Posts from October, 2010
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October 25th, 2010

should read this: http://paulbuchheit.blogspot.com/2010/10/serendipity-finds-you.html. It is inspirational, eye-opening and positive.

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October 13rd, 2010

今早读到一篇胡子的文章,讲公路边餐馆的大盘鸡。美国有公路电影一说,大意是讲那些开车翻山越岭的故事。可惜是没有什么公路餐馆之谓,美味多样的食物还是在繁华的城镇,公路边就啃汉堡吧。国内在没有高速公路之前,是有公路餐馆的。歇歇脚,吃点早餐,午餐或晚餐,也可以歇一晚,明早再继续赶路。而就我,味道记忆最浓烈的,也是在一家公路餐馆。

那是某年大约不到10岁吧,之后似乎就是高速路的时代了,乘车与父母从某地回家,晚上8点多,天已经全黑了,在前不着村后不着店的半路上有一家餐馆,开车师傅便提议大家去吃一顿。那家似乎也不会做别的菜,拿了一桶的饭,还有两个足足能占满半个八仙桌的搪瓷盘子,整整一盘子的水煮鱼。鲜红的料汁,汤料吸得满满的白豆腐,嫩竹笋,当然还有那虽切成块,却依稀可分辨是好大只的草鱼。想来当时确是饿极了,这样的两盘,五个人却风卷残云般地不到一个小时就吃光了。

后来就再也没吃过那么好吃的水煮鱼了。

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October 9th, 2010

刘晓波

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October 9th, 2010

我喜欢做没有任何根据的预言:美国释放的大量流动性将会在全球造成灾难,美元贬值只是表象而已。中国不是救世主,美元贬值将会导致中国经济全面崩溃,造成最终的全球大萧条。

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October 9th, 2010

如果一个人握着这个时代的价值观可能是错的就止步不前的话,我们可能说他谨慎。但是如果抱着如此的信念就相信对的有可能是错的,错的有可能是对的话,那就是个糊涂蛋了。种族隔离制度的初衷是为了减少种族冲突,废除奴隶制度的林肯是种族隔离制度的拥趸。在那个年代,思想开放的人认为这是对的,而现在我们都知道,这是罪恶的。的确,我们今天的价值观有可能是错的,然而,那些在过去已经论证过是错的观念绝再无对的可能了。既然能清晰的区别错,那么这个世界当然是有善恶和对错之分的了。

企图混淆我们思想的人拿着那些过时的错误的观念,辩论着说正确的可能性,却忘了历史和学术早就否定了他们。那些皇权,那些政教合一,那些忠君爱臣,那些马克思主义,那些阶级斗争,都是错的,绝无对的可能。而我们今天相信的价值观,是民主和自由,而没有东方西方之分。

没有人种的差异可能导致东方人不需要民主自由。倘若豪猪有丝毫的智力,那它们也应享有民主和自由,更何况差异不大的人类。我们今天相信这是对付社会恶疾的良方,不是因为这理论的复杂不可理喻,也不是因为被其他人认为是好的,而是因为他的简单,和立论的清晰。只要你相信作为个体的存在,你的个人是有价值的,那么民主和自由是必然的推论。自由,在于对个体的认可,相信个人的价值应该体现在他做对自我有益的事情之中,并且相信个体对“自我有益”的主观判断。民主,在于承认在社会的运行中,每个个体都具有修复社会不足的能力和价值。除非你享受作为奴隶被驱使的快感,并真诚地希望不去实现自身的价值,而只是满足别人的欲望,每个人都应该渴望并且履行自己对于民主和自由的主张。

然而,民主并不是投票。就全世界而言,20世纪的独裁者很少有不是投票选出来的。金正日是朝鲜六大投票选出的,希特勒是投票选出的,萨达姆是投票选出的,毛泽东和蒋介石是投票选出的,普京也是投票选出的。投票选一个独裁者,和自认一个独裁者并没有本质的区别。愚弄,强迫,贿赂甚至就是利用人们美好的愿望做出不实际的许诺,都可以被独裁者利用并作为自己当选的武器。

民主是一套约束权力的制度。投票选出的,只是权力的代理人,他总是坏的,总是需要被另一些同样坏的代理人所制约。所以选出了总统,又选出了参议员。然而政治总是多变的,于是有了宪法,有了独立的司法。可是有了军队,那些野心的军官若渴望独裁,允许人民持枪总能推翻他。民主不是几年一次的投票,是精心设计的互相制衡的权力体系,而任何个体都能够透过这个权力体系,利用群体的力量达成自身的价值。那些平民,通过自己的投票,说出了自己的目的,并藉由代理人的制衡达成或是竞争,这才是现代国家存在的价值。不能帮助个体达成自身价值,一个群体的存在是没有意义的。

