Tim Urban’s 1,000-page book on human history

Tim Urban's 1,000-page book on human history
5. General

Tim Urban’s 1,000-page book on human history

Welcome to the twelfth edition of ‘3-2-1 by Story Rules‘.

A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across:
• 3 tweets
• 2 articles, and
• 1 long-form content piece

Each would be accompanied by my short summary/take and sometimes with an insightful extract.

Let’s dive in.


🐦 3 Tweets of the week

This is a great use of the ‘treemap’ chart to show population by continent and country. Can give so many “Ohhhh…” moments.


And this one is great for showing the true size of Africa. Superb example of giving perspective using contrast.


This is such a cute cartoon! The simple pleasures of life…


📄 2 Articles of the week

a. The thrill of boredom by Albert Read

Too much efficiency is a bad thing. It’s good to be bored.

It is during the quiet moments that the imagination comes alive.
It is between the layers of existence that the best ideas happen. Isaac Newton was almost certainly bored when he was forced to leave Cambridge because of the plague, to return to his parents’ house at Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire, and stare absent-mindedly at an apple tree.
Archimedes experienced a feeling that some would now call boredom, rolling around in his bath, his mind partially disengaged as the water trickled over the sides, allowing him to run down the street and cry, ‘Eureka!’
Boredom provokes a useful partial disengagement. The gear stick is in neutral, thoughts coast and the membranes of the mind soften, allowing the unconscious to do its work..

Hat/tip: Clear Writing Community

b. Is it time to retire the tiger as brand ambassador for national parks?

An old article, but an important message to share, especially given that the problem has only intensified! (Incidentally, I wrote my brief take on this issue on LinkedIn last year)

Because more than anything, a visit to a national park calls to mind a pilgrimage. What’s missing is the VIP queue that an urban time strapped audience doesn’t mind forking out extra cash for, which brings with it speed and several other guarantees and reassurances. But then, tigers are more like actual gods than idols; elusive beings, not easily found even after what feels like a lifetime of searching.

It’s a reality that soon dawns on a public who have watched just enough TV to assume tigers and other big cats are given to lolling about photogenically all over nature reserves. They feel cheated at having to settle for “lesser” animals. The get pushy and loud with park guides and tour bus drivers. Tour operators are left squirming, tormented by guilt at a situation they have no real control over.

Hat/Tip: Karthik Srinivasan on Twitter


🎤 1 long-form listen of the week

a. A Mind-Expanding Conversation About Human History and Happiness With Tim Urban (Plain English with Derek Thompson)

Tim Urban’s got an incredible way of looking at the world. In this conversation he talks with Derek about his book titled ‘What’s our Problem? A Self-Help Book for Societies‘. (The book is on my reading list!)

This excerpt ought to kindle your curiosity

So I first would say, OK, how long is human history? And it’s not like there was a day when it started. But historians go back or evolutionary biologists go back to 250,000, 300,000, 200,000 years ago. So I said, “OK, let’s go with 250 as a rough number.” And then if we wrote down everything that happened between 250,000 years ago and today in the world of humans, and we made that into a 1,000-page book, every page would cover 250 years. A quarter millennium, a long time, but 1,000 of those pages. So I was like, “OK, so what does that look like?” If you’re reading that book, picturing an alien anthropologist, a cosmic anthropologist who is reading about primitive species out there—and we definitely would qualify for a primitive species for an alien who can read about other species—what would it be like to read this book?
And the answer is that it would be incredibly boring. This would get a one-star review on Amazon—on alien Amazon—because 950 of the 1,000 pages have almost nothing going on. It is hunter-gatherers.


That’s all from this week’s edition.

Photo by Mikołaj on Unsplash

Leave your thought here

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *