L.A. Paul’s 2015 book, Transformative Experience, laid out the case that we can’t make big life decisions the way we make most other decisions. For experiences that change who we are, the traditional model of rationality doesn’t apply – with enormous consequences for our understanding of both rationality and ethics.

New Choices

Books, Movies and Art

They share nothing but an unusual last name, yet reading novels by E. L. and Cory Doctorow is a case-study in the difference between art and consumer packaged ideology.

Books, Movies and Art

Autobiography written with all the care and beauty of a novel, The Story of a Life is a luminous account of what makes a writer a writer.


Our society may have many virtues when it comes to building a good life, but we often struggle to take advantage of them. Not least because we lack any way to think or even talk about a good life in a meaningful fashion.


Transformative Experience is THE problem for our society because of the unique challenges our culture presents. We have all the tools for building a good life and none of the required knowledge.


Language is the most powerful tool we have for thinking. But our brains are massive connection systems, the ultimate black-box. Words cannot and will never be able to capture how we think, putting severe limits on our ability to understand others and ourselves.


The way our brains work creates real challenges for decision-makers especially when it comes to decisions about transformative experience. Learning to address these challenges is the work to be rational.

Julian Guthrie’s “How to Build a Spaceship” tells the compelling story of the X-Prize. It’s filled with fascinating people nearly all of whom traced their passion and life pursuit back to the moon landing and the Apollo program. It’s a striking example of a fundamentally different way to think about what Public Policy is for.


Prediction and Cognition

Prediction is fundamental to the way our mind’s work – and it’s the only way a connection system can be self-training and of use for a practical decision-maker.

Longtermism & Rational Mistakes

In What We Owe the Future, William MacAskill makes the case for longtermism – taking moral account of future generations. But longtermism, like most forms of abstract rational morality, falls afoul of the realities of transformative choice.


Does Character Exist?

Most psychological studies suggest that “character” as we think of it, doesn’t really exist. Yet it seems impossible to do without and inevitable based on cognitive science.

Conversations about Culture

Oppenheimer and the False Non-Equivalency of Hitler and Stalin

We’ve always treated Stalin as somehow fundamentally different than Hitler. But in a “Murderers Row” of…well…murderers, it’s unclear why.

Drink “Before the Coffee Gets Cold”

Novelists, unlike philosophers, have long understood the nature of transformative experience. In Before the Coffee Gets Cold the only thing that changes is people.


Nothing to be Frightened Of

Death may be worth worrying about, but is it worth thinking about? Julian Barnes brings plenty of experience of both to this work in public philosophy.

Expanding Horizons

Reading Barry Lopez’s Horizon is rather like meeting Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” at your neighborhood bar. It’s a reminder that the world can be extraordinarily interesting when seen through the eyes of an interesting man. Yet, like the modern taste in beer, it can occasionally be a little sour too.


The better your reasons for going to college, the less likely you are to get what you’re looking for. TW2BR looks at college from the perspective of transformative decision-making.

Capital & Ideology & Ideology & Ideology

Tedious, long and intellectually dishonest, yet there are things worth reading in Piketty’s Capital & Ideology if you read it “Manga-style”

Public Policy

Ars Technica and Public Health Experts Win a LAZY

If the recent Ars’ panel on learnings from the pandemic is any indication, our public health experts are doubling-down on every mistake they made.

Anthony Fauci and the Public Life

Few philosophers have ever been sanguine about the possibilities of a public life. The Buddha may suggest that you “live like a lotus”, but we are learning machines who find it very difficult to live in the mire.

Public Policy

Just for Fun

Just for fun

Mr. Shuffle Suggests

That rare syzygy of chance and meaning when you shuffle your playlist and get something unexpectedly delightful.

  • Reason to Believe & Something to Believe In
    Crisis of confidence? Resilience of hope? Springsteen and Clannad (via Mr. Shuffle) offer two hauntingly laments on the seemingly illusory nature of hope, the endless disappointments of life, and the essential challenge we face in finding something to believe in. This might as well be the soundtrack to the latest TW2BR essay on materialism and… Read more: Reason to Believe & Something to Believe In
  • Cities in Dust and Go, Go, Godzilla
    Seems like Mr. Shuffle might have played these two songs in the wrong order. I would have put them the other way around. But then… History Shows Again and Again How Nature Points Out the Folly of Men.
  • Saturday Sun & Chelsea Morning
    After a long, wet SF winter, it’s easy to appreciate how New Yorkers and the English feel about a warm sunny day. And what better company for the sun could Mr. Shuffle devise than a rare almost cheerful Nick Drake tune and Joni Mitchell’s buttery ode to the sun through yellow curtains…
  • The Man Who Can’t Be Moved & I Will Follow You Into the Dark
    Mr. Shuffle channels his grown-up Romeo with two impossibly romantic songs. It isn’t stalking if you’re just hanging out on a corner with The Script. While for Death Cab for Cutie, even the big D isn’t an excuse to part.
  • Be My Number Two & Be My Mistake
    Mr. Shuffle gives a sad, cynical shrug with these two bitter as kale “love” songs (from Joe Jackson and the 1975). If you had to choose, you’d probably rather be someone’s second choice than their drunken folly. Or maybe not.
Stream Gems


Recommendations from any of the current streaming services we happened to have a subscription to at the moment…

  • Godzilla Minus One
    I’m not a Godzilla fan though I’ll admit to a soft-spot for Blue Oyster Cult’s Godzilla. So I came to GMO with mixed expectations. The reviews were sterling. The franchise not so much. And when all was said and done and Tokyo was saved, I leaned toward the reviews. The best parts of Godzilla Minus… Read more: Godzilla Minus One
  • Bob Marley: One Love
    When it comes to Bob Marley, I’m of that typical class of loose fan who know next to nothing about someone except their most famous work. From that perspective, One Love will both reward and frustrate you. Kingsley Ben-Adir (impossibly handsome and showing none of the real-world mileage of Marley) is damn good: charismatic, funny,… Read more: Bob Marley: One Love
  • The Blue Angels
    Can a documentary that is exactly what you expected ever be good? The Blue Angels is here to answer that question – at least if you love spectacular flying and wildly gung-ho fliers. All that’s missing is the Top Gun Anthem and Take My Breath Away. But hey, you do get “The Blue Angel Creed”… Read more: The Blue Angels
  • American Fiction
    It would be hard to imagine a more convincing send-up of modern leftist attitudes on race than American Fiction. Every moment of the plot that focuses on My Pafology (or Fuck as it comes to be called) is laugh out loud funny and spot on. Cutting without being cruel and only occasionally a bit broad,… Read more: American Fiction
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
    “Saigon. Shit. I’m only still in Saigon.” There was a time when I knew almost every line of dialogue in Apocalypse Now but it’s been a few years since I last watched it. The director’s cut currently on Max is NOT the best version. It’s larded down with two extended scenes that were mercifully cut… Read more: Apocalypse Now (Redux)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *