Parable of the Polygons

This week no less than two people mentioned this site to me, so let's talk about it! It's about how personal bias works on a systematic level.

Because the site's interactive, you have to play the games to understand its point. Click on this link to go there:

Parable of the Polygons

The Trial

Let's talk about this story. It's from Michael DeForge's cartoon Sticks Angelica.

Coffee Date!

Hi all, tonight let's just chat! We'll meet at the studio and then go to a cafe. See you!

Valuing Human Beings

Last week's discussion gave us a very interesting sequence of questions.
This week we're going to take a look at them:

"Are rights as a concept the best way we can go about describing valuing human beings?"

To answer this question, first we probably should ask:

What's the reason we should value human beings?

If in the answer we find we do need to value human beings, then we need to find a way to value them, and that's when we get to rights as a concept. So, then the real question is,

"Are human beings fundamentally valuable?"

If we can answer this question, then we can talk about the methods of how to value them, and deciding if rights are a good way to go about doing that.

The Children's Rights Problem

All of the material for today's discussion came from a PDF document on a website called The PDF is called, "What Does 'Equality' Mean for Children in Relation to Adults?"

So for our discussion today I have three questions that maybe ask the same thing:
Can the concept of ‘equality’ be meaningfully applied to relationships between children and adults?
How do we raise children in a way that acknowledges the cognative/developmental limitations of children while at the same time respecting children as autonomous individuals?
Do children have certain inalienable rights?
Is there a better way to ask these questions?

Recognizably Human

Well-being is not just a question of the wealth or pleasure that a person has; it is a question of how people manage to live their lives and the ability they have to do certain things that are important to them. -Professor Amartya Sen, 1979.

Human worth or dignity has implications for all types of relationships, including political ones. At the same time recognising and respecting this fundamental equality of worth or dignity means arranging social relationships in a way that recognises and respects the differences inherent to human beings.
The social arrangements that may best provide the conditions for recognising and respecting that equality should involve the provision of equal basic capabilities, which allows each person to stand as equal in her society. [This should take into] account both freedom and well-being, [but also take into account social] processes that can impact the idea of justice.
Recognising fundamental human worth and the need to create social relationships that respect this is accompanied by the demand that society work actively to remove existing socially derived inequalities.
p. 73 Justice as Equality: Michael Manley's Caribbean Vision of Justice by Anna Kasafi Perkins

Human beings are of fundamental worth simply by being human. Human society should be arranged to recognise and respond to this underlying equality.
--p. 73 Justice as Equality: Michael Manley's Caribbean Vision of Justice by Anna Kasafi Perkins

Agree or disagree?

Reinventing Organizations

Reinventing Organizations is a book which does a good job of describing aspects of the new ways people are finding to work together. The book organises worldviews into groups and lables them with colors. This is somewhat useful for understanding people's different approaches to organisations. Here's some exerpts which hopefully present the main ideas in the book. The book is worth reading in its entirety. You can buy it at the site, or also download it for free and give the author a donation.

Some questions from the book
Can we create organizations free of the pathologies that show up all too often in the workplace? Free of politics, bureaucracy, and infighting; free of stress and burnout; free of resignation, resentment, and apathy; free of the posturing at the top and the drudgery at the bottom?
Is it possible to devise a new model for organizations that makes work productive, fulfilling, and meaningful?
Can we create soulful workplaces―schools, hospitals, businesses, and nonprofits―where our talents can blossom and our callings can be honored?

討論逐字稿: Difficult is Good? 2014/10/24 discussion

Towards the end of the discussion:
How much should it matter to you what other people think?
Oh, a number! That's cool!
I think it should matter to the extent that you have to take care of other people
It's like personal boundaries.
On the internet there's this concept, "My rights end where yours begin" MYEWYB for short, meaning, there's a limit at some point to what I want, when it starts intruding on what other people want.
It's really hard to find that boundary, of thinking enough about other people!
It's hard to ask this, where's your boundary? You can't just ask this.
Our culture doesn't have any way of saying it!
It's hard to ask about it!

