- The Limits of Innovation: “And the last argument for the limits of innovation has to do with human nature. Why we choose to adopt things is not a logical process, and is fueled by culture, psychology, timing, and a dozen factors, many which have little to do with new idea X being better than old idea Y in technological or design terms. Those are terms technologists and designers obsess about, despite history’s strong suggestion that those factors are overestimated in their role for what becomes dominant, and when.”
- Ant Colonies are Super-Organisms: “There are economies of scale within a single organism but not across.Except with ant colonies. The mass to energy ratio of the colony as a whole follows the same law that governs indivduals of non-colony animals.”
- Prediction Without Markets: “In a new study, Daniel Reeves, Duncan Watts, Dave Pennock and I compare the performance of prediction markets to conventional means of forecasting, namely polls and statistical models. Examining thousands of sporting and movie events, we find that the relative advantage of prediction markets is remarkably small.” Jeff at Cheap Talk offers a methodological critique of the study.
- A Little Less Conversation: “When you have a team of one person, you have no communication requirements. None. Add a second person, and now you have a single connection: Adam and Mary have to talk to each other once in a while. Now add a third person, say, Srinivas, and suddenly we’ve gone from one connection to three, since Srinivas has to talk to Adam and Mary. Add a fourth person. I’m running out of names here to help me out — OK: Britney. If we add her, and she needs to coordinate with all of them, you get six connections. For the mathematically inclined, the formula is that if you have n people on your team, there are (n2-n)/2 connections. In 2006, Moishe Lettvin, a former programmer at Microsoft, wrote a blog post describing the year he spent coordinating the list of items that would be featured on one menu in Windows Vista — the menu you use to turn off your computer. Lettvin figured that 43 people all had a voice in designing this one menu. Forty-three! By Brooks’s formula, that means managing 903 connections. Lettvin says he spent so much time on coordination tasks that, in 12 months, he produced fewer than 200 lines of code.”