Exhalation Quotes

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Exhalation: Stories Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
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Exhalation Quotes Showing 1-30 of 191
“The universe began as an enormous breath being held. Who knows why, but whatever the reason, I'm glad it did, because I owe my existence to that fact. All my desires and ruminations are no more and no less than eddy currents generated by the gradual exhalation of our universe. And until this great exhalation is finished, my thoughts live on.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“Four things do not come back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity,”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“My message to you is this: Pretend that you have free will. It’s essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know they don’t. The reality isn’t important; what’s important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma. Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“None of us are saints, but we can all try to be better. Each time you do something generous, you're shaping yourself into someone who's more likely to be generous next time, and that matters.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“People are made of stories. Our memories are not the impartial accumulation of every second we’ve lived; they’re the narrative that we assembled out of selected moments. Which is why, even when we’ve experienced the same events as other individuals, we never constructed identical narratives: the criteria used for selecting moments were different for each of us, and a reflection of our personalities. Each of us noticed the details that caught our attention and remembered what was important to us, and the narratives we built shaped our personalities in turn. But, I wondered, if everyone remembered everything, would our differences get shaved away? What would happen to our sense of self? It seemed to me that a perfect memory couldn’t be a narrative any more than unedited security-cam footage could be a feature film. ·”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“We like the idea that there's always someone responsible for any given event, because it helps us make sense of the world. We like that so much that sometimes we blame ourselves, just so that there's someone to blame. But not everything is under our control, or even anyone's control.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so. I feel I have the right to tell you this because, as I am inscribing these words, I am doing the same.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“Low expectations are a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we aim high, we’ll get better results.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“Some humans theorize that intelligent species go extinct before they can expand into outer space. If they're correct, then the hush of the night sky is the silence of the graveyard.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“As he practiced his writing, Jijingi came to understand what Moseby had meant: writing was not just a way to record what someone said; it could help you decide what you would say before you said it. And words were not just the pieces of speaking; they were the pieces of thinking. When you wrote them down, you could grasp your thoughts like bricks in your hands and push them into different arrangements. Writing let you look at your thoughts in a way you couldn’t if you were just talking, and having seen them, you could improve them, make them stronger and more elaborate.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“The difference is that the heat energy we radiate is a high-entropy form of energy, meaning it’s disordered. The chemical energy we absorb is a low-entropy form of energy, meaning it’s ordered. In effect, we are consuming order and generating disorder; we live by increasing the disorder of the universe. It’s only because the universe started in a highly ordered state that we are able to exist at all.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“If you want to create the common sense that comes from twenty years of being in the world, you need to devote twenty years to the task. You can't assemble an equivalent collection of heuristics in less time; experience is algorithmically incompressible.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“There have always been arguments showing that free will is an illusion, some based on hard physics, others based on pure logic. Most people agree these arguments are irrefutable, but no one ever really accepts the conclusion. The experience of having free will is too powerful for an argument to overrule.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“Though I am long dead as you read this, explorer, I offer to you a valediction. Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so. I feel I have the right to tell you this because, as I am inscribing these words, I am doing the same.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“Past and future are the same, and we cannot change either, only know them more fully.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“Sex isn’t what makes a relationship real; the willingness to expend effort maintaining it is.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“We human beings may not be the answer to the question why, but I will keep looking for the answer to how. This search is my purpose; not because you chose it for me, Lord, but because I chose it for myself. Amen.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“People are made of stories. Our memories are not the impartial accumulation of every second we’ve lived; they’re the narrative that we assembled out of selected moments. Which is why, even when we’ve experienced the same events as other individuals, we never constructed identical narratives: the criteria used for selecting moments were different for each of us, and a reflection of our personalities. Each of us noticed the details that caught our attention and remembered what was important to us, and the narratives we built shaped our personalities in turn.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“When we speak, we use the breath in our lungs to give our thoughts a physical form. The sounds we make are simultaneously our intentions and our life force.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“Human activity has brought my kind to the brink of extinction, but I don’t blame them for it. They didn’t do it maliciously. They just weren’t paying attention. And humans create such beautiful myths; what imaginations they have. Perhaps that’s why their aspirations are so immense. Look at Arecibo. Any species who can build such a thing must have greatness within them. My species probably won’t be here for much longer; it’s likely that we’ll die before our time and join the Great Silence. But before we go, we are sending a message to humanity. We just hope the telescope at Arecibo will enable them to hear it. The message is this: You be good. I love you.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“According to Hindu mythology, the universe was created with a sound: “om.” It is a syllable that contains within it everything that ever was and everything that will be. When the Arecibo telescope is pointed at the space between stars, it hears a faint hum. Astronomers call that the cosmic microwave background. It’s the residual radiation of the Big Bang, the explosion that created the universe fourteen billion years ago. But you can also think of it as a barely audible reverberation of that original “om.” That syllable was so resonant that the night sky will keep vibrating for as long as the universe exists. When Arecibo is not listening to anything else, it hears the voice of creation.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“Edgar Allan Poe had used the phrase “the imp of the perverse” to describe the temptation to do the wrong thing simply because you could, and for many people the imp had become more persuasive.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“In most cases we have to forget a little bit before we can forgive; when we no longer experience the pain as fresh, the insult is easier to forgive, which in turn makes it less memorable, and so on. It’s this psychological feedback loop that makes initially infuriating offenses seem pardonable in the mirror of hindsight.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“It’s no coincidence that “aspiration” means both hope and the act of breathing.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“Raising a child puts you in touch, deeply, inescapably, daily, with some pretty heady issues: What is love and how do we get ours? Why does the world contain evil and pain and loss? How can we discover dignity and tolerance? Who is in power and why? What’s the best way to resolve conflict? If we want to give an AI any major responsibilities, then it will need good answers to these questions. That’s not going to happen by loading the works of Kant into a computer’s memory; it’s going to require the equivalent of good parenting.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories
“Every decision you make contributes to your character and shapes the kind of person you are.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“Some lovers break up with each other the first time they have a big argument; some parents do as little for their children as they can get away with; some pet owners ignore their pets whenever they become inconvenient. In all of those cases, the people are unwilling to make an effort. Having a real relationship, whether with a lover or a child or a pet, requires that you be willing to balance the other party’s wants and needs with your own.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“You, I hope, are one of those explorers. You, I hope, found these sheets of copper and deciphered the words engraved on their surfaces. And whether or not your brain is impelled by the air that once impelled mine, through the act of reading my words, the patterns that form your thoughts become an imitation of the patterns that once formed mine. And in that way I live again, through you.”
Ted Chiang, נשיפה
“And yet I know that, because free will is an illusion, it’s all predetermined who will descend into akinetic mutism and who won’t. There’s nothing anyone can do about it; you can’t choose the effect the Predictor has on you. Some of you will succumb and some of you won’t, and my sending this warning won’t alter those proportions. So why did I do it? Because I had no choice.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation
“[S]kill at debate isn't the same as maturity.”
Ted Chiang, Exhalation: Stories

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