The set of topics that can be openly discussed online these days is shrinking. That is a problem. I couldn’t agree more with Albert’s position here: “we need to be willing to explore new and more fundamental solutions rather than trying to patch the existing systems. […] patching our Industrial Age systems won’t do.”
On the hedonic treadmill of meritocracy, meaningless education, and unintended consequences of human systems. In short, Douthat asks what if “in the course of relaxing the demands of whiteness you could, just coincidentally, make your own family’s position a little bit more secure?” I am not sure I agree that this is the main driver of the movement, and I surely hope that people are driven by morality, but it is an interesting line of thought nevertheless. Incentives are important, and this is an argument that makes heavy use of them.
I totally agree with Pinker’s point: “I have a mind-set that the world is a complex place we are trying to understand,” he said. “There is an inherent value to free speech, because no one knows the solution to problems a priori.”
A fairly abstract essay about how our ability to build narratives breaks down when our lives revolve around an ever growing knowledge base. Its incompleteness implies deficiency in our understanding of the world. Narratives hide this lack, or at least allowed most of us to ignore the inadequacy until now. “Narratives seek closure (the story must end). The Database is open-ended (it assimilates new data indefinitely). The Database resists the Narrative impulse to control and stabilize meaning.”
An oddly prescient text from Lanier. It predicted the rise of an entity that’d fill the hole of Facebook as the ultimate bottleneck for our attention online, the devolution of the media industry into either more extreme or more average versions of its old self, and the fact that Wikipedia would become a central asset in the battle to train artificial intelligence models.
I do not own a car. In this post, Danco explains how cars actually solve many different jobs, all bundled into a single product (he lists commuting, shopping, kids, and recreation, but I’m sure there are more). As more of those jobs are unbundled (i.e., you can shop online, or work from home, or live in a dense city) the overall value of the car bundle diminishes. Danco explores ways in which the bundle could be expanded to other areas, and for the industry to reinvent itself.
One of the most important realizations of my life is that no one actually knows what they’re doing. Here’s Paul Graham’s take on that, with some evolutionary biology on why we convince ourselves that we do.
A lot of people blame the state of the world on the free market ideology pushed by Hayek, Friedman, and in the second half of the XX century. In this essay, Roberts digs deep into the macro trends, to make a clear case on the absurdity of that claim.
It was a nice surprise to see my short interaction with Visa featured on his blog. It’s remarkable that people from half a world apart can make such a connection in a matter of a few minutes.
I read this, as well as Cory’s less formal blog post after his conversation on the YC Podcast. If there’s one thing I’m excited about of the new decentralized crypto-backed promise it is how many of these new interoperable services it will enable.
Following the life of a bunch of kids from 1964 through the present, seeing them become young adults, start families, leave jobs, find love, live, and die, must have been a wild ride for Michael Apted. Compared to his 50-year long documentary, this is merely a short vignette into his life and that of his subjects. I want to watch this now.
If we disagree on what’s good and what’s bad, “stakeholder return” will always point to conflicting objectives. At some point, CEOs, coaches, leaders and stakeholders need to pick values, and stick to them. Historically, sports are one of the few spaces that are generally seen as politically neutral, even though they are nowhere close to that. There’s money in sports, and in global markets, there’s politics in money, therefore money and politics in sports.
I played a lot of Animal Crossing back when the original title came out for the Nintendo GameCube. My video game career has pretty much ground to a halt since then, but I can understand the pleasure of having an avatar who lives in a much simpler environment, with little risks and an escapist outlook. I wish I’d found something that cathartic early in the quarantine.
Recently I’ve been more online than usual, and I’m already a very online person. The fact that there exist wide reaching forums like Twitter and small groups like Anna’s Interintellect, where I can go have in-depth conversations about topics that I care about with other “friendly nerds,” has made my life better.
On walled gardens, platforms, censorship, and free speech.
Female empowerment, people stuck in the 1600s, and the unintended consequences of technology.
In his book, Cosmopolitanism, Appiah uses the analogy of a broken mirror, each shard of which reflects one part of a complex truth from its own particular angle. Most of us think that our little shard of mirror reflects the whole. Appiah then takes the metaphor further - it’s not a single mirror, but instead “lots of mirrors, lots of moral truths.” Similarly, I think his view of our identities is one where we each see ourselves as a bit of a mirror, reflecting back what society tells us about ourselves. Representation matters, if anything, because it allows us to adapt and move our mirrors to new angles.
