Monday, April 30, 2007


PBS American Experience broadcast a story on Jonestown, the cult founded by Jim Jones. Wikipedia also has a page on Jonestown. The most amazing thing about the story is that it happened. Among the elements of politics, religion, corruption of power, the bold actions of dreamers, and Orwellian archetypes, one idea stands out, the importance of learning from history, so that it is not repeated.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Black Swans

David Hume: "No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion."

Karl Popper: "You cannot know with any certainty that a proposition is true; you can only know that it is not true."

Malcom Gladwell on Black Swans and Blowing Up
Wikipedia page for Taleb's Book "Black Swans"
Wikipedia page for "Fooled By Randomness"

A few key ideas in all of this:
  • The richest guy at the end of the day might be the luckiest and not the smartest.
  • There are two paths to the same end, loosing a little bit every day and then winning big, and winning a little bit every day and then loosing big.
  • People try too hard to explain randomness.
  • Disruptive events are magnified in their intensity by not being expected.
  • Disruptive events happen more often than one would expect because people are chaotic.
  • People trust their own beliefs too much.
  • Few people have the best strategy for taking advantage of the unknown.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Million People

Consider the following:
  • People's minds are machines capable of learning.
  • The mechanism of learning is fallible (Ex. racism, sexism, fanatical religions, genocide, etc. ).
  • Fallibility decreases if there is an increase in IQ, amount of knowledge, and critical thinking ability .
  • An omnipotent intelligence could learn in an infallible way.
  • The mechanism of learning is discoverable.
  • One theory of learning is called "Society of Mind" where there are competing cooperative agents interacting in ones mind to form a single unified self.
  • It should be possible to connect people through the Internet in a simple way that mimics the learning process of a single mind.
  • The more people in this network the less its fallible.

Best Movies

I went through my Netflix rental history and picked out the best films.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Confirmation Bias

Everyone thinks they are reasonable, but on a wide number of topics people have differing opinions. Why is this ? Confirmation Bias is one explanation. This wikipedia article is worth a read.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The first day after the apocalypse is over

Picture this. World War three plunges mankind into a hundred years of brutality, famine, mob rule, cruelty, a general hell on Earth. People are stretched to the limits of sanity and most don't make it. But things get better and in a small area things return to normal, pretty much like it is today. And into town one day rides a Mad Max character, scar, squeaky metal knee brace, leather jacket, shot gun, covered in dirt. What is the first thing he does ? All that time when things were down, no food, injured, alone. What did he dream about. He would say, "If this is ever all over I am going to ... ? ". Fall in love and start a family? Kick back with some good friends, eat well, and tell stories around a campfire ? Find a place in the country where things are quiet ? I bet he didn't say " I'm going to find a pointless job and watch bad television every night". Is great hardship the only force that can motivate people to seek great happiness ?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Who killed the electric car

This is an great documentary on electric cars. Some interesting facts:
  • The GM EV1 was a leased vehicle and when GM stopped making the cars they refused to sell any of the cars to their owners. All the cars were scrapped.
  • Major oil companies are proponents of hydrogen cars even though they will not be on the market for a decade. Electric cars work now and continue to improve as batteries improve.
  • Chevron Oil owns the patents on Nickel Metal Hydride batteries.
While this doesn't point to a smoking gun, it sure makes you think about fair markets, big business, and the development of disruptive technology.