A lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding between China and the US arise from inadequate and inaccurate translation of ideas, policies and intentions. Even the state-run media in China does not do a good job to effectively and diplomatically translate the Chinese policies into English. Sometimes, when I read the English version of Chinese news on China's official site like Xinhua and People's Daily, I can tell right away that the translator has never lived in the US and is not putting his or her heart into the translation. This can be a big problem for the harmony between the two countries.
Language is a bond. It enables us to relate to one another. Language is the art of diplomacy. When speaking to the American audience, the Chinese media should avoid quoting Marx or Lenin. Instead, quote Gandhi, Churchill, Shakespeare, etc. We need some truly bi-lingual and bi-cultural personnels in both China and the United States to facilitate the conversation, to take care of the fragile relationship between the two countries.
This is not just true for China-US, but for all countries and cultures. The world sees a urgent need to find a way to translate between cultures and continents at a low price and high efficiency. The market is huge, and I believe that the global translation industry will be a huge gold mine.
In fact, there are already enough resources around! Look at the millions of international students in this country! They are truly bi-lingual, and many of them are truly bi-cultural. They have a sincere willingness to facilitate better communication between their home country and host country. Why not mobilize the international students around the world?
The only thing we need now is a business model and a platform. And again, the world already offers such platform almost for free: the internet. So here's my idea: we can establish an online community for freelance translators to meet online costumers. For example, international students can register and create their profile, just like opening an online store. Then, the customers can come to the website and find translators to do the work. The pay will be determined by the qualification and speed of the translator. Then the translators will be ranked and recommended, like the Amazon Customer Review......
Translation can be done at home or in the dorms. Many college students can do the job very well at a much cheaper price. I believe it is a great business opportunity to create a real person, grassroot, online translation service. It has very strong social benefits, it increases the mutual understanding among different nations, and it generates revenue for college students studying oversea, it mobilize the idle resources and create value!
Thinking about the meaning of life is one of my favorite day-dreaming topics. Thinking is fun and painful. I can't bear the life without thinking, and too much thinking also hurts. Thinking about the meaning of life, I realized that without thinking, there's no meaning; but with too much thinking, there's no life. Learning to think is an ability. But learning to STOP thinking is the wisdom.
The search for truth is like flying toward the sun: the closer you get, the more pain you have to endure. When you reached the truth, you are gone, just like when you reach the sun, you are cooked.
The beauty of life lies in vagueness, but truth is naked and usually ugly. I want to see truth, and I also long for beauty. Can I get both? Or we humans don't deserve either?
The stage of blank-mindedness is like lost innocence. Once you start thinking, it is impossible to stop. Once you see the truth, it is impossible to go back to self-deception. But what if some people prefer self-deception (because it is easier to live with self-deception than to live with truth)? Is there still a devil making offers to buy back the truth from you?
What's so good about the truth anyway? Does it make you happier? Not necessarily, and it usually makes you more troubled because now you are asking questions without an answer. Maybe this process of questioning is the meaning of life. Then, in the end, why are you searching for a meaning of life?
Do happy idiots know that they are happy?
This semester's courses are built upon a "base-superstructure" paradigm. Logic gives me a microscope, and philosophy gives me a telescope to see the human intellectual adventures. China, economic development and resource politics give me a strong sense of reality and mission. Both the philosophical world and the material world are as real as it can be. The questioning and conquering have just started. I am creating the world again. Five colleges really offer the best professors and atmosphere. I'm very grateful.
Winter break is long and short. Time to recharge, to settle down, and to reflect. There are some strategic questions to think about.
Next semester will be a very important one. Hampshire is going through a strategic planning process. What comes out of it will determine what Hampshire will be like in 2050. Second half of the game.
The thoughts are no longer mine once they are out there. Words here are just a discounted reflection of my past. By the time I finish typing a sentence, I have already evolved. I am constantly surprised and amused by my past writings. So, read it for fun, and remember, no refund guaranteed.
On the other hand, it's hard to look at our own thoughts objectively and from a distance. In the end, if we are not our thoughts, then what are we? But our thoughts never stay the same. The rate of change also defines us.
I don't mind who reads this blog, but Google knows too much about everyone. I have nothing to lose, and quite a lot gain. It's always a great pleasure to have discussions.
So I woke up at 5am and went to the mall on Black Friday 2010. Maybe I was too late, maybe it was the bad economy, the scene was not as crazy as I imagined. A regular shopping mall in China would have that many people at any time. The only remaining symbol of the crazy consumerism was a big blue tent next to the entrance of the mall.
As we walked around the mall, I checked as many labels as possible, trying to see where things are made these days. For example, in a American Eagle dealer, I see a pretty comprehensive representation of the developing world: Made in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Haiti, India, Malaysia, Mexico, etc. I was surprised to see that the same model of pants was made in three different countries. Maybe American Eagle wants to diversify its sources so that it is immuned from shock in any single country.
Looking at the shoppers in the luxurious store, I can almost conclude that the consumers here are not any smarter or more hardworking than the young girls in sweatshops in the global South. Why their fates are totally different? Why do the young girls in developing countries have to sacrifice their health and future potential to make stuff for someone else to buy and throw away? How did this happen? When and where did it start? Is there a stop? There you have a good reason for studying economics.
In the freewill debate, there are two opposite views: determinism and indeterminism (also known as “libertarianism”). Among the determinists, there are “hard determinists” and “soft determinists” (who are also called “compatibilists”).
The determinist argument can be formulated into two syllogisms. First:
(1) Every human choice or action is an event.
(2) Every event has its explanatory cause.
(3) Therefore, every human choice or action has its explanatory cause.
Building upon (3), we have our second syllogism:
(3) Every human choice or action has its explanatory cause.
(4) To have explanatory cause is not to be free.
(5) Therefore, human choice or action is not free.
The determinists believe that all human choices or actions are determined, explainable and even predictable, given enough information. They believe that our decisions are brought about by earlier events or conditions. Whatever we do is the only choice we have, which is the same as not having a choice: we couldn’t have done anything else. Therefore humans are not free. Determinists also argue that we might have the experience of making a choice, but in fact we’ve never made any real choice. The “experience” itself is part of our determined fate.
