1. 1

    Oh, is that why high-level life players tend to keep diaries?

      1. 1

        From that post:

        Some Righties talk about the idea of a post-political world — the idea that a system with less citizen input, on the continuum from Singapore to monarchy or neocameralism — would be more stable. But in a world without elections, there would still be shifts in power. It’s just that the mechanisms by which power shifts wouldn’t have occasional moments of relative transparency.

        So, reflecting on that, I agree with his premises – that mechanisms by which power shifts happen would have less transparency. But I disagree with his conclusion. It’s not clear to me that autocratic states are inherently less stable than democracies. Yes, autocratic states crumble (as we saw in the Arab Spring revolutions). But democracies crumble and collapse as well. Russia was fairly democratic in the ’90s before collapsing into Putinist autocracy. Thailand had a fairly robust democracy before it was locked down by a military junta. Turkey and Pakistan have flipped between military rule and democratic governance multiple times.

        And on the flip side, dictatorial China, despite all its internal problems, actually appears to be a more responsive state to its citizens than democratic India. While Delhi still has the worst air pollution in the world, the Communist Party has quietly cleaned up Beijing, in response to citizen unrest.

        I think, up until a certain point, competence matters more than representation. As it turns out, people don’t really care by what mechanism the government listens to their needs, as long as it implements policies that improve their daily lives. The hypothesis is that once an economy has fully industrialized, it’s impossible for government to be appropriately responsive to all the diverse interests of the country without democratizing. But the continued existence of autocratic China makes me doubt that theory more and more with each passing day.

      1. 2

        My natural response here is to compare this to my job, and to the description rsaarelm linked of a food plant. We don’t have the rapid-fire series of deadlines that the dabbawalas do – our shift has one deadline per day; other shifts have a few more, but that doesn’t make much of a difference – but unlike the food plant, we do have extensive cross-training: everyone is expected to learn all the basic job functions. There’s specialization in practice, but if the system goes down for three hours and everyone needs to be thrown at making up for lost time so we don’t miss the deadline, everyone can be thrown at that with no problem.

        And I mean everyone. The highest-level manager in the entire building has come out to do the same stuff we make barely over minimum wage for, because the deadline necessitated the addition of a few more labor-hours.

        1. 5

          The lord of men has two difficulties to face: If he appoints only worthy men to office, ministers will on the pretence of worthiness attempt to deceive their ruler; if he makes arbitrary promotions of officials, the state affairs will always be menaced. Similarly, if the lord of men loves worthiness, ministers will gloss over their defects in order to meet the ruler’s need. In consequence, no minister will show his true heart. If no minister shows his true heart, the lord of men will find no way to tell the worthy from the unworthy.

          For instance, because the King of Yue liked brave men, the people made light of death; because King Ling of Chu liked slender waists, the country became full of starvelings; because Duke Huan of Qi was by nature jealous and fond of women, Shu Diao castrated himself in order to administer the harem; because Duke Huan liked different tastes, Yiya steamed the head of his son and served Duke Huan with the rare taste; because Zikuai of Yan liked worthies, Zizhi pretended that he would not accept the state.

          Therefore, if the ruler reveals his hate, ministers will conceal their motives; if the ruler reveals his likes, ministers will pretend to talent; and if the ruler reveals his wants, ministers will have the opportunity to disguise their feelings and attitudes.

          That was the reason why Zizhi, by pretending to worthiness, usurped the ruler’s throne; and why Shu Diao and Yiya, by complying with their ruler’s wants, molested their ruler. Thus Zikuai died in consequence of a civil war and Duke Huan was left unburied until worms from his corpse crawled outdoors. What was the cause of these incidents? It was nothing but the calamity of the rulers’ revelation of true hearts to ministers. Every minister in his heart of hearts does not necessarily love the ruler. If he does, it is for the sake of his own great advantage.

