Nov 18, 2016

If we’re constantly chasing the future moment when everything will feel perfect, won’t that make the daily grind seem even more arduous? Perhaps the only truly rewarding life is the one lived with no hope of reward.

Nov 15, 2016

When the algorithms are making the decisions, people often stop working to get better. The algorithms can make it hard to diagnose reasons for failures. As people become more dependent on algorithms, their judgment may erode, making them depend even more on the algorithms. That process sets up a vicious cycle. People get passive and less vigilant when algorithms make the decisions.

Nov 4, 2016

These findings illustrate how irritation and complaint are self-reinforcing: objecting to something you can’t control brings a moment of catharsis, but mainly makes things worse, by increasing the attention you bring to the problem, which makes it more intrusive. You end up listening more acutely for the next noise and getting more irritated when it comes. It’s stressful even when there’s no noise, because you’re on edge, waiting for the silence to be broken. No wonder a single complaint becomes hundreds: the complaining is nourishing the problem. This gets easier to see if you think about these minor irritations like a difficulty encountered in a relationship – in this case, between you and your environment. Railing against them is like falling out with your partner, then continuing, over and over, to pick further fights for the sake of it. And when has that ever helped?

Nov 3, 2016

The hoarder has “things” after all, items like books and records that are clues to a past when things were stores of knowledge, signifiers, totems of meaning. The cyber lords want it all destroyed. The library must be cleaned of nasty old books and filled with computers. The record collector must renounce his or her albums and replace them with an iPod.

Oct 28, 2016

There’s nothing new in the observation that perfectionism leads to procrastination, but too often we perfectionists are secretly proud of our affliction: we’re convinced that this time, finally, if we pulled out all the stops, we might get things exactly right. The bracing Gnostic response is: forget it. Creation is imperfect by definition; to bring something into being is unavoidably to screw it up. It’s not a question of “embracing failure”, but of seeing there’s no option but to embrace failure. I’m pretty sure the Gnostics didn’t intend it as motivational advice, but that’s the effect it has on me: it’s far easier to get things done, and to take interesting risks, if you’ve already failed. There’s no point worrying things might go wrong when they already have.

Oct 25, 2016

When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set.
— Lin Yutang, writer and translator (1895–1976)

Oct 14, 2016

All of which goes to show that external constraints aren’t antithetical to fun, but rather a precondition of it: a game with no limiting rules is no game at all. One curious consequence of this is that fun isn’t always, or even usually, pleasurable. Ask any serious player of chess, golf or video games, and they’ll concede it’s often a struggle – otherwise, why bother playing? Fun, from this perspective, isn’t a matter of enjoying yourself in the moment, but of looking back with satisfaction at having found creative new possibilities in whatever constraints you’re facing.

Sep 7, 2016

These children, who are at our mercy, are well aware of our power over them, and aware too of the things in us which can do them harm. There’s little sense in our saying to them, “Now be a good child.” Better for us to say to each other, “Be a good adult.”
— Caroline Pratt, I Learn from Children: An Adventure in Progressive Education, 1948 (via Orange Crate Art: “Be a good adult”)

Sep 6, 2016

„You talk as if a god had made the Machine,“ cried the other. „I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that.“
— E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops (1909)

Aug 29, 2016

Ultimately, the Levitt experiment may echo that weather-beaten advice often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Faced with two seemingly equal options, choose the scarier. Not because the universe will respect your courage and grant you Unlimited Power, as Robbins would probably tell you. But because fear is almost certainly skewing your judgment.
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