Who I am Politically

I’ve never been considered as the one who kept up with the news or the one with strong opinions. The reason behind my lack of interest in political news is unknown. To be honest, I never understood why I frankly did not find myself wanting to know what was happening around the world. If one were to educate me on politics, I would listen and make an attempt to remember the specific details, but I probably wouldn’t be able to recall them within a week or so. Usually I get my ‘political news’ from social media which I admit, isn’t the best place to obtain information from, especially for those controversial and problematic events. Of course, living in the digital era means that I am still somewhat exposed to news all the time. Every once in a while, I am either forced to or encouraged to read some news article that has strong connections to me. For instance, I paid significantly more attention to the news this year. While this may be because I am maturing and learning to be more aware of the community that I live in, it is also due to the number events that have been happening. During 2020 to present there had been the COVID pandemic, BLM protests, white house raids, death of a number of well respected celebrities, and more.

The results of my tests are quite confusing. For one, the third test shows how my political bias was more than the average. Another example is how in test one, I am more left libertarian while in test two, I am more left totalitarian/authoritarian. This may consequently reflect how much I don’t know about politics as my responses to similar questions are quite different. According to the internet, the definition of being political is “relating to the government or public affairs of a country”.

I believe that it is very possible for one to correlate anything to politics in some way, yet in the real world, not everything should be about it. For instance, if a white boy were to buy a vanilla ice cream, one could say that this kid was a self-centered white supremacist, because he chose to buy an ice cream instead of donating the money to help fund others; one could say that this kid was a racist, because he chose to buy the vanilla flavor instead of the chocolate flavor; or one could simply say that this kid was just a boy who liked vanilla flavored ice cream. However, because the definition of politics is so vague as only being “relating to” “government or public affairs of a country”, it is hard to define what is and what isn’t political. Hence, there is always some sort of ‘bias’ that can be linked to a country’s government or its public affairs to everything.

As more and more are recognizing the importance of human rights, I think that it is becoming more and more important to be aware of what is going on in politics. Because equal rights are being distributed to more people, it is likely that we will also be affected. Though it may sound selfish and self-centered, for most, events are only important and acknowledgeable when we are also affected. Furthermore, it is becoming easier and easier to access information on the news and from different stand points too; hence, we are naturally inclined to be more aware of what is happening around the world politically nowadays. For instance, I am may more likely to check on updates on the corona cases in China or the US than in India; I am more inclined to read articles on Chinese immigrants than Mexican immigrants; I am more interested in news on the Chinese (not that there are many) and US government than European governments.

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Takeaway from “The Social Dilemma”

After watching “The Social Dilemma” I realized to what extent the internet was able to monitor their users. Not only are they able to track what you see, but also how long you see it. This is quite unsettling, knowing that a machine probably knows you better than you might know yourself. It was also quite interesting for me to realize how social media has been made to lure users to spend more time on it. For instance, notifications for messages, tagged photos, and live videos often don’t include the actual content. Doing so would attract the attention of those who would have otherwise been focused on another task. Such ‘tactic’ encourages users to spend more time on their technologies. In fact, the smallest things, such as likes, comments, views, subscribers, and followers, have also unintentionally contributed to this concerning problem.
To be honest, while I fear for the future of technology and for the lives that it will continue to damage, I probably won’t change my own habits. Because of the environment that I am in, I have grown to be accustomed to the convenience of technology. I am able to reach a person through texting, call a taxi through an app, and entertain myself through social media. I feel like my life-style won’t be able to change under my circumstances and if I do change, it will come with many negative short term effects. However, I will try to turn off notifications or change my phone to flight mode before I go to bed and during work time.

 

Knowledge Question/Concept Your Notes
Given modern advances in technology, how can we distinguish between information and disinformation, deliberate misinformation, and manipulation? –       It is almost impossible to distinguish between information, disinformation, deliberate misinformation, and manipulation, unless everyone agrees on one truth.

