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⚠️ Beware the man of one book
Your weekly dose of new ideas & inspirations
Hey, Pritesh here.
We’ve reached post #106 in this journey of discovering new ideas & inspirations.
Here’s a quick glance of today’s post:
📠 Ashby’s law
🎧 Magic of Tyler Cowen
🏪 Tyranny of convenience
💡 Building new perspectives
🏗️ Dictatorship of the articulate
👁️ Moderator Mayhem (Bonus)
And much more…
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And with that, let’s dive in.
1. Ashby’s law & UX Design
Dejan Blagic’s medium post talks about Ashby’s law and how does it relate to UX design?
Ashby’s law of requisite variety (or simply put Ashby’s law) states that for a system to be stable, its control mechanism must be capable of attaining a number of states (its variety) that is greater than or equal to the number of states in the system being controlled.
In simpler terms, in order for a system to survive and remain stable, it must match the complexity, diversity and variety of its environment.
Our biological system is a great proof of this. Author shares an example.
One of the conclusions drawn from this idea is that each organism is a model of its environment, a reflection of it. To further illustrate this, let’s take the example of the lion and the gazelle. A lion that hunts and eats gazelle must have at least as many behavioral states as there are gazelle variations of escapes. Similarly, in order to survive, gazelles must have behavioral states that take into account all the different ways a lion can hunt. Both of these organisms have a mental model of the other one. The lion’s mental model of the gazelle includes ways to catch and eat them, while the gazelle’s mental model of the lion includes ways to evade and escape from them.
The article further goes on to cover the implication in UX design. I’m however more keen to think more of its general application.
Say, to build a culture we may start with simpler artifacts. But as it extends and becomes larger, more spread & complex, we need to bring in equivalent mechanisms & rituals with it. A simple ritual can start but cannot hold together a huge cultural movement.
What do you think?
(via UX Collective)
2. Kevin Kelly on Tyler Cowen’s podcast
In a recent post, Kevin Kelly had to share this about his podcast episode with Tyler Cowen (copied as is from his post)
I am on a virtual book tour, where I’ve done almost 100 podcast appearances. It is hard to avoid answering the same questions, and I always look forward to answering new prompts. The interviewer famous for his unique questions is Tyler Cowen. Tyler did not disappoint when I appeared on his podcast. In Conversations With Tyler he asked me a string of exhilarating, unique, off-beat, made-me-think, and insightful questions no one ever asked me before, which was a total joy for me, and for listeners. We covered travel, tech, and advice. And it is not just me. Listen to any of these other interviews with a diverse range of curiously interesting people.
The prompt was intriguing enough for me to give this podcast a try and I must say it was absolutely worth it. I listened to a couple more episodes, and I am really enjoying Tyler’s interview style. He is well researched and asks super pointed questions. The width of topics is huge and yet he can keep the conversation smooth without feeling jumpy. This is one of those podcasts that offers a highly condensed yet great conversation with very little empty air between all the talking. I love it.
Two other podcast hosts I love for similar reasons are Guy Raz (of “How I built this” fame) and Roman Mars (of “99% invisible”). They have their distinct style which makes listening them highly rewarding.
3. Tyranny of Convenience
Your journey to find new knowledge typically starts with absorbing more of what seems suitable to your beliefs or to the popular belief. You don’t have an easy path to discovery of contrarian views. Even if it comes your way, you’re most likely to ignore it.
I find that it is easy to absorb any counterpoint if it’s in the form of great storytelling. Prof Tim Wu’s essay for the New York Times - “The Tyranny of Convenience” is one such piece for me. We are all slaves at the altar of the God of convenience. Still, this piece can give you some reasonably sound counter argument against doing that.
Here’re my favourite bits:
The dream of convenience is premised on the nightmare of physical work. But is physical work always a nightmare? Do we really want to be emancipated from all of it? Perhaps our humanity is sometimes expressed in inconvenient actions and time-consuming pursuits. Perhaps this is why, with every advance of convenience, there have always been those who resist it. They resist out of stubbornness, yes (and because they have the luxury to do so), but also because they see a threat to their sense of who they are, to their feeling of control over things that matter to them.
Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides.
(via Sahil Bloom’s newsletter)
4. New perspectives
I often get drawn onto stories that expand on ‘Awareness’ and ‘Curiosity’ and help me establish their importance in one’s life. They are such a fundamental part of one’s journey of learning & doing better.
Gapingvoid recently took an alternate take on Thomas Aquinas’s “Beware the man of one book”. Their core idea revolves around how to open your process to new perspectives.
The outward journey from the innermost circle is highly dependent on one’s awareness & curiosity. If you’re up to it, new ideas will come your way. As the writer says towards the end...
The point is, ideas don’t categorize themselves into neat little disciplines, WE categorize them into neat little disciplines. And what we gain in neatness, we lose in flexibility and creativity.
If it’s helpful, use it. It doesn’t matter where it came from.
5. Dictatorship of the Articulate
There can be no innovation if the status quo gets a say: creation cannot need a permit to destroy.
Flo Crivello’s essay warns against the new world that faces the dictatorship of the articulate - “Talkers standing in the way of builders; offering we ponder, analyze, investigate, research, dissect, agonize endlessly over plans before we lay a single brick.”
He worries that too many people have seats at too many tables, each with the power to block, none with the authority to approve.
The situation sounds all too familiar and pervasive in every aspect of our lives. He offers some suggestions to overcome this challenge.
These are not shortcuts and will require painful execution. How do we prepare ourselves for something like this?
(via Stoa Daily)
6. Light reads
Some interesting posts & essays that are well worth reading.
“That little island changes everything” by Alexander Savard. How Lyft designed Live Activities to elevate the rider experience. “When teaching students how to design a website, we tell them to always design the mobile version first. There are many reasons for this but an important one is that the smaller screen forces you to make tough decisions about what information to prioritize in a condensed space.” (via Sidebar)
“My Life with the Penguins” by Naira De Gracia. “Antarctica is often referred to as the last great wilderness, a continent where the near absence of humans elevates it to a sacred status. There have been visitors, but no culture has developed in Antarctica, no language has flourished to describe it, no person has been raised there and acquired the rootedness bestowed by local ancestors. Antarctica means “opposite to north,” and the continent has served in the popular imagination as a counterpoint to all things human and organic.” (via Joost Plattel)
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
Inspired by kirigami — an origami-like technique that employs cuts in addition to folds — Haruki Nakamura creates paper dolls that move in unexpected and unusual ways. Watch his magic here and read more about it here. (via Backspace)
Check out small worlds (@smllwrlds) for illustrated tiny sci-fi stories. One tiny story every day! (via The Hustle)
The shoe that became a sock. And then a shoe again. History of the tabi and how it has survived the changing times to stay relevant even today. Will it continue to be? Who knows! (via Joost Plattel)
Mona Chalabi shows how data can tell memorable stories. She compared US household wealth with Jeff Bezos. Don’t expect any graph or pie-chart in this one! (via Storythings)
Moderator Mayhem - a game that teaches more about how to judge information better than any book/article I’ve read on this topic. This is what I call a well done training program (via Sidebar)
The title of today’s post is a quote by Thomas Aquinas and I discovered in the post by Gapingvoid.
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That's all for this week, folks!
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