2022 changed my mind
Looking Back and Forth
Hey there and welcome to ✨ CuratedCuriosity - a bi-weekly newsletter delivering inspiration from all over the internet to the notoriously curious.
This is not a standard newsletter issue but a bit of a special end/start of the year reflection. If you are not interested in this type of content, just skip today - the newsletter will be back with it’s regular setup upcoming Sunday.
I feel, most of the time opinion change happens gradually. While there are certainly some content pieces that had a big impact on how I view the world, those are usually not the first ones I read about a specific subject (and also not the last ones). To me it feels more like thoughts accumulate over time and then at some point I look back and realize ‘Oh wait, two years ago I would have never thought like this”.
This is why I like to use this time around the turn of the year to sit down and collect the most relevant opinion changes that I have gone through in the past year.
Disclaimer: None of these opinions are final and I expect them to change in the future.
Things I used to believe in 2022 that I don’t think are true anymore
🤖 There is virtually no chance that an almighty AI is going to destroy humanity
While I am still fairly optimistic that this not going to happen, I do believe it is a possibility and should be taken seriously. Part of this opinion change is due to seeing Chat GPT in action (and reading some facts about the soon-to-be-released GPT4). I have been especially impressed by its ability to ‘comprehend’ non-obvious traits of different types of text - things like humour, what constitutes a pick up line or a poem. Articles on why aligning AI with human values could be challenging and projections of AI development speed further contributed to my worries. I also got to talk to some researchers working in AI safety who I consider smart people and who are seriously worried that a ‘bad’ AI will kill us all still within this century. So, while I still consider myself a techno-optimist, I do believe that humanity should invest more resources in developing ways to ensure that AI is aligned with human values.
🔍 There is no way the internet could function without search engines like Google
There is two trends that made me believe that this not the case:
The first one is again related to ChatGPT. If language models like this are able to incorporate some kind of ‘citation system’ that lets you find out the source of the answers you are getting served, I believe they could very well be taking over the role of search engines.
The second one is related to the fact that the ever growing online knowledge base makes it harder for ‘traditional’ search engines to distinguish ‘high quality’ from ‘low quality’ content. This makes me believe that curated knowledge-bases or ‘boutique search engines’ (like e.g. Startupy) will play an increasingly important role in delivering information to individuals.
💚 I can contribute to mitigating climate change by living a ‘greener life’
By a ‘greener life’ I mean what is mostly portrayed as a climate friendly lifestyle in mainstream media - e.g. eating organic & local produce, not buying plastic bags, flying less, putting the light out when you don’t use.
There is two main reasons why I am generally pessimistic that changing one’s personal lifestyle will have a notable impact:
(1) Many of the actions generally regarded as very climate friendly actually only have a tiny tiny impact or are even climate-negative compared to other options (e.g. plastic bags, local and organic food).
(2) Personal Voluntary lifestyle changes are not going to play a big role in the solution to climate change. Why "per capita emissions" is a bad frame for the climate debate does a great job in explaining why:
One reason is the free rider problem — people who piously avoid air travel and cars and eat locally grown vegan diets etc. etc. will curb their own consumption, but this will make airfares and gasoline and beef cheaper for those who don’t care about climate change, and they will consume more, which will cancel out some substantial portion of the benefit. Another reason is that even the most climate-conscious people are, in general, willing to forego only a modest fraction of their consumption, whereas solving climate change requires rapid deep decarbonization of the entire global economy. A third reason is that countries that emit most of the world’s carbon — from China to the super-high per capita emitters of the Middle East — are also unlikely to adopt the kind of lifestyle changes pushed by Western liberals.
What we need for deep rapid global decarbonization is not personal abstemiousness, but government policy.
I know this is might sound like a bit of a bummer but I do see it more as a priority shift - prioritizing actions that might help bring about policy change over personal sacrifices that only have little overall impact.
😴 You can get by at 6 hours sleep per night while maintaining your mental capacity
This opinion change has not been caused by a personal experiment but a talk by an actual sleep researcher. While I don’t understand much about all the underlying processes, my takeaway has been that there is quite solid scientific evidence that regularly getting less than 7 hours sleep per night significantly decreases your mental capacity. Obviously you will still be able to perform most of your daily tasks but you will not live up to your full potential and it will matter at the margins. In fact, this is yet another sacrifice that parents make for their children as young parents most certainly don’t get enough sleep over extended periods of time.
👯 Friendships form via shared interests
I always kind of believed that having a high degree of overlap in interests forms the basis of a good friendship. However, reading Friendships form via shared context, not shared activities made me reconsider this. And I realized, that my closest friends, are actually not the people I have the most in common with. In fact, many of them are quite different from me (although there is usually at least some overlap of interests) but I have shared a context - school, work or sports - with them for a long time. One of the nice takeaways from this is also that you can very well make friends intentionally by creating shared contexts - so let’s go out and make 2023 the year of deep connections ✨
What is one thing you changed your mind about in 2022? I’d love to know 🤍
And of course, if you think I am missing some crucial points with respect to some of these opinions - let me know. I believe one can only benefit from learning, failing and changing one’s mind in public.
And last but not least - thank you very much for following this newsletter! While this is (and will remain) a small personal project that I have mainly created out of selfish reasons, I do really appreciate everyone who reads, comments or talks to me about the topics I post about here. Happy new year to all of you - let’s make big moves in 2023!