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You Must Fuck Around and Find Out

Flo Crivello
Flo Crivello
1 min read

You should take much more risk, and try new things much more often.

Much of your comfort with risk is hard-coded genetically, a variable carefully tuned by millions of years of evolution, balancing the upside and downside of risk.

But this is one of these cases where the modern world has become so different from our ancestral environment that our instincts are dramatically miscalibrated.

That is, the downside of experimentation nearly vanished — while you used to risk your life tasting a new mushroom, about the worst that can happen now is having to go back to Google if your startup doesn’t work out.

And just as the downside shrank, the upside grew by orders of magnitude. First, because the whole world benefits when a single one of us finds anything new, as we can then all copy the innovation. This alone buys you an increase in upside of maybe 100,000,000x, as our tribe grew from a few dozen people in a cave to 8 billion human beings.

(Even if I'm off by an order of magnitude or two, all these zeroes are a nice margin of safety — however you slice it, experimentation is much, much more beneficial than it used to be.)

Second, our current environment is much less explored than our ancestral one, because of the growth of the technological frontier. This means that there might be more gold in them there hills than we think.

Suppose you start playing chess, a game that's 1,500 years old. You probably should study time-tested gambits and strategies, instead of trying to figure it all out by yourself. You'll try to innovate and make up new moves once you're an advanced player — the game is old, people have figured out a thing or two, and you should master them before trying to chart your own path.

Now, suppose you were instead playing the latest game from an indie studio. Here, it would make no sense to blindly follow what other people do — everyone's a beginner, and nobody knows anything. You should go explore, and might actually be the first one to find a few new cool tricks.

Our modern world is much closer to the new indie release than to chess. Our environment changes fast, and we should all explore a lot more than our instincts urge us to.