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The Start-Up of You: Living in Permanent Beta
Big Think’s “Book of the Month” for March is The Start-Up of You, by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. For a quick overview and outline of their new ingredients for success, check out our original post on the book here. While most readers are familiar with Mr. Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock Capital, his co-author Mr. Casnocha is more of an up-and-comer.
Taking a more unconventional route than Reid, Casnocha found start-up success as a kid in high school, leading to his first book My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young Entrepreneur Learned On His Journey Through Silicon Valley. He has since been very active in The Bay Area, co-founding the Silicon Valley Junto: an intellectual salon for Silicon Valley executives to congregate and freely wax philosophic.
Casnocha is also an avid traveller and learner, and uses his blog to compartmentalize all of the things he’s inspired by through the process. He refers to his blog as one about “entrepreneurship, books, current affairs, and intellectual life” - and the entire foundation of the site resembles lessons found in The Start-Up of You. Big Think got a chance to speak with Ben and ask him some questions about the book, and how he is currently implementing some of his own strategies for success.
Big Think: The Start-Up of You introduces us to an important equation for success: I^we, which essentially suggests that an individuals success is directly tied to the strength of his or her network. You seem to be the perfect model for this equation, can you tell us how you have cultivated so many important relationships? How did you meet Reid Hoffman and land the opportunity to write this book with him?
Ben Casnocha: I to the We means that both the individual's effort and the power of the network matter, and they work in tandem. Someone with no skill (broadly defined) won't get very far, no matter how strong the network. Similarly, someone with lots of skill but a weak network won't realize his or her fullest potential. So, you need both. Myself, I build relationships because I like people. And I enjoy helping people, and being helped. I'm also fairly disciplined about staying in touch with folks over a long period of time.
With Reid specifically, we had a light relationship before working on the book. We enjoyed each other's company, but for this specific project, we were ideal partners in terms of our complementary skill set and resources. The pre-existing relationship provided a base level of trust, but it was my unique combination of assets in both the entrepreneurship and writing worlds that made me the right fit to work with him on the project professionally. That's an often overlooked point when people talk about "networking": it has to be a relationship plus capabilities.
Big Think: If you had to start from scratch with no network or credentials, how would you bootstrap your success in 2012?
Ben Casnocha: Develop a network and credentials!
Big Think: How have you incorporated ABZ Planning in your own life? What can you tell us about your current A, B, and Z plans, and how have your goals evolved over the last couple of years?
Ben Casnocha: I'm less a planner than some. So I always have multiple Plan B's in mind. My current Plan A is to get the word out about the new book and about career strategy more generally. There are a couple Plan B's around how to do that — i.e. other formats or routes beyond a book to spread the ideas. Sometimes Plan B can have the same desired outcome, but a different path for getting there. I also have a couple Plan B's that are separate and apart from the book — e.g. start another company. Plan Z is to get a "normal" job somewhere.
Big Think: I really liked how you incorporated Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan Theory into assessing the day and age we live in to manage and take intelligent risks. As our technology and innovation continue to increase exponentially, and industries continue to become more and more volatile, what are some of the key skills everyone should have in their toolkit?
Ben Casnocha: What we suggest is that people proactively take on some risk in the short term to make themselves more resilient to long term disruptions. Taking on short term risk can involve switching jobs, joining new groups / associations in the area, launching a personal blog, running an experiment within your existing job (e.g. volunteering for additional work). These are some practical ways to inject volatility into your life, and thus some risk. There are also a set of conceptual frameworks that are useful, which we detail in the book.
Big Think: This book reads like the generalist’s guide to finding success through utilizing the resources of Web 2.0 and Social-Media. However, both you and co-author Reid Hoffman are much more than well-networked, successful individuals. At the end of the day, both of you are seem to essentially be super curious and motivated intellectuals. What are some themes or ideas that are really exciting to you as mankind moves forward into the land of the unknown?
Ben Casnocha: One theme that fascinates me is cognitive enhancement. It seems only a matter of time until we live in a world where steroids for the brain are readily available to all. And once we come to grips with that reality, I suspect the debate over the ethics will be much more heated than the debate over steroids in baseball or any other sport, where the use is limited to a select group of freakish athletes. What happens when I can take a few pills that make me smarter in every way and thus do better on tests or projects and thus make more money and advance faster than someone who chose not to take the pill (for unknown health risks) or who couldn't afford the pill?
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.