double exponentials, and saving humanity

To the moon.

Existential angst is part of life. It's particularly noticeable around major life events or just after major career milestones. It also seems to particularly affect smart, ambitious people.

It's not surprising that I've been going through a lot of existential angst the past few months. I will be graduating soon, and have reached the end of the train tracks that society lays down for an individual — tutorial island is complete. The ride these past four years could have been much smoother had I discovered Alan Watts earlier, but, oh well, lesson learned. Moving forwards, I'll try my best to keep the life-is-simply-a-game-and-you-should-just-enjoy-the-ride goggles on for the next mountains I climb.

In paradise, I left off by mentioning that I still have real fish to fry: figuring out what problems I should work on. Why? Because happiness comes from the inside-out, which means being internally driven. Succcess comes easy to those who feel fury for their work. And, being good at your job is more important than you think.

If you agree with that line of reasoning, you can then trust the same conclusions and career advice given by people such as Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Paul Graham, and Sam Altman. They've done a lot thinking on the best use of their finite time on Earth (and soon to be Mars).

Double Exponentials

In 2017, Sam Altman addressed the graduating class of Waterloo, and talked about this idea of double exponentials. A double exponential comprises of two components:

  1. identifying a favorable exponential trend in the world
  2. hard work

The majority of smart people find #2 easy. The hard part is actually #1. Before you get lost in the weeds in trying to figure out #1, it's good to take a step back and do some hard thinking by identifying what kind of trends you want to work on in the first place. Or, outsource your first principles thinking to smart people like Elon Musk.

Saving Humanity

One of the most profound purposes you can dedicate your life to is saving humanity. This could mean literally saving the human race from existential threats, like what Elon is doing. But it could also mean saving the human race insofar as improving the experience. (I guess you'd be technically saving the human race from a shitty life experience.)

If you prescribe to evolutionary theory and Darwin's dangerous idea, then you also agree that the purpose of life is to survive. That, combined with some weird life-is-a-video-game fantasy of mine (from too many video games) has led me to conclude that saving humanity is a great purpose to attach oneself to. If you analyze the companies Elon is building, it seems that he thinks so too.

Here are the exponentials I'm interested in working on during my lifetime.

To the moon 🚀

Cowbow Bebop, one of the best anime of all time.
GIF of Cowbow Bebop's Swordfish