“We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code” –David D Clarke I thank Sunny Aggarwal for putting quote above on his presentation at Cosmoverse on September 27, 2022. This post is about that quote and a few primitive thoughts linking learning, organization design, and perspective coordination. Kings, presidents and voting Kings, presidents, and voting can be placed on an axis. A king is centralized authority with relatively little consent. A president is centralized authority with consent. Voting is distributed authority with consent. In each step, the relative power of the hierarchy to impose arbitrary decisions upon a network is checked by some reactive network mechanism. It is still common in some parts of the[…]

It’s quite astonishing to think about just how much human knowledge exists, and just how diffuse its distribution is. It’s hard for any individual to tell. There are clues though. Knowledge is a major way that people create distinctions among one another, so it stands to reason that you can get a sense for how knowledge is distributed by looking at the distinctions people make amongst themselves. The knowledge of French and the knowledge of English creates a distinction between two rather large groups. The knowledge and application of ancient stories is another. The knowledge of how to shape a piece of wood, or stone, or glass used to be a pretty huge distinction. There are entire identities put in[…]

It’s kind of amazing we know how to abstract at all. It’s an unreasonably effective skill. It enables a high bandwidth way of transmitting information. Learning through demonstration is pretty effective. Learning through symbolic representation even more so. Consider these words. They’re made up of sounds. The sounds can be strung together to symbolically represent physical things and virtual concepts. We learned how to draw physical representations of physical things. Then the alphabet was invented, letters themselves an innovation because they originally symbolized sounds. The letters have long since drifted from their original sounds. So much so that in English, we cram 48 sounds into 26 letters. The English alphabet is an overloaded abstraction. Stories too are overloaded abstraction. There[…]

Life changes the planet. It always has. We humans are life. We’re changing the planet. How you choose to think about it has a lot to do with what you choose to do about it. The Medea Hypothesis In his book, The Medea Hypothesis, Peter Ward summarizes a few decades of ecology research and adds a few of his ideas of his own. Ward argues that the idea that life seeks to create equilibrium with the environment, the Gaia Hypothesis, is false. He paints a compelling picture of how life doesn’t create harmony with the planet at all. Life appears to be in perpetual conflict with the abiotic environment. It tries to occupy as much space as it can. It[…]

What you believe has a lot to do with who you believe. Who you believe, and who you don’t, can be represented as a network. Networks cause and reinforce trust. In this post, I’m going to try to make the connection between trust, society, and the delta variant of COVID. As I begin writing this post on July 20, 2021, I know about Delta Variant. We know that it’s burning through large populations of unvaccinated people. I think most people see it coming. And as the days passed, I watched increasing anxiety about what is to come. As a I publish this on August 1, there still isn’t much evidence of a mass urgency to vaccinate. So why the inaction?[…]

Benedict Evans writes fantastic writing prompts. He’ll make references to different first principles, and he’ll go onto build arguments out of them later. Sometimes I agree with them. Sometimes I don’t. He does provoke thought. One theme is the nature of people. On October 9, 2020, Benedict Evans wrote: We connected everybody, and that meant we connected all the bad people and the idiots, and our own worst instincts, and all society’s problems get expressed in software. Sometimes the Internet amplifies and channels that, but maybe sometimes the Internet is people. On April 23, 2021, Benedict Evans wrote: Old: if you make something idiot-proof, God creates a better idiot.  New: if you create an Internet service that’s proof against assholes,[…]

Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that the word causal came from the word because. Because there’s a cause contained in the word because. The word is almost like a commandment. Be the cause. I don’t think that’s really true. It’s just a silly association. The word because seems to be an element of a persuasive argument. How about a little thought experiment? Consider the assessment: “Peaches are gross.” Okay, you may have one or many positions on this controversial subject: You agree because your experience matches that statement, you disagree because your experience does not match that statement, you may not agree nor disagree because it’s possible that some peaches are gross and some other peaches are[…]

Some communities make decisions about what is knowledge and what is not. You’re probably a member of some of those communities. Maybe you make up your own mind about what is knowledge and what is not entirely on your own? Maybe you’re not fully aware of how much you are influenced by the communities you identify with? Think about what you experienced during your formal education. In order to receive recognition (a grade, a credit, a certificate), you needed to demonstrate that you were able to create evidence that you accepted the knowledge you were told. You didn’t always need to agree that the knowledge that you had to repeat was the truth. You just needed to exhibit behaviour that[…]

2020 hasn’t been easy. Figures from the US Census Household Pulse Survey can be used to tell a story of anxiety, hunger, depression, desperation and hopelessness. Millions are hurting. 2020 is hitting the poor, the young, and those who are low to mid-skilled the hardest. 2021 isn’t looking easy. Vaccines will take time to rollout. The recovery depends on collective health security. Health security causes confidence, confidence causes increased risk tolerance, increased risk tolerance leads to investment, and investment stimulates growth in private sector productivity, labour market demand, and opportunity. It will take time for each part of the chain to develop. It all lags. A return to the previous trend line doesn’t address the underlining cause of wage polarization.[…]

Canadians are a people shaped by physical and social geography. Both explain a portion of why we are who we are, and how we relate to each other. Covid-19, an executable snippet of code wrapped in protein with the sole goal of persistence, is shaping us. It has already affected our social demography. Will it change Canada’s social geography? What It Is Population density is a pretty good indicator of attitude. I can’t make the claim that it’s always causal for all people, After all, did living with 25,000 others in a square kilometre in downtown Toronto make you more conscious of mental health challenges facing the population, or were you always conscious and chose to live with others who[…]