当然,在一套独裁体系中,有些个体,或许为数还不少,能够更经济更快捷更有效地达成自己的目标和价值。他们是分辨不出来独裁和民主的区别的,他们会叫嚣“我们不需要民主”,他们会说“我们有了充分的自由”。然而,当我们谈论的是所有人的时候,放弃大多数,让少数人达成自己的目标就成了权力放纵的理由,成了借口。就和文章开头所说的一样,这样的社会在历史上存在过,并且已经被证明是错的了,它的名字叫做奴隶制社会。

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October 2nd, 2010

几个月前看预告片就觉得很不错,于是今天刚上映第一时间就跑去看了。现在的导演真喜欢在预告片里面忽悠人啊,那个“As for the charges, I deserve some recognition from this board”原来是说给学校里面的Board听的。

Eduardo Saverin第一次出现写公式的时候恍惚间还以为演的是Adam D'Angelo,想起是CalTech的人,才释然。想来,Eduardo Saverin也非Zuck的BFF,只是The Brazil Guy罢了。Sean Parker却描写得也不是坏人,借他口说的话虽是常识,还是很动人。看过之后,越发想认识这个帮Mark Zuckerberg锁定了绝对投票权的人物。

下面是几点和新闻中的真实故事有出入的地方:

  1. Eduardo Saverin在和解之后仍然拥有Facebook 1.5%的股份;

  2. 主要的诉讼是Winklevosses兄弟主导的,Divvya Narendra只是参与;

  3. Sean Parker不是在加州涉嫌吸食可卡因被捕的;

  4. Facebook Office里大家都用的笔记本,没有台式机;

  5. 真实的Mark Zuckerberg没有那么酷。

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October 1st, 2010

During the booming of science in 19th century, rationalists tried to categorize and model everything with unambiguous language. The unambiguous "mathematics is the foundation of all exact knowledge of natural phenomena" [1]. "God created everything by number, weight and measure" [2]. It will be almost a century later that the "two clouds" [3] triggers the destruction of classic deterministic physics. But it is Charles Darwin, who stood in the middle of 19th century, with limited suggestive evidence and unbounded thinking, showed us the beauty of dynamics and complexity in nature and made sense out of the ambiguity and uncertainty that embedded into nature itself. If the nature is formed from simple matters, would it be possible that a self-organized power created the complex world rather than a work of rational God? The evolution theory before Darwin made it sounded like another conscious power that was more appealing to the evolution method created the world in this way. A superior power (or the First Cause) is an inevitable conclusion. To Darwin, it was unnecessary of an omnipotent deity power to make the complex world possible. The power of individual, the incentive to survive was sufficient enough to self-organize the complexity of nature.

It is often misattributed the initial evolution concept to Charles Darwin. But it is worth to note that evolution is not a new idea. Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin was an evolutionist at that time. And over the English Channel, Lamarck had exhaustively how he perceived that species mutated over time towards a common goal. In many aspects, Lamarck provided early insights into why and how species mutated. The environment factor he stressed also played a critical role in Darwin's theory. However, the major assumptions Lamarck made were about the driving forces [4] in nature which were merely a hypothesis from scientific view. It was the incompleteness and lack of evidence made early evolution theory, although it existed for a quite long period, still being rejected as the main theory in scientific community. On the other hand, the fixity of nature won the large audience because of its simplicity and the coherence with our day-to-day experience. Darwin's theory didn't provide a resolution either. Rather, it was a more compelling and coherent argument with many suggestive evidences that people willing to believe. Only later discovery consistently proved the correctness of his theory and confirmed his insights.

The main insight in Darwin's theory was the Natural Selection. It was the idea that the nature put an upper bound to the population it could hold in one country which would encourage individual competitions and thus the individual would ultimately developed a niche to survive. The population theory was not new. It borrowed the light directly from Thomas Malthus and somehow appeared to be self-evident. The interesting part was about the description about individual competition. In his On the Origin of Species, Darwin drew his Selection idea first from breeders and argued that if breeder's selection could eventually result mutation of species, it would be possible that Natural Selection could work. He cited Malthus' theory as a basis for how Natural Selection could occurred but provided not quite so citation for individual competition. In Lamarck's theory, the group of species worked together and acted with a collective effort to achieve the evolution goal. The giraffe gained the long neck by the collective effort of generations and finally after several generations, it would have long enough neck to reach the leaf. The idea in Darwin's "individual competition" phrase which later was classified as individualism was first introduced by another English tale Adam Smith. However, it was such a coincidence that Charles Darwin never mentioned about him. One reason was that even after half a century The Wealth of Nations was still criticized and debated. The individualistic factor was only later discovered by going over the assumptions Adam Smith used.

