Category Archives: Books

Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner

I got so much out of this book that I made a bit of a more formal write-up: On Effortless Mastery

Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov

  1. The discovery of the Second Foundation and its impact on the Foundation and its citizens is played out
Key Takeaways
  1. The Mule is searching for the elusive Second Foundation with the intent of destroying it. The Second Foundation is far more powerful than The Mule expected. A leader of the Second Foundation, the First Speaker of the Second Foundation, telepathically modifies the Mule to make him not care about finding the Second Foundation.
  2. A few decades after the Mule’s death by natural causes, the members of the First Foundation are now fully aware that the Second Foundation is out there. The Foundation has an ongoing conflict with the Mule’s former imperial capital at Kalgan and the ensuing war is won by the Foundation
  3. After inventing a “Mind Static device” that jams telepathic abilities while simultaneously causing telepaths great pain, the Foundation finds and locates telepaths on Terminus, “at the other end of the galaxy” from the first Foundation, also at Terminus, since, as Arcadia puts it, “a circle has no end.” Thus, they declare the Second Foundation destroyed after finding roughly 50 “mentalic” agents on Terminus.
  4. The Second Foundation was actually located on Trantor, at the center of the galaxy. It was called Star’s End due to the ancient saying, “All roads lead to Trantor, and that is where all stars end.” The location was also said to fit the “other end of the galaxy” location, since the galaxy is, in fact, not a disc, but a double spiral–and from the edge, the other end of the spiral lies at the center.
What I got out of it
  1. Really enjoyed this series and would recommend to anyone who enjoys space, travel, sci-fi

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

  1. The series is about the people on these many different worlds who are all part of the ride towards the Second foundation and their worlds, lives, victories, and losses.
Key Takeaways
  1. Hari Seldon foresaw the fall of the Empire and to try to lessen the time of destruction and darkness, created two Foundations – one at each end of the Galaxy. The two would eventually merge, creating a new, stronger Foundation – the Second Foundation.
  2. Bel Riose is a soldier who only likes fighting for the Empire and travels the Galaxy in search of worlds to conquer. He finds little resistance and claims new planets for the Empire, but is told that Seldon’s Plan predicts that the Empire will not succeed. The Emperor of the Empire, Cleon II, fears that Riose is amassing troops for a civil war to overthrow the throne and hauls him home to be executed. Riose is stopped, and the Foundation “wins,” making Seldon’s prediction true
  3. The next “Seldon Crisis” occurs a century later when a scientist named Ebling Mis figures the date of Seldon’s next prediction. Seldon’s prediction includes the advice to “compromise” with the Traders who are currently in an uprising against the Foundation. A member of the Traders, Randu, is present and admits that the Traders had planned a revolt but were sidetracked when the Mule began attacking the Empire and the Foundation. As it became evident that the Mule was succeeding in his quest for Galaxy domination, the Traders put their resources into fighting the Mule instead. No sooner do the people realize that Seldon’s prediction is true than the Mule attacks Trantor where they are gathered to hear the prediction. The Mule is a mutant, able to control emotions. His forces seldom have to do battle as the Mule transfers a sense of helplessness onto the people, which causes them to typically give up without a fight.
  4. Upon a request from his father and uncle, Toran and Bayta travel to the resort planet, Kalgan, where they are to search for the Mule in an effort to join his forces with those of the Traders against the Foundation. They believe their quest fails though they take in Magnifico, a clown who was once an entertainer for the Mule. They will later learn that Magnifico is actually the Mule and that he hopes they, along with Mis, will discover the location of the hidden Second Empire so that he can defeat it and rule the Galaxy.
  5. Bayta finally puts it together, realizing that they narrowly escaped several times when the Mule’s forces were near, and that it was simply too much of a coincidence to be believed. She kills Mis before he can reveal the location of the Second Foundation and says that she’s figured out that Magnifico and the Mule are one and the same. It’s then that the Mule says that he hasn’t interfered with Bayta’s mind, because she liked him without his interference and that he relished that novelty. Because of that, he didn’t realize her intentions before she killed Mis, eliminating the possibility of the Mule finding the location of the Second Foundation from the scientist. Vowing to travel until he locates it, Magnifico leaves Bayta and Toran unharmed
What I got out of it
  1. Really fun book that I enjoyed reading

The Schlumberger Adventure by Anne Gruner Schlumberger

  1. The story and people behind the incredible success of drilling and surveying giant Schlumberger. “Conrad was a physicist, idealist, dreamer, man of ideas, and Marcel an engineer, pragmatist  inventor, man of action. They complemented each other perfectly. Together they were able to orchestrate time, talent, and opportunity to put science to work for mankind. In the interest of identifying the hiding places of the world’s storehouse of minerals, they devised ways to measure the earth’s interior parameters in new and effective ways. Their discoveries and inventions made possible and practical the modern industry that now explores for and produces petroleum. In fact, it is fair to say that much of the world’s oil and gas reserves have been identified by methods the Schlumbergers pioneered. Likewise, and not incidentally, their work revolutionized the science of subsurface geology. Their findings, the fruit of their technology, resulted in a quantum leap in scientific understanding of how the earth is constructed and composed. The same technology that has explored the earth’s crust has since given rise to other technologies that have helped to make possible the exploration of space.” Both Conrad and Marcel possessed qualities of leadership that inspired others to follow gladly and meet willingly the most awesome challenges in the interest of their cause
Key Takeaways
  1. Schlumberger made its mark by surveying land for potential oil sites. The black box, or potentiometer, was their breakthrough. It made geophysical measurements based on electrical properties. The grains that made up the rocks might act as insulators, but the electrical conductivity of the rocks was in proportion to the grater or lesser degree of salinity in the water that impregnated them. Therefore, the map of potentials could show significant contrasts even when sub-surface contained no conductive deposits. As the resistivity of porous rocks impregnated with oil or gas was greater than the resistivity of those rocks filled with water, the bore could distinguish between different kinds of strata – this was the birth of “electrical coring”
  2. Schlumberger motto: “Wherever the drill goes, Schlumberger goes” and “First in the field, first in research.”
  3. If the convergence of the scientific and commercial viewpoints is too difficult, it is better to opt for the viewpoint of science. What is essential is that you keep your strength and your serene confidence in the results already acquired and which you must not let go. Science is a great force for peace, for the individual as well as for humanity.
  4. Conrad’s job as a professor was perfect as it gave him plenty of long vacations to read, think and experiment
  5. Father’s involvement: “I agree to disburse my sons Conrad and Marcel the funds necessary for research study in view of determining the nature of the subsurface, in amounts not exceeding five hundred thousand francs. On their part, my sons will agree not to disperse their efforts, and to abstain from research or inventions in other fields  The field of activity is vast enough to satisfy their inventive genius by its investigation: they must devote themselves to it entirely. The scientific interest in research must take precedence over financial interest. I will be kept informed and will be able to express my opinion as to important directions and expenditures to be made or not to be made. The sums disbursed by me are a contribution on my part to primarily scientific and secondary practical work which I consider to be of the highest value and in which I take an interest. Marcel will bring to Conrad his remarkable competence as an engineer and his common sense. Conrad, for his part, will be the wise physicist. I will support them.”
  6. Like Carnegie, the Schlumbergers hired specialists early on that their competitor’s thought were worthless/superfluous. “There were too many parasitic currents, too many disturbing elements; the task was to understand them and to eliminate their interference. IN this situation, an increase of personnel would have been superfluous, and as for employing a full-time geologist, that would have seemed like an uncalled for expense.
  7. Prospecting the salt domes in Alsace was the Schlumberger brothers first success
  8. Between the two brothers a process of osmosis produced a continuous communication
  9. Marcel had amazing focus and passion – “When he finally saw the machine – his machine – finished, there was a kind of joy in the way he took possession of it, examining it with almost amorous care. More than once I saw him, surrounded by his crew, crouching beside some new apparatus for half an hour, even an hour; and when he straightened up to his full height, his young assistants (who, out of deference, had crouched along with him) unfolded their limbs as if stricken with rheumatism
  10. Gained respect through publications in specialize journals, by omission they lied a little. Early on, “our modesty would kill us,” Marcel said. Process, quality, reliability where of utmost importance early on, never growing too fast
  11. In a factory or office, team spirit dwindles as the work is fragmented and the task of each worker becomes more limited; the pleasure of contributing to a common task is seldom found there. But our equipment was so uniquely conceived and built that, on entering this ill-defined market, it did not lose its individuality. The tie between the equipment and the man who made it was never cut. Because everyone contributed on a footing of equality, and because the discussion of ideas, methods, and techniques was given free rein without the constraints of a hierarchy to stifle spontaneity, a rare cohesion welded “thinkers” and craftsmen, “administrators” and prospectors, into a solid unity. The prospectors, coming back from Alsace or the ends of the earth, could go straight in to the “bosses,” tell them about their work and experiences, voice their criticisms, make their personal problems known. T Hey communicated to the engineered  technicians, and secretaries a feeling of the wide-open spaces – of adventure. What added to that cohesion, I think, was the low ratio of workmen to engineers – four or five to one – whereas in industry it was from fifty to two hundred to one. And if, as was true, my father and my uncle quite naturally practiced an “enlightened” paternalism, it was just true that the company was a shop unlike others. It was different, in fact, even in the day to day work. Everything went along as if fun and laughter were part of even the least likely tasks.
  12. Marcel and Conrad filled their time by “observing tiny details” others would typically miss or ignore
  13. Every creative effort is in itself a small revolution
  14. Russia was an early supporter but it was dangerous, primitive. The present  They rejected it. The future? They no longer believed in it
  15. Nobody saw the revolution that electrical “logging” would have on the oil-producing industry
  16. Nothing succeeds like success. One success brings on another
  17. Schlumberger changed its contract from fixed annual payments to one of unit of operation. Because of the nature of the process, speed was of the essence. In the US, the client alerted Schlumberger center, read off his coordinates – well, depth, type of operation – and within half an hour the crew was on its way. As soon as the site was reached the truck was backed up to the well, the various pieces of equipment put in place, the sonde attached to the end of the cable, and the operation was begun. Velocity was of the essence which is why the labs were mobile and near the drilling operations
  18. The men were commonly working t the absolute limit of their strengths. A recruitment policy, adequate material resources, and a large degree of autonomy were urgently needed.
  19. Success – the much talked of opportunity – is nothing but work and more work
  20. Marcel – “Finance is no tour business and I don’t believe in it”
  21. The success of Schlumberger is due largely to the belief – originated by the founders – that reservation and engineering are the lifeblood of any
What I got out of it
  1. Fun to learn more about Schlumberger – research/science/engineering always more important than the financials focus on velocity, serve a niche and serve it damn well – who knows how large the market can become, be a hands on manager who is involved in the day to day

Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse


  1. There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.


Key Takeaways

  1. If a finite game is to be won by someone it must come to a definitive end. It will come to an end when someone has won. The spectators or referee may approve but the players must agree who has won the game. There is no finite game unless the players freely choose to play it. No one can play who is forced to play. It is an invariably principle of all play, finite and infinite, that whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever must play, cannot play. 
  2. A finite game also has a precise beginning and can therefore be said to have temporal boundaries, be played within a marked area and with specific players. One cannot play alone and therefore there are numerical boundaries as well. There can only be one winner and others are ranked
  3. Infinite games are in sharp contrast except in that if one must play, they cannot play. Infinite players cannot day when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game is not bounded by time. Indeed, the only purpose of the game is to prevent the game from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play. There are no numerical, temporal or spatial boundaries. They are internally rather than externally defined. Since each play of an infinite game eliminates boundaries, it opens to players a new horizon of time
  4. Finite games can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game. Infinite players regard their wins and losses in whatever finite games they play as but moments in continuing play
  5. The rules will be different for each finite game. It is, in fact, by knowing what the rules are that we know what the game is. The rules of a finite game are the contractual terms by which the players can agree who has won. The agreement of the players to be applicable rules constitutes the ultimate validation of those rules
  6. The most critical distinction between finite and infinite games is that the rules of an infinite game must change during the course of play. The rules are changed when the players of an infinite game agree that the play is imperiled by a finite outcome – that is, by the victory do some players and the defeat of others. The rules of an infinite game are changed to prevent anyone from winning the game and to bring as many persons as possible into play.
  7. No limitation may be imposed against infinite play. Since limits are taken into play, the play itself cannot be limited. Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries. Finite players are often unaware of this absolute freedom to play and will Cole to think that whatever they do they must do. All limitations of finite play are self-limitations.
  8. Self-veiling
    1. Some self-veiling is present in all finite games. Players must intentionally forget the inherently voluntary nature of their play, else all competitive effort will desert them. The issue is whether we are ever willing to drop the veil and openly acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that we have freely chosen to face the world through a mask. Since finite games can be played within an infinite game, infinite players do not eschew the performer roles of finite play. On the contrary, they enter into finite games with all the appropriate energy and self-veiling, but they do so without the seriousness of finite players. They embrace he abstractness of finite games as abstractness, and therefore take them up not seriously, but playfully. They freely use masks in their social engagements, but not without acknowledging to themselves and others that they are masked. For that reason they regard each participant in finite play as that person playing and not as a role played by someone. Seriousness is always related to roles, or abstractions. Seriousness closes itself to consequence but everything that happens when we are playful is of consequence
  9. Theatrical vs. Dramatic
    1. Inasmuch as finite games are intended for conclusion, inasmuch as its roles are scripted and performed for an audience, we shall refer to finite play as theatrical. Inasmuch as infinite players avoid any outcome whatsoever, keeping the future open, making all scripts useless, we shall refer to finite play as dramatic. Dramatically, one choose to be a mother; theatrically, one takes on the role of mother. Finite games are dramatic during their play as the outcome is yet unknown. The theatricality if it has to do with the fact that there is an outcome.
  10.  Surprise
    1. It is the desire of all finite players to be Master Players, to be so perfectly skilled in their play that nothing can surprise them, so perfectly trained that very move in the game is foreseen at the beginning. By surprising our opponent we are more likely to win. Surprise in finite play is the triumph of the past over the future. The Master Player who already knows what moves are to be made has a decisive advantage over the unprepared player who does not yet know what moves will be made. Infinite players, on the other hand, continue their play in the expectation of being surprised. If surprise is no longer possible, all play ceases. Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue. Surprise in infinite play is the triumph of the future over the past. Since infinite players do not regard the past as having an outcome, they have no way of knowing what has been begun there. With each surprise, the past reveals a new beginning in itself. Inasmuch as the future is always surprising, the past is always changing. Because finite players are trained to prevent the future from altering the past, they must hide their future moves. The unprepared opponent must be kept unprepared. Finite players must appear to be something other than what they are. Everything about their appearance must be concealing. To appear is not to appear. All the moves of a finite player must be deceptive: feints distractions, falsifications, misdirections, mystifications. Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness. It is not an openness as in candor, but an openness as in vulnerability. The infinite player does not expect to be amused by surprise, but to be transformed by it, for surprise does not alter some abstract past, but one’s own personal past. To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated. Education discovers an increasing richness in the past, because it sees what is unfinished there. Training regards the past as finished and the future to be finished. Education leads toward a continuing self-discovery; training leads toward a final self-definition. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.
  11. Titles, Death & Immortality
    1. What one wins in a finite game is a title. Titles are public, they are for others to notice, it depends on its visibility, its noticeability to others. It is a principal function of society to validate titles and to assure their perpetual recognition. It is in connection with the timelessness of titles that we can first discern the importance of death to both finite and infinite games and the great difference between the ways death is understood in each. A finite game must always be won with a terminal move, a final act within the boundaries of the game that establishes the winner beyond any possibility of challenge. A terminal move results, in other words, in the death of the opposing player as player. The winner kills the opponent. The loser is dead in the sense of being incapable of further play. Death, in finite play, is the triumph of the past over the future, a condition in which no surprise is possible. One can have death in life and for some this is regarded as an achievement, the result of spiritual discipline by extinguishing all traces of struggle with the world, a liberation from the need for any title whatsoever. Life in death concerns those who are titled and whose titles, since timeless, may not be extinguished by death. Immortality, in this case, is not a reward but the condition necessary to the possession of rewards. What the winners of finite games achieve is not properly an afterlife but an afterworld, not continuing existence but continuing recognition of their titles
    2. There is a contradiction here: If the prize for winning finite play is life, then the players are not properly alive. They are competing for life. Life, then, is not play, but the outcome of play. Finite players play to live; they do not live their playing. Life is therefore deserved, bestowed, possessed, won. It is not lived. This is a contradiction to all finite play. Because the purpose of a finite game is to bring play to an end with the victory of one of the players, each finite game is played to end itself. The contradiction is precisely that all finite play is play against itself.
    3. Death, for finite players, is abstract, not concrete. It is not the whole person, but only an abstracted fragment of the whole, that dies in life or lives in death. Immortality is the state of forgetting that we have forgotten – that is, overlooking the fact that we freely decided to enter into finite play, a decision in itself playful and not serious. Immortality is therefore the supreme example of the contradictoriness of finite play: it is a life one cannot live
    4. Infinite players die. Since the boundaries of earth are always part of the play, the infinite player does not die at the end of play, but in the course of play. The death of an infinite player is dramatic. It does not mean that the game comes to an end with death; on the contrary, infinite players offer their death as a way of continuing the play. For that reason they do not play for their own life; they live for their own play. But since that play is always with others, it is evident that infinite players both live and die for the continuing life of others. Where the finite player plays for immortality, the infinite player plays as a mortal. In infinite play one chooses to be mortal inasmuch as one always plays dramatically, that is, toward the open, toward the horizon, toward surprise, where nothing can be scripted. It is a kind of play that requires complete vulnerability. To the degree that one is protected against the future, one has established a boundary and no longer plays with but against others. Although infinite players choose mortality, they may not know when death comes, but we can always say of them that they die at the right time. The finite play for life is serious; the infinite play of life is joyous. Infinite play resounds throughout with a kind of laughter. It is not a laughter at others who have come to an unexpected end, having thought they were going somewhere else. It is laughter with others with whom we have discovered that the end we thought we were coming to has unexpectedly opened. We laugh not at what has surprisingly come to be impossible for others, but over what has surprisingly come to be possible with others
  12. Power and Strength
    1. If finite players acquire titles from winning their games, we must say of infinite players that they have nothing but their names. Names are given but at a time when a person cannot yet have done anything. Titles are given at the end of play, names at the beginning. Titles are abstractions; names are always concrete. Titles point backward in time. They have their origin in an unrepeatable past, they are theatrical and each has a specified ceremonial form of address and behavior. Insofar as we recognize their titles we withdraw from any contest with them in those arenas – cannot compete with the Dalai Lama. The titled are powerful. The exercise of power presupposes opposition, a closed field and finite units of time. My power is determined by the amount of resistance I can displace within given spatial and temporal limits. The establishment of the limits make it possible to know how powerful I am in relation to others. Power is always measured in units of comparison. Power is a concept that belongs only in finite play. To speak meaningfully of a person’s power is to speak of what that person has already completed in one or another closed field. To see power is to look backward in time. Inasmuch as power is determined by the outcome of a game, one does not win by being powerful; one wins to be powerful. If one has sufficient power to win before the game has begun, what follows is not a game at all.
    2. One can be powerful only through the possession of an acknowledged title – that is, only through the possession of an acknowledged title – that is, only by the ceremonial deference of others. Power is never one’s own, and in that respect it shows the contradiction inherent in all finite play. I can be powerful only by not playing, by showing that the game is over. I can therefore have only what powers others give me. Power is bestowed by an audience after the play is compete. Power is contradictory, and theatrical
    3. We do not play against reality; we play according to reality. If I accept death as inevitable, I do not struggle against mortality. I struggle as a mortal. All the limitations of finite play are self-limitations
    4. How then do infinite players contend with power? Infinite play is always dramatic; its outcome is endlessly open. Infinite players do not oppose the actions of others, but initiate actions of their own in such a way that others will respond by initiating their own. Let us say that where the finite player plays to be powerful the infinite player plays with strength. Power is concerned with what has already happened; strength with what has yet to happen. Power is finite in amount. Strength cannot be measured, because it is an opening and not a closing act. Power refers to the freedom persons have within limits, strength to the freedom persons have with limits. Power will always be restricted to a relatively small number of selected persons. Anyone can be strong. Strength is paradoxical. I am not strong because I can force others to do what I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I can allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them. 
      1. Power vs. Force and Hawkins ties in beautifully here
      2. Infinite players focus on others, in helping them grow and achieve. That is how they gain strength – you allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them. You raise them up, make them better, allowing the game to continue
  13. Evil
    1. Evil is the termination of infinite play. It is infinite play coming to an end in unheard silence. Unheard silence is not the loss of the player’s voice, but the loss of listeners for that voice. Evil is not the termination of a finite game. Evil is not the attempt to eliminate the play of another according to published and accepted rules, but to eliminate the play of another regardless of the rules. Evil is not the acquisition of power, but the expression of power. It is the forced recognition of a title – and therein lies the contradiction of evil, for recognition cannot be forced
    2. Evil is never intended as evil. Indeed, the contradiction inherent in all evil is that it originates in the desire to eliminate evil. Evil arises in the honored belief that history can be tidied up, brought to a sensible conclusion. Your history does not belong to me. We live with each other in a common history. Infinite players understand the inescapable likelihood of evil. They therefore do not attempt to eliminate evil in others, for to do so is the very impulse of evil itself, and therefore a contradiction. They only attempt paradoxically to recognize in themselves the evil that takes the form of attempting to eliminate evil elsewhere. Evil is not the inclusion of finite games in an infinite game, but the restriction of all play to one or another finite game.
  14. Contradictory vs. Paradoxical
    1. Infinite play is inherently paradoxical, just as finite play is inherently contradictory. Because it is the purpose of infinite players to continue the play, they do not play for themselves. The contradiction of finite play is that they players desire to bring play to an end for themselves. The paradox of infinite play is that the players desire to continue the play in others. The paradox is precisely that they play only when others go on with the game. Infinite players play best when they become least necessary for the continuation of play. It is for this reason they play as mortals. The joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies in learning to start something we cannot finish
      1. Why the best leaders work themselves out of a job!! 
  15. No one can play alone
    1. No one can play a game alone. One cannot be human by oneself. There is no selfhood where there is no community. We do not relate to others as the persons we are; we are who we are in relating to others. Simultaneously the others with whom we are in relation are themselves in relation. We cannot relate to anyone who is not also relating to us. Our social existence has, therefore, an inescapably fluid character. This is not to say that we live in a fluid context, but that our lives are themselves fluid. As in the Zen image we are not the stones over which the stream of the world flows; we are the stream itself. As we shall see, this ceaseless change does not mean discontinuity; rather change is itself the very basis of out continuity as persons. Only that which can change can continue: this is the principle by which infinite players live.
    2. It is this essential fluidity of our humanness that is irreconcilable with the seriousness of finite play. It is, therefore, this fluidity that presents us with an unavoidable challenge: how to contain the serious within the truly playful; that is, how to keep all our finite games in infinite play
  16. We must learn the fine arts of war and independence so that our children can learn architecture and engineering so that their children may learn the fine arts and painting.” – John Quincy Adams
  17. Before I can have an enemy, I must persuade another to recognize me as an enemy
  18. Society vs. Culture
    1. In their own political engagements infinite players make a distinction between society and culture. Society they understand as the sum of those relations that are under some form of public constraint, culture as whatever we do with each other by undirected choice. If society is all that a people feels it must do, culture is the realm of the variable, free, not necessarily universal, of all that cannot lay claim to compulsive authority. Society applies only to those areas of action which are believed to be necessary. Society is necessary and finite, culture variable and infinite. The power of a society is determined by its victory over other societies in still larger finite games. Its most treasured memories are those of the heroes fallen in victorious battles with other societies. Heroes of lost battles are almost never memorialized.
    2. The power in a society is guaranteed and enhanced by the power of a society. Because power is inherently patriotic, it is characteristic of finite players to seek a growth of power in a society as a way of increasing the power of a society. Society is a manifestation of power. It is theatrical, having an established script. It is in the interest of a society therefore to encourage competition within itself, to establish the largest possible number of prizes, for the holders of prizes will be those most likely to defend the society as a whole against its competitors. Because culture is infinite and has no temporal limits, a culture understands its past not as destiny, but as history, that is, as a narrative that has begun but points always toward the endlessly open. It is a highly valued function of society
    3. It is a highly valued function of society to prevent changes in the rules of the many games it embraces. Deviancy, however, is the very essence of culture. Whoever merely follows the script, merely repeating the past, is culturally impoverished
  1. Reminds me of Paul Graham and his point about great entrepreneurs bucking social trends, norms, expectations, working in what might be called the non-prestigious or embarrassing areas – deviancy
    1. Society has all the seriousness of immortal necessity; culture resounds with the laughter of unexpected possibility. Society is abstract, culture concrete
    2. Because an infinite game cannot be brought to an end, it cannot be repeated. Unrepeatability is a characteristics of culture everywhere. Just as an infinite game has rules, a culture has a tradition. Since the rules of play in an infinite game are freely agreed to and freely altered, a cultural tradition is both adopted and transformed in its adoption. Properly speaking, a culture does not have a tradition; it is a tradition
    3. Property must be seen as compensation for considerable labor given, as a restoration to the condition one was in prior to competition and must be seen as consumed. The more powerful we consider persons to be, the less we expect them to do, for their power can come only from that which they have done. Consumption is an activity so different from gainful labor that it shows itself in the mode of leisure, even indolence. We display the success of what we have done by not having to do anything. The more we use up, therefore, the more we show ourselves to be winners of past contests.
    4. Those persons whose victories the society wishes never to forget are given prominent and eternal monuments at the heart of its capital cities, often taking up considerable space, diverting traffic, and standing in the path of casual strollers. It is apparent to infinite players that wealth is not so much possessed as it is performed
    5. Infinite players have rules; they just do not forget that rules are an expression of agreement and not a requirement for agreement
    6. It can be said that where a society is defined by its boundaries, a culture is defined by its horizon. A boundary is a phenomenon of opposition. It is the meeting place of hostile forces. Where nothing opposes there can be no boundary. One cannot move beyond a boundary without being resisted. A horizon is a phenomenon of vision. One cannot look at the horizon; it is simply the point beyond which we cannot see. There is nothing in the horizon itself, however, that limits vision, for the horizon opens onto all that lies beyond itself. What limits vision is rather the incompleteness of that vision. One never reaches a horizon. It is not a line; it has no place; it encloses no field; its location is always relative to the view. To move toward a horizon is simply to have a new horizon. One can therefore never be close to one’s horizon, though one may certainly have a short range of vision, a narrow horizon. Every move the infinite player makes is toward the horizon. Every move made by a finite player is within a boundary. Every moment of an infinite game therefore presents a new vision, a new range of possibilities. The Renaissance, like all genuine cultural phenomena, was not an effort to promote one or another vision. It was an effort to find visions that promised still more vision. Who lives horizontally is never somewhere, but always in passage
  1. It is essential to the effectiveness of every title that it be visible and that in its visibility it point back at the contest in which it was won. The purpose of property is to make our titles visible. Property is emblematic. It recalls to others those areas in which our victories are beyond challenge. Property may be stolen, but the thief does not own it. Ownership can never be stolen. Titles are timeless, and so is the ownership of property
  2. Force and Storytellers
