The true world

I watched The Truman’s Show, a really great film that was worth to see, last night. The film attracted and touched me in various ways: the evil and horrible director, Truman with unswerving determination, the people around the world who all cares about his life…… However, the film not only makes me think about what humanity and ethic are, but also brings to a further question about the world: how could he notice the world he lived was not true? How can we know whether the world we are living is true?

To begin with, it is quite clear that Truman had noticed something in his daily life. An appliance used to shoot the film dropped onto the group accidently. A woman he met told him that all the stuffs he had seen were made up, but she was caught by “her father” and taken away. The radio was repeating all the actions he did by accident. All these scenes made him notice that something strange happened to his world. Well, from my previous description, you may claim that we can determine if we are living in the real world by judging whether everything we meet is strange, or in other words, not illogical. I am sorry to tell you that it is still not perfect. That is no all because you may get cheated by yourself.

And this may explain why Truman had noticed nothing for most of his life. He never drove across the bridge because he was told that it was forbidden by the police. He did not doubt the appliance dropped onto the group because he was told that it was just a component fallen from a plane. Everything seemed logical because the people who made the film made it logical. This told me that we could be easily cheated by “the surface”, by the “logic” that “we” think is logical, and we will never doubt that! If we doubt everything, then we have to doubt the entire world we are living, which is very difficult. We could not easily judge whether the world is true or not because from our own perspective, we have already accepted that the world is true since we were born.

But this does not mean that we do not have any other solution. Do you remember how Truman found out the truth? I remember a scene very clearly when he and his wife was on the car, he successfully predicted the scenes and their orders that would happen in the next minute. He noticed that the cars and the people are just going around and around, and he proved it. And this may be the key to the truth. How can we predict the world? How can we tell what is going to happen? Is it too perfect if everything goes in the way that we want? This makes me think of something interesting called “lucid dream”, a dream where you can notice that is a dream when you are dreaming, which is a skill that is only known by a few people. Fortunately, I am one of those people who have this skill, and I am now able to share my experience. When I am dreaming, I can quickly notice the world is fake by doubting. If I imagine that I can go to the moon by just passing through a door in my house, and I successfully do it (Yes, I go to the moon!), then I can tell I am dreaming.

Well, how are lucid dreams connected to my topic? When I am dreaming, I can judge the world by whether everything can go in the way I imagine. When I am awake, why can’t I judge the world in the same way? Truman found the truth because he noticed that the world he lived was following a kind of rules, which is impossible. By observation, he could finally predict everything that is going to happen! The only feature the true world different from the fake one is that it is disordered and unpredictable. The fake world is made by yourself (dreams) or by others (Truman’s world), which unavoidably have some rules to follow. When Truman finally found the truth and was leaving the fake world, the director asked him to wait and think. He told Truman that the fake world he made for Truman was perfect, comfortable and innocent, while the real world outside was full of lies and misfortune. Truman chose to leave the fake one and went into the reality. I think he made the right decision. Yeah, the true world might seem “fake” for him because it is crueler and less predictable. But he embraced the reality. I believe, for him, the true world was much more exciting and interesting because he would never know what was going to happen in the next second. And this why we live. Though cruel, the real world makes us feel alive. “The fake world is full of real stuffs, but the real world is full of fake stuffs,” I said.

Microcredit: helps or worsens

Microcredit, which is a kind of small loan for the poor to help them set their own businesses and get rid of poverty, has experienced an explosive growth in the last decade. Except the non-government organizations, finding a commercial opportunity in microfinance, some for-profit companies have received a huge amount of investment in recent years. However, does microcredit really work well like how it sounds and looks? Will microfinance really help the poor get the rid of poverty? There is no denying that microfinance has many advantages. To begin with, microcredit provides start-up capitals for the people who are willing to set up their own businesses. Capitals may include the cost of machines and raw materials for production. In fact, many people have been benefited by the help of microcredit. For instance, a man in Africa received a microcredit of several hundred dollars because of his plan of shoe-making. The shoes sold well, so he repaid the investment and some interests after the first month. Then he received a larger amount of money, which enabled him to expand his business. Now he owns a shoe factory and a large shop. In addition, microfinance helps people who already own a business to further expand and improve their business. Some business start-ups have difficulty getting rid of poverty because of lack of finance to hire labors or buy wholesales, which may help them reduce their cost and expand their business. Microfinance may solve their problem. A woman in Africa who owns a grocery store received a microcredit, and she used the money to buy wholesales and expand the size of her store. After only a year, she had hired three employees to help her. After several years, she now owns a whole street in a community and lends her lands to others to help more people start their own businesses. So eventually, microfinance can also create more work opportunities, which benefits the whole society. However, not everyone realizes his or her dreams successfully. Microfinance also has an evil side and plenty of disadvantages, which may explain my concern and why I do not believe in and support it. First, it is not possible for all new business to succeed. To tell the truth, the possibility of success for those business start-ups is even lower than 50%. For the aspect of business management, sole traders, which means people who work on their own alone, has an unlimited liability. This means that if their business fails, all they own including their own savings and houses will disappear. How can the losers even pay back their microcredit plus interest? The risk for taking microcredit is too much. Furthermore, microcredit will make the poor even poorer if it is not used in correct ways. For example, some for-profit companies instigate the poor to accept microcredit even though they know that those people will not start a business or pay back on time. A 19-year-old young woman in India took several microfinances and used all money on the wedding and the tuitions for the kids. As a result, she committed suicide because she was not able to pay the loans back. Her mum said with mournful voice that the microfinance company told them to pretend that they had a vegetable store. If we cannot make sure that everyone spends the money on business instead of daily expenditures, microcredit will never end poverty. Instead, it leads to more poverty and more tragedies. From my own perspective, I disagree with the idea of popularizing microfinance in those rural areas now. Success does not mean anything because it is too rare. In fact, we have much more tragedies of failure in microfinance than success. Low requirements, no finance management education, lack of research and studies and for-profit purposes make microfinance way too complicated. In my opinion, before we get to know more about it, we should time our time and think whether there is a better solution. The fight against poverty has still a long road to go.

