Forum Posts

Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 03, 2021
In Thoughts from Learners
One of the most interesting points made in the discussion with Dr. Rayo was that we are better at talking to the people with whom we are close, not just because we feel most comfortable talking to them, but also because we are better at predicting what they are thinking and how they will respond/perceive your words. In this framework, does that mean that great orators may not be as good as conversations because their style of speaking is more impersonal? How does one train to be good at personal conversations and is it possible to have a standard metric for that?
Conversation Cracker content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 03, 2021
In Thoughts from Learners
The end of the conversation with Dr. Firestein was really intriguing to me. The possibility of that intersection between artificial intelligence and neuroscience/cognition seems so novel and exciting. However, Dr. Firestein’s point that we tend to place concepts we don’t understand into buckets that are popular at the time (ex: Aristotle’s Hydraulic Brain, later frameworks of clockwork, etc.) Is the blind belief in technology the new bucket that we are following?
History repeating itself? content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 03, 2021
In Thoughts from Learners
In the conversation with Susan Murphy and Brendan Meade, I was particularly surprised at how difficult predicting earthquakes is, despite the fact that it has the potential to have such an incredibly detrimental effect on the populations impacted. Are there are any similar fields that have the potential to produce such a vast impact, but we don’t have many predictive frameworks for yet? If so, what are some ways we have been working to solve this problem?
Earthquake Prediction Question content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 02, 2021
In Thoughts from Learners
Professor Goodman. Specifically, it came from her continued disinclination of Aristotle. Aristotle’s scientific method in the world of physics, according to Professor Goodman is: Something happens I’m going to briefly look at it I’m going to skip to make a theory that is believed for a millennia However, although I think Aristotle’s view of the world was flawed, I also think he was trying his best. As Ned Hall pointed, Aristotle just used heuristics with oversimplified assumptions and data that fit with his existing model. If he had been more concerned about following the scientific method, I would argue that his explanations about the world would have been few and far between and his work would not have reached the prominence it has because there wouldn’t have been much material to work off of.
Aristotle, Friend or Foe to Science? content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 02, 2021
In Space
One of the points that stood out to me was Avi Loeb’s point that if science remains a discussion topic only amongst professors and their students, it will forever remain an elite medium, which is detrimental to the public perception of the field. One quote of his that stood out was “the truth is not dictated by Twitter.” My question is about the timeline of social media. Facebook was founded 17 years ago and Twitter two years after that. Those were traditionally considered the sources of misinformation, but now we have other sources, like TikTok. How has public perception of science changed throughout these developments and where does he expect it to go in the coming years?
Social Media and Science content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 02, 2021
In Space
One of the most interesting aspects of the conversation with Jill Tartar was the idea the science fiction is often the source of creativity that stymies technological innovation in the world of astrophysics. When I was very young, science fiction/science fantasy series like ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and ‘The House of Scorpion’ were amongst my favorites. However, as a grew older, I was steered towards other genres by my teachers, parents, etc. who began to encourage me to read more “realistic” content, presumably to keep me grounded in nuances of this world as opposed to the inventions of an imaginary one. In retrospect, it was a very subtle shift that I wasn’t entirely aware of until the start of the pandemic when, with all the time in the world at my disposal, I began to read books that I hadn’t touched in over a decade. I was surprised at how much these books still captured my imagination, and how disconcertingly close many are to aspects of the modern-day and its many scientific advances. Perhaps, this reminiscence belongs more in a journal than on a blog post asking about what stood out in a conversation with a world-renowned scientist, but I think it’s an important aspect to ponder. Most of my worldview has been shaped by my schooling, which often placed a huge emphasis on the technical aspects of hard sciences and mathematics due to the push for STEM education within the school system. As such, students were often steered to learn more about “applicable” fields of sciences, and even what humanities we had was more focused on the nuances of words or character foils in play. It was through the cracks of these two diverging forces that science fiction, fantasy, and other avenues of imagination that were too unrealistic to be science, yet too focused on fantasy to be exemplary of literary analysis, slipped. But, what else is the goal of education if not to teach its students to imagine and pursue new frontiers?
Fiction inspiring Science?  content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 01, 2021
In Thoughts from Learners
Dan Gilbert There was a bit of discussion on how the past vs. present vs. future are viewed by individuals, with Professor Goodman making the point because the past is more constrained by data, people tend to imagine alternatives to the future a bit more. Professor Gilbert’s point was more so that when you are separated from any point on the timeline, whether the past or the future, imagination is invoked in a similar manner. I know that there were societies that didn’t consider either the past or the future to the extent that we do. Are there any telling examples of how this impacted these societies’ imagination (ie: is there storytelling more focused on the past or the future)?
