"We practitioners and quants aren't too fazed by remarks on the part of academics – it would be like prostitutes listening to technical commentary by nuns." (From his new book Antifragile, rather negatively reviewed in the Guardian)
This is why I read John Kay:
In the 20th century political frontiers became a central influence on economic life. Old Kaspar’s work presumably consisted of providing food, fuel and shelter for his family. But with complex products, varied consumer tastes and low degrees of personal sufficiency, resource allocation became less of an individual enterprise, more one of the social and political environment.
That observation is evident on the Finnish-Russian border. The razor wire kept Russian citizens in when the living standards of planned societies and market economies diverged. But now the border is easy to cross and the gap in per capita income has narrowed, though not by much. The very different income distributions of egalitarian Finland and inegalitarian Russia can be seen in the car parks and designer shops of Lappeenranta.
In the Soviet era, Finland produced Marimekko; Russia made no clothes any fashion-conscious woman would want to buy. Post-Communist but still autocratic Russia made surveillance equipment; democratic Finland led the world in mobile phones. Today Russia’s geeks hack into your bank account, while those of Finland develop Angry Birds."
Michael Lewis' Princeton commencement address is terrific. After the obligatory opening joke ("Members of the Princeton Class of 2012. Give yourself a round of applause. The next time you look around a church and see everyone dressed in black it’ll be awkward to cheer. Enjoy the moment"), he talks about writing Liar's Poker and the role of luck in making that book possible:
I was 28 years old. I had a career, a little fame, a small fortune and a new life narrative. All of a sudden people were telling me I was born to be a writer. This was absurd. Even I could see there was another, truer narrative, with luck as its theme. What were the odds of being seated at that dinner next to that Salomon Brothers lady? Of landing inside the best Wall Street firm from which to write the story of an age? Of landing in the seat with the best view of the business? Of having parents who didn’t disinherit me but instead sighed and said “do it if you must?” Of having had that sense of must kindled inside me by a professor of art history at Princeton? Of having been let into Princeton in the first place?
This isn’t just false humility. It’s false humility with a point. My case illustrates how success is always rationalized. People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck — especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either.
Read the whole thing. It's worth it.
Michael Lewis interviews himself about the Occupy movement.
The chief cause of the financial crisis was what the government didn’t do (regulate) rather than what it did (subsidize homeownership), and so it seemed strange to me that, until now, the most potent political reaction to the financial crisis has been an antigovernment backlash. It was as if, after some infectious disease killed a million people, the only political reaction was a popular uprising to prevent the manufacture of antibiotics.
The man is a genius.
From his essay "On Walking:"
At present, in this vicinity, the best part of the land is not private property; the landscape is not owned, and the walker enjoys comparative freedom. But possibly the day will come when it will be partitioned off into so-called pleasure grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and exclusive pleasure only, — when fences shall be multiplied, and man traps and other engines invented to confine men to the public road; and walking over the surface of God’s earth, shall be construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman’s grounds.
I'd love someone to have someone say this about me one day:
In most ways, the auction house is unshackled from intellectual pretense by its pure attention to the marketplace…
Sotheby’s felt detached from the posturing that happens in Chelsea galleries and the gnomic garbage that counts for art-world conversation. Auction house employees don’t invoke half-remembered poststructuralism or make inapt analogies. They don’t have to. The prices speak for themselves.
(via Felix Salmon)
Umair Haque has been hanging out in hip New York hotels,
overhearing more than my fair share of Very Serious Conversations* from the movers and shakers of the world.
And boy, have they been tedious.
Haque uses this as a jumping-off point to talk about the "lethally serious" work of "doing stuff that actually matters." He suggests three criteria:
Does it stand the test of time? Ponder this for a moment: the vast majority spend the vast majority of our lives sweating, suffering, and slogging mightily over stuff that's forgotten by next quarter, let alone next year or next century. Call me crazy, but I'd suggest: mattering means building stuff that's awesome enough to last…. Of course, all that really means is that since nearly everyone seems to suck at standing the test of time, you've got a tremendous opportunity not to.
Does it stand the test of excellence?... Mattering means recognizing that everyone's opinion is not created equal — some count more than others, for the simple reason that some opinions are more nuanced, educated, sophisticated, historically grounded, and self-aware than others.
