Thoughts/Readings 2017 Week 9


Theme of the week:

Maybe it’s just “of the moment,” but I stumbled across the idea of video games as a new kind of religion, placating us in these troubled times, a few times this week. This idea is paired with fears of automation leading to less and less work, with the end result being more and more. (Honestly, I bet it’s not “of the moment:” I bet it’s algorithms getting good at showing me articles I’ll be interested in reading.)

Ezra Klein’s interview with Yuval Harari about his book Homo Deus hits on this idea most convincingly, imagining a world where algorithms rule our lives and larger and larger segments of the population don’t need to work — in the sense that society does not need them, not in the sense that they don’t want to.

The Rise of the Useless Class, also written by Yuval Harari, continues the theme, pointing out that it’s only fairly recently (about 150 years) that societies decided it was worthwhile to educate, feed, and maintain the health of their populations in order to have a robust working population able to help grow economies. What happens if automation makes whole segments of the population unnecessary? We’re arguably already seeing this to a certain extent, where although unemployment is low many people are unable to find jobs they find engaging, stimulating, or particularly profitable.

Why Ever Stop Playing Video Games by Frank Guan kind of finishes the loop, pointing out that American men are working about three hours less per week and playing about three hours of video games more. It might be too neat of a solution, but it does make sense to me in this crazy world where Brexit, Trump, the Superbowl, and the Oscars all have discombobulating last-minute reversals we turn to structured worlds where the good guys win, the rules are clear, and morals are measured in percentages.


  1. An English Sheep Farmer’s View of Rural America “Economists say that when the world changes people will adapt, move and change to fit the new world. But of course, real human beings often don’t do that. They cling to the places they love, and their identity remains tied to the outdated or inefficient things they used to do…”
  2. Why governments should introduce gender budgeting, from The Economist looks at measures to put gender specific cost-benefit analysis into the process of lawmaking.
  3. The New York Times review of Testosterone Rex is a good look at how sexism persists and where our ideas about men are better at this and women are better at that are both right and wrong.
  4. What We Don’t Do from VC Fred Wilson espouses the benefits of knowing what to say no to. I would attribute more of my career success to what I’ve said no to than to what I’ve said yes to.


  1. Tech in Chicago’s interview with Jeff Carter from several months back is an history of … tech in … Chicago.
  2. a16z has a super fascinating interview between Marc Andreesen and Reed Hasting’s of Netflix. Netflix new they were heading towards streaming all the way back in 1997! Good lessons in trying to anticipate where you want to go before the tech even exists to get you there.
  3. I’ve been working through the amazing History of the World in 100 Objects series. The Early Victorian Tea Set episode is both an interesting celebration and critique of British culture.


  1. I still don’t know if we found the right kind of peppers over here in the UK, but this was delicious and amazing: Mississippi Roast from the New York Times
  2. And here’s my own salmon recipe, which I thought I should put in writing. We do this weekly and still aren’t tired of it.
    1. Ingredients
      1. 4 pieces of salmon
      2. 2 or 3 cloves garlic
      3. 1 tsp ginger
      4. 1 tbsp or so kecap manis
      5. 1 tbsp or so siracha
      6. Olive oil as needed to grease a cooking tray
    2. Prep
      1. Preheat oven to 400ish
      2. chop garlic and ginger in a food processor
      3. Combine garlic, ginger, kecap manis and siracha in a small bowl, stir
      4. Put salmon on a cooking tray
      5. Pour/brush over sauce as a glaze
      6. Bake for 15 minutes (10 minutes per inch)