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Coolest Things I Learned in 2018 (perell.com)
539 points by jonsfkid 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 140 comments





> Instead of arbitrarily memorizing things, look for the explanation that makes it obvious.

This is a higher learning method that I’ve always found most natural. I don’t memorize stuff, I try to understand it instead. That said, there is still great value in the classical learning model—if you don’t know the terminology of the subject it’s difficult to reason about that subject.


Every time I switch to a new area I try this, and every time it causes me great frustration.

Learning materials arent setup to this, (and possibly brains). You have to learn enough fundamentals (usually via rote) before you can get overarching themes.

At my newest job I am trying to soak in the fundamentals as opposed to rote practicing them before putting any conscious effort at understanding them, but it is too soon to say if it is working. My stress level is dramatically down though.


Different people have different balance of skills. I like to use highschool chemistry as the litmus test. On the extremes there are people like me, stereotyped as successful physicists or engineers that love the math side but hated memorizing the tables of ions (poor ability to memorize, good ability to reason), and the people that are stereotyped as successful biologists that hated the math in their chemistry courses but memorized the entire periodic table just by looking at it (tremendous ability to memorize, poor ability to reason). Of course there are also all the people in-between. If you lean towards memorization, obviously if you need an answer, your best bet is to remember when someone told you the answer. If you lean towards reasoning, your best bet is to conceptualize a few fundamentals, and derive the answer on the spot (because you have no hope of recalling it.) This difference means that some people are naturally suited for some fields of study over others, for example the usefulness of recall in biology where everything is a huge tangled web of interacting parts. Another example of these stereotypes in action is the meme that engineers can't spell (which makes sense in the English language, because spelling has little in the way of overarching structure and is mostly recall).

The point of all this being, you have to recognize where you stand on the reasoning-recalling spectrum and adjust your learning strategy accordingly. Something that works for someone on one end might not work at all for someone on the other.


It's not a matter of memorization, at least for me, it is exposure. You can understand the underlying rules without enough exposure to the subjects of those rules.

I suck at memorizing and dont use it as a study technique, but when picking up a new skill I cant say "what are the underlying principles?" because I lack the context.

(Well I can say that, and then I'll get frustrated when no one can express them for me, and the ones that try dont make sense)


I don't really buy this as a real difference.

I suspect that the memorization is just brute force via flashcards or practice and that's more straightforward for people to 'study'. The other method of deriving and actually understanding is generally harder and usually relies on existing knowledge you learned in previous grades (it gets harder to use that method over time if you haven't been). It's also something the teacher may not be capable of either depending on school district.

I'd guess for a large percentage of people they never learn the non-memorization form of studying because they're never really exposed to it and because it's often not rewarded (sometimes it's punished). The brighter kids might pick it up anyway, but I'd suspect they could do the brute force memorization like the other kids if they similarly weren't as capable of it.


>The other method of deriving and actually understanding is generally harder

It's fallacious to think that one type of action can be harder than another type of action, when within each class of actions there is a wide variation in difficulty. Thinking from first principles is not harder than memorization when the first principle is Newton's first law and the memorization is every chemical component of cellular metabolism. Another example of the fallacy would be thinking that the humanities are innately easier than physics: sure, a two-page essay is easier to write than a two-page solution, but you can go in and crank up the number of pages per day a humanities professor is expected to write until it is as hard as you want (it turns out that to some extent this has already happened, you would be surprised if you found out exactly how much output they are expected to have).

In physics, the memorization is easy and the first principles are hard. In biology, the memorization is hard but the first principles are few. That's the origin of why people with biased strengths are better suited to one or the other.


I don't really disagree, but I think you've set up a bit of a strawman - in the general case I think one is more often harder than the other. You can obviously look at extreme outliers for contradictory examples, but the general case is more interesting/common.

There are also some things that are harder or easier for people because we have innate hardware for certain things. Recognizing facial expressions (or really interpreting any sort of visual input) compared to doing complex math in your head. The Type 1 vs. Type 2 systems from thinking fast and slow - some things are generally easier for humans compared to other things.


I think part of this is just highlighting the differences between our language center and the analytic part of our brains. And I also think this differs greatly between individuals (a huge reason why our family home-schools).

For instance, I have never had trouble with things like English grammar and spelling. For grammar, the rules have just always made sense, and, for spelling, usually just seeing the word written down a time or two is enough to remember how to spell it. On the other hand, my 9 year old, who is an even more avid reader than I was at that age, cannot form a grammatically correct sentence or spell even slightly less-than-simple words without referring to a list of rules that she has memorized about how these things are supposed to be done. She's the same in math. She knows she needs to borrow/carry but she hasn't made the leap to understand why (and given her personality, she may never be interested, which is a tough thing to swallow as parents who values learning as much as we do). So the advice in this article would be totally useless to her. Then again, she's a better artist already than I'll ever be.

In the end, I tend to think of this all as healthy. We don't need a thousand thumbs in our body, and we don't need everyone to be interested in understanding lots of things. We need artists, public servants and mothers. We need teachers and garbage truck drivers and child advocates.


I must have expressed myself poorly:

When I try to pick up a new skill, I would start by asking "what are the higher-level rules?" or some variation. Generally speaking, I've had a very, VERY low success rate at getting answers. When I did get answers, they always relied on a context I didn't have, because I was brand new.

Some areas I pick up intuitively, others take work, and others I completely suck at, but in none of them have I been able to START at the higher level understanding. It all requires context, and pushing to get the higher level rules before I have the context has always failed and left me frustrated with either myself (I'm an idiot!) or others (Don't these idiots understand their own jobs?!).


Yes. It's like learning a language by first learning the grammar -- that works if you already have semantic tree of grammar that you can patch in from a related language family (say Portuguese to Spanish), but for most people this doesn't work. Most people need to start by memorizing phrases by rote first.

It's only after we are familiar with the language that the underlying structures emerge.

This applies to learning math too. Unless we are already familiar with the structures in place, we typically first read the axioms, then look at the examples and try to work through some of them to gain familiarity, and then the underlying structure reveals itself to us.

It reminds me of a quote:

"Thermodynamics is a funny subject. The first time you go through it, you don't understand it at all. The second time you go through it, you think you understand it, except for one or two small points. The third time you go through it, you know you don't understand it, but by that time you are so used to it, it doesn't bother you any more."

Familiarity precedes true understanding.

This is also why people who read textbooks in a linear passive fashion don't do well in tests. They read and think they know the material, but if they are tested on it, they fail because they haven't truly grappled with the problem space.


