Forum Posts

Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 27, 2021
In The Future of the Future
In the interview, Professor Goodman and Firestein discussed the memories of several senses, including olfactory memory and acoustic memory. I was wondering if there were any studies that actually compared the memory of all five senses – smell, touch, taste, vision, and hearing – in order to determine which one was best at retaining and recognizing its respective sensory information. Such information could shed a lot of insight into different types of learners and the relative roles that each sense has in detecting our environment.
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 27, 2021
In The Future of the Future
I found one of the most interesting points that Professor Firestein mentioned during the talk was the fact that humans did not have a sense of time in the sense we do now until the invention of timepieces during the modern era. This perked my interest in the history of time; for example, did ancient civilizations track time by smaller segments than days, and if so, what was the variation in ancient temporal systems? How did we come to settle on a system divided by hours, minutes, and seconds, and – while humans have vastly different languages, currencies, and cultures – how did we just come to settle on one uniform timekeeping system? It’s fascinating to think about how our lives could be different if, for example, our units of time were smaller or larger than they are now, and whether time is a factor that has a long-term influence on the development and function of our modern society.
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 20, 2021
In Earth
One question that I wanted to ask Professor Meade is if there was some aspect of earthquakes – such as their randomness or unpredictability in when the fault would slip, and how much, that simply makes it impossible to predict, regardless of how advanced our technology is. For example, even if we know the movements of the earth’s plates to a tenth of millimeter and know exactly where elastic strain pressure is building up, is it possible that we simply cannot know when exactly the pressure would cause the fault to slip and the earthquake to occur? And what is the predictive accuracy -- say, a period of several days -- that we could narrow an earthquake down to which would prove most useful and feasible? For example, I don't believe that knowing the exact minute vs knowing the hour makes much of a difference, but knowing the week vs knowing the day could save many lives.
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 20, 2021
In Earth
Something that surprised me during the Health and Earthquakes talk was when Professor Meade mentioned that earthquake-proof buildings could not be “re-used” per se after an earthquake, just like you shouldn’t keep using the same bike helmet after falling off a bike. To me, this takes away some of the appeal and the point of being “earthquake proof.” One part of a building being able to resist earthquakes is obviously it not crumbling as easily, but another should be for buildings to not need to be entirely rebuilt after earthquakes, as that would render earthquake and non-earthquake proof buildings similar in their cleanup and recovery costs. Because I personally have doubts as to the possible effectiveness of an early earthquake predictive system, I would place a lot more emphasis on designing and building structures which can not only withstand the impact of one earthquake, but which prove durable enough to last for at least another large earthquake with only need for repairs but not a complete reconstruction.
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 08, 2021
In Space
One point that Professor Avi Loeb made that I found intriguing was his assertion that technology would continue to grow exponentially in the future, eventually enabling machines and A.I. to replace humans. This is because I recently read an article in Scientific American that technological progress is slowing down in recent decades – there have been fewer and fewer paradigm-altering innovations like electricity which propel the world forward, and certain technologies that could potentially do so (such as nuclear fusion, flying cars, gene editing, etc.) have remained out of reach for now. I would actually disagree with Professor Loeb’s argument that cars today are very different from cars made several years ago – while certain innovations such as electric vehicles have definitely advanced car technology, there is nothing that has fundamentally changed how cars work recently: not their speed, exterior and interior design, or function in society. Cars produced in 2010 would certainly not be obsolete today. But if a technology like cars has seemingly hit a sort of plateau, I wonder if other technologies, such as space travel or AI, would also reach a point where small improvements can be made, but the changes are not enough to radically transform how we live.
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 08, 2021
In Space
One question I wanted to ask Professor Tartar was the relative technological advancement of other potential life forms in the galaxy. For example, if humans discover extraterrestrial life first, is it safe to assume that that planet would have less technologically-developed life forms? Because if some other civilization was more advanced than us, wouldn’t they be the ones to reach Earth first and contact us, rather than vice versa? And is there any logical predictive way through which we can reason the likelihood that we are the most advanced life form in the galaxy?
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 06, 2021
In The Future of the Future
