Personal Learnings

What I've updated on

Over the past few years I’ve updated my worldview on several important margins. Writing them out will help me clarify exactly how my understanding of the world has changed, and hopefully be helpful to others as well. 


I have always been a facts oriented person, the glass is 50% full, not half full or half empty. While I could understand the importance of excitement and ideas in an academic sense, I was ultimately much more of a historical materialist. There are easier to predict patterns, e.g. billiards, medium complicated patterns, e.g. weather systems, and super complicated patterns, humanity. However, these were all patterns that could be understood and intuited from several underlying assumptions that would create reasonable predictive power. 

This is not to suggest I didn’t understand or appreciate ideology, culture, or memes, just that I downgraded its relative importance. Ideology, culture, and memes play an important role in hinge points of history, e.g. certain battles, inventions, constitutions, etc, but are otherwise a somewhat predictable product of complex society. 

Living in an unpredictable time has substantially increased the salience of ideology, memes, and culture to me. While before I saw a handful of hinge points throughout human history, now I see them everywhere. People matter, actions matter, and the memes that create the frameworks within which people make decisions are critical to understand the future of humanity. While these memes emerge within a broader framework of materialism, the conduit is messy and there are no simple rules for understanding their emergence or impact. 


Related to the importance of memes is my increased understanding of the importance of community. I was a loner throughout middle school and high school. I did not have many friends until my senior year. Throughout college I was also a loner. I don’t blame other people, I was generally unpleasant to be around. 

Much of my lack of interest in community and its importance was my own loneliness. While in graduate school I studied the importance of culture, it was more like an alien anthropologist studying humanity. I felt removed from the life I saw everyone else was living. Throughout high school and college I frequently told myself, ‘life starts when you graduate’. It wasn’t until I was close to graduating college that I realized life already started and I need to build one that I enjoy. 

As I have engaged with more communities I have felt a deeper understanding of its importance both to me as well as to society as a whole. The social bonds, the reciprocal obligations and benefits that come from being part of a community. I feel a more granular appreciation for the intricacies of varying social networks, how they interact, and their importance to what we might call civilization. 


I have always been sympathetic to iteration and evolution. I was originally convinced reading Hayek’s Law Legislation and Liberty Volume 2 which outlined the evolution of British common law. What has happened more recently is seeing this intellectual framework play out in unexpected ways in my life. 

The first is with charter cities. I started the Charter Cities Institute with a relatively strict vision of what a charter city is and how to get there. Over time, it’s become clear that there are very few, if any, opportunities to create a true charter city. Nevertheless, there are many charter cityesque projects in the world that can have a positive impact. Seeing these projects play out in real time has made me realize that charter cities and institutional change are, by their nature, long term. Even writing it out makes it sound obvious. 

A second way this framework has played out is in my personal life. I feel I am a different person from several years ago. I am (mostly) the person I want to be. This period of personal growth, as well as seeing others experience personal growth, is illustrative of a broad iterative framework for life. By intentionally putting yourself in certain circumstances and cultivating the parts of yourself that you like, it’s possible to meaningfully improve who you are as a person.


I am increasingly convinced of the importance effective mental models for impacting the world. With an increasingly malleable reality, being able to effectively understand what is happening allows people to have outsized influence. I'm curious to see how I change and hopefully improve over the coming years.

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