I still haven’t watched The Irishman, and I know that to some extent this op-ed was a PR move, but I can’t agree more with Scorsese. I generally hate superhero movies, rehashed romcoms, or stale military shootouts. Part of why I hate them is based on their complete predictability.
I’ve always found it odd that people in the US talk about “cable TV” as if it means anything different from “TV.” That distinction may have meant something 40 years ago. Why does the language carry it on? Cable vs broadcast are not substantially different. They have different selections, but the same experience.
I did not know of Clarke’s condition until reading this article, having seen a full series with her as one of the stars. It’s a touching story about perseverance and trauma, intertwined with the development of one of the most popular series of the last few years and the actress behind so many of its key moments.
When I was in first grade, my school’s music teacher taught me a lot about classical music and composers, but we also spent a lot of timing watching movies. One of the things that I remember most vividly is being shown what those films were like without their soundtrack, realizing how flat they fell, and how much detail was added by virtue of simple sounds on top of the songs that had been picked for a specific purpose. This episode made me think of him.
A guest episode on 99pi from a show that unravels the modern compression of all our knowledge of goods and services into five-star scales.
A conversation that builds on Wei’s piece on invisible asymptotes, an essay about personal development, exponential growth, and big tech companies.
You all saw the 30-50 feral hogs tweet. This episode provides an explanation.
A fun episode about the devil, heavy metal, and other Satanic topics.
The adult world from a kid’s perspective, and a kid’s world as seen by the adults.
Large events like the Labor Day Carnival and the West Indian American Day Parade in New York bind people together, and give them a way to share their culture and show parts of their identity that are usually hidden day-to-day. This episode covers a few of their stories, as well as the view of the same crowds from the outside.
A lot of this episode resonated with me, and how I choose what to read or listen to. I’m excited about the viability of ideas that play with the “negative interest rates of the attention economy.”
Listening to Sonal and co. talk about the evolution of podcasts, and the practical problems yet to be solved (tooling for creators, search, analytics, discoverability, biz models, etc) makes me curious and excited about the future. So many interesting pieces of the business model puzzle that still need to be figured out!
Michael Lewis tells an amazing about immigration, education, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and how they shape who we are in very unexpected ways. Just listen.
This episode of Reply All had me thinking about The Wire the whole time. This is a story about policing, urban development, history, and organizational behavior. How do we incentivize the police to do what it is meant to do (keep us safe!) without also pushing for racist and corrupt behavior? That’s the question that this conversation tries to answer. Don’t miss Part II.
I’m glad Heavyweight is back. I won’t spoil this, just listen.
As someone who lives far away from his family this was a tough read. As someone whose parents (both of them!) have gotten sick while I’ve been away this was a really tough read. This is an empathy building piece, but also a vignette into China and the life of those immigrants who live in the boundary space between two worlds.
Our views about ownership, and how radically they have changed in the last 15-20 years is a topic I’ve been reading a lot about recently. Cowen describes a symptom, and says it should cause us worry. His explanation of why this is a problem is flawed though. As a HN commenter mentions: “The problem isn’t that we own less stuff, it’s that the ownership is replaced by a dependency on a handful of corporations which we have no ability to influence or appeal to. The substitution of individual ownership for a communal one in which individuals retain a stake - a real community, or at a larger scale, a democracy - is not inherently bad. The problem with our recent trend is that we aren’t getting communal ownership in return; we’re getting nothing but convenience. […] You’re renting from a centralized company which outsources the generation of actual value to others, and pays them as little as possible. You aren’t shifting your dependence from yourself to a community, but from yourself to a company that wants nothing more than to make money.” A book I read earlier this year, Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, discusses this topic in depth, and I’m hoping to write more about it in the future.
