Weekend Reading: Enemies of Writing, Wealth, and the Superhuman Inbox

January 25, 2020 • #

✍🏼 The Enemies of Writing

A great piece from the Atlantic’s George Packer, a transcript of his acceptance speech for the Hitchens Prize.

At a moment when democracy is under siege around the world, these scenes from our literary life sound pretty trivial. But if writers are afraid of the sound of their own voice, then honest, clear, original work is not going to flourish, and without it, the politicians and tech moguls and TV demagogues have less to worry about. It doesn’t matter if you hold impeccable views, or which side of the political divide you’re on: Fear breeds self-censorship, and self-censorship is more insidious than the state-imposed kind, because it’s a surer way of killing the impulse to think, which requires an unfettered mind. A writer can still write while hiding from the thought police. But a writer who carries the thought police around in his head, who always feels compelled to ask: Can I say this? Do I have a right? Is my terminology correct? Will my allies get angry? Will it help my enemies? Could it get me ratioed on Twitter?—that writer’s words will soon become lifeless. A writer who’s afraid to tell people what they don’t want to hear has chosen the wrong trade.

💵 Wealth Is What You Don’t Spend

Morgan Housel:

It might seem obvious that savings is your ability to reject what you could spend. But the majority of financial goals are about earning more – better investment returns and a higher-paying career. There’s nothing wrong with that. Earning more is wonderful, just like exercise. We just shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that earning more will do little for building wealth if every extra dollar is offset by a dollar of new spending.

The world is filled with the financial equivalent of athletes who finish every workout with four Big Macs. Wealth, at every income level, has less to do with your gains and more to do with your ability to leave gains alone without cashing them in.

📨 Superhuman and the Productivity Meta-Layer

An interesting response argument to Kevin Kwok’s post from a while back called the Arc of Collaboration. The meat of the argument is that corralling notifications from the dozens of input streams we all have is challenging, and that a “command line”-style interface like Superhuman’s could function as a filter point to visualize the input stream, but also engage with items in real time. A compelling case with mockups of how it could work (if service providers wanted to plug into this sort of “notification nexus”).