Books or Academic Papers?

These days, maybe because it has been gloomy outside, I have a lingering mood to do research related activities indoor. Just kidding, I have been trying to accumulate my knowledge in the field for quite a while. My favorite way to do this is to read books by scholar. But they are in general pretty thick and I guess predictably heavy to read, so I must take my time to read them if I want to understand them and record them in my brain. And since my schedule is very variant, I never know, sometimes I might have a long free time when I can read my book, so I always try to have the book within my reach in my bag or more frequently, on my hand.

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Retrieved from Google on 9 May 2018. All rights reserved.

So one day, when I was on my way back from work, I met my ex-college professor. I was holding one of those books on my hand and that caught my professor’s eyes. He asked me if I am reading that book and if I like it or not. I told him, I am in the middle of reading it but so far I enjoyed it a lot and I asked him if he had read it too. His answer was what I has half expected, “No, I only read his academic papers. Do you read the paper?” Well, I said no (I did for some but only the abstract so I think that does not count right?) Upon hearing my answer, his expression changed to what I think an underestimating expression. It might be that he didn’t mean it that way, but since he was also a professor who told me that women cannot pursue economics PHD, I can’t help to be biased. Anyway in this post I would like to share the reason why I prefer to read the book instead of the academic papers.

Need not to be said, the book content was a lot easier in the sense of they are using layman’s language, very little jargon and less technical. It is also clear that it is less boring to read the book and less effort in finding the goods. Seems that reading academic papers gave out the signal of effort and academic like approach and book is for every other people. But really, reading the book can be more enriching and inspiring than academic papers. Academic papers give us information about one particular study, from how they did that, what had been done so far in the topic, why is that significant (according to the researcher). Sometimes, the researcher had done several papers on the same topic and mentioned that in their introduction or reference. But more often, they have a range of research interests which might not necessarily related one another. We might be able to find all their paper in their profile but reading one paper to another creates a gap because it is unclear how this particular researcher think, why is he/she interested in these very different research areas. The thinking process and idea generation steps, which absent from the body of academic paper, are offered in the published book. The books, despite chunked into a number of chapters, provide the story behind one’s research journey. It introduce a more personal approach in doing research. Ideas rarely fell from the tree (except for Newton’s gravity theory), they have history. Since my research interest lies in human irrationality, I prefer reading books by behavioral economist and psychologist. I learned that researching in this area may start from observing our own behavior and see if the misconduct prevalent within the society (or is it just me who’s weird).

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Retrieved from Google on 9 May 2018. All rights reserved.

Another perk of reading the books is to gain implicit moral support. When we read through the academic paper, only the successes were shared. Little can be known about the hard path leading to the production of that paper. The possible failures and the length of time needed before that paper got published. Possible discrimination, bias and belittlement they might have faced. The importance of persistence, never-ending curiosity and belief as well as the love in learning. These are not given in academic papers.

So there are at least three benefits in reading books-written-by-researcher; one, it is easier to understand and it summarized all the important points (if you are skeptical, feel free to find the paper) a.k.a it is convenient. Two, it offers stories, let us understand the creative thinking and this might lead to inspiration for the readers to connect the dots. Lastly, it provide moral support and remind us that even the top prominent academics are still human and strong will is an important factor to get to the top.
Next time you met a professor, tell them you read academic papers if you want to increase your ‘I-am-so-intelligent’ signal, but behind your professor back, try to consider reading the books because there might be where you gain inspiration and lead you to great research idea.

If you are interested, here are some book recommendations:
– Misbehaving – Richard Thaler (Behavioral economist, Nobel winning economist 2017)
– The Upside of Irrationality – Dan Ariely (Psychologist and behavioral economist)
– Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman (Psychologist, research interest in psychology of judgment and decision-making)

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Labour Day: About Job Equality

So, the hottest trend award this year seems to go to #MeToo movement and all kinds of women-led movement to promote gender equality. I would not dare to judge these movements as good or bad but I think I have about enough dose of news on them everyday and now it’s time for me to share my own thought on it.

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Retrieved from Google on 1 May 2018. All rights reserved.