> Most people need to start by memorizing phrases by rote first.

The most effective for most people is to hear a large amount of the language being spoken, bootstrap by memorizing a few words, and then reliably get some amount of practice speaking and a lot of additional exposure listening.

Similarly, the best way to learn to write is to do occasional bits of writing with feedback and tons and tons of reading.


Sure, that makes sense. I think whether we pick something up intuitively or not has a lot to do with our past experience and level of pure intellect. To me, being able to quickly internalize new things and cut to the complexities/challenges of those subjects is the basis of genius.

Humans with the ability to explain something in a structured way are rare because it requires a lot of different skills. First you need to know the topic well. Second you need to have emotional intelligence to know to current level of your trainee, to get him/her onboard with the new knowledge. Third you have to think about how to group and link the information you want to communicate. Forth the content must be reduced to the bare minimum and then plan what else should be explored, since learning with a tutor is most times the beginning of a voyage and not the end. This is hard, so people fail at it all the time.

The default – a.k.a fallback method – is to just list all things. This is not only confusing as hell, it is even worse. You never know what you don't know with this methodology, because you have absolutely no context about how something is meant to be use...

For example Books about programming languages often explain only the rules of the language, but totally forgets to explain how the language is used in practice and which tools are commonly used or which homepages have useful content that almost every programmer of language X uses. A greenhorn has understandably a very hard time without all those information.

E.g. setting up a Common Lisp project with Quicklisp which has the code under a namespace takes 20-30 steps (installing Quicklisp using a Lisp REPL, configuring Emacs, configuring the project) – no wonder almost everyone gets lost in the process. And a lot of programming languages are like that.


I tend to take the understand-don't-memorize approach to stuff as well. It's served me well in general, but it's also why I nearly failed micro-biology in high school.

> understand-don't-memorize approach

I hear you. This is actually an oversimplification that is received wisdom among American students and educators (often used as an argument against the rote-learning tendencies of non-Western education systems, which are the other extreme), but in practice it is wrong in its basic articulation.

This was an article on HN awhile ago about using Anki to read the literature of an entire field or subfield [1], but it also touches on the role of memory in learning. Without memory, it's hard to see deep connections across vast areas of knowledge. You can't always "look things up" if you don't know if those things exist.

[1] http://augmentingcognition.com/ltm.html


My mother has an interesting story related to this: she is/was a child prodigy. She graduated high school (Texas, early 50's) at age 13, earned an accounting undergrad at 16, and then University of Chicago law school. During law school, she worked as a CPA, and although she knew her job, all the tasks, roles, and strategic aspects of her position, it was not until she worked as a CPA for a few years when one day "it just clicked" and she realized what she was doing. She says it was a shock to her system, simply realizing. It ruined her productivity for the day, but she laughs now, telling about the strange questions she asked people that day.

Yep. People often ask me how I remember so much stuff and I really just remember a skeleton of knowledge that I reconstruct when needed. Like I know a general ordering of historical events for example and a few years, but I don’t remember the year everything happened. And I don’t even memorize the order but rather causal connections. If someone asked me when something happened or who the president or the king of England was, I try and piece it together from what I know of the context.

I function better when learning like this, but also feel that it's one of those 'easier said than done' ideas. Understanding can come with time, and doesn't always even then guarantee retention.

That being said, if anyone has study/memory tips, I'm all ears :)


Most of the things worth your time to understand are so complex you need to memorize and internalize multitudes of other concepts first before you can even hope to understand what you're learning.

I truly mean internalize. For example relativity. You cannot understand relativity just by following the logic from first principles all the way to enlightenment. You need to not only understand the earlier principles, you actually need to practice and internalize the earlier principles using techniques of memorization. Newtons laws of motion and vectors must become second nature to you through repeated practice and memorization before you can move forward.

Simply understanding one concept is not enough to move on to the next concept.


I think everyone does this to some extent. The problem is there's a tradeoff* so we optimize to this with varying degrees of success.

*Memorizing takes less time but you sacrifice depth of understanding and duration of retention. Understanding the "why" provides a great depth of understanding and a lengthy duration of retention but, depending on the material, it can take a long time and potentially lead you down a rabbit hole if you continue to seek understanding of the underlying abstractions.


Hmm, perhaps we’re talking about different things but I don’t mind memorizing the alphabet of a language or (partly) its vocabulary but the pronunciation is best learned in terms of its fundamental components and to an extent, so is the vocabulary.

Fortunately, most things in modern life require no active memorization. You use and you remember.

But if I were to learn Hindi, I would memorize the basic glyphs of Devanagari. It’s the highest ROI operation for the task.


Would that be because e.g. an alphabet or a language (notably English) is not a product with a solid reasoning behind it (like Esperanto is iirc) but an evolution? Like a cultural thing? There's no practical reason why certain combinations of letters in the English language are pronounced differently depending on the words, it's just a "that's how it is" thing which you have to just remember.

There are reasons, but historical rather than logical. I guess those reasons could be considered extra things to memorize as well (but for me they help).

I've had the same thing. It was impossible for me to remember complex mathematical equations in school until I figured out how to derive them myself. That didn't help me with integration, sadly.

Same with history: years are meaningless. What's interesting is how historical events follow from earlier events and lead to later events.


I strongly identify with the parent comment: I have poor rote learning of isolated facts, but strong spatial abilities (sporting and visualization), relational memory and explanatory insight through the implied graph of connections.

When I was young, I played with construction toys (Lego, Meccano) and board games, including Snakes and Ladders (Chutes & Ladders in the US). Later, when learning history, I found I was not remembering dates by their year number, but visualizing their position in the decade and century on the zig-zag of the S&L board. I implicitly grew a spatial layout of multiple centuries, often with certain viewpoints that made sense for topics of study. I excelled in history because of my relational understanding laid over this 3D spatial view of the world timeline.

Perhaps you can guess my field of academic specialization and the sweet-spot in my career as a programmer? ... physics degree, then 3D graphics and information visualization.


Damn, you described by way of thinking to near perfection. Spatial memory and relational graphs.

I too spent a huge amount of my childhood with Lego and board games.

I never became great with history, but found my way to computer vision and ML through a background in mech engg. (basically applied physics)

Still in school, so don't have an end to my story, but it is great to know others whose thought process coincides so well with mine.


By pure coincidence, just noticed this thread today:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18854838


For anyone stuck on integration, here are some nice materials for problem solving strategies, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED214787.pdf

> Same with history: years are meaningless. What's interesting is how historical events follow from earlier events and lead to later events.

