How to Improve your Flashcard Knowledge Base

Even the best flashcard developers among us create bad cards on a regular basis (e.g. too long, ambiguous, useless information).

Given the reality that we all are highly imperfect at developing our flashcards, what should we do to improve these crummy cards as they age so you can spend less time reviewing and remember the concepts better?

I call this process flashcard “refactoring” (a term borrowed from software development).

Why refactor flashcards?

Reviewing old flashcards requires time and effort. Here are a few reasons why it’s worth the price:

  • It improves your understanding of the material. The process of breaking learning material down into the smallest “chunks” possible that fit onto flashcards is an extremely valuable exercise. Reviewing troublesome cards clarifies what you don’t understand and forces you to restructure your knowledge in a way that makes sense.
  • Your worst flashcards take up a disproportionate amount of time and effort, while yielding the worst results in terms of retention and usefulness. Following the 80-20 rule, 20% of your cards leads to 80% of the effort in review. So it’s a high value activity to hunt down this subset of your cards.
  • It provides knowledge construction training. Creating good flashcards is a nontrivial skill built over time. You can read Poitr Wozniak 20 rules for formulating knowledge, but actually observing your own performance on your cards and troubleshooting improvements takes your skills to the next level.

The process I use has two broad steps: selection and revision.

Selecting Problem Cards

I use two main methods to find cards needing review.

The first and most important method is finding cards I keep failing (“lapse” is the term in Anki). In the Anki browser, I can use the command prop:lapses>n to find the cards that have lapsed over n times. For me, cards are never lapse more than 8 times because Anki then marks it as a leech and automatically suspends it. Cards that have lapsed 5 or more times are great candidates for refactoring.

The other method is “marking” cards during review when I notice a card is poorly formed. I also try to make notes on marked cards describing what’s causing the problems (coming back to the cards at a later time, you can easily forget the specific issue that tripped you up).

Reviewing and Revising Problem Cards

The first step examining a difficult card is to ask whether I need this knowledge at all. If not, that’s the end of the process – I just delete the card and I’m done with it. I may also revisit the source material or do some Googling on the topic, which will sometimes reveal that the card is pointless or inaccurate.

If I decide that it’s important and relevant knowledge I want to keep, then I’ll examine the card for issues, using the principles from Poitr Wozniak Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge.


Consider this data engineering card from my deck which was recently giving me problems:

  • Side 1: Tail latency amplification
  • Side 2: Even if small % backend calls slow, chance of getting a slow call increases if user request requires multiple backend calls, and so a higher proportion of end-user requests end up being slow.

First off, is this card relevant and worthwhile? For me, the answer is definitely yes: it’s both relevant to my job as a data scientist and my software engineering side projects.

Next, diagnose the problem. On closer examination, there are a few things wrong with the card:

In cases where I add material I don’t fully understand, I find the best approach is to go back to the source (which in this case is the book Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann). I then refactored the card like this:

  • Side 1: Tail latency amplification (Kleppmann)
  • Side 2: Multiple back-end calls for a single user request increases chance of encountering a tail latency. (Kleppmann)

As you can see, I added a source to clarify where the information came from (Rule 18: Provide source).

I was curious what other cards I have about tail latency, and it turns out there are none! Seems ridiculous to have a card about tail latency amplification, but not have a single one about tail latency which is a more common term. Not having this in my deck probably contributed to interference since I never tested myself on the distinction between the two concepts. So I added:

  • Side 1: Tail latency (Kleppmann)
  • Side 2: High percentile response time. (Kleppmann)

Note that the tail latency amplification card uses tail latency in its response. I’m hoping this will limit confusion between the two and emphasize the distinction (Rule 13: Refer to other memories). I also italicized amplification, to hopefully further avoid interference.

Since I’ve made these changes, I haven’t had any problems with these cards and feel like I have a better grasp on the material. Consider doing the same for the important knowledge in your decks causing you trouble.

Roam Notes on “Patrick Collison in conversation with Tyler Cowen | Full Q&A | Oxford Union Web Series”

  • Author:: [[Tyler Cowen]] and [[Patrick Collison]]
  • Source:: link
  • Recommended By:: [[Tyler Cowen]]
  • Tags:: #technology #progress
  • Roam Notes URL:: link
  • {{[video]:}}
  • (0:29) [[Tyler Cowen]]: As the next big biomedical technology breakthroughs come, are you concerned that increased life expectancy would result in calcification of institutions by entrenching incumbents?
    • [[Patrick Collison]]: It’s a problem to be solved, but not convincing because proposing the inverse "can we ensure everyone dies at age 80?" seems to clearly be "no".
  • (1:35) [[Tyler Cowen]]: To what extent do you think the attraction of progress is "feel / aesthetics" or giving people what they want?
    • PC: Correlation between happiness and GDP is about .78. So progress really does drive satisfaction. That suggests it’s more about the outcome rather than the process, but my intuition is that it’s the process of generating progress itself that is the relevant question.
  • 3:43 [[Tyler Cowen]]: You’ve written both optimistic and pessimistic visions for our path forward with technology. What is your underlying model?
  • (5:50) [[Tyler Cowen]]: The [[mRNA vaccines]] work, and there was at least 25 years where there was no marketplace adoption. All the sudden paradise rains down during [[COVID-19]] – maybe this is how progress works and we shouldn’t be so pessimistic?
    • [[Patrick Collison]]: You could argue the opposite – the fact that we needed a pandemic to finally get to commercialization is an indicator of systemic problems. The fact they were so ready to deploy, indicates the extent of the problem.
  • (7:43) [[Tyler Cowen]]: What is the most misleading statistic and what is the most underrated statistic for measuring progress?
    • [[Patrick Collison]]: Self-reported happiness is important but a lot of the comparisons you want to perform with it are fraught or misleading. Intertemporal comparisons lead to strange conclusions.
    • (10:15) [[Tyler Cowen]]: part of me thinks total [[population]] may be the ultimate measure of progress, which would not be good for [[Japan]]. Everyone admires small countries that are well run, but consider [[Brazil]] – obviously lots of problems, not as well run, but it’s produced many people.
  • (12:30) [[Patrick Collison]]: Culture is very important for determining progress. If you look at [[the Scottish Enlightenment]], they were very obsessed with things like [[culture]], [[norms]], and mindset, which seems old-fashioned now.
  • (13:30) [[Patrick Collison]]: [[Africa]] has a promising future because of the internet: the people there are suddenly able to compete there on the same level as other places in the world. They also have a significantly growing and young population.
    • [[Tyler Cowen]]: Another advantage – since there are many more countries there, they can run more experiments.
    • [[Patrick Collison]]: They understand the importance or progress better than many westerners, who tend to now have a complacent, postmodern view that it’s not that important.
  • (20:40) [[Patrick Collison]]: [[Ireland]] has a bit of an inferiority complex, so it doesn’t view itself as the best at everything, but this kind of attitude can help stoke progress.
  • (22:04) [[Patrick Collison]]: [[Mathematica]] is one of the most underrated achievements of our age. #programming
    • It’s been getting steadily better over multiple decades. Programming languages don’t innovate much after they’re released, partially because they’re [[open source software]] which can make it harder to make significant changes. Mathematica shows that a multi-decadal software project is totally sensible – it’s improving at a faster rate now than it ever has.
    • Mathematica is like [[Stripe]] in that they are both sort of programming languages – one for computing, one for financial infrastructure. Developer productivity is the primary focus for both. [[Stephen Wolfram]] is also admirable and ambitious. He doesn’t believe in libraries – he believes that your programming language should just do all the things! It’s like he’s building the Library of Alexandria in the programming language.
  • (26:00) [[Tyler Cowen]]: You showed an early interest in meta-programming languages such as [[Lisp]]. Why, and what does that show about your thought generally? #programming #[[functional programming]]
    • [[Patrick Collison]]: Two things:
      • In computing we’re stuck in these local maxima and there’s an entrenched status quo. The cost is probably much greater than people realize. Off the beaten path projects like Lisp and Mathematica helped to understand the design space and what was possible. #learning
      • Lisp is a programming language for individuals. It takes seriously the question "how do you make a single individual as enabled and productive as possible?" E.g. "reader macros" where you define on the fly the actual syntax of the language. To other programmers this is a disaster – how do you have a large project where you get a bunch of people to work on random syntax you defined? [[Stripe]] takes this individual view: how can we make it possible for one person to do build a business with financial payments in one evening?
  • (29:20) [[Tyler Cowen]]: Why is Stripe a [[writing]] company? And how does this spring from your love of [[Lisp]] and [[Mathematica]]?
    • [[Patrick Collison]]: If you take ideas seriously, you have to become a writing culture. You want to find the best solution, not something that "just works". We’re still debating fundamental questions at Stripe that have been around for years. To make progress on that, you have to be a writing culture. If you don’t write ideas down extensively or specifically, it’s hard to say that they’re wrong and you can’t make progress.
  • (42:16) [[Patrick Collison]] the prevalence of [[open office plans]] has a lot to do being able to shuffle around people easily in a high growth company. Three unique strategies of [[Stripe]] in terms of creating an optimal [[work environment]]:
    • Move teams quickly (every 3-6 months switch to a new location)
    • Move unrelated teams close together (for serendipity, creating a warm atmosphere)
    • Making the entire physical space as connected as possible (e.g. central stairwells to get as much of serendipitous interaction as possible).
  • (48:45) [[Patrick Collison]]: It’s actually hard to get funding at top universities with large endowments. A lot of the best [[Fast Grants]] applications were actually from people from top universities, so there are potentially high returns to improving funding for the best researchers. #[[research funding]]
  • (52:20) [[Tyler Cowen]] How should we better run funding institutions, and why is there so much [[conformism]] in universities / nonprofit / philanthropy, and how does all that tie together? #[[research funding]]
    • [[Patrick Collison]]: for science institutions, more structural diversity. In terms of which work is being funded, what the field delineations are, different models for how careers work or where work is done. Find all of the axes where you could try new and different things. A lot of people don’t realize how monochromatic it is – so much is downstream of institutions like [[NIH]] – researchers understand how stifling this is, but don’t speak out about it because they rely on the funding.

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Roam Notes on “Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium” by Martin Gurri

  • Title:: Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium
  • Author:: [[Martin Gurri]]
  • Recommended By:: [[Austen Allred]]
  • Reading Status:: #complete
  • Review Status:: #[[third pass]]
  • Tags:: #books #information #media #authority #elites #[[the public]] #[[the internet]]
  • URL:: link
  • Source:: #kindle
  • Roam Notes URL:: link
  • Anki Tag:: gurri_public_revolt
  • Anki Deck Link:: link
  • Notes

