it retains program managers for only four to six years to limit empire building and to bring in fresh talent. The expectation is that a new program manager will be willing to challenge the ideas and work of predecessors. In addition, DARPA has a very limited investment in overhead and physical facilities in order to prevent entrenched interests from thwarting progress in new directions.
The problem of coming up with a good strategy has the same logical structure as the problem of coming up with a good scientific hypothesis. The key differences are that most scientific knowledge is broadly shared, whereas you are working with accumulated wisdom about your business and your industry that is unlike anyone else’s. A good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work. Not a wild theory, but an educated judgment.
when we do come up with an idea, we tend to spend most of our effort justifying it rather than questioning it. That seems to be human nature, even in experienced executives. To put it simply, our minds dodge the painful work of questioning and letting go of our first early judgments, and we are not conscious of the dodge.
the more uncertain and dynamic the situation, the more proximate a strategic objective must be. The proximate objective is guided by forecasts of the future, but the more uncertain the future, the more its essential logic is that of “taking a strong position and creating options,” not of looking far ahead.
Even with its engines on hard reverse, a supertanker can take one mile to come to a stop. This property of mass—resistance to a change in motion—is inertia. In business, inertia is an organization’s unwillingness or inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Even with change programs running at full throttle, it can take many years to alter a large company’s basic functioning.
most of the time, when asked to generate more alternatives, people simply add one or two shallow alternatives to their initial insight. Consciously or unconsciously, they seem to resist developing several robust strategies. Instead, most people take their initial insight and tweak it slightly, adding a straw-man alternative,
It is also human nature to associate current profit with recent actions, even though it should be evident that current plenty is the harvest of planting seasons long past.
A strategy is a way through a difficulty, an approach to overcoming an obstacle, a response to a challenge. If the challenge is not defined, it is difficult or impossible to assess the quality of the strategy. And if you cannot assess a strategy’s quality, you cannot reject a bad strategy or improve a good one.
Their insight was framed in the language of business strategy: identify your strengths and weaknesses, assess the opportunities and risks (your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses), and build on your strengths. But the power of that strategy derived from their discovery of a different way of viewing competitive advantage—a shift from thinking about pure military capability to one of looking for ways to impose asymmetric costs on an opponent.
a terrible industry looks like this: the product is an undifferentiated commodity; everyone has the same costs and access to the same technology; and buyers are price sensitive, knowledgeable, and willing to switch suppliers at a moment’s notice to get a better deal.
Two masters trying to defeat each other in a chess game are, during a large part of the game, likely to be making moves that have no immediate end other than to “improve my position.” One does not win a chess game by always selecting moves that are directly aimed at trying to mate the opponent or even at trying to win a particular piece. For the most part, the aim of a move is to find positions for one’s pieces that (a) increase their mobility, that is, increase the options open to them and decrease the freedom of operation of the opponent’s pieces; and (b) impose certain relatively stable patterns on the board that induce enduring strength for oneself and enduring weakness for the opponent. If and when sufficient positional advantages have been accumulated, they generally can be cashed in with greater or less ease by tactical maneuvers (combinations) against specific targets that are no longer defensible or only at terrible cost.5
The kernel of a strategy contains three elements: A diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge. A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as critical. A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge. This is an overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis. A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy. These are steps that are coordinated with one another to work together in accomplishing the guiding policy.
every organization faces a situation where the full complexity and ambiguity of the situation is daunting. An important duty of any leader is to absorb a large part of that complexity and ambiguity, passing on to the organization a simpler problem—one that is solvable. Many leaders fail badly at this responsibility, announcing ambitious goals without resolving a good chunk of ambiguity about the specific obstacles to be overcome. To take responsibility is more than a willingness to accept the blame. It is setting proximate objectives and handing the organization a problem it can actually solve.
Social herding presses us to think that everything is OK (or not OK) because everyone else is saying so. The inside view presses us to ignore the lessons of other times and other places, believing that our company, our nation, our new venture, or our era is different. It is important to push back against these biases. You can do this by paying attention to real-world data that refutes the echo-chamber chanting of the crowd—and by learning the lessons taught by history and by other people in other places.
Integration is not always a good idea. When a company can buy perfectly good products and services from outside suppliers, it is usually wasteful to go through the expense and trouble of mastering a new set of business operations. However, when the core of a business strategy requires the mutual adjustment of multiple elements, and especially when there is important learning to be captured about interactions across business elements, then it may be vital to own and control these elements of the business mix.
The reaction to a request for demonstration code was as if Boeing engineers had been asked to design toy airplanes. Just as in a large university, the breakthroughs of a tiny number of very talented individuals had been used to justify a contemplative life for thousands of others.
I call this a hump chart. Whenever you can assign profit or gain to individual products, outlets, areas, segments, or any other portion of the total, you can build a hump chart.
in general, if you have a “me-too” product, you prefer fragmented retail buyers. On the other hand, if you have a better product, a powerful buyer such as Dell can help it see the light of day.
When a leader characterizes the challenge as underperformance, it sets the stage for bad strategy. Underperformance is a result. The true challenges are the reasons for the underperformance.
In many situations, the main impediment to action is the forlorn hope that certain painful choices or actions can be avoided—that the whole long list of hoped-for “priorities” can all be achieved. It is the hard craft of strategy to decide which priority shall take precedence. Only then can action be taken. And, interestingly, there is no greater tool for sharpening strategic ideas than the necessity to act.
Strategies focus resources, energy, and attention on some objectives rather than others.
The leader of an organization lacking a good strategy may simply believe that strategy is unnecessary. But more often the lack is due to the presence of bad strategy. Like weeds crowding out the grass, bad strategy crowds out good strategy. Leaders using bad strategies have not just chosen the wrong goals or made implementation errors. Rather, they have mistaken views about what strategy is and how it works.
The presumption that all important knowledge is already known, or available through consultation with authorities, deadens innovation. It is this presumption that stifles change in traditional societies and blocks improvement in organizations and societies that come to believe that their way is the best way. To generate a strategy, one must put aside the comfort and security of pure deduction and launch into the murkier waters of induction, analogy, judgment, and insight.
Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes. One form of bad strategic objectives occurs when there is a scrambled mess of things to accomplish—a “dog’s dinner” of strategic objectives. A long list of “things to do,” often mislabeled as “strategies” or “objectives,” is not a strategy. It is just a list of things to do. Such lists usually grow out of planning meetings in which a wide variety of stakeholders make suggestions as to things they would like to see done. Rather than focus on a few important items, the group sweeps the whole day’s collection into the “strategic plan.” Then, in recognition that it is a dog’s dinner, the label “long-term” is added so that none of them need be done today.
When a strategy works, we tend to remember what was accomplished, not the possibilities that were painfully set aside.
wealth increases when competitive advantage increases or when the demand for the resources underlying it increases. In particular, increasing value requires a strategy for progress on at least one of four different fronts: deepening advantages, broadening the extent of advantages, creating higher demand for advantaged products or services, or strengthening the isolating mechanisms that block easy replication and imitation by competitors.
Good hardware and software engineers are both expensive. The big difference lies in the cost of prototyping, upgrading, and, especially, the cost of fixing a mistake. Design always involves a certain amount of trial and error, and hardware trials and errors are much more costly. If a hardware design doesn’t work correctly, it can mean months of expensive redesign. If software doesn’t work, a software engineer fixes the problem by typing new instructions into a file, recompiling, and trying again in a few minutes or a few days. And software can be quickly fixed and upgraded even after the product has shipped.
A hallmark of true expertise and insight is making a complex subject understandable. A hallmark of mediocrity and bad strategy is unnecessary complexity—a flurry of fluff masking an absence of substance.
how can we independently identify a company’s strategy? We do this by looking at each policy of the company and noticing those that are different from the norm in the industry. We then try to figure out the common target of such distinctive policies—what they are coordinated on accomplishing.”
The ultimate worth of a strategy is determined by its success, not its acceptability to a council of philosophers or a board of editors. Good strategy work is necessarily empirical and pragmatic. Especially in business, whatever grand notions a person may have about the products or services the world might need, or about human behavior, or about how organizations should be managed, what does not actually “work” cannot long survive.
good product-market strategy is useless if important competencies, assumed present, are absent and their development is blocked by long-established culture.
One would hope that the experience of North Korea would have cured people of the idea that forcing everyone to believe in and value the same things is the road to high performance.
it argued that having a true competitive strategy meant engaging in actions that imposed exorbitant costs on the other side. In particular, it recommended investing in technologies that were expensive to counter and where the counters did not add to Soviet offensive capabilities. For instance, increasing the accuracy of missiles or the quietness of submarines forced the Soviet Union to spend scarce resources on counters without increasing the threat to the United States. Investments in systems that made Soviet systems obsolete would also force them to spend,
Another broad approach to strengthening isolating mechanisms is to have a moving target for imitators. In a static setting, rivals will sooner or later figure out how to duplicate much of your proprietary know-how and other specialized resources. However, if you can continually improve, or simply alter, your methods and products, rivals will have a much harder time with imitation.
“Without action, the world would still be an idea.”
the lack of universality does not make business unscientific. Science is a method, not an outcome, and the basic method of good businesspeople is intense attention to data and to what works.
Good strategy is not just “what” you are trying to do. It is also “why” and “how” you are doing it.
The Boston Tea Party, the Revolution, and the War of 1812 interrupted trade in tea, reviving interest in coffee. Americans found in coffee an inexpensive tea substitute that could be drunk in quantity. By 1820, the transition was complete, and the United States became the largest market for coffee in the world.
In business, most deep strategic changes are brought about by a change in diagnosis—a change in the definition of the company’s situation.
In business, the challenge is usually dealing with change and competition. The first step toward effective strategy is diagnosing the specific structure of the challenge rather than simply naming performance goals. The second step is choosing an overall guiding policy for dealing with the situation that builds on or creates some type of leverage or advantage. The third step is the design of a configuration of actions and resource allocations that implement the chosen guiding policy.
A “threshold effect” exists when there is a critical level of effort necessary to affect the system. Levels of effort below this threshold have little payoff. When there are threshold effects, it is prudent to limit objectives to those that can be affected by the resources at the strategist’s disposal. For example, there seems to be a threshold effect in advertising. That is, a very small amount of advertising will produce no result at all. One has to get over this hump, or threshold, to start getting a response to advertising efforts.5
The guiding policy outlines an overall approach for overcoming the obstacles highlighted by the diagnosis. It is “guiding” because it channels action in certain directions without defining exactly what shall be done. Kennan’s containment and Gerstner’s drawing on all of IBM’s resources to solve customers’ problems are examples of guiding policies. Like the guardrails on a highway, the guiding policy directs and constrains action without fully defining its content.
Successful strategies often owe a great deal to the inertia and inefficiency of rivals. For example, Netflix pushed past the now-bankrupt Blockbuster because the latter could not, or would not, abandon its focus on retail stores.
Making a list is a basic tool for overcoming our own cognitive limitations. The list itself counters forgetfulness. The act of making a list forces us to reflect on the relative urgency and importance of issues. And making a list of “things to do, now” rather than “things to worry about” forces us to resolve concerns into actions.
it is usually quite difficult to convince buyers to pay an up-front premium for future savings, even if the numbers are clear. People tend to be more myopic than economic theory would suggest.
The original Jeffersonian ideal was a nation of citizen farmers, each owning the means of his or her own support. Today, this vision has morphed into one of a nation of homeowners, each working 100 days a year to pay their taxes and another 125 days a year to pay their mortgages.
the incumbent laxity and inertia that gave these upstarts their openings applies to them as well. In time, most will loosen their tight integration and begin to rely more on accumulated resources and less on clever business design. Relying on the profits accruing to accumulated resources, they will lose the discipline of tight integration, allowing independent fiefdoms to flourish and adding so many products and projects that integration becomes impossible. Faced with the natural slowing of growth over time, they will try to create an appearance of youthful vigor with bolt-on acquisitions. Then, when their resource base eventually becomes obsolete, they, too, will become prey to another generation of upstarts. It is the cycle of life. Its important lesson is that we should learn design-type strategy from an upstart’s early conquests rather than from the mature company’s posturing.
Bad strategy may actively avoid analyzing obstacles because a leader believes that negative thoughts get in the way. Leaders may create bad strategy by mistakenly treating strategy work as an exercise in goal setting rather than problem solving. Or they may avoid hard choices because they do not wish to offend anyone—generating a bad strategy that tries to cover all the bases rather than focus resources and actions.
treating the world as software promotes fantasies of control. And the best kind of control is control without responsibility. Our unique position as authors of software used by millions gives us power, but we don’t accept that this should make us accountable.
Those who benefit from the death of privacy attempt to frame our subjugation in terms of freedom, just like early factory owners talked about the sanctity of contract law. They insisted that a worker should have the right to agree to anything, from sixteen-hour days to unsafe working conditions, as if factory owners and workers were on an equal footing. Companies that perform surveillance are attempting the same mental trick. They assert that we freely share our data in return for valuable services. But opting out of surveillance capitalism is like opting out of electricity, or cooked foods—you are free to do it in theory. In practice, it will upend your life.
I am very suspicious of attempts to change the world that can’t first work on a local scale. If after decades we can’t improve quality of life in places where the tech élite actually lives, why would we possibly make life better anywhere else? We should not listen to people who promise to make Mars safe for human habitation, until we have seen them make Oakland safe for human habitation. We should be skeptical of promises to revolutionize transportation from people who can’t fix BART, or have never taken BART. And if Google offers to make us immortal, we should check first to make sure we’ll have someplace to live.
imagine what the British surveillance state, already the worst in Europe, is going to look like in two years, when it’s no longer bound by the protections of European law, and economic crisis has driven the country further into xenophobia.
There is powerful social pressure to avoid incremental change, particularly any change that would require working with people outside tech and treating them as intellectual equals.
Hillary will allow entrepreneurs to put their federal student loans into a special status while they get their new ventures off the ground. For millions of young Americans, this would mean deferment from having to make any payments on their student loans for up to three years—zero interest and zero principal—as they work through the critical start-up phase of new enterprises. Hillary will explore a similar deferment incentive not just to founders of enterprises, but to early joiners – such as the first 10 or 20 employees. Additionally, for young innovators who decide to launch either new businesses that operate in distressed communities, or social enterprises that provide measurable social impact and benefit, she will offer forgiveness of up to $17,500 of their student loans after five years.
Hillary will also embrace this practice of prioritized goal setting and performance tracking for the federal government. Her agenda and priorities would be clearly articulated on performance.gov; progress against these goals would be demonstrated, using up-to-date, real time data; and issues blocking progress would be presented, along with action plans to address them.
Hillary will dedicate federal research funding to test-bedding, field trials, and other public-private endeavors to speed the deployment of next generation wireless networks and a civic Internet of Things. Governments around the world are already investing billions of dollars in developing and commercializing 5G technologies, and Hillary wants American companies to lead the world in wireless innovation. Her investments will aim at using advanced wireless and data innovation to drive social priorities in a range of areas, such as public safety, health care, environmental management, traffic congestion, and social welfare services.
She supports the Department of Commerce’s plans to formally transition its oversight role in the management of the Domain Name System to the global community of stakeholders, viewing the transition as a critical step towards safeguarding the internet’s openness for future generations.
committing that by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have the option of affordable broadband that delivers speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs. She will deliver on this goal with continue investments in the Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP),
She will deliver on this goal with continue investments in the Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP),
The federal government spends nearly $90 billion in information technology but the American taxpayer doesn’t get $90 billion in value. Hillary will make it easier for the federal government to find, try, and buy innovative technology—including open source software. She would also break large federal IT projects into smaller pieces, so it will be easier to stop projects that are over budget or failing to meet user needs, and also more feasible for small and medium-sized businesses to support public service projects.
Hillary will make the USDS and other digital services a permanent part of the executive branch to ensure that technical innovation becomes an ongoing feature of American governance. There should be a constant flow of technology and design experts working to make it easier for Americans to get affordable health insurance, apply for student loans, or get the veterans benefits they deserve. Hillary will expand dedicated Digital Service teams throughout federal agencies (including civil servants and outside experts), and ensure that CIOs are part of this innovation agenda. She will maintain support for other federal tech programs—18F, Innovation Fellows, and Innovation Labs—and look to them to develop a coordinated approach to tackling pressing technology problems. She will also explore ways to leverage these capabilities to help our state and local governments with their own tech issues and agencies.
Hillary will challenge state and local governments to identify, review, and reform legal and regulatory obligations that protect legacy incumbents against new innovators. Examples include state regulations governing automotive dealers that stifle innovation and restrict market access, or local rules governing utility-pole access that restrain additional fiber and small cell broadband deployment.
Hillary will charge the USDS with transforming and digitizing the top 25 federal government services that directly serve citizens. For each one, the USDS would redesign them to meet the needs of citizens in the 21st century; publish detailed performance and customer service metrics, including creating a “Yelp for government” that allows for easy citizen rating; and embrace the industry best practice of continuous site improvement. Hillary will make sure that government delivers on results for citizens.
Reduce regulatory barriers to the private provision of broadband services: Localities may seek to stimulate more investment by current or new service providers by streamlining permitting processes, allowing nondiscriminatory access to existing infrastructure such as conduits and poles, pursuing “climb once” policies to eliminate delays, or facilitating demand aggregation.
She will encourage government agencies to consider innovative tools like bug bounty programs, modeled on the Defense Department’s recent “Hack the Pentagon” initiative, to encourage hackers to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities they discover to the government.
In short, we need a lifelong learning system that is better tailored to the 21st century economy—one that enables ongoing skills building, emphasizes portable and performance-based credentials, and enables employers, job seekers, and education providers to be in constant communication.
Hillary would “staple” a green card to STEM masters and PhDs from accredited institutions—enabling international students who complete degrees in these fields to move to green card status. Hillary will also support “start-up” visas that allow top entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the United States, build companies in technology-oriented globally traded sectors, and create more jobs and opportunities for American workers. Immigrant entrepreneurs would have to obtain a commitment of financial support from U.S. investors before obtaining the visa, and would have to create a certain number of jobs and reach performance benchmarks in order to pursue a green card.
She would fully implement the DATA Act to make government spending more transparent and accountable to the American people, improving USASpending.gov so that Americans can more accurately see how and where their taxpayer dollars are spent. She would also bring an open data approach to regulation—making it easier for businesses to submit structured data instead of documents, and bringing greater transparency to financial and other markets so that regulators, watchdog groups, and the American people can more easily identify fraud and illegal behavior.
Humans are for inventing new kinds of intelligences that biology could not evolve. Our job is to make machines that think different—to create alien intelligences. We should really call AIs “AAs,” for “artificial aliens.”
My prediction: By 2026, Google’s main product will not be search but AI.
The largest, fastest growing, most profitable companies in 2050 will be companies that will have figured out how to harness aspects of sharing that are invisible and unappreciated today. Anything that can be shared—thoughts, emotions, money, health, time—will be shared in the right conditions, with the right benefits. Anything that can be shared can be shared better, faster, easier, longer, and in a million more ways than we currently realize. At this point in our history, sharing something that has not been shared before, or in a new way, is the surest way to increase its value.
By 2050 most truck drivers won’t be human. Since truck driving is currently the most common occupation in the U.S., this is a big deal.
Our most important mechanical inventions are not machines that do what humans do better, but machines that can do things we can’t do at all. Our most important thinking machines will not be machines that can think what we think faster, better, but those that think what we can’t think.
