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Maybe Only Our Pets Are Happy - 7 Takeaways No. 150
Happiness, Should, Connection, Proximity, Colonoscopy, Clickbait, Communication
1. “Maybe only our pets are happy”
What Happened to Empathy? – Xochitl Gonzalez – (The Atlantic)
If you read this essay, read past the opening paragraphs about San Francisco and driverless taxis. The real meat starts about a third of the way in, where the author compares society’s response to 9/11 with the response to current events. The upshot is that empathy is in serious decline.
How emotionally healthy are we, as a people, when, in moments of profound and painful tragedy, we feel compelled to insert our political opinions or policy positions? Can we not, just for a moment, feel for the victims?
There are many reasons for this shift, of course, but as with all such things, recognizing it as an issue is the first step.
Do this: Regain your empathy.
2. “No good comes from the word ‘should.’”
Why I’m Done Using The Word “Should” – Josh Spector – (For the interested blog and newsletter)
I’ve written about the word “should” myself. I dislike it. Spector does a good job of further articulating my thoughts.
When we think we should do something it’s because our family, friends, or society has convinced us it’s the right thing to do. But it’s often not something we actually want to do. If it was, we’d refer to it as something we want to do instead of as something we should do.
To me, it’s the application of your values to someone else who may not share them.
Do this: Watch your language.
3. “The psychological comfort of feeling connected”
Teens Want Parents to Track Their Phones and Monitor Their Every Move – Julie Jargon – (Wall Street Journal)
I find this utterly fascinating. I certainly understand the convenience of location tracking. My wife and I and a few trusted friends share our locations on Google Maps. It’s just not something I’d ever have expected a teen to even be remotely interested in.
Members of Gen Z, ages 11 to 26, say they use family location-sharing apps to bolster a sense of security.
The article references the increased anxiety many feel, which is no surprise all things considered. But that these kids feel closer to their parents than previous generations is also news to me.
Do this: Connect, in whatever way makes sense for you.
4. “The Medici Effect is real.”
10 Lessons from 10-Year College Reunion – Sahil Bloom – (Curiosity Chronicle)
It’s been a while since I’ve shared a list. This one is interesting. For example, I’d not heard of “The Medici Effect” before.
In the 15th century, the Medici family began funding the arts, which led to many of the great artists and thinkers of the generation converging on Florence at a single point in time. The concentration of talent in one location led to an explosion of innovation that gave rise to the entire Renaissance movement.
Truth. I’ve seen it happen. Physical proximity is a massive enabler for so many things, and it’s been on the decline in recent years. I like to think of this as “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, super-sized.
Do this: Spend time with well-chosen people.
5. “Your tubes will thank you.”
You’re Invited to a Colonoscopy! – Dynomight – (Asterisk)
Perhaps because I’m of a certain age, and have experienced said tubal investigation, I found this essay quite interesting. The bottom line is that while the US is the only country where colonoscopies are the routine and expected method of screening for colon cancer, it’s unclear if it’s really better than the alternatives.
Europe wants stronger evidence for cost-effectiveness. America is more aggressive and more willing to accept high costs. I don’t think this trial changes that. Colonoscopies are still expensive, and still possibly but not conclusively better.
The author’s real conclusion, however, is clear. Screening, in several forms, works. Early detection is key.
Do this: Check your tubes.
6. “Gripping high concepts”
On the Difficulty of Being Pithy – Eleanor Konik – (Obsidian Iceberg newsletter)
According to Konik, there are two primary approaches to getting science fiction read: the reputation of the author, or a pithy, punchy, short, enticing concept expressed as part of the title or subtitle.
I think most people intuitively understand that interesting, informative subject lines are more likely to be read than something like “Edition 15, Blue.”
Which kind of lead me to realize that we’re talking about the literary equivalent to clickbait. Sometimes the book we’re reading lives up to its title or subtitle, and sometimes it does not, and we feel cheated. And yet, I’m pretty certain most of the low quality, and even AI-generated, content available for purchase these days focus more heavily on the hook than the delivery. As an author, I know it’s difficult: catchy, informative titles are key to getting people to even consider looking at what you offer. But you must deliver.
Do this: Start looking for clickbait. Everywhere. It’s older than you think.
7. “How can you hear this?”
Remember Love with the poet Cleo Wade – Simon Sinek – (A Bit of Optimism podcast)
Having just been recommended this podcast from author Simon “Start With Why” Sinek, I was skeptical coming in because poetry is not something I’m drawn to. I’m glad I stayed. The conversation was about much more than poetry, but about communication, and as the title suggests, love.
how do I communicate in a way that people can hear right now? […] do you have ever have a thing where you wanna tell someone something, whether it’s professional or romantic or a friend, and you’re like, we’ll have to wait till they can.
One of my measures for podcasts, because they can be so time consuming, is “insights per minute”. This 29 minute episode had many.
Do this: Pay attention to whether the audience you want to communicate with is in a place where they’re ready to hear you.
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More random links & thoughts
The Weaponization of Religion – James Fell. Surprisingly balanced, even his usual level of profanity is toned down just a little.
AI Is About To Photoshop Your Memories – Charlie Warzel in The Atlantic
Making Chat (ro)Bots – Spot + ChatGPT + BLIP-2 Image Recognition + Whisper speech-to-text + ElevenLabs text-to-speech = your interactive robot tour guide. Pretty amazing.
Obsidian Iceberg – Eleanor Konik – “My goal with this newsletter is that sharing some pieces of that will help folks like you learn interesting things that help make your life better — even just by giving you something interesting to talk about at your next party ;)” I subscribed for the advice on the Obsidian note taking app, and stayed for everything else. “Gripping high concepts” came from here this week.
Full (and growing) list on the sources page.
What I’m Reading
Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie
It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman