Looking Back 2023

Year of limits.

For the last two years my goals have been to work less, live more and to keep living, keep playing. I think I’ve done those things—I’m living, I’m playing.

But I found my limits this year.

I made time for climbing, taekwondo, podcasting, family, friends, game nights, jam nights, movies, trips, reading, resting, work… but I never did them all at once. I could barely fit them all in a month. I juggled—often with massive gaps in between.

I know (more or less) how much I can handle now, and I’ve learned to be okay with letting things go and letting them take an absurdly long time to complete.

Festina lente.

My goals for 2024:

  • Redesign my website.
  • Release (and rename) a beta version of perfwatch.
  • Finish “An Incomplete History of Web Performance Part 2”.

Stretch goals:

  • Do a split (yes, literally).
  • Continue Catching Up podcast.
  • Build a type racing game.
  • Make a Mac Shortcuts tutorial.
  • Transcribe some of my old presentations (see Goals 2020).

Happy New Year.

Jump to: Personal, Books, Music, Code


10 Years Ago…

This is my 10th year in Charlotte. It’s also the 10th year since I graduated college, and the 10th year since I found out we were having a baby.

A lot has happened since this guy left Florida ten years ago:

Tanner standing next to his car, waving goodbye to the camera.
October 27, 2013. Tanner leaves Orlando, FL.

Here’s me now:

Tanner sitting in his car, holding a book and smiling at the camera.
December 31, 2023. Tanner in Charlotte, NC.

😄 Still smiling, at least.

I thought about turning this into a “10 Years in Review” post, but decided to save that for another day. (Maybe another stretch goal for 2024?)

Performance Community

My biggest event this year was going to the performance.now() conference in Amsterdam. The conference was only 2 days but I stayed for 5, and even though it’s been several months since then I’m still processing my time there.

Phase Transitions

2023 was full of transitions. We’re back in the office at work, I’m on a new team in a new role, and AI is all the rage. It’s a new phase.

My family’s growing up. We all have our own things, and we’re all trying new things too (auditions, sleepovers, retirement). My kids choose music in the car now. Also, Santa died this year but his magic lives forever.

We’ll see where life takes us in 2024.


  • Blood, Sweat, and Pixelsby Jason Schreier

    Wild stories from the world of game development.

    “People have been making games since the 1970s, haven’t they? With decades of lessons and experience to draw from, shouldn’t game development have grown more efficient? … Why do game developers still have so many stories about staying at the office until 3:00 a.m.? Why is it still so difficult to make video games?”

    “Every single video game is made under abnormal circumstances. Video games straddle the border between art and technology in a way that was barely possible just a few decades ago. Combine technological shifts with the fact that a video game can be just about anything, from a two-dimensional iPhone puzzler to a massive open-world RPG with über-realistic graphics, and it shouldn’t be too shocking to discover that there are no uniform standards for how games are made.”


    • “For decades, extended overtime has been a ubiquitous practice, seen as integral to game development as buttons or computers. It’s also been controversial. Some argue that crunch represents failure of leadership and project management—that for employees to spend months working fourteen-hour days, usually for no extra money, is unconscionable. Others wonder how games can be made without it.”
    • “We are ninety-nine percent done, but that last one percent’s a bitch.” —Dustin Browder
    • “The sheer amount of polish it takes to take that prototype to completion… You hit FX, and sound, and animation. It hits every single department in so many ways, and it might take you a few days to put that prototype together, but it’s going to take you a few months to really complete it.” —Evan Wells
    • “You can mitigate it, you can try to make it less impactful in the long term, make sure people have the chance to recuperate and recover from it, but I think it’s the nature of an artistic endeavor, where there’s no blueprint for making a game. You’re constantly reinventing the product.” —Evan Wells
    • “To solve crunch, probably the best you could do is say: don’t try to make Game of the Year… Don’t do that and you’re good.” —Neil Druckmann
    • “With Uncharted 4, we tried even earlier than we’d ever done [to say] ‘Here’s the entire story, beginning to end, here are all the beats…’ And what we find is that instead of shrinking crunch, we just make a more ambitious game, and people work just as hard as the previous game. So we’re still trying to figure out how to find that better work-life balance.” —Neil Druckmann
    • “It’s normal, in game development, for staff at big companies to take long sabbaticals after shipping their games. When the crunch is over and they’ve made it out of the hellfire, game developers are generally entitled to take a month or two off to recharge.”


    • “I’ve always been late on every game I’ve ever worked on… and it’s because I always want to revise stuff and do it again, or do it better, or put more polish on it.” —Sean Velasco
    • “‘Polish,’ in video game parlance, generally refers to bug-fixing, fine-tuning, and all the other fiddly little acts that make games feel smooth and fun to play.”


    • “After nearly two years with the game, Straley and Druckmann had lost all semblance of objectivity, which was why testers were so important… Bits of individual feedback weren’t that helpful—what if that bored tester was just having a bad day?—so instead, Naughty Dog’s leads looked for trends. Were a lot of people getting stuck on the same encounter? Did everyone think one section of the game was too boring?”
    • “That’s another issue with being a solo developer… You lose all objectivity about your game. I had no idea when the game was fun. In fact I thought the game was garbage even up until a few days before release, I was like, ‘This game sucks.’” —Eric Barone
    • “Kading went to BioWare’s leadership with a proposal: give him the authority to call up the entire Inquisition team once a week for an hour, four weeks in a row, for mandatory play sessions. The leads said yes. So Kading opened his own little laboratory, working with the other designers to construct a set of combat encounters that the rest of the team could test out… When surveys came back during the first week of Kading’s experiment, the average rating was a dismal 1.2 (out of 10)… Four weeks later, when Kading’s experiment had finished, the average rating was an 8.8.”


    • “The word ‘engine’ calls to mind the guts of a car, but in game development, an engine is more like a car factory. Every time you build a new car, you’ll need many of the same components: tires, axles, plush leather seats. Similarly, just about every video game needs the same core features: a physics system, a graphics renderer, a main menu. Coding new versions of those features for every game would be like designing new wheels every time you wanted to manufacture a sedan. Engines, like factories, allow their users to recycle features and avoid unnecessary work.”
    • “Another major challenge was that Bungie had decided to rebuild its internal engine alongside Destiny, which was a whole lot of fun for the engineers, but made life far more difficult for everyone else.”
    • “Basically we had to do new consoles, a new engine, new gameplay, build the hugest game that we’ve ever made, and build it to a higher standard than we ever did… With tools that don’t exist.” —Matt Goldman


    • “‘The biggest differentiator between a studio that creates a really high-quality game and a studio that doesn’t isn’t the quality of the team,’ said one person who worked on Destiny. ‘It’s their dev tools. If you can take fifty shots on goal, and you’re a pretty shitty hockey player, and I can only take three shots on goal and I’m Wayne fucking Gretzky, you’re probably going to do better. That’s what tools are. It’s how fast can you iterate, how stable are they, how robust are they, how easy is it as a nontechnical artist to move a thing.’ Anyone who’s ever screamed at a sluggish piece of computer software knows how frustrating it can be to have slow tools, whether it’s Microsoft Word or a graphics renderer. ‘It’s the least sexy part of development, yet it’s the single most important factor there ever is,’ said the person. ‘Good tools equals better game, always.’”
    • “Whereas on Halo it might have taken ten to fifteen seconds for a design change to show up in the game, on Destiny it could take upward of half an hour… What that meant was that for Bungie’s artists and designers, basic tasks took way longer than expected, and the inefficiencies added up.”
    • “CD Projekt Red knew that the older hardware was too limiting for their goals. If they had to restrict The Witcher 3’s memory for last-gen consoles, they wouldn’t be able to achieve the level of photorealism that they thought they could hit with this game. CD Projekt Red wanted to build a world with a functioning ecosystem and day-night cycle, with elaborate cities and grass that swayed in the wind. They wanted players to be able to explore the entirety of each region without waiting for parts of the game to load. None of this would be possible on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.”


    • “People like to say, ‘Oh, it’s just another software package, you’ll learn it,’” Nesler said. “But to really learn how to achieve mastery and competence, to be able to adequately schedule how long it’ll take you to do something, you need to get to a level where you’re able to problem-solve in these packages… It takes time, months or years to become so good at something that when someone says, ‘How long will it take you to do something?’ you can say, ‘It takes me this long.’”


    • “The standard burn rate for a game studio was $10,000 per person per month, a number that included both salaries and overhead costs, like health insurance and office rent. Using that number as a baseline, keeping all fifty Stormlands developers employed would cost the studio at least $500,000 every month.”
    • “Ever wondered why so many big video games come out in March? There’s an easy answer for that: the fiscal year, used for reporting financial performance to stockholders, which dominates the decision making of every publicly traded company. Most game publishers end their fiscal years on March 31, so if they’re looking to delay a game but still fit it in the current fiscal year, March makes for the perfect window.”


    • “On May 15, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people across the world loaded up the Battle.net Internet client and slammed the launch button for Diablo III, a game that the developers at Blizzard had been making for nearly ten years… After a decade of turbulent development, Diablo III had finally gone live, but nobody could play it. Some people gave up and went to bed. Others kept trying. An hour later: The servers are busy at this time. Please try again later. (Error 37) … Diablo II was widely considered one of the best games ever made. Now, in May 2012, the rocky launch of Diablo III had associated the Blizzard logo with something that the company had never experienced: public failure.”
    • “LucasArts had struggled so much to get their projects revving over the past decade. Why wouldn’t their parent company want to help them out? Why wouldn’t they want to keep riding the 1313 train while it was at full speed? The answer to all those questions was ‘roughly four billion dollars.’ On October 30, 2012, in a shocking, blockbuster move, Disney announced that it was purchasing Lucasfilm—and with that, LucasArts—for $4 billion. All the weird changes suddenly made sense… On April 3, 2013, Disney shut down LucasArts, laying off nearly 150 employees and canceling all the studio’s projects, including Star Wars 1313. It was the final act to a long period of turbulence at LucasArts, and the end of an era for one of the most treasured studios in gaming.”

    The Witcher 3:

    • “Konrad Tomaszkiewicz and his team made lofty promises: The Witcher 3 would be larger than Skyrim. It’d have no loading times. It’d be out in 2014 and feature at least one hundred hours of gameplay… Most video games aimed for a campaign that was between ten and twenty hours long. The bigger ones, the RPGs and open-world games, usually set out for a range of forty to sixty.”
    • “During these early design sessions, Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz and other designers enacted a simple rule: don’t make boring quests… With quests like The Bloody Baron, The Witcher 3’s design team wanted to give players tough choices. They wanted to make you question your morality, and they wanted to leave you thinking about those ethical questions long after you finished the game.”
    • “I don’t think there is a single quest in The Witcher 3 which was written once, accepted, and then recorded… Everything was rewritten dozens of times.” —Jakub Szamałek
    • “As The Witcher 3’s staff grew larger, this insistence on realism led to some complications. At one point, [Miles Tost’s] team noticed a serious problem in Velen: there was too much to eat. ‘Velen was always supposed to be this famine-ridden land,’ said Tost, ‘where people don’t really have a lot of food.’ For some reason, though, an environment artist had stocked up many of Velen’s homes, filling the cabinets with sausages and vegetables. It bothered the level designers too much to leave as it was, so they spent hours digging through every village in Velen, taking food away from the people like twisted reverse Robin Hoods. ‘We had to go through all the houses in this area and make sure there was barely any food,’ Tost said.”


    • “Diablo II, released in 2000, was still receiving new patches in 2016. StarCraft, released in 1998, got a new patch in 2017. No other company [than Blizzard] has maintained and updated its old games for so long.”
  • Systemanticsby John Gall

    “Systems do not solve problems; they represent attempted solutions.”

    • “Malfunction is the rule and flawless operation the exception.”
    • “Failure to function as expected is to be expected.”
    • “Pathways to success can only be found, not made.”

    “Any given System has many functions which it can perform only poorly and a few that it performs well. Our task, correctly understood, is to find out which tasks our System performs well and use it for those.”

    Basic Systems Axioms, Theorems, Corollaries, Etc.:

    • The Fundamental Theorem: NEW SYSTEMS GENERATE NEW PROBLEMS.
    • The Generalized Uncertainty Principle: COMPLEX SYSTEMS EXHIBIT UNEXPECTED BEHAVIOR. In other words, SYSTEMS DISPLAY ANTICS.
      • The Harvard Law of Animal Behavior: Under precisely controlled experimental conditions, a test animal will behave as it damn well pleases.
    • The Life Cycle of Systems:
    • Fundamental Law of Administrative Workings: THINGS ARE WHAT THEY ARE REPORTED TO BE.
    • Harte’s Haunting Theorem: INFORMATION RARELY LEAKS UP.
    • Systems-People:
    • The Exploitation Theorems:
    • Administrator’s Anxiety: PUSHING ON THE SYSTEM DOESN’T HELP.
      • The Purpose of the System is—whatever it can be used for.
    • Fundamental Failure Theorem: A SYSTEM CAN FAIL IN AN INFINITE NUMBER OF WAYS.
    • Cognate Theorem: CHERISH YOUR BUGS. STUDY THEM.
    • Large Lumps of Liability Theorem: WHEN BIG SYSTEMS FAIL, THE FAILURE IS OFTEN BIG.
      • THE MEANING OF A COMMUNICATION IS THE BEHAVIOR THAT RESULTS… Are we willing to subject our communications to the test of actual outcomes?
    • Basic Information Theorem: INFORMATION DECAYS.
    • The Inaccessibility Theorem:
    • The Tao of Problem Avoidance: CHOOSE YOUR SYSTEMS WITH CARE.
    • The Systems Law of Gravity: AVOID UPHILL CONFIGURATIONS. (SYSTEMS RUN BEST WHEN DESIGNED TO RUN DOWNHILL… In human terms, this means working with human tendencies rather than against them.)
    • The Limit Theorems:
    • Where’s the Problem?: IN ORDER TO BE EFFECTIVE, AN INTERVENTION MUST INTRODUCE A CHANGE AT THE CORRECT LOGICAL LEVEL. (E.g., changing actors vs rewriting the script.)
    • von Foerster’s Ethical Imperative: ALWAYS ACT SO AS TO INCREASE YOUR OPTIONS.
      • WHEN PROBLEMS DON’T YIELD TO COMMONSENSE SOLUTIONS, LOOK FOR THE THERMOSTAT. (A thermostat is the point at which Self-reference is deliberately designed into the System.)

    Systems Do Not Solve Problems:

    • “Systems can do many things, but one thing they emphatically cannot do is to solve Problems. A System represents someone’s solution to a Problem. The System itself does not solve Problems.”
    • “The problem is a Problem precisely because it is incorrectly conceptualized in the first place, and a large System for studying and attacking the Problem merely locks in the erroneous conceptualization into the minds of everyone concerned. What is required is not a large System, but a different approach.”

    Dealing With Problems:

    • “Problem Avoidance is the strategy of avoiding head-on encounter with a stubborn Problem that does not offer a good point d’appui, or toe-hold. It is the most under-rated of all methods of dealing with Problems… Furthermore, since many of the world’s biggest problems involve dealing with the wreckage of old failed Solutions cluttering the landscape, Problem Avoidance has the additional merit of avoiding further additions to that wreckage.”

    Cherish Your Exceptions:

    • “Charles Darwin made it a rule to write down immediately any observation or argument that seemed to run counter to his theories. He had noticed that we humans tend to forget inconvenient facts, and if special notice is not taken of them, they simply fade out of awareness. Therefore, urged Darwin: CHERISH YOUR EXCEPTIONS. Along similar lines, we propose: CHERISH YOUR SYSTEM-FAILURES.”

    Functionary’s Falsity:

    • “There is a man in our neighborhood who is building a boat in his back yard. He knows very little of boat-building and still less of sailing or navigation. He works from plans drawn up by himself. Nevertheless, he is demonstrably building a boat and can be called, in some real sense, a boat-builder. Now if you go down to Hampton Roads or any other great shipyard and look around for a ship-builder, you will be disappointed. You will find in abundance welders, carpenters, foremen, engineers, and many other specialists, but no ship-builders. True, the company executives may call themselves ship-builders, but if you observe them at their work, you will see that it really consists of writing contracts, planning budgets, and other administrative activities. Clearly, they are not in any concrete sense building ships. In cold fact, a SYSTEM is building ships, and the SYSTEM is the shipbuilder.”
    • “In general, the larger and more complex the System, the less the resemblance between a particular function and the name it bears.”
    • “The System called ‘airplane’ may have been designed to fly, but the parts don’t share that tendency. In fact, they share the opposite tendency. And the System will fly—if at all—only as a System.”
    • “Their parts are unlikely to share, as parts, any tendency to spontaneously do what the System is designed to do. If we add that most of the parts are needed primarily as correctives to the vicious tendencies of other parts, the analogy is even more precise.”

    The Operational Fallacy:

    • “The function performed by a System is not operationally identical to the function of the same name performed by a person. In general, a function performed by a larger System is not operationally identical to the function of the same name as performed by a smaller System.”

    Creative Reframing:

    • “Creative reframing is the art of substituting useful metaphors for limiting metaphors.”
    • “When Reframing is complete, the Problem is not ‘solved’—it doesn’t even exist any more.”
    • “In practice, truly suitable new Frames remain elusive. There is no surefire program for devising them.”
    • “Reframing is a powerful tool, difficult to activate in just the desired way and probably impossible to stop once set in motion. The proposed Reframing must be genuinely beneficial to all parties or it will produce a destructive Kickback.”
    • “No, students. The technique of Reframing, as powerful as it is, is not a panacea. It is still a System and as such is subject to all the Laws expounded in this Text, plus, no doubt, others yet undiscovered. It will be found by actual experience to Act Up, Kick Back, and Fail Unexpectedly just as insidiously and as enthusiastically as any other System. But within those limitations, it does offer the power to move constructively into areas hitherto considered unapproachable.”

    “Systems are seductive. They promise to do a hard job faster, better, and more easily than you could do it by yourself. But if you set up a System, you are likely to find your time and effort now being consumed in the care and feeding of the System itself. New Problems are created by its very presence. Once set up, it won’t Go Away; it Grows and Encroaches. It begins to do Strange and Wonderful Things and Breaks Down in Ways You Never Thought Possible. It Kicks Back, Gets In The Way and Opposes Its Own Proper Function. Your own perspective becomes distorted by being In The System. You become anxious and Push On It To Make It Work. Eventually you come to believe that the misbegotten product it so grudgingly delivers is What You Really Wanted all the time. At that point, Encroachment has become complete. You have become absorbed. You are now a Systems-person.”

  • The New New Thingby Michael Lewis

    “The new new thing is a notion that is poised to be taken seriously in the marketplace. It’s the idea that is a tiny push away from general acceptance and, when it gets that push, will change the world.”

    Jim Clark, Pt. 1:

    • “Often starting with the best intentions, or no intentions at all, he turned people’s lives upside down and subjected them to the most vicious force a human being can be subjected to, change.”
    • “People who knew Clark knew better than to expect him to be where he was meant to be. Sooner or later he’d turn up, usually when he was not wanted.”
    • “By then I knew that the only way to spend time with Jim Clark was to leap onto one of his machines. You didn’t interact with him so much as hitch a ride on the back of his life.”

    The Silicon Valley Story:

    • “Back in 1921 [Thorstein Veblen] had predicted that engineers would one day rule the U.S. economy. He argued that since the economy was premised on technology and the engineers were the only ones who actually understood how the technology worked, they would inevitably use their superior knowledge to seize power from the financiers and captains of industry who wound up on top at the end of the first round of the Industrial Revolution.”
    • “Clark had made the leap from Part One to Part Two of the Silicon Valley Story. Part One had been about engineers building machines, cheaper, faster, and better. They built them so fast and so cheap that, commercially speaking, they made themselves uninteresting. Each new machine they built, sooner or later, became a commodity… Part Two of the Valley story was not at all plodding and predictable. At some point in the early 1990s the engineers had figured out that they didn’t need to build new computers to get rich. They just had to cook up new things for the computers to do.”

    Jim Clark, Pt. 2:

    • “In under eight years this person, considered unfit to graduate from public high school in Plainview, Texas, had earned himself a Ph.D. in Computer Science.”
    • “I was thirty-eight years old. I’d just been fired. My second wife had just left me. I had somehow fucked up. I developed this maniacal passion for wanting to achieve something.”

    The Geometry Engine:

    • “‘Computer graphics is as fundamental to computers as vision is to humans,’ Clark wrote back in his teaching days. That thought, strange at the time, soon became commonplace.”
    • “The chip Clark had designed, the Geometry Engine, was better able than any before it to process three-dimensional graphics in real time, and so create a simulation of reality on the computer screen.”
    • “After the appearance of Clark’s chip, the art and science of computer graphics would never be the same. The computer-aided design of cars and aircraft, the ‘virtual reality’ toys and games of the modern midway, the lumbering dinosaurs of the movie Jurassic Park—they all sprang from the tiny chip Lynn Conway held by its edges that winter day.” —Michael A. Hiltzik, Dealers in Lightning
    • “Clark had offered to license his invention to IBM, Apollo, Hewlett-Packard, and DEC. All turned him down.”

    Silicon Graphics:

    • “By the end of 1984 Clark’s engineers had run through the $17 million and needed even more money, and so had to sell even more of their stakes in the business. As a result, before they’d made their first dollar, Clark and his engineers were largely squeezed out of their own enterprise.”
    • “This is just how it always went with one of these new Silicon Valley hardware companies: once it showed promise, it ditched its visionary founder, who everyone deep down thought was a psycho anyway, and became a sane, ordinary place.”


    • “The PC would soon be able to perform all the functions of a Silicon Graphics work station. Microsoft controlled the market for personal computers through its operating system, and so Microsoft would displace Silicon Graphics.”
    • “Clark thought that Silicon Graphics had to ‘cannibalize’ itself. For a technology company to succeed, he argued, it needed always to be looking to destroy itself. If it didn’t, someone else would.”

    The Telecomputer / Interactive Television:

    • “Back in the late 1970s the corporate ancestor of Time Warner, called Warner-Amex, had created a pilot for an interactive television in Columbus, Ohio, called Qube… The company spent $30 million trying to build it, and then quit.”
    • “In every case, at least a part of the problem was that the wires entering and exiting the average home were unable to transmit data with sufficient speed.”
    • “[In 1992] Time Warner had just decided to yank out all of its copper cables and replace them with fiber-optic cables, which transmitted data much more efficiently. In other words, the infrastructure would be laid for a telecomputer to traffic in moving images.”
    • “Technically, the telecomputer was feasible. The United States had a tantalizing new infrastructure into which such a device might plug. In the preceding decade the cable television industry had laid pipes leading into 75 percent of all American homes, and those pipes could carry information into and out of a telecomputer.”
    • “The paper described ‘the consumer’s computer.’ Clark guessed it could be built in “two to three years.” He explained that, although computer memory in 1992 made such a device too costly to be mass-marketed, computer memory in 1995 would be a different story.”

    The Orlando Project:

    • “[Silicon Graphics] had spent the last eighteen months pulling off one of the great engineering feats of the century, and they had nothing to show for it but black boxes that cost five grand apiece. Few would pay that much for the technology, and the value of the technology depended in part on a lot of people’s owning it. A VCR was as valuable if one person owned it as it was if a hundred million did. But a television that interacted with other televisions demanded an audience.”
    • “‘ITV was one large academic exercise,’ says Kittu. ‘We solved a problem that was not that important to many people.’”


    • “‘Jim put the whole of ITV out of business.’ says Pavan Nigam. ‘Everyone at once realized that the next big thing was not the television set but the personal computer hooked up to the Internet.’”
    • “The companies born on the Internet: Yahoo, Excite, @Home, eBay, and so on: they derived, one way or another, from Netscape, which Clark had founded after he left Silicon Graphics.”
    • “‘All of a sudden it was clear to me when I looked at the Internet that I was looking at the personal computer in 1985,’ Clark says. ‘It was this slow clunky technology, but people were using it. And it would get faster. I realized that this was the thing I’d been groping for.’”
    • “Doerr invited Clark to his office and gave him exactly what he asked for. His firm, Kleiner Perkins, purchased a 15 percent stake in Netscape that valued the company at $18 million, and left Clark still holding 25 percent of the company. ‘That moment,’ says Alex Slusky, ‘was the defining moment for this period in the Valley. No engineer had ever cut such a deal.’”
    • “Eighteen months after Netscape was created, and before it had made a dime, Netscape sold shares in itself to the public. On the first day of trading the price of those shares rose from $12 apiece to $48. Three months later it was at $140. It was one of the most successful share offerings in the history of the U.S. stock markets, and possibly the most famous.”
    • “In the frenzy that followed, a lot of the old rules of capitalism were suspended. For instance, it had long been a rule of thumb with the Silicon Valley venture capitalists that they didn’t peddle a new technology company to the investing public until it had had at least four consecutive profitable quarters. Netscape had nothing to show investors but massive losses. But its fabulous stock market success created a precedent.”

    Tech & Culture:

    • “Changes in technology are not simple matters. Often they change the way people interact with their surroundings, and with each other. Invent the automobile, and people will travel more often; invent air-conditioning, and they’ll travel south.”

    Jim Clark, Pt. 3:

    • “That Clark, in the late 1980s, had bothered to teach himself C++ was itself a triumph of character over condition; in the Valley anyone over forty tended to fade into technical irrelevance. ‘I’m an old dog who taught himself a new trick,’ Clark would say. He was an old dog who taught himself so many new tricks that he was a threat to the reputation of old dogs.”
    • “One morning he looked up from his kitchen table and saw the neighbors looking back. He requested, and was denied, a permit to build a fence tall enough to screen them from his view. The city of Atherton, California, had strict rules about fences, and the fence Clark wanted to build was declared too high. So Clark built a hill, and put the fence on top of the hill. It did not occur to him that there was anything unusual about this.”
    • “‘I could always make fifty million dollars,’ he explained to me once. ‘But who needs that?’ He didn’t have time to create companies that were worth only fifty million dollars. Fifty million dollars didn’t count. Hell, his boat had cost fifty million dollars, when you added in the tax bill. When he groped, he groped big. He was a multibillion-dollar corporation perpetually waiting to happen. He was also a rare case of a man with the Chinese curse: he had gotten what he wished for… And now—this was the curse—he couldn’t stop.”

    Open to Accident:

    • “At first I thought it was just coincidence that the most stupendously odd accidents befell Jim Clark. He was so wasteful of them, from a recreational point of view. Experiences from which most people could extract a life philosophy he glanced at once and discarded from his thoughts. He was the guy with a craving for sweets who’d been handed a huge bag of Snickers bars, which he worked his way through in an hour by eating a tiny corner off each one and chucking the rest. Eventually, I saw a kind of logic in his grazing: this was how he left himself open to accident. If nothing surprising or interesting was happening to him, he moved on until the situation corrected itself.”
    • “Impatience might be a social vice but, to Clark, it was a commercial virtue. ‘If everyone was patient,’ he’d say, ‘there’d be no new companies.’”
    • “The impatient man kept his own life in such a constant state of upheaval that neither his experience nor his immediate surroundings ended up meaning very much to him. He was keen on things only as they happened; after they had happened he lost interest in them altogether. As a result, it sometimes felt that nothing had ever happened to him at all.”

