The Optimizer's Guide to a Good Life

Here, I write about how to live a good life, mindfulness and meditation, and real-life data-driven decision-making under uncertainty.

Recent posts:

Being Machiavellian is not optimal

We all know those people: they seem to be smart, or so they think. They always nudge people towards what’s good for them. They always have a hidden agenda when talking to you. They seem to have gotten ahead in life, and make you question why the world is so unfair.

Read More

Some random books I loved

Upon the mention from a friend, here are some random books I enjoyed:

  • Antifragile: Taleb’s version of the optimizer’s guide to the good life. This installment in his book series populated what he called the “barbell strategy” to decision-making. It’s a pretty interesting heuristic.
  • The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin: This mind-bloooowing trilogy makes me think about why we live as a species, generations after generations, and how much our civilization has left in the tank. I read the Chinese version, obviously, but I also heard great things about the English version.
  • The Evolution Of Desire by David Buss: A rational view of love and desire.
  • Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin: It’s like robust optimization applied to personal finance. It’s about saving money and our freedom. I love the analogy that good financial habits are like a dam, storing your life’s energy to one day power truly important things in life.
Read More

Treating life's frustration as an optimization problem

It is the end of a long day, and you just wrapped up a conference tour. Almost boarding the last leg of your flight, you will soon be embraced with that familiar place called home, sipping your camomile tea and curling up with a favorite book in hand. Until the moment you were told that the flight had issues and would not arrive for another four hours and that you will be spending the chunk of the evening at the airport.

Read More

A good life, what this is about

There is no shortage of takes on decision-making in the popular sphere, such as from the social psychology perspectives (see book 1, book 2). While I appreciate reading those authors’ painstaking efforts to back up the arguments with empirical data, I often felt something missing. The statistical associations from typical studies are, at most, statistical associations. Yet, decision-making uncertainty requires us to understand the model and dynamics of the world. Furthermore, there does not seem to be a practical system for decision-making as a means to a good life rooted in sound logic. For those who are mathematically minded, statements like if you do X, you will be 15% happier are certainly cringeworthy.

Read More