Sometime people won't tell you, they think you should know.
Sometimes they don't even know.
Unless you push their buttons--
There's a story I read on the internet, two guys were sitting in a cafe across from a jewelry shop, and a mom wanted to pierce her daughter's ears, and the girl kept saying 'No' but the mom had it done anyways. So the girl learned that saying 'no' just results in being forced. She learned that no doesn't mean anything when you're not in power.
But we do this in small ways, too. One time we left a restaurant but the two year old with us didn't understand that the restaurant was closing and it was time to go and everyone was outside already, he was having a good time. So he refused to leave. And instead of spending the time to explain to him, I just grabbed him. When he saw everyone outside he finally understood, but still, I broke his trust, and violated his 'no'. So the problem is, when you're dealing with people who don't understand everything, who are in your care, is this kind of situation. When are you overstepping bounds or not?
So it's because parents don't trust their children, so they force them to do things?
Well, there is that, they don't trust them to know enough.
There's so many aspects to self-trust, all of the things we talked about today, they're all a part of it, it's a very complicated picture!
And your growing-up background will influence how you trust yourself.
Does Taiwanese culture have any message like of 'you're not good enough'?
Sure, yes!
Where do you suppose this message comes from?
Education, school--
Comes from history, tradition. Colonialism.
It's related to colonialism? How?
We were colonised by Japanese, they stratified people, and the KMT came doing the same thing, delegated the force to the people.

Difficult is Good?

All of the following quotes came from a book by Charles Eisenstein called The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. Click the title of the section to be taken to the online chapter the quote came from.

Difficult is Good
A corollary principle of self-struggle is to elevate anything that is hard and devalue anything that comes easy. It is therefore also a habit of scarcity and of ingratitude. Imagine you are a practitioner of meditation and someone asks you, “What do you do?” You reply, “Well, I sit on a cushion and pay attention to my breath.” The questioner says, “That’s all? What’s so hard about that?” “Oh,” you say, offended, “it’s really hard!” Being hard validates it. To do it, you have to overcome something in yourself; you have to prevail in some kind of struggle.
I realize that the paradigm of struggle is something that quickly falls by the wayside as one pursues the practice of meditation. Maintaining focus on the breath cannot happen through forcing, but only through allowing. In fact, it is extremely easy; our habit of making things hard is what gets in the way. Nonetheless, we often use “easy” as a term of disparagement, as in “She took the easy way out.”

Are things validated by being difficult, in Taiwanese culture? Is 'difficult' a virtue and 'easy' a cop-out?

討論逐字稿: Debt, Obligation, Empathy 2014/10/17 discussion

I remember we talked about transactions in the previous discussion, and also obligation.
What do you remember from the discussion?
When I came in, you guys were just talking about teamwork, and you described, mentioned that contribution and trust and sacrifice
Yes, and then we moved up to transaction, and we mentioned that market and profit and the idea that the Japanese company was about.
And we discussed what's the difference between altruism and self-interest.
So do you have any thoughts on that?
Sorry, not yet
Did you bring something?
Yes, I linked to the article
It's about a very popular idea, corporate social responsibility. Is that self-interest or altruism?

Debt, Obligation, Empathy

We're continuing the beautiful meandering discussion from the last time we met. The pieces below are just for reference, we can pick and choose what we need.

This first part is from the end of the Business or Friendship discussion guide:

What's a transaction? What kinds of transactions are there? Is there a difference between a 'transaction' and an 'exchange'? Are transactions always fair?
Exchange is all about equivalence. Both sides are keeping accounts, it's okay for both sides to keep account! Also, the entire relationship can be canceled out, and either party can call an end to it at any time. (paraphrase of) Debt p.103
What is the relationship between people in a transaction? Are they equals?

討論逐字稿: Business or Friendship? 2014/10/5 discussion

These are notes from the discussion that include partial transcripts of what we said.

Sharing is like I have something I can give part of it to someone I want to give it to.

A transaction is like I give something to someone else and at the same time I expect that person to give something in return, like feedback, or an object
Of equal value?
Transaction may mean the same as 'private goods', that means a thing has it's own property rights, so the owner is the only one that can use it, sell it, dispose of it, so in the market, private goods can be transacted. At the same time, private goods are hard to share with other people. For example, if you need a pencil, you don't often share it with other people.
A pencil? It is very easy to share!
Use simultaneously, no.
Money is hard to share.
You can share a house! Share the right of use with other people.