    • Overview
      • The internet is transforming our world by dramatically increasing the volume of information and destroying elite quasi-monopolies on information. The result is a clash between the public (networked, egalitarian, bottom-up) and authority (elites, top-down, hierarchical).
      • The public, once a much more passive entity that would blindly accept direction from the top, has increased power in the networked age of the internet and can openly challenge elite narratives. Elites have not accepted this reality and continue to try to silence the public. Clashes between authority and the public will continue until something changes. The resulting turbulence puts much at risk, including liberal democracy itself.
    • 1. PRELUDE FOR A TURBULENT AGE (Location 85)
      • Supply of information has exploded in unprecedented ways in recent years and this decreases authority of any one source. (Location 117)
      • How Walter Cronkite became Katie Couric and the audience became the public (Location 146)
        • "Uncertainty is an acid, corrosive to authority. Once the monopoly on information is lost, so too is our [[trust]]…proof for and against approaches infinity, a cloud of suspicion about cherry-picking data will hang over every authoritative judgment." (Location 154) Disparities between elite interests and public interests become crystal clear. #uncertainty
        • The mass audience transformed into [[vital communities]]: groups of wildly disparate size gathered organically around a shared interest or theme. They are amateurs, educated non-elites and information suddenly began to circulate at this level. (Location 193) #Ankified
        • Ultimately this liberation of information changed the relationship between the public and authority in almost every domain, and this change in the relationship is the main theme of the book (Location 205).
      • I christen the new age and other definitional illusions (Location 207)
        • [[the public]]: amateurs fractured into vital communities, each clustered around an “affair of interest” to the group #Ankified
        • [[authority]]: trained professionals, with access to hidden knowledge, perched on top of a specialized hierarchy. Usually achieved thier position through difficult accreditation, and are reluctant to listen to those who haven’t gone through the same hoops. (Location 247) Lasting authority comes from institutions that speak on their behalf. (Location 254). E.g. government, corporations, financial institutions, universities, mass media, politicians, scientific research industry, etc. #Ankified
        • [[information]] doesn’t grow linearly, it experiences huge sudden changes or "Waves" that transform the landscape: (Location 271) #Ankified
          • [[1st Wave (information growth)]]: The invention of writing
          • [[2nd Wave (information growth)]]: Development of the alphabet
          • [[3rd Wave (information growth)]]: The printing press and moveable type
          • [[4th Wave (information growth)]]: Mass media
          • [[5th Wave (information growth)]]: Gurri proposes we are in this new wave right now – information technology
    • 2. HODER AND WAEL GHONIM (Location 291)
      • A twenty-something in Toronto opens a new continent of expression for Iranians (Location 305)
        • [[Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder)]], better known by his blog name “Hoder,” is an influential Iranian blogger that the regime saw as a real threat because he started a blogging revolution among Iranians. In 2010 he was sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison for blogging, but was pardoned in 2014. Gurri uses his example throughout this chapter (Location 292)
        • “The Dictator’s Dilemma”: for security, dictators must restrict communications to a minimum, but they also need prosperity to make their rule legitimate, and this can only be attained by the open exchange of information. (Location 332) #Ankified
        • "Bloggers, and in general all dabblers in digital communication, are often accused of insulting sacred things: presidents, religion, property rights, even the prerogatives of a democratic majority. They speak when there should be silence, and utter what should never be said. They trample on the sanctities, in the judgment of the great hierarchical institutions which for a century and half have controlled, from the top down, authoritatively, the content of every public conversation. The idea is not that some forbidden opinion or other has been spoken. It is the speaking that is taboo. It’s the alien voice of the amateur, of the ordinary person, of the public, that is an abomination to the ears of established authority." (Location 394)
        • Some people in authority are despots and thugs, but what’s relevant is their belief they have a unique legitimacy to speak about their domain, and challenges to this are a threat to this moral order "which must be crushed utterly in the name of all that is good and true" (Location 399). Examples:
          • News media failing economically, but describing it as a danger to democracy rather than just threatening their livelihood.
          • Current desparate claims of [[public health professionals]] trying to silence outsiders with reasonable opinions, but claiming it’s because of "[[misinformation]]" and "dangerous" views.
      • A burning man on Facebook lights the way for political change in Tunisia (Location 440)
        • This section focuses on a Tunisian uprising, which started when [[Mohamed Bouazizi]], a street vendor, set himself on fire after humiliation by regime officials. (Location 465)
        • One insight from the event is incredible redunancy in the transmission of information, which means authoritarians can’t really shut it down. You can shut down pieces, even the entire internet, but not what Gurri calls the [[information sphere]], which refers to the broader space that includes internet, social media, mass media, and more. (Location 491) It can’t really be blocked by government, and it’s usually what determines the outcome of a political conflict. #Ankified
      • A Google employee in Dubai schedules an Egyptian revolution as a Facebook Event (Location 494)
        • "If you were to ask me to name the most significant geopolitical transformations since the fall of the Soviet Union, the 2011 uprising in Egypt, which followed close on the heels of Tunisia’s and repeated the same pattern, would rank very near the top." (Location 501) #Ankified
        • [[Wael Ghonim]] is a central character in the uprising. He created a Facebook page "We Are All [[Khaled Said]]", who was a young man beaten to death by thugs in the Mubarak regime. Images of Khaled’s face after the beating were used in the marketing campaign against the regime. Ghonim created a Facebook Event calling for protests. #Ankified
        • He attracted a huge audience, despite the fact that internet penetration in Egypt was around 20%. It turns out, this is enough to enter the consciousness of the public, and researchers like [[Roland Schatz]] have estimated the tipping point of awareness for something to diffuse and gain widespread attention is about 15%. (Location 560) #Ankified
    • 3. MY THESIS (Location 690)
      • A war of the worlds, deduced from the devil’s excrement (Location 707)
        • "My thesis is a simple one. We are caught between an old world which is decreasingly able to sustain us intellectually and spiritually, maybe even materially, and a new world that has not yet been born. Given the character of the forces of change, we may be stuck for decades in this ungainly posture. You who are young today may not live to see its resolution." (Location 708) The two sides in this conflict are: #Ankified
          • [[authority]]: Industrial, top-down, hierarchical institutions of authority that have dominated globally for a century and a half. Slow, plodding, inflexible.
          • [[the public]]: fluid, networked, flexible, fast, unsteady in purpose
        • Changes in ownership and availability of information is what has stoked this conflict. The [[5th Wave (information growth)]] has networked and connected the public through digital devices. #Ankified
      • The center cannot hold and the border has no clue what to do about it (Location 755)
        • You can also categorize the two warring groups of authority and the public as [[the Center]] and [[the Border]] (terms employed by Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky in another context)
          • [[the Center]] expects and protects the status quo (Location 764)
          • [[the Border]] is composed of “sects” or “networks”—voluntary associations of equals. Their purpose is to oppose the Center, and have no intention to actually rule, govern, or develop policy-this would imply rank or hierarchy and the Border is opposed to this. Opposition provides unity for the border. (Location 765) #Ankified
            • Sect: a group of people with somewhat different religious beliefs (typically regarded as heretical) from those of a larger group to which they belong. #Ankified
        • "Viewed from within this scheme, the stories of the last chapter appear in a new light. Hoder, Wael Ghonim, and Shawn Fanning emerged as sectarian heroes of the digital Border, striking at the forces of monopoly and centralization. Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, and Jack Valenti each represented a mighty hierarchy of the traditional Center, slow-turning yet implacable, perfectly willing to smash the individual to preserve the system." (Location 775)
        • The Center is failing (e.g. 2008 financial crisis, intelligence in Iraq), and the fractured, sectarian public criticizes, mocks, and magnifies, leading to perpetual distrust and conflict, especially since the public cannot govern or solve issues. (Location 798)
        • It’s uncertain what will happen, and unlikely that any particular group will "win". Gurri’s greatest concern is for the future of liberal democracy – it is part of the battleground. (Location 832)
      • [[Cyber-utopians]], [[cyber-skeptics]], [[cyber-pessimists]], and how all their sound and fury signifies very little (Location 836)
        • [[the public]] wasn’t really possible until the printing press – before that it was more of an inchoate lump managed by elites in authority. Two conditions required for a public to exist: self-consciousness (irritation or dissatisfaction to pry it apart from the elites) and a means of communication for the public to voice its thoughts and opinions. (Location 837) #Ankified
        • [[cyber-utopians]]: See digital media as a boost to human collaboration and democracy.
        • [[cyber-pessimists]]: Find many ills in the internet—the corruption of our culture, governments spying on their citizens.
          • Gurri is skeptical about these claims: "As analysis, the exhortations of the pessimists hover somewhere between pointless and trivially true. Of course dictatorships wish to spy on dissidents, just as dissidents seek to avoid detection—a game made vastly more difficult for those in power by the proliferation of digital hiding-places. Of course dictatorships wish to manipulate media of all kinds to influence opinion. In the industrial age, however, they did so boldly and officially, from authority, while under the new dispensation despots must try to impersonate the public to have any hope of influencing it." (Location 891)
          • [[Malcolm Gladwell]] would fit into this category. He thinks “If you’re taking on a powerful and organized establishment you have to be a hierarchy.” i.e. you have to be trained professionals for political change. Gurri suggests this has been contradicted by [[5th Wave (information growth)]]. (Location 885)
      • [[homo informaticus]], or how choice can bring down governments (Location 921)
        • How can information influence political power? (Location 922)
        • The predecessor to [[homo informaticus]] is [[unmediated man]] – lacked access to media, likely illiterate, and probably didn’t have ability to travel far – only information channels are the people around him. #Ankified
          • "The single most important aspect of this information environment was that so very little was new. The range of interests was narrow, the set of sources small." (Location 945)
          • Authorities only needed to control the community to stay legitimate, and unmediated man is limited in thinking about alternative stories. Authority receives little feedback or dissent from them.
        • [[homo informaticus]]: information man – we are all him – "end products of an evolutionary process involving the spread of education, expanded levels of wealth and security, and improved means of communication." #Ankified
          • They’re informed, literate, and have access to a variety of media. They’re exposed to the larger world. They may access information that subverts the legitimacy of the elite. This is why authoritarian regimes must deploy costly and elaborate state media; but they can only do so much. As sources increase -> greater chance of dissonance with the regime’s story, and the first step towards potential revolution. (Location 932)
            • He can be more easily influenced by [[demonstration effects]]: Information influencing actions by revealing something previously unknown or believed impossible. (Location 995)
          • "the rise of Homo informaticus places governments on a razor’s edge, where any mistake, any untoward event, can draw a networked public into the streets, calling for blood. This is the situation today for authoritarian governments and liberal democracies alike." (Location 1050)
          • Homo informaticus sounds a lot like [[Tyler Cowen]] "infovore" in his book The Age of the Infovore.
    • 4. WHAT THE PUBLIC IS NOT (Location 1083) #[[the public]]
      • It’s hard to define the public, so he uses [[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]] “[[subtractive knowledge]]” method to characterize complex systems: rather than assert what the public is, explain what it is not. Think chipping away at the stone until a portrait emerges. (Location 1098) #Ankified
        • "The public is not the people, but likes to pretend that it is" (Location 1106)
          • "this is true in all circumstances, everywhere. Since, on any given question, the public is composed of those self-selected persons interested in the affair, it possesses no legitimate authority whatever, and lacks the structure to enforce any authority that might fall its way." (Location 1135)
        • **"The public is not the masses, but was once buried alive under them" **(Location 1174) #[[the masses]]
          • The industrial age led to [[the masses]] becoming organized into gigantic hierarchies for every domain of activity. This buried the public as it served to benefit the hierarchy. (Location 1194) #Ankified
          • "The eighteenth-century public was minute but highly active. The public in the industrial age was immense but bullied into a reactive posture. The masses absorbed the hundreds of millions of ordinary persons who entered history in the nineteenth century, and placed them under the command of structures which allowed few authentic decisions, few real choices of opinion and action." (Location 1243)
        • "The public is not the crowd, but the two are in a relationship (it’s complicated)" (Location 1282) #[[the crowd]] #Ankified
          • "Members of the public tend to be dispersed, and typically influence events from a distance only, by means of “soft” persuasion: by voicing and communicating an opinion." (Location 1287)
          • "A crowd, on the contrary, is always manifest, and capable of great physical destructiveness and ferocity. It is a form of action which submerges the desires of many individuals under a single rough-hewn will." (Location 1291)
          • The public can create a crowd, but also a crowd can create its own public. E.g. Pope John Paul II trip to communist Poland in 1979 – the crowds provided [[demonstration effects]] that created a public of anti-communist resistance. People may have joined the crowd for religious reasons, but it inspired anti-communism, which wasn’t the original intent of the crowd. (Location 1303)
    • 5. PHASE CHANGE 2011 (Location 1406)
      • Elites never trusted the public, but what has changed is the public increasingly distrusts authority and has more power to translate that into action. (Location 1413)
      • Theme for this chapter: "At some moment of 2011, the script went awry. Toxic levels of distrust sickened democratic politics. People began to mobilize for “real democracy,” and denied that their elected representatives represented them. They were citizens of liberal democracies, but they demanded something different. They wanted radical change: and the great mystery, casting a shadow beyond 2011, was what this change away from current democratic practices might look like." (Location 1426) Gurri provides evidence of this change by pointing to various events that occurred in 2011 that share some important characteristics. #Ankified
      • Complex systems (e.g. society, politics) tend to experience sudden, dramatic changes. They accumulate noise, and the forces holding them together diverge silently under the surface. Eventually the dam breaks (e.g. [[Soviet Union]]). (Location 1434)
      • The limits of outrage, or the sound of a silent scream (Location 1448)
        • What now? If the old elite institutions are despised and destroyed, what will replace it? The public never provides clear answers to this question. Solutions often involve rules and hierarchy, which the sectarian public opposes. (Location 1515) #alternatives
      • The sources of outrage viewed from below, viewed from above (Location 1554)
        • The level of outrage among the public public is often way out of line with their standard of living, which is often high. Two complementary perspectives that explain the outrage (Location 1556): #Ankified
          • From below / ground level: revolt explained by failing of ruling institutions.
          • From above / birds eye history view: revolt propelled by nihilism – self-destructive contempt for the world, a complete rejection of the institutions leading to a desire to burn it all down, so we can have a better world. The "better world" part is always vague and unexplained, because you can’t know the results of experimental or alternative histories. Nihilism is all about negation, and it tends to be self-defeating – if they have their way, they will destroy themselves. This is "a political pathology frequently encountered in the wake of the Fifth Wave". Gurri’s definition of [[nihilism]] – The will to destruction, including self-destruction, for its own sake, with a frivolous disregard for consequences. (Location 1668)
      • How a tent city in Tel Aviv became a circus of middle class discontent (Location 1685)
        • Focus of this chapter is on the tent city protests Israel in the summer of 2011. These protests began on Facebook, among the usual university educated, young, affluent [[Daphni Leef]] – a common demographic in these 5th wave events (Location 1691). She posted a facebook event to pitch tents in the city after she found she could not afford an apartment within [[Tel Aviv]]. This caught on significantly and received widespread public support, changing the political landscape in Israel. They often had contradictory political fantasies, and they had the nihilistic attitude of destroying their own roots. (Location 1737) #Ankified
        • The Israel protestors ultimately wanted the government to make things right, somehow. They had no plans to do this nor did they really understand what it meant. It’s government’s job to figure this out. (Location 1754) #alternatives
        • The protests ultimately led to some significant political concessions, but demonstrators didn’t see it that way – incremental changes were seen as obstructionism or a bribe. Anything positive or specific was a threat. (Location 1774) #Ankified
      • Occupy Wall Street and the baffling politics of negation (Location 1797)
        • Occupy Wall Street fits into the typical 5th Wave revolt for 3 reasons: similar demographic and behavioral characteristics, drive from negation (no coherent demands, lots of accusation), and they lived virtually (Location 1806)
      • London in August, or the recurring question of [[nihilism]] (Location 1947)
        • This section revolves around the story of Mark Duggan who was shot dead in London in 2011. This led to protests, which broke out into 4 days of violent riots and looting, with 5 deaths. (Location 1951) These were called "The BlackBerry Riots" by the Economist, due to the use of BlackBerry Messaging Service among participants. #Ankified
        • "Belief that political power could switch off the [[information sphere]] was shown to be more than an aging dictator’s hallucination. It was a persistent delusion of [[the Center]]." (Location 2026)
          • Gurri’s point here is supported by the expert reaction to the [[COVID-19]] pandemic. There are constant calls to fight and squash "misinformation". The problem is, what is misinformation and who gets to define it? Early on, experts opposed people using masks. They also denounced any suggestion that COVID escaped from a [[China]] lab, and as of [[May 6th, 2021]], this is one hypothesis that can’t be eliminated.
        • Gurri believes these protestors used similar arguments other [[5th Wave (information growth)]] protests made, and took them to their logical conclusion – they turned violent and destructive, descending into [[nihilism]]. "The British rioters acted as if the government, the police, and the law lacked legitimacy." In other protests in 2011, the rebels waffled on this: "Most were the children of the comfortable middle class, too interested in the drama of the moment to accept the implications of their own rhetoric. " (Location 2033) #Ankified
          • "They behaved as if desirable things were part of the natural order, like the grass under their feet. Detestable systems of authority only stood in the way." (Location 2046)
      • What Guy Fawkes’s mask can teach us about the turmoil in 2011 (Location 2053)
        • "Fascination with a [[revenge]] melodrama offered a hint about how the young transgressors of 2011 viewed themselves—and what they imagined they were doing." (Location 2057)
          • They were self-dramatizers: "The disconnection between their words and their actions, between their understanding of effects and their indifference to causes, can be explained by this trait." (Location 2088)
        • The ideal world of the protestors and their expectation of government was incredibly high in scope and also ill-defined. They believed government could work miracles. (Location 2102)
        • "That was the most profound consequence of 2011: sowing the seeds of distrust in the democratic process. You can condemn politicians only for so long before you must reject the legitimacy of the system that produced them. The protests of 2011 openly took that step, and a considerable segment of the electorate applauded." (Location 2139) #democracy
    • 6. A CRISIS OF AUTHORITY (Location 2249) #authority
