Recently, April/May 2024

I failed to post an update in April—and here we are approaching mid-June!—so I’m rolling April and May updates into a single post.

In April I started learning Go, which has been—in my experience—the easiest programming language ever to pick up and learn. I tend to learn a new programming language every one or two years, and nothing has surpassed Go as far as ease in going from 0-1. I was feeling proficient in Go within a day or two, and there are a few reasons for this:

  1. It’s now a mature language, with a rich community and ecosystem of open source libraries. There’s plenty of code out there to look at and learn from.
  2. It’s garbage-collected, so unlike Rust or Zig there’s no need to worry about memory management, but you get close to the same level of performance.
  3. It’s kind of a “boring” language, which I love. It has very few bells and whistles, so there’s typically only one way to write anything. There’s no pressure to be fancy, because you can’t. It doesn’t even have a ternary operator.

I’m using Go, along with HTMX, to build an RSS reader for myself as a hobby project. I’m exploring how to integrate LLMs with the blog reading experience in a way that’s value additive and beneficial. It’s been a nice opportunity to exercise my development skills (since I no longer do this in my day job) and build a useful tool for myself. I’m really excited on how it’s progressing; more on this project later.

In May, I started reading more deeply in Stoic philosophy. It all began with William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life, which I picked up on a whim, and that led me down the path of reading early Stoic philosophers, primarily Seneca and Epictetus. As a long-time Zen practitioner, Stoicism strikes me as astonishingly compatible with and complimentary to Zen practice. Both philosophies focus on cultivating inner tranquility and personal liberation, but whereas Zen advocates for “non-rational” approaches of mindfulness and meditation, Stoicism pushes rational techniques like negative visualization. Combined, each practice plays on and adds value to the other in ways I’ve found already beneficial in my own life.

Despite its growing popularity, I feel Stoicism remains mostly misunderstood. It’s not just grim-faced resolve, pessimism and grit in the face of adversity. Rather, like Zen, it’s a practice and outlook that ultimately leads to greater joy, appreciation and deep life satisfaction.

In May I also read Technofeudalism, which argues that we’ve moved beyond the age of capitalism to a post-capitalist world centered on rent extraction rather than profit-seeking, with owners of “cloud capital” (i.e. computing infrastructure) reaping the rewards of this economic transformation. I stumbled on the writing of Yanis Varoufakis during the peak of the Web3/blockchain hype-cycle, but until this book I hadn’t read much of his work beyond a few articles. Lots of really insightful writing on economics and what Varoufakis calls the “dual nature of money,” including a solid primer on economic history that I found very helpful. If there’s one area I found the book lacking, though, it was its treatment of technical developments in cloud computing, which were almost too cursory given the thesis.

In podcasts, I started listening to The Gradient, a podcast on AI. Not every episode is a winner, but if you’re looking for a podcast that goes deep on AI in new and interesting and balanced ways, it’s a good one. I really enjoyed the interview with Sasha Luccioni on the environmental impacts of AI. One thing really stood out in listening: Jevon’s paradox is a real problem for AI sustainability, because as models get more efficient and faster, and as more compute becomes readily available, demand simply increases with supply. We aren’t really reaping any energy benefits from increased efficiency. (And even if we could, the real carbon cost comes from hardware production anyway, and good luck getting data on that!)