What separates specialists from generalists is the level of detail they operate at. The effect is very evident if you've had experience hiring an excellent carpenter vs. a merely good one. Because carpentry is a domain where even minor mistakes can make themselves extremely evident. Just half a millimetre can make the difference between a table that rests solidly on the ground vs. a table that rocks. The domain requires extreme precision and attention to detail.
And so is the case with a lot of other domains that we interact with on the level of the consumer in daily life. Take your laptop or smartphone for example. They're surprisingly rich in detail and information; information that was amassed over years of research and tinkering.
This essay will only help you appreciate all the detail that goes into building the world around us; the detail that we often take for granted. Observing this detail can inspire our own work and craftsmanship. Because it is often attention to detail that leads to breakthroughs, not 90,000-feet-high visionary thinking.
Looking at any domain from the outside in, it is very easy to underestimate the kind of effort that is needed to be really good.
It is easy to look at someone else's job and say, “Oh, this doesn't feel like a really big deal. Anyone can do it.”
It is only when you do the work yourself that you realise how much unspoken and undocumented know-how is applied on a minute-by-minute basis to do the work — any work. You won't find this information in any textbook. The only way you'll find it is by getting your hands dirty and doing the work yourself.
“Technology is full of narratives, but one of the loudest is around something called ‘data’. AI is the future, and it’s all about data, and data is the future, and we should own it and maybe be paid for it, and countries need data strategies and data sovereignty. Data is the new oil! This is mostly nonsense. There is no such thing as ‘data’, it isn’t worth anything, and it doesn’t really belong to you anyway.”
Benedict Evans adds some much-needed resolution to the data debate and how when people say “Data”, they do not actually know what they're even talking about. Your individual data is worthless. You have to aggregate the data of millions of people and apply layers of intelligence to turn it into something even remotely valuable.
Some Food for Thought
Okay folks, that’s it for today! I’ll see you with another edition of the newsletter tomorrow morning. Till then, take care and enjoy your Sunday.