    1. Only agreement establishes force, never the other way around. Only those who consent to a society’s constraints see them as constraints – that is, as guides to action and not as actions to be opposed. Those who challenge the existing pattern of entitlements in a society do not consider the designated officers of enforcement powerful; they consider them opponents in a struggle that will determine by its outcome who is powerful. One does not win by power; one wins to be powerful. Rather than force, the more effective policy for a society is to find ways of persuading its thieves to abandon their role as competitors for property for the sake of becoming audience to the theater of wealth. It is for this reason that societies fall back on the skill of the poietai (storytellers) who can theatricalize the property relations, and indeed, all the inner structures of each society. While societal thinkers
    2. While societal thinkers may not overlook the importance of poiesis, or creative activity, neither may they underestimate its danger, for the poietai are the ones most likely to remember what has been forgotten – that society is a species of culture. The deepest and most consequent struggle of each society is therefore not with other societies, but with the culture that exists within itself – the culture that is itself. Conflict with other societies is, in fact, an effective way for a society to restrain its own culture. Powerful societies do not silence their poietai in order that they may go to war; they go to war as a way of silencing their poietai.
    3. What confounds a society is not serious opposition but the lack of seriousness altogether. Once warfare, or any other societal activity, has been taken into the infinite play of poiesis so that it appears to be either comical or pointless (in the way that, say, beauty is pointless) there is an acute danger that the soldiers will find no audience for their prizes, and therefore no reason to fight for them
    4. Art is never in possession, art is dramatic, opening always forward, beginning something that cannot be finished
    5. Artists cannot be trained. One does not become an artist by acquiring certain skills or techniques, though one can use any number of skills and techniques in artistic activity. The creative is found in anyone who is prepared for surprise. Such a person cannot go to school to be an artist, but can only go to school as an artist
  3. War
    1. For a bounded, metaphysically veiled, and destined society, enemies are necessary, conflict inevitable, and war likely
    2. War presents itself as necessary for self-protection, when in fact it is necessary for self-identification. If it is the impulse of a finite player to go against another nation in war, it is the design of an infinite player to oppose war within a nation. Finite players go to war against states because they endanger boundaries; infinite players oppose states because they engender boundaries
    3. Winning a war can be as destructive as losing one, for if boundaries lose their clarity, as they do in a decisive victory, the state loses its identity. A war fought to end all wars, in the strategy of finite play, only breeds universal warfare. The strategy of infinite players is horizonal. They do not go to meet putative enemies with power and violence, but with poiesis and vision. They invite them to become a people in passage. Infinite players do not rise to meet arms with arms; instead, they make use of laughter, vision, and surprise to engage the state and put its boundaries back into play. What will undo any boundary is the awareness that it is our vision, and not what we are viewing, that is limited
    4. True poets lead no one unawares. It is nothing other than awareness that poets – that is, creators of all sorts – seek. They do not display their art so as to make it really; they display the real in a way that reveals it to be art
    5. Metaphysics is about the real but is abstract. Poetry is the making (poeisis) of the real and is abstract. To separate the poeima from poiesis, the created object from the creative act, is the essence of the theatrical. Poets cannot kill; they die. Metaphysics cannot die; it kills
  4. Genius
    1. The paradox of genius exposes us directly to the dynamic of open reciprocity, for if you are the genius of what you say to me, I am the genius of what I hear you say. What you say originally I can hear only originally. As you surrender the sound on your lips, I surrender the sound in my ear. Each of us has relinquished to the other what has been relinquished to the other
    2. I am both the outcome of my past and the transformation of my past. To be related to the past as its outcome is to stand in causal continuity with it
    3. Not allowing the past to be the past may be the primary source for the seriousness of finite players. Inasmuch as finite play always has its audience, it is the audience to whom the finite player intends to be known as winner. The finite player, in other words, must not only have an audience but must have an audience to convince. Just as the titles of winners are worthless unless they are visible to others, there is a kind of antititle that attaches to invisibility. To the degree that we are invisible we have a past that has condemned us to oblivion. It is as though we have somehow been overlooked, even forgotten, by our chosen audience. It is the winners who are presently visible, it is the losers who are invisibly past. As we enter into finite play – not playfully, but seriously – we come before an audience conscious that we bear the antititles of invisibility. We feel the need, therefore, to prove to them that we are not what we think they think we are or, more precisely, that we were not who we think the audience thinks we were. As with all finite play, an acute contradiction quickly develops at the heart of this attempt. As finite players we will not enter the game with sufficient desire to win unless we are ourselves convinced by the very audience we intend to convince. That is, unless we believe we actually are the losers the audience sees us to be, we will not have the necessary desire to win. The more negatively we assess ourselves, the more we strive to reverse the negative judgment of others. The outcome brings the contradiction to perfection: by proving to the audience they were wrong, we prove ourselves the audience was right. The more we are recognized as winners, the more we know ourselves to be losers. That is why it is rare for the winners of highly coveted and publicized prizes to settle for their titles and retire. Winners, especially celebrated winners, must prove repeatedly they are winners. The script must be played over and over again. Titles must be defended by new contests. No one is ever wealthy enough, honored enough, applauded enough. On the contrary, the visibility of our victories only tightens the grip of the failures in our invisible past. So crucial is this power of the past to finite play that we must find ways of remembering that we have been forgotten to sustain our interest in the struggle. There is a humiliating memory at the bottom of all serious conflicts. Indeed, it is only by remembering what we have forgotten that we can enter into competition with sufficient intensity to be able to forget we have forgotten the character of all play: whoever must play cannot play. Whenever we act as the genius of ourselves, it will be in the spirit of allowing the past to be the past. It is the genius in us who is capable of ridding us of resentment by exercising what Nietzsche called the “faculty of oblivion,” not as a way of denying the past but as a way of reshaping it through our own originality. Then we forget that we have been forgotten by an audience, and remember that we have forgotten our freedom to play
      1. I think a clear look into why top performers tend to be insecure, narcissistic, self-consumed. They fear being invisible more than anything else and have to continuously prove to themselves they are not losers
  5. Touching vs. Moving
    1. Genius arises with touch. Touch is a characteristically paradoxical phenomenon of infinite play. I am not touched by another when the distance between us is reduced to zero. I am touched only if I respond from my own center – that is, spontaneously, originally. But you do not touch me except from your own center, out of your own genius. Touching is always reciprocal. You cannot touch me unless I touch you in response. The opposite of touching is moving. You move me by pressing me from without toward a place you have already foreseen and perhaps prepared. It is a staged action that succeeds only if in moving me you remain unmoved yourself. I can be moved to tears by skilled performances and heart-rending newspaper accounts, or moved to passion by political manifestos and narratives of heroic achievement – but in each case I am moved according to a formula or design to which the actor or agent is immune. We can only be moved by persons who are not what they are; we can be moved only when we are not who we are, but are what we cannot be. When I am touched, I am touched only as the person I am behind all the theatrical masks, but at the same time I am changed from within – and whoever touches me is touched as well. We can be moved only by way of our veils. We are touched through our veils.
      1. Reminiscent of Hawkins’ “Power vs. Force”
    2. If to be touched is to respond from one’s center, it is also to respond as a whole person. To be whole is to be hale, or healthy. In sum, whoever is touched is healed. The finite player’s interest is not in being healed, or made whole, but in being cured, or made functional. Healing restores me to play, curing restores me to competition in one or another game. Being ill is to be dysfunctional; to be dysfunctional is a kind of death, an inability to acquire titles. The ill become invisible. Illness always has the smell of death about it: Either it may lead to death, or it leads to the death of a person as competitor. The dread of illness is the dread of losing. One is never ill in general. One is always ill within relation to some bounded activity. It is not cancer that makes me ill. It is because I cannot work, or run, or swallow that I am ill with cancer. The loss of function, the obstruction of an activity, cannot in itself destroy my health. I am too heavy to fly by flapping my arms, but I do not for that reason complain of being sick with weight. When I am healed I am restored to my center in a way that my freedom as a person is not compromised by my loss of functions. This means that the illness need not be eliminated before I can be healed. I am not free to the degree that I can overcome my infirmities, but only to the degree that I can put my infirmities into play. I am cured of my illness; I am healed with my illness. Healing, of course, has all the reciprocity of touching. Just as I cannot touch myself, I cannot heal myself. But healing requires no specialists, only those who can come to us out of their own center, and who are prepared to heal themselves.
    3. Sexuality for the infinite player is entirely a matter of touch. One cannot touch without touching sexually. Aware that genuine sexual expression is at least as dangerous to society as genuine artistic expression, the sexual metaphysician can appeal to at least two powerful solutions. One is to treat sexuality as a process of reproduction; another is to place it in the area of feeling and behavior. The profound seriousness of such sexual play is seen in the unique nature of the prize that goes to the winner. What one wants in the sexual contest is not just to have defeated the other, but to have the defeated other. Sexuality is the only finite game in which the winner’s prize is the defeated opponent. In the complex plotting of sexual encounter it is by no means uncommon for the partners to have played a double game in which each is winner and loser, and each is an emblem for the other’s seductive power. Finite sexuality is a form of theater in which the distance between persons is regularly reduced to zero but in which neither touches the other. The most serious struggles are those for sexual property. For this wars are fought, lives are generously risked, great schemes are initiated. However, who wins empire, fortune, and fame but loses in love has lost in everything.
    4. Sexual desires are usually not directly announced but concealed under a series of feints, gestures, styles of dress, and showy behavior. Seductions are staged, scripted, costumed. Certain responses are sought, plots are developed. In skillful seductions delays are employed, special circumstances and settings are arranged. Seductions are designed to come to an end. Time runs out. The play is finished. All that remains is recollection, the memory of a moment, and perhaps a longing for its repetition. Seductions cannot be repeated. Once one has won or lost in a particular finite game, the game cannot be played over. Moments once reached cannot be reached again. The appetite for novelty in lovemaking- new positions, the use of drugs, exotic surroundings, additional partners – is only a search for new moments that can live on only in recollection. As with all finite play, the goal of veiled sexuality is to bring itself to an end. By contrast, infinite players have no interest in seduction or in restricting the freedom of another to one’s own boundaries of play. Infinite players recognize choice in all aspects of sexuality. They may see in themselves and in others, for example, the infant’s desire to compete for the mother, but they also see that there is neither physiological nor societal destiny in sexual patterns. Who chooses to compete with another can also choose to play with another. Sexuality is not a bounded phenomenon but a horizonal phenomenon for infinite players. One can never say, therefore, that an infinite player is homosexual, or heterosexual, or celibate, or adulterous, or faithful – because each of these definitions has to do with boundaries, with circumscribed areas and styles of play. Infinite players do not play within sexual boundaries, but with sexual boundaries. They are concerned not with power but with vision. In their sexual play they suffer others, allow them to be as they are. Suffering others, they open themselves. Open, they learn both about others and about themselves. Learning, they grow. What they learn is not about sexuality, but how to be more concretely and originally themselves, to be the genius of their own actions, to be whole. Moving therefore from an original center, the sexual engagements of infinite players have no standards, no ideals, no marks of success or failure. Neither orgasm nor conception is a goal in their play, although either may be part of the play. There is nothing hidden in infinite sexuality. Sexual desire is exposed as sexual desire and is never therefore serious. Its satisfaction is never an achievement, but an act in a continuing relationship, and therefore joyous. Its lack of satisfaction is never a failure, but only a matter to be taken on into further play.
    5. Infinite sexuality does not focus its attention on certain parts or regions of the body. Infinite lovers have no “private parts.” They do not regard their bodies as having secret zones that can be exposed or made accessible to others for special favors. It is not their bodies but their persons they make accessible to others. The paradox of infinite sexuality is that by regarding sexuality as an expression of the person and not the body, it becomes fully embodied play. It becomes a drama of touching. The triumph of finite sexuality is to be liberated from play into the body. The essence of infinite sexuality is to be liberated into play with the body. In finite sexuality I expect to relate to you as a body; in infinite sexuality I expect to relate to you in your body. Infinite lovers conform to the sexual expectations of others in a way that does not expose something hidden, but unveils something in plain sight: that sexual engagement is a poiesis of free persons. In this exposure they emerge as the persons they are. They meet others with their limitations, and not within their limitations. In doing so they expect to be transformed – and are transformed
  6. Looking vs. Seeing
    1. If to look is to look at what is contained within its limitations, to see is to see the limitations themselves
    2. To look is a territorial activity. It is to observe one thing after another within a bounded space – as though in time it can all be seen. Academic fields are such territories. Sometimes everything in a field finally does get looked at and defined – that is, placed in its proper location. It becomes increasingly difficult to find something new to look at
    3. When we pass from looking to seeing, we do not therefore lose our sight of the objects observed. Seeing, in fact, does not disturb our looking at all. It rather places us in that territory as its genius, aware that our imagination does not create within its outlines but creates the outlines themselves. The physicist who sees speaks physics with us, inviting us to see that the things we thought were there are not things at all. By learning new limitations from such a person, we learn not only what to look for with them but also how to see the way we use limitations. A physics so taught becomes poiesis
  7. Worlds
    1. A finite game occurs within a world. The fact that it must be limited temporally, numerically, and spatially means that there is something against which the limits stand. There is an outside to every finite game. Its limits are meaningless unless there is something to be limited, unless there is a larger space, a longer time, a greater number of possible competitors. There is nothing about a finite game, in itself, that determines at what time it is to be played, or by whom, or where. We cannot have a precise understanding of what it means to be the winner of a contest until we can place the game in the absolute dimensions of a world. World exists in the form of audience. A world is not all that is the case, but that which determines all that is the case. AN audience consists of persons observing a contest without participating in it. No one determines who an audience will be. No exercise of power can make a world. A world must be its own spontaneous sources. If the boundaries of the audience are irrelevant, what is relevant is the unity of the audience. They must be a singular entity, bound in their desire to see who will win the contest before them. The fact that a finite game needs an audience before which it can be played, and the fact that an audience needs to be singularly absorbed in the events before it, show the crucial reciprocity of finite play and the world. There is an indefinite number of worlds
    2. I cannot be a finite player without being divided against myself. A similar dynamic is found in the audience. When sufficiently oblivious to their status as audience, the observers of a finite game become so absorbed in its conduct that they lose the sense of distance between themselves and the players. It is they, quite as much as the players, who win or lose.
    3. A finite game does not have its own time. It exists in a world’s time. An audience allows players only so much time to win their titles. Early in a game time seems abundant, and there appears a greater freedom to develop future strategies. Late in a game, time is rapidly being consumed. As choices become more limited they become more important. Errors are more disastrous. We look on childhood and youth as those “times of life” rich with possibility only because there still seem to remain so many paths open to a successful outcome. Each year that passes, however, increases the competitive value of making strategically correct decisions. The errors of childhood can be more easily amended than those of adulthood. For the finite player in us freedom is a function of time. We must have time to be free. The passage of time is always relative to that which does not pass, to the timeless. Victories occur in time, but the titles won in them are timeless. Titles neither age nor die. The outcome of a finite game is the past waiting to happen. Whoever plays toward a certain outcome desires a particular past. By competing for a future prize, finite players compete for a prized past. The infinite player in us does not consume time but generates it. Because infinite play is dramatic and has no scripted conclusion, its time is time lived and not time viewed. As an infinite player one is neither old nor young, for one does not live in the time of another. There is therefore no external measure of an infinite player’s temporality. Time does not pass for an infinite player. Each moment of time is a beginning. Each moment is not the beginning of a period of time. It is the beginning of an event that gives the time within it its specific quality. For an infinite player there is no such thing as an hour of time. There can be an hour of love, or a day of grieving, or a season of learning, or a period of labor. An infinite player does not begin working for the purpose of filling up a period of time with work, but for the purpose of filling work with time. Work is not an infinite player’s way of passing time, but of engendering possibility. Work is not a way of arriving at a desired present and securing it against an unpredictable future, but of moving toward a future which itself has a future. Infinite players cannot say how much they have completed in their work or love or quarreling, but only that much remains incomplete in it. They are not concerned to determine when it is over, but only what comes of it. For the finite player in us freedom is a function of time. We must have the time to be free. For the infinite player in us time is a function of freedom. We are free to have time. A finite player puts play into time. An finite player puts time into play
      1. Agree and disagree. As long as you can course correct fast enough when you’re young, most decisions aren’t detrimental. But, if you get on a path early on which is taking you in the wrong direction, these early bad decisions can compound and have a far greater and longer-lasting impact than decisions made at a later time
    4. Infinite players can join the audience of any game. They do so, however, for the play that is in observing, quite aware that they are the audience. They look, but they see that they are looking
    5. If the goal of finite play is to win titles for their timelessness, and thus eternal life for oneself, the essence of infinite play is the paradoxical engagement with temporality that Meister Eckhart called “eternal birth.”
  8. Nature
    1. Nature is the realm of the unspeakable. It has no voice of its own, and nothing to say. We experience the unspeakability of nature as its utter indifference to human culture. The Master Player in us tolerates this indifference scarcely at all. Indeed, we respond to it as a challenge, an invitation to confrontation and struggle. If nature will offer us no home, offer us nothing at all, we will then clear and arrange a space for ourselves. We take nature on as an opponent to be subdued for the sake of civilization. We count among the highest achievements of modern society the development of a technology that allows us to master nature’s vagaries.
    2. It is as though, by learning nature’s secret script, we have learned to direct its play as well. There is little left to surprise us. The assumption guiding our struggle against nature is that deep within itself nature contains a structure, an order that is ultimately intelligible to the human understanding. Since this inherent structure determines the way things change, and is not itself subject to change, we speak of nature being lawful, of repeating itself according to quite predictable patterns. What we have done by showing that certain events repeat themselves according to known laws is to explain them. Explanation is the mode of discourse in which we show why matters must be the way they are. All laws made use of in explanation look backward in time from the conclusion or the completion of a sequence. It is implicit in all explanatory discourse that just as there is discoverable necessity in the outcome of past events, there is a discoverable necessity in future events. What can be explained can also be predicted, if one knows the initial events and the laws covering their succession. A prediction is but an explanation in advance.
