Weekly I/O #47

Curious not Judgmental, Cluttering Illusion, Agricultural Revolution, Clarke’s Three Laws, Paint with Music

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 Sep 25, 2022

Here’s a list of what I’m exploring and pondering on this week.

1. Be curious, not judgmental.

Video: Ted Lasso: Be curious, not judgmental

We tend to form our opinions quickly when seeing someone’s behavior or listening to someone’s words. [1] However, wearing judgmental glasses to get our take on things can stop us from being curious. Without curiosity, we won’t have a chance to understand more and potentially change our minds.

When I encounter something new, I often enjoy being aware of what happened without trying to accept, reject or make any judgment too soon. After all, it is more fun and mentally healthy to be curious.

Thanks to Angelica Kosasih for sharing this with me.

[1] Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky explained this tendency in the representativeness heuristic.

2. Cluttering Illusion: Our brains love to find meaning in short‐term trends and rush to conclusions. Avoid irrational small sample size bets.

Book: The Art of Thinking Clearly

I went to Seattle for a week last summer and loved the city so much that I’m considering moving there. My friend Ev, who stays there for his undergrad, asked me to try out the winter first before having any conclusion.

This kind of consideration or decision isn’t uncommon. We join a company because one friend says they’re doing well there. We buy a $3000 treadmill after having good experiences with the treadmill at the gym three times. We irrationally make big decisions based on small sample sizes all the time.t

Sometimes a small sample size might be representative enough to be seen as the microcosm of the whole thing. However, we must remember that our brains love to find meaning in short‐term trends and rush to conclusions, especially if the small data set supports something we want to do.

3. The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud. Compared to foragers, farmers worked harder but with less return.

Book: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

When thinking of the agricultural revolution, we usually think it is a grand achievement for humans. However, Harari has a different perspective.

The agricultural revolution certainly increased the sum of food for humankind. However, this didn’t translate into a better diet or more leisure. On the contrary, the average farmers worked harder than the average foragers but got a worse diet.

The author contends that the revolution indeed led to population explosions, but the quality of life for people was lower. It also creates wealth inequality with more pampered elites. What we usually thought about the Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud.

4. When a distinguished elderly scientist states that something is possible, they are almost certainly right, but when they state something is impossible, they are probably wrong.

Article: Clarke’s three laws

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke formulated the following three laws:

  1. When a distinguished elderly scientist states that something is possible, they are almost certainly right, but when they state something is impossible, they are probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Isaac Asimov has the corollary to Clarke’s First Law:

“When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion — the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.”

I also like the inverse of the third law proposed by Gregory Benford:

Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

5. Paint With Music: Turn your paintbrush into musical instruments and compose on sensorial canvases.

Website: Paint With Music

Paint With Music is a web-based app from Google that uses machine learning powered by Magenta’s DDSP library to make music with painting. This combines two major forms of artistic expression. I don’t know how it works yet, but it is super fun to play with.

That’s it. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it. If you would like to receive the content every Sunday, sign up below 😎

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