Paul Graham’s initial article was an interesting spark but the follow-up where he defends himself by talking about how he shouldn’t waste time defending himself is a great online bonfire. Mr. Graham is an engaging writer, no doubt appealing to his demographic, the analytical programmer type (in which I group myself), with his exacting and bulletproof prose. The flip side is a lack of beauty; he is no Hemingway or Marquez or Kundera, if he had that, it faded when he started focusing on startups to the detriment of his painting.
Coming from such an analytical viewpoint, you do have to question the commitment to his thesis, that ignoring “bullshit” and disengaging from internet debates is a better way to enjoy your time. I think we agree that feeding the trolls is the path to misery and missing precious time with your family, but come on, didn’t penning this long diatribe take longer than responding to a few tweets? In the long justification where he talks about prioritizing his family time, he then notes that his wife proofed his work; you know she must have sensed the irony, but clearly committed to love more than being right she went along with it.
If I learned one powerful thing from his essay, it was that everyone suffers from confirmation bias. The sad thing for Mr. Graham is that he now probably rarely hears contradictions from those he respects and are close to him, and even when he does, there is probably a chorus of sycophants cheering him on. That means he loses the opportunities to hear alternatives, and worse yet, it is really costly to admit his ideas aren’t perfect.
I don’t disagree with the sentiments in his piece at all, but I’m sure there were counterpoints where he could have publicly said “Even though that contradicts me completely, I see your point, and am wiser for it.” Everyone should have those moments forever, even when you are at the top of the world. Being vulnerable is a great experience and full of growth, something Mr. Graham was all about at one point in his life from all I’ve read from him.