Tangential Tuesdays #49

Luck, Ads, Hobbies.

Thanks for being here. Things are happening!

🌎 U.S Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks

There is so much status signaling and random stats that get thrown around in discussion around global warming. I’ve been fascinated by the challenge to figure out what’s true, and what’s not.

First, some optimism. Maybe this is not shocking to other readers, but the U.S has been slowly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions over the past ~10 years. This is pretty amazing to me. Our standard of living has risen quite a bit since the 1990s - yet we are getting close to back to the greenhouse gas emissions of 20 years ago.

I get it - it’s not nearly enough. But at least we’re trending in the right direction 😃.

The 2nd - is what I’m even more interested in. I worry that “environmentalism” has become more about social signaling than actually doing the things that matter most for the environment.

I’m concerned that we’re optimizing on the margins, rather than focusing on the places where we can significantly decrease our personal greenhouse gas contributions.

Agriculture was way lower on this graph than I was expecting. I was it was broken down a bit more but this was the best graph I could find.

Read the report here.

h/t David Perrell for this one. Absolutely insane what’s happening to MBA programs right now. Feels like the biggest trend people aren’t talking enough about. I wonder what the 2nd order effects will be.

Read the article here.

🧠 🤑 If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? Turns out it’s just chance.

“The results are something of an eye-opener. Their simulations accurately reproduce the wealth distribution in the real world. But the wealthiest individuals are not the most talented (although they must have a certain level of talent). They are the luckiest. And this has significant implications for the way societies can optimize the returns they get for investments in everything from business to science.”

My favorite take on this article:

There are a lot of problems with this study. It turns out that “simulating” the real world rarely works. I suspect confirmation bias is also involved here.

BUT I’m also not naive enough to think there’s no luck involved here. I just choose to use the mental model that I think will benefit me the most in a situation. In my own life - I prefer to downplay to role of luck. It pushes me to work harder.

But when trying to relate to others worse off than me, this is a useful mental model. I have been absurdly lucky in my life. Most of where I am today is luck.

Mental models are mostly about creating the myths in your life that work for you 🤷‍♂️.

Read the article here.

Why ambitious people have (unrelated) hobbies

"The experimental musician John Cage preferred walking the woods, hunting for mushrooms."

"Chris Bosh taught himself to play guitar and how to code to maintain his sanity in the off season"

I relate to this article a lot right now. Especially at a time where I am very content focusing a bit more on my hobbies and a bit less than work.

Read the article here.

🍺 Ads Don't Work That Way

Bed sheets are the perfect example. If ads work by emotional inception, why not seed us with the idea that Brand X bed sheets are the smoothest, softest, best-night's-sleep bed sheets money can buy? On the other hand, if ads work by cultural imprinting, then we should expect almost no branded advertising for bed sheets, because their consumption is almost perfectly obscure (the opposite of conspicuous). It's unlikely that any of your peers will ever see or feel your bed sheets, nor even inquire about them. Bed sheets just aren't a social product, so cultural imprinting can't work to convince us to buy them.

Q: Have you ever seen an ad for bed sheets? Can you even name a brand of bed sheet? If ads work by emotional inception, wouldn't you expect to have seen at least a few ads trying to incept you with the idea that Brand X bed sheets are going to brighten your day?

I rediscovered this article recently, and it reminded me of how much I loved Elephant in the brain. So many things that “don’t make sense” that humans do can be explained by social signaling.

Highly recommend reading the full article.


  • Biking!

Stay tuned for a piano update next week 🙏.

- Taylor