We are all scientists

apple by A Guy Taking Pictures

Why doesn’t anybody copy Apple?
[Via asymco]

Apple’s products are the envy of the world. They have been spectacularly successful and are widely imitated, if not copied. The expectation that precedes a new Apple product launch is only matched by the expectation of the replication of those products by competitors.

This cycle of product mimicry was succinctly summarized by Marc Andreessen regarding a rumored Apple TV product:

And once the television launches, everyone will scramble to copy it. ”There’s a pattern in our industry, Apple crystallizes the product, and the minute Apple crystallizes it, then everyone knows how to compete.”

This idea that the basis of competition is set by Apple and then the race is on to climb the trajectory of improvement is so well understood that it’s axiomatic: “It’s just the way things are.” Apple releases a product that defines a category or disrupts an industry and it becomes obvious what needs to be built.

But what I wonder is why there isn’t a desire to copy Apple’s product creation process. Why isn’t the catalyst for a new category or disruption put forward by another company? More precisely, why isn’t there another company which consistently re-defines categories and repeatedly, predictably even, re-defines how technology is used.

Put another way: Why is it that everyone wants to copy Apple’s products but nobody wants to copy being Apple?


I would submit that the question is wrong. There are several companies that have copied Apple – at least the Apple of Steve Jobs. Aysmco simply comes at the answer from the wrong view.

I say a few examples of those companies are Facebook, Google, Amazon and Tesla. “Why isn’t there another company which consistently re-defines categories and repeatedly, predictably even, re-defines how technology is used.” Asymco seems to miss the forest for the trees.

He even quotes Tim Cook who does have the answer:

Innovation is deeply embedded in Apple’s culture. The boldness, the ambition, the belief that there are no limits, the desire among our people to not just make good products [but to] make the very best products in the world. It’s in the values. It’s in the DNA of the company.

Read Increasing Returns and the New World of Business published in 1996 in the Harvard Business Review by W. Brian Arthur. You will see he described how to copy Apple while actually missing the changes Apple was making at the time. 

Even he did not see Apple coming, thinking it was MS that would lead. But he hit the nail on the head with how to recognize the leaders.

He says corporate leaders need to ask themselves 4 questions if they hope to lead the new economy:

  • Do I understand the feedbacks in my market?
  • Which ecologies am I in?
  • Do I have the resources to play?
  • What games are coming next? 

Now, there are many answers to these questions but I think there is a really easy rule that all these companies seem to exhibit – the feelings of Wall Street is only slightly material, if at all, to their plans.

Wall Street is useful for getting money to do what they want. But as for advice, well, Wall Street can pound sand for all they care.

The companies I mentioned all understand one thing – Wall Street is not a feedback. They know that their ecologies depend on empowering people, not making Wall Street richer. They generally create their own resources by their own creativity than by relying on Wall Street to provide the know how. And they know what games are coming next because they are creating them.

21st Century Companies, in contrast to normal ones, simply do not care very much about what Wall Street really thinks of them and are generally disdainful of Wall Street. Compare this to the normal CEO who seems tremendously cowed by Wall Street and worries every quarter of what to do to make them happy.

I think this is because these CEOs see their company as only a means to an end, as a way to cash out big time, not as a feeder for innovation.

In fact, the leaders of these Apple-imitating companies do not see cashing out Wall Street style as the next step – something most Wall Street types find confusing as they certainly would cash out if they could. Jobs, Musk, Bezos and others like them see their company as the end in itself and money as a means to that end. 

It is completely backwards from normal CEO worldviews. They have no exit strategy because they never expect to exit.

Apple under Jobs really cared little what Wall Street thought about  what it accomplished. It focussed on the feedback from its customers.

So it hoards billions of dollars and keeps little debt because that allows it to meet the feedback rapidly, even if Wall Street hates it and does not understand. And Wall Street gives Apple a very low PE ratio and Apple does not really care (we shall see how well Tim Cook really understands this lack of Wall Street feedback.)

