Wednesday, May 31, 2023

People want to join you when you are already successful. So if you have a great idea, but it's not proven - people won't help you.

I'm starting a new business and struggling to get the attention of investors, co-founders, and clients.

My idea is good. It's better than much of the stuff I launched at Google and DFINITY. However, when I speak on behalf of a successful corporation, people pay attention by default.

The corporation has a brand. People may not know the details of your product, but because it's coming from an established company, they assume there's something to it.

The reason is that we usually choose not to think. We delegate computational complexity to the environment. We follow common wisdom and an established narrative. If something is popular - it's probably good. We wouldn't listen to Elon Musk before he got successful. They would think he is a madman talking about sci-fi nonsense.

So when you start your business or another unpaved journey, the only people who support you are your family and new clients who really need your product.

You have to show the rest of the world that what you are doing is valuable. Otherwise, people won't pay attention.

Starting a business is selling.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Abstract thinking is a trap that creates an illusion of knowledge. It is better to avoid generalization and use storytelling with takeaways instead of more abstract discussion.

I'm working on a philosophical piece criticizing abstract thinking and deductive reasoning. This is an early drain dump.

The main point is that when we try to think in symbolic categories, we find ourselves coming to a dead end very quickly because words and concepts are poor containers of the actual visceral experience.

You can't solve business problems using qualitative statements. You need data. You need to talk to the customers.

It's similar to the "Map vs. Territory" mental model. Words and other abstract qualitative statements represent a map of reality. They capture reality imprecisely.

For example, a man can think, "If she loved me, she wouldn't forget my birthday." The problem here is that "she loved me" is a qualitative statement that reduces a variety of human experiences to a one-dimensional discreet variable. It leaves too much information on the table:

  • What do they mean by "love"? Sexual attraction? Platonic sympathy? The tradition of choosing a life partner?
  • It's important to think about how strong the feeling is. Is it the same all the time, or comes and goes?

Reality is continuous. It has the volatile shape of a sound wave.

Words and qualitative statements are low-resolution ways to describe it. They are context depended and subjective. We don't know what it means.

Suppose someone wants to join the political and social argument on whether abortion is beneficial for society. It's really hard to discuss because people try to generalize a complex, culturally rooted, very subjective, context-dependent phenomenon with a few blanket statements.

The same with many other political issues. Should people own guns? Should we create a universal basic income?

Unfortunately, we have to use words to communicate complex concepts. We must explain things to others, create contracts, establish laws, and write non-fiction prose.

I think the answer is to avoid generalization. Don't think that you can describe anything with words without proper context.

That's why in my writing, I'm moving towards storytelling with takeaways instead of more abstract discussion. I don't think abstract thinking is even useful outside of mathematics and law. More often than not, it's a trap that creates an illusion of knowledge.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Do you need an alarm clock?

An alarm clock enforces a somewhat unnatural behavior. It's an instrument of management and improvement, not authenticity and enjoyment.

Rephrasing Joe Hudson, you need to manage someone only if they won't do the desired action by themselves without your intervention. That begs the question: do you want to rely on people who need to be forced?

We use alarm clocks to manage ourselves. We force a predefined flow of events instead of letting the situation emerge. As a result, we create a little prison of rules and obligations where there's no place for authentic feelings.

However, how do you balance authenticity with external obligations? You have to collaborate and coordinate with people to achieve ambitious goals. For example, you can't build a company or even a building only by yourself.

So, how can you combine authenticity with coordination?

You can do it by reframing oppressive external obligations to a set of opportunity waypoints you can pursue to achieve desired outcomes.

When your alarm rings, it reminds you that there's a possibility to show up at a meeting, drive kids to school, or go for a morning run. You can take the opportunity, or you can leave it. It's up to you.

Authenticity doesn't die with rules and alarm clocks. It dies when you replace your heart with a set of stagnant regulations.

Can we own AI models collectively?

Another way to look at crypto is as it’s a way to own software collectively. While owning even simple software is fascinating, I think the real power is collectively owning an AI model. Imagine you greater GPT-10, put it on a blockchain, and exercise control over it using the liquid democracy process.

A lot of sci-fi is not digitized

It's crazy to believe you can't read and search short sci-fi stories by Asimov, Sheckley, and Bradbury.

