Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On How to Fix the World: Part II

Last week, I wrote about some of the problems with the world as it is right now. I also claimed that I had a solution, which I still believe I do. It is quite simple, really. We just need to get rid of our concepts of equality, respect for opinions, caring for our own, recognising our own success, religion, and taking ownership of our own ideas. In this post, I will explain why we need to get rid of these. In a future post, I will hopefully explain how we can achieve this.

(On a side note: I am a pathological hypocrite. If you think this weakens the following arguments, then please read my post on hypocrisy.)

    1. Equality.

Equality is a difficult one. People don't like being told that someone else is better than them. In truth, people are far too complex to be summed up and quantified, never mind equated. But, that's not the only reason we need to drop our concept of equality. The concept of equality misleads people. I will never run in the Olympic games, and spending my life trying to get there would be a wasted life. But it goes deeper than that. Each and every one of us has had different life experiences, has accumulated different knowledge, and processes that knowledge in a slightly different way. Some people are impulsive, some prone to errors, some are lazy, and some just don't know as much as others might. It is very important for each of us to realise that we are completely different and completely inferior to the ideal person. We each need to identify our own unique flaws and make sure that they are as little an inconvenience to others as possible.

    2. Respecting Opinions.

Respecting the opinions of others is a very selfish and hurtful act. I have often heard it said that people have the right to their own opinions, but I couldn't disagree more. Sure, if an a person holds a belief that is well formed and justified by all available evidence, then the person has the right to believe that, but I do not consider that an opinion. That is a conclusion, arrived at by applying logical arguments to the available information, and is usually liable to change if more information becomes available. Letting someone's incorrect opinion go unchallenged could lead them to make poor decisions about how they want to spend their money, or more importantly, their time. We all have a social responsibility to make sure that no one's life is ever wasted for the sake of an uninformed opinion.

    3. Looking after our own.

It is our natural instinct to want to look after our own children. Is that really the best thing for the entire human race though? Naturally, we all want the best for our children, but shouldn't we want the best for all children? People send their children to private schools when they don't like the public school systems, but shouldn't they rather be trying to improve the public schools? Most importantly, people naturally leave their inheritance to their own children, but why do the children of rich parents deserve money. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will land up intelligent enough, financially smart enough, or business-minded enough to deserve those riches. In fact, the number of "rags-to-riches" stories out there just goes to show that impoverished people are just as capable of producing geniuses as the wealthy. How many more of those stories would there be if every child was given the same opportunity to let their individuality make it for them rather than circumstances of birth.

    4. Judging Our Success.

What we mean by "making it" is often based on meaningless criteria. In my opinion, you can only tell if a person was successful or not many years after their death. Success has nothing to do with wealth, and everything to do with what your contributions did for later generations (of all life in the universe in general). It's really sad how many wealthy people are considered successful, and consider themselves successful, yet live their lives in misery and stress. Don't ever think of yourself as successful. Leave that for future generations to decide.

    5. Religion.

Religion is the one people tend to take a lot of offence to, although I really can't see why. Whether the teachings of various religions are right or wrong is not the point here (although they are all almost certainly wrong). The point is that teaching our children to take things on faith, rather than weighing up available evidence and drawing logical conclusions, is extremely damaging and irresponsible. It opens them up to manipulation later on in life. Horrors like suicide bombings are only possible if a person has been brainwashed to accept ideas based on faith alone, rather than compelling logical arguments.

    6. Ownership of Ideas.

The final concept that we need to get rid of is the one that's already starting to go. We cannot own ideas. Knowledge is not something that can have any monetary value. Ideas and knowledge are infinitely reproducible, and in infinite supply. Discovery of knowledge and inception of ideas is a completely different matter (since these obviously cost time and resources to obtain), but if you have an idea, then holding it back from the rest of humanity for personal gain is an obviously selfish act. Likewise, laws that prevent ideas from being improved upon are counter-constructive. Someone may be incapable of coming up with their own original idea, but that does not mean that they are incapable of improving on another idea.