–       Social media only shows you what you agree with, so you’re only exposed to a few perspectives on an issue

–       There is a thin line between what is true and what isn’t

To what extent do social networks reinforce our existing perspective rather than boosting our engagement with diverse perspectives? –       Recommends posts/news/videos that are closest to your interests

–       Wants to engage their audience members with their interests

–       Followers/ followings/ subscriptions/ likes

–       Ad-personalization

How has technology had an impact on how we browse, search and filter data and information? Can algorithms be biased? –       Biases towards false information because they make companies more money

o   Fake news spreads six times faster than real news

–       Election-Hackers

–       Algorithm knows how to twist our thought through logic and emotions

To what extent have technological developments led to an increase in data being collected without people’s consent or when they are unaware that it is being collected? –       Every single action taken online is recorded

o   How long you look at it

o   What you’re looking at

o   Liked photos

o   What you’ve clicked on

–       Tactics

o   Recommendations (videos, photos, and other users)

o   Notifications are like slot machines

o   Tagged photos (won’t ignore)

o   “typing”

Should we hold people responsible for the applications of technologies they develop/create? –       Thinks the platforms are responsible

o   they have to make sure that children aren’t becoming depressed and elections aren’t hacked

o   the business models/companies are the ‘bad guys’

o   thinks we should make laws, taxes, and regulations because there is no other way that these things can be controlled

o   Everyone is basically slightly responsible

 

What impact has social media had on how we acquire and share political

knowledge?

–       Can affect real world agreements without triggering the people’s consciousness

–       Conspiracy theories/ fake news

–       Government manipulation

o   Covid origin

o   Election

o   Anti-democratic

–       Possible implications

o   Civil war

o   Destroy civilization

o   Fail to meet the challenge of climate change

o   Autocratic dysfunction governments

o   Ruin global economy

Are new ethical challenges emerging from the increased use of data analytics in political activity and decision-making? –       Likes, comments, and hearts correlate to short term happiness, but we start thinking about what we can do next to be even better

o   Depression and suicide increase in 2011-2013 dramatically (first generation to get on social media in middle school)

§  Makes people more fragile and depressed

§  Less likely to take risks

·      Drivers licenses

·      Going out on dates

o   Acts like digital pacifier

–       It’s hard to identify the existential threat that technology has on humans

o   It’s the technology’s ability to bring out the worst in society and that being the existential threat that’s scary

§  Creates

·      Loneliness

·      Anxiety

·      Depression; mental health

·      Election hacking

·      Distraction; inability to focus on real issues

–       No trust between people

o   People stop being friends based on political decisions or beliefs

–       Effects political decisions and elections

o   Didn’t hack, but changed the way people think

§  Remote control warfare

§  A country and manipulate another one using social media

o   Confusion; lack communication

o   Attack on democratic countries

 

 

