The answer sheet

I always wished I had an answer sheet.  A cheat sheet to a lot of my problems.  Well now I do.  But it’s all in my head.  I solved a lot of my problems by reading books and building models to understand how things work.  This is a cheat sheet.


If you have problems letting yourself connect with other people, making sense of why you do that, and moving past that is probably connected to vulnerability – daring greatly by Brene Brown (video).  If you want more – Read The Art Of Asking by Amanda Palmer.

If you have problems communicating what you want and need from people.  OR if you have problems with people demanding things from you – NVC (video) by Marshall rosenberg is what you need.

If you can’t seem to say things without them getting personal – look at Concrete instructions.  (It’s from NVC (video))

If you need to apologise to someone, read On Apology by Aaron Lazare (video). (If you don’t think you need to apologise then this isn’t the right resource)

If you need help understanding how to manage emotions, read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (plus NVC (video), guilt series).

If you want to closely connect with people in the present moment, read the Circling handbook by Marc Benetau, also probably information about mindfulness, and the book The Charisma Myth.

If you want people to feel important when around you (or you want to be a politician), read The Charisma Myth and Rethinking Narcissism.

If you want to get better at sex (any gender), read Come As You Are.  Also if you are anxious about if a thing is normal (P.S. it probably is, if it doesn’t hurt, if you like it – enjoy it.  If you don’t avoid it)


If you are finding yourself thinking that people have fixed traits like, “Bob is smart”, and “I am not good at maths” read Mindsets by Carol Dweck, then start adding “yet” to the end of every sentence that wants you to be fixed.

If you are finding yourself using fixed mindsets in your relationships like, “Dave is lazy”, and you want your relationships to do substantially better than the statistics – Read John Gottman’s 7 principles for making marriage work.

If you want to know how to coordinate a group of people…  If they are an anonymous crowd – read Swarmwise by Rick Falkvinge.  If they are a middle class crowd read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for radicals.  If it’s an open source collective read Jono Bacon – The Art Of The Community.  And if they are a business read Turn That ship around by David Marquet and also The Hard thing about hard things.

If you want to learn a skill in the realm of “difficult human” – that is, anything that humans find hard to do.  From musical instruments to sports, to arts – Read The Inner Game Of Tennis by Timothy Gallway

If you want to optimise learning – read Peak by Anders Ericsson, as well as A Mind For Numbers by Barbara Oakley, The Art of Learning, (Maybe skip The Talent Code).

If you want to become the best in the world at something, read Mastery by Robert Greene and if you are not convinced that you do want that then read So Good They Can’t ignore you by Cal Newport.

If you dream, daydream or imagine a lot of things and want to turn that into productive goal-oriented behaviour, read Rethinking Positive Thinking by Gabrielle Oettingen, If you don’t dream and want to dream more – Take B6 (warning it cause bad distracting dreams just as much as enjoyable fantasies and I don’t have advice on how to direct that dreamery).

If you think you have Autism and want to read the one current theory about Emotional Quotient and Systemising Quotient EQ/SQ, You might like to read The Essential Difference by Simon Baron-Cohen.

If you want to understand how people mature and grow over time, and how they relate to the world, read Robert kegan’s developmental theory.


If you have problems with negative emotions of guilt, or spirals of feeling bad about things that might be out of your control – The Guilt Series by Nate Soares is for you.

If you have problems thinking clearly in a world where you are unsure what you can trust, you might like to read Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.  If this is too boring and slow for you, maybe the hard mode of Rationality: from AI to Zombies is for you (alternate text version).  If that’s too dry, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is an easier read.

If you have the epistemics under control and you have problems being instrumental – stop trying to be smart about it and start doing the dumb and obvious things.  Much dumber people than you have done well in life, you are overthinking it.  You can read GTD for ideas.

If you want organisation systems, make your own FIRST, live with it for a week, THEN try Bullet journals, GTD, Secrets of Productive People, 7 habits of highly effective people, Eat That Frog, and other self-help books (see a list of some here).

If you have problems causing creativity to happen, watch this video of John Cleese, and read The Identification of Creativity.  Then read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

If you don’t know what to do with your life you might need to explore more and understand the exploration-exploitation dichotomy, or you might need to read Design Your life by Bill Burnett.

If you want more meaning in your life read Flourish by Martin Seligman, then read Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning for a similar but different take.  Then actually follow the exercises they set out.

If you want to be able to predict things, measure things, and generally get good at looking forward to a stable future, You might want to understand Revealed preferences, And read, How to Measure Anything, followed by Superforecasters, and brush up on Fermi estimates.

If you want to know how to change yourself, Read Right Weight, Right Mind for the being the best book on the Immunity to Change.  better than The power of Habit which covers similar territory.  If you want go for systems, not goals – read how to fail at everything and still win big.

If you want to understand meditation – read Sam Harris Waking up, Chad-meng Tan Search inside yourself, The happiness trap, this post about zen koans, the PNSE paper, and The Mind illuminated By John Yates.

If you want to understand the basics of a field read the 101 textbook.  Ask for recommendations from friends.

If you can’t seem to make a coherent journey out of your existence.  If goals, plans and intentions don’t seem to stick, read or watch Russel Barkley (video)Taking Charge of Adult ADHD. And track more things about yourself.  Also exercises like the List of Common Human Goals

If you need help with motivation, procrastination or akrasia, Read The Procrastination equation (Alex Vermeer has good notes).  Also my Procrastination Checklist

If you are wanting to balance several of your interpersonal relationships, read Robert kegan’s developmental theory, More Than Two By Franklin Veaux, NVC (video) by Marshall Rosenberg.

Heck for interpersonal problems read this post on Human Relationships and read some of those books.

If you want the laziest path to enlightenment look at  If it looks like gibberish, don’t worry about it.

If your sleep sucks, fix it.  A very long list of sleep maintenance suggestions.

I wrote an exercise for how to plan so that you have consistently good days.

If you have critical brain loops, where you get stuck in a loop of self criticism where lots of cyclical thoughts arise being critical of yourself, try taking fish oil.  Also look into The Call of the Void and the Strategy against it.

If you are upset about intrusive thoughts like “what would it be like if I jumped off this here cliff… Be less upset, it’s pretty common, and it’s not a suicidal thought.  The one paper on Call of the Void proposes another mechanism, and I propose a strategy to make intrusive thoughts not come back.

Unless your email inbox is your only to-do list, it should not be holding tasks as if it is a to-do list.  You should aim for inbox zero, it’s pretty easy with this method.

If you have problems remaining a fluid person over time and your emotions are unstable use an app like “how are you feeling” and track yourself with a form to get the hang of a more timeless understanding of who you are as a person.

If you don’t know what Time Management even means try out empirically assessing your time use.

If you are not sure how much risk to take in the process of learning I would propose Mistakes bad enough you learn, but not bad enough they kill you.


If you are uncomfortable with how the medical system deals with death, and you don’t yet support Voluntary Euthanasia – Read Atul Gawande’s being mortal.  Maybe fast-forward through some of the history though, it can be slow.

If you are in physical pain from your posture or conformation while exercising, read Kelly Starrett – Becoming a Supple Leopard.  And his other books.

If you want to do charity better read Doing Good better by Willam MacAskill.

If you want to understand better what science is – read Theory and Reality by Peter Godfrey Smith.

That’s enough for now.  This has been a few hours of effort to get these written down.

Cross post:

There should be more answers in the comments on the cross post.

Posted in books notes, life maintenance, models of thinking, self-improvement | 1 Comment

2017: a year in science

In Classical tradition for the Sydney Summer Solstice.  We look back over the year and gathering some exciting science that was worth sharing.  I present this year’s list of science (see previous years – 20162015)

Credit this year goes to Erratio for compiling the list.  And I hope that together with us you can celebrate some of humanity’s success over a wonderful year in science!

– first human head transplant (on a corpse). (

– gay marriage in Australia (finally!)

– human-pig hybrid embryos created (

– major breakthrough in understanding the common cold (

– reversed aging in mice (

– premature lambs grown in artificial womb (

– CRISPR has been used on human embryos (

– SpaceX has successfully launched and landed a reused Falcoln 9 rocket (

– Elon Musk building words largest lithium ion battery as backup for South Australia

– Tesla has built electric self driving trucks (

– AlphaGo beat everyone at Go (

–  Alpha Zero taught itself chess in 24 hours, beats all the other AI’s (

– Metallic hydrogen created (

–  51-qubit quantum simulator (

– Researchers demonstrate a prototype 3D printer that can print fully functional human skin (

– DeepStack is beating everyone at poker (

– Negative mass fluid (

– The first synthetic retina using soft biological tissues is created by a student at the University of Oxford

– Australia is getting a space agency (

– A roundworm has been uploaded to a Lego body (

– The Minamata Convention, the first global treaty on mercury pollution, has been ratified (

  • Oumuamua,  the first known interstellar object to pass through the Solar System. (
  • NASA announces its two choices for the next Discovery Program missions – the Lucy mission, to visit several asteroids, including six Jupiter Trojans; and the Psyche mission, to visit the large metallic asteroid 16 Psyche.[6][7]
  • Researchers publish evidence that humans first entered North America in around 24,000 BP (Before Present), during the height of the last ice age. This is 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.[23]


The first stable helium compound is synthesized, Na2He.[44][45] Helium is the most unreactive element.

Scientists at the University of Texas report a new phase of matter, dubbed a time crystal, in which atoms move in a pattern that repeats in time rather than in space

Physicists at CERN‘s Large Hadron Collider report the detection of the particle Ξ++ cc (with the Greek letter Xi), a new hadron, a composite particle containing two charm quarks and one up quark.

Nobel Prizes


Physics: Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne

“for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”

Chemistry: Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson

“for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”

Physiology or medicine: Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young

“for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”

Literature: Kazuo Ishiguro

“who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”

Peace: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

“for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”

Economics: Richard H. Thaler

“for his contributions to behavioural economics”

Bonus section

– The eclipse (

– Harvey Weinstein et al

– Trump, North Korea, Brexit

– Robert Mugabe has resigned

Notable Deaths:

Hans Rosling

Isabella Karle

100 years ago in 1917

Holy crap this was a depressing year. WWI pretty much all the way.


January 25Ilya Prigogine, Russian-born physicist and chemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (d. 2003)

February 14Herbert A. Hauptman, American mathematician, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (d. 2011)

John Kendrew, British molecular biologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (d. 1997)

April 10Robert Burns Woodward, American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1979)

June 1William S. Knowles, American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2012)

John Fenn, American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2010)

Christian de Duve, English-born biologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 2013)

Rodney Robert Porter, English biochemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1985)

November 22Andrew Huxley, English scientist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 2012)

December 9James Rainwater, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1986)

December 21Heinrich Böll, German writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1985)


March 31Emil von Behring, German winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1854)

July 27Emil Kocher, Swiss medical researcher, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1841)

November 11 – Queen Liliuokalani, last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii (b. 1838)

November 15Émile Durkheim, French sociologist (b. 1858)

March 8Ferdinand von Zeppelin, German inventor (b. 1838)

Nobels 1917

PhysicsCharles Glover Barkla

Chemistry – not awarded

Medicine – not awarded

LiteratureKarl Adolph Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan

PeaceInternational Committee of the Red Cross

Meta: I want to thank Erratio because this would not have gotten done without me.  All love goes in that general direction.  I am just posting.

Cross post:

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Books I read 2017 – Part 1. Relationships, Learning

This year I read 79 or so books.  Also there are 24 more books that I put down without finishing.  That’s a lot to summarise.  I have already spent more than 15 hours and restarted the process of summarising twice.  This is attempt number 3.

Here they are:

Before I get into the books, let me explain how this many books is possible.

In 2017 I discovered FBReader.  An app for ebooks on android phones (Natural reader is a good app for IOS).  That is FBReader and TTS plugin.  With a bit of getting used to, and tweaking of speed I have managed to read an obviously startling number of books – I even surprised myself.  So many in fact that I challenge myself to be able to remember them all and act in line with everything they have taught me.  This summary and the parts to follow are as much for me as it is for you.  For me – to confirm I took away what I wanted to take away.  For you – to use as notes and evaluations on what is worth reading.  I hope you enjoy, a review of all the books I read this year.

I get asked if I properly take in the information by audio-reading.  The answer is yes and no.  Sometimes I miss things, sometimes I read a book twice.  Sometimes even more times.  Sometimes I don’t need to re-read it.  Overall I am in a much much better position for having read books in the way that I have than not at all.

Part 2: Books I read 2017; Part 2. Psychology, Management

Relationships & Communication

Reviewed here.

The conversation needs to be safe.  For example – “I want to help you as a person and I know how hard it can be to get feedback from other people and I want to make you into a better person.  I have an idea for how you might like to improve.  Before I tell you I want to reassure you that even though this might come across abrasive I want to help you grow and be better in the future…”

This book is about life.  It’s supposedly about conversations which is fine. I mean who needs to have those all the time every day forever to get anything done that is outside of the span of control of one person.  So you want to tell someone something and you have a hunch it’s going to be difficult.  Great!  The first step of being an alcoholic is to admit you have a problem.  After that it’s all rainbows and butterflies.   Except it’s not.  Well.  Without really explaining in detail this book borrows from some of the tricks of mindfulness, ACT Therapy and the book, The happiness trap. Where your job as a person preparing to have a difficult conversation is to recognise that you don’t have the full story.  You have your version of events.  Probably your version with a twist on it that shows that the other person was spiteful or calculated damaging you for one reason or another.  Trouble is that the other person also has a version of the story that explains why they were innocent as well as the hero of their own story as well as the victim of your calculated actions because yes. Without you knowing you are in fact the devil (credit where credit is due right?)

