The universe isn’t remarkable because of stuff. It is remarkable because of the relationship between stuff.
That is something like a theme from the iconic and celebrated 1979 book by academic Douglas Hofstadter called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which won both Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. An entire secondary marketplace of ideas and debate centers around the meaning and intention of the book, so I will not attempt to contribute to that. The book did influence computer science, especially the development of artificial intelligence, but Hofstader has said he does not identify with technology or computer culture.
Overall, the dense book brims with interdisciplinary “strange loops,” or examples of the interrelationships between concepts that create systems.The book’s title comes famously from naming three men influential in very different fields: influential Hungarian-American logician Kurt Gödel (1906-1978); Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher (1898-1972) and legendary classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). All their work are used as examples of strange loops. I share a few notes below that I may return to in the future.
Continue reading Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
It’s a new year! As much as 40% of Americans make new year’s resolutions each year but fewer than 1 in 10 report sticking to them. I wrote my first resolutions as a teenager, and I’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t in holding yourself accountable. Here are a few tips I’ve learned that I thought might help some of you!
Continue reading Write more effective resolutions
If 2020 was a collapse, 2021 was a timid rebound. I hope to return to goals of 2019 with newfound learning and momentum to make 2022 something special.
Last year was a step back toward friends and family, thanks to a historic vaccination program and despite ensuing covid variants. I’m optimistic for continuing the development of a post-pandemic world — even though we know now that covid will almost certainly transition into a new seasonal affliction.
I see hopeful sign posts. I have plans to attend a wedding in each of the first four months of this year, all of which were postponed at least once, and they are planned to have the good food and dancing that any good wedding of old once had. For at least two of them, SACMW and I will be staying in hotels, while our baby stays with a grandparent; I understand these were once fairly normal acts in The Before Times but they’re novel, and downright exciting, to me now.
I am very eager to return to some form of travel in 2022 but it all feels so uncertain. So, though I initially considered resolutions like “Use my passport again” and “Get on a plane,” the pandemic and new parenthood combined kept those off the list for this year. Nonetheless, I have high hopes for next year.
Continue reading My 2022 resolutions
This year was better than 2020 but boy it brought its own historic stresses.
I am thankful for the remarkable vaccination program, for frontline workers, fiscal stimulus and the limitless inventiveness of humanity. I saw more family and friends this year than in 2020. My coworkers and I got ourselves to a stronger position than where we were even in 2019. I’ve regained a balance on knowing I am both extraordinarily fortunate and regularly challenged by the world.
Earlier this year, burnout caught up to me, and I had to confront those demons. I took a step back from social media and spent more time with my baby daughter and good books. Much of what I loved about my life in 2019 is still on a pandemic pause (travel, routine restaurant visits, indoor events and more). I found ritual and joy and added new habits. No matter how much this pandemic changes the world for good, I’ve changed — as a parent, the owner of a remote-only company and just a bit older and more experienced.
Thank you to so many who helped me grow this year. I hope I contributed at least as much.
Continue reading My 2021 review
Constrained ownership of digital assets could mean thrilling possibilities.
The chaotic pandemic contributed to a frenzied focus on a new stage for non-fungible tokens. I was introduced to the concept a few years back and followed with interest the explosion of attention more recently. I wanted to purchase an NFT to become more familiar with the process, to support an artist and, most importantly, to give my young daughter a small slice of this strange moment in time.
The process is still quite clunky, expensive and fairly confusing — with multiple related systems. It helped that I also recently went through a similar process to chip into a DAO.
Continue reading I bought my daughter an NFT
A single “theory of everything” exists. We just haven’t found it yet.
That’s one of the main arguments from theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), as articulated in his 1988 bestselling book A Brief History of Time. The book helped make him one of his generation’s best known intellectuals, and he used an array of impressive technologies to help him continue to shape public thought during his long battle with ALS. It helped popularize many obscure and complex ideas.
Though he didn’t win a Nobel Prize in his lifetime and he occupied a kind of celebrity status, he did contribute meaningfully to his field. In 1974, in his early 30s, Hawking argued that black holes would emit heat energy, so-called Hawking radiation, which would mean that, unless they otherwise added mass, a black hole could eventually vanish. He helped us discover that black holes might not even be, you know, black. That work gave him needed pedigree to write this book, which is a relatively breezy read while also citing much of the most exciting ideas in theoretical physics and even cosmology.
As a hobbyist consumer of pop science, I’ve long wanted to read this text. Much of what he wrote about has been covered by an array of science Youtubers and writers I follow. Yet I still got much from the book. Do read it. Below I share my notes from the book for myself.
Continue reading A Brief History of Time: Stephen Hawking’s 1988 classic theoretical physics book
The fractional ownership that has been advanced by blockchain technology is an exciting future — even if its popularity borders on the inane. Comparisons to early commercial applications of the internet seem apt. It’s difficult to decipher what will last and what will fade.
Continue reading Yeah, I chipped into a decentralized effort to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution
No matter how expert you are, a simple, carefully-constructed list will improve the quality of your output.
That’s the central point that author Atul Gawande made back in 2009 in his popular business book The Checklist Manifesto, which followed an article he wrote for the New Yorker. It’s a short book that others have recommended to me before, so I finally grabbed a copy and breezed through it. His central point is clear enough that it likely could have remained a longform article, but the book is easy enough a read that’s worth the time. If you haven’t already give it a try.
Below find my notes from the book, including tips for making a better checklist yourself.
Continue reading How to make a great checklist
From the Economist:
A book seems such a simple structure that it feels less invented than self-evident, the innovations behind it hard to see. Yet every chapter in its progress was slow, bound on either side by centuries of sluggishness. Turnable pages didn’t really arrive until the first century bc; the book form didn’t take off properly until the fourth century ad. The separating of words with spaces didn’t get going until the seventh—verylateforsomethingsouseful. Finally things accelerated: first came the index, in the 13th century, then Gutenberg, then, in 1470, the first printed page number. You can still see it in a book in the Bodleian Library.
Given its large scale, data-driven culture and willingness to experiment, Google has produced a considerable amount of intelligence on operating effective organizations.
Much of it was shared in the 2015 bestselling book Work Rules! by Google’s former chief people officer Laszlo Bock. It’s long been on my list, and earlier this year I finally finished it up.
I recommend you get yourself a copy of the book. Below for my own future reference, I share notes from my reading.
Continue reading Works Rules! Google research and data on running more effective companies from the 2015 book