The AI menace that no-one talks about

He wants your job.

File:Bradypus torquatus BCN.jpg

The maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus), also known as the ai (/ˈɑːi/),[3] is a three-toed sloth that lives only in Brazil. It is one of four species of three-toed sloth. Source: Wikipedia


DC had 198 views in March, from 82 visitors. In internet terms, this is a pitiful statistic. Almost no-one reads anything I write.

But I love it. Even apart from the fact that I write DC for reasons other than its enormous readership, I love it. I mean, apart from this, when was the last thing anything I’ve written was read 198 times?

And while I take a bit of pleasure in seeing how many people visit (welcome, by the way), I get enormous pleasure in seeing random people checking in from around the world. He’s the map for March 2019:

So if you’re reading this… thanks for coming.


Seasons are a great tool for starting and ending well. They allow low-stakes launches and clean breaks. They make intensity easier by allowing fallow time and regeneration.

Seasons make it clear where you’re going, and for how long: “Season one will be six episodes, then we’ll have a fortnight off.”

Seasons make it easy for people to get off the train, and for making sure those that who stay on are committed: “We’ll do a month’s worth of meetings without fail – then everyone who wants to continue can re-register.”

And seasons often develop their own character: particular combinations of people; emerging themes; clusters of lessons learned. We remember them more vividly than endless, dusty summers; they season our lives.

You snooze you lose

… is a fact of life.

  • It means if you’re not alert, you’ll miss out.
  • It doesn’t mean that it’s okay to snatch something out of someone’s hand just because they’re not looking, or that we shouldn’t set something aside for someone who’s running late.
  • It means that if you’re not in the game, you can’t score.
  • It doesn’t mean that we all have to play the same game, or keep score in the same way (or at all), or that other people’s score should be important to you.

You snooze, you lose…

Except, of course, when a nap’s just what you need.

Top posts from Seth Godin

This is a list I’ll update from time to time

The digital divide is being flipped

About inequality at the foundations of education in the 21st century.

Non-profit overhead

What matters is your impact. Hugely relevant to anyone building an organisation that raises money.

Social media is a symptom, not a tactic

The Mona Lisa has a huge social media presence.

The narrative of social media grooming is a seductive one, but it’s as much of a dead end as spending an extra hour picking out which tie to wear before giving a speech.

Seth Godin

Quality and Effort

A post about the importance of building systems to improve quality – he’s not as far from Michael Gerber as he thinks he is  : )

Added 08/12/2018 :

Bear shaving

Brilliance on not solving the real problem.

Added 20/12/18

Do we value attention properly?

On the value of attention and trust, and not wasting either.

Added 23/04/19

It’s not the bottom, it’s the foundation

On creating organisational culture that works for everyone, encouraging enrollment, responsibility and creativity all the way through the organisation.

Fruit now

This post was lost in the Crocapocalypse – I’m reposting it with its original date.

I had a reminder from a friend that our ‘long now’ still includes right now.

We plant seeds, we grow to fruitfulness – and we enjoy the fruit that’s here for us now.

We often struggle to do one or the other, and you’re not flourishing if you’re not enjoying fruit in the moment.

William Carlos Williams is just about the best on this:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

William Carlos Williams

Faff around and explore

Focus is good, and staying on target admirable.

But there’s a lot to be said for detours, exploring and faffing around.

This post was a very productive detour, and will be a springboard for a lot more learning.



Vectors of value

What if all of the value you created could be understood along one of three axes: time, energy (including matter, which includes information), and space.


We create value by changing the amount of time something takes.

This could be saving time, by making something happen faster. All other things being equal (an important caveat), people will pay more:

  • To get from A to B faster
  • To learn faster
  • To receive something they’ve ordered faster
  • For their computer to boot faster
  • To build things faster
  • To improve things faster
  • To have access to something – machinery, capital – faster 

It can also be by making things last longer:

  • Making machines, engines, clothes, houses wear out less quickly
  • More holiday for the same money
  • Helping people live longer lives
  • Making the same amount of something go further is a way of making it last longer – fuel, sweets, food.


Energy covers a lot, and I’ve fudged a bit by including matter and information in this section – but I think matter technically is energy, and seeing as information can be embodied in matter, my guess is that in some sense, information is energy too.