In his 2008 book Here Comes Everybody, media theorist Clay Shirky suggests a useful hierarchy for sorting through these new social arrangements, ranked by the increasing degree of coordination employed. Groups of people start off simply sharing with a minimum of coordination, and then progress to cooperation, then to collaboration, and finally to collectivism. At each step of this socialism, the amount of additional coordination required enlarges.
Existence, it seems, is chiefly maintenance.
It’s fast, cheap, and out of control. The barriers to start a new crowd-powered service are low and getting lower. A hive mind scales up wonderfully smoothly. That is why there were 9,000 startups in 2015 trying to exploit the sharing power of decentralized peer-to-peer networks. It does not matter if they morph over time. Perhaps a hundred years from now these shared processes, such as Wikipedia, will be layered up with so much management that they’ll resemble the old-school centralized businesses. Even so, the bottom up was still the best way to start.
In a few years we’ll be able to routinely search video via AI. As we do, we’ll begin to explore the Gutenberg possibilities within moving images. “I consider the pixel data in images and video to be the dark matter of the Internet,” says Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “We are now starting to illuminate it.”
The Sensory Substitution Vest takes audio from tiny microphones in the vest and translates those sound waves into a grid of vibrations that can be felt by a deaf person wearing it. Over a matter of months, the deaf person’s brain reconfigures itself to “hear” the vest vibrations as sound, so by wearing this interacting cloth, the deaf can hear.
Screens provoke action instead of persuasion. Propaganda is less effective in a world of screens, because while misinformation travels as fast as electrons, corrections do too.
the U.S. government has not unified these streams because a thin wall of hard-won privacy laws holds them back. Few laws hold corporations back from integrating as much data as they can; therefore companies have become the proxy data gatherers for governments.
The status of a new creation is determined not by the rating given to it by critics but by the degree to which it is linked to the rest of the world. A person, artifact, or fact does not “exist” until it is linked.
While millions of writers contribute to Wikipedia, a smaller number of editors (around 1,500) are responsible for the majority of the editing. Ditto for collectives that write code. A vast army of contributions is managed by a much smaller group of coordinators. As Mitch Kapor, founding chair of the Mozilla open source code factory, observed, “Inside every working anarchy, there’s an old-boy network.”
The achievable dream in the near future is to use this very personal database of your body’s record (including your full sequence of genes) to construct personal treatments and personalized medicines. Science would use your life’s log to generate treatments specifically for you. For instance, a smart personalized pill-making machine in your home (described in Chapter 7) would compound medicines in the exact proportions for your current bodily need. If the treatment in the morning eased the symptoms, the dosage in the evening would be adjusted by the system.
Longer texts require an alphabetic index, devised by the Greeks and later developed for libraries of books. Someday soon with AI we’ll have a way to index the full content of a film. Footnotes, invented in about the 12th century, allow tangential information to be displayed outside the linear argument of the main text. That would be useful in video as well. And bibliographic citations (invented in the 13th century) enable scholars and skeptics to systematically consult sources that influence or clarify the content. Imagine a video with citations.
any job dealing with reams of paperwork will be taken over by bots, including much of medicine. The rote tasks of any information-intensive job can be automated. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, translator, editor, lawyer, architect, reporter, or even programmer: The robot takeover will be epic.
The efflorescent blossoming of liquid streams is an additive process, rather than subtractive. The old media forms endure; the new are layered on top of them.
communication technology is biased toward moving everything to on demand. And on demand is biased toward access over ownership.
When copies are superabundant, they become worthless. Instead, stuff that can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable. When copies are free, you need to sell things that cannot be copied. Well, what can’t be copied? Trust, for instance. Trust cannot be reproduced in bulk.
Metadata is the new wealth because the value of bits increases when they are linked to other bits. The least productive life for a bit is to remain naked and alone. A bit uncopied, unshared, unlinked with other bits will be a short-lived bit. The worst future for a bit is to be parked in some dark isolated data vault. What bits really want is to hang out with other related bits, be replicated widely, and maybe become a metabit, or an action bit in a piece of durable code. If we could personify bits, we’d say: Bits want to move. Bits want to be linked to other bits. Bits want to be reckoned in real time. Bits want to be duplicated, replicated, copied. Bits want to be meta.
You still have a job as a farmer, but robots do most of the actual farmwork. Your fleets of worker bots do all the outside work under the hot sun—weeding, pest control, and harvesting of produce—as directed by a very smart mesh of probes in the soil. Your new job as farmer is overseeing the farming system. One day your task might be to research which variety of heirloom tomato to plant; the next day to find out what your customers crave; the following day might be the time to update the information on your custom labels. The bots perform everything else that can be measured.
A filter dedicated to probing one’s dislikes would have to be delicate, but could also build on the powers of large collaborative databases in the spirit of “people who disliked those, learned to like this one.” In somewhat the same vein I also, occasionally, want a bit of stuff I dislike but should learn to like. For me that might be anything related to nutritional supplements, details of political legislation, or hip-hop music. Great teachers have a knack for conveying unsavory packages to the unwilling in a way that does not scare them off; great filters can too. But would anyone sign up for such a filter?
Right now getting a full copy of all your DNA is very expensive ($10,000), but soon it won’t be. The price is dropping so fast, it will be $100 soon, and then the next year insurance companies will offer to sequence you for free. When a copy of your sequence costs nothing, the interpretation of what it means, what you can do about it, and how to use it—the manual for your genes, so to speak—will be expensive.
When we all wear tiny cameras all the time, then the most improbable event, the most superlative achievement, the most extreme actions of anyone alive will be recorded and shared around the world in real time. Soon only the most extraordinary moments of 6 billion citizens will fill our streams. So henceforth rather than be surrounded by ordinariness we’ll float in extraordinariness—as it becomes mundane. When the improbable dominates our field of vision to the point that it seems as if the world contains only the impossible, then these improbabilities don’t feel as improbable. The impossible will feel inevitable.
Way back in 1971 Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize–winning social scientist, observed, “In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Simon’s insight is often reduced to “In a world of abundance, the only scarcity is human attention.”
Because here is the other thing the graybeards in 2050 will tell you: Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an innovator in 2016? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud. Few devices had more than one or two sensors in them, unlike the hundreds now. Expectations and barriers were low. It was easy to be the first. And then they would sigh. “Oh, if only we realized how possible everything was back then!”
In the next 10 years, 99 percent of the artificial intelligence that you will interact with, directly or indirectly, will be nerdly narrow, supersmart specialists.
Painting, music, architecture, dance were all important, but the heartbeat of Western culture was the turning pages of a book. By 1910 three quarters of the towns in the United States with more than 2,500 residents had a public library. America’s roots spring from documents—the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and, indirectly, the Bible. The country’s success depended on high levels of literacy, a robust free press, allegiance to the rule of law (found in books), and a common language across a continent. American prosperity and liberty grew out of a culture of reading and writing. We became People of the Book.
we will need a whole army of robot nannies, dedicated to keeping your personal robots up and running.
As Marshall McLuhan observed, the first version of a new medium imitates the medium it replaces.
The internet wants to make copies. At first this fact is deeply troubling to creators, both individual and corporate, because their stuff will be copied indiscriminately, often for free, when it was once rare and precious. Some people fought, and still fight, very hard against the bias to copy (movie studios and music labels come to mind) and some people chose and choose to work with the bias. Those who embrace the internet’s tendency to copy and seek value that can’t be easily copied (through personalization, embodiment, authentication, etc.) tend to prosper, while those who deny, prohibit, and try to thwart the network’s eagerness to copy are left behind to catch up later. Consumers, of course, love the promiscuous copies and feed the machine to claim their benefits.
As more items are invented and manufactured—while the total number of hours in a day to enjoy them remains fixed—we spend less and less time per item. In other words, the long-term trend in our modern lives is that most goods and services will be short-term use. Therefore most goods and services are candidates for rental and sharing.
If it were a nation, Facebook would be the largest country on the planet. Yet the entire economy of this largest country runs on labor that isn’t paid. A billion people spend a lot of their day creating content for free. They report on events around them, summarize stories, add opinions, create graphics, make up jokes, post cool photos, and craft videos. They are “paid” in the value of the communication and relations that emerge from 1.4 billion connected verifiable individuals. They are paid by being allowed to stay on the commune.
The more disruptive a technology or tool is, the more disruptive the questions it will breed. We can expect future technologies such as artificial intelligence, genetic manipulation, and quantum computing (to name a few on the near horizon) to unleash a barrage of new huge questions—questions we could have never thought to ask before. In fact, it’s a safe bet that we have not asked our biggest questions yet.
One way that would help us to imagine what greater yet different intelligences would be like is to begin to create a taxonomy of the variety of minds. This matrix of minds would include animal minds, and machine minds, and possible minds, particularly transhuman minds, like the ones that science fiction writers have come up with.
I suggest we follow the question, “Has it been transformed by the borrower?” Did the remixing, the mashup, the sampling, the appropriation, the borrowing—did it transform the original rather than just copy it? Did Andy Warhol transform the Campbell’s soup can? If yes, then the derivative is not really a “copy”; it’s been transformed, mutated, improved, evolved. The answer each time is still a judgment call, but the question of whether it has been transformed is the right question.
A universal law of economics says the moment something becomes free and ubiquitous, its position in the economic equation suddenly inverts. When nighttime electrical lighting was new and scarce, it was the poor who burned common candles. Later, when electricity became easily accessible and practically free, our preference flipped and candles at dinner became a sign of luxury.
In his research Bell discovered that the most informative media to capture is audio, prompted and indexed by photos. Bell told me that if he could have only one, he’d rather have an audio log of his day than a visual log.
Not coincidentally, humans excel at creating and consuming experiences. This is no place for robots. If you want a glimpse of what we humans do when the robots take our current jobs, look at experiences. That’s where we’ll spend our money (because they won’t be free) and that’s where we’ll make our money. We’ll use technology to produce commodities, and we’ll make experiences in order to avoid becoming a commodity ourselves.
Banning the inevitable usually backfires. Prohibition is at best temporary, and in the long counterproductive. A vigilant, eyes-wide-open embrace works much better.
Right now the best we can do in terms of interconnection is to link some text to its source’s title in a bibliography or in a footnote. Much better would be a link to a specific passage in another passage in a work, a technical feat not yet possible. But when we can link deeply into documents at the resolution of a sentence, and have those links go two ways, we’ll have networked books.
The tools for quickly making a tune, altering a song, or algorithmically generating music that you share in real time are not far away. Custom music—that is, music that users generate—will become the norm, and indeed it will become the bulk of all music created each year. As music streams, it expands.
These days it takes us a decade after a technology appears to develop a social consensus on what it means and what etiquette we need to tame it. In another five years we’ll find a polite place for twittering, just as we figured out what to do with cell phones ringing everywhere. (Use silent vibrators.) Just like that, this initial response will disappear quickly and we’ll see it was neither essential nor inevitable.
That leaves the big question in an age of cheap plentitude: What is really valuable? Paradoxically, our attention to commodities is not worth much. Our monkey mind is cheaply hijacked. The remaining scarcity in an abundant society is the type of attention that is not derived or focused on commodities. The only things that are increasing in cost while everything else heads to zero are human experiences—which cannot be copied. Everything else becomes commoditized and filterable.
every car manufactured since 2006 contains a tiny OBD chip mounted under the dashboard. This chip records how your car is used. It tracks miles driven, at what speed, times of sudden braking, speed of turns, and gas mileage. This data was originally designed to help repair the car. Some insurance companies, such as Progressive, will lower your auto insurance rates if you give them access to your OBD driving log. Safer drivers pay less.
We think we are merely wasting time when we surf mindlessly or post an item for our friends, but each time we click a link we strengthen a node somewhere in the holos mind, thereby programming it by using it. Think of the 100 billion times per day humans click on a web page as a way of teaching the holos what we think is important. Each time we forge a link between words, we teach this contraption an idea.
Technology is humanity’s accelerant. Because of technology everything we make is always in the process of becoming. Every kind of thing is becoming something else, while it churns from “might” to “is.” All is flux. Nothing is finished. Nothing is done. This never-ending change is the pivotal axis of the modern world.
Modern technologies are combinations of earlier primitive technologies that have been rearranged and remixed. Since one can combine hundreds of simpler technologies with hundreds of thousands of more complex technologies, there is an unlimited number of possible new technologies—but they are all remixes. What is true for economic and technological growth is also true for digital growth. We are in a period of productive remixing. Innovators recombine simple earlier media genres with later complex genres to produce an unlimited number of new media genres. The more new genres, the more possible newer ones can be remixed from them. The rate of possible combinations grows exponentially, expanding the culture and the economy.
The wealthiest and most disruptive organizations today are almost all multisided platforms—Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. All these giants employ third-party vendors to increase the value of their platform. All employ APIs extensively that facilitate and encourage others to play with it.
I would guess that in 50 years a significant portion of Wikipedia articles will have controlled edits, peer review, verification locks, authentication certificates, and so on. That’s all good for us readers. Each of these steps is a small amount of top-down smartness to offset the dumbness of a massively bottom-up system.
The synthetic Dr. Watson at our hospital should be maniacal in its work, never wondering whether it should have majored in finance instead. What we want instead of conscious intelligence is artificial smartness. As AIs develop, we might have to engineer ways to prevent consciousness in them. Our most premium AI services will likely be advertised as consciousness-free.
second law of thermodynamics, which states that everything is falling apart slowly.
It may be hard to believe, but before the end of this century, 70 percent of today’s occupations will likewise be replaced by automation—including the job you hold. In other words, robots are inevitable and job replacement is just a matter of time.
In our everyday lives we generate far more information that we don’t yet capture and record. Despite the explosion in tracking and storage, most of our day-to-day life is not digitized. This unaccounted-for information is “wild” or “dark” information. Taming this wild information will ensure that the total amount of information we collect will keep doubling for many decades ahead.
the average cost to consume one hour of media in 1995, 2010, and 2015 is respectively $3.08, $2.69, and $3.37. That means that the value of our attention has been remarkably stable over 20 years. It seems we have some intuitive sense of what a media experience “should” cost, and we don’t stray much from that.
“When I acquire a new memory of (let’s say) talking to Melissa on a sunny afternoon outside the Red Parrot—I don’t have to give this memory a name, or stuff it in a directory. I can use anything in the memory as a retrieval key. I shouldn’t have to name electronic documents either, or put them in directories. I can shuffle other streams into mine—to the extent I have permission to use other people’s streams. My own personal stream, my electronic life story, can have other streams shuffled into it—streams belonging to groups or organizations I’m part of. And eventually I’ll have, for example, newspaper and magazine streams shuffled into my stream also.”
Rather than use AI to make its search better, Google is using search to make its AI better. Every time you type a query, click on a search-generated link, or create a link on the web, you are training the Google AI. When you type “Easter Bunny” into the image search bar and then click on the most Easter Bunny–looking image, you are teaching the AI what an Easter Bunny looks like. Each of the 3 billion queries that Google conducts each day tutors the deep-learning AI over and over again. With another 10 years of steady improvements to its AI algorithms, plus a thousandfold more data and a hundred times more computing resources, Google will have an unrivaled AI.
organizations built to create products rather than platforms often need strong leaders and hierarchies arranged around timescales: Lower-level work focuses on hourly needs; the next level on jobs that need to be done today. Higher levels focus on weekly or monthly chores, and levels above (often in the CEO suite) need to look out ahead at the next five years. The dream of many companies is to graduate from making products to creating a platform. But when they do succeed (like Facebook), they are often not ready for the required transformation in their role; they have to act more like governments than companies in keeping opportunities “flat” and equitable, and hierarchy to a minimum.
Over time, the companies that served user-generated content would have to start to layer bits of editing, selection, and curation to their ocean of material in order to maintain quality and attention to it. There had to be something else beside the pure anarchy of the bottom.
First, most of the important technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented, so naturally you’ll be a newbie to them. Second, because the new technology requires endless upgrades, you will remain in the newbie state. Third, because the cycle of obsolescence is accelerating (the average lifespan of a phone app is a mere 30 days!), you won’t have time to master anything before it is displaced, so you will remain in the newbie mode forever. Endless Newbie is the new default for everyone, no matter your age or experience.
Technological life in the future will be a series of endless upgrades. And the rate of graduations is accelerating.
To steer a kayak on white-water rapids you need to be paddling at least as fast as the water runs, and to hope to navigate the exabytes of information, change, disruption coming at us, you need to be flowing as fast as the frontier is flowing.
Some people fight hard against the bias to track and some will eventually work with the bias. Those who figure out how to domesticate tracking, to make it civil and productive, will prosper, while those who try only to prohibit and outlaw it will be left behind. Consumers say they don’t want to be tracked, but in fact they keep feeding the machine with their data, because they want to claim their benefits.
Typically I dip into my inbox or outbox several times a day to scroll back to some previous episode of my life. If we expect to scroll back, this will shift what we do the first time. The ability to scroll back easily, precisely, and deeply might change how we live in the future.
Because of our global connectivity, a relatively simple hack could cause an emerging cascade of failure, which would reach impossible scale very quickly. Worldwide disruptions of our social fabric are in fact inevitable. One day in the next three decades the entire internet/phone system will blink off for 24 hours, and we’ll be in shock for years afterward.
There is a one-to-one correspondence between personalization and transparency. Greater personalization requires greater transparency. Absolute personalization (vanity) requires absolute transparency (no privacy). If I prefer to remain private and opaque to potential friends and institutions, then I must accept I will be treated generically, without regard to my specific particulars.
For the civilized world, anonymity is like a rare earth metal. In larger doses these heavy metals are some of the most toxic substances known to a life. They kill. Yet these elements are also a necessary ingredient in keeping a cell alive. But the amount needed for health is a mere hard-to-measure trace. Anonymity is the same. As a trace element in vanishingly small doses, it’s good, even essential for the system. Anonymity enables the occasional whistle-blower and can protect the persecuted fringe and political outcasts. But if anonymity is present in any significant quantity, it will poison the system. While anonymity can be used to protect heroes, it is far more commonly used as a way to escape responsibility. That’s why most of the brutal harassment on Twitter, Yik Yak, Reddit, and other sites is delivered anonymously. A lack of responsibility unleashes the worst in us.
“Right now we think of manufacturing as happening in China. But as manufacturing costs sink because of robots, the costs of transportation become a far greater factor than the cost of production. Nearby will be cheap. So we’ll get this network of locally franchised factories, where most things will be made within five miles of where they are needed.”
Early gramophone equipment could make recordings that contained no more than four and a half minutes, so musicians abbreviated meandering works to fit to the phonograph, and today the standard duration of a pop song is four and a half minutes.
The growth of information has been steadily increasing at an insane rate for at least a century. It is no coincidence that 66 percent per year is the same as doubling every 18 months, which is the rate of Moore’s Law. Five years ago humanity stored several hundred exabytes of information. That is the equivalent of each person on the planet having 80 Library of Alexandrias. Today we average 320 libraries each.
the business plans of the next 10,000 startups are easy to forecast: Take X and add AI. Find something that can be made better by adding online smartness to it.
Seven Stages of Robot Replacement: 1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do. 2. [Later.] OK, it can do a lot of those tasks, but it can’t do everything I do. 3. [Later.] OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often. 4. [Later.] OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks. 5. [Later.] OK, OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do. 6. [Later.] Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more interesting and pays more! 7. [Later.] I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now. [Repeat.]