      • [[authority]]: flows from legitimacy and monopoly. The public needs to heed and trust them to some extent or else they’re simply not an authority. Authority must rely on [[persuasion]], because [[force]] destroys [[trust]]. (Location 2255) #Ankified
      • The crisis of authority has resulted from the visible gap between expert competence claims and their actual performance. This gap was always there, but the public now is hyper-aware of it. (Location 2287)
      • If science is the modern deity, then the public is on the verge of deicide (Location 2305) #science
        • Science is facing this crisis of authority. E.g. [[peer review]] – presupposes reviewers are independent and can evaluate manageable data, and both of these are called into question. (Location 2356). Gurri gives [[climategate]] event as an example.
        • Science was once a sectarian "[[the Border]]" practice, and since 1919 with Einstein, it’s become part of [[the Center]] with large bureaucracies. (Location 2367)
        • The lack of trust in science may be understated and ready to explode, since most people think Einstein when they think of science and not the bureaucracy and politics that pervade science today. On specific issues you can see the public’s distrust. (Location 2458). Expectations about scientists and their prestige is inflated, and now they are exposed due to expectations not meeting reality.
          • A disturbing example of this is the Italian Scientists that went to jail because they didn’t predict an earthquake. They were really convicted because "they had been unwilling to admit, in public, to the degree of uncertainty which science imposed on them" (Location 2511). [[authority]] claims certainty, and works hard to avoid being perceived as being uncertain. #uncertainty
      • The panic of the experts, or how those who thought they knew didn’t (Location 2537)
        • The economic crisis of 2008 is a key moment in the public loss of trust in experts. [[Alan Greenspan]] is a key example of an expert that fell from grace. (Location 2545).
        • The left blame lack of regulation, the right blame government involvement, and they’re both right. The bigger issue is that nobody saw it coming, and the gap between expectations of experts and their actual abilities was exposed. (Location 2666)
      • A corporate bum’s rush, or the economic ramifications of the [[5th Wave (information growth)]] (Location 2683) #Business #[[private sector]]
        • The business world seems to be not only surviving, but thriving, in the networked age. Why? (Location 2688)
        • [[markets]] are pure [[trial and error]] and this works to their advantage: "The trial part of trial and error entails mostly error, unless the set of trials is large and competitive enough to produce a possible success, and the system is smart and [[agile]] enough to recognize success and reward it." (Location 2764)
          • There is an incredible amount of [[churn]] in companies. Many fail. "average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has declined from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today." (Location 2745) This churn gives the public what it wants – companies that don’t give them what they want fail. (Location 2762)
        • In contrast, many institutions that have been less successful in this environment face single-trial process or define success hierarchically from [[authority]] (they ignore [[the public]]). They explain away and double down on failure. This doesn’t work in the modern age where the public can question everything. (Location 2769)
        • It’s not that businesses are smarter; it’s that [[capitalism]] is well-equipped to adapt and failing companies are replaced. Individual companies are usually not great at change, because [[innovation]] fundamentally threatens [[authority]] of powerful people and groups in corporations, despite lip service to "culture of innovation" and "thinking like a startup".
      • Uncertainty, impermanence, and other symptoms of life without authority (Location 2807)
        • Symptoms of the crisis of [[authority]]
          • excessive expectations among the public which are encouraged by the authorities
          • Elite loss of control over the story told about their performance
          • Alternative centers of authority
          • Impermanence – a lack of inevitability is bad for authority because if people doubt it’s permanence the authority is reduced (Location 2860)
        • "You would expect, in a time of uncertainty, a landscape crowded with frauds and con artists peddling positive formulas for happiness, love, sex, good health, and better government. You would expect, too, the most trivial assertions to be attended with much noise and thunder: absent authority, every message must be shouted to have a hope of being heard. Stridency will infect every mode of communication, but will be most disruptive of political rhetoric. Just to keep an audience, politicians and commentators will have to scream louder and take more aggressive positions than the competition." (Location 2855)
        • Impermanence may lead to increased [[religiosity]]. E.g. in the Middle East, Islamist groups prospered where secular Arab authoritarians wobbled. [[Christianity]] in [[China]] is growing. #religion #Ankified
          • "For the governing classes and articulate elites of the world, this turn to religion is both appalling and incomprehensible—but this is a denial of human nature. If the City of Man becomes a passing shadow, people will turn to the City of God." (Location 2889)
    • 7. THE FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT (Location 3024) #government #[[government failure]]
      • Why is government rhetoric completely out of line with what government can reasonably achieve? (Location 3044)
      • How JFK won by failing while Obama succeeded his way to defeat (Location 3058)
        • The Bay of Pigs invasion was a major failure for [[JFK]]. He was forgiven by the media, which is surprising from the modern perspective – he would have been pilloried today. Obama had his governing majority shattered in Congress in 2010 due to failed stimulus, and the public was much less forgiving. (Location 3059)
        • For [[government failure]], you need two things: something that happens that’s perceived as a failure, and a ruptured relationship between government and governed. (Location 3243)
      • How Brasilia and Cabrini Green became Dodd-Frank and the EU Constitution (Location 3281)
        • [[Brasilia]] – a new capital built from nothing in [[Brazil]]. Government set grand expectations, and it didn’t come close to meeting those expectations (Location 3307). #Ankified
        • It’s a great example of a [[high modernism]] project: grand government projects that aim to make the world anew. Authoritarian examples include the [[Great Leap Forward]]. High modernism efforts of today would include the Obama stimulus, which took 1,000 pages to describe and costing $800 billion. #Ankified
        • [[late modernist]] government sometimes attempts [[high modernism]] level of ambition. Despite being failures to meet their objectives, high modernism dazzled elites and public since elites could control the story of these projects they weren’t failures but "epic activity, high drama, reaching for the stars." (Location 3349) That simply doesn’t work anymore with a fractured and connected public. #Ankified
        • "[[high modernist]] government was an austere prophet, demanding the destruction of the muddled present to make room for the perfect future. [[late modernist]] government is more like a kindly uncle, passing out chocolate chip cookies to his favorite nieces and nephews. He doesn’t wish to transform them. He just wants them to be happy—most particularly, with him." (Location 3362)
        • [[late modernist]] policies try to address every little injustice and become recognized for it, but it necessarily spreads itself too thin and becomes ineffective. It also presumes everything can be solved by government (Location 3390) It takes [[high modernist]] claims to achieving anything, and also adds claims they can intervene anywhere to promote happiness. (Location 3396) This typically fails, killing legitimacy of government.
      • Paul Ormerod and why most things fail (Location 3415)
        • "At some point around the turn of the new millennium, elites lost control of information, and power arrangements began to flip. Assured of the public’s wrath, elected governments have acted, or failed to act, motivated by a terror of consequences. Legitimacy was equated with the deflection of blame, and the aim of governing became to exhibit a lack of culpability." (Location 3420)
        • Politicians will eventually be tempted to engage in the type of [[negation]] the public uses. Obama engaged in this type of negation rhetoric. (Location 3530)
      • [[Barack Obama]] and the joys of [[negation]] (Location 3536)
        • "There is a [[democrat’s dilemma]] that is no less perilous than the dictator’s. Politicians must promise the impossible to get elected. Elected officials must avoid meaningful action at all costs." (Location 3541) #Ankified
          • Obama dealt with this balance by eventually avoiding meaningful action, while engaging in rhetoric that made him sound like a righteous outsider calling out the corrupt establishment. He embraced public negation and fanned the flames. (Location 3556)
          • "Barack Obama, I believe, represented a new and disconcerting development in democratic politics: the conquest of the Center by the Border, and the rise of the sectarian temper to the highest positions of power." (Location 3649)
          • "The accusatory style of government must be understood as a pathological development, a deformation, brought about by the underground struggle between the public and authority." (Location 3672)
    • 8. NIHILISM AND DEMOCRACY (Location 3778) #nihilism #democracy
      • [[nihilism]] is a logical conclusion of the forces hypothesized in the book – the system bleeds legitimacy, and there will ineviteably be people who argue it should be put out of its misery. (Location 3793)
      • Portrait of the nihilist as the sum of our negations (Location 3976)
        • The nihilist sees "[[government failure]]" as lying and cheating. (Location 3984). The nihilist is loud and irreconcilable. He turns to violence in physical contact, and online he is eager to find ideas to "hack, expose, paralyze the institutions that run the world".
        • The nihilist is now connected digitally to coordinate with other nihilists just as destructive. (Location 3990)
        • The disturbing thing about the nihilist is not what he is, but where he comes from: he’s a child of [[privilege]], he is a beneficiary of the system he comes from, he’s not marginalized. (Location 4007) #Ankified
          • "He’s healthy, fit, long-lived, university-educated, articulate, fashionably attired, widely traveled, well-informed. He lives in his own place or at worst in his parents’ home, never in a cave. He probably has a good job and he certainly has money in his pocket. In sum, he’s the pampered poster boy of a system that labors desperately to make him happy, yet his feelings about his life, his country, democracy—the system—seethe with a virulent unhappiness." (Location 4012)
        • He expects perfection, and any deviation from his expectation triggers his urge to destroy. (Location 4042) The nihilist appears once "[[privilege]] is felt to be natural, a matter of birth rather than previous effort". (Location 4065)
        • "Every great institution is justified by a story." (Location 4090) "Such stories aren’t surface gloss. They influence our behavior directly. This is why paper sometimes beats scissors: soft words ignite powerful historical memories, and the public takes to the streets." (Location 4096) #stories
    • 9. CHOICES AND SYSTEMS (Location 4205)
      • This chapter tries to answer what to do – what can the public, government, you, and me do to deal with the turbulence? (Location 4207)
      • If structure is destiny then the personal will trump the political (Location 4238) #[[personal sphere]]
        • [[personal sphere]] – "This is the circle of everyday life, experienced directly, in all its local specificity. Here the choices meaningful to an individual get generated: spouse, children, friends, career, faith." (Location 4238) #Ankified
        • The problem we face is not with [[democracy]], it’s with outlandish government claims that constantly fail to meet expectations. (Location 4284) #expectations #[[under-promise over-deliver]] #Ankified
          • [[the public]] must also update expectations about what democratic government can deliver. (Location 4303)
        • The solution is not [[direct democracy]], but a return to the [[personal sphere]]. Returning [[choice]] to the personal sphere will allow issues to be addressed directly with local knowledge, with lots of [[trial and error]]. Then personal failure doesn’t take down the entire system. (Location 4294) #Ankified
      • Telescopic philanthropy, or the politics of the impossible (Location 4305) #[[personal sphere]]
        • We need less reliance on broad indicators like [[GDP]] to evaluate performance. "Numbers like the GDP fulfill a rhetorical function. They partake of the prestige of science, appearing superior to the confused jumble of reality as actually experienced. They sustain the high modernist claim that we can know at a glance the truth about vast systems." (Location 4342) #[[high modernism]] #quantification
          • "But we know that we don’t know. The number is an illusion. If I lose my job, I understand what this signifies in all the intimate details, because I have direct access to my [[personal sphere]]. If I am told that the unemployment rate went up from 5.1 to 5.6 percent over the last month, I have no idea what this signifies. I lack access to the reality behind the number." (Location 4344)
          • "In the end, the most persuasive story wins, not the highest score." (Location 4354) #stories
          • People then confuse personal and statistical, leading to more [[negation]]. "I may hold down an excellent job, but the failure of the stimulus to meet its targets infuriates me." (Location 4358)
        • [[Charles Dickens]] illustrates the issues with overemphasis on the public rather than private sphere with Mrs. Jellyby of Bleak House – a character that spent much time working to improve the lives of others while completely neglecting her own children. "[[telescopic philanthropy]]—the trampling of the personal sphere for the sake of a heroic illusion." (Location 4364) #Ankified
          • "A telescopic philanthropist, from the moral heights, would call this selfishness or escapism. Yet selfishness, it seems to me, would entail the demand that the government meet all my needs. Escapism would mean burying my personal responsibilities under a concern for the brotherhood of man." (Location 4384)
        • Control and satisfaction can only be found in the [[personal sphere]]. (Location 4382)
        • You can engage in politics and government, form opinions and act, among other things. What you should not do is demand certainty of complexity or expect statistics will ordain the future. (Location 4390)
      • Advice to the prince, or the art of government in societies of distrust (Location 4393) #government #[[public administration]]
        • Government can try to will the world back to before the internet, but this is doomed to fail. The alternative is government to retain some control by moving information online in a way that the public can interact with it. As much as possible, create "[[open government]]". (Location 4452) #Ankified
          • Shorter, readable laws. (Location 4459)
          • Work on drafts out in the open, online
          • Reduce pseudo-technical jargon
        • This could create incentives for persuasiveness in place of current incentives for opaqueness. They could get a more productive feedback loop from the public. It could also demystify government and set public expectations properly. (Location 4465)
    • 10. FINALE FOR SKEPTICS (Location 4536)
      • If my story has been fiction, the null hypothesis must be true (Location 4575) #predictions
        • this section discusses what we expect to see if the thesis is true, vs what you would see from the null hypothesis.
        • If the thesis is true:
          • "Additional higher-level effects include a progressive loss of inhibition by the public in its attacks on authority, the rise of anti-establishment political groups, and the possibility, lurking in the shadows, of the nihilist and his fever dream of annihilation." (Location 4613)
          • Government will make it a priority to defend itself against the public. (Location 4618)
          • "In democracies, elected officials will be tempted to gain favor by distancing themselves from the democratic process." (Location 4621)
        • If the null hypothesis it true:
          • "A political environment safely entrenched within the processes of the industrial age. Government actions and policies are sheathed with authority and persuasiveness, while government failures implicate specific politicians or parties but never the system as a whole. You should expect, under such conditions, for political life to be characterized by continuity rather than disruption. Protests occur, but they target specific rather than systemic issues. Public opinion will be more forgiving—even, on occasion, as gentle as it was with JFK over the Bay of Pigs." (Location 4636)
          • Opposition is loyal, shares assumptions of people in power and sits within the political system. (Location 4641)
          • Information belongs to institutions and remains under their influence. (Location 4645)
      • The future’s uncertain but the present is always here (Location 4663)
        • "Books that interpret events sooner or later will be falsified by events: you just hope it’s later." (Location 4672) #predictions
      • The old democracies and the new structure of information (Location 4797)
        • History can be driven by [[negation]], not just contradiction. This means that, even though there is no better alternative to liberal democracy, it could still be in trouble due to forces of negation pushing along despite there being no clear alternative.
    • 11. (Addition to 2018 Edition) TRUMP, BREXIT, AND FAREWELL TO ALL THAT (Location 4958)
      • The Revolt of the Public was first published in June 2014. This chapter is an extension written in 2018 providing some reconsiderations. (Location 4960)
      • His main reconsideration is that "The great unraveling of the institutions has proceeded faster, further, and deeper than I imagined possible in 2014." (Location 5012)
      • Eternal surprise of the elites, or the world turned upside-down (Location 5026)
        • "From start to finish, the 2016 presidential race can best be understood as the political assertion of an unhappy and highly mobilized public. In the end, Trump was chosen precisely because of, not despite, his apparent shortcomings. He is the visible effect, not the cause, of the public’s surly and mutinous mood." (Location 5072)
        • Trump was lucky in his moment. His strategy wouldn’t have worked in 1980, 1990, or 2000.
      • The Russians are coming, the Nazis are here, and everywhere you look there’s Donald Trump (Location 5265)
        • "This is how the global elite class and many others interpret what I have called the revolt of the public: as the death of democracy and a descent into authoritarian darkness." (Location 5276)
        • The idea that we should control social media to tame the revolt of the public is misguided. People often praise [[China]] for some of their capabilities and even their censorship. "The regime in China survives on economic prosperity, which demands the free flow of information. But sooner or later, the economy will begin to wobble—should that information be allowed to flow?"
          • "China’s elites are riding a tiger and know it. Whatever the future brings to this antiquated power structure, it is no more likely than North Korea or Cuba to provide the escape route from liberal democracy in the twenty-first century." (Location 5316)
        • [[Vladamir Putin]] is significantly overrated in his capabilities and success as an authoritarian (Location 5327)
        • "I don’t see authoritarian rulers prospering under current conditions." (Location 5380) #[[To Ankify]]
          • Democracies are drifting toward dysfunction and paralysis, not authoritarianism. (Location 5453)
        • Politicians dilemma: if they get into office as an anti-establishment person, they can continue to criticize institutions but they’ll damage the economy and their popularity; if they compromise with the elites, they lose credibility with their base. Trump’s rhetoric can be seen as a way to escape this – loud and vulgar negation rhetoric that is often unrelated to policy. (Location 5530) #Ankified
        • "For all the sound and fury about [[fake news]], not a shred of evidence exists that they influenced the election outcome." (Location 5617)
      • The fate of the industrial elites and the uncertain future of liberal democracy (Location 5881)
        • "The recovery of truth requires the restoration of trusted authority. At the moment, that is nowhere in sight. The question before us is whether the current elite class can ever resume that function." (Location 5903)
        • The defeat of ISIS demonstrates the ability of bipartisan elites working together with confidence to defeat the nihilists. (Location 5906)
        • Elites must bridge the gap with the public, and to do this they have to have a positive vision that counteracts the negation of the public and includes them in the vision. (Location 5912) Unfortunately democratic elites have so far shown no interest in trying to reach the public. They go the opposite direction by trying to restore distance and silence the public rather than persuading.
        • [[devolution]] may be part of the answer: "the federal government is now an agent of division and polarization, state and local government, as well as certain private entities, can become rallying points of community. The negation of the nation-state must mean either anarchy or devolution to the city-state." (Location 5978)
        • What we really need is the emergence of a legitimate elite class. (Location 6086)
      • How is a legitimate hierarchy formed? (Location 6091) #hierarchy
        • Hierarchy forms naturally in human interaction in day-to-day life. Exemplary people are bestowed it through their example, and healthy societies assign authority this way. What is this quality that helps them rise? It "isn’t power, or wealth, or education, or even persuasiveness. It’s integrity in life and work." #Ankified
        • "Modern government’s original sin is pride. It was erected on a boast—that it can solve any “problem,” even to fixing the human condition—and it endures on a sickly diet of utopian expectations. We now know better." (Location 6143) #Ankified
        • Two qualities to look for in elites: [[honesty]] and [[humility]]. (Location 6147) Another key virtue: [[courage]]. This is required because "truth must be spoken even when it hurts the speaker or the audience. Distance must be reduced to a minimum, even at the risk of physical danger. (Location 6153) #Ankified

