David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity is a book that will change how you think about problem-solving, optimism, and rationality. If you want to level up the quality of your thinking, this it the book to read.
The first time I heard of Deutsch’s work was through Naval’s podcast series with science communicator Brett Hall. Their conversations were intriguing and prompted me to grab the audiobook. Within the first 30 minutes, I realized The Beginning of Infinity was unlike any other non-fiction I ever came across.
Problems are soluble
David Deutsch’s work is groundbreaking and refreshing, yet surprisingly unknown in the mainstream. That’s unfortunate, because it provides a consistent worldview for everyone interested in continuous improvement and problem-solving.
One of the core tenants of The Beginning of Infinity‘s philosophy is: Problems are inevitable. Problems are soluble.
The fact that problems can be solved, however, doesn’t mean they’ll solve themselves. To solve problems, we need to create new knowledge via good explanations. The only way to develop good explanations is through criticism.
The future is unpredictable. When thinking about the future, it’s tempting to imagine it as a bigger version of today, but that’s seldom the case. We don’t know, cannot know, the impact of knowledge yet to be created.
Instead of trying to predict the future, we should work on getting ready for it. We should roll up our sleeves and get to work creating new knowledge, finding errors, and trying to correct them.
Error, by the way, is the default state of our understanding. We cannot eliminate errors. We can only try to reduce the surface area of our misunderstandings, getting closer and closer to the fundamental truth, even though we can never reach it.
Where to go from here?
The paragraphs above don’t do justice to the book. They are mere drops extracted from a vast stream of wisdom, and they suffer from being filtered through my (mis)understanding. Take them as a humble attempt to share my incomplete grasp and, in doing so, refine it.
I hope this post stirred your curiosity like Naval’s and Brett’s podcasts did for me and that you’ll get as much value from these ideas as I am. If you pick the book up and want to chat about it, reach out on Twitter @mokagio.
As for me, the next obvious step in this learning journey is to dive into David Deutsch’s previous book The Fabric of Reality.
But before that, I’ll be reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. The book had been sitting on my bookcase for quite some time when I randomly picked it up and found its introduction resonated with The Beginning of Infinity.
Both The Beginning of Infinity and The Fabric of Reality have a recommended reading list at the end, so there’s plenty of material to keep a reader busy. But reading is not enough.
It’s easy enough to read a book and nod along feeling like you understood the theory. The real challenge is putting the theory into practice. That’s also where true, deep understanding develops.
Italians have a saying: Tra il dire e il fare c’é di mezzo il mare. It sort of translates to there’s a sea that divides saying from doing.
It can be disheartening to hear that your ignorance is infinite. There’s an infinite amount of work to do, and it’s tempting to give up in front of such an unconquerable task.
But it’s the journey, not the destination, that we should relish. From that angle, an infinite journey is a source of infinite enjoyment.