An Observation

I have been trying to think of some short, descriptive phrases for myself, and this is what I came up with.

Moderate Nerd:I can code, I can talk basic (and possibly college-level) science*, can understand the general idea behind most technology, and I am interested in a lot of things that other self-confessed geeks are interested in. I am also rather more socially awkward in person than over the internet. However, I don’t code all that well, and I don’t necessarily fit the stereotype in a lot of ways. Not that I’m complaining, exactly.

Moderate Libertarian: I believe that in general people should get to do what they want as long as other people are not directly affected. The adverb (directly) is where things get tricky. I can’t even point to a general rule of thumb that I would use to decide what counts as direct influence and what doesn’t, I just choose where I stand on a case-by-case basis. Although I suppose I tend to prefer not interfering in people’s choices in the vast majority of issues, like gay marriage (or just gay rights, in India) or abortion or marijuana legalization. I’m constantly surprised by how many people don’t.

Moderate Utilitarian-even in the much-vilified “Greatest good for the greatest number” sense, although there are some places where this breaks: “at the margins of rationality”, as a post on Less Wrong put it. This means that my ethical philosophy isn’t quite internally consistent when extrapolated. But it works for most decisions that most people have to make. For the rest, I simply hope I don’t have to choose.

Moderate (a)theist: depending on the definition. I suppose you could say I’m a skeptical agnostic, but according to PZ Myers, if I remember right, atheists are always agnostics who are almost sure that there is no god. See, for instance, the “atheist” bus campaign, which ran the ad saying “There’s probably no god.” Also, while my beliefs tend in this direction, I do agree with one of my friends who once tweeted: “belief in God has high utility value”. For the individual, mainstream, non-sucide bombing believer, that is. Rituals take time but are often valuable focusing tools, and while there’s nothing to say that “community feeling” can only be brought about by a common religion, that does tend to work quite well. Do note that I’m not actually saying anything about the net social value of religion here – that’s an entirely different topic into which you can bring in religious wars and riots as well as solidarity and point to examples of communities like the Jews and the Gujaratis, who tend to flourish in their tight-knit religiosity.

Half-hearted Engineering Student: in the sense that I am not entirely convinced that this was a good idea, overall, although I think this is still better than all or most of the alternative paths I could have taken after I finished school

The immediate common feature to all these is that they are all rather diluted concepts. Overall, I suppose this is a good thing: the world is a large and complex place that is often not captured by any single system of thought, subtlety in views and understanding is a sign of intelligence and thoughtfulness, and so forth. At the same time, it makes me a little uneasy, and I don’t know why.

*Where by basic science I mean both simple science and the “basic sciences”, as in physics and chemistry and biology, although I’m surprisingly ignorant about both biology and chemistry. Majoring in engineering means you know a fair bit of this by default, but it’s not really the same thing as majoring in science.

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