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Racist Mentality

March 29th, 2019 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
This is more or less a concise version of one of my points from the longer Three Tiers of Mind and arguably an extension of the discussion on Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning.  What bothers me lately is there seems to be a general shift away from why racism is bad in the first place and more towards just any mention of race is bad or that any difference in advantage is bad (aka "privilege").  What makes racism bad at its core is that you are ignoring a person's individuality and making an assumption about that person based on association to a category.  In other words, you are not seeing the person in front of you but treating that person as just one of many belonging to some arbitrary label.  That person is no longer a person with their own agency and ability to cause change in the world but just a thing, an object, something that is not you.  That's the real problem that leads to all other acts someone may commit, which everyone then reacts to as racism or other crimes.

You see this immediately in any situation you normally associate with racism.  The reason slavery was able to make sense in people's minds was the ability to ignore the individuality of any person branded under the slave label.  Removing race would have made the act no better if the hierarchy still existed (and it did/does even amongst populations of same ethnicity).  The reason there is conflict between the rich and poor is because each side uses the other as only a means to an end, treating the other as just that - an other.  Removing money or other material differences makes the situation no better if people still view each other in terms of what they have, their demographics, or other population-level traits - in terms of association and value instead of as individuals.  Objectifying, commoditizing, treating someone as merely a statistic... these are all different names and outcomes for what is essentially the same thinking process deep down.  They judge you on where you come from instead of why you came, what you represent instead of what you actually chose to do.  You're X because you're a Y, and Ys are X.  It's the act of being too lazy to think about the full context and just reacting on a trigger word, of trying to think in broad-brush rules and sweeping generalizations instead of being willing to look at each situation case-by-case.  The flaw is thinking the abstract grouping more real than the individual the abstract was created around.  

This same manner of thinking pretty much leads to any other social aspects we consider "bad." An unfulfilling job - being a cog in a machine, working under someone's thumb - happens when your individuality is disregarded and you are treated as just a faceless number amongst many.  A friend or relationship feels false when the other doesn't actually listen to you specifically but just says what could be said to anyone else.  Someone is patronizing if they give advice without knowing anything about the person they are lecturing and just assume advice is warranted.  Someone is pedantic if they are ignoring what you're trying to say and only caring about how you said it.  Even the murderous psychopath - the difference between him and a hero soldier is that he does not think about others as individuals, just objects, a kill count, again a number.

When taken...[More]
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Double Tax Issue on Patreon

November 3rd, 2018 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
The Hidden Patreon Double Tax...

Would love to be shown wrong here, but as far as I've found, money on @Patreon is taxed for both patron and creator. In any other situation, only the giver or receiver is taxed, not both. Donations to non-profits are deductible, salaries of employees are deductible expense for the employer, even traditional non-Patreon patron/sponsorship arrangements are at least some form of write-off/expense for the sponsor.  But for Patreon, unless you go through the excessive effort of establishing yourself as a company with an elaborate case for how giving to artists is business-related or straight up start a non-profit organization yourself, the money you give on Patreon is going to be from income you paid taxes on, and then that creator also pays taxes on it as their income.

This is a simplification of the math but just to illustrate: If you made $100k this year and wanted to give away half to artists on Patreon, you literally can't...[More]
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Data Does Not Equal Fact

January 24th, 2018 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
"Data!=Fact: Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning"
ie Statistics vs Math
ie Engineering vs Physics

Part of my frustration with all the focus on big data, statistics, quant, and numbers in general is that these are all forms of inductive reasoning.  Amidst all the hype around being more data driven, many seem to have to forgotten that inductive reasoning only provides an estimate of world.  It does not and cannot prove anything.  Evidence alone does not provide truth.  Data does not equal fact.

