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1. “Exponential technology curves are more beautiful than cathedrals”
I, Exponential – Packy McCormick – (Not Boring newsletter)
This essay describes in accessible terms the absolutely amazing ways in which humans have made progress, and why it happens.
I’ll show you what I mean by exploring three exponential technology curves: Moore’s Law, Swanson’s Law, and the Genome Law. All three required initial sparks of serendipity to even get off the ground, after which a multi-generational, global, maestroless orchestra has had to play the right notes, or the wrong ones at the right times, for decades on end in order for the sparks to turn into curves.
And what amazing curves they are. The work of billions of people over thousands of years culminating in things you and I take for granted every single day. And the progress continues.
Do this: Take a moment to appreciate the literally awesome accomplishments of humanity.
2. “A mindset, or a skill set”
Small Change – Rob Walker – (The Art of Noticing newsletter)
It’s impossible to say anything here without spoiling something very important. So, I’ll simply direct you at the YouTube video referenced in the (short) essay:
I will admit, like Walker, I failed miserably. And as a result, learned a lot.
Do this: Notice.
3. “Meditation makes you wise”
How to Become Wise – David Cain – (Raptitude blog/newsletter)
I’ve been meditating almost daily for upwards of 15 years now. It’s not a spiritual thing at all, it’s just a practice that helps me … well, what? I’ve long said I don’t know how or why it works for me, but it does, and I can tell the difference on days when I don’t.
Cain’s essay comes the closest for me to describing what the long term effects of a meditation practice can be.
The more you practice, the more you see that it’s not the bumps that are the problem, but our stiff, instinctive reaction to them. The bumps will always be there. They are life itself.
I’ve known many people who’ve given up on meditation too soon. They’ve not given themselves a chance to develop the skills that are the ultimate benefit. I know it’s not for everyone (and those folks would use that statement as an excuse to not try again), but it can help far more people than most might consider.
Do this: Be mindful.
4. “When people die, they cannot be replaced.”
My Own Life – Oliver Sacks – (New York Times)
I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries.
Sacks was 81 when he wrote that, so apparently I’m before even the beginning of his 10 year window, but I’m seeing it already. Each death is a loss, of course, but also serves as an important reminder that time is precious.
Do this: Use your time wisely.
5. “One way to be interesting is to be interested”
How to Become a Better Conversationalist – Eliot Peper – (Every.to)
While this essay generally addresses the workplace, or career-related conversation the reality is it applies to all, at any time in our day, and any time in our lives, with everyone we meet.
Using an unexpectedly moving panel at a conference, Peper told of the first speaker to answer a moderator’s question.
Instead of answering the question directly, she told a story that explored the question’s theme. The audience was riveted.
The key item for me is the takeaway: be interested. That means having enough experience, enough knowledge, and enough curiosity across many topics to do more than just answer questions.
Do this: Sharpen your conversational skill, it’s skill benefiting for your entire life.
6. “Large language models need factuality as an aftermarket add-on”
The Hallucinations Edition – Noah Brier – (Why is this interesting? newsletter)
Of course, AI has been in the news a lot in recent months, and “large language models”, or LLMs, like ChatGPT, Bard, Bing’s chat, and more. The issue, of course, is that they often make stuff up. This is often referred to as “hallucinating” — seeing things that just aren’t there. The key is understanding what they are and are not.
LLMs are concept retrieval systems, not fact retrieval systems
If you’ll pardon the (possibly recursive) pun, this is an important concept. Most of these models produce very confident sounding answers. As a result, people easily believe them when more skepticism, and fact checking, is called for.
But then again, perhaps they’re mimicking humans better than we think, because we can say the same about so many people: facts are often a foreign concept.
Do this: Be skeptical — of AI and humans alike.
7. “Most things that are now happening have happened many times before”
I debated on whether to include this, but ultimately I decided it was too important to ignore. I have a great deal of respect for Dalio, and even though his writing style tends to be lengthy, and occasionally dense, he’s always on-point. His words are worth understanding and reflecting on, regardless of topic, and whether you agree with him.
My reluctance stems from the fact that this is, ultimately, a very depressing essay. Dalio lays out an analysis of where we are today and based on very similar patterns in history. He gives us a 50/50 chance of civil war.
I’ll say that again: 50% chance of civil war. Honestly, this should scare more people.
Understanding where we are is the first step.
Do this: Understand.
8. “If we’re not taking good enough care of ourselves, we’re of no help to others”
Put On Your Own Mask First – Leo Notenboom – (Blog)
Based on personal experience, seeing it both recently and years ago. Some people take “taking care of others” much too far, to their own detriment.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll eventually be unable to care for the people that matter to you. Do it long enough, and they — those least able to do so, perhaps — will need to take care of you.
Do this: Take care of yourself. Please.
More random links & thoughts
- The World Factbook – Courtesy of … the CIA?
- Paramedics debunk 12 first aid myths – Video with transcript. Definitely some things to be aware of. (Remember, folks, TV and movie dramas are fiction.)
Not Boring newsletter by Packy McCormick. “Not Boring is the most fun way to learn about what’s going on in business and the strategy behind the decisions companies make.” I find it often covers items of interest outside of business. It’s the source for this week’s “Exponential technology curves are more beautiful than cathedrals”.
I’m building and keeping a list on the sources page. (It’s growing nicely.)
What I’m Reading
- What Life Should Be About: Elegant Essays on the Things That Matter – John P. Weiss
- Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
- Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It – Ethan Kross (audio)
- What’s Our Problem? – A Self-help Book for Societies – Tim Urban
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman
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