the best of what i read
why we need comedians
Good comedians say what everyone is thinking but nobody will say. Jokes express in playful language what culture will not formally express. so you know that when the culture goes after the comedians, then things are not good. Leave them alone because they’re the people who can tell the truth.
Source: Jordan Peterson
china’s unprecedented growth
China’s brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The fastest anyone has moved out of poverty any time in world history.
It’s unprecedented in world history to have a country that is so backwards, technologically, all of a sudden become so competitive.
China’s share of world manufacturing exports, measured in dollar terms, went from approximately 2% in 1990 to about 17% in 2012.
Its value added share of world manufacturing, the difference between what you buy and what you sell, effectively went from 5% to 25% in that period. Which is just remarkable.
Source: Econ Talk
language: the key to understanding
It is through metaphors that language and understanding grow from simple things to more complex things. We start with things we understand, like the body, and our own simple behaviors, and create new language.
We aren’t aware of this slow building up of metaphors through time. Because in our brief lives we catch so little of the vastnesses of history, we tend too much to think of language as being solid as a dictionary, with a granite-like permanence, rather than as the rampant restless sea of metaphor which it is.
Source: Investor Field Guide
The purpose of dreams
Dreams bring you places you didn’t even know you could go.
Look at the metaphors in the sentence: “I had a dream.” A dream is done to you — it’s not a conscious process. It happens to you. You don’t create it and it’s involuntary.
Carl Jung would say that’s something thinking inside of you. Jung said that dreams are trying to convey new knowledge as best as they can, but despite their incoherence, that’s the best they can do.
Dreams are the birthplace of thoughts in the same way that artists are the birthplace of culture; the mind groping outward to try to comprehend what it hasn’t yet comprehended, a process that begins with image — it’s the birthplace of Thought — a fantasy.
If you can grip the fantasy and share it with other people, then they can bring it into more clarity than if it exists internally in your imagination.
Source: Jordan Peterson
How bees survive the winter
To survive a Northern winter, bees change the composition of the swarm by shrinking the overall population, caulking the hive, getting rid of the deadweight males (i.e., ALL of the males), and laying just enough eggs to preserve a minimal survivable population through the winter and into spring.
They cluster together in the center of the hive, keeping the queen in the center, shivering their wings to create kinetic energy, occasionally sending out suicide squads to retrieve honey stores from the outer combs. They lower their metabolism by creating a cloud of carbon dioxide in the hive.
Yes, a carbon dioxide cloud.
Source: The Three-Body Problem
Maps and Numbers Are Becoming Entertainment
As numbers go under the interface, like maps, they’ve disappeared from their usual places in the visual landscape. You see a phone number once—when you add it to your address book—and then it becomes a name, forever mapped to a person you know.
In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan wrote that “the horse has lost its role in transportation but has made a strong comeback in entertainment.” Numbers and maps are undergoing a similar transition now
The numbers that matter outside of software aren’t for memorization, addition, or multiplication, but cultural signification: infographics, athletes’ jersey numbers, famous addresses (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), the numbers in social media username handles.
Source: Drew Austin
Evolution: biology’s guiding principle
Evolution is biology’s only general guiding principle.
It depends on chance and randomness, but natural selection gives it the appearance of intention and purpose. Animals are drawn to water not by some magnetic attraction, but because of their instinct, their intention, to survive.”
Source: Quanta Magazine
amazon is a machine
Amazon is a machine that makes the machine.
Amazon is hundreds of small, decentralized, atomized teams sitting on top of standardized common internal systems. The company invests cash from profitable units into the creation of new, unprofitable units.
Amazon, then, is a machine to make a machine – it is a machine to make more Amazon.
Source: Benedict Evans
simple investing rules from sam zell
Listen, business is easy. If you’ve got a low downside and a big upside, you go do it. If you’ve got a big downside and a small upside, you run away.
The only time you have any work to do is when you have a big downside and a big upside.
Source: Sam Zell
Competing in a low-friction environment
If you want to compete in a low-friction environment, you essentially have two options:
- Be as differentiated as possible and serve the customer exactly what they want.
- Power everything. Don’t pick winners; have the winners all pick you.
Source: Alex Danco
Tom Hanks on what it means to be an actor
My job is to hold a mirror up to nature, which means I need to reflect true human nature — how we think, how act, and the great paradoxes in all our decisions.
Source: The Axe Files
blockchains as a shared version for reality
At one point over 100,000 people were making their living in World of Warcraft by earning and selling gold, the in-game currency. It follows that the lines between these virtual worlds and the “real world” will blur quickly.
