Richard Hamming

Mathematician and computer scientist.

Important ideas:

  • What matters is working on important problems or work on things that could lead to something important. Otherwise, why bother? He emphasized the need to work on the most important problems in your respective field–both knowing the problems and dropping everything to work on it when an approach to solving it emerges.
  • You don’t need to be a genius or the best–but you do need to work hard and learn what works so you can seize the opportunity when it arises.
  • To make important contributions you need to work on the right problem, at the right time, in the right way.

See also:

  • Talk - the Secret of Psalm 46

    A talk given by Brian Moriarty, a renowned game designer/developer, that encourages listeners to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of making something awe-inspiring.

  • Zettelkasten

    An analog note taking system that emphasizes connections between atomic ideas. First introduced by Niklas Luhmann.

  • Lollapalooza Effect

    Charlie Munger calls the lollapalooza effect a combination of several elements all acting in concert to create an even greater outcome. In investing, you are looking for outsized gains and you should look for these effects.

  • How to Do Great Work (Literature Notes)

    I read How to do great work by Paul Graham. It’s a collection of advice I’ve heard from various places. It sounds wise but it’s impossible to disprove. It leaves the practical parts of applying it to the real world up to the reader. Still, I find myself agreeing with pretty much all of it and it took me a very long time to learn these lessons.

  • Lecture - Learning to Learn

    A talk given by Richard Hamming about the art of doing science and engineering.

  • Working Hard Is Required to Do Great Work

    Although it sounds like a truism, working hard is required to do great work. In practice, it is difficult to apply because one must recognize the quality of the work they are doing, the effort they are putting in, and being honest with oneself about the results they are getting.

  • Lecture - Creativity

    A lecture from Richard Hamming about creativity and how to cultivate it.

  • Science Is a War Against Skepticism and Dogmatism

    Both skepticism and dogmatism are counter to science. With too much skepticism, nothing can be believed—not even our own senses. With too much dogmatism, the wisdom of crowds is unquestioned and quickly turns into the madness of crowds.

  • Hilbert’s Problems

    A German mathematician David Hilbert published 23 unsolved problems in the field of mathematics. It went on to be one of the most influential works that spawned a multitude of new thinking and applications to solve the problems presented.

  • The Downside of First-Principles Thinking

    The problem with first-principles thinking is that you don’t know what you don’t know. You might end up deriving the same thing you could have read in a 101-level textbook. You might think you have a novel idea of a blockchain-powered utopia but it turns out it’s Georgism with extra steps.