“Over and over again as I’ve dredged through this stuff, I kept finding programming constructs, ideas and approaches we call part of “modern” programming if we attempt them at all, sitting abandoned in 45-year-old demo code for dead languages. And to be clear: that was always a choice. Over and over again tools meant to make it easier for humans to approach big problems are discarded in favor of tools that are easier to teach to computers, and that decision is described as an inevitability.”
— The money shot in this really fascinating article on why we (usually) start counting arrays at 0 instead of 1 in programming languages, a story that also involves yacht racing. Recommended, even if you don’t program! (via ryannorth)
“Technologies aren’t things that are binary. You don’t procure them. They’re living systems and you have to have people who look after them and develop them iteratively and change and grow with them and you need those skills in the heart of government.”
In the civilizations I have created common kindness is core to the fundamentals of all social foundations. When this is achieved it is seen simply as the effectiveness of a system supporting itself, rather than as something extraordinary.
Last Wednesday, the Fed announced that it would not be tapering its bond buying program. This news was released at precisely 2 pm in Washington “as measured by the national atomic clock.” It takes 7 milliseconds for this information to get to Chicago. However, several huge orders that were based on the Fed’s decision were placed on Chicago exchanges 2-3 milliseconds after 2 pm. How did this happen?
CNBC has the story here, and the answer is: we don’t know. Reporters get the Fed release early, but they get it in a secure room and aren’t permitted to communicate with the outside world until precisely 2 pm. Still, maybe someone figured out a way to game the embargo. It would certainly be worth a ton of money. […]
In a related vein, let’s talk a bit more about this 7 millisecond figure. That might very well be how long it takes a signal to travel from Washington DC to Chicago via a fiber optic cable, but in fact the two cities are only 960 kilometers apart. At the speed of light, that’s 3.2 milliseconds. A straight line path would be a bit less, perhaps 3 milliseconds. So maybe someone has managed to set up a neutrino communications network that transmits directly through the earth. It couldn’t transfer very much information, but if all you needed was a few dozen bits (taper/no taper, interest rates up/down, etc.) it might work a treat. Did anyone happen to notice an extra neutrino flux in the upper Midwest corridor at 2 pm last Wednesday? Perhaps Wall Street has now co-opted not just the math geek community, and not just the physics geek community, but the experimental physics geek community. Wouldn’t that be great?
It is as if, as the body is slowly put together and all its component parts unite in an intense present, so the historical self is taken apart and falls away. At no point is it experienced as a loss, but rather as a fullness of existence; something brimful, very ordinary and very beautiful.
The words we constantly use and the narratives we write reinforce a drama of selfhood that we in the West complacently celebrate. There is also much consolation taken in the way in which writing and narrative can transform emotional pain into a form of entertainment, wise and poignant in its vision of our passage through the world, intense and thrilled by its own intensity. Narrative is so often the narrative of misery and of the passage through misery.
Narratives are one of the few ways in which humans conceptualize subjective experience. However, it is absolutely important to see the stained glass window for what it is: an ornament that is meant to draw your attention to the light that shines through (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell). Narratives are a two-dimensional projection of something far more complex and poorly understood, and our goal must be to remember this as much as possible.