October's Curated Ingest
Some of what I've enjoyed ingesting the last few weeks :O
Alright everyone, below you’ll find some articles loosely organized by topic and my brief comments on them. I hope you’ll find something interesting to read:
… on labor
I read a piece by James Livingston that connected the Protestant work ethic to current labor challenges, especially when considering AI. While a flawed piece, I haven’t seen the Protestant work ethic engaged in current discount about labor and thought it was worth sharing.
It also made me think of a societal challenge we’ll face in the coming decade: underemployment. This short Economist article is a good description of what’s going on. Many countries, especially traditionally liberal western countries, are overproducing elites. This results in numerous social and socio-economic troubles, but that’s another topic altogether. (One of the biggest is a ripple effect of anxiety in elite colleges - really think the elite university’s inability to address this problem is a huge part of their stagnation.)
This connects nicely to Tom Critchlow’s analysis on ‘orbital and permeable organizations’ - basically decentralized labor groups. He references a new economic model to me: the mutualist economy. A paper he cites discuses a future that allows laborers to actually work less:
This essay proposes a new model of personal and public wealth-building that can address the current crisis of inequality in the United States. [...] We then suggest a series of potential governmental policies that can help to ensure a more equitable wealth distribution in the future. Our proposed “mutualist” model of political economy would allow for the large-scale diffusion of productivity gains that may follow the installation of deployment of the next wave of general-purpose technologies.
Honestly, I think ‘everyone’s’ thinking on how AI will restructure our work environment is pretty exhausting. I’m pessimistic that we’ll be able to redistribute time away from direct labor and be able to focus on more creative pursuits. If anyone has any writing on this topic, please send it my way!
… on organization - both in business and society
Tim Casasola is one of my favorite brains on organizational thinking, and wrote a great piece about information architecture (IA) for his biweekly blog. He relates ontology, taxonomy, and choreography to IA and organization design - that enough should get you interested in the piece!
I saw these three trends in a few other pieces I read. Reggie James described his concept of ‘referential objects’ and ‘cybernetics:’
When I speak of a “referential object” — I am referring to a central and identifiable artifact that orients any system. In the case of the church, the referential object is always the cross. In which the crucifixion is the overarching message of salvation. To illuminate an everyday example for some of you, look at what may exist at the core of one of your group-chats. Why and how is everyone there? The referential object here might be twitter, shared college experience, previously being co-workers. This is what the group, whether explicit or implicit, is revolving around. Many times as the referential object goes, or we distance ourselves from it, so goes the revolving system…
When I speak of “cybernetics” or a “cybernetic pull/drive” — at the core it comes back to a reinforcing loop that has a sense of direction, in which your inputs are receiving feedback and thus you are adjusting them consistently towards some end point. Cybernetics is incredibly cross disciplinary, spanning developmental psychology to architecture to governance.
He goes on to apply these working concepts to human-product interaction, and what type of referential object you can use to create cybernetic systems around various products - whether it be an AI or newsletter.
Changing directions —> recently found a design/brand/strategy consulting company called Nemesis. They have some reports of theirs publicly available, and thought their two pieces “Umami” and “The Doom Report” were interesting. Umami was born out of a client project that basically asked the question “if sex doesn’t sell anymore, what does?” Their answer: umami. The Doom Report is a more recent piece on the end of trends, and considers the covid angle on the death of trends and instead argues for a future of decentralized curation.
This also relates to Tom Critchlow’s analysis on ‘orbital and permeable organizations’ that I mentioned above.
wrapping things up…
Those are my quick thoughts! I’ll leave you with a poem I found that I liked, take care everyone!
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.