Black History Month: the things we forget and the things we can’t see

Some things about Black History month: It is not a recent product of early-21st-Century political correctness, but has roots going back to the 1920s; It isn’t unproblematic: race is a flawed organising principle for all the reasons that racists are wrong;* It does start conversations, shed light on forgotten or hidden truths, and prick our consciences in a way that…

Seth Godin on books, culture and influence

For five-hundred years, books have mattered. Books have never reached the preponderance of people because there are just so many different titles. It’s possible for a movie to be seen by twenty or thirty million people. It’s likely that a national TV show could be seen by almost as many on a regular basis. But a book? If a book…

In search of nuance

In an age of polarisation, we need nuanced understanding of people and issues more than ever. What does nuance mean to you? To me it means things like: Knowing some of the shortcomings of your side of the debate; Seeing – and not excusing – the failings (and worse) of people on your side of the debate; Looking for reasons…

Knowing better (2): How we know

How do we come to know better? There are a range of experiences (I hesitate to call them a hierarchy) that lead us from knowing better in our heads (as an abstract idea) to knowing something deeply as experienced truth (i.e. knowing better “in our knower,” to borrow a phrase). The non-hierarchy of skippable stages* would seem to go: Hearing…

Knowing better (1)

And I will show you a still more excellent way. Paul of Tarsus – First Letter to the Corinthians We often say (and more often think) that someone (and occasionally even we ourselves) should “know better.” How do we come to know?

Extending books: Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen on Timeful Texts

Picking up Tuesday’s post about transactional reading and contemplation, here’s something interesting that goes a little further in thinking about how we might immerse ourselves in books or other texts. Today’s gem comes from Andy Matuschak (former leader of the R&D group at Khan Academy and all-round interesting fellow), who’s working on developing more effective tools for thought and learning.…

One million copies sold

One million copies is a lot of anything, but should it influence your decision to buy a book? First thought: No it shouldn’t. Judging from the things that other people wear and watch and the ways they spend their time, a million people doing something should have no influence on whether I do it too. At best, they have totally…

Raj Chetty and Ezra Klein on culture, communities and representation

Ezra Klein: I think we’re very used to thinking about two levels of context that really matter here – what’s happening in your family, like “Is your dad or mum an inventor? Are your parents married?” and then what’s happening in government policy. And it seems to me that what you show is that this mediating space of your direct…

Steven Pinker on passing on language

Language is created anew every generation by the minds of the children who construct it out of the data that they get from their parents and peers. Steven Pinker – with Tyler Cowan, in Conversations with Tyler, Ep 14 The same could be said of culture in general, and team or organisational culture in particular. What data are you receiving?…

Specs, laws and floors

A spec sets standards and defines output, and laws set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. They are indispensable, but here’s the thing: specs and laws are always floors. You can’t legislate the maximum. There is always an extra mile. There are unlimited extra miles in just about every direction. Once we’re meeting spec (within the law) and doing it consistently…