Posts tagged with death

24 Hrs. To Live by Mase feat. The Lox, Black Rob, & DMX

(Source: Spotify)

I argued that `CVaR` (expected shortfall) of personal income is a better indicator of a society’s success than is GDP.

$\dpi{200} \bg_white \large \mathtt{\ CVaR} \overset{\mathrm{def}}= \int_{\mathtt{lo}}^{\mathtt{hi}}\mathtt{value} \cdot \mathtt{probability}$

`CVaR` combines the basic statistical operations of

• subsetting and
• averaging.

In statistical analysis of the middle it’s useful to winsorise—trim off the upper and lower `X%` and look at those separately. With `CVaR` it’s almost the opposite: look at the upper or lower edge only. (Although you could also look at only the bottom 50% which is not really an edge.)

You could also use the same technique to look at the “top” rather than the “bottom”. Think about, for example, the apparent puzzle of

• rising life expectancy, with
• stagnant longevity.

Average lifespans rise as early causes of death (dysentery, childbirth, violence) decline.

But death by “natural causes” (getting old and all your body systems start to fail | telomere cutoffs | whatever “natural causes” means; it’s sort of vague) doesn’t get postponed by as much.

I can think of three ways to even go about defining what arithmetic we’re going to perform on the data to answer “Is longevity higher or lower?”.

1. Perform a lot of subset operations on cause-of-death. Remove the violent ones, the childbirth ones, the cancer ones that also coincide with old age but not middle-age but maybe middle-old-age should count…, the narcotic ones (but not narcotics that are used for euthanasia in old people), the driving accidents, the young suicides, the wild animal attacks, the malaria, the starvation, the tuberculosis, the ebola, ….
2. Perform just one subset operation on age. Pick some age like 70 over which you will consider all deaths to be “of old age”, even if they got hit by a car. Average all those ages together and the number you’re using now cuts out—roughly, not surgically—a lot of the deaths you aren’t interested in.

Just like subsetting to age at death `WHERE age > 5` will pull out childhood illness deaths.
3. Consider the upper 10% or 20% or 50% of ages at death. Average that together and now the number you’re comparing reasonable numbers across countries.

This last one is the `CVaR` approach. Clearly all three have flaws. But the third one needs the least data and the least data janitorship (imagine languages or different fields/columns or different coding choices).

Just like using lower `CVaR` to compare only poor people’s incomes, if we used upper `CVaR` to compare only old people’s death ages, we’d get better numbers and talk more sense with only a bit more effort.

warning: THIS VIDEO GRAPHICALLY DEPICTS DEATH

The reporter’s voice singing the prosody of her profession, we are notified of several facts: millionaire, Wall Street, financial ruin, arson, scuba suit, Mount Everest.

• Noun (phrase) used to identify victim of suicide: outdoor enthusiast.
• Method of execution: cyanide pills.
• Number of eyewitnesses to Marin’s death throes: more than five.
• Ashamed that I watched such a private moment on camera?: Maybe.
• Disgusted that I want to watch it again?: Not really.
• Reasons for interest: [1] fascination with death [2] examining my own empathy / sympathy / lack thereof [3] the media made me watch it [4] the expression on the face of a man who has just decided to take his own life [5] videotape of physical act which begins the process of self-murder.
• First comment by a G+ acquaintance: “Justice served? or averted?” Anti-Wall Street sentiment.
• My feeling: Who cares? I hate to see someone at that level of suffering.

(Source: Los Angeles Times)

A few weeks ago a relation of mine (in his early 50’s) met up with a far-flung friend from high school. The friend is apparently a multimillionaire from making some computer game company. Multiple houses in beautiful parts of the country. But also has a terminal illness. I think something M.S.-related. It is at least debilitative as well as terminal. I keep thinking about their meeting. The friend I’ve never met nor spoken to so it’s just imagination on my part.

What would I want to say at the end of my life? How do you look at someone who is going to continue on—perhaps in not so rico a fashion as one would dream of for oneself—but carry on forward past the end of me. What do you talk about? What really mattered—or what matters to you at that point?

I can’t exactly express what I feel about it. I just keep thinking about this person looking back on his life. One last meeting with an old friend.

Count.

• "I wanted to be pissed about my breast cancer"
• "They wanted to be angry about being laid off"
• "It’s untrue that a positive attitude boosting the immune system increases the odds of withstanding cancer" "I have a Ph.D in cellular immunology"
• Quantum physics become an excuse to mock all of science
• "I didn’t come out of cancer more spiritual or a better person. If anything I’m a little meaner and more cynical"
• There is no “real world”, there’s `the real world through my positive mood` and `the real world through my bad mood`.

