Specialization is for Insects

I’ve found so many designers being caught up in the definition of their job description – they are only supposed to craft stuff, graphical stuff. Sometimes they are trapped by people’s stereotypes, and sometimes they trap themselves.

I classify myself as a rebellious designer – I am a designer, and I am not either. I love to deal with some parts of the world that I don’t necessarily need to deal with. And I find pure intellectual enjoyment out of it.

We are not bees.

Anthony Bourdain wasn’t just a great chef – he infused the cuisine into thoughts of human condition and cultures of the “Parts Unknown”. Allen Iverson’s college football coach said he could have been much more stellar if he chose football over basketball. Bruce Lee is a striking philosopher and martial artist. Leonardo da Vinci was a phenomenal painter, scientist, musician and much more.

I am not talking about the T-shape. I am talking about “T-T-T-T”-shape. No one can be good at everything, but can definitely be relatively good at various things. One gets to find out what these various things are and things they are not that good at. We are capable in multiple areas, and the most capable ones can think laterally to make connections.

Higher education only takes 4 years or less to train someone ready for a professional. But we don’t just have 40 years, and it means we can pursue 10 more professionals in our life span.

(P.S. Thoughts after listening to Joe Rogan’s interview with Naval Ravikant)

“Blue Apron菜谱都给了,为什么不做熟再送过来?”

有人问Blue Apron的存在价值是什么:不就是生鲜delivery吗?菜谱都给了为什么不炒好再送来?还有人回答类似“做好的菜送到了不就凉了”。我实在忍不住回复:




I don’t want to live in a world where the product is only built by these people.

Serendipity and Exotic by AI

You might object that the AI would thereby kill serendipity and lock us inside a narrow musical cocoon, woven by our previous likes and dislikes. What about exploring new musical tastes and styles? No problem. You could easily adjust the algorithm to make 5 percent of its choices completely at random, unexpectedly throwing at you a recording of an Indonesian gamelan ensemble, a Rossini opera, or the latest K-POP hit. Over time, by monitoring your reactions, the AI could even determine the ideal level of randomness that will optimize exploration while avoiding annoyance, perhaps lowering its serendipity level to 3 percent or raising it to 8 percent.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval在21 Lessons for the 21st Century书中所描述的Serendipity另我沮丧 – 本以为人类应当引以为豪的serendipity,可能也只是被上帝操纵。想跳出算法给你制造的filter bubble并非难事,通过调整randomness比即可,甚至存在最优比率:serendipity比率太低,人类的confirmation bias就越积越深不再探索;serendipity比率太高,人们便失去乐趣以至丢弃。

这让我想起California Roll加州卷的来源:上世纪70年代美国人因为吃不惯纯正的日本刺身寿司而创造出的”混合物”:米饭里包着紫菜、蟹肉、牛油果、mayo的、带有脂肪般口感的加州卷。给老美带来类似chicken nuggets感受的拓展食物。

人们大致不会喜欢完全exotic的东西,除非它的”exotic的程度“被控制在一定的范围。而人们”喜欢“一定程度的exotic,或许只是feel good about themselves.

One way to think about hardware

It continues to be true that “software is eating the world”. And most of time, the existence of hardware is to preserve the power of software.

Fitbit is the minimum amount of hardware needed in order to bridge the physical world into the software’s. You might be paying a hundred bucks for the Fitbit wristband from the merchants, and the software coming with it seems free. But think about it – would you pay $100 for wristband without a dashboard, or would you rather pay $100 for a dashboard (with all the same fitness data of your own) without wearing a wristband? You may be hesitant to pay a mobile App that costs that much – consumers today are indulgent in the world of free softwares. But a wristband without a dashboard is useless for sure.

So one strategy is to make hardwares as minimal and invisible as possible, in order to preserve the power of software.

Well there’s one exception – hardwares as status signifiers. These will be all luxuries like shoes, bags, and jewelries, as well as gadgets that signifies status or styles – iPhone, Beats Headsets, and more.

P.S. I wrote this to mourn two of my favorite hardware companies: Anki and Jibo, which created unprecedented innovations yet failed.

San Francisco bay is a diverse monoculture

Tyler Cowen once said in an interview that San Francisco / Silicon Valley is a “diverse monoculture”. It’s the “diverse” part that gives its creativity, and the “mono-culture” part that gives it efficiency. That’s the benefit of being diverse monoculture. And that’s what makes Bay Area, Bay Area.

This also infers a good chance that next century will be less innovative than this.

Pic: Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen

Because a lot of innovations and ideas come from intense cultural interchange and connectivity. But in the continual open system, eventually the stronger culture will absorb the weaker, or both cultures become a well-mixed one, until it can’t. Whatever the most creative clusters, like the one in San Francisco Bay Area, are in the process of “cashing in” the creativities which benefits from the open system, until it can’t.

In order to have a sustainable “creativity” to cash in, some sort of insulation matters. Insulation allows a culture to grow and realize its own unique form without distractions from the other frameworks.

That’s why Madagascar has its unusual types of wildlife because the island is so isolated from the rest of the world that it can evolve its eco-system. That’s why we should have the annual fishing band period to preserve organisms so they have time to grow before fully exploited.

“I think you’re a uniquely brilliant, twisted, inward-looking, diverse monoculture, and I’m very glad you are. 😜 ” – Tyler Cowen


今天下午和Tianyu讨论到抖音的前身Musical.ly(抖音的“首屏即为播放视频”的范式是来自Musical.ly)。其中最为intriguing的是当他说到Musical.ly的负责人Alex Zhu在一场分享里提到的“本我”与“超我”。

很多内容类应用在一开始onboard用户是这样的:让用户去pick一些用户自己认为感兴趣的品类,譬如说化妆、时政、烹饪等等,目的是为了以后的“个性化”推荐。类似的应用例子有太多,譬如是Flipboard, Google +, Facebook Paper, Feedly, etc. 但Alex Zhu说这根本不work,因为这是“超我”在作祟,而“本我”在压抑,即使无人在场。





The fastest way to communicate

Last week on Facebook’s F8 Keynote it was said that “Over the next year, we plan make messenger the fastest private communication app on the entire planet”.

Why being fast?

Memo leaked that Evan Spiegel wrote about to make Snaptchat the fastest way to communicate. Evan pointed out the much older version Snapchat ran on iPhone4 is way faster than the latest on iPhone X as more features are introduced along the way. This also explains why when you open Snapchat you go directly to the camera as the first screen. Maybe more importantly, “faster” means talking with images is faster than communicating or documenting in texts.

In the heat of competing being the fastest in communication, Mark even wanted to invent some wearable with “brain-computer interface” that can get the information from your brain out into the world, which undoubtedly is the most fastest way to communicate – “We’re working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today.”