On Noteworthy Articles & Videos
25 August, 2021 - 8 min read
Internet has a lot of amazing gems. My list of articles to read and videos to watch has grown significantly. This is my repository of links that should be read or watched several times. These are worth reading and listening to.
Kevin Kelly: The Case for Optimism by Kevin Kelly
- This was such a great piece on why optimism matters. In order to move civilization forward, civilization requires trust, trust requires optimism and civilization requires optimism. Our ancestors sacrificed so we could have a better future. This spirit of moving forward needs to be passed down to future generations. We should be optimistic not because our problems are smaller than we thought, but because our capacity to solve them is larger than we thought. Optimism yields happier and more resilient people. Bad things happen fast, while good things take longer. Being optimistic puts you in alignment with the long arc of history, and a part of something much bigger than yourself. The reasons for optimism are far greater than pessimism. Then we should remind ourselves that feeling optimistic is a moral obligation.
The Age of the Essay by Paul Graham
- PG points out that the most obvious difference between real essays and the things one has to write in school is that real essays are not exclusively about English literature. Due to historical events, the teaching of writing has gotten mixed together with the study of literature. If there's one piece of advice I would give about writing essays, it would be: don't do as you're told. Don't believe what you're supposed to. Don't write the essay readers expect; one learns nothing from what one expects. And don't write the way they taught you to in school.
What You'll Wish You'd Known by Paul Graham
- I wish I would've read this years ago. I love this essay a lot and I agree with what Paul Graham has to share in this article. Staying upwind, working on hard problems and going beyond school to discover fun topics has astronomical career benefits. Math or economics? Math will give you more options over economics. PG uses flying a glider downside vs upwind analogy because glider doesn't have an engine, you can't fly into the wind without losing a lot of altitude. If you let yourself get far downwind of good places to land, your options narrow uncomfortably. As a rule you want to stay upwind. So I propose that as a replacement for "don't give up on your dreams." Math is upwind of economics. But how are you supposed to know that as a high school student? Look for smart people and hard problems; however stay away from fake problems and people. Smart people can pretend to be smart by publishing research papers which can be nonsense. Hard problems means worry. It's exhilarating to overcome worries. When an olympic athlete wins a gold medal, it leads to relief. It's not that bad after all. Diff bw high school students and adults might look like adults have to earn a living. Wrong. It's that adults take responsibility for themselves. Making living is only a small part of it. Far more important is to take intellectual responsibility for oneself.
Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz
- This essays pushes you to think for yourself. Leadership means thinking and leading others. If you are following the herd of opinions and thoughts, you are not leading, but led. Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. How can you know that unless you’ve taken counsel with yourself in solitude? I started by noting that solitude and leadership would seem to be contradictory things. But it seems to me that solitude is the very essence of leadership. The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.
A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom by Charlie Munger
- Charlie Munger is one of the greatest thinkers of our time. There is so much to learn from him and this speech is one of the best on multi-disciplinary thinking. What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ’em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form. You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head. What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you’ve got to have multiple models—because if you just have one or two that you’re using, the nature of human psychology is such that you’ll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you’ll think it does. You become the equivalent of a chiropractor who, of course, is the great boob in medicine. And the models have to come from multiple disciplines—because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department. That’s why poetry professors, by and large, are so unwise in a worldly sense. They don’t have enough models in their heads. So you’ve got to have models across a fair array of disciplines.
The Tail End by Tim Urban
- If you want to compress your timescale you should check this visually stimulating piece out by Tim Urban. In the end this article made me realize our concept of timing is off and is not what we think it is. It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end. Living in the same place as the people you love matters. Priorities matter. Quality time matters.
Stevey's Google Platforms Rant by Steve Yegge
- An engineer's perspective on working at Google vs Amazon. A lot of insights to take away from this rant especially on security vs accessibility. Amazon is what it is today because it got its act together early on due to Bezo's mandate. Like anything else big and important in life, Accessibility has an evil twin who, jilted by the unbalanced affection displayed by their parents in their youth, has grown into an equally powerful Arch-Nemesis (yes, there's more than one nemesis to accessibility) named Security. And boy howdy are the two ever at odds. But I'll argue that Accessibility is actually more important than Security because dialing Accessibility to zero means you have no product at all, whereas dialing Security to zero can still get you a reasonably successful product such as the Playstation Network. The Golden Rule of Platforms, "Eat Your Own Dogfood", can be rephrased as "Start with a Platform, and Then Use it for Everything." You can't just bolt it on later. Certainly not easily at any rate — ask anyone who worked on platformizing MS Office. Or anyone who worked on platformizing Amazon. If you delay it, it'll be ten times as much work as just doing it correctly up front. You can't cheat. You can't have secret back doors for internal apps to get special priority access, not for ANY reason. You need to solve the hard problems up front.
The Architecture of Tomorrow by Sotonye and Ben Horowitz
- This was a great interview given by Ben Horowitz. But I was equally impressed by the questions asked by Sotonye. There were so many takeaways—bits vs atoms, regulations, innovation post-covid, etc. But I couldn't stop thinking about living-in-scarcity vs living-in-abundance. With scarcity mindset, people become haters, and they forget they have so much to contribute, but they forget they can. Martin Luther King Jr. was a contributor and had an abundance mindset. He contributed in big ways. Inspire of so much going against him. People with scarcity mindset are always unhappy. They have so much to share but they think they have very little. If you have to choose between the two, always pick the abundant mindset because that is a much better route.
- Bill Gurley had many great lessons to share with the world in his talk. He shares the stories of luminaries (Bobby Knight, Bob Dylan, Daniel Meyer, Katrina Lake and Sam Hinkie) and the patterns shared amongst them. These were the three stories I had read them all independently and I noticed that there was a similar strain that was running through each and every one of these stories and so now I've organized five profiles that I want to talk to you about. Life is a use it or lose it proposition.