Welcome to the weekend. This time of year you get a lot of great ‘best of’ articles. Some of my favorites are the year in review, 52 things I learned in 2017, things Skimm’d in 2017, the year in pictures, the year in graphics, the year in technology: 2017 in charts, some things about tech were good in 2017, best podcasts of 2017, best movies of 2017, best books in 2017 and a list of books I read in 2017.
This week, I decided to make my own list. What you’ll see below are 7 of my favorite Weekend Briefing stories this year. If you have time, try to get through them all, they are thought-provoking, and you might walk away with a fresh perspective going into 2018.
I’ve created a playlist to kick off the new year. This playlist features a track from Grace Weber called More Than Friends. It was produced on Binta Niambi Brown’s – a Weekend Briefing community member – record label, which happens to be the first B Corp in the entertainment space.
Neuralink is a new company by Elon Musk which may eclipse Tesla and SpaceX in both the boldness of its engineering undertaking and the grandeur of its mission. The other two companies aim to redefine what future humans will do—Neuralink wants to redefine what future humans will be. (spoiler alert: cyborgs) (additional spoiler alert: we are already cyborgs.) This company will create a “whole-brain interface,” or a magical wizard hat—a brain interface so complete, so smooth, so biocompatible, and so high-bandwidth that it feels as much a part of you as your brain. A whole-brain interface gives your brain the ability to communicate wirelessly with the cloud, with computers, and with the brains of anyone who has a similar interface in their head. This flow of information between your brain and the outside world would be so effortless, it would feel similar to the thinking that goes on in your head today. Weekend Briefing (12 minutes)
Oregon Trail Generation
I was born in November of 1979. I’m too young to be fully Gen Xer and too old to be fully Millennial. A perfect label has emerged for people like me: the Oregon Trail Generation. We grew up playing the game on Apple II’s in our school computer lab. (Kyle died of dysentery!) We were the first group of high school kids to do research for papers both online and in an old-fashioned card catalogue. We had a youth untouched by social media, so, though we were still acting like idiots, the whole world couldn’t see it. We used pay-phones; we showed up at each other’s houses without warning; we often spoke to our friends’ parents before we got to speak to them; and we had to wait at least an hour to see any photos we’d taken. Thanks to the evil genius of Sean Parker, most of us were in college in the heyday of Napster and spent many a night using the university’s communal Ethernet to pillage our friends’ music libraries at breakneck speeds. We were on the cusp of changes that essentially transformed modern life. We are the last generation who was formed in the analogue world, but the first generation to fully embrace the digital world. Learn more at Social Media Week (6 minutes).
Alexa, Did You Witness Murder?
Police in Bentonville Arkansas issued a warrant for Amazon to hand over any audio or records from an Echo belonging to James Andrew Bates. Bates is set to go to trial for first-degree murder. Amazon declined to give police any of the information that the Echo logged on its servers, but it did hand over Bates’ account details and purchases. Police say they were able to pull data off of the speaker, but it’s unclear what info they were able to access. Due to the so-called always on nature of the connected device, the authorities are after any audio the speaker may have picked up that night. Sure, the Echo is activated by certain words, but it’s not uncommon for the IoT gadget to be alerted to listen by accident. Umm… creepy. Learn more at Engadget (6 minutes).
AI & Christianity
While concerns with AI mostly center on economics, government, and ethics, there’s also a spiritual dimension to what we’re making. Creating sentient beings raises interesting spiritual questions like: Does a sentient robot have a soul? We’ve understood it to be some non-physical essence of an individual that’s not dependent upon or tied to their body. Would AI have a soul by that definition? And what about sin? Christians have traditionally taught that sin prevents divine relationship by somehow creating a barrier between fallible humans and a holy God. Say, in the robot future, instead of eradicating humans, the machines decide—or have it hardwired somewhere deep inside them—that never committing evil acts is the ultimate good. Would artificially intelligent beings be better Christians than humans are? And how would this impact the Christian view of human depravity? Can AI be saved? The Bible teaches that Jesus’s death redeemed “all things” in creation—from ants to accountants—and made reconciliation with God possible. So, did Jesus die for artificial intelligence, too? Learn more at the Atlantic (12 minutes).
The Expert Generalist
The rival argument to the 10,000-hour rule is the expert-generalist approach. The expert-generalist is someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics. He or she can then: 1) Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas. 2) Drill deep to focus and perfect the thinking. The business world has placed great emphasis on focus, and rightly so, but more emphasis must now be placed on curiosity. Too often, we are so pressed by the day-to-day demands of work that we aren’t making time for exploration, diving into areas entirely outside our range of experience, letting our minds run, and finding inspiration from encountering new ideas with uncertain payoffs. Learn more at The Mission (9 minutes).
Are You an Amateur or Professional?
What’s the difference between amateurs and professionals? (1) Amateurs have a goal. Professionals have a process. (2) Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circles of competence. (3) Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing them as a person. Professionals know they have weak spots and seek out thoughtful criticism. (4) Amateurs give up at the first sign of trouble and assume they’re failures. Professionals see failure as part of the path to growth and mastery. (5) Amateurs don’t have any idea what improves the odds of achieving good outcomes. Professionals do. (6) Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and on finding people who are strong where they are weak. (7) Amateurs think knowledge is power. Professionals pass on wisdom and advice. (8) Amateurs focus on being right. Professionals focus on getting the best outcome. (9) Amateurs focus on tearing other people down. Professionals focus on making everyone better. (10) Amateurs show up inconsistently. Professionals show up every day. Learn more at Farnam Street (4 minutes).
Small improvements can be the key that unlocks significant success. If you are able to improve 1% every day for a year, you’d be 37x better then you were on day 1. This is the concept called aggregation of marginal gains. Everybody wants their life to change in the blink of an eye, but real change is incremental and built on habits. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Good habits make time your ally, bad habits make time your enemy. Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. They think that if they just felt like doing the habit they would do it. They wake up asking the question, “I wonder if I’ll feel like doing my habit today?” Instead you need to carve out a specific time / place for the habit. Give your goals a time and a place to live in the world. Watch James Clear’s keynote on this. JamesClear.com (25 minutes)