Newsletter for 29 Oct 2022

Newsletter for 29 Oct 2022
Photo by Nika Benedictova / Unsplash

In this newsletter, I share what I'm reading and watching during the week. I may also touch on current events. I'll try to show how the books, videos, and events tie in with ideas in the Bene Homini space.

In this newsletter, I cover one news item, three books, and one video:

  • Elon Musk buys Twitter
  • Invent & Wander (pp. 146–175)
  • The STAR Interview (Ch. 5)
  • Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Ch. 3)
  • Léo Lorenzo and Attila Kobori - Open Strictly Final - Bavarian Open 2022

In the News

Elon Musk buys Twitter

There have been several stories about Elon Musk buying Twitter. It's been a rollercoaster ride, but it's done. So now we'll see what happens to Twitter.

In an upcoming post, I'll go into more depth, but the short answer is that no single place can be a welcoming forum for everyone. Elon compared Twitter to a town square everyone shares, but social media is closer to a coffee house.

Coffee houses in 17th and 18th century England were gathering places for people with similar interests. For example, those interested in insuring ships might gather at Lloyd's coffee house. News traveled from coffee house to coffee house through runners and overlapping social circles.

We don't need Twitter or any other walled-garden social media platform. None of them mimic human practice or consider the human condition except for their advantage.

Instead, we can use the Fediverse, a loose collection of social media sites that federate with each other. They're like coffee houses with particular interests, overlapping social circles, and runners carrying news from one place to another.

A popular server type that replicates much of the good parts of Twitter is Mastodon. If you are interested in the topics I write about here, you can join, a Mastodon instance that federates with the Fediverse. But if you're on another instance, that's okay because you can still be part of the conversation. It's not a walled garden.

Books I'm Reading

Note that I'm not giving links to the books. However, you should be able to find them at your favorite bookseller, given the title and the author I mentioned in the text.

Invent & Wander

Jeff Bezos continues with his shareholder letters for 2016–2018. A couple of things stand out: insisting on quality and discovering what people don't know they need.

Quality requires managing expectations: if you don't know how long it will take to achieve quality, you might stop too soon. For example, Jeff tells the story of someone wanting to learn to stand on their hands. A coach told them that it would take daily practice for six months. Without that, the person might have stopped after a couple of weeks, convinced they couldn't stand on their hands.

Just because we want something like quality doesn't mean we have it. We have to work daily to achieve the quality we're looking for. Because we have to know what to expect to achieve quality, we can't assume that if we're good at one thing, we'll automatically be good at something else.

The trick when coaching is to know what is achievable. If we can depend on someone to coach us, then we have a head start. If not, we must learn to coach ourselves, mainly because we don't want to stop too soon.

Don't be disappointed if you're not the perfectly empathetic, science-based person you want to be. It can take time and practice. So give yourself room to grow and room to fail.

The other thing, discovering what people don't know they need, is trickier. One approach might be to put yourself in their place, perhaps using techniques I've discussed in these newsletters about The STAR Interview. We all have blind spots. You might be able to see options that they are blind to.

The STAR Interview

This week, I read the fifth chapter: Results. This chapter is about the consequences of the actions. What happened because somebody took action? What didn't occur because somebody took action? Sometimes, it's what someone might avoid that is important.

When interviewing for a job, we want to demonstrate that we understand how a business works. When telling a story about someone in a situation, we want to show that we know the person and their circumstances. This is why empathy is more powerful than sympathy or compassion. Empathy fights condescension. It helps us understand what is needed rather than what's easy for us to do.

We also want to contextualize the results. Are they comparable to typical results for others in a similar situation? Better? Worse? What can look like a bad result without context can seem like a pretty good outcome if people usually have it worse.

Debt: The First 5,000 Years

In the third chapter, David Graeber shows that credit preceded money. Money is a unit of measure, and the thing it measures is debt. That is, money is not a commodity or a store of value. Instead, it's an IOU that somebody can redeem for something of comparable value. Once IOUs start getting passed around rather than redeemed, they become currency.

One way that this comes up is through paying it forward. Rather than each person paying for their service use, they pay towards someone else's benefit. This averages the "IOUs" over the group, shifting the responsibility away from the individual to the community without any top-down structure supporting tax-funded social services. It's also different from charity because all participants are getting something in return as if they had gone to a merchant.

YouTube Videos I've Enjoyed

Léo Lorenzo and Attila Kobori - Open Strictly Final - Bavarian Open 2022

This video was my introduction to West Coast Swing, an improvisational dance style. Improvisation is all about embracing and extending, accepting and adding. It's about building on someone else's work to create something new.

Improvisation isn't about doing something random. Instead, performers practice different movements until they are second nature. Then, when it's time to add something, they draw on what they've practiced. The result is an expert flow that can go in unexpected directions without feeling janky.

That's it for this week. Check back next week to see what I dig up over the next few days!

If you have a favorite book or video that you'd like me to see, reply to this email and let me know about it.