Book: The Scientist in The Crib

But what makes a science really advance isn’t just the astonishing geniuses, it’s the methods that allow us ordinary idiots to do the same thing as the astonishing geniuses.

“The Scientist in the Crib” by Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff, and Patricia K. Kuhl explores how children explore the world using scientific methods or – the scientific method is built on the framework that children use to explore the world.

Children build theories on the world, test them methodically, and will try out just about anything with unwavering enthusiasm.

It’s not that children are little scientists but that scientists are big children.

Children and good scientists use the same methods, and they are equally baffled and amazed by the world. They conduct real experiments and note their effects with astounding diligence.

The “Theory Theory” states that children have theories of the world

Babies learn about the world by interacting with it. Only after having an experience they can name it. They have a “language explosion” at the same time they learn to solve new problems – like object permanence, manipulation, etc.

  • Babies who are figuring out the sounds of language babble
  • Babies who are figuring out how we see objects play hide&seek
  • Babies who are learning how people think, play imitation games

Experiments show that babies are born with the ability to recognize every syllable of every language. After 1 year, they are limited only to the language they hear at home, so they’ll lose vowels they don’t hear their parents speak. After another 14 years, they’ll pay big money for language classes to recognize those sounds again.

I was dismissive of Baby Talk, but it turns out its really valuable and tailored precisely for language learning:

  • Elongated vowels
  • Clear sounds
  • Slight variations of the same sentence “What a nice toy you have, such a nice toy, who has a nice toy?”

Funny how we’re such great teachers instinctively. Put down your Mozart tapes.

There are no adults

The longer I live, the more convinced I am that in fact there are no adults, and we’re all big babies in oversized suits trying to figure this all out as we go along (I even wrote something to that effect in my wedding vows).

But if even children themselves aren’t “childlike,” the whole picture collapses. There are no savages, noble or otherwise, and there are no “children of nature,” not even among children. There are only human beings, children and grown-ups, women and men, hunter-gatherers and scientists, trying to figure out what’s going on.

As with hard distinction between people and animals, or mind and body, Aristotle is yet again proven wrong. Hilariously, the book shares Plato’s student’s work on Men and Women having different numbers of teeth, a view he probably didn’t consult with his wife. Men have a long history of theorizing without confronting their ideas with facts.

like Aristotle with the teeth, neither Freud nor Skinner took the step of doing systematic experiments with children or babies. Freud largely relied on inferences from the behavior of neurotic adults, and Skinner on inferences from the behavior of only slightly less neurotic rats. And like the philosophers, Freud and Skinner got the developmental story wrong, too.

The more we learn about babies, animals, and the universe, the more we are confronted with our own unremarkableness. It was a nice myth to treat ourselves as the final achievement of evolution, but we’re just lucky animals.

Due to frequent child deaths (as described in Factfulness), children were treated as less than adults for the majority of history. It was an easy way out of both the gruesome reality of child death and the preservation of the special status of the full-grown humans. But we have to get real now.

Parenting

Maybe this book’s biggest benefit is preparing me for the challenges ahead. My baby girl is 6 months old now, and already testing her parents’ patience a little bit more every day. So-called “Terrible Twos” sound particularly scary, and the book helps me to mentally prepare and understand her antics later. She is not out to make me angry, she’s just trying to learn the world. Repeat that again and breathe.

The terrible twos seem to involve a systematic exploration of that idea, almost a kind of experimental research program. Toddlers are systematically testing the dimensions on which their desires and the desires of others may be in conflict.

It will also help to prevent me from strolling up and down the block like a proud peacock whenever she does something impressive:

Parents egocentrically tend to think that they are the deciding factors in their children’s lives. But for a two-year-old, an older brother or sister may actually be a more enthralling exemplar of human nature.

I’m already struggling as my little girl tests the object permanence where she drops toys on purpose to see if that picks them up. He does.

The traditional environment where the children grew up was very different from the modern family. Remote work brings us back, with children being closer to their parents during the day instead of being locked away in daycare

“Perhaps the telecommuting home office with the crib next to the fax machine will turn out to be the contemporary equivalent of the baby on the sling on its mother’s back or the father plowing next to his children”

Read more in “Farmers always worked from home”

Related Books

My Kindle highlights

  • We decided to become developmental psychologists and study children because there aren’t any Martians.
  • worst of all when we turn to the sounds that
  • Our job as developmental psychologists is to discover what program babies run and, someday, how that program is coded in their brains and how it evolved.
  • Finally, the babies have the universe’s best system of tech support: mothers.
  • For human beings, nurture is our nature. The capacity for culture is part of our biology, and the drive to learn is our most important and central instinct.
  • It’s not that children are little scientists but that scientists are big children.
  • But if even children themselves aren’t “childlike,” the whole picture collapses. There are no savages, noble or otherwise, and there are no “children of nature,” not even among children. There are only human beings, children and grown-ups, women and men, hunter-gatherers and scientists, trying to figure out what’s going on.
  • Luria, wildly excited by his results, couldn’t wait for the Trans-Siberian Railroad journey back and telegraphed Vygotsky, “Tatars have no illusions.” He was immediately arrested; there was only one subject about which Tatars could have no illusions. Luria decided to leave developmental psychology and became a military brain surgeon at the front—it was safer. Vygotsky himself avoided the purges only by dying young, at thirty-eight.
  • like Aristotle with the teeth, neither Freud nor Skinner took the step of doing systematic experiments with children or babies. Freud largely relied on inferences from the behavior of neurotic adults, and Skinner on inferences from the behavior of only slightly less neurotic rats. And like the philosophers, Freud and Skinner got the developmental story wrong, too.
  • But what makes a science really advance isn’t just the astonishing geniuses, it’s the methods that allow us ordinary idiots to do the same thing as the astonishing geniuses.
  • One-month-old babies imitate facial expressions. If you stick your tongue out at a baby, the baby will stick his tongue out at you; open your mouth, and the baby will open hers.
  • The newborns imitated, too.
  • When babies are around a year old, they begin to point to things and they begin to look at things that other people point to.
  • The terrible twos seem to involve a systematic exploration of that idea, almost a kind of experimental research program. Toddlers are systematically testing the dimensions on which their desires and the desires of others may be in conflict.
  • Systematic studies indicate that two-year-olds begin to show genuine empathy toward other people for the first time.
  • (3 y/o) always thought there were pencils in the box. It’s as if the children think that since there is only one world out there, a single reality, everyone will understand it the same way. People will never have different beliefs about the same thing, and they themselves will never change their minds about anything.
  • The children, though, make just the same mistakes whether they are reporting their own mental state or predicting the mental states of other people.
  • A relatively brief experience of a friend or an aunt or a teacher can provide children with an alternative picture of how love can work.
  • Three-year-olds do act like lovers toward their parents. In fact, they act like lovers out of Italian opera, with passionate and sensual embraces and equally passionate despair at separation and jealousy of rivals.
  • We can show systematically that “real” lies only begin to appear at about four, at the same time that children start to understand “false-belief” problems like the deceptive candy box. Similarly, children only begin to understand that they can be deceived at about that age.
  • Children with autism don’t seem to have the fundamental presupposition that they are like other people and other people are like them.
  • They are likely to understand the trick box problem at a younger age than older siblings. And the more brothers and sisters children have, the better they do.
  • Parents egocentrically tend to think that they are the deciding factors in their children’s lives. But for a two-year-old, an older brother or sister may actually be a more enthralling exemplar of human nature.

Book: Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez

The truth is we know little about the wolf. What we know a good deal more about is what we imagine the wolf to be.

This was a very sad book to read. Humanity has dealt the wolves great injustice, blaming them for everything under the sun (and the moon), and then some more. Barry Lopez shares some context on how wolves actually behave and why they were so vilified.

We tend to compare the to humans, either presenting as the opposite, or a friend. But wolves are proudly themselves. They do exhibit some behaviour we understand, and some that we don’t They are alive, and have the very right to.

Wolves vary their hunting techniques, share food with the old who do not hunt, and give gifts to each other.

The wolf seems to have few relationships with other animals that could be termed purely social, though he apparently takes pleasure in the company of ravens. 

Nature was for the most part cruel and dangerous to humans (more on that in Sapiens), so taming it was a sign of virtue, progress, and hope for prosperity. From Factfulness:

There was a balance. It wasn’t because humans lived in balance with nature. Humans died in balance with nature. It was utterly brutal and tragic. (Location 1066)

For most of the civilization, nature was the enemy, and the wolf – the ambassador of the wild.

In a hunter society, like that of the Cheyenne, traits that were universally admired—courage, hunting skill, endurance—placed the wolf in a pantheon of respected animals; but when man turned to agriculture and husbandry, to cities, the very same wolf was hated as cowardly, stupid, and rapacious.

To kill a wolf was to tame the wilderness, to prove the mighty man’s strength can win with the claws and the teeth of the primeval. And men had a lot to prove.

Part of the tragedy—and it was a tragedy—was that wolves who bothered no cattle were hunted down by men who largely wanted to prove to other men that they were no fools.

There is something deep-seated in men that makes them want to “take on” the outdoors, as though it were something to be whipped, and to kill wolves because killing a wolf stands for real triumph.

Barry Lopez lists countless examples of cruelty the wolves received from men. The most gruesome were the “brave hunters” who would shoot machine guns from an airplane to kill hundreds of alaskan wolves per day.

Thanks to the book I understood a little more about my own dog, but the author warns against extrapolating wolf behaviour onto their domesticated brethren.

The habit dogs have of rolling in putrid substances is also found in wolves. It seems possible that odors picked up in this way and carried to other pack members have some communicative function.

Related Books

Recommended on the Tim Ferriss show – somebody said it’s a book similar to The Overstory. I still prefer the Overstory.

