Wednesday, June 2, 2021

What I’ve learned about markets

A few have asked so I’m typing this out. Most this information isn’t new, it’s my interpretation of it and what I think is the most valuable. So far, I’ve had success and over 100x ROIs (not crypto) in what’s probably preparation + luck. Not financial advice.

Time in the market > timing the market - most important rule. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg agreed the hardest part of the job is getting out of the car. The most successful events in the market came down to just a handful of days. If you don’t have some exposure to the market you will miss those parabolic leaps when they do happen. So if you’re not in the market, or don’t have sufficient capital in it, or your cash is “settling” from a day-trade meaning you can’t access it, you’re going to miss out. Individual days of parabolic success are the same for individual stocks, so if you’re not in before the spike you don’t benefit. Investor Rick Rule suggests being down 50% is the price you pay to be up 400 to 500%. Meaning, long term gains require the patience and foresight to withstand the price volatility that is likely to happen before big gains. In short, it’s better to be a stumbling, clumsy investor more often than someone trying to time the market so precisely they are paralyzed by indecision.

Avoid risk of ruin - the second most important thing is simply don’t be over-invested and take controlled risks. You generally shouldn’t have any money in your investment account that you need to take out unless it’s for another investment (house, business) or you’re making enough gains through investments where it’s akin to income. If you are over-invested you may end up taking money out of investments at a loss that you still believe will be profitable in the mid to long term. Try not to invest money you may need for personal use in the short term for this reason. And don’t trade with money you can’t afford to lose is terribly obvious advice. Avoiding risk of ruin seems to be one of the most important aspects of trading. It goes with the saying “Bulls (betting with the market) make money, bears (betting against the market) make money, pigs (dummies who yolo) get slaughtered.” If you receive a million dollar inheritance and YOLO it all into dogecoin at .45 you could double your money but you could also lose 90% of it. Avoiding risk of ruin might be say, putting 95% of it into safe blue chip stocks and only putting $50,000 for a controlled yolo. This way if your brilliant investment idea flops you can recover. Avoiding risk of ruin means you get to keep the lights on and try again.

Pareto’s Principal - this is something I first learned about in Peter Thiel’s Zero to One outlining his success in creating PayPal and investing strategy. Pareto’s Principle is essentially a rule of thumb dictating 80% of results are driven by 20% of the effort. It’s a way of making a calculated diversification strategy. For example he explains when looking into an industry, he will invest in a handful of companies with the idea each company must have enough potential for success to cover the potential losses of the failed companies. This is the same 80/20 strategy. For example, I’m sure cultured meat has huge potential for the future. Many of those companies will fail but if you can bet on the best horses, with the huge upside potential only 20% success could cover your losses and achieve great gains.

Probability - Nassim Taleb pointed out a foolish investor who said he doesn’t mess with stock options because 90% of the time they expire worthless. But he added this means nothing, without knowing what you stand to gain the 10% of the time you do win. If it is weighted with gains in the thousands of percent that has to be part of the equation. Taleb in The Black Swan also talks through the analogy of heads and tails coin flipping, and how that could be imposed upon the stock market if you’re talking about many different investments or stock options priced low enough to hedge against the low probability they will end “in the money.” But unlike a coin flip, even a little bit of knowledge changes the landscape of probability in your favor dramatically.

Psychology & strategy - despite emphasis on the fundamentals the market is too big not to be in large part psychological, which means speculative trading has huge influence on it. You can have gut-feeling traders who make an investment on a news story, then the slightly more informed trader who trades speculating on what those traders will do (e.g. buy the rumor, sell the news), and you can have the super serious fundamentals trader who still have to take speculative trading and rumors into account, and then the high-level hedge fund people who have to navigate and manipulate the entire picture. It’s important to do some mental accounting to have a strategy that works for you and your psychology. Most people are fine with limiting risk to their safe 401ks. Some want to actively invest but can’t handle seeing red day after red day in their trading account, so they need safer investments but also to hope to get in after a dip for a better entry point. Then there’s the people who ride large, violent fluctuations on the high risk, high reward spectrum that are willing to brave near-ruin for a disproportionate gain.

