I think a large part of it stems from the dominance of marketing in our culture. Our elites are fundamentally salespeople, and insulted customers walk away. When the social justice movement made offense its cardinal sin, our leadership found a religion it could believe in. The only irredeemable sinners are the working class, because they’re too poor to be a valuable market segment.
The Myers-Briggs model always struck me as the perfect example of American culture. There are 16 types , and all of them are wonderful. You are encouraged to settle into the market segment that’s right for you. I suspect a Chinese discussion of the Myers-Briggs typology would start with which type makes the most money (INTJ, I hear), and the rest of it would be about how to become an INTJ.
You’ll know more as you get older. You’ll have solutions cached for more problems. But your sheer ability to think will peak within a few years. Unless what you do is extremely IQ-intensive you won’t notice any significant decline for quite a while, but there’s a reason that 30 year old mathematicians are considered past their prime.
As far as being cross with the universe, there’s a support group for that. It’s called “everybody”. We used to meet daily after work in literally every bar, but the lockdowns have been rather disruptive.
If you want to try a startup anyway, here a few bits of advice:
Your company will be very demanding and not lucrative for quite some time. You’ll need slack everywhere else. Avoid debt like the plague. Relationships will be challenging.
When you have employees, their perspective will diverge from yours. It’s not their company. It’s not their dream. It’s just a job to them.
Joining a startup is like going on a blind date. There is a finite number of times you can do it before it becomes incredibly depressing. The first one is an adventure, and the second one you know will be different. After that …
If a >5% chance of getting rich seems worth a <95% chance of wasting several years of your youth, then you do you. That’s how I wasted my own youth. In retrospect I wish I’d picked one of the fun ways, but hindsight is 20⁄20.
As I noted below, nearly all startups fail (including the ones I’ve been involved in). So in my case, the biggest barrier to starting my own company is my experienced judgement that it’s almost never a good idea.
In the companies I worked for, the major investors usually had a few seats on the Board of Directors. Also, they generally invested because they were major potential customers and hoped to use the startup’s technology as a competitive advantage in their own companies. And the investment contracts had many strings attached to preserve the investor’s flexibility at the cost of the startup’s. So they could (and did) renegotiate research agreements under unfavorable terms when the startup couldn’t deliver as promised, trigger contractual provisions that gave them extra control if revenue targets weren’t met, lead boardroom motions to replace senior management, send their people around to monitor the workplace (board members have that right), etc.
Or they’d just shut off the funding. A startup that has investment will almost always add staff and other costs; that’s why they wanted funding in the first place. But that means that the burn rate rises to the point where the company can’t survive long without more cash*, and its current investors are by far the easiest people to tap for cash. When they cut off the spigot, several of my employers weren’t able to survive long enough to find more funding.
*It would be nice to get several years worth of cash at once, but most investors were unwilling to commit more than six months at a time. Maybe a year, at the outset.
I’ve been in five or six startups, depending how you count. If the startup is not meeting the investors’ expectations and needs more cash, which is usual (nearly all startups fail), then keeping investors happy is a huge problem.* The first six months or so of an investor relationship are usually okay, but things sour from there. If you’re exceeding expectations they’re pretty mellow, I hear, but their expectations are pretty extreme and I have no direct experience of this.
*Oddly, people become unhappy when they realize you’re losing their money.
Success in the start-up world gives you money, but also gives you equity investors with many demands. That sort of success may not actually give much freedom unless you manage to sell out, literally, in the form of trading your equity and control for cash. Then the investors become someone else’s problem and you’re left with cash and freedom.
Fair enough. I’ve never understood how “self-deceit” was supposed to work, though. Self—delusion is simple enough—you believe something that isn’t true. That’s probably universal. But self-deceit seems to require you to believe something that you don’t believe, and I don’t understand why you expect yourself to fall for it.
If you think the baseline chance of getting a job in your field* is 70%, you’re either extraordinarily talented or a fairly delusional. I don’t know you, but I know how I’d bet it. Long story short—the market is absurdly competitive and you probably shouldn’t get a PhD at all. If you do try for it, you should realize that excessive work doesn’t guarantee success but failing to work excessively basically guarantees failure.
P.S. I have an Ivy League STEM PhD and am working as an accountant in the public sector (in other words, the higher end of working class or lower middle class). I’m not the only STEM PhD in my bureau.
*excluding adjunct positions paying sub-minimum wage.
I suspect that he’s using “true self” to refer to facets of himself that a psychologist would call ego-syntonic. Simply put, ego-syntonic facets of oneself are in accordance with a person’s self-image and ego-dystonic facets of oneself are at odds with one’s self-conception. The actual person is ultimately the “true” self, warts and all.
It is as much a function of a person’s self-concept as it is of the person’s behavior. For example, homosexuality can be ego-dystonic (closeted; in denial) or ego-syntonic (self-accepted, if not necessarily public).
It is often mature and appropriate to pursue ego-syntonic goals to try to become the person you want to be. On the other hand, each of us has behaviors that resist improvement (as our self-concepts define “improvement”); learning to accept and accommodate the facets of yourself that resist change can also be healthy.
Bingo. If my MMO toon became self-aware and developed the scientific method, he would discover scientific laws involving hit points, character classes, etc. He would discover the laws of <i>his</i> world, which do not always correspond to anything outside the simulation.
If Adam is a 10 in dominance but a 7 in skill*, he probably has what he needs to stay on top but he may feel like an imposter if he compares himself to Bob (6 dominance, 10 skill). Adam is skilled enough to understand that Bob is better in certain ways.
*Whatever these numbers mean. This model is for illustration only.
Human capability usually peaks around the age of 25; that’s about how old Einstein was during his “miracle year”. After that, everything gets gradually harder. For a while, it’s hardly noticeable unless you enter a new, hyper-competitive environment. Later on people rely on built up advantages to stay competitive. Eventually time makes fools of us all.
Success raises the degree to which you can explore without wrecking the stable environment you’ve built; it also raises the bar for what you consider exploration. A waiter with two kids might dream of backpacking across Mexico but be too tied down to do it; an executive could easily afford a family vacation in Mexico but would dream of something larger that he’s too tied down to do (start his own company, learn to code well, become a doctor, whatever).
I think the real reason is that exploration is a stage in life; it naturally ends with parenthood. Our goal in youth is to explore the world until we find a way to succeed. In adulthood, our goal is to maintain a stable environment so that our children and students can safely explore.
One of the major problems with solar is that it’s diffuse. The second law of thermodynamics means that diffusing energy is very easy and concentrating it is effortful. When you take a bunch of photocells that are producing milliamps of current at about a volt (i.e. milliwatts of power), the process required to combine their output into a usable voltage and current is rather inefficient. I don’t have any recent data for how inefficient; does anyone?
Fossil energy is concentrated from the start. Nuclear energy isn’t; turning dilute ores into concentrated fuels takes a good deal of processing (but it still works more scalably than solar).
I agree that it’s technology or death. I’m just not seeing the necessary technology, or any realistic hope of inventing it. Which is why the comparison I used was the fall of the Roman Empire, which took Western Europe about a thousand years to fully recover from.
You might respond that I should go into renewable energy research to try to solve the problem. I did, for four years. I’m out of ideas.
I agree that nuclear is the best path going forward on a technological level, but from a political standpoint it’s just not going to happen. And yes, that is a civilization-level tragedy.
Part of it is that high-performance solar cells require single-crystal silicon or gallium arsenide. The purification process for semiconductors is extremely energy intensive. The device fabrication processes are resource and energy intensive as well. But yes, storage is also a huge problem (especially for winter heating, etc.)