Simply listing my interests doesn’t quite encapsulate everything I’d like to share. Instead, here is a list of the questions that much of my reading and thinking revolves around. Let me know what catches your interest and start a conversation with me! Tell me what questions I should be asking.

  • How can we use internet technology to foster “learning by observing”? I think “learning by doing” is overrated and “learning by shadowing the best” is way underrated.
  • What factors determine or create cultural influence?
  • Why are prediction markets not more common? There is only one popular PM category. (The financial markets)
  • Will we tend towards socialism as a function of wealth like Western Europe? (What makes up American exceptionalism?) What causes it? Is industrialized society a temporary exception which will revert back to forager or evolutionary-past social structures? (context)
  • Will our institutions better account for signaling? Or is it really the Hansonian elephant in the brain? In which cases will we figure out how to pretend to give people what they pretend to want, and actually give them what they actually want.
  • Does environmentalism matter given that it’s often a direct trade-off with development? Alternatively, why is growth so good?
  • What’s the best replacement for religion in a secular society?
  • How do we solve social problems (e.g. obesity, homelessness) given that interventions have historically done little compared to economic development? Which categories of problems (mental illness, potentially) will not get better because of external trends?
  • How can we describe and teach worldviews? Few debates hinge on facts — you can rationalize your way to anything. Worldview is what sets opinion on topics.
  • How much is pre-determined by personality and cognitive traits? (e.g. political worldviews, career paths, and perhaps most disturbingly, happiness levels)
  • How do we better curate information? The web has given us access to nearly everything. Markets (reputation/aggregation platforms) help surface content, but content regresses towards the mean. “Republics” and “benevolent dictators” (editors and curators) are better than democracy (platforms) in this case. How should we think about the tradeoffs of the different systems?
  • How do we better understand and detect the difference between false feelings of insight and true understanding (e.g. Feynman’s experiments with LSD)
  • Assuming that empathy and coalitional signaling are why we’re becoming more progressive (see above), what, if anything, would stop or reverse that?
  • What should we think about the half-life of knowledge?
  • What would effective unschooling look like? Can that be generalized to most of the population, or would it only be worthwhile for X% of kids?
  • Will the Sovereign Individual thesis come true, or will we centralize more (or fall victim to authoritarianism)?
  • Will we tend towards a Malthusian-style Repugnant Conclusion, or shrink to a more “normal” population?
  • Why is so little time spent on choosing what to do relative to time spent doing? How can we change that?
  • Exactly how much knowledge is lost because brilliant people are “sponge” personalities rather than people who love to create written content?
  • How can we uncover information that’s obscured by narratives, without having to learn by direct experience?
  • What views are the free will assumption not compatible with? (e.g. our justice system assumes free will, but would still be consistent with absence of free will under a utilitarian interpretation).
  • How should we think about views where our philosophical conclusions differ from our intuitive conclusions? There are opinions I can only construct rigorous philosophical arguments against, but I still side with my emotion/intuition when it comes time to make a policy “final call.”
  • Why is art, music, etc. pleasurable? There are various arguments for why these things exist (e.g. reliable trait signals) but what makes them so uniquely emotional?
  • What are all the political and rhetorical tactics that politicians, media, leaders, etc use? I should really start writing these down.
  • Where is the Paul Graham “what you can’t say” heuristic correct and wrong?
  • Where do our stated preferences diverge from revealed preferences?
  • Is the unexamined life worth living? (context)
  • What do panics, especially of the moral and financial varieties, tell us about what’s actually going on?
  • Why do we focus so much debate on trivial issues and what can we learn from infosphere’s various importance-focus differentials?
  • How should we think about the consistency of our philosophical frameworks and our intuitions? Should we try to rationalize our way to internal consistency or be pluralist and accept that intuition can go beyond pure reason? What are the implications of each viewpoint?
  • How do we separate values, policy, and culture? In what ways are they inextricably linked?
  • Can centrism be rebranded into an identity or project that can be rallied around?
  • How do we distinguish between those who are great at thinking vs those who can actually map their mental models to reality?
  • What factors influence TFR and how can TFR decline be reversed?
  • More questions TBD

Go-To Essays and Books


These are the books that I re-read and recommend the most.