5/20 – What’s Next
Hey – Happy Monday!
Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes (as I turn 22 today) and support you have given me throughout the year. You know how I feel about birthdays. Very very excited for the future.
Please email me (hit reply) if you have any questions/requests/etc., I want to be helpful.
Articles to Read.
We make up stories in our minds and then against all evidence, defend them tooth and nail. Understanding why we do this is the key to discovering truth and making wiser decisions.
We tell ourselves stories that are convincing, cheap, and often wrong. We don’t think about how these stories are created, whether they’re right, or how they persist. And we’re often uncomfortable when someone asks us to explain our reasoning.
One of the most common types of advice we give at Y Combinator is to do things that don’t scale. A lot of would-be founders believe that startups either take off or don’t. You build something, make it available, and if you’ve made a better mousetrap, people beat a path to your door as promised. Or they don’t, in which case the market must not exist.
Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.
Consider the predicament of a centipede who starts thinking about which leg to move and winds up going nowhere. It is a familiar problem: Any action we take has so many unforeseen consequences, how can we possibly choose?
The problem is this: We can spend endless time thinking and wind up doing nothing—or, worse, getting involved in the minutiae of a partially baked idea and believing that pursuing it is the same as making progress on the original problem.
A famous physicist offered this advice: “Don’t waste time on obscure fine points that rarely occur.”
Credentialed authorities are comically bad at predicting the future. But reliable forecasting is possible.
he idea for the most important study ever conducted of expert predictions was sparked in 1984, at a meeting of a National Research Council committee on American-Soviet relations. The psychologist and political scientist Philip E. Tetlock was 30 years old, by far the most junior committee member. He listened intently as other members discussed Soviet intentions and American policies. Renowned experts delivered authoritative predictions, and Tetlock was struck by how many perfectly contradicted one another and were impervious to counterarguments.
The result: The experts were, by and large, horrific forecasters. Their areas of specialty, years of experience, and (for some) access to classified information made no difference. They were bad at short-term forecasting and bad at long-term forecasting. They were bad at forecasting in every domain. When experts declared that future events were impossible or nearly impossible, 15 percent of them occurred nonetheless. When they declared events to be a sure thing, more than one-quarter of them failed to transpire. As the Danish proverb warns, “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”
People were outraged in 2014 when Facebook revealed that it had run “psychological experiments” on its users. Yet Facebook changes the way it operates on a daily basis and few complain. Indeed, every change in the way that Facebook operates is an A/B test in which one arm is never run, yet people object to A/B tests but not to either A or B for everyone. Why?
Unease with experiments appears to be general and deep. Widespread random experiments are a relatively new phenomena and the authors speculate that unease reflects lack of familiarity. But why is widespread use of random experiments new? In an earlier post, I wrote about ideas behind their time, ideas that could have come much earlier but didn’t. Random experiments could have come thousands of years earlier but didn’t. Thus, I think the authors have got the story backward. Random experiments generate unease not because they are new, they are new because they generate unease.
You may use the blue bin, but it doesn’t mean you’re helping the environment.
But as much as Canadians love the blue box, “its role in [our] hearts and minds…is much larger than its actual environmental impact,” wrote Dianne Saxe, Ontario’s environmental commissioner, in a report last October. In fact, recycling is one of the least environmentally friendly “environmental” things one can do.
After being picked up, enormous volumes of recyclable waste are unloaded at a local materials-recovery facility (mrf, pronounced like “smurf”), dumped onto conveyor belts, and passed through a battery of sieves, magnets, optical sorters, and manual workers who separate each item into its own stream—plastic, paper, metal, and so on. The batches from each stream are then sent to gigantic balers, squeezed into cubes, and sold, often by middleman companies, to “end markets.” These are the manufacturers, in Canada and around the world, that profit from turning our waste into something new—toilet paper, perhaps, or plastic lawn furniture, egg cartons, or drywall. More than a public service, recycling is largely a commodity business, as dependent on supply and demand as any other. When municipalities produce more recyclable garbage than end markets can absorb, the value of the product decreases, and in the selling market, Canada faces competition from countries across the world.
In 1998, I got an invite to what many consider the first online social network: sixdegrees.com (deceptively, that link will take you to the Wikipedia article about the website and not the website itself; I have no excuse). The invite came in the form of a lengthy email with instructions on how to join. I could either use the website or actually do the entire process via email, adding my friends using a peculiar and precise format in the body of the email. The subject of the email was simply the name of the person who had added me as a friend.
More to Check Out:
– Saying goodbye to Microsoft
– The Fusion Reactor Next Door
– Billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller: Investment Strategy, Market Analysis
– MIT Scientists prove adults learn language to fluency nearly as well as children
– AI: Scary for the Right Reasons
- The last week has been a whirlwind. Last Friday, I officially graduated from University. Today, I turn 22 years old. Tomorrow, I land in Portugal. In 8 days I land back in PHX. In 11 days, I move to San Francisco. That being said, I am very excited for the future – I hope that these will be the hardest 6 months of my life.“I always want it to be a project that, if successful, will make the rest of my career look like a footnote.” – Sam Altman
- Where are you going to be this summer/next year? Let me know!
Thanks so much for reading! Find me on twitter : )