What spreads, rarely sticks

All problems and their subsequent solutions are social.

The good thing about solutions is that they’re typically social-proof and benefit from the network effect: What works for one person multiplies as commonality gets shared with the next, like a vaccine.

The simplest form of information exchange is language. Words are memes. And memes can be rebranded and copy-pasted, and in some cases, rendered outdated. It was Dunkin’ Donuts that made the word “doughnut” extinct.

Physical nature begs for optimization. The city, like an anthill, is one big shared experience, a marketplace for swapping ideas. Residencies, streets, bridges — all spawned from tiny cells into a collective pinnacle of innovation. Of course, the infrastructure is far from ideal. As Ellen Ullman wrote, “We build our computer (systems) the way we build our cities: over time, without a plan, on top of ruins.”

At the root of every solitary puzzle is a chance to do our best, graduate from the individual vision, and gravitate toward some collective high where the concept gets received and adopted.

The lone genius is a myth. Behind every wizard lies a team of influencers. There are no geniuses without gleaning from the wisdom of crowds. The innovator’s role is to observe trends, spot the blind spots and introduce new possibilities.

When the crazy ones propose anything novel, they beg for the neighborhood’s attention. It is the external reaction, the possibility of adoption, that excites the misunderstood maker.

Thinking, doing, and building all require a form of starting and maintenance to ensure longevity. ‘Build it, and they will come’ is, therefore, a canard. A product’s existence depends on the strength of usability, marketing, and overall spreadability.

The Lindy effect says if a book is around a decade, it’ll last for another 50 years. Ideas and products are at the mercy of banter and eyeballs. Whatever gets shared continues to stick around in the public narrative conscience.

Propaganda is the nastiest version of exposure. It creates a mind virus that becomes blind to the facets of good worth keeping. Fascism is how the kindest people can quickly become immune to evil.

Thankfully, plurality wins. In open societies, it means the best ideas usually pan out without canceling out the advantages of alternative solutions.

There will always be outliers who stand on the edge, trying to make a difference.

Everything optimized

We try to optimize time like we try to manipulate the weather—craving proficiency, we come prepared.   

But we are the tools of our tools. In this pre-metaverse world, humans can only control so much.

The clock, indeed a fabrication of man, keeps on ticking. Meanwhile, the weather remains fickle. Nature confounds the rules of predictability; chaos thrives on terra firma but stays fixed in the cosmos. 

We are the recipients and would-be benefactors of cloud-based demands. The human mental model looks for new ways to expand its portfolio for survival and consumption. 

Ingenuity cracks open a never-ending energy source. Science and technology may advance our thinking yet trap us in a condition of discontent. As with time, we’re always striving for more.  

Powering off

Dreaming exudes clarity. Only when our mind is in a state of utter relaxation do the disparate parts coalesce. 

Yet, the era of self-thought and free will is nearing the end. Unable to sleep, we slump into the distraction of rectangular glows before drowning in information overload. The algorithms ensure we never think for ourselves. 

The digital world enslaves our attention rather than liberates our thinking. It also weakens the patience muscle. 

Ideas, fantasies, theories — one can’t innovate nor begin the next one without a state of rest. 

Inaction is a form of action. 

Disconnecting is a thinking tool, one that is undervalued and deprioritized by the hustle. It reminds people of their purpose to create value rather than acting as passive consumers. 

The only hassle is making time to think to see the reality of things. And God knows how painful self-reflection is for many. 

Upstaged by avatars

No artifice, no spin. Never let the online you be better than the real you. 

So many people are an inconsistent version of their digital selves. All the internet’s a stage, with each social media post performance art. 

You’d think that some people were crypto billionaires or New York Times bestsellers based on their Instagram stories. After all, they control the narrative — strategically dropping each piece of content to garner more attention. 

They say that if you want to be a successful business person, dress like one. There is nothing wrong with acting like whom you aspire to be. 

But if you expect one to embrace your online avatar in real life without having the face-to-face consistency to back it up, good luck getting where you want to go. 

Big egos are insecure. Aspirations mean nothing without doing the work. 

Business is more than just ties, spreadsheets, and numbers. Writing is more than just visual speech. Your identity expands beyond your Tik Tok profile, where fifteen minutes of fame seems to go on for an eternity. You, celeb, you. 

There is no second life. There is one life. The eyes never age, just as they never lie. No one likes to be persuaded and then duped. 

To derive the most authenticity from life, engineer a digital persona that aligns with your natural desires, wants, and needs. This way, there is no inner conflict between who you are and who you wish to be. 

Through the wire

The world grows numb to the air of distraction. We’ve left the world of 2-D consciousness in exchange for the anesthesia of the brite lite’s bits and bytes.  

Freedom to do anything is the freedom to do nothing. Technology makes us more curious and ever-more cautious. But like a video game, unfettered space uses up attention and propels excess consumption.

The inability to disconnect and steer clear of the shiny object suffocates our attention. Restraint, on the other hand, is why limits are also so magnetic. They help us protect against an addictive environment. 

As we gravitate toward constriction, we stymie the possibilities of distraction.

We do more crucial work in stillness and silence than we do fritter time away in the tangled wires of freedom.

Collisions of thought

It’s not about how much information we consume. One can suck all the information out of the Twitter firehouse and learn nothing. 

News makes our brain fat. 