If people start living in VR, its rules and systems will be just as important as the “real” world’s. Blockchains are really a shared version of reality everyone agrees on. So whether it’s a fully immersive VR experience, augmented reality, or even Bitcoin or Ethereum in the physical world as a shared ledger for our “real world”, we’ll increasingly trust blockchains as our basis for reality.
Blockchains will be the full blown backbone of virtual worlds — the system for currency, assets, identity, even governance — before doing the same in the “real world”.
Top advertisers in america
The list of the top 25 advertisers in the United States is made up of:
- 4 telecom companies (AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Softbank/Sprint)
- 4 automobile companies (General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota)
- 4 credit card companies (America Express, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Capital One)
- 3 consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies (Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal, Johnson & Johnson)
- 3 entertainment companies (Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox)
- 3 retailers (Walmart, Target, Macy’s)
- 1 from electronics (Samsung), pharmaceuticals (Pfizer), and beer (Anheuser-Busch InBev)
Ectotherms vs. endotherms
Ectotherms regulate their body temperature using the environment. For example, when lizards want to raise their temperature, they climb to the top of a rock and sun themselves. When they want to lower it, they crawl under the rock.
Mammals, on the other hand, are endotherms. To increase our body temperature, our immune system releases chemicals called cytokines (like interleukin-1, interleukin-2, interleukin-6, interleukin-8, tumor necrosis factor, and others) that travel to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus and reset the body temperature to a higher level. To achieve a higher temperature we shiver, crawl under the covers, wear warm clothing, and shunt blood flow away from our arms and legs and toward our core.
the tremendous growth of american cars
In 1900 everybody thought of automobiles as playthings of the rich—and not merely of the rich, but of the somewhat adventurous and sporting rich: people who enjoyed taking their chances with an unpredictable machine that might at any moment wreck them.
There were almost no paved highways outside the cities, and of course there were no roadside garages or filling stations; every automobilist must be his own desperate mechanic. Probably half the men and women of America had never seen a car.
In 1900, there were registered in the whole United States only 13,824 automobiles (as compared with over 44 million in 1950).
Source: The Big Change
freedom vs. equality
Freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies. Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire.
To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917. Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way.
Source: The Lessons of History
investment advice from warren buffett
In his latest letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Warren Buffett describes what should happen to his personal portfolio after his death.
“My advice to the trustee could not be more simple: put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund.”
Source: The Economist
November 20, 2017
evolution is amazing: bats vs. moths
Think about bats and moths. Bats like to eat moths; moths, for obvious reasons, do not like to be eaten.
Bats track their prey using a method called echolocation: they make high pitched sounds (so high pitched that humans can’t hear them) and then judge what’s around them by how the sound bounces back. Moths, to avoid ending up as a tasty snack, evolved ears with the ability to hear these sounds and dive out of the air in response. Bats, in turn, evolved the ability to emit sounds that were even more extreme — much higher or lower frequency — that the moths couldn’t hear. So the moths evolved ears with an expanded hearing range. Bats evolved to lower the volume of their sounds as they closed in on moths. Moths evolved high-frequency clicks that may scramble the bats’ ability to process the echoes they use to locate their food.
It is an evolutionary arms race.
Source: Cleaning the Glass
November 17, 2017
writing may have led to the collapse of the greeks
The interplay between knowledge and power was always a crucial factor in understanding empires.
Innis argued that a balance between the spoken word and writing contributed to the flourishing of ancient Greece in the time of Plato.
This balance between the time-biased medium of speech and the space-biased medium of writing was eventually upset, Innis argued, as the oral tradition gave way to the dominance of writing. The torch of empire then passed from Greece to Rome.
Source: Harold Innis
November 17, 2017
The Brain: Great at pattern recognition but bad at recall
The basic functioning mode of the human mind is not reasoning and planning, but interacting via perception and action with the environmental situation.
While long-term memory is very effective at recognition, it is rather poor at recall, i.e. reviving memory patterns without perceptual stimulation. This is illustrated by the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon, where a fact, such as a colleague’s name, cannot be recalled—even though you know the memory is there.
In that sense, human memory is much less reliable than a computer memory for retrieving a fact outside of the concrete context that reminds you of that fact.
November 16, 2017
the entire media business is inverting
The entire media business is inverting. For decades, scarce capital and constrained distribution capacity meant that the media’s industry bottlenecks sat in the middle of the value chain. Today, however, the bottleneck has moved to the very end: consumer attention. This shifts the balance of power from determining what should be made to finding a way to convince people what to watch, listen to or read in a world of infinitely abundant content.
Source: Age of Abundance
November 14, 2017
people over-estimate their abilities
In psychology, this is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, or the cognitive bias in which individuals with low ability perceive themselves as having high ability.
