Lies and Deception: Harmful or Benevolent?

What if you were told that everything you have ever believed in was fake? The words we give to objects and actions in our materialistic world, the laws of society that have kept humans thriving for thousands of years, and perhaps even our very own purpose in life–what what we classify as “success” and “happiness”–all lies. In Nietzsche’s writing On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, the philosopher delves into what he believes to be the façade behind centuries of truth civilization has built itself upon. Nietzsche’s viewpoint is initially negative towards humans and human intellect; however, halfway through the piece Nietzsche contradicts himself by expressing a positive perspective on human intellect which begs readers with the question of why Nietzsche contradicts himself and which viewpoint he truly presents.  

Nietzsche begins in a dark, nihilistic tone, metaphorizing humans as “clever beasts” that “had to die” in in a fable (79). By dehumanizing humans as beasts, Nietzsche expresses his apparent criticism and downcast of human civilization. Yet, in adding “clever” to his description of humans as beasts, Nietzsche dives into his first claim by showing that the distinction that truly differs humans from other mammals and living creatures is human’s “cleverness” or human intellect. However, in the first section of his writing, Nietzsche scorns down on human intellect, calling it “miserable,” “shadowy,”  “transient,” and “aimless” in nature (79). His repetitively negative diction emphasizes his pessimistic and unfavorable view of human intellect. He furthers his claim that this intellect, or “act of knowing,” deceives men concerning the “value of existence” which essentially argues that we, as humans, tend to heighten the glories of life and living beyond the scope of what it truly is (80). As Nietzsche mentions previously about humans being clever beats that “had to die,” human death is inevitable, yet we use deceptions and lies to paint a beautiful idealistic picture of our lives that isn’t really there. In particular, Nietzsche explores the concept of “dissimulation,” of how physically weak creatures, such as humans, survive through  “deception, deluding,” and “living in borrowed splendor” (80). It appears that Nietzsche paints mankind as a cheating creature who lies to both himself and others in order to rule other forms of life in a manner that he does not deserve since he is not physically strong like the other living creatures around him. This also connects back to the original claim he makes, stating that humans are smart creatures that had to die. Due to our physical incapabilities, we would have died already if it were not for our intellect. Nietzsche argues that human intellect has allowed humans to sit on a false throne of life.

Just as readers are convinced that Nietzsche disapproves of human intellect and demeans the falsehood we surround our lives with, he surprises readers through a second counter viewpoint. In a unique analogy, Nietzsche compares humans to bees by claiming “whereas the bee builds with wax that he gathers from nature, man builds with the far more delicate conceptual material which he first has to manufacture from himself” followed with Nietzsche’s commentary that “in this [man] is greatly admired” (85). Nietzsche utilizes this unique comparison between bees and their wax and humans and our own conceptual material to emphasize the feat of human intellect–instead of drawing from nature like bees, we are able to actually create for ourselves the beliefs, laws, and foundations we live off of. This direct contradiction from the initial cynicism Nietzsche had against human intellect brings up questions to readers. Perhaps Nietzsche is not trying to demean humans and human intellect. Instead, he claims that humans are unique in this way of thinking, in making things that aren’t “truly” there into material, tangible, lifelong values by creating language, social contracts, and civilizations. Even if these truths stem from lies and deception, it’s a way of establishing and preserving life.

