Ho-ho-ho, my loyal subscribers! 2022 has come and gone — but we are, fortunately, still here. First, let's address the most pressing thing right now — the war between Russia and Ukraine.
As you all know, the Russo-Ukrainian War of 2014 escalated on the 24th of February, 2022. Russian military invaded a neighbouring country for no reason whatsoever but the decisions of mentally deficient rulers of Russia, including (but not limited to) the president of Russia — Putin. Unfortunately, as with any dictator regime, citizens have little to no power to affect the situation (see protests in Iran in 2021-2022 or protests in Belarus in 2020-2021, for instance) — no matter how hard they try.
In 2023 my main wish is for the war to end, for Ukraine to return all of its territories (including Crimea), and for Russia to finally get over the soviet-era dictatorship. For me, the lowest parts of 2022 have been associated with every death of Ukrainian people due to the stupidity and evilness of the Russian government. I don't think I was ever so disturbed by any conflict before — mainly because this particular war isn't just close to home (I'm originally from Russia, even though I haven't lived there since 2012) but affects the whole world in general. Nuclear powers should not be a part of any conflicts in 21 century. Especially the ones run by a dictator.
I cannot emphasize enough that I'm very privileged at the moment. I do have electricity, running water and a peaceful sky. The fact that I'm so well off makes it even more crucial to try my best to contribute to the side of democracy in the war — the Ukrainian side — as much as I can. And I encourage all of you in a similar position to donate to the war and peace efforts of the Ukrainian government.
🇺🇦 Все буде Україна. Слава Україні!
In 2022 I downsized my ego, identity, and toxicity. I'm generally quite frugal in terms of belongings — however, digitally and informationally, I've always been a kind of a hoarder. I held beliefs (even though based on data and science) and was ready to always combatively defend them. I've been a part of many places — but none of them had enough of me. I was harsh, lacked forgiveness and rushed splitting people on the ones on my team — and the competition.
I'm happy that I entered the new year having improved in all three areas.
I no longer get extremely angry with people who don't follow the most recent scientific research or reject novel ideas when presented with them. It is how humans defend themselves — and I cannot change nature. The decision to make the change came in waves.
Firstly, I eased the rules of my Telegram community. I emphasized that since then, we would not simply filter for rationally thinking people but would try to teach rationality. This did not go well. Unfortunately, people do not think rationally even when they claim to be doing so. When presented with clear evidence, for instance, that animal food consumption increases the risk of premature death, they try to fight the notion instead of doing their own research. You, reader, go see the link. What are the chances you'd go vegan after having all this data shown to you? Pretty low, unfortunately. You'd come up with a bazillion reasons why this is not for you (even though it is in 2023).
Secondly, I turned off all comments and detached the chat from the Telegram community — having completely given up on trying to teach people rationality. This did wonder to my mental health. I still question every belief I have, and I'm always reading opposing views and considering counter-evidence to my thoughts (so I avoid the echo chamber effect). However, I no longer fight with random people on the Internet. Instead, I present them with the research and links — and just let them be. This way, I do my best (given the time constraints) to provide them with enough data. If they reject the research — it's on them. I'm not going to try to change people anymore.
Thirdly — and this nicely flows into my identity — I completely "ejected" myself from the Russian-speaking segment of the Internet. And I love it! All of my publications are now written in English. Unlike 80-90 percent of comments being a jealous toxic mass of wannabes throwing shit at my content in Russian, the feedback is generally reasonable when I write things in English. One might argue that the toxic feedback is more trustworthy — but no, the feedback I get in English is way more productive, and if someone criticizes me, it's no longer for no reason. When I received criticism in Russian, it simply made me feel bad. When I receive feedback in English, I genuinely improve my ways of life. I don't know how and why, but this is my anecdotal evidence.
I started 2022 wearing a lot of hats and trying to balance the responsibilities: VC-backed startup CTO, maintainer of products with 76M users, avid Telegram third-party developers advocate, a newly made father, a micro-influencer with 19K followers, rationality popularizer, a patriot of Russia (the people, not the government) and Canada (the whole thing this time), etc, etc, etc. Jack of all trades, master of none.