Amazon barely has a profit and sells its tablets at a loss. In fact, Bezos seems to be quite happy barely making a profit while he increases the computing power of Amazon to eventually provide servers for all. Wall Street again fails to really understand, giving Amazon a PE ratio in the 1000s.

Facebook, while a public company, is still controlled by Zuckerberg not by any other investors. Yep, he took the company public yet still maintains a controlling interest. How in the world did that happen and why did Wall Street agree? I don’t know but Zuck can tell Wall Street to pound sand. He does not care and is free to do whatever he want.

In fact, I would say that the hallmark of a company that has successfully copied Apple is one that could really care less about what Wall Street says. They have created their own economy, their own ecology, that needs little feedback from Wall Street. They are successful in creating a sustainable company without being at the beck and call of Wall Street.

That is how you copy Apple.

medicineby epSos.de

Smartphones May Be the Key to Better Health Care
[Via Apple Hot News]

The best tool to improve and keep track of your health may be in your pocket, says Dr. Eric Topol, a pioneering figure in “wireless medicine” — the practice of using apps and devices in health care. An article from NBC News describes how new apps for iPhone and other devices can measure vital signs and even detect whether someone is having a heart attack. “These days, I’m prescribing a lot more apps than I am medications,” says Dr. Topol. “The smartphone will be the hub of the future of medicine.”


The linked article shows the powerful use of technology to deal with a health emergency. Thanks to the smartphone, people have the equivalent of a supercomputer in their hands, capable of doing amazing things.

At the moment, the health arena is focussed on making sick people healthy. That has been incredibly helpful over the years but is beginning to reach its terminal end. It is simply becoming more and more expensive to gain even small increases in quality of life.

But, in a few short years, each of us will be able to collect huge amounts of data on our own personal health. Medicine will become personal.

Lee Hood – whom I have known since my days at CalTech when he taught me immunology – has been describing his vision of “P4 medicine” for years – predictive, preventative, personalized and participatory.

What happens when everyone has access to their own genetic information? What happens when each of us is wearing a wireless patch, one that constantly records thousands of data points on our personal metabolism and downloads that our computers? What happens when we can measure our own personal prescription drug levels daily, knowing exactly how long a therapeutic dose lasts for multiple drugs rather than rely on the probabilistic  information for a single drug we deal with today?

How much cheaper will it be to catch health problems early? How much cheaper will it be to deal with people whose systems are just beginning to develop problems instead of seeing them long after they are sick?

We now have evidence that we can detect diseases such as the flu days before the symptoms become apparent. What happens when we become able to detect cancer years before symptoms?

The rapidly decreasing price of goods and services seen in the exponential economy will hit current medical practices hard. People will find ways to get the data that they want.

Right now I have a Fitbit to measure my activities and a balance to measure my weight/body fat percentage. Both dump the information to my computer wirelessly. I am creating a database. Throw in a daily log of my exercise/food and I can now track my weight lose/gain based on several measures. All this data is available to me via any digital device I have. I can easily track how my weight and body fat changes based on what I eat and do, not based on what research shows works for a general population.

Things how this will change medicine, especially when people have access to much more information. What this will also mean is that people will need better/different filters to explain and mine the data for them. I expect that we will see the growth of a huge industry to service this data for people.

Current medicine really only deals with biological systems after they begin failing. It can cost a lot to get the systems back in working order. Fixing them before the really become a problem will be the goal of 21st cebtury medicine.

Keeping healthy people healthy.

water ripplesby robin_24

What Happens When We Shock A System? 
[Via Chaotic Ripple]

Have you ever noticed that some things in the world like to be disrupted?  Rogue militant groups set out to garner counter-attacks that distract their opponents while draining their resources.  Viruses encourage multi-cellular organisms to activate their immune systems in attempts to wipe them out.  Teenagers seek the disdain — and occasional wrath— of authority figures in their lives.

These seemingly counter intuitive behaviors are the centerpiece of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder.  They are the “teachable moments” that enable us to truly understand the driving dynamics of systems that undergo shock.  Indeed, there are entire categories of systems that benefit from disruption.

