what up, blog?

How’ve you been? We haven’t chatted in a while. What up?

Really? I’m sorry. I figured that you had other people to hang out with. You totally should have called! I was busy, but I wasn’t that busy, you can always give me a ring, or write.

Well, I guess that’s true, but you’d think that since I’m anthropomorphizing you in my head, you’d just magically acquire the ability to write, speak, and act upon the world. No constraints, right, whatever goes? You are, after all, just part of my imagination.

Constraints? But I thought imagination was all about freedom. Dreams, you know, flying, falling, superpowers, there are so many things that are possible. It seems to me that when we really let our minds be free, we can imagine anything. Why would my brain limit my imagined personification of my blog to communicating only with me and not with the rest of the world?

Wait: so you’re saying that what I think, what I dream, is all just limited to things I already know? But what about learning? I can learn new ideas, acquire new perspectives, and use this new knowledge to break constraints. For example, today I learned about a whole body of work associating pronoun use in conversation to personality disorders. Now, when I reflect on my speech and others’, I’ll generate new perspectives and new ideas about the meaning in the words. There are new ideas. There are wheels, there are internets. I fundamentally disagree that everything has been discovered, everything has been invented, that everything is just a mashup.

Hm. You have a point. If I imagined you actually talking to people in the world, or even pretended that you were a separate entity from me, some might call me crazy. But no one would really believe I was crazy unless I acted on this believe. And isn’t it natural to dissociate one’s self from one’s expression of self? Isn’t that a natural part of writing? Unlike speech, I’m creating an artifact, something that literally and physically does exist separate of me. Therefore it seems perfectly natural to think of you as separate from me because you literally are.

No, I’m trying to make a point. You can influence the world if you want, because you exist separate of me. You may not have a body or a brain, but you have a connection to me. You’re like my child. And because of this, every word of you I write and then read causes me to reflect back on my own existence. You have arms and legs, but you can only use them to poke and prod and ping my brain. You may not be able to act on the whole world, but you do have influence on me. See, you’re freer than you think!

That’s true. I guess you’re free, but only on my terms. You’re less like a child and more like a robot. I’ve predetermined your scope of influence. You may lead to unexpected things, but they only occur within a certain range of possibility. Of course, a moment ago, you were saying I was under the same constraints, that the scope of my own existence is predetermined by my creators and my world.

Yeah, I’ll have to think about that. I don’t know. You’re pretty cool, blog. We should hang out more.

why do researchers choose the disciplines they do?

I been giving some thought lately to my peers’ career choices. Why do faculty choose the disciplines they do? There are the obvious reasons, like self-efficacy. For example, a physics professor probably pursued a Ph.D. in physics because she found herself good at it. An English professor may have been honored for his writing.

But I think there’s something else underlying these choices. Consider some of the extremes, such as mathematics and philosophy, or social work and education. Is there something about the determinism of mathematics that makes it attractive to certain personalities? Are there certain types of people who enjoy reveling in logic and abstraction? Do these characteristics of these areas of thought make people feel safe somehow? And the more humanitarian fields: is it driven by a strong desire to exercise values and morality? Scientists are also interesting: does the search for truth make them feel noble, or is their something trilling about the hunt for explanations?

I suppose we all have in common the desire to fill our lives with as much thought as possible. Is it insatiable curiosity or just a particularly low threshold for amusement? By that I mean we can engage ourselves in the smallest of details in the natural and artificial worlds, where as others, who could care less about research, require a much greater magnitude of novelty to be engaged.