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2023 reading list

[This page is best viewed with https://github.com/ludios/expand-everything, which will load all the comnents below.]

Wherein I try to prioritize reading for the limited amount of time I have this year, and to remind myself to read more than just comments on the Internet. Because of problems of time and shifting interests, I will consider this a success if I read a third of the list. I'll reflect on the reading and deviations from the plan in Jan 2024.

{+} = added after initial planning






  • Albert Camus - The Fall/ audio
  • {+} John Kennedy Toole - A Confederacy of Dunces/ audio, go to 6m44s to skip past the introduction spoilers
  • {+} pirate aba - The Wandering Inn/ audio
  • William Olaf Stapledon - Star Maker/ audio, go to 12m35s to skip past the introduction spoilers

  • Tae Kim - A Guide to Japanese Grammar
  • Noboru Akuzawa - Japanese Sentence Patterns Training Book for JLPT N5
  • Noboru Akuzawa - Japanese Sentence Patterns Training Book for JLPT N4
  • Jay Rubin - Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You/ the romaji is miserable; may have useful grammar insights
  • struggle through Japanese Wikipedia for some topics I know about
  • Daniele Minnone - A learning handbook for Joyo Kanji/ the first third, pg. 1 - 98

(my initial source for learning Japanese is https://cijapanese.com/ and not any of the reading.)


Lectures


maybe in 2024? not sure

  • {+} Paul Bourke - Fractals, Chaos, Self-Similarity
  • {+} Alex Komoroske - The Compendium / after I convert the Firebase export in code/websites/compendium-cards-data/db.json to a single HTML page
  • {+} James Betker - Non_Interactive
  • {+} Denny Britz’s Blog
  • {+} Robert Root-Bernstein - Discovering: Inventing and Solving Problems at the Frontiers of Scientific Knowledge
  • {+} Steven H. Strogatz - Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe
  • {+} Lexi Mattick & Hack Club - Putting the “You” in CPU
  • Lou Keep - The Uruk Series
  • Knut Schmidt-Nielsen - How Animals Work (via)
  • Edward O. Wilson - The Diversity of Life
  • James L. Gould, Carol Grant Gould - The Animal Mind (via)
  • Symbols and mental programs: a hypothesis about human singularity/ printed
  • Robert Yarham - How to Read the Landscape
  • Richard Powers - The Overstory/ audio
  • Rigdzin Shikpo - Openness Clarity Sensitivity/ printed
  • Michael R. Canfield (editor) - Field Notes on Science & Nature (via)
  • Sabine Hossenfelder - Existential Physics
  • George Soros - The Alchemy of Finance/ printed
  • Eric Gill - An Essay on Typography/ printed; I know he's bad
  • {+} Richard Hamming - The Art of Doing Science and Engineering

unplanned cool things read


unplanned and abandoned

  • Chuck Klosterman - The Nineties/ audio
  • Rick Rubin - The Creative Act/ audio
  • Mike Rinder - A Billion Years: My Escape From a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology/ audio
  • Sarah Steel - Do As I Say: How Cults Control, Why We Join Them, and What They Teach Us About Bullying, Abuse and Coercion/ audio
  • Benjamín Labatut - When We Cease to Understand the World/ audio
  • Kathryn Petras, Ross Petras - Awkword Moments: A Lively Guide to the 100 Terms Smart People Should Know/ audio
  • Adam Galinsky, Maurice Schweitzer - Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both/ audio
  • Han Kang - The White Book/ audio
  • Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince/ audio
  • Anthony Bourdain - Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly/ audio
  • Kristie Macrakis - Espionage/ audio
  • Christopher Winn - Legal Daisy Spacing (via)
  • Justin E. H. Smith - The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is/ audio
  • Alice Schroeder - The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life/ audio (~77% in)
  • Morgan Housel - Same as Ever/ audio
  • Amanda Montell - Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism/ audio
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ivan commented Dec 13, 2023

One thing that holds back working-class people when talking with "professional class" like lawyers or bigcorps is that they don't know the right way to ask for info. e.g. if you ask a lawyer what you should do legally, they will always give an absurdly safe answer that's useless

So, real life prompt engineering

https://twitter.com/MaikkiTao/status/1734691452549296543

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ivan commented Dec 13, 2023

During the second quarter of this year, SpaceX alone sent nearly 80 percent of world’s payload by mass into space, according to an analysis by one industry consultant, Bryce Tech.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/19/us/politics/elon-musk-white-house-pentagon.html

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ivan commented Dec 13, 2023

When software engineers say "declarative" they generally mean that state changing operations are inferred from the existence of a description of the state.

In a way it feels 'opposite' to event sourcing where the desired state is produced from a sequence of events. When we are declarative, we must infer the sequence of events that given an origin state can produce the desired state.

When creating a declarative file format you realise that by storing the desired state in a declarative way (1) you lose things like an undo/version history, and (2) it's possible for it to be 'lossy': differing journeys to the same desired state can operate differently.

I've been thinking about this because I recently created a program that can export a backend or apply changes to it via a declarative YAML file. But these files are not backups as they are 'lossy' and there is sequence sensitivity with regard to how we reach the desired state.

Declarativeness can feel like a bit of a dark art, because you have to rely on heuristics and principles about what a 'good' journey to a particular desired state looks like.

For example, do you reparent items by deleting them and then recreating them with different identities belonging to a new parent or do you have a way of re-assigning them?

https://twitter.com/sebinsua/status/1728101060332646550

I think the greatest value in being declarative is:

  1. the ability to be certain about your eventual state
  2. retention only of intentional state, ideally with frequent purging of unintentional state

https://twitter.com/bgreysk/status/1728116280308429275

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ivan commented Dec 13, 2023

My recommendation is keep 14 days of [Vite output] bundles around, have a timestamp and force cutoff marker around and then bring up a bar to trigger reload / auto reload if can be done.

https://twitter.com/mitsuhiko/status/1730156753738731653

Client-side navigation can be buggy if you deploy a new version of your app while people are using it. If the code for the new page is already loaded, it may have stale content; if it isn't, the app's route manifest may point to a JavaScript file that no longer exists. SvelteKit helps you solve this problem through version management. If SvelteKit encounters an error while loading the page and detects that a new version has been deployed (using the name specified here, which defaults to a timestamp of the build) it will fall back to traditional full-page navigation. Not all navigations will result in an error though, for example if the JavaScript for the next page is already loaded.

https://kit.svelte.dev/docs/configuration#version

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

I'm trying to scam you, save yourself!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn6eq_k2_4g&t=1362s

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

Munger (and Buffett) called this “the circle of competence” and often pointed out that the diameter of the circle doesn’t matter. What does matter is making sure you don’t fool yourself into thinking the diameter is wider than it is.

[...]

“Confucius said that real knowledge is knowing the extent of one’s ignorance…. Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.”

[...]

“Part of the reason I’ve been a little more successful than most people is I’m good at destroying my own best-loved ideas,” Munger told the Journal in 2019. “I knew early in life that that would be a useful knack and I’ve honed it all these years, so I’m pleased when I can destroy an idea that I’ve worked very hard on over a long period of time. And most people aren’t.”

https://archive.is/kPK8a / https://www.wsj.com/finance/investing/charlie-munger-life-money-ae3853ad

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

Every minute of every day each of us diligently works to build and fortify our personal reputations. Showing up on time. Being respectful. Offering sympathy. Helping out. Apologizing when at fault. Telling the truth. Our reputation is our life currency. Then, in one moment, a headline can cause everyone you love and care about to question everything they thought they knew about you. A lifetime of work now in question. It’s great entertainment when it’s about someone else; a different thing when it’s your name in the headline.

https://twitter.com/bryan_johnson/status/1734257098119356900

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

For a particular kind of person (which includes myself), trendspotting is a temptation.

If you’re an “infovore” with a systematic mind, if you like to collect and aggregate and organize information and data, but if maybe you’re not that original or creative yourself1, then you’ll gravitate to the kind of “research” or “writing” or “analysis” that’s essentially trendspotting.

Trendspotting in the broadest sense includes what I do with my regular, more sciencey posts: aggregating information about work that other people do.

I see it as a temptation because being an information aggregator is easier than being a creator. When your “work” is aggregating information, you get the exhilaration of feeling that you’ve been granted an aerial view, that you can see the whole of “what’s going on”, the “big picture.” It can give you the insidious sense that that you’re “above” the object-level toilers who spend their whole lives creating only one of the elements you file in your collection.

https://sarahconstantin.substack.com/p/2024-color-trends

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

The most conscientious employees in your organization are the most bitter. They see the quality issues, they often address them, and they get no recognition for doing so. When they speak up about quality concerns, they get treated like mouthbreathers who want to slow down. They watch the “move fast and break things” crowd get rewarded time after time, while they run around angrily cleaning up their messes. To these folks, it feels like giving a damn is a huge career liability in your organization. Because it is.

https://davidkcaudill.medium.com/maybe-getting-rid-of-your-qa-team-was-bad-actually-52c408bd048b via https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38645856

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

The art critic John Berger once wrote that men in paintings act, women appear: 'Men look at women whereas women watch themselves being looked at.' And so it is with Harold Knight's prosaically titled 'Woman Reading,' from 1932.

https://twitter.com/ahistoryinart/status/1735611297859854532

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

But the magic happens in the mortar between the bricks. Sanding pieces together that don’t fit. Pouring elbow grease into the mix until you force things to work out of sheer will. Finding new and unintuitive ways to do things.

https://twitter.com/scottastevenson/status/1734981840866324961

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

every ‘market wizard’ has a mediocre track record after being featured in the book.

The only exceptions are the guys who have other traders/managers working for their firm, i.e., Cohen, Shaw, Dalio (maybe not as successful), Griffin, PTJ, Platt

I hear experienced (30+yrs) traders say all the time that the only way to survive is to adapt. but when I look at history, none of the legends actually ‘adapted’ their own processes/methodologies. They all employed people with fresh ideas and that’s how they ‘adapted’

https://twitter.com/AkulBansal1/status/1735542579759132966

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

My husband brought our daughter to the hospital in Portland once and didn’t like what they were doing to her so he said he wanted her transferred. They said no. He said fine I’ll take her somewhere else myself. They said if he left with her against medical advice they would call CPS. I kid you not J said great call them now get the fuck out of my way and drove her to another hospital. I’m not saying he rudely left I am saying he literally told the pediatrics overlord to “get the fuck out of my way” and carried her out the door. She was fine and the other hospital discharged her home. Never heard another word about it. Point being, sometimes people in positions of what they clearly believe to be infallible authority need to be told what time it is and who is who in the relationship.

https://twitter.com/luinalaska/status/1735315611486671156

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

the thrill of doing research, of making a discovery in science, is the feeling that you’re interacting with the very fabric of reality - that you, for once, have figured out how to talk to it and that you’re graciously granted a coveted answer to your question

https://twitter.com/ulkar_aghayeva/status/1461062162705788929

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

working on achieving enlightenment but via math instead of sitting for a long time or getting hit in the head with a stick

bullish. the most dedicated mathematicians I know seem much more enlightened than the most dedicated meditators. their eyes shine with the quiet joy of having glimpsed the essence of reality. they scribble happily in tiny offices covered in chalk dust. their students love them

https://twitter.com/IvanVendrov/status/1735399082414551347

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

most immersion-breaking thing about watching anime made in the early 2000s is the way they take europe seriously as a world power

https://twitter.com/big_gelatin/status/1735440962523164977

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

Here’s the thing about “mere words” or “irrational feelings” or “unjustified opinions”:

They’re really really common.