    Working vs Playing:

    • “The truth was that no casual observer could say when Clark was working and when he was playing. In part this was because, to Clark’s way of thinking, the big distinction wasn’t between ‘work’ and ‘play’ but between ‘creating new technology for money’ and ‘creating new technology for pleasure.’ In part it was because there was no distinction at all.”

    Pigs & Chickens:

    • “Clark liked to say that human beings, when they took risks, fell into one of two types, pigs or chickens. ‘The difference between these two kinds of people,’ he’d say, ‘is the difference between the pig and the chicken in the ham-and-eggs breakfast. The chicken is interested, the pig is committed. If you are going to do anything worth doing, you need a lot of pigs.’”


    • “The Indian educational system was conceived by Nehru in reaction to the British colonial experience. Nehru believed that India was more likely to remain an independent country if it made itself technologically equal to its former rulers. To that end he created a ruthlessly efficient mechanism for finding and exploiting Indian technical talent. It was called the Indian Institute of Technology.”
    • “By the time the Nehru regime finished engineering Indian society, every parent in the country wanted his son to become either a doctor or an engineer. By the early 1970s hundreds of thousands of Indian seventeen-year-olds were sitting for the annual two-day engineering exams.”
    • “The talent that the government had gone to such trouble to find and cultivate wound up being some of the most sought-after corporate employees on the planet.”
    • “Indian engineers flooded Silicon Valley in the 1980s and 1990s. By 1996 nearly half of the 55,000 temporary visas issued by the U.S. government to high-tech workers went to Indians. In early 1999 a Berkeley sociologist named AnnaLee Saxenian discovered that nearly half of all Silicon Valley companies were founded by Indian entrepreneurs. The definitive smell inside a Silicon Valley start-up was of curry.”


    • “By early 1996 Americans were spending $1.5 trillion a year on their health care and about a third of that was pure waste.”
    • “In late 1997 Healtheon was worth nothing, at least as far as the venture capitalists were concerned. By the summer of 1998 it was deemed worthy by Wall Street investment bankers of a public share offering.”
    • “What was Healtheon worth? How did a sane person value a company that had never made a profit? The old formulas of old Graham and Dodd investors like Warren Buffett no longer applied. By those formulas Healtheon was worth zero.”
    • “The Internet formula for success turned traditional capitalism on its head. Traditionally a company persuaded people to invest in it by making profits. Now it persuaded people to invest in it first, and hoped the profits would follow.”
    • “The physician metric was a complicated-sounding phrase for a simple idea: the number of doctors who used Healtheon’s service. Investors needed some way to evaluate how well Healtheon was doing. Investors liked to be able to count progress in dollars. [Mike Long] wanted them to count progress in doctors.”
    • “It was late January 1999 and the stock market was rising even faster than it had fallen in the fall of 1998… In mid-February, Healtheon finally went public. There was no transition between the failed IPO five months earlier and this one. No one asked how a company that the stock market deemed unworthy was now, suddenly, desirable. It just happened.”


    • “Jim Clark’s piece of the Netdex came to $3,200,000,000. He was a real after-tax billionaire. He had, as they say, achieved his financial goals.”
    • “Not long after I’d first met him, back when Netscape’s stock was speeding to zero, and Healtheon’s stock was considered worthless, he announced his plan to retire once he became a real after-tax billionaire. He intended to float around the world on his new boat, as soon as it was finished. Even then you could see he couldn’t possibly believe what he was saying. His life was an adventure story: without suspense it lost its purpose.”
    • “One evening as we sat in his kitchen I reminded Clark that he had said that once he became a real after-tax billionaire he’d retire. He said, without missing a beat, ‘I just want to make more money than Larry Ellison. Then I’ll stop.’”
    • “Clark played these little tricks on himself so that he would have an excuse, however flimsy, to keep running as fast as he could… he needed people or places to doubt him so that he could prove them wrong.”
    • “People who are unhappy with the way things are tend to remain unhappy even after they have changed them. The nature of their unhappiness is such that change does not slake it.”
    • “Above all, one thing was clear: his pursuit of the new new thing depended on his curious amnesia.”


    • “Each time one of Clark’s ventures got rolling, some people, even a few people in Silicon Valley, said he was just lucky. Lucky to have popularized the third dimension in computer space at just the right moment, lucky to have met Marc Andreessen and seen his Internet browser, lucky to have triggered the Internet boom, lucky to have sought control of health care, the world’s biggest market, just when it was ready to yield itself up.”
    • “What happened to Clark in Silicon Valley was far more interesting than luck. It was the interplay of a character who had a deep feel for technology, and a taste for anarchy, with an environment that rewarded both traits.”

    Jim Clark, Pt. 4:

    • “He wanted badly to do what was expected of him. It was only after he determined that this was somehow impossible that he went ahead and did whatever he wanted.”
    • “He had no interest in preservation of any sort. His life was dedicated to the fine art of tearing down and building anew.”
    • “‘“Well, Jim Clark failed.” That’ll be the story. And it’ll be a big story.’ The thought made him happy. He was saying that he could live with his inevitable failure, because it would, inevitably, be spectacular.”

    The Tuba:

    • “He’d played the tuba as a child, he’d said. Twenty years before, just after he’d founded Silicon Graphics, and made his first millions, he’d been seized by the desire to play again. And so he bought this tuba. He soon found he’d lost interest in it. Only the idea of playing his tuba pleased him now. So he propped it in the corner of the guest bedroom, and left it there, as a lone reminder of something he couldn’t quite explain.”
    • “Hazel supported a family of four on the $225 a month she took home from the hospital, where she worked as a doctor’s assistant. After she had paid the bills, she had $5 a month to spend on groceries. Clark was obviously well aware of their situation from a very young age. He had chosen to play the tuba because the tuba was the one instrument supplied to the pupil by the school, free of charge.”
    • “Not long after he’d come home in tears, from what turned out to be his final meeting with his father, Clark quit playing his tuba. Soon after that he was expelled from school, and left town… Hazel continued, ‘I remember him telling me when he came back from the Navy, “Mama, I’m going to show Plainview.”’”


    • “After three hours of struggle Hyperion was once again pointed south. The two men who fully understood the computer, and the one man who fully understood the engine, had exhausted themselves. At no point did it occur to any of these technical people to wake Allan Prior. Through it all he had slept soundly. In a technological crisis, the captain was plainly of no use. And all crises on board Hyperion were now technological.”


    • “When a computer programmers answers a question, he often begins with the word ‘so…’ It’s the most distinctive verbal tic manufactured by the engineering mind. ‘So’ cuts across the borders within the computing class just as ‘like’ cuts across the borders within the class of adolescent girls.”
    • “A bright line ran through the programmers’ world, and it divided the air between Lance and Steve. On one side of the line were the aesthetes who took pleasure in the computer’s complexity, and spent a great deal of time writing deliciously elaborate programs that caused others to exclaim ‘cool!’ when they saw it but often had no economic purpose. On the other side of the line were the utilitarians. They were interested only in the computer’s crude and brutish ability to impose its will on the world around it. Lance was in love with the computer’s beauty, Steve with its power.”
    • “Next came the standard debugging ritual. When a computer does something unexpected, its programmers often try to provoke it into repeating the behavior. That way they can be sure they have found the source of the problem.”
    • “‘Well, that’s unsatisfying. We have no idea why it happened. It would be nice to have closure.’ Nice… but not necessary. Tim was leading them to a popular solution to an intractable computer bug. Give up! Forget about it! Hope it doesn’t happen again! The boat still had dozens of bugs. What was so special about this one?”


    • “Among other things, [Robert] felt that engineers had been generally neglected by history. ‘Who invented the gas turbine engine?’ he asked, a bit sharply. I had no idea. ‘Frank Whittle,’ he said. ‘Who was the chief engineer on the Apollo project?’ I said I didn’t know the answer to that one either. ‘Exactly,’ said Robert, and rested his case.”
    • “‘Every engineer will tell you,’ [Robert] said, ‘that it is much harder to find what’s wrong with a machine when it seems to be working. It’s called chasing ghosts. I spent all day chasing ghosts.’”
    • “‘A good engineer has to be orderly,’ Robert shouted over the roar of the machines. ‘If I died tomorrow, someone else could come into my world and pick up where I left off—because there is a logical way of doing it. A structure.’ He paused. ‘If you want to be a good engineer you have to be willing to be replaceable. This whole “I’m irreplaceable” thing drives me bloody nuts.’”
    • “Robert’s mind was working its way upstream. If it wasn’t the engine and it wasn’t the sensor, then the problem lay somewhere between the sensor and the computers. The closer Robert came to the computers, the less sure of himself he became.”
    • “The programmers came at the boat from the top down. Robert came at it from the bottom up. Robert believed his approach led to a deeper understanding of the machine.”
    • “‘One of the problems here is that the computer program is designed to control things that the programmers themselves do not understand.’ Robert’s resistance to the computer was a resistance to abstraction.”
    • “The computer engineer has a postmodern flavor to him—which is perhaps why it is so difficult for him to explain even to other computer engineers what he does for a living. The honest answer is that he gazes into a screen and thinks. He is a creator of concepts. Robert, by contrast, was a practical man. He wanted to see what he was fixing.”
    • “Robert had taught himself to program a bit, but he was nevertheless disturbed by the way it removed real-world problems from the real world.”
    • “‘The old way I’d have gauges on everything that would let me interact directly with the engine. On this boat you have to go to a computer screen and go looking for it.’”
    • “‘There are a million lines of code in there,’ said Robert, motioning to the twenty-five computers, ‘and nowhere in them will you find the word “boat.”’”
    • “‘It’s the very worst thing an engineer can do,’ he explained, ‘to pull a plug and leave something unprotected.’”
  • Complexityby M. Mitchell Waldrop

    “This is a book about the science of complexity—a subject that’s still so new and so wide-ranging that nobody knows quite how to define it, or even where its boundaries lie.”

    Chaos vs Complexity:

    • “Chaos by itself doesn’t explain the structure, the coherence, the self-organizing cohesiveness of complex systems.”
    • “This balance point—often called the edge of chaos—is where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence, either.”
    • “What we’re really looking for in the science of complexity is the general law of pattern formation in non-equilibrium systems throughout the universe.”


    • “At each level, new emergent structures would form and engage in new emergent behaviors. Complexity, in other words, was really a science of emergence. And the challenge that Cowan had been trying to articulate was to find the fundamental laws of emergence.”


    • “If the genome really had to be organized and fine-tuned to exquisite perfection before it could work at all, then how could it have arisen through the random trial and error of evolution?”
    • “Darwin didn’t know about self-organization—matter’s incessant attempts to organize itself into ever more complex structures, even in the face of the incessant forces of dissolution described by the second law of thermodynamics.”
    • “Feedback from the environment. This was Darwin’s great insight, that an agent can improve its internal models without any paranormal guidance whatsoever. It simply has to try the models out, see how well their predictions work in the real world, and—if it survives the experience—adjust the models to do better the next time.”


    • “Prigogine’s central point was that self-organization depends upon self-reinforcement: a tendency for small effects to become magnified when conditions are right, instead of dying away.”
    • “Neoclassical theory assumes that the economy is entirely dominated by negative feedback: the tendency of small effects to die away… Negative feedback keeps small perturbations from running away and tearing things apart in physical systems.”
    • “In the real world, outcomes don’t just happen… They build up gradually as small chance events become magnified by positive feedbacks.” —Brian Arthur
    • “In fact, Arthur suddenly realized, that’s why you get patterns in any system: a rich mixture of positive and negative feedbacks can’t help producing patterns.”

    “Best” Doesn’t Always Win:

    • “In the 1890s, Arthur discovered, when the automotive industry was still in its infancy, gasoline was considered the least-promising power source. Its chief rival, steam, was well developed, familiar, and safe; gasoline was expensive, noisy, dangerously explosive, hard to obtain in the right grade, and required a new kind of engine containing complicated new parts. Gasoline engines were also inherently less fuel-efficient… But gasoline did win out—largely, Arthur found, because of a series of historical accidents.”


    • “‘It’s very hard to articulate a notion of “progress” in biology.’ What does it mean for one creature to be more advanced than another? Cockroaches, for example, have been around for several hundred million years longer than human beings, and they are very, very good at being cockroaches. Are we more advanced than they are, or just different?”
    • “With no objective definition of fitness, says Farmer, ‘survival of the fittest’ becomes a tautology: survival of the survivors.”
    • “Natural selection is not the antagonist of self-organization. It’s more like a law of motion—a force that is constantly pushing emergent, self-organizing systems toward the edge of chaos.”


    • “Ecosystems, economies, societies—they all operate according to a kind of Darwinian principle of relativity: everyone is constantly adapting to everyone else. And because of that, there is no way to look at any one agent and say, ‘It’s fitness is 1.375.’ Whatever ‘fitness’ means—and biologists have been arguing about that since the time of Darwin—it cannot be a single, fixed number. That’s like asking if a gymnast is a better or worse athlete than a sumo wrestler; the question is meaningless because there’s no common scale to measure them. Any given organism’s ability to survive and reproduce depends on what niche it is filling, what other organisms are around, what resources it can gather, even what its past history has been.”
    • “Organisms don’t change by climbing uphill to the highest peak of some abstract fitness landscape… Real organisms constantly circle and chase one another in an infinitely complex dance of coevolution.”


    • “You have a system exploring its way into an immense space of possibilities, with no realistic hope of ever finding the single ‘best’ place to be. All evolution can do is look for improvements, not perfection.”
    • “The whole point of evolution is that there are no heuristic rules, no guidance of any sort; succeeding generations explore the space of possibilities by mutations and random reshuffling of genes among the sexes—in short, by trial and error. Furthermore, those succeeding generations don’t conduct their search in a step-by-step manner. They explore it in parallel: each member of the population has a slightly different set of genes and explores a slightly different region of the space.”
    • “If a cluster is coherent enough and stable enough, then it can usually serve as a building block for some larger cluster… That’s what this business of ‘emergence’ was all about: building blocks at one level combining into new building blocks at a higher level.”
    • “And yet, not even the best of those algorithms is guaranteed to give you the correct maximum value in every situation. At some level, they always have to rely on old-fashioned trial and error—guessing.”

    Imperfect Agents, Infinite Possibilities:

    • “‘Brian, what is the real problem with economics?’ ‘Chess!’ replied Arthur, without thinking… How do we make a science out of imperfectly smart agents exploring their way into an essentially infinite space of possibilities? ‘A ha!’ said Holland, the way he always does when he finally sees the light. Chess! Now this was a metaphor he could understand.”
    • “At some level, all these adaptive systems are fundamentally the same. And that meant, in turn, that all of them are fundamentally like checkers or chess: the space of possibilities is vast beyond imagining. An agent can learn to play the game better—that’s what adaptation is, after all. But it has just about as much chance of finding the optimum, stable equilibrium point of the game as you or I have of solving chess.”

    “Optimal to what?”

    • “‘But its behavior isn’t optimal!’ the economists complained, having convinced themselves that a rational agent is one who optimizes his ‘utility function.’ ‘Optimal relative to what?’ Holland replied. Talk about your ill-defined criterion: in any real environment, the space of possibilities is so huge that there is no way an agent can find the optimum—or even recognize it. And that’s before you take into account the fact that the environment might be changing in unforeseen ways.”

    Comprehension and Explanation:

    • “‘So Frankie Hahn said, “If things are not repeating, if things are not in equilibrium, what can we, as economists, say? How could you predict anything? How could you have a science?”’ Holland took the question very seriously; he’d thought a lot about it. Look at meteorology, he told them. The weather never settles down. It never repeats itself exactly. It’s essentially unpredictable more than a week or so in advance. And yet we can comprehend and explain almost everything that we see up there. We can identify important features such as weather fronts, jet streams, and high-pressure systems. We can understand their dynamics. We can understand how they interact to produce weather on a local and regional scale. In short, we have a real science of weather—without full prediction. And we can do it because prediction isn’t the essence of science. The essence is comprehension and explanation.”


    • “Induction is what allows us to survive in a messy, unpredictable, and often incomprehensible world.”
    • “‘Economics, as it is usually practiced, operates in a purely deductive mode,’ [Arthur] says. ‘Every economic situation is first translated into a mathematical exercise, which the economic agents are supposed to solve by rigorous, analytical reasoning. But then here were Holland, the neural net people, and the other machine-learning theorists. And they were all talking about agents that operate in an inductive mode, in which they try to reason from fragmentary data to a useful internal model.’”

    Computer Simulation:

    • “It was [Nick Metropolis], along with the Polish mathematician Stanislaus Ulam, who had pioneered the art of computer simulation.”
    • “When you’re stuck with solving mathematical equations by paper and pencil, how many variables can you handle without bogging down? Three? Four? But when you have enough computer power, you can handle as many variables as you like. And by the early 1980s, computers were everywhere.”
    • “In fact, computer simulation had become so powerful by the 1980s that some people were beginning to talk about it as a ‘third form of science,’ standing halfway between theory and experiment.”
    • “So the scientists watching the simulated thunderstorm on their computer screens would see their equations unfold in patterns they might never have predicted. Even very simple equations can sometimes produce astonishing behavior.”
    • “By the beginning of the 1980s, says Cowan, such numerical experiments had become almost commonplace. The behavior of a new aircraft design in flight, the turbulent flow of interstellar gas into the maw of a black hole, the formation of galaxies in the aftermath of the Big Bang—at least among physical scientists, he says, the whole idea of computer simulation was becoming more and more accepted.”
    • “In part because of their computer simulations, and in part because of new mathematical insights, physicists had begun to realize by the early 1980s that a lot of messy, complicated systems could be described by a powerful theory known as ‘nonlinear dynamics.’”

    Prediction & Feedback:

    • “Distilled to the essence, what actually has to happen for game-playing agents to survive and prosper? Two things, Holland decided: prediction and feedback.”
    • All complex, adaptive systems—economies, minds, organisms—build models that allow them to anticipate the world.” —John Holland

    Complex Adaptive Systems:

    • “First, [Holland] said, each of these systems is a network of many ‘agents’ acting in parallel… If there is to be any coherent behavior in the system, it has to arise from competition and cooperation among the agents themselves.”
    • “Second… a complex adaptive system has many levels of organization, with agents at any one level serving as the building blocks for agents at a higher level.”
    • “Furthermore… complex adaptive systems are constantly revising and rearranging their building blocks as they gain experience… One of the fundamental mechanisms of adaptation in any given system is this revision and recombination of the building blocks.”
    • “Third… all complex adaptive systems anticipate the future… this business of anticipation and prediction goes far beyond issues of human foresight, or even consciousness. From bacteria on up, every living creature has an implicit prediction encoded in its genes… Every complex adaptive system is constantly making predictions based on its various internal models of the world—its implicit or explicit assumptions about the way things are out there.”
    • “Finally, said Holland, complex adaptive systems typically have many niches, each one of which can be exploited by an agent adapted to fill that niche. Thus, the economic world has a place for computer programmers, plumbers, steel mills, and pet stores, just as the rain forest has a place for tree sloths and butterflies. Moreover, the very act of filling one niche opens up more niches—for new parasites, for new predators and prey, for new symbiotic partners. So new opportunities are always being created by the system. And that, in turn, means that it’s essentially meaningless to talk about a complex adaptive system being in equilibrium: the system can never get there. It is always unfolding, always in transition. In fact, if the system ever does reach equilibrium, it isn’t just stable. It’s dead. And by the same token, said Holland, there’s no point in imagining that the agents in the system can ever ‘optimize’ their fitness, or their utility, or whatever. The space of possibilities is too vast; they have no practical way of finding the optimum. The most they can ever do is to change and improve themselves relative to what the other agents are doing. In short, complex adaptive systems are characterized by perpetual novelty.”
    • “Multiple agents, building blocks, internal models, perpetual novelty—taking all this together, said Holland, it’s no wonder that complex adaptive systems were so hard to analyze with standard mathematics.”
    • “To really get a deep understanding of the economy, or complex adaptive systems in general, what you need are mathematics and computer simulation techniques that emphasize internal models, the emergence of new building blocks, and the rich web of interactions between multiple agents.”

    Artificial Intelligence:

    • “In retrospect, [Arthur Samuel’s] checker player is considered one of the milestones of artificial intelligence research; by the time he finally finished revising and refining it in 1967, it was playing at a world championship level. But even in the [IBM 701] days, it was doing remarkably well.”

    Artificial Life:

    • “Developed [in 1970] by the English mathematician John Conway, the Game of Life wasn’t actually a game that you played; it was more like a miniature universe that evolved as you watched.”
    • “Life may indeed be a kind of biochemical machine, [Langton] said. But to animate such a machine ‘is not to bring life to a machine; rather, it is to organize a population of machines in such a way that their interacting dynamics are “alive.”’”
    • “The theme was heard over and over again at the workshop, said Langton: the way to achieve lifelike behavior is to simulate populations of simple units instead of one big complex unit. Use local control instead of global control. Let the behavior emerge from the bottom up, instead of being specified from the top down. And while you’re at it, focus on ongoing behavior instead of the final result. As Holland loved to point out, living systems never really settle down.”


    • “But then the question is, do we want to gain control of our own evolution or not? If so, does that stop evolution?” —Chris Langton
    • “Given that prospect, [Chris Langton] said, he felt that everyone involved in the field should go right out and read Frankenstein: it’s clear in the book (although not in the movie) that the doctor disavowed any responsibility for his creation. That could not be allowed to happen here.”

    Continuously Dynamic:

    Quoting Brian Arthur…

    • “‘So what’s the connection with economic and political policy? Well, in a policy context, it means that you observe, and observe, and observe, and occasionally stick your oar in and improve something for the better. It means that you try to see reality for what it is, and realize that the game you are in keeps changing, so that it’s up to you to figure out the current rules of the game as it’s being played… You just observe. And where you can make an effective move, you make a move.’”
    • “‘This is a powerful approach that makes use of the natural nonlinear dynamics of the system… It’s also the principle that lies behind all of Oriental martial arts. You don’t try to stop your opponent, you let him come at you—and then give him a tap in just the right direction as he rushes by. The idea is to observe, to act courageously, and to pick your timing extremely well.’”
    • “As we begin to understand complex systems, we begin to understand that we’re part of an ever-changing, interlocking, nonlinear, kaleidoscopic world. ‘So the question is how you maneuver in a world like that. And the answer is that you want to keep as many options open as possible. You go for viability, something that’s workable, rather than what’s “optimal.”’”
    • “‘“Aren’t you then accepting second best?” No, you’re not, because optimization isn’t well defined anymore. What you’re trying to do is maximize robustness, or survivability, in the face of an ill-defined future.’”
    • “‘Somehow… the agenda has been put into the form of talking about a set of transitions from state A, the present, to a state B that’s sustainable. The problem is that there is no such state. You have to assume that the transitions are going to continue forever and ever and ever. You have to talk about systems that remain continuously dynamic, and that are embedded in environments that themselves are continuously dynamic.’”

    Implicit Expertise:

    • “Holland’s favorite example of implicit expertise is the skill of the medieval architects who created the great Gothic cathedrals. They had no way to calculate forces or load tolerances, or anything else that a modern architect might do. Modern physics and structural analysis didn’t exist in the twelfth century. Instead, they built those high, vaulted ceilings and massive flying buttresses using standard operating procedures passed down from master to apprentice—rules of thumb that gave them a sense of which structures would stand up and which would collapse. Their model of physics was completely implicit and intuitive. And yet, these medieval craftsmen were able to create structures that are still standing nearly a thousand years later.”
  • Thoughts on Designby Paul Rand

    “[Paul Rand] was credited with revolutionizing the clichéd and buttoned-down world of Madison Avenue by introducing the bracing clarity of European modernism.”

    “This book attempts to arrange in some logical order certain principles governing contemporary advertising design.”

    The Beautiful and the Useful:

    • “Graphic design… is not good design if it is irrelevant.”
    • “Graphic design… is not good design if it does not co-operate as an instrument in the service of communication.”
    • “Visual communications of any kind, whether persuasive or informative, from billboards to birth announcements, should be seen as the embodiment of form and function: the integration of the beautiful and the useful.”
    • “Ideally, beauty and utility are mutually generative. In the past, rarely was beauty an end in itself. The magnificent stained-glass windows of Chartres were no less utilitarian than was the Parthenon or the Pyramid of Cheops. The function of the exterior decoration of the great Gothic cathedrals was to invite entry; the rose windows inside provided the spiritual mood. Interpreted in the light of our own experiences, this philosophy still prevails.”

    The Designer’s Problem:

    • “In order, therefore, to achieve an effective solution to his problem, the designer must necessarily go through some sort of mental process. Consciously or not, he analyzes, interprets, formulates… He improvises, invents, or discovers new techniques and combinations.”
    • “As the material furnished him is often inadequate, vague, uninteresting, or otherwise unsuitable for visual interpretation, the designer’s task is to re-create or restate the problem.”

    The Symbol in Advertising:

    • “It is in symbolic, visual terms that the designer ultimately realizes his perceptions and experiences; and it is in a world of symbols that man lives.”

    Imagination and the Image:

    • “Frequently, trite ideas or unimaginative translation of those ideas is the result not of poor subject matter but of poor interpretation of a problem.”
    • “For an advertisement to hold its own in a competitive race, the designer must steer clear of visual clichés by some unexpected interpretation of the commonplace.”
    • “Co-operation is most possible… where we are moved rather by suggestion than statement.” —Roger Fry

    Reader Participation:

    • “It is a truism that the fundamental problem of the advertiser and publisher is to get the message into the reader’s mind.”
    • “The emotional force generated by the repetition of words or pictures and the visual possibilities (as a means of creating texture, movement, rhythm, indicating equivalences for time and space) should not be minimized.”

    Typographic Form and Expression:

    • “By carefully arranging type areas, spacing, size, and ‘color,’ the typographer is able to impart to the printed page a quality which helps to dramatize the contents. He is able to translate type matter into tactile patterns. By concentrating the type area and emphasizing the margin (white space), he can reinforce, by contrast, the textural quality of the type.”
    • “In ordering his space and in distributing his typographic material and symbols, he is able to predetermine, to a certain point, the eye movements of the spectator… With asymmetric balance, he is able to achieve greater reader interest.”
    • “To mimic a woodcut style of type to ‘go with’ a woodcut; to use bold type to ‘harmonize with’ heavy machinery, etc., is cliché-thinking. The designer is unaware of the exciting possibilities inherent in the contrast of picture and type matter.”

    “Even if it is true that the average man seems most comfortable with the commonplace and familiar, it is equally true that catering to bad taste, which we so readily attribute to the average reader, merely perpetuates that mediocrity and denies the reader one of the most easily accessible means for esthetic development and eventual enjoyment.”

  • Frozen in Timeby Owen Beattie

    “Not one of the 129 men who sailed with [Sir John Franklin] in 1845 survived. It was the greatest disaster in the history of Arctic exploration.”

    “Ironically, Franklin’s failure launched the golden era of Arctic exploration. More than thirty ship-based and overland expeditions would search for clues as to Franklin’s fate over the course of the following two decades, charting vast areas and mapping the completed route of the Northwest Passage in the process.”

    The Northwest Passage:

    • “For in the nineteenth century, the greatest epoch of geographic exploration ever known, a primary British aim was to establish the existence of a Northwest Passage (the successful navigation from the Atlantic to the Pacific around America’s northern extremity); another was to reach the North Pole.”
    • “The story of how the Royal Navy failed to achieve the Northwest Passage is really that of how the world’s greatest navy battled, and was ultimately humbled by, a simple yet gruesome disease—scurvy, allied to a menace of which they could not begin to conceive: lead poisoning. The source of their defeat was not the ice-choked seas, the deep cold, the winters of absolute night, the labyrinthine geography or the soul-destroying isolation. It was found in their food supply, most notably in their heavy reliance on tinned foods.”

