There’s a great line in Beckett,” she says, searching for a quote to capture this equipoise of light and dark. “I can’t remember who says it. ‘You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.’ There’s as much common sense in that as in all of Sophocles or Socrates or anyone else.”
Feels like it too.
“What we see unfolding right before our eyes is nothing less than Moore’s Law applied to the distribution of misinformation: an exponential growth of available technology coupled with a rapid collapse of costs.”
“In a profession that is all about untapping individual potential, increasingly impersonal corporatism hangs like a dark cloud”
”There are the cohorts of bureaucrats in every university making a living out of keeping score of publications and citations, manipulating the impact of papers and producing empty marketing verbiage extolling the supposed research excellence of their institutions.”
“Fortunately, Bowie’s schooling didn’t interfere with his education.”
“Management is the antidote to innovation.”
FT. Comment on an article about GSK.
This is via the ever insightful Status-Q:
“A couple of months ago I quoted this phrase from Sam Altman:”
‘The hard part of standing on an exponential curve is: when you look backwards, it looks flat, and when you look forward, it looks vertical. And it’s very hard to calibrate how much you are moving because it always looks the same.’
I talk about a variant of it that I thought Larry Summers used, although when I have tried to check my memory, I turn nothing up. I see two straight lines, one with a shallow gradient close to zero, the other with a steep one, joined at an inflection point. When you are on the shallow line, you never perceive anything is changing. And even when you know things are going to change — or you wish for change —you have no idea when. At least with an exponential function you can calculate: with a sudden shift, all you can do is pray. An optimist is somebody who wishes the inflection point comes soon. As does the fool.
This is from CP Snow’s ’Two Cultures’. I have never read the book, always warming to critiques of it from others. But I like this snippet quoted by John Naughton, recently.
“I can’t help thinking of the Venetian republic in their last half-century. Like us, they had once been fabulously lucky. They had become rich, as we did, by accident. They had acquired immense political skill, just as we have. A good many of them were tough-minded, realistic, patriotic men. They knew, just as clearly as we know, that the current of history had begun to flow against them. many of them gave their minds to working out ways to keep going. It would have meant breaking the pattern into which they had been crystallised. They were fond of the pattern, just as we are fond of ours. They never found the will to break it.”
Maybe I should go back and look at it. CP Snow, Two Cultures
Optimism is the idea that we can build things that fail gracefully
This was a quote from Cory Doctorow on a Guardian Podcast interview at the Hay Book Festival. I do not see much of this in my professional life, but he calls it right.
No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, like Cameron and François Hollande, belong to the exam-passing classes.
In truth, everyone knows that values are actually marketing exercises, used by organisations as slogans. They have little to do with actual behaviour in organisations. They infantilise people, reduce them to ciphers.
“Elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a quality that decides between success and failure”
“Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.” — Marshall McLuhan
That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”
Resist Proxies: As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2. A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, “Well, we followed the process.”
(Do you know what they know they want?)
Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design. I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.
Jeff Bezos here. I dislike process, and in education or research, whatever promise it offers, is offset by its tendency to lead to institutional denigration of those who keep their eyes on reality.
Given your past views on measuring quality in universities, what do you think of the teaching excellence framework, which the government would like to use to measure teaching quality?
The government needs to think more about the evidence we have showing that measuring performance, and in particular ranking performance, creates strong incentives – but all too often the wrong incentives.
What is the biggest threat facing higher education today?
Too much emphasis on comparative achievement, not enough on the pleasure of learning or the importance of doing at least some things really well.
Amen. Nora O’Neill interviewed in the THE
From the Obit of Derek Walcott.
He would cup a breast as he fondled a white stone from the beach. These propensities, noted when he was teaching in America in the 1980s and 1990s, cost him the chance to be, in 1999, Britain’s poet laureate and, ten years later, professor of poetry at Oxford. He was not concerned, for he did not want to drop his anchor long on any northern shore.
For my studies I moved to Berlin and later to Innsbruck in the Tyrolean Alps. Innsbruck was a great place to study: The teaching in both philosophy and economics happened in small groups and the professors were fantastic teachers. Geoscience was a very broad course and had the advantage that we traveled a lot and spend quite some time out in the field.
‘Some diversity training-programs, for example, are like blistering — they are somewhat painful to endure and have no beneficial effects.’
Timothy Wilson in Redirect, the book that nobody from HR seems to have read.
Not a literal quote, but an impressionism.
You are a participant in whatever happens… and there is chaos.
You are not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic
Optimism and pessimism all together. Joi Ito here.
The report’s authors wanted to know what drove nurses and doctors to join agencies, presuming it was simply a case of higher pay. But the researchers found that agency workers in the NHS had similar pay. What they found interesting was that agency workers felt better off because they had escaped the internal politics, the bureaucracy and the stricture of rotas that rarely matched the demands of home. As agency workers they believed they had more control over their lives and put up with less bullying from their employer.
A report by the National Institute for Economic & Social Research (NIESR) quoted here.
There is only one way to ensure that assessment is light-touch. Universities should rebrand themselves as banks.
Comment (Mintaka) on an article on the TEF from one of the HE commissars (Nick Hillman).
In 1924, a 30-year old journalist on the Daily Express came to Cambridge aiming to interview Haldane. She was Charlotte Burghes, née Franken, and she had a young son, Ronnie. Haldane and Charlotte became lovers, but before they could marry she had to seek a divorce, a procedure that carried substantial social stigma at that time. A university committee resolved to strip Haldane of his readership, which was only restored by successful legal action.
Doctors seem to diagnose what they know, so find out what they know before you ask them whats wrong with you.
At a lecture following the publication of his book, Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air, he was assailed by an angry environmentalist who asked him why he was “so hostile” to wind power. [Prof David] MacKay smiled sweetly and replied: “I’m not hostile to anything. I’m just in favour of arithmetic.”
I remember reading this awhile back, but came across it again on Memex
Two nice turns of phrase with a pertinence far and wide.
“I’m looking for places where the culture is lying to itself,”she says. “I’m interested in where the language is insufficient and the ideas don’t seem to reflect reality.”
“It’s just so easy to think what’s important about the future is getting to Mars and having self-driving cars,”
From an interview with Emily Witt in the FT
“books of the type written by the current hotshot Op-Ed writer at the New York Times may get some hype at publication time, manufactured or spontaneous, but their five year survival is generally inferior to that of pancreatic cancer.”
Nassim Taleb Numbers matter: the Lindy effect at work.
“This may upset some of my students at MIT, but one of my concerns is that it’s been a predominantly male gang of kids, mostly white, who are building the core computer science around AI, and they’re more comfortable talking to computers than to human beings. A lot of them feel that if they could just make that science-fiction, generalized AI, we wouldn’t have to worry about all the messy stuff like politics and society. They think machines will just figure it all out for us.”
Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab
(Via John Naughton)
Or as I quoted Steven Weinberg in a paper with the title, “The Problem with Academic Medicine: Engineering Our Way into and out of the Mess”
“My advice is to go for the messes—that’s where the action is.”
Tim Wu: ‘The internet is like the classic story of the party that went sour’
“Four decades ago The City University of New York charged no tuition fees, and all its students were taught by full-time staff. Today, fees cover half of all teaching costs and half of professors are part-timers.”
Danny Dorling in the THE, reviewing Austerity Blues: Fighting for the Soul of Public Higher Education By Michael Fabricant and Stephen Brier