Surely it has been widely known that in the past, women were expected to stay home, take care of the husband and children. Later, the change started to happen in the West area and women were then allowed to work. But the type of jobs were really limited, maybe nurse, cleaners, or secretary, but never high stake occupation. Much later the trend again changed in favor of women, made them able to actually have better education and thus opened the window of opportunity to take position in the higher ups. Now, as we can observe, much more females are working in important positions, there are even some who successfully ran for presidency, central bank chair, etc. The recent hectic are trying to either open the opportunity windows to every women or to debunk the hardship that women had to endured in their position, to stay there or to climb the managerial ladder. I sincerely hope that this will lead to the best result for the society.

But there is really more to it than just female shouting for more rights. I was inspired by a speech by Anne-Marie Slaughter. I believe that we have been looking at the world in a distorted way. The discrimination happened not only because female is viewed as inferior but because the job female does are generally labelled as easy job. We know and have to admit that on average female are different from male, but each individuals are different from one another too, with each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Using the economic term of comparative advantage theory, we should let people who has the highest comparative advantage to take the position. So if one person are better at cleaning than staring at excel template crunching number so he/she would be better off doing the prior. What we are missing is equality in looking at the job title. It seems like in general people think that being a doctor is more important than maybe a maid at home, clear reason because doctor can save your life. But I invite you to think it this way, your maid might also be saving your life a big time. Say, maybe without you knowing, your maid had helped you to turn off the stove you forgot to turn off, threw away leftover food which otherwise will stay in your fridge for only God knows how long, making sure the house is clean and free of harmful bacteria, not all because it is not possible but at least partially. You are scared to piss your doctor off because he might kill you without you knowing, but the opportunity that your maid had to kill you is higher than the doctor. And they can get away with it too if they are clever enough. So why are we underestimating the work of maid in comparison to doctor?

One possible reason is maybe monetary compensation received by some workers and far less than the other. But are those ‘high-class’ job really provide better life quality than in the ‘lower-class’ one? In this increasingly materialistic world I would argue, yes! having more money most likely will lead one to have a higher life satisfaction simply because you need a certain amount of money to life comfortably (study). Now consider two jobs, butler (male for maid) and accountant in the United Kingdom. According to totaljobs, in 2018, the average pay for butler is around 32,500 pound (small sample size of 24) while 37,500 pound for accountant (large sample size of 1,331). Well accountant still pay higher than butler but if we take into account the housing and food, maybe net income of accountant might be lower than the butler’s. But still, the job accountant is perceived as more honorable and desirable, they think that people who work as an accountant can easily do the work of butler but not vice versa–I doubt so, with enough training, one can learn almost anything, they might just not be as good as the other person or simply has other things where they can strive in.

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Retrieved from Google on 1 May 2018. All rights reserved.

So I think I have illustrate the discrimination in evaluating different occupation. It turns out that job with lower ‘caste’, are job which female are the majority in the workforce. We need time machine to study does which caused which — namely was low level job category founded first such that no man wants to take the job and women who entered the market late has no choice to do these jobs or because the job workforce were mainly woman initially such that the job gained their label as low level job — cause a job has an implicit (sometimes even explicit) label as an easy job. If we can agree that all jobs are equally important, then there should not be problem of which gender do which job, all jobs are equally respectable. Each job has their own importance, some seemingly have more weight than other just because, resembling human, every each of them has their own role that concerning different life. You cannot compare the importance of one thing to the other when they are different by nature, president might be very important occupation because he/she make decision that concerns everyone in their country and maybe other country’s residents as well. But if all farmers are now stop being farmers and run for presidency or work as anything else, then no one can survive because there is no food available anymore due to absence of farming job.

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Retrieved from Google on 1 May 2018. All rights reserved.

