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“Surviving Nothingness”?

The eternal silence of those infinite spaces terrifies me.
– Blaise Pascal

I don’t feel the least humble before the vastness of the heavens. The stars may be large, but they cannot think or love; and these are qualities which impress me far more than size does. The foreground is occupied by human beings, and the stars are all as small as threepenny bits.
– Frank P. Ramsey, the first translator of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

For me, gazing at the stars is a rueful reminder of “nothingness,” as my own insignificant life pales in the face of the vast universe. In a thin slice of the eternal time theater, I used to think I would forlornly wander the Earth until I eventually grind to a halt.

However, the Camrbidge philosopher Frank Ramsey puts the proposition of nothingness in different light. If nothingness is what awaits me at the end of life, it seems there is nothing to be afraid of. At the moment of death, lights will go out and a dial tone will follow. Then, all my mistakes, delusions, humiliations will be wiped out, while my good deeds may still influence those alive. 1

The recent death of a distant friend brought this notion of nothingness back to the top of my mind. At his memorial service, a close friend of his described him as “a seeker of meanings.” We feel dread welling up as we approach the search for meaning. There is treacherous footing ahead, and it is easy to fall into a nihilist pitfall—“the world has no intrinsic meaning; thus, our lives are meaningless.” To the former I heartily agree, but to the latter I decided to dissent with full force that is this blog.

About me

Broadminded is just another way to say a fellow’s too lazy to form an opinion.
– Will Rogers

I study computer science and philosophy at Princeton University. I agree with the point above, but I declared and changed my major three times—international relations, philosophy, computer science. To my friends, I try to explain that this is not a sign of my indecisiveness, but rather the result of efforts to broaden my knowledge base. I sincerely believe that any subject matter can be better understood when triangulated between the humanities, social sciences, and engineering/technology.

Outside school, serving two years in a U.S. Army base for mandatory military service taught me not only resilience but also the horror of the bureaucracy and the ugliness of authoritarianism. It was there that I developed a strong distaste for undeserved authority.

You can see that I hopped around from the finance industry, to an NGO, a social enterprise, a consulting firm, and most recently a tech startup. I thought I needed to try everything out to find what I was best suited for, and I eventually found my place in the tech industry.

You may find what I write here ignorant, disagreeable, politically incorrect, or priggish. But please read this blog as an earnest attempt to calibrate my lens for understanding the world. I seek to embrace intellectual honesty and humility and to stay away from prejudice and self-righteousness.

For people who don’t know me in person, my blog will be a public repository of my innermost beliefs. For those who know me personally, it is an open invitation to a voyeuristic tour of my small ideosphere.

For the actual posts, start here:

A short intro: The best tragedy to fall upon me
1. The Game I Decided to Play
2. Happiness is the “Easy Problem”

  1. The title of this blog was inspired by my philosophy professor Mark Johnston’s book, Surviving Death. To provide a bastardized summary of the book, he claims that because there is no persisting self, we can direct concerns to others in the future. In this way, we can literally live “in the onward rush of humankind.” “Every time a baby is born,” he says, “a good person acquires a new face.”