September 24th, 2017 · 39 comments
A Lonely Binge
I recently read three books on the topic of solitude. Two were actually titled Solitude, while the third, and most recently published, was titled Lead Yourself First — which is pitched as a leadership guide, but is actually a meditation on the value of being alone with your thoughts.
This last book resonated with me in part because it was co-authored by a former Army officer and a well-respected federal appellate judge, meaning it’s written with the type of exacting logic and ontological clarity that warms my overly-technical nerd heart.
Style aside, Lead Yourself First makes many interesting points, but there were two lessons in particular that struck me as relevant to the types of things we talk about here. So I thought I would share them:
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September 18th, 2017 · 40 comments
Kevin Kelly and the Amish
Eight years after dropping out of college to wander Asia, Kevin Kelly returned home to America, bought an inexpensive bike, and made a meandering 5,000 mile journey across the country. As he recalls in his original and insightful 2010 book, What Technology Wants, the “highlight” of the bike tour was “gliding through the tidy farmland of the Amish in eastern Pennsylvania.”
Kelly ended up returning to the Amish on multiple occasions during the years that followed his first encounter, allowing him to develop a nuanced understanding of how these communities approach technology. As he reveals in Chapter 11 of his book, the common idea that the Amish reject all modern technology is a myth. The reality is not only more interesting, but it also has important implications for our current culture.
As Kelly puts it: “In any discussion about the merits of avoiding the addictive grasp of technology, the Amish stand out as offering an honorable alternative.”
Given such a strong endorsement, it seems worthwhile to briefly summarize what Kelly uncovered during these visits to rural Pennsylvania…
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September 11th, 2017 · 24 comments
Contemplating the Importance of Contemplation
Franklin Foer has a new book coming out this week. It’s titled, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech.
I haven’t read it yet, but this morning, on returning from a family camping trip, I read Foer’s essay in today’s Washington Post and a recent interview with The Verge (as, of course, there’s no better time to contemplate the existential threat of technology than right after a weekend in the woods).
According to the interview in The Verge, Foer writes in the book: “the tech companies are destroying the possibility of contemplation.”
This premise is one I obviously support, having written an entire book on why we should fight to retain our diminishing ability for sustained attention.
But whereas my main issue with digital distraction was limited to issues of personal satisfaction and productivity, Foer, in elaborating his contemplation quote, goes much broader in his concern:
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September 1st, 2017 · 22 comments
Not Open to Openness
Apple’s new Cupertino headquarters cost $5 billion (see above). One of its prominent features is a massive open office space in which many Apple engineers sit on benches at long shared work tables.
As Apple aficionado John Gruber revealed in a recent episode of his podcast, not everyone is happy with this decision.
“I heard that when floor plans were announced, that there was some meeting with Johny Srouji’s team,” said Gruber, before explaining that Srouji is an important senior vice president in charge of Apple’s custom silicon chips.
Srouji, to put it politely, was not pleased with the idea of moving his team to a cacophonous, distracting, cavernous open office.
As Gruber tells it:
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