Tangential Tuesday #40

Sort by Controversial, Philosophy, Medicine, Gen-Z, The art of resting, Costco...

Hey team, I hope your week is off to a good start. I finished reading Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance this morning.

It’s a beautifully written book - and I would recommend it just for that. And though it mostly focuses on medicine, Gawande also articulated better than I could have why I write this newsletter:

“Most of all, by offering your reflections to an audience, even a small one, you make yourself part of a larger world. Put a few thoughts on a topic in just a newsletter, and you find yourself wondering nervously: Will people notice it? What will they think? Did I say something dumb? An audience is a community. The published word is a declaration of membership in that community and also a willingness to contribute something meaningful to it.

So choose your audience. Write something”

This resonated so strongly with me. I have no plans or ideas for how to grow this newsletter. Some weeks I am not entirely sure why I write it. Some weeks I am not particularly happy with the end result.

I often find embarrassing typos when I read my posts the next morning. But this newsletter forces me to hit publish every week, and for that I am grateful.

Regardless of your job, it’s easy to feel like you are just a cog in massive machine. Writing is one small way to combat this feeling:

“Writing lets you step back and think through a problem. Even the angriest rant forces the writer to achieve a degree of thoughtfulness”

It doesn’t have to be much. Just a few paragraphs. You don’t even have to publish it anywhere. Write something.

😮Sort By Controversial

This is a highly entertaining, dark story of tech dystopia.

“This starts in September 2017. I was working for a small online ad startup. You know the ads on Facebook and Twitter? We tell companies how to get them the most clicks. This startup – I won’t tell you the name – was going to add deep learning, because investors will throw money at anything that uses the words “deep learning”. We train a network to predict how many upvotes something will get on Reddit. Then we ask it how many likes different ads would get. Then we use whatever ad would get the most likes. This guy (who is not me) explains it better. Why Reddit? Because the upvotes and downvotes are simpler than all the different Facebook reacts, plus the subreddits allow demographic targeting, plus there’s an archive of 1.7 billion Reddit comments you can download for training data. We trained a network to predict upvotes of Reddit posts based on their titles.”

Read the article here.

Destroyer of worlds: The 8CHAN Story

Speaking of dark tech news… I’ve got another one for you.

This profile covers the creator of 8CHAN arguably the most dangerous sight on the internet today. After reading this article I had to briefly checkout the site myself.

I have to admit, it was pretty terrifying. This site has known links to a number of school shootings and well as white supremacy. The creator? born in 1994 in upstate New York when he was still a kid.

This paragraph in particular struck me regarding the immense power of the internet:

Because of the way it’s structured, chan culture has immense power to create memes: they spread from the site’s users via pseudonymous communities like Reddit out to Twitter and beyond into the mass cultural consciousness. The /pol/ boards on both 4chan and 8chan have become home to far-right politics. One now-infamous meme that featured Hillary Clinton next to a Star of David sign made its way from its original posting to 8chan’s /pol/ board via anonymous Twitter accounts to Trump’s Twitter feed in a matter of days.

Read the article here.

😎 ‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies

It’s always fun thinking about generational differences. Of course, broad differences regarding an entire generation will never be 100% accurate, but there’s DEFINITELY huge trends and differences.

In the past, I think geographic/culture differences were more of a driving factor in your actions, world view, etc. With the rise of internet and acceleration of technology, these differences are shrinking - but generational differences are becoming more and more obvious.

A few broad takeaways re Gen Z:

  • They value individual expression and avoid labels.

  • They mobilize themselves for a variety of causes

  • They make decisions and relate to institutions in a highly analytical and pragmatic way.

I found it funny that the article as well as this NYT article both speak very positively about Gen-Z… I guess the internet was tired of all of those articles ripping on millennials for buying too much avocado toast 🥑. Such is life.

Overall though, my personal experience at Minds Matter lines up with these broad take aways. These kids are way less addicted to their phones than most millennials and much more analytical in their decision making than I was at that age 🤷‍♂️.

Read the article here.

🛌 The Art of Resting

This something I personally struggle with. My mind is always moving 100 times a minute. And the sad thing is this mind actually serves me well a lot of the time.

But eventually - especially living and working in a city like San Francisco, this will run you down.

Often times, you think you are “resting” by scrolling social media or watching YouTube. This is not a rest for your brain.

“Recognize TV, movies, video games, porn, etc. for what they are – artificial over-stimulation.

The human brain did not evolve to be able to handle the constant stimulation and variety that high-speed internet can provide.

The human brain gets “hacked” by the stimulation that high-speed internet and media provide – use them in limited quantities and use them primarily for productive purposes.

Remember, your brain is also a muscle – it needs to rest. If you constantly bombard it with stimulation, it will throttle itself to a lower intellectual level.”

Read the article here.

🧠 Why You Should Study Philosophy

Ryan Holiday is back again with another fantastic article.

“If you told someone you had discovered an operating system for being a good human being — how to solve the problems of life, how to manage our tempers, where to find meaning, and how to think about death — most people would perk up and lean in. Of course they would. Who isn’t interested in being a better person and living a better life? That’s what we’re all struggling to do, day in and day out, with this random quirk of existence we’ve been given.

If you told that same person that what you’d discovered had a name, and it was “philosophy,” all the excitement and possibility that perked them up initially would leave their body like air out of a balloon. They’d almost certainly turn back to whatever they were doing before you interrupted them. And who would blame them for this aversion? Almost anything is better than talking about philosophy.”

This is something I really want to devote more time to in the 2nd half of 2019. Reading philosophy means reading slower and thinking more. It means discussing books with your friends.

It’s doing the hard work to read books above your level. But the fact that we even have access to these books is pretty amazing!! Expect some of my ramblings on philosophy I’m struggling to understand in future newsletters 😃.

Read the article here.

More to check out

- Why America’s New Apartment Buildings All Look the same

- Goldilocks Zone of Personal Finance

- Paradox of Ambition

Quote of the week

“Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate” - Robert Greene, 48 Laws of Power


Thanks for reading.

- Taylor