Everything in this book is really a drawn out way of saying that you need to step outside of The Stories we tell ourselves (another book worth reading and a great concept to carry around in your head), and into the 3rd person story that is built from the information as we lay them out.  If you want to steal the strategies and systems around “building a 3rd story” – fleece it for all it’s worth.  It’s got guides, scripts, you name it.  It does take a special kind of person to be able to take the attitude of “we need to build a 3rd story” and roll with it as if it were as powerful as an entire book without reading the damn book so maybe it’s best to read the book to get the idea.  It’s a light read all the same and the book recently featured in my list of models of human relationships where you can find some more words about it.

Reviewed here.

There are 4 types of difficult conversations around communicating a decision:
aConsultation (Bob asks Alice for ideas for the decision he is going to make on his own)
bCollaboration (Bob and Alice make a decision together)
cDeclaration (Bob tells alice the decision he has made)
dDelegation (Bob tells alice to make the decision)

Reviewed here.

There is a two way path between physiological states and emotional states.  Everyone can train emotional intelligence, they need practice.  This includes holding an understanding of your own states as well as being able to notice emotional states in other people.

EI is particularly important when it is particularly deficient.  In the book it talks about anger as a state that (to an untrained person) can cause a reaction before someone knows that they were angry.  Make sure to fix that first before moving to higher levels of emotional management.

Reviewed here.

I always recommend this book to people starting the journey because it’s a great place to start.  These days I have better models but when I didn’t know anything this was a place to begin.  Most of my models are now more complicated applications of the ideas initially presented.  You still need weak models before replacing them with more complicated ones which are more accurate.

The polyamory bible.  It will teach you to consider the things you didn’t initially consider when thinking about poly.  Covers communication, having a toolkit, working with jealousy, setting rules, and a whole lot more that’s hard to put into words.

These are all almost the same book.  They talk about the same thing (NVC) and the best is one of the top two.  Don’t let the name scare you, it’s basically what you are looking for in communication (despite sounding like the opposite of what you want).  If I had to pick one book that made everything all make sense, it’s this one concept.  If you are looking for the keys, look no further than here.  If the name screams “useless” then hopefully it’s time to wonder why I would suggest a book that sounds useless.  Things that now make sense: Guilt, Anger, Upset, Resentment, Apology, Forgiveness, Sadness, How to talk about your interpersonal problems, how to meet your own needs and so much more.  If you only read one book, read this one.  I have probably spent 75+ hours on learning NVC this year, independent of the time spent thinking about it and practicing it in my life.

This book is about creating the necessary vulnerability needed to form social connections.  How do you bond with people?  By having something to connect over.  How do you do that?  Share your vulnerability (not in a DUMP-FEELINGS way but) in a way that fosters bringing people closer to you.  And also recognise other people being vulnerable and appreciate it, even if it doesn’t meet your specifics for how to connect.

A whole book on the psychology of apology.  Ties in very well to NVC and Difficult conversation.  It’s everything you need to know about apology to get it right.  Most apologies don’t need to be perfect but I know that having this book under my belt means that I can craft a well-thought-out apology that hits on all the psychological needs of the offended person and allows healing to happen.

A book about the hard-to-explain activity of “circling”.  Something like a cross between group meditation and hailed as the fastest way to build close connection with people in a short period of time.  It’s not creepy or mysterious, just hard to explain because it’s about sharing present experience. I feel my breath as I was thinking of an example.  The amazing thing about present experience is that we all have them, so we all have a glimpse at understanding them and connecting to them is something we can all do.  I recommend circling (which is built on NVC) to everyone.  Just get a glimpse of something different.

Gottman is a mathematician who decided to study relationships.  While some of his statistical methods may be questionable he still offers a few good models in this book.  Models I use daily.  Emotional bids, 4 horsemen, repair attempts, love maps, positive sentiment, turn towards/turn away, solvable/perpetual problems and many more.  If you want to know how to make relationships work, this book has most of what you need to know.

Some good ideas about measuring relationship satisfaction.  CBT about beliefs in relationships.  Have a growth mindset not a fixed mindset around your partner.  A warning to beware of the “stories we tell ourselves” and don’t live in those stories (Agrees with NVC). We probably cause the exact problems we are trying to solve, don’t expect to solve the problem by doing the exact same thing as you just did.  Humans have a bad habit of missing obvious details like how exactly we cause the problems.  This book has more but having read all the other books, these things feel like overlap with the other books.

It’s a sex book!  Includes good models and information such as,

“take a mirror and investigate your genitals” because that’s interesting and most people have not.

Non-Concordance between mental desire and physiological response (thinking I am not into it when I am hard/wet.  Or being unable to get hard/wet when I want to be into it).

Accelerator and Brake as a model – Some factors turn you on, some turn you off but they don’t always interact.  Example: stress might turn you off but a sexy partner might turn you on.  But these are independent factors.  You may need to relieve the stresses and encourage your partner to be more sexy to get this going.  Make a list with your partner of accelerators and brakes, then swap lists and see if you can help each other.

Aim for an enjoyable experience.  Get naked with your partner and just enjoy cuddling and touching and don’t have any pressure to have sex.  Then gradually add in more, explore and enjoy each other.  Don’t overthink it (NVC message, stay in the concrete experience).

The whole book is laced with a message of “you are probably normal and less stressing about your sex life and experience actually makes it better because you are not stressed”.

I don’t know if I am relatively inexperienced in reading sex books but this one had a lot that I didn’t know yet.  Which is good.  I hope to grab more in the near future.

Relationship books I didn’t finish

Book about Free Open Source communities online and variously how to run a community.  I really wanted to look up one or two specific things so I didn’t get deep into this book.  but it’s still the bible of community building.

I read this years ago.  It was hogwash then and it’s hogwash now but it maybe has useful ideas of identities we can choose to play to.  “needs babying” “needs to be an adult” as identities.  But really I think NVC works better.

I want to finish this book!  And there are a small handful of books by this name.  It’s about the story of judgement about our concrete experiences.  If you live in a world of judgement, “he hates, she is mad at” you will live in a lot more pain than if you live in a world of concretes.  Living in “this happened/that happened” not “this happening implies he was mad at me” (looks a lot like fundamental attribution error).

The world you end up spending time in is the world that defines your meaning.  Which is, if you live in the world of conspiracy, those are meaningful and you can win and lose in ways that make for joy and pain.  If you live in the world of stoic, concrete experience you can’t lose, and everything is joyous in a way that is very hard to describe.  Anyway read NVC, read this, read all the other similar books and everything makes sense together.

I really wanted this to be a good book.  On the tail of giving up on The Black Swan, I wanted my next book to actually last.  I have heard many people say promising things about this book but unfortunately it didn’t carry it’s own weight.  I got about 150 pages in and was pretty sick of armchair evolutionary psychology ideas self justifying just so theories with no basis whatsoever that is even marginally better than a BAHfest entrant.  How they sold so many books and got into so many minds is beyond me.  I know what I didn’t find was some good reading on sexuality, polyamory or evolution.  It’s a shame because it came so well recommended.  I will not read the rest.


