Eventually, the evidence may start to suggest that there is something wrong with your current system of thinking. With your current beliefs. The evidence starts to suggest that they might actually not have as much explanatory power as you thought they did. This can be very uncomfortable. You might cling to the system of thinking or the beliefs, because they worked well for you in the past. But eventually, you come to realize that that they are a bit like jackets that you have outgrown; As time goes on, their ability to keep you warm decreases. Eventually, you are forced to shed them, and trek out into the unknown, into the land of uncertainty, and see if you can find some better explanations.
At any moment, everything could change. We trick ourselves into thinking some things in life are relatively permanent, but this is not the case. At any given moment, you could have an aneurism and reincarnate in an alternate universe with different laws of physics. I’m by no means certain that’s what happens after death, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Create something that you can share with others. Creating something for yourself is fine, but the act of sharing gives far more meaning to the act of creation.
I’m generally far more interested in hearing a person’s stories than hearing their advice. Advice is just an opinion that is probably not going to serve me half the time. A story on the other hand, will bring me a tiny bit closer towards understanding how the world works.
When we read what early humans thought about causation, about the reason why things are the way they are and move the way they do, we laugh. I wonder if future generations will do the same when they read about our ideas on such topics.
The quality of my state of mind is largely a function of how much progress I feel as though I’ve made over the past 6 – 12 hours. This holds true regardless of how well the previous day went.
How likely is it that the way I’m spending my time right now will benefit me at some point in the future? In other words, what is the probable ROI on this way of spending my time?
So often, the best choice is to subtract. To cut away. Instead of asking what else need in your life, ask yourself what is in your life now that you no longer need.
All we can say is that when a certain part of the brain is damaged, some aspect of the body or personality or mind changes in some way. This does not mean that the brain is the sole mediator of the aforementioned aspects of one’s being. It simply means that the brain is involved with them to some degree. The brain is no doubt important, but it might not be all that you are.
When you get the urge to check your phone, just wait a few seconds and do nothing. More often than not, you’ll quickly think of a better way to spend your time.
I’m increasingly coming to realize that I often display the behaviors and attitudes I criticize when I see them displayed by others. It’s a hard thing to accept, but it’s true. So often, my criticism is hypocritical.
What do you believe to be true? What do you believe to be true about yourself? What do you believe to be true about the world? Is there any chance, however slim, that you might be mistaken?
Highlights of My Photography
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman
“The suffering and happiness that each of us experiences is a reflection of the level of distortion or clarity with which we view ourselves and the world.”
– The Dalai Lama
“I think most recommendations are bad because they’re one-size-fits-all. “Take more risks.” “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” “Work harder.” The problem is that some people need to take more risks, while others need to take fewer risks. Some people need to ease up on themselves, while others are already too self-forgiving. Some people need to work harder, while others are already skating on the edge of burnout. And so on.”
– Julia Galef
“If I realize my focus is off, and certainly when I’m experiencing any negative emotions, I ask myself, “Where should my attention be right now?” Almost always, the answer is “my mission,” which is like a beacon that always beckons.”
– Adam Robinson
“A soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”
– Marcus Aurelius
“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time, is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger
- “The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, we’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.”
- “To get the clearest picture of these lives, we don’t just send them questionnaires. We interview them in their living rooms. We get their medical records from their doctors. We draw their blood, we scan their brains, we talk to their children.”
- “So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
The extrapolations based off of the results of this study are quite similar to those of my all time favorite scientific investigation (on the inhabitants of Roseto, Pennsylvania)
TED Talk by Scott Galloway: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google manipulate our emotions
- I just watched this for what I believe was the fourth time. It is direct, powerful, and very important.
“At the end of the Great Recession, the market capitalization of these companies was equivalent to the GDP of Niger. Now it is equivalent to the GDP of India, having blown past Russia and Canada in ’13 and ’14. There are only five nations that have a GDP greater than the combined market capitalization of these four firms.”