Up/down - calling back to the probability section, the coin flip analogy is important. An investment is essentially always going to be worth more, or less. From there it’s up for an investor to decide which way it’s going and for how long. It’s up or down. This is the case whether the play is entirely speculative or not. This is the case of whether it’s a good company or Enron. This is the case regardless of how good or bad the fundamentals look. You could have something with great fundamentals but where the public sentiment is completely sour and in that case it would be better to short if there’s no catalyst for that opinion to change. A good decision weighs sentiment, speculation, catalysts, due diligence, potential for future earnings, and fundamentals, yet sometimes just one of these can save you time by inching you towards yes or no.

Take the L - “Stonks only go up” is of course a lie. Sure the S&P and major indexes go up, that’s because they trim the losers. And even good stocks don’t go up in a bear market, sometimes for years, so if you need access to that money you end up taking a loss. In stock picks where the information has changed or the catalyst you saw for market gains has been proven wrong, cut losses. Many people fall into the “sunk cost fallacy” and never want to take a loss. -30% can quickly turn into -60%. That’s better off into an investment you believe in.

Paper trading is kinda bs - unless you’re of an age where you have literally no money I believe paper trading to be a waste of time. Even the average Robin Hood trading account of $250 is more worthwhile because of skin in the game. There is no pain in losing imaginary money. Losing or gaining real money is informational and it properly calibrates your brain for risk.

It’s all a pump and dump - nearly everything has the buy low, sell high dynamic. After studying a bit of the financial markets it’s easy to see everything as a pump and dump. In conception you convince your mate you are worthwhile and have resources or childbearing skills. Upon your birth, hospitals artificially inflate fees to gain as much as they can from insurance companies. It’s the nature of salesman and advertisers. Government officials do it with false campaign promises. Colleges exploit the government promises of tuition by requesting more. If the government can’t tax you they can print money to take your labor by devaluing currency. It’s promotion and under-delivering. It happens with hype-beasts. It happens when flippers and scalpers suppress availability to create demand. It’s even in death, as funerals are a traumatic and stressful time and businesses know people aren’t trying to look for a bargain when dealing with the death of a loved one. Of course it’s in the market, so take suggestions with a fair amount of skepticism.

Manipulation - market moving institutional investors and whales can all have a huge influence and create waves to take retail (regular person) money by shorting or funding with tens of millions or billions. Elon Musk probably pumps Dogecoin to distract that his own company’s stock is overvalued. I believe it happens on news organizations like Motley Fool or Seeking Alpha. It happens by regular people on Reddit, Twitter, Investorhub, Facebook groups, Stock Twits, etc. Some try to sell others on the stocks and some are just trying to sell themselves. So not only do you need to do due diligence on your stock, but any person or a company who might wish to exploit it.

Learn to like bleeding - there’s probably a level of intense conviction required to make truly massive market gains. It requires discipline in the form of the lack of emotion in the pain that is losing money. And it is painful, because you’re risking livelihood and future security and above that peace of mind. It’s an unnatural demand but a necessary part of the process. You wouldn’t expect to get good at something without misses. Many live their lives in a poverty and scarcity mindset. It’s a visceral feeling to dismiss that and welcome what comes and try to ride the ups and downs, and why not. Tomorrow I bet the sun comes up but it’s not guaranteed.



Important things that helped, so far

The Art of Thinking Clearly, a book by Rolf Dobelli describing common thinking errors and biases. It’s a great resource probably because he essentially plagiarized, which means you can take the ebook without guilt. It’s to the point and can substantially refine the way you think about things by outlining what to avoid.

Naval Ravikant is a no bullshit entrepreneur and investor. He wrote short and succinct ideas about wealth creation in Twitter threads that were later condensed into a 3.5 hour YouTube video how to get rich, titled in a sexy way but it’s really about responsible wealth creation.

The first 100 pages of the 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris. That’s when he outlines his best points and shortcuts. The rest didn’t feel equally as important.

If you have more time, the audiobooks of Nassim Taleb, particularly Antifragile and The Black Swan narrated by Joe Ochman. In terms of nonfiction probably among the best books in terms of good ideas per capita.

