Maybe the meaning of life is to play factorio!

23 Dec 2023

By Sehaj and Aman


Playing Factorio in real life, a concept art of a futuristic factory on an alien planet

For those who don’t know, factorio is a game where you build and maintain massive factories in order to build a rocket to get out of the planet you crash landed on.

Playing factorio in real life, for us, means being a definite optimist, understanding ways of creating, doing hard tech at scale, working with (intelligent) machines, using the means of abundant energy, organizing intelligence to advance civilization using the means of capitalism, by arranging atoms in novel and useful ways, letting only nature and free markets validate our conjectures, embracing universal knowledge creation principles of fallibilism, understanding nature and society, building the best factories in our solar system, and knowing that any good system takes (a very long) time to build.

Factories are physical places in spacetime which produce extraordinary value from resources at hands, and make lives fundamentally better (resources in, products out). The capability of our factories determine the capability of our civilization. And it is the backbone of any advancing civilization. It might be a good time to spend human-flops in this area because of the great stagnation. And because manufacturing is hard (and exciting). Much harder than we think we can even imagine right now.

But how can something so mechanical, devoid of any divinity or supernatural certainty be the answer to one of the most important philosophical and historical questions which steered human civilization to where it is, directly, that is, the meaning of life?

The core idea, at the heart of striving to build factories, is, more generally, that of progress. And progress because it allows us to find better answers to better questions, and allows the diminishment of scarcity. It allows us (by giving freedom) to dive deeper into more creative and important objective/moral truths.

And what religious, life or moral philosophy fundamentally allows, supports and optimizes the idea of vast technological transformations? The idea of building a home on mars or unheard longevity? I want to live forever and travel the universe. What optimizes for that?

The ideas of techno-progress with a touch of fallibilism and optimism? Maybe. The richest man in the world uses the same computers as a middle class person. World class products for everyone, making everyone richer. Factories make that possible. The road from starting agriculture to building rockets, is almost entirely the story of building better hardware, and thus, better factories.

So earth is about to complete its revolution around the sun, and today we (brothers) completed our 19th one. This is a snapshot of principles we want to be guided with, written in the form of aphorisms. The main reason behind this is to make sure we don’t acclimate to the ways of mediocrity, and lose our optimism in the future. This is a culmination of years of exploration we’ve been doing to find better ways of thinking about work, life, society and the universe - but it is in no way exhaustive, and we will be adding more as we go through life.

  1. Fallibilism and intellectual humility. The idea that one can be wrong about anything at anytime. One needs to strive to get better explanations. Conjecture and refutation. Evolution does that, so who are we not to? It’s probably good to assume we’re fools, even if we are not (though we probably are).

  2. The conditioning of society prohibits us from seeing the world clearly. Most of the systems and most of the people are wrong. There are always and will always be better ways. It is a good rule of thumb to assume all conventional wisdom is flawed, and work backwards from it. How to think differently?

  3. (Definite) optimism is essential, is necessary. To be excited about the world, life and future seems a very rare quality. Lack of knowledge is the root of all evils. Problems are inevitable. Problems are soluble.

  4. On being silently indefinite pessimists. Plainly going through life as dictated by most societies is inherently and necessarily pessimistic, because it doesn’t involve novelty, the will to explore and the thrills of adventure.

  5. Do you know how the world really works? Be deserving by the virtue of knowing a lot. Be skilled. You probably can’t change the world unless you understand it well enough.

  6. Create massive value for civilization, and make sure to capture some of it. That is done by solving problems, at scale. Technology + capital = progress.

  7. Curiosity as a philosophy is good. “What you read is who you are”. Read a lot. If you dont read anything, you’re probably no one. Read science fiction, it expands one’s imaginative capabilities.

    “To romance of the future may seem to be indulgence in ungoverned speculation for the sake of the marvellous. Yet controlled imagination in this sphere can be a very valuable exercise for minds bewildered about the present and its potentialities. Today we should welcome, and even study, every serious attempt to envisage the future of our race; not merely in order to grasp the very diverse and often tragic possibilities that confront us, but also that we may familiarize ourselves with the certainty that many of our most cherished ideals would seem puerile to more developed minds. To romance of the far future, then, is to attempt to see the human race in its cosmic setting, and to mould our hearts to entertain new values.” On why we need science fiction - by Olaf Stapledon (1930)

  8. We want to be applied scientists. We want to be able to try to solve the hardest technical problems of our time. We want to build the best hardware products, and the best factories on the planet. For us to work on hardtech we need capital, network and expertise (that’s what we are going to do this decade).

    “There are enough smart people working on every possible permutation of code that your particular marginal addition is unlikely to accelerate the future by more than a few weeks, maybe months.” - Casey Handmer

  9. When there is a gold rush, don’t sell shovels. Sell AI robots which do the digging for you. You get the point.

  10. Something of somewhere is nothing of nowhere. Competition is for losers. Why not build monopolies? Also, an old school business does millions in business, while people go nowhere trying to build a B2B SaaS.

    “The world is full of mediocre, middle-of-the-road companies creating mediocre, middle-of-the-road crap” - Tony Fadell

  11. What to work on is really important, and we need to work on the hardest possible things. Life seems black and white once you look from far enough. Yes, we want to allocate capital, organize intelligence and build valuable companies.