Nietzsche’s perspective on language itself and his use of language to describe human intellect is extremely particular and non convention, and functions as a support for his argument. The reader has probably observed that throughout the work, Nietzsche’s language appears negative in his descriptions of human intellect, calling it “deceiving” and full of “lies” which prompts readers to ask why Nietzsche uses such pessimistic diction to describe intellect when he actually finds it unique and useful to humans. Yet, it becomes clear that the seemingly negative diction Nietzsche uses does not parallel his viewpoint when Nietzsche points out that language itself does not accurately describe things as it is is simply generalizations and abstractions created by humans. Nietzsche even questions readers, asking “is language the adequate expression of all realities?” to prove his point that language cannot represent every truth and expression in the world that surrounds us (81). Nietzsche furthers his argument by stating “by creating language” and “designating the relations of things,” in our world to sound and words, man “lays hold of the boldest metaphors” (81). Everything is based off a metaphor–a comparison at most, but nothing that perfectly and accurately represents one thing or another. Something that is “green” isn’t necessarily green, and someone described as “honest” may not have those actual characteristics (83). Similarly, those metaphors apply to when Nietzsche uses words such as “lies” and “deception” that have negative metaphorical connotations, but he does not see it as the same way humans have generalized what the words to mean. In fact, Nietzsche shows that the act of deceiving itself and the way we have associated negativity to it is flawed in its nature. In reality, we are all deceivers, yet we specifically designate a “liar” as a person who misuses “fixed conventions”  and does this in a “harmful manner” to society (91). But if our fixed conventions or laws are not, according to Nietzsche, fundamentally the “correct” way of doing things or the “truths” we believe them to be, then everyone is technically a liar and deceiver. Nietzsche expresses the inaccuracy of language and how we too narrowly view “liars” and “deceivers” as only those who harm the community that we’ve created, but in reality humans as a whole are actually liars and deceivers, and in Nietzsche’s next point he shows that he sees that this trait of humans and human intellect is not a negative aspect of humans, but rather an essential component of human life.

Compared to the fangs of a tiger or the claws of a bear, the naked skin and weaker joints of humans would rank us at the very bottom of survival in the world. Yet, dissimulation has allowed us to be ignorant or “deceived” of our position in the world, and instead we are able to thrive through our intellectual inventions that outbest the physical strength we lack. In addition, as Nietzsche has pointed out before–in the view of nature, humans are simply clever beasts that will, like all other creatures, succumb to the inevitable fate: we were all born to die. Yet, dissimulation has allowed us to thrive off of our own illusions. If we didn’t have these set of truths and simply lived to die, we would be consumed by Nihilism where life is meaningless, but because of human intellect, we’ve been able to discern meaning through life–whether this meaning is truly there or not does not matter as long as we believe it and apply it to our lives. Dissimulation is shown to be an act of preservation of us, less robust individuals, not deception and the negative connotations associated with that. In addition, dissimulation isn’t simply linked to physical preservation and survival for humans, preserves our believes on intangible aspects of life as well: beliefs, meaning, emotions, societal foundations. Instead of criticizing the consequences of human intellect, Nietzsche’s points actually show that lies, deception, and falsehood are an essential component to human civilization. They give value to our existence.

Initially reading Nietzsche’s thoughts on human intellect in his writing On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, readers are presented with Nietzsche’s seemingly negative and cynical perspective on human intellect and the deception and falsehood it wrongly creates, but by presenting a contradictory viewpoint halfway through his writing, it becomes apparent that Nietzsche does not view deceptions and lies as a negative aspect, and instead enforces that it is necessary component to bring meaning and existence to humans. In the end, although Nietzsche makes a good point, readers are prompted to even question Nietzsche’s own philosophies and arguments in On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense since throughout his whole writing he pushes forth the idea that no laws or beliefs created by humans are ubiquitous truths so his own might simply be lies and deceptions as well (which we now know are not necessarily bad and are instead important to creating meaning and a world for ourselves). Although, it is certainly true and mildly concerning that understanding that the meaning of our lives comes from lies, and puts the foundation to centuries of our believes in jeopardy. The complexities Nietzsche presents has, ironically, been explored in fields of sciences in the realm of physical realism and quantum realism. Is the physical world we see real and exists by itself or is the physical world a virtual reality, and what we discern is simply a product of our information processing? We now know that we also cannot completely rely on science either, as Nietzsche argues that what “we actually know about these laws of nature is what we ourselves bring to them” so in the end all we know is that we don’t know anything for sure (89).

