Relegate

Don’t relegate your teachers to only people who look like teachers

Don’t relegate creativity to things you believe are traditionally creative

Don’t relegate beauty to aesthetics

And don’t relegate life to externalities

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Stop being negative

Jeff Bezos donated $2 billion to charity last year.

And somehow the keyboard warriors of the internet love to point out the bad.

“It’s for tax purposes…”

Even if it were for tax purposes, does it really matter? Either way he is parting away with money. Those same people saying that Bezos only donates money to avoid taxes are the same people who want a tax deduction. Inherently no one wants to pay taxes… so dumb

“$2 billion is such a small % of his $136 billion. It’s the relative % that matters, not nominal”

Albeit they didn’t use the words relative % and nominal, because most keyboard warriors are seemingly illiterate, it’s this arguement that is so dumb to me. Yes, someone who gives 50% of what they have is considered more generous. That’s a fact. It’s relative. But in the REAL WORLD, no one cares. $2 billion is always going to be better than 50% of $200. You can’t bash Bezos for donating a smaller % of his wealth when the nominal donation FAR exceeds anyone else’s contribution. And Bezos isn’t done… who’s to say he won’t leave most of it to charity when he retires or in his will???

“He didn’t give as much as Bill Gates”

That’s true. But Bezos is trying to grow his company, innovate, and create economic growth for all of America and internationally, while Gates has been doing meaningful philanthropic work internationally and in America for 20 years. Comparing them is apples to oranges. And why are we comparing? So what, Gates donates more than Bezos, do we can discredit Bezos’s $2 BILLION DOLLARS??? Do people not realize that that is freaking 9 zeroes???????

Seriously. I know it’s ironic that I am posting on social media complaining about other people complaining on social media

But in a world of so much fucking turmoil with Trump calling a national emergency to build a wall while North Korea and Iran are international threats and China-US trade war is looming, can we not just pause, and reflect, and APPRECIATE those people who are doing GENUINE good for the world? I don’t think starving kids in Africa care where the money is coming from when their lives are dependent on sanitation and healthy nutrition.

It’s not always black and white.

But seriously, let’s bring more gratitude in our lives.

Let’s go do some good.

Anyone who knows me knows that my ultimate ultimate life goal is to cure poverty and discrimination. I think that’s how I can create more world peace.

Anyways… go out there and donate $2 to a charity

Even if $2 is all you have, or if you’re a multi-millionaire.

Because for those who need charity, $2 is $2, and in a lot of places, $2 can save a life.

Side note: here’s a tip on how to be less stressed. DON’T READ INTERNET COMMENTS. You’ll lose brain cells.

Reflecting on my “loneliness”

This post is quite sappy and melodramatic (but let’s be honest, if you’ve read any of my writing, you know I do this a lot).

It’s Valentines Day today and another reminder from society that I am single.

Granted, every year, I’ve felt this feeling.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve never been in a relationship. And although I thought I was ready to be in one last year, I think the more time I’ve spent understanding myself and life, the more I realize how important it is to learn to love myself before I can expect anyone else to.

I’ve been contemplating a lot. Not just about love, but about life in general.

The global economy. I could go on for hours about Sino-US trade relations, or the global political-economic trends, or why some countries are poor while others are thriving.

Religion. Because I’ve been taking a course called “God” for my humanities minor. And now I have the omniscience objection against God, the religious orthodox faith proof, the argument of design, the argument of evil and 4 miseries, and the cosmological argument. I’ve read Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, and German Philosopher’s works.

I can talk to you about finance. Money is just a construct. Credit and debt are fallacies. And compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world.

And finally, I can talk to you about love.

Why love can be poisonous. Why love is often an external projection of our internal selves. How love can be corrupted.

But also why love is the greatest power we can possess–but also dangerous when we allow love to possess us instead.

I’m single for another Valentine’s Day but I’m also happy that it’s a day for a celebration of people in love.

I believe deeply in love. I believe that having a good partner is integral to a happy life. And I’m happy to see other people live through relationships.

 

 

 

 

?

How do we know anything is real…?

Descartes brings up the question of dreams and reality: how do we know what is truly real?

Do we even know anything?

What if what we perceive as “reality” is simply a dream–and when we supposedly “wake up” from our dreams, we simply wake up into another dream? Inception???

Elon Musk believes we live in a simulation. But I find it ironic that humanity also developed Sims 3. Is that video game just some sort of sick way of the universe designer mocking us?

