January 2020 Articles

The Burnout List

Frank Chimero ·

I resonated with a few of his items:

  1. Bullshit tasks and meta-work: admin and management overshadows productive labor. Instead of being tired with one another (like a basketball team) we become tired of one another (like a marketing team). Tasks with tangible outcomes are naturally de-prioritized and people focus on meta-work that is incentivized. (See #3.) [Partially accurate but too jaded, rephrase later?]
  2. Lack of ethics: the only ethic is work ethic. Questions no longer ask if something should be done, but if it can be done. Whatever works is permitted, meaning nothing can be ruled out, discounted, or ignored.
  3. Self-improvement industrial complex: the mistake of seeing life as a project, despite it being something you can’t solve or get out of. Trying to “jump over your own shadow.” Framing development as “fixing yourself” instead of growth.
  4. Abundance problem: too much of everything—over-production, over-achievement, over-communication—leads to the problems of abundance: exhaustion, fatigue, and suffocation—when too much exists.

Basecamp has some truly interesting ideas:

You can not not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating. Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.

Give meaningful discussions a meaningful amount of time to develop and unfold. Rushing to judgement, or demanding immediate responses, only serves to increase the odds of poor decision making.

Meetings are the last resort, not the first option.

Speaking only helps who’s in the room, writing helps everyone. This includes people who couldn’t make it, or future employees who join years from now.

If your words can be perceived in different ways, they’ll be understood in the way which does the most harm.

Never expect or require someone to get back to you immediately unless it’s a true emergency. The expectation of immediate response is toxic.

Poor communication creates more work.

Five people in a room for an hour isn’t a one hour meeting, it’s a five hour meeting. Be mindful of the tradeoffs.

Write at the right time. Sharing something at 5pm may keep someone at work longer. You may have some spare time on a Sunday afternoon to write something, but putting it out there on Sunday may pull people back into work on the weekends. Early Monday morning communication may be buried by other things. There may not be a perfect time, but there’s certainly a wrong time. Keep that in mind when you hit send.

Communication is lossy, especially verbal communication. Every hearsay hop adds static and chips at fidelity. Whenever possible, communicate directly with those you’re addressing rather than passing the message through intermediaries.

Well worth reading some of Frank’s thoughts about redesigning a web blog.

As someone who worked on the James Webb Space Telescope, it’s amazing to me that scientists have already discovered methods of using the telescope in ways that weren’t predicted when it was designed, prior to it being launched.

The study, led by NASA scientists and published in Nature Astronomy today, highlights an intriguing new way the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope could be used to detect and measure oxygen on exoplanets…

The new study identifies a wavelength at the mid-infrared level that can be used to detect collisions of oxygen molecules both with oxygen and with other gas molecules. The study’s authors suggest that the JWST’s Mid InfraRed Instrument Low Resolution Spectrometer (MIRI LRS) could search for oxygen at this wavelength around exoplanets that are transiting their host stars.

This method would potentially allow us to detect Earth-like levels of oxygen in many star systems less than 16 light-years away. In more distant systems it would be able to detect levels several times higher than those on Earth.

I’m fascinated by architecture, and architects working in Antarctica are bringing some really interesting ideas to reality.

I’m always fascinated by people who think about space and space travel. Good thoughts by Maxime.

I’m sure that plenty of space nerds and technophiles will make the argument that maybe in 300 years we’ll have much more advanced technology than we do now, and some of these problems will be alleviated. That’s possible, but these problems can’t be completely eliminated. What I want to suggest is something simple: wanting to colonize alien planets upon arriving to a new solar system might be a nearsighted idea. You might be thinking you would want to do that just because you’re just used to living on planet Earth, and you’re lacking the perspective of someone who’s used to living in space.