On Head vs Heart

I fell in love with Effective Altruism at first sight. Finally! Here was a community who was using cold hard evidence to change the world, instead of basing it on what ‘might’ work.

To me, that represented the best of both head and heart – we have the heart to care, but the head to do it the best we can.

The main thing that I disagree with Effective Altruism on is cause selection. The EA community tends to focus more on poverty and AI because of how neglected they are. I’m an ardent environmentalist, and I don’t think it’ll change anytime soon. I refused to ‘defect’ to these other causes. Is that good? I don’t know. Something tells me that working on environment causes is still going to be more effective for me since I love it so much. Effectiveness depends on how much I will personally commit, too, and I think I can make a good contribution because I’ll commit a lot.

When head and heart work together, we really can change the world.


How to get into Harvard and the Ivy League, Singapore Addendum

Disclaimer: I didn’t, so this is mostly what I would have done better. I don’t know for sure if it works, but I believe that it would have. Take my advice with fistfuls of salt.

I was too late. I only read Allen Cheng’s guide to the Ivies when I was already in the last year of junior college. And along with learning about the superstar effect, where the best get a lot more rewards than the second best, I became more and more convinced that I could have done better. My rejection letters were the final wake-up call for me.

In Singapore, the real problem is our extra curricular activities, and perhaps our essays.

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Excessive Income Inequality: are We Part of the Problem?

I think we might be. Because we want to accumulate wealth for ourselves, we cause other people to not have those resources. Perhaps they need it more, but when we do things to make ourselves better off, do we inevitably make someone else worse off? For example, we got a scholarship, but if someone else who’s poorer needs the scholarship more, doesn’t it mean that we’re depriving them of that scholarship? Aren’t we concentrating even more wealth into our own hands?

An argument I’ve heard against this is that we’re more “socially minded” so we’d spend this wealth better than other people. But that sounds too much like paternalism, and I’m kind of wary of that. And it may be an excuse in the end to spend it on ourselves.

Another case is that it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game – wealth can be created. Everyone can get rich, together, as we create more value. Win-win solution, as they say. In real life, though, the statistics aren’t encouraging.

I guess it boils down to:

1. Work with the system and do it so well that you can use your money to enact change (e.g. buy all the stocks of 1 company and make them change), or

2. Try to “boycott” the system by letting other people take good opportunities. Instead of hogging, have the magnanimity to give it to people who need it more.

Would you rather change the system from the inside out, or from the outside in?

SOP for Interviews

Largely inspired by Ramit Sethi’s work on interview prep. I’m streamlining that down into a “standard operating procedure” to follow.

Before the Interview

1. Background info.

[Especially important for scholarships] For Singapore’s context, read the news a bit more. Read the budget, too. Check out the Industry Transformation Map to see where Singapore’s economy is heading in general.

Also, do some industry research. If you’re going for finance, read up about finance current affairs + what finance actually is. Clear up fuzziness about the topic.

Then, look at the company’s:
i. newsletters, press releases etc. the “media” section
ii. Internal newsletters
iii. Their values and mission
iv. LinkedIn (for step 2)

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Notes from CommaCon’s Conflict Intervention Workshop

I’m referring to this conflict intervention workshop by CommaCon.

Bullyfree: A general resource for bullying

An interesting start to the workshop:
Facilitator listed down values that the participants (us) think is important, then asked us, “what would [that value, eg respect] mean to you particularly?”

In conflict intervention, listen. Listen to what the other party needs. He cited a TedTalk by Ernesto Sirolli (Want to Help Someone? Shut Up and Listen!) as an example.

How do we build trust? Confidentiality. The stories stay in the room.

Continue reading “Notes from CommaCon’s Conflict Intervention Workshop”