Monthly Archives: December 2005

It’s as if the internet is all about Nick

I cruise on over to Marginal Revolution, and I see Why people don’t like Wikipedia (and blogs) which references The Probabalistic Age over on The Long Tail

When professionals–editors, academics, journalists–are running the show, we at least know that it’s someone’s job to look out for such things as accuracy. But now we’re depending more and more on systems where nobody’s in charge; the intelligence is simply emergent. These probabilistic systems aren’t perfect, but they are statistically optimized to excel over time and large numbers. They’re designed to scale, and to improve with size. And a little slop at the microscale is the price of such efficiency at the macroscale.

But how can that be right when it feels so wrong?

There’s the rub. This tradeoff is just hard for people to wrap their heads around. There’s a reason why we’re still debating Darwin. And why Jim Suroweicki’s book on Adam Smith’s invisible hand is still surprising (and still needed to be written) more than 200 years after the great Scotsman’s death. Both market economics and evolution are probabilistic systems, which are simply counterintuitive to our mammalian brains. The fact that a few smart humans figured this out and used that insight to build the foundations of our modern economy, from the stock market to Google, is just evidence that our mental software has evolved faster than our hardware.


Random thoughts, quotes and links

If you want to get even with someone, make sure it’s someone who’s done something nice for you.

Thought One:
The more I read about the NSA eavesdropping thing, the more it seems like a colossal data mining operation. Question: Is it actually wiretapping if no one listens (or reads) and communication? Does the fact that someone notes that a call or email takes place constitute an surveillance?

Thought Two:

Am I the only one who thought that the govenrment was doing this already?


Quote of the moment

From Tucker Carlson’s blog

If Bush ends up being right about Iraq, it will be through luck and accident and God’s grace, not through any skillful calculation of his own. Success there will make him a great president the way Powerball makes crackheads rich: they have the money to show for it, but they’re not fooling anyone.

I don’t quite agree with this, largely in that I don’t think the current endeavor is something that can be done well. It’s quite the zinger though.


So it comes out last week that Cato Institute fellow Doug Bandow, was taking payola from Jack Abramoff to write favorable columns. It’s sad and annoying that this crap happened. I doubt he actually wrote anything he didn’t believe in, but who is to say now? From the few times I actually saw him in DC he seemed like a decent person (and very smart one), but who is to say now?

Via Instapundit