My name is Daniel Miessler (\mē’slûr\) and I’m an Information Security professional born, raised, and living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I’ll start by saying that if you’ve not tried to summarize yourself in this way, i.e., via some sort of “about me” page, you should do so. It requires a considerable amount of self-discovery, and is more difficult than it seems.
I started this site in 1999 as a platform for collecting technical knowledge. Today it is my most important life project, with over 6,500 posts, articles, arguments, and other types of content. In fact, it’s less a project and more like an avatar, or even a child. It is where I put both my time and my (currently weak) hopes for immortality.
While most see their websites as a place to release pressure through ranting, or to project a presence, I see my site as nothing less than an extension of myself in digital form. I use it as a means of organizing everything I have learned and want to learn, and then as a way to share that same content with others.
My interests, and therefore content on the site, drift towards the following:
- Philosophy: Thinking about the interesting questions in life that aren’t easily answered by science, discovering what brilliant people have said about these questions throughout time, and sharing these thoughts with others
- Existentialism: Contemplating how to create our own meaning and our own happiness in this life, since I don’t believe it exists intrinsically in our universe
- Happiness: How to live a happier, more fulfilled life, especially given my Absurdist outlook
- Productivity: How to be more effective in everything you do, ideally leading to improved happiness
- Beauty and Wonder: Finding and sharing interesting and beautiful things, such as art, writing, science, wonder, etc. I enjoy sharing such things, spreading the feeling they give me, and experiencing it with others
- Politics: A discussion of what we are doing today to build a civilization, what’s wrong with the current approach, the reasoning behind those errors, and what we should be doing instead
- Technology: I find technology fascinating. But I see it as subordinate to the pursuit of creativity and beauty
- Future: I enjoy thinking about the future and trying to predict certain parts of it based on understanding of current trends
- Information Security: This is my profession, and it’s also something I’ve always been fascinated with. That works well in every way, except that it keeps me from #4
- Concept Mapping: Finding discrete components of wisdom, identifying them in various mediums, being able to map and link them together, and ideally even being able to create new ones
- Projects: Rather than being just a set of discrete projects (which it also is), this section also serves as a repository for various collections and sections of the site that don’t fit in other places. You should start here.
- Study: Articles, often technical but not necessarily, capturing the essence of how something works. The goal is not completeness, but concise, high density, and clear transmission of the concept with the goal of it being easily recalled.
- Writing: Articles or essays that shouldn’t change too much over time and are not generally technical. Many of my blog posts will ultimately get cleaned up and migrated here as permanent essays.
- Arguments: A collection of articles and essays (ideally my own but I’ll also collect other peoples’ as well) on a wide range of topics that are important to me. These tend to be big issues, like political theory, philosophy, economics, etc.
The goal is to be able to refer to “the best argument I know of” on any given topic I’m discussing, and to be able to refer others there as well. Few things are as frustrating as having someone willing to listen to your points, for a brief moment, and not being able to summon the narrative you want.
The site logo was redone in 2012 and is a binary tree. The tree symbolizes constant growth, and the binary refers to logic, science, and reason, which help us mature as a species.
In sum, my site is where I keep everything that matters to me. It supplements my ability to create, acquire, organize, process, and share understanding, wonder, fascination, beauty, and love, which I think are the best pursuits in this life.
Here’s the short version of my perspective on life:
- I do not believe in any gods due to 1) the claims being extraordinary, 2) the lack of evidence for those claims, and 3) the clear presence of an overwhelming desire for those gods. In short, it seems more likely that we invented them than that they are real.
- I don’t believe we have free will, and I think it matters that we don’t.
- A materialist view of the universe, combined with my belief that we lack free will, means that I believe we create our own meaning in the universe. That meaning is illusory, but it’s as real as it gets for us, which is fine with me.
- I hold simultaneously in my mind two things: 1) the lucid acceptance that we don’t have free will and that there is likely no meaning in the universe, and 2) a childlike fascination with everything life has to offer. Art, beauty, love, literature, poetry, laughter, friendship, and wonder—these things are more precious to me because they are literally all we have in this life.
- Within this construct, I believe the Good Life to be one inspired by love and guided by knowledge (Russell), and that morality is best defined as attempting to reduce the suffering and increase the happiness of conscious creatures using science a our light source (Harris).
- I think we are a mostly primitive life form floating through space, on a rock, all alone together. The only thing we have is each other and our experiences, and we should try to give as many life forms as possible the best lives possible—all the while knowing that our choices and efforts don’t matter.
- Given this outlook, I tend to be progressive in my political views. I believe that those who are successful are lucky, and that those who are suffering are unlucky, but I live within the illusion of free choice because it’d simply be too hard to function as one who doesn’t.