Birthday Goals

It’s my birthday today! Wow, 19 already. That’s a year above being legal–so I guess this really does mean I’m adult. There’s no more fooling around. I’m going through a full-blown mid/quarter/eight-life crisis at the moment. Time to make use of my life and do something impactful. Surprising fact, 19 is actually one of my favorite numbers! So, best to make this year one of the best years ever. For my birthday, I want to list a few goals to followup through the year until 2020 that I’ll try to follow through (must will be somewhat vague because I want to leave it up to interpretation but I will make something more detailed later):

  1. Meeting goals with no deadlines
  2. Active in activities
  3. Social media cleanse
  4. Remove cluster
  5. Limit on tabs open
  6. Happy music
  7. Balance
  8. Self-development
  9. Learning
  10. Arts & Humanities development
  11. Project-based
  12. Love and appreciate
  13. Goal for each month

I’ll probably add more later! One of these goals is “goal for each month,” so what I think I am going to do is attribute each month to a different theme that can be embody a lot of different goals. This month’s theme will be “remove cluster.” So this means that I’m going to clean out my entire desktop, social media, and re-evaluate my clubs/activities, my 4-year schedule, and remove what I think is “clustering” my life because I tend to take on more than I can handle, so I can focus on the 10% that is actually important to me. I’ll keep everyone updated on how it goes!

Different style

Hello fellow readers! I will be changing up my blog style, because it realized this has tarnsformed to become similar to my professional platform–which also means it was the first thing that popped up when I searched my name. So, instead of detailing all the blurbs of thoughts I have in a seemingly sporadic irrelevant way, I think that this will become a platform where I share interesting intellectual material and write reviews on different things. Feel free to give suggestions at: [email protected]

Alright, back to procrastinating on my Physics problem set…

You’re going to be fine, trust me

You’re going to be fine, trust me Dear Columbia new freshman (welcome!), sophomore, junior, or senior: you’re going to be fine. This university challenges everyone who enrolls. The ways in which your limits, perspectives, and personality change might shock you as time progresses. Some people mesh with Columbia well from the beginning of NSOP; some people struggle to enjoy it at all, over the course of any of their 4 years. But this process grows and builds you: regardless of whatever perception of yourself you might have right now, it will inevitably mutate in subtle ways every day for the rest of college. I’m excited for the changes that will take place for you. If you had trouble making friends during NSOP, you will attain more interesting and caring friends over the next few years. If your first-semester required coursework is already giving you doubts about your fitness here, you will learn to study and manage your time (by necessity). If you believe you’re in a precarious state mentally or emotionally – don’t worry. I promise you that someone else has been in that position, that they have made it out, and so can you. I’m confident making all these assertions because I’ve observed it all happen in my classmates, close friends, and myself. I’ve had the fortune of watching people grow and change in ways they didn’t expect, and all these people have become strong, confident, and aware regardless of where they started. That’s why I’m excited for you, even if I don’t know you (and it’s frustratingly easy to not know someone at Columbia). I’m excited for you to be surprised by your own ability to empathize, persevere, and grow. I know so many people who have questioned (or continue to question) whether they deserve to be at Columbia, or whether they even belong here. I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over those exact doubts. I promise you that someone else has been in your position, however bad, and that they left that position happier and more well-rounded. Pause, breathe, and maybe laugh at it all. Chances are you’re actually doing great. But if you’re not, trust me – you’re going to be fine. I’ve put up the plaintext here:

