Issue 41: Reflecting on 2023 and Predictions for 2024
The Holiday Issue Part II
Food For Thought
Here are five lessons I have personally learned this year that I feel are worth sharing as advice. Many of these are quite unique, or at least, not very likely to surface on other listicles about crushing 2024 by getting cliche habits in order. Feel free to test them in your own lives, and see what conclusions you are able to draw.
The advice that follows is ordered from most to least practical and become increasingly philosophical come true over a much longer window of opportunity.
1) Discipline is upstream of willpower
The term "discipline" is often married to the Puritan ideals of "work ethic". While discipline does indeed include stubborn effort towards a goal, discipline itself is a much more nuanced construct than raw, back-breaking effort towards something difficult. There is an attendant guilt that comes along with "keeping up with the Joneses'" style of discipline that is managed for the sake of appearances, causing discipline to become less about ethic and more about haranguing limited quantities of willpower. These metrics of time spent sweating are easily comparable, as people brag or lament on how many hours they dedicated to the God of the Grind.
2023 taught me that discipline is much more effective when it is implemented higher up the chain of decision making. Instead of trying to force yourself to hammer out a presentation, or chase some goal that has you competing directly with peers, it is better to implement disciplines at the root level of your systems and ask what your goal is with the presentation in the first place – to convince this one person of something, or to clarify your knowledge on a subject, etc?
In other words, everyone suffers from something unique list of tasks and responsibilities. Discipline is better mobilized at the level of systemic changes that create downstream value automatically.
For example, perhaps the YouTube sidebar keeps you locked in for hours at a time? Block it with an extension. Or maybe you find yourself checking email compulsively at dinner because your meetings during the day go too long? Block your email from the hours of 6-8pm. Find that your sink piles up with dishes every weekend? Get rid of copies of your dishes so you have to wash your singular set before you eat your next meal.
Tools like Freedom (below) and PKM systems are becoming so popular because people are waking up to notion that the frenetic systems we have of the modern era simply can't be tamed by willpower or the grind.
Willpower is insufficient in the face of computation. Only computation can face computation head on.
A systemic relationship with technology discipline involves using technology against itself. Don't beat yourself up for playing a different game. Put discipline into the upstream, and the downstream comes included. Become disciplined about the holistic system, not just a particular part. Think of your systems as systems of time and systems of space, and implement disciplines at those layers.
2) Own your domain
As the landscape of social media continues to devolve into an utter shitshow, fragmenting as groups of people migrate to different apps where they feel the most belonging (Discord, IG, TikTok, LinkedIn, etc.) – social media becomes less about connection between loose networks and more about delivering constant feeds of entertainment and escapism directly to the hippocampus.
Due to this, in a extremely rare case of a positive externality from something negative, this massive expansion of social media and importance of online life has created a new opportunity. The world is now fully Internet connected (94% of the global population as of 2021 has mobile phones), which means everyone has access to a device that can communicate over the HTTP layer. In other words, in virtue of everyone getting a device to go on TikTok can now access the entire web from the same device, and more places and more people than ever are connected.
In 2023, there has never been a better time to own your own domain and take it seriously.
The current version of this blog was made as a birthday gift to myself in late January 2023. The newsletter didn't have its first issue until March. As of writing on December 31, 2023, the newsletter has 150 members, and makes >~$40 MRR (not much, and basically breaks even with hosting costs but I'm very grateful!). In addition, the website has landed me clients for consulting, and interview requests. This is without any active advertising.
Much more importantly, bramadams.dev has served as the perfect playground for my creative desires. In between poetry, short stories, image dumps, long thoughtpiece essays, shitposts, zettels (a zettelkasten note, singular), creative coding, tutorials, newsletters, and more, I have never felt more free as a creative than on my own site.
(excuse my language here, but) Fuck websites that tell you your creativity is constrained to 280 characters. Fuck websites that tell you that you can only upload photos in a certain dimension to fit the rest of the site's CSS. Fuck websites that use their networks of likes and comments to change how you think, speak, and create. Fuck sub splits with the website owner because you happen to be renting a handle on their platform. Fuck the narrative you can't grow an audience because Twitbooktube has hoovered up all the curious minds on the Internet and trapped them in their feeds to scroll forever. FUCK ALLLL THAT.
If you wish to express yourself, in an era where publishing is cheaper than it has ever been since the rise of the printing press, while also slowly building a art gallery of your mind and a work portfolio and a business, own your domain.
3) Books are linear – the knowledge inside is not
From building my biggest contiguous project of the year, commonplace bot, I have learned that the real value of books comes long after their initial consumption. Ideas swell and tangle amongst one another, competing for contextual dominance, niches that will allow them to continue to surface again and again.
