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"Humankind is unique in its incapacity to learn from experience" | New Humanist
Your new book claims atheism is a “closed system of thought”. Why so?
Because atheists of a certain kind imagine that by rejecting monotheistic beliefs they step out of a monotheistic way of thinking. Actually, they have inherited all of its rigidities and assumptions. Namely, the idea that there is a universal history; that there is something like a collective human agent; or a universal way of life. These are all Christian ideals. Christianity itself is also a much more complex belief system than most contemporary atheists allow for. But then most of these atheists know very little about the history of religion.

Particularly, you argue, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. What is your disagreement with them?
They treat religion as a kind of intellectual error; something only the crudest of Enlightenment thinkers believed. Not every human being has a religious sensibility, but pretty much all human cultures do. Neither Dawkins or Harris are interesting enough to discuss this at length.

Dawkins is really not worth discussing or engaging with at all. He is an ideologue of Darwinism and knows very little about religion, treating it as a kind of a priori notion, rather than the complex social, and anthropological set of ideas which religion usually entails. Harris is partially interesting, in that he talks about how all human values can be derived from science. But I object strongly to that idea.


You are hugely critical of modern liberalism: what is your main problem with the ideology?
That it’s immune to empirical evidence. It’s a form of dogmatic faith. If you are a monotheist it makes sense – I myself am not saying it’s true or right – to say that there is only one way of life for all of humankind. And so you should try and convert the rest of humanity to that faith.

But if you are not a monotheist, and you claim to be an atheist, it makes no sense to claim that there is only one way of life. There may be some good and bad ways of living. And there may be some forms of barbarism, where human societies cannot flourish for very long. But there is no reason for thinking that there is only one way of life: the ones that liberal societies practice.
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october 2018 by nhaliday
Reconsidering epistemological scepticism – Dividuals
I blogged before about how I consider an epistemological scepticism fully compatible with being conservative/reactionary. By epistemological scepticism I mean the worldview where concepts, categories, names, classes aren’t considered real, just useful ways to categorize phenomena, but entirely mental constructs, basically just tools. I think you can call this nominalism as well. The nominalism-realism debate was certainly about this. What follows is the pro-empirical worldview where logic and reasoning is considered highly fallible: hence you don’t think and don’t argue too much, you actually look and check things instead. You rely on experience, not reasoning.


Anyhow, the argument is that there are classes, which are indeed artificial, and there are kinds, which are products of natural forces, products of causality.


And the deeper – Darwinian – argument, unspoken but obvious, is that any being with a model of reality that does not conform to such real clumps, gets eaten by a grue.

This is impressive. It seems I have to extend my one-variable epistemology to a two-variable epistemology.

My former epistemology was that we generally categorize things according to their uses or dangers for us. So “chair” is – very roughly – defined as “anything we can sit on”. Similarly, we can categorize “predator” as “something that eats us or the animals that are useful for us”.

The unspoken argument against this is that the universe or the biosphere exists neither for us nor against us. A fox can eat your rabbits and a lion can eat you, but they don’t exist just for the sake of making your life difficult.

Hence, if you interpret phenomena only from the viewpoint of their uses or dangers for humans, you get only half the picture right. The other half is what it really is and where it came from.

Copying is everything:
Philosophy professor Ruth Millikan’s insight that everything that gets copied from an ancestor has a proper function or teleofunction: it is whatever feature or function that made it and its ancestor selected for copying, in competition with all the other similar copiable things. This would mean Aristotelean teleology is correct within the field of copyable things, replicators, i.e. within biology, although in physics still obviously incorrect.

Darwinian Reactionary drew attention to it two years ago and I still don’t understand why didn’t it generate a bigger buzz. It is an extremely important insight.

I mean, this is what we were waiting for, a proper synthesis of science and philosophy, and a proper way to rescue Aristotelean teleology, which leads to so excellent common-sense predictions that intuitively it cannot be very wrong, yet modern philosophy always denied it.

The result from that is the briding of the fact-value gap and burying the naturalistic fallacy: we CAN derive values from facts: a thing is good if it is well suitable for its natural purpose, teleofunction or proper function, which is the purpose it was selected for and copied for, the purpose and the suitability for the purpose that made the ancestors of this thing selected for copying, instead of all the other potential, similar ancestors.


What was humankind selected for? I am afraid, the answer is kind of ugly.

