Fixing the bugs in our brain

We human beings should be famous for doing irrational things predictably. No, I am not joking.

Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University, wrote a book about it. The take home message from his TED talk is that the only way to stop making some those mistakes is to be able to challenge our intuitions. The inherent difficulty in doing so cannot be overstated but that is exactly why we make those mistakes time and again without realising.

Understanding the Rise of China

Martin Jacques says that to understand the rise of China we need three building blocks:

1. It’s not a nation state but a civilisation state which is to say that it is shaped by 2000 years of history. Its culture has unity at it’s core and yet, given it’s internal diversity, different parts are ruled in different ways.

2. The Chinese conception of race is very different. 90% belong to the Han race who have a superiority complex. It’s multiracial only at the margins.

3. The relationship between the state and society in China is different. The Chinese state, despite not being ‘democratic’, enjoys more legitimacy and more authority among it’s people than any western state. The state is considered as a guardian of it’s civilisation state. For 1000 years the state has not been challenged.

The Two Ideas Deal

It seems that whenever I read/hear/watch anything interesting (eg. TED talks), it is usually full of many ideas. In them, almost always, few ideas are completely convincing to me, many I feel need more exploration to be convincing and some completely repel me.

There isn’t always enough time to be able to explore all the ideas that get thrown at me, of course. But in the spirit of being able to still absorb something of value from the time spent in being immersed in those ideas, I’ve thought of signing ‘the two ideas deal’ with myself.

According to the deal, of the many ideas that came my way in that time, I will incorporate/share/use one idea that completely convinced me and I will debate/explore/learn about one idea that completely repelled me.

TEDxCAM 2010

A month has passed since TEDxCAM 2010 and yet it as fresh in my memory as the last meal I had. My second TEDx event (after TEDx Warwick) proved to be many times better. It had more speakers, free food and was held in the Cambridge Union. It was a very professionally organised event for which I managed to get tickets only in the last week presumably because of over-subscription.

After a very foggy morning and a 3-hour train journey, I reached Cambridge feeling nippy. The fog was still lingering and all I could think about was reaching the venue on time. I paced myself through the tiny lanes to find the Cambridge Union (CU), and just like Oxford the walk from the train station to the union did not reveal much of the beauty of the town. The Union was located behind a very cute-looking church that was called, very unimaginatively, the ‘Round Church‘. I reached with about ten minutes in hand only to find a long queue of attendees trying to get inside the Union hall. After a brief wait and to my satisfaction, I found a great seat just behind Aubrey de Grey.

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