This piece reminded me of Nick Szabo’s things as authorities, and how much of our interactions are intermediated by ideas that are tacitly embedded in culture. Society is built on the fact that we can agree without burning mental cycles on things. We encode accepted behavior in culture and technology, relying on those crystals of knowledge to abstract away complexity and layer even more complexity on top. We offload our question of who should go ahead first to traffic lights, and our questions of who must pay back for their actions to courts and judges. If we think of governments as platforms (an analogy from Tim O’Reilly’s WTF), we can see that government’s role is the construction of and upholding of these mechanisms that legitimize sources of authority. The platform coordinates behavior to reliably improve the relation between the individuals who build on top of it, and it does so by setting the rules of what’s admissible and what is not to the point that we don’t need to stop and think about them.
I’m still going strong on my quest to fight recency bias by going back to old EconTalk episodes. I’m doing this partially to get away from the current “everything is politics” environment, but also to unlock knowledge that’s trapped in the recent past.
This one came from Leon. He found the argument about food replacing music as a status symbol the most interesting, but for me it was much more about the cultural appropriation aspect, and how culture imposes itself in strange subtle ways.
After months (years?) of hearing Russ Roberts bring up this commencement speech in his podcast, I finally put in the time to read the whole thing. It is an expansion of the kind of train of thought I got in the first time I heard of the word sonder.
A good essay on productivity and lifehacks, and the stories we tell ourselves about human life in 2018 through the lens of Radiohead’s Ok Computer. The accompanying art is worth it on its own, too.
An essay on various forms of social coercion, and how societies with different levels of trust deal with civil issues. Specifically, Wilson discusses how certain societies decrease the required level of trust between individuals on their day to day life, and how this leads to trade-offs between state coercion and social coercion instead of an increase in liberty. I find the topic fascinating, and welcome any and all suggestions on what else I should read about it.
I try not to post more than one article by the same author at a given time, but this one was too good to pass up. Ties nicely with other posts about technology and society I’ve been sharing over the past few months. I’m looking forward to what scandals the tech sector will give us in 2018.
A great response to Sam Altman’s Post. I don’t buy that SF is not an open minded place.
Something strange about my experience living in the US for the past ~7 years is that the average person I meet in the US (who is FAR from the average US citizen in most respects) is convinced that the US is great, if not the best, in nearly every field. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of the arguments and examples given here, I definitely agree with the overall sentiment: people in the US have a misplaced superiority complex, and if things keep going in the direction they’re going, they’re only going to fall further behind.
Ever heard about this fake news thing? Here’s some evidence that, at least in Mexico, it goes deeper than you’d think. I wouldn’t be surprised if the exact same thing is happening in the US right now.
I like Evans’ analogy of Facebook as a company that surfs on user behavior. As he says, “we attribute vastly too much power to a handful of product managers in Menlo Park, and vastly too little power to the billions of people who look at their phone screen and wonder which app to open.”
A story of the discovery of insulin, and the strange interaction between disesases, cures, and time.
So much of this seems familiar. The “thinking as a form of emasculation” and the attacks on “modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for betraying traditional values.” Reading Eco’s memories of his childhood in Italy, and comparing them to today’s environment is frightening. In short some features of fascism as described by Eco are:
- Cult of tradition.
- Rejection of modernism.
- Veneration of action for action’s sake.
- Repudiation of criticism - disagreement is treason.
- Fear of difference, structured against the intruders.
- Appeal to a frustrated middle class, suffering from an economic crisis, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.
- Lack of a clear social identity. The only privilege is to be born in the same country, with identity defined by enemies within and without.
- Shifting rhetoric - the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.
- Life as permanent warfare.
- Aristocratic and militaristic elitism, which implies contempt for the weak. Power is based upon the weakness of the masses.
- Heroism as the norm, which leads to a cult of death.
- Disdain for women, and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits.
- No Individuals rights - The People conceived as a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. The Leader pretends to be their interpreter.
- Impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. Newspeak.
Anyway go read Eco instead of my crappy summary.
"The economics of GoT" is a good genre. A long time ago I had read a similar article about its money and banking system, and turns out it was also by Ozimek. In this post, he tries to explain why there hasn’t been an industrial revolution in GoT. The TL;DR is a) there’s no cheap energy source (coal), b) scarcity of both labor and capital, c) a hierarchical closed system of science/knowledge (the Maesters). Trying to poke holes in a fantasy world with real world theories is always interesting.
But coal! The Rust Belt! Our jobs!
A very meta show, where two of the acts are about radio shows. The prologue was intensely sad. Go call your parents.