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Roam Notes on “RailsConf 2017: How to Write Better Code Using Mutation Testing” by John Backus

  • "Author::" [[John Backus]]
  • "Source::" [[YouTube]]
  • "Recommended By::" [[John Backus]]
  • "Tags::" #programming #testing #Videos
  • "Roam Notes URL::"
  • "Anki Tag::" backus_mutation_testing
  • "Anki Deck Link::" link
  • {{[video]:}}
  • Overview
    • [[John Backus]] gives an overview of [[mutation testing]] and why you should use it.
  • Introduction #Ankified
    • Line Coverage Formula = Lines of Code run by Test / Total Lines of code in the Project
    • Mutation Coverage: How much of your code can I change without breaking your tests?
      • If you can remove a line of code or meaningfully change the code without breaking a test, something is probably wrong: you’re missing a test or it’s dead code.
  • Benefits of [[mutation testing]]:
    • Learning about your programming language and the code you rely on
      • Mutation testing frameworks have many special case mutations baked into the tool that you likely wouldn’t think of on your own. They teach you things about your language and the code you rely on, and you learn about them just-in-time.
      • It makes you a better developer: "Mutation testing has been the most powerful source of growth for me in the past few years"
      • You not only learn more about the code, but you learn faster. The feedback loop is fast, and you learn more per unit of time spent coding.
    • Ship code with fewer bugs
      • Introduce fewer regressions to code, since it lets you see hotspots where you could break the code without failing the test, resulting in a bug that you would only find in production. #Ankified
      • It teaches you better testing skills – it forces you to think more about different conditions that can happen and the expected behaviour of your code.
    • X-Raying Legacy Code #[[legacy]]
      • Helps you find hot spots in legacy code, where you could potentially introduce a regression and the tests won’t fail. It gives you a checklist, and in each case you determine if you should change your tests or your code.
    • Dead Code Detection
      • Dead Code: code that is never executed, or when executed has no effect on the program. #Ankified
      • Often shows you’re using redundant code, without consulting programming language’s documentation or coworkers.
    • Better Test Coverage
  • Is it Practical? (30:15) #Ankified
    • You might be wondering – I open PRs that are hundreds of lines long and my tests take hours to run. How is this practical?
    • You can run mutation test only on code that has changed since a specified Git revision.
    • You can specify a particular method you want to run the mutation tests on.
  • Mutation Testing on the Job
    • You should run mutation tests before you push code. You’ll learn more, write better code, and grow faster than your colleagues that refuse to use it.
    • If you’re a team lead, incorporate mutation tests into [[continuous integration]]. You don’t need 100% mutation coverage to benefit.

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Roam Notes and Anki Deck on “Notes on Technology in the 2020s” by Eli Dourado

  • Title:: Notes on Technology in the 2020s
  • Author:: [[Eli Dourado]]
  • Recommended By:: [[Patrick Collison]] on Twitter
  • Reading Status:: #complete
  • Review Status:: #[[third pass]]
  • Tags:: #articles #technology #progress #innovation
  • URL::
  • Source:: #instapaper
  • Anki Tag:: dourado_2020_tech
  • Anki Deck Link:: link
  • Notes

