Category Archives: History & Culture

The Economic History of the Last 2,000 Years in 1 Little Graph — The Atlantic

From the Atlantic

Business - Derek Thompson - The Economic History of the Last 2,000 Years in 1 Little Graph - The Atlantic

Every­thing you need to know about GDP for the last 2000 years. It seems like 1952 was indeed, a very good year…

Before the Indus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, there wasn’t really any such thing as last­ing income growth from pro­duc­tiv­ity. In the thou­sands of years before the Indus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, civ­i­liza­tion was stuck in the Malthu­sian Trap. If lots of peo­ple died, incomes tended to go up, as fewer work­ers ben­e­fited from a sta­ble sup­ply of crops. If lots of peo­ple were born, how­ever, incomes would fall, which often led to more deaths. That explains the “trap,” and it also explains why pop­u­la­tions so closely approx­i­mated GDP around the world.

Busi­ness — Derek Thomp­son — The Eco­nomic His­tory of the Last 2,000 Years in 1 Lit­tle Graph — The Atlantic.

Steve Jobs



Steve Jobs 1955 — 2011


I’m adding Guy Kawasaki’s post from Google+ in its entirety because I think Mr. Kawasaki has illu­mi­nated some very impor­tant lessons for all of us in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sectors.

(one of these is 60pt type and one graphic. Are you lis­ten­ing, Office Weasels? If you have to read it off your Pow­er­Puff slide, you don’t know it and you don’t believe it.)

What I Learned From Steve Jobs

–by Guy Kawasaki (via Google+)

Many peo­ple have explained what one can learn from Steve Jobs. But few, if any, of these peo­ple have been inside the tent and expe­ri­enced first hand what it was like to work with him. I don’t want any lessons to be lost or for­got­ten, so here is my list of the top twelve lessons that I learned from Steve Jobs.

Experts are clueless.

Experts—journalists, ana­lysts, con­sul­tants, bankers, and gurus can’t “do” so they “advise.” They can tell you what is wrong with your prod­uct, but they can­not make a great one. They can tell you how to sell some­thing, but they can­not sell it them­selves. They can tell you how to cre­ate great teams, but they only man­age a sec­re­tary. For exam­ple, the experts told us that the two biggest short­com­ings of Mac­in­tosh in the mid 1980s was the lack of a daisy-wheel printer dri­ver and Lotus 1−2−3; another advice gem from the experts was to buy Com­paq. Hear what experts say, but don’t always lis­ten to them.

Cus­tomers can­not tell you what they need.

Apple mar­ket research” is an oxy­moron. The Apple focus group was the right hemi­sphere of Steve’s brain talk­ing to the left one. If you ask cus­tomers what they want, they will tell you, “Bet­ter, faster, and cheaper”—that is, bet­ter same­ness, not rev­o­lu­tion­ary change. They can only describe their desires in terms of what they are already using—around the time of the intro­duc­tion of Mac­in­tosh, all peo­ple said they wanted was bet­ter, faster, and cheaper MS-DOS machines. The rich­est vein for tech star­tups is cre­at­ing the prod­uct that you want to use—that’s what Steve and Woz did.

Jump to the next curve.

Big wins hap­pen when you go beyond bet­ter same­ness. The best daisy-wheel printer com­pa­nies were intro­duc­ing new fonts in more sizes. Apple intro­duced the next curve: laser print­ing. Think of ice har­vesters, ice fac­to­ries, and refrig­er­a­tor com­pa­nies. Ice 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Are you still har­vest­ing ice dur­ing the win­ter from a frozen pond?

The biggest chal­lenges beget best work.

I lived in fear that Steve would tell me that I, or my work, was crap. In pub­lic. This fear was a big chal­lenge. Com­pet­ing with IBM and then Microsoft was a big chal­lenge. Chang­ing the world was a big chal­lenge. I, and Apple employ­ees before me and after me, did their best work because we had to do our best work to meet the big challenges.

Design counts.

Steve drove peo­ple nuts with his design demands—some shades of black weren’t black enough. Mere mor­tals think that black is black, and that a trash can is a trash can. Steve was such a perfectionist—a per­fec­tion­ist Beyond: Thunderdome—and lo and behold he was right: some peo­ple care about design and many peo­ple at least sense it. Maybe not every­one, but the impor­tant ones.