Does it stand the test of you?.... It's one thing to work on stuff that seems sexy because it's socially cool and financially rewarding. But fulfillment doesn't come much from money or cool-power — all the money in the world can't buy you a searing sense of accomplishment.
And I love this conclusion:
Being human is never easy. But that's the point. Perhaps as an unintended consequence of our relentless quest for more, bigger, faster, cheaper, now, we've comfortably acceded to something akin to a minor-league contempt for the richness and grandeur of life unquenchably meaningfully well lived. Hence, call this post my tiny statement of rebellion. Hex me with all the bland management jargon in the world, zap me with all the perfect theories and models you like, but I'll never, ever accept the idea that triviality, mediocrity, and futility are appropriate goals for any human being, much less our grand, splintering systems of human organization.
* I love how Very Serious Conversations, or "Very Serious [insert thing here]" is evolving into an insult. When those two words appear together in a Paul Krugman piece, you know the big guns are being trained on a new target.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn did not know he was sleeping with prostitutes 'because they were all naked'
If you want something spoken about, ask a man. If you want it done, ask a woman.
I'll be only the billionth person to note the passing of Christopher Hitchens. I have mixed feelings about his work: I found his writing right after 9/11 to be brilliant, but also found some of his later political writing blustery and straining to convince.
On the other hand, he was an awesomely productive writer, something that as a fellow craftsman I have to admire.
Of the various remembrances that have come out, I think Christopher Buckley's is my favorite.
One of our lunches, at Café Milano, the Rick’s Café of Washington, began at 1 P.M., and ended at 11:30 P.M. At about nine o’clock (though my memory is somewhat hazy), he said, “Should we order more food?” I somehow crawled home, where I remained under medical supervision for several weeks, packed in ice with a morphine drip. Christopher probably went home that night and wrote a biography of Orwell. His stamina was as epic as his erudition and wit.
This piece by Ian McEwan is also pretty remarkable for its description of Hitchens in the hospital in his last days:
this was how it would go: talk about books and politics, then he dozed while I read or wrote, then more talk, then we both read. The intensive care unit room was crammed with flickering machines and sustaining tubes, but they seemed almost decorative. Books, journalism, the ideas behind both, conquered the sterile space, or warmed it, they raised it to the condition of a good university library....
The next morning, at Christopher's request, Alexander and I set up a desk for him under a window. We helped him and his pole with its feed-lines across the room, arranged pillows on his chair, adjusted the height of his laptop. Talking and dozing were all very well, but Christopher had only a few days to produce 3,000 words on Ian Ker's biography of Chesterton. Whenever people talk of Christopher's journalism, I will always think of this moment.
The scholar in me finds this article title hilarious, in a good way--
--I think because it so perfectly expresses the thing it promises to analyze.
the euro is, in reality, essentially an Italian creation. If you were part of the dialogue in the late 80s and early 90s, it became clear that the euro was best understood as a plot by Italian technocrats to get themselves German central bankers.
This was not, it turns out, a good idea.
From an essay well-known in technical circles:
Exploring the horizons of technology requires courage because research carries risks, even if we cannot always articulate them in advance.... [T]he very nature of research poses its own special risk. In research, we daily face the uncertainty of whether our chosen approach will succeed or fail. We steep ourselves in elusive, mysterious, and unnamed phenomena, and we struggle to unravel very complex puzzles, often making no visible progress for weeks or months, sometimes for years. We strive for simplicity and clarity in a cloudy and often baffling world. The special risk of research starts with the high probability that any particular attempt will fail and follows from the resulting experience of repeated failure. Research carries a special risk of discouragement.
Sutherland also as a nice bit about structured procrastination and how he deals with it:
For me, the urgent often takes the form of a crowded desk that must be cleared. All those letters to write, a timesheet to bring up to date, bills to pay, checkbook to balance, personal computer disk to back up, and a host of other easy little routine tasks are available to help me avoid the difficult big task at hand....
I escape from the local pressures by going far away in an airplane, or not so far to a quiet library, or even closer to the seclusion of my study, particularly early in the morning. The important thing about all these retreats for me is that I can cast aside the urgent problems; the phone won't ring, the checkbook can't be balanced, and I can focus on my larger tasks with a fresh mind.
From Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book:
We must act. That is the final word in every phase of human life. I have not hesitated to praise the reading and discussion of great books as things intrinsically good, but I repeat: they are not the ultimate ends of life. We want happiness and a good society. In this larger view, reading is only a means to an end.
An organization called W Spann LLC was founded in late April, and closed up in mid-July. It seems to have had no offices, and done nothing-- except give $1 million to Mitt Romney's Super PAC. David Weigel comments:
It's this kind of stuff that complicates the "money is speech" argument. If you're being incredibly charitable about it, maybe you can compare this to John Jay writing an essay under a pen name to influence the debate over whether or not New York should approve the Constitution.
Boy, that felt stupid even as I wrote it. It's nothing like that -- it's laundering money and hoping no one asks questions about it.
Watching the debt talks and efforts to kill off the new financial products agency, I wonder if some people are trying to create economic policy around Dr. Pangloss' declaration that "private misfortunes make the public good, so that the more private misfortunes there are, the more everything is well."
[G]oing on vacation is MUCH more stressful and emotionally draining than working. This is largely because I have to spend a full week sleeping in the same room as my children. You should only have to sleep in same room as your kids if aliens have invaded the fucking Earth and are trying to mow you down with their giant alien laserbeams. Otherwise, it should never be necessary.
"All species are unique, but humans are uniquest." (Theodosius Dobzhansky, via Robert Sapolsky)
Joshua Green in the Atlantic, on "class warfare:"
I've always loved that phrase because it's such potent hyperbole, the product of expensive focus grouping and crafty political wordsmithery as surely as is the phrase "millionaires and billionaires," except "class warfare" has that extra dimension of apocalyptic consequence and the undertone of victimization that work so well together even though they shouldn't, like sweet-and-sour soup.
From the New York Magazine article on bottle service:
"Some of the girls definitely think, 'He’s going to fly me to California and make me his wife!' But then most of them are just like, 'Guess who I just did in the bathroom?' "
It actually gets better, and if the whole piece were a song, it would be Steely Dan's "Everything Must Go" playing in a small club around 1 a.m.
Kelly... is hooking up with a 20-year-old male model but he’s not here tonight and she’s got her eye out for something else. Girls like her are either dating older men with money or young and good-looking ones without. There is a stupendous symmetry to this. The rich old men want to be young and good-looking and the young ones want to be rich, but both are sleeping with the same girl....
The exchange happens like this. A girl will say to a guy she has not slept with yet, but perhaps they have kissed or she’s let him touch her, "I'm short on my rent" or "There's this dress I really want." After sleeping with him a few times, she might say, "I need a tan. I should go to Miami." The beauty is in the subtle gaucheness.
From Dorothy Sayers, Murder Must Advertise:
Some people can be funny without being vulgar, and some can be both funny and vulgar. I should recommend you to be either the one or the other.
It was a good thing for me to learn a craft with a true maker. It may have been the best thing I have done. Nothing we do is better than the work of handmind. When mind uses itself without the hands it runs the circle and may go too fast; even speech using the voice only may go too fast. The hand that shapes the mind into clay or written word slows thought to the gait of things and lets it be subject to accident and time. Purity is on the edge of evil, they say.
This echoes feelings I've had, and I've heard plenty of other people express:
I have given up my secure academic job as Reader at the University of the West of England for the vagaries of life as a freelance. And why? Because I want to work - really work - and my job made that impossible.
Am I mad? The losses include a reliable salary, a pension, sick pay, a heated room, and a computer that someone comes to mend when it breaks down. But I can do without those (I think). The gain is a true academic life at last. I can devote my time to thinking, and reading and writing; to sharing ideas with others; to asking questions of the universe and trying to find the answers. The simple fact is that I could not do these things and the job.
I'm reading Blackmore's Zen and the Art of Consciousness, which I think does a brilliant job of communicating how difficult meditation and mindfulness exercises are.
