Documentary The Social Dilemma Reflection

As we’re today in a society with highly advanced technology, different social media platforms have greatly blended into our lives, becoming an inseparable part of our daily routines. In the documentary film The Social Dilemma, the harm that the internet is bringing to us is addressed and magnified to spread awareness towards this issue. Personally, as a frequent social media user, I have never noticed so, and I experienced quite an epiphany about the dark secrets of these apps I use daily.

 

Social media is like a drug. They are designed to be addictive, and companies are not concerned with the well-being of their users. An essential quote from the film was that “there are only two industries that call their customers ‘users,’ illegal drugs and software.” The software modifies one’s behavior, and the software’s way of grabbing for attention is entirely based on psychological effects, thus it is inescapable for anyone – it is designed that way to lure you in. Just as stated in the film, it is easy to be lured into social media apps because it leads you to click. The ultimate aim of any internet platform is to get your attention, because all of these companies are profit-seeking, and thus keeping users to keep using the app will help you view more ads and therefore gain the company more profitable.

 

There was also a lot of information pointed out in the documentary that I especially agreed upon and resonated with. What really gave me a deep impression was the example of a news show, “Can you get the coronavirus by eating Chinese food.” This statement is preposterous, yet it does appear on an official news site, which is very concerning. As the internet grows to be more convenient, anyone can publish any kind of knowledge that they possess, though the quality of this information has greatly decreased from decades ago back when the news was still delivered through newspaper and user comments were less accessible. Therefore, it is essential to be viewing all knowledge found on the internet with a critical mind. Therefore, we should always be critical about what we view and not fall into the trap that internet companies are setting. These software companies’ goal isn’t to take over the world by manipulating our thoughts, but because their goal is to make money through ad views, our thoughts are manipulated. Different users are provided with different information just to limit their individual thinking and keep them within their comfortable space and keep scrolling.

 

As a Gen-Z, I do feel that I am at great risk of harm, as today’s teenagers are mostly affected due to their early exposure to technology. One can easily fall into that rabbit hole, and as a teenager, I may not have great self-control abilities, thus I am more vulnerable to have my opinions are easier to be manipulated. However, I do think that reasonable and sensible use of technology will bring benefits to society. As a civilian of the modern world, I cannot completely avoid the use of technology, but as a TOK student, I am driven to hold a critical attitude towards the information I receive. Just as my peer stated, he follows a variety of news companies to receive information from multiple different perspectives. Any software platform may hold a bias towards a subject matter, so to be able to see issues in the bigger perspective, a solution to this social dilemma perhaps is to think in a critical way and receive objective knowledge before reaching a personal opinion too quickly.

Interview With My Mother

For this task, I interviewed people from the past generation, which is my mother. My mother was an educated woman at her time, and she has gone to university. Since my mother and I are all from different eras and have been educated with systems decades apart the education and the system have been renewed several times for us. Thus, the way we learned and was educated was vastly different.

Firstly, I interviewed my mother, and she was a student back during the 1980s in China. When she was educated, she learned all of her knowledge from the country-wide unified textbook, and by doing practice questions. There was a textbook for each subject and it was strictly followed by every class that the teacher taught. It was like bullet points of what must be known by the student, and the student would memorize and strengthen their knowledge in that area by doing lots and lots of practice questions. The way that she was finally examined, through the Gao Kao, was a test full of questions that concentrated on all of the units that the student previously learned in High School. Therefore, my mother and the fellow students of her generation were always the knowledge receiver, and the range of knowledge they received was constraint within the range of the textbook, and she barely read any extracurricular books during her leisure time.

My mother’s experience in education is greatly different from my own experience. As my mother sent me to an international school, the way my peers and I are taught is mostly based on projects and being able to communicate and express our own thoughts towards the subject matter. Papers and projects are often written in a standardized curriculum of the International School of Beijing, and the projects are greatly based on our own research from the internet, and our own interpretation of the topic we are investigating on. For most of my subjects, there are rarely any textbooks, and most of the class time is not spent on merely the teacher going through a PowerPoint or a textbook and teaching the bullet points of the knowledge required to be learned in the chapter. The tools mainly used in my school life is the computer, which we critique, write, and reflect upon our learning topic through research on the internet and our own knowledge.

