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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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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 explicit, discrete, and absolute, based solely on whether the person has or does not have the ability to direct not only his own fate but that of others.  There is no in between.  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,...[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.

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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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The Perfect Storm for Silicon Valley

June 19th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
"Thoughts on Exuberance in Silicon Valley"

The last few years have been pretty incredible for the San Francisco Bay Area.  You really have to have lived here as I have to see how easily capital has flowed into the area, the effects of it trickling into nearly every industry even remotely tech related.  Just two years ago, there was San Francisco being more expensive than most cities but not quite at the level of New York or other top tier cities.  Now an apartment that once rented for $2500 can command mid-$3000s or higher.  A place the size of a walk-in closet at under 200 sqft can be found at $1700 or more.  When I first graduated college in 2013, the predominant attitude I saw in my peers was still that of caution and skepticism about the job market.  Now I have peers who have literally switched full time tech jobs every 4 months, some who would buy up an armful of snacks at a convenience store only to throw it all away...[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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