January 7, 2023




Robustness Principle, Hormesis, Birth Lottery & More

At a glance

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This Week: 10 mental models that will make you smarter

Robustness Principle

Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.

Set your expectations appropriately such that you’re not disappointed when what you receive from others is below your own standards.

Be charitable and assume the best of others.


Low doses can have the opposite effect of a high dose.

A little bit of sun is good for the body, but too much is bad.

Exercising regularly is great, but skipping rest days will destroy your muscles.

Apply stress, but not too much.

Birth Lottery

If you weren’t born into poverty or another disadvantaged group, you won the birth lottery.

You’ve had an easier run at life than many who face poverty, disability, or otherwise.

When all else fails, keep your perspective and be thankful for what you’ve got.

Predictive Coding

“You experience, in some sense, the world that you expect to experience.”

—Andy Clark

Our perception replaces the unknown with the expected to help us organize our experience of the world efficiently.

Ask, “What might you be over-predicting?”

Simulation Hypothesis

If computing power continues to increase (AR, VR, etc.), it’s feasible that one day we could simulate the whole of human consciousness.

If that’s true, then it may be possible that we’re already living in a simulation—we just don’t know it.

The Greatest Happiness Principle

Actions are right if they promote happiness, and wrong if they promote unhappiness.

If you commit an action that causes happiness without pain, then that action is moral.

Act in a way that delivers the most happiness to yourself and others.

Hickam's Dictum

The opposite of Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is most likely.

In complex systems, problems usually have more than one cause.

E.g., In medicine, "patients can have as many diseases as they damn well please".

—John Hickam

Remember the context.

Misconceptions of Chance

When we expect the immediate outcome of an event to represent the broader outcomes expected from a large number of iterations.

Lesson: Don't believe that independent events offer influence or meaningful predictive power over future events.

Failure to Account for Regression to the Mean

We become blindly accepting of changes to our surrounding environment because of limitations in perception.

What feels ‘normal’ to us might be horrible in the eyes of another.

When possible, consider alternative perspectives and historical norms.

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

Performance always varies around an average true performance.

Extreme performance naturally gets less extreme the next time, regardless of the intervention.

Lesson: Take account of track records more than one-time success stories.

There you have it, 10 mental concepts that will make you smarter.

I hope you found these as helpful as I have.

Stay curious,


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🔗 Favourite links of the week 🔗

  1. Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator
  2. Lessons from Keith Rabois Essay 3: How to be an Effective Executive
  3. Nira: 856 Free Resources for Getting Work Done

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