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1. “Paralysis is an engineering problem.”
The Profile Dossier: Peter Scott-Morgan, the Human Cyborg – Polina Pompliano – (The Profile newsletter)
Peter Scott-Morgan is battling ALS. All that’s left for him to communicate with is eye movement. Using his experience as a robotics scientist he coordinated assembling something that’s part avatar, part computer, and all him. He considers himself a cyborg: a human with technological augmentation.
He reached out to several companies that would help create a synthetic voice that sounded like his own, an animated 3D avatar, and an eye-tracking system that would allow him to communicate.
I find this fascinating. Our normal view of “cyborg” is driven by the movies: implanted technology, most often run amuk. This isn’t that. And yet, it’s a part of him, and allows him to communicate.
Do this: Consider how technology can help you, even just a little.
2. “The best workout for you”
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant – Eric Jorgenson – (ebook)
The full quote is this:
The best workout for you is one you’re excited enough to do every day
This resonates so much. I’ve paraphrased it in the past for backups as well (“the best backup is whatever backup you’ll actually do”).
The problem is this is a clear case of the search for perfect getting in the way of good. We spend all our time trying to figure out what the best workout, diet, or backup is, that we never get around to actually doing it. Worse, we find that what we decide to be the best is impractical for us, or we just don’t like it. The result? No workout (or backup) at all.
Do this: figure out what you’ll actually do, and then do it, in all areas of life where this makes sense. Oh, and back up, OK?
3. “Trigger warnings had no effect”
Trigger Warning: Reality Hurts – Mark Manson – (Mindf*ck Monthly newsletter)
Other than noticing them I can’t say I’ve really paid that close attention to the now plethora of trigger warnings, often just abbreviated “TW”, in online posts and discussions. I figured they made some kind of sense so as to allow people to choose to avoid topics that were difficult for them.
Apparently lots of people think that. Apparently lots of people are wrong.
In study after study, researchers found that trigger warnings had no effect on people’s choice to read content. And, in fact, a few found that people with PTSD symptoms are actually more drawn to content with trigger warnings.
Fascinating. It makes sense, I suppose. The problem is will people who so strongly believe in them believe the studies?
Do this: Be aware of what you believe, and why.
4. “Thinking in terms of experiments”
How To Stop Overthinking – Alid Abdaal – (YouTube)
I’m not that much of an overthinker (or am I? ), but I found this video helpful nonetheless. Perhaps because a couple of the points Abdaal made are things I’ve already embraced myself.
For example his first mechanism to avoid “paralysis by analysis” is “thinking in terms of experiments”. You’ll find “Every day is an experiment” prominently on my online business card.
Another is to consider what he calls “expected value”, which is a fancy term for the likelihood of positive and negative outcomes, factored by the value of said outcome. This seems very similar to a concept I’ve used for years that I call the “cost of failure”. If the cost of failure is low, there’s little reason not to run the experiment. It’s only when the cost of failure starts to grow that deeper thought might be appropriate.
There’s more, including concepts such as letting fear be your compass, taking constant action, and a “mental board of advisors”.
Do this: Run the experiment.
5. “Blind adherence to foolish ideas”
Mentats of Dune – Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson – (ebook)
The full quote:
Blind adherence to foolish ideas makes people act in ways that are demonstrably against their own interests.
What I’m finding fascinating about this book — actually this series of books — are how frequently themes that seem to apply to today’s turmoil turn up. This isn’t the first time I’ve quoted books from the Dune prequel series, and I doubt it will be the last. The underlying conflict is about two diametrically opposed and extremely divided factions. Sound familiar?
Do this: Question the ideas you adhere to.
6. “Welcome him with all your heart and soul”
On true and false friendship, Letters from a Stoic – Seneca, Lucius Annaeus – (ebook)
The full quote:
Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul.
In one of life’s fascinating coincidences, I also ran across Lawrence Yeo’s article Are You My Friend?, an analysis of just exactly what the heck “friend” is supposed to mean. Particularly notable are the different levels of friendship, what makes them all different, how we transition through them, and why trying to “make” any such transition happen is usually an exercise in futility. Friendship happens organically.
Do this: Welcome friends.
7. “The past always passes”
The Passing of a Queen – Dan Rather – (Steady, newsletter)
For my part, the passing of Queen Elizabeth II closes the door on a generation that included my parents and many others. Beyond the Queen, and her Corgis, of course, it feels somehow personally significant. Rather sums it up well:
Ultimately, we will be judged by what we made of our time here on Earth. And I think by that metric, history will be kind to Queen Elizabeth. She was human and imperfect, like us all, but she served her nation well. She will be missed. May she rest in peace.
Do this: make well of your time here.
8. “It’s all love.”
On Love – Leo A. Notenboom – (personal blog)
In this penultimate post in my 65 Thoughts project (and the final highlight of that project I’ll share here), I discuss love.
It’s also love of life, gratitude for simply being, and for the gifts you have. It’s love of humanity, all of it, without exception, and watching the species, like a child, grow, falter, and grow again. It’s love of all life, from the dog sleeping at your feet, to the wildlife inhabiting your neighborhood, to the creatures all over the planet that you’re likely never to see.
It’s love of the planet, and the marvelous circumstance that caused this random rock in space to be habitable and hospitable, and acknowledging our responsibility not so much for its care — it’ll be here long after we’re gone no matter what we do — but rather nurturing that hospitality towards ourselves and future generations.
And of course it’s love of the people in our lives; our friends and family, both biological and chosen.
Do this: Love.
What I’m Reading
- Mentats of Dune – Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
- The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness – Eric Jorgenson
- Deep Work – Cal Newport (Audio)
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman
- Letters from a Stoic – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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