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MC#028: Escaping Short Term Thinking

Plus: Career Outcomes + Pistol Whip (VR)

Jason Shen
Jason Shen
3 min read
MC#028: Escaping Short Term Thinking

Hey friends,

This is the 28th edition of Making Connections, where we take a random (illustrated) walk down tech, fitness, product thinking, org design, nerd culture, persuasion, and behavior change.

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🖼 Visual: Career Outcomes

Sascha Baron Cohen has more guts than just about anyone.


🧠 Thought: Escaping Short-Term Thinking

One of our greatest challenges as a species is our inability to act with the long-term in mind. We weren’t evolved for this: early humans had many more pressing concerns, and up through the last 200 years or so, the future looked not too different from the present.

So I found this piece on escaping short-term thinking very relevant. 2020 has made the dangers of short-termism clear:

You can see it in business, where quarterly reporting encourages CEOs to prioritize short-term investor satisfaction over long-term prosperity. You can see it in populist politics, where leaders are more focused on the next election and the desires of their base than the long-term health of the nation. And you can see it in our collective failure to tackle long-term risks: climate change, pandemics, nuclear war, or antibiotic resistance.

Peter Thiel, (who I don’t admire but can respect in some ways), wrote in Zero to One about how Americans have stopped being definite optimists. By that he meant we no longer believe the future will be better in a clear, concrete way — as we once believed in the 50’s and 60’s. There are of course many reasons for that, not least of which is the lack of social mobility and the contraction of the middle class. But also, accelerating technology makes it hard to imagine what the future might bring, and humanity’s effect on global climate continues to create worse and more unpredictable circumstances.

According to historian François Hartog, the author of Regimes of Historicity, we are in the midst of another shortening right now. He argues that at some point between the late 1980s and the turn of the century, a convergence of societal trends took us into a new regime of time that he calls “presentism.” He defines it as “the sense that only the present exists, a present characterized at once by the tyranny of the instant and by the treadmill of an unending now.” In the 21st century, he writes, “the future is not a radiant horizon guiding our advancing steps, but rather a line of shadow drawing closer.”

The author proposes a framework he calls SHORT (salience, habits, overload, responsibility, and targets)

Compounding all this is the overload of a connected life. I needn’t dwell on the acceleration of technological change and its effect on the information ecosystem, but if you are looking for evidence, consider that it took 71 years for telephones to be adopted by half the US population. By contrast, cell phones took only 14 years to reach the same milestone. And the internet? A mere decade.

As technology’s pace accelerates, the concomitant quickening of life, work, and information has further overloaded our attention. Research conducted in 2005 suggested that people’s picture of the future goes “dark” around 15 to 20 years hence. As the cosmologist Martin Rees has pointed out, it’s difficult to be a “cathedral thinker” when the lives of our children promise to be so radically different from our own—a problem that our medieval ancestors simply did not have.

Enjoy the full piece at the MIT Review “Humanity is stuck in short-term thinking. Here's how we escape.”


👉 Check out: Pistol Whip (VR)

I recently picked up the Oculus Quest 2, the new VR headset by Facebook. Yes, I work there but this was a personal expenditure as they aren’t just handing these out.

I’ve only had a handful of VR experiences prior to this so was excited to take the plunge, especially with work from home and winter causing me to spend a lot of time in my small Brooklyn apartment.

One of the games I’ve been enjoying so far is Pistol Whip. It’s like if John Wick and Guitar Hero had a baby. You move “on rails” through a series levels and baddies appear and start blasting at you. You can shoot or punch them with your gun (hence the name) but the twist is that you earn more points when you hit them on the beat.

It’s a lot of fun, a decent way to be active, and makes you feel like a badass. Pistol Whip is available on Playstation VR, Steam, and Oculus. And if you’ve enjoyed the John Wick series (which the game is explicitly inspired by with accomplishments like “Baba Yaga”), you’ll love this game. I found myself holding my gun like John, using a center axis relock (with two hands, close to my chest) for accuracy and honestly to reduce fatigue.


Well folks, until next time, this is Jason signing off. Enjoy your weekend.

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Jason Shen

Human(e) technologist on a mission to help build resilient teams and organizations. Former NCAA gymnast and three-time startup founder.