As a first example, consider the wave of new startups that arise in the aftermath of economic collapse.  The entrepreneurs who have long awaited the opportunity to step out from under the constraints of a prior paradigm are free to explore and create anew.  We are seeing this all around us in the exploding field of social entrepreneurship today.  Those companies whose legacy has been to rape and pillage, laying waste to vast ecosystems of the natural and social worlds, held the attention of financiers for decades.  And now that many core institutions of the old world order — particularly the financial ones – have deteriorated to the point of ruin, those among us who strive to create business and have a moral conscience at the same time are able to step in and fill the void.


As a biologist by training, so much of what Joe Brewer describes here is indicative to me of the messiness of biological systems — the ability to deal with fragility in a robust way, to bend without breaking, to deal with shocks in ways necessary to survive, etc. It reminds me of Margret Wheatley’s work on the Unplanned Organization.

I wrote a series about The Synthetic Company a few years ago that incorporate Margaret’s ideas. One aspect that I think is critical for any anti-fragile system is what she calls a leader-full organization.

I also want to emphasize that emergent organizations are leader-full, not leaderless. Leaders emerge and recede as needed. Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.

Part of what allows these groups to deal with unforeseen shocks in a resilient way is that the appropriate leader can rise up to take control and then become a follower later on when the shock recedes and another type of leadership is needed.

We see this again and again throughout history, as well as in our most entrepreneurial companies: the person who is best suited for dealing with one sort of shock (war, raising capital) is seldom the best for dealing with another shock (peace, shareholders, etc.) Since we cannot know what shocks are in store, nor what is really fragile in an organization, a robust solution to a world of shocks is to create a group of diverse and somewhat redundant talents with leadership dispersed in a way to allow the right talent to rise up when a particular shock hits the system.

Full of leaders who can follow when needed. Full of followers who can lead when required.

And, not too surprisingly, this organizational hierarchy collapses into something that resembles not only the biochemical networks seen in living cells but also the computer networks seen on the Internet. It seems that almost all systems that need to deal with fragility, robustness and the shocks of a rapidly changing world begin to look alike in some ways.


I believe that this is a hallmark of the sorts of organizations that will thrive in the 21st century, that can deal with the shocks of rapid change in ways to advance and grow. 

monster waveby Jeff Rowley Big Wave Surfer

How Team Obama’s tech efficiency left Romney IT in dust
[Via Ars Technica]

Despite running a campaign with about twice the money and twice the staff of Governor Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, President Barack Obama’s campaign under-spent Romney’s on IT products and services by $14.5 million, putting the money instead into building an internal tech team. Based on an Ars analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, the Obama campaign, all-inclusive, spent $9.3 million on technology services and consulting and under $2 million on internal technology-related payroll.

The bottom line is that the Obama campaign’s emphasis on people over capital and use of open-source tools to develop and operate its sophisticated cloud-based infrastructure ended up actually saving the campaign money. As Scott VanDenPlas, lead DevOps for Obama for America put it in an e-mail interview with Ars, “A lesson which we took to heart from 2008 [was that] operational efficiency is an enormous strategic advantage.”

The Romney campaign spent $23.6 million on outside technology services—most of it on outside “digital media” consulting and data management. It outsourced most of its basic IT operations, while the Obama campaign did the opposite—buying hardware and software licenses, and hiring its own IT department. Just how much emphasis the Obama campaign put on IT is demonstrated by the fact that the campaign’s most highly paid staff member was its CIO, Michael Slaby, with an annualized salary of about $130,000.


Failures can be as important as successes in an exponential economy. A useful failure can inform more than some successes. The lower barriers that an exponential economy produces means that failure only presents short term costs that can be rapidly dealt with by longer term successes.

That is, a failure does not necessarily doom an effort, if that failure can be rapidly leveraged to get to success. If you wipe out, but learn from it, then when the next wave comes along, you’ll stay on top of it.

In an exponential economy, there is always another wave to successfully surf.

If, that is, the organization can understand how to manage and utilize the advantages that an exponential economy produces. Here are 7 points to consider.

