List of my Favorite Named Adages, Aphorisms, Dictums, Laws, Maxims, and Rules to Live By
Some of these are classics. Some of these are insightful. Some of these don’t make sense. Some of these might be misattributed. Some of these I just made up. Enjoy!
Acton’s Dictum - “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Allen’s Maxim - “You can do anything you want to do, but not everything you want to do”
Alpha Eta’s Motto - “The best for us”
Altman’s Maxim - “I always want [...] a project that, if successful, will make the rest of my career look like a footnote.”
Altman’s Law - “You are not spending enough time on hiring, even after taking Altman's Law into account.”
Amara's Law - "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run."
Asimov’s Corollary - “In ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day.”
Betteridge's Law of Headlines - “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”
Bogosian’s Law - “For every hypocrisy, there is an equal and opposite hypocrisy”
Brockman’s Law - “If you don't fix that harmless-seeming issue now, it's going to appear in an embarrassing place on your next postmortem.”
Brook’s Law - “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”
Brandolini’s Law - “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than to produce it.”
Bryce’s Maxim - "There is nothing more unproductive than to build something efficiently that should not have been built at all."
Campbell’s Law - “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor”
The Campos-Wildeford Law - "Most >10 year forecasts are technically also AI forecasts"
Chekov’s Gun - If you see a gun in a TV show, it is going to be used.
Chesterton’s Fence - Avoid changing things until you understand why they are the way they are.
Chris Evans Corollary - The most famous person in the cast of a murder mystery movie is usually the murderer (from this).
Clarke’s First Law - “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
Clarke’s Second Law - “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
Clarke’s Third Law - “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Cromwell’s Law - “0% and 100% are not valid probabilities”
The Law of Continued Failure - "A civilization competent enough to correct course in response to [a problem] is competent enough not to make the mistake in the first place."
Cowen’s First Law: "There is something wrong with everything (by which I mean there are few decisive or knockdown articles or arguments, and furthermore until you have found the major flaws in an argument, you do not understand it)."
Cowen’s Second Law: "There is a literature on everything."
Cowen’s Third Law: "All propositions about real interest rates are wrong."
Cunningham’s Law - “The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer.”
The Date-Time Continuum - Don’t make plans with a date more than X days in the future, where X is the number of days you have been dating.
Deutsch's Maxim - "People in 1900 did not consider the internet or nuclear power unlikely: they did not conceive of them at all."
Drucker’s Maxim - “What gets measured, gets managed”
Dourado’s Law - trends take “three times longer than you think” to unfold.
Emmy the Great’s Maxim - “You’re not unlucky, you’re just not very smart”
Falconer’s Maxim - “Take what is offered and that must sometimes be enough”
The Front Porch Test - Evaluate a decision based on how you will reflect upon it when you are an 80-year-old resting on your front porch.
Gall’s Law - “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.”
Galt's Law - "The more upset someone appears to be about a particular measure, the more likely it is to be useful"
Gell-Mann amnesia - Believing articles outside one's area of expertise, even after acknowledging that neighboring articles in one's area of expertise are completely wrong
Gibson’s Law - “For every PhD there is an equal and opposite PhD.” (There are experts on both sides of any issue.)
Gibson’s Principle - “The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.”
Gilbertson’s Maxim - “People who can’t control their own lives always love to try to control the lives of others.”
Godwin’s Law - “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”
Goodhart’s Law - "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
The Hamming Question - “What is the most important problems in your field and why aren’t you working on them?”
Hanlon’s Razor - “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
Hitchen’s Razor - “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
Hoffman's Rule - "If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late"
Hofstader’s Law (planning fallacy) - “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's law”
The Hot-Crazy Line - You’re willing to tolerate more craziness from a more physically attractive person.
Jinn’s Maxim - “there's always a bigger fish”
Joy’s Law - “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”
Kahneman’s Maxim that “Nothing is as important as you think it is, while you’re thinking about it”
Krause’s Maxim - “Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to.”
Kerckhoffs's Principle / Shannon’s Maxim - Assume your enemy knows everything about your security system (i.e., don’t practice “security through obscurity”)
Kuhn’s Second Law - “The ceiling for ‘trying hard’ is ~2 orders of magnitude higher than you think. If you haven't spent entire years failing, you are trying medium-hard at best.”
Kuhn’s Third Law - “Having a great manager makes an incredible difference to your learning, growth, and how much fun your job is. It’s hard to know what you are missing until you have experienced it.”
Kuhn’s Fifth Law - “Almost any problem becomes interesting if you stare at it hard enough and use your entire brain to solve it.”
Kuhn’s Seventh Law - “You can only be truly effective at one thing at once, which is whatever you can't stop thinking about. Anything that wants to control what you think about (eg: phone notifications, Slack, this website) is extremely dangerous.”
Kuhn’s 22nd Law - “Draw boundaries between software teams that minimize the need for teams to talk to each other... No, you dingbat, that doesn't mean you should discourage teams from talking to each other.”
Kuhn’s 28th Law - “If you are reluctant to give someone critical feedback, you probably haven't given them enough positive feedback. Make it obvious, repeatedly, that you're on their side and they'll know that critical feedback comes from the right place.”
Kuhn’s 32nd Law - “Being a distributed company has many upsides, but people become much happier and more productive after meeting their coworkers in person for the first time.”
