Friday Finds (Formula 1, Advanced Writers, Steve Jobs, Hollywood)

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Hi friends,

Monday is the last day to sign up for our next Write of Passage cohort, beginning on October 5th.

This week, somebody on Twitter asked a delightful question: "What's a classic essay in your field, that you would recommend any and all students read?" If Friday Finds is your kind of vibe, you'll like the whirling responses to that thread, many of which you probably haven't heard of before. This weekend, I plan to read The Imitation of Our Lord Don Quixote and a paper called The Folklore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences.

Here's what I want to share this week:

  1. The Counterfactual Theory of Value: Karl Marx is famous for his labor theory of value, which essentially states that things should be valued based on how much labor they took to produce. In this piece, I argue that we should use a counterfactual theory of value instead.
  2. Interview with Jimmy Song: The first interview I've shared from my new production studio. Jimmy is a big name in Bitcoin and a Write of Passage alum. He interviewed me about my approach to learning, filtering information, and navigating our world of information abundance. Watch it on YouTube. Listen to it here: Apple | Spotify

Today's Finds

Tips for Advanced Writers: You might know Venkatesh Rao from his blog Ribbonfarm. It's one of the whackiest intellectual spaces on the Internet, and for a while, I went through such a Ribbonfarm maze that I flew across the country for a few meetups. This Quora post is geared towards more advanced writers. He argues there are two kinds of writers: writing-first writers who master the art and thinking-first writers who master the intellectual side of the craft. This divide, he says, is more pronounced than the fiction/non-fiction divide everybody uses. He emphasizes that writing regularly isn't enough to improve your writing. The time you spend rewriting leads to the most improvement.

Guide to Formula 1: One of my favorite questions to ask people is: "What's a point of debate in your field that would surprise an outsider like me?" This page lists a bunch of answers for Formula 1. To me, the most interesting one is about Sausage Kerbs: "F1 has a problem with track limits, whereby, if you have a paved runoff area this will indeed make things smoother and the racing easier for the drivers that go off track... But this could also mean, the drivers rejoin with a gained advantage." If you're interested in the state of the sport, this is a good site to explore. There are tabs about the F1 season and a cheat sheet for people who want to learn the sport too.

The Steve Jobs Archive: Exactly what it sounds like. The site is organized with email memos and short videos that encapsulate his ethos.

The Right to Useful Unemployment: Every now and then, it is my duty to put Ivan Illich on your radar. He wrote in the 1970s, but his ideas still feel prescient. He argues expertise and technology are Faustian Bargains — deals with the devil that destroy communities, tarnish mental health, and dehumanize people. You won’t necessarily agree with him, but his books will introduce you to critiques you won’t find elsewhere. Now, more on Illich... he is a strangely underrated philosopher, especially when you consider how clearly his books are written. Above all else, Illich was skeptical of scale and institutional structures. He believed in the power of individuals. When it came to cities, he critiqued the way cars pull people apart even though they help us move faster, (which theoretically brings people together). Just look at urban sprawl. Cars divide cities when urban planners slap a highway in the middle of a neighborhood. The cars are in control now. Too many cities serve cars, when cars should be serving cities. Illich was also skeptical of formal education. He didn’t believe that schools could achieve universal education, and wrote: “The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.” For a summary of his work, I recommend this interview with his biographer David Cayley (here’s the transcript). All of Illich’s books are short. I recommend this one about school or this critique of our industrial economy.

The Master Switch: As Hollywood continues to lose influence, I want to explore the history of it so I can make sense of where the culture industry is going. The Master Switch is my favorite book on this subject, and it’s time for a re-read. The writing is dry but the ideas are excellent. The thesis is that information industries are defined by a cycle between periods of closed and open, centralization and decentralization. The book is a series of histories about information technologies like radio, television, and the movie industry. Here’s a YouTube video the author gave about the book.

Have a creative week,

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