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars is a book that is sort of the counter to the stereotypical how I became a billionaire books. You can probably learn more from failure than success but it’s not as sexy.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel explains the story of Paypal and how to invest strategically in a compelling way.

 A Random Walk Down Wall Street for a historical perspective on the market, explaining previous bubbles, hysteria, and index funds.

Comedian Jessa Reed on money and avoiding the poverty mentality.

Keith Gill’s (RoaringKitty) early assessment of $GME, here, well before the pop is great example of value investing and due diligence from a retail(-ish) perspective.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

World's next Stalin seeks passive wallflower

It's been a long while since I've done a personal ad. Often they were part of the now defunct section of Craigslist. In the past for me they were and apparently still are a fun writing exercise and an obtuse and ineffective way to find a mate.

Are you tired of your bog standard, run-of-the-mill guy, filling your heart with hopes and dreams and mostly lies while you spend another cold Saturday night in the presence of an unringing phone? Are you tired of Netflix 'n' Jillin' with your blindfold on so you can imagine a half-decent lover is in the room while you play with your Bird Box? Are you seriously considering inviting an Indian call scammer, with the offer of marriage and citizenship, just because they're the only men still willing to call you? Have you had it dealing with these dick-picture direct-messaging hordes? Are you tired of being cheated on by liars and left for girls half your age? Now's the time to do something different. Now's the time to go for what you falsely claimed to have always wanted: a man who is open and honest.

I am an anomaly, the open and honest man. You have worn your grandmother's quilted blanket thin, it's time to let her and her memory go. It's time to leave your comfort zone and your thrift shop romance novel notions behind. You can't have your knight in shining armor, but maybe you can have a man who has seen The Shining 14 times. Try something new, you may stand to learn something about yourself. I'm not offering a relationship, I am offering an education. Like the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, you will learn through via negativa. Negative space. You will learn all about what not to want in men. I am the Black Swan in the fourth quadrant. Let's face it, if you're reading this profile you're not where you want to be. This is your life, and it's ending one Fight Club reference at a time. Did you laugh at that? You're too old not to reply to this. Your ego is the only knight you know along with the 45 lb sword you carry called dignity. It's time to leave them both behind.

I'll be honest and open. You are great. You're still reading. You are an interesting woman. You’re patient, articulate, and industrious. Only continue if you are a goddess. Deep down, you know you are sacred. You are worthy of worship. You are a temple. But what is a temple if not something to be repeatedly stepped on? So you are a beautiful stepping stone there for support as I reach for more attractive and emotionally fulfilling women. What? Those are your words not mine. Is it really gaslighting if you agree with it? Being worshipped is about service. You get to be Jesus, by footwashing and providing me with bread and wine. Sure, maybe you can't like him create endless fish, but you can take me to Red Lobster for Endless Shrimp.

Now a relationship is like gainful employment and if you're like me you've tried to avoid these for too long now. But you are a liberal. You're a great woman, you're generous, you're charitable. You believe in the cause. You believe in the Ocasio-Cortez. You believe in the Fight For $15 standard for minimum wage. Which is why if you make less than $15 an hour, please begone. You must practice what you preach. Stop spending your days swiping left on your phone on 5 ft 4-in beta males thinking some Chad is going to waste his Superlike on you. And even when it is your turn for your one night stand, you won't have enough experience to lay out a proper contract. You'll end up f—ked by the freelancer because you have no union, and subsequently no civil union. Put in your hours with me and nine other beta males, ascend the social hierarchy. Use this experience to gain a better position, or marry the first one to create an app. Life: solved.

Well let's be honest. You're not that attractive. Women in the real world are swarmed with men. They are accosted and propositioned at work, at school, at home by their stepfather, and catcalled on the street. If a damsel was lost in the desert and started crying, terrifying erections would begin sprouting from the sand. Maybe you're the unicorn with low self-esteem, but most likely you are either: physically have the body type of a standing croissant, your best friend is a voice in your head telling you you are not in fact mentally ill, or you owned dogs too long and cannot convey emotion with a proper human being. Or you have a child which is the same as all three combined. Physically and emotionally able-bodied and able-minded women don't generally require dating profiles. But you know what one sexy trick transcends all of these attributes? Owning your flaws and who you are.

