Quotes

“No individual gets up and says, I’m going to take this because I want it. He’d say, I’m going to take it because it really belongs to me and it would be better for everyone if I had it. It’s true of children fighting over toys. And it’s true of governments going to war. Nobody is ever involved in an aggressive war; it’s always a defensive war — on both sides.”

— Noam Chomsky

“What will become of the world when you leave?
No matter what happens, no trace of now will remain.”

— Rimbaud, ‘Youth, IV’ from the Illuminations

“The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.”

— Hayek, The Use of Knowledge in Society

“If all were well with the world, Sarah would love to live on a farm somewhere, and keep chickens, and grow pumpkins and runner beans and sunflowers in the garden, and have lots of children to cook for. She would sew curtains and clothes, and bake pies. But all is not well with the world.”

— Larissa MacFarquhar

“The only way to have real success in science, the field I’m familiar with, is to describe the evidence very carefully without regard to the way you feel it should be. If you have a theory, you must try to explain what’s good and what’s bad about it equally. In science, you learn a kind of standard integrity and honesty.”

— Richard Feynman

“One of the great things about looking for a job is that your “payoff” is almost always a max function (the best of all attempts), not an average. This is also generally true for raising VC financing, doing bizdev partnerships, hiring programmers, finding good advisors/mentors, even blogging and marketing.  I probably got rejected by someone once a day last week alone. In one case a friend who tried to help called me to console me. He seemed surprised when I told him: “no worries – this is a daily occurrence – we’ll just keep trying.”  If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren’t ambitious enough.”

— Chris Dixon

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”

— Bruce Lee

“Sustained economic growth in the Western world required the creation of institutions and property rights that served to bring the private rate of return to individual activities more nearly in line with the social rate of return. This means that the individual’s perception of his own gains from undertaking an activity would in practice closely approximate to the benefits that society would receive from that activity. This necessitates a set of property rights and institutions that ensures that the factors of production directly receive their economic value… Such institutional innovations, as we have pointed out, are indirect contrast to those that throughout most of the history of mankind have served mainly to redistribute income.”

— North & Weingast, An Economic Theory of Growth of the Western World

“Faced with the choice of changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”

— J. K. Galbraith

“Nobody should start to undertake a large project. You start with a small trivial project, and you should never expect it to get large. If you do, you’ll just overdesign and generally think it is more important than it likely is at that stage. Or worse, you might be scared away by the sheer size of the work you envision. So start small, and think about the details. Don’t think about some big picture and fancy design. If it doesn’t solve some fairly immediate need, it’s almost certainly over-designed. And don’t expect people to jump in and help you. That’s not how these things work. You need to get something half-way useful first, and then others will say “hey, that almost works for me”, and they’ll get involved in the project.”

— Linus Torvalds

“The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. …If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him.”

— Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

— Richard Feynman

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

— Douglas Adams

“Don’t confuse activity with achievement.”

— John Wooden

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible…Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.’”

— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

Don: “Up until the age of 25, I believed that ‘invective’ was a synonym for ‘urine’.”
BBC: “Why ever would you have thought that?”
Don: “During my childhood, I read many of the Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘Tarzan’ stories, and in those books, whenever a lion wandered into a clearing, the monkeys would leap into the trees and ‘cast streams of invective upon the lion’s head.’”
BBC: <long pause> “But, surely sir, you now know the meaning of the word.”
Don: “Yes, but I do wonder under what other misapprehensions I continue to labour.”

— BBC Radio Interview with a retired Oxford don

“I take it as an axiom that we’re only achieving 1% of what we could. This helps counteract the rule that gets beaten into our heads as children: that things are the way they are because that is how things have to be.”

— Paul Graham

“‘I remember, when he was writing it, he had a sack of raw potatoes under his desk,’ his dissertation adviser, Read Montague, told me. ‘He would cook a potato in the microwave, put it in a cup, and lean over and bite it while he was typing. It kind of set the tone for my lab for the succeeding decade. It chased away the faint of heart.'”

— ‘The Possibilian’, New Yorker profile of David Eagleman

“If you asked random people on the street if they’d like to be able to draw like Leonardo, you’d find most would say something like “Oh, I can’t draw.” This is more a statement of intention than fact; it means, I’m not going to try. Because the fact is, if you took a random person off the street and somehow got them to work as hard as they possibly could at drawing for the next twenty years, they’d get surprisingly far. But it would require a great moral effort; it would mean staring failure in the eye every day for years. And so to protect themselves people say ‘I can’t.’”

— Paul Graham

“Wired.com: How do you maintain your optimism?
Musk: Do I sound optimistic?
Wired.com: Yeah, you always do.
Musk: Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we’re going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I’m hell-bent on making it work.”

— Wired Interview with Elon Musk, 2008

“The break-in technique they settled on at that office must be unique in the annals of burglary. Several hours before the burglary was to take place, one of them wrote a note and tacked it to the door they wanted to enter: “Please don’t lock this door tonight.” Sure enough, when the burglars arrived that night, someone had obediently left the door unlocked. The burglars entered the office with ease, stole the Selective Service records, and left. They were so pleased with themselves that one of them proposed leaving a thank-you note on the door. More cautious minds prevailed. Miss Manners be damned, they did not leave a note.”

— Betty Medsger

“Not long ago a couple across the aisle from me in a Quiet Car talked all the way from New York City to Boston, after two people had asked them to stop… All the way to Boston I debated whether it was bothering me enough to say something. As we approached our destination a professorial-looking man who’d spoken to them twice got up, walked back and stood over them. He turned out to be quite tall. He told them that they’d been extremely inconsiderate, and he’d had a much harder time getting his work done because of them.

‘Sir,’ the girl said, ‘I really don’t think we were bothering anyone else.’

‘No,’ I said, ‘you were really annoying.’

‘Yes,’ said the woman behind them.

‘See,’ the man explained gently, ‘this is how it works. I’m the one person who says something. But for everyone like me, there’s a whole car full of people who feel the same way.'”

— Tim Kreider, The Quiet Ones

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