Reflections on society, politics and nature XXII

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Why I love science fiction

I have loved science fiction since I was little, reading Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and others.

Why do I love it? Probably for the same reason as others love it.

It gives us an opportunity to think about different possibilities for the future. It highlights what can happen if we take different paths. It gives us visions for what’s possible – both of what we want and what we don’t want.

It mirrors back to us our own society, mindset, and worldview. It can show us ourselves by reversing roles – for instance by having humans treated as we treat other species. It’s a great setting for exploring different ethical dilemmas. And by setting the story in the future and/or another place in the universe, it creates a slight distance that makes this mirror more palpable to us than if it’s more direct, literal, and heavy handed

Science fiction may seem like an escape, and it often does have that element. And at the same time, it can be deadly serious – in showing us possibilities for the future, and showing us ourselves as we are now.

March 9, 2020


In most monarchies these days, the monarchy is kept mostly for nostalgic reasons or from inertia. For me, one of the obvious – yet often ignored – arguments against monarchy is that people are born into it. They are born into a life they didn’t ask for. They are expected to fill a role they didn’t chose. They are supposed to give their whole life to a life others have prepared for them. Why should they? Why would they? It seems a violation of basic human rights.

This may be often overlooked since a royal life seems a glamorous one. At the very least, they have a good material life. But it comes with a lot of pressure to live a certain life and give up most or many of their personal wishes, ambitions, and desires, and it comes with a great deal of scrutiny which few of us would want for ourselves.

I thought it was a very sane move of Harry and Meghan to step back from their royal life and roles. He was born into it and was never asked. She married knowingly into it but probably didn’t know the degree of pressure she would experience. And they are – obviously – in their full right to step back from it. It’s the sane thing to do.

March 12, 2020

Language learning

I tend to be skeptical about age-related claims, for instance that old age inevitably means poor cognitive and/or physical health. (To me, it seems more reasonable that it comes from inactivity and lifestyle.)

One of these age-related claims is that children learn languages faster than adults (which may generally be true) and that has to do with age (probably less true).

If children tend to learn languages faster, it seems more reasonable that it has to do with other factors. For instance, when it comes to babies, they are immersed in the language. They communicate actively and receive feedback from native speakers. And – perhaps most importantly – they are fearless and lack any thoughts about what others think if they don’t speak perfectly.

I am currently learning a new language and I want to use babies as role models. I want to immerse myself in it as much as possible. Speak with a wish to communicate (whether what I say is “perfect” or not). And recognize perfectionism and concerns about what others may think, and set it aside as much as possible. (I am not doing this as fully as I would like, but it’s a useful guideline.)

Note: This post initially had notes about the pandemic. I moved these to another post dedicated to the pandemic. That’s also why this post now is unusually short!

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