Decision-making advice from a poker player

Annie Duke is a former professional poker player who writes books about making good decisions in the face of incomplete data – lessons she learned in poker.

My favorite is her advice to reduce political bias: Think in terms of bets. Rather than saying, “This decision is awful,” say “I’m 99% convinced this decision is awful.” It’s hard to do, but that extra 1% gives protection against cognitive dissonance.

What good poker players and good decision-makers have in common is their comfort with the world being an uncertain and unpredictable place. They understand that they can almost never know exactly how something will turn out. They embrace that uncertainty and, instead of focusing on being sure, they try to figure out how unsure they are, making their best guess at the chances that different outcomes will occur. The accuracy of those guesses will depend on how much information they have and how experienced they are at making such guesses.

More here, and the book is worth reading if you’re interested in improving decision-making and protecting yourself against rigid thinking.

Learning RPG design with 5 games

A thoughtful list. 4 out of the 5 RPGs are unknown to me. But according to the author, they all are designed to drive storytelling. Take 1001 Nights, for instance:

The overall trends worth learning from 1001 Nights is that all roleplaying is just making stuff up with your friends, asking questions and adding to what’s been made, to make even more cool stuff. While 1001 Nights is lightly adversarial, the reality is as players it’s more fun to tell a fun story, whether that’s your characters working together or not.

More here.

Shakespeare, ranked and sorted

Aaron Krerowicz read all 38 Shakespeare plays during COVID, analyzed them and ranked them according to personal preference. Nowhere is he swayed by popularity or what he should say (King Lear doesn’t make the top list, for example) and the result is a refreshing look at Shakespeare’s canon in total.

I’d never read Shakespeare outside of school. My freshman high school English class studied ROMEO AND JULIET (for which I composed my opus 1, a piano solo that I’m still rather proud of), my sophomore class covered MACBETH, and I scrutinized HAMLET last fall for a doctoral seminar – all three of which I struggled with, but ultimately enjoyed. And so, inspired by Keenan and those three plays, I bought a used copy of THE RIVERSIDE SHAKESPEARE on Amazon for $12 and embraced my new-found quarantine-induced free-time.

Lots of gems. My favorite is the entry on Macbeth, which points directly to Patrick Stewart:

If MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is the original romcom, then MACBETH is the original horror. (The 2010 film starring Patrick Stewart did a fantastic job of taking the horror this play must have for audiences four hundred years ago and translating it for a modern audience.)

See the full listing here.

Games without Politics

I used to worry that writing about dragons and wizards and elves is kids stuff. It’s what I love doing, but it seems so disconnected from, well, more IMPORTANT things.

And that FEAR stopped me for a long time from following through on my projects. It kept me always searching for jobs that seemed serious. 

But I had a moment during one of my adventures that really changed the way I looked at things.

First, some quick background about the time period around this adventure. Real-life politics were bad. It didn’t matter what side you were on. The news was scary, and you couldn’t stop reading it.

But it was game night, and I had a four hour adventure to improvise and run, and people to entertain. So that was my focus and I had to put all that aside for a while.

Over the next four hours of that adventure, which involved a descent into a mountain lair run by a guy who graffitis the words ‘Me Makes Money’ all over his lair, I watched the players make all sorts of crazy decisions. Watching players solve problems and have a good time humors me to no end. It was one of those adventures that is just hilarious, with lots of laughing and in jokes getting created on the spot.

And then when everyone had left for the night, I was cleaning up, and coming down from that high you have when you know an adventure just worked, and it hit me:

I hadn’t thought about politics once during the last four hours. Not once. And I bet the players hadn’t either. We were all having too much fun together.

Telling a fun story and having fun with friends gave us the opportunity to take our minds off the world for four hours. Gave us a break and a moment of joy. And if that isn’t important, what is?

My favorite books of 2021

This was a competitive year, because The Sovereign Individual and The Revolt of the Public were absolutely going to take two slots, leaving room for only one more. So I cheated a little and added a runners-up list.

