Links - January 7, 2017
2017 is off to a busy start. After posting on books I read last year, gathering links from the year before that, and sharing photos of my last trip it is about time I curate some fresh links. Enjoy:
- Things as authorities Nick Szabo - Unenumerated
Humans have learned to defer decision making and process to “things” since time immemorial. The main goal of this is to offload brain cycles into simple rules, and ease our interactions with the world around us. Szabo brings up examples like clocks ands traffic lights, which enable coordination between humans that would require way more effort otherwise. We can also think of learned heuristics, encoded in folklore and religion, as other means of offloading. Clocks ease friction as long as we agree on their time, just like ideas of good and evil ease friction as long as we agree on their base truth. Clocks and religion are trust-offloading mechanisms.
- Why Hayek Was not a Conservative David Glasner - Uneasy Money
New ideas are not worth listening to because they are new, but shouldn’t be disregarded for that reason either. Conservatism is a stupid idea. I wonder how it came up in the first place. Definitely related to my argument on Szabo’s article above.
- The Age of Fake Policy Paul Krugman - The New York Times
The perverse effects of signaling becoming more important than reality.
- Why Many Young Russians See a Hero in Putin Julia Ioffe - National Geographic
I’d say this title is misleading. The article really is about the world views and identities built by young Russians since the break up of the Soviet Union. The author focuses especially on those in rural areas, who long for more urban lifestyles, even if that means a lower standard of living. In many ways, the story isn’t that different from that of the US.
- World War Three, by Mistake Eric Schlosser - The New Yorker
The scary story of the 1960s technology that manages the world’s nuclear arsenal. They had TDD back then, right?
- Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People Maciej Cegłowski - Idle Words
There are way more immediate ethical issues with AI than “oh noes, it’s going to kill us!”. We can keep researching and building better systems, and in fact I’d argue we should, but instead of thinking about how to regulate the companies’ ability to kill us, we should regulate their ability to collect data indefinitely, as we don’t know where it will land. I am more scared of humans than machines.
- A Bigger Problem Than ISIS? Dexter Filkins - The New Yorker
It’d be great if governments, and whoever is striving for power could care about real problems. “A dam in Mosul that’s about to fail and potentially could kill a million people” sounds like a bigger issue than “those westerners are teaching us their disgraceful customs and insulting our god!” Kinda like how gun violence in the US is a bigger problem than bombs on airplanes.
- There is No Now Justin Sheehy - ACM Queue
Time is complicated, especially in massively distributed computing systems. I’d love to understand this topic better. If you have recommendations on what else to read, please let me know.
- Alexa: Amazon’s Operating System Ben Thompson - Stratechery
I have had an Echo for several months now, and I still see it as a gimmick, but I understand why the strategy behind the device has so much going for it. Amazon is building a platform that makes a lot of sense, but the technology isn’t quite there yet. It’ll be interesting to see this pan out.
- Jeremy Heavyweight
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.
- The Last Bank Bailout Planet Money
A story about the most recent crisis, and how Neel Kashkari, who worked at the Treasury at the time, and is now the president and CEO of the Minneapolis Fed, plans to avoid the next one. As the podcast put it, the fact that Bernie Sanders and the WSJ editorial board agree that Kashkari’s proposal is a good way to move forward means that there is some intellectually solid ground in it.
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