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Memento Mori - 7 Takeaways No. 128
Science, Debt, Data, Death, Communication, COVID, AI, Acceptance
1. “A scientific misstep is more prone to course correction than political propaganda”
The Next Pandemic: What would you do differently? – Daniela J. Lamas – (The New York Times)
The next pandemic is something I’ve been trying to think about more. What would I do differently? What choices would I make? Who would I believe? The New York Times has a newsletter called “The Next Pandemic”, so of course I signed up. It has different perspectives from a variety of individuals to help prepare for when, not if, the next pandemic strikes.
I took the takeaway above from reader feedback to the prompt: “How will your experience with Covid-19 shape your approach to the next pandemic?”. (Unfortunately, not included in the NYT web archive.) The reader, with unstated political affiliation, says “I will not rely on political partisans”. While science may occasionally get things wrong, it does a much better job of correcting itself as new information is found.
Indeed. That’s definitely a party-agnostic observation.
Do this: Follow the science. (And prepare.)
2. “Data is valuable only in the aggregate of millions”
There’s no such thing as data – Benedict Evans – (Blog)
This is something I struggle to explain to people. With extremely few exceptions, no one cares about you as an individual. While there are certainly valid concerns about how, when, and where our information is collected, it rarely poses any kind of personal threat. That’s not where the value lies. It’s in the aggregation of information that more information becomes visible.
the value isn’t in the ‘data’ at all but in the flow of activity around it
That you might click on a specific link is useless information by itself. That a million people thought enough to click on it, though, is incredibly valuable knowledge.
Do this: Keep perspective.
3. “You just gotta mint the coin.”
Mint the Coin – Matt Tait – (PwnAllTheThings newsletter)
I normally avoid politics here, but this is an interesting conundrum that I never fully understood: the US Debt ceiling and the various plans to deal with it. Tait makes the case that “minting the coin”, a 1 trillion dollar coin, is the most appropriate, and least destabilizing alternative.
Besides, how cool would a trillion dollar coin be? (Tait gets bonus points for perhaps the best mock-up of a coin that I’ve seen to date).
The one thing everyone agrees on is that defaulting on the debt would be bad; very bad. And that holding the government hostage for your political agenda is also excruciatingly bad.
Do this: If you’re at all curious about the issue, check out the article. At least check out the mock-up.
4. “You cannot be conscious of your own nonconsciousness”
Think About Your Death and Live Better – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)
I mention Brooks work frequently, because I find his perspectives insightful, particularly if you want to live a happier life.
Contemplating death can encourage positive thinking
That’s not an obvious insight. And yet:
People primed to think about their demise tended to focus on favorable emotional information around them, and to interpret random words in a more congenial way.
The inverse is also true: people who avoid thoughts about their eventual and inevitable death tend to “sleepwalk through life”, as Brooks puts it.
Do this: Memento Mori.
5. “It is much easier to improve your communication skills than your intelligence”
Excellent Advice for Living – Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier – Kevin Kelly – (ebook)
The importance of our ability to communicate well is something I’ve gradually come to believe more strongly. It’s one thing I wished I would have focused on earlier.
Few people do, at any point in their lives. Be it writing skills, speaking skills, or just the ability to hold a thoughtful and deep conversation on a topic, it’s just not something many take the time to improve. And yet, your ability to communicate well will serve you throughout your life, regardless of what you do or where you are.
Do this: Communicate well.
6. “The virus is here to stay”
Even with the pandemic now officially “over”, according to the lawmakers (who I’m sure know best), there remain deep concerns: long COVID, and the continued presence of the virus itself.
According to the most recent estimates, more than 65 million people worldwide may be living with some form of long Covid
That’s a frighteningly large number, particularly for something so little understood.
I’ve read assorted discussions on future vaccines as well. Should they happen? What strains should be included? Will people bother?
As she said, we’re not done.
Do this: Stay healthy: get/stay vaccinated and take appropriate precautions.
7. “You have to go find an audience”
The Number of Songs Uploaded Every Day Will Shock You – Om Malik – (On my Om blog)
To say that AI will be disruptive misses the point that it already is.
To say that AI will be controversial understates the fact of how controversial it already is. From claims of plagiarism, to misuse, to the jobs that are threatened, it’s a rat’s nest of issues that remain both scary and unresolved. The future will be interesting.
But one of my common themes is “we’ve been here before”, and this is really no different. A new technology threatens to upend the status quo and chaos ensues for a while. Same as it ever was.
The publishing industry used to say the same about their content versus content from blogs or content factories.
Google and Facebook didn’t care much about how much care and effort went into creating their words. The clicks were the currency of attention — each click informed the algorithm to send more clicks in a certain way. The same will happen (and is happening) in the music and video industries — attention begets attention
Do this: be mindful of your attention.
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8. “Accepting the present doesn’t mean ignoring the future.”
Contentment vs. Passion – Leo A. Notenboom – (Personal blog)
One of the folks I follow on aging and taking control of the rest of your life raised a question about contentment versus passion. On the surface, they seem at odds. I don’t think they are, necessarily.
I can be content and happy, even, but I can still aspire to more. I can even be passionate about that “more”. Being content means I’m in a good place. Being passionate about something that remains in my control gives me purpose and direction.
Do this: Aspire to being content.
More random links & thoughts
World’s first house made with nappy-blended concrete – (For the Americans, “nappy” == “diaper”. Yes. Diaper.) I almost put this in Not All News Is Bad.
To Scale: TIME – YouTube video. We really have no concept of how brief our existence really is. This puts it to scale.
What I’m Reading
Heaven’s River (Bobiverse Book 4) – Dennis Taylor
Do the Work – Steven Pressfield
Be Your Future Self Now: The Science of Intentional Transformation – Benjamin P. Hardy
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman