Xavid (kihou) wrote,
Xavid
kihou

The Boy in the Bubble

People at MIT need to get reminded that they live in a bubble periodically, and some of the political stuff lately reminded me how true this is, even for my wider group of friends who aren't quite as much in their own little world.

A bunch of summers ago... I guess 4 now? I went to this internship/research thingy called the Villanova Summer Research Institute. It was a really cool paid research program for 5 weeks that was lots of fun and taught me a lot. It happened to be held at Villanova University, near Philly, which didn't mean anything much to me at the time, but did to some of the participants. It's a very, shall we say, vampire-proof college. One of the groups came from the same school, it might have been in Philly or in Virginia or somewhere, in the city. It was some sort of religios private school. They were all black and Christian. They were friendly and openminded; one of them was my room mate, and although we had different interests we got along well. They were also perfectly smart, keeping up with the stats, population modeling, and hypertension as well as anyone (I always fell asleep in hypertension, but that's irrelevant). We had to do some sort of project in groups, and one of the things we could do was use statistics and correlations to try to analyse something interesting, like the decline of coral reefs in American Samoa. For our initial project proposals, they proposed looking at how the human lifespan had changed over time: specifically, why had people in Biblical times lived so much longer than today? They honestly hadn't been taught in a way that separated science and religion, and without any malice or bigotry wanted to look at an interesting question. Professor Fleischman talked to them and they ended up doing something entirely different. But the interesting thing is that, while it's easy to see anyone in favor of, say, writing inequality into the constitution must be evil or an idiot, the fact is that perfectly nice people can draw different conclusions because they start with different axioms. Someone like S4m could debate about how to fix this, but the fact is that it's not going to change any time soon; we're, unfortunately, not living in a Redwall book. Maybe my point is that if we're going to change it, it won't be by hating or attacking people who think differently, but understanding them and maybe learning how to get them to understand us. Oh, dear, I'm being dramatic again; well, it's better than tourist photos. Anyways, that's interpreted recollection of the moment.

(Actually, another thing that made me think of this sort of thing in a more global way was hanging out with PB-san, an Indian intern at Ricoh I became friends with before he went back to India. Things like spending $10 on a new book, 40-year-old single coworkers, and Caesar salads were foriegn to him. But this doesn't really relate to my point, particularly.)
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