Excerpt from the book Tribe, by Sebastian Junger
“In late 2015, a bus entering eastern Kenya was stopped by gunmen from an extremist group named Al-Shabaab that made a practice of massacring Christians as part of a terrorism campaign against the Western-aligned Kenyan government. The gunmen demanded that Muslim and Christian passengers separate themselves into two groups so that the Christians could be killed, but the Muslims – most of whom were women – refused to do it. They told the gunmen that they would all die together if necessary, but that the Christians would not be singled out for execution. The Shabaab eventually let everyone go.”
- “Of every dollar taxpayers pay in income taxes, 24¢ goes to the military – but only 4.8¢ goes to our troops in the form of pay, housing allowances and other benefits (excluding healthcare).”
- “Taxpayers pay half as much to support our veterans by providing health care, income support and job training, among other benefits (5.9¢) as we pay private military contractors.”
- “The average taxpayer paid $3,457 for the Pentagon and military, almost nineteen times more than for all diplomacy and foreign aid ($183).”
- Written by yours truly
- “Scientists investigating the dramatic increase in the number of autistic children have said the rise coincided with the use of cable television and videos.”
- “Researchers investigating autism in the US said that, as recently as 30 years ago, it was thought one in 2,500 people had the condition. Today the figure is one in 166, a 15-fold increase.”
- “The Cornell study looked at the results of an investigation into the Amish community. Based on the autism rates across the US, there should be several hundred autistic Amish, but fewer than 10 were found.”
- Certain genes have also been linked to autism. This fact, coupled with the massive spike in the number of cases of autism that have been cropping up in recent years, seems to suggest that the condition arises from a combination of both environmental and genetic factors. It may well be that genes predispose a person to develop the condition, but do not guarantee that it will manifest unless a child is exposed to some type of external agent or stimulus.
- One of the coolest collections of photographs I have ever seen
My favorites include:
- Eyes for the blind
- A 3D printer that can create a house
- A shoe material made from discarded sugarcane
- Lab grown diamonds
- Contact lenses that adjust to ambient light levels
- Life saving blood delivery drone
- If there was one article I could have every doctor on the planet read, it would be this one.
- “In a 2013 study, a dozen doctors from around the country examined all 363 articles published in The New England Journal of Medicine over a decade — 2001 through 2010 — that tested a current clinical practice, from the use of antibiotics to treat people with persistent Lyme disease symptoms (didn’t help) to the use of specialized sponges for preventing infections in patients having colorectal surgery (caused more infections). Their results, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found 146 studies that proved or strongly suggested that a current standard practice either had no benefit at all or was inferior to the practice it replaced; 138 articles supported the efficacy of an existing practice, and the remaining 79 were deemed inconclusive.”
- In a 2012, research was conducted to determine how stent implantation stacked up against other methods of cardiovascular treatment. The conclusion of this research was that putting stents into stable patients seem to provide absolutely no protection from heart attacks.
- “A meta-analysis of sleep-aid drugs in older adults found that for every 13 people who took a sedative, like Ambien, one had improved sleep — about 25 minutes per night on average — while one in six experienced a negative side effect, with the most serious being increased risk for car accidents.”
- “The center is the first of its kind in the country, established with $17 million in commitments from wealthy private donors and a foundation. Imperial College London launched what is thought to be the world’s first such center in April, with some $3.5 million from private sources.”
- “I experienced this kind of unity, of resonant love, the sense that I’m not alone anymore, that there was this thing holding me that was bigger than my grief. I felt welcomed back to the world.”
The Incredible Effects Expressive Writing
- The speaker, James Pennebaker, is Professor of Psychology at The University of Texas as Austin. The lecture is given at Columbia University.
- Few lectures have rocked my view of reality like this one.
- The lecture describes how past trauma can manifest into physical symptoms, and how journaling about said trauma can lead to substantial symptom alleviation.
- No need to watch the full thing if you don’t want to. The first 20 minutes should give you all the information you need.
- Skip to 1:40 for the beginning of the lecture (The time before that is filled with a microphone issue)
- “I actually got into psychology because I was interested in the mind body problem; how do psychological factors influence biological activity?”
- “One question that blew all the others away was the sexual trauma question. People who endorsed that (Who said they had had sexual trauma at an early age) … had more physical symptoms than any other group.”
