Showing all posts tagged #clipping:


The secret of the synchronized pendulums clipping

Posted on March 30th, 2022

Taken from the January 2020 issue of Physics World. The fact that pairs of moving pendulums can become synchronized was first observed by the great Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens back in the 17th century. But as Jonatan Pena Ramirez and Henk Nijmeijer explain, synchronized pendulums still have today’s researchers scratching their heads (Courtesy: Frederique Swist/IOP Publishing) Ballet dancers moving in harmony to the rhythm of ...

The Joy of Sales Resistance clipping

Posted on January 26th, 2022

We live in a time when technologies and ideas (often the same thing) are adopted in response not to need but to advertising, salesmanship, and fashion. Salesmen and saleswomen now hover about us as persistently as angels, intent on "doing us good" according to instructions set forth by persons educated at great public expense in the arts of greed and prevarication. These salespeople are now with most of us, apparently, even in our dr...

Going Home with Wendell Berry clipping

Posted on January 10th, 2022

Going Home with Wendell BerryThe writer and farmer on local knowledge, embracing limits, and the exploitation of rural America. By Amanda PetrusichJuly 14, 2019Wendell Berry is the author of more than eighty books of poetry, fiction, and essays.Photograph by Guy MendesTwo and a half years ago, feeling existentially adrift about the future of the planet, I sent a letter to Wendell Berry, hoping he might have answers. Berry has publish...

On the Importance of Place clipping

Posted on January 10th, 2022

One of the natural loves that humans possess is a love of place. Bubbling up from love for home and love for creation, the love of place shapes humans, conforming them to the topography of the landscapes they inhabit. As C. S. Lewis notes, to speak of a love of home is to conjure up images associated with a way of life at a particular place—all of the sights, sounds, smells, mannerisms, dialect, and other peculiarities associated wit...

Leviathan in the Desert clipping

Posted on November 1st, 2021

There’s a whale about to be dropped on the desert of Utah. Not a live animal, but a system, a mindset. Since Thomas Hobbes wrote his famous book in 1651, "leviathan"—the word means "whale" in Hebrew—has come to signify anything large, unwieldy, and dominant. The beast in question here combines government regulation, mass tourism, and modern disenchantment. It is a proposed national monument, bigger than the state of Delaware, and onc...

Baseball: Practices for Coming Home clipping

Posted on November 1st, 2021

Watching the many oblong games—football, basketball, soccer, hockey—might lead one to believe that our human purpose is to prevail in a territorial conquest. All these sports are essentially the same; as David Bentley Hart describes such games, they are contests "played out on a rectangle between two sides, each attempting to penetrate the other’s territory to deposit some small object in the other’s goal or end zone." Baseball, howe...

Wendell Berry Goes to School clipping

Posted on November 1st, 2021

College campuses are now filled with students wondering whether the years they are spending away from home and the debt they are incurring in the process will ever be worth it, especially now that an expensive degree is far from a guarantee of future employment. Even their professors are not immune to doubts about the value of higher education. Jack Baker and Jeffrey Bilbro of Spring Arbor University are writing primarily to their fe...

The hardest step clipping

Posted on October 31st, 2021

That would be the very first. One of the most common ways to block change is to challenge, "OK, specifically, what do we do Monday morning?" You really can’t answer with "Oh, read over Patterns of Conflict a dozen times, and then we’ll hold a roundtable on Sun Tzu." It just doesn’t work. Nor does "Monday morning, right after the meeting on the new promotion criteria, we’ll start working on einheit.*" And be suspicious of the commo...

The Philosophy of Masanobu Fukuoka clipping

Posted on October 31st, 2021

Buddhism and Agriculture - Part 1 Dr Trent BrownJuly 25, 2020 Masunobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was a Japanese farmer and philosopher, who pioneered a school of farming referred to as ‘natural farming’ or ‘do-nothing farming.’ Fukuoka’s methodology entailed minimal human interference in the agricultural process, instead creating conditions in which natural processes, left to their own accord, maximise crop outputs. Fukuoka became highly ...

The Long History of the Quest to Find a Peak Taller Than Everest clipping

Posted on October 31st, 2021

Ain’t no mountain high enough. by Katie Ives October 7, 2021 India's Nanda Devi, once thought to be the world's tallest mountain, tops out at 25,643 feet, more than 3,000 feet shorter than Mt. Everest. DeAgostini/Getty Images Excerpted from Imaginary Peaks: The Riesenstein Hoax and Other Mountain Dreams by Katie Ives (October 2021) with permission from the publisher, Mountaineers Books. All rights reserved. The idea of a summit t...

The Nuclear Canal: When Scientists Thought H-Bombs Would Make Awesome Earthmovers clipping

Posted on October 31st, 2021

Mid-20th century scientists envisioned a new Panama Canal blasted down to sea level with thermonuclear explosives. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) This month officials will formally open the new, expanded Panama Canal. The "inauguration," as it's being called, marks the largest modification of the canal since it opened in 1914. The expansion took nearly a decade to complete and required moving 130 million cubic meters of e...

A Note About Randomness clipping

Posted on September 16th, 2021

How Making the Irrational Decision Sometimes Pays Off (Big) Nicholas Frederick Brady was Secretary of the Treasury in the 1990s during the infamous Salomon Brothers scandal in which Warren Buffett, a major shareholder in Salomon, took over as CEO. Brady liked Buffett, not because he was famous and beloved, as he is today. It just so happens, Brady's family were investors in the old northeastern textile mill known as Berkshire Hath...