That's also how I learned what history I know. The trouble with that is not knowing how differently themed events are positioned relative to each other in time. For example, I don't know how events of political history linked to events of computer history.


Surely you can connect WWII with the early years of computer science at the very least :)

You can always look up the relevant years. That's easier than the other way around.

Also, a lot of time finding the explanation that makes things obvious requires getting a lot of specific things into memory, where you can make the connections and see the common threads.

"To survive a Northern winter, bees change the composition of the swarm by shrinking the overall population, caulking the hive, getting rid of the deadweight males (i.e., ALL of the males), and laying just enough eggs to preserve a minimal survivable population through the winter and into spring.

They cluster together in the center of the hive, keeping the queen in the center, shivering their wings to create kinetic energy, occasionally sending out suicide squads to retrieve honey stores from the outer combs. They lower their metabolism by creating a cloud of carbon dioxide in the hive."

Thanos would approve of bees' survival strategies.

Jokes aside, what I always found really impressive is how bees deal with hornets, which are way bigger and their natural predators:

https://www.livescience.com/19078-bee-ball-cooks-enemies.htm...


The bees would teach Thanos how stupid his idea was by surviving year after year, because cutting a population in half does almost nothing. This is one of the things that have irked me the most about the Avengers movies, they propagate his idea as somehow making any sense at all, when in fact it is doing a great disservice to the world by not teaching them about populations and use of resources. A reduction of the universe's population by half would be made up for quite quickly as if nothing had ever happened and billions or trillions slaughtered for nothing. In cancer treatment you usally need at least a log kill or preferably multiple log kills to affect change. A better snap of fingers would have probably been to teach the universe to use less and recycle more or teach how to use contraception.

https://www.endurocide.com/knowledge-base/blogs/log-reductio...

http://www.d.umn.edu/~jfitzake/Lectures/DMED/Antineoplastics...


They literally title him "The MAD Titan" because everyone agrees his plan is idiotic. I'm not sure it gets more obvious than that.

That said, it made a lot more sense in the comics when he was doing it because he fell in love with Death herself.


Yes if they made him seem more crazy in the movie, I think that would have been a good tack. As is, it feels like we are supposed to take him seriously and he just seems too stupid to know his plan won't work so I can't. Maybe he is a thinly veiled reference to Trump, now that I think about it.

I wonder how techniques like this came to be. Was there a single "genius" bee that thought of this and convinced the others to give it a try? Bee brains are so tiny, how is advanced behavior like this possible?

That's actually how Japanese bees defend themselves. European bees do not have this defense as I learned from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ1eAM8CChc

All animals create carbon dioxide clouds around them with this technique called breathing.

That list of word is incredibly misleading. Basically all those words come from "The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows", which in turn is:

> a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig

Meaning, those are all made up words by "John Koenig". The project is cool, but I think don't think is right to treat those as "real" English words.


Why not? New words are invented all the time, and they can end up being part of the regular vocabulary. "noob" is an example coming from the gaming world. "Yeet" might become one, who knows?

All I'm saying is, if there's a need for a word to express something, it will evolve and it will become part of the language. Here's a list of new words added to the Oxford dictionary, for example: https://public.oed.com/updates/new-words-list-january-2018/. "commodify" is one that I've seen used a lot already. "hangry" is a slang ish words that has been promoted to a dictionary word, too.


I've used words from that dictionary as part of regular conversation. If that doesn't make them real words, I don't know what does.

Old Status Symbols:

Luxury goods

Position of authority

Busy-ness

Endorsed by establishment

New Status Symbols:

Fitness

Position of influence

Flexible schedule

Creative Output

Self-actualization

Independent

--> First time I've read this, but great incite that I've certainly seen as well.


However, this is totally based on its cultural context.

Status symbols always are, almost by definition.

I'm sure he's referring to the general cultural context of the world. Sure maybe there's a culture that values your ability to yodel as a status symbol, but obviously nobody is talking about that.

Every culture on the face of the earth pretty much values wealth and power as status symbols. Let's not attempt to be clever and actually end up making the world make less sense by trying to make everything apples and oranges when there is a universal standard of status.


Certainly is...I'm in the new status symbol but without the influence ( which I dont really care about ) and most people that know me are calling me a wanker etc...Same at work but whenever they cant do something the wanker/Excel monkey becomes god on Earth.

Cultural POV must play a lot but your environment, education does too I guess.


What? This sounds profound but it's not true. Luxury goods are still status symbols, positions of authority are still status symbols. The universal status symbol is your net worth and anything that can display a high net worth is a status symbol.

A Flexible schedule is not a status symbol. Let's be real. The people with the highest status in our world today aren't high status because of a flexible schedule. They are high status because of wealth and power. This is universal to human nature and will never change.


You are missing the point of that list, I think..

I believe it's a new way or thinking- people are realizing more and more that this old "american dream" where you somehow have millions and millions of dollars and 'power' is just silly. That's not the reality for almost all people. And it shouldn't be the goal!

Maybe you work hard and get lucky? Ok great. But most people can work as hard as they want and still be just "ok".

So.. instead of going after wealth or being in authority, how about we just live happy lives and try to do awesome things?

We have so much more (cheap) technology these days, that it makes it even easier to accomplish.

People are realizing that if they have the flexibility to work from home, work on somewhat their own schedule, get to be creative while doing it and not bugged by annoying bosses/shit.. how can you get much more happy than that? Yeah, you don't have infinite money, but you probably have enough to buy a 70" TV, gaming computer, virtual reality etc.

I have a lot of this, actually.. more responsibility than I would like with young kids; but aside from that.. for me working at home and being able to be a creative developer is my dream life. I could be making a ton more money, but then I have to commute.. be away from family.. not work on my own schedule etc.

I know plenty of people who have a lot more money. And they are miserable as fuck. Money and power doesn't give you as much happiness as you would like to believe.


Of course. Vying for high status is a cut throat game and not necessarily the path to happiness. Vying for status is, however, the only path to status and the fundamental symbols of status never change.

You can choose to live a simple life and be happy, or you can rule an empire and deal with the associated stresses. To each his own, but ALL humans recognize status, and almost all humans have an innate desire for more status.

The dilemma we face is whether we're willing to pay the price to attain said status. If status was offered without a cost most people will take it without hesitation.

