Writing a faithful future

Try as you may, but the world won’t bend to your preferences. You can’t slow down the pace of technology and revert to a world of analog.

The tide of AI is coming faster than you think; you will have to use your unique human creativity and abstract thinking to work with robots at your disposal. People will be managers of the future, coming up with ideas that the machines will execute on their behalf.

Society will put more trust in machines than individuals over time but it’ll be short-lasting. Faith tempts to fizzle at both ends.

As B.F. Skinner wrote in 1969: “The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do.”

Right now humans write the future, for better and for worse, a kind of blissful tragedy.

When everyone and everything is conscious automata, no one will be quite sure what faith even is. Reckless, the candle burns at both ends.

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Banksy takes his art to Bethlehem

Promotional art by Banksy

Banksy opened up The Walled Off Hotel earlier this year along the wall of the occupied West Bank with the “with the worst view in the world.” More recently, he teamed up with producer Danny Boyl to put together a film called ‘The Alternativity’ which features local children and their families singing Christmas carols ‘Jingle Bells‘ and ‘Silent Night’ in Arabic and English.

The film drops just in time with Trump’s controversial move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, which he also proclaimed Israel’s capital. The intermixing of art and politics is intrinsic to Banksy’s street art, but he’s hoping this event will have a real-life impact:

“There aren’t many situations where a street artist is much use. Most of my politics is for display purposes only. But in Palestine there’s a slim chance the art could have something useful to add — anything that appeals to young people, specifically young Israelis, can only help.”

Banksy

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10 Products That’ll Make Interesting Holiday gifts 🎁

Below is a list of ten items I think you might be interested in, including products that’ll help improve your cognition, creativity, productivity, your inner-spirt, and maybe your wallet too! Note that if you do buy anything from the below, I may receive a tip of sorts.

1. Get yourself and others some Bitcoin.
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Who knows if it’s gambling or investing, both? It’s not too late to get into Bitcoin — remember you can buy a mere fraction — or any of the “cheaper” alternative currencies. If you sign up at Coinbase with this link, both of us get $10 worth of bitcoin!

2. Study the genius mind of Leonardo Da Vinci.

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“To truly be creative, you have to work across disciplines,” said author Walter Isaacson earlier this year on Leonardo da Vinci’s creative genius. After five years of writing and research (‘gathering string’) comes the eponymous book Leonardo da Vinci, an excellent gift for art lovers and creative types.

3. Field Notes“I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

This is my favorite notebook because it’s small and sturdy enough to fit in your side pocket so you never have to miss a good idea. If you’re looking for a good pen to go along with it, I can’t recommend the smooth writing of Pilot 35334 Precise V5 enough.  

4. Give your fellow traveler or athlete good feet massage with Foot Rubz.

5. Start standing now with Spark desk by Ergodriven.

They say sitting is the new smoking. When I was looking for a standing desk this year, I didn’t want to spend more than $100. Luckily, I stumbled upon the $25 Spark desk from Ergodriven. It’s sturdy and easy to put together, highly recommended.

6. Stand on something comfortable with this anti-fatigue mat.

If you’re going to stand and work, please also consider the Topo by Ergodriven. It’s not your typical standing mat; it encourages various stances that will sustain your work energy.

7. Doodle your heart out with 140 color gel pens.

“Children learn through play, but adults play through art,” said Brian Eno. Doodle your heart out with your kids or in your own adult coloring books with these 140 color gel pens.

8. The PureRelief XL help relieves back pain.

The best part about the PureRelief XL King Size Heating Pad is that it heats up immediately and goes after 2 hours so you don’t have to remember to unplug it.

9. Start the new year in the right mood

After reading Spontaneous Happiness: A New Path to Emotional Well-Being by Dr. Andrew Weil this year I immediately stocked up on some of the essential fish oil, Vitamin D, B-6, and a good multivitamin he prescribes to sustain a healthy mood.

10. Keep your phone charged 24/7 with this portable charger.

Until Apple develops solar-powered rechargeable phones, we’re stuck with external phone batteries. Still, this portable power bank gets the job done. I took one with me on a recent trip overseas and stayed charged the entire time so I’d never miss a good photo opportunity.

You can also shop all of the above items minus Bitcoin on my influencer list here.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out Amazon’s Gift Guide for even more gifting ideas.

Thinking less to do more

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Rhythm builds thoughtlessness. The work becomes more natural out of mechanical motion, doing without thinking.

Employees can’t make one hundred sandwiches in a couple hours without silencing the monkey mind. The process of unthinking begets a chorus of action.

Similarly, we can’t dribble a basketball nor soccer ball effectively while focusing on the mechanics of the perfect touch. The gears of cognition get in the way of flow.

Habits are bicep curls for the brain

Good habits strengthen human software, primarily if we aim to do something consistently. Like brushing our teeth, it’s the repetitive locomotion that undermines inertia and compels one to keep connecting the chain.

We can get used to being productive.

 

Ascending Museo Soumaya

I spent a few days in Mexico City last week. One of our stops included The Museo Soumaya building in the upscale Miguel Hidalgo district.

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Photos by Wells Baum

Designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, the curvy-shaped building contains five floors of European art, including the sculptures of Auguste Rodin.

The above picture shows my older brother ascending the stairs leading into the museum’s main entrance. More images below.

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Newsletter: Blind spots

Happy Friday! Below are some links and recent discoveries I think you’ll find interesting. As always, listen to a new tune and old gem after the jump.