Reading becomes social. With screens we can share not just the titles of books we are reading, but our reactions and notes as we read them. Today, we can highlight a passage. Tomorrow, we will be able to link passages. We can add a link from a phrase in the book we are reading to a contrasting phrase in another book we’ve read, from a word in a passage to an obscure dictionary, from a scene in a book to a similar scene in a movie. (All these tricks will require tools for finding relevant passages.) We might subscribe to the marginalia feed from someone we respect, so we get not only their reading list but their marginalia—highlights, notes, questions, musings.
Since we prefer to deal with someone we can trust, we will often pay a premium for that privilege. We call that branding.
Telling someone to “follow their passion” is not just an act of innocent optimism, but potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst.
Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you
The craftsman mindset, with its relentless focus on becoming “so good they can’t ignore you,” is a strategy well suited for acquiring career capital.
follow your passion—is seriously flawed. It not only fails to describe how most people actually end up with compelling careers, but for many people it can actually make things worse: leading to chronic job shifting and unrelenting angst when, as it did for Thomas, one’s reality inevitably falls short of the dream.
How can we follow our passions if we don’t have any relevant passions to follow?
If a young Steve Jobs had taken his own advice and decided to only pursue work he loved, we would probably find him today as one of the Los Altos Zen Center’s most popular teachers
SDT tells us that motivation, in the workplace or elsewhere, requires that you fulfill three basic psychological needs—factors described as the “nutriments” required to feel intrinsically motivated for your work: Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people
you need to be good at something before you can expect a good job.
One could argue that luck also played an important role in Mike’s story. He was, for example, lucky to find a personal connection to a venture capitalist and then to hit it off when they met in person. But these types of small breaks are common.
In 2009, when she was profiled for the Times, she was on track to make only $15,000 for the year. Toward the conclusion of the profile, Feuer sends the reporter a text message: “I’m at the food stamp office now, waiting.” It’s signed: “Sent from my iPhone.”
Let’s assume you’re a knowledge worker, which is a field without a clear training philosophy. If you can figure out how to integrate deliberate practice into your own life, you have the possibility of blowing past your peers in your value, as you’ll likely be alone in your dedication to systematically getting better. That is, deliberate practice might provide the key to quickly becoming so good they can’t ignore you.
in most jobs you should expect your employer to resist your move toward more control; they have every incentive to try to convince you to reinvest your career capital back into your career at their company, obtaining more money and prestige instead of more control, and this can be a hard argument to resist.
He stretched his abilities by taking on projects that were beyond his current comfort zone; and not just one at a time, but often up to three or four writing commissions concurrently, all the while holding down a day job! He then obsessively sought feedback, on everything—even if, looking back now, he’s humiliated at the quality of scripts he was sending out. This is textbook deliberate practice
The more time you spend reading the research literature, the more it becomes clear: Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfillment.
If you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re probably stuck at an “acceptable level.”
[Deliberate practice] requires good goals.
The advantage of open gates is that they get you farther faster, in terms of career capital acquisition, than starting from scratch. It helps to think about skill acquisition like a freight train: Getting it started requires a huge application of effort, but changing its track once it’s moving is easy. In other words, it’s hard to start from scratch in a new field.
Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands…. Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it “deliberate,” as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.
when it comes to decisions affecting your core career, money remains an effective judge of value. “If you’re struggling to raise money for an idea, or are thinking that you will support your idea with unrelated work, then you need to rethink the idea.”
innovation is more systematic. We grind away to expand the cutting edge, opening up new problems in the adjacent possible to tackle and therefore expand the cutting edge some more, opening up more new problems, and so on. “The truth,” Johnson explains, “is that technological (and scientific) advances rarely break out of the adjacent possible.”
This example of joint discovery surprised me, but it would not have surprised the science writer Steven Johnson. In his engaging 2010 book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson explains that such “multiples” are frequent in the history of science.1
The next big ideas in any field are found right beyond the current cutting edge, in the adjacent space that contains the possible new combinations of existing ideas. The reason important discoveries often happen multiple times, therefore, is that they only become possible once they enter the adjacent possible, at which point anyone surveying this space—that is, those who are the current cutting edge—will notice the same innovations waiting to happen.
Little Bets, and it was written by a former venture capitalist named Peter Sims
For a mission-driven project to succeed, it should be remarkable in two different ways. First, it must compel people who encounter it to remark about it to others. Second, it must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking.
leverage the open-source software movement. This movement brings together computer programmers who volunteer their time to build software that’s freely available and modifiable. Fowler argued that this community is well respected and highly visible. If you want to make a name for yourself in software development—the type of name that can help you secure employment—focus your attention on making quality contributions to open-source projects. This is where the people who matter look for talent.
Donald T. HawkinsBuy on Amazon
Fortunately, Google also makes a copy on tape that is stored offline, so it was eventually able to restore the lost accounts
email as a “master key” to the decedent’s accounts.
New interfaces that include better timelines, maps, social network diagrams, automatic indexing, and data extraction technologies for face, voice, and handwriting recognition are other examples of technologies that will probably be developed for other markets but will also be useful to personal archivists.
it helps to think about personal archives as something live, as resources, as material we (and others) might draw on in both the near future and long-term. In other words, personal archives (and archives in general) will become sources for future creative efforts. Reuse is an important motivation for maintaining a personal archive.
One feature we enabled with the Timecard device was the ability to add reference material. Using Wikipedia, the author of the timeline can search for contextual material (details about world events, for example) to add as a complement to the more personal content. On my grandfather’s timeline, I added references to events he may have been involved in, such as the Battle of Britain (a famous skirmish involving the Royal Air Force), so I had a sense of broader occurrences that may have affected his life directly.
while personal digital archives may be something we use while we are living, much of their value (or promise) is in their ability to allow communication with our descendants.
Yahoo! refuses to allow anyone access to a Yahoo! email account, even in event of the account holder’s death.
The works of yesterday’s eminent individuals are rapidly being digitized, and there is a growing expectation that all of humanity’s creative works are or will be instantly accessible in digital form.
Physical things take up space, of course, and, as we described earlier, that fact can encourage us to make decisions about where each belongs, even if that means they no longer belong with us and have to be discarded. The use of space can reflect something about an object’s meaning in our lives. Arranging items in a public space in our home, putting things on display, raises some items above others.
move your collection to a new storage device every 5–7 years.
Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell at Microsoft Research are the authors of Total Recall, a fascinating book published in 2009,1 in which they discuss various ways that all of the information we come into contact with can be captured and retrieved, either by the original owner or long after the owner’s life ends.
it helps to think about personal archives as something live, as resources, as material we (and others) might draw on in both the near future and long-term. In other words, personal archives (and archives in general) will become sources for future creative efforts. Reuse is an important motivation for maintaining a personal archive.
It is important to let a loved one know where important documents reside and supply them with URLs and passwords,
“3 - 2 - 1 rule”: Make 3 copies. Save at least 2 onto different types of storage media. Save 1 in a different location from where you live.
With a “pay once/store forever” cost model, individuals might be able endow a terabyte, rather like the more common “buy a brick” programs museums and others have used for years. Universities might also provide a terabyte with tuition and thus tie their alumni into the university in a much deeper way.
Select the nicest ones, the ones worth keeping, and delete the rest. Does anyone really need 50 photos of clouds or 200 photos of autumn leaves? Blurry, unrecognizable photos? Delete them. Homework from 10 years ago? Delete it. Be decisive and thorough. Whittle the mass of photos down to the best, the “keepers.” Toss out document drafts. Clear the clutter.
Some experiments on digitizing boxes of archival materials received at the Internet Archive (archive.org) revealed a cost of approximately 25 cents per page, or rather $
Smith developed Lifemap, which uses the Amazon web service (AWS) for storing and managing users’ memories, and designed a user-friendly graphical user interface.
“Digital records are more like an oral tradition than traditional documents,” Paul-Choudhury contends. “If you don’t copy them regularly, they simply disappear.”7
CrystalChat, used a 3D-representational model of personal instant messenger history to “reveal the patterns and to support self-exploration of one’s personal chat history.”13
Gemmell posts a very useful list of businesses offering software to support “life-logging” on his blog (jimgemmell.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/your-life-uploaded-2011-report-card-4
National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. Its goal was and is to foster digital preservation research, collaboration, and standardization among government agencies, cultural institutions, and other stakeholders.
Most institutions replicate their digital collections in a separate geographic location far away from the source collection. In the event of a disaster, the distant, replicated collection will be safe, intact, and accessible, backed up on tape or spinning disk drives.
What’s needed are “pay once/store forever” services. These are not yet widely available, though a few universities now offer them to faculty. This pricing model seems likely to become more common, in part because agencies that fund scientific research and cultural production are requiring their grantees to provide a plan to preserve project data.
the first photograph showing a living person is a street scene taken in Paris in 1838.
personal digital archives are collections of digital material created, collected, and curated by individuals rather than institutions.
library patrons and staff members alike are able to find what they are looking for in a collection and locate similar materials using the catalog, and they can even visit other repositories that follow the same standards and continue their search without facing a learning curve.
Project MUSE (Memories USing Email; mobisocial.stanford.edu/muse) is a research project at Stanford University’s Mobile and Social (MobiSocial) Computing Research Group that is studying the analysis of long-term email archives.
designers and researchers such as Richard Banks are presently developing interfaces that will allow future generations to more naturally interact with the large amount of digital information that individuals will likely leave behind in the future
Under the U.S. copyright statute, 17 U.S.C. Section 105, copyright protection is not available in the United States for any work of the U.S. Government. Therefore, this chapter is in the public domain.
“Companies are good at building new technologies for recording and for metadata extraction, but they are not trustworthy long-term custodians…. Preservation needs to evolve in tandem with recording.”
For a listing of websites providing digital memorials, posthumous email services, and digital estate services, check out Evan Carroll’s The Digital Beyond (www.thedigitalbeyond.com/online-services-list).
(Those who wish to contribute their movies to the Internet Archive should read the conditions and procedures at archive.org/about/faqs.php#224
personal files should be backed up in separate locations on at least two different types of storage devices.
To learn more about the possibilities, check out www.larryjordan.biz/picking-the-right-video-format-for-storage
Commercial services such as GeoCities, Apple MobileMe, Yahoo! Video, Google Video, and many other sites have vanished from the online world, and only snapshots in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (archive.org/web/web.php) provide ongoing read-only access.
methods are being developed that would collect our digital legacy from websites and services.
the Library created a personal digital archiving section on the digitalpreservation.gov website and populated it with instructional videos, downloadable brochures, and topic-oriented pages. We wrote about how to archive the most common digital possessions:
“A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker”
The Industrial Revolution was accompanied by soot-filled London skies and horrific exploitation of child labor. What will be their modern equivalents? Rapid and accelerating digitization is likely to bring economic rather than environmental disruption, stemming from the fact that as computers get more powerful, companies have less need for some kinds of workers. Technological progress is going to leave behind some people, perhaps even a lot of people, as it races ahead. As we’ll demonstrate, there’s never been a better time to be a worker with special skills or the right education, because these people can use technology to create and capture value. However, there’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.
Designed for calculation-intensive tasks like simulating nuclear tests, ASCI Red was the first computer to score above one teraflop—one trillion floating point operations* per second—on the standard benchmark test for computer speed.
digital information is not “used up” when it gets used, and it is extremely cheap to make another copy of a digitized resource.
Watson’s database, which consisted of approximately two hundred million pages of documents taking up four terabytes of disk space, included an entire copy of Wikipedia. For a while it also included the salty language–filled Urban Dictionary, but this archive of user-generated content was removed after, to the dismay of its creators, Watson started to include curse words in its responses.
Nine years later another computer hit 1.8 teraflops. But instead of simulating nuclear explosions, it was devoted to drawing them and other complex graphics in all their realistic, real-time, three-dimensional glory. It did this not for physicists, but for video game players. This computer was the Sony PlayStation 3, which matched the ASCI Red in performance, yet cost about five hundred dollars, took up less than a tenth of a square meter, and drew about two hundred watts.
“I keep saying that the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. And I’m not kidding.”
OF THE 3.5 TRILLION photos that have been snapped since the first image of a busy Parisian street in 1838, fully 10 percent were taken in the last year.1
For almost two hundred years, wages did increase alongside productivity. This created a sense of inevitability that technology helped (almost) everyone. But more recently, median wages have stopped tracking productivity, underscoring the fact that such a decoupling is not only a theoretical possibility but also an empirical fact in our current economy.
The shift from analog to digital has delivered a bounty of digital photos and other goods, but it has also contributed to an income distribution that is far more spread out than before.
For almost two hundred years, wages did increase alongside productivity. This created a sense of inevitability that technology helped (almost) everyone. But more recently, median wages have stopped tracking productivity, underscoring the fact that such a decoupling is not only a theoretical possibility but also an empirical fact in our current economy.
Facebook itself reached one billion users in 2012. It had about 4,600 employees6 including barely 1,000 engineers.7 Contrast these figures with pre-digital behemoth Kodak, which also helped customers share billions of photos. Kodak employed 145,300 people at one point
The shift from analog to digital has delivered a bounty of digital photos and other goods, but it has also contributed to an income distribution that is far more spread out than before.
Research by Michael Luca of Harvard Business School has found that the increased transparency has helped smaller independent restaurants compete with bigger chains because customers can more quickly find quality food via rating services like Yelp, reducing their reliance on brand names’ expensive marketing campaigns.17
Facebook itself reached one billion users in 2012. It had about 4,600 employees6 including barely 1,000 engineers.7 Contrast these figures with pre-digital behemoth Kodak, which also helped customers share billions of photos. Kodak employed 145,300 people at one point
Research by Michael Luca of Harvard Business School has found that the increased transparency has helped smaller independent restaurants compete with bigger chains because customers can more quickly find quality food via rating services like Yelp, reducing their reliance on brand names’ expensive marketing campaigns.17
for the first time since before the Great Depression, over half the total income in the United States went to the top 10 percent of Americans in 2012. The top 1 percent earned over 22 percent of income, more than doubling their share since the early 1980s. The share of income going to the top hundredth of one percent of Americans, a few thousand people with annual incomes over $11 million, is now at 5.5 percent, after increasing more between 2011 and 2012 than any year since 1927–28
OF THE 3.5 TRILLION photos that have been snapped since the first image of a busy Parisian street in 1838, fully 10 percent were taken in the last year.1
for the first time since before the Great Depression, over half the total income in the United States went to the top 10 percent of Americans in 2012. The top 1 percent earned over 22 percent of income, more than doubling their share since the early 1980s. The share of income going to the top hundredth of one percent of Americans, a few thousand people with annual incomes over $11 million, is now at 5.5 percent, after increasing more between 2011 and 2012 than any year since 1927–28
a software programmer who writes a slightly better mapping application—one that loads a little faster, has slightly more complete data, or prettier icons—might completely dominate a market. There would likely be little, if any, demand for the tenth-best mapping application, even it got the job done almost as well. This is relative performance. People will not spend time or effort on the tenth-best product when they have access to the best. And this is not a case where quantity can make up for quality: ten mediocre mapping tools are no substitute for one good one. When consumers care mostly about relative performance, even a small difference in skill or effort or luck can lead to a thousand-fold or million-fold difference in earnings. There were a lot of traffic apps in the marketplace in 2013, but Google only judged one, Waze, worth buying for over one billion dollars
Robert Frank and Philip Cook note in their book, The Winner-Take-All Society, “When a sergeant makes a mistake only the platoon suffers, but when a general makes a mistake the whole army suffers.”
A gold-medal winner at the Olympics can earn millions of dollars in endorsements, while the silver medal winner—let alone the person who placed tenth or thirtieth—is quickly forgotten, even if the difference is measured in tenths of a second and could have resulted from a gust of wind or a lucky bounce of the ball.
As a controversial Nike ad noted, you don’t win silver, you lose gold
Michael Spence, in his brilliant book The Next Convergence, explains how the integration of global markets is leading to enormous dislocations, especially in labor markets
as long as there are unmet needs and wants in the world, unemployment is a loud warning that we simply aren’t thinking hard enough about what needs doing. We aren’t being creative enough about solving the problems we have using the freed-up time and energy of the people whose old jobs were automated away. We can do more to invent technologies and business models that augment and amplify the unique capabilities of humans to create new sources of value, instead of automating the ones that already exist
Once one concedes that it takes time for workers and organizations to adjust to technical change, then it becomes apparent that accelerating technical change can lead to widening gaps and increasing possibilities for technological unemployment. Faster technological progress may ultimately bring greater wealth and longer lifespans, but it also requires faster adjustments by both people and institutions.
when demand is very elastic, greater productivity leads to enough of an increase in demand that more labor ends up employed. The possibility of this happening for some types of energy has been called the Jevons paradox: more energy efficiency can sometimes lead to greater total energy consumption. But to economists there is no paradox, just an inevitable implication of elastic demand.
English-American political activist Thomas Paine, who advocated in his 1797 pamphlet Agrarian Justice that everyone should be given a lump sum of money upon reaching adulthood to compensate for the unjust fact that some people were born into landowning families while others were not
Arthur C. Clarke is purported to have put it, “The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play.”24
If neither the worker nor any entrepreneur can think of a profitable task that requires that worker’s skills and capabilities, then that worker will go unemployed indefinitely. Over history, this has happened to many other inputs to production that were once valuable, from whale oil to horse labor. They are no longer needed in today’s economy even at zero price. In other words, just as technology can create inequality, it can also create unemployment. And in theory, this can affect a large number of people, even a majority of the population, and even if the overall economic pie is growing.
If a worker in China can do the same work as an American, then what economists call “the law of one price” demands that they earn essentially the same wages, because the market will arbitrage away differences just as it would for other commodities
A second lesson of economics and business strategy is that it’s great to be a complement to something that’s increasingly plentiful.
The lesson from economics and business strategy is that you don’t want to compete against close substitutes, especially if they have a cost advantage.
By some estimates, the revenues from optimal congestion pricing would be enough to eliminate all state taxes in California.
If you look at the types of tasks that have been offshored in the past twenty years, you see that they tend to be relatively routine, well-structured tasks. Interestingly, these are precisely the tasks that are easiest to automate. If you can give precise instructions to someone else on exactly what needs to be done, you can often write a precise computer program to do the same task. In other words, offshoring is often only a way station on the road to automation
Congestion pricing, aided by electronic passes or digital cameras, can dynamically adjust the cost of the roadway so that drivers would only choose to drive when the total cost created, including the additional congestion, was less than the value of their trip.
most economists advocate taxing the pollution. Such taxes are called “Pigovian” after Arthur Pigou, a British economist of the early twentieth century who was one of their early champions
we can expect to see schools ‘flip the classroom’ by having students listen to lectures at home and work through traditional ‘homework’—exercises, problem sets, and writing assignments—in school, where peers, teachers, and coaches are available to help them.
Winston Churchill said that, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”2 We believe the same about capitalism.
The top performer in the course at Stanford, in fact, was only the 411th best among all the online students. As Thrun put it, “We just found over 400 people in the world who outperformed the top Stanford student.”16
The good news is that compared to other industries such as media, retailing, finance, or manufacturing, education is a tremendous laggard in the use of technology. That’s good news because it means we can expect big gains simply by catching up to other industries. Innovators can make a huge difference in this area in the coming decade.
