James Mulholland

Thoughts

Here you can find a collection of my interests and beliefs. On the semi-anonymous internet, it's a way I can tell you a bit about myself.

Last updated: 17/02/19


Interests

Programming

Learning to code is the best example I know of a positive feedback loop: the more you learn, the more you want to learn. It is my favourite method for obtaining flow and is one of the most consistent tools I have for lifting my mood. I like getting better at all aspects of software development, whether that's learning new languages (currently Go), new technologies (React is my favourite), Vim (yes, you should learn it) or my typing speed (62wpm on typing.io as of 17/02/19).

Design

As well as in a professional capacity whilst working on the front end of websites, I have an interest in design more generally. I have a tendency to see a lot of life as a design problem that can be solved. Mostly, however, this simply involves getting angry about Norman Doors and poorly designed cycle lanes. My favourite designs are the Finnish drying rack/cupboard hybrid and Dieter Rams' 606 Shelving Unit

Philosophy

I studied philosophy at university and I think of it as a fantastic lens through which you can view everything else in life. It is a foundation that prompts you to examine first principles and its methodology of precise examination feels infinitely applicable. There are instances where it is specifically and pragmatically useful (e.g. truth-tables making programming logic easier) and also when it helps improve broader skills (e.g. in the ability to construct a well-formed argument).

Effective Altruism

Tangental to Philosophy, I am an active member of the Effective Alturism community. If you haven't heard of EA, this article, this talk or this book are good places to start. If you're more interested in making an impact through your career, make sure to check out 80,000 Hours.

Meta-learning and Productivity

When I began to learn to code while simultaneously studying for my degree, I became increasingly interested in meta-learning (learning how to learn) and its power to exponentially boost all other skills. It is an area I am constantly working and I always seek new ways of improving focus, knowledge retention and skill-acquisition.

(Street) Photography

My primary form of consuming and creating art is through street photography. It is a niche discipline that far too few people know about and I love its emphasis on content above and beyond mere aesthetics.


Future Interests

These are things I would like to learn more about in the near future but that I don't feel knowledgeable enough about at the present moment.

  • AI and the automation of design and creativity
  • Economics
  • Cryptocurrencies and blockchains
  • Tech and healthcare

Beliefs

I find the act of explicitly articulating your beliefs clarifies them and separates the important from the trivial. This list is an ongoing attempt to do that.

  • Politics is an ineffective vehicle for change for 80% of people. Of course, some people should be interested in politics but for most it serves only as a talking point on which action is never taken.
  • You should block news content. You're better off consuming older information like books that contain higher quality information and will be useful for a longer period of time. Of course, if something is truly important news, you'll probably hear about it anyway.
  • Good design is as little design as possible.
  • You should aim to be anti-fragile.
  • Flow is the biggest determinant of enjoyment and meaning at work and it is, therefore, a moral imperative to maximise its occurrence.
  • Creativity is not as magical as it's made out to be and there is no reason why much of what humans do that is 'artistic' cannot be done by a machine.
  • Most of your impact on the world is in the long-term future and this has a profound impact on the decisions you make.
  • It is useful to remember your own mortality.
  • Decision theory is (almost?) always a waste of time.
  • Free will is an illusion.
  • Utilitarianism is a very good heuristic for living your life by. I'm not completely sure on its foundations, however.