Monday Musings (Logic, Color, Academia, Thiel)


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Hi friends,

Here's what I want to share this week:

1. Twitter Threads: I published two Twitter threads this week: one about building a writing routine and another about how you can learn more effectively.

2. My Three Principles of Writing: In this mini-essay, I outline the core pillars of my writing philosophy.

3. Peter Thiel’s Religion: My 15,000-word essay about Peter Thiel’s worldview, with a focus on how Christianity has shaped his investing framework.

4. Interview with Logic: Okay, I’m buzzing with excitement for this one. Last month, I interviewed Logic, the Grammy-nominated rapper, and I think it’s one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. Though it was originally a private event for my Write of Passage students, we just published the first half of the video.

Oh, and if you want a sneak peek, here’s a clip of Logic going through his notes and analyzing his own music.

Coolest Things I Learned This Week

Learning is Like the Color Wheel

Suppose a kid runs up to you and asks, “Why should I learn things?”

Instead of the standard answers, I’d say that learning is like the color wheel. Imagine if you could only see black and white. The world would be bland, wouldn’t it? Every time you learn something new, you’re adding colors to your intellectual palette. The more you learn, the more colorful the world becomes.

See, the mind can only pick up information when it has the “receptors” to do so. What you know determines what you see in the world. The more you know, the more you pick up.

Consider a visit to a restaurant. A chef would think about how the food’s been prepared, an economist would think about why things cost as much as they do, a sound designer would think about ways to make it easier to hear the person sitting next to them, a woodcarver would think about the construction of the table they’re sitting on, a chair designer would think about ways to make the seating more comfortable, an entrepreneur would think about the bottlenecks in the restaurant, and a supply chain expert would think about bottlenecks in the food supply.

All of them would immediately pick up on things the layman would miss — even after 100 visits.

The more you know, the more the world will feel alive.

— —

Has Academia Become Less Interesting?

We assume that the more accurate an idea, the more useful it will be. By accurate, I mean its ability to precisely describe a phenomenon.

But sometimes, less accurate ideas can be more useful. You see this in the social science literature with books like Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. It was written in the 1970s and doesn’t try too hard to narrow its assertions or show empirical evidence for its claims. Instead, it simply aims to provide a useful way of thinking about the world.

Justin Murphy says: “They don’t write social science books like this anymore.”

Instead, the incentives of academia pressure researchers to narrow their research in order to make highly specific claims. “Big Think” books that make broad and sweeping claims aren’t as common as a result. Though their ideas were knowledge bombs for me, I don’t think two of my favorite academics, René Girard and Marshall McLuhan, would’ve survived today’s culture of “Narrow Think.”

(This idea comes from a talk Justin Murphy gave last week. I asked him to share a recording for Monday Musings readers, which you can watch here).

— —

Create Tons. Publish the Best.

— —

School: The Tyranny of Low Expectations

The Pygmalion Effect describes a phenomenon where people embody the expectations others have for them. One study of California elementary schools found that teacher expectations can sway student achievement, particularly among the youngest children.

To that end, I wonder how much we could increase learning outcomes by simply expecting more from students. Reflecting on my own education, and particularly university, the expectations were shockingly low.

— —

Unanimity in the Bible

In the Bible, whenever people unanimously agree on something, it’s a sign that something is off. You see this in stories like the Tower of Babel and various stories of people abandoning Christ.

Reflecting on this idea, Peter Thiel says: "Reason tells us you should follow the wisdom of crowds. Revelation tells us you should beware of the madness of crowds."

Under ancient Jewish law, if a suspect on trial was unanimously found guilty by all judges, then the suspect was acquitted.

This reasoning sounds counterintuitive, but the legislators of the time had noticed that unanimous agreement often indicates the presence of systemic error in the judicial process, even if the exact nature of the error is yet to be discovered. They intuitively reasoned that when something seems too good to be true, a mistake was most likely made.

Empirical evidence supports the wisdom of Jewish law. In one study, researchers gathered witnesses and organized a modern-day police line-up. Witnesses tried to identify a suspect out of a group of several people. Past a certain point, as the group approached unanimous consensus, the chance of them being correct was no better than a random guess.

Photo of the Week

Few people have been more influential in my career than Tyler Cowen. I’m a recipient of his Emergent Ventures grant and he’s often the first person I call whenever I’m uncertain about what I’m going to do next with Write of Passage.

He visited Austin last week, so I interviewed him at a conference in town and took him to my new favorite BBQ spot: Leroy & Lewis.

I’ve interviewed him twice on the North Star Podcast: In our first interview, we talked about travel and learning theories. In our second one, I asked him about his production function.

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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