Cannibals and European ethnocentrism

In 1563, French philosopher Michel de Montaigne was invited to the King of France’s court to meet three Brazilian cannibals who were brought to France. After having been interrogated for hours by the 13 year old king, Montaigne sought to ask a few questions. And their answers were incredibly revelatory:

First, the Brazilians expressed surprise that “so many tall, bearded men, all strong and well armed” (i.e., the king’s guard) were willing to take orders from a small child: something that would have been unthinkable in their own society. And second, the Brazilians were shocked by the severe inequality of French citizens, commenting on how some men “were gorged to the full with things of every sort” while others “were beggars at their doors, emaciated with hunger and poverty.” Since the Brazilians saw all human beings “as halves of one another… they found it strange that these poverty-stricken halves should suffer such injustice, and that they did not take the others by the throat or set fire to their houses.”

Montaigne records these observations in an essay entitled, “Des Cannibales.” Well ahead of its time, the essay challenges the haughty denigration of cannibals that was so common among Montaigne’s contemporaries, but not by arguing that cannibalism itself is a morally acceptable practice. Instead, Montaigne makes the more provocative claim that, as barbaric as these Brazilian cannibals may be, they are not nearly as barbaric as 16th-century Europeans themselves. To make his case, Montaigne cites various evidence: the wholesome simplicity and basic nobility of native Brazilian life; the fact that some European forms of punishment — which involved feeding people to dogs and pigs while they were still alive — were decidedly more horrendous than the native Brazilian practice of eating one’s enemies after they are dead; and the humane, egalitarian character of the Brazilians’ moral sensibility, which was on display in their recorded observations.

Big hedge funds fueled fourth-quarter dive in Apple shares

Big hedge funds fueled fourth-quarter dive in Apple shares

Relaxing as key to productivity

Fascinating new research about how relaxing and getting comfortable can actually make you more productive. Piece by Tony Schwartz for the NYT:

More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

Two system for successful startups

There seems to be two product systems which are quite popular and successful at the moment, for mobile apps. 

1. Simple, mono-action apps

This is Instagram and Vine.

Focus around a unique use case, craft a superb user experience, wait for the market.

Instagram: Take a picture, apply a filter, share it to all social networks. 
Vine: Take a 6 second, non-continuous video, share it to all social networks.

2. Kill the middleman

This is Uber, AirbnbiCracked and Exec.

Find some market which does not need a middleman, as we now have phones with constant Internet connections. Then make connections, and exchanges of goods/services between people super easy, peer-to-peer style. 

Airbnb: peer-to-peer house/room rentals
Exec: peer-to-peer house cleaning

In the case of Uber and iCracked it’s business-to-peer via the app.

So you know what you have to do, if you want to build a startup now. (Or you could build a cheap, efficient solar panel (apparently, you can’t).)

The history of pasta

The history of pasta

I think about what constantly-flowing information means for blogging. In some ways this is Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. But what if someone started a stand-alone blog that wasn’t a series of posts, but rather a continuous stream of blurbs, almost like chat. For example: “I just heard…” or “Microsoft launching this is stupid, here’s why…” — things like that. More like an always-on live blog, I guess.

It’s sort of strange to me that blogs are still based around the idea of fully-formed articles of old. This works well for some content, but I don’t see why it has to be that way for all content. The real-time communication aspect of the web should be utilized more, especially in a mobile world.

Great ideas from MG Siegler. 

An always-on blog, strapped to the news and connected to social services which would allows for a continuous stream of blurbs. Or reactions, if you see that always-on blog as some sort of news identity.