I went to Effective Altruism Global 2016 this past weekend in Berkeley, CA, and came away with a lot of great thoughts from the sessions and talking with folks. Since it was my first EA Global, I went to a good number of sessions. Here are my key take-aways. (If you also went to EA Global, I encourage you to share, even if brief, your key take-aways, and email me if you do!)
I’ve listed and provided a one-sentence gist of each one in this table of contents, so you can click into whichever one seems interesting to you. Or, you can just skip the contents and read the first one.
Scott H. Young wrote an excellent article comparing and contrasting books vs. blogs for learning complex material. One point I found interesting was the idea that certain ideas need to be taught in book format since they’re too complex to be broken down into articles. I thought: I’ve been able to understand complex ideas both in article form and in book form. What allows complex ideas be able to be squeezed down to something as short as an article?
One thing that I've been concerned about lately is how to maintain original thinking when diving into a new field. I think that we are subject to the conscious or unconscious effects of paradigm blindness when we learn about a new field. That is, once we learn how it's done traditionally, it's hard for us to come up with new original ideas. This could mean that we’re less able to come up with great ideas that really change a field, instead of incremental ideas that contribute a relatively smaller amount to it.
What defines a great book? For me, one that changes how I think in a fundamental way, or expands my gamut of understanding. Here are the great books I read this year and the books I’m looking forward to next year.
I’ve recently realized why I’m bad at regularly publishing blog posts: it’s because I think I know very little. To publish something, you have to be acutely self-assured in the veracity of what you’re writing, which means either a) it’s something you have deep knowledge and experience in that you can speak with authority on, or b) it’s a personal anecdote, which you’re inherently sure about. Call it rationalism or a crippling need to self-question and avoid overconfidence bias—the result is that I don’t think I have a lot of answers.