Let's go through the processes here. What's the least attractive part of a woman? Her child, obviously. Do you have kids? I have a motto about single moms. Kids are like gunshots: one, you'll probably pull through, two: outlook is not so good, three or more: you're not going to make it. The second heuristic I have is, each kid removes exactly one point from your total potential on a 10-point scale. So if you have three kids you need to be a perfect 10 in personality and looks to be a 7. Now, every man feels this way, they just don't have the time to come up with these illuminating rational explanations, let alone the heart to relay them to you. So in order to be loved as a mom you need to be either close to perfect, rich, or willing to abandon your offspring (which is just long-form for “perfect” [a sense of humor also helps]).

Now you always hear in the western world the same question, why are women so unhappy? In America they are the most liberated, free, and educated. There is an answer. The second biggest flaw outside of children and the biggest creator of female unhappiness is called dignity. Be self-aware, and eradicate dignity. Learn to wear your slut on your sleeve, but you can't because you're not wearing any. Oh no, but you'll be used. You can be the dignified fine China sitting forever in a showcase cabinet, or you can be the dog bowl the human animal really wishes to be. Or maybe you're a paper plate, or restaurant-grade ceramic. Success comes from many failures. Try them all before deciding who you are. 

The truth is, on men in relation to women, we only want one thing. And that is to join you at the apple orchard. Sure, we'll put up a front of disinterest to save face. But watch us as we cup that low-hanging fruit for the first time, fresh off the vine, and contemplate its relation from ecology to Adam and Eve, to the apple that fell before Issac Newton causing him to contemplate if the moon, too, was falling. We want nothing more the one thing of your acquaintance, and that to meet your admirable, well-mannered dogs, friends, and future in-laws. We want nothing more than to jump over the hurdles of sexual conquest to get to the good part where you where you recite out loud your high school poetry, which for me inspires an out-of-body experience almost as if I imagine myself somewhere else.

That's my pitch. Find yourself fastest through what you are not. How did Michael Angelo sculpt his masterpiece? He chipped away at everything that wasn't David. Go for broke, often literally, with say a gangly nervous guy with the skin tone of pizza, let him get some. He's disease-free and you'll change his life and your own capacity for empathy. Or me, I'm a mix of Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, and a hedgehog being tickled. All I want is someone to walk hand-in-hand with me as we explore the natural world and the vacant former estates of Jeffrey Esptein for evidence of human trafficking to report to the FBI but we can't because they're in on it! We could try yoga, or pilates, or study the genocide of the Tutsis, or the work of Miyazaki. Life is a tapestry and a better one might require two to handle.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Controversy! Ted Kaczynski was wrong

The paranoid should grow up. The sublime Orwellian fantasy people secretly grovel for and drool over isn't going to happen. It's a fringe subset of people who believe they are the true woke, having attained maximum enlightenment, a plateau just beyond "I watch Ancient Aliens regularly." 1984 isn't coming, perhaps 1984 helped prevent it. Most likely, it was never going to happen. "A boot stamping on a human face - forever"? No. Why would humans need to be kept in subjugation at all in a technologically inclined future? They'd just be gotten rid off. The truth to balance over a controlled people is probably what we have now and always have, where the little people are made to win just enough to never complain. Instead of subjugation, it's pleasure and enough bells and whistles for complacency.

These fantasies make believe they're helping, but they're only helping authors sell books. It's always selling a moral universe where the individual is kept down and somehow only ends up reiterating the good guys only win in novels. It's always selling some power consolidated group of people as the true assholes, and everyone else must rise above and do the righteous bidding to make the world better. But think of the "little people" you know. A lot of them are assholes, probably the majority. Regular people are scumbags, and the evil cabal controlling the world were once regular. There's no winning, and there's no conspiracy. The only conspiracy is the universal truth that power enables. It's true and that's why people strive to attain it. 

