The Waimea Canyon lookout at Pu'u Hinahina on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i is 13 miles up a winding road. About 10 miles up that road there is another lookout, and the sign makes it unclear which way the road continues and which way the lookout rests.
We accidentally pulled off three miles before the beginning of our planned hike and figured that we'd take in a view before continuing up.
When we got to the lookout, there was a man (pictured above) who told us some of the history and customs of the native Hawaiian people. Before hula became a sensual dance performed by women in coconut bras and grass skirts, it was a war dance performed by men in masks hoping to send the enemy into retreat before combat became necessary.
He taught us a little about the language, about how the word aloha breaks down into alo, meaning a shared presence, and ha, the breath of life.
And then he told us a little about himself and what he does.
You see, a few years ago, he was arrested and charged with being an unlicensed vendor. He'd been coming to this spot with a tip basket and a history lesson for tourists to provide for his family, unsanctioned by the parks service or any state agency.
He argued in his own defense, asking the judge for proof that the prosecuting attorney had jurisdiction to arrest and charge him. He said he didn't recognize the United States' sovereignty over Hawaii. He asked to see the articles of annexation. After five trips to court — five days he couldn't provide for his family because he was in court — his case was dismissed after the prosecutor failed to provide the requested document.
He continued his story about how Kaua'i, the furthest Hawaiian island from the US mainland (outside of one privately owned island with a small, mostly native population) and least developed to date, is being bought up by people who love its unspoiled nature, and are spoiling it. He complained about Mark Zuckerberg's purchase of 700 acres on the island.
At this point, his crowd started to scatter. He'd received one tip from someone who left before he got into his lesson.
As you might guess, his audience was largely (probably entirely) tourists. All were white. No one wanted to stick around to hear how badly we were destroying things — we knew we had a history of doing that on the US mainland and we were here to get away from, among other things, a particularly nasty bout of political shouting.
Educational vacation? Sure, I like learning things. I don't, however, enjoy being lectured to. If I want your opinion on politics and the local atmosphere, I'll ask. And I probably would have said some
If you rely on people giving you tips for a living, ask for money when you're at a high point in your speech. Don't wait until you're lecturing them on their bad behavior.
Know your audience. Stop talking at the point they're most likely to give you money. If you get to that point and they're not giving you money, cut bait. If you keep talking, you might accidentally find your foot in your mouth.
On July 2, 1776, the 13 colonies that at that time composed the United States ratified a declaration of independence from Great Britain. It was revised and updated, with the final version gaining passage on July 4 of that year.
So today, we celebrate our independence as a nation. Last year for my podcast, I read the Declaration of Independence. You can hear that below (there's also a remembrance for Elie Wiesel, who had recently died). I'm also dedicating this space today to the text, so you can read along, or read it without listening to it, perhaps for the first time as an adult. The text comes from the National Archives, and the spelling and grammar represent what's on the original document, not the current accepted usages.
In Congress, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine
Did you learn anything? Did anything surprise you? Did you have any myths about the declaration you were holding onto?
Everlast is a musician and rapper; if you're my age, you know him from House of Pain. Need a reminder? Have an earworm. He's been dead on the operating table twice. He has an artificial heart valve. He has a daughter with cystic fibrosis. He recently watched his mother slide downhill with Alzheimer's and then pass away.
Fame doesn't make you immune to the problems of the rest of us, is what I'm saying.
The followng video appears during the podcast. It's a better 2-minute clip to start things. The full podcast is at the bottom of the post.
There's some drunk babble. It kind of runs off the rails at the end. But there's a lot in here. You don't need to listen, but if these snippets move you, maybe at least hit play on that video at the bottom and give them a play.
