Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success Posts from 2018 March

On Social Media and Its Discontents

March 20th, 2018 · 4 comments

Split Reactions

As someone who has publicly criticized the major social media platforms for years, I’ve become familiar with the common arguments surrounding this topic.

One of the more interesting trends I’ve observed about this conversation is the split reaction to social media I used to hear from the political left before the 2016 election scrambled everything.

This split was defined largely by age.

Younger progressives were fiercely in favor of social media and were often appalled that people like me might say something negative about these services.

I remember one particularly lively radio debate, held on the Canadian equivalent of NPR, in which one of the other guests fought my suggestion that users should perform a personal cost/benefit analysis for these tools by arguing that even discussing this strategy was problematic as it might trick people into not using social media — a self-evident tragedy.

Older progressives, by contrast, were more skeptical of these platforms. This was especially true of tech-savvy activists like Jaron Lanier or Douglas Rushkoff who were connected to earlier techno-utopian movements.

On closer analysis, this gap seemed to stem from how these different cohorts understood social media’s relationship to the internet.

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Stephen Hawking’s Radical Thinking

March 15th, 2018 · 7 comments

The Death of a Genius

Earlier this week, Stephen Hawking died. It was a sad day for lovers of science.

Hawking’s breakthrough work from 1974 provided the world a new understanding of black holes. It also unified, for the first time, quantum mechanics with gravity — laying the conceptual foundation on which any attempt at a unified theory of physics must build.

There is, however, another important insight to extract from Hawking’s efforts — one that’s less often discussed…

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Tim Wu on the Tyranny of Convenience

March 3rd, 2018 · 32 comments

An Important Essay

Earlier this month, Tim Wu wrote an important 2500-word essay for the New York Times’s Sunday Review. It was titled: “The Tyranny of Convenience.”

Wu’s piece is both deep and scattered — an indication that the target of his inquiry, the role of “convenience” in shaping the culture and economy of the last century, is both crucial and under-explored.

His thesis begins with the claim that we’ve increasingly oriented our lives around convenience, which has benefits, such as reducing drudgery, but at the same time can leech individuality and character from our lives.

This basic idea is not new. Mid-century writers like Richard Yates were already quite concerned about related issues like suburban conformity.

But Wu distinguishes his analysis by identifying how consumer-oriented companies reacted to the destabilization of the 1960’s counterculture by instead focusing on making the quest for individuality itself more convenient.

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