Men were selected to compete between groups, the cooperate within groups largely for coordinating for the sake of this competition, and have a low-key competition inside the groups as well for status and leadership. I am afraid, intelligence is all about organizing elaborate tribal raids: “coalitionary arms races”. The most civilized case, least brutal but still expensive case is arms races in prestige status, not dominance status: when Ancient Athens buildt pretty buildings and modern France built the TGV and America sent a man to the Moon in order to gain “gloire” i.e. the prestige type respect and status amongst the nations, the larger groups of mankind. If you are the type who doesn’t like blood, you should probably focus on these kinds of civilized, prestige-project competitions.

Women were selected for bearing children, for having strong and intelligent sons therefore having these heritable traits themselves (HBD kind of contradicts the more radically anti-woman aspects of RedPillery: marry a weak and stupid but attractive silly-blondie type woman and your son’s won’t be that great either), for pleasuring men and in some rarer but existing cases, to be true companions and helpers of their husbands.
- Matter: a change or movement's material cause, is the aspect of the change or movement which is determined by the material that composes the moving or changing things. For a table, that might be wood; for a statue, that might be bronze or marble.
- Form: a change or movement's formal cause, is a change or movement caused by the arrangement, shape or appearance of the thing changing or moving. Aristotle says for example that the ratio 2:1, and number in general, is the cause of the octave.
- Agent: a change or movement's efficient or moving cause, consists of things apart from the thing being changed or moved, which interact so as to be an agency of the change or movement. For example, the efficient cause of a table is a carpenter, or a person working as one, and according to Aristotle the efficient cause of a boy is a father.
- End or purpose: a change or movement's final cause, is that for the sake of which a thing is what it is. For a seed, it might be an adult plant. For a sailboat, it might be sailing. For a ball at the top of a ramp, it might be coming to rest at the bottom.
A proximate cause is an event which is closest to, or immediately responsible for causing, some observed result. This exists in contrast to a higher-level ultimate cause (or distal cause) which is usually thought of as the "real" reason something occurred.


- Ultimate causation explains traits in terms of evolutionary forces acting on them.
- Proximate causation explains biological function in terms of immediate physiological or environmental factors.
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july 2018 by nhaliday
The Religions of the Three Castes – The Neo-Ciceronian Times
The sudra caste is that which is most fitted to physical labor and bodily exercise and, as noted above, occupies the lowest position in the social hierarchy. The sudra soul is characterized by a sensual approach to life and tends to exhibit short time preferences. Thus, sudra are most often concerned with gross physical satisfaction and instant gratification. It is not surprising that it is among individuals of this caste that drug addiction, property crimes, and alcoholism are the most prevalent.

As a result, sudra religion tends to focus on feedbacks relating to the body and to the satisfaction of felt needs. It tends to be characterized the most by fleshly music, swaying, rhythmic movements, and the like. It also inclines toward specific concerns about health and physical safety, day by day provision, and so forth. Again, keep in mind that there is nothing about this that is necessarily “bad.” These are things appropriate to this caste which reflect its character and which enable it to fulfill its roles in society.

The vaisya caste is that which is most fitted to the soulish/psychical occupations which involve money and finance, technics, science, and production. The psychology of this caste involves a propensity toward materialism, empiricism, and a focus on what can be seen and felt over the intangible and faith-oriented. This caste emphasizes the pragmatic benefits provided by entrepreneurship and science, as well as exhibiting the long time preferences which enable those fields of endeavor to be successful.

The vaisya carry these concentrations over into the religious realm. Religion for the vaisya consists primarily in what can be seen and touched, whether as tangible benefits deriving from religious piety or as aids in worship itself. The intercession of gods or demigods into specific areas of life (usually pertaining to wealth or business) is considered necessary for success in those fields. Vaisya religion tends to require the reification of religious experience, rather than taking matters of religion on faith. Indeed, pure spiritualism or symbolism in religion is considered unreal, and therefore not truly efficacious.

The aristocratic caste (brahman and kshatriyan considered together) is the noble caste, and thus its tendencies are those that concern leadership and guidance, a desire to guide others in the right way. This caste tends to be focused more on eternal truths (whether specifically pertaining to religion or otherwise), and is subconsciously, and perhaps even divinely, guided toward the polar and axial tendencies which have been described by Evola in numerous places. As such, the aristocratic caste eschews materialism and the grasping for pecuniary gain and democratic political power. Instead, its focus tends to be on intangible qualities of excellence and spiritual alignment with divine and eternal realities.

