Justice is scarce

It always is. That’s its natural state. Never enough opportunity, fairness and connection. Never enough time for a student who needs it, or dignity for a person who deserves it. A chance to be seen and understood. But just because we’re always running short doesn’t mean we can’t try. There’s always a chance to contribute…

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Do you have a chocolate problem or an oxygen problem?

Run out of chocolate, and that’s a shame. Run out of oxygen and you’re doomed. Sometimes, we overdo our reliance on chocolate. It’s better in small doses–too much and it loses its magic. And sometimes we confuse the thing we want with the thing we need… If your day or your project or your organization…

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Problems and boundaries

All problems have solutions. That’s what makes them problems. The solution might involve trade-offs or expenses that you don’t want to incur. You might choose not to solve the problem. But there is a solution. Perhaps you haven’t found it yet. Perhaps you need to do more research or make some tradeoffs in what you’re…

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How to be honorable

Honorable men (at least that’s what they called themselves) used to settle their disputes with dueling pistols. Honorable women used to bind their feet and shame others that didn’t. Honorable humans used to own slaves. “Honorable” has always been measured against the current culture, not an absolute of what we’re capable of. Over time, then,…

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Don’t steal metrics

A thoughtful friend has a new project, and decided to integrate a podcast into it. Talking to a producer, he said that his goal was to make it a “top 10 podcast on iTunes.” Why is that the goal? That’s a common goal, a popular goal, someone else’s goal. The compromises necessary to make it…

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Asserting anthropomorphism

We’ve been doing it for a long time. “The Gods must be crazy.” The easiest way for a human to deal with a complex system (an AI that plays Scrabble, the traffic, the weather) is to imagine that there’s a little man inside, someone a lot like us, pulling the levers, getting annoyed, becoming frustrated,…

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Fads in belief

Over time, some people embrace edge beliefs like ear candling, the Stein Harmonizer and hydrogen infused water, among thousands of others. Our search for reassurance and belief is built deep into our culture. And if it’s not hurting anyone and you can afford it, a placebo is a fine tool, and often a bargain, possibly effective…

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Should you say ‘please’ to an AI?

There are two reasons we say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. The first is pretty obvious. It gives the other person dignity. It acknowledges their humanity. It implies that at some level, this engagement is voluntary. But of course, none of this is true when we’re talking to Siri or Alexa. There’s a second reason. It…

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The instigator

In The Wizard of Oz, we meet a powerful heroine. Dorothy is resolute, focused and honest. A generous partner, leading her friends to where they seek to go. “C’mon, let’s go,” is a great sentence, worth using more often. It doesn’t require a permit, a badge or a degree. It’s simply the work of someone…

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