There are...[More]
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Three Tiers of Mind

November 11th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
This is a long piece but one I've been thinking through for a long time.  I've come gradually to see people as being in one of three Tiers when it comes to their motivations, mindset, and ability to make things happen.  Before I begin, I want to make clear that this is not the case of one group of people being better than another.  It is also not a relative scale or spectrum; the conditions for each group are discrete.  There is no in-between.  It's how you think and are motivated most deep down, not how you want to be or what you portray outwardly.  Lastly, it is important to understand that these are mindsets, not people.  It has nothing to do with social status, quality of character, or things like open-mindedness, political leaning, etc.  For sake of discussion, we will assume everyone is well-intentioned, honest, and overall good people.  This topic can be easily misconstrued as judgmental or arrogant, but it’s important...[More]
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Talking with an Ivy Leaguer on Wall Street

February 15th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
Another memoirs of sorts, this time reflecting the Ivy League alumni I've been meeting in NYC, both in the startup community and on Wall Street.  I've been spending more time in NYC instead of SF for a change of location (and people), but ironically, I'm running into sort of the opposite situation to that I had in my short story, Talking with an Engineer in Silicon Valley.  Whereas many I met in Silicon Valley lacked empathy, considerateness, and other traits but at least wanted them (even if superficially), the circles I'm getting into in NYC seem to simply accept that these traits don't genuinely exist and are always superficial.  Maybe it's just my luck that I'm just somehow always meeting the most 1-dimensional people, but the frustrating part is they always start off seeming normal in the beginning.  As with my other short story, the conversations below are nearly cut-paste from my personal experience, besides obvious name changes and other details to keep individuals anonymous and the story somewhat coherent.  For those easily offended, this obviously doesn't reflect every person from Ivy League or in Wall Street and is just a likely biased, limited subset of the real world from my own experiences.

======================

Sam: Hi, I'm Sam.  Nice to meet you.
Ivy Leaguer:...[More]
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Political Correctness is 1984's Newspeak

July 30th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
I recently read an article about the University of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide" this morning.  At first, I thought it was a joke or satirical post of some sort on political correctness, as it seemed like something straight out of Orwell's 1984, but it was on the college's official site as an actual resource.  It's since been taken down, but it's hard to "unpublish" webpages now, especially if it's been up for years. I managed to save a static HTML copy here: University of New Hampshire's Bias-Free Language Guide (as of Jul.29 2015)

One novel that immediately comes to mind is Orwell's 1984.  When I first read it in high school, most my peers and I thought it very unrelatable, but now it's pretty scary how close we're getting to some of its themes.  Here are some comparisons to illustrate the point:

Orwell's ...[More]
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Talking with an Engineer in Silicon Valley

March 17th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
A memoirs of sorts reflecting the talks I've had with most engineers that I met in SF the last few years.  It's funny to encounter at first, but when you're living it everyday, it really drains one's patience.  Maybe I'm having the worst of luck meeting people here, but this has been the bulk of my experience.  All responses are based on real conversations I've had; many are actually toned down from the original statements while others are pretty much direct quotes (besides obvious name changes, etc).  
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Sam: Hi, I'm Sam. Nice to meet you.
Engineer: Hi.
Sam and the engineer shake hands.
Engineer: Sorry.
Sam:...[More]
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Overemphasis on Numbers

January 21st, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
This is primarily a response to Erik McClure's blog post on age discrimination.

I'm of the same age, followed a roughly similar path through school, and also thought that young adults in general were fully capable if given the chance. I've since graduated and moved to the SF Bay Area though; you'd be surprised just how many new college grads actually cannot think freely and critically. I'm sure you must have seen at least a few headlines pointing out some of the absurdity in Silicon Valley now. (Having lived here for 6 years now, I'd say the media actually understates how nonsensical some of the thinking around here is, but that's for another discussion.) That's not to say we should box people up even more when they're younger, just that I can see where some of the prejudice is coming from (yet it can be argued that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy from treating people like drones in the first place).