The core of determinism is the universal causality. If we accept the universal causality, the premises of the first syllogism seem to be beyond doubt: no matter how complicated the cause is (genetic makeup, family background, childhood, education, etc), there is a cause for every human decision.
The indeterminists argue against this exact point. They believe that some events are not determined, like the movement of subatomic particles. Indeterminists claim that some human actions are among the undetermined events. But indeterminists do not answer the question, “why this happens?” It is not good enough to say “it just happens.” Indeterminists also fight against humans’ basic instinct to explain and rationalize the events that occur around us.
Between the determinists and indeterminists, there are the compatibilists, or soft determinists. They hold the view that even if determinism is true, we can still have freewill. Different philosophers have different degrees of “softness”.
I believe that everyone should think seriously about freewill and determinism because this inquiry guides our daily behavior and forms our life attitude. Here I’d like to explain my standpoint in this freewill debate.
(1) Human behaviors are caused.
(2) The definition of “free” complicates the debate on freewill. If we define “free” as “a subjective feeling or belief”, then universal causality does not exclude freewill.
(3) Freewill should not be a precondition for individual responsibility.
(4) What’s harmful about determinism is what (as many people falsely suppose) follows from it.
These beliefs will put me in the “soft determinist” camp. Like most soft determinists, my views differ in one way or another with other soft determinists.
To begin with, I accept that all human behaviors are caused by preceding events, conditions and other stimuli. There’s a reason for everything we do, no matter how complicated the reason is. Either a natural habit or a basic rule, universal causality is the basis of human knowledge and understanding. We could not give this presupposition up even if we want to. At the same time, we know from our personal experiences that there are always motives that precede and prompt our behaviors, consciously or unconsciously. Our failure to explain certain behaviors only shows the limit of our knowledge.
My second point rebuts proposition (4) in the original formulation of determinism: “to have explanatory cause is not to be free.” Proposition (4) contrasts “freedom” with “causality”. Ayer eloquently argued in his article “Freedom and Necessity” that “from the fact that my action is causally determined, it does not follow that I am constrained to do it.” Here Ayer is trying to differentiate between “cause” and “constrain”.
I think the majority of our “freewill frustration” actually comes from the fuzzy definition of what “free” is. In the freewill debate, “free” is often contrasted with many different words: compel, constrain, control, cause, necessitate, etc. Each pair of contrast will give rise to a specific argument. My own belief is that “free” is a subjective term; it is a feeling and a belief.
If we define “free” as “a subjective feeling or belief that one is in control and is acting without constraint”, then it’s easy to see that the universal causality does not exclude freewill: you are free as long as you feel free; the degree of your freewill depends on (and only on) the degree of your belief. For example, I felt one hundred percent free when I was in China. And so I believed. Even if I realized that China was not quite free after arriving in the U.S., I would still say that my days in China was totally free because I felt so and believed so. In a surprising contrast, I am less free in the U.S. because now I can logically (and freely) imagine a place where I would enjoy more freedom than in the U.S. Maybe in the heaven!
I’d also emphasize that freewill is subjective. It’s irrelevant whether other people judge me to be free or not. For example, I deleted a post that criticized Chinese policy toward Tibet on my Facebook page. A friend told me that my “self-censoring” was not based on my freewill because I acted out of fear of the Chinese government. I told my friend that the deletion was totally a free choice of mine because I could have easily done otherwise. I deleted the post out of caution, not fear --- just as I would not drive on a highway with my eyes closed.
For my third point, I argue that freewill should not be a precondition for individual responsibility. It is a common belief that in order to be held morally responsible for their actions, people need to have freewill in the first place. Some people then make the following argument: “determinism entails that we can never do other than what we do, therefore we are not responsible for what we do.” Or they might argue: “indeterminism entails that human actions are random, therefore we are not responsible for what we do.” I think that neither determinism nor indeterminism could be used as an excuse for eluding responsibility because responsibility and punishment should be based on the consequences but not the motives of the action. Otherwise, all murders could be lightly justified and our mental hospitals would be flooded with criminals.
In my last point, I’d like to address why people might feel uneasy with determinism. Many people unconsciously reason that determinism would lead to pessimism, indifference and inaction, which is undesirable. They think, “If my life is already determined, then what can I do? I could only drift along and remain a ‘pawn of fate’. I don’t want this, so I don’t like determinism.”
This unstated resistance toward determinism is not justified. Boiled down to its essence, determinism is simply saying that “what is going to happen is going to happen”. This tautology does not interfere with the freedom of our will. What’s more, determinism is built on a big “if”: if we know all the earlier events and conditions, we can predict with certainty. But in real life, this big “if” is hardly obtainable.
In conclusion, I think it is not important who wins the freewill debate. What’s really important is what we get out of this intellectual inquiry. After thinking about freewill and determinism, our faith in freedom should be stronger then ever before, and we should be more willing to lead a positive and active life.
The difference between people is most clear by looking at what people do in their free time. Productive relaxation is a winners' quality. Here I'd like to give myself a reminder of what a productive relaxation should be.
If I am tired, the first thing to do is to close my computer. As long as I am sitting in front of a screen, there's a very strong temptation to engage in unproductive recreation. The internet is indeed a web. Once trapped, hard to get out.
Once I get out the control of the internet, I am in charge again. There are endless good choices. Pick up the guitar, play the flute, or go outside the mod and have some fresh air. Go running, go swimming, even go sleeping. Read a book, write diary, or simply day dream and empty my mind. Go talk to people, socialize, brainstorm, connect. Life is beautiful.
Life at Hampshire is indeed exciting. I have never been bored at this place. Actually, I am taking in too much to properly digest them all. Everyday I am having the most wonderful intellectual massage by ideas and creativity. I am deeply grateful for it.
When we first learn stuff, we don't usually internalize the knowledge. It takes a while to let the new knowledge settle down, ferment, and then turn into my own wisdom. But one problem for me is that I am learning so many new things that I don't have enough time to really think over what I have learned. On one hand, this dilemma is an indication of my progress. But on the other hand, I regret that I can't go deeper in each subject.
OK, now I am going to talk about what exactly I have learned today. In my China Rising class, we looked at three different perspectives on evaluating Chinese foreign policy. All three are valid and valuable. They works perfectly together. We need to look at China from both macro and micro perspective. And we also need to think of China both as a "nation state" and as a "civilization state".