    Tinned Foods, Pt. 1:

    • “Prior to the 1810 introduction of tinned meats and vegetables, expeditions were reliant on dry foods that could be stored for long periods of time, such as salt beef and salt pork, biscuits, pemmican and flour.”
    • “It was this simple invention, tinned meats and vegetables, together with the navy’s success with lime juice, that convinced the Admiralty that lengthy Arctic discovery voyages such as Franklin’s were possible.”
    • “So new was the technology [tinned foods] that no one had yet invented the can opener; the cans had to be cleaved open with an axe.”


    • “For one word appears time and again in their expedition narratives, a word that represents none of the usual suspects: neither ice traps nor perpetual darkness, marauding polar bears nor the minus 50˚F (-46˚C) cold—but simply, ‘debility.’”
    • “In his 1836–37 voyage of discovery, for instance, Captain George Back complained of the ‘languor,’ ‘incoherency’ and ‘debility’ suffered by his crew. In 1848–49, Sir James Clark Ross similarly reported that many of his men were made ‘useless from lameness and debility.’ Five years later, in 1854, Captain George Henry Richards also wrote of a ‘general debility’ afflicting his crew; four years after that, in 1859, all members of Captain Leopold M’Clintock’s expedition aboard the Fox were struck down by ‘debility.’ It is an endless catalogue strung together by one simple word.”


    • “The tremendous impact of scurvy was felt throughout much of the period of European expansion and maritime exploration, which started in the sixteenth century… More Royal Navy charges succumbed to this scourge than died in battle in the eighteenth century.”
    • “Walter also noted strange sensory and psychological effects. The smell of lotus blossoms wafting from the shore caused men to writhe in agony; the sound of a musket firing could be fatal to patients with advanced cases.”
    • “In 1753, Scottish physician James Lind published his classic A Treatise on the Scurvy, in which he advanced the plausibility of such a treatment by providing experimental proof of the benefits of citrus juice as an antiscorbutic… Only in 1795 did the Royal Navy heed decades of advice and begin enforcing the consumption of lime juice on its ships (giving rise to the term ‘limey’).”

    Franklin’s Expedition:

    • “On 5 May [1845], Franklin received his official instructions: essentially to sail to Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound through to the Bering Strait and, in so doing, complete a Northwest Passage—all the while collecting valuable scientific and geographical information.”
    • “In early August 1845, Franklin and his crews lost contact with their world. The Erebus and Terror were last seen making for Lancaster Sound, the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, where they would enter the desert of silence beyond.”

    Relief Expeditions:

    • “In March 1848, the need for a relief expedition was first raised in the House of Commons… The response confirmed that there was cause for concern, because the expedition had enough food only for three years, meaning its supplies would shortly be exhausted. None could have guessed that their worst nightmares were already about to play themselves out on the desolation of King William Island.”
    • “In 1848, the Admiralty dispatched three expeditions to relieve Sir John Franklin… It was the failure of all three of these relief expeditions to find a trace of Franklin that finally sparked the fear that something might have gone terribly wrong.”

    Lady Jane Franklin:

    • “Lady Franklin, influential at court, shameless in her dealings with the newspapers, did all that was humanly possible to inflame public sentiments. In doing so, she effectively shifted the narrative from grotesque failure to epic saga of survival and hope. She alone ensured that her husband’s greatest achievement would be his disappearance, for it was the search for Franklin that heralded the greatest period of exploration in the history of the Arctic.”

    The First Findings:

    • “Men from Franklin’s crews had at last been found [by M’Clintock and Hobson], but the help had come a decade too late.”
    • “Hobson found a vivid indication of the tragedy when he located a lifeboat from the Franklin expedition containing skeletons and relics.”
    • “The most important artefact of the Franklin searches had been located… On 5 May, the only written record of the Franklin expedition… was found in a cairn near Victory Point. [It] outlined the progress of the expedition to May 1847.”
    • “‘So sad a tale was never told in fewer words,’ M’Clintock commented after examining the note. Indeed, everything had changed in the eleven months between the two messages.”
    • “M’Clintock’s discoveries on King William Island thus provided an outline of the expedition’s last days.”

    King William Island:

    • “King William Island is one of the most desolate places in the world, a virtually featureless polar semidesert of limestone and mud interspersed with ice-water lakes.”
    • “In truth, the large number of survivors disgorged onto King William Island doomed any hopes of securing adequate quantities of fresh meat. Even among the Inuit, episodes of starvation have been documented in the region of King William Island and the adjacent mainland.”

    Owen Beattie:

    • “Owen Beattie, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, believed King William Island might still hold secrets of the Franklin expedition disaster… He believed at least one last pilgrimage in the interests of science was warranted.”
    • “He would be the first to apply the techniques of forensic anthropology to investigations into the Franklin expedition.”
    • “Beattie planned to collect any skeletal remains found on King William Island, then try to identify physical evidence that would support or disprove the conventional view of the expedition’s destruction through starvation and scurvy.”

    Initial Findings:

    • “On 27 June 1981, the five researchers made the gruelling twelve-hour journey over hillocks and cracks in the ice on komatiks…”
    • “Tiny pieces of the bone samples collected from both the Franklin sailor’s skeleton and the Inuit skeletons were soon sent to a laboratory for trace element analysis.”
    • “What was initially thought to have been the remains of a sailor who had been left behind at a campsite… now began to reveal more ominous secrets… They had found the first physical evidence to support Inuit accounts of cannibalism among the dying crewmen.”


    • “Hudson’s Bay Company searcher John Rae was the first to hear of the ghastly possibility of cannibalism among Franklin expedition crewmen… ‘From the mutilated state of many of the corpses and the contents of the kettles, it is evident that our wretched countrymen had been driven to the last resource—cannibalism—as a means of prolonging existence.’”
    • “The Inuit reported finding boots ‘that came up high as the knees and that in some was cooked human flesh—that is human flesh that had been boiled.’”
    • “Modern disasters, such as the 1972 crash of a chartered plane in the Andes Mountains of South America, provide insights into the rationale for consuming other humans. One of those to survive the Andes crash explained later in an interview: ‘Real hunger is when you have to eat human flesh… You make the decision to live by whatever means possible.’”
    • “So cannibalism follows a pattern: once the decision is made, the initial sections removed from the body are the meatier areas like the buttocks, thighs, lower legs and arms. Recognizably human parts, such as hands and feet, are not eaten at first.”
    • “Cannibalizing the trunk of the body would have given them enough strength to push on. The head, arms and legs, easily portable, were carried along as a food supply.”

    Discovering Lead:

    • “By the time Beattie returned from the field in 1982, the findings of the trace element analysis were waiting for him. The results showed that the level of lead found in the Franklin expedition crewman’s bones was extremely high, raising the possibility that some—or all—of the crew had been exposed to potentially toxic levels of lead; and that the difference between the lead levels found in the Inuit skeletons and that of the Franklin crewman was astounding.”
    • “Lead poisoning had plagued the ancient Greeks and Romans, who employed kettles, buckets, pipes and domestic utensils made of lead. Because the metal has a saccharine taste when dissolved (which is why the acetate is commonly called ‘sugar of lead’), the Romans had even used sheet lead to neutralize the acidity of bad wine. Even in 1786, when Benjamin Franklin provided the first detailed medical description of the ‘mischievous effect from lead,’ the serious, even deadly, risks that he enumerated were nonetheless not widely disseminated. Cosmetics such as face pomades and hair powder, pewter drinking vessels, tea caddies, water pipes and cisterns, children’s toys and candlewicks all caused lead poisoning in the nineteenth century.”


    • “To establish or disprove lead as a health problem on the expedition required the analysis of preserved soft tissue, which would reflect lead exposure following the departure of the expedition from England in May 1845.”
    • “The definitive answer lay elsewhere: at the only known location where Franklin crewmen had died and been buried in the frozen ground by their shipmates. That place was tiny Beechey Island…”
    • “Beattie first officially proposed the exhumation of the three graves to Canadian authorities early in 1983.”
    • “They shared the same hope: that the very cold that once worked to destroy the Franklin expedition would now help them unlock the mystery of its destruction.”
    • “Preserved human remains have given researchers and historians untold insights into life in very different worlds from our own. They are time capsules of the history and evolution of human beings.”


    • “Two long days were spent struggling through almost 5 feet (1.5 metres) of permafrost before the researchers got their first glimpse of the coffin.”
    • “Yet when the autopsy began, all internal structures were completely frozen. It was necessary to thaw each organ with water before samples could be collected.”
    • “The exposure of Hartnell’s coffin required twenty-four hours of continual digging by Kowal, Carlson, Savelle and Nungaq, a process that had now become almost mechanical. One person would labour with the pickaxe until either the pain in his hands or the exhaustion in his arms required rest.”


    • “Essentially, the body of John Torrington was that of a mummy. What made it so different from mummies recovered from other archaeological sites in the world, however, was the amazing quality of preservation.”
    • “In effect, the unbroken period of freezing from early 1846 to 1984 suspended any major outward appearances of decay, allowing John Torrington to look very much as he had in life, right down to the flexibility of the tissue.”

    Lead Confirmed:

    • “Atomic absorption analysis of Torrington’s bone indicated an elevated amount of lead of 110–151 parts per million (the modern average ranges from 5–14 parts per million)… Torrington would have suffered severe mental and physical problems caused by lead poisoning and, so weakened, finally succumbed to pneumonia.”
    • “Lead levels in the soft tissues of the crew members averaged ten to thirty times higher than in modern unexposed individuals.”
    • “Beattie had seen photographs of food tins from various British Arctic expeditions and had handled a few, but as he picked through the tins from Franklin’s expedition, he saw that they were different. The lead soldering was thick and sloppily done, and had dripped like melted candle wax down the inside surface of the tins.”
    • “The tissues and solder were subjected to lead isotope ratio analysis, a means of ‘fingerprinting’ the source of lead. The results indicated that the lead in the tissues was identical to that in the solder used in the food cans.”

    Franklin Redeemed:

    • “It was now clear that Franklin was no arrogant idiot. Instead he became a quintessentially twentieth-century victim: a victim of bad packaging. The tins of food aboard his ships had poisoned his men, weakening them and clouding their judgment. Tins were quite new in 1845, and these tins were sloppily sealed with lead, and the lead had leached into the food. But the symptoms of lead poisoning were not recognized at the time, being easily confused with those of scurvy. Franklin can hardly be blamed for negligence, and Beattie’s revelations constituted exoneration of a kind for Franklin.”
  • Frankensteinby Mary Shelley

    “So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.”

    Creating the Monster:

    • “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.”
    • “It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”
    • “His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.”
    • “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”
    • “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.”

    The Monster Attacks:

    • “Two years had now nearly elapsed since the night on which he first received life; and was this his first crime? Alas! I had turned loose into the world a depraved wretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery; had he not murdered my brother?”
    • “I had been the author of unalterable evils, and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.”
    • “‘Alas! Victor, when falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?’”

    The Monster Speaks:

    • “‘I expected this reception,’ said the daemon. ‘All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.’”
    • “‘Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! You reproach me with your creation, come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed.’ My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings which can arm one being against the existence of another. He easily eluded me and said, ‘Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone…’”
    • “‘Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder, and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man! Yet I ask you not to spare me; listen to me, and then, if you can, and if you will, destroy the work of your hands.’”
    • “‘On you it rests, whether I quit forever the neighbourhood of man and lead a harmless life, or become the scourge of your fellow creatures and the author of your own speedy ruin.’”

    The Monster Recalls:

    • “‘A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same time; and it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses.’”
    • “‘Sometimes I tried to imitate the pleasant songs of the birds but was unable. Sometimes I wished to express my sensations in my own mode, but the uncouth and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me into silence again.’”
    • “‘What chiefly struck me was the gentle manners of these people, and I longed to join them, but dared not. I remembered too well the treatment I had suffered the night before from the barbarous villagers…’”
    • “‘I formed in my imagination a thousand pictures of presenting myself to them, and their reception of me. I imagined that they would be disgusted, until, by my gentle demeanour and conciliating words, I should first win their favour and afterwards their love.’”
    • “‘Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.’”
    • “‘I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me, and finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.’”
    • “‘There was none among the myriads of men that existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No; from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and more than all, against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery.’”

    The Monster’s Ultimatum:

    • “‘You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede.’”
    • “‘I do refuse it,’ I replied; ‘and no torture shall ever extort a consent from me. You may render me the most miserable of men, but you shall never make me base in my own eyes. Shall I create another like yourself, whose joint wickedness might desolate the world. Begone! I have answered you; you may torture me, but I will never consent.’”
    • “‘You are in the wrong,’ replied the fiend; ‘and instead of threatening, I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable… If any being felt emotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them a hundred and a hundredfold; for that one creature’s sake I would make peace with the whole kind!’”
    • “After a long pause of reflection I concluded that the justice due both to him and my fellow creatures demanded of me that I should comply with his request.”

    Frankenstein Breaks His Promise:

    • “I now also began to collect the materials necessary for my new creation, and this was to me like the torture of single drops of water continually falling on the head.”
    • “As I sat, a train of reflection occurred to me which led me to consider the effects of what I was now doing… I was now about to form another being of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness.”
    • “Even if they were to leave Europe and inhabit the deserts of the new world… a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror.”
    • “Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? … Now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race.”

    The Monster Returns:

    • “Yes, he had followed me in my travels… and he now came to mark my progress and claim the fulfillment of my promise.”
    • “As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged. The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew.”
    • “‘I have endured incalculable fatigue, and cold, and hunger; do you dare destroy my hopes?’ ‘Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness.’ ‘Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!’”
    • “‘You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict.’”
    • “‘It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.’”

    Frankenstein’s Curse:

    • “And then I thought again of his words—‘I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT.’ That, then, was the period fixed for the fulfillment of my destiny. In that hour I should die and at once satisfy and extinguish his malice.”
    • “How mutable are our feelings, and how strange is that clinging love we have of life even in the excess of misery!”
    • “At these moments I often endeavoured to put an end to the existence I loathed, and it required unceasing attendance and vigilance to restrain me from committing some dreadful act of violence.”
    • “My father’s care and attentions were indefatigable, but he did not know the origin of my sufferings and sought erroneous methods to remedy the incurable ill.”
    • “I called myself the murderer of William, of Justine, and of Clerval.”


    • “I was bewildered, in a cloud of wonder and horror. The death of William, the execution of Justine, the murder of Clerval, and lastly of my wife; even at that moment I knew not that my only remaining friends were safe from the malignity of the fiend; my father even now might be writhing under his grasp, and Ernest might be dead at his feet.”
    • “Know that, one by one, my friends were snatched away; I was left desolate.”
    • “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

    Frankenstein’s Pursuit:

    • “My rage is unspeakable when I reflect that the murderer, whom I have turned loose upon society, still exists. You refuse my just demand; I have but one resource, and I devote myself, either in my life or death, to his destruction.”
    • “‘Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me…’ I was answered through the stillness of night by a loud and fiendish laugh… ‘I am satisfied, miserable wretch! You have determined to live, and I am satisfied.’”
    • “Sometimes the peasants, scared by this horrid apparition, informed me of his path; sometimes he himself, who feared that if I lost all trace of him I should despair and die, left some mark to guide me.”
    • “‘Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices of the north, where you will feel the misery of cold and frost, to which I am impassive. You will find near this place, if you follow not too tardily, a dead hare; eat and be refreshed. Come on, my enemy; we have yet to wrestle for our lives, but many hard and miserable hours must you endure until that period shall arrive.’”
    • “I inquired of the inhabitants concerning the fiend and gained accurate information. A gigantic monster, they said, had arrived the night before, armed with a gun and many pistols, putting to flight the inhabitants of a solitary cottage through fear of his terrific appearance.”

    Frankenstein’s Failure:

    • “The wind arose; the sea roared; and, as with the mighty shock of an earthquake, it split and cracked with a tremendous and overwhelming sound. The work was soon finished; in a few minutes a tumultuous sea rolled between me and my enemy, and I was left drifting on a scattered piece of ice that was continually lessening and thus preparing for me a hideous death.”
    • “Must I die, and he yet live? If I do, swear to me, Walton, that he shall not escape, that you will seek him and satisfy my vengeance in his death.”

    Frankenstein’s Death:

    • “Alas! The strength I relied on is gone; I feel that I shall soon die, and he, my enemy and persecutor, may still be in being.”
    • “In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature and was bound towards him to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being.”
    • “This was my duty, but there was another still paramount to that. My duties towards the beings of my own species had greater claims to my attention because they included a greater proportion of happiness or misery. Urged by this view, I refused, and I did right in refusing, to create a companion for the first creature.”
    • “The task of his destruction was mine, but I have failed.”
    • “Farewell, Walton! Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.”

    The Monster Departs:

    • “I entered the cabin where lay the remains of my ill-fated and admirable friend. Over him hung a form which I cannot find words to describe—gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted in its proportions. As he hung over the coffin, his face was concealed by long locks of ragged hair; but one vast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy.”
    • “‘Oh, Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being! What does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? … For while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires… Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all humankind sinned against me?’”
    • “‘Wretch!’ I said. ‘It is well that you come here to whine over the desolation that you have made. You throw a torch into a pile of buildings, and when they are consumed, you sit among the ruins and lament the fall. Hypocritical fiend! … It is not pity that you feel; you lament only because the victim of your malignity is withdrawn from your power.’”
    • “‘You hate me, but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself… Fear not that I shall be the instrument of future mischief. My work is nearly complete… I shall quit your vessel on the ice raft which brought me thither and shall seek the most northern extremity of the globe; I shall collect my funeral pile and consume to ashes this miserable frame, that its remains may afford no light to any curious and unhallowed wretch who would create such another as I have been. I shall die. I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me or be the prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched.’”
    • “‘Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction.’”

    “Sometimes I endeavoured to gain from Frankenstein the particulars of his creature’s formation, but on this point he was impenetrable. ‘Are you mad, my friend?’ said he. ‘Or whither does your senseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself and the world a demoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! Learn my miseries and do not seek to increase your own.’”

  • Draculaby Bram Stoker

    Jonathan Visits Dracula:

    • “I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting.”
    • “When I asked him if he knew Count Dracula, and could tell me anything of his castle, both he and his wife crossed themselves, and, saying that they knew nothing at all, simply refused to speak further.”
    • “It was evident that something very exciting was either happening or expected, but though I asked each passenger, no one would give me the slightest explanation.”
    • “I could see from the flash of our lamps as the rays fell on them, that the horses were coal-black and splendid animals. They were driven by a tall man, with a long brown beard and a great black hat, which seemed to hide his face from us. I could only see the gleam of a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed red in the lamplight, as he turned to us… As he spoke he smiled, and the lamplight fell on a hardlooking mouth, with very red lips and sharp-looking teeth, as white as ivory.”
    • “Was this a customary incident in the life of a solicitor’s clerk sent out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner?”

    Dracula’s Castle:

    • “There are certainly odd deficiencies in the house, considering the extraordinary evidences of wealth which are round me.”
    • “In none of the rooms is there a mirror. There is not even a toilet glass on my table, and I had to get the little shaving glass from my bag before I could either shave or brush my hair.”
    • “I have not yet seen a servant anywhere, or heard a sound near the castle except the howling of wolves.”
    • “The castle is on the very edge of a terrific precipice. A stone falling from the window would fall a thousand feet without touching anything”
    • “Doors, doors, doors everywere, and all locked and bolted. In no place save from the windows in the castle walls is there an available exit. The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner!”

    Dracula’s Warning:

    • “At the door he turned, and after a moment’s pause said, ‘Let me advise you, my dear young friend. Nay, let me warn you with all seriousness, that should you leave these rooms you will not by any chance go to sleep in any other part of the castle. It is old, and has many memories, and there are bad dreams for those who sleep unwisely. Be warned! Should sleep now or ever overcome you, or be like to do, then haste to your own chamber or to these rooms, for your rest will then be safe. But if you be not careful in this respect, then,’ He finished his speech in a gruesome way, for he motioned with his hands as if he were washing them. I quite understood.”

    The Weird Sisters:

    • “In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. I thought at the time that I must be dreaming when I saw them, they threw no shadow on the floor.”
    • “‘How dare you touch him, any of you? How dare you cast eyes on him when I had forbidden it? Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me! Beware how you meddle with him, or you’ll have to deal with me.’”

    Jonathan Escapes:

    • “It has always been at night-time that I have been molested or threatened, or in some way in danger or in fear. I have not yet seen the Count in the daylight.”
    • “If I could only get into his room! … Yes, there is a way, if one dares to take it… I have seen him myself crawl from his window. Why should not I imitate him, and go in by his window? The chances are desperate, but my need is more desperate still. I shall risk it.”
    • “There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep. I could not say which, for eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death…”
    • “Then I stopped and looked at the Count. There was a mocking smile on the bloated face which seemed to drive me mad. This was the being I was helping to transfer to London, where, perhaps, for centuries to come he might, amongst its teeming millions, satiate his lust for blood, and create a new and ever-widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless.”
    • “I shall try to scale the castle wall farther than I have yet attempted. I shall take some of the gold with me, lest I want it later. I may find a way from this dreadful place. And then away for home! Away to the quickest and nearest train! Away from the cursed spot, from this cursed land, where the devil and his children still walk with earthly feet! At least God’s mercy is better than that of those monsters, and the precipice is steep and high. At its foot a man may sleep, as a man. Goodbye, all. Mina!”

    The Voyage of the Demeter:

    • “A great awe came on all as they realised that the ship, as if by a miracle, had found the harbour, unsteered save by the hand of a dead man!”

    From the ship’s logs:

    • “There seems some doom over this ship. Already a hand short, and entering the Bay of Biscay with wild weather ahead, and yet last night another man lost, disappeared. Like the first, he came off his watch and was not seen again. Men all in a panic of fear, sent a round robin, asking to have double watch, as they fear to be alone.”
    • “‘It is here. I know it now. On the watch last night I saw It, like a man, tall and thin, and ghastly pale. It was in the bows, and looking out. I crept behind It, and gave it my knife, but the knife went through It, empty as the air.’”
    • “In the dimness of the night I saw it, Him! God, forgive me, but the mate was right to jump overboard. It was better to die like a man… But I am captain, and I must not leave my ship. But I shall baffle this fiend or monster, for I shall tie my hands to the wheel when my strength begins to fail, and along with them I shall tie that which He, It, dare not touch. And then, come good wind or foul, I shall save my soul, and my honour as a captain.”

    Mina’s Diary:

    • “There was undoubtedly something, long and black, bending over the half-reclining white figure. I called in fright, ‘Lucy! Lucy!’ and something raised a head, and from where I was I could see a white face and red, gleaming eyes.”
    • “No diary for two whole days. I have not had the heart to write… No news from Jonathan, and Lucy seems to be growing weaker…”
    • “At last, news of Jonathan. The dear fellow has been ill, that is why he did not write… He has had some fearful shock, so says our doctor, and in his delirium his ravings have been dreadful, of wolves and poison and blood, of ghosts and demons, and I fear to say of what. Be careful of him always that there may be nothing to excite him of this kind for a long time to come. The traces of such an illness as his do not lightly die away.”

    Dr. Seward’s Diary:

    • “[Renfield] is usually respectful to the attendant and at times servile, but tonight, the man tells me, he was quite haughty. Would not condescend to talk with him at all. All he would say was, ‘I don’t want to talk to you. You don’t count now. The master is at hand.’ The attendant thinks it is some sudden form of religious mania which has seized him. If so, we must look out for squalls, for a strong man with homicidal and religious mania at once might be dangerous. The combination is a dreadful one.”
    • “Chasing an errant swarm of bees is nothing to following a naked lunatic, when the fit of escaping is upon him!”
    • “‘The expected always happens.’ How well Disraeli knew life… Hark! The unexpected again! I am called. The patient has once more escaped.’”
    • “I feel there is something ominous in his calm, and shall not forget this night.”

    Van Helsing:

    • “I am in doubt, and so have done the best thing I know of. I have written to my old friend and master, Professor Van Helsing, of Amsterdam, who knows as much about obscure diseases as any one in the world… I have asked him to come at once.”
    • “‘I have for myself thoughts at the present. Later I shall unfold to you.’ ‘Why not now?’ I asked. ‘It may do some good. We may arrive at some decision.’ He looked at me and said, ‘My friend John, when the corn is grown, even before it has ripened, while the milk of its mother earth is in him, and the sunshine has not yet begun to paint him with his gold, the husbandman he pull the ear and rub him between his rough hands, and blow away the green chaff, and say to you, ‘Look! He’s good corn, he will make a good crop when the time comes.’ … ‘The good husbandman tell you so then because he knows, but not till then. But you do not find the good husbandman dig up his planted corn to see if he grow. That is for the children who play at husbandry, and not for those who take it as of the work of their life. See you now, friend John? I have sown my corn, and Nature has her work to do in making it sprout, if he sprout at all, there’s some promise, and I wait till the ear begins to swell.’”

    Keep Your Diary:

    • “‘You were always a careful student, and your case book was ever more full than the rest. And I trust that good habit have not fail. Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker.’”
    • “‘Take then good note of it. Nothing is too small. I counsel you, put down in record even your doubts and surmises. Hereafter it may be of interest to you to see how true you guess. We learn from failure, not from success!’”

    Diagnosing Lucy:

    • “By the bedside sat Van Helsing, looking at her intently. The velvet band again covered the red mark. I asked the Professor in a whisper, ‘What do you make of that mark on her throat?’ ‘What do you make of it?’”
    • “It all seemed grotesque to me, and presently I said, ‘Well, Professor, I know you always have a reason for what you do, but this certainly puzzles me. It is well we have no sceptic here, or he would say that you were working some spell to keep out an evil spirit.’ ‘Perhaps I am!’ He answered quietly as he began to make the wreath which Lucy was to wear round her neck.”
    • “Suddenly he jumped to his feet. ‘Come,’ he said. ‘Come, we must see and act. Devils or no devils, or all the devils at once, it matters not. We must fight him all the same.’”

    The Un-Dead:

    • “‘It is out of the lore and experience of the ancients and of all those who have studied the powers of the Un-Dead. When they become such, there comes with the change the curse of immortality. They cannot die, but must go on age after age adding new victims and multiplying the evils of the world. For all that die from the preying of the Un-dead become themselves Un-dead, and prey on their kind. And so the circle goes on ever widening, like as the ripples from a stone thrown in the water.’”
    • “‘You would in time, when you had died, have become nosferatu, as they call it in Eastern europe, and would for all time make more of those Un-Deads that so have filled us with horror.’”


    • “‘In fine, let us consider the limitations of the vampire in general, and of this one in particular… All we have to go upon are traditions and superstitions.’”
    • “‘He can do all these things, yet he is not free. Nay, he is even more prisoner than the slave of the galley, than the madman in his cell. He cannot go where he lists, he who is not of nature has yet to obey some of nature’s laws, why we know not. He may not enter anywhere at the first, unless there be some one of the household who bid him to come, though afterwards he can come as he please. His power ceases, as does that of all evil things, at the coming of the day.’”
    • “‘The branch of wild rose on his coffin keep him that he move not from it, a sacred bullet fired into the coffin kill him so that he be true dead, and as for the stake through him, we know already of its peace, or the cut off head that giveth rest. We have seen it with our eyes.’”

