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THOUGHTS IN PROGRESS

We, startup techies, are typically not good at dealing with people. Our negotiation and leadership skills are relatively poor, so we would rather force changes on people through technologies by “disrupting”, and try to amass wealth all for ourselves, instead of figuring out mutually beneficial ways to coexist with others.

I don’t think this can continue forever. There will soon be a huge public backlash against “disruption”, and the word “disrupt” will be uncool even in the startup world. The entrepreneurs and VCs who are still chasing the greatest disruptive innovations are falling behind the times. Disruption is not where the future is.

I realize, as I get older, what’s more valuable and meaningful than having expert knowledge is to have a perspective. For one, expert knowledge is easy to attain as long as you focus all your time and energy in one specific subject. Almost certainly, without risk, you can attain the title of “expert”. But over time, others will catch up with you as the degree to which you are an “expert” reaches a point of diminishing returns. The rest is about how you are able to connect the dots outside of your own expertise. This becomes more art than science.

Cutie and the Boxer is a portrait of a narcissistic couple who fell in love with the idea of “artists”, and with the mirrors that reflected their own narcissism. So enmeshed in their own narcissism that eventually all they could do was to turn their own narcissism into the subject of their art, becoming parodies of their own past without a sense of irony, frozen in time, with no objectivity about the context in which they exist, creating art that imitates art.

Cutie feels inferior to him and assumes that it’s about her talent but the film makes it abundantly clear that it’s her narcissism that’s inferior to his. The Boxer’s narcissism is so powerful that only when he is shit-faced drunk that he can break free of the tyranny of his own narcissism and see a glimpse of the reality.

I think the filmmaker too became hypnotized by the power of their narcissism, sucked into the vortex of their romanticism, unable to hold onto the rope that would have allowed him to give the film some cultural relevance. It’s unfortunate because it just encourages other narcissists to chase the mirages of themselves as artists. This world doesn’t need any more narcissists imitating artists. We need more real artists who can look at themselves and the world with a disinterested gaze. 

If a normal person were sitting in a room with another person, he would find that person to be more interesting than anything else in the same room. My social problems stem from the fact that 99% of the time, the most interesting thing in the room is not a human being. But it’s not like I don’t like human beings; in that 1%, I find that person exhilarating and makes life worth living. This is not snobbery; it’s just a reality that I have to cope with.

What is business? Business is understanding what people want and supplying it in exchange for what you want. What you want does not have to be money; it could be in the form of social or cultural currency. If we are depending on others to survive or thrive, we are conducting business.

If you don’t understand what people want, you would fail even if you are able to supply goods and services. 

If you can’t supply goods and services, you would fail even if you understand what people want.

Business requires balancing the two sides of the equation.

Apple just released their diversity report, and many are saying there are no surprises, but I’m a little surprised. If you read the headlines only, you would think Apple and other tech companies are privileging white workers, but that is apparently not the case. Take a look at the chart I created below. The percentages of white people at these tech companies are less than the percentage of Whites in the US, which means they are not doing particularly well in the tech sector. Given that Whites in the US have natural advantages, even if they held the same US percentage, it would imply that they are underperforming. The biggest issue here is obviously the Asians. The race that accounts only for 4.4% of the US population is filling up 15% of Apple, 30% of Google, and 34% of Facebook. In other words, all the other races are being squeezed by Asians, not by Whites.

Racial Makeup at Tech Companies

Data for Google
Data for Facebook

I just saw a guy smoking in our court yard and figured his roommate or wife must have told him to smoke outside. I then wondered what really happened economically after the smoking ban over ten years ago. I came across this article which I thought was interesting.

When the threat of the ban was looming, many smokers were outraged, but they were able to feel outraged only because smoking indoors was perfectly normal then. When something is accepted as the norm, most people do not question it because they are more interested in getting along with others than being fair for its own sake. This is how all sorts of cultural conflicts arise too. Whatever is the norm in your own culture, you would assume to be right, better, and/or fair, but the inherent unfairness, contradictions, or flaws become quite obvious when evaluating the norms of other cultures.

