In the past 10 years I have completed three large projects.
- A masters thesis in nuclear physics of 200 pages (130+ of them tables) with its associated publications.
- A PhD dissertation in computational astrophysics of 91 pages and its associated publications.
- A book of 230 pages about ERE(*).
(*) I’m still working on my one sentence summary of what it’s about.
It would seem that I prefer to work on big projects and indeed after the PhD my professional work eventually reached a state of “diminishing satisfaction” as it turned into writing paper after paper rather than working on a big project. Blogging may come to have the same feel to it. I prefer to think of blogging or publishing papers as part of a research process which eventually leads to some kind of major opus.
Each of the projects above have taken a few (3–5) years. What I am trying to decide now is what the next project should be. I find that ownership is important. I read in Training the Samurai Mind (If you like the book of five rings, you’re going to like this one too) that, and I paraphrase, that intelligent people wants everything to come from them and that stupid people are happy to follow others. Perhaps it is vanity or perhaps it is something else, but I prefer to retain creative control if I am going to work creatively.
I am contemplating two different projects.
- There are three major problems for the 21st century. 1) Global Warming. 2) Peak Oil. 3) Overpopulation. These are complex problems with complex solutions. ERE is one solution but it is obvious that this solution is only palatable to a minority of the population. I could work on broader solutions and put ERE in a greater context than just anticonsumerism. In the past I have largely kept the greater implications out of the discussion due to their polarizing effect. In the future I could bring them in. This is what I am engaged in with the nonprofit and what I have worked with in the past. There are a few problems here. In the past (around 2002), these problems were mainly preaching to the choir. Today, their relevance mainly seem to be determined by whether they can be commercialized as a green tech band aid, that is, “how can we make a product which can be sold as being green” (without actually solving the underlying problem). There are plenty of great books (<=- I wish I had written that one!) underscoring the problem. I don't see the point in writing another one. So far the only solution I can think of is ERE, where financial independence is the carrot that unlocks a more sustainable behavior for those who are not already doing it. Indeed, this is the real reason I started ERE.
- I could start an investment project. My understanding of investing is like how ERE was 2 years ago. A loose and incohesive, incomplete understanding of unformulated principles which I have only grasped intuitively. Now, squeezing out investment outperformance is not as worthwhile a goal as saving the planet, but it is nevertheless interesting to me. Furthermore, a lot of you guys had requested something of the kind. Since asset protection is important it would also tie in peripherally to the topic above.
In short, the top project is important but possibly futile on the policy and education level—those who do policy are not listening until the problems start impacting the voters and consumers enough to change their voting/consumption, and those who want to be educated already are.
The bottom project is interesting (to me) and in demand (by you).
It is not an easy choice.
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