    • Overview
      • [[Eli Dourado]] thinks through how various promising technologies could evolve over the next decade. (View Highlight)
    • End of [[the great stagnation]]?
      • Metric marking the end of [[the great stagnation]] – sustained growth in utilization-adjusted [[total factor productivity]] of 2 percent per year. It was 2.1 percent over 1947-1972, only .17 percent since 2005. (Note: utilization-adjusted version is important since it corrects for the business cycle.) (View Highlight) #Ankified
      • Scientific breakthroughs alone are not enough to end the Great Stagnation. "TFP only budges when new technologies are adopted at scale, and generally this means products, not just science…This means building businesses, surmounting regulatory obstacles, and scaling production. (View Highlight) #commercialization #Ankified
    • [[Biotech]] and [[health]] (View Highlight)
      • [[mRNA vaccines]] provides the ability to encode and deploy arbitrary mRNA in our bodies—"it allows us to essentially program our cells to make whatever proteins we want". For [[COVID-19]], the vaccine instructs our cells to make the spike protein (View Highlight). mRNA technology can be deployed against non-viruses, like [[cancer]] (e.g. [[BioNTech]] treatment). (View Highlight) #[[Moderna]]
      • [[CRISPR]] is a technique for editing [[DNA]] discovered in 2012, but haven’t made a meaningful economic contribution yet—no treatment using CRISPR has been approved outside of [[clinical trials]]. (View Highlight) #Ankified
      • "[[DeepMind]] [[protein-folding]] breakthrough signals a promising decade for the science of [[proteomics]]. Most directly, being able to predict protein shapes will enable us to discover drugs more rapidly." But this is still a way off due to drug trials taking a long time. (View Highlight).
      • [[life extension]]: [[Conboy Lab at Berkeley]] helped prove that replacing plasma rejuvinates germ layer tissues and improves cognition by reducing neuroinflammation. (View Highlight) This is a product that could actually come to market – [[therapeutic plasma exchange]] is [[FDA]]-approved for other conditions (not aging), but could be provided off-label, and it’s cheap – "An automated [[plasmapheresis machine]]—which lets you do treatment after treatment—can be bought online for under $3,000". (View Highlight)
        • Another related product is [[aging clocks]] to know how biologically old you are – these are available today. (View Highlight)
        • [[metformin]] is something to look into if you are metabolically unhealthy. (View Highlight)
      • [[health sensors]] on [[wearables]] like Apple Watch are becoming better and more prevalent every year. (View Highlight)
      • "Let’s salute and cheer for the discoveries, but spare many thoughts for the entrepreneurs trying to bring treatments to market." (View Highlight) #commercialization
    • [[Energy]]
      • [[wind power]] and [[solar power]]: costs of these have decreased significantly over the 2010s but deployment is only 9% of utility-scale electricity generation in the US as of 2019. Going forward, cost reductions will stall, but deployment will increase. (View Highlight) #Ankified
        • Intermittency is a challenge. To reach a grid powered entirely by today’s renewables, we would need storage at a price of $20 per kWh (with caveats). To power the grid today entirely with renewables, would need price to be about $20 per kWh, while current prices are in the $500-$600 per kWh range. Increased demand could make price reductions in the future challenging. (View Highlight)
      • [[nuclear power]] or [[geothermal power]] seem to be required for scalable zero-carbon baseload energy.
        • [[nuclear power]] is challenging due to high costs
        • [[geothermal power]] is the most plausible this decade. This is apparently an area ripe for innovation: "The startups I have spoken to think with today’s technology they can crack 3.5¢/kWh without being confined to volcanic regions." Possibly 1¢/kWh by the 2050s, making it difficult for [[nuclear power]] to compete (View Highlight) #Ankified
      • [[sustainable alternative fuels (SAF)]] will be big in 2020s. Airlines can’t electrify since batteries can’t match fossil fuel energy density, which means airlines must go with [[hydrogen fuel]] or SAF. Dourado is betting on SAF over Hydrogen (esp. fuel made from CO2 from the atmosphere), since they are more energy dense. (View Highlight) #Ankified
    • [[transportation]]
      • [[electric cars]] – they’re better than regular cars due to lower fuel costs, lower maintenance costs (fewer moving parts), faster acceleration, higher low-end torque. (View Highlight) One exception is trucking, which may have to shift to hydrogen. This shift will significantly reduce air pollution from unregulated ultrafine particles; resulting in fewer premature birth, asthma, cancer, and mystery illness.
      • [[autonomous vehicles]] could happen at scale in 2020, and autonomy is inevitable eventually with constantly improving sensors and machine learning algorithms. (View Highlight)
      • [[supersonic aircraft]] will have a big impact on global business when it comes, but this is likely not in the 2020s. (View Highlight) [[urban air mobility]] may also happen (e.g. Joby, Wisk).
      • [[drone delivery]] is likely in the 2020s, with the [[FAA]] about to issue a rule expanding operations at night and flights over crowds. (View Highlight)
      • [[tunnels]] are a possible route in countries like the US where it is extremely difficult to build above-ground due to "promiscuous distribution of the veto power" (View Highlight). [[The Boring Company]] has a couple promising projects here, and Dourado is optimistic about the impact on commerce since time and hassle cost of travel is a key input to the [[gravity model of trade]].
    • [[space]]
      • [[SpaceX]] seems poised to dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration with [[Starship (SpaceX)]]. The Space Shuttle was about $65,000/kg to low earth orbit, [[Falcon 9 (SpaceX)]] is only $2,600/kg, and reasonable estimates suggest Starship could reach $10/kg. (View Highlight) #Ankified
      • Some consequences: commerce between Earth and space expands (e.g. manufacturing materials that can only be made in space, [[Starlink (SpaceX)]]), and less engineering required on payloads due to the consequences of losing them being lower. #[[gravity model of trade]] (View Highlight)
    • [[information technology]]
      • "[[custom silicon]] is going to be huge", due to incredible performance gains. Another name for this is [[system on a chip (SoC)]]. [[Apple M1]] is a notable example. "Almost all computer hardware—anything that has any scale to it—will move in this direction"
    • Conclusion
      • "It all depends on [[execution]]. The underlying science is there. The engineers are willing. Even the funding is available in most cases. But, as a society, how much urgency do we feel? Our culture does not prioritize [[progress]]—it fights, destructively, for [[status]]. And our politics reflects our culture." (View Highlight)

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Roam Notes on “Working in Public” by Nadia Eghbal

