January 2019

  • On Reading

  • How To Read A Book — Farnam Street, and Ryan Holiday

    • Only read what you’re interested in, and not necessarily cover-to-cover (ego)

    • Know what a book is about before you read it (spoil the ending) so you have the bandwidth to actually counter-argue and enter a dialogue with the author

  • “Reading is a way to consume people’s experiences, to learn something timeless and then apply it to your life.” Farnam Street NYT profile

  • “Curiosity is antifragile, like an addiction; magnified by attempts to satisfy it.” Nassim Taleb

  • “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.”

  • On fiction

    • Logic isn’t taught to the reader at any point. It comes from living life. Nonfiction defies logic. Fiction is defined by logic. In this way, we can learn more about the logical cause-and-effect of life by reading fiction. A fiction author has to create characters, story, settings, and plot based on nothing but logic. By reading a good fiction book, the reader can see logic stretched to its furthest extent.

    • Reading a lot of fiction, then, makes the reader really skilled at identifying thought patterns. It makes certain scary or surprising decisions people make in the world more understandable. It ties really closely to empathy. When he appeared on The Late Show earlier this year, George Saunders said, “Empathy is like a superpower. Very robust if you do it.”

  • Do What You Love… and Other Lies About Success and Happiness

    • “DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.”

    • book

  • Tell Me It’s Going to Be OK

    • “But what is a star? Nobody knows. The star rating average is only meaningful in relative terms: it’s higher or lower than the star ratings other striving workers earn. In other words, user reviews situate our performance not according to some stable benchmark—such as increased production per hour worked—but within an ever-fluctuating hierarchy comprised of our peers.”

  • Audacity from Epsilon Theory, and all the links at the bottom, especially Sheep Logic

  • WaPo’s In and Out list

  • a16z Podcast: Talent, Tech Trends, and Culture (38:23),

    • "blockchain is a new computing platform... and like all new computing platforms is inferior to the status quo, e.g. mobile phones... but has new properties like GPS that you didn't have on the PC... blockchain has trust... so money, contracts, and digital property can be programmed... airpods are a tremendous product, increasing productivity, voice interfaces are on the rise... 3 tv shows that embody VC life: (1) Halt and catch fire, (2) burn notice, (3) succession... simplest predictor of managerial intelligence: (1) systems thinking, and (2) people intuition"

  • A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof — Pulitzer 2018 for Feature Writing by Rachel Ghansah

    • The white supremacists of today, having been kicked off Twitter, often have Instagram bios that offer an eerie good-bye to their opposition: Good night, left side. And there are thousands of them. Like Roof, and unlike a typical ISIS recruit, they don’t have handlers or any centralized way of becoming hooked. Instead, they are brought into the fold because they have found something that explains their laggard social progress to them and confirms their narrow worldview as fact.

    • They are young, they are white, and they often brag about their arsenals of guns, because these are the guns that will save them in the coming race war. They are armed to the teeth, and almost always, they are painfully undereducated or somewhat educated but extremely socially awkward. That is, until their eyes are opened to the fact that within the world of white supremacy they can find friends. These young white supremacists call this reversal “weaponized autism.” What once alienated them now helps them relate to others, people like Dylann Roof, over a common desire to start a race war.

    • This new generation thrives off of subtext—small cues, images of a cartoon frog called Pepe, reconverted swastikas that can go undetected. And they view the transmission of these cues as a kind of trolling of their enemies. It is like the passing of a note behind the teacher’s back. Roof even wore shoes to federal court that were decorated with neo-Nazi codes and Klan runes. He thought himself part of a secret fight for the future, in which, Roof wrote, he imagined he would one day be pardoned by a sympathetic president.

  • Ghansah is “writing a book at the moment where I take the lives and stories of icons such as Dave Chappelle, Toni Morrison and Serena Williams, and look at how they are self-defining what it will mean to be the outsider in the 21st century. They're complicated figures who teach us about the legacies that follow people around.”

    • her David Chapelle essay

      • “But Chappelle, like Kanye West, grew up in a home where black activism and black leftist thought were the languages of the household. No wonder, then, that both Chappelle and West have wrestled so bitterly and publicly with their sense of responsibility to and also their failure to meet those same obligations. “It’s a dilemma,” Chappelle told Kevin Powell. “It’s something that is unique to us. White people, white artists, are allowed to be individuals. But we always have this greater struggle that we at least have to keep in mind somewhere.””