This book is amazing.  It will teach you how to think about learning any problem in the realm of difficult human.  Difficult human is “there is something that some people can do with their bodies.  It takes iteration and practice to solve a difficult human problem.  Like balance, chopping vegetables, juggling, playing music and many more.  This book has guidelines for learning that.  It’s based on tennis but that helps to show how well it applies to any skill.  If you want to know how to learn.  Read this.

This book is the story of how Tim Galloway basically discovered Daniel Kahneman’s Two System model from Thinking Fast and Slow.  Except he did it years earlier while trying to work out how to teach people to play tennis.  If you are interested in teaching or learning any skill at all ever – I would recommend this book because chances are it’s one of those skills like tennis where your body (system 1) just kinda plays the game and your planning and calculating System 2 basically takes a back seat.

Reason being if you have to think about every ball coming towards you, chances are tha t while you do the geometry on the projectile motion trajectory they will hit you in the face.  However if you train that part of your body that worked out how to walk via a variation on trial and error – that’s what’s going to make an ace or a dunce tennis player.  The ability to “feel” or intuit what’s next (using that other part of your brain) and act accordingly.

That’s not all.  It’s great to say that tennis is an intuitive game but standing on the court for 200 hours wont teach you very much.  Not without the effective feedback loops and the repeatability (See Peak – The book by the man who is the god of experience and practice).  There is a fiddly balance between the system that can calculate the spin on the ball, and why it went out (s2) — and the system that knows how to use muscle memory to respond to that (s1).  This book is a guide on how to balance the two systems and use them to work towards the goal, not against each other.

It’s a pretty great read which alternates between explanations and small anecdotes where Tim discovered the concepts behind the theory, this book is light on the anecdotes and heavy on the concepts.  It’s less of a book all about “ME ME ME” and more of a book about “here learn this”.  If you are looking to learn something, this is a must read.

This book is the semi-autobiographical book by Josh Waitzkin as he describes his journey through chess championships and then through Tai Chi [Taiji Push Hands (Taiji Tui Shou)] championships.  The great thing about his story is that it’s not often that you find a double champion to give a good eyeballing.  In any discipline at championship level you have certain meta-skills that creep in.  and Josh talks about what it’s like and how to do it.

There is a lot about “focus on your own style” and “turn inwards to your experience when learning”.  Also keep it fun, get lots of fast feedback, the ability to keep cool under pressure, the ability to see your own mistakes and learn from them and many more pieces of advice.  Which is basically why he called the book The Art of Learning.  Inspired by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and distinctly with some similarities but with a more fun story and a more practical adventure.  Think less smug and bitter character, and more – Journey of discovery being shared as he works it out along the way.

If you look at what Josh is up to now, it seems like the book helped springboard him into an organisation that helps with revolutionising teaching styles so that they match the student.

Like any young genius I was raised on a diet of chess and science so I get what he talks about when he talks about the mindset of the game.  I too had experiences of watching my opponents make themselves lose the game.  I too learnt everything I know about the world via a chess board.  Maybe that’s why I loved this story.

Maybe it was all confirmation bias to hear his story, maybe it was reading about the mental game that ties into The Inner Game of Tennis, NVC, The Talent Code, Stories we tell ourselves and many more…  But if you get the idea that he knows what he is talking about, this is a great hero’s story of how a man conquered the world.  He starts on the idea (also found in Tony Robbins’ – Uncertainty, as well as Jordan Peterson – Chaos), that growth comes out of mistakes.  I wrote about it before when I said, mistakes bad enough that you learn but not bad enough that they kill you.

Other things mentioned include ideas that are also in peak about tight loop feedback, deliberate practice and 10,000hours of training.

One day you stop being able to follow other teachers, you become your own teacher.  You are the master of your own agency.  Then you need to ask yourself what next?  How do I get better?  How do I take a step forward?  This book talks about that.  And I would strongly recommend it.

Overall – definitely a fun read and firmly in the set of books I would recommend to read if you want to know about learning.

This book was probably made better by the fact that I had previously read Anders Ericsson’s earlier book – The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise which is essentially a compilation of papers about being an expert.  As you might expect from a compilation of papers – it was dry as all hell and was very difficult to extract value from.  Which is why I was thrilled when I found out about this book.  Peak is one of those fun story books about brilliant people and how they got to where they are, Mozart, “Steve”, Chess masters… And I love a good chess story.

Anders tries to build a story-mode version of the list of instructions on page 225/700, which ideally should have been on page 1 but that’s okay, he does it this way.  It’s fun all the same to read about all the masters and how they got to their 10k hours.  That’s right Anders is the 10,000 hours guy.  Well.  He’s the deliberate practice guy, and combined with the inner game of tennis, you can basically teach yourself anything by following these 7 principles.

  • Deliberate practice develops skills that other people have already figured out how to do and for which effective training techniques have been established. The practice regimen should be designed and overseen by a teacher or coach who is familiar with the abilities of expert performers and with how those abilities can best be developed.

  • Deliberate practice takes place outside one’s comfort zone and requires a student to constantly try things that are just beyond his or her current abilities. Thus it demands near-maximal effort, which is generally not enjoyable.

  • Deliberate practice involves well-defined, specific goals and often involves improving some aspect of the target performance; it is not aimed at some vague overall improvement. Once an overall goal has been set, a teacher or coach will develop a plan for making a series of small changes that will add up to the desired larger change. Improving some aspect of the target performance allows a performer to see that his or her performances have been improved by the training.

  • Deliberate practice is deliberate, that is, it requires a person’s full attention and conscious actions. It isn’t enough to simply follow a teacher’s or coach’s directions. The student must concentrate on the specific goal for his or her practice activity so that adjustments can be made to control practice.

  • Deliberate practice involves feedback and modification of efforts in response to that feedback. Early in the training process much of the feedback will come from the teacher or coach, who will monitor progress, point out problems, and offer ways to address those problems. With time and experience students must learn to monitor themselves, spot mistakes, and adjust accordingly. Such self-monitoring requires effective mental representations.

  • Deliberate practice both produces and depends on effective mental representations. Improving performance goes hand in hand with improving mental representations; as one’s performance improves, the representations become more detailed and effective, in turn making it possible to improve even more. Mental representations make it possible to monitor how one is doing, both in practice and in actual performance. They show the right way to do something and allow one to notice when doing something wrong and to correct it.

  • Deliberate practice nearly always involves building or modifying previously acquired skills by focusing on particular aspects of those skills and working to improve them specifically; over time this step-by-step improvement will eventually lead to expert performance. Because of the way that new skills are built on top of existing skills, it is important for teachers to provide beginners with the correct fundamental skills in order to minimize the chances that the student will have to relearn those fundamental skills later when at a more advanced level.

So yeah!  Just commit that to memory and you’ll be set!  Following an expert, Outside your comfort zone of what you know, specific goals, deliberate and conscious actions, short feedback loops, mental models of what you are trying to do and modifying what you already know to make it better.