In summary, (tl;dr) the world could easily be fixed if absolutely everyone thought logically, changed their opinions in the face of compelling arguments, and had respect for all life, rather than their own, essentially negligible, well-being.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On How to Fix the World: Part I

Without a doubt the world is broken. Fortunately, it just happens to be quite simple to fix. All it takes is a few concepts: equality, respect for opinions, caring for our own, recognising our own success, religion, and most importantly, taking ownership of our own ideas. The way we can fix the world is quite simply to take all of these concepts, and throw them away forever. I will explain exactly what I mean in another post very soon, but there are a lot of details to get out of the way first.

I may be young, inexperienced, prone to mistakes, pathologically hypocritical, and largely ignorant about far too much that's going on out there, but I have lived long enough, and naturally tend to think things through (albeit often in a very superficial manner). The problems with the world are countless, and the majority of them are so complex and subtle that it is impossible to put them into words. However, a few of the more serious of these problems that can be put into words. I have made some attempt at this. This is not the ramblings of a bunch of stupid, university-aged, middle-class children in some sort of "occupy" something movement, who know there are problems but can't put them into words apart from some "one percent" gibberish. This is the ramblings of someone who actually has a solution, and is ready to share it. Anyway, to start things off, here are the some of the biggest problems (that I can put into words) with the world as it is right now. (On a side note, I admit openly that I am guilty to some degree for all of these problems.)

    1. A bunch of idiots have gone and screwed up our economic and financial systems.

And no. That bunch of idiots does not refer to any government. It doesn't refer to the big corporations either. It is quite simply you idiots. Every single one of us is partially responsible for messing up our economic systems. You convince yourselves that you need something that you really have absolutely no use for. You can try to deny it, but if you have ever bought a car when there is a smaller model in the same range, bought a smart phone or tablet (convincing yourself that you "need" it), or even if you are reading this while using the Windows operating system when there are so many free options out there, then you are guilty of making irrational economic decisions at some point. But, it's not just in finances and economics that we make irrational decisions. This brings me to the next problem.

    2. Humans do not usually make rational decisions.

By a rational decision, I mean a decision that is made by weighing up all of the options, carefully considering them, making rough calculations (often using intuition rather than mathematics) based on estimated probabilities, and then selecting the option with the greatest overall benefit. Of course, we all think we do this, but we really don't. If you want a good example, look at decisions that have to be made under pressure. Driving is a good example. When people drive, they have to make all sorts of decisions, and irrational choices come up everywhere. Choices like not stopping at an orange or red traffic light, exceeding the speed limit, poor lane choices, waiting for the last second to overtake, and so on. But it's not just limited to driving. There are plenty of other examples in other aspects of life. Our decisions are almost always biased. Why? One of the reasons is obvious.

    3. We are in it only for ourselves.

This one is straight forward. We are selfish. Even in major cases of charity and generosity, there is often some sort of personal motivation. I certainly don't want to detract from what they do (I firmly believe that it doesn't matter why something is done, as long as it is done), but even those that do give everything they have tend to do so for a selfish reason. A person that devotes their entire life to campaigning for cancer awareness might do so because they lost a loved one to cancer. Someone may say that we must save the rhinos, otherwise their children will never get to see those majestic animals (rather than save the rhinos for the rhinos' sakes). I'm not saying that people shouldn't try to save the rhinos, or that we shouldn't be raising awareness for cancer (although I believe that donating to actual cancer research would be a better cause). I'm just talking about motivations. It's definitely not a bad thing when people do good for selfish reasons, but what stops these people from doing bad? And of course, despite the fact that I used terms like "often", "tend to", "might" and "some may" in my explanation, some people will still try to argue against my point here by presenting counter-examples. Which is the next problem.