    Facing Dracula:

    • “‘He has all along, since his coming, been trying his power, slowly but surely… However, he means to succeed, and a man who has centuries before him can afford to wait and to go slow. Festina lente may well be his motto.’”
    • “‘And so we have this day to hunt out all his lairs and sterilize them. So we shall, if we have not yet catch him and destroy him, drive him to bay in some place where the catching and the destroying shall be, in time, sure.’”
    • “‘Hush, there is no time now. Have all your arms! Be ready!’ … The slow, careful steps came along the hall. The Count was evidently prepared for some surprise, at least he feared it.”
    • “[Jonathan] had ready his great Kukri knife and made a fierce and sudden cut at him. The blow was a powerful one. Only the diabolical quickness of the Count’s leap back saved him.”
    • “The next instant, with a sinuous dive he swept under Harker’s arm, ere his blow could fall, and grasping a handful of the money from the floor, dashed across the room, threw himself at the window.”
    • “‘You think to baffle me, you with your pale faces all in a row, like sheep in a butcher’s. You shall be sorry yet, each one of you! You think you have left me without a place to rest, but I have more. My revenge is just begun!’”

    Pursuing Dracula:

    • “Mina looked at him appealingly as she asked, ‘But why need we seek him further, when he is gone away from us?’ … He looked at her gravely for a minute and then said sorrowfully, ‘Because my dear, dear Madam Mina, now more than ever must we find him even if we have to follow him to the jaws of Hell! … Time is now to be dreaded, since once he put that mark upon your throat.’”
    • “‘And it may be that as ever is in God’s Providence, the very thing that the evil doer most reckoned on for his selfish good, turns out to be his chiefest harm. The hunter is taken in his own snare, as the great Psalmist says.’”

    Dracula’s Death:

    • “All yesterday we travel, always getting closer to the mountains, and moving into a more and more wild and desert land.”
    • “I took my way to the castle… By memory of [Jonathan’s] diary I found my way to the old chapel, for I knew that here my work lay.”
    • “There was one great tomb more lordly than all the rest. Huge it was, and nobly proportioned. On it was but one word. DRACULA”
    • “Then began my terrible task, and I dreaded it. Had it been but one, it had been easy, comparative. But three! To begin twice more after I had been through a deed of horror… Oh, my friend John, but it was butcher work… Before I left the castle I so fixed its entrances that never more can the Count enter there Undead.”
    • “I saw the Count lying within the box upon the earth… He was deathly pale, just like a waxen image, and the red eyes glared with the horrible vindictive look which I knew so well. As I looked, the eyes saw the sinking sun, and the look of hate in them turned to triumph. But, on the instant, came the sweep and flash of Jonathan’s great knife… It was like a miracle, but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.”
    • “‘Now God be thanked that all has not been in vain! See! The snow is not more stainless than her forehead! The curse has passed away!’”

    The Phonograph:

    • “‘I hope I did not keep you waiting,’ I said, ‘but I stayed at the door as I heard you talking, and thought there was someone with you.’ ‘Oh,’ he replied with a smile, ‘I was only entering my diary.’ ‘Your diary?’ I asked him in surprise. ‘Yes,’ he answered. ‘I keep it in this.’ As he spoke he laid his hand on the phonograph. I felt quite excited over it, and blurted out, ‘Why, this beats even shorthand! May I hear it say something?’”
    • “‘But do you know that, although I have kept the diary for months past, it never once struck me how I was going to find any particular part of it in case I wanted to look it up?’”
    • “‘I greatly fear I have distressed you.’ ‘Oh, no, not distressed me,’ she replied. ‘But I have been more touched than I can say by your grief. That is a wonderful machine, but it is cruelly true. It told me, in its very tones, the anguish of your heart.’”

    Van Helsing Quotes:

    • “I have learned not to think little of any one’s belief, no matter how strange it may be.”
    • “I have a great task to do, and at the beginning it is to know.”
    • “You are a clever man, friend John. You reason well, and your wit is bold, but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you.”
    • “Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all, and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”
    • “But yet we see around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new, and which are yet but the old, which pretend to be young, like the fine ladies at the opera.”
    • “Let me tell you, my friend, that there are things done today in electrical science which would have been deemed unholy by the very man who discovered electricity, who would themselves not so long before been burned as wizards.”
    • “I heard once of an American who so defined faith, ‘that faculty which enables us to believe things which we know to be untrue.’”
    • “The little bird, the little fish, the little animal learn not by principle, but empirically.”
    • “Oh, friend John, it is a strange world, a sad world, a world full of miseries, and woes, and troubles. And yet when King Laugh come, he make them all dance to the tune he play.”
  • Blood and Gutsby Roy Porter

    “In countless ways, through multitudes of folk precepts and practices, societies have sought to hold disease at bay, or to fight, manage and rationalize it when it occurs.”


    • “If the coming of agriculture delivered mankind from the Malthusian threat of starvation, it also unleashed a new danger: infectious disease.”
    • “Despite such rampant infections bred by congested settlement rife with waste and dirt, mankind’s ambitions and restless energies ensured that, however unhealthy, communities expanded.”
    • “As diseases which initially had been murderously epidemic and turned endemic, expanding populations accommodated and surmounted them; but the diseases gained a permanent foothold, becoming, if less lethal, lastingly debilitating.”


    • “The most cataclysmic event ever for human health was Columbus’s landfall on Hispaniola (today’s Dominican Republic and Haiti)… The conquering Spaniards and Portuguese were soon driven to importing slaves from Africa to meet the labour shortages created by catastrophic mortality.”
    • “In a later age typhus replaced syphilis as the great wartime killer, a classic disease of dirty camps and ill-kempt soldiers… Cholera, however, was the new disease of the nineteenth century… Dehydrated and nearing death, the patient displayed the classic cholera physiognomy: puckered blue lips in a shrivelled hollow face.”
    • “The ‘Spanish flu’, which swept the globe in the aftermath of the Great War, was the worst pandemic ever, slaughtering perhaps 60 million people worldwide in less than two years.”

    Diseases of Affluence:

    • “If agriculture proved a mixed blessing—it enabled larger numbers to survive, albeit with compromised vitality—the Industrial Revolution brought similar trade-offs.”
    • “Alongside the old diseases of poverty there emerged diseases of affluence. Cancer, obesity, coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, emphysema and many chronic and degenerative conditions mushroomed among wealthy, ageing nations…”

    Hippocratic Oath:

    • “‘I will use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment; I will abstain from harming or wronging any man by it.’”
    • “Hippocratic doctors made no pretence to miracle cures, but they did pledge above all to do no harm (primum non nocere) and presented themselves as faithful friends to the sick.”
    • “For all its latter sacred status, little is known about the Oath’s origins or early use. It obviously foreshadows, however, the paradigm of a profession (one professing an oath) as an ethically self-regulating discipline among those sharing specialized knowledge and committed to a service ideal.”

    Galen’s Teaching:

    • “Philosophy, [Galen] taught, was essential to endow medicine with the theoretical basis it required. The physician should not be a mere practical healer (empiric) but must master logic (the art of thinking), physics (the science of nature) and ethics (the rule of action). The unphilosophical healer was like a botching builder: the true physician should be like an architect armed with proper blueprints.”

    Medicine & Religion:

    • “In the so-called Dark Ages, healing became the preserve of monks and clerics, the only learned men left in the West. The flame of classical medicine was meanwhile kept alive in the far more advanced Islamic world, where a succession of distinguished scholar-physicians, active in what are modern Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Spain, studied, further systematized, and extended the work of Galen.”
    • “From the twelfth century, however, with the founding of universities and the recovery and retranslation of learned medicine from Islamic sources, professional medicine itself recovered, initially at Salerno in southern Italy.”

    Education, the Middle Ages:

    • “The goal of a formal scholastic medical education lay in the acquisition of rational knowledge (scientia) within a philosophical framework: the learned physician who knew the reasons for things would not be mistaken for a mere ‘empirical’ healer or a quack. There were few such Galenic paragons, though: most medieval practitioners picked up their skills by apprenticeship and experience.”

    The Physician’s Job, 1800s:

    • “Before the introduction of systematic physical examinations and diagnostic tests, the physician’s job was not hands-on: what counted were book-learning, experience, memory, judgement and a good bedside manner.”
    • “By cross-questioning, the physician would ascertain the symptoms (taking the patient’s history), establish the nature of the disease, frame a diagnosis and formulate a regimen.”
    • “The old-style doctor had a choice between the conservative Hippocratic options (waiting and watching, bed-rest, tonics, care, soothing words, calm and hope), or ‘heroic’ possibilities, including violent purges, drastic blood-letting (Galen’s preference), or some pet nostrum of his own. Often his decision was made for him: crusty patients had strong opinions about the right treatment for ‘their’ illnesses, and he who paid the piper called the tune.”

    Technology, 1800–1900s:

    • “Thanks to the synthesis of morphine in 1806 and the invention of the hypodermic syringe in 1853, it became easy to give fast fixes of strong opiates—eventually even the newly developed heroin, introduced by Bayer in 1898. In 1869 chloral hydrate came into use as a sleeping potion; barbitone (Veronal) appeared in 1903 and phenobarbitone in 1912. Painkilling at least became possible, at the cost in many cases of addiction.”
    • “First the stethoscope, invented in 1816, and subsequently devices such as the ophthalmoscope and the laryngoscope (mid-Victorian) imparted a new meticulousness (and mystique) to the business of diagnosis. From the 1860s compact thermometers were available to measure body temperature; fever charts permitted plotting of the temperature patterns typical of specific diseases; and sphygmomanometers allowed the testing of blood-pressure.”
    • “‘Working with the microscope and making analyses of the urine, sputum, blood, and other fluids as an aid to diagnosis,’ reflected a hard-bitten American physician in 1924, ‘will not only bring fees and lead to valuable information regarding your patient’s condition, but will also give you reputation and professional respect.’”

    Alternative Medicine:

    • “The nineteenth century also brought new movements grounded in principled rejection of orthodox medicine. Such alternative healing philosophies often mirrored religious dissenting sects and socio-political radicals… These doctrines won their greatest following in America.”
    • “[Dr Andrew Taylor Still] proclaimed the body’s inherent capacity to repair itself. Somewhat similar was chiropractic, established in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer, after he restored the hearing of a man by adjusting his backbone.”
    • “This radical Protestant self-help optimism was taken to its logical extreme in Christian Science… Since all was spirit and matter a phantasm, there could be no such thing as somatic disease; sickness was not in the body but in the mind, and could be cured by mental effort and faith alone.”
    • “At the end of the twentieth century there were more registered irregular healers in Britain than GPS, while in the USA, more visits were being paid each year to providers of unconventional therapy (425 million) than to primary-care physicians (388 million).”

    The Body:

    • “Medical beliefs are always underpinned by cultural attitudes and values about the flesh.”
    • “Human dissection was not permissible within Islam, while Christian belief in the sanctity of the body (it belonged to God not man) led the Vatican to regulate the handling of corpses. In 1482, however, Pope Sixtus IV stated that, with the proviso that the cadaver came from an executed criminal and was ultimately given a Christian burial, there was no objection to dissection.”
    • “The turning-point came with Vesalius… Though it contained no startling discoveries, the De Fabrica bred a new climate of enquiry: ancient dogmas were challenged, and Vesalius’s successors became committed observers, vying to outshine each other in new findings.”
    • “The knife was thus uncovering a new world of the bodily organs, though improved mapping of structures outran a correct understanding of functions: post-Vesalian anatomy still largely thought in terms of Galenic physiology.”

    The Blood:

    • “The veins that carried blood, [Galen] held, originated in the liver, while the arteries stemmed from the heart. Blood was ‘concocted’ (literally cooked) in the liver; it then washed outwards, like water irrigating a field, via the veins into the parts of the body, where it carried nourishment and was ‘consumed’ (used up).”
    • “[William Harvey] noted that the amount of blood forced out of the heart in an hour far exceeded its volume in the whole animal. Hundreds of gallons of blood left the heart in a day: so much could not conceivably be absorbed by the body and continually replaced by blood made in the liver from chyle… ‘It is absolutely necessary to conclude that the blood in the animal body is impelled in a circle, and is in a state of ceaseless motion.’”
    • “On the strength of the circulation theory, Harvey was able to explain various other previously puzzling phenomena—the rapid spread of poisons through the body, for instance.”

    The Machine:

    • “As promoted by Descartes, Boyle, Hooke and others, the new or mechanical philosophy proposed the machine as the model for the body… They promoted… a hydraulic or hydrostatic understanding of the body’s pipes, vessels and tubes, levers, cogs and pulleys. They also prized measurement and quantification.”
    • “Spurning the ‘clockwork’ body of Descartes as too crude, Boerhaave treated it rather as a plumbing network of pipes and vessels, which contained, channelled and controlled body fluids. Health was maintained by the free and vigorous movement of fluids in the vascular system, sickness explained in terms of blockages, constrictions or stagnation. The old humoral emphasis upon balance had thus been preserved but translated into mechanical and hydrostatic idioms.”
    • “Respiration was the analogue within the living body of combustion in the external world: both drew on oxygen and both gave off carbon dioxide and water. It was thus Lavoisier who established that oxygen was indispensable to life.”

    The Paris Doctors:

    • “Endlessly exposed to the dying poor, the Paris doctors rated diagnostics above therapeutics.”
    • “[Pierre Louis] held that symptoms (that is, what the patient felt) were secondary in clinical value; far more significant were signs (what physical examination found).”
    • “Clinical medicine was thus, for Louis and his colleagues, an observational science to be learned on the hospital ward and in the morgue through the recording and explication of facts. Medical training must be a discipline of the explanation of the sights, sounds and smells of disease—an education of the senses. Clinical judgement, the doctor’s true metier, lay in astute interpretation of what experienced senses perceived.”
    • “Louis was, furthermore, a passionate advocate of arithmetical methods designed to test therapies numerically—initiating what would later be called clinical trials. The scale of the Paris hospitals allowed these doctors to transcend the individual case for statistical probabilities.”


    • “Hospital medicine a là Laënnec, argued Bernard, had serious limitations: like natural history, it was passive, and the sickbed presented too many imponderables. To achieve progress in physiology required the active involvement of the experimentalist, under strictly controlled conditions.”
    • “By 1850 laboratories were transforming physiology and pathology and making their mark too upon medical education. Laboratories were far from new—they were an innovation of the age of Boyle and Hooke; nor, for that matter, was experimental medicine. Nevertheless nineteenth-century practitioners of organic chemistry, microscopy, physiology and other medicine-related disciplines were right to believe they were in at the birth of a new enterprise: while the hospital, they conceded, was fine for making observations, the laboratory was the place for systematic controlled experimentation.”

    Louis Pasteur:

    • “The superstar of the next generation of medical researchers, Louis Pasteur (1822–95), was, oddly, no physician, but a chemistry graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris.”
    • “His researches into chicken cholera, swine erysipelas and anthrax led to new ‘vaccines’—the term he coined to honour Edward Jenner, the English country doctor who, at the close of the eighteenth century, had championed cowpox inoculation against smallpox (vacca is Latin for cow).”
    • “Pasteur’s crowning achievement, the rabies vaccine he developed in 1885, was for a ghastly and fatal disease which, like anthrax, affected both animals and human beings.”

    Deficiency Diseases:

    • “Transcending the proven links between sickness and starvation, however, a new concept was emerging around 1900: deficiency disease, the idea that a healthy diet required very specific chemical components. Crucial were Christiaan Eijkman’s investigations into beriberi (with its classic symptoms of muscular weakness and dropsy), which led him to propose the concept of ‘essential food factors’, or roughly what would in 1912 be dubbed ‘vitamins’ by the chemist Casimir Funk.”
    • “In 1928 Albert von Szent Györgi isolated vitamin C, which became recognized as the element in lemon juice effectual against scurvy. The model of deficiency disease proved highly fruitful.”
    • “One of the fruits of the energetic research programme into proteins and enzymes pursued at University College London by William Bayliss and Ernest Starling around 1900 was the key concept of the hormone (from the Greek for ‘I excite’)… The thyroid, pancreas, sex glands and the adrenals all became recognized as endocrine glands, essential regulators of health.”
    • “Once it was discovered that the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas released a material controlling blood sugar level, recognition dawned that diabetes, then fatal, was a hormone deficiency disease. In the race to extract this active substance, victory went to two Canadian researchers, Frederick Banting and Charles Best. On 11 January 1922 they gave the first insulin injections to a fourteen-year-old boy who was dying of diabetes: almost immediately his blood sugar level fell. A critical disease could thereafter reliably be controlled (though not cured).”


    • “By the 1930s the family of the oestrogens had been elucidated, as had the male sex hormone, testosterone. Twenty years later, on the basis of these discoveries, Gregory Pincus and Carl Djerassi developed an oral contraceptive for women. Launched in 1959, the Pill was the first ever fully effective contraceptive, and it pointed to a new era of lifestyle drugs: ones designed not to counter sickness but to improve living itself. Viagra (1998) for treating male impotence is another.”


    • “Introduced in 1987, Prozac, a drug which by raising serotonin levels creates a feelgood sense of security and assertiveness, started to be prescribed for depression; within five years, eight million sufferers had taken that designer anti-depressant, said to make people feel ‘better than well’.”


    • “It was the boast of Hippocratic medicine that it would ‘do no harm’. Thanks to the experimentalism made possible by the laboratory, modern medicine grew Promethean in its vision: there was no forbidden knowledge, all things were possible in its mechanical medical model. But the power to do good is double-edged.”
    • “The biomedical model can be myopic, searching ever-more microscopically for disease but often omitting the wider picture of populations, environments and health.”

    Traditional Therapeutics:

    • “It must be remembered, however, that drugs were not expected in humoral medicine to play a decisive role in healing: banking on ‘heroic’ remedies was what quacks did. Traditional therapeutics had many strings to its bow, including regulation of diet and environment (for instance, travelling for health), and giving wise counsel. A good drug was expected less to zap a disease than, through purging, sweating or cleansing the blood, to aid the healing power of Nature in restoring balance to the system.”


    • “The sheet-anchor of medicine both domestic and professional has always been an array of herbal remedies: leaves, roots, bark, ground up, steeped, made into infusions, etc.”
    • “In the nineteenth century, however, study of materia medica was transformed, slowly and unevenly, into laboratory-based pharmacology, and drugs became production-line items. Initially in France and then in Germany, common plant drugs such as opium were subjected to systematic chemical analysis: the result was the synthesis among others of codeine, nicotine, caffeine, morphine and, later, cocaine.”
    • “By 1900 companies were turning lab-made developments to profit—as in the case of aspirin, marketed by Bayer in Germany.”


    • “The situation in which ‘one creature destroys the life of another to preserve its own’ was styled ‘antibiosis’, and the word ‘antibiotic’ (destructive of life) was later coined by Selman Waksman (1888–1973), a Russian-born soil microbiologist active in the USA.”

    New Drugs:

    • “New drugs of many kinds followed in the 1950s, notably cortisone, invaluable for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, and the first effective psychopharmacological agents—lithium, valuable in cases of manic-depression, and chlorpromazine (Largactil) for schizophrenia.”
    • “By the 1960s a cornucopia of truly effective drugs had emerged out of the twentieth-century laboratory: antibiotics, anti-hypertensives (beta-blockers) to prevent strokes, anti-coagulants, anti-arrhythmics, anti-histamines, antidepressants and anti-convulsants, steroids such as cortisone against arthritis, bronchodilators, ulcer cures, endocrine regulators, cytotoxic drugs against cancers, and others besides.’
    • “It took such tragedies [as Thalidomide and DES] to bring into being stringent clinical trials for effectiveness and safety and strict licensing procedures…”


    • “Surgery is as old as civilization itself, for ancient skull remains show that trepanning (or trephining) was being performed at least as early as 5000 BC.”
    • “Many surgeons learned or developed the cutter’s art in the army—the battlefield was proverbially the school for surgery… In northern Europe civilian surgery was performed by operators who doubled as barbers (they used the same tools of the trade).”
    • “Organized into trade guilds, surgeons had normally passed not through an academic but a practical education, via apprenticeship.”
    • “Whoever undertook it, operative surgery was a risky and painful business; it required ‘an eagle’s eye, a lion’s courage and a woman’s hand’—and (perhaps most important for the patient) great speed.”

    Anaesthesia & Antisepsis:

    • “Overall, however, operative surgery’s scope remained restricted and its success uncertain, before two critical innovations: anaesthesia and antisepsis.”
    • “Before the introduction of anaesthesia in the 1840s, invasive surgery was limited in scope; lengthy operations, or ones demanding great precision, were out of the question.”
    • “The introduction of effective anaesthesia made otherwise unbearably traumatic internal operations feasible… But because of the appalling postoperative death-rate of invasive surgery, due to septicaemia, anaesthesia did not by itself revolutionize practice, for the menace of infection was unremitting.”
    • “Wine and vinegar had long been used for treating wounds, and around 1820 iodine became popular. It was, however, Joseph Lister who first developed effective antiseptic techniques and campaigned tirelessly on their behalf.”
    • “Publicizing his methods in Lancet in 1867, [Joseph Lister] insisted on two points: germs caused infections; and—for all the old ideas about ‘laudable pus’—infection and pus-formation were not inevitable, still less beneficial, stages in wound healing.”
    • “By 1900 operations were no longer an unedifying spectacle of surgeons, clad in blood-caked frock-coats, wielding the knife in dingy rooms with sawdust-covered floors. Face-masks, rubber gloves and surgical gowns lessened the risks of infection, and sterile environments had become de rigueur. The modern spotless and gleaming operating theatre was emerging and success rates rising.”

    Visual Diagnostics:

    • “A massive advance was Wilhelm Röntgen’s discovery of X-rays in 1895. Around 1900 Willem Einthoven of Holland devised the first electrocardiograph, which picked up the electrical activity of the heart, thus making possible effective monitoring of cardiac disorders.”
    • “From the mid 1950s ultrasound, developed in Sweden and the USA, proved surgically valuable in cardiac diagnosis and for assessing foetal progress through pregnancy.”
    • “Visual diagnostics were further boosted with the devising in 1972 of the computerized tomograph (CAT-scan) by Godfrey Hounsfield, alongside PET (positron-emission tomographic scanning) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—the last was capable of showing metabolic organs by using radio waves.”
    • “Flexible endoscopes, drawing on glass-fibre optics, were used from the 1970s, first for diagnostics but soon also for therapeutic interventions, not least in connection with lasers, those ‘optical knives’ which have proved so valuable in eye as well as in internal surgery.”

    Immuno-Suppressant Drugs:

    • “But grafts and transplants had to overcome the problem of rejection—the body’s natural response to an invader is to repulse it.”
    • “Around 1960 the first effective immuno-suppressant drugs were introduced. By blocking the production of antibodies without producing life-threatening susceptibility to infections, such drugs, above all cyclosporine in the 1970s, made organ replacement viable.”

    Restorative Surgery:

    • “The development of such capacities to manage cardiac, respiratory and kidney function and fluid balance ushered in a new phase: the transition from removal to restoration and replacement surgery. Implants are a good marker. The first implantation of an artificial apparatus came in 1959 with the heart pacemaker, developed in Sweden by Rune Elmqvist.”
    • “The most dramatic advances, however, were made possible by the heart/lung machine, designed to bypass the heart and maintain circulation artificially while surgery was conducted on the stopped heart. Such open-heart surgery, enabling surgeons to replace diseased valves or repair defects in the walls between the chambers, began in 1952 in the USA with the implantation of valvular protheses.”

    Needless Surgery:

    • “Between 1920 and 1950 hundreds of thousands of tonsillectomies were performed, almost all quite needless, while hysterectomies enjoyed a similar fad. Compare the vogue for caesarians nowadays.”

    Hospitals, Middle Ages to 1800s:

    • “Classical Greece had no hospitals.”
    • “It was with the Christian era that institutions began to be dedicated to the treatment of the civilian sick.”
    • “Regarding them as gateways to death, because rife with infection, pundits insisted that hospitals did more harm than good… Fierce debates raged as to how, through better siting, architectural design, ventilation, sanitation and so forth, hospitals could be made safe.”
    • “With such problems, hospitals typically remained for the poor; the wealthy opted to be treated at home.”
    • “With the development around 1800 of new medical approaches based on physical examination, pathological anatomy and statistics (see Chapter 4), the hospital ceased to be predominantly a site of charity, care and convalescence and began to turn into the medical powerhouse it has since become.”
    • “Mass observation of patients meant that diseases were identified ontologically as independent entities, rather than being unique to each case, and statistics established representative disease profiles.”
    • “From the 1880s the construction of well-equipped and sterile operating theatres where advanced antiseptic surgery was performed helped turn the hospital from a refuge for the indigent into a machine for curing, the saviour of the seriously ill. Alongside free beds for the poor, private wards were built for paying patients.”

    Florence Nightingale:

    • “[The Crimean War] produced a heroine in Florence Nightingale… In the teeth of much opposition, she had within six months transformed conditions, and the death rate fell from 40 per cent to 2 per cent.”
    • “Her Notes on Nursing and Notes on Hospitals stressed hygiene, fresh air, stern discipline, esprit de corps and devotion to nursing as a vocation.”

    The Stethoscope:

    • “Initially a simple wooden cylinder, about nine inches long and with a single earpiece, the stethoscope [1816] proved the key diagnostic innovation, at least until the discovery of X-rays in 1895.”
    • “Stethoscopy became standard practice over the next decades as translations of [René Laënnec’s] writings publicized the technique and a stethoscope draped around the neck became the enduring icon of modern medicine: it had the word science blazoned all over it.”

    Hospitals, 1900–2000s:

    • “Looking back from 1930 on fifty years of practice in America, Robert Morris reflected: One of the very greatest changes that I have observed… has been in the attitude of the public toward hospitals. Dread of them was general and well founded before the days of antiseptic surgery. But with its widespread adoption, fear faded rapidly from the lay mind… To-day, almost everybody with any illness at all serious wishes to go there.”
    • “All such changes also caused hospital expenditure to shoot through the roof: by 1950 hospitals were absorbing two-thirds of the resources spent in the USA on health care, and the percentage continued to rise.”
    • “The annual number of hospital admissions in the United States rose from an estimated 146,500 in 1873 to more than 29,000,000 in the late 1960s. While the nation’s population grew five-fold in that period, use of hospitals rose almost two hundred times.”
    • “Self-reported illnesses rose by 150 per cent from 1930 to 1980. The average American visited the doctor 2.9 times a year in 1930; by 2000 this had doubled. Why? Though overall healthier, individuals grew more sensitive to symptoms and more inclined, or trained, to seek help for ailments their grandparents would have dismissed as trivial or untreatable.”
    • “In recent decades the accent has been on stabilizing the number of beds but achieving ever more rapid patient turnover; individual stays are abbreviated in a drive for cost-efficiency.”
    • “The hospital was no longer primarily denounced, however, as a gateway to death but as a soulless, anonymous, wasteful and inefficient medical factory, per-forming medicine as medicine demanded it, not as the patient needed it.”

