Welcome to my blog. My name is Nick Ma, and I’m originally from the west suburbs of Chicago. After completing college at Vanderbilt University and med school at the University of Illinois in Chicago, I moved to North Carolina for my residency in psychiatry at UNC in Chapel Hill, where I am currently in my final year of training.
When I began writing in college, my thoughts were mostly about my engineering classes, and my ideas arose from an interest in the physics of living systems. I wanted to understand how nature, seemingly chaotic, could produce such seeming harmony; how perpetual order could arise from a universe of perpetual disorder. Having left my childhood faith, I often wondered about the absurdity of my existence, but I had no expectation of figuring anything out. Nonetheless, I felt that life was something to be cherished, and that human existence was not as meaningless as my atheist friends had claimed. So I began to observe the world more broadly, looking for patterns in everything from physics to economics, from religion to politics. And as I connected the dots, I glimpsed a picture that has captivated my imagination. What began as a scientific curiosity has expanded into a perspective that I find wholly satisfying.
The following is an excerpt from an article published in The Atlantic by Nancy Andreasen, a neuropsychiatrist and neuroscientist who studies creativity:
Creative people are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way—seeing things that others cannot see. …Of course, having too many ideas can be dangerous. One subject, a scientist, described to me “a willingness to take an enormous risk with your whole heart and soul and mind on something where you know the impact—if it worked—would be utterly transformative.” The if here is significant. Part of what comes with seeing connections no one else sees is that not all of these connections actually exist. “Everybody has crazy things they want to try,” that same subject told me. “Part of creativity is picking the little bubbles that come up to your conscious mind, and picking which one to let grow and which one to give access to more of your mind, and then have that translate into action.”
I’ve always had a lot of ideas, and most of them are pretty bad. But I find this one to be quite compelling, and you might agree that this reality is one worth entertaining. As I write in my introduction, “this logic defines a reason for our existence, a purpose that might satisfy our search for significance.” It begins with a metaphysical assumption, a fundamental meaning in nature that, if true, holds implications for science, society, and humanity at large. But it could be wrong, rending it a mere fantasy based on some pseudoscientific theory. So, I see this more as an ideological experiment that tests an assumption and its predicted outcome: the self-organization of a sentient species. Its impact—if it’s true—will be “utterly transformative.” And the if here is significant.
“I believe in intuition and inspiration. At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason… Knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” – Albert Einstein (1879-1955), theoretical physicist, “Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions and Aphorisms”
On a personal level, this philosophy represents the start of a lifelong effort to justify my confidence in the inherent value of life. And this attitude is, in fact, a vestige of my religious roots. Like most of the world, I still want to believe that humanity is somehow relevant in the grand scheme of things. But regardless of our ideological dispositions, the survival of humanity now necessitates a discourse on its destiny. Our future being now calls for some idea of what we might become. As I write in my introduction, “the progress of humankind is now dependent on our ability to put aside our frustration and bitterness, to look past our short-sightedness, and to engage ourselves with the broader picture of what it means to be human—if it means anything at all.” (Home)
“It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.” – Stephen Hawking (theoretical physicist, 1942-2018)
Thanks for checking out this site, and please feel free to share it with anyone who might be interested. And thank you to everyone who has offered encouragement or suggestions for improvement, because my philosophy depends on them. In fact, you might notice that my assumptions aren’t all that original, and this isn’t a wholly new idea. Rather, it’s a new way of putting old ideas together. This perspective was born from many others, and its growth will require integrating broad and diverse sets of knowledge. In any case, feedback and evolution are necessary for survival, including the survival of ideas. And what is the truth, if not an idea that survives?
“Humans may crave absolute certainty; they may aspire to it; they may pretend, as partisans of certain religions do, to have attained it. But the history of science—by far the most successful claim to knowledge accessible to humans—teaches that the most we can hope for is successive improvement in our understanding. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth—never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities.” – Carl Sagan (astronomer, 1934−1996)