I was trying to remember a short story by Issac Asimov today. ChatGPT didn't recognize it from my description. Google Bard failed as well. Here's the prompt:

Could you find a name of scifi short story about the kid was evaluated for ability to create recorded immersive imaginary experiences?

Some additional info about the plot:
- The kid was evaluated if he can be a professional creator of the experiences or dreams.
- The critical part of being a good creator of the dreams was to create images that remind the watcher multiple things at the time. For example, as part of the exam the kid recorded an experience of flying through the cloud that  reminded him of a pillow.
- The story ends with the the professor talking with the parents and explaining that creating immersive dreams is a great career path

Google Search failed. I was able to find it only using Google Books directly:

It only exists as a physical book that is out of print. So I bought a used copy of it from Amazon. The funny thing is I still don't know the story's name. I will learn it only when I receive the book and open it on page 154.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

On addictions

I'm exploring a lifestyle free of addictive substances.

Addiction happens when something evolutionary good but scarce becomes too readily available. Addictions are brain hacks when we game the mind to get pleasure without effort.


  • Sugar. Sweet things in nature evolutionally were good because they were calorie-rich fast carbs that were very good for undernourished humans. When they were sparse, looking for sweet good things was a good behavioral shortcut. When we decided to isolate sugar industrially, the good thing turned bad.
  • Alcohol. In low dosage, seldom, it's good for relaxation. When you can produce it industrially, you can easily create alcoholism.
  • Porn. Sex is not as readily available as porn. Usually, it takes effort to find a good-looking mate. People also require some foreplay and emotional connection to transition to sex. Porn is widely available, doesn't require you to "work for it" and it confuses our biological intuition.
  • Social media. Everyday life is rather monotonous. When something cool happens, it immediately attracts attention. However, when you create market-driven competition between non-boring stuff, we, as a society, start producing too much "very interesting" content that takes over our brains.
  • Drugs. Release dopamine. Usually, you need to make an effort to release it. instead, you can take one MDMA pill and release ALL of your dopamine.

Can other types of pleasure be hacked? What if you could program your body to build muscles without workouts? Would it also become an addiction?

Some of the good stuff is not addictive — for example, driving and skiing. Naturally, we don't have access to fast transportation and ski sloped. However, it doesn't make it too addictive.

What should I write about intentionally?

Voluntary motivation:

  • How can you encourage and motivate people based on their authentic desires? Without incentives. Without coercion. Without shame.
  • For example, how to motivate kids to study?
  • How to motivate workers to achieve high performance at work?
  • How to coexist with your partner without scandals, yelling, and victimization?

Web3 application

  • How to make crypto create value?
  • Not redistribute. Not speculate.
  • Create apps that everyday people or the average corporation would use.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Focus your essay on a single idea that is supported by your story.

I was writing an essay about the benefits of ownership. I started with an abstract list of benefits and tried to remember stories that drove my point home.

The points were weak. The stories were dry. The article was falling apart.

Then I rewrote the essay based on a funny story about me living in an "Airbnb from hell" with a smell of sewage, 4-inch cockroaches, and broken windows. After that, the essay got much more lively.

It's still a work in progress, but I plan to end with a much simpler didactic point closely related to the story. I think this essay will be a banger.

So, focusing on one idea and driving it home with a colorful life story helped make my essay more interesting and easier to read.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Write about things you're passionate about using your own unique voice. Don't try to be someone you're not. Don't use platitudes or generic examples.

Finding your topic

Today, we discussed Personal Monopoly, the unique set of topics only you can cover and what will make you interesting to write.

Today's explanation was about your unique traits. What ice create do you like? How do you eat pizza? Where are you from?

Looking for combinatorial uniqueness is fruitless. A nurse from Oklahoma who like photography is still boring unless she has some unique internal perspective.

Shallow "Personal Monopoly" is a form of motivational therapy.

Uniqueness is internal. It's in your soul and your honesty. Yes, it may be nice to mix it with your background, but it's not essential.

I have an idealistic view (in philosophical sense - not psychological) on this issue.

  • Mind is more primary than matter.
  • Therefore,  our internal faculties are more important than mere background.

Building up on that, the 12 favorite problems exercise is much better. It's not based on your past and immutable characteristics but on your interests and aspirations.

The way to build your thought leadership is to focus on things that you are interested in with passion and interest. The rest will follow.

Authentic voice

I was struggling with finishing an essay today.

