When you know something

When do you choose action when you’ve the knowledge? For example, when you know that your boss is saying something that is wrong to the client, when do you choose to correct him (or her)? What would you say?

What about when you know that you’re generating more trash by using the disposable takeaway container, or the cutlery? How about when you actually have a reusable container to use but wonder if it’s worth the effort to wash it? How do you balance your knowledge with your actions?

For far too long, we recognise that awareness and knowledge is the first step. But then getting from this first step to the point of action where it really makes an impact seem like a mystery. Psychologist probably had less luck figuring this out than marketers and social media platforms. The world’s most intractable problems are not to be solved through knowledge but action – how much would knowledge spur action, and how the mechanism works remains much of a mystery. But whatever we discover that we can do, why don’t we direct it towards helping to drive positive action towards the most challenging problems that mankind faces?

When you don’t know something

When you don’t know something, what is your response? It depends very much on whether you expected yourself to know it. As it turns out, when you don’t expect yourself to know it, you’d happily confess not knowing. But when you expect yourself to know it, then you’d often times get angry. It is usually at yourself, but then you’ll soon direct that at the questioner. How dare he or she question you on that?

Or, even if you confess you don’t know, you’d question the intention of the question. Or express surprise, thinking that should be something the questioner don’t ask, or would have to figure out themselves.

So when you’re new at work and you don’t know a tonne of stuff, do you lash at people when you’re embarrassed about things you don’t know and feel so vulnerable? Do you confess you don’t know and encourage others to help you?

How you respond when you don’t know something critically affects your ability to grow. The more you cover up what you don’t know and try to learn on the side, the more you have to be defensive, impatient, angry and resentful. And the more you’re able to cover up and pick things up on your own, the more isolated, alienated and resentful. So you have to choose how you want to grow when you don’t know – to be alone and proud of yourself; or to be surrounded by helpful souls and lifelong friends?

Bad memory, good understanding

I had a bad memory and in school I was never quite able to cram for examinations. I found memorisation a complete chore and whenever I had to remember something, it was important that I found something already in my memory to associate it with so as to bond the materials better to my mind.

It turned out that this exercise from young did two things for me. One is that it caused me to develop an interest for learning and genuine understanding when confronted with something new. Since I wasn’t able to retain much in my mind, what I did, I kept them for much longer than everyone else. And I had to develop my own reasons and purpose for wanting to put something into my memory since they were usually stored longer term. And the other was that it gave me a method that allowed my memory capacity to accelerate as I learnt more.

The second point requires a bit more explanation. When I recall things by associating the new information with something already in my mind, I’m actually causing the web of my knowledge to be denser. When a piece of information stands alone, it is easily forgotten. But when you connect it with other information, it suddenly becomes more memorable.

Take for example you meet a guy and he tells you he is 23 years old, then says nothing further. Your memory of him is reinforced by how he sounded, his clothes, hairstyle and perhaps handshake. But if he also tells you that his Mum is a widow, and he had gone to college in Boston, you might actually take all these pieces of information, form even more associations and once you meet him, you’d be able to recall him better than if he had not shared the additional information.

If you’re good at quick wins, you might miss out the opportunity and the grounding to get the harder wins. So when the quick wins are exhausted, you find yourself poorly positioned to make any further wins.


This is an article draft penned some time in 2008 reflecting the style and content of my earlier writings driven by my intellectual passion for education and pursuit of knowledge.

Social Scientists are plagued with this particular divide that is non-existent in the word of Arts and Science. Well, there are cases of particularly weird arts-science mix of beings like Euler, who, as one of the greatest Mathematician, devoted substantial time trying to introduce mathematical notations for music and in essence, mix everything music and mathematics up. It’s as if vector geometry and complex number’s correspondence, but this time, things just get a little more complicated as more of our senses becomes involved in the concoction. But Euler is really rare, and he cleaned almost the entire realm of mathematics of quirky symbols that everyone everywhere would not agree upon and introduced the whole idea of ‘functions’ and it’s notations, without which, we may not be even able to learn programming language because of the sheer complexity of the machine codes kind of ideas.

Pardon me for the introduction that seem to have absolutely no link with the title itself, but in all, I was attempting to demonstrate that there are poetic social scientist who sees humans as being somewhat divine and miraculous and studies the non-mechanical, the purpose-fixed aspects of humans, stuff like aggregate ontology (if there’s even such thing) or philosophies that involves questioning of functions, fundamental reason. For me, I prefer to look into the observable patterns, and the parallels between science and humans themselves, and how laws that govern nature often has its twin doing similar things for the humans. These laws, when stripped to its barest level, is as good as a gravitation acceleration constant – absolutely meaningless. I therefore, must propose this idea of segmenting the human world into 2 layers – 1) Before Reason – the layer void of reason, like molecular interactions, the existence, and many questions that philosophers can debate for another millennium and fail to obtain answers for, all the laws that govern things before human participation, and 2) After Reason – the layer of purpose, where we can explain things after making some assumptions and ignoring the previous layer. For example, when we ask why he went to the post office, we are satisfied with the answer that ‘He went there to get some stamps for his friend’. In that sense, we ignore all the layers beneath, like why his friend need stamps, why is he the one getting it, and if his friend can’t get it, why, and if his friend is attending some functions, why is he doing so and this goes on up to a point like, ‘why is he in this world’, and even further, why his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents exist’. This asymptotic line of reason is the transition to the previous layer, where there’s absolutely no point of explaining things, and not possible anyway.

That was a preamble to thinking about things, and I have chosen to express the above concepts in a more mathematical, and scientific way so that it aids understanding. In any case, I have selected certain laws that are throwing their weight around the scientific realm to explain social sciences, and here, I shall be elucidating the effect of intervention of nature’s equilibria.

Rant on Standards

This is a blog entry from a while back that reflects some teenage ambitions and angst at oneself for falling behind. The context is no longer clear even to the author but reflects the drive and intellectual passion of my youth. It is interesting however, to see a reference to God (with G in caps) even when I was not yet a Christian.

Lots of frustration tied up in my mind because of the sudden deviation of my standards from those of whom I have been pacing. This spells disaster because I am already not catching up with the rest of the world and a hell lot of people thinks I am doing well. Apparently the graph is beginning to taper, signaling that it seems God’s will to confine me within the narrow abilities that I now seem to possess. I seriously have not reached the limit yet, at least I believe that’s not my limit. I should convince myself that this is just a stalling time for another ‘great leap forward’ in the path. The worry is that this leap will not come in time to save me from the crisis I have plunged into starting from March. It is an absolute, steady decline in both performance and perseverance.

It is perhaps time for some sort of change, more commitment perhaps? Somehow there’s this limit to the proportion of effort I can force into academic activities. As long as my total effort put into my life is expanding, this academic nonsense will expand. So by taking up more commitments, I am just driving myself into some hyper-work mode that will eventually force me to work harder for everything. For now, it appears that I am not busy enough.