Lengthening the school year may be especially beneficial for poor kids, since research suggests that rich and poor children learn at a similar rate when school is in session, but that poor children fall behind over the summer when they are not in school
the career advice that Google chief economist Hal Varian frequently gives: seek to be an indispensable complement to something that’s getting cheap and plentiful. Examples include data scientists, writers of mobile phone apps, and genetic counselors, who have come into demand as more people have their genes sequenced. Bill Gates has said that he chose to go into software when he saw how cheap and ubiquitous computers, especially microcomputers, were becoming. Jeff Bezos systematically analyzed the bottlenecks and opportunities created by low-cost online commerce, particularly the ability to index large numbers of products, before he set up Amazon. Today, the cognitive skills of college graduates—including not only science, technology, engineering, and math, the so-called STEM disciplines, but also humanities, arts, and social sciences—are often complements to low-cost data and cheap computer power. This helps them command a premium wage.
Venkat Venkatraman put it, “We need digital models of learning and teaching. Not just a technology overlay on old modes of teaching and learning.”
The better machines become at substituting for human labor, the bigger negative effect any tax or mandate will have on human employment.
once an industry becomes largely automated, the case for locating a factory in a low-wage country becomes less compelling
Replacing a [bottom 5 percent] teacher with an average teacher would increase the present value of students’ lifetime income by more than $250,000 for the average classroom in our sample.
Voltaire beautifully summarized why not when he made the observation quoted at the start of this chapter: “Work saves a man from three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.”6 A guaranteed universal income takes care of need, but not the other two. And just about all the research and evidence we’ve looked at has convinced us that Voltaire was right. It’s tremendously important for people to work not just because that’s how they get their money, but also because it’s one of the principal ways they get many other important things: self-worth, community, engagement, healthy values, structure, and dignity, to name just a few.
In the long run, the biggest effect of automation is likely to be on workers not in America and other developed nations, but rather in developing nations that currently rely on low-cost labor for their competitive advantage
Montessori classrooms emphasize self-directed learning, hands-on engagement with a wide variety of materials (including plants and animals), and a largely unstructured school day. And in recent years they’ve produced alumni including the founders of Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), Amazon (Jeff Bezos), and Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales).
Ideation in its many forms is an area today where humans have a comparative advantage over machines. Scientists come up with new hypotheses. Journalists sniff out a good story. Chefs add a new dish to the menu. Engineers on a factory floor figure out why a machine is no longer working properly. Steve Jobs and his colleagues at Apple figure out what kind of tablet computer we actually want. Many of these activities are supported and accelerated by computers, but none are driven by them.
increasing the number of immigrant engineers actually leads to higher, not lower, wages for native-born engineers because immigrants help creative ecosystems flourish
While income taxes are not meant to discourage work and employment, they can still have this effect. Payroll taxes can lead to similar shifts, and by design mainly affect people with low and middle incomes.20 They can cause organizations to move away from hiring additional domestic employees, and instead outsource work or make use of part-time contractors. As digital technologies keep acquiring new skills and capabilities, these same organizations will increasingly have another option: they’ll be able to make use of digital laborers rather than humans. The more expensive human labor is, the more readily employers will switch over to machines. And since payroll taxes make human labor more expensive, they’ll very likely have the effect of hastening this switch. Mandates like employer-provided health care coverage have the same effect; they too appear as a tax on human labor and so discourages it, all other things being equal.21
Start a ‘made by humans’ labeling movement, similar to those now in place for organic foods, or award credits for companies that employ humans, similar to the carbon offsets that can be purchased. If some consumers wanted to increase the demand for human workers, such labels or credits would let them do so
When technology advances too quickly for education to keep up, inequality generally rises.
people will need to be more adaptable and flexible in their career aspirations, ready to move on from areas that become subject to automation, and seize new opportunities where machines complement and augment human capabilities.
Give one group of teachers responsibility for the most measurable goals, while reserving ample time and resources for teachers focusing on the less measurable types of learning, protecting it from being crowded out.
the impact of college is largely determined by individual effort and involvement in the academic, interpersonal, and extracurricular offerings on a campus
As futurist Kevin Kelly put it “You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots.”7
Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote in 1967, “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”3
Arum, Roksa, and their colleagues document that college students today spend only 9 percent of their time studying (compared to 51 percent on “socializing, recreating, and other”), much less than in previous decades, and that only 42 percent reported having taken a class the previous semester that required them to read at least forty pages a week and write at least twenty pages total. They write that, “The portrayal of higher education emerging from [this research] is one of an institution focused more on social than academic experiences. Students spend very little time studying, and professors rarely demand much from them in terms of reading and writing.”
Pay people via nonprofits and other organizations to do ‘socially beneficial’ tasks, as determined by a democratic process
cooks, gardeners, repairmen, carpenters, dentists, and home health aides are not about to be replaced by machines in the short term. All of these professions involve a lot of sensorimotor work, and many of them also require the skills of ideation, large-frame pattern recognition, and complex communication. Not all of these jobs are well paying, but they’re also not subject to a head-to-head race against the machine. They may, however, be subject to more competition among people.
Sometimes, one man’s creativity is another machine’s brute-force analysis
Our success will depend not just on our technological choices, or even on the coinvention of new organizations and institutions. As we have fewer constraints on what we can do, it is then inevitable that our values will matter more than ever. Will we choose to have information widely disseminated or tightly controlled? Will our prosperity be broadly shared? What will be the nature and magnitude of rewards we give to our innovators? Will we build vibrant relationships and communities? Will everyone have the opportunities to discover, create, and enjoy the best of life?
Helaine Olen and Harold PollackBuy on Amazon
The Kaiser Family Foundation has a fantastic, somewhat-less-forbidding webpage, “Understanding Health Insurance” (http://kff.org/understanding -health-insurance/), that answers frequently asked questions and lets you know what is available in your area.
Buy and hold a small selection of indexed mutual or exchange-traded funds for the long haul.
NEVER, EVER FORGO THE EMPLOYER MATCH
If you have a side gig or you operate your own business, you should open a Simplified Employee Pension IRA (SEP-IRA), which offers similar tax advantages. You can contribute 25 percent of your self-employment income to your SEP-IRA, up to a high limit that in 2015 totaled $53,000.
The Department of Education provides an informative website, StudentAid .ed.gov, that runs through the options and fine print on student loans and where to go for help.
Not only will individual stock picking not lead you to beat the market, but it will likely leave you behind—possibly way behind.
Fifteen percent: A broad-based international fund like Vanguard’s Total International Stock Index Fund. You will want an international fund that has access to both developed—think Europe and parts of Asia—and emerging—think South America, Africa, and other parts of Asia—markets. Make sure that you choose an international fund and not a “global” fund.
If you are financially stretched, consider taking an immediate deduction with the traditional IRA. You can use the savings to pay down credit card debt or pursue some other long-term goal. If you feel more financially secure, go for the Roth.
Currently, half of renters in the United States are paying more than the recommended 30 percent of income for their housing,
women were treated resoundingly worse than men and were more likely to receive financial advice from someone who didn’t even bother to ask about their overall financial profile.
To build your emergency fund, start stashing away three months of living expenses in an accessible savings account.
Pay your credit card in full—like one-third of all customers—and you are indeed receiving an interest-free loan.
You need to ask and ask quite specifically: Do you work to the fiduciary standard at all times? This last part, “at all times,” is important.
Most car insurance policies cover rental cars, so you probably don’t need to pay for that when you rent a car.
Harold offhandedly noted that the fundamental dilemma facing the financial services industry is that the correct advice for most people fits on a three-by-five-inch index card and is available for free at the library.
There is no better way to simplify and gain control over your financial life than by eliminating high-interest debt. So pay off your credit card and other high-interest loans ASAP. For most of us, this is by far the best investment opportunity we’ll ever receive.
myRA. Employees who work for firms that do not offer a retirement investing plan are eligible to contribute through direct deposit. The money is invested in guaranteed, low-expense, low-interest government funds. Your myRA balance is capped at $15,000. When you surpass that amount, the money will be moved to a financial services account.
IF YOU CHANGE JOBS, DON’T CHANGE RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS
Never mind asking about the fiduciary standard. “Ask them to sign an oath stating they will act as fiduciaries,”
Men tend to achieve lower returns than women. It’s not because the ladies are better at stock picking. Rather, women are better at not picking stocks than men. As a result, ladies trade less, saving money on investment fees and boosting their returns. Your great advantage as an investor is that you can be boring and methodical, rising with the overall market and not wasting money on costly trading that tends to underperform the market.
PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM
The fastest way of ending your debt drama and getting off the debt treadmill is to devote your resources to paying down the bill with the highest interest rate while paying the required minimum on the rest. When you’ve retired that bill, you move on to the debt with the next-highest interest rate.
You should always borrow from the federal government first. Why? Federal loans offer much more flexibility than privately issued loans.
College financial aid offices often exclude retirement accounts when determining how much a family can afford to pay for college.
You can withdraw money with no penalty to pay for college tuition and medical bills—provided, that is, your unreimbursed bills total more than 10 percent of your income. You can also take $10,000 out to be used toward the purchase of a home.
Check most brokers at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. If you are thinking of working with a certified financial planner, the CFP Board maintains disciplinary records on its members. State regulatory authorities also maintain databases.
If your employer offers a retirement account with a match, this is likely the best shot you will ever get at earning money for doing absolutely nothing. Don’t turn it down.
When it comes to life insurance, stick with term. When it comes to property insurance, the higher the deductible the better. Always double-check that your hospital and doctor are on your health insurance plan. Adequate liability coverage is at least twice your net worth. Avoid complicated annuities. Keep an emergency fund.
CNBC’s entire business model is based on encouraging individual stock picking.
47 percent of us report that we could not come up with $400 if we needed to without selling something, resorting to increased credit card debt, borrowing from a friend or relative, or taking out a payday loan.
We think longevity annuities are a great idea, provided it is a fixed annuity.
Nothing—and we mean nothing—can send you into bankruptcy faster than the lack of health coverage.
Alternative investments tend to be highly subject to trends, manias, and erratic or dramatic price swings. They bring unpredictability into your life. You don’t need that.
the more the wealthier people at the top of the income ladder spend on high-status luxury goods, the greater the pressure to keep up across the income spectrum. This “trickle-down consumption,” as they call it, reduces the savings rates for all too many of us.
the real money for credit card issuers is in making sure people who can’t or don’t pay off their bills in full load up on credit, then charging them for the privilege. As a result, they don’t want you to manage your money responsibly.
One academic analysis found the best way to make money off his show was to immediately short (that is, bet against) any stock he screams viewers should buy. That’s not totally because Cramer doesn’t get the fundamentals, by the way.
if you are twenty-five years old and this is your retirement savings, an aggressive growth strategy is likely better.
A long-term bond index fund will suffice.
There is only one way to avoid falling victim to a fee-based advisor. Never assume someone is a fiduciary. Never assume he doesn’t ever work for commissions. Always ask.
The vast amount of money in retirement accounts is shielded from creditors in the event of bankruptcy.
if you don’t own a house, condo, or other property, you might want to consider putting a small percentage—maybe 5 to 10 percent—of your money into a real estate investment trust index fund, also known as a REIT.
A fiduciary is a financial advisor who has a legal and regulatory duty to put your interests ahead of his or her own.
you can put up to $5,500 into an IRA and another $1,000 if you are over fifty. The traditional IRA offers an immediate tax deduction, and the money grows tax-free, but withdrawals in retirement will be taxed as though they were earned income, like a 401(k).
if you can’t keep up, don’t be an ostrich! Don’t go into default; that is, don’t simply stop paying your monthly bill. The penalty fees will pile up fast. Instead, look for help. A good place to start is the website of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ConsumerFinance.gov, or the Department of Education.
Seventy percent: A good S&P 500 index fund.
Do not combine federal and private student loans. Why? Once again, federal loans provide more flexibility in the event of financial hardship, and you will lose those benefits if you consolidate those loans with a private lender.
Exchange-traded funds almost always have lower expense ratios but higher trading costs than mutual funds.
you are allowed to “borrow” your own money from a 401(k) for up to five years before you are subject to withdrawal penalties.
Fifteen percent: A small-cap index fund such as the Russell 2000 Index.
The best type of insurance to protect your loved ones, at the least cost to your pocketbook, is called term insurance.
Average credit card debt per U.S. household now exceeds $7,000. But it’s actually worse than that. A little more than half of us manage to pay off our credit card bill in full every month. The rest of us? Take the financial Boy Scouts out of the picture, and the remaining households owe an average of more than $15,000.
The sooner you think you need the money, the less risk you should assume.
“If it’s free, you are the product.”
Save 10 to 20 percent of your money—or as much as you can, if you can’t put that much aside. Pay your credit card balance in full every month. Invest in low-cost index funds.
Companies like the Lending Club use sophisticated algorithms to determine who is most likely to pay the money back versus who is in danger of defaulting. It’s a great deal—if you can get it. Unfortunately, many are not able to utilize this method. The people who need help the least are the most likely to get it, thanks to those algorithms.
consolidating federal student loans is, in the vast majority of cases, a onetime offer. There are no do-overs, unless you return to school and acquire more federal student debt. The best place to begin the process of figuring out if consolidation is right for you is to check out the Department of Education’s website.
There are two ways to invest in index funds. The first is via a mutual fund. The second is what is called an exchange-traded fund (ETF).
we recommend that your bond allocation roughly equal your age.
There is a whole industry of financial services advisors out there who make their living by convincing you that it’s naive to believe that simplicity, common sense, and restraint are potent enough weapons with which to deal with the whirlwind of financial chaos facing any of us on any given day.
It’s almost certain the secret to our grandparents’ extraordinary financial discipline was a result of the four Ls: lack of access to credit layaway plans loved ones loan sharks
Buffett published a letter to his two sons and one daughter saying how he thought they should invest when he was no longer here. His suggestion? “A very low-cost S&P 500 index fund.”
What you want to avoid are variable annuities and equity annuities, which are also called indexed annuities.
DARPA makes the future happen. Industry, public health, society, and culture all transform because of technology that DARPA pioneers. DARPA creates, DARPA dominates, and when sent to the battlefield, DARPA destroys.
A revolution is not a revolution unless it comes with an element of surprise.
Castle Bravo had been built according to the “Teller-Ulam” scheme—named for its co-designers, Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam—which meant, unlike with the far less powerful atomic bomb, this hydrogen bomb had been designed to hold itself together for an extra hundred-millionth of a second, thereby allowing its hydrogen isotopes to fuse and create a chain reaction of nuclear energy, called fusion, producing a potentially infinite amount of power, or yield. “What this meant,” Freedman explains, was that there was “a one-in-one-million chance that, given how much hydrogen [is] in the earth’s atmosphere, when Castle Bravo exploded, it could catch the earth’s atmosphere on fire.
in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack, there was a fully formed plan in place to keep the president and his cabinet alive. An executive branch version of the Station 70 bunker had recently been completed six miles north of Camp David, just over the Pennsylvania state line. This underground command center, called the Raven Rock Mountain Complex, was buried inside a mountain of granite, giving the president protection equivalent to that of walls a thousand feet thick. The Raven Rock complex, also called Site R, had been designed to withstand a direct hit from a 15-megaton bomb.
It was a defining moment in the history of weapons development and the future of man and machine. A computer had reported that a thousand-strong Soviet ICBM attack was under way. And a human, in this case Air Marshal Charles Roy Slemon, used his judgment to intervene and to overrule. At J-Site, the ARPA 474L System Program Office worked with technicians to teach the BMEWS computers to reject echoes from the moon.
There was a loophole to be explored, Teller suggested. “Explosions below a kiloton cannot be detected and identified by any of the methods considered realistic by any of the delegations at the Geneva Conference,” he wrote. The United States could secretly conduct low-yield tests. Yes, it would be cheating, but the Russians could not be trusted, and surely they would cheat too.
Given advances in the technology of detection, American and Soviet scientists now agreed that it was possible to cease nuclear testing. If one side cheated, they would be caught.
The way Godel saw it, the French colonialists were trying to fight the Viet Minh guerrillas according to colonial rules of war. But the South Vietnamese, who were receiving weapons and training from the French forces, were actually fighting a different kind of war, based on different rules. Guerrilla warfare was irrational. It was asymmetrical. It was about cutting off the enemy’s head to send a message back home. When, in the spring of 1950, William Godel witnessed guerrilla warfare firsthand in Vietnam, it shifted his perspective on how the United States would need to fight future wars. Guerrilla warfare involved psychological warfare. To Godel, it was a necessary component for a win.
Licklider envisioned a day when a computer would serve as a human’s “assistant.” The machine would “answer questions, perform simulation modeling, graphically display results, and extrapolate solutions for new situations from past experience.” Like John von Neumann, Licklider saw similarities between the computer and the brain, and he saw a symbiotic relationship between man and machine, one in which man’s burdens, or “rote work,” could be eased by the machine. Humans could then devote their time to making important decisions, Licklider said.
second office at the Pentagon called the Behavioral Sciences Program, an office that would eventually take on much more Orwellian tasks related to surveillance programs. This office grew out of a study originally commissioned by Herb York, titled “Toward a Technology of Human Behavior for Defense Use.” This study examined how computers, or “man-machine systems,” could best be used in conflict zones. The results, today, are far-reaching.
ARPA engineers in Licklider’s Behavioral Sciences Program office believed that computers could be used to model social behavior. Data could be collected and algorithms could be designed to analyze the data and to build models. This led Licklider to another seminal idea. What if, based on the data collected, you could get the computer to predict human behavior? If man can predict, he can control.
“The occasion was highly informal,” he remembered, in one of the only known written recollections of the meeting. “Maps were spread out on the floor, drinks were served, a dog kept crossing the demilitarized zone as top secret matters were discussed. Even though the subject was the Jason study, I was the only Jason present.” Seymour Deitchman did most of the talking. “It was, you know, a typical social occasion,” MacDonald recalled, except the participants were “just… deciding the next years of the Vietnam War.”
Climate change is, and always has been, “a driver of wars,” he believed. Drought, pestilence, flood, and famine push people to the limits of human survival, often resulting in war for control over what few resources remain.
In 1963, weather modification was still legal.
Gouré’s particular area of expertise was post-apocalypse civil defense
When students learned IDA was still operating on campus, protestors initiated a five-day siege of Von Neumann Hall, spray painting anti-Nixon graffiti across the front of the building, engaging with police officers, and chanting, “Kill the computer!”
Most historical accounts of the use of nonlethal weapons in the United States cite the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 as a turning point. The act established the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Justice designed to assist state police forces across the nation in upgrading their riot control hardware and officer-training programs. The act also provided $12 billion in funding over a period of ten years. Police forces across America began upgrading their military-style equipment to include riot control systems, helicopters, grenade launchers, and machine guns. The LEAA famously gave birth to the special weapons and tactics concept, or SWAT, with the first units created in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. “These units,” says an LAPD historian, “provided security for police facilities during civil unrest.” But what has not been established before this book is that much of this equipment was researched and developed by ARPA in the jungles of Vietnam and Thailand during the Vietnam War.
For the Pentagon, the antiwar protests were a command and control nightmare. For ARPA it meant the acceleration of a “nonlethal weapons” program to research and develop ways to stop demonstrators through the use of painful but not deadly force.
Licklider and Taylor co-wrote an essay in 1968 in which they predicted, “In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face.” By 2009, more electronic text messages would be sent each day than there were people on the planet.
The person largely responsible for connecting these nodes was an electrical engineer named Robert Kahn. At the time, Kahn called what he was working on an “internetwork.” Soon it would be shortened to Internet.
Taylor left Herzfeld’s office and headed back to his own. He later recalled the astonishment he felt when he looked at his watch. “Jesus Christ,” he thought. “That only took twenty minutes.” Even more consequential was the idea of network redundancy—making sure no single computer could take the system down—that emerged from that meeting. It is why in 2015, no one organization, corporation, or nation can own or completely control the global system of interconnected computer networks known as the Internet. To think it came out of that one meeting, on the fly.
