Opinions without Names Attached: MIT Communities

In this post, I share my generalized thoughts towards 22 different living communities at MIT, from my experiences interacting with them, without explicitly labeling the descriptions with which community I’m sharing my thoughts on. (This, hopefully, helps dodge influence of judgment in people who aren’t themselves familiar with the described communities.)

1. Reckless and bold. In it to make things interesting by force. Usually consider their brazen attitude towards life positively, yet consistently feel too sketched out to get my personal self involved in their activities. Most of the time smile at the presence of their attitude, but occasionally feel it is too much and hard to stop.

2. Good with the rebellious and anti-establishment spirit, but that’s pretty much it. Mostly people yelling and circlejerking rather than actually doing anything. If more of them would actually bother to get themselves involved in processes rather than just complain about the incompetence of people actually doing the work, maybe they would get more of what they want and maybe people would have more sympathy for them.

3. A beautiful balance of wholesomeness and silliness. Community generally has a great collective sense of humor. Only sometimes gets too carried away with it.

4. Community constantly in search of ways to make there not be nice things. Makes fun of other communities all the time, yet when others make fun of them, complain about how the joke’s not funny and only they should get to make fun of themselves (and of course, others). Has several people that don enough levels of irony to irony-stack overflow. Loves to take a concept where there isn’t a clearly defined boundary of starting when things are not okay and pushing just a tad bit more into uncool territory than everyone else does. Has some members that are nice people to get to know as individuals.

5. Eccentric but cool community. Unfortunately many of its members are hard to get to know, let alone become friends with. Some of the things they do I still don’t really understand.

6. One of the greatest celebrations of nerdiness, a floor that goes far both with exhibiting the awesomeness of nerds and self-aware making fun of the derpiness of nerds. Has respectable dedication to what they bring to the overall community, and carries down ridiculously good running jokes. One of my favorite communities at MIT.

7. A community trying to jump onto the bandwagon of cool rebelliousness, and actually has done pretty well so far. Has slipped up from time to time, and also has had to deal with certain things, but quite has everything together now. Glad they exist.

8. Too small to be much of a community. Sometimes feel sorry for them due to other communities using their space and not taking care of it enough.

Continue reading “Opinions without Names Attached: MIT Communities”


The word “fair” is problematic.

In discussions on fairness, particularly in discussions about social justice, the assertion that an evaluation of fairness is absolute is increasingly prevalent. In the modern landscape, it seems there is an ever-enlarging population of people unwilling to admit that what constitutes fairness could be rather unclear, many making stronger assertions that one has certainly considered all factors there really are to consider in evaluating the fairness of a decision.

I will attempt to make some points in the general, rather than across specific situations and threads of discussion, that are intended as thought experiments for the purpose of analogy. There are multiple questions to evaluate in these situations: What is actually fair? Can multiple solutions be considered fair? Is the fairest solution actually the best solution? What principles are our decisions based on such that this question is answered in this fashion but another otherwise?

Here’s the problem to consider.

There are n people, and nk units of food. What is a fair distribution of the food among these n people?

If your answer is “each person gets k units of food”, my next question is “in all situations?”

What if some of the n people are genetically predisposed to continue feeling hungry until they’ve eaten a noticeably greater amount of food than others?

In this event, distributing the food evenly does give everyone a fair exact quantity of food, but is not a fair distribution from the perspective of the degree to which each individual’s dietary needs are fulfilled.

What if some of the n people are genetically predisposed such that k units of food aren’t even enough to keep them alive, but a substantially larger quantity will?

What if one of the n people is genetically predisposed such that the amount of food necessary to keep them alive is so high that if their need was fulfilled someone else will not be able to stay alive?

What if, instead of genetic predisposition, a certain lifestyle choice, totally in an individual’s control, causes someone to need a greater amount of food? Do they deserve to not get their needs fulfilled because it is their fault?

What if both genetic predisposition and controllable lifestyle choice could cause someone to need a greater amount of food, and the current tools of science cannot reliably pinpoint the cause?

What if the probability ratios of the two were 99.9% and 0.1%, or 0.1% and 99.9%?

How likely is it that this is the case and science has not discovered the 0.1% yet?