Dunning and Kruger found that after gaining a small amount of knowledge in a particular domain, an individual’s confidence soared. However, when that individual was provided with further training, they were better able to asses their skills and their confidence dropped. It was only once their experience approached that of an expert did their confidence rise again.
Jason Zweig, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, found that roughly 75% of people believe they’re above average regardless of the skill that is being assessed. Driving? ~75% believe they are above average. Telling jokes? ~75% above average. Intelligence tests? You guessed it. This was true despite the mathematical fact that only 50% of people can be above average.
Source: Of Dollars and Data
November 14, 2017
marshall mcluhan on advertising
“In the future, people will get huge information satisfaction from ads, far more than they do from the product itself.
Where advertising is heading is quite simply into a world where the ad will become a substitute for the product and all the satisfactions will be derived informationally from the ad and the product will be merely a number in some file somewhere.”
Source: Marshall McLuhan Speaks
November 13, 2017
problem in higher education
The problems within higher education go far beyond left-leaning bias.
For example, we rarely give serious consideration to the financial and opportunity costs that young people are burdened with, and how this likely exacerbates economic inequalities. We rarely talk about how universities have abdicated their mission of preserving and transmitting the cultural capital of western civilization.
The elite schools in America seem more invested in being finishing schools for the wealthy than in preserving the integrity of their liberal arts courses.
Source: Psychology Today
November 12, 2017
The rise of small brands
In nearly every consumer sector, small, independent brands are increasingly taking a bite out of larger‑scale players. Between 2013 and 2016 craft breweries went from 9.4% to 12.3% of beer production in the US. Craft alone is no longer cool enough, and in 2016 the smallest guys — microbreweries and brew pubs — drove 90% of craft brew growth.
A similar story has played out in the booming beauty sector, where indie brands were up a staggering 43% in 2016.
Source: Scott Galloway
November 12, 2017
how cooking made us human
The advent of cooking enabled humans to eat more kinds of food, to devote less time to eating, and to make do with smaller teeth and shorter intestines. Some scholars believe there is a direct link between the advent of cooking, the shortening of the human intestinal track, and the growth of the human brain. Since long intestines and large brains are both massive energy consumers, it’s hard to have both. By shortening the intestines and decreasing their energy consumption, cooking inadvertently opened the way to the jumbo brains of Neanderthals and Sapiens.
Fire also opened the first significant gulf between man and the other animals… When humans domesticated fire, they gained control of an obedient and potentially limitless force. Unlike eagles, humans could choose when and where to ignite a flame, and they were able to exploit fire for any number of tasks. Most importantly, the power of fire was not limited by the form, structure or strength of the human body. A single woman with a flint or fire stick could burn down an entire forest in a matter of hours. The domestication of fire was a sign of things to come.
November 10, 2017
are computers more creative than humans?
Algorithms may have an important advantage over human designers because they are not constrained by preconceptions; in other words, they may be more likely to result in an “outside-the-box” approach to the problem.
Source: Patrick O’Shaughnessy
November 10, 2017
apple’s new headquarters: the ultimate apple product
The big vision also belonged to Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, who first met with Norman Foster in 2009 and was much consumed by Apple Park during the last two years of his life (he passed away in 2011). That vision was of making work as much like a walk in the park as possible. More pragmatically, it was about bringing together a workforce housed in 100 separate buildings, then choreographing levels of integration and collaboration.
Where Infinite Loop, Apple’s previous home, is a sprawl of separate buildings, The Ring is a unified whole. And it would be easy to see this new closed loop as Apple’s culture of secrecy made physical. It’s a culture that Ive is quick to defend. There is no ‘moon shot’ division at Apple, publicly declaring its ambitions to cure cancer or establish a new Eden on Mars. ‘The way that we work is quietly,’ Ive says. ‘We are conspicuously different in that and it is an important part of who we are.’
The building, though, is not a metaphor for open systems, or creative flow made concrete. It is a made object. Apple’s success has been built on higher-order industrialization; not just designing beautiful objects that do all manner of new things but producing them in incredible numbers and at consistent quality. Its new building is, in some ways, the ultimate Apple product, in places using the same materials the company uses in its laptops and phones.
November 10, 2017
apple retail’s unrivaled scale
Apple’s scale is mostly unrivaled. The company booked over $215 billion in overall sales in 2016. More than 25% of these sales came from Apple’s own retail properties, both online and offline, and 75% came from third-party retail, such as phone carriers like Verizon and electronics stores like Best Buy. (In 2017, Apple’s direct sales have grown to 28%, as the company relies more on its own distribution.)