-Neil Chen

Engineering TED Talk: Computer Science in Social Justice

Columbia Engineering: TED TALK

Engineering and social justice: Computer Science

1st speaker: Julia Hirschberg

  • Identification of hate speech (friend vs. stranger hate speech)
  • AI then and now:
    • Original goal: create machines with human intelligence in reasoning, NLP, robotics, vision (machines that can replace humans)
    • Today AI has applications to many areas: healthcare, education, entertainment, sustainability, transportation, and commerce
    • But, rather than replication/replacing human intelligence, the term “collaborative AI” is becoming popular–how can AI help humans, not replace them
  • More positive contributions of AI:
    • Virtual reality to study, treat, and simulate autism traits
    • Snapchat recently helped over 400,00 new voters register to vote
    • New predictive model for disaster relief, smart agriculture, medicine delivery, and education in developing countries
    • Ai remove bias from judging for 2020 olympic gymnastics
    • AI can provide electronic strike zone in baseball and many other sports
    • Computer vision techniques helping customers choose makeup colors by matching their picture to one of 40 shades → fashion & computer science
  • AI faces many challenges:
    • Self-driving cars are not yet safe
    • AI are taking over people’s jobs
    • AI can invade privacy and create & circulate fake news
    • Deep learning systems perpetuate biases of the data they are trained on (MT, job search, face recognition)
      • Face recognition: dark faces are gorillas or just do not appear
    • Machine translation in pronominally gender-neutral languages’ pronouns: Doctors and programmers are men; nurses and homemakers are women
    • Software that warns people using Nikon cameras when the person they are photographing seems to be blinking tends to interpret asians as always blinking
    • Facebook ads have targeted particular genders or ethnicities for jobs, excluding women and ethnic minorities
  • AI software is being used to make serious decisions on:
    • Loan-worthiness
    • Emergency response
    • Medical diagnosis
    • Job candidate selection
    • Parole determination
    • Criminal punishment
    • Educator performance
    • ^often without user awareness of its limitations

2nd speaker: Kathy McKeown

  • Objective: develop a system to automatically detect aggression and loss in social media posts by gang-involved  youth
    • Challenges: size of labeled dataset
    • Domain-specific language
    • Context critical

3rd speaker: Dr. Shih-Fu Chang

  • Experts believe the increased use of social media among gang-involved youth may be an important factor in the uptick in gang violence in cities across America
  • Imagine a world where social media yields clues that identify risk and protective factors for gang violence and prevent the use of firearms
  • Some projects he is working on:
    • Image processing/AI/computer vision to understand gang violence
    • Visual search technology for fighting online human trafficking: try to understand illegal information on the dark web, used by 200+ law enforcement agencies or NGOs to locate victors or identify groups engaged in human trafficking

21-Day Mental Diet

The 21-Day Mental Diet

  1. Arise each morning 2 hours before you have to be somewhere and invest the 1st hour in yourself and your mind
  2. Before turning on television/computer, read something motivation, inspirational, or educational (30-60 minutes)
  3. Write down top 10-15 goals in the present tense
  4. Write down a list of everything you need to do that day
    • Order it by priorities
    • Resist temptation of clearing up small things first
    • Plunge into a big/important task
  5. Begin immediately to work on most valuable and important task
    • Resolve to focus independently on the one task until it is complete
    • Once you finish the one major/big task first thing in the morning in the golden hour, you will receive a surge of energy, happiness, and confidence, which releases endorphins in your brain that propels you into other tasks and makes you more productive for the rest of the day → phenomenon called FLOW that allow you to perform at a higher level
  6. When you drive, listen to educational podcasts
    • Average person drives 500 hours in their car each year
    • That equates 1-2 classes in a leading university, you can be an expert
  7. Develop a sense of urgency: move fast, pick up the pace
    • Give you more energy
    • Faster →  more you get done → better you feel
    • More in-control of your life

Lesson 4: 90/10 Rule

In college, you won’t have enough time, and contrary to popular belief, you can’t just “make time” by not sleeping or cooping yourself inside your room and saying no to social events, because it’s important to have a balance. How do you finish things on time and succeed? The answer lies in a coding axiom called the 90/10 rule: “90% of a program execution time is spent in executing 10% of the code.”

Put into life and time management terms, you spend 90% of the time finding how to do all your work in 10% amount of the time. So, I realized that strenuously waking up at 8:40am to go to a 1.5 hr lecture could save me over 5 hours of  both unproductive and gruesome self-studying of the material. I realized that going to a 1 hour professor office hour would saved me the late 5am hours I would spend grinding on a multi or physics problemset. And even more importantly, I realized getting a good nights sleep actually led to a more productive day and therefore less time spent studying in general simply because I could pay attention fully in class without getting tired and zoning out, and be able to fully understand and learn the material!

So, when you think you’re taking the easy way out or “saving time” by skipping lecture to study or not going to office hours, or getting less sleep to do more, you might actually be doing quite the opposite!

