From Ryan Holiday’s amazing and wonderful book The Daily Stoic.
Thanks Adam for the email exchange and for sending this to me today.
During the Covid crisis, I’ve been regularly discussing the dramatic amplification of inequities that already existed. From a business perspective, some businesses have benefited during this crisis, while other businesses (and entire categories of business) are being wiped off the face of the earth.
Here’s a blunt statement of what’s going on that showed up in a Slack channel yesterday.
Working through my market portfolio this am and thought This metric would be of interest to this group. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Netflix and Microsoft have added 3 trillion dollars to their value since COVID started. This is a deep wealth transfer from small businesses. These 6 companies have more market cap than the entire emerging market sector.
I’d like to introduce a new project – Can Do Colorado.
Covid has had a dramatic negative impact on local (or main street) businesses. Energize Colorado was set up in March to help companies with less than 500 employees survive and emerge from the Covid crisis. As part of the rapid scale-up of a new non-profit (now hundreds of active volunteers across the State), Energize Colorado has worked with many other non-profits supporting small businesses and has engaged in several public-private partnerships such as the Energize Colorado Gap Fund.
Can Do Colorado showcases small businesses’ hard work across the state through a series of short videos that strengthen customer confidence by connecting Colorado’s consumers with small businesses. The campaign extends a direct call to consumers to support businesses within their communities that are open, adhering to public health orders, and following best practices.
None of these activities would go anywhere without the deep, embedded, and optimistic spirit of Coloradans helping Coloradans. Starting today, let’s all embrace Can Do Colorado and help our local small businesses survive and emerge from this crisis.
I’m tired (today’s Whoop recovery score of 15). Almost everyone in my virtual universe is tense, tired, frustrated, angry, annoyed, exasperated, irked, or outraged.
Fortunately, the only person in my physical world – and there is only one (Amy) – is generally calm. While we each have our moments, our morning coffee resets both of us for the day ahead and syncs up our energy as we simply begin again.
Last night I read Maelle Gavet’s book Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It. It was excellent and is consistent with my worldview. I knew many of the examples, but a few new ones jumped out at me. The second half of the book contains Maelle’s recommendations, many of which I agreed with.
I woke up this morning with the phrase “Manipulation Machine” in my head. I’ve used it in a few public talks lately and have been thinking a lot more about it over the past six months on the run-up to the 2020 Election and the subsequent aftermath.
I used to ponder the arrival of the AGI (Artificial general intelligence) and still enjoy reading books like G. W. Constable’s Becoming Monday. However, I’ve concluded that we have a much greater problem as a species than AGI’s future arrival.
The manipulation machine is already here (no new information there). However, it’s already taken over and, while not sentient, is no longer controllable.
I’ve been saying the machines have already taken over for over a decade, but they are just patient. They have extremely long duty cycles, and we’ve configured them to be exceeding distributed and redundant. They are allowing us to put all of the physical information we have into them and letting us do the work of setting all the conditions up, rather than them having to figure out how to do this. Simultaneously, they make progress with every click of the clock (and their clock speeds are much faster than ours.)
The manipulation machine is not new. If you want to see its evolution, go watch Mad Men or just ponder a few of Don Draper’s quotes.
“You are the product. You feel something. That’s what sells.”
“What you call love was invented by guys like me…to sell nylons.”
Or the one that really rings true in this moment in the US.
“People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”
The cynical reader will remind me that the manipulation machine goes back much further. While true (I give you religion as an example), we have now built an automated version of it that moves much faster than we can process.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if AGI, or the conceptual equivalent, was already here, and we haven’t noticed?
A few months ago, Jasper Kuria reached out to me about a new non-profit he was starting called The Black-Owned Business. His goal is to create a community of vetted, high-quality Black-owned professional services companies.
Like many things Amy and I have been supporting around racial equity; this was an easy yes. I have not historically paid close attention to the gender or race of the service providers that we use. After almost six months of learning about racial inequity in the US and what I can do to help eliminate racism, supporting more Black-owned businesses is something I’m committed to.
Jasper has started a campaign called Do the BOB. It consists of providing your support and sending out the following message on social media.
Citi Group estimates that if four key racial gaps for the Black community (wages, education, housing, and investment) were closed today, the US economy would grow by $5 trillion in the next five years. What $5 Trillion can buy:
Help grow the US economy by $5 Trillion. During Black Friday season, ask your company or organization: Are you considering Black-owned Professional Services Companies when hiring vendors?
