Recent quotes:

Twitter stops buying ping pong tables

Asked why Twitter stopped buying tables, spokesman Jim Prosser says: “I guess we bought really sturdy ones.” Twitter spokeswoman Natalie Miyake says: “Honestly, we’re more of a Pop-A-Shot company now,” referring to an indoor basketball game. Is the tech bubble popping? Ping pong offers an answer, and the tables are turning. “Last year, the first quarter was hot” for tables, says Mr. Ng, who thinks sales track the tech economy. Now “there’s a general slowdown.”

Fortune 500 firms in 1955 v. 2015; Only 12% remain, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity - AEI | Carpe Diem Blog » AEIdeas

According to a 2012 report from Innosight (“Creative Destruction Whips Through Corporate America“) based on almost a century’s worth of market data, corporations in the S&P 500 Index in 1958 stayed in the index for an average of 61 years. By 1980, the average tenure in the S&P 500 had fallen to about 25 years, and in 2012 it was just 18 years. At the current churn rate, 75% of today’s S&P 500 companies will be replaced by 2027!

The network's the thing — Remains of the Day

Software may be eating the world, but I posit that networks are going to eat an outsized share because they capitalize disproportionately on the internet. Journalism, advertising, video, music, publishing, transportation, finance, retail, and more—networks are going to enter those spaces faster than those industries can turn themselves into networks. That some of our first generation online social networks have begun self-actualizing is just the beginning of that movement.

Cars are gonna be commodities

It may make more sense for the cars themselves to be owned by someone with a big balance sheet - a GE Capital, if you like - that owns hundreds or thousands or cars with an optimised financial structure, rather than individual drivers getting their own leases. That in turn means that the cars get bought the way Hertz buys cars, or - critically - the way corporate PCs get bought. In this world what matters is ROI and a check-list of features, not flair, design, innovation or fit and finish. The US car-rental companies account for around 15% of the US industry's output, and some models are specifically designed with this market in mind. They're not the cool ones. That poses a challenge for Apple, and indeed Tesla. If the users are not the buyers, the retracting door handles or diamond-cut chamfers don't matter.

The first connectome map was too early

Yet nearly three decades later, Brenner’s diagram continues to mystify. Scientists know roughly what individual neurons in C. elegans do and can say, for example, which neurons fire to send the worm wriggling forward or backward. But more complex questions remain unanswered. How does the worm remember? What is constant in the minds of worms? What makes each one individual? In part, these disappointments were a problem of technology, which has made connectome mapping so onerous that until recently nobody considered doing more. In science, it is a great accomplishment to make the first map, but far more useful to have 10, or a million, that can be compared with one another. “C. elegans was a classic case of being too far ahead of your time,” says Gerry Rubin of Janelia.

Building for the future

Years ago, Seung officiated at his best friend’s wedding, and during the invocation he told the gathering, “My father says that success is never achieved in just one generation.” As he has grown older and had a child of his own, he has felt his perspective shift. When Seung was in his 20s, science for him was solving puzzles, an extension of the math problems he did for fun as a child alone in his room on Saturdays after soccer. Now he finds great satisfaction in encouraging younger scientists, in helping them avoid dead ends that he has already explored. He wants to do something that will allow the community to progress, to build “strong foundations, steppingstones that the next generation can be sure of.”

Laptops 'ain't gonna happen!' -- NYT columnist in 1985

Was the laptop dream an illusion, then? Or was the problem merely that the right combination of features for such lightweight computers had not yet materialized? The answer probably is a combination of both views. For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few. The limitations come from what people actually do with computers, as opposed to what the marketers expect them to do. On the whole, people don't want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.

The commodification of content

To a platform supremacist, online media—traditional online media?—today is no more rational than print media seemed to the first online publishers. Newspapers wrote and printed hundreds of redundant articles a day because their trucks could only deliver so far; websites produce an enormous amount of duplicative content jockeying from the outside for space in search results or social feeds, or simply because they expect people to read their sites like papers, front-page first. Recontextualized within a platform, this level of duplication is easier to see as waste. Fifty embedded John Oliver videos become one Facebook video shared under a few headlines. A hundred slight acknowledgements of the same political gaffe are reduced to a trending topic link. What were heralded as novel and bold content strategies are reclassified as spam; territory where publications could fruitfully mine to subsidize whatever else they thought they should be doing is rezoned or reclaimed under eminent domain.

Why Google+ will fail: social networks grow like trees, not on them

Though Google+ is an elegant piece of engineering, it’s not a social network. Jason and Jeff love Google’s technical innovations. Sure, normal technology thrives because of technical brilliance, design beauty and marketing megatonnage. But social networks are affected only marginally by those factors. Instead, in social networks, the users are the product. Users’ habits and passions and commitments to each other are the life-force that makes a social network grow. Just as you can’t build a tree from a bunch of boards, you never could have constructed Facebook or Twitter or eBay or LinkedIn or Wikipedia top-down with a bunch of prefab components. Launching with one hundred million users or a $100 million marketing budget would have more likely killed those sites, not grown them.