I realized that I'm talking about generic platitudes. Something that I don't believe in. Some generic explanation, ChatGPT level.

The essay was about the benefits of ownership. My first reason was that owning lets you get what you want, something more than you would get from rental.

The first version of the argument was about how I can buy nice furniture for my new house. It was boring. I came up with an artificial example for a good point, but the example was killing the argument.

I rewrote it ten times. It was still bad.

So I stopped.

I asked myself: "Do I still believe in the thesis?"

I still did.

"So, how would you explain it to a friend?"

I explained that owning a house lets me geek out on the HVAC system. I'm really having fun with that. (This is who I am.)

So I wrote about the HVAC. The new version was much better.

The moral is that I need to write about:

  • Something that I believe in
  • Using my own language and examples

I should stop putting another "writing" personality and be myself. Hopefully, I fill find my people.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

May 9th

Today is a "victory day" in Russia, and I'm not celebrating.

Also, today is Dave Gahan's birthday. Happy birthday, Dave!

Attack or Defence?

When I put a lot of value in someone else's opinion, I lose my integrity and open up for being hurt. It's like you suddenly become needy I don't know what to do in this case:

1. Should I avoid interacting with the person until I build up confidence?

2.  Or should I go towards my fear and still do it, knowing that it's going to be uncomfortable?

Awkward conversations, GPT edition

Imagine you have a conversation with someone at a party. The conversation is interesting. However, you notice that your interlocutor is getting stressed and looking for an opportunity to switch to something else. I feel awkward about it and asked ChatGPT what to do. It came out spot on!

To avoid making it awkward for someone to break away from a conversation at a social event, consider implementing these strategies:

  • Be mindful of time: Keep an eye on the clock and be aware of how long you've been conversing with someone. Aim to keep conversations light and engaging, and limit their length to avoid monopolizing someone's time.
  • Encourage mingling: Proactively include others in your conversation by inviting nearby individuals to join or by bringing up topics that you know are of interest to multiple people.
  • Read body language: Pay attention to the other person's body language and verbal cues. If they seem to be looking around the room or show signs of wanting to move on, be understanding and offer them an opportunity to do so.
  • Offer a graceful exit: Give the person an easy way out by saying something like, "I don't want to keep you too long; it was great chatting with you." This will make them feel less awkward about ending the conversation.
  • Be aware of the event's purpose: If the event is meant for networking or meeting new people, keep this in mind and be willing to move from one conversation to another to allow everyone the chance to mingle.
  • Seek opportunities to introduce: If you notice someone waiting to speak to the person you're talking to, introduce them and welcome them into the conversation. This can help the person you were initially talking to gracefully transition to a new conversation if they wish.
  • Check-in: Periodically ask if the other person needs to grab a drink, use the restroom, or check in with someone else. This offers a natural break in the conversation and allows them to gracefully exit if they want to.

How to fix excessively abstract thinking?

I tend to think in abstract categories. So when I write it, it can sound boring.

For example, I wrote a piece about the benefits of owning things. I came up with two good reasons with relatable personal stories. However, the third reason was dry, derivative, and overly abstract.

What can you do in such a situation?

  • Option 1: Cut it. It's better to cut boring stuff than to have a fully fleshed but boring essay.
  • Option 2: Personalize. Land it somehow to your personal experience. Tell us the first time you heard about the event when you were ten and your mama was cooking chicken soup that you hated...
  • Option 3: Do your research and tell someone else's story. Will Mannon told me today about the time he was writing a text about creating the original Lego set. He wasn't there, so he couldn't tell his personal story. However, he researched and had enough material to tell the story from someone else's perspective.

Monday, May 8, 2023

I spent most of the day writing.

I often don't know what I think when writing a piece. I can start with one idea morphing into a completely different one. Therefore, it's not important where I start. If the topic is interesting to me in general, if I feel some emotional connection, I can start writing and come up with the final title and scope along the way.

