Self Improvement


Neo, the protagonist of the Matrix, is pushed into the rabbit hole when he takes the red pill to embrace the real reality, instead of the blue pill, which is a way to return to the normal, ignorant reality most of us live in.

This choice itself was based on a 1974 thought experiment by American philosopher Robert Nozick, pondering how an experience machine, by which we can have any reality we desire(a comfortable illusion) would be better than our current reality, with all its problems.

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Self Improvement

The uncertainty about the realness of our experience is studied by many philosophers, like the 20th-century French thinker Jean Baudrillard, whose book, Simulacra and Simulation, ponders on the phenomenon of imitations/representations being mistaken as reality itself.

In recent times, the Simulation Theory ponders about the same questions about reality.

The Matrix And Its Philosophy

The Matrix is a cult Sci-Fi movie and refers to a computer-generated dream world where all mankind is suspended, not knowing that they are being farmed by AI(artificial intelligence).

The first film of the Matrix Trilogy is now 20 years old. Apart from being a huge box office smash hit and cultural phenomenon, it has spawned discussions spanning decades about the nature of human life and reality itself.

A Matrix-like scenario was discussed in a book by Plato, Republic, in which he imagined all human life akin to a group of prisoners who have lived their entire lives inside the walls of their prison, with the only experience of reality being the shadows on that wall.

If they are freed and discover the truth of reality, they may not be able to comprehend the vastness of life and may find it difficult to leave the captivity of ignorance.

The 17th century Frenchman René Descartes had observed how easily our senses are fooled and noted the difficulty of being certain about any human experience, which he claimed can be faked.

We know it too well now with the advent of fake news, fake-reality TV and our fake online identities, hiding all which is not good enough to broadcast.

According to 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, our senses are everything, creating our reality for us. The world, according to him, does not have one reality, but as many realities as there are people.

Through our senses, the world available to us is the only world we ever experience and is a fraction of reality.

How to build general skills

People that develop expertise in multiple areas are able to solve a wide range of problems.

The key is to gain broadly valuable skills:

  • Breadth comes from specificity. General skills are built from large libraries of specific knowledge.
  • Deeply understanding more abstract ideas extends the range of your knowledge.
  • Visible knowledge is built on invisible ones. The easy facts depend on skills that are harder to spot.
  • Practice in various real situations because knowledge is not always expressed.
Ideas influence thinking

Thorndike's replacement theory was not correct. He was wrong in thinking that only the superficial elements of a task needed to match.

An idea, as an abstract concept, can influence your thinking more on a broader range of problems than only memorising some steps in a procedure.

The power of ideas as a starting point

Learning ideas are useful to a point. To make a general idea useful, some key obstacles need to be overcome:

  • We need to notice the idea in other contexts. Research found that people tend not to apply patterns they learn to different domains unless prompted.
  • We need to change the idea to suit our current purposes.
  • Knowing about an idea is not the same as using it.

Ideas help, but it is just the start. Easy ideas in a field may be the only visible tip of deeper knowledge.

Earlier theories of the mind - like the formal discipline theory - assumed that things like reason, language and attention were like muscles and that any activity strengthened them. It led to views that learning Latin and geometry was essential even though few students would use these skills.

Edward Thorndike disproved this theory in 1901. He formed a new theory known as the identical elements theory, which suggested that two problems must share common elements for one skill to apply to another.

How to build general skills

General skills not only help you with a narrow problem but can be used repeatedly to solve other problems.

But building general skills can be challenging because it is built from many specific ones. If you're prepared to do the work, you can find better ways to learn that can make breadth possible.

In 1893, New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote. It was revolutionary at the time.

Since then, New Zealand has had three female prime ministers. Women have held each of New Zealand's key constitutional positions in government. New Zealand has also had a female governor-general, speaker of the House of Representatives, attorney general, and chief justice.

Wellington - the capital city of New Zealand

The bayside city has a population of about 200,000 people. It has red cable cars and its Old Government Building - constructed in 1876 - is still one of the world's largest wooden structures. Wellington is known as one of the easiest places in the world to start a business.

Legend has it that the Māori chief Kupe first discovered the city's site in the late 10th century. After noticing the location for trade, an English colonel purchased the land in 1839 for the British settlers.

New Zealand has no agreed-upon "Independence Day." The country's sovereignty came about gradually, with main events in 1857, 1907, 1947, and 1987. In 1987, New Zealand revoked all residual UK legislative power.