Gould's Library clipping

Posted on September 16th, 2021

If It Were Obvious It Would Not Be Insightful (What We Have Missed by Disparaging)Must things be obvious for one to get it? Should ideas and principles be clear and easy to understand? Must they be laid out on a silver platter? It is precisely that they are not easy to understand which makes them valuable. Thou shalt not conflate the desire for clarity and simplicity with an expectation of obvious insight. The rewriters of history ...

A uniquely Japanese take on nostalgia clipping

Posted on July 29th, 2021

By Erika Hobart20th January 2020 The concept of natsukashii permeates Japanese culture, from traditional alleyways in Tokyo to the popularity of stores selling film cameras. During my childhood summers spent in Yokohama, Japan, my obaachan (grandmother) would take me on afternoon strolls through her neighbourhood and teach me the names of all the flowers we came across. The cicadas would shriek over her soft voice and the humidity ...

Monopoly II: The Doer-Describer Problem — Muckrakers, The Standard View & Buffett (the Opioid Profiteer?) clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

The following is an excerpt from a larger work in progress, tentatively titled Intelligence Hath No Party. I plan to post a working draft at IntelHathNoParty.com in the near future.Who Shall We Hang Today? (Or, Why Bad Solutions Lead to Bigger Problems) "the basis of popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing m...

Monopoly I: (Re)Normalizing Bad Arguments —USA v. Google clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

Clip source: Monopoly I: (Re)Normalizing Bad Arguments —USA v. Google Monopoly I: (Re)Normalizing Bad Arguments —USA v. Google Neither I nor my firm own shares in Google. I do not have any ties to (nor do I desire to be an apologist for) Google. This piece is the first in a series which uses the topic of monopolies to discuss consequences of faulty and often partisan arguments. Foremost, when you use bad arguments for your purposes...

The Commandeering of Press Freedom clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

Imagine for a moment the following faux conversation between a political master strategist and his operative. From: [The Operative] To: [Guru Strategist] Mr.[redacted], Our multi-year, diversionary bait-and-switch tactic has proven effective. The launch of Project Q was, above all, the masterstroke. Key columnunists at the Post and Times have shown exceptionally useful, particularly due to their rapid acceptance of the message. ...

Peeringly deeply clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

De rerum natura. Here’s Boyd’s definition of "insight" again: Ability to peer into and discern the inner nature or workings of things. 
 My first reaction when I read this was "Yawn." I mean, who wouldn’t want the talent to "peer into and discern the inner nature or workings of things"? And in fact, up until it suddenly appeared in slide 144, Boyd hadn’t attached much importance to it. Just to give one indication, he began Pattern...

Sir John Richard Boyd? clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

Unlikely because he was a US citizen, and then he died in March 1997. However, he has been enormously influential in British politics over the last several years. In particular, he has been a significant source of ideas and inspiration for Dominic Cummings. Readers who are not citizens of the UK may not recognize Mr. Cummings. He ran the successful Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum and now holds the position of chi...

How Boyd finally got to the OODA loop clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

Chick Spinney, one of John Boyd’s closest associates, has revised his flow diagram depicting how Boyd’s strategic thinking evolved from his days flying F-86s in Korea in 1953 until his death in 1997. In this chart, "ODA" is "orient-decide-act," not "observe-decide-act." As Chuck recalls, Boyd added "observation" in 1975, about the time he retired from the Air Force. "LWF" is the Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter program, which culminat...

Col. John Boyd - Congressional Record, Volume 143 Issue 37 clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

[Congressional Record Volume 143, Number 37 (Thursday, March 20, 1997)] [Senate] [Pages S2610-S2613] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] COL. JOHN BOYD Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am very sad to report that Air Force Col. John Boyd died in West Palm Beach, FL, on March 9, 1997. He was 70 years old. He passed away after a long and diffi...

IOHAI clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

My co-editor, Chuck Spinney, and I have updated page 144 of Patterns of Conflict, the "Theme for Vitality and Growth." The last full edition of Patterns carries a date of December 1986. Even after he quit issuing new editions of the briefing, however, Boyd continued to evolve these ideas, and in 1989, he changed page 144 in a major way. Here is page 144 in the 1986 edition: What Boyd did was replace "adaptability" with "agility" and...

An Orientation for IOHAI clipping

Posted on December 1st, 2020

Unlike "agility," Boyd did define "orientation," in Organic Design for Command and Control (1987). Before giving his definition, he offered a preliminary thought, on page 13: Orientation, seen as a result, represents images, views, or impressions of the world shaped by genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, unfolding circumstances and the processes of analyses and synthesis. (Emphasis in original) Sharp eyed ...

How to Write Usefully clipping

Posted on November 30th, 2020

February 2020 What should an essay be? Many people would say persuasive. That's what a lot of us were taught essays should be. But I think we can aim for something more ambitious: that an essay should be useful. To start with, that means it should be correct. But it's not enough merely to be correct. It's easy to make a statement correct by making it vague. That's a common flaw in academic writing, for example. If you know nothing ...

How to Think for Yourself clipping

Posted on November 30th, 2020

November 2020 There are some kinds of work that you can't do well without thinking differently from your peers. To be a successful scientist, for example, it's not enough just to be correct. Your ideas have to be both correct and novel. You can't publish papers saying things other people already know. You need to say things no one else has realized yet. The same is true for investors. It's not enough for a public market investor to...

