Writing like David Foster Wallace

[Originally posted on Substack — subscribe for more]

I just finished Infinite Jest.

David Foster Wallace is a master of the craft. His command of the English language is uncanny, and it’s such a joy to read his work. I’ve listened to The Pale King and Consider The Lobster, and his 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech “This Is Water” is one of my favorite talks of all time. His fame is well deserved.

Infinite Jest in particular is an unusually interesting work of his, and not only because of its inventive use of endnotes or its ungodly length (60 hours…

A more encouraging way to think of Effective Altruism

[Originally posted on Substackcross-posted on the EA Forum]

I’ve been a vegetarian (nearly vegan) for 6 years.

As veteran vegetarians (vetereginarians?) know, vitamin B12 isn’t really found in plants, and so people who don’t eat animals are often deficient in this important nutrient.

I’m not exactly sure how this information eluded me for all this time, but I only found out about the whole B12 thing a few months ago…

An EA friend of mine gently told me “Aaron, I’m really glad you’re a vegetarian, but that means you gotta take B12 supplements.”

He told this to me out…

The future of cities

[Originally published on Substack — subscribe here!]

I’m typing these words from Maui.

Why am I living in Maui, you ask?

Of course, asking the question reveals its obvious answer: why not live in Maui?

It’s pretty hard to beat!

In the last decade, and particularly in the last year, we have witnessed a cultural shift that has upended a long established trend: urbanization.

It’s important to identify why these trends are happening if we hope to understand what our futures may look like, and we can attribute these trends to three key factors.

The first and most dominant factor is the advent and popularization…

And how to be mindful with beginners

[Originally published on the EA Forum and cross-posted on Substack]

I love Effective Altruism. ❤

That’s not an exaggeration — I truly love the community and the way I’ve grown as a result of joining the movement.

I first heard about EA back in 2013 when its messaging was pretty straightforward: use data to donate to more effective charities that will alleviate the suffering of the global poor.

Now, the scope of EA has broadened significantly, and the number of people who subscribe to the philosophy of EA has also ballooned.

For the record, I think this is fabulous and…

And why it’s (not?) the worst feeling in the world

[Originally posted on Substack — sign up here]

One feeling that is almost universally reviled is the sensation of being wrong.

We loathe being made aware of when we are incorrect, at fault, or misguided in our thinking.

From the embarrassment of confidently stating something inaccurate and being quickly fact-checked by a friend’s over eager smartphone at a cocktail party, to the gut-sinking sensation of seeing a police officer in your rearview mirror as you realize you’ve been speeding, we bristle and chafe against the knowledge of our wrongdoing.

And yet most of us have the good sense to quietly…

How we think and speak with others in mind

[Originally posted on Substack — sign up here]

Conscientiousness is the awareness of how your actions and behaviors are perceived by others.

Everything you do or say in a social context is going to be mediated through the senses of another person — and what is clearly and readily expressed by you may not be clearly and readily understood by them.

Conscientious people are aware of the delta between expression and perception.

To be conscientious of your own behavior and speech is to be mindful of how your actions and words will be received, processed, and internalized.

Unfortunately, we don’t…

How the heat in a system affects how, where, and with whom we want to live.

[Originally posted on Substack — sign up here]

I’ve been thinking a lot about colleges recently.

College is exciting and stimulating for many reasons, but in my experience, the best part of school was the ability to meet people (whether after classes or in clubs) and be quite confident that I would have a positive interaction.

I felt as if I had something to learn from every encounter, and that was a strong motivator for me to get outside my dorm room and be sociable. …

It’s misleading, and here’s why

[Originally posted on Substack — it’s much cooler. Subscribe here]

Philosophers who study ethics spend all day thinking about what makes a person good and what makes a person bad.

After a couple millennia, the jury is still out, but we’ve got a few preliminary results.

Murder = bad.

Curing diseases = good.

Of course, most of us know intuitively what constitutes good and bad ethical behavior, but where our everyday moral thinking differs from that of the philosopher comes down to the labels we ascribe to the people behind the actions.

Sometimes, people mistakenly extrapolate their judgments about actions…

And three steps to get it

[Originally posted on Substack — subscribe here to follow along]

When working on their startups or personal projects, some entrepreneurs believe that their limitless passion and endless enthusiasm will be able to carry them through the dark days and buoy them in times of doubt.

But successful entrepreneurs realize that this is a naïve hope.

In actual fact, our motivation is a finite resource.

There are only so many days we can withstand the brutal hours, the thankless little tasks that pile up, the feeling of loneliness, and the disappointment of failure. …

And what structures might replace them

[Originally posted on Substack — subscribe here]

I loved my college experience. I really did. But if the purpose of college is solely to enlighten and edify, then we have to acknowledge that colleges have some serious competition.

The twin advantages of a university are the library and the faculty. Libraries are amazing because they make information structured and retrievable, while professors are instrumental in guiding their students towards the insights within a specific scholarly discipline.

The economics building at Brown University — I didn’t spend much time inside, but it’s pretty!

These resources used to be unique to universities, but the advent of the internet has changed that.

Since Wikipedia achieved its status as the…

Aaron Mayer

I’m approachable!

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