Alberto's weekly email: Range, the Einstellung effect, and more! 🚀

Hi All,

What I am reading 📚

I’m on a roll with my Kindle. Over the weekend I read “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein. The book takes its time to become interesting. I felt that the first 3 chapters were just another Psychology book regurgitating recent research in the field. But then the book makes a huge turn and suddenly it all makes sense.

“Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains. Our most fundamental thought processes have changed to accommodate increasing complexity and the need to derive new patterns rather than rely only on familiar ones.”

Epstein argues that the over-specialization of the modern world is bad. He backs his argument with historical examples (think Darwin) and his own experience: he wanted to be a pilot and an astronaut but ended up becoming a writer after going through multiple jobs.

You might think that a late start in your career is bad. In reality, the more we experience the better off we are in the long run. We will be able to merge distant fields and knowledge in a unique way that will give us an advantage.

“The bigger the picture, the more unique the potential human contribution. Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization. It is the ability to integrate broadly.”

Nerd Corner 🤓

Awesome books usually leave you thinking about many things and wanting to research more about a few topics.

Range, left me thinking about two things so far: Nicolas Appert and the Einstellung effect.

  • Nicolas Appert is the father of food preservation. Through tinkering and experiments, he invented the process of preserving food in air-tight containers: he would fill champagne bottles with different foods, seal them with cork and wax and then boil them to remove any remaining air. I am surprised that not much is known about his life and experiments. I’ll be researching more about him and report back 🕵️.

  • Simply put, the Einstellung effect “is the negative effect of previous experience when solving new problems”. Research shows that we have a predisposition to use familiar techniques when solving a problem even if new and better methods exist.

    This immediately made me think about Taleb and his arguments against expert knowledge, specialization, and academics in general: “Once you become an expert, many things become impossible.” Even one of Buddhism’s central practices, keeping a beginner’s mind, can be thought of as a way to mitigate the Einstellung effect!

    So, next time you’re solving a problem or dealing with a familiar challenge, try to remove your “expert lens” and think more broadly, you may be surprised by the results 😎.

Also interesting 🤯

  • Everyone should read this Twitter thread about startup advice, even if you're not an entrepreneur. It will help you understand a few things about Silicon Valley.

  • There is a long list of companies that have apologized to China over the years. This link keeps tracks of all of them. Also, if you’re interested in China, the site offers a refreshing perspective.

  • Researchers at the University of Edinburgh trained a neural network to solve the three-body problem. The network solves it much faster than existing approaches. This is both impressive and intriguing. Impressive because we can now expect to solve harder problems with this method. Intriguing because it is hard to peak the inside of a network, we don’t know —yet— what algorithm or approach this network is using to solve the problem!

Before you go 🚀

In case you missed it, I wrote a post on Medium about my experiments with morning routines. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

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Have an awesome week!