Gongol.com Archives: November 2022

Brian Gongol

November 26, 2022

News What do you do?

The holidays are often a time of introductions. At company holiday parties, family get-togethers, and neighborhood open houses, people find themselves turning to small talk as they encounter other people for the first (or second) time. ■ The go-to question among Americans is almost always "What do you do for a living?" The problem isn't the question, but the danger of making assumptions based on the answers. Career and character are two entirely different things, but they're often hard for us to segregate adequately. ■ Dan Brooks -- whose occupation the reader doesn't need to know -- puts it well: "[P]lease stop forming concepts of folks based on what they do. Some of us have fixed identities that both determine our behavior and exist independently from it, and it's exhausting to have to keep explaining that." ■ It's sound modern advice. We are a hard-working country, as well we should be. But we often don't introduce non-occupational value into circulation like we should. It's awkward to shoehorn it into conversation ("Are you more of a stoic or a utilitarian?"), and the more cynical we permit our culture to be, the less likely it is to find its way in naturally. ■ More than a century ago, Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "Bodily vigor is good, and vigor of intellect is even better, but far above both is character." ■ Careers change. Entire industries come and go. Nobody is a lamplighter anymore, and we're told that artificial intelligence will destroy lots of jobs in the future. ■ But we continue to revere people -- both public figures and family legends -- for acts of character and honor. It wouldn't hurt any of us to find more ways to naturally integrate measures of fixed identity into conversation, at the holidays or any other time of year. It might not make for intuitive introductory conversation, but it should probably place somewhere before occupational chatter.

News Censorship can't make your own eyes lie to you

Governments can try to censor the news, but people can often sense when they're being lied to. Per AFP: "Hundreds of students from Beijing's elite Tsinghua University took part in a protest against Covid lockdowns on Sunday [...] The protest at Tsinghua follows an overnight demonstration at neighbouring Peking University". People are gathering to demonstrate what the Communist Party doesn't want to acknowledge is happening.

Computers and the Internet Don't share evil content, even to ridicule it

We have to apply human self-discipline in order to defeat the shortcomings of algorithms. For now, at least, most social media tools consider any form of sharing or amplification to be the equivalent of an endorsement, so don't do it.

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