Rambling on about Education

I think when it comes to education we need to go back to the basics. We have made the system needlessly complex and it has not surprisingly failed.

A few years ago, at the university, all of us in the student housing co-op were required to attend a presentation by a HIV+ man. At one point he took out a small polythene bag. It had about 70 pills and he said that he took them daily for avoiding getting sick. The pills would make a substantial snack. So why so many? Well, there was this one yellow pill which boosted his immune system. But that made him nauseous. So the red pill was to suppress that. The three green ones were to compensate for the side-effect of the red pill, though. But if you take the three green ones, you had to take the 8 white pills to give you back the vitamins that the green ones made you lose. Now the large blues pills were required for the upset stomach that the white ones gave you when you had them in combination with the yellow pill, the one that you actually needed. The story went on till about 70 pills had been accounted for.
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The Pale Blue Dot

Also Sprach Carl Sagan:

“We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
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Air Indian — Part Duh

So then the two state-owned Indian airlines are going to merge (according to this rediff report — hat tip: Tejaswi) and the merged entity will be called — umm, let’s see now — “Air Indian,” the title of a blog post last month on the merger.

I have written earlier about the stupidity of changing the name “Indian Airlines” to the even more generic “Indian,” repainting a few dozen airplanes spending tens of millions of dollars, knowing full well that in a matter of months the whole exercise will be repeated when the name is changed yet once more. Time to revisit that piece.

Like I say, India is not poor for nothing. It takes concerted cumulative stupidity over decades to bring a large economy to its knees. Behold the bureaucrats and marvel at their madness.

Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems

Two fish were swimming along a stream when they come upon a third fish which remarks, “The water is absolutely fine today.” The two carry on without a reply. Later upstream one of them says to the other, “What the heck is water?”

Talking fish is not the point of the little story, of course. I find it remarkable that we often miss what we take for granted, and don’t question what we are perpetually immersed in. What explains the unreasonable success of cities is not something that we ponder casually, even though virtually every one of us lives and earns one’s livelihood in one.
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Hitchens on Free Speech and Monotheism

The matter of the freedom of speech and expression is not just at the heart of economic growth but also of development. I make no apologies about my unconditional and eternal support of free inquiry, speech, and expression. If the exercise of free speech offends someone, then that person belongs to a lower order of existence than that of a human. I have written about the absolute necessity of the freedom of speech. Among the many reasons for my distaste for monotheism is that it prohibits free speech, free expression and free inquiry. By its very nature, monotheism is totalitarian and dictatorial and hence it is anathema to me.
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Fanatics and Development

Hopeless ignorant masses need some sort of refuge. In many materially and culturally impoverished parts of that world, religious fanaticism affords that refuge. Monotheistic intolerant faiths such as Christianity and Islam are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for evoking the fanatical response. Combine a dangerous belief in a homicidal cruel monomaniacal god with general cultural and material poverty, and you have the perfect recipe for generalized murderous violence. Although the advanced industrialized countries are nominally Christian, their general prosperity moderates their belief in the monotheistic Christian god. But in many parts of the globe, a combination of Islam and material deprivation invariably results in headline grabbing violence.
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