    3. Because of its thorough lawfulness nature has no genius of its own. On the contrary, it is sometimes thought that the grandest discovery of the human genius is the perfect compatibility between the structure of the natural order and the structure of the mind, thereby making a complete understanding of nature possible. This is as much as to say that nature does have a voice, and its voice is no different from our own. We can them presume to speak for the unspeakable. This achievement is often raised as a sign of the great superiority of modern civilizations over the many faded and lost civilizations of the ancients. While our great skill lies in finding patterns of repetition under the apparent play of accident and chance, less successful civilizations dealt with the threats of natural accident by appealing to supernatural powers for protection. But the voices of the gods proved to be ignorant and false; they have been silenced by the truth. There is an irony in our silencing of the gods. By presuming to speak for the unspeakable, by hearing our own voice as the voice of nature, we have had to step outside the circle of nature. It is one thing for physics and chemistry to be speaking about nature; it is quite another for physics and chemistry to be speaking of nature. No chemist would want to say that chemistry is itself chemical, for our speaking cannot be both chemical and about chemistry. If speaking about a process is itself part of the process, there is something that must remain permanently hidden from the speaker. TO be intelligible at all, we must claim that we can step aside from the process and comment on it “objectively” and “dispassionately,” without anything obstructing our view of these matters. Here lies the irony: by way of this perfectly reasonable claim the gods have stolen back into our struggle with nature. By depriving the gods of their own voices, the gods have taken ours. It is we who speak as supernatural intelligences and powers, masters of the forces of nature. This irony passes unnoticed only so long as we continue to veil ourselves against what we can otherwise plainly see: nature allows no master over itself. Bacon’s principle works both ways (“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed”). If we must obey to command, then our commanding is only obeying and not commanding at all. There is no such thing as an unnatural act. Nothing can be done to or against nature, much less outside it.
    4. Unveiled, aware of the insuperable limitation placed against our looking, we come back to nature’s perfect silence. What we learn from this silence is the unlikeness between nature and whatever we could think or say about it. But this silence has an irony of its own: far from stupefying us, it provides an indispensable condition for the mind’s own originality. By confronting us with radical unlikeness, nature becomes the source of metaphor. Metaphor is the joining of like to unlike such that one can never become the other. Metaphor requires an irreducibility, an imperturbable indifference of its terms for one another. At its root all language has the character of metaphor, because no matter what it intends to be about it remains language, and remains absolutely unlike whatever it is about. The unspeakability of nature is the very possibility of language
      1. A name of something is not that something
    5. We control nature for societal reasons. The control of nature advances with our ability to predict the outcome of natural processes. Inasmuch as predictions are but explanations in reverse, it is possible that they will be quite combative as explanations. Indeed, prediction is the most highly developed skill of the Master Player, for without it control of an opponent is all the more difficult. It follows that our domination of nature is meant to achieve not certain natural outcomes, but certain societal outcomes
    6. Our attempt to control nature masks our desire for power over each other
    7. Just as nature has no outside, it has no inside. It is not divided within itself and cannot therefore be used for or against itself. There is no inherent opposition of the living and the nonliving within nature; neither is more or less natural than the other. This is not an expression of an order so much as it is the display of a perfect indifference on nature’s part to all matters cultural. Nature’s source of movement is always from within itself; indeed it is itself. And it is radically distinct from our own source of movement. That is not to say that, possessing no order, nature is chaotic. It is neither chaotic nor ordered. Chaos and order describe the cultural experience of nature – the degree to which nature’s indifferent spontaneity seems to agree with our current manner of cultural self-control. A hurricane, or a plague, or the overpopulation of the earth will seem chaotic to those whose cultural expectations are damaged by them and orderly to those whose expectations have been confirmed by them.
    8. The paradox in our relation to nature is that the more deeply a culture respects the indifference of nature, the more creatively it will call upon its own spontaneity in response. The more clearly we remind ourselves that we can have no unnatural influence on nature, the more our culture will embody a freedom to embrace surprise and unpredictability. Human freedom is not a freedom over nature; it is the freedom to be natural that is, to answer to the spontaneity of nature with our own spontaneity. Though we are free to be natural, we are not free by nature; we are free by culture, by history. The contradiction in our relation to nature is that the more vigorously we attempt to force its agreement with our own designs the more subject we are to its indifference, the more vulnerable to its unseeing forces. The more power we exercise over natural process the more powerless we become before it. In a matter of months we can cut down a rain forest that took tens of thousands of years to grow, but we are helpless in repulsing the desert that takes its place. And the desert, of course, is no less natural than the forest
      1. Prepared, adaptive, robust, honoring the possibility of black-swans
  9. History
    1. If nature is the realm of the unspeakable, history is the realm of the speakable. Indeed, no speaking is possible that is not itself historical
    2. Since history is the drama of genius, its relentless surprise tempts us into designing boundaries for it, searching through it for patterns of repetition. Historians sometimes speak of trends, of cycles, of currents, of forces, as though they were describing natural events. Historians who understand themselves to be historical abandon explanation altogether. The mode of discourse appropriate to such self-aware history is narrative. Like explanation, narrative is concerned with a sequence of events and brings its tale to a conclusion. However, there is no general law that makes this outcome necessary. In a genuine story there is no law that makes any act necessary. Explanations place all apparent possibilities into the context of the necessary; stories set all necessities into the context of the possible. Explanation can tolerate a degree of chance, but it cannot comprehend freedom at all. We explain nothing when we say that persons do whatever they do because they choose to do it. On the other hand, causation cannot find a place in narrative. We have not told a story when we show that persons do whatever they do because they were caused to do it – by their genes, their social circumstances, or the influence of the gods. Explanations settle issues, showing that matters must end as they have. Narratives raise issues, showing that matters do not end as they must but as they do. Explanations sets the need for further inquiry aside; narrative invites us to rethink what we thought we know. If the silence of nature is the possibility of language, language is the possibility of history
    3. Explanations succeed only by convincing resistant hearers of their error. If you will not hear my explanations until you are suspicious of your own truths, you will not accept my explanations until you are convinced of your error. Explanation is an antagonistic encounter that succeeds by defeating an opponent. It possesses the same dynamic of resentment found in other finite play. I will press my explanations on you because I need to show that I do not live in the error that I think others think I do. Knowledge, therefore, is like property. It must be published, declared, or in some other way so displayed that others cannot but take account of it. So close are knowledge and property that they are often thought to be continuous. Those who are entitled to knowledge feel they should be granted property as well, and those who are entitled to property believe a certain knowledge goes with it. Scholars demand higher salaries for their publishable successes; industrialists sit on university boards.
    4. One is speechless before a god, or silent before a winner, because it no longer matters to others what one has to say. To lose a contest is to become obedient; to become obedient is to lose one’s listeners. The silence of obedience is an unheard silence. It is the silence of death. For this reason the demand for obedience is inherently evil. The silence of nature is the possibility of language. By subduing nature the gods give it their own voice, but in making nature an opponent they make all their listeners opponents. By refusing the silence of nature they demand the silence of obedience. The unspeakability of nature is therefore transformed into the unspeakability of language itself.
    5. Infinite speech is that mode of discourse that consistently reminds us of the unspeakability of nature. It bears no claim to truth, originating from nothing but the genius of the speaker. Infinite speech is therefore not about anything; it is always to someone. It is not command, but address. It belongs entirely to the speakable. Because it is address, attending always on the response of the addressed, infinite speech has the form of listening. Infinite speech does not end in the obedient silence of the hearer but continues by way of the attentive silence of the speaker. It is not a silence into which speech has died, but a silence from which speech is born. Infinite speakers do not give voice to another, but receive it from another. Infinite speakers do not therefore appeal to a world as audience, do not speak before a world, but present themselves as an audience by way of talking with others. Finite speech informs another about the world – for the sake of being heard. Infinite speech forms a world about the other – for the sake of listening. The contradiction of finite speech is that it must end by being heard. The paradox of infinite speech is that it continues only because it is a way of listening. Finite speech ends with a silence of closure. Infinite speech begins with a disclosure of silence.
    6. Historians become infinite speakers when they see that whatever begins in freedom cannot end in necessity
  10. Machine vs. Garden
    1. Machine is used here as an inclusive of technology and as an example of it – as a way of drawing attention to the mechanical rationality of technology. Garden does not refer to the bounded plot at the edge of the house or the margin of the city. This is not a garden one lives beside, but a garden one lives within. It is a place of growth, of maximized spontaneity. To garden is not to engage in a hobby or an amusement; it is to design a culture capable of adjusting the widest possible range of surprise in nature. Gardeners are acutely attentive to the deep patterns of natural order, but are also aware that there will always be much lying beyond their vision. Gardening is a horizonal activity. Machine and garden are not absolutely opposed to each other. Machinery can exist in the garden quite as finite games can be played within an infinite game. The question is not one of restricting machines from the garden but asking whether a machine serves the interest of the garden, or the garden the interest of the machine.
    2. The most elemental difference between the machine and the garden is that one is driven by a force which must be introduced from without, the other grown by an energy which originates from within itself
    3. A plant cannot be designed or constructed. Though we seem to give it “fuel” in the form of rich earth and appropriate nutrients, we depend on the plant to make use of the fuel by way of its own vitality. A machine depends on its designer and its operator both for the supply of fuel and its consumption. A machine has not the merest trace of its own spontaneity or vitality. Vitality cannot be given, only found.
    4. To operate a machine one must operate like a machine. Using a machine to do what we cannot do, we find we must do what the machine does
    5. When we use machines to achieve whatever it is we desire, we cannot have what we desire until we have finished with the machine, until we can rid ourselves of the mechanical means of reaching our intended outcome. The goal of technology is therefore to eliminate itself, to become silent, invisible, carefree. For example, a perfect radio will draw no attention to itself, will make it seem we are in the very presence of the source of its sound. When it is most effective, machinery will have no effect at all
      1. Seeing this play out today with airpods, smart devices, etc. Becoming increasingly and seamlessly integrated into our lives
    6. To be at home everywhere is to neutralize space
    7. If to operate a machine is to operate like a machine, then we not only operate with each other like machines, we operate each other like machines. And if a machine is most effective when it has no effect, then we operate each other in such a way that we reach the outcome desired – in such a way that nothing happens
    8. If indifference to nature leads to the machine, the indifference of nature leads to the garden. All culture has the form of gardening: the encouragement of spontaneity in others by way of one’s own, the respect for source, and the refusal to convert source into resource
    9. Gardening is not outcome-oriented. A successful harvest is not the end of the garden’s existence, but only a phase of it. As any gardener knows, the vitality of a garden does not end with a harvest. It simply takes another form. Gardens do not “die” in the winter but quietly prepare for another season. Gardeners celebrate variety, unlikeness, spontaneity. They understand that an abundance of styles in the interest of vitality. The more complex the organic content of the soil, for example – that is, the more numerous its sources of change – the more vigorous its liveliness. Growth promotes growth. So also in culture. Infinite players understand that the vigor of a culture has to do with the variety of its sources, the differences within itself. The unique and the surprising are not suppressed in some persons for the strength of others. The genius in you stimulates the genius in me. One operates a machine effectively, so that it disappears, giving way to results in which the machine has no part. One gardens creatively, so that all the sources of the garden’s vitality appear in its harvest, giving rise to a continuity which we take an active part.
    10. Inasmuch as gardens do not conclude with a harvest and are not played for a certain outcome, one never arrives anywhere with a garden. A garden is a place where growth is found. It has its own source of change. One does not bring change to a garden, but comes to a garden prepared for change, and therefore prepared to change. It is possible to deal with growth only out of growth. True parents do not see to it that their children grow in a particular way, according to a preferred pattern or scripted stages, but they see to it that they grow with their children. The character of one’s parenting, if it is genuinely dramatic, must be constantly altered from within as the children change from within. So, too, with teaching, or working with, or loving each other. It is in the garden that we discover what travel truly is. We do not journey to a garden but by way of it. Genuine travel has no destination. Travelers do not go somewhere, but constantly discover they are somewhere else. Since gardening is a way not of subduing the indifference of nature but of raising one’s own spontaneity to respond to the desi regarding vagaries and unpredictabilities of nature, we do not look on nature as a sequence of changing scenes but look on ourselves as persons in passage. Nature does not change; it has no inside or outside. It is therefore not possible to travel through it. All travel is therefore change within the traveler, and it is for that reason that travelers are always somewhere else. To travel is to grow. Genuine travelers travel not to overcome distance but to discover distance. It is not distance that makes travel necessary, but travel that makes distance possible. Distance is not determined by the measurable length between objects, but by the actual differences between them. What is truly separate is distinct; it is unlike.
    11. A gardener, whose attention is ever on the spontaneities of nature, acquires the gift of seeing differences, looks always for the merest changes in plant growth, or in the composition of the soil, the emerging populations of insects and earthworms. So will gardeners, as parents, see changes of the smallest subtlety in their children, or as teachers see the signs of increasing skill, and possibly wisdom, in their students
    12. Society regards its waste as an unfortunate, but necessary, consequence of its activities – what is left when we have made essential societal goods available. But waste is not the result of what we have made. It is what we have made. Waste plutonium is not an indirect consequence of the nuclear industry; it is a product of that industry. Waste is unveiling. Because waste is unveiling, it is not only placed out of sight, it is declared a kind of antiproperty. No one owns it and no one wants it. Waste is the antiproperty that becomes the possession of losers. It is the emblem of the untitled.
    13. Since the attempt to control nature is at its heart the attempt to control other persons, we can expect societies to be less patient with those cultures which express some degree of indifference to societal goals and values. It is this repeated parallel that brings us to see that the society that creates natural waste creates human waste. Waste persons are those no longer useful as resources to a society for whatever reason, and have become apatrides, or noncitizens. Waste persons must be placed out of view – in ghettos, slums, reservations, camps, retirement villages, mass graves, remote territories, strategic hamlets – all places of desolation, and uninhabitable.
    14. We see nature as genius when we see genius. We understand nature as source when we understand ourselves as source. We abandon all attempts at an explanation of nature when we see that we cannot be explained, when our own self-origination cannot be stated as fact. We behold the irreducible otherness of nature when we behold ourselves as its other.
    15. For the infinite player, seeing as genius, nature is the absolutely unlike. The infinite player recognizes nothing on the face of nature. Nature displays not only its indifference to human existence but its difference as well. Nature offers no home. The homelessness of nature, its utter indifference to human existence, disclose to the infinite player that nature is the genius of the dramatic.
  11. Myth
    1. Myth provokes explanation but accepts none of it. Where explanation absorbs the unspeakable into the speakable, myth reintroduces the silence that makes original discourse possible
    2. Few discoveries were greater than Copernicus’, for they projected an order onto the heavens that no one has successfully challenged. Many thought then, and some still think, that this great statement of truth dispelled clouds of myth that had kept humankind in retarding darkness. What Copernicus dispelled, however, were not myths but other explanations. Myths lie elsewhere. To see where, we do not look at the facts in Copernicus’ works; we look for the story in his stating them. Knowledge is what successful explanation has led to; the thinking that sent us forth, however, is pure story
    3. That myth does not accept the explanations it provokes we can see in the boldness with which thinkers in any territorial endeavor reexamine the familiar for a higher seeing. Indeed, the very liveliness of a culture is determined not by how frequently these thinkers discover new continents of knowledge but by how frequently they depart to seek them. A culture can be no stronger than its strongest myths.
    4. A story attains the status of myth when it is retold, and persistently retold, solely for its own sake. To tell a story for its own sake is to tell it for no other reason than it is a story. Great stories have this feature: to listen to them and learn them is to become their narrators. Our first response to hearing a story is the desire to tell it ourselves – the greater the story the greater the desire. It is as though the story is itself seeking the occasion for its recurrence, making use of us as its agents.
    5. Great stories cannot be observed, any more than an infinite game can have an audience
    6. Stories that have the enduring strength of myths reach through experience to touch the genius in each of us
    7. As myths make individual experience possible, they also make collective experience possible. Whole civilizations rise from stories – and can rise from nothing else. We come to life at their touch. Myths, told for their own sake, are not stories that have meanings, but stories that give meanings.
    8. We resonate with myth when it resounds in us. A myth resounds in me when its voice is heard in mine but not heard as mine.
    9. Myths of irrepressible resonance have lost all trace of an author. Even when sacred texts are written own by an identifiable prophet or evangelist, it is invariably thought that these words were first spoken to their recorders and not spoken by them. Moses received the law and did not compose it. No myth, therefore, exists by itself; neither does it have a discoverable origin.
    10. Myth is the highest form of us listening to each other, of offering a silence that makes the speech of the other possible. This is why listening is far more valued by religion than speaking. Fides ex auditu. Faith comes by listening, Paul said
    11. The opposite of resonance is amplification. A bell resonates, a cannon amplifies. We listen to the bell, we are silenced by the cannon. When a single voice is sufficiently amplified, it becomes a speaking that makes it impossible for any other voices to be heard. We do not listen to a loudspeaker for what is being said, but only because it is all that is being said. Ideology is the amplification of myth
    12. If it is true that myth provokes explanation, then it is also true that explanation’s ultimate design is to eliminate myth. This is the contradiction of finite play in its highest form: to play in such a way that all need for play is erased
    13. It is not necessary for infinite players to be Christians; indeed it is not possible for them to be Christians – seriously. Neither is it possible for them to be Buddhists, or Muslims, or atheists, or New Yorkers – seriously. All such titles can only be playful abstractions, mere performances for the sake of laughter. Infinite players are not serious actors in any story, but the joyful poets of a story that continues to originate what they cannot finish.
    14. There is but one infinite game.

