The Divinity of Instagram

We are Homo Religosus: a being that needs to worship and believe in utopian illusions, infinite beyonds, and noble lies. For evolution favors effectiveness over truth — one ought only examine the smooth visual field where the optical nerve actually obstructs vision to understand the illusory nature of existence.

But as heirs of the enlightenment we are also skeptics, skeptical of any creed that claims ultimate meaning or eternal salvation.

The curse of modernity is that our spiritual instincts latch on to any source that offers transcendence while our rationality is on a hunt to dispel all such sources.

Our …

Conservative Doubt

Conservatism is founded upon a skepticism of reason.

It is skeptical of reason, at least in the political realm, because 1. The complexity of the world alludes capture by oversimplified ideologies. Too often, calamity comes at the hand of theoretical perfections that turn out to be practical defects. 2. Even recognizing that knowledge in the political realm cannot be deduced a priori, the results from social experiments are hard to attribute and take a long time to manifest. 

Upon being asked about the consequences of the French Revolution hundreds of years later, Deng Xiao Ping replied: “It’s too early to …

Journal Analysis: Alienation, Consequentialism and the Demands of Morality

Brief

There is a dilemma in ethics: the normative directions which morality posits earn their authority by being rooted from a universal and detached view — a view which threatens strong personal affections and commitments which constitute the good life.

The goal of this article is to identify whether this alienation proves deadly for consequentialist ethical theories.

There is a cost to not treating things as ends in themselves. Consequentialism focuses on the importance of subjective states which alienates us from the inseparable objective states. Undervaluing the objective progress of bodybuilding for example would paradoxically lead the person to find …

Read this Before College – A Letter to Highschool Me

To: Young Johnathan, Incoming Freshman @ 08/30/2016

From: Old Johnathan, Rising Senior @ 01/14/2019

Dear Johnathan,

Us students in elite universities, compared to our counterparts, are like gods.

Wipe that smug grin off your face, it’s not a compliment: Greek gods, to be precise — more powerful, less wise.

Herculean in our ascent — accomplishing great deeds at the cost of our humanity — and Zeus-esque in our reign — rejecting moral limitations in our continuously corrupting pursuit of glory — we have developed our powers at the expense of or, more precisely, by ignoring wisdom. 

You pay dearly for …

Book Analysis: What is Good and Why

Why is this important?

Having been immersed in two cultures, I was shown how morality binds and blinds. Everyone thinks they are right while holding and discrediting the fact that everyone else thinks they are also right.

Most people take on their moral values and virtues implicitly through media. They take on high-level values of “equality”, “wealth” etc. without questioning why they are valuable. As a result most people can not transcend their cultural and temporal boundaries.

That is far from desirable for me: I would like to think that if I were born in 20th century Germany I wouldn’t …

I’m a Masochist

I fantasize a lot.

Initially, it started as a virtual escape as I dragged myself through the bland, soul-crushing industrial complex which is the Chinese education system. I discovered how powerful a tool it can be for motivating myself to push past suffering in pursuit of the good: the physical pain of working out, the numb mental despair of tedious study, the acute punch of rejection and failure all became creatively transmuted into the fuel of personal achievement under the powerful alchemy of heroic fantasization: killing the dragon, saving the kingdom, winning the princess. 

I could teleport myself into an …

Saving Sacrality in a Secular Realm

Just came back from a long talk with one of my best friends. There was always something about him as he talked abstractly from intuitive feelings rather than logical thoughts. As our friendship grew so did my appreciation for his unique wisdom that I once thought was too frail, non-robust, and idealistic to be worth entertaining. The best way I could’ve described him before was that he was more than the sum of his parts: I couldn’t pinpoint the locus of his clear brilliance as I could others I considered brilliant.

Now I can: he is a protector of the …

Journal Analysis: Driven By Compression

This journal proposes a framework that aims to describe at a high level of abstraction how advanced intelligent agents function as well as being a normative guide to creating artificially intelligent systems. Despite the technical intentions, many useful and, interestingly (you will soon see why), beautiful implications can be drawn which explains our daily lives.

It highlights our drive for compression: the propensity to generalize and categorize, and thereby reducing the amount of bits for storage without losing valuable information as a primary drive of intelligent agents. We have an internal reward system that encourages learning, specifically compression.

The intuition …

Ruthless Optimization

I’m the paperclip AI the computer scientists warned humanity about. 

I optimize ruthlessly for a few things I care about; ruthless, as I take almost everything as an independent variable to be manipulated to boost my objective function. No place is sacred, no stone is left unturned.

Thus, I’m pretty intense. Most of the time you can’t tell, because I’m intense about not being intense, I optimize for not optimizing. 

I learned today that this is a shared trait amongst the Chinese of my generation. In an article detailing the unique characteristics of the Chinese international student subculture, they mentioned …

Book Analysis: Will to Meaning

Why it Matters

Due to reductionism and globalization, cultures which have lasted and been perfected for millennia are being eroded and transformed. In such an age we find Man to be stuck in the existential vacuum: a state of meaninglessness.

This state, Frankl argues can be considered the root cause of our collective neurosis and explains everything all the way from depression, to individual’s untamed pursuit of prestige and money. It is such a deadly trap precisely because it avoids being identified as a one. We point to our desire for sexual conquests as the problem but never the underlying nihilism …