Happy Friday and welcome back for the fourth issue of Friday Brainstorm!
In the past, I’ve taken deep dives into just two to three ideas. This week, I’m going to keep the newsletter shorter and focus more on curating interesting content. I’ll leave it up to you to follow the links and explore anything that piques your interest.
Here’s an overview of what’s in the newsletter:
new writing on energy-based therapy and adaptive music
my favorite long-form essays
on building your ‘idea muscle’
And away we go…
What I’m writing
My family had a strong distrust for Western medicine, relying instead on naturopathic treatments like homeopathy and energy-based therapy. Growing up, I remember always being conflicted about whether to believe in the process. Although these practices have been used for thousands of years in several different indigenous systems of medicine, only recently have they been examined more rigorously from a scientific perspective. An emerging field provides a novel framework for studying energy-based therapies, and it has the potential to completely change how we think about health and disease.
We're used to thinking about music as a one-way interaction, but what if it was two-way? This is called adaptive music, which changes in real-time depending on your mental state and what's happening around you. As opposed to a fixed recording, adaptive music is organic and always changing depending on the current situation. How exactly does it work? What kinds of signals let the music adapt to you? Is there an adaptive music app to help you focus?
p.s - this finally concludes my series on music for productivity! Here’s the whole thing:
Books are old news 📚
Over the past decade, the book has increasingly become a stale format. Among other issues, publishers always want books to be about 250 pages regardless of how long it takes to explain the core ideas, which leads to a lot of fluff. Many writers have taken to publishing long-form essays online instead, where there are no conventions or restrictions limiting them.
I wanted to share some of my favorite ones:
👨👧👦 The Story of Us - Tim Urban 👨👧👦
In this series, Tim writes about a worrisome trend of polarization in our society - the way people are acting, and the way the media is acting, and the way the government is acting. He’s spent three years working on a new metaphorical language we can use to think and talk about our societies and the people inside of them. Tim Urban is my original writing inspiration, with his uncanny ability to break down complex topics in a casual way using new terms, metaphors, and lots of badly drawn pictures.
This long essay is a deep dive into how it’s human nature to seek social capital (or status) and how social networks are built to create “status games”. He observes that without for competition for relative status (more followers or likes), there would be no point in playing the game at all. All notable social networks have a “proof of work” that depends on some actual skill to differentiate among the users:
For Facebook it was posting some witty text-based status update. For Instagram, it was posting an interesting square photo. For Vine, an entertaining 6-second video. For Twitter, it was writing an amusing bit of text of 140 characters or fewer. Pinterest? Pinning a compelling photo.
This series argues that software is the third major soft technology to appear in human civilization, after written language and money. It explores how we might think about its impact and adapt intelligently to new technological possibilities. Venkatesh observes that the old social order based on credentialism (degrees, certifications, and regulations) is crumbling. Software has ushered a new age of leverage, where young people today do not have to “wait their turn” and have unprecedented opportunity to create new economic, social, and political wealth.
These are obviously much longer than an average article. If you’re reading this on your phone, bookmark it for later, when you can set aside a couple of hours!
Building your ‘idea muscle’ 💡
In the next few months, I’m going to shift focus and write on the subject of creativity much more. People have the wrong idea about creativity - it can’t be forced, but there are practices, systems, and frameworks that make creativity more likely to happen.
To start, it’s important to train your ‘idea muscle’ with the simple practice of coming up with 5 ideas every day. These ideas can be anything at all, from serious product ideas to simple adjustments that solve everyday problems.
Here are examples from David Delahunty, who published 5 daily ideas for a year:
Tinder but for finding personal trainers, people would swipe through and match with the trainers they like.
SIRI should be programmed to say ‘bless you’ every time you sneeze.
Facebook chrome extension that automatically posts “Happy Birthday” to the news feed of any Facebook friends who are having a birthday.
An email tool that scans your email to make sure you don’t sound like a dick when you don’t mean to before you hit send.
An app where I post all of my free hours in blocks and people sign up for times to hang out
Over time, it will get easier and easier to come up with these ideas. You’ll start to spontaneously have ideas throughout the day.
If you’d like to learn more about this practice, James Altuchar wrote a pretty comprehensive guide on becoming an idea machine. It’s a fun stream-of-consciousness type read and really gets you thinking. Check it out!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Friday Brainstorm. I’m experimenting with different formats, and this one is noticeably shorter than previous ones. Please let me know if you like this style better!