Helena, 17, Ponders Philosophy And Morality Of Self-Driving Cars
Our expat community thrives on connection, and here at Jingkids, we’re all about our readers, what they need and want in order to maximise their time here in Beijing. Every Monday, we’re going to feature a prominent member of our expat community and get to know them a little bit better.
Seventeen going on eighteen, Helena 石榴 loves to explore the enigmas found in the world and challenge the boundaries of the human mind. She likes to write about small but significant beauty found in the world. She likes to ponder philosophy, read, play her cello, sing, bake, volunteer, dance, and spend time with her family and friends.
What's On Your Mind?
My mind is always jam-packed with a plethora of things.
First of all, I can’t believe I’ll be graduating high school in less than a year. Sometimes I still think I’m in my early teens, frolicking in the lush green fields. Pretty soon, I’ll legally be able to get my driver’s license, and I don’t know how I feel about that, since I will not only be responsible for my own well-being, but also for people sitting in my car and driving around me.
With the advancement of technology, the implementation of self-driving cars has been a hot debate. Imagine that you're a programmer in charge of writing code for the car’s system. If the car is confronted with a scenario where it had to either hit an old granny or a group of five-year-olds, what would you program it to do? How does that contrast with moral obligations? And how does this change if we don’t program anything into the self-driving car? Who would be responsible for the accident? And so, as I consider what I were to do if I were in that scenario, I would probably run out of time before I could choose…
I could be a decent driver, but I wouldn’t know if I don’t try. Therefore, the moral of the story is to try new things, even if you don’t know what the outcome might be, because you will never know if you don’t try.
As you may be able to tell by now, I’m intrigued by philosophy. I never stop thinking. Even thinking about thinking is interesting. Why do we think? Could it be that self-awareness is what differentiates us from animals, the fact that we can philosophize? To explore the enigma, I co-founded a philosophy club at school last year. Not only did I indulge in various thought experiments, but I’ve also learned a myriad of things from discussing with my peers. If you are passionate about something, go for it, explore it, and immerse yourself with it.
Other than thinking about life’s meaning, I think about school; not in the “oh my goodness, I have an exam tomorrow” way, but rather how I can be a life-long learner and apply what I learn in school to my daily life. I would highly encourage students to think beyond just high school or university, because they are just the start of our life. If you only have a day left to live, would you say that you had a meaningful life? What would you do in this day? Apply this thought to your life plan because it shows you what you value in life.
What Motivates You To Get Moving?
I know this may sound a bit naive, but I genuinely want to help make the world a better place. I hope that one day, all children in the world can go to school in a safe environment –– instead of needing to cross gushing rivers or trek through steep mountains and cliffs; that no one will have to sleep with an empty stomach; that we can try our best to live harmoniously as human beings, protectors of Mother Nature. Especially in a more globalized world, we need to respect all cultures and people.
I, like many others, have been questioned about my ethnicity and been forced to choose between being Canadian and Chinese. However, after reading about Mestiza consciousness, I realized that I don’t have to adhere to one identity. Philosophy at the Borderlands is about how there are people who live in the gray margins of life, or at the borderlands between two distinct things. Thus, I’m neither A nor B, I’m AB –– I’m Canadian Chinese.
Furthermore, university application season is coming up, and as a senior high school student, I am simultaneously excited and nervous. Excited as university is the next stage of my life, but nervous because I don’t know where I will be attending yet. However, what I do know is that regardless of where I go, I will maximize my time there and try my absolute best. I sincerely look forward to taking philosophy classes, engaging in heartfelt discussions, and adding values to the new community.
What Keeps You Sane In The Madness?
Are we even sane? Where does the division between sanity and insanity lie? Does this definition of rationality belong to me or the society? –– To answer your question, philosophy keeps me sane. I enjoy reading philosophical texts and engaging in insightful debates, especially making links on how philosophy can impact our lives.
During my summer holiday, instead of only doing yoga in the morning, I incorporated a 10-minute HITT workout regime. While I jumped around like a maniac, I listened to audiobooks and watched philosophy-related or German videos (to improve my German skills). I would highly recommend the channel CrashCourse, as their content is both educational and insightful. Now, HITT workouts have become a habit, making me even more energized and reinvigorated in the mornings.
Other than writing poems for the Second Sister Poetry Book, I’ve been writing poems in German and other creative writings in English. Regarding the First Sister Poetry Book, I still can’t believe that my sister and I published it in June! Back to the subject, lately, I’ve been exploring the gothic horror genre and mystery novels. Here are some more recommendations: Edgar Allen Poe, Lovecraft, Agatha Christie, and the classic Sherlock Holmes. It’s interesting to see how monstrosity can derive from reality and day-to-day life.
What's Your Favorite Thing About Beijing?
Beijing is a perfect blend of urban and rural, where the city meets the countryside vibes. Its diversity also ensures there's a niche community for everyone to fit in with. And there's just so much to do here!
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Images: Courtesy of Helena