Perfect game theorists

…now I want to write a science fiction novel about a planet full of aliens who are perfect game theorists, but who always behave kindly and respectfully to one another. Then some idiot performs a census, and the whole place collapses into apocalyptic total war.

~ Scott Alexander

That pull quote is simply fun. The article is actually a serious attempt to pick apart an interesting philosophical question.

I’m not sure I agree with his conclusions… actually, I’m not even sure I understand the question he’s thinking about. But I find that the more I peek in the dark corners of the basement of my philosophical ideas, the more comfortable I sleep at night.

Eternal return

If you stay with your past regret, you’ll break through. You’ll realize that every moment spent in remorse is another regretful moment for eternity. You’ll finally understand, in your bones, the truth of Nietzsche’s wise advice: “Never yield to remorse, but at once tell yourself: remorse would simply mean adding to the first act of stupidity a second.”

~ Kyle Eschenroeder

We don’t literally live this exact same life over and over, as encapsulated by the idea of “Eternal Return”.

But it IS an interesting thought experiment. It is exceedingly difficult to break outside of my own self-perspective — arguably, it impossible to break out since what perspective do I have, other than MY own. But trying to think of things from new perspectives . . . it’s like trying to catch a glimpse of the back of my own head in a fun-house of mirrors.

Agency from individual neurons

What I’m going to argue today is that agency is a fundamental property of the brain. Not only is agency the function of the brain — and thus it’s very reason for existence — but it’s also built into the brain’s fabric and architecture. Because even neurons have agency, in the form of (metabolic) selfishness, higher-order brain systems don’t need to create agency ‘from scratch’ out of mindless robotic slaves. They inherit agency pretty much for free.

~ Kevin Simler

The question of agency occassionally sucks me into a deep whirlpool of introspection. The idea that it might arise as an emergent property simply from the huge number of neurons is intriguing.

Rats? Moloch?

Like the rats, who gradually lose all values except sheer competition, so companies in an economic environment of sufficiently intense competition are forced to abandon all values except optimizing-for-profit or else be outcompeted by companies that optimized for profit better and so can sell the same service at a lower price.

From a god’s-eye-view, we can contrive a friendly industry where every company pays its workers a living wage. From within the system, there’s no way to enact it.

~ Scott Alexander

I confess to having had only the slightest awareness of Moloch in the biblical or general senses. So just skimming the WikiPedia article and then taking the time to read this piece from Slate Star Codex was like discovering a new window on the world from my mind-palace.


This is the problem. (With everything.) Individually, everyone acts according to their interests and beliefs. The result? …look at the world around you.

How could one go about changing the world? (That’s a rhetorical question.)


Krishnamurti has this definition of suffering that I really like, “Suffering is that moment when you see reality exactly as it is. When you can no longer run away from it, when you can no longer deny it.”

~ Naval Ravikant

I don’t know anything about Krishnamurti. But I know a good statement that cuts right through all the day-to-day bullshit; That right there is one.

I’ll save you some digging: Naval is quoting Jiddu Krishnamurti, apparently from The Book of Life: Daily Meditations.

…also, go listen to this entire podcast. It’s insanely long at 2+ hours, but Naval is a real down-to-Earth guy with a lot of useful advice on how to live.

How to keep time from moving so fast

Savoring what’s familiar does something similar. Instead of spending our time on autopilot mode, we notice the richness embedded in our familiar routines. Choose something familiar that you experience regularly—drinking your morning coffee, picking up your kids from daycare, or chatting with a coworker—and make a concerted effort to savor, and be grateful for that experience. I personally find meditation, more than almost anything else, helps me savor these small things every day.

Concept-Shaped Holes Can Be Impossible To Notice

Put these together, and you have cause for concern. If you learn about something, and it seems trivial and boring, but lots of other people think it’s interesting and important – well, it could be so far beneath you that you’d internalized all its lessons already. Or it could be so far beyond you that you’re not even thinking on the same level as the people who talk about it.

If there’s one thing that makes my brain lock-up every time, it’s this conundrum.

The Spiritual Disciplines: Solitude and Silence

The need for silence and solitude obviously seems incredibly relevant to the over-convenienced citizens of the modern world who feel saturated with the ceaseless noise that issues from every corner of their lives. But as mentioned at the start, men have in fact craved these states for thousands of years, long before anything digital, or electronic, or urban ever existed.

What accounts for the timeless, seemingly universal appeal of quiet seclusion?