Out of this 25% of direct sales for 2016, close to 90% of it occurs offline in Apple’s nearly 500 retail stores. That’s about $48 billion total in overall retail sales or $97 million per store. Various market reports say the company pushes over $5,000 per square foot in its stores, with each store averaging around 17,000 square feet. Close to 500 million people visit Apple stores each year, but only 1 out of every 100 buys something, according to former retail head Ron Johnson.
Source: Richie Siegel
November 9, 2017
life lessons from sam hinkie
In the short term, investing in that sort of innovation often doesn’t look like much progress, if any. Abraham Lincoln said “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Lifelong learning is where it’s at. To walk down that path requires a deep-seated humility about a) what’s knowable, and b) what each of us know. We hire for this aggressively. We celebrate this internally. And we’ve been known to punish when we find it woefully lacking
Howard Marks describes this as a necessary condition of great performance: you have to be non-consensus and right. Both. That means you have to find some way to have a differentiated viewpoint from the masses. And it needs to be right. Anything less won’t work.
If we want to think like a scientist more often in life, those are the three key objectives—to be humbler about what we know, more confident about what’s possible, and less afraid of things that don’t matter.
Source: Sam Hinkie
November 8, 2017
how online advertising rewards extremism
Because of dynamic pricing and targeting, where things that are more interesting or engaging are fundamentally less expensive to distribute online, there is a tendency for more extreme messages to be cheaper to distribute. So, we might have campaign finance laws and other rules about how much money a candidate can spend, but if one candidate’s extremist message is 20 times less expensive to distribute than another candidate’s centrist views, then the playing field is fundamentally unfair to moderates compared with an earlier world where all ad rates were the same for the same reach on TV and in print.
Source: Sam Lessin
November 7, 2017
arguing: The secret to the wright brothers success
When the Wright brothers said they thought together, what they really meant is that they argued together.
One of their pivotal decisions was the design of a propeller for their plane. They squabbled for weeks, often shouting back and forth for hours. “After long arguments we often found ourselves in the ludicrous position of each having been converted to the other’s side,” Orville reflected, “with no more agreement than when the discussion began.”
Only after thoroughly decimating each other’s arguments did it dawn on them that they were both wrong. They needed not one but two propellers, which could be spun in opposite directions to create a kind of rotating wing. “I don’t think they really got mad,” their mechanic marveled, “but they sure got awfully hot.”
Source: Adam Grant
November 6, 2017
true or false: less is more
What we want tomorrow is probably going to be informed by what we have too much of today. It is only when we are drowning in choices that we are going to feel liberated when someone takes them away. It’s only when we’re feeling suffocated by customer service that we’re going to feel grateful for its absence.
Less is more only when more has become a commodity.
November 5, 2017
brands help people avoid bad outcomes
People bought brands to avoid badness rather than to maximize perfection.
They buy brand A over brand B not because they think it is better, but because they are more certain it is good.
The idea is that when you make decisions in an uncertain setting, you have to care about not only the expected outcome, but also the possible variance. We’ll pay a premium not only for “better,” but for “less likely to be terrible.
Source: Rory Sutherland
November 4, 2017
we sleep to forget things
We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day. In order to learn, we have to grow connections, or synapses, between the neurons in our brains. These connections enable neurons to send signals to one another quickly and efficiently. We store new memories in these networks.
When we sleep, our brains pare back the connections to lift the signal over the noise.
Without nighttime pruning, their memories ended up fuzzy.
Source: New York Times
November 4, 2017
ways to think about water
Water is abundant, yet precious: we guard it jealously, while consuming it wastefully.
“Most people believe that water becomes profitable when it is scarce. In fact, the real profits will emerge when water becomes liquid and abundant.”
Source: Alex Danco
November 3, 2017
business vs. democracy
The point of democracy has never been about having the most efficient form of government. But the best companies are in many respects totalitarian: CEOs have the final say, and employees either get on board or get out. That, though, is only viable because the downside is merely financial; when governments go wrong, on the other hand, far worse can result. That is democracy’s upside: it may not get the most done, but that applies to good outcomes as well as bad.
Source: Ben Thompson
November 2, 2017
words: still under-rated
Ideas change the world, particularly when they are written. The Romans built buildings, and the Romans and the buildings are both gone. The Jews wrote a book, and they are still here, and so is the book. So it turns out that words may well last longer than stone, and have more impact than whole empires.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of words. Without them, we would still be living in trees. So when you are writing an essay, you are harnessing the full might of culture to your life.
Source: Jordan Peterson
November 2, 2017
the power of psychological improvements
The single best thing the London Underground did in terms of improving passenger satisfaction per pound spent wasn’t faster, more frequent, later running trains, it was putting dot matrix display boards on the platform to tell you how long you were going to have to wait for your next train.
