Below is a collection of links I think you’ll find interesting. Watch the world’s first drone rescue after the jump. Enjoy!
Is the Answer to Phone Addiction a Worse Phone? How can we win back our focus in the distraction era? Turn it gray. That’s right: we need to dull our screens to bore our senses. Turning the phone grayscale doesn’t make it dumb, it just makes it less attractive. Writes Nellie Bowles in the New York Times: “I’m not a different person all of a sudden, but I feel more in control of my phone, which now looks like a tool rather than a toy. If I unlock it to write an email, I’m a little less likely to forget the goal and tap on Instagram. If I’m waiting in line for coffee, this gray slab is not as delightful a distraction as it once was.”
Seeking the Lost Art of Growing Old with Intention. The Father of National Parks John Muir once said that “most people are on the world, not in it.” His words must have influenced naturalist and author Bernd Heinrich. The 77-year-old runner who still completes a 6-minute mile remains awed by the beautiful power of nature: “We all want to be associated with something greater and more beautiful than ourselves, and nature is the ultimate. I just think it is the one thing we can all agree on.”
The Subtle Art of Getting Your Work Noticed. When asked how to achieve success, comedian Steve Martin advised to “be so good they can’t ignore you.” The author Cal Newport wrote a book with the same title. But I like the way life hacker Zat Rana emboldens the adage by saying “Be so interesting that they can’t ignore you.” Being good isn’t enough; being interesting and unique is way more memorable.
Book I’m reading
The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu: “The game of harvesting human attention and reselling it to advertisers has become a major part of our economy. I use the crop metaphor because attention has been widely recognized as a commodity, like wheat, pork bellies, or crude oil. Existing industries have long depended on it to drive sales. And the new industries of the twentieth century turned it into a form of currency they could mint. Beginning with radio, each new medium would attain its commercial viability through the resale of what attention it could capture in exchange for its “free” content.”
Video I’m watching
Lifeguards deployed a drone to save two struggling teenage swimmers stranded in rough seas off the coast of Australia.
This is apparently the first time drone technology carrying a flotation device has rescued swimmers.
If Facebook’s recent newsfeed changes are any sign, social media is in decay. It’s gone from connecting people to Buzzfeed’s linkbait to a nest of echo chambers where the likeminded and bots spread fake news.
The art done here by artist Andrei Lacatusu provides a metaphor for the chaotic and ruinous state of social media, which appears to be failing like today’s brick-and-mortar stores. While we can expect the social networks to stay in business, they need to spend 2018 rebuilding the public’s trust.
Below are this week’s interesting links and recent discoveries for your weekend reading.
The London Milkman. Photographer Fred Morley staged the famous photo of a milkman walking through the destruction of London after the German blitz during the Second World War. “Morley walked around the rubble of London until he found a group of firefighters trying to put out a fire amidst the fallen buildings, as he wanted that specific scene in the background…Apparently, Morley borrowed a milkman’s outfit and crate of bottles. He then either posed as the milkman or had his assistant pose as the milkman.” While the British government censored images of London’s destruction, it promoted this photo to show the world Britain’s resiliency and evoke a sense of calm.
How to do nothing. It’s not easy to escape the computer screen or leave that portable rectangular glow behind, but disconnecting is becoming indispensable to our mental health. We don’t always need to be switched on. Writes bird watcher Jenny Odell who likes to decompress at the park: “The function of nothing here, of saying nothing, is that it’s a precursor to something, to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech.”
Why You Should Write a Memoir—Even if Nobody Will Read It. According to recent studies, writing your own memoir has various psychological benefits. Whether for private eyes or for public viewing, writing extensively about traumatic events helps you break free from the cage of anxiety. “Psychologists believe that by converting emotions and images into words, the author starts to organize and structure memories, particularly memories that may be difficult to comprehend and accept.”
Book I’m reading
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman: “Here is a fact: nothing in all civilization has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshipped by man.”
Video I’m watching
Perhaps what we see isn’t what we get. Instead, life is just computer code and humans are information.
So does a simulated life mean that we can live forever? Says theoretical physicist James Gates: “If the simulation hypothesis is valid, then we open the door to eternal life and resurrection and things that formally have been discussed in the realm of religion. As long as I have a computer that’s not damaged, I can always re-run the program.”