It’s as easy as building a mnemonic and chunking that down right?  (nope, it’s just annoying to try to recall that list.  It’s still a good list though).  It does have some good ideas like finding an expert and doing some analysis to see what you are doing different and why.  There are lots of bits to expertise, and they are really well covered in the book.

Two other concepts that Ander’s destroys really confidently are, “zero to hero” sort of out-of-nowhere stories and savantism.  The short version is that there is no free lunch.  Even savants worked thousands of hours to get where they were.  Unfortunately it was probably more of a compulsive repetitive behaviour than an enjoyable learning experience.

Joshua Foer accidentally won a memory competition.  He was a journalist investigating the subculture when he decided to play and used Anders Erricson’s help to get so good he won.  The story of his journey is excellent!  If you like books that take you on a journey, like The Art of Learning – this one is a lot of fun.  It’s a bit of a boys book in that the whole “memory scene” as he describes it is a bunch of boys trying to do something stupendous.

The book is littered with details of our understanding of how memory works.  It’s fun to play along and try to recall syllables or phone numbers.  Also if you want to go into memory palaces, this book is a good place to start.  Even if you just want to know more so you can decide it’s not for you, that’s fine too.  Investigate if you are keen to memorize decks of playing cards or other irrelevant memory feats.  (also I wrote the list of techniques to help you remember names a while before reading this)

This book has some excellent models around how to become a master in your field.  Including several phases of learning.  The transition from “apprentice”, to “scientist”, to “master”.  The steps of being an apprentice through
passive”, “practice” and “experimentation”.

Find a mentor who is doing what you want, ask them for advice then throw most of it out.  Pay attention to what they do, not what they say.  Emulate the things they do that you see working.

Robert green indulges in many examples of masters and the training they went through including Darwin, Mozart, Da Vinci and many more.  Whether it’s possible to coherently posit a connection between as many “masters” as he does and continue to present a thesis. That’s an exercise left up to the reader.  He certainly has a solid method for achieving mastery.  Whether that’s the best way… It’s not the only way, but it’s certainly food for thought.

Less good than all the above.  A few simple ideas about how to get people into the passion of a skill and how to keep the joy alive.  In theory the fundamentals of passions.  Whether it delivers… is up to you.

A book by a non-mathematical person on how they learnt to learn math.  Many good insights.  Goes well with deep work, and generally working on “hard things”.  talks about diffuse vs focussed mode thinking.  Basically the reason why shower-thoughts work so well at solving problems.  And how to get that without having to shower just to get on top of your problems.  Or alternatively the suggestion to shower as often as necessary.

This book is aimed at a simple level and is filled with exercises that can be tried out once.  It doesn’t necessarily guide you how to apply it to your own life.  While it’s neat insight to know that focused and diffuse modes exist it doesn’t do the most obvious of things of telling you to implement it in your working process.

If you are like me and have read at least 5 books on productivity, this book probably overlaps with one or more of them.  In that sense it’s not novel but it is good at covering the variety of relevant information.  I feel like Feynman covers his stuff in his own books, Joshua Foer covers his knowledge in Moonwalking with Einstein.  A poor copy is not ideal but for someone entering the field maybe it’s a reasonable summary?

This is part 1 and it’s over 5k words.  If I don’t split this up I can assume it won’t get read.  It’s phenomenal that it’s actually being published after months wrestling with it.  I’d say this could have taken anywhere from 5-15 hours in the fray of writing and rewriting and restructuring.

Cross posted:

Part 2: Books I read 2017; Part 2. Psychology, Management

Posted in books notes, models of thinking, self-improvement | 1 Comment

Meaning wars

Everyone thinks the attention game is about attention. It is (of course) but it isn’t. It’s about meaning. We give attention to the things that we find meaningful. Attention being a rough proxy our brain provides for meaning.  That means we spend time on, thinking about, sharing the ideas, information and experiences we find meaningful. The mind-changing ideas, the discoveries, the strong emotions. The important stuff right?

Well no.  That’s not always what we spend time on.  But let’s look concretely at some examples.  Think back to when TED talks first started.  Enough of us had the experience when we first watched the videos and got attached to the feeling that we’d just participated in insightful and valuable information.   But then we clicked next video and did it all again.  And again.  And again.  Until eventually 8 hours later we felt stale about the whole idea of receiving an epiphany in a video in bite-sized form.

I don’t watch TED talks any more and I have to ask myself why, and how that fits in the world of me wanting insights and epiphany.  Are these videos interesting but not actionable?  That’s relevant but it’s off the mark.

So why did we click, and why did we pay attention?  And why did it all go wrong?  How did things get unstuck?  These videos call our attention, but don’t matter to us.  Even though they are fascinating and attractive.  An info-hazard: be careful or you will be sucked into “many-ted-talks”, where-did-my-afternoon-go?


Well – meaning.  We seek meaning.  We seek to matter, and we seek to do things we care about.  (this is not insightful, it’s obvious).

When you watch your first video, it’s pretty new, it’s unique and insightful.  The second delivers the same.  And the fourteenth? It doesn’t matter how interesting this one is, it’s probably not the same wonderful feeling as the first video.  It’s getting to be the same delivery of information.  Despite being exciting, it’s also getting old.  It’s losing its meaning…

We start out wanting meaning, we start out getting meaning, and after a while we don’t really get the same thing any more.  We are not designed to notice meaning wearing off – we expect it to keep being there.  Until it’s well and truly worn out so bad that it’s a shock to the system.  The same way that we go blind a little each day and don’t notice until we crash a car.  “that’s how blind we are”.

I think there is insight in the application of meaning to different cultures and how they share information, how they share narratives and what they share.

SJW culture

How different cultures do meaning is worth observing.  A SJW culture shares meaning by describing, packaging and sharing the emotions associated with outrage and offence.  It matters that people are getting hurt and it matters that we are fixing that.  It matters more than joy and happiness, it matters to raise the baseline.  I had a fascinating experience as I was first starting to notice meaning.  I went on a date with a person who was part of Social Justice culture.  They insisted on asking about politics and telling me some key experiences of pain and outrage that someone they knew had experienced.

At the time I indulged by hearing the story.  And at the time my defences against 3rd party emotions kicked in.  I just can’t bring myself to care about 3rd hand outrage.  At first I was confused, why this story?  Why tell it to me? That’s when I realised that this story that was being shared because it mattered.  Because it was meaningful to this person and because being able to connect over these strong emotions is how someone in this culture vets their potential dates and their qualities as an empathic person.  I failed.  And I could tell as it was happening that I was failing.  But it was only days later that I really worked out how and what I had failed at.

In a culture where sharing the experience of strong emotion by one person  – and being empathetic of that experience is how we connect, we need to find those stories to share, and then share them.

The core of what is meaningful in this culture is sharing that emotional experience.