    The Physician’s Job, 1900–2000s:

    • “In the USA, by contrast, general practice inexorably lost out to specialism. In a competitive market milieu, the scientifically advanced paediatrician, cardiologist or oncologist gained an edge. By 1942 fewer than half of all American doctors were GPS, and by 1999, of the 800,000 physicians in the USA—a staggering total in itself!—fewer than one in ten was in family practice; GPS had gone the way of the horse-and-buggy doctor.”
    • “Of the 4.5 million employees involved in health care in the USA in the late twentieth century (5 per cent of the entire labour force), only about one in seventeen was a practising physician. Perhaps nine out of ten of those employed in the modern medical enterprise never directly treat the sick.”

    System Limitations:

    • “The NHS system proved efficient, fairly equitable, and for a long time enormously popular. Hopes that better treatment would lead to a need for less medicine and hence to reduced expenditure proved, however, fanciful. Likewise, bitter experience showed that socialized medicine did not, in the event, reduce the marked inequalities of health between the affluent and the poor.”
    • “Criticism of the medical system grew fiercer throughout the West in the last decades of the twentieth century. Was health care cost-effective? Was it equitable? Was it safe? How could the public be protected against medical malpractice? There was an irony in this as people at large were leading longer, healthier lives than ever before.”

    Modern Medicine:

    • “Disease thus became conceptualized in the twentieth century as a social no less than a biological phenomenon, to be understood statistically, sociologically, psychologically—and politically.”
    • “Modern medicine at its best possesses unique capacities to keep individuals alive, healthy and free of pain. Its contribution to the broader health of humankind remains more questionable.”
    • “In the light of these factors, the role and scope of medicine in advanced states seem destined to change in the twenty-first century as the accent shifts from overcoming disease to the fulfilment of life-style wishes, bodily enhancement and further extensions of life.”

    “‘Never forget that it is not pneumonia, but a pneumonic man who is your patient,’ declared Sir William Gull. ‘The good physician treats the disease,’ taught the distinguished Canadian medical humanist William Osler, ‘but the great physician treats the patient.’”

  • Living in Databy Jer Thorp

    “If I want to talk about the human experience of data, I need to talk about risk, and risk is something that does not affect people equally or at the same time. Living in data may seem like a shared reality, but it is an experience that critically differs from person to person and from group to group.”

    Question Farming:

    • “I became captivated with what I call ‘question farming’: using visualization not to simplify something but to unfurl its complexities in interesting ways, exposing things that weren’t before able to be seen. John Tukey, one of the great defining figures of modern statistics, would describe this kind of work as exploratory analysis, rather than the more task-oriented confirmatory analysis.”

    Authority of Data:

    • “One defining condition of [Ursula Franklin’s] real world of technology is that the authority of data overrides that of lived experience. It’s a place where, as she writes, ‘abstract knowledge is forcing people to perceive their experience as being unreal or wrong.’ A place where students might accept that they are sad because the data told them so.”
    • “It’s very easy, as the Cambridge scientists found out, to get carried away with the long-distance magic of APIs and machine learning, to use these technologies to scan from afar. But our scanning isn’t harmless; our analyses are not without effect. Those high school students that you’ve classified as sad feel something when they read the results of your study.”

    Satisfying vs Meaningful:

    • “The Hunter College High fiasco is a perfect example of how data can and does fail end to end: a retracted story about a false statement, spit out by a faulty algorithm, feeding on bad data. All balanced on top of an impossible premise. It’s also a clear reflection of the kinds of data stories that we’ve been so eager to believe: where a large data set combined with novel algorithms shows us some secret that we would not otherwise have seen. ‘To be human,’ as Richard Powers wrote, ‘is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one.’”

    Agency & Empowerment:

    • “Our projects… became less about finding answers in data and more about finding agency, less about exploration and more about empowerment.”
    • “Moreno and Jennings did something simple but critical. They brought data back to the students and prisoners from whom it was gathered. The necessity of this act— of ‘closing the loop’ between data and the people from whom the data comes—is a critical theme of this book.”
    • “I believe what is remarkable about Moreno and Jennings’s sociograms is that they are nearly the exact opposite of what they are often mistaken for… Moreno and Jennings’s diagrams were not in fact depictions of a social network as it existed: they were visualizations of a social network as the individuals within that network wished it were. They were, in reality, fictions. They were maps to a new reality for these people, renderings of a social order they desired, as opposed to the one they had been set into.”

    Measurement Is Always Imperfect:

    • “As much as we might try to calibrate our instruments and perfect our methods, our measurements are almost never going to be exact.”
    • “I came back from that trip having learned that data is never perfect, never truly objective, never real. Data is, after all, not a heartbeat or a hippo sighting or a river’s temperature. It is a measurement of a heartbeat. A document of a hippo sighting. A record of the river’s temperature.”

    Epoch of Responsibilities:

    • “The real world of data is one that flows in one direction: data comes from us, but it rarely returns to us… Data is collected not for high school students but for people who want to know how high school students feel.”
    • “We are coming to an end of the epoch of rights… We have entered the epoch of responsibilities, which requires new, more socially-minded human beings and new, more participatory and place-based concepts of citizenship and democracy.” —Grace Lee Boggs

    Data vs Capta:

    • “Developers are still looking at the data and the bias in the data as things plucked from reality, rather than things that are authored by the developers, the code they write, and the social and political realities in which they were educated and in which they live. As the novelist and photographer Teju Cole reminds us, ‘Authorship, after all, is not only what is created but also what is selected.’”
    • “Johanna Drucker, an author and cultural critic at UCLA, has taken perhaps the most drastic stance to date on the word ‘data’: that it should be replaced wholesale. In a 2011 essay, she argues that the original root of ‘data,’ as a given, is anchored in a realist take on the universe: that there are real truths out there, given by God or physics, just waiting to be discovered. If I take a thermometer and measure the temperature in the room I’m sitting in right now, I might get a number: 22.3 degrees centigrade. If I take that number as a given, something that existed before my measurement, it’s too easy for me to think of my 22.3 as a real, indisputable truth. The number 22.3 was in the room already; my thermometer simply captured it. Drucker and her humanist compatriots would see my 22.3 differently. The number, they’d argue, is actually an artifact of a system of real-world things: an instrument (a thermometer), an act (my measuring of the temperature at the particular time and place I chose), and a set of cultural constructs (the centigrade scale, Arabic numerals, the concept of temperature).”
    • “The very word ‘data,’ Drucker argues, is wrapped tightly in realist rhetoric and needs to be discarded. In exchange, she offers up a new word: ‘capta,’ from the Greek root ‘to take’ rather than ‘to give.’ The key for Drucker is that ‘take’ is active; if we understand that knowledge is something that is constructed, rather than picked up off of a metaphysical curb, we accept the truth of our own role in its creation. ‘Capta,’ Drucker explains, ‘is not an expression of idiosyncrasy, emotion, or individual quirks, but a systematic expression of information understood as constructed, as phenomena perceived according to principles of interpretation.’”

    What Is Data?

    • “This sentence that you are reading right now is not data. It doesn’t take long, though, if we consider the sentence for even a few moments, for data to emerge. The number of words, the composition of the sentence’s grammatical parts, verbs and nouns and prepositions. The number of vowels. The height of the sentence, in millimeters. Its length, in inches. The kerning between that first capital T and the h that follows. The amount of time it takes you to read it. How it makes you feel. It’s a human instinct to measure, to describe, to make records.”

    Data as a Verb:

    • “We’ve seen that the definition of ‘data’ has changed—from mathematical givens, to pieces of evidence, to assemblages of electronic bits and bytes.”
    • “Data is not inert, yet its perceived passivity is one of its most dangerous properties.”
    • “Can we make ‘data’ into a verb?”
    • “Both my verification of ‘data’ and Ducker’s wholesale replacement of it are probably bridges too far for common usage. I don’t suspect we’ll find any textbooks on data-ing science on bookshelves anytime soon, nor will we hear about captabases or capta warehouses. Capta and data-ing are both useful constructs, though, in reminding us of two important things. First, that data is not found; it is constructed. Neither God nor the universe gives us data; we make it ourselves. Data is a human artifact. Second, that data’s construction acts in a real way on the world, that in making data we change the systems from whence it came.”

    Word Associations:

    • “In the last ten years, ‘data’ seems to be undergoing its most drastic change in meaning, one that I think offers a chance for the word to be broadly redefined… The words that are moving away from ‘data’ are the ones that it has lived closely with for much of the last century: ‘information,’ ‘digital,’ ‘software,’ ‘network.’ Among the words that are moving toward ‘data’ are some that seem to summarize recent events: ‘scandal,’ ‘privacy,’ ‘politicians,’ ‘misinformation,’ ‘Facebook.’ There are also words that we might not previously have expected to find in the same sentence with ‘data’: ‘lives,’ ‘deserve,’ ‘place,’ ‘ethics,’ ‘friends,’ ‘play.’”

    Principles for Data Collection:

    1. No datafication without representation.
    2. When in doubt, don’t collect.

    Statistical Kludges:

    • “That the government, Facebook, and the Ford Motor Company know things about you seems a given. But the fact is that many of the things they ‘know’ are statistical kludges, pieced together from some combination of data, chance, and guesswork.”

    Marketing and Big Data:

    • “If we were to come up with a genesis story for marketing’s obsession with big data, there’d be a long chapter on customer loyalty programs… At the root of the Air Miles strategy was linking—the connection of a consumer’s activity across a number of different corporate terrains. It’s the promise of this linking, the ‘refinement’ of data’s oil, that squeezes a live auction into your internet page loads.”
    • “Now the ad exchange holds real-time auction to bid on the chance to show you an advertisement. As many as a dozen potential ad sellers might be vying for space in your browser, and depending on who you are and what you’re reading, the price for an ad might range from a tenth of a cent to more than a dollar. The auction takes another fifty milliseconds. The highest bidder is granted the chance to place an ad on your page, and the image is delivered, loaded, and rendered. The page is loaded, Cheese of the Month Club waits eagerly for a click, and you, the user, are blissfully unaware of all that has happened.”
    • “It’s scary also because, as some of us have long suspected, none of this seems to really work. In an analysis of millions of advertising transactions across many big websites, a group from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management showed that revenue from ads where a user’s cookie is available is just 4 percent higher than when it isn’t. This suggests that all of ad tech’s sophisticated targeting and data brokering and auctioning result in an increase in earnings of just 0.00008 cent per ad.”


    • “If data about data is called metadata, data between data might be called interdata. Interdata are records or measurements that act as bridges between two data sets. Among the complicated bureaucratic data systems of the U.S. government, a formal piece of interdata is your Social Security number.”
    • “By bridging two sources of information, interdata are meant to perform an addition… However, there is also an inherent subtraction. Anything that is missing from the data sets—any of their dark matter—combines… ‘The empty areas of missing data overlap.’”
    • “We see this over and over again in ad tech, where a furious decade of interdata collection has compounded and re-compounded bias. Job ads are biased toward men, and employment ads toward white people; at the center of the Venn diagram of exclusion are Black women. We see in the Cornell study that this is not so much a mistake as an inevitable result of tweaking the system over a decade to favor the ‘optimum customer,’ a tactic that is necessarily racist.”


    • “Remember that the amount of data that can be conjured from any given thing is almost limitless.”
    • “Many objects are data-fied with a spareness that all but guarantees them a life on the last page of search results.”
    • “When knowledge passes into code, it changes state; like water turned to ice, it becomes a new thing, with new properties. We use it; but in a human sense we no longer know it.” —Ellen Ullman

    Neural Networks:

    • “A neural network is not an algorithm itself, because, when activated, it runs only once. It has the ‘do’ but not the ‘until.’ Neural nets are almost always, though, paired with algorithms that train the network, improving its performance over millions or billions of generations. To do this, the algorithm uses a training set—a group of data for which the programmer knows how the neural network should behave—and at each generation of training the network gets a score for how well it’s doing. The algorithm trains and retrains the network, rolling down a gradient of success, until the network passes a threshold, after which training is finished and the network can be used for whatever classification task it was designed for.”
    • “Neural networks excel at classifying things that have a lot of data attached to them. What’s more, they’re particularly good at classifying things in which the reasons for classifying correctly are hard to describe. Take, for example, a task in which a neural network is asked to decide whether a set of images contains birds: the images are labeled either ‘bird’ or ‘no bird.’ This is a problem that most humans are quite good at but one that computers have, in the past, had a really hard time with. This is because it’s actually quite tricky to describe what a photograph of a bird looks like. Your brain and mine might be able to look at a photo with a white cockatoo on a perch and another with a flock of starlings against a sunset and think ‘bird.’ But where does thebirdiness’ of these photos lie, exactly? It’s both beautiful and a little terrifying that we can avoid the stickiness of this question by training a big enough neural network, for enough generations, with a sufficient number of input images, to define ‘birdiness’ on its own. By later feeding the network some ‘bird adjacent’ images (other, similar animals, patterns that resemble feathers), its programmer might be able to reverse engineer exactly what part of the input signal the network has latched onto, but more often programmers are content with the result, a bird-finding machine built on nodes and weights and chance.”
    • “There’s an important difference between the way neural networks work and the way a standard computer program does. With a run-of-the-mill program like a decision tree, we push a set of data and a list of rules into our code-based machine, and out comes an answer. With neural networks, we push in a set of data and answers, and out comes a rule.”

    Data Visualization:

    • “Search for a definition of ‘data visualization,’ online and in books, glue the pieces together, and you’ll end up with a chimera. Data visualization is a process. It is a set of technologies. It is a graphical representation. It is a practice. It is a situation. It is the use of visual effects for communication. It is mapping, it is displaying, it is transforming and translating. It enables communication and supports decision-making. It amplifies human cognition. It is looking at the world from a data point of view. It is a form of knowledge compression, an emerging market space, a software feature, and a discipline.
    • “You may glean from this that data viz is not, as much as some may try to make it so, a neat process. There are no correct instructions to follow, no best practices. Some readers might bristle at this suggestion… They’ll point to fifty years of graphics semiology, take their copy of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information of the shelf, gesture wildly at an entire subdiscipline of cognitive science. They’ll send me a link to a blog post by Stephen Few. ‘Rigor,’ they’ll say, a little more loudly than they’d meant to.”
    • “At the core of data visualization is this hands-and-knees-and-crayon thing: to take a number and turn it into a visual element. To take a measure and make it into something that is differently understood. We do this to better comprehend a record (often a number), to grant it some kind of new significance, and to share it with other people. This is a habit we get used to early: we teach kids to count using real-world things as proxies for numbers (say, a basket of apples), and we show them that numbers have significance by marking their heights on a door frame. It’s quite possible there was a data visualization at your second-birthday party, when a parent lit two small wax candles and set them into a frosted cake. Two whole years of your life, two years full of learning to talk and saying your first words, two years falling and learning not to fall and learning to walk and learning to run. All of that in two candles, in a cake. Blow them out, dear.
    • “I’m starting this chapter with crayons and birthday cake to underline one of the most important things I’ve come to understand about visualization as a form of telling: that it is a simple thing. Any burdens we’ve placed on it—requirements for objectivity or truthfulness—come more from our own politics than from some innate character of the act itself. These simple examples also help to illustrate that data representation of any kind is a human act, full of human choices.”
    • “As we’ve seen, the processes of making data and changing it with computers are rampant with decision points, each of which can greatly increase or greatly limit the ways in which our data systems function. When we reach the showing stage, where we decide how our data might tell its story to humans, possibility space goes critical. Each time a data designer picks a chart type or a color palette or a line weight or an axis label, they’re trimming the prospects for communication.”
    • “The choice of a medium for representation has already had a predestinatory effect. A web page, a gatefold print, a bronze parapet, a birthday cake—each of these media is embedded with its own special opportunities and its own unavoidable constraints.”

    Experiencing Data:

    • “I’m captivated by how Of All the People in All the World happens, always, in public spaces… ‘It’s about numbers,’ Yarker told me, ‘but it’s also not about numbers at all. It is about finding your place in the world.’ Too often civic data is posted online in cryptic format, accessible through some obscure URL, both obstacles to legibility, understanding, ownership. The rice show knocks those barriers down for everyone-the young, the elderly, the disabled, the non-internet savvy.”
    • “OneTrees (or at least my sentimental version of it) exists at vast scales of space-time. It soundly denies the attention economy; to read it takes travel and time. In a car you might be able to see all of the surviving trees in an hour or two, but to see change in the trees you’d have to visit them again, in a year or a decade.”
    • “Jeremi-jenko was particularly invested in one of her trees’ core traits: longevity. ‘The best database standards last eight years,’ she told a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘But trees such as redwoods accrue differences over 100 years. We ignore slow environmental changes unless they are crisis-driven such as hurricanes in Florida. It is more important to read and understand that slow change is recorded by trees.’”

    Data Sovereignty:

    • “The concept of data sovereignty is not a new one… Should data be governed by the laws of the country where the physical data is located? Or by the laws of the nation where the company or organization that collects the data is based? Or by the laws of the place where the data is collected? If I’m a Microsoft user living in Helsinki, and data is collected about me in Finland, by an American company, and stored in Ireland. Whose laws should prevail?”
    • “Traditional Knowledge Labels are in use in museums across the world. In each context in which they are used, permissions for attribution and usage of objects are defined by the people from whom the objects were taken (in many cases stolen)… Unlike similar efforts such as Creative Commons and open-source software licensing, the TK Label doesn’t presume that there’s a universality to how people might want artifacts and data used. ‘Each group that uses the labels,’ Anderson emphasizes, ‘defines them in their own language and also through their own cultural terms.’”
    • “If you are taking data and want to say something about people, you need to bring it back to those people.” —Maui Hudson
    • “Put more simply, we need to deeply understand a particular community’s relationship to a particular technology (how they use it differently, what the barriers are, how it connects to local cultures) before we set out to build any kind of tool or platform that is meant to serve the community.”

    Dependence on Big Tech:

    • “In my conversations in New Zealand, one thing kept coming up, a footnote to almost every piece of thinking about what real, working data sovereignty might look like: that the infrastructures of data are expensive and controlled almost entirely by large corporations and governments. In writing this book, I’ve been aware of a specific irony: that almost every project I’ve described has been, in some way, dependent on big tech’s machinery… If we are going to achieve full agency in our data lives, we’ll need to find ways to detach ourselves from data machinery owned and operated by companies that prioritize stockholders over citizens.”

    The Distributed Web:

    • “The internet doesn’t care what anything is. It doesn’t care that the file you are requesting is a photo of your dog, or a short story by N. K. Jemisin, or a record of your heartbeat. What the internet cares about is where everything is.”
    • “This idea that the internet cares about where and not what is central to the way that the whole system has grown over the last thirty years. Its dependence on servers—machines that are giant collections of wheres—has defined how the internet works, how we use it, and how people have made money from it.”
    • “At the core of the whole concept of modern cryptography-cryptocurrency, crypto real estate, crypto farming, crypto toothpaste—is this fundamental ability of a hashing algorithm to guarantee the authority of a piece of data.”
    • “Hashing is also in the middle of most designs for the new web. Rather than trusting that http://www.myserver.com/photos /mydog.jpg will bring me to the particular photograph of a golden retriever that I expect it to, new distributed web architectures allow me to request the exact file I’m looking for by asking for it by its cryptographic fingerprint. Using Beaker, a browser for the so-called distributed web, the classic location bar at the top of each page is now an identity bar, the URL replaced by a hash. Hidden from the user—who no longer needs to know—is where the file is living, on a university’s server or on my laptop or on your phone.”


    • The Assault on Privacy recommended one specific way to address the burgeoning conflict between data and privacy: legislation.”
    • “Indeed, there has, in the last years, been a new wave of proposed legislation around data and privacy, combined with a surprisingly bipartisan willingness to commit to governmental regulation of companies involved in the business of personal data. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) offered a passable model for how governments might act to defend the right to privacy of individual users. In its wake, California’s Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 shows what legislation might look like in America, giving citizens control over what data businesses collect about them and imposing penalties on companies that refuse to comply. The proposed Facial Recognition Technology Warrant Act would limit the ways law enforcement agencies can use facial recognition. The Consumer Data Protection Act, the Data Care Act, the American Data Dissemination Act, the Algorithmic Accountability Act—these are all bills that are making their way through Congress at the federal level.”
    • “The Algorithmic Accountability Act is particularly promising because it addresses how data technologies are designed and built. Over the last few years, many people have focused attention on how computational recipes might be rewritten to bake in ethics and accountability. Taking arguments for accountability past discussion and into practice, important work is being done in making sure potential for harm is something that is benchmarked alongside web load time and algorithmic performance.”

    Te Mana Raraunga:

  • The Measure of Realityby Alfred W. Crosby

    “During the late Middle Ages and Renaissance a new model of reality emerged in Europe. A quantitative model was just beginning to displace the ancient qualitative model… These people were thinking of reality in quantitative terms with greater consistency than any other members of their species. We look upon them as initiators of revolutionary change, which they certainly were, but they were also heirs of changes in mentalité that had been fermenting for centuries. This book is about those changes.”

    “Take away number in all things and all things perish. Take calculation from the world and all is enveloped in dark ignorance, nor can he who does not know the way to reckon be distinguished from the rest of the animals.” —St. Isidore of Seville (600)

    “And still they come, new from those nations to which the study of that which can be weighed and measured is a consuming love.” —W. H. Auden (1935)

    Effect Not Accuracy:

    • “The old Europeans’ universe was one of qualities, not quantities.”
    • “Medieval Europeans used numbers for effect, not for accuracy. The hero of the Song of Roland announces before the battle, ‘I will strike a thousand blows and follow them with seven hundred more, and you will see the steel of Durendal [his sword] running with blood.’ He dies in the battle and a hundred thousand Franks weep.”

    Quantifiable Qualities:

    • “Why did Plato and Aristotle, who were bright indeed, shy away from the category of the usefully quantifiable?”
    • “The ancients defined quantificational measurement much more narrowly than we do, and often rejected it for some more broadly applicable technique. Aristotle, for instance, stated that the mathematician measures dimensions only after he ‘strips off all the sensible qualities, e.g. weight and lightness, hardness and its contrary, and also heat and cold and other sensible contrarities.’ Aristotle, ‘the Philosopher,’ as medieval Europe called him, found description and analysis more useful in qualitative terms than in quantitative ones.”
    • “We would claim that weight, hardness, and temperature ‘and other sensible contrarities’ are quantifiable, but that is not implicit either in these qualities or in the nature of the human mind. Our child psychologists declare that humans, even in infancy, show indications that they are innately endowed with the ability to count discrete entities (three cookies, six balls, eight pigs), but weight, hardness, and so on do not come to us as quantities of discrete entities. They are conditions, not collections; and, even worse, they are often flowing changes. We cannot count them as they are; we have to see them with our mind’s eye, quantify them by fiat, and then count the quanta. That is easily done with measuring extension—for example, this lance is so many feet long, and we can count them by laying the lance on the ground and mincing along its length. But hardness, heat, speed, acceleration—how in the world would we quantify those?”

    Mathematics Without Measurement:

    • “In the fourteenth century certain Schoolmen… made great progress in mathematics-without-measurement. Englishmen were more successful than any Westerners yet in utilizing algebra in the consideration of what Aristotle termed qualities: velocity, temperature, and so on. Oresme pushed further on, geometrizing qualities, even speed in its most perplexing manifestation, acceleration. He produced what amounted to graphs (rather like music staffs; see Chapter 8) in which the progression of time was expressed with a horizontal line and the variable intensity of a quality with vertical lines of various heights. The end result was an elegant and pure abstraction, a geometrical depiction of a physical phenomenon varying through time.”
    • “Impressive as the work of these people might be, one is amazed over and over by the absence of actual measurement. They did not have translations of, or studiously ignored, the mensural sections of Ptolemy and Euclid and other classical quantifiers. As with Aristotle, the Schoolmen considered things as more and less than each other, but not in terms of multiples of a definite quantity such as inches, degrees of arc, degrees of heat, and kilometers per hour. The Schoolmen, paradoxically, were mathematicians without being quantifiers.”


    • “Many of the Schoolmen concerned with quantifying qualities… also wrote about money… Money was second only to God in its power and ubiquity.”
    • “In the dizzy vortex of a cash economy the West learned the habits of quantification.”
    • “Price quantified everything. The seller set a price on what he or she had to sell because everything the seller needed or wanted had to be paid for in turn.”
    • “Each item in their lives [was] reduced to a single standard in the process. ‘Every saleable item is at the same time a measured item,’ said Walter Burley of Merton College in the fourteenth century. Wheat, barley, oats, rye, apples, spices, woolens, silks, carvings, and paintings developed prices; and that was relatively easy to understand because they could be eaten, worn, touched, and observed. It was harder to understand when money substituted for obligations of service and labor set long ago by custom. When time proved to have a price—that is to say, interest on a debt calculated in accordance with the passage of months and years—that strained the mind and the moral sense as well because time was God’s exclusive property. If time had a price, if time were a thing that could have a numerical value, then what about other unsegmented imponderables, like heat or velocity or love?”


    • “Time puzzled St. Augustine: ‘I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is, and try to explain, I am baffled.’ Measurements are usually of something distinctively itself—a hundred meters of road, of meadow, of lake—but a hundred hours, happy or sad, is a hundred hours of… time.”
    • “For peasants schedules were approximate: weather, dawn, and sunset dictated their tempi. But hours were of central significance to city dwellers, whom buying and selling had already initiated into the vogue of quantification. Their time was already what Benjamin Franklin, a man they prefigured, would call it: money.”
    • “In 1314 the city of Caen installed a clock on a bridge and inscribed it thus: ‘I give the hours voice / To make the common folk rejoice.’”
    • “For generations the town clock was the one complicated machine that hundreds of thousands saw every day, heard over and over again every day and night. It taught them that invisible, inaudible, seamless time was composed of quanta. It, like money, taught them quantification.”

    Julian → Gregorian:

    • “The entry of God into time with the incarnation of Christ had sacralized certain dates, especially Easter. The Council of Nicaea had declared that the date of Easter should be the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. A tricky calculation, but not all that hard to make—if you know the date of the vernal equinox.”
    • “The makers of the Julian calendar… had misjudged the long of the solar year… That meant that Easter might be celebrated on the wrong Sunday, an intolerable situation for the meticulously pious.”
    • “The discrepancy between the Julian calendar and solar reality amounted to eleven days by 1582. In that year Pope Gregory XIII assembled a conference of experts—Roman Catholic experts—to reform the calendar. They debated, brooded, and offered to the pope a revised version of the Julian calendar known ever since as the Gregorian calendar. On their recommendation, he proclaimed that Thursday, 4 October 1582, would be immediately followed by Friday, 15 October 1582.”
    • “The Gregorian reform won. It won not because it was perfect, but because of its practicality: it would not lose a whole day of the solar year for well over 2,000 years.”


    • “[Nicholas of Cusa] saw the universe as containing everything except God, Who contained it. Such a universe had no limit, no edge. The earth could not be the center of it because the universe had no center. There was no edge, center, up or down, or any other absolute dimension. Space was homogeneous. The earth was not necessarily different from other heavenly bodies, which might also have life.”

    The Copernican Revolution:

    • “Copernicus, unlike Montaigne or even Nicholas of Cusa, was a mathematician to the marrow of his bones… He was the first astronomical theorist in a millennium to express himself chiefly in mathematics, the native tongue of science and more persuasive than words for the minority who would remake astronomy and physics in the seventeenth century.”
    • “The influence of the Copernican revolution was immense not only in its demotion of the earth (about which much has been written), but also in its implications for the quantity and quality of space itself. In the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic system, in order to leave room for the other heavenly bodies and their spheres, the fixed stars had to be a great distance from earth, but not an inconceivable distance. In the Copernican system the distance had to be immense, quite nearly inconceivable… The volume of a Copernican universe had to be at least 400,000 times as great as that of the traditional universe.”


