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.

I also track this page in git so that I have a log of how these evolve over time.

Last updated: 29/12/2019

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 Haskell), new technologies (React is my favourite), Vim (yes, you should learn it) or my typing speed (currently 62wpm on typing.io).

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 keenly interested in the Effective Alturism movement (perhaps more as a mode of thinking than a 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. I am also continuously refining my productivity systems and am a big fan of GTD, PARA, Alfred and pomodoros. These are areas I am constantly working and I always seek new ways of improving focus, knowledge retention and skill-acquisition.

Art

Art is an area of my life that is infinitely valuable yet seems neglected in many tech circles. Here's a list of some of my favourite art forms and artists. Please send me any of your favourites as I find this the best way to discover new things I like!


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 probably 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.
  • You should aim to be more 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. I am a compatabilist about free will.
  • Utilitarianism is a very good heuristic for living your life by. I'm not completely sure on its foundations, however. I am currently less sure on even this belief. Currently under investigation so if you have any good meta-ethics/moral foundations/moral disagrement recommendations, please email me!