Friday, March 31, 2006

Truth... or tricks?

I received an interesting e-mail today that sent me on a little scientific excavation. And the result demonstrated how a little bit of careful thinking goes a long way in the quest for truth.

First let me reconstruct the original e-mail here:

In black you can read the word GOOD, in white the word EVIL
(inside each black letter is a white letter). It's all very philosophical too,
because it visualizes the concept that good can't exist
without evil (or the absence of good is evil).

Can you see why this painting is called optical illusion? You may not see it at first,
but the white spaces read the word optical, the blue landscape reads the word
illusion. See for yourself!

The word TEACH reflects as LEARN.

In brown you can read ME, and when you look through
you can read YOU. Read this text aloud.

The word THE is repeated twice...but did u notice???

Very well.

I did a little experiment having nothing at all to do with these pictures, but with one of the statements accompanying them. My experiment was based on the first picture's comments:

"It's all very philosophical too, because it visualizes the concept that good can't exist without evil (or the absence of good is evil)."

Somehow I knew that doesn't sound quite right. But it's not good enough to "just know". Just what exactly is wrong with this statement? And if something's wrong can I prove it? So my hypothesis was basically this: Is this statement's assumptions about good and evil correct?

Here's a detail of what I found out:

If we study this quote a little more carefully, what mistakes can we spot from the above statement describing the first picture?

Notice the statement's assumption that "good can'’t exist without evil" IS THE SAME AS "the absence of good is evil" (established by the conjunctive 'or' in parentheses).

To better understand what the quoted statement really means, let's convert the above into logical equations: Let's represent good with the letter 'G' and evil with the letter 'E'. So now we have the following:
  1. "good can't exist without evil" becomes
    "G - E = -G"

  2. "the absence of good is evil" becomes
    "G - G = E"
In the first equation, we see that G cannot exist (or G has a negative status) without E. In other words, if we take E out of the equation, G by necessity disappears as well. The application of this is that, if equation #1 is true, then a world without evil is also a world without good.

Whereas in the second equation, we see that E can only exist when G is taken from the equation. In other words, if we take G out of the picture, then E will appear. The application of this is that, if equation #2 is true, then a world without good is a world where evil exists.

Now here's the heart of the problem: Is the statement's assumption a right one? Are both equations/statements saying the same thing, like what the anonymous writer would think or have us believe?


Why not? Here's why:

Proposition #1:
G - E = (not G)
G = (not G) + E

Proposition #2:
G - G = E
G = E + G
G = G + E

According to the law of noncontradiction, we can see from the workings above that Proposition #1 DOES NOT EQUAL TO Proposition #2.

Therefore, we can safely conclude that "good can't exist without evil" IS NOT THE SAME AS "the absence of good is evil".

Now let's recap the original observation:
"It's all very philosophical too, because it visualizes the concept that good can't exist without evil (or the absence of good is evil)."

With the help of the test that we'’ve just done, we can see more clearly now that this statement obviously contains error. If according to the anonymous writer the first picture visualizes any concept at all*, it's either it visualizes the concept that "good can't exist without evil" OR "the absence of good is evil", but the picture CANNOT VISUALIZE BOTH CONCEPTS at the same time.

So which concept is the right concept and which is not?
Is Proposition #1 correct and Proposition #2 incorrect? Or is it the other way around? To better answer that, we need the help of philosophy on top of the logical thinking we've just applied, but that is an entirely different topic all on its own.

For now let's just bear in mind that, from the result of the test that we've done, "good can't exist without evil" IS NOT THE SAME AS "the absence of good is evil".

*I did not include in the above analysis one observation that I made after the experiment. As creatively as these pictures are presented, I never believed they illustrate any philosophical concept at all (especially not when alleged truths about good and evil are inferred from the first picture).

In other words, just because we are capable of twitching images to accommodate certain ideas doesn't mean that we have established valid evidence for those ideas, good or bad. For example, as the first picture demonstrates, you can't even hope that the picture would support ideas like "good can't exist without evil" without manipulating the letters in some way to fit the intended meaning. In Genting or Vegas that's called a loaded dice. Likewise in a science lab, that's tampering with the apparatus. What you end up with is not a proper 'G' or 'D', but the likeness of a 'G' or 'D' or whatnot (that's when optical illusions gain an upperhand in fooling the mind to trust the eyes). As soon as the distance between the letters or the thickness of the lines by which the letters are formed is altered, or one stroke curving or ending without certain flourish, the whole thesis breaks down.

The pictures might speak a thousand words in this case, but they certainly don't speak a word of truth.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tomorrow in history: Last day as pharmaceutical rep

With tomorrow as the last day of my two-year service with the company, I have the following people to thank in retrospect:

Anna Lau – Thank you for your constant mentorship especially in the government hospital sector and for imparting your professional knowledge and experience to me. It has been a fruitful and pleasant time partnering with you.