After all, it was Aldous Huxley who forewarned that we’d drown in excess entertainment and not care about anything else. Writes Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death

“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

Neil Postman,Amusing Ourselves to Death

TV and social media silence thought — our opinions quickly become someone else’s. The attention merchants intend to monetize on such passivity through ads. Retweets are endorsements.

But we can still take a proactive stance on the balance of ideas thrown at us.

An ambient awareness keeps the excess noise at bay as we learn to listen and absorb the world’s texture. Our goal is to replace the enormous dent that screens instill in our thoughts with a perspective we call our own.

The more ideas collide with one another, independent or externalized, the tighter authenticity clicks into place. The thinker makes their own rules.

Information is the sum of parts

The brain is just a collection of tangled wires with neuron connectivity levels. We call its output ‘information’ because we need some way of describing chemical synchronicity.

The computer works the same way.

On the inside, it’s a collection of chips and wires with various voltage levels. What we see on screen is what we label as information.

Information is the same name we give to brain chemicals and computer voltage to describe organized chaos. While negative beliefs and rusty chips impair memory, the function of the thinking mind or active motherboard set rules for action. 

Furthermore, the conflict and synchronization between man and the machine (i.e., science fiction) continue to be the mother of invention.  

Information is the sum of parts, and it allows us to go beyond the robot. 

Creativity as existence

We do nothing until it’s too late.

You’d think such calls for immediacy would drive us into action.

Passivity begs for a slap in the face.

The way to light life back up without a disaster first coming into your path is to avoid the contagion of disengagement.

Television and social media are low bandwidth activities that dull the brain into inanition.

Detach yourself from the comfort of the stream, the ludic loop. Get unstuck from the madness that is pure entertainment. 

The urge to create turns loafers into participants.

“Life is trying things to see if they work.”

Ray Bradbury

It takes energy and discipline to escape the lure of doing nothing. It also takes persistence to move forward towards your attractors. Continued effort and belief wins out in the marketplace of ideas. 

Instead of being an active consumer, decide to entertain yourself on the broad view of what you can do. 

Throughout all choices and chapters in life, doing the work makes life worth living — inward and outward, freedom all at once. 

Bottled and unbranded

No one cares about your personal brand. It’s not your responsibility to dedicate thumbs to impression management.

The screen begs for cracks.

Authenticity thrives in abundance — people want to appear real (re flawed) as they are in life. That’s why filters are dead, and lenses are all the rage.

You exist to shock, stand out, to make people laugh and cry with the silliest and rank of faces. Every day is Halloween, drowning in masks dead and gone.

It’s hard enough to cultivate authenticity in a world that rewards conformity. Don’t dumb it down.

Refuse to be a punchline for sameness. We’re all weird. The unique shall inherit the earth.

Caption this to your next selfie: “Don’t take it all so seriously.”

Nothing is random

Discoverability will forever be twisted in the maw of internet algorithms.

Nothing is ever truly random. We are data’s significant other with a bullseye on our back.

Facebook has been triangulating our data for years, matching our likes with the highest bidder. Designers, copy-writers, and marketers work together to create internet ads that strangle our attention into a click-hole.

So here we are, next up surrounded by the internet of things to feed the system of ads. We invite zero ambiguity — we tell the system what we want, and it reports back.

Look around — we’re well-trained click monkeys forever melting into a spiderweb of Times Square.

Dancing with the algorithms

We dance with the algorithms, yielding time-saving results. How else are we to discover all these gems in a sea of content? How are we to land on the right words in a swamp of choice?

From Spotify to Gmail’s suggestive text, we accept the computer’s recommendations to curate and speak for us. We allow the recipes to crunch down our tastes and our speaking patterns, essentially doing all the homework for us.

Playlists generate themselves; emails answers themselves. 

Yet, just as humans are poor decision-makers, the symphony of algorithms is also flawed. 

“An algorithm is an opinion embedded in math,” writes Cathy O’Neil in her book Weapons of Math Destruction (Amazon).

The computers and their code are often in over their heads, impractical, and sometimes stupid. Just ask Facebook — it takes a human to quell the dangerous idea virus that is fake news. 

The algorithm, written by humans, also requires human moderation. 

The ultimate balance of power is the intermixing of human neurons with the speed of computer nodes. Connecting humans to computers will supercharge decision-making in a fast-paced world. 

Thoughtless algorithms seem to know us better than ourselves, for now.

The art of doing nothing

Relaxation is an art, antithesis to our ‘always on’ culture.

But it takes work to do nothing. Those tiny hits of dopamine are addictive.

The route to super-consciousness is paved with roadblocks, the least bit unplugging from the maelstrom of 24/7 news and unnecessary push messages.

We crave novelty

Chasing the rectangular glow for entertainment produces intense cognitive clutter. All the engagement makes us less happy in the end.

Distracted into busyness, we begin to decay into inanition. We miss the events unfolding in our day, permitting evil to spread as a consequence of blindness.

When we’re interacting in excess, we miss out on recharging and thinking. Disconnection is the only way to put the mind back into the mix.

The goal is not just to relax, per se, but to be free from collecting screen souvenirs. What we want to strive for is long-term serotonin.

To do great work a man must be very idle as well as very industrious.

Samuel Butler

We fight for the present to turn idleness into concurrent exploration. Time ticks to the clock as the mind does to the brain. Breathe and stop, we can stave off the ludic loop.

Surrounded by accelerated context, moments of silence seem to be the only way to make anything click.