People have been learning machines for millions of years. But spreading credible knowledge to a wide audience has always been challenging. The dissemination of what we know has always been a small fraction of what we know.
The summer of 1932 was the darkest period the American economy had ever seen.
1. Define what you’re incapable of and stay away from it.
Everything we do at the Collaborative Fund is based around the belief that the world is moving toward a place where businesses that do the best for themselves are those that do the best for the world.
Few things transformed the 20th century like the car and the airplane.
Both set the stage for the modern world, completely changing family life, politics, war, culture, business, leisure time, and communication.
But we only know how important the car and the plane are with hindsight. We had no idea how big they’d become when they made their first appearance.
Innovation is always changing, but psychology is timeless, so understanding how we reacted to the arrival of the car and the plane sheds light how we’re likely to respond to breakthroughs today and tomorrow.
This report digs through turn-of-the-century newspapers to show how Americans responded to the early days of the car and the airplane.
It aims to show two things:
- Nothing is obvious when it’s first invented.
One of the craziest things about investing is that you can be wrong half the time and still do well.
Brent Beshore is one of the most impressive people I’ve met. And I had to dig around to learn that, because he’s also one of the humblest people I’ve met.
On January 12th, 1908, the Washington Post ran a full-page spread called “America’s Thinking Men Forecast the Wonders of the Future.”
“What is the gravest crisis facing the American people in the year ahead?”
CBS news asked its panel of “distinguished commentators” that question at the end of 1961.
Most of the answers were predictable, given the era. Most said the Cold War. One said East Berlin would provoke a new military conflict.
Then came Eric Sevareid.
Sevareid was a protege of Edward R. Murrow. He had seen untold global conflict, as the first journalist to cover Paris’s fall to the Nazis.
But Sevareid wasn’t worried about war. He was worried about laziness.
According to CBS:
The idea that leisure was our biggest threat seems absurd fifty years later, when survey after survey shows we feel busier than ever.
About half of Americans say they don’t have the time to do what they want to do, according to Gallup. Three-quarters experience frequent stress. More than half say they are overworked.
But Sevareid was onto something. I think he spotted a problem decades before most people.
Higher productivity has freed up time from the average American’s day. But rather than using that extra time for leisure, or to become even more productive, we’ve used it to become busy.
Busy isn’t the same thing as working hard. Busy is the waste that occurs when you don’t know what to do with the free time that’s fallen into your lap, so you squander it on something unproductive and disappointing.
That’s what Sevareid warned about fifty years ago when he said “those that have the most leisure are the least equipped to make use of it.”
And it’s pretty much what’s happened since.
No matter how busy and overwhelmed people feel today, they have (on average) more leisure time than at any other point in history.
- We work fewer hours at the office. Average hours worked per year declined from more than 2,000 in 1950 to 1,764 by 2014.
The day after he was born, I wrote my son a list of money advice.