  1. The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age.There is so much packed into this book, a far-ranging history of the world up to the present and into the future. Its central thesis is the creation of sovereign individuals in a world where nation-states have lost power. This is a profoundly powerful filter, and the thoughts in this book clearly influenced deep thinkers like Balajis Srinivasan.
  2. The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority. Its central theme is that when governments lose control over the means of communication, it produces big changes – and that is where we are now. Predicts the effects this will have on society and future tension between the State and the Network.
  3. Atomic Habits. This one receives a lot of coverage, for good reason. It is a how-to manual on how to code your thoughts. There are other books written on habits, but this is the best one I’ve read.


  1. You and Your Research. This essay by Richard Hamming is probably the best overall writing on a successful career I’ve read. I sincerely wish I read this when I was younger.
  2. King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine. Related, actually to Unknown Armies below. This book sent me on a search into Jungian archetypes, and helped me understand the concept of shadow energy, itself a very powerful filter for understanding behavior.
  3. Unknown Armies: A Roleplaying Game of Power and Consequence (2nd edition) Probably the most paranoid RPG I’ve ever read, certainly the only RPG that ever challenged me to think about the world differently. The entire magic system, premised on fulfilling Jungian archetypes, is reason enough alone to read.

Career advice in the technology industry

I like collecting lists of advice, even if I don’t always agree with everything. They’re helpful references and points of light and I think it’s helpful to keep close. This is a list of career advice in the technology industry. Contrary to the author’s assertion, I did not know all of the things in this thread, and find it helpful. A standout, especially for those who work in generalist fields who might question their value among staffs of engineers and technologists:

Companies find it incredibly hard to reliably staff positions with hard-working generalists who operate autonomously and have high risk tolerances. This is not the modal employee, including at places which are justifiably proud of the skill/diligence/etc of their employees.

More at the link.

What is “The Great Online Game”?

The “Great Online Game” is a way to think about the Internet and your potential to make money with it.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a video game as, “A game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or other display screen.”

The Great Online Game is everything you do on the Internet, and the results that come from your participation. Some people do this well, and can afford a house. Some people browse, and some people start entire companies. They’re all playing the game:

The Great Online Game is played concurrently by billions of people, online, as themselves, with real-world consequences. Your financial and psychological wellbeing is at stake, but the downside is limited. The upside, on the other hand, is infinite.

Crypto supercharges it, because crypto easily serves as in-game tokens and the community rewards the game faster and easier than other methods.

This is one of those articles that’s worth bookmarking, because it’s so full of helpful mental models. More here.

New app works to create social messaging on the blockchain

New startup “Lines” aims to develop blockchain based social messaging, enabling users to send messages between wallets and join group chats based on ownerships of tokens.

It matters because there’s a “rapidly increasing number of people using crypto pseudonyms to purchase digital currency, swap NFTs, vote on proposals, and manage treasuries,” explains Handa. “But whenever someone tries to communicate with another person in this network, there’s no way of knowing whether or not they are talking to the right person.”

This strikes me as a really smart idea.

Another standout is that the founders are three philosophy majors from Harvard, and they received backing from none other than Navil Ravikant and Balajis Srinivasan – which makes me wonder what I did with my degree, if three non-technical people can start a web3 app. I’m legitimately curious about this. Link here.

Vitalik on Balajis

Vitalik Buterin has weighed in on Balajis’ Network States concept. I like that Vitalik shares why he thinks Balajis is taking this stance. (I’m making an assumption that given his role in the crypto space, Vitalik knows Balajis well enough that he’s not mind reading).

Vitalik thinks that:

To show that network states are the only way to protect freedom and capitalism, one must show why the US cannot. If the US, or the “democratic liberal order”, is just fine, then there is no need for alternatives; we should just double down on global coordination and rule of law. But if the US is in an irreversible decline, and its rivals are ascending, then things look quite different.

But why cryptocurrency? Certainly blockchains do have specific appeals, which Vitalik names. But he adds another component:

Cryptocurrency in 2022 is a key standard-bearer for internationalist liberal values that are difficult to find in any other social force that still stands strong today

And that all the characteristics of blockchains makes them:

an ideal spiritual companion for the network state vision that Balaji wants to see.

Would network states be possible without blockchains? Are they just a strong spiritual underpinning, particularly for someone who wants to build from scratch?