  • There are benefits of social media
    • Found organ doners
    • Reunited families
  • These concerns were never anticipated before when they were created
  • People are ignoring the problem and can’t see the concerns
    • Fake news
      • Corona virus
    • Mental health
      • Body dysmorphia
    • ISIS inspires people
    • Cults gaining followers
    • Addiction
    • Security
  • Why these things are happening? The once source that causes it all
  • Tristan
    • Wants to make email less addictive -> made a presentation
      • Worked on something for a few hours every night
      • Billions of people are being controlled by a few who chose what they see first on social media
      • At first, he began getting emails about his presentation and agreed with it; Tristan thought something was going to change, but nothing happened
    • Jaron
      • Wrote book on ten reasons to delete social media right now
    • “If you’re not paying the product, then you are the product”
      • People competing for your attention; keep people engaged
      • Companies are buying the costumers
      • It’s the gradual change of our behavior and perspective that is the product
    • This marketplace trades exclusively in human futures
      • They need certainty which means that they need lots of data
    • Every single action taken online is taken down
      • How long you look at it
      • What you’re looking at
      • Your personalities
    • Gets lots of data
    • This data is used to predict our actions; whoever gets the best data wins
    • 3 main goals
      • Growth
      • Engagement
      • Advertisement
    • The very meaning of communication and culture is manipulation
    • Magicians were the first psychologists; they understand how a part of our mind works
    • How to build the science of persuasion into technology
      • Want people to do something, to invite more friends
      • Tactics
        • Notifications are like slot machines
        • Tagged photos (won’t ignore)
          • The photo isn’t in the notification
        • “typing”
      • We’re all lab rats; all being manipulated
      • Can affect real world agreements without triggering the people’s consciousness
    • Tools are just there, whereas technology changes you
    • Likes, comments, and hearts correlate to short term happiness, but we start thinking about what we can do next to be even better
      • Depression and suicide increase in 2011-2013 dramatically (first generation to get on social media in middle school)
        • Makes people more fragile and depressed
        • Less likely to take risks
          • Drivers licenses
          • Going out on dates
        • Acts like digital pacifier
      • Most dangerous point is that the technology is advancing very exponentially yet our brains haven’t evolved at all
      • AI already runs the world
        • In google, there are massive rooms filled with computers that are interconnected and run lots of programs with different types of algorithms
        • The machines can change itself
        • Humans have almost lost control over these machines; they control us more than we control them
      • Fake news on twitter spreads six times as fast as real news
        • False information benefit more from the internet because of the system that they have created unconsciously (fake news is more interesting)
        • Disinformation for profit for companies
        • Facebook can be extremely effective at persuasion for the government too
          • Really easy and cheap
        • Less control over who we are and what we believe
      • No trust between people
        • People stop being friends based on political decisions or beliefs
      • Effects political decisions and elections
        • Didn’t hack, but changed the way people think
          • Remote control warfare
          • A country and manipulate another one using social media
        • Confusion; lack communication
        • Attack on democratic countries
      • AI can’t solve the problem of fake news
      • It’s hard to identify the existential threat that technology has on humans
        • It’s the technology’s ability to bring out the worst in society and that being the existential threat that’s scary
          • Creates
            • Loneliness
            • Anxiety
            • Depression; mental health
            • Election hacking
            • Distraction; inability to focus on real issues
          • Thinks the platforms are responsible
            • they have to make sure that children aren’t becoming depressed and elections aren’t hacked
            • the business models/companies are the ‘bad guys’
            • thinks we should make laws, taxes, and regulations because there is no other way that these things can be controlled
            • Everyone is basically slightly responsible
          • Possible implications
            • Civil war
            • Destroy civilization
            • Fail to meet the challenge of climate change
            • Autocratic dysfunction governments
            • Ruin global economy
          • Things are worth more dead than alive- profit at all costs
            • Trees
            • Whales
            • Destroying the planet
            • We’re the tree/whale now
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Ways of Knowing- Parents

Tools they used

  • Dictionaries
  • Textbooks
  • Rulers
  • Notebooks
  • Chinese calculators (?)
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Chalk

 

School Life

  • Only had calculators in middle school
  • Never heard of any electronics
  • Used chalk, paper, and pencil
  • Around 60 students per class
  • No personal attention, you either thrive or don’t
  • Subjects include Chinese, English, Geography, History, Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Politics
  • Memorized poems and literatures
  • Focuses on how to solve math problems without a calculator or working it out (inside the head)
  • By high school, students are split between “literature” and “STEM”

 

Implications

From the interview that I had with my parents, there are two main points that can be deduced: students from the 1980s to 1990s in local Chinese middle and high schools learned more confined knowledge and used less productive strategies. These are caused by the use of electronics and learning techniques, two significant differences not only between students now and students 40 years ago, but also between international and local schools.

In the modern era, most schools, especially private international schools such as ISB, are able to equip their students with some sort of electronic. However, 30 to 40 years ago, most local Chinese students have not even heard of a phone or computer, let alone be able to use one. Hence, their knowledge would have come from their surroundings and not social media. This would mean that rumors, news events, inventions, and more would have spread significantly slower than they are spreading on social media now. Technology can also be used for more specific education, such as educational videos or calculators. The scarcity of electronics limited the ways the students could study. For instance, instead of typing an essay, they would have to hand write one. Although this may be beneficial for Chinese and English classes, it isn’t necessary for natural or social science writings. Hand writing assignments could take up more time than necessary, making learning in the 1980s and 1990s less productive than it is now.

