The world of yours and the world of mine

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During my travels between Hong Kong and Shanghai, I was constantly asked – where do you prefer, Hong Kong or Shanghai.

Instead of giving an answer, I usually cite a true story. Last summer, when I told an acquaintance in Shanghai (who is as normal and as functional as I am) I could not use Google or Gmail, I was expecting a similar level of frustration from him as from me. To my astonishment, he responded lightly ‘Oh, that is for the benefit of social harmony’. I did not know what to say and how to carry on the conversation so we switched topic. Through that briefing conversation which came with shocks, I learnt again Your world is not my world.

The point I want to want here is : Hong Kong and Shanghai are such two different worlds that I find it almost impossible to make any comparison.

There is only plenty in Hong Kong. Plenty of convenient stores I can walk in any time, plenty of everything, bags, shoes, deals, bars, restaurants, promotions and information. The only scarcity is space. The only preciousness is time.

In Shanghai I don’t have these plenties I used to take for granted. Leaving Google aside, I could not even find a brand for my preferred tooth paste. Does it bother me, yes. Does it bother most people, no. Most people are content with the enoughness, and with the plenty of space and time they have.

Our DNA is wired to judge. I could make judgements through the lens of my world, a world I am familiar with. But what does that mean? Does it imply I am rating a world based on my needs and wants? Then what about his opinion? The acquaintance of mine in Shanghai who does not even have a desire to know what is missing in his world, not to mention to protest against the fact his world is unplentiful according to my standard?

Your world is not my world. I have to always remind myself of this statement of truth, something so simple and so difficult.

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Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

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Rock climbing was killing me, almost. I was up in the air with my legs weak and shivering. My hands could not give me any strength any longer. Seeing from such a height others were so small that they looked like ants. Literally I had neither strength nor bravery to continue so I was pleading to my guide – ‘Please put me down’. I was so scared.

cat on ropeEven my voice was too weak so nobody was hearing what I was saying. I wish I had brought my mobile phone so that I could ring someone on the ground ‘put me down!!”. Why did I come here, whose stupid idea was that to try to be a spider woman! There proved little point to complain either. I was too high from the human down there and too low from the God up there. I just wanted to cry – I can’t do it.

Nobody was paying any attention to my inner struggle and eventually my stubbornness came back to me. (I had no choice). I got to do better. My hands and legs were still weak so I had to give them some rest. My eyes were actively engaged to search for points of support. What are the possible position I can support myself the best and climb up. 50% of the time my stubbornness bite me, 50% of the time it got me lucky. This time lucky strike!climbing cat

This morning when I was taking my MOOC course – Unleash yourself, Success mindset, I came to better understand growth mindset and fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset believes intelligence and capability come with birth and do not change no matter what. If one wins, one is a winner. If one loses, one is a loser. The opposite growth mindset asserts practice and efforts pay off and increase our intelligence and capability. The experience of losing offers a great ground to learn and grow and succeed the next time. My theory is that even fixed or growth mindset are not fixed. Nobody is in one mindset forever. My rock climbing was a pretty good case study how I swing through these two mindsets.

Most MOOC learners, I assume, have a growth mindset. Again, I need to give my praise to MOOCs, which helps people who believe they can grow a tool to do so.

Journey of an hero

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I went to meet up with an educational game designer this morning. She just created a role-based game – Journey of an hero. The game has four steps – who am I, where am I going, how I did it and the new me who returned.

Hero cat

By looking at these steps, I actually also see it as a philosophical course. Probably essentially it is one but taught in a fun way to very young kids. For example, for the first step – who am I, children are asked to create a role for him or herself, to observe the differences between yourself and that of others, and to learn to accept it. There are a lot of really nice concepts behind it and I wish children are able to understand. That is the ultimate educational purpose reaches the targeted audience.

I will still need to attend the real game activity in order to assess its learning outcome. However, it does shed a new light for me – can we do an online course in a gaming environment. Not many instructors have tried it, probably because we are very academic and serious. A role-based, gamified MOOC might sound like an odd idea, but maybe not a completely absurd one.

Tomorrow I want to

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New year again and of course, we are making our new year resolution. (or for some people, copying and pasting the last year ones)

FutureLearn MOOC platform launched an interesting social campaign Tomorrow I Want To. People’s new year goals range from ‘To have a better night sleep’ to ‘To build a better robot’. In a rough summary, 35% of respondents’ goals fall into ‘Learning’ category (learn a new language, learn about energy, learn to code, learn about Orions). Then it goes on to self improvement (27%), explore and travel (15%), self discovery and realisation (such as have one’s own cake shop, 12%) and read (11%).