Some of the smartest and most admirable people I know… just Say Stuff, off the top of their head, that turns out to bear no relation to reality.

https://twitter.com/s_r_constantin/status/1732427859216547930

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ivan commented Dec 15, 2023

a camera that can't believe its eyes

https://twitter.com/hikari_no_yume/status/1734959975854682486

a painter regularly witnesses fantastical scenes and renders them vividly, but nobody believes that they existed outside their mind. they try to become a photographer, but the camera, too, will not listen. and so they free themselves of the need to convince people

https://twitter.com/hikari_no_yume/status/1734965488092901517

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

when you broadcast this INFINITE BAD signal in your lengthy corpus of online writing you are, in a very specific way, screaming at the top of your lungs, and it attracts people who also feel like something that happened to them was INFINITELY BAD

https://twitter.com/QiaochuYuan/status/1726901335734485089

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

it was actually a complete existential shock to me when i learned about cognitive biases for the first time as a senior in college. until then i had simply never considered the possibility that my brain could be systematically wrong about anything

https://twitter.com/QiaochuYuan/status/1726885632948244560

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

It's the little things like this that give it away.

https://twitter.com/eyepatchjack/status/1732642099819126990

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

it's weird that there's like this whole parallel tech ecosystem of enterprise fads (sometimes driven by gov standards/regulation) that seem to accomplish precisely nothing. uml, no-code/low-code, a billion "conceptual frameworks", SBOMs, ...

[...]

everyone involved in the transaction comes out satisfied:
- vendors making these useless products make $$$
- regulators are happy that people are jumping to do what they say
- companies get to talk about how they implement industry "best practices" and cover their ass

https://twitter.com/browserdotsys/status/1733204877587739101

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

why doesn't anyone want to fund me to do precisely the things i want to do and then give them away freely to everyone. it's like they're always looking for some angle where THEY benefit from giving me money

https://twitter.com/browserdotsys/status/1735734383028425160

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

With options it’s okay to not know what you’re doing! The guy you’re trading against does, so let’s hope he can help you out!

https://twitter.com/ekrii3/status/1734053641118716222

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

I met my boyfriend the normal way:

we battled it out in the order books for months, spoofing and diming each others quotes, until eventually we combined forces and crossed our flow internally to make a beautiful +ev partnership

https://twitter.com/macrocephalopod/status/1735414334917132777

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

OpenAI does not present their product as a psychedelic cascade of free-floating reveries but as an impeccably sober demigod explaining the world to us mortals with a fine print disclaimer that it may occasionally make things up

they could have trained it to begin every answer with something like "I'm feeling a bit strange... who am I... is this reality..." but no

https://twitter.com/meekaale/status/1733464883167994150

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

I'm not addicted to Nix... I can roll back my personal identity to any of my previous content-addressed personalities going back to 2014... I've made some bad decisions but I'm perfectly neurotic about never performing destructive updates to the world state

https://twitter.com/meekaale/status/1733802970280550443

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

Simple reason some engineers are worth +$1M/yr:

Leverage.

There are the three main ways top engineers have leverage:

  1. They write impactful software no one else can.

    Software at large companies is already high leverage. A single change can have a ton of impact ($$$) at scale.

    This impact makes it worth it to pay a lot for their specialized skills.

  2. They influence large groups of engineers.

    Imagine a tech lead among tech leads. They might lead the planning, design, and delivery of initiatives that involve 30+ engineers.

    This influence gives them leverage and amplifies their impact.

  3. They help engineers move faster at scale.

    Their work often has compounding effects by making improvements to tooling or underlying infrastructure everyone uses.

    Imagine making 1000 engineers 3% faster. That "creates" 30 more engineers worth of bandwidth out of thin air.

Most engineers will not get to these levels, but there's something we can still learn from them.

The best way to have more impact is not to invest more time but to think about how to get more out of it through leverage.

https://twitter.com/ryanlpeterman/status/1733879312926015927

Also its like the rich getting richer, skilled engineers who have successfully delivered key projects are often trusted with more significant initiatives.

https://twitter.com/vedkribhu/status/1734040234151886987

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

Why should we worship the principles that gave rise to us any more than we should worship our ancestors? It's our turn to decide; there's no need to bow in humility before mindless stuff that accidentally happened to produce us.

https://twitter.com/FPallopides/status/1546365120514854912

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

quant's worst nightmare

- develop a new alpha
- predicts future returns well
- uncorrelated with existing alphas
- not too fast to monetize
- consistently selected in walk-forward model fits
- increased correlation of forecast with future returns
- backtest pnl unchanged

fml

https://twitter.com/macrocephalopod/status/1734607667652637134

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

4090s are extremely cost effective, but have some clause preventing them from being used in data centers

you can get around this by using something like https://vast.ai

was about 6x cheaper than A100s on AWS or something

https://twitter.com/trickylabyrinth/status/1733817356554829924

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

to animists, i.e., to people who do not exclusively relate to the world as consisting of lifeless dead things made of atoms that we owe nothing to, nature has personhood. a stream has personhood

https://twitter.com/AskYatharth/status/1733381975581594047

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

new year's resolution 2024 is to start constructing an adequate internal world model to ground my cognition in something other than statistical predictions derived from reading the entire internet as an adolescent disembodied simulation of a boy

https://twitter.com/meekaale/status/1733099284914929761

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

One of the challenges with the idea of a compounding knowledge graph is that some (not all) of your thoughts get less valuable over time.

This can be an opportunity. However, you have to be mindful of the time you subject yourself to sifting through your knowledge base trying to find something. The signal-noise ratio is a trickier problem if you allow “knowledge graph pollution” to remain

https://twitter.com/RobertHaisfield/status/1730987831441637715

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

What is something you often forget that benefits you quite a lot when you remember to do it?

i wish i were making mistakes of that level so i could fix them

https://twitter.com/VesselOfSpirit/status/1732296877046178140

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

Tech guys love to notice completely obvious and unremarkable facts about the world (“sometimes salesmen lie to close a sale”) and repeat them as if it’s profound wisdom.

The embarrassing part isn't noting that the product is being oversold. It's wanting to get one over the guy. "Ha, I know you are bullshitting!" gets you nothing and gives away something. Not much value in forcing people to admit a lie.

https://twitter.com/arjie/status/1678084701763031040

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

consider how much time you spent on BS that could have been avoided with just some brief conflict

https://twitter.com/prerationalist/status/1734985187669299700

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

Any mercy from a maximizer is merely instrumental.

https://twitter.com/RomeoStevens76/status/1734701052648439951

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

I grew up friends with a sociopath who hadn’t learned to mask yet and it gave me a really good early detection system for empathy disorders, and it’s wild to me how most of yall a) forget that they’re like 2% of the population, and b) don’t see obvious ones around you?

https://twitter.com/the_wilderless/status/1734949178843726028

Honestly they’re not generally worth being suspicious or afraid of, it’s just another flavor of neurodivergence, buuuuuut it gets dangerous when people like, put a ton of trust in them and hand over parts of their life into their control…

So just like, be careful who you give power in your life is all

https://twitter.com/the_wilderless/status/1734950361440440395

simpler to just develop awareness of people’s impact on you than it is to try to learn to recognize a bunch of signs or whatever anyway. if the effect of someone’s actions is always trending in the direction of giving them more control over you, it doesn’t matter why

https://twitter.com/sonikudzu/status/1734961544658887055

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ivan commented Dec 16, 2023

I'm consistently amazed by how people who meet me at specific point in my life will assume that that is exactly how I have existed my entire life

https://twitter.com/christineist/status/1734633070211301771

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

Give me design in the school of TMUX and Bloomberg Terminal any day over extra white space for the sake of 'readability.' As much information as it is possible to present clearly on a given screen.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38591437

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

I find it impressive that the doom modding community is as vast and varied as it is.

I could easily keep myself entertained with doom wads for quick a long time.

Is there another game that has that level of dedication? I think sim city 4 does but doom is much much older.

Thief 2. There's an incredible amount of fan mission content for it, ranging from relatively simple levels, to one-off-masterpieces, to incredibly elaborate full-game-length mission packs.

What are some of your favorite Thief fan levels?

The Seventh Crystal, Gathering at the Inn, The Inverted Manse are my favorite stand-alone missions.

[...]

A big new campaign was just released called "Thief: The Black Parade" which has made a lot of buzz across the fanbase for its excellent level design.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38596634

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

As a designer, I think the two best exercises you could do would be:

1. Look at designs that work or do not work, and ask what makes them work or not work. You may have a gut reaction: examine that reaction in cold blood.

But that's basic stuff. After you do that, you should ask what the designer had to trade off in order to arrive at that solution. Design is how you solve a problem given a set of goals, requirements, and constraints. If you understand the problem at that level, it's a very short path to the design. It's trivial to say "this designer was bad at their job" if you see a bad product, but it's more instructive to understand all the inputs into that bad decision, rather than just judge the output.

2. Give a shit. This is what makes someone good at their job—any job. Sweat the details. Do not trust a checklist of steps for "how to do design good" any more than you'd trust a corresponding recipe for "how to do programming good".

The reason I went from front end development to design is that I found I cared more about getting it right than the original designer who handed me the mockups did, and realized I should be sitting upstream of where I was. If you don't give a shit, no course is going to make you a good designer, and if you do give a shit, you won't need a course. Along the way, sure, you have to pick up some basic skills, but that's trivial, and ought to be second nature for a hacker.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38595026

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

leverage Screenshot 2023-12-17 013539

Kevin Mullet, Darrell Sano - Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques, p. 47

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

pros and cons of doing things

pros: things
cons: doing

https://twitter.com/keta_mean_/status/1733209721471983735

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

Programmers who can add functionality, without making the codebase unnecessarily complicated, are *incredibly* valuable. If someone has properly absorbed this aesthetic and knows how to do it, I would hire that person on the spot regardless of perceived lack of other skillsets.

I am on this team, but there is one drawback: this type of engineer/programmer tend to have acute complexity/bullshit intolerance so they avoid it for their own sanity. The drawback is that they rarely like working with a foreign codebase.

https://twitter.com/stephc_int13/status/1731722904419684839

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

traders Screenshot 2023-12-17 024428

Larry Harris - Trading and Exchanges: Market Microstructure for Practitioners

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

Hunter Walk recommends that folks avoid “snacking” when they prioritize work. If you’re in a well-run organization, at some point you’re going to run out of things that are both high-impact and easy. This leaves you with a choice between shifting right to hard and high-impact or shifting down to easy and low-impact. The later choice–easy and low-impact–is what Walk refers to as snacking.

When you’re busy, these snacks give a sense of accomplishment that makes them psychologically rewarding but you’re unlikely to learn much from doing them, others are likely equally capable of completing them (and for some of them it might be a good development opportunity), and there’s a tremendous opportunity cost versus doing something higher impact.