How to work with nature to grow food clipping

Posted on November 30th, 2020

The Problem With Grain Agriculture While I was still living in Denver, I started to act on my dream of becoming a farmer. My aunt lived nearby and had a large corner lot. I convinced her to let me put in a garden along with raising a few backyard chickens. There was a simple joy in planting a seed, adding water, and seeing it grow. Of course, there were all types of problems with the garden. I learned first-hand how...

On Blockchain Voting clipping

Posted on November 30th, 2020

Clip source: On Blockchain Voting Blockchain voting is a spectacularly dumb idea for a whole bunch of reasons. I have generally quoted Matt Blaze: Why is blockchain voting a dumb idea? Glad you asked. For starters: It doesn’t solve any problems civil elections actually have.It’s basically incompatible with "software independence", considered an essential property. It can make ballot secrecy difficult or impossible. I’ve also quoted...

In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You clipping

Posted on November 30th, 2020

In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You by Cosma Shalizi on May 30, 2012 Attention conservation notice: Over 7800 words about optimal planning for a socialist economy and its intersection with computational complexity theory. This is about as relevant to the world around us as debating whether a devotee of the Olympian gods should approve of transgenic organisms. (Or: centaurs, yes or no?) Contains mathemat...

No, Jesus was not a “NonWhite” refugee who would have voted for… clipping

Posted on September 22nd, 2020

The group running for the Municipality of Beirut (representative of Sunnis, Maronites, Shiites, Druzes). Genes haven’t changed in 3700 years.Note added in June 2020:The archbishop of Canterbury claimed Jesus was "nonwhite". Under such a definition so would Homer, Caesar, Alexander, Socrates, Aristotle, etc. (East) Mediterraneans were more alike, quite remote from Northern Europeans. "To pass for a Jew or a Nabatean ["Arabes"], a Roma...

The fragility of cancer treatment... or lack thereof clipping

Posted on September 14th, 2020

This story begins the same way all great stories begin: on Twitter (ha…). Last fall, as my ten-year high school reunion fast was approaching I reached out to one of my classmates on Twitter, which led to a few intriguing phone calls. Long story short, our conversation eventually led us to trade book recommendations. He recommended a few books by Nassim Taleb: a well-known mathematician, author, and "uncertainty" guru. Taleb has a s...

The Inventory: Nassim Nicholas Taleb clipping

Posted on September 14th, 2020

‘Who is my mentor? I have inverse mentors: people I learnt to not imitate,’ says the scholar and philosopher … What was your childhood or earliest ambition? I was utopian. I found adults and adulthood fundamentally corrupt, self-serving and unclear. I still do but I now find the utopian even more harmful. Public school or state school? University or straight into work? French lycée, whatever that means. University but largely autodid...

The end of secularism is nigh clipping

Posted on September 14th, 2020

The West's ability to market this culturally conditioned assumption is dyingOnce again, the Hagia Sophia is a Grand Mosque. Credit: Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Last week, on 5 August, the Prime Minister of India laid a foundation stone and helped bury a distinctive period in global history. Narendra Modi had travelled to Ayodhya, a city long identified by Hindus with one of their most beloved gods. Lord Ram...

The Philosophy of Optionality clipping

Posted on September 14th, 2020

Optionality. One of the most underrated concepts of life I think. The very simplest defintion can be described as by Taleb: being able to accept both outcomes, to be comfortable with the counterfactual. It’s opposite? The Squeeze. The Japanese understood this through wabi sabi- incompleteness. The Taoists knew it when Laozi discussed the empty bowl. Being incomplete means being open to the infinite. A fractal has infinite length beca...

Nassim Taleb looks at what will break, and what won't clipping

Posted on September 14th, 2020

Paradoxically, one can make long-term predictions on the basis of the prevalence of forecasting errors. A system that is over-reliant on prediction (through leverage, like the banking system before the recent crisis), hence fragile to unforeseen "black swan" events, will eventually break into pieces. Although fragile bridges can take a long time to collapse, 25 years in the 21st century should be sufficient to make hidden risks salie...

Moderation Is the Highest Form of Greatness. Here’s Why. clipping

Posted on September 14th, 2020

Moderation Is the Highest Form of Greatness. Here’s Why. You can preorder signed copies of my new book Lives of the Stoics here. This is not a political argument. But it says something about our politics right now that the right in America is convinced that Joe Biden is a radical leftist, while the progress...

IOHAI clipping

Posted on September 14th, 2020

My co-editor, Chuck Spinney, and I have updated page 144 of Patterns of Conflict, the "Theme for Vitality and Growth." The last full edition of Patterns carries a date of December 1986. Even after he quit issuing new editions of the briefing, however, Boyd continued to evolve these ideas, and in 1989, he changed page 144 in a major way. Here is page 144 in the 1986 edition:What Boyd did was replace "adaptability" with "agility" and ...

There's no such thing as a 'pure' European—or anyone else clipping

Posted on September 7th, 2020

When the first busloads of migrants from Syria and Iraq rolled into Germany 2 years ago, some small towns were overwhelmed. The village of Sumte, population 102, had to take in 750 asylum seekers. Most villagers swung into action, in keeping with Germany’s strong Willkommenskultur, or "welcome culture." But one self-described neo-Nazi on the district council told The New York Times that by allowing the influx, the German people faced...

