Maybe this is far fetched, but imagine you’re graduating college and applying to jobs in the middle of a global pandemic.
A dynamic you’re likely to run into is that many of these jobs require experience, but how do you get relevant experience without first having that job? This example may be a modern problem but the underlying need to navigate contradictions in a complex world has been contemplated by philosophers for thousands of years, stretching back at least to Heraclitus, a thinker from the 5th Century BCE. Clearly, there is something important to understand about these dynamics.
Why risk is vital to growth
Heedless, mocking, violent — that’s how wisdom wants us; she is a woman and only ever loves a warrior.— Friedrich Nietzsche
The tyranny of numbers to which we are subject— money, weight, college rankings, hours worked— betrays the unhealthy emphasis our society places on external things.
The ancients, on the other hand, praised character because they knew that greatness was purely a function of your internal state. They esteemed each other not on what each has but on who each is. …
A better way to think about belief
We are golden averages, volitant stabilities, compensated or periodic errors, houses founded on the sea. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you look at most issues right now you’ll notice a consistent theme: both sides, and there are typically only two, believe that the other view is irrational. You can tell belief is at work when legitimate contrary evidence only further entrenches original opinions and eventually makes utterly unthinkable the idea that the other side might actually be in the right. Let’s look at a few examples:
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. — Friedrich Nietzsche
There are monsters that walk among us. Have you seen them? They’ve seen you.
Things weren’t always this way. The Monsters used to be creatures who lived with us in peace and indeed even benefited the human race.
But upon being allowed to grow unchecked, they metastasized into self-serving beasts whose insatiable hunger boils alive and reduces all that is great and beautiful in the world…
Thoughts on everything and nothing
You now find yourself faced with a choice: realizing that you’ve fallen for a click-bait headline (sucker!) you could exit immediately and cut your losses. Or you could remain to read my nonsensical — and more than a little vain — thoughts composed while either in the shower and/or slightly (very?) inebriated, and thereby lose most of your dignity and indeed even your soul. Most likely, as you surely realize, this depravity derives from my entirely irresponsible and grotesque deployment of hyphens — !
Since by now your potential escape has utterly failed I do…
“We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness” — Daniel Kahneman
Let’s say I have a coin which you watch me flip heads 99 times in a row. I tell you that the coin is fair. What is the probability that this coin flips heads on the 100th try?
Think about this: A fair coin randomly flipping heads 99 times in a row has a probability of less than 1 in an octillion. This means if 99 coins were flipped every second for all of eternity we would expect an average of one…
“Nothing noble is achieved without risk.” — Michel de Montaigne
As modern society becomes increasingly complex, demand for the ability to make effective decisions under uncertainty also increases. It’s not easy to do, and is often learned the hard way. It also doesn’t help that there aren’t many decision-making role models to look up to.
The White House, for instance, is currently occupied by a cohort of dim witted goons. But the problem runs deeper than one administration: the leaders of this office, and most of modern life’s institutions, haven’t had any real accountability in years. There is an agency…
On the fragility of narratives
Every surface is a cloak.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
There are probably few things which people love more than narratives. Everything is a narrative: how you view yourself, what you watch on TV, your LinkedIn profile, a company’s earnings report, your relationships, etc. The list goes on almost without end because narratives are how our minds are programmed to function.
Because of this it is very easy to simply accept narratives handed down to us without looking at them with a critical eye. …
“We accept reality so readily — perhaps because we sense that nothing is real.” — Jorge Luis Borges
Sisyphus was said to be a great king in Ancient Greece, a man with enormous power and wealth. It did not take long for him to feel entitled to his enviable position, thus angering the very gods whose benevolence granted it. They conspired to punish Sisyphus with an eternal absurdity, sentencing him to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it fall back again, until the end of time.
Sisyphus is faced with an endless choice: does he stop…
The push to optimize is omnipresent: we need productivity tools to manage productivity tools, our health data streams from wrists to clouds, SEO-friendly words preside over online content.
However, some domains are better served by optimizing than others.
Optimize in simple domains.
Be wary in complex ones.
Optimizing something presupposes that you know everything about the system, and it’s a lot easier to know everything about a simple system than a complex one. Optimizing a system about which you have insufficient information can be called, or will be by me for the purpose of this post, over-optimization.
It’s linked to…
Every shadow points to the sun