Successive Approximations

AUTHOR: Ben Berry

Healthy Societies Are Built on Competiton

Eric Hoffer's The True Believer was published in 1951, six years after the end of World War II and two years before Stalin's death. Yet it presaged the current moment of identitarian tribalism (both on the woke left and the MAGA right) better than anything else I've read. Pardon the extensive quotes, but properly setting the stage of the problem to be solved is necessary to understand the solution below (emphasis mine):

For men to

Folding Your Hand

Re-reading the notes I wrote while reading Skin In The Game a few years I came across this, in response to something in the first chapter:

Roman emperor charging into battle to face certain death is meaningful only in a setting of honor and institutions. It is folding your current hand so that the next guy that takes your seat will have a fresh start and a strong hand. It only works if your sacrifice,

Thoughts on "A Bright Shining Lie"

After finishing About Face by David Hackworth, my friend Gary renewed his recommendation of A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan. (I ended up with a copy that appears to be the first paperback edition, printed in 1989, with a sticker in the front declaring it withdrawn from Bowdoin College Library. When I got the book it showed no signs of ever being read.)

It was a very

Is Facebook More Like Cigarettes or Alcohol?

It's becoming increasingly clear that infinite-scroll, algorithmic social media in its current incarnation is harmful to both the users that over-indulge, as well as countries filled with obsessive users. For an overview of some evidence, here's a snippet fron Jonathan Haidt's interview with Joe Rogan. If that piques your interest, his full interview with Rogan is worth a listen, as well as his 2019 article in the Atlantic about how social media is corroding our

Durable Connections

Listening to Moxie Marlinspike on JRE, around 1h39m:

"In a sense, I'm glad those things [social media] exist, because they're sort of what we wanted, but I think we underestimated how important the medium is, like the medium is the message kinda thing. What we were doing at the time, of writing zines and sharing information, I don't think we understood how much that was predicated on actually building community, and actually building relationships with

Parable of Discovery

Imagine two people meeting for dinner at 6 at a restaurant neither of them has been to before.

Harry is a busy man with a calendar full of meetings. Google Maps says it's a 27 minute drive to the restaurant. At 5:31 he gets in his car, starts up the navigation, and gets directions straight to the restaurant. On the way, he listens to his podcasts at 150% speed because he has so many

Quiet to Think

Eric Hoffer insisted that everyone needed time to think while your body was otherwise occupied. He famously wrote The True Believer, published in 1951, while working his job as a longshoreman on the docks of San Francisco.

Unloading ships, mowing the lawn, or walking, whatever you do, you need quiet to hear yourself think. Time to digest whatever you've ingested in your intellectual diet, combine it with news from the day, and distill new knowledge

Empty Mind

The only way to an empty mind is not to push everything else out and decree silence. It is only by being open to every thought and allowing them to arise until they slow to a trickle. This may take a while, but it is quicker than the other option which is unending.