4chan culture

The 4Chan (and shared to the alt-right) culture I appreciate conceptually so much more because of what it does.  It was around before Social Justice but it grew stronger in response to the Social Justice culture.  It derives it’s meaning from creating outrage, then sharing it.  The most outrage you can stir up, the more attention you can get, the more butt-hurt, the more jimmies you can rustle, the better.  In that culture we can celebrate the success of creating outrage where there previously was none.

On the internet, in the early Bieber days, 4Chan created various, “shaving for Bieber” and other sad-for-Bieber phenomenon.  A dual rumour that was shared round the internet was:

  1. Justin Bieber had cancer.
  2. You should shave your head in acknowledgement/solidarity for the fact.

The thing about shock and awe and how this generates maximum outrage, is that not only is 1 not true but 2 does not at all follow.  It’s not clear if, whether; and how many teenage girls were caught in a misinformation storm, and quickly shaved their head, only to be embarrassed when they found out the lack of truth to the matter.

It’s never going to be clear what really happened.  Whether a few people shaved their heads for the cause and were later embarrassed.  Whether a few people had shaved heads and then decided to join the bandwagon since they fit, and were later embarrassed to have done so.  It’s not clear if anyone at all fell for it.

But in the 4chan culture, the creation and propagation of such a rumour is part of what the culture loves.  What is meaningful is to make the most outrage.  It’s a win if anyone shares the story, it’s a win if anyone indulges the story, and it’s an extra win if the conventional media outlets get on board with it.  That’s what’s meaningful.  That’s how you get status, you get attention to your outrage generation.  It’s might be understood as a “troll” but I believe that loses information.  Meaning, and how it is assigned in this culture adds information to the explanation of why troll.

Of course these two cultures enjoy hating each other, it’s in their nature.  SJ can’t stop being outraged and sharing the outrage they feel around the 4chan behaviour, and 4c can’t stop finding ways to generate outrage and get themselves talked about.  In fact each culture helps the other stay alive and grow.  Because it’s about meaning.

These two cultures help each other to grow each other’s meaning maps.  Each could exist without the other.  There will always be events to be outraged at, and there will always be people making outrage where they feel the opportunity presents for the fun of it, but put these two cultures together and they fuel each other.

Facebook Attention Wars

In the Facebook world, each user is limited in time they have each day.  Each user can only give attention to a small fraction of the potential information that is served to them.  Facebook is not AI smart yet.  If it’s an argument, a discussion or the cat pictures.  Facebook only knows that you did partake.  Facebook is agnostic to the reason that you partake.  And in an effort to keep you doing so, it serves you similar content (in a variable fashion to keep you addicted to intermittent reward).

It’s commonly know that the Facebook algorithms are out to get you, they are designed to maximise “time on site”.  If you curate your feed so that you get to see the interesting, relevant (and meaningful) things.  All you end up with is a more attractive place to visit. i.e. you do Facebook’s job for it, of attracting your eyeballs and keeping you there.

Facebook is constantly trying to guess at what you want to give your attention away to, what you find meaningful, and serving it to you.  But it cheats.  And it gets it wrong all the time.  When was the last time you went on facebook and left thinking, “wow that’s exactly what I wanted from that experience”.  I was served perfectly what I wanted to see just now.  Never?

And your friends.  The “attention seekers”, posting whatever drivel will get them the most attention.  They weren’t wrong to try to get attention alone, and they weren’t trying to post drivel.  They were trying to post what was meaningful to them.  (SJ meaningful, 4c meaningful or some other kind of personally meaningful).  If you find it inane drivel then that points to different values, caring about different things, finding meaning in different places.  In seeking attention they were only seeking a proxy for meaning (A very good proxy).  If someone is giving you attention – that can be meaningful to you.  A person giving you attention reminds you that you are important, that you matter.  That external validation of the meaning we all seek.  That’s what receiving attention is.  Validation in a variety of forms that what we care about it.

  • Validation that I agree with what you have to say
  • Validation that we are in the same group/tribe or similar in some way.
  • Validation via respect of each other’s time and ideas
  • Validation that your experiences are significant or relevant to me
  • Validation that what you find meaningful is what I find meaningful

If you don’t like what someone is sharing, posting – how someone is trying to get attention.  You are saying, what is meaningful to you is not meaningful to me.  And so we fail to connect with each other, we Dare Greatly (book by Brene Brown), put ourselves out there, shoot for the stars and accept whatever form of connection we create, or fail to generate by putting out our meaning.  Or we don’t.  We answer, “how are you?” with, “fine, thanks” and successfully stay safely protected from making shared meaning and something to connect over.

In Brene Brown’s theory, it’s called necessary vulnerability.  It’s necessary to be vulnerable by taking a risk and sharing what “matters to you” in order to even have a chance to connect with other people at all.  Brene stops there, because her research was in building connection, in creating loving relationships.  I want to go further to say we do that for the important purpose of finding loving relationships meaningful to us.  And some of us don’t find them meaningful, or don’t expect that we will, so we don’t worry about it.

There are other forms of meaning.  Just like watching too many TED talks leaves us with a feeling that something is missing.  Spending too much time on Facebook also leaves us with a feeling that something is missing.  That is because we also get meaning from other things. Meaning from attention is catchy. It’s self sustaining. But we have so many kinds of meaningful things, experiences, ideas, imagination, creation, feelings – curiosity, legacy, religion (list of common human goals).

What’s meaningful to each of us is whatever we inherently think is meaningful along with what we choose to think of as meaningful. And in that sense, anything is meaningful. If you want it to be.

Everyone wants meaning.  That’s it. To live a meaningful life, think about what you find meaningful and do more of that. Or. Alternatively. Think about what you give your time and attention to. This is your revealed preferences about what you find meaningful.

Want to live a meaningful life? Just live. The meaning is there by what you give your energy to.  Don’t like giving your energy to something?  Maybe it’s not what you find meaningful.  Or you think the payoff is not going to matter.

Do you work for the money?  Or do you do your job for reasons that matter to you above and beyond the money…  Is your job meaningful? or does everything you do from 9-5 add up to what you end up doing with the paycheck at the end of the day.

What if you live and find nothing meaningful in anything you do or see? 

Then…  (you might be depressed, if nothing matters) Nothing is meaningful. The meaning is only there if you want it to be.  Surprise.  It sucks to live like that.  You will find your defences propping up all the time about it.  It’s uncomfortable to think that you lack meaning in your life.  The cognitive dissonance type of uncomfortable.  The kind of uncomfortable that has you reassuring yourself that X or Y that you do does in fact matter.  Or doubling down towards your cookie clicker, farmville or irrelevant other goals in the hope that if you achieve that, the feeling of meaning will be there.  Exactly where you want it.

Or maybe you will go investigate what other people find meaningful and you will end up in religion or politics or family or any number of areas that other people pursue, seeking your own meaning.