There’s something about the human brain, for whatever reason, which hates uncertainty. That’s an interesting case because if you research how can you improve the Underground, most people would have said, “I want faster trains. I want more frequent trains.” They would not have said, “I want less uncertainty.”
Source: Rory Sutherland
November 2, 2017
why brands are rational
People pay a premium for brands not because they’re objectively better, but because they’re less likely to be terrible.
Whatever you think about McDonald’s—it’s really, really good at not being bad. If you understand satisficing—which would be another concept hugely important to the understanding of human behavior—we think we maximize and we describe our behavior as if we’re maximizing but most of the time we go “I want something that’s pretty good and definitely isn’t awful.” Why do we go to McDonald’s? Is it the best food in town? Probably not. The search cost of finding the best place to eat in town, given that we’ve only got one shot at having a meal in a strange town, would be pretty high. But also when you go into McDonald’s you know you’re not going to be ripped off, you’re almost certainly not going to be ill. By contrast I’ve become ill after eating at Michelin-Starred restaurants quite frequently.
Once you understand the perfectly sensible evolutionary instinct to satisfice, then the preference for brands is not irrational at all: I will pay a premium as a form of insurance for the reduced likelihood that this product is appalling.
Source: Rory Sutherland
November 2, 2017
Volatility erods compounding returns
Volatility in outcomes erodes long-term returns due to compounding.
If you have an equal chance of $0 and $10, getting $0 a couple of times in a row means no compounding those rounds. By contrast, $5 every time will always compound.
Source: Alex Petralia
November 1, 2017
how the ceo of airbnb does to-do lists
This is how Brian Chesky does his to-do lists:
“I make a long list of tasks, as exhaustive as possible. Then I try to group them. It’s like a game of leverage. What one action can take care of those 3? And I do this over and over again.If you have a list of 20 things to do, you often realize that if you do 3 big things, these other 20 things are going to be solved in some way by 3 big things.
So it’s my way of finding out how to do fewer, bigger things. There is a subtle shift there, from looking at tasks to looking at problems.”
November 1, 2017
eastern vs. western thought
The West tends to see purposeful design where the Chinese see spontaneous growth. This is the key to understanding both the strength and weakness of the Western worldview.
One example: creation myths.
The story told in Genesis is an exemplar of the Western mechanical mindset. God assembles everything piece by piece out of raw materials, very purposefully, then brings Adam to life by breathing into his nostrils. Here God is portrayed as the Celestial Engineer, and the universe, his animatronic invention.
The Chinese, as if to provide a dramatic contrast, have no creation myth. (OK, this is a slight exaggeration, but the gist is true enough.) The Chinese view of the universe is that of spontaneous growth, without any external agency or overarching purpose. “Nature has no boss” — and therefore no role for a Creator. It’s just the physical world, doing what it does: falling forward forever.
Source: Kevin Simler
October 31, 2017
I love this definition of emergence.
Emergence: life is more than just chemistry; information is more than just bits; consciousness is more than just neurons.
Source: Tiago Forte
October 30, 2017
connectivity is a double edged sword
Connectivity is a double-edged sword. For normal operating systems like the Internet, airline networks or the stock exchange, we want them to be heavily connected. But when we think about epidemics spreading, we want to curtail the extent of the connectivity.
Even when high connectivity is desirable, it can sometimes backfire, causing a potentially catastrophic collapse of the system. We want to be able to intervene in the system easily to enhance or delay its connectivity, depending on the situation.
October 30, 2017
the advantage of starting over: world war II edition
It starts at the end of World War I, when the defeated German army was stripped clean. Part of the Armistice that ended the war forced the dismantling of Germany’s military. This included virtually every weapon it owned. In the years after World War I the Allies undertook one of the largest industrial demolition campaigns in history. Six million rifles, 38 million projectiles, half a billion rounds of ammunition, 17 million grenades, 16,000 airplanes, 450 ships, and millions of tons of other war equipment was destroyed or stripped from Germany’s possession.
Germany’s upside was that every piece of equipment it had in 1939 was based off the latest technology. Not a single possession – from uniforms to guns to submarines – was outdated or obsolete.That wasn’t the case for the Allies at the start of the war. When the war began in 1939, U.S. Army troops carried 1903 Springfield rifles. France had sluggish World War I-era tanks. Britain, at one point, pulled 19th century cannons out of museums to prepare for a German invasion.
There’s a set of advantages that come from being endowed with resources. There’s another set of advantages that come from starting from scratch. The latter can be sneakingly powerful.
Source: Morgan Housel
October 29, 2017
wisdom from the father of behavioral economics
When I asked Danny Kahneman how he could start again as if we had never written an earlier draft, he said the words I’ve never forgotten: “I have no sunk costs.”
