Some thoughts on career, money, and the future by 19 year-old me

I can’t believe that it’s been almost two years since I’ve last wrote on my blog! It’s amazing how much my opinion changes in such a short time frame. Looking back at some of my past posts, I’ve actually cringed reading some of them (now deleted) like the one about Skype’s broken refund process. Oh, and for those that are curious: the money finally came back after 7 months! Anyways, with my 20th birthday coming up I thought I should write down my thoughts about my adventure in this world over the last two decades.

To begin, what happened since I’ve last posted?

(Note: I’m just listing these off the top of my head in no particular order)

Finished my 2nd year of university

It’s so weird that I’m already half-way done my undergraduate studies. It feels like I just barely got out of high school but I’ve already gone through 4 study terms and 3 work terms! Maybe this is a case of me growing old.

Got on the Dean’s list for the Math faculty

All I can say is that studying for 50 hours for each exam last term was not fun. But hey, I’ve made it to the deans’ list. That’s something right? RIGHT!?

Paid off my student loans

Although my student loans are interest-free until 6 months after I graduate, I just got fed up with submitting the forms every term to tell the government that I’m still in school. After I got a mail saying that my previous form was not processed properly, I just said “screw it, here’s a cheque”. Seriously, why can’t my school just do this automatically when I enroll into my courses every term? If I didn’t pay off my loans, I probably could’ve invested that money into something like a GIC or max out my TFSA. Hell, I probably could’ve invested into Google or Bitcoins a year ago and my money would’ve more than doubled by now.

Got into and then lost interest in World of Warcraft

Although the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, does look tempting…

Started and finished the Mass Effect series

Personally, I’m satisfied with the third games’s ending. Despite everyone’s outrage when it was released, I think it’s a pretty good end to Sheppard’s story.

Watched a ton of anime

Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan, Valvrave, just to name a few.

Started going to the gym on a regular basis

Leg day, best day?

Finished 2 work terms

Did a lot of PHP and JavaScript at Pilot and Android at 500px

And now I’m currently at my 3rd work term at IBM!

Working on compilers and stuff…

Some thoughts on my career

Now that I’m almost half way done my undergraduate studies, I’m starting to wonder what I want to do after graduation.

Or perhaps it’s still too early to think about it?

Regardless of what I want to do after graduation, I still have to worry about my remaining 3 work terms. Back in first year, I wanted to diversify my work terms and try out a different company for each of my work terms; however, I’m starting to wonder if that was such a good idea. Right now, I feel like I’m a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. The upside to having diverse co-op experiences is that I can explore the different fields in the industry without any risk. If I don’t like the work, then I can simply finish off the 4-month work term and I can move on – a win win for both me and my employer. The downside to that is that I can’t really specialize in anything and can’t be as competiive as some of my peers who’ve worked with the same technology for all of their lives.

Some thoughts on money and the economy

With the decline of the manufacturing industry in Ontario, I’m starting to see it strain my parents: reduced hours, benefits, and bonuses. It’s also quite sad to hear about all the local factories closing and causing thousands of layoffs. I’m quite grateful that I’m in an industry that’s currently growing instead of declining in North America. Honestly, I just can’t see those manufacturing jobs returning when there are much more competitive markets elsewhere.

Considering that my only background in economics is ECON101 and MSCI261 (management science), I’m obviously not informed enough to say that it would be great if we had a guarenteed minimum income system. To avoid a political debate, I’ll just say that I would not mind paying 50%+ tax if it means that everyone gets a guarenteed safety net in life. It would be even better if we can also have free healthcare (including dentists and other specialists), post-secondary education, and public transportation (i.e. my 3 biggest expenses in life right now). Unfortunately, the world is not that simple and such a society may be impossible to achieve and sustain.

Some thoughts on the future

I still rememeber when my family first immigrated to Canada over 10 years ago that gas prices were half as much as they are today (~$0.60/L), that it would constantly snow in December, and that summer heatwaves were not a yearly norm. Now a decade later, the climate in Toronto changed quite a lot. Whether or not corelation imply causation, these changes that I see in Toronto are enough evidence for me to believe in fossil fuel depletion and climate change. Even if these two phenomenons are mutually exclusive, either of them alone is quite daunting.

In this finite world, our economy seems to treat Earth’s resources as if they were infinite. How can we not? We humans are incredibly tiny compared to the sheer size of the planet. I remember back when I first tried to implment of Dijkstra’s algorithm, I simply treated infinity as a really large number (9999…). However, when you compare exponential growth to a constant, however large, the exponentional growth will eventually outpace the constant. With gas prices almost doubling in the last decade, perhaps we really are nearing the end of our infinite (accessible) oil supply. Or perhaps the oil companies are colluding to raise the prices?

If we do run out of fossil fuels, I wonder how long will it be before self-driving eletric cars will be widely adopted? On the other hand, I think it would be better if we abandon the notion of owning personal vehicles in urban areas and instead transition to a mass public transportation society. With fewer vehicles on the streets and equally high demand for transportation, perhaps we can one day have public transportation that’s fast, frequent, and always on-time. Wouldn’t it be great if it takes less than 5 minutes to walk to the nearest station, less than 3 minutes for the next bus to arrive, and less than 30 minutes to get to downtown?

Aside from feeding our cars, fossil fuels still contribute a signifcant fraction of our energy suppply. Needless to say, a growing demand and dwindling supply is not sustainable. I’m not too concerned about the impending energy crisis because I hear scientists are making good progress in fusion and thorium reactors. I just hope those solutions are commercially viable before we decend to the dark ages.

And last but not least: climate change. From my perspective, our weather is becoming more and more severe on both sides of the temperature spectrums. Winters feel colder (despite being shorter), summers have more heatwaves, and natural disasters are deadlier. On the other hand, it may just be confirmation bias combined with the media effect. If what some climate scientists say is true that it’s already too late to reverse the trend (simply because it’s infesible to reduce our carbon footprint even more), then I just hope we can adapt to the future weather patterns.

In the end, I’ve realized while writing this post that these concerns doesn’t really matter. If we look at the bigger picture, the human lifespan is insignificant compared to the age of the universe. However, more innovations will happen in my lifespan than the entire history of mankind before me; so whether or not we are heading towards a dystopia or utopia, I look forward to our future because everything will change.