A good example of this is all the vaccine bullshit. Typically the science-worship crowd was correct to love vaccines. Untested vaccines however were a more right-of-center, laissez-faire approach where certain companies and political figures sought to get health products to the market as quickly as possible to profit. Clearly, you're 100% right to feel trepidation about vaccines that have only been tested a year or so. Where it gets dumb is the microchip crowd. I mean, technically they're not wrong. Ted Kaczynski was right about most things. Humans and technology merging is inevitable. His premise was wrong. Before that, though, the idea that vaccines will be a vessel to kill off all the complacent people, surviving only the free-thinkers (or gullible, dumb, paranoid) makes no sense. You would want to (in terms of this paranoid delusion) kill off the group of people who hamper or question social control.

The premise of these paranoid types are wrong. While astoundingly bright, what Ted Kaczynski got wrong is the assumption that people don't deserve technological enslavement. You deserve the world you're willing to put up with. Many factors in the world and its system of processes got it to where it is now. The apathy and indifference he saw in the people responsible for that potentially harmful technological revolution extends to everyone else, not just an elite few.  The complacency and convenience drive the technology and subsequent laws and social attitudes toward them, not the other way around.

The ultimate tool of control isn't brutal subjugation. That's not how you control the masses. It's slack. It's giving them just enough freedom to feel they've won, or even only that winning is possible. It's not divide and conquer, it's making you feel lucky to have running water. If you you think money is stolen from you via taxes, it's really stolen from you from inflation. By the time say, universal basic income comes along, an extra $2000 a month will be what the masses should be earning anyway, only now good-guy government gets to look charitable and responsible. They also now have a social safety net they can garnish and negotiate with to impose control. Don't follow orders, and the comfort you've been given is threatened.

There's no sense in obsessing over this. A fascist take-over isn't coming. It's here and always has been. With governments and without it takes residence in human hearts. The impulse happens in homes and among peer groups and in organizations big and small. It's the same whether people simply want to dominate over you or when it's coming from people who know what's best for you.

So what tf does any of this mean. Well, the horrific reality, inevitably, best case scenario, "progress" leads to mass homogenization. People's ideas aren't that unique. Rugged individualism is probably narcissistic folly. If we are rational, scientific and empirical, eventually we all become the same thing. We have the same diets and the same ideas. We drive the same, safest car. We tell the same jokes and sound the same. We might be slight variations but more or less the same. If we live in a world stripped of irony, we blend into monotonous sludge, but a very capable one. That is the future of progress, where diversity is killed precisely because it is the subject of emphasis.

It's not only an elite that moves things in the direction they get to. People open and close options with every choice. They're all part of the process. And all that sway may have nothing on randomness. Brass tacks, the endless pursuit and baby-shaking attempts to wake people are wasted. Or, it's done not to unplug someone from bad ideas but in belief they'll think the same as them. When humans enter wildlife the responsible thing is generally seen as to not interfere. Probably the same is said best from human-to-human with choices that impact only them. The idea of saving people by force, re-education, and control, or as in Ted's case with actual violence, in precaution for a future fascist threat is hilariously contradictory.

There's a difference between seeing things as they are in the conspiracy-fact realm and existing in the narrative fallacy based in the binary of good and evil. That binary exists on every level, and the processes dictating people's actions in a system is an outcome of unfathomable factors as complex as a preference for authoritarianism in the face of chaos or the inability to navigate choice. Yes, certain conspiracies are true but obsession with it often becomes a way to create a simple answer where exists the potentially scarier areas of complexity, random chance, or no control at all.

Your inevitable microchipped future

all of you in three months
If humanity continues down its trajectory of progress, you will be microchipped. The only exclusion is some scenario where there is no future as we understand it due to apocalyptic settings or post-war environment, or a relentless, sustained effort to the contrary. The last of the three is least likely. Anyone capable of a modicum of rational human thought sees this inevitability. Humans and technology will merge. To disbelieve it is to be incredibly naive.

A distinction should be made between the enlightened paranoid and cranks. Only a fool believes the far-fetched scenario that this is done against the will of the people. It will be at their behest. It will be at their insistence. It will be done in the name of safety. It's already the excuse for our beloved pets, cattle, and wildlife. It also exists already in humans. There is rich irony is in the lack of imagination conspiracy theorists have.  

What dictates society is always in the middle, the average. It's not the fringe people. It's certainly not the lower class. It's about the middle class and average, and how the well-educated and the rich can exploit and influence them. This may change. Currently the average is working class families. They have some form of indentured servitude where they can never turn their back economically on their offspring, nor the health insurance so many of their jobs provide. 

