Be My Guest: Introducing Guest Posts on Amatopia!

Exciting news everyone! I am hosting my very first guest post here at Amatopia, this one from an interesting guy I have gotten to know on Twitter, Avtomat Khan (aka AK).

AK runs a blog called The Hidden Dominion, which I took a liking to immediately because he, as I try to do here, covers a wide range of subjects–culture, philosophy, economics, survival, personal finance, politics–but with a strong focus on achieving independence in all facets of life. Interesting stuff!

AK goes deeper into the news-of-the-day, and covers topics that I don’t here, like self-defense, but there is enough overlap and similarity of overall philosophy about life, particularly a mutual sense of curiosity, that we thought it’d be fun do some guest posting.

The way I plan on doing guest posts is to start with an introductory blurb like this, give each writer their entire own post with none of my writing, and then later publish my own post reflecting on what they wrote and why I thought it was a good fit for this blog. Amatopia is all about learning and curiosity, so I hope you find these guest posts as interesting as I do!

So here he is, writing about an oft-discussed subject–staying authentic–but I think AK offers a better explanation of what that means, and an interesting way of thinking about the concept, than you might have read before.

So a hearty thank you to AK for writing this! Hope you enjoy his post as much as I did, and I highly recommend you check out The Hidden Dominion!

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The Death of Curiosity

When I was in school, my friends and I had a saying: “Intelligence is a social disease.” 

We didn’t say this because we thought we were superior to everybody else, or even because we were smarter. But you have to understand that I was in elementary and high school in the 90s, the slacker era, the era where it was cool to be dumb.

I know for a fact that everybody I went to school with wasn’t dumb. It was just that, in order to fit in socially, one had to act like they were a moron. Those of us who didn’t were the weird ones. And as I palled around with the A/V nerds and the musicians and the history buffs and the computer geeks, that was my crew. 

I fully embraced my “weird” status, mainly because all I wanted throughout high school was just for everybody to leave me the hell alone.

The tides have turned since those days, and turned hard. These days, everybody’s into STEM and SCIENCE! Nerdiness and geek stuff, the kind of things that actually were social diseases when I was in high school, are now fully embraced, the province of the cool kids.

The pendulum has swung: instead of it being hip to be dumb, it’s hip to be smart.

Or so a surface observation would have you believe. I see things a little more cynically: It’s not cool to be smart; it’s cool for everybody to think you are smart.

This sounds really arrogant of me, but hear me out.

First: Remember that “intelligence” isn’t necessarily just about the raw data and information you’ve squirreled away in your brain. 

Second, take this simple test:

Try engaging a self-professed “smart person” on one of the topics they love. Maybe even challenge an opinion, or provide a different one. Do they:

  1. Engage in the discussion where they acknowledge your point and civilly provide counter evidence of their own?
  2. Demonstrate curiosity by asking you questions to further their understanding of your perspective?or
  3. Insult you, or otherwise dismiss your opinion outright and immediately end the discussion?

Generally speaking, if the person defaults to option 3, they’re probably not as smart as they think they are. 

Now ask yourself: what do you do when faced with a difference of opinion or an intellectual challenge? Continue reading “The Death of Curiosity”

Fear and Adventure: Why Encouraging Risky Behavior Will Save Us All


Safety is killing us. It is stifling. Nobody wants to take risks. Nobody wants to make the calls that have consequences should they not work out.

My observations and personal experience lead me to believe that, unless people have near mathematical certainty of a positive outcome, nobody wants to make a decision.

But why? And why does this matter?

It matters because life is risky. Being an entrepreneur is risky. Approaching that cute girl over there is risky. Moving to a different city is risky. And so is standing up and physically defending your loved ones and other innocents from harm.

Riskiness and rugged individualism are baked into the American way, but somewhere along the line this started to get viewed as a liability rather than an asset. I believe the common buzzword is “toxic.”

How we got this way is less of an important question–helicopter parents, “wear a helmet,” and all of that. More important is making sure that the next generation isn’t like us.

The wife and I took our soon-to-be four-year-old to a fun local kid’s amusement park the other day. He is very tall for his age, and much to his delight, is now able to go on many of the rides hitherto unavailable to him.

The kid didn’t stop.

Edaville, Carver Massachusetts.JPG

Roller-coasters, the big Ferris wheel, rides that shake, spin, tumble, and drop. He loved them all, laughing hysterically and throwing his hands in the air with each loop and plunge. If he’s had any fear of free-fall or heights, he hid it well.

It was great! There’s nothing like watching a little kid enjoy themselves. But it also made me think of a few things relating to my own life:

  • I never went on roller-coasters when I was a little kid.
  • To this day, I really don’t like roller-coasters and still kind of fear heights.
  • Much of my adult life has involved overcoming my aversion to risk-taking.

Are these things connected? Does a willingness to take physical risks translate into other kinds of risk-taking later in life, risk-taking in love, in business, and in thought?

I mean, I have a boy. Boys are crazy, right? They all have this impulse to make mischief, take things apart, and in general raise hell.

But there’s more to it than that.

These impulses, whether in boys or girls, are inborn but can also be squelched. 

They can be squelched by excessive safety.

They get squelched at our own peril. A society that’s afraid to take risks is a society that’s afraid to be great. Continue reading “Fear and Adventure: Why Encouraging Risky Behavior Will Save Us All”