Weekly I/O #36
Underemployed and Research, Get over Perfectionism, Wealth of Info, Motion Parallax, Difficult Simple Happy
Weekly I/O is a project where I share my learning Input/Output. Every Sunday, I write an email newsletter with five things I discovered and learned that week.
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The below is extracted from the email sent on March 13, 2022
Here’s a list of what I’m exploring and pondering this week.
1. “The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.” — Amos Tversky
Amos Tversky was a cognitive and mathematical psychologist famous for his collaborated work with Daniel Kahneman on developing prospect theory and other research on human cognitive bias. Their work won Daniel a Nobel prize after Tversky’s death (since the Nobel prize is not awarded posthumously) and later be summarized in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Knowledge work oftentimes requires some unstructured time to think. As Warren Buffer (seems to) said, “Busy is the new stupid”, we should try to do less, create space, and pause more often. Taking time in the middle of our day to do stuff that doesn’t look like work, like buying coffee alone or going for a walk, can be helpful for the knowledge work.
I like Amos’s and Daniel’s work and the story behind them as I always recommended my friends the book The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, which talked in detail about their work and friendship. I also find prospect theory such an elegant compression of human decision-making process. I have an article draft introducing the theory, and I should publish it soon. Let’s hold me accountable.
Also, in Malcolm Gladwell’s Writing MasterClass, and I remembered also in his book David and Goliath, he talked about how Tversky’s psychologist peers invented a “simplest” way to measure someone’s intelligence. “When you talked to Amos, the longer it took for you to realize Amos was smarter than you, the dumber you are.”
2. To get over perfectionism to write and publish more, try writing without capitalization and using the 10-Point Scale.
Many people are afraid of writing in public because they think their article is not good enough, including me. Last year I published 5 articles while having more than 20 article drafts unpublished since I don’t think they are good enough.
Recently, I bumped into these two articles talking about how to get over perfectionism in terms of writing. They both adopted the same idea: signaling how seriously their readers should view the piece to lower the readers’ expectations and, hence, the writer’s.
Justin Mares did it by writing those articles that he’s not editing without capitalization while writing articles with more complete thoughts with standard capitalization.
Nick Yoder used a strategy to publish ideas instantly. Every new article he wrote will be set to go live on the website 24 hours after he gets the idea, regardless of the progress. He will show a sticker with a score indicating the stage of completeness at the top of each article. The score is on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is “title only”, 4 is “All the key points (poorly written)”, 7 is “I could stop here with only mild embarrassment,” and 10 is “complete thought”.
In his words:
“By pushing a project into the sunlight, I am forced to either keep improving it or allow its imperfection to languish publicly.”
By doing this, he anticipated getting faster output, more feedback, obvious next steps, and less hesitation on when to publish the articles formally.
3. “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” — Herbert Simon
I’ve always been inundated with information. I am recently getting way more new info since my learnings always introduce other more further readings. While my curiosity grows exponentially, my digesting speed for input remains the same. Therefore, all kinds of new books, articles, and podcasts piled up without adequately digested. Along with my desire to review my old learning, I’m pondering how to change my information diet and habit.
This quote serves as a reminder for me to review my information diet.
4. How to make an animated city just by moving lots of white dots at different speeds? Motion parallax.
In this super cool video Emergent City Flyby with Colossus, they demonstrated how to make a contemporary animation by moving lots of white dots at different speeds.
Given all objects are moving at the same speed, objects farther away appear to move a shorter amount than objects closer to an observer. For example, when we are on an airplane, the clouds near us will seem to move more visually than the farther. The difference in image motion between objects at different depths is called motion parallax.
We usually see the structure of an object by detecting its edges. However, in the video they used motion parallax to outline the structure without explicit luminance edges or other depth cues.
There are some other interesting and mind-blowing illusion applications in the Best Illusion of the Year Contest 2021. The Phantom Queen used a carefully designed anamorphic camouflage shield to hide an object in one perspective and let it only appears in the mirrored image. Oh La La Box also used a similar technique to make a visually normal box from X-shaped cardboard.
5. “It is very simple to be happy, but it is very difficult to be simple.” — Rabindranath Tagore
This beautiful quote is something both profound and confounding.
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