Today I realized that I was cramming two topics in one post. Signs that you are overstuffing your post:

  • You at some point lose the vision what you are writing about. You jump between topics and ideas.
  • You are easily producing too much content. If you are in the middle of writing and the text is already 2000 words long, usually it's a sign that your topic is too broad and you need to focus on a smaller piece.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Value of crypto

  • One problem with crypto is that it tries to monetize something without proven value.
  • Of course, defi is good, but it's just greed. People will be interested because it makes money.
  • However, defi doesn't deliver value by itself. It can optimize other industries that create down-to-earth, normal value.
  • The same way would be wall street. If stocks didn't produce dividends, the whole system would collapse. The whole point of trade on the most basic level is that it represents a value from the real world like they trade coca cola stocks because people want sugary drinks, and the company itself likes to borrow capital.
  • If crypto doesn't find its normal everyday value, it will be all for nothing.


  • Resistance is what's painful. Not the pain or the emotion itself.

Book: Decartes' Error

  • If you remove the emotional center of the brain you cease to make decisions.
  • Conclusion: your emotional state and fitness are the most important. Otherwise, you will forever be an armchair expert.
  • I need to become a writing architect. Otherwise, my writing is just a diary. I think I will be more effective by writing based on proper research.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Form and Essense

Human civilization is an interplay between form and meaning.

People forget why the form was created and what its meaning is. They like to take that form as it is. However, without the meaning, the form is dead. If you don't understand the meaning of things, you just mindlessly go through the motions.

For example, the problem of many fundamentalist religions is that they confuse the form and the meaning. They assume that the form is the truth. And there's nowhere to go from here, only to keep repeating the form.

Also, since we lost the sense of meaning, the form can get ugly very quickly. For example, Spanish Inquisition, for what is supposed to be the most peaceful religion, was burning people in a fire.

If you take the form outside the meaning, you quickly get to a contradictory logical labyrinth from which you can't escape.

For example, we have marriage as a form of human relationship. It declares the rules of the game. If you cheat - you are a bed person. You don't take care of your partner - you are also a bad person.

But who is judging? Everyone applies the rules, but who is there to judge the rules themselves?

I didn't invent marriage. So how do I know if the rules are right?

Marriage has meaning in the beginning. It facilitates deep relationships, reduces some life risks, and improves child-rearing.

Some people have open marriages, and it works for them. They seemed to reimagine the form of marriage for their particular situation. This is very cool to see the progress here.

Each form goes thru a lifecycle. Let's say we had a great religion with a founder who speaks some spiritual truths. People who listen to him understand the truth in his words. Even if his words are not 100% accurate - they still understand the intent and meaning. Take several generations down the road, and the living and beating heart of the meaning could be lost. Only the dead form of the words remains. People have a book with some rituals and rules written down. But the meaning is not 100% preserved.

The same could be with a country. The founders understood the meaning of what they were building. Unfortunately, with each generation, this meaning is increasingly lost. And then people take the written rules as a formality and start gaming the system - becoming lawyers to twist the rules to serve their interests. This is when the country decays unless the meaning is somehow preserved in the culture.

So each system goes thru similar phases: creation, bloom, stagnation, corruption, and death.

That's why it's important to always align with the current essence of things, not just the rules that some person created centuries ago, unless you understand the essence.

Science is a good system because it has mechanisms for self-reinvention. The scientific principle is good. It may not apply to everything in life, but for many areas, it's great. Of course, it has its own problems: groupthink, bureaucracy, etc. But the core is very cool.

Buddhism is also a good system because it's a religion of experience. You are given a guidebook on how to follow the tradition. However, you need to reinvent many things yourself. This is how you keep the tradition alive.

Some systems become victims of their own success. If the form is very useful, it becomes popular. If something is popular, it often loses the soul because it becomes the default. Then people get forced to comply with the form without being drawn to it naturally. Finally, the system gets to the phase of death and rebellion, where people think it's oppressive because they were forced to follow it.

For example, marriage could have been a social innovation. Everyone loved it and followed. It became the tradition. The tradition became the rule. Parents require kids to marry before they turn 23. A few thousand years later, a woman can get stoned on the street for adultery. The question: Is the stoning consistent with the original intent of the marriage? I don't think it is.

Wednesday, May 3, 2024

On writing

Very often, I delete the first paragraph when I write. It takes me a bit to warm up. Usually, the good stuff starts to come out after a few contextual sentences that establish a starting point for my mind to think and develop the story. But, more often than not, this contextual information is boring and could be skipped.

