Quora – Life’s Purpose

Quora – Many have tried to define, but according to you, what should be the purpose of life?

That very much depends on how one understands the words in the question.

For me, purpose is a complex thing.

We seem to be very complex entities, composed of and embedded within many levels of complex adaptive systems.

Evolution seems to have selected at each level sets of strategies that have managed to survive across all the many contexts encountered in history.

So we have many levels of needs, and many levels of desires that over deep history have allowed our ancestors to survive. In a sense, that demands a deep respect.

Some say that the purpose of life is survival, but to me it seems more like that life is simply that which managed to survive (as distinct from all the many replicators that failed to survive for countless numbers of reasons).

When one looks deeply, systemically, at what it is that distinguishes humans, it is clearly our ability to cooperate at ever expanding levels of awareness. Cooperation seems clearly to be the thing that expands choices, while competitive systems reduce the choices available.

So for me, it seems clear that purpose can be whatever we responsibly chose it to be; provided that the actions we take to achieve that purpose to not pose significant risk to the life or liberty of anyone else (which necessarily includes the environment that supports us all).

There is a sense in which we seem to be living in exponentially changing times, which means that many of the dispositions and tendencies (likes and dislikes, feelings and intuitions) that evolution seems to have encoded into our genetic and cultural systems may in fact fail; just as some of them will be sending us warnings we need to heed.

So it seems that we all have a responsibility to use the best of all our abilities, the intuitive and the rational, the feelings and the logic; to find a responsible personal balance and choose a purpose which delivers long term benefits to us and everyone else.

So it is only in this sense, of the context of responsibility, of the necessary boundaries on the class of choices that are acceptable, that I impose any “should”. Within that class (which is infinite, though a much smaller infinity that the class of all possible actions), the choice of purpose is yours.

And the more awareness we each bring to our choices; the more we are prepared to see errors in our past choices, or unanticipated consequences that require corrective action by us; the greater the probability that we can all enjoy an exponentially expanding set of choices and exponentially expanding security. So there are demands in here for humility and respect, as well as courage and passion. We must each find our own balance.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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