What's easier to define: a business transaction or a friendship?
Or, what's the difference between the two?
Well, is there emotional affection involved? Are there emotions involved?
But business transactions can be emotional?
I'm talking about affection, or bonding.
A friendship has more bonding?

討論逐字稿: CES

From the discussion "CES: A different way to exchange value"

Concluding Statements:
How does the way in which we exchange value impact our relationships with other people?

I will say a lot, I’m sorry. In my opinion, in a barter system, you have to trust the people who provide the things, for instance I exchange this one with her water because I trust her water is good. In the money system, like the modern system, you have to trust in the one who produces the money, endorses it. You have to trust the gvt, that's why we think the US dollar is good, and the Russian not so much, because they're not stable. This kind of money is less valuable.
And for the CES system, I think you first have to trust the accounting system, you have to trust the record in a transparent way, and you have to trust the people as well. Like in yahoo knowledge. If the people are just kidding, and they don't really contribute some valuable knowledge, I wouldn't join this community. So I would say in the first barter system, the people, their connections will be tighter.

I don't have a novel idea but I will try to express it. I think the different way to exchange value, of the two kinds of ways to exchange value, the difference between the two systems is about the distance between people. Some ways to exchange value will enlarge the distance between individuals and some will bring them together. So if we use the way to exchange value over a larger distance, we will have less empathy.

CES: A different way to exchange value

CES stands for Community Exchange System. There are many substitute trading systems around the world, known as Community Exchange Systems, Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS), Mutual Credit trading systems, Trade Exchanges or Time Banks. Most of the info we're discussing today comes from a South African organisation that provides a web-based service to help people organise a CES in their communities. This does not represent an endorsement of this information or system, we're using the information as a jumping-off point for a discussion of how we can exchange value in an economic system.

Questions to start the discussion:
How does money work?
How does an economy work, at basic?
Does money 'exist'?
What is 'barter' and why is it of limited value?
Which came first: currency, barter, or credit?

The Money Gap
There is a 'money gap' between the skills/offers/talents/gifts of sellers on the one hand and the wants/needs/requirements of buyers on the other. Money is supposed to bridge that gap, as a medium of exchange. But what about when you don't have enough money to exchange for what you need, because the skills you can offer don't buy enough money in the markets available to you? How do you get what you need?

The 'Existence' of Money
The main problem with conventional money is that it 'exists', or at least we are encouraged by the commercial banks to believe that it exists so that they can 'lend' it to us at a price! As such it has to be created, distributed and the amount of it restricted and controlled. As money comes into existence when commercial banks grant loans, every unit in existence is based on a unit of debt. This determines the quantity of money, which has nothing to do with the amount of money people require to live decent lives. Such money is also based on speculation, because it is loaned into existence on the premise that it will be paid back in the future with interest.

「思‧英語討論會」will begin on 2014/9/19

The RO Studio is happy to announce that our regular Friday「思‧英語討論會」discussions are starting once again on September 19.

The discussions will take place regularly on Fridays, and each discussion will be listed in advance on the sidebar to the left. However, please check the calendar to the left to confirm that the discussion will take place.

To register for the discussion, please contact Angela at


Hi all! The RO Studio is on hiatus for the summer.

Check back in August for our fall schedule of workshops and discussions!


Meg Jay: Why 30 Is Not The New 20
"The best time to work on Alex's marriage is before she has one."
--Meg Jay's supervisor

"To achieve great things, you need a plan and not quite enough time. "
--Leonard Bernstein

Identity capital: something that adds value to who you are
"Identity capital begets identity capital. So now is the time for that cross-country job, that internship, that startup you want to try. I'm … discounting exploration that's not supposed to count, which, by the way, is not exploration. That's procrastination. … Explore work and make it count."

Do as I say, not as I do!

What are your guiding principles in life?
What are the things you value most?

Teaching a Person or Child to Care
Surveys reveal that in the United States, parents from European, Asian, Hispanic and African ethnic groups all place far greater importance on caring than achievement. These patterns hold around the world: When people in 50 countries were asked to report their guiding principles in life, the value that mattered most was not achievement, but caring.
--Raising a Moral Child NYT 4/11/2014

Is it important to teach people to care?

How do you teach people to care? How do you teach children to care?

When a child does something right what do you say?

The Dispossessed Workshops

Come join the five Dispossessed Workshops at the RO Studio!

