Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I always forget how much Star Trek means to me…

So for my blog I decided I want to be able to share those things (random and intentional) that I think about a lot. Like all the little insights into things. I want to do this mostly because I feel like I should start writing them down, but also to get feedback. They always feel insightful– but to others they could actually make no sense. Going along with that I changed the title of my blog to represent my core belief about education: as long as you are trying you can't be faulted for not knowing something. Sure, there are grad standards and curricula and traditions/foundations of different knowledge bases, but really– how much are we really expected to learn or retain? The way we are affected by our education is mysterious and inexplicable sometimes.

For example: one day in philosophy this term we had a guest speaker from some east coast school. Ruth Millikan is this mousey woman with huge glasses and a propensity to sit on desks instead of in them. She has published a ton of stuff on various fields in philosophy, but today she came to talk to us about cognitive representations. She argued that humans are the only animals that seek out information for no direct purpose (like memorizing the countries in Africa or memorizing batting averages). I was a bit taken aback because it doesn't make sense to me for humans (whose behaviors I believe can be explained) to do something with no intent or purpose. Even if this intent is to have fun or to pass a test, there should always be some logical explanation for why we have the goals we do.

When we learn, though, it does seem almost uncontrollable. Years later when asked to recall things we have some trouble with seemingly random pieces of information. What we do remember sometimes surprises us, especially when we forget a lot of the same kinds of things. So in principle asking us to faithfully remember everything we study seems silly. Maybe that is why we study so much information. And it is most certainly why we require deep understanding of few topics to be able to graduate from any institution.

So back to my blog title. I feel like as long as you keep trying to learn new things and expose yourself to new circumstances at a reasonable pace (one that keeps you healthy), you're doing as much as anyone should ask of you. In practice this is not the case, as those Pre-Med students will tell you. But the important part is the relentless part. As long as you keep trying, things will keep getting better.

Lastly– Star Trek makes my heart feel warm. Seriously, I learn so much from that show and from reading the books. Today I learned that peace conquers everything– even the Vulcan Psionic Resonator that killed people with aggresive thoughts and feelings. I also learned that it is hard to maintain professional boundaries with your spouse if you serve on the same ship. And that for emotional people it is really easy to project emotions when you're under stress. Yeah, that's about it.


  1. I can't believe we've never discussed this before. I believe people do things for absolutely no reason at all and we are completely irrational.

  2. What if being rational is an illusion we construct to make ourselves feel better, like religion?

    Danny, I think you should rescue me from the two papers I have left to write. We could have a knitting party!