- Dr. Pennebaker on a larger study in which the same question was asked: “People who endorsed that item were twice as likely to have been hospitalized for any cause in the previous year. They were more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer, high blood pressure, ulcers, colds, flu, major problems, minor problems…”
- Dr Pennebaker on the results of a followup study: “What we found was, it wasn’t a traumatic sexual experience that was the problem; it was any traumatic experience that you kept secret (emphasis added). And it turns out that the traumatic sexual experience was the one that people kept most secret.”
- “I started wondering: if harboring a secret was so bad, what would happen if you brought people in and had them disclose the traumatic experience?”
- “It occurred to me; wouldn’t it be interesting to have people come in and just have them write about a trauma?”
- “…students who wrote about traumatic experiences went to the student health center at about half the rate that our control subjects did (following the therapeutic writing session.”
- Dr. Pennebaker on the results of a later study: “We drew blood before writing, after the last week of writing, and then again six weeks later. And their blood was assayed for various immune markers. We found that those in the experimental condition (those who wrote about past traumas) showed enhancement in immune function compared to those in the control condition. And they also went to the doctor less.”
- I’m such a non-believer in using substances to alter one’s consciousness on a consistent basis that I don’t even drink coffee or beer.
- That said, I’m also in favor of decriminalizing all drugs, this article explains why.
- “In 2001, nearly two decades into Pereira’s accidental specialisation in addiction, Portugal became the first country to decriminalise the possession and consumption of all illicit substances. Rather than being arrested, those caught with a personal supply might be given a warning, a small fine, or told to appear before a local commission – a doctor, a lawyer and a social worker – about treatment, harm reduction, and the support services that were available to them.The opioid crisis soon stabilised, and the ensuing years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, HIV and hepatitis infection rates, overdose deaths, drug-related crime and incarceration rates. HIV infection plummeted from an all-time high in 2000 of 104.2 new cases per million to 4.2 cases per million in 2015.”
- The author goes on to say that the change in the law wasn’t the only reason for the massive shift in usage rates, but to me it clearly seems to have been the largest factor.
It a recent study, machine learning algorithms were able to predict age, gender, smoking status, systolic blood pressure, and major adverse cardiac events, using nothing but pictures of patients’ retinas. The accuracy of these predictions is quite high, as you can see by reading the excerpt below. The fact that this degree of accuracy can be achieved by using nothing but pictures of retinas is pretty astounding.
“Using deep-learning models trained on data from 284,335 patients and validated on two independent datasets of 12,026 and 999 patients, we predicted cardiovascular risk factors not previously thought to be present or quantifiable in retinal images, such as age (mean absolute error within 3.26 years), gender (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) = 0.97), smoking status (AUC = 0.71), systolic blood pressure (mean absolute error within 11.23 mmHg) and major adverse cardiac events (AUC = 0.70). We also show that the trained deep-learning models used anatomical features, such as the optic disc or blood vessels, to generate each prediction.”
AUC: A measurement of the accuracy used in machine learning. Higher values equal better accuracy.
“The move on Tuesday is the latest sign that market forces are throttling the Trump administration’s bid to save the industry.”
“Once the source of over 40 percent of the country’s power, coal produced 28 percent in 2018. That share has declined to just 25 percent this year, and the Energy Department projects that it will drop to 22 percent next year.”
If you’d like to learn about some of the dangers the burning of coal poses to public health, check out this article I wrote for The Environmental Magazine: Just How Bad Is Air Pollution in China and How Can We Fix It?
Person Worth Following: Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating people alive. Additionally, his work and ideas have had an incredibly profound effect on both my life and way of thinking.
This is going to be a long bio, as I really want to do him justice.
Ferriss was born in 1977. He attended Princeton University and graduated in the year 2000 with a degree in East Asian studies. During his time at Princeton, he went through an extreme depression and nearly killed himself. He wrote an incredibly powerful essay about this experience, which you can read by clicking here. After college, he worked for a data storage company, but soon left and founded a nutritional supplement startup. During this period, his girlfriend left due to his excessive workaholism, and he eventually sold the company. This experience inspired him to write his first book, The Four Hour Work Weekwhich discusses strategies he used to optimize the functioning of his startup. The book spent 7 years on the New York Times best seller list, was translated into 40 different languages, and was the book that kindle users highlighted most in 2017, despite the fact that it was released in 2007.
