Chris Ke-Sihai

Speculative Thinker, Enspyre
Sofia, Bulgaria

About Chris

Bio

After ten years "by the board" in Taiwan, I'm now a digital nomad - travelling the world and making things up as I go along. There's plenty of work to do online and in meatspace, so I'm as busy as I want to be.

Usually spending my summers in Bulgaria recently, and loving it here.

Languages

Chinese, English, French, German

Areas of Expertise

Telling stories, EFL ESL Design, Development and Teaching, Sales & Sales Training, Sailing, Joomla, Startup Founder

An idea worth spreading

the idea you don't have to wait for someone else to solve your problems

I'm passionate about

Better ways of doing things. Everything. I want to live in a clean, low-threat environment, which means changing the way the world does just about everything. Start with language, our primary tool.

Talk to me about

1. The relationship between The Art of War, Leonardo daVinci, and improvised comedy.
2. Startups
3. International living & Lifestyle design
4. Pretty much anything else, especially sailing.

People don't know I'm good at

thinking of answers to strange questions.

My TED story

I was a huge fan of TED for a long time, and eventually became a TEDx curator in Taiwan. After three events, the magic started to wear off and the phrase "opportunity cost" started to feature in conversations about what's next.

After leaving Taiwan to travel again, someone said to me one day "I'm bored with TED talks, they're all the same..." and I realised that I need to spend more time doing things than hearing about things.

Still love you guys, but don't have as much time for you as I once did!