What if both genetic predisposition and controllable lifestyle choice could cause someone to need a greater amount of food, and the current tools of science can actually reliably pinpoint the cause; should we now deploy these tools?

What if a lifestyle choice causes the need for a greater amount of food, but an individual who made such a lifestyle choice in the past did not have the education to understand the ramifications of the lifestyle choice?

And if this matters, how does one determine whether someone had the education to understand these ramifications?

What if a scientific study publishes that there exist no genetic predispositions that cause individuals to need greater amounts of food, but an individual claims that they have such a predisposition anyway?

What if the total amount of food that there is to distribute among n people is such that evenly distributed, everyone will not have enough to stay alive, but feeding only a smaller set of the n people, they could live?

How would you choose which people are in this smaller set, if you choose the latter option?

Suppose there were two types of food, but one type is substantially more expensive than the other type. One group of people prefers the cheaper type of food, whereas one group of people prefers the more expensive type of food. What is the right thing to when:

1) The society has just enough resources to satisfactorily feed the first group the cheap type of food, and to feed the second group the expensive type of food?

2) The society has enough resources to satisfactorily feed everyone the cheap type of food, but not enough to feed the second group the expensive type of food?

3) The society doesn’t even have enough resources to satisfactorily feed everyone the cheap type of food?

How does the right decision change if the second group of people were genetically intolerant to the first type of food (say, an allergy)?

How does the right decision change when the first group of people slightly prefers the second type of food?

In the case of an allergy, does this change depending on what sort of an allergy this is, that is, life-threatening, illness-inducing, just a few rashes?

I often hear conversations about fairness that seem oblivious even to the second question on this list. I do hope this does not become the norm of discourse.

Expanded Overthinking on Elevator Usage

I’ve previously talked about choices regarding elevators in this post.

Many of you have probably experienced or can understand the feeling of being minutely judged upon accidentally hitting the button for the wrong floor on the elevator and/or the feeling of minutely judging someone who you saw pushing the button for the wrong floor.

Today, as I entered an elevator in the MIT student center, alone, I accidentally pressed the wrong destination floor. As no one else was in the elevator, I corrected myself. (See the above link for why I might not have corrected myself otherwise; this situation reduces to the “a nearby floor was already called” case.) As the elevator headed up, I thought about what I would’ve done if at the moment, someone else was rushing to enter the elevator.

I might have actually let the elevator doors close instead of holding them, from embarrassment that I’ve pushed the wrong elevator button. This is arguably not the most commendable action, but I may have justified it to myself with an argument that entering the elevator may very well have not been the best choice for them as my incorrect elevator button push would have contributed to unnecessary time-inefficiency in their travel, and thus the other elevator might have been faster. This justification, sadly, reeks of an issue that seems analogous to the Gettier response to the “justified true belief” definition of knowledge: it seems that we’re really asserting a justification that happens to coincide with truth about the relative acceptability of letting the elevator doors close to an elevator whose ride is likely to visit an extraneous floor (it’s not even destined to visit an extraneous floor: that floor may well have been the floor of interest to the hypothetical person-rushing-in).

It is curious to consider these options, as much as this is an issue of very tiny importance in the grand scheme of life; it could encapsulate the ideas behind choices in decisions that matter much more.

On a higher level, elevator button-pushes really should just be revocable before fulfillment.

(On an even higher level of consideration, floor buttons shouldn’t be inside the elevator cars in the first place; a set should exist outside the elevator on each floor it services. This has actually been implemented, but the force of tradition led to people finding this awkward enough that they managed to successfully resist a better system.)

State of the Liberal Media

Dear Liberal Media Outlets,

You can’t expect to be effective making half your output about how Trump was serious about his disturbing promises and the other half about how whimsically Trump threw away his promises. Pick a side of it and prove your point. As things are, you’re only helping fence-sitters get convinced that you really are more interested in cherry-picking opportunities to smear Donald Trump than in presenting a coherent honest journalistic corpus. This is your battle to lose; you have quite some territory of trust to win back.


Someone Who Wishes You Realize You Deserve Better

Let’s See, What Have I Done For SIPB

Yesterday, a certain member of SIPB has accused me of never having contributed anything productive to SIPB. The effect of the outrage of the moment aside, let’s consider this claim, in case people had doubts.

