Ego and Math, Ego and the World


昨天看完 Grant 在斯坦福发表的演讲,很有感触,动笔给他写了一封感谢信,没想到竟然收到了回信。我从大学开始关注 3Blue1Brown,Essence of Linear Algebra 系列中的不少视频我都看了三遍以上,这些内容帮助我对线性代数这门学科形成了直觉上的理解。当时看完 Dot products and duality 后还激动地写下了一篇文章

reply from Grant

Ego and math,在学生毕业之际抛出这个问题,很恰当。我觉得他非常真诚,不去躲避「数学好等于 smart」这个刻板印象最初带给他的正反馈和对虚荣心的满足,去正视这个不那么「纯粹」的动机。我相信很多人也会有类似的动机,包括我自己。

他说,虽然是这样一个略显自我和幼稚的起点,但在接下来的日子中,他对数学的态度逐渐发生了转变。当他现在去思考「什么有意思」和「什么值得做」的时候,主导的因素从「这很酷,我很 smart」转变为了「我能给予什么,人们能获得什么」。



Grant talking about the reach find his content meaningful

写给 Grant 的感谢信

Hi Grant, I just watched your speech at Stanford, and I’m deeply touched. I’m always fascinated by your content and inspired by the intuitions you presented.

I appreciate how you’re being so honest and talking about the awkward, secretive and self-centered motivation. I’ve been pondering the same question over and over again, every now and then: Do I pursue this for genuine interest or how I’m perceived because of doing this? As you said, when I’m telling the story, I say “passion”, and apparently it’s too awkward to say “it makes me look cool”.

It’s a tough question, and I admit it’s hard to completely ignore the feedback from others as we’re not living a vacuum. The thing I learned recently is not to ignore it or blame myself for being so egocentric. Instead, I see it, and I know it exists, but I’m not trapped by it. I move on, pause and ponder: how to find myself in this big world, how to connect with the world and in what way.

I haven’t found the answer yet, but I feel I’m getting closer. This relationship with the world and other people is definitely more than “I want to be cool”, I want to know more about the world around me, and interact with others. In these interactions, I’m starting to see what I can bring to this world, and that also nurtures me.

Again, thank you for this speech and your content.

Grant 的回复

Hi Sixian,

You phrase things nicely, “I know it exists, but I’m not trapped by it”. We can’t escape being the center of our own reality.

I also think ego is not necessarily a bad thing. Being responsive to the feedback of others is always important, and if part of what enables us to do that is an intrinsic concern over how we’re perceived, maybe that’s just our natural instincts working as intended.

More than anything, I wanted to communicate a shift I’ve felt in myself in how I rate whether a problem/topic is interesting or worthwhile, and how that was probably motivated by the work I did that others found most helpful. I suppose that’s its own kind of external validation, wanting to be applauded for being helpful, not necessarily for being smart. Still, the hope is that it leads some students to reflect on what they want their own motivations to be.

All the best,


欢迎通过 Twitter 邮件告诉我你的想法
Find me on Twitter or write me an email