Eugene Chai – Ah Gene-Gor! Thank you for being a wonderful teammate and counselor. Your casual and generous attitudes have gone beyond what colleagues do and have given birth to our friendship.

Annie Poh – Dai Kah Jay! Thank you for accommodating this young and inexperienced colleague in every way and for cheering up the office every morning simply with your presence and jolliness.

Kenny Lim – Regional Sales Champion for 2005! Thank you for being the shining star and pride of Sarawak team. You are definitely a professional role model to look up to. Your thundering presence is something that I will dearly miss!

Sharon Lee – Thank you for making laughing such an easy thing to do. Your professional integrity with your uniquely personal touch is something that’s truly inspiring and admirable.

Now to the best manager I’ve known yet:

George Kueh – I couldn’t have asked for a better boss! Your steadfastness, ingenuity, enthusiasm, integrity and humility are a combination that I’ve never seen before in a superior and that I fear I will never find in a future boss. Thank you first and foremost for believing in me and for offering me this opportunity of a lifetime to work under you for the past two years. Thank you also for continuing to mold and make me into a part of your vision for the team and for expecting the best from me. And I couldn’t thank you enough for your gracious motivation in times when I fall short. You are a constant source of inspiration and a secret recipe that propels personal and professional achievements! I’m simply blessed to have caught a glimpse of the ingredients for success in you.

Not forgetting all others in the bigger family of Sanofi Aventis Malaysia (and the prenuptial Sanofi~Synthelabo days) who made my term in the company an even richer one. To my Sabah and Brunei teammates: Ian Chan, Gavin Wong, Michael Yee, Josephine Yong, Chai Fui Ming, Felix Chu, Ken Yong, Vincente Wong, and Cynthia Lee-Kwong – for lack of better words, thank you for the brief but cherished connections we’ve had during each company get-together. You are a bunch of friendly and fun colleagues!

To Colin Yap and Goon Su Aan in Marketing – thank you through and through for your fantastic work and collaborations. To Tan Mae Lyn, Naresh Kumar, Simon Jesudason, Loo Beng Siew and all others in Training and Business Support – thank you for making it possible for me to function and excel in my daily responsibilities. To the ever-smiling Cheah Shih Wei – thank you for putting a smile on my face with your valuable sales updates ;-p. To all my colleagues in Finance – thank you for saving me every month end with your prompt deposits!

To MK – thank you to the invisible hands at work behind the repping scene that “domino-effected” results down the ladder and made much of my professional success a possibility. To Victor George Phillips – first of all thank you for agreeing with George that I had what it takes to represent the company at the frontline. Thank you also for being the character I looked forward to at every company function, and for caring enough to remember the little details in passing. Your occasional reminders of bigger things in life have been and always will be a source for forward momentum. To YS Chua – thank you for leading the team to a superb first quarter at the start of 2006. I deeply regret having missed the opportunity to extend my term under your leadership. My best wishes to you and the future accomplishments of the company with you at the helm. Also a special thank-you goes out to Patrick Lau for patiently grooming me during my probational period with the company, and to Cecilia Teoh who never ceased to amaze me with her great affability since my first days with the company.

And last but not least, to countless others and the many nameless faces in the company who have ever offered a passing smile in the corridor, uttered a warm greeting, helped with my detailing skills or passed on a plate in a food queue – thank you for seizing the moment to make one other nameless colleague feel at ease and at home.

Thank you all for everything. My best wishes to you in all your current and future undertakings. May the gracious God bless you.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Some recent updates

Some updates for the past month. I've been touring Hong Kong and Shenzhen on a company incentive trip in February. The Monday following the trip, I walked into my boss's office and delicately presented him with a standard four-by-nine envelope containing my nicely typed, tersely phrased letter of resignation.

After recollecting himself from a brief heart event, my boss listened to my well rehearsed basis for departure and accepted my resignation without much fuss. And then the hunt for a replacement began.

Maybe I was the only person in town who did not fully realize the popularity of the position I'm leaving. My job was advertised in the local papers the weekend following my resignation. Factoring in the speed at which news travels in this industry, the office was instantly swarmed with applications through fax and mail the following weeks, non-stop.

And when you thought you've witnessed the scariest in corporate recruitment, the company offered my colleagues a bounty of 500 ringgits simply for successfully recommending a candidate for the position! That's not all. Rather than aiming for the generous cash reward, half of my colleagues decided to apply for my position instead...

A brand new page

Although I have yet to prove myself worthy of my decision to move to Australia and start things from scratch come May, the most important people in my life think it a cavalier move to leave a well-paying job for uncertainties abroad. What sane yuppie would even ponder such a senseless endeavor?

No looking back, I told myself. I did not regret resigning from a job everyone's raving about. I just have to move to Australia to find out if I can make it away from home. All the rest would soon be history no one would even care to remember.