How I spent two months doing nothing

I'm really struggling with being productive these days. As seen on my GitHub contributors activity, I last shipped code two months ago. And only just sitting here writing kind of bores me too. I've reflected on what makes me bored: Am I burned out? Am I just taking a break? Why now? And what am I doing with all of this free time?

I realize that this boredom isn't specifically about my willingness to work. I still do things; I read books and articles, I research stuff: I listen to tech podcasts, and there is a general willingness to learn and understand. As an exhibit: I just finished Nassim Taleb's "Fooled by Randomness," and "Sex at dawn" by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá‎. I'm about to complete "Only the Paranoid survive" by Andrew Grove - and I started diving into Karl Popper's Open Society.

I've also researched stocks more, and I'm struggling to understand the underpinning infrastructure of central banking. I'm happy with my philosophy regarding investing and my discipline towards only investing within my circle of confidence. So I did some soul-searching in that area: Reflecting on my investment thesis.

In my private life, I've tried out lots of new things, too - given the extra time; I went to events I otherwise wouldn't make. I started a skincare routine, looked into the renters' real estate market, and met more friends. Although I'm a bit ashamed to say it, I learned with now 31 years that my life can be filled with private time and that work must not be an integral part.

I've dedicated some of my time towards improving my thinking: A personal passion. And so, between reading Taleb's "Fooled by Randomness," I also thought and read through Peter Thiel's "Straussian Moment" and surrounding materials. It had a profound impact on me and my motivation to write software.

Before already, by architecting the Neume Network, I had started to become a fan of accelerationism: I find the egoistical pursuit of creating impactful progress very inspiring. I remember Zuckerberg remarking on the Lex Friedman podcast that, if anything, the genesis chapters of bibles teach a parabola on the value of creation.

Throughout many personal mental hardships in the past, I've learned the value of agency, the power of self-determining fate. And I'm not sure why: But already, when reading Thiel's Zero to One a few years ago, he - like no other - managed to make me feel empowered about my life and the future choices I'd be presented with.

In prior articles, I, for example, pointed out the toxicity of optimism: Not being able to fully grasp my problem with it, Thiel manages to put it into a clear perspective: Optimism and pessimism are agency-reducing speculative frameworks. Facing the climate crisis, an excessively optimistic person would undervalue their own agency and overvalue the significant advances that science and technology will make to fix the problem "automatically." Vice versa, an overly pessimistic person, would believe the inverse: They'd feel helpless facing the challenge.

But Thiel's point is that none of these frameworks produce useful outcomes in the extreme; and that a realistic and present viewpoint is probably the most useful.

During that time of researching the Straussian Moment, I also discovered Karl Popper's idea of an open society: A place with no permanent truth; but excessive scientism and historicism. This, too, changed my views drastically: Even from a personal standpoint, I'm almost sick of trusting an overly heuristic-based lifestyle - and instead, I now want to approach things ideally with no preconceptions given my past experiences.

Ironically, while researching all of this, around the same time, I saw many applications surface that build on historicism and embrace it in society. Recently, I witnessed the rise of ChatGPT; a large language model developed on historical conversations. In the news: We heard of a dotcom crash 2.0 with big tech layoffs. And personally, I also exposed myself to historicism through reading Andrew Grove's "Only the Paranoid Survive," a book on Intel's history struggling with shifting market demands and strategic inflection points.

The entire experience online: All recommendations we get; most technological interactions we have these days: They're all based on past data, their quality is all "in-sample" - they're seldom original and never seem random. ChatGPT, albeit probably the most advanced AI application ever, is profoundly mediocre and unsurprising in its results: I chatted with it for hours and never learned anything new.

Throughout all of this, I found one thing curing my boredom the most effectively. Sometime in November, I started finding out when I went to a chad-full crypto conference here in Berlin: Only to satisfy my need for originality. The conference was such bullshit, and it would have made me angry had I not met so many new and exciting people. I say "chad-full" as, at first, I thought I wouldn't fit in, seeing those I met as divergent mirror images of my physical presence.

At parties following those experiences, when meeting friends, I had the same impression: People are awesome! And so sitting in front of the computer in places I could work without interruption became almost unbearably boring, despite the internet's wealth of information.

Still, within me, there's a fire burning for creative work that has been left unfulfilled within the last two months: I'd love to code immense structures to self-express, part of me committed to writing this post as a first step: Other parts more desperate, considering the willingness to suffer needed to implement my visions. It's eight years of career struggle now, and all I want to see is others using my software and feeling impact; in my quiet room on my computer.

The challenge today is this: I prefer not working on code and doing things that cost less effort. But at this point, it's not paying - and I don't see it paying the bills any time soon.

I aspire to build big structures eventually used by others: To work on impactful information technology: But I admit, hearing Peter Thiel talk about the distractive nature of recent digital+social inventions; with my backdrop of having worked in "now-useless" NFT+media+blockchain for a whole lot; it demotivates me very much. What even are impactful verticals that I can move into? Do I really want to spend another eight years building a reputation, learning the intricacies, and being the noob? Electricity pricing, human sexuality & psychology, probability theory, and price discovery: Are all fascinating topics I'd love to explore more deeply. They could all be very impactful: I just don't feel like getting started.

So really, I'm spending my time waiting for now: I'm doing what I want, reading what I'm interested in: Writing for myself, and seldomly doing things to serve others. But, honestly, it all felt like not having done anything at all: "Two months of doing nothing," but writing this down - it seems I've been quite busy.

published 2022-12-28 by timdaub