“Can Machines Think?” was the title of the last Socrates Café I attended. I think the collective understanding was that machines could someday be made to think, because we are after all machines in all but name. Naturally we went off on a variety of tangents and I don’t remember most of them. I wondered aloud if it’s possible to invent a machine so omniscient that it acquires all knowledge about everything, and thus no longer has to think, since thinking would be an active process while knowing a static one. I guess that didn’t technically have anything to do with the topic.

The annual student-athlete alumni-networking event was held on Monday. Like last year, most alums had “Finance” or “Accounting” on their name tags. The speaker was good, talking about what to say/not to say in an interview. His job is essentially to interview new candidates, so it sounded like he knew what he was talking about (he works at Enterprise Rent-A-Car). It was partially review for me–by now I understand proper attire, proper language, how to talk about past experience, etc. but it’s never bad to be reminded. The best conversation I had was with a former teacher/school administrator who has been coming to this event for years, who talked about selling my individual skills in order to separate myself.

On Wednesday night I (voluntarily) went to hear guest speaker Wolfgang Kubin, a German linguist who teaches in 3 cities in China. He argued that there is an immense problem with world languages; that they deteriorate when improperly adopted by other countries. He gave the example of the German word for cell phone, “Handy.” It took an English word and replaced it with a misinterpretation of another English word, even though German is perfectly capable of producing its own translation for “cell phone.” He said he had published  dictionary of his own in which certain (but not all) words of foreign origin were given new names that he felt made more sense. The problem was that the publishers went ahead and ‘corrected’ his inventions by replacing them with the usual words (such as “Handy”), missing the point entirely. Another example he gave was “Public-Viewing” being used as a term for watching a soccer game, which also makes little sense in English. He talked about the effect of Maoism on language, and how the current “official” language is an “awful,” reduced version of Chinese. Apparently there was a man who published a book about the history of communism in China using such language, but due to the language restrictions could only say that the events happened, not why they happened.

He also gave examples of Chinese poets who wrote beautifully, but then when speaking in front of a crowd, desecrated their own work because they could not perform well. He explained that in both Germany and China today, people need to learn to appreciate the form of language more. It is better to listen to a good writer or poet speak their work well in their own language, even if you can’t understand a word, than to experience a bad translation.

Yesterday was the Career Fair. I got all dressed up, printed out some updated résumés and walked over. I walked in circles, not being too excited about many of the booths. I ended up talking to someone from HooplaHa and a woman from the PeaceCorps who served in Uganda, and then went back to my apartment.

Norwalk is still frozen, which means my team and I may only have five on-the-water practices to prepare for our first race of the season.


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