Sunday Scaries (02/14/21)

Taleb on Lindy, Wait But Why, Feynman Thesis

Hi everyone,

Writing to you from Los Angeles, CA. Last week, as I was returning from Wyoming, I passed through the local airport. It was small — just a few gates scattered across a small terminal.

As I was waiting to board I came across this free book library that is based on an honor system.

Ideas that rely on public goods (like a free library) work well in places where the community is small and highly connected. It struck me that this type of thing probably wouldn't work at a larger airport like LAX or JFK. Scale can be a benefit, but it’s not the only thing that matters.

What’s new from me:

  • Pessimism is easy, optimism is hard: Most movies and films portray the future as worse than the present. This makes for compelling dramas but it doesn’t inspire the imagination. I want to see more optimism in our stories, even if that means finding a new scapegoat.

In this week’s edition

[💎 Philosophy]

Nassim Taleb on Lindy

Nassim Taleb is the author of Incerto, a multi-book series that combines philosophy, risk, and probability. His book The Black Swan gained wide popularity after the 2008 financial crisis since it focused on the impact of highly improbable events. He is less well known for popularizing the idea of the Lindy Effect, the idea that this collection is based on.

[⚙️ Business]

Wait Buy Why - Elon Musk

Tim Urban writes a great blog called “Wait But Why”. You should read it. He’s written an entire series about Elon Musk, the most recent of which focused on his brain-interface company Neuralink.

[🔬 Science]

Richard Feynman’s P.h.D. Thesis

Feynman has a wonderful ability to make complicated topics simple. His original P.h.D. thesis from 1942 is titled Principles of least action in quantum mechanics. In it, he reformulates quantum mechanics and makes a key observation that positrons (a building block of our universe) behave like electrons moving backward through time. Feynman’s genius was a strong understanding of the physical concepts that underpinned the mathematics of his field.

"He begins working calculus problems in his head as soon as he awakens. He did calculus while driving in his car, while sitting in the living room, and while lying in bed at night."

– divorce complaint of Richard Feynman's second wife

Have a great week,