This is kind of like my list of topics for 2013, but more free-form and more of an actual list. These are all topics on which I eventually want to write a full post in the upcoming year.
- 2013 in review – not too much important happened (perhaps the government shutdown was the signature event of the year, symbolizing the year’s inaction); for the most part, we saw the continuation of old trends rather than the rise of new ones.
- Rational thinking – more on the thinking process, being aware of cognitive biases.
- Utilitarianism – more on moral systems, in particular this one.
- Internet trolling – on the internet it’s much harder to see the tone or context of people’s statements (no facial expressions or gestures), therefore they become easy to misinterpret even for a reader with good intentions. Related to some threads (mostly about religion) that occurred on Facebook in the past year.
- Subjective vs objective truth/morality – related to rational thinking and utilitarianism as well. Also, are cultures really all equal to one another?
- The spectrum of choice – attributes like race and gender are determined on birth and hence out of your control, while other attributes like favorite TV show or movie are completely in your control and could be changed on a whim. Somewhere in between are things like political or religious stance, which, while theoretically changeable, are very difficult to change in practice due to social/cultural pressures. I also want to argue that while it is absurd to judge someone based on something that they have no control over (such as race or gender), it makes more sense to judge someone on a choice they made, be it their religion or something else (though in religion, it gets fuzzy as to what degree most people have a choice in it).
- Apathy in certain issues due to belief that they will resolve themselves – for example, during the government shutdown, I didn’t change my daily routine the slightest bit, because I knew the issue would be fixed and that there was nothing that I could personally about it. On the other hand, if everyone thought like this…
- Interest in issues only when something goes horribly wrong – For example, no one talked about racial profiling… until the Zimmerman trial. And then afterwards, the commotion died down. No one cared fervently about gun control… until Newtown, but then we seem to have forgotten about it.
- Contentlessness of most things on the internet – related to internet trolling. In the era of the Facebook status or the tweet or the 1-line meme or the one-paragraph thread reply, very little of what I read has any content. When someone expresses their stance on something, I usually have no knowledge of why they have that stance, what arguments they would use to justify it, what their context is, etc. And when someone tries to make an argument, they seem very shallow, focusing on one particular aspect (since it is hard to make a complete argument in one or two sentences).
- Contentlessness of (extreme) postmodernism/relativism – related to above. Humanity did not toss aside physics and go back to superstition when Einstein came up with the theories of relativity. In a typical debate, “Well that’s just your opinion/truth is subjective” should not be used to stifle and invalidate the discussion.
- The search for truth vs the proclamation of truth – i.e. science vs religion incompatibility.
- Religion in general – of course, given that this was the most popular topic of 2013.
- Keeping up with the Joneses – how optional, bonus things become requirements, esp. in a video game setting, as this is very fruitful for social comparison. Things that were “amazing” become “okay,” things that were “okay” are now “terrible.”
- Capitalism, individualism – should a “winner” be able to do whatever they want? What is the standard? If one becomes a billionaire, is one obligated to give back? If so, how much?
- Thinking ahead; people arguing such basic concepts assuming other people are on their level – perhaps this is related to internet trolling, but it happens in real life as well. Say Joe is a better-than-average chess player, and can look ahead a couple of moves. I see two moves to consider: A, which looks obviously right but fails after several moves; and B, which seems like a terrible move at first but wins after several moves. Joe looks a couple moves deep into line A, sees a winning tactic, and concludes that A is better. When asked, I say that B is the best move. Now Joe, not even considering B, looks at me like I’m an idiot for picking B (since it looks terrible), and then starts explaining to me very slowly how A is the best move, even though I know exactly where it fails. I’m about to object why it fails 4 moves later, but Joe hushes me, so I keep my silence. Indeed, 4 moves later, Joe triumphantly shows the winning move, only to realize it actually loses. Of course, this is a metaphor for conversations on other topics.
- Priorities in morals – I watched the show Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 version) last year, and it was quite morally disturbing. Not that the show itself had disturbing scenes, but when I watched it, I often found myself rooting for martial law and military dictatorship, and shunning a representative government—this was disturbing. For a quick background, humanity is completely wiped out except for a ragtag group of ships, one military vessel and many civilian ones. Every time the enemies attack, the last remaining members of human species have a real chance to be annihilated. So when the military vessel demanded resources or de facto slave labor in extreme situations, I could not help but to feel like it was not only justified, but obligatory. And whenever the representative council assembled and listed its grievances, it seemed to be a waste of time and resources, with ridiculous demands and petty concerns. In this case, it seemed the survival of the human race overrode in priority any attempt at representative government.
- Reactions to reactions – I often find people’s’ reactions to events more interesting than the events themselves. To tie it back to the first topic, 2013 in review, I thought the response of various factions to Pope Francis was far more interesting than his becoming the pope. The coverage of George Zimmerman was more interesting than the actual trial. The criticism of Miley Cyrus at the VMAs or in her music videos said more about society than what she did.
Anyways, looks like 2014 will be a cool year!