  • Title:: Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software
  • Author:: [[Nadia Eghbal]]
  • Recommended By:: [[Patrick Collison]]
  • Reading Status:: #complete
  • Review Status:: #[[first pass]]
  • URL:: link
  • Tags:: #books #[[Open Source]] #[[Open Collaboration]] #[[platforms]] #[[history of software]] #[[history of open source]] #[[online creators]] #[[online content creation]]
  • Source:: #kindle
  • Roam Notes URL:: link
  • Anki Tag:: working_in_public_eghbal
  • Anki Deck Link:: Get Anki Deck
  • Summary
    • [[Nadia Eghbal]] examines how [[Open Source] works today, how it has evolved to this state over time, and where it may be headed. Although the book is specifically about open source on the surface, much of it applies to all [[online content creation]] and [[online creators]]. Some of the main themes of the book include:
      • Creator attention is a [[common pool resource]] that must be protected through [[curation]] and filtering, rather than blindly encouraging more open participation.
      • Key [[open source contributions]] coming from a small number of very important creators / maintainers, rather than a large community.
      • Trends toward [[modularity]] of code and other online content.
      • Increased importance of [[curation]] for creators as the key problem to solve as they grow.
      • The extractive nature of many activities masked as "contributions", such as low-quality comments, questions, [[feature requests]], or [[pull requests]] that consume the limited [[attention]] of creators. #[[extractive contributions]] #[[casual contributors]]
        • ""Casual contributors are like tourists visiting New York City for a weekend. Just as we wouldn’t expect, or even want, tourists to participate in local governance decisions, we shouldn’t assume that casual contributors are part of a project’s contributor community simply because they are physically present." (Location 1569)"
        • ""The problem with the Christmas lights isn’t that anyone can drive by and view them. A problem only surfaces if we think our neighbor owes us anything; if we cross the invisible boundary and knock on his door, making demands and requesting changes." (Location 2535)"
      • Trends toward following creators themselves rather than particular artifacts (e.g. code repositories) produced by creators.
    • Nadia also expounds a valuable nomenclature for talking about open source and online content. I particularly liked her categorization of open-source projects based on the ratio of contributors to users:
      • "4 main influencers that determine the ratio of a project’s users to contributors: (Location 809) #[[growing open source projects]]"
    • The book is filled with lots of interesting stories and quotes from open-source developers.
  • Introduction
    • People typically think [[open source software]] is built by large communities where many pitch in. In reality, they are typically developed by a small number of important [[maintainers]], who often are overwhelmed and stressed by having to deal with a large number of low-quality contributions. (Location 70) (Location 74) #Ankified
    • "One study found that, in a sample of 275 popular [[GitHub]] projects across various programming languages, nearly half of all contributors only contributed once. These [[contributors]] accounted for less than 2% of total commits, or overall contributions." (Location 85) #Ankified
    • This isn’t necessarily a problem, but many see it as an issue, as there is even a term called [[bus factor]] to measure project health: the number of developers that would need to get hit by a bus before the project is in trouble. (Location 106) #Ankified
    • "Code, like any other type of content available online today, is trending toward [[modularity]]: a mille-feuille layer cake of little libraries instead of one big, jiggling Jell-O mold." (e.g. [[npm]]). This contributes to the small number of maintainers per project. (Location 114)
    • "The role of a [[maintainer]] is evolving. Rather than coordinating with a group of [[developers]], these maintainers are defined by the need for [[curation]]: sifting through the noise of interactions, such as user questions, [[bug reports]], and [[feature requests]], which compete for their [[attention]]." (Location 129)
    • "The problem facing [[maintainers]] today is not how to get more [[contributors]] but how to manage a high volume of frequent, low-touch interactions. These developers aren’t building communities; they’re directing air traffic." The role of [[maintainer]] is evolving to [[curation]], sifting through many things that compete for their [[attention]], like [[bug reports]] or [[feature requests]] (Location 134) #Ankified
    • "In the late 1990s, open source was the poster child for a hopeful vision of widespread public collaboration, then dubbed “[[peer production]]."" (Location 180) #Ankified
  • Part 1: How People Make
    • 01. [[GitHub]] as a Platform
        • Before code hosting platforms, developers passed around code as a [[tarball]] (.tar file). Most open source code was published this way on a self-hosted website, and developers used [[mailing lists]] to collaborate. (Location 222) #Ankified
        • [[distributed version control]] (e.g. [[Git]]) was an important innovation for open source, since it make it technically possible for developers to work independently from one another, working on their own copy. [[centralized version control]] required developers to commit code back to the same server (Location 231) #Ankified
        • "[[Richard Stallman]] (also known as RMS) was the hacker who kicked off the [[free software movement]] at [[MIT]] in the [[1980s]]. [[Eric S. Raymond]] (also known as ESR), the programmer who helped rebrand [[free software]] to “[[Open Source]]” in the [[1990s]], is widely viewed as early open source’s unofficial anthropologist. And [[Linus Torvalds]] is the programmer who created both [[Linux]], the open source kernel that powers many of today’s operating systems, in 1991, and [[Git]], in 2005." (Location 260)
      • THE TRIUMPH OF CONVENIENCE (Location 325)
        • Another big innovation popularizing open source was code hosting, particularly [[GitHub]]. "[[GitHub]] wasn’t the first [[code-hosting platform]]. It was preceded by [[SourceForge]], founded in 1999. If GitHub is like Facebook, SourceForge was the MySpace of code-hosting platforms: the first significant product of its kind, and, though still alive today, mostly remembered as a blueprint." (Location 328) #Ankified
        • [[GitHub]] popularized [[permissive licensing]], increasing reach and distribution of open source code, whereas [[free software movement]] emphasized [[copyleft licensing]] (e.g. [[GNU General Public License (GPL)]]). The problem with copyleft licenses is they require any other code used with the GPL code to be GPL licensed as well (not commercial friendly): a private company would have to make all their code licensed under GPL if they used GPL licensed code. [[permissive licensing]] allows developers to do pretty much anything they want with the code (e.g. [[Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD)]], [[Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) license]]) without changing the terms of their own projects. (Location 349) #Ankified
        • [[Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) license]] is by the most popular license used by [[GitHub]] projects. "A 2015 company blog post claimed that 45% of open source projects use it." (Location 356) #Ankified
        • [[platforms]] like [[GitHub]] add value to [[creators]] by providing [[distribution]] (i.e. an audience). This is like a talent agency, except creators can take their audience elsewhere once they get it. So, platforms build convenient features for creators that encourage them to stay (Location 392) (Location 397) action=open&asin=B08BDGXVK9&location=404)) #Ankified
      • FROM HACKERS TO HUSKIES (Location 447)
        • Developers are increasingly known not for a specific project they work on (e.g. [[Linus Torvalds]] and [[Linux]]), but for who they are (Location 478).
        • This is particularly true in the [[JavaScript]] community.
      • THE GITHUB GENERATION (Location 548)
    • 02. The Structure of an Open Source Project
      • HOW CONTRIBUTIONS ARE MADE (Location 631) #[[contributing to open source]]
        • Changes to [[Open Source]] are not completely open to anyone. Developers submit a [patch] (aka [[pull request]] in [[GitHub]]) and these are reviewed and approved by prior trusted contributors. (Location 634)
        • "Some developers have permission to merge changes into the trunk (or master), which is the baseline version of the project. Having these permissions is often referred to as [[commit access]], which is like being able to edit a shared document." (Location 637) #Ankified
          • "The process by which a developer gains [[commit access]] varies widely between projects and is subject to preexisting social norms." (Location 656)
        • "Bigger projects often use a formal “request for comments” ([[RFC]]) process to allow communities to discuss these changes before they are merged." (Location 641)
        • Developer reputation as well as complexity of the change are some of the biggest factors determining whether a [[pull request]] is merged. (Location 673) (Location 680)
      • WHERE INTERACTIONS TAKE PLACE (Location 711) #[[open source work]]
        • An open source project isn’t just code. Typically [[repository]] refers to the code, while [[project]] refers to the broader tools and communication channels surrounding the code. (Location 714)
        • [[GitHub]] [[issues]] and [[pull request]] help it maintain a competitive advantage, since it’s not easy to migrate these between platforms. (Location 733)
      • HOW PROJECTS CHANGE OVER TIME (Location 754) #[[open source project evolution]]
        • Stages of open source project evolution (Location 757): #Ankified
          • Creation: Early stage, with few developers and closed development.
          • Evangelism: Project release, promotion, and distribution, transitioning to more open development.
          • Growth: Project more widely used, maintainers start doing more non-code than code work (e.g. triaging issues, reviewing pull requests).
            • Maintainers typically follow one of two paths here: i) If there’s few contributors they’ll start pull back to closed, focused development. ii) If the contributors are growing rapidly, they may follow a distributed model that passes off work more widely.
      • CLASSIFYING PROJECT TYPES (Location 804)
        • 4 main influencers that determine the ratio of a project’s users to contributors: (Location 809) #[[growing open source projects]]
          • Technical scope: Projects with more to do attract more contributors.
          • Support required: Including writing code (the stuff considered fun work by developers) and other supporting tasks like reviewing pull requests.
          • Ease of participation: The ease of contributing to the project.
          • User adoption: More users usually means more contributors.
        • The ratio of contributors to users lets us classify open source projects into four main categories (Location 862): #Ankified
          • [[federations (open source)]]: Many contributors, many users (e.g. [[Rust]], [[Node.js]], [[Linux]])
          • [[clubs (open source)]]: Many contributors, few users (many users are contributors).
          • [[toys (open source)]]: Few contributors, few users (side project / weekend project).
          • [[stadiums (open source)]]: Few contributors, many users (e.g. [[webpack]], [[Babel]]).
    • 03. Roles, Incentives, and Relationships
      • Open source projects are often best described as a [[commons]]: a resource that is owned, used, and managed by a community. (Location 1041)#Ankified
      • A THEORY OF THE COMMONS (Location 1044) #commons
        • Economist [[Elinor Ostrom]] studied conditions leading to well-managed commons that avoid the [[tragedy of the commons]]. [[Ostrom commons design principles]]:
          • Membership boundaries are clearly defined.
          • The rules that govern the commons should match the actual conditions.
          • Those who are affected by these rules can participate in modifying them.
          • Those who monitor the rules are either community members or are accountable to the community, rather than outsiders.
          • Those who violate the rules are subject to graduated sanctions, which vary depending on the seriousness and context of the offense. #punishment
          • Conflicts should be resolved within the community, using low-cost methods. #[[conflict resolution]]
          • External authorities recognize the right of community members to devise their own [[institutions]].
          • If the commons is part of a larger system, its governing rules are organized into multiple “nested” layers of [[authority]]. (Location 1044)
      • WHY WE PARTICIPATE IN THE COMMONS (Location 1074) #commons
        • [[Yochai Benkler]] expanded upon [[Elinor Ostrom]]’s model by applying her findings to the online world. He terms this [[communal structure commons-based peer production]] (CBPP) in a 2002 essay called “Coase’s Penguin, Or, Linux and ‘The Nature of the Firm.’” (Location 1075) #[[To Read]]
        • His work focuses on why people participate in [[commons]]. Conditions for it to work include: [[intrinsic motivation]], modular and granular tasks, and low [[coordination]] costs. (Location 1082) (Location 1103). In open source, the main coordination costs are [[reviewing code]] and merging [[pull requests]] (Location 1122). #modularity
        • Projects that involve a [[commons]] ([[federations (open source)]] and [[clubs (open source)]]) are focused on resolving coordination issues, while projects without a commons ([[stadiums (open source)]]), focus on curation due to the scarcity of attention of the creator. (Location 1142)
      • HOW PLATFORMS BROKE APART THE COMMONS (Location 1156) #commons
        • Communities need to protect themselves from potentially damaging actions of newcomers, who can destabilize the community’s pre-existing [[social norms]]. (Location 1220)
        • It’s difficult for maintainers to defer decisions to the community, given the lack of clear membership boundaries. "Countries have citizenships and constituencies, but open source projects are open to anyone." (Location 1235) #[[Ostrom commons design principles]]
      • THE ROLE OF A MAINTAINER (Location 1346) #maintainers
        • "although maintainers are few in number, their impact on an open source project is far-reaching, because they’re the bottleneck to everyone else’s contributions." (Location 1366)
        • Ideally, a project will attract [[creators]] and [[curators]] to serve as co-maintainers (developers tend to be more excited about creating, so curators are particularly valuable) (Location 1421)
        • Long-term maintenance does not typically sharpen your developer skills. After a while, maintainers typically take one of the following paths:
          • They might enjoy cultivating non-development skills like [[project management]] or [[leadership]].
          • They figure out how to distribute the work to contributors and users or other methods to reduce the overall time they spend on undesirable tasks.
          • They step down, find a replacement, or disappear. (Location 1445)
        • Like a CEO, maintainers tend to be locked into the project – leaving would have serious consequences for the health of the project. (Location 1462)
        • Another interesting property of project maintainers is that publication of the project is not the end of the work, in contrast to publishing books. Once published, maintainers are expected to maintain as long as people use it. (Location 1487)
      • ACTIVE AND CASUAL CONTRIBUTORS (Location 1495) #contributors
        • Typical active contributor motivations are [[community]], [[reputation]], and [[learning]]. (Location 1537)
        • [[casual contributors]] (aka “drive-by contributors”) have a transactional relationship with the project. They mainly just want to see their contributions merged. "self oriented rather than community oriented" (Location 1547) (Location 1566)
        • "Casual contributors are like tourists visiting New York City for a weekend. Just as we wouldn’t expect, or even want, tourists to participate in local governance decisions, we shouldn’t assume that casual contributors are part of a project’s contributor community simply because they are physically present." (Location 1569)
        • [[GitHub]] has encouraged growth of casual contributors by lowering the friction to contribute and increasing the number of users of open source projects (Location 1597)
      • ACTIVE AND PASSIVE USERS (Location 1616) #users
        • Active users are like active contributors, but they tend to operate independently from the project’s contributors, and possibly haven’t interacted with the project’s repository at all. (Location 1656)
      • ASSESSING THE HEALTH OF A PROJECT (Location 1673) #[[open source project health]]
        • 3 success metrics: (Location 1677)
          • POPULAR: # people using the project. (Location 1678)
          • DEPENDED UPON: how much other software actively uses the project (Location 1679)
          • ACTIVE: the project is actively developed (Location 1681)
            • Commits, issues, pull requests (# open issues and pull requests, average time to first response, average time to close an issue or pull request)
            • Some projects don’t require much maintenance. In these cases, look at activity off [[GitHub]] (e.g. Stack Overflow) (Location 1740)
        • [[bus factor]]: is the number of contributors that would need to get hit by a bus before the project is compromised. (Location 1697)
        • Contributor count can be misleading, especially for [[stadiums (open source)]], since this metric assumes contributors are fungible (i.e. interchangeable). (Location 1709)
  • Part 2: How People Maintain
    • 04: The Work Required by Software
      • CODE AS ARTIFACT, CODE AS ORGANISM (Location 1801)
        • Software evolves over time and requires continuous maintenance. [[greenfield projects]], where developers get to write code from scratch, are actually rare (and coveted) – developers spend more time tending to code others wrote. (Location 1808)
        • "[[Fergus Henderson]], a software engineer at [[Google]], states that “most software at Google gets rewritten every few years.” Software changes over time as its environment—the other technology around it—changes. Henderson also points out that regularly rewriting software is inherently beneficial. It helps cut away unnecessary complexity that has accumulated over time, as well as transfer knowledge and a sense of ownership to newer team members." (Location 1816) #[[rewriting software]]
        • "The cost of maintenance, coupled with a lack of intrinsic motivation to maintain, is why large open source projects tend to become modular as they grow." (Location 1820) #modularity
        • [[forking]] is an option to exit a project, but you have to consider dependencies and upkeep required. Most projects in reality are unforkable due to these other factors. The project is more than just the code. (Location 1913)
      • THE HIDDEN COSTS OF SOFTWARE (Location 1926) #[[software costs]]
        • Three major types of software costs: [[creation]], [[distribution]], and [[maintenance]]. (Location 1927)
          • Creation is intrinsically motivated, distribution powered by platforms such as [[GitHub]] and cheap. Maintenance is a bit of a mystery, and it’s a big cost: "A 2018 Stripe study of software developers suggested that developers spend 42% of their time maintaining code." (Location 2074)
        • Two main kinds of maintenance costs: [[marginal maintenance costs]] and [[temporal maintenance costs]]. Software incurs ongoing maintenance costs, both marginal (costs that are a function of its users) and temporal (entropy, or costs associated with decay over time). (Location 1931)
          • [[marginal maintenance costs]]
            • Software has low [[marginal costs]] but, contrary to popular belief, they are not 0. If you think of code as static, then yes it’s 0 marginal cost, but when maintenance is involved marginal costs add up. Software is not quite completely [[non-rivalrous]] – if 10 people use software compared to 10,000 the developers will feel the difference. (Location 1941)
            • Some of the costs that increase with users include physical inrastructure (Location 1977), developer tools (Location 2009), user support (Location 2011), and community moderation (Location 2050).
          • [[temporal maintenance costs]] (Location 2069)
            • These costs are a function of [[entropy]]: the inevitable decay of systems over time.
            • [[technical debt]] (Location 2079): Choosing easier, faster options today that cost time and money to address later on.
            • [[test infrastructure]] (Location 2092): Tests are added over time as the project expands, with increased opportunity for slow or flaky tests. "One maintainer of a large open source project told me that running his CI service took an hour and a half per pull request, yet he was expected to review and merge forty to fifty pull requests per day."
            • [[dependency management]] (Location 2110)
            • Adapting to user needs (Location 2168)
      • MEASURING THE VALUE OF CODE (Location 2219)
        • DEPENDENCIES (Location 2323) #[[dependencies]]
          • Dependencies are an indicator of the value of software, because it means others are using it.
          • That being said, dependency doesn’t tell the whole story of value, since it might still be really easy to replace (i.e. high [[substitutability]]).
          • Open source code tends to be highly [[elastic]] (i.e. consumers sensitive to price changes, willing to switch to competitors).
        • REPUTATION (Location 2380)
    • 05: Managing the Costs of Production
      • If open source software is a [[public good]], should it be provided by the government? (Location 2475). Government is ill-suited to do this given that open source code is transnational (governments are beholden to national interests). Also, software moves too fast – the law can’t keep up.
      • A good example of government failure in this area is open source [[cryptography]]. In the [[1970s]] and [[1980s]], developers used [[Data Encryption Standard (DES)]], but the [[National Security Agency (NSA)]] changed it to make it weaker so they could break it. Open source developers eventually created [[Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)]], but this cryptography was considered a form of munitions in the United States because it overlapped with national security – developers working on open source cryptography had to become licensed arms dealers if they wanted to "[[export]]" (i.e. distribute) their code! Eventually, the US dropped these export controls. (Location 2484)
        • Hilarious workaround: the US State Department ruled code on a floppy disk couldn’t be exported, but books containing code was allowed (protected under [[freedom of speech]]). So the PGP developers published a book called PGP Source Code and Internals.
      • This is a big reason why [[Elinor Ostrom]]’s work is gaining popularity – she provides a framework for understanding how people can self-manage [[non-excludable]] resources without resorting to government. (Location 2503)
      • "The problem with the Christmas lights isn’t that anyone can drive by and view them. A problem only surfaces if we think our neighbor owes us anything; if we cross the invisible boundary and knock on his door, making demands and requesting changes." (Location 2535)
      • PRODUCTION AS A ONE-WAY MIRROR (Location 2548)
        • Managing open source code requires separating its [[production]] from [[consumption]]. (Location 2551)
        • From a consumption perspective, static open source code is a [[public good]]. Its value can be measured by its number of [[dependencies]] and [[substitutability]].
        • From a production perspective, open-source code is more like a [[commons]] (i.e. [[non-excludable]] and [[rivalrous]]), where maintainer [[attention]] is the rivalrous resource. (Location 2572) "When developers make contributions, they appropriate this attention from the commons." (Location 2584)
        • "To reduce the over-appropriation of attention in open source software, we can think of its production as a one-way mirror, where we design for the parasocial, or one-sided, relationships that are endemic to [[stadiums (open source)]], rather than for the interpersonal relationships that are associated with [[clubs (open source)]]." (Location 2589)
        • In this model, users can consume the code, but would have limited access to things that consume maintainer time, like pull requests or mail lists. Maintainers should avoid [[extractive contributions]], i.e. contributions where the marginal cost of reviewing and merging outweighs the marginal benefit to the project’s producers (e.g. comments, questions, feature requests). (Location 2632) Fear of appearing unsympathetic or unwelcoming often keeps maintainers reviewing extractive contributions. (Location 2681) #Ankified
        • Non-extractive casual contributions are often modular, granular, and require little input from maintainers. (Location 2666)
      • MANAGING PRODUCER ATTENTION (Location 2700) #maintainers #attention
        • Typical patterns maintainers use to manage their [[attention]]: (Location 2700)
          • Reduce up-front costs
          • Make themselves less available
          • Distribute costs onto users
          • Increase total attention available
        • REDUCING UP-FRONT COSTS (Location 2726)
          • [[continuous integration]] and [[automated tests]] are valuable for open source, as it makes maintainers more confident in merging code from people they don’t know (Location 2774) (Location 2781)
          • [[bots]] (Location 2786)
          • [[Code style guides]] and [[linters]] (Location 2799)
          • Templates and [[checklists]] for [[issues]] and [[pull requests]]. "Among the top hundred projects on GitHub by issue volume in 2018, 93% of projects used issue templates." (Location 2806)
          • Some developers make themselves less available. One technique coined by [[Philip Guo]] is the "n=1 approach", where you only have 1 developer, since going from 1 to 2 developers is the biggest jump. Don’t accept pull requests, although they may look at them for ideas – they serve more as comments or suggestions. This may inspire the developer, without imposing the technical and social costs of merging others’ code. (Location 2845) #Ankified
          • Some use a tiered approach, devoting more personal attention as a person makes more contributions (e.g. [[Mike McQuaid]] – Homebrew’s lead maintainer). (Location 2846)
          • Bring on more active contributors or find ways they can personally spend more attention on the project (Location 2921)
      • THE ROLE OF MONEY IN OPEN SOURCE (Location 2961)
        • Maintainers can make their attention [[excludable]] by charging for access (e.g. paid support, [[patronage]], [[bounties]]) (meaning, paid rewards for certain tasks or contributions) (Location 2991)
          • Two types of funders of open source: institutions (usually companies) and individuals (usually developers who are users). (Location 2996)
          • Companies tend to fund due to their desire for [code quality] – they pay for support or [[service level agreements (SLAs)]]. Essentially, they pay for a direct line to a project’s maintainers (Location 3012). Some maintainers host office hours for high-paying supporters, while others may work on retainer to provide corporate support. This can sometimes lead to a full-time hire. These kind of arrangements aren’t usually publicized (Location 3030)
          • Companies may pay for brand association (Location 3044).
          • People often use the words "should" or "ought" when talking about individuals funding open source. This book focuses on why an individual might be happy to drop cash on a project (Location 3112).
          • Individual developers are less likely to pay for open source code and instead sponsor people behind the code, based on reputation (Location 3113). As content creators, the typical reward is reputation gains, which they can convert into [[attention]] (i.e. an audience), which they can then convert into [[money]] (Location 3115).
          • [[patronage]] is increasingly popular, and not to be confused with donations. It’s more of a subscription – people pay to be closely connected with the creator’s work (Location 3118). We should think of open source developers as content creators, and content creators can make money in ways other than being hired be someone: "Can we imagine telling Tfue, who rose to fame by livestreaming himself playing Fortnite Battle Royale on Twitch, that the most he could hope for was to get hired by ESPN" (Location 3146)
        • WHERE THE MONEY GOES (Location 3214)
          • Compensating casual contributors makes no sense, because it’s like paying people to leave comments on a creator’s work, there’s no shortage of casual contributions, and casual contributors are already motivated to participate. (Location 3259) "If anything, it’s casual contributors who should be paying for access to maintainers, not the other way around" (Location 3266)
          • [[bounties]] work well for well-scoped, finite tasks that are specialized or difficult to attract talent for (e.g. design work, database migrations, security bugs) (Location 3279)
          • Funding individuals is an option which avoids centralized governance issues that come from funding projects. To fund projects, the developers need a legal entity to accept the funds, and define governance processes to manage who gets paid and how much. As projects get smaller and smaller, funding people becomes even more attractive (Location 3309)
          • Funding individuals is more difficult for organizations – they prefer funding projects for the benefits of code security and stability, influence, attracting talent to hire. Funding individuals is more like hiring to them – hard to pull off in terms of execution and making the case internally (Location 3349).
    • The value of [[platforms]] comes mostly in the [[social graph]] you build on it, not the content itself. "Our relationship to content matters less than our relationships to the people who make it. As a result, we’re starting to treat content not as a private economic good but as the externalization of our social infrastructure." (Location 3402)
    • "I’ll spend the final pages zooming out in order to explore how what we’ve learned can be applied not just to open source developers but other [[online creators]]. I’ll focus on two areas in particular: the problem of [[managing over-participation]] and the problem of [[making money]]." (Location 3441)
      • Similarly to what was described with open source maintainers, growing audience engagement extracts attention from the creators. It’s essential to find a way to manage this demand, especially when it is extractive (e.g. comments, direct messages). (Location 3447)
      • Options for creators at these later stages include: hiding / muting interactions (Location 3517) and encouraging the role of curator (Location 3524).
    • MAKING MONEY (Location 3557) #[[making money]]
      • [[paywalls]] are not to monetize content. They monetize community by allowing the audience to get closer to the creator, meet like-minded people, or get away from extractive contributors. (Location 3571) "A paywall is more like the ticket kiosk at a theme park than a price tag on a car." (Location 3573) See "Something Awful" – a forum popular in the 2000s that anyone could read but only users paying an "activation fee" could comment. (Location 3575) This had the nice side-effect of keeping out idiots.
      • Putting all content behind [[paywalls]] is unlikely to work well, and neither are [[micropayments]] to unlock individual articles or other content. "Micropayments make the transaction about content, rather than about creators, but because there is so much freely available, highly substitutable content they create decision fatigue for consumers" (Location 3582).