What about universal power. Who is the designer of this world? Is it the religious orthodox approach of an omni-God? Or is God amoral? Or is he multiple designers? Or was the world simply constructed out of a mix of convenience, chance, and miracle?

I believe reality is real, insofar as we are able to interact with one another. While in a dream, we are unable to conceive the thoughts of other people, nevertheless interact with them. In reality, we are. The fact that I am able to question my own reality, while also conveying that to other people who may have that exact same question, refutes the concept that I am living a dream. Or else we are all somehow living the same dream?

Life could be a simulation. But insofar as we are able to have free will, we are thus not in a simulation. To accept that life is a simulation would have to refute humanity’s ability to have freedom and free will. You can only choose one, and I choose the fact that I have free will.

And what about religion and deities?

I believe that the universe does not have an omnipotent-omniscient-omnibenevolent God in the traditional sense. I believe the designer of our universe is either amoral OR is benevolent but NOT omnipotent. If he were, however, omnipotent & omnibenevolent, then there are too many contradictions. Evil exists in our world, insofar as humanity knows. Thus, God is either not omnibenevolent, because he created evil, OR he is not omnipotent because he does not have the power to remove the evil in this world. And God cannot be comprehended as omniscient because only another omniscient being can say another is all-knowing–knowledge proceeds. I suppose the real question here is how does religion play into all of this, and whether or not this amoral God is worth worshipping?

The only way I know how to live life is as an agnostic in every sense of the word. I must remain skeptical about all of life’s questions, thus, I can remain curious and continue to seek knowledge in this finitely infinite universe.

 

 

Treatments

This blog post uses information and experiments extracted from the latest book I’ve been listening to on Audible: “Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data”

In economics, in sciences, in social sciences, in politics, we care about what works. But how effective are certain treatments? 

Placebos can be quite powerful. Sometimes they are just as effective as the actual treatment. We don’t want that to happen.

In statistics, we try to discern between cause-and-effect treatments with a counterfactual. A counterfactual is what would have happened without the treatment. In science experiments, we create a counterfactual with a control group and placebos. But even then, many times it is difficult to compile a control in certain inhumane or unethical experiments. 

And in life, in our own decisions, how are we meant to create counterfactuals?

Is your life better or worse having decided to attend university?

Well. The only “right” answer a statistician could offer you is “we don’t know”

Because in your case of life decisions, we really don’t know how your life would be different had you not attended university.

Maybe had you not decided to attend university on decision day, you somehow decided to buy a lottery ticket and miraculously won $100 million dollars. But maybe because you won $100 million dollars and you didn’t have a university education and graduated with a finance degree like you had planned to, so you didn’t have a good understanding of financial management and somehow ended up broke within a few years, as many lottery winners do. Or maybe because you attended university, you met your soulmate in your intro to statistics class. You get the point.

In statistics, we want to be objective and use as few assumptions as we can. Even when we have really good data, we are still only fairly confident that certain cause-and-effect scenarios are true. (We call this confidence intervals).

So let’s go back to the question of a university as a treatment. How effective is a university?

Well, it’s quite hard to determine because we don’t really have good data. We have data that proves that the most selective universities (Ivy league schools) have alumni with a much higher mean salary. But let me just tell you that that statistic is absolutely useless. How do we know that the selective university, as a treatment, caused the higher salary? It’s very likely that the type of student who not only be admitted to a selective university but also can survive 4-years that top academic institution is the type of person to be more “successful” later in life. (There are many different metrics of measuring success, all which are incredibly arbitrary, but for the sake of this example, we’ll simply use salary.) So we can’t know unless we have some sort of control group, or counterfactual. But that’s quite hard because that would mean we would need to assign random students to random institutions and then track their progress longitudinally. This is an example unethical method of creating a control group I mentioned earlier. I doubt that selective universities would accept random student admissions and I’m not quite sure that students would want to be randomly sent to an institution either.

Thankfully there was a natural way of creating a control group discovered by Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale to determine the effectiveness of selective universities: students who were accepted to top institutions, but chose to attend a less selective university. This data was good because 1) the participants (students) were more or less random, 2) the students were “good” enough to be admitted to top colleges, so at the point of separation, they were “equal” to the students who DID attend the top colleges they were admitted to, and 3) there was enough data of students to actually perform analysis over long periods. Here is the report: https://www.nber.org/papers/w7322

And what did this report tell us?

