Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stephen Harper Hears a Who - but Ignores it

I sat down to watch the movie, "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" with my three-year-old daughter the other day.  The only Seuss books that I recall from my childhood are "Green Eggs n' Ham" and "Hop on Pop", but I was very impressed with this 2008 animated film from top to bottom.  While my daughter was very entertained by the many jungle animals, I gradually became quite focused on the real world symbolism that is not so subtly embedded within it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happiness Not a Consequence, Merely an Assertion

Science is all about measurements.  Scientists try to determine the model that best fits the data to gain insight into the behaviour of the world around them.  They measure everything, from temperature to charge to chaos.  These measurements are dependent upon a number of things.  In thermodynamics, an engineer may like to measure the temperature of a body as a function of time for a specific set of conditions.  Here, temperature is a dependent variable, and time is an independent variable.

It is appropriate to consider the measured temperature of a body to be a consequence of several factors.  It may seem sensible then to apply this approach to assess our state of mind on a given day.  I aim to show that this is a misguided way to perform a self-assessment.  That is, it is nonsensical to attribute our mental state to a given set of conditions that is present in our lives.  The measured variable that I wish to focus on is happiness.

Happiness... That state of being that we are all encouraged to pursue from a young age.  But, how does one measure it?  How does one know when one has achieved it?  Whatever the answers to these questions, it is certain that the assessment is anything but absolute.  I would even take it one step further.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Domesticating our Kids

I heard today on the radio about how more and more pet owners are abandoning their pets on moving day.  This is negligent, because domesticated animals are ill-prepared to fend for themselves in the wild.  While such negligence may be punishable under the criminal code, and is, of course, morally wrong, it seems to me that there is a more general issue at play here. 

On some level, there is an inherent disservice in the practice of domesticating animals at all.  By sheltering them and feeding them, we undermine all of the instincts they have developed over the long adaptive road of evolution.  This article will not explore this debate any further, but will use it as a backdrop for a discussion on how we raise our kids.

I am about to become a parent for a second time, so, naturally, the question of what constitutes effective parenting is on my mind.  If one were to summarize the role of a parent in one sentence, it might look like this: "To ensure the safety of your child, while empowering him or her to take on life independently upon reaching adulthood".  Though parenting is anything but a bland activity, it can be viewed through an engineer's lens, as an optimization problem.

If one hovers too close (helicopter parent), one's child will never attain the level of independence that is needed to tackle life on his or her own.  On the other hand, a completely 'laissez-faire' parenting attitude at too young an age can place a child in an unneccessarily risky situation.  Thus, the parent must find the sweet spot, where their child is free to explore the world, but with reasonable boundaries imposed on them.