You can’t go wrong with big graph­ics and big fonts.

Take a look at Steve’s slides. The font is sixty points. There’s usu­ally one big screen­shot or graphic. Look at other tech speaker’s slides—even the ones who have seen Steve in action. The font is eight points, and there are no graph­ics. So many peo­ple say that Steve was the world’s great­est prod­uct intro­duc­tion guy..don’t you won­der why more peo­ple don’t copy his style?

Chang­ing your mind is a sign of intelligence.

When Apple first shipped the iPhone there was no such thing as apps. Apps, Steve decreed, were a bad thing because you never know what they could be doing to your phone. Safari web apps were the way to go until six months later when Steve decided, or some­one con­vinced Steve, that apps were the way to go—but of course. Duh! Apple came a long way in a short time from Safari web apps to “there’s an app for that.”

“Value” is dif­fer­ent from “price.”

Woe unto you if you decide every­thing based on price. Even more woe unto you if you com­pete solely on price. Price is not all that matters—what is impor­tant, at least to some peo­ple, is value. And value takes into account train­ing, sup­port, and the intrin­sic joy of using the best tool that’s made. It’s pretty safe to say that no one buys Apple prod­ucts because of their low price.

A play­ers hire A+ players.

Actu­ally, Steve believed that A play­ers hire A players—that is peo­ple who are as good as they are. I refined this slightly—my the­ory is that A play­ers hire peo­ple even bet­ter than them­selves. It’s clear, though, that B play­ers hire C play­ers so they can feel supe­rior to them, and C play­ers hire D play­ers. If you start hir­ing B play­ers, expect what Steve called “the bozo explo­sion” to hap­pen in your organization.

Readl CEOs demo.

Steve Jobs could demo a pod, pad, phone, and Mac two to three times a year with mil­lions of peo­ple watch­ing, why is it that many CEOs call upon their vice-president of engi­neer­ing to do a prod­uct demo? Maybe it’s to show that there’s a team effort in play. Maybe. It’s more likely that the CEO doesn’t under­stand what his/her com­pany is mak­ing well enough to explain it. How pathetic is that?

Real CEOs ship.

For all his per­fec­tion­ism, Steve could ship. Maybe the prod­uct wasn’t per­fect every time, but it was almost always great enough to go. The les­son is that Steve wasn’t tin­ker­ing for the sake of tinkering—he had a goal: ship­ping and achiev­ing world­wide dom­i­na­tion of exist­ing mar­kets or cre­ation of new mar­kets. Apple is an engineering-centric com­pany, not a research-centric one. Which would you rather be: Apple or Xerox PARC?

Mar­ket­ing boils down to pro­vid­ing unique value.

Think of a 2 x 2 matrix. The ver­ti­cal axis mea­sures how your prod­uct dif­fers from the com­pe­ti­tion. The hor­i­zon­tal axis mea­sures the value of your prod­uct. Bot­tom right: valu­able but not unique—you’ll have to com­pete on price. Top left: unique but not valuable—you’ll own a mar­ket that doesn’t exist. Bot­tom left: not unique and not value—you’re a bozo. Top right: unique and valuable—this is where you make mar­gin, money, and his­tory. For exam­ple, the iPod was unique and valu­able because it was the only way to legally, inex­pen­sively, and eas­ily down­load music from the six biggest record labels.

Bonus: Some things need to be believed to be seen. When you are jump­ing curves, defying/ignoring the experts, fac­ing off against big chal­lenges, obsess­ing about design, and focus­ing on unique value, you will need to con­vince peo­ple to believe in what you are doing in order to see your efforts come to fruition. Peo­ple needed to believe in Mac­in­tosh to see it become real. Ditto for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Not every­one will believe—that’s okay. But the start­ing point of chang­ing the world is chang­ing a few minds. This is the great­est les­son of all that I learned from Steve.

From me to Steve Jobs …thanks.