• Be open to learning something new
• Culture is like an operating system; we gain perspective by loading new operating systems (visiting different cultures)
• Half-truths are turning people against each other
• Americans right now are part of the biggest reality TV show ever
• If you want to be a leader, you must let go of ego
• Sometimes you have to call out the bullshit
• It's easy to pick a team and then fight for it. It's more difficult — but more important — to find common ground
• Think for yourself
• Take a step back
• Be compassionate. Sometimes people need to feel whatever it is they're feeling
• There are injustices in the world
• Anger doesn't serve you
• Sometimes there's a glitch in the matrix and you just have to deal with it
• Your life is normal
• Some people fight battles you'll never see
• "Compassion is the thief of joy" —Theodore Roosevelt
• Get joy out of what you do
• Show gratitude to those who helped you become who you are
• Invite inspiration in
• We need community
• Be happy when others are successful
• Find people to push you to be better
• Respect those who paved the path for you to be able to do what you do
• Don't become old and bitter
• Let people enjoy what they enjoy
• Let art evolve
• The way we've always done things is not a good reason to keep doing them that way
• Whatever you do, do it your way
• Get out of your own way
• Manage your attention the way you have to manage oxygen on a spaceship
• If it's not relevant to your life, it's taking up too much room
• Don't focus on things that rob you of energy and time
Hop on in here around 55 minutes and give it four minutes or so. Ryan Singer and Johnny Z are discussing how we deal with each other, and right before the 58 minute mark, Singer comes up with this analogy:
"It doesn't matter if the pizza box changes, it's the pizza."
The pizza box, he says, is technology and society and who is president at any given time and what sorts of structures we live in, but we're the pizza.
It doesn't matter how fancy the box is, if the pizza doesn't change, it's still the same old pizza.
Singer's point here is that you can dress us up any way you want. You can make us high tech, you can let us read minds, you can make us invisible with mirrored clothing. Unless the change happens inside, we're still the same ol' same ol'.
The country saying for this is lipstick on a pig. You can dress it up all you want, it's still a pig.
If you're an asshole, you can put on a shirt that says "peace, love and tie dye" and go to yoga class and say "namaste," but you're still an asshole.
It doesn't matter what's going on on the outside.
Last Tuesday, June 13, was a quiet night at work. It might have been the quietest night of the Trump administration. The Calder Cup final wrapped up (that's the AHL championship — minor league hockey), but there was little else of note in any of our markets.
In the Giffords shooting, the gunman had shown anti-government leanings, posting about mind control and that kind of things. He was out to get someone in the federal government and an opportunity presented itself with the Giffords rally.
In the Scalise shooting, someone who was politically active in a traditional sense — the gunman had volunteered on the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Sanders didn't equivocate on his views here) and had left home to be closer to Washington, where he apparently thought he could be more useful as an activist — went looking for Republicans to shoot.
In the Giffords case, the shooter was paranoid and looking for a way out. In the Scalise case, the shooter had tried to take a traditional route and given up.
The problem with dialogue in this country for the most part is we're no longer listening to each other. We're waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that we can start.
I'm generalizing, of course. There's good discussion and reasonable debate happening every day in every city.
It's just rarely on display in public. And never at the federal level.
Reaction since the Scalise shooting has been a little different. Apart from the partisan wrangling over guns — some of course calling for tighter gun control and others saying we should allow Congress to carry weapons — there have been calls for partisan unity that have been muted, where normally these are empty and grandstanded.
"We are united in our shock. We are united in our anguish," Speaker Paul Ryan said. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."
Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, warned about a "deterioration in the manner we talk to each other."
Even President Donald Trump, not exactly known for muted responses and calm, non-partisan rhetoric, had only this to say:
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.
This is a good time for a period of reflection for all of us. The seasons are changing. If you're reading this the day it publishes, the solstice is tonight just after midnight Eastern.
Take a couple of days and decide if you're going to spend the rest of your life speaking at — or worse, shouting over — people you disagree with, rather than actually listening to what they're saying and perhaps even taking it to heart, and letting it change your mind if it strikes that chord in you.
It's certainly time for our national pizza to evolve. Is it time for your pizza to change, too?
Here is my very brief political take on the move; skip this paragraph if you want to skip the politics. "The only countries to do X are the US, Nicaragua and Syria." If I'm going to join a small group of countries in doing something, I'm not figuring those two are good role models for the US.
The rest of this post is going to be some combination of my observation and hopes, hopefully with some scientific backing.
Glass Beach is a small section of shoreline in an industrial area of 'Ele'ele on the island of Kaua'i. It gets its name from all the glass in the area.
It has for years been used as a dumping ground for things like engine blocks and industrial tools. The salt water is helping reclaim some of the metal into the lava rock along the shore. Here are a couple of photos of what this looks like.
While we were on the island, a few thousand acres were burned in a wildfire that was started by sparks from a pickup truck.
While no structures were threatened, dozens of emergency workers put their lives on the line to make sure the fire only affected dry brush. I'm sure over the coming months and years, new vegetation will grow in its place and before too long, no sign of the fire will remain.