Any author of any individual book is like a focused laser, etching deeply their field of narrow expertise into the mind of the reader. But it is only later, after the mind has cooled to the topic, does the value of what was read begin to show. You might find yourself referencing an idea in conversation, or remember a fact that saves you a bunch of time in thinking on how to spend your day.
Books are phenomenal, from practical advice to dense philosophies. You never know how ideas will engage in isolation or outside of their source context, and you especially can't predict what will happen when they come together.
Being well read is not simply reading a lot. It is reading well.
I'm shocked how often in semantic search applications how quotes from different authors hold the same emotionality or core concepts. But perhaps it is not that shocking at all. Many of the world's best (and worst) ideas have been revisited over and over, seen from slightly different viewpoints. Some ideas are literally as old as dirt... while others are brand new. Ex nihilo nihil fit.
Set up a third party trusted system where you can capture the best ideas you come across, and return to them separated from their parent context.
Perhaps enable it with LLM tools, if you're feeling spicy. But paper works too.
4) Most code hasn’t been written
As a creative technologist, this is the most exciting piece of news to me.
With as dominant as software is in the 21st century, and how omnipresent our phones and interconnectivity devices are, it can be hard to conceptualize this truth, and yet, it is the case. Most code has yet to be written. Fortran (1954), the arguably first modern programming language was created after the discovery of DNA (1953 (1869?)).
2023 has been extra special, thanks to tools like Copilot, Cursor, and ChatGPT.
Earlier this year, I released a series called "Chats with GPT" where I followed a very simple formula:
- Find a random quote from a book I think is interesting
- Ask GPT to write three potential app ideas about said quote
- Choose favorite app idea from list, ask GPT to pseudocode it out
- (optional) take pseudocode to an IDE and actually code the app
I am shocked at how the above steps had nearly 100% success rate. This modality shifting from text to code, just... worked. LLMs have no qualms converting from one space to another, and this is great help for human collaboration in new tools and ideas. Sure, many of the ideas were simplistic, and perhaps even obvious, but were great starting points that again revealed a deeper truth to me, that I will quote a second time for emphasis:
Most code has yet to be written.
We have merely scratched the surface of the programs that will exist in the near and far future. 2023 and 2024 is a great time to leverage LLMs and modern programming languages to express ourselves in an arena where we get to decide how logic plays out.
5) Information self-catalyzes – but evades crystallization
This year started with my 10,000 word summary of a few years of PKM work in Obsidian with my BHOV. From there, I've learned more about the sources of information, as well as the basins for information; anything from to-do lists strewn about the apartment, to long form unfinished manuscripts about the history and future of computing.
In addition, through work on my meditation practice, 2023 helped me realize that it is not the flow of information that is scarce – if anything, the constant noise of ideas and stimulus from internal and external loci are damn near impossible to stop – it is the concentration of reliable, worthwhile information that is difficult to acquire.
In the latter half of 2023, I put a deliberate amount of energy into creating passive capture nodes for my work. These flywheels and arbitrage allow for value to be introduced from the very beginning of the projects. The process reveals gold nuggets that only play out before the deliverable layer.
2023 has been great for tools like OBS, as well as digital storage becoming readily cheap, both locally and in the cloud (compared to compute that is). The value of being present with our deep work is more reliable than ever.
To capture our best ideas is to work on eliminating noise from other people's lives from our minds while also highlighting the best of our own life's work.
Predictions for 2024 (just for fun!)
Here are my predictions for 2024 – these predictions are "out there" on purpose; I did not want to go with obvious predictions like "more crazy weather events" or "news about obvious thing happening from some world government". That said, I could see each of the following actually happening in the next 365 days.
- the Apple Vision Pro flops commercially, but succeeds in birthing a developer who will change the AR/VR game in less than 3 years. They will reference the Vision Pro as their inspiration and the Vision Pro will become mainstream at that point (similar story to the iPad)
- Twitter goes bankrupt, but does not disappear
- GPT agents begin to pop up in places QR menus and PoS iPads exist, people get used to talking to agents in a variety of scenarios (high confidence)
- the 2024 US election causes the Republican Party to officially fracture
- TikTok banned by White House or Congress in a bid to gain mindshare back from the Gen Alpha community, overturned by Supreme Court
- self help books become less passion focused and more PKM focused in a bid to get people more realistic about happiness (high confidence)
- being a YouTuber becomes much less profitable career path than it was pre Covid-2022 as the ad bubble runs into inflation, the direct competition of short videos eliminating community building because of 15 second memes and saturation of sponsors (high confidence)
- as such, low cost high value info products like podcasts and blogs become more popular
And finally, a very sincere thank you all for reading in 2023. It has been a lovely journey and I really appreciate it! Happy New Year, and see you next Sunday! In 2024!
ars longa, vita brevis,
P.S. If you like what you read on this newsletter, forward it to a friend! It really helps!