7 Rejections for AirBnB

We were attempting to raise $150,000 at a $1.5M valuation. That means for $150,000 you could have bought 10% of Airbnb. Below you will see 5 rejections. The other 2 did not reply.

Recovering from the Big Big One ... or not

Wineglasses, antique vases, Humpty Dumpty, hip bones, hearts: what breaks quickly generally mends slowly, if at all. OSSPAC estimates that in the I-5 corridor it will take between one and three months after the earthquake to restore electricity, a month to a year to restore drinking water and sewer service, six months to a year to restore major highways, and eighteen months to restore health-care facilities. On the coast, those numbers go up. Whoever chooses or has no choice but to stay there will spend three to six months without electricity, one to three years without drinking water and sewage systems, and three or more years without hospitals. Those estimates do not apply to the tsunami-inundation zone, which will remain all but uninhabitable for years.

The wave

A grown man is knocked over by ankle-deep water moving at 6.7 miles an hour. The tsunami will be moving more than twice that fast when it arrives. Its height will vary with the contours of the coast, from twenty feet to more than a hundred feet. It will not look like a Hokusai-style wave, rising up from the surface of the sea and breaking from above. It will look like the whole ocean, elevated, overtaking land. Nor will it be made only of water—not once it reaches the shore. It will be a five-story deluge of pickup trucks and doorframes and cinder blocks and fishing boats and utility poles and everything else that once constituted the coastal towns of the Pacific Northwest.

The North West's earthquake cycle

we now know that the Pacific Northwest has experienced forty-one subduction-zone earthquakes in the past ten thousand years. If you divide ten thousand by forty-one, you get two hundred and forty-three, which is Cascadia’s recurrence interval: the average amount of time that elapses between earthquakes. That timespan is dangerous both because it is too long—long enough for us to unwittingly build an entire civilization on top of our continent’s worst fault line—and because it is not long enough. Counting from the earthquake of 1700, we are now three hundred and fifteen years into a two-hundred-and-forty-three-year cycle.

The Big Big One

When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater. (Watch what your fingertips do when you flatten your hand.) The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” In the Pacific Northwest, everything west of Interstate 5 covers some hundred and forty thousand square miles, including Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Salem (the capital city of Oregon), Olympia (the capital of Washington), and some seven million people.

San Andreas potency

Every fault line has an upper limit to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas, one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent as strong as the 2011 event in Japan

Japanese earthquake predictions

Oh, shit, Goldfinger thought, although not in dread, at first: in amazement. For decades, seismologists had believed that Japan could not experience an earthquake stronger than magnitude 8.4. In 2005, however, at a conference in Hokudan, a Japanese geologist named Yasutaka Ikeda had argued that the nation should expect a magnitude 9.0 in the near future—with catastrophic consequences, because Japan’s famous earthquake-and-tsunami preparedness, including the height of its sea walls, was based on incorrect science. The presentation was met with polite applause and thereafter largely ignored. Now, Goldfinger realized as the shaking hit the four-minute mark, the planet was proving the Japanese Cassandra right.

Clouds or clocks?

There has long been disagreement among social scientists about how scientific social science can be, and the skeptics have argued that social phenomena are more cloudlike. They don't have Newtonian clocklike regularity. That cloud versus clock distinction has loomed large in those kinds of debates. If world politics were truly clocklike and deterministic then it should in principle be possible for an observer who is armed with the correct theory and correct knowledge of the antecedent conditions to predict with extremely high accuracy what's going to happen next. If world politics is more cloudlike–little wisps of clouds blowing around in the air in quasi random ways–no matter how theoretically prepared the observer is, the observer is not going to be able to predict very well. Let's say the clocklike view posits that the optimal forecasting frontier is very close to 1.0, an R squared very close to 1.0. By contrast, the cloudlike view would posit that the optimal forecasting frontier is not going to be appreciably greater than chance or you're not going to be able to do much better than a dart-throwing chimpanzee. One of the things that we discovered in the earlier work was that forecasters who suspected that politics was more cloudlike were actually more accurate in predicting longer-term futures than forecasters who believed that it was more clocklike. Forecasters who were more modest about what could be accomplished predictably were actually generating more accurate predictions than forecasters who were more confident about what could be achieved. We called these theoretically confident forecasters "hedgehogs." We called these more modest, self-critical forecasters "foxes," drawing on Isaiah Berlin's famous essay, "The Hedgehog and the Fox."

HOW TO WIN AT FORECASTING | Edge.org

One of the reactions to my work on expert political judgment was that it was politically naïve