The Cities We Lost clipping

Posted on August 30th, 2020

What lessons can the Eastern Mediterranean's once-cosmopolitan cities teach us about our strife-torn present? Between the 1800s and 1950s, the Levant's port cities were beacons of trade and French-style Westernisation, writes Athanasiadis [AFP]On a recent trip to Alexandria, I bumped into a Greek author of Alexandrian origins at a quaint waterfront patisserie. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that unlike the majo...

New Jersey's small, networked dairy farms are a model for a more resilient food system clipping

Posted on August 16th, 2020

New Jersey's small, networked dairy farms are a model for a more resilient food system Cow’s milk is a major part of many Americans’ diets because it contains key vitamins and calcium. But milk consumption has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other foods, including beef, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Economic shutdowns have severely disrupted supply chains that move food from farm to fork. Milk provides a compel...

Tail risk of contagious diseases clipping

Posted on August 16th, 2020

AbstractThe COVID-19 pandemic has been a sobering reminder of the extensive damage brought about by epidemics, phenomena that play a vivid role in our collective memory, and that have long been identified as significant sources of risk for humanity. The use of increasingly sophisticated mathematical and computational models for the spreading and the implications of epidemics should, in principle, provide policy- and decision-makers w...

Auftragstaktik in one simple diagram clipping

Posted on May 24th, 2020

The concept of Auftragstaktik is more complicated than just "Tell them what to do, then walk away." The root of "Auftragstaktik" is a German word for "contract," and that’s how Boyd describes mission command in Patterns, (p. 76): A contract, even a conceptual one, means negotiation and salesmanship, as you can see. For example, does the subordinate understand how their mission fits into the overall operational concept? Are you conf...

Can You Be Still? clipping

Posted on May 24th, 2020

Odysseus is the greatest hero in all of literature. He fights for ten years at Troy and then, in a stroke of brilliance, manages to end the war with a clever trick. Then for another ten years he fights his way home—facing storms, temptation, a Cyclops, deadly whirlpools, food shortages, the underworld, and a six-headed monster to return to his beloved wife and son. Arriving in Ithaca, Odysseus finds his kingdom drained by thirsty ...

Why is the modern world so ugly? clipping

Posted on May 18th, 2020

One of the great generalisations we can make about the modern world is that it is, to an extraordinary degree, an ugly world. If we were to show an ancestor from 250 years ago around our cities and suburbs, they would be amazed at our technology, impressed by our wealth, stunned by our medical advances – and shocked and disbelieving at the horrors we had managed to build. Societies that are, in most respects, hugely more advanced tha...

Dogfight Tacks Can Win Big Wars, Preaches Pilot Turned Tactician clipping

Posted on May 11th, 2020

January 4, 1981 Among fighter pilots, "getting inside" of an opponent in a dogfight often means the difference between life and death. Getting inside means turning and maneuvering more quickly than the enemy so you can fix your guns on his plane before he gets a good look at you. For 25 years, John Boyd, once a topnotch fighter pilot and now a retired Air Force colonel, has wrestled with ideas about how to make that simple-sounding...

John Boyd on Al Qaeda's Grand Strategy clipping

Posted on May 10th, 2020

Col. John Boyd (he died in 1997) is considered one of America's best military thinkers. His thinking dramatically influenced the plan of attack in the first gulf war. Boyd's thinking also serves as a good basis for a deeper understanding 4GW (fourth generation warfare). Grand strategy, according to Boyd, is a quest to isolate your enemy's (a nation-state or a global terrorist network) thinking processes from connections to the e...

Environment Is Your Force Multiplier clipping

Posted on April 26th, 2020

Over the course of his life, Benjamin Franklin’s (1706-1790) contributions to the world were nothing short of astonishing. Franklin taught himself the fundamentals of writing, science, engineering, and diplomacy. He sought practical applications of what he learned each step of the way—emulating his favorite authors and developing his own writing style, running a successful printing business, advancing our understanding of electricity...

What is Zhenwei? clipping

Posted on April 26th, 2020

A favorable aspect about focusing on an ancient classic like Sun Tzu's Art of War is its prevalence in the modern world. This popularity attracts the brightest academic minds, because a more educated following over time demands it. Today we are fortunate to have with us one of those bright academic minds, Dr. Paul R. Goldin, professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his PhD from...

Fundamentals of Handgun Shooting clipping

Posted on April 11th, 2020

There are actually eight fundamentals of handgun shooting. Each of the eight fundamentals is equally important as far as shooting safely on the range. However, only four of the eight fundamentals are important when it comes to making the shot. If there is a weakness in any one of the four it will reflect in your shooting. The reason most people don't like to shoot handguns is because they can...

Boyd's OODA 'Loop," Really Final Edition clipping

Posted on March 31st, 2020

The Norwegian Defense University has just published a new version of "Boyd’s OODA Loop" in their journal, Necesse, edited by Royal Norwegian Naval Academy. I had thought that the previous version was about as close to perfection as can be found on this Earth, but alas Necesse is a peer-reviewed journal, and "Reviewer No. 2" ripped it to shreds. After I calmed down, it was clear that Number 2 was right. So the edition published in the...

When the System Breaks Down, Leaders Stand Up clipping

Posted on March 31st, 2020

BY RYAN HOLIDAY It began in the East. At least, that’s what the experts think. Maybe it came from animals. Maybe it was the Chinese. Maybe it was a curse from the gods. One thing is certain: it radiated out east, west, north, and south, crossing borders, then oceans, as it overwhelmed the world. The only thing that spread faster than the contagion was the fear and the rumors. People panicked. Doctors were baffled. Government officia...

