Network theory: Matthew O. Jackson on four types of connectedness

Recommended – link below. 1. The most basic [type of connectedness] that we all think of is just popularity: how many people you connect with. And that’s very natural – we count how many friends we have on Facebook or how many followers you have on Twitter. And that gives a some idea of the reach of a person… and…

The onion strikes back: Maggie Koerth on the nested problems of Covid-19 testing

Covid-19 testing has been a mixed bag: Singapore and Korea seem to have been able to get on top of things quickly, while the UK and US (to pick too) have – at least in comparison – seemed barely able to get their act together at all. Maggie Koerth‘s discussion of the issue with Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder points…

Contextualising best practice: one size does not fit all

Here’s another example of how “best practice” is context dependent, this time in responses to the Covid-19 crisis: What’s the point? The point – especially for those working with poor or marginalised communities – is that standard “best practice” from other contexts is unlikely to transfer directly to where you’re working. Education, health services, housing policy and politics don’t occur…

Bill Gates’ onion

This is a nice illustration of a set of nested problems (a.k.a. “The Onion“) in development from Bill and Melinda Gates’ philanthropic work. Often – most of the time? – the technical solution is only a small part of a whole system needed to bring about change. See also The Wrapper. … In the case of global health, I thought…

On Jean Valjean’s carriage, technological progress and interchangeable parts

Jean Valjean – in a desperate hurry to save an innocent man from being condemned – has stopped to rest his horse and discovered that his carriage has a broken wheel: This excellent beast had covered twelve and a half miles in two hours and had not a drop of sweat on its rump. … “Can you repair the wheel…

Maximising components vs maximising systems

Some examples to illustrate what it means to maximise components rather than systems – and why it’s best avoided: Sports teams with star players that don’t gel as a team – maximising individual talent at the cost of collaboration, team spirit and collective hunger. (See Leicester City’s 2016 Premiership win as an example of the opposite). This applies to all…

More from Seth Godin on slack in systems and resilience

A friend was talking about building resilient systems today, something Seth covered at length in Akimbo (S4 Ep 20)… and also in this blog post: Systems with slack are more resilient. The few extra minutes of time aren’t wasted, the same way that a bike helmet isn’t wasted if you don’t have a crash today. That buffer will save the…

Old buildings

I love old buildings , and I usually feel a strange sort of curiosity mixed with nostalgia for the people and cultures that made them. Just in the UK I’d love to see the castle garrisoned by knights and squires, the barn full of hay and animals, the old mill humming, the Tudor pub in its heyday, the telephone exchange…

Podcast Recommendation: Econtalk with Alain Bertaud on Cities, Planning, and Order Without Design

This is a great episode of Econtalk. Bertaud uses labour markets as a lens for thinking about cities. Helpful examples of emergent order and the challenges (impossibility?) of planning in complex adaptive systems. Highlights (coming up) include: Discussion of the importance of culture and context in how cities develop; Bertaud’s explanation of his broader-than-usual understanding of labour markets; When planning…