jerryking + polymaths   12

Da Vinci code: what the tech age can learn from Leonardo
April 26, 2019 | Financial Times | by Ian Goldin.

While Leonardo is recognised principally for his artistic genius, barely a dozen paintings can be unequivocally attributed to him. In life, he defined himself not as an artist but as an engineer and architect......History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. The Renaissance catapulted Italy from the Medieval age to become the most advanced place on Earth. Then, as now, change brought immense riches to some and growing anxiety and disillusionment to others. We too live in an age of accelerating change, one that has provoked its own fierce backlash. What lessons can we draw from Leonardo and his time to ensure that we not only benefit from a new flourishing, but that progress will be sustained? When we think of the Renaissance, we think of Florence. Leonardo arrived in the city in the mid 1460s, and as a teenager was apprenticed to the painter Verrocchio. The city was already an incubator for ideas. At the centre of the European wool trade, by the late 14th century Florence had become the home of wealthy merchants including the Medicis, who were bankers to the Papal Court. The city’s rapid advances were associated with the information and ideas revolution that defines the Renaissance. Johann Gutenberg had used moveable type to publish his Bible in the early 1450s, and between the time of Leonardo’s birth in 1452 and his 20th birthday, some 15m books were printed, more than all the European scribes had produced over the previous 1,500 years. Leonardo knew, and the Silicon Valley techno-evangelists too often neglect, information revolutions don’t only allow good ideas to flourish. They also provide a platform for dangerous ideas. The Zuckerberg information revolution can pose a similar threat to that of Gutenberg.

In the battle of ideas, populists are able to mobilise the disaffected more effectively than cerebral scientists, decently disciplined innovators and the moderate and often silent majority. For progress to prevail, evidence-based, innovative and reasoned thinking must triumph.
.....Genius thrived in the Renaissance because of the supportive ecosystem that aided the creation and dissemination of knowledge — which then was crushed by the fearful inquisitions. Today, tolerance and evidence-based argument are again under threat.
accelerated_lifecycles  architecture  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  capitalization  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  curiosity  dangerous_ideas  digital_economy  diversity  engineering  evidence_based  Florence  genius  globalization  human_potential  ideas  immigrants  Italy  industry_expertise  Johan_Gutenberg  lessons_learned  Leonardo_da_Vinci  Medicis  medieval  physical_place  polymaths  observations  Renaissance  Renaissance_Man  Silicon_Valley  silo_mentality  tolerance  unevenly_distributed  visionaries 
april 2019 by jerryking
5 books worth reading this summer
May 21, 2018 | | LinkedIn| Bill Gates

Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson. I think Leonardo was one of the most fascinating people ever. Although today he’s best known as a painter, Leonardo had an absurdly wide range of interests, from human anatomy to the theater...... A worthy follow-up to Isaacson’s great biographies of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs.

Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler.

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about Abraham Lincoln, but this novel made me rethink parts of his life. It blends historical facts from the Civil War with fantastical elements—it’s basically a long conversation among 166 ghosts, including Lincoln’s deceased son.

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, by David Christian.

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund.
billgates  books  booklists  Abraham_Lincoln  biographies  cancers  facts  Hans_Rosling  Leonardo_da_Vinci  origin_story  polymaths  summertime  Walter_Isaacson  Geoge_Saunders 
may 2018 by jerryking
Review: New biography Leonardo da Vinci examines the archetypal Renaissance Man - The Globe and Mail

Da Vinci was the archetypal Renaissance Man, ignoring the borders of science and art. His promiscuous curiosity was – well, the stuff of genius......Isaacson argues that da Vinci is history's greatest creative genius and, given the evidence amassed in this 600-page work, one would be hard-pressed to argue.....da Vinci's genius springs from his disregard for categories. Whereas a visual artist today would be encouraged by a hundred confounding factors to "stay in her lane" and pursue visual art for its own sake, da Vinci would have been disgusted by such constraints. Science was no distraction; in fact, science fed his paintings.....da Vinci had a reverence for the wholeness of nature and a feel for the harmony of its patterns, which he saw replicated in phenomena large and small."......Da Vinci's was a world where life held knowable patterns. Dig deep enough, expend enough honest curiosity, and the mysteries of the universe began to unfurl. .....The book – as approachable as it is enlightening – achieves something similar; it inspires the reader to become more curious about the patterns underlying its subject – just as da Vinci was curious about the patterns underlying everything else.
biographies  books  book_reviews  creativity  genius  Leonardo_da_Vinci  Medici  patterns  pattern_recognition  polymaths  Renaissance  Renaissance_Man  transgressiveness  Walter_Isaacson 
december 2017 by jerryking
Biographer Walter Isaacson explains what made Leonardo da Vinci a genius - The Globe and Mail