An unusual guest for this podcast, discussing culture and language instead of economics. The link, and the reason why this is interesting, is that language is a continually evolving emergent system, just like the economy. No one designed English, or Spanish, and there is no one person dictating what can and can’t be said. Sure, there are bodies like the Real Academia Española, who “oversee” a language, but they can’t stop us from inserting an emoji in the middle of our sentences, or from dropping a whole set of pronouns from normal use. I wish they had spent some time around topics of nation and identity building around language, but otherwise this is one of my favorite EconTalk episodes lately.
I have loved this song since I first heard it back in 2004-2005. Adding this whole layer of its origin story (a night out with Sabina, of all people!), and the history behind its structure, was awesome. The fact that everyone claims this metric/structure as their own, and as a defining aspect of the musical identities of their country is quite telling. Like Drexler says towards the end, “deep down, we’re all from nowhere and a little bit from everywhere.”
I have tried to avoid the discussion about the Google memo from last week, so I have read very few articles (and sadly way too many tweets) on the topic. I know I disagree with the author, and reading N think pieces won’t change that, so I’ve tried to shut it off. However, I read almost every post on Continuations, and Albert’s take seems like a sober response: we have overcome economic, historical and technological determinism, so it seems logical that even if the biological determinism implied by Damore (the memo’s author) were real, we could overcome them with… wait for it… technology!
I wonder how much of an actual trend this is. I haven’t paid for cable since I moved to the US, but I also have no interest in local TV, and I don’t think any of my friends do either. Yes, yes, we’re not representative, blah blah, but still. The craziest thing about this is people’s reaction to the fact that some things are free ‘No, you can’t live in America for free, what are you talking about?’ 🙄
The ethics of journalism, and the history of how modern journalism itself came about are interesting topics that I don’t know much about. I should work to change that. In the current historical context, it is important to understand how and why the content we consume is created. This post was a little too consparicy theory heavy for me, and yet I thought it was a worthwhile read. As I mentioned to my friend this weekend, I worry about the future of journalism. Laurene Powell Jobs buying a majority stake in the Atlantic or Bezos buying the Post kind of works in the short term, because their ideologies align with mine, and I kind of trust their intent, but tell me that the Koch brothers are buying the WSJ, and my reaction would be different. Creating incentives to keep the editorial integrity while maintaining a viable business is a tough 21st century problem.
A short post on management. I like DHH’s and Basecamp’s view of people management. I don’t know how closely they follow what they preach, but they seem to assign value to the right things.
Who do we trust in a world where everything is falsifiable? I am really curious about how cryptography and provable mathematics could change this. Companies like Keybase are already working on it, but it is far far from mainstream. Even technical people like myself have trouble wrapping our heads around this issue.
As international student who landed in the Midwest for the first time for college, this was interesting. Granted that the cultural differences between the US and China are much larger than those with Costa Rica, but I can still relate to a lot of it. It was much easier to hang out with other Latin American students, and enclose myself in the international bubble, but spending time with people from all around the world, including the US, was one of the highlights of my college experience.
This is funny, but it is also sad. Sad!
This series of podcasts by Tim Harford has given us strong history lessons, telling us why things are the way they are. This specific episode though, focuses more on asking whether any of it makes sense “From a certain angle, it is odd. Many countries take pride in banning employers from discriminating against among workers based on characteristics we can’t change: whether we’re male or female, young or old, gay or straight, black or white. […] But mostly our passport depends on the identity of our parents and location of our birth. And nobody chooses those.” Somehow, this seems ok in our modern mind set - it is all a game of Us & Them.
While Noah lives in San Francisco, he’s not really a Silicon Valley insider, so seeing his reaction to Scott Alexander’s Reality Check was interesting. His take? “All in all, Silicon Valley represents one of the least objectionable, most rightfully respected institutions in America today.”
If you haven’t heard about Reddit’s April’s Fools experiment from earlier this year, you need to read this. Emergent behavior is awesome.
We’re training our computers to do some really strange things. This one translated Genesis 1 to only use words that start with the letter “A.”
This article was awesome. The basic idea it tries to get across is that because cities are multicultural and inclusive, they are also more productive. This vision of the city as a bastion of openness and tolerance, unlike the insular rural communities that voted for Trump, is not new, but the post sparked some interesting conversation online. For example see Noah Smith’s, Ross Douthat’s and Chris Arnade’s takes.
