• Boyd

    John Boyd pegged the problem with technologists perfectly

    I was listening to the sometimes great Hanselminutes podcast while working and sadly his “Algorithms of Oppression” interview came on. Put broadly it was about how how algorithmic bias can “shape the world”. It was terrible and it occurred to me that while every good technology podcast interview is good in a different way, every bad technology podcast interview is bad in the same way, namely the interviewee talks about their personal opinions on something, sometimes named as

    1. “their worldview”
    2. “the way the world really works”
    3. “the big picture

    I’m reminded of John Boyd’s notion (paraphrased) “You must eventually choose to do something or to be someone, but not both”. To be notable in technology one has chosen to do something and when they talk about themselves (i.e. the way in which they “are someone”) their forced to talk about themselves (or worldview/paradigm/etc) and it comes up very lacking.

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  • Alt Energy,  Boyd,  Cato,  China

    Quick Thursday round up

    • An interesting profile of Robert Levy, who spearheaded the successful DC gun ban lawsuit. I met him several years ago when I was interning at Cato. A very smart and nice guy.
    • More future of the automobile, this time from CNN. The big three American automakers and their Japanese counterparts seem to be hopelessly stuck in the past and burdened with vast wastelands of legacy costs and outdated equipment. I still have hope for American cottage industry to fill some of the gap, but I expect most of the “new” ideas to come from China. My reasoning is: The single largest unrealized opportunity for efficient cars is not the propulsion, it’s in the weight of the car itself. With new advances in carbon fiber and plastics (to replace the body, windshield, axels, and so on) you can lighten the vehicle considerably while keeping safety and performance constant. Lighter vehicle=greater fuel efficiency (by whatever measure). I think the existing players have too much invested in the current scheme and will get whupped by Chinese auto manufacturers when China reaches the necessary level of industrial sophistication (my prediction, 2015).
    • Microsoft is giving away a new accounting program. I’ll have a field review in a few days.
    • A pretty cool homemade fuel cell system. Not commercially viable (yet), but a good start at the grass roots.
    • I just got John Boyd’s biography.
  • Boxing,  Boyd

    The Pernell Whitaker Post

    As I remarked in an earlier post, the defensive boxing style of Pernell Whitaker changed my view of the world.

    It is a matter of precision,. Were one to break boxing down four factors it would be speed, power, direction and angle. Whitaker was able to perceive the speed of a fighter, his power from a certain position, his exact balance, and the angle between him and his opponent to a much finer degree than any of his opponents. As Pop would put it, he could measure to three decimal places, while his appoints where stuck at one. This more exact information allowed him to go almost his entire career without taking a punch while delivering perfectly places punches himself.

    The lesson I suppose is that an incremental improvement in perception allows a categorical change in the quality of the action.

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  • BigThink,  Boyd,  Economics,  Game Theory,  History,  Hoffer

    Ideas to elaborate on later

    Here are ideas and historical (no emotional connection to me) events that have fundamentally affected my outlook.

    In no particular order

    • Pareto Optimality
    • Coase Theorem
    • Hayek and Sowell on the limits and costs of knowledge
    • Gresham’s law
    • Napoleon’s invasion of Russia
    • Dominant Strategies
    • Schelling Points (as elaborated on by David Friedman)
    • The seatbelts kill theory of Steven Landsburg (though the theory might actually originate with George Stigler)
    • The diaries of Eric Hoffer (and his books, they’re fairly similar) as they deal with mass movements
    • Network effects
    • Robert Nozick’s notion of morality as a time saving device (morality is used very broadly) as explained in the Examined Life
    • The defensive boxing style of Pernell Whitaker

    I’ll have more detail on what they are and how they are all used later.

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