14,081 words

Democracy vs GDP - infant deaths - 56

"The world’s 36 governments that depend on the largest groups of essentials have thirty-one fewer infant deaths per 1,000 births than the forty-four governments that depend on the smallest groups of essentials. Comparing the same eighty countries but now based on per capita income, the poorest have fifteen more infant deaths per 1,000 births than the richest. Being rich does facilitate saving babies’ lives but not as much as being democratic!" (Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith, The Dictator's Handbook)

Skills to grow - 55

Public speaking, and being more bold in general)

Psychology, and effective persuasion)

Business writing

Accounting (basic)

Design (basic). Being able to sketch or mock things up is useful

Conversation - note, not the same as public speaking, not the same as articulation, not the same as debate

Second language. Not only useful at a practical level if you pick the right one but has benefits in brain plasticity

Archimedes and accidental discovery - 54

Some mathematical technique that Archimedes pioneered thousands of years BCE wasn't discovered until almost two thousand years AD. A prayer book or something like that was sold at auction and discovered to have information behind the writing (called a palimpset; in art, it's called apentimento) that belonged to Archimedes

Something similar happened with the amateur (and trailblazing) mathematician Fermat, whose marginalia writing contained lots of neat math stuff

It makes me think about how this could happen in a world of encrypted information. I don't want to go to a world without it but it makes me wonder if future generations might be missing out on ahead-of-their-time ideas or concepts from our current history that they won't be aware of because they might find our records but be unable to read them. Unless we're banking on an ability to decrypt that far surpasses our ability to encrypt, like what our digital PCs did to enigma machines and more basic ciphers that came before it

Who does the competition benefit? - 53

Or another way to think of it is, "who is the competition for?"

Ignore the dangling participle

Seasteading and spacefaring are proposed as means by which the human species can better sustain its growth and perhaps even mitigate its impact on the ecosystem. However the concern is that, while this is a true argument, it isn't a guiding principle for the legislation cropping up around the technology which makes these futures possible. Specifically the concern is that the ultra-rich will use these technologies and permissive attitudes towards "uncharted territories" to essentially establish sovereign nation-states (or mini-states, communes, enclaves, etc.) under which they have total authority

Are you prepared to live in a future of Amazonville and Musktopia?

The father of modern propaganda - 52

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country." (Edward Bernays, Propaganda)

Duplicitous statistics - 51

"Forget the "crime rate." The "crime rate" figures cited by government officials are based on the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) system, which has several serious flaws. To name only a few: First, the UCR only measures reported crime. Second, since the system is not independently audited there are no meaningful controls over how police departments use their crime data. Police officers can and do "unfound" crimes, meaning they decide that no crime occurred. They also "downgrade" crimes — for example, by officially classifying a rape as an assault. Third, reports can get "lost," either deliberately or inadvertently. There are many other technical problems that make the UCR a dubious measure of the extent of crime problems."

A perfect day - 50

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

I'd be great to say something like, the day I won the lottery, or I invent a patent that secures financial independence for me and the people that I care about most. But much more generally speaking I'd say a good day is a day where nothing particularly bad happens to anyone I care about, a better day is when the same can be said for the world at large, not that there isn't any bad news but hopefully nothing catastrophic. So a perfect day would be a day where something good happens to me and the people I love. Someone gets a job they were after, or finishes a project, or takes a first or next step in a relationship, or gets a clean bill of health.

Phone call - 49

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

It depends on the nature of the conversation. Most of the time, no. I'm fairly quick witted and have a decent vocabulary so have confidence, more often than not, in just being able to have an honest conversation with someone. But there are circumstances, say for a phone interview, where I'll review information, practice responses to common questions, and try and think scenarios out and how I might handle them. These aren't frequent circumstances though.

Famous - 48

Would you like to be famous? In what way?

No, not particularly. I'd rather be privately well-off than famous but if it was some kind of fame or nothing at all, and I got to choose the kind of fame in question, then I'd choose to be upper-crust famous. Not the kind of person you'd worry about following on instagram, but the kind of person that's "in the know" about who's who and what's what. Not to be a socialite, but it would be interested to be able to converse with some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world, to whatever end.

Dinner guest - 47

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Nikola Tesla. It isn't a very original answer but the challenge isn't to be original, just authentic, and Tesla is one of the most fascinating people I've read about. In addition to probing his mind about everything even slightly cryptic he's said, as well as to clarify some things like "did you really say that to Marconi?", I'd like to get his take on modern technology and what he'd do different.

I'd also like to ask him about the odd event early in his life where he had some near-death experience, after which is apparently when the genius really opened up inside of him. I'd want to see how much truth to that there is, and what he feels about it.