Marshall served as director of the Office of Net Assessment, created by the Nixon White House in 1973 and dedicated to forecasting future wars.
For the general population, real-world lasers, death rays, and directed-energy weapons were scientifically impossible to grasp. Science fiction was not so hard.
in 2008, the CIA, the NSA, and DARPA launched a covert data-mining effort, called Project Reynard, to track World of Warcraft subscribers and discern how they exist and interact in virtual worlds.
In one instance, a group of Iraqi soldiers stepped out from a hiding place and waved the white flag of surrender at the eye of a television camera attached to a drone that was hovering nearby. This became the first time in history that a group of enemy soldiers was recorded surrendering to a machine.
One of the ultimate goals of Chimera, Alibek said, was to create a monster hybrid of smallpox and Ebola. Alibek warned his handlers that the Soviets had sold secrets about genetically modified bioweapons to Libya, Iran, Iraq, India, Cuba, and former Soviet bloc countries in eastern Europe.
The RAND report was called “Combat in Hell: A Consideration of Constrained Urban Warfare.” It began with the prescient words: “Historical advice is consistent. Sun Tzu counseled that ‘the worst policy is to attack cities.’” Accordingly, avoid urban warfare.
When Christopher Davis learned that the Soviets were developing a genetically modified, antibiotic-resistant strain of plague, he interpreted it to mean one thing. “You choose plague because you’re going to take out the other person’s country,” Davis said. “Kill all the people, then move in and take over the land. Full stop. That’s what it is about.”
The ability to genetically engineer pathogens had raised the threat level. For use as a weapon, the possibilities were limitless. “If you were to mix Ebola with the communicability of measles to create a pathogen that would continue to alter itself in such a way to evade treatment,” wrote Block, the rate of Ebola’s transmission and infectivity would skyrocket.
Whales and dolphins don’t sleep; as mammals, they would drown if they did. Unlike humans, they are somehow able to control the lobes of their left and right brains so that while one lobe sleeps, the opposite lobe stays awake, allowing the animal to swim
Goldblatt hired a biotechnology firm to develop a pain vaccine. “It works with the body’s inflammatory response that is responsible for pain,” Goldblatt explained in 2014. The way the vaccine would work is that, if a soldier got shot, he would experience “ten to thirty seconds of agony then no pain for thirty days.
No one said, “But Dark Winter was only a game.” Lines were being blurred. Games were influencing reality. Man was merging with machine. What else would the technological advances of the twenty-first century bring?
In 1996, the CIA provided President Clinton with reports on the biological weapons programs believed to be in existence inside North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria—all still classified in 2015.
Michael Goldblatt came to DARPA with a radical vision. He believed that through advanced technology, in twenty or fifty years’ time, human beings could be the “first species to control evolution.
INSCOM’s commanding officer, Lieutenant General Keith Alexander. At Fort Belvoir, Alexander ran his operations out of a facility known as the Information Dominance Center, with an unusual interior design that deviated significantly from traditional military decor. The Information Dominance Center had been designed by Academy Award–winning Hollywood set designer Bran Ferren to simulate the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, from the Star Trek television and film series. There were ovoid-shaped chairs, computer stations inside highly polished chrome panels, even doors that slid open with a whooshing sound. Alexander would sit in the leather captain’s chair, positioned in the center of the command post, where he could face the Information Dominance Center’s twenty-four-foot television monitor. General Alexander loved the science-fiction genre. INSCOM staff even wondered if the general fancied himself a real-life Captain Kirk.
Is the world transforming into a war zone and America into a police state, and is it DARPA that is making them so?
during the war on terror, the Pentagon began seeking ideas from science-fiction writers, most notably a civilian organization called the SIGMA group
Charles Townes said to me, and I mentioned it earlier in this book, was that he was personally inspired to invent the laser after reading the science-fiction novel The Garin Death Ray, written by Alexei Tolstoi in 1926. It is remarkable to think how powerful a force science fiction can be. That fantastic, seemingly impossible ideas can inspire people like Charles Townes to invent things that totally transform the real world.
Charles Townes told me that once, long ago, he was sharing his idea for the laser with John von Neumann and that von Neumann told him his idea wouldn’t work. “What did you think about that?” I asked Townes. “If you’re going to do anything new,” he said, “you have to disregard criticism. Most people are against new ideas. They think, ‘If I didn’t think of it, it won’t work.’ Inevitably, people doubt you. You persevere anyway. That’s what you do.” And that was exactly what Charles Townes did. The laser is considered one of the most significant scientific inventions of the modern world.
If DARPA is the Pentagon’s brain, defense contractors are its beating heart. President Eisenhower said that the only way Americans could keep defense contractors in check was through knowledge. “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
human-machine interface, or what the Pentagon calls Human-Robot Interaction
Bye Bye Banks?: How Retail Banks are Being Displaced, Diminished and Disintermediated by Tech Startups - and What They Can Do to Survive.
James HaycockBuy on Amazon
The objective of Google is not to create a payment solution. The objective of Google is to be able to address the issue that they’re having, which is the cost-per-click model is becoming less transparent of what benefit the advertiser is getting from that click. In the case of Google Wallet, they can say, ‘Well, that customer that browsed X and Y, I can confirm to you that they went and purchased your product and here’s the proof.’
MaxMyInterest, a US startup that calls itself the ‘intelligent cash management solution’, demonstrates a similar idea by helping maximise savings returns. The service, which is still at a relatively early stage, helps easily move customer’s money between accounts to get the best interest rate at any point in time.
This is a very big risk. As the offerings of the banks are not that differentiated the relationship with the customer has a very high value, much more, potentially, than any other industries. There’s currently an inertia with getting the customer to move from one bank to another . . . So if one of these startups make it easy for me to go from working with bank A to working with bank B, because in reality, you’ve created a layer on top that allows you to replace the bank on the back end but retain the relationship with the customer on your own, you are in fact destroying my revenue model.
LevelMoney, which launched in 2012, is another US-based PFM which targets millennials looking to pay back student loans and to start saving. The business received $5m investment from VC KPCB and as of January 2015 had 700,000 users before it was acquired by Capital One.
Plaid and Yodlee offer a well designed API for the startups to use albeit it one that currently violates the terms and conditions of the banks.
Social loafing40 is the tendency for individuals to expend less effort when working collaboratively than when working individually
Relational Loss39 is a concept that explains the importance of cohesion and relationships in teams. Individuals feel that as teams grow they lose support, which would buffer stressful experiences as well as help encourage positive performance.
diversity brings different views to problems as empathetic thinking is more achievable when a broader set of people are represented within the organisation.
AirBnB’s Head of Design, Alex Schleifer, shared the opinion that companies should place at least one person whose sole role is to represent the user in every team.
The Deviant in this context who will question the team’s assumptions, rebal against conformity and be willing to ask ‘wait a minute, why are we even doing this at all?’ This was a role that Steve Jobs frequently played at Apple, for example, especially in the company’s early years. Every team should have a deviant.
Patty McCord, who was chief talent officer at Netflix from 1998 to 2012, wrote in an article for HBR34: ‘The best thing you can do for employees is hire only “A” players to work alongside them. Excellent colleagues trump everything else.’ To support this belief the company also has a rich severance package that allows it to discharge people who don’t cut it as A players.
In 1997, Jeff Bezos, told investors that Amazon was focused on the long term. He said: ‘If you’re long-term orientated, customer and shareholder interests are aligned. In the short term, that’s not always correct.’ In other words, when companies make decisions based on the next quarter’s results, they are prioritising share price and not value to the customer which may lead to the right outcome for one important stakeholder but potentially a negative one for an ultimately more important group.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and Chief Executive once said: ‘The biggest risk is not taking any risk . . . In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
Microsoft founder’s maxims: ‘We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.’
This is how the scenario plays out: first, the banks are displaced by new entrants offering better customer experiences and price. Then their revenues are diminished, as they’re relegated to a position of an undifferentiated utility in an environment with higher rates of switching. Finally, the arrival of a new technology, like the blockchain, challenges the banks’ core competency, as the new players bypass their services, disintermediating them entirely.
The more people there are in the room, the more pressure there is to perform well
he thinks to make a great film, its makers must pivot, at some point, from creating the story for themselves to creating it for others.
This principle eludes most people, but it is critical: You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.
A competitive approach measures other ideas against your own, turning the discussion into a debate to be won or lost. An additive approach, on the other hand, starts with the understanding that each participant contributes something (even if it’s only an idea that fuels the discussion—and ultimately doesn’t work).
Here are the qualifications required: The people you choose must (a) make you think smarter and (b) put lots of solutions on the table in a short amount of time. I don’t care who it is, the janitor or the intern or one of your most trusted lieutenants: If they can help you do that, they should be at the table
The more time you spend mapping out an approach, the more likely you are to get attached to it. The nonworking idea gets worn into your brain, like a rut in the mud. It can be difficult to get free of it and head in a different direction. Which, more often than not, is exactly what you must do.
Be patient. Be authentic. And be consistent.
There’s a quick way to determine if your company has embraced the negative definition of failure. Ask yourself what happens when an error is discovered. Do people shut down and turn inward, instead of coming together to untangle the causes of problems that might be avoided going forward? Is the question being asked: Whose fault was this? If so, your culture is one that vilifies failure. Failure is difficult enough without it being compounded by the search for a scapegoat.
A manager’s default mode should not be secrecy. What is needed is a thoughtful consideration of the cost of secrecy weighed against the risks. When you instantly resort to secrecy, you are telling people they can’t be trusted. When you are candid, you are telling people that you trust them and that there is nothing to fear. To confide in employees is to give them a sense of ownership over the information. The result—and I’ve seen this again and again—is that they are less likely to leak whatever it is that you’ve confided.
Pete was surprised to hear from a neuroscientist that only about 40 percent of what we think we “see” comes in through our eyes. “The rest is made up from memory or patterns that we recognize from past experience,” he told me.
Once you master any system, you typically become blind to its flaws; even if you can see them, they appear far too complex and intertwined to consider changing. But to remain blind is to risk becoming the music industry, in which self-interest (trying to protect short-term gains) trumped self-awareness (few people realized that the old system was about to be overtaken altogether). Industry executives clung to their outdated business model—selling albums—until it was too late and file sharing and iTunes had turned everything upside down.
when the British introduced golf to India in the 1820s. Upon building the first golf course there, the Royal Calcutta, the British discovered a problem: Indigenous monkeys were intrigued by the little white balls and would swoop down out of the trees and onto the fairways, picking them up and carrying them off. This was a disruption, to say the least. In response, officials tried erecting fences to keep the monkeys out, but the monkeys climbed right over. They tried capturing and relocating the monkeys, but the monkeys kept coming back. They tried loud noises to scare them away. Nothing worked. In the end, they arrived at a solution: They added a new rule to the game—“Play the ball where the monkey drops it.”
Many of the rules that people find onerous and bureaucratic were put in place to deal with real abuses, problems, or inconsistencies or as a way of managing complex environments. But while each rule may have been instituted for good reason, after a while a thicket of rules develops that may not make sense in the aggregate. The danger is that your company becomes overwhelmed by well-intended rules that only accomplish one thing: draining the creative impulse.
Negative feedback may be fun, but it is far less brave than endorsing something unproven and providing room for it to grow.
I often say that managers of creative enterprises must hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions. What does that mean? It means that we must be open to having our goals change as we learn new information or are surprised by things we thought we knew but didn’t. As long as our intentions—our values—remain constant, our goals can shift as needed.
We’re meant to push ourselves and try new things—which will definitely make us feel uncomfortable.
“Sometimes in meetings, I sense people seizing up, not wanting to even talk about changes,” he says. “So I try to trick them. I’ll say, ‘This would be a big change if we were really going to do it, but just as a thought exercise, what if …’ Or, ‘I’m not actually suggesting this, but go with me for a minute …’ If people anticipate the production pressures, they’ll close the door to new ideas—so you have to pretend you’re not actually going to do anything, we’re just talking, just playing around. Then if you hit upon some new idea that clearly works, people are excited about it and are happier to act on the change.”
Which left us with a chronological problem: While the emotional throughline of the film was working, the age difference between Muntz and Carl (who’d admired him since childhood) should have meant that Muntz was pushing a hundred. But we were late in the game—too late to fix it—and in the end, we simply decided not to address it. We’ve found over the years that if people are enjoying the world you’ve created, they will forgive little inconsistencies, if they notice them at all. In this case, nobody noticed—or if they did, they didn’t care.
But if every day is sunny and it doesn’t rain, things don’t grow. And if it’s sunny all the time—if, in fact, we don’t ever even have night—all kinds of things don’t happen and the planet dries up. The key is to view conflict as essential, because that’s how we know the best ideas will be tested and survive. You know, it can’t only be sunlight.
For years, Disney employees attempted to keep his spirit alive by constantly asking themselves, “What would Walt do?” Perhaps they thought that if they asked that question they would come up with something original, that they would remain true to Walt’s pioneering spirit. In fact, this kind of thinking only accomplished the opposite. Because it looked backward, not forward, it tethered the place to the status quo. A pervasive fear of change took root. Steve Jobs was quite aware of this story and used to repeat it to people at Apple, adding that he never wanted people to ask, “What would Steve do?” No one—not Walt, not Steve, not the people of Pixar—ever achieved creative success by simply clinging to what used to work
personally, I think the person who can’t change his or her mind is dangerous. Steve Jobs was known for changing his mind instantly in the light of new facts, and I don’t know anyone who thought he was weak.
Here’s what turns a successful hierarchy into one that impedes progress: when too many people begin, subconsciously, to equate their own value and that of others with where they fall in the pecking order. Thus, they focus their energies on managing upward while treating people beneath them on the organizational chart poorly. The people I have seen do this seem to be acting on animal instinct, unaware of what they are doing. This problem is not caused by hierarchy itself but by individual or cultural delusions associated with hierarchy, chiefly those that assign personal worth based on rank. By not thinking about how and why we value people, we can fall into this trap almost by default.
Occam’s Razor, attributed to William of Ockham, a fourteenth-century English logician. On the most basic level, it says that if there are competing explanations for why something occurs the way it does, you should pick the one that relies on the fewest assumptions and is thus the simplest
I feel like the only reason we’re able to find some of these unique ideas, characters, and story twists is through discovery. And, by definition, ‘discovery’ means you don’t know the answer when you start
I tend to flood and freeze up if I’m feeling overwhelmed. When this happens, it’s usually because I feel like the world is crashing down and all is lost. One trick I’ve learned is to force myself to make a list of what’s actually wrong. Usually, soon into making the list, I find I can group most of the issues into two or three larger all-encompassing problems. So it’s really not all that bad. Having a finite list of problems is much better than having an illogical feeling that everything is wrong.”
If we start with the attitude that different viewpoints are additive rather than competitive, we become more effective because our ideas or decisions are honed and tempered by that discourse. In a healthy, creative culture, the people in the trenches feel free to speak up and bring to light differing views that can help give us clarity.
In an unhealthy culture, each group believes that if their objectives trump the goals of the other groups, the company will be better off. In a healthy culture, all constituencies recognize the importance of balancing competing desires—they want to be heard, but they don’t have to win. Their interaction with one another—the push and pull that occurs naturally when talented people are given clear goals—yields the balance we seek. But that only happens if they understand that achieving balance is a central goal of the company.
If the other car had veered another two inches into our lane, it would have caught our front bumper, instead of the side, and pushed us right over the cliff. Existential threats like this tend to stay with you. Two more inches—no Pixar.
The oversight group had been put in place without anyone asking a fundamental question: How do we enable our people to solve problems? Instead, they asked: How do we prevent our people from screwing up? That approach never encourages a creative response. My rule of thumb is that any time we impose limits or procedures, we should ask how they will aid in enabling people to respond creatively. If the answer is that they won’t, then the proposals are ill suited to the task at hand.
The very concept of a limit implies that you can’t do everything you want—so we must think of smarter ways to work. Let’s be honest: Many of us don’t make this kind of adjustment until we are required to. Limits force us to rethink how we are working and push us to new heights of creativity.
I’ve noticed what might be called a “law of subverting successful approaches,” by which I mean once you’ve hit on something that works, don’t expect it to work again, because attendees will know how to manipulate it the second time around
By resisting the beginner’s mind, you make yourself more prone to repeat yourself than to create something new. The attempt to avoid failure, in other words, makes failure more likely.
the shorts accomplished other things for Pixar. People who work on them, for example, get a broader range of experience than they would on a feature, where the sheer scale and complexity of the project demands more specialization among the crew. Because shorts are staffed with fewer people, each employee has to do more things, developing a variety of skills that come in handy down the line. Moreover, working in small groups forges deeper relationships that can carry forward and, in the long term, benefit the company’s future projects
One technique I’ve used to soften the process is to ask everyone in the room to make two lists: the top five things that they would do again and the top five things that they wouldn’t do again. People find it easier to be candid if they balance the negative with the positive, and a good facilitator can make it easier for that balance to be struck.
“If you’re sailing across the ocean and your goal is to avoid weather and waves, then why the hell are you sailing?” he says. “You have to embrace that sailing means that you can’t control the elements and that there will be good days and bad days and that, whatever comes, you will deal with it because your goal is to eventually get to the other side. You will not be able to control exactly how you get across. That’s the game you’ve decided to be in. If your goal is to make it easier and simpler, then don’t get in the boat.”
Everything is changing. All the time. And you can’t stop it. And your attempts to stop it actually put you in a bad place. It causes pain, but we don’t seem to learn from it. Worse than that, resisting change robs you of your beginner’s mind—your openness to the new.
The uncreated is a vast, empty space. This emptiness is so scary that most hold on to what they know, making minor adjustments to what they understand, unable to move on to something unknown.
When costs are low, it’s easier to justify taking a risk. Thus, unless we lowered our costs, we would effectively limit the kinds of films that we would be able to make
Cheaper films are made with smaller crews, and everyone agrees that the smaller the crew, the better the working experience. It’s not just that a leaner crew is closer and more collegial; it’s that on a smaller production it’s easier for people to feel that they’ve made an impact
Quality meant that every aspect—not just the rendering and the storytelling but also the positioning and the marketing—needed to be done well, which meant being open to reasoned opinions, even when they contradicted our own
When looking to hire people, give their potential to grow more weight than their current skill level. What they will be capable of tomorrow is more important than what they can do today
it is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them
The healthiest organizations are made up of departments whose agendas differ but whose goals are interdependent. If one agenda wins, we all lose.
To keep a creative culture vibrant, we must not be afraid of constant uncertainty. We must accept it, just as we accept the weather. Uncertainty and change are life’s constants. And that’s the fun part.
Careful “messaging” to downplay problems makes you appear to be lying, deluded, ignorant, or uncaring. Sharing problems is an act of inclusion that makes employees feel invested in the larger enterprise
Be wary of making too many rules. Rules can simplify life for managers, but they can be demeaning to the 95 percent who behave well. Don’t create rules to rein in the other 5 percent—address abuses of common sense individually. This is more work but ultimately healthier.
Steve had a remarkable knack for letting go of things that didn’t work. If you were in an argument with him, and you convinced him that you were right, he would instantly change his mind. He didn’t hold on to an idea because he had once believed it to be brilliant. His ego didn’t attach to the suggestions he made, even as he threw his full weight behind them. When Steve saw Pixar’s directors do the same, he recognized them as kindred spirits
Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way. And that’s as it should be.
