Roy Tang

roytang.net

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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2019 February

  • Speaking truth to power

    According to Wikipedia, Speaking truth to power is a non-violent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive, authoritarian or an ideocracy. I always had the general sense of it before, but not that it was specifically for use against oppressive or authoritarian governments. It is believed the phrase has origins in a Quaker pamphlet published in 1955. I was reminded of this phrase today and looked it up because it seems relevant again recently, at least in the Philippines. Recently Maria Ressa, the head of the online news site Rappler,

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  • In late 2017, the US moved to ban Kaspersky antivirus from use by federal agencies, because of suspected influence from the Russian government. In late 2018, the US and other countries have either banned or are considering banning the Chinese tech giant Huawei and its telecoms products, for security reasons. Both companies are under scrutiny for their perceived ties to their governments, both of which happen to have authoritarian leanings. From a certain POV, the bannings may be unfair, as they are "preventive" in nature, i.e. punishment is given preemptively before any offence is discovered. It's interesting to me because

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2018 December

  • On Trump and Zuckerberg

    Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg are different people in vastly different positions, but I find it interesting the uncanny parallels their stories have taken them through. Like many non-Americans, I'm acutely aware of the shenanigans of Donald Trump, the current US president. It would be a fascinating story, if only it weren't so bad for the world. His character arc is of someone who rose to the level of this own incompetence. Before becoming president, he was basically the worst kind of businessman - a sleazy con man/grifter always looking out for ways to scam other people to further his

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  • The Great Filter

    Sorry, a bit more doom and gloom this time: David Attenborough: collapse of civilisation is on the horizon I was visiting at a friend's house recently and our discussion turned to the impending doom threatening the world. While I hold out a tiny bit of hope that maybe somehow human society and/or science will find a way to save us, he was not so optimistic. He reads and writes a lot of speculative fiction and his view is that we are inevitably headed towards an era of land scarcity and resulting wars due to climate changes. Can you imagine, some

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2018 November

  • The Paradox of Tolerance

    When I was young, I was a fan of Voltaireโ€™s famous quote "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.". Today, in the face of a world where hatemongers and the intolerant are able to use modern communication technologies to more easily spread their views, I realize that things may not be so black and white. Like so many beliefs I held when I was young, I now find myself of the opinion that instead of absolute tolerance (which may not even be possible), there is some semblance of intolerance

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    Posted by under blog at #philiosophy #opinions

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  • The sky is falling

    There's a lot of doom and gloom and bad news in the world these days, giving us ordinary folk little reason to be optimistic. Examples include: we are almost certainly too late to prevent climate change at all and social collapse is now an actual possibility Trump has begun taking steps to walk back a nuclear arms control treaty increasing trends of nationalism and populism threatening to walk back the gains of globalisation (i.e. Brexit) and diversity Elon Musk warns us of the existential threat of artificial intelligence locally, some friends of mine are largely pessimistic about the future of

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    Posted by under blog at #politics #opinions

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2018 October

  • Change and Risk and Governments

    Systemic change is difficult. I'm talking about software projects/systems, but there are a lot of parallels with societal systems too, like governments or states. I've been in large projects with hundreds of thousands of LOC where a lot of the code was painful to read and full of code smells and so on. It happens over time as projects get maintained by different developers and teams or different enhancements or changes are made. It becomes more difficult/costly for new developers to work on the project as things are brittle and may easily fall apart. I've also had the dubious pleasure

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  • Superhero shows being political

    Comic books and superheroes have always tended to skew towards liberal philosophies, given how writers and artists tend to support ideals like individualism and free expression. So it's not surprising that the derivative shows tend to lean the same way. Not only do many of the shows promote diversity, but many are becoming overtly political as well. Some recent examples. (Spoilers for current seasons of Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and Daredevil follow) The current season 4 of Supergirl seems to be focusing on anti-alien sentiment, a thinly-veiled allegory towards the anti-immigration movement propagated in far right "nationalist" circles. Similar to

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  • Suggested additions to HS curriculum

    I have no plans of running for elective office (though it is a running joke among some of my circles), but if I were, one of the problems I would focus on would be education. As such, I have a list of suggested additions to the High School curriculum here in the Philippines. (The first version of this list was in an FB post I wrote during the 2016 campaign period, in response to people clamoring for better Martial Law education. I have since made additions and added some notes. ) planninbasic logic and reasoning different types of fallacies how

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  • Capitalism

    In fourth year HS, we had an Economics subject, and back then I was fascinated with the idea of free market capitalism -- the free market, the invisible hand, the law of supply and demand, and the idea that through competition we are forced to adapt and become better and more efficient in order to survive. Capitalism mirrored the law of nature: the strong will survive. These days, I am much less enamored with the idea of capitalism. Not that I disbelieve that it makes us more efficient, but that ruthless efficiency has a cost. Like the law of nature

