Monday, April 26, 2010

It's purely random.

Just finished reading Dance with Chance.  Readable but not nearly as good as Fooled by Randomness.  I am intrigued by a few recently published books like The Greatest Show on EarthThe Lucifer Effect and Outliers.  In these books, numerous examples are given for the power of fate: one's birth date or birth place is more important than his IQ or how hard he works; the performance of a trader depends entirely on his luck; Malcolm Galdwell became Malcolm Galdwell because of an accidental decision on the part of his grand-mum; a killer became a killer because anyone in his situation was doomed to be a killer, evolution is a purely random process...  These books share one common theme: "it is purely random; You cannot plan your own destiny."  Intriguing is it that this anti-heroic theme, which should somehow sound familiar to those who have some exposure to Buddhist and Chinese philosophy, seems to be getting ground in the Western world.  Surely a lot of people will disagree with the notion that talents are over-rated and most of the wealth is undeserved.  Some will argue, "Look at say Warren Buffett. He is one in a billion. You can't explain his success by reference to luck, can you?".  I tend to think the argument from the opposite side has more force: "Given a billion wealth seekers, there is bound to be a person who is going to be the richest amongst the rich, a Warren Buffett."

A few weeks ago I went to the Waterfall Bay again.  The little waterfall there does not even have a name and is now nothing but a trickle (thanks to the Pokfulam Reservoir upstream).  Tiny though, it is a rare example of a waterfall which falls directly into the sea.  The waterfall was of great value to British merchants two centuries ago.  Before Hong Kong became Hong Kong, British merchants en route to Canton used to visit the place to stock up on water.  Attracted to the place, the British decided to make Hong Kong their base in the Far East... And, you know the rest of the history.  If you agree that the rise of China is an important event in modern world history and if you know the importance of Hong Kong in the process, you will agree that this tiny waterfall has indeed changed the world.  But who would have thought that this tiny waterfall was going to change the world?

There is an old painting of the waterfall at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.  Take a look if you happen to be in Hong Kong.  BTW, on the other end of the Waterfall Park you will find hundred of tiny statutes of Chinese goddesses and gods.  They are shinning bright.  I am sure the old ladies are still going there regularly to clean them, to pray to them and ask them to bring peace and fortune to the world.  If you bump into them, slow down and watch them. Watching them you will see a lot of love.

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