Things you might find interesting too (early February 2022 edition)
I thought I’d periodically try to share some of the books and ideas I’ve come across over the past days and weeks.
Why? First, I hope that, if you have not yet come across them, you might find them as interesting, useful, and enjoyable as I did. Second, writing this down helps me make sense of what’s going on.
So here are a few books, essays, and ideas I’ve come across recently that you might also find worthwhile:
Subtractive innovation: Since I work with government entities who are keen to become more nimble, agile, and innovative, a question I often hear is “what should we do?”.
It’s an excellent question. But there is a corollary that almost never gets asked, which is: “what should we stop doing?”.
I suspect that most of the time acting on that question will yield results that are just as useful, if not more so.
Neal Stephenson’s “Termination Shock”: Stephenson’s latest book explores a reasonably plausible future in which a wealthy Texan businessman decides to go ahead and buy the planet some time with a geoengineering intervention of his own.
Not unlike Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Ministry for the Future” the plot Stephenson pursues is interesting, because it makes you think about ‘permissionless innovation’ in a climate change context. What happens when individuals and groups, not nation states, can decide to meddle with the planetary climate (or fix it, depending on your point of view)?
I’m not sure our governance structures are quite ready for this.
Andy Weir’s “Project Hail Mary”: I followed Tyler Cowen’s recommendation on this one. He had designated it as his “number one pick” in his list of last year’s favorite fiction books. The book is enjoyable, though I suspect that Cowen’s ringing endorsement may have less to do with its literary qualities and might need to be understood as a sort of Straussian encouragement to think about alien encounters.
Predictions are more impressive when their timing is right: A recurring theme of this pandemic have been repeated pronouncements that this ordeal now “over”. These have, so far, inevitably been followed by the simple realisation that it isn’t quite over yet. Reality has a way of interfering with wishful thinking.
Oddly enough it’s usually the permanent doomsayers who repeat the same prediction ad nauseam and eventually get it right. Repeat for long enough that the market will crash and you are likely to be vindicated one day.
Here the same logic holds: predict often enough that the pandemic is over now, and eventually you will be able to proudly point out that you predicted the end of all of this.
This is a bit of an experiment. If it sparks a thought or reaction: I’d love to hear from you (here or on Twitter).