Connections

  • Brain.
    • Uncertainty reduction machine. (“How to Change Your Mind“)
      • Start “wide” with a “lantern” focus (children):
        • Disordered, diffused attention; less predictable answers, high error rates.
        • Adaptive.
      • Over time, develop “spotlight” focus:
        • Ordered, narrower focus, probable answers, lower error rates.
        • Preservation.
    • Predictive coding. (“How to Change Your Mind“)  (“REBUS“)
      • Collection of coherent, stable beliefs (habits, biases).
      • Used to predict what will happen next.
      • Objective: minimize errors between prediction and experience.
      • Efficient and optimized for survival.
      • Stimulates achievement (learn from the past, plan for the future).
    • Maladaptive behaviors. (“How to Change Your Mind“)
      • Narrow or fixed perspectives, behaviors and emotional repertoires.
      • Negative thinking (stuck in the past or worried about the future).
      • Inverse learning (repeating the same destructive thoughts or behavior, thereby reinforcing (unproductive) neural connections).
    • Temporary variation. (“How to Change Your Mind“)
      • Reduction of activity in the brain’s default mode network.
      • Reduction of top-down control (beliefs), increased access to bottom-up stimuli.
      • Flatten the grooves of habit, create new pathways of thought.
      • Psychedelics, meditation, task-oriented behavior.
    • Serotonin. (“REBUS“) 
      • Increased flow promotes adaptation to environmental uncertainty.
      • Creates “hot state” of cognitive flexibility and neuroplasticity.
      • More suggestibele to influences from the environment (adaptation).
    • Insight. (“REBUS“) 
      • Exploring uncertainty:
        • Curious, novelty seeking behavior, inquiring state of mind.
        • Relaxation of priors for the sake of knowledge/learning.
      • Reducing uncertainty: 
        • Removing redundant parameters (unconsciously).
        • Revealing the underlying core structure.
    • Order versus disorder. (“REBUS“) 
      • Normal consciousness biases:
        • Preservation over adaptation.
        • High-level models and prior beliefs over data.
      • Less efficient in high change environment, uncertainty.
    • Thoughts. (“Waking Up“)
      • Thoughts themselves are not a problem, but being identified with your thoughts is and being lost in thoughts is.
      • We constantly create and repair a world that our minds want to be in.
      • Distraction is the normal condition of our minds.
  • We are not built to handle long-term disturbances. (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf“)
  • If you do not need to move, you do not need a brain. (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf
  • Conscious thought (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf“)
    • Something we do when we are not good at an activity.
    • Mostly a bystander (free won’t rather than freewill).
  • Pre-conscious brain and gut feelings:  (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf“)
    • Perception => preconscious body messages => action / behavior => conscious brain feelings (emotions).
    • Preconscious body feedback helps to narrow down and prioritize information.
    • Emotions in the brain arise as short-term conscious signals to “do something”.
    • Gut feelings work best when we can easily recognize stable patterns (low novelty, no need for adjustments).
  • Winner effect: winners emerge with higher levels of testosterone, helping them win yet again. (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf“)
  • We evolved to pay attention to novel things (information). (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf“)
    • Information: things we do not already know (novelty, uncertainty).
      • Data in a message that can’t be predicted.
    • Most messages in life are predictable and contain a lot of noise.
      • Data that can be compressed out of a message without impairing its meaning.
    • We evolved to pay attention to information.
      • Predictable events: no need to adjust our actions / intuitions.
      • Novelty: need to adjust our actions / intuitions.
  • Novel things are addictive (dopamine). (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf“)
    • Dopamine: the desire for information and unexpected reward
      • The compensation we receive for valuable effort.
      • Rewards us for novel physical actions that lead to unexpected reward.
      • Pushes us beyond established routines to try new search patterns (optimism).
    • Curiosity itself, the need to know, can become a form of addiction.
      • We develop a preference for effortful consumption.
      • We don’t want to be fed, we want to hunt.
  • Novel things can be bad (cortisol and chronic stress). (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf“)
    • Novelty and uncertainty can also signal a threat and elicit a stress response.
    • Short-term, moderate stress exposure triggers focus heightened awareness.
    • Long-term, chronic stress response impairs cognitive functioning.
    • Thinking becomes more emotional, less factual (pessimistic, risk aversion).
  • Handling novel things as a positive challenge, not a threat (mental resilience). (“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf“) 
    • Nature: balance of anabolic (testosterone) and catabolic hormones (cortisol), neurotransmitter profile, vagal tone (vagus nerve ability to reduce stress response).
    • Nurture: exposure to productive short-term stressors (exercise, cold), limitation of unnecessary stressors (uncertainty, lack of control).
  •  Biases:
    • Biases may seem irrational in isolated events, but can be rational over time if they allow you to avoid the risk of ruin in the long run. (“EconTalk — Nassim Nicholas Taleb“)
    • Biases are not great at helping you avoid future pitfalls. (“Making Sense — Shane Parrish“)
      • The smarter you are, the better story you’re going to tell yourself about why a bias doesn’t apply.  
      • Biases create overconfidence about outcomes and worse decisions.