This relates to "Start right before you get eaten by the bear: Why you should avoid backstory scope creep."  A good story should get interesting right away. If you talk too much about the context: how you got there, how you spend the previous day, what you had for dinner, and only then get to the core of the story - your listeners will be bored. So you need to cut the empty calories and get to the part where you get almost eaten by the bear.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Deep Leverage

I called ten companies to repair an issue with my house's HVAC unit. Most of them connect to some form of "coordinator" who collects the order and sends your info to the operations person who schedules your visit. At no point you talk to an actual technician before the visit.

In a few places, however, you speak with a technician directly. This experience is so much better! I was able to get intelligent advice and trusted the business much more.

You can ask, why, then does the business hire a clueless first line of support/order collection? It's the leverage.

Leverage is easy to get wrong. Leverage is a way to do multiple things at once.

When we do multiple things at once, we can't account for individual differences of the object. If we speak to a crowd of people, we look for commonalities. It's the opposite of uniqueness. Uniqueness focuses on what's different about this object or this person. If you ignore uniqueness, you can't connect deeply in an authentic relationship.

So to apply leverage effectively, you need to see where most of the value is. If the value in the commonalities, leverage would work. If the value in uniqueness - it won't.

Let's take clothing as an example. If you want to make fashionable clothing, it can be leveraged. That's what large clothing retailers like H&M do. To be fashionable is to be like other people who are up to date with the style. It's not about uniqueness. However, if you want to make clothing that is exceptionally comfortable, it's harder to do it with leverage. Since human bodies are highly unique, the unleveraged way may work the best.

Maybe a smarter way to get leverage is on a deeper level. Take for example, MTailor - they make custom clothing by scanning your body with your mobile phone. They invested in leveraged automation and scanning technology and they are able to create custom clothing but still enjoy economy of scale.

I was also talking with the roof contractor today, Chris. He smelled like my grandpa's perfume, the cheap blue-collar smell  I recognize from the 80s in the Soviet Union. His way of speaking reminded me of the nonchalant manner of Russian Winnie the Pooh. Chris was sneaky and pushy. He was trying to force me to sign a deal with a price 2.3x higher than another quote by using pressure sales techniques. I didn't budge. He has that confidence that he can bring me over the line to sign the contract. I respectfully declined, and I will not follow up. He used a leveraged tactic on me. He wanted to use his standard sales techniques with pressure and passion and expected to agree. He wasted his time.

A better way to sell is to use a different type of leverage. We may have found a way to work together if he trained with better techniques, like question-based selling, and learned to listen instead of interrupting.

My takeaway is that the blunt application of leverage is often harmful to human connection because it often recuses humans into an object of manipulation.

Investing in deep leverage is much more effective, where you learn how to create a deeper connection more effectively.

Book vs. Intuition

Sometimes I forget how important scripture is in many religions.

Today in the spirituality club, we discussed "discernment." Two Christians in the group defined it as the ability to think according to the scripture. It's not about what you think about the issue yourself. It's about reading and understanding the Bible and applying the knowledge to the world. Or something along those lines - it's a complex topic, and the discussion was short.

What surprised me was that people delegate their judgment to a book. They don't know who wrote it. How can they know that it's right?

It's very different to me, where I came to the idea of the higher plane of being through my internal contemplation. I don't trust any book. I take ideas from books and try to see if they fit my worldview and intuitive understanding of the world.

However, it is inconceivable to me that someone can think that concepts in a book, even as important as Bible, would supersede their personal judgment.

Deep Work

Planned deep work doesn't work for me. I need to trick myself into starting and keep going out of pure enthusiasm. This is a way I get the most done.

Monday, May 1st, 2023


This is my first Daily Note and I don't know really what to write. I felt it would be great to share some stream of consciousness and things that I notice during the day.


My favorite pillow is Nest's Easy Breather Pillow - it changed the way I sleep, and I no longer have neck pain. I bought two more today – one for my wife and one for my guest bedroom when I have a sleepover with kids there.

I'm not affiliated. I'm just a fan.


Crypto projects have whitepapers and lightpapers. A whitepaper is more scientific and formal - it takes longer to write it and longer to read. A lightpaper is a more high-level description of the same material.

I was working on Outer Rim's whitepaper and decided to create a lightpaper instead.

For top-down activities, like planning the business, the context is more important than the detail. That's why it's more important to create a lighter version of the full plan and discuss it with the team. Chances are you are wrong about something big, so it isn't worth writing details if you didn't align on the high-level direction.