Dean Clough

April 12, 2023

Portico Darwin: Right On Time


3 Minute Read
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Hooray!  Wednesday!  How about one of my quasi-deep philosophical posts?

Because I recently finished a book and listened to a podcast.  Thrilling news, I know, but they both do a Killer job of putting time in perspective. 

You've Got 4,000 Weeks

The book is Four Thousand Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman.  The title comes from the fact that's about all of the time each of us has to live.   Which isn't much, and let me tell you, even nearing only 60 I feel it.  But no, the book isn't more "life is short, so live it to its fullest!" pap. 

In fact, it's kind of the opposite.  Since we have so little time, JOMO - joy of missing out - vs. FOMO, is his prescription.  In fact, Burkeman provides the following 10 Tools for Embracing Your Finitude.  Here they are with - naturally - some commentary.

1.  Adopt a "Fixed Volume" approach to productivity.
8 hours a day of undistracted work is enough.  I think someone even wrote a whole monograph on this.

2.  Serialize, Serialize, Serialize.
You think you'll tame your productivity anxiety by multitasking.  Burkeman encourages us to train ourselves to tolerate that anxiety such that we can better focus on one big thing at a time.

3.  Decide in advance at what to fail.
He calls it strategic underachievement:  entire areas of your professional and personal life at which you admit you suck.  Because once openly acknowledged, you can move on.

4.  Focus on what you've completed, not just what's still to be done.
Positivity breeds positivity.  Ask any unhappy person stressed about not getting enough done.

5.  Consolidate your caring.
There are too many awful things; no one person can process them all, so why try?

6. Embrace boring and single-purpose technology.
In other words:  turntables.  Kindle e-readers.  An old iPod.  Or - horrors - a newspaper.  Today's smartphones are the polar opposite and contribute to your anxiety.  He states that those that set their phones to grayscale (vs. color) feel more in control of their lives - anyone willing to try that and report back?

7.  Seek out novelty in the mundane.
Yes, it's a rework of live in the moment, but there was also this:

Experience life with twice the usual intensity, and your experience of life will be twice as full.

To which I say - in my loud voice - "fuck yes".

Pro Tip:  go download the Retrato app for iPhone and Android, spend $5, and you can have the fun I had making the image above.

8.  Be a "researcher" in relationships.

9.  Cultivate instantaneous generosity.
When the impulse arises to give money, buy a gift, check in on a friend, or send an email of praise to an employee:  do it.  And do it now.

10.  Practice doing nothing.
Meditation, sure, but there's much more to nothing - and that's kind of the author's point.

The 1,000 Page History of Humanity

The podcast is Derek Thompson's interview with Tim Urban, who runs the trick Wait But Why website, and who is also the author of the new book What’s Our Problem: A Self-Help Book for Societies.  Apt, especially when you consider his factual observations about a 1,000 page history of humanity, where every page covers 250 years.  You see, historians and evolutionary biologists estimate humankind to be approximately 250,000 years old. 

Broken down this way, the following is true:

  • The book overall would be incredibly boring
  • Indeed, the first 950 pages would be essentially blank - because humans were hunter-gatherers during the vast majority of our existence
  • Civilization, where there could at least be a plot, doesn't happen until page 960
  • Humans of the time writing for themselves doesn't appear in this book until page 975
  • Buddha pops in on page 989, and Christianity, page 993 - and there are only 7 pages left
  • The last page of this book, page 1,000, begins in 1773
Or the most damning, in terms of sweating the small stuff, and combining both of the inputs for today:

Your entire life is captured in less than one-third of a single page of a 1,000 page history of humanity.

There's a lot to digest so I encourage you to listen to this entire mindbender of a podcast.  More?  The author has made the entire book available as a free PDF download - you can grab it here.

I'll conclude with this.  A big part of their chat - rightfully - is how page 1,000 is unlike any other single page before it.  Yes, perhaps we do live in interesting times - objectively.

And what does that say about what will be on page 1,001?  999 pages, and then, on one page, everything that's happened since 1773?  America?  End of slavery?  Electricity?  Holocaust?  Atomic bombs?  Internet?  All on one fucking page? 

The accelerants - orders of magnitude more significant in their impact than any before - were the industrial revolution and then the transition from a completely analog world to one now suffocatingly digital. 

So strap in, kids - the next page in the book is going to be interesting.



I came across this recently.  I just knew that George Soros was up to something!

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


Wow, is there a lot of music about time and its passage; indeed, there are many obvious choices for today.  But let's try this.  Here - easily one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs - is Time Waits for No One.

It's even more necessary after I trashed poor Keef on Monday - but his book still wasn't that great.

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