Seven Rotations – October 17th, 2012

18 10 2012

(A day late, unfortunately, but I was tired last night and needed a rest.)

Busy week, as usual. Just finished up the “Toolbox” module at Hult, which consists of preliminary workshops and classes to get everyone on the same page. The Hult MIB and MBA programs being as diverse as they are, they don’t only attract people with a variety of different nationalities, they attract people with vastly different educational backgrounds. There are many business majors, economists and accountants in my class- but there are also scientists, engineers, doctors, Chinese literature students, English teachers- and even one lonely political science major-cum-researcher-cum-administrator-cum-desk manager-cum-teacher-cum-journalist-cum-entrepreneur. So, obviously, not every class could be interesting and enlightening for every student. Those with finance and accounting backgrounds found the “accounting boot camp” extremely basic; but the class also contained students who had never seen a balance sheet. I’d never taken an accounting class before, but my father taught me to read a financial statement and do basic bookkeeping when I was very young, so there wasn’t much that was new for me. Though I understand and support the principle- the other classes won’t make sense unless you have the foundation.

On the other hand, the Managerial Skills and Consulting Methods class, taught by IXL Center consultant Sam Freeman, was excellent. I posted a bit about the projects we did for the class last week; last Friday, I took the Analyst level exam from the Management Consulting Institute. I didn’t find the test as difficult as Sam claimed it would be, though I haven’t seen my final results yet.

Enough about me, though. What’s up in the world?

Everybody’s heard about the skydive from the edge of space by now, but it wasn’t the only big news story on the space front. Scientists just announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting our second-nearest celestial neighbor, Alpha Centauri B (Proxima Centauri being closer, but as it’s a dwarf star, far less interesting). Don’t be expecting any radio signals, though- it orbits the star at a distance of 6 million miles, meaning it likely has a surface temperature hotter than that of Venus. However, where there’s one small rocky planet there are likely to be more, so here’s to hoping that Sid Meier was right.

Speaking of Sid Meier, Firaxis released the rebooted and remade X-COM: Enemy Unknown this week, which should make strategy gamers everywhere rejoice. The reviews are mixed as to how well it replicated the experience of the original; however, nobody can deny it’s a great game.

News about outer space – whether it’s science fact or science fiction, just outside of our atmosphere or interstellar – has a way of getting me excited like nothing else. I didn’t have the spatial abilities or drive to become an astrophysicist or an aerospace engineer when I was younger, so my chance to work on the advancement of humanity as a spacefaring race has probably passed; all I can do now is be part of the ground-based cheering section, and maybe eventually find a small way to contribute.

Yet sometimes I despair about whether or not humanity will make it out of our gravity well, or if we’re doomed to choke to death on our own wastes, like a jar of yeast that has run out of sugar. My friend Nick Pell has also been wondering the same thing, recently. After all, it’s hard to look at looming conflicts, environmental crises, depleting resources, and growing economic inequality and not feel at least a tinge of worry, if not outright depressed.

But, as thinkers like Daniel Kahneman, Nassim Taleb and Steven Pinker have all pointed out, our brains and conventional ways of looking at things weren’t designed to handle the information age; with the constant torrent of anecdotes and data that hit us every day, it’s easy to lose perspective. We look at what’s wrong with the world, and we forget about what’s right with the world. We’re living in unprecedented times- China isn’t the only country for which there are no followers and no ancient wisdom. We’re living in a time when there are more minds than ever- and those minds are literate and networked together in an amazing communication grid, able to share information about both problems and solutions faster than ever. The full consequences of the information revolution haven’t even been felt yet. More people have risen out of poverty in the past thirty years than anyone thought possible; the famines that loomed in the 70s didn’t come to pass, and while hunger hasn’t been beaten in every country, both China and India have proven that miracles can happen.

I’m not holding my breath for change, but there’s a chance we’ll get through this. Like Morpheus, where some see coincidence, I see providence. There’s a storm of problems hitting us, but there is also a storm of possibilities for change. Nothing is inevitable yet.

And, if all else fails- we can dismantle the sun.

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