Daniel Almeida

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Daniel Almeida
Posted over 1 year ago
Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty
Daniel, Brian, Mendel His argument on humanity finding evolutionary landscapes beautiful can easily be countered with examples of landscapes that are inhospitable, extreme and hostile such as showy mountains, the Atacama desert, the Grand Canyon, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Patagonian Glaciers. Take the following example: http://www.wallcg.com/images/2013/03/winter-landscape-full-hd-free-high-definition.jpg Clearly, a majority of the human population would see this painting as visually appealing, even given its inhospitable nature. As a society, as we become more able to adapt to these areas (by wearing protective clothing for example) our perception of evolutionary desirable landscapes change. Beauty can also be based on color, lighting, symmetry, all elements that have no weigh in the evolution of the human race. As such, landscape beauty is not necessarily based on evolutionarily desirable qualities.
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Daniel Almeida
Posted almost 2 years ago
Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems
Part IV: Ultimately, I must also address my own knowledge issues when providing a critique to Mr. Li's TED talk. I come from a very different reality, the reality of having been born and educated in a democratic and capitalist nation. I am still subject to be own biases in terms of culture, experiences and education, and as such, this response can be seen as, rather than a full-on critique, a exploration of the flaws found in Mr. Li's argument from the point of view of someone with a vastly different cultural, educational and economic background.
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Daniel Almeida
Posted almost 2 years ago
Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems
Part III: For what it's worth, Li seems to have plenty of faith in the Chinese system and its future. Throughout the TED talk he cites a survey that 93% of the Chinese youth are optimistic about their future, leading his audience to the conclusion that the Chinese system can be characterized as both healthy and resilient. However, it is hard not to cite countless examples of human-rights activists being shut down in a country without free speech. In a country where disagreeing with the government can lead to harsh consequences, the only correct answer to the question "are you happy about your future," is bound to be "yes." Mr. Li also praises the Chinese political system's adaptability, saying that "in 64 years (…) the range of the party's policies has been wider than any other country in recent memory, from radical land collectivization to the Great Leap Forward, then privatization of farmland, then the Cultural Revolution, then Deng Xiaoping's market reform (…)," finally concluding that "the party self-corrects in rather dramatic fashion." Fair enough. However his assertion that because the CCP was the only party in charge since 1949, and the party in charge when China grew to be second largest economy, seems to imply that the only way that China could have reached where it has reached was through the CCP. Obviously a cause and effect fallacy, this argument fails to recognize that China could have reached where it is at without the single-party rule of the CCP. But Mr. Li seems to be content with the idea that, because the CCP were the only ones in power, China's growth would never have happened if it weren't for the direct effect of the CCP's policies. (CONTINUES ON NEXT POST)
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Daniel Almeida
Posted almost 2 years ago
Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems
Part II: It would be presumptuous to suppose that there was a direct, simple correlation, between these two variables, but the fact remains that the more countries adhere to democracy, the higher GDP/capita seems to be. To paraphrase Minxin Pei, expert on governance in the People's Republic of China, out of the 25 countries with higher GDP per capita than China that do not adhere to democratic systems of governance, 21 of them are sustained by natural resources. Nowadays its is impossible to name one single country that can be classified as rich, which is still under a single-party authoritarian system. To his credit, Mr. Li's assertion that democracies are more corrupt, citing the Transparency International index (which, ironically, is a product of the same political system that he so vehemently opposes) seems, on the surface, to be completely valid. However, if anything, this example underscores the fact that we know more about corruption in democracies than corrupt authoritarian states because we have more information from democratic states. The reason why we hear and know far more about Indian corruption is due to the fact that the Indian system is more transparent than an authoritarian system. At the same time, I must also recognize that disputing Mr. Li's methods is in itself a faulty argument since the fact that the TI index is flawed can hardly sway the dispute to one side or another. Not wanting to take too hard a stab at the people over at Transparency International, it is also important to note that there is great disparity between instances of recorded corruption and public perception of corruption. (CONTINUES ON NEXT POST)