Don’t believe me about meaning?  Read Martin Seligman – Flourish (happiness isn’t all of the equation of human wellbeing), Jordan Peterson – Maps of meaning (meaning comes from narrative), Brene Brown – Vulnerability (we need to be vulnerable to connect to one another and that’s really hard), And Marshall Rosenberg – NVC (NVC is big but the part relevant is the acknowlegements and validation that we can provide to each other, even without being on the same side..  I might be wrong, but all these people, they are getting onto something that appears to overlap.

Meta: this took about 3hrs to write, a month to avoid and 2 hours to edit.  And I still don’t like it.

Cross posted:

Posted in models of thinking | 2 Comments

Instrumental experiment: Cut your losses

Epistemic status: Shower thoughts, but also – Actually trying things.

There are times in life where you will have seen the warning signs.  You have watched others fall on your journey.  If anything was the canary in the coal mine, this is it.  The world just tore you a new one and left you bleeding, but you can still walk away with what you have right now. You will be thinking, “should I double down?”.  No.  Now is not one of those times.  There are times when you will have a victory to speak of, you can walk away a champion.  This is not one of those times.  This is a time

This is a time to cut your losses.  You just lost $10k?  You’d be a fool to risk any more energy throwing good after bad.  That’s a cheap mistake.  Better than $20k.  The best action you can take is to cut your losses and go home without any more mistakes.  The best time to exit is before the fall from grace, the second best is to get out before the crash.  Don’t wait till things get worse before you get the hint. There is no need to be proud here.

Every piece of advice lands on a spectrum.  Roughly speaking, a spectrum of “very applicable” to “the opposite of the right thing to do”.  This piece of advice falls somewhere on that line.  And you know who knows where exactly this advice lands?  Future you.  Hindsight is 20/20.  If, like me – you don’t have a time machine.  And you still want to learn these lessons of where to apply this advice – the one way to learn is to try it.  Run experiments.  Learn what works through trial and error.  The only warning I suggest is – don’t take too much risk in making mistakes.

Committing to this advice is to say, “I take the information I have at hand, and I make this choice willingly, based on what I know – this is probably the right decision”.  And who could fault you on that?  I couldn’t.

good luck.

Counterpart: Instrumental Experiment: The Double Down

Counterpart: Instrumental experiment: Cut your losses

Meta: 3 short posts that go together.  But which advice do you follow?

Posted in self-improvement | Leave a comment

Instrumental experiment: Quit while you are ahead

Epistemic status: Shower thoughts, but also – Actually trying things.

There are times in life where you will have climbed a mountain.  You have been facing a storm and it’s finally clearing.  The world just cut you a break and you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You will be thinking, “should I double down?”.  No.  Now is not one of those times.  There are times when you will have started making some mistakes, it might be time to pack it in for the evening and cut your losses.  This is not one of those times.

This is a time to quit while you are ahead.  You just made $10k?  You’d be a fool to risk any more energy throwing good time after bad.  The best action you can take is to declare victory and go home a hero.  And the best time to exit is before the fall from grace.  Don’t wait till something goes wrong before you get the hint. There is no need to be greedy.

Every piece of advice lands on a spectrum.  Roughly speaking, a spectrum of “very applicable” to “the opposite of the right thing to do”.  This piece of advice falls somewhere on that line.  And you know who knows where exactly this advice lands?  Future you.  Hindsight is 20/20.  If, like me – you don’t have a time machine.  And you still want to learn these lessons of where to apply this advice – the one way to learn is to try it.  Run experiments.  Learn what works through trial and error.  The only warning I suggest is – don’t take too much risk in making mistakes.

Committing to this advice is to say, “I take the information I have at hand, and I make this choice willingly, based on what I know – this is probably the right decision”.  And who could fault you on that?  I couldn’t.

good luck.

Counterpart: Instrumental Experiment: The Double Down

Counterpart: Instrumental experiment: Cut your losses

Meta: 3 short posts that go together.  But which advice do you follow?

Posted in self-improvement | Leave a comment

Instrumental Experiment: The Double Down

Epistemic status: Shower thoughts, but also – Actually trying things.

There are times in life where you will have made a breakthrough.  You will have had a success and you will think, “great, time for a holiday”, I should quit while I am ahead.  This is not one of those times.  There are times when you will have started making some mistakes, it might be time to pack it in for the evening and cut your losses.  This is not one of those times.

This is a time to double down.  You just made $10k?  Time to double it.  Make it $20k.  The best place for action is right here.  And the best time to grab the market by surprise is right now.  Don’t take a break.  Take more actions.

Every piece of advice lands on a spectrum.  Roughly speaking, a spectrum of “very applicable” to “the opposite of the right thing to do”.  This piece of advice falls somewhere on that line.  And you know who knows where exactly this advice lands?  Future you.  Hindsight is 20/20.  If, like me – you don’t have a time machine.  And you still want to learn these lessons of where to apply this advice – the one way to learn is to try it.  Run experiments.  Learn what works through trial and error.  The only warning I suggest is – don’t take too much risk in making mistakes.

Committing to this advice is to say, “I take the information I have at hand, and I make this choice willingly, based on what I know – this is probably the right decision”.  And who could fault you on that?  I couldn’t.

good luck.

Counterpart: Instrumental experiment: Quit while you are ahead

Counterpart: Instrumental experiment: Cut your losses

Meta: 3 short posts that go together.  But which advice do you follow?

Posted in models of thinking, self-improvement | Leave a comment

Problems as dragons and papercuts

When I started trying to become the kind of person that can give advice, I went looking for dragons.
I figured if I didn’t know the answers that meant the answers were hard, they were big monsters with hidden weak spots that you have to find. “Problem solving is hard”, I thought.

Problem solving is not something everyone is good at because problems are hard, beasts of a thing.  Right?

For all my searching for problems, I keep coming back to that just not being accurate. Problems are all easy, dumb, simple things. Winning at life is not about taking on the right dragon and finding it’s weak spots.

Problem solving is about getting the basics down and dealing with every single, “when I was little I imprinted on not liking chocolate and now I have been an anti-chocolate campaigner for so long for reasons that I have no idea about and now it’s time to change that”.

It seems like the more I look for dragons and beasts the less I find.  And the more problems seem like paper cuts. But it’s paper cuts all the way down.  Paper cuts that caused you to argue with your best friend in sixth grade, paper cuts that caused you to sneak midnight snacks while everyone was not looking, and eat yourself fat and be mad at yourself.  Paper cuts.

I feel like a superhero all dressed up and prepared to fight crime but all the criminals are petty thieves and opportunists that got caught on a bad day. Nothing coordinated, nothing super-villain, and no dragons.

When I was in high school (male with long hair) I used to wear my hair in a pony tail.  For about 4 years.  Every time I would wake up or my hair would dry I would put my hair in a pony tail.  I just did.  That’s what I would do.  One day.  One day a girl (who I had not spoken to ever) came up to me and asked me why I did it.  To which I did not have an answer.  From that day forward I realised I was doing a thing I did not need to do.  It’s been over 10 years since then and I have that one conversation to thank for changing the way I do that one thing.  I never told her.