The assumption modern economics made was about individual works for self-interests. Darwin's assumption in Natural Selection was about individual works to survive, which served as the ultimate self-interests. The mutation was not a collective conscious choice; rather, it was the edge that empowered individual to survive. It was the differentiator to distinguish Darwin's theory from earlier work. However, it should be pointed out that Darwin's individualism argument was largely based upon the population cap in Malthus' theory. It was in some sense may imply that if the population didn't meet the cap, some mutations could not gain much advantage to pass on. Profoundly, it contradicted with the modern economics assumption since that if the cap were met, the mutation provided no incentive (self-interest). However, Darwin did elaborately argue that even in that situation, a niche in mutation would be preserved because it made the survival of one individual much easier. It was effectively an alternate saying of that individualism would benefit the society as a whole by improving the efficiency of society.

Charles Darwin raised his interests in evolution from his voyage of Beagle. It's the adaptivity of species that triggered Darwin's thought on the possibility of evolution. The different beak shapes of same species of finches showed the fascinating result of the adaptivity force. However, in the Darwin's theory, the adaptivity phenomenon was not a result of the adaptivity force. It is the individual who leverage the environment to serve self-interests that ultimately adapted to the environment. The implication of individualism itself showed a compelling reason that governs the mysterious adaptivity force. Darwin made it clear that adaptivity was not the driving force for mutation; it was the result of mutation. The one who survived with niches would be the one that leveraged the nature most. In the On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin put lengthy argument of the potential of mutation based on the observation of breeder. Charles Darwin made an intentional effort to blur the conscious choice made by breeder. He argued that the breeder picked stronger ones, but never had a clear image about what it would be like after generations, making the choice less relevant to a conscious design. To Charles Darwin, the Natural Selection was sufficient enough and the need for an omnipotent deity was unnecessary. Rather than a central governing mechanism, Charles Darwin put his faith on a self-organized power.

It is notable that even after the publication of On the Origin of Species Charles Darwin put together only a few suggestive evidences. His field experiment proved mutation was possible and can be passed on to future generations. But it was one and half century later that we could experimentally show the effect of Natural Selection on individual competition and mutation. Darwin collected evidences and organized them around his assumption. That gave him much freedom on what made more sense. The evolution theory before him made several attempts to be coherent and compelling. It was a hard bet to argue the falsity of such theory with limited evidence gathered. It was the back cast that gave us the illusion that Darwin's theory was correct in the first place. But the pattern of scientific advancement was about hypothesis-evidence-prove [5]. When On the Origin of Species published, though trust himself enough, Darwin humbly admitted that it was a possibility. The astonishing accuracy of his observation and hypothesis didn't demolish all the free choices he made in that theory. Granted that, the individual competition choice to Darwin was a conscious one.

In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin showed a more dynamic, chaos and ruthless nature that contradict to the daily experience of an ordered and decipherable world. However, Charles Darwin set out the book as the explanation to resolve several imposed questions in natural history study. There were no deterministic criteria to categorize species. With more and more findings world-wide, naturalists had a hard time to identify if a new finding was a new species or not. The newly discovered fossils showed the existence of distant and extinct species in the Earth's history. It was clear from today's perspective those problems cannot be solved under the old framework in which a conscious deity/power designed everything. Darwin's theory supposed to provide a holistic view to address these issues. So far, the scientific community obsessed on providing explanations to the world of now, to describe the world works at present. If the present could be explained, the past was determined. Darwin's theory provided a very different angle; the nature was changing all the time, with random mutations and selections. It results a chaos and booming world. Science, in its vein, was a deductive method. In 19th century, cell was well observed thanks to the invention of microscope. Scientists were much convinced the idea that the world was constructed from "small building blocks". However, in Darwin's theory, he put a step ahead and made the critical observation that those small building blocks were evolved instead of assembled to the current form.

Throughout the Darwin's theory, the individualism was implied. But, it was not an intentional choice. Darwin, as a naturalist, was very much lived in an orthogonal world to the application of individualism in politics and economics. I would like to attribute the implication to his rationality judgment. After all, it was an industrialized England. The more appealing ideas in Darwin's mind could only be those that fit in the contemporary thinking of that time. When today's heterodox economists [6] tried to apply evolution method into economic analysis, it worth to point out the connection between Darwinism and the central element in modern economics: Individualism.

[1] David Hilbert (1862 - 1943)

[2] Sir Isaac Newton (1643 - 1721)

[3] From 1900 Royal Institution lecture, Lord Kelvin

[4] Lamarck asserted the force to complexify and the force to adapt as the two fundamental driving forces in nature evolution

[5] The structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Kuhn

[6] Complexity: the emerging science at the edge of order and chaos, M. Mitchell Waldrop