Therefore, our experiences in education have been vastly different and as women who received education 30 years apart, my mother and I have been educated in very different ways.

Reflection on Debate “Ignorance is Bliss”

As contentions between different sides with different opinions continue, the debate was in its full swing. The debate was based on the topic, “Ignorance is Bliss.” Team A, the pro side, would argue that ignorance is bliss, while Team B, the con side, would argue against this, that ignorance isn’t bliss.

 

First of all, Team A’s arguments were well thought out and were impartially persuasive. They mainly argued that ignorance can help reduce negative emotions and reduces stress. They first defined that ignorance is a complete lack of knowledge. They used multiple evidence to support their side, including the placebo effect, or the Chinese tradition “Chong Xi” in which people wash off the misfortune with joy. For example, if a family didn’t tell the old grandmother about her cancer, perhaps she will be unaware of her bad health condition and be in a much more positive mental state, resulting in longer life. Thus, ignorance can build a stronger mentality, which ultimately creates bliss in people all around. On the other hand, Team B’s argument was also very compelling and proved its side correct. Team B argues that to be ignorant is to be blissful from one person’s perspective, but it isn’t blissful for our collective community. For example, Frederich Flick, a Nazi war criminal, was ignorant and caused the death of many during the Second World War. Ignorance itself is the bane of all wars, it drives civil wars, racial crisis, the migrant crisis, climate crisis, food crisis, and divides people of color and between genders. Ignorance itself is a backward step of human, and ignorance is the cause of human conflict and polarizing division. In contrast, what drives development is actually innovation and knowledge, which directs people to a more blissful pathway, not ignorance.

 

Ultimately, Team B won the debate, because their argument was more well-thought and persuasive. Team B’s argument was more extensive to a global perspective, and more thoroughly showed the mindset of an international citizen, covering a larger and wider global connection. Also, Team A’s argument contradicts themselves, as they only argued that ignorance could be bliss. However, the statement of ignorance is bliss is not conditional. They argued that if your family member has a disease, it would be better to cover up; however, they have not considered the greater pain caused after the death of the family member. Thus, this fully proves that happiness is bliss is not always true, fully proving Team B’s argument correct.

 

Furthermore, personally, I would also fall on the opinion of Team B, since I also agree with the final conclusion made by Team B. Team B presented the evidence of the sufferings in the coronavirus situations in the United States. Both physical and mental pain has harmed the 8 million innocent people, and this was due to the ignorance of not having a good plan of preventing the epidemic. Though Team A did present the cogent evidence that children who lived in brothels could have been better without knowing they grew up in a brothel because PTSD would not have developed after them reaching adulthood, this evidence of the slight benefits of ignorance seems to be outweighed by the prevention of wars and genocide by increasing in knowledge and not being ignorant.

 

Overall, the way we acquire knowledge can be through a variety of forms, it can be through our own personal experiences, our own logic, and experiences from other people (which most of us based our evidence upon). And in order to construct a potent argument, we must use a combination of ways of knowing to construe our own argument and persuade others that our own side is true.

Why imagination is a way of knowing that will more likely lead to truth

Just as there is a variety of knowledge, there are also a variety of ways to receive knowledge. Ways of knowing include emotion, memory, perception, imagination, reason, intuition, faith, and language. On the other hand, the truth can be defined in many ways. Although according to the Apple Dictionary, “truth means the quality of being true”, being true has always been a rather vague word. Any knowledge is never absolutely true, though most knowledge can achieve truth that is relative to a certain aspect in our knowledge spectrum. For example, a mathematic theory may be right for all those who are part of the mathematics realm, but no one can really definitely secure that the mathematic theory, although proved to be correct many times, is absolutely true. Therefore, perhaps all of the ways of knowing previously mentioned do not give a definite answer that leads us to the truth, except for imagination.

 

First of all, knowing through imagination will always be correct, because the imagination within our own mind will always be true –it will always be real since the only thing we really know is our own cognition and perception. What is forever true for one is that “I know I am imagining this, and this is right in my own world of my own imagination.” This is because in one’s own mindset, own imagination, she or he will be the one dictating the rules of that world, whether it is right or not, thus imagination leads us to ultimate truth. But perception towards the real world is even sometimes untrue due to our misunderstanding and illusions of our senses – thus the perception way of knowing cannot always lead us to the truth. However, the perception that is not applied to our real world but restricted within our own mind, which is imagination, will always be true.

