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It was only a matter of time

The question, of course, is how long?

We’ve been working hard on fusion for sixty years (using ‘we’ to include myself with all of humanity, not because I’m a physicist).

The Post writes: “To most of us, this was only a matter of time,” said a senior fusion scientist familiar with the work of the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where the discovery was made.

If fusion arrives in a workable fashion in the next few years, the entire world changes, forever, and for the better. Geopolitics and the axis of colonialism/petrostates will be quickly rewritten. Climate issues will be transformed. Our ability to feed, house and enrich the lives of billions of people will be dramatically amplified.

There are lots of things that are inevitable eventually. Betting on the arc of history often turns out okay.

The hard part is figuring out how long eventually is. And then doing what we can to help it arrive.

And what if you can’t tell?

Our stories about brains are all invented.

If a stunning surrealistic painting turns out to have been painted by an elephant or a toddler, does that make it less beautiful?

If an essay on the nature of reality was written by GPT-3 or a Tufts scholar, does it matter?

There are people who have no voice in their heads–they function as ordinary humans, except without the jabbering noise some of us call ‘consciousness’. Are they still human?

If a book was written by a ghost writer, or a team of ghost writers, does that make it less of a book? Not worth reading?

At some point, these aren’t simply philosophical debates. Given the connected nature of our economy and the advances of AI, these questions are showing up in our lives every single day.

All of the intent that we’re busy assuming that other creators have is invented. By us.

The stuff we interact with, created by us, by animals and by computers, it is simply the result of synapses firing away. We invent the story of its creation for our own satisfaction and sustenance.

Attention, trust and GPT3

When AI is smart enough to write an essay, then what happens?

GPT3 is back in the news, because, as expected, it’s getting better and better. Using a simple chat interface, you can easily ask it a wide range of questions (write a 1,000 word essay about Clara Barton) that certainly feels like a diligent high school student wrote it.

Of course, this changes things, just as the camera, the typewriter and the internet changed things.

It means that creating huge amounts of mediocre material is easier than ever before. You can write a bad Seinfeld script in about six minutes.

It means that assigning rudimentary essays in school or average copywriting at work is now a waste of time.

But mostly it reminds us that attention and trust don’t scale.

If your work isn’t more useful or insightful or urgent than GPT can create in 12 seconds, don’t interrupt people with it.

Technology begins by making old work easier, but then it requires that new work be better.

Don’t let a story get in the way

The thing is that facts almost never get in the way of a good story.

Because a good story feels true.

A good story resonates.

A good story is based on our feelings, long-held and hard-earned.

A good story sticks with us, regardless of the facts.

If I bring facts to rebut your story, they will fail… unless the facts I bring are the foundation for a new story, a story about doing something smart, based on evidence or simply more effective.

But facts alone have little chance in a battle with a good story.

Part of the job of making change is working to make sure a bad story doesn’t get in the way of good facts.

The best job you ever had

Would you fill out this simple, quick and informal survey for me?

We spend most of our lives at work. And yet we don’t spend much time talking about it the opportunity to make it worthwhile.


“You’re right”

If a customer, a colleague or a friend is generous enough to share their feelings, those feelings are what they are.

We might disagree with the assumptions that led to those feelings. But acknowledging that the feelings are real is a great place to begin a conversation.

“You feel this way” is not the same as “Everyone who experienced what you experienced would feel the same way.”

The eggplants before Richard Nixon

For thousands of years, eggplants have had ‘features’ like this. But once we learned what they resemble, we can’t unsee it. It used to be a weird shape for a vegetable, but now it looks eerily like a former President.

Once we find a hook, we can’t forget it.

Our job as story tellers is to find one of those hooks.

PS a fabulous holiday gift box from Megan Giller (ethical, delicious chocolate) is right here.

The Massie Effect

Put this one next to Dunning Kruger, which shows that people of low ability traditionally overrate how talented they are.

The Massie Effect is the tendency of people who support good causes to believe they are in the minority.

A study at Princeton showed that almost 80% of Americans believe we should take action on the climate, but those people believe that only 37% of their fellow Americans agree with them.

Feeling like an overlooked minority can let us off the hook. It can give us a chance to embrace our imagined position as leaders. But mostly, it undermines the confidence we need to actually take action.

If you care, it’s likely others do too.


In a competition between someone who knows the most and someone who is willing to learn the most, the edge usually goes to the curious and empathic professional, not the one who is simply protecting what’s already known.

When we look in the mirror

When we look in the mirror, who do we see?

[A note I sent to a young friend.]

The person we see when we look in the mirror is the person we become, the person we fight to defend and persist with.

If you see someone who doesn’t have a lot of friends, then every time a potential friend comes along, you will find a way to distance yourself from the heartache of being rejected, and you’ll continue to not have a lot of friends.

If you see someone who isn’t happy with inputs you can’t control, then when new inputs come along, you’ll find something wrong with them and seek more control not less.

If you see someone who thrives on challenges, challenges will become a chance to thrive.

Each day gives us the best chance in the world to see a different person in the mirror.

A chance to change the stories we tell ourselves.

Airplanes rarely crash. It doesn’t matter. Turbulence isn’t fatal. It doesn’t matter. If you want to tell yourself a story about air travel, that’s your story and as far as you can take it, it’s true. It’s your story and no one can take it away from you.

Perhaps you’re homesick. Home is great. Home is wonderful. Missing home is a sign that you have a home worth missing. Being homesick is a story we tell ourselves about who we are.

But who will you become? Who can you become?

It turns out that when you’re surrounded by people who care about you, when you have freedom and a chance to lead, you can become a different, more generous, happier, more powerful, more friended version of yourself.

If you want to become the kind of person who can teach an 8-year-old how to play basketball, you can start doing that right now.

If you want to be the kind of person who leads, you can begin to lead.

If you want to.

Because you’re smart, you care, you have something to say. Because there are people who love you and care about you.

And the best way to honor those people, and honor yourself, is to become the person you were born to be.

If you want to.

Today is the best day to begin that journey. If you wait, it gets harder.

Who do you want to be when you look in the mirror?