Let's lie and say there are only two kinds of writers I like, the caffeinated and the sleepy. Balzac exemplifies the caffeinated. He drank coffee to the point of a trembling hand -- something like thirty cups a day -- and then he'd masturbate to the very edge of orgasm, but not over, and that state -- agitated, excited to the point of near madness -- was Balzac's sweet spot, in terms of composing. Then there's the sleepy: De Quincey with his opium, Milton waking up his red-slippered daughters to take down verses that had come to him in a dream. We might also think of the method by which Benjamin Franklin purportedly came up with inventions: he'd deprive himself of sleep, then, exhausted, sit in an uncomfortable chair while holding a heavy metal ball in each hand so that when he'd nod off a hand would go limp and its ball would fall, making a sound that would wake him from his dreams. That was how he came up with his best ideas for inventions, basically asleep -- just not so asleep that he couldn't take down a few notes.
The caffeinated writer and the sleepy writer share the aspiration to be, essentially, not themselves. Which is to say that the creative method is that of vanishing, of disappearing from the drafting table.
Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker suggests "if you want to write, get threatened:"
I've been writing for a living for around 15 years now and whatever method I practise remains a mystery. It's random. Some days I'll rapidly thump out an article in a steady daze, scarcely aware of my own breath. Other times it's like slowly dragging individual letters of the alphabet from a mire of cold glue. The difference, I think, is the degree of self-awareness. When you're consciously trying to write, the words just don't come out. Every sentence is a creaking struggle, and staring out the window with a vague sense of desperation rapidly becomes a coping strategy. To function efficiently as a writer, 95% of your brain has to teleport off into nowhere, taking its neuroses with it, leaving the confident, playful 5% alone to operate the controls. To put it another way: words are like cockroaches; only once the lights are off do they feel free to scuttle around on the kitchen floor. I'm sure I could think of a more terrible analogy than that given another 100,000 years.
From Alyssa Rosenberg:
Once you're a grown-up, life doesn't just hand you opportunities to discover that you have capabilities greater than you knew. If you don't seek them out, you can peak knowing that you're capable of holding down a job, paying your rent, getting along with your adult families, with additional jolts only coming along when you become a parent, lose a parent, or face death yourself. The things you discover when you travel are smaller, individually, than those large revelations, but I think they're worth learning....
A great description of Expert Political Judgment Hedgehog Award Winner Megan McArdle:
Being able to be wrong in a form and fashion that aids the powerful, and possessing the ability not to mind a life that must be thus lived in willing embrace of error…now that’s a trick.
[To the tune of Pat Metheny, "As A Flower Blossoms (I Am Running To You)," from the album Secret Story (a 2-star song, imo).]
Ulysses S. Grant, writing a few days before his death:
I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and Confederate. I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy; but I feel it within me that it is to be so.
Quoted in a Ta-Nehisi Coates essay well worth reading.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
[To the tune of Shin Jung Hyun & the Questions: Live at the Seoul Theatre, "In-A-Kadda-Da-Vida," from the album In-A-Kadda-Da-Vida (a 4-star song, imo).]
One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible....
The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.
[via Andrew Sullivan]
I passed into the potter’s house of clay, and saw the craftsman busy at his wheel, turning out pots and jars fashioned from the heads of kings, and the feet of beggars. (Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, via 360 Degrees of Mindful Eating)
I was also going to give a graduation speech in Arizona this weekend. But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me.
I recently watched Pumping Iron-- I checked it out of the library, and meant to watch it in a more ironic spirit, but it turned out to be kind of captivating.
What impressed me was, first, how much Arnold dominated the field; and second, how many of the guys in the documentary talked about being runty little kids. None of the competition-level bodybuilders said, "Yeah, I always huge as a kid, and I loved beating people up, so this seemed like a natural sport for me." Doubtless there are guys who do it for that reason, but that doesn't give you the drive necessary to become really good.
From High Clearing, urging calm about the Times Square bombing attempt:
I’m no explosives expert, but I know that somehow poor and illiterate guerrilla fighters around the globe manage to build improvised bombs that actually work.... In the past, I have wrung my hands in fear of what my countrymen will do if Islamic terrorists ever succeed in setting off a bunch of car bombs. While I still worry about that, I now worry less. It appears that the terrorists we’re facing at home these days are basically the Generation Veal of terrorists.
"Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free healthcare. You're thinking of Jesus." - John Fugelsang
From a review of the new graphic novel Story of O:
It's the great paradox of women's lives that we are expected to begin life with a passionate union and then immediately put it away and get on with the business of working and raising children.
