To what extent is the knowledge constructed in some areas of knowledge more reliable than the knowledge constructed in others? 

The knowledge constructed in the areas of mathematics and natural sciences is more reliable than the knowledge constructed in the arts and social sciences to a large extent. This is because of how the former relies more on objectivity and pure logic than the latter. For instance, a concept of mathematics is direct proof, which states how if n is even, then n^2 is also even. This proof was made without any bias as the thought process of its creation only involved emotionless numbers and computation software. Moreover, the definition of “proof” in mathematics states how once the proof is proven, it cannot be disproven. These are all evidence pointing towards mathematics being an unbiased and logical area of knowledge. Natural sciences run a similar course, as their knowledge is constructed through using technology in experiments to form evidence that is further analyzed. Just like mathematics, it is an area of knowledge that relies a lot on objective evidence. On the other hand, the experts in the area of arts create knowledge based on their own perceptions. For instance, Salvador Dali painted The Persistence of Memory, an abstract painting that was not drawn based on any facts and instead stemming from Dali’s own imagination. This is an example that illustrates how the arts construct knowledge through a highly subjective process. Social sciences such as economics are less subjective than the arts, yet still very subjective on their own; it is an area making patterns based on human behaviors, however, these behaviors are drawn by experts who are viewing society through their own personal lens, which causes the knowledge to contain bias. Ultimately, when assessed on the criteria of the reliability of its knowledge, the areas of mathematics and natural sciences come first before the arts and social sciences.

word count: 300

Politics reflection

  • Do you consider yourself to be “political”?  Why or why not?
    • I do not consider myself to be a political person. This is because I feel like I do not actively engage in conversations about politics with others. Furthermore, I also do not have a strong stance on most political issues because most times I feel a bit detached from those issues. I feel like this is caused by how I am kind of lacking in the area of politics so most times I do not know what stance to take.
  • What does it mean to be political?
    • I personally believe that being political means that you actively engage in political matters or conversations with others about politics. Or that you actively seek information about politics and want to spread your political ideas to others. The reason why I felt the need to add the “active” part into my definition for what it means to be political in that I believe almost everyone is political to an extent – we are constantly being exposed to politics so it is hard to not be completely not political. Yet the difference lies in how you treat the political information you come across. If you are actively engaging in politics in any way, then you are political.
  • Is everything political?  Why or why not?
    • I believe that everything is indeed political to an extent. The society we lived in was formed based on politics — we have a government, we follow the laws set by the government, and we can see political discourse happening on small to large scales every day. I think this is caused by how politics come naturally in societies; every human being has a different opinion and when we socialize with each other in a society we end up in factions, which ultimately leads to politics.
  • How important do you feel it is to be aware of what is going on in politics?
    • I feel like it is important to be aware of what is going on in politics to the extent that you are aware of the political atmosphere around you. A lot of different countries have different political atmospheres, and you should learn about what is happening in their politics so you could remain respectful and not end up offending them. Furthermore, I believe it is always better to learn more about the world we live in, and learning about politics will help you better observe the changes happening in the societies you live in.
  • What are the political issues that you believe are most important right now and why?
    • I believe the political issues of human rights are the most important right now. I personally believe that human rights should come before any other issue such as people fighting for power in the government etc. Specifically, I feel really bad for the children that are often harmed in political discourse. For instance, data shows that there are 11.25 million child refugees globally. A lot of them lack access to food or education. I believe that there should be more attention directed towards these children who are supposed to have a warm and happy childhood but are currently living in questionable conditions because of all the political discourse around the world.

TOK end of semester reflection

  • During the first semester, we considered knowledge questions related to “Knowledge and the Knower” and “Knowledge and Technology.” Looking back, what learning engagements stand out to you the most and why? 
    • The learning engagement of watching the documentary about the dangers of social media stood out to me the most. I already really like to watch documentaries to begin with because I feel like it is a very non-boring way to absorb new knowledge. I was able to learn a lot about the current technologies in the world and the implications it has on real life. The reason why I particularly enjoyed this documentary was about how it connected to almost every aspect in TOK. For instance, it talked about knowledge and technology. On the other hand, the documentary also displayed content related to “knowledge and the knower” as the speakers are biased in the documentary, and the knowledge in the documentary could be subjective anecdotes or objective data. The concept of the biases held by the speakers in the documentary stood out to me the most since it made me think about the intentions of their words and the effects they want to achieve on the viewers. In the end, it made me realize how this piece of knowledge, the documentary, that I am viewing is essentially also biased to an extent despite the “objective” data they quoted. That in turn made me finally realize how all knowledge is indeed biased to an extent.
  • In what ways, if any, has your perspective shifted as a result of your participation in this course so far?
    • My perspective has shifted a lot as a result of my participation in this course so far. To begin with, I really have never put much thought into the concept of what we know and how we know before I started to take TOK. When I learned the ways of knowing I felt like I knew these ways before, but I have never tried to logically categorize them. Learning these ways of knowing deepened my impression of them, and I start to consciously think about the ways of knowing appearing in my everyday life. The most important shift was the way I treat the knowledge I come across. I feel like I used to be way more cynical before taking TOK. I would be really annoyed when someone has a different set of knowledge from me, I would feel like they are incorrect. However, by taking this course, I realized how as everyone grew up in different cultures, everyone absorbed knowledge from different perspectives, which in turn gave them their unique perspectives. Thus, I have become milder when coming across different perspectives, and I always remind myself that having different perspectives is a cool thing, not something to be annoyed about. I believe this change in my perspective is mainly caused due to how almost every TOK class involves thinking about all kinds of knowledge in a really rational and calm way, and this learning setting helped me block out my cynical side almost unconsciously. All in all, I understood that every human being comes from different backgrounds with different knowledge, so we should always try to co-exist peacefully.
  • Looking ahead to the exhibition requirement, what do you want to keep in mind?
    • I want to keep a few TOK questions that I have already picked thus far in mind as I am probably picking one out of those questions to use for my final exhibition. I would also like to brainstorm about the potential personal objects I could use for my final exhibition. I believe thinking about these things beforehand would make the actual creation of my exhibition easier when the time actually comes.
  • Thinking back on the writing you have done so far in the course, what can you do to continue to hone your skills?
    • I would explore the TOK book list and read some books on the list to further hone my skills on TOK in general (I have already borrowed a few, such as The Tipping Point). Reading books would also inspire me with new ideas for my final exhibition. I would also be going through the TOK textbook again to review some key terms and concepts to make sure that I am always refreshing my knowledge in general.

Reflection from the interview: Development of personal and shared knowledge

What tools did they use when they were going to school to learn and/or produce knowledge?

My dad answered that they usually do “readings” and used no specific tools apart from his schoolbooks and their teachers’ knowledge. My dad claimed that his class would mostly go with a process like “ what is the meaning of this paragraph. “ Then, “ what is the main point of the entire article” through these  “readings” exercises.  My dad claimed that they learned to understand the way to express thoughts, but it was not a really systematic way to learn logic.

What were their experiences in school like?

Through my dad’s entire learning experience through answering “readings”,  he claimed to feel very confused since there was no specific standard of what is a great, good, need improvement. My dad claimed he read a lot outside school, though he did not really understand each word. He recounted that he was around 8-9 years old but found many interesting things in those books. The library manager used to make fun of him by saying:  “only took you two days to finish this 500-page novel? Did you actually read it? Next time bring me a reflection writing. Otherwise, you would not get to check out the next book.”

I feel very grateful when I compare my experiences in school to my dad’s experiences. Unlike my dad, I believe the subjects I take all have a distinct and clear rubric, so I know exactly where I did well and where I need to improve. Furthermore, I believe that the learning system I nows study in is more developed since I think there is now a systematic way to learn logic. For instance, I learned clear rules of writing logically cohesive paragraphs in my English, Chinese, history, and economics class. This seems to be something that my dad did not have when he went to school. Moreover, I also have more sources to acquire knowledge other than him and does not rely fully on my teacher to learn everything; I have access to the internet, unlike him when he was young.

