To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been.

Brian Christian

Algorithms To Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Nobody has made the point better than George Orwell in his translation into modern bureaucratic fuzz of this famous verse from Ecclesiastes: I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Orwell’s version goes: Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

William Zinsser

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n’y a plus rien à retrancher.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Livres de Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Illustré): Le Petit Prince, Vol de nuit, Terre des hommes, Courrier sud, Citadelle

L’usage d’un instrument savant n’a pas fait de toi un technicien sec. Il me semble qu’ils confondent but et moyen ceux qui s’effraient par trop de nos progrès techniques. Quiconque lutte dans l’unique espoir de biens matériels, en effet, ne récolte rien qui vaille de vivre.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Livres de Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Illustré): Le Petit Prince, Vol de nuit, Terre des hommes, Courrier sud, Citadelle

Nobody turns so quickly into a bore as a traveler home from his travels. He enjoyed his trip so much that he wants to tell us all about it—and “all” is what we don’t want to hear. We only want to hear some.

William Zinsser

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

This is the same cruel and paradoxically benevolent bullshit that has kept the Catholic Church going for so many centuries. It is also the military ethic … a blind faith in some higher and wiser “authority.” The Pope, The General, The Prime Minister … all the way up to “God.

Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Je demande pardon aux enfants d’avoir dédié ce livre à une grande personne. J’ai une excuse sérieuse : cette grande personne est le meilleur ami que j’ai au monde. J’ai une autre excuse : cette grande personne peut tout comprendre, même les livres pour enfants. J’ai une troisième excuse : cette grande personne habite la France où elle a faim et froid. Elle a besoin d’être consolée. Si toutes ces excuses ne suffisent pas, je veux bien dédier ce livre à l’enfant qu’a été autrefois cette grande personne. Toutes les grandes personnes ont d’abord été des enfants. (Mais peu d’entre elles s’en souviennent.) Je corrige donc ma dédicace : A Léon Werth quand il était petit garçon

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Livres de Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Illustré): Le Petit Prince, Vol de nuit, Terre des hommes, Courrier sud, Citadelle

To the rural mind the metropolis appears an entity; in reality it is an empire. A journey from the extreme north to the extreme south, from Muswell Hill to Dulwich, is less easily accomplished, and often less speedily, than a journey from London to Birmingham.

William James Dawson

The Quest of the Simple Life

The size of a human cell is to that of a person as a person’s size is to that of Rhode Island. Likewise, a virus is to a person as a person is to the earth; an atom is to a person as a person is to the earth’s orbit around the sun; and a proton is to a person as a person is to the distance to Alpha Centauri.

John Allen Paulos

Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences

We don’t always see ourselves as superior, but we almost always see ourselves as unique. Even when we do precisely what others do, we tend to think that we’re doing it for unique reasons.

Daniel M. Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

The poet John Keats noted that whereas great authors are ‘capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’, the rest of us are ‘incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge’.39

Daniel M. Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

Because time is such a slippery concept, we tend to imagine the future as the present with a twist, thus our imagined tomorrows inevitably look like slightly twisted versions of today. The reality of the moment is so palpable and powerful that it holds imagination in a tight orbit from which it never fully escapes. Presentism occurs because we fail to recognize that our future selves won’t see the world the way we see it now. As we are about to learn, this fundamental inability to take the perspective of the person to whom the rest of our lives will happen is the most insidious problem a futurian can face.

Daniel M. Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

Psychologists call this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage.

Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

Thy letters have transported me beyondThis ignorant present, and I feel nowThe future in the instant. Shakespeare, Macbeth

Daniel M. Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

In coding, as in carpentry, you need the right tool for the job.

Russ Olsen

Eloquent Ruby

But just as we tend to treat the details of future events that we do imagine as though they were actually going to happen, we have an equally troubling tendency to treat the details of future events that we don’t imagine as though they were not going to happen. In other words, we fail to consider how much imagination fills in, but we also fail to consider how much it leaves out.

