Links - December 13, 2016

  • Increasing Returns and the New World of Business (1996)
    Brian Arthur - Harvard Business Review

    Twenty years after this article was published, both academia and industry are still struggling to understand the implications of increasing returns, network effects, and zero marginal costs. It is good to take a step back, and see how a view from the past can improve our understanding of business dynamics today.

  • Building a Prison-to-School Pipeline
    Larissa MacFarquhar - The New Yorker

    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.

  • Economists Pretend They Don't Pick Winners and Losers
    Noah Smith - Bloomberg View

    Normative economics, and therefore normative policies, are more prevalent than we would all like to admit. In Noah’s lead example (the US opening trade with a poor country) he talks about two sides: the consumers, who get cheaper goods, and the workers, whose jobs are lost to globalization. Ultimately though, there is one more group missing in this tale, and it is presumably that of the biggest winners: the citizens of the poor country, whose economic gain from such a trade deal would disproportionately improve their standard of living. “What ought to be” is a matter of identity politics, and we ought to remember that identity can also be defined by a nation-state.

  • AI and Competition Policy
    Joshua Gans - Digitopoly

    How does pricing strategy work in a world where decisions are programmatic, and therefore can’t be viewed through the lens of traditional game theory or antitrust case law? Can you blame a supplier who “sets and forgets” his pricing scheme, and somehow ends up selling a book for $23,698,655.93 (+$3.99 shipping)? Interesting times are ahead.

  • Money and Banking
    Josh Hendrickson - The Everyday Economist

    “You might be able to teach an entire course on the microeconomics of money and banking based on the following thought experiment” might be an overblown claim, but this is definitely a good way to introduce the topic. While most people these days are aware of the “fiat-ness” of money, or its imaginary value, the money creation process is a few logical jumps away that few actually take.

  • Functional versus Unit Organizations
    Steven Sinofsky - Learning by Shipping

    A treatise on the nature of companies, organizational structures, and getting things done when there are thousands of independently moving pieces. Throughout my four years in college, I mocked the idea of a major in “learning and organizational change.” I still do, except now it’s for a different reason: even with years and years of experience, and several real products under their belt, managers can only have a sliver of the picture. People are the hard part about management.

  • As Trumplethinskin lets down his hair for tech, shame on Silicon Valley for climbing the Tower in silence
    Kara Swisher - Recode

    The leaders of our industry are not bending their knee. At least not yet. Take it from Dave Pell: <a href="">they sort of have to go.</a> The real question is what will happen after the meeting, but Swisher got an important part right: “fuckfuckfuck.”

  • This Man Will Teach You How to Cook
    Gilad Edelman - Slate

    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.

  • 1213486160 has a friend: 1195725856
    Rachel By The Bay

    These past weeks I’ve been looking at a lot of hex, and a lot of bytes. Sometimes, weird patterns pop up when you least expect them to.

Links - December 07, 2016

  • What do cows want?
    Jayson Lusk

    Measuring a farm animal’s utility is an interesting exercise. Choice is not only a human problem.

  • This Is What Happens When Millions Of People Suddenly Get The Internet
    Sheera Frenkel - BuzzFeed News

    A fascinating story about figurative walls coming down. It made me think a lot about the inadequacy of the label “third world.” Coming from Costa Rica, which has the highest internet access rate in Latin America, the experiences told in this story are shocking. Widespread definitions and categorizations sometimes don’t make sense.

  • Even Trump Is a Keynesian
    Noah Smith - Bloomberg View

    Tax cuts, and infrastructure spending are good ideas, but will he actually put them in motion?

  • The hardest problem in computer science
    Eevee (Lexy Munroe) - fuzzy notepad

    I’d wager that this is the hardest problem in all human endeavors, and not just in CS. Communication is hard, and while language helps us share our ideas, it is nearly impossible to be sure that the message we wanted to get across was properly conveyed.

  • I, Pencil
    Leonard E. Read - Library of Economics and Liberty

    The fact that anything works is crazy. Making pencils is nearly impossible, and yet, there is probably a store within a couple of blocks from you where you can get one, along with N other more complex items.

  • Swift and the Legacy of Functional Programming
    Rob Napier -

    While I am not a swift-er yet (is that a thing?) I am slowly picking up functional programming, and I find the ideas in this talk quite valuable.

  • Prop 13, or, California's Progressive Blindspot Illuminated
    Diego Aguilar-Canabal - Bay Area Metropolitan Observer

    Shared without comment.

  • Knowledge Builds Technology and Technology Builds Knowledge
    a16z Podcast

    In this interview wit Joel Mokyr, Sonal Chokshi and the a16z team bring historical perspective into today’s economic environment. Building new things is easier when you have an understanding of the past. The episode reminded me of why I should have taken Mokyr’s class at NU, instead of signing up for an awful data structures course.

  • The History Of Light
    Planet Money

    Right up there with “I, Pencil” and the story of economic complexity, we have the story of economic growth. Consider this a case study.

Links - November 20, 2016

I am actively trying to de-emphasize content about Trump, and the election, but it is tough. Expect to find traces and parallels to these themes for the next few months.

  • A Bad Carver
    Sarah Perry - Ribbonfarm

    A dose of historical perspective for these times of economic anxiety and anomie. Unbundling and specialization leads to recondensation and reformation. In cycles, humanity tends towards complexity.

  • A Country Is Not A Company (1996)
    Paul Krugman - Harvard Business Review

    This is not about Trump. This is about (macro)economics, business, and the mind-bending realization that they are inherently different. Macro versus micro, closed systems vs. open systems, zero-sum games vs. growing pies. Out of all my classes at Northwestern, International Finance was probably the most unexpectedly enlightening. This is it, in a nutshell.

  • I’m a Latino in Tech, and I Think the ‘Diversity’ Discussion Is Broken
    Eric M. Ruiz - Observer

    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.”

  • Fake News
    Ben Thompson - Stratechery

    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.

  • Who Will Command The Robot Armies?
    Maciej Cegłowski - Idle Words

    In classic Pinboard style, Cegłowski starts up high with evil armies, police, and governments, but shows how in the end individuals - in this case, technical individuals - are on the hook. Facebook, Amazon, Google, and yes, Apple, all are comprised of individuals. What do we do to make sure that our decisions remain moral?

  • You Are Still Crying Wolf
    Scott Alexander - Slate Star Codex

    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.

  • Wind Waker Graphics Analysis
    Nathan Gorodn - Medium

    Reading about graphics and procedural generation has become a new hobby for me.

  • Language, Meaning and Machines
    agibs010 - Goldsmiths, University of London

    Honestly, I don’t remember how I found this article. I assume Twitter. Finding who to give credit for it was impossibly hard. In any case, while the whole thing was interesting, the most valuable piece was learning about Pierre Jaquet Droz and his 18th century robots.

  • A Trunk Full of Truffles
    Planet Money

    A fun look at an extremely small market, dealing only in high luxury fungi.

  • The Backlash Has Arrived

    Aggregation Theory applied to Trump.

Trumped in SF

Trumped in SF

It has been a crazy few months. Yesterday and today were rough days. Continue reading...

Día De Los Muertos

Día De Los Muertos

Living in San Francisco means having a wealth of cultural events to enjoy. Due to the large Latin population, the Día De Los Muertos celebration in The Mission was one I didn’t want to miss. Since most people in Costa Rica don’t celebrate the holiday, the traditions were unfamiliar to me, and it was surprising to see how openly people honor their loved ones.

I went with the intention to stay for ten minutes, and ended up walking around for almost two hours. More...

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