Interestingly, the Obama campaign hired its IT people internally and used external infrastructure. The Romney campaign hired its IT people externally but created internal infrastructure. That seems to have made a big difference.

The Obama group attracted people interested in  a start-up environment that was also a short-term commitment – it would all be over the day after the election. Romney contracted with data consultants and such in organizations that would live on afterwards.

To one, the election was a one-shot attempt at success while for the others it was just one more notch in their consulting gun.

The former really seemed to attract a disrupter mentality much more, one who really liked finding ways around the limitations that were placed in their way, rather than a type that could just find billable hours.

“Campaigns are serious tests of your creativity and foresight,” VanDenPlas explained. “They are unpredictable, agile, and short—an 18 month, $1 billion, essentially disposable organization. Hackers can thrive in an environment like that, to a point where I’m not sure anyone else really can. Everything is over far too quickly to get boring.”

1) Hire the right type of employees. Do not hire doers when disruptors are needed. And vice versa.

Using Amazon Web Services, instead of building their own servers, allowed the Obama for America group to pay for just the amount of server space they needed, when they needed it. They could expand into servers in different regions of the US in order to reduce loads and latency. Romney had everything route to one location, which crashed.

2) Leverage the exponential economy for services and infrastructure. Better to be smart rather than perfect. Better to seek adaptability over control.

Obama for America put their money into people, not into hardware. They spent twice as much money as Romney but also had twice the staff. They actually underspent Romney on IT services and hardware.

This is what the exponential economy does  – the cost for things becomes cheaper. A smart organization puts the savings into people, which cannot be easily replaced by digital processes.

By finding the right people and paying them for being the right people, Obama for America produced over 200 apps in an 18 month period, using just about every Open Source approach that is around.

3) Use the savings from the exponential economy to pay for the best people, not for the cheapest. 

And they used their community for help:

The human factor in monitoring is huge. There are countless incidents where (OFA User Support Director) Brady Kriss notified us of pending problems derived from community help tickets.”

Romney’s group kept ORCA a secret  – such a secret that no one wants to claim they even worked on it – and did only small amounts of testing  before it was needed. They completely lost the advantage of having crowds to help perfect the apps.

Crowd feedback is important. Lots of testing and resilience is needed to create large numbers of solid apps. The fundraising segment, for example,  was “a multi-region, geolocated, three facility processor capable of a per second transaction count sufficiently high enough that we failed to be able to reach it in load testing. It could also operate if every other dependent service had failed, including its own database and every vendor.”

This complexity can only be reached after actual testing by users.

4) Get your products into the actual hands of actual people as soon as possible. They are best able to find problems.

Redundancy and adaptability go hand in hand. For example, the Obama crew created an app whose only job was to take ‘snaphots’ of the Obama for America website. If a server failed, and the site could no longer dynamically create web pages, the static ‘pictures’ could be used in the interim.

Or, more amazingly, they dealt with Hurricane Sandy, which had severe impacts with people using East Coast server farms, by replicating a complete and functional copy of their whole infrastructure on West Coast servers in 24 hours!

5) Use the benefits of the exponential economy to create resilient and redundant systems. If the price has dropped 5-fold, then you can build two systems and still save money.

The Obama campaign spent over $1 million hosting the website  that was accessible to the world. It gave a quarter of that to Amazon for hosting its own internally developed IT.

Romney’s campaign gave a single IT consulting company over $17 million  and another $16.6 million to another,  Obama for America spent $3.6 million on IT consulting to 36 different  companies.

The Innovator’s Dilemma describes how a $50,000 contract to a small group can produce much more focussed work and innovative solutions than even a $500,000 contract to a large group. They care about it more because it matters more to their bottom line.

6) Spread the work around. It is more likely to produce successful solutions than one big contract. It certainly can cost less.

And finally, 

“This is the difference,” VanDenPlas said, “between a well run professional machine and a gaggle of amateurs, posing in true Rumsfeldian fashion, who ‘don’t know what they don’t know.’ I would be shocked if such a chasm exists next cycle between the parties—these aren’t mistakes to be repeated if you want to do things like win elections.”