For access to my shared Anki deck and Roam Research notes knowledge base as well as regular updates on tips and ideas about spaced repetition and improving your learning productivity, join “Download Mark’s Brain”.

Roam Notes on “Why Now? A Quest in Metaphysics” by Jaan Tallinn

  • {{[youtube]:}}
  • "Author::" [[Jaan Tallinn]]
  • "Source::" YouTube
  • "Recommended By::" [[Conor White-Sullivan]] (see this Twitter thread)
  • "Tags::" #singularity #metaphysics
  • "Anki Tag::"
  • "Anki Deck Link::"
  • Overview

  • [[Jaan Tallinn]] lays out an argument for why being at the cusp of a [[singularity]] might not be that unusual.
  • Summary Notes

  • Basic idea behind [[singularity]]: resources will be increasingly devoted to computation, morphing from economic to astronomic phenomenon. The entire universe will turn into [[computronium]]: matter arranged in the most efficient form for computations. Once computers can design other computers, the process explodes ("our last invention"), eventually leading to a new equilibrium when each quark is put to work for computation. If this is true, we’re at the most important point in the universe since the big bang: the moment where computronium goes from 0% to 100%.
  • It seems improbable that we would happen to find ourselves at the cusp of the [[singularity]], since it’s such a pivotal and unusual moment in the history of the universe. #[[Anthropic Principle]]
  • We seem to live in a world that is, at least in principle, completely computable. #[[algorithms]] #[[computation]]
  • Our world seems finely tuned to support the existence of stars, cells, and life. So either the parameters were finely tuned to support that, or the universe is sufficiently large to contain all configurations ([[multiverse]]).
  • If you accept the [[multiverse]] theory and the [[singularity]] argument, there are post-human universes out there with supercomputers running universe simulations, that increases the number of singularity simulations, and we should be less surprised we may be experiencing the edge of the singularity. #[[simulation]]
    • Consider a world where the [[singularity]] has run its course. This should be a common situation: post-singularity periods would be at least a trillion trillion times longer than the pre-singularity period. There would be one or more [[superintelligence]] in this place, and they are likely interested in talking to other superintelligences. A practical way for them to do this would be [[simulation]], since all superintelligences are just the computational result of atoms bouncing off one another. They would also want to do many simulations of possible scenarios to pick the most interesting superintelligences, doing something like a [[tree search algorithm]] which would produce many simulations as you approach the [[singularity]]. This would mean that it is actually not unusual for a simulated world to be approaching the singularity as we possibly are now.

The Triple-Pass Method to Remember What you Learn, Forever

You read books. You watch videos. You listen to podcasts. There is a firehose of high-quality information available at your fingertips.

But how much do you actually get out of your media consumption? How much do you remember? For a long time, my answer was “not a whole lot”. I was often shocked at how few key points I could recall from material I had read only days or weeks earlier.

To me, this is unacceptable. Why bother doing so much reading if I’m just going to forget it all? Sure, if reading for entertainment, then no big deal. But most of the material I spend my time on is highly relevant to my professional and personal life. I want this knowledge to compound.

I’ve spent years experimenting, testing, and tweaking systems to get more value out of the media I consume and remember key points forever. I’ve eventually landed on a solution that I want to share with you: the “triple-pass” system. Using this system, I’m confident I’m getting everything I can out of my reading, and not a moment is wasted.

High-level Overview of the Triple-Pass System

At the highest level, the triple-pass system consists of the following stages:

  • First Pass: Active Media Consumption. Take notes and highlight important points from the media you consume (e.g. books, articles, videos).
  • Second Pass: Consolidate and Summarize Notes. Export notes and highlights from the first pass to a central note-taking system, then review, refine, and consolidate. This pass produces what Tiago Forte calls your “second brain“: an external system storing your knowledge in a format that can be easily searched and retrieved for use.
  • Third Pass: Commit to Long-Term Memory using Spaced Repetition. Add the most important parts of your notes from the second pass to a spaced repetition system. This stores the information efficiently in your long-term memory so you can access it in-the-moment when needed.

I go into each of these three stages in more detail below, including the technologies I use at each stage.

First Pass: Active Media Consumption

At this stage, you consume the media that you want to absorb. The key feature about this stage is that it is active media consumption, i.e. highlighting and taking notes as you read.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of the first pass:

  • Err on the side of more highlighting rather than less. It’s good to have a lot of context in your highlights. You can always eliminate things that are redundant or unnecessary in the second pass.
  • Highlight chapter titles. Titles provide useful context for organizing your notes and understanding the broader picture for an excerpt.
  • Prioritize the new, useful, and the interesting. There is no need for anything useless and uninteresting to exist in your knowledge base. Also, avoid including things you already know well.
  • Look for scaffolding. Keep an eye out for material that provides a “platform” to tackle more advanced concepts. For example, I always highlight definitions of important terms I’m unfamiliar with. I also like information about people, places, or things, since I can use these as context to learn related topics faster.

Technology I use for the First Pass

The tools I use at this stage vary depending on the type of media I’m consuming. There are two main criteria: i) the tool must allow me to record highlights and notes digitally, and ii) the tool must allow me to export materials to my note taking system (Roam) with little effort.

  • Books: Usually I purchase books on Kindle, which has excellent highlighting. I then use Readwise to automatically sync highlights to Evernote, and can copy and paste from Evernote to Roam (apparently Readwise now has a direct export to Roam, so it looks like I can cut out the Evernote middleman). For physical books, I use the Readwise mobile application, which has an OCR feature that lets you take a picture of the page you are reading and highlight it.
  • Articles / Blogs: I try to read all articles and blog posts on Instapaper, which allows me to highlight and take notes on articles. Again, Readwise allows me to import these notes into Evernote, which I copy / paste into Roam.
  • PDFs: At the moment I don’t have a good solution for PDFs. Since I can’t highlight them easily, I’ll often just take notes directly to Roam as I read, with the PDF open in one window and Roam open in another.
  • Videos: Typically I’ll sit at my computer when watching videos. So, I keep Roam open while watching the video and take notes, with timestamps. Here’s an example of video notes I put together for a Jeff Bezos Lecture on innovation.
  • Podcasts: I do listen to some podcasts (especially Conversations with Tyler), although I haven’t found a great tool for taking podcast notes. I usually listen to podcasts when I’m on the go, so note taking in the browser is typically not possible. Usually, if there’s a podcast that I listen to that’s really good, I’ll just revisit it and take notes while I listen at my computer desk.

Second Pass: Consolidate and Summarize Notes

In this pass, edit the highlights and notes that you’ve exported to your note-taking system. Activities here can include:

  • Deleting irrelevant or redundant notes
  • Summarizing excerpts into key points, while keeping some direct quotes from the material that is notable or quote-worthy
  • Reformulating material into your own words
  • Bold-facing the most important points so your notes are “glanceable”
  • Creating commentary on the material, expanding on points that you liked, critiquing points you disagreed with, filling in missing arguments, creating connections to other material in your knowledge base, or creating a high-level “book-review” style summary
  • Marking particularly important material for long-term memory

A key advantage of the second pass is it produces a valuable digital asset that you can draw on the rest of your life: you now have a searchable, quick-to-read summary of what you have read. The knowledge is now part of your “second brain” for easy access and connection to your existing knowledge.

Yet another advantage of this second pass is that the act of editing helps you absorb the material. This is because it requires elaboration and recall, which are both well-known to foster learning and memory.

Technology I use for the Second Pass

My note taking tool of choice is Roam. It is a fantastic piece of software, although it’s difficult to explain its value in words (you really just have to try it). I recommend looking into it if you are not already heavily invested in an existing note taking app. I find it allows me to easily make connections between knowledge, and its incredible functionality has led me to ditch Evernote, Asana, and 90% of Google Drive.

Third Pass: Commit to Long-Term Memory Using Spaced Repetition

In this third and final pass, add material material flagged “long-term memory” in the second pass to a spaced repetition system.

Spaced repetition is reviewing material at increasing intervals of time, allowing you to remember material with minimal effort. I won’t go into more detail here, but I highly recommend this overview by Gwern Branwen. You can also subscribe to my Spaced Repetition Newsletter.

The advantage of this third pass is access to your knowledge in the moment, when it matters, without any external note taking tools. This is useful for the many situations where it’s not feasible to consult your notes. For example: job interviews, meetings, or creative work where speed of thought is important and you need lots of in-memory scaffolding to make progress.

One nice feature of this third pass is you’ve thoroughly vetted the material in the first two passes. This means you’ll be less likely to add things you don’t need to your spaced repetition system, and you’ll only add information you understand (see rule 1 of flashcard knowledge construction: do not learn what you do not understand).

Technology I use for the Third Pass

Personally, I use Anki, which is probably the most popular spaced repetition software tool today. Some examples of other options include Mnemosyne, SuperMemo or even paper flashcards if you’re a technophobe.

Examples of the Triple-Pass System in Action

To get a feel for what the end result of this system looks like, here are a couple of examples:

This Seems like a lot of Work…

It’s true that using this system will almost certainly mean you’ll take more time to consume media. Compared to just passively reading a book, the highlighting, summarizing, and spaced repetition all add time.

But before you dismiss it, ask yourself a couple questions.