My Kindle Highlights

  • The truth is we know little about the wolf. What we know a good deal more about is what we imagine the wolf to be.
  • If someone says big males always lead the pack and do the killing, the Eskimo shrug and say, “Maybe. Sometimes.” (Location 85)
  • Wolves vary their hunting techniques, share food with the old who do not hunt, and give gifts to each other.
  • once saw a wolf on the tundra winging a piece of caribou hide around like a Frisbee for an hour by himself. (Location 89)
  • For example, wolves do not kill just the old, the weak, and the injured. They also kill animals in the prime of health. And they don’t always kill just what they need; they sometimes kill in excess. And wolves kill each other. The reasons for these acts are not clear. No one—not biologists, not Eskimos, not backwoods hunters, not naturalist writers—knows why wolves do what they do. (Location 94)
  • they once roamed most of the Northern Hemisphere above thirty degrees north latitude. (Location 167)
  • Irremotus (Northern Rocky Mountain wolf) means something like “the wolf who is always showing up there.” (Location 197)
  • By placing muzzle and unprotected nose between the rear legs and overlapping the face with the thickly furred tail, wolves can turn their backs to the wind and sleep comfortably in the open at forty degrees below zero. (Location 278)
  • One observer followed two wolves who broke trail through five feet of snow for 22 miles in British Columbia. The animals paused in their tracks but never lay down to rest. Taking wolves on Isle Royale as an example, they average 30 miles of travel a day in winter. (Location 337)
  • The animal can develop a crushing pressure of perhaps 1,500 lbs./in2 compared to 750 lbs./in2 for a German shepherd. (Location 345)
  • As a rule, only one female becomes pregnant. The pups are born sixty-three days later. (Location 360)
  • The social bond between them is so obvious that in 1576, in an age when people believed the worst of wolves, a sportsman wrote in a book on hunting: “If the pups chance to meet their sire or dam anytime after they leave the pack they will fawn upon them and seem in their kind greatly to rejoice.” (Location 384)
  • With respect to females, who have largely a subordinate standing in Western human societies, the analogy, I think, is poor. Female wolves may not only lead packs but outlast a succession of male alpha animals. It is females, moreover, who decide where to den and thus where the pack will have to hunt for five or six weeks. (Location 423)
  • The male hunter-male leader image of the wolf pack is misleading but, unconsciously, I am sure, it is perpetuated by males, who dominate this field of study. (Location 428)
  • Social structure in a wolf pack has been observed in greatest detail among captive wolves, which makes extrapolating to wild wolves risky. (Location 432)
  • Alpha animals do not always lead the hunt, break trail in snow, or eat before the others do. An alpha animal may be alpha only at certain times for a specific reason, and, it should be noted, is alpha at the deference of the other wolves in the pack. (Location 446)
  • Human beings, particularly in recent years, have grown accustomed to speaking of “dominance hierarchies” in business corporations and elsewhere, and the tendency has been to want wolf packs (or troops of chimpanzees) to conform to similar molds. The social structure of a wolf pack is dynamic—subject to change, especially during the breeding season—and may be completely reversed during periods of play. (Location 449)
  • To place a heavy emphasis on such supposed facets of behavior as “intimidation,” “pulling rank,” and games of psychological cruelty based on social structures, however, is simply to confuse the tools of human analysis with the actual behavior of wolves. (Location 454)
  • Daily activities center around the mouth of the den until the pups are about eight weeks old, at which time the adults move them to the first of a series of rendezvous sites where they remain while the others hunt. (Location 469)
  • Adolph Murie wrote that the strongest impression he was left with was of the wolves’ friendliness toward each other. (Location 493)
  • Even as adults, wolves play tag with each other or romp with the pups, running about a clearing or on a snowbank with a rocking-horse gait. They scare each other by pouncing on sleeping wolves and by jumping in front of one another from hiding places. They bring things to each other, especially bits of food. They prance and parade about with sticks or bones in their mouths. (Location 495)
  • They can howl lying down or sitting on their haunches. I’ve even seen a wolf, with an air of not wanting to miss out, howl while defecating. (Location 507)
  • In chorus like this, each wolf chooses a different pitch. The production of harmonics (see chart, page 42) may create the impression of fifteen or twenty wolves where there are in fact only three or four. (Location 539)
  • The habit dogs have of rolling in putrid substances is also found in wolves. It seems possible that odors picked up in this way and carried to other pack members have some communicative function.
  • The animals may be marking things they consider dangerous to other wolves, especially pups, for wolves also mark traps and poisoned baits by defecating on them. (Location 643)
  • Wolves commonly go without food for three or four days and then gorge, eating as much as eighteen pounds of meat in one sitting. Then, “meat drunk,” they may lay out in the sun until digestion is completed (in two or three hours), and then start again. (Location 684)
  • All wolves eat grass, possibly to scour the digestive tract and remove worms. Consisting mostly of cellulose, the grass itself is never digested. (Location 692)
  • The latter point should be well taken: in the past, it was assumed that wolves were basely motivated and bloodthirsty; then in an environmentally enlightened age, it was suddenly assumed that they were noble and wise. So, (Location 836)
  • For my own part, I mean to suggest that there is more to a wolf hunt than killing. And that wolves are wolves, not men. (Location 839)
  • Wolves have a curious dependency on caribou to act as snowplows. It seems clear that tundra wolves do not follow caribou in winter solely to feed on them but because the herds open the way and pack the snow down. (Location 914)
  • The wolf seems to have few relationships with other animals that could be termed purely social, though he apparently takes pleasure in the company of ravens. 
  • (The set of steel nubs on a leather strap seen on dogs today is a gentler version of the spiked collar dogs once wore as protection against wolves.) (Location 937)
  • A common practice in captivity is to allow wolf pups to establish a bond with an older dog. The relationship gives humans an intermediary, and makes handling the wolves easier. (Location 939)
  • The mistake that is made here, with consistency, it seems, only by educated Western people, is to think that there is an ultimate wolf reality to be divined, one that can only be unearthed with microscope and radio collar. Some wolf biologists are possessed of the idea of binding the wolf up in “statistically significant” data. They want no question about the wolf not to have an answer. (Location 1045)
  • “The more reflective Nunamiut do not search for a primordial cause, a complete explanation or order of the nature of ultimate destiny.” (Location 1054)
  • we do not know very much at all about animals. We cannot understand them except in terms of our own needs and experiences. And to approach them solely in terms of the Western imagination is, really, to deny the animal. (Location 1149)
  • What happens when a wolf wanders into a flock of sheep and kills twenty or thirty of them in apparent compulsion is perhaps not so much slaughter as a failure on the part of the sheep to communicate anything at all—resistance, mutual respect, appropriateness—to the wolf. The wolf has initiated a sacred ritual and met with ignorance. This (Location 1288)
  • Just as intriguing is the idea that some game animals assent to a chase-without-death with wolves. Caribou and yearling wolves, for example, are often seen in harmless chases getting a taste of death. Building spirit. Training. Wolf and caribou. (Location 1379)
  • It should be understood, however, that the Indian did not rank-order animals. Each creature, from deer mouse to meadowlark, was respected for the qualities it best seemed to epitomize; when those particular qualities were desired by someone, that animal was approached as one who knew much about that thing. (Location 1391)
  • To fit into the universe, the Indian had to do two things simultaneously: be strong as an individual, and submerge his personal feelings for the good of the tribe. In the eyes of many native Americans, no other animal did this as well as the wolf. (Location 1427)
  • The inclination of white men to regard individual and social motivations in themselves as separate led them to misunderstand the Indian. The Indian was so well integrated in his environment that his motivation was almost hidden; his lifeway was as mysterious to white men as the wolf’s. (Location 1438)
  • There are no stories among Indians of lone wolves. (Location 1442)
  • The Ahtena Indians of southern Alaska brought a wolf they’d killed into camp on their shoulders, chanting: “This is the chief, he is coming.” The dead wolf was taken inside a hut, where he was propped up in a sitting position and a banquet meal was set before him by a shaman. Each family in the village contributed something. When it was felt the wolf had eaten all he wanted, the men ate what was left. (Location 1503)
  • This person then might explain to the dead wolf that he had been hired by some other village so the wolf would take out any revenge at the wrong place. The Chukchi Eskimo of northeastern Siberia routinely told any wolf they killed that they were Russians, not Eskimos. (Location 1509)
  • At the heart of theriophobia is the fear of one’s own nature. In its headiest manifestations theriophobia is projected onto a single animal, the animal becomes a scapegoat, and it is annihilated. That is what happened to the wolf in America. The routes that led there, however, were complex. (Location 1949)
  • In Europe at the same time the subjugation and ordering of shabby wilderness had reached its exaggerated apotheosis in the excessive neatness of the Versailles gardens. (Location 1974)
  • Roderick Nash writes: “In the morality play of westward expansion, wilderness was the villain, and the pioneer, as hero, relished its destruction. The transformation of wilderness into civilization was the reward for his sacrifices, the definition of his achievement and the source of his pride.” (Location 2000)
  • If a horse kicked a pestering child and the child died, the horse was to be tried and hung. (Location 2035)
  • To clear wolves out of the forest so man could raise cattle was perfectly all right. It was not only all right, it met with the approval of various religious denominations who admired such industry, and of the state, whose aim was a subdued, pastoral, and productive countryside. (Location 2054)
  • Descartes articulated the belief that not only were animals put on earth for man’s use but they were distinctly lowborn; they were without souls and therefore man incurred no moral guilt in killing them. (Location 2058)
  • There is something deep-seated in men that makes them want to “take on” the outdoors, as though it were something to be whipped, and to kill wolves because killing a wolf stands for real triumph. (Location 2264)
  • Men in a speculative business like cattle ranching singled out one scapegoat for their financial losses. (Location 2628)
  • Part of the tragedy—and it was a tragedy—was that wolves who bothered no cattle were hunted down by men who largely wanted to prove to other men that they were no fools. (Location 2673)
  • do not think it comes from some base, atavistic urge, though that may be a part of it. I think it is that we simply do not understand our place in the universe and have not the courage to admit it. (Location 2837)
  • They wanted the attention and respect they used to get in a township, young boys tagging after them, men their own age cheering their shenanigans with the game wardens. It was all slipping away from them now. That afternoon (Location 2876)
  • We killed hundreds of thousands of wolves. Sometimes with cause, sometimes with none. In the end, I think we are going to have to go back and look at the stories we made up when we had no reason to kill, and find some way to look the animal in the face again. (Location 2884)
  • cannot, in the light of his effect on man, conceive of the wolf as reducible. (Location 2904)
  • The Roman Church, which dominated medieval life in Europe, exploited the sinister image of wolves in order to create a sense of real devils prowling in a real world. During the years of the Inquisition, the Church sought to smother social and political unrest and to maintain secular control by flushing out “werewolves” in the community and putting them to death. (Location 2951)
  • The Greek for wolf, lukos, is so close to the word for light, leukos, that the one was sometimes mistaken for the other in translation. Some scholars have argued that Apollo only came down to us as both the god of dawn and a god associated with wolves because of this etymological confusion. (Location 2981)
  • Saint Francis was trying to get the animal to desist. He and the wolf met one day outside the city walls and made the following agreement, witnessed by a notary: the residents of Gubbio would feed the wolf and let him wander at will through the town and the wolf, for his part, would never harm man (Location 3005)
  • Seventeenth-century Europeans commonly referred to a lump that might announce breast cancer as a wolf. They similarly called open sores and knobs on their legs (and on the legs of their animals) wolves. In nineteenth-century medicine a type of general skin disorder characterized by ulcerative lesions and tubercules was called lupus vulgaris, the common wolf. A related disorder was lupus erythematosus unquium mutilans, literally “the mutilated red talons of the wolf,” a disease that attacks the hands and so disfigures the skin and nails that they look like the paws of a wolf. The (Location 3055)
  • Today, systemic lupus erythematosus is recognized as one of the most puzzling disorders in medicine. (Location 3059)
  • Middle Ages. At a time when no one knew anything about genetics, the idea that a child suffering from Down’s syndrome—small ears, a broad forehead, a flat nose, prominent teeth—was the offspring of a wench and a werewolf was perfectly plausible. (Location 3239)
  • Civilization was not as precious as it is to us today. The temptation to strike back at a painful world must have been strong. (Location 3242)
  • In Africa there were werehyenas, in Japan there were werefoxes, in South America there were werejaguars, in Norway there were werebears. In Europe there were werewolves. (Location 3282)
  • In a hunter society, like that of the Cheyenne, traits that were universally admired—courage, hunting skill, endurance—placed the wolf in a pantheon of respected animals; but when man turned to agriculture and husbandry, to cities, the very same wolf was hated as cowardly, stupid, and rapacious. (Location 3326)
  • a wolf is wounded and a human being is later found with a similar wound—was the basis of proof in many werewolf trials.) (Location 3343)
  • And it was a general belief in Europe that those unfortunate enough to be born on Christmas Eve would be werewolves. (Location 3390)
  • evidence. The idle word of a neighbor, the gibberish of a village idiot, a shaving cut that showed up the morning after someone claimed to have driven off a wolf with a sharp stick—for these reasons and less thousands died at the stake. (Location 3419)
  • People wanted society to work smoothly, to be rid of whatever ailed it. (Location 3422)
  • Malleus Maleficarum, published in 1487. Its title, Hammer of Witches, derives from a title sometimes bestowed on Inquisitors, Hammer of Heretics. One of the purposes of the book was to refute in tedious scholastic fashion every objection to the existence of werewolves. The Malleus (Location 3437)
  • Because the wolf children described by various writers were all probably autistic or schizophrenic, suffering either congenital or psychological problems or both, the issue of whether authentic wolf-raised children ever existed seems a hopeless, not to say pointless, inquiry. (Location 3522)
  • The earliest Aesop in Greek is one from the second century by Babrius, but it shows the effects of his having lived for a while in the Near East. The influence of fable collections from India, called the Fables of Pilpay or Bidpai and taken from the Panchatantra and the Hitopadesa, and stories of the Buddha in animal form from the Jatakas, show up more clearly in Aesopian collections after 1251, (Location 3653)
  • The possibility has yet to be realized of a synthesis between the benevolent wolf of many native American stories and the malcontented wolf of most European fairy tales. At present we seem incapable of such a creation, unable to write about a whole wolf because, for most of us, animals are still either two-dimensional symbols or simply inconsequential, suitable only for children’s stories where good and evil are clearly separated. Were we to perceive such a synthesis, it would signal a radical change in man. For it would mean that he had finally quit his preoccupation with himself and begun to contemplate a universe in which he was not central. (Location 3928)
  • AT THE SOUTHERN END of the Acropolis in Athens stand the ruins of the Lyceum. Philologists argue about the origin of the name but it seems probable that the building was once used as a place of worship for Apollo, the Wolf Slayer. (Location 3935)
  • DURING THE TIME I was researching this book, my wife and I raised two hybrid red wolves at our home in the woods in Oregon. (Location 4038)
  • They often sought out ridges, high on the slopes of the mountain valley where we lived. I assumed at first that it was for the view but later it seemed it was for another reason as well. Here the air currents that moved strongly upslope in the afternoon reached them intact, not broken up, with the olfactory information they carried scattered, as happened when the winds blew through the trees. (Location 4080)
  • someone let them out. We never found out who. I think it must have been someone who believed all wild animals should be free but who did not know that wild animals raised in captivity are no longer wild. River was shot and killed by a man who told us later he wasn’t sure what kind of animals they were but they looked wild and were trying to play with his neighbor’s dogs, (Location 4099)
  • “There could be more, there could be things we don’t understand,” is not to damn knowledge. It is to take a wider view. It is to permit yourself an extraordinary freedom: someone else does not have to be wrong in order that you may be right. (Location 4122)

All about the trees on the Internet

I have just finished „The Overstory” by Richard Powers. This delightful book recounts the story of a group of individuals and their relationships with trees and time. The trees are the real heroes of this fiction, and their stories unfold at the speed of wood.

Richard Powers has read over 120 books about trees as research, but his deep insights do not stop at flora. While learning the story of Neelay Mehta (one of the characters that is not a tree), I was immersed by the real and visceral depiction of the early Internet days and the current startup culture of San Francisco. I am sure Nick Hoel from midwest or Patricia Westerford were also true to their respective backgrounds.

I consider The Overstory one of the most compelling, beautiful, and essential fiction books. If my recommendation is not enough, take Hugh Jackman’s or Columbia University’s, which awarded the author a Pulitzer Prize.

Why is this newsletter about the consequences of the Internet devoted to trees? Even in computer science, we have learned a lot from them. Concepts like „branches” and „roots” are used by programmers daily, and it’s impossible to pass any job interview without a question about „tree balancing algorithms”. Trees are the mainstays of human consciousness – mighty Yggdrasil connected the many worlds of the Norse mythology, while the first people of Abrahamic religions did something involving a tree.

What are the lessons for the connected age?

  • Just like many rings add up to the thick trunk, the real advantage is built with compounding and time, not with viral sensations.
    On the Internet, it’s always a good idea to own your platform (steady trunk), so you can branch out.
  • Success may require sending many acorns out there before one takes hold.
    Somebody’s success may look overnight to you, but in fact, they endured rejection after rejection and kept trying despite unfavorable weather and the barren soil. The Internet makes it easier to send more acorns that ever before.
  • What inspiration can you take from the trees?
To make this issue (a)cornier, I couldn’t resist including this photo of my wife and me planting a tree at our wedding.

I thing I wrote

„Taking a walk to get unstuck” explores the Japanese tradition of forest bathing to improve mental health, how Plato has screwed us all, how Remote Work can bring us closer to our roots (pun intended), and outside – where we belong.

