– you will never understand others fully.

– nobody is waiting or holding a place for you.

– it’s not “in the end, you are alone”, it’s more like, you are always alone – so, I guess, cherish the few times and those who make you forget about this fact.

– you can’t unsee / unhear things. point proven below.



Where do kids hang out nowadays?

When I was growing up, online hangouts occurred on IRC, forums or altavista chatrooms. All these platforms had one thing in common: anonymity. The internet was objectively known to be a creepy place.

The first time I went online, I was around 9 years old, around the turn of the millennium. I registered a nickname on my country’s IRC network. Radark, I thought it sounded super badass. I convinced a group of people I was a 16 year old hacker. I had watched my older sibling play around with Netbus and Sub7 a few days ago, so seemed easy enough. Plus, the copied book we got sent by snail mail called “Hacking” gave me some street cred.

So off I went on one of my first online adventures, convincing a group of computer science enthusiasts or students that I was a 16 year old hacker. And it all went well for the whole time of 3 hours, until my sibling came back and told them Radark is a 9 year old kid.

Woopsy. Too bad, great thing I could just do /nick aNewName and off I go, another personality, others to fool, but more importantly, others to converse with. While growing up, I chatted to a lot of people. I did not have many friends in real life, so the internet was a great place. In particular, I could talk about anything without fearing the repercussion of my opinion not being accepted. And as easily as you could create a personality, you could erase it. And it was fine, nobody cared. Granted, you do /whois to figure out whether a nickname was registered or not. But that was pretty much as much as you would know about your conversation partner.

Nowadays, I don’t know where kids hang out anymore. I hope I am wrong, but I have the impression kids hang out mostly on Instagram or Snapchat (Facebook is for old people). And this is worrying because all these platforms have, in its core, the user-centric aspect of it. These are not primarily chatting platforms, despite being used as such. Indeed, they are broadcasting tools – the user is incentivized to share content, which ends up often being personal content (in the form of pictures, videos or others). This also means that changing/deleting profiles is actually an annoying process because you put some effort into these profiles. It also means that the barrier to randomly chatting to someone is now higher – it’s not longer whether the nickname has been registered or not, but whether the other person has shared some content themselves, has enough followers, etc.

I think in general, people don’t think much about the information that can be inferred from public social media posts. Indeed, the current state of the internet incentivizes users to not think about it: it’s cool, link your phone number to your facebook, to use your real name, share geotagged content, win points, whatever. All these academics publishing stuff on user privacy, they are tinfoil hat dudes.

Anyway, my hope is that I am completely wrong, and kids just use Discord now.

In need of more science, less reality.

This person I know moved back to Switzerland and now lives half of his time in his small hometown, while working in our city the other half. I thought it was strange, at first. But recently, I have been having the urge to go back to a familiar place too. I think about going back to my country. I don’t know what is left for me there, but I guess it’s the closest thing to home, despite my changed mannerisms, the 8 years outdated slang and anglo-influenced linguistic constructions.

Sometimes, when I am heading back to my apartment, I think about spending time with my mother, going to Pingo Doce, disappearing in the streets of the capital and feeling the sun on my skin. I imagine working as a programmer in a small unknown company for a small salary, dealing with data visualisation, python notebooks, well established libraries, and devoid of performance or well-posedness concerns. I imagine feeling content, like I can actually do something and know just enough. I imagine feeling unchallenged and not like a loser. I am ashamed to admit it, but I don’t find as revolting as I used to.

Directing action

Few days ago, in between cigarettes, I got into a brief discussion about the immorality of making a lot of cash, in particular in financial markets. It’s a very popular stance, to hate bits of capitalism while enjoying the benefits coming from it.

I think it has to do with what you do with the money. It makes me think, sometimes I do consider going into finance. Said friend told me about the possibility of getting between a quarter and half a million per YEAR (minus tax) in some countries, utilizing the skills we have.

Imagine how much you can do with that money. I don’t mean buying shit or a house. I mean, fuck, would it be possible to fund research or relevant projects with let’s say, a chunk of your salary – around 100k? In Switzerland, this is the salary of 2 PhDs per year. In the UK, probably you could fund 5 PhDs per year.

Lately I have been thinking what can you do to become an influential individual. With the outcome of these elections in the U.S, I think a lot of people are wondering the same. My friend’s post on FB makes me think:

“While at school I always wondered what the German people must have felt like when Hitler was progressively taking on more and more power. Could they see? Were they scared?
I am and yet I’m short on ideas on what to do next. Should I be protesting? Should I be getting into politics? Should I be seeking to get citizenship? Should I be volunteering at schools?”

Protesting? Politics? Volunteering? I don’t know. I have a bad impression of politicians and politics in general. We need several things – putting it in words of Zizek, we need the closening of the class gap. Furthermore, there’s the need to somehow make a cultural impact, promote the right values, fix real problems such as climate change or world hunger. I can’t see this happening in politics, I see this happening despite politics through scientific, technological advances and philanthropy. (Of course I am biased as fuck.)