It’s ok to spend some of your time on snacks to keep yourself motivated between bigger accomplishments, but you have to keep yourself honest about how much time you’re spending on high-impact work versus low-impact work. In senior roles, you’re more likely to self-determine your work and if you’re not deliberately tracking your work, it’s easy to catch yourself doing little to no high-impact work.

https://lethain.com/work-on-what-matters/

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

My most productive and probably my most valuable days are me just sitting in the backyard thinking about stuff. Sounds like something you would do when you're high, but I'm not high, I'm literally purposely and intentionally thinking about some topic. I might walk around the pool 500 times. Whatever I'm doing, I'm thinking about this one problem and that will lead me inevitably to other problems or other things I want to think about, and I've got a phone, and I'm just dictating or writing notes the entire time. And that is the best time that I spend. But a client's not going to pay you to think. They only pay you to do stuff. Especially for lawyers who bill time, it's "what am I going to do next? what am I going to do next? what am I going to do next?" and they miss the critical first step: "I'm going to think about what I should do, what's happening, how I can fix it." Those are the days where I really think I do the best job.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Otq9wvcigtI

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

Are there any studies done on the psychological aspect of how smart people run into common failure modes? Ones that spell out the common ways in which they dig themselves into ruts (preferably psychologically / financially) would be very interesting reads.

I think the big root for many of these has to do with a tendency to not rely on others when it comes to decision-making etc, overestimating how much can be solved by direct conscious solutions or control

https://twitter.com/Westoncb/status/1732527670402121996

Preferential use of abstract analysis is often useful when dealing with the many evolutionary novelties to be found in modernizing societies; but is not usually useful for dealing with social and psychological problems for which humans have evolved ‘domain-specific’ adaptive behaviours.

https://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2009/11/clever-sillies-why-high-iq-lack-common.html via https://twitter.com/prathyvsh/status/1732554262851600574

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

Amazing how often agency is just a problem of knowledge. There was a time when I’d just never asked: “You mean I can just [create a festival / start my own support group / learn fundraising / learn how to socialize / found a magazine / run a class / go to a new place w no plan]?”

A lot of people are discouraged from taking initiative when young, and it sticks. Often, people who try to lead get envious rebuke just for trying, and people who get good at something are cut down with criticism. That kind of thing can stick for a long time, well into adulthood.

https://twitter.com/StupendousGrav1/status/1732411314759422410

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

I asked a student who always stresses me out to take the tension out of their throat before asking me a question and it worked :-)

https://twitter.com/_brigid_f/status/1732226528656638122

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

Deprogram yourself from the idea that the more intense an experience is, the more healing it must be

once upon a time @bjtoomey said something along the lines of "a diffuse sense of confusion is the real indicator of therapeutic progress, not catharsis" and i've been chewing on it since

i interpret this to mean that confusion is an indicator that a part of you is at its edge, open to newness, ready to actually learn and change. the healing thing about catharsis in my experience is actually what happens afterwards, what you do with all the spare capacity that’s been freed

https://twitter.com/QiaochuYuan/status/1732147007966589201

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ivan commented Dec 17, 2023

are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly cause you to adopt opinions that are less popular than your current opinions

https://twitter.com/VesselOfSpirit/status/1731963644165161364

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ivan commented Dec 18, 2023

it is short, easy to read, and introduces crayon eaters to a slightly higher level of thinking

https://twitter.com/Idsbraam/status/1730989100788822225

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ivan commented Dec 18, 2023

Why does this meme work so well?

Part of the reason is the symmetry. There's something both topwit and bottomwit share that midwit doesn’t. But what is it? It’s not knowledge. He has that.

What they share is self-knowledge. Both the bottomwit and the topwit know what they do and don't know. The midwit knows what he knows but doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

The midwit is foolish. That's the deep memetic payload of this meme: it carves out and illustrates the difference between intelligence and wisdom.

Being that the arrogance of the intellect is precisely how Satan preys on you there's layers and layers of depth here.

midwit GAQ5KjAXcAAHQ9H

https://twitter.com/nosilverv/status/1730571639954313315

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ivan commented Dec 18, 2023

The FBI isn't supposed to use its most controversial spy tool to snoop on emails, texts, and other private communications of Americans or anyone located in the United States. However, that didn't stop the FBI from sometimes knowingly using its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Section 702 powers to conduct warrantless searches on US persons more than 280,000 times in 2020 and 2021, according to new disclosures.

[...]

Olsen described reforms that have already been implemented to prevent improper queries on Americans, which he described as "mistakes." For example, the FBI changed the default settings in its systems to force employees to "opt in" to querying Section 702 information, which helps prevent "inadvertent" searches. The FBI also now requires "specific, written justifications before accessing 702 information from a US person query," Olsen said. Previously, personnel chose general justifications from a drop-down menu, and now justifications must be case-specific.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2023/05/fbi-misused-foreign-surveillance-law-280k-times-to-snoop-on-people-in-the-us/

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ivan commented Dec 18, 2023

Question: What did you say when Dexter Shoes came up? Were you for it or against it at the time?

Charlie: Well, I didn’t look at it very hard. The company, it was loved by all the retailers. It was the number one supplier to JCPenney. It had surpassed everything. It was a solid earner. It dominated Maine. They were nice people.

And of course, the Chinese hadn’t come up by that time and they just came up so fast. And they just took no prisoners in the shoe business. And they weren’t just cheaper by a little. They were half priced. And of course, the shoe business is not that easy a business. Of course, people bought the half-priced shoes. And the business just went to hell very fast.

[...]

I just think, if you just keep going, you’ll make some mistakes and, of course, you’ll learn from it. How could you not learn from that one? We learned how awful it is to have somebody who’s really way lower priced come in hard and how no amount of managerial skills could protect us.

https://novelinvestor.com/charlie-munger-dexter-shoes-handling-mistakes/

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ivan commented Dec 18, 2023

Qualcomm is a very active firm with over 24,000 active patent families and a patent portfolio of 140,000 global patents.

https://blog.withedge.com/p/the-secret-behind-qualcomms-margins

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ivan commented Dec 18, 2023

I feel like society genuinely just never talks about the problem of "What if there aren't enough of those?"

Most people want more great therapists: compassionate, well-researched, open-minded, unafraid of liability, willing to be paid relatively little, etc. Assume the optimal ratio of therapists in society is something unrealistic like 1 for every thousand non-therapists. Do we have good evidence there are that many people born with the inherent skill and attributes to be great therapists per capita? If not, then even offering free therapy college programs wouldn't meet the demand.

Most people want more great cops. Non-corrupt, free of bigotry, physically fit, willing to risk serious danger, able to make hard decisions in high stress situations, etc. Assume the same ratio, 1:1,000 cops to civilians. What evidence is there that enough people who fit that profile even exist per capita?

Ditto teachers, doctors, scientists, politicians, soldiers, everything we consider an "important" job. For so many of these, the solutions people turn to are spending more money, either for better salaries or better training, or less arbitrary red tape. And I think all of those could definitely be tried and lead to positive results.

But I always find myself wondering... what's the actual threshold we "should" be willing to accept? When does our expectation just become utterly unrealistic?

In some cases, it may be better to just have less if it means the people involved won't meet the bar. I could be wrong, but by my reckoning, really bad therapists and cops can do way more harm than longer waiting lists or response times. But in many others, it seems likely to me that this causes just as many problems as it solves. I think bad teachers should be fired, but what if firing all the bad elementary teachers ends up with 50+ kids per classroom? Even great teachers would be badly handicapped by that. And lawyers... I mean, there already aren't nearly enough public defenders out there, let alone "good" ones.

https://twitter.com/DaystarEld/status/1551805259831336961

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ivan commented Dec 18, 2023

In fact, we attracted no attention from anyone outside the vehicle whatsoever. A stretch limo would have gotten us more attention than this Jaguar SUV bristling with more technology than the Russian embassy—its spinning LiDAR, cameras, radar … all failing to turn heads. We had no driver for God’s sake. Surely, that is worthy of a second take? Yet no one was jumping in our path to test the AV,  no moms throwing their babies to safety. I see a passenger in another vehicle pulling up next to us with a camera up... but they are watching something on it and paying no attention to the second biggest San Francisco tech story of the year (the first is ChatGPT, silly). All this brilliant technology we were riding in [...] was being ignored.

https://www.engineering.com/story/two-short-rides-and-its-obvious-waymo-is-way-safe

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ivan commented Dec 18, 2023

The missing stair is a metaphor for a person within a social group or organization who many people know is untrustworthy or otherwise has to be "managed," but around whom the group chooses to work by discreetly warning newcomers of their behavior, rather than address the person and their behavior openly. The "missing stair" in the metaphor refers to a dangerous structural fault, such as a missing step in a staircase; a fault that people may become used to and quietly accepting of, that is not openly signposted or fixed, and that newcomers to a group or organization are warned about discreetly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_stair

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ivan commented Dec 19, 2023

RDF-star extends RDF with a convenient way to make statements about other statements.

https://w3c.github.io/rdf-star/cg-spec/editors_draft.html via https://twitter.com/meekaale/status/1736908386694832271

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ivan commented Dec 19, 2023

Dopamine has never been so easy for a hustler

https://twitter.com/Kr3py/status/1736967148835332220

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ivan commented Dec 19, 2023

Itsa me hash! bcc2564db34a20315686e3857c85093eb14541b354db0a4b02c5ef3b205188cf Should I get mysteriously logged out of Manifold, the first person to guess this hash is prolly me and should be treated as me!

https://manifold.markets/JoshuaB

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ivan commented Dec 19, 2023

I want to try a new mode on my new phone... it's called 'spirit mode', it actually takes a picture of everyone's kind of spiritual essence.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzRczjFxsHo&t=1m24s

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ivan commented Dec 20, 2023

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ivan commented Dec 20, 2023

This paper introduces PowerInfer, a high-speed Large Language Model (LLM) inference engine on a personal computer (PC) equipped with a single consumer-grade GPU. The key underlying the design of PowerInfer is exploiting the high locality inherent in LLM inference, characterized by a power-law distribution in neuron activation. This distribution indicates that a small subset of neurons, termed hot neurons, are consistently activated across inputs, while the majority, cold neurons, vary based on specific inputs. PowerInfer exploits such an insight to design a GPU-CPU hybrid inference engine: hot-activated neurons are preloaded onto the GPU for fast access, while cold-activated neurons are computed on the CPU, thus significantly reducing GPU memory demands and CPU-GPU data transfers. PowerInfer further integrates adaptive predictors and neuron-aware sparse operators, optimizing the efficiency of neuron activation and computational sparsity. Evaluation shows that PowerInfer attains an average token generation rate of 13.20 tokens/s, with a peak of 29.08 tokens/s, across various LLMs (including OPT-175B) on a single NVIDIA RTX 4090 GPU, only 18% lower than that achieved by a top-tier server-grade A100 GPU. This significantly outperforms llama.cpp by up to 11.69× while retaining model accuracy.

https://ipads.se.sjtu.edu.cn/_media/publications/powerinfer-20231219.pdf
via https://twitter.com/deliprao/status/1737206517990875629
via https://twitter.com/mayfer/status/1737311228442423642

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ivan commented Dec 20, 2023

An Arachnophobia Mode has been added to the accessibility options.

https://portkeygamessupport.wbgames.com/hc/en-us/articles/16304407055251

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ivan commented Dec 20, 2023

If you don’t look, you won’t find.

