The Endless Doubt that comes with Choosing Projects

Published on 4-Feb-2024


Coding is amazing. Computers are awesome. Electronics are magic. I spent most of my time working with computers and working on computers and it is for sure a blessing. You will, however, inevitably run into the parts of the digital landscape that are less of a blessing. I think this is hardly exclusive to the digital world. My fields, as soon as you get very involved with them, illustrate their weak points more and more. I just wanted to write about my experience dealing with a combination of effective altruism and the sheer number of problems that you face, and how it can stun you from doing effective work.

Note: I am writing this blog post for the catharsis, so it might be a bit chaotic.

I don't know whether I got it from somewhere, but I now commonly say that nowadays for any project you want to start, it either

  • has already been done,
  • is a dumb idea (you just haven't figured out why yet),
  • or would need to become a significant part of your life's work.

And while, none of these are blockers. You learn much from anything anyway, the sheer opportunity cost of doing anything can be difficult to overcome for me mentally.

For most problems I have, there is a hacky solution and a proper solution. Naturally, I feel very inclined to go for the proper solution as I have seen how permanent hacky solutions get and how much time they will cost in the end to everyone using them (see effective altruism). But if I know the better solution is going to cost me 3 weeks, I stand before a dilemma. If I want to reach my goal, I cannot keep getting sidetracked, but I also don't want to take shortcuts that will lead to other people needing to spend way more time later. It leads to endless doubt, and I commonly get a sort of work-paralysis from it.

When I explain this to people, they commonly say: "well if you just commit to one or the other it will be better for everyone in the end". But the exact problem is the "one or the other". You still have to make a choice, and I don't feel comfortable making it a random one. Multiply this by the amount of little problems I see during my daily work, and this becomes a complete disaster.