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Follow Up to Previous Post on Topics that Bother Me

June 12, 2019

Author: Bianca Yang
Email: ipacifics@gmail.com

I have always thought that history is an essential topic. History is not about memorization of facts; it’s about understanding human nature and the institutions we have constructed to help manage human nature individually and collectively. Of course, one could make just as borderline meaningless a statement like that for any other discipline. (The objective of mathematics is not to…) Anyway, my point is that I think we need to pay more attention to the origins of phenomenon and read the original documents that are the foundation for the knowledge we take for granted today. For example, if you want to understand the whole hullabaloo around evolution, you read Darwin’s Origin of Species. If you want to understand modern economics, you would do well to start with John Stuart Mill or Adam Smith. If you want to understand physics, how about some Newton? Stand on giants’ shoulders all you want. I’m going to be busy asking them questions in the meantime.

It is vitally important that we reexamine these culturally held beliefs and poke at them, prod at them, do everything we can to show how we could believe against our current beliefs. What this exercise does is to strengthen our beliefs, to have us prove to ourselves that the direction we are headed is still truly the right direction. Let us not proceed on blind faith that the conformist, mimetic solution or belief is the right one. Here’s a quote from Feynman on exactly this topic:

Finally, with regard to this time-binding, a man cannot live beyond the grave. Each generation that discovers something from its experience must pass that on, but it must pass that on with a delicate balance of respect and disrespect, so that the [human] race–now that it is aware of the disease to which it is liable–does not inflict its errors too rigidly on its youth, but it does pass on the accumulated wisdom, plus the wisdom that it may not be wisdom.

Here are some pieces of history I want to learn more about:

  1. The history of feminism. My gut feeling is that feminism was started by the women who went to work during WWII and felt dissatisfied with the housewife life after the war ended. These women upended the contemporary “wisdom” and preference for women staying at home. Is it correct? How does one measure the impact of introducing women into the workplace?
    • I have doubts about whether we could ever construct measurable results related to the commonly used measure of progress: GDP or economic or other money growth. How does one measure the growth in productivity from introducing more minorities into an office? How does one measure the growth in productivity related to having more women in power? One of my professors has a theory that matriarchal societies being more socially good than male-dominated societies. Maybe I’m naive and stupid. If you think I’m wrong, confront me through email.
  2. Evolution. Next on my reading list is Darwin’s Origin of Species. I’m excited to hear the man himself talk about a simply revolutionary topic.
  3. China. Being ethnically Chinese has given me only a sliver of an advantage over non-Chinese into the status of the country and the whole Communist fiasco. Xijinping is a calculating and exceptionally skilled leader. The US is not designed to handle leaders that think as long-term and as aggressively as people like Xijinping do. We are designed to adapt quickly. We place in checks and balances like the four-year term and the Houses and the electoral college to prevent the tyranny of majority and political nonsense. We listen to our citizens. Other countries don’t, and we will lose if we don’t shape up and start paying attention to China’s approach towards a kink in the growth curve where they really start overtaking us.
  4. Communism. It’s time to read Marx and Engels and the rest of the gang. Surely the modern tumult around socialist and communist ideals is not the first the world has seen. It’s not the first time that people have tried to subjugate natural desires and natural quirks of “human nature” into a more utopian format. It is not the first time that ideals have been corrupted and pulled away from the founders’ intentions.
  5. AI Safety. We cannot be distracted by low level nuisances like fake news or babble or cat videos. But how do we make progress without sabotaging ourselves?

As time goes on, this list will grow. As time goes on, I hope to have more recommendations on information sources I can feed off of to fill my knowledge gaps on these topics. As time goes on, I will [face more issues with evaluating the legitimacy of text] (https://medium.com/@NPCollapse/gpt2-counting-consciousness-and-the-curious-hacker-323c6639a3a8). But wait, that’s not just a me problem. It’s a society problem.

Happy reading and learning and almost start of summer.