Another difference between the students now and students in my parents’ environment that is mainly caused by the educational system between local and international schools are the strategies that schools use to teach students. First, the students were treated differently than they are in private, international schools. For instance, in my parents’ schools, students were not given individual feedback and were taught as a collective group. Hence, those who struggle are not supported and those who are thriving are not given challenges, meaning that they have to learn merely from what they are presented with. Moreover, the test scores of every student was presented in class. In fact, as punishment for when my mom got a below average score on her math test, she was forced to stand in front of the class while the teacher scolded her. Finally, the physical teaching styles also differed. Local Chinese schools usually favored the concept of “repetition” in learning, such as memorizations or solving many math problems inside one’s head. This is very different to the ways of teaching in international school where students are encouraged to find patterns or to learn techniques instead of mere repetition.

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Is Ignorance Bliss?

Motion: Ignorance is Bliss
Stance: Though I was not present for the actual debate, I am on the opposing side of this argument and wrote many of their arguments

The affirmative side’s arguments mainly revolved around the suffering that knowledge can bring and how happiness is instinctual. Before their arguments were presented, two key terms were first defined: ignorance as lacking knowledge for one’s whole life and bliss as happiness, or the optimal state of wellbeing for everyone. The team starts off by suggesting a correlation between knowledge and suffering. Examples that were used to support their points include how our mental health has not been entirely affected by the Sudan war, because of our level of awareness, and how some of the most knowledgeable humans, such as Alan Turing, father of computer science, and Virginia Wolf, famous author, were both outcasts of society. Next, they showed how happiness is instinctual and hence, no prerequisite knowledge would be needed to stimulate this mental state. This was supported by the example of how completely ignorant newborns are also able to experience happiness. Finally, the team concludes with excerpts from Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College by Thomas Gray, which portrayed the idea of how humans should live their lives to the fullest until their death.

The opposition’s arguments took a different approach; they pointed out the pain, danger, and troubles that ignorance can bring as it will only provide us with momentary bliss. Many daily-life examples were utilized to support this claim such as crashing one’s car from being ignorant of traffic lights and being shunned and isolated from the society from being ignorant of Black Lives Matter, a sensitive topic for many. The team concludes that ignorance will not only bring physical damages, but also force one’s ingroups to diminish as they neglect social norms. Without these ingroups it will be nearly impossible for humans to be happy because we are naturally social creatures. Another point that was mentioned was a loophole found in the affirmative team’s argument: people will need knowledge in order to be happy because how can you be happy when you don’t know how to achieve your goals?

Though both sides provided authentic evidence and reasoning, the negative side, in my opinion, ultimately won this debate. While I could be biased against the affirmative due to my own beliefs, from what I saw, they were at times, contradicting themselves and neglecting other factors that may affect their arguments. For instance, the team blurs the definition of “ignorance” and twists its meaning to benefit their own points. Because they defined this key term as partial ignorance and having different degrees of awareness, it is incredibly hard to pinpoint exactly how ignorant one is in a situation. During the crossfire, the opposing team pointed out how Alan Turing, in fact, did not die because of how knowledgeable he was, but by societal pressures after coming out as gay. The affirmative team, whose earlier point has already been directly refuted, as the opposition has shown how knowledge does not correlate with serious damages, then responded that based on their definition, Alan Turing’s death still could have been prevented if he were to be ignorant of the negative connotations and consequences of being gay back then. This, however, would have contradicted their original definition where they explicitly emphasized how one cannot be completely ignorant as that would make this motion unreasonable. Yet in this situation, they are arguing that Turing could have been completely ignorant on how others will respond to being gay.

Overall, I agree with the opposing side of this motion, that ignorance does not equal bliss. However, on a more technical standpoint, I would be inclined to answer that neither sides are completely true or false. It is entirely up to the specific situation to determine whether ignorance is or isn’t bliss. It is true that the more knowledge one acquires, the more responsibility they will have to carry. However, in the long term, it is still better to have some sort of knowledge rather than being ignorant for life. One simple example is test taking. One might be ignorant of a math test and enjoy their day– up to the moment the test takes place. Once they have enjoyed their momentary bliss, they will have to face the negative consequences, many of which are much worse than the short-lived happiness. Another example can be the ignorance of rules. If people were to be ignorant and follow their own values, the society would become a chaotic anarchy. Some may argue with the idea of knowing when one will die and hence, worrying for the rest of your lives. While that is partially true, I also believe that this can motivate one to live their lives to the fullest as well. This is the reality of many terminally ill patients; however, most of them decide to chase their dreams nevertheless and some are even more determined to take risks and do what they love. Hence, in most circumstances and in the long run, ignorance is not always bliss.

