I'm a software engineer living in Vancouver, BC.

When I'm not working, I can usually be found buried under a giant backlog of reading, or in the gym. My interests range over the set of business, technology, ethics, economics, psychology, politics, science, and education, in no particular order.

Ezra Savard

I read a fair amount of random interesting things, and these are some that I thought were particularly good, drawn from my last month of reading. These are presented in the order I read them in.

Historical Context Around Recent Crypto Events
This piece frames the recent crypto bubble and burst with history around:

  1. P2P file sharing, both trends and technologies
  2. Penny stock trading and the surrounding scams
  3. Bubbles as a means to create the overinvestment necessary in new technological infrastructure

I read this interview with Abigail Disney recently, and it was interesting enough, but one thing really struck me. At one point, she discussed how she had considered giving away all her money when she was young, but didn’t, because she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to make it in the world (nice honesty). What struck me is that she then follows up by saying

Now I’m glad I didn’t give it all away, because my money has grown. Now I’ve given away so much more than I inherited.

Here is a short list of things that I’ve read in the last few weeks that were interesting/impactful enough to remember them for more than a few days:

Alex Tabarrok on Buying Coal Mines
One of the more interesting notions on how money could be spent directly to discourage coal by limiting supply and thus increasing prices. The crux of the argument is that the right to mine coal is much cheaper than the coal itself, because coal mining is expensive. As a result, it is very cheap to buy the right to leave the coal in the ground, relative to the cost of all the coal, even before prices rise from limiting supply.

In my life, I’ve mostly approached achieving my goals via rigid self-discipline. I’ve viewed any mis-steps as a sign of weaknesses to be overcome through willpower. This approach emphasizes confronting obstacles head-on and feeling morally superior for overcoming them.

A present-day evangelist of this attitude would be Jordan B. Peterson. I think his message of self-reliance and confronting our own weakness appeals strongly to young men who want to prove themselves in the world, as it did to me. I’m not exactly sure how I was introduced to it, but heroically rising up against obstacles and triumphing by sheer force of will is not exactly a rare message in fiction consumed by young boys.

Using this model, I felt like a total badass each time I chose not to eat some free cake. It follows the same narrative as my childhood heroes. I felt empowered and in-charge of my own destiny, and that is why it was so seductive. I now I see this approach as a way to feel like I am making progress, but not a good way to actually achieve my goals.

As I’ve grown less arrogant with age, I’ve come around to the idea that I can’t fully control myself, and moreover that it is a waste effort to try. I now prefer to think in terms of strategies that help me succeed most of the time, without constant effort. Usually this comes down to avoiding real-time decision making.

A good system results in achieving my goals by either doing nothing or doing whatever is easiest in the moment. The challenge is to create an environment so that I, through normal day-to-day activities, will progress toward my goals at an acceptable pace.

It’s been occurring to me that I don’t post on this blog often because I don’t have anything “worthwhile” to say. Most of the time I am thinking pretty shallow thoughts and sometimes I think bigger, heavier ones. Of course, if I only post the heavy thoughts, then this site would be ridiculous and pompous. Eh. Let’s change that.

In the last few months I’ve been studying some extra computer science through edX. Most recently, I have been working through the ColumbiaX AI course , which seems to follow AI AMA pretty closely, at least for the first half. The course has had a few projects, but I really enjoyed the most recent one: writing a search agent to play 2048.