Key take aways from Trust me I am lying

Trust me I am lying

The publication eco-system

  • Every content creator within the publication ecosystem is under immense pressure to produce content under the tightest deadline.
    • renumeration is based on number of articles per period time
    • eye balls are converted to advertising revenue
    • lots of copying happens
  • Media was once about protecting a new, on the web it is about building one
    • well defined scope matters
    • content that dives deep into its vertical matters
  • Headlines are the most important
  • Tools of the trade
    • lavish pictures
    • impostors, frauds and fake interviews
    • support for the underdog causes
    • anonymous sources
    • prominent coverage of high society and events
    • different age but same old tricks
  • On monetization
    • Advertising is the main driver of revenue
    • Subscription model focus on trusted source as opposed to advertising source
    • RSS got killed because it went against the interest of Advertisers
  • On the online medium
    • The demands of the medium forces the bloggers to act they way they are
    • Tim Berners Lee stacked new content on the top and the rest of the internet thus follows
    • Thus the need to constantly create new content

On Virality

  • The most powerful predictor of virality is how much anger an article evokes.
  • The most powerful predictor of what spreads online is anger
    • sensationalism
    • extremism
    • sex
    • scandal
    • hatred
  • Things must be negative but not too negative so as to incite action
  • Media needs to get you feeling negative so that you are more likely to share
  • Empty vessels are incline to snark so as to feel unjustifiably good about themselves

On reality

  • Chris Hedges
    • is complicated and boring
    • the masses are incapable and unwilling to handle its confusion
    • In an age of images, entertainment and instant emotional gratification, no one seeks honesty and gratification
  • Cognitive biases
    • we are bad at being sketical
      • availability biases
      • narrative fallacy
    • we are worst at correcting our wrong beliefs
      • social proofing
      • consistency biases
  • First decide what you are intending to do with the information you collected

Related readings

Key take aways from the Blockchain revolution

The Blockchain revolution
  • ensuring the integrity of data exchanged among these billions of devices without the need for a trusted third party
  • allow people that do not have access to the service of these third part into the digital economy
  • easier ability to get compensated for your work or ownership of digital property
  • Ronald Coase on types of costs
    • Searching cost
    • Coordination cost
    • Contracting cost
  • Dimensions of search
    • horizontal search – wide search across the web
    • vertical search – within a specific website
    • sequence – blockchain?
  • Innovation typically comes from the edge
    • monopolies have a lot of resources but lack the culture and will to explore, Yochai Benkler
    • This can be attributed to high levels of bureaucracy within the core

Related references

Key take aways from the guide to a good life

A guide to the good life

Overview

The core of Stoicism as a philosophy is to live a good life (where peace of mind is deemed the highest good) by learning how to manage negative thoughts like:

  • anger
  • anxiety
  • fear
  • grief
  • envy

Techniques

This is done through the employment of these two techniques

Negative visualization techniques

  • Managing against hedonic adaptation by learning to desire what we already have. To do so, we must constantly remind ourselves the transient nature of things.

Focus of attention on what is within our loci of control

  • Totally within our control – focus our attention of these things
  • Partially within our control – internalize goals around parts where we have control
  • Totally out of our control – learn to be at peace with whatever outcome

Deliberate self denial

By deliberately depriving self the luxuries, one builds courage and self-control

Manage needs and desires

  • natural and necessary
    • Food and shelter
    • to fulfill
  • natural and unnecessary
    • Fine wine and luxurious food
    • to fulfill if not too much hassle
  • unnatural and unnecessary
    • fame and social status
    • to shun
  • unnatural and necessary
    • nothing exist in this category

Attitude towards time

  • The past and the immediate present is beyond change – be grateful for all that has came to pass and accept it with equanimity
  • The immediate future is where our loci of control falls – this is where we should channel our attention

Eras of stoiscism

  • Greek Stoics
  • Roman Stoics

The roman empire eventually adopted Christian religion as a the philosophical framework for state craft. This eventually displaced stoicism and other greek schools of philosophy.