I believe the answers to this interview show how humans learn and produce knowledge became more diverse and accessible as human society developed.  For instance, my dad had to go to the library or talk to his teacher to learn something in the 1970s-1980s. In contrast, I now have the luxury of clicking a few keys and a heap of websites to explore on the internet for knowledge accompanied by the knowledge from my teachers. Moreover, the confusion he expressed for lack of marking scheme is also something I have never felt since development occurred; rubrics became implemented in later educational systems, which included mine. I never had to do one of the readings my dad did in school when he was young, and this implies that this way of gaining knowledge might have been antiquated and given up on. On the other hand, the fact that teachers existed in both our childhoods emphasizes the importance of having someone who can spread both personal and shared knowledge since all my teachers would instill both types of knowledge in their teachings. This shows that as development occurs, there are traditions about personal and shared knowledge that evolved, disappeared, or sustained.

“ignorance is bliss” debate reflection

The Pro side of the debate argued two main points: 

1. Ignorance is bliss because with knowledge comes responsibility,  and since the responsibility is not placed on an ignorant person, this person will then have bliss.

2. Ignorance is bliss because being disillusioned might lead to a lack of willingness to achieve his/her goals. On the other hand, if this person did remain ignorant, he/she would be able to continue to work hard in their life, which ultimately brings this person bliss. 

The pro side of the debate used very thought-provoking evidence such as alluding to a scene from the movie The Matrix where a man explains how being ignorant brought him bliss and a recount of rural Chinese village kids living rather poorly, yet happily, in their own “ignorant” bubble of community. 

The Con side of the debate argued two main points:

1. Ignorance is not bliss because ignorance is a facade that humans put up for themselves, leading to detrimental outcomes initially masked by a temporary sense of happiness

2. ignorance is not bliss because they are separate concepts. As one ignores, they do not achieve the “perfect happiness” that is bliss; they are simply in a state of unknowing.

The con side of the debate used evidence such as the soon-to-be-striking-earth asteroid example, the economic theory of “financial illiteracy”, and the historical example of Tsar Nicholas the II’s ignorance that lead his country to defeat in the Russo-Japanese war. 


I believe that both sides provided very persuasive and strong arguments for this debate, however, I would have to pick the con side as the winning team. I believe that the con side had well-structured arguments that flowed and meshed well. Furthermore, the con side was slightly more prepared than the pro side. All in all, both sides performed very well during the debate and it really made me deeply contemplate this philosophical question.

I personally fall on the con side of this argument, which was probably a good thing because it made my process of coming up with arguments for my team (con side) way easier. I believe that ignorance is not bliss because I define the term “bliss” as perfect happiness. Thus, I believe that the so-called bliss that is brought by ignorance not “perfect happiness” but a temporary façade that would become more and more harmful the longer it remains. At one point this facade will crumble and lead to highly unpleasant outcomes. Thus, I would really like to just know the most I could about anything before I could enter a state of ignorance about a matter.

I think the concept “with greater knowledge comes greater responsibility” is very accurate. I believe that humans have the responsibility to remain inclusive towards any knowledge they acquire. This is because every piece of knowledge, no matter gathered through which way from the eight ways of knowing, represents information from a different perspective. This is because a lot of philosophical discussion noted how almost no knowledge is completely objective. Thus, we should always remember in our hearts that just because you do not agree with a certain knowledge, you should still try to understand it or at least respect it. To conclude, we should always be mindful and inclusive to the knowledge we receive when we acquire them.

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

The depths of mankind’s thought process are seemingly endless, but thankfully they could be generalized into eight ways of knowing. The eight ways of knowing are sense perception, reason, emotions, imagination, intuition, language, memory, and faith. The term “truth”  is defined as “the actual facts or facts about a matter.” It is understood that the truth has to be as objective as possible since it is a “fact”. Through this understanding of the term “truth”‘s definition, I believe reason is a way of knowing that is more likely than others to lead to truth.