You know plenty of people who have a lot of money but are miserable as fuck, so does that mean if you won the lottery for 10.5 million dollars you're not gonna take the prize because you learned your lesson from other "unhappy" rich people? Let's be real.

Status is status all you're saying is that more and more people are foregoing it for a less stressful life. This doesn't change the fact that we as humans still recognize status and that some part of us always will desire it to a certain extent.


I like the list although I disagree with it some. I think luxury goods are still a status symbol (iPhone X?) and I think she/he left out experiences. People want to look they're always having a good time and living life to the fullest.

Reading the tweet source of this one, interestingly the author left out " + Anti-fragile" after Independent in his version.

Whenever there is a market fad/phenomena with low or no barriers and a flood of entrants—the best strategy is often: Be the arms dealer.

The lowest profile players in high-profile, low-barrier industries are almost always the most profitable.

Don't sell wine, sell barrels.

Don't make movies, create animation software.

Don't own restaurants, build the restaurant supply company.

I ALWAYS KNEW IT!


All those cryptocurrency exchanges, they're the true winners of the nonsensical Bitcoin craze...

And similarily, NVIDIA really profitted a lot from the deep learning boom by selling all those GPUs to datacenters at a high cost...


>All those cryptocurrency exchanges, they're the true winners of the nonsensical Bitcoin craze...

Absolutely! There are financial geniuses in the cryptocommodity game, but their business model has nothing at all to do with coin prices.


I learned a different version of this, especially relevant to those in the Bay Area.

During a gold rush, don’t dig for gold, sell shovels!


This aphorism is older than dirt. Often formulated in terms of the California Gold Rush: the only people who made money were the ones selling shovels and wheelbarrows.

I like how Bezos' fridge quote is planted OVER one of his kid's drawings.

I thought that that was the point. Bezos covered over his kids drawing with a meaningless quote because he is that kind of a jerk.

I agree that was an odd decision by the PR company responsible for posting that.

Yeah, I thought that was odd/funny. Like he just put it there for the picture or something.

Nah, I'm sure a ruthless mogul is very concerned about "making the world a better place" :^)

When someone posts a quote or motto that sounds hypocritical it’s a good bet that it’s an aspirational quote.

I think it says something that he felt the need to put a quote like this on his fridge at 50 years old. But maybe he’s becoming self aware. Next Bill Gates transformation perhaps?

(It’s also pretty common in this age group for people to seek community and worry about their legacy)


Maybe it wasn’t a good drawing?

Okay, Maddox.

It's ok, the quote didn't specify that affection needed to come from your own children, he's still on track to succeed

I really enjoyed:

World GDP animation by country:

- it is insane how near japan got to us even being such a small country

- kudos to china for falling way out of the race to the top and then "out of the blue" reaching #2 at the very end -- shows exponential growth

How camera lenses change the way we look:

- at the first shot with the 20mm or so lens, the guy's nose looks huge and funny compared to the rest of the picture.

- at the biggest lens the overall face looks very well rounded and good looking. insane change!


Funny. I thought the shorter focal length made his face look more interesting and features look nicer whereas the 200mm lens made his face look like a big block with no definition and large neck. Crazy how subjective something like that can be!

Reading Factfulness got me to pay attention to per capita GDP growth rates over decades, as opposed to static comparisons at the moment. China blew my mind. Their per capita GDP has increased around 130x (in constant dollars) since 1960, from the $60/year range to over $8000/year. I now use it as a rebuttal to the stock assumption that Western-style democracy, capitalism, and individualism are the only route to prosperity.

It also got me thinking of the "developing" nations relative to the history of western nations. We sneer at the impoverished slums of the "Third World", without recognizing that was what America and Europe looked like, not that long ago. It's just a phase between an illiterate agrarian society and a modern prosperous middle class.


I think Russia itself could be used as another example of your rebuttable if you look a bit further back in time. At the end of the 19th century the country was still extremely agrarian - far less developed than the other great powers. But by the 1960s it had essentially made up for a century of lost time, at which point the famous stagnation set in.

The classic line is something to the effect of 'capitalism is the best system of generating wealth, but not for distributing it'. That does seem wrong. Once the innovations exist, systems like russia or china seem to successfully and efficiently reproduce the wealth generation. What happens after they have caught up to some baseline of industrial prosperity is a different economic issue altogether. I don't think we have enough examples from modern history to draw any sweeping conclusions.


I'm no expert, but it seems to me we're seeing something like a phase change in economics... nations start illiterate and agrarian and are basically stable for a long time, then they go through this sudden (2-3 generations) shift to modernism, and then... they're stable again. America isn't fundamentally more prosperous now than it was a generation ago. Worse, what economic growth is happening seems to be efficiently concentrating at the top. And it's not just America. European nations are like this too, Japan is like this. Eventually, China will probably be like this.

What's the next phase shift? That's an interesting question. I'm hoping for the abolition of work.

nickles 9 days ago [flagged]

> I now use it as a rebuttal to the stock assumption that Western-style democracy, capitalism, and individualism are the only route to prosperity.

There are many paths to prosperity. Are you suggesting it's preferable to forsake democracy, capitalism, and individualism and implement a system of governance that encourages mass murder [0], famine [1], human rights abuses [2], industrial espionage [3], unsafe goods [4], and scientific fraud [5]?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_China

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine

[2] https://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/china/

[3] https://www.newsweek.com/china-involved-90-percent-economic-...

[4] https://qz.com/1133484/buying-infant-milk-powder-is-still-a-...

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/world/asia/china-science-...


Why are you assuming I'm "suggesting it's preferable"? Put down the pitchfork for a moment! I'm not arguing that Chinese-style communism is a better system. I'm arguing that the belief that western values and economics are the only path to prosperity is incorrect.

I'd rather live in the American system. I'm sure there are a lot of people who grew up in China and would rather live in the Chinese system.

As for your laundry list of "China bad!", I could come up with counterexamples of the US doing the exact same things at various points in our history. Chill.


[flagged]


>Also, I'd request that you stop downvoting me simply because you disagree. However, I assume that your (self-described) "progressive politics" [1] are motivating your decision to downvote more than the content, so I'm not holding out much hope.

I'm not downvoting you. I can't downvote you, per how HN software works - you can't downvote replies to your own comments. Sorry, you'll just have to figure out why you're alienating people other than me.


As for the rest of your arguments...

>Here you engage in the logical fallacy of 'whataboutery'.

I'm not the one who started it. I simply brought up China's remarkable economic success, and you responded with a laundry list of "China Bad!" that mostly had nothing to do with economics.

