Get your update on what’s going on in the media and technology landscape every other week to your inbox.
Let's be Fwends is a journal about technology, experiences and the media landscape. And most importantly the role of all of us in all of that. It's about culture and it is about design. It's about marketing and it is about tech.
If you're interested in the bigger picture of digital design, this journal is for you.
Let's be Fwends #117:
"It is in this space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and have impacts that last for millennia." ~ Donella Meadows
Welcome to Let's Be Fwends. When you start showing up with your true and whole self, then how can you delineate work from not-work? And how does "good work" look like? We take a quick dip into the waters of philosophy to try to answer that question, before we think about useless and useful knowledge. A quick look at the pitch decks of - sometimes spectacularly - failed endeavours leads us directly to a new discovery in game theory, which in turn leads us to this edition’s soothing online game: feeding expensive fish.
What is 'Work'? And What is 'Good Work'?
Some things seem to be really hard to unlearn. One of these things is the radical division of labour that heralded in the industrial age, enshrined in the theory of "Scientific Management", or, as we like to call it: Taylorism.
While the factory might be a good place for robots, humans cannot thrive in such conditions. Applying the ideas of Taylorism to knowledge work has failed, and will fail, regardless of how much signal curating is done by management.
Can Hannah Arendt and Immanuel Kant give us the essence of what 'good work' looks like?
The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge
In 1939, Abraham Flexner published an essay praising the usefulness of "useless" knowledge and makes a case for exploration that doesn't concern itself with the utility of any possible learnings, instead just giving in to curiosity. Absolute, unbridled, almost ferocious curiosity. Curiosity for its own sake:
"I am not for a moment suggesting that everything that goes on in laboratories will ultimately turn to some unexpected practical use or that an ultimate practical use is its actual justification. Much more I am pleading for the abolition of the word 'use,' and for freeing the human spirit."
Pitch Decks of Failed Companies
Some of them are camouflage for fraud. Some of them are plain hubris. Some were well-meant efforts to revolutionise the world. All of them failed. And they all left pitch decks behind.
Not Backing Down Might be the Key for a Fair System
Look at that.
A common strategy in game theory is that of the "extortionist", someone who, while the game goes on, becomes less and less cooperative, and keeps playing just to the point to keep the other party engaged. They would play your fear of sunk costs and your desire to get any outcome. Against an extortionist, it seemed, there was no strategy except walking away.
Looks like this conclusion is not entirely correct. According to a paper by Fu and Chen there is something you can do against bullies and extortionists: Standing up for your fair share, and never back down. Never compromise, never give in. An "unbending player" (as they call it) will force the extortionist to re-consider their possible outcomes:
"Our work shows that when an extortioner is faced with an unbending player, their best response is to offer a fair split, thereby guaranteeing an equal payoff for both parties. (...) In other words, fairness and cooperation can be cultivated and enforced by unbending players."
And while game theory often has the vibe of being overly theoretical, this finding does have some real-world applications:
"The practical insight from our work is for weaker parties to be unbending and resist being the first to compromise, thereby transforming the interaction into an ultimatum game in which extortioners are incentivised to be fairer and more cooperative to avoid 'lose-lose' situations."
The Koi Pond
Take the provided fish food, and enjoy a couple of minutes with some very relaxed Koi. Koi Pond
That's it for this edition of Let's Be Fwends. Remember: Just be nice to each other. The rest will sort itself out. 😊