💠 Sunday Scaries (03/21/21)

Africa's Future, A Telecomputer, The Modern Zeppelin

Hi everyone,

Writing to you from 30,000 ft. I’m headed to Hawaii for two weeks (!) with my team. We’re working on a new product that I hope to share more about soon. For now, I’ll say this: if you’re interested in beta testing a product, especially a communication tool that makes you and your team more productive, feel free to reach out by replying to this email.

If anyone has any recommendations for activities on the islands I’d love to hear them. In the meantime, here’s a shot I took from the window of my flight out of Los Angeles.


What’s new from me

  1. The Amateur: The word “amateur” has recently become associated with a lack of talent or skill. This wasn’t always the case. In fact, for most of our history amateurs have been the driving force behind innovation. I wrote about why it pays to be an amateur and the dangers of becoming too professional.

  2. Notes on education and the 117th U.S. Congress: Did you know that only ~8% of elected representatives have STEM degrees? In a world where technology is the driving force of change, this number is strikingly low. I was curious to see what I could learn based on the education of our Congress and did a deep dive into the numbers.


In this week’s edition

By 2100, 50% of the world’s ten largest countries by population will be located in Africa. Nigeria is set to gain 500M people over the next 80 years, becoming the second-largest country by population.

Population growth numbers are strange to consider. We can predict them with some accuracy, yet they seem completely abstract.

Lindy score: 2100

A Telecomputer

Jim Clarke was the driving force behind two of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies: Silicon Graphics and Netscape. There’s a book written about him, The New New Thing, which dives into his whirlwind career and erratic lifestyle.

Jim was one of the first people to see the potential of the Internet. However, he didn’t get it right at first. In this essay, titled “A Telecomputer”, Jim lays out the idea of an interactive television in everyone’s home. It was written in 1992, just three years before Jim took Netscape public with Marc Andressen and the team of engineers they assembled.

Although many of the ideas in Jim’s essay are similar to those found in Internet applications today, it was the Telecomputer, not the Internet, that captured his imagination in 1992. This talk serves as a reminder that even those who invent the future don’t have 20/20 vision for what’s going to come next.

Lindy score: N/A (dead end)

A Quick Note On Airships

Airships, also called blimps or zeppelins, have a way of capturing the imagination.

Casey Handmer writes about the potential of airships on his excellent blog. Although Casey’s normal talking points involve ideas for colonizing Mars, this post is, as he puts it, an equally good way to “consume a fortune.”

When air ships were popular we had very few of the modern materials available to us today. Casey does the math and calculates you could build a viable airship for less than $10M.

A small fleet could operate daily flights on a route such as Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Istanbul, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seattle. Others could offer specialty tours over the poles or to remote islands, much as cruise ships do today.

The last operational Zeppelins for U.S. military use were built in the 30’s. They suffered an unfortunate end, with the USS Akron resulting in the largest loss of life of any airship crash.

However, today’s tools offer a new opportunity for airships. Cruise liners enjoy a huge market of people who want to enjoy their travel experience in relative comfort. Maybe airships will see a resurgence due to the relative affordability of construction compared to their ocean-going sisters.

Lindy score: 2109

Have a great week,

Phil