    • “Measurement is numbers, and the manipulation of numbers is mathematics.”
    • “It was perhaps inevitable that algorism would triumph in the West, with its burgeoning economy and technology, but the change was slow and accomplished without grace… The triumph of the Hindu-Arabic system over the Roman was so gradual that it cannot be cited as having happened in any single decade or even the longest of lifetimes.”
    • “The process of making operational symbols universal, which began in the Middle Ages, is still incomplete… Our way of expressing decimal fractions did not arrive until the [1600s], and to this day there is no universal system.”

    Mathematical Mysticism:

    • “Kepler’s faith was that the merciful Deity had created and placed humans in the only kind of universe they could possibly understand, a mathematical universe. In 1599 he asked: ‘What else can the human mind hold besides numbers and magnitudes? These alone we apprehend correctly, and if piety permits to say so, our comprehension is in this case of the same kind as God’s, at least insofar as we are able to understand it in this mortal life.’”

    Reading & Writing:

    • “The practice of communicating and preserving information by means of stylus, quill, and ink surged in the thirteenth century… By the thirteenth century silent reading—swift and psychologically interior—was accepted as perfectly normal in the abbeys and cathedral schools and was spreading to courts and countinghouses.”
    • “A society in which the chief conduit of authority was the ear… began to become a society in which the recipient of light ruled: the eye. The word audit (from the same root as audible and auditory), which meant to examine by listening to testimony, was off on its queer trek to meaning, almost without exception, to examine by reading in dead silence.”


    • “Until the last generations of the first Christian millennium, Europeans performed liturgical music from memory. The variety of texts and performances must have been great, considering faulty recall, regional differences, and individual tastes.”
    • “Music is a physically measurable phenomenon moving through time. It is universal to humanity: the tendency to make music is right there in our nervous systems with our propensity for speech, so it provides material for the assessment of all societies and ages.”
    • “If we want to investigate medieval and Renaissance Europeans’ sense of time as a part of their perception of reality, we can hardly do better than to examine their music. They, like the ancient Greeks, believed that it was an emanation of the basic structure of reality, even part of that structure.”

    Gregorian Chant:

    • “Gregorian chant is as immaculately nonmensural as any music most of us are ever to hear… It is not quantified sound. In syllabic chant, for example, each syllable has one note, which is sung for as long as that particular syllable requires. That note is not necessarily an exact multiple or division of any other note; it is as long as it needs to be. Gregorian chant provides as clear an example of time measured solely by its contents as we are likely to find.”

    Musical Notation:

    • “The musical staff was Europe’s first graph. It measures the passage of time from left to right, and pitch according to position from top to bottom. The Schoolmen and the majority of everyone else who received formal education got, along with the alphabet and the abacus, this musical graph.”
    • “If we intend to sing polyphonically—that is, in several independent lines—then starting together will be easy, but everything from that instant on will tend to slide into anarchy. We need the guidance of sturdy forms and a temporal dictator; we need to know where we are going and the pace at which we are to march. To an extent liturgy supplied the forms, but how long would these satisfy the young lions of polyphony? Leonin and Perotin and their anonymous colleagues (and just possibly the street minstrels) supplied what was lacking in chant, a time control, a rhythmic measure.”


    • “Theorists validated and systematized what practical musicians had invented in the years around 1200: not time as its contents, but time as a measuring stick of independent existence with which you could measure things or even their absence—abstract time.”
    • “Franco of Cologne put it this way: ‘Time is the measure of actual sound as well as of the opposite, its omission.’ Time measured its contents, not contents time. This time had units, like visible centimeters in a visible meter. The basic unit was called a tempus (plural, tempora). And how long was a tempus? Around 1300 Johannes de Grocheo (also spelled Grocheio) defined it pragmatically. The tempus, he said, was the ‘interval in which the smallest pitch or smallest note is fully presented or can be presented.’”

    Absolute Time:

    • “Between the sixth and the fourteenth centuries something unique happened in Western Europe: the writer of music achieved control over the fine detail of sound, a physical phenomenon, moving through time. The composer learned how to extract music from actual time, put it on parchment or paper, and make of it something that was satisfying as symbol as well as sound and vice versa. Deaf Beethoven writing his last quartets became a possibility.”
    • “Faith in absolute time, which the musicians who invented Western mensural notation were among the first to think about seriously… such a faith altered perception of reality and promoted a reordering of the ways to understand it.”


    • “Let us begin with the ‘now’ of medieval pictures. A single illumination or fresco might include several clearly differentiated ‘nows.’ In one picture St. Paul’s ship may go aground, he may struggle to shore and then preach to the pagans. That equals three ‘nows’ and may well confuse us… Even a single medieval ‘now’ can be confusing. Today we usually think of pictures as depictions of what existed and was happening in a knife-edge instant.”
    • “The most distinctive characteristic of medieval art to the modern eye, however, is not the manipulation of size… but the treatment of empty space, the three-dimensional vacancy around the subject, or among the subjects.”
    • “Medieval space was what it contained, just as time was what happened. Vacancy had no authenticity or autonomy for people who rejected vacuum as a possibility.”

    Geometrical Perspective:

    • “We might blame the lack of further progress toward geometrical perspective on the general horror of the Black Death, but it was more likely due to the fact that Giotto and his school were trying to forge ahead on the basis of no more than artistic instinct. They produced masterpieces—but not geometrically accurate depictions of space. That required something supplemental to artistic genius: theory.”
    • “[Ptolemy] provided rules for depicting with geometric rigor a curved surface (that of the globe) on a flat surface (a map) via a gridwork (of latitudes and longitudes). The group upon whom, arguably, these rules had the earliest effect was not cartographers but painters.”

    Perception of Reality:

    • “One was to paint or draw not what one knew to be true about the scene—for instance, with parallel lines always the same distance apart—but strictly what one saw… The veil enabled the painter to quantify not reality, but something more subtle: the perception of reality.”
    • “Veils and networks proved to be very helpful, but it was hard to ‘see’ only what one actually saw… Painters needed, in addition to the veil, geometrical technique.”
    • “Perspective, more than any other method, satisfied the new craving for exactness and predictability.” —Erwin Panofsky


    • “The dictionary defines businesslike as efficient, concise, direct, systematic, and thorough. Nothing about courageous or elegant or pious, terms the noble and priestly classes might claim for themselves. Businesslike means careful and meticulous and, in practice, is a matter of numbers. It was one of the trails that led to science and technology insofar as its practitioners were quantitative in their perception and manipulation of as much of experience as could be described in terms of quanta. In their case the quanta were money—florins, ducats, lives, pounds, and so on. ‘Money,’ as Paul Bohannan has put it, ‘is one of the shatteringly simplifying ideas of all time, and like any other new and compelling idea, it creates its own revolution.’”

    Double-Entry Bookkeeping:

    • “Bookkeeping has had a massive and pervasive influence on the way we think… In the past seven centuries bookkeeping has done more to shape the perceptions of more bright minds than any single innovation in philosophy or science.”
    • “How does one keep track of a blizzard? A meteorologist does by keeping exact records, quantitatively, if at all possible. Merchants were obliged to do the same. Some were lazy and tried to hold the numbers in their memory… Others tried to write down everything. Cotrugli proclaimed that a merchant for whom the pen was a burden was no merchant. Benedetto Alberti, one of the patriarchs of the Leon Battista Alberti house, advised that the trademark of the good merchant was ink-stained fingers.”
    • “By keeping good books the good merchant saved himself from ‘a chaos, a confusion of Babel.’ The key technique in achieving that end proved to be double-entry bookkeeping.”

    Luca Pacioli:

    • “Pacioli mentioned, in his explanations, that a busy merchant might expect to be doing business with banks in Venice, Bruges, Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Rome, and Lyon, and with partners, agents, customers, and suppliers in Rome, Florence, Milan, Naples, Genoa, London, and Bruges. These cities had different standards of weights and measurements, different currencies, and different ways of doing business. ‘If you cannot be a good accountant,’ Pacioli chided, ‘you will grope your way forward like a blind man and may meet great losses.’”
    • “The first step toward an accurate set of books was to find out where one was to begin with, that is, to make an inventory.”
    • “It was in the ledger that the business man could learn before anyone else whether he was a success or a failure.”
    • “Good bookkeeping was vital to good partnerships: ‘Frequent accounting makes for lasting friendship.’ Good bookkeeping allowed the merchant to discern profits and losses (what a physician might call ‘the vital signs’) at a glance. Good bookkeeping provided a means to determine the trends, short and long term.”


    • “A navigator needs a multiple paradox, a flat map of the round world on which he can draw a rhumb, a curved line in actuality, with a straightedge.”
    • Portolani and Ptolemaic maps were the results of efforts to preserve a maximum of directional and spatial accuracy while depicting the earth’s roundness on a flat surface. Mercator made a map grossly distorting size for the sake of one thing, sailorly convenience. It was a visual tour de force.”

    The New Model:

    • “In practical terms, the new approach was simply this: reduce what you are trying to think about to the minimum required by its definition; visualize it on paper, or at least in your mind, be it the fluctuation of wool prices at the Champagne fairs or the course of Mars through the heavens, and divide it, either in fact or in imagination, into equal quanta. Then you can measure it, that is, count the quanta.”
    • “Then you possess a quantitative representation of your subject that is, however simplified, even in its errors and omissions, precise. You can think about it rigorously. You can manipulate and experiment with it, as we do today with computer models.”

    “I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.” —Lord Kelvin (1891)

  • The Inner Game of Tennisby W. Timothy Gallwey

    “Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking. ‘Childlikeness’ has to be restored…” —D. T. Suzuki, Zen in the Art of Archery


    • “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game. The outer game is played against an external opponent to overcome external obstacles, and to reach an external goal.”
    • “It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.”
    • “How to develop the inner skills, without which high performance is impossible, is the subject of The Inner Game of Tennis.”

    The Usual Way of Learning:

    1. Criticize or Judge Past Behavior
    2. Tell Yourself to Change, Instructing with Word Commands Repeatedly
    3. Try Hard; Make Yourself Do It Right
    4. Critical Judgment About Results Leading to a Self 1 Vicious Cycle

    The Inner Game Way of Learning:

    1. Observe Existing Behavior Nonjudgmentally
    2. Picture Desired Outcome
    3. Let It Happen! Trust Self 2
    4. Nonjudgmental, Calm Observation of the Results Leading to Continuing Observation and Learning

    Basic Skills of the Inner Game:

    • “Letting go of judgments, the art of creating images and ‘letting it happen’ are three of the basic skills involved in the Inner Game… The fourth and most important inner skill [is] concentration.”

    The Typical Tennis Lesson:

    • “‘That’s good, but you’re rolling your racket face over a little on your follow-through, Mr. Weil. Now shift your weight onto your front foot as you step into the ball… Now you’re taking your racket back too late… Your backswing should be a little lower than on that last shot… That’s it, much better.’”
    • “Before long, Mr. Weil’s mind is churning with six thoughts about what he should be doing and sixteen thoughts about what he shouldn’t be doing. Improvement seems dubious and very complex, but both he and the pro are impressed by the careful analysis of each stroke and the fee is gladly paid upon receipt of the advice to ‘practice all this, and eventually you’ll see a big improvement.’”

    Changing the Lesson:

    • “One day when I was in a relaxed mood, I began saying less and noticing more. To my surprise, errors that I saw but didn’t mention were correcting themselves without the student ever knowing he had made them… It was an even greater blow when I realized that sometimes my verbal instructions seemed to decrease the probability of the desired correction occurring.”
    • “‘Whatever’s going on in her head, it’s too damn much! She’s trying so hard to swing the racket the way I told her that she can’t focus on the ball.’ Then and there, I promised myself I would cut down on the quantity of verbal instructions.”
    • “I was determined to show him how to play using as few instructions as possible; I’d try to keep his mind uncluttered and see if it made a difference. So I started by telling Paul I was trying something new: I was going to skip entirely my usual explanations to beginning players about the proper grip, stroke and footwork for the basic forehand. Instead, I was going to hit ten forehands myself, and I wanted him to watch carefully, not thinking about what I was doing, but simply trying to grasp a visual image of the forehand. He was to repeat the image in his mind several times and then just let his body imitate.”
    • “He dropped the ball, took a perfect backswing… The one element of the stroke Paul had tried to remember was the one thing he didn’t do! Everything else had been absorbed and reproduced without a word being uttered or an instruction being given!”
    • “I was beginning to learn what all good pros and students of tennis must learn: that images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results.”

    Self 1 and Self 2:

    • “Self 1 was the name given to the conscious ego-mind which likes to tell Self 2, you and your potential, how to hit the tennis ball.”
    • “The key to better tennis—or better anything—lies in improving the relationship between the conscious teller, Self 1, and the natural capabilities of Self 2.”
    • “Harmony between the two selves exists when this mind is quiet and focused. Only then can peak performance be reached.”

    Letting Go of Judgments:

    • “The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human inclination to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad… When we unlearn how to be judgmental, it is possible to achieve spontaneous, focused play.”
    • “What I mean by judgment is the act of assigning a negative or positive value to an event.”
    • “What usually happens is that these self-judgments become self-fulfilling prophecies… Once the judgmental mind establishes a self-identity based on its negative judgments, the role-playing continues to hide the true potential of Self 2 until the hypnotic spell is broken. In short, you start to become what you think.”
    • “Be clear about this: letting go of judgments does not mean ignoring errors. It simply means seeing events as they are and not adding anything to them… Judgment begins when the serve is labeled ‘bad’ and causes interference with one’s playing when a reaction of anger, frustration or discouragement follows.”
    • “If a judgmental player comes to me, I will do my best not to believe his tale of a ‘bad’ backhand or of the ‘bad’ player who has it. If he hits the balls out, I will notice they go out, and I may notice the reason why they are going out. But is there a need to judge him or the backhand as sick? If I do, I am likely to get as uptight in the process of correcting him as he is likely to be in correcting himself.”
    • “The first step is to see your strokes as they are. They must be perceived clearly. This can be done only when personal judgment is absent. As soon as a stroke is seen clearly and accepted as it is, a natural and speedy process of change begins.”
    • “No matter what a person’s complaint when he has a lesson with me, I have found that the most beneficial first step is to encourage him to see and feel what he is doing—that is, to increase his awareness of what actually is.”

    Natural Learning Process:

    • “What I have tried to illustrate is that there is a natural learning process which operates within everyone—if it is allowed to… To discover this natural learning process, it is necessary to let go of the old process of correcting faults; that is, it is necessary to let go of judgment and see what happens.”
    • “To see your strokes as they are, there is no need to attribute goodness or badness to them. The same goes for the results of your strokes.”
    • “‘But,’ protests Self 1, ‘if I see my ball going out and I don’t evaluate it as bad, I won’t have any incentive to change it. If I don’t dislike what I’m doing wrong, how am I going to change it?’ Self 1, the ego-mind, wants to take responsibility for making things ‘better.’ It wants the credit for playing an important role in things. It also worries and suffers a lot when things don’t go its way.”
    • “The first inner skill to be developed in the Inner Game is that of nonjudgmental awareness. When we ‘unlearn’ judgment we discover, usually with some surprise, that we don’t need the motivation of a reformer to change our ‘bad’ habits. We may simply need to be more aware. There is a more natural process of learning and performing waiting to be discovered.”


    • “To me it makes sense to build any system of instruction upon the best possible understanding of natural learning, the learning process you were born with. The less instruction interferes with the process of learning built into your very DNA, the more effective your progress is going to be.”
    • “Too many verbal instructions, given either from outside or inside, interfere with one’s shotmaking ability.”
    • “Fortunately, most children learn to walk before they can be told how to by their parents… Mothers observe their children’s efforts with love and interest, and if they are wise, without much interference. If we could treat our tennis games as we do a child learning to walk, we would make more progress.”
    • “You are not your body. Trust the body to learn and to play, as you would trust another person to do a job, and in a short time it will perform beyond your expectations. Let the flower grow.”
    • “‘If I’ve never played tennis before, can I just go out on the court and “let it happen”?’ The answer is: if your body knows how to hit a forehand, then just let it happen; if it doesn’t, then let it learn.”

    Learning to Dance:

    • “‘Put your left foot here, right foot there, turn, one, two, three; one, two, three.’ I would think out each step, command myself to do it and then execute it… This is the way most of us teach ourselves the footwork and strokes of tennis. But it’s such a slow and painful way! Contrast it with the way the modern twelve-year-old learns to dance. He goes to a party one night, sees his friends doing whatever dances are in vogue at the time, and comes home having mastered them all.”
    • “How does he do this? First, by simply watching. He doesn’t think about what he is seeing—how the left shoulder lifts a bit while the head jerks forward and the right foot twists. He simply absorbs visually the image in front of him. This image completely bypasses the ego-mind, and seems to be fed directly to the body, for in a few minutes the kid is on the floor doing movements very similar to those he was watching. Now he is feeling how it is to imitate those images. He repeats the process a few times, first looking, then feeling, and soon is dancing effortlessly—totally ‘with it.’”
    • “Ironically, he thinks he doesn’t know how to do the dance because he can’t explain it in words, while most of us who learn tennis through verbal instruction can explain in great detail how the ball should be hit but have trouble doing it.”

    Creating Images:

    • “To Self 2, a picture is worth a thousand words. It learns by watching the actions of others, as well as by performing actions itself. Almost all tennis players have experienced playing over their heads after watching championship tennis on television. The benefits to your game come not from analyzing the strokes of top players, but from concentrating without thinking and simply letting yourself absorb the images before you. Then, the next time you play, you may find that certain important intangibles such as timing, anticipation and sense of confidence are greatly improved, all without conscious effort or control.”
    • “Words were not learned by Self 2 until several years after birth. No, the native tongue of Self 2 is imagery: sensory images. Movements are learned through visual and feeling images.”
    • “Ask your friend to throw you five or ten balls. During this, make no attempt to change your stroke; simply observe it. Don’t analyze it, just observe it carefully; experience where your racket is at all times. Changes may occur while you are merely observing your stroke nonjudgmentally, but if you feel further correction is needed, then ‘create an image of the desired form’… Continue this process, letting Self 1 relax more and more with each ball. Soon you will see that Self 2 can be trusted.”
    • “Watch it, and it will change quite effortlessly by its own smooth process.”
    • “Long-standing habits can be altered in a few moments.”

    Habitual Patterns:

    • “After they have played tennis for a year or so, most people fall into a particular pattern of play from which they seldom depart.”
    • “I have found that when players break their habitual patterns, they can greatly extend the limits of their own style and explore subdued aspects of their personality.”

    Changing Habits:

    • “Tips are a dime a dozen, and there are good ones and bad ones. But what is more difficult to come by is a workable way to apply tips, to replace one pattern of behavior with a new one. It is in the process of changing habits that most players experience the greatest difficulty. When one learns how to change a habit, it is a relatively simple matter to learn which ones to change. Once you learn how to learn, you have only to discover what is worth learning.”
    • “It is much more difficult to break a habit when there is no adequate replacement for it. This difficulty often exists when we become moralistic about our tennis game. If a player reads in a book that it is wrong to roll his racket over, but is not offered a better way to keep the ball in the court, it will take a great deal of willpower to keep his racket flat when he’s worried about the ball flying out of the court. As soon as this player gets into a game, you can be sure that he will revert to the stroke that gave some sense of security that his ball would not sail out.”
    • “We never repeat any behavior which isn’t serving some function or purpose. It is difficult to become aware of the function of any pattern of behavior while we are in the process of blaming ourselves for having a ‘bad habit.’ But when we stop trying to suppress or correct the habit, we can see the function it serves, and then an alternative pattern of behavior, which serves the same function better, emerges quite effortlessly.”
    • “Often, in fact, the harder we try to break a habit, the harder it becomes to do.”
    • “Fighting the fantasy of old habits is what causes the conscientious tennis player to strain and tighten unnecessarily.”
    • “It is a painful process to fight one’s way out of deep mental grooves. It’s like digging yourself out of a trench. But there is a natural and more childlike method. A child doesn’t dig his way out of his old grooves; he simply starts new ones! The groove may be there, but you’re not in it unless you put yourself there. If you think you are controlled by a bad habit, then you will feel you have to try to break it. A child doesn’t have to break the habit of crawling, because he doesn’t think he has a habit. He simply leaves it as he finds walking an easier way to get around.”
    • “In short, there is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones. It is the resisting of an old habit that puts you in that trench. Starting a new pattern is easy when done with childlike disregard for imagined difficulties.”

    Letting It Happen:

    • “Many times I have seen students hitting perfectly good shots, but complaining about them because they thought they did something ‘wrong.’ By the time they have brought their stroke into conformity with their concept of the ‘right’ way to do it, the shot has lost both power and consistency, as well as naturalness.”
    • “Remember: it is almost impossible to feel or see anything well if you are thinking about how you should be moving. Forget should’s and experience is.”
    • “With each new swing, observe how it feels and how it works. Allow the natural learning process to lead you toward your best stroke. Do not force yourself to make the change. Just allow Self 2 to ‘play around’ while it searches for new stroke possibilities.”


    • “A great deal of technique can be learned naturally by simply paying close attention to one’s body, racket and ball while playing. The more awareness one can bring to bear on any action, the more feedback one gets from experience, and the more naturally one learns the technique that feels best and works best for any given player at any given state of development. Bottom line: there is no substitute for learning from experience.”

    Obeying vs Exploring:

    • “I believe the best use of technical knowledge is to communicate a hint toward a desired destination.”
    • “A valid instruction derived from experience can help me if it guides me to my own experiential discovery of any given stroke possibility… So as helpful as this instruction might appear, you cannot use it successfully by merely ‘obeying’ it. Instead you use the instruction to guide your discovery of the optimal degree of tightness of your wrist.”


    • “Assuming that these two instructions can be useful guides to learning footwork technique, how can they best be used? First, resist the temptation to immediately obey them. The first step is to closely observe your own footwork especially as it relates to one of the variables in the instruction, say, weight transfer. Without making any conscious changes in your weight shift, simply observe how the transfer is occurring now. As you continue your observation, chances are your weight will automatically begin to make some changes, that is if any change is needed. You can let Self 2 experiment until it finds what feels best and works best for you.”
    • “You are asking; [Self 2] is executing. Be prepared for the fact that sometimes Self 2 may find that what works best for it is not in conformity with the instruction.”
    • “To learn the footwork for this ‘open stance’ forehand… would be a daunting task if you had to break it into its component parts, learn them by means of instructions and then put them all together. However, it might not be so difficult to learn if you observed someone who did the stroke well, let yourself ‘play around with it,’ before putting your attention to the details of the swing.”
    • “During this experiment it would be important to be totally nonjudgmental, even unconcerned about your results, until you got a feel for the swing as a whole. Not until then would you focus your attention on the specifics and allow them to refine themselves.”

    Trying Too Hard:

    • “Because power is so sought after on the serve, it is not unusual for players to ‘try too hard’ to produce it, and in the process to overtighten the muscles of wrist and arm. Ironically, the overtightening of these muscles has the opposite effect on power. It reduces power, by making it more difficult for the wrist and elbow to release freely. So again, the important point is to observe the tightness of your muscles so that you can experientially find the degree of tension that provides the best results.”

    Making a Change:

    • “Awareness of what is, without judgment, is relaxing, and is the best precondition for change.”
    • “Where do you want to start? What part of your game needs attention? It is not always the stroke that you judge as worst which is the most ready for change. It is good to pick the stroke you most want to change. Let the stroke tell you if it wants to change. When you want to change what is ready to change, then the process flows.”
    • “Erase all your previous ideas and begin serving without exercising any conscious control over your stroke. Observe your serve freshly, as it is now. Let it fall into its own groove for better or worse. Begin to be interested in it and experience it as fully as you can. Notice how you stand and distribute your weight before beginning your motion. Check your grip and the initial position of your racket. Remember, make no corrections; simply observe without interfering.”

    Interconnected Effects:

    • “During this process it is still important to have a certain lack of concern for where the ball is going. As you allow one element of a stroke to change, others will be affected. As you increase your wrist snap, you will alter your rhythm and timing. Initially this may result in inconsistency, but if you continue with the process, simply allowing the serve to serve itself while you remain attentive and patient, the other elements of the serve will make the needed adjustments.”


    • “After an Inner Game tennis lesson, a golf professional put it this way: ‘What I consider to be the right technique for my swing is ever-changing day by day. My model is always being destroyed and rebuilt as I learn more and more. My technique is always evolving.’ Self 2’s nature is to evolve every chance it gets.”

    Trying to Relax:

    • “When a player experiences what it means to ‘let go’ and allows Self 2 to play the game, not only do his shots tend to gain accuracy and power, but he feels an exhilarating sense of relaxation even during rapid movements. In an attempt to repeat this quality of performance, the player often allows Self 1 to creep back on the scene with a remark such as, ‘Now I’ve got the secret to this game; all I have to do is make myself relax.’ But of course the instant I try to make myself relax, true relaxation vanishes, and in its place is a strange phenomenon called ‘trying to relax.’ Relaxation happens only when allowed, not as a result of ‘trying’ or ‘making.’”

    Relaxed Concentration:

    • “The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard. He aims at the kind of spontaneous performance which occurs only when the mind is calm and seems at one with the body, which finds its own surprising ways to surpass its own limits again and again.”


    • “My experience over the years is that the best way to quiet the mind is not by telling it to shut up, or by arguing with it, or criticizing it for criticizing you. Fighting the mind does not work. What works best is learning to focus it.”
    • “I do not believe that ultimately the mind can be controlled by the mere act of letting go—that is, by a simply passive process. To still the mind one must learn to put it somewhere. It cannot just be let go; it must be focused. If peak performance is a function of a still mind, then we are led to the question of where and how to focus it.”
    • “Focus means keeping the mind now and here.”
    • “Focus is not achieved by staring hard at something. It is not trying to force focus, nor does it mean thinking hard about something. Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested.”
    • “By learning to focus while playing tennis, one develops a skill that can heighten performance in every other aspect of life.”

    Watching the Ball:

    • “Watching the ball means to focus your attention on the sight of it. I have found that the most effective way to deepen concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle, not easily perceived. It’s easy to see the ball, but not so easy to notice the exact pattern made by its seams as it spins. The practice of watching the seams produces interesting results. After a short time the player discovers that he is seeing the ball much better than when he was just ‘watching’ it.”
    • “The mind is so absorbed in watching the pattern that it forgets to try too hard. To the extent that the mind is preoccupied with the seams, it tends not to interfere with the natural movements of the body.”

    Get Interested:

    • “Most players who practice seam-watching as a discipline find it helpful almost immediately, but after a while they often discover their minds wandering again… So the question arises as to how to maintain focus for extended periods of time. The best way is to allow yourself to get interested in the ball. How do you do this? By not thinking you already know all about it, no matter how many thousands of balls you have seen in your life. Not assuming you already know is a powerful principle of focus.”

    Other Senses:

    • “One day when I was practicing this form of concentration while serving, I began hitting the ball unusually well. I could hear a sharp crack instead of the usual sound at the moment of impact. It sounded terrific, and the ball had more speed and accuracy. After I realized how well I was serving, I resisted the temptation to figure out why, and simply asked my body to do whatever was necessary to reproduce that ‘crack.’ I held the sound in my memory, and to my amazement my body reproduced it time and again.”

