May 06, 2018

Some things I've learned

A friend recently asked what the most important things I've learned are. I liked my reply, so reproducing it here.

Computers have drastically reduced human working-memory requirements.

Always use auto-reminders & calendars to record things you need to do (i.e. don't "remember" anything). I use Google Inbox reminders & Google Calendar, respectively.

When learning, aim to absorb general themes & lessons – you can always look up the specifics of a topic again later.

The internet has made everyone effectively omniscient re: factual questions.

Whenever you wonder about a factual question, look up the answer. This helps improve the accuracy of your world-model.

Many (most?) social disagreements can be quickly resolved by (a) disentangling the empirical & theoretical claims each side is making, (b) checking what facts, if any, would change the minds of either side, (c) looking up answers to the relevant empirical questions information.

Note that many social disagreements aren't actually about truth-seeking re: the topic at question, so use the above procedure with care.

"X is not actually about X" is often a useful framework when considering why the world is set up the way it is.

e.g. if you're wondering why US colleges work the way they do, "college isn't actually about education" does work. (Why do students pay $500/credit-hour when they could be auditing the same classes for free?)

If you're feeling bad (about something, or in general)...

  • Write down how you feel.
  • Then exercise, take a nap, eat something, or do some combination of these.
  • Then read what you wrote, and consider how you feel about it now.

You can sometimes beat the market.

Everything is very, very complicated.

  • You are very, very complicated.
  • It's hard to know what's best, but that doesn't mean all options are equally good.

I'm not sure if these are the most important things I've learned, but they're the things that easily came to mind.