Around the same time period, Ferriss set the Guinness World Record for most tango spins in a minute, and became a kick boxing champion. Since then, he has written four more best selling books, starred in two TV shows: The Tim Ferriss Experiment and Fear(less), and has a blog with over 1 million monthly readers. Most importantly (For me at least) he created one of the most popular podcasts of all time: The Tim Ferriss Show. In it, he interviews world class performers from a variety of different fields in an attempt to understand how they have achieved their success. The stories and ideas expressed on this show have radically transformed the way in which I live my life. Additionally, one of the alternative treatments mentioned on the show has improved my state of mind so radically that I’m currently writing a proposal for a scientific study on its effects. My hope is that the results of the study will help build mainstream approval for this form of intervention. But I digress…
All in all, what I like most about Ferriss is his relentless commitment to learning and experimentation. He is the opposite of an armchair philosopher. He gets in the trenches and figures out what works and what doesn’t. For his second book, The Four Hour Body, he subjected himself to a wide array of diets, exercises, and lifestyle interventions, to test their efficacy. For his first TV show, he documented his attempts to master skills such as rally racing, parkour, drums, surfing, golf, and language acquisition, using rapid learning techniques. After spending many years as an angel investor in the Bay Area, he took an indefinite break from startup investing in order to focus on his podcast, and his primary charitable project: research into the therapeutic application of psychedelics at Johns Hopkins University. Last I checked, he had personally donated $1 million to the funding of said research.
In conclusion, I’ve come to believe that Tim Ferriss is one of the smartest, wisest, and friendliest people out there. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for the man. If you’d like to get a better understanding of his life and ideas, check out the video below. I’d highly recommend skipping to 52:27, where Tim talks about his experience at a 10 day silent meditation retreat. I guarantee you’ll find his description of the retreat fascinating, even if you’ve never given meditation a minute of thought.
- “Comparing pet ownership and the rates of the two mental illnesses, the researchers discovered that being exposed to a dog before the age of 13 had a huge effect on whether or not that person would later develop schizophrenia. Dog ownership cut the risk down by a staggering 25 percent.”
Great YouTube Channel: Jamie Harrison Guitar
- This guy makes some of the coolest instrumental covers out there.
Video on what would happen if the world went vegan
- “The environmental impacts of the food system are daunting. It’s responsible for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. It uses about 70% of all fresh water resources. And it occupies about 40% of the Earth’s land surface.”
- “If everyone went vegan by 2050, we estimated that the world’s greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 3/4.”
- “Over 80% of the world’s farmland is used for animal production, but it produces only 18% of the world’s calories.”
- “2/3 of all agriculture land is used as pastures (for grazing farm animals as opposed to crops).” (This is an amount of land equivalent to the size of Africa)
Key Concept: Feed conversion ratio
- Feed conversion ratio is a measurement of how efficiently an animal converts food into meat. Though meat itself is generally more energy dense than plant based foods, the creation of meat is a very energetically inefficient process. This is largely because much of the food that a farm animal consumes will be used to power its metabolism and for other miscellaneous physical processes. Only a small percentage of the input mass actually ends up becoming edible muscle.
- Some feed conversion ratios for the most common farm animals are listed below:
- Beef: 10 pounds of feed required to put on 1 pound of meat
- Pig: 6 pounds of feed required to put on 1 pound of meat
- Chicken: 3 to 4 pounds of feed required to put on 1 pound of meat
- I’ve really been enjoying many of the other videos on The Economist’s YouTube channel. They are well made and very informative. And no, they’re not paying me to say that.
Question I love: Are you hunting antelope or field mice?
This question is from a concept popularized by Newt Gingrich. Here it is in his words:
“A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death. A lion can’t live on field mice. A lion needs an antelope. Antelope are big animals. They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride. A lion can live a long and happy life on a diet of antelope. The distinction is important. Are you spending all your time and exhausting all your energy catching field mice? In short term it might give you a nice, rewarding feeling. But in the long run, you’re going to die. So ask yourself at the end of the day, “Did I spend today chasing mice or hunting antelope?”