To begin with, reason is the most evidence-based way of knowing out of all eight ways and is thus the most likely way of knowing that will lead to “truths”. For example, during a logic test I took years ago, I needed to state whether a statement is logical by judging its underlying premises. The premises provided for the statement claim states that “All cats are evil” and that “Jessie is a cat.” The statement then says that “Therefore Jessie is evil”. I, as someone who appreciates this mammalian species with all my heart, naturally disagrees with this statement spiritually. However, under this particular scenario, I had to discard my personal bias towards this statement and recognize it as the “truth” since the underlying premises all support its factualness and provide a clear causal relationship. From this example, it could be seen how reason helps humans shed their personal bias that could easily affect the validity of their judgment compared to other ways of knowing, which thus makes it a better way of knowing that leads to truths since truths are defined as “the actual facts”.

Yet, Others might argue that intuition is a way of knowing that is more likely than others to lead to the truth due to its unexplainable accuracy at certain times. Some people believe that this thought process that behaves as a form of basic awareness can lead us to “plain self-evident” truths. For instance, historical records reflected that Julius Caesar’s wife Calpurnia told her husband that she foresaw his assassination with her intuition and begged him not to go to the senate. Yet Caesar did not listen, went anyways, and ended up being assassinated. There was no logical reasoning in Calpurnia’s intuition, yet it led to an undeniable truth. This evidence suggests that this seemingly “baseless” way of knowing that directly opposes reason also leads to truths when there are no premises to meticulously ponder upon.

Conclusively, the two concepts that directly oppose each other, Reason and Intuition, both have distinct areas of strength. Intuition is a gut feeling that points humans to truths. In contrast, reason requires meticulous, emotionally detached calculations. If the decision has to be made,  reason would be the way of knowing that is more likely to lead to truths as its strict use of logic and relatively high level of required objectivity helps the human psyche realize the most informed truths under almost any circumstances.

word count: 500

Theory of Knowledge – Pre-Assessment

Hello. My name is Jackie Yuan and I am a 11th grader who just started my first chapter of the IB diploma journey. I really enjoy reading all kinds of English and Chinese books. Apart from reading for fun, I am either doing homework, socializing with my friends, or playing with my pets (A bichon frise named Snowball and an exotic short hair cat named Pancake). Below is my pre-assessment for my Theory of Knowledge course.

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

The only thing that I know for sure about is scientifically proven truths that persisted through time. I know for sure about them because firstly, they are conclusions drawn by accredited and reliable professionals which makes them trustworthy. For example, English chemist Joseph Priestley successfully separated and discovered the element of “oxygen” and proved that it is vital to life in 1774. This discovery was then aided by other accredited professionals such as scientist Antoine Lavoisier, adding to its reliability. Statistics-wise, scientific data from the US Department of Health revealing how 900 infants died by suffocation in 2017 in the U.S. is another strong example that illustrates how there is a causal relationship between the presence of oxygen and the state of being alive. However, a scientist’s confirmed statements are not enough for me to know for sure about it, as sometimes research could end up being debunked after a period of time. So, these truths also have to be able to sustain the power of time. The scientific statement of “humans needing oxygen to survive” is an example that perfectly fulfills this requirement. To this day, oxygen stands beside carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc. as the necessary elements for an human’s survival. Moreover, phrases such as “I can’t breathe” being used whenever someone is tired, suffocated, or just entered a steamy sauna room are used daily to indicate their need for oxygen. When I flip open my 2014 edition IB biology SL Oxford textbook, oxygen is also regularly stated as a vital element to life. The 240 years from 1774 to 2014 is enough time to demonstrate the trustworthiness of this truth. All in all, the only thing that I know about is scientifically proven truths that survived the unpredictable span of time.

word count: 295

Engineering Project Journal #4

Below are some pictures of my final product. 

Explain how it didn’t  work using scientific terminology
There are two possible reasons for my not-working project being the way it is.  The first reason is that the motor did not have enough power to generate enough electricity. Because theoretically, if I turn the hand crank enough the kinetic energy is converted into an electric current in the dynamo, and the entire motor generates electricity. The electricity generated goes into the wires connected to the rectifier. Then it goes to the other side of the rectifier connected with the zener diode, resistor (the resistor and diode stop the electricity from going to the wrong way), and at last, it goes into the other two wires from the USB port. After the electricity goes into the wires of the USB port, the phone plugged in could be successfully charged. However that did not happen, upon further conversation with Mr.Costa it might be because I did not turn the motor enough so it didn’t generate enough electricity. One way for me to make the motor generate enough electricity is to just crank it at a really high speed for a long time, then maybe it can generate enough electricity. Sadly, that is not realistic because another suggested hypothesis is that this might not have happened only because I didn’t turn the motor enough, but because it just isn’t strong enough to charge the phone at the first place. A human arm was probably too weak to power the 12-volt motor. The second reason for my phone charger not working is probably because some parts of my wiring in the rectifier section is a little bit off. I might’ve soldered the zener diode and the resistor to the wrong wires and parts which resulted in random short circuits that stopped the system from working.

