A Daily Note

Systems, Creativity, Technology

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Mediation of Reality

“John Muir published How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive in 1969. In one of the many asides that enliven the book and give it a countercultural feel, he wonders about the effects of some of the newfangled safety equipment, like seat belts. He writes, “If we all constantly drive as if we are strapped to the front of the car like Aztec sacrifices so we’d be the first thing hit, there would be a lot less accidents.”

“The animating ideal seems to be that the driver should be a disembodied observer, moving through a world of objects that present themselves as though on a screen”

“What all this idiot-proofing and abstraction amounts to is a genuine poverty of information reaching the driver.”

“Disconnection—pressing a button to make something happen—facilitates an experience of one’s own will as something unconditioned by all those contingencies that intervene between an intention and its...

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Plumbers are an unexpected protagonist in the story of human machine collaboration.

They render a utility, on your pipes, in your house – they don’t care about your friends, your friends’ friends and showing anyone their flyers.

They would not want to take your pipes, nor would you shlep your pipes to your plumber. A plumber has no central repository of all piping problems they fixed (although that might actually be useful). And the plumber is not reselling anonymized versions of your pipes.

On a deeper level a plumber is an instantiated form of plumbing. Each plumber is a unique instance of plumbing.
They are an absolutely unique and independent (do not communicate to a central code base of plumbing), they display emergence (2 plumbers might develop a skill, or offering by working together), and don’t rely on any top down guidance.

*In computing this could partially likened to...

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Software is a False Realestate Business

In the real world bricks are laid, and cement in poured into a finite set of rooms and apartments (n). Those are then sold to their respective new owners, and the value of each each unit (u) is x / U*n

Although software finiteness is more flexible, and scaling costs almost nothing, it follows more real estate logic than we realize.

Model View Controller (Reenskaug, Kay, Goldberg 1979) is de facto the only server architecture we use. It has 2 main, and unchallenged characteristics: stationary databases, and proprietary interface points.

In our building, it means that the basement has a bunch of servers, and that for anyone walking in needs to be signed in by the doorman, or at least have you in the book (register, sign in).

Then, once in, every step is followed, and every opportunity for attention (new door open, idle time in the elevator) will be monetized (by ads).

The owner of...

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Inspiration is an Emergent Property of Meaning

Needy brands need love, acceptance, and mind–share in order to grow. In return they give people utility, and a solution to what they ask.

Needy brands exist for needy people’s immediate needs. People who need more of they have, need needy brands.

Needy brands live within minimum viable brands. They conditionally predictable, and optimized.

Unlike neediness, thin-air ideas live as beacons in the distance. They start being out of reach, and inspire us to find mental models and language to reach them.

No one is conducting ethnographic study to design inspiration.
And maybe that is the problem.

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Roads not Cars

Building cars is tricky business. A car is an intricate set of mechanisms, technologically sophisticated systems, intertwined and packaged in an aesthetically pleasing box.

Next to building cards, roads could seem secondary. Mundane links between cities and neighborhoods. An afterthought, something we need to have all those car zipping around on.

But when the manufacturing of your car is fully automated, all of the houses in your neighborhood are 3D printed, and you time–share a robot nanny – deciding where to go next, what road to build, is the only thing a robot can’t do. Robot does not move, the need for mobility (intellectual, social, recreational) is entirely human.

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[Book] Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives


Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives, by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir

Great book on scarcity (of money, time), which leaves the reader with a useful set of mental tools on how to work with people’s habits, instead to curbing them.

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Book: The Art of Gathering

On etiquette and rules by Priya Parker:

“There is no doubt that etiquette has a certain value”

“These positive features of etiquette work particularly well in stable, closed, homogeneous groups. When like gathers with like, etiquette often does its work so well that no one notices its presence”

“The problem is that more and more of us do not live in closed circles of like-minded, similarly raised people”

“The rise of pop-up rules can be better understood against this backdrop. It is no accident that rules-based gatherings are emerging as modern life does away with monocultures and closed circles of the similar.”

“The etiquette approach to life is also imperious. It is the opposite of humble. It shows minimal interest in how different cultures or regions do things. It upholds a gold standard of behavior as the only acceptable one for people who wish to be seen as refined”

“A third...

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More on People Acting Like Websites

We encounter robots every day.

When we call costumer service, or speak to company’s representative in person — and feel like we’re talking to a script and not a person.

With zero agency that person relinquished their ability to think, and unable navigate their role and position.

This is not limited to cable company rep’s – this phenomenon can be found in HR departments, design thinking sprints, and many business settings.

If we had the time (and were paid to) we could write a detailed rule based program (if-then statements) that drive the actions of this automata. This person is the antagonist of a future of human fulfillment and useful robots.

In many real, and worrying ways this person offers no value more than a simple website*.

In effect these individuals are already automated – and are just waiting to pass the keys.

These are the people that would gain the most from...

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More on Robots

Robots do only what they’re told. Robots can’t generate an original thought, or when they do it is because of an anomaly in their scripts.

Robots are there to output other people’s directions and ideas.

Robots don’t look back at their lives and ruminate on new ideas and new thoughts.

Robots can never answer what they’re interested in. Robots are made of circuits which were made by someone else.

Robots are focused. But have no peripheral vision*.

I borrowed this from Tinker Dabble Doodle Try, Srini Pillay M.D.

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The Long Tail is a Facade

The Long Tail is 3 dimensional, it is more of a long facade. Behind each of those points hides an instance of an offering, a system. Some are shallow (Peach) and some are deep (APC Surplus).

Just showing up on the tail (with an agile startup) is not enough. In fact it is wasteful (cognitive hours burnt).

Small, sustainable, branded communication connects to a fellow to human–humans and repels human–robots (those people who like the ads on the L train, or who–at work–don’t offer any more usefulness than a company’s website).

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