Dark Side of Achievement Culture and a Belief in Great Work

Making Sense:

Do as I say, not as I do. We are immersed in a culture that worships at the altar of drive and ambition, yet we still need time (and space) to make things happen. Ironically, the very same organizations fail to walk the talk.

  • The dark side of America’s achievement culture. Quartz: I’d say it took me about seven years after leaving the law firm to let the demons go—to not feel like I was always falling behind my own expectations, or what my peers were doing, or what my parents thought, or my own supposed potential; to view my time intrinsically, as well as instrumentally. And this was the point at which I was able to meaningfully contribute to the success of an organization (and form healthy relationships), in large part because I was more at ease with myself and others.
  • Everyone Wants You To Have Security, But Not from Them. Schneier on Security: Eric Schmidt does want your data to be secure. He wants Google to be the safest place for your data ­ as long as you don't mind the fact that Google has access to your data. Facebook wants the same thing: to protect your data from everyone except Facebook. Hardware companies are no different. Last week, we learned that Lenovo computers shipped with a piece of adware called Superfish that broke users' security to spy on them for advertising purposes. Governments are no different. The FBI wants people to have strong encryption, but it wants backdoor access so it can get at your data.

Making Do:

Machines can learn to represent the world. Can / do they feel? Belief is good when it focuses on people. We are the ones with feelings and we can navigate the fine line of asking reality to explain itself. The best among us manage to do it.

  • Facebook AI Director Yann LeCun on His Quest to Unleash Deep Learning and Make Machines Smarter. IEEE Spectrum: while Deep Learning gets an inspiration from biology, it’s very, very far from what the brain actually does. And describing it like the brain gives a bit of the aura of magic to it, which is dangerous. It leads to hype; people claim things that are not true. AI has gone through a number of AI winters because people claimed things they couldn’t deliver.
  • Bruce Sterling on why you shouldn't care how SIRI feels. Hopes & Fears: we can feel empathy for Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, and she doesn't exist, either. "Artificial Intelligence" doesn't exist. Systems of code and hardware that are pretty complicated can exist. Did you ever wince when somebody drops a MacBook on the hard floor?
  • A farewell to #content: Optimism, worries, and a belief in great work. Nieman Lab: the line between healthy skepticism and obliterating cynicism is an important one. In fact, Betsy made this point when writing about the sudden passing of widely beloved and appreciated media reporter David Carr. "Everyone’s written about him, thousands of words of eulogy. I’ll just say that Carr managed the trick that I most admire: He was skeptical without ever seeming cynical. In fact, he seemed as skeptical of cynicism as he was of any other pat answer."

Making It:

Understanding is born of seeing — whether that be the real issues inherent in policy, making room for new ideas and craft, or visiting the places where life happens, unedited.

  • FCC votes for net neutrality, a ban on paid fast lanes, and Title II. Ars Technica: The Internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. It is simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field. Think about it. The Internet has replaced the functions of the telephone and the post office. The Internet has redefined commerce, and as the outpouring from four million Americans has demonstrated, the Internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression. The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.
  • Marie Kondo is right. Clean up is good for the soul. Om Malik: Today, I much prefer few things — well fitting, mostly bespoke, and built to last into the future when I might be long gone. The mainstream brands have little room in my life, instead I prefer to find craftsmanship. I like makers who make, because they don’t know what else to do.
  • Urban Italy. Cool Hunting: I like to consider Urban Italy a kind of 2.0 version of my Moleskines—basically Italy the way that I'd like to see it (after having lived here for 20-odd years). The project started as a personal collection of contemporary addresses and insider information from the tip to the toe (literally!) that I gathered while traveling around for architecture, food, interiors and pathological modernist furniture-collecting. Then I asked a handful of foreign friends around the country to give me their 'best of' to have a wider coverage of things to do and places to go. There are currently five of us working on the project, all foreigners living in Italy.


[RIP Leonard Nimoy]