Sometimes when I’m lying in bed, whether falling asleep or just waking up, I have some really random chains of thought. Last night, I was thinking about how I was so caught up in playing games that I forgot to do a chapter of my Ethics reading. I started thinking about utilitarianism and deontology, the two main schools of thought on ethics, and somehow made the leap to Ender’s Game. It’s a really good book, if you haven’t read it, and I do recommend it. Anyway, I can’t tell you why that book would come up in thinking about ethics without ruining it, so we’ll leave it at that. Ender was skilled in strategy, and it made me think of what the right word for that would be… strategician? No. That’s not right… strategist? Half-asleep, I wasn’t sure. Then I started thinking about the difference between -ician and -ist. -ist seems more like a scientist- biologist, physicist. So why does mathematician share the same ending as magician? Is it because math is like magic? But math is the most concrete of all “sciences,” or so some people will say. Physics and biology may differ in different places or times, but math is always constant. It transcends culture and location. That’s not magic at all!
Turns out that the dictionary says -ician denotes what a person’s profession is: beautician, physician, etc., while -ist denotes a person’s field of practice: chemist, strategist. Of course, most of us would just pick the one that “sounds” better, since they are so similar as to be confused. Manicurist, typist, and dentist are all professions that end with “ist” (bet you never thought of dentist as being dental-professional, huh?), while obstetrician can refer more to a “practice.” Either way, a strategist is also a tactician, so what is the big deal?
If that wasn’t bad enough to be thinking through while falling asleep, this morning I woke up with a combination of The Giver (also a recommended book) and Idiocracy (a dumb-comedy movie that may be closer to true than anyone wants to admit). I was thinking about a graph I had seen that shows that as a culture’s death rate decreases, due to better medical care and overall health, usually, the birth rate also decreases to maintain a general equilibrium. Some post-industrial nations, like Canada, actually have a negative birth rate, so they have to import immigrants to maintain the work-force.
I also saw some statistics stating that the more accomplished a woman is outside the home, whether through career or intelligence, the less likely she is to have many children. Usually women with career aspirations will have children later, fewer children, and with more time in between because she doesn’t want to put her career on hold. (Huge respect to those women who can balance career and mommyhood!) On the other hand, women who are less accomplished, particularly those who are closer to the poverty line, tend to have more children. Some people think it is because they can’t afford to “splurge” on birth control, some because it is a way to continue to get Welfare checks, and some because they can’t afford other venues of entertainment, so they just stay home and… oops!
Idiocracy is a Luke Wilson movie that basically says only stupid people had kids for so long that the collective IQ of America dropped tremendously, and now the idiots are in charge. If you’ve seen the chain email about an 8th grade final exam from 1895, you can see this may not be so far from true.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry solved its birth rate problem in an interesting way. Every child is given a job as they graduate. Some children, those who are strong enough and not well suited for the “white-collar” jobs, become birth mothers. They give birth for a living for several years, then “retire” to a life of luxury, since their job is the most important of all. These birth mothers are the only people allowed to have children, and “couples” apply to raise a child. There is no emotion in this world, so couples are not in love, but matched together based on compatibility. It is really an interesting take on how far people could go to eliminate suffering in the world. Most of us are aware that the suffering is what makes the beauty in life so beautiful, and as you erase extremes in the negative, you have to also erase the extremes in the positive.
So, these were my sleepy thoughts last night and this morning, and I just felt like sharing.
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