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Frantically Running with Slime Mold
One Important Thing
The book Smart Brevity teaches how to write with as few words as possible. Why? So everybody with decimated attention spans will read what you write.
What’s the Big Deal?
You should reduce written communications to what looks like a series of PowerPoint bullet points. People don’t have time to read your writing. Why? Because they are so frantic reading the onslaught of other crap. And they have work to do.
Writing should use no extra words. No nuance. No context. No tone. Get to the point. It’s the only way to get things done efficiently.
In other words, write brief directives and fact-morsels. Next time I’ll write you a computer program to follow.
Read the book. Then, consider the implications of reducing all written communication to tweets and bullet points. To be fair, some of their advice is well taken: people DO write badly, and too much, and without respect for the reader’s time. I’ve been guilty of it I know, and will take their guidance to heart, but not too much.
I resist their breathless worship of the need for speed. Don’t take an extra millisecond from the readers’ shift on the treadmill. Everyone is required to run faster! FASTER! FFFAASSSTTTEERRRR!!! To keep up with the frantic pace of …. Eating the Earth, Feeding the Machine, Meeting the CEOs’ payroll.
Meantime, back on Earth:
Turns out people in climate activist organizations are just as weird as everyone else, based on my recent personal experience. Despite that weirdness, though, things seem to be shifting in the de-carbonization struggle. But, I still estimate that 90% of the perceived shift is window dressing – oil companies saying they will offset their supply chain carbon footprint and thence blossom pink flowers at the ends of tender green shoots. Selling toxic assets to private equity, taking the dirty shit private.
I tried to push back on the use of generative AI to replace creatives. It didn’t work. So yes, I generated the illustration after an hour of correspondence with a remote freelance artist who advertised a rate of $5.00 for a cartoon drawing and then went on to ask, “is $35 too much.” The entire stratum of low-end commodity “content” creators of all kinds is going to go away.
September’s Philosophy Moment
We are much more like ants than we like to think.
Check out this summary of “The Human Swarm” by Mark W. Moffett. Moffet discusses how societies aggregate into clumps via shared signals. If you know the secret knock, you can come into the club. The weirdness I experience is a result of not knowing or perceiving the subtle secret handshakes, knocking patterns, and communication nuances of different clumps. And so it goes up the scale - from my experience, to the hundreds of millions, or billions now, thanks to social media.
Humans have swarmed the planet, and frantically go about a myriad of tiny actions which reduce to a single global behavior: consumption of planetary resources to further species propagation – army ants marching along devouring everything in their path. It’s fascinating to see this in day-to-day interactions with others, with our social and work groups, the communities we participate in. Holding this in my awareness as I engage with the world causes a shift in my perspective and reactions. Does it help? Not sure.
We’re Also a Lot Like Slime Mold.
This cool video shows the spread of writing, a reasonable proxy for advancing civilization, from its inception to the present. Watch it at 1.5 speed and sound turned off. Ollie Bye has created a series of animations of human historical activity at global scale. To contrast and compare, appreciate this video of slime mold with its narrative “the slime mold eats anything that gets in its path…”
Don’t assume for a minute that humans are any different merely on account of the peculiarities of our symbolically reasoning cortex and opposing thumbs. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Every bird in a mumuration thinks it’s its own boss.
On a more optimistic front: there’s still joy, love, connection, and warmth to be found as we swarm and bump around, following pheromone trails and seeking nourishment.
I keep threatening to write more short-form newsletters.
I intend to create much entertainment value and share truly useful and actionable items. At the end of the day, does anyone really do anything after reading one of my laborious deep dives? See above: not all Smart Brevity is inappropriate. Balance in all things. If I make it shorter, perhaps you’ll read, and even better, do.
The activist investment strategies I have written about are more complex to execute than most people are prepared for. It is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m committed to putting my money where my mouth is, so I’m taking that journey and learning as I go. If you try it and have questions reach me through my Substack or Medium columns.
Meantime, I’ll repeat this no-brainer, butt-simple, single thing you can do.
Join the clump of folks (10,000 and more) changing oil companies the only way that works, with money: go to follow-this.org to purchase a share of stock in an oil company. If you’re shocked at the idea, great! Go learn about it.
There – a real action. Smartly brief. I’d love to hear about it if you decide to do it.