People Who Shaped My Intellectual Growth

I came across Tracy-Gregory Gilmore’s list of people who have influenced him, and I found the idea really charming. Exposure to a few different people’s ideas has been incalculably valuable to me, and I want to publicly thank them in the same way Gilmore did.

These are people I consider “remote mentors” (a concept I wrote about in August, 2016). Two writers in particular have profoundly shaped how I see the world: Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex and Ben Thompson of Stratechery. Their names are repeated on the list below, but they deserve special recognition.

In chronological order:

  • Tamora Pierce writes fantasy novels for young adults, often with plucky heroines. I read most of her Tortall series and her Circle of Magic series, starting in 2003-ish and dropping off around 2010 or 2011. Fictional female role models = important.
  • Vladimir Nabokov, who penned the infamous novel Lolita, is my favorite author. That book in particular turned me onto postmodernism and moral complexity.
  • Maggie McMuffin is a burlesque performer. We met on Tumblr sometime during the summer of 2012 and bonded over feminism and personal angst. McMuffin introduced me to femme identity, which helped restore my spirit during a really hard time.
  • Ben Thompson of Stratechery is a business analyst who writes about the tech industry. Reading his articles got me interested in business and economics, and I learned a lot from his commentary on incentives and the structure(s) of markets.
  • Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex is… well, professionally he’s a psychiatrist, but online he’s sort of a cultural philosopher. His essays on identity, community, and politics have been very illuminating. Everything is virtue-signaling!
  • The Grugq makes money brokering exploits, or at least he did at one point. He has written extensively about what he calls “hacker OPSEC”, which amounts to pointing out that online security is often foiled by behavior rather than technology. Posts can be found on Github, Tumblr, Medium, and Twitter.
  • Johanna Drott (@sargoth) identifies as a cyborg and muses on culture, human nature, and this weird arcane world that we occupy. I recommend throwing Drott some money and reading the various blogs.
  • Venkatesh Rao, creator of Ribbonfarm and Breaking Smart, is a writer in a similar vein to Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex. The label “cultural philosopher” once again feels like it fits. His area of expertise is breaking people’s mental models and then helping reconstruct them.
  • Nadia Eghbal is a former venture capitalist who researches how open-source software is supported / supports itself.
  • Maciej Cegłowski is a highly entertaining contrarian who runs Pinboard and often pokes fun at Silicon Valley.
  • Meredith Patterson and Alice Maz are both programmers who wrote essays that helped me become more empathetic. Patterson wrote “Okay, Feminism, It’s Time We Had a Talk About Empathy” and “When Nerds Collide”. Maz wrote “Splain it to Me”.
  • Andréa López is a self-described “marketing douchebag” (that used to be her Twitter bio) and a very smart thinker on the world of media, especially social media. Her ideas about how #content proliferates and spreads have helped me better understand the social networks I don’t use or didn’t use in the past (Vine, Snapchat, etc). She also created Casual Spreadsheets, a service with an unparalleled logo:

Logo for Casual Spreadsheets, a media analytics service by Andréa López

Last updated 11/21/2016.

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