The Nobel laureate particle physicist Frank Wilczek once said that beauty exists as a dance between opposite forces. First, he said, beauty benefits from symmetry, which he defined as “change without change.” If you rotate a circle, it remains a circle, just as reversing the sides of an equation still reveals a truth (2+2=4, and 4=2+2). But beauty also draws from what Wilczek calls “exuberance,” or emergent complexity. Looking up at the interior of a mosque or a cathedral, or gazing at a classic Picasso or Pollock painting, you are seeing neither utter chaos nor a simple symmetry, but rather a kind of synthesis; an artistic dizziness bounded within a sense of order, which gives the whole work an appealing comprehensibility.
Founders are creatives by definition — they had the idea behind a company.
To make that idea material and relevant, they need to work with a collection of people. But the nature of ideas and the creative process is so particular and unusual. It’s an activity that doesn’t naturally or easily sit within a large group of people.
When you gather a large group of people, they generally want to be able to relate to one another and to be sociable. But any process that is unpredictable does not sit comfortably or naturally in a large group setting. So people come to value activities that are predictable.
This doesn’t mean that you would willfully want to undermine those activities that are predictable. But that is the nature of creating. And one of the things I realized is that when you’re trying to create in the context of a large group of people with a whole range of different expertise, people tend to want to gravitate to those attributes or characteristics of a product that you can measure easily. If you’re trying to relate to a group of very different people and you want to appear sociable and engaged and connected, it’s much easier to talk about something that you can measure with a number. That’s why we choose to talk about schedule or cost or speed or weight. Given our very different backgrounds, that’s a comfortable and easy conversation. I completely get it.
But there’s an insidious problem with that. There is a dangerous assumption that we’re having these conversations because they’re the only important ones. But the really important conversations and preoccupations and concerns are very hard. Because you can’t assign a system of numbers to make the relative judgments that need to be made.
I used to think that this kind of conversation was a personal attack, or an affront to the practice of creating, but I’ve come to learn, over the years, that it’s just a natural, very predictable consequence of having larger numbers of people gather together to talk about developing something.
The gears of commercial networks are surveillance systems built on structures that elicit a continuous stream of confessions made public. Confessions in public become testimony; testimony summons congregations. We raise our voices in defiance or affirmation, knowing there will be consequences we don’t understand. The databanks grow.
But we built the machines around our weird amygdalas and then we went inside them and now the machine is no longer confined to a stack of software + policy + vibes; we carry it in ourselves. We haunt each new place we enter.
The Jevons Paradox states that an increase in resource efficiency results not in diminished consumption but in an over-all increase.
The Apollo program was an incredibly powerful Enabling environment, but it did not emerge from a project aiming to give scientists lots of great opportunities for personal growth. Rather, it was about putting people on the moon (and, er, saving the world from the Soviets). The enabling environment was a byproduct of that deeply meaningful effort.
Likewise, when Pixar created its revolutionary animation tools, many teams had been working on computer graphics for years, but Pixar’s systems emerged from a zealous pursuit of a storytelling dream: Pixar’s movies and technology development act as coupled flywheels.
Cathedrals! University research labs! Mathematica! They all follow this pattern.
By 2100, the Lagos-Abidjan stretch is projected to be the largest zone of continuous, dense habitation on earth, with something in the order of half a billion people.
Instead of your Life‘s Purpose — “Rather than struggle to discover a purpose or vocation, we [should] become people who can recognize and exploit opportunities to create meaning as they arise — resourceful and audacious people who live adventurous lives.
[…] the economists would be amazed. For this design — so far beyond the peak of their world’s powers — was not a gift for a King or Queen, but clearly just a child’s toy. And not just that. The very banality of the toy, the artlessness of the sculpting and the way the paint doesn’t even quite line up with the contours of the doll’s face, prove that this is not the toy of a prince — but of poor child. And they would understand that the people of our time are so wealthy, so powerful, that every one of them has access to machines with thousands of parts working in concert, and that it is less effort to build such a wondrous machine than to simply paint a doll’s eyebrows in their right places.
The Age of Average argues that from film to fashion and architecture to advertising, creative fields have become dominated and defined by convention and cliché. Distinctiveness has died. In every field we look at, we find that everything looks the same.
A pessimistic stance is a safe one. There is often little to lose. Optimism is risky. It exposes us to failure. In fact, repeated failure is a given. That’s why it looks dumb from the outside.
Thor: Love and Thunder used a wild lighting rig to capture a sequence where lights were supposed to rapidly move around the set while filmed in slow motion. The technique is to use a high-speed camera whose frame-exposures are synced to store lights. This technique builds on one used in Thor: Ragnarok. It was developed by a company called Satellite Lab.
Life is a constant struggle to understand what is happening and what to do about it. We just make it up as we go. You cannot prevent yourself from struggling, it is inherent in life. One of the most important things you can do is help other people with their struggles.
I feel that starting from when? I don’t know, from the ’50s or the ’60s or ’70s — at a certain point, the experience of culture — whether it’s painting or something else — the nature of the experience shifted to something that had more in common with journalism than with what we might call “an aesthetic experience,” that works of art were thought to be about something. What that “about” was, or is, is something that could be more or less easily grasped. It’s the aboutness which, for me, is a short-circuiting of the art experience.
