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HLG Notebook | October 2014

1. The Revolt Against Russell Brand

The British press is doing what it does best: crafting gleeful, mocking reviews. The latest target is actor Russell Brand’s moronic-sounding new book, Revolution. “Rambling, half-baked, shifty and unpleasant,” announces The Daily Mail. “ Sub-undergraduate dross,” declares The Telegraph. Not to be outdone, The Guardian offers this analysis:

His writing is atrocious: long-winded, confused and smug; filled with references to books Brand has half read and thinkers he has half understood.

Another case where the reviews are far better than the book.

2. Start-Ups Don’t Belong in College

Few people have had more influence on tech start-ups than Paul Graham. His Y-Combinator is by far the most successful bootcamp for early-stage ventures, launching Dropbox, Airbnb, and dozens of others. Graham has recently written up his notes from a talk he gave at Stanford:

When it comes to startups, a lot of people seem to think they’re supposed to start them while they’re still in college. Are you crazy? And what are the universities thinking? They go out of their way to ensure their students are well supplied with contraceptives, and yet they’re setting up entrepreneurship programs and startup incubators left and right.

 3. Seinfeld Wins a CLIO

Jerry Seinfeld accepts the advertising industry’s highest award – and then proceeds to dump all over it. Flawless, four-minute acceptance speech:

We are a hopeful species. Stupid, but hopeful. But we’re happy in the moment between the commercial and the purchase. And I think spending your life trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy.

4. Has Google Peaked?

Ben Thompson has written a trenchant case for why Google – like IBM and Microsoft before it – might soon be eclipsed. His blog-essay captures the shifting world of online advertising and shows why Google “lacks the human touch needed for social or viral content” that has become new pulse of the internet:

All of the things that make Google great at search and search advertising – the algorithm, the auction system, and machine learning – are skills that don’t really translate to the more touchy-feely qualities that make a social service or content site compelling.

Interestingly, Thompson’s musings appeared just as Larry Page announced that he is stepping back from some of his CEO duties to look at the bigger picture.

5. Formulas for Creative Thinking

Someone has unearthed a never-published 1959 essay by science fiction icon Isaac Asimov about “how people get new ideas.” Asimov’s reflections on how fresh thinking emerges are fully relevant today. He does not believe in the wisdom of crowds:

The person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)…My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it.

6. Big Data, Big Fantasies

A long-awaited philosophical critique of everyone’s obsession with Big Data. Nathan Jurgenson argues that while tech companies and their cheerleaders believe that Big Data is a “revolution in knowledge” ushering in a new Enlightenment, the results may be less welcome:

Many proponents of Big Data claim that massive databases can reveal a whole new set of truths because of the unprecedented quantity of information they contain…This long-held positivist fantasy – the complete account of the universe that is always just around the corner – thereby establishes a moral mandate for ever more intrusive data collection.


The post appeared first on High Lantern Group.