Jason Zweig described what he learned from this. “Danny taught me that you can never create something worth reading unless you are committed to the total destruction of everything that isn’t.”
Source: Morgan Housel
October 29, 2017
Apple brings us closer to god
The Apple logo, which graces the most coveted laptops and mobile devices, is the global badge of wealth, education, and Western values. At its core, Apple fills two instinctual needs: to feel closer to God and be more attractive to the opposite sex. It mimics religion with its own belief system, objects of veneration, cult following and Christ figure. It counts among its congregation the most important people in the world: the innovation class.
Source: Scott Galloway
Sameness-as-a-service: when every airbnb feels the same
The Airbnb experience is supposed to be about real people and authenticity. But so many of them are similar, whether in Brooklyn, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, or Santiago.
The connective emotional grid of social media platforms is what drives the impression of AirSpace. If taste is globalized, then the logical endpoint is a world in which aesthetic diversity decreases. It resembles a kind of gentrification: one that happens concurrently across global urban centers. Just as a gentrifying neighborhood starts to look less diverse as buildings are renovated and storefronts replaced, so economically similar urban areas around the world might increasingly resemble each other and become interchangeable.
Source: Welcome to Air Space
EDUCATION DOESN’T HAVE TO LOOK LIKE SCHOOL
The Defiant Ones will reach and teach many more entrepreneurs than any single book on entrepreneurship. Video may be a lossy medium in terms of how much it leaves out in service of the narrative structure, but its inherent visual and “autoplay” quality are proven to be much lower friction as an educational medium than text. We need more like this and less like the typical MOOC (massive open online course) video which replicates all the excitement of your median classroom lecture.
How the smartphone shapes fashion
Designers know that if people are consuming their clothes primarily on a small screen, then you want something that’s going to grab the eye on a small screen and get people to respond to that,” says Dr Valerie Steele, fashion historian and museum director at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “It’s things like big logos, bright colors and patterns; it’s things that you’re seeing from the front, there’s a certain flattening effect to what you’re putting out there because you know it’s important to see it on that little handheld screen.”
Source: Business of Fashion
packet switching: an under-rated invention
With traditional telephone connections, the bandwidth needed for the call is dedicated to the call for its full duration (called circuit switching). Even in complete silence, when neither person is talking, the full bandwidth is reserved and cannot be used for anything else. This is analogous to reserving a whole lane of the freeway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, for the full duration of your car ride.
Broadband internet required numerous inventions, but one of the most important was packet switching. Instead of sending the data through one channel, one bit at a time, in the right order, packet switching networks break up the data stream into little “packets.” These packets are individually labeled and tracked by routers and switches, which send them along multiple pathways through the network and then reassemble them at the other end. This is analogous to a car using up only the space it actually needs at any given time, and leaving the lane behind it and in front of it for other cars to use.
Source: Tiago Forte
RICHARD FEYNMAN: 12 FAVORITE PROBLEMS
Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius.
“You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say: ‘How did he do it? He must be a genius!’”
JEFF BEZOS: TYPE 1 VS. TYPE 2 DECISIONS
Some decisions are consequential and irreversible — one way doors — and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you want through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that — they are interchangeable, reversible — two-way doors. If you made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.
As organizations get larger, there seems to be a tendency to use the heavy-weight Type 1 decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions. The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention. We’ll have to figure out how to find that tendency.
And one-size-fits-all thinking will turn out to be only one of the pitfalls. We’ll work hard to avoid it… and any other large organizations maladies we can identify.
evolution is like modern entrepreneurship
“Random mutation and natural selection is the only way you can solve the problem of how to deal with an environment that is complex beyond your ability to comprehend. What you do is generate endless variance because god only knows what the hell is going to happen next. Almost all of the experiments die, because they’re failures and a couple propagate. And then the environment keeps moving around like a giant snake — you never know what it’s going to do next.
And so the best you can do is say here’s 30 things which might work and 28 of them are going to perish or if you’re an insect the ratio is higher than that.”
Source: Jordan Peterson
death comes for all of us
“Death comes for all of us. For us, for our patients: it is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms. Most lives are lived with passivity toward death — it’s something that happens to you and those around you. But Jeff and I had trained for years to actively engage with death, to grapple with it, like Jacob with the angel, and, in so doing, to confront the meaning of a life. We had assumed an onerous yoke, that of mortal responsibility. Our patients’ lives and identities may be in our hands, yet death always wins. Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”
Source: When Breath Becomes Air
the growth of amazon web services is mindblowing
Since the official launch of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006, AWS will have gone from $0 to $12B+ of annual revenue in 10 years. AWS is also reportedly 10x bigger than their next 14 competitors, which includes companies like Microsoft and Google.