 

Also, the way of knowing through imagination is limitless, and there is no right or wrong answer or any confinements to where one can imagine. For example, when one reads a book, she or he dives into the universe of the story and has the right to transfer the words and phrases of the book into images and sceneries within the mind without being confined to any limits. There is no limit to what the exact scenery must look like, or how the character looks like.

 

However, imagination may sometimes be inaccurate. it is possible when the image or the plot imagined is different from the writer of the book, thus what the reader will be imagining in his mind will be “untrue” because it is different from what the author imagined. However, the ultimate truth will still be reached since the imaginary world will always be true in our own world.

 

Thus, overall, it can be concluded that the way of knowing through memory will most likely lead us to the truth because it will most likely lead us to the ultimate truth in our own cognition.

TOK pre-assessment

Hello, I am Annie, and I am absolutely thrilled to participate in TOK this year! As we discuss the importance of the question “How do we know what we know” in TOK, we need to understand what we know for sure and how do we know it. Any claim can be debatable, and problems are often viewed from multiple perspectives. Because any “facts” can really be argued, just like how Flat-Earthers are arguing against a scientifically proven fact (for example, Flat-Earthers question that those pictures of the Earth by NASA might be photoshopped). I can even question the fact that we exist, that we’re living in a virtual world operated by aliens.

Thus, one of the few things I know for sure perhaps is my own perception of things. A while ago, I read an article about how the human eye may see colors different from each other. For example, my friend’s eye may see the pink color as a hue different than what I see. What’s hard to investigate if this really is true, is that we never know each others’ cognition; we don’t know what they really see. Thus, what I know for sure is my cognition, that I know my perception of things. I know that from what I see, this dress is in the color of blue. Or from my own taste, I like to eat apples. Or I know that I support the round-Earth theory. I know for sure that this is true because I am the one dictating, whether it is true or not.

Reflect – Make an Impact

Video of the completed product: Lighted Hand-cranked Spinning Toy Figurine

My project, the Lighted Hand-cranked Spinning Toy Figurine is a Chinese-New-Year themed decorative device that has spinning gears and cranks and lighting systems that light up the lanterns. This device both transfers and converts energy. For the hand-crank and gear part, energy transfer is demonstrated. Kinetic mechanical energy is transferred through the hand of the user to the crank, and to the gears, letting the figurine to spin. Throughout this process, thermal energy and sound energy is lost through friction. If the crank always touches the gears at the top, then energy will be smoothly transferred to the gears and to the figurine. At the back of the device, energy converting is demonstrated. Solar radiation is received by the solar panels and is transformed into electrical energy. Then electrical energy is transferred to the LED lamps through the wire. The electrical energy then is converted into light energy in the lamps. Throughout this process, thermal energy is lost. Therefore, overall, my device works well.

During the production of the product, I was successful in the part of the lighting part. The lights light up well when the solar panels face the sun, and the hand crank turns well 95% of the times. The measurements were also all well done, which allowed me to assemble everything in a neat way. The physical appearance of this device looks aesthetically appealing too. The energy transfer was well demonstrated. Overall, this product meets most of my expectations.

The areas that I need to improve in the product will be to correct the hand crank. Because the hand crank does not touch the top big gear when placed in a specific angle, the result is that it doesn’t work occasionally. The solution to that would be to put a barrier to stop it from tipping to that angle. However, because of the time limit, I wasn’t able to perfect this area. If I had the chance to redo this project, I would certainly change this part.

This project was a challenge to me, however, both the project and my goal was well accomplished. This device functioned well overall, which met my expectations.

After surveying users, they found this device aesthetically appealing. The pig is neatly painted, and the wooden pieces are all cut in straight lines.

My project also has its purpose – for the upcoming Chinese New Year. Red curtains, red clothes are all symbolic to the Chinese New Year. Since the New Year will be the year of the pig, I created a pig figure. Potential clients might be those who would like to decorate their room with festive decorations for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

This toy can be easily played with and doesn’t have any potential safety hazards like opening flames. All of the electrical systems are at the back of the device, which users would barely come in contact with. This toy would be safe for the user. Also, all wooden pieces are polished with sandpaper, which prevents sharp edges from harming the skin of fingers.