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Daniel Almeida
Posted almost 2 years ago
Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems
Part I: While Mr. Li's "A tale of two political systems"–a name choice that attempts to liken Mr. Li's TED talk to the greatness of Dickens' "A tale of two cities"–sets out to dissect the same antagonistic difference in two different economic and political realities, it falls short of its potential as Mr. Li seems to be far too entangled in his own knowledge issues (namely his own experience and opinion) to provide a meaningful view. To address these knowledge issues, we would have to recognize that the same Marxian narrative that Mr. Li retells is one that was drilled into the heads countless other Chinese children in the 1960s and 1970s. For the sake of Li's argument, the distinct gap between the reality he lived and ours is one that must be taken into consideration. As such, Mr. Li seems to establish Marx's ideas on evolution and human societies as his axiomatic argument, from which he allows his argument to devolve into a hopeful tirade on both democracy and communism. As bold as it might have seemed to assume the Marxist school of thought as the basis for his argument, Mr. Li fails to address the validity behind such school since the Marxian version of communism has yet to come to fruition. On the other hand, the narrative that Li digested during his time as a "Berkeley hippie" is one that is based off of hundreds of years of experience with democracy and democratic transitions and rule. He correctly points out that countries transition into democracy as they get rich, as in the 1960s, roughly 25% of the world was democratic, while today that number has increased to roughly 63%, as can be seen in the "Human Development Trends Report" developed by GAPMINDER. It would also be foolish not to recognize that since the 1960s average GDP per capita (inflation-adjusted) has largely increased at the same time that more and more of the world adhered to democratic systems. (CONTINUES ON NEXT POST)
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Daniel Almeida
Posted almost 2 years ago
To what extent can an idea be unique?
Part II: Ideas, or better yet, "unique" ideas, have never had such an esteem than in this day and age. The very idea of copyrighting suggests that a "unique" idea is so valuable that one must seek legal grounds to protect the idea and claim it as their own. However, let us use the example of a person that might invent a better lightbulb. Even if this invention might turn out to be the best, most innovative, most extraordinary piece of lighting equipment that may have crossed our plane of existence, the fact is that it is hardly a unique idea. Upon trying to copyright his idea, the so-called inventor might find that the basic format for the glass of his lightbulb has been copyrighted by some Swedish molding firm, while the wiring design used in the lamp is owned by a Chinese electronic firm. While this "inventor" can be credited of being able to synthesize two different pieces to make a whole, the reality remains that his "new idea" simply builds off previously established knowledge. Nonetheless, for those who might argue that there are cases where an extremely elucidated individual might come up with an unique idea, I'd advise the following. That individual wasn't born in his illuminated state; having gone through some resemblance of a system of education, this individual is bound to have encountered pieces to the final puzzle that was his "unique idea." His ability to synthesize vast amounts of knowledge and information is impressive on its own, but it is undeniable that the individual only arrived to his unique idea because of previous knowledge that the human race has built throughout time. Thus, keeping in mind my definition of a unique idea, I would firmly state that a unique idea is as hard to come by as a unicorn, in this case a hybrid-animal that was thought up when someone synthesized the idea of a horn and a horse.
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Daniel Almeida
Posted almost 2 years ago
To what extent can an idea be unique?
Part I: To paraphrase Kirby Ferguson, author and director of "Everything is a Remix," once upon a time, Luca, known as the last universal common ancestor, reproduced, and, over time, as his genes were copied and copied and copied and copied, they transformed such that every one of the billions of species of life on earth can be traced back to him. As troublesome as it might seem, a unique idea–meaning an idea that doesn't base itself off of established cultural, scientific, ideological, educational, and countless other areas' knowledge–is virtually impossible. However, I must take a minute to explain why such a thought isn't as bad as we might imagine. We are all familiar with the concept of evolution. Organisms seek to find combinations of genes that will ensure that the best-adapted forms live on. One could theorize that culture evolves the same way, and the genes, in this case, can be seen as ideas. The implication of this is that humans have been conditioned to behave in such a way that any seemingly "unique" idea is simply building off past established grounds.