The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation. In 1968, Doctor Paul Ehrlich warned the world of its excessive population with his book entitled The Population Bomb. “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” he wrote, “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” While Dr. Ehrlich’s dire warnings never panned out (at least yet), his book sparked a much-needed debate about “the potential consequences of overpopulation: famine, pollution, social and ecological collapse.”
Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Video I’m watching
The millennial whoop explains why all pop music sounds the same. Spotted by musician Patrick Metzger, this is how he describes the hook:
It’s a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth. The rhythm is usually straight 8th-notes, but it may start on the downbeat or on the upbeat in different songs. A singer usually belts these notes with an “Oh” phoneme, often in a “Wa-oh-wa-oh” pattern. And it is in so many pop songs it’s criminal.
A good candidate for Word of the Year in this category is “fake.” “Fake” once meant “counterfeit” or “inauthentic,” like a fake Picasso or a fake birth certificate. It is now used to mean “I deny your reality.” “Hoax” is used with the same intention. (“Alternative facts,” another phrase associated with reality denial, seems to have been mocked out of existence.)
Happy last Friday of 2017! Below are some interesting links and recent discoveries for your weekend reading.
Time Passes Slowly. “The internet put a huge dent in boredom,” writes Bob Lefsetz in a recent blog post. We are suffering from the glut of entertainment options on our rectangular screens. Remember what it was like to be bored before the internet spread its wings of distraction?
Forgetting is just as important as remembering. Forgetfulness optimizes for better decision-making. Says professor Blake Richards, “It’s important the brain forgets irrelevant details and focuses on what will help make decisions.”
The Age of Outrage. There’s no doubt our democracy is crippling due to a slew of fake news, ethnic-nationalism, and a gloating ego with authoritarian tendencies who spouts spurious patriotism. But our founders knew best how to protect against tribalism by building “the right springs and gears” into a constitution designed like a giant clock. Says NYU professor Jonathan Haidt: “They built in safeguards against runaway factionalism, such as the division of powers among the three branches, and an elaborate series of checks and balances. But they also knew that they had to train future generations of clock mechanics. They were creating a new kind of republic, which would demand far more maturity from its citizens than was needed in nations ruled by a king or other Leviathan.”
Book I’m reading
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. “While experimentation is scary to many, I would argue that we should be far more terrified of the opposite approach. Being too risk-averse causes many companies to stop innovating and to reject new ideas, which is the first step on the path to irrelevance. Probably more companies hit the skids for this reason than because they dared to push boundaries and take risks—and, yes, to fail. To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail.”
Video I’m watching
We take coffee for granted.
Judging by the ubiquity of Starbucks stores, you’d think that coffee was abundant. But the coffee we like to drink, the fruity-tasting coffee arabica, is projected to decline given the dual pressures of climate change which reduces suitable land to grow coffee and the ever-growing human demand for a “cup of joe.” So how do we grow more coffee?
“We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason … On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us.”
Leonardo da Vinci had almost no schooling and could barely read Latin or do long division. His genius was of the type we can understand, even take lessons from. It was on skills we can aspire to improve in ourselves, such as curiosity and intense observation.
Happy Holidays! Below are some links and recent discoveries I think you’ll find interesting. Check out Black Thought’s 10-minute freestyle after the jump.
Are You Using Social Media or Being Used By It? Facebook doesn’t care about your well-being. All it cares about is sustaining dopamine hits so it can keep you gambling on your attention. I think 2018 is the year social media platforms come clean on their role as sugar water. Writes Cal Newport: “What they need is compulsive use, which is what happens when you launch the app on your phone with some important goal in mind, and then thirty minutes later look up and realize you’ve been snagged into an addictive streak of low-value tapping, liking, and swiping.”
Productivity is Dangerous: You know who else was productive? Don’t substitute busyness for productivity; excessive doing as part of “the cult of action” is not a badge of honor. Don’t be afraid to sleep in. Writes Vincent Bevins: “If instead they had spent a few years lying around, reading, drinking, listening to music, just generally fucking about, the world would have been a lot better off.”
Banksy goes to Bethlehem. 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.
Book I’m reading
On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”