This is a couple years old, but still well worth reading:
The study of business is afflicted by confusion between the results of a survey of what people think about the world and a survey of what the world is really like. At another recent meeting I heard a platform speaker announce that 40 per cent of books would be electronically published by 2020. A pesky academic asked exactly what this number meant and what evidence it was based on. The speaker assured the audience that the number had been obtained in a survey by eminent consultants of the opinions of the industry’s thought leaders.
I imagine most of the thought leaders had no more idea than anyone else what the question implied, or what the answer was, and did not devote more than the briefest consideration to their response, so I am not surprised that the median answer was close to a half. If you want to know the future of publishing, you will learn more by peering into a crystal ball. It will at least give you time to think.
From the new edition of Taleb's Black Swan:
[L]iving organisms (whether the human body or the economy) need variability and randomness. What's more, they need the Extremistan type of variability, certain extreme stressors. Otherwise they become fragile.
[h/t to Steve McHale]
[N]o wonder people social-climb in New York, since it has more genuine social mobility than London or Paris, where clothes, accents, and manners reveal all too much about origins and where there are no more than three degrees of separation between any two people. Everyone already knows every single bad thing about you. In all three cities, people practice what Paul Valéry called the "delirious professions," those careers that depend on self-assurance and the opinions of others rather than on certifiable skills. The delirious professions, I'd hazard, comprise literature, criticism, design, the visual arts, acting, advertising, all of the media.... [T]he delirious professions, having no agreed-upon standards, require introductions and alliance, protectors and patrons, famous teachers or acclaim by someone reputed. In short, they depend upon that most mercurial of all possessions: reputation. (Edmund White, City Boy)
Or, as Valéry wrote:
Paris contains and combines, and consummates or consumes, most of the brilliant failures summoned by their destinies to the delirious professions... This is the name I give to all those trades whose main tool is one's opinion of oneself, and whose raw material the opinion others have of you. Those who follow these trades, doomed to be perpetual candidates, are necessarily forever afflicted with a kind of delusion of grandeur which is ceaselessly crossed and tormented by a kind of delusion of persecution. This population of uniques is rules by the law of doing what no one has ever done, what no one will ever do. This is at least the law of the best, that is to say, of those who have the courage to want, frankly, something absurd.
It dovetails almost too nicely with the critiques of knowledge work by the likes of Matthew Crawford, whose Shop Class as Soulcraft I found to be quite brilliant. (Too brilliant and close to home, perhaps; it looks like I never blogged about it. I'll have to correct that one day.)
The Guardian has advice from 14 authors about how to write. My favorite is Roddy Doyle's:
Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.
Helen Dunmore's "A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk" is also sound.
But Richard Ford's "Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer's a good idea" takes the cake.
Louise Wilson, the feared and beloved head of the fashion program at Central Saint Martins, on the paradox of fashion:
This month's graduates perhaps have it harder than most. There's the recession, for one thing, but also the sense that fashion's never been more fashionable. Innovation is gobbled up by the high street and internet with rude efficiency. "In fact, it's the worst time for fashion, because of its fashionablity," groans Wilson.
I wonder if the same could be said for futures. Organizations are, ironically, both more interested in the future (in the sense that they recognize that lots of things are changing really quickly, and they need to keep up); yet they're also more concerned about the near term (because of precisely the same sets of pressures).
I think what Wilson is pointing to is the problem that as too-fast or too-public an innovation cycle can dampen real innovation and creativity, in favor of turning out stuff that's novel but crappy. So maybe there's no comparison there....
From Michael Lewis:
I hoped that some bright kid at, say, Ohio State University who really wanted to be an oceanographer would read my book [Liar's Poker], spurn the offer from Morgan Stanley, and set out to sea.
Somehow that message failed to come across. Six months after Liar’s Poker was published, I was knee-deep in letters from students at Ohio State who wanted to know if I had any other secrets to share about Wall Street. They’d read my book as a how-to manual....
The rebellion by American youth against the money culture never happened. Why bother to overturn your parents’ world when you can buy it, slice it up into tranches, and sell off the pieces?
The whole piece, of course, is fabulous and fierce-- the financial journalism equivalent of a really stunning winning design on a good season of Project Runway (which my daughter is now obsessed with), delivered with the panache of Adam and Jamie demolishing an urban legend (my son is obsessed with Mythbusters).