Thus, aristocratic religion tends to focus more on faith and accord with spiritual realities and truths. This caste attempts to see “the reality behind the image” and is concerned with direct connection with the Divine. It will often emphasize the role of written and spoken revelation (holy books and preaching) as the means of bridging the gap between the Divine and man, ways which are used by the Divine to express His eternal laws and truths, with which man is expected to come into accord and which must be accepted through spiritual faith. The aristocratic caste, whether as priest or as king/ruler, seeks to lead and guide their people into harmony with the eternal truths espoused by religion. This caste is scrupulous to uphold the rites, while at the same time grasping and teaching the deeper spiritual realities represented by those rites.
gnon  religion  theos  gavisti  class  egalitarianism-hierarchy  military  martial  aristos  labor  things  phalanges  mystic  ascetic  empirical  new-religion  pragmatic  time-preference  embodied  realness  leadership  leviathan  sanctity-degradation  elite  social-structure  culture  society 
may 2018 by nhaliday
Eliminative materialism - Wikipedia
Eliminative materialism (also called eliminativism) is the claim that people's common-sense understanding of the mind (or folk psychology) is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist.[1] It is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Some supporters of eliminativism argue that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire, since they are poorly defined. Rather, they argue that psychological concepts of behaviour and experience should be judged by how well they reduce to the biological level.[2] Other versions entail the non-existence of conscious mental states such as pain and visual perceptions.[3]

Eliminativism about a class of entities is the view that that class of entities does not exist.[4] For example, materialism tends to be eliminativist about the soul; modern chemists are eliminativist about phlogiston; and modern physicists are eliminativist about the existence of luminiferous aether. Eliminative materialism is the relatively new (1960s–1970s) idea that certain classes of mental entities that common sense takes for granted, such as beliefs, desires, and the subjective sensation of pain, do not exist.[5][6] The most common versions are eliminativism about propositional attitudes, as expressed by Paul and Patricia Churchland,[7] and eliminativism about qualia (subjective interpretations about particular instances of subjective experience), as expressed by Daniel Dennett and Georges Rey.[3] These philosophers often appeal to an introspection illusion.

In the context of materialist understandings of psychology, eliminativism stands in opposition to reductive materialism which argues that mental states as conventionally understood do exist, and that they directly correspond to the physical state of the nervous system.[8][need quotation to verify] An intermediate position is revisionary materialism, which will often argue that the mental state in question will prove to be somewhat reducible to physical phenomena—with some changes needed to the common sense concept.

Since eliminative materialism claims that future research will fail to find a neuronal basis for various mental phenomena, it must necessarily wait for science to progress further. One might question the position on these grounds, but other philosophers like Churchland argue that eliminativism is often necessary in order to open the minds of thinkers to new evidence and better explanations.[8]
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april 2018 by nhaliday
"Really six people present": origin of phrase commonly attributed to William James - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange
Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.


Here's a graph of the number of references of the phrase "really six people present" Click on the first range (1800-1017) and you'll see this, which attributes this statement to Oliver Wendell Holmes. What's perhaps relevant is the reference to "John and James"--I'm guessing two placeholder names.
q-n-a  stackex  quotes  aphorism  law  big-peeps  old-anglo  illusion  truth  anthropology  psychology  cog-psych  social-psych  realness  dennett  biases  neurons  rationality  within-without  theory-of-mind  subjective-objective  forms-instances  parallax  the-self 
march 2018 by nhaliday
Sexual Orientation | Bloody shovel
This proves two ideas which have been part of common sense since the advent of humanity until 1960.