- So I live in two worlds: One where I know free choice is not possible and life has no meaning, and another where I gleefully embrace the illusion and enjoy life’s pleasures for what they are. I actually feel that knowing that life’s enjoyments are both transient and literally all we have makes me cherish them all the more.
- I am able to seamlessly pivot between these two outlooks as needed. When I give my woman a flower, and she cries happy tears, I embrace the illusions of romance and love and her being different from me, and us being different from the universe. I do this because to me these things are real—at least to me—or at the very least they’re more real and more valuable than anything I can experience.
- But when it comes to punishment, reward, holding a grudge for trespasses against me, giving to those in need, picking a politics, building policy for society, etc., I tend to live more in the cold, rational world of knowing we don’t have free will. And on that view I see suffering creatures who need assistance. So all all of my political stances are based around providing that help. If that means paying more taxes, or closing borders, or legalizing drugs, or giving people free healthcare—then that’s what I’m going to be for.
- I believe the superiority of my worldview comes from the fact that I can pivot between these two outlooks quickly and without friction. I believe those who believe in true choice must naturally (and history bears this out) conclude that humans are responsible for their station in life. In other words, if you believe in choice, and there is ANY example of a poor person breaking out of poverty, then it must follow that person X didn’t break out of poverty because he didn’t CHOOSE to do so. This justifies apathy towards the suffering of our fellow humans, which I abhor.
- On the opposite side of that, there are those who see the (ultimate) meaningless of the world and become nihilistic or otherwise disengaged from the happiness and suffering here. This too is a mistake, as I feel there is so much in life worth doing. Friendship, love, exploration, literature, poetry, science, laughter, music—these things make life worth living regardless of the ugly truth. It’s an illusion—so what? It’s wonderful, and I’m happy to ride along and try to make it better for everyone.
- So those are the two sides of my reality framework: A materialist outlook lacking freedom and meaning, and a compassionate and an artistic oultlook that embraces and celebrates everything beautiful and interesting.
What this worldview provides me is a framework for letting the bad roll off me like rain on a windshield, while letting the good soak in deeply. And I get both of those without sacrificing truth. Let me show you.
- If a friend lies to me, or says something that hurts my feelings, I see it as an inevitable playing out of the universe. I explain to the person what they did, hopefully get an apology, and I move on as if it never happened.
- If a friend says or does something kind, I absorb that positive energy and smile deeply. Do I suddenly forget that they lack free will and that this too was just a configuration of the universe? No, of course not. But I set that aside in order to experience the illusion’s gifts, as they are all we have.
Other models of the universe lack one or more features of this approach. For example, if someone you love dies and you’re comforted by a religious person, they might tell you:
You’ll see them again in heaven…
While that may seem nice, this belief comes at a price. Believing in an afterlife tends to come bundled with all manner of harmful thoughts, beliefs, and practices. So while the belief in the supernatural may have a few benefits, I’ll happily take my memories of the person when they were alive and go on my way.
Now, one may say in response:
Ah, but aren’t you doing the same thing when you embrace the illusion and enjoy feelings of happiness, love, etc., when you “know” that those things are illusory?
Good question, but no. The difference is that I know that I’m participating in an illusion, and I never forget it. Once a situation arises that requires me to consider the true state of reality, I am back in a sober state of mind. So:
- I embrace the beautiful parts of life fully, like a child experiencing them for the first time, every time.
- But I always know that I’m doing so from within the illusion, and that truth (our lack of true choice, responsibility) guides me in deciding how others should be treated.
p>My perspective on life is described above, and as I said, I do not subscribe to or embrace any religion or structured philosophy. That being true, I do find that the principles of Secular Humanism to be quite strong.
- The need to test beliefs – A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
- Reason, evidence, scientific method – A commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
- Fulfillment, growth, creativity – A primary concern with fulfillment, growth and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
- Search for truth – A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
- This life – A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
- Ethics – A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
- Building a better world – A conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.
In my view, these basics—my embrace of the illusion, Russell’s reason and compassion, the secular humanist tenets, and Harris’s argument for science as a means to pursue morality—serve as strong foundation for living in this world.
Peoples’ favorites are full of insights about them, and for that reason they’re good to include on a page like this. It’s a great conversation starter, and helps people find common interests.
One of the things I do on my site (poorly right now) is maintain a list of these collections—or a collection of these lists—so I can refer to them when needed.
One of my primary life metrics is the creation of ideas. Not all of them are possible for me to pursue, or even desirable to pursue, but I capture them anyway.
Have a look:
[ /ideas ]
I enjoy reading, which would make sense given my worldview. When experiences are all you have, it makes sense that you’d want to have as many as possible.
