Wisereads Vol. 15 — Thoreau’s Walden, Munger on human misjudgment, and more
Last week, we shared Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic touchstone. This week, we’re sharing another classic of practical philosophy: Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
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Most highlighted Articles of the week
Powerful Forces Are Fracking Our Attention. We Can Fight Back.
Burnett, Loh, and Schimdt’s opinion piece is a rallying cry to fight back against information overload and reclaim our attention by prioritizing the teaching and practicing of focus. “Our attention is born free, but is, increasingly, everywhere in chains. Can our systems of liberal education rise to this challenge?”
This is Your Brain on Books
In the same way that first "we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us", SUNY media studies professor Elyse Graham observes how new reading technologies have begun transforming us as readers. “The very technologies that critics decry as fatal threats to reading are just giving people new ways to construe themselves as readers: the trope connoisseurs of BookTok, the doomscrollers of social media, the textual poachers of fan fiction.”
In his latest blog post, Ethereum's founder Vitalik Buterin weighs in on the techno-optimism converation kicked off by Marc Andreesen. “My own feelings about techno-optimism are warm, but nuanced. I believe in a future that is vastly brighter than the present thanks to radically transformative technology, and I believe in humans and humanity. I reject the mentality that the best we should try to do is to keep the world roughly the same as today but with less greed and more public healthcare. However, I think that not just magnitude but also direction matters. There are certain types of technology that much more reliably make the world better than other types of technology.”
Most highlighted YouTube Video of the week
Intro to Large Language Models
Former Tesla AI director and OpenAI scientist Andrej Karpathy’s latest video is hailed as the best introduction to LLMs to date, particularly for non-technical folks. “Large language models currently only have system one [thinking]...they can't think and reason through a tree of possibilities…we want to convert time into accuracy.”
Most highlighted Twitter Thread of the week
A new mental model megathread has arrived!
Another week, another viral thread of mental models. Gurwinder Bhogal’s list includes the Licensing Effect: “A big cause of immorality is self-righteous morality” and Pareidolia: “We inherited hyperactive pattern-detection, which once saved us from the lions, but now curses us to see them even in the sky.”
Most highlighted PDF of the week
The Psychology of Human Misjudgment
A decade after publishing Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Charlie Munger revised his renowned talk on The Psychology of Human Misjudgment, clarifying his collection of human tendencies that he used throughout his impressive investing career. His wisdom lives on in this revision, written nearly 20 years before his recent passing. “I have fallen in love with my way of laying out psychology because it has been so useful for me. And so, before I die, I want to imitate to some extent the bequest practices of three characters: the protagonist in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Benjamin Franklin, and my first employer, Ernest Buffett.”
Hand-picked book of the week
Humble pencil sales funded Henry David Thoreau’s Harvard education, and later, the publication of his two books: Walden and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. These relics of his short but impactful life inspired the minds of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., John Muir and countless others.
Walden is part philosophy, part diary, and wholly an ode to solitude, reading, and nature.
“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them. Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind.”
We're excited to offer Walden through Standard Ebooks. You can explore their collection of high quality, carefully formatted, accessible, open source, and free public domain ebooks here.
Handpicked RSS feed of the week
Wes Kao’s Newsletter
Wes Kao, who co-founded the altMBA course with Seth Godin and later the a16z-backed learning platform Maven, now imparts her expertise in marketing, operations, and entrepreneurship through her weekly newsletter. From Strategy, not self-expression: How to decide what to say when giving feedback: “A feedback conversation is actually a sales conversation. You are, in essence, “selling” and pitching the person on why and how to change. This means empathizing with what matters to them, then crafting your message around that.”