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Category: TOK

The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma documentary opened my ignorant mind to the reality of the internet and social media. I have always been aware that the internet collects information about me, but I didn’t know where the information went. That idea that the internet can’t do me any harm made me shrug off the fact that the internet was collecting information about me. However, this documentary made me realize I was, like the boy, was becoming hypnotized and addicted.

One major piece of information that worried me the most was that our generation is becoming more insecure — hospitalization due to self-harm and suicide rates are higher than ever, and no one seems to be confident in themselves anymore. We are exposed to an ocean of information, but as tweens or teens, we haven’t yet fully developed the ability to discern helpful information from the rest. We are vulnerable, and this quality of our generation is exactly what tech companies are exploiting. In some ways, this is a negative feedback cycle; they generate algorithms to exacerbate our anxiety, stripping us of our identity, which acts as a fuel for them to generate profit. This scenario seems like it would happen in a sci-fi dystopian movie, where what makes us human is objectified and used to generate profit.

The documentary also shed light on how society is more polarized than ever, due to the constant indoctrination of extreme beliefs that seem to enforce our biases, turning us into one of those racing horses with blinkers (fig. 1).

 

Fig.1

The documentary said democracy was at risk because other nations, without infiltrating a nation’s borders, can directly influence the results of an election using social media platforms to instigate turbulence and instability. The Rwandan genocide and Russian interference in the American election are examples of democracy at risk. Individuals do not know which story to believe, and they accept false information as the truth. Politics is now less focused on improving the nation for its citizens but on sabotaging the opposition and gaining popularity. This polarization in politics is a direct consequence of the easily exploitable platform made by tech companies.

Who should take the blame? The documentary suggests tech companies, but I believe the blame, a little bit of it at least, is on us. We need to learn how to restrict ourselves and constantly question what we see online. This could be through a simple Google search to see different perspectives on an issue or to find other reliable sources that deal with the same topic. Doing this for every single thing we are exposed to is tiring, especially if we are tired or just don’t care as much. Our group discussed some of our human qualities (for example laziness) that make us susceptible to traps set by tech companies. On the other hand, tech companies designed this platform, and they should take responsibility for what they created. Even through it was originally made for spreading positivity and finding a way for people to connect with each other, the problem now lies in their profit model, where everything is justified if it makes profit. Therefore, I thought that taxing companies on the amount of data they process was a good idea, only if they are taxed proportionally to their revenue.

 

works cited

McKee, Sophia. “A Horse with Blinkers.” Emerald Racing Club, 21 June 2015, emeraldracingclub.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/blinkers.

Technology and Knowledge

I interviewed my parents about their experience in school. They went to school in Korea in the 1970s and the 80s. They would often tell me their experiences in school focusing on their relationship with friends and what they did for fun. In most of their elementary, middle, and high school, they didn’t have mobile devices, so their only method of communicating with their friends was through face-to-face communication or a wired telephone (my mom had the circular dialling telephone we saw in the YouTube video in elementary school). When they wanted to hang out with each other, they needed to wait at the meeting place if their friends didn’t show up on time or go to a tollbooth.

At school, their studies were focused on reading and memorizing material in textbooks. Their sole source of authority was the teachers because all of their knowledge came from them. My mom said there was also private tutoring and that she went to the library for research. They did have computers at school (my mom says middle school), but there was no Google. She used the computers for writing reports in college. My mom also watched educational channels on TV and read paper newspapers every day. She said it was nice because she had to read everything paper newspapers instead of picking information she wants like she does now.

One vastly different experience they had that was different was that they didn’t have phones, computers, tablets. Their communication with peers and the world were limited to pen, paper, and telephone. They couldn’t text their friends, and they couldn’t Google things they didn’t know. Because of this, what they knew were probably somewhat outdated and their method of transferring knowledge was slower. I also think I have a greater knowledge than them because I have the world at my fingertips. I can search up what I want to know and know things at a greater depth.

Is Ignorance Bliss? – Debate Reflection

For the “is ignorance bliss?” debate, I was on the affirmative side. In the debate, we defined ignorance as situational ignorance, where we would remain ignorant of a topic/aspect for our whole lives. Bliss was defined as complete happiness, an ideal state in which humans strive to achieve. Our arguments were:

  1. Being ignorant allows us to suffer less. The more we know, the more we tend to care. For example, we know that there is a war in Sudan, but we are ignorant enough about the situation that we don’t cry about them. Caring more about something inevitably leads to a greater impact on us. As humans, we also tend to remember negative emotions more than positive emotions.
  2. The smartest of people were not happy. It is very rare to find both a happy and knowledgeable person. We provided Virginia Woolf and Alan Turing as examples: they were gifted but led dismal lives. If Alan Turing had been ignorant of the social pressure around him, we reasoned that he would not have committed suicide. (I do admit that this example is a little far-fetched, as Turing was not unhappy because he was exceptionally smart. Instead, it was because of the social pressures of Britain at that time).
  3. Knowledge isolates people. If a person knew the date of their death, they would spend their time worrying about the ways they would die, eventually withdrawing from society and being a recluse.

The opposition’s arguments were:

  1. Ignorance causes us pain and creates danger. If we were driving a car but ignorant of stop signs or traffic lights, that would lead us to the danger of being in a car crash.
  2. Ignorance leads to isolation. If an individual was ignorant about societal norms and engaged in ignorant behavior, such as denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement, he or she would be ostracized from society.
  3. Being aware that we are ignorant dissatisfies us because we yearn for knowledge. Situational ignorance implies we know our ignorance, so if we were knowledge-seekers, the fact that we are ignorant of something would not be bliss to us.
  4. Being informed can help us decide what makes us happy. There needs to be some knowledge of the things that make us happy to achieve our ultimate goal of happiness. (To this statement, our group refuted that happiness is instinct — we decide for ourselves what makes us happy).

From this debate, the two main points of disagreement were whether more knowledge led to suffering and whether an ignorant person could know if they were happy. Both teams were not successful at attacking the core of the other team’s arguments, but I believe our team won the second clash point. To the opposition’s argument that ignorant individuals would be ignorant of the feeling of happiness, we classified happiness as an instinct, meaning they could not be unaware of their own emotions.

Rather than proving why my team’s argument was better, we tried to prove that it was good in general. The other team also committed the same mistakes as us, which makes it difficult to determine the winner of this debate.

Before this debate, I believed that ignorance was bliss. It seemed simple to me: the more I knew, the more I started to have feelings for the subject matter, which eventually led to a bigger sense of despair when things went wrong. Right now, I know that ignorance is probably not bliss. Listening to the other team’s argument about the danger caused by ignorance, I could not help but be convinced: there was no other way to refute their argument that ignorance could not lead to danger. Thus, I would like to classify myself as someone who wants to believe ignorance is bliss (when it actually is not bliss), just because it’s easier to accept ideas without questioning them. What I don’t realize yet is that happiness from knowing is greater than that from ignorance because bliss from ignorance is built on nothing. How can I be happy when that happiness comes from the fact that I don’t know a certain thing?

Given a choice between a red pill and a blue pill, I probably would still take the blue pill after some time of hesitation — not because I’m convinced it will make me happy, but because it is the route that will make me suffer less in the short run. The red pill will probably make me happier in the long term, but I don’t think I can manage to bear through until I reach that level of happiness just yet.

As individuals, we are responsible for collecting different stories of individuals and shaping our own preconceptions accordingly. We need to embrace our ignorance and escape the illusion of explanatory depth to better ourselves as individuals and correct any misconceptions we harbored to avoid harming other people.

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