Let's agree that engine blocks, industrial tools and pickup trucks are manmade things that would not otherwise be found in nature, and so we wouldn't have things like fires started by sparks from a pickup truck or engine blocks tossed on lava rocks without some sort of human intervention (objectively speaking — no judgment attached, just the fact that humans need to be involved at some stage of the process to reach this result).
In some amount of time — sooner for the brush fire than for the lava rocks — there will be no sign that anything out of place happened.
The Earth will always find a way to balance whatever happens to it. The thing is, the Earth doesn't care about anything but equilibrium — if a species or two or 16 needs to be eliminated in order to reach a sustainable balance, that's what will happen.
One morning, there was a dead frog in the driveway, missing a leg and a half.
Not as a threat. It was just there.
We've heard frogs from the drainage ditch adjacent to the property, and the evening before we'd had a torrential downpour. There were plenty of puddles. The ditch was probably flooding, the frog hopped up the drain on our side of the fence, and probably met one of the cats that runs around the property.
And then the neighbor probably drove off and the cat ran away and left most of a dead frog in the driveway.
This was the same day that, just an hour or so later, I was heading to the doctor's office to get a prescription for epinephrine auto-injectors, since my previous ones had expired.
It's nobody's best day if you need to use epinephrine. Here's a story of the time I found that out.
I guess I was pretty close to dead, if I was knocked out for a few seconds but it felt like 20 minutes and the awake people in the room were calling the paramedics (except for my wife, who was observing in shock and panic).
Maybe this next one's better.
"I'm talking to her, and she goes, "Daddy, does the earth go around the sun?" And I was like, "yeah." She goes, "does it do it all the time?" And I go, "yeah." She says, "will the earth always go around the sun forever?" And i was like, "Well, no, at some point, the sun's gonna explode." She's seven years old. Do you understand how horrible that is? She started crying immediately. Crying bitter tears for the death of all humanity. And here's how I tried to save it. I go, "oh, honey, this isn't gonna happen until you and everybody you know has been dead for a very long time." She didn't know any of those things, and now she knows all of those things. She's gonna die. Everybody she knows is gonna die. They're gonna be dead for a very long time, and then the sun's gonna explode. She learned all that in 12 seconds at the age of seven. She took it pretty well. I was proud of her."
It's a reminder that death gets to everybody, so if you want to be remembered as someone who lived, get to living.
I have a hard time leaving dishes in the sink when I go to bed. Waking up to yesterday's dishes puts me in mind of yesterday, and, frankly, whatever happened yesterday can't be changed. It might be OK to reflect on it if doing so improves today, but why not just take the five minutes to do the dishes and not have the reminder — or the work — waiting for you in the morning?
Yes, I definitely leave some chores for the next day. Sometimes I'll wait until I go to bed to run the dishwasher or put the last load of laundry in the dryer. Maybe it's the fact that these are longer activities that cover an aggregate of days. Maybe it's the fact that when I have a new day, the dishes or clothes are newly refreshed.
Not yesterday's grimy mess come back to haunt me — the physical, mental and emotional.
The point, here, is, remember that you're going to die. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not for a century. But if you keep putting off stuff until tomorrow, eventually one of the tomorrows you've been waiting for isn't going to show up.
Because you'll be dead. It's just how things go for us. It's something GoogleXer Mo Gawdat — who lost his son during an appendectomy, is an engineer and wrote a book on happiness — discusses with Lewis Howes.
If you want to be remembered for something you aren't doing, now's a really good time to start. As Kelvin and I discuss in this episode of JKWD, once you're dead, your chances at success go down a lot.
You could be forgiven if you forgot all about Kodak. I had. Wikipedia says that, as of this writing, the company still has a bit over 6,000 employees. The company had to sell off a lot of its assets in 2012, and managed to make it out of Chapter 11 in September of 2013.
The company started way back in 1880, when George Eastman started manufacturing dry plates. It grew into film and then added cameras and eventually became a company that sold you a camera, the film and the developing.
And then they built the first digital camera. They owned the intellectual property on the technology.
They didn't care. They were early, and thought it was going to be a bust.
Kodak was married to the “paper and chemicals” (film development) business… their most profitable division, while the R&D on digital cameras was a cost center.
They saw the digital world coming on, but were convinced that digital cameras wouldn’t have traction outside of the professional market.
They certainly had the expertise to design and build consumer digital cameras -- Kodak actually built the Apple QuickTake (see photo), generally considered the world’s first consumer digital camera.