    • her Kendrick Lamar essay

      • “Thomas Chatterton Williams, who in his book Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture : After failing his first year at Georgetown because he preferred to party at nearby all-black colleges rather than stay on campus with the more studious, mostly white students, he came to the realization that hip-hop had literally hoodwinked black youth culture into settling for less. In a chapter unironically entitled “Beginning to See the Light,” Williams recounts his decision to begin dressing up for class, writing that, “If it is true that it feels good to look good, then it is equally true that it can feel gangsta to look gangsta and it can feel thugged-out to look thugged-out, or on the other hand, it can feel smart to look smart. I wanted to feel smart.””

    • Pulitzer Finalist on lonely deaths in Japan

  • The Fighter, Sam Siatta and PTSD — Pulitzer 2017 for Feature Writing

    • His satisfaction was temporary. War plays on the mind. Marksmanship can seem simple one moment and complicated the next. Siatta’s doubts nagged him anew. He wondered if the kills were luck. “Was it a fluke?” he asked himself. “Was I a good-enough shot?” Other thoughts plumbed darker depths. Siatta had been curious about what it felt like to kill. His journal shows his unease upon finding out.

    • It was a great day and one of the worst days Iv had so far. Today I thought my family was going to get a folded flag and bullshit letter saying wat a great Marine I am and shit like that but I made it.

    • I hope my family recognizes me when I get back. and I hope they understand I’ve changed but only through the acts of self preservation. My mind cannot be healed from the horrors of war. I hope they understand.

    • In the next two weeks, Siatta shot at least six and perhaps as many as 10 more people, according to his diary and Marines present.

    • No matter these feelings, Kurtz speaks of his former D.M. with sadness. Siatta’s transformation, he said, was welcomed on the battlefield but is painful to think about now. “Watching Sam evolve from that sweet, innocent kid to that killer he became, the killer we needed him to be,” he said, “it breaks my heart.”

  • Trip Treatment — The New Yorker, video

    • Griffiths’s double-blind study reprised the work done by Pahnke in the nineteen-sixties, but with considerably more scientific rigor. Thirty-six volunteers, none of whom had ever taken a hallucinogen, received a pill containing either psilocybin or an active placebo (methylphenidate, or Ritalin); in a subsequent session the pills were reversed. “When administered under supportive conditions,” the paper concluded, “psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences.” Participants ranked these experiences as among the most meaningful in their lives, comparable to the birth of a child or the death of a parent. Two-thirds of the participants rated the psilocybin session among the top five most spiritually significant experiences of their lives; a third ranked it at the top. 

    • A follow-up study by Katherine MacLean, a psychologist in Griffiths’s lab, found that the psilocybin experience also had a positive and lasting effect on the personality of most participants… But more than a year after their psilocybin sessions volunteers who had had the most complete mystical experiences showed significant increases in their “openness,” one of the five domains that psychologists look at in assessing personality traits. (The others are conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.) Openness, which encompasses aesthetic appreciation, imagination, and tolerance of others’ viewpoints, is a good predictor of creativity.

    • “I don’t want to use the word ‘mind-blowing,’ ” Griffiths told me, “but, as a scientific phenomenon, if you can create conditions in which seventy per cent of people will say they have had one of the five most meaningful experiences of their lives? To a scientist, that’s just incredible.”

    • Since 2006, Griffiths’s lab has conducted a pilot study on the potential of psilocybin to treat smoking addiction, the results of which were published last November in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The sample is tiny—fifteen smokers—but the success rate is striking. Twelve subjects, all of whom had tried to quit multiple times, using various methods, were verified as abstinent six months after treatment, a success rate of eighty per cent. (Currently, the leading cessation treatment is nicotine-replacement therapy; a recent review article in the BMJ—formerly the _British Medical Journal—_reported that the treatment helped smokers remain abstinent for six months in less than seven per cent of cases.) 

    • The pinnacle of human development is the achievement of the ego, which imposes order on the anarchy of a primitive mind buffeted by magical thinking. (The developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik has speculated that the way young children perceive the world has much in common with the psychedelic experience. As she puts it, “They’re basically tripping all the time.”) The psychoanalytic value of psychedelics, in his view, is that they allow us to bring the workings of the unconscious mind “into an observable space.”

      In “The Doors of Perception,” Aldous Huxley concluded from his psychedelic experience that the conscious mind is less a window on reality than a furious editor of it. The mind is a “reducing valve,” he wrote, eliminating far more reality than it admits to our conscious awareness, lest we be overwhelmed. “What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive.” Psychedelics open the valve wide, removing the filter that hides much of reality, as well as dimensions of our own minds, from ordinary consciousness. Carhart-Harris has cited Huxley’s metaphor in some of his papers, likening the default-mode network to the reducing valve, but he does not agree that everything that comes through the opened doors of perception is necessarily real. The psychedelic experience, he suggests, can yield a lot of “fool’s gold.”