Tomorrow I Want To

Around the same time, a community based in Shanghai announced a campaign very similar ‘Tell us about your new year goal’. Similar to that of European peers, Chinese 20-40 something want to improve themselves (14%), self discovery and realisation (24%), mixed (22%). A very unique category emerged from this survey is the goal relating to relationship and marriage. 31% of those who answered want to either find a partner or get married/settle down or to have a baby.

The differences in goals between the two sample populations can be explained by several possible reasons. Firstly, differences in platforms: FutureLearn is a MOOC platform therefore the participant pool is skewed towards those who want to learn. The Shanghai community is a location based enterprise attracting people with more diversified purposes and priorities. Secondly, the influence of culture. Chinese culture still sees settling down as an important objective to achieve while European cultures less emphases so. Rather the society is more accepting individualised agendas. However I do not have data to quantify culture variances.

1 pee, 3 slaps!

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A well-known Taiwanese writer and film director came to give a talk last night to share his life story:  how a son of a miner grew into an extremely productive and popular writer, director and producer. His early life as a child from a miner village, as a teenage who moved to the big city as an apprentice, as a young soldier sent to a remote island for two years, is way too intriguing and interesting.

cat slaps dogsI pondered particularly over one story he mentioned. One day he, at boy age, was peeing on the street. A middle-aged man in his village saw it and gave him a slap “How dare you!’. He went home punished and said nothing after. The next week, the man met his father on the street. Thanks to a good memory, he brought up the peeing story. That is how the boy got his second slap, from his father, ‘How dare you!”. Eight months later, he was doing homework at home. The slapping man’s wife came to visit his mom and the peeing story slipped again. ‘How dare you’. This third slap was from his mother. We all laughed out loud over it but I did continue to probe a bit deeper a few conceptions behind the slaps on a pee story.

cat slaps dog 2

There is a strong sense of shared responsibility to infuse the right conduct in the story. A man who is not the father of the particular boy, immediately took up the role of a father when the boy demonstrated an in appropriate behaviour. I am sure he is not the only one who would do such among the others of the same village. Obviously this small village has a standard code of conduct (what to do and what not to do) as well as stanford culture. The disciplinary function is shared among all adults towards children.

There is also very little sense of privacy here. The man could have kept the story between himself and the boy. However apparently privacy is not even an idea occurred to him. He shared the incident with his wife, the boy’s father and indirectly the boy’s mother. Life is very transparent in that community. There is pros and cons to it. At least I am sure the boy never peed on the street again.

I assume the reason for those two conceptions is economic. When households have to rely on each other to survive economically, the role of a community outweighs the significance of individualism and privacy. People took similar roles before specialisation came to shape. But why certain cultures move out of this mode and certain cultures otherwise, remains an enigma to me still.

The emperor’s new clothes – what happens after

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The emperor’s parade ended in comedy but not for the emperor himself. On the contrary, he was outraged. He did not want to punish the tailors but rather he had a much more ambitious plan for his kingdom. ‘From today, no one shall have his/her own mind except to follow mine’. He called for several proposals and was particularly satisfied with one plan.

In this plan, several work units were to setup. The first one ‘Cradle’ connect directly with hospitals. Every new born baby is sent there to have an ‘Educational’ injection. The injection makes sure babies come out as a clean slate. Every single possible mind storage is erased after they come out of Cradle.

The second unit ‘Pipeline’ places babies on a perfectly smooth production line. Each is fed nutritious food and nutritious mind. Round and round, a voice repeats itself in the ‘Pipeline’ unit – Nakedness is the best clothing. Nakedness is the best clothing. No deviation of thought or act is allowed. Average is normal. If the sound stops, the feeding stops automatically.

‘Transformer’ is a third unit setup specially for grown ups who exhibit deviant ideas or behaviour. Like the babies, the grownups receive an ‘Educational’ injection but with a much larger dose. Then they are put into separate rooms for serious transformation. Until their mind waves have shown absolute coherence with that of the emperor, they are locked in the transformer unit in fear of their negative influence to the society and disturbance of societal stability.

king cat‘Alas’, exhaled the emperor, jumping up and down from his glorious seat. He has a beautiful picture in front of him – every day he is going to make the parade and every single citizen of his empire will sincerely worship him and his new clothes. There is nothing better than a kingdom united with a single-mind.