Well, in terms of whether or not a top university “treatment” affected mean salary, it didn’t (Except for low-income students, who did have a noticeable increase in earnings over time). 

This is reassuring to people high-school students who are in the midst of their stressful college applications.

Although earnings isn’t the best metric, and even this analysis isn’t apples-to-apples, it is a interesting statistical report.

The university does not make the student. Hard-working students will thrive regardless of attending Harvard or their local community college.

Good luck to everyone in finals exam season.

Finding beauty in the mundane

In essence, if you breakdown what meditation is, it is simply doing nothing. Yet, I continue to meditate. I’ve been meditating at least 10 minutes for the past two months, some days going up to 30 minutes. And I’m just doing nothing.

And what about the other mundane perfunctory tasks we must complete?

Like doing laundry. Or walking. Commuting. Washing the dishes.

There is a certain art to being able to find beauty in the mundane. I personally enjoy walking. It’s therapeutic for me, especially if the scenery is nice. And even if not, it’s often very relaxing for me to just walk, either with or without a purpose, with or without destination. 

Some people have made a habit to enjoy washing the dishes. Or doing laundry–mundane tasks that need to be done but in actuality don’t really fulfill a deeper purpose in life. It’s just something that needs to be done.

But if it needs to be done, can we somehow find a way to make these tasks more enjoyable? Can we find beauty in them?

If we want to scrutinize these “chores”, these tasks that in themselves don’t really fulfill a purpose so much as the result (ie. we wash dishes to have clean plates, do laundry to have clean clothes), then we have to also scrutinize meditation.

Meditation is literally doing nothing. You aren’t fulfilling any purpose or completing any tasks, per se, during or after meditation. But why has meditation been so good to me? Why do people who meditate and practice mindfulness often lead happier lives?

It’s because people who meditate consistently and thoroughly are also the type of people to find the beauty in the mundane. They are mindful of their existence.

I am here.

I am walking.

I am folding my laundry.

I can breathe.

This is my life and I exist. I am enough.

That’s what meditation has taught me.

And if you struggle with this idea of “doing” things that are entirely mundane to you and feel as if there is no purpose or lack direction, then I present to you a great analogy that my friend brought up in our Human Person class.

Imagine if you were stuck in the Sahara Desert. You can’t see anything in the distance, 360 degrees. What do you do? You have the option to just sit there, OR you can decide to just walk. Walk without direction or purpose, but in hopes of finding refuge, in hopes of finding hope. You’d probably decide to walk.

Sometimes life won’t always give you direction. Sometimes the mundane sucks, but sometimes we can make the mundane beautiful. We can give it purpose. Sometimes, we just need to walk, even if we don’t know where we are going.

How vulnerable am I?

Daily Blog post 400

How vulnerable am I?

I believe that premeditated vulnerability is paradoxically the most powerful state you can put yourself in.

We all have insecurities. Baggage that holds us down. Some heavier than others. Some are different colors, different shapes. Some look big but inside there’s nothing but empty space. Some are compact. But each to our own.

Last year I found out how difficult it can be to travel alone with three large suitcases. I needed some help. I was vulnerable, but I was too embarrassed to ask for help when I clearly needed it.

Vulnerability is scary. Can you deliberately place yourself in a vulnerable situation?

We do it every day in subtle ways. When we walk past a friend, we look up, expecting them to make eye contact back, hoping that they acknowledge you. You place yourself in a vulnerable situation because they now have the power to simply ignore you, or look down at their phone. You might end up smiling at empty space.

Or maybe a random Asian kid approaches you on campus and asks if you want to see a magic trick. You have the power to decline. You have the power to say “no”. I’m vulnerable, because I have no control of your response. And wow, does it feel extremely awkward to get rejected. 

Or you’re free falling from the sky. Skydiving. You have nothing to hold on to but yourself and the air. You are not grounded. Yet, at the point of highest fear and vulnerability, instead, you feel bliss.

Vulnerability is scary. But when you cross that threshold of vulnerability and fear, you can see on the other side which is pleasure. There is no pleasure without risk. There is no bliss without vulnerability. There is no acceptance without insecurities.

Acceptance of self is not a lack of insecurity; rather, acceptance is the acknowledgement of your vulnerability. Acceptance is seeing the baggage and picking it up.

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