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What I’m excited about right now

I have recently been excited about many things. Excitement is generally a welcome feeling but I have found that too much excitement can also be distracting and I would really need to get some stuff done. I also realized that I haven’t been blogging in a looong time, so today I’m killing two birds with one stone by blowing off some of my excitement by writing about the things that I’m excited about.

Right off the bat, I want to mention that I am excited about starting my Ph.D. studies at Aalto University, where I’m currently working as a doctoral researcher in the Finix research project. The Finix project produces scientific research about different sustainability aspects of textile systems in Finland. There are several work packages in the project, and I’m focusing on circular economy management in textile ecosystems.

As part of the Ph.D. studies, I have been attending a course called Perspectives on Organization, which is essentially a reading circle around different streams of Organization and Management Theory. The readings range from classics like Cyert & March’s A Behavioral Theory of the Firm to modern studies about the role of play in the workplace. I’ve been regularly getting my mind blown during the course, and it’s also been quite humbling to learn just how little I actually knew about different management theories.

The course also prompted me to think about science in general. What the heck is science exactly? Are management studies really science? To get started, I dragged myself to Aalto University’s library (yes, an actual library!) and picked up Karl Popper’s Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach and refreshed my memory on concepts like falsification, induction, deduction, and abduction. However, pretty soon into the book, I realized that if I read Popper too literally, I would have to discount quite large swaths of social sciences as un-scientific, so I had to read something else to maintain my legitimacy as a researcher at least in my own eyes. I then picked up a book called Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis by Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram. The point the authors are making is that social sciences (and by extension management studies which are drawing heavily on social sciences and often use similar approaches) are not about finding the truth in a positivist sense like natural sciences do, but about finding practical knowledge that is relevant to people and helps them solve social problems in a particular context.

Referring to Aristotle’s three types of knowledge, the authors position natural sciences as an aim to find epistemé, i.e. universal truth, or techné, i.e. technical know-how. I was already quite familiar with these concepts thanks to David Ing’s systems thinking lectures that I attended at Aalto in 2017, but it was interesting to revisit them in the context of my own research. If you want to know more about systems thinking or epistemé, techné, and phronesis, I really recommend checking out David’s lectures on YouTube. Here’s one that really knocked my socks off when I was first getting into systems thinking: Rethinking systems thinking.

Currently, I’m also excited about reading philosophy. I’ve been refreshing my memory about continental philosophers like Descartes, and rationalist philosophy in general, but also about empiricism and the works of Hume and Locke. I was also excited to read a little about pragmatism by John Dewey, but haven’t had time to go too deep. There is so much to learn about Philosophy that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, so I usually jump from one school of thought to another, but at some point I would like to do a more comprehensive review. I have tried reading Bertrand Russel’s History of Western philosophy, but have only scratched the surface so far.

Here’s a really fun podcast about Philosophy that you can listen to also on Spotify: Philosophize This!

Other random stuff that have been blowing my mind:

  • Kurzgesagt: absolutely beautiful animated videos about space, the future, and life in general. Specific topics range from: “What If We Detonated All Nuclear Bombs at Once?” to “How to move the Sun: Stellar engines
  • Year Million on Disney+. The first two episodes start off lightly by discussing the question: what if we became immortal? Here’s an extract: “Is the end state of our civilization to exist in computers as digital consciousness in perpetuity?” The show reminds me of Yuval Noah Harari’s book Homo Deus, where Harari discusses humanity’s long-standing aims, such as increasing happiness and longevity, and takes them to their logical conclusion. One potential future image is that in the future we are all immortal digital entities living in our personally built nirvana on some server. The question is, what if I can’t pull the plug?
  • Futucast podcast. I ran into this podcast when I was listening to Rahapodi, where they had the Futucast hosts as guests recently. I just listened to the Futucast episode where they interviewed a Finnish futurist, Risto Linturi, who among other things discussed his experience playing the video game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. He described playing the game felt like being on a real vacation in ancient Greece. Speculation about our future lives in a virtual reality ensued.
  • I have been excited to discuss black holes with my fiancée Emmi who is reading Stephen Hawking’s biography. My previous attempts to discuss black holes or other space-time anomalies with Emmi have usually resulted in her swift escape from the room, so we’re making progress.
  • To further drive home how much of a nerd I am, I want to mention that I’ve been playing Surviving Mars in my free time and I’m happy to report that I have successfully built my first colony on Mars. Still waiting for SpaceX to top that achievement, although they seem to be getting closer
  • Some Books:
    • How to be better at almost everything by Patt Flynn. The book states that it’s better to become a generalist and build skill stacks than to specialize in one area. The book is conceptually related to the book Range: how generalists triumph in a specialized world by David Epstein. Both books essentially argue that integrating skills and synthesizing knowledge is one of the best ways to become useful in today’s complex world. The book by Patt Flynn is more practical (but also discusses philosophy and principles), while David Epstein takes a more scientific look at the topic. Both recommended!
    • Rage by Bob Woodward. Bob Woodward continues his documentation of president Donald Trump. I have no words, just astonishment.

What have you been excited about recently? Please share in the comments. I also appreciate any book recommendations so I can continue building the collection of unfishined books on my night stand.

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