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TOK- Are some ways of knowing more likely than others to lead to truth?

Certain ways of knowing are more likely to lead to truth in different circumstances. Because “truth” is defined as the fact or reality to an individual, this “truth” may change across different perspectives. For instance, one might witness an innocent’s death, while believing in the idea that only those who commit bad deeds are punished. Here, what is true in sensory information, may not be true with faith. To answer why a certain way of knowing– reasoning– is more likely to lead to truths in different situations, this paper will focus on how different ways of knowing affects trials in a court as well as address a potential counterargument.

In the context of objective and serious issues, reasoning would be the most reliable way of knowing. Hard evidence is the only way of knowing that will almost guarantee a truth. Even if the reasoning is based on false statements, the conclusion will still be the truth in accordance to those statements. Witnesses, defendants, plaintiffs, and even jurors are often overwhelmed during trials at court. According to a paper written by law and psychology students Terry A. Maroney from Vanderbilt University Law School and James J. Gross from Stanford University, while a dispassionate judge is the most ideal, it is nearly impossible for judges to eliminate the factor of emotion. These outbursts of emotion can lead to erratic decisions from both sides. Consequently, this may alter intuition, sensory perception, language, imagination, and memory. Because of an already biased perspective, intuition and imagination may be inclined to align themselves with those biases, sensory perception and memory may be molded, and language may be misinterpreted. Hence, there is only one best way to stay objective– through reasoning.

Some may say that a shortcoming in reasoning is that it may only support black or white decisions and hence, religious and philosophical matters will ultimately have to dismiss this way of knowing. This, however, is incorrect. All truths, in fact, are based on some sort of reasoning. When people believe in God, it is because they have heard of heavenly encounters which through reasoning, they deduce are messages sent by God. When children trust their friends with secrets, the superficial way of knowing may be faith, but deep down, it also because of all the other times the friend has kept the secret safe, and hence, through inductive reasoning, the child concludes that they will once again, keep the secret. Unlike other ways of knowing, some sort of reasoning is almost always a factor in one’s decisions.

Reasoning allows people to move from one statement to another through logical thinking and will thus, bring people to truths in accordance to the original statement and previous knowledge. Though it has its exceptions, they appear less frequently and cause fewer implications than the other ways of knowing. Because reasoning is one of the most efficient ways of knowing and will always be incorporated in everyday critical thinking, in most cases, it will be more likely to arrive at a truth than other ways of knowing.

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TOK- What do you know for sure, and how do you know it?

Introduction- Hi, my name is Celena. I like to dance, play the piano, draw, and play volleyball. This is my seventh year at ISB, and I look forwards to learning more in TOK!

What do you know for sure, and how do you know it?

What is the purpose of life? Are we part of a simulation? Is everything merely a dream or hallucination? There are many theories that attempt to explain the reason anything exists. But the truth is, we don’t know anything for sure. The only things that we can confirm are true are things that we define. For instance, I know for sure that my name is Celena and that I am 15 years old because our name and the unit of “years” are things that we have defined. However, we will never know how life first started, how evolution works, or even simple things such as why objects fall to the ground and not up towards the sky. The job for answering these universal questions have been forced upon scientists across the world; but even the best scientists cannot prove anything. The most that they are able to do is come up with theories that best explain these phenomenons. In reality, we will never fully understand these concepts, ever. There is no way to explain anything that happens in life because we can’t confirm things that we don’t control.

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Blog Post 4- Reflection

Although the product that I made is not the best it can be, I am glad it works. This toy is supposed to be subjected to kids at younger ages. If I had more time, I would make the randomizer better by having two of them so that if the one of the sticks get stuck, you could use the other to spin the fidget spinner, I would also make the measurements of the teeth more accurate because I accidentally cut the holes to close to each other, causing the cardboard to slightly rip when the popsicle sticks are pressed. Furthermore, I would make the design look aesthetically more pleasing. However, despite all the flaws, my design works overall. By opening the mouth, a pin connected to the mouth pushes a popsicle stick until the screw in the end gets stuck under the rim of the paper cup ring. In this process, the rubber band connecting the popsicle stick and a stable box that supports it is pulled. This allows the mouth to stay open. Then by pressing on a specific tooth, it also pushes down a side of the fidget spinner. The spring connected to the bottom of it allows the other side of the fidget spinner to lift up while the side in which the tooth is on is down. Finally, this makes the rubber band pull the popsicle stick with the screw backwards, making everything reverse and thus, bringing the mouth back down again.

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Blog Post 3- Process

Day 1-

I gathered my materials, making sure that they work and adjusted ones that didn’t fit exactly. I also found the materials that are harder to find, such as bearings and springs. Furthermore, I measured and cut out the template of the base and made many replicas to use later. By the end of the class, I have assembled the fidget spinner, paper cup, spring and the popsicle sticks.

Day 2-

I started the class by learning how to drill a hole using a drill. However, the hole was either to small for the screw or too big, thus, breaking the popsicle sticks. I solved this problem by drilling a slightly bigger hole and towards the middle of the stick so that there is less of a chance for the sticks to crack. I then assembled the popsicle sticks, cutting them with ‘giant scissors’ and made the turning thing that I will later attach the top mouth to. The bearings and stick were not the correct size and I solved this problem by putting glue in so that the sticks are secure. Finally, I glued everything in place. However, I am currently behind schedule, because I am supposed to finish all the mechanics today.

Day 3-

I finished the mechanics, however, the measurements are slightly off because I didn’t have exactly the same materials as the tutorial. I needed to move and adjust things that I have already hot glued down and to do so, I had to melt the glue using the tip of the glue gun. This process had to repeated many times. The main mechanics worked.

Day 4-

I realized that the randomizer does not work because I had glued the bottom of the cup on the wrong part of the fidget spinner, not allowing it to move. However, even after I fixed that, the mechanics of the randomizer still did not work and the positioning was of the box that supported the popsicle sticks were to close to the fidget spinner, not allowing the rubber band to pull very hard and thus, keeping the mouth from closing all the way as well. After regluing most of the components, I glued the bottom mouth with teeth that could move up and down without coming out on but forgot to put back the randomizer. In order to solve this problem, I added my own randomizer that was vertical to the mouth instead of horizontal so that everyone you pushed it, it would also push the fidget spinner. Finally, I added the tail, face and legs of the crocodile.

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Blog #2- Crocodile Dentist Design

Main Materials                                   Materials in Detail .        Main Design

PLAN

Wednesday-

Goal: Start on bottom, work out how it works, etc

Materials-

School: cardboard, spring, exacto knife, cutting board, hot glue gun, measuring tools, bearings (2*mm3, 2*4mm), popsicle sticks, rubber bands, screw driver, screw, drill

Home:  fidget spinner, plastic cup, pencils, sticks, hairpin

Homework- Research or exam the design carefully

 

Friday-

Goal: Finish prototype of bottom

Materials-

School: cardboard, exacto knife, cutting board, hot glue gun, measuring tools, popsicle sticks, screw driver, drill

Home: pencils, sticks

Homework- Find places to improve on and how to

 

Tuesday-

Goal: Improve the prototype of the bottom and cut out shapes of head and body

Materials-

School: cardboard, exacto knife, cutting board, hot glue gun, measuring tools, popsicle sticks, screw driver, drill, MIGHT NEED OTHER STUFF depending on how it needs to be improved

Home: pencils, sticks

Homework: Make anymore adjustments

 

Thursday-

Goal: Finish project by painting and assembling it

Materials-

School: Cardboard, exacto knife, cutting board, hot glue gun, measuring tools, paint

Home: pencils

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Inquire

What is this engineering task?

What are you thinking about doing?

Kitchen Tool

Toy

Hat Fan- Renewable energy to electric to kinetic

ANALYZE those ideas: What are the pros/cons about those ideas?

Kitchen cutter

Pro-

Useful

Con-

Unsafe, messy

 

Dentist Toy

Pro-

Entertaining, easy

Con-

Energy Transfer isn’t obvious

Not very Useful

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