4 min read

Breakfast Notes #44 (Paris, Computers)

Breakfast Notes #44 (Paris, Computers)
Photo by DeepMind / Unsplash

Good morning friends.

Here is what I want to share this week.

  • Read of the Week. An old but gold read from Malcolm Gladwell on Late Bloomers. The biggest takeaway for me - for late bloomers, success is highly contingent on the efforts of others. You need someone to stick it through with you when the best ideas in you are only beginning to germinate.
  • Quote of the Week. "A ship is always safe at shore, but that is not what it's built for." – Albert Einstein
  • Video of the Week. A robust debate on the Russia-Ukraine war. (Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer v Michael McFaul, Radosław Sikorski)

Here is the 44th serving of the Breakfast Notes.

Paris Syndrome In The Digital Age

Hiroaki Ota, a Japanese psychiatrist working in France, coined this term.

This syndrome is a medical culture shock where one feels a sense of extreme disappointment when they visit Paris. Apparently, it is extremely prevalent amongst Asian tourists.

The tourist thinks to himself that Paris will be like in the movies, the capital of romance. Love is to be found in every nook and cranny of the city, and perpetual accordion music would play in the background.

Once they find out that Paris is just another city, or much worse than they are imagined, they're in shock. I have been to Paris. The reality of poverty, crime, and racism betrays the romantic impression in popular culture. (Trust me, pockets of Paris are stunning but the city as a whole felt more grimey than beautiful)

Thus, the shock emerges when there is a severe mismatch between expectations and reality.

I have a working hypothesis that one of the greatest sins of the digital age is that we perpetually reinforce the mismatch between expectations and reality. For example, we use filters to alter how we look so that we look way more 'sexy' on screens. In reality, we know that we don't look like the 'model' we portray ourselves to be. But for those who see it- they now replace the 'real you' for the idealized avatar that you portray. In a bid to impress you, they do the same. The cycle then reinforces itself to infinity. It is no wonder the Instagram/Tik Tok 'filter' marketplace is booming.

Consequently, most of us suffer an ambient Paris Syndrome - we are constantly disappointed by reality.

Visualization Of The Day

(Visual Capitalist)

It's crazy how one must be a millionaire to buy a home in California and how middle-class one can be to buy a home in Oklahoma.

Don't Let The Computers Do It

Jasper (Website screenshot)

There is an unmistakable hype surrounding AI editors that promise you worry-free copies for marketing.

Through powerful deep learning and diverse data sets, AI editors will create a copy that appeals to the lowest common denominator. In other words, (it?) writes something that everyone can understand but no one will be captivated by.

(Hypotenuse AI Sample in Singlish) (Thoughts?)

The problem with that is that you/your organization will sound impersonal and, I dare say, cringe.

I think the best writers are quirky. They have a unique style that grabs your attention. Here are some examples of my favourites,

  • Malcolm Gladwell gives readers something odd to think about (usually in the form of a seemingly out-of-place analogy). For example, in The Tipping Point, he likened social change to epidemics. Just like that, you are thinking how effecting change is similar to infecting people.
  • Nassim Taleb illuminates his ideas by using his motley crew of characters like Fat Tony, Dr John and even Socrates. He uses so many aphorisms that he has a whole book's worth of it.
  • Ryan Holiday uses pop culture, sports and even contemporary affairs to discuss the ancient philosophical school of stoicism.

No software could have ever conjured these styles.

This is why I firmly believe that the best form of creative expression begins with writing. Excellent writing stands the test of time. Current fashions or trends do not influence them. They reflect a vision, a taste and a set of beliefs that other mediums rarely have.

It is why The Godfather, Inception and Taxi Driver are cult classics. It's not just because they were well-directed but because the scripts were, first and foremost, well-written. After all, many multi-million blockbusters have flopped at the box office despite their big budget production.

Why? Bad writing (usually)

So here is a reminder: Don't let the computer cramp your style.

Thank you for reading this and truly, may the sun shine upon your face,

Keith