What we can learn from Leonardo constitutes the peculiar last chapter of this otherwise sober and cautious biography. At its end Isaacson moves from his role as historian into something closer to self-help guru. He lists a set of Leonardish attributes for us to emulate that sound a lot like advice to tech startups: "Retain a childlike sense of wonder… Think visually… Avoid silos… Collaborate…" Add this to repeated comparisons to Steve Jobs, a previous biographee of Isaacson's, and one is reminded that this is a very American biography (Isaacson was managing editor of Time magazine for years), one that sees "creativity" as primarily a corporate asset.
Russell_Smith  books  biographies  genius  Leonardo_da_Vinci  Walter_Isaacson  Steve_Jobs  polymaths  foxes  hedgehogs  renaissance  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  generalists  curiosity  creativity  collaboration  silo_mentality 
december 2017 by jerryking
For workers, challenge is all to easily ducked
July 2017 | Financial Times | Tim Harford

Cal Newport: Deep Work
Robert Twiggs : Micromastery

The modern knowledge worker — a programmer, a lawyer, a newspaper columnist — might appear inoculated from Adam Smith’s concern. We face not monotony but the temptations of endless variety, with the entire internet just a click away. All too easily, we can be pulled into the cycle of what slot-machine designers call a “ludic loop”, repeating the same actions again and again. Check email. Check Facebook. Check Instagram. Check Twitter. Check email. Repeat....what is a ludic loop but “performing a few simple operations, of which the effects, too, are perhaps always the same”?

Smith was concerned about jobs that provided no mental challenge: if problems or surprises never arose, then a worker “has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention, in . . . removing difficulties which never occur.”

For the modern knowledge worker, the problem is not that the work lacks challenge, but that the challenge is easily ducked. This point is powerfully made by computer scientist Cal Newport in his book Deep Work. Work that matters is often difficult. It can be absorbing in mid-flow and satisfying in retrospect, but it is intimidating and headache-inducing and full of false starts.

[Responding to ] Email is easier. And reading Newport’s book I realised that email posed a double temptation: not only is it an instant release from a hard task, but it even seems like work. Being an email ninja looks professional and seems professional — but all too often, it is displacement activity for the work that really matters.

A curious echo of Smith’s warning comes in Robert Twigger’s new book Micromastery. Mr Twigger sings the praises of mastering one small skill at a time: not how to cook, but how to make the perfect omelette; not how to build a log cabin, but how to chop a log. We go deep — as Newport demands — but these sharp spikes of skill are satisfying, not too hard to acquire and a path to true expertise.

They also provide variety. “Simply growing up in the premodern period guaranteed a polymathic background,” writes Twigger. To prosper in the premodern era required many different skills; a smart person would be able to see a problem from many angles. A craft-based, practical upbringing means creative thinking comes naturally. “It is only as we surge towards greater specialisation and mechanisation that we begin to talk about creativity and innovation.”

Three lessons:
(1) learning matters. Smith wanted schooling for all; Twigger urges us to keep schooling ourselves. Both are right.
(2) serious work requires real effort, and it can be tempting to duck that effort. Having the freedom to avoid strenuous thinking is a privilege I am glad to have — but I am happier when I don’t abuse that freedom. [Mavity says: “If you need to produce an idea, isolating yourself can be enormously beneficial.”......“How you do that in a big open-plan office with 100 other people trying to be creative at the same time?.......Solitude is in hopelessly short supply at a time when companies are captivated by the financial allure of the open-plan office and its evil twin, hot-desking. ]
(3) old-fashioned craft offered us something special. To Smith it was the challenge that came from solving unpredictable problems. To Twigger it is the variety of having to do many small things well. To Newport, it is the flow that comes from deep immersion in a skill that requires mastery. Perhaps all three mean the same thing.