What I got out of it

  1. So much here to mull over and digest. Serious vs. playful. Play for the sake of ending the game vs. playing for the sake of play. Playing within boundaries vs. playing with boundaries. Contradictory vs. Paradoxical. Machines vs. Gardens. Thoughts on nature, war, genius, myths, and more

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

  1. Gaal Dornick travels to the Galactic Empire’s capital to work with Hari Seldon on a branch of mathematics called psychohistory. Seldon predicts that the all powerful Galactic Empire will fall in three centuries, bringing with it a Dark Age
Key Takeaways
  1. The Encyclopedists – the mayor of the first Foundation, Salvor Hardin tries to convince his Board of Trustees that running the planet is more important than completing Seldon’s Encyclopedia Galactic. Hardin plans to overthrow the leadership when he receives a message from Seldon appears, revealing that the encyclopedia was a trick and Hardin has to take over the Foundation and fulfill Seldon’s real plan.
  2. The Mayors – a political group called the Action party has risen to power and is trying to impeach Hardin. Hardin outmaneuvers his enemies by convincing them that the Foundation’s religious group doesn’t support the war
  3. The Traders – Limmar Ponyets is sent to rescue Eskel Gorov and decides to trade gold instead of technology. He invents a transmutation machine and trades Eskel in exchange for the machine. Ponyets  recorded the exchange and blackmails Pherl into letting them walk away with treasures
  4. The Merchant Princes – Hober Mallow heads to Korell to investigate some missing ships but ends up establishing trade with the planet. After visiting Siwenna, Mallow returns to the Foundation, is tried for and cleared of the death of the religious missionary, and elected mayor. Korell later attacks the Foundation but Mallow anticipated this and made Korell so dependent on the Foundation that Korell’s economy collapses and the Foundation wins the war without even trying.
What I got out of it
  1. A brilliant, fun read which is hard to believe Asimov wrote up over 60 years ago