>If, instead of relying solely on GDP per capita, we factored human costs into our assessments

Sauce for the goose. Rather than the abstract theoretical exercise you presented, you should offer a measurable scale, so we can compare China to western nations. Otherwise, it's meaningless. Otherwise, I'll see your human costs and raise you a slavery.

If you'd stop thinking about why China is more evil than the west for a bit and step back, you might see that economic acceleration from agrarian poverty to modern middle class is a widespread phenomenon that seems to happen to nations regardless of their history, language, culture, government, etc. A bad social structure eventually falls away and is replaced by a better one, and over the course of a couple of generations, the nation accelerates radically. It happened in China, in Iran, in Ireland, and many other seemingly unlikely places.

Read Factfulness. It'll change your life.


> I simply brought up China's remarkable economic success, and you responded with a laundry list of "China Bad!" that mostly had nothing to do with economics.

You're right that I insufficiently explained what I meant with the links. I'll break down how I felt the list had economic relevance:

[0][1] ~55mm people died or were killed during the Great Leap Forward and the Chinese famine likely stemmed from it as well. Looking at a series of historical Chinese GDP data, you can see that these policies caused economic contraction of -26.6% at their peak. If evaluating the merits of economic systems, this is a clear failure.

[2] China uses its human rights abuses to further its economy. Consider the harvest and sale of human organs [`]. That's clearly economic activity. It's also mortifying. Ultimately though, I'd say it's relevant to the discussion.

[3] Industrial espionage has everything to do with economics. There's no doubt that China is the largest perpetrator of industrial espionage in the world. If you want to demonstrate that Western values aren't necessary to develop prosperity, it doesn't help to steal so much IP from the West.

[4] Chinese consumers do not trust many consumable Chinese goods. That's certainly related to economics. In fact, it indicates weakness in the Chinese regulatory regime. I'm not informed enough to posit why this is, but my understanding is that foreign consumable goods command a premium because of it.

[5] Science and technology are major drivers of economic growth. Fraudulent research undermines trust in the published body of research, making it more difficult to perform science in the future.

Hopefully you can see the economic relevance now. I'm happy to make lists of problems with Western economies, of which there are many, but I won't pretend China is a paragon of economic development.

> Sauce for the goose. Rather than the abstract theoretical exercise you presented, you should offer a measurable scale, so we can compare China to western nations. Otherwise, it's meaningless. Otherwise, I'll see your human costs and raise you a slavery.

The exercise was simply to demonstrate that an economy is more than just GDP. As for hard numbers, consider the 55mm killed in the Great Leap Forward. Although I had already mentioned slavery as an atrocity perpetrated by the US, I'll provide numbers. In 1860 there were 3.9mm slaves in the United States. Approximately 12.5mm slaves landed in the US during the slave trade [^]. Since we live in the present and not history, let me provide some current statistics. 1mm - 3mm people are currently in concentration camps in Xinjiang [!]. 70mm Falun Gong practitioners are prohibited from their beliefs [~].

Your argument still engages in whataboutism. In July you tweeted [#]:

> Whataboutism is a lazy and uninteresting argument. It’s what you use when you don’t like someone’s point, but don’t have a solid argument against it. If you’re using “But what about...?” as the basis of a rebuttal, check and make sure you’re not just being dumb.

And you are attempting to put words in my mouth here:

> If you'd stop thinking about why China is more evil than the west

I never stated that I believe China to be evil or western countries to be good. In fact, I consider China's economic development to be a phenomenal advancement for human welfare. However, that is not what's being discussed. We are considering whether China's prosperity could have occurred without the existence of Western values.

> A bad social structure eventually falls away and is replaced by a better one, and over the course of a couple of generations, the nation accelerates radically.

Ideally this is what happens. Economic growth models (like Solow) indicate that this is an expected outcome over time. However, there are no guarantees. Structural phenomena impact this quite a bit. Countries with better infrastructure, physical, legal, and otherwise, should enjoy higher rates of growth. Yet many developing countries have less developed infrastructure. This serves as an impediment to such economic convergence.

> seems to happen to nations regardless of their history, language, culture, government

This is obviously not true. Corruption appears to harm economic growth (most strongly in the medium term) [<]. Argentina, had the largest economy in the world in 1895. Poor decisions on the part of the government caused a century of economic turmoil. My understanding that corruption is simultaneously a government and a cultural phenomenon, so you can see that history, culture, and government can have measurable impacts on economic growth.

[`] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_harvesting_from_Falun_Go...

[^] https://www.theroot.com/slavery-by-the-numbers-1790874492

[!] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinjiang_re-education_camps

[~] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falun_Gong

[#] https://twitter.com/davestagner/status/1021810579890159616

[<] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1331677X.2016.11...

[>] https://panampost.com/marcelo-duclos/2018/04/14/in-1895-arge...


As long as we're playing whataboutism... the Great Leap Forward occurred roughly 10-20 years after WWII, which led to a similar number of deaths in Europe. Without looking up data, I think it's safe to assume Europe's economies contracted substantially during WWII as well. So there's plenty of "clear failure" to go around. At best, one might argue that the US recovered from WWII faster, because it was the only major nation left undamaged.

As for the argument about the impact of concentration camps... the US currently has 2.3M people incarcerated with a third the population of China. If you're arguing that this is somehow economically relevant, then you're arguing the US (the richest nation in history) has it even worse.

I don't think the argument that "Countries with better infrastructure, physical, legal, and otherwise, should enjoy higher rates of growth" goes where you want it to go. Just about any "developing country" has a far higher rate of growth than the mature western nations with the best infrastructure. If the theory doesn't fit the facts, the theory is wrong. I think you may be conflating current state with growth here. They're not the same.

Speaking of developing nations, Argentina is not the example you want it to be, either. Per Wikipedia, Argentina's per capita income from 1890-1950 was "similar to western Europe". The economy grew steadily until the 1976-1983 coup and military dictatorship, which is when the debt crisis set in. It took nearly 20 years of difficult experiments to get past the problems caused by seven years of right-wing incompetence. The Argentinian economy has grown more or less steadily and well since 2002, and their per capita income is on par with Brazil, Chile, and other major South American nations. (As an aside, in Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshal argues that Argentina and other South American nations are ultimately limited economically relative to powerhouses like the US, China, and France, due to their geography - and that the success of the US, China, and western Europe is a direct consequence of some really marvelous geographic features, such as outstanding ports and long navigable rivers through rich farmland.)

