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3 posts from May 2023

An Octopus View: the Fluidity of Time

What I found most valuable in this evocative article is the idea that our perspective of the past should not become fixed. Our memories are malleable, and we should be ready to reinterpret and reuse the past to better understand the present and imagine the future.

Aeon: Octopus Time, 2023-Apr-20 by David Borkenhagen

Its web of radially symmetrical arms allow it to crawl in any direction with equal competence [emphasis added], regardless of how its head is oriented. Its soft and malleable body can move through any crevasse larger than its beak. And with its two eyes positioned on opposite sides of its head, it has a near-total field of vision with almost nothing hidden ‘behind’. These abilities give the octopus a radically different relationship to its surroundings compared with other species, human or otherwise. It is a relationship free of constraints.

Compared with the octopus, human beings appear corporeally constrained. We lack the fluid mobility and wide field of vision of our (very, very) distant cephalopod cousins. Instead, we have two eyes stuck in the front of our heads. We have a paltry two legs, hardwired for forward movement. And we are bound to our terrestrial ecological niche, where our bodies must continually counteract the downward pull of gravity.

It’s not only that our experiences of space are different. Our experiences of time are likely different, too. We think about the passage of time through our terrestrial experience of unidirectional motion through space – our metaphors of time are almost all grounded in the way our bodies move forward through the environment. Given this fact, how would an octopus, who can easily see and move in all directions, conceptualize time?

...if we became more like an octopus, could we free time, metaphorically speaking, from its constraints? Could we experience it as multidimensional, fluid and free?


Values Vs. Beliefs

Values weigh more heavily than beliefs with respect to our actions. (Hint: they have $value.) We are willing to pay the price to reach something we value.

Digital Tonto: Values Always Cost You Something, 2023-May-21 by Greg Satell

...values are often confused with beliefs. When you’re sitting around a conference table, it’s easy to build a consensus about broad virtues such as excellence, integrity and customer service. True values, on the other hand, are idiosyncratic. They represent choices that are directly related to a particular mission.

Make no mistake. Real values always cost you something. They are what guides you when you need to make hard calls instead of taking the easy path. They are what makes the difference between looking back with pride or regret. Perhaps most importantly, they are what allows others to trust you.

Without genuine commitment [to] values there can be no trust. Without trust, there can be no shared purpose.


Thinking about communicating ideas

Greg Satell's 5 Rules paraphrased to my words:

  1. Clarity first: avoid technical and unusual words (Hemingway it.)
  2. Streamline the message as much as possible, removing anything of doubtful value. Be mindful of the reader's 'cognitive budget.' Would it be worth mine?
  3. It shouldn't sound like writing, but like talking with a friend. NO styling. (Except universally accepted humor.)
  4. Let one point stand if it all possible. Converse to the next point if possible.
  5. Early attempts don't indicate final quality. Quality emerges during multiple rewrites.

5 Simple Rules That Will Make You A Powerful Communicator | Digital Tonto

Sometimes the hardest thing is merely to make yourself understood. Things that change the world, or even a small part of it, always arrive out of context because, by definition, the world hasn’t changed yet.

That’s why innovators need to be great communicators, because an idea that doesn’t gain traction is an idea that fails.

That’s easier said than done. As Fareed Zakaria has put it, “Thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. When I begin to write, I realize that my ‘thoughts’ are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them.”