Book Ideas

Mostly just some title ideas, but they have a little bit of meat behind them. Some a little more than others.

Thinking In Bits

Musings on the ongoing digital transformation of everything

  • Work
  • Mobility
  • Finance
  • Government
  • Education
  • Relationships

You Should Always Follow the Rules (except when you shouldn’t)

On the importance of rules and why you should learn them so that you can break them

    1. Learn the rules
    2. Understand the consequences of not following the rules, and of following them
    3. Always follow the rules, except when you shouldn’t
    4. When a rule needs to be changed, change it

Variations On a Theme (Fractals and power laws)

Everything is just a variation of everything else. Some great insight on this from Scale by Geoffrey West.

29 Marbles (inclusion)

Not sure exactly where this one would go, but I’m thinking it to be an exploration of the “other”. Will also look at the impact of “compliance culture”. I expect that The Non-Conformist will come into play in some form, as so many people talk about disruption and difference and diversity, as long as they are the disrupters, the ones who are different, the unique ones.

A post from EK today really resonated here: Why are personal assistants allowed for some people in some jobs or other situations, but not allowed for others?

Anatomy of a [something]: tracing [it] back through history

You find yourself in a convenience store, or better yet a drug store. Say, Walgreens. Look around, what do you see? Have you ever wondered about what it has taken to get to this point, not just how all of this stuff found its way on the shelves in the store, but how those products actually came into being. And how did that become possible. Example: Toilet paper – how does it get to the store, how is it packaged at the factory, how is it manufactured, where do the raw materials come from, what was the first use of it. Et cetera ad infinitum. The business concepts in place for the store, and all of the products. And of course the logistics involved in getting things to the shelves. And let’s not forget the history of those logistics: trucks, internal combustion engines, diesel / gasoline, rubber for tires. Supply chain management.

References that come to mind: The scene in The Hurt Locker where he’s looking at all the waffles, The Story of Stuff.

Layers of abstraction, the cost of convenience, and the commoditization of experience

The story of progress is one of abstraction, of increased convenience, and the taming of novel experience into the everyday. An obvious example that comes to mind is in programming, and in fact this is the context in which this idea first came to me. I learned to program in BASIC in high school, but in my first digital electronics lab at UMR we learned how to program the 8088 processor using machine language, and then assembly language. I have no memory of either language, but what did stick with me was the idea all higher level languages are simply abstractions of those languages that humans can understand and write. The farther away from machine / assembly you get, the easier (more convenient) it is to get the machine to do what you want it to do, but at the cost of understanding what exactly you are telling the machine to do. And as things get more convenient, you don’t even need the experience of understanding: writing a block of code to something in a given context becomes nothing more than a copy/paste from Stack Overflow or some other place where someone (or something) else has already had the experience of creation.

A very different example, but one still close to my heart, is the sport of rock climbing. I learned to climb when I was in high school, in the early ’80s, when it was still a novelty. Before we could actually start climbing we had to learn basic rope management, the various knots, how to belay. And the gear, though effective, was by today’s standards, very rudimentary; if you needed your gear to do something, you figured out how to make it work. Today if you want to climb, you just go to the local rock gym, rent a harness and some shoes, get a quick lesson on how the auto-belay works, and away you go. Not saying this is a bad thing, I love that so many people are being introduced to the sport, even if they only climbing they ever do is in the gym. But that commoditization of the experience, that extreme convenience, abstracts them away from the joys of adventure climbing.

Of course, these examples are important, but they aren’t life and death. Like, say, knowing how to hunt, kill, clean, and prepare your own food. Or how to clear some land and build your own shelter.

One last example for now: When I first heard Dave Gray talking about his latest book, Liminal Thinking, I wrote down “layers of abstraction” among my notes. Though different from the other examples here, the more we commoditize our thinking – the more we are on auto-pilot – the more abstracted we are from an understanding of where our beliefs come from, and the harder it is to understand where others are coming from.