Drug Addiction, OpenLife, People That Don't Exist, How Travel The World...
Happy Tuesday! Q1 is coming to an end and I hope you’ve achieved your goals (because you did set goals for Q1, right?)
It’s been a while since last edition of The Fireside. Whilst it’s true that the objective of this newsletter is not to have a specific frequency but rather to collect enough interesting and thought provoking articles, I’ll try my best to keeping a monthly-ish schedule. 🤞
On to The Fireside…
New Article: “The Ultimate List To Travel The World Like A Pro”. In this post I write about everything I’ve learned about travelling to over 22 countries in the last 2 years. It is the longest post I’ve ever written.
New Project: “/OpenLife”. I’m doing an experiment where I test my accountability by publicly sharing data about my private habits. Right now I share things like the completion rate of my personal goals and how many times I go to the gym but I plan to add more data in the future.
New Book: “Atomic Habits” by James Clear is the best book about habits I’ve ever read (and I’ve read quite a few books about the topic!) and it’s already considered a must-read. Clear breaks down how good habits are formed and bad habits are broken with a scientific-backed framework made of four pillars.
Have a great rest of the week :)
Immigration is very much at the top of the political agenda right now and you’re very likely to have a very strong, passionate opinion about it. In the UK, it was the real decisive argument of the Brexit referendum and in the US it got Trump elected as President. This article by David Frum, is one of the best, most reasonable pieces on a political issue I’ve ever read and although it’s focused on American immigration, its arguments can be applied very easily to Europe. Highly recommend it for anyone regardless of your stance on the topic.
Why are social media so popular? Why some social media succeed so spectacularly while others fail? What makes them social media so addictive? These are difficult questions to answer unless we understand two basic truths about human psychology: 1) People are status-seeking monkeys, 2) People seek out the most efficient path to maximizing social capital. In this truly brilliant article, Eugene Wei argues that we can only truly understand social media when we see them as “StaaS” or providers of “social status”.
Humans are weird and sometimes they act in a completely irrational way. These irrationalities are called by scientists “cognitive biases” and are studied in psychology and behavioural economics to explain seemingly weird behaviour, like doing things that go directly against our own best interest. Learning about cognitive biases is probably the single most important step towards truly understanding human decision making. In total, there are 175 cognitive biases with a lot of overlapping between them. In this article, Buster Benson goes through all of them and groups them into 20, high-level, unique mental strategies.
On the topic of oddities, one of the most interesting things about humans is how easily they get addicted to self-defeating substances. Alcohol, nicotine, drugs, even chocolate. As long as it gives us pleasure, we are willing to do anything to get more of it, even at the cost of our own health. Now science is finally unlocking the fundamental biological components of addiction and developing new tools to defeat it, including a sci-fi-like machine that rewires the neural pathways in your brain using electromagnetic waves.
“Imagine a black box which, when you pressed a button, would generate a scientific hypothesis. 50% of its hypotheses are false; 50% are true hypotheses as game-changing and elegant as relativity. Even despite the error rate, it’s easy to see this box would quickly surpass space capsules, da Vinci paintings, and printer ink cartridges to become the most valuable object in the world… What if the box had only a 10% success rate? A 1% success rate? My guess is: still most valuable object in the world….You have to go pretty low before the box stops being great.”
★ Other things from the internet
(That may or may not make you look smart at dinner parties)
This tool presents a random, computer generated photo of a fictional person. Refresh the page each time for a new face.
A guy on Reddit (and where else?) took nearly 50,000 images of a night sky to make an 81 Megapixel image of the moon. Simply spectacular.
PS: Read the full The Fireside archives here