20 Things I Learned in 2020

It seems cliché to make these lists, but I figure you might be able to learn something from me, too.

1. Most people spend their entire lives killing time.

2. Most people, when presented with facts that contradict their opinions, will double down on their beliefs.

3. Everybody thinks they’re smart.

4. It’s hard to conceptualize just how difficult this year has been until you hear stories like this one:

“In other news, my clinic’s been cleared of our outbreak. 12 residents died. A lot more have had severe declines.

“My parents’ business is dead, and they just totaled their car, so we’ll probably have to buy them a new car and have to deal with their stupidity even more since they won’t be working. They spend almost every day at the casino and beg for money almost every week.

“Meanwhile, I’ve also been opting out of my salary so my employees can work enough hours to pick up partial unemployment and not get laid off, and I’m still in trouble with the divisional higher-ups because our financials are good and fucked anyways. Oddly enough, when we have an active pandemic in our building that’s killing people, my therapists are less productive.

“We lost four in a fucking day, and they were relatively young and active. One lady told us before she went out that she didn’t want to die like this. She did anyways.

“Her room was across from my office and we’d chat every time I went in or out. Kinda sucks seeing her empty room every day.

“Oh well. Throw ’em in the pile with the dead elderly. At the end of the day, no one really gives a fuck anyways.”

-A close personal friend of mine

All this because people can’t help but be selfish.

5. Dating is manipulation.

6. Ted Kaczynski was right.

Maybe I should write a little bit about this one.

Ted Kaczynski, also known at the Unabomber, was known firstly as a domestic terrorist and secondly as one of the great philosophers of our time. Netflix has produced a few miniseries on his capture but they don’t cover his writings. Go figure.

To summarize, Ted writes that technology is directly detrimental to society, causing widespread psychological suffering, making life unfulfilling. People no longer have to work hard to survive; all laborious tasks have been automated, and people are filling up the rest of their time with what he calls “surrogate activities.” These can be anything where people strive for artificial goals, like consumption of entertainment, building collections, political activism, or following sports teams.

This advancement in technology is also restricting human freedom. You must be more and more reliable on technology as it advances, as society necessitates. How difficult is it nowadays to do anything that hasn’t had technology impact it in some way?

This pandemic has made it startlingly clear how much we rely on technology today. If it’s suddenly taken away, then civilization is doomed. This fact will only be made worse as civilization advances further, as technology is granted a tighter grip on humanity.

Y’know, the crazy thing about what he wrote is that his manifesto was written in 1995, and he started to adopt this line of thought two decades earlier. And was he wrong?

You can find his manifesto here. It’s not short. And if that fact alone is reason enough to deter you from reading it, then maybe you’re just proving his point.

7. Coriander and cilantro are the same thing.

and paprika is ground dried red bell pepper.

8. Everybody needs help in one way or another.

Some people can buy it. Most others can’t.

9. University is a waste of time and money unless you already have a clear and definite idea of what you want your career to be.

Let’s be real, not a lot of people do.

You’re better off going to a cheaper trade school to try out some other things before you make a full commitment. It’s better than spending your entire life paying off a debt for something you hate doing. While you’re doing it.

10. A lot of people don’t deserve to be where they are.

Unfortunately, this goes both ways. It’s amazing what you can do with money.

11. When civilization ends, there will be no record of the current day.

None. Zero. Unless somebody starts etching some records onto stone or something else that can withstand nature and time, everything will be lost as soon as electricity and the internet are lost.

12. The world needs some better communication, education, humility, and humanity.

It’s not going to get any of them.

13. It’s possible that you can spend hours and hours working on projects, receive many kind words after they’re released, and still be unsatisfied with how they turned out.

14. 14 is as good as 20.

No use in artificially extending the length of a post that’s already pretty long.

I’m going to sleep in the new year.

So long, 2020. It’s been wild.


This world is complicated.

More complicated than you and I will ever fathom.

It’s one thing to think about how weird it is to be anything at all, but it’s an entirely other thing to think about just how we got here.