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    Posted by under blog at #philosophy #opinions

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  • The perils of hyperpartisanship

    A few days ago I read this great Reddit comment about how increasing hyperpartisanship makes it easier to influence the entire population. Quoting the relevant part: Once you've done that, you have a population that's easier to manipulate. You have, say, 30% that's 100% sure on both ends, and probably another 15% on both ends that are 80% sure, and a remaining 10% that could go both ways. The more you do this, the more the 15% will be set in stone.Then, the fun begins with manipulating the 10%. You know where they live (through facebook), you know how they

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  • What is education for?

    I recently watched this TedX talk by Seth Godin about the purpose of school/education: One of the best points I agree with from the talk is that majority of our educational system is geared towards generating graduates who are obedient. We teach students from a young age to follow rules and answer roll calls. We teach them standard prescribed solutions. We teach them how to take exams and how to find the right answers. Even school culture among students teaches kids to conform or be ostracized. Our school systems are optimized for generating employees for industry -- and in the

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2017 February

  • Boxes

    We put people into boxes because it is convenient. It's easier for our mental model of the world to say to yourself things like "This guy works with computers, maybe he can tell me how to fix my printer." or "This person is from [school] and they are very arrogant." or "You're from [country]? You guys do [that country's thing] right?" or "This person is a supporter of [politician] so he must support all the things that politician does, even the things I hate." Or in the modern world, there are even worse stereotypes. Boxes and stereotypes are convenient because

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  • War

    As of today, our country (The #Blessed Republic of the Philippines) is already at war with: Drugs Illegal gambling Communist rebels Some other things we might consider declaring war on (in no particular order): Poverty Ignorance Misinformation (sorry, "Alternative facts") Abusive government officials Traffic Rights abuses Pollution High power rates Political dynasties Poor quality of local cinema offerings Politicians putting their names everywhere Internet trolls and bullies Lack of critical thinking Redundancy Overtime without overtime pay Government officials blatantly lying or pulling statistics out of thin air Slow and expensive internet The MRT breaking down Cruelty to animals Poor quality

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2017 January

  • Signs you think about leaving your current job: The company culture has changed in ways you don't like or recognize You are no longer proud of the work you do You are always feeling tired, even when you just got to work You more easily notice your coworkers' screwups and are more easily annoyed at them You feel unappreciated for the work you do You feel like the company doesn't listen to your inputs Many of your close friends in the company are unhappy and want to leave or are already leaving or have already left You no longer trust

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  • Notes on Decision Making

    At my old job I used to have this group of coworkers I had Friday lunch outs with. Inevitably, every Friday around noon someone would message the others asking "where are we eating?". Now, there are a lot of good places to eat around the area and we've all been working there a while so most of the time we don't care where we eat and we'd say we'll decide when we get to the elevators. We get to the elevators but we're still not sure where to eat. So we take the elevators down and we'll figure it out

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  • "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." โ€• Sun Tzu, The Art of War I was reading a forum thread recently about learning competitive Street Fighter. The poster was using a particular character (his "main") and asking how he could learn to counter the attack strings of other characters. The answers from more experienced players were pretty

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  • "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." โ€• Winston S. Churchill In the current world political climate, it seems that in many instances democracy and the related values (equality, human rights, and so on) are increasingly taking a back seat to populism and increasingly authoritarian leaderships. One sometimes has to consider whether authoritarian states would in fact be more effective in this day and age. After all, China's ascension as a world power shows that even authoritarian states are able to achieve great gains. The allure of authoritarianism is understandable for anyone who's been exposed

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  • New Year's Checklist

    In no particular order: Greet your loved ones and friends and anyone else you hold dear. Maybe even those you disagree with Ponder why people give so much significance to the transition between an arbitrarily-chosen pair of 24 hour periods Take stock and reflect on the past year Think about what you'd like to learn this year or how you want to improve Count your blessings for the past year and be grateful Change your passwords Buy a new toothbrush Make a New Year's joke ("My New Year's Resolution is 1440ร—900!") Set a target of how many books you'll read

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2016 December

  • Decluttering

    I traditionally try to save some time on the week between Christmas and New Year's Day to do some cleaning up and decluttering of my stuff. One would assume that having more time meant I would be better able to organize my stuff and all that, but one would be wrong. My room still has stacks of books, toys, Magic cards and other stuff in random places. Or maybe I just have too much OCD that I want everything to be neat and organized, but I'm not industrious enough to make it happen. I'm sure there are people a lot

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