Pale Blue Dot

I will not be updating this weekend since I will be out of town. Apologies for those waiting for the second installment of my math article.

The reason I write this blog is not publicity, nor because I enjoy being interactive with people. I am too grown up for that. That’s why I never bothered having a Facebook account. The feeling of connectedness with people, the thrill of having an online persona, and the novelty of being part of a large social group — have lost their appeal on me many years ago. I took part in all the previous “internet phenomena”: from USENET mailing list to IRC chatroom to instant messaging to MMORPG to blogs to online community, that I think anything that might come in the future is just another form of diversion. Yes, Facebook is just another Internet diversion, just like USENET was in 1990 and IRC was in 2000. It’s nothing new.

Many people have tried to convince me (unsuccessfully) that Facebook is different. Facebook have all those bells and whistles thrown in that people who use Facebook swear that it’s different. Believe me, it’s not. It’s just another diversion, and people should grow the fuck up. Seriously, I don’t feel any attraction or need to get near Facebook despite my closest friends harping endlessly on how Facebook is revolutionary and Web 2.0 and addictive and it being the social network of the future. Leave me alone guys, I’m not interested in your shiny toy.

I write chiefly because I like to educate. I write not because I desire publicity, or because I want to “connect” to my readers, or because I feel happy when you leave comments, or because I feel thrilled about the number of readers who come to my website that I check my stats every hour. I might care about those things when I was 19 years old, but now, bleh.

Nowadays I use the Internet to educate and to get educated. My Internet time is perhaps 35% work, 50% education and 15% entertainment. I don’t have the luxury, nor the inclination, to look all day at LOLcat pictures and cute babies videos or viral marketing campaigns or all those “must see” internet memes. I’ve seen them thousands of times before. I spend many hours online everyday, so I might as well try to make them useful.

I spend a lot of time on ArXiv to download papers on current mathematical research. I read magazines and newspaper op-eds online. I frequent forums too, but only those forums whose participants are minimally intelligent, not forums populated by idiots and trolls (although I have a weak spot for /x/ and /sci/). I read significantly fewer blogs nowadays. I do not frequent friends’ blogs which has zero content other than babies pictures and recipes and daily bitching. I only visit blogs with long, well thought-out articles, as well as authoritative blogs on a particular topic (e.g. Rawles Survival Blog). I read less about politics (despite what people believe, you do not get more “politically aware” by reading partisan shills writing in defense of their beloved leader / party / ideology, and criticizing their opponents blindly), and more on issues like science, foreign affairs and the economy. I still spend a lot of times on Youtube, but I’ve become more selective: no more “must-see” viral videos or MV of the newest pop star or movie trailers. I look out for videos of interesting and intelligent people giving talks and lectures, and perhaps documentaries on topics I care about. I spend a disproportionate number of hours on Wikipedia that I should’ve been a volunteer Wikipedia editor.

Yes, my Internet habit is boring and might not be as “happening” as yours. I’ve given up being the master of the Internet universe many years ago. The Internet today is 99.99% rubbish. Do not waste your time dragging your feet on the Internet wasteland. Do something useful instead, and keep yourself educated at all times.

Talking about being educated, I’d like to share this video from one of my personal heroes, Carl Sagan. This is Sagan narrating the most famous paragraph from his book, Pale Blue Dot. The “Pale Blue Dot” speech should go down as humankind’s finest piece of scientific narration, given by one of the most intelligent men in the modern era.

If you enjoy this, you should look up Carl Sagan videos on Youtube, and also buy his books.


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