Chosen Tidbits 2

Previously: June 2019

Yes, I know it's now February... Truth be told I forgot I was sitting on so much material! Anyway, this content is evergreen, so enjoy. More to come!


Venkatesh Rao on the aging mind

Wisdom = cognitive reading glasses for the blurred thinking of an aging mind. Like making bolder, rougher approximations and thereby getting to the right answer 80% of the time faster than more cautious younger people who can calculate faster to greater precision


Visakan Veerasamy's memex - everything is connected

Visa's memex


Visa on Taste

When you worship your heroes, you distract them from the process that enables them to make great work. Encourage the process, participate in the process. They’re people too. Every creative mind is always yearning for more good minds to play with.

“How do I develop taste?”

Well it shouldn’t be something you force yourself to do. What do you already like? What are you already interested in? Explore that with a playful curiosity and ask yourself what’s good, what’s not good. Have fun

“How do I produce a large body of work?”

A house is built one brick at a time. Make a brick. Then make another brick. Then another. The secret is that you forget worrying about the house and enjoy making bricks. It’s fun because you get to exercise and develop your taste


Visa on Taste (2)

You can spend years arguing with idiots or you can spend years making friends. The idiots aren’t going to be there for you when you need someone

Every “utterance” (status, tweet, whatever) is a bit of an invitation, a bit of a proposal. “Let’s play this game”. When strangers read the proposal accurately, and support the game, a shared understanding develops. You can make friends this way.

Some people deliberately choose to ignore, misread, disregard or denounce other people’s bids. Others are outright clueless and don’t know how to play, and sometimes cluelessness leads to worse bungling than deliberate malice

I believe that taste is one of the most powerful, precious, fragile things in the known Universe and should be cultivated accordingly

I think you need to have taste to know how to make your own fun, and because society disincentivizes the development of taste in the short run, people end up having to buy mass-produced fun at a mark-up


Smart vs Kind

Where does kindness enter the picture? Kindness nourishes (not coddles) fragile things and makes them strong.

When I was younger, I truly believed that the best way to learn and grow and progress was to subject everything to relentless scrutiny. To debate, argue, attack from all sides. I still believe that that can be true in some cases, and that individuals who are deeply committed to learning and intellectual development can benefit tremendously from welcoming such behavior. Inviting criticisms and takedowns. Soliciting negative feedback.

BUT, I’ve also grown to learn that there’s this whole other side to the picture. What you see is NOT all there is. There’s a lot that you haven’t seen, that you can’t see – and if you saw it with an open mind, you’d almost definitely revise your model of reality.

I had a Kurt Cobain quote in mind – “Better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not”. It seemed radically profound at the time, but on retrospect that’s entire oversimplistic thinking. We have more than two options.

Here’s what you miss if you’re unkind or non-kind: people opening up to you in private.


Caution On Bias Arguments

You say it’s important to overcome biases. So isn’t it hypocritical that you’re not trying to overcome whichever bias prevents you from realizing you’re wrong and I’m right?
— everybody

This is a general phenomenon: for any issue, you can think of biases that could land people on one side or the other.

A is less biased. But B may be better informed.


Two Ways To Get Better At Something

The gentle ramp vs the boot camp.

Sometimes one is right, sometimes the other.


Seven Insight From Queueing Theory (PDF)

The response time is the wait time (spent in a queue) + the service time.

As the utilization of a service center grows, it becomes more likely that a newly arriving job will have to wait because there are jobs ahead of it. In general, the response time degradation is more pronounced the busier the resource is. An approximate formula that describes this relationship is:

ResponseTime = ServiceTime / (1 - Utilization)

Visualized for different utilization percentages:

If you plot this, it will look like a hokey curve that rises up sharply as you approach 100%.

Insight #1: The slower the service center, the lower the maximum utilization you should plan for at peak load. (50% busy is a good max)

Insight #2: It’s very hard to use the last 15% of anything.

Insight #3: The closer you are to the edge, the higher the price for being wrong: Going from 50 to 59% utilization is okay (2x to 3x), 90 to 99 is not (10x to 100x).

Insight #4: Response time increases are limited by the number of jobs that can wait without droping out of the queue.

Insight #5: Remember this is an average, not a maximum. Sometimes the wait time will be small, sometimes huge depending on the queue buildup (i.e. on arrival schedules and on utilisation in the time leading up to the request). This too gets worse with higher utilization.

Insight #6: You could have multiple service centers to decrease the response time. This works well until you reach high utilization: the response time stays flat until you hit maybe 90% utilization, then rises much faster. Reason: there usually is a free service center. When they start getting all busy, requests still arrive at the same rate and build up faster.


Mike Hearn - The Future of AI is Entertainement

Mike paints a picture of how AI can be used to generate all sort of contents that can be put to work in entertainment (video games, movies, music, ...).