Tree surprising consequences of the Internet

  • Climate Strike Software License
    The things you use daily are based on freely-maintained software. From servers delivering you fresh Instagram photos, to factory equipment protocols that helped machine your sunglasses, to this very blog built on WordPress, the entire economy is running on top of Open Source. Just how all knowledge is built on top of previous discoveries.
    A group of maintainers had the idea to forbid the companies causing the climate change from using any software licensed under Climate Strike Software License. Quite often, software dependencies resemble trees themselves. If enough projects at the Root adopt this license, seemingly unrelated projects will use it as well, fossil fuel companies will have more operating costs, and renewable energy will win in the open market.
  • When You Give a Tree an Email Address
    The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.
  • Treehouse rentals are booming, according to Airbnb CEO.
    Not only are people booking rentals outside of cities, but they’re also looking for “something more private, intimate, smaller, unique, special — something that could be a destination in and of itself,” he said.
    To be honest, I always dreamed of opening a Treehouse resort. I forfeited that plan, when the pandemic hit, concluding that hospitality is risky. But maybe that’s a perfect opportunity to start something unique?

The printing of this issue of Deliberate Internet has not harmed any trees. It was solely focused on a single topic, gathering from different perspectives – what do you think? Do you like that approach or you prefer a medley? Let me know!

Book: On Writing by Stephen King

„Writing is a telepathy” – it’s a process that transports thought from the writers mind to the reader’s.

The biggest takeaway from this book is:

Damn, this guy knows how to write books! I know, insightful!

Part autobiography – part writing manual, „on writing” is a deep dive into Stephen King’s writing process.

An author of Carrie, The Green Mile, The Dark Tower series and countless other stories, Stephen is prolific to a point where people (including my mom) think he has ghost writers.

Now, pushed to spill his secrets, Stephen addresses his prolific career. The book is not self-congratulatory at all. It consists of two parts – one about writer and one about writing.

The writer

In the first part of the book, Stephen briefly tells his life story and it’s exactly what you would expect. He tells amusing stories about his teenage adventures, and later cocaine. All in all, I respect him more now than before reading this book. He just seems like a fun guy. Not only because of the cocaine.

He grew up poor, hardworking and fascinated with the stories. He kept writing since the age of 7 and not long after started sending his stories to journals and magazines, accruing quite a stash of rejection letters.

But he kept improving his art, kept going at it, getting better and better.

He immersed himself in storytelling – mostly pulp fiction, good writing and the kitschy movies of the 50s and 60s. He was at a drive-in cinema when his wife broke into labour.

This is not at all surprising for me. In fact, that’s precisely what Malcolm Gladwell discovered in Outliers and Walter Isaacson explained in Innovators.

Immersing yourself in your art and devoting hours of deliberate practice is key to being ’the best in the world’ in your area of expertise.

The Writing process

The second half of the book holds a few writing principles but is not in any way a curriculum.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

  1. Read, Read and read some more. You need to absorb new writing styles and writing tools, so you need to read any chance you get.
  2. Some well-behaved people will not considered it good manners to read while eating. If there is anything slowing down your progress more than not reading any chance you get, it will be listening to well-behaved people.
  3. Write a lot. A LOT.
  4. Ideal paragraph explains itself in the first sentence and in later sentences provides supporting evidence.
  5. Grammar is important. Adverbs are risky and sleazy. Especially in the dialogue. „He begged pitifully”
  6. Stories are made of:
    1. Narrative that moves the story from A to B
    2. Descriptions transferring the reality to the readers mind
    3. Dialogue
  7. Everybody is the hero of their own story. The best characters are the ones that are the heroes from their point of view
  8. “Write behind a closed door, edit in the open. The first draft belongs to you, the second – to anyone willing to read” – a concept similar to „Shitty first draft” of Anne Lamott
    Your second draft IS NOT an opportunity to add more stuff.
    Second version = First version – 10%

Benefits of daily writing practice

In the interviews I used to say that I write every day except Christmas, Fourth of July and my Birthday.
It’s a lie. In an interview you have to say something that sounds a bit funny and I didn’t want to look like a maniac.
The truth is that I write every day, including Christmas, Fourth of July and my Birthday which I try to ignore.

Stephen King

After taking the “Write of Passage” course, I finally understood why daily writing is helpful. Stephen’s reasoning is quite similar:

  • It gets the avarage ideas out of the way. You just have to flush the obvious out of your system
  • In the beginning you will use a hodge-podge of other people’s styles. There is nothing wrong with that. Only with writing you will be able to grow your own style. It needs room to develop and that room is the page.
  • Stephen says that when he is not writing daily, the characters in his mind start to ‘calcify’.
    It becomes harder and harder to make them move and it feels more like work.
    I found the same thing in regards to my blogging – when I don’t create something every day, it becomes harder and harder the next one.

”Write what you know about. If you know plumbing, the story about Space Plumbers is a good concept.”

You know what? I just very well may do that.

Book: The End is Always Near by Dan Carlin

I love Dan Carlin’s „Hardcore History” podcast. The stories of mundane concerns during wars, plagues, and other terrible events in human history are somehow deeply informative of the human spirit.

I am very grateful that Dan spares the gory details, but he keeps in the weight of the event and pulls lessons from the history books.

Thanks to Dan Carlin, I realized that history is like a TV series that really happened. And one more unpredictable than any “Game of Thrones” or „Witcher” script.

„The End is Always Near” is the first Dan’s book and a little more organized than the podcast. It has a central message that it supports very well – Humans always seem to be on the brink of extinction.

What stood out to me:

  • Through most generations in history, people were much tougher than we are. They have watched their sons and daughters die horribly, the wars and plagues were rolling constantly
  • The children were treated horribly as well. Basically everybody was traumatized, but somehow they haven’t seen it as trauma. Maybe with the constant risk of dying, psychological trauma was a less pressing concern?
  • The consequences of the Atomic bomb were enormous. Because nuclear retaliation is a tool that has to be deployed in minutes, only 1 person needs to make this call. Now, that the US president has this cross to bear, it automatically transformed the office of the president into one-man apocalypse machine
  • Cold War has introduced the tensions that turned the USA into a Police state and that is still the case.

If you want to listen more about the Cold War, here is the „Destroyer of Worlds” episode:

My highlights ( I’d love to have more, but I was not reading this on Kindle and my hardcover highlight game is not strong  )

  • Andrew Mellon, the secretary of the treasury under President Herbert Hoover when the 1929 stock market crashed, which initi­ated more than decade of economic collapse, thought the coming hardship would be good thing. “It will purge the rottenness out of the system,” Mellon said, as reported in Hoover memoirs. “High costs of living will come down People will work harder live more moral life Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people From Mellon’ point of view maybe he got his wish. The Depression put an end to the Roaring Twenties time remembered for high living, speakeasies, jazz, flappers, the Charleston, and the advent of motion pictures What Mellon might have thought wasteful frivolity was simply fun to others. Things got lot less fun when money became more Scarce.
  • Before the modern era, the number of people who lost multiple children to illness was astonishing One wonders what effects this might have had on individuals and their society as whole The historian Edward Gibbon, who wrote The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was one of seven children All six of his siblings died in infancy.
  • One member of the Greatest Generation offered this solution for bringing down the Soviet Union: “We should have been dropping Playboy magazines, blue Jeans, and Elvis Presley records on them, and they’ll do It themselves
  • Lloyd deMause quotes piece written by the chief of police in Paris in 1780 estimating that of the, on average, 21,000 children born in that city every year, only 700 were nursed by their biological mothers. 
  • From 410 onwards successive Western imperial regimes Just gave way or lost practical auditority over more and more of the territory of the former Empire The Western Empire delegated itself out of existence Central authority
  • Saxons apparently ignored the warning, continued to kill evangelizing clergy, and never ceased their usual small-scale raiding and banditry on the border. Charlemagne fought cam­ aign after campaign against them, and eventually succeeded in Cutting down the sacred tree they venerated as holding up the universe and allegedly beheading 4.500 of them in day at Verden in 782. And, like the Roman emperors who preceded him, Charlemagne found out that there always seemed to be more ferocious barbarians behind the ones he’d just subdued. 
  • In the end, the clergy suffered fatalities at the same rate as the rest of the population, and their deaths led to unexpected consequences For example, to replace losses in their ranks, the church lowered the ages at which people could attain positions of authority. This led often to very young, hardly prepared peopie in positions that had previously been held by much older, more august figures. Before the epidemic, members of the clergy had devoted their whole lives to the church. The people who replaced them weren’t necessarily as committed or as educated. Corruption began to creep in, especially as men attained elevated posi­ tions in the church due to money changing hands, not thanks to their lifelong commitment or qualifications. Over the course of around two centuries, the clergy reputation diminished, tarnished by abuses and excess and lack of high standards. This dissatisfaction led to the development of the many complaints that the German theologian Martin Luther
  • In 1899, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia ? called meeting that would come to be known as the Hague Convention, the first of many to be held on the establishment of international law re­ garding armaments There, representatives of more than two dozen countries took up the issue of airships, with the Russians proposing ban on all bombing from the air. The American del­ egate counterproposed that the ban last only five years, since the science might improve to allow for precision bombing which might prove humane insofar as it could shorten Wars.
  • From September until November 13, London was bombarded every night. total of 13,000 tons of high explosives and 12,000 incendiary canisters were dropped. Other cities were raided, too, and the most famous raid is the one on Coventry on 14 November 1940, when 450 bombers discharged 500 tons of high explosives and 880 incendiary canisters. Civilian losses were appalling, mainly because there were few adequate air raid shelters. The attacks failed both to stop the British raids over Ger. many and to squash morale. Indeed, the whole idea of using bombers to destroy civilian morale was flawed for several reasons. One may have been the bravery of the citizenry
  • The physicist Freeman Dyson, who worked for the raps Bomber Command, said years after the war, “I felt sickened by what knew. Many times, decided had moral obligation to run out into the streets and tell the British people what stupidi- ties were being done in their name. But I never had the courage to do it. sat in my office until the end, carefully calculating how to murder most economically another hundred thousand people It takes time to get to point of logical insanity
  • It’s hard to really know how much of the navy’s opposition was truly based on morality or how much might have been an effort to defend the necessity and relevance of its branch of the military services In the face of those looming budget cuts. (Indeed, the moral complaints would be notably muted later when navy submarines began to carry nuclear weapons The admirals’ testimony elucidated key moral question that the world still wrestles with decades later

Book: Elon Musk – Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

“ELON MUSK IS A BODY THAT REMAINS VERY MUCH IN MOTION.”

Elon Musk needs no introductions. His biography is not only an analysis of his way of thinking but also a treasure trove of exciting Silicon Valley history and current trivia. While investigating the life of Elon, we learn about PayPal, Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX. He took on every heavily-regulated, bureaucratic behemoth and ultimately came up on top.

Elon’s approach has cemented my long-held belief that there is a lot of lore and gossip about what “can’t be done.” And people tend to work very hard under that assumption, suffering the grueling reality of terrible workarounds.

But when you challenge the thing that “can’t be done” based on first principles, very often you can prevail, because you are the person who decided to care.

Why is Elon Musk so successful?

Because he decided to care.

“When Elon gets into something, he develops just this different level of interest in it than other people. That is what differentiates Elon from the rest of humanity.”

The go-to answer usually states, “because he is a genius,” but that is not very helpful. It also is not true. There are plenty of “tortured geniuses” who never achieve much of anything. Ideas are cheap, and execution is everything.

I believe Elon is successful because of:

  1. Relentless focus
  2. Capacity to suffer more personal cost than others
  3. Extraordinary intelligence

Intelligence is the easiest one to find. There are plenty of extraordinarily, intelligent people. But rarely you can find somebody who will be so focused and determined to challenge the industry incumbents on so many fronts and survive the pressures he did.

Thinking from the first principles

Elon is not a genius innovator constructing batteries in his garage. But he is always eager to work from first principles – the laws of physics or economics to calculate what would be possible. It takes serious brainpower to do that for rocket science, but the breakthrough is not in being smarter, but in doing things both differently and correct.

“We’re thinking, Fucking nerd. What can he be doing now?” At which point, Musk wheeled around and flashed a spreadsheet he’d created. “Hey, guys,” he said, “I think we can build this rocket ourselves.”

I am convinced that working with reality as it is is a rare superpower. 

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool,” said Richard Feynman. We are not keen on taking in the full consequence of our mistakes or recognizing the hard work and steep path ahead when our egos are on the line. “Embrace Reality and Deal with It” is the #1 principle of Ray Dalio (most successful hedge fund manager in history).

My wife says that it’s not true that we only use ten percent of our brains. We use the full 100%, but usually, 40% is busy fighting the other 50%, not leaving much to deal with issues at hand. Well, Elon uses every single neuron to further the advent of electric cars and make humanity an interplanetary species.