Now, I am also developing my own perspectives: how should I think about China? What kind of framework should I use? Should I think of China as a nation state actor in a Westphalian world? Or should I think about China from internal politics? Or both? This is a big question, and I am very glad that China Rising class is providing us with such a nice variety of different views.
In Economic Development class, we looked at IMF, World Bank, Economic Hitman etc. This is what I love about Hampshire: Hampshire is very critical, but this critical thinking is based on very solid evidence and rigorous study. We are not conspiracy theorists. We are just genuinely concerned with the real world and with the wellbeing of people around us. This is because we believe that our own wellbeing is related and reliant on other people's wellbeing; we believe that we can not achieve real wellbeing if we harm the others during the process.
During lunch, I had the privilege to listen to some brilliant comments on the "social elitism of US academia". The US academia is a very closed circle, filled with people who are interested in self-perpetuation. Again, there's no conspiracy here because no one is actively/aggressively practicing evil. People are just acting rationally to maximize their self interests. But for the outsiders, it does look like a conspiracy.
Talking about "conspiracy theory", this category has become a very convenient label to denounce criticisms. People will say "Oh this is just a conspiracy theory", and then totally reject the real criticism. Why? Because we are living in a world so full of lies that our brain can't even bear the slightest dose of truth. The truth is just too harsh for people to listen to. So let's just totally reject the criticism and go back to our favorite TV show.
In the afternoon, in my Philosophy class we talked about mind-body problem. I love this course not because the course helped me to find the right answer, but because it helped me to ask the right questions.
I always enjoy the after-class discussion with the professors. I love to be destroyed by the intellectual Weapons of Mass Destructions. Then I know what's my blind spot, and I am really to rebuild upon ruins.
What an exciting life! Not only have I been growing, I am also growing at an faster and faster rate. Be a hungry beast!
One clear way of formulating the mind-body problem is this:
1. Human body is physical.
2. Human mind is nonphysical.
3. Mind and body interact.
4. Physical and nonphysical things do not interact.
Any three of the above four propositions are consistent, but they imply that the fourth is false.
Existing philosophies of mind can be put into two broad categories: dualist theories and materialist theories. Dualism divides the world into two distinct camps: the mental and the physical. In materialism, the mental is identical with the physical, or the mental simply does not exist. Among the materialist solutions, there are: behaviorism, identity theory, eliminative materialism and so on. All these solutions try to deny the proposition “human mind is nonphysical” in one way or another. The denials can be understood in a wider world view that nothing lies beyond the physical, a belief that was prevalent in the 20th century.
In this paper, I will first analyze some of the popular solutions, and then propose my own version of dualist understanding of the mind-body problem.
Behaviorism holds the view that all talks of “mental events” should be translated into talk about tendencies (or dispositions) to behave in certain ways. Radical behaviorists simply deny the existence of mind and argue that human behaviors are the particular response to certain stimulus. But my question is: clearly, different people react differently even to the same stimulus. While watching the film “Titanic”, some people cry, some people stay silent, and the kids fall asleep. There is not a single stimulus-response pattern that applies to everyone. Logical behaviorism is the belief that all mental terms could be translated into an “if then” statement. The problem is that the “then” statement here is an endless disjunction that can not be fully described. If someone is happy, then she/he can smile, sing, go shopping, jump, wave her/his hand… The list goes on forever. What’s more, “jump, wave her/his hand” could also be the behavior of someone angry.
Identity theory equates mental activities with brain activities. This belief is based on advancement on neurophysiology, proving the correlation between the mental and the brain. However, “correlation” does not mean “connection”. Two things can correlate without any logical connection. For example, when
Functionalism is inspired by the more recent work on computer, artificial intelligence, etc. For functionalists, the mind is like the software, and the body (brain, in particular) is the hardware. The psychology of a system does not depend on the material the system is made of but on how the material is organized. In essence, it is saying that mental activity consists of certain function of the brain, which might also be performed by a super computer made by integrated circuit. I think functionalism explained only a part of the human mind, namely the functional part. The computer can beat the world chess champion, but the computer can’t feel happy for its victory. Functionalism does not explain emotion, perception and consciousness.
To summarize these theories above, we can say that behaviorists focus on the behavior patterns and stimulus-response of human mind; the identity theorists focus on certain process in the brain that correlates with mental activities; the functionalists reduce the human mind to the some of its outside functions. Each of these theories focuses on one important aspect of the human mind. Each of them is a necessary but not sufficient description for the human mind. None of them explains the causal relation between mind and body. All of these theories directly or indirectly deny the existence of a conscious, active mind, thereby avoided the original question that troubled Descartes: how exactly is the mind connected to the body?
Since none of the existing solutions seem satisfactory, here I’d like to propose my own dualist belief of the mind-body problem. I can streamline my belief as follow:
1. Human body is physical.
2. Human mind exists (and has not yet been proved to be either physical or nonphysical).
3. Human mind and body can exist independently, but they can not function without each other.
4. The mind and body do interact, but they interact in a way that is not yet proven by science. Still, we can describe some of the qualities of this interaction based on our experiences.
It is easy to understand that human body exists and it is physical. That is the reality we are working with, no matter how overrated the reality is.
My second point argues that human mind exists, even though we don’t know how. We know that the mind exist because we are thinking --- “I think, therefore I am”. Descartes established this fact brilliantly in his “Meditations on First Philosophy”. If there is only one thing that is real and that exists, it is the mind. In addition, we can prove the existence of mind by imagining a pair of identical twins growing up exactly the same way: going to the same school, wearing the same clothes, etc. They have exactly the same stimuli throughout their life, but they are still two very different persons. The difference lies in their unique minds. One of them might be more optimistic and perceive things very differently.
However, we can’t say if the mind is physical or nonphysical because we haven’t found any evidence. With current technology, we simply don’t know in what form the mind exist. Therefore it is too early to conclude whether the mind is physical or nonphysical.
If the mind exists, then what is the mind exactly? A pattern of human behavior? Another name for brain activities? A set of algorithm? I think each of these is an outside manifestation or an integral part of the mind. But they are not the mind itself. I agree with Freud that we don’t know or even have access to much that is in the human minds. Much of the mind is not conscious. That’s why we have dreams and imagination and unexpected thoughts that surprise even the “owner” of the mind.
