Medley 219: Uyghurs, Blogs, Remote, TikTok, Twitter, 360, Orthodox, Quitting, Lawyers, Poems, Code, Speak!

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Happy Monday!

I finally published my epic "How to Start a Blog that Changes Your Life" post. Responses on Twitter so far have been really positive, so definitely check it out if you're considering starting a site, or you're just curious about how mine got started.

The World of Work

πŸ– Steve Levine makes a troubling point about the potential effects of remote work. It's possible that by spreading talent out around the globe, we'll lose the collaborate genius that relies on serendipitous encounters in meatspace. Silicon Valley has long been a hub of innovation partly because so many smart people are there. What happens when they all spread out? As he says:

"History’s creative hubs have been ephemeral β€” when Florence declined in the 16th century, it was not replaced by another concentration of artistic genius. The world simply went without."

πŸ’Ό If you struggle with figuring out a good way to communicate what you need done, this "360 Delegation" model from Profit Factory is pretty interesting. It suggests breaking each request down into the "Vision, Resources, and Definition of Done" to make it super clear what you need someone to do and how they can do it.

πŸ§—β€β™‚οΈ I hadn't considered this perspective on technological progress before. Some of it is simply a result of communication, and as we've sped up communication, we've sped up progress in many fields including rock climbing. Alex Honnold's gear for free soloing is only a tiny improvement over the gear from 100 years ago, so why was he able to free solo El Capitan? Intellectual progress in the field fueled by greater communication.

The World of Social Media

🐣 The Twitter hack that happened last week was extremely strange. If you got access to the Twitter accounts of Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and numerous politicians, wouldn't you do more than tweet some silly Bitcoin scam? Well maybe they did, since it turns out Twitter quietly turned off the ability to download your historic data in the middle of the hack.

πŸ’ƒ Also related to China, Ben Thompson has a great writeup on the threat of TikTok and why the US should seriously consider banning it and other apps influenced by the Chinese government. One odd argument against this is that we're starting some sort of tech cold war with China if we start banning their apps, but as Ben points out:

"China took the first shots, and they took them a long time ago. For over a decade U.S. services companies have been unilaterally shut out of the China market, even as Chinese alternatives had full reign, running on servers built with U.S. components (and likely using U.S. intellectual property)."

The World of the Uyghur Genocide

πŸ‡¨πŸ‡³ I'm surprised how few people in the US know about China's increasing genocide and creation of concentration camps for the Uyghur population. Last week someone managed to find drone footage of Uyghurs being loaded onto trains, while blindfolded and handcuffed on their knees.

😨 Some of the stories coming out of Xinjiang are pretty terrifying. Uyghurs may be having their heads shaved for selling wigs to the US, as well as having their organs harvested, potentially while still alive. There is also evidence of forced sterilizations, forced birth control, and forced abortions, as means of population control.

πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™‚οΈ China has claimed that the Uyghurs living in Xinjiang pose a violent terrorist threat, but to the extent there is any link between Uyghurs and ISIS, it's because China oppressed them and cut off all their ties to the Muslim world, especially Turkey, which was historically a common safe haven for Uyghur refugees.

So now there are an estimated 1.5 million Uyghur Muslims imprisoned in Chinese concentration camps, in the biggest incarceration of an ethnic/religious group since the holocaust, and we're doing pretty much nothing about it.

When you hear about the 1940s and everything that was going on in Germany, there's this sense of "how could the world let that happen?" Well, here we are again. But this time it's (arguably) the most powerful economy in the world that's doing.

I honestly don't have anything useful to contribute here or any idea what to do about it. But making sure more people know about it is at least a good start. And banning tech like TikTok definitely wouldn't hurt.

The World of Privilege & Cancelling

πŸ’‹ Here's a great piece on a form of privilege that rarely gets discussed: beauty. One thing that stood out is just how powerful it can be in certain settings, even compared to race:

"This bias for beauty can cause real harm. In a meta analysis of the role of attractiveness in criminal sentencing, it was found that unattractive people received 120–305 percent longer sentences than attractive people. As a comparison, another study found that black people received 6–20 percent longer sentences than white people. Yes, in criminal sentencing, looks were over 10x more important than race."

The author proposes an insightful idea at the end to help combat this, using deep-fakes and video calls for trials:

"I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we use deepfake technology to make criminal defendants’ looks homogeneously beautiful (or ugly)."

πŸ‘¨β€βš–οΈ Paul Graham also published an essay on Orthodox Privilege: "The more conventional-minded someone is, the more it seems to them that it's safe for everyone to express their opinions." And as he says:

"If you believe there's nothing true that you can't say, then anyone who gets in trouble for something they say must deserve it."

✍️ Speaking of orthodox privilege, Bari Weiss decided to leave the New York Times with an eloquent resignation letter condemning the lack of intellectual diversity that the Times now tolerates.

"I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative... I’ve always comforted myself with the notion that the best ideas win out. But ideas cannot win on their own. They need a voice. They need a hearing. Above all, they must be backed by people willing to live by them."

πŸ“ Which mirrors the sentiment shared in the Harpers "Letter on Justice and Open Debate" signed by many of the most popular writers and academics online.

"The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away."

The World of AI

πŸ€– GPT-3, the third version of the artificial intelligence AI out of the OpenAI team was released last week, and it's pretty mindblowing what you can do with it.

Here it is turning normal phrases into lawyer-speak:

πŸ’» It can take normal language and turn it into HTML & CSS code for you.

πŸ˜‚ It can write puns.

πŸ‘¨β€πŸŽ¨ And poetry.

πŸ€” And philosophy.

πŸ” It can create a search engine as good as Google.

πŸ‘©β€πŸ’Ό And it can help you run board meetings.

Examples abound of some of the ridiculously impressive things you can do with it, and this might be the most interesting breakthrough in consumer AI technology yet. I'll be really curious to see what people start doing with it over the next few months as access to it increases.

The World of Just For Fun

πŸ›© We can't time travel yet, at least till GPT3 figures it out, but in the meantime you can create the experience of time traveling by creating more distinct memories, such as through traveling. This also reminds me of an idea in Moonwalking With Einstein that if you break up a party into 3-4 distinct portions, guests will remember it as much longer than if you just have one big mingling session.

🐢 And maybe it's possible to teach your dog to talk to you. Cosette and I will be testing this with Pepper and Tahoe and report back.

End Note

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And should you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way! I love finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.

Have a great week,

Nat

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