Howard W. FrenchBuy on Amazon
“You can’t compare it with Western countries. But at the same time, most Western people probably have the wrong idea about life in China. They think that whatever you do, the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is following you around, ready to arrest you. It’s like our ideas about America. We think everybody has a gun in their pocket, and there’s danger everywhere.
“Back home, ideas about Africa are way off, too. I get lots of questions from friends asking about animals and telling me to send pictures of them. People think it’s a big mess here and that it’s really dangerous, that there’s nothing but crises all the time. That’s because the news just focuses on the negative. It’s the same with the way Americans think about China. It’s also the way Chinese people think about Americans. Our news always accentuates the negative.”
Time and again, Chinese told me they did not fully realize how oppressive things were at home until after they had left. Living in Africa, they said, it felt as if a lid had been removed from a pressure cooker. Now they could breathe.
“China is a big, fucking mess with all of its fucking dialects,”
“There is a risk that they should consider, though, that one day the people of Africa will come to see China as an unfriendly country,” Diop said. “That could put all of their interests in danger over time. They should think about this a little more.”
Whatever land was not claimed or routinely worked now was likely to begin coming under heavy demand in the space of a generation, as the continent’s population skyrockets.
“I’d never dealt with African people before,” Hao said. “At first just coming in contact with them made me feel uncomfortable, their skin is so black. But once you’re in contact with them you begin to get used to it. You realize it’s just a color.
“I have a hard time imagining a Chinese leader deciding to invest in grain production here in Mali for sale in China,” Boly said. “We are a thousand kilometers from the nearest port, and with the transportation costs to get rice to China, it wouldn’t make sense. But I can easily imagine them producing rice to sell to us here in this region, which frees up grain from elsewhere for their consumption. And if they become really big players here, that gives China a lot of influence over our [African] governments.”
For thousands of years, Chinese had called people on their frontier barbarians, and now the stereotype had been reversed.
Rising powers throughout history have forever faced a simple but fateful choice: whether to take on the established players in their backyards, in places where their interests are greatest and most deeply entrenched, or try to expand into relatively uncontested zones of the world.
Civil society works, in part, by demanding more from those who govern: better performance, more accountability and openness, and more fairness. In this way, and not just through the regular exercise of elections, habits of democracy are formed
you go to some parts of Ghana and people have given up on farming because they have no roads. This is a big waste. If Ghana gets roads, they will be able to farm and earn money and this will allow them to develop
the boy warned that the Chinese guards manning the barrier would stop us to make inquiries about our business, I told John he should merely slow down, allowing me, the foreigner, to give a brisk wave from the passenger’s seat, a kind of bluff, which I rightly figured would be enough to get us through
If you have your equipment and your people in place and there is no business, that is very bad. If you bid low, though, even if you have a tiny margin, you are better off. That’s the reason Chinese companies bid low. It’s not because we want more market share. The number of companies and people working in this sector [in China] is very large. We need more and more markets to keep people employed. Most of the companies like mine are state-owned, and if you start laying off workers, it will create huge problems for the country.”
“I’m Chinese,” he answered, “and we have an expression that says you leap forward if there’s an empty space. Empty spaces are there to be filled.”
an apparent paradox widely observed in Africa: poverty is declining much faster in countries without mineral wealth than in those that are richly endowed in natural resources.
As we parted company, Pereira said grimly that with the country given over to illicit enrichment, lawlessness, and exclusion on such a vast scale, all signs pointed not to economic takeoff for Mozambique, but rather to yet more war.
“He comes from the same class as me, but within three years of getting his minister’s appointment, he had three homes in Maputo, each of which is worth more than a million dollars.”
“Each of the companies that comes here acts like a private intelligence operation and they inform their embassy about all of the resource and business opportunities that might interest China,” Pereira said. “They do some good things. They are providing some jobs. They are adding to the budget. They are building roads, and they do it quickly. But if you compare the negative to the positive, the negative is much greater. It’s not part of the public agenda, though, because of the party’s relationship with the Chinese over the years, and because Chinese business has captured our elites.
“In order to have a good outcome here, people need to know their rights. They need to know how to negotiate. Unless we get stronger participation from people at the grassroots level, the natural resources of this country will all be gone soon. There may come a day when people open their eyes, but by that time it will be too late.”
I didn’t point out that in China, the very week before, its ambitious high-speed railroad program had suffered a fatal accident so embarrassing that the government had tried to cover it up by burying the trains before there could be an investigation.
I asked him whether the Chinese government was helping businesses like his in this frontier export zone. He laughed, saying that Chinese state banks constantly offered easy money to finance trade. “The credit requirements are ridiculously easy. You hardly have to document anything,” he said. “China has too much money, with all those American dollars we are holding. There’s so much money that they don’t know what to do with it.”
When I came here, Namibia was richer than China,” he said, laughing. “Here, I am a very rich man. But in the China of today, there is nothing remarkable about me at all.”
As we walked forward into the crowd, a man flashing an exaggeratedly clownish expression stepped in front of Jamie, shifting right and left to block his way forward. I recognized the gesture immediately as a robbery attempt of a type usually attempted by a team of two, with the clown acting as a distraction.
Chinese officials had negotiated the writing off of an unspecified amount of Namibian debt in exchange for five thousand passports and immigration permits for Chinese nationals.
I told him I would be visiting Dragon City, the popular name of the Chinese border enclave in Oshikango. “If you go there you will find that it is 100 percent Chinese, and there is a lot of resentment at the way they have been allowed to come in and buy up land like that for their exclusive use. “In Namibia, we have a place called Swakopmund. It is a German town; every second person you pass there is German. The Germans even have their own schools there. We don’t need more of this kind of thing in our country. We have already experienced apartheid here before
His instructions for when we reached the border town were strikingly simple: “Just look for the place where there are lots of Chinese. You can’t miss it. Give me a call, and I’ll come and get you.”
Nicole StarosielskiBuy on Amazon
One recent cable that connects Australia and Guam has enough capacity to carry simultaneous phone calls from the entire population of Australia—over twenty million people.
Almost all of Australia’s Internet traffic goes out through a single thirty-mile stretch,
Only forty-five undersea cables extend outward from the continental United States, supporting almost all of the country’s international data transactions.26 If one groups the cables into thirty-mile stretches, one can see that international traffic enters the United States through fewer than twenty zones.
It was not until the large-scale environmental transformation of climate change, however, that a transarctic cable route became feasible.
Carol J. LoomisBuy on Amazon
Buffett had an unwritten rule at the time that he would not put more than 25% of the partnership’s money into one security. He broke the rule for American Express, committing 40%, which was $13 million. Some two years later he sold out at a $20 million profit.
“Whenever I read about some company undertaking a cost-cutting program, I know it’s not a company that really knows what costs are all about. Spurts don’t work in this area. The really good manager does not wake up in the morning and say, ‘This is the day I’m going to cut costs,’ any more than he wakes up and decides to practice breathing.
Buffett is at heart a disciple of Benjamin Graham, under whom he studied at Columbia, and as such he believes in seeking out an undervalued company and investing in it heavily. Buffett, in fact, carries the Graham philosophy even further than Graham himself, for Graham was willing to sell out when the price of the stock rose to what he considered its true value. Buffett prefers to buy stocks that he will want to hold indefinitely.
Buffett’s only articulated rules of investment: “The first rule is not to lose. The second rule is not to forget the first rule.
“the Yanomamö Indians employ only three numbers: one, two, and more than two.
“With few exceptions, when a manager with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for poor fundamental economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.
He offered $12.9 million for station WLWD-TV 2, an NBC affiliate, a price that represented about two-and-one-half times the station’s gross revenues—not overly generous in view of the fact that stations often sell for at least three times revenues. But Avco accepted.
(“A compact organization lets all of us spend our time managing the business rather than managing each other.
Berkshire Hathaway owns 12 percent of the Washington Post Co.
While the rest of America went to church, we learned how to read right to left.
People ask me what my greatest strengths are and I say perspective. The best way to get that is to meet people that are polar opposites; you learn the most from them. There are pieces of you that are inherently yours, but everything else is a collection of the things you’ve seen and the people you’ve met.
I’m convinced that frats are the beginning of the end for most of the people who end up running the world. It teaches them to give up individuality, independence, and even their paper for acceptance.
When you washed your hands, they had hand towels so you didn’t have to wipe your face with the towel your brother wiped his balls with ten minutes ago. For real, if you are a broke-ass kid, you are wiping your face with your brother’s balls.
If you want your voice to be heard, you have to fight. There’s no other way around it. You can’t expect people to seek you out; if you know you’re right and you have the answers, then it’s your duty to tell the world.
Major Abshed and I would get high and go to Yemen Cafe in Brooklyn after work. Right off Atlantic near Court Street, it’s the best Middle Eastern food in New York. They’re known for one dish: yaneez.
Macaroni is to Chinamen as water is to gremlins, teeth are to blow jobs, and Asian is to American. It just didn’t fit.
Baos, birds, or bud, you do everything you can up front to get them in a habit, then just don’t do anything to disturb it. Set a pattern, get them into an expectation about how you gonna move, and everybody settles in. The key is not to run with people who can’t be consistent.
To this day, the only reality show that I’ve ever enjoyed watching was ego trip’s The (White) Rapper Show
Yong Kang Jie, where Din Tai Fung was founded. To this day, it is the single most famous restaurant in Taipei, the crown jewel of the pound-for-pound greatest eating island in the world.
Our shirts became the Street CNN: Cotton News Network.
I saw how managers would give people manuals, train them, and write them up, but it was empty. If you really wanted good employees that would have your interests at heart, they needed to buy in. You needed people who wanted to grow with your business and see themselves as valuable members on the team.
Style isn’t an excuse to cook without a standard. Style just determines the set of rules you choose.
realized that day that anyone can be a parent; you just need live bullets.
“A Modest Proposal”
Tourists and cornballs love Joe’s Shanghai, but everyone knows it’s Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao holding down Flushing.
You figure getting a professional degree can’t possibly put you in a shittier place than you were in previously, but that’s a misconception. It’s like having kids. In theory they cool, but the motherfuckers will shit on your life mad quick if you’re not ready. It’s a gamble. If you don’t have a scholarship, you spend about $200K for three years’ tuition, room, board, and books. Most people take out loans so that’s another 7 to 13 percent interest over twenty to thirty years paying it all back. By the time you factor in three years of lost wages, you’re just glad New York City got free condoms and 3-1-1.
Peter Luger’s in Williamsburg to Great N.Y. Noodletown on Bowery to Shopsin’s on Essex to Baohaus on Fourteenth to La Taza de Oro on Ninth Avenue to Sapporo on Forty-ninth to the golden elevator at Kuruma Zushi to Lechonera in Harlem to SriPraPhai in Woodside to Mario’s on Arthur Avenue,
People were so competitive and saw every job someone else got as a job that they lost. I didn’t agree and always told people what Cam’ron said: “Can’t get paid in a earth this big? You worthless kid!
Whether it’s cooking, basketball, or writing, I was like Latrell Sprewell. If I couldn’t go left, I just got really good at going right until someone stopped me.
Teachers would try to ask us questions about science or math and we would answer back with news about Shaq coming to Orlando. It was an exciting time.
Kunjip in Koreatown. In the winter, I craved their kalbi tang
It was going to be raw and aggressive, but also witty and slick. It was going to boast and compete and exaggerate. But it was also going to care enough to get the details right about our aspirations and our crumb-snatching struggles, our specific, small realities (chicken and collard greens) and our living-color dreamscapes (big long Caddy). It was going to be real
The flow isn’t like time, it’s like life. It’s like a heartbeat or the way you breathe, it can jump, speed up, slow down, stop, or pound right through like a machine. If the beat is time, flow is what we do with that time, how we live through it. The beat is everywhere, but every life has to find its own flow.
Life’s a bitch, I hope to not make her a widow
In the game there’s always a younger guy who has an old soul and an understanding of things beyond his years. I mean in the street game, but it also applies to the music industry. An older guy will see a kid and think, Man, that kid moves differently from the rest. He’s ready for this life. They know that if they find the right kid, they can put him under their tutelage and he’ll get it fast, step right into the rhythm of the life. But it starts by the other guy watching him, trying to pick up clues.
later, we both became investors in a restaurant in New York, the Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village. One night I ran into him there and he told me he’d read an interview I’d done somewhere.
What’s the basic motivation for a hustler? I hit the streets for the same reason a lot of other kids do: I wanted money and excitement and loved the idea of cutting myself loose from the rules and low ceilings of the straight world. The truth is that most kids on the corner aren’t making big money—especially if you break their income down to an hourly wage.1 But they’re getting rewarded in ways that go beyond dollars and cents. The kid on the streets is getting a shot at a dream. The dream is that he will be the one to make this hustling thing pay off in a big way. He sees the guy who gets rich and drives the nice car and thinks, yep, that’ll be me. He ignores the other stories going around,
There’s no way to quantify all that on a spreadsheet, but it’s that dream of being the exception, the one who gets rich and gets out before he gets got, that’s the key to a hustler’s motivation. Legions of young cats chase after that ghost and die in the streets so a small handful of bosses—the ones who really did catch the miracle—can get richer.
The whole vibe of start-up companies in Silicon Valley with twenty-five-year-old CEOs wearing shelltoes is Russell’s Def Jam style filtered through different industries. The business ideal for a whole generation went from growing up and wearing a suit every day to never growing up and wearing sneakers to the boardroom
He’d discovered a way to work in the legit world but to live the dream of the hustler: independence, wealth, and success outside of the mainstream’s rules.
He knew that the key to success was believing in the quality of your own product enough to make people do business with you on your terms. He knew that great product was the ultimate advantage in competition, not how big your office building is or how deep your pockets are or who you know. In the end it came down to having a great product and the hustle to move it
When people asked him what his art was about, he’d hit them with the same three words: “Royalty, heroism, and the streets.”
In the corner of the painting are the words, MOST YOUNG KINGS GET THIER HEAD CUT OFF.
If the price is life, then you better get what you paid for. There’s an equal and opposite relationship between balling and falling.
you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate
David Haskell and Colin SpoelmanBuy on Amazon
You may have found you can get away with knowing nothing about wine, that you can call mulligan on that one and still get by. But liquor feels different, and so you pick one drink to order everywhere you go, like you’re James Bond or a cowboy. And you look down the bar and your ten-year-old self is sitting there shaking his head at how much of a phony you’ve become, and you want to say to him, You don’t understand; it gets complicated. You want to explain that adulthood is something of an insult that prompts the whiskey in the first place. Who knew that you had to live with yourself in your own head for such a long time? Alcohol seems to soften the intensity of that fact. Great writers have articulated this same truth, and have dealt with the condition by turning to drink. So you look at your younger self and shrug. He’ll understand soon enough. And who let him in the bar anyway?
Jameson would have you believe that the third distillation enhances the quality of their whiskey, but it simply means that Jameson is more neutral: fewer impurities, less flavor.
every vodka order is a missed opportunity.
Vodka is a feat of engineering. By definition via American law, it has no “distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color,” and so vodkas differentiate themselves by the vague characteristic of smoothness.
Most gin and absinthe originate as vodka before being infused and redistilled with flavoring agents.
the astronomic sales of super-premium vodkas are one of the great advertising triumphs of modern history.
—whiskey is steeped in America. It is the spirit that George Washington distilled at home and offered to his troops during the Revolutionary War, and the spirit Thomas Jefferson foresaw when granting land in western Virginia to corn growers. It is the spirit that defined the soul of the South after its defeat in the Civil War, and the spirit that was most easily manufactured (sometimes through grossly artificial means) during Prohibition, fueling the urban speakeasies of the Jazz Age,
. A 1766 map illustrates very little development in Brooklyn, other than a large distillery complex in Brooklyn Heights standing among the scattered houses in the woods and marshes.
Out on the frontier, it was considerably more difficult to deliver acres’ worth of grain to market than it was to distill the grain at home and travel with a jug of spirit. This is how whiskey first grew in popularity—it became a convenient mechanism for farms large and small to monetize their harvest.
Jefferson knew the economic potential of whiskey. When he was governor of Virginia, he offered sixty-acre plots in the western part of his state to anyone who would grow corn. Sixty acres of corn was far more than any family could eat, but enough to support commercial distilling. In 1792, this part of Virginia became the fifteenth state: Kentucky.
This was a time when the government received up to 65 percent of its revenue from excise tax
George Garvin Brown, who would later become the Brown in Brown-Forman (the company that now owns Jack Daniel’s, as well as many other spirits brands), as the first distiller to begin to bottle his whiskey specifically under a brand name (Old Forester)
A handful of Kentucky distilleries (including the distillery that is today called Buffalo Trace) had remained in business through the 1920s making medicinal whiskey, which allowed them something of a first-mover advantage.
Several states passed along the dry option to the county level, and today, hundreds of counties, primarily in the Southeast (and many in Kentucky), remain dry.
The wild tenements and illicit stills of Little Street in Irishtown have been replaced by a massive Con Edison substation, and most of Vinegar Hill is a ward of empty streets, surrounded only by the buzz of transformers and the whisper of the river. Dickson’s Alley is buried under a tower of the Farragut Houses, a housing project just steps from the current location of Kings County Distillery. The Navy Yard has been decommissioned, and the officers’ quarters, which once abutted Irishtown, are overgrown with trees and slated to become a supermarket. Al Capone—the greatest bootlegger of all time—was born a few steps from the Navy Yard, but today his birthplace is the site of an on-ramp to the BQE, and the brothels of Sands Street, where he contracted the syphilis that killed him, are gardens surrounded by public housing. All of this recent history has quickly covered over the past, the stench of alcohol having left only bitter memories in the public consciousness.
. 92 Navy Street Birthplace of Al Capone.
Commandant’s House This unusual mansion, built in 1805 just three years after the commissioning of the Navy Yard, is in private hands and remains one of the most mysterious and intriguing private residences in the city. It is rumored to have been designed by Charles Bulfinch, the architect of the U.S. Capitol’s wings, rotunda, and portico.
about half of the rye brands on liquor shelves today are made in a single, industrial facility,
I recommend Chuck Cowdery’s website as the paramount guide to bourbon on the Internet.
Bernheim is the only straight wheat whiskey on the market today, and makes an interesting contribution to any whiskey collection. It has a softer, familiar wheat flavor that doesn’t need a lot of wood to get a nice balance.
Sazerac cocktail, often described as the first mixed drink.
One noteworthy line is W. L. Weller, a well-aged wheated bourbon that is offered in a variety of bottlings, and whose twelve-year is excellent and reasonably priced.
George Dickel, the main alternative Tennessee whiskey to Jack Daniel’s. Its Number 12 is a personal favorite.
one of the most delicious beers I’ve ever tasted, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale,
Can’t tell if he’s halfway to getting dressed or just all the way to no longer caring.
rough cobblestones underfoot. These ones aren’t made of gold, just cobble. Brought over in the bellies of empty cargo ships as ballast, then unpacked here and used to pave a new world.
Since the beds got up and running, sucking up all the bandwidth, the boring old Internet survives mostly as an afterthought, kept alive like a public utility for people who can’t afford to tap in. So, like a decaying neighborhood, all the money in the Internet moved out. And, like a decaying neighborhood, the Internet is now mostly a refuge for poor folks and perverts, people in the shadows, by choice or not. Just a place where you can log on to advertise your junk, then swap it for someone else’s junk, then revel for a day in new junk.
The too-sharp edges of the actual world.
