Archive for the ‘Quip’ Category

Throat clearing

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

My written voice is a separate part of my consciousness. It slumbers for months at a stretch, roused by emotional outbursts every few months. Others are driven to drink, I am driven to write.

I have the impulse to write about the follies of others, how clear things are to me and how hopelessly muddled it is to them. It isn’t a pretty impulse, and writing was easier when I was younger and less concerned with appearances. That voice IS genuine – underneath I am every bit as arrogant and unmeasured as what I sound like when I speak with my loudest voice.

With age, I have lost space. The known world shrank and shrank as the unknown beyond proved its limitless depths again and again. I know so little, so little is certain. The simple logic games and puzzles still delight me, but appear to me as nostalgic toys and not the bludgeoning weapons I once thought they were. Words matter only if people care. Words persist only if they are supported by clarity of thought. Without the company of minds for which clarity is a virtue, these two goals tug in different directions.

The resulting strain makes for much confusion. I am no sophist, I will not corrupt my logic just so you will listen. I am no hermit, I have not the independence of mind to hide away for decades nursing a novel proof. Such is my human condition.

Do Critical Topics always bring Abrasive Conversations?

Friday, December 18th, 2015

The first rule of Improvisional Comedy the Yes, And rule, compels one to

accept what the other person has created (“Yes”) and then add something to it (“And”)

This is something that a skilled conversationist is good at. It poses trouble for the discussion of critical analyses however, because such discussions involve acts of disagreement (“No” – the negation of something the other person said) and of refocusing the discussion are to reduce incidental and nonessential complexity.

Being able to disagree productively and reach consensus regarding topic definitions is difficult, and something I’ve only managed to achieve with a handful of people who are all much more emotionally mature than I am. That’s really mostly other people figuring that I care much more about the topic than they do, however, and hardly an ideal resolution to the issue.

Ideally, in the face of disagreement, you would simply go up one layer in the abstraction stack, agree on the approach, and then figure out the specific bit of disagreement. By social convention, you start with the premise that both parties are rational, after which the search for the mistaken logic (which will be clear when identified) or for the differing premise can commence.

Hardly ever happens that way. Usually there’s too much ego involved, and enough entanglement with social status happens that it’s difficult to talk about the topic in isolation.

Movies – Inside Out, The Little Prince

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

Inside Out was amazing because it didn’t have a villain. In contrast, The Little Prince portrays all “normal” adults as villains. I never noticed this when I read the book years ago. Youthful angst is a frustration with being forced to obey rules that one can’t understand. Prince proposes resolving that dissonance by looking inward, and denigrates the customs of others as senseless and not worth interacting with. Contrast this French approach with the Japanese one in here.


Monday, September 15th, 2014

As many of you know, I left Katong Capital as of May this year, where I worked with Yishen Kuik and Jeff Ma for the last 3 years. The statistics was fun, the infrastructure building was fun, and I have had the fortune to continue to do those things at my current job with Minus Inc.

I still greatly enjoy finance ideas, the same way I will continue to enjoy electronic structure. I also have a lot more to say about working in small partnerships now, hah. Ideology, can’t live without it, can’t live with it – it can be difficult to diagnose insanity from the inside!

Feeling free

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Freedom is important to happiness and well-being. However, freedom is not that straightforward to pin down. When do we perceive an influence as coercion, and when do we accept it as natural law? I’m sure the inability to violate the constraints of physics does not cause anyone grief. That’s because we are pretty certain that other people cannot violate those laws either.

Freedom is the possession of the relevant capabilities needed to pursue your goals, as measured against a specific reference. Even though being able to teleport to work is something that does aid me in the pursuit of my goals, my inability to do so does not cause me grief because it is a capability that is far beyond my reference point.

People feel more free when rules are clear, because in those situations choices are made by examining the different consequences in your head and then picking the choice with the consequences that you most prefer. This thought pattern pretty much defines what free will is. This is the reason why games are enjoyable. This is why computer programming is fun — the product is difficult to produce but easy to judge.

Freedom can bring unhappiness. A tough choice is a choice for which you know that the consequences vary widely but you don’t know in which direction. It’s uncertainty in outcomes resulting from ignorance, a situation where you know that it’s important to make the right decision but you don’t know which decision is correct. Feeling vexed in this situation is important because it motivates the improvement of knowledge – by necessity, the failure to improve knowledge has to feel frustrating.

Calvinism and the hedonic treadmill

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Am I having fun yet?

Calvinism is a branch of Christian thought which subscribes to the concept of predestination. Predestination is the concept that one’s actions do not influence whether one will go to heaven or not – all that has been predetermined. Now, you’d wonder how this could possibly work in a religion, since we normally think of the going to heaven as being determined by one’s actions and thus serving as incentive to do good.

The way it works is that you merely reverse the arrow of causality. Instead of doing good leading to salvation, you state that those who are destined for heaven would inevitably behave in a good way. The idea is that a Calvinist would be hoping to discover himself to be one of the heaven-bound, and thus be convincing himself that he was indeed doing good deeds out of his very core. It’s definitely plausible that this would be more powerful motivation, as someone would be thinking “I’m doing good because I am good” as opposed to “I’m doing good because I don’t like lava”. It seems to be a clever way to avoid motivational crowding and maximize intrinsic motivation.

There is a psychology phenomenon called the hedonic treadmill, which is the observation that people seem to revert to the same level of happiness regardless of what happens to them, be it winning a lottery or becoming paraplegic. Psychologists have observed that people are imbued with levels of happiness that are very difficult to change.

I’ve always thought that it was amusing how much this resembled predestination. I can imagine trying hard to convince myself that my hedonic set point was higher.

Nth order work

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

I have a few pet peeves, and the one that gets me into the most trouble would be my refusal to do any zeroth order work. Zeroth order work is work that when done now saves one exactly the same amount of effort as when it is done later. It is the merest type of work, work with a zero interest rate, work that doesn’t reflect any form of investment. Granted, work of the purely zeroth order type is not easy to find – even doing the laundry makes one more proficient at doing laundry, after all. However, amongst the different tasks available, there are just some that are so blatantly close to zeroth order that I cannot bear to do them. These are the tasks that, as I do them, I feel the clock of mortality ticking away, and I feel guilt at having wasted another second, minute or hour of my biological life while the mental clock was stopped.

High order activity, on the other hand, is a delight. It is usually hard to determine exactly how many orders up a particular activity is, but I’ve always looked to philosophy as ultra-long-term investment, fruitful activity that may take a while, but inevitably trickled down into one’s life in a myriad of ways, enriching many branches with subtle, strengthening transformations.

Fairness, Equality and Reality

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

The ethical question of fairness, of whether to treat people equally, does not depend on whether or not people are in fact equal. I get irate at how people confuse these two. To treat unequal people equally is an ethical decision, not an expression of belief in pre-existing equality. The expense of this moral choice, however, IS proportional to the extent to which equality is truly there.


Purpose, Simply

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

From City Slickers, as seen at Coding Horror:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

Curly: This. [holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.

Mitch: But what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.


Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Haven’t written in a while. I have been busy with redoing the ROCSA website, the Career Fair, learning about Fixed-Point Combinators using DrScheme.

In other news, it worries me that learning from people with different viewpoints is so difficult. (more…)