The fantastic adventures of Elon Musk

If you want to read more about these outlandish goals, I highly encourage the Wait But Why series:

In 2015, I got a call from Elon Musk. Not something you expect to happen. What ensued was a six-month deep dive into the world of Elon and his companies and four long articles about what I found. Here they are:

Tim Urban – “Wait but Why”

My highlights from the book

  • Like many an engineer or physicist, Musk will pause while fishing around for exact phrasing, and he’ll often go rumbling down an esoteric, scientific rabbit hole without providing any helping hands or simplified explanations along the way.
  • “I think there are probably too many smart people pursuing Internet stuff, finance, and law,” Musk said on the way. “That is part of the reason why we haven’t seen as much innovation.” MUSK
  • On his thirtieth birthday, Musk rented out a castle in England for about twenty people. From 2 A.M. until 6 A.M., they played a variation of hide-and-seek called sardines in which one person runs off and hides and everyone else looks for him.
  • The family gained some measure of notoriety as people heard about Haldeman and his wife packing their kids into the back of the single-engine craft and heading off on excursions all around North America.
  • “We were left with the impression that we were capable of anything. You just have to make a decision and do it. In that sense, my father would be very proud of Elon.”
  • Over time, Musk has ended up thinking that his brain has the equivalent of a graphics chip. It allows him to see things out in the world, replicate them in his mind, and imagine how they might change or behave when interacting with other objects.
  • Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
  • “When Elon gets into something, he develops just this different level of interest in it than other people. That is what differentiates Elon from the rest of humanity.”
  • “Really smart people sometimes don’t understand that not everyone can keep up with them or go as fast,”
  • All the bankers did was copy what everyone else did. If everyone else ran off a bloody cliff, they’d run right off a cliff with them. If there was a giant pile of gold sitting in the middle of the room and nobody was picking it up, they wouldn’t pick it up, either.”
  • “We’re thinking, Fucking nerd. What can he be doing now?” At which point Musk wheeled around and flashed a spreadsheet he’d created. “Hey, guys,” he said, “I think we can build this rocket ourselves.”
  • Someone taped twenty of the batteries together, put a heating strip wire into the bundle, and set it off. “It went up like a cluster of bottle rockets,” Lyons said. Instead of twenty batteries, the Roadster would have close to 7,000, and the thought of what an explosion at that scale would be like horrified the engineers.
  • After Iron Man came out, Favreau began talking up Musk’s role as the inspiration for Downey’s interpretation of Tony Stark. It was a stretch on many levels.
  • Musk told Riley, a virgin, that he wanted to show her his rockets. “I was skeptical, but he did actually show me rocket videos,” she said.
  •  “I hadn’t had an opportunity to buy a Christmas present for Talulah or anything,” he said. “I went running down the fucking street in Boulder, and the only place that was open sold these shitty trinkets, and they were about to close. The best thing I could find were these plastic monkeys with coconuts—those ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ monkeys.”
  • Hotshot college graduates have historically been forced to pick between a variety of slow-moving military contractors and interesting but ineffectual start-ups.
  • They would hand out blank envelopes that contained invitations to meet at a specific time and place, usually a bar or restaurant near the event, for an initial interview.
  • They’re asked to write an essay for Musk about why they want to work at SpaceX.
  • Musk, though, wanted his engineers to watch what was going on with the machines at all times and to make sure they had to walk through the factory and talk to the technicians on the way to their desks.
  • Just by streamlining a radio, for instance, SpaceX’s engineers have found that they can reduce the weight of the device by about 20 percent.
  • SpaceX will sometimes load a rocket with both the standard equipment and prototypes of its own design for testing during flight. Engineers then compare the performance characteristics of the devices.
  • company created an e-mail filter to detect messages with “blue” and “origin” to block the poaching.
  • He would quiz you until he learned ninety percent of what you know.”
  • SpaceX’s top managers work together to, in essence, create fake schedules that they know will please Musk but that are basically impossible to achieve.
  • One person putting in a sixteen-hour day ends up being much more effective than two people working eight-hour days together.
  • “The mantra was that one great engineer will replace three medium ones,” Lloyd said.
  • Since Musk never writes anything down, he held all the alterations in his head and would run down the checklist week by week to see what the engineers had fixed.
  • “We have to decide what is the best sun visor in the world and then do better,”
  • He’s very visual and can store things that others have deemed to look good away in his brain for recall at any time. This process has helped Musk develop a good eye, which he’s combined with his own sensibilities, while also refining his ability to put what he wants into words.
  • To the extent that the world still doubts Elon, I think it’s a reflection on the insanity of the world and not on the supposed insanity of Elon.”
  • Musk paid $1 million for the Lotus Esprit that Roger Moore drove underwater in The Spy Who Loved Me and wants to prove that such a vehicle can be done. “Maybe we’ll make two or three, but it wouldn’t be more than that,” Musk told the Independent newspaper. “I think the market for submarine cars is quite small.” At
  • As Page puts it, “Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.”
  • “I’ve learned that your intuition about things you don’t know that much about isn’t very good,” Page said.
  • “It’s kind of our recreation, I guess,” said Page.23 “It’s fun for the three of us to talk about kind of crazy things, and we find stuff that eventually turns out to be real.
  • He’s willing to suffer some personal cost, and I think that makes his odds actually pretty good.
  • “I don’t think we’re doing a good job as a society deciding what things are really important to do,” Page said.
  • “Elon came to the conclusion early in his career that life is short,” Straubel said. “If you really embrace this, it leaves you with the obvious conclusion that you should be working as hard as you can.”
  • “There’s this point that Mike Judge makes in Idiocracy, which is like smart people, you know, should at least sustain their numbers,” Musk said.
  • “I would like to die on Mars,” he said. “Just not on impact. Ideally I’d like to go for a visit, come back for a while, and then go there when I’m like seventy or something and then just stay there.
  • If my wife and I have a bunch of kids, she would probably stay with them on Earth.”
  • ELON MUSK IS A BODY THAT REMAINS VERY MUCH IN MOTION.
  • He seems to feel for the human species as a whole without always wanting to consider the wants and needs of individuals. And it may well be the case that this is exactly the type of person it takes to make a freaking space Internet real.
  • it was a little difficult because like the Linux system Max had created was called Max Code. So Max has had quite a strong affinity for Max Code. This was a bunch of libraries that Max and his friends had done. But it just made it quite hard to develop new features. And if you look at PayPal today, I mean, part of the reason they haven’t developed any new features is because it’s quite difficult to maintain the old system.
  • “Square is doing the wrong version of PayPal.
  • “I mean, it’s so ridiculous that PayPal today is worse than PayPal circa end of 2001. That’s insane.
  • “None of these start-ups understand the objective. The objective should be—what delivers fundamental value.

Book: The Clock Of The Long Now: Time and Responsibility

“How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare?”

Long Now Foundation is a group of people focused on long-term thinking. “The clock of the long now,” an origin story of the 10000-year-old clock, being built in the Nevada desert.

I had the opportunity to hear about the 10000-year-old clock for the first time at our Automattic Grand meet up. Alexander Rose (Director of Long Now foundation ) has described the mechanism and importance of thinking in the long-term. That is him in the cover photo.

Why the clock?

The clock is a symbol of the time scale, an endeavor focused on the long term.

“Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.”

It will also be a heck of an Indiana-Jones-esque artifact after 10 000 years.

What is up with this long term thinking you keep mentioning?

We have something called the recency bias – urgent, fresh information tends to outweigh the timeless and essential. That is why the news is called “News” and not “Importants”.

“The difference between fast news and slow nonnews is what makes gambling addictive. Winning is an event that we notice and base our behavior on, while the relentless losing, losing, losing is a nonevent, inspiring no particular behavior,”

Long time ago, this made some sense. The pace at which information disseminated was much slower. “News” could have been week-old important information worth getting.

But the Internet changed all that. “News” is often a TV interview about a tweet reacting to another tweet about an article.

The flywheel of “fresh news” has been spinning so fast that nobody tends to look at decade-long projects anymore. It’s all about here and now and the last 30 seconds.

I thought Social Media is the culprit. It is very refreshing to read a book from the 2000’s describing this problem and using fashion, with its season-based cycle as the example of a pace that is way too fast.

As a sidetone, I think this is what has been appealing to me in my use of Quora. There is no timeline and no race to dominate the current “news cycle”. Just thoughtful answers and time put into quality and not immediacy.

Keep it up, old man!

One could make an argument, that “this is just the world now. It’s fast, and you have to keep up”.

But that thinking leads to a dangerous assumption:

Living in the now incentivizes cannibalising your long – term investments for short term returns. If everything we care about is the next 3 hours, let’s burn the forests to pay for convenience and deal with consequences later.

“If you make decisions that remove decision-making process from future generations, you are doing it wrong”

But some consequences are impossible to deal with later. On the other hand, the long-term perspective will incentivize “good” behavior, even for selfish reasons.

“In the long run saving yourself requires saving the whole world.”

My favorite nerdy quote from the book is:

“We’ll know the shift has happened when programmers begin to anticipate the Year 10,000 problem and assign five digits instead of four to year dates. “02002,” they’ll write, at first frivolously, then seriously.”

The question that stuck with me is:

“What can I build now that will last?”

My highlights

  • How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare?
  • What we propose is both a mechanism and a myth.
  • Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.
  • Manifestations of the overall project could range from fortune cookies to theme parks.
  • “The greatest good for the greatest number” means the longest good, because the majority of people affected is always yet to come.
  • The worst of destructive selfishness is not Me! but Me! Right now!
  • Braking time must match awareness time.
  • Kairos is the time of cleverness, chronos the time of wisdom.
  • According to a rule of thumb among engineers, any tenfold quantitative change is a qualitative change, a fundamentally new situation rather than a simple extrapolation.
  • “What people mean by the word technology,” says computer designer Alan Kay, “is anything invented since they were born.”
  • Later doublings in an exponential sequence, we come to realize, are absolutely ferocious. The changes no longer feel quantitative or qualitative but cataclysmic;
  • Among some enthusiasts there is even a consensus date for what they call the techno-rapture—2035 C.E., give or take a few years.
  • The word freefall is a pretty good descriptor for our times. It conveys the thrill of danger, the speeded-up rush, the glorious freedom, and the fall.
  • “More and more I find I want to be living in a Big Here and a Long Now.”
  • The shortest now is performed in a poem by the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska: “When I pronounce the word Future, the first syllable already belongs to the past.”
  • When it returns in 4377 C.E., will anyone mention the name “Hale-Bopp”?
  • Note: Is it possible to send a time capsule or a signal to return to earth?
  • it would be awesome to talk to future foklk
  • time activated message
  • The trick is learning how to treat the last ten thousand years as if it were last week, and the next ten thousand as if it were next week. Such tricks confer advantage.
  • Fashion/art • Commerce • Infrastructure • Governance • Culture • Nature
  • In the Soviet Union government tried to ignore the constraints of culture and nature while forcing a Five-Year-Plan infrastructure pace on commerce and art. Thus cutting itself off from both support and innovation, the USSR was doomed.
  • The job of fashion and art is to be froth: quick, irrelevant, engaging, self-preoccupied, and cruel. Try this! No, no, try this!
  • Note: Oh god, its even worse now that we have social media
  • the occasional good idea or practice that sifts down to improve deeper levels, such as governance becoming responsive to opinion polls, or culture gradually accepting multiculturalism as structure instead of grist for entertainment.
  • Education is intellectual infrastructure; so is science. Very high yield, but delayed payback.
  • “In some sense, we’ve run out of our story, which was the story of taking power over nature. It’s not that we’ve finished that, but we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves, and we don’t know what the next story is after that.”
  • After an encounter with the Clock a visitor should be able to declare with feeling, “Whew. Time! And me in it.”
  • Clock/Library could provide, for a fee, time-mail service across generations forward.
  • Shinto complex in Japan known as the Ise Shrine.
  • “We don’t do eternity.”
  • To make the energy flow only one way he devised Grimthorpe’s double three-legged gravity escapement (Denison was later Lord Grimthorpe).
  • He would use an unreliable but accurate timer (solar alignment) to adjust an inaccurate but reliable timer (pendulum), creating a phase-locked loop.
  • Starting anew with a clean slate has been one of the most harmful ideas in history. It treats previous knowledge as an impediment and imagines that only present knowledge deployed in theoretical purity can make real the wondrous new vision.
  • Here’s the real fear. Thanks to proliferating optical-fiber land lines worldwide and the arrival of low-Earth-orbit data satellite systems such as Teledesic, we are in the process of building one vast global computer. (“The network is the computer,” proclaims Sun Microsystems.) This world computer could easily become the Legacy System from Hell that holds civilization hostage:
  • Digital storage is easy; digital preservation is hard. Preservation means keeping the stored information catalogued, accessible, and usable on current media, which requires constant effort and expense.
  • “The default condition of paper is persistence, if not interrupted; the default condition of electronic signals is interruption, if not periodically renewed.”
  • Lanier recommends employing artificial intelligences to keep the artifacts exercised through decades and centuries of forced contemporaneity,
  • We’ll know the shift has happened when programmers begin to anticipate the Year 10,000 problem and assign five digits instead of four to year dates. “02002,” they’ll write, at first frivolously, then seriously.
  • old underground limestone quarry at Les Baux, France, now a tourist attraction.
  • Time capsules, by the way, are a splendid and common future-oriented practice—hundreds of thousands have been buried—yet some 70 percent are completely lost track of almost immediately.
  • I am convinced that people behave better when they think they have free will. They take responsibility more and they think about their choices more. So I believe in free will,” said Herman Kahn.
  • suppose I could defend myself with Arthur Herman’s wonderful book, The Idea of Decline in Western History. He says that in Europe high-minded cultural pessimism began with the failure of the French Revolution and culminated in Nazi Germany. It was tremendously destructive. It still is.
  • In the long run saving yourself requires saving the whole world.
  • To produce the benefits of more cooperation in the world, Axelrod proves, all you need to do is lengthen the shadow of the future—that is, ensure more durable relationships. Thus marriage is common to every society, because trusting partners have an advantage over lone wolves.
  • The difference between fast news and slow nonnews is what makes gambling addictive. Winning is an event that we notice and base our behavior on, while the relentless losing, losing, losing is a nonevent, inspiring no particular behavior,
  • You need the space of continuity to have the confidence not to be afraid of revolutions.

Book: Brain Rules by John Medina

„The brain appears to be designed to (1) solve problems (2) related to surviving (3) in an unstable outdoor environment, and (4) to do so in nearly constant motion. I call this the brain’s performance envelope.”

We tend to perceive the human brain as a magical box that does its own thing regardless of the physical limitation. In some sense it is just that – It’s power is amazing and wonderful, but its also a part of our body.

