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Why Your Skepticism about Science and Journalism Is Dangerous

A lot of people, myself included, deep down feel there is such a thing as truth. And that it matters when it’s spoken, even if no one listens. When you see an expert, someone with access to the facts, what they say sounds like a lot of dark Balinese magic, perhaps. But we’re aware that’s […]

10 Projects Per Life

In his podcast interview with writer Susan Cain, Tim Ferriss accurately observed that “When the people see the finished product, it’s easy to assume that it comes from an attribute as opposed to a skill.” In other words: as soon as you’ve got something done, the thing, to outsiders, looks like it results from a […]

Why Truth Doesn’t Change People’s Minds (and What Does)

Today, everyone can get more information than ever. Paradoxically, this has made the truth less — not more — accessible. As ‘information’ became ideological, ‘the facts’ can no longer referee disagreements but are themselves contested. It’s easier than ever before for someone to live in a world built of his own ‘facts’. You might say: what happened to us? Why do facts not […]

100 Books a Year? Bad Idea

Conveying and containing knowledge are hard. Picture some serious non-fiction tomes. The Selfish Gene; Thinking, Fast and Slow; Guns, Germs, and Steel; etc. Have you ever had a book like this — one you’d read — come up in conversation, only to discover you’d absorbed what amounts to a few sentences? In a brilliant article, software engineer Andy Matuschak confesses: I’ll be honest: it happens […]

Why the Crisis of Expertise Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

These days, sitting at McDonalds, it is possible to consume virtually every possible point of view on just about anything before you’re halfway through your burger. Economist Tyler Cowen estimates that the single biggest recent change in Western life has been the dramatic decline in the cost and inconvenience of getting information. Yet, as ellen rhymes points out, just the very high […]

The Fallacy of Origins and How to Be Less Wrong

Chris has grown up in an extremely religious family and as a result he grows a strong faith in God as well. Katie’s parents are politically liberal and she has been exposed to many of their arguments. As a result, she shares a lot of typically liberal beliefs. Caleb comes from southern USA and develops […]

The Complete Guide to Effective Reading

Learning is a heavily misunderstood concept. As a paradigm example of deep work, we understand that, when reading, directing your full attention to the material at hand is essential. Graspingcomplex information is hard. But this is only half the battle. After some string of words hits your retina and has made its way to your brain, you’re not done. In a cruel irony, these hours […]

What’s Wrong with “True Enough”?

Long before alt-right was born, studies had already shown truth isn’t so important to most people. Psychologists since Freud have argued humans construct views of themselves and of the world and they experience potentially crippling anxiety when these constructions are threatened. As such, “rationality” is frequently hijacked by adefense motivation: the “desire to hold attitudes and beliefs congruent with existing self-definitional attitudes and […]

5 Lessons from Year 26

Today is my 26th birthday. Ever since I was small I imagined grown-up me as a wise university professor with a grey beard. I will remember this year as the year I decided to stop pursuing an academic career. I love being a (non-academic) writer a lot more. I’ve also changed my mind about more important things. For […]

The Empowerment Paradox: Why Mastery Won’t Set Us Free

If I increase my ability to reach my goals, that’s a good thing, right? Not always. There’s a surprising way in which empowerment can come full circle and become powerlessness. How to achieve a goal Let’s see getting what you want as a two-step process: Discover what the cause-effect relationships that govern reality are Figure out how to set theright cause-effect […]