Because of the lower barriers to entry, and the rapidity by which successful processes can disseminate throughout society, everyone catches up quickly. You cannot expect that coming up with something first will provide much of a long term advantage.

The way to stay ahead is to have the right mixture of people cranking the DIKW cycle as fast as possible. As long as your organization can move that cycle faster and smarter than others, you will stay on top of the wave.

7)  Continuing rapid cycle development is crucial. Any advantage to accrues to disruptive innovators rapidly disappears, as others follow the path to success.

It is impossible to successfully ride every wave of change. But, creating and managing for the exponential economy can produce an organization scores well when the monster waves arrive.

nixonby tonynetone

‘Epistemic Closure?’ Those Are Fighting Words for Conservatives 
[Via - NYTimes.com ]

It is hard to believe that a phrase as dry as “epistemic closure” could get anyone excited, but the term has sparked a heated argument among conservatives in recent weeks about their movement’s intellectual health.


Epistemic closure is a human problem. As Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool.” Forty years ago it was the liberals who suffered most from epistemic closure. 

Just one example. Ted Kennedy wanted to have a single payer healthcare system using taxes to pay for it. Essentially Medicare for everyone. NIxon actually proposed a different solution – a market-based insurance plan requiring employers to buy health insurance for all their employees and provide subsidies for those who needed it. (Sound familiar? Obama actually hired NIxon’s health advisor to help him craft his plan).

Kennedy walked away from Nixon’s deal, living in a Cargo Cult World sure that he could get a better one after the next election. The same one that allowed him to think he could primary a sitting President. He was brutally wrong, watching for almost 40 years and dying before Nixon’s own ideas became a reality.

Conservatives have been discussing epistemic closure for two years  along with its impact on the GOP. Some were worried about the hermetically-sealed bubble that was forming around the Republican party. 

That bubble resulted in their canddidate for President being ‘shellshocked“ that he lost. His own numbers guys were feeding him the information everyone wanted to see, not the information that matched reality. They listened to each other’s anecdotes rather than gathering accurate data. They developed software that they were so sure would be wonderful that they never actually stress-tested it until election day, when it failed spectacularly. He had supporters wo wrote that the data ’nerds’ were wrong because lots of people had Romney yard signs. 

They had completely fooled themselves.

Efforts from two years ago to prevent such a bubble failed. This is not surprising. One of the hallmarks of epistemic closure is an almost impenetrable barrier  with true believers held inside and any apostates thrown outside. It becomes filled with all those who refuse all efforts to pierce the bubble.

It happens all the time with human beings and their social communities. People feel more comfortable around others who think like they do. Without positive support for alternative views, almost any community eventually becomes filled with monotonic views, supporting a Cargo Cult World which repels any conflicting information.

Since these Cargo Cult Worlds are only distorted reflections of reality, eventually they come crashing down, like some sort of funhouse mirror.

As I wrote around the same time this article came out, when the narrative is more important than facts, we get a Cargo Cult World.

The initial response of the liberals to the failure of  their ideas in the 70s was to retreat further into their own Cargo Cult Worlds. They failed to recognize the changing circumstances around them until the election of Reagan  hit them between the eyes like a two-by-four.,rendering their world view mostly irrelevant for over a generation, reducing them to a minority party. Even though Clinton was elected to two terms, in neither of them did he get a majority of Americans to vote for him.

Most of America did not like or endorse the ‘reality’ the Democrats inhabited.

It took a long time for most of the liberals to break out of the Cargo Cult Worlds they had created, to alter their views and listen more closely to the views of others. It was not perfect. Nothing human ever is. But something very unusual has just happened.

We all know that the Democrats – the original party of the Dixiecrats and Southern Segregation – put up an African-American as their candidate and that the US elected him twice.

Amazingly only 2 of the last 10 Presidents of either party have been elected to a second term after receiving the majority of the popular votes both times. One was Reagan and the other is Obama. The other 8 either failed to get re-elected or failed to win over 50% of the popular vote twice. This suggests something important has happened with the ability of the Democrats to connect with most Americans.

