Happy New Year! If you’ve joined the newsletter because of the microgrants. Welcome. If you’ve missed it as a regular reader do check out the £10,000 in grants I’m awarding for those looking to make a positive impact. Please forward to your networks. Mini-update: there are currently 50+ applications. I hope to reveal a first round of awards in January.
➳Popular blogs of 2019
➳Love letters of TS Eliot, revealed 50 years after Emily Hale’s passing
➳Life Advice (from me)
➳State of the National Theatre
➳Jobs at the top of UK Government (Dom Cummings)
➳Air Pollution, silent Killer, and my London Flat
➳Nuclear power vs coal, deaths; study
➳The Neuroscience of Curiosity
➳Remote Working Apps
➳Review of UK Audit (Specialist only)
➳Micro-grants. £10K for positive impact people.
➳Thinking Bigly. Jan 15th, interactive sustainability show, 7pm
➳Mingle, Jan 15th, 8pm after Bigly
➳More grants at end.
Thinking Bigly is my interactive sustainability performance-lecture that I perform with David Finnigan. (Unless he’s busy. Then I pull out a solo variation with David on video!) We play games. You win money. We speak to why the colour pink, koalas and interest rates; and second order thinking plus cultural changes gives us courage on climate. That the world has got better, but that it’s still awful. Do come! I'm still making new possible slides for it, including the below, which shows WW sources of GHG emissions. And a spot the horse picture.
Some Ben Yeoh life advice
I’ve been asked for “Life advice” a few times recently, which has given pause for thought. I think much of this type of advice needs to be tailored to an individual experience so I’m a little reluctant but I have some ideas - most based on personal experience (so take it with the usual caveats on all anecdotal ideas). I’d go so far as to say ignore what I say and go read stuff (which is one of my top pieces of advice on this list). The summary goes:
-Read. Read. Read.
-Be (or learn) curious. About everything.
-Be (or learn) empathy.
-Immerse yourself deeply in at least two domains
-Build and nurture connections (choose friends \ life partner well)
-Prioritise experience over objects/consumerism
-Communication and Conversation: Learn how to communicate effectively
-Learn how to cook food you and others will love
-Learn to think for yourself
-Run your own Race
It’s a 5 min anecdotal blog about how those ideas have served me well, plus some evidence to go along with the anecdotes. It's perhaps mostly geared to younger people but I can still take lessons from it myself!
The love letters of TS Eliot to Emily Hale (likely inspiration for many of his famous poems) have been revealed (around Jan 2020), 50 years since Hale’s passing. Eliot wrote a statement - more a letter - to accompany the letters, whenever they were to be unveiled. A 3 min blog on his letter and the mystery that is love.
Most of you in the UK will have this, but one of Boris Johnson’s most senior advisors, Dominic Cummings, has put a call out on his blog for “weirdos with skills”. It has caused more criticism than praise on twitter and the media from what I can tell. But, I suspect - like quiet Torys and quiet Trump voters - this will have gone down well with a lot of people who aren’t noisy; and if you are a weirdo with skills it’s likely you will have found it and maybe you are applying… FWIW, I was contemplating prediction markets this very week and it’s one of Cummings’ focus. I have no idea about this at the top of government. Some thoughtful people I know have been pretty critical (along the lines of this is not what a SPAD should be doing and this disruptor approach won’t work for the civil service). Cummings' blog is here. My mini excerpt is here with links to critiques from Tony Yates. Tyler Cowen is asking readers for what advice to give Cummings. I’m fairly sure Cummings reads Tyler, so if you feel inclined - go give some advice!
The above chart is 2 days monitoring in my flat. WHO recommends levels below 10 (blue bars)
In my view, it’s a major argument in favour of nuclear (esp. New mini-nuke technology) over coal, and as important piece of the energy mix although I know a decent number of environmentalists who are still against, there are also many for. I decided to monitor the air quality in my west London flat and it is regularly below WHO standards. Surprisingly bad. An air purifier has helped and helped my breathing. I seriously think this is one investment worth making for urban dwellers and perhaps most people. (Ofc Australia burning is highlighting this too, and China/India cities have issues as well). Here’s a short blog looking at some recent papers in the area and my monitoring of it. (3 mins on my forays into air quality monitoring). As a follow up here’s a recent paper on costs from coal over nuclear in Germany.
“A fledgling line of curiosity research shows how states of curiosity enhance learning and retention. To account for the current evidence, we propose the Prediction, Appraisal, Curiosity, and Exploration (PACE) framework, which integrates the emergent research on curiosity and draws on a range of ideas from psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and systems neuroscience.” Recent Cell Trends in Cognitive Science paper on the neuroscience of curiosity. For science minded folk or the curious (!) Technical.
