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Polymathic Monthly - Issue #39: Scale, Stillness and Social Cohesion


Polymathic Monthly

March 16 · Issue #39 · View online

A curation of articles, tech, books and innovation strategy to enrich your career and personal lives.

It’s been fascinating to see the things we consider as social norms (handshakes and hugs, church on Sundays, etc.), rules/laws, and market conditions all fall to the way side in the wake of COVID19. Now we’ve deferred interest accrual on student loans, travelers are allowed 12-ounce containers of hand sanitizer in hand luggage, no evictions are allowed in New York, paid sick leave declarations, utilities are deferring service shut offs for unpaid bills or even making their product free for a certain period.
Why do we need emergencies or pandemics to change behavior? What is it about human nature that enables us to break the ‘norms’ only when we are stuck in a corner? How do we encourage this sort of behavior change to address stresses (climate change, health deterioration, etc) like we address shocks (pandemics)? How do we ensure kindness or fairness is the default?
Why? What? How?
As you contemplate, enjoy.

  1. Pressure doesn’t have to turn into stress. While the HBR article talks about pressure and stress at work, the suggestions apply to life.
  2. Neil Young is on a quest to save music. And it’s not just an old guy complaining about streaming.
  3. I’ve touched on this before but this article more eloquently suggests that there is a lot more luck in business than we care to admit.
  4. Work is necessary for social cohesion. MIT considers what we will do when either the robots take all the jobs or the majority of the population have low quality jobs? COVID19 will test that claim and what I wonder is how this thinking applies to our current situation.
  5. Cocaine, Race and Tech.
  6. Conflicted about the accuracy of this article on the ‘Age of Decadence’: ‘in the real world, it’s possible that Western society is leaning back in an easy chair, hooked up to a drip of something soothing, playing and replaying an ideological greatest-hits tape from its wild and crazy youth. But I believe the now will bring out the best of humanity.
  7. Lucky Daye does not fit in. That’s exactly how he wants it.
  8. In 1902, the famous trial lawyer Clarence Darrow told men held in Chicago’s Cook County Jail: “There should be no jails. They do not accomplish what they pretend to accomplish.”. Ruth Wilson Gilmore agrees. But she points to the untruths we cling to - e.g. most prisoners are non-violent - even as she does the abolitionist work. Fascinating profile.
  9. Learning how to find traction in an age of distraction. Pair this with the Ryan Holiday book below.
  10. The challenges facing Chicago are the challenges facing any city that hasn’t taken an inclusive approach to growth.
  11. Here’s a great list of 78 new emotions. Delightful.
  12. This New Yorker profile of Yuval Hariri gives us a sense for why he has a global and historic perspective on these times.
  1. Isn’t Satori, an illuminating insight when the inscrutable is revealed…when an essential truth becomes obvious and inescapable, what we seek? In 'Stillness Is The Key’, Ryan Holiday , through stories, shares the necessary steps and work we need to do in our mind, body and spirit.
  2. Most of the decisions society seems to be making in the last few days suggests that we are all in the habit of playing finite games. The guys who bought 17,000 were playing finite games. Simon Sinek offers that the true winners in business play ‘The Infinite Game’.
  3. How to Do Nothing, by Jenny Odell, was the book I needed to read right before the deluge of bad news about COVID19. I’ve had a better frame for assessing some of the attention seeking information/articles out there right now masking as advice for how to manage trying times.
  4. We think linearly while biological systems scale exponentially. It’s why we go from not understanding and underestimating what might be going on with a virus to panicking and buying up (or even stealing) tissue paper from grocery stores. Geoffrey West gives us a framework for thinking about natural phenomena in ‘Scale’. I’m currently plowing through Vaclav Smil’s ‘Growth’.
Between setting up the payment system for PM and the times we are in, I thought it best to send another free issue of Polymathic Monthly. For those of you who already paid your subscription through Revue, Thank You, you should have received your reimbursement. I hope you enjoy it.
Stay safe, stay sane and find some stillness to realize that you can replace social distancing steps (staying at home etc) with long distance acts of kindness. Check on a friend/family member this week.
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