Adding value by saving physical energy:

  • The obvious – making energy efficient appliances and machines (which incidentally make the same amount of energy last longer
  • By bringing things closer to people, we save the energy they spend accessing them (see ‘space’)

Adding value by adding or reducing matter

  • Making something lighter – this can be a way of helping other things go further
  • Or heavier. I find myself wondering if. say, pegging down a tent is using a few materials (pegs, string) as a lever to add the weight of the world to stop your tent blowing away
  • Or by restructuring matter so that it goes further, is more useful, saves people time…

Adding value by improving the quality of information available, saving attention and emotional effort:

  • This can be done by adding, removing or re-structuring information
  • Good communication makes the most relevant and easy information easy to find.
  • Indexing and search do the same
  • Signposts add value by making it take less effort (time and energy) to find things in the real world
  • Brands and review systems save energy by making it easier to know who to trust – so you can spend less time checking things out by yourself.


Adding value by moving things through space, or by ‘creating’ more space

*Quotation marks because we can’t actually make more space, in the deep sense. Can we?

  • Transporting something something that you want to you
  • Taking something undesirable (rubbish, pollution) away from you
  • Smaller TVs are a way of buying floor space in your house
  • Smaller computers (laptops, phones) are more easily moved, creating new possibilities in new spaces (e.g. a fully functioning office in a coffee shop)
  • Clearing land to make it easier to move through, build on
  • Enclosing land so that things can’t move through it
  • By bringing people together at the right place, at the right time, so that something happens

Are these all the same thing?

It isn’t just time that costs money – energy and space are money.

And having written this, it’s clear that many of these things are overlapping:

  • A package delivery service saves me time and energy by bringing the package through space
  • The internet does the same by bringing data into my house – and google makes it take less effort.
  • A well written text book saves me time, energy and attention in learning

The fourth dimension

Those are all pretty straight forward, and useful angles for thinking through how a product or service creates value. But what about quality – the thing that makes a tool a pleasure to use, or that makes prolonging an experience like a movie – or life itself – worth it.

Is ‘goodness’ is a species of information, or its own dimension?

More from Mill

More from Mill on diversity (see Hybrids). It’s a longer quotation than usual, but it’s great.

In short: diversity and mixing allow new “good things, which did not before exist.” – hybrids.

It will not be denied by anybody, that originality is a valuable element in human affairs. There is always need of persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense in human life. This cannot well be gainsaid by anybody who does not believe that the world has already attained perfection in all its ways and practices. It is true that this benefit is not capable of being rendered by everybody alike: there are but few persons, in comparison with the whole of mankind, whose experiments, if adopted by others, would be likely to be any improvement on established practice. But these few are the salt of the earth; without them, human life would become a stagnant pool. Not only is it they who introduce good things which did not before exist; it is they who keep the life in those which already existed. If there were nothing new to be done, would human intellect cease to be necessary? Would it be a reason why those who do the old things should forget why they are done, and do them like cattle, not like human beings? There is only too great a tendency in the best beliefs and practices to degenerate into the mechanical; and unless there were a succession of persons whose ever-recurring originality prevents the grounds of those beliefs and practices from becoming merely traditional, such dead matter would not resist the smallest shock from anything really alive, and there would be no reason why civilization should not die out, as in the Byzantine Empire. Persons of genius, it is true, are, and are always likely to be, a small minority; but in order to have them, it is necessary to preserve the soil in which they grow. Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom. Persons of genius are, ex vi termini, more individual than any other people–less capable, consequently, of fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of moulds which society provides in order to save its members the trouble of forming their own character. If from timidity they consent to be forced into one of these moulds, and to let all that part of themselves which cannot expand under the pressure remain unexpanded, society will be little the better for their genius. If they are of a strong character, and break their fetters they become a mark for the society which has not succeeded in reducing them to common-place, to point at with solemn warning as “wild,” “erratic,” and the like; much as if one should complain of the Niagara river for not flowing smoothly between its banks like a Dutch canal.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 3.

Hybrids (1)

By most accounts, hybridity is a good thing. Cross breeding animals and plants can result in stronger, healthier populations.

John Stuart Mill argued that diversity of ideas makes us societies stronger too. 

That mankind are not infallible; that their truths, for the most part, are only half-truths; that unity of opinion, unless resulting from the fullest and freest comparison of opposite opinions, is not desirable, and diversity not an evil, but a good, until mankind are much more capable than at present of recognizing all sides of the truth, are principles applicable to men’s modes of action, not less than to their opinions. As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when any one thinks fit to try them. It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself. Where, not the person’s own character, but the traditions of customs of other people are the rule of conduct, there is wanting one of the principal ingredients of human happiness, and quite the chief ingredient of individual and social progress.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, chapter 3.