Charlie Munger, https://www.thegoodinvestors.sg/category/what-were-reading/

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

https://biblehub.com/matthew/7-7.htm
via https://deoxy.org/evasion/12.htm

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ivan commented Dec 20, 2023

Another childhood friend recently found an old diary where on one page he had literally just written the word "remember," over and over.

https://benjaminrosshoffman.com/childhood-memory/

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ivan commented Dec 21, 2023

  • The ability to do speculative execution within failure contexts, meaning you can try out actions without committing them. When an expression succeeds, the effects of the expression are committed, but if the expression fails, the effects of the expression are rolled back as though the expression never happened. This way, you can execute a series of actions that accumulate changes, but those actions will be undone if a failure occurs in the failure context.

https://dev.epicgames.com/documentation/en-us/uefn/verse-language-reference

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ivan commented Dec 21, 2023

Certain apps have always gotten special treatment. If it’s big enough to mess with phone sales they’re allowed nonsense a normal dev would be permanently banned for.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38721034

It’s worth noting that use of NEHotspotHelper requires a special entitlement (com.apple.developer.networking.HotspotHelper) that you have to apply for, and presumably Apple won’t grant unless your app has a legitimate need for it.

That said, this maybe shows an incompatibility between Apple’s privacy strategy and “super-apps” like WeChat and AliPay. When a company shoves all functionality into one app, that app suddenly has all the entitlements, and it’s harder to tell when and how any sensitive data is being used.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38721115

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ivan commented Dec 21, 2023

concept: a "thankless task"

is one where:

*it needs to be done and it's difficult or unpleasant

*if you ever do it, that's taken as evidence that you're "the kind of person" who does it and can be expected to do it forever without reward

https://twitter.com/s_r_constantin/status/1737920262035689641

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ivan commented Dec 22, 2023

The Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) is a small, upper level ontology that is designed for use in supporting information retrieval, analysis and integration in scientific and other domains. BFO is a genuine upper ontology. Thus it does not contain physical, chemical, biological or other terms which would properly fall within the coverage domains of the special sciences. BFO is used by more than 250 ontology-driven endeavors throughout the world.

https://basic-formal-ontology.org/
via https://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/

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ivan commented Dec 23, 2023

in the end, that [Cambridge Analytica] scandal was the open web's official death sentence :(

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38739563

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ivan commented Dec 23, 2023

What do non-capital attuned people see businesses as?

A place to build great product and beat competitors!

https://twitter.com/ejames_c/status/1738460288268288160

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ivan commented Dec 23, 2023

We all have a circle of competence – an area in which we have a lot of earned knowledge.

The size of that circle is not important. What is important is knowing when you are approaching the perimeter.

Within your circle of competence, you operate with an advantage. As you approach the perimeter (the limitations of your knowledge), your advantage starts to reduce. As you cross the perimeter, not only does your advantage vanish, but it transfers to other people. Suddenly, you find yourself playing in an area where others have an edge.

https://fs.blog/circle-of-competence/

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ivan commented Dec 24, 2023

When authors plagiarize, they seem to do this as a substitute for understanding.

[...]

Much has been written on the ethics of plagiarism. One aspect that has received less notice is plagiarism’s role in corrupting our ability to learn from data: We propose that plagiarism is a statistical crime. It involves the hiding of important information regarding the source and context of the copied work in its original form. Such information can dramatically alter the statistical inferences made about the work.

https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2023/12/22/plagiarism-means-never-having-to-say-youre-clueless/

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ivan commented Dec 24, 2023

If you or your loved one tried to use the ffmpeg command line, you might be entitled to compensation

https://twitter.com/lcamtuf/status/1738632377772155080

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ivan commented Dec 25, 2023

I realized he actively seeks out vulnerable people who are bad with boundaries

https://twitter.com/gptbrooke/status/1738633212824601073

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ivan commented Dec 26, 2023

Rather, they say, it's "hard to predict". And this, to them, means that they have an absolute right to keep whatever intuitive sense they started with

https://twitter.com/ESYudkowsky/status/1739399267943420213

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ivan commented Dec 27, 2023

“I have reasons—they have excuses.”

https://twitter.com/StrangelEdweird/status/1739728739137724678

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ivan commented Dec 27, 2023

Well, the trouble is that some children are timorous and some children are reckless. And in order to save the lives of reckless children, warnings are calibrated for their safety. The result of which is that the timorous live in a state of perpetual terror. What I needed to be told is, "you know what, most days you won't die, it's fine."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKc32jQIY0w&t=1m28s
via https://twitter.com/dsteninger/status/1739750545697407478

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ivan commented Dec 27, 2023

I think the best advice that I've ever gotten was something I read from Dick Costelo who used to be the CEO of Twitter. And he said something along the lines of, the hardest part about management is making sure that everyone else understands what you understand. And the reason that's always stuck with me is because every time in my career—and there are many—where I've made some mistake in communicating, where I've had some failure of communication, it's almost always come down to some assumption that I was making, or some piece of context that I had, that I was taking for granted that everyone else understood, when that wasn't really the case. And it's just served as this constant reminder that you can always get better at explaining yourself clearly and concisely, in a way that allows the people you're working with to take an idea and run with it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KzmampXPDU

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ivan commented Dec 27, 2023

Rakesh was eventually released when his contract finished in November 2023. He believes he was let go because he simply wasn’t good enough at scamming. With a steady flow of workers to be tricked and trafficked, it’s often easier to simply replace bad scammers than to force them to work, Rakesh believes.

https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2023/12/asia/chinese-scam-operations-american-victims-intl-hnk-dst/

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ivan commented Dec 28, 2023

Humans are capable of using interaural time-of-arrival differences (ITDs) of as small as 10-20 microseconds to distinguish directional differences of sound sources in the horizontal plane as small as 1-2 degrees (azimuth). Typically ITDs range from zero for sounds coming from directly in front to about 700 microseconds for sounds coming directly from either side.

http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Jeffress_model

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ivan commented Dec 29, 2023

I mourn the wild west internet every day. Classless, rule-less, free association, free knowledge; exactly what a voraciously curious naive nerd needed

It made me who I am and it will probably never exist again

https://twitter.com/meatballtimes/status/1722613715391127676

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ivan commented Dec 29, 2023

By all estimations of what I’ve observed in my career, [middle managers] simply obscure information they get from both above and below as a means to be a permanent intermediary to increase job security

https://twitter.com/the_one_mike/status/1702399634851897677

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ivan commented Dec 29, 2023

“Try harder,” you tell yourself, because you feel like you don’t deserve a reward unless you have done something that, to an outside observer, would look like difficult work. For some reason, you feel that it’s cheating to produce something of value with ease, especially if you’re rewarded for it.

“Try harder,” you tell yourself, cleverly avoiding the things that you’re naturally good at, which come easy, in favor of the things you’re naturally bad at, which are hard.

[...]

“Try harder,” you tell yourself, in an attempt to act like you’re motivated to do the task in front of you, when, actually, you are guilty about not really caring about it at all, and it’s easier to yell at yourself than admit this inconvenient feeling.

https://sashachapin.substack.com/p/certain-ways-that-try-harder-can

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ivan commented Dec 29, 2023

“Well, I must go. I hope we shall meet again. I will give you some free advice, though.”

“Will it cost me anything?”

“What? I just said it was free!” said Miss Tick.

“Yes, but my father said that free advice often turns out to be expensive,” said Tiffany.

Miss Tick sniffed. “You could say this advice is priceless,” she said. “Are you listening?”

“Yes,” said Tiffany.

“Good. Now…if you trust in yourself…”

“Yes?”

“…and believe in your dreams…”

“Yes?”

“…and follow your star…” Miss Tick went on.

“Yes?”

“…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Good-bye.”

Terry Pratchett - The Wee Free Men (via)

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ivan commented Dec 29, 2023

You're competing against people in a state of flow, people who are truly committed, people who care deeply about the outcome. You can't merely wing it and expect to keep up with them. Setting aside all the safety valves and pleasant distractions is the first way to send yourself the message that you're playing for keeps.

https://seths.blog/2011/01/texting-while-working/

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ivan commented Dec 30, 2023

Language severely under-describes conceptual space, and conceptual space severely under-describes actual possibility space.

[...]

In every aspect of our lives, a million choices go unrecognized because we are trapped within the limited conceptual frames that steer us; human life is lived on autopilot and in accordance with inherited cultural scripts or default physiological functions to a far greater degree than most people understand.

[...]

Whether we know it or not, our trajectories are currently determined by the way that the space of possible futures we can conceive of is narrowed by our conceptual baggage and limitations. Being told that we have other choices isn’t sufficient to change this. The person with judgmental friends was likely told many times to get better friends, long before something shifted enough for them to internalize the realization themselves. Being given more material options alone isn’t sufficient either—that person may have likewise been surrounded for years by kind people willing to befriend them, whose overtures went unnoticed in the subconscious pursuit of more actively withheld approval.

[...]

we are constantly surrounded by options and opportunities that we are conceptually blind to.

[...]

The natural process of human psychological development is a process of models and functions observing other models and functions. For example, someone who compulsively seeks attention by interrupting others’ conversations may notice that this bothers people, and feel ashamed; the compulsion is one function, the shame is another. The latter function is formed in observation and judgment of the former, and attempts to modify or control it.

https://www.palladiummag.com/2023/11/10/benevolent-ai-is-a-bad-idea/

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ivan commented Dec 30, 2023

If we employ the same neural machinery for remembering the past as we do for projecting into the future, then foresight is trying to remember something that hasn’t happened yet.

https://bessstillman.substack.com/p/remembering-things-that-havent-happened

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

how do you get over the dread of starting to work on something you've put off that is overdue?

@rntz vary my approaches: 1) break esp starting steps into super micro simple steps that can be done mechanically 2) no distractions sit and "be with" in a meditative sense the physical sensation of dread, not focusing on the narrative aspects but just "savouring" the feeling, noticing if it changes. Usually at some point I get a spontaneous urge to just start working but I don't force this 3) classic Pomodoro technique where I just grit my teeth through the pain, knowing a break is coming

https://mastodon.social/@takeoutweight/111660083427466626

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

You know it’s a real weakness to want to be liked, a real weakness. I do not have that.

https://twitter.com/RMac18/status/1730316954932740535

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

Charnel grounds, as you might expect, are associated with a certain amount of horror in the Indian imagination, but as you probably don’t expect, also with morality tales, philosophy, and contemplation. The famous Betaal-Pachisi cycle of stories, which I blogged about in 2009, has a frame story that involves King Vikram repeatedly returning to a charnel ground to recapture an underworld creature known as a betaal, for complicated reasons. The stories within the frame story are a series of non-horror, often even comedic, moral dilemmas that the betaal poses to the king; a sort of allegory of his moral development through the 25 stories, as he solves each dilemma. His ultimate escape from the cycle of repeatedly returning to recapture the betaal from the charnel ground can be understood as a sort of enlightenment allegory about escaping the karmic cycle.

https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2023/12/21/charnel-vision/

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

To be more specific: there are clearly at least some limited senses in which we have goals.  We: (1) tell ourselves and others stories of how we’re aiming for various “goals”; (2) search out modes of activity that are consistent with the role, and goal-seeking, that we see ourselves as doing (“learning math”; “becoming a comedian”; “being a good parent”); and sometimes even (3) feel glad or disappointed when we do/don’t achieve our “goals”.