The discussions will happen on the following dates, all Tuesdays at 8pm. Address and Map

May 6 Freedom, Responsiblility, Initiative
May 13 Owning or Using
May 20 Possession: Luxury, Scarcity, Consumerism
May 27 How Boundaries Work
June 3 The Structure of Power

Links take you to the discussion wiki, where you can see the discussion guide for each workshop and also transcripts from the Becoming workshops held in April.

The Dis-Possessed Legislature

The Occupied Legislature situation has been resolved for now, in that some of the people currently in power have accepted the students' demands. They were accepted with a lot of wiggle room in what was promised, so it remains to be seen what is actually done. Yet the acceptance allows the students to 'succeed' and then peacably disband, and allows the halls of power to get back to their normal business, or to get back to work at least.

There are now a lot of questions to be answered.

One of the students' demands was for a Citizen's Constitutional Assembly. KRW asks,
"Is [the future we work for] one where the people of Taiwan are no longer mediated subordinates, with regard to domestic and overseas affairs, but its immediate determinants?"

Before we discuss this question, let us discuss the concept of Negative Freedom and Positive Freedom.

Negative freedom is easier to describe. You can call it 'freedom from'.  It means you are free from restrictions, obstacles, or constraining commitments/responsiblity.  You're 'freed up' to do whatever you want, there is a lack of limitations.

Positive freedom is a little trickier.  You can call it 'freedom to'.  It has a strong relationship with taking initiative, or having the right conditions.   That is to say, you're free to do something through the availability of resources, through being given social support, through possessing collaborators.   Positive freedom is often realised through commitments to other people, or through taking on responsibility.

Saying 'positive' and 'negative' implies that one is more desirable than the other, but actually the terms are about presence and absence, not good and bad.

Partial transcript for Democratic Oversight discussion

Let's talk about this one: Convene a citizens' constitutional assembly.

How do we invite the participation of 23 million people to a discussion process?
The referendum process is all about the decision and not about dialogue and discussion, the thinking-through process leading up to the decision. It's an incomplete process, because the real participation is in the thinking it through part, not making the decision at the end.

What are the conditions for effective dialogue between parties?
-you would need pre-agreement about what is an is not available
the questions under discussion are handed out first, and anonymously answered, to prevent opinions being influenced by louder people, or prevent people worrying about offending people, for people who feel unsafe in the process

-there's four-step process:
1. Before the discussion, think about the strengths, or what you like about the other person, so you feel more positive about them, or less emotional
2. Talk about own misbehaviour, maybe wrong tone etc., what i might have done to hurt you, what i appreciate about you. And this helps bring people into harmony
3. Talk about what help is needed from other party, or how you've been hurt, and this is why i don't appreciate what you've done, what you can do to fix it
4. During this time, advice is not allowed, you must practice deep listening.
a neutral party must be present in this process
then the next party also says this, and the original party practices deep listening.
i’ve done this process, and it brings useful results, people don't get offended and also offensive. It doesn't just be about what the other party should be responsible for, it also is about what i should be responsible for.
Tekna Han is the teacher for this method, he works with the palestinians and israelis.
it takes more than one discussion of course, but you have deeper understanding of the hurt of everybody, and people understand why they feel hurt, and people can begin to feel like brothers.

The Dispossessed Workshops at Becoming

Come join my four Dispossessed Workshops at Becoming!
Our discussion will be centered around the book The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. Here's a link to the entire book in English.
They're taking place at the RO Studio on April 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th, all Mondays at 7:30pm. Address and Map

It's listed on the Becoming website as the "Utopian Society" workshop, but the real subject of our discussion is 'community', or 'what makes a community happen', or maybe 'what are our relationships within community'.

We'll also be talking about the ethics of community, seeing that our subthemes are freedom, responsiblity, initiative, boundaries, ownership and power. Looking at community through the lens of Utopia, as a kind of foreign way of organising society, can be a useful way to evaluate our own.

Democratic Oversight: How to make it work?

