Discover more from Ani's Newsletter
Cumberbatch, AI doom, lilac season, 15-minute cities, and more
Seven thin(g/k)s I explored this week
Hello from a gal who witnessed rain indoors last weekend, also known as water damage, also known as “hi, you need to evacuate your home right now.”
But who cares, lilac season is here:
Here are this week’s seven links to bits of the world I have been exploring, shared with the hope that you will find them to be an inspiring springboard for deeper thinking.
I’m really enjoying This is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch. Super entertaining (like, elevated and witty hilarity packed in almost every sentence kind of entertaining) view of a subject likely to otherwise have led to existential dread: how we often view our passions as being an inverse function of aging. Borrowed the book for free via Libby and am using the digital highlighter function with reckless abandon (I hope no one bursts my bubble by pointing out that when I return the digitally loaned book, all those highlights will disappear).
This little travelogue documenting a trip with the writer’s little one is case in point that passion (for travel, for instance) need not dissipate into oblivion with the coming of aging/parenthood.
Remember all that talk about income and emotional wellbeing? Some, like Daniel Kahneman had argued that (past about the $100k mark) more money doesn’t make people happier, while others, like Matthew Killingsworth had argued that it did. And what do sensible people do when confronted by such contradiction? Contrary to what social media would have you think, they become besties and collaborate. Here is their published conflict resolution, which to me indicates there are still people out there who value truth more than ego. It shows that for the least happy 20% of people, their miseries remain past the $100k mark and higher income doesn’t alleviate their emotional suffering. For everyone else, it does.
The 15-minute cities, and the conspiracies around it.
How best to learn history—a thread—with the original poster’s inquiry as follows:
“I'm blown away by the history knowledge of the median poster here, not to mention those on the tails. I'm an ignoramus who wishes he knew more. I'm mostly a lost cause on this issue because my memory isn't what it used to be and when I do read it's often while drinking. Doesn't help that I learned nothing in school, which is probably a good time to at least learn the structure of history, a skeletal frame which can be built on later.
Feel like I keep trying to learn the skeletal frame, but always forget some of the major limbs of history, and sometimes the spine itself. I have little hope of ever learning whatever the smaller bones are called are (My knowledge of biology is lacking as well).
So how should one best learn history? I think this question gets subdivided into: what should be taught at what age? how should it be taught? what are the best sources, e.g., books, movies, historical novels...”
Yudkowsky, regarded as a founder of the field of Artificial General Intelligence, on why pausing AI development is not enough.
watching: still here on season 347384682 of Vikings
listening: not reading = reverting to primitive life, literally. Will share some of my notes on this podcast episode from Cal Newport via my Stories on IG. For now, I was happy to find Newport’s take on kindle aligned with mine, and apparently I was so happy about his discussion on how Kindle pages differ from the screens we scroll on that I remember having dreamt last night of being at a backyard BBQ and passing on this newfound knowledge like trivia with a sentence that started with “did you know!?” #nerd
eating: these mid-day squares, which are my little acts of daily rebellion bc I eat them at all times other than at mid-day
using: after one of my AirPods fell on the floor of a public restroom at the airport last month, I’ve been too grossed out to clean them let alone touch them. Finally got myself to sanitize them this week and happy to report that they are now a permanent fixture on my ear.
Recommendations From You: AI books?
There’s so much panic about AI, maybe rightfully so? I don’t know. I have no background in AI and my knowledge of it sucks, which is why I tried remedying a bit of that by ordering some intro books. I’d love your recs, if you have any, on the non-techy, preferrably AI ethics-y side of things. Here are the three books I am looking into: book 1, book 2, book 3.
PS — thank you to those who generously recommended nonfiction books similar to Patrick Radden Keefe’s style in Empire of Pain. Some of your recs included Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (thank you, Sayani Sarkar!) and these from Anna Vardanyan— “Bad Blood (about Theranos) - I couldn't put it down. In that style, I also enjoyed Red Notice (about Bill Browder's life in Russia (not without its problems)), American Overdose (content is very similar to Empire of Pain), Catch & Kill (about Harvey Weinstein), Super Pumped (about Uber).”
affiliate links: sometimes, I include links to my Amazon storefront (often for books or other recommendations around the home/self I’ve found useful and hope you will, too). This means I make a few pennies whenever someone makes a purchase using the link. It doesn’t detract from my recommendations coming from a place of a genuine desire to share with you. It just helps provide a few tangible tokens for my effort.
support: I love writing these newsletters and creating deeper threads of connection to you in this absurd world of ours, but in any case, it is a time-consuming endeavor. If you are enjoying my journey, and if able, please consider supporting it by way of interaction (follow along on Instagram, YouTube, or leave a comment/like here!), subscribing to my paid-tier here on Substack, or by buying me a coffee here! It is hugely appreciated, and my gratitude is with you.
Have a lovely weekend!