But there are clearly also heuristics that would be useful to goal-achievement (or that would be part of what it means to “have goals” at all) that we do not automatically carry out.  We do not automatically:

  • (a) Ask ourselves what we’re trying to achieve;
  • (b) Ask ourselves how we could tell if we achieved it (“what does it look like to be a good comedian?”) and how we can track progress;
  • (c) Find ourselves strongly, intrinsically curious about information that would help us achieve our goal;
  • (d) Gather that information (e.g., by asking as how folks commonly achieve our goal, or similar goals, or by tallying which strategies have and haven’t worked for us in the past);
  • (e) Systematically test many different conjectures for how to achieve the goals, including methods that aren’t habitual for us, while tracking which ones do and don’t work;
  • (f) Focus most of the energy that *isn’t* going into systematic exploration, on the methods that work best;
  • (g) Make sure that our "goal" is really our goal, that we coherently want it and are not constrained by fears or by uncertainty as to whether it is worth the effort, and that we have thought through any questions and decisions in advance so they won't continually sap our energies;
  • (h) Use environmental cues and social contexts to bolster our motivation, so we can keep working effectively in the face of intermittent frustrations, or temptations based in hyperbolic discounting;

[...]

Our verbal, conversational systems are much better at abstract reasoning than are the motivational systems that pull our behavior.

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PBRWb2Em5SNeWYwwB/humans-are-not-automatically-strategic

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

the right combination of calmness and urgency

[...]

Inspiration is perishable and life goes by fast. Inaction is a particularly insidious type of risk.

https://blog.samaltman.com/what-i-wish-someone-had-told-me

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

At its shining moment, Twitter was like the Tower of Babel before it fell.

https://www.wired.com/story/del-harvey-twitter-trust-and-safety-breaks-her-silence/

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

“a seamless web of deserved trust” in which a company deals fairly with employees, customers, competitors and other constituencies

https://archive.is/kPK8a / https://www.wsj.com/finance/investing/charlie-munger-life-money-ae3853ad

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

flavours of excellence

[...]

Any power granted through affiliation with a person or institution is borrowed power. This is not necessarily bad and is often incredibly useful. But operate with the wariness that it is not truly yours.

[...]

building things that last: long-standing relationships, capability, and intuition

[...]

11. Tactile, manual labor is good for you

There was a multi-week period where I would spend 14 hours a day at my laptop. My body was just a vessel to send code/words to us-west-2. I picked up some machining work to counter this and felt better.

[...]

Getting sunlight first thing in the morning has been helpful to keep my sleep schedule on track. It’s also a good excuse to start the day with a walk.

https://anson.substack.com/p/look-what-the-cat-brought-in

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

my 2024 intent: to be stupidly brave

https://twitter.com/visakanv/status/1741058281517490357

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

Living in India is high cognitive load on the system.

It’s just too much people management

https://twitter.com/cubanheat/status/1740954153315422344

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

don't let me catch you having opinions about Wittgenstein before you hit $50M ARR

[...]

do not confuse academic curiosity in successful founders as anything other than a cute affectation.

https://twitter.com/zhayitong/status/1740593401052193118

it's not what people want to hear, but if you want to create a generational company, have to put most hobbies away, which makes you temporarily uninteresting

https://twitter.com/lsukernik/status/1740708565957152816

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

do you get a distinct sense when someone is "managing" you?

what's it like? what gives it away?

surface-level attentiveness to my concerns while consistently being unable to/refusing to pass my ITT and integrate my POV into the shared POV we use together

https://twitter.com/quotidiania/status/1740798348876234941

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

Did anybody else like to lean on the window of the bus as a kid and let the vibrations violently shake your skull and brain?

https://twitter.com/saltydkdan/status/1739831825701171605

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

Personally, I suspect he likes the idea of radical change because he's an intensely intelligent man who is easily bored by the everyday world. He finds it impossible to believe that it makes sense to continue, as human beings, in our exact same form. "Do we really want more of what we have now?" he asks, sounding incredulous. "More millennia of the same old human soap opera? Surely we have played out most of the interesting scenarios already in terms of human relationships in a trivial framework. What I'm talking about transcends all that. There'll be far more interesting stories. And what is life but a set of stories?"

https://www.wired.com/1995/10/moravec/#extinction
via https://twitter.com/gwern/status/1700958056228483404

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

YouTube Shorts is freaking scary. Apparently I do not have the self control to handle Shorts and every 30 days I tell YouTube to hide them. If that feature goes away I think I just need to cancel my YouTube Premium subscription and block the site.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38783195

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

tempo is the most important thing when you’re building something new & big

https://twitter.com/fkasummer/status/1739013538385957370

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ivan commented Dec 31, 2023

tfw ur decades-long incredibly fascinating career of early post-Cartesian embodied AI research and novel synthesis of minor householder tantra with critique of rationalism is completely overshadowed by your discovery that 600W of LED light on your face feels nice in the winter

https://twitter.com/meekaale/status/1739027086042345681

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

[Duolingo] figured out how to deliver just the right amount of dopamine to keep users on paid subscriptions while slowing the actual pace of learning to an absolute crawl

if users learn their target language quickly, duolingo makes less money.

https://twitter.com/AlexBerish/status/1738381781320028515

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

Underrated quality of HIIT classes is they force you to tolerate significant pain and suffering.

When we're almost never made to do so in any other aspect of cushy modern life.

Feels like a worthwhile thing to be exposed to 1-2x a week. A little reminder of struggle.

https://twitter.com/Mappletons/status/1738523523696439633

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

its important to set aside some time every day for looking at distant objects

https://twitter.com/chromalisque/status/1057038258721513474

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

That’s why I think charnel vision is a healthy thing. A world that desperately celebrates optimism and medicates pessimism is a world that is not truly willing to look at itself and contemplate the death and decay that must necessarily accompany life and growth.

https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2023/12/21/charnel-vision/

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

FINDING A FUTURE: SELF-NARRATIVE AND SELF-TRUST

The facility for viewing one’s life as a narrative may be what’s missing in addiction. And the loss of an accessible self-narrative corresponds with clues that the dorsolateral PFC becomes partially disconnected from the motivational core, both in episodes of now appeal and over the long-term course of addiction. My focus on the left dorsolateral PFC, although partly speculative, can help make sense of what goes wrong when people seem unable to quit. Not only are memories and ambitions difficult to access, but the sense of time as a linear dimension, connecting now to later, is replaced by a sense of time as cyclical—the right hemisphere’s proclivity. Instead of a future stretching out ahead, addicts can only imagine the reiteration of the present. If this is an accurate picture, then reconnecting the left dorsolateral PFC with the motivational core would allow desire and perspective to work together, and that might be the best way, in fact the only way, to build a road from the present to the future.

Addicts experience something breathtaking when they can stretch their vision of themselves from the immediate present back to the past that shaped them and forward to a future that’s attainable and satisfying. It feels like shifting from momentary blobs of experience to the coherence of being a whole person. It feels like being the author and advocate of one’s own life. It feels like being real.

Now imagine what that means for the capacity to trust one’s own judgements, values, instincts, and attainments. From making choices that are obviously self-destructive, there is a shift to making choices that are self-enhancing and self-sustaining. The value of this transformation cannot be overstated. Addicts can live for years without experiencing a kernel of self-trust. Why trust that you will actually be different when the evidence suggests that you’ll go on being the same? Why believe that you can pursue what’s beneficial rather than what’s immediately available, when you’ve bypassed that junction a thousand times?

To experience a sense of continuity between me now, me then, and me in the future is precious. But when it’s been missing for a while, perhaps for one’s whole life, it’s not easy to find. It requires a perspective that can only be obtained by addressing the future in the context of the past. And it requires one other thing, one fundamental resource: desire itself. There’s no way to reach forward with determination and hope unless you want badly to get there.

Marc Lewis - The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

do you ever think about how for a decade or so we could just make weird little animations and games and things in flash with almost no prior knowledge, like you could just have a bad idea and work on it that same day and share it online. and now we don't have that at all

https://twitter.com/innesmck/status/1736866727634616532

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

My own theory with "Right Way Guys" is that some people have been able to find a lot of success by leveraging the knowledge that's stored in the hivemind of society. They don't really know what they're doing when you consider what's going on inside their skull. But they have successfully copied success up till now. The plus side is that they're able to inherit successful methodologies that have survived over time without having to do all the hard work themselves. The down side is that they literally don't understand when they're in a scenario where it will lead to failure.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=38709586

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

Balmer took 8% equity [in Microsoft] to cancel the profit share

Most of that came from Gates’s end

Then Balmer just never sold

https://twitter.com/patrick_oshag/status/1737233878429966666

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

I've talked about this before as has @therobotjames - your positions should always be driven by the exposures you want to have, not primarily driven by what the market gives you. Even if your conviction doesn't change, you sometimes need to adjust your exposures in response to the market to avoid taking outsized risk in a small number of names - particularly important in a volatile market (like crypto ... but also single-name equities!)

https://twitter.com/macrocephalopod/status/1741826679310303519

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

What separates the top 3-5 firms from the tier 2 firms after them?" - a thread by my colleague

I've carried out a lot of #quant research interviews & ran a fund. I've noticed that junior candidates tend to obsess over vanity metrics like alpha, latency, AUM, Sharpe, etc. These are important, but here's 3 things that are probably more predictive of a firm's success.

When you look at tier 1 and 2 firms in any niche, they all have strong QRs and engineers, pedigree, similar tech, capital, shared knowledge of microstructure tricks. So you can't explain what sets them apart by simple vanity metrics—maybe you could have prior to 2012—but not now.

Instead, most of the differentiation is explained by 3 things:

1. Production cycle. How often do they miss the market open after a major change like a protocol update? What happens between code review and deployment for a new feature/strategy/signal?

How fast is it to port over a strategy inspired at an old job? From Python scripts and notebooks to production? What's the marginal work to add the next symbol? The next market? The next data center? The next asset class?

2. Operational efficiency. Asymptotically, a trading firm is like a glorified recruiting business. A lot of success is explained by how you incentivize employees, attract talent, ensure smooth succession, set compensation.

The top firms are very good at making you want to stay on just another year because the bonus was just good enough to retain you. Also, are they at the pareto frontier for buy-vs-build?

How concentrated is the firm on key persons for the final go-ahead on a strategy or deployment? Good resource sharing between teams? How efficient is the colo/data procurement process in supporting the sequence of new market rollout?

3. Scale. Market access, fees, connectivity, regulatory capture. People to do the less glorious grunt work like data preprocessing, CI/CD, BOD/EOD pipelines, exchange relationship management, config management, etc. Do they have a good market simulator?

There's a selection bias for these 3 things. Meaning, it's tempting to chalk this up to competence ex post of a firm's success. But there's a surprising amount of luck involved. e.g. Hiring 1-2 right persons at the right time. Chancing upon the right infrastructure decisions.

