Random things about how the world works

This is a collection of recurring themes from human society on how we as a community behave and respond to new information. Some may be posed as ignorant-sounding questions. This is all in the quest to calibrate my mental models.

Information Types

Ben Thompson discusses "information types" in a cool post. Here's two-by-two that puts it in perspective

The publishing model of absolute authority endowed by "books" needs to be rethought in this era of rapidly evolving information. It may be too late before a "book" with false information is retracted when the information contained was mission critical.

Institutional Short-Sightedness

Our institutional structures (perhaps unwittingly) seem to condone reactive short-term measures instead of pro-active long-term solutions. Short-term measures correlate with the loudest buzz in popular media. I suspect this observation may be consistent across all aspects of society - healthcare, security, privacy, politics, economics and so on. In decreasing order of preference:

  • Responding to a collapse: Waaow!

    • e.g. COVID-19 response in New York by Gov. Andrew Cuomo received with much fanfare despite delayed measures

  • Preventing a collapse: Good!

    • e.g. COVID-19 response in California by Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken a backseat in pop media despite among the earliest measures in the US (which shows up in the graphs)

  • Preparedness for collapse: Who cares!

    • e.g. Pandemic alarms by Bill Gates. I am fairly certain there were little pockets of academics and experts worried as well.

Here's an article - IT'S TIME TO BUILD by Adreessen Horowitz.

Tax Filing

  • Why is it so hard to file taxes?

  • Why should I be the one itemizing my tax returns when sufficient details from each of my employers are being surfaced to the government? Say IRS in the US or the IT Dept. in India.

    • Want to change your filing status? File an update everytime you have a filing status.

    • Want to claim dependents? File a list of dependents every year by a deadline.

    • Want to claim deductions? Well, eligibility this should already be in the tax code. If not, file an update with the government.

    • Any other special circumstances? File for informational update in the same form as all the previous provisions.

    • In the case of no response, you default to the lowest common denominator for each provision in the tax code or default to your previous year's selection.

  • What legacy circumstances have caused this friction in the process that I have to spend DAYS filing my tax return?

Are ideas becoming harder to find?

I don't know if there's a way to answer this question definitively. I believe ideas and innovation roughly follow a sine curve of progress. As a society, we are perhaps in the second half of the downward sloped-part as of this writing (mid-2020).

Interestingly, I found this website by Patrick Collison and Michael Nielsen - https://scientificreturns.org which has a well-researched list of content.

Technology takes a while to enter the realms where it will have the most impact.

Developments == Population Response

Events in society a large determined by the response of the population- find a better word for this. Space designing response strategies especially in things like pandemic are heavily influenced by the demographic factors the culture etc. For instance South Korea was pretty quick to use masks where as much of the rest of the world so face masks as a stigma.

The industrial revolution showed similar characteristics. The response of populations to environment is what determined England as the key players of industrial revolution. It was less of a contribution by economic institutions because China and Japan had them. It was also less about rapid technological progress because China and Japan had at least as much if not more progress than the Western world in the pre-industrial era.