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Joseph J. Gould, Jr. (1896) via The Met

Finding My Way into a New Form: An Interview with Teju Cole. “I always have a notebook, a pen and a camera. These are my tools because the world is always giving you various phenomena.” Teju Cole’s new book Blind Spot sees the photographer and acclaimed writer synthesize images and words. The work is yet another form of Cole’s combinatorial exploration — he was once an innovative Tweeter — into new media spaces. “That’s exactly what I do with each of these genres. I try to find out what I can do in that space. I try to do good work there, and then without any compunction or regret I move on. And I try to find the next place to continue my exploration.”

Changing one simple habit can improve your entire life. One slight tweak to your daily habits can lead to other beneficial changes. For instance, exercise is what Charles Duhigg calls ‘keystone habit.’ In his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Duhigg describes how “people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work.”

The undivided mind. Wonder sits at the intersection of science and art. Combining the two disciplines is what fueled Leonard Da Vinci’s creative genius. The imagination needs time to daydream and gather string, letting the unconscious connect the dots between disparate things.


Book I’m reading

My Inventions: Nikola Tesla. “My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get a new idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination, and make improvements and operate the device in my mind. When I have gone so far as to embody everything in my invention, every possible improvement I can think of, and when I see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete form the final product of my brain.”

Video I’m watching

Army Of Spider Crabs Shed Their Shells. Watch thousands of spider crabs rally around the family to regrow their shells. Mind the hangry stingray!

Thought of the week

“The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.” — Neale Donald Walsch

New track on loop

Lanark Artefax – Touch Absence (2017)

Digging in the crates

Jah Stitch – Cool Down Youthman (1995)

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Wells Baum (@bombtune)

Support my blog

Your support goes a long way: for every contributed dollar, I can keep the blog running and continue to provide you interesting links.

$1.00

 

Seneca: On the Shortness of Life

9BB1y2EOqUgfERCMn“You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!”

On the Shortness of Life: Life Is Long if You Know How to Use It by Seneca

Martin Luther King Jr. echoed this sentiment when he said: “This ‘Wait!’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’”

The only time is now. Don’t waste it.

The undivided mind

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Via The Imaginary Foundation

Wonder sits at the intersection of science and art. Combining the two disciplines is what fueled Leonard Da Vinci’s creative genius. The imagination needs time to daydream and gather string, letting the unconscious connect the dots between disparate things.

Said author Walter Isaacson on the artist in his new book Leonardo da Vinci, “procrastinating like Leonardo requires work: It involves gathering all the possible facts and ideas, and only after that allowing the various ingredients to simmer.”

“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plants and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it, and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone, and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engage my thought throughout my life.”

— Leonardo da Vinci

Curiosity unites both art and science to help realize the improbable.

The law of reversed effort

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“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float’ and that ‘insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.”

Alan Watts on the ‘law of reversed effort’, also known as the ‘backwards law’ when doing what’s right make things wrong (as featured in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking)

 

Habits can change your life

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A habit can change your life.

A book can change your life.

A piece of advice can change your life.

The internet can even save your life.

Of course, inheriting good genes can also be a boon.

The closed ear inoculates someone against self-improvement. But when the mind’s vault is left open, just a little tweak — what productivity author Charles Duhigg calls a ‘keystone habit’ in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business — can lead from one positive change to the next. Take exercise for instance:

“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Small things, big change.

Art requires the long look

Photo by Wells Baum

Good art requires the long look, not for a lack of comprehension but for the growing realization of what the viewer fails to see.

Art is more about the space inside rather than the form of the envelope itself.

Artists put their life’s context into their craft. A poem, painting, a sculpture all contain intricacies of the mind that is profoundly personal but meant to be shared and understood by others.

Whether radical, nuanced and complex: the intriguing work passes onto trustful eyes an extended gaze.

A strange kind of progress

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A strange kind of progress permeates our world. While technology advances, privacy seems to take two steps back. Social media exploits openness.

While bitcoin promises to disrupt the financial industry to give power to individuals, it smells of chaos and distrust.

Perhaps the new world order takes getting used to. After all, it is habit that puts one to sleep. But also consider that those obsessed with solutionism — innovating on top of old world problems — can do more harm than good. For instance, Facebook is an around the clock newspaper that misinforms its users every day. A culture of fast-food consumption and ‘breaking news’ outpaces reality, slipping us into inanition.

Problem-solving technologies are bicycles for the mind. However, moving at warp-speed while ignoring the status quo puts our cognition into more fragile territory than ever. Unchecked change is the root of psychological damage.

The cheeky faces of Mexico City

From the masks of Mexico City’s cheeky lucha libra wrestlers to the walls of art in dive bars and parks, to the boyhood fervor of an old man in his special puppet, Mexico City is very much a lived experience. To quote Edward Burnett Tylor:

“Taking it as a whole, Mexico is a grand city, and, as Cortes truly said, its situation is marvellous.”

Doubt your fears

Photo by Wells Baum

Depower them. Calm them with their own doubt.

Fears are the mind killer. They taunt the lizard brain into fight or flight. They thrive on ‘what if’ scenarios that haunt the imagination. There are no limits to what the mind can fabricate.

But the head is psychologically safe, psychologically sound.

Fright tries to wrestle with human insecurity and scratch away the varnish of bravery.

Can you endure the storm?

Fears are in their very nature abstract. Face them in their stark simplicity and they lose potency.