Functional Noise Regularize Your Mind

My Whys

You asked me for my why. Why did I want to talk to you? Why did I make a certain life choice? Why and what do I want in the future?

A disclaimer. Because I've read too many neuroscience and psychology books to believe my own stories. What I will tell you now are just heuristics and rationalizations. Most of our subconscious decision making machinery is invisible to our concious mind. I felt an urge, an itch, a desire. I went after it. The rest followed from it. Whatever I did in order to talk to you is merely improvisation. But we humans love to hear people confidently tell stories. It's how we get stuff done. So let's tell some stories.

To explain my why, I'll first explain my three desires, my primary motivators, my core values.

The first desire is curiosity. A venture capitalist once asked me what kind of founder I would be. I asked what kinds there are. He said he used three archetypes; a hacker and two others I don't remember. I don't remember them, because I was the hacker. The hacker is fueled by curiosity about the world and wants to understand all systems. And play with those systems. What happens if I pull this lever? What about this other lever? The hacker builds contraptions for their experiments. Software, hardware, organizations. A hacker builds a startup if needed, because a startup is the biggest hack of all. You get to pull all kind of levers in society and if you succeed you have a money making machine that frees you to pursue your curiosity endlessly. So I am a hacker. Alternatively, you could call me a scout, nerd, idea seeker.

The second desire is to help people. To reduce suffering. I don't like suffering and I don't like other people to suffer. I like other people, they are nice. I'm generally agreeable. Note that helping people includes myself, I am just another person like you. I want to help my family, my wife and kids should not suffer for my ambitions. Anything that reduces suffering and makes the world better is good. This is friendliness. This is kindness. This is love.

The last desire is prestige. Let's be honest, people are status seeking monkeys. We might not like to talk about this fact, but it's the truth. The Elephant in the Brain was the book that showed this to me. So I share my curious findings triomphantly with others. Haha, look at what I found, admire me for it! Look at these achievements! So I like to pursue projects that boost my prestige. Builds things that are impressive. Important projects. Audacious projects. Ambitious projects. Knowing about this desire can help me guide it in the right direction; to find better ideas to help people.

I realize after writing these 3 desires there is a term for this: friendly ambitious nerd.

(Edit: I also often tell people I want freedom. But when I have freedom I will mostly use it to pursue the above three desires. Perhaps there is a possibility to be more free from any desires, but that's for another blog post.)

(Edit2: found a 4th desire: chaos surfing. I am drawn to the most uncertain projects at work, with high risk and high reward. I am also drawn for a while now to startups, especially those run by friendly ambitious nerds. I do have risk aversion in my personal life, don't want my family to suffer, so I have preferred a stable job so far. Edit3: I am pointed out that F.A.N.s gain chaos surfing skills out of necessity. So can ignore this as a core desire.)

(Edit4: There is also a joker in me. I like cracking jokes. Is it a strong desire? But perhaps jokes are a way to make friends and stay sane while chaos surfing. Let's keep it as a side desire, together with chaos surfing and the pursuit of freedom.)

Applied Why

Now let's use these three desires to explain some whys.

Why did I study physics? When I was 9 years old I casually strolled through the library looking for an interesting book. I found one of those that describes the universe in logarithmic scale, from quarks to the entire known universe. Wow, here were entire worlds to explore that no one told me about before! So it was clear; I would either study the atoms or the stars. In the end nanotechnology won, because it's more prestigious and more capable of positively influencing human lives than astronomy.

Why did I quit academia after my PhD? Too little curiosity seeking, too much H-index maximizing and getting stuck in small, specialized fields of study.

Why do I want to join your company? So, I have this interesting dream to reduce suffering for a part of humanity while boosting my personal prestige. (To be defined more clearly.) Unfortunately, I do not currently have the capability to pursue this dream. You do have an interesting related vision to help people. So I will align my dream with your vision, as long as it scratches my curiosity while I make enough money for my family.

I can explain some more, but I feel my 3 chosen desires cover most ground.

Future Why

I realize these reasons are not unique. A lot of people are friendly, ambitious nerds (though we wish there were more). I'll have to define a unique why, a personal vision, as a more powerful story to present to the world. I need articulate my vector.

I don't know the exact direction yet, but it should include my specialties. Due to my curiosity I have learned a lot of technical skills. Some I acquired in work, others in hobbies. I know about nanotechnology, neurotechnology, computer science, data science, machine learning and software development. I especially loved all the biosensor and brain-computer interfacing, I had an original biosensor goal, but in general it's applying my tech skills directly to humans. I can use all that knowledge in future endeavours.

Most soft skills I acquired to help people, like communication, teaching, leadership and management. In recent years my curiosity got more involved in soft skill development, as the problem of human coordination is vast and complex, something I overlooked in my younger years. In my quest for learning technology I (initially accidentally) networked with a lot of people, inside corporations, institutions and local startups. In my quest to stay sane, I learned a lot about self-improvement, psychology and meditation. I love helping other makers and engineers find their freedom. I can use all that knowledge to help myself and others improve further.

Some skills I picked up for prestige reasons. Making awesome presentations helps in self-promotion. I can use that to help evangelize others. My marketing skills are mediocre compared to professional marketeers and startup founders, but seem impressive to most engineers.

I'm curious about the story I will come up with. Stay tuned!