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Barack Obama, SF fan?

Fascinating to see that Obama is reading Seveneves this summer, by my design hero Neal Stephenson. Another example of the massive impact that fictional storytelling can have on the world, through the people who read it.

On originality

“Don’t try to be original; just try to be good.” – Paul Rand

Topple vs. restore

“In our world, we have enough power to topple our most important systems, but not the power to restore most of them…[but] there is still time to restore this well enough to aid fundamental changes in how our societies make decisions, and especially to start to better deal with the large potential systems disasters we face.” – Alan Kay

Trains go up, trains go down

This is awesome: use excess solar power to drive trains uphill, then let them drive back downhill to generate power when the sun goes down.

The problem with ideas

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.

And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s top life tips

From an interesting article in the The Sunday Times…most of these agree with even my experience.

  1. Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

  2. Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

  3. It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

  4. Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act – if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

  5. Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

  6. Learn to fail with pride – and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error – by mastering the error part.

  7. Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

  8. Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.

  9. Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

  10. Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

Complex design

From William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle TED talk:

Imagine this design assignment:

Design something that…

  • makes oxygen
  • sequesters carbon
  • fixes nitrogen
  • distills water
  • accrues solar energy as fuel
  • makes complex sugars and food
  • creates microclimates
  • changes colors with the season
  • self-replicates

Why don’t we knock that down and write on it…

Links about the newspaper debate

http://www.wayner.org/talks/gtalk.html

http://doc.weblogs.com/2007/03/24#howToSaveNewspapers

http://scobleizer.com/2007/03/24/newspapers-are-dead/

http://www.mathewingram.com/work/2007/03/25/print-may-be-dying-but-the-news-is-not/

http://dondodge.typepad.com/thenextbigthing/2007/03/hasthe_interne.html

http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=4722

Two obstacles to improving online newspapers