I was split between a variety of identities. Every one of them tried to take up as much time as possible. But then I started dropping the identities on the floor. Some shattered, some bounced back, and some popped like soap bubbles full of air and nothing else. Obviously, the major ones will always stay with me (and I don't want to even try to let go of them) — the family comes first, for instance.
I shut down my Telegram community completely, with more than 17K subscribers now. Taking into account that 1 subscriber costs around $1 on Telegram, I let go of $17K with that action — and I have no regrets. I also started sunsetting the open-source products I maintained, including Todorant and Voicy. This was difficult, but I had to do this as a part of quitting Telegram (here's why I did it).
I no longer associate myself with neither any Russian-speaking Internet communities nor Telegram as a product (again, having a Russian team behind it with all the drawbacks). Years of building stuff on Telegram without any output but with enough ridiculing of the Telegram team towards me and my products had its toll on my mental health — and I put an end to it.
Initially, I tried to advocate for Russian-speaking communities and change them. I succeeded with hundreds of people — but this was not enough. I changed the avatar of my Telegram channel to have the white-blue-white flag (the alternative Russian flag for democracy) — but shortly after, I returned the default avatar.
I no longer want to have anything to do with Russia. The killings of thousands of civilians and all the war crimes committed against Ukraine cannot be tolerated. I dropped "Russian" as an identity part altogether — I come from Canada now. From the outside, this might be an ambiguous change (I've lived full-time in Canada for the last decade) — but internally, I feel like a piece of me was torn away. Or maybe I noticed the hole — and the piece was missing already for a long time.
🇨🇦 Don't be a stranger, eh? Let's go grab a coffee the next time you're in Vancouver!
So what's left?
Here's my core identity now:
- Father and husband
- BWL co-founder pushing web3 social forward
- Cypherpunk and free-speech advocate
- A kind friend that helps
- Knowledge seeker and accumulator
Notice how most of the identity pieces are external now (i.e. not "facing" myself but others). It is time to double down on society and humanity as a whole. Also, each of the points above is separate and rarely interconnects with others.
2022 was a journey for me to become less of a jerk and more of a sympathetic kind interlocutor. If previously I worked on cutting off toxicity from the outside so that it wouldn't poison me, now was the time to work on my own toxicity so it wouldn't poison people around me.
I hope I have improved — but I'm yet to see the result. However, I did notice one weird side-effect. I can no longer easily pick up sarcasm. There are still people in my environment who do use sarcasm from time to time. And I have no idea why, but I understand the things they say literally. It's like I'm a character from a sitcom — but I had no say in becoming one.
I'm still not wholly oblivious, though — after some time, I realize that things said were sarcastic. However, in the heat of the moment, I always try to accommodate the needs of people around me, and if someone claims something (even as a joke), I default to trusting them. Not being sarcastic myself takes a toll on recognizing sarcasm in others!
Also, having a toddler at home is hard — but when you realize that their brains are literally not large enough to comprehend some concepts, you start feeling calmer. What's the use in being angry at kids when they physically can't know better? Our job as parents is to be understanding, keep them out of evil and try our best to explain and teach the good. My path with meditation and rationalizing human behaviour helps tremendously when interacting with close and extended family.
I sincerely hope that I also became less toxic with friends — but they should judge the results, not me.
This year I beat my record of how many books I read! All in all, I finished 75 titles — around 1.44 books per week. Mostly, I did it thanks to Audible. A few years ago, I realized that constantly re-listening to the same music again and again while doing routine tasks is wasting time. So I unsubscribed from Spotify and picked up Audible. My life changed for the better by having so many "mentors" from the non-fiction books I read.
The first thing most people ask when they learn I read a lot is what were the best titles of 2022 for me. Well, here's the list in reverse-chronological order:
- Think Again
- This Is Your Mind on Plants
- What We Owe The Future
- The Elephant in the Brain
- Invisible Women
- Remembrance of Earth's Past
- Project Hail Mary
I can't, and I won't rank them. I loved them all. However, the book that changed my life the most in 2022 was "Invisible Women." Go read it right now — you must learn what the author tries to teach the readers. It's all for the greater good.