In the interview with Professor Gilbert, I found two points that he made extremely interesting. First, he made the case that remembering is in part imagining the past, and that people long ago could imagine themselves looking and feeling a certain way earlier in their lives; similarly, it’s easy for us to imagine and fictionalize how people in the Middle Ages talked and behaved because in both these cases, the documentation of the past, if it existed at all, was in such a format (writings, drawings, etc.) that it gave our minds more leeway to construct a fantasy of what we thought occurred. Now, however, with the proliferation of technology that allows us to capture life exactly as it was – through photos and videos – which decreases the imaginative portion of memory, since we can simply watch old recordings of ourselves to see how we were. In the far future, too, if people want to know what life in the 21st century was like, they would not have to do much fictionalizing; the abundance of social media videos, photos, shows, and movies preserved for eternity will show them exactly what we thought and how we lived. The second point I found interesting was that even if we knew the events that would happen to us, we would not know how we would react to those events – even something as simple as if we’d be happy or not. Professor Gilbert raised the examples of losing one’s job and winning the lottery – two cases where our emotions should be fairly obvious – as examples of why there will always be uncertainty regarding our future lives, even if the facts are presented before us.
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 06, 2021
In Thoughts from Learners
As someone who is very interested in the field of behavioral economics and its applications, I was interested in asking Professor Laibson whether he believed that someone could use behavioral nudging to a point where they could obtain a very high probability of influencing someone’s future behavior – for example, if there was a number of reminders or way of reminding someone to do something at which point 99% of people would do it. If that point, somewhere between absolute free will and determinism were ever possible, what societal and policy implications would it have for predicting human behavior?
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 01, 2021
In Health
After watching the interview with Professor George Church, I wanted to ask him to make a prediction of his own for the future of human genomics and CRISPR: does he believe that human genome reading and editing will be commonplace in the future as a vehicle for diagnosing and preemptively fixing potentially life-threating genetic disorders and diseases? What does he believe are the ethics of that in terms of differences in access between countries and different income levels? Does he believe that genomics in the future will reach a level where human genomes can be modified to pick for specific physical traits with a high degree of certainty or even enhance certain traits (such as intelligence, etc.), and how the mere existence of that technology would affect human society?
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 01, 2021
In Artificial Intelligence
In the interview with Ben Schneiderman, I was particularly surprised by his confident, repeated assertions that computers are just tools, and that they are no more intelligent than wooden pencils. Perhaps due to both movies or to my own research with the advancements made in machine learning, it seems to me that humans are going to keep pushing machines to the limit in terms of their ability to learn and apply knowledge, and I was under the impression that sometime in the future, machines would be able to grow and evolve on their own, much as human brains do. Hearing Ben Schneiderman’s interview, however, I am tempted to wonder if this obsession with continuously making machines more and more human-like is misguided given their possibly limited potential, and if there would be a clear, obvious point at which it was clear that the advancement of AI had hit a ceiling.
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Mar 29, 2021
In Health
With the devastating economic impact of COIVD-19 around the world and the paradigm shift that it has precipitated in U.S. corporations and workplaces by placing a premium on corporate agility and adaptability, I wanted to ask Professor Henderson if major companies have “woken up” to the imminent tangible threat of climate change and are now willing to take major steps to address it. I know that there has been some progress on this front, such as a surge in sustainable investing and ESG metrics in the financial industry and a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions in the near future by corporations such as Nike and Pepsi, but I wasn’t sure if this represented a major break from past views and actions on climate change, or if they were merely a continuation of past policies but framed in a radical-sounding way. https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.labxchange.org/library/pathway/lx-pathway:825945a0-367c-45dc-82b7-3d160c6e6f7a/items/lx-pb:825945a0-367c-45dc-82b7-3d160c6e6f7a:lx_simulation:6e9eaf62?source%3D%252Flibrary%252Fclusters%252Flx-cluster%253AModernPrediction&sa=D&source=editors&ust=1616980165929000&usg=AOvVaw0Lp7m0gRqu5Qc_rrW4jOhg
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Jaron Zhou
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Mar 29, 2021
In Earth
The most surprising idea that I encountered in the videos came in the discussion with Professor Dan Kammen regarding the deep ocean conveyer belt and the fact that climate change could cause it to stop circulation in the ocean. Not only would this lead to an ice age, similar to the one we saw in Day After Tomorrow (which I didn’t think was possible in reality and was more of a Hollywood creation), but it would have significant adverse effects on ocean wildlife which rely on ocean circulation, and possibly lead to large bodies of stagnant water that could serve as incubation spaces for all sorts of bacteria and other microorganisms. Although we think of climate change as mostly causing rising sea levels and extreme weather, this potential consequence seems to me to be magnitudes more serious, and I was wondering if life on earth and in the seas (as we know it) could even survive without ocean currents. Although Professor Kammen mentioned that this would not happen in the course of days, as portrayed in the movie, I wasn’t sure if the realistic timespan was years, decades, or even centuries? And once the process of stopping the conveyer belt began, would it be too late for humans to reverse it? https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.labxchange.org/library/pathway/lx-pathway:825945a0-367c-45dc-82b7-3d160c6e6f7a/items/lx-pb:825945a0-367c-45dc-82b7-3d160c6e6f7a:lx_simulation:fa741ca2?source%3D%252Flibrary%252Fclusters%252Flx-cluster%253AModernPrediction&sa=D&source=editors&ust=1616980165929000&usg=AOvVaw1lVRWXmxGvS-TiVV8MIll7
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Jaron Zhou

Jaron Zhou

Harvard GenEd 2021
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