Armand Cognetta   Writing   Archive   Feed

How to fix grad school


In the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster the increase in cancer incidence rates for the 600,000 inhabitants in the most contaminated areas was estimated to be between 1-5%. People are justifiably still afraid of entering the exclusion zone to this day, even after the radiation levels have greatly decreased.

In contrast, being enrolled in a graduate school is associated with a 500% increase in the incidence of depression and anxiety, and yet people are rarely seen fleeing universities in terror.

Read more

Book Review: Can't Hurt Me

“It takes relentless self-discipline to schedule suffering into your day, every day, but if you do, you’ll find that at the other end of that suffering is a whole other life just waiting for you.”

-David Goggins

The strength of this book is its simplicity. Goggins’ magic formula for mastering yourself is to do lots of hard things to “callous your mind”, and optimally to do these things when you least want to. He applies this to basically every problem in life; he doesn’t exactly ignore structural problems or systemic inequalities, but the only axis these things have any meaning for him is in how much he can use them as fuel. No matter what life throws at you – for him personally it was racism, a learning disorder, an incredibly abusive father, and being born with a hole in his heart, among other things – the answer is always to work harder at callousing your mind.

Read more

Updating System 1 Beliefs

Part 1 of us1b.


Most people don’t maximize their utility functions. There is a gap between the things we know are good for us and the things that we actually do. But why is this so? If utility is really so… utile, shouldn’t it be easy for us to maximize? If we get utility from things that make us happy, or give meaning or pleasure to our lives, shouldn’t we just naturally tend to drift in those directions?

Read more

Vote with your reviews

“People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

People often mention the importance of “voting with your dollars” or “voting with your feet” but in our increasingly connected online world there’s another way to vote: with your reviews.

Read more

Make stillness cool again

“Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.”

-Ruth Krauss

I was out canooeing on a quiet lake the other day. The day was warm and the water was cheekily reflecting little blue dimples of the sky. I decided to stop paddling and just enjoy the moment. After a few minutes though a boat full of tourists on a cocktail cruise came by and I immediately felt the palpable urge to begin doing something again. Sitting in a canoe in the middle of the lake staring sightlessly into the distance was weird. Paddling a canoe was not. And now that there were people around I distinctly felt the urge to be doing the latter.

Read more