Late 19th century Victorian radiator with a built in warming oven which was usually used to keep plates warm before serving food on them.
I love catching glimpses of ingenuity from throughout history. While I can reason why we abandoned this particular concept, as appealing as it may be, I often wonder why some others went by the wayside. Perhaps, just like in fashion, they’re just waiting for someone to take inspiration from them once again.
I’m embarrassed to confess that after more than twelve years in the technology industry and with a Masters degree for Science in Information, I have only just learned of Claude Shannon.
In a blockbuster paper in 1948, Claude Shannon introduced the notion of a “bit” and laid the foundation for the information age. His ideas ripple through nearly every aspect of modern life, influencing such diverse fields as communication, computing, cryptography, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cosmology, linguistics, and genetics.
I hope to have a chance to catch this documentary if it ever makes its way to the Pacific Northwest or to streaming video. In the meantime, we can all learn more about Shannon the The Bit Player website.
Recently, I was confronted with a choice between multiple, equally good yet entirely different options. As much as I had prepared myself in the lead up to the decision, I hadn’t considered a scenario as good—or as challenging. Having exhausted all logic and reason (e.g. pro/con lists), I felt stuck and my anxiety began rising sharply.
Fortunately, my partner shared this TED Talk by Ruth Chang who discusses how to make hard choices when confronted with equally good but strikingly different paths. It helped me tremendously and I hope it will also serve you when you need it most.
Once again, Mr. Roger reminds us about what’s important in life. For a society that values information over wonder, we too often deprive ourselves and others of silence. With deprivation, we rob ourselves of the time to reflect and wonder.
Last month, through extreme sacrifice and personal loss, Caitlin Boston paid off more than $200K in student loans all by her “freaking self”. She attributes a large part of her success to asking her male colleagues what they were making.
“Ask your other peers what they make — especially your male ones. It might make you feel uncomfortable but it’s the sole reason I started making an additional 41% a year.”
None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after-thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.
A friend recently directed me to an interview with Lucy Ellmann, author of the book Ducks, Newburyport. I’d previously never heard of either the author or her book and yet I was prevailed upon to read the article. Ellmann is certainly the type of person you want as a neighbor, friend, or if you’re a mother, she is someone you want to be a part of your outcast / rebel mom click. She’s witty and fiercely independent and a midwestern American living in Scotland, so she’d be a good person to know for a visit.
I can’t say I know what to think of her writing style or book. Ellman self-describes it as one long run-on sentence—the stream of consciousness of an overwhelmed and anxious Ohio housewife. A commenter notes that there are 19,000 instances of the term “the fact that.” This trifecta of rebellion against structure, convention, and punctuation may be more than I can bare. I have 13-weeks until my library hold, which may just enough time to mentally prepare myself for what could either be a fantastic mind bend or a deflated and grumbly gut.
This quote in the interview is what tipped the balance and led me to give the book a go.
I’ve been rudely criticized in the past for using too many capital letters, but you know what? I DON’T CARE. What is wrong with using all the techniques at our disposal? I’m not spraying anybody’s linguine dinner with air freshener, I’m just reconsidering form. It’s not a crime. Yet.
I like illustrations too, and wish I had more. I don’t see why only children’s books get to have pictures.
Lucy Ellmann, Lucy Ellmann, a Great American Novelist Hiding in Plain Sight
This talk by Margaret Heffernan more intelligently and eloquently expresses the idea that’s been noodling in my mind for some time. That it isn’t an inevitability that we lose our humanity at scale. In fact, we should double down on our humanity–compassion, empathy, and attention–the larger an organization gets. Without it, we become little more than a cog in an unfeeling and uncaring machine.
Preparedness, coalition-building, imagination, experiments, bravery — in an unpredictable age, these are tremendous sources of resilience and strength. They aren’t efficient, but they give us limitless capacity for adaptation, variation and invention. And the less we know about the future, the more we’re going to need these tremendous sources of human, messy, unpredictable skills.
But in our growing dependence on technology, we’re asset-stripping those skills. Every time we use technology to nudge us through a decision or a choice or to interpret how somebody’s feeling or to guide us through a conversation, we outsource to a machine what we could, can do ourselves, and it’s an expensive trade-off. The more we let machines think for us, the less we can think for ourselves.
The more time doctors spend staring at digital medical records, the less time they spend looking at their patients. The more we use parenting apps, the less we know our kids. The more time we spend with people that we’re predicted and programmed to like, the less we can connect with people who are different from ourselves. And the less compassion we need, the less compassion we have.
What all of these technologies attempt to do is to force-fit a standardized model of a predictable reality onto a world that is infinitely surprising. What gets left out? Anything that can’t be measured — which is just about everything that counts.