The interest and the economics of the middle class are cemented if you look at the most popular Google keywords for their AdSense program:

Insurance $54.91
Loans $44.28
Mortgage $47.12
Attorney $47.07
Credit, etc

Number one is insurance. People want assurances. People want to know their loved ones are you going to be looked after and taken care of. Parents buy their children expensive smartphones now at increasingly younger ages to know where they are at all times and in case they need help. This great economic mover could change. Like people in Japan and some European countries there could be a decline in reproductive rates. But biology has a clear reproduction bias.

Humans have a clear inclination toward convenience. We are already have computerized banking. We have credit scores. China is experimenting with a social credit rating. We have levels of education and degrees. It stands to reason an amalgamation of these credit and merit systems invariably comes to be.

To some extent this exists. People are tagged. Lawsuits against company forcing the tagging of employees have been filed. We have phones operating to reduce people's privacy right now through metadata and other means. But phones can be lost and left at home. A technology that merges with man theoretically increases safety and security. It is precise and can be implemented with failsafes to guarantee its tied the right person. 

The how of this reality is more curious. If this sort of state were implemented overnight at the direction of government, it would be more easily considered some fascist sign of the endtimes. Instead it will be slowburn. Probably it will stem from the excuse of keeping children and property safe backed by the middle class. Then it will be for the sick, to track their vital signs as a preventative measure. Next could be government officials because the sensitive nature of their work and security clearances. Once critical mass is reached, those still resisting, will be squeezed by way of denied conveniences. At some point it's likely everyone has a HUD, giving you information about yourself and strangers they willingly share. Anyone without a chip will be seen with extreme suspicion. 

How far does it go? Lets say you're a #nochipper, a harsh renegade, still using a flip phone in 2047. None of the conveniences could get you. Depending on how far computer technology advances, it won't matter. As high tech advancements are birthed into our reality, you're going to need them just to fight off the potential threat of these machines manipulated by criminals. If it isn't Big Brother after you, you're compromised by your ratting Little Brother neighbors. Save that, you can be barred from certain experiences or from accessibly communicating with the tech'd up.

There is no viable escape. In a world with increasing technology and automation there's increased need for accountability. Just think of the amount of bodycam footage and cellphone video changing the landscape of media and helping to solve crimes. With its promise to curb violent crime and terrorism it's an easy sell. What was it Benjamin Franklin said, "People who trade a lot of liberty for a little security are absolutely bang on."

Thoughts on this will be expanded upon in controversial upcoming article Ted Kaczynski was wrong

Thursday, May 6, 2021

An article about how almost everything ever written is absolutely wrong

visual representation of me coming up with excuses for not writing well
Everything written is wrong. It is only natural that almost everything ever written is wrong. Language itself is not perfect, let alone interpretations of language or grammatical errors. How many perfect sentences have ever been written. Let alone paragraphs. Let alone an entire chapter. Let alone an entire book. There are errors in thinking. There are errors in scientific studies, errors in reporting, errors of shortsightedness, errors in the scientific method itself and its interpretations. And yet despite our fumbling attempts to communicate, great leaps in reason have been made and remarkable inventions. This is in short a poor attempt to justify mistakes and rugged edges. This is an acknowledgement of the reality of large blind spots, biases, and likely irrational circular forms of reasoning that don't even have scientific names yet such as hindsight bias. It seems not enough authors tell and explain this. It's a point that should be reiterated until dull: a person's best work is their best hunch. The reason scientific reasoning often fails by examining the objective world is because it makes little to no attempt to account for the subjective mind of its audience. Therefore every text is a go-by, when accounting for the nearly endless variables of individual subjective human experience. By speaking in declarative statements that leave no room for variance or interpretation, people can close the very minds they wish to open. You see this in the zealotry of partisan politics (social political and moral extremes, polarization), for people who live by one book: people who have found not an answer, but the answer. This system may work for people to a degree, but does not allow for fluid change which is what an active mind does. Scientists and philosophers are often speaking with wisdom gained through their own personal experience, and declare what works for them to be what should be what works for all. This is why knowledge should always be questioned, with the reader or listener having the final say. A more worthwhile author might tell you his or her hunches or show you a path, but the only sane way forward is when the reader decides if it's traveled. 

