Sitting in the botanic gardens, hungover, watching the ducks skim across the water, waiting for the revival we knew only coffee could bring. Attempting a normal conversation. “Have you heard the theory that octopuses are aliens that arrived on a comet?”, my friend asked. I hadn’t.
We examined this strange theory. It apparently relied on the absurdness of octopodes, fantastic creatures with distributed brains, unlikely intelligence, and the ability to squeeze and escape through a hole as small as their eye (see below). The theory was equally absurd, can this creature really be explained by accidental intergalactic space travel?
Continue reading Fantastic Beasts and Where they Came From
Recently, I decided to go back to basics, and learn mathematics from the ground up. You will find that post here. Calculus was first on the list. I’m taking the MIT course in single variable calculus, it’s available for free online.
It’s tempting to try and jump a few rungs. We understandably want to learn the fancy applications, the impressive stuff. Instead, I’ve chosen a more mundane route. Getting a strong handle on the basics. Understanding deeply the foundations is underrated. Josh waitzkin, a chess “prodigy” and martial artist, puts it brilliantly in his book:
Continue reading The Missing Puzzle Piece
“[We] began our study with a barren chessboard. We took on positions of reduced complexity and clear principles. Our first focus was king and pawn against king—just three pieces on the table… Layer by layer we built up my knowledge and my understanding of how to transform axioms into fuel for creative insight… This method of study gave me a feeling for the beautiful subtleties of each chess piece, because in relatively clear-cut positions I could focus on what was essential. I was also gradually internalizing a marvellous methodology of learning—the play between knowledge, intuition, and creativity.” Josh Waitzkin
Books I’ve read, complete since 2016 (and whatever I could remember of 2015). If I read it more than once, it appears more than once. I’m not sure why I decided to post this publicly.
- A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgress
The Art of Thinking Clearly
A Rough Guide to the Future – Christopher Lovelock
Fundamentals of Ethics
The Four Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss
The Four Hour Body – Tim Ferriss
Fluent Forever – Gabriel Wyner
The Most Good You Can Do – Peter Singer
Continue reading What I’ve Been Reading
I might want to do an Economics PhD
My undergraduate degree was in economics, now I’m studying a master’s in philosophy. I absolutely love philosophy, and I’m excited by the opportunity to dive in deep. Yet there are reasons I’d consider further study in economics, rather than philosophy. Importantly, the job prospects for even the most excellent philosophy students, after a PhD, are frankly dismal. Dismal chances if you’re world class, less for anyone else. In contrast, Economics PhDs seem to have no trouble finding work in the private sector if their academic hopes are dashed. It may not be easier to become a professor, but at least the 3-7 years you’ve invested are useful when applying for other jobs. Second, there are areas of economics which I find deeply interesting. The strategic interactions of game theory are fun, while the combination of mathematical theory and psychology in behavioural economics is also especially interesting. I believe philosophy makes an excellent choice for an undergraduate program, especially when combined with a quantitative discipline. Clear writing and logical reasoning are excellent skills to develop. I am not at all knocking those who pursue a doctorate in philosophy, well aware of the grim career prospects, because they love the pursuit of knowledge and are happy to “waste” those years doing something deeply meaningful to them personally.
“An economics PhD is one of the most attractive graduate programs: if you get through, you have a high chance of landing a good research job in academia or policy – promising areas for social impact – and you have back-up options in the corporate sector since the skills you learn are in-demand (unlike many PhD programs). ” 80,000 Hours
Continue reading So I’ve Decided to Learn Math
Every year I read a few books, most come endorsed by a few trusted sources. In 2016 I read 22 books in total, and started countless more. Here are 6 that I thought were the most brilliant.
Thinking Fast and Slow By Daniel Kahneman The story of two fictional systems in our brain, illuminating insights into human cognition, especially the heuristics and biases we all posses. See summary here.
Ego is the Enemy By Ryan Holiday A Very short guide to understanding and combating ego at every stage of success. See summary here.
The Art of Learning By Joshua Waitzkin Josh takes you through how he mastered Chess and then Tai Chi Push Hands, and his overarching method for true mastery of any endeavor. See summary here.
The Selfish Gene By Richard Dawkins A comprehensive introduction to evolutionary biology. See summary here.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality By Eleizer Yudkowsky Harry is re-imagined as an intelligent and scientifically literate student of Hogwarts, using the scientific method to discover just how this “magic” stuff works. Begin reading here.
Deep Work By Cal Newport Why working deeply and without distraction is both becoming increasingly rare and valuable, and strategies for implementing the concept of Deep Work into your life. See summary here.
Continue reading Reading Recommendations for 2016