My third point is that mind and body can exist independently. We can conceive a mind existing without a body; and a dead body does not have a mind. But in order for the mind and body to function, they have to rely on each other. A mind without a body has no influence on the material world. A body without a mind is no different than a lifeless stone. In order to function in the real world, the mind and the body depend on each other. It can be thought of as “a ghost in a machine”.
Up till now we have established that both the mind and the body exist; they can exist independently; but in order to have an influence in the material world, they have to work with each other. And we know that humans do have influences in the material world; therefore it leads to my fourth point: the mind and the body do interact.
We’ve heard a lot of arguments with this form: “P is not proved by science. Therefore P does not exist.” People making such arguments need to notice that modern science is only several hundreds of year old, while our universe has a history of billions of years. Similarly, modern science hasn’t been able to pinpoint how the interaction works, but this does not mean that the mind and body do not interact.
Despite of all these uncertainties, we can still describe some properties of this mind-body interaction based on our own experiences.
First, the mind-body interaction is two-way. The mind influences the body, and the body influences the mind. For example, a beautiful body increases the confidence of the mind. And a confident mind increases the beauty of the body.
Second, there is no clear dominance between the mind and the body. In most situations, the mind is controlling the body: the body is the sensor that collects all the information for the mind to process; and the mind sends back directions to tell the body what to do. However, under severe toothache, the mind can’t think of anything but the pain in the mouth. Here the body dominates the mind.
Third, the mind is not involved in all physical activities. The body can act on its own, like the knee jerk reflex. And in many other situations, human body performs tasks based on conditioned reflex, which means that the cycle of stimulus-response does not go through the mind. For example, if we see a red light while driving, we will hit the brake without thinking about what we’ve learned at the driving school.
Likewise, the body is not involved in all mental activities. When we are meditating or thinking, we can experience intense mental activities without even increasing our heart rates.
Above, we have made some observation about how the mind and body interact, but we still don’t know how the magical leap happens between mind and body. This is the task for some ambitious scientists.
To summarize my view points: I have taken on the dualist belief that mind and body are distinct and separable. But I also claim that when they are separate, they are lifeless and powerless. In order for the mind and the body to function, they need each other. That’s the basis of mind-body interaction. Although modern science isn’t capable of finding evidence for the existence of the mind or for the interaction of mind and body, this does not mean that the mind doesn’t exist or mind and body don’t interact. We can tell clearly that the mind exists, and mind and body do interact. Now we are just waiting for the scientists to make the right kind of discovery.
There are several reasons for it. First of all, I've always enjoyed my work. It is even unfair to call it "work" because I enjoy it so much. Second, I do take short breaks from time to time, but the purpose of those breaks is to make sure I can go back to my work refreshed. I've hardly had any chance just to "spend the free time".
So what has been keeping me "not free"? Deadlines of my work. There are always a "next item" on the agenda. It sometimes feels like that my calendar is chasing me. This feeling of "being chased" is depriving me of some pleasure of doing my work. It feels like that I have to finish the work so that I can hand it in, instead of that I am doing the work because I enjoy it.
I don't like this situation. So, it is time for me to remind myself of something.
First, I still love my work. Logic, philosophy, economic, China, energy resources, politics... These works still increase my heart rate. I love the intellectual discovery and conquest. These works have direct impact on my life, on my future, and on the future of something else.
Second, I have to know that deadlines are not my enemies. I am also not their slave. I am the driver, and I make the choice. I should not allow deadlines to dominate my time table and take away my pleasure in working on wonderful things.
Third, I have to relearn the value of free time. Some time ago, I wrote down:
"I have decided that I will always keep at least 10% of my time and energy for "nothing". Only when the cup is empty, you can pour water in it. Good opportunity may arise. If you are fully occupied, you will lose the chance. Give your brain a bit of time to process the information on itself, without you giving it more work. It dramatically increases efficiency.
Otherwise we will be carried away by the world around us. We will become a little satellite that spins around our work. Even if you spend the 10% of time in merely sitting and day dreaming. it is such a pleasure!"
I knew it. And I should know it now. Simply free time. Give your brain a rest. Give your heart some room.
"And they cannot be solved unless a nation is willing to accept the responsibility of mobilizing action. The United States is that nation.
Congress has already appropriated funds for 1,108 new Foreign Service and Civil Service officers to strengthen the State Department's capacity to pursue American interests and advance American values.
But we must do more. We must not only rebuild – but also rethink, reform, and recalibrate.
The two Ds in the QDDR reflect the world as the State Department sees it today and as it envisions it in the future.
Diplomacy has long been the backbone of U.S. foreign policy. It remains so today.
Although traditional diplomacy will always be critical to advancing the United States’ agenda, it is not enough.
Public diplomacy must start at the top.
We are shifting away from traditional platforms and instead are building connections to foreign publics in regions once considered beyond the United States’ reach. It makes no sense to allocate the greatest amount of resources to parts of the world where the United States’ ties are already strong and secure and to minimize efforts where engaging the public is critical to success.
We can also leverage civilian power by connecting businesses, philanthropists, and citizens’ groups with partner governments to perform tasks that governments alone cannot. Technology, in particular, provides new tools of engagement.
When the diverse elements of U.S. civilian power work cohesively – as in many embassies around the world, and on the best days in Washington – the potential impact of a global civilian service becomes evident.
I am sometimes asked why development matters to U.S. foreign policy and why the United States should spend money on people overseas when it has economic challenges at home. As counterintuitive as it may seem, the answer is that development, when done effectively, is one of the best tools to enhance the United States’ stability and prosperity. It can strengthen fragile or failing states, support the rise of capable partners that can help solve regional and global problems, and advance democracy and human rights.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that although the world’s problems are vast, the United States’ resources are not.
American civilians have long operated in conflict zones and fragile states. But now, U.S. diplomats and development experts are being asked to undertake missions of a scale and a scope never seen before.
On the positive side, civilian power has worked effectively with military forces to impede conflict and to contribute to stability.
With the right balance of civilian and military power, the United States can advance its interests and values, lead and support other nations in solving global problems, and forge strong diplomatic and development partnerships with traditional allies and newly emerging powers. And we can rise to the challenges of the world in the twenty-first century and meet the tests of America’s global leadership."
