Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blog crumbs

In between delicious morsels of bloggery, I have cooked up the following things to talk about, but none has made it to a full-time post:

- I got a lungi. It's totally the best clothes.

- I took the GREs. Surprisingly painless. Mostly because I didn't care, as long as I did okay enough. Also because the one part I was kinda worried about was the essay, but it turned out the topic let me spout off about how artificial intelligence is so great and attempts to say "but human brains are better" are nonsense. This essay was rivers of gold flowing from my fingertips. (or at least 5.0/6.0 gold, it turns out. well... good enough.)

- Here's Atul Gawande's graduation speech. Summary: medicine has become so complicated that you need to be superhuman to understand it all and always make the right call. So nobody can. I think he's calling for a huge shift in how we think of medicine, from individuals to systems. The most interesting thing, I think, is the point about humility, or equivalently (maybe?) forgiveness.

It should come as no surprise that I instantly draw the parallel to software. Following Gawande's call for humility, I've stopped saying "why doesn't this product have this feature?!" or "how could they have let this bug get through?!", because it's hard. It's so hard and so complicated.

It'll undoubtedly be harder to apply that logic when I get misdiagnosed someday and, as a result, die of the wrong disease. But the ability to take a medical error with equanimity would be a good skill to have.

- Okay, humility aside, who lets M Night keep making blockbuster movies?! And why do we all know his name? After he made exactly one great movie, a couple okay-to-good ones, and an increasingly embarrassing series of awful flops?

- Why do I get so bored watching a soccer match? Okay, because it's low scoring. But why is that boring? I guess it's because it feels like none of it matters, except a few seconds when a guy gets a fast break. It's not like chess, where it might seem like nothing matters for a long time but then all of a sudden you realize he's been building up to a checkmate! It's just a long series of things that don't matter. I do like how it's only 90 minutes, no stops, no commercials.

- Interesting thoughts today, thanks to Catie: let's jump into Christian-ish theology, or at least theist theology. Okay: why do bad things happen? The Catholic answer, as I understood it, was always "God's playing SimCity" (my wording), meaning, why would God create humans without the ability to sin? It'd be like making a world of robots. And people sin, so sometimes they cause each other pain.

But "God's playing SimCity" means God is a jerk, because he's watching his people suffer and not stopping it, just for... what? for his own fun? Also, what about earthquakes? Nobody caused those. So the next answer is: "there's a reason for everything, it's all in God's plan, it'll turn out better in the end." I don't buy that. As I've previously hinted at, I don't think the world is fair, and it's damaging to assume that there is.

I think I'll stop there, because I'm not really invested in this argument, as I don't believe in a personal God anyway. But the "bad things happen -> there's no God" argument seems a lot less silly to me now.

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