Musings on Modern Marketing

Category: Off-Tangent (page 1 of 1)

Generational Memories

I couldn't tell you why this conversation started the way it did, but I recently sat down to a conversation with my mother about my grandfather - her father, who I've always called Zayde.

In our conversation, it came up that my memories of him - shortened as they were by his Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis - were just a small sliver of who he'd been in my mother's eyes.

My grandfather was George Bedor, a Certified Public Accountant, a Sergeant in the 2nd Engineer's Special Brigade deployed to New Guinea during the last years of World War II, and an armchair historian.

But I knew him as Zayde - the Yiddish word for Grandfather. It became his name and the summation of all the things I knew about him growing up.

He died in 2005, when I was just nine years old. So the things I knew were limited by the conversations I knew to have with him.

We shared a love of history, of flight, of ginger-snap cookies, and of all things unusual. A love of Useless Knowledge - the sort that created this section of the blog. 

My mother knew him as someone with an unending work ethic. A man who left the army after the war, took a job packing boxes throughout the day so he could pay his way through night school while studying to be a CPA.

At one point in our conversation, my mother said: "When I die, he'll be forgotten and die as well."

Of course, my grandfather wouldn't be forgotten by me or my brother. But my mother is an only child - the last person alive who lived a life with him.

It's often said that someone does not die until they are forgotten. 

I can never hope to remember all the things my mother does, because I didn't live through them. 

So, I could tell people the story of Zayde's time in WWII: unwrapping and sharing care packages of kosher salami with his army unit sent to his station in New Guinea from his mother on Park Place in Brownsville. I could tell of his fight against Pancreatic Cancer, working on his clients’ tax returns through the pain and chemo so as not to leave anyone in the lurch. Or, I could memorialize the weekend afternoons spent crossed-legged beneath his desk as a child, listening to talk radio programs on history (is it coincidental that my major at Princeton was Intellectual History?) and conspiring with him about creative ways to keep his cat, Tevye, from mindlessly (or perhaps in full complacent consciousness) swatting his client folders off the desk on a regular basis. But most of that would be second hand, and inaccuracies would creep into those stories until they weren't the true stories at all.

This is a post about Generational Memories, and the real question that sparked it was: "What if Humans remembered everything about their ancestors?"

I've thought about this a fair bit and it's my understanding that we'd be miserable.

To remember the loved ones we've lost is to remember their joys, fascinations, and fears; to be overjoyed or saddened again and again by our interactions with those things in our own lives.

So why do people die? Not the actual death of their bodies - but the death of their memories? Maybe it's because we can't handle remembering everything they went through. 

What if we remembered all of the stories, attributes, and predispositions of every one of our ancestors? We could, of course, try recording voices, videos, stories—their images and words. But for how long could we hold onto and store things like olfactory cues: the way their house smelled or the cologne or perfume they wore? Visual cues: the way they sprinted across the lawn to catch the ball you threw and the way they shuffled breathlessly through the house when the cancer returned. How long until we remember so much about each person in our lineage that we have no room left to craft our own idiosyncracies, opinions or stories?

Would our senses ever allow us to achieve generational memory?

How long until the senses have no future?

Tiny Decision Logic

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

"Tiny Decision Logic."

Like it's some kind of magical solution to a problem you're facing.

Maybe it is. 

I want you to take a moment and think about a circle. Even the letter O will do.

When you draw a circle, you make a sweeping curve with your fingers or hand depending on the size of the circle.

It's one fluid motion.

But what about your computer? Does it draw a sweeping curve? Your printer? Your phone? 

They don't. Because they can't.

Computers, phones, printers - anything that has to translate data from digital to visible are making a series of decisions.

Everything I just mentioned has to make decisions based on pixels.

We're all vaguely familiar with pixels, but to take this example to its most simplistic extreme - let's treat a pixel like a small square with two possible states. 

In our example, a pixel is either on or off. It either shows black or white.

When a digital device draws a circle, it has to choose which squares become black, and which stay white.

So how do we get from the blocky zero of your alarm clock to the circular zero of the modern computer? We increase the number of pixels.

And by doing so - we increase the number of decisions that have to be made.

But if we want to show a small curve, we have to shrink these pixels. The decisions get smaller and smaller and smaller. And the end user? We make one decision. Type the number zero.

And why am I talking about the number zero? Because each one of those little squares get smaller and smaller. If you take a screenshot of this and zoom in on one of the curves, you'll see small square-shaped steps of various shades of grey. 

Each one of those squares is a pixel. And the higher the resolution of your screen, the closer you'll have to zoom in to see anything except the smooth curve.

So our "big decision" to type the number zero is translated into the dozens of tiny decisions made by the computer to turn on each necessary pixel.

Now how do we apply this to decision making in life?

Life is made of little steps - decisions made at such a fine scale that we can’t see the difference between making the sixty decisions that get us to breakfast every morning and making the one decision to have breakfast.

Yes. That’s a microscopic example of a decision, but most decisions are just that small.

If you want to make something happen, the only thing you really have to ask yourself is: “Do I want this enough to make the next decision?” And if you do, then the question that gets asked is -“Do I want this enough to make the next decision?”

An Example:

A huge goal is: "I want to make this blog successful."

The tiny decisions that get there:

1) Start reading - Anything will do.

2) Find inspiration - Walk, listen to music, talk to people you haven't talked to.

3) Write - Just make the decision to write. Rain or shine, put pen to paper, or hands to keyboard.

4) Make Time - Three hours out of every day must be dedicated to the process of reading, listening, and writing. No distractions.

5) Publish - All of the previous decisions are null and void if the articles don't go up on time.

At its core, Tiny Decision Logic, or TDL can be summed up as:

"Just keep deciding you want it, and you’ll get there eventually."