Also, this device is environmentally friendly. I chose to use solar panels instead of batteries because they support the environment, isn’t energy consuming, and they are safer.

Put together all with strong adhesives, this product is also durable because it is strong and doesn’t break easily. At the back are solar panels that provide electricity for the lamps, this helps to show that this device uses renewable energy source (solar power).

Because the idea of this device was all designed by me, this product is also completely original.

Overall, throughout this project, I have completed the Define and Inquire, Develop and Plan, Create and Improve, and lastly, Reflect. I have also followed the creating cycle. I have completed Define and Inquire, Develop and Plan, Create and Improve, along with sharing, critiquing, and making an impact. In the experience of making this device, not only did I learned these skills, but I also experienced in using different tools. Despite that occasionally the hand crank wouldn’t function as well, this project still met my goal of creating a decorative toy for the upcoming Chinese festival. Inspired by the fact of it will be the year of the pig, I decided to make a pig figurine. Happy early Chinese New Year!

Create and Improve

Overview

Because of the complicated process of creating this machine and the limited time, I chose to do one prototype as my final prototype, and I was testing the materials along

Day 1

According to the plan, the pig is cut out, and the body of the machine is made. A circular base was also made.

Improvement #1:

One problem arose – the lack of a Pringles can. I decided to make the body out of 8 slits of wood and sticking them together. It was an octagonal shape because I thought if I cut fewer slits of wood, the number of corners the shape would have would be lesser, which, even though the size of the shape is the same, the inner area would be smaller (shown in the picture below). For example, if the shape was a pentagon, more space would be wasted in the vertex areas, and the total space for utilization would be minimal. However, as the corners increased, the degree of each corner also increased, and the shape is closer to a circle, fitting the gears better. I wanted a larger inner area so that I can fit the gears inside that would help the figurine on top to spin. I also decided not to paint the body for two reasons: a) Because making the body using slits of wood was way more time consuming than just taking a Pringles can, I didn’t have enough time; b) The body looks more aesthetically pleasing with a natural wood color instead of great areas of colored parts.

 

Day 2

As planned, I was able to paint the pig during the afternoon session, and I started working with the crank. Here is a picture of the gathered gear materials.

Since I only had one prototype, I had to be careful when assembling the gears to make them work. I tested it along building it. The gears worked like this:

This is the completed painted pig:

Improvement #2:

There were three gears needed. The one in the very bottom worked as a base, and the one on the top worked as the main device that helped the figurine spin since the figurine will be attached to it. The top gear spins while the bottom one doesn’t, it is glued to the base of the machine and acts as a base. The smallest one, also the one that the user would spin with using a crank, had a problem at first. The problem was that the distance between the top and bottom gears were too far apart, causing the crank to be at the very top, and wasn’t stable enough. This is shown in the following picture. 

But this problem was soon tackled as the design improved. I cut a short piece of wood, the shape looks like a long cylinder. This piece of wood was placed on top of the crank and attached to the body with a glue gun to stabilize the crank. This greatly helped the crank to spin correctly, however, if it is not spun in the right angle, the spinning occasionally might not be smooth.

Day 3

Today the gears were finished, and a circular wooden base is attached to the top gear. This wooden base works to hide the gears, which makes this device more aesthetically pleasing. And I was ready to attach the figurine, which is the painted pig onto this base.

Improvement #3:

Another problem soon arose as I was attaching the painted pig onto the base, however, because the painted pig was on a very thin piece of wood, I was afraid if the spinning movements were too violent, because of momentum and friction to the air, eventually the attachment might fall off. To solve this problem, I placed another wooden piece that was cut in half to place between the base and the figurine. With this semi-circle, there are larger areas of contact with the base, and therefore there is more friction, which stabilizes the attachment.

 

And finally, the crank-gear-figurine part was accomplished.

Click here for the video of prototype testing

Day 4

According to the schedule, I was supposed to complete the part with LED lights. The decorative parts were soon made.