What have I done for SIPB?

Let’s start with serving as Treasurer for a year. I helped people get reimbursed for their events for the board, and I fulfilled office supply requests when they were made. In addition to this, I am currently in my third semester serving as Member at Large.

I have presided over 8 meetings. I have taken minutes for 14 meetings. Both of these are despite never having been elected Chair or Secretary.

I co-organized SIPB’s 45th Reunion with the help of…just kidding, both my co-organizers ditched the effort, so for a substantial time, I was single-handedly organizing SIPB’s 45th Reunion. Fortunately, on the day-of, the Reunion was saved from understaffed disaster due to the wonderful help of A. Carney (as well as some contributions from one of the alums attending the event, J. Kamens). In addition to this, J. Dove credits me upon my nomination for helping with the former year’s LibrePlanet, but I would honestly say that what I helped with there was insignificant enough to not necessarily deserve mentioning, though I appreciate the callout.

Although I must credit M. Ong for the bulk of the work, I contributed to building sipb-door.mit.edu, helping prospective members, visitors, and people seeking computer help evaluate an empirical likelihood that the office will be staffed at a time of day.

I wrote the mu script for easy piping to zsr, which M. Young later developed into his sipb-play script.

I have numerously contributed to the spreading of technical knowledge for SIPB. I have instructed for SIPB IAP as well as Cluedumps, multiple times, including “Introduction to Athena”, which helps orient students with MIT’s computing environment. I have more than once taught for a Cluedump, and afterwards helped file a reimbursement for L. Foner, dedicated Cluedumps organizer who among other things provides food for Cluedumps, thus contributing to SIPB multifacetedly in the same day.

The frequency with which I have worked in the SIPB office has led to me helping dozens of members of the MIT community with computing help, including both people walking in and people calling the office on the phone. Although I have often been unable to answer their questions, I have definitely became more able to as time went on and have been otherwise usually able to redirect them to someone helpful.

Continue reading “Let’s See, What Have I Done For SIPB”

Categories MIT


As I was in the shower today, I suddenly thought of a certain set of pictures that spread through the internet a few times: roads with “SHCOOL” painted on them, pointed out as a demonstration of the failure of our school systems (or of the individual that painted it).

But here’s a thought: what if the person painting “SHCOOL” just wanted to spread the idea that school can be cool (as opposed to a chore, which certainly most kids view it as, unless kids these days are that different)?

They’d of course be mistaken. School isn’t cool. Learning is cool. School deprives you of learning.

But we could start using the term “shcool” to refer to a learning institution or organization that helps its members and others to understand the actually important things in life, the term symbolically reflecting the fact that slightly misspelling a word like “school” to “shcool” is really not a major detriment to communication (maybe you’d have issues running a computer search (say, a `find` or a `grep`) on a file for instances of the term “school”, but if you were on a computer, why didn’t you run a spell checker?), nor does it actually mean the misspeller is incapable of understanding Things That Actually Matter. Maybe of shcool and school, we can make school be the mistake.

A Round of Extraordinary Luck at LearnedLeague

The first MiniLeague that I decided to participate in was the Just Images Maps league, since, well, I love maps. The second round of the MiniLeague went ridiculously well for me in that I answered 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 correctly when I only legitimately knew the answer to 5.




This was probably the least ridiculous of my guesses. I knew what the idea behind the map was, that it shows what would’ve happened if land reclaimed from the sea was reflooded; I just didn’t know what the agents of water blockage were called (levees?). After a lot of weighing options, I decided to guess dikes because I often hear that word in association with the Netherlands and I guessed it sounded like the sort of thing that would function as a levee.



I’m definitely not familiar with a map of this sort, but this just looked like a rock face, so I guessed rock climbing. Well.



I had no clue what this was, but it looked like a museum. I literally just randomly guessed a museum for which I did not know what its floorplan was like. Turns out, this was in fact a Guggenheim Museum.



I only knew the names of so many aviators. I decided to guess one of them, Amelia Earhart. Turns out, one of these was indeed Amelia Earhart.



This was the only of the five questions I got right where I actually straight-up knew the answer: Biafra.



Ah, tricky question. This one’s a good puzzle.