Amazon Link

When we came down from the trees to the savannah, we did not say to ourselves, “Good Lord, give me a book and a lecture and a board of directors so that I can spend 10 years learning how to survive in this place.”

We often forget that It has needs and physical limitations drawing from the fact that it’s an organ like any other. John Medina is a molecular biologist that studied how the brain has developed and how it works. He came to the conclusion, that there are 12 rules. On how the brain operates:

  1. The human brain evolved, too.
  2. Exercise boosts brain power.
  3. Sleep well, think well.
  4. Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
  5. Every brain is wired differently.
  6. We don’t pay attention to boring things.
  7. Repeat to remember.
  8. Stimulate more of the senses.
  9. Vision trumps all other senses.
  10. Study or listen to boost cognition.
  11. Male and female brains are different.
  12. We are powerful and natural explorers.

Education system

„Taken together, what do the studies in this book show? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.”

It is just mind-boggling how every aspect of the school system is NOT designed to help kids learn. An almost every single one of these brain rules is violated.
What could we do to make it a little better?

  • Give space to move
  • Design to hold attention in 10-minute increments.
    • Start with key ideas to outline what you are explaining and then dive into details
    • „I decided that every lecture I’d ever give would be organized in segments and that each segment would last only 10 minutes. Each segment would cover a single core concept—always large, always general, and always explainable in one minute.”
  • Design for spaced repetition
  • Stimulate multiple senses at the same time, with relevant information. „Funny” illustrations don’t count. What you are complimenting, has to be relevant or it distracts.

There is an argument to be made for same-sex classes. Girls and Boys learn in a different way and Boys competitiveness may get in the way of Girls collaborative approach to learning math&science and vice versa for human sciences.

My Kindle Highlights

  • Exercise boosts brain power.
  • Sleep well, think well.
  • The brain appears to be designed to (1) solve problems (2) related to surviving (3) in an unstable outdoor environment, and (4) to do so in nearly constant motion. I call this the brain’s performance envelope.
  • Taken together, what do the studies in this book show? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.
  • Then World War I happened. It was the first major conflict where medical advances allowed large numbers of combatants to survive shrapnel injuries.
  • The solution? Give birth while the baby’s head is small enough to fit through the birth canal. The problem? You create childhood.
  • One of the greatest predictors of successful aging, they found, is the presence or absence of a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Put simply, if you are a couch potato, you are more likely to age like Jim, if you make it to your 80s at all. If you have an active lifestyle, you are more likely to age like Frank Lloyd Wright—and much more likely to make it to your 90s.
  • A lifetime of exercise results in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.
  • In the laboratory, the gold standard appears to be aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at a clip, two or three times a week. Add a strengthening regimen and you get even more cognitive benefit.
  • https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/08/how-steve-jobs-odd-habit-can-help-you-brainstorm-ideas.html
  • The main function of oxygen is to act like an efficient electron-absorbing sponge.
  • Physical activity is cognitive candy. Civilization, while giving us such seemingly forward advances as modern medicine and spatulas, also has had a nasty side effect. It gives us more opportunities to sit on our butts.
  • Our brains were built for walking—12 miles a day!
  • To improve your thinking skills, move.
  • Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.
  • If you are a public speaker, you already know it is darn near fatal to give a talk in the midafternoon.
  • One NASA study showed that a 26-minute nap reduced a flight crew’s lapses in awareness by 34 percent, compared to a control group who didn’t nap.
  • Mendeleyev says he came up with the idea in his sleep. Contemplating the nature of the universe while playing solitaire one evening, he nodded off. When he awoke, he knew how all of the atoms in the universe were organized, and he promptly created his famous table. Interestingly, he organized the atoms in repeating groups of seven, just the way you play solitaire.
  • A business of the future takes sleep schedules seriously.
  • •   Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.
  • As long as there is enough BDNF around, stress hormones cannot do their damage.
  • One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home.
  • The perfect storm of occupational stress appears to be a combination of two factors: (1) a great deal is expected of you, and (2) you have no control over whether you will perform well.
  • Gottman and fellow researcher Alyson Shapiro an idea. What if he deployed his proven marital intervention strategies to married couples while the wife was pregnant?
  • Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem—you are helpless.
  • The brains of wild animals were 15 to 30 percent larger than those of their tame, domestic counterparts.
  • The surface of your skin, for example—all nine pounds of it—literally is deceased.
  • It is accurate to say that nearly every inch of your outer physical presentation to the world is dead.
  • Neurons go through a growth spurt and pruning project during the terrible twos and teen years.
  • “typically, attention increases from the beginning of the lecture to 10 minutes into the lecture and decreases after that point.”
  • Find a way to get and hold somebody’s attention for 10 minutes, then do it again.
  • What we can say for sure is that when your brain detects an emotionally charged event, your amygdala (a part of your brain that helps create and maintain emotions) releases the chemical dopamine into your system. Dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing.
  • If you want people to be able to pay attention, don’t start with details. Start with the key ideas and, in a hierarchical fashion, form the details around these larger notions. Meaning before details. The
  • Step 1: Shift alert
  • Step 2: Rule activation for task #1
  • Step 3: Disengagement
  • Step 4: Rule activation for task #2
  • I decided that every lecture I’d ever give would be organized in segments, and that each segment would last only 10 minutes. Each segment would cover a single core concept—always large, always general, and always explainable in one minute.
  • Give the general idea first, before diving into details, and you will see a 40 percent improvement in understanding.
  • 1) The hook has to trigger an emotion.
  • 2) The hook has to be relevant.
  • 3) The hook has to go between segments.
  • Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion.
  • One does not recall how to ride a bike in the same way one recalls nine numbers in a certain order.
  • People usually forget 90 percent of what they learn in a class within 30 days. And the majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class.
  • It is called the “binding problem,” from the idea that certain thoughts are bound together in the brain to provide continuity.
  • The more closely we replicate the conditions at the moment of learning, the easier the remembering.
  • The more a learner focuses on the meaning of information being presented, the more elaborately he or she will process the information.
  • professional chess world’s first real rock star: Miguel Najdorf.
  • The typical human brain can hold about seven pieces of new information for less than 30 seconds!
  • Repetitions must be spaced out, not crammed in
  • System consolidation, the process of transforming a short-term memory into a long-term one, can take years to complete.
  • such a positive effect on learning that it forms the heart of Brain Rule #8: Stimulate more of the senses at the same time.
  • The Americans—steeped in the traditions of nothing—used guerrilla tactics:
  • Every sensory system must send a signal to the thalamus asking permission to connect to the higher levels of the brain where perception occurs—except for smell.
  • No matter how many times they did this, the visual portion of the brain always lighted up the strongest when the tactile response was paired with it. They could literally get a 30 percent boost in the visual system by introducing touch. This effect is called multimodal reinforcement.
  • The experimental group takes the test in a room smelling of popcorn. The second group blows away the first group in terms of number of events recalled, accuracy of events recalled, specific details, and so on. In some cases, they can accurately retrieve twice as many memories as the controls.
  • It works if you’re emotionally aroused—usually, that means mildly stressed—before the experiment begins. For some reason, showing a film of young Australian aboriginal males being circumcised is a favorite way to do this.
  • Multimedia principle: Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Temporal contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively. Spatial contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near to each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen. Coherence principle: Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included. Modality principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.
  • Stimulate more of the senses at the same time.
  • This means you can damage the region of the brain in charge of, say, motion, and get an extraordinary deficit. You’d be able to see and identify objects quite clearly, but not tell whether the objects are stationary or moving. This happened to a patient known to scientists as L.M. It’s called cerebral akinetopsia, or motion blindness. L.M. perceives a moving object as a progressive series of still snapshots—like looking at an animator’s drawings one page at a time. This can be quite hazardous. When L.M. crosses the street, for example, she can see a car, but she does not know if it is actually coming at her.
  • As the complexity of objects in our world increases, we are capable of remembering fewer objects over our lifetimes.
  • Pictorial information may be initially more attractive to consumers, in part because it takes less effort to comprehend.
  • Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.
  • Music training improves something useful for academics, right? Yes: spatiotemporal reasoning.
  • biochemical. It is a surprisingly well-established fact that music can induce hormonal changes. These changes result in alterations of mood.
  • He and his colleagues have found that when people hear their very favorite music (I mean spine-tingling, awe-inspiring, fly-me-to-the-moon music), their bodies dump dopamine into a specific part of their brain.
  • music that gives you goose bumps (called “musical frisson”),
  • During World War I, hospitals in the UK employed musicians to play for wounded soldiers in convalescence.
  • Formal musical training improves intellectual skills in several cognitive domains. Music boosts spatiotemporal skills, vocabulary, picking out sounds in a noisy environment, working memory, and sensory-motor skills.
  • This means that cells in the female embryo are a complex mosaic of both active and inactive mom-and-pop X genes.
  • Exercise boosts brain power.
  • Sleep well, think well.
  • The brain appears to be designed to (1) solve problems (2) related to surviving (3) in an unstable outdoor environment, and (4) to do so in nearly constant motion. I call this the brain’s performance envelope.
  • Taken together, what do the studies in this book show? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.
  • Then World War I happened. It was the first major conflict where medical advances allowed large numbers of combatants to survive shrapnel injuries.
  • The solution? Give birth while the baby’s head is small enough to fit through the birth canal. The problem? You create childhood.
  • One of the greatest predictors of successful aging, they found, is the presence or absence of a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Put simply, if you are a couch potato, you are more likely to age like Jim, if you make it to your 80s at all. If you have an active lifestyle, you are more likely to age like Frank Lloyd Wright—and much more likely to make it to your 90s.
  • A lifetime of exercise results in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.
  • In the laboratory, the gold standard appears to be aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at a clip, two or three times a week. Add a strengthening regimen and you get even more cognitive benefit.
  • Your lifetime risk for general dementia is literally cut in half if you participate in physical activity. Aerobic exercise seems to be the key. With Alzheimer’s, the effect is even greater: Such exercise reduces your odds of getting the disease by more than 60 percent. How
  • The main function of oxygen is to act like an efficient electron-absorbing sponge.
  • Physical activity is cognitive candy. Civilization, while giving us such seemingly forward advances as modern medicine and spatulas, also has had a nasty side effect. It gives us more opportunities to sit on our butts.
  • Our brains were built for walking—12 miles a day!
  • To improve your thinking skills, move.
  • Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.
  • If you are a public speaker, you already know it is darn near fatal to give a talk in the midafternoon.
  • One NASA study showed that a 26-minute nap reduced a flight crew’s lapses in awareness by 34 percent, compared to a control group who didn’t nap.
  • Mendeleyev says he came up with the idea in his sleep. Contemplating the nature of the universe while playing solitaire one evening, he nodded off. When he awoke, he knew how all of the atoms in the universe were organized, and he promptly created his famous table. Interestingly, he organized the atoms in repeating groups of seven, just the way you play solitaire.
  • A business of the future takes sleep schedules seriously.
  • Given the data about a good night’s rest, organizations might tackle their most intractable problems by having the entire “solving team” go on a mini-retreat. Once arrived, employees would be presented with the problem and asked to think about solutions. But they would not start coming to conclusions, or even begin sharing ideas with each other, before they had slept about eight hours. When they awoke, would the same increase in problem-solving rates available in the lab also be available to that team? It’s worth finding out.
  • •   Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.
  • As long as there is enough BDNF around, stress hormones cannot do their damage.
  • One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home.
  • The perfect storm of occupational stress appears to be a combination of two factors: (1) a great deal is expected of you, and (2) you have no control over whether you will perform well.
  • Gottman and fellow researcher Alyson Shapiro an idea. What if he deployed his proven marital intervention strategies to married couples while the wife was pregnant?
  • Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem—you are helpless.
  • The brains of wild animals were 15 to 30 percent larger than those of their tame, domestic counterparts.
  • The surface of your skin, for example—all nine pounds of it—literally is deceased.
  • It is accurate to say that nearly every inch of your outer physical presentation to the world is dead.
  • Neurons go through a growth spurt and pruning project during the terrible twos and teen years.
  • “typically, attention increases from the beginning of the lecture to 10 minutes into the lecture and decreases after that point.”
  • Find a way to get and hold somebody’s attention for 10 minutes, then do it again.
  • What we can say for sure is that when your brain detects an emotionally charged event, your amygdala (a part of your brain that helps create and maintain emotions) releases the chemical dopamine into your system. Dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing.
  • If you want people to be able to pay attention, don’t start with details. Start with the key ideas and, in a hierarchical fashion, form the details around these larger notions. Meaning before details. The
  • Step 1: Shift alert
  • Step 2: Rule activation for task #1
  • Step 3: Disengagement
  • Step 4: Rule activation for task #2
  • I decided that every lecture I’d ever give would be organized in segments, and that each segment would last only 10 minutes. Each segment would cover a single core concept—always large, always general, and always explainable in one minute.
  • Give the general idea first, before diving into details, and you will see a 40 percent improvement in understanding.
  • 1) The hook has to trigger an emotion.
  • 2) The hook has to be relevant.
  • 3) The hook has to go between segments.
  • Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion.
  • One does not recall how to ride a bike in the same way one recalls nine numbers in a certain order.
  • People usually forget 90 percent of what they learn in a class within 30 days. And the majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class.
  • It is called the “binding problem,” from the idea that certain thoughts are bound together in the brain to provide continuity.
  • The more closely we replicate the conditions at the moment of learning, the easier the remembering.
  • The more a learner focuses on the meaning of information being presented, the more elaborately he or she will process the information.
  • professional chess world’s first real rock star: Miguel Najdorf.
  • The typical human brain can hold about seven pieces of new information for less than 30 seconds!
  • Repetitions must be spaced out, not crammed in
  • System consolidation, the process of transforming a short-term memory into a long-term one, can take years to complete.
  • such a positive effect on learning that it forms the heart of Brain Rule #8: Stimulate more of the senses at the same time.
  • The Americans—steeped in the traditions of nothing—used guerrilla tactics:
  • Every sensory system must send a signal to the thalamus asking permission to connect to the higher levels of the brain where perception occurs—except for smell.
  • No matter how many times they did this, the visual portion of the brain always lighted up the strongest when the tactile response was paired with it. They could literally get a 30 percent boost in the visual system by introducing touch. This effect is called multimodal reinforcement.
  • The experimental group takes the test in a room smelling of popcorn. The second group blows away the first group in terms of number of events recalled, accuracy of events recalled, specific details, and so on. In some cases, they can accurately retrieve twice as many memories as the controls.
  • It works if you’re emotionally aroused—usually, that means mildly stressed—before the experiment begins. For some reason, showing a film of young Australian aboriginal males being circumcised is a favorite way to do this.
  • Multimedia principle: Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Temporal contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively. Spatial contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near to each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen. Coherence principle: Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included. Modality principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.
  • Stimulate more of the senses at the same time.
  • This means you can damage the region of the brain in charge of, say, motion, and get an extraordinary deficit. You’d be able to see and identify objects quite clearly, but not tell whether the objects are stationary or moving. This happened to a patient known to scientists as L.M. It’s called cerebral akinetopsia, or motion blindness. L.M. perceives a moving object as a progressive series of still snapshots—like looking at an animator’s drawings one page at a time. This can be quite hazardous. When L.M. crosses the street, for example, she can see a car, but she does not know if it is actually coming at her.
  • As the complexity of objects in our world increases, we are capable of remembering fewer objects over our lifetimes.
  • Pictorial information may be initially more attractive to consumers, in part because it takes less effort to comprehend.
  • Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.
  • Music training improves something useful for academics, right? Yes: spatiotemporal reasoning.
  • biochemical. It is a surprisingly well-established fact that music can induce hormonal changes. These changes result in alterations of mood.
  • He and his colleagues have found that when people hear their very favorite music (I mean spine-tingling, awe-inspiring, fly-me-to-the-moon music), their bodies dump dopamine into a specific part of their brain.
  • music that gives you goose bumps (called “musical frisson”),
  • During World War I, hospitals in the UK employed musicians to play for wounded soldiers in convalescence.
  • Formal musical training improves intellectual skills in several cognitive domains. Music boosts spatiotemporal skills, vocabulary, picking out sounds in a noisy environment, working memory, and sensory-motor skills.
  • This means that cells in the female embryo are a complex mosaic of both active and inactive mom-and-pop X genes.
  • commotion seems to be the central currency of a little boy’s social economy.
  • Doing things physically together is the glue that cements their relationships.
  • Boys might say, “Do this.” Girls would say, “Let’s do this.” Styles
  • 1) Emotions are useful. They make the brain pay attention. 2) Men and women process certain emotions differently. 3) The differences are a product of complex interactions between nature and nurture.
  • Previously a strong advocate for mixed-sex classes, the teacher wondered aloud if that made any sense. Yet if the girls started losing the math-and-science battle in the third grade, the teacher reasoned, they were not likely to excel in the coming years. She obliged. It took only two weeks to close the performance gap.
  • Men and women respond differently to acute stress: Women activate the left hemisphere’s amygdala and remember the emotional details. Men activate the right hemisphere’s amygdala and get the gist.
  • Babies are born with a deep desire to understand the world around them and an incessant curiosity that compels them to aggressively explore it.
  • When we came down from the trees to the savannah, we did not say to ourselves, “Good Lord, give me a book and a lecture and a board of directors so that I can spend 10 years learning how to survive in this place.”
  • Extraordinarily, my mother was waiting. Just as quickly as my whim changed, the house
  • I firmly believe that if children are allowed to remain curious, they will continue to deploy their natural tendencies to discover and explore until they are 101.