Improvement #4

I was going to put two LED lamps behind the painted pig. First, I had to choose the correct LED lamp size. I wanted the light to be as big as possible because the bigger, the lighter it will be, however, I was afraid that the energy from solar radiation wasn’t enough. After several trial and errors, I finally found that unless directly facing the sun, the bigger LED lamp wouldn’t light up as bright. And because of the fact that it will be impossible if the device will always be directly facing the sun, I finally chose to use the smaller light. 

Improvement #5

The problem that arose today was the hardest problem to solve throughout the entire project. At first, I only wanted to use one solar panel to generate power for two LED lamps, because it was the designated design of my project. With the help of teachers, I was taught that by putting wires on each lamp, to make a circuit, shown in the diagram below.

However, after checking that I assembled them with the correct way with the correct negative and positives combinations, the lights wouldn’t light up. After testing, we found that each LED lamp uses 1.7 units of energy. The conclusion was made, the solar panel cannot provide enough power to light up both lamps. And at last, after many complicated ways of trying to solve the problem, the easiest solution was finally used – using two solar panels. And at last the LED lamps lit up brighter even when the solar panels are not directly faced with solar radiation.

 

Conclusion:

Throughout the process of creating the device, the device was tested by users.

Feedback from a user (Lynn): From Annie’s toy, the process of energy conversion is easily observable since it requires direct interaction from the user. By turning the handle, the user can identify the conversion process as chemical energy (from the user moving their body) to mechanical energy to kinetic energy of the spinning figuirine. This toy also uses renewable energy from solar panels to power lighting, which displays the energy conversion process of light energy to electrical energy. Overall, the design of this toy is extremely creative and it seems durable as well! 

User 2: I think this is a rather well-done device, areas of improvement might be to improve the gears and crank, because occasionally if not pushed in, the gears might not spin. However, in the majority of the times, the gears turn very well! Overall, this is very creative!

I do think there are other areas that I can perfect with my device, for example perfecting the cranking part. In the stage of Create and Improve, I have recorded and reflect on the process of each of the four days, and additional photos and videos were taken to assist my reflection. 5 improvements of the device were also shown, and I have received feedback from users. Overall, in the stage of Create and Improve, I have learned problem-solving skills, creating prototypes (testing along), test using criteria, gather feedback from users, optimitze/refine design.

Develop and Plan

Modeling of Idea

Plans

Material list

  • empty, clean pringles cup
  • lantern (red tissue paper, threads)
  • red fabric
  • wood pieces
  • wood sticks
  • gears in two sizes
  • solar panel
  • 1 5mm(or bigger) red LED light
  • wires
  • glue gun
  • wood glue
  • acrylic paint

plan for time

TH

  • gather materials
  • cut pringles can
  • paint pringles can
  • cut out pig

M

  • paint pig
  • work with gears

W

  • draw out the details of the pig
  • make crank
  • finish gears

F

  • assemble the solar panel, LED light, and lanterns

Define and Inquire

Introduction:

What is this engineering task?

This engineering task is mainly about creating a gadget that converts energy, or transfers energy, or converts renewable energy source to electrical energy, or helps people learn about physics. It should show energy transfer, be aesthetically pleasing, has a purpose or client that this project serves for, is original, does not impact on the environment greatly, and durable and safe for the client and user.

Potential projects

For my own project, the following are a few brainstormed ideas that would reach the goal of this project.

Potential Project #1: A lamp that depicts a scene of the holiday, lights will be used. This device will transform electrical energy to light energy using a renewable energy source so that  will be durable and environmentally friendly. This project will mainly target families, it will serve great as a decorative device. This project will be great for those who would like to have some holiday atmosphere in their home by using my decoration. This project will be original because all of the designs of this device will be designed by myself.  Some constraints are that I will not have enough materials and time for this project.

Potential Project #2: A device that has a spinning tip to clean the gaps of keys on a keyboard of a computer. This device will transform electrical energy into mechanical energy, as the tip of it spins to scrape off dirty bits stuck in between keyboards. This will be environmentally friendly and durable, and safe. This project will mainly target students and teachers, it will serve great as a cleaning device for people with computers and want to give their computers deep cleansing often. This will also be original since I came up with the idea. However, this might be technically hard to make, materials will be hard to find too. The tip, made by a motor, will also be a safety constraint.

