In this edition: junk work, the 3x3 rule, super-abundant intelligence, the science of face-to-face, writers' rules for writers, space elevators, and more.
New Skills For Work (N.S.F.W.) is this afternoon (April 24th), and we're going to learn some brainstorming best practices – including ways to incorporate AI tools to turbocharge your teams' ideation.
Filament Focus Club: If you like to read business books, join us as we launch a unique book club at Filament on May 10th.
Ideas + Insights
Here's something I've been contemplating for a long time: how will people entering a new profession "learn by doing" when all the introductory easy work is gone?
[T]here are plenty of places where you are socialized into a profession through menial labor. Consider the legal profession. The work that young lawyers do is junk labor. It is dreadfully boring and doesn’t require a law degree. Moreover, a lot of it is automate-able in ways that would reduce the need for young lawyers. But what does it do to the legal field to not have that training? What do new training pipelines look like? We may be fine with deskilling junior lawyers now, but how do we generate future legal professionals who do the work that machines can’t do?
Facilitating a workshop and tired of having the same folks talking all the time? Institute the 3X3 Rule:
The "3x3 rule" says that everyone should wait until 3 other people have spoken, or 3 minutes have passed before speaking again. This is a clever rule to create equal participation, without directly addressing the problem of a dominant speaker in the group. Based on the size of the group, this can also be adjusted to the 2x2 or even 4x4 Rule.
Is AI leading to a superabundance of intelligence?
Instead of thinking about AI as something separate from human intelligence, we should think of it as an increase in the overall supply of intelligence.
As internet pioneer David Gelernter wrote in a prescient 2010 piece, Dream Logic, The Internet, and Artificial Thought, “Human intelligence is the most valuable stuff in the cosmos, and we are always running short. A computer-created increase in the world-wide intelligence supply would be welcome, to say the least.” There’s latent demand for brainspace.
Then the important question becomes not “Will I lose my job?” but “What would I do with superabundant intelligence?”
When you're doing important work that impacts people beyond your "official" client, what if you took this approach?
“You may be hiring us and that may be your name on the check, but we do not work for you. We’re coming in to solve a problem, because we believe it needs to be solved and it’s worth solving. But we work for the people being affected by that problem. Our job is to look out for them because they’re not in the room. And we will under no circumstances design anything that puts those people at risk.”
Another reminder that face-to-face matters:
Face-to-face meetings, even brief ones, appear to cement personal connections of trust and liking to an extent not achieved by even years of more mediated contact like phone calls or Internet text discussions / emails / chat; this appears to be true in almost every context, even ones like British inventors meeting their heroes (in a different field) just once, with large step functions in connections despite the apparent near-zero marginal information conveyed by a brief physical visit after long-term interactions & track records.
Screwed up? Talk to yourself like a good friend:
Stop yourself and pretend like it is someone else who made the mistake and audibly talk to that ‘person’ – for example, if you want to be mad at yourself for overcooking something, step back and pretend like it was your friend who overcooked and speak how you would talk to them at that moment.
This sentiment from a commencement speech given by Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson really hit me:
“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords [them] the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to [their] potential—as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth."
Coming for so many professions: Ask An AI Accountant
A collection of rules for writers from writers.
This fun visualization of a space elevator was more compelling than I expected.
Words of Wisdom
“We don’t notice what we don’t notice, so we don’t notice that we don’t notice." – Shelia Heen
"Fifteen years ago, the internet was an escape from the real world. Now, the real world is an escape from the internet." – Noah Smith
It is essential to take risks. Examine the life of any lucky man or woman, and you are all but certain to find that he or she was willing, at some point, to take a risk. Without that willingness, hardly anything interesting is likely to happen to you. — Max Gunther
"A race car driver doesn't look at the wall – they look at the track." – Julie Gurner
"Humanity is exemplified not in fraternity but in friendship." – Hannah Arendt
"[T]he greatest distance leaders have to travel is the distance from their mouths to their feet. Taking that step toward fulfilling a promise, putting the resources behind a pledge, and acting on a verbal commitment may require great courage." – Michael Bungay Stanier
"If you need 10 of something, make 30. Then pick the best." – Rick Rubin
"Healthier organizations are possible when you stop comparing them with machines and, instead, compare them with communities." – Jurgen Appelo