Speaking on just my own experience in the SF Bay Area though, my thoughts are not so much that the issue is a prejudice against age as much as the issue is an overemphasis on credentials, test scores, and numbers in general. The problems with education today are what I personally see more as part of an overall lack of critical and creative thinking in society - too much data driven. People just want to look at some threshold, do an if-greater-then condition, and be done. If you look at some of the most talented programmers, as an example, many actually do not have a formal degree in Computer Science or are self taught; recruiting based on numbers like we do now would never find them and actually weed them out. On the other side of things, I've met engineers from Ivy League schools who can barely code but get the job nonetheless from great marks in school; some cannot build a program from scratch at all unless you give them the skeleton to fill in the details on, which is arguably the bulk of the work.  I've come across engineers from firms as prestigious as Google who would not even dare explore restaurants without some external confirmation of their decisions, justifying their decisions with "social validation" (their words, not mine); there's actual fear in their eyes at the thought of going somewhere that doesn't have enough Yelp reviews, fear of the uncertainty and making any decision not backed with numbers. Of course, this is flawed thinking, lots of appeal to majority, authority, and other fallacies, but the sad part is a lot of our peers who do this most likely are not even aware of what things like logical fallacies are (in a non-math context). If you've read books like "City and the Stars" or "Childhood's End", it is getting quite close to that at least in some pockets of the country.

I agree with...[More]
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Reflections on San Francisco

December 13th, 2014 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
It's been two years now since I moved to San Francisco.  It's hard to decide whether to move away as the people around will constantly tell you this is the place to be and how awesome it is.  Yet it's harder still to ignore that there's no real scene outside of tech as well as how unsophisticated (read - ghetto) many things are that you'd think would be taken for granted in a big city.

Some of the posts I've found on Quora are pretty spot on with my own experiences, though mine are limited more to the San Francisco side of it.

SF vs Chicago
    ...[More]
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Internet Community is Overly Saturated

September 2nd, 2014 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
Found this article here while just browsing web today.  It really hit home for me, since I've been around for quite some time.
The Internet is Opinion Saturated

I personally “grew up” on the internet back in the early 2000s (I was 12 then when I was part of various communities making games and other content together).  It’s funny because I remember people (including myself) would constantly get warned or even banned (at worst) by moderators for things as simple as being rude or lacking manners.  Now all of that pretty goes out the door when you connect online, which is very sad to see.  It’s as if all the effort back then to preserve a bit of dignity online pretty much went to waste.

Sometimes I...[More]
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Lack of Ambition in the Bay Area

May 29th, 2014 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
A year ago, I wrote of my frustrations in finding others who were hungry or wanting to take over the world.  I couldn't put my finger on why I was stuck in the situation (and still am).  I thought perhaps it was a generational gap, since my social circles mainly consisted of people who were often more than 8 years older than me when I was in middle and high school.  At other times, I thought it was perhaps society degrading overall and becoming more flakey, passive.

I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I just don't belong on the west coast though, or at least in the bay area.  I've been reading more about the east coast (and just other places in general); this article, for example, mentions how ambition is often shunned in the bay and that really hit home for me as that is the treatment I get from most my peers:
http://www.therejectionist.com/2011/09/all-things.html

Likewise the herd mentality to do what's cool or trendy rather than find something...[More]
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Lack of Real Ambition

November 28th, 2013 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
I totally agree with a recent article here about many "ambitious" ventures nowadays being rather small in vision (or not really world changing as the author describes it):
http://www.mercurynews.com/michelle-quinn/ci_24582668/quinn-startups-lack-ambition-but-may-save-world

The article nails what has been bugging me ever since I moved to the bay area. The hard part about describing this is that technically these projects are ambitious since they're already going outside the set career path and all, but it's like doing the bare minimal community service hours to claim you volunteer actively.

It's hard to tell if it's a Bay Area thing or something trending amongst society as a whole. My hope is that it's just a regional thing, or else my moving away to start over will be in vain. Yet where do you move to find people who actually want to take over the world (as opposed to just making some app to help you find a taxi -_-)?
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