Shannon's Ultimate Machine
Tinkering for its own sake is a gift to you and others.
How much time do you spend tinkering on “useless things”? Claude Shannon is one of my heroes. For the uninitiated, he’s known as the Father of Information Theory. He has profoundly impacted computing and communications systems (shockingly, he is largely unknown to the general public). The world wouldn’t be the same today without his influence.
He once said:
I’ve always pursued my interests without much regard for final value or value to the world. I’ve spent lots of time on totally useless things.
Throughout his life, Shannon always made time for tinkering and practical jokes. One of my favorite examples of his sense of humor is his creation of The Ultimate Machine (you might recognize this as a Useless Machine). A machine that, when switched on, immediately switched itself off.
The pure absurdity of such a machine is a gift in its own right, but it represents a playfulness, deep sense of humor, and follow-through that I sincerely appreciate. The best part of the joke is that he built it, it works, and it exists purely for the satisfaction of the creator and the joy it brings to share his creation with others.
I know that two things happen when I tinker with “useless things” that deeply interest me for their own sake. First, the act itself brings me joy. Second, I learned something I never would have known otherwise that influenced other aspects of my life.
If you aren’t actively tinkering with something, I’d encourage you to try it. It has the power to unlock creativity and personal growth that just isn’t possible otherwise.
This Week’s Notable Links
He’s done it again, and this time Andre 3000 is on the track. In fact his entire album just dropped.
There is just so much wisdom shared between Ryan Holliday and Rick Rubin. Its 1h38m long, but I broke it up into a few sessions and really enjoyed it. I ended up picking up Rick Rubin’s new book The Creative Act1 (affiliate link) in audio book format. Rick narrates it himself.
My friend shared this with me and its just too good to not pass along. I hope you enjoy it as well.