Month: May 2023

Paying Attention

This post is by Collab Fund from Collab Fund

Sherlock Holmes says in the book, The Study of Scarlet:

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands.

This was written in 1887. Imagine how he’d feel today – phone buzzing in his pocket, social media feeds gushing out useless information.

Deciding what to pay attention to is hard, overlooked, and most important, it’s a negative skill – it’s about what you willfully ignore as much as what you actively seek out.

Francis Crick, who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, was once asked what it takes to win the Nobel Prize. He responded: “Oh it’s very simple. My secret had been I know what to ignore.”

Author John Barry writes:

Einstein reportedly once said that his own major scientific talent was his ability to look at an enormous number of experiments and journal articles, select the very few that were both correct and important, ignore the rest, and build a theory on the right ones.

The best reading strategy I’ve come across is the idea of a wide funnel and tight filter. Be willing to read anything that looks even (Read more...)

When looking at the debate over Samuelson’s USSR forecasts, at least we can all agree that somebody comes off looking bad.

I've been meaning to write this up for a few months now, but recent events have pushed it back to the forefront.

A number of times over the past few years, Andrew Gelman has revisited this Marginal Revolution post from Alex Tabarrok. (emphasis added.)

In the 1961 edition of his famous textbook of economic principles, Paul Samuelson wrote that GNP in the Soviet Union was about half that in the United States but the Soviet Union was growing faster.  As a result, one could comfortably forecast that Soviet GNP would exceed that of the United States by as early as 1984 or perhaps by as late as 1997 and in any event Soviet GNP would greatly catch-up to U.S. GNP.  A poor forecast–but it gets worse because in subsequent editions Samuelson presented the same analysis again and again except the overtaking time was always pushed further into the future so by 1980 the dates were 2002 to 2012.  In subsequent editions, Samuelson provided no acknowledgment of his past failure to predict and little commentary beyond remarks about “bad weather” in the Soviet Union (see Levy and Peart for more details).

I've always had the nagging feeling that this was not the whole story, a reaction I often have with Marginal Revolution posts, but it wasn't until recently that I came across this very good Paul Krugman piece discussing how the collapse of the Soviet economy helped put Vladimir Putin in power that I found out what Tabarrok had left (Read more...)

Who cares?

This post is by Seth Godin from Seth's Blog

A question we don’t ask ourselves very often, but a choice we make every day.

It’s tempting to not care. If you choose to not care, you’re off the hook. It’s simply to do as little as possible, avoid too much trouble, ask if it will be on the test, try to stay off the hook, so what…

On the other hand, caring can lead to heartbreak. Caring is the chance to make a difference, to actually be involved in what happens next. Caring puts us on the hook and caring offers a chance to contribute.

When we care, we get to make a difference, and that creates meaning, the path to significance.