Cam Pegg Pocket Articles

While I don’t read as many books of the physical, dead-tree variety as I probably should, I do have a fairly well-stocked RSS reader, so I tend to read quite a lot of stuff online, and have a correspondingly long list of things to read that (mostly) get saved in Pocket. The articles below are ones that I a) have actually found the time to read, and b) think are worth sharing.

June 14, 2020

Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey

I met that elderly monkey in a small Japanese-style inn in a hot-springs town in Gunma Prefecture, some five years ago. It was a rustic or, more precisely, decrepit inn, barely hanging on, where I just happened to spend a night.

The New Yorker • 6,106 words • 28 minute read

June 10, 2020

Tacit Knowledge is a Real Thing

I want to spend an essay talking about tacit knowledge, and why I think it is the most interesting topic in the domain of skill acquisition. If you are a longtime Commonplace reader, you’ll likely have come across this idea before, because I’ve written about it numerous times in the past.

3,787 words • 17 minute read

June 10, 2020

Let Game Theory Tell You When It’s Time to Go Shopping

Now is not the time to go to the grocery store, to restock the pantry, to get fresh milk and eggs. Yet I need to replenish my food supplies. Well then, I should go. Wait, is everyone else thinking this same way? Then everyone would go. I shouldn’t go.

Nautilus • 1,449 words • 7 minute read

June 9, 2020

The Lost Satisfactions of Manual Competence

Chris Anderson opens his 2012 book, Makers, with a story about his maternal grandfather, Fred Hauser. Anderson recalls a childhood experience spending a summer with his grandfather at his bungalow in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. “He announced that we would be making a four-stroke gasoline engine and that he had ordered a kit we could build together,” Anderson writes.

Cal Newport • 690 words • 3 minute read

June 9, 2020

Index cards

I find questions about writers’ tools both fascinating and repulsive: fascinating because learning about the habits and techniques of people whose work you admire is endlessly interesting, and occasionally even imparts useful knowledge. (If John McPhee swears by index cards as a method for determining a story’s structure, you ought to at least give it a try.)

Mandy Brown • 1,678 words • 8 minute read

June 7, 2020

The Deepening Paradox —

A new paper on the Fermi paradox only adds to the mystery: are we alone? Okay, Keith B. Wiley's new paper does have a somewhat daunting title: The Fermi Paradox, Self-Replicating Probes, and the Interstellar Transportation Bandwidth. But it's a pretty easy read and hugely well worth it—because in this paper Wiley provides what may be the clearest discussion yet of the core puzzle Fermi first proposed sixty-two years ago: if alien technological civilization is even possible, then they should be here; at the very least, such civilizations should be visible to us.

Karl Schroeder • 950 words • 4 minute read

June 5, 2020

A simple acronym sums up what’s wrong with social media

Do you ever scroll through your social media feeds and feel gross? If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common response. And yet we go back, day after day, over and over and over, endlessly scrolling, like addicts hooked on a drug that we once loved but now kind of hate and cannot or will not even try to escape.

Quartz • 969 words • 4 minute read

May 30, 2020

Rediscovering the Small Web

Most websites today are built like commercial products by professionals and marketers, optimised to draw the largest audience, generate engagement and 'convert'. But there is also a smaller, less-visible web designed by regular people to simply to share their interests and hobbies with the world.

Parimal Satyal • 5,761 words • 26 minute read

May 28, 2020

Against an Increasingly User-Hostile Web

We're quietly replacing an open web that connects and empowers with one that restricts and commoditizes people. We need to stop it. Despite its undeniable value, I think Facebook is at odds with the open web that I love and defend.

Parimal Satyal • 4,876 words • 22 minute read

May 28, 2020

Our dangerous addiction to prediction

In Alex Garland’s recent sci-fi TV series Devs, Silicon Valley engineers have built a quantum computer that they think proves determinism. It allows them to know the position of all the particles in the universe at any given point, and from there, project backwards and forwards in time, seeing into the past and making pinpoint-accurate forecasts about the future.

UnHerd • 1,295 words • 6 minute read

May 23, 2020

As We May Think

This has not been a scientist's war; it has been a war in which all have had a part. The scientists, burying their old professional competition in the demand of a common cause, have shared greatly and learned much. It has been exhilarating to work in effective partnership.

The Atlantic • 7,884 words • 36 minute read

May 17, 2020

It’s Time to Get Back Into RSS

A lot of people who were on the internet in the early 2000’s remember something called RSS. It stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it allowed content creators to publish updates to the world in a well-understood format. The idea—which seems strange to type out—is that millions of people in the world could create and publish ideas, thoughts, and content…and then people who enjoyed that content would collect sources into a reader, which was called, well, an RSS Reader.

Daniel Miessler • 875 words • 4 minute read

May 16, 2020

If I could bring one thing back to the internet it would be blogs

Nowadays especially it's nice to have things to read. New things, things from various sources and various voices, various minds talking about their thoughts and experiences, telling their stories, posting pictures and things that are relevant to them. A couple of years ago, maybe 8 or 10 so maybe longer than a lot of people will be able to remember, there were blogs on the internet.

TTTThis • 1,684 words • 8 minute read

May 15, 2020

When Manhattan Was Mannahatta: A Stroll Through the Centuries

Before the first Dutch colonists sailed through the Narrows into New York Harbor, Manhattan was still what the Lenape, who had already lived here for centuries, called Mannahatta. Times Square was a forest with a beaver pond. The Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, at Foley Square, was the site of an ancient mound of oyster middens.

The New York Times • 2,474 words • 11 minute read

May 15, 2020

Here’s How Time Works Now

Here at Time, we’ve made a few changes you may already be experiencing that we think you should know about. Please see below. A minute used to be sixty seconds long. We thought this could be spiced up. A minute can now either be one hour, or it can take 3.5 seconds.

McSweeney's • 413 words • 2 minute read

May 13, 2020

Stop Trying to Make Hard Work Easy

Nir Eyal thinks we’re spending too much time trying to make work easy. He’s a behavioral design expert who taught at Stanford and has written two best-selling books. But he thinks most of the productivity panaceas, like forming habits or trying to get into flow, that we all turn to in order to get our work done aren’t always as useful as we might hope.

Superorganizers • 3,146 words • 14 minute read

May 13, 2020

The Pitfalls and the Potential of the New Minimalism

The new literature of minimalism is full of stressful advice. Pack up all your possessions, unpack things only as needed, give away everything that’s still packed after a month. Or wake up early, pick up every item you own, and consider whether or not it sparks joy.

The New Yorker • 3,075 words • 14 minute read

May 11, 2020

Quarantine Fatigue Is Real

In the earliest years of the HIV epidemic, confusion and fear reigned. AIDS was still known as the “gay plague.” To the extent that gay men received any health advice at all, it was to avoid sex. In 1983, the activists Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen, with guidance from the virologist Joseph Sonnabend, published a foundational document for their community, called “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic.”

The Atlantic • 1,325 words • 6 minute read

May 11, 2020

Why can't we focus during this pandemic?

If you’re reading this, it might be because it’s a last resort. For two months, your mind has been all over the place, unable to focus on anything other than moving to different rooms in your house to carry out required human functions.

New Statesman • 1,437 words • 7 minute read

May 8, 2020

Can we escape from information overload?

One day in December 2016 a 37-year-old British artist named Sam Winston equipped himself with a step-ladder, a pair of scissors, several rolls of black-out cloth and a huge supply of duct tape, and set about a project he had been considering for some time.

The Economist 1843 • 1,130 words • 5 minute read