I'm Ben! I like trying to understand the world, building things that improve it, and talking about it on the Internet.

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Staring into the abyss as a core life skill

thinking about scary things • examples from Wave • examples from elsewhere • finding a buddy • getting the timing right • a list of abyss questions

Searching for outliers

most important things are outlier-driven • draw lots of samples • filter for maybe-amazing, not probably-good • learn where your bar should be • expect to fail a lot

To listen well, get curious

When I’ve listened the most effectively to people, it’s because I was intensely curious—I was trying to build a detailed, precise understanding of what was going on in their head.

In defense of blub studies

Why it’s worth it to deeply understand the fiddly, boring-seeming details of the computer systems you use every day.

Attention is your scarcest resource

how to ration your shower thoughts • care viscerally • monotask • evade obligations • timebox bullshit

No one can teach you to have conviction

fast vs slow feedback • modeling people vs. modeling the problem • mentors vs. mistakes • why you should do the hard thing now

You don’t need to work on hard problems

A lot of smart college students end up with the idea that “solving hard technical problems” is the best thing they can do with their life—probably because that’s the only thing they’ve ever been rewarded for so far.

Your room can be as bright as the outdoors

focusing after dark • corn cob bulbs • before + after photos • saving ½–2h/day • my setup • why don’t more people do this?! • FAQs

Why and how to start a startup serving emerging markets

why it’s one of the most effective ways to improve the world • why it’s hard • “local context plus high standards” • how to get started • where to live • what to work on

Autocomplete as an interface

the real reason zsh beats bash • how I got twice as fast in python • autocompleting all the things • maximizing user-interface bandwidth

Why squared error?

its computational convenience • connections to the Gaussian distribution • differentiability and basis independence • why not squared error • absolute-error methods

Plants, continued fractions, and the golden ratio

where should one grow one’s leaves? • sunlight maximization • the most irrational number • Fibonacci phyllotaxis