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted about 2 months ago
Glenn Greenwald: Why privacy matters
Something not mentioned in this talk is "how safe is the information collected?" Once the NSA, or Google, or whoever, knows all about you, how do you know that someone else won't steal that information and use it for bad purposes? Edward Snowden stole masses of sensitive information. Are you totally 100% certain that nobody else could ever do the same thing again? Is this the only time in history that your data has been hacked? Will it be the last? Technology is rapidly advancing to the point where I could take your photo on the street, do an image search, identify you, find your Facebook profile, and so on. Combine that information with everything else that is collected about you, and I could follow you home and rape/rob/murder you when I know you will be alone, then clean out your bank account and claim ownership of your car, home, and identity. Do you really want all that information out there and accessible to the bad people?
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted almost 3 years ago
Daniel Goldstein: The battle between your present and future self
Did nobody else notice that this talk was given with the logo of a funds management company on the screen, and has an ad for the same company at the end? He is talking about ways to convince people to "save," by which he means to put money into the investments offered by the sponsor, on the assumption that those investments will pay off. This is a marketing tool, designed to influence behaviour for the benefit of people selling investment opportunities.
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted almost 3 years ago
Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!
Great answer! Thanks. Will the rest of the world tolerate me doing this? Is there space for me to pursue an alternative lifestyle? It sounds like we need everyone to sign up before it could work. So, how do you/we sell this idea to the 7 billion people who are busy taking what they can?
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted almost 3 years ago
Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!
Nathan, I think I would agree with you about the history and direction of economic thought. No argument there. However, I define economics as the study of incentives. People are not always rational about the incentives they choose, but they still respond to incentives. Diagnostincs and prediction are tricky, as even a basic understanding of chaos theory shows us that all complex systems are inherently unpredictable. That's why we don't know what the weather will be next weeek, or what the stock market is going to do. However, by recognising the limits of our knowlegde, we can make better decisions. A lot of modern economics is based on the assumption that we know enough already. We don't worry about the long-term global impacts of our actions, nor do we worry about our own exposure to harm from the wider system. Our economics is not adequate for the task of building a better world. Pavan is arguing that we need to be more aware. If you think of economics in narrow terms, money and exploitation, you ignore the other possibilities. Economics can treat time as a currency, happiness, stress, CO2, diversity, anything that can be measured can be managed in the same way as the economy - and at the moment, we're doing it all very badly because the incentives systems are too restricted in their thinking. They don't recognise the bigger picture. Pavan is saying that we should improve the system. I don't know what you're proposing instead. What do you want the world to do? I live in a city of ten million people, all of them are polluting like crazy. Pavan is offering a road map to solve that problem. If you have a better idea, I would love to hear it. What change are you proposing that can be implemented tomorrow? You appear to be suggesting that we should just abandon civilisation. OK, how do we do it, and where do we go? I'm not very impressed with the state of the world. Give me an alternative. What's the plan?
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted almost 3 years ago
Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!
Hi Nathan. (This site doesn't make it easy to reply directly, but this is a follow-on to enlightened self-interest and ethics.) You're right that economic rationalism might dictate that we don't play with our kids. I teach in Taiwan, and parents work long hours to earn money to send their kids to classes, so that the kids can take care of them when they are old. Kids are an investment, and there is little love or even emotional awareness. From an evolutionary perspective, this does not matter. Having kids, and enabling them to survive until they can raise the next generation, is the only thing that matters. Nature doesn't care if the old people die in poverty, or whether the kids are happy. On the other hand, if you can demonstrate that playing with your kids in the park gives them some benefit that increases their chances of reproducing successfully, enlightened self-interest dictates that parents should find the time. Over many generations, the population that does this will be more successful, but this is not ethics. Can you think of any other reason to play with kids that is consistent with a purely evolutionary perspective? What is the 'cost' of not doing so? How is it measured? If you can't measure it, how can I understand what it is or why it's important? It is apparently your opinion that people should play baseball with their kids, but how are you going to persuade millions of parents that you're right and they are wrong? It's just your opinion vs theirs. This is ethics. For the record, I agree with you. But we can't impose our view on others just because they disagree with us about what is important. As a counter-example, I believe that religion is a human construct with no basis in fact. However, I have to concede (unwillingly) that the existence of religion appears to have played a beneficial role in our development. Why no great atheist empires? Religion seems to confer an evolutionary advantage, much as it annoys me to admit it.
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted almost 3 years ago
Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!
Economics doesn't have an ethic. It's a tool, which we can use however we like. Modern corporatism is broken. The profit motive, in companies which are run by people who don't own them, leads to all sorts of crimes. I think this is what you're referring to. But this is not economics, and it's not even capitalism. Adam Smith lived in a pre-industrial economy. His capitalism was founded in the idea of the common good, and he saw powerful corporations as the biggest danger to that common good. He was an economist, developing tools to help us understand why things happen. His conclusions was that together we can work it all out as long as nobody becomes too powerful. Marx, another economist, also hated big corporations. He lived in the industrial era when individuals were crushed by big business. His attempts to understand and reform the system led to new ideas about economics, but not the end of economics. Economics is the study of why things happen, to say that it doesn't work is like saying that biology doesn't work because it creates syphillis and politicians. Ethics is about value judgements. We need them in our economics. And in our capitalism. But it's important to understand the difference between economics, capitalism, and the modern corporate state that uses flawed economics to suppress real capitalism.
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted almost 3 years ago
Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!
Hmm, are you saying that ethics is simply enlightened self-interest? That would mean it's OK to destroy all other life if that's what it takes to ensure our own survival. From a strictly evolutionary standpoint, that would make sense. But I don't imagine many ethicists would agree. Fortunately, we live in a world where we don't have to make that choice. Our survival depends on recognising that we are just a small part of the system and need to work with it rather than against it. For me, that means recognising the real costs of our actions. Nothing is free, there is a price to pay to Planet Eart plc, the company from which we steal our raw materials and dumping ground for our waste. Our modern economics doesn't do that. But the point of the speech is that we can choose to, if we're smart enough. Money is a very clumsy tool, and there is room for a lot of improvement, but the central argument that we need to account for what we consume still stands. CO2, for instance, is a measurable commodity. So is temperature. The relationship between them has been understood for nearly 200 years, but these factors were not included in the accounting systems that developed with the industrial era. I don't think anyone is saying this is OK. If they are measured, they can be managed, because companies (should be the end consumers) will have to bear the full costs of their economic activity. It would become cheaper NOT to pollute. Compare with the first settlers in Australia, who burnt down the forests and hunted many of the native animals to extinction, and then invented mythologies to explain the state of the world. This fashionable "blame the colonists" talk hides the fact that most of the human race has always taken what it wanted and dumped its garbage without thought for the consequences. It's only when scientists and accountants start measuring things that we know what is going on.
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted almost 3 years ago
Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!
Nathan, my other reply to your comment didn't address the core issue in this conversation. You don't see any need to bring systems thinking into an ethical problem. I think the speech was about systems thinking, simply don't believe there is any reason to bring 'ethics' into a discussion about complex systems. You and I have different world pictures. I made the mistake of trying to impose my world picture, without acknowledging yours. That's not going to work, just as arguing with me about ethics is not going to achieve anything. We simply have no common ground for discussion. Where do we go from here? A wise person (probably a woman) once said "seek to understand before you seek to be understood." So how do we create a situation where dialogue can take place? How do you achieve understanding of the core belief system behind Pavan's speech, if you're adamant that we should be talking about ethics? How can I understand your ethical argument if I don't see the relevance of right/wrong to a discussion about systems? Being angry, or trying to 'prove' one of us is 'wrong' isn't going to achieve anything. We both need to understand the other's point of view if we're going to make any progress.
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted almost 3 years ago
Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!
It's not priceless. I am not religious. There are no ethics. There is only nature. A lump of rock is no more or less priceless than a wetland or a human being or a river or a deposit of uranium. They simply exist, without value. Things eat other things, they consume and excrete, they reproduce and when they reproduce they sometimes make mistakes. This creates diversity, leading to new ways to consume, excrete and reproduce. With enough complexity, everything is useful, and you can achieve a kind of balance. In fact, the balance is illusory. This planet's average temperature varies over the centuries and millenia. The composition of the atmosphere, even the length of the day, they all change with time. Nothing is forever. It's not clockwork, it's chaos with uncertainty bulit into the heart of it. That's the world we live in, and there are no gods or absolute values. There is only "that which works." You are the product of evolution, which is a nice way of saying that survivors survive and everything else perishes. Insoffar as you have any duty, your duty is to survive. In fact, it is to ensure that you reproduce, then you can die and nature won't care. That's all there is. Your ethics are merely self-justification. We're not stewards of the Earth, we are no better or worse than any other species and we have as much "right" to consume as every other - from the bacteria to the whales. Personally, I believe that the best survival strategy is to try and understand the system and work with it. Instead of believing we can take whatever we want, we need to recognise the impacts and limits, and take steps to bring our own behavious into line with the requirements for our own survival - that is to see ourselves as part of a diverse ecosystem that needs to be respected. If any given resource is taken without regard for the real cost, we all lose. You can quantify it, objectively, or you can rely on vague subjective 'ethics'.
231761
Chris Ke-Sihai
Posted about 3 years ago
Pavan Sukhdev: Put a value on nature!
A good place to start may be a simple rehabilitation fund. Everyone puts in, maybe in some proportion to their profits or consumption of resources, and the money goes to rehabilitation of the damage already done. As we get a better idea of what it costs, the amount companies have to contribute can be adjusted. Trouble is, it would need to be a global scheme. Like every other attempt to solve global problems, it won't work because national governments will seek special benefits, in order to attract or keep investment. Companies will play at "regulatory arbitrage" to find the cheapest place to build their projects.