Captivate: the science of succeeding with people by Vanessa Van Edwards

“Don’t impress people; engage them.”

This is a note to self. It comes up over and over again in every book about interpersonal communication. People want to hear about themselves, not you. The quickest way for them to open up and like you is is to LISTEN.

Which, coincidentally Vanessa had to do when she took a vow of silence. She interacted without speaking a word and her interlocutors found these to be the most rewarding conversations!

Recently I have been on an interpersonal skills binge. I was about to get married and wanted to use the time I had with my guests to the fullest extent. I diligently reviewed my “Interacting with people” notes (true story, I have a whole chapter in my personal life manual devoted to that). Searching for new tips, I have also read the book “How to talk to anyone” by Leil Lowlands.

I was ready to read about another topic, but when they announced our keynote speakers for our company meeting, I had to change my plans.

Vanessa Van Edwards, author of the book “Captivate” would share her secrets with us. I just had to browse her book to take the full advantage of the learning opportunity.

And I am so glad I did!

Her work is packed with insights and practical tips to use during your next gathering with friends or negotiating a salary (curious how this plays out for the company after teaching us these skills). She has a vault of hilarious stories that let you understand the context better and explains everything with a solid structure. 

Body Language AKA Gesture a lot but not too much

“The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures—that’s almost double [… of the lesser popular]

example

What are the best ways to use body language to your great advantage?

  • Wave with an open palm if you are talking to an audience. Showing that you don’t hold weapons will build help build trust (even though it’s 2019, we’re still apes)
  • Delineate things you are explaining
    • Numbers -> Illustrate the numbers with your fingers
    • Size -> delineate the size with your hands
    • When it’s somebody’s turn – hand it off -> pass it back
    • This comes from the heart -> show 
  • Master your handshake!

If you have the opportunity to give a great handshake, never skip it! It’s your chance to hook the other party on some oxytocin!

ALWAYS VERTICAL HAND, firm but not too strong

Having great conversations

  • Set a good intention for the conversation -> Avoid starting on the negative!
  • Good conversation is about finding a common thread and following it
  • Ending conversation
    • What are you up to [next] -> shifts conversation to future
    • Best of luck on that!
  • Prepare some good, twisty questions that will let you fish for a topic where the other person lights up
    • Working on exciting projects lately?
    • What’s your story?
    • Howdy > „Hey”
    • What was the highlight of your day?
    • Anything except “where are you from” and “what do you do.”

Assorted awesome tips

  • At the party, the best place to be is where people exit the bar/food place. They have no-one to talk to
  • “For example, whenever I meet a Matt, I always seat him at a poker table with all of my other Matt friends.”
  • You can’t argue with a feeling, but you can acknowledge it.
  • Prepare raving introductions for people.

Hacks for online

I dream of creating a course where I would teach interpersonal communication in the online world – on Slacks and Twitters, etc.,

  • You can use Linkedin profile pic under the camera to watch them / have a feeling I am speaking with them
  • Exciting calendar titles -> call the event with what you hope it to be (creative brainstorming, etc.)
  • Show hands during zoom calls
  • Master your profile picture
    • The only indicator of true happiness is the upward cheeks (“crows feet”)
    • Watch out for smirk [half smile is cynical]
    • Make selfies from below -> makes you look tall and grand, looking from above like a parent

My Kindle highlights (there is a lot of them)

