My 2022 Reincarnation Plan

This year I began my first full-time job at an AI startup hedge fund, gained a ridiculous amount of programming experience and knowledge, shouldered lots of trust and responsibilities, and delivered value^tm. I put in so much time and effort to make this happen: stressing about progress, late nights hacking away, and waking up on weekends to quash bugs.

These were the goals I held dearest while in high school. To achieve mastery in a craft, be valued by peers, and contribute to something.

Now that I've accomplished these things, it's time to explore!

I want to try on different lives like I try on clothes. I want to give form to every feeling and expression to every thought.

I want to get good at

  • Writing
  • Playing guitar
  • Composing music
  • 3D motion graphics
  • Photography and film
  • Generative art

I don't think the world needs more monodisciplinary artists, but I hope that while I'm creating I'll get a sense of intersections that I want to explore that capitalism hasn't created a rat race out of yet. Maybe this will be HCI research, or procedural music visualization tools, but more likely it'll be something I can't even conceive of yet.

This year I want to create more things, with the intended audience being myself, while still publishing everything. I want the authenticity, vulnerability, and experimentation that comes with not having to worry about an audience, while also being comfortable enough with myself to post publicly.

I like the idea of letting my work speak for itself first. Often it's easy to talk about how I've started to learn something and how I find it really interesting after one week of effort, and then having gotten my hit of dopamine from external validation I stop working on that thing.

I want 2022 to be the year of creating art, and doing before talking.

Breaking news: Teenager realizes he doesn't have the whole world figured out

One issue I've had to grapple with while thinking about switching part of my identity from tech to art is choosing what I want to do, instead of what I feel I should.

During my high school years I was learning all about and building AI projects. In the background there was a constant stream of thoughts from Paul Graham, Sam Altman, and Naval Ravikant being hurled at me saying that all I needed to be fulfilled was to work at, and eventually found a SaaS startup.

A core belief I held was that startups were one of the few things that create "impact and value" for the world, and the only thing that felt within reach for me.

Then the mimetic status structure started to fall apart.

I met high-status founders (i.e. Thiel and YC) who were building uninspired companies while raising millions of dollars.

Twitter and SF were overrun by crypto-evangelists who painted vague utopias of hyper-capitalism, and my entire social group got caught up in the hype and money.

I stopped believing in the status-systems of yore, that raising VC funding is the pinnacle of achievement, and that the Twitter tech philosopher-kings had all the answers.

I was left with a gnawing feeling that the world-view I had held for the past five years was flawed in some deep way that I still can't quite pinpoint.

When ask myself "what's next?", art is what comes to mind.

But when I think about spending a year of my life creating art, I reflexively feel like I should crawl back to my computer and go back to creating value^tm -- this will fade with time as I find more artists I admire.

Here's some of the people in my new pantheon

The thread that connects these people together, and what I admire about them, is their prolific output and how varied it is. They pursue what interests them, and in whatever medium they think fits best: whether that be art exhibits, software, games, tools, hardware, or art.

Most importantly, they do all these things for themselves. There's no song and dance on their social media compressing their work into bite-sized pieces -- most of their work is hidden under layers of links on their websites.

They live authentically, and embrace the illegibility that comes with doing so.

Some things that changed about me this year.

I value close friendships a lot more.

I learned how to be very honest with myself w/r/t my emotions.

Beyond rent and food, money matters very little to me. I knew this intellectually for a while, but viscerally experienced this while living with millionaires and working full-time.

Impact, at least in the abstract sense which can be measured by the market, doesn't motivate me much. Becoming a better and more skilled person, and creating wonderful things does motivate me.

Time for the obligatory 2022 goals.

I want to create art that sparks fun and delight.

Everything below is an elaboration of this goal.

In a past life I would've loved to be a medieval bard, singing the tales of heroes and their triumphs and follies, and entrancing the last few people in a tavern with the voices of six strings. Either that or a rock star1,2,3,4,5

Words have to find a man's mind before they can touch his heart, and some men's minds are woeful small targets. Music touches their hearts directly no matter how small or stubborn the mind of the man who listens. - Rothfuss

Music that touches my heart often have layered harmonies, focus on a singer and guitar, and have lyrics that linger in my mind. I want to compose and record music that does the same for myself and my friends.

Every time I'm alone with my thoughts while traveling, I feel like time is slipping through my fingers like sand. Living in New Mexico felt like a new chapter of life, then it ended. Living with my girlfriend in Vancouver felt like unending paradise until we broke up. Unfortunately, my brain can't do any sensory simulation, I'm not able to visualize or relive memories through sight / touch / taste / smell / sound. I'd like to compensate for this, and to me sight is one of the best ways I can remember the past, so I'd like to get better at photography and film. I'll also be writing more as a way to scrapbook my thoughts.

In addition to capturing reality, I'd also like to create new ones. Ever since going to my first EDM rave 3D motion graphics have enthralled me.

Building tools that let other people reify what's in their heads also appeals to me

  • Algorithmic maps that let you play God and test theories of urban development
  • Proc-gen systems that let you rapidly create and explore the different forms and functions that objects, animals, people can have
  • Image processing shaders that give new ways to look at and transform the world
  • Generative art in any form that explores and explains different phenomena
  • Anything else that is animated, dynamic, and fun to use

I'm alright if I don't get around to exploring all of these things, I care much more about reaching some level of proficiency and output that I'm happy with in a few instead of being mediocre at everything.

Another way I'll measure this is if I feel at home amongst the artists and HCI devs in Devine Lu Linvega's webring.

Here's to creating art that sparks fun and delight.