The UK's Coronavirus Policy May Sound Scientific. It Isn't. clipping

Posted on March 31st, 2020

Dominic Cummings loves to theorise about complexity, but he’s getting it all wrong Crowds of shoppers in Edinburgh, 2 March 2020: ‘Herd immunity was nothing more than a dressed-up version of the ‘just do nothing’ approach.’ Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian When, along with applied systems scientist Dr Joe Norman, we first reacted to coronavirus on 25 January with the publication of an academic note urging caution...

Inner conflict: Dragons and OODA loops clipping

Posted on March 17th, 2020

Inner conflict: Dragons and OODA loops Artem Grinblat My fascination with dragons started when as a boy. I’ve heard that a crane would beat a snake, deflecting and countering with its beak, that tiger beats crane, overcoming its defences with a flurry of paws, that snake beats tiger, finding a gap for precision strike, and that dragon beats them all, having four legs as a tiger, tail as a snake and long neck as a crane. ...

The Value of Liberty clipping

Posted on March 17th, 2020

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."It may seem ironic to speak of Freedom when so many have currently chosen to isolate themselves from the world and confine themselves indoors. However, it is precisely the ability t...

The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to “The Office” clipping

Posted on March 7th, 2020

October 7, 2009 By Venkatesh Rao My neighbor introduced me to The Office back in 2005. Since then, I’ve watched every episode of both the British and American versions. I’ve watched the show obsessively because I’ve been unable to figure out what makes it so devastatingly effective, and elevates it so far above the likes of Dilbert and Office Space. Until now, that is. Now, after four years, I’ve finally figured the show out. The...

The Lesson to Unlearn clipping

Posted on February 11th, 2020

The most damaging thing you learned in school wasn't something you learned in any specific class. It was learning to get good grades.When I was in college, a particularly earnest philosophy grad student once told me that he never cared what grade he got in a class, only what he learned in it. This stuck in my mind because it was the only time I ever heard anyone say such a thing.For me, as for most students, the measurement of what I...

Bourbon by Walker Percy - Aesthetics of Knocking it Back clipping

Posted on January 25th, 2020

This is not written by a connoisseur of bourbon. Ninety-nine percent of bourbon drinkers know more about bourbon than I do. It is about the aesthetic of bourbon drinking in general and in particular of knocking it back neat.I can hardly tell one bourbon from another, unless the other is very bad. Some bad bourbons are even more memorable than good ones. For example, I can recall being broke with some friends in Tennessee and deciding...

Nassim Taleb: My Rules for Life clipping

Posted on January 4th, 2020

The controversial thinker who predicted the 2008 financial crisis hates bankers, academics and journalists. He's also a man of mystery – he eats like a caveman, and goes to bed at 8pm. We took the risk of meeting him ‘He’s forever having spats and fights’: Nassim Taleb in Brooklyn, New York this month. Photograph: Mike McGregor for the Observer How much does Nassim Taleb dislike journalists? Let me count the ways. "An...

How to Time Your Leaps and Set Yourself Apart clipping

Posted on January 2nd, 2020

Using the Sigmoid Curve to reinvent yourself, take risks, and accelerate growthIn January 1961, a nineteen-year-old, unassuming kid from Minnesota hitched a ride and headed eastbound for New York to pursue a career in music. He wanted to get closer to the heart of the folk music in Greenwich Village and see if he could cross paths with his idol, Woody Guthrie. Over the next three years, he would release four critically acclaimed albu...

Texas Forever: How I Found the American Dream in the Lone Star State clipping

Posted on January 1st, 2020

When we shopped for our first house, I told my girlfriend (now wife) that most of the decision was up to her. I had worked out what we could afford, but in terms of what house, where and what style, I wanted whatever she wanted. We were coming from New York and so everything seemed bigger in Texas. A real estate agent showed us a "small" place that was "only" 1,500 square feet. We didn’t have enough stuff to fill half of that. We en...

There’s No Such Thing as ‘Quality’ Time clipping

Posted on December 31st, 2019

When you’re too busy aiming for it, you miss the moments in front of you It’s one of those lines we throw out casually: "I want to spend more ‘quality time’... " whether it’s with friends, with family, with your kids, or with yourself.While the phrase certainly comes from a good place, there’s a disconnect: The perfectionist side of our brain, fueled by movies and Instagram, wants everything to be special, to be "right." But that’s ...

Taleb’s Call to Duel clipping

Posted on December 21st, 2019

Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Claire Lehmann seemed like natural allies: Both are contrarian, entrepreneurial free thinkers. But recently, Taleb started calling Lehmann names on Twitter. Lehmann had defended behavioral genetics, especially claims about "intelligence": that it is measured by IQ testing, is genetically based, and correlates with success in life. Taleb has extensively criticized all three claims—they exhibit some of his co...

Creating agile leaders clipping

Posted on November 28th, 2019

All forms of mission-oriented leadership, from maneuver warfare to the Toyota Production System, share a common foundation: Fire up the creativity and initiative of all members of the organization and harmonize their efforts to accomplish the objectives of the organization. Such an orientation allows them to create and exploit fleeting opportunities before their opponents can understand what is going on. As Don Vandergriff quotes on...