At AWS’s re:Invent conference last fall, they revealed the business is at a $13B revenue run-rate and growing 55% YoY at ~30% operating margins, which is staggering.
The pace of product development at AWS is similarly incredible — in 2016 they will have ~1,000 product releases, up from 722 the year before.
Source: Alex Clayton
Brands are products of their media
Brands are products of their media. Jingles and slogans were all the rage at the time of radio. Print prioritized photography and logos. TV launched a 30-second spot.
“The Internet is about networks. It is about networks between people, ideas, products, actions, content, memes, interactions or services. These networks are where social, individual and cultural identities are formed and confirmed.
A network does for 21st-century brand communication what the TV did for the 20th and print did for the 19th: It conveys brand identity in a tangible form. It shows us the organizing mode of communication. In the 19th century, it was the identity of a family business. In the 20th, it was the corporate identity. Now it is the identity of the consumer.
Source: Ana Andjelic
world war ii was an outlier
World War II took place in a strange technological window when weapons had advanced much more rapidly than protective body armor. That is one reason why casualties from the fighting were so high. The war is also unusual for having had so many battles and fronts where the victor gave up more lives than the loser, including of course the war as a whole.
Source: Marginal Revolution
China is Winning the future. here’s how.
Coal has been in decline for at least seven decades. In 1950, it accounted for half of all U.S. electricity generation. It is now down to a third. Additionally, massive automation of mining has meant that the jobs in the industry are disappearing, down from 176,000 in 1985 to 50,000 in 2017.
According to a recent report from the United Nations, China invested $78.3 billion in renewable energy last year — almost twice as much as the United States.
Source: Fareed Zakaria
Tyler Cowen: Philosophy of learning
My main idea is not any idea at all. It’s a method — it’s a personal method. And it’s a method of learning. Take wherever you’re at and just try to push your understanding deeper.
Don’t spend time telling yourself you’re right and other people are wrong. Try to talk about other people being wrong as little as possible.
The compounding returns of learning, more and more curious, better and deeper questions. Your current level of understanding is always that of a blundering fool but you want to be waltzing along that curve of compounding returns.
Always ask better questions and obsess over that.
Source: North Star Podcast
Tyler Cowen on education and the internet
Our education system is failing us.
This thing called the internet has come along and for actual learning, it’s outcompeted what we call education. It’s not even close. And so much of the internet is free or fairly cheap. And it works on principles that are so much better than what you’re given in so many classes.
I think the time is right for some real revolution where what we call education in some ways becomes more like the internet.
We’re going about it wrong. What we’re doing now is we’re taking education as we knew it and we’re adding on the internet. So you’re assigned a YouTube video in your class and students email you. Fine. No reason not to be excited about that.
But the real gain is to make the internet the center and add on education at the fringes. We are very far from doing that.
How cameras distort images
That old cliche about how the camera adds ten pounds? It refers to the distorting effect of wide angle lenses which are very common in television and film, especially for a lot of closeups and medium shots. If you ever see an actor or model in person they look surprisingly thin. People who look normal on camera look thin in person, and models, who look thin on camera, look malnourished in person.
There’s a reason a portrait lens is usually longer than neutral, often starting at 85mm or longer, and why fashion shoots often use telephoto lenses that require a photographer to stand really far from their subjects, sometimes so far they have to shout directions to the model through a megaphone. The longer the lens, the shallower the focus, the more flattering the portrait.
Source: Selfies as a Second Language
TEXTILES ARE AN UNDER-RATED TECHNOLOGY
The story of technology is in fact the story of textiles. From the most ancient times to the present, so too is the story of economic development and global trade. The origins of chemistry lie in the coloring and finishing of cloth. The textile business funded the Italian Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; it left us double-entry bookkeeping and letters of credit, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. As much as spices or gold, the quest for fabrics and dyestuffs drew sailors across strange seas. In ways both subtle and obvious, textiles made our world.”
to reverse Arthur C Clarke’s adage, any sufficiently familiar technology is indistinguishable from nature. It seems intuitive, obvious – so woven into the fabric of our lives that we take textiles for granted.
EDUCATION IS ABSURDLY EXPENSIVE
Professor Galloway spoke about the soaring costs of a college education: “I teach 120 kids on Tuesday nights in my Brand Strategy course. That’s $720,000, or $60,000 per class, in tuition payments, a lot of it financed with debt. I’m good at what I do, but walking in each night, I remind myself we (NYU) are charging kids $500/minute for me and a projector. This. Is. Fucking. Ridiculous.”
Source: The Price of Progress
ed thorpe: Edges are limited
“Every stock market system with an edge is necessarily limited.”
