weaponized autism train pepe face cover image

Weaponised Autism as the Font of Human Creativity

What makes humans special? How is it that we are able to unleash the energy of the atom, transmute handfuls of sand into powerful djinn, and generally manipulate matter in any way not strictly forbidden by the laws of physics, while our hominid ancestors gather dust in the natural history museum? What tectonic forces have torn such a chasm between us and our surviving cousins, still banging rocks together in the animal kingdom?

For most of history this was no great mystery: only humans have an immortal soul, granted to us by a Creator who made us in His own image.

Then Linnaeus and Darwin revealed we were merely naked apes, sparking the great debate that remains unresolved almost three hundred years later: what is our secret sauce as a species?

Some rely on bold conjectures: it’s our big brains. Others make convincing arguments for our language skills, or twiddle their opposable thumbs suggestively.

Wrong, says Simon Baron-Cohen. In fact, the font of all human creativity, the source of all our knowledge, and the key to becoming masters of the universe is… autism.

The Beginning of Infinity, by David Deutsch: A book review

Book Review: The Beginning of Infinity

Pound-for-pound The Beginning of Infinity has to be the densest collection of batshit-crazy ideas I’ve ever come across.

Never mind the bit about how there are trillions of copies of you constantly branching throughout the multiverse. Deutsch also claims there is nothing in principle stopping us from colonising the stars, transmuting matter like the alchemists of old, bringing an end to death, reversing global warming, and solving any other problem that arises. But that’s not ambitious enough: we also need to casually dismantle the central problem of metaethics, and toss in an argument for objective beauty while we’re at it.

For a maximally disorientating reading experience, Deustch delivers these ideas without the slightest hint of deference towards the multiple fields he bulldozes through—not so much as a deliberate flex, but with the airy detachment of the Don Draper meme: “I don’t think about you at all.”

At first I was annoyed. Then I was amused. Then I was intrigued…

I Miss You

We don’t talk much these days but we go way back. We started out in the same generic scene, but then we found our groove out in the weirder and under-explored fringes. Over the years we grew and developed together. We have a rapport. So I’m feeling kinda bummed about how I permanently and irrevocably lost any way of contacting […]

best books 2022

The Best of the Best Books I Read in 2022

I read exactly one (1) generalist nonfiction book all year. Normally I am a huge sucker for the kind of books that do the rounds on the podcast circuit—pop-science, sprawling anthropological syntheses, whatever self-help thing is zeitgeisty. Now I still buy them, but I can’t summon the enthusiasm to actually get past the first chapter.

By way of contrast, I had no problem with narrative nonfiction and memoirs. I even managed a few hefty textbooks. But anything outside of specific object-level learning, I don’t want to know about.

In a possibly related development, this was the year I fell in love with the short story as a format. Literary fiction has always felt like a raw deal. I’m incapable of persevering through a book the size of a brick in the hopes that I will maybe be able to extract some obscure payoff (I’m on my third rejection of Brothers Karamazov). But a 20-page short story? I can deal with that, no matter how dense the prose or self-indulgent the author.

I think I read about 200 short stories this year, of which, several make the cut for my favourites below…

this is your brain on keto galaxy brain meme

Keto Experiment Results

tl;dr: Went about as expected, i.e. no obvious effects, with a few mildly interesting observations. Publishing this mainly to push back against the file-drawer effect, and to highlight an example of an experiment which has both a positive expected value and a ~95 per cent chance of failure. What is the ketogenic diet good for? At the time of writing, […]

is crypto bullshit? calling my shots cover image

Is Crypto Bullshit? Calling My Shots

The harshest critics and strident boosters of crypto-land are engaged in an ever-escalating contest to see who can project the most lurid vision of the future. Nothing in this arena can be taken at face value, which makes it unusually fertile ground for battle-testing your own critical thinking skills.

My adventures down the rabbithole have given me a lot of ideas for blog posts, but experience suggests I won’t get round to publishing most of them.

Instead, I want to call my shots right now:

I Aten’t Dead

My initial impulse was to delete the blog, de-list the book, and generally disappear quietly into the ether. Then, after sleeping on it a while, I figured I could just mothball Deep Dish, and start a new, pseudonymous blog elsewhere with no audience, zero expectations, and a clean slate.

…finally, I decided to stop being a drama queen and start posting again right here, unabashedly rejoining my fellow mentally disturbed people who insist upon Having Opinions in public.

So that’s what I’m gonna do (with a few small changes)…

best books of 2020

The Best of the Best Books I Read in 2020

Over the last couple of years, my reading time has mostly been chewed up by research for my own book. So it came as a great relief to find myself with much more scope to read for pleasure in 2020.