How many thousands of generations of homo sapiens have died so we can sit inside our insulated homes, with a roof over our heads, on top of a bed, wearing pajamas and under a comforter?

Many. Many thousands.

Progress is parabolic.

We’re at the red arrow.

Each of the generations before us have made technological progress in order to stay alive. It’s only recently that we’ve been able to live in comfort and focus on improving our lives and the lives of others.

So what’s next? We’re currently in the information age. What comes after the information age? I encourage you to think about this for yourself, but you should be aware of a few things:

  1. All of Elon Musk’s ventures are ridiculous. Tesla is among the tamest, as are The Boring Company and Paypal. SpaceX, Neuralink, and OpenAI are among the craziest. Read up on them if you haven’t.
  2. We are basically cyborgs. Our phones are basically part of us. Imagine what you can and can’t do without your phone, and how naked you feel when you don’t have it with you.
  3. We’re on the cusp of mass automation. Self-driving cars are here, assembly lines have nearly been fully-automated. Full automation of food service is already on the near horizon.

Pause the video now to do some thinking.

jeopardy music

Personally, I’m predicting another industrial revolution, followed by another Renaissance. We’ll be spending the next however long spending time automating all our services for however many years, then there will be a period of arts and expression afterward. A problem I see with it is that everybody needs to have something to work toward, and many non-creative types may have a problem with finding something to do. Suicide rates will increase drastically, medicine costs will rise, and the world will become restless.

I’m expecting a 30-60 years for the next industrial revolution, then maybe 100-150 for a Renaissance.

What do you think?


What is Truth? Pt. 2: There is no Algorithm

In last month’s post, I wrote about how it’s impossible to determine if the news you’re getting is true, and part of the reason is that news profits from getting views. Let’s explore that further.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. News websites get paid a fraction of a penny when someone sees an ad on it. (I had originally planned to explain all the technical details but it turned out to be wordy and dry, sorta like my sense of humor.) So sometimes a news website, even an honorable one, might run an article (or title) of questionable validity in order to make ends meet for the month. It’s clickbait.

What news website do you know that provides mostly fact and little fiction, or vice versa? News organizations out on either end are usually less popular. It’s not as exciting to read facts without any excitement every so often, and it’s not very fun to read lies all the time either. Being deep on either end of the spectrum isn’t as sustainable a business model.

Now that we’ve established that news articles will create fake news for money, we begin to wonder: is there some sort of barrier or counter to this?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: nooooooooooooooo.

For one, where exactly would you put this barrier? Would you put it on platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Reddit? Well, no, because these websites are platforms, not publishers; they aren’t in the business of dictating which news articles are true and which aren’t.

Mike Rowe wrote a post about this point recently. It’s rather long but it’s a very easy read.

If you choose one thing not to skip, choose the preceding post from Mike Rowe. He’s much more articulate than I.

What if you had a unified body of people that vetted all news articles before they were posted online and discarded the ones that weren’t true?

Well, that would be:

  1. Biased
  2. Impossible to manage, based on sheer amount of content published per second
  3. Easily manipulated
  4. Pretty much the definition of censorship

Bringing a machine-learning algorithm in as a solution would only address the second issue, and would likely make the first and third worse. Pff. Can you imagine if someone taught the all-encompassing censorship algorithm that nobody is allowed to post anything bad about Joe Biden or Donald Trump?

What it comes down to

is this: we have to do our own research on the news we receive. We have to carefully scrutinize each bit of information to determine for ourselves whether it’s true or false, and we can’t rely on a machine or another person to do this for us.

I full realize that I’m shouting into the wind, here. People are already failing at this. People are more happy to yell within their echochambers than think critically and objectively about the things they read and hear around them.

The future is bleak, and we’re living in it.

There will be a part 3 to this post, because there has to be.


What is truth?

You’d define it as the body of things that is verified or indisputable, right?

But how do you even know if that’s true? You can only compare your new, incoming knowledge against your old knowledge and decide whether this new knowledge has space in your preexisting worldview. If it does, great. It’ll fit right in with everything else. If not, then it’s going to take some extra mental effort for you to reshape that square hole so a pentagon-shaped peg can fit into it.