  • The Start Zone is the starting point at all events. Emotionally, it’s the place where nerves are running highest. When people have just arrived, they’re usually juggling lots of thoughts. They are running late, checking in, taking off their coats, surveying the room, seeing if they know anyone, worrying about first impressions, silencing their phones,
  • The biggest mistake I see at events is when people hover at the boundary of the Start Zone. It’s a social trap. You’re catching people at a confidence low.
  • The second Side Zone trap is making a beeline for the food and then floating around it all night.
  • The third Side Zone trap is immediately going to people you know. Once you join up with your colleagues, friends, or acquaintances, it is incredibly challenging to get out and meet new people.
  • You become their savior if you rescue them from drinking alone.
  • “Thank you so much for having me! This looks like a great group. Anyone I should meet?”
  • Your Winger: Did anyone come up more than once? Is there someone who could join you on a social adventure, who could help you be more comfortable as you try out social hacks,
  • By controlling where, how, and with whom your interactions take place, you can set yourself up for more success.
  • Note: Is online world where introverts can finally have a leg up?
  • Identify the person who you want to “level up”—your Riser. Keep them in mind while you apply the next 13 hacks.
  • We decide if we believe someone, if we like someone, and if we trust someone before we have even heard him or her speak.
  • The power of our first impression lies not in what we say, but how we say it.
  • With a first impression, you are a Triple Threat when you use your hands, your posture, and your eye contact.
  • Note: Triple threat for nonline. Are emojis giving the same effect?
  • genuine smile emoji
  • The least popular TED Talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures—yes, our coders painstakingly counted every single one. The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures—that’s almost double! Temple Grandin, Simon Sinek, and Jane McGonigal topped the hand gesture charts with over 600 gestures in just eighteen minutes. This
  • I don’t mean to get drastic, but pockets are murderers of rapport.
  • Whenever possible, keep your hands above the desk in a boardroom, on the table during a coffee meeting, and out of your purse during an event.
  • Note: Zoom call hands!
  • Vertical: Always keep your hand vertical with your thumb toward the sky. Offering your palm up is a nonverbal submissive or weak gesture. And forcing someone into the palm-up position by putting your hand out palm down can be seen as domineering and controlling.
  • Bottom Line: Keep your hands visible. Never skip a handshake.
  • According to a major study done by Carnegie Mellon University,8 a professional’s confidence is more important than that professional’s reputation, skill set, or history!
  • Viral TED Talkers speak to you, not at you.
  • courage to trust another being.”11 Why is eye contact so powerful? It produces oxytocin, the chemical foundation for trust.
  • when Westerners and Europeans are in conversation, they tend to hold eye contact for an average of 61 percent
  • Don’t guess on your handshake. Do a handshake audit with a trusted friend or colleague—ask for honest feedback to make sure your grip is just right.
  • Use your Launch Stance during your next interaction—feel the difference?
  • Practice engaging in 60 to 70 percent eye contact during your interactions.
  • I want to introduce the concept of Big Talk. Big Talk is like Space Mountain. You start with anticipation and roll easily through the conversation, laughing and hitting highs as it gets better and better.
  • If we abandon social scripts and push ourselves to use conversational sparks, we are more likely to enjoy our interactions and remember what was actually said. In
  • “What personal passion project are you working on?”
  • Working on any exciting projects recently?
  • What was the highlight of your day?
  • Working on any personal passion projects?
  • Have any vacations coming up?
  • What’s your story?
  • What are you up to this weekend?
  • What do you do to unwind?
  • men who begin their online dating messages with “howdy” have a 40 percent higher success rate than singles who open with “hey” or “hi.”
  • “I’m on a small-talk diet, can I ask you a new conversation sparker I’m trying out?” This question in itself releases dopamine!
  • One of the ways you can create conversational high points is by looking for someone’s hot-button issues.
  • Begins nodding their head up and down as if to say, “Yes!” Murmurs in agreement with “Mmm-hmm” Leans in to hear more
  • Writes back a longer e-mail than usual Exclaims in surprise with “Huh!” or “Wow!” Tells you, “Fascinating!” “Interesting,” or “Tell me more!” Raises their eyebrows—this is the universal signal of curiosity Says, “Ooohh” or “Aahh” Smiles and uses more animated gestures
  • In other words, being different wakes people up.
  • Entrepreneurs who added a unique request, tried something a little different, or added interactivity to their pitch had a much higher likelihood of getting a deal.
  • In my guest bathroom at home, we have an R2D2 Pez dispenser and a gift book welcoming snoopers to our medicine cabinet.
  • I send people air plants instead of flowers.
  • I hide Easter eggs on my website (these are hidden links that once clicked deliver people to a video of me telling a corny joke).
  • Think about how you can energize different areas of your life. This creates tons of dopamine-worthy moments for the people you encounter.
  • Spice up your job title.
  • When I checked into San Diego’s famous L’Auberge Del Mar hotel, I was given a room key and a s’mores cupcake—talk about a welcome gift! My elevator ride and first few hotel moments were sweet bliss.
  • Instead of sending thank-you cards, send thank-you stickers—or pins, or lollipops, or popcorn.
  • Meet and Repeat: As soon as you hear the name, say it out loud back to them. “It’s so nice to meet you, Eliza!”
  • Spell It Out:
  • Associate and Anchor: Lastly, tie the name to someone else you know with that same name. It can even be a celebrity.
  • For example, whenever I meet a Matt, I always seat him at a poker table with all of my other Matt friends.
  • If you totally forget a name, set up a system with the people you are with. Anytime you introduce someone to them first, they should ask for the name. For example, if my husband says, “I would love to introduce you to my wife,” and does not mention the person’s name, it means he does not know it. Then I know to ask, “Lovely to meet you. What was your name?” Easy peasy. A
  • Bonus: Send me a text to say “hi.” If you’re really brave, ask me for a “social dare.”
  • The whole adventure started the day my kind, honest friend dropped an advice bomb. She gave me one of the toughest pieces of constructive feedback I have ever received: “You are an interrupter.”
  • Worse, I began to preplan my responses while only half listening to the conversation. This is a terrible way to interact—it’s disrespectful, inauthentic, and exhausting for all parties.
  • I forced myself to attend all of my usual meetings, networking events, and dinners like normal, but just listened. This way, I had to be present. I couldn’t think about witty comebacks, funny stories, or follow-ups. My number one goal was simply to listen with my entire brain.
  • the best conversations aren’t about what you say, they are about what you hear.
  • This e-mail boggled my mind! I hadn’t said a single word, but somehow our “conversation” was so memorable that it brought me business. Why?
  • As much as we hate to admit it, we love to talk about ourselves. In fact, humans spend 30 to 40 percent of their verbal output solely dedicated to self-disclosure.
  • Talking about ourselves gives us pleasure.
  • Yup—people will pay for the privilege to express their opinions.
  • Bring out the best in people by highlighting their strengths.
  • Humans love to be given positive labels.
  • Listen for their eloquent ideas. Find ways to emphasize their strengths. Celebrate their excitement.
  • “You are so knowledgeable in this subject—thank goodness you are here.”
  • I send out postcards telling people they’re ballers. Yes, really:
  • Want to know one of the biggest missed opportunities in social situations? Introductions.
  • Why are raving introductions so powerful? First, you give people positive labels right at the start. Second, you tee up a great conversation and possible discussion topics for the people involved. Third, you get people talking about themselves—what
  • Don’t try to impress people, let them impress you.
  • Being an amazing listener is not just about what you hear, it’s how you respond to what you hear.
  • Introduce a colleague or friend to someone you think they should know. Practice making two raving introductions.
  • Who impresses you? Who is an amazing friend? Who is the best networker you know? Go tell them.
  • Bonus: Take a one-day Vow of Silence to be a better listener.
  • Be the high point of every interaction by giving people
  • He found that his most successful messages mentioned at least three commonalities he had with the person.
  • Hi Vanessa! My name is Lewis and I wanted to reach out because I saw you’re also friends with Nick Onken, we do work with Pencils of Promise together. I’m based in LA and saw you’re from here. Do you ever get back in town? Would love to connect.
  • “I show people I’m listening to them and only them. I make eye contact, take them in, and pay attention to nothing else,”
  • It is easier to get along with someone who enjoys the same activities and conversation topics. Spouses and friends are more likely to have similar personality types than randomly assigned pairs.
  • When someone agrees with us, it makes us feel less alone and more right in our own opinions.
  • If we can relate to someone strongly, we might be able to better predict their behavior and future
  • We hope that if someone is similar to us, then there is a greater likelihood they will be attracted to us—like begets like.
  • These kinds of “Not me!” comments tend to push people away and shut down a conversation.
  • Someone dressed casually is more likely to help someone else who is also dressed casually over someone in a business suit.
  • Find and follow threads of similarity to be more socially attractive.
  • Think about the context of your meeting.
  • Note: Are conference talks all aboit gving shared context?
  • you can get a conversation to go much deeper much faster if you use the spirit of the Five Whys.
  • Just search for the commonality and follow the thread with why.
  • Can I help you with anything? This is my favorite Thread Theory question.
  • when he can’t say “Me too,” he says, “Teach me.”
  • If someone mentions something that you don’t know about or are unfamiliar with, ask for more information. “Teach me?” is still a thread!
  • I have never heard of that book—what is it about?
  • “Me too!” and “Teach me?” are two of the most powerful and underutilized phrases we have. Use them whenever possible.
  • If you thought your average eye contact was below 60 percent, then reading microexpressions is an easy way to incentivize more gazing.
  • Online microexpressions
  • Lowered eyebrows that are pinched together Two vertical creases in between the eyebrows Tensing of the lower eyelids Tightening of the lips—either pressed firmly together or in a position to yell
  • The easiest way to tell the difference between fear and surprise is the shape of the eyebrows. Fear is marked by flat eyebrows with horizontal lines across the forehead. In surprise, the eyebrows are rounded like upside-down Us.
  • Explore—where is the anger coming from and how can you oust it? Stay Calm—not offensive or defensive. Explain—what information can you give them to feel less threatened?
  • As you try to finish making dinner, you say to your partner, “Tell me the good news as you set the table.” Your partner is a little deflated. He still shares the news, but doesn’t feel nearly as excited as he did when he came home. You have a normal dinner.
  • “Tell me! Tell me! Let me turn this heat down so you can tell me everything,” you exclaim. He shares his major win at work while you put a cork in your wine and throw a bottle of champagne into the fridge. “We have to celebrate,” you say. Dinner takes a little bit longer, but you get to clink glasses and ride the high of his work win together.
  • Address—what’s the threat? What is the source of discomfort? Soothe—how can you make it safer? Comfort—can you reassure, re-evaluate, or remove the threat?
  • If you notice someone make a squelched expression, be sure to dig deeper to find the source of the disguise.
  • What does your digital microexpression say?
  • On the other hand, when you have an expression on your face, you also feel that emotion.
  • Always look for the seven microexpressions as you listen.
  • trying to figure out if he was high open (likes trying new things), I asked about his most recent vacations and then his career path. This led to a great rapport, and, eventually, his asking me to grab lunch “to continue this great conversation.”
  • Lows tend to let the laundry go until they’re down to the last pair of underwear. A low might not notice a messy desk covered with stacks of papers and unopened mail.
  • Lows typically think about what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong. So they have a harder time commiserating about stress and being busy.*
  • We are most accurate at speed-guessing extroversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness—try to go with your first impression when assessing people in these areas.9 Openness
  • If you’re pitching a low open person, lead by describing what you’re not changing. Then present a rational, evidence-based case for your new idea to help them overcome their apprehension about trying something new.
  • A high neurotic likes to hear that you’re worrying about everything for him.
  • Don’t be surprised if the important people in your life have similar matrices.
  • Don’t impose your personality traits on others.
  • 5 Love Languages.
    • Words of Affirmation:
    • Gifts:
    • Physical Touch:
    • Acts of Service:
    • Quality Time:
  • If your language is Quality Time, you know that long-distance relationships or working virtually might not be a good choice for you.
  • For example, if you are low open and your primary appreciation language is Quality Time, you would be better off asking a colleague to a monthly coffee date at your favorite place.
  • What’s the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
  • How do you celebrate your successes?
  • I really want to do something nice for our colleague who just had a new baby. What do you think we should do for them?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
  • Words of Affirmation Professional: Write check-in e-mails Create positive feedback reports Do daily or weekly check-in meetings Offer to write recommendation letters Give public praise
  • Gifts Professional: Birthday gifts Holiday gifts Desk trinkets Thank-you gifts Gift baskets or boxes
  • Birthday cards especially for nwords nof affirmation folk
  • Romantic: Holding hands Cuddling Bow-chic-a-wow-wow Massages
  • Romantic: Phone-free time Weekly dates Trips Car rides Example
  • Don’t invite Quality Time people to do boring activities. Forget coffee—ask them to go on a hike or to a grilled cheese shop. My friend Stephen Scott is a triathlete, and he asks people to go on walks or runs in lieu of the typical lunch. Have
  • physical touch partner or friend? Learn how to give massages or do reflexology.
  • What is one way I can show you more appreciation?
  • Londolozi, one of the best luxury safari camps in South Africa,
  • we give what we most want. We might crave Love, so we give it to everyone around us—even if they don’t deserve it.
  • HACK #9: Primary Value The underlying motivation that drives a person’s decisions, actions, and desires.
  • Foa and his team argue that we often try to seek from others what we have been denied earlier in life.
  • If someone has low self-esteem, they are more likely to seek the Status resource from others.
  • Information I like to be in the know. I like to give advice. I enjoy teaching and learning.
  • Most people’s choices make sense to them. When they don’t make sense to you, it’s usually because you are being driven by a different primary value.
  • Do you need to motivate someone at work? Tap into what they value.
  • Do you need to understand a partner’s baffling choice? Figure out how it met their value needs.
  • Complaints and Brags:
  • Worries: What keeps someone up at night? What do they stress out about?
  • Primary Value: Love Feel Worthy When: They are included They feel liked Someone appreciates them
  • Primary Value: Service Feel Worthy When: They don’t have to ask for help Someone is assisting them with tasks or chores Someone does a favor for them
  • Primary Value: Status Feel Worthy When: They are praised They are given power or credit Their accomplishments are recognized
  • Primary Value: Money Feel Worthy When: They have a “full” bank account They can afford what they desire They are earning money
  • Primary Value: Goods Feel Worthy When: They have a comfortable home or office They have lots of assets They are surrounded by tokens or objects from their past
  • Primary Value: Information Feel Worthy When: They are in the know They are told information first They are asked to give an opinion
  • The Story Stack Share, tell, and hunt for captivating stories to capture imagination and attention.
  • Trigger Topic: You know how the same
  • Sparking Stories:
  • Boomerang:
  • Start with a Hook:
  • Champion a Struggle:
  • When we give up control, we gift power. I call this hack: Own It! HACK #11: Own It! Empower people by giving them buy-in, control, and ownership.
  • Leading people is about communicating a mission and then letting them take part in it.
  • easy trick for you: Always use the word “because” when asking for something.
  • To do this, use what I call Skill Solicitation. Skill Solicitation is when you ask people to self-identify based on capability:
  • Eventually he began posting them on his blog, which he calls PostSecret. Over the course of a few years, the blog went viral.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, share a vulnerability, or admit a weakness—they bond you to people.
  • Asking for advice softly admits a vulnerability.
  • Don’t miss casual opportunities for favors. When I go to someone’s home, I always accept a glass of water when offered.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for casual advice.
  • We tend to be defensive when someone offers unsolicited advice. However, this is actually an opportunity! This is an unsolicited opportunity to harness the power of the Franklin Effect.
  • Don’t underestimate the basics, either: Always send a thank-you card.
  • First, prevent good people from becoming difficult. Second, stop difficult people from being impossible.
  • Downers
  • Show-Offs
  • Passives
  • Tanks
  • “Emotional systems tend to monopolize brain resources. It’s much easier for an emotion to control a thought than for a thought to control an emotion,” explained LeDoux.5
  • HACK #13: The NUT Job When dealing with difficult people, name the emotion, understand the feeling, and transform the fear.
  • What is this person afraid of?
  • Typically, when someone is emotional and we are not, we try to counterbalance them by staying calm. But this doesn’t work.
  • You seem ____. Are you feeling ____? Give me a sense for what you’re feeling.
  • Do NOT try to move onto the Transform step until you are fully done naming and understanding. If someone is still speaking in a loud voice, tearful or flushed with emotion—they are not done processing yet.
  • You can’t argue with a feeling, but you can acknowledge it.
  • Toxic people are not worth your energy.
  • His sincere curiosity makes him incredibly engaging.
  • popular people are more attuned to social signals, social hierarchy, and relationships—and they place higher value on these cues.
  • Start and end phone calls with “I’m so happy you called!”
  • Don’t impress people; engage them.

Book: Homo Deus – a history of Tomorrow

TLDR: Yes, you should read this book.

“In seeking bliss and immortality humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods.”

Yuval Noah Harrari

Humanism has brought us incredible advances: We cured plagues, stopped wars, tamed nature. Climate catastrophe aside, we succeeded in overcoming every challenge thrown at a human race and came stronger and more resilient from experience.

Homo Deus is a book about the possible paths for humanity. Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens takes his insightful analysis of our species history and maps the trends and technological advances to present us with a possible future. I find this analysis highly accurate and agree with him on the direction we are facing.

Plagues and wars are no longer a daily concern. Now, my main struggle is finding ripe enough Avocado for my morning toast.

But this enormous success has brought its own trap: We have become accustomed to our way of life. 

Amazon link

The shortcomings of Humanism

You can only force people to do so many things. But it turns out that if you give them meaning and a purpose, they will be capable of incredible feats.

In early modern times, religion has provided this purpose generously. If you served God, you would go to Heaven. Everything made sense. You should, without a doubt, put all your efforts into furthering churches’ mission, even if that meant killing more pagans or dying yourself in the process.

Then came the Renaissance.

Slowly, but surely the religion was not the only game in town. People discovered the value of an individual human being, and human colossus started to gain more power ( Read this post by Tim Urban to learn more about the human collossus ).

During the Agricultural Revolution humankind silenced animals and plants, and turned the animist grand opera into a dialogue between man and gods. During the Scientific Revolution humankind silenced the gods too. The world was now a one-man show.

Yuval Noah Harrari

When you give people meaning and empower them to unleash their creativity, they will stop at nothing to achieve the goal. There is a catch, though.

The goal of Humanism is to remove any artificial meaning continually.

This is the primary commandment humanism has given us: create meaning for a meaningless world.

Yuval Noah Harrari

For a while, that meaning was elevating the living conditions of the western world. Fighting poverty, hunger, and diseases. Human spirit prevailing over the harsh environment.

We have succeeded in all these pursuits, but in the course of doing so, we have created problems that do not have clear solutions. We have run out of meaning, and postmodernism has poisoned our ability to seek it.

Different flavors of Humanism have pursued different ways of seeking that meaning:

  • Liberal Humanism is all about freedom of the individual – this is what we usually mean when we say “Humanism.”
  • Socialist Humanism aims to elevate the living conditions of the collective. By working together, we will thrive.
  • Evolutionary Humanism wants to create better conditions by ensuring only the strongest individuals continue to shape the future. 

In the second half of the twentieth-century humankind almost obliterated itself in an argument about production methods.

Yuval Noah Harrari

For a while, after World Wars, we have relished in the renewed sense of meaning yet again. Rebuilding our broken world, healing the wounds and ensuring working on the trauma gave us purpose.

But those days are gone.

What will be the new frontier?

“It took just a piece of bread to make a starving medieval peasant joyful. How do you bring joy to a bored, overpaid and overweight engineer?”

We are now heading straight for techno-utopia. Our every little annoyance is solved with technical advances. Now I do not need to seek an Avocado for my toast. The meal will be delivered to my doorstep without me leaving the couch.

And Avocado Toast is here to stay.

Every primary belief system has made use of one thing as the ultimate meaning source: The death itself.

  • “Obey, or you will go to hell.”
  • “Enjoy your time while you are here.”
  • “We are only playthings of the Gods, and we die when they are finished with us.”

Regardless of the specific theology, death was always a constant fact of life. At least you could count on that.

