Bullshit jobs – 5 things worth sharing this week

Hey folks,

Nick here. I’ve been wanting to do this curation thing for a while where I round up the things I’ve heard that made an impact on my life. It’s just such a tantalisingly simple format with huge potential upside for readers that I had to give it a real shot.

So starting today, I’ll send you a list of things worth sharing once every other week. I will focus on sharing things that are helpful to the general group of people whom I think of as the humans behind technology (i.e. software engineers like me, but also product designers, PMs, solutions engineers, startup founders, etc.)

Here is this week’s to kick things off —

  1. This short post articulates for me my discomfort with people giving advice. Jason Fried in Advice expires explains the main problems with taking advice from people.
“Here's the most important thing to recognize about advice: It's relative. It's contextual. People love to share success stories […] They look back and connect dots that maybe weren't there, lay it out for you, and encourage you to do the same thing.”

  1. I have been searching for a new job, and a LinkedIn post by Bonnie Dilber made it clear that my head is not in the clouds when I negotiate for fair compensation.
“If someone leans hard on salary during a hiring process, […] It simply means that they want to ensure that they are taken care of while doing great work.”

  1. Reading Please don’t call my job a calling (NYT op-ed) was a good reminder not to succumb to vocational awe or the prestige of working at a big name company.
“The rhetoric that a job is a passion or a ‘labor of love’ obfuscates the reality that a job is an economic contract. The assumption that it isn’t sets up the conditions for exploitation.”

  1. Bullshit jobs seem like a good explanation for why we’re not already working 4 day weeks despite crazy technological advances in recent decades. This happens to be a good read if you’ve been laid off recently (like I did). It gave me another lens to re-examine my career path.
“[…] what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call ‘the market’ reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.)”

  1. Apparently OpenAI provides a guide to making the most of ChatGPT. The OpenAI cookbook helped me understand the unintuitive need for “prompt engineers.”
“If you were asked to multiply 13 by 17, would the answer pop immediately into your mind? For most of us, probably not. Yet, that doesn't mean humans are incapable of two-digit multiplication. With a few seconds, and some pen and paper, it's not too taxing to work out that 13 x 17 = 130 + 70 + 21 = 221. Similarly, if you give GPT-3 a task that's too complex to do in the time it takes to calculate its next token, it may confabulate an incorrect guess. Yet, akin to humans, that doesn't necessarily mean the model is incapable of the task. With some time and space to reason things out, the model still may be able to answer reliably.”

Have feedback about this new format? Reply this email or leave a comment to let me know. Thanks!

~ Nick

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