Category Archives: confused opinion
April 21, 2012Posted by on
My first thought: this sounds like a bad idea
Then I thought: well, kiva works well, microfinance is functioning too. Maybe with good regs from SEC, this is actually feasible. I love love startups, but I am cautiously optimistic.
Lastly, so much for mark-to-market. sigh
January 28, 2012Posted by on
[Note: This post was originally written in April 2011 and I hit a wall. I was originally planning on writing on how one's idea about the world changes and not changes, but I don't have a background in neuroscience, psychology and sociology to provide any valuable insight; the whole thing would just turn into a worthless self-exploring stream of consciousness writing by a 20 something y/o female. Enough of those on the web already, and I just know enough to stop myself from doing it, at my best]
I went to a talk by Mr. Kim Hyun Sik at Harvard on April 21. The official name of the talk was An Inside Look at How The North Korean Regime Maintains Its Power.
I was very interested in this topic because I saw the sharp change in my perspective throughout the years. I was a loyalist with a naive critical eye until about when I turned 20, and slowly migrated to the zone of dissidents. If early year education is of the great significance as we think it is, what does the liberation of my mind imply? A failure of the early year education (in the sense that part of its purpose was implementing a certain ideological framework in the younger generations), rendering it a systemic failure? Or, a stronger than we might think predetermined pseudo-genetic temperament (which led me to continuous exploring and adjusting), implicating a more personal problem/trait?
So I was hoping Mr. Kim would be able to confirm or shed some light on my puzzled mind. Being an “ideological nomad” himself, he seemed to be someone who went through a similar path with me, like, we wander around between ideologies. The idea is, we wander, we explore, we don’t settle; but we long to settle, we became tired, and it doesn’t seem that we can live off the shackle of an ideology-bound mindset, to some extent.
Oh, doesn’t this sound like bluff.
Well his talk definitely reassured me how North Korean-ish my grade school education, maybe even junior high, was. And how old men from North Korea and China share some interesting traits. He reminded me of my grandfathers. I can get what they are talking about but not where they come from, almost like an ingrained idea in their minds that got reinforced by repeated preaching to other people, without any mental flexibility, the only way they seem to integrate the current situation into their thinking is using it as a contrast to illustrate how much better things are right now, without much on why things are, allegedly,much better now. Granted that I am drawing the conclusion based on one talk, so it seems to be the right time for me to plug in a disclaimer. Kim Hyun Sik might be awesome. I am just too ignorant.
Before I move on to talk about what Mr. Kim said about North Korean education system and my personal experience, let me take a detour to insert some of his background info. here. Kim Hyun Sik fought in the Korean Civil war and killed some American soldiers. He subsequently majored in Russian in college and graduated top of his class. He then was appointed Professor of Russian in the Pyongyang University of Education (my alma mater‘s counterpart in NK! So happy we went with the French Normale system in school naming ;)), later the Dean of the Department. He claims that he was also selected to be private tutor of Kim Jong Il and was involved in evaluating the academic aptitude of Kim Il Sung’s second wife’s nephew, which was the trial for the new extended compulsory education system in NK (testing whether young children were intellectually developed enough so that they could start the education earlier ). Later he went to Soviet Union to teach Korean (ironically after the Seoul Olympics, when people start to pay attention to the language spoken on this peninsula) , where he defected to the South, and later came to the U.S. He is now a researching professor at George Mason, and apparently his book is being selected as a Nobel Prize contender. There is no English translation yet (only Japanese, which is enjoying a “great readership there”), but you can find a summary of the book in English here .
Mr. Kim didn’t go into details how the education is structured to maintain the ruling power in his talk or his book (summary). His role, to me, seems to be more of a living fossil (a very precious one) rather than someone who is actively providing explanation based on his experience. Him, for some reason, is somewhat objectified, willingly or as a corollary. Another victim of the western-centered discourse?
Also while he seems to be very much criticizing the situation in NK, he still believes that NK could contribute to the human capital in Korean if a unification ever happened by having young people with the great determination to serve the country. I wonder if the regime is overthrown and everyone is presented with all the opportunities that others have, would they still stick to the one option of serving the country rather than freely opting for some less altruistic goals, such as not serving the country. Statistically this is bound to happen. But anyways.
To sum up, other than an interesting personal story, I didn’t learn much from the talk. You can learn it all from the book summary.
