summing up 97

summing up is a recurring series on topics & insights that compose a large part of my thinking and work. drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

Everything Easy is Hard Again, by Frank Chimero

So much of how we build websites and software comes down to how we think. The churn of tools, methods, and abstractions also signify the replacement of ideology. A person must usually think in a way similar to the people who created the tools to successfully use them. It’s not as simple as putting down a screwdriver and picking up a wrench. A person needs to revise their whole frame of thinking; they must change their mind.

The new methods were invented to manage a level of complexity that is completely foreign to me and my work. It was easy to back away from most of this new stuff when I realized I have alternate ways of managing complexity. Instead of changing my tools or workflow, I change my design. It’s like designing a house so it’s easy to build, instead of setting up cranes typically used for skyscrapers. Beyond that, fancy implementation has never moved the needle much for my clients.

So, I thought it would be useful remind everyone that the easiest and cheapest strategy for dealing with complexity is not to invent something to manage it, but to avoid the complexity altogether with a more clever plan.

a fancy implementation has never moved the needle much for my clients either. what has though is to build relationships and let technology support this process. we are an increasingly digital society, yes, but that doesn't mean we have to let technology take over.

How To Become A Centaur, by Nicky Case

Human nature, for better or worse, doesn’t change much from millennia to millennia. If you want to see the strengths that are unique and universal to all humans, don’t look at the world-famous award-winners — look at children. Children, even at a young age, are already proficient at: intuition, analogy, creativity, empathy, social skills. Some may scoff at these for being “soft skills”, but the fact that we can make an AI that plays chess but not hold a normal five-minute conversation, is proof that these skills only seem “soft” to us because evolution’s already put in the 3.5 billion years of hard work for us.

So, if there’s just one idea you take away from this entire essay, let it be Mother Nature’s most under-appreciated trick: symbiosis.

Symbiosis shows us you can have fruitful collaborations even if you have different skills, or different goals, or are even different species. Symbiosis shows us that the world often isn’t zero-sum — it doesn’t have to be humans versus AI, or humans versus centaurs, or humans versus other humans. Symbiosis is two individuals succeeding together not despite, but because of, their differences. Symbiosis is the “+”.

zero sum games most often win our attention, but the vast majority of our interactions are positive sum: when you share, when you buy, when you learn, when you talk. similarly with technology and computers: we can only improve if we use technology to augment ourselves in order to allow for new, previously-impossible ways of thinking, of living, of being.

How To Save Innovation From Itself, by Alf Rehn

At the same time as we so happily create everything from artificial intelligences to putting "smart" into absolutely bloody everything – At the same time, there are still so many actual, real problems unsolved. I do not need a single more problem solved, every one of my actual problems have been solved. There is not a single thing I could even dream of wanting that hasn't been already created. Yes, I can upgrade. I can buy a slightly cooler car. I can buy slightly better clothes. I can buy slightly faster phones. But frankly I am just consuming myself into the grave, because I have an empty life.

In all this innovation bullshit, what has happened, is that rather than look at true, meaningful change, we have turned innovation into one more bullshit phrase, into one more management buzzword. Do we actually have discussions about whether we're doing meaningful work or just work that happens to be paid at the moment. We need regardless of what company we work in, we need to look at the products we create, the things we create, and say "yes, this can matter". But it can not just matter to me, it needs to matter to someone else as well.

We have blind spots, we all have them. We all have our biases. It is acceptable perchance to have a bias as an individual. But when the entire community or an entire nation has a bias, this says we have not gone far enough.

we seem to spend so much talent, research, time, energy and money to create things that nobody needs, just because we feel we have to innovate somehow. and the problem isn't how to innovate or the innovation per se, but how to get society to adopt the good ideas that already exist.

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My letters are about long-lasting, sustainable change that fundamentally amplify our human capabilities and raise our collective intelligence through generations. Would love to have you on board.