46 - 33 habits for corporate productivity

  1. Speak up
  2. Be polite
  3. Invite others to schedule their interactions with you
  4. Schedule all the time you need for yourself
  5. Set your calendar view default setting to private
  6. Set your calendar appointment default to 15 minutes
  7. Put your out-of-office times on your calendar
  8. Learn and use people's names
  9. Use titles (such as sir or ms. where appropriate)
  10. Make plans - structure your time
  11. "Disagree and commit" - execute reliably
  12. Be willing to ask questions
  13. Acknowledge others before speaking
  14. Say thank you - acknowledge someone else's contributions
  15. Say you're welcome - acknowledge your own contributions
  16. Separate emails for separate functions - work or personal
  17. Use email labels and filters
  18. Set reminders
  19. Have more than one phone number - work or personal
  20. Let people save face, and leave escape routes for them
  21. Share credit
  22. Notice and share when others do well
  23. Stay in demand
  24. Have other options
  25. Keep a work diary - accomplishments, ideas, etc
  26. Anticipate and guide
  27. Share proactively
  28. Dress up (slightly)
  29. Give good feedback
  30. Negotiate - don't take the first offer in anything that matters
  31. Say no sometimes - set boundaries and abide by them
  32. Admit when you don't know
  33. Be willing to move on

The Wailing - a review - 45

Genre: Horror; mystery; thriller
Rating: 8/10

I enjoyed this movie a lot, and one of the marks of a good movie for me is the fact that I find myself still thinking about some of the moments in the movie weeks and weeks later.

It's generally well-regarded, but I think that it may hold a special place in my heart, and do the same for my cultural bedfellows, because the cultural boundary presents a new take on something that I've become very familiar with due to the religious perspective around here - possessions.

In the Christian mythos, I know pretty much how an exorcism goes, and while a few movies have done a few different things in this vein, they fit inside of a general framework that I know enough about to undercut some of the novelty of what a creator may be aiming for. The Wailing has something new for me. It's exorcism ritual is bright and powerful, and nearly festive, almost diametrically opposed to the gloomy and somber exorcisms I'm accustomed to seeing in media over here.

Some of the symbolism is a little on the nose. The stranger presents an almost existential threat to the villagers he lives near, which is an apparent exploration of the racist attitudes that Koreans hold towards the Japanese. But the twists that the creator throws out, for this character, for the demon and its capabilities, for the priest, and for other supernatural entities, and in particular for some of the relationships that all of these characters have with one another, is intriguing and refreshing. It's a level of complexity that the Christian mythos for these same kinds of movies don't have, regardless of whether or not they have that potential.

What goes around - 44

There's an almost elegant irony in the fact that the best, as in most economical as well as being fairly effective, way to combat climate change is to essentially do the opposite of the things that brought everything to a tipping point. Reduction in emissions are essential, but a lot of the conversation right now is around planting trees (I posted about this in July), restoring green spaces in urban environments, and skewing more along technology lines, an algae-based bio-reactor that captures as much carbon as an acre of forest [1]

I'm very excited for more trees in humanity's future, not just because it appeals to my personal sense of aesthetic and love of nature, but because of the very real cognitive benefits that tall vegetation has on the human mind and, unarguably, the contribution in the fight towards a stable and sustainable ecosystem.

1: https://futurism.com/the-byte/bioreactor-captures-carbon-acre-trees

Parental longevity - 43

One of the key findings recently about how we experience time is that time seems to speed up as we get older because we have more experiential knowledge. Things are more novel when we're younger so they make more lasting, striking impressions. As you settle into a familiar routine, with school or work or with social relationships (romantic, platonic, familial, so on), the novelty fades and things stand out less, so time seems to pass by more quickly.

It's my pet theory that one of the unusual benefits of having a child is that you get a little bit of the novelty of experience that they can't escape. The whole world is new to them, and they force you to re-examine your surroundings, your circumstances, your self, in addition to adding to experiences because you can't (or at least shouldn't) escape the responsibility of rearing your child.

I'm in no way saying that everyone needs to have a child to get the most out of life or that a life is incomplete without having a child, but I do think it's at least in small part an evolutionary advantage that homo sapiens, and very likely other relatively long-lived and intelligent species, adapted so as to have more significant experiences through longer periods of life. Especially in modern times, with the lifespan of a human being outstripping by decades what it used to be in ancient times.

The problem of celebrity - 42

There's a lot of problems that can come about as a function of celebrity. It's almost a trope that child stars end up abusing drugs and spiraling into depression, so far removed from the realities of reality that they have no context for when people are taking advantage of them or they find themselves in abnormal situations, or just have no sense of moderation or self-awareness as to what may be good for them or bad for them.

Narcissism is another one. Cue Kanye West's current foray into starting his own religion, or maybe his own service to an existing religion. It's too obscure for me to tell right now which is which or what his overall intentions are, but if Scientology is any kind of template, then the religious movements that spring out of celebrity aren't great. Not that the orthodox ones that come about by more traditional means are any better.

But perhaps the most glaring and unavoidable problem with celebrity is that if you become famous, especially as a performer, performance is now your life. You perform for money. Your skills, or talents, or presence, snippets of what you say online or in life, actions that you take in the spotlight or out of it, can all be construed as a part of your performance. Accurate or not, for better and for worse. I imagine it can give one a deep sense of loss of personal agency, which may actually be true in a lot of cases.