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.

What keeps me busy these days:
  • I'm working with Pronomos, a seed stage fund that invests in startup cities.
  • I interview computing pioneers for a video series called Tools & Craft.
  • I write about incentive design, land use policy, tools for thought, placemaking, and more on this blog.

Previously, in reverse chronological order:
  • I founded GitHub Sponsors, a tool for funding open source software. This stemmed from research I did about coordination problems, market design, and anthropology in open source.
  • I hosted a show for a16z about crypto, and I built identity attestation protocols on the blockchain at Bloom.
  • I was a software engineer on the Identity team at Affirm.
  • In college, I was Editor in Chief at The Stanford Review.

In my free time I read weird blogs, build side projects, take public transit, and ride my bike. I love reasoning about, improving, and designing systems and infrastructure.

I also have a Spanish-speaking twin named "Devon número dos" who impersonates me around the web. I let her publish Spanish translations of my writing here every once in a while, and she tweets @devon_dos despite my efforts at restraining her.

I update this page in a sporadic and unceremonious fashion, so no promises that it's up-to-date. [Last update that I remembered to record: August 2021]


Strong opinions, weakly held

Interests
An abridged list of things I want to learn more about:
  • Coordination problems & incentive design
  • Placemaking
    • Urban planning, especially transportation
    • Architecture, but not the magazine kind
    • Archaeology
  • 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 & meta ethics – What’s your utility function? Really! Let me know!
  • Synthetic biology
  • Transhumanism and the idea that humanity is a "work in progress"
  • Ecology
  • Cooking – I’m really bad at it, but I like food
  • Linguistics
  • Psychology
    • 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 I might not actually be sure if it’s a good idea. I’ll try to remember 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!


Housekeeping
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).