[ /books ]
[ Follow me on Goodreads ]
I’m not any sort of major movie person, but I do enjoy them. I have been trying to get more into quality movies, e.g., top picks from movie festivals and such, rather than wasting time on mainstream stuff.
I’m still working on getting the list going.
[ /movies ]
I am highly attracted to aphorisms, which is basically what most quotes are; the concept of distilled wisdom resonates strongly with me. I’ve got a pretty solid list going:
[ /quotes ]
Music magnifies my life experience. Whether positive or negative, it provides an energy that reminds me how lucky I am to be alive, and that I should appreciate this reality.
In general I am partial to Metal, Techno, Classical, Classical Guitar, and Indy Rock (whatever that means — think ‘The XX’). Music is big for me.
[ /music ]
Laughter is one of the more generous gifts of life, and a good joke is something to be carefully archived and respected. I’ve a fairly solid collection going.
[ /jokes ]
This one I’ve mostly added for completeness, but now that it’s added I think it’s a good idea to build it out.
[ /food ]
I like to laugh, and my preferred style seems to include a good amount of irony. British humor is one of my favorite types, with Gervais probably being my flagship.
Charlie the Unicorn, Arrested Development, Seinfeld, LOLCats, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Socially Awkward Penguin, Dilbert, Ricky Gervais, Success Kid, XKCD, Key and Peele, Pulp Fiction, Monty Python, Robot Chicken, The Office (British), Family Guy, Laughing Babies, Daniel Tosh
[ /humor ]
It’s highly unfortunate when you are enjoying the company of some friends (new or old) who also travel, and you’re unable to remember the names of your favorite restaurants in various places.
[ /restaurants ]
Some think it’s depressing, but not me because I don’t plan on dying!
[ /bucketlist ]
Here’s I’ll try to cover some other areas of my life, including activities, technologies I use, etc.
Here are the primary ways I spend my time:
- Reading: Mostly non-fiction, with focus on psychology/sociology and economics-oriented titles that give me new perspectives on the world. My latest interest, however, has been with classic literature. I have found that reading high quality literature (Orwell, Vonnegut, etc.) is infinitely more valuable to me than most newer content. I feel like reading the greats is perhaps the best way to spend my time right now, but I do mix it up with technical books, some fiction, and other types of non-fiction.
- Writing: Most everything I write can be found here—either on the blog or in my writing section of the site. My focus, as described above, is synthesizing what I learn from my various inputs into ideas and then capturing them here.
- Amateur Astronomy: I’ve always been a lover of astronomy and I’m joining my local astronomy club and purchasing a scope soon.
- Presentation: I present a lot for my job in Information Security, but I’m looking to start presenting locally on the topics that truly interest me, such as philosophy and politics.
- Table Tennis: I have been playing for around 15 years and have roughly a 1600 rating. I am highly inconsistent however, and I can regularly take games off of 1800-rated players (even in tournaments) yet can also lose to someone significantly below me. Hence my rating.
- Drums: I used to play drums, and I’m looking to buy an electronic set and get back into it soon. My first goal is to master Tom Sawyer.
- Rowing: I’m just getting into the sport (2013), and I currently row at home in the mornings as part of my regular routine. I’m also joining a club here in San Francisco, but haven’t yet completed all of my training.
- Programming: I program, but I’m not a programmer, if you know what I mean. I really enjoy it when I do it, but probably wouldn’t want to do it as a job. Find me here on Github.
- Photography I dabble with my DS7000 and mostly use my iPhone. I’d like to do more, but time is limited.
- Radio Receivers I used to be into scanners when I was in High School, and I’m currently looking to get into Software Defined Radio, that I can control with my Mac.
I really appreciate good design in the things I purchase and use, and this crosses into every area of my life. Wardrobe, technology, furniture—whatever. I like things to be well put together. Other good examples of this include a frightening level of obsession with typography, sites like Apartment Therapy, etc.
I’d like to say it’s purely because high quality items tend to last longer (which is true), but the reality is that I enjoy being surrounded by beauty. It’s like going into a bookstore; it inspires me to be a better person.
To the design point, I like technology to be not only functional but also attractive. But not just attractive…elegant. I have tried to use Android phones many times, for example, and have been unable to because of the horrifically designed hardware. Squishy buttons, cheap plastic, hardware buttons that don’t behave consistently—all these things are like a perpetual screaming in my ear.
So I’m an Apple person (for hardware), while being a Google person when it comes to vision. Or, another way to say that is that I’m a Google person, but I’ll be using Apple products while being so.
For an overview of the various tools I use, please check out my setup page.
[ /setup ]
So that’s a bit about me. If you have a question, a comment, or if you just want to say hello, reach out to me. Until then, I hope you find something here worth your time.