First: an illustration.

Imagine that your memory, worldviews, experiences, and perceptions can be neatly visualized with this board full of different-shaped holes filled with pegs. Your board is ever-expanding, and every time you hear or see something new, you must decide what shape to make the new hole.

See the source image
Like one of these.

Now imagine that you specialize in making square-shaped holes, but the square pegs stop arriving, being replaced with round ones. It continues for a long time, and you decide to start making some round holes to accommodate these round pegs. There’s a square peg in there every once in a while, and even an odd star-shaped one, but they’re all mostly still circles.

Some time passes. You continue to accept round pegs and even send some out yourself. Then you notice that the rate of peg arrival is accelerating, first gradually, then rapidly. Moreover, the shapes of the pegs are ones you’re not used to seeing. Crosses and crescents. Hexagons and Heptagons. Hearts. Ovals. Triangles. The circle-shaped pegs are now hard to pick out.

You can’t keep up. So you decide that you’re only going to accept circle-shaped pegs and discard the rest. And for the rest of your life, each time your board expands, you create a little circle-shaped hole and neatly insert a fresh new circle-shaped peg into it.

So what?

Hopefully the analogy was apt.

But there are some things that aren’t addressed, like why you’re being served mostly square pegs to begin with. Is your affinity for square holes due to nature or nurture?

Let’s briefly examine how this analogy applies to our lives right now.

First. your board is ever-expanding, as long as you’re alive. Sometimes you get so focused on the edge of the board that it loses integrity in the center, and those pegs fall away. Other times, you make a conscious decision to cut off parts of your board.

Second, the primary way to filter incoming pegs is by looking at its shape and determining whether it fits into a hole you already have. There are two problems with this:

  1. You can’t know for certain that the pegs are coming from a reasonable or trustworthy source.
  2. There’s no way to guarantee that the pegs on your board are from a reasonable or trustworthy source.

You can take a look at the source of the information, but there’s no knowing for sure that the information is accurate and complete.

That’s point #3. You can’t know whether the peg you receive is hollow, made of a different material, or defective in any way, lest you take some time to scrutinize it. And with the rate at which pegs are coming your way, you hardly have any time to do that.

Let’s speak literally.

I’ve spoken about the media before. I detest the media.

Journalists literally have a financial incentive to bend the truth to get people emotional. Their primary function is to turn tragedy into entertainment.

But past all that, there’s no way to know if the information we’re getting is accurate or complete. For example, did you know there are ongoing conflicts in multiple countries in southeast Asia? Did you know there was an explosion at a factory in Beirut that caused $10-15 billion in damages in August?

A skirmish broke out between armed forces on the border between China and India in May this year and there was hardly any reporting on it.

I do concede that this problem is getting better. Now with the advent of smart phones, it’s easy for a bystander to capture video footage of an incident taking place. It’s a more reliable way of sharing information. Much better than waiting for a journalist to write a summary of the incident with implicit biases.

I didn’t want to have to do this, but there will be a part 2 to this post. This post is already long enough.

Tune in next week on Dragonball Z.


I have nothing to write about this month.

Sometimes when I get fired up about politics, I think about writing a piece on why I disagree with aspects of both sides. It hasn’t come to that yet, but I do consider moving to another country all the time.

This month has been full of studying for job interviews and working on various music projects. Here’s something my a cappella group put together earlier this month. It took a long time.

This quarantine I learned:

  • How to trade stock options (though I’m still learning)
  • Basic audio engineering
  • Video editing
  • Dynamic programming
  • Front-end web development
  • Basic quant trading
  • How to make really good cheesecake
  • The science behind the ketogenic diet
  • Basic Italian
  • I am much less tolerant with annoying people than I thought
  • My pride gets in the way of many things
  • many other things

I just want a job. Or at least, I want to be able to make money doing the things I’m doing now. Hopefully this will all pay off soon.

August. We got 1/3 of the year left. I wonder what it has in store for us.