If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

This philosofical question it's very easy to answer:

  • If by sound you mean "the phisical phenomenum of air vibration". Yes, absolutely. The phisical phenomenum is not optional. It's a written-in-stone-law as strong as 2+2=4.
  • If by sound you mean "The human sensory experience". No, never. You need a human experiencing it in order to have an human there to experience it.

If a geniuos shine in a forest and no one is around to recognize him, is he shining?

This one is even easier:

  • If by "shine" you mean "the human feeling of accomplishment through groupal recognition". No, never. There must be groupal recognition for the genious to experience it.
  • If by "shine" you mean "an organically consensual recognition". No never. There must be people who recognize the contribution of the genius organically and consensually.

And more important.

  • If the tree falls over the genious... yeah, easy joke.

Pain and pleasure

As biological beens, driven by a nervous system and involved in an ongoing evolutive selection, pain and pleasure are means for a reinforced learning that optimizes the individual behaviour in a way that statistically increases increases the evolutionary success rate of the species.

The system is not perfect, and in marginal cases it can work in the opposite direction.

Sadness and happiness

As members of a hierarchical society involved on an ongoing competition for resources and survival,  sadness and happiness are means for a reinforced learning that optimizes the individual behaviour in a way that statistically increases the survival rate of the group.

The system is not perfect, and in marginal cases it can work in the opposite direction.

System failures

Pleasure and happiness cas be as adictive as a drug, and every system can be cheated, so sometimes individuals accidentally discover how to provide themselves with great amounts of pleasure or happiness in ways that are harmful to the individual or society, for instance junk-food or instigating or participating in a lynching or witch hunt

The reason why eating Junk-food feels pleasant is we evolve in an environment of caloric scarcity, so eating fat and sugar gives us pleasure.

The reason why instigating a lynching provide us with happines is it increases our our group identity and our feeling of belonging and both things are strongly related with individual and groupal survival sucess rate. (We could also talk long about evolution and survival of cultures and memes)

Another reasons this can fail are related with misalignments between individuals' and groups' visions, goals and motivations.

Some times individuals are rewarded (by pleasure/hapiness) as an individual or as a group member, in ways that are harmfull for other groups he also belong to.

Finally, How to shine:

  1. Do good things that make you feel good and let things flow.
  2. Make sure you are aligned with all your groups, and all your groups are aligned each other. At least avoid conflicts of interest.
  3. Help others to shine.
  4. Point 2 and 3 are actually included into point 1.