One is that women’s sexuality is more malleable than men’s. More psychological. Men are more physically constrained. More hard-wired, say. Which makes sense of course, because in the ancestral environment, indeed for all mammals, to achieve successful reproduction you just need to motivate the male. The female will do what it must, Melian style.
gnon  right-wing  psychology  social-psych  correlation  autism  disease  gender  sex  sexuality  gender-diff  instinct  volo-avolo  flexibility  cynicism-idealism  realness 
march 2018 by nhaliday
My March 28 talk at MIT - Marginal REVOLUTION
What happens when a simulated system becomes more real than the system itself?  Will the internet become “more real” than the world of ideas it is mirroring? Do we academics live in a simulacra?  If the “alt right” exists mainly on the internet, does that make it more or less powerful?  Do all innovations improve system quality, and if so why is a lot of food worse than before and home design was better in 1910-1930?  How does the world of ideas fit into this picture?
econotariat  marginal-rev  links  quotes  presentation  hmm  simulation  realness  internet  academia  gnon  🐸  subculture  innovation  food  trends  architecture  history  mostly-modern  pre-ww2 
march 2018 by nhaliday
Scientia potentia est - Wikipedia
The phrase "scientia potentia est" (or "scientia est potentia" or also "scientia potestas est") is a Latin aphorism meaning "knowledge is power". It is commonly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, although there is no known occurrence of this precise phrase in Bacon's English or Latin writings. However, the expression "ipsa scientia potestas est" ('knowledge itself is power') occurs in Bacon's Meditationes Sacrae (1597). The exact phrase "scientia potentia est" was written for the first time in the 1668 version of the work Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, who was secretary to Bacon as a young man.

The related phrase "sapientia est potentia" is often translated as "wisdom is power".[1]
foreign-lang  mediterranean  jargon  aphorism  wiki  reference  big-peeps  history  early-modern  britain  anglosphere  optimate  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  science  knowledge  truth  realness  impetus  power  nietzschean  new-religion  philosophy  is-ought  telos-atelos  direct-indirect  ends-means  lexical 
february 2018 by nhaliday
The Space Trilogy - Wikipedia
Out of the Silent Planet:

Weston makes a long speech justifying his proposed invasion of Malacandra on "progressive" and evolutionary grounds, which Ransom attempts to translate into Malacandrian, thus laying bare the brutality and crudity of Weston's ambitions.

Oyarsa listens carefully to Weston's speech and acknowledges that the scientist is acting out of a sense of duty to his species, and not mere greed. This renders him more mercifully disposed towards the scientist, who accepts that he may die while giving Man the means to continue. However, on closer examination Oyarsa points out that Weston's loyalty is not to Man's mind – or he would equally value the intelligent alien minds already inhabiting Malacandra, instead of seeking to displace them in favour of humanity; nor to Man's body – since, as Weston is well aware of and at ease with, Man's physical form will alter over time, and indeed would have to in order to adapt to Weston's programme of space exploration and colonisation. It seems then that Weston is loyal only to "the seed" – Man's genome – which he seeks to propagate. When Oyarsa questions why this is an intelligible motivation for action, Weston's eloquence fails him and he can only articulate that if Oyarsa does not understand Man's basic loyalty to Man then he, Weston, cannot possibly instruct him.



The rafts or floating islands are indeed Paradise, not only in the sense that they provide a pleasant and care-free life (until the arrival of Weston) but also in the sense that Ransom is for weeks and months naked in the presence of a beautiful naked woman without once lusting after her or being tempted to seduce her. This is because of the perfection in that world.

The plot thickens when Professor Weston arrives in a spaceship and lands in a part of the ocean quite close to the Fixed Land. He at first announces to Ransom that he is a reformed man, but appears to still be in search of power. Instead of the strictly materialist attitude he displayed when first meeting Ransom, he asserts he had become aware of the existence of spiritual beings and pledges allegiance to what he calls the "Life-Force." Ransom, however, disagrees with Weston's position that the spiritual is inherently good, and indeed Weston soon shows signs of demonic possession.

In this state, the possessed Weston finds the Queen and tries to tempt her into defying Maleldil's orders by spending a night on the Fixed Land. Ransom, perceiving this, believes that he must act as a counter-tempter. Well versed in the Bible and Christian theology, Ransom realises that if the pristine Queen, who has never heard of Evil, succumbs to the tempter's arguments, the Fall of Man will be re-enacted on Perelandra. He struggles through day after day of lengthy arguments illustrating various approaches to temptation, but the demonic Weston shows super-human brilliance in debate (though when "off-duty" he displays moronic, asinine behaviour and small-minded viciousness) and moreover appears never to need sleep.

With the demonic Weston on the verge of winning, the desperate Ransom hears in the night what he gradually realises is a Divine voice, commanding him to physically attack the Tempter. Ransom is reluctant, and debates with the divine (inner) voice for the entire duration of the night. A curious twist is introduced here; whereas the name "Ransom" is said to be derived from the title "Ranolf's Son", it can also refer to a reward given in exchange for a treasured life. Recalling this, and recalling that his God would (and has) sacrificed Himself in a similar situation, Ransom decides to confront the Tempter outright.