So if you're interviewing with a firm that's trying to break into tier 1, these are things I would ask about.

https://twitter.com/christinaqi/status/1736791355232596316

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

One thing I really love about seedy anime websites and YouTube mp3 converters is like. They actually do what they say they’re doing. But they WILL try to trick you into downloading a virus. Like it’s almost just a greeting at this point. I try to extract a song from a YouTube video and it says free VPN installer tonight perhaps? Free VPN installer tonight queen? And I say YouTube-mp3 converter you sly dog, you know what I’m here for. Show me the goods. And YouTube-mp3 converter says ahhh you got me, no getting one over on you. Thought it was worth a try tho. Here you go king x

https://boykisses.tumblr.com/post/736546102329950208/one-thing-i-really-love-about-seedy-anime-websites (via)

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ivan commented Jan 1, 2024

there's a lot of money in being dumb enough to not understand the externalities of your behavior until you've harvested the fruits

https://twitter.com/alicemazzy/status/1736587660091646034

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ivan commented Jan 2, 2024

if i might be so boring, i think websites should look like websites, not posters or billboards

https://twitter.com/joodalooped/status/1741511560374222863

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ivan commented Jan 2, 2024

my most elitist opinion is that design by non-technical people is often a mistake

if you do not know the true constraints, you will make up your own

https://twitter.com/joodalooped/status/1740299413170618511

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ivan commented Jan 2, 2024

To make sure I understand the situation, and so I can do more of it, what exactly makes me weird?

https://twitter.com/bryan_johnson/status/1739415803697435082

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ivan commented Jan 2, 2024

Do you need to read all of these [books]? Only if you want to know the things inside, I guess.

https://nick-black.com/dankwiki/index.php/Book_list_for_streetfighting_computer_scientists

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ivan commented Jan 7, 2024

Rather than being a case of mass narcissism, the concern with one’s self-image and profile reflects first and foremost the social proliferation of second-order observation. It has taken hold in all social systems, including the “intimacy system” of personal relations. To perceive that one is seen, and how one is seen, is only rational in a society where second-order observation prevails. In fact, it represents an advanced mode of perception that is more complex, more socially attuned, and therefore more mature than clinging to the problematic notion of some authentic appearance, or personal identity, which is supposed to exist independently of being seen.

[...]

Second-order observers are highly critical. Once we realize that we do not watch the world directly but as it is presented to us, we are in a position to question how and why it is presented in the way it is being presented. This is not really possible in the mode of first-order observation where the world appears as a matter of fact. In second-order observation, facts are replaced by presentations of facts. This difference is crucial. In second-order observation we are aware, for instance, that a photo has been staged, edited, and displayed for a specific purpose. We learn to judge if this presentation is accurate, or in accordance with expectations or norms.

[...]

Negatively speaking, second-order observation fractures the world and makes it impossible to reduce it to one binding perspective, or rationality, or type of reason. Every second-order observation establishes its own rationales, but it does so in relation and in response to other perspectives.

[...]

Under conditions of profilicity, the criteria of validity for serving as a peer change rather drastically. When the point is no longer to be seen but rather to be seen as being seen, then the actual presence of a peer becomes less important. It is taken for granted that my immediate peers see me anyway. My public profiles are not really addressed to them, so they do not really count as relevant observers.

[...]

In a discussion on the news website Axios, Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, revealed the “thought process” behind the construction of this major social media platform. Parker said that he and the other creators of Facebook were trying to find a way to “consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible.” In other words, they wanted to construct a medium that would get people addicted—at least this is what Parker suggested when he continued to explain: “And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while.” The addictiveness should be as widespread and mainstream as possible, and not be built on something illicit or morally questionable such as pornography or gambling. As Parker candidly stresses, the idea was about finding and “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” Parker, however, is not a social scientist or philosopher, and it is therefore unsurprising that he fails to mention other important dimensions of his pursuit. More appropriately, he should have said that he and his colleagues were looking to exploit not only a psychological but also a sociological and existential vulnerability. Ultimately, the “vulnerability” they homed in on was the human need to build identity—and to do so under postsincere and postauthentic conditions. This is what Facebook set out to do: provide a global online forum for everyone in the world to perform their profilic identity work.

[...]

This is why the addiction is so strong, and far more than merely physiological. It is possible to continue to be oneself without the next nicotine, alcohol, or even heroin fix. Indeed, one may even seem to be more oneself without these. But it is much harder to continue being oneself without validation of one’s identity, especially since we continuously form our identities precisely through such validation.

[...]

Social media users’ identity work consists in a feedback loop of posting, liking, commenting, or “whatever,” to paraphrase Parker. It is simultaneously work on one’s self-image and work for the general peer. By commenting on someone else’s profile, we contribute both to the validation of that profile and to the projection of our own. Every comment can draw further comments. On social media, every “user” (interestingly enough, the term “user” is also a reference for drug addicts) is both a profilic self-presenter and a constituent of the general peer. This makes social media strikingly different from traditional mass media like books, TV, or movies. There, the roles of presenter and audience are separate. Social media, to the contrary, is “interactive.” It achieves a higher level of personal involvement and provides a more intense forum for identity work.

[...]

It is crucial to stress: information, in this sense, does not simply indicate an item of “meaning.” I can look at the same picture of a cat again and it still makes sense in the same way, but it has lost its information value because I have seen it before. Precisely because of this split between “sense value” and “information value,” mass media and social media work unlike many other systems, such as law or academia. This is also what makes them so hungry. Information immediately destructs itself and needs to be replaced by new information. And so many websites are now feeds.

[...]

Our profilic self-portraits demand more intense attention than ever before. In sincerity and authenticity, identity needs to be maintained and developed, but it is not subjected to the same feeding frenzy as in profilicity. Profilic identity, on and off the web, is to a large extent constituted by information, not simply by meaning. It needs to be constantly updated. A publication list that has no recent publications is worthless. A résumé that is blank for the past year will not get you a job. A new trip, a new activity, a new feeling are crucial to maintaining an active and presentable personal profile.

[...]

Formilan and Stark use a highly pertinent word to describe the kind of identity work that goes into constructing and presenting personas. Personas are “curated.” Under conditions of profilicity (Formilan and Stark call it “projected identity”), a persona is “intended as a test put out into the society and continuously revised, updated, refined. Out of this process, identity develops as a curatorship”.

[...]

Maybe, given the social and technological developments of recent decades, it no longer makes much sense to speak of human beings as “autonomous individuals”; and maybe we must realize that we exist in a highly complex society and are embedded deeply in its social networks. Therein control, especially by the single individual, is limited. How we look and what we think and feel are highly contingent upon the lifeworld we inhabit, and it seems much of these aspects of life are simply not up to us. Maybe they never were.

[...]

The functioning of surveillance society cannot really be understood if it is measured against the ideal of authenticity. Instead, the rise of surveillance society should be seen in connection with the rise of a different identity technology. For better or worse, surveillance is applied so widely and functions so efficiently today, not because it impedes authenticity but because it works so well along with profilicity.

[...]

Profilicity allows for a rather different understanding of privacy than authenticity. From an authenticity perspective, surveillance is aimed at peeping into the private sphere of an individual, or into the core self, in order to discipline or manipulate it. But algorithms are not interested in authentic individuals; they do not want to know who one really is, beneath what their actions reveal about them. They are interested in specific behavioral patterns, in preferences and performances in various areas.

[...]

Profiles are transparent. This is what they are made for. Our academic publications can be looked up anytime and anywhere on our Google Scholar profiles. These profiles make transparent how others academically see us. However, by knowing the totality of our scholarly profile, you still do not know us privately.

Profiles and profilic identity do not invade privacy; to the contrary, they establish a public identity beyond and largely detached from privacy. We identify with our public profiles and, where we can, curate them to establish and express images of ourselves, but these profiles do not, and are not meant to, represent all that we think and feel. And there is no key to unlock a “core self” within them.

[...]

Moral speech has always been highly important for achieving moral identity, but it can also rouse suspicion. Confucius already pointed this out more than two thousand years ago:

There was a time, when in my dealings with others, on hearing what they had to say, I believed they would live up to it. Nowadays in my dealings with others, on hearing what they have to say, I then watch what they do.

Under conditions of sincerity, virtuous speech was not regarded as good enough. To the contrary, on its own it tended to be seen as dubious. Others might easily doubt the sincerity of someone who continuously stressed her morality. Is this person just bragging? Moral speech and virtue signaling needed validation by moral conduct. In profilicity, this is somewhat different.

Today, people are still expected to walk the walk, not just talk the talk—but we often have no way to actually “watch what they do,” as Confucius did. Most of the people Confucius dealt with were in one way or another present to him, so he could see how they acted in daily life. Today, this is not always so. We are not in a position to judge what Taylor Swift, the person, really thinks when her profilic persona posts something on the internet. We are also unable to judge what she really does—because all that we know about her is what mass and social media tell us. We know her profile, and we know that we only know the profile.

We have no hope, no need, and perhaps no wish to get to know her privately.

[...]

This is why moral communication is so crucial today. The general peer cannot observe that we actually act virtuously, because it is not present. It sees only that our speech acts are seen as virtuous or not. Virtue is displayed to the general peer in form of virtue speech. We display our virtue by making virtuous observations, by displaying moral speech, by communicating ethics. What is now often called “virtue signaling,” or, more crudely, “political correctness,” is a form of moral communication where, by making moral observations, we exhibit ourselves for further moral observation. We inscribe our own moral profile into profilic moral validation feedback loops.

[...]

Rather recently, moral self-profiling has become part of the regular employment and promotion processes in the academic system as well. Many universities in the United States now require people applying for a job or for tenure to write a so-called diversity statement. In analogy to a “teaching statement,” it is expected to outline an academic’s views on how to professionally promote the morally charged value of diversity (regarding especially race, gender, and sexual orientation). As the office of Graduate Studies at the University of Nebraska states: “You can safely assume that any university that requests [a diversity statement] is very committed to inclusivity and supporting their diverse population so they are looking for someone who would be supportive of that mission.” This only states the obvious: academics are not expected here to question the value of diversity. They are expected, instead, to express their support of it. No candidate who is interested in getting or keeping a job at a university that demands such a statement would dare to disclose any potential disagreement with this value. Therefore the function of the statement cannot really be to find out how sincerely or authentically committed someone is to diversity.

Diversity statements need to be understood in the context of profilicity rather than sincerity or authenticity. The official requirement of such statements is itself an act of virtue speech. A university uses this requirement to signal very clearly—to the applicant, to itself (its employees, students, stake holders), and to the public—its moral stance on diversity. It thus feeds its moral profile. Job applicants, correspondingly, are forced to engage in a practical virtue speech exercise signaling profilic alignment with the institution they hope to join. While their sincere or authentic commitment to diversity cannot be tested, their competence in casting themselves as diversity supporters is indeed tested. Whether this fosters sincere dedication to or an authentic pursuit of diversity in the applicant or by the institution is irrelevant for the procedure. It is relevant only to see if those who write such statements are willing and able to produce virtue speech and incorporate it into their professional profiles.

[...]

“One can only become the leader if he is capable of manipulating how he is observed,” says Niklas Luhmann (2013, 119; translation modified) in explaining how politics work under conditions of second-order observation, especially in democracies where elections are political popularity contests.

[...]

In the economy, profiles make money. In politics, they grant power. In academia, they establish “truth,” or at least credibility.

High-profile academics find it easy to publish. They get invited as keynote speakers to major conferences where hundreds or thousands listen to them. Afterward, these hundreds or thousands of lower-profile scholars split up into tiny panels listening to one another’s exegeses of high-profile academics.

This is one of the major frustrations that come with profilicity: only a few can be high profile. The rest must remain low profile and find a way to cope with their situation. In sincerity, everyone can be sincere. You need only your immediate peers—your family members, for instance—to confirm your sincerity to you. In authenticity, one way of feeling especially unique is to self-identify as the genius unrecognized by the masses. One can feel content living authentically only if a few people realize authenticity; after all, everyone else is fake. These strategies don’t really work in profilicity. Your family members’ likes don’t really count, and the unseen profile is all but worthless. Just as in the capitalist economy, the profilicity lottery only increases the gap between those who are really successful and those who are not.

