20 Concepts to Equip You for 2024

In 2023 I learned hundreds of useful concepts.

Here are 20 of the best, to equip you for 2024:

1. Licensing Effect:

Believing you’re good can make you behave bad. Those who consider themselves virtuous worry less about their own behavior, making them more susceptible to ethical lapses.

A big cause of immorality is self-righteous morality.

2. Moravec’s Paradox:

What’s easy for humans is hard for AI, and vice versa. For instance, differential calculus requires far less compute than merely climbing steps. Thus, AI will likely replace most white collar experts before it replaces most blue collar laborers.

3. Tarzwell’s Razor:

Emotion causes bias. But it also causes motivation. As such, we’re most likely to act when our judgment can be trusted least.

Solution: Don’t trust thoughts you have while emotional. Instead, pause, and wait for the feeling to pass before acting.

4. Viewpoint Flattening:

From one angle, the shape is a circle. From another, it’s a square. People on either side argue over the true shape, each convinced that the other is wrong, because social media rewards us for arguing in 2D about 3D issues.

5. Enthymeme:

The best propagandists convince people of a lie not by stating the lie directly but by making statements that tacitly assume the lie as a premise. A mistruth deduced in one’s own mind is much harder to guard against than one that enters fully formed from elsewhere.

6. Dartmouth Scar:

In 1991, psychologist Robert Kleck pretended to paint a scar on people’s faces, then sent them into job interviews. They reported discrimination due to the scar—even though they had no scar.

Few things victimize us more than the belief that we’re a victim.

7. Golden Mean:

Good character is not about maximizing virtues but moderating them: to be sensitive without being fragile, confident without being cocky, steadfast without being stubborn, driven without being reckless, focused without being obsessed.

8. The Reading Recession:

There is more text than ever, yet people are reading ever less and outsourcing writing to chatbots. This is dangerous because language is the basis of thought, and if you can’t read or write well, you won’t think well.

9. Bandwidth Tax:

Being poor is expensive; constantly managing scarce resources requires such mental effort (intellectual and emotional) that there’s little brainpower left for anything else. Thus, poverty makes it hard to escape poverty.

10. Purva Paksha:

You won’t understand an opposing view till you earnestly try to argue in favor of it. Doing so will override your natural inclination to straw-man the argument, and force you to confront its strongest, most reasonable form, which is usually its actual form.

11. Cynical Genius Illusion:

Cynical people are seen as smarter, but sizable research suggests they actually tend to be dumber. Cynicism is not a sign of intelligence but a substitute for it, a way to shield oneself from betrayal & disappointment without having to actually think.

12. Weber–Fechner Law:

Each bottom square contains 10 more dots than the one above. This is noticeable when the dots are few (left) but not when they’re many (right). This blindspot is why you care about saving $10 when buying a burger but (foolishly) not when buying a car.

13. Benford’s Law of Controversy:

We tend to fill gaps in information with emotion. We fear what we don’t understand, love what we naively romanticize, etc. As such, the things that fire people up most are usually the things they understand least.

14. Rothbard’s Law:

If a talent comes naturally to someone, they assume it’s nothing special, and instead try to improve at what seems difficult to them. As a result, people often specialize in things they’re bad at.

15. KISS Principle:

The design of everything is gradually being stripped down, because simple is easy & safe; the less there is, the less there is to offend or justify. But such rampant minimalism comes at a cost; our cultures are losing their uniqueness and identity.

16. Explore-Exploit Tradeoff:

The young own little so have little to lose, and are free to experiment and overturn norms. The old own much so can’t risk experimenting, and need stability to safeguard the lives they’ve built. A key reason people become more conservative with age.

17. Celine’s 3rd Law:

An honest politician is more dangerous than a corrupt one.

A corrupt politician is only interested in enriching himself. An honest, idealistic politician actually wants to change the world, so stands a real chance of inflicting widespread destruction.

18. The Arc of Happiness:

Self-reported happiness graphed by age is smile-shaped. The optimism of youth becomes cynicism as responsibilities mount & dreams collide with reality. But after midlife, happiness rises again as people accept reality and learn to enjoy the small things.

19. Galloway’s Razor:

Research shows people enjoy possessions less than they expected, and they enjoy experiences more than they expected. In the end, people value what they did much more than what they owned. So, if you want to buy happiness, choose adventures over luxury goods.

20. Epistemic Luck:

You know that if you’d lived in a different place or time, read different books, had different friends, you’d have different beliefs. And yet, you’re convinced that your current beliefs are correct. So, are you wrong, or the luckiest person ever?

And that’s it. I hope these ideas help you enter 2024 a little wiser.

Happy New Year.