📚 Understanding ergodicity, Different types of goods, Danish life, Water fountains
A parliament of owls and a murder of crows + more interesting ideas from across the internet
Hi and welcome to the post #140
I looked back at my 2023 and one theme that describes it well is ‘awareness’. I ‘intend’ to make the theme for this 2024 to be ‘intention’. What does it mean for me, and how does it change anything here? More on it in the coming days.
For this post, I’ve an eclectic mix of ideas & stories to cover.
There is one concept to learn, a few life & career advice, some lessons on urban planning & a couple of quirky discoveries to leave you with a smile at the end.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Let’s jump right in.
🔫 Understanding Ergodicity
If you know the game of Russian Roulette, you know the surest way to win this game is to not play the game itself. But if that’s not the option in hand, then you better understand ergodicity.
Taylor Pearson does a good primer on understanding ergodicity and how we can make our decisions ‘antifragile’ by making them more ergodic.
He speaks of two strategies - the barbell & the Kelly criterion that are useful in making yourself ergodic. Worth a read.
🧑🎓 Value of college education
Ted Gioia raises the question: are Harvard graduates better than Harvard dropouts? And shares his perspective. This is a debate that can be done for any institute, and will garner passionate supporters (at least for now).
I am not concerned about this question (or any other variation of it) as such. But I like this post for Ted’s articulation around what college education does for anyone.
I found that I’ve arrived at similar conclusions in my experience. And like Ted, I got to them only in retrospect. That’s the challenge, and the reason we should share these with whoever can benefit from the learnings.
🍰 Different Types of Goods
Are all good things always that way? A naive person may say “yes, a good is always a good”, most of us will probably add “may be” and talk of diminishing returns or ‘till a limit’ perspective.
Spencer Greenberg suggests that a problem with putting something in the "good" bucket of your mind, though, is that this can lead to the belief that the more of it there is, the better. But most goods don’t work that way. It’s far more common for goods to diminish in value as you get more of them, or to be good up to a certain point and then stop being good at all, or even to harm you when you have too much!
And then he goes on to define 4 types of goods. Here’s a snapshot visualizing their value graph.
Read his post “think smarter about what's "good"” to know more and see how we can use this knowledge to think better about our goals and source of pleasures.
💫 New Stories
Rob LaZebnik is a writer and co-executive producer on “The Simpsons” and he tells us how to avoid being boring at 60.
Is this relevant for you? Now? Well, the post’s subtitle gave me good enough reasons to think so.
“What to do when your life is so routine that you’ve run out of stories? Embark on a series of tame, achievable, eye-opening challenges”.
Just go for it, his stories are astonishing and will give you a ZNMD kind of rush!
🙏 An unusual leadership advice
Michael Lopp’s “an unreasonable investment” is a touching story and a message worth your attention. I have seen great leaders & mentors do this in an effortless way.
In this New Year, I am asking to find one human; it’s a non-obvious human. It’s not a direct report or a human where you are paid to invest. Find this non-obvious human and invest in them. Unreasonably, consistently, without expectations. While achieving their dream is a goal, your goal is to help without hesitation.
You want some free leadership advice? You build yourself by building… by helping others. The selfless act of helping humans will teach you more about being a credible leader than any book.
🇩🇰 Reality of the Danish fairytale
David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH as he is popularly known) penned a super interesting essay outlining the reality of the Danish fairytale.
What’s so interesting about Danish life? Here’s what DHH calls out in the start: Education is state-funded, and students are even paid a stipend to go to university. Health care is equally free of individual charge, and there’s generally a robust social safety net for unemployment, maternity leave, and the like.
How is this possible? DHH makes an attempt to understand the Danish story better.
To generalize broadly, Danes are content paying high taxes for high services, as long as the recipients look like them, and all do their outmost to pitch in. There’s no tolerance for loafers, not even in high society. It’s a sin to sit idle for too long in Denmark.
The point is that the Danes understand that they can’t both have a safe, open society where young children can be out alone at night, take the metro by themselves, and enjoy the play parks by themselves, if they also allow druggies, vagrants, beggars, and the mentally ill to roam the streets on their own accord. A strong civil society relies invariably on strong norms that are judiciously enforced by both customs and cops.
⛲ Fountain Society
What a humble drinking fountain can tell us much about a society’s attitudes towards health, hygiene, equity, and virtue, and about its understanding of public goods and civic responsibilities.
Clearly the drinking fountain and the water bottle are more than two different options for quenching thirst. They’re embodiments of two different systems, two different sociopolitical narratives, about the provision of water. The fountain is an exemplar of public infrastructure and collective responsibility. The ubiquitous bottle of branded water is an accoutrement of consumer culture — a small but telling instance of the triumphant market mentality that has in the past half century remade so many aspects of our lives.
🏙️ How to cool down a city
This brilliant visual essay from NY Times talks of how Singapore is dealing with the challenges of rising temperature in urban areas. It covers a couple of highly ambitious projects (including Marina Bay) that are playing an active role in this crusade.
One bit that provides a good hint towards of a universal solution:
“If you wanted to invent the most effective kind of climate management technology from the ground up, you could spend a lot of time trying to do that. You would just engineer a tree.”
✨ Everything else
Tomohiro Okazaki creates feature length montage of matches performing optical tricks. It’s crazy creative!
How Lego builds a new Lego set. A fun story covering behind the scenes of Lego’s official version of the classic rainbow stripe Polaroid OneStep SX-70 instant camera.
Designers always want more frames for their sets, May says. But he explains those constraints are just part of the process. When designers don’t have as many frames as they’d like, they have to get creative — just like any other Lego fan.
A parliament of owls and a murder of crows: If you think this post is about some thriller story, you are like me. But let me clarify, it has got nothing to do with what those words mean to most common junta. This story talks about how groups of birds got their names. There is a good bit of trivia and super cool visuals for you waiting behind this link.
And yes, ‘parliament’ and ‘murder’ are common nouns used to describe a group of birds.
That's all for this week, folks!
I hope I've earned the privilege of your time.
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