Digital Dead Sea Scrolls

 This is an amaz­ing resource for the Scholar, the Curi­ous, the His­to­rian, or any­one with an inter­est in the ori­gins of the Abra­hamic monothe­is­tic religions…

“As you use the trans­la­tor tool in the scroll viewer, we would like to call your atten­tion to the com­plex­i­ties of trans­lat­ing the words of the Prophet Isa­iah of around 2,800 years ago, as reflected in the dif­fer­ent Hebrew vari­ants and sub­se­quent Eng­lish trans­la­tions. The museum’s mis­sion here is to pro­vide you the back­ground infor­ma­tion required to reach your own objec­tive per­spec­tive when read­ing this Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the bib­li­cal text.”

via Dig­i­tal Dead Sea Scrolls.

Mark Lynas: The myth of Easter Island’s ecocide


Was it human folly and cov­etous­ness that brought about “Eco­cide” on Easter Island or were there other forces at work?


Few his­tor­i­cal tales of eco­log­i­cal col­lapse have achieved the cul­tural res­o­nance of that of Easter Island. In the con­ven­tional account, best pop­u­larised by Jared Dia­mond in his 2005 book ‘Col­lapse’, the islanders brought doom upon them­selves by over-exploiting their lim­ited envi­ron­ment, thereby pro­vid­ing a com­pelling anal­ogy for mod­ern times. Yet recent archae­o­log­i­cal work sug­gests that the eco-collapse hypoth­e­sis is almost cer­tainly wrong – and that the truth is far more shocking.

Diamond’s the­sis is that the island’s orig­i­nal lush tree-cover was destroyed by the Poly­ne­sian colonists, whose cult of mak­ing mas­sive stat­ues (for which the island is now famous) required prodi­gious amounts of wood to trans­port these huge rock idols. He sug­gests that as the eco­log­i­cal cri­sis brought on by defor­esta­tion wors­ened, the islanders tried to appease their appar­ently angry gods by mak­ing and trans­port­ing yet more stat­ues, cre­at­ing a vicious cir­cle of human stupidity.

The real mys­tery of Easter Island, how­ever, is not its col­lapse. It is why dis­tin­guished sci­en­tists feel com­pelled to con­coct a story of eco­log­i­cal sui­cide when the actual per­pe­tra­tors of the civilisation’s delib­er­ate destruc­tion are well known and were iden­ti­fied long ago…

via Mark Lynas: Home » global sus­tain­abil­ity » The myth of Easter Island’s eco­cide.

Roman Egypt | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Heil­brunn Time­line of Art His­tory: essay on Roman Egypt


The Heil­brunn Time­line of Art His­tory is prob­a­bly the best con­ceived and exe­cuted resource of its kind that I have yet seen. You can get lost in it for hours. This edi­tion is about a fas­ci­nat­ing period of time — Roman Egypt

“Rome’s rule over Egypt offi­cially began with the arrival of Octa­vian (later called Augus­tus) in 30B.C., fol­low­ing his defeat of Marc Antony and Cleopa­tra in the bat­tle at Actium. Augus­tus, who pre­sented him­self to the peo­ple of Egypt as the suc­ces­sor to the pharaohs, dis­man­tled the Ptole­maic monar­chy and annexed the coun­try as his per­sonal estate. He appointed a pre­fect (gov­er­nor) for a lim­ited term, which effec­tively depoliti­cized the coun­try, neu­tral­ized rival­ries for its con­trol among pow­er­ful Romans, and under­mined any pos­si­ble focus for local sen­ti­ments. For almost a decade, Egypt was gar­risoned with Roman legions and aux­il­iary units until con­di­tions became sta­ble. All busi­ness was trans­acted accord­ing to the prin­ci­ples and pro­ce­dures of Roman law, and local admin­is­tra­tion was con­verted to a litur­gic sys­tem in which own­er­ship of prop­erty brought an oblig­a­tion of pub­lic ser­vice. New struc­tures of gov­ern­ment for­mal­ized the priv­i­leges asso­ci­ated with “Greek” background.”