He would later write in Bold (co-written with Steven Kotler) that Kodak didn't take into account Moore's Law — which predicts the acceleration of processing speed — or the convalescence of other technology that would not only make digital photography viable, it would all but eliminate the film processing market.
In a city of 100,000 people (not big but definitely not nothing) and an art school, I know of one place to get film developed on-site. Anyone else who offers film developing sends it off for processing.
Probably to Kodak.
"Don’t be tied to your history," Diamandis goes on to write in his blog post, outlining a series of don'ts to help avoid your business being disrupted. More importantly, though, he offers tips for disrupting your own business, the way Kodak had the rare opportunity to do.
He suggests starting with adjacencies. If you make printers, look at ink. Look at what Apple did to the accessories market a couple of years ago, changing its charging sockets.
As you might imagine, if a blog post is full of great insight, a book that merely begins with the general premise of the insightful blog post must be something really worth reading, right?
Following are some of the more important takeaways, at least from my point of view.
As a business, grow exponentially. Use clear vision and big goals to motivate, and look toward major innovation. Here are some definitions and tips.
Exponential organizations spread exponentially through networks and are disproportionately large compared to the number of employees, while linear organizations have to add employees to add customers.
To think about this in action, consider, say, Facebook or Twitter. They can add a few hundred thousand customers and need to add a few people to technology support and security. If your local grocery store added a few hundred thousand customers, they'd need to add thousands of employees to help keep the shelves stocked and get people checked out.
Crowd-sourcing as much as possible can help an organization go exponential. Tim Ferriss talks about testing the title and subtitle of The Four-Hour Workweek on Google Ads, setting up unique URLs with "Under Construction" pages and seeing which title and subtitle combination drew the most visitors.
On the product side, Quirky calls for designers to submit products and the most popular ones wind up in their shop, with enough funding for fulfillment. It crowdsources product R&D while giving designers a place their stuff will get sold without having to deal with it themselves.
"Goal-setting is one of the easiest ways to increase motivation and enhance performance," he writes, noting that having goals increases performance and productivity 11-25 percent.
While having big goals is important to driving innovation — improving something 10 percent keeps you stuck with the same tools and limitations, he writes, while going for a 10 times improvement requires you to invent something — lining goals up with values can lead to some amazing work.
In 1943, the US Army charged Lockheed Martin with building something entirely new to help defeat the Germans, whose jet fleet was increasingly becoming a major threat in World War II.
Since improving existing technology only a little was not going to be a good strategy, Lockheed sent some engineers into isolation — where they would be uninfluenced both by the other work going on in the company and by distraction — and they created something brand new in a month.
They innovated and delivered a new jet months quicker than the Army even managed to get them a contract.
That project, the Skunk Works, still exists as an innovation team.
Gartner hype cycle.
The Gartner hype cycle details the commercial success arc of new innovations. It peaks early and then crashes, but then works its way back up.
While the hype cycle research has been around for a while, we can see it clearly in recent technology, even in the internet age. Think about Friendster and MySpace. They peaked early, and while they're both still around, they didn't make it for the long haul, really.
It also puts me in mind of virtual reality. Remember the movie Hackers? Fisher Stevens' character stands on a VR platform with goggles and gloves. It's been around a long time, and is only just now — decades later — starting to get near to being in many homes.
The great Kevin Kelly thought virtual reality was coming in the 1990s. He tells Chase Jarvis he's not real sure it'll be in every household this time, but there's a reasonable chance he'll be wrong a second time.
The Six Ds of emergent technologies and exponential growth
Digitalization — Anything that can be digitized can be subject to Moore's Law
Deception — The first steps appear small, but if we think the early steps at .01, .02 and .04 all look like zero, we miss that we're getting toward one, and once we hit one, we're 20 steps from over a million
Disruption — New technology comes along deceptively slowly then blows up
Demonetization — The shadow economy in plain sight. Think Google giving away office tools (like Docs and Sheets) in exchange for data instead of dollars, or Linux being entirely free
Dematerialization — Goods disappear, so do services surrounding those goods (think about Apple getting rid of the headphone jack)
Democratization — Costs drop so low that (almost) anyone can afford them
Google's 8 innovation principles
Here are the ways that Google looks to grow:
• User focus
• Share everything
• Look for ideas everywhere
• Thing big, start small (iterate)
• Never fail to fail
• Spark with imagination, fuel with data
• Be a platform
• Have a mission that matters
Think at scale
These are the things that Larry Page (Google), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink), Richard Branson (Virgin) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon, Washington Post) consider when growing their businesses:
• Risk-taking and risk-mitigation
• Rapid iteration and ceaseless experimentation
• Passion and purpose
• Long-term thinking
• Customer-centric thinking
• Probabalistic thinking
• Rationally optimistic thinking
• Reliance on first principles (fundamental truths)
Make stone soup
You're probably familiar with this old tale of soldiers who get a village to chip in to make a good soup from nothing.