Sometimes you’re on the toilet and you’ve already read all the magazines. Inspiration hits.
It’s not a terrible idea. Let’s set the bar for ideas a little higher than not terrible.
You’ll leave a trail of trash on this Earth that will far exceed anything of worth you leave behind. For every ounce of heirloom, you leave a ton of landfill.
I know it’s a cliché to be a hard drinker in my profession. But it’s the one part I do really well.
Brownstone, limestone, some kind of moneystone.
when only poor people use something, no one takes care of it. Roads, schools, neighborhoods. Subways too.
Mark bows his head to say grace. Persephone follows. I succumb to peer pressure.
Every human being who’s ever lived has died, except the living.
Needle in a haystack. Never did understand that expression. Fuck searching, just buy another needle
Burial plot. The last luxury item on Earth.
Harrow always said that he hoped to build a heaven. We send him six feet in the opposite direction.
Not many people order the abyss, straight up.
I raise the glass. Solemnly promise. I will get to the bottom of this.
The door says SOCIAL CLUB, but really it’s just a bunch of old guys playing cards who know how to make you feel unwelcome.
Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.
What I learned is that the level I’m at now I get polite nos. It used to just be nothing but silence.
I don’t comment on stuff that’s got nothing to do with me. I think it’s better to talk through your work. So I just do jokes.
I don’t think you should ever say anything that you’re going to have to apologize for later. If the heat gets hot, just let them get mad. How did somebody make you apologize? Did they literally hit you on your body? Let them be upset. It’s not the worst thing in the world. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be a pauper. It’s a desperate thing to need everybody to be really happy with everything you say. To me the way to manage is not to have 50 versions of yourself — I do this thing, and the next time you’re going to hear me is the next time I do another one. As soon as you crack your knuckles and open up a comments page, you just canceled your subscription to being a good person.
great names are like knots—they’re woven from the same stringy material as other words, but in their particular arrangement, they catch, become junctions to which new threads arrive, from which other threads depart.
Behavior change, not growth. Behavior change is about improving the lives of others, scale is about ego. Getting scale after nailing behavior change is easier than nailing behavior change (and thus having a shot at durability) after hitting scale.
Timeliness. Rhythm. Moderation. These things dovetail into what I consider the biggest difference between Slow Web and Fast Web. Fast Web is about information. Slow Web is about knowledge. Information passes through you; knowledge dissolves into you. And timeliness, rhythm, and moderation are all essential for memory and learning.
Many of our interfaces are really just ways to try to repackage time so that it’s meaningful, so that we can do stuff with it. It’s not that there isn’t enough time but rather that there’s too much of it.
I can never remember if we are supposed to live each day as it were our last, or if it’s the first day of the rest of our lives. It’s hard to tell sometimes.
I’d try to learn grammar, I’d spend time with my family, and I’d prototype my interactions. And I’d do some user testing. Because even if you are dying you should still do user testing
We’re constantly switching accelerations; we’re jumping between time frames. That’s what we’re asking people to do every time we make something new, some new tool or product. We’re asking them to reset their understanding of time. To accept that the sequence we’re asking them to follow is the right way to do a thing. It’s like the farmer with the clock.
Sometimes what we really need are friends we can meet once every few months for a bowl of ramen noodles at a restaurant in the East Village. Friends with whom we can sit and talk and eat and drink and maybe learn a little about ourselves in the process. And at the end of the night get up and go our separate ways, until next time. Until next time.
The only unit of time that matters is heartbeats.
This real-time barrage of voices works well for talk, because talk is fast, easy, effortless. We do it constantly. So what about things that take longer to make and consume: a song, a book, a film? Trying to squeeze these types of media up into the high-frequency end of the spectrum and expecting that we’ll enjoy them whizzing around our heads at the same speed as our daily chatter might create a missed opportunity to explore a whole other end to the spectrum of pace for personal data
In 1967, when describing the community of the future (our present), Marshall McLuhan predicted “electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of ‘time’ and ‘space’ and pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns of all other men.” He was right; this is the real-time state we’re currently living in.
Live in the future and build what seems interesting. Strange as it sounds, that’s the real recipe.
At YC we call these “made-up” or “sitcom” startup ideas. Imagine one of the characters on a TV show was starting a startup. The writers would have to invent something for it to do. But coming up with good startup ideas is hard. It’s not something you can do for the asking. So (unless they got amazingly lucky) the writers would come up with an idea that sounded plausible, but was actually bad.
The danger of an idea like this is that when you run it by your friends with pets, they don’t say “I would never use this.” They say “Yeah, maybe I could see using something like that.” Even when the startup launches, it will sound plausible to a lot of people. They don’t want to use it themselves, at least not right now, but they could imagine other people wanting it. Sum that reaction across the entire population, and you have zero users.
you can either build something a large number of people want a small amount, or something a small number of people want a large amount. Choose the latter. Not all ideas of that type are good startup ideas, but nearly all good startup ideas are of that type.
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig says: You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.
Live in the future, then build what’s missing.
If you knew about all the things we’ll get in the next 50 years but don’t have yet, you’d find life present day life pretty constraining, just as someone from the present would if they were sent back 50 years in a time machine. When something annoys you, it could be because you’re living in the future.
Live in the future and build what seems interesting.
he prefers not to talk about them, feeling that whatever value they may have can be talked away.
The fact is that Hemingway, while obviously enjoying life, brings an equivalent dedication to everything he does—an outlook that is essentially serious, with a horror of the inaccurate, the fraudulent, the deceptive, the half-baked.
you are more alone because that is how you must work and the time to work is shorter all the time and if you waste it you feel you have committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness.
successful startups happen because the founders are sufficiently different from other people that ideas few others can see seem obvious to them.
First, the people running the old system don’t notice the change. When they do, they assume it’s minor. Then that it’s a niche. Then a fad. And by the time they understand that the world has actually changed, they’ve squandered most of the time they had to adapt.
Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.
When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive.
Some years before his death, he told a friend that he would gladly give up whatever time he had left, if only he could be allowed to live for three days, five centuries in the future.
Near 105 he wrote something offbeat: “genetic constitution of man.” There was no real precedent for this in current scientific thinking. James D. Watson was a twenty-one-year-old student of zoology in Indiana; the discovery of the structure of DNA lay several years in the future. This was the first time anyone suggested the genome was an information store measurable in bits. Shannon’s guess was conservative, by at least four orders of magnitude. He thought a “phono record (128 levels)” held more information: about 300,000 bits.
Dr. Wiener sees no reason why they can’t learn from experience, like monstrous and precocious children racing through grammar school. One such mechanical brain, ripe with stored experience, might run a whole industry, replacing not only mechanics and clerks but many of the executives too.… As men construct better calculating machines, explains Wiener, and as they explore their own brains, the two seem more & more alike. Man, he thinks, is recreating himself, monstrously magnified, in his own image.
He instituted a Noah’s Ark rule, inviting two of each species so that speakers would always have someone present who could see through their jargon
To say, as the public press says, that therefore these machines are brains, and that our brains are nothing but calculating machines, is presumptuous. One might as well say that the telescope is an eye or that a bulldozer is a muscle.
Information can be considered as order wrenched from disorder.
A stranger is at a party of people who know one another well. One says, “72,” and everyone laughs. Another says, “29,” and the party roars. The stranger asks what is going on. His neighbor said, “We have many jokes and we have told them so often that now we just use a number.” The guest thought he’d try it, and after a few words said, “63.” The response was feeble. “What’s the matter, isn’t this a joke?” “Oh, yes, that is one of our very best jokes, but you did not tell it well.”♦
E. E. Cummings: “Some son-of-a-bitch will invent a machine to measure Spring with.”
Watson & Crick,
his “diamond code”
RNA Tie Club
DNA serves two different functions. First, it preserves information. It does this by copying itself, from generation to generation, spanning eons—a Library of Alexandria that keeps its data safe by copying itself billions of times.
Gamow framed the issue simply: “The nucleus of a living cell is a storehouse of information.”♦ Furthermore, he said, it is a transmitter of information. The continuity of all life stems from this “information system”
a hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.
emphasizing the potential near-immortality of a gene, in the form of copies, as its defining property.” This is where life breaks free from its material moorings. (Unless you already believed in the immortal soul.) The gene is not an information-carrying macromolecule. The gene is the information.
Ideas have retained some of the properties of organisms. Like them, they tend to perpetuate their structure and to breed; they too can fuse, recombine, segregate their content; indeed they too can evolve, and in this evolution selection must surely play an important role.
(In the early 1980s, a magazine with a print circulation of 700,000 still seemed like a powerful communications platform.)
In the night when I cannot sleep, thoughts crowd into my mind.… Whence and how do they come? I do not know and I have nothing to do with it. Those which please me I keep in my head and hum them.
Grandparents are the conduits of culture, and without them culture stagnates.
When the numbers of warriors on both sides were about equal, primitive tribes usually beat the armies of civilization. The Celtic tribes defeated the Romans, the Tuareg smashed the French, the Zulus trumped the British, and it took the U.S. Army 50 years to defeat the Apache tribes. As Lawrence Keeley says in his survey of early warfare in War Before Civilization, “The facts recovered by ethnographers and archaeologists indicated unequivocally that primitive and prehistoric warfare was just as terrible and effective as the historic and civilized version. In fact, primitive warfare was much more deadly than that conducted between civilized states because of the greater frequency of combat and the more merciless way it was conducted. . . . It is civilized warfare that is stylized, ritualized, and relatively less dangerous.”
Our teeth continue to shrink (because of cooking, our external stomach), our muscles thin out, our hair disappears. Technology has domesticated us. As fast as we remake our tools, we remake ourselves. We are coevolving with our technology, and so we have become deeply dependent on it. If all technology—every last knife and spear—were to be removed from this planet, our species would not last more than a few months. We are now symbiotic with technology.
Marshall McLuhan, among others, noted that clothes are people’s extended skin, wheels extended feet, camera and telescopes extended eyes.
service- and idea-based economy
This is how all technology works. A gadget begins as a junky prototype and then progresses to something that barely works. The ad hoc shelters in slums are upgraded over time, infrastructure is extended, and eventually makeshift services become official. What was once the home of poor hustlers becomes, over the span of generations, the home of rich hustlers. Propagating slums is what cities do, and living in slums is how cities grow. The majority of neighborhoods in almost every modern city are merely successful former slums. The squatter cities of today will become the blue-blood neighborhoods of tomorrow. This is already happening in Rio and Mumbai today.
Science is both the way we personally know things and the way we collectively know. The greater the pool of individuals in the culture, the smarter science gets.
We don’t go on as we are. We address the problems of tomorrow not with today’s tools but with the tools of tomorrow. This is what we call progress
It is as if mammals are assigned 1.5 billion heartbeats and told to use them as they like. Tiny mice speed ahead in a fast-forward version of an elephant’s life
many of the forms we see in evolution today are due to random contingencies in the past and don’t follow a progressive sequence. If we rewind the tape of life’s history and push start again, it will play out differently.
The ever-thickening mix of existing technologies in a society creates a supersaturated matrix charged with restless potential. When the right idea is seeded within, the inevitable invention practically explodes into existence, like an ice crystal freezing out of water. Yet as science has shown, even though water is destined to become ice crystals when it is cold enough, no two snowflakes are the same. The path of freezing water is predetermined, but there is great leeway, freedom, and beauty in the individual expression of its predestined state.
When we spy our technological fate in the distance, we should not reel back in horror of its inevitability; rather, we should lurch forward in preparation
“So, a major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of two horses’ arse.” More or less, this is how technology constrains itself over time.
There’s an old story about the long reach of early choices that is basically true: Ordinary Roman carts were constructed to match the width of imperial Roman war chariots because it was easier to follow the ruts in the road left by the war chariots. The chariots were sized to accommodate the width of two large warhorses, which translates into our English measurement of 4’ 8.5”. Roads throughout the vast Roman Empire were built to this specification. When the legions of Rome marched into Britain, they constructed long-distance imperial roads 4’ 8.5” wide. When the English started building tramways, they used the same width so the same horse carriages could be used. And when they started building railways with horseless carriages, naturally the rails were 4’ 8.5” wide. Imported laborers from the British Isles built the first railways in the Americas using the same tools and jigs they were used to. Fast-forward to the U.S. space shuttle, which is built in parts around the country and assembled in Florida. Because the two large solid-fuel rocket engines on the side of the launch shuttle were sent by railroad from Utah, and that line traversed a tunnel not much wider than the standard track, the rockets themselves could not be much wider in diameter than 4’ 8.5”.
By following what technology wants, we can be more ready to capture its full gifts.
Most of the new problems in the world are problems created by previous technology.
because we cannot imagine it, it will never happen, because nothing has ever been created without being imagined first
If you are a web designer today, it is only because many tens of thousands of other people around you and before you have been expanding the realm of possibilities. They have gone beyond farms and home shops to invent a complex ecology of electronic devices that require new expertise and new ways of thinking.
Can the human mind master what the human mind has made?
The guild of French scribes succeeded in delaying the introduction of printing into Paris, but only for 20 years.
Thomas Edison believed his phonograph would be used primarily to record the last-minute bequests of the dying. The radio was funded by early backers who believed it would be the ideal device for delivering sermons to rural farmers. Viagra was clinically tested as a drug for heart disease. The internet was invented as a disaster-proof communications backup. Very few great ideas start out headed toward the greatness they eventually achieve. That means that projecting what harm may come from a technology before it “is” is almost impossible.
an invention or idea is not really tremendous unless it can be tremendously abused. This should be the first law of technological expectation: The greater the promise of a new technology, the greater its potential for harm as well.
We know technology will produce problems; we just don’t know which new problems.
The threat of these nano-organisms breeding without limit until they cover everything is known as the “gray goo” scenario.
human-piloted cars cause great harm, killing millions of people each year worldwide. If robot-controlled cars killed “only” half a million people per year, it would be an improvement
The evolution of new technologies is inevitable; we can’t stop it. But the character of each technology is up to us.
Civilization is a steady migration away from “no choice.”
specialization follows the arc of complexity.
The difference in intelligence between humans and chimpanzees is tiny,’ he said. ‘But in that difference lies the contrast between 7 billion inhabitants and a permanent place on the endangered species list.
Some physicists believe that we live in an infinite sea of cosmological domains, each governed by its own set of physical laws. The universe might contain hidden gateways to these domains. Perhaps future humans will duck into a more habitable, longer-lived universe, and then another, and another, ad infinitum. Our current notions of space and time could be preposterously limited.
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot stay in the cradle forever.
If life is a cosmic fluke, then we’ve already beaten the odds, and our future is undetermined — the galaxy is there for the taking. If we discover that life arises everywhere, we lose a prime suspect in our hunt for the great filter. The more advanced life we find, the worse the implications. If Curiosity spots a vertebrate fossil embedded in Martian rock, it would mean that a Cambrian explosion occurred twice in the same solar system. It would give us reason to suspect that nature is very good at knitting atoms into complex animal life, but very bad at nurturing star-hopping civilisations. It would make it less likely that humans have already slipped through the trap whose jaws keep our skies lifeless. It would be an omen.
Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.
But there were also new insights. The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive (just as Aron’s husband had described her). They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions—sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments—both physical and emotional—unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss—another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.
The description of such characters as thin-skinned is meant metaphorically, but it turns out that it’s actually quite literal. Among the tests researchers use to measure personality traits are skin conductance tests, which record how much people sweat in response to noises, strong emotions, and other stimuli. High-reactive introverts sweat more; low-reactive extroverts sweat less. Their skin is literally “thicker,” more impervious to stimuli, cooler to the touch. In fact, according to some of the scientists I spoke to, this is where our notion of being socially “cool” comes from
Lie detectors (polygraphs) are partially skin conductance tests. They operate on the theory that lying causes anxiety, which triggers the skin to perspire imperceptibly.
I discovered early on that people don’t buy from me because they understand what I’m selling,” explains Jon. “They buy because they feel understood.”
The Internet will spread and magnify their sense of injustice and frustration at the opportunities they know they are missing. So we can expect also around the year 2020 a rise in unrest in many African countries. Some of this unrest may turn violent, with terror groups forming along pan-African or religious lines, of which Boko Haram in northern Nigeria is only a forewarning.
the Nokia 1100 mobile phone. More than 50 million of these phones were sold in Africa at a price of around thirty dollars. It was known as the “Kalashnikov of communication.
Shine let her sell cocaine again on the condition that she go back to school.
“Don’t make no waves, don’t back no losers.”
Hell’s Kitchen. Once dominated by the tough Irish street gangs memorialized in the Sean Penn movie State of Grace,
White people have some fucked-up gods, Mister Shadow.”
bought his stupid at a two-for-one sale,
I can tell you this, you never say no to the opportunity to piss, to eat, or to get half an hour’s shut-eye.
Information and knowledge: these are currencies that have never gone out of style.
He had played chess, too, but he was not temperamentally suited to chess. He did not like planning ahead. He preferred picking the perfect move for the moment. You could win in checkers like that, sometimes.
“Oh. You’re up,” said Wednesday, putting his head around the door. “That’s good. You want coffee? We’re going to rob a bank.”
Actually he was not used to writing by hand. Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything into the speak-write, which was of course impossible for his present purpose.
Take “good”, for instance. If you have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just as well—better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning; or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already, but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words—in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston?
Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past
But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.
One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.’
When simple things need pictures, labels, or instructions, the design has failed.
I yelled up into Unger’s ear: You’re scared of anything you don’t understand so you worship it. You kiss its ass!
I didn’t break any laws. All I did was break rules.
At the same time, though, when I think about her, I get all filled up with this feeling like I’m great because she’s great and maybe she loves me and so I shouldn’t have to take any shit off anyone, ever, and it makes me want to destroy everything around us that’s suck.
It goes against the grain of what people have been taught in business and what leaders have been taught. The problem isn’t with the teams or the entrepreneurs. They love the chance to quickly get their baby out into the market. They love the chance to have the customer vote instead of the suits voting. The real issue is with the leaders and the middle managers. There are many business leaders who have been successful because of analysis. They think they’re analysts, and their job is to do great planning and analyzing and have a plan.
Screeners vary from project to project and from recruiter to recruiter, but there are some general rules that apply to most. 1. Stick to 20 questions. There’s a reason that game exists. It’s possible to find out almost anything about someone in 20 questions. Most target audiences can be defined in 10 to 15 questions, and if the people are prescreened through your database, you can get away with fewer than 5. 2. Make it short. It should be possible to get through a whole screener in five to ten minutes. 3. Be clear and specific. The person responding to the question should know exactly what kinds of answers are expected. 4. Never use jargon. Use simple, straightforward, unambiguous language. 5. Ask for exact dates, quantities, and times. This eliminates the problem of one person’s “occasionally” being another’s “all the time.” 6. Every question should have a purpose. Each question should help determine whether this person is in the audience or not. Don’t ask questions that are incidental or “nice to know” since answers to them will not be useful in recruiting and take everyone’s time. Nice-to-know questions can be asked at the beginning of the test. 7. Order questions from general to specific,
- Collecting issues and presenting them as goals 2. Prioritizing the goals 3. Rewriting the goals as questions to be answered
the first step is to make a list of issues of how the product’s user experience affects the goals of the company. Each issue represents a goal for the research program; it focuses the research plan and helps uncover how the product can be improved for the greatest benefit to the company.
Based on what you know about the company priorities, group the questions into clusters by technique, and make a rough schedule.
a demographic profile is one that describes a person’s physical and employment characteristics; a Web use profile describes someone’s Web experience; and a technological profile describes their experience with computer technology in general.
