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#271 Vannevar Bush (Engineer of the American Century)
October 12th, 2022 | E271

What I learned from reading Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century by G. Pascal Zachary.


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[7:30] Episode starts. 

[7:31] Acts of importance were the measure of his life and they are the reason that his life deserves study today.

[8:10] Suspicious of big institutions Bush objected to the pernicious effects of an increasingly bureaucratic society and the potential for mass mediocrity.

[8:20] He believed the individual was still of paramount importance.

"The individual to me is everything," he wrote  "I would restrict him just as little as possible."

He never lost his faith in the power of one.

[8:57] Pieces of the Action by Vannevar Bush (Founders #270)

[9:32] Dee Hock — founder of VISA episodes:

One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization by Dee Hock (Founders #260)

Autobiography of a Restless Mind: Reflections on the Human Condition Volume 1and Autobiography of a Restless Mind: Reflections on the Human Condition Volume 2 by Dee Hock. (Founders #261)

[9:55] Edwin Land episodes:

Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos. (Founders #264)

Land's Polaroid: A Company and the Man Who Invented It by Peter C. Wensberg (Founders #263)

A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War by Ronald Fierstein (Founders #134)

Land's Polaroid: A Company and the Man Who Invented It by Peter C. Wensberg (Founders #133)

The Instant Image: Edwin Land and the Polaroid Experienceby Mark Olshaker (Founders #132)

Insisting On The Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land and Instant: The Story of Polaroid(Founders #40)

[10:00] Vannevar Bush and Edwin Land both had a profound belief in the individual capacity for greatness.

[12:15] Bush came from an American line of can do engineers and tinkerers, a line beginning with Franklin, and including Eli Whitney, Alexander, Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin. (Founders #62)

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. (Founders #115)

Franklin & Washington: The Founding Partnership by Edward Larson. (Founders #251)

Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bellby Charlotte Gray. (Founders #138)

Edison: A Biography by Matthew Josephson. (Founders #268)

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. (Founders #239)

[13:35] The Essential Writings of Vannevar Bush by Vannevar Bush and G. Pascal Zachary

[16:30] My whole philosophy is very simple. If I have any doubt as to whether I am supposed to do a job or not, I do it, and if someone socks me, I lay off.

[18:00] The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age by Janet Wallach (Founders #103)

[19:00] What Bush learned from reading old whaling logs I’m learning 120 years later reading biographies of founders.

[19:45] Books by Sebastian Mallaby:

The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future and More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite

[21:20] He admired men of action, despised rules, and felt that merit meant everything.

[22:32] If something is going to take two years he wants to figure out how to do it in six months or a year. This kind of the mentality he applied to everything.

[24:45] Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli (Founders #265)

[25:45] I lose my shit when thinking about how all these ideas connnect.

[30:45] He remained susceptible to bouts of nervous tension throughout his prime years.

[31:50] Advice he gave his sons: Justify the space you occupy.

[32:30] Do not emulate the ostrich: For better or worse we are destined to live in a world devoted to modern science and engineering. If the road we are on is slippery, we cannot avoid a catastrophe by putting on the brakes, closing our eyes or taking our hands off the wheel. What is the sane attitude of a scientist or layman? Absence of wishful thinking. No emulation of the ostrich.

[35:00] He insisted that discipline must be self applied or will be externally imposed.

[33:36] He found romance in adversity and solace in hard work.

[36:00] Vannevar Bush on Leonardo da Vinci and Ben Franklin

[42:33]  It is being realized with a thud that the world is going to be ruled by those who know how, in the fullest sense, to apply science.

[44:45] We want an inventive company rather than an orderly company.

[45:38] Tolerate genius. There are very few men of genius. But we need all we can find. Almost without exception they are disagreeable. Don't destroy them. They lay golden eggs.  —Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy. (Founders #89)

[48:34] David Ogilvy episodes:

The Unpublished David Ogilvy by David Ogilvy. (Founders #189)

The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertisingby Kenneth Roman. (Founders #169)

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy. (Founders #89)

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. (Founders #82)

[49:00] Bush’s personal motto: Don’t let the bastards get you down.

[51:50] The General and the Genius: Groves and Oppenheimer—The Unlikely Partnership that Built the Atom Bomb by James Kunetka. (Founders #215)

[55:15] The more resourceful entrepreneurs are the ones that are going to win.

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[1:07:04] Warren Buffett masterclass on how to differentiate your product brought to you by Tiny

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