They finally accomplished something quite rare for them – getting most of America to vote for their Presidential candidate.

But even more amazing is that Obama becomes only the second Democrat since Andrew Jackson – the first President from the Democratic party – to get the majority of the votes in two elections. FDR was the other one.

Only two times in 180 years have Democrats succeeded in getting a majority of America to support their Presidential candidate twice. It is usually Republicans who accomplish this. 

For the first time in almost anybody’s memory, the Democrats have gotten most of America to elect their President candidate twice. That is, in my opinion, actually more amazing than the fact he is a minority. It suggests that for the first time iin a very long time they have moved outside their Cargo Cult Worlds  enough to embrace most of America, to actually listen to others.

To actually take the health insurance plan first proposed by a Republican, modify it with other ideas from other conservatives, and get it passed. Forty years after their Cargo Cult Worlds prevented them from doing it the first time.

Epistemic closure is a failing of the recent GOP and, just as the liberals did 40 years ago, they have two choices. Retreat further into their Cargo Cult Worlds, pulling epistemic closure tighter around them or create new paths that break up the lure of epistemic closure, reconnecting again with a majority of America.

I’m really hoping it does not take 40 years, that they break through the walls surrounding them. Because we have too many really hard problems to solve and we need their best ideas right now. It will take all our efforts, not just the ones represented by one party.

And because, it they retreat more, it simply allows the liberals to start creating new Cargo Cult Worlds – it is what humans do – allowing them to eventually ignore facts, one that will eventually fail to connect with reality and we begin the cycle again.

The app economy changes everything

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Creativity Is About Passion, Not Paychecks
[Via Techdirt]

There are many who argue, despite historical and ongoing evidence to the contrary, that creativity will die out if creators cannot be guaranteed some sort of livable wage. It’s almost as if any creator who creates as a hobby or potential second job either a) is being shortchanged by disruption, piracy, etc., or b) shouldn’t be taken seriously because they haven’t abandoned their day job.

It’s an odd assertion. Most groundbreaking creative efforts were conceived and carried out while the creators worked in a variety of other non-creative jobs. It was only after these breakthroughs that these artists went on to live solely on the earnings of their creative works. Somehow, we’re now expected to believe that without piracy and other disruptions, creators would be making better, livable wages, possibly right out of the gate.

That whole thought process ignores the reality. Not having a paycheck tied to your creative endeavors means being able to fail more often and experiment more freely, without having to worry about hurting your current source of income. Case in point: three developers who solved a problem most companies didn’t know they had, all without having to “give up the day job.”

For the past two years, Brandon Medenwald, Justin Kalvoda, and Bill Burgess have held down full-time jobs while also launching their company, Simply Made Apps.

Their only product is an app called Simple In/Out, which solves a problem that drove Brandon crazy. He explains, “In my fulltime job as a web programmer, we had an old magnetic in/out board like they use in sales offices to keep track of who is in the office and who isn’t. Five or six years ago, they transitioned to a Web-based version.

“I was constantly frustrated with it, because some of the roughly 40 people in our firm wouldn’t use it. The board became extremely out of date. For years, I was joking that I could write a better piece of software in a weekend, but then over beers in a bar with two friends, it dawned on me we could solve this problem by using the GPS chips in cell phones.”


Read the whole article as it demonstrates how the app economy allows passionate people to create new products in a weekend for a few hundred dollars.

That few hundred dollars can rapidly expand to thousands or more. All without having to quit a day job.

Low barriers ti entry, rapid bootstrapping and exponential economies all merge to disrupt the very act of creating a business.

riotby NZ Defence Force

Can “cliodynamics” help historians predict future unrest? [Social Science]
[Via io9]

Unlike physicists and chemists, historians have been unable to formulate grand equations or immutable laws. The trends of history, it would seem, are outside the scope of reproducible science.

But a new discipline called “cliodynamics” is looking to change all that. After studying and mapping key indicators of history, University of Connecticut’s Peter Turchin believes that he’s detected consistent cycles in human history — cycles that he argues could actually help us predict the future.