Magic and illusion: Foundation for leadership clipping

Posted on November 9th, 2019

Aspiring leaders typically concentrate on history and case studies, creating theories of success and failure in their disciplines. This is fine but won’t produce great practitioners in either war or business. As the German General Hermann Balck once told Boyd, "The training of the infantryman can never be too many sided." Miyamoto Musashi in 1645 wrote that samurai (much less top-level commanders) should study the arts and sciences...

Considering Wealth at the Real World Risk Institute clipping

Posted on November 9th, 2019

To shake up my thinking and expose myself to highly-believable people, I attended the two-day program at Nassim Taleb’s – Real World Risk Institute.You can find my daily notes here. Cleaned up digital version of my notes here. What follows is my thinking on wealth inspired by what was presented. Mistakes are my own. I can hear things differently than what was actually spoken, so don’t assume my attributions are strictly accurate. To ...

Taste for Makers clipping

Posted on November 1st, 2019

"...Copernicus'aesthetic objections to [equants] provided one essential motive for his rejection of the Ptolemaic system...." - Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution "All of us had been trained by Kelly Johnson and believed fanatically in his insistence that an airplane that looked beautiful would fly the same way." - Ben Rich, Skunk Works "Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics."- G...

Cities and Ambition clipping

Posted on November 1st, 2019

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. There are other messages too, of course. You should be hipper. You should be better looking. But the clearest message is that you s...

How to be whole clipping

Posted on October 26th, 2019

I was on a panel this week at my university, discussing whether universities should teach well-being. The number of students reporting mental health problems is soaring, student suicides are on the front-pages, and ministers are demanding universities make well-being a priority. But can universities actually teach well-being? There is scientific research on how to be happy, and some universities offer courses in that. But I don’t th...

Aldous Huxley on upwards and downwards self-transcendence clipping

Posted on October 26th, 2019

The Dionysian for self-transcendence: To go upward, one must first go downward. Of course, this must be barbelled with Apollonian. Last week, I went to an exhibition on Goya, in Boston. It was filled with his bizarre and fantastic dream-drawings, exploring the strange manias and nightmares that fill humans’ minds when their reason is switched off - as in the classic engraving, the Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. The museum booksto...

Atheist and secular mythologies clipping

Posted on October 25th, 2019

Many people believe that mythology ceased to be relevant after the arrival of science, and the resulting rise of atheism. A new tool arose to distinguish between truth and false narratives – measurement, not doctrine. Monotheistic religions staked sole claim to the truth in the 19th century, but then science, with its atheistic foundations, usurped this position, shoving monotheistic religions into the realm of mythology, an idea tha...

Has Kalki arrived? clipping

Posted on October 25th, 2019

Donald Trump fits the idea of what Vishnu’s last avatar epitomises – an invasive, violent, disruptive force that redefines old ideas. I have always maintained that the horse-riding Kalki, the final avatar of Vishnu, is not a saviour who brings back old ideas, but rather an invader, whose violent disruption forces old ideas to redefine, reframe and rejuvenate themselves. For the idea of Kalki emerged with the arrival of Greek, Huns, M...

What I Learned About Life From Buying a Goat on Craigslist clipping

Posted on October 14th, 2019

One goat became two, then a whole farm, then a crash course in what really matters It started innocuously enough, as many modern tales do, with a Craigslist posting. Boredom and whimsy — that’s how my wife and I ended up driving home from Seguin, Texas, with a tiny Nigerian dwarf goat in the front seat of the car. We named her Bucket, and she lived — quite illegally, we would later learn — tucked behind the fence that surrounded our ...

The Optimistic Thought Experiment clipping

Posted on September 23rd, 2019

by Peter A. Thiel Tuesday, January 29, 2008And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. — Luke 17:26–30For the judeo-western inspiration, it is a mistake of the first magnitude to place too much value on the things of this world. ...

The Trouble with Optionality | Opinion by HBS IYI clipping

Posted on September 16th, 2019

MY NOTES ON AUTHOR: HBS’ IYI Errors: * Missing central point: Optionality is avoiding blow-ups while maintaining maximal upside. * Working at a consulting firm is not optionality, b/c dependent on paycheck. * Wants young people to blow-up; asking to take **MORE** risk. * Specifically, missing entrepreneurship; this IYI doesn't seem to grasp it. * "Safety Nets" in this article is not "safety nets". * Finding a pursuit that can sus...

When Is Correlation Transitive? clipping

Posted on September 16th, 2019

Given two unit vectors in a real inner product space, one can define the correlation between these vectors to be their inner product , or in more geometric terms, the cosine of the angle subtended by and . By the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality, this is a quantity between and , with the extreme positive correlation occurring when are identical, the extreme negative correlation occurring when are diametrically opposite, and the zero...

Peter Thiel's Religion clipping

Posted on September 16th, 2019

"I am the Lord your God." — 1st Commandment Human culture began with a murder. And that murder was fueled by a rage so strong that it’s the secret origin of all religious and political institutions. In The Bible, The Cain and Abel story is the first act of life after the Garden of Eden. Cain is a farmer and the older brother to Abel, who is a shepherd. Initially, Cain admires Abel. But eventually, when Cain turns envious of his youn...