The Lives of Artists by Giorgio Vasari

  1. Giorgio Vasari  the effective founder of art history, describes the lives and works of some of history’s great artists
Key Takeaways
  1. Vasari had titanic energy and was an accomplished artist in his own right but his most important legacy is this book – having pretty much invented art history
  2. Design is the basis of all good art – practice to imitate human and natural world
  3. Grace and effortless-seeming is the greatest compliment anyone can pay you
  4. The origin of these arts was Nature herself, that the inspiration or model was the beautiful fabric of the world, and that the Master who taught us was that divine light infused in us by a special act of grace which has not only made us superior to other animals but even similar, if it is permitted to say so, to God himself
  5. Cimabue made Byzantine art less “awkward” and was Giotto’s mentor
  6. Giotto a natural talent but worked hard and learned to draw from Nature
  7. Design and invention are the father and mother of all the arts and not of a single one alone
  8. Truly happy are the men who are by nature inclined to those arts which can bring them not only honor and great profits but, what is more important, fame and an almost everlasting reputation; even happier are those who in addition to this inclination exhibit from infancy a gentility and civility of manners which make them most pleasing to all men. But  happiest of all, finally, are those (speaking of artists) who, in addition to having a natural inclination towards the good as well as noble habits resulting from both their nature and education  live in the time of some famous writer from whom, in return for a small portrait or some other kind of gift of an artistic nature, they may on occasion receive through such writings, the reward of eternal honor and fame
  9. No doubt those who are the inventors of anything noble attract the greatest attention from historians, and this occurs because new inventions are more closely observed and held in greater amazement, due to the pleasure to be found in the newness of things, than any number of improvements made later by anyone at all in bringing these things to their ultimate state of perfection.
  10. Basis of art history lies in first-hand observation
  11. Any beginning, no matter how small, is always worth of no small praise
  12. Robbia devoted himself so completely to sculpture, altogether abandoning the goldsmith’s craft  that he did nothing else but chisel all day long and sketch at night. And he did this with such zeal that on many occasions at night when his feet became cold, in order not to leave his sketching, he would warm them up by placing them in a basket of wood shavings – that is, the kinds of shavings carpenters remove from boards when they work them with a plane. I am not in the least surprised by this, since no one ever becomes excellent in any profession whatsoever unless he learns while stills  boy to endure heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and other discomforts; those people, therefore, who think it is possible to attain an honorable rank with all the comforts and conveniences in the world are sadly mistaken: it is achieved by staying up late and working constantly, not by sleeping!
  13. Artists should pay close attention to this, since experience makes it clear that from a  distance all things – whether painting, sculpture, or any other similar thing – have greater boldness and force if they are well roughed out rather than well finished; because of the effects of distance, it also often seems that rough sketches, which are created in an instant of artistic frenzy, express the idea behind them in a few strokes, whereas on the other hand, great effort and too much diligence may sometimes diminish the power and knowledge of those who never know when to pull their hands away from the works they are creating. And anyone who knows that the art of design (to avoid speaking only of painting) are akin to poetry also knows that just as poems dictated during a poetic frenzy are the truest, the finest, and the best when compared to those produced with great effort, so the works of men who excel in arts of design are best when they are created by a single stroke from the force of this frenzy rather than when they are produced little by little according to the inspiration of the moment with great effort and labor. The artist who from the very beginning has, as he should, a conception of what he desires to create, always moves resolutely towards perfection with the greatest ease
  14. Let it suffice to say that whatever great artists pursue, so do the lesser ones
  15. Nature has created many men who are small and insignificant in appearance but whoa re endowed with spirits so full of greatness and hearts of such boundless courage that they have no peace until they undertake difficult and almost impossible tasks and bring them to completion, to the astonishment of those who witness them. No matter how vile or base these projects may be, when opportunity puts them into the hands of such men, they become valuable and lofty enterprises. Thus, we should never turn up our noses when we meet people who in their physical appearance do not possess the initial grace and beauty that Nature should bestow upon skillful artisans when they come into the world, for without a doubt veins of gold are hidden beneath the sod. And many times those with poor features develop such great generosity of spirit and sincerity of heart that when nobility of soul is joined to these qualities, they greatest miracles may be expected of them, for they work to embellish ugliness of body with strength of intellect. This can clearly be see in Brunelleschi. Heaven also endowed Filippo with the highest virtues, among which was that of friendship, so that there never existed a man more kind or loving than he. In his judgment he was dispassionate, and whenever he considered the measure of another man’s merits, eh set aside his own interest or that of his friends. He knew himself and communicated the degree of his own talent to others, and he was always ready to help a neighbor in need, declaring himself a confirmed enemy of vice and an admirer of those who practiced virtue. He never wasted his time but was always striving to asst his friends, either by himself or with the help of others, and he went about visiting his friends and always supporting them.
  16. Filippo’s hologram in his head – “…And none of you has remembered to point out that the internal scaffolding can be constructed to do the mosaics and countless number of other difficult tasks. But I, who envision the dome already vaulted, recognize that there is no other way to vault it than the one I have set forth.”
  17. The greatest gifts often rain down upon human bodies through celestial influences as a natural process, and sometimes in a supernatural fashion a single body is lavishly supplied with such beauty, grace, and ability that whatever the individual turns, each of his actions is so divine that he leaves behind all other men and clearly makes himself known as a genius endowed by God (which he is) rather than created by human artifice. Men saw this in Leonardo da Vinci, who displayed great physical beauty (which has never been sufficiently praised),a  more than infinite grace in every action, and an ability so fit and so vast that wherever his mind turned to difficult tasks, he resolved them completely with ease. His great personal strength was joined to dexterity, and his spirit and courage were always regal and magnanimous. And the fame of his name spread so widely that not only was he held in high esteem in his own times, but his fame increased even more after his death
  18. The greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less since they are searching for inventions in their minds, and forming those perfect ideas which their hands then express and reproduce from what they preciously conceived with their intellect
  19. The loss of Leonardo saddened beyond all measure everyone who had known him, for no one ever lived who had brought such honor to painting. His splendidly handsome appearance could bring calm to every troubled soul, and his words could sway the most hardened mind to either side of a question. His great physical strength could check any violent outburst; with his right hand he could bend the iron ring of a door-knocker or a horseshoe as if it were made of lead. His generosity was so great that he sheltered and fed all his friends, rich and poor alike, provided they possessed talent and ability.
  20. No one should think it strange that Michelangelo took pleasure in solitude, as a man deeply enamored of his art, which wants a man to be alone and pensive for its own purposes, since anyone who desires to apply himself to the study of this art must avoid companions: it so happens that those who attend to the considerations of art are never alone or without thoughts, and people who attribute their desire for solitude to daydreams and eccentricity are wrong, for anyone who wishes to work well must rid himself of cares and worries, since talent requires thought, solitude, comfort and concentration of mind. All the same, Michelangelo cherished the friendship of many people, great men, learned scholars, and talented people, and he maintained these friendships whenever it was appropriate
  21. Michelangelo possessed such a deep and retentive memory that after seeing the works of others a single time, he recalled them in such detail and used them in such a way that scarcely anyone ever realized it; nor did he ever create any works which resembled another, because he remembered everything that he had done
  22. As long as he wants to be rich, he will continue to be poor
  23. Anyone who follows others never passes them by, and anyone who does not know how to do good works on his own cannot make good use of works by others
  24. Now, if I have reached the goal I desired, that is, to be useful and to give pleasure, I shall be extremely grateful, and if I have failed I shall rest content, or at least less troubled, having toiled in an honorable cause and one that should make me worthy, among men of talent, of at least their compassion, if not their forgiveness…As for the rest, having done the best I knew how, accept it willingly and do not ask of me more than I know or am capable of, and be satisfied with my good will, which is and always will be to help others. – Vasari
What I got out of it
  1. Really insightful book on the personalities and works of some of history’s best artists. Mastery in one realm can shed light on all others.

Am I Being Too Subtle: Straight Talk From a Business Rebel by Sam Zell

  1. Sam Zell discusses what has made him successful in building his commercial real estate companies as well as launching the trillion dollar real estate investment trust and other companies in energy
Key Takeaways
  1. Willing to be gruff in order to be direct. Has a sense of urgency and doesn’t understand why others don’t
  2. Willing to sacrifice conformity for effectiveness. Listens to everyone but is willing to do what makes sense to him. No assumptions and willing to act
  3. Sam lives and breathes risk. Always be deeply respectful of risk
  4. In any business, it is all about long term relationships, trust, transparency, always leaving something on the table, sharing the risks,
  5. Reputation is your most important asset
  6. Always keep learning, thinking for yourself and making your own decisions
  7. Sam and his parents escaped Poland just before the Nazi’s took over to settle down in Chicago
  8. Where there’s scarcity, price is no issue
  9. You learn so much from seeing people in their own environments – spend the time and money to travel to meet people on their turf
  10. Being comfortable with rejection is fundamental for entrepreneurs or anyone pushing the limits. However, can only push the limits and go against convention if you know the rules
  11. Started off developing housing in Ann Arbor and after some initial success he expanded to other second tier cities where he had pricing power and limited competition
  12. Jay Pritzker became a mentor and good friend who taught him how to evaluate and think through deals and how to understand risk
  13. Use simplicity as a strategy. Organize your thinking, break each step and decision down to its core and determine what the key is
  14. Bet on people over project
  15. In deal making, speed and certainty are superpowers. Often more even than price paid.
  16. Never underestimate the power of optionality
  17. The essence of an entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a problem and provides a solution
  18. Saw there was a huge oversupply if real estate in the 1970s so began accumulating capital in order to buy properties once the timing was right. In an inflationary environment he got a fixed rate return through his non recourse debt
  19. You can be a genius but if you’re in too competitive a market it won’t matter that much. Spend your time in areas with weak competition
  20. Don’t rely on people unless you understand their motivation and your interests align with theirs
  21. Leaders have to find ways to delegate and find ways to keep level headed. Especially during difficult times
  22. Liquidity = Value
  23. Sam describes himself as a professional opportunist and doesn’t care about external opinions. This was clear when he took over manufactured home corporation which made trailer homes and RVs. People called him names and wouldn’t invest because of the stigma of the industry but he goes to where the opportunities are. MHC, later renamed ELS, has been one of the most consistently profitable companies in the space
  24. Sam has been known as “the grave dancer” after an article he penned with the same title. This refereed more to him giving valuable but rundown assets new life rather than dancing on the graves of dying companies or industries
  25. Didn’t found but helped establish and build up the REIT industry – making it a central holding of most large portfolios and making brick and mortar buildings liquid assets
  26. In real estate, replacement costs are the most important metric because this determines the price of future competition
  27. Mitigating risk comes from understanding all angles and knowing which factors will make or break you
  28. 2-3 years before a country becomes investment grade is when they’re the most disciplined and is the best time to invest in them
  29. Hire people based on whether they’d fit the culture and not on a job description or resume. Once they have the basic skills, you can teach them the rest
  30. Keep your eyes and mind open. Read voraciously, meet with a broad range of people, experience different things, travel and try new things
  31. Do the right thing. When you’re in it for the long haul, there is no other way to act. Deals with a winner and loser rarely are truly successful and likely won’t lead to another deal between the parties in the future
  32. Prize loyalty above all else in self and others
  33. Be able to laugh at yourself and maintain perspective and humility
  34. Search for and make people owners as this makes them go all in and always search for better ways to do something, new opportunities
What I got out of it
  1. Working hard, following your gut, not worrying about what others think about you and having the courage to act on your convictions is key in any pursuit. Always be deeply respectful of risk