People don’t realize that every single advanced manufacturing company — whether they’re making rockets, satellites, jets, drones, or energy for climate change — outsources about 80% to 90% of their custom parts. This isn’t like automotive where you’re printing 1,000 widgets to go on a Ford. This is ‘Hey, we need five crazy complex-geometry parts that are going on a rocket.‘ It’s about $40 or $50 billion in spend that’s coming out of these space, defense, and other advanced manufacturers going into a domestic supply chain, but it’s being routed through 3,000 or so small, owner-operated high-precision machine shops. So, in aggregate, it’s a huge industry, but it’s incredibly fragmented. You’ve really got 98% of that base doing less than $10 million in revenue.
A heresy is an opinion whose expression is treated like a crime — one that makes some people feel not merely that you're mistaken, but that you should be punished.
We show that LaTeX users were slower than Word users, wrote less text in the same amount of time, and produced more typesetting, orthographical, grammatical, and formatting errors. On most measures, expert LaTeX users performed even worse than novice Word users. LaTeX users, however, more often report enjoying using their respective software.
Food isn’t about Nutrition
Clothes aren’t about Comfort
Bedrooms aren’t about Sleep
Marriage isn’t about Romance
Talk isn’t about Info
Laughter isn’t about Jokes
Charity isn’t about Helping
Church isn’t about God
Art isn’t about Insight
Medicine isn’t about Health
Consulting isn’t about Advice
School isn’t about Learning
Research isn’t about Progress Politics isn’t about Policy
How can you possibly justify a $200,000+ college expense? How can you justify a $100,000+ college expense?
This is not necessary.
The average tenure hopeful adjunct makes $40 an hour. If you were to employ her as a private tutor at the cost of $60 an hour, and had four hours with her a week, and did that for 14 weeks (that’s the length of an average college course folks) that is about $3,400.
Were you to employ three such professor-tutors, that would be about $10,200, or a bit over $20,000 a year. In four years you would have racked up $80,000 in costs. But this is still $30,000 less than the total for the ‘cost conscious’ universities. It is a quarter of what you would pay for Trinity.
Remember: this $80,000 is for private tutoring, where individual attention would give you far and away a better and more thorough education than the 300-kids-in-a-lecture-hall style of classes that dominate undergraduate education today.
But it can get even cheaper. Let’s say you take the general principle of group classes from the university. Say you can find four other people to take all of these other classes with you. Just four. Well that equals out to $680 per class, or $16,000 a person for four years of classes.
To be fair, add in $1,000-$2,000 for textbooks and a subscription to JSTOR, for a total of about $17,000 to $18,000 for four years.
I love painting. You start by thinking you’ll get one assistant and before you know it you’ve got biographers, fire eaters, jugglers, fucking minstrels and lyre players all wandering around. They’re all saying they aren’t being paid enough and they all need assistants. Then one night you ask the lyre player to play for you and they say: ‘My lyre is all scratched up and I did ask for a lyre technician but you said not yet and if I had one I could come and play for you now.’ So you’ve got to have a lyre technician and then you better get him an Uber account too.
The Stockdale Paradox: “You must never ever ever confuse, on the one hand, the need for absolute, unwavering faith that you can prevail despite those constraints with, on the other hand, the need for the discipline to begin by confronting the brutal facts, whatever they are.
Fast: an astonishing list of big things accomplished quickly.
Public companies in the US are obligated, by law, to maximize the economic value of the company. That’s why hostile takeovers exist. By adding a legally binding set of ethical rules, companies might be required to to more than just add value for shareholders.
I first read about the St Nazaire Raid in Churchill’s The Second World War, and was amazed that I’d never heard of this dramatic, interesting, story.
Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. ‘When you’re the janitor,’ Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, ‘reasons matter.’ He continues: ‘Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.’ That Rubicon, he has said, ’is crossed when you become a VP.’
Everything is an act of imagination. Politics is about imagining futures and having the power to bring a collective group of people with you who give you the power to make that happen. It’s what Churchill did during the second world war.
A good sentence imposes a logic on the world’s weirdness. It gets its power from the tension between the ease of its phrasing and the shock of its thought slid cleanly into the mind. A sentence, as it proceeds, is a paring away of options. Each added word, because of the English language’s dependence on word order, reduces the writer’s alternatives and narrows the reader’s expectations. But even up to the last word the writer has choices and can throw in a curveball.
I’ve written six books now, but instead of making it easier, it has complicated matters to the point of absurdity. I have no idea what I’m doing. All the decisions I appear to have made—about plots and characters and where to start and when to stop—are not decisions at all. They are compromises. A book is whittled down from hope, and when I start to cut my fingers I push it away from me to see what others make of it. And I wait in terror for the judgements of those others—judgements that seem, whether positive or negative, unjust, because they are about something that I didn’t really do. They are about something that happened to me. It’s a little like crawling from a car crash to be greeted by a panel of strangers holding up score cards.