Source: Roman Egypt | The­matic Essay | Heil­brunn Time­line of Art His­tory | The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Museum of Art

Plato, Web2, and the End of Critical Thinking


The Web will be the end of Crit­i­cal Thinking

It is fairly com­mon, par­tic­u­larly among infor­mal groups of edu­ca­tors, to hear some­one  exco­ri­ate the Web, Social Media, and Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy in gen­eral. “Our kids don’t think any­more, they just click.” The argu­ment is that Social Media and text mes­sag­ing are erod­ing, if not destroy­ing, the abil­ity of young peo­ple to write coher­ent sen­tences. In “my day” if you wanted to learn some­thing, you had to pick up a book, roll up your sleeves, and con­cen­trate. Nowa­days, you just Google it or, if you go in for heavy intel­lec­tual lift­ing, you can take five min­utes and read about it in Wikipedia.

[When I started UC Berke­ley, an under­grad­u­ate had to have a ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment to learn­ing. In order to access “infor­ma­tion,” it was nec­es­sary to enter the “tem­ple of knowl­edge” (the Library), go to the mas­sive ranks of card cat­a­logues, and start thumb­ing. When three likely sources were found, cards would be filled out and handed to the keeper of the books. Elves would scurry through the stacks retriev­ing the requested tomes. As it hap­pened, usu­ally only one of the three would be of any use and the process began again. –Today, I can find more infor­ma­tion in five min­utes than I could in a week in 1967.]

What does this all have to do with Plato? Two-and-a-half mil­len­nia ago, Plato also lived in a time of chang­ing tech­nolo­gies. Plato was lit­er­ate, just as most edu­ca­tors use email, Google, and to a cer­tain extent, social media. Like other edu­ca­tors, Plato was gen­er­ally con­ser­v­a­tive though, and skep­ti­cal of change. One of these changes was the rapid spread of writ­ten lan­guage. Plato felt that writ­ing would, in essence, destroy crit­i­cal think­ing by mak­ing people’s minds lazy. Why remem­ber when all you have to do is open a scroll?

Does any of this sound famil­iar? This is what Plato said about the loss of essen­tial skills result­ing from the adop­tion of new technologies:

“[Writ­ing] will intro­duce for­get­ful­ness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not prac­tice using their mem­ory because they will put their trust in writ­ing, which is exter­nal and depends on signs that belong to oth­ers, instead of try­ing to remem­ber from the inside, com­pletely on their own. You have not dis­cov­ered a potion for remem­ber­ing, but for remind­ing; you pro­vide your stu­dents with the appear­ance of wis­dom, not with its real­ity. Your inven­tion will enable them to hear many things with­out being prop­erly taught, and they will imag­ine that they have came to know much while for the most part they will know noth­ing. And they will be dif­fi­cult to get along with, since they will merely appear to be wise instead of really being so.” (Phae­drus 275a-b)

Plato was also pre­scient about content-filtering. There are some things and ideas that should not be shared indiscriminately.

“You know, Phae­drus, writ­ing shares a strange fea­ture with paint­ing. The off­springs of paint­ing stand there as if they are alive, but if any­one asks them any­thing, they remain most solemnly silent. The same is true of writ­ten words. You’d think they were speak­ing as if they had some under­stand­ing, but if you ques­tion any­thing that has been said because you want to learn more, it con­tin­ues to sig­nify just that very same hing for­ever. When it has once been writ­ten down, every dis­course roams about every­where, reach­ing indis­crim­i­nately those with under­stand­ing no less than those who have no busi­ness with it, and it doesn’t know to whom it should speak and to whom it should not. And when it is faulted and attacked unfairly, it always needs its father’s sup­port; alone, it can nei­ther defend itself nor come to its own sup­port.” (Phae­drus 275d-e)

There are some ideas that not just any­one should be able to access.

Change is dan­ger­ous. It threat­ens to sweep away things that we have always believed. It fright­ens us because we feel that we don’t under­stand it and can’t con­trol it. Funny thing is: it’s always hap­pened and we’ve always man­aged to use chang­ing ideas and chang­ing ways of doing things to our advantage.

You could go to the Library and see if they can find a copy or…

you can read the full text of Phae­drus here. You can even down­load an audio ver­sion for your iPod/iPhone/iPad.

