Why ‘Fairness’ Matters in Techno-Optimism, How To Successfully Take Time Off Between Jobs, and Why ChatGPT Changes the Lives of Indie Developers [linkblog]

I love to write. And don’t maintain a ‘schedule’ per se, but have always said that ‘if two weeks go by and I haven’t posted, it means something is amiss.’ Well, something is definitely amiss in the world so maybe easing back in is best done by sharing others’ work.

Tech is a Tool, not a Religion [Philip Rosedale/Second Life +++] – I worked for Philip during the early years of Second Life, which was an amazing experience coming out of grad school. He’s a lifelong technologist and I’m appreciative of his voice in this discussion of techno-optimism. “Fairness is a Requirement” for maximization is a particularly strong statement because it recognizes the deep power that emotion has in determining our reactions. I’ll quote an extended passage from his post, but recommend you read it fully:

We, like Capuchin monkeys, are pro-social mammals – very dependent on each other for survival – and this evolved behavior could only have evolved alongside a keen sensitivity to fairness. Think about it: if we have evolved cooperative behavior without an awareness of fairness, ‘free riders’ (those contributing less than the average in a group) would have won out and reduced the amount of cooperation we were doing back toward zero. This is why perceived fairness is VERY important to us, and why the following statement can be regarded as necessary-but-not-sufficient for creating well-being:

We believe markets lift people out of poverty – in fact, markets are by far the most effective way to lift vast numbers of people out of poverty, and always have been.

Sentences like these are often defending the argument: “It’s OK that wealth inequality is increasing (due to the actions of free markets, btw), because poor people have more stuff now than ever before” (phones, cars, refrigerators are typically-given examples). But it’s not OK at all, because we are evolved to value fairness so highly. In fact, we are surrounded by examples of people being willing to die over fairness – for example if you think that your children are being treated unfairly.

How to take time off and use it well [Molly Graham/Quip, Meta, Google] – Look, I’m just going to say first, subscribe to her free newsletter. HUGE words:value ratio. This one, about how to take time off between jobs, has quickly become something I share with friends who are transitioning gigs. I’m a huge believer in rests and recharges (even if I haven’t done it well myself) in order to make better career decisions. Here she handles the objections people usually raise to affording themselves this privilege, and her own experiences on ‘the work to be done’ during the break period.

ChatGPT has forever changed my career [Danilo Campos/Indie Developer] – Danilo is one of the technologists I reliably learn from when it comes to technology and empowerment. Here he writes on why ChatGPT (and LLMs) have expanded his personal efficient frontier of what’s possible. In two passages that I’ll link together from separate parts of his essay. First about the challenges of software projects and then how the new AI blasts through that for him.

Velocity is the fuel of a software project. Velocity makes challenges feel winnable. Velocity provides a sense of progression, and it’s addicting. It feels good to build things. It feels good to see the things we imagine take shape.

The morale benefits of velocity are intuitively understood and deliberately captured by the best software leaders. Going from zero to one is hard, and it helps when you believe it’s possible.

In each case, missing pieces of context might have derailed my sense of progress and confidence, prematurely ending my coding session. Instead, ChatGPT gave me enough useful guidance that I could overcome my roadblocks and deliver on my next requirement.

Stitch enough of these moments together, you’re going to ship.

Danilo brings it all back to the question of, do we want to become beholden to one company [OpenAI]

Instead of dismissing or decrying them, we need to get to work democratizing their access, or this will become a serious vector of inequality.

Barnes & Noble Sets Itself Free [Maureen O’Connor/New York Times] – If you’re of a certain age [I am] and certain disposition [I am] the 90s evolution of B&N into welcoming, browsable, hangout Third Places looms large in your nostalgia. Then of course [waves hands] ‘the Internet.’ What’s beautiful now is the rebirthing of B&N in more of a local indie layout. They’re configurable, able to run experiments, and frankly, gorgeous.

The new look aims to encourage browsing, which Mr. Daunt believes improves customer satisfaction. “If you just want to buy a book, the guys in Seattle will sell you a book,” Mr. Daunt said. “The enjoyment and the social experience of that engagement with books in a bookstore? That’s our game.”