For the closing remark I would like to underline that above, I argued that all jobs are equally respectable, I am not trying to imply that every job has to pay the same or anything with the same sounding as that. Salaries shall be proportional to the amount of work, incorporating risk within it. Long hours and good quality work should be appreciated. So, every job with different position and responsibility should pay different level of wage, but NO MATTER what is your occupation and how high/low your position is, never underestimate others and respect everyone. Lastly however, I really think that CEO paychecks are far too high especially in big multinational companies i.e. Walmart. Thank you for reading, happy labour day 🙂

Quarter Life Crisis and Happiness

If you are someone in undergraduate study or below, this might not be very applicable. But for those who had just graduated, raised your hands up if you feel like you are lost in life; I welcome you to the QUARTER LIFE CRISIS club.

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Retrieved from Google on 7 April 2018. All rights reserved.

In the past weeks, I tried to catch-up with various friends from my university time, I realized that I had missed out a big time. Some had changed their occupations once or twice, some other had gotten themselves yet another ex-boyfriends and boyfriends, the younger ones are going to graduate very soon and preparing for the coming job, etc. We talked about how our life went and where will it go from there on. Only few were optimist about the future, while the majority felt uncertainty and skepticism when asked about the near future. For me, I told them, I live in this moment, currently I feel pretty comfortable with my life and I have a decent short-term plan, though I am far from optimist about the future. So, one typical question was asked: “are you happy with your current life?” My answer was, happiness is over-rated. Why is that? well, research has shown that people who try to find happiness in life, in the end of the day tend to be less happy. Because, what is happiness? How to be happy? Are you happy if you are the only one who is happy? How do you measure happiness and is that the ultimate goal in our life?
Surely, no one wants to feel sad, or depressed or have a burdening life. Everyone in general will prefer to have a light, lovely and bright life. But how to achieve that? Simply by having fun all day? Smile, laugh and be happy? In my opinion, it is not that superficial. Life is more about your purpose, like the ted talk by Emily, we need an objective to feel fulfilled in life. To achieve that, we might need to go through all the bitter and sweet events in life, but ultimately, we will reach the state of joyfulness.

I am now in the middle of finding the right path to seize my goal flag. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like this is a never ending rode that I have to go through but only uncertainty awaits me in the end of the rode, if there is an end to this. So even after I found my purpose, it does not necessarily mean that the effort stops there. It was just the starting point, every subsequent steps will always be harder, tougher and sometimes it will force us to bend down. The only remedy might only be the thoughts of achieving your passion.
But then I realized, when I look back, I saw familiar faces, loving faces who supports me, and I know they will be there for me in good and bad times. So, even though I must walk this path with my own strength but having people who walk with me can be another source of strengths too.

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Life is full of different colors, that made it beautiful. Original picture by @random.walk_. All rights reserved.

In the face of quarter life crisis, just take a deep breath, take a step back and look at things from bigger perspective. I know I might not be able to understand wholly every one of your concerns, but there are people around you who want to open their arms to provide their time and ears. They might not give the best solution but it is always nice to know that you have someone. It is ok to rely on others every once in a while and do also provide the assistance needed by your other loved ones.

Recommended Ted talk:
Emily Esfahani Smith – There’s more to life than being happy
– Sophie Andrews – The best way to help is often just to listen

Wonder and Honesty

Retrieved from Google on 18 March 2018. All rights reserved.

Have you watched the movie “Wonder”? It is about a boy who was born with genetic disease that affecting his appearance. He went through so many surgeries which helps but his face still looks very different from his peers. You might be able to guess what the story is about and how it ended, hence thought the story is so typical. But let me just try to present you another perspective which you might have missed.
The movie incorporated a good mix of people from different races, dynamic gender interaction, family and love problem that we face in real live (though with exaggeration). And what really caught my interest is they told the story from many people’s perspectives. This kind of setting gave a rich feeling to the movie. One story told by different people might become an entirely different story, but this is not apparent to the other parties.

