Tech & Humanities

As a personal goal I try to learn more non-tech related stuff each year. The benefits are many:

  1. It helps broaden my perspective and generate new ideas.
  2. Spending 100% time on tech is boring.
  3. It helps me make better life decisions.

Yet the more I learn, the more I realize there is so much I don’t know. I think young entrepreneurs nowadays tend to fall into the trap of wanting to rush to build, without truly taking the time to understand the world around us. This approach might work if you are incredibily lucky and happen to be in the right place at the right time. But chances are when you rush to build for building’s sake, you will likely end up building the wrong thing. (It doesn’t help that pop culture cultivates the image of young-20-something-getting-rich-quick as the model of success). In times of irrational exuberance, it is hard to stay sane.

Steve Jobs once said that his vision for Apple is for it to stand at the intersection of Technology & Humanities. I believe in the same ideal. After all, if we only understand the tech side of the equation, can we ever be sure we are solving the right problems? That what we are building is truly of consequence? That it is something that we would gladly dedicate 10, 20 years of our life to?

Another reason to be excited about learning, is that I think we are still at the very very early stage of the Information Age, despite being here 20 years already. We haven’t truly grasped the scale of it yet. All the changes we’ve seen so far: email, hyperlinks, social networks, sharing economy, Bitcoin, neural nets, etc., are only the tip of the iceberg. Just as people couldn’t fully understand how massive the impact the printing press was going to have in 1400s, we are not in a position to fully understand the implications of the digital revolution yet.

I believe in the future we’ll see a lot more collaboration across disciplines, the lines across disciplines blurred, and amateurs might sometimes leapfrog professionals in charting new territories.

It’s an exciting time to be alive.


Non-tech topics that I am currently interested in:

  • How did the West come to dominate the East (and as a result, the world as we live in today has a very Euro-centric view), even though the East had a great head start pre-1400? Was it culture? Was it the invention of printing press? Was it geography?

  • How did Korea come to dominate Asian culture in recent years? A significant number of Asians regularly watch K-dramas, listen to K-pop, and consume Korean cosmetic products. Korea has become the de facto “Hollywood” of Asia. K-drama’s effects on Asia are similar to Hollywood’s effects on the world. They are both capable of influencing millions of people far away. Was this an accident or was it all planned? Why Korea and not China/Japan? Is this influence net positive or negative?

  • Why is Vietnamese food so cheap while Japanese food is so expensive? Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the best/most diverse in the world, fusing Chinese influence, French influence with distinct local ingredients. When the Danish food entrepreneur Claus Meyer- owner of the #1 restaurant in the world- considered opening a new location to experiment with new types of cooking, he eliminated Vietnam because according to him Vietnamese cuisine was already “too good” and “all the great combinations of ingredients had been discovered” (he ended up choosing Peru instead). So in terms of variety & quality, Vietnamese food should rank pretty high. Is it undervalued?

  • Does the way you think change based on what language you speak? Similar to how a programming language constrains the way a developer thinks and programs, the language you speak could constrain your thoughts- every word is just an abstraction of a piece of reality after all. The movie Arrival flirted with this question beautifully. Is there a particular language that is better in terms of logical thinking? in terms of imagination?

  • Food crisis, education, Bitcoin (the non-tech part), and more in current Reading List

More Reading
Newer// Culture Shock
Older// Reading List