Can “cliodynamics† help historians predict future unrest?

Turchin, a professor of population dynamics, named the new discipline after Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history. He, along with other colleagues, are working to apply scientific methods to history by analyzing broad social forces that impact and shape all human societies.

Writing in Nature, Laura Spinney describes how Turchin’s analysis relies on four main variables: population numbers, social structure, state strength, and political instability. She elaborates:[


While I’d like to know more about the metrics here –how are violent episodes tracked, for example, it fits in quite well with one of my favorite books, The Fourth Turning. That book delineated a four generation cycle of 80-100 years that was needed to fully work our societal problems.

But it had as one of its principles that there were conflicts at each half generation. These conflicts often served to make the final conflict inevitable.

According to the Fourth Turning, written in the late 90s, we are in the middle of the final conflict for the latest cycle, the one that started after WW2 and saw its Second Turning conflict in the 60s.

We are seeing a large number of new conflicts today that are replaying the fights of the 60s – abortion, contraception, etc. I hope we make it through sometime in the next decade. That is about what these cycles would predict.

wheelby lusikkolbaskin

Charlie Kindel on Microsoft, the Hardware Company
[Via Daring Fireball]

Charlie Kindel:

I know some of the people who drove the Xbox360 hardware design and supply chain management. They are now war scarred and seasoned experts. They are the type of people you want working on the next big thing. None of them even knew about Surface until it was announced. Typical Microsoft organizational silos.


Microsoft is a software company that makes a couple of successful hardware products.

There are a couple of big differences between hardware and software that are relevant – hardware has to be physically assembled and it has to be physically distributed, neither of which is required for software.

Microsoft has had some real glitches with modern hardware.

Now it talks about competing with the largest high tech company in the world by producing a tablet that it will only sell at its online store and at its own retail Microsoft stores. There are only 29 of these in the world – 26 of them in the US. Hard to see how that will compete with Apple which has 373 stores in 13 countries.

The fact that they did not even connect internally with anyone who had real life experience with assembling and shipping a hardware component is also worrisome.

Rediscovering the wheel is a common problem with large, process driven companies. It can not be something that 21st century companies routinely allow.

Because they will be outflanked by those companies that do not reinvent the wheel, that are much more efficient with their resources.

NewImageby o palsson

Willfull Ignorance about Statistics in Government
[Via Good Math, Bad Math]

Quick but important one here.

I’ve repeatedly ranted here about ignorant twits. Ignorance is a plague on society, and it’s at its worst when it’s willful ignorance – that is, when you have a person who knows nothing about a subject, and who refuses to be bothered with something as trivial and useless about learning about it before they open their stupid mouths.

We’ve got an amazing, truly amazing, example of this in the US congress right now.
There’s a “debate” going on about something called the American Community Survey, or the
ACS for short. The ACS is a regular survey performed by the Census administration, which
measures a wide range of statistics related to economics.

A group of Republicans are trying to eliminate the ACS. Why? well, let’s put that question aside. And let’s also leave aside, for the moment, whether the survey is important or not. You can, honestly, put together an argument that the ACS isn’t worth doing, that it doesn’t measure the right things, that the value of the information gathered doesn’t measure up to the cost, that it’s intrusive, that it violates the privacy of the survey targets. But let’s not even bother with any of that.

Members of congress are arguing that the survey should be eliminated, and they’re claiming that the reason why is because the survey is unscientific. According to Daniel Webster, a representative from the state of Florida:

We’re spending $70 per person to fill this out. That’s just not cost effective, especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.

Note well the emphasized point there. That’s the important bit.


No concept of statistics nor of science. As the post states:

Scientific sampling is always random.

So Mr. Webster’s statement could be rephrased more correctly as the following contradiction: “This is not a scientific survey, because this is a scientific survey”. But Mr. Webster doesn’t know that what he said is a stupid contradiction. Because he doesn’t care.

There can be points about cost although I think $70 is quite cost effective for the amount of information gained.

