In this age of digital hyperlinking, it’s more important than ever to understand the links between humans. You might assume that you end at the border of your skin but there’s a sense in which there’s no way to mark the end of you and the beginning of all those around you. Your neurons and those of everyone on the planet interplay in a giant, shifting superorganism. What we demarcate as you is simply a network in a larger network. If we want a bright future for our species, we’ll want to continue to research how human brains interact — the dangers as well as the opportunities. Because there’s no avoiding the truth etched into the wiring of our brains: we need each other.
Write notes every single time. Don’t copy paste notes from your kindle or phone, write manually, typing every single word. Also try to paraphrase, this way you are forced to actively think about the material you’re reading.
“I have relatively low trust in some of my local politicians...to spend my taxes on things that really do matter. And so this lack of inherent trust of the local or broader political establishment is probably the most defining, most common feature of Silicon Valley ‘libertarians.’”
It’s important to be in the right kind of environment, and around the right kind of people. You want to be around people who have a good feel for the future, will entertain improbable plans, are optimistic, are smart in a creative way, and have a very high idea flux. These sorts of people tend to think without the constraints most people have, not have a lot of filters, and not care too much what other people think.
“I’m a geek, I’m not a Luddite,” Mr. Felix told The Times in 2012. “I love that technology connects us and is taking our civilization to the next level, but we have to learn how to use it, and not have it use us.”
Reading has many facets, one of which might be the rather indescribable, and naturally fleeting, mix of thought and emotion and sensory manipulations that happen in the moment and then fade. How much of reading, then, is just a kind of narcissism—a marker of who you were and what you were thinking when you encountered a text? Perhaps thinking of that book later, a trace of whatever admixture moved you while reading it will spark out of the brain’s dark places.
Surely some people can read a book or watch a movie once and retain the plot perfectly. But for many, the experience of consuming culture is like filling up a bathtub, soaking in it, and then watching the water run down the drain. It might leave a film in the tub, but the rest is gone.
The “unhealthy communication” theory. In order to have breakthrough ideas you need to talk the right amount to others. Not too much. Not too little. “Fake presence” (i.e. phone calls, high latency video calls, messaging) is cheap, plentiful and socially satisfying. So we communicate. More so than we ever have before. Maybe over-communication distorts original thinking. What if a modern day Einstein doesn’t come up with relativity because he never fully composes his ideas in long form? Instead, he sends half-baked concepts to Max Planck over WhatsApp. Does he evolve less independent thinking as a result?
Never worry about being a small fish in a big pond. Being a big fish in a small pond sucks -- you will hit the ceiling on what you can achieve quickly, and nobody will care. Optimize at all times for being in the most dynamic and exciting pond you can find. That is where the great opportunities can be found.
There was one aspect of my search that helped me to stay patient: I carved out time each day to do the things I enjoyed. My list of “take care of yourself” activities at the time: learn to surf/snowboard, tutor kids at the local school, and train to become a competitive triathlete. An hour or two each day for these activities helped even out the inevitable highs and lows of the search. The result: I presented myself as a more confident candidate despite the fact that I had been on the sidelines for two years.
In another era and under slightly different circumstances, this event would be the whole, glorious story. Immigrant rocket man ferries brave patriots into the heavens. Plop some ice cream on the apple pie, pass the Budweisers around, and let the livestreamed adrenaline loose on the imaginations of millions of kids. Alas, we do not live in such times. We have a Twitter President and all the tremendous, very big, super-duper baggage that comes with him. We have a Space Force. We have a virus run amok. And, in Musk, we have a Twitter Business Icon with his own impressive set of baggage. So the moment of achievement is complicated. Sort of like The Right Stuff meets The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test where the idea that “anything is possible” is as unnerving as it is encouraging.
For many people, the rituals of the commute—podcasts on the train, hellos in the elevator—serve as a similar preparation for the day’s work. Without them, it becomes easy to lose track of the distinction between professional and personal life. Work time becomes more scattered, and leisure time less pure. There’s a reason so many professional writers stretch their budgets to lease private offices, even though, on paper, the extra expense seems unnecessary. They knew what many socially distancing knowledge workers are now discovering: deep work requires some degree of separation.
Elon would often read for 10 hours a day—a lot of science fiction and eventually, a lot of non-fiction too. By fourth grade, he was constantly buried in the Encyclopedia Britannica...He thinks of humans as computers, which, in their most literal sense, they are. A human’s hardware is his physical body and brain. His software is the way he learns to think, his value system, his habits, his personality. And learning, for Musk, is simply the process of “downloading data and algorithms into your brain.” Among his many frustrations with formal classroom learning is the “ridiculously slow download speed” of sitting in a classroom while a teacher explains something, and to this day, most of what he knows he’s learned through reading.
And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed.
Software is creating software faster than we can use it. This is also why you are seeing so many of these “no-code” or “low-code” solutions pop up all over the place. There are increasingly fewer reasons to write code, and those who are writing code should, and do, increasingly write less of it.
“We must constantly look at things in a different way. Just when you think you know something, you must look at it in a different way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try. Dare to strike out and find new ground.”
One of Barks’s popular renditions goes like this: “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. / I will meet you there.” The original version makes no mention of “rightdoing” or “wrongdoing.” The words Rumi wrote were iman (“religion”) and kufr (“infidelity”). Imagine, then, a Muslim scholar saying that the basis of faith lies not in religious code but in an elevated space of compassion and love.
Learning happens when we follow our curiosity. And curiosity usually follows a similar path: pick something, learn a bit about it, then try some, fail some, get stuck, and go back to the source. Then try some more, fail some more, get stuck, and then go back to the source once more. This cycle continues.