Saturday Six: December 3rd

Here is a collection of the most interesting things I have been thinking, reading, listening, and watching for the last two weeks. We are in the Holiday Season so maybe some of these topics will make for some interesting discussions at the dinners and cocktail parties you might find yourselves at.

1.Thinking about lately: does consciousness have a grammar? This may seem like a far out idea, but I have been researching various topics that eventually led me to this question. Some of me studies revolve around language and how it affects our thinking; that we are restricted by language. The progression of thought brought me to the idea that symbols are more universal across cultures than languages; we recognize certain symbols despite what language we speak. If you can see where I’m going with this, then you can understand I had to ask the above question as I tried to reduce the ideas even further down to a microscopic level, so to speak. I’m currently reading through an essay that touches on this question. (Note: It’s long and abstract. I will be writing about these things in the future though.)

2.A contemporary topic of I’ve been really concerned about lately is “Fake News.” Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept wrote a piece calling out The Washington Post for promoting a site called PropOrNot (Is it Propaganda or Not?). I really encourage everyone to read this. It is self evident that false and misleading information has disastrous consequences for individuals and groups. The challenge we now face is that we may not even know where the misleading information is coming from. Once we call into question “trusted” sources, how do we actually know what to believe? A handy tip for investigating “news”: pick from multiple sources across the spectrum (left, right, and independent).

3. I feel at times we take history of granted. This could be a privilege of our society or a curse. Last year I stumbled on the field of Chronology: the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time. Because of chronology we have historical timelines. Sounds trivial until you dive into the subject matter and see how sketchy things can get. One such issue with recorded history is the question, “Who writes history?”. The following article is about Sima Qian:

Sima Qian is sometimes called the “Herodotus of the East.” It’s a fair title. Herodotus is one of two men who can claim to have invented history. Sima Qian is the other.

Not every historian has the balls to a challenge despot face-to-face. For despotic Wudi was — the castration of Sima Qian was hardly the most despotic thing Wudi would do before his reign ended. It is but one episode in a string of terrors, one paint-stroke in a portrait of tyranny.
But who painted the portrait? None other than the grand historian Sima Qian. We remember Wudi as Sima Qian chose to depict him. Had Wudi realized the influence his court astronomer would have on future generations, he might have treated him differently. But Wudi realized none of this. Sima Qian was punished brutally and embarrassed publicly. He was a loser.
But in the end, the loser got his revenge.

4. I am revisiting a book that I picked up several months ago and never finished: Finite and Infinite Games by Dr. James P. Carse. For me this has been one of the most fascinating philosophical books I’ve picked up. It’s thought provoking and provides an interesting perspective on life. Keep in mind that game has a broader definition than the colloquialism that refers to something not serious or without consequence.

5. Expanding our understanding and knowledge is an important part of growth. This past year I’ve been experimenting and researching ideas that go counter to what I considered as beliefs that I had. It can be a very illuminating process. One such topic is the very hotly debated Climate Change (all puns are intended). In future posts (fate permitting) I would like to examine the totality that is lumped together as the issue of Climate Change: the science, math, politics, economics, psychology, and sociology of it. For I now I give you the following, an interview with Freeman Dyson, the eminent theoretical physicist and mathematician. (Protip: If you are short on time or patience put the playing back speed to 1.5x)

6. Song that I’ve been listening to lately: Lighthouses by The Grouch. I’m excited to find songs that contain interesting lyrics as I like to read between the lines. I think that words are powerful and can be used to send a message into the world.

The sky’s not falling, we’re just rising
Now’s perfect
If you’re alive open the rest of your eyes

Hope you enjoyed all or any of the items. Some of these are already heavily debated, but if you would like to leave some ideas or comments, please do so. I would like to encourage thought provoking and mindful debates to help us grow and learn.