I am now wondering how much of my existing view points are really valid, even by my current judgment. Why am I defensive about certain issues? Where does that view come from? How has my upbringing formed my world view? Should I accept my own "default setting" as the universal truth? Have I really thought about it thoroughly and "internalize" it?
So why have I been turning a blind eye to certain issues? In the end, I am never in lack of reflection. I think it is a matter of "relevance" in different times. At different stages of our intellectual development, we are consumed with different things.
My problem was that there were so many other things to sort out in life that I simply do not have the intellectual CPU to process some very fundamental assumptions. Now I am settled and have been exposed to enough questions and realities, so I can come back and examine those fundamentals. This is probably where I am going to get the worth of a Hampshire education.
Now here I am, ready and pumped, standing at an important crossroad on my way to truth. One year ago, I wouldn't be prepared enough to take on this Long March. So, what happened today proved (once again) that nothing happens randomly. There's a reason for everything incident in life.
This Long March is certainly not the final one. I have to break through a bottle neck. Now I am equipped with the WMD of Logic, so I am more confident in this new conquer.
At the same time, I should not be overly concerned with the superstructure. I still need to keep my finger on the pulse of the real world. The real world is my best laboratory. Here's an analogy: the "superstructure" determines the direction I am going, and the "economic base" is the power of my motor. Without a powerful motor, I can't get anywhere, no matter how correct my direction is. But without a right direction, a powerful motor might be counter-productive, leading me to the wrong destiny. Many thanks to Karl who came up with these useful phrases.
So what is exactly my New Long March? I have been always critical to other people's views, and to some of my own views as well. Now I need to do two things: be even more critical, and be critical to ALL of me. It is not easy to face oneself truthfully. But no matter how painful it's going to be, I am going to do it. Self-reflection is where we are going to learn most. As my friends pointed out, I come here not to strengthen my existing views, but to challenge it. My existing knowledge is not necessarily wrong. I just need to take a step back and check it again.
So what I should do next? I don't know yet, otherwise it would not be as fun. But here's something that I will do for sure, as suggested by my wonderful peers: do readings, do good readings, do good readings well, and do a lot of good readings well. The greatest minds of human history, they won't disappoint their readers, even though they always confuses the readers at the beginning.
When I do these readings, I should be attentive to their logic. See how THEY understand the world, how THEY proceed with their logic. Does it make sense to me? What is their arguments based on? What's the life experience of the author? Answering these questions will give me a taste of critical thinking, for real.
Actually, this New Long March is not really new. For years, I have been trying to understand how the world works. I've been working on my critical thinking. Today is more of a revival of this passion. The great discussion with my friends reminded me why I am here and what I originally set out to accomplish. The discussion also reminded me that I still have blind spots in my critical thinking, a lot of them. I need to be more critical, especailly to existing knowledge. Look at them again!
At the same time of criticizing the system, I still need to advance inside the system. In the end, the best way to understand (and then change) a system is from inside! No matter how corrupted the system is, I need to get into it to have a better look at it. Only when I am inside the system can I make effective change. Changes from outside always come with blood and misery.
So now it is pretty clear what I should do: be more careful with my existing views (maybe they are just prejudices), take a closer look at them, use them to strengthen my critical thinking, and go on with life!
- 科技 创新能力不强，许多核心和关键技术仍然依赖进口等问题。
Humans are the result of a evolution in this very unique world. Our way of thinking comes with the physical environment around us. For example, "(P or Not P) is a tautology" is taken for granted because in our universe, black can not be white, and white can not be black. Our logical thinking is based on such crude observation.
But the Wave-Particle Duality challenges our fundamental assumption. A thing can be both wave and particle. So is "(P or Not P) is a tautology" still true? Or another example: scientist found that certain particles behave differently depending on whether or not there's people around. Another example: in our comprehension, there is always an end to a physical space, and beyond that end, there's something else bigger. Outside my house is the earth; outside the earth is galaxy. So what is outside the universe? Is there an end to our universe? If there is an end, then what is on the other side of that end?
These problems require us to rethink our fundamental assumptions. Our existing assumptions are made in a world of Newton physics. Our logic is then built on those assumptions. This logic is very powerful in dealing with questions in our layer of existence. But new scientific discoveries has revealed that when we go into other layers of existence (like quantum physics or astronomy), our old assumptions do not hold anymore.
This leads to my point: our logic belongs to our universe. With such logic, we can not imagine or understand things beyond our universe. We can not understand infinity or nothingness because they are not apart of our layer of existence.
"But", someone says, "of course we understand infinity. When I say the word 'infinity', you know what I am talking about, right?" Yes. I've heard the word "infinity". But that's far from understanding what infinity is. I tried hard, but there is no way that I can imagine infinity, or find a convincing explanation. Our definition of infinity is a compromise. We accept this compromise because it seems to be working pretty well in solving many problems, like in calculus. But this does not mean that we've really got it right.
I am fully aware that I am new to the field of logic and philosophy; I am not the first to ask certain questions; answers to my questions might have existed for thousands of years. I love to learn about my ignorance. Please let me know if there's a book that I should read, or some great minds that I should pay attention to. I'd love to hear your view points!
Rock climbing is a very meditative sport. With your fingers connected to rocks that are millions of years old, you will realize a lot.
Rock climbing is very mentally challenging. It is a test of how strong your will power is.
In many situations, you see no hope at all. You want to give up. But once you push you legs and stand up on your feet, a whole new world opens up in front of you. Even if it is just several inches higher, you will see so many new opportunities.
Sometimes, I feel exhausted up in the air, hanging in my harness. Then I realize that I am actually not physically exhausted, but mentally. I am running low on confidence, not strength. Mental strength is just like physical one. It needs practice; it needs rest. Sometimes, you really need several minutes of break, taking deep breathes, and refresh your mental homepage. The good thing about mental strength is that you can refresh it any time, much faster than a physical recovery.
There are others things that I am thinking about when I am on the rocks.
I realized how lucky I am. I have the time, money and freedom to go rock climbing. We have world class instructors and the best peers to climb together, debate together, laugh together, cook pasta together. This is indeed very lucky and luxurious.
