Friday Finds (Girard, Logic, Aristotle, Trader Joe's, Media History)


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Hi friends,

Greetings from the Yucatán Peninsula!

We've just wrapped up a Write of Passage team retreat where we swam in cenotes, snorkeled in the Caribbean, and visited the Chichén Itzá ruins.

To begin the week, I shared our ways of working: we're flipping tables, own it, Usain Bolt mentality, work as soulcraft, action produces information, make the flip, radical candor, process serves people, we believe in sticky notes, meeting skeptical, and write it down. (I wrote about them on Twitter and Monday Musings).

Earlier this year, Johnathan Bi and I published an overview lecture of René Girard's philosophy. We promised six more lectures, and the wait is almost over. We'll publish the next two installments next week: one about Mimetic psychology and another about Mimetic rivalry and Girard's theodicy. (Click here to receive them by email).

Today's Finds

Trader Joe’s: A primer on my favorite supermarket, which sells more food per square foot than any other grocery store. They don’t just have customers. They have fans. Visiting the store is a little bit like thrift shopping because you always find something unexpected. It seems like every other week somebody swells with pride as they recommend some new Trader Joe’s product to me. It’s far more curated than other grocery stores too. Where typical grocery stores carry ~35,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units), Trader Joe’s only has ~3,000. Roughly 80% of those products have the Trader Joe’s name on the label too. Unlike other grocery stores, there are employees everywhere, no social media, no self-checkout lines, no customer loyalty programs, and no online ordering.

Münchhausen Trilemma: This idea comes from the world of epistemology. It shows the impossibility of proving any truth, even in the fields of logic and mathematics. Whenever somebody asks for further proof on an argument, there are only three places the speaker can fall back on: (1) the circular argument, in which the proof of some proposition is supported only by that proposition, (2) the regressive argument, where each argument requires further proof, and (3) the dogmatic argument, which rests on accepted principles which are merely asserted rather than defended. Those definitions are from Wikipedia, which provides an excellent introduction.

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. But it’s really a series of histories about information technologies like radio, television, and the movie industry. Here’s a YouTube talk the author gave about the book.

Lewis Mumford and The Magnificent Bribe: So much of what we know about how technology shapes society originates with Mumford. He argued that people mistakenly assume that what’s good for the technological system is good for individuals, which isn’t always true. Thus, people need to be bribed with a shiny object that looks appealing in the short term, even if the long term consequences are harmful.

How Aristotle Created the Computer: This essay traces the history of logic from Aristotle to modern computing. It builds upon the early days of Euclidean geometry, when mathematics was considered a hopelessly abstract subject with no practical use. Later, it moves into Claude Shannon’s work on information theory, which runs the computer you’re using to read this sentence. Here’s a good summary: “Logic began as a way to understand the laws of thought. It then helped create machines that could reason according to the rules of deductive logic. Today, deductive and inductive logic are being combined to create machines that both reason and learn.”

Have a creative week,

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