Varun Kejriwal

San Francisco, CA, United States

About Varun

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Languages

English, Hindi, Spanish

An idea worth spreading

Lack of self-awareness is the root cause of all of humanity's problems, literally.

I'm passionate about

I am passionate about learning how to make the world a better place. In particular, I believe the best way to do this is through multifaceted, informed discussions and collaborations.

Talk to me about

Connecting people to solve the world's biggest problems, especially those pertaining to social justice

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

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Varun Kejriwal
Posted over 1 year ago
How much of a right do students have to questioning and independent thinking?
It sounds like you are questioning where exactly that balance lies, right? The answer seems contextual, but there is no doubt this it is tough to determine regardless of the context. I think that in a group educational setting, students should definitely be encouraged to understand the material as much as possible, but learn to trust the teacher/book/others when the other student are not learning anything from one student's persistent questioning. With that said, I think it is ultimately the students that never stop asking "why" who end up becoming experts, innovators, and trailblazers in their field and who end up pushing the boundaries of what we know as a species. For example, we were once taught that electrons, neutrons, and protons were the smallest subatomic particles. If every student, in previous group setting, trusted the teacher after offered that conclusion, nobody would have never discovered fermions, bosons, quarks, etc (except maybe by accident, which they may have in a parallel universe). My point, which I think is just an extended form of Don and Linda's, is that questioning in the group setting should be encouraged up to the point where others students would not benefit. Outside of the group setting, they should be allowed to question without limit. In that case, the capacity to individually understand, the capacity of the collective human knowledge, and/or physical limitations become the only obstacles to finding the answers.
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Varun Kejriwal
Posted over 1 year ago
Karen Thompson Walker: What fear can teach us
To add to what a few others have mentioned - it is incredible that the human brain can make sense of such complex situations and problems, but that our fear tends to elicit such a short-sighted, almost knee-jerk, reaction to situations of stress or lack of control. For example, we have all either experienced or heard of others who have difficulty falling asleep for a certain period of time after watching scary movies. Why is it that this fear only comes about after we watch the movie? As an extension of Karen Thompson's point - this happens because our imaginations are acutely charged with vivid images that cause us to feel the fear of what might happen to us. It does not matter how illogical it is to prepare for your floorboard to turn into a hand that grabs your foot as you search for a glass of water in the middle of the night, the vivid imagery that we have recently "seen" tends to override the significance of long-term logic and experience in the governance of our emotions. I have a feeling this has something to do with the disproportionately large amount of brain-space devoted to visual imagery. In other words, since we can, at least in the short-term, hold images more strongly then the feeling of other senses or even constructed thoughts, maybe we are by default more likely to bring them into our risk assessment. What do you think? What I find even more interesting is how, over the course of time, this fear dissipates (for most people). I think that Karen Thompson would suggest that our scientific analysis of our fear would chip away at the artistic imagery that we were initially charged with. For others who actually experience real-life traumatic events, the scientific logic would take a bit more time to dissolve the imagery of what happened. I guess this is where a balance of artistic imagery and scientific analysis would facilitate the most productive response.
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Varun Kejriwal
Posted over 1 year ago
Education "vouchers" solve the fiscal crisis, and also lead to economic recovery?
On TED Lover's point about paying for education: Although tying monetary gain to education does not sit well with me either, the public option works the same way, just indirectly. We pay taxes and states fund schools. Money will always be necessary to maintain educational organizations. Also, Petar's model avoids the problems of for-profit educations when you consider that it could include non-profit organizations such as TED. By privatizing public or non-profit education, there is a great potential for better education. As an example - KIPP schools around the country are private and non-profit, but are flipping the graduation and college entrance stats in areas with typically "less successful" stats (determining what success means is another issue in and of itself). Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems implicit in Petar's idea that the $8000 would be enough to cover a decent education at for-profit or non-profit education, as long as the free market had enough people working to figure out what works and what doesn't work fairly quickly. On standards: Government standards can be deceptive. So what if out students are a little bit worse at math, what if what they sacrifice in math scores is made up for by proficiency in a more subjective field like history? Broad standards tend to focus on numbers, because they are easier to measure, which in my opinion undermines the other areas which are just as, if not more, valuable. For example, history can teach values that create more globally empathetic and compassionate people. Standards should be left for the people to decide in a free market since they can decide what works and what doesn't work, even in the more ambiguous subjects. On materials: I look forward to more free, interactive, communal online educational materials. More accessibility and greater/potentially international collaboration will have infinitely valuable consequences!
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Varun Kejriwal
Posted over 1 year ago
If there is so much aid in developing countries, why poverty is increasing in these regions and the industrialized world?
Here is an interesting article that categorizes foreign aid, to an extent, and compiles research on the effects of each type: http://www.stanford.edu/group/sjir/pdf/Aid_11.1.pdf One of the main conclusions is that aid to an infrastructure-poor country is more likely to exacerbate poverty, whereas aid to an infrastructure-rich country has a better chance of alleviating it. Personally, I think that these further characterizations of aid are necessary to understand this question, since the word "aid" itself doesn't really mean anything except an action with the intent to help. A more open-minded, comparative, and iterative approach to the consequences of aid seems like it would facilitate precise and effective aid. Esther Duflo talks about this in her TED Talk as well: http://blog.ted.com/2010/05/03/social_experime/ Aside from the ethical questions surrounding aid-based experimentation, thinking about aid and implementing it more dynamically would be like finding and going to a physician who specializes in your disease versus going to a random physician and expecting him/her make you feel better.
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Varun Kejriwal
Posted over 1 year ago
What are your New Year's resolutions?
I tend to share Arkady's sentiment. Although the influence of an objective time interval might help us with our goals, I feel that working on the core of our motivation (whether that means finding out exactly what motivates us or working on the indirect factors that mitigate our motivation) can be exponentially more powerful. This reminds me of the "Lean Startup Methodology." My understanding is that with this process, start up companies commit to a path of continuous improvement that includes frequent tweaks to the mission and goals. Several small tech companies swear by it, and I believe that its power comes from developing the core of a team's motivation to constantly improve. Unrelated external situations (such as the turn of the year) are not the catalysts of this drive. I'm not suggesting that we avoid deeper reflection if the new year compels us to take some time for it, but rather that maybe we should strive to become more reflective on a more consistent basis. With that said...I am still striving quite a bit :). The new year does have an influence on me, but I have not come up with an objective resolution. I'll post it if I do!