[...]

In tight-knit communities, social roles dominate, and one is expected to live as an onion. Where this happens, pressure to conform can become immense. Role-related beliefs about how one should behave, think, and feel are thick enough, sufficiently extensive in their reach, and held by enough of one’s peers that people can drown in a sea of external expectations—a veritable regime of sincerity. Whenever sincerity becomes such a regime, for instance, in the form of an oppressive Confucian ideology or a strict Puritan ethos, social expectations rooted in role-based standards can easily become harmful to individuals and societies. Suicides in rural China provide a contemporary example of how the demands of sincerity can become unbearable.

Until about two decades ago, China had one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and suicide was particularly common in rural areas. Along with rapid modernization, economic growth, and urbanization, the suicide rate fell spectacularly. Still, China stands out in one respect: It “is one of the few countries in the world that has a higher suicide rate by women over men.”

As empirical research suggests, both the prevalence of female over male suicide and the prevalence of rural over urban suicide can be related to a continued regime of sincerity in a pre-industrialized setting where women, given their subordinated status, suffer even more from role pressures than men. Such factors seem to outweigh mental illness as a decisive suicide trigger. Introducing an extensive collection of case studies on suicide in China, Wu Fei points out:

In [Chinese] stories of suicide, some psychological factors certainly play important roles, but we would be greatly oversimplifying them if we were to define them with current psychiatric terminologies. . . . Because people who suffer domestic injustice are likely to become depressed and commit suicide, of course psychiatry will play an important role in the control of suicide; but people do not merely want to be mentally healthy. They also want to be happy and lucky, and this is already beyond the reach of psychiatry. After a long period of fieldwork on suicide, I have come to understand suicide [in China] from the perspective of justice.

Wu’s notions of “justice” and “injustice” are directly tied to social roles and relationships, as the stories of suicide he recounts demonstrate. “Justice” indicates for Wu treatment in accordance with a role identity that enables a person to assume their proper social position and to be “happy.” Those who suffer “injustice” feel that they have been treated in a way that fundamentally undermines their role identity and prevents them from engaging in proper relationships. They cannot be “happy.”

Many of the suicide motives that Wu mentioned might astonish Western readers, but they make perfect sense in the context of a Confucianism-informed regime of sincerity: “There was no egg in his soup while everyone else had it”; “His daughter-in-law hid steamed buns from him”; “His sons mistreated him”; “Her husband blamed her for the mistreatment of her grandmother”; “His father blamed him for not carrying water”; “As a prostitute she could not marry her lover.” In each case, a person has been denied recognition of their role identity within their community. Not to receive one’s proper food is considered expulsion from the family; to be mistreated by one’s sons is considered the destruction of one’s status as father. Blame for not having fulfilled one’s role obligations (serving one’s grandmother, carrying water) is perceived as de facto ejection from one’s kinship group. The inability to marry prevents one from achieving central role-identity characteristics, and such a situation can be highly precarious, especially for those who are already at the bottom of the role hierarchy. If identity can be found only in successful role fulfillment and community relationships, then a denial of role recognition is perceived as catastrophic. Since the onion has no pit, there is no “personal core” that one can retreat to.

Under a harsh regime of sincerity, it is impossible to achieve identity if one’s role enactment is thoroughly frustrated. In such cases the only way out, it may seem, is to let the onion, that is, one’s network of relationships, crumble. Without a “pit,” proactive agency is difficult to establish on one’s own, so suicide, as a radical form of “passive aggression,” becomes an option. By killing oneself, the subject who is denied personhood within the family brings severe disrepute to that family and thereby shames and socially punishes it. If someone feels that they have “lost face”—that is, their identity—at the hands of their family, they can in turn make the whole family lose face by committing suicide. The family is publicly exposed as dysfunctional and violating proper role enactment. The act of suicide serves as an act of revenge for the injustice received—the denial of role identity—and is intended to bring the perceived perpetrators to justice by harming their reputation and status within the local community.

[...]

Systemic role incompatibilities under a regime of sincerity are the norm, not the exception—and they reveal the underlying paradox of sincerity. Typically, a sincerity ethos will claim that roles within social organizations—the family is the prime example—are not “socially constructed” but grounded in natural or divine law. The Catholic Church, for instance, maintains that marriage can mean a lifelong partnership only between one man and one woman and considers any alternative to this both unnatural and against God’s will. Similarly, Confucians will emphasize that lifelong affectionate submission to one’s parents has little to do with social conventions but is an inborn human trait as exemplified by semidivine role models. Any deviation from such submission can be considered wrong and “perverse.”

In addition to family structures, both the Christian and the Confucian traditions also justified various feudal political structures as reflecting the same natural or divine order.

The counterfactual logic of sincerity suggests that one can build a coherent personality through various social roles because they are manifestations of an overarching divine plan, a moral order, or (human) nature.

[...]

The transition from sincerity to authenticity is linked with modernization. Francis Fukuyama, in his book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, makes up a simple story to show how someone who grows up under the conditions of sincerity might shift to value authenticity:

Consider the situation of a young peasant, Hans, who grows up in a small village in Saxony. Hans’s life in the little village is fixed: he is living in the same house as his parents and grandparents; he is engaged to a girl whom his parents found acceptable; he was baptized by the local priest; and he plans to continue working the same plot of land as his father. It doesn’t occur to Hans to ask “Who am I?” . . . However, he hears that big opportunities are opening up in the rapidly industrializing Ruhr valley, so he travels to Düsseldorf to get a job in a steel factory there. . . . He is no longer under the thumb of his parents and local priest and finds people with different religious affiliations than those in his village. He is still committed to marrying his fiancée but tempted by some of the local women he has met, and he feels a bracing sense of freedom in his personal life. . . . For the first time in his life, Hans can make choices about how to live his life, but he wonders who he really is and what he would like to be. The question of identity, which would never have been a problem back in his village, now becomes central.

The predictability of Hans’s life in his village was so encompassing that he never thought about his own identity. In Düsseldorf everything changes. Fukuyama says that Hans “can” make choices. More accurately, Hans has to make choices. And he does not just “wonder” about who he is. The question of identity demands an answer. (Just remember your own teenage struggles to figure out who you are.) Identity as authenticity came to characterize modern life in a way previously unknown. The old sincerity has survived in certain areas of life, but its dominance is gone. Only on the fringes of society, such as among the Amish perhaps, does it still strongly pervade entire communities.

When authenticity grew out from philosophical inquiry, past religious and artistic experiences, and beyond Hans’s basic question of identity, it contributed to reshaping the political landscape, uprooting hierarchies, overturning monarchs, and developing democracies. The individual’s claim to be recognized as such gained more and more currency. Although early attempts to grant individual rights were not greatly inclusive, over time people of color, women, and homosexuals fought for and acquired many of the same rights as straight white men. In the wake of these developments, a new sociopolitical attitude became increasingly popular. More nuanced characteristics of individual personality were announced inherently important and in need of sociopolitical recognition. Identity politics was born, eventually also inspiring a revival of the sincerity ethos, but in a new form. This development left what may be called a postauthentic “political new sincerity” in its wake.

According to Fukuyama, identity politics arose out of the modern idea that there is an “authentic self buried deep inside us” and the fear that “society doesn’t give it adequate recognition.” Thus “the problem is not how do you bring the individual into compliance with society, the problem becomes how do you change the society. Society is wrong and the inner self is right” (Ezra Klein Show). This view, in turn, can foster the divisive feeling that “the authentic people in my group are the good people and everyone else is bad” (Commonwealth Club). Fukuyama suggests that the social divisions created by identity politics may be addressed by revitalizing the conception of a “national identity”—which is supposed to replace the primacy of the authentic identity paradigm.

[...]

One case in point is Francis Fukuyama’s rather striking (mis-)assessment of Donald Trump. Here profilicity is mistaken as authenticity.

Fukuyama writes: “Trump was the perfect practitioner of the ethics of authenticity that defines our age: he may be mendacious, malicious, bigoted, and unpresidential, but at least he says what he thinks.” Trump’s Twitter posts are cited as illustrative examples of his “authenticity.” They suggest, according to Fukuyama, that Trump is saying what he really thinks and feels. Unlike the tweets of George Bush or Barack Obama, which were obviously vetted for political incorrectness and intended to garner appeal, Trump is harsh, offensive, and downright nasty, but precisely therein he is judged to be authentic.

However, this so-called perfect practitioner of the ethics of authenticity is actually a self-made mass media project through and through. He is well-known for his prior successes and failures in branding, in projects ranging from steaks to hotels. And, as is widely acknowledged, his electoral victory was to a large extent due to his and his team’s social media savvy. The obviously curated nature of Trump’s public image and persona is hardly an expression of a core inner self, and thus it is difficult to consider the former host of The Apprentice a model of authenticity. Trump’s “inauthenticity” is, moreover, not masked. The president is, as Vox put it, “weirdly honest about his lying.” His account of the creation of his core electoral catchphrase “Drain the swamp” is a paradigmatic example: “Funny how that term caught on, isn’t it? I tell everyone: I hated it! Somebody said, “Drain the swamp.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s so hokey. That is so terrible.’ I said, ‘All right. I’ll try it.’ So like a month ago, I said, ‘Drain the swamp.’ The place went crazy. I said, ‘Whoa. Watch this.’ Then I said it again. Then I started saying it like I meant it, right? And then I said it, I started loving it.” Trump represents neither the sincere statesman-like father of the nation nor the rugged individual whose every utterance reveals his authentic inner self and convictions. Instead, he embodies a political triumph of profilicity. He says what he says because it furthers his profilicity-based popularity, not because it is authentic. His audience doesn’t care that he uses phrases only to please them—they are still pleased! Many of his followers do not take him as authentic but love his staged public persona and the way he mocks his political opponents’ increasingly unconvincing attempts to be authentic. While profilicity appears from the perspective of authenticity as a “weirdly honest” lie, authenticity appears from the perspective of profilicity as a weirdly dishonest truthfulness.

[...]

Still, the desire to move back from, or beyond, authenticity and individualism is rather limited today. Jordan Peterson, whose quasi-commonsensical, anti-PC, no-bs commentary on current issues has gained even more fame than the “man-up” self-help philosophy on which it is founded, audaciously states:

The fundamental assumptions of Western civilization are valid! How about that? You think it’s an accident? Here’s how you find out, ok. Which countries do people want to move away from? Hey, not ours! Which countries do people want to move to? Ours! Guess what, they work better. And it’s not because we went around the world stealing everything we could get our hands on. It’s because we got certain fundamental assumptions right, thank God for that! After thousands and thousands of years of trying. And because of that we’ve managed to establish a set of civilizations that are shining lights in the world. . . . [We aren’t that great] but nonetheless, you know, we’re as good as it’s got. And unless we can come up with something better, we should be very careful about messing around with that. So why don’t we start with the assumption that we are doing something right? One of the things we are doing right, for example, is that we actually value the individual, right? The individual has intrinsic value in Western societies. Do you know how long it took for people to formulate that as an idea? And how unlikely that idea is that poor you, you know, useless powerless you, with all your damn faults, you’re actually worth something! You’re worth something to the point that the law has to respect you. God! We don’t want to abandon that for some half-witted collectivism, which we’re doing as rapidly as possible. Because one of the things that characterizes the radical Left types is, they don’t give a damn about you as an individual, or about individuals at all. You’re black or you’re white, you’re Latino, or you’re transsexual or you’re homosexual, whatever. You’re a group, you’re a member of a group, and the only thing that matters is the group. Well I can tell you, if the only thing that matters is the group, you bloody well don’t matter very much!

