Of Maps & Measures—Weekly Wisdom

Also, the price of discipline, the when-to of balance, the value of a book, and why search engines are dead!

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💡Something I learned

The measure is the map, and it is not the territory

In a recent newsletter, I shared an example of Goodhart’s law; when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. It was new to me, but felt similar. Because it is just an expression of another concept; the map is not the territory.

You might have come across this viral clip from the TV show West Wing. It is about the Mercator projection; the flat map that is popular in classrooms everywhere. It is a great sea navigation tool, but it distorts the size of the land mass. It is just a map, it is not the world. If you use it as a guide to for a walking tour across Africa, you will fail.

Similar to this, The GDP is just an indicator of an economy. Same goes unemployment rate, the average income, etc. They are supposed to provide a map to navigate policy decisions, not supposed to be a goal of said policy. It is also a great thing to keep in mind when you are working on something personal or professional.

📕Something to read

  • Oh, 2022!: Predictions are hard. Especially about the future. Charlie Strauss, the Patron Saint of Futurists, looks back at his predictions for 2022. He also predicts the what the world will look like in 2022.
  • Search is Dead: I wrote last year about how search engines are more or less broken. They have no incentives to be better any more, and even if they did, there isn’t any valuable content for them to index. The issue recently received more attention recently on Twitter. I am writing a follow-up right that will be up soon.
  • Neeva will not save us…: In 2020, as part of my 30 days of blog series, I wrote about Neeva, a paid-subscription privacy-focused search engine founded by an Ex-Google exec. It was nothing more than a press release back then. There was a lot of buzz around it back then. I layed-out how their business is just a red-herring for a predictable exit strategy.

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🗣Some Quotes and Notes

The First Law of Discipline

Discipline is an important part of living a complete life. Freedom is not the ability to follow your impulses without constraints. Without constraints, you are just a slave to yourself.

However there is a dark side to discipline. Especially when it comes from outside the self. This essay goes into that side. The author talks about his struggles in school. He also discusses the tumultuous life of the former bad boy of Tennis, Andre Agassi.

The First Law of Thermodynamics comes to life whenever you boil water. As you crank up the heat on the stove, heat is transferred from the stove to the kettle. You can’t cheat the laws of physics, no matter what you do. As the water boils, the kettle begins to whistle and condensation begins to build. Likewise, suffocating a person’s free will for too long will result in harmful second-order effects for individuals and society at-large. This is the price of discipline.

— David Perell, The Price of Discipline

Learning Economics

College tuition at $25,000 a year comes out to roughly $100 per lecture. Good books – sometimes written by the same professor – can be purchased for fifteen bucks and can offer multiple times as much life-changing insights.

— Morgan Housel, How to Read

When-to Balance

Author James Clear summarizes the counterintuitive nature of Balance.

Balance is timing, not intensity.

It is not doing multiple tasks at 80%, but developing the skill of turning it on and turning it off.

Sleep fully, then work intensely. Focus deeply, then relax completely. Give each phase your full attention.

Balance is ‘when to’ not ‘how to’.

— James Clear, 3 ideas…

Thank you for joining me this week. If you know some who might enjoy this, please forward this email to them. You can also sign-up for the email below. See you next week.

Mudassir Chapra

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