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How to Be an Expert in a Changing World (2014) (www.paulgraham.com)
116 points by headalgorithm 10 days ago | hide | past | web | 8 comments | favorite





The problem is, in order to operate as human beings, we have to assume the vast majority of our assumptions about the world are solid. For example, gravity will continue to push objects down in a fairly predictable way, the air we breathe will have a certain amount of oxygen, etc.

It's extremely difficult to operate, survive even, without making a vast number of assumptions.

So there's another, meta-level of thought that's required where we have to assign a confidence to each assumption. For example, I assume my car is going to start each morning, my laptop is going to power up each day, etc. But I also realize there's a nonzero probability that my car will break down or my laptop won't power on.

It's incredibly mentally taxing to constantly re-evaluate one's assumptions, so it's incredibly important to triage which assumptions I should question at any given juncture.

Most people give up and rely on their assumptions, which leads to a lot of social problems. Old age also severely impacts a person's ability to question assumptions. I don't want to get political here, but some people and organizations profit mightily from this phenomenon, much to the detriment of society as whole.


In short, look for changes in the world and see how they change once well held beliefs about said world.

There was a lecture I watched years ago that specified the different areas that change that can allow startups to do well.

I remember Technology and Law. Possibly Social as well. Does anyone know what I’m referring to and what those areas are? I believe there were 5 of them.


This idea forms the basis of a crackpot theory I have about business and economics which is that value accrues to firms that find new ways to “alter the constraints of the game. “

To steal an example from Ben Thompson, the internet enabled Netflix to change television in a highly nonlinear way. Instead of Starz offering their 11,000 title catalog in a linear fashion (whatever was on the channel at the time), Netflix offered their whole catalog at all times to all users. This is a shift in constraints that fundamentally changes the nature of personal entertainment which allows the sector to reach a higher state of ‘entropy’. The market subsequently ‘rewards’ Netflix for the change.

These nonlinear shifts are enabled via changes in technology, law, finance, and social norms. Of course this is all crackpottery, and there are probably tons of counter examples to be had, but these are fun ideas to play with nonetheless.


Political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental? PESTLE?

Yeah I think that’s the one! Where did you find this? Is it business 101 stuff?

Yeah, business strategy MBA kinda stuff. Although honestly not sure how useful it really is. I guess it helps you have a broad checklist of things you should look at.

i really like the people's part. even if something ain't earth shattering. you can predict if something will work by measuring those important factors (earnest, energetic, independent minded).

I was hoping for an example of a startup he has chosen to not fund because the people didn't meet that criteria but maybe the idea was seemingly bad in a good way



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