There are two realms so to speak: the soul and the objective – for the lack of better words. The soul concerns things such as ethics, values, etc – and it’s my belief that these things are better addressed through cultural movements – in one word, arts. The second real, the objective, are material things, engineering questions, like how can we exploit the resources of the Earth in a sustainable way, how can you  better distribute and deliver medicine and food to places, how can you curb the CO2 emissions, etc. These are scientific-engineering questions. Both of these things are important, and furthermore, I believe the possibility to efficiently tackle these objective problems comes from the fixing of the soul too – i.e. you need to give a shit – to have an irrational emotional response to drive you to tackling the problem.

Anyway, I brought the idea to a friend, about selling out and making money (even if it’s by exploiting financial markets) with the ultimate goal of philanthropy. However, they remarked that whatever problem I come up to solve, I might just end up widening the gap between the rich and the poor – I  don’t mean Europe poor, I mean the exploited third world country poor. So another question arises, how can you figure out what needs to be solved if you never come in contact with these problems in the first place?

Reverberating my friend’s question, what the fuck is one ought to do?


I smoke my cigarette silent. I know it is a cliché thing to say, but there’s a lot of content in silence.

“I want to kill myself.”

Your sentence, uttered what it feels like half an hour ago, expands and fills up every volume of empty space, penetrates to our bones. I want to tell you that things will be okay. But honestly, I have no idea. Odds are, things won’t be alright like before these events happened – I can’t tell you that you will be happier in the future. I am not – things didn’t necessarily get better for me – they more or less stopped bothering me because reality continued. Is it not worse, if I told you, instead of empty comforting words like “things will be okay”, that I said “you’ll get used to it – to the void, to the loneliness, to giving up?”.

Yes, sometimes it’s better to say nothing.

I never got over these thoughts of suicide either, so wouldn’t be hypocritical for me to tell you they will go away? In my silence, you know that I have nothing to offer. I wish I could help you, make those who hurt you stop, shelter you from pain, but who am I to do any of these things? All I can muster up is:

“Reality sucks.”

You smile. What else can you do? You know I can’t make miracles. No one can.

I want to tell you I will miss you if you go. But isn’t this egoistical? So my sentence hangs in the air. You are finishing your cigarette and keep looking at me, searching for some meaning. I wish I was one of those people who know exactly what to say – who can give a hug at the right time – I mean, sometimes nonsense, unverified statements work for people.

I stare at the concrete and feel this bubbling up inside me. Something seems so absurdly comical in this exact moment. The awkwardness, the inability to connect, to act like a human being, despite our meat suits. It’s all so absurd. Suddenly, I start chuckling and you look at me horrified.

“Dude, yea, it’s gonna suck, maybe for a while, maybe for a long time. But that is obvious, right? When bad shit happens, you feel shit inevitably. It fucking sucks to think about death and to feel alone. But that’s part of being a person no? I dunno, I can’t say nice things, like, we both know, life is completely pointless and all, that’s not new at all. But, in the end, even if meaningless, there’s exciting shit happening in your life – stuff that you love doing, even if it’s work or whatever. And I guess that’s worth something. Death is nice and plain. But since when are you into nice and plain things?”

There is a silence after this stupid potato philosophy. I am tired, you are tired – but your smile opens up.

“Ehe, that was truly terrible.”

Highly biased views I

#1: ‘Whatever, nothing matters.’
#2: ‘If nothing matters why are you so into things?’
#1: ‘To avoid realising things don’t matter at all, call it denial.’

Recently I read that over 40% of graduate students in Berkeley University had reported feelings of depression, 10% thoughts of suicide [1]. This is not very surprising. I further recall reading a couple months about the suicide rates per occupation: in 5th there are the engineers, in 8th the mathematicians, computer scientists and statisticians. [2]

Empirically I notice a lot of my friends, extremely smart people, are extremely depressed.

Last week I ended up, during lunch, in a conversation about the toll that can academia take in personal life and mental health – in particular, the need to move from country to country to get the perfect CV, coupled with the realisation that, after 5 or 10 years, you have been swimming in a tiny, drying up puddle instead of an oasis, plus the impossibility of truly disconnecting from work. These reasons sounded reasonable.

There’s another hypothesis I discussed with a good friend of mine in the past: that people with high analytical intelligence tend to be bad at dealing emotions. This is because they might prioritize rational thought over emotional one, even in areas where rationality might not be the most appropriate tool (talk about tastes or volitions).

Combine the unwillingness to accept emotions as real inputs for decision making or action orienting with the pressure of needing to have a CV that is as competitive as possible, containing reputable institutions and plenty of first author papers, no half-a-year gaps or deviation from your academic career, and you start understanding that mental hygiene might not come off as a priority in academia.

I think the impact is real. Books tailored towards leadership will tell you, tongue in the cheek, that any decision is better than no decision. Imagine that, taking a decision without any proof or evidence, without analyzing every possible scenario – how ridiculous! Yet, the very stupid, nonsensical actions and decisions I have seen came from smart people. Somehow, empirically, I observe that extremely ‘rational’ people* don’t seem to make good life choices in their personal lives, if you don’t hold the fact that in real life there’s no reproducibility, model reduction nor a control experiment running on parallel.

It’s counter intuitive, on the one hand, I spend so much time attempting to perfect my analytical skills to make predictive models of reality, while it appears that more and more, I forget how to actively participate and interact with reality.



*: Observational biases.