The Savant Syndrome

Introduction

Definition: Savant Syndrome is a condition in which persons with various development disabilities but astonishing special islands of ability or brilliance.

Origin and history: It was first named Idiot Savant in 1887 by Dr. J. Langdon Down. However, the term Idiot Savant is replaced by Savant Syndrome now. It was used to describe people with IQ lower than 25, but actually those people have an IQ above 40.

Current state: 10% of persons with Autistic Disorder have some savant abilities. Idiot savant occurs in males more frequently than in females in an approximate ratio of 6:1. There are fewer than 25 prodigious savants living at the present time.

 

Talents

Why they have special talents: The most plausible explanation is that their left brains are damaged from pre-natal, peri-natal or post-natal, while their right brains, which are responsible for some talents, develop much better. Left brains develop later than right brains, so they are more likely to be damaged. Those special skills are always liked with phenomenal memory, which is not commonly used by normal people.

What talents do they have: Savant skills occur within a narrow range of human functions, generally in six areas: calender calculating, lightening calculating & mathematical ability, art, music, mechanical abilities and spatial skills. The most common one is musical ability. In some cases, they have a single skill, but in other cases, they may have several different skills.

How to develop: Their talents are abstractly locked in a very narrow coding, but constant practice and repetition can produce sufficient coding, which helps them to develop their abilities. Teachers and others play a major role in developing and polishing the skills.

 

Influences

Because of a film called Rain Man made it almost became a household word. What the most important point is that the savant in the film is a high functioning person with autistic disorder, but the disorder consists of an entire spectrum of disability ranging from profoundly disturbed to high functioning.

For many years, people had tried to help those people. Training is very important and “training talent ” is a valuable approach towards increasing socialization, language and independence. Thus these special skills can be used in many different ways as many useful tools as a conduit toward normalization in these special persons. What’s more, some schools started to include person with Savant Syndrome into classes for the gifted and talented as a method of enhancing further this conduit toward normalization.

H.P. Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”

This whole post is quoted from my friend Sheng Zhengmao’s blog. The original title is H.P. Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” Translation. The Chinese-version translation, which is in PDF form, is copyrighted by him.

This one is for one of my best friends Zhi, who is recently studying the content of dreams as a personal interest. I hope this story could be entertaining for him. Okay, now I would like to talk about this guy called Lovecraft a little. As one of the much recognized horror and fantasy writers in the 20th century, his works are somehow popular due to their unique-ness. Though I personally do not agree with his perspective, which is in this one quote “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of the infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” I truly doubt it. For me, I believe our intelligence, courage, and most importantly, curiousity, shall forever pave our way to the unraveling of mysteries. The Chinese translation by me on his work Beyond the Wall of Sleep is attached as PDF. For the original text, please go to: http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/bws.aspx

PDF Access: Beyond the Wall of Sleep – Translation

Climax Orange: my Business group project

climax-orange-2Image 1: the final prototype of Climax Orangeclimax-orange-3Image 2: the first prototype(left) and the final prototype(right)climax-orange-1Image 3: the final design of the bottle created by Photoshop climax-orange-4Image 4: my friends in the same group and me wearing dresses when shooting the advertisement video for the project

Foreign social media should not be banned in China

Oops! You will get “404 Not Found” if you try to access Facebook or Twitter when you stay in mainland China. The Chinese government has prohibited people who live in mainland China from visiting foreign social media websites since 2009, including famous websites Facebook and Twitter. The government claimed that it failed to reach an agreement with these websites on content censorship. Unfortunately, the ban on these foreign websites still has not been lifted hitherto, which has a great impact on Chinese citizens, especially the young generations. However, in my opinion, foreign social media websites should not be banned in China because it has various negative effects on the society of the country.