Ideas on ideas

A non-simulated photo of my brain thinking up this article
What's the easiest thing to steal? You might think first a pack of gum. Continue to think, maybe a pen from work. Or go step further, a paperclip. Eventually you make your way down to an idea. Ideas are almost Bluetooth'd brain-to-brain. There's an idea for something which will inevitably exist. If you yawn, often you'll notice people begin to yawn around you. People also pick up on and copy ticks. Ideas are contagious, especially if they're clever or good. (A distinction was necessary, as intelligence and morality have no innate correlation.) No matter how big or small, if they are heard out loud, actionable, or written down, their spread is inevitable. Let's try one.

Most work is a recurring nightmare you must learn to wake from.

There's truth in it: it's repetitious, it induces dread in thinking persons, and it's vaguely funny. The only way my catchy phrase doesn't take off is if it exists already. That idea wasn't stolen, if it is, it's parallel thinking. Parallel thinking likely comes from our vast society of open and stolen secrets and ideas. Sometimes we get hit with a plethora of new ideas in a new movie, some piece of art, some political figure shares his ideas or opinions, sometimes a meme is made. Ideas are the basis of that which shapes societies. That's not provably true, it's an idea. But you can intuit the basic logic behind it. "I think, therefore I am." Anything else requires speculation and contemplation, or thinking, which is the one and only prerequisite for an idea. Societies are shaped by communities which are shaped by shared values. And what are values? A set of principles on how people and conflicts should be considered and governed. These are basic ideas about ideas.

I bring this up because there is this bothersome idea that ideas are precious or worthless. I've heard most people take their good ideas and inventions to the grave. Why? Perhaps they fear their ideas will be stolen, or worse, are not worth sharing to begin with. People try to pretend around this. But even the greatest minds it seems their greatness revolved around a few revolutionary thoughts. Isaac Newton had an idea about gravity. Einstein had an idea about the speed of light. Camus had an idea around suffering. All ideas in their essence are public domain, especially the remarkable ones, being so intuitive they're impossible to forget.

How many people's lives have been saved by good ideas? We'll never know, because a lot of those good ideas were thought of and implemented before anything bad could happen. How do you gauge who deserves the merit? Who is our greatest mind: Isaac Newton, or his mom, or the first caveman to utter some sort of communication that began language? You can't have calculus without numbers. Three grunts means there's three apples over here. That's how language started, a distant relative of Tim Allen's character on Home Improvement spoke in his native tongue to convey an idea. Perhaps he thought, "If the apple is falling, is the moon also falling?" but he didn't have the grunts to express it like Newton and received none of the credit.

It's difficult if not impossible to quantify merit and creativity. Sure, you can get a sense for it. Some people it's clear drip with creativity. Some people are so conscientious and concise they are engineers, creating value systems and rules, lubricating the gears for creative thoughts and behaviors. Is it any less or any different of a kind of creativity to engage in? Or are they different routes to the same goal? Does a score need to be taken, and would that be something of value? It's clear that order has social utility. It helps me convey this now which is little more than a series of grunts.

We see great competition in and for social status. If you're a bit inclined toward the shallow, you keep up with the Joneses, and you want a bigger house and a car that's a shinier red. If you're a little more informed, you might want to be known as the most charitable. Or if you're truly humble and God-like, you want to do good with indifference to acclaim, and only secretly hope someone finds out about your altruism. There is an order of competence. You trust people with a PhD because that's not easy thing to steal. You trust celebrities because you think you know them, or further, they're your friend. You trust family often, because they have given you a lot of the extraordinarily valuable asset that is time. You trust name brands because they're worth a billion dollars, and one scandal can cause them a lot of that money. Money might be the third greatest predictor of behavior after greed and fear. There's a reason so many problems can be solved under the adage follow the money. Money itself comes with respect, if you earned it, or if it gave you a good education, or if you have so much of it you can freely speak your mind.

