November 30, 2018
The Destruction Index
In an Atlantic profile of Sam Altman, he is quoted as saying, “Democracy only works in a growing economy. Without a return to economic growth, the democratic experiment will fail. And I have to think that YC is hugely important to that growth.”
I agree with the premise. But I disagree with the conclusion.
The irony of innovation is that it is destructive.
Innovation means making things more efficient. Efficiency means a computer can connect two callers together faster than a human operator can.
When innovation makes tasks more efficient, those tasks require less time to complete. If they require less time, they require less employees.
Innovation is destructive.
If innovation happens too quickly, perhaps the destruction happens too quickly. The rapid change of innovation is so painful that it hides the economic progress from everyone working in the economy.
It’s hard to see how the world is improving from cheaper cars when everyone in your Michigan town loses their job.
Perhaps there is an ideal rate of innovation, an ideal rate of destruction. It could be measured as a ratio between growth and destruction. Because some economic projects, such as a new road between two towns where nothing existed before, wreak less short-term destruction than companies such as Uber, which directly reduce demand for taxis.
We could call this the Destruction Index.
Because while economic growth is good for everyone (and for Democracy), innovation is not good for everyone. If innovation comes too quickly, perhaps the pain of destruction overshadows the gains of growth.
My guess is that there is a naturally-occurring balance between growth and destruction in a normal, functioning economy. A standard Destruction Index.
It’s worth thinking whether or not it’s smart to artificially skew the index by keeping the “innovation” pedal slammed to the metal.
November 19, 2018
Guns, Germs and Sweat
I find it hard to focus on computer scripts when I’m sweating through my t-shirt.
While it doesn’t get mentioned in Guns Germs and Steel, I wonder how much an impact the heat has on progress.
It’s certainly harder to focus and harder to think (for me, at least) when it’s hot outside.
My ideal library is in a cozy cabin. Sitting in a comfortable chair, next to a fire, surrounded by books, looking out the window at snow on the ground.
Not outside sitting in 90 degree heat.
Middle-Northern Europe, Beijing, Russia, Japan, the Koreas, and all of the original great American cities (NYC, Philly, Boston, Detroit, Chicago) all exist at about the same latitude.
My brain is whispering Occam’s Razor.
November 15, 2018
Surfing and coffee
This morning after breakfast, Elizabeth and I rode our Scoopy down to Echo beach. I dropped her off for her surf lesson, then took the bike a few hundred meters up the road to The Slow, a beautifully architected cafe. I worked and read A Philosophy Of Software Design.
Scott called me and we argued about whether Amazon was accelerating the concentration of jobs in fewer cities, or if there was a renaissance happening in towns across the country. I think most middle-tier cities are thriving.
Elizabeth then walked to meet me. She said she stood up and balanced on her first wave! But also “drank a lot of salt water.”
We left Slow and rode our scooter to Peloton Supershop for lunch.
Canggu is a coconut-forward, dairy-free paradise. The vegan burger we had two nights ago is one of the best 5 burgers of my life - cow burgers included.
November 14, 2018
Turtles, All The Way Down
From The Gene:
In a famous story, a medieval cosmologist is asked what holds the earth up.
“Turtles,” he says.
“And what holds up the turtles?” he is asked.
“And those turtles?”
“You don’t understand.” The cosmologist stamps his foot. “It’s turtles all the way.”
When a mother bird protects her chicks, she is being guided by proteins, proteins created from instructions contained in her DNA. Those proteins determine her behavior and emotion and appearance.
A bird is the physical result of genes creating specific proteins, which were flipped on by other genes influenced by other protein, which were flipped on by other genes influenced by other protein, all the way back to the very first embryological cell.
It’s genes, “all the way.”
To a geneticist, “nature” is the genetic code. “Nurture” is the explanation of why certain genes were activated by protein and why other genes were never activated.
But which turtle is the nature part and which is the nurture?
November 14, 2018
Outsite in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia