Keeping Focus Without Retreatism


I wrote yesterday about the information war. We're bombarded with so much information if we are tuned in it's impossible to think.

But I don't think the long-term solution is total retreat from the world at large, or what Venkatesh Rao calls Waldenponding.

The bad information experience is like artillery perpetually pounding around you, driving you mad. But there's another kind of information experience that's more like a constant stream. It flows endlessly, every moment bringing past new things. You can wade in, you can get refreshed by it, you can have fun, catch valuable bits, and you can also drown. But the info stream is not inherently hostile or trying to make you useless like the info artillery. You can step back onto the banks and just observe without getting immersed. You can contribute to it, consume from it, or use it for inspiration to create.

The info stream has always existed, even before computers and cell phones, radio and TV. It's the scuttlebutt, the gossip, the collective conversation we call culture. It's trends, fads, ideas, fashions, commerce, and events constantly moving around us.

The digital world has broadened the stream to include more participants, and the flow is faster than ever. But each individual also has more control over their experience of the stream, how they consume, and especially how they contribute.

Waldenponding sounds both difficult and welcome when under constant fire by the info artillery. If only we could go screenless and escape, we'd become whole beings and achieve spiritual enlightenment, we think. But I think the urge to retreat entirely is another form of delusion, less dangerous perhaps than the delusion of thinking it's all real and urgent and important, but a delusion nonetheless.

It makes more sense to take control of your relationship to information, rather than be controlled by it or completely shielded from it.

First, get the hell out of the bullshit battlefield. Don't let yourself be bombarded. Don't sit there and get shelled to oblivion. Get away from the noise and chaos and need to always know the news and have an opinion.

Breathe.

Maybe wander the quiet woods for a bit after leaving the battlefield. When you're ready, approach the stream. Look at it as something beautiful and fascinating. Respect it as something powerful and dangerous. Wade in from time to time as you are able without getting swept away. You'll get stronger and form a better relationship to the stream over time. Make it a part of your existence that serves you, not the other way around.

And when you realize it's pulled you under, or that you've wandered away from the stream metaphor altogether and are back on the battlefield, exit again. Go back to the woods.

Metaphors are how we make meaning. The conscious navigation away from a battlefield to a stream can help reset your engagement with the world of endless information. At least it does for me.

Information as Artillery


You are being bombarded.

The blasts just keep coming, day and night. It's so bad there's a perpetual ringing in your ears, you can't see straight, you can't focus, and the people and reality right in front of you seems far off, disconnected, a blur. The constant barrage of artillery overhead has your whole being humming, vibrating unnaturally.

You can't read, or write, or talk calmly, or think deeply, or experience silence. Even in gaps between the salvos, you're too shell-shocked to be of much use. Every sensation sets you off.

That is the environment in which we live.

The trenches are anything connected to the internet or television or news of any kind. Information is the artillery.

The good news is, you can leave.

You can get the hell out of the foxholes and away from the mud and blood and constant head-splitting noise. When you exit this battle, there's no negative consequence, no dishonor, no desertion, because the battle is not real. It's bullshit. There are no sides, no ground to be taken or lost. The only objective in this battle is to occupy you with it, to keep you from being useful, fulfilled, free, and productive.

You can't become useful, fulfilled, free, and productive sitting in someone else's trenches while information artillery rains down, paralyzing you. You can only lose if you play.

The only way to win is to quit. To enter the fray is to be consumed and lose your sense of sanity and self. To exit is to regain your humanity and reclaim your capacity for creative thought.

Don't let yourself become a casualty. Leave now, before the shell-shock gets worse. Exit the information barrage. Be alone with your thoughts. Be free.

Talking with TK Again


Felt the need to flip on the mic and catch up with my good friend TK Coleman.

https://youtu.be/071F5kEFJoQ

Latest Issue of the Inner Game of Startups: #41


This is a weekly paid subscription newsletter where I share the honest ins and outs of building a company.

You can read and subscribe here (some of the issues are free).

A Little Something Different


Flipped on the mic this morning and just did an unscripted little bit about the problem with police.