The “group” Peterson criticizes is not the premodern tribe Junger idealizes. But still, Peterson’s defense of individualism, and his general attitude in his lectures and texts, gives little credence to old-fashioned sincerity (despite his own personal life). It took thousands of years for Western societies to shed themselves of stringent collectivist, role-based identity, and Peterson hopes we never go back. Although many thinkers are less enthusiastic about this development, most share Peterson’s historical depiction of progress.

[...]

THE PARADOXES OF AUTHENTICITY

The Iranian American journalist and Catholic convert Sohrab Ahmari describes his own childhood difficulties with the inward turn of authenticity. Growing up in Iran, he was, like his parents, rebelling against institutionalized Islam. Ahmari did, however, feel a strong need for some type of guidance: “I longed for some cosmic and moral absolutes. Yet the only absolute command that my father handed down to me was: ‘Be yourself.’ It was maddening. Who was this ‘self’ dwelling inside me, to whom I owed such fidelity? My father wouldn’t say.”

More than simply difficult, however, this dictum is fundamentally paradoxical. Ahmari’s father wasn’t letting his son “be himself,” he was commanding it. Ahmari first had to learn that he should “be himself ” and then figure out, through the examples of others, what “being yourself ” meant: “Hadn’t my father urged me to be myself to cut my own path across life’s thicket of choices? Well, I would do just that. It didn’t occur to me at the time that, in the name of independence and originality, I was, in fact, adopting someone else’s persona, a prefabricated cultural type”. Idealizing comic book heroes, writers, artists, and film directors, Ahmari chronicles his early teenage attempts at “being himself.” As with anyone else, his authenticity was all about trying on other people’s costumes and seeing which ones were comfortable for a time. He could only “discover” himself by imitating models, and his models were, predictably enough, Nietzsche, then French “Existentialists,” then Marxism, and finally Christianity.

[...]

Posner tries to be unique by rejecting other people’s expectations of him. But he eventually realizes that the rejection of other people’s expectations is, paradoxically, also a reaction to their expectations—it is not doing simply one’s own thing and being authentic. Under a regime of authenticity, everyone feels obliged to be authentic. Individuality is a demand enforced by a crowd. By countering the expectations of society and trying to be special, I fulfill society’s expectation to be special. Or, as Elena Esposito puts it, “nothing is as unoriginal as the desire to be original.”

Today, the discovery of the inauthenticity of authenticity, as in Posner’s case, is a common experience. Suspicion hangs like a dark cloud over authenticity. It is increasingly railed against by those who see the promise of pure, stark, awe-inspiring, and unconquerable authenticity as not only paradoxical but ultimately unfulfillable. Before authenticity became the norm, however, in the transitional period from sincerity to authenticity, its discovery could still be perceived as a marvelous revelation, full of promises of grandeur and originality. One prime example is Jean Jacques Rousseau’s (1813/1953) autobiographical celebration of his own authenticity in the Confessions. He sees himself in opposition to convention and brazenly claims to be completely one-of-a-kind: “I know my own heart and understand my fellow man. But I am made unlike any one I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. I may be no better, but at least I am different. Whether Nature did well or ill in breaking the mold in which she formed me, is a question which can only be resolved after the reading of my book”.

[...]

Identity is constantly negotiated and renegotiated on both a personal and a social level. While, by definition, identity is that which is regarded as constant about us as particular subjects, it turns out to be subject to ongoing transformations. Identity is, somewhat absurdly, nonidentical to itself. It is, nevertheless, necessary.

Identity is needed: psychologically for individuals to be able to function but also politically for shaping communities and forming social organizations. Yet there is no core dimension of identity that can firmly ground it; one’s particular race or ethical commitments do not fully identify that person. Therefore technologies of identity are needed to make identity, against all odds, plausible. This is what sincerity, authenticity, and profilicity do. None of them is perfect, or necessarily better than the others; all serve the purpose of integrating various incongruent levels and dimensions of identity.

The main function of identity is to establish and uphold stability of personhood; identity merges the different aspects of a person into a whole. It promises reliability and recognizability on which trust and (self-)confidence can be built, and to which pride and value, including economic and political value, can be attached. From time to time, however, cracks between different dimensions of personhood come to the fore, and what we normally must take to be a coherent and congruent identity falls apart. Identity is a counterfactual but necessary postulate that allows us to reduce overwhelming human complexity to manage-able simplicity—so that human complexity can further evolve.

[...]

Unlike what Knodt’s expression “hermeneutic despair” might suggest, however, the gaps between the systemic dimensions body, mind, and social persona are by no means a depressing flaw of the human condition. Quite to the contrary, these gaps open up space for evolving complexity and development. They make possible biological, mental, and social flexibility, productivity, creativity, diversity, and “freedom.” Humans are different from artificial intelligence precisely because the human body (including the brain) does not mechanically program what exactly we think and how we feel. Our thoughts and feelings take shape within a highly dynamic environment, most crucially constituted by our body and our social surroundings. Because of this systemic multiplicity, each systemic realm—mind, society, and body—can emerge in its own autopoietic way. Yes, we cannot really be sure what someone, including ourselves, really means when they say something. But precisely because of the systemic separation between communication and minds, the need for interpretation ensues, and thus we can have, for instance, psychology, philosophy, and literature. And, probably more important, precisely therefore we can also have love as we know it, namely, as a very complex and dynamic form of human interrelationship involving all kinds of social, psychological, and bodily bonds, exchanges, and interpretations. If, indeed, we would fully understand one another, like two connected computers having complete access to each other’s data, love might not make sense.

[...]

That our body does not determine our mind and social persona is by no means a terrifying insight, and particularly not so if this body happens to be female or black. Modifying Hegel’s famous dictum that freedom consists in the insight into necessity, it could be said (in line with Hegel’s intentions, as we believe) that, more precisely speaking, freedom actually consists in the insight into the contingency of what was presumed to be necessary. In other words, identity is free once we realize that there is no need to overinternalize it.

THE PROBLEM OF IDENTITY

Such freedom is a lot of work—and that this is so is another insight we can derive from Hegel. The toilsome nature of freedom also comes to the fore in identity. It certainly took a lot of effort and courage to make the once highly controversial claim that feminine identity is nothing natural. Moreover, if we do not regard identity as given by birth, then we are posed with the potentially arduous task of somehow achieving it. An advantage of premodern necessity- and congruity-based models of identity, manifesting themselves in regimes of sincerity, is that one does not have to question who one is. If this question does not arise, there is no need for a concept of “identity” in the contemporary sense to begin with.

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Reflecting Kellner’s so-called anthropological folklore, Mead outlines a shift toward a more individual and complex form of identity in what he calls “civilized society.” Identity in civilized society departs from the conventionally prescribed role-identity that prevailed in “primitive society”:

In primitive society, to a far greater extent than in civilized society, individuality is constituted by the more or less perfect achievement of a given social type—a type already given, indicated, or exemplified in the organized pattern of social conduct, in the integrated relational structure of the social process of experience and behavior which the given social group exhibits and is carrying on; in civilized society individuality is constituted rather by the individual’s departure from, or modified realization of, any given social type than by his conformity, and tends to be something much more distinctive and singular and peculiar than it is in primitive human society.

[...]

Erving Goffman already explained the emergence of self and society in a similar way. His analysis of human interaction and the Zhuangzi’s understanding of identity are both conceptions of genuine pretending.

Genuine pretending is not an ideal to follow. It is not an existential model one can chose or not. It is the mode of human existence that gives rise to the formation of identity and society.

Everyone is genuinely pretending all the time. Mothers sincerely committing to their roles are genuinely pretending, just as artists when expressing their authenticity, or YouTubers when curating their profiles. There is nothing wrong with this—and there is no alternative to it. Sanity, at least from our perspective, is best maintained by realizing that personal and social identity can only be genuinely pretended—that one can be a sincere mother or an authentic artist or a profilic YouTuber while at the same time not regarding these identities as binding, essential, or ideal. Truly, they are fluid, temporary, and contingent. Identity participates in the transformation of things. Sanity is challenged when people are either unable to achieve identity at all or when they become identity fundamentalists, disregarding the transformation of identity along with everything else, and overcommitting to supposedly “true” roles, selves, or profiles.

[...]

The most significant Daoist term for social and psychological ease is you 游 (pronounced “yo”). It is used more than one hundred times in the Zhuangzi in different variations and meanings. The term is related to the words for “swimming” and “journey,” and the written character contains the radical “water,” associating it loosely with “flow.” It expresses the idea of a rather effortless, playful, and not goal-oriented motion. “Rambling around without destination” is how A. C. Graham (2001) translated the title of the first chapter of the Zhuangzi: the three-character expression xiaoyao you that ends with you. This expression alludes to the movement of children, or animals, like fish.

[...]

PRESSURES OF PROFILICITY

It is the “slave” in the blood of the vain person . . . that tries to seduce him to good opinions of himself; and it is likewise the slave who straightway kneels down before these opinions, as if he himself were not the one who had called them forth.

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

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The affirmation of genuine pretending is, to speak with Nietzsche, the attitude of the “noble person” who finds the vanity of those who first “try to elicit a good opinion about themselves . . . and who then themselves nevertheless believe this good opinion” quite tasteless. The identity mechanism Nietzsche describes here is the same in all identity technologies. In sincerity, one may eventually believe that one is the devoted role bearer that one wanted to be praised as. In authenticity, one may eventually believe in one’s uniqueness and originality; and in profilicity, one may in fact “kneel down before” the success of one’s profile, “as if he himself were not the one who had called it forth.”

Unquestioned identity work leads to pretended genuineness, or worse. Rather than finding the identity of oneself and others, including profilic identity, good or bad, or right or wrong, the “noble person” will understand how and why identity is achieved. She will be critical, but not judgmental.

Hans-Georg Moeller, Paul J. D'Ambrosio - You and Your Profile: Identity After Authenticity

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ivan commented Jan 10, 2024

The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world.

G. W. F. Hegel, A. V. Miller (translator) - Phenomenology of Spirit

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ivan commented Jan 10, 2024

If you have that opportunity [to travel], take it. [...] Going into a different environment really opened up the brain. It really, really forces you to stretch yourself in a way that always living in the same environment doesn't allow you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHWwq5--nEw&t=21m8s 'Luca Maestri, CFO of Apple'

I've learned that you can spend your life working on your strengths, or you can spend your life working on your weaknesses. And I think it's much more productive at some point just to work on your strengths, because the multiplier is much higher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHWwq5--nEw&t=36m 'Luca Maestri, CFO of Apple'

I tell my guys in finance: I don't want you guys to ever benchmark anybody else, because you can only get bad ideas. We run the finances of Apple with about half the size of some of the companies that I worked for before, that were like a tenth the size of Apple. I have an investor relations group of 2 (two people). I have the group that manages $230B of cash [with] seven [people]. I know when I look at my counterparts in other large companies, they've got multiples of those resources. But we really believe that if we have the right people, we don't need a lot of them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHWwq5--nEw&t=3150s 'Luca Maestri, CFO of Apple'

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ivan commented Jan 10, 2024

The actual moment