Sunday Sparks Issue 2: History and Happiness

Gooooood morning and happy Sunday!

Coming into the first week of 2021 was like jumping out of a burning building into a stack of needles. While the events from last week has inevitably left everyone feeling at least a bit jaded, it's good to remind ourselves that this isn't all there is. Here are some interesting things I came across last week:

Japanese lessons for the American coup

The best way to make sense of what's happening today is take a look at our past. This article lays out many parallels between what happened at the Capitol Building last week and increasingly escalating insurrectionist events in Japan in the 1930s. It also advises current policymakers on how to address the vandalism that happened at the Capitol Building by pointing out that the Japanese government's failure to squash the coups in their infancy partly lead to the death of the empire.

Whether we like it or not, there is a growing insurrectionist movement happening in America, To snip this coup when it's merely a bud, the government needs to:

  1. punish the plotters
  2. be unified in their messages against such attempts

I would love to see more content on historical parallels with today's events to make sense of how to think about them.

#168 Happiness Calculator vs. Alex Goldman

We've all heard a version of the phrase, "When you laugh, you laugh together. When you cry, you cry alone". This episode on the podcast Reply All directly refutes this idea.

The hosts invite a data scientist, Peter Dodds, to the show. Peter has been quantifying and tracking the nation's happiness levels since 2007. After creating a set of words ranked on a scale of happiness level and measuring the frequency of these words occurring in their tweets dataset, they created this thing called a Hedonometer that can approximate the happiness level in the world. According to the hedonometer, there are obvious dips in happiness, predictably after certain events. However, global happiness spikes are rare. Also, as you might have guessed, 2020 set records for the intensity and frequency of these dips.

This is interesting because it tells us that is it much easier to get sad than it is to get happy. A state of happiness requires constant effort. There are a couple of research-backed ways o do this but the most popular way is to practice gratitude— a habit that will probably help us a lot in the year ahead.

The Memory Book

After falling into a deep rabbit hole, I found this book on the internet archive. This is probably one of the weirder things in this issue but memory is a core facet of learning. This book does a great job at helping you remember stuff.

I read the first chapter, which guides you through a memory exercise of remembering a string of random words, on Tuesday. Oddly, I still remember these words in forwards and backwards order. I think this book has the potential to help you realize that you're probably more capable than you give yourself credit for. I'll keep reading for now.

Comic on Careers

I've been thinking a lot about specializations, careers, and identities lately. We've all grown up with a very limited view of how we should live our lives. We go to school, major in one thing, work in one field (although we've been changing jobs more lately), and retire. We think of having a purpose, a calling that we should strive to fulfill and work tirelessly finding it or convincing ourselves that we already have.

Maybe it's time to think of our careers as a set of projects. With the internet expanding accessibility to education, with enough dedication, we could get into any field we want at any stage in our lives. The only constraint right now is healthcare and living expenses, which could be solved by a universal basic income. In any case, this comic is an entry into interesting discussions on careers and lives-well lived.


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Lastly, I want to leave with a question—What's something you've been thinking a lot about recently?

Until we meet again,