It is only natural that humans would try to attack it with considerable hubris. Hans Rosling expands on this in Factfulness.

The life span is increasing, thanks to medical advances rapidly.

We don’t have to invent immortality. To effectively live forever, your life expectancy has to improve by one year, every year.

Current medical improvements will keep you around long enough to see future medical enhancements and so on.

I am consciously getting around the topic of life quality in this scenario, since that may be a good question for another time.

Virtual Reality is also becoming a consideration. We could upload our consciousness straight into the Internet.

Let’s not lie to ourselves – many of us are already living there.

The perils of immortality

Let’s say we have achieved immortality.

We will have conquered everything. Where do we find meaning, then?

  • One idea is that the meaning is data being processed. Humanity is only the vector by which information is spreading.
  • We may find that space – “The Final Frontier” – is something that will infuse humanity with new Vigor
  • Do you have any ideas? I’m all ears

Another thing we are currently battling with is that it’s tough to change people’s minds.

Never before in human history, the reality has changed faster than people were dying. The psychological makeup after you are thirty makes you less likely to change mind and accept new concepts.

Max Planck famously said that science advances one funeral at a time.

Yuval Noah Harari

You could blame the recent resurgence of conservatism on the change velocity in the modern world. It will be exciting to see how humanity will adapt to this constant change.

Sidetone: The intersubjective level of Reality.

According to Harari, there are three levels of the reality:

  • The objective reality that we share. This one is governed by immutable laws of nature,
  • Intrasubjective Reality that is private for each and every one of us. It’s governed by our belief system,
  • Intersubjective Reality that we share, but it is governed by our shared belief systems.

Part of our political discussion recently is that we ignore the third, intersubjective level and try to classify our experience in one of the former two. We mostly do not agree about this classification.

There is a talk by Yuval Noah Harari in University of California:

My highlights

  • There are no longer natural famines in the world; there are only political famines. If people in Syria, Sudan or Somalia starve to death, it is because some politician wants them to.
  • Whereas in March 1520, when the Spanish fleet arrived, Mexico was home to 22 million people, by December only 14 million were still alive. Smallpox was only the first blow. While the new Spanish masters were busy enriching themselves and exploiting the natives, deadly waves of flu, measles and other infectious diseases struck Mexico one after the other, until in 1580 its population was down to less than 2 million.8 Two centuries later, on 18 January 1778, the British explorer Captain James Cook reached Hawaii.
  • Altogether the pandemic killed between 50 million and 100 million people in less than a year. The First World War killed 40 million from 1914 to 1918.
  • In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,000). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes.23 Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder.
  • as knowledge became the most important economic resource, the profitability of war declined and
  • What Rwanda earned from an entire year of looting Congolese coltan, the Chinese earn in a single day of peaceful commerce.
  • When the moment comes to choose between economic growth and ecological stability, politicians, CEOs and voters almost always prefer growth.
  • Rather, for modern people death is a technical problem that we can and should solve.
  • They maintain that anyone possessing a healthy body and a healthy bank account in 2050 will have a serious shot at immortality by cheating death a decade at a time.
  • Max Planck famously said that science advances one funeral at a time.
  • Indeed, even chimpanzees in the jungle sometimes live into their sixties.
  • Galileo Galilei died at seventy-seven, Isaac Newton at eighty-four, and Michelangelo lived to the ripe age of eighty-eight, without any help from antibiotics, vaccinations or organ transplants. Indeed, even chimpanzees in the jungle sometimes live into their sixties.29
  • When you take into account our belief in the sanctity of human life, add the dynamics of the scientific establishment, and top it all with the needs of the capitalist economy, a relentless war against death seems to be inevitable.
  • You fought for your country when you were eighteen, and paid your taxes when you were forty, because you counted on the state to take care of you when you were seventy.30
  • liberty. It’s important to note, however, that the American Declaration of Independence guaranteed the right to the pursuit of happiness, not the right to happiness itself
  • Epicurus recommended, for example, to eat and drink in moderation, and to curb one’s sexual appetites.
  • It took just a piece of bread to make a starving medieval peasant joyful. How do you bring joy to a bored, overpaid and overweight engineer?
  • Forget economic growth, social reforms and political revolutions: in order to raise global happiness levels, we need to manipulate human biochemistry.
  • The principle is clear: biochemical manipulations that strengthen political stability, social order and economic growth are allowed and even encouraged (e.g., those that calm hyperactive kids in school, or drive anxious soldiers forward into battle). Manipulations that threaten stability and growth are banned.
  • Some 2,300 years ago Epicurus warned his disciples that immoderate pursuit of pleasure is likely to make them miserable rather than happy.
  • To attain real happiness, humans need to slow down the pursuit of pleasant sensations, not accelerate it.
  • In seeking bliss and immortality humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods.
  • Breaking out of the organic realm could also enable life to finally break out of planet earth.
  • In the twenty-first century, the third big project of humankind will be to acquire for us divine powers of creation and destruction, and upgrade Homo sapiens into Homo deus.
  • Thus the Old Testament God never promises any rewards or punishments after death.
  • This is what we fear collectively, as a species, when we hear of superhumans. We sense that in such a world, our identity, our dreams and even our fears will be irrelevant, and we will have nothing more to contribute.
  • But most experts think on a timescale of academic grants and college jobs. Hence, ‘very far away’ may mean twenty years, and ‘never’ may denote no more than fifty.
  • but soon enough men who had no impotence problems in the first place began using the same pill to surpass the norm, and acquire sexual powers they never had before.45
  • Once stem-cell research enables us to create an unlimited supply of human embryos on the cheap, you can select your optimal baby from among hundreds of candidates,
  • Knowledge that does not change behaviour is useless. But knowledge that changes behaviour quickly loses its relevance.
  • The new history will explain that ‘our present situation is neither natural nor eternal. Things were different once. Only a string of chance events created the unjust world we know today. If we act wisely, we can change that world, and create a much better one.’
  • In most Semitic languages, ‘Eve’ means ‘snake’ or even ‘female snake’.
  • because the twenty-first century will be dominated by algorithms. ‘Algorithm’ is arguably the single most important concept in our world.
  • Over the last few decades biologists have reached the firm conclusion that the man pressing the buttons and drinking the tea is also an algorithm.
  • These algorithms undergo constant quality control by natural selection.
  • What we call sensations and emotions are in fact algorithms.
  • It is therefore likely that frightened humans, frightened baboons and frightened pigs have similar experiences.
  • John Watson, a leading childcare authority in the 1920s, sternly advised parents, ‘Never hug and kiss [your children], never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.’
  • A modern Jewish family that celebrates a holiday by having a barbecue on their front lawn is much closer to the spirit of biblical times than an orthodox family that spends the time studying scriptures in a synagogue.
  • During the Agricultural Revolution humankind silenced animals and plants, and turned the animist grand opera into a dialogue between man and gods. During the Scientific Revolution humankind silenced the gods too. The world was now a one-man show.
  • Everything that happens in the cosmos is judged to be good or bad according to its impact on Homo sapiens.
  • Hence the existence of souls cannot be squared with the theory of evolution.
  • So perhaps behind all the sensations and emotions we ascribe to animals – hunger, fear, love and loyalty – lurk only unconscious algorithms rather than subjective experiences?
  • Consciousness is the biologically useless by-product of certain brain processes. Jet engines roar loudly, but the noise doesn’t propel the aeroplane forward.
  • it implies that all the pain and pleasure experienced by billions of creatures for millions of years is just mental pollution.
  • Mind and body are made of pipes, cylinders, valves and pistons that build and release pressure, thereby producing movements and actions. Such thinking had a deep influence even on Freudian psychology, which is why much of our psychological jargon is still replete with concepts borrowed from mechanical engineering.
  • Starting with the assumption that we can believe humans when they report that they are conscious, we can identify the signatures of human consciousness, and then use these signatures to ‘prove’ that humans are indeed conscious.
  • According to Turing, in the future computers would be just like gay men in the 1950s. It won’t matter whether computers will actually be conscious or not. It will matter only what people think about it.
  • This declaration stops short of saying that other animals are conscious, because we still lack the smoking gun. But it does shift the burden of proof to those who think otherwise. Responding to the shifting
  • Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness,
  • This declaration stops short of saying that other animals are conscious, because we still lack the smoking gun. But it does shift the burden of proof to those who think otherwise.
  • If a hive faces a new threat or a new opportunity, the bees cannot, for example, guillotine the queen and establish a republic.
  • First, they placed loyal communist apparatchiks in control of all networks of cooperation, such as the army, trade unions and even sports associations. Second, they prevented the creation of any rival organisations – whether political, economic or social – which might serve as a basis for anti-communist cooperation. Third, they relied on the support of sister communist parties in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
  • Classical economists have probably never left their laboratories and lecture halls to venture into the real world.
  • These are sets of rules that, despite existing only in our imagination, we believe to be as real and inviolable as gravity.
  • there is a third level of reality: the intersubjective level.
  • Meaning is created when many people weave together a common network of stories.
  • Sapiens rule the world because only they can weave an intersubjective web of meaning: a web of laws, forces, entities and places that exist purely in their common imagination.
  • Humans think they make history, but history actually revolves around the web of stories.
  • Just like the living-god pharaoh, the living-god Petsuchos was lovingly groomed by attending priests who provided the lucky reptile with lavish food and even toys, and dressed him up in gold cloaks and gem-encrusted crowns.
  • But nowadays we habitually say that the United States built the first nuclear bomb, that China built the Three Gorges Dam or that Google is building an autonomous car. Why not say, then, that pharaoh built a reservoir and Sobek dug a canal?
  • Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the angel with the rubber stamp.
  • Sousa Mendes, armed with little more than a rubber stamp, was responsible for the largest rescue operation by a single individual during the Holocaust.2
  • He is convinced that everything happens because of him. Most people grow out of this infantile delusion. Monotheists hold on to it till the day they die.
  • Indeed, even today when US presidents take their oath of office, they put their hand on a Bible.
  • Consequently the system may seem to be working well, but only if we adopt the system’s own criteria.
  • History isn’t a single narrative, but thousands of alternative narratives. Whenever we choose to tell one, we are also choosing to silence others.
  • How do you know if an entity is real? Very simple – just ask yourself, ‘Can it suffer?’
  • Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their service?
  • We always believe in ‘the truth’; only other people believe in superstitions.
  • Religion is any all-encompassing story that confers superhuman legitimacy on human laws, norms and values.
  • For religions, spirituality is a dangerous threat.
  • When religions advertise themselves, they tend to emphasise their beautiful values. But God often hides in the fine print of factual statements.
  • The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange
  • Yet in fact modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.
  • If modernity has a motto, it is ‘shit happens’.
  • On the practical level modern life consists of a constant pursuit of power within a universe devoid of meaning.
  • For thousands of years priests, rabbis and muftis explained that humans cannot overcome famine, plague and war by their own efforts. Then along came the bankers, investors and industrialists, and within 200 years managed to do exactly that.
  • This is the primary commandment humanism has given us: create meaning for a meaningless world.
  • develop a particular liking for ‘Panda Dung tea’ from the mountains of Ya’an in Sichuan province, made from the leaves of tea bushes fertilised by the dung of panda bears.
  • at least during the nineteenth century nationalism was closely aligned with liberalism.
  • My current political views, my likes and dislikes, and my hobbies and ambitions do not reflect my authentic self. Rather, they reflect my upbringing and social surroundings. They depend on my class, and are shaped by my neighbourhood and my school.
  • While it is a favourite pastime of Western academics and activists to find fault with the liberal package, they have so far failed to come up with anything better.
  • Pius led a series of reforms in Catholic dogma and established the novel principle of papal infallibility, according to which the Pope can never err in matters of faith (this seemingly medieval idea became binding Catholic dogma only in 1870, eleven years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species).
  • In the second half of the twentieth century humankind almost obliterated itself in an argument about production methods.
  • until they finally discover what they need: some maxim, parable or ruling that, if interpreted creatively enough means God blesses gay marriages and women can be ordained to the priesthood.
  • The Bible is kept as a source of authority, even though it is no longer a true source of inspiration.
  • The sacred word ‘freedom’ turns out to be, just like ‘soul’, a hollow term empty of any discernible meaning.
  • For the experiencing self, it is impossible that adding a slightly unpleasant experience to a very unpleasant experience will make the entire episode more appealing.
  • The value of the whole experience is determined by averaging peaks with ends.
  • We identify with the inner system that takes the crazy chaos of life and spins out of it seemingly logical and consistent yarns.
  • Our narrating self would much prefer to continue suffering in the future, just so it won’t have to admit that our past suffering was devoid of all meaning.
  • if we want to come clean about past mistakes, our narrating self must invent some twist in the plot that will infuse these mistakes with meaning.
  • Medieval crusaders believed that God and heaven provided their lives with meaning; modern liberals believe that individual free choices provide life with meaning. They are all equally delusional.
  • We are about to face a flood of extremely useful devices, tools and structures that make no allowance for the free will of individual humans.
  • Is it a coincidence that universal rights were proclaimed at the precise historical juncture when universal conscription was decreed?
  • It is telling that already today in many asymmetrical conflicts the majority of citizens are reduced to serving as shields for advanced armaments.
  • An application called Deadline goes a step further, informing you of how many years of life you have left, given your current habits.
  • Algorithms won’t revolt and enslave us. Rather, they will be so good at making decisions for us that it would be madness not to follow their advice.
  • Liberalism will collapse on the day the system knows me better than I know myself. Which is less difficult than it may sound, given that most people don’t really know themselves well.
  • Modern humanity is sick with FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – and though we have more choice than ever before, we have lost the ability to really pay attention to whatever we choose.6
  • 1.Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing? 2.What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness? 3.What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?