Every edge has a scale limit. Certain securities have a limit.
If you short an over priced stock, it’s price will go down so it will be less over priced. And if you buy an underpriced stock, it’s price will go up, and it will be less underpriced. Both drive to the correct price.
Source: Masters in Business Podcast
kobe bryant’s wonderful message to gordon hayward
Background: Gordon Hayward, a basketball player for the Boston Celtics suffered a horrific injury last night. Don’t watch it. It’s gross.
“Be sad. Be mad. Be frustrated. Scream. Cry. Sulk.
When you wake up you will think it was just a nightmare only to realize it’s all too real. You will be angry and wish for the day back, the game back THAT play back. But reality gives nothing back and nor should you. Time to move on and focus on doing everything in your power to prepare for surgery, ask all the questions to be sure you understand fully the procedure so that you may visualize it in your subconscious while being operated on and better the chance of it’s success. Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day. It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it.
Best of luck to you on this journey my brother.”
Source: Kobe Bryant
Streams: A return to ancient times
Today, we get most of our news through streams: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
As Nassim Taleb pointed out, streams might be a return to ancient form of how news travelled.
“In the Ancient Mediterranean marketplaces, people talked; they were the receivers and the purveyors of news. Barbers offered comprehensive services; they doubled as surgeon, dispute resolution experts, and news reporters. If people were left to filter their own rumors; they were also part of the transmission. Same with pubs and London coffee houses. In the Eastern Mediterranean (currently Greece and the Levant), condolences were the source of gathering and transmission –and represented the bulk of social life.”
Source: M.T White
kayfabe: the coolest word you’ve never heard of
“Although the etymology of the word is a matter of debate, for at least 50 years ‘kayfabe’ has referred to the unspoken contract between wrestlers and spectators: We’ll present you something clearly fake under the insistence that it’s real, and you will experience genuine emotion. Neither party acknowledges the bargain, or else the magic is ruined.
To a wrestling audience, the fake and the real coexist peacefully. If you ask a fan whether a match or backstage brawl was scripted, the question will seem irrelevant. You may as well ask a roller-coaster enthusiast whether he knows he’s not really on a runaway mine car. The artifice is not only understood but appreciated: the performer cares enough about the viewer’s emotions to want to influence them. Kayfabe isn’t about factual verifiability; it’s about emotional fidelity.”
people care about people, not brands
Virgil Abloh (Founder of Off-White): “Now we’re at a point where influencers are just as big as media outlets. If you have that many followers, and you’re selling a 30-dollar hoodie, you can sell way more without magazines ever writing about it. Something I’ve noticed about streetwear designers is that they always refer to their customers as “kids.”
Virgil Abloh: My idea is to build a vocabulary and a lineage. Because brands are only as old as the people who direct them. That’s why you’re now seeing a deterioration of people following brands, as opposed to designers and stylists.
Interviewer: So it’s going to be about celebrity?
Virgil Abloh: It’s going to be about visionaries.”
Source: Virgil Abloh Interview
Learning from traffic flow
“At rush hour on the Los Angeles freeway system, stoplights operate at the freeway on-ramps. We hold arriving cars in this queue and release them at a regular cadence onto the highway. This conditions the flow arriving on the freeway and prevents us from injecting cars onto the freeway at highly variable rates.
This, in turn, is important because highly variable arrivals generate what are called “shock waves” when freeways are congested. If a group of cars merges onto the freeway, this causes nearby cars to slow. The following cars react later and have to decelerate even more quickly. This, in turn, leads to an accordion-like pattern of turbulence in traffic flow. This turbulence can be reduced if the injection rate is conditioned by a metered queue at the on-ramp.
The exit rate of this queue becomes the low-variability cadence of the stoplight, instead of the high-variability pattern of driver arrivals at the on-ramp. Of course, when there is no queue at the on-ramp, the injection rate onto the freeway will be identical to the arrival pattern at the on-ramp.”
Millennials are the first generation to acquire trust digitally.
“Baby boomers, I think by and large acquire trust through the handshake. Look someone in the eye, shake their hands. You know financial advisors, you go into their office and you shake their hand. It is a face to face interaction and that’s how trust was acquired.
Millennials I think were the first generation to acquire trust digitally. So it’s not that millennials had more information online than baby boomers, but millennials were much more likely to use the information that they have online to build a sense of trust.”
Source: Morgan Housel
Decline of CPG Brands
Among the top 100 consumer-packaged good brands, 90 percent experienced a decline in market share in 2015.
Source: Business of Fashion
Don’t consume content. interact with it
Your pace of learning will accelerate. Some ideas.
Source: Tiago Forte