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Philosophy: the most fun you can have by yourself?

When I tell people that I like reading and thinking about philosophical issues (for fun), I'm sure they think I'm a bit odd. But to me, to not think about such things seems even more odd. What could be more pathological, ignorant and stupid not to want to inquire about the world that you live in?

Having said that, I am more interested in certain philosophical questions than others: most cultural or political philsophy leaves me cold, for example. For me, the most interesting philosophical questions are being asked by cosmologists (and I freely admit to being the world's worst mathematician, and hence a dreadful physicist), psycholologists and the few "transdisciplinary" thinkers who range freely across these two extremes. I also feely allow my "philosophy" to stray into the less formal realms of futurology and creative speculation whenever the "Imp of the Perverse" prompts me to do so, but I do try to ground my thinking in the real world.

So what am I interested in these days?

What are minds? What is the physical basis of consciousness?
There are some good candidate answers out there - the CEMI theory, and the whole idea of condensation - but still lots of controversy.

What is economics, really? And what will happen when it is no longer necessary?
The arrival of molecular manufacturing in the coming decades could - if we did it right - be of immense benefit to every individual of the species. If we do it wrong - and the Right, the corporations and their lackeys in the military try to perpetuate current systems - then we're in for shit. I've started exploring this whole area in Bleeders.

How do we as a species move into the Diamond Age?
Another take on the previous question really, but this time more to do with the evolution of politics, and how we might move our powerful organisations (governments, corporations and churches of one flavour or another) out of the Dark Ages and into the progressive light of the new century.

What is the psychology of happiness?
Reading the majority of the literature on the way that minds work - and this is a big omission, I think - you might conclude that human beings experience few positive or enjoyable emotional states. Happiness just doesn't seem to figure as a valid area of inquiry, although all its antonyms, e.g. depression, psychosis, anxiety, and so on, always seem to. But happiness, joy, mirth, enjoyment, pleasure - and more generally, mental states that we can call "optimal" - these don't seem to be important.

Now, am I the only person who believes this to be perverse in the extreme? Surely, understanding what makes people happy - fulfilled, content, sated, rewarded - is profoundly important work? Athletes talk of being "in the zone"; business people talk of being "on top of their game"; other people talk of being "in the groove". Now, what do they mean? Wekll, what they're refering to is a psychologial state where they feel "happiest". They feel optimal; firing on all cylinders; effortless; enjoyable.

The only work that I know of that addresses this area is by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in a series of books published over 15 years or so on the phenomenon of flow. As he describes it, flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

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