    “The best thing that can happen to a human being us to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem, unless another problem even more lovable appears” - Karl Popper

    “I know of no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible.” - Nietzsche

  12. Pursue bold and crazy ideas but with good explanations backing them and insights into what things can happen (unlike galactic micronations). Physics runs the world.

    “Build technology and don’t lie, AND don’t fake it till you make it, be honest and hope you make it.” – geohot

  13. Our biggest and the hardest goal currently, is to be in the room with the smartest people on the planet. We are building wayfarers.

  14. Where do you want to be when AGI comes? Be prepared to welcome it with open arms. Work to allow it to do wonders for us. Build infrastructure for that.

  15. Dear activists won’t save me, capitalism will. Capitalism and free markets preserves the values of error correction.

    “Find someone with money who needs a problem solved and solve it, repeat” - Casey Handmer

  16. Learn from nature, not people. Free markets and nature are the only true validators. Physics and imagination are the only true limit.

    “Kepler knew what we habitually forget-that the locus of possibility expands when the unimaginable is imagined and then made real through systematic effort” - Maria Popova

  17. There exists things like Elden Ring. Also, if you are not from earth, and want to understand us earthlings, play The Last of Us Part 2.

  18. (Formal) Education is a (bad) substitute for thinking about the future. It is a certainty, a fake one.

  19. Circumstances don’t matter that much, possibilities do. And since there are infinite possibilities for things to create, for things to happen, life is infinitely great.

  20. Humanity is still in its infancy. The traditions of enlightenment have just started. It could lead to the beginning of infinity, if we manage to preserve the values of error correction.

  21. The great stagnation. Energy abundance through solar? And has it always been the sun?

  22. There is a distinction between publishing research papers that take civilizations nowhere versus solving things like self driving. Are you really solving problems?

  23. Don’t be cringe. Aesthetics are necessary.

  24. Most people don’t work hard, they just do easy and repetitive tasks over long periods of time. How many people bang their heads on the wall and think deeply about a problem?

  25. Things take a long time to happen. The true discounted value of a company. A decade of work and the organizational capability becomes invaluable. Neuralink may become one of the most valuable companies in 20 years. Just like tesla became, in 20 years. Solving a near impossible challenge, while delivering shippable intermediaries.

  26. Certainty theory that people chase certainty, in everything. That we scorn the abstract. Confirmation, hindsight, attribution and survivorship biases. It is a good idea to meditate on what certainties are we basing our actions on.

    “We humans, facing limits of knowledge, and things we do not observe, the unseen and the unknown, resolve the tension by squeezing life and the world into crisp commoditised ideas, reductive categories, specific vocabularies, and prepackaged narratives, which, on the occasion, has explosive consequences” - Nassim Taleb

  27. No amount of money can buy you a trip to mars today.

  28. Contrary to popular belief, capital is cheap. There is too much money in the world.

  29. If someone watches everyone’s life from universe’s perspective, what would he say about yours? Are you crazy enough? When was the last time you got excited like this?

  30. Hard problems are like climbing out of a well. Money (entries in a sql database) can only take you so far.

    “Keep climbing slowly, with no regressions, and slow & continuous improvement” - geohot

  31. Wealth allows you to allocate resources for the creation of new knowledge and more physical transformation. The pie isn’t fixed. It grows larger and larger with the creation of new knowledge.

  32. Life is positive sum. You should be too.

  33. We are privileged. Many aren’t.

  34. Local optimum of low expectation. Mediocrity or local maximas are alluring but evil. Meditate on how short life is, and the true place of oneself in the grand scheme of cosmic, luck, societal and evolutionary humility. “An engine of creation and progress in an ocean of mediocrity and stupidness”

  35. Sorry, but most people are noobs. Not in intelligence, but in motivations. And most people don’t do great things, not because they can’t, but perhaps because they don’t want to.

  36. We are driven so much by biology due to evolutionary reasons which forces people not act rationally (sometimes in some cases). High vs Low rung. Please meditate.

  37. Life is a playground. Also, does god exist? We don’t know. But the act of questioning probably holds more value than the answers.

    “Does god exist? The answer to this question has no significance to anyone’s life. It is a mere curiosity. More senseless concepts upon which to waste our precious existence, If he exists, your day-to-day existence is still you day-to-day existence. If he doesn’t exist, your day-to-day existence is still your day-to-day existence”- Kapil Gupta

    “Two kinds of fools - those who take religion literally, and those who think it has no value”, “Buddha wasn’t a buddhist” - Naval

  38. Create more than you consume. I admire those who make (or aspire to) my life on this blue dot better.

  39. Meditation is learning by nature, not people. Self is a thought which never goes away. Normalize silence, sit in a room with your thoughts and nothing else, magic happens when you give it space to exist.

  40. Bash against the norms. Be full of explorative energy. Be a high agency person. Do things that are not usually done. Be authentic. Radiate a free flowing blissful energy. Embrace childlike adventure. Do not adhere to illusive rules of civility. Do not play along with the bullshit. Be a nuisance, poke life and the status quo.

  41. We are aware that most of our thoughts, principles and ideas are mostly influenced by what we see, and consume on the internet. We know and understand that we only see the winners (survivorship bias).

  42. Network is crucial.

  43. Theory is comforting but life’s epitome should be that of action, not of learning. So back to work.

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