Hello, world! My name is Devon. I’m a writer (of code and words). The thing that matters most to me is unlocking human potential, so I think a lot about incentive design, tools for thought, and cities.
These days, I'm researching cooperation problems, interviewing computing pioneers for a video series called Tools & Craft, and hosting a show for a16z about crypto. I also bluster on write about land use policy. Previously, I was Editor in Chief at the Stanford Review. I also built lending protocols on the blockchain at Bloom, and before that I was a software engineer at Affirm.
In my free time, I read weird blogs, take public transit, and train for triathlons. I love reasoning about, improving, and designing systems and infrastructure.
I update this page in a sporadic and unceremonious fashion.
Strong opinions, weakly held
- You can find optimistic art about cities on my Twitter feed
- The way we live is shaped by our infrastructure, so it’s important to get it right. At the same time, infrastructure is systematically undervalued. This is bad, but on the bright side it means that infrastructure of all types is a high-leverage place to devote your energy.
- Individual liberty is the single most important value that society should uphold.
- I’m more utilitarian and communitarian now.
- I still believe we should be extremely skeptical of sacrificing individual liberties for the sake of a greater good (in practice if not in theory), but I no longer hold liberty as sacrosanct.
- All of your views need to be internally consistent.
- This is still something to aim for, but I no longer believe we should sacrifice all intuitions for the sake of consistency.
- If you enforce consistency above all else, you’re likely to be totally wrong about everything. If even just one of your base assumptions is slightly wrong, the entirety of your world view that is based on these assumptions is now incorrect.
- Powerful type systems make programming more fun and productive.
- Unambiguous Webpack config with Typescript on the Webpack blog
An abridged list of things I want to learn more about:
- Coordination problems
- Urban planning, especially transportation
- Especially things that generalize between disciplines
- Design patterns
- Tools for thought
- Bret Victor’s Ladder of Abstraction
- Michael Nielsen's call to incorporate emotional impact, change habits of mind, and reduce the burden on people's short-term working memory
- Steve Jobs' description of computers as "bicycles for the mind" doesn't go far enough
- Ethics and meta ethics
- What’s your utility function? Really! Let me know!
- Health, nutrition, and fitness
- Synthetic biology
- Bio fuels
- Transhumanism and the idea that humanity is a "work in progress"
- I’m really bad at it, but I like food
- The history of language
- Natural language processing (NLP)
- Rationality and biases
- Group and organizational
- Cryptography, stenography, and information theory
Learning in public
I remember ideas best when I have the opportunity to discuss or explain them to other people. This blog is an experiment to see if summarizing, writing up reactions, and reiterating the highlights of what I’ve thought about or learned each day can have a similar effect.
I aim to write frequently enough that readers don’t ascribe posts as my static opinions but rather a stream of thoughts, caught in the middle of updates. A few things to expect as a result:
- Most of the time I’m not going to be super careful about editing. In my past, I was a perfectionist, and it paralyzed me. I’d prefer to do things at 90% of their maximum potential quality than to hobble myself and not let anything out unless it’s at 100%.
- I might change my mind. If I do, I’ll try to remember to make a note.
- I might write something just for the sake of exploring that idea but not actually be sure if it’s a good one. I’ll make a point to include an epistemic status that indicates as such.
I’ve experimented with many different tools for augmenting the experience of reading and even tried building some of my own. These have been valuable to varying degrees, but nothing has had as great a ROI as simply teaching and exploring the ideas with another person.
I planned on simply writing these collections for myself as an extension of the isolated reading experience, but I realized that having an audience is probably an important part of what makes explanations so valuable in the first place – even if nobody reads these, the fact that they’re out there for eyes other than only my own will raise my standards and help me focus my writing for a particular audience.
This is meant to be a tool to augment my own personal learning as much as a way to share what I’ve learned, so if you disagree with any of the summaries or conclusions in a collection or find any inaccuracies in the facts I state please don’t hesitate to let me know!
My writing has moved around several times, and not everything survives each transition. You can find more of my work on Medium, my old site (devonzuegel.github.io, previously hosted on this domain), The Stanford Review, Strong Towns, and Market Urbanism. A subset of this site was originally hosted at ideacollector.tumblr.com (aliased to notes.devonzuegel.com).
The internet can be pretty faceless. Sometimes that’s what you want, but it’s not what I’m going for here.
One strong opinion that I do not hold weakly: dogs are the best
Pretty sure there will never be a better photo taken of me again
As cool as it’d be, I’m not a child prodigy. So to avoid being misleading, here’s a more recent photo
I post images of things I find beautiful to Instagram, usually almost-still videos of city streets but also other things.