But the method of the survey is nothing to argue about. Statistics demonstrate that a random and scientific go together.

As this post discusses, most people do no make decisions based on rational thought. They use all sorts of easy rules of thumb – one being what others in their group think.

If you are a Republican, you follow what other Republicans state, especially the leaders.

President Obama comes out for gay marriage and the numbers of African-Americans who feel similar skyrockets.

Intuition and other non-rational approaches can work well but may break down in complex sittings.

People use System 1 to make quick decisions while they use System 2 to examine and reason.

System 2 is the one who believes that it’s making the decisions. But in reality, most of the time, System 1 is acting on its own, without your being aware of it. It’s System 1 that decides whether you like a person, which thoughts or associations come to mind, and what you feel about something. All of this happens automatically. You can’t help it, and yet you often base your decisions on it.

System 1 is always on. System 2 is hardly used because it requires effort and energy.

Most times System 1 works fine. Just as saying today’s weather will be just like yesterday’s.

But sometimes that hurricane comes along and all bets are off for System 1.

One of the hallmarks of willful ignorance is the purposeful effort to refuse to use System 2 approaches. Rational thought is not as important as simply going with the gut feelings.

System 1 allows Cargo Cult Worlds to be created and sustained.

Too many people simply refuse to allow System 2 approaches to enter into their thinking. And it gets worse the more complex the thinking needed, when System 2 thinking is most needed.

Will we ever have a period where System 2 thinking is used by our leaders in a meaningful and effective way?

If we hope to survive, there need to be some really good System 2 thinking applied. Rules of thumb too often lead to useless but willful ignorance.

The Science of Sustainability

From the Anthropocene to Nicaraguan coffee farmers.

Eventbrite - The Science of Sustainability It’s free.

Tuesday, May 22 at 6PM in Seattle at the Intiman Studio

In collaboration with The Next 50, SpreadingScience is happy to host the Science of Sustainability, an open discussion of an emerging body of knowledge.

Sustainability Science has been described ‘as a field defined by the problems it addresses rather than by the disciplines it employs.’ With the ability to impact virtually every aspect of our lives, it holds the promise of helping us survive many of the complex problems facing us.

Join us for an evening’s conversaton with Dr. Susan Jackels, professor at Seattle University and Dr. Lisa Graumlich, Dean, College of the Environment at the University of Washington.

It will feature short presentations by our invited guests and a facilitated discussion with the audience providing tremendous opportunity to hear first hand how our world can be transformed by this research.

Dr. Graumlich has titled her presentation “Living in the Anthropocene: Global Change and Human Well-being.” The evidence for the pervasive human impact on the Earth system has prompted geologists to revise the geological time scale and recognize the current era as the Anthropocene (“the age of humans”).  This represents a paradigm shift: humans are not just an inextricable piece of the planetary system, we are driving it. Scientists are now seeking to quantify planetary boundaries, that is tipping points where there is a risk of irreversible and abrupt environmental change. There is strong evidence that three such boundaries have been transgressed.  Why does this insight matter in the context of human well-being in the Pacific Northwest?

Dr. Jackels will discuss “Coffee for Justice:  International Collaborations in Nicaragua for Chemistry in Service to Small-holder Coffee Producers.“ The Coffee for Justice Project goal is to put chemistry in service to coffee producers of developing countries through research and appropriate technology methods to assist in production of specialty market quality coffee. This presentation will include a brief overview of the coffee production process, a scientific investigation that led to the design of a kit for optimization of coffee fermentation, experiences implementing the kit and method with over one hundred Nicaraguan coffee farmers, and building a coffee processing mill with waste water treatment designed by engineering students. The Coffee for Justice Project is possible through the support of the National Science Foundation, the Seattle University Endowed Mission Fund, the SU International Development Internship Program, the University of Central America Managua, Catholic Relief Services Nicaragua, Winds of Peace Foundation, Engineers Without Borders, and most importantly, the collaboration of the coffee producers of CECOSEMAC Nicaragua.

In collaboration with:

the next 50


  • Filed under: General