So anyway... if the question is, as you phrase it, "whether Chinese prosperity could have occurred without the existence of Western values", well, maybe. Western technology, moreso than western values, has led to the rise of not only China, but dozens of other nations as well. Vaccination, industrialized farming, and other advances have created wealth throughout the world (again, read Factfulness!). It's not as simple as saying China succeeded by industrial espionage, any more than it's simple to say that America succeeded through exploitation of other nations. The technological acceleration of the past two centuries has been widespread, with widespread impacts.

But the "western values" I started with were democracy and free market capitalism. China succeeded without democracy or free market capitalism. Your continued insistence that China is a more violent and brutal state than the western nations only reinforces my initial argument.


> As long as we're playing whataboutism...

I'd prefer not to.

> Without looking up data, I think it's safe to assume Europe's economies contracted substantially during WWII as well... At best, one might argue that the US recovered from WWII faster, because it was the only major nation left undamaged.

I'd argue you can't compare Great Leap Forward with WWII. The GLF was domestic policy (like Holodomer) and ultimately the responsibility of the government at the time. WWII was an international war, which definitionally is not domestic policy. Europe indeed did experience contraction coincident with WWII [0]. The United States had a surge of economic activity at this time, nearly doubling GDP during the war [1].

> As for the argument about the impact of concentration camps... the US currently has 2.3M people incarcerated with a third the population of China.

You're not comparing similar categories here. US prisons hold people convicted of crimes as determined by a constitutional judicial process. More than 50% of the prisoners were sentenced due to commission of a violent crime [2]. Yes, the prison system needs substantial reform, but I find it hard to believe that ~1mm convictions are illegitimate. Meanwhile, concentration camps imprison people without charges filed or intent to file charges (a violation of Article 9 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights). I'm not comfortable drawing an equivalence between a legal process and a clear breach of human rights.

> If you're arguing that this is somehow economically relevant

I never made such a claim. You requested "a measurable scale" of human capital and rights violations, so I attempted to quantify it with the number of lives impacted.

> I don't think the argument that "Countries with better infrastructure, physical, legal, and otherwise, should enjoy higher rates of growth" goes where you want it to go. Just about any "developing country" has a far higher rate of growth than the mature western nations with the best infrastructure.

My statement should have included the phrase "ceteris paribus". This paper [3] has been cited ~450 times, so I assume it reflects mainstream economic thought.

"The paper finds that IPRs affect economic growth indirectly by stimulating the accumulation of factor inputs like R&D and physical capital. The positive effects of IPRs on factor accumulation, particularly of R&D capital, are present even when the analysis controls for a more general measure of property rights"

> Speaking of developing nations, Argentina is not the example you want it to be, either.

Are you referring to this page [4] which states the following?

"Beginning in the 1930s, however, the Argentine economy deteriorated notably. The single most important factor in this decline has been political instability since 1930, when a military junta took power, ending seven decades of civilian constitutional government. In macroeconomic terms, Argentina was one of the most stable and conservative countries until the Great Depression, after which it turned into one of the most unstable. Despite this, up until 1962 the Argentine per capita GDP was higher than of Austria, Italy, Japan and of its former colonial master, Spain."

The source confirms that Argentina has a long history of economic difficulty and points to a chaotic legal infrastructure as an origin. Comparing the GDP per capita to other nations is valuable, as it indicates 1. the early strength of the Argentinian economy; 2. the length of time it took war ravaged nations to recover. However, we should also consider the 'missing' economic growth. Had Argentina enjoyed greater levels of political stability would the economy have maintained its trajectory? If so, Argentinians today enjoy less consumption than they would have otherwise.

> As an aside, in Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshal argues that Argentina and other South American nations are ultimately limited...

Without having read the book, it sounds reasonable. Along those lines, there's a claimed relationship between a nation's natural resources known as the resource curse [5]. Perhaps this, too, has contributed to Argentina's economic woes?

> Western technology, moreso than western values, has led to the rise of not only China, but dozens of other nations as well... The technological acceleration of the past two centuries has been widespread, with widespread impacts.

I think we agree on this, but we don't see eye to eye on the origins of this acceleration. My understanding is that the acceleration in growth rates originated in Western Europe as a result of the Enlightenment [7]. Could the economic acceleration have occurred in other ways? Certainly it's conceivable, but in millennia of history it didn't happen any of those ways. So what were the values of the Enlightenment?

"In France, the central doctrines of the Enlightenment philosophers were individual liberty and religious tolerance, in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church." [6]

Those appear to be the values you identified earlier. As for capitalism, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations helped formalize the understanding of free markets. China, itself, implements a form of capitalism [8].

> But the "western values" I started with were democracy and free market capitalism

To quote you they were "Western-style democracy, capitalism, and individualism". If you believe China has been the beneficiary of Western technology, then it logically follows that China's prosperity stems from those values.

[0] https://www.quora.com/How-did-WWII-affect-European-GDP

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_production_during_Wor...

[2] https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/03/04/how-to-cut-the...

[3] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1465-7287....

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_Argentina

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_curse

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment

[7] https://is.cuni.cz/studium/predmety/index.php?do=download&di...

[8] https://www.businessinsider.com/how-china-went-from-communis...


The Great Leap Forward and WWII are absolutely comparable. China had been fighting colonial domination (first European, then Japanese) for almost 50 years by the time WWII (and Japanese occupation) ended. This was followed by several years of civil war that finally ended in 1949 with the exile of the nationalists to Taiwan. They had a population of illiterate, impoverished peasants, a demolished urban infrastructure, and a whole lot of local corruption to root out in order to consolidate power. A large-scale famine was inevitable. This was exacerbated by a total lack of international trade, due to anti-communist action in the West and an untrustworthy Soviet Union to the north. It was hard times.

As for Argentina... as you noted, Argentina was doing better than some European nations until the early 1960s. What happened? Well, back to the geography problem. Argentina is a remote nation, with limited ports. Spain, Italy, and Austria were part of Europe, possibly the most geographically gifted place on Earth (except for maybe the continental United States). And the US was dumping resources into Europe via the Marshall Plan, to rebuild the infrastructure and stabilize the governments. It's not surprising that they would eventually pass Argentina.

That said, the current state of Argentina is not bad. It's not rich, but it's on par with its peers in Chile and Brazil, and the debt from bad government in the 1970s/1980s is mostly paid off.

