a fine mind

Do you read Paul Graham?

You should, even if you don’t care about programming in the lisp computer language, or technology in general.

Graham is a programmer, a writer and a helper of startups, which doesn’t adequately explain just how damn good a thinker he is.

You should read him for his Shaker-like plainness of thought, coupled with his ability to find the unexpected.

Graham posts a new essay every few weeks at paulgraham.com;  they are inspirational in the best sense, in that when you read them you want to step a little faster and think a little sharper because you want to get to the clarity he has – reading Graham is like swimming towards sunlight.

His July essay addresses addictiveness and makes a point that had not occurred to me, that technological progress, which is the engine for so much we want and need, is also the engine for making increasingly addictive things.

He argues that simply trying to avoid or minimize addictive behavior makes you stand out in the crowd:

Already someone trying to live well would seem eccentrically abstemious in most of the US. That phenomenon is only going to become more pronounced. You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don’t think you’re weird, you’re living badly.


…if I’m right about the acceleration of addictiveness, then this kind of lonely squirming to avoid it will increasingly be the fate of anyone who wants to get things done. We’ll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.

(Read the entire essay here.)

I think he’s working a field over from a thought I have posted on in the past, that the sheer amount of stuff out there leads to a flattening, a lessening of value. If you have many cds, for example, not only is any given cd worth less, but it breeds a kind of defeat that, paradoxically, you try to overcome with more. That’s addiction.

It’s even worse with iPods because there is a much bigger physical (or if you’re grabbing music off the net, no economic) limit to what you can take. The urge for more – most emphatically including more connectedness – becomes for many people overpowering – and as Graham points out, the vectors of addiction, speed and strength, are well past takeoff now.


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