Iron Filings on Your Brain

Much of work-life balance, I think, is about trying to match what you need to get done to what your current energy pattern can handle. It is no use trying to control your energy patterns — the day-to-day wins and losses around whatever is absorbing you at the moment will drive that. But you can be smart about fitting other things into even the deepest energy troughs. Right now, for instance, having been through a couple of brutal weeks at work, I simply don’t have the energy to finish any of the complex drafts I am working on. But I do have enough energy to write about a simple idea. It’s a trick I use to squeeze the last drop of mental energy out of even the lowest energy trough. I call it the ‘Iron Filings on Your Brain’ trick. Ponder this picture of magnetic lines of force rendered visible by a sprinking of iron filings (public domain image):

magnetic lines of force

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Meditation on Disequilibrium in Nature

The idea of stability is a central organizing concept in mathematics and control theory. Lately I have been pondering a more basic idea: equilibrium, which economists prefer to work with. Looking at some fallen trees this weekend, a point I had appreciated in the abstract hit me in a very tangible form: both stability and equilibrium are intellectual fictions. Here is the sight which sparked this train of thought:

Trees 1

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Whales are Trees

Would you say this object — I present two views — is animal, vegetable or mineral?

Baleen 1 Baleen 2

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Is Jeff Bezos the New Jack Welch?

I don’t usually read the Harvard Business Review because it is inconvenient to read for free, and expensive to pay for, but I happened to dip into the latest issue and was really impressed with the Jeff Bezos interview. Every generation in business is defined by one or two CEOs who manifest and model the defining qualities of the age. With this interview, I think Bezos is in contention for the 2000s.

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Where is I?

I kicked off my writing on consciousness with a post on my overall framing of the problem. Now, by way of warm-up, let’s explore a problem that is confusing and interesting, but not completely mysterious, which I call the problem of indexical extent. The indexical problem is this: assume somebody explains consciousness satisfactorily, and even the existence of specific conscious points of view. Follow-up question: Why are particular conscious points of view associated with particular conscious beings? In particular, why is this particular conscious point of view associated with me? That’s still too hard, so let’s start with a simpler question: “Where is I?” This is the problem of indexical extent.

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The Dawn of the Century of Food

Everybody who gets up on a soapbox at some point needs to make a ritual declaration by finishing the sentence: “The twenty-first century will be about ________.” We’ve heard pronouncements from various gurus that the blank should be filled with 1) China, 2) Chindia, 3) BRIC nations 4) Global warming, 5) Terror, 6) Right-brained thinking, 7) Wisdom (the logic being “something that tops the age of information”) 8 ) Non-profits, 9) Multinationals 10) The aging global population. They are all wrong, and I know what I am talking about because my middle name is actually Guru. The twenty-first century will be about food. It will be a century of amazing progress. All aspects of humanity’s engagement of food: its culture, ethics, taste, healthfulness and philosophy, will get better. And it will all be in large part due to a revolution being ushered in by that much-maligned technology, television.

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Strategy, Tactics, Operations and Doctrine: A decision-language tutorial

Note: the ideas in this post have been significantly refined and turned into a book. The treatment here is somewhat obsolete as a result, but the spirit of my revised arguments remain the same.

Suppose a job candidate walks into your office and hands you a resume. It proclaims, “strategic, systems thinker.” You wince, and almost throw her out right there, but since other parts of her resume look promising, you decide to give her a chance and proceed with the interview. Now ask yourself, how would you actually probe if there is any substance behind the candidate’s claim to strategic abilities? Here is a very good answer: ask the candidate to tell a story. Not any old story, but a relevant one, like how she views the history of development of her field. Or how she views her own personal trajectory. If you can’t figure out why this is an excellent question, read on.

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Work-Life Balance: Juggling, Spinning or Surfing?

I have encountered three metaphors for what most people call the ‘work-life balance’ issue. These are: juggling, keeping multiple plates spinning on sticks, and surfing. Each has its strengths and flaws. All share in common the problems that arise from calling the whole thing a ‘balance’ problem in the first place, but the ‘balance’ point of view has some merits. Here is a straight-faced analysis. I conclude that ‘surfing’ is the best-of-breed within the whole ‘balance’ category or metaphors. Here is why.
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BBC Documentary Featuring Gregory Chaitin

For those of you following my series on digital physics (the first part, on the reality of the real line, and the second part on the relevance on cellular automata  have been posted), you will like this documentary on the nature of infinity by BBC. It features Gregory Chaitin, whose work I covered in the first part.

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Book-Reading Meme

Nandini tagged me to participate in a meme on books. Not exactly how I’d break down my reading tastes, but I suppose I have to be a sociable blogger. So here goes, the books in my life parsed through a dizzying array of angles:

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