By 1886, most of the non-Māori residents were New Zealand-born and not British immigrants. By 1896, New Zealand had over 700,000 British immigrants and descendants, and about 40,000 Māori.

Political power used to be concentrated mainly among the royal family, while most people, male and female, lacked a voice in political decisions. When a wave of democratisation in the 19th century expanded to include men, women were denied the right to vote because it was believed that they were suited only to the domestic sphere.

But, by the late 19th century, as more women entered professional fields, women were seen as more able to participate in the public sphere.

In 1891 - 1893, suffragettes such as Kate Sheppard gathered signatures and compiled a series of massive petitions calling on parliament to enact female suffrage. The 1893 petition for female suffrage gained over 24,000 signatures that were submitted to the parliament in Wellington.

New Zealand's men supported the suffrage movement. As a "colonial frontier" country, New Zealand had far more men than women and believed that an influx of women would stabilise the society. Women were thought to be morally superior, and that a society where women could vote would increase morality.

Engaging critically in sociological concepts (like female genital mutilation, honour killings, forced marriage) using spoken word, rap, dialogue and similar mediums of expression is the staple of many workshops.

Hip Hop Education

In The US, there is a growing movement towards Hip Hop education, with the music style which is generally associated with breakdance and graffiti being used for self-expression, better social life, fitness and professional development.

Hip hop music has mostly been a patchwork of sample tracks from other songs, and the same philosophy has been a part of various schools and universities in the US, where it is encouraged to pick and choose ideas from other places rather than sticking to a rigid formula.

Political and cultural discussions can be taught and discussed using hip hop, as many pop artists and activists use this catchy medium to garner attention to causes that are relevant in today’s world.

Beyoncé, for instance, used her Super Bowl performance to highlight issues faced by black people. Young adults learn much faster if the medium of expression and style used is familiar and entertaining.

  • Paris became among the first cities to install gas street lighting in the 19th century.
  • During the19th century artistic achievements reached new highs with marvels such as the Eiffel Tower, impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces.
  • Influential painters include Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Henri Rousseau, and Vincent Van Gogh.
  • Well-known writers of that era include Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, and Alexandre Dumas.

Funding and feedback by salon patrons encouraged philosophers to put their ideas on paper.

  • In 1748, Montesquieu published Spirit of the Laws, which advocated a separation of governmental powers.
  • In 1751, Diderot helped create the Encyclopédie, among the first modern, general-purpose encyclopedias.
  • In 1759, Voltaire published Candide, a sarcastic novella banned for its criticisms of religious and political institutions.
  • In 1762, Rousseau published The Social Contract, a censored work which argued that laws should reflect the "will of the people" and that monarchs have no "divine right" to rule.

In the 18th century, intellectual discourse moved from universities to coffeehouses and salons where debate of politics and philosophy took place.

Here, nobles and other wealthy financiers intermingled with artists, writers, and philosophers seeking patronage and opportunities to discuss their work. Controversial philosophers who were denied the intellectual freedom to explore their ideas could gather here and develop their critiques of existing norms and institutions.

Paris: Home of the Enlightenment

The Enlightenment was a movement that promoted values of reason, evidence-based knowledge, free inquiry, individual liberty, humanism, limited government, and the separation of church and state.

18th century Paris served as a place for intellectual discourse where philosophes birthed the Age of Enlightenment. Paris earned the nickname "the City of Light."

Paris is France's capital. With over two million residents, it is the most populous city today.

Since the 17th century, Paris continues to serve as a significant centre of diplomacy, commerce, high fashion, cuisine, science, and the arts. It is known as a top tourist destination, famed for its architectural landmarks, museums, restaurants, and atmosphere. Paris is also a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons.

During the 1760s, the first modern restaurants emerged in France. In 1782, Antoine Beauvilliers (1754–1817), the pastry chef to the future Louis XVIII, opened the first fine-dining establishment in Paris.

French cuisine remains a significant cultural achievement.

  • Paris began as a small settlement on the Seine river banks. Paris gets its name from the Parisii, an Iron Age Celtic tribe, who fortified the area around 225BCE.
  • In 52 BCE, the Romans conquered the site and named it March of the Parisii.
  • By the 5th century CE, the Franks took control over Paris and made it their capital.
  • In 843 CE, the kingdom of Francia split. East Francia became the predecessor state to Germany while West Francia became the early version of the Kingdom of France.

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