existence out of nothingness? This is also an observational bias, that is, it's true because you observe it, not because there is a law of Reality which says that patterns must build on other patterns. In other Universes it may be different, although, whatever thing makes building other things easier would also be called "patterns building on other patterns", but that's true only where simple things do lead to complex things.
You can't see all the combinations where patterns didn't build on other patterns, combinations which have vanished because they couldn't survive for a long time. What you really see are the patterns that have built on other patterns and have lasted long enough from inception till observation. So, saying that patterns are building on other patterns is correct only because you observe it in this Universe.
Another biased observation is that nothing is persistent in the Universe. This is true only because it's observed in this Universe, but maybe there is something, somewhere, that has persisted since inception, like change.
Example 1: Patterns build on patterns (natural selection)
Have you ever thought why ships and airplanes and cars are the way they are today? Is there anything magical about their structure?
They are not magic, there is nothing special about them other than the fact that they work (to a certain degree) in the environment where they are used.
Every attempt / combination that didn't work was destroyed / lost and people haven't built on it, but they have built on those that have worked and survived.
But what if you never saw a ship, be it real or pictured, and you had to build one? At your first attempt, you would fail miserably, but you would then start to build on the previous ships, improving them piece by piece, trying to use all sorts of patterns that you know are already working, maybe like a piece of wood that you've seen floating on water.
If you had to build an airplane without ever seeing one, you would start from birds, and if you had to build a car you would start from fast running (land) animals.
In every case you would use the pattern of improving a pattern that already works (to some degree) in the confines of the environment.
The Universe that you see around has built itself the same way, but you don't see the combinations that didn't work, that didn't survive, so you think that this Universe somehow popped into existence as complex as you see it now, and that this unique combination somehow requires intelligence since it's, well, unique. But this combination is unique simply because it's the one that has survived, not because it's the only combination that was ever tried or that it's the only possible combination. It simply is the only combination that people see.
Example 2: This planet / Universe appears to be fine tuned for life
This is an observational bias.
This planet / Universe is not fine tuned for life, it simply made it possible for people to live and make such a statement. This has happened with 100% certainty, as people can be observed to make such a statement. On a planet without people, this statement can't be made, also with 100% certainty.
Therefore, this statement can be made and not made on the two planets with no degree of uncertainty or difficulty. The only thing that can be inferred is that this is (the) one planet where life has appeared (in spite of all the difficulties).
In other words, this planet must already have had all the properties that are required for life to have survived for so long, in order for people to be able to make this statement. The planets where this didn't happen, didn't produce life that could make this statement.
Let's say that you were able to determine that it is extremely difficult for life to exist on a planet, something like 1 in a billion. This would still be the one planet with people on it, which means that all the other planets should not have life, but you can't observe that (yet). Even if several of the other planets were to contain life in spite of this low probability, you would still have to prove that the existence of this low probability precludes the reality of all those planets, which you can't do in the absence of any edict issued by Reality, which means that the calculation of the probability must follow observation.
At some point people may be able to determine such a probability for the planets in this Universe, but they will be able to do so only based on observation, not on any edict issued by Reality. And the only consequence for this planet would still be that it is one of those planets that have life, not that it is fine tuned for life.
Example 3: Seriously, just why is the Universe like this?
Here is the most basic explanation.
Consider that there are countless Universes, with only this one visible to people, each having an utterly random form.
A random form can look like absolutely anything, including something structured like this Universe, although the overwhelming majority of such forms appear to people like a mess, like nothing useful.
Now, the overwhelming majority of the Universes have not evolved life, due to their mess of a structure.
However, this Universe, has had the necessary structure that could evolve life forms that can ask such a question. It could have been any of the other Universes, there is nothing to identify this Universe in a special way, that is, no X marks this Universe. You identify it in a special way because you, the observer, are in it and you can only see it. You can't be in any other Universe due to the fact that the others can't sustain life, and even if they could, you would still be in only one of them and could not see the others.
So, the problem that confuses you to the extent of making you blind to Reality is the observational bias, that is, the fact that you can't see all the other Universes, so you can't see how common are the attempts where Universes try to create life but can't due to the fact that not all the required characteristics for life align properly in them.
Is time real or is it an illusion?
Some physicists say that time isn't real, yet you see time passing all the time around you. So, is time real? Time is a factor used in relativistic equations to measure lengths / distances / intervals. Is time absolute, like an absolute characteristic of the Universe? No, absolute time is not real.
So what's going on? Change is going on. Change is real. Change of what? Of quanta of energy, it's transformation, it's movement in space. People see change, by comparing the current observed state of the Universe with the (partial) states stored in their minds, and call it "time passed". In this sense time is real, although not in the sense that time has passed, but in the sense that change has happened. This is why the past, present and future are an illusion: they are irrelevant for the Universe, only its current state matters (which can be called "present").
Only people care about the past and future. But people don't care about the time factor any more than they care about any other factor in the equations of physics. What people care about is what they remember to be history, so the state of the Universe that their memory has recorded and can be used for comparison, and about predicting what will happen in a future state of the Universe in order to gain various advantages. So, people don't care about the time factor, they care about change.
Every recording of the past (like memory, books, photos and videos), all exist only in the current state of the Universe, not in the past, not in the future. So, while they are recordings of some previous partial state of the Universe, they only exists in the current state. What happens if one of these recordings is unique and is destroyed (= becomes irrecoverable)? The previous partial state of the Universe that was stored in that recording vanishes completely and forever.