          In these days, if the lord of men neither covers his feelings nor conceals his motives, and if he lets ministers have a chance to molest their master, the ministers will have no difficulty in following the examples of Zizhi and Tianchang. Hence the saying: “If the ruler’s likes and hate be concealed, the ministers’ true hearts will be revealed. If the ministers reveal their true hearts, the ruler never will be deluded.”

          – Han Feizi, Ch. Vii, “The Two Handles”, tr. W. K. Liao (with, of course, the Wade-Giles converted to Pinyin)

          1. 2

            Excellent essay!

            I’ve got a comment and a question..

            Comment. See also: PHP vs. insert your favorite web-app-appropriate language here.

            Question. Does this pattern mean that no financial incentives exist that are strong enough to overcome this individual-hacker independence? Can the power of Lisp not be harnessed, by a group, for profit? Why not?

            Edit: Perhaps the answer is here:

            The Lisp Curse does not contradict the maxim of Stanislav Datskovskiy: Employers much prefer that workers be fungible, rather than maximally productive.

            The author attributes this to the “venality” and “close-mindedness” of managers, but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. The expected productivity of an employee, after all, is his productivity × his reliability… and this is exacerbated by dependence of a team on any given employee’s work, etc. Selecting for fungibility preferentially to maximal productivity seems to me to be nothing more than perfectly rational optimization on a manager’s part.

            (Of course this is different from employees whose main value is to be sources of ideas, etc., such as in research labs and so forth, or for designers (especially design team leads), etc.—but that’s hardly the median case, and anyway is irrelevant to the subject of programming languages.)

            1. 3

              I don’t know how much of a case this is with Lisp, but a lot of Forth programmers say that while Forth makes for excellent productivity for a capable single programmer, it’s often quite impossible for any other Forth programmer to work on the first one’s program. The programs end up idiosyncratic private languages that are impenetrable without deep study. So it’s less about workers not being maximally fungible but possibly not being able to hire any new productive workers at all for an existing system.

              Maybe the whole programming system should be set up in something like this with a new kind of module system. The inside of a module is full of maximally productive weird hyper-expressive language shenanigans, and then somehow there’s a mutually comprehensible interface layer between the modules so that the software can be assembled from these interacting fiefdoms. That’s sort of how Unix and Unix programs worked, with the interface layer being plaintext streams. I’m not quite sure what this should ideally look like. The current libraries and APIs approach isn’t good enough, you’d want to be able to exchange structures, idioms and sublanguages, not just provide a black box with buttons to push. Also you would want to avoid boxing single components in a large system into suboptimal architectures by imposing too many constraints from the surrounding area, this part gets really hard.

              Maybe Alan Kay is on to something with the whole “cells receiving chemical signals and deciding what to do, not circuits receiving electrical impulses and reacting with lockstep determinism” metaphor he’s been trying to push for the last 40 years. (Also sorta related, Functional in the small, OO in the large.)

              1. 1

                Maybe Alan Kay is on to something with the whole “cells receiving chemical signals and deciding what to do, not circuits receiving electrical impulses and reacting with lockstep determinism” metaphor he’s been trying to push for the last 40 years.

                Do you have any links/references about this? It sounds really interesting, and I’ve not heard of it before!

                1. 1

                  There’s a bit of it in the Programming and Scaling talk that was linked here a while ago.

                  Some emails about the origin of OO, more on messaging.

                2. 1

                  By the way, “Functional in the small, OO in the large” is a big part of how Swift works. (Well, how I write Swift, anyway. Non-functional (heh) approaches are certainly also available.)

                3. 3

                  Does this pattern mean that no financial incentives exist that are strong enough to overcome this individual-hacker independence?

                  Paul Graham:

                  So you could say that using Lisp was an experiment. Our hypothesis was that if we wrote our software in Lisp, we’d be able to get features done faster than our competitors, and also to do things in our software that they couldn’t do. And because Lisp was so high-level, we wouldn’t need a big development team, so our costs would be lower. If this were so, we could offer a better product for less money, and still make a profit. We would end up getting all the users, and our competitors would get none, and eventually go out of business. That was what we hoped would happen, anyway.

