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The Compilation

This is my collection of gems. A gem is something small, beautiful, and valuable. And though this is not a collection of precious stones, it's its immaterial counterpart: My collection of beautiful things, which either influenced me greatly, are just right (like the perfect book, short story, film, research project, mental tool or whatever else), and which I therefore consider worth sharing.

If you have a similar collection, please let me know!

In the following I shall list these items, link to them if they are accessible via the Internet, and briefly lay out why I find them valuable, and who might be interested in them.

1st class gems

What makes a good life?

Something everyone can profit from, long term.

Let's start with something truly profound! In his pleasantly presented 12:38 minute TED talk What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness, Robert Waldinger, the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, lays out the key finding of an enourmous research effort that took generations of scientists to carry out: A study on what truly makes us happy. The answer is surprisingly simple, yet it's easy to lose sight of it, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But if you ever need to make a big life decision, consider its implications from this perspective!

The point made in this talk was, for the longest time, something I considered to be of little importance for myself, something given. Now, I remind myself of this whenever I feel like I may be about to make a rash decision, or when I need to evaluate the general direction in which my life is going. There's a chance that you should do the same...

How much risk should I take in life?

Something people who seek adventure should ponder.

I have a tendency to think a lot about life, how we live it, and what makes for a happy one. To do so, I come up with complex theories on how certain things will affect me, whether that's good or bad, and how to deal with them. These theories become really complex really fast. And in the end, I usually lack the data to check if they still make any sense. Usually, these question will be something like: Should I move to a third world country, to be able to witness rapidly improving circumstances all my life, instead of living in luxury from the start, but ceasing to be able to appreciate it? Will this make me happy? In the end, the question often is: Should I take that risk, or is this too bold for the possible returns it may offer? Till now, my life has been rather short and sheltered, so I'm not really in a position to make an informed judgement on how much risk is healthy. So I wondered if somebody else had already tried to answer this question. Turns out, people have, and more than one! The question How much risk should people take in life? has been answered on Quora, and the answers are diverse, well thought through, and definetly worth considering!

Mental models

This is something for the geeks among, or the geek inside you.

The artcile Mental Models: The Best Way to Make Intelligent Decisions [...] by Shane Parrish briefly explains how the mindset, or approach to solve problems, trained by people from different professions, may be useful when applied to entirely different areas. It focuses much more on breadth than depth, but chances are you can find yourself in some of these models, or to get an insight into the way of thinking popular among others. He claims that the more of these models you know and can apply, the better the decisions you'll make. I found this read both interesting and entertaining.

Trying to understand the muslim rage agains the west

For people who wish to understand ‐ not capitalize on ‐ our conflict with some muslim groups.

Conflicts between Muslims and western peoples, or among Muslims themselves, often dominate our global news. But the discussion is very heated, and often reduced to what happened where, with little background information. How could we hope to understand the reasoning of a Muslim fundamentalist, and where his rage comes from? Sure, there exist many superficial explanations, but are they really the whole truth? The 1990 article The Root of Muslim Rage by historian of Islam who is not a Muslim Bernard Lewis tries to shed light on all the things that contribute(d) to the conflict, why it is so often directed against the west, and how it must be understood from the perspective of the Islamic world. It is long enough to give deeper than usual insight, and short enough to be read in reasonable time.

Windows shortcuts

For people who want to use their PC efficiently, which is the only way that's fun.

Does this really belong in this list? Yes it does. Not because it's deep, or hidden knowledge, or in any way glamorous. Okay, it's a tiny little bit glamorous. In my opinion. No, it belongs in this list because it is a life skill, unless you really believe that you can keep computers out of your life. It enrages and frustrates me when I see people go right click + Copy and then right click + Paste, because I know that, without any skill in their field, I could increase their productivity by at least a factor of 2 by just handling their computer for them. So having a look at Windows keybord shortcuts is a must for any PC beginner (beginner by skill, not by time spent on it), and, since it's extensive, worth revisiting overy once in a while.

2nd class gems

A historical extrapolation of future progress

For people who want to learn about the dreams of the past, and about what progress means from a technological perspective.

In his 1945 article As We May Think, Vannevar Bush, having until then lead thousands of scientists in the application of science to warfare, layed out how scientists should occupy themselves in the more peaceful future that was about to come. In this way way back time he makes bold statements on what science may achieve in the years to come. Most of them we have far bested already, others we still struggle with. I found the perspective gained by reading this article most enlightening.

Cheat sheets

For the aspiring computer techie who does not stop until the task is done, no matter how long it takes. And for people who don't like spending money on expensive software if free solutions are available.

I find that, unless you are really, really specialized, there is hardly a task solvable by a computer that requires you to pay for software. At least if you know the basics of coding and are no longer afraid of the terminal. But, doing things the smart way will often require you to use little known tools without a graphical user interface, and more often than not, a combination of them. So you need to learn a lot really fast, but usually not in depth if you know specifically what you need. A software documentation is usually too extensive for this task; what you are looking for is a cheat sheet. They summarize the most important commands, get you inspired quickly and can help jog your memory. Here's a collection of really good ones, but just googling ⟨toolname⟩ cheat sheet can also often turn something up!