Kiewit: An Uncommon Story by Jeffrey Rodengen

  1. Kiewit Brothers Company was established in 1884 by Peter Kiewit and his brother Andrew but the main growth phase was under Peter Kiewit Jr. Growing from its roots of basic commercial building construction, after 125+ years it is now also in the transportation, mining, water resources, power, oil and gas, underground, electrical, and marine market segments, routinely completing projects for its clients, some in excess of a billion dollars, on budget and ahead of schedule. It is one of the most highly regarded contracting companies in the world because it remains faithful to the corporate goal set in 1946 by the late Peter Kiewit: To be the Best Contracting Organization on the Earth.
Key Takeaways
  1. Intro & Overview
    1. A system of broad-based employee ownership began under the leadership of the founder’s son, also named Peter. Kiewit is now owned by more than 2,000 employee-shareholders and has become a model for employee ownership. This has made the employees treat the firm as their own and has created significant security and wealth for these employee-owners
    2. “Peter Kiewit didn’t just build buildings – he built confidence and integrity. He built leadership. I’m convinced that Kiewit leadership benefited from a superior corporate ethic and a unique mentoring culture.” – Warren Buffett
    3. At Kiewit, you not only have to excel in a wide range of areas of construction and engineering, but you also have to identify, mentor, and prepare your own replacement, your successor.
    4. “The engineering and construction business has an enormous graveyard of competitors that never made the grade. If you set out to replicate the Kiewit Company, you could put as much capital into the business as it has. You could move into corporate quarters that rival Kiewit’s. You could even buy all its equipment and replicate its organizational structure. But, you would not be able to build a culture like Kiewit’s. That culture is the result of the vision of an extraordinary man, carried on and moved forward by extraordinary people. You could canvass the world, recruiting the top picks from Stanford, Harvard, you name it, and you would never replicate the magic and success that is the culture of the Kiewit Company. I am so very proud to be its neighbor.” – Warren Buffett
  2. Building a Foundation: 1884 – 1914
    1. “There is no progress without risk. You can’t hope to develop your maximum potential without taking some risks.” – Peter Kiewit
    2. Peter’s father, Peter, founded the company but it was the son who moved it forward. He didn’t care if the company was the biggest, but he wanted it to be the best. His legacy of hard work, moral integrity, employee ownership, safety, training, and quality endures today.
    3. Early years were difficult as there was much competition in Omaha. When the owner of a large project ran out of money, Kiewit was creative and moved the family into one half of the building, getting free rent and allowing the owner to save enough money to finish the project
    4. At 6, Peter got his first paper route along with his teenage brother, Ralph. Their mother, Anna, would wake them up at 3am to give them breakfast before their route started
    5. The father would include the whole family on the plans and discuss the construction business with them. He would walk his children through what he was doing and why. He was a great teacher to his children. Peter’s mother taught him hard work and resilience. Peter was often worried that if not cautious, companies could allow themselves to get fat, lazy and complacent, and lose out.
  3. Becoming a Leader: 1915-1930
    1. “Although Peter rose to unbelievable heights, he never lost the sense of being a working man. Instead, he reached out to all who would join him and gave them the capacity to help others.” – Rev. Matthew Creighton
    2. Peter created a cost-monitoring system that allowed the company to gage its weekly performance on each job. Peter asked the foremen to regularly submit a record of their actual costs. He then compared the actual costs to the original estimates, allowing him to gage the company’s profits accurately.
    3. “Pete had a fantastic capacity to organize the details. He was far better than I was. If he saw something wrong, he took care of it right away, whether a foreman wasn’t performing up to standard or some other change.” – Ralph Kiewit
    4. When Peter made up his mind he was tough. He would sledgehammer his way through the opposition
    5. Peter eventually acquired 25% of the business and created a new company called Peter Kiewit Sons’, Co. in 1931
  4. Surviving the Depression: 1931-1938
    1. “A business dominated by one man, who makes all the decisions, who is reluctant to deputize responsibility lest his assistants make mistakes, lacks the elements of a permanent organization because it denies men the chance to grow and be ready for the larger responsibilities, which eventually someone must assume.” – Peter Kiewit
      1. Peter’s phlebitis was in fact helpful to him and the company long-term as it forced him to hand over responsibility to other men
    2. “I’d like to remind you that the foundation of our company’s growth and expansion started in the early 1930’s when contracting opportunities in all types of work were minimal compared to what they are today. Intelligent, hard-hitting, no-nonsense policies and efforts separated us from our competitors then – and will in the future if we follow them enthusiastically.” – Peter Kiewit
      1. In 1931, the Great Depression was in full swing. Although many companies were cutting back on their workforce, Peter added to his employee base and took on new types of projects. Diving into highway work ensured the company’s survival during the Great Depression and propelled it forward
    3. “From the beginning I realized I was working for a man with great integrity, competitive drive, rare business and financial talent, and a gift for organizing and inspiring men.” – Homer Scott
    4. Early on Peter sold stock to valuable employees as a means for each worker to have a stake in the company’s success, with the understanding that they would sell their stock back should they leave the company. “One of the reasons our results are better than our competitors is that all of our stock is owned by employees – people who are actively engaged in our business. Each one is, in fact, a part owner of our company and is, in a sense, working for himself. Certainly this should, and I believe it does, provide a definite incentive to our employees and a corresponding benefit to the company.
    5. When it came to making bids for business, Peter told Armstrong, “I never want you to do anything but walk in the front door, plunk down your bid, and, if you aren’t the low bidder, walk out. Never employ that there might be something in it for someone if you get the bid. All of our street and roadwork will be on a hard-money basis, period.”
    6. “As I see it, personal success is being the best you can be. Often, the key to realizing your full potential is the willingness, and the courage, to take a calculated risk. I don’t mean a reckless, impulsive risk, but one in which the prize for success is high and the penalty for failure is not catastrophic. Even failure often contributes to your growth. Improvement is seldom made without reaching beyond your abilities and trying to do something you have never done before. Sometimes the effort fails, but it is the reaching, the striving, the divine discontent that generates greater strength and knowledge.” – Peter Kiewit
    7. In 1935, the company did not realize a profit. It did, however expand its equipment holdings, and, as Peter said, “More important, we hired, trained, and developed a number of able people – many of whom became valuable employees, officers of the company, and major shareholders.”
  5. Enlisting in the War Effort: 1939-1945
    1. Peter did not like yes-men, he wanted his men’s ideas
    2. Had great leadership abilities and temperament. During the Fort Lewis project, he told his men, “Just remember, a big job is no more than a lot of little jobs put together.” Peter, more than anyone, rolled up his sleeves and took action. He became familiar with everything that was going on, evaluating the performance of each supervisor, setting up incentive programs, recognizing outstanding performance, and patterning the rest of the operations after those who were getting the job done. He weeded out poor performers; he changed the entire feel of the job. Everyone knew what was expected of him. PKS earned a reliable reputation from the US government and received numerous contracts after the Fort Lewis project
    3. Reflecting on his desire to maintain a low profile, Peter quoted his father, by saying “When you harvest wheat, the tallest stalks – those that stick up their heads – are the ones that get the scythe.”
    4. As a leader, Peter stood behind his men when he believed they were right. Even when it was the US government he stood up against
    5. Peter had read about the building of a similar dock which needed very deep piling in a magazine. Using the article for reference, Peter hired several people who had worked on the previous dock. Dale Clark commented, “That was typical of Pete. He had the ability to prepare and to hire people who could prepare.”
    6. Peter lost 75 pounds from his heaviest and would later tell workers, “Good health is your most valuable asset, because without good health, little else has any significant meaning.”
  6. Branching Out in Peacetime: 1946-1956
    1. As the pressure of the war effort tapered off, Peter recognized that the company would be entering a period where, once again, highway and commercial building work would dominate its business. Another key trend was the growth and development of the western states and the western states needed water
    2. Key Kiewit philosophy:
      1. We improve as we learn
      2. How to secure work at the right price
      3. How to build work at the lowest cost
      4. How to staff our work with the right people
    3. Peter divorced his wife, Mary, of 28 years and 2 years later married Evelyn
    4. Peter always sought to make a point through action rather than words. He was always looking for a way to improve the company’s operations, a reflection of the personal pride he took in PKS’ work and his desire to train young engineers by example
    5. In all operations, safety has always played a crucial rule. Peter’s motto was “Think Safety,” and he became a leader in the industry for safety performance
    6. The PKS annual meeting began in 1944 and its purpose was to review the previous year’s operations, determine the causes for the satisfactory and unsatisfactory results, and improve the ability to estimate and build work
    7. It has always been our policy to fill vacancies by advancing qualified employees whenever possible. I’m happy to say that the number of occasions when we have had to bring people in from the outside for a particular job is negligible, and this should occur even less frequently in the future because of the fact that we are making headway in developing more and better employees.
  7. Growing at Home and Abroad: 1957 – 1979
    1. “I believe that a company cannot stand still for long – either it goes ahead or slides back.” – Peter Kiewit
    2. A key driver of the company’s growth during this period was the development of the Interstate Highway System
    3. Bob Wilson was named President in 1969 after Peter had led the company for nearly 40 years but, as Director Lee Rowe joked, “Bob had to arm wrestle Peter for the job each morning for the first several years.”
    4. On his death bed, Peter told his third wife, “I never dreamed that I would be able to accomplish so much in my life for myself and for others.”
    5. A plan put in place before Peter’s death called for PKS to be purchased and solely owned by employees
    6. Peter had an uncanny ability to listen to those who had problems and at the end of the discussion to put his finger directly on the solution
  8. Transitions in Leadership: 1979 – Present
    1. “Before you can go on to a position of greater responsibility, someone must be trained to do your job, unless the job you are doing is not an essential one. If any of you fellows wants to admit that your job is not essential, you do not need to do anything about trying to see that anyone else is trained for your job.” – Peter Kiewit
    2. Peter looked two successors ahead. He appointed Bob Wilson to immediately succeed him but his foresight in training Walter Scott Jr., 11 years Bob’s junior, came to bear when Wilson experienced heart issues and died soon after Peter
    3. Walter Scott made several major acquisitions, the biggest being Continental Group in a deal for $3.5b. At the time it was the largest public company to be taken private
    4. Scott always understood that if he picked talented people and gave them room to run, they would make the company successful
    5. In order to maintain liquidity for repurchasing stock from retiring or otherwise departing employees, Scott created two tracking stocks. Kiewit Diversified eventually spun off and became Level 3 Communications and Stinson remained head of the construction, mining and materials business
    6. Design-build was another area that Stinson built up. Prior to 1990 it made up less than 1% of the company’s business but after that, at times, has accounted for half of Kiewit revenues
    7. The power market also became a major portion of Kiewit’s focus during Stinson’s service
    8. The Board knows what the questions are and oftentimes know the answers and certainly don’t need to spend a lot of time on operational issues, which some boards do. This board has a good balance between reflecting on results and expectations. There’s a good amount of time spent on “how are we doing ” and on “what’s the backlog?” as well as the kind of projects we are working on, where we are making investments in new fields, and how to create future opportunities
    9. Board member Mogens Bay depicted Kiewit’s employee loyalty during the company’s 2003 Annual Meeting. He noted that Caterpillar provided the same construction equipment to every competitor as it did Kiewit, and there was no advantage from an equipment standpoint. The advantage that Bay found in Kiewit, however, was present in the employees’ collective experience, their passion for their work, and the company’s culture of employee ownership.
    10. Kiewit has long been recognized as without equal in their focus on the training and development of people throughout the organization
    11. In 2000, Bruce Grewcock decided to try to separate Kiewit from the competition through quality, adopting the motto “Right the First Time”
    12. Peter continually admonished his employees to train and mentor a successor. Taking that principle to heart has been a key to ensuring that the company always has employees ready to take up the mantle of leadership
  9. Investing in New Ventures
    1. The 1980s saw a period of diversification for Kiewit as it made significant investments in ventures outside its core business including MAPCO, CalEnergy, Continental Can, Level 3, Metropolitan Fiber Systems – eventually leading to a reorganization into Kiewit Construction Group and Kiewit Diversified
    2. The difficulty with acquisitions is that every company has its own history, its own traditions, and its own unique culture. A healthy corporate culture can be a magic intangible that makes the difference between a winner and a loser but it is hard to instill that in another company
    3. Kiewit invested in, grew and spun off several major companies in this time
  10. Building Places to Live, Work, and Play
    1. Kiewit diversified geographically as well as their construction focus – doing residence halls, hotels, offices and business parks
    2. Kiewit’s core competencies were fixed-price, low-cost and well-planned operations
  11. Expanding and Restoring the Transportation Infrastructure
    1. From the ’80s to the 2000s, transportation was the largest portion of Kiewit’s business – more than $37b in contract revenue
    2. Design build grew from less than 1% of business prior to 1990 to as much as half of Kiewit’s revenues by the 2000s. Clients were increasingly interested in having a single point of responsibility for all aspects of project delivery
    3. Titles are left at the door and we all do what it takes to get the job done
    4. Kiewit has constructed more lane miles of interstate, highways and bridges than any other contractor and the company’s capabilities are reinforced by the largest privately owned fleet of construction equipment in North America, which allows it to mobilize resources rapidly for any size project
  12. Clear and Abundant Water
    1. “The number one principle I follow is to treat people with respect. The second is to work closely with them to emphasize their strengths and to support them where they need training or support.” – Richard Geary
    2. Kiewit has built some of the most significant earth, rock-fill and roller compacted dams in the country, as well as reservoirs, transmission through pipelines and tunnels and numerous water and wastewater treatment facilities
  13. Meeting Society’s Needs for Energy
    1. Kiewit has grown their energy business drastically over the decades, focusing on geothermal, hydro, nuclear, coal, waste-to-energy, coal, gas and more.
  14. Developing Our Natural Resources
    1. Reclamation efforts have taken a front seat after a mine has run its course
  15. The Formula for Success
    1. “The “four legs of the table,” if you will, are the way we’re owned, the way we’re organized, the way we focus on the basics, and the way we focus on people.” – Ken Stinson
    2. The test of a strong cultural statement is its longevity. The imperative to be the best contractor on earth has survived virtually unchanged for more than six decades and is deeply embedded in the corporate culture
    3. Stock ownership is limited to active employees and they must sell it back to the company when they leave or retire. The basic book value formula for determining the year-end stock price has not changed since the late 1940s. Individuals purchasing stock do so at the formula price; there are no stock options or discount programs. When stock is sold back to the company, it is sold at the then-current formula price. For a stock program like Kiewit’s to be successful, annual growth in the stock value must be consistently better than other investments. Since the inception of the employee-ownership program, the company has not experienced a losing year. The average annual total return on Kiewit stock has significantly outperformed the S&P 500 for a long period of time.
    4. The company strives to ensure that each employee’s stock ownership is in line with his or her level of responsibility and performance and typically have 3-5 years of Kiewit experience before they are first offered the opportunity to purchase stock
    5. At the time of Peter’s death in 1979, there were 808 employee-owners. The wisdom of his belief in the importance of employee ownership to the success and survival of the company was validated upon his death. There were no issues of ownership transition. The owners were the employees, and Peter’s ownership interests were purchased by the company. There were no issues of leadership succession. The leaders were in place, were major stock holders, and had been groomed for their position.
    6. While district managers basically function as if they were running their own construction company, Kiewit’s approach to decentralization provides for certain business functions to be centralized at corporate headquarters in Omaha. These include tax, finance, legal, insurance, and other vital support functions
    7. Competition between districts is fierce. Each district manager begins the New Year with the resolve to “sit at the head table” at the next annual meeting. Because Kiewit is not dependent on any one single market, it has allowed districts to survive downturns without having to lay off personnel or accept unprofitable work. Another important advantage of a decentralized strategy is the ability for two or more districts to form an internal joint venture. Often, the best joint venture partner for large complex jobs is another Kiewit district. The districts share in the job results based on their level of participation
    8. Essentials of successful contracting: getting work at the right price, building work at the lowest cost, taking care of our assets
    9. Another significant element of Kiewit’s culture has been a focus on the basics, often referred to as “the fundamentals.” Like striving to be the best contractor on earth, the fundamentals are easy to understand but difficult to execute well. “The one interesting thing about the fundamentals for most businesses is that they’re not a secret. What Sam Walton did with Wal-Mart and what Peter did with our company is so basic that to the untrained eye, it appears anyone could have done it. What made them different is that they understood the importance of execution of the fundamentals – and the importance of having talented and motivated people.
    10. Taking care of assets was originally intended to mean conserving working capital and taking proper care of construction equipment. Peter would later expand that meaning, citing a contractor’s reputation as a valuable asset. However, through the years, he gave the greatest emphasis to people and their talents as the company’s most valuable asset.
    11. Kiewit is also admired for its organized and methodical care of construction equipment. The company has the largest privately owned construction fleet in North America. Its 17,000 units have a replacement value in excess of $2b
    12. Kiewit has long prided itself on the way it focuses on people. This has led to employee loyalty unusual for the construction industry, with employees often staying with the company for decades-long careers. Among the many ways the focus on people is expressed is in its safety program and its comprehensive training and development programs. “I don’t care if you’re a laborer or a general foreman, if you see something wrong with a task you’re doing, or you have a question, you stop. You’re not going to get terminated. You’re not going to get reprimanded. If it’s a safety concern, stop.”
    13. All Kiewit managers willingly accept training their people, both on and off projects, as one of their most important responsibilities. All managers are expected to mentor new employees and employees receive constant feedback and coaching
    14. Kiewit has never formally published a list of core values but the most commonly voiced are: integrity, broad-based employee ownership, caring for employees, development and mentoring of employees, quality, and continuous improvement
    15. From the beginning, Peter insisted that the company be known for its integrity and ethical business practices – a company with whom owners, suppliers, employees, subcontractors, and others would be proud to do business
    16. Kiewit’s framework for quality management focuses efforts on self-performed work, subcontractor work, supplier controls, and fostering owner involvement. Kiewit crews are trained to build work to the project requirements and meet or exceed the owner’s expectations, perform work right the first time, and monitor performance against requirements to ensure quality is always improving. Striving for excellence in quality has produced an additional benefit that probably should have been anticipated. The planning, organization, and management controls it takes to ensure quality at every step has helped instill quality into other aspects of our business. The disciplines involved in striving for quality has made us better contractors and a better company.
    17. The focus on continuous improvement can be summed up by Peter’s phrase: “pleased, but not satisfied.” Continuous improvement also requires learning from mistakes and as a company, they’re tolerant. “We’re quite tolerant of mistakes, and we’re very tolerant of people who make mistakes. Just don’t go out and make the same mistakes all the time.”
    18. In the post-World War II era, Kiewit has clearly been the most successful company in its industry. Its unparalleled record of sustained success is rooted in employee ownership, a decentralized organization, an unrelenting emphasis on the basics, and a strong corporate culture based on developing and valuing people. It’s a formula for success widely admired but difficult to replicate.
What I got out of it
  1. Broad-based employee ownership, followed by giving away ownership of decisions and responsibilities to those who bear them and best know (typically those on the ground, not in the offices), focus on training and treating employees right, continuous improvement, and, above all else, integrity. Finding and training your own successor also stood out