July 10, 2011Posted by on
I was reading The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2004, guested edited by Steven Pinker today. Fun read, at least so far. As a self-proclaimed elitist intellectual wannabe, this book speaks to me well in the sense that, well, what’s more elitist intellectual like when a whole bunch of top scientist trying to evangelizing their edge-cutting ideas through very simple English?
It’s the best, Babe; it’s the best. I am almost done with the first two articles, only first-time read, so excuse me for any premature comment.
In The Batter for Your Brain by Ronald Bailey, he says that this society is advocating a more androgynous gender type – eradicating a lot of the gender differences in a way. The exact words, which I literally LOL-ed on the T while reading, are that ” the two sexes are gently nudged toward that androgynous median personalty, self-satisfied and socially compliant, that is the current politically correct outcome in American society”. [page 17]
I completely agree and believe that it makes perfect sense, although I may have a very biased and warped view. I think to myself, oh well Yak, however hard you try, you would still fall for the political correctness BS anyways, one way or the other. By trying to split bills on dates with guys, trying to be sufficiently good in taking care of domestic stuff (fixing plumbing and bikes included) and striving to be have a meaningful career, I am essentially, to a certain extent, trying to make myself a gender neutral person, compared with the traditional definition of gender roles. (I am very self-conscious here because human psychology makes us less aware of the extremity of our own thoughts than others, so everyone would think themselves as “level-headed”; I guess that enables us to function everyday, rather than drowning in the abysmal depression – which brings up another thing that was mentioned in Being Wrong, that depressed population has a more accurate, yet hard to chew, version of the world. Alas, there is just so much a sensitive soul can bear; or, a soul rather. )
Some people may think, well, isn’t that what equality is all about? But why are we assuming equality is the best idea? Not that I would stop doing what I do tomorrow, or any time soon rather, but this makes me wonder: why am I assuming equality is the best solution, or outcome?
Ok I should back off for a sec. The quote from the article is trying to illustrate how brain drugs like Prozac and Ritalin are used: Prozac are heavily prescribed for depressed women lacking in self-esteem to give hem more the “alpha-male feeling that comes with high serotonin levels”, and Ritalin are heavily prescribed for “young boys who do not want to sit still in class because nature never designed them to behave that way” . [page 17] Society obviously think those two instances are not the norm, or not the best case, and would try in some way to alter the situation. But the question, should the society do that?
That’s the question. It pertains to neuro-ethics specifically and science in general, as discussed in the article; it also concerns greatly, at least to me, as to how we should we live our lives. Assume we are all “level-headed” and would like to “do the right thing”, what’s right then? Granted, there are more than one correct answers to a lot of questions, but I am confused and frazzled facing all the possibilities.
It’s hard to find the moral benchmark, or even a compass. I also read something from somewhere (probably a TED talk) saying that atheists can also find a great set of moral principles, which might to quite shocking to some fervently religious people. By a set of moral principles, I mean there can be a nice alternative/replacement for the role of God in all the monotheist religions. We could also find a baseline to function accordingly. The baseline, in the source I read, is a very broadly-defined concept of efficiency. So basically we try to be nice because it is ultimately efficiently, yada yada yada.
But who are we to say, the world isn’t at its best when it’s in chaos? We are just a bunch of stuff made out of meat. Do you trust meat “thinking”? Yah you would call it neurons firing and emitting chemicals…but com’on we are all made out of meat…. We can be swayed into terrorism, communism, Nazism, etc. We claim that social influences are the causes, perhaps the institutions (as argued in the first article in this book, Genesis of Suicide Terrorism by Scott Atran, who basically said that the religious and secular institutions around the world, note not only the Muslim, are to blame for this horrible thing), yet Steven Pinker argues that, contrary to what we would like to think, or the politically correct version, we are NOT born blank slate. Who to believe? I am still waiting for the Blank Slate, and I am excited. Maybe I misunderstood Mr. Pinker. *shrugs.
Maybe political correctness is the poison for the mediocre. It’s the safe bet.
And here is another example of how politically correct ideas can be…..hm…..debatable. (thanks for the link Glog). I am thinking about evangelizing the idea to my mom and other folks in China, who are pretty shocked when I nonchalantly responded to the great news that my cousin is getting married: they can still get divorced…no? What’s the big deal.
’nuff said. Peace out.
(I decide to publish this without too much editing, because it would be funny to see some minor drunk writing, and waiting for my new extended battery for my HTC Evo to exhaust itself so I can “condition” it, deserves some record. So here you go. )