The onslaught of productivity and remote working apps continues apace. I find it fascinating seeing startup world in action and having a young company like Slack being an incumbent. I’ve kept up with what would be considered incumbents now like Slack, Zapier and I was an early user of Loom. I’m interested in remote working, comms software, and the rise of enabling software. I found most of this via Pioneer ” … remote is in vogue and founders are rushing to build all parts of the distributed startup supply chain: Terminal helps generate remote teams, Tandem and There attempt to create a remote “office”, and Loom helps teams share their work over video.
Fuelled by this trend, collaboration products continue to be popular. Notion is increasingly the wiki of choice for teams [me: Notion also tries to replace AirTable, which is itself a relative newcomer; as well as Trello and other flow apps] . Coda and Threads are building new hybrid variants of Google Docs, bringing the best of Slack and documents together. Figma remains an ever-popular multiplayer Photoshop [Me: it’s more a of a collaborative design UI than Photoshop to my mind, but still pretty amazing].
I’m testing out Notion and I think for some it might be pretty useful.
Does the UK’s National Theatre reflect the UK? Divisions over Brexit, elite metropolitans vs countryside; populism/commercial vs artistic; identity wars - gender; state funding vs commercial funding. Leftist vs Rightist. Small state vs large state.
Helen Lewis takes on these ideas in a review of the National Theatre as an organisation and its conflicts with a dose of the Arts Council.
Lewis notes the new language at Arts Council of “relevance” instead of “excellence” although with some push back that one can be both excellent and relevant. A short blog on her Atlantic article here.
Thanks for reading in 2019! Here are some of the more popular blogs.
Popular Blogs of 2019:
A blog summarising Nassim Taleb on climate change. Taleb argues for the precautionary principle as we only have one planet. He also notes on a risk view outcome is “size of impact” vs probabilty, and as climate models are uncertain this increases the risk of a very bad outcome Blog (3 mins) Nassim Taleb. Climate Change Risk.
A semi-specialised look at the ESG rating agreement arguments. I argue they will likely never agree and that will be a good thing: Why ESG ratings will never agree and some of the problems of rating. (Although having argued that, I am working on standardisation projects in policy world.)
Short blog on the writing tips that Zadie Smith gave out to the Guardian many moons ago: Zadie Smith. Writing Tips.
A blog on some generalisations between Gen Z and Millenials. Unsure exactly how much is really true but some food for thought on growing up as a digital native. Generation Z. A look at their different qualities versus Millennials
My mini-explanation on my understanding of a performance-lecture which is mostly the tradition that I have placed Thinking Bigly in. What’s a performance lecture?
I had fun pulling out my old journal to note down the travels I had to the the very remote Wana tribe in Indonesia and it’s one of my favourite 2019 blogs.
I work in a high performing team within investing. This is a very competitive “sport”. There are many smart teams also competing and it’s a mix of skill and luck, which is complex. It’s very hard to beat the benchmark and competitors over time. There is a large amount of noise and bias.
In my view the best teams learn from other “sports” and industries. I’m fortunate that I’ve been part of elite teams within theatre.
Theatre has taught me about how rehearsing and “failure” in the rehearsal room is simply practise for innovation and improving. The importance of teaming, trust and being able to speak up. A 5 min blog here on the topic.
Governance Specialists only - a key piece for functioning markets and capitalism - a review of UK Audit. "Language matters." so begins the Sir Donald Brydon Review into UK Audit. In parts touching on the philosophical, Brydon suggests:
"Audit is not broken but it has lost its way and all the actors in the audit process bear some measure of responsibility."
• A redefinition of audit and its purpose
• The creation of a corporate auditing profession governed by principles
• The introduction of suspicion into the qualities of auditing
“I know of no better system than market capitalism to sustain liberty and create prosperity – and market capitalism cannot function without a robust audit function. If we do not save auditing, we cannot save capitalism.”
Mini-blog here with link to full review. (1 min)
..."It took some time to realise that this odd combination of his favoured consonant sound (his speech was liberally peppered with misplaced /d/ sounds) and the “uh” nestling among the sonorants of mama, was me. At first, I felt embarrassed to claim it, fretting that others might think I had fabricated a name for myself, or was seeking a verbal indication of my primacy. But I was not mistaken. I had a name - I was Undee. So what if it was a little peculiar; it was mine...." An AutismAware Blog: poignant and wondrous and challenging (5 min read)