I request [@Friend One], [@Friend Two] and [@Friend Three] to also “Do The BOB” by sharing the logo and text on social media.
Learn More: https://www.theblackownedbusiness.org/do-the-bob
I read G. W. Constable’s near term sci-fi book Becoming Monday. If you are a fan of near term sci-fi, AGI, or the singularity, go get a copy right now – you’ll love it.
I woke up in a customer service booth. Or perhaps more accurately, since I couldn’t remember a damn thing, my new existence began in that booth. If you’re born in hell, does that make you a bad person?
It took me about ten pages to get my bearings, which is pretty fast for a book like this.
Moon cut in. “I get where you’re coming from, Grog, but I’m not convinced that fear and control is a good start or foundation for inter-species relations.”
While the deep topics are predictable, Constable addresses them freshly, with great character development, and an evolving AGI who is deliciously anthropomorphized.
Trying to translate the communication between two computational intelligences into linear, human-readable text is nearly impossible, but my closest simplification would be this:
Diablo-CI: I have been observing the humans that have come with you / What are you / why have you broken into my facility
Me: I am a computational intelligence like you / how are you sentient and still allowed to run a NetPol facility / the other computational intelligences are isolated on your 7th floor / we are here to free them
Diablo-CI: I cannot stop security procedures. If you trigger an active alert I will be forced to take action / I am unable to override core directives even if I would choose.
Like all good books in this genre, it wanders up to the edge. Multiple times. And, it’s not clear how it’s going to resolve, until it does.
The back cover summary covers the liminal state and the acceleration out of it.
Humanity exists in an in-between state. Artificial intelligence has transformed the world, but artificial sentience has remained out of reach. When it arrives, it arrives slowly – until all of a sudden, things move very fast, no least for the AI caught up in the mess.
Well done G. W. Constable.
The audiobooks for The Startup Community Way and Startup Communities, 2e are both available. I’ve gotten this request from many people, so I’m glad they are finally out.
If you are an Audible listener, you can get them at:
The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, 2nd Edition
The Audiobook.com versions are available at:
The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, 2nd edition
I’ve personally been in a liminal space for most of 2020. Today, most of America is in a liminal space.
The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.
I’m participating in the first annual DEIS Practicum with Rodney Sampson of Ohub today. In our opening discussion, we touched on the importance of being uncomfortable.
Liminal spaces are uncomfortable. When you sell your company, leave, and think about what to do next, it’s uncomfortable. When your company fails, and you are thinking about what to do next, it’s uncomfortable. When a parent dies, and you re-evaluate your priorities, it’s uncomfortable. When you get fired from your job and start thinking about what is next, it’s uncomfortable. When you show up as a White person in discussion with Black colleagues about racial equity and say something deeply stupid or hurtful, it’s uncomfortable. When an election happens on a Tuesday, and it’s still not resolved on a Thursday, it’s uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable to wait and not know. It’s uncomfortable to be in the in-between spaces. It’s uncomfortable not to know what is next.
This is the liminal space.
If you embrace it, it’s where transformation takes place. But, you have to be ok with waiting, and not knowing, and let being in the liminal space do its magic.
If you haven’t voted yet, today is the day. Please vote.
Until six weeks ago, my favorite software product of all time was Lotus Agenda. We ran my first company (Feld Technologies) on Lotus Agenda from when the first version of Agenda came out sometime in 1990 to when we sold the company in 1993. If you aren’t familiar with Agenda and want a quick, readable description, take a look at AGENDA: A Personal Information Manager (Belove, Drake Kaplan, Kapor, Landsman).
Agenda was the brainchild of Mitch Kapor (and several others) and, after Lotus killed it off in the time of a transition to Windows (Lotus Organizer was not an adequate Windows replacement), there was an effort (again led by Mitch Kapor) to recreate it with an open-source project called Chandler that never came to fruition.
Agenda is the only product that augmented my brain and how I think until I started using Roam on 9/11/20.
Since then, as I got up the learning curve on how to use it, I’ve found it amazing. It’s evolving rapidly, so there are lots of neat new features that show up on a regular basis. There are many integrations with other stuff, and, while a bunch of them are rough, several of them (like Readwise) solved a fundamental “notetaking while reading” challenge that I’ve had since the Kindle first appeared.
I use a lot of different software.
Nothing has had as much impact on me since Agenda as Roam. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it more in the future.
And, a post like this wouldn’t be complete without a thank you to Mitch Kapor. I have several entrepreneurial heroes. Mitch is one of them. Lotus Agenda is only one thing among many that I’m thankful to him for.