As for the cited paper... I really don't give a shit if it's been cited 450 times. It's demonstrably wrong. Developing nations with immature physical and legal infrastructures grow measurably faster than the wealthiest nations, with mature infrastructure. If you treat growth as an S-curve, this is totally an expected result. Double-digit growth rates in the developing world are not unusual. When's the last time a western nation had that kind of economic growth?


> Avoid boring people.

Corollary: people aren't always as boring as they may seem - digging in a little, asking questions - I often find what people are doing outside of work (which seems to be the default "interesting or not" metric) can be rather interesting.


This is absolutely true. A lot of the most interesting people I know only appear boring because they are well aware of the societal norms and won't speak out. Once you break through that trust barrier you can find that "boring" people are actually incredibly complex and interesting.

Your mileage my vary.


I think you missed the point of that section, the meaning is "don't be boring, try to be interesting". But I agree with you (when assuming the other meaning).

yeah - I was thinking about the noun vs verb thing too - after my initial reaction & comment. hmmm.

My All-Time Favorite Writing Advice

"When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated.

You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction.

The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you.”

— Steven Pressfield

---------------------------------------------------------

Simple Writing Tricks

One of the simplest ways to improve one's prose and to keep a reader's attention is simply to vary sentence length.

The cadence of breathing and speaking tends to mimic the frequency of the brain's ability to process words and sentences.


Interesting read. Thank you very much for posting.

I also read about a Hubble Extreme Deep Field image in December last year. I am still left flabbergasted that that image exposes only the space of the night sky covered by your thumbnail if you had to extend your arm straight in front of you. Just a thumbnail. And these are galaxies, not stars! Each one with hundreds of billions of stars.


On that point, the site hosted a low res version of it as far as I could tell. The actual image is hosted on NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/images/content/690958main_p1237a1.jpg

Thanks!

I get the same weird sense of perspective thinking about the number of microorganisms, cells, and atoms around me.

The photo for "There is a restaurant in Los Angeles called Brunch Near Me, presumably to trick Googlers." is showing Brooklyn, not Los Angeles. I don't know if this restaurant is in LA or in Brooklyn.

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55576406e4b02e4679105... That's Sheepshead Bay near Coney Island in Brooklyn.


Two points:

1) Jeff Bezos' quote on the fridge is the maximum of lame. This is the guy that treats his employees really well and cares about them more than about his personal wealth, right?

2) Avoid boring people. Why? Some people are just boring through no fault of their own. A series of misfortunes brought them into that stage. There are stuff to learn from boring people to and they deserve attention and love like any other.


>Avoid boring people

My experience is that this one-off is generally used as a way to be a dick to people who live a life you don't agree with, or that is opposed to your own.

I have yet to meet a boring person. Everyone is a hot weirdo when you really get to know them.

It's a matter of overcoming your own ego and realizing that your 'boring' is just another way of living.

Subsequently, those sort of bullshit phrases always serve to piss me off really, really badly. Who are you to tell someone else that they're boring? They're just living their lives. Why not take a minute to get to know them? If they try to drag you down and make you something you're not, then yes, avoid them. But just to make a snap values judgment on whether their life has value? No.


Try going on a couple blind dates.

It's interesting to see how people react so strongly to this phrase.

By default, I assume "boring" is a verb. Maybe it says something about the reader whether they see a verb or an adjective.


Most people are interesting if you approach them correctly, find what they care about, and open yourself to their excitement. "Boring" is very contextual.

Re 2.

I like this with the second interpretation mentioned on the page. Avoid boring (v.) other people, rather than avoid people who you seem to be boring (adj).


Wasn't the Amazon factory thing a bit overblown? Or are the abuses actually on-going and not rare in number?

The extreme happenings are probably not that extreme anymore from what I've heard.

Working conditions in the warehouses are still bad though. They are bad in a lot of shipping warehouses, but Amazon has been among the ones leading the race to the bottom.

Apart from that, being an employee at Amazon even outside the warehouse is generally not that great from all the accounts I've hear over the years. A big part of that are their principles[0], which breed that kind of an environment.

[0]: https://www.amazon.jobs/en/principles


Fair enough, I see where you are coming from. I am curious how widespread the poor working environments are at Amazon outside the workhouse, as it is difficult to extrapolate from a few examples. Thanks for the response.

I see that he has “sell shovels to the gold miners” on his list.

https://www.ciscoinvestments.com/eureka-shovels-jeans-iot-go...


Reminds me of the graphic card vendors and ASIC manufacturers who profit off people who rush into cryptocurrency.

> In a Big Craze, Be the Arms Dealer

This is clearly true but I wonder how much it's an artefact of the Western economic model. I came to a similar insight in the last couple of years, which was "the companies skimming the most cream off the top, are often the most abstracted away from providing a concrete benefit to society".

It's like there's this inherent recursive aspect to shareholder capitalism. The profitable businesses are those which provide a service to businesses which provide a service to businesses which... which provide a service to the public.


All of FANG seems like a counterexample. But in general it is probably true that the most profitable activities are very scalable, which is the opposite of concrete, hands-on interaction with the public.

> All of FANG seems like a counterexample.

Not really; both Facebook and Google basically only make money by providing a service to businesses, and even for Amazon, the most profitable area (AWS) is B2B.


It is basic economics 101: in the long run, Perfect Competition tends to yield zero profit. It is nothing to do with capitalism or meta-services, it applies to all economic activity. As Peter Thiel controversially but truthfully claims: competition is for losers.

In any value chain, you should seek the role that has the most control with the least competition. Often this is based on constrained resources: the supply of shovels in San Francisco is much more constrained and easy to monopolize than the area of land or length of rivers in California that might have some gold.

Creating or preserving the monopoly will also benefit from barriers to entry, such as conspiracy (oligopoly), regulatory protection (licensing, tariffs) or just plain old intimidation (mafia, law suits).

Another result is that when one constraint or barrier is removed, profits fall in that process, and shift to the next most constricted step of the value chain, much like the maximum pressure and minimum flow in a network of pipes with various diameters and valves. In general, this means that as artificial constraints are reduced (free trade, cartel busting...), the control of some underlying physical resource becomes most profitable, often property (assuming planning laws are never relaxed :), or certain scarce commodities.

For example, in tax-free and low tax economies (HK, SG, GCC) the profit often shifts to property (commercial and residential), so that what a worker gains in net income, they pay in extortionate rents, based on restricted land (HK, SG) or oligopolistic control of land and property (GCC). Low taxes are often a way of government forgoing revenue to the benefit of local landlords or property developers. Startups in Silicon Valley are ways of exploiting geeks to work hard chanelling money from VCs to local landlords.


