The Brave New World of Wireheading

The rat’s paw moves constantly, sometimes becoming a blur as it depresses the lever over and over. Once, twice, ten times, a hundred times, five thousand times in the space of an hour. With each push, an electrode sends a jolt of electricity coursing through its tiny rodent brain. The rat will push the lever for as long as 24 hours without stopping. It won’t eat, or sleep, or make any effort to leave the confines of its stainless steel cage. Unless the men in white lab coats cut off the current, it will stimulate itself to death.

It’s 1954, and science has just stumbled upon the brain’s pleasure center. Heady days! The excited researchers repeat the experiment on monkeys, and find, again, they can reach right into the hypothalamus and light it up like a Christmas tree, transforming their subjects into blissed-out automatons. The seminal paper concludes that these results could “very likely be generalized eventually to human beings—with modifications, of course”.

Of course…

Is the law of attraction real? cover image

Is The Law of Attraction Real?

Napoleon Hill was a pretty shitty human being, but you have to give him props for being perhaps the the greatest conman in history. It’s not just the sheer brazenness of the con, but that he got away with it scot-free, and continues to be revered long after his death. Think and Grow Rich, published in 1937, is still a bestseller today. It has 4.5 stars on Amazon.

None of the glowing reviewers seem to be aware that rather than soaking up the principles of the greats, curated and distilled over 20 years, they’re reading fiction cut from whole cloth by a conman whose only expertise lay in parting fools from their money.

As incredible as this is, it’s not the topic of this post. Ideas must be judged on their merits, and Think and Grow Rich is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the positive thinking phenomenon.

Hill didn’t come up with the ‘Law of Attraction’ himself, but he perfected the archetypal self-help format: if you trace back the explosion in gurus waxing lyrical about the the power of belief, Think and Grow Rich is ground zero. Every purveyor of inspiration porn for the last 80 years—Tony Robbins, Oprah, Deepak Chopra, The Secret—has a direct lineage to this book.

It all starts with this idea: If you believe in yourself, the universe will provide. Conquer your thoughts, and you conquer the world…

Specialisation is for insects - Elon Musk's Roadster cruises through space

Specialization is For Insects

Elon Musk is the real-life Ironman, and exactly the sort of superhero we need – because he puts the lie to the tired old cliche; ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. In this post, I want to make the case that cultivating broad interests and skills not only dovetails perfectly with the frugal life, but acts as a sort of force multiplier – a booster rocket that can propel you towards your money goals at blistering speed…

How to Make Friends as a Solo Traveler

The first stage of being a solo traveler is fear. I flew into Bangkok in the middle of a thunderstorm. Sheet lightning and flickering neon signs threw the grimy streets into sharp relief as I took a cab through the pounding rain. The driver dropped me in the vicinity of my hostel, overcharged me for the fare, then pretended he didn’t have change for my fresh banknote. When I finally found my accommodation, soaked to the skin, I realised I was the only one staying there. There I was in a megacity of eight million people, and I’d never felt more alone…

Living On Less Than $10,000 a Year

At the start of 2017, one of my goals was to try and maintain a flâneur lifestyle while living off less than US$10,000 (or NZ$15,000).
I’ve logged every rickshaw ride, every water refill, every bowl of noodles. Nothing escaped the merciless conditional formatting of my spreadsheet, which blazed a furious red whenever I overshot my daily or monthly spending targets. Now, with an entire year’s worth of spending data in front of me, it’s crunch time. Here’s how I did…

A Sense of Perspective: The Time I Received Five Marriage Proposals in One Day

The Time I Received Five Marriage Proposals in One Afternoon

That fateful afternoon in the slums of Jakarta is seared into my memory forever. No ego-boost here – just people desperate to escape from grinding poverty. Travel is a uniquely powerful way of broadening your perspective, but talk is cheap. No amount of sanctimonious think-pieces and gratitude journaling will put food in hungry bellies. The good news is, we have an amazing opportunity to actually do something…

The best things in life are free essay cover image

The Best Things in Life Really Are Free

In my former life, I enjoyed a great deal of schmoozing. There were many long lunches at fine restaurants, champagne in business class served by the CEO of the airline, and corporate boxes at the sportsball. I’ve also spent weeks barely moving my carcass from a tropical island hammock except to skin up a joint or get another bottle of wine. I would be lying if I denied that all of these things are tremendous fun. On the other hand, they don’t tend to lead to much lasting satisfaction, losing their flavour as quickly as an over-chewed piece of gum. The best things in life really are free…

Self authoring review: Sorting myself out with Dr Jordan Peterson

Self Authoring Review: Sorting Myself Out With Dr Jordan Peterson

Imagine your dad giving you a stern talking-to about the facts of life, except your dad is Canadian, has an IQ of ~150, and is voiced by Kermit the Frog. That’s Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto psychology professor whose lectures I’ve been binge-watching recently. When I heard he used a research-backed ‘self authoring’ program with his students to great success, I had to give it a try. Here’s the verdict…

Slash your spending and unleash a cash tsunami image

How to Save Money Fast: 100 Tips to Slash Your Spending

These are the exact strategies I used to save $100,000 by age 25 – with a few bonus extras thrown in for good measure. Over the years, I’ve written more than 300 columns and feature articles about money. Now I’ve crunched all that research down into a summary of the very best saving tips, which will help you free up a tidal wave of cash…

An empty pier stretches into cool blue water on a blazing hot day.

How to Save $100,000 by Age 25

For the first time in my life, I have absolute freedom to only pursue the things that interest me. The last two decades have been an uninterrupted freight train of schooling and work, so it’s a pretty surreal feeling. There are moments of pure elation, and even the occasional faint trace of guilt. Did I cheat, somehow? Surely it can’t be this easy? I’m waiting for a giant skyhook to descend from the heavens and hoist me up by the seat of my elephant pants, violently jerking me back into reality. It wasn’t until 2013 that I even twigged this was an option…