    4. People generalise arguments.

I had an argument with my dad recently (and it's an argument that I've had with him before) about marriage. He believes that a marriage is a commitment to sort out problems, and believes strongly that a married couple needs to work as hard as they can to honour that commitment and do their best to stay together. I disagreed, stating that this can lead to a lot of unnecessary misery that could be avoided very easily if the couple were to simply divorce (or not bow down to social pressure to get married in the first place). He immediately argued that not all marriages lead to misery, and could not see why that had no bearing on my argument. Another example is the whole Xbox 360 reliability thing that went on a few years ago. I can't recall the exact statistics, but something like one in three Xboxes eventually crashed, giving the infamous red ring of death (RROD). Scores of people piped up to say that it was all rubbish, because they'd had their Xbox for three years and it was still fine. It's like saying that a coin having a 50% chance of landing on heads is wrong because you flipped a coin once and got tails. Mostly, people have no grasp of basic logic.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On Sesquipedalia

A sesquipedalian is a long word. It is said to have been coined (albeit in Latin) towards the end of the first century BCE by Horace in his Ars Poetica which apparently means "He throws aside his paint pots and his words that are a foot and a half long". The prefix "sesqui-", meaning one and a half, is used elsewhere in the English language - for example, a sesquicentenary is a one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. The morpheme "ped", referring to a foot is much more common. The Latin word made it's way into the English language in the mid 17th century, and came to mean a long word.

Naturally, the fear of long words is therefore sesquipedaliophobia. However, Josefa Byrne, in her 1976 book Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words (which is not a recognised reputable dictionary, contrary to popular belief), coined a new word by adding two made up prefixes, obtaining "hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia", claiming it to be the fear of long words. Over time the word has gained an extra letter (perhaps deliberately) becoming "hippopotomonstrosesquippedailophobia", and worked it's way into some of the less reputable online dictionaries, such as Dictionary.com and Wiktionary. It is probably important to note here that Wiktionary is open to user edits, and that the entry at Dictionary.com states at the bottom "Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon, Copyright © 2003-2012 Dictionary.com, LLC", whereas a legitimate word states something along the lines of "Dictionary.com Unabridged, Based on Such-and-Such Dictionary, © So-and-So, 2012". Not surprisingly, the word does not show up anywhere in my Oxford English Dictionary.

(On a side note: It is often said that the longest word in the English language is "smiles", as there is a mile between the first and last letters. Actually, if this logic is to be applied, then a word like "campcraft" would be the longest word, since there is an mpc in the middle.)

(On another side note: The longest word that is actually in my Oxford English Dictionary is "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis", and it is quite easy to work out what it actually means. "pneumo-" refers to the lungs, "microscopic" refers to something that is too small to be seen (with "ultramicroscopic" referring to something even smaller than that), "silico-" has to do with sand, "volcano-" indicates ash, and the "-osis" suffix refers to an infection. So the word simply means a infection caused by very fine particles of sand and ash in the lungs - a condition that is usually referred to by doctors as "silicosis".)

(On yet another side note: This may look like yet another filler post, and it just may be. Perhaps that means a big post is on its way? One just may be. Perhaps it is that magical post that would fix all the world's problems? I sure hope so.)

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Pens, Pencils and Paper

I write almost exclusively in pencil. I heard once from a friend (I cannot remember who it was) that psychologists say that this indicates a lack of confidence. The ability to erase any errors when using a pencil is definitely part of the reason that I use them, but it is not because I lack confidence in my abilities. I change what I am writing a lot. I rewrite each sentence a couple of times until I get the wording as I want it. I do this because whenever I read a sentence that I have written, I know that I am capable of composing a better sentence. As a result, my pen-written work is always an incredible mess, with more crossed out than not, which makes it rather difficult to read.

The real reason I prefer pencil, however, is because of the way I turn and spin the pen in my hand when I think. When I was still in school, and forced to write in blue pen, my hands and shirts (and occasionally my face – don't ask how) would be covered in inky stripes. Even after using a pen for five minutes to fill out a form, I inevitably have at least a couple of stripes across my palm.

These days, however, I favour typing over pencil. It's just easier not to have to worry about the corners of the paper folding. How it happens, I don't know, but it just may be caused by the way I move around as I write and think. All I know is that it used to frustrate my grade 7 history teacher beyond belief.

On the note of folding paper, I have finally gotten around my problem of the corners of pages and the spines of books folding over as I read them. It was simply a matter of moving into the future. I now find electronic copies of any book I want to read. I've actually reached the stage where a paper book is just to clumsy and awkward that I can no longer even sit and read one for any extended length of time.

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