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The One-Sentence Challenge

Rebecca Blood listed me as one of the folks to take a shot at the One-Sentence Challenge, as offered by Paul Kedrosky:

Physicist Richard Feynman once said that if all knowledge about physics was about to expire the one sentence he would tell the future is that "Everything is made of atoms". What one sentence would you tell the future about your own area, whether it's entrepreneurship, hedge funds, venture capital, or something else?

Examples: An economist might say that "People respond to incentives". I had an engineering professor years ago who said all of that field could be reduced to "F=MA and you can't push on a rope".

A couple of good ones come immediately to mind: the GBN motto, "the future is uncertain, and yet we must act;" Bruce Sterling's "the future is a process, not a destination;" Yogi Berra's "prediction is very hard, especially about the future." But this really should be one of my own. So here's my try:

The future is built by the curious -- the people who take things apart and figure out how they work, figure out better ways of using a system, and explore how to make new things fit together in unexpected ways.

How's that?

Passing this along, I'd like to see this challenge answered by:

Green LA Girl [Siel responds here];
Mike Treder [Mike responds here];
Bruce Sterling;
Kim Allen [Kim responds here];
Violet Blue;
Eric Townsend [JET responds here];
Stuart Candy.

And, of course, anyone who wants to chime in here in the comments.

(Thanks to everyone who has participated!)


How about "All human knowledge, except for this, has mysteriously expired." I bet that would be a nice clue for everyone suddenly sitting around, scratching their heads.

Seriously, though, it's hard to say something in one sentence that doesn't seem useless because it's more of a definition than an observation. Feynman's sentence and your proposed economist's sentence suffer from this.

I'd tend to want to focus on the non-obvious, non-intuitive stuff - discoveries that took a long time for us to figure out, or cost us a lot of pain and suffering, but proved enormously useful or beneficial once we realized it.

Of course, often, claims lack credibility when there's no supporting evidence. A single claim //shouldn't// be believed unless we know why - even if it turns out to be true! Thus, the sentence would have to contain the means to unlocking the evidence supporting it, as well as the claim itself.

If we can do that, the central claim itself might even be optional. Maybe the sentence shouldn't be statement, but a question - on that will prompt human curiosity to a better, sooner, and less costly discovery of the truth one would wish to transmit.

It's interesting that connects with your own statement about curiosity.

Put your Faith in Doubt, the universe is not what you think it is.

Fear is a capital sum reduced by expenditure; so, for that matter, is courage.

faith in doubt?!

I really have to disagree with that. By all means, evaluate skepticism on its own terms. Doubt doubt. The only reason skepticism is so valuable is because its so effective. If it it evers reaches a point where it loses its explanatory power, ditch it. Faith is not required.

Logical contradictions only exist in thought - not in reality.

I can't resist:

"You can't increase the rate of consumption of a finite resource forever"

Good one, Gav.

interesting question Jamais. I answered it on my vox blog, but I'll put it here too.

"Whatever else you do, don't skimp on backups or fire extinguishers"

Velocity does not exist

Solar energy is simple:
dark heats
light reflects
clear keeps off the wind.

Integrity is the only force that keeps science and technology from being engines of dystopia.


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