Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Management personality

Excerpts from a summary of the NYT Magazine "Boss Science":
It’s much more important to be open than to be intelligent if you want to succeed as a leader. And conscientiousness is good for being the person who does stuff, not the person who leads. Agreeable is a good trait for a great team player, bad trait for a boss. Neuroticists are good when you need to hear about the worst-case scenarios, all the time.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Blowback is the name used by the CIA for the Law of Unintended Consequences. Examples:
  1. Encourage and arm Hussein in Iraq, leading to an oil crisis in the Persian Gulf.
  2. Subsidize corn production and lead to American obesity and illegal immigration from Mexico.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Internet speels doom for Merchants selling access.

The telecom industry collapsed with cheap bandwidth.

The Recording Industry and Motion Pictures industry found their business models outdated with the advent of MP3s, Napster and P2P file sharing.

The publishing industry is struggling in the wake of the onslaught of blogs and online newscasts.

The next casualty is going to be the mortgage industry -- Prosper, Zopa, Lending Club and others are making it easy to borrow small amounts of money. How long before greedy realtors, who merely "provide access to money with no fiduciary responsibility", are out of business?

Value of Software..

Software itself violates the free market. For an item to have value, it must have utility and scarcity. As the marginal cost of production of a unit of software is damn near 0 (it is fractions of a penny of electricity), software does not have scarcity. Thus it has no value. The rules of economics don't apply to it, or more correctly, an entirely new model needs to be created, but does not currently exist.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oil prices...

If diesel is less than regular unleaded, then there is a shortage of refinery capacity - which primarily drives up gasoline prices.

If diesel is more than regular unleaded, then the price of crude oil is driving the prices.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

alcoholism and obesity

Q: What is the common link between alcoholism, an American problem of the past several decades, and obesity, the central problem of the next few decades?

A: The federal subsidy for corn is the common cause.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Google vs. memory...

This post says Google is making us dumber.

Unfortunately, that is the curse of all technology -
First we do not bother to remember small things.
Since we cannot recall small things quickly, we lose our edge.
Then we lose our ability altogether in that domain.

Google is to human memory what the calculator was to arithmetic ability -- replacement.

Losing "Being Lost"

Some musings from a post on Shaping the future --
Right now, Nokia is designing global positioning system receivers into every new mobile phone they plan to sell. GPS receivers in a phone SIM card have been demonstrated. GPS is exploding everywhere. It used to be for navigating battleships; now it's in your pocket, along with a moving map. And GPS is pretty crude — you need open line of sight on the satellites, and the signal's messed up. We can do better than this, and we will. In five years, we'll all have phones that connect physical locations again, instead of (or as well as) people. And we'll be raising a generation of kids who don't know what it is to be lost, to not know where you are and how to get to some desired destination from wherever that is.

"Being lost" has been part of the human experience ever since our hominid ancestors were knuckle-walking around the plains of Africa. And we're going to lose it — at least, we're going to make it as unusual an experience as finding yourself out in public without your underpants.

Predicting the future is tough business, and anyone might get lost in the eddies of time, but not in 3D space anymore, it would seem. Another one: driverless cars.
They're going to redefine our whole concept of personal autonomy. Once autonomous vehicle technology becomes sufficiently reliable, it's fairly likely that human drivers will be forbidden, except under very limited conditions. After all, human drivers are the cause of about 90% of traffic accidents: recent research shows that in about 80% of vehicle collisions the driver was distracted in the 3 seconds leading up to the incident. There's an inescapable logic to taking the most common point of failure out of the control loop — my freedom to drive should not come at the risk of life and limb to other road users, after all. But because cars have until now been marketed to us by appealing to our personal autonomy, there are going to be big social changes when we switch over to driverless vehicles.

Once all on-road cars are driverless, the current restrictions on driving age and status of intoxication will cease to make sense. Why require a human driver to take an eight year old to school, when the eight year old can travel by themselves? Why not let drunks go home, if they're not controlling the vehicle? So the rules over who can direct a car will change. And shortly thereafter, the whole point of owning your own car — that you can drive it yourself, wherever you want — is going to be subtly undermined by the redefinition of car from an expression of independence to a glorified taxi.

One thing is fairly clear - dreamers will never be out of business!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

France+ US = Canada ?

Saw this blog post today ad it set me thinking...
France is very socialist and the US is very capitalist; time-wise, the French value leisure, the US, work; the French emphasize equal society, the US, meritocracy; the French take care of their poor but shun the immigrant (an immigrant is a foreigner even if legal and 3rd generation, there is no way to ‘become French’), the US welcomes immigrants (comparative to almost any western nation) who want to work and embrace our values but we don’t take care of our poor. We both, however, tend to be nationalistic, arrogant, deeply politically divided, and idealists about our countries’ history and founding values of freedom and equality.

As France has moved left, the US has moved right, and it seems that both countries are having a little buyer’s remorse. Wanted: A country with lofty goals, a society that recognizes that hard work is the force that creates a civilized world, but also that it isn’t worth much if you don’t take the time to enjoy and think about the civilization you’re working so hard to create, one that wanted to include all members of it’s society no matter race or social class, but also kept a strong sense of identity and individual freedom. Let’s see, a cross between the US and France. Hmmm…Canada, anyone? Yeah, really friendly people would be a plus, too.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

false positive vs. false negative

Recently saw this great post on Slashdot by an anonymous author:
To Google, hiring is mathematically equivalent to Information Retrieval, except that they only care about "precision" not "recall".

What that means to lay-people is that so long as they can maintain 10,000 applications coming through per-month, false negatives (passing on a suitable applicant) do not matter because there'll be another candidate along in a minute. False positives (hiring an unsuitable applicant) are all they need to focus on. The "fit factor" is effectively the search string of traits; however, with such a large candidate pool, they can focus their "hiring algorithm" entirely on rejecting candidates where it is even slightly difficult to ascertain whether they fit or not.

So, their advertising blitz "aren't we a great place to work for" is a part of what lets them keep their hiring process easy. If they get bad PR and applications fall, then they'll need to worry about recall as well as precision.

Also, read Two Kinds of Judgement, which discusses this issue in some depth.