You can throw something out there, and if it has a good foundation, others will chip in to help build your product.
A few places you can connect with Diamandis and his projects:
In the years that most informed my early adulthood — those from my mid-teens to my mid-20s, say — I frequented the town of Northampton, Massachusetts. I had many late nights and long, deep conversations at the now-closed Fire & Water Cafe (you can now see remnants, or indeed, a new iteration, at Cafe Evolution up the road in Florence).
I visited friends at Smith College, which has an all-female undergraduate student body.
And the city is also known for the Northampton State Hospital, a mental institution that grew so big in its first century so as to be serving nearly 2,500 patients by the mid-1950s.
Northampton State Hospital was also a terrible place — you can actually see some of it in the asylum scenes in the movie "In Dreams" — that in 1978 a judge ordered the institution to reduce its patient load to 50 by 1981.
While the Brewster Decree (or Northampton Decree, as it's sometimes called) didn't fully close the hospital until 1993, you don't go from serving over 2,000 patients down to 50 without largely just discharging your patients out into the streets of the city.
A number of those wandering, previously committed souls were still out wandering the city in the 1990s and early 2000s while I was also out wandering the city. So I learned some stuff from them, too.
"You need to be a little crazy to change the world," write Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler on page 233 of Abundance, "and you can't really fake it."
I drink a lot of coffee. My wife will have a cup when she wakes up, and sometimes, on a day off, she might have a second. On my days off, I'll drink one cup when I wake up, and two or three more throughout the day. If I'm working, I'll have one when I wake up, one while I'm making dinner, and then it's a fairly steady stream of joe until midnight or 1 a.m., depending on when I'm scheduled.
It was probably more like the seventeenth century when we started mass producing coffee and slurping it like we do.
Something else I enjoy drinking is beer, which we've probably had since we figured out agriculture (leave some grain in a pot, head out for a hunt, it rains, you come back in a few days, drink the water out of the pot and get drunk).
When water wasn't safe to drink because we had sewage and dead animals running into our water supplies and no treatment plants, we were drinking beer, because the fermentation process made it safe to drink.
So, for centuries, we were drinking beer, and then we figured out coffee. We didn't go from half-drunk to sober, Diamandis and Kotler point out, we went from half-drunk to wired.
In his essay Java Man, Malcolm Gladwell gives coffee (and tobacco) a lot of credit for really getting us going as a species.
It is worth noting, as well, that in the original coffeehouses nearly everyone smoked, and nicotine also has a distinctive physiological effect. It moderates mood and extends attention, and, more important, it doubles the rate of caffeine metabolism: it allows you to drink twice as much coffee as you could otherwise. In other words, the original coffeehouse was a place where men of all types could sit all day; the tobacco they smoked made it possible to drink coffee all day; and the coffee they drank inspired them to talk all day. Out of this came the Enlightenment. (The next time we so perfectly married pharmacology and place, we got Joan Baez.)
In time, caffeine moved from the café to the home. In America, coffee triumphed because of the country’s proximity to the new Caribbean and Latin American coffee plantations, and the fact that throughout the nineteenth century duties were negligible. Beginning in the eighteen-twenties, Courtwright tells us, Brazil “unleashed a flood of slave-produced coffee. American per capita consumption, three pounds per year in 1830, rose to eight pounds by 1859.”
What this flood of caffeine did, according to Weinberg and Bealer, was to abet the process of industrialization–to help “large numbers of people to coordinate their work schedules by giving them the energy to start work at a given time and continue it as long as necessary.”
I've certainly had at least (and probably more than) my fair share of focus and productivity thanks to caffeine. Just listen to Kelvin and I slurping away during our JKWD podcasts.
OK, so let's talk about the lessons we learn from Abundance. This was supposed to be a post about the book, remember?
First, let's look at how we move from thinking in a scarcity mindset to thinking in an abundance mindset.