  •  Behavior:
    • Changing behavior and the importance of framing / stories: (“Making Sense — Daniel Kahneman“)
      • Choose the frame that leads to the better outcome (nudging, behavioral economics).
      • Avoid stories that are remote and abstract.
      • Make it easy for people to make the right decision.
      • Removing obstacles works better than increasing incentives.
    • People don’t want things taken away from them. (“Making Sense — Daniel Kahneman“)
      • Fairness intuition is “don’t take away my stuff”.
      • Fairness intuition is not “I will share my stuff”.
    • Ingredients for a healthy conversation: (“Making Sense — Jack Dorsey“)
      • Shared attention.
      • Shared reality.
      • Receptivity.
      • Variety of perspective.
      • (Risk of) Reputation.
  •  
  • Values (“Superintelligence“):
    • Everyone starts out with innate preferences shaped by natural, sexual and cultural selection: an aversion to noxious stimuli and a preference for objects and behaviors that are rewarded in some way (physically, culturally).

    • Subsequently, “life events” (experience) shape human values.

  •  Decision-making:
    • Decision-making is based on anticipated memories: (“Making Sense — Daniel Kahneman“)
      • Which experience is likely to produce the best memory.
      • Weighing anticipated regret versus anticipated satisfaction.
  •   Complexity:
    • Dealing with complexity and achieving lasting progress is constrained by the limits of human nature / rationality / behavior / cognition. (“EconTalk — John Gray“)
    • Understanding the parts in ever more detail does not necessarily lead to understanding the whole (the limits of specialization and reductionism) (“EconTalk — David Epstein“)
    • Complexity is not achieved by the number of parts, but by the organization of them (the structure of the network). (“The Gene“)
    • It’s not nature vs. nurture; patterns evolve as nature and nurture interact with and influence each other iteratively over time. (“The Gene“)
    • Order needs: (“Why Information Grows“)
      •  Constant energy (to emerge).
      • The right type of matter (to last).
      • Predictable computation (to grow).
    • Knowledge and knowhow (“Why Information Grows“)
      • Knowledge: the ability to predict the outcome based on an understanding of relationships / linkages.
      • Knowhow: the capacity to perform actions.
      • Both: indicate the ability of a system to process information.
      • Both: are used to crystallize information in the form of new objects and products that augment society, drive growth and complexity. 
      • Accumulation of knowledge and knowhow indicate level of complexity.
      • A system’s complexity is restrained by the computing capacity of its elements (humans, companies, networks). 
      • Human restrictions: we have to by doing (experiential) or from others (social).
      • Network restrictions: transaction costs, ability to form social bonds (trust).
    • Knowledge, cultural evolution and growth:  
      • If the environment changes so frequently that genetic evolution can’t provide the appropriate adaptation fast enough, cultural evolution through (brains capable of) social learning becomes more adaptive. (“Blueprint“)
      • The ever-increasing amount of culture (knowledge; cumulative, complex ideas) is the biggest source of economic growth. (“Blueprint“)
      • The larger the group studying any problem, the faster the knowledge advances. (“Free Solo and Economic Growth“)
    • Diversity and complexity of a country’s industry is a strong predictor of its future growth. (“Why Information Grows“)
  • Science:
  • Governance:
  • Markets:
    • Markets are inventive, not necessarily efficient. (“EconTalk — Rory Sutherland“)
      • Solving the same problem for different people in different ways.
  • Economics:
    • Compounding versus aggregation: (“EconTalk — Arnold Kling“) 
      • Long-term impact of compounding: ultimately, the boat rises for everyone.
      • Short-term impact of aggregation: in the short run, some are better off than others.
    • Value of ideas: (“EconTalk — Paul Romer“)
      • Ideas are insights about how to rearrange the objects in the world.
      • More people = more insights = create new objects = more value/person. 
    • Economics has difficulties capturing and measuring individual well-being and emergent cultural norms. (“EconTalk — Paul Romer“)
    • Best prediction about the future: what was here in the past and is still here in a healthy state. (“EconTalk — Nassim Nicholas Taleb“)
    • “Front row” and “back row”: (“EconTalk — Chris Arnade“)
      • Path to financial well-being is narrow, weaving through elite (educational) institutions.
      • Growing number of people lack access to this “credential machine”
    • Economic change and social disruption: (“EconTalk — Chris Arnade“)
      • Tension between the pace of economic change and social displacement.
      • Difficult to think through the first, second, third waves of (social) impact of economic changes.
      • If the pace of change is too fast, can be socially disruptive.
  • Life: (“The Vital Question“)
    • Life is:
      • The creation of order and resisting decay.
      • The interaction between forming structure and heating up the environment.
      • Energy generation, capture and usage: electron flow and proton power.
      • The most comfortable state.
    • Mitochondria:
      • Energy centers of modern life.
      • Drive much of what we care about (disease, ageing, death).
  • Genes:
    • Differences within groups tend to be larger than differences between groups. (“The Gene“)
    • We are culturally inclined to magnify differences, even if they are minor. (“The Gene“)
    • One gene: good and bad traits. (“Cellular Senescence“) 
      • Antagonistic pleiotropy.
