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0. “728 takeaways”
This week’s issue, #104, marks the two-year anniversary of 7 Takeaways. That means (assuming my math is correct) 728 takeaways to date! YIKES!
Do I feel smarter? I don’t know. Do you? Have I thought about a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise? Absolutely. And I hope you have too.
In terms of being a vehicle to get me to consume something better than social media, or play World of WarCraft, I consider it a rousing success.
I’m glad you’re along for the ride.
(PS: I believe I’ll have an interesting announcement related to 7 Takeaways for you next week. Nothing earth shattering, but … interesting. Stay tuned.)
Do this: (this time, for me alone) Keep taking away.
1. “Stay skeptical, readers!”
“Why We Sleep” considered harmful? – Mike Crittenden – (Blog)
This is a very short post, but turned me on to two important things:
Apparently, there’s a replication crisis in scientific literature. Many published studies have results that simply can’t be replicated, and yet are taken as conclusive. This snowballs into popular books, particularly in the self-help field.
“Why We Sleep” is apparently one such example. “Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors” is the (counter?) claim. Fascinating.
Do this: Be skeptical. (Though I’ll admit, it’s getting harder and harder to know what to believe.)
2. “You don’t need to worry about that, you cute little meat person.”
AI tells me if AI will write novels – John Green – (YouTube)
The video has what I’ll call a twist that caught me ever so slightly off guard. ChatGPT, an AI (or more correctly, a machine learning model, or ML) chatbot has been making waves for the past couple of weeks because of its uncanny ability to create confidently written content in response to simple prompts and questions. I say “confidently written”, but also “occasionally wrong”. (I’d tested it against a few tech questions and while some were frighteningly well done, some were laughably inaccurate … albeit confidently so.)
Honestly, the takeaway here is less about the video itself (though it is a good representation of the current state of the art, and some of the resulting issues), as it is to put ChatGPT, and AI in general on your radar. This is more than odd looking AI-generated pictures, and it’s only going to get scarier.
Do this: Watch the video.
3. “Lots of repairs were necessary”
How Well Will You Recover? The Secret Psychology of the Perfect Physician – Julia Hubbel – (Blog)
I’ve quoted Ms. Hubbel before, as she’s an inspiration — aging not just vibrantly, but with energy. When I think of the old admonition that we should come to the end of our lives not peacefully but energetically yelling “Whoop! What a Ride!”, it’s Hubbel that comes to mind.
In this essay, she discusses something that’s critically important regardless of your age: finding healthcare you can work with.
The people who treat us can do terrible harm or help us live successful lives.
This is something we’ve had some experience with. It’s important to recognize when a provider isn’t on your wavelength, and to make changes when that happens. Life’s short enough without crappy health care.
Do this: Be your own health advocate.
4. “Everyone has the ability to think creatively”
How to Improve Your Creative Thinking – Alice Albrecht – (Superorganizers / every.to)
A tad academic in tone, the underlying issues are things I’m interested in: what does it mean to be creative, and how does one make that happen? I fail right at the question, because one doesn’t “make” it happen, but rather, “lets” or “encourages” it.
It’s a delicate balance between staying focused on your creative thought work by letting your control network do its job and not missing out on a potentially useful novel conversation happening behind you in the coffee shop.
One concept I find interesting is that rather than seeking out experiences or knowledge dramatically different from what we already know, we actually grow more successfully in smaller increments, in situations where we can leverage our base of knowledge by expanding it.
Do this: Quoting the author quoting a childhood hero: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.”
5. “It took over 300 pages to get to the proof that 1+1=2”
How Aristotle Created the Computer – Chris Dixon – (The Atlantic)
For obvious reasons, this one had me at the headline. I’m all about computers, deeply interested in philosophy of late, and the article turned out to be a history — albeit also somewhat academic in tone — of how logical thought gave rise to the modern computer.
Particularly with the rise of machine learning systems like ChatGPT, this quote seemed particularly timely:
Programming in the future will likely mean exposing neural networks to the world and letting them learn.
ChatGPT is already writing code. Not always good or correct code, but it’s a start.
Do this: Honestly, it helps to have a solid understanding of the basics of simple logic. All the devices you use are based on it.
6. “I don’t want a pep-talk”
10 Pep-Talks for the Cynical – Jessica Hagy – (This Week’s Top Ten newsletter)
This is kinda fun, and an interesting visual way to turn some irrational thoughts into something less so.
I don’t want to be told to live and laugh and love when I want to crumble and cry and stab.
I think we’ve all been there.
A series of 10 visuals, pitting the “voice of shame” against the “voice of reason”. You may not identify with many, but even just one or two can get you thinking.
Do this: Look for rational perspectives.
7. “Never enough people or money to do all the necessary work”
Everything dies, including information – Erik Shermanarchive page – (MIT Technology Review)
One of the better overviews of the challenges we face preserving information. Yes, there’s a lot of hope associated with digitization and improvements in storage technology, but it’s not nearly enough. There are resource constraints, constraints imposed by ever changing formats and standards, and just knowing what to preserve in the current deluge of digital data.
Prospects are better than they’ve ever been — we’re unlikely to suffer another Library of Alexandria event — but that doesn’t mean we can be complacent, and it doesn’t mean that we won’t lose things.
Do this: Back up.
What I’m Reading
- The Peripheral – William Gibson
- Discipline is Destiny – Ryan Holiday
- The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution – Walter Isaacson (audio)
- Dune: House Atreides – Brian Herbert
- 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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