Kuhn’s 34th Law - “The solution to making habits stick is often not to "try harder," but to eliminate the trivial inconveniences that make them cost willpower points to execute.”
Kuhn’s 35th Law - “If your mascot is cute enough, people will never question how it has nothing to do with your product.”
Kumor’s Maxim - “Loons swim with loons"
Le Mis’s Maxim - “At the end of the day you're another day older”
Linch’s Law - Any forecaster who tries to forecast his or her own number of Twitter followers, will eventually encounter an event that inflates their follower count.
Lindy Effect - If something has been around for X years, absent any other information, you can expect it to last for another X years.
Litany of Gendlin - “What is true is already so. Owning up to it doesn't make it worse. Not being open about it doesn't make it go away. [...] People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.”
Litany of Hodgell - “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.”
Litany of Jai - “Almost no one is evil. Almost everything is broken.”
Litany of Lenin - “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”
Litany of Tarski - “If the box contains a diamond, I desire to believe that the box contains a diamond; If the box does not contain a diamond, I desire to believe that the box does not contain a diamond; Let me not become attached to beliefs I may not want.”
Littlewood’s Law - A person can expect to observe a miracle about once a month.
Lowry’s Law - If you have a problem that can be solved by money, you don’t have a problem... you have an expense.
Luckey's Law - “current year is too late to care about current thing”
Mandelson's Law - "It is only when you’re sick of hearing yourself repeat the same message over and over again that your audience is just beginning to get it."
Marcus’s Law - As time spent running a business goes longer, the probability of needing to become an expert on currency exchange rates approaches 1
Matthew Effect - The rich get richer and the poor get poorer
Metcalfe’s Law - The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of members of the network.
Moore’s Law - “the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every 24 months”
Mosteller’s Maxim - “It is easy to lie with statistics, but easier to lie without them”
Murphy’s Law - “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
Nate’s Law - The polling error is always in the opposite direction that the conventional wisdom expects.
Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword - “What cannot be settled by experiment is not worth debating.”
Noel’s Law - “Every time you point a finger ...there are three remaining fingers pointing right back at you.”
Occam’s Razor - “When two or more explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the simplest full explanation is preferable.”
O’Sullivan’s First Law - “All organizations that are not explicitly right-wing will eventually inevitably become left-wing.”
Ozzie's Law - "Most intellectuals or good thinkers are either calibrated or innovative, but not both"
Pareto Principle - “80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes”
Parkinson’s Law - "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"
Plank’s principle - “Science progresses one funeral at a time”
Parkinson’s Law of Triviality - “The time spent on any agenda item will be in inverse proportion to the sum of money involved.”
Poe’s Law - “it is utterly impossible to parody [...] in such a way that someone won't mistake for the genuine article”
Postel’s Law - “Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others”
Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy - “In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.”
Putt’s Law - “Technology is dominated by two types of people, those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand.”
Rossi’s Iron Law - “The expected value of any net impact assessment of any large scale social program is zero”
Rossi’s Stainless Steel Law - “the better designed the impact assessment of a social program, the more likely is the resulting estimate of net impact to be zero.”
Sagan’s Standard - “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”
Samantha's Rule of Life #1 - Always have something to look forward to.
Samantha's Rule of Life #2 - Always write in erasable ink.
Samantha's Rule of Life #3 - Always take the time to get to know people. You never know what they’re going through.
Samantha's Rule of Life #4 - When making brownies from a mix, the clumpier you make it the better.
Samantha's Rule of Life #5 - Sam spice is equal parts sugar, salt, pepper, pabrika, onion powder, and garlic powder.
Samantha's Rule of Life #6 - Don’t be afraid to have fun.
Samantha's Rule of Life #7 - Always remember the power of family – and love.
Samantha's Rule of Life #8 - Don’t be afraid to love - because you never know how much time you will have left.
Samantha’s Saying - “If more than two people in a day are an asshole, you’re probably the asshole.”
Say’s Law - supply creates its own demand
Shilling's Law - "The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent"
Schneier’s Law - "Any person can invent a security system so clever that she or he can't think of how to break it."
Schopenhauer’s Maxim - “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
Shannon’s Principle - Assume success will occur at the 50% mark
Shooster’s Law - “Anything meat companies don’t want to happen is likely good for animals”
Sinatra’s Maxim - “The best is yet to come.”
Streisand Effect - Attempts to hide, remove, or censor information often have the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information
Sturgeon’s Law - “Ninety percent of everything is crap”
Sutton’s Law - “One should first consider the obvious” / “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”
Swift’s Law - “If you play stupid games, you will win stupid prizes.”
Taleb’s Maxim - "The path to mediocrity is paved with platitudes."
Wilde's Maxim - "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."
Wildeford’s First Law - “In practice, nearly all exponential curves are just the first part of logistic curves.”
Wildeford’s Second Law - “The best forecast is usually not the most justifiable forecast.”
Wittgenstein’s Ruler - “When you measure a table with a ruler, you are also measuring the ruler with the table.” (That is, you must take into account error in your measurement system.)
Zeynep's law - "Until there is substantial and repeated evidence otherwise, assume counterintuitive findings to be false, and second-order effects to be dwarfed by first-order ones in magnitude."