> It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.
— Daniel Kahneman
I don’t hate math per se; I hate its current representations. Have you ever tried multiplying roman numerals? It’s incredibly, ridiculously difficult. That’s why, before the 14th century, everyone thought that multiplication was an incredibly difficult concept, and only for the mathematical elite. Then arabic numerals came along, with their nice place values, and we discovered that even seven-year-olds can handle multiplication just fine. There was nothing difficult about the concept of multiplication — the problem was that numbers, at the time, had a bad user interface.
So, now I come to the part where I make my plea: no new tools, please. If you are interested in improving how people work, you should devise methods for work, manners of behavior, and methods of decision making. Document your ideology and apply it with existing tools, so nearly anyone can follow along. Why don’t you use our best tool? Language. Increasingly, I feel documentation beats an app if you’re trying to shepherd an idea along. This approach seems to have worked pretty well for David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Josh Clark’s Couch to 5K. Of course there are innumerable apps supporting each method, but the ideas are bigger than an app, so you don’t need to download anything. Buy a notebook or put on your running shoes. Commit to the plan. They are not leaky buckets.
Consider making a program for people, not a program for a computer. I don’t want a new app to help me do work; I want different ways to think about work so I can get more done. It’s a nuanced difference, but I think it is an important one.
Commodity exchange will either be missing or frowned upon to the degree that a group thinks of itself as one body, as "of a piece." Tribal groups or close-knit families would be examples. There is a famous law in the Old Testament … a double law which prohibits the charging of interest on loans to members of the tribe while allowing that it may be charged to strangers. In other terms, such a law asks that gift exchange predominate within the group, while allowing that strangers may deal in commodities.
There’s a scene in an episode of The West Wing where President Bartlet has his personal aide Charlie go on the hunt to purchase a new carving knife for the holidays. With each knife Charlie brings to the Oval Office, Bartlet shoots down his selection, citing the details he finds important. This happens several times, and finally Charlie brings the best possible knife he can find in Washington. President Bartlet inspects the knife closely while Charlie describes the finer details of what makes this knife the finest knife available. And with that, President Bartlet refuses the knife, much to Charlie’s exasperation. But then, Bartlet produces an heirloom knife of his own, apparently made by Paul Revere and in his family for generations, and gives it to Charlie as his Christmas gift.
This is what good gifts feel like. We are educated to the nature of them so that we may appreciate them more fully. This is the point of sharing something, whether it is a family heirloom, a collection of images, a shared video on YouTube, or a piece of writing on a blog. For us to properly value it, we must understand the quality of it and have a story to understand why it is so precious. Something travels from me to you, and in the process, we both gain.
Alexander lays out a framework for why he feels "unselfconscious" cultures (tribal, pre-formal education, oral tradition) produces forms with better fit than "self-conscious" cultures.
A lot of times when I’m stuck, it’s because I haven’t read anything that’s moved me, anything that’s made me go, I want to write stories that do for others what this did for me. Writer’s block is very often reader’s block.
I tweeted these forever ago, but the internet just noticed and I figure I should probably at least put them on my blog. I’m glad people are finding them useful.
Here they are, a mix of things learned from directors & coworkers at Pixar, listening to writers & directors talk about their craft, and via trial and error in the making of my own films.
You can find more stuff I talk about on twitter as @lawnrocket - film and storytelling mostly. I try to keep the what-I-ate-for-lunch posts to a minimum.
The Gift was written between 1977 and 1982 and published in 1983. It contains very little topical detail from those years, my hope at the time being to write what might be called a "prophetic essay," a rather grand way of saying that I intended to describe something that was the case no matter the decade rather than something contingently true. Nor, therefore is The Gift a very practical book. It describes a problem — the disconnect between the practice of art and common forms of earning a living — but it refrains from exploring a resolution. That restraint is of a piece with the ahistorical impulse, of course, for most solutions are of their time and will vary as the times vary.