I was thinking about the power and limitation of human will. Human Wills determine everything. All great success are driven by unparalleled wills. There's not much difference in IQ. The difference lies in how strong our will power is. At the same time, we have to respect the Law of Nature. There are limits to what our wills can achieve. Our will power has to match our physical ability. Otherwise, a too strong will can burn the physical body that is hosting that will. "Having a strong will" is called courage, but "knowing the limit of our wills" is called wisdom.
This is true for a nation. The ambition of a nation must be built on its economic, military and cultural foundation. Don't overstretch, don't underestimate.
I am also thinking about this year's Nobel Peace Prize. I think we should cancel the "Nobel Peace Prize". It is creating more trouble than it solves. Nobel Prizes in sciences are easy to accept by the whole world. Science is a sure (or less controversial) thing. But "Peace" is value judgment. Behind each definition of "peace", there is an agenda and an ideology. The Nobel Peace Prize is promoting only one among many types of ideology, which creates a lot of issues.
I do not believe that any group can decide "what is peace" for the rest of the world. Any attempt to "define peace" is dangerous and fruitless. It will cause even greater conflicts. Awarding one kind of peace will destroy another kind of peace. Who are we to say what kind of peace is the true peace?
If the Nobel Committee really insist on issuing a annual peace prize, then we should simply ignore it. In the end, the Nobel Committee is a nice group of Norwegian grandpas, deciding on their favorite list. They are 100% free to do so. But, given how much they love democracy, the prize's selection process is not open or democratic at all. Why should the rest of the world pay so much attention to it?
That's why I never collect stuff. I minimize my worldly belongings. For me, collecting is a bad hobby. It makes you hang onto things too much. You long for what you don't have, and you become too protective of what you own. Possessiveness makes people blind.
I need mobility and efficiency. I must be able to pack my bag within one hour and be ready to leave. Even my body will perish, why should I accumulate other stuff? They are merely burdens that you have to drag with you.
Therefore, I never spend money on souvenirs, and I never save gift cards. If people give me presents, it should better be things I can eat or use. I do collect one thing: experience. Experiences will not add to the weight of your luggages. Instead, it strengthens your wisdom.
Not being afraid of death does not mean taking life lightly. I take life very seriously because I know how difficult and lucky it is for a person to get to this point.
Be a nomad. Move on. Death is merely one point in the cycle.
It is very fun to read the historical debates. To make it even more chaotic, I'd like to add some of my own thoughts.
First, the debate on the Problem of Evil is of little practical significance to most people. No matter who wins the argument (temporarily), it does not change anything. It does not bring us anywhere.
Second, the line between Good and Evil is never clear. What seems good to you might seem evil to him. We can hardly find anything that is regarded as evil by all people.
Actually, in the nature, things simply happens. Grass grow, lambs eats grass, lions kill the lambs, and when the lion dies, its body becomes fertilizer for the grass. There's no "good or evil", no mercy or cruelty. It just happens.
So, if they don't exist, then why do we feel Good and Evil so strongly?
Good and evil are notions created by human. For example, a storm kills people. It is just a part of natural and physical laws: storms are formed, things are destroyed. We think it is evil because we sympathize with the dead and their family. Why do we have sympathy for them? Because we don't want to lose our beloved ones. It is human nature. So, Good and Evil arise when the Law of the World hits human nature in the face. We human are roots of both Good and Evil.
Third, God itself is a human fantasy. This will be another topic later.
So, as I see it, neither God nor Good/Evil exists. Therefore the Problem of Evil is not a problem. It is for training purpose only, or for fun, if your belly is full.
Let's define work: "work" here refers to all kind of intellectual activities you do on your own, especially those very hard ones. The word "work" has been given a lot of negative implications, especially in a college. But I love my work! Work is indeed my leisure. I jump out of bed every morning and welcome my day of fun and challenging works: reading, writing, thinking, arguing, destroying and creating etc.
I am always surprised when people ask me: "why are you always working? Why don't you come and have fun with us?" I am surprised for two reasons. First, don't they know how much more fun it is to work than hanging out with them? In the end, what's so fun about them? Second, I do have a lot of human interaction every day, often too much! But not the kind of hanging-out most students do.
By working, you are traveling thousands of miles and thousands of years. You can dialog with the greatest mind in humanity. You can observe and question the most exciting event in human history.
Hanging out with people is great. It is one of the best thing of being a human. That's also why I love the Dining Common. It is the hub for intellectual interaction. You will learn so much from random conversation with some random people.
But think about it as if your time is your money and you are investing it. Hang out with others is like a high-risk & uncertain-return investment. Most of the time is wasted in bullshitting. But working is a low-risk & high-return thing. The high return is 100% guaranteed. The reason is simple: those classic works are the essence of thousands of years of human exploration. It has been proved to be classic. But the daily conversation is happening every day. It is just too cheap and contains little value.
Think about it in another way: why do we want to hang out with others? What's so fun about it? According to my observation, those who hang out too frequently don't really have a genuine interests in other people's life and thoughts. They hang out with each other because they just can't be alone; they are not strong enough to be independent and think for themselves. Or I am just making judgment again.
Another danger of hanging-out: when we hang out with others, we are doing "role play" all the time. How we behave is largely dependent on other people's view on us. We look at ourselves through the eyes of other stupid kids. This will only make us even more stupid. We are too self-conscious. When we role play too much, we will forget who we really are.
At the end of the day, I feel compelled to calm down and leave enough space for reflection. We are fed with too much information and opinion, and we need to process them. Give your true self some room by reduce the hang-out time!
One thing I always ask myself is: do I deserve all the leisure? Why am I the one to enjoy all these luxuries? There are people working 16 hours a days and still live in pain and hunger. What kind of contribution have I done to this world to legitimize my pleasure? I find it hard to answer. I can only say that I have been lucky so far. "Luck" will be the topic of another discussion.
In fact, I never limit myself to my work. I take every chance to interact with other people. Closing the mind is the worst thing to do. Don't make assumptions. Be open and curious. You will be surprised.
My accusation on "hanging out" is aimed at the huge amount of unproductive time many people spent on simply staying with others. This in no way means anything against enjoying life with real friends.
I should end this article by saying that I truly enjoy and deeply appreciate human interaction, especially with Hampshire students. It is just the case that good company comes not that often =)
First, by writing down the ideas, I have a better chance to examine them. These thoughts would no longer be jammed in my brain. Maybe I will then find a pattern of my thinking. I can see the bottleneck in my logic.