Questions should be focused on a single topic. A question that has an “and” or an “or” linking two ideas leads to ambiguity since it’s often unclear which part of the question is being answered.
(as of spring 2003 in San Francisco) they tend to fall around $100 per person per 90-minute session for most research.
The key questions each person (or department) should answer are as follows: 1. In terms of what you do on a day-to-day basis, what are the goals of the product? 2. Are there ways that it’s not meeting those goals? If so, what are they? 3. Are there questions you want to have answered about it? If so, what are they?
Questions should be nonjudgmental. The person answering the question should not think that you’re expecting a specific answer or that any answer is wrong.You
A research plan consists of three major parts: why you’re doing the research (the goals), when you’re going to be doing it (the schedule), and
Keep questions open-ended.
In my experience, useful times for calculating the duration of a qualitative user research project such as a usability test (including project management time and typical inefficiencies) are roughly as follows:
There shouldn’t be more than half a dozen or so “big” questions and a dozen or so smaller, more specific ones.
Open-ended questions like this serve two purposes. They give the recruiter an idea of how articulate a potential participant is, and they can collect information that’s not easily formatted as a multiple-choice question. Save them for the end, and don’t put more than one in any given screener
how much it’s going to cost (the budget). These are in turn broken up into practical chunks such as report formats and timetables.
The Internet is a big fan of the worst-possible-thing. Many people thought Twitter was the worst possible way for people to communicate, little more than discourse abbreviated into tiny little chunks; Facebook was a horrible way to experience human relationships, commodifying them into a list of friends whom one pokes. The Arab Spring changed the story somewhat. (BuzzFeed is another example-let them eat cat pictures.) One recipe for Internet success seems to be this: Start at the bottom, at the most awful, ridiculous, essential idea, and own it. Promote it breathlessly, until you’re acquired or you take over the world.
When it was Ev’s turn to talk, he asked his first question: “What’s the worst thing I can do as CEO to fuck the company up?” Without skipping a beat, Campbell responded: “Hire your fucking friends!” He went into a ten-minute tirade about friends and business and how they don’t mix.
For the hungry and foolish
Sometimes it’s about what you choose not to read,” she said. “Every book we read or movie we see, every little experience becomes a part of who we are. If we’re all watching the same things and reading the same things and listening to the same things, then our conversations would end up going in circles
Connor immediately forgot all their names
Did our ancestors stand around in caves arguing over whether the antlers on the drawing of the deer should have twelve or fourteen points? No, of course not. They were too busy throwing spears at stuff and running from lions and trying not to die. They were out doing real things, expressing their humanity as if their lives depended on it, because their lives did depend on it.
everyone has ideas, but it’s only through putting work out into the world that a truly creative individual can effect change.
“You should blog about this or something.” “I know, man. I gotta redesign my blog first though.”
Resistance to technology is as old as technology itself. Because technology is change, and change is difficult to accept.
nobody will ever guess that your plain white T-shirt is line dry only
You may be the world’s foremost expert in Religious Dance of Melanesia. But after you graduate, you realize no one gives a fuck besides your PhD advisor. This is the story of the world’s most exasperated Subway employee
It’s a delicate balance between FOMO and DGAF
There’s a theory that a man’s style is just a reiteration of what he wore the last time he was “really getting laid” — thus the cargo shorts
Once upon a time people were born into communities and had to find their individuality. Today people are born individuals and have to find their communities
a bird flies, a fish swims, I drink.
Trumpet players, like anybody else, are individualized by their different ideas and styles. The thing to judge in any jazz artist is does the man project, and does he have ideas.
In Washington, the truth is never told in daylight hours or across a desk.
I take it as a comment on my skill as a comedian. It seems like nothing. It should seem like something anyone could do.
Seinfeld: I’m very kind. Everyone has a few fake laughs they use to get through life. The snort, the snort-chuckle, the nod-smile, the “That’s good!” But they’re all just nice ways of saying “Stop. Please stop.”
Playboy: What irritates you? Seinfeld: Everything. I just hate everything and everybody. And that’s why I’m so funny. If I didn’t have all these sensitivities, I’d have nothing to talk about.
Playboy: Do you enjoy your job? Seinfeld: I am my job. Everything else in life pales by comparison to the interpretive experience: seeing something, interpreting it, shaping it, communicating it and being affirmed for it.
Actors go into auditions thinking, Oh God, they’re going to hate me, they’re going to hate me. I started to come in selling confidence, not even my acting skills. The best actor never gets the job when they audition. Never. Especially in television. The guy who gets the job is somebody who comes in and delivers every day. It’s often looks more than anything. So I just changed my attitude. I thought, From here on out, I cannot lose a job. I’ll do whatever it takes. So I’d come in with a dog under my arm for some scene. I’d pull a champagne bottle and phone out of my jacket and do the scene. People were like, “What the fuck is that?’’ I just thought, Fuck it. It’s where I’m going to hit the ball, not if I’m going to hit it.
In your 20s, you figure out what it is you’re going to be. You do a lot of different jobs. By your late 20s, you sort of have some idea of what it is. Then you spend your 30s and a lot of your 40s making your mark.
Memory Diamond — a hypothetical crystalline form of carbon used for data storage, in which each bit is represented positionally by an atom of one isotope or another (in this case, carbon-12 or carbon-13)
in 2007 it was estimated that councils in London spent around £150M, or €190M, per year on removing chewing gum from the city streets.
creating something personal, even of moderate quality, has a different kind of appeal than consuming something made by others, even of high quality
the GeoCities of Things’ - the moment when it’s as easy to make personal technology objects as it was to make a GeoCities page.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
A business without a path to profit isn’t a business, it’s a hobby.
Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.
The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.
Evolution doesn’t linger on past failures, it’s always building upon what worked. So should you.
Anyone who takes a “we’ll figure out how to profit in the future” attitude to business is being ridiculous. That’s like building a rocket ship but starting off by saying, “Let’s pretend gravity doesn’t exist.” A business without a path to profit isn’t a business, it’s a hobby.
When there’s something new to announce every two weeks, you energize your team and give your customers something to be excited about.
What distinguishes people who are ten times more effective than the norm is not that they work ten times as hard; it’s that they use their creativity to come up with solutions that require one-tenth of the effort.
This is Mat’s secret weapon, his passport, his get-out-of-jail-free card: Mat makes things that are beautiful.
People want things to be real. If you give them an excuse, they’ll believe you.”
now it’s programmers who get to upgrade the human operating system.”
I’m really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.
Books: boring. Codes: awesome. These are the people who are running the internet.
theres a grumblegear3k waiting for you at 11 jay street in dumbo. ask for the hogwarts special. hold the shrooms.
And then, on a sunny Friday morning, for three seconds, you can’t search for anything. You can’t check your email. You can’t watch any videos. You can’t get directions. For just three seconds, nothing works, because every single one of Google’s computers around the world is dedicated to this task. Make that a really, really big gun.
One of Kurt’s ill-fated efforts to earn money in this period was a tryout to write for Sports Illustrated, a new magazine of Time Inc. He was assigned to write an article about a racehorse that had bolted when the starting gun went off at Aqueduct and jumped over the railing of the infield. After thinking about it for an hour or so, Vonnegut wrote, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence,” walked out of the office, and went home.
I urge each and every one of you to seek out projects that leave the world a better place than you found it. We used to design ways to get to the moon; now we design ways to never have to get out of bed. You have the power to change that.
There is always someone cheaper. Negotiate price, but don’t compete on price. Compete on quality, value, and fit.
Never lower the price without taking something away. And never take something away without explaining the lost benefit. If the lost benefit wasn’t that great then maybe it’s a fine thing to cut anyway. The amount isn’t arbitrary; every item has a set cost. So if you want to pay less you have to be willing to get less.
It has occurred to me that if people really knew how software got written, I’m not sure if they’d give their money to a bank or get on an airplane ever again.
When the humans come back to talk changes, I can just run the program. Show them: Here. Look at this. See? This is not just talk. This runs. Whatever you might say, whatever the consequences, all you have are words and what I have is this, this thing I’ve built, this operational system. Talk all you want, but this thing here: it works.
Once we were impressed by buildings; now we are impressed by virtual on-line spaces
If you’re not terrified in this profession, you really don’t know what you’re doing.
One VC proposed a toast. “Work hard!” he exclaimed. Another raised his glass. “Work long hours!” he said.
Einstein offered her a deal. He would win the Nobel Prize someday, he said; if she gave him a divorce, he would give her the prize money.
beam. As he once declared, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
And he generally preferred to think in pictures, most notably in famous thought experiments, such as imagining watching lightning strikes from a moving train or experiencing gravity while inside a falling elevator. “I very rarely think in words at all,” he later told a psychologist. “A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterwards.”
“Best wishes etc., especially the latter.”
Blind respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
Question every premise, challenge conventional wisdom, and never accept the truth of something merely because everyone else views it as obvious. Resist being credulous.
One of the more fascinating aspects of Indie Capitalism is that there is now a middle ground. Instead of the “go big or go home” approach of most start-ups, it is now feasible to “go small and have complete autonomy over your products and not work crazy unreasonable hours.”
Thirty days seems to be the sweet spot for campaign funding duration
Making It: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design, by Christ Lefteri, is an excellent place to start and describes common production methods in straightforward language.
Design and development are intertwined, and they feed off one another. Separating the two prevents serendipitous discoveries from occurring.
products. Walt Disney said it best: “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”
“Don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” RON SWANSON
Jump off the cliff and build the plane on the way down.
Make something great because you care deeply about it. Make something because you stay awake at night thinking about it. Make something because you feel invigorated when you work on it, and anxious when you don’t.
She had come to see the sea, not the ocean.
. It was a success: there is no need for advertising.
What you did not like distinguished it.
The United States talked about individuality, but delivered the unvaried and replicated.
His phone rang before dawn. His first waking word was a profanity.
The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love.
My grandfather could invent the automatic sprinkler system in his workshop, but he couldn’t build a factory there. To get to market, he had to interest a manufacturer in licensing his invention. And that is not only hard, but requires the inventor to lose control of his or her invention. The owners of the means of production get to decide what is produced.
The past ten years have been about discovering new ways to create, invent, and work together on the Web. The next ten years will be about applying those lessons to the real world.
the spinning jenny’s magical multiplication of productivity was initially, as you might expect, little welcomed by the local artisans, whose guilds had controlled production for centuries—they hated it. As yarn prices started to fall and opposition from local spinners grew, one mob came to his house and burned the frames for twenty new machines.
Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel – only worse.
Jilly’s, which is on West Fifty-second Street in Manhattan, is where Sinatra drinks whenever he is in New York, and there is a special chair reserved for him in the back room against the wall that nobody else may use
“I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel.” –Frank Sinatra
Even though diamonds can in fact be shattered, chipped, discolored, or incinerated to ash, the concept of eternity perfectly captured the magical qualities that the advertising agency wanted to attribute to diamonds.
Neither does he go to parties, where he’d have to stand around, with a drink in his hand, “listening to a lot of bullshit.”
Every manager - in fact, every employee - needs to understand the financial side of the business. One of my big mistakes was to let people build products, or do marketing, without forcing them to understand the financial impact of their decisions.
I think if people know too much about their own industries, then they’re ultimately too influenced by it: either they won’t try things because people have already done them, or they just get focused on what the trends are instead of defining them.
So I stepped away from my ego a little more and realized that I get paid to make things I would just make anyway, so I should just shut the fuck up
As it turned out, a dozen letters a week could prove to be as overwhelming as a hundred emails a day.
art is simply inevitable. It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it’s because we are a species that’s driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos.
I don’t want to wait on the tool, I want the tool to wait for me,”
in order to determine north, one needs to know the direction east
Cobo believes that many of the geopolitical, ideological and economic hierarchies that shape our vision of the world would ‘disappear’ if the globe were laid on its side and all maps were rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise, putting the east on top of the world and north with south spread out on either side of the Equator.
It seems hard at this point to envision search and related functions as public utilities, but that’s arguably where the logic will eventually lead us.
One recipe for Internet success seems to be this: Start at the bottom, at the most awful, ridiculous, essential idea, and own it. Promote it breathlessly, until you’re acquired or you take over the world.
When you compound utopian wishfulness with the anxiety of being left behind, you’ll have a bubble.
East of Eden by John Steinback
Let me let you in on a little secret: if you are hearing about something old, it is almost certainly good. Why? Because nobody wants to talk about shitty old stuff, but lots of people still talk about shitty new stuff, because they are still trying to figure out if it is shitty or not. The past wasn’t better, we just forgot about all the shitty shit.
Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.
I think one of the most odd things about learning is the moment where you know enough to realize how much you don’t know. It’s scary as hell, because of how vulnerable it makes you feel.
Eventually you get to the point where you say “Jesus, it’s just toothpaste,” and you grab the box with the most adjectives printed on its face and get on with your life.
Good design is meant to help other people live well, and if it doesn’t do that for the audience, there’s no point in it existing.
I listen to a bunch of different music all the time. But I try not to listen and then work. I try to create something right out of my mind. I try not to listen to a song [first, because] then you end up making [a song that sounds like what you were just listening to]. And then you feel less proud or accomplished because you feel like you just did somebody else’s shit.
Mitch Hedberg once said that if you spend your whole life preparing, then you’re never going to do anything. Just jump in and do it. That’s the best way to get better at something. Do it while you suck at it.”
Returning to Anil’s description of the web we lost: We get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.
If those services don’t trust me enough to give me an RSS feed, why should I trust them with my data?
One fabu- lously complex floral pattern that measures 320 square feet took three people working ten hours day eighteen years to complete-the principal weaver was seventeen when she started, and thirty-five when it was finished.
All of the data we’re collecting, all of the data points and metadata, is history itself. Much as we marvel at Babylonian clay tablets listing measures of grain, future generations will find just as much meaning in our log files as they will in the media we consume.
At the New York World’s Fair of 2014, General Motors’ “Futurama” may well display vistas of underground cities complete with light- forced vegetable gardens. The surface, G.M. will argue, will be given over to large-scale agriculture, grazing and parklands, with less space wasted on actual human occupancy.
(There will be a three-hour wait in line to see the film, for some things never change.
The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long- lived batteries running on radioisotopes. The isotopes will not be expensive for they will be by- products of the fission-power plants which, by 2014, will be supplying well over half the power needs of humanity. But once the isotype batteries are used up they will be disposed of only through authorized agents of the manufacturer.
There is every likelihood that highways at least in the more advanced sections of the worldwill have passed their peak in 2014; there will be increasing emphasis on transportation that makes the least possible contact with the surface. There will be aircraft, of course, but even ground travel will increasingly take to the aira foot or two off the ground. Visitors to the 1964 fair can travel there in an “aquafoil,” which lifts itself on four stilts and skims over the water with a minimum of friction. This is surely a stop-gap. By 2014 the four stilts will have been replaced by four jets of compressed air so that the vehicle will make no contact with either liquid or solid surfaces.
. Jets of compressed air will also lift land vehicles off the highways, which, among other things, will minimize paving problems. Smooth earth or level lawns will do as well as pavements. Bridges will also be of less importance, since cars will be capable of crossing water on their jets, though local ordinances will discourage the practice.
. Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with “Robot-brains”*vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.
Compressed air tubes will carry goods and materials over local stretches, and the switching devices that will place specific shipments in specific destinations will be one of the city’s marvels.
. Communications will become sight-sound
The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.
you will be able to reach someone at the moon colonies, concerning which General Motors puts on a display of impressive vehicles (in model form) with large soft tires*intended to negotiate the uneven terrain that may exist on our natural satellite.
2014 will see a good beginning made in the colonization of the continental shelves. Underwater housing will have its attractions to those who like water sports,
Although technology will still keep up with population through 2014, it will be only through a supreme effort and with but partial success. Not all the world’s population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively.
All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary “Fortran” (from “formula translation”)
There was a time when people were suspicious of having cellphones, not because they weren’t useful, not because they didn’t like them, but because sometimes, they just wanted to be left alone. You heard this a lot back when having a cellphone was a decision rather than an obvious requirement of competent living. “Sometimes I’d like to just be left alone, you know? I don’t want to have phone calls following me around.”
If you know where everybody is, where they’re going, and what they’re going to do when they get there, and you can’t make money on that, you’re a fucking idiot
But the claim that we might need geoengineering because we simply can’t rein in our consumption implies a stark and somewhat disturbing truth: the natural world is widely considered more malleable than our own wishes and desires.
fine-grained controls had led people to “share more sensitive information with larger, and possibly riskier, audiences.”
only about a third of the world is on the internet today-a little more than two billion people. So we’re really very close to the beginning of this. If you look out, maybe five or ten years, when all five billion people who have feature phones are going to have smart phones, we’re soon going to be living in a world where the majority of people who have a smart phone-a modern computing device-will have never seen in their lives what you and I call a “computer.” So, just think about that for a moment.The very definition of what a computer is and what our relationship with it should be hasn’t been set for the majority of the world.
I look at this mobile trend in light of the law of sharing, our equivalent of Moore’s law, which states that the average amount of information that a person shares doubles every year or so.
If we are hiring you because you are awesome, then you have 30 days to do something awesome. And awesome is simply defined as me (or your supervisor) thinking to him/herself, “man, that’s awesome!” just once.
If the entire history of the universe were conceptualized within one calendar year, modern, sedentary, agricultural human civilization would arrive 13 seconds before New Year’s Eve on December 31st.
Arthur C. Clarke famously stated that: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
light travels so quickly that it can circle our planet 7 times in 1 second.
if you spend too much time on your computer or social networks, then you get brainwashed into thinking they matter more than they do.
We’re using mapbox.js as our core open source mapping library
library.D3.js, a library for powering data-driven documents that has a broad range of applications, including mapping
You can tell a fair negative critic, a fair polemicist, by whether he or she quotes from the work under review.
I thought a computer would eliminate all that randomness, loss and disorder. But from the first day it was disaster. In those days, whenever those days were, even just to turn the computer off, the lower part of the screen had this question in its fuzzy way-SAVE: YES/OR NO? Who thinks about SAVE: YES/OR NO? You’re just turning the thing off. Who would assume No? The computer assumed No. Here you are working on something for days and days and days and then it’s gone. Awful.
Rather than present something interesting, or challenging the status-quo, they fart out T-shirts with two logos haphazardly smashed together, and hype the shit on their respective Instagrams as if they expect to be showered in medals and knighted by the Queen. I can’t say that I have any particular stake in the skateboarding industry, or own a lot of ‘swaggy’ sneakers, but when I see kids lining up outside of (generic ‘swaggy’ company) like a bunch of peasants hoping for a taste of potato, it makes me sad that they’re not spending their money on something meaningful, like drugs or girlfriends.
. “Never apologize, never explain,” Roland Barthes wrote in The Pleasure of the Text,
“The king stay the king, unless he a smart-ass pawn.”
Anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed in a 1992 article that approximately 150 is the maximum number of people that any individual was able to know and keep up with at a given time.
Internationalization, like everything else, follows the money.
As the engineering team grew into the hundreds, the product teams were refashioned on the model of little startups, with their own war rooms, so that they could feel like small companies despite being part of the larger group.
“You are what you do. If you don’t do it anymore, how can it be your culture?
I didn’t know anyone in the Bay Area—Facebook employee or not—who didn’t obsessively read their social media feeds and construct real and online conversations almost entirely out of these threads.
People were too busy reading their screens to talk to each other.