    Sensitivity Training:

    • “Few players understand the importance of concentrating attention on the feel of the racket as they are holding it. There are two things that a player must know on every shot: where the ball is and where his racket is… It would be useful for all tennis players to undergo some ‘sensitivity training’ with their bodies.”
    • “There are many ways to increase one’s awareness of muscle feel. One is to take each of your strokes in slow motion.”
    • “It is also valuable to become more aware of rhythm. You can greatly improve your power and timing merely by paying attention during practice to the rhythm with which you hit each of your strokes. Every player has a rhythm natural to himself.”
    • “In tennis there are only one or two elements to be aware of visually, but there are many things to feel. Expanding sensory knowledge of your body will greatly speed the process of developing skill.”


    • “Since the mind seems to have a will of its own, how can one learn to keep it in the present? By practice. There is no other way. Every time your mind starts to leak away, simply bring it gently back.”


    • “The critical time is between points! After the last shot of a rally, the mind leaves its focus on the ball and is free to wander… How to stay concentrated in the here and now between points? My own device, and one that has been effective for many of my students, is to focus attention on breathing.”


    • “Every game involves at least one player, a goal, some obstacle between the player and his goal, a field (physical or mental) on which the game is played and a motive for playing.”


    • Perfect-o: “How good can I get? In Perfect-o, ‘good’ is measured against a standard of performance. In golf, it is measured against par; in tennis, against self-conceived expectations or those of parents, coach or friends.”
    • Compete-o: “I’m better than you. Here, ‘good’ is measured against the performance of other players rather than against a set standard.”
    • Image-o: “Look at me! ‘Good’ is measured by appearance. Neither winning nor true competence is as important as style.”

    The Value of a Human Being:

    • “What is required to disengage oneself from this trap is a clear knowledge that the value of a human being cannot be measured by performance—or by any other arbitrary measurement. Do we really think the value of a human being is measurable?”
    • “I have taught many children and teenagers who were caught up in the belief that their self-worth depended on how well they performed at tennis and other skills. For them, playing well and winning are often life-and-death issues. They are constantly measuring themselves in comparison with their friends by using their skill at tennis as one of the measuring rods.”
    • “I was raised to believe in competition, and both playing well and winning meant a great deal to me. But as I began exploring Self 2’s learning process in both the teaching and playing of tennis, I became noncompetitive. Instead of trying to win, I decided to attempt only to play beautifully and excellently.”

    The True Nature of Competition:

    • “Why does the surfer wait for the big wave? The answer was simple, and it unraveled the confusion that surrounds the true nature of competition. The surfer waits for the big wave because he values the challenge it presents. He values the obstacles the wave puts between him and his goal of riding the wave to the beach. Why? Because it is those very obstacles, the size and churning power of the wave, which draw from the surfer his greatest effort. It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities.
    • “The surfer in this example is not out to prove himself; he is not out to show himself or the world how great he is, but is simply involved in the exploration of his latent capacities.”
    • “In tennis who is it that provides a person with the obstacles he needs in order to experience his highest limits? His opponent, of course! Then is your opponent a friend or an enemy? He is a friend to the extent that he does his best to make things difficult for you. Only by playing the role of your enemy does he become your true friend. Only by competing with you does he in fact cooperate! … In this use of competition it is the duty of your opponent to create the greatest possible difficulties for you, just as it is yours to try to create obstacles for him. Only by doing this do you give each other the opportunity to find out to what heights each can rise.”
    • “True competition is identical with true cooperation. Each player tries his hardest to defeat the other, but in this use of competition it isn’t the other person we are defeating; it is simply a matter of overcoming the obstacles he presents. In true competition no person is defeated. Both players benefit by their efforts to overcome the obstacles presented by the other.”

    The Inner Game:

    • “When a player comes to recognize, for instance, that learning to focus may be more valuable to him than a backhand, he shifts from being primarily a player of the outer game to being a player of the Inner Game. Then, instead of learning focus to improve his tennis, he practices tennis to improve his focus.”
    • “Thus, there are two games involved in tennis: one the outer game played against the obstacles presented by an external opponent and played for one or more external prizes; the other, the Inner Game, played against internal mental and emotional obstacles for the reward of knowledge and expression of one’s true potential. It should be recognized that both the inner and outer games go on simultaneously, so the choice is not which one to play, but which deserves priority.”

    “As tennis players we tend to think too much before and during our shots; we try too hard to control our movements; and we are too concerned about the results of our actions and how they might reflect on our self-image. In short, we worry too much and don’t concentrate very well. To gain clarity on the mental problems in tennis we introduced the concept of Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 was the name given to the conscious ego-mind which likes to tell Self 2, you and your potential, how to hit the tennis ball. The key to spontaneous, high-level tennis is in resolving the lack of harmony which usually exists between these two selves. This requires the learning of several inner skills, chiefly the art of letting go of self-judgments, letting Self 2 do the hitting, recognizing and trusting the natural learning process, and above all gaining some practical experience in the art of relaxed concentration.”

  • Learning to Buildby Bob Moesta

    “Don’t get caught up in the solution; get caught up in the problem consumers have… A well-framed consumer problem is ten times easier to solve than a solution looking for a problem.” —Dr. Genichi Taguchi

    Trading One Problem for Another:

    • “Why couldn’t I solve this problem? What was I doing wrong? … It seemed every new solution created a new problem or added a new procedure that made the price skyrocket. I was chasing my tail. Each time I solved one problem, I caused another. Every time I felt like I’d made progress, I realized Oh my God. I’ve traded one problem for another. It always felt like I was one prototype away from the answer, yet I never got any closer to solving the problem.”

    Inventor vs Innovator:

    • “An inventor discovers something completely new. It’s patentable. It solves one problem for one person. An inventor creates something that has never been done before. Inventors tend to be academically smart, and they value the uniqueness of their idea above all else. But they usually have no idea how their invention is going to help anybody.”
    • “An innovator, on the other hand, focuses on society as a whole, looking for ways to help people do better. An innovator says, ‘I know there are tons of email programs, but I’m going to build a better one because the existing programs suck for these reasons…’ Innovators want to help people be unstuck… Innovation is the notion of solving a struggling moment and helping people at scale.”

    Problems of Function:

    • “‘Looking at and focusing on problems is the wrong view of the world,’ Taguchi would say… ‘All problems are really problems about the variation of function: focus on what it’s supposed to do, not what it’s not supposed to do. There are infinite problems and only finite functions.’”

    Control Factors vs Noise Factors:

    • “Rather than frame the problem and search for the solution like a needle in a haystack, I needed to look at the problem as a system with functions. What were the systems in the mirror case that were not performing the way that they should’ve? Then I needed to unpack those systems into control factors and noise factors.”
    • “Control factors are parameters of a system you can change that impact the system’s performance, and that you have the ability, responsibility, and control to set. In the manufacturing of our mirror case, we could change machine settings—injection pressure, barrel temperature, screw speed, hold time, etc.—and measure the dimensions molded against different temperatures and climates.”
    • “Noise factors are the parameters that impact the system that you cannot control, you choose not to control, or that are too expensive to control. We did not have control over the humidity inside the plants or on the roads where the cars would be eventually driven. By only talking about this limited view of the ‘problem,’ a.k.a. the humidity, we were focused on something we could neither control nor change.”
    • “How can we change the things that we have control over, control factors, to make us less sensitive to the things we cannot control, noise factors? (Taguchi defined this as robustness.)”
    • “How do we set the control factors so that the noise factors no longer affect the output and get us the low-cost solution?”
    • “Once we answered these questions, we designed a set of experiments and tested only the things that were in our control—injection pressure, barrel temperature, screw speed, hold time, etc. But we did not test one factor at a time; we used an orthogonal array (math) to create a unique small set of prototypes that would explore thousands of combinations through only a few dozen tests at strategically different points. (Yes, I learned design of experiments for prototyping at nineteen.) We did not try to guess or build a great case; we let the math work for us and enabled the system to teach us what factors affected dimensional stability. Then we measured how the adjustments impacted the way that the cases were influenced by their environment.”

    School Project:

    • “‘How many degrees do you need to pull back this rubber band to make the ball fly ten feet away and land in the cup?’ my professor asked.”
    • “It was a basic question with a simple solution, but I no longer saw it that way. I imagined the catapult in the real world. What happens when the ball size changes? What about wind resistance? What about when the rubber band stretches over time? How does the catapult height figure into the equation? How does cup size factor in? I needed to design a set of experiments to understand how it really worked.”
    • “I discovered that if I doubled the number of rubber bands, made the catapult shorter, and pulled the rubber band thirty-two degrees, my ball would land in the cup with 97 percent accuracy. Whereas the standard solution—twenty-two degrees—that my professor expected, the ‘right’ answer, only landed the ball in the cup 57 percent of the time.”

    What Is It Supposed to Do?:

    • “Under the leadership of Taguchi, Deming, and Moore, I had learned to assume that I knew nothing, test a set of different factors simultaneously to understand how the system worked, and only then to form a hypothesis, empirically through data and observation.”
    • “I no longer wanted to focus on the problem. I wanted to know: what is it supposed to do?”

    Measuring the Wrong Things:

    • “They were focused on the problems… and how to reduce them. But they were trying to control the noise factors that were really out of their control: humidity, paint color, and direction. Taguchi leaned over to me and said, ‘They are measuring the wrong things. It’s about the function—what it’s supposed to do and reducing the variation, not the problems.’ I could see it clearly this time; we needed to flip the lens.”
    • “Additionally, they talked about the orange peel and drips as two separate issues, whereas Taguchi had taught me to see them as two sides of the same function—paint thickness. They never talked about them as the same problem. They simply said, ‘What’s the problem that we’re trying to solve? What are the root causes to it?’ Conversely, I asked a different set of questions: What was it supposed to be doing? Where was the variation? What was causing it? How could I make myself least sensitive to the things I couldn’t control?”

    Design of Experiments:

    • “Similar to the rearview mirror, I designed a small focus set of experiments that analyzed a variety of factors in painting a complex test piece; I never painted an entire car. Ultimately, I created eighteen focus tests that represented thousands of permutations which ran over a weekend. Quickly, I learned some of the better settings for reducing the variation of paint thickness, thus reducing both orange peel and runs at the same time. Meanwhile, the engineering team, singularly focused on one problem at a time, would cautiously change one factor at a time and paint a whole car. By only testing one factor at a time and painting an entire car, they approached the problem too carefully. After all, they had a lot more to lose each time their experiment failed. I, on the other hand, felt free to test more factors and explore the unknowns.”
    • “‘I’m doing these eighteen tests, but they’re spaced out in such a way that I can actually predict what the other test results would be,’ I explained. I knew I was not necessarily getting the perfect run, but it got us in the top 90 percent.”

    “Red Line” vs “Green Line” Development:

    • “For starters, the Japanese manufacturer did not start with one readily accepted concept design. Instead, they had multiple prototypes and made tons of changes in the early stages when the design was still on paper—one hundred times the prototypes. Then when they eventually broke off into their individual silos, there was a lot of communication to ensure their components worked together and that they understood each other’s perspectives. Nothing was assumed. In essence, they pushed their product to fail early in the process, before they ever pulled the entire design together, dramatically reducing time and money spent. In the end, the Japanese manufacturer got to the finish line with a lot less drama. And oh, by the way, their cars actually performed better in the marketplace too. We needed to change our approach.”
    • “We were planning (or guessing) when we were the stupidest; I call this simplicity on the wrong side of complexity. It’s easy to develop the best engine if you don’t need to consider the transmission. We only planned what we knew and never anticipated the unknowns or discovered tasks along the way.”
    • “Whereas on the green line, because they are in the ‘function space,’ they design experiments that change many variables at once to learn how the system works, assuming nothing. They are prototyping to understand the possible ways it can fail. Constantly asking, ‘What are the failure modes?’ This understanding allows them to reduce costs while solving problems because they can see the whole. They find the ‘root causes’—the sets of things that work together to make the system work.”

    Learning From Failure:

    • “There’s a mantra in the world of innovation that says, ‘If you’re not failing, then you’re not innovating.’ But failure by itself is not a rite of passage to becoming an innovator. It’s the learning that comes from failing that makes someone an innovator. If I leave a failure on the table without uncovering why, then it’s a waste—making failure useful is the hard part of innovation. In my experience, great innovators are obsessed with understanding why their system failed; it’s the opportunity to learn.”

    Applying the Five Skills of an Innovator:

    1. Empathetic Perspective: “Do I deeply understand other people’s perspectives—external customers and vendors, as well as internal designers and assembly line workers? Do I get where they are coming from? Can I play it all out through time?”
    2. Uncovering Demand: “Do I understand what causes demand for my product? What dominoes must fall before someone says, ‘Today’s the day…’ What causes someone to fire another product and hire mine?”
    3. Causal Structures: “Am I curious? Do I constantly want to figure out how things work, even when they’re illogical or irrational? Do I believe in randomness? (Randomness is the opposite of causal structures.) Do I take the time to frame questions before building my prototypes?”
    4. Prototyping to Learn: “Am I building sets of prototypes, as opposed to prototyping two aspects at a time, A/B testing? Am I causing things to fail or waiting for them to fail and reacting?”
    5. Making Tradeoffs: “Am I striving for perfection, or can I see the whole and understand that I can’t have everything? Do I understand how to frame my tradeoffs from both the supply-side and the demand-side? Do I err on the side of the customer or the company?”

    Extracting Perspective:

    “Over the years, I developed the following tips and tricks that help me unpack, question, and listen to people’s stories…”

    • Context: “When the answer feels irrational, it’s typically because you don’t know the whole story; the irrational becomes rational with context. ‘Hold on. I am confused,’ I’ll say. You want to dig deep and get meaningful answers that explain the context that the person was in.”
    • Contrast: “Providing a person with contrast leads to greater understanding. I use a bracketing technique: ‘Why did you switch employers? Why not just find another role within the organization?’ People will say they want easy, but they don’t know how to articulate it. Ultimately, it’s easier for them to tell you what’s hard about something, which gives you the boundaries of easy.”
    • Unpacking: “Everything is bound. You are trying to figure out the person’s reference point. One person’s definition of the word ‘fast’ may be entirely different than another’s. There’s no fast, only faster than… There’s no healthy, only healthier than…”
    • Energy: “It’s not just what people say, but how they say it. Do they accentuate words? Does the intonation go up or down? Listen for pauses and sighs. Did you hear all caps, but there are no caps? As soon as you hear this emotional energy, stop and ask further questions: ‘Wait, tell me more about that. Why is that important?’ Use analogies: Sometimes people will hit a wall and not have the language to express their thoughts completely. Don’t push. Instead, use analogies to help build language: ‘How is getting a new boss like starting over?’”

    “Ultimately, the key to any good conversation is to throw away the list of questions and to go into the conversation to discover. The best question will always come from the last answer.”

    Tools for Understanding Conversations:

    “When we talk about people’s decisions, we’ve found there are ultimately four forces influencing their progress.”

    1. The push of the situation. Think about the struggling moment for someone looking for a new job. What forces are pushing them toward leaving their current role?
    2. The magnetism of the new solution. The moment they realize there might be something better—a new job that could help them make progress—that solution creates a magnetism, and they start to imagine a better life—the pull toward progress.
    3. The anxiety of the new solution. Despite the struggle at the current job and the pull the new solution creates, there’s anxiety about the unknowns of a new role. These anxieties are important because they hold people back from making progress.
    4. The habit of the present. There are things about the current job that the person may like. This comfort and habit will hold the person back from switching.

    “Ultimately, you are using the forces of progress to help you unpack conversations to the point where you can answer the following: What progress are they trying to make? What is their motivation? Where is there apprehension?”

    Making Progress:

    • “Now one of the ways that I structure my relationships with people who work for me is that it’s all about progress—no more formal reviews. We talk about the progress that they want to make and the progress that I want to make, as well as reflect on the past progress for both.”
    • “When I sit down to help a business make progress, I say, ‘Tell me about your business.’ Invariably, they tell me about the product or service that they sell. But they need to be thinking in terms of flow: the flow of information; the flow of money, the flow of finished goods. When you understand the flow, it becomes objectively easy to see the various perspectives involved.”

    Seeing the Whole:

    • “The first step is to have everyone within your organization rotate: marketing needs to understand engineering; engineering needs to understand the assembly line, etc. Most people do not take the time to genuinely see things from other people’s perspectives. It’s not enough to simply talk to each other either. People need time to genuinely put themselves in each other’s shoes.”

    What People Are Trying to Say:

    • “If you don’t dig deeply and apply rigor, you will miss the real meaning behind what people are trying to say; people will say one thing when they mean another. Without the proper rigor, you will inadvertently apply your own perspective to other people’s words.”
    • “Enlightened Bob views empathetic perspective more like an actor. I want to detach from my own thought process and ask the right questions so that I understand the context that makes the irrational behavior rational. I’m trying to connect the dots so that I can see the tradeoffs and understand the future problems that I might have. I’m not trying to convince anyone to do anything.”

    Uncovering Demand:

    • “Demand is caused by a struggling moment and the thought, ‘Maybe I can do better…’ Without the struggling moment, there is no demand. Demand is framed by who, when, where, and why.”
    • “What people in business think they know about the customer and the market is likely to be more wrong than right… the customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells.” —Peter Drucker
    • “Snickers competes with a cup of coffee, a Red Bull, or a sandwich… Milky Way competes with ice cream, brownies, and a glass of wine… Snickers is not a candy bar; it’s fuel.”
    • “If Mars, Inc. had viewed Snickers from the supply-side, they would have focused on Milky Way as the competition and taken an entirely different approach than the Betty White commercial. They would have zeroed in on making Snickers more delicious—taste-testing Milky Way and Snickers side by side, comparing ingredients, and tweaking the contents. In the end, they would have had two candy bars that were a parody of each other, missing a $4 billion opportunity.”
    • “When you innovate from the demand side, you realize that the customer has a completely different perspective… Their context revolves around the new desired outcomes they seek, and their competitive sets aren’t actually competitive sets but candidate sets: ‘I can do this, or I can do that.’”
    • “It’s critical that you understand how demand works. How does your product or service fit into people’s lives?”
    • “Now Canon would say that they know photography the best. Yet Apple walked in the door and with one button, took their business away. In 2010, camera sales were 121 million units. By 2018, they’d sunk to 19 million units, but during the same timeframe, demand for taking pictures actually skyrocketed by almost a hundred times with social media.”
    • “Uncovering demand starts with interviewing customers who’ve used your product before and made progress. You need them to tell you the story of how they got here. What dominoes had to fall for them to say, ‘Today’s the day…’”

    Key Frameworks for How People Buy:

    1. The three sources of energy or motivations (functional, emotional, and social)
    2. The four forces of progress (push, pull, anxiety, and habit forces)
    3. The Job To Be Done timeline (sequence of events and actions to make progress)

    Sources of Energy:

    • Functional Motivation: How cumbersome is the purchasing process for the buyer—time, effort, and speed?
    • Emotional Motivation: What positive, or negative, internal thoughts are driving my purchase—fears, frustrations, and desires?
    • Social Motivations: How do other people perceive, respect, trust, or acknowledge me?

    “Overall, the goal is to reduce the negative functional, emotional, and social motivations, which are causing anxiety and serving as a barrier. While at the same time, amplifying the positive motivations to create pull for the product or service.”

    Forces of Progress:

    • The push of the situation: “What forces were pushing her toward buying a Peloton?”
    • The magnetism of the new solution: “She started to imagine a better life… the pull toward progress.”
    • The anxiety of the new solution: “Despite her struggle and the pull the new solution created, there was anxiety… These anxieties are important because they hold people back from making the progress that they need.”
    • The habit of the present: “Would she decide later that she wanted to go back to the gym and regret the Peloton? Would she love biking as much as she loved running?”

    Timeline for Progress:

    “The forces and the motivations drive decisions, but not in a vacuum. Ultimately, you need to see the way that people buy as a system that plays out over time. People must be in the right time and place in their life. Nothing is random!”

    • First Thought: “Creating the space in the brain… Once you have the first thought, you’ve opened-up the space in your mind for the information. Without this first thought, there is no demand. But once you have it, you notice things you didn’t notice before, which causes you to transition to passive looking.”
    • Passive Looking: “Learning… The first thought is how you create the space. Passive looking is how you start to fill the space… People can passively look for years if there’s no event pushing them to the next step on the timeline. Whatever the event, it acts like a domino falling in your life that moves you along the timeline to active looking.”
    • Active Looking: “Seeing the possibilities… Active looking is when people plan, spend time, and even spend money figuring out what’s next—the solution to their struggling moment.”
    • Deciding: “Making the tradeoffs and establishing value… When buying, there’s no ideal solution, every customer makes tradeoffs. Part of the journey is understanding the tradeoffs people are willing to make.”
    • Onboarding: “The act of doing the [Job To Be Done], meeting expectations, and delivering satisfaction and value… In onboarding, the consumer is having their first use of the product or service and measuring that against their expectations to see if they bought what they think they bought.”
    • Ongoing Use: “Building the habit… How well did you satisfy expectations? The satisfaction is determined by the expectations set… Ongoing use is where the jobs get done and the progress is achieved.”

    Metrics for Progress:

    • “Does Amrita get addicted to the Peloton? Does she fit into her clothes better over time? Can she keep up on a hike? These are likely the metrics Amrita will use to measure progress.”

    What’s Your Customer’s Value Code?:

    • “If I asked, ‘Do you like steak, or do you like pizza?’ You might say, ‘I like both,’ right? So let’s talk about a steak situation versus a pizza situation. Typically, you’re having a steak when it’s been a rough week and you want to reward yourself, or you’re celebrating a special occasion… A pizza situation looks entirely different: I’ve got four kids; I need to feed them, drive to soccer, and get homework done. If you try to stick steak into that scenario, it’s horrible, and vice versa.”
    • “What you realize is that you like both steak and pizza, but if you take the pizza and put it in the steak situation, the value changes. Value is a function of the context, outcome, progress, and effort.”
    • “It’s not about what people value. It’s about who, what, when, where, and why people value.”

    Understanding Demand:

    • “Young Bob believed that supply created demand, and therefore, I thought that my responsibility was to convince people to buy my product. I was more worried about personas, correlation, and size of market than actually understanding the progress that people were trying to make. I wanted to scale quickly: how can I make this as big as possible, as fast as possible?”
    • “Enlightened Bob, however, wants to understand how to add value one person at a time. Only then, when I can see the hidden patterns, can I think about scale. I know that my product does not create demand; demand is created by a struggling moment where people have a space to fill; I create value by understanding how to fill that space.”

    Causal Structures, Pt. 1:

    “Each system is perfectly designed to give you exactly what you are getting today.” —Dr. W. Edwards Deming

    • “‘Do you know the difference between correlation and causation?’ Taguchi asked me one morning as we shared breakfast while traveling for work… ‘I use correlation to find causation; they’re the same thing?’ I responded. ‘No. They’re very different, and if you confuse them, you may end up doing more harm than good.’”
    • “Apparently, hundreds of years ago, Japanese cultures believed that trees caused the wind. Because they needed the wind for fishing, they prohibited people from cutting down any trees for any reason. It was not until they understood that it was, in fact, the wind that caused the trees to move that they could move forward and make progress. That’s correlation versus causation. The wind and the trees moving together is correlative, but which comes first—the cause—is way more important.”

    Outcomes in Mind:

    • “Young Bob would build the system and then test it—left to right thinking. But enlightened Bob begins with the outcomes in mind, translates them to outputs, and then takes the time to design, build, and test.”
    • “Taguchi taught me not to focus on the problem, searching for solutions like a needle in a haystack, but to focus on the function and then ask, ‘How do I build a catapult that is least sensitive to the things that I can’t control?’ Invariably, that starts with asking, ‘What is the outcome I want?’”
    • “Oftentimes we end up creating measures based on the output of our thing—lag measures—when we should be measuring the input—lead measures… When trying to build something good, you need to understand what the quality inputs are to guarantee the output.”

    Seeing Through Time:

    • “If I were advising my younger self today, I’d say, ‘Study how things change and evolve over time.’”
    • “Most people think of truth as a constant across time, and that limits their view.”

    Causal Structures, Pt. 2:

    • “Young Bob would think about how something should work almost in isolation. It would be a theoretical understanding. I’d then solve problems by going in search of their causes and eliminating them to make the system work—whack-a-mole. I was overly confident in how things worked, and I did not consider variation. Then despite working in the lab, it would fail in the real world, and I’d blame the real world.”
    • “Whereas enlightened Bob knows that he needs to understand the entire system and prepare for real word variations. So I take into account noise factors as I design. Now when problems arise, I’m prepared; I know how my thing will react. The goal for enlightened Bob is robustness. I try to make things fail as opposed to waiting for it to happen like young Bob; I want to know its limits.
    • “Causal structures are the foundation of everything to me—a fundamental fractal. It’s the underpinning piece of how I think about everything.”
    • “The essence of causal structures is about being curious and understanding how things work.”
    • “When we only measure outputs, we don’t know if it relates to the outcomes that people seek.”

    Prototyping to Learn:

    “Most people don’t prototype to learn; they prototype to confirm a hypothesis with A/B testing.”

    • System Design: “Figure out how to make it work at the lowest possible cost.”
    • Prioritization of Systems: “What are the critical systems and subsystems that drive overall performance and cost? What are the tradeoffs we need to make?”
    • Functionality of Systems: “What are the things that I can change?”
    • Measurement: “How can I use an orthogonal array to help me build an efficient set of prototypes that will maximize learning?”

    “Prototyping to learn is not about confirming a theory or hypothesis. It’s about empirically getting to the limits of theory to understand how to build better. You’re pushing the limits of your thing, and therefore, you know where it fails.”

    A/B Tests vs Orthogonal Arrays:

    • “[Orthogonal arrays] allow me to measure multiple factors simultaneously and understand how a thing works over sets of tests, within sets of conditions: the opposite of A/B testing or solving one problem at a time. And the tests are fully balanced.”
    • “With the dish soap, for instance, nine tests were performed with the color yellow, and nine with blue. We didn’t expect the color to have any impact at all, but as it turns out, blue is an oil-based color and yellow is a water-based color. Therefore, the blue didn’t work as well because the surfactant used some of its power to break down the color rather than clean the greasy dishes.”

    “Best” vs Tradeoffs:

    • “As you can see, the key to this approach was that it did not rely on my theory of what the ‘best’ dish soap was. I had no idea how the experiments were going to turn out; I let the dish soap tell me which one was the best. It was based entirely on empirical data.”
    • “Too often, people get singularly focused: ‘I want to make a dish soap with the most foam.’ Prototyping will show which dish soap has the best foam, but it will also detail tradeoffs like cost. You start to realize that you can’t make the ‘best’ soap because you will lose money.”

    Noise Factors & Robustness:

    • “My goal is to design a robust catapult that consistently delivers results. To do this, I add the noise factors as I shoot the ball and measure the different distances. Now I’m going to set up the catapult and just shoot it. I’m not trying to figure out how to make it go a certain distance at this point; I just want to learn how the catapult works in the face of noise. Then I get the average distance, the variation of distance, and the signal-to-noise ratio, a measure of robustness.”
    • “You quickly realize that what causes the catapult to be robust—consistent in the face of noise factors—is different than what causes it to travel a certain distance.”
    • “On the green line, you know what’s important—like the catapult launch angle—and what you can play with. You’re not optimizing in a vacuum for one performance attribute but rather seeing the tradeoffs. In the end, this allows you to build the best thing without sacrificing quality or cost.”