Second, by recording my thoughts, I can look back in the future. It will be fun and embarrassing.
Third, by sharing these thoughts, there will be discussion and challenges.
Thoughts are like apples on a tree. When the apple is ripe, you have to pick it. Otherwise it will fall on the ground and rot.
Now is the golden age for a young person. Everyday you jump out of the bed, ready for the new conquest and discovery. Even in your dreams, you just can't stop thinking.
You are worried that this machine is running crazy. But let it be! Do what your heart tells you to do.
College students are always too self-conscious. We seek approval from peers, but they are more confused than we are. We look outside for satisfaction, while the true satisfaction comes from inside.
College students are all investors. Our portfolio is our schedule. What to include, what to exclude? How much weight to give to each investment? Short-term, long-term? Risk and return?
Real life is just around the corner.
First I want to talk about girls. In difference period of life, people are into different things. Several years ago, it is impossible for me to stop thinking about girls. Now, it is (almost) impossible for me to get excited about any relationship. It's weird, but natural. These days, the attraction of knowledge and understanding the world is just too strong to resist.
I am in a very crucial period in my life. The opportunity cost for anything is just too high. No matter what I do, I am giving up something else that is also very important and beautiful. Therefore I have to be extremely careful and dedicated to whatever I am doing.
I do agree that love is most amazing part of life, and love can not be quantified. However, being a good economic student, I have to calculate the input-output ratio. Learning and working-hard is a low-risk, high return business. The more time and energy I put into it, the better I will understand the world. This is an investment in the future. For a young man, every minute invested today is one lovely day in the future. Every dollar saved is a thousand dollar in 10 years (not considering the inflation).
On the other hand, a relationship is an adventure, a venture capital. The investment is huge, the risk is very high, and the return is uncertain. But if you are lucky, the return could blow you away. I love adventures. I'm not afraid of love or hurt. But I have to think about my goal, my responsibility, my country, my generation, and my destiny. I am just not ready yet. But will I ever be ready in my life? Maybe the state of "not being ready" is the fun part of love and life. Who know?
If this input-output analysis is running into a deadlock, let me look at love/relationship from another perspective. Choosing a girl is like picking a stock. You need to do a lot of research, follow the news (use Facebook to stalk people?), study the fundamentals and get to know the whole industry really well. It take time and luck to pick the right one. If you haven't found your right choice, you'd better not take position but keep watching.
On the other side of the world, in the field of knowledge and achievement, there are just so many great things you can do, and each of them is a "sure thing". You can pick any great minds in human history, study them, admire them, challenge them and, hopefully, be better than them. There are just much more great choices available here.
But, let me be honest. Love is beautiful. Love is desirable, especially at this age. I should be very aware of what I am giving up at this moment.
OK, enough sentimentalities. The next thing I want to sort through is "money". I use economic and politics to explain to world. I like money, but I don't really care about it because I know I won't starve. Money is my tool. Money gives me leverage to make things happen.
We are all trying to make sense of the world. Some people are more capable of understanding the world by using math and science. Some are good at music and art. For me, economic and politics "speak to me" in a way that no other subjects do.
I try to understand why. Here might be the reason: economics explains money and wealth; politics explains power and influence. People hardly agree on what is "good" or "moral" or "beautiful" or "true", but (almost) everyone loves money and power, wealth and influence. They are just more straightforward. This is human nature.
George Soros used to be a philosophy major and think about the world in more abstract terms. But, he said, he was lucky enough to get into the world of finance so that he has found a playground to practice and examine his philosophy. Through the financial market he managed to establish his own philosophy and understand the world better. This, according to him, has made him a quite happy person.
Same here. Studying economics and politics help me understand the human nature, helps me to make sense of the world. But, studying them does not mean that I buy into the status quo. Studying them just gives me the weapon to challenge them.
To conclude, I know that I am not formed yet. I am still confused. But I know my paper is due in three days. Now go back to work!
Total enrollment: ~ 1,400
Average selectivity: ~ 2/3
Average yield: ~ 1/4
Average need-based Financial Aid grant: ~$30,000
Average merit-based Financial Aid grant: ~$7,000
Total Financial Aid: ~$30 million
Total revenue from Tuition and fees: ~$70 million
Net tuition revenue: ~$40 million
Tuition discount rate: ~40%
Total Income: ~$51 million
Total Expenses: ~$ 52.5 million
Current Endowment: ~$30 million
I went into Saga to have lunch. My advisor happen to be there, too. So we sit down and started a discussion about the end of the world. We both clearly sensed that the disasters are happening much more frequently and severely. According to normal distribution, many of the catastrophes we are experiencing now should only happen once of twice in several centuries, or in the whole life time of the universe. Financial Crisis, climate change, oil leak, volcano ash, deadly earthquakes, etc. Crises are definitely looming, and we are still asleep.
Even the hours before the huge flood, Noah's neighbors are still laughing at the Ark. I am looking forward to 2012. Of course, I don't want to see any people killed, but human as a whole need an alarm. We are living in a highly delicate world. Our prosperity is built on some fragile foundations. And a couple of bullets or a few shocks can totally disturb our civilization.
Hampshire is at a better position to get over the crisis. We have a lot of farm and water and squirrels. But big cities like New York might not be as resilient. Professor Klare said that the coming shock will be a test of resilience of different system and civilizations around the world.
So, we should all learn to farm and swim. =)
One good thing about the financial market is: if you are smart enough, you can make money when the market go bust---thanks to the derivatives. However, for human civilization, there is no financial innovation for us to hedge the risk. If the end comes, we are all over!
Then, after I finish my first plate of lunch, I saw Mark coming in. So I sat down with him to continue our discussion on Hampshire's governance and ASH renovation drama. No matter what, it is always beneficial for a young man to talk to someone who is twice as old.
Hampshire is big enough to have all the problems we will meet soon in the real world. And Hampshire is small enough so that we can make the change, hand-on! The problems we are facing now, is exactly the problems that have been troubling the greatest minds for six thousand years. And we still haven't figure it out.