      • One gene is associated with good traits (usually early in life) and bad traits (usually later in life).
      • Example: senescent cells signal tissue repair early in life, but as they accumulate in old age lead to chronic inflammation 
    • One trait: good at first, bad later. (“The Drive with Peter Attia — David Sabatini“) 
      • One trait may be adaptive for survival early in life, but may become a threat to survival later in life.
      • Example: mTOR signaling high and productive early in life, but fails to slow down (and may increase) with age. 
  • Well-being:
    • Happiness versus satisfaction: (“Making Sense — Daniel Kahneman“) 
      • In the moment happiness: social, love, etc.
      • Retrospective satisfaction: achievements, rewards, success
    • Love is wanting the best possible outcome for someone. (“12 Rules for Life“)
    • You are the thing that maintains constancy across transformations. (“12 Rules for Life“)
    • Meditation: (“Making Sense — Stephen Fry“)
      • A tool to train your mind.
      • Recognize and snap out of in-the-moment unproductive emotions. 
  • Individuals and organizations: (“The Spy and the Traitor“)
    • People hurt by fate or nature.
      • Crave power and influence, but defeated by unfavorable circumstances.
      • Belonging to a powerful organization provides feeling of superiority.
  • Totalitarian regimes: (“The Spy and the Traitor“) 
    • The interests of society come before personal welfare.
    • Betrayal for the greater good is the mark of ideological purity.
    • When honest failure is punished, do nothing and hope the problem will go away.
  • Progress:
  • Commitment:
  • Pro- and anti-social behaviors: (“Blueprint“)
    • Evolving and interacting genetic and cultural forces prime human social behaviors.
    • Certain pro-social tendencies and capabilities shape the emergence of certain types of human social order.
    • We are capable of both pro- and anti-social behavior.
    • Various types of human behavior (cheating, punishing, cooperating, loners, etc.) co-exist and co-evolve, ensuring that no particular type will disappear or dominate the population.
  • Friendship: (“Blueprint“)
    • Non-conditional exchanges that are tracked over time and build relationships that provide insurance against setbacks and lay the foundation for many other pro-social traits.
  • Brands:
  • Technological progress: (“Permanent Record“)
    • If something is technologically feasible, it will likely happen.
  • Broken systems: (“Permanent Record“)
    • The people that make the rules have no incentive to act against them (and fix the system).
  • Access to information. (“Permanent Record“)
    • Within an organization often disproportionate to formal authority and ability to influence decisions.
  • Human intelligence is intuitive and associative. (“The Sentient Machine“)
    • Brain size restrictions (drives data compression, use of short-cuts, intuition).
    • Inputs from a limited number of senses.
    • Slow processing speed (limits of neuronal connections).
  • Artificial intelligence: all plausible scenarios (counter-intuitive, outliers). (“The Sentient Machine“)
    • Fewer size restrictions (ability to scan and hold complete solution landscapes).
    • Potential for inputs from a broader range of sensors.
    • Higher processing speed.
  • On intelligence. (“On Intelligence“)
    • A measure of the ability of a system to predict what happens next.
    • Not measured by actual behavior or actions.
    • Requires structured inputs: need for a patterned world.
  • Prediction is the verification of reality and the essence of understanding. (“On Intelligence“)
    • The odds that the same patterns occur randomly are low.
    • The repeated pattern must therefore exist (at least at our level of observation).
  • Learning combines bottom-up classification and top-down pattern prediction. (“On Intelligence“)
    • Memory and learning are meaningless if inputs are random, without patterns.
    • Parts of our outside world need to have (repeating) structure to be predictable.
    • Used by all living systems to exploit the structure of the world. 
  • Better prediction allows for handling more uncertainty and complexity. (“Prediction Machines“)
  • Higher IQ increases the risk of larger blind spots. (“Thinking in Bets“)
    • Better at constructing elaborate narratives supporting beliefs.
  • Be a better belief calibrator.  (“Thinking in Bets“)
    • Test, adjust, be open.
  • The more complex the underlying process, the more difficult it is to find universal laws. (“The Laws of Medicine“)
    • Physics -> chemistry -> biology -> medicine (economics, etc.)
    • Uncertainty increases, level of understanding decreases.
  • Handling uncertainty is about manipulating beliefs. (“The Laws of Medicine“)
    • Predict: use and test your beliefs.
    • Be open: adjust your beliefs.
    • Be aware: beliefs have limits.
  • Liberal democratic capitalism is ill equipped to handle major complex challenges. (“Conversations with Tyler — Slavoj Žižek”)
  • The brain works mainly through inhibition. (“The Master and His Emissary“)
    • Preventing the inappropriate response, rather than producing the right one.
    • Related: free won’t, rather than freewill.
  • All cognition is a process of recognition. (“The Master and His Emissary“)
    • We recognize something only if we already have a model in our brain.
  • Knowledge relies on distinctions. (“The Master and His Emissary“)
    • We can’t experience something unless there is a change or difference.
  •  Quotes:
    • “You go after the king, you best not miss.” (unknown, “Bad Blood“)
    • “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” (James Mattis, “Bad Blood“).

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