This week, begin here:
Irving Wladawsky-Berger has managed to merge two of your author’s favorite pretentious topics — complexity and the films of Akira Kurosawa — into a brilliant, meandering rant on the search for truth in large data sets (7 min). Drawing upon the lessons of quantum mechanics, he argues for a shift in the ways in which we define objective truth, and suggests a model more suited to the search for probability:

One of the hardest parts of that learning is the need to let go of our preconceived notions of scientific determinism and get used to living in a world of probabilities, uncertainties, limits to how much we can know, – and Rashomon effects.


Are we understanding the true dynamics of the market at a level that actually leads to good, fundamental, scalable, sustainable businesses being established?

In the case of Google’s attempt to upend a cash-powered marketplace in with Android (5 min), perhaps not.

Is Meerkat the great video equalizer (9 min) OR “does it instead enable a neo-liberal winner-take-all dynamic that empowers mostly early-adopters and celebrities?”

Your author suspects the latter.

Speaking of elite power that rules the universe, Robin Hanson has written a thoughtful take on our human evolution into ‘unconscious political savants’ (4 min), and the ways in which we cowtow to societal elites in our decision making processes — often in the face of rational alternatives.

Judith Rodin and Neill Coleman of the Rockefeller Foundation have penned some rather thoughtful guidelines for wielding organizational influence (4 min) for the SSIR (worth bookmarking even for for-profit types).

Jason Zimdars published a piece for 37 Signals on the need to remove one’s developer goggles (4 min) in order to meaningfully absorb customer feedback and insight. This is critically relevant even to those organizations not focused on software development.

Open question: are the structural disadvantages facing the ready-to-wear market (3 min) applicable across other verticals, as well? We’d posit that they are.

File under ‘gender markets in everything': it turns out that prosthetics have distinctly male form factors (http://motherboard.vice.com/read/man-hands) (14 min). This is a fascinating piece from Motherboard.

If you missed Frédéric Filloux’s piece in this week’s Monday Note on Airbnb and the API-powered opportunities in the local travel space (5 min), it’s a brilliant read.

Braden Kowitz’s guide for Google Ventures on running internal design critiques (8 min) is pretty spot-on, and something we’ve been talking about a great deal internally here at Almighty. Frankly, creating muscle memory around learning to critique one another is a glossed-over, under-practiced component of our brave new Fast Company economy.

The next time your boss circulates a well-read PSFK article, reply to all with your top-shelf UX infographic (4 min) game.

Take a few minutes and read Carmen Nobel’s piece for Harvard Business Review on price coherence (7 min) — effectively the fixing of retail prices across outlets — and the ways in which results in higher prices and lower-quality service for customers.

Bryan Dowd has written a comprehensive primer for The Incidental Economist on so-called ‘death spirals’ (4 min) in the public insurance market. It’s not likely going to serve as the foundation for the deck you’ve been writing for Social Media Week 2015, but it’s broadly applicable in other markets — and might well inform public argument and debate over issues like mandatory voting.

Chris Dixon, in outlining an investment in a company called Improbable, describes the most salient value of modeling and simulation (3 min) in a world awash in data:

Think of simulations as the flip side to “big data.” Data science is useful when you already have large data sets. Simulations are useful when you know how parts of the system work and want to generate data about the system as a whole. Simulations are especially well suited for asking hypothetical questions: what would happen to the world if we changed X and Y? How could we change X and Y to get the outcome we want?


Finally, you should really, really read Aeon’s excellent primer on the field and role of design fiction (14 min) — and the ways in which it foresees the evolution of scientific endeavor itself. In related news, we were reminded recently in Paul Feldwick’s wonderful book The Anatomy of Humbugthat the battle between science and fiction is an ancient one. As biologist and author Lewis Wolpert pointed out, “science is only needed at all because common sense is so often wrong”.

Until next week.