The 20 best sentences I’ve ever written
I'm nearing 1 million impressions on my 18-months-old blog, The Pourquoi Pas. Given that I started writing 4 years ago with very little experience, and in a language not my own, that feels like a pretty cool achievement.
As every milestone is an opportunity for introspection, I decided to re-read the 80 articles I wrote in this time, and pick out my favourite phrases from them. My hope is that they may inspire other writers to explore the dozens of topics I’ve pondered upon with ink, sweat and tears.
I leave it to the reader to guess why these specific excerpts have been included in this list. And please send me the best phrases YOU ever wrote. I really look forward to reading them.
“Technology has both saved and doomed us in so many ways that one might be inclined to think that it is inherent to our nature to create tools that simultaneously do both.”
On Jeff Bezos
“A week ago, Jeffrey Bezos went to space. You of course know about this, because his few minutes off Earth got as much coverage in a day as climate change got all last year. Who knew irony was penis-shaped?”
On Social Media
“As we seek to become both audience and entertainer, we lose ourselves in the highly performative show that social media has given us a platform to create. Thanks to Instagram and Facebook, people are suffering and (sometimes) dying under the torture of the fantasy self they’re failing to become.”
“We do not necessarily need smarter people at the table (and anything I write will not be news to an expert), but we DO need a bigger table. Or more tables. Or more seats. Or some sort of a video-conference solution. I hate metaphors.”
A.I Ethic Doesn’t Exist (2020)
“I have never heard of a successful sports team that won a game by relying solely on Hail Mary plays. Victory on the field is more often a result of blood, sweat, tears and a cloud of dust. The same ought to apply to start-ups. It’s not about being on stage at a TED talk or featured in an article in Quartz or closing a $20 million round. It’s about continuously cold calling. It’s about continuously shipping code. It’s about putting out fires EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME. It’s about waking up at 4:15am to catch a flight to a small town’s industrial zone for a $200k deal to hit your budget for the quarter. Sure, it’s not sexy. There’s nothing inherently sexy about hard work. But it’s real. And it’s stable.”
“We are currently electing officials who have neither the backbone nor the will to go after the Tech Barons. This is however likely to change when the public opinion drastically shifts, as we’ve begun to see in 2018. Mainstream politics needs to acknowledge this change, lest we see more showdowns, meltdowns and radical outsiders. Until then, the pen remains mightier than the sword. No word, however, on its effectiveness against Molotov Cocktails.”
“Forecasting is not sexy, but it saves millions and will save billions. And nothing is sexier than billions, regardless of currency.”
“There are 50 Shades of Protectionism. And I’m all up for the shade that asks Silicon Valley to wrap it before it taps it.”
“This computational arms race essentially rewards the participants able to burn the most coal. This is the price of an NFT : a bit of cultural value on top of hundreds of acres of forest burnt to make electricity to create the fancy puzzles enabling the technology.”
On the “Next Big Thing”
“Technology has a tendency to hold a dark mirror to society, reflecting both what’s great and evil about its makers. It’s important to remember that technology is often value-neutral : it’s what we do with it day in, day out that defines whether or not we are dealing with the “next big thing”.”
“OnlyFans was birthed by the natural voyeuristic impulses of young men, and by decades of hinting to young women that their body and what they did with it defined much of their worth.”
On the Future of Work
“There’s no way around it : work is changing. But, regardless of what hundreds of misinformed think-pieces will argue on the matter, working itself is not going away anytime soon, however worthy of our time that discussion may be. Work is, in fact, ever-changing, ever-evolving, always progressively, never at once, as we create new problems just as fast as we solve old ones. Case and point: technology has allowed us to “invent” the Gig Economy, which has led to the creation of an entire new industry of sh*tty jobs.”
On Smart Tattoos
“In short, “Smart Tattoos” (aka “epidermal electronic systems”, but that’s less sexy) are personalized circuits, adhesives, conductors and microprocessors that can be “glued” onto the skin. They can then send signals to devices via touch, and allow its users to interact with the world around them. They can also be used to monitor vitals, or react to external stimuli such as temperature. If that sounds cyberpunk AF, trust your instincts.”
On improving the world
“We must stop trying to control the world in our heads and in the headlines, and start controlling ourselves. We sleep. We go to the doctor. We log off. We talk about our problems. We vote. We water our plants. And our neighbours’, when they’re out of town. We take a deep breath before reacting in anger, and question whether this particular battle is worth our energy. It’s not. Why were we fighting again? We volunteer. We vote. We focus on ourselves so we can eventually focus on others — in a real way, in a non-transactional way, in a way that slowly but authentically strengthens our kin. We don’t wait for permission. We get over ourselves; we stop demanding perfection; we start. We teach our kids to say thank you. We vote. And we eat avocados every Sunday morning.”
On Political Correctness
“When white straight men hold signs on which is written “political correctness is a mental and spiritual disorder”, these behaviours need to be recognized for what they are: a defensive mechanism from people who think it’s disrespectful for others to fight against being disrespected.”
“Drone parenting = helicopter parenting but with more collateral damage.”
Of Children and AI (2018)
“When I rave about inequalities, who do I talk about? I speak of the invisible workforce: people who clean offices, sort recycling, fulfil online orders… Usually a ragtag crew of screw-ups, felons, floozies, single moms, the differently abled, students, immigrants, the homeless and hungry, the overqualified and under-qualified, all of them ghosted by the traditional marketplace. For them, Smith’s “invisible hand” takes on a whole new meaning.”
On Worker Empowerment
“Company-wide policies worked in the 90s and 00s during the McDonaldisation of work, but it will not cut it over the next decade. Workers are looking for empowerment and meaning specific to their history, beliefs and role. And why shouldn’t we have it, now that our professional and personal life are so intimately intertwined?”
“Amazon is incredibly successful not because of its great platform, but because of its punitively complex supply chain and accounting processes.”
“Though the technology may not be color-blind, it is collar-blind: arguably the largest shift AI might lead to soon is the systematic automation of dozens of both blue and white-collar roles.”
Thank you for reading. Here’s to another 4 years of in-depth analyses no-one asked for. And remember how success works : gradually… then suddenly.
Good luck out there.