You say artifact of western economic model like it’s a bad thing.

I think that was a fairly neutral statement, actually. No value judgement was intended.

Love this collection.

> The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you

Great stuff! Always easy to forget this.

And that picture of GDP over time. Amazing to watch China come online despite the late start. A titan wakes.


"The same traits needed for outlier success are the same traits that increase the odds of failure… So be careful blindly praising successes or criticizing failures, as they often made similar decisions with slightly different levels of luck."

I think this was Ray Dalio in his TED talk.


Avoid borimg people.

It is your fault if you cant find what it is interesting in others.


You missed the point of that section, the meaning is actually "try not to bore other people"

the "hold a mirror up to nature" quote attributed to Tom Hanks is in fact a classic Shakespeare quote (I don't know if he was the first however, perhaps he in turn got it elsewhere)

You may also wish to read this page on mirrors and Shakespeare (hard to imagine for us, and now mirrors or reflective decorations look kitsch, but during the introduction of quality mirrors they were high tech, so back then this was almost science-fiction play)

https://extra.shu.ac.uk/emls/08-1/kellglas.htm


A company's cash-flow in practice, which is a bit different from what it looks like in the books.

The AI faces... wow.

I'd love to see a source on that one, it's hard to believe otherwise.

edit: I reverse image searched one of the faces and found this, https://bgr.com/2018/12/18/nvidia-ai-fake-faces-look-100-per...

It's not generating them from whole cloth, but it's still very impressive.


What would "from whole cloth" even mean for this?

Honestly, I'm not even sure. After watching the nvidia youtube video, I retract the statement. This is pretty amazing.

And it's basically just the beginning too.

Deepmind has also been creating landscapes, portraits and animals (the tennis ball, the horror of the tennis ball!!!) https://venturebeat.com/2018/10/02/deepmind-ai-can-generate-...


I'm skeptical.

I want to know more about how they're formed. Did the AI basically generate them from scratch, or did it stitch existing images together.

Assuming they are sufficiently different from the source images, is it enough to effectively anonymize someone in a picture?


Bird navigation... wow amazing. It's like they have a natural HUD for navigation.

you can argue that our own visual system is actually a "natural HUD for navigation" also

Is it normal for professional soccer players to be so blatantly afraid of the ball?

I assume you're referring to the gif of the German goal from the world cup. "Afraid" is a bit of a misinterpretation. When you're 5-10 feet from the other player and he's shooting on goal, especially if that other player is one of the best in the world, turning around is the only sane thing to do.

I remember Olivier Giroud breaking his foot by blocking a powerful kick from very close range.

So I think the answer is, there is a certain healthy respect for a ball kicked at close range by another professional soccer player.

EDIT: Also, looking at it again, looked like the player was trying to get in front of it, and just couldn't make it in time.


A soccer ball can reach 80mph (130km/h). Even with just 1 lb (~450g), that can make damages to your face - in fact, soccer is a common cause of serious sports eye injury.

And yeah, it's typical for players to turn around in a situation like that.


what an odd question. Ping pong is the only sport I can think of off the top of my head that I wouldn't be absolutely terrified of a professional athlete blasting a ball/puck/thing at me and even then just because i'm not terrified, that ball would still hurt pretty good

About 16 years ago I was playing in a ping pong tournament, where the forfeit for losing would be you had to allow the winner to take three shots at your bare stomach.

I remember many of the guys who lost had rather large purple welts on their stomachs, akin to a paintball wound.

This wasn’t professional level either. This was a bunch of Australian teenagers having fun in the evenings.


Remind me a lot the exelent book 'l' enciclopedie du savoir relatif et absolu ' of Bernard weber.

Very interesting findings. Learned some new things. Thanks for sharing

"A flower is a weed with a marketing budget."

You just brought back a childhood memory of my mother weeding the garden. I didn’t understand why _these_ plants were bad but _those_ plants were good.

> Flight is still the most advanced and spectacular human invention.

Ever heard of birds/insects?


This article (post?) is the 2019 version of chain mail. Weak insights, no academic substantiation. I had to stop reading at the 'words for emotions' part.. 'sonder' and the rest are not dictionary words; they were made up by some guy. Yet this ridiculousness continues its way around the internet..

I wonder what world you live in (career, culture, etc) that makes you feel that a post with title "coolest things I learned in 2018" should come with "academic substantiation."

Also, the whole point of the words for emotions thing is sorta that those are new (i.e. not pre-existing, which maybe means not "real" to you). The point is to think about what feelings we don't have words for, and what impact it might have to make words for them.


To be more clear, when I click on Hacker News items I have come to expect them to be of a somewhat more thoughtful nature; a la "anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity". Its my personal opinion that this item is more like a 'Dear Diary' entry and of significantly less intellectual value than say "Genomics Code Exceeds ExaOps on Summit Supercomputer", which is one of your own excellent submissions. The "world I live in" is one where I enjoy Hacker News items like your submission and do not enjoy this one.

I understand the "whole point" as put forth by the original writer who made up his own definition of sonder, but just because I paint a picture of a griffin doesn't mean it exists in reality. And similarly the definition of the word 'sonder' as he gives it also does not exist in reality. The problem I have with this thought experiment is that the internet is perpetuating the myth that this word has a valid historical etymology with widely accepted usage where in fact it sprang fully formed from an artist's mind.


'Sonder' is most certainly a word! https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sonder

Let's just go ahead and kill this back and forth.

Yes, sonder is a word. The definition used in the article is debatable as to whether it's a word. It's a word invented in 2012 by a guy that wrote a book about inventing new words for emotions.

>Coined in 2012 by John Koenig, whose project, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, aims to come up with new words for emotions that currently lack words.[1][2] Related to German sonder- (“special”) and French sonder (“to probe”).[3]

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sonder#Etymology


Yes, Sonder is a word in German which means "special", as in the German term Sonderweg which is the German equivalent of "American Exceptionalism" ("German Exceptionalism", I suppose).

The German "sonder" referred to in this branch of the conversation (i.e. meaning special) is not a word on its own but a prefix for other words [0] (remember that germans like to build words from multiple separate parts and words).

While "sonder" itself is a word, it means something different when used on its own (without) [1].

0: https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Sonder_ 1: https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/sonder


Any word in any language can be turned into an English word, simply by mispronouncing it.

Sonder is also quite a pedestrian word in German, as in "sonderangebot" (special offer, or sale!)



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