Explain the areas you were successful in the product/process
I feel personally successful in the aesthetics of this product. It is very neatly cut out and put together in a box. The dimensions are perfect and the boards match and fit with each other. All the important parts (the hand crank and the USB port) sticks out of the box and the rest of the messy wires are hidden. The box is definitely not a sore for the eye and I’m happy with it. I feel like I was also successful with the color I used for the box, it’s a plain simplistic white that is always classic and the color could be altered by the customer if they did not like it. It might not fit the definition of beautiful, but definitely acceptable and neat.
I also feel successful with the adjustments I made to my project which is first changing the material to a lighter one, then shrinking the dimensions and lastly substituting a long list of steps making a hand crank to using an already made hand-crank+ motor. My adjustment on decreasing the weight of the product really serves one of my first purposes of creating this product: making it easily portable. It is lighter than most of the power banks you use in real life. Secondly, it’s way smaller than the one created in the procedure, I shrank the size down to the smallest possible just because I didn’t want to make it unnecessarily big and takes up a lot of space. My last adjustment being successful also relates to my time management skills. Not only did I got an all-in-one packaged material that is originally made up from bits and pieces, but I also gained a lot of more time. This leads to the last thing I feel personally successful for: my time management skills. I had a really tight schedule as seen in journal 2. First I had China cup (I miss 1 class) and then I can only go to 1 workshops session due to basketball practice and JPAC. But I propelled myself to strictly follow my work schedule and even squeezed out a 2-hour workshop at the FAB lab the night before I left for JPAC. I even took my project with me to JPAC to finalize some things. At last, I was able to finish my product on time. One more thing I feel pretty successful about is that I ensured the safety of my product. The hand crank is plastic and does not transfer electricity. The point of the zener diode and the resistor is to prevent a short circuit or irregular electric currents going into the other side. The amount of volts generated is also strictly regulated by the resistor. I am happy that my product had no threat towards costumers.

Explain the areas you need to improve in the product/process
Just because I had some success in my product/process, it doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to improve on. I actually have a lot of improvements that I am willing to make the next time I work on a project like this. Firstly, I feel like next time I should really try to keep myself composed mentally before I partake in any hasty decisions. Because at the start of the project I kind of panicked because I didn’t have a lot of materials, before thoroughly checking if ISB has them I ordered them on Taobao. Later on, I found out ISB does have them and I had to ask for a refund. A calm and composed mindset is what I really need next time because it will help me in all kinds of projects and even in my life. Another area I would like to improve on is my wiring skills. When I wired my rectifier together I knew what I was doing. Mr.Beatty gave me a lot of help, but I feel like something has still gone wrong. Maybe it is because I lack basic knowledge of mechanics and I accidentally messed something up because there was probably a mistake in my wiring. I would really need and love to improve my knowledge on the output/input, negative and positive sides, ––––basically the entire spectrum of wiring things next time.

Explain the impact of this project on the environment and potential client/consumer.
My muscle powered phone charger could potentially have a lot of impact on the environment because of its source of energy being renewable energy. The key power to this phone charger is kinetic and mechanical energy. The kinetic energy of your arm moving (muscle power) is affecting the gear (mechanical energy) and that energy is converted into electricity throughout all the wires in the interior that finally charges the phone. The phone charger exists and works on its own without a plug-in board. Each plug-in board is made out of plastic and all kinds of chemicals, they all contribute to the trashcan after they can no longer be used. However, theoretically, the muscle powered phone charger would never run out of power because the power itself used to charge the phone is generated by the muscle power of the costumer. Furthermore, it also uses some fairly simple and fewer materials. The exterior and interior formation isn’t really complicated and does not require more than around 10 materials. The potential client of this product could be anyone! It could be for someone who wants to live a lifestyle with a bit more exercise in their life (charging up their phone whilst exercising their arm muscles). It could be for someone from a developing area with no stable electricity to plug their phone in and has to have an alternate plan. It could be for a backup product for any family in case a tornado, storm or snow cuts out the electricity in their home. All in all, this product is suitable for anyone.

