The Smarter Brain
Get Smarter. Think Better. Live Better.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Worth reading


Anger Is Temporary Madness: The Stoics Knew How to Curb It

Lessons from the stoics on how to control your anger. “[A]nger is a temporary madness…Seneca would respond that to talk of moderate anger is to talk of flying pigs: there simply isn’t such a thing in the Universe.”According to Epictetus, you should be like a rock.“What, for instance, does it mean to be insulted? Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his invective?”

5 ways to control your anger:

1. “Associate with serene people, as much as possible; avoid irritable or angry ones. Moods are infective.”

2. “Seek environments with pleasing, not irritating, colours. Manipulating external circumstances actually has an effect on our moods.”

3. “Don’t engage in discussions when you are tired, you will be more prone to irritation, which can then escalate into anger.”

4. “Deploy self-deprecating humour, our main weapon against the unpredictability of the Universe, and the predictable nastiness of some of our fellow human beings.”

5. “Don’t start discussions when you are thirsty or hungry, for the same reason.”

— Massimo Pigliucci, Aeon (4 min read)


Are Humans Intelligent? A Salty AI Op-Ed

An insightful and sarcastic lecture on human nature by an AI (GPT-3). “First, consider humans’ history. It is a story of repeated failures…If humans are so smart, how come they keep being wrong about everything?”(Wow! AI isn’t holding back any punches.) “It’s obvious: the brain isn’t better than a computer. The brain is worse than a computer. It’s much worse. The brain is the worst computer in the known universe.”(But Mr. Sarcastic AI, humans create you no?) “[I]ntelligence is whatever humans do…consciousness is a very bad idea, emotions are based on misguided perceptions of reality, and the mind is a prison.”

— Aaram Sabeti (6 min read)


The Polymath Playbook

The future of work is uncertain. Will AI displace our jobs? Will remote work be the norm? Should you become a specialist or generalist? Last year, I wrote about why generalists will rule the future of work, so I’m glad to see this idea gain traction. “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one…The key advantage that polymaths hold is their ability to develop mental models from different fields and apply them to solve problems in a unique way.” (Contrary to popular opinion, the more you specialize, the harder it is to differentiate yourself from the competition.)

— Salman (8 min read)


A Critique of The Big Five Personality Traits

If you’ve taken a personality test, The Big Five isn’t news. The model suggests that personality can be boiled down to five factors: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. But The Big Five “is not causal, and makes no predictions.”And its “life outcome constructs are vague abstractions measured with survey instruments.”Unfortunately, it’s become “an unfalsifiable theory using methods that evade falsification.”

— A Literal Banana, Carcinisation (8 min read)


Planet Plastic

An in-depth analysis of how oil and consumer giants like Exxon, Shell, Coca-Cola, and Nestlé, hid and created the global plastic waste crisis behind the destruction of our planet. “Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels.” Recycling is a myth, “since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kg of plastic waste — and 91% has never been recycled even once.”What’s even more worrying is that “more than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030.”​
​— Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone (32 min read)

Worth listening

How to Make Your Own Luck

Life lessons and decision-making frameworks from a professional poker player. “German philosopher Immanuel Kant proposes betting as an antidote to one of the great ills of society: false confidence bred from an ignorance of the probabilistic nature of the world.”Our ability to go all-in “is the crucial variable that makes so many decisions so very difficult.”To avoid this we often make passive decisions, but “hanging back only seems like an easy solution. In truth, it can be the seed of far bigger problems.”

—Freakonomics Radio (1hr 2m)

Worth watching

Lullaby Theories: A Secret Message

The science of why we experience pain and how to control it, as explained by a mother to her four-year-old twins. “Brain and body talk to each other to tell you something is wrong…but you don’t feel pain until the brain interprets this message…you can trick your brain, when you adjust your mood or distract yourself, you can stop or reduce the pain.”

— Lullaby Theory, Coat Of Arms (2m 14s)

Today I learned: The average human ingests 2,000 particles of plastic (a full credit card) per week. (source)

Food for thought: Failure is the price you pay for success. To avoid failure is to postpone success.


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