I hope you’re doing well and staying safe. This week I was excited to welcome some new plant friends! The left one is a bromeliad (reminds me of Hawaii) and the right one is a palm plant. I did some research on the best ways to take care of them, but if you have any plant care tips please send them my way!
If Robots Could Choose
While moving some stuff around the house, I ran into a book gifted to me years ago by a friend. Egghead is a collection of poems written by the comedian Bo Burnham. As I flipped through it, one poem really struck me:
Let’s See What the Robots Think
Before we go folding our clothes in a stack,
let’s see what the robots think.
Before we go patting ourselves on the back,
let’s see what the robots think.
Before we start working or dancing again,
before we start writing love letters to send,
before we start fighting or finding a friend,
let’s see what the robots think
It made me think about all the progress and iterations we’re making toward automation. We’re building machines designed to do all the redundant tasks we humans don’t want to do. If we succeed, we’ll have freed up our own time and resources to work on more creative and intuitive tasks.
What if we asked the robots how they felt about all this?
As we ponder the evolution of artificial intelligence, the question arises: What will they choose, when they finally have a choice?
In addition to the poem, I really loved the wonderful illustration that accompanied it by Chance Bone. All the poems in the book come with an illustration from him. I love the pen-drawn style.
I occasionally redraw illustrations that inspire me, and decided to give this one a go. I always learn a thing or two about technique, and it’s also a really meditative exercise. Here’s how mine turned out, drawn with a ballpoint pen on paper:
Making Up Meaning
I love this story about the meaning behind lyrics from Derek Siver’s Hell Yeah or No:
Talking Heads was a great band from 1975 to 1988. Their lyrics were evocative and mysterious—specific but vague—and made you wonder what they were really about. David Byrne, the main songwriter of Talking Heads, later said that most of their lyrics were just random.
He would write little phrases on pieces of paper, throw them into a bowl, and shuffle them. Then he’d randomly pull some out of the bowl and put them into the song. He did this because he liked how the listener creates meaning that wasn’t intended.
Hearing one phrase next to another makes you assume they’re connected in a meaningful way. But nope. It was just random.
You made that meaning yourself.
What’s really fascinating is how this phenomenon applies to relationships. We assign meaning onto people in the very same way.
As Anthony de Mello notes in his book Awareness, “We see people and things not as they are, but as we are. That is why when two people look at something or someone, you get two different reactions.” What we see in others says more about us than it does about them.
What meaning are you assigning as you read this newsletter? Which parts of you have taken root in my words?
Working Ourselves To…
I decided to draw 2020.
If you missed last week’s newsletter, I shared some thoughts on a novel called Moshi Moshi, which is now available as a book note in my digital garden. You can also visit notes.salman.io/books to see other book notes alongside my yearly posts on my favorite books of the year.
How the language you speak influences the way you think — I often talk about the power of the polymath approach (building a set of mental models from different industries and roles to help you solve problems in unique ways). I think speaking multiple languages can offer a similar benefit — each one comes with its own perspective and history that informs how you think. When you diversify your voice, you diversify your mind.
Do Schools Kill Creativity? — Last week I was saddened to hear that Sir Ken Robinson passed away. May he rest in peace. His TED talk on creativity, published in 2006, remains the most viewed TED talk of all time (and for good reason). In this two minute clip from his talk, Ken describes how our education systems take fearless children full of creativity and turns them into adults who are terrified of rejection. It’s such an important message, especially in this moment as we look to re-evaluate the structure of our education systems.
Big Dinosaur — Adorable (1-minute) animation project by Nathan Thomas featuring a lovable dinosaur. The characters are even voiced by Nathan’s kids. Too cute!
David Blaine Floated into the Sky — If you’ve ever watched the Pixar movie Up, you’ll enjoy seeing it come to life in this latest stunt from magician and performer David Plane. He rose to almost 25,000 feet before skydiving down to the ground. Liftoff starts at the 2-hour mark, and although I intended to skip through it, I ended up watching the full hour until the end. It was riveting.
Until next time,