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The bookstore with a single book, knowledge distillation, and tight feedback loops

Last updated Jun 4, 2021 Edit Source

I am writing this newsletter edition as NYC is being bombarded by hail. The sounds of little balls of ice ricocheting off of the roof has a sort of din to it that feels oddly comforting? In any case, your (bi) monthly dose of links from yours truly:

# 3 things I’ve found interesting

  1. The bookstore with a single book. This is a tiny bookstore in Tokyo that sells a single book at a time in a small room. I really love the emphasis on getting to know a single book and author intimately – especially in an age of digital consumerism.
  2. Beware of tight feedback loops. I’ve always believed that rapid feedback is always necessarily good. Yet, Brian warns about relying too much on these tight feedback loops – feedback in life is almost always noisy. Only focusing on rapid feedback can lead one to ignore the larger scale trends.
  3. Why Algorithmic Systems Create Absurd Outcomes (or if you prefer the video version. Loved how accessible this paper/video was in explaining some pretty complex topics. I’ve often found myself having trouble putting into words why ‘big tech’ and monopolies in general are bad other than the generic “we need competition for innovation” excuse and this humanistic approach really resonated with me.

# 2 things I’ve been wondering about

  1. The role of knowledge distillation. After finishing The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software, I have been seeing parallels between software maintenance and systems of knowledge. So much emphasis nowadays is on creation rather than maintenance; it would be interesting to see if we can shift the emphasis from creation of new knowledge to maintenance of existing knowledge. I think there’s lots of work that can be done to improve how we go about distillation of knowledge through teaching and giving children agency to explore ideas (more on this in Mindstorms).
  2. The double bind of developing tech. Still trying to wrap my head fully around this idea, but the main gist is that there are two opposing facts that seem to make developing tech ethically very difficult. The first is that it’s hard to figure out what impact technology will make until after one develops and releases it to the public to use. The second is that regulating and/or changing technology is extremely difficult after the technology becomes entrenched within society. No thoughts on this yet, but just wondering if there’s any way to get out of this double-bind (or at least productively avoid it).

# 1 thing I’ve done

Lots of change in my personal life too! I finally worked up the courage to cut out a few commitments from my life in an effort to reclaim some time to just explore some ideas I have + enjoy life in NYC :’) Reach out if you’re around!

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