Nothing about Farhad’s argument seems controversial to me. There are still unsolved problems in the vein of “finding a needle in a haystack” where separating signal from noise has become increasingly difficult, but the expansion of content produced by humans can only be a good thing. If we trust that willingness to pay will somehow sort out the good vs. bad content problem in the long run, we’re headed in the right direction.
Starting with the case of Big Tobbaco vs. Medicine in the 50s and 60s, and continuing with Trump and Brexit, Harford makes an argument against ignorance. Agnotology, “the study of how ignorance is deliberately produced,” is a really interesting concept that I had never heard of. The punchline is that we need to get people excited about learning, and make them curious about the world in which they live in, so that they seek out truth on their own. Not an easy endeavor.
Life somehow keeps teaching us that we have no idea what we’re doing. “Growing up” is about learning from your experiences, but there are always new mistakes to make.
Good reads on the history of large well-known retailers are not usual, as most stories in the genre end up with a strong PR flavor. This article, by virtue of showing the origin stories of two seemingly rival companies at once, achieves a good balance.
I am reading Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Noah’s arguments in this blog post fit right into the framework that Anderson proposes at the beginning of his book. Nations are made up. Expect a blog post about this soon.
I am currently reading several books at once, and one of them is Seeing Like a State. So far, the book has presented a bunch of ideas about the inner workings of what the author calls high modern states. In this post, Rao (who is not the author of the book) summarizes one of the most interesting ideas in the book so far: legibility, or reorganizing society to make it more understandable, and thus more governable.
One of my favorite episodes of a16z ever. Touching on the subjects of nationalisim, imagined communities, religion, governments, etc, etc, etc, and how all of these are affected by the rise of technology. I had shared a related piece from Harari a few months ago, but this podcast episode is way better.
A great set of interviews. I constantly think about this topic of where identities overlap and how people view themselves vs. how they are sseen by others. More so these days. Belonging, otherness, and these social dynamics are very intriguing.
I have previously discussed Szabo, and his view on human institutions as “trust-offloading mechanisms.” In a way, money is the ultimate trust-offloading abstraction. Until the last few years, money – American Dollars, the Euro, or the Costa Rican Colon – still relied on trusting several points of failure – states, the payments networks, the certificate authorities – and our human interactions simply assumed those costs. Bitcoin and the internet have started to changed that, and further developments in technology promise much more. This is a post I’ll probably re-read again soon.
I have seen the Snap <=> Apple narrative popping up over and over across the web. Except for the “obsessive-design-focused-mission-driven-CEO” story, which I can’t really ascertain (and neither can the media!) , I haven’t really seen any good arguments to back it up. Ben comes the closest, but doesn’t quite convince me either. The Facebook <=> Microsoft analogy is much more believable, given the market conditions. I am bullish on Snapchat, and I am enjoying my spectacles (a different blog post soon?) but we’ll have to wait and see how this one plays out.
My friend Dana had already recommended that I read Kitchen Confidential, but after reading this, it got bumped up a few notches on my to-do list. Parts Unknown, Bourdain’s show, is one of my go-to “half an hour to kill” shows on Netflix. It is very entertaining, and it makes an effort to show more than just the food of foreign lands. As the article describes, there is a layer of political complexity to the show that is unusual for its kind. Make half an hour to read this, and then make another one to watch an episode of the show.
The future exists, and we have a lot ahead of us. Let’s remember that.
A story of weather reports, demonstrating path dependence1000. “Choices we agree on now are going to stick around, and get baked into the foundational brick of our biggest, most critical systems. Be careful what you toss in there!”
Borders, names, in-groups and out-groups, are all arbitrary, and more fluid than we generally think. Herodotus spoke of the divide between Europe, Asia, and Africa 500 years ago: “I cannot conceive why three names [Asia, Europe, and Africa] should ever have been given to a tract which is in reality one.”
Language matters. Names shape how we think. This is as important in computer science as in any other field. We talk about queues and stacks and bugs and patches, not because we like jargon, but because metaphors are the only way we can get complex ideas across quickly. Communication is the hardest thing about software engineering, and pretty much any human endeavor. Picking the right metaphors can ease our job significantly, and shed light on how others have solved the same problems in the past.