Smith realised that the coming industrial age threatened these special joys of work. The post-industrial age threatens them too, in a rather different way. ....“The understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments,” wrote Smith. So whether at work or at play, let us take care that we employ ourselves wisely.
Adam_Smith  books  busywork  Cal_Newport  distractions  expertise  GTD  hard_work  industrial_age  knowledge_workers  lessons_learned  productivity  polymaths  premodern  procrastination  skills  solitude  thinking_deliberatively  Tim_Harford  what_really_matters 
august 2017 by jerryking
Tyler Cowen on inequality, Canada, and the state of global superpowers
Eva Salinas | May 1, 2015.

Tyler Cowen is an economist, academic and writer. His popular blog, Marginal Revolution, co-written with Alex Tabarrok, a colleague at George Mason University, turned Cowen into “an economics celebrity,” in the words of one LA Times writer. More recently, Cowen and Tabarrok ventured into the world of online education with their creation of Marginal Revolution University in 2012.
The author of ‘Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation’ was in Toronto earlier this year as the keynote speaker at the University of Toronto’s conference on Inequality.
Tyler_Cowen  economists  income_inequality  Canada  innovation  Silicon_Valley  averages  digital_economy  knowledge_economy  economic_stagnation  clusters  polymaths  the_Great_Decoupling 
may 2015 by jerryking
In the Age of Information, Specializing to Survive -

Artists from Picasso to Bob Dylan and entrepreneurs including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs changed the world by finding “radically new ways of looking at old problems,” Mr. Galenson said. “They cut through all the accumulated stuff — forget what’s been done — to see something special, something new.”

It is why, Mr. Galenson added, the historian and physicist Stanley Goldberg said of Einstein, “It was almost as if he were wearing special glasses to make all that was irrelevant invisible."
polymaths  Renaissance  information_overload  fresh_eyes  specialization  sense-making  reconceptualization  Pablo_Picasso  Bob_Dylan  billgates  Steve_Jobs 
march 2015 by jerryking
How outsiders solve problems that stump experts
May. 02, 2012 | The Globe and Mail| by ERIN MILLAR Special to Globe and Mail Update.

“Radical innovations often happen at the intersections of disciplines,” write Dr. Karim Lakhani and Dr. Lars Bo Jeppesen, of Harvard Business School and Copenhagen Business School respectively, in the Harvard Business Review. “The more diverse the problem-solving population, the more likely a problem is to be solved. People tend to link problems that are distant from their fields with solutions that they've encountered in their own work.”....“We assume that technical problems can be solved only by people with technical expertise,” writes Jonah Lehrer, who discusses InnoCentive in his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works. “But that assumption is wrong. The people deep inside a domain – the chemists trying to solve a chemistry problem – often suffer from a type of intellectual handicap. It's not until the challenge is shared with motivated outsiders that the solution can be found.
creativity  heterogeneity  innovation  polymaths  problem_solving  InnoCentive  books  Jonah_Lehrer  cross-pollination  interdisciplinary  outsiders  intellectual_diversity  moonshots  breakthroughs  industry_expertise 
may 2012 by jerryking
Bill Clinton talks to Simon Schama -
October 14, 2011 10:00 pm
Bill Clinton talks to Simon Schama

By Simon Schama
Bill_Clinton  Simon_Schama  philanthropy  Clinton_Global_Initiative  polymaths 
october 2011 by jerryking
Technology Review: Whither the Renaissance Man?
May 2005 | Technology Review | By Michael Hawley

We need to save the diversity of the individual. The irony is that
renaissance men and women are in short supply. Such an intense global
mix of cultures, ideas, and innovations, all apparently a mouse click
away, would seem to demand broad educational perspectives. Yet most
schools persist in turning out laser-focused young professionals. To
make a dent in a particular field, a person has to devote a good chunk
of his or her lifetime just to getting to the starting line. This
doesn't favor the jack-of-all-trades.
Benjamin_Franklin  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  curriculum  education  foxes  generalists  hedgehogs  life_long_learning  polymaths  renaissance  Renaissance_Man 
may 2009 by jerryking

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