Human Behavior Question (Past, Present, Future) content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Apr 01, 2021
In Thoughts from Learners
Dan Gilbert This was the first I have heard of the Sure-Thing Principle, and I thought that his example was particularly telling. If someone was offered $1 million dollars for sure or $1 billion dollars with a 90% chance, most people would choose the latter. If the expected payoff is calculated, it is obviously the smarter choice. However, even though I agree with his statement in the given situation, I do not think that it would extrapolate in all other scenarios. For example, in a situation where one is in a hospital room and a doctor says “if I don’t do this surgery, you will have a guaranteed, reasonably functional life for the next 3 years, but if I do it, there is a 90% chance you will be completely back to normal or a 10% chance that you will lose you life in the process,” I think that the decisions that people would make would be much more divided. It would further depend on factors like whether the patient or a loved one was making the decision, how old the patient was, whether the patient had any upcoming events they were looking forward to, etc. What if it were a 5-year guarantee? What if it were a 2-year guarantee? What if the margin was 95%? Or if it was 80%? How trustworthy are the doctor’s analyses? What are their biases? These types of questions are really interesting to me because of how easily they can unravel assumptions made in economics (it’s okay, I can say that - I am an Economics concentrator). Humans are fundamentally irrational actors and even though many of these principles can be held on an aggregate level, predictions on an individual actor’s decisions can sometimes just be a coin toss.
Human Behavior Surprising (Sure-Thing Principle) content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Mar 31, 2021
In Health
George Church CRISPR is obviously a great computational leap in genomics. What other avenues do you think will be at the new forefront in the next 10 years? In 30 years? Do you ever think we could get to the point - computationally, sociologically, etc. - that it will be required for children to get their personal genomics mapped out to them at a young age, similar to how the MMR vaccines are mandated for school?
Genomics and the Future content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Mar 29, 2021
In Health
Ben Schneiderman The conversation about Google Flu Trends was extremely interesting to me. I never knew that Google tried to predict flu hotspots using search strings and the sale of commodities back in 2009. It appeared very revolutionary in the beginning because being able to predict future flu hotspots is a great way to reallocate hospital supplies before an area is hit with the disease (as we saw with the allocation of ventilators and other medical supplies during the SARS-COV-2 pandemic). After initial success, the predictions of Google Flu Trends actually resulted in worse allocation because the predictive model was not as accurate as expected. By 2013, Google shelved the program because it became a sort of embarrassment for the company. I think it’s very easy to maintain that the future is in Artificial Intelligence or that robots will be able to predict and control our lives in the future. How can we not? So many Sci-Fi Dystopias paint this picture. However, I believe that we are truly a long way off. Whether it was predicting Flu hotspots in 2009 or COVID-19 in 2020, the trends have been very similar. Having the foresight to predict hotspots was virtually impossible; having the hindsight once an area is affected to delineate the contributing factors not so much. I don’t think that has changed much between 2009, 2020, or (I would argue) 2040.
Google Flu Trends content media
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Sravya Kuchibhotla
Harvard GenEd 2021
Harvard GenEd 2021
Mar 26, 2021
In Earth
Gina McCarthy: One of the aspects of the conversation that stood out to me was the idea that science should not be considered in a vacuum because that is detrimental to change. When I first arrived at Harvard as a freshman, one of the most disorienting changes that I observed was how pervasive the “let’s constantly make new theories/analogies/frameworks about everything” was. This certainly makes sense in many academic settings, but it wasn’t simply in the classroom. What we learned in our rhetoric classes bled into daily conversations and something as simple as “Hey, I like XYZ show and think you should watch it too” turned into “I like this show for x, y, and z and anyone who is into xxx would also like it. According to some reviewers, it’s a metaphor for this, but I think it’s a representation of this.” Every small situation in life became one to carefully dissect, synthesize, and then digest, sometimes through seemingly abstract or baseless means. My point is certainly not to slight these (often, over) analyses – quite the opposite, these are what have spurred my own critical thinking substantially. However, I also believe that there is considerable merit in acting upon these frameworks. The greatest ideas or discoveries can never reach others to effect change if one only spends time looking to find something else to synthesize. Similarly, I think that most of the perceived elitism that is associated with the scientific community stems from the notion that the only reason scientists are making a claim is that they must always be making a claim, whether the world needs to hear about it. In the wake of the climate crisis, this attitude could spell disaster. Dan Kammen Questions: · How has the notion that movies like the “Day After Tomorrow” is mostly apocalyptic as opposed to a real scientific possibility changed (or not changed) public perception on the climate crisis? If it hasn’t changed public perception or changed it in a negative way, what further steps can be taken in the future to ensure that these stories and ideas are taken more seriously? · A lot of the topics you discussed seemed to be at the intersection of psychology, environmental science, and economics. How robust is the field of behavioral environmentalism within the scientific community? What has the public reaction been, if any, to the output from these fields? · What has the history of using positive vs. negative “marketing” been used when encouraging people to be environmentally conscious?
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Sravya Kuchibhotla

Harvard GenEd 2021
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