Before the smoking ban went into effect, my argument was this: Suppose you like the smell of burning rubber, and you decide to burn a piece of rubber in a bar. Do you think you can get away with that? The only reason you could burn a cigarette in a bar and get away with it is because it just happens to be the norm in our society. Objectively speaking, it’s as rude and obnoxious as burning a piece of rubber because the smoke directly affects others in the bar, in the same way loudly talking on the phone in a restaurant would.

Now that 10 years have passed since the ban, the norm has decidedly shifted. People finally see the rudeness of smoking for what it is.

The urge to define our own existence is amplified in youth culture, therefore easier to analyze. We are existentially volatile and unstable as teens and 20-somethings. It’s almost impossible to feel our own existence because we are preoccupied with conceptually understanding the world around us. The noise generated from the conceptual struggles drowns out our innate sense of existence. We are in constant need of vehicles/devices that allow us to perform identity/existential differentiation, such as magazines, bands, and even fashion brands. We are dependent on them. To craft our own existence, we carefully associate ourselves with people, institutions, ideas, and identities that are already recognized by our culture. We piggyback on their existence and cultural significance, like grafting ourselves onto bigger trees. For existential purposes, the trees that we don’t belong to are just as important as the trees that we belong to.

Our reliance on conceptual differentiation should ideally wane as we age. In this sense, what young people need is not another tree to graft themselves onto. Creating yet another power structure (”alternative” or otherwise) to serve their need to symbolically define their own existence does not ultimately lead to spiritual progress. They should be encouraged to examine ideas irrespective of who wrote or published them, and develop the ability to evaluate them according to their own standards. For this reason, I like Google News because it is less dependent on human curation and shows me articles irrespective of who published them. This is the advantage of today’s youths. The previous generations did not have the same means; the only way to publish anything to the masses was to go through the established curators and gatekeepers of public opinions, who essentially controlled the means by which the youths defined their own existence. Today’s youths should be encouraged to curate and publish their own ideas and thoughts without the dictators/influencers of ideas, opinions, and taste.

Not all genetic combinations are destined for financial success. Some are in fact destined for failure. The same holds true for the environments we are born into—parents, country, time in history, etc.. It is not our job to correct or circumvent these destinies. From the point of view of evolution, our duty in life is to fully express the situations that we are born into, even if it means we can’t survive and have to die early. Evolution itself does not know the future or what’s advantageous for survival; that’s why it creates diversity. It’s not our job to figure out how to survive. Our duty is to express what we are; an amalgam of genes, environments, and timing.

If your natural compulsion is to sing the blues, then keep singing until you can’t, even if it means you would die poor and unknown. The fact that you did not succeed is not your problem or fault. You will have completed your duty in life; that’s all that matters.

There is a fundamental problem with eating ice cream at home. Your freezer at home should be at least 0F. Ideally colder, like -6F to make sure that your food preserves longer. But the ideal serving temperature for ice cream is around +6F. 

At 0F and below, it’s too hard. Not only that it’s hard to scoop with a spoon, but it cannot melt and spread in your mouth quickly enough when you eat. It’s like eating a frozen candy.

You cannot evenly raise the temperature of your ice cream to the ideal by leaving it out of the freezer. The outer part would start melting while the inner part remain rock solid. The only way to set the temperature of whole ice cream to +6F evenly is to keep it in a freezer set to +6F. You cannot do this at home unless you can dedicate a whole freezer to ice cream.

A solution, or compromise, for this problem is to buy highly aerated ice cream. It allows you to scoop easily with a spoon, and it melts in your mouth quickly as it should. Aerated ice cream is considered inferior to “premium” ice cream, but if the latter cannot be served properly at home, “premium” does not mean anything. 

Some would argue that it’s silly to pay for air, but would they say the same thing about bread? Would they buy only dense breads with as little air as possible? And, if the only way to serve a Kobe steak at home was over-cooked and tough, would you bother?

It’s “premium” only conceptually. In blind tests, I would bet that most people would find aerated ice cream to be superior, provided that the quality of ingredients is the same.

Most brands indeed make aerated ice cream from lower quality ingredients (corn syrup and chemicals), but there are some that use all natural ingredients and sugar. In my view, they are superior for home consumption.

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