Let me summarize the argument from the perspective of the administration: Hampshire is in a very dangerous position. We are living on the tuition we get on a year to year basis, so, in order to survive, we must increase our tuition revenue, which means we must get more full paid students. One reason that a lot of full paid admitted students do not come to Hampshire is that the campus tour depressed them, and in the winter, the walk from admission office to main campus is too long and too cold. Therefore, the ASH renovation is proposed.
In the above logic, a lot can be said in each step, and there are definitely better options. When I was talking to Mark, I was trying to understand what they think, and why they think so. I tend to agree with many of their statements, but from the same statement I draw totally different conclusions.
For example. Professionals are hired to do their job professionally. If we give the power to everyone on campus, we will hardly get anything done. This is a larger question of democracy. How much democracy is enough, and how much is too much? You see, Chinese government is doing no worse than their US counterpart. Hampshire has no time and money to waste, and we have to move fast. Therefore, someone will argue, we should just let the cabinet make the decision for us, and we will stay out of the way.
It will be wonderful if the administration is doing a good job. And yes, we have to move fast. But, a wrong move is even worse than "no move". When the administration is being delegated with absolute authority, they should be humbled by this trust and be extremely careful. They have the fate of Hampshire in their hand!
The real world is much darker. At least, here at Hampshire, we won't be thrown into prison or assassinated for what we are doing. And yes, the power we are asking for from the administration does not have much parallel in the real world. I am still a bit confused by the situation. What I do know is that we are facing a big question, bigger than Hampshire and bigger than ourselves. If we can come up with a solution, we might be a good candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. But, as Hampshire students, why not?
I think I should take a comparative political system course in my Div II.
Then, I had a very interesting discussion with John and some other first year students. I totally agree: Hampshire students are smart. Honestly, they are brilliant. I need to talk to more people and surprise myself on a more regular basis.
The best thing about college is finding your comrades. Someone call it networking, but comradeship is far beyond networking. Comrades inspire and challenge each other. They make each other, and raise each other up.
All these talks lead me to the question: what classes should I take next semester? Or, what do I want to do/be in the future? What are my advantages and disadvantages? These days, these kind of questions are driving me hectic. There are just too much to learn!
There's a lot I don't know, but here's what I do know: I need to survive. I need to be financially independent and politically safe. I want to be happy and make other people happy. Maybe we can go from there.
We need balance in life. Soon enough, the first year at Hampshire is going to end. And then college is going to end, and who knows which day life is going to end, maybe sooner than we expect. The more I do, the more balance I need. Opportunity cost is too high for a young man.
Choices have to be made. Priorities have to be set. Sacrifice is inevitable. Let's not regret.
The mosquito is small, so small that you don't see the threat until it sucks your blood. It hums around, annoys you, and leaves before you feel the itch. It attacks you under most unexpected circumstances. Even the biggest cannon can not solve the problem. So is terrorism.
There are several things that makes terrorism scary.
First, terrorists are creative. They are good at surprises. Fighting a hot war is bad, but being scared of unknown enemy is worse. Terror itself can cause equal damage as the real attacks.
Second, modern technology exponentially increased terror groups' destructiveness. Terrorists have easy access to many cheap and lethal tools.
Third, our civilized world is set up like a domino. We are so inter-connected that one explosion may cause a global chain reaction. We made ourselves highly vulnerable when black swans show up.
In the past, the conventional superpower can rest assured and neglect the small groups of unhappy humans. Now they can't. Through terror, the small/minority/weak groups bring themselves to the attention of the whole world. People are forced to face and deal with the questions that are long forgotten.
At the same time, the terrorist attacks also bring war into the middle of modernity, where people are too used to peace and only observe wars on CNN or hear about the rising casualty of foreign people in remote areas. Examples are 9.11 in New York and the most recent bombing in Moscow. A Chechen rebel leader said, "If Russians think that the war is happening only on television, somewhere far off in the Caucasus, and it will not touch them, then we are going to show them that this war will return to their homes".
On the other hand: if you are a marginalized group who has constantly been endangered/weakened/neglected by the giant, the one remaining thing you can do is to sting the giant with all your force.
Terrorism against civilians is absolutely evil. However, we should also remember that suicide bombing is not the top choice for anyone. People turn to terror under desperation.
Now most of the anti-terror efforts are directed toward intelligence work, regional wars and fancier full-body scanner. How to prevent desperation in the first place is the topic that is worth working on. Using the "cannon-mosquito" parable: we shouldn't build new billion-dollar cannons. Instead, let's dry up the swamps where mosquitoes grow.
It's always easier said than done. The core problem here is: can the strong put down its pride and arrogance, and try to sincerely understand, listen to and cater to the need of the weak, before all disasters happen?
I lived in Germany for a year before I come to the US, and I agree with Kagan in many ways.
Europe is "fully formed". People enjoy high quality of life in a highly industrialized and highly organized society. There is room for improvement, but not for fundamental changes.
As Kagan mentioned, Europe is in an established structure or institution. They generally have high level of education, and that education propagates same ideas in different countries. Therefore they can easily push forward carbon emission limits and other transnational regulations.
The reason behind this, I believe, is that Europe has fought their wars already! They have reached the balance of power over time. The stability of their structure is based on hundreds of years of wars and conflicts, centuries of clashes and integration.
At the same time, the high standard of living in Europe is built on hundred of years of exploitation of the rest of the world, tracing back to slave trade. And this kind of exploitation still exist in more subtle forms today, as the Europeans remain at the top of the industrial food chain. That's why they are more established and less troubled than the rest of the world.
In addition to that, the current international rules benefit Europe. In the end, it is the western rules, and Europe either made them, or has already got used to them. In comparison, many other countries are either learning, adopting, struggling, or trying to reshape these rules according to their own interests.
Kagan wrote the essay in 2002. Since then, many things has change. Junior Bush, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, further alienated US' European friends. In Germany, only the older generation remembered that the US air force saved many German lives during Berlin Blockade. But the younger generation only sees increasing German casualty in Afghanistan.
The good news for US is: Obama is here. Europe likes Obama a lot. They even gave him the Nobel Peace Prize to express their adoration. Obama appeals to European value. He loves his family and he is a good husband and good father. He is wise, sophisticated and moderate. He abandoned the unilateralism of Bush.
And now, since the US and EU faces the common threats of terrorism, economic downturn and new rising powers, they are getting closer to each other again. At least physically. Let's see where things go.