David Leventi | Opera Houses

David Lev­enti — from “Opera”

A visu­ally stun­ning col­lec­tion of pho­tos of the inte­ri­ors of Euro­pean Opera Houses

a riv­et­ing col­lec­tion of Euro­pean Opera houses

…and a reminder of the impor­tance of the visual in the per­for­mance of music

real-life music is about see­ing as well as about hearing

See the entire exhibit, and more…

David Lev­enti Pho­tog­ra­phy.

Sami — Erica Larsen


Stun­ning photo gallery about the Sámi by erika larsen

I see Sámi Peo­ple liv­ing in two worlds.

They are of the now. They are of the past.

When I am here a week seems like eter­nity.
This place will change me for­ever.
I am a sto­ry­teller and this becomes clearer now.

The days are nights and the nights are days.
The rein­deer move at night because the snow is harder and eas­ier
to move. There­fore so do we.

This place is Coalm­me­javri.
It means shal­low water between two lakes.

Time does not exist here, not really any­way.
Yes­ter­day I stood in a vac­uum of fog, Murku, win­ter fog.
It was a place where every­thing could exist but noth­ing does.

We stay in a lavvo and I what I think most queer
is that even though the tun­dra seems absent of all life we get vis­i­tors every­day.
I can’t say for sure where they mate­ri­al­ize from since I have yet to see another lavvo
but I sup­pose in the vast­ness of the tun­dra it would be fool­ish of me to think we are alone.

This life is hard, the work with the reindeer.

The weather is ever chang­ing and unin­ter­ested in the com­fort of those who inhabit the land­scape.
The weather takes all the energy out a man.
He wears it on his face.

But the peo­ple are proud of their work.
They are proud to be Sámi.
Every ounce of their being is Sámi.

SAMI » Erika Larsen Pho­tog­ra­phy.


a Sámi fam­ily from ca 1900


More about the Sámi

another Sámi archae­ol­ogy site

Egyptian Antiquities Official Says He Is Leaving Post —

If the gov­ern­ment will ask me again, I will not accept this job,” Mr. Hawass said in a tele­phone interview.

He also posted on his blog a list of some two dozen sites that have been looted or van­dal­ized since the begin­ning of the upris­ing that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Among them were the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Museum of Art’s store­rooms at its exca­va­tion site in Dahshur, south of Cairo, which he said were attacked twice.In recent weeks, Mr. Hawass has been the tar­get of crit­i­cism rang­ing from charges of cor­rup­tion to com­plaints that he is a pub­lic­ity seeker. He was closely asso­ci­ated with Mr. Mubarak, who pro­moted him to a cab­i­net posi­tion dur­ing his last days in power.

via Egypt­ian Antiq­ui­ties Offi­cial Says He Is Leav­ing Post —

GOOD Design: Do You Double Space After Periods?

The extra space after a period is an arti­fact of the days of the mechan­i­cal typewriter.

This is one of those issues about which I also have a very strong opin­ion. One of the things that is not men­tioned by the author of this piece is how all of those extra spaces in a long doc­u­ment play havoc with lay­out when you try to re-purpose the doc­u­ment for the web or other elec­tronic media.

Design­ers tend to be overly opin­ion­ated about lots of things that the rest of the world doesnt care much about. Bad logos. Poor color choices. And don’t get them started on the pros and cons mostly cons of Comic Sans. But theres one argu­ment where design­ers, namely type design­ers, do know best. And thats the argu­ment against plac­ing a dou­ble space after a period.

The deal is this: Long, long ago some of us learned to type on type­writ­ers, which, for the most part, used mono­space fonts, or let­ters that each took up the exact same width. We were instructed to insert an extra space to give that period some room before the next cap­i­tal letter.

With the evo­lu­tion of type pro­grams on com­put­ers, we now use pro­por­tional fonts, where the com­puter knows that an “i” takes up less space than an “m” and adjusts the space accord­ingly. The same thing goes for the period at the end of this sen­tence. Trust me. Your com­puter knows best.

read the whole piece — it’s pretty good:

via GOOD Design Daily: Do You Dou­ble Space After Peri­ods? — Design — GOOD.