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April, 2012:

Conversations – Unintended Consequences

Just recently I have been enjoying the Conversations with Richard Fidler [^] podcasts from the ABC. They are generally around 45 minutes of Richard gently guiding his guest through their life story. And it makes for amazing listening – perfect for the drive home.

There is one small problem though, Richard keeps on opening my eyes to new concepts and ideas. The two that I have heard in the past couple of days are “One good thing about being wrong is the joy that it brings others”, and the law of unintended consequences.

The law of unintended consequences is loosely defined to say that the actions of people always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. Wikipedia gives some good examples of beneficial and detrimental unintended consequences from the real-world. Consequences can also includes perverse effects – where the action delivers the opposite result to the one desired. The most well-known perverse effect is the Streisand Effect; where trying to block personal information online results in even more publicity!

The law of unintended consequences is a realisation we cannot hope to predict all of the possible outcomes from complex, and indeed not so complex systems. Powerful stuff – thanks Richard.

Conversations with Richard Fidler

Hyland’s Bookshop

Sometimes you just lose track of a business.

Hyland’s Bookshop in the City was a place that I hunted down – a little oasis of British Railway Books in Melbourne.  It was hidden away in a upstairs dark building  in Flinders Lane. I can’t remember how I found out about it, but I used to visit there as often as I could browsing books. We more reading than browsing – but that never seemed to be an issue.

Then they moved to an even more out of the way premises on Flinders Street, but I was visiting enough to to find the sign on the door of the old shop and be pointed to the right place. But I didn’t pay enough attention – because the next time I went to visit I couldn’t find it. I just thought that I wasn’t looking in the right place, and looked a few more times on visits to the City, then gave up.

Of course I could have always looked in the Yellow Pages – but where’s the fun in that! And this was back in the days before wide-spread internet use – the mid to late 1990s. For some reason today the memory of Hyland’s popped-up. A little Googling later I found it – on the other side of the CBD with a website, and a good stock of railways books according to the catalogue. Bonus – now I just need an opportunity to go there; Hyland’s Bookshop [^] – Level 1, 29-31 Heffernan Lane, Melbourne, Victoria 3000.

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Roger Ebert has a touching piece on the nature of death – “I remember you[^]:

We exist in the minds of other people, in thousands of memory clusters, and one by one those clusters fade and disappear. Some years from now, at a funeral with a slide show, only one person will be able to say who we were.

I remember you - screenshot