Mind-Blowing loneliness.

Mind Blowing. Such a colorful word that aptly describes what happens during the times when we are utterly swept away by the magnitude of what we just learned / realized. Of course, there are no dynamites involved, but there might as well be because until the dust settles, we are left agitated, unable to contain the revelation within ourselves, and often look for outlets, aka annoyed friends, to share some of the impact with.

I, of course, used to bombard whoever happened to be within my reach with random facts that I’d read about the other day. And it certainly didn’t help that my mind kept being blown away by things ranging from astronomy, relativity, sociology, psychology, time-travel, quantum mechanics, algorithms and so on… and oh so on. Lest this turns into a self-boast, I was just someone who was very easy to impress while growing up. But it was disheartening to find that people weren’t always up for a high-pitched lecture on how space-time is a *single* entity (don’t you see, they are the same!) or how Quantum Immortality means that you never die at all (You are always alive where you are alive!) Eventually, though, I outgrew the compulsive urge to explain whatever had shaken me to the core the day before. This was partly due to the fact that I realized nobody really likes a know-it-all nerd who can’t contain his enthusiasm, but also because my mind eventually stopped being blown every second of the day.

But I still do go through such revelations from time to time, and to be honest, it does bother me a bit that there aren’t many with whom I can share these tidbits with a resonating enthusiasm. (My wife tries to be a good listener, but it’s no fun when you know that she’d much rather start a new episode of Seinfeld). So it is this feeling of loneliness that has somehow trained me to dampen my emotions and silently ponder upon by myself, the occasional flashes of insights my mind comes across. But honestly, I do wonder how it’d feel to have friends who’d actually understand and react to me saying that it’s such a miracle that mathematics works so well in capturing and predicting the real world with “Right!!? How did that even happen!!” (instead of being confused about what the big deal about it is.) Or exclaim “Yeah! That’s so crazy!” when I say that Neural Networks shouldn’t really be able to learn anything because the loss landscape should have been impossible to navigate efficiently (instead of saying “backpropagation, duh”), or even argue vehemently on whether life is as certain a process as two Hydrogen atoms coming together to make Helium? (Instead of treating it as this mysterious and divine phenomenon.) It is quite difficult to talk about all this without coming off as snobbish, but I guess what we all can universally agree upon indeed is that being different is being lonely. Perhaps I should start following MLB.

1 comment

  1. Time and place, I mention this first because this feels so tailored to me I’m unsure if this was algorithmic in production. That out of the way I must say you have described my exact sentiments. I have been through similar experience and found that it is extremely difficult to find other like minded individuals who are even willing to engage in exploring new experiences and new ideas and self discovery. This was much easier, in my experience, a decade plus ago when I was completing my first undergraduate degree. Now it feels almost impossible to engage anyone for more than a two minute timespan without some other distraction completely derailing my own interest or will to teach or explain my approach. I too have toned myself down in this regard, stepped back and examined my approach, but it feels exasperating that I must force myself to be introvertedly excited about a new “discovery”, and I constantly question my own ability to analyze this feedback loop without engaging other more experienced people in the field I may be researching at the time. Social media and the lack of inter personal interaction has dramatically drained creative minds and it’s still hard for me to parse out. I dislike the online interaction in most formats and constantly seek new knowledge, but it is becoming increasingly difficult in a time where my life is feels disrupted by poorly designed ML and algorithmic choices that are not even close to my actual interests and aspirations. Most things that are of interest or educationally engaging are behind pay walls or relegated to institutions. To boil it down I find myself constanly thinking things like I can’t afford another degree just to have a meaningful conversation or find like minded folks to really engage and create with. Thanks for the post!

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