Issue № 22

Periscope depth

When we have a bit of time to relax, we tend to spend time on activities that provide us with a quick dopamine hit. This is especially the case when we spend our downtime in the digital world. The key to relaxation is to invest in strategies that make your mind less stimulated. Usually this means spending more time in the analog world.

~ Chris Bailey from,

That analog world can be outside moving or inside doing some yoga, sipping coffee, reading, or spending time with people physically present. The more time I can spend in the analog world, the better my life is.

I have a lot of hard-learned knowledge around what works for me in the morning, and I urge you to experiment to find out what works for you. For years I’ve been using the word “surfacing” to refer to that moment when I transition from simply being myself, to engaging with the world through technology. Surfacing is a submarine reference; Like a submarine, at some point each morning—sometimes after Noon—I sneak up to periscope depth and without making a ripple on the surface I peek to see what in the world might be close at hand. I know that once I break the surface, my life that day changes. One moment, I’m out of sight being self-directed (not necessarily selfish, but rather directing myself) and the next moment there’s an endless world vying for my attention.

My point is not that there’s something wrong with the world. (There is, but that’s not my point.) My point is that the world is simply present. It is ever-present. It’s not the world’s responsibility to not bother me. It is my responsibility to choose. I must choose when to engage and when to be the void. I must choose how to be present for those to whom I am beholden, and I must choose to not waste my energies on everything else. Because there is literally an infinite amount of everything else and chasing that is a fool’s errand.


In any situation in life, you only have three options. You always have three options. You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it. What is not a good option is to sit around wishing you would change it but not changing it, wishing you would leave it but not leaving it, and not accepting it. It’s that struggle, that aversion, that is responsible for most of our misery.

~ Naval Ravikant

The yellow bow tie in your eye

I mean it took 10 minutes sitting in a cafe staring at my laptop screen and repeatedly cocking my head back and forth, like an absolute goon, but I can see Haidinger’s brushes!

~ Matt Webb from,

If you like what I’m doing, you’ll probably also like Webb’s Interconnected. I was skimming through, and spun off digging into optics and eyes and yellow bow ties. I’ve never (or I’ve completely forgotten) known about this before today. Like Webb, I was astounded to realize that I can see Haidinger’s brushes. It’s an optical phenomenon in the macula of the retina. Not everyone has the biology to see it, but with certain light coming into your eye this defect of our magnificent optical systems is revealed. Just when I think, “meh, what wonders could possibly be left…”

Talent and courage

A great deal of talent is lost in this world for the want of a little courage.

~ Sydney Smith

The gaming problem

As the power of AI grows, we need to have evidence of its sentience. That is why we must return to the minds of animals.

~ Kristin Andrews and Jonathan Birch from,

This article ate my face. I was scrolling through a long list of things I’d marked for later reading, I glanced at the first paragraph of this article… and a half-hour later I realized it must be included here. I couldn’t even figure out what to pull-quote because that requires choosing the most-important theme. The article goes deeply into multiple intriguing topics, including sentience, evolution, pain, and artificial intelligence. I punted and just quoted the sub-title of the article.

The biggest new-to-me thing I encountered is a sublime concept called the gaming problem in assessing sentience. It’s about gaming, in the sense of “gaming the system of assessment.” If you’re clicking through to the article, just ignore me and go read…

…okay, still here? Here’s my explanation of the gaming problem:

Imagine you want to wonder if an octopus is sentient. You might then go off and perform polite experiments on octopods. You might then set about wondering what your experiments tell you. You might wonder if the octopods are intelligent enough to try to deceive you. (For example, if they are intelligent enough, they might realize you’re a scientist studying them, and that convincing you they are sentient and kind, would be in their best interest.) But you definitely do not need to wonder if the octopods have studied all of human history to figure out how to deceive you—they definitely have not because living in water they have no access to our stored knowledge. Therefore, when studying octopods, you do not have to worry about them using knowledge of humans to game your system of study.

Now, imagine you want to wonder if an AI is sentient. You might wonder will the AI try to deceive you into thinking it’s sentient when it actually isn’t. We know that we humans deceive each other often; We write about it a lot, and our deception is seen in every other form of media too. Any AI created by humans will have access to a lot (most? all??) of human knowledge and would therefore certainly have access to plenty of information about how to deceive a person, what works, and what doesn’t. So why would an AI not game your system of study to convince you it is sentient?

That’s the gaming problem in assessing sentience.


My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: That one wants nothing to be other than it is, not in the future, not in the past, not in all eternity. Not merely to endure that which happens of necessity… but to love it.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Talent is bullshit

Marty is a death camp survivor. He’s got the tattoo. He never speaks about the experience directly (I only know through my friend Pablo, who originally introduced me to Marty) but he’ll make remarks from time to time whose gist is, “Appreciate life. Never complain. Work hard and do your best.”

Marty has one other mantra: “Talent is bullshit.”

~ Steven Pressfield from,

It’s worth reading simply because Pressfield wrote it; He doesn’t write that much on his blog and so I make time to read it all. Marty (who is a fictionalized version of a real person Pressfield knew) consuls a tidy, four points. I was gut-punched to realize that while I excel at the last two, “Work hard and do your best,” and I suck at the first two, “Appreciate life. Never complain.” The complaining bit I have made reasonable progress on. These days I don’t often complain, and when I do complain I am able to see it’s ridiculous indignation at its core. But that first one, “Appreciate life,”… yikes! I seriously suck at that.

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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