twitter X MIT

01 Oct 2014

we’re launched!

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Preface: I am taking a class in Race and Racism this semester with Sally Haslanger at MIT, fulfilling my deepest desires of having classes in philosophy count towards my degree. I figured I would cross-post my weekly responses and thoughts here, so that you may read them and form a few thoughts of your own.

In this past week of class, we continued to mull on foundational questions of race itself core to the discussion of racism. Once again, we asked– what is race, and does it exist, at all?

These are not questions that I had really considered before our class readings, and goes to show how ingrained racial thinking is on our minds. Even though I am quite aware of the notion of gender as a social construct, not once did the idea of race as a social construct occur to me, even after four years of schooling in a progressive college, whilst living in one of the most liberal and metropolitan cities in the world.

Sally drew this chart on the board classifying the views of some of the authors we read that I found very helpful.

 

Beliefs

Real 

 

Not

Biological

Race Realist

Race Eliminativist

Social

Social Constructionist

???

Thus, someone who believes that race is not biological is a race eliminativist; someone who believes that race is real, but only socially is a social constructionist, someone who believes that race is a real biological phenomenon is a race realist, and as far as we are aware there isn’t much of a name for people who believe that race is not socially real, since there are probably very few who think of it as such. Then there are also various combinations of the boxes above, and partial beliefs, such as race naturalists who believe that there are races biologically, but they could be very, very different from what we assume of races (and that is socially constructed).

Appiah, one of the thinkers we discussed, argues against the existence of race from two fronts– both ideationally (there exist no human beings that satisfy our assumptions of race) and refrentially (our usage of the term “race” have no human groupings to back them up). He might be someone we call a “race eliminativist”, although he approaches the concept from the usage of the term itself.

Yet, again, I argue, does this make the term any less valid? The ideational theorest would say that the concept/ideas associated with a term can be wrong and not apply to the referent– for example, when I say “I have arthiritis in my thigh”, when in fact, no one does. But clearly, there is some sort of pain in my thigh, and whether or not I refer to it as arthritis, it still exists.

What strikes me the most of all the authors we have read and discussed so far, along with our own discussions of race, is what appears the desire to seek biological or logical proof, of the existence or non-existence of race. There is such a great emphasis to dispute, with sequential logical proofs, whether or not race exists, when the ramifications of race existing and all the issues that come with it are overwhelmingly related to the fields of politics, economics, and social class that have very little to do with biology (aside from testing and treatment of certain diseases and genetics, which is not to be dismissed). We seek a logical, scientific proof of the existence of race, yet issues of racial thinking and racism clearly cannot be approached in such matters.

In the 21st century we laugh easily at the Social Darwanist who so ignorantly argues about the skull size and brain size of different races, as this is clearly “scientifically incorrect” and racist thinking. Yet, we neglect that the science was in fact “correct” in that era, for science is never an absolute truth, but a function of time and place. That is something we often forget– that science, is not objective but subjective, and grounded in its own system of human beliefs and ideologies. Behind every hypothesis is an inquiry about what we consider even worthwhile researching at all, and in every algorithm, human-chosen features to evaluate.

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happy day

13 Mar 2014

Three years ago, I learned how to print Hello World in Java for the first time.
That semester, I stayed up many late nights crying because I was so frustrated with how hard it was for me to fix even the tiniest of bugs. Everyone in class seemed light-years above me.

Today, I have been accepted to MIT Media Lab’s MAS program, and I’ll be joining Deb Roy’s Cognitive Machines lab this fall. It’s truly a nerd dream come true.

I think if my mother taught me one thing,
it is that
it is not how successful you are
or how wealthy you are
or even how hard you work that matters.
what matters is how interesting you are
because that is your human value.

And mom, if you’re reading this, don’t read too hard into it.

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happy hump day

07 Nov 2012

first: congrats to President Obama on his second term! what a nerve-wracking and exciting election it was. in general i do not enjoy very much politics as it is, in my opinion, far too political and rarely efficient nor rational. the best thing about election years, in my opinion, is the discussion and debate it causes people to have with each other. although i generally vote democratic I have had a number of really great conversations with my peers: liberal, conservative, and independent. however, here’s to hoping we do indeed move Forward with an open mind and real change.

no rant today, just a few things that have been on my radar lately and will hopefully get your brain a little extra food for thought on this rainy and frigid wednesday. and yes, i feel like writing in all lowercase today. interesting how the way words look on a page can have so much of an effect on one’s voice. in general, i have a thing for ALL CAPS (certain works, in my ideal world, should always be written in CAPS, such as the words of KANT), however it’s the first day back to school after a strange hurricane week, 4 days off from school, an exhilarating election, and i have a midterm tomorrow. so, undercaps (is that a thing?) it is.

recently read this article written by an MIT student whose experience mirrors my own conflicted feelings about attending a high-pressure high-cost university. no matter what college you may be studying at or not even in school at all, it is a very well-written, touching piece and a good thought-provoker.

second, and more nerdy-fun thing: say what you may about Facebook’s privacy policies/business interactions/Mark Zuckerberg, etc. etc. (I actually am not a huge fan but i am, as always, biased) but it is for sure one hell of an addicting product. and, being scientifically minded, i’ve always been fascinated by guessing the algorithms it uses to queue up one’s friend list and other auto-complete actions. i spend a good deal of time guessing why it choses to show the friends it does on a certain profile, etc. etc. but maybe i’m just a nerd.

ANYWAY, i found this very interesting JS bookmarklet and a great explanation of how it works on this blog post. in short, the bookmarklet will pop up a list of rankings based on how FB guesses what your order of searches will be. aka who does it think you stalk the most? potentially embarrassing, but certainly fun. the algorithm FB uses is called EdgeRank. google it for more fun distracting research!

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