Abundance is wrought of technology.
If I have an orange tree and I pick all the oranges on the lowest branches, I now have a scarcity of oranges. When someone invents the ladder, I now have an abundance of oranges, since I can reach all the fruit on the higher branches.
In the mid-19th century, aluminum was more valuable than gold. The top of the Washington Monument is capped in aluminum. It cost more per ounce than the average daily wage for someone working to build it. In the ensuing decades, researchers in America and France would figure out how to isolate the metal with an electrolytic process, and now it's so easy to get aluminum we wrap our cold pizza in it.
Some 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, but 97.3 percent of that is salt water. Lots of people today die from lack of clean drinking water, but when we come up with a good desalination technology, the scarcity will go away.
The bottom of pyramid, the domino effect and reworking Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Right now, hundreds of millions or billions of people live in poverty, food scarcity, water scarcity, lack of health care, etc. These people represent the the bottom of the pyramid — a swath of humanity large enough to boost up the rest of the world, except for the fact that they're suffering.
If we can take care of these people, they can contribute to society, solving more (world) problems.
Think, also, of a mother who spends her day toting water for cleaning and drinking and cooking. Giver her clean running water in her home, and now she can go to work, raising both the wealth of her family and her nation's GDP.
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who, in the mid-20th century, developed a fundamental hierarchy of needs. It starts with basic human needs (food, water, air and such) at the bottom, and once you can get that taken care of, you can move on to the next level, with the top being self-actualization, or the ability to be personally fulfilled.
Diamandis and Kotler argue for reworking Maslow's pyramid into a three-tier pyramid starting in about the same place, but basically replacing the middle three tiers with a single tier that includes education, energy (as in power, be it solar, battery, etc.) and communication. At the top, you find liberty, freedom and other things that many of us take for granted, like health care.
Other Notes and Resources
The amygdala is an almond-shaped sliver in the temporal love responsible for assessing danger and then looking to neutralize it. I talked about this in the our crazy brains spisode of the podcast. It's an anxious slice of your brain, and once stimulated, it almost never shuts up. It's responsible for fight or flight, and the biggest problem it has right now is there are very few real reasons to be naturally concerned, so it makes up worst-case scenarios to find a reason to panic.
Don't get caught up in what your amygdala's telling you, or you have problems, and probably not even real ones.
Four motivations for innovation
From the weakest to the strongest, there are the reasons people innovate:
In other words, money is actually a stronger driver than many people might admit, but it's still not as strong a driver as the esteem in which you'll be held.
A few places you can connect with Diamandis and his projects:
If you're not subscribed to the JKWD Podcast, I suggest you try our most recent episode. In fact, here it is:
Kelvin and I have been doing our podcast for about 10 months or os — JKWD stands for "Josh and Kelvin World Domination" — and normally we have a fairly standard routine.
We'll get on a call about 10:30 a.m. on a Friday, talk about our week and whatever else for an hour and a half, then figure out what we're going to do for a podcast, go refill our coffees, and then record the podcast.
This time, we had to reschedule, and neither of us was really at full speed when we started speaking. We got into our routine as we always do, and 45 minutes or so into our typical ongoing babble, we both realized without saying anything that we were actually recording the podcast.
I am of the opinion, generally, that unscripted podcasts are best, but since we often tackle a specific subject, we tend to at least outline and have a pre-discussion.
Kelvin and I are very different people. We often mention that we're of different generations, of different races and faiths, with different upbringings.
We're into very different things, and we have very different approaches to almost everything.
A little bit ago, Kelvin said we should read The Power of Now and discuss it on the podcast. So, I read it. Much of it wasn't meant for me. No harm, no foul. But that doesn't mean I had to like it.
We hadn't planned to discuss the book yet, but I had been reading The Antidote, which is subtitled Happiness for people who can't stand positive thinking. Burkeman interviewed Tolle for a chapter, and it gave me some new insight, so I wanted to talk about it.
Kelvin and I often mention that the discussions we have before we record the podcast would be fun to eavesdrop on, and we recognized that this was so far the most glowing example of that.
It's unscripted, entirely raw (even Kelvin cusses a bit, and we had to bleep out names that we said because we weren't planning on it being a podcast), and more importantly, we have an active disagreement.
Not an argument, mind you, but a disagreement. We were civil to each other throughout, and we simply moved on to another topic when we were done with that subject.
I think there are a lot of people in political power who could learn a thing or two from it.