To begin with, banning those websites is against the freedom of the Internet. Go back to the very beginning first. The original intention of the Internet is to share information with no restrictions. For instance, the first well-known specification of the Internet was done by J.C.R. Lickliter of MIT in August 1962. He briefly discussed his “Galactic Network”, imaging an internationally connected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any location on the earth, which was very much like the Internet of today (Leiner). As we can see from this case, “everyone” and “everywhere” have been the two main keywords of the Internet since it was first created. “Everyone” means that information should not be restricted by the difference between people such as the young or the old and citizens or rulers, while “everywhere” means that communication should not have limits between separated regions, including different countries and even different areas in one country. However, the Chinese government only banned western social media websites in mainland China, while Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are not included. Even though the government always claims that these special regions are inseparable parts of China, this unfair way of controlling the Internet seems discriminatory. In addition, banning those websites conflicts with China’s law about citizens’ rights and freedom. The 40th article in the Constitution of People’s Republic of China clarifies that “freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens of the People’s Republic of China are protected by law, and no organization or individual may, on any ground, infringe upon citizens’ freedom and privacy of correspondence” (Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council [PRC]). As the government is also a kind of organization, prohibiting any website has an obvious contradiction with the law of protection of people’s freedom of communication.

Moreover, banning those websites prohibits Chinese people from communicating with others overseas. Though the action successfully filters false and negative information, it has more negative effects than positive ones. First, modern people from all around the world should keep in touch with global information. “People’s participation is becoming the central issue of our time, and participation requires communication.” (“COMMUNICATION – a Key to Human Development”) Communication requires an effective way to share information, which is an inherent character and a basic social need for everyone. Luckily, those western social media websites meet people’s needs to communicate well. From the index page of Facebook, we can comprehend the main purpose and functions of itself: to connect with friends and the world around through seeing photos and updates, sharing what’s new and finding more information, which meets people’s basic needs and eagers to communicate. Due to the large amount of users of western social media, Chinese people also have the demand to communicate with others in foreign countries. For example, they need tools to keep in touch with their friends or family members who do not live in China. The total amount of international students in the United States has grown by 72 percent since the first International Education Week briefing was held in 2000. “There are five times as many Chinese students on U.S. campuses as were reported in 2000.” (“Open Doors 2014”) As more and more Chinese students study abroad, there is a rising voice of lifting the ban onimage Facebook and Twitter so that their parents can keep in touch with students’ daily lives in a more “foreign and native” way. Besides, more and more young people in China are interested in and willing to make friends with foreign people for various reasons, such as learning English or enriching their lives. For local Chinese citizens, this is a good opportunity to broaden their horizons; for the government, this is also a shortcut to improve the English education level.

Most importantly, banning those websites deforms the open-minded and international impression of China. Foreigners need to use foreign social media when they travel to China. China is now the third most popular destination in the world. The number of overseas tourists was 131.87 million in just 2007, with a total income of 777.1 billion yuan (“Factbox”). In addition, the popularity of western social media like Facebook or Twitter is really high. About 70 percent of Americans use social networking sites. Among all these users, about 70 percent check Facebook daily (Ferenstein). From the previous data, we can determine that most foreigners need to use western social media that they are used to visit every day even when they travel to China because it is a kind of habit. However, you cannot expect everyone to be an expert on IT. Most foreign visitors have no idea about preparing a VPN account before they pay a visit to China. In consequence, they may complain that China has a very terrible and unstable Internet system if they fail to access Facebook or Twitter. Furthermore, in fact, almost all of the countries around the world allow people to access those websites except North Korea and China. Though political factors should be taken into account, communism still is not an excuse for banning western social media. There are many socialist countries in the world, but most of them still enable people to access foreign social media websites. For instance, Cuba, a small country which seldom connects with the world, lifted the embargo on Facebook and Google after President Obama visited Cuba on March 20th, 2016 (Thiessen). There is no doubt that an international country like China banning websites is really unnecessary and ridiculous.

In brief, western social media should be accepted in China because it helps to improve people’s lives and the international impression of the country. If the situation continues, as China will never stop to develop, some negative social effects will happen sooner or later. For political reasons, we should not expect the government to reopen all the foreign social media websites at a time in the near future, but I still suggest the government to lift the bans step by step, such as just reopening the English version of Facebook first like what it does now on Wikipedia. As more and more executives from Facebook and Google start to take a fresh look on the Chinese market, we should never lose our hope to see the dream of Internet freedom comes true one day.