First: are you a genius that effortlessly absorbs the materials you consume? I don’t mean this sarcastically. People like this exist, like Tyler Cowen. If yes, there’s no real benefit to you from this system. It would just slow you down.

Second: why are you consuming the media in the first place? Is it something you really want to remember? If the answer is yes, then I believe using a system like this is a no-brainer.

Yes, it takes some extra time. But if you are consuming high-quality material relevant to your life, the benefits of that extra 10-30% of effort is well worth it.

For access to my shared Anki deck and Roam Research notes knowledge base as well as regular updates on tips and ideas about spaced repetition and improving your learning productivity, join “Download Mark’s Brain”.

Roam Notes on Balaji Srinivasan’s “Applications: Today & 2025”

  • {{[youtube]:}}
  • Title:: Applications: Today & 2025
  • Author:: [[Balaji Srinivasan]]
  • Source::
  • Reading Status:: [[complete]]
  • Review Status:: [[complete]]
  • Tags:: #Entrepreneurship #startups #Technology #crypto #decentralization #shared
  • Roam Notes URL::
  • Anki Tag:: srinivasan_apps_today_2025
  • Anki Deck Link:: link
  • Notes

    • Overview: [[Balaji Srinivasan]] discusses about crypto applications in 2020 and also beyond that point to 2025. Also includes a history of how we got to the present moment, and some underpinning concepts of all [[crypto]] projects.
    • 1:45 Talk begins
    • 2:20 Why [[Bitcoin]] was invented in the first place. It represents the latest step in a progression of digital cash: #money #payments #Ankified
      1. Physical cash: A hands B cash and B no longer has it.
      2. Naive digital cash solution: A sends B serial number via email, but A still has a copy, so this doesn’t work
      3. Centralized digital cash: A bank C acts as trusted intermediary – debits A and credits B.
      4. Decentralized digital cash: Centralized bank C is replaced by decentralized networks of competing miners updating a [[blockchain]].
    • 5:25 [[blockchain]] is the fundamental innovation behind [[Bitcoin]]. There are many blockchains; for example [[Ethereum]], which is more programmable than bitcoin and allows for [[smart contracts]]. Allows for more complex transactions than simple "debit A and credit B".
    • 8:06 Technological concepts underlying [[blockchain]] projects
      • [[blockchain]] is a database for storing things of value. Although slower than centralized databases, they provide tamper-resistant shared state in an adversarial environment.
      • 9:15 [[Bitcoin]] is a [[protocol]] – you can open [[Wireshark]] and see raw packets updating the underlying [[blockchain]]. Entirely packet-driven without reference to a bank. So, machines can now hold and send money.
      • 13:30 [[blockchain]] means having a greater choice over who to [[trust]]. Previously you had to store money at one of a few banks; now you can store at a bank, exchange, or any computer.
      • 13:54 [[blockchain]] enables internet-scale [[cap tables]]. Cap tables are tables examining who owns what percentage of a company. #Ankified
      • 16:10 [[blockchain]] breaks [[network effects]] because token upside is inversely proportional to network effects. For example, competitor to Facebook could issue tokens to new users, giving value to early users that decline in value as the network size increases. Turns customers into investor-like entities. #Ankified
      • 17:30 [[blockchain]] will transform [[Social Networks]], moving from liking and poking and messaging to real value being create (paid DMs, surveys, task)
      • 18:00 [[blockchain]] is a partial move from [[the cloud]] toward more privacy. Users increasingly keep private keys local and private, and this will be an anchor leading other data being encrypted and moved locally. The bulk of data will still be remote, but it will only be decrypted when you download it locally.
    • 19:15 The [[blockchain]] community
      • A blockchain community is economically aligned. "If they’re holders, none of them can win unless they all win". #incentives #[[crypto cliff]]
        • For example, with [[DNS]] if someone seizes a domain, you keep your .com domain so you don’t really care. In contrast, seizing a person’s .ens domain means interfering with the [[Ethereum]] blockchain. "You now have a monetary incentive to defend another’s rights". He calls this the [[crypto cliff]]. #Ankified
      • 21:30 This allows for experiments in [[self-governance]]. Suddenly, [[macroeconomics]] becomes an experimental science. "If [[federalism]] meant the laboratory of the states, [[decentralization]] is creating the laboratory of the networks.
    • 23:08 Applications: 2020, i.e. what are the successful things currently built with [[crypto]]?
      • These are things already built at scale at 2020: [[exchanges]], [[hardware wallets]], [[miners]], [[issuance]], [[stablecoins]], [[defi]]
    • 25:30 Applications: 2025, i.e. the stuff that’s up-and-coming and might be big in 2025 in [[crypto]]? #[[startup ideas]]
      • [[privacy coins]] (e.g. [[Dash]], [[Monero]], [[ZCash]]).
      • [[Lending]] and [[Interest]] (e.g. [[Compound]], [[Maker]])
      • [[Scaling]] (e.g. [[Starkware]] and many others)
      • [[Decentralized Cold Storage]] (e.g. [[Casa]]) helping people store at home that don’t technically know how to do that, so this provides services that allow you to do that.
      • [[SaaS-for-gas]] (e.g. [[Starkware]] and others). Smart contracts that are on-chain and charge for each API call. Right now you have to do a Stripe billing layer, but maybe put in a code snippet and you have a function that executes and makes you money.
      • [[Insurance]]
      • [[Multiwallets]] which add more functionality than send/receive, adding new verbs like buy, sell, sign, vote, stake, register, etc.
      • [[Security]]
      • Novel [[financial instruments]]
      • Blockchain games
      • Crypto [[Social Networks]]
      • Decentralized [[DNS]]
      • Automated Market Making
      • Decentralized [[Identity]]
      • [[Personal Tokenization]]: issuing an equity-like token for your time or some function of your time.
      • [[Mutuals]] and [[Guilds]]: Attempt to incentivize collective action (e.g. [[Moloch]], [[Gitcoin]])
      • [[Founder’s Rewards]]: New business model for funding developers from rewards (e.g. [[Zcash]], [[BCH]]).
      • On-Chain Developer Bounties (e.g. [[Tezos]])
      • Clients for [[dApps]] to make it easy to interface with these applications (e.g. [[InstaDApp]])
      • [[Developer Tools]]
      • Oracles and [[Prediction Markets]]
      • [[Decentralized Autonomous Organizations]] – semi-autonomous programs, many of which make you money.
      • [[Community-Owned Organizations]]
    • 36:33 Q&A
      • Internet companies have captured a lot of value from [[data monopolies]] or [[attention]]? Where do you think the value capture will come from for the [[crypto]] applications in the next 10-15 years?
        • Balaji is bullish on [[tasking]]. "It’s the better-than-free economy. Rather than trying to hack your [[attention]], they are paying you for it".
          • [[crypto]] uniquely enables this for a lot of reasons, but one big reason in ease of [[pay-outs]]. [[pay-ins]] are hard, and [[Stripe]] has succeeded by making them easier, but pay-outs are even harder. As an example, think about how many sites where you’ve entered in a credit card to pay for something (pay-in). Probably 50-100 sites. Now, think about how many sites you’ve entered in your bank account information to get paid yourself for a service? Probably no more than 5, possibly none, because a website with your bank account information could potentially debit as well as credit. #[[pay-outs vs pay-ins]]

For access to my shared Anki deck and Roam Research notes knowledge base as well as regular updates on tips and ideas about spaced repetition and improving your learning productivity, join “Download Mark’s Brain”.

Roam Notes: Elon Musk Interview from Air Warfare Symposium 2020

  • Author:: [[Elon Musk]] [[General John F. Thompson]]
  • Source:: link
  • Tags:: #Business #Management #Leadership #Innovation #SpaceX #Tesla #Government #shared
  • Roam Notes URL:: link
  • Anki Tag:: musk_2020_air_warfare_symposium
  • Anki Deck Link:: link
  • Reading Status:: [[complete]]
  • Review Status:: [[complete]]
  • {{[youtube]:}}
  • Overview

    • [[General John F. Thompson]] interviews [[Elon Musk]] with a focus on [[innovation]], and how organizations such as the [[US Air Force]] can become more innovative. The interview contains practical information for senior management in large organizations that want to improve innovation.
  • Notes

    • 6:15 Interview Begins. How do you ensure products don’t remain static and incrementally improve over time? #[[radical innovation]]
      • It’s important to push for radical [[breakthroughs]]. If you don’t push for these, you won’t get radical outcomes. To get a big [[reward]], you must have a big [[risk]]. The [[US]] will fall behind in [[innovation]] if it doesn’t continue to do this. It’s a risk today and wasn’t in the past.
    • 13:00 Is this need driven by competition with other countries? Or is this regardless of competition? #competition
      • Without a doubt, if the [[US]] doesn’t make big moves in [[space]], it will be second place in space. [[Innovation]] is the key attribute of the US and it needs to use it.
    • 14:00 What does the US need to do to maintain that innovative competitive edge? #Ankified
      • [[Outcome-Based Procurement]] is very important. You say "this is the outcome sought" and whoever can achieve this outcome to a greater degree the [[government]] will do business with. #Procurement
    • 17:45 The workforce is a key component in radical innovation. What do you do to motivate a workforce to help them become more radically innovative? #Hiring #incentives #[[encouraging innovation in an organization]] #Ankified
      • The most important thing to do is to make sure that you have an incentive structure where innovation is rewarded and lack of innovation is punished. Carrot and stick. People that are innovating should be promoted sooner, and if someone’s in a role where innovation should be happening and it’s not, then they should not be promoted or exited. "Then let me tell you, you’ll get [[innovation]] real fast. How much do you want?"
    • 19:40 Wouldn’t that make people too risk averse?
      • You have to have some acceptance of failure – failure has to be an option. If you don’t allow trying and failing you might get something worse than lack of innovation – things may go backwards. "You want reward and punishment to be proportionate to the actions you seek." Reward for trying and succeeding, minor consequences for trying and failing, and major negative consequences for not trying. "With that incentive structure you’ll get innovation like you won’t believe."
    • 21:20 **What about processes – are there processes you recommend to bring about radical change? **
      • Designing a production system of a new product is at least 1-2 orders of magnitude harder than designing the initial prototype.
      • Designing a rocket easy. Making one of it is hard. The making of a production line that builds and launches many is extremely hard.
    • 26:00 [[Starlink]] – as you scale to build more and more satellites and launch them, what are challenges you’ve had to overcome? #Ankified
      • It’s important to have a tight feedback loop between the [[design]] of the object and the [[manufacturing]] system. When you design, you don’t realize the parts that are difficult to manufacture, so bring manufacturing and design up together. Counterintuitively, it can be the right thing to do to manufacture the wrong thing, i.e. build it before design is done, because you discover what’s hard to manufacture.
    • 29:15 To figure out what to build, you could query customers ("customer pull", e.g. improving a [[Tesla]] based on customer feedback), or innovate and push something into the customer base ("company push", e.g. iPad). How do you think about that balance? #Ankified
      • [[Henry Ford]] once said that if you ask the public what they want, they would have said "a faster horse". When it’s a radically new product, people don’t know they want it because it’s not in their scope. Customer feedback once they have the fundamental product is a good thing, though. #[[market research]] #[[customer research]]
    • 34:00 In the next 5 years, what technology do you think will see the most advancement?
      • [[AI]] will be the most fundamentally transformative. Computer science and physics is what you would want to study to prepare for this future. If you want to understand the nature of the universe, these two fields have great predictive power.
    • 35:23 What should the Air Force be investing more in for innovation, other than reusable rockets?
      • Once you have dramatically reduced cost access to space, many things are enabled. Analogy: the [[Union Pacific Railroad]] made travel across the country much faster and less dangerous.
    • 41:30 The failures you’ve had to endure would drive many nuts. What’s the mindset to get through that?
      • You want the net useful output to be maximized. In baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. What you mostly care about is not any individual at-bat but the overall batting average. [[Failure]] is irrelevant unless it’s catastrophic.
    • 44:00 Intellectual property – how do you protect it in a world where information is constantly under attack? #[[intellectual property]]
      • [[Tesla]] open sourced their [[patents]] a few years ago. The goal of Tesla is to encourage the use of sustainable energy, so they want to help others that want to make an electric car.
      • The real way you achieve protection is by innovating fast enough. If innovation is high, you won’t need to worry about [[intellectual property]] because competitors will be copying something you did years ago. Innovation per unit of time is what matters. What is your rate of innovation, and is that accelerating or decelerating? [[Big Business]] tends to get less innovative per employee and also sometimes in absolute terms, and it’s likely because of incentives. Incentives must be aligned with innovation. #Ankified
    • 47:30 What are your thoughts on the competition between the [[US]] and [[China]].
      • [[China]] economy is going to be 2-3 time the size of the [[US]] economy, due to their huge population advantage. So, innovation has to close this massive gap in economic output. Economics are the foundation of war.
    • 50:40 How do you create a culture of enthusiasm at [[Tesla]] and [[SpaceX]]?
      • There is a pretty big selection effect, because especially in important engineering roles, they look for people that have demonstrated innovation. As mentioned earlier, the incentives in the company help – they reward innovation and punish lack of innovation.

For access to my shared Anki deck and Roam Research notes knowledge base as well as regular updates on tips and ideas about spaced repetition and improving your learning productivity, join “Download Mark’s Brain”.