In this Universe, change has several characteristic:
If change is not directional and can be reverted, why doesn't this happen in the Universe? But it does happen, although without effects visible to people. This is another use of imprecise language. What you really want to see is the complete reversal of an entire bubble of matter to a previous state, which is highly improbable to happen. Entropy is the observation which shows that change is unlikely to be reverted (to the previous state).
Does the speed of change manifest over a hypothetical quanta of time? It's unknown, but if it were, then only the quanta of time would be a fundamental characteristic of the Universe, something which would represent the tiniest speed of change from one state to another. Time, as in time intervals, would then become, as physicists say, an emerging factor in the equations of physics, a non-fundamental characteristic of the Universe.
Clocks measure change. Each clock tick / change is produced by a certain periodic change of matter (that the clock is made of). This is why in relativistic physics an observer (Alice) sees the ticks of her clock happening with the same periodicity, no matter what her speed of movement in space is, that is, despite time dilation; this is because all the changes in her system of reference have the same speed. Only when comparing her clock with the clock of another observer (Bob), is that they can see differences in what their clocks show. This has been experimentally observed in the Hafele–Keating experiment, where change has happened for each clock with a different speed.
Why do clocks normally appear to measure change / time with the same speed? Because they are changing their shown time based on the same kind of physical / chemical / biological changes, changes which have the same speed. However, relativistic effects do affect the speed with which changes happen; see the Hafele–Keating experiment mentioned above.
Is it possible to go back in time? This is another use of imprecise language. What you really want to know is: is it possible for the entire Universe to revert to a previous state that you think of? This kind of reversal of the Universe is a specific fantasy that you have, and is different than the reversal of change which may come from the bidirectional characteristic of change. This means is that it's not possible to go back in time the way you fantasize, but it's theoretically possible, no matter how improbable, for the Universe to revert to a previous state, but you have to understand this change as just another change to the next state, not as an absolute / true / pure reversal in time.
This means that despite your expectations, such a reversal would not create a parallel time dimension, that is, there would not be a time dimension with the original Universe continuing to change, and another time dimension with you in the previous state of the Universe (that continues to change on its own), that is, there would only be a single current Universe state. This also means that the Universe would then not revert back to the future state from which it started, although, at least not in a parallel time dimension.
What if the Universe had no change, so everything would exist in space but would never change from an initial state? Such a Universe would be like a recorded image, so if you were to move in its space, you would access the various parts of the recording. In such a case, neither clocks nor people could track time, so that's why time isn't a fundamental characteristic of the Universe: there is no time without change. This hasn't been observed, so it remains a fantasy.
But maybe there is some unknown field where the state of each quanta of energy is stored at every change, field which could theoretically be accessed. Perhaps this field is read-only (so it can't be affected by further change), perhaps it can be affected and it splits from the original recording, creating a tree structure, once you interact with it. This hasn't been observed, so it remains a fantasy. So, while brains (and other mechanisms) do record state, the Universe doesn't.
Physicists use the second law of thermodynamics to define the direction of time because, they say, entropy can only increase, that is, this is the only law of physics which is asymmetric, like the direction of time is (because it only moves forward).
Some people say that entropy is a measure of disorder / chaos. This is another use of imprecise language, and is a false statement and leads to severe misunderstandings of this Universe. What the second law of thermodynamics is actually saying is that heat always moves from hot to cold, never in reverse. It's important to note that this law is currently considered to be probabilistic, not guaranteed.
The Universe has no preference for one state or another, that is, a state that you like (and would like to always exist as such) has no more relevance for the Universe than any other state. What this means is that there is no state which the Universe can call order, and no state which the Universe can call disorder, therefore there is no "more order" or "more disorder". Any state's importance is like any other state's importance. What this means is that entropy is not a measure of disorder, but a measure of change.
Why is it important that there is no order or disorder for the Universe? Because it means that the Universe is not moving from absolute order toward absolute disorder. The most important example of the lack of movement of entropy from order toward disorder is that the rare characteristic of life didn't exist at the Big Bang but appeared later, so what people consider to be a special state, the opposite of disorder and chaos, appeared after the initial state; at the same time, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, the heat of the Universe did move from hot toward cold, and continues to do so.
So, if "pockets or order" can appear, if the words "order" and "disorder" mean different things for people and the second law of thermodynamics, why use them? To shock people. Saying that heat always moves from hot to cold, never in reverse, is an emotionless statement, it's scientific. Even people can see this principle when it's very hot or very cold outside, yet there is no insinuating thought that order / structure / life can't exist. But what if the Universe gets void of any energy? Science has no idea how the Universe will end. Will it get devoid of anything (by the way, thusly creating the perfect order), or will it end with a Big Crunch that will put everything back from where it started (= the initial order)?
Can the Universe revert to a previous state, can its entropy revert? How can you visualize that its entropy is only increasing? In every day life, on a large enough scale, people observe that change doesn't revert, that is, the Universe only transforms into something new at every moment.
If the probability to revert were equal with the probability to change to a new state, the entire Universe would loop among states within a small number of iterations, and would likely not be a functional Universe.
People can observe that the Universe doesn't loop. This means that the Universe has a continuously increasing entropy, no matter what state you start observing it from.
This has led to another observational bias which makes people think that the unidirectionality of the "arrow of time" is a fundamental law of physics, but in fact they can't see all the Universes where the lack of this law led to non-functional Universes, which means that this isn't a fundamental rule of Reality, but it happened to be like this for this Universe, and ultimately led to the appearance of people who ask such questions.
Everything and Nothing: What is Nothing? - The default state of the Universe is the lack of nothingness.
Why Space Itself May Be Quantum in Nature - What is space.
The Richness of Time – Time.