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#89 Data → information → knowledge → understanding → wisdom
Lessons from Paul Graham, Russell Ackoff, Scott Belsky & more
I have reduced my news diet a lot these days - at least the kind of news that just reports facts & events. I find it adding very little value to my thought process.
I rely more on the commentary on the news. It offers varied perspectives and challenges me to think beyond the reported facts. I'm reading more blogs & newsletters than newspapers now. Even when I want to use them, most Indian news sites are a nightmare. Between the ads, paywalls & clickbait posts, it's difficult to find anything useful. I'm sure there are some good (and more relevant) commentary behind those pages.
How do I find & access them? Any good sources / people you can recommend who are worth following and reading?
I've a new mix in the curation today. Let’s jump right away.
1. Lifetime of Systems Thinking
“A lifetime of systems thinking” by Russell Ackoff is a masterclass on (systems) thinking. He has rattled off more ideas per paragraph than anything I’ve ever read. I’m surprised how I have not covered this earlier or read any of his other works. Sample this…
Mistakes are of two types: commission (doing what should not have been done) and omission (not doing what should have been done). Errors of omission are generally much more serious than errors of commission, but errors of commission are the only ones picked up by most accounting systems.
I highly recommend this one. Bookmark it and revisit whenever you’ve some time.
(via Read Sometime Great)
2. Good design is intentional
Humane by Design has curated some useful resources for designer & design thinkers. They emphasize a lot on the “why” of this craft. They include “intentional” as one of the core principles for designing ethically humane digital products and services. Intention requires the foresight to think beyond short-term gain to anticipate long-term consequences.
This blog does a fairly good job in explaining the concept and some possible ways to design with intention. I loved the anecdote about legends of the oak beam. Here’s a brief snapshot, you will know why it's worth a read.
…a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the dining hall beams in 1379, the year the college was founded. The plan had been passed down for 500 years between the college foresters, which anticipated the eventual beetle infestation and forbade cutting the oaks down until needed for this very purpose. The Forrester replied by saying, “Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’”.
If you would like to read more on ethical & good design, Tristan Harris has written a masterpiece. He has been a Google Design Ethicist, and his experience on the topic shows up in every paragraph there.
3. How to disagree
In “How to disagree”, Paul Graham picks-up a topic that’s getting ever relevant as the internet gives voice to any & everyone. Here’s the core theme of his post:
If we're all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well? Most readers can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages. So here's an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy…
And then he goes on to define 7 levels of disagreements. In his signature style, the wordplay is simple and example pertinent. I admire Paul Graham’s articulation. Here’s a bit towards the end calling out the real benefit of understanding our disagreements properly.
But the greatest benefit of disagreeing well is not just that it will make conversations better, but that it will make the people who have them happier.
(via Read Something Great)
4. Forecasts for the near future
Scott Belsky recently launched his substack with a brilliant post titled “9 Forecasts for the near future, with implications”. He has picked signals from the recent trend in technology, business and human interactions and forecasted how we may evolve from here.
He has presented the ideas briefly, but has given sufficient meat as a food for thought. I have read his book “The Messy Middle”. It’s a great book but it delved into simple ideas. This post, on the other hand, takes Ben Thompson like take on the ideas. The current explanation is simple . However, there is a lot beneath the surface and you know it.
This is just a side note in the article.
Pretty wild and disconcerting if you think about it… Over the last few decades, humanity put its greatest ideas and creations online in pursuit of opportunity and accolades. From blogging and user-generated-content on social media and content marketing from every business to healthcare studies, family photos, and ultimately the rise of influencers and the creator economy, we shared loud and proud. In 2022, it became abundantly clear that we shared and shared only to, unbeknownst to us, train artificial intelligence to leverage all of our collective genius and develop mega ML models that pose a viable alternative to…everything humans have traditionally done. Now what?
Give it a read in your free time. I’m looking forward to reading more from Scott Belsky in his newsletter now.
5. Point of view
Some commentary on the trends & events in recent times. I like these as they provide a totally new perspective. These ideas are sometimes pointed, and can have equally plausible counter-arguments.
Everybody promised to disrupt the smartphone - The Verge on AR/VR and what not against smartphones
“Amazon’s big idea about Alexa wasn’t wrong, exactly. In fact, most of the tech industry shares the ambient computing vision: a seamless network of gadgets that know you and can act on your behalf to accomplish all kinds of goals. And there are lots of Alexa devices out there in people’s homes, playing music and setting timers. But nobody’s figured out how to make ambient computing profitable.”
The end of the high school essay - Seth Godin on GPT3 bans.
“We’ll never again need to hire someone to write a pretty good press release, a pretty good medical report or a pretty good investor deck. Those are instant, free and the base level of mediocre. The opportunity going forward remains the same: Bringing insight and guts to interesting problems.”
6. Art & Entertainment
Did you know that the movie Avatar & the font “Papyrus” have a connection?
The ringer did a really fun piece covering the history of the ‘Avatar’ Papyrus font. The origin of this story goes back to an SNL sketch around this trivia. And that SNL sketch somehow connects to this tweet from long before - “Every day I wake up and remember that Avatar, a huge international blockbuster, used the Papyrus font for their logo and no one stopped them.”
You know the gist now. It’s a fun read no matter your liking for the movie or the world for typography. The SNL sketch is a bonus.
By the way, I finally saw “Avatar: The Way of Water” and loved it. The IMAX experience made it a visual delight. Hats off to James Cameron for dreaming this big!
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
TSA has got a sense of humor. Check out TSA'S top 10 catches of 2022 to get a taste of it.
My circle is 95.6% perfect, can you beat that? Another fun game from neal.fun
John Wayne and the six security men - an investigation around Oscar’s ugliest moment. An incident from the 1973 ceremony that did not happen.
How does Kidz Bop censor songs? Another fun interactive research by the pudding.
Qala OST - Amit Trivedi takes you to music from a couple of decades ago. Hats off to his craft.
Driftwood Cottages & Coast Art - so satisfying. I’ve got to get one of these! Anybody making anything like this in India?
And finally, here’s a random post from the past.
Title of today’s post is inspired from Russell Ackoff’s ideas.
Before we sign off, here's a quick reminder to all of you courtesy Lynn Giunta .
That's all for this week, folks!
I hope I've earned the privilege of your time.
If you enjoyed this post, show your love by commenting and liking it. I write this newsletter to share what I learnt from others. If you learnt something from this today, why not share it with a couple of your friends to continue this chain?