My Top 4 Filtering Heuristics

Here are four rules of thumb I use to decide which content to consume.

1. The taste test

People with active & discerning minds tend to execute tastefully. The Farnam Street Blog is a great example. Everything is tasteful: the web design, the site’s structural organization & layout, the use of hyperlinks, the writing style, and the cadence at which content is published. Inversely, a lack of taste or discernment is a red flag (e.g. gaudiness, excessive ornamentation, blunt utilitarianism).

2. The test of time

I’m interested in time-tested content because I’ve observed that most of today’s supposedly revolutionary or “game-changing” ideas don’t actually change the game at all. As Shakespeare wrote, “They are but dressings of a former sight.”

3. The ‘trusted source’ test

If a book recommendation comes from someone I respect, I’m more likely to look into it. I also trust some authorities, e.g., I often pick reading material from the Nobel laureate list.

4. The blind spot test

Although I generally seek out resources that seem directly relevant to my interests and projects, I also deliberately explore areas outside of my comfort zone to fill in a potentially important blind spot. For instance, I started playing a few video games recently. In the past, I would have turned up my nose at the whole prospect. But in the last ~2 years, I’ve picked a few games (all of which meet criteria 1, 2, and 3) and decided to invest enough time into learning how to play those games to get the core experience intended by the creators.

Since I started with almost zero knowledge in this area, playing a few video games has seriously broadened my perspective on many important things, including the world economy, technological progress, the nature of storytelling, the decision-making process, and (of course!) game theory.