Ransom attacks his opponent bare-handed, using only physical force. Weston's body is unable to withstand this despite the Tempter's superior abilities of rhetoric, and so the Tempter flees. Ultimately Ransom chases him over the ocean, Weston fleeing and Ransom chasing on the backs of giant and friendly fish. During a fleeting truce, the "real" Weston appears to momentarily re-inhabit his body, and recount his experience of Hell, wherein the damned soul is not consigned to pain or fire, as supposed by popular eschatology, but is absorbed into the Devil, losing all independent existence.
fiction  scifi-fantasy  tip-of-tongue  literature  big-peeps  religion  christianity  theos  space  xenobio  analogy  myth  eden  deep-materialism  new-religion  sanctity-degradation  civil-liberty  exit-voice  speaking  truth  realness  embodied  fighting  old-anglo  group-selection  war  paying-rent  counter-revolution  morality  parable  competition  the-basilisk  gnosis-logos  individualism-collectivism  language  physics  science  evolution  conquest-empire  self-interest  hmm  intricacy  analytical-holistic  tradeoffs  paradox  heterodox  narrative  philosophy  expansionism  genetics  duty  us-them  interests  nietzschean  parallax  the-devil  the-self 
january 2018 by nhaliday
The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.


So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles.

I studied economics at Cambridge, a field which has become more and more mathematical since the 1970s. The goal is always to use a mathematical model to find a closed-form solution to a real-world problem. Looking back, I’m not sure why my professors were so focused on these models. I have since found that the mistake of blindly relying on models is quite widespread in both trading and investing—often with disastrous results, such as the infamous collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Years later, I discovered the teaching of Warren Buffett: it is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. But our professors taught us to think of the real world as a math problem.

The culture of Cambridge followed the dogmas of the classroom: a fervent adherence to rules and models established by tradition. For example, at Cambridge, students are forbidden to walk on grass. This right is reserved for professors only. The only exception is for those who achieve first class honors in exams; they are allowed to walk on one area of grass on one day of the year.

The behavior of my British classmates demonstrated an even greater herd mentality than what is often mocked in American MBAs. For example, out of the thirteen economists in my year at Trinity, twelve would go on to join investment banks, and five of us went to work for Goldman Sachs.


To me, Costco represents the best of American capitalism. It is a corporation known for having its customers and employees in mind, while at the same time it has compensated its shareholders handsomely over the years. To the customers, it offers the best combination of quality and low cost. Whenever it manages to reduce costs, it passes the savings on to customers immediately. Achieving a 10 percent gross margin with prices below Amazon’s is truly incredible. After I had been there once, I found it hard to shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, its salaries are much higher than similar retail jobs. When the recession hit in 2008, the company increased salaries to help employees cope with the difficult environment. From the name tags the staff wear, I have seen that frontline employees work there for decades, something hard to imagine elsewhere.

Stanford was for me a distant second to Costco in terms of the American capitalist experience. Overall, I enjoyed the curriculum at the GSB. Inevitably I found some classes less interesting, but the professors all seemed to be quite understanding, even when they saw me reading my kindle during class.

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

On the communication and leadership front, I came to the GSB knowing I was not good and hoped to get better. My favorite class was called “Interpersonal Dynamics” or, as students referred to it, “Touchy Feely.” In “Touchy Feely,” students get very candid feedback on how their words and actions affect others in a small group that meets several hours per week for a whole quarter.

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77. And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Therefore, I decided I needed to return to work in financial markets rather than attempting something else. I went to the career service office and told them that my primary goal after the MBA was to make money. I told them that $500,000 sounded like a good number. They were very confused, though, as they said their goal was to help me find my passion and my calling. I told them that my calling was to make money for my family. They were trying to be helpful, but in my case, their advice didn’t turn out to be very helpful.

Eventually I was able to meet the chief financial officer of my favorite company, Costco. He told me that they don’t hire any MBAs. Everyone starts by pushing trolleys. (I have seriously thought about doing just that. But my wife is strongly against it.) Maybe, I thought, that is why the company is so successful—no MBAs!


Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is $1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday

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