                  What were the results of this experiment? Somewhat surprisingly, it worked. We eventually had many competitors, on the order of twenty to thirty of them, but none of their software could compete with ours. We had a wysiwyg online store builder that ran on the server and yet felt like a desktop application. Our competitors had cgi scripts. And we were always far ahead of them in features. Sometimes, in desperation, competitors would try to introduce features that we didn’t have. But with Lisp our development cycle was so fast that we could sometimes duplicate a new feature within a day or two of a competitor announcing it in a press release. By the time journalists covering the press release got round to calling us, we would have the new feature too.

                  It must have seemed to our competitors that we had some kind of secret weapon– that we were decoding their Enigma traffic or something. In fact we did have a secret weapon, but it was simpler than they realized. No one was leaking news of their features to us. We were just able to develop software faster than anyone thought possible.

                  1. 2

                    Yes, I’ve read that essay too, but—why only that example? Where are the others? If Lisp is so good, why isn’t everyone using it? Surely the fact that Paul Graham, of all people, used it, to make money, and now sings its praises, ought to spur a whole host of people to check it out, discover it, put it to use, and profit thereby? Why isn’t it way, way, way more popular?

                    1. 1

                      It seems like when people try to use it, they find the ecosystem nasty. The very visible classic example of people buying pg’s Lisp evangelism, actually building a thing in Lisp and getting burned was the original Reddit. Another report of a reasonably capable newcomer trying to grab onto Common Lisp and bouncing off was Steve Yegge. It seems like you really need people building a common ground of solid libraries nowadays, and can’t really build solid stuff in an ecosystem where everybody has their own 80 % solution and the venerated standard solution was informed by 1980s computing practices.

                    2. 2

                      I have issues with that essay. Paul Graham never seems to acknowledge the selection bias that using Lisp imposes. It’s entirely possible that the reason ViaWeb did well isn’t because it was written in Lisp, but because it attracted the sort of people who learn Lisp. It’s entirely possible that if he’d attracted those same programmers, but somehow managed to get them to use Perl, he’d have been just as productive.

                      Lisp was not (and still is not) a “mainstream” programming language. That means you have to go out of your way to learn Lisp. The sorts of programmers who go out of their way to learn obscure programming languages and libraries are more likely to be more productive (or, in Silicon Valley terms, “passionate”) programmers who would be able to bring that additional productivity to bear no matter what language they were using.

                      1. 1

                        Selection bias seems like it could explain a lot of this puzzle.

                        The question is, do we find the same effect for other, comparably obscure / non-mainstream languages?

                  1. 4

                    Most of my books are stored at my parents’ house, but here’s what I have in my apartment:

                    • Beowulf, dual-language edition, tr. Howell D. Chickering, Jr.

                    • American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

                    • One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

                    • Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

                    • Rudyard Kipling’s Verse

                    • That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis

                    • The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, by Yukio Mishima

                    • Spring Snow, by Yukio Mishima

                    • Runaway Horses, by Yukio Mishima (the remaining two books of the tetralogy are in the mail)

                    • The Satyricon, by Petronius, and the Apocolocyntosis, by Seneca

                    • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

                    • The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson

                    • Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

                    • And Another Thing…, by Eoin Colfer

                    • The HarperCollins Study Bible

                    • Li Yong (1627-1705) and Epistemological Dimensions of Confucian Philosophy, by Anne D. Birdwhistell

                    • The Life and Adventures of Buffalo Bill

                    • The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology, by Joseph Campbell

                    • A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, ed. Wing-Tsit Chan

                    • America Bewitched, by Owen Davies

                    • Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village, by William Hinton

                    • Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

                    • The Pike, by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

                    • A Book of New England, by Zephine Humphrey

                    • Cartesian Meditations, by Edmund Husserl

                    • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig

                    • Russian Word Formation, by Charles E. Townsend

                    • Zhuangzi, tr. Burton Watson

                    Recent Comments