You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”– Richard Feynman
I have a hard time telling what my blog is actually about. Over the years I shared my thoughts, challenges, questions and creative explorations, but never found a single overarching theme to unite them all.
Moving forward I want to be more intentional in my research and writing, but I know my interests are varied and hard to summarize under a single theme or label. For this reason I decided to follow Richard Feynman’s advice and choose not just one, but 12 big questions I want to explore in detail.
If you have thoughts about some of these areas, let’s talk.
1. What is my role in bringing about the new golden age of humanity?
There’s a lot of I can do and enjoy doing, which of these things I can uniquely contribute to based on my skills, passions and life experience? What would I regret not trying? What’s my boldest goal?
2. Why has western civilization given up on beauty?
From high art and architecture, to interior design and public spaces, to websites and everyday things, most of the stuff created in the last 50 years is either bland or outright ugly. Why? How can we turn this trend around?
3. What makes a neighborhood a community?
What kind of relationships, rituals, projects and activities make people truly belong together? What kind of physical spaces facilitate such relationships? Are there universal blueprints that can be used in different neighborhoods?
4. How can you hold a paradox without collapsing?
The opposite of every great truth is also a great truth. For every piece of advice, there’s someone who needs to hear the opposite advice. How do I acknowledge all points of view and tradeoffs and still act in the world?
5. What’s the most compelling and beautiful future that I can think of?
How do I want my grandkids to live? What will they take for granted? How does their world look like? How do they spend their days? What are they building and aspiring to?
6. What is worth returning to?
How can we take what’s best out of our traditions, without running into traps that made us leave them in the first place? How do we create a society where many such traditions coexist? Are there universal values we can all coordinate on?
7. What causes emotional growth?
Are disasters necessary to grow as a person? Why going through hell makes some people stronger while others are crushed by failure? How can we create conditions for children and adults to take risks and be in charge of their emotions and life?
8. What’s the right balance between expert opinion and personal experience?
Which decisions are best guided by scientific consensus? My own experimentation? Gut feeling? How do I avoid fooling myself in all of these modes? What are the limits of objective/subjective knowledge?
9. How is wealth created?
What forces made the average person today living better than kings of the past? How can we employ them to benefit as many people as possible? What games are inherently positive-sum, why isn’t everyone playing them, and what’s needed for them to start?
10. What does make people feel most alive?
What activities make you lose yourself in the moment? Which ones will feel most meaningful to you looking back? What ways of life will encourage spending more time in beautiful states of mind focused on things that deeply matter to you?
11. What does it mean to be educated?
What skills, understanding, tools, cultural references, experiences and achievements do people need at the start at their adult lives? What’s the best way to acquire all these things? In what environment does it happen?
12. How can I become a matriarch?
Who is a great example of a matriarch? What’s her unique contribution to her family, neighborhood and community? What role did elders play in traditional societies? What do I need to learn in order to step into that role?
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