There are a slew of insane facts in this piece. For example, San Francisco has the lowest percentage of children of any of the largest 100 cities in the US. The rate for San Francisco is 13%, for New York is 21%, and for Chicago, 23%, which is also the overall average across the United States. The number of dogs is roughly the same as the number of kids: 120k. There is one additional student enrolled in the public school system for every 100 apartments sold in the city. The public school system has shrunk by 40% since 1970. More than 10 private schools have opened in San Francisco since 2009. This city really makes no sense.
Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs unveiled two products that could change the world. One did. The other one was the Apple TV. Ben reminds us that how much he’s idolized, “it’s worth remembering that even Steve Jobs hedged his bets.”
It is too easy to start listing groups which you identify with. The author talks about her family, and their identities. What does it mean for her to be European, when she’s faced with the contrast between her spouse’s Welsh-ness and her own German-ness? What does it mean to have a name, or a passport? More importantly, what will it mean in 10 years, or 20?
I recently tweeted that about one of Gimlet’s new podcasts, Heavyweight, calling it “Curb Your Enthusiasm, podcast version”. Stories about people, told in a really fun way. This one is about young people developing their identities, and grappling with their religious beliefs. Two stories about two people who met as they were going in opposite directions 30 years ago, meeting again today.
If we truly believed that prisons are about reformation, and correction, our systems would be set up differently. Here’s a glimpse into the lives of a few people who made it through and turned their lives around.
In cooking, like in everything else, the basic skills are much more important than the recipes and the tutorials. It is a matter of learning, and of putting in the hours. After reading this, I went on a youtube binge.
A piece that echoes a lot of my own thouhgts on identity, well-summarized by quoting Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan: “…a philosopher from Peru resembles a philosopher from Scotland more than a janitor from Peru.”
Facebook is a scapegoat among the aggregators. Hacker News could be just as guilty of this same issue, but they don’t operate at scale, and are not frequented by Average Joe. People are lazy, including me, and we will read whatever confirms what we already think. Some of us just do a bigger effort than others to keep our biases at bay.
The media is a shit-show. Yesterday I watched Amanda Knox (which I definitely don’t recommend), and the whole time I kept thinking of this article. Unfounded phrases get repeated over and over for views and clicks, making monsters and presidents out of thin air. Trump is bad, but I trust that things will not change that much in the short term.
A fun look at an extremely small market, dealing only in high luxury fungi.
Not much needs to be said about this, but Mark Suster makes great arguments about why backing Trump is completely wrong.
I want to eat this. On a more serious note, I think the most interesting part of this story is how a very specific skill, which has been passed down as a secret through generations is about to be lost because of lack of interest, and indifference.
Holding others in contempt for not working with a real language is a problem. Putting down PHP, a commonplace occurence, is as bad as mocking Java for having industrial strength. As a Python guy, I constantly get comments on when I’ll graduate to a static language. Making fun of each other’s tools of choice, and marking them as being beneath consideration is a mistake.
I was first exposed to Jane Jacobs through a class in college. We were assigned an excerpt of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” and it was odd how much Jacobs’ line of thought, once extranous, was so internalized into our own views that many of us didn’t understand why her writing was interesting. After learning more about her, and putting things in historical perspective, it all made much more sense.
An explainer on race in the US, which I can’t recommend enough. Norton’s two part post helped me re-contextualize the present via history I was unaware of (part two, here).
We are nowhere near a transparent general AI, and all the companies buidling voice interfaces know that. By now, Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant have all been positioned away from such an all-encompassing solution, pushing for ever narrower use cases. Like the AIs out of Facebook’s bot fiasco of 2016, voice interfaces seem to be adding more friction than they take away.
When people think of economics as a discipline, they tend to think of the broad themes they read about in the newspaper: interest rates, trade, unemployment, the housing market, etc, usually analyzed at the macro level. However, as Smith points out, microeconomics has slowly gained steam, developing more reliable models than macro in the last few years. Better tools, new methods, as well as data, are driving this change. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in more Nobel Prizes going to the microeconomists as of late, including this year’s winners.
I have been thinking a lot about Maslow’s hierarchy as of late. Luckily, I am part of the minority that gets to worry about these things.