 

Examples of Projects Others Have Made

Flappy Bird:

click here for the video:

Advantages:

  • This toy acts like the real game on an electronic device
  • Really purposeful and challenging
  • Fun to play
  • Demonstrates high skills of engineering and usage of electric energy

Disadvantages:

  • Way too complicated
  • Not enough materials and knowledge to construct
  • Materials are too complicated

Overall comment

  • This toy seems to be very cool, however, because of its great difficulty to construct, really creating one with limited resources doesn’t seem feasible.

 

A with elastic potential energy:

Click here for the video:

Advantages:

  • Demonstrates the usage of elastic potential energy
  • Easy to make
  • Materials are easy to work

Disadvantages

  • Not aesthetic
  • Simple to make
  • Not challenging
  • Has no direct and interesting purpose

Overall Comments:

  • This toy might be great for teaching physics especially about elastic potential energy, however it is not challenging. Maybe making the appearance of it fancier will make it a better project to create.

Simone Giertz’s “useless” robots

Click here for the video:

Advantages

  • Funny, fun to make

Disadvantages

  • Useless, maybe hard to make

Overall Comments:

  • One of the best designs that I like is this applauding machine. It is actually funny and purposeful in a humorous, joking way. Imagine going to a concert and lazy to clap with your hands! This would help. However, it might be hard to turn electric to machine using wires and motors, but it would be a great challenge for me.

Spinning lamp with house decorations

Click here to view video

Advantage:

  • A great idea
  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Beautiful and purposeful (It would be easy to find a client)
  • Durable

Disadvantages:

  • Materials might not be enough
  • (If I recreated this project) it wouldn’t be original
  • I might not be able to recreate something as delicate and detailed as this project

Overall Comment:

  • Overall, this project seems to be very beautiful. Although the decorations seems hard to make, the mechanics of science behind it seems to be a pretty medium level. This would be a great project to make, as it defines energy transformation (electrical energy to light energy)

Moon lamp

click here for the video

Advantages:

  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Shows energy transfer (electric to light)
  • Beautiful and has a purpose (for lighting)
  • Safe

Disadvantages

  • The process of making it beautiful is time-consuming
  • Materials might not be sufficient
  • Not something that I designed.
  • Not environmentally friendly

Overall Comment:

  • Overall, this seems to be a purposeful and safe project. It also fully demonstrates energy transform and transfer. However, this requires electrical energy, however, it would be difficult to take the renewable source and make it to electrical energy, which, if failed, it would not be environmentally friendly. It is also not a good device for students to learn about physics.

Gears

Click here for the video

  • This is a tutorial of how to make gears to help with my project

The Capstone of Middle School

Capstone was an unusual and inspiring project to end my journey through Middle School. From this project, I have learned how severe the air pollution problem is in China today. Air pollution is extremely harmful to our environment and our own body. And if we do not attempt to stop the air pollution worsening. What I have contributed to the community as a result of this project is that I have created a documentary to publicize the harm air pollution causes. I have also interviewed many residents living in the Shun Yi community, which helps raise awareness for citizens through answering my questions about air pollution.

 

I have always thought air pollution was not a problem so severe, and the AQI has become better these years. However, through my research, I have found data demonstrating the growing AQI values over years. And these severe air quality problems do not only exist in Beijing, but also many other cities in China. I have also learned from my interview and surveys that many young workers are already aware and worried about the gradually deteriorating air quality.

 

The Capstone project did not only teach me knowledge about air pollution in Beijing but also skills toward interviews. I was good at interviewing before, but sometimes when it came to sensitive survey questions, I found it awkward to interact with my interviewees in a delightful way. It was a problem in the Hutong trip. However, during the mini trip across the street, I learned to ask sensitive questions in a mild tone, or sometimes even to keep away from even asking them. If I could do this project again, a huge change I would make is that to improve my essay. I would make it a more sophisticated piece of writing and make it more detailed.

 

To the Grade 8 students of next year:

 

The Capstone project requires good time management skills. If you want to make your work with deep understanding, it is essential to make sure to complete your work earlier than the due date, so that you can revise it later on.

 

Take a look at my documentary here!