The Big Think

January 24, 2005


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 9:29 pm

In the old country… there was a cradle-to-grave relationship between the craftsman and his client. As his last commission for the deceased, the cabinetmaker would appear at the funeral, in his Sunday best, to drive the nails into the lid of the box.

Scott Landis, The Workbench Book

How to Switch

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 8:52 pm


If you’re not doing a lot of processor intensive stuff (editing and transcoding media), or developing Windows code (and thus need the appropriate development environment), the Mini is a box that’ll do pretty much everything most people use a computer to do.  If you’re one of the switchers this box is aimed at, then toss a $20 KVM switch in your cart, and you can switch back and forth as necessary.  For that matter, you can just hook both boxes to the network and run the XP box with remote desktop connection (yes, there’s a free OS X client).

Do yourself a favor, though and give it a fair chance—having switched environments more than a few times over the years, my rule of thumb is to resist the urge to go back to the old machine every time I can’t figure out how to do something.  Make yourself spend 30 days on OS X, and figure out how to do whatever it is you need to do.

Mac Mini

Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 5:53 pm

Cringely has an interesting theory.

Smarter Child

Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 12:17 pm

Nifty online chatbot. Just go to your IM client and type in “Smarterchild” (AIM).

When I Grow Up…

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 11:18 am

If I were back in high school and someone asked about my plans, I’d say that my first priority was to learn what the options were. You don’t need to be in a rush to choose your life’s work. What you need to do is discover what you like. You have to work on stuff you like if you want to be good at what you do.

People who’ve done great things tend to seem as if they were a race apart. And most biographies only exaggerate this illusion, partly due to the worshipful attitude biographers inevitably sink into, and partly because, knowing how the story ends, they can’t help streamlining the plot till it seems like the subject’s life was a matter of destiny, the mere unfolding of some innate genius. In fact I suspect if you had the sixteen year old Shakespeare or Einstein in school with you, they’d seem impressive, but not totally unlike your other friends.

Which is an uncomfortable thought. If they were just like us, then they had to work very hard to do what they did. And that’s one reason we like to believe in genius. It gives us an excuse for being lazy. If these guys were able to do what they did only because of some magic Shakespeareness or Einsteinness, then it’s not our fault if we can’t do something as good.

The best protection is always to be working on hard problems. Writing novels is hard. Reading novels isn’t. Hard means worry: if you’re not worrying that something you’re making will come out badly, or that you won’t be able to understand something you’re studying, then it isn’t hard enough. There has to be suspense.

Well, this seems a grim view of the world, you may think. What I’m telling you is that you should worry? Yes, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s exhilarating to overcome worries. You don’t see faces much happier than people winning gold medals. And you know why they’re so happy? Relief.

If you want to do good work, what you need is a great curiosity about a promising question. The critical moment for Einstein was was when he looked at Maxwell’s equations and said, what the hell is going on here?

The way to get a big idea to appear in your head is not to hunt for big ideas, but to put in a lot of time on work that interests you, and in the process keep your mind open enough that a big idea can take roost. Einstein, Ford, and Beckenbauer all used this recipe. They all knew their work like a piano player knows the keys. So when something seemed amiss to them, they had the confidence to notice it.

The important thing is to get out there and do stuff. Instead of waiting to be taught, go out and learn.

Set aside ten minutes and read the whole thing. “What you’ll wish you’d known“.

Several years ago a friend and I had an idea for a TV show called “The Big Idea”. It would be a show that would delve into the big issues that will affect our world in the next 20-50 years: not too close to be easily seen, but not too far off to be impractical. It’s amazing when you start to think about the kinds of issues that will affect us. Global warming, overpopulation, fresh water shortages, genomics, privacy issues, transportation improvements, world power shifts, massive cultural shifts brought about by shifting demographics. And always, the role of the speeding train of technology on our world. These are just a few off the top of my head.

Basically, the show would serve as an excuse to get into the presence of some very smart people and pick their brains, and under the auspices of a “Frontline”-style issue show, we would have access to some of the brightest folks in the world. Can you imagine spending a few hours interviewing Nathan Myhrvold? Or Bill Joy? Or Dean Kamen? And being able to stir the pot of intellectual ideas and see what rises to the top would be thrilling.

I still think it’s a grand idea.

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