Dear friend,

What does it mean to be a human being?

I. The definition of a human being

I’ve been super inspired by GHOST IN THE SHELL (the original anime and the new one) — and I’ve been thinking a lot about AI (artificial intelligence). With new shows like WESTWORLD (wild western with AI) — I wondered, ‘What is the difference between artificial intelligence and ‘real’ human intelligence?’

Better yet– what does it mean for me to be a human being?

Here is what I think:


To be human to me is to love the organic– and to be organic.

For example, I have an aversion to plastic flowers. To me, I look at the plastic red, waxy leaves, and I feel like throwing up in my mouth. I literally get a full body reaction — I need to put the plastic flowers away from my sight.

However, when I see an organic tree– I look at it with wonder. I touch the bark, and feel the history. I think about my childhood. I think about playing on the playground in Alameda, and falling into the BARK ‘protection’– and all the painful splinters I got.

I think about going hiking as a Boy Scout, and the smell of fresh mountain air.

To be human is to be organic. AI (or robots) are made out of polyester, silicone, and electric impulses.

To be human must be more than just having ‘intelligence.’

To me, to be human is to be ORGANIC. To be made out of blood, bone, and organic molecules. And like every single organic being– sooner or later I must die. Which brings me to the next point:


A human needs to and must die.

An artificial robot will never die. Machines and robots will stop operating. But not like a human. Humans will have organic failure. Machines will have mechanical issues.

The problem is that a lot of people (who want to live forever) see the human body like a simple mechanical machine. They think if we keep the oil greased long enough, and repair it enough, it will live forever.

But no. To me as a human being– we need to and must die. It is what makes us a human being.

Taking it a step further, I know that my motivation as a human being is that of death. If I knew I would never die, I would never have a sense of urgency to hustle.

To me, I know that my life is limited. Therefore, I work hard– fucking hard, every single day, to make the best of each day. Because one day, I lie in my white bed, close my eyes, see the back of my eyelids, see nothing but pitch black, and fail to wake up the next morning.

But I’m not afraid of death. I just know it is my duty. Like helping the rest of humanity, like helping my family, and my local community. My duty of serving those who are weaker than me. By using my privileged position to hustle and create free and open information, to empower others. Because I know how shitty it was when I was poor and had no power. And my role models, my local community, the US government, and my teachers empowered me to become the best version of myself.


Ennui– or boredom. To me, boredom is worse than death.

Nietzsche has this concept of the ‘eternal return.’ The concept is basically this:

If you lived your life on loop, forever– would you be overjoyed or horrified?

To me, if I lived forever, I would fall into boredom and despair. I would rather commit suicide.

Just imagine. What if you lived to be 1,000 years old? What will you do once you have traveled to every corner of the planet, and seen all the great sights? When you have watched ALL the movies ever made, all the video games ever made, and had sex with over 1 million people? Would you still be interested, or have a zest for life?

I think not.

To me, the thing that fights boredom is this knowledge that you will die.

III. Love death

To me, I love the fact that I will die. If I had the choice, I might be interested in ‘life extension’ (I actually practice intermittent fasting, which is suggested to starve off pre-cancer cells through this process called ‘autophagy’, when the stronger proteins eat the weak proteins in your body). Apparently this is a ‘vacuum cleaner effect.’

Anyways, I think one of the best ways to live life is like the Ancient Greeks or Romans. Everything (almost) in the past or ancient times is more heroic, epic, and badass. Anything today in modern times is pretty flabby, fat, and weak. In ancient times, there were HEROS. HEROES sacrificed themselves for the collective. The greatest honor for a Greek was to die in the midst of battle, for a cause they believed in.

In today’s world, rather– we have this silly concept of ‘SUCCESS’ as the end-all. Rather, I think we should seek more about taking MORE RISKS in life, to have more BRAVERY, COURAGE, VIRTUE, HONOR, and sacrifice.

To me, I try to make some small sacrifices to help others. I sacrifice my time to help Cindy. I ‘sacrifice’ some of my money to help support my mom and family, and friends who need financial help.

I ‘sacrifice’ myself a bit by spitting real talk and uncovering what I consider bullshit in the Photo Industry. And of course, when I put my neck on the line, I am going to get some scars. But like Muhammad Ali, I keep bouncing back from the ropes. And I consider myself like WOLVERINE — whenever someone shoots me in the chest, I still feel the pain, but I rise superior to the pain — and come back with a stronger ferocity.

I also have been tempted in the past to start charging more money for information on this blog. But for me, information is power. I don’t want nobody to not have access to any information on this site (if it has the potential to empower them). To me, it is an ethical thing: I don’t like paying for information, so why should I make others pay for my information?. It is the ‘silver rule’ (don’t do unto others as you don’t want others to do unto you).


To be more human in life, here are some tips:

1. Love the organic

To me, I far prefer organic materials over digital or artificial ones.

For example, smell more books. Read more physical books (if possible). An eBook has the same ‘information’ — but an ebook doesn’t have smell. An ebook doesn’t have texture, weight, or feeling in the hand. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than finishing a paperback book, closing it forcefully (with a loud ‘CLAP’), and sliding it back into the shelf.

In photography, photograph more beautiful organic things– like trees, human beings (street photography), or nature/landscapes.

2. Don’t be afraid of death

Also to be more human– don’t dream of stupid things like living forever. To me, that is not human.

Don’t be afraid of death, but anticipate it.

To me, anticipating death isn’t some scary or macabre thing. Instead, it gives me more ZEST for life. It makes me appreciate life more.

For example, you never appreciate something until you lose it.

Have you ever accidentally left your camera in a taxi, and after you realize it — your heart starts to palpitate? And then you recover the camera– you kiss it, and swear to never take it for granted?

The same with human life. You never appreciate your loved ones until you get the phone call that they have been killed by a drunk driver. Or you get the call that your mom or dad just had a heart attack, or died in their sleep in the nursing home.

So friends, never take your loved ones for granted. DEATH is what makes us appreciate life. Kind of like how food only tastes good with hunger. How achievement is only tasty when we work hard for it. Or how we only enjoy the view on top of a mountain after we have climbed it for a week. Or like how you appreciate modern life in your apartment after backpacking in the woods for a few days.

3. More gratitude

To be human is to be grateful. To say ‘thank you’ to everyone — especially to those who are ‘lower’ than you in social status.

Treat your baristas, taxi/uber drivers, and waiters like your boss. In-fact, I like to call these service-industry friends as ‘BOSS’. And treat your superiors like your inferiors. Just kidding, treat them with equal respect.

Everyday, when I wake up in the morning, I roll out of bed, feeling like shit, then walk two steps to the bathroom, turn on the lights, look at the bags under my eyes, and after drinking about two cups of coffee, I think to myself:

Damn it’s fucking great to be alive.

So friend, no matter how shitty your life situation might be– be strong. Know you can overcome any difficulty in life. You are a human, with infinite wisdom, possibility, and potential.

Just work hard, and know that what kills you only makes you stronger.


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