Heraclitus's Fragments: Ancient Wisdom for a Changing World clipping

Posted on September 9th, 2019

"Many fail to grasp what they have seen, and cannot judge what they have learned, although they tell themselves they know."— Heraclitus*** As with Baltasar Gracián and The Art of Worldly Wisdom, the insights found in Heraclitus‘s Fragments are strikingly modern. The overarching message of his collection is that all things change; all things flow.The body of work attributed to him consists in a collection of incendiary sparks that sch...

Nassim Taleb on the Notion of Alternative Histories clipping

Posted on September 9th, 2019

We see what’s visible and available. Often this is nothing more than randomness and yet we wrap a narrative around it. The trader who is rich must know what he is doing. A good outcome means we made the right decisions, right? Not so quick. If we were wise we would not judge the quality of a decision on its outcome. There are alternative histories worth considering. *** Writing in Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in L...

The Glorious, Almost-Disconnected Boredom of My Walk in Japan clipping

Posted on September 4th, 2019

05.29.2019 07:00 AM The Glorious, Almost-Disconnected Boredom of My Walk in JapanHow I modified my digital tools to reconnect with time on a six-week, 620-mile trip on foot across the country. Looking down over Hirasawa post town, Nagano Prefecture CRAIG MODThe jazz cafe was tiny, with a few polished wood tables, a record collection on display, and two beautiful speakers. The owner, in his 70s, wore a porkpie hat and a sleeve garter....

Jim Mattis: Duty, Democracy and the Threat of Tribalism clipping

Posted on September 2nd, 2019

© Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/DOD/ALAMY In late November 2016, I was enjoying Thanksgiving break in my hometown on the Columbia River in Washington state when I received an unexpected call from Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Would I meet with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss the job of secretary of defense? I had taken no part in the election campaign and had never met or spoken to Mr. Trump, so to say that I was surprised is ...

Commencement Address, American University in Beirut clipping

Posted on September 1st, 2019

Dear graduating students, This is the first commencement I have ever attended (I did not attend my own graduation). Further, I have to figure out how lecture you on success when I do not feel successful yet –and it is not false modesty. Success as a Fragile Construction For I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when pe...

Spiral Dynamics clipping

Posted on August 31st, 2019

Spiral Dynamics is a model which explains the evolution of human consciousness. That doesn’t sound too exciting, but since first hearing about it on the Liturgists Podcast, my eyes have been opened to see the world in a brand new way, and not to overstate things, but I think pondering these concepts and their implications has honestly changed my life. What is it?Spiral Dynamics (I’ll abbreviate it as SD) says that human consciousness...

Notes from Peter Thiel’s speech at the National Conservatism conference on July 14, 2019 clipping

Posted on August 31st, 2019

Update: The full video of Peter Thiel’s speech is available here. Please refer to the video for exact quotes. On August 1, Peter Thiel published an op-ed on similar themes in The New York Times. I took notes on my phone, so any mistakes are mine. These notes should be treated as paraphrases and not as direct quotes, since I was not able to write everything down, and I have added context. I did not record audio, since when I asked in...

The Mystery Of Cicero’s Lost Work On Glory clipping

Posted on August 31st, 2019

Of the literary works of classical antiquity, only a fraction have survived to the present day. What fraction this is, we do not know; one estimate places it at one-fourth, but the true figure will never be known. The reader may wonder how it can be that literary masterpieces could have been permitted to fade into obscurity, and then oblivion; but, on further reflection, he will marvel more at the fact that anything at all survived...

Three Underrated Reasons for Berkshire Hathaway's Success clipping

Posted on August 26th, 2019

Berkshire Hathaway is widely regarded as one of the most successful companies in the world. If you look at Warren Buffett’s 49 year track record with Berkshire, it almost looks easy in hindsight. Make no mistake, however, it wasn’t easy and he certainly didn’t do it alone. At this year’s annual meeting Buffett and his longtime business partner, Charlie Munger, revealed "the secret" to their success. But it’s not really a secret and,...

Culture Eats Strategy: Nucor's Ken Iverson on Building a Different Kind of Company clipping

Posted on August 26th, 2019

The problem with most management, leadership, and business books is that many of them harp on the same self-evident points, overconfident in the usefulness of their prescriptions for would-be imitators. They tend to vastly underestimate the role of circumstance, luck, the nature of completion, and the effects of scale, among other things; falling prey to the many delusions described by Phil Rosenzweig in his incredibly important book...

The Most Important Part of The Creative Process That Everyone Misses: A Draw-Down Period clipping

Posted on August 26th, 2019

There are many phases of the creative process. One is overlooked more than any of the others. Inspiration, research, production, editing (refining), release, promotion. Most of these get their due. I’m talking about the phase that comes between the inspiration and the core act of creation (and sometimes appears again briefly between the time the work is finished and the time it is released). It’s the most nerve-wracking and difficult...

The Art of Drawdown Periods clipping

Posted on August 26th, 2019

Inspiration is important. Your influences matter. But you also need time to process, reflect, and create your own connections before jumping into your next project. Whether that’s a book, startup, or scientific theory, the lesson holds true for artists, entrepreneurs, and scientists, alike. Best-selling author, Ryan Holiday, refers to these as "drawdown periods." In the months leading up to writing a new book, Holiday guards himself...

What peace is and what it is not clipping

Posted on August 26th, 2019

Peace isn't only an idea. It is an idea backed by action. It's an act of prevention. It's an act of creativity. It's an act of perseverance. It's an act of sound strategy executed flawlessly. Most of all, it's an act of benevolence. Thus, peace isn't only calmness. It is active. It is stunning speed. It is unstoppable power. Peace isn't only stopping war and doom. It is lighting the way. It is educating those who are uninformed and...