As non-fiction goes, I also read 5 books of the Foundation saga, but they didn't get to the list. I find that "Project Hail Mary" was great, but it is incomparable with "Blindsight" — so if you want a short yet astonishing hard sci-fi, go read the novel by Watts. The winner of the non-fiction category would be the "Remembrance of Earth's Past" trilogy. Yes, it is enormous, but still a great page-turner. Don't rush things. Read it gradually.
But this sci-fi trilogy wasn't the longest book I've read. I also finished the two enormous books by Eliezer Yudkowsky, and I would like my 100 hours back, please. I could finish 10 more books in the same period and get to 85 titles in 2022. I could give Eliezer the award of the least loved book in 2022, but I also read so much rubbish that I have to put HPMoR and Rationality somewhere in the middle. I should start tracking who recommends what books to me so that I prioritize better.
Big Whale Labs
The true gem of my collection of projects — actually, the only thing I had been working on in 2022. Since the beginning of 2022, I have become hopefully one of the leading experts in using Zero-Knowledge cryptography. Even though in blockchain since 2012 and computer science since 2010, before 2022, my cryptography branch of character development was undernourished.
However, after reading numerous pages of papers, books and references, after spending an outrageous amount of time with Ph.D. private tutors to improve my understanding of cryptography, I think I can even write my own blockchain if I want to. Even better — I could incorporate low-level ZK concepts into it. We must take this confidence with a grain of salt due to the Dunning–Kruger effect, but I am nonetheless terrified by all the things I still don't know. This time, having that fear, I'm confident I'm at least on the right path. This doesn't make me capable of auditing your code (sorry), but it allows me to tinker with many cutting-edge concepts.
At the beginning of 2022, we raised the seed round for $3.8M. Keeping the team lean yet powerful, I believe we can execute various products that will soon find a product-market fit. Having enough runway enables us to experiment — we simply need to experiment better and more frequently. We've launched SealCred, SealCred | Echo, Sealcaster and SealHub — now working on the new generation of decentralized social codenamed "Ketl." We'll see how it goes when we launch in 2023!
This year wasn't significant on side projects for me as I've been primarily in the research and development stage of my life. However, I did launch @essay and @remindme bots on Farcaster, plus Crosscaster. Go check them out!
One of the most exciting things that happened to me in 2022 was launching the book I co-authored! And even better — I took notes from the Network State book's execution and built the website for "We Don't Live a Thousand Years." One can read my book online. To buy it, you'll need to obtain an NFT key. But I'm sure you can manage! It is published only in Russian, but I'm working on getting the English edition out in mid-2023.
Another peculiar thing happened to me in the summer when I consumed psychedelics for the first time — and suddenly experienced ego death without knowing it was an option. I then went to psychotherapy for the first time in my life to confirm that I don't suffer from any mental illnesses that aren't evident from the inside. As I've read plenty of literature on psychology, I realized that I might as well be oblivious to some conditions. All in all, seems like I don't have any mental disabilities — so I'm glad I confirmed that all is good. Nevertheless, the journey allowed me to rethink many things as it was quite a retrospective exploration with many questions — and, interestingly enough, many answers.
I still don't consume alcohol or animal products. And I still feel great.
Here's to 2023
This is the second year when I'm not outlining any specific goals. I simply fail to achieve 60-80 percent of them anyway. So why bother? Instead, I focus on the next steps and the grand vision of life as a whole. I do have a few events I'm looking forward to in 2023, but I'll explain them in the next issue of the year wrap-up. After all, it's better to talk about what's already done than to brag about ambitions!
My main wish for 2023 is for the war between Ukraine and Russia to end. I want Russia to finally free itself from the oppressive regime that evidently seeds evil all over the globe.
Let's hope that 2023 will be better than 2022 in all aspects.
Otherwise, I'm out to collect bottle caps. Ain't no rest for the wicked!