Engineering Project Journal #3

January 15 & 17 2019

The process of my science project is going pretty well right now even though I’ve had some bumps along the road. Firstly I couldn’t really find a lot of the materials at ISB because they were pretty rare so I had to order on taobao, but then I did find it at ISB so I had to send my ordered items back. That was only a tiny minor setback but it made me realize one improvement I could make next time doing a project like this. That is to know for sure where I can get the materials before making hasty decisions. The first thing I did was I cut out my foam boards. I made an adjustment to the original length I got (the one that I have already decreased) after realizing that it would not fit the motor and the wires. The new dimensions of the box are:

10.5cm x 6cm

3cm x 6cm

10.5 x 3cm

Another improvement I made to my plan is my motor. According to the original procedure of my product, it requires you to create your own pulley, hand crank and gear motor from wood and plastic. However, whilst searching for those materials a design teacher gave me the feedback that ISB has a 12v motor with a hand crank itself that totally matches what I need (enough volts to power a phone) and saves a lot of time. I decided to use that to minimize the time I use since I’m missing a lot of classes because of China cup and JPAC. I tested the motor with a battery connector to make sure that it worked. I also tested out the USB port to make sure it works. Thankfully, the motor started moving when I tested it and the lightbulb connected to the USB port also lighted up when I tested it. This means my materials are fully functioning.

January 23 2019 at the fab lab:

Then I cut out all the boards and gathered my materials together for the further steps. To connect the zener diodes, resistors, wires, and the rectifier together was harder work than I thought it would be. I had to connect the resistor and zener diodes to the positive and negative sides of the rectifier, but I couldn’t find a single symbol on the rectifier. This was when my researching skills came into use and I searched up the model of the rectifier using the code on its back. I found a manual of it online and thankfully it had what I needed. After further confirming with  Mr.Beatty what output and input stand for, I was good to go.

After figuring out how everything works, all I needed to do was solder everything together. That’s exactly what I did and happily, it’s also one of the last steps of my phone charger’s procedure!

This is what the interior of my muscle powered phone charger looks like. 


After I got all the bits connected together I tried it out. Sadly, it did not work. After various plans of trying to revive it (later explained in the 4th  journal), I decided it was done for good.  I will explain the details of why my failure occurred in my next diary entry.

However, after looking at this half-made phone charger, I decided that I still have the obligation to make this aesthetically pleasing because it looks messy with all the wires hanging out. So, I used hot glue and finished the exterior of the phone charger. It still looks pretty decent and I’m grateful I got the measurements correct for the box.


Engineering Project Journal #2

This is the timeline I have decided for myself on this project.

Wednesday, Jan.9: Gather materials

Friday, Jan.11: x (China Cup)

Tuesday, Jan 15: Steps 8-20

Thursday, Jan 17: Steps 20-33

Thursday, Jan 17 afterschool: Steps 1-8 and adding some final touches.

Here is the model of the exterior of my product:

Here is the model of the interior of my product (Taken from original website):

Here is the procedure of my project (Taken from original website but slightly altered)

The mechanics of the muscle-powered works like this: You twist the crank that is connected to a 12V motor, and then the electricity generated by the motor is transferred to the wires of the USB port connected by a rectifier with one resistor and one zener diode on it. Then the USB port connected to the phone charges the phone.

Adjustments of the materials and the measurements had been used. I changed the material of the outer shell of the phone charger which was high-density foam boards to normal foamboards to decrease the weight of everything. Since the main aspect a portable phone charger should have is to be able to be carried easily. I also decreased the length of the foam boards to make it easier to carry around.