Against Method by Paul Feyerabend

  1. This book proposes a thesis and draws consequences from it. The thesis is: the events, procedures and results that constitute the sciences have no common structure; there are no elements that occur in every scientific investigation but are missing elsewhere. Concert developments have distinct features and we can often explain why and how these features led to success. But not every discovery can be accounted for in the same manner, and procedures that paid off in the past may create havoc when imposed in the future. Successful research does not obey general standards; it relies now on one trick, now on another; the moves that advance it and the standards that define what counts as an advance are not always known to the movers. Given any rule, or any general statement about the sciences, there always exist developments which are praised by those who support the rule but which show that the rule does more damage than good. One consequence of the thesis is that scientific successes cannot be explained in a simple way. All we can do is give a historical account of the details, including social circumstances, accidents and personal idiosyncrasies. Another consequence is that the success of ‘science’ cannot be used as an argument for treating as yet unsolved problems in a standardized way. The thesis says that there are no such procedures. It also follows that ‘non-scientific’ procedures cannot be pushed aside by argument.” Four main features of methodological monism which are identified: principle of falsification (theories must correspond and be consistent with all relevant facts), a demand for increased empirical content, the forbidding of ad hoc hypotheses, and the consistency condition (any new theory must be consistent with past theories – favoring the status quo rather than the best)
Key Takeaways
  1. Feyerabend will forever be known for his term “anything goes.” He never meant that anything except the scientific method ‘goes.’ He meant that lots of ways of getting on, including the innumerable methods of the diverse sciences, ‘go.’ There are no universal methodological rules and dogmatic use of rules should be avoided at all costs as such a method would limit the activities of scientists and hence restrict scientific progress
  2. Single-mindedness in pursuit of any goal, including truth and understanding, yields great rewards. But single vision is folly if it makes you think you see (or even glimpse) the truth, the one and only truth. Hence the need for the counter-irritant maxim, ‘anything goes.’
  3. Was labeled an anarchist. “I am for anarchism in thinking, in one’s private life, but not in public life.” The term “Dada” was also often applied to him as anarchism turned violent. Dada would never hurt a fly and does not imply indifference, but passion
  4. Things are never what they seem to be. Reality, or Being, or God, or whatever it is that sustains us cannot be captured that easily. You must also resist the temptation to classify what I say by giving it a well-established name
  5. If scientific achievements can be judged only after the event and if there is no abstract way of ensuring success beforehand, then there exists no special way of weighing scientific promises either – scientists are no better off than anybody else in these matters, they only know more details. This means that the public can participate in the discussion without disturbing existing roads to success (there are no such roads).
  6. There can be many different kinds of science. People starting from different social backgrounds will approach the world in different ways and learn different things about it. Chinese technology for a long time lacked any Western-scientific underpinning and yet it was far ahead of contemporary Western technology. It is true that Western science now reigns supreme all over the globe; however, the reason was not insight in it’s ‘inherent rationality’ but power play – the colonizing nations imposed their ways of living and the need for weapons. Western science so far has created the most efficient instruments of death.
  7. I am against ideologies that use the name of science for cultural murder
  8. Creation of a thing, and creation plus full understanding of a correct idea of the thing are very often parts of one and the same indivisible process and cannot be separated without bringing the process to a stop
  9. Science is not one but many enterprises and no single policy can support all of them. There are no general solutions
  10. As the world is an unknown entity that we are exploring and trying to understand, we must not limit ourselves by falsely siloing or isolating branches of science from one another. We must not restrict ourselves in advance but keep as many options open as possible
  11. Consistency criterion – to insist that new theories must be consistent with older theories gives the older theory an unfair advantage and possibly lead to aesthetic rather than rational choices
  12. Philosophy can neither succeed in providing a general description of science nor in devising a method for differentiating products of science from non-scientific entities like myths
  13. Falsificationism, the thought that theories must correspond and be consistent with all relevant facts, should be ignored as science progresses unevenly
  14. Scientific pluralism which makes comparisons between any theories at all forces defendants to improve the articulation of each theory and therefore the critical power of science
  15. The only approach which does not inhibit progress is “anything goes.” “Anything goes is not a ‘principle’ I hold but the terrified exclamation of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history.”
  16. People should be protected from science as an ideology just as they are of other forms. Science started out as a liberating movement but has swung to become oppressive and repressive
  17. Science should not have the privileged position it holds today in western societies and in fact should be separate from the state in the same way that religion and state are separate in a modern secular society
  18. Science is an essentially anarchic enterprise: theoretical anarchism is more humanitarian and more likely to encourage progress than its law-and-order alternatives. This is shown by both an examination of historical episodes and by an abstract analysis of the relation between idea and action. The only principle that does not inhibit progress is: anything goes. For example  we may use hypotheses that contradict well-confirmed theories and/or well-established experimental results. We may advance science by proceeding counterinductively.
  19. The consistency condition which demands that new hypotheses agree with accepted theories is unreasonable because it preserves the older theory, and not the better theory. Hypotheses contradicting well-confirmed theories give us evidence that cannot be obtained in any other way.
  20. Proliferation of theories is beneficial for science, while uniformity impairs its critical power. Uniformity also endangers the free development of the individual.
  21. There is no idea, however ancient and absurd that is not capable of improving our knowledge. The whole history of thought is absorbed into science and is used for improving every single theory. Nor is political interference rejected. It may be needed to overcome the chauvinism of science that resists alternatives to the status quo.
  22. No theory ever agrees with all the facts in its domain, yet it is not always the theory that is to blame. Facts are constituted by older ideologies, and a clash between facts and theories may be proof of progress. It is also a first step in our attempt to find the principles implicit in familiar observational notions. As an example of such an attempt I examine the tower argument which the Aristotelians used to refute the motion of the earth. The argument involves natural interpretations – ideas so closely connected with observations that it needs a special effort to realize their existence and to determine their content. Galileo identifies the natural interpretations which are inconsistent with Copernicus and replaces them by others. The new natural interpretations constitute a highly abstract observation language. They are introduced and concealed so that one fails to notice the change that has taken place (method of anamnesis). They contain the idea of the relativity of all motion and the law of circular inertia. In addition to natural interpretations, Galileo also changes sensations that seem to endanger Copernicus. He admits that there are such sensations, he praises Copernicus for having disregarded them, he claims to have removed them with the help of the telescope. However, he offers no theoretical reasons why the telescope should be expected to give a true picture of the sky. Nor does the initial experience with the telescope provide such reasons. The first telescopic observations of the sky are indistinct, indeterminate, contradictory and in conflict with that everyone can see with his unaided eyes. And the only theory that could have helped to separate telescopic illusions from veridical phenomena was refuted by simple tests. On the other hand, there are some telescopic phenomena which are plainly Copernican. Galileo introduces these phenomena as independent evidence for Copernicus while the situation is rather than one refuted view – Copernicanism – has a certain similarity with phenomena emerging from another refuted view – the idea that telescopic phenomena are faithful images of the sky. Such ‘irrational’ methods of support are needed because of the ‘uneven development’ (Marx, Lenin) of different parts of science. Copernicanism and other essential ingredients of modern science survived only because reason was frequently overruled in their past. Galileo’s method works in other fields as well. For example, it can be used to eliminate the existing arguments against materialism, and to put an end to the philosophical mind/body problem (the corresponding scientific problems remain untouched, however). It does not follow that it should be universally applied. The Church at the time of Galileo not only kept closer to reason as defined then and, in part, even now: it also considered the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s views. Its indictment of Galileo was rational and only opportunism and a lack of perspective can demand a revision. Galileo’s inquiries formed only a small part of the so-called Copernican Revolution. Adding the remaining elements makes it still more difficult to reconcile the development with familiar principles of theory evaluation. The results obtained so far suggest abolishing the distinction between a context of discovery and a context of justification, norms and facts, observational terms and theoretical terms. None of these distinctions plays a role in scientific practice. Attempts to enforce them would have disastrous consequences. Popper’s critical rationalism fails for the same reasons. Finally, the kind of comparison that underlies most methodologies is possible only in some rather simple cases. It breaks down when we try to compare non-scientific views with science and when we consider the most advanced, most general and therefore most mythological parts of science itself
  23. Neither science nor rationality are universal measures of excellence. They are particular traditions, unaware of their historical grounding. Yet it is possible to evaluate standards of rationality and to improve them. The principles of improvement are neither above tradition nor beyond change and it is impossible to nail them down. Science is neither a single tradition, nor the best tradition there is, except for people who have become accustomed to its presence, its benefits and its disadvantages. In a democracy it should be separated from the state just as churches are now separated from the state. The point of view underlying this book is not the result of a well-planned train of thought but of arguments prompted by accidental encounters. Anger at the wanton destruction of cultural achievements from which we all could have learned, at the conceited assurance with which some intellectuals interfere with the lives of people, and contempt for the phrases they use to embellish their misdeeds, was and still is the motive force behind my work.
What I got out of it
  1. Anything goes. Trying to impose strict rules, thought patterns, structures, etc. will inhibit progress. There are no universal rules and dogmatic use of rules should be avoided at all costs as such a method would limit the activities of scientists and hence restrict scientific progress