    • “In school, I was taught that to be an innovator, you needed to be the smartest, most knowledgeable person in the room on a particular subject. Great innovators had depth of knowledge. But over time, I realized that experts were overly biased, and it actually got in the way of innovation because it caused them to assume aspects were understood to a greater extent than the reality. The truth is that there’s more unknown on almost any subject than is known.”
    • “The problem with relying on existing theory alone is that it causes you to assume certain aspects are known.”

    Seeing Around Corners:

    • “Innovators and entrepreneurs should be doing a lot more prototyping. In foresight, A/B testing looks easier and faster, but in hindsight, it’s actually longer and less effective. Taguchi would always say, ‘A/B testing is job security for engineers.’ It’s a shotgun approach where you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. The problem: you don’t understand where your thing fails; you can’t see around corners, so it’s like building on a house of cards; it will ultimately collapse in the long term. It’s simplicity on the wrong side of complexity because it’s not based on a sound understanding of how something works.”
    • “Young Bob is trying to find the answer, while enlightened Bob is trying to understand how it works in the real world.”

    Measuring Variation:

    • “Taguchi was always obsessed with measurement. He would say, ‘How do you make something better if you can’t measure the variation?’ … He believed that all innovation must start with better measurement—and measurement of the ‘right’ things. He would always tell me, ‘You’re measuring the wrong thing; you’re not thinking about this right… You’ve got to measure the functional thing that’s not happening. Where’s the variation?’”

    Making Tradeoffs:

    • “Cost is more important than quality, but quality is the best way to reduce cost.” —Genichi Taguchi
    • “As innovators and entrepreneurs, we never have enough time, money, or knowledge to make it perfect. Perfection is the trap, progress is the true measure, and tradeoffs are the way to get there.”
    • “Tradeoffs are not about settling; they are about making progress by determining what’s most important. When you can’t make tradeoffs, you get stuck in decision hell, trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack.”
    • “One of the keys to forcing tradeoffs in innovation, as well as selling, is a time wall or a time box… The moment a time wall is established, it forces you to make tradeoffs. What’s most important? What’s least important? It sets your priorities… After I set the time box, I shape the work to fit into that box.”
    • “Another effective constraint is a dollar wall: I can’t spend more than this amount of money to get that accomplished. Again, it forces you to make explicit tradeoffs by placing yet another set of constraints on your thing. The dollar wall forces you to scope the work and de-risk.”
    • “Forcing yourself to view the whole so that you can see how the pieces are interconnected is another way to help manage tradeoffs.”
    • “Playing with a set of possible scenarios is an excellent way to see the big picture… When someone comes to me for help building their thing, I’ll present several possible scenarios to flush out what’s important: If I wanted that done in half the time, what would you change? How much would it cost? If I gave you unlimited money, what would you do? How long would it take? If I gave you unlimited time to make your thing perfect, how much time would you need?”
    • “It’s important that you identify the tradeoffs consumers are willing to make first. Don’t talk features, benefits, and cost because people are willing to make tradeoffs. What makes your product or service kick ass? Where do you say no? Basically, choose what to suck at.”

    “Successful innovators and entrepreneurs do not view tradeoffs as a compromise. Rather, they see them as necessary tools for managing the speed at which they move forward. And instead of trying to make all the progress in one step by building the ‘best’ version, they see half steps to make progress and evolve to the solution through multiple iterations.”

    Integrating the Five Skills:

    • “In fact, you’re better off doing a half-assed job at all five than being excellent at any one of these skills. It’s not about the parts. It’s about the whole.”
    • “There’s a natural priority to mastering the five skills of innovators and entrepreneurs… Empathetic perspective and causal structures both help with every other skill. Meanwhile, uncovering demand only helps prototyping to learn and making tradeoffs. Prototyping to learn only helps making tradeoffs. Finally, mastering making tradeoffs does not help any of the other four skills.”

    Struggling Moments:

    “There are two good signs to look for when identifying a struggling moment…”

    • Nonconsumption: “Where do people want to make progress, but they can’t? You see this where people keep complaining but don’t act. They want to do something; they want to reach for something, but they either don’t feel they can, or they don’t feel that it’s possible. For example, nobody spends time finding a better bank because they think banks are all the same. Find the places where people are complacent, so they’re just accepting inferiority.”
    • Work-arounds: “Figure out where people are doing work-arounds? For example, ‘I export this, I put that here, then I do this…’ They have five extra steps for getting something done that should be possible to streamline. Those are struggling moments. Where are the work-arounds in your business?”


    • “Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question—you have to want to know—in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.” —Dr. Clayton Christensen
    • “There are way more unknowns that knowns in the universe. Our job as innovators is to discover the unknowns, make them known, and use it to build products that satisfy consumers economically.” —Dr. Genichi Taguchi
  • Statistics Done Wrongby Alex Reinhart

    “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” —Richard P. Feynman

    “After several slightly obsessive hours of research, I realized that scientific fraud isn’t terribly interesting—at least, not compared to all the errors scientists commit unintentionally.”

    Statistical Significance:

    • “Much of experimental science comes down to measuring differences. Does one medicine work better than another? … We use statistics to make judgments about these kinds of differences.”
    • “We will always observe some difference due to luck and random variation, so statisticians talk about statistically significant differences when the difference is larger than could easily be produced by luck. So first we must learn how to make that decision.”
    • “By performing a hypothesis test (also known as a significance test), you can answer this question: ‘Even if my medication were completely ineffective, what are the chances my experiment would have produced the observed outcome?’”

    p Values:

    • “The p value is the probability, under the assumption that there is no true effect or no true difference, of collecting data that shows a difference equal to or more extreme than what you actually observed… Think of it as a measure of surprise.”
    • “The p value works by assuming there is no difference between your experimental groups. This is a counterintuitive feature of significance testing: if you want to prove that your drug works, you do so by showing the data is inconsistent with the drug not working.”
    • “Remember, p is a measure of surprise, with a smaller value suggesting that you should be more surprised. It’s not a measure of the size of the effect. You can get a tiny p value by measuring a huge effect—‘This medicine makes people live four times longer’—or by measuring a tiny effect with great certainty.”
    • “Because any medication or intervention usually has some real effect, you can always get a statistically significant result by collecting so much data that you detect extremely tiny but relatively unimportant differences.”

    The Neyman–Pearson Approach:

    • “In science, it is important to limit two kinds of errors: false positives, where you conclude there is an effect when there isn’t, and false negatives, where you fail to notice a real effect.”
    • “The Neyman-Pearson approach is where we get ‘statistical significance,’ with a prechosen p value threshold that guarantees the long-run false positive rate… Neyman and Pearson reasoned that although it’s impossible to eliminate false positives and negatives entirely, it is possible to develop a formal decision-making process that will ensure false positives occur only at some predefined rate. They called this rate α [alpha], and their idea was for experimenters to set an α based upon their experience and expectations.”
    • “Under the Neyman–Pearson system, we define a null hypothesis—a hypothesis that there is no effect—as well as an alternative hypothesis, such as ‘The effect is greater than zero.’ Then we construct a test that compares the two hypotheses, and determine what results we’d expect to see were the null hypothesis true. We use the p value to implement the Neyman-Pearson testing procedure by rejecting the null hypothesis whenever p < α.”

    Confidence Intervals:

    • Confidence intervals can answer the same questions as p values, with the advantage that they provide more information and are more straightforward to interpret.”
    • “A confidence interval combines a point estimate with the uncertainty in that estimate. For instance, you might say your new experimental drug reduces the average length of a cold by 36 hours and give a 95% confidence interval between 24 and 48 hours… If you run 100 identical experiments, about 95 of the confidence intervals will include the true value you’re trying to measure.”
    • “If you can write a result as a confidence interval instead of as a p value, you should.”

    Statistical Power:

    • “How do you know how much data to collect? The concept of statistical power provides the answer… The power of a study is the probability that it will distinguish an effect of a certain size from pure luck. A study might easily detect a huge benefit from a medication, but detecting a subtle difference is much less likely.”
    • “More useful than a statement that an experiment’s results were statistically insignificant is a confidence interval giving plausible sizes for the effect.”
    • “Scientists are usually satisfied when the statistical power is 0.8 or higher, corresponding to an 80% chance of detecting a real effect of the expected size. (If the true effect is actually larger, the study will have greater power.)”
    • “So why are power calculations often forgotten? One reason is the discrepancy between our intuitive feeling about sample sizes and the results of power calculations. It’s easy to think, ‘Surely these are enough test subjects,’ even when the study has abysmal power.”
    • “Thinking about results in terms of confidence intervals provides a new way to approach experimental design. Instead of focusing on the power of significance tests, ask, ‘How much data must I collect to measure the effect to my desired precision?’”

    2. Statistical Power and Underpowered Statistics:

    • “Calculate the statistical power when designing your study to determine the appropriate sample size. Don’t skimp. Consult a book like Cohen’s classic Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences or talk to a statistical consultant. If the sample size is impractical, be aware of the limitations of your study.”
    • “When you need to measure an effect with precision, rather than simply testing for significance, use assurance instead of power: design your experiment to measure the hypothesized effect to your desired level of precision.”
    • “Remember that ‘statistically insignificant’ does not mean ‘zero.’ Even if your result is insignificant, it represents the best available estimate given the data you have collected. ‘Not significant’ does not mean ‘nonexistent.’”
    • “Look skeptically on the results of clearly underpowered studies. They may be exaggerated due to truth inflation.”
    • “Use confidence intervals to determine the range of answers consistent with your data, regardless of statistical significance.”
    • “When comparing groups of different sizes, compute confidence intervals. These will reflect the additional certainty you have in larger groups.”

    3. Pseudoreplication: Choose Your Data Wisely:

    • “Ensure that your statistical analysis really answers your research question. Additional measurements that are highly dependent on previous data do not prove that your results generalize to a wider population—they merely increase your certainty about the specific sample you studied.”
    • “Use statistical methods such as hierarchical models and clustered standard errors to account for a strong dependence between your measurements.”
    • “Design experiments to eliminate hidden sources of correlation between variables. If that’s not possible, record confounding factors so they can be adjusted for statistically. But if you don’t consider the dependence from the beginning, you may find there is no way to save your data.”

    4. The P Value and the Base Rate Fallacy:

    • “Remember, p < 0.05 isn’t the same as a 5% chance your result is false.”
    • “If you are testing multiple hypotheses or looking for correlations between many variables, use a procedure such as Bonferroni or Benjamini–Hochberg (or one of their various derivatives and adaptations) to control for the excess of false positives.”
    • “If your field routinely performs multiple tests, such as in neuroimaging, learn the best practices and techniques specifically developed to handle your data.”
    • “Learn to use prior estimates of the base rate to calculate the probability that a given result is a false positive (as in the mammogram example).”

    5. Bad Judges of Significance:

    • “Compare groups directly using appropriate statistical tests, instead of simply saying, ‘This one was significant, and this one wasn’t.’”
    • “Do not judge the significance of a difference by eye. Use a statistical test.”
    • “Remember that if you compare many groups, you need to adjust for making multiple comparisons!”

    6. Double-Dipping in the Data:

    • “If you use your data to decide on your analysis procedure, use separate data to perform the analysis.”
    • “If you use a significance test to pick out the luckiest (or unluckiest) people in your sample of data, don’t be surprised if their luck doesn’t hold in future observations.”
    • “Carefully plan stopping rules in advance and adjust for multiple comparisons.”

    7. Continuity Errors:

    • “Don’t arbitrarily split continuous variables into discrete groups unless you have good reason. Use a statistical procedure that can take full advantage of the continuous variables.”
    • “If you do need to split continuous variables into groups for some reason, don’t choose the groups to maximize your statistical significance. Define the split in advance, use the same split as in previous similar research, or use outside standards (such as a medical definition of obesity or high blood pressure) instead.”

    8. Model Abuse:

    • “Remember that a statistically insignificant variable does not necessarily have zero effect; you may not have the power needed to detect its effect.”
    • “Avoid stepwise regression when possible. Sometimes it’s useful, but the final model is biased and difficult to interpret. Other selection techniques, such as the lasso, may be more appropriate. Or there may be no need to do variable selection at all.”
    • “To test how well your model fits the data, use a separate dataset or a procedure such as cross-validation.”
    • “Watch out for confounding variables that could cause misleading or reversed results, as in Simpson’s paradox, and use random assignment to eliminate them whenever possible.”

    9. Researcher Freedom: Good Vibrations?:

    • “Before collecting data, plan your data analysis, accounting for multiple comparisons and including any effects you’d like to look for.”
    • “Register your clinical trial protocol if applicable.”
    • “If you deviate from your planned protocol, note this in your paper and provide an explanation.”
    • “Don’t just torture the data until it confesses. Have a specific statistical hypothesis in mind before you begin your analysis.”

    10. Everybody Makes Mistakes:

    • “Automate your data analysis using a spreadsheet, analysis script, or program that can be tested against known input. If anyone suspects an error, you should be able to refer to your code to see exactly what you did.”
    • “Corollary: Test all analysis programs against known input and ensure the results make sense. Ideally, use automated tests to check the code as you make changes, ensuring you don’t introduce errors.”
    • “When writing software, follow the ‘Best Practices for Scientific Computing’.”
    • “When using programs and scripts to analyze your data, follow the ‘Ten Simple Rules for Reproducible Computational Research’.”
    • “Use a reproducible research tool like Sweave to automatically include data from your analysis in your paper.”
    • “Make all data available when possible, through specialized databases such as GenBank and PDB or through generic data repositories such as Dryad and Figshare.”
    • “Publish your software source code, spreadsheets, or analysis scripts. Many journals let you submit these as supplementary material with your paper, or you can deposit the files on Dryad or Figshare.”

    11. Hiding the Data:

    • “Register protocols in public databases, such as ClinicalTrials.gov, the EU Clinical Trials Register, or any other public registry. The World Health Organization keeps a list at its International Clinical Trials Registry Platform website, and the SPIRIT checklist lists what should be included in a protocol. Post summary results whenever possible.”
    • “Document any deviations from the trial protocol and discuss them in your published paper.”
    • “Make all data available when possible, through specialized databases such as GenBank and PDB or through generic data repositories such as Dryad and Figshare.”
    • “Publish your software source code, Excel workbooks, or analysis scripts used to analyze your data. Many journals will let you submit these as supplementary material with your paper, or you can use Dryad and Figshare.”
    • “Follow reporting guidelines in your field, such as CONSORT for clinical trials, STROBE for observational studies in epidemiology, ARRIVE for animal experiments, or STREGA for gene association studies. The EQUATOR Network maintains lists of guidelines for various fields in medicine.”
    • “If you obtain negative results, publish them! Some journals may reject negative results as uninteresting, so consider open-access electronic-only journals such as PLOS ONE or Trials, which are peer-reviewed but do not reject studies for being uninteresting. Negative data can also be posted on Figshare.”

    12. What Can Be Done?

    “In short, your task can be expressed in four simple steps.”

    1. “Read a statistics textbook or take a good statistics course. Practice.”
    2. “Plan your data analyses carefully in advance, avoiding the misconceptions and errors I’ve talked about. Talk to a statistician before you start collecting data.”
    3. “When you find common errors in the scientific literature—such as a simple misinterpretation of p values—hit the perpetrator over the head with your statistics textbook. It’s therapeutic.”
    4. “Press for change in scientific education and publishing. It’s our research. Let’s do it right.”

    “The demands placed on the modern scientist are extreme. Besides mastering their own rapidly advancing fields, most scientists are expected to be good at programming (including version control, unit testing, and good software engineering practices), designing statistical graphics, writing scientific papers, managing research groups, mentoring students, managing and archiving data, teaching, applying for grants, and peer-reviewing other scientists’ work, along with the statistical skills I’m demanding here. People dedicate their entire careers to mastering one of these skills, yet we expect scientists to be good at all of them to be competitive. This is nuts.”

  • The Toaster Projectby Thomas Thwaites


    • “Hello, my name is Thomas Thwaites, and I have made a toaster. It took nine months, involved traveling nineteen hundred miles to some of the most remote places in the United Kingdom, and cost me £1187.54 ($1837.36).”
    • “How the hell do some rocks become a toaster? This fundamental question motivated my, let’s face it, faintly ridiculous quest to make one from scratch. But I also wanted to explore the grand-scale processes hidden behind the smooth plastic casings of mundane everyday objects, and to connect these things with the ground they’re made from.”
    • “The following pages are the story of that journey, and that toaster.”


    • “Using the potentially misguided rationale that the cheaper the toaster the fewer parts it will contain, and thus the simpler it will be to reproduce, I dismantle the cheapest toaster I can find: the Argos Value Range 2-Slice White Toaster.”
    • “I dissect my patient into 157 separate parts, but these parts are made up of sub-parts, which are themselves made up of sub-sub-parts.”
    • “I’d expected a toaster to be perhaps a little complex, but really, four-hundred-plus parts? One-hundred-plus different materials from God knows where? How could something with this much in it cost £3.94, the price of a hunk of cheese, and not fancy cheese either.”
    • “My life’s work stretches out in front of me… It wouldn’t be so bad, travelling the earth on a quest to extract the hundred materials I need to create my vision, searching for semiconductors amongst icy glaciers, exotic forests, and forgotten lakes. I could grow a beard. After a few years I might tell my story to a fellow traveller and become something of a legend…”
    • “Hmm. Alternatively, I could make a few minor material substitutions.”

    The Rules:

    1. “My toaster must be like the ones they sell in the shops.”
    2. “I must make all the parts of my toaster starting from scratch.”
    3. “I will make my toaster on a domestic scale.”


    • “In any case, my notion of simply hacking a few bits of crumbly rock from the wall of a tunnel is quickly stripped away… As Ray makes clear, mining is not something to be taken lightly—pneumatic drills and perhaps explosives would be needed. It is also not a half-day activity, because simply to get to the working face of the mine requires a long ride in an underground train.”
    • “This rock doesn’t look anything like metal, it just looks like rock-maybe rock from Mars but still just rock. The task I face is to separate the atoms of iron from the atoms that make up the rest of the rock. Like getting blood out of a stone, but blood that is particularly iron rich.”
    • “The Imperial College library has a whole metallurgy section. Leafing through undergraduate textbooks on the subject, such as the classic Principles of Extractive Metallurgy, I realise that if you actually want to do extractive metallurgy, modern books on its principles are not what you need. Though well illustrated with flow charts explaining complex industrial processes and equations showing the reactions involved—all very useful if you’re going to work at Tata Steel or somesuch—nowhere can I find a section on doing it yourself.”
    • “It strikes me that a methodology from the sixteenth century is about the level of technology we can manage when we’re working alone. In a sense, the smaller the scale on which you want to work, the farther back in history you need to go. Working on a domestic scale, as far as metallurgy is concerned, requires going back centuries.”
    • “Oh, what the hell, this opportunity to taste the forbidden fruit of putting metal in a microwave is too good to pass up… After some not-so-careful experimentation that necessitated replacing my mother’s microwave, followed by some rather more careful experimentation, I manage to make a blob of iron about as big as a ten pence coin. A blob of iron that when hit with a hammer on a borrowed anvil doesn’t shatter, but squishes as it should!”


    • “In a toaster, mica is the silvery grey sheet that looks a bit like cardboard that the wire heating element is wrapped around. It’s a naturally occurring mineral that happens to be a good thermal insulator and a good electrical insulator. These properties make it an ideal material to support a wire made very hot by electricity passing through it.”
    • “The problem Simon and I face is that we don’t actually know how to get to the mica mine. We were meant to meet a chap who’d been there before in Fort William, but he was too busy with his IT business to make it. He’d e-mailed me the coordinates, which I’d saved in Google maps to be recalled later on my iPhone. Unfortunately, it turns out the bloody thing needs to have reception for the GPS to work, and the highlands of Scotland, unlike Mount Everest, remain without mobile coverage.”
    • “Luckily, the evening we arrive, local residents are having some sort of wicker man-style ritualistic bonfire. We get chatting with a very drunk man, who tells us he’s a stalker (stalker, as in hunting deer, not hunting celebrities). After Simon and I join him for a frankly unwise volume of whisky, he draws a line on our map that, he assures us, we can follow right to the mine.”
    • “After many false horizons, we decide it really is time to turn back. It’s incredibly frustrating because we must be so close… we’ll just have a look round there and…! We happen across some glinting flakes of what must be mica… I use my penknife to hack off some of this strange transparent mineral…”
    • “I collect enough to split into the three slightly-larger-than-a-slice-of-bread-sized sheets around which I’ll wrap the heating element wire when I’ve made it. Slipping them between the pages of my notebook for safekeeping, we finally turn back. The sunset as we eventually descend is rather spectacular, with Simon’s promotional pen only coming out at the bottom, to guide us to the most isolated pub in mainland Britain for a few pints and banter with the locals (though the bartender is [un]surprisingly from Australia).”


    • “The plastics that we know and love… are all derived from fossilised trees: oil or natural gas. The particular plastic that many appliances are made from is polypropylene, and as its name suggests it’s a relatively simple one, so that’s the one I’m going to go for.”
    • “‘Hi Thomas, I think you need to understand the complexity of plastic production; it is considerably more complex than metal production… I hope this is not too depressing and I’m happy to discuss it further.’”
    • “There are plenty of ‘bioplastics’—plastics derived from plants or bacteria. The first plastics were technically bioplastics… It turns out that what I can try is a starch-based plastic, specifically, potato starch plastic. I ponder potatoes.”
    • “This situation requires some lateral thinking. In the discipline of geology, a debate is currently raging over whether or not to declare the beginning of a new epoch—the Anthropocene—a geological age of humanity’s own making… Just as rocks have been laid down during previous epochs, could it not be argued that equivalent rocks are being laid down in the Anthropocene, and that some of these rocks happen to be made of polypropylene, for instance? If I can mine iron ore, can I not ‘mine’ some of this nascent plastic rock at a dump? … I admit that it’s a stretch, but they’re my rules and I’ll break them if I want to.”
    • “On the plus side, as far as my project goes, it turns out that melting a small amount of plastic to remould it is a fairly easy operation. Keith tells me that polypropylene melts at about 160 degrees Celsius, easily obtainable on a normal barbecue.”
    • “My first attempt at melting goes badly… I heat it too much, causing it to ignite and billow out smoke that is without a doubt toxic.”
    • “I decide I need a more controlled approach… Taking my cue from this culinary technique, I smash up my yellow plastic tub, and put the pieces in a bucket floating in a slightly larger bucket filled in part with cooking oil. I use cooking oil rather than water because I need it hotter than boiling water.”
    • “When the yellowy plastic is viscous, I scoop it out of the bucket and dollop it onto my mould. Quickly, before it cools, I lift the other part of the mould into place, adding my weight to help squish the viscous molten plastic around the edges of my mould cavity. Jimmying the mould apart a couple of minutes later, I’m overjoyed to see the first version of my toaster’s case.”


    • “The reason I’m getting water instead of rock is that I plan to extract the copper using electrolysis. Professor Cilliers suggested that this hydrometallurgic process would be the easiest way to go, and after my attempts at extracting iron by melting the ore I’m inclined to agree.”
    • “The water is reddy brown and has a pH of about 2; this is the strongest acidity that’s found naturally… The reason the water is so acidic is that it has reacted with the rock exposed by the mining.”
    • “We fill up two smaller containers with the good stuff from the brown pool and return to the strange but quite beautiful surface landscape of Parys Mountain.”
    • “Around the world, acidification of water from mine workings is a major environmental problem, or in some places could soon become one… Pondering this later I come to the conclusion that you’ve got to stop somewhere.”
    • “Metals will be valuable for the foreseeable future… The pressure to open up more sites to exploitation is therefore not going to diminish. But unless you apply the brakes at some point, we could end up living in one big mine, so to speak. Also, unless we apply the brakes there won’t be much incentive to come up with less environmentally damaging ways of doing things. The Pebble Project would seem to me to be a good place to stop.”
    • https://www.savebristolbay.org/


    • “I have a problem. Nickel is essential to make the toaster element, but I can find only one site where nickel has been mined in the United Kingdom, and this mine has a big metal grate covering the entrance.”
    • “I have two weeks before I need to toast at my degree show. I’m also at the very bottom of my overdraft. I consider my options: A. Break into the alleged English nickel mine… B. Abandon my degree and travel to Siberia… C. Hire a van and drive to the far north of Finland… Again, there is that problem of not having any money.”
    • “I soon discover that the Canadian mint issued a special twenty-five-cent coin each month in the run-up to the year 2000. The twelve commemorative coins were made of 99.9 percent pure nickel. Tempting. Especially when there’s a set of eleven being sold on eBay for only CAN $9.50.”
    • “Unfortunately, I may not avoid jail this way either, because, as the Royal Canadian Mint is at pains to reiterate, Section 11-1 of the Canadian Currency Act states: ‘No person shall, except in accordance with a licence granted by the Minister [of Finance], melt down, break up or use otherwise than as currency any coin that is current and legal tender in Canada.’”
    • “Oh well, what the heck. Unless I go to Canada, the mounties can’t touch me.”


    • “Listening back to the recording of my first interview with Professor Cilliers… I can hear that while he didn’t want to pour cold water on my ambition, he knew that the technical and scientific expertise assembled by countless people over centuries could not be replicated by me in the nine months that I had available. That time is now up, and so I must take stock of the components that I’ve actually been able to make…”
    • “Twenty-two parts. My toaster doesn’t have a spring to pop up the toast when it’s done, or an adjustable timer mechanism, or a cancel button. And it’s questionable whether it’s actually capable of toasting bread… To a pedant, what I’ve made could at the moment be classified as a bread warmer rather than a bread toaster.”
    • “Toast. Has that really been my goal for the last nine months? In one way, yes. But in another more accurate way, no. I wanted to get under the skin of the slick-looking objects that surround us, but don’t really come from anywhere (unless you work in supply chain management).”
    • “The real ‘cost’ of products is hidden. We don’t see (or smell) the pollution emitted when iron is smelted or plastics are made. You wouldn’t want it happening in your back garden (though my neighbours have been quite nice about it). Equally we don’t have to live with all the stuff we throw ‘away’… But pollution and rubbish don’t just disappear, they end up somewhere, and if not dealt with properly, are costing someone something (their health perhaps). At the moment there’s lots of stuff not included in the price of the Value toaster—‘externalities’ that aren’t included in the money economy.”
    • “My attempt to make a toaster has shown me just how reliant we all are on everyone else in the world. Though there’s romance in that idea of self-sufficiency and living off the land, there’s also absurdity. There is no turning back the clock to simpler times—not without mass starvation anyway. Besides, the majority of the world is still trying to turn the clock forward.”
    • “It also has brought into sharp focus the amount of history, struggle, thought, energy, and material that go into even something as mundane as an electric toaster. Even if we still don’t have to directly pay what it costs, we can at least value it for what it’s worth. Looking beyond just toasters, this means making sure the stuff we need to buy lasts longer, and investing as much ingenuity and money taking things apart as we do putting them together.”


Here’s a list of the albums, artists, and playlists I listened to most this year, in the order I first listened to them.


Here’s a sample of code stuff I did this year.