Change Persists – 7 Takeaways for September 5, 2021


1. “Generational contention is fundamentally healthy . . .”

Opinion: The battle of the Youngz vs. the Oldz – Megan McArdle – (Washington Post)

The battle is nothing new. The young “upstarts” have always been at odds with the old “establishment”. I remember it from my youth, and I recognize it now.

The perspective McArdle brings is not about its inevitability — it’s most certainly inevitable — but its importance. The “youngz” and the “oldz” need to recognize that, and recognize that each has value and represents something important in society. Generational wisdom must be preserved, and new ideas must be considered and adopted when appropriate. Discarding either just because it comes from the “other side” of some perceived generation gap does a disservice to us all.

Do this: listen. To the “kids”. To the “olds”.

2. “. . . the app is tracking you.”

Investigation: How TikTok’s Algorithm Figures Out Your Deepest Desires – The Wall Stree Journal

I apologize if this is behind a paywall. (I don’t think it is.) Also note that the meat of this item is a 13 minute video. Needless to say, I found it fascinating, but perhaps not for the reasons you might expect.

“The algorithm” is a common excuse/scapegoat/cause/missunderstanding of how social media sites “push” content at us. Each do it to varying degrees and in different ways. Their goal is simple: to maximize the amount of time we spend on the site. YouTube wants us to watch more videos. Facebook wants us to keep scrolling the feed. Twitter wants us to interact with more tweets, and so on. The reason is simple: the more time we spend on their site, the more money they make.

There need not be malicious intent whatsoever. They simply want us to engage more, and the best way to do that is to show us more of what we seem to like. The “algorithm” is all about figuring out what we like, so as to show us more, similar content. That’s it. That’s all. Sometimes that’s great (moar Corgi videos please!) — sometimes it’s not.

TikTok’s algorithm is apparently based on excruciatingly simple data:

. . . TikTok only needs one important piece of information to figure out what you want: the amount of time you linger over a piece of content.

It’s amazingly effective. It’s worth 13 minutes to understand how. (Yes, there may be an Ask Leo! article on this in the future.)

Do this: pay attention to exactly how you interact with social media or any site from which you consume content.

3. “. . . our minds weren’t built for truth.”

The Profile Dossier: Julia Galef, the Rational Thinker Helping Us Update Our Beliefs – Polina Pompliano – (The Profile newsletter)

Galef’s book — The Scout Mindset — was already in my reading pile, and it’s been bumped in priority. Particularly with all the focus on truth of late, people can have such incredibly different perspectives on what is and is not true. There seems to be no end in sight for the differences of opinion and we can all use tools to be better at discerning the truth ourselves.

So the question you need to consider is: What do you most yearn for — to defend your own beliefs or to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?

The profile in Pompliano’s newsletter has several valuable resources covering not only why, but what you and I can do to improve our own rational thinking.

Do this: Consider the question. (If you’re up for another video, here’s Galef’s TEDx talk.)

4. “Change persists whether we asked for it or not.”

Urgent cultural change – Seth Godin – (Blog)

Anyone who’s known me, or my work on Ask Leo!, knows that change is something I embrace, and encourage everyone to at least accept. It’s enevitable.

And, right now, it feels rampant. As Godin puts it, “The combination of media, illness, technology and climate have made each week different from the one that came before.”

But that’s not really what caught my attention. This did:

And this persistent shifting in the foundations of our culture is sharpening the rhetoric and resolve of folks who would rather things stay as they imagined they were.

The change-resistant are becoming even more so.

Do this: accept change. Please. You’ll be better for it. It’s happening, regardless.

5. “Tyranny isn’t defeated by leaving your immune system under-educated.”

Let’s Talk About Vaccines and Vaccine Passports – Jared A. Brock – (Medium)

I follow Jared Brock because I generally disagree with him. He’s a good writer, often taking on issues I care about, and in doing so he makes me think.

There’s a lot to disagree with in this article. A lot.

But the fundamental conclusion remains solid: vaccines work, anti-vaxx rhetoric makes no sense and doesn’t stand any rational examination. Get the damn shot.

If it were solely up to me, vaccines would be mandatory for any contagious disease with an R-nought of more than 1.27 and/or an Infection Fatality Rate of more than 0.038%. If someone doesn’t like it, they can move to Arkansas.

Do this: Get educated, and get the damned shot. It saddens me this is even an issue.

6. “. . . guilt is your mind’s way of telling you that you can do better.”

7 Keys For Living Life in the First Person From an Extraordinary 104-Year-Old Woman – Jill Reid – (Medium)

Learn the lesson, then turn the page and move on.

It may sound kind of sappy, but I’m a sucker for this type of story: lessons from centenarians. The lessons — a story within a story, themselves — are simple, authentic, and true. One that spoke to me specifically is “Life will meet your expectations, whether good or bad.


Do this: expect better.

7. “Avoid boring people.”

Morning Brew, ☕ Pandemic MVP – James Watson, quoted by James Clear – (Newsletter)

This one caught my eye. Clear was asked what his favorite quote was since he includes two in each issue of his own newsletter. The first, from Morgan Housel:

Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. We’re all biased to our own personal history.

But its the second, “Avoid boring people” that caught my eye since it has two equally valid simultaneous interpretations:

  • Avoid people who are boring.
  • Avoid being someone who bores others.

Do this: Do that.

What I’m Reading

In progress (also on GoodReads):


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