It seems humankind is inching towards a meritocracy with every action. Something that combines the popular vote of a democratic system with success under capitalism, with social status, with moral rigor. Billions of lives want to have the best possible life they can have, which is a constant, unending pursuit. It manifest itself in different ways. The self-centered quality of social media. The polarization of opinions in an increasingly connected world where anyone can have a voice. Right now we are in a knives out stage of capitalism. The most common desirable destination among kids is to be famous. There's not a lot of morality and merit, and there is much meanspiritedness and oneupsmanship. Beneath those shallow waves there's hopefully a slower and more powerful undercurrent of people driven to do right.

And ideas shouldn't be neglected as worthless. No one pays for print like they used to. Information is cheap now, because ideas are the easiest they have ever been to spread. The good aspect is the cost of entry for anyone is quite low, and in a fair enough system, the chance for good ideas to succeed is high. We are in a slow burn singularity of sorts, a work in progress. The entire planet beta tests for a future that could be more grand than billions could imagine collectively, or it could end itself entirely.

An autobiography of ideas

A conscious human being has to be defined at their core as thoughts, then ideas, which lead to more specifically their choices or the illusion of said choices. That's what makes up our interaction with shared material reality. Us at our roots are ideas that lead to decisions. A preference of "yes" or "no" is the most often binary decision. Now, the rest of this will play out as a short autobiographical text of my version of this mental landscape in order to help myself or any potential reader.

If I could describe my "ecstatic truth" or the prime motivator, the generator behind these ideas that lead to actions, it would be a scene in Encounters at the End of the World, a documentary about life in Antarctica. There are scenes of penguins in migration, staying safe in routine and their patterns to ensure survival. There is a stray penguin headed toward endless wilderness. Outside his tribe, he will die. It is said if he were removed by human hands and taken back, he would merely return the same way and begin the same path anew. It strikes me there is something telling about this. No one knows if the being is aware of his fate. If that question can be asked, so too, the question of his fate with the routine of the tribe. There could merit to an evolutionary truth in this anomalous behavior. Any sort of substantial change is predicated on atypical behaviors. The actions are high-risk and high reward. This is not an example of going against the grain, which ironically enough has been made cookie cutter and the flirtation with contrarianism is commonplace. It is not drawing outside the lines but perhaps punching a hole through the page. The conclusion could be something new, or end in ruin. This entails an inclination to a transgressive type of behavior. No one is qualified to do something if it's groundbreaking, by definition [Watson].

It's hard to explain the utility in this behavior. It could be a handicap that sometimes proves useful with the right environment and luck. Or it could be a series of choices based on environmental circumstances that lend itself to mentally playing the lottery, sometimes aided by magical thinking. Everyone who has experienced bad luck wants to win small. They only dream of great luck. Winning small is middle class, working as a subordinate, and investing in an index fund returning a reliable 11% a year. Bad luck wants the parity reached by good fortune to even things out with good luck. It's fantastical and mostly lacks utility. But is it magical thinking if it's so commonplace? A life without the faintest flicker of a hope or a dream I don't want to imagine, nor would I consider it life. The penguin may not consider his mortality. Most people hedge their bets, but the heights of their success by these parameters may still be lukewarm. Then, some go against the grain with some unusual trade or begin their own business. Then there are the lucky who seldom have to worry, born rich they can even buy acclaim as "entrepreneurs." And then there are some who gamble between winning and desolate poverty and dead-end social status. For them, winning is not only on financial terms, it could be a meaningful artistic contribution or a scientific discovery.

The beauty of existence is in these decisions that allow for total expression in our limited binary of choice. Science and reason may be preached but magical thinking is the status quo. Hope is an uncontrollable contagion. Even the most rationally-minded thinkers and writers delved into these areas where reason is beyond reach. Those who fail are not a net loss. They are part of the only way to innovation. They teach by informing use what not to do. The problem with scientific literacy is it works best on the initiated, and it may be impossible to lasso the rope of reason over a predisposition to irrationality. If this is the case, pinpointing how to navigate objective reality is a lot trickier than it appears. Your ideas are influenced by these psychic muddy waters, and you don't know what contaminants are in the mind of the person or collective you're communicating with. We know so little, there may be more to be gleaned in studying people's interest in astrology and wrestling than studying astronomy and Shakespeare.