After I watched this movie, I reflected back to my own life. I realized that I often make assumptions on what others think, which cost me a lot of emotions and sometimes misunderstanding. I understand that I should ask rather than assume because no matter how good I am in reading other’s faces, I would never accurately predict what is on their mind. But when I put myself in other’s shoes, I will not be willing to share some of my thoughts honestly with others. It might be due to various things but most likely it is pride. Pride deter me from honestly show my emotion because I do not want to be labelled weak, it prevents me to speak up because I am afraid of making mistakes or being stupid, pride sometimes also make me exaggerate on one thing and understated others. But in the recent years, I started to learn to be more honest to myself and others. But it is hard, pride is not the only problem; negativity is also hindering an honest relationship. Even when I am honest, I think others might not. I started to have doubt and being restless. It is like a never-ending loop and it sounds more complicated when I try to write it down. So, sorry if I confuse you.

My final thought: How nice will it be if everyone just be honest.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

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Retrieved from Google on 8 March 2018. All rights reserved.

A lot of website says it is a typical interview question but actually no one has ever asked me this before. Nevertheless, I always try to prepare an answer preceding any interview, just in case. I remember my first answer was solid and clear, “I see myself working in an multinational financial corporation, handling finance related work on the management level”. That was around three years ago, preparation for my first internship. Today, the very same question yielded a totally different answer. It is a short but sure answer: “I don’t know”. Of course I never say this in any interview, firstly because I was never asked, secondly because I was serious about finding a job. But why did I regressed?

Just like gaining knowledge, the more we learn, the more things we realized we don’t know. Initially, I was young and naive and I did not really invest any time to think about it; as long as it sounds like an answer the employer like to hear, then it should be good enough. Later, more interview opportunities came by and it let me think about this question over and over again. I realized that my life was built on a set of surprises, no long term plan I made had ever comes true. When I was in high school, I was sure that I will study in local university and major in math. But I ended up abroad. When I decided to go abroad, I changed my major choice to finance, but I ended up studying economics. Then I thought I will have internship in bank hence it will helped me in job hunting later on. But in reality, I ended up doing IT job in a conglomerate. I also always thought that I will study, graduate and work directly, but now I am considering to pursue further study thus, where will I be in five years? Maybe only God knows.

My point here is, we can plan our life to be whatever but life is what happened. It is full of surprises and the future is looking more like a black box than a crystal clear ball. I understand why sometimes company ask this question and I am grateful because it got me thinking. But on the other hand, I don’t understand what they expect for an answer or how will they evaluate my answer. If I can’t see myself anywhere because I go with the flow of life and because I believe in fate, is that a big minus to my profile?

Ageing Population, Problem or Opportunity?

In the midst of the popular topic of #MeToo movement which advocates for more gender equity, there is a less prominent but equally important social issue that not discussed as much; the ageing population. If you are from developing countries especially in Africa continent, you might not yet feel the “ageing” effect, but still look at the graph below and maybe you will want to take a second and think a little about it.

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Retrieved from 2015 World Population Ageing page 24. All rights reserved.

As the name suggest, ageing population is a phenomenon in which the community demographic shifted such that the proportion of elderly increased significantly. This might be due to lower birth rate, higher life expectancy, high mortality rate for younger population or everything happened simultaneously. The government deemed this issue problematic because reasons including, work force shortage and future elderly care. Despite many policies that had been introduced to encourage fertility, especially in Japan, world’s number one country with ageing population problem, the problem persists until today.

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Retrieved from Google on 27 Feb 2018. All rights reserved

That was one most common perspective of ageing population, I have another view on this matter but before I explain myself, recall some facts known today: Human population has been proliferating in an unprecedented rate especially in the middle of 20th century (baby boomers); resources are scarce and might be approaching to its limit (biggest factor that causing this arguably is human consumption). A famous theory of population growth by Malthus

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Retrieved from Google on 27 Feb 2018. All rights reserved.

(Malthusian Theory of Population) argued that unlike population which grows exponentially, food supply growth function is more linear. As the consequence, food supply will not be able to catch up with the population at some point. We might have arrived at that point. According to World Food Program, in 2015, one in nine people sleeps hungry (link) and according to Food Aid Foundation one in three people suffers from malnutrition (link). Assuming the one third of wasted food are nutritious and could be transported to those people, we were only able to break even (meaning population curve intersects the food supply curve). I cannot deny that this argument is not very strong but take a moment and think about the way we consume these days (see my previous post); it made me believe in myself.

