Rabbit Hole: Mathematical Toys, Moral Injuries, and Odes to the Hack


After tiring myself out with a longer note on ‘Building the Narrative System’ last week, this week I offer a round up of my favorite links from recent months:

Interview with Tadashi Tokieda, collector of mathematical toys

This is a wonderful interview with Tadashi Tokieda in Quanta (the Jim Simons financed magazine with the public service philanthropic mission of “Illuminating basic science and math research through public service journalism”). Favorite quotes:

If you project on the wrong axis, something looks very complicated.

“I decided, as a personal revenge on Landau, to study the subject up to the point where I could solve this exercise. Landau said, in the biography, “Don’t waste your time on mathematicians and lectures and so on — instead, find a book with the largest number of solved exercises and go through them all. That’s how you learn mathematics.” I went back to the library and found the mathematics book with the largest number of problems.”

I’m trying to jolt myself out of my complacency. When I share, I just want to share with people. I hope that they’ll like it, but I’m not trying to educate them, and I don’t think people are complacent. People are struggling in their own ways and making efforts and trying to improve. Who am I to jolt them out of complacency?

Shockingly, auditors say the world needs more auditing (but they are probably right)

In an HBR article, several execs at Deloitte execs write about ‘Why We Need to Audit Algorithms’. It’s actually a really good point, but hard not to mock the self-interest.

(Note: I write this whilst cowering in my glass house after having interviewed Kiva’s Head of Refugee Investments for Epsilon Theory recently.)

Moral injury

I had not previously encountered not the clinical term ‘moral injury’, but it makes so much sense. Explanation here by Dr. Michael D. Matthews, Professor of Engineering Psychology at the United States Military Academy in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership.

Free software

Here is a post on ‘Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software’ by Richard Matthew Stallman (RMS) who knows a lot about software (and also it seems has strong views on the TSA). It is an important topic and I really hope we can return to a world with a better signal to noise ratio on important topics like databases, security and free software (rather the the free-for-all silliness that blockchain seems to have dragged the conversation to … although I guess I am thankful that at least we are talking about database structures and their impact at all).

Can you guess who said it? – China edition

Can you guess who said it:

“Anybody who does business in China compromises some of their core values. Every single company, because the laws in China are quite a bit different than they are in our own country.”

  1. The really drunk, chatty guy from Boston I was sat next to on a flight back to San Francisco last week;
  2. The current US President;
  3. The former President of Stanford University and current President of Alphabet;
  4. All of the above.

Inconclusive answer on this link.

Ode to the hack

And finally, I think this is, improbably, the finest piece of sports journalism of 2018.

I admit that odd, amatuer-ish, lowbrow millennial-Gonzo journalism is a guilty pleasure of mine but, regardless, this article from Vice UK is a genuinely wonderful tribute to ‘the hack’. In this case to a football (soccer) hack, but it could equally be written about a certain rare type of entrepreneur, a certain rare type of product person:

The Dr. Manhattan of football hacks

You know what he’s going to do but it’s impossible to stop it. Arjen Robben has been scoring the same goal for so long now that he’s gone fully bald while doing so… he is the Dr Manhattan of running really fast down the right touchline before cutting inside on his left foot, shifting it, shifting it, shifting it, and then launching the ball with barbarous force into the far corner of the net … With relentless repetition, Robben’s trick is passing beyond the realms of tedium and mild annoyance into something that is pleasing and even, in these late-autumn flushes of his career, weirdly poignant.

For full impact make sure to watch the video half way down. Incredible.


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