Wow it’s been forever…

Hey guys! My thanksgiving break just started yesterday, so I’ve been able to take some time off to write? Though honestly, this Columbia Engineering Core has really got me working on PSets on the daily, and I’ve barely been able to write or read at all–so this post will probably reflect some of the loss of fluidity/charisma I used to hold in my writing. Anyhow, now that the semester is surprisingly almost over, I’ve been meaning to hammer out a conclusion post about what I learned through my first few months in college, but I’ve really never gotten the time because I’ve either been working or try to catch up on whatever minimal sleep I’m getting. So, instead of writing a long and rushed essay, I’m going to update smaller, separate posts on my blog about what I’ve been doing in college, what’s happened so far, and lessons I learned   or any advice I have and then who knows, I might compile it into a longer, more aesthetically pleasing post on Medium (I’ve really been reading Medium for too long).



No Phone

So 2 days ago my phone was stolen at a party. It had my ID, debit card, fake, and metro card on it, so you can understand the level of my distress. Yet, unexpectedly, not having my phone for these days have helped me get into a few habits and it’s actually kind of relieving in some ways.

Here are some of the things that have happened lately:

  1. My laptop has become my baby: Since I can’t text on my phone or check the time, I literally carry my laptop around all the time and keep it charged 24/7 to communicate through iMessage or check the time
  2. I’m not as social media obsessed: Without my phone I don’t feel the constant urge to check snapchat/instagram/facebook/messenger/EVERYTHING every minute. Obviously, I’m still checking facebook and iMessages now and then on my laptop, but not checking instagram and snapchat is actually such a relieving experience, because I never imagined how much energy or effort I had put into checking those. Although, I do admit I still sort of itch to know what people are sending me through snapchat, but it feels awfully good not to be constantly opening and tilting up my phone to check because a lot of the times seeing who replied/didn’t reply affects my mood for the day–so that’s a major plus.
  3. I wake up early naturally: It’s totally the opposite of what I’d normally expect, but now that I know that I don’t have a solid alarm that goes off, I literally wake up, check the time on my computer, and then get out of bed. I feel like this is due somewhat to a sense of panic/urgency and knowing that if I go back to sleep there is literally no alarm to actually wake me (because my computer won’t give off an alarm or it’s not  very reliable). I also feel like I usually go back to sleep after my alarm rings not because I’m actually tired but due to the satisfaction of knowing I’m getting slightly more sleep so I feel less sleep deprived, but really in the end it just makes it even harder for me to get up. Does that make sense? Today I woke up naturally at around 8, counted to 13 (odd number, I know), and then got out of bed. This is probably the first time I ever got up and out before my roommate and here I am at the dining hall typing this. I’m going to try to go sit in front for the lecture too and leave at either 50 or 55. Early bird catches the worm–am I right?
  4. My bathroom breaks are infinitely shorter: Because I usually take my phone when I go use the restroom, my bathroom breaks are often ~10 minutes. Yeah, I’m that stereotypical millennial/Gen Z that sits on the toilet with her phone. Now that I don’t have my phone, going to the bathroom actually functions solely as the purpose of simply going to the bathroom (surprise). I’m a lot more productive this way–so if I’m actually in the middle of work, I don’t completely lose my train of thought.

(I’ll keep editing this list as I go through my days of this week–or maybe my phone will be found. Who knows?)

Work 9.29.2018

I feel like the more work I have, the less I feel motivated to do it because it starts to pile up. So here’s a list of things I need to do on a tangible platform (instead of just in my mind, yeah I know that internet isn’t actually a tangible physical object) which will hopefully motivate me more:

-Re-read Nitezche’s On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense and add to essay to make it 1500-1800 words

-Review 2+ lectures in Chemistry and start the problem set

-Finish taking notes on Chp13&14 in Multi

-Print Chem Review Final and finish 1 page (at least) -> DONE

-Read Physics (Chapters 1-5)

-Finish CS ProblemSet (bruh) -> ALMOST DONE

-Finish 1 problem on Mastering Physics

-Finish 5 problems on Owl Cengage -> DONE