Introduction

How much would you pay for a bullshit filter? One that guaranteed you’d never be misled by false claims, misleading data, or fake news?

Even as good algorithms successfully filter out a small fraction of bullshit, there will always be new ways to sneak past the algorithms: deepfakes, shady memes, and fake science journals. Software can’t save you because bullshit is so much easier to create than defeat. There’s no way around it: you have to develop the skills yourself.

Enter Calling Bullshit by Carl T. Bergstrom & Jevin D. West. This book does the best job I’ve seen at…


Welcome to part two of the Mental Upgrades series! If you’re just joining me now, here’s all you need to know — The Rationalist community is a group of people endeavoring to think better. They investigate glitches in human reasoning and how to overcome them. As before, I’ve embedded links to each post used within the essay.

This is longer than part one because these ideas are more complex and better served by examples. It’s worth the time, as I find these ideas more rewarding than the first set. Special thanks to Anna Salamon, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and LukeProg for sharing…


The Rationalist community is a group of people endeavoring to think better. To do this, they investigate glitches in human reasoning, and how to overcome them. My initial fascination with this topic began when I read The Elephant in the Brain by Robin Hanson. If you actually want to know how you tick, it’s the #1 book I’d recommend. It deserves its own post, which I plan to write soon.

Ever since Hanson’s book, I’ve wanted to find other resources I could leverage to improve my thinking. Enter Less Wrong and the Slate Star Codex.

For the last week, I’ve…


I recently read a Smithsonian article about catastrophic mouse experiments in the 1960’s. One researcher’s utopian dream became a decadent nightmare. I realized the same dynamics are currently playing out online, and they’re having the same effects. While I doubt we can stop it, at least we can understand it…

After World War II, people became curious about new ways to organize society. Empires and scarcity gave way to globalized mass production. Abundance, they thought, would solve our problems.

Using mice as subjects, researchers studied the effects of abundance on behavior.


I’m Fascinated by Cognition

In an earlier essay, I described an inverse correlation between chronic inflammation and Brain health. I looked at studies showing how exercise, fasting, sleep, and food alter BDNF levels.

Short for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, BDNF is a protein that builds new neurons and synapses in the hippocampus, cortex, and forebrain.

Of all the factors I checked, the most profound impact was exercise. Exercise increases BDNF levels by 2–3x compared to resting. And it’s not just about growing new neurons.

BDNF is a key mediator of exercise-induced benefits on the brain. It influences learning and memory, plays a role in neuronal…


Huntington Beach in the 1960s (Wikimedia)

Based Leftists

LA is known for movie stars, sandy beaches, and congested freeways. What about its oil wells? That’s right! As it turns out, LA is home to over 5,000 active oil and gas wells. Billed as a liberal artistic paradise, the city hides a dirty secret in plain site.


Yellow-Red-Blue (1925) — Kandinsky

The game always starts the same way. It’s 6:00 AM. I wake up to a crisp Saturday morning in Los Angeles. The spring air feels unseasonably clean as house sparrows chirp and trill to stoke the rising sun. I set a stopwatch and unplug all lights & sounds. No phone, no TV, no speakers. Food isn’t allowed either. I’m left with water, black coffee, and salt. And time…

A monastic impression remains. I’ve got books, a notepad, a pen, and a yoga mat — an ancient psychotech playground. Time travel at last. But a question arises: “When am I?”


This essay is inspired by the brilliant work of Hanzi Freinacht. Following the legacy of Piaget, Beck & Cowan, Carol Gilligan, Ken Wilber and others, Hanzi puts forth a fascinating developmental framework. In this essay, I describe his model and its implications for humanity.

I highly recommend Hanzi’s first book, The Listening Society, available here.

Thank you, Hanzi.

Metamodernism reconciles Modernism and Postmodernism while admitting its own impermanence. With deep irony and arrogant, well-earned sincerity, it obsoletes old epochs by matching the complexity of our world. It is thus able to dialogue with it and profoundly alter its course. …


When awake, our minds wander 50% of the time. That’s 8 hours a day. Adding intention to “wander time” is the secret to insight.

Insight is a rapid increase in fluency. Bordering the conscious and unconscious realm, these “Aha moments” can be abstract or physical: we can suddenly “get” how to scale a rock face or solve a math problem.

The liminal quality of insight means we can’t see the logical steps we took to make the connection. Insight occurs when we’re in the flow state, deeply engaged and in the zone.


Our culture is at war. A battle over values that form our worldview. Which should be primary? Duty, achievement, and responsibility? Sensitivity to cultures, the planet, and the marginalized? In this essay, I explain why privileging certain values is a bad idea. Instead, I provide a solution to harmonize both perspectives. This essay is made possible by the brilliant work of Clare Graves, Carol Gilligan, Ken Wilber, and many others. Thanks for lighting my path.

People and cultures move along parallel waves of psychological growth. Each culture has a developmental “center of gravity” acting like a magnet, pulling people up…

Chris Perez

Cognitive science, health, and society.

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