Daniel M. Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

Nearly four centuries ago, the philosopher and scientist Sir Francis Bacon wrote about the ways in which the mind errs, and he considered the failure to consider absences among the most serious: By far the greatest impediment and aberration of the human understanding arises from [the fact that]…those things which strike the sense outweigh things which, although they may be more important, do not strike it directly. Hence, contemplation usually ceases with seeing, so much so that little or no attention is paid to things invisible.6

Daniel M. Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

FAT TONY: “My dear Socrates … you know why they are putting you to death? It is because you make people feel stupid for blindly following habits, instincts, and traditions. You may be occasionally right. But you may confuse them about things they’ve been doing just fine without getting in trouble. You are destroying people’s illusions about themselves. You are taking the joy of ignorance out of the things we don’t understand. And you have no answer; you have no answer to offer them.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder

The historian Will Durant performed the remarkable feat of summarizing Kant’s point in a single sentence: ‘The world as we know it is a construction, a finished product, almost–one might say–a manufactured article, to which the mind contributes as much by its moulding forms as the thing contributes by its stimuli.

Daniel M. Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

The word experience comes from the Latin experientia, meaning ‘to try’, whereas the word aware comes from the Greek horan, meaning ‘to see’. Experience implies participation in an event, whereas awareness implies observation of an event.

Daniel M. Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness

First ethical rule: If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud. Just as being nice to the arrogant is no better than being arrogant toward the nice, being accommodating toward anyone committing a nefarious action condones it.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder

Further, as we discovered during the financial crisis that started in 2008, these blowup risks-to-others are easily concealed owing to the growing complexity of modern institutions and political affairs. While in the past people of rank or status were those and only those who took risks, who had the downside for their actions, and heroes were those who did so for the sake of others, today the exact reverse is taking place. We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D. (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price. At no point in history have so many non-risk-takers, that is, those with no personal exposure, exerted so much control. The chief ethical rule is the following: Thou shalt not have antifragility at the expense of the fragility of others.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder

Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Cygnus Atratus In his Treatise on Human Nature, the Scots philosopher David Hume posed the issue in the following way (as rephrased in the now famous black swan problem by John Stuart Mill): No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

whenever possible, you should blink, shift your attention, and then double-check your answers using a big-picture perspective, asking yourself, “Does this really make sense?

Barbara Oakley

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”8 —Physicist Richard Feynman, advising how to avoid pseudo-science that masquerades as science

Barbara Oakley

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science

The French thinker and poet Paul Valery was surprised to listen to a commentary of his poems that found meanings that had until then escaped him (of course, it was pointed out to him that these were intended by his subconscious).

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

The nineteenth-century French economist Emile Dupuit pointed to the early railways as an example: It is not because of the few thousand francs which would have to be spent to put a roof over the third-class carriage or to upholster the third-class seats that some company or other has open carriages with wooden benches … What the company is trying to do is prevent the passengers who can pay the second-class fare from travelling third class; it hits the poor, not because it wants to hurt them, but to frighten the rich … And it is again for the same reason that the companies, having proved almost cruel to the third-class passengers and mean to the second-class ones, become lavish in dealing with first-class customers. Having refused the poor what is necessary, they give the rich what is superfluous.

Tim Harford

The Undercover Economist

A curious peculiarity of our memory is that things are impressed better by active than by passive repetition. I mean that in learning by heart (for example), when we almost know the piece, it pays better to wait and recollect by an effort from within, than to look at the book again. If we recover the words in the former way, we shall probably know them the next time; if in the latter way, we shall very likely need the book once more.” —William James, writing in 189012

Barbara Oakley

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science

blinking is a vital activity that provides another means of reevaluating a situation. Closing our eyes seems to provide a micropause that momentarily deactivates our attention and allows us, for the briefest of moments, to refresh and renew our consciousness and perspective.16

Barbara Oakley

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science