Heuristics are good for decision-making, because we are bad at making decisions.

In fact, heuristics are better for decision-making than we think they are, because we are biased to think that we are better at decision-making than we actually are.

This, ultimately, is the value of moral codes. Having a systematic set of pre-defined rules and priorities into which you can input your decisions often has a better outcome than trying to do everything case by case.

In life, those assertions above are hard to measure. What is “good” decision-making in life? Is it happiness? Is it health? …

This is going to be a series of three articles. The first (this one) discusses and justifies Toby Ord’s estimate that the human race has about a 1 in 6 chance of destroying itself in the next 100 years (a large portion of this article is functionally a summary of his book “The Precipice”). The next will cover what the future might look like if we don’t, and explains why that risk is likely to decline. …

Let’s hope so.

To frame this conversation, I am not a vegan. Like most people, I just eat meat because I like it.

But veganism is fascinating. It falls into a category of social movements where one side of the debate are morally motivated, passionate warriors for a cause attempting to change society, and the other side just doesn’t have an interest in thinking about the topic.

Usually this happens when one side of the “debate” doesn’t have any acute pain associated with the issue. This is why these types of movements, almost necessarily, have to use tactics that are…annoying.

(Without all that metaphysical hooey)

Let’s try to walk through some basic moral reasoning without any metaphysical baggage, predicated on the idea that action is belief — which is to say that I am less trying to convince you of these moral statements than I am trying to convince you that you already believe them.

  1. Your own existence is preferable to your non-existence.
  2. This extends to others’ existences: the existence of a human consciousness is preferable to its non-existence.
  3. Certain states of human consciousness are morally preferable to others.
  4. Certain sets of preferences for moral states are superior (better at…

Yeah, actually.

People have been making rope, getting high, making food or creating clothes with hemp for about 10,000 years.

Cultivated around 8000 BCE in Mesopotamia, and having spread as far as Asia by 6500 BCE it was one of the original, and until the nineteenth century one of the largest agricultural crops in the world. The Declaration of Independence and the first edition of Alice in Wonderland were made on hemp paper.

But hemp production took a huge it in 1937 when Canada and the United States stopped production of hemp — even for clothing — with the Marijuana…

An Introduction

It’s easy to pretend that people who believe in something different than ourselves don’t actually believe it. It’s significantly more difficult, mentally, to try to put yourself wholly in their frame of mind — to stretch your perspective on the world until their beliefs and actions make sense. The objects of this extend from grumpy DMV bureaucrats to Hitler Youths.

This can be a useful tool in any number of ways — if you have an antagonist in your life and you can’t imagine being the way they are, can’t imagine having done everything they’ve done and feeling…

How to Eat a Word Salad

What do electrons look like?

This question is made up of words, and probably (to you) seems to have meaning. You probably feel that you know what I’m trying to ask, even if you don’t have a clear answer. But, some of the folks who have spent the most time thinking about words would find this question to be meaningless (Wittgenstein), or even a lie (Derridas).

Today, we’re going to talk about words — about whether words have meaning, or (perhaps), whether we should treat words as though they have meaning. Looking for meaning in words, and using words to narrate that search, is kind…

You might have noticed there has been a recent proliferation of brands like TenTree and Kotn pushing the organic cotton narrative as a core selling point. And if you’re anything like me your first reaction is:

“Eh? What does that even mean?”

This kind of stuff can sound good, even if you don’t exactly know what it means. And then the website usually has a tab explaining what organic cotton means, and it sounds wonderful.

And then you remember,

“Oh, right, they’re trying to sell me something.”

So let’s break down what organic cotton actually means, why it matters, and…

Ecommerce, COVID, and How Americans Spend

Everybody is at home: no more parties, no more business drinks, no more date nights on the town, or concerts, or even hikes, it seems (I live in LA and they closed the parks and trails in the area). Folks staying at home means a massive surge in screen usage, and a corresponding surge in social media usage — anything from Reddit to Facebook. What does this mean for ecommerce?

That depends on your target market, and the relevant distinction is the nature of their work — not their age or average income.

Based on first order impact on discretionary…

I Don’t Know What Happened to Outdoor Voices, But I Can Guess

Coming out of Parsons school of design, Tyler Haney had an idea for an activewear brand more about fun than performance. The young entrepreneur scraped together a design, started Outdoor Voices, made a few samples, got into some trade shows and even got a couple small orders. Before she knew it, J Crew came in with a huge order of 11,000 units to feature the brand in their “Discover” series in 2014.

That’s pretty much a dream start to a brand. Now you’ve got a whole bunch of free exposure through J.Crew, and a bunch of cash on hand. …

Alan Keegan


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