Oh, and some F bombs, so probably don't play it around small children or church ladies. It's comedy, so you're not allowed to be offended. ;-)

https://soundcloud.com/isaacmorehouse/lives-matter

Writing Honest


It's hard to write honest.

Sometimes the "truest sentence you know", as Hemingway advised to write, is something you don't want to say. Or something you don't even want to know.

Honest doesn't have to mean some kind of deep pouring out of feelings. It doesn't mean sharing personal information. It doesn't mean poignant or moving or cutting. It just means true. True to what you know.

Sometimes honest writing is funny, sometimes sober. Sometimes expository, sometimes narrative. The difficulty is, you don't know what honest writing for each session will look like until you start. At least I don't.

The truest sentence I know today is that I'm having a hard time formulating what I know and feel in my gut into any kind of words. And I'm pretty sure I don't want to anyway. So I'm honestly writing about the difficulty of honest writing.

Bullshit if True


Sometimes you don't have to wait for the facts to come in to know if something's wrong.

It's easy to feel sophisticated by telling yourself you're waiting until you've reviewed all the relevant data. The data become the focus, and you dissect and debate what it might mean and wait and seek for more. The better informed the better!

But sometimes, if you step back and ask what different data would do to change actions, there isn't a clear answer. You've gotten sucked unto analyzing info, supposedly to help you form a deferred judgement, but the thing you're forming a judgement about didn't need more info in the first place and more info wouldn't alter or clear it up.

Sometimes you just know. But you're afraid. It feels too bold. Haphazard, radical, simple. Well, sometimes the right thing is.

Sometimes a spade is a spade, and info about where it came from, who put it there, or the odds of it showing up again are intellectual exercises not necessary to form a judgement and do what needs to be done.

Create Before You Consume


It seems like you should have to consume information and ideas to get inspiration. But it's not true.

School and most formal teaching begin with information stuffing. You cram facts into your head for weeks or even years, preparing to someday do something. This is the surest way to reduce the odds that you ever do anything original. This is like a Keynesian theory of knowledge. "We'll all get better if we keep consuming stuff."

You don't need to consume before you create.

My best mornings begin on this blog. Before email, text, Slack, Twitter, or any other external source of information. When I begin with creation, the creation is better, the day is better, and I'm better.

Days when I wait until late in the day to write my blog always feel more chaotic. The blog feels more obligatory than cathartic. It's more a jumble of reflected feelings picked up during the day, instead of an expression of stuff inside me stirred up while I slept. That's the stuff that tends to be most original and interesting. To me, if not to anyone else. (And I blog for me, not anyone else).

I highly recommend, as an approach to writing as well as learning anything else, creation before consumption. Pick up a guitar and start plucking. Grab a brush and start painting. Try figuring out equations, speaking Spanish, or ice skating. Before you study them.

Go create. This will provide the context for consumption that makes it vastly more valuable. Creators are better critics too.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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Consumer Apps on Bitcoin


A fun conversation with bitcoin entrepreneur Jack Liu from last Friday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eE-orCb5xE

New Platforms


I love trying out new platforms.

Most of the time, they don't end up forming into new habits for me, or the network effects are too weak, or they die off altogether. But sometimes I end up loving them.

I've switched browsers many times. Currently I'm on Brave and using DuckDuckGo for search. I've been a lifelong Gmail guy, but am exploring some other options. I was all over Facebook for years but never do much on there now as I've moved to Twitter and now increasingly Twetch. I've tried Snap, Instagram, Tik Tok, and others (none of them stuck for me). I've also tried several podcast hosting apps.

I've never been a big fan of YouTube, but it has such an extensive library! When me and some friends started recording bitcoin chats every few weeks, I uploaded them there because I didn't know where else to put them.

Now I'm also trying Streamanity, a video hosting platform where you can set the price and viewers pay in bitcoin. It's still in that early phase with small user base and lots of kinks, but it's fun!

Here's a video I uploaded there, which happens to be an interview with the owner:

https://streamanity.com/video/46UsDDNXiPg4VZ

 

Thought Experiments


I was just discussing with a friend a thought experiment I put together years ago during a debate on whether or not inequality is a prerequisite to economic exchange.

The claim I heard from some economists was that you can't have trade without inequality. While I believe inequality is inescapable, natural, not undesirable, and an inevitable outcome of freedom and prosperity, I don't think it is logically necessary in order for mutually beneficial trade to occur.

I emphasize logical, because thought experiments can be useful for finding errors in reasoning, but they are almost never useful for finding better explanations for the real world. I think I can construct a thought experiment that reveals that inequality is not logically necessary for win-win trade, but that doesn't do much to improve understanding of the world. In the real world, everyone is unequal, period. We differ in taste, preference, ability, biology, etc. Even small divergence leads to different subjective valuations which is the major driver in gains from trade.

The point of the claim that inequality is needed for trade is to reveal that, for from being a danger to be feared, it's a necessary part of human flourishing. That is true. Still, I don't think it is logically required for trade to occur.

Here's my thought experiment:

Two perfectly identical people live on an island. To survive, they need both fish and berries in their diet. Both have identical preferences for types of work, and identical abilities at fishing and berry picking.

In 1/2 a day, one can collect 100 berries, and in 1/2 a day one can catch 2 fish. So each individual splitting the day between berries and fish will end up with 100 berries and 2 fish, for a combined total of 200 berries and 4 fish.

But there are more abundant berries high up on the mountain. The catch is it takes an entire day to get there and back, leaving no time for fishing. And there are more fish deeper in the ocean, but it takes an entire day to paddle there and back leaving no time for berries.

The two identical people could specialize. One spends the whole day fishing in more abundant waters and catches 6 fish. One day one spends all day in more abundant berry bushes and picks 300 berries. They can trade and end up with 150 berries and 3 fish each. Both individuals have gained (50%!) from the trade due to division of labor.

This does not require either individual to become more skilled than the other at one task. They could alternate each day who does which and still win. Division of labor and specialization coupled with trade is a better outcome than self-sufficiency even for two completely equal individuals because of the uneven nature of production itself. Each unit of time does not produce an identical outcome, and duration spent at a task may affect the marginal productivity, even without new skills gained or new capital employed.

See, trade is beneficial even in a world of perfect equality!

The problem is every assumption in the thought experiment is far fetched beyond belief. It can reveal an error in the logic of the original claim, but not its reality. Trade always arises between unequal partners because no two people are equal in the real world. Even identical twins stranded on an island aren't. Even engineered clones under my scenario wouldn't be, because in reality they would enhance their skill with more time invested in one task than another.

Thought experiments are not "gotcha" moments for real world claims. They may be mild rebukes of the certainty of the logical necessity, but they are so divorced from the real world, and so stripped of variables that they allow the real world to contradict them all the time.

Just ask those economists who couldn't imagine any logical way lighthouses could be funded without government even while the very lighthouses outside their window were funded without government.

Thought experiments are fun and sometimes useful, but also often arrogant, blinding, and dangerous.

Update: I just noticed a "Related Post" under this from three years ago. About this exact same thing. I don't even remember writing it. Daily blogging will do that sometimes. Anyway, here it is.

 

Medical History Haiku


In one hundred years

Current medical ideas

Will seem barbaric

Stupid Things


I just watched some guys on YouTube eat a whole pineapple, skin and all.

Apparently pineapple exteriors have an enzyme that digests protein and basically tenderizes the inside of you mouth and later your digestive system - it digests you while you digest it. These guys were bleeding from the mouth by the time they were done.

Of course this looks like a stupid thing to do. But it also has some strange appeal, just like the stunts on MTV's Jackass. Or climbing Everest for that matter.

Humans want to know.

We want to see firsthand (or at least secondhand) what happens when you do this to that. Watch kids mess around with household objects. They always eventually do something stupid with them.

This is a wonderful trait. It can lead to tragedy, but it is also the most human, fully alive kind of activity, and it pushes humanity forward.

We want to go to Mars because it's there. We want to know what will happen. We have to try it.

The kids doing pineapple challenges are channeling the same spirit that drives us forward. When we're interplanetary, you can thank them. (If they're still alive.)

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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