Roger Ames interview on Sun Tzu translation clipping

Posted on August 26th, 2019

Professor Roger T. Ames was the Director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Hawaii for ten years, and has been the Editor ofPhilosophy East and West since 1987. His teaching and research interests focus on comparative philosophy, the philosophy of culture, environmental philosophy, classical Confucianism, and Taoism. He has written many interpretive works on Chinese philosophy and culture, and has over the past d...

Michael Nylan Interview on new Art of War translation clipping

Posted on August 26th, 2019

As we approach Sonshi.com's 20th anniversary on August 12, 2019, there is no better way to celebrate than to highlight a brand new Art of War translation by a woman scholar of the highest order, Michael Nylan. Dr. Nylan is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her PhD from Princeton University in East Asian Studies. The China Story Journal aptly describes her as one of the foremost historians tod...

Strategy and Force Employment clipping

Posted on July 17th, 2019

Who ever relies on the Tao in governing men doesn’t try to force issues or defeat enemies by force of arms. For every force there is a counterforce. Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself. –Tao Te Ching 30Because the United States so dominates the world militarily, our political leaders face the temptation to use force to solve a widening range of problems. Presidents must relish the option of disciplin...

Genghis John clipping

Posted on July 6th, 2019

Genghis John October 9, 1998 Comment: #199 Reference: "Genghis John," Proceeding of the US Naval Institute, July 1997. Attached.It should now be clear to most readers of this list the Defense Department is not adapting to the changing conditions brought about by the end of the Cold War: We have a modernization plan that can not modernize the force structure, a readiness nose dive, and a corrupt accounting...

Colin Gray on John Boyd and the OODA Loop clipping

Posted on June 28th, 2019

Boyd's Place in Modern StrategyThe Strategic Importance of Boyd and the OODA LoopJust as (Edward) Luttwak's logic of paradox permeates all levels and kinds of conflict, so Boyd's loop can apply to the operational, strategic, and political levels of war, as well as to tactics for aerial dogfights. Boyd's theory claims that the key to success in conflict is to operate inside the opponent's decision cycl...

32 Thoughts From a 32-Year-Old – Ryan Holiday clipping

Posted on June 28th, 2019

This is the first year I forgot how old I was. Like really forgot and had to do the math, several times, as recently as yesterday morning. I’m not saying I’m old. That would be a lame joke. It’s just that this is the first year where my age really didn’t matter at all. Because once you have kids, nobody asks anymore. They want to know how old they are. You’re just a firmly established adult now, which after spending almost all of my ...

Lessons from Keith Rabois Essay 4: How to run an Effective Board Meeting and make an Effective Board Deck clipping

Posted on June 27th, 2019

published June 24th, 2019 This week’s essay is on how to prepare for a board meeting, though many of the lessons apply to internal reviews as well. Over the past two years, I’ve attended 100+ board meetings that range from companies that are just a handful of people to companies with over one thousand employees that are preparing to go public. These board meetings vary significantly in quality of discussion and participants, but t...

Lessons from Keith Rabois Essay 3: How to be an Effective Executive clipping

Posted on June 27th, 2019

published February 24th, 2019 This week’s essay is on how to be an effective executive. This is inspired by a talk Keith gives to some of our portfolio companies’ executives. Summary Running yourself Lead, don’t manage: Be proactive rather than reactive. "Lead" your team as opposed to "manage" a situation. Understand your output: Your output is how much your team gets done + how much neighboring teams get done divided by how...

Lessons from Keith Rabois Essay 2: How to Interview an Executive clipping

Posted on June 27th, 2019

published February 10th, 2019 This week’s essay is on on how to interview an executive, though it may also be helpful to read when preparing to be interviewed. From day 1, one of the most important jobs of a CEO is to hire incredible talent to your team. Hiring the right executive is one of the most leveraged activities a CEO can perform. Hiring the wrong one can set your company back by several quarters or even lead to a death s...

Lessons From Keith Rabois Essay 1: How to become a Venture Capitalist clipping

Posted on June 27th, 2019

published February 4th, 2019 Over the next few weeks I will be publishing an essay each Monday, covering a variety of different topics that I’ve learned about from working with Keith Rabois. They will focus on investing, management, operations, and hiring. The essays will build upon one another. Venture can be difficult to break into; it’s based on decentralized trust. Partners spend little time together as they’re primarily out ...

Not John Boyd clipping

Posted on June 27th, 2019

Not John Boyd. But a good video, nonetheless. Here’s Prof. Daniel Bonevac giving an introductory lecture on the OODA loop: Professor Bonevac is a member of, and was formerly chair of, the Philosophy Department at the University of Texas. I don’t know when this lecture was given, but the video was posted in April of this year. One of the interesting things about it is that Professor Bonevac is teaching a class on Organizational Ethic...

Col David Hackworth, Bulging Muscles Won't Win the Next War clipping

Posted on June 27th, 2019

Bulging Muscles Won't Win The Next WarBy David Hackworth October 4, 2000 In 1631, General Tilly's imperialist Roman Catholic army was whipped by a significantly smaller force under the command of King Gustavus Adolphus. For more than 200 years, the formations Tilly fielded that day—the Tercios—had dominated the battlefield. But Gustavus had secretly developed a lean, agile army that struck like lightning—employing combined-arms tea...