The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are. (Samuel Johnson)
h/t to Jessica Goodman's Feeling Elephants
This is striking:
[When] Warren Bennis praised him publicly for his foresight, [Peter] Drucker had this surprising reaction: "It was meant as a compliment, but I winced because, bluntly, I was 10 years premature with every one of my forecasts. And that’s not a compliment. That is saying that one has had no impact."
From a reader of Andrew Sullivan:
Obama is after bin Laden. No other single action would pay such huge dividends. In this, Obama proves himself again to be, not just the politician as chess master, but the politician as martial artist, always seeking for the fulcrum, the pivot point where four ounces of effort will yield a thousand pounds of result.
It is a very high level skill, far higher and more effective than the brute force men like Cheney, Bush, or Rumsfeld rely on, and it's difficult to attain, because it depends on three subsidiary skills that lesser men simply never recognize, much less master: listening, understanding and neutralizing.... What appears to some to be hesitation or lack of engagement on his part early on in any effort is really just preparation.
From James Parker's piece on Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers in the December issue of The Atlantic:
Sitting at the bar with his ex-wife, his round a little glass something or other, Baldwin... is florid, potent, gloatingly and inflatedly masculine, like a genie who came out of a bottle of aftershave.
[To the tune of Radiohead, "Airbag," from the album Radiohead in Berlin (I give it 2 stars).]
The whole idea of contrarianism is that you’re “attacking the conventional wisdom”, you’re “telling people that their most cherished beliefs are wrong”, you’re “turning the world upside down”. In other words, you’re setting out to annoy people. Now opinions may differ on whether this is a laudable thing to do – I think it’s fantastic – but if annoying people is what you’re trying to do, then you can hardly complain when annoying people is what you actually do....
The other point of contrarianism is that, if it’s well done, you assemble a whole load of points which are individually uncontroversial (or at least, solidly substantiated) and put them together to support a conclusion which is surprising and counterintuitive. In other words, the aim of the thing is the overall impression you give. Because of this, if you’re writing a contrarian piece properly, you ought to be well aware of what point it looks like you’re making, because the entire point is to make a defensible argument which strongly resembles a controversial one.
So having done this intentionally, you don’t get to complain that people have “misinterpreted” your piece by taking you to be saying exactly what you carefully constructed the argument to look like you were saying.
[H]aving paraded their daring contrarianism, the freakonomists are trying to wiggle out of the consequences when it turns out that they were wrong.
They just need to take a page from the evil futurists' guide.
Seen on a friend's page:
Just got a note from a JDater. And I'm not kidding: The photo shows him wearing a tool belt, stooped by some appliance, perhaps on the verge of installing something I want or should want installed. Bet he could screen in that porch of mine. But he doesn't want children... I shouldn't have to pick between kids and a screened-in porch.
[To the tune of Moby, "Extreme Ways," from the album 18 (I give it 4 stars).]
I write about people, technology, and the worlds they make.
I'm a senior consultant at Strategic Business Insights, a Menlo Park, CA consulting and research firm. I also have two academic appointments: I'm a visitor at the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford University, and an Associate Fellow at Oxford University's Saïd Business School. (I also have profiles on Linked In, Google Scholar and Academia.edu.)
I began thinking seriously about contemplative computing in the winter of 2011 while a Visiting Researcher in the Socio-Digital Systems Group at Microsoft Research, Cambridge. I wanted to figure out how to design information technologies and user experiences that promote concentration and deep focused thinking, rather than distract you, fracture your attention, and make you feel dumb. You can read about it on my Contemplative Computing Blog.
My book on contemplative computing, The Distraction Addiction, will be published by Little, Brown and Company in 2013. (It will also appear in Dutch and Russian.)
My latest book, and the first book from the contemplative computing project. The Distraction Addiction will appear in summer 2013, published by Little, Brown and Co.. (You can pre-order it through Amazon or IndieBound now, though!)
My first book, Empire and the Sun: Victorian Solar Eclipse Expeditions, was published with Stanford University Press in 2002 (order via Amazon).
PUBLISHED IN 2012
PUBLISHED IN 2011
PUBLISHED IN 2010
PUBLISHED IN 2009