Not suprisingly, the idea of redistribution is not taken well by Roberts, but the underlying themes are more interesting anyway. Touching on cosmopolitanism, identity, and other recurring subjects of this blog, Deaton and Roberts discuss the state of the US’s poor, questioning whether a poor person in the south is objectively worse off than a poor person in Africa, for example.
The stories coming out of the Wells Fargo scandal are rough. Incentives in the financial markets are turned on their heads, and it is amazing that the extensive regulation can’t handle these issues. Golden parachutes and bail-outs aside, this is insanity.
Necessity is the mother of invention, quite literally. This episode makes it easy to imagine what the village might look like, but after seeing the photos I think the audio doesn’t do it justice. An excellent idea, and an important example of why the US sometimes lags on the innovation side.
A short episode, based on a 1964 New York Times article. Nate DiMeo tells us a story we’ve all heard before, but which, sadly, must be retold over and over again.
As usual with Maciej, there are many layers to this essay. The comparisons between libraries and the internet are not new, and his railing against large companies aiding online surveilance are more than expected. Much more interesting are the questions brought up about archiving the modern web - where content is selected, joined, and rendered dynamically per user at load time, with large portions behind walls: What is the point of building a community you don’t own? What should be kept for posterity? What is a the point of a site’s snapshot without the code that makes it work? What happens when a company dies, or misses, and we go beyond simple link-rot? The conclusion is hand wavey, but the future of the internet is, as Maciej put it, contingent.
The more I read Taleb, the less I like him. The IYI concept is worth sharing, though, because it is pervasive, and we all fall in the trope at times. “The IYI has been wrong, historically, on [a ton of things,] but he is convinced that his current position is right.” The key to ridding one’s self of the YI part is to have an open mind, accept errors as they are revealed, and course-correct accordingly.
There is too much Apple speculation here for me to make strong comments, but go read it. Products don’t exist in a vacuum.
There are clear tensions regarding how information is stored and accessed on the internet. In the OSS world, there is a loud group that constantly complains about the IRC => Slack trend, for example. Whether the fringe is becoming more or less accessible, I don’t know, I have not tried to hang out there, but there is an overwhelming feeling of the walls closing in on themselves.
Internalize your mistakes, correct your course, but don’t forget you messed up.
A glimpse into the future of media/advertising, an interesting personal story, and a product I’d love to try. The back story of how this story got leaked by Business Insider, and the WSJ ended up being whipped into releasing it early says a lot about journalism in the 21st century, too. A lot to unpack.
Another piece about the perils of living attached to our screens, and taking a break from the addiction. These have become more and more common, but somehow Sullivan gives a refreshing view.
Part two was also really good, and I am very much looking forward to the rest of the series.
In this post, Albert defines knowledge from a humanistic perspective. It nicely ties into a recent article I shared about nihilism. Knowledge only matters if it is worth reproducing.
What is the point of work? What should people spend their time on, and why? Wenger argues that we are about to enter a post-capital and post-labor world. I still haven’t decided if I should read his book now, as a draft, or when it is published in a few months.
In a complex world, second order effects tend to be more important in aggregate than one would expect. Increased access to birth control results in better care for the kids who are born, and eventually a better society.
Harari discusses the jump from religion, to humanism, and now Dataism: Letting go of “religion” and “feelings” to guide our choices, and allowing computers to make decisions for you. As much as “knowing thyself” is great advice, making good decisions also requires knowing the rest of the world. No matter how much you know yourself, there will be unknown unknowns about the people and things you interact with. Computers might be able to help us there.</br>A specific case I’ve thought deeply about is “choosing what content to consume,” which applies to books, articles, podcasts, MOOCs, etc. Objectively, there is some optimal solution to this question, and Harari’s Dataism probably has a better answer than humanism, regardless of how uncomfortable that thought makes you feel.</br>The idea is powerful, and we can similarly extrapolate to other questions.
A cuisine’s history, and its people’s sentiments about it, can tell us a lot about culture and how it is formed over time. There is a lot of value when food becomes more than sustenance.
Over the last few weeks, I started watching The Wire. The longer I live in this country, the more I understand the tensions around race and class rooted in years and years of history. I want to spend more time reading about this, and exploring the narratives of the various sides. Building empathy is hard work.
Lots of interesting tid bits on culture, and how our perception of the world changes over time. What will we look back in N years and think “wow, how were we so stupid”?