My favourites of the year are a mixture of classics that were so good that I have no choice but to include, along with some lesser-known works where I might actually be able to add a useful signal…

Bitcoin is not that stupid cover image

Why Bitcoin is Not That Stupid

I have held off on sharing my true feelings about Bitcoin until now, as it soars past its all-time high, so that it will be maximally humiliating when the bubble bursts and all the funny Internet money becomes worthless again.

See, I have something to get off my chest: I don’t think Bitcoin is stupid.

No, not even at these apparently ridiculous prices. Not even when financial illiterates are making grandiose claims about where it’ll end up.

People much smarter than me have made the case for Bitcoin using careful technical or fundamental arguments. I’m not going to attempt that in this post, or regurgitate the basics of cryptocurrency (I’ll suggest some resources later on).

Instead, I want to make two points I haven’t seen addressed elsewhere…

what does optionality means? 10 rules for optionality in an uncertain world

10 Principles of Optionality For an Uncertain World

What is optionality? If you want a thorough answer, check out the big juicy book I spent the last couple of years writing.

In the meantime, I’ve written a post that links together everything I’ve written in one place, and gives a taste of what the book is about for new readers.

Here’s my definition of optionality, adapted from the introduction of the book, followed by 10 principles for navigating an uncertain world…

the problem with happiness research: it's all relative

Happiness is a Greased Pig Chase

Despite having grown up in the country and attended my fair share of the agricultural shows and carnivals that pass for entertainment, I have never known the joy of chasing a pig—greased, or otherwise.

I no longer feel a desperate need to address this glaring gap in my childhood experience, because the last couple of years have given me a pretty good sense of what it must feel like.

Happiness is a greased pig chase. I don’t mean this in the ‘happiness is a warm blanket’ Peanuts sense, although clearly rural folks get a big kick out of it. I mean it in the sense that the concept itself is extremely difficult to pin down…

Announcing the optionality book: how you can get involved

Announcing Optionality, the Book: How You Can Get Involved

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a book project for the last few years. Now I can finally announce it officially: Optionality: How to Survive and Thrive in a Volatile World is a thing that exists in the world!

This is a synthesis of everything we’ve been thinking about here on the blog, and much more. I’m really proud of it, and excited to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Briefly, the book lays out a strategy for not only becoming resilient to future shocks, but positioning yourself to profit from an unpredictable world: investing, insurance, social support networks, health and fitness, and skills, all viewed through the lens of making confident decisions under uncertainty.

It takes a village to write a book. I’ve tested some of the ideas here on the blog, and have benefited enormously from having readers give feedback on the structure, title, design, and early drafts.

It also takes a village to launch one. As a first-time author, I’m asking you, dear readers, for help in marketing the book and spreading it to communities and groups that would benefit from it…

Make frugality great again hat

Make Frugality Great Again!

What comes to mind when you think of the word frugality? For me, it’s a used tea bag sitting in a saucer, waiting to be re-dunked. Or arguing with the store manager to try to get a discount. Or ‘mum says we have food at home’.

And that’s coming from someone who loves this thing. The first post I ever published was my viral 2016 ‘coming out’ essay on the life-changing power of frugality. This is still the best experiment I’ve ever run, and set me up for everything that followed.

But longtime readers might have noticed that I’ve moved away from this kind of material over the years. Partly, it’s because I find early retirement blogs interminably boring. If I see another ‘monthly income report’ post I will scream.

I’ve also been feeling a little uneasy about the virtues of frugality and the early retirement movement. My upcoming book is about how I fell out of love with these ideas, and my attempt to build a more well-rounded philosophy. Whether or not you read the book, I feel like I should explain how my thinking has changed in recent years…

personal security audit cover image

Getting Hacked and Getting Hard

CLEARANCE SALE! VANS SHOES CHEAP! I was as surprised as anyone to hear that I’d pivoted from blogging to hawking knock-off footwear on Facebook. After pulling down the scam posts and changing my password, I checked my activity log. At least three interlopers had somehow managed to access my account, one of them several years ago. Creepy, but unimaginative: they didn’t lock me out, or steal my identity, or use my password to access other sites. As far as I know, my nudes are still between me and Zuckerberg.

Then there was the second incident: I changed my Google password, immediately forgot it, and couldn’t get back in. I filled in the account recovery forms over and over, and sat there silently panicking as each robotic form rejection destroyed a tiny piece of my soul. There was no way to get in touch with a human being. With one moment of carelessness, I was sure I’d lost all my work, and years of treasured memories.

On both occasions I got lucky: it could have been much, much worse. Screwing up for a third time was probably tempting fate, so I decided it was time to actually sit down and sort out my online security…