Links to Consider, 1/2
Gurwinder Bhogal on behavioral laws; Southwest Airlines' software problems; Richard Hanania's year-end wrap-up; Erik Torenberg's year-end wrap-up;
To ensure survival, institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution. For example, arms suppliers lobby politicians to push for new wars, and light bulb manufacturers deliberately make their bulbs shorter-lived so you buy them more often.
He credits Clay Shirky with formulating this principle, and The Interesting Fact of the Day Blog for pointing it out. In fact, the problem can go away and still be counted as a problem. For example, although income redistribution in the United States already has pulled almost everyone out of poverty, people who lobby for more income distribution keep the problem of inequality alive by emphasizing income statistics that are calculated before counting taxes and transfers.
Several articles point to problems with Southwest Airlines’ software systems. For example, Gizmodo writes,
Vice President of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association Mike Santoro admitted harsh winter weather played a role in the delays but went on to blame the sustained obliteration of flights on “outdated” software. Santoro said the systems responsible for keeping up with pilots’ and flight attendants’ locations were quickly overwhelmed, forcing schedulers to start keeping tabs by hand. In some cases, Santoro said flights were being canceled entirely due to a lack of staff though sufficient amounts of flight attendants and other workers were onboard and willing to work.
“Even though we had a crew available, [scheduling] had no idea those flight attendants were in the back of the airplane,” Santoro said. “The problem is the software just doesn’t keep track of us.”
A story in the Dallas Morning News quotes the head of the flight attendants’ union as saying
It almost became a running joke around the company that we aren’t able to make certain changes because it would involve technology,”
Long-time readers may recall that when it comes to software, I have the opposite view of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Instead, I believe in rewriting software almost as soon as you get it working. When I was with Freddie Mac in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the company clung to outdated software that made it very difficult to keep up with changes in the business. We had the same “running joke” problem that Southwest reportedly had.
When I had my web site in the mid-1990s, we were forced to completely rewrite our software because the server we were using could not handle the load. That rewrite made out site much easier to manage subsequently, and so I became a great believer in rewriting early and often.has a wrap-up of the year. I could have chosen a number of excerpts or links, but I will go with
also has a rich year-end wrap-up. Again, there are many items to choose from, but his write-up of The Ancient City stoked my curiosity. Erik writes,
You start out being right-wi[n]g because you believe in freedom, markets, and progress. Eventually, you come to the realization that so much of the American Right is actually driven by fear of change and paranoia, and even if they may dislike the libs as much as you do, it’s for the wrong reasons.
For 99.9% of our existence, Western society has been a fascist-communist cult that joined ethnicity, religion, culture, and space. Any variation off of that is abnormal and easy to lose.
The main conclusion I drew from the book is that we aren’t intensification of the past, we are dilution. Our modem concepts of politics, religion, ethnicity, etc are significant dilutions of what people experienced thousands of years ago. Same patterns, incredibly attenuated.
The religions in medieval times were a combination of ancestor worship and nature worship. This leads to the enticing theory that this is also where we've ended up today: ancestor worship = identity politics; nature worship = environmentalism.
By destroying the big religions, perhaps we've ended up back right where we started.
“so much of the American Right is actually driven by fear of change and paranoia”
Someone who writes this couldn’t pass an ideological Turing test, especially, and what comes across from that post, that his life operating assumption is that conservatives are just dumber than liberals.
I agree completely on the “if it ain’t broke” point. It seems to me that it’s always right to fix something if you can. The issue is rather one of prioritization. When does “fixing” something become a distraction from doing or fixing something else that’s more important or could be achieved with less effort.
Creating something is somehow a process of discovery in and of itself. By going through that process, it’s so much easier and better to start over and apply the lessons learned to a clean sheet of paper.
Back in the good old days, if the power went out, you lost whatever work you’d done on your computer since the last save. I had a college friend who accidentally kicked the power cord out of the wall when taking a congratulatory stretch after four hours working on a lab write up. Of course, she hadn’t saved it in quite a long time. (I was there. It was funny.) But also of course, she was able to re-construct it in a very short amount of time. And I suspect it was better the second time around.