The Creation and Destruction of Habits

by Venkat on August 26, 2014

Just for fun, I decided to try and weave a tweetstorm-style chain of thoughts through a chunk of my writing over the last few years. As you might expect, it isn’t exactly short, but at 42 tweet-sized chunks, it’s a decent feat of compression. I’ll spare my twitter followers the actual storm though.

1/ There are two kinds of stories: about forming habits, and about preserving them. Superhero movies and Christmas movies.

2/ While you have room to grow in your life, forming habits is much easier than breaking habits. Neither is easy, however.

3/ A habit, once formed, demands use. This is because it exists as a sunk cost. Disuse would imply depreciating value.

4/ A living habit generates returns and grows more complex over time. This is growth. Growing habits occupy more room over time.

5/ A dying habit generates losses and grows  simpler over time. This is decay. Dying habits decay to occupy less room over time.

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The Veil of Scale

by Venkat on August 20, 2014

There’s an old Soviet-era joke about communist notions of sharing. Two party workers, let’s call them Boris and Ivan, are chatting:

Boris: If you had two houses, would you give one to your comrade?
Ivan: Of course!
Boris: If you had two cars, would you give one to your comrade?
Ivan: Without a doubt!
Boris: If you had two shirts, would you give one to your comrade?
Ivan: You’re crazy, I couldn’t do that!
Boris: Why not?
Ivan: I have two shirts!

There are two things going on here. One is of course, the skin-in-the-game effect. The other is what I call the veil of scale: we choose small-and-local behaviors differently depending on how we think those behaviors will have emergent scaled consequences. The joke here depends on going from large-scale to small-scale questions, surprising Ivan with a question that’s real for him.

The veil of scale is about thought experiments of the form: how would you act in a situation if you didn’t know the extent to which your actions were going to be scaled?

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The Economics of Pricelessness

by Venkat 08.12.2014

The digital economy has taught us a lot about one extreme of pricing: zero. The price-point of zero is a place where weird things happen. We now know what it is to have our attention productized in three-way attention markets. We understand what it means to  devalue to a zero price, things which required nonzero effort to […]

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Seoul Station

by Venkat 08.06.2014

More fiction. Because I can. And because it’s August and all of you are probably off vacationing anyway. If you think it’s unsettling to suddenly find yourself in a strange place, with no idea how you got there, try doing it with no idea where you came from. With no sense of there having even […]

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The Heirloom Lounge

by Venkat 07.30.2014

A short story. A sci-fi short story. A kitchen-sink sci-fi short story. You’ve been warned. The flight had been delayed for another hour and my glasses had just been bricked by yet another update. Plus the rim was cracked from when I’d sat on it earlier. There was a printing and service station at the other […]

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Structure Follows Context

by Venkat 07.23.2014

I like mirroring principles in business a lot. My two favorite ones in business are Conway’s Law (product structure follows organizational structure) and Chandler’s Law (structure follows strategy). In conversations about business in recent years, I’ve been adding two more principles to complete a loop of sorts: market structure follows product structure and strategy follows […]

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Close Encounters of the Missing Kind

by Venkat 07.16.2014

My daily routine is a strange attractor.  Every morning, I decide whether to hit one of the cafes on my regular circuit or work at the desk I rent from a local business. After lunch, and sometimes a nap, I pick a different location for my second work session. My most frequent cafe choices are as follows: […]

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A Koan is not a Riddle

by Jordan Peacock 07.09.2014

Jordan is a 2014 blogging resident visiting us from his home turf on Google+ and hewhocutsdown.net. The following is a break from my Marginally Acceptable series. Venkatesh asked for a review of Gilles Deleuze’s Difference & Repetition. This is what he got instead. Philosophy has long had two distinct approaches, embodied in the approaches of […]

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Roundup: January – June 2014

by Venkat 07.02.2014

Here’s the mid-year roundup. Not counting procedural posts, we’ve had 23 essays in the first six months. The Now Reading page also been updated for the year, check it out for the current state of the ribbonfarm reading radar. Free, as in Agent Consent of the Surveilled The Poor Usability Tell (Jordan) Technical Debt of the […]

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Portals and Flags

by Venkat 06.25.2014

The point of complex debates is not to prove your side right and the other wrong. Smart people make this mistake most often, and end up losing before they ever get started. The point of complex debate is always seduction: winning-over rather than winning. You do this not through logic or even novel insight, but […]

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