Usefulness grounds truth

Are LLMs intelligent?

Debates on this question often, but not always, devolve into debates on what LLMs can or cannot do. To a limited extent, the original question is useful because it creates an opening for people to go into specifics. But, beyond that initial use, the question quickly empties itself because (obviously) the answer to the question if X is intelligence depends on how you define intelligence (and how you define X).

Even though it is clear that words are inherently empty, internet is full of such debates. People focus on syntax, when semantics is what runs the world. ...  Read the entire post →

You can’t jail an AI

Here’s why I worry about AI.

We know that people can get away with anything to pursue their goals (of profit, power, etc.) as long as they know they can get away with it, without negative consequences. We have had Hitlers, and insider traders.

But the world keeps them in check via law and guns.

Like humans, AIs will have goals (like maximize profit or please a human via an entertaining chat) and they will be cleverer than humans in coming up with schemes that help them get away with their plans without negative consequences. ...  Read the entire post →

How to be a messy thinker

I love thinking about thinking. Give me a research paper on rationality, cognitive biases or mental models, and I’ll gobble it up. Given the amount of knowledge I’ve ingested on these topics, I had always assumed that I’m a clear thinker.

Recently, though, it hit me like a lightning strike that this belief is counter-productive. That’s because is you “know” that you’re a clear thinker, you’re less likely to suspect that you might be missing something big in your thought process. After all, if you are convinced that you think clearly by default, why would you put in any extra effort to scrutinize your thought process? ...  Read the entire post →

Why time seems to pass faster as we age

1/ I’ve been mega-obsessed with this feeling.

A year as a 36-year-old seems so much shorter as compared to when I was a kid or even as a teen.

It seems cosmically unfair – we have fewer years to live, and each year flies by faster.

2/ But, why is that happening?

My tentative conclusion is that it’s an unfortunate outcome of how evolution shaped our brain to be an efficient storage device. 

3/ Our brain is a prediction device.

Its top job is to construct a model of the world so that we get a survival and reproductive edge.  ...  Read the entire post →

A primer on dopamine

1/ I recently made notes on the book “Hooked” but wasn’t satisfied by the depth of explanation in it.

2/ I wanted to get down into neuroscience of habit-forming products and that inevitably lead me to the (in)famous neurotransmitter dopamine.

3/ Before we dive into what dopamine does, let’s first make one thing clear: dopamine does NOT generate pleasurable feelings. (In fact, it is the other way around – pleasurable feelings generate dopamine)

The neural circuits that lead us to “liking” are separate from the circuits that generate “wanting”...  Read the entire post →

Review of 2023

Time is strange – 2023 simultaneously felt too long and too short. It was short because I remember recently writing my 2022 review, and it was long because I ended up packing a lot of stuff into it.

✅ Train 5 days a week (including Mixed Martial Arts)

I did manage to train 5 days per week (at least for the latter part of the year). Training every weekday has become a habit now, and it’s something I wish to never give up on.

And yes, it’s three days of strength training and two days of MMA!

✅ Got myself a tattoo!

I’m endlessly fascinated by the concept of time, and how one can never grab it still. Time starts when we become aware of it, and ends with death. So, in many ways, we’re nothing but time.  ...  Read the entire post →

Notes from the book “Hooked”

I re-read the book Hooked by Nir Eyal and these are my notes.

1/ The key question that the book answers is: how to make habit-forming products. And its answer is a model that involves four stages: a) trigger; b) action; c) variable reward; d) investment

2/ Why should products be habit-forming? It’s because only those products that become part of someone’s daily life go on to become valuable. So, whether a product has habit formation potential is a leading indicator for whether the product will turn out to be valuable. ...  Read the entire post →

Notes on how Facebook ads work

I was studying Facebook ads system for Nintee, made some notes that you might find useful.

  • Facebook ads work through auction: each ad opportunity has an auction, the winner of which is decided by total value, which is So in this case, your ad will be shown to more people if
    • You have a higher bid
    • Or, more people are likely to take action that you care about
    • Or, the quality of ad is high (not spammy etc)
    • Bidding is mostly automatic by Facebook, and the way it does for maximizing results is that it starts with low bids but then gradually increases it ads don’t end up winning the auction (i.e. has lower total value) Let’s say you have two products: a) highly attractive cake (low cost and super yummy) and b) broccoli, and both are competing for the auction
      • If the objective is to find the highest volume for a given total cost (let’s say Rs 1000)
        • FB will start with low bids for both, and since more people are likely to click on the cake ad, its estimated action rate will go up and for the same bid, it will end up winning the auction
        • The only way for the broccoli ad to win an action is to increase the bid
        • So given a fixed budget Rs 1000, the cost per click of broccoli ad will be much higher than for cake (purely because more people are interested in cake v/s broccoli)
        This is why running ads for a concept before building it could give an honest signal of its attractiveness
        • Since Facebook always tries to give maximum value to advertiser and the most relevant ads to its users, you can imagine it as a matchmaking machine that minimizes the cost it takes for advertisers to reach a relevant audience
        • So, a low cost per action from FB ads tells you clearly that a significant number of people are going to find it attractive

        A good analogy to understand all this is to think about is a game: ...  Read the entire post →

Notes on how Supercell is run

Supercell, the company behind the massively popular Clash of Clans game, has one of the highest valuation per employee figures out there: they’re valued at $32mn per employee. That’s insane! How do they do it?

Via The World’s Most Valuable Per Employee Company: Supercell

1/ What struck me is the sheer number of games they kill each year?

They seem to be killing 9 games for each game they release. Some of these games have been in development for years, and have the potential to be in the top 25 games worldwide. And, yet, they get killed.

2/ Why are they killed? It’s because these games don’t meet their internal benchmarks (primary of which is 30-day retention).  ...  Read the entire post →

How to increase wealth for everyone

I’ve started reading The Capitalist Manifesto, a book full of data on how free markets generate prosperity.

The author is nuanced and uses data and logic to show how we should be rooting for capitalism (instead of bringing it down).

Income and wealth inequality created as a function of entrepreneurship is not a bad thing per se. Risk-takers and innovators derive a higher income when they create much more value elsewhere.

Nobody hands over a million dollars to someone else for free. Profit earned by someone in free markets is typically a surplus made available to them because they expanded the pie for everyone. (And not because they stole it from someone else. Capitalism is NOT a zero-sum game.) ...  Read the entire post →