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Sunday, February 16, 2020

The lies we have been told

Initially, I thought of writing an article titled "things I wish I had known five years earlier" but honestly speaking most of them I had already known. Also, this article is intentionally written in Hinglish so to have a more realistic feel with the narrative.

Disclaimer: Views can be biased, keep your own judgment with you while reading it.

1.) CGPA 

I vividly remember my seniors giving this advice to me "agar job chahiye toh cg matter nahi karta but research me jaana hai toh kam se kam 8 lana padega". Everyone nodded their head in agreement as if no truer words had ever been spoken before.

For the next five years every time during the exams I asked myself the purpose of "hacking" the previous years' question paper so that I could repeat the same process during examination Hall.  Well, ideally this shouldn't have been the case. Ideally, learning should be equivalent to scoring high marks in an exam. But that's not the case. Not for anyone.

Experience tells us that the best way to study for an examination is to make the list of probable things that will come in the exam, understand them, practice enough problems to cover the range of expected questions and deliver during the examination. The problem with hacking the question paper is that knowledge often is retained just for the duration of the examination, and even if you remember parts of it later, the breadth and depth of the topic is somewhere lost. So clearly examinations aren't the best way to test if a person is learning something or not and yet we tend to study the most just before a test. Hence, order to increase the growth rate in learning there needs to be examination conducted.

You solve previous year paper, you can pass the exam. You solve the previous 5 year papers, you get a distinction. You solve the previous 10 year papers you can probably help the teacher set the question paper for your batch. The only way one can make the tests unhackable is not to increase the difficulty level of the exams (as is assumed by many) but to make them optional. If we are not compelled to study something, we won't do it out of pressure but we will do it for a higher belief system, thus ensuring contentment with our learning experience. Now, keeping students engaged and interested all the time would require newer initiatives and creative solutions in approaches to teaching which is indeed a hard task to accomplish, and I do not think it is right thing to blame teachers for that (Note that I am presenting this point of view just to discard it later is because many of the students believe in it) but instead, make CGPA matter way less than it already does. CGPA should be a metric to guide students rather than a fail-safe mechanism of promotion/demotion. Just like how a gym trainer guides its' incubees. They advise them on follow up course of action depending on the individual requirements rather than kick them out of the gym.

“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” ― Richard Feynmann

2.) Happiness 

In the last 50 years(1970-2020), we have seen the advent of technology, and very few deaths because of famine/wars as compared to the previous 50 years (1900-1970). Fewer humans are dying because of starvation. More and more people have access to basic needs such as roti, kapda and makaan. Yet suicides rates are through the roof. Before 1950, suicide rates in countries such as Japan, New Zealand and France was one in 100,000 but today it has increased to a whopping 25 people in 100,000. The reason is pretty simple when economic prosperity happens, expectations ballon. People don't get depressed because of external happenings but from failures internally. Going forward into the century even if the government provides free food for all, cure us of all diseases, ensure world peace, free electricity and internet access to all, it will probably ballon the expectations that people have from themselves, thus leading to more misery.  According to John Stuart Mill "happiness is nothing but pleasure and freedom from pain, and that beyond pleasure and pain there is no good and no evil. Anyone who tries to deduce good and evil from something else (such as the word of God, or the national interest) is fooling you, and perhaps fooling himself too". So, we are biologically entitled to increase our pleasant sensations, the problem is pleasant sensations are like a drug that needs to upgraded with every high you have. Let's assume you feel high after eating a dessert you have craved for long. You end up having it on a regular basis, you won't feel the same high in your second, third eatings. You will crave for more. You will crave for a better dessert and that search will make you miserable.
So what should we do? Aim for less!? Doesn't that sound like losing? No. That's not my point. My point is that pleasure would only feel like pleasure if it is constrained for an aeon of time. Repeated pleasure is nothing but pain.

And when solutions are easy and plenty, we do look out for repeated pleasures.



3.) Technology 

I recently saw a video from 1989 which talked about how our world in 2020 would look like. It talked about flying cars, home automation system and voice-activated circuits. I am not sure about that but 2020 has seen a rise of mobile applications such as Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit, Youtube in ways that wasn't imagined in 1989.