Life as problem-solving

A key part of happiness is understanding the role and nature of problem-solving in life. We are always solving problems. A problem can be defined as a conflict between ideas. The process of solving it requires the creation (and testing) of new ideas. Here are examples of problems: how do I relieve this back pain? how do we enable knowledge workers to collaborate more effectively? how do we reduce poverty?...

May 19, 2021

Objective morality

This post is an attempt to answer the question: how do you define morality objectively? Context: I used to be a moral nihilist (there is no such thing as “good” and “bad”, morality is completely arbitrary and subjective, the universe does not care). Today, I’m closer to being a moral realist, though I reserve some room for the possibility that morality is entirely a human construct. At the very least, I think arguments for objective morality should be considered seriously....

May 18, 2021

The importance of documenting (and subsequently sharing) your ideas

Many people have talked about this but I’d like to share my framing of it. As we grow, our ideas change. The way we see the world shifts. We update our political inclinations, philosophical stances, personal values, and understanding of things. Sometimes this is a sudden shift, precipitated by a profound experience or insight. But it usually happens more slowly than that. It can occur so slowly that it’s imperceptible – you only notice it after your worldview has already changed dramatically....

May 12, 2021

The relative primacy of contemplative and scientific truths

In this post I discuss two methods for understanding reality, and the respective roles they’ve played in my own worldview over time. I conclude with my current thinking about the relationship between these two modes, which is that (1) they can complement each other but have incompatibilities, and that (2) I have no idea which one takes primacy. Two modes of inquiry There are two broad classes of knowledge and truth-seeking that have underpinned my worldview in the past few years:...

May 9, 2021

Some thoughts on causality

In this piece, I first share a framework for causality put forth by Karl Popper; I then share how it differed from my initial intuitions about causality; and then I explain why Popper’s framework is better. In The Logic of Scientific Discovery (§12), Karl Popper states that there are two elements of any causal explanation: a statement in the form of a universal law. a statement of initial conditions. He gives the following example of a causal claim: a weight is placed on a thread and causes the thread to break....

May 3, 2021

In praise of reading slowly

I read more slowly than most of my friends who read. I do all the wrong things: I subvocalize, I stop and start, I take detailed notes and extract quotes. My friends talk about finishing a book in one night, and the same book takes me weeks. Today I watched a video of Visa talking about reading The Beginning of Infinity in a few days, whereas it took me hours of reading per night for several months....

April 29, 2021

Facing fears in a dream

My dream this morning looked like this: I was with a group of people, we were stuck in a classroom-like place, and some authority was keeping us trapped there. We wanted to escape, but leaving the room meant entering the hall, and in the hall we could be shot. So we ran out and kept ducking into corridors and doorways to avoid being in the line of fire. I remember waiting anxiously in a doorway, figuring out what I should do, seeing friends jumping in and getting hurt....

April 18, 2021

Salon on Knowledge

I hosted a conversation yesterday about knowledge and epistemology. I opened the convo with this presentation, covering: (i) the justified-true-belief view of knowledge, (ii) Popper’s/Deutsch’s alternative framing of knowledge, and (iii) defining a few words like skepticism, rationalism, empiricism, and relativism. Consciousness and knowing One of the first things that came up was a question about consciousness and whether conscious truths are the only truths we can be “sure” about....

April 16, 2021

Things to learn: a journal post

Sometimes I dream about taking a few years away from everything and reading 40 textbooks and trying to understand how everything works. This is something I felt deeply in high school, and then lost at some point in college, and in the time after college it’s come back with overwhelming force. The thing about this curiosity is that it’s something you need to feed in order to keep it alive; you need to keep setting aside time to learn about the things that fascinate you....

March 3, 2021

measures of my wellbeing

an ongoing list. how easily I can feel wonder from looking up at the sky how much of an urge I feel to check notifications in the morning how at ease I feel going to bed whether my news feed makes me happy or anxious how often I remember that it’s not obvious that there should be a universe at all whether I spend more than an hour in the day reading how comfortable I feel with something I share getting zero reactions how fearful I am of the prospect of something going wrong how patient I am in my interactions with others how vividly I feel the love I have for my parents and brother and friends what about you?...

February 28, 2021