reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 46


  1. Semi-colon shaped people – Venkatesh Rao
    Talks about the oft quoted T-shaped (breadth followed by depth) work/career and why that choice may not be prudent anymore

  2. Half a dozen tips for staying oriented in the 21st century – Vinay Gupta
    Some advice on dealing with complexity in the modern world

  3. Why customer-first companies ultimately win – Kyle Tibbitts
    Kyle talks about why companies have lost focus on customers and principles to rectify that 

  4. Emergence: A unifying theme for 21st century science – Santa Fe Institute
    The Santa Fe Institute began exploring emergent behavior in science and society at its 1984 founding workshops, “Emerging Syntheses in Science,” during which every speaker dealt with an aspect of emergent behavior as well as the search for the organizing principles that bring about that behavior. 

    Indeed, some members of the Institute’s growing scientific community dreamed of creating a unified science of complexity through which complexity itself could be defined and quantified – and thus classify complex systems in some kind of grand hierarchical schema.

  5. Life Spirit Distillation – Venkatesh Rao
    A modern personal philosophy:

    The alternative to “growth” is not stasis or passivity, but a growing aliveness to the actual change that you’re undergoing in the process of generating responses to specific life challenges. If these challenges are real, then the way you change through responding to them is not entirely within your control.

    Life intensification is the process of consciously becoming increasingly real (and no, I’m not talking about being more “present” so don’t jump to that conclusion) by letting go more and more of your idea of what your life should be like, and embracing the possibilities of what it is actually turning out to be like. 

  6. On Lifestyle Rigidity – Venkatesh Rao
    Why has lifestyle rigidity gone up in the modern world?

    Vgr hypothesizes that lifestyle dark energy has gone up significantly, i.e. variables that determine lifestyle have grown exponentially and so has our energy requirement to sustain arbitrary standards of those variables under the guise of “lifestyle design”.

  7. How to Take a Walk – Venkatesh Rao
    Have you ever just taken a walk? Not a jog with your pets, not a stroll with your friends, or a grocery run. Just an aimless walk?
  8. What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Poor – Venkatesh Rao
    A book review of “Portfolios of the Poor” and why the poorest people have the most complicated mix of financial instruments to sustain their cash flows
  9. The Dead-Curious Cat and the Joyless Immortal – Venkatesh Rao
    I’ve been thinking a lot about curiosity lately. Specifically, about curiosity in the sense of  the proverb curiosity killed the cat: a potentially self-destructive pursuit of knowledge for its own sake that leads to unnecessary risk-taking. In humans such risk-taking often threatens not just the individual or even family/immediate group, but the whole species. Some people just have to go around figuring out new ways to blow things up, often with the noblest of intentions.

    Curiosity does not seem to be a fundamental drive, unlike what I am told are the  three basic biological drives (seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and conserving energy), so it is probably derived. Curiosity requires a certain energy surplus, since its visible signature is a restless dissipation of energy, but it does not seem directly motivated by energy conservation concerns. So is it derived from pleasure-seeking or pain-avoidance or some mix of the two? Does that make a difference?

  10. The Calculus of Grit – Venkatesh Rao
    On the dichotomy of generalist vs specialist and how those definitions change when using different frames of references.

    I think I now understand the reason I reject the generalist label and resonate far more with the specialist label. The generalist/specialist distinction is an extrinsic coordinate system for mapping human potential.  This system itself is breaking down, so we have to reconstruct whatever meaning the distinction had in intrinsic terms. When I chart my life course using such intrinsic notions, I end up clearly a (reconstructed) specialist.

    This new way of internal navigation is called “The Calculus of Grit” 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s