 

So let’s go back to the other perspective. If I succeeded in convincing you that currently there are too many people on earth and that the world may unable to take more than this (or maybe it’s more like we should stop hurting our earth and exhausted all possible resources). Then ageing population can be a starting point to re-structure the population. Explicitly, fertility encouragement is unnecessary, just let the growth to be minus thus we will have less people after the generation passed away. This initiative require a lot of patience and may hurt the society in the short run. But these threats can be alleviate, i.e. for labor shortage, low populated area could be more open in accepting foreign workers, encourage labor migration; while future elderly care can be leverage to teens who are looking for volunteering position (inspiration from the Dutch) or enhance the quality of life of the elderly such that even as a senior, they can take care of themselves just as well. Of course these suggestions are just for convenience because there are other factors to be considered such as political and maybe resentment from the elderly population. My point is, ageing population might be a problem or not depending on which perspective was used to assess it.

Question: any idea how gender equality campaign correlated to ageing issue?

Shame on You, Indonesia

I have no grudge towards Indonesia so far, in fact, I never care about them before. But due to the recent occurrence, I am now bending to the hate side. Here is what happened:

So one day, my sister arrived in Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Everything was nice, until the baggage check point. As usual, all luggage must be scanned through the scanning machine, and she complied. However, after the scanning, the officer approached her and asked which one of her luggage is the heaviest (there was several bags). So this by itself does not make sense because they just scanned it and nothing abnormal was found. But anyway, she again complied and told him. The officer asked her to open the bag and so she did. Again, after messing the content, tossing things here and there, NOTHING was found; just clothes and some snacks. The officer pointed at one of the snack in the biggest package and asked what is it. “It is just a snack” (still untouched, sealed perfectly). Guess what, he asked my sister to give it to him because HE WANTS TO TRY IT. Though annoyed she decided to share the snack with him, but what did he do? HE TOSSED THE SNACK TO THE FLOOR (basically throwing it) and just went away. Ah ya, he mentioned no photograph, I guess because he doesn’t want his idiocy documented.
The story above was not the only incident, another relative who went to Indonesia through Soekarno-Hatta airport was asked to hand in money (RMB 100), else they will not let them pass the immigration.

Disclaimer: True story from my sister and relatives, I was not present hence the story might contain underestimation. (read some other cases)

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Pretty on the outside, trashy service on the inside, uselessly pretty. Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, retrieved from Google on 20 Feb 2018. All rights reserved.

Airport is the first door for foreigners when entering a country. First impression to the country’s infrastructure and services. In Soekarno-Hatta case, while the facilities had improved significantly in the recent decade, the service quality is still as trashy as ever. While I was trying to think about the reason, a thought suddenly dawned to me. I remember someone asked me why despite being a great nation in the past, Indonesia never really able to develop. I got a possible answer: It is because the PEOPLE.

One of the most influential entity towards shaping a person mindset arguably is the education he/she attained. In Indonesia, the education quality is rather poor, where teachers are not a respectable job and the presence of bribery is a public secret. In this kind of environment, it is not hard to imagine what kind of officers are those in the airport. Someone tole me before too that people who are working in government-related entities (so called the “real Indonesian”) are prone to be corrupted (and some are fanatic towards their religion and Indonesians are one of the easiest society to be provoked by fake news, but we will leave this to another post) . One VERY important thing to note, I am NOT saying that Indonesian are all bad and corrupt, I know a lot of smart and bright Indonesians, I am just saying things in general.

I don’t really want to say it but it seems like this crooked behavior had become part of the culture hence no matter how Indonesia wants to improve, if the fundamental is not strengthened, they are deem to fail. By this I mean if the mindset of people does not change, the behavior is not straightened, Indonesia will be like an apple with rotten core; good facilities but trashy people culture. It will not stay pretty for long.

PS: For Indonesians or whoever who read this, feel free to let me know if you disagree, be careful if you go plan to go to Soekarno-Hatta airport because they might want you to bribe (especially if you are Chinese).

Shame on you, Indonesia.