Smile or Die by Barbara Ehrenreich

I remember as a child, walking in New York City. Of course I had no idea where we were going or why we were doing anything, I just knew I had to walk somewhere. I was tossing my stuffed animal in the air as we walked, for fun. It was a stuffed stegosaurus my mum had sewed for me. He was awesome. We crossed a street. I threw Steggy the stegosaurus up in the air. He went straight up instead of up-and-in-front-of-me. My mum was holding my hand, making me cross straight to the other kerb. We went forward and he went straight up and straight down onto the pavement behind me. I tried to turn around and pick him up. I saw a car coming and wanted to run back and pick Steggy up from the ground. I was afraid he would be run over.

The Wound That Never Heals by Jim White

## Death and Symplecticity

It may not feel like it, but the universe is receding behind you every second. One of the lessons of special relativity is the `−ct` term:
$\large \dpi{200} \bg_white (- + + +)$

• you can stand still where you are,
• you can run away as fast as you can,
• you can stop and go and wander around,
• you can focus like a nail and pound deep into something,
• you can get bored or be excited,
• you can build something & raise the Lagrangian or veg & leave it low,

time is still flowing past you, that metric subtracting `−ct` ticks at a rate of one tick per tick.

"Your prison is walking through this world all alone"

In other words, freedom and independence, too, have a cost, perhaps exactly equal to the cost of

• or spending your “best years” raising children instead of “achieving” career-wise.

A tumbleweed sees more but also less than a tree.

If you want to think about lifetime as being a fixed length (ignoring that its length comes from a probability distribution, which itself is conditional on your choices) then you can derive my favourite equation:

$\large \dpi{200} \bg_white \text{consumption} = \text{wage} \cdot (\text{lifespan}-\text{leisure})$

the tradeoff between work, leisure, and wealth. That idea as well is symplectic. And many other such tradeoffs ∃. Symplecticity is the theoretical basis of all budget constraints. It’s another way of talking about all the tradeoffs that make choice meaningful and also unavoidable (even not-choosing is a choice). You can strain and strive as much as you want, all you will do is slide amongst alternatives and never do everything.

If you want to use a picture of the form of Christopher Alexander’s

and just substitute in names of various other things that you want—then the “metric signature”, due to time flowing over and beyond us like a river always, is `−` in so many of the pursuits one might like to do, such as

• making money
• learning algebraic topology
• spending time with kids
• learning to do a backflip
• travelling in Asia
• playing guitar
• writing an opera
• living so you get to Heaven after this life (ok, I said I wouldn’t bring in any probability distributions but I had to cheat on this one. It’s an interesting measure theory question, isn’t it? If there is even a finite chance of getting an infinite payoff, then unless the utility function becomes flat above a certain payoff, then the only logical thing to do is make 100% sure you get the infinite payoff. OK, /rant)
• making the sex, many times. Or, not:

Sure, sometimes one lucks out and there is a positive association between two things, like learning mathematics and being a quant—but the magnitude might be less than you expect. (Pure maths alone is insufficient and unnecessary to finance.)

In terms of the 10,000-hours-to-expertise paradigm—despite some complementarities (+)—there are only so many 10,000-hour blocks in your life. And the Type A personality who squeezes out the most 10,000-hour blocks, gets the most toys or becomes the world’s best cyclist or visits all the countries, learns the most languages, or whatever, still miss out on something.

Leaving aside that the human encyclopedia and Tony Hawk also will turn back to dust, just even evaluating only the finite path `[0,1] → life` , that busy body necessarily misses out on

• the down moments,
• the still time,
• the zoning out,
• the chilling,
• the doing nothing and being OK with it,
• the taking in instead of forcing out,
• and perhaps those have some value as well.

In English it sounds so obvious to be trivial: you can’t do everything, because nothing is also something and if you’re doing something you can’t be doing nothing.

But the mathematical language, in addition to sounding more exotic and smartypants, adds something real, at least for me—which is the sense of those `−` signs attaching me to everything. Every time I do something, I’ve lost some other opportunity. Every person I become, I drift further away from the possibilities of who else I might have been. Every commitment loses a freedom and every freedom wastes a commitment. Every nothing wastes a something and every something forgoes a nothing. Everything is receding, decaying, entropying, with or without me, until eventually the waters will cover my head and I never surface again.

Sufficiently convolved with the

$\large \dpi{200} \bg_white x+y+z + \varsigma + \xi = 100\%$

all the paths sum to a constant and that constant quantity eventually runs out.

Somebody can kill you, at any time.