Friday Finds (CIA, Airlines, Beauty, Thiel, Philosophy)


Read in your browser here.

Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

With the year coming to an end, I'm heads down on writing my Annual Review while I finalize two exciting projects. First, a twelve-hour lecture series about René Girard and second, the Porter Robinson documentary (what started as a casual 15-minute YouTube video has turned into an obsessive, 80-minute deep-dive).

I'm also building the infrastructure in Austin to host salon dinners, where I’ll invite 4-6 friends for a night of in-depth conversation about the state of the world. I've always wanted to host these and the time has finally come.

Here's what I want to share this week:

  1. Hugging the X-Axis: Commitment is under-valued. In our age of abundance, it's too easy to jump from project to project and abandon commitments when they begin to feel like work. But a life without commitment is a life where you can't take advantage of compounding curves. Read my newest long-form essay.
  2. How Peter Thiel Finds Secrets: I just published a guest post on Polina Marinova’s site. The background is that I recently had dinner with Peter Thiel and was surprised to see just how relentlessly he looks for secrets. In this essay, I provide a framework for discovering those secrets and explain why you should beware of consensus.
  3. Paradox of Abundance: Markets of abundance are bad for the median consumer but great for conscious one. Surprisingly, studying obesity rates might be the best way to improve our information diets and make ourselves smarter.


Today's Finds

Airlines and Frequent Flier Points: Airlines look like they make money from flights, but they actually make money from loyalty programs. Without its loyalty program, Delta would be worth -$7 billion. With it, it’s a $19 billion company. This quote stuck out: “The mechanics of a loyalty program are simple: Flyers earn rewards, generally by flying or using branded credit cards. They redeem those rewards for flights.” If you prefer video, you'll like this explainer from Wendover Productions.

CIA Field Sabotage Manual: In 1944, the CIA released a guide on how to sabotage an organization, and I can’t shake the feeling that we’re voluntarily implementing these tactics today. They sound exactly like what happens in a corporate meeting: (1) insist on doing everything through channels, (2) haggle over people's wordings, and (3) advocate "caution."

History of Western Philosophy: A great book to have on your nightstand because you don't need to read it in one sitting. It's a survey of the Western Cannon, from the pre-Socratic philosophers to the early 20th century. You can think of the book as a series of 10-25 page essays, which you can refer to whenever you read a canonical work.

The Great Courses Lecture Series: Audiobooks are boring because books are made to be read, not listened to. Thus, only the narrators who also wrote the book have the liberty to adjust the content in order to make it memorable and enjoyable. As a substitute, I recommend the Great Courses lecture series from Audible. Though I wish the lectures had better notes or transcripts, they're almost all high-quality. I've enjoyed this series on Plato's philosophy in The Republic and this one on St. Augustine's City of God.

Beauty is the Privilege We Never Talk About: Being beautiful makes life much, much easier. First, we’ll start with the obvious. Speed dating research shows that beauty is the most important factor in choosing a mate. But attractive people are also more likely to be hired for a job and seen as competent. This quote from the article stands out, even though it’s so extreme that I’m skeptical of it: “This bias for beauty can cause real harm. In a meta-analysis of the role of attractiveness in criminal sentencing, it was found that unattractive people received 120–305 percent longer sentences than attractive people. As a comparison, another study found that black people received 6–20 percent longer sentences than white people. Yes, in criminal sentencing, looks were over 10x more important than race.” Beauty, then, is the ultimate privilege.

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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