The fact that two white economics professors at prestigious universities talk about this in public is already a big win. Not knowing the history of slavery in the US, this was quite interesting. The “us vs. them” framing, coupled with the Rawlsian ideas towards the end, was the most persuasive part. Incentives strike again.
Had never thought about the fact that someone had to have introduced “average” into our culture. Another great episode from the 99pi team.
A draft of a chapter of Taleb’s upcoming book. He argues that asymmetrical rules lead to minorities dictating choices when there are large benefits to a concentrated minority and small diffuse costs among the majority. All his examples are negative, but its not hard to think of how this same effect can affect us positively.
The world of politics is odd.
The fact that we can walk into a store and exchange a piece of paper for a loaf of bread is a sign of trust. Our economies, and our lives, are all based on trust, and Tim’s article explains how important this is in an age where “reputation” becomes currency. Reminded me a lot of Seabright’s Company of Strangers.
A graph theory approach to the meaning of life, and, by extension, every one of our actions.
I listened to this several weeks ago, but just noticed I hadn’t posted it. Mostly recommending it for Act 1, which deals with a really hard story. Especially interesting due to the herd mentality of “we do this because it is the way we’ve always done it,” which I hate so much. Other people’s decisions can change our lives forever. Sometimes unknowingly, and for all the wrong reasons.
Watching this show would not be half as fun if I didn’t interact with the people it mocks on a daily basis. The caricatures are spot on.
Ross Goodwin keeps pumping them out. Non-sensical, bizarre, and a bit over-dramatized, but interesting.
It is all a charade. At least the WWE embraces it.
An analysis of how disabilities were seen in medieval Europe, and how those map onto the GoT world. Particularly interesting was the discussion on how mortality and disability can happen to anyone, which is unusual in literature.Spoliers ahead.
Orwell would be proud.
“White people studies.”
Never thought steel could be this fascinating.
An epic article about Antarctica, family ties, global warming, and the future.
Life is strange. One letter (email?) could really change yours. Send it today.
Good analysis of why the US can’t play the isolation game going forward. Even if you don’t care about politics, and you should, it is worth your time just for the amazing list of books that Suster recommends.
This article is just a curiosity. The fact that Quartz opens with “Leer en español” was very unexpected.
The title says it all.
Most of modern economics is based on the idea that people make decisions with a clear understanding of the consequences. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether we’re talking of switching to a new job, moving to a different state, picking an insurance plan or making a donation, there are always economic consequences that people don’t understand. The complexity of our world, some of it designed, some of it emergent, makes rational decision-making almost impossible. These Uber employees were definitely not aware of how big of an issue this policy would be years after they joined the company. (For more on the topic, take a look at Zach Holman’s post.)
I don’t buy the bot craze. The technology is not there yet, and as the author well describes, the user experience feels just like calling a bank, or a telco, and being greeted by a distorted digital voice asking how one can be helped. Some day.
We can always be better, smarter, etc. Watson talks about why he shares what he learns: one step at a time, helping others along the way, understanding that there is always more than we can process.
Last time Suster recommended a movie, Supermensch, I wasn’t sold, but watched anyway. It was awesome, and now I want to watch this one too. VCs should do more movie/book/etc reviews. After all, a deep understanding of culture can give you an edge to make better bets than others. I am sure it has helped Upfront Ventures get where they are.
In this short and data-centric piece, Thompson makes the argument that since most mainstream media is based in large cities, “…well-educated journalists in these dense cities wind up with a skewed impression of the world” and they feed us their biases. “An irony of digital media is that the Internet distributes journalism, but it concentrates journalists.”
A few months ago, an article titled Teach Yourself Italian was published in the New Yorker. In it, the author (Jhumpa Lahiri) discusses her journey from the United States to Italy, and her discovery of how language affected her identity as she wrote a book in a language that wasn’t her own. Parks discusses Lahiri’s work, compares her to other authors that went through similar transitions, and ultimately explains why he still writes in his mother tongue, even after years of living abroad.
Perhaps a bit too paranoid, discussing conspiracy theories more than it should, but interesting nonetheless. Simler explains the economics behind the social structures that align our incentives to work together toward common goals.
Unsurprisingly, its Tyrion.