Jul 07

Garrison States

I was listening to this diavlog recently and one of the participants (Daniel Deudney) remarked that the Wilsonian “Make the world safe for democracy” mantra of World War I was not so much referring to bringing democracy to monarchic parts of the world so much as making the world non-threatening enough so that America could maintain it’s non-militaristic way of life and avoid becoming a “Garrison State”.

I haven’t thought about it for a while, but several years ago I thought that was the strongest argument for the Iraq war. Not sufficient on it’s own, but a good reason. The threat in WWI was European militarism; now it’s “The Gap” but the example still holds. The term “Garrison State” is a useful one to describe a militarized police state.

Jul 07

National brain drains and blog posts – the easy way

One of my grand unformed theories is that the 20th century’s genocides and ethnic cleansings have acted as a categorical shift in evolution, both social and biological.

A significant part of that theory is that talent leaves one country for another (AKA – a brain drain, as part of the Ricardian Triangle of Land – Labor – Capital) but I’ve never formed the thoughts that much. I made a comment on Dan Tdaxp’s blog on a related post noting that I was surprised he hadn’t written anything about it either.

Imagine my surprise when a day later he writes The Consequences of Brain Drains in Developing Countries. Life is much easier when other people do all the work…

Jul 07

Sony VAIO customer service – an exploration

Jane Galt vents most eloquent on her frustration with the Sony Corporation, specifically Sony Vaio tech support. Short version; it’s lame.

In the post she states

So instead, I’ll try to change the cost-benefit analysis. With your help, I’d like to make this little incident as expensive for Sony as possible.

Let’s remind Sony that sometimes, the dumb bitches have blogs. And friends with blogs.

So if you’re reading this, and you have a blog, if you wouldn’t mind linking to this post, preferably with the words “Sony VAIO customer service” in the link, I’d appreciate it awfully.

Sure, it’s revenge. But revenge has positive social uses. If it gets expensive enough to screw over their customers, they’ll stop doing it. To all of us.

We’ll see what happens. It creates an interesting exercise in feedback, i.e. an advancement in the first of of the OODA loop.

That would be a good company to start – a service that monitors the blogosphere for mentions of a product and somehow differentiates the positive and negative threads so one could track the source and find hidden problems with the business process.

Jun 07

IQ and birth order

An interesting story on IQ and birth order appeared in the New York Times recently. It makes sense, and jibes with my experience. Money grafs:

The average difference in I.Q. was slight — three points higher in the eldest child than in the closest sibling — but significant, the researchers said. And they said the results made it clear that it was due to family dynamics, not to biological factors like prenatal environment.

“Like Darwin’s finches, they are eking out alternative ways of deriving the maximum benefit out of the environment, and not directly competing for the same resources as the eldest,” Dr. Sulloway said. “They are developing diverse interests and expertise that the I.Q. tests do not measure.”

This kind of experimentation might explain evidence that younger siblings often live more adventurous lives than their older brother or sister. They are more likely to participate in dangerous sports than eldest children, and more likely to travel to exotic places, studies find. They tend to be less conventional than firstborns, and some of the most provocative and influential figures in science spent their childhoods in the shadow of an older brother or sister (or two or three or four).

Interesting stuff. The older sibling is the best situated to take advantage of the existing structure, so they take advantage of that, and the younger sibling is shielded from the consequences of risk taking, so they consume more of it.

Jun 07

An interview with Charles Koch

A blogger was kind enough to post his transcription of this interview with Charles Koch of Koch Industries (the biggest company you’ve never heard of). Of particular liking to me

Studying business in school is way overrated. There seems to be absolutely no evidence suggesting that people with a business degree excel more than those without one. As you go to college, you don’t want specifics on how to run a business; you will learn this as you go along in real life. You need to have fundamental tools, such as reading, writing, doing math and science, understanding reality, and having good values that enable you to work with people and create real value.

That has always been my gripe with the MBA’s I’ve met. They’re certainly more confident (which is important) but of the three main tasks of a business (moving it, making it, and selling it) they’re not any more capable than they they would be without the MBA.

Much thanks to C.S. Hayden for posting the interview.

Jun 07

An interesting article from Zakaria

It meanders a bit, but Fareed Zakaria makes a good case for optimism in this Newsweek article. One bit that caught my eye was

To recover its place in the world, America first needs to recover its confidence. For those who look at the future and see challenges, competition and threats, keep in mind that this new world has been forming over the last 20 years, and the United States has forged ahead amid all the turmoil. In 1980, the U.S. share of global GDP was 20 percent. Today it is 29 percent.

It’s a staggering thought. 20% is a huge chunk relative to population, and for that to increase is massive. It’s an interesting tidbit.

We should be more confident; America has never been strong because of political leadership, but the average person here has room to excel. 15 million illegal immigrants can’t be wrong!

Jun 07

Stigmergy and signalling

Stigmergy is defined as a method of communication in emergent systems in which the individual parts of the system communicate with one another by modifying their local environment. My Digital Tool Factory project has been evolving in that direction lately and it occurred to me that the internet is evolving that way too.

In the political blogsphere one can draw conclusions about an author from the use of the phrases “The fall of the Soviet Union” vs. “The fall of Communism”. In the corporate realm the use of feathered graphics is a good indicator of the age of the designer and the focus of the company.

Food for thought.

Jun 07

Wellput from Julian Sanchez

In this post about full brains

Efficient brains need to know what they can afford to forget—probably quite a bit, now that it’s so easy to outsource our recollections to rapidly-searched digital media. The interesting question for me is: When almost anything you might need to recall can be offloaded in this way, what’s worth keeping in wetware memory? My first instinct is that you need to remember exactly enough to (1) make interesting connections, and (2) actually find the full information from the signpost you’ve remembered.

May 07

Quick link round

May 07

Monday link roundup