Tweetifying 20 Big Ideas, In 10 Words or Less

What makes Twitter the world’s most effective communication medium? It’s the constraint of squeezing your thoughts into very few words.

In his book Things a Little Bird Told Me, Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter) writes —

It was the constraint of the two-week hackathon that led to the creation of Twitter. One of the first decisions we made about Twitter, something that never changed, was that each message would be limited to 140 characters or fewer.

Although Twitter has now relaxed that limit to 280 characters, the idea remains the same – imposing an artificial constraint.

Stone explains —

Constraint inspires creativity. Blank spaces are difficult to fill, but the smallest prompt can send us in fantastic new directions. In business, constraints emerge from the time you have to finish a project, the money you have to invest in it, the people you have to build it, or the space to you have complete it. These limitations, counterintuitively, can actually enhance productivity and creativity.

Many professional soccer players practice with a ball in a small bathroom sized room. The self-imposed constraint of a small space helps them refine their skills. World class poets and writers shrink their field by using restrictive measures to force themselves into a small creative form – such as micro-writing exercise.

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Building a System to Remember Death

I always wonder about doctors who regularly deal with terminally ill people. Every day they have to look into the eyes of those who themselves are staring at death. Wouldn’t such frequent exposure desensitized these medical professionals to death? Especially their own death.

All human anxiety they say stems from the fundamental fear — the fear of dying. Yet, when it comes to making important choices, our lives mirror what Yudhishthira observed in Mahabharata.

A Yaksha quizzes Yudhishthira — what’s the biggest irony in this world?

Yudhishthira replies, “Everyday countless humans and creatures die, yet those that remain behind believe themselves to be immortal. What can be more ironical than this?”

The gap between two things — knowing that we’re going to die and letting that knowledge reflect on our actions —  is ten miles wide.

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Behind the Curve

There’s an apocryphal account of Bertrand Russel, a British scientist, who was approached by an old lady at the end of his lecture on astronomy.

“Your theory about the earth being round is interesting, but it’s wrong. I’ve got a better theory,” said the little old lady.

“Enlighten me madam.” inquired the scientist politely.

“The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant turtle.” the lady said confidently.

The scientist decided to gently dissuade his opponent by making her see inconsistencies in her position.

“If your theory is correct, madam,” he asked, “what does this turtle stand on?”

“You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

If this conversation happened a hundred years back, you’d not be surprised by the old lady’s argument. After all, the first man-made satellite didn’t go to space until 1957. A century ago, it wasn’t strange to come across smart and educated people who still believed that earth was flat.

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Investing Insights from Medicine

Recently, I was invited by Bangalore Investor Group to make a presentation.

My presentation was based on two books — The Laws of Medicine and Risk Savvy.

Both these books were few of the best ones I read in 2018.

Two primary ideas that I share in this talk are — Benford’s Law and Mathematics of Cancer Screening. Here’s the video version of the talk.

Please click here if you can’t see the video.

Looking forward to your feedback.

Vipassana: 100 Hours of Mind Debugging

If you’re not a programmer then debugging may be a new word for you. It means cleaning out the bugs, i.e., fixing your software program so that it does what it’s supposed to do and more importantly doesn’t do what it’s not supposed to do.

A debugger is a tool that makes the computer slow enough so that a human can see what’s brewing inside that computer’s mind. More specifically, you can mark the lines in your program (called breakpoints) where debugger will halt the execution temporarily and wait for you to press the continue button. And while it’s paused, you can literally scour the computer’s mind and see what it’s up to.

Put simply, in debug mode you freeze the computer’s brain to sneak a peek.

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