That one thing.  That one thing that is irrelevant, and only really meaningful to you because someone said this one thing, this one time. but from the outside it feels like, “so what”.  That’s what problems are like, and that’s what it’s like to solve problems.  But.  If you want to be good at solving problems you need to avoid feeling like “so what” and engage the “curiosity“, search for the feeling of confusion.  Appeal to the need for understanding.  Get into it.

Meta: this has been an idle musing for weeks now.  Actually writing took about an hour.

Cross posted to lesswrong, lesserwrong

Posted in models of thinking | 1 Comment

Cutting edge technology

When the microscope was invented, in a very short period of time we discovered the cell and the concept of microbiology.  That one invention allowed us to open up entire fields of biology and medicine.  Suddenly we could see the microbes!  We could see the activity that had been going on under our noses for so long.

when we started to improve our ability to refined pure materials we could finally make furnace bricks with specific composition.  Specific compositions could then be used to make bricks that were able to reach higher temperatures without breaking.  Higher temperatures meant better refining of materials.  Better refining meant higher quality bricks, and so on until we now have some very pure technological processes around making materials.  But it’s something we didn’t have before the prior technology on the skill tree.

Before we had refrigeration and food packaging, it was difficult to get your fresh food to survive to your home.  Now with production lines it’s very simple.  For all his decadence Caesar probably would have had trouble ordering a cheeseburger for $2 and having it ready in under 5 minutes.  We’ve come a long way since Caesar.  We’ve built a lot of things that help us stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

Technology enables further progress.  That seems obvious.  But did that seem obvious before looking down the microscope?  Could we have predicted what bricks we could have made with purely refined materials?  Could Caesar have envisioned every citizen in his kingdom watching TV for relatively little cost to those people?  It would have been hard to forsee these things back then.

With the idea that technology is enabling future growth in mind – I bring the question, “What technology is currently under-utilised?”  Would you be able to spot it when it happens?  Touch screen revolutionised phone technology.  Bitcoin – we are still watching but it’s here to stay.

“What technology is currently under-utilised?”

For example “AI has the power to change everything. (it’s almost too big to talk about)”.  But that’s a big thing.  It’s like saying “the internet has the power to change everything” great but could you have predicted google, facebook and uber from a couple of connected computers?  I am hoping for some more specific ideas about which specific technology will change life in what way.

Here are some ideas in ROT13 (chrome addon d3coder):

  • Pbzchgre hfr jvyy punatr jura jr ohvyq gur arkg guvat gb ercynpr “xrlobneqf”
  • Genafcbeg grpuabybtl jvyy punatr vs onggrel be “raretl fgbentr” grpuabybtl vzcebirf.
  • Nhgbzngvba jvyy punatr cebqhpgvba naq qryvirel bs tbbqf naq freivprf. Naq riraghnyyl oevat nobhg cbfg-fpnepvgl rpbabzvpf
  • Vs IE penpxf orggre pbybhe naq fbhaq grpuabybtl (guvax, abg whfg PZLX ohg nyy gur bgure pbybhef abg ba gur YRQ fcrpgehz), jr zvtug whfg frr IE rkcybqr.
  • Znpuvar yrneavat naq fgngvfgvpf unir gur cbjre gb punatr zrqvpvar
  • PEVFCE naq trar rqvgvat jvyy punatr sbbq cebqhpgvba
  • Dhnaghz pbzchgvat jvyy punatr trar rqvgvat ol pnyphyngvat guvatf yvxr cebgrva sbyqvat va fvtavsvpnagyl yrff gvzr.
  • Dhnaghz pbzchgvat (juvyr vg’f fgvyy abg pbafhzre tenqr) jvyy nyfb punatr frphevgl.
  • V jbhyq unir fnvq 3Q cevagvat jbhyq punatr ybpxfzvguvat ohg abj V nz abg fb fher.
    3Q cevagvat unf birenyy qbar n cbbe wbo bs punatvat nalguvat.
  • vs gur pbafgehpgvba vaqhfgel pna nhgbzngr gung jvyy punatr gur jnl jr ohvyq ubhfvat.

As much as these don’t all follow the rule of being consumer-grade developments that might revolutionise the world, I’d like to encourage others to aim for consumer viable ideas.

This matters because this is how you see opportunity.  This is how you find value.  If you can take one thing on my list or your own list and make it happen sooner, you can probably pocket a pretty penny in the process.  So what’s on your list?  Do you have two minutes to think about what’s coming soon?

Cross posted to lesserwrong, lesswrong.

Posted in models of thinking | 1 Comment

Halloween costume: Paperclipperer

Guidelines for becoming a paperclipperer for halloween.


  • Paperclips (some as a prop, make your life easier by buying some, but show effort by making your own)
  • pliers (extra pairs for extra effect)
  • metal wire (can get colourful for novelty) (Florist wire)
  • crazy hat (for character)
  • Paperclip props.  Think glasses frame, phone case, gloves, cufflinks, shoes, belt, jewellery…
  • if party going – Consider a gift that is suspiciously paperclip like.  example – paperclip coasters, paperclip vase, paperclip party-snack-bowl
  • Epic commitment – make fortune cookies with paperclips in them.  The possibilities are endless.
  • Epic: paperclip tattoo on the heart.  Slightly less epic, draw paperclips on yourself.


While at the party, use the pliers and wire to make paperclips.  When people are not watching, try to attach them to objects around the house (example, on light fittings, on the toilet paper roll, under the soap.  When people are watching you – try to give them to people to wear.  Also wear them on the edges of your clothing.

When people ask about it, offer to teach them to make paperclips.  Exclaim that it’s really fun!  Be confused, bewildered or distant when you insist you can’t explain why.

Remember that paperclipping is a compulsion and has no reason.  However that it’s very important.  “you can stop any time” but after a few minutes you get fidgety and pull out a new pair of pliers and some wire to make some more paperclips.

Try to leave paperclips where they can be found the next day or the next week.  cutlery drawers, in the fridge, on the windowsills.  And generally around the place.  The more home made paperclips the better.

Try to get faster at making paperclips, try to encourage competitions in making paperclips.

Hints for conversation:

  • Are spiral galaxies actually just really big paperclips?
  • Have you heard the good word of our lord and saviour paperclips?
  • Would you like some paperclips in your tea?
  • How many paperclips would you sell your internal organs for?
  • Do you also dream about paperclips (best to have a dream prepared to share)


The better you are at the character, the more likely someone might try to spoil your character by getting in your way, stealing your props, taking your paperclips.  The more you are okay with it, the better.  ideas like, “that’s okay, there will be more paperclips”.  This is also why you might be good to have a few pairs of pliers and wire.  Also know when to quit the battles and walk away.  This whole thing is about having fun.  Have fun!

Meta: chances are that other people who also read this will not be the paperclipper for halloween.  Which means that you can do it without fear that your friends will copy.  Feel free to share pictures!

Cross posted to lesswrong:

Cross posted to lesserwrong:

Posted in lesswrong | 1 Comment