Discussion will be held Friday, April 4 at 8pm Address and Map

Continuing our discussion of the student movement currently happening in Taipei, let's discuss the the four demands of the students occupying the Legislative Yuan. According to a fb poster inviting people to the March 30 gathering on Ketegalan Boulevard last Sunday, these are the four demands:
1. Withdraw the Services Trade Agreement With China
2. Pass new legislation to ensure democratic oversight of any negotiations with China
3. Review the Services Trade Agreement with China after such legislation has passed
4. Convene a Citizens' Constitutional Assembly

Let's first review some of the terms here:
What is 'democratic'?
What is 'democratic oversight'?
Are there any other terms you would like to clarify and discuss?

Okay, now let's look at items 2-4 one at a time, considering the following questions:
What is the process by which these things are currently dealt with?
What are the conditions for effective process? For effective discussion? For effective decision making?

The Occupation of the Legislature: What now?

Discussion will be held Friday, April 4 at 8pm Address and Map

Continuing our discussion of the student movement currently happening in Taipei, this week we're going to have an open discussion, where everyone contributes the topics to be discussed. Email me at, and I'll list and organise them below.

Also, here is a link to a gigantic AMA* run by the students in the LY on Reddit, where they answer a lot of specific questions handed to them on their policy, strategy, and a lot of other things. A lot of it is very worth discussing.

*AMA = Ask Me Anything, apparently a Reddit tradition of someone telling all about what it's like to be them, from fast-food workers to even President Obama have done AMAs in the past.

The Occupation of the Legislature

There has been a lot going on in Taipei this last week, with the protests at the Legislative Yuan. I would like to give people an opportunity discuss these events. So we're going to have a discussion this Friday 3/28 (8pm) at the RO Studio.

There is a simple discussion format called ORID, which starts from talking about facts, to discussing emotions, and then goes to analysis and making decisions. The 'decision' part could either mean deciding what to do, or deciding what the issues mean to you in the end.

This format is designed to manage conflicting emotions and meanings in a complicated situation. I would like to use this format to structure this discussion, but as always, we'll follow the structure loosely rather than strictly.

The WEIRD Ones

Western culture is seen as the global standard. But is it normal human behavior?

The Ultimatum Game.
The rules are simple: in each game there are two players who remain anonymous to each other. The first player is given an amount of money, say $100, and told that he has to offer some of the cash, in an amount of his choosing, to the other subject. The second player can accept or refuse the split. But there’s a hitch: players know that if the recipient refuses the offer, both leave empty-handed. North Americans, who are the most common subjects for such experiments, usually offer a 50-50 split when on the giving end. When on the receiving end, they show an eagerness to punish the other player for uneven splits at their own expense. In short, Americans show the tendency to be equitable with strangers—and to punish those who are not.

Homo Economicus

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
I can't make the picture any bigger, so please click on the link to read the cartoon at the site.

What is the assumption in this picture?

Why is this man's actions not okay?

The cartoonist portrays 'normal human courtesy' as the Homo Sapiens.
Do you think the first picture is really about normal human courtesy?
Isn't there also an economic assumption implicit in that scenario?

Why is this woman's statement not okay?

What about this statement is an economic decision?

What is the difference between these mens' statements?

What do you suppose is the point the cartoonst is trying to make?
Do you agree with his points?

Build Your Own Damn House

Today's going to be a little different. Instead of a concept to think about, I want to read a story together.
This story is about a person who's made a place for herself in the world, and the way she's done it is really interesting. I guess I want to discuss what it means to find your own path, and how it is that you arrive at that path.

THE TROUBLE COFFEE & Coconut Club (its full name) is a tiny storefront next door to a Spanish-immersion preschool, about three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in one of the city’s windiest, foggiest, farthest-flung areas. As places of business go, I would call Trouble impressively odd.

Trust Between Strangers: Open Source Economics

Rachel Botsman: The Case for Collaborative Consumption

Yochai Benkler: On the New Open Source Economics

The quotes below are all from the two videos above, so just watch the videos, and we'll talk about the quotes in the discussion!

Technology to Make People More Human?

Last week we discussed Antisocial or Metasocial, and discovered, at the very end of the TED video, this intriguing plea:
"And so that's the request I have for everybody in this room. We are creating the technology that is going to create the new shared experience, which will create the new world. And so my request is, please, let's make technologies that make people more human, and not less."
We had a very short discussion but realized we'd run out of time last week. And so tonight the question is:
"Can you make people more human?"
I mean:
CAN you make people more human?
Can you make them less human?
Is techology the way to do it?