Pessimists Make Poor Party Guests — 7 Takeaways No. 57

The Pessimist at the Party

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1. "Pessimists make poor party guests."

Inventing the Shipwreck - Zachary Loeb - (Real Life Mag)

This essay is an overview of the work of Paul Virilio, a French author who often examined the unexplored risks and downsides of new technologies.

"Every technology produces, provokes, programs a specific accident."

... there had never been a car crash before the car was invented

The question being raised is simply this: what new accidents await us as technology progresses? The scope and impact of the accidents accompanying new technology has only grown. Can we prepare?

Do this: Consider the risks.

2. "... the distrust in institutions in general ..."

The U.S. Digital-Contact-Tracing Debacle - Charlie Warzel - (The Atlantic - I believe it's public)

Gary and I were just discussing the failure of the COVID contact tracing app initiative just this week on our podcast. It's a complicated issue, to be sure, but one quote jumped out at me:

One of the biggest surprises to me during the pandemic was the distrust in institutions in general, not just with Big Tech.

And that applies mostly to the US. Countries with higher levels of trust in their governments had more successful roll-outs.

The other thing that caught my eye was this: "our pandemic response is still single-mindedly focused on stopping COVID instead of mitigating it". This calls back to my long-standing opinion that we're too focused on black and white, yes/no answers in a world that is nothing but shades of gray.

Do this: Stay healthy. Stay safe.

3. "Every edit improves your work"

How To Become A Better Writer - Josh Spector - (For The Interested)

It's easy to get into a writing habit without thinking of getting better. I know too many writers who don't consider themselves in need of improvement.

I need the reminder - not because I think I'm done, but because it's too easy to set that whole "improvement thing" aside, in light of publishing deadlines and the need to get the work done.

This essay is a great reminder with concrete steps.

Do this: Regardless of your skill or craft, never stop looking to improve.

4. "16 really old people since the fall of Rome"

The Betty White Timeline of Human History - Jason Kottke -- (kottke.org blog)

This was written prior to her death, but discusses the idea that we use the length of her life as a more tangible measure of time, highlighting how short human history really is.

I feel like if we expressed time in units of Betty White we’d be better able to understand the lack of human moral progress.

It reminds me of my own alternative unit of measurement: The Bible.

Do this: it's a short, entertaining read, with some valuable perspective. Give it a look.

5. "Nobody has ever said, 'I love long passwords.'"

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends - Nicole Perlroth - (ebook)

I've been reading this for a while, and I'm not quite half way through. It's a fascinating chronicle of the zero day exploit market and how its been (and presumably continues to be) used by hackers, criminal organizations, and nation-states. Written by a New York Times reporter.

the average zero-day exploit can stay secret for nearly seven years, roughly a quarter of zero-day exploits will be discovered within a year and a half

I'm finding it absolutely fascinating. And more than a little scary.

Do this: Keep your software up to date, and use two-factor authentication wherever you can.

6. "Make your devices boring"

We’re Living Through a Silent Focus Epidemic - Tim Denning - (Medium)

This is indeed a struggle these days. Particularly for creatives who rely on social media interaction as part of their craft. That same device or site can quickly become a distracting impediment in addition to a necessary resource.

An hour or more of regular focus can change your life.

Focus is critical, not just for creation, but consumption as well. But when was the last time you sat down and read for hours? Our modern fast-paced lifestyle and technology seems stacked against us.

Do this: Reduce distractions: make your devices boring.

7. Most people are on a desperate quest to avoid being bored.

I Can’t Get Through Most Content — Even by Great Writers - Sean Kernan - (Medium)

It's why we like our devices to not be boring. It's why social media exists. It's why our attention spans have grown so ... oh look, a squirrel!

The article examines this from the perspective of the writer. (Note to self: re-read Pressfield's Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh-t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It). But the concept is worth keeping in mind as consumers as well. Our increasing inability to tollerate anything perceived as boring is preventing us from consuming, understanding, and reflecting on information of incredible value. There's an argument that it's in part responsible for the state of our fractured society.

Do this: Notice boredom. Get used to it. Embrace it. Use it.

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