- The internet is packed with field mice, and I am frequently guilty of hunting them.
- There are so many interesting videos and pieces of information, but if you only spend your time watching them and never actually building something that could be useful/valuable in the future, you’re probably not doing yourself much good.
- I try to ask myself the “antelope vs field mice” question before starting any significant project. I.e, is this project an antelope or a field mouse?
Person I’m eternally grateful to: Stan Grof
If I could have everyone in the world read one book, it would either be Healing Our Deepest Wounds or Holotropic Breathwork. Both were authored by Czech psychiatrist Stan Grof. I’ve written about Grof’s work and included an extensive interview with him in this post. As a short refresher, he used LSD as a therapeutic agent, and eventually developed a form of breathing (Known as holotropic breathwork) that mimics the effects of the drug. This breathwork is completely legal, and seems to unlock the deepest aspects of our subconscious. I have participated in four Holotropic Breathwork sessions as the time of this writing, and am scheduled to do two more in the upcoming months. I have never experienced any practice that seems capable of doing so much therapeutic work in so little time, and would highly recommend it to everyone looking to resolve troubling psychological material and elevate their day to day state of mind.
Excerpts from Healing Our Deepest Wounds and Holotropic Breathwork, by Stan Grof
“Holotropic states tend to engage something like an “inner radar,” automatically bringing the contents from the unconscious that have the strongest emotional charge, are currently most psychodynamically relevant, and are currently available for processing into consciousness.”
“In many instances, difficult emotions and physical manifestations that emerge from the unconscious during holotropic sessions get automatically resolved, and breathers end up in a deeply relaxed meditative state.”
“After powerful and well-resolved perinatal experiences, breathers often report that they are more relaxed than they have ever been in their life. This can also be accompanied by the clearing of various psychosomatic pains. With the relaxation and the relief from pain comes a feeling of greater physical comfort, increased energy and vitality, a sense of rejuvenation, and an enhanced ability to enjoy the present moment.”
- The above excerpts match well with my experiences in Holotropic Breathwork sessions. If you’d like to read more about my experiences, and their very positive aftereffects (many of which have persisted to this day) click here.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think that you need to take psychedelics to heal your mind or to gain insights into the nature of reality. In my opinion, you can accomplish both goals just as easily with breathwork and meditation. That said, I think insights and anecdotes generated by psychedelic experiences can be very valuable.
- In the following video, Grof describes some of his insights into the nature of the mind and reality he gained over his years guiding his patients through non-ordinary states of consciousness (induced by both LSD and breathwork).
Excerpts (Modified slightly):
- “This was a tremendous surprise for me when, in my psychedelic sessions, all this came alive. I realized that Hindu and Buddhist mythology are both maps of consciousness; they are states that become as real as anything you have experienced in your everyday life.”
- “I had access to records for about 5000 records from psychedelic sessions, about 3000 where I sat personally (as the guide for the person taking the psychedelic), and 2000 from my colleagues. I went through those records and would look specifically at where people where dealing with specific questions involving God, time, space, creation, etc. And I wanted to know what philosophical insights were coming from these states. As I was putting it together, I found out to my surprise something very different than what I expected. I thought people would come up with totally different cosmologies… Instead they were experiencing bits and pieces that, when put together, created one overarching cosmology. Everything fits together and you get a comprehensive image of the universe and our place in it.”
- Grof wrote a book based on the insights derived from these records, coupled with research on various mythologies from across the world. It’s called “The Cosmic Game.” If you’d like to read more about it and or buy a copy click here.
- Grof’s ideas might seem a bit unusual. However, in my opinion, he has a razor sharp intellect and a fantastic BS sensor. These traits, coupled with his excellent deductive reasoning and critical thinking, have thoroughly convinced me that he is someone worth listening to.
One of my favorite poems: The Learn’d Astronomer, by Walt Whitman
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Beautiful Song: Saturn, by Sleeping at Last
- If you can, go full screen and use headphones.
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