Prominent stoic practitioners

  • Socrates
  • Marcus Aurelius
  • Xeno
  • Seneca

Related schools of philosophy

  • The Cynics – see Diogenes
  • Enlightened hedonism – see Epicurus

Related references

  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Key observations of Chinese One Belt Road Initiative in Africa

Territories observed

  • Egypt
  • Sudan
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • South Africa

Similarities observed

  • Heavy Chinese enterprise involvement in the building of roads and houses
  • Shops with Chinese labels observed in operation
  • In areas where there are construction operations, Chinese supervision and management observed aided by local manual labor
  • Ubiquity of mobile internet connection
  • Ubiquity of Samsung, Huawei and Tenco Android mobile phones ranging from USD50 among local adult and adolescent population

Macro trends

With the rise of the Chinese middle class, there is now increasing domestic demand for goods and services within China. This has driven the need to increase the overall throughput volume of such commodities. It can be speculated that the level of consumption is expected to surpass the level of production within China at some point.

Economic growth in China has for now hit a road block due to the following factors:

In light of these, China needs to start shifting its policy from an export focused economy to a domestic focused economy. To do so, it needs to feed and drive domestic demand for goods and services.

Regional trends

The Chinese government has been observed to enter into agreement with local African government to fund the build out of infrastructure, primarily roads and buildings. At the date of writing 85% of roads in Ethiopia has been completed within the country while in Zanzibar, Tanzania, all major roads are under construction and a sports stadium named Mao ZeDong stadium has been observed.

In exchange for the funding, local governments are restricted to engaging the service of Chinese companies. This safeguards the effectiveness of funds deployment for the operations aspects of the agreement while serving to three specific purposes. It minimizes the actual volume of liquidity that is tied up in loans to local government, while boosting demand for construction services within China and increasing maximum possible throughput volume of commodity exports from the region.

What is not obvious during the time of observation is how effective local governments are at managing funds during the stage between its receipt from China to its payment to the engaged Chinese companies. Discounting the inherent effectiveness of the various projects in driving local GDP, differing levels of corruption and maturity of national identify within the region will result in variance between actual ROI versus expected ROI for these projects.

On deciphering Chinese end goal within the region

At the moment of writing, it is yet clear how Chinese African relationship will crystalize for the future. Two key observations need to be made before we can get a glimpse of it.

Key observation #1 would be how China would react when the loans come to maturity and the local government have yet made sufficient returns from the infrastructure investments to pay off the debt.

Key observation #2 would be how Chinese companies would handle the post construction phase of projects that require ongoing maintenance in terms of knowledge transfer.

Related readings

Observations in Sudan

Orange purchased from road side vendor in the middle of the Sudan desert

Society

  • Sharia law is used as the foundational legal framework within the country.
  • Public venues for prayer are prevalent
  • Majority of males observed to engage in worship 5 times a day
  • Touting is non-existent except at tourist venues as well as bus stations. Prices are fixed.
  • Hospitality of locals is commendable. On multiple occasions they would pay for tea and food if they happen to engage in any form of conversation out of curiosity.
  • Minimal signs of homelessness observed. Streets in Khartoum appear empty past 8pm in the evening.
  • Despite general lack of infrastructure, a strong sense of community was observed amongst the population. Daily affairs were was observed to be conducted in an orderly and peaceful manner.

Technology level

  • Level of technology level in government agency observed is low.
  • Mobile phones are prevalent. Android owns majority of market share. Samsung and Huawei mobile phone users were observed to be prevalent.
  • Facebook and WatsApp are the dominant internet communications medium. YouTube is in prevalent use
  • Internet connectivity is low and generally unstable hovering around 300++kpbs in hotels.
  • The following US based technology solution is not accessible. Use of proxy is necessary.
    • AWS
    • Gmail
    • Stripe
    • Bugsnag

Perception of foreign relations

  • US and western nations perceived still to be harboring colonial masters mentality attempting to meddle in affairs of nation with aim of gaining unfair advantage.
  • The Chinese government is perceived as friendly and fair, genuinely interested in helping the country develop.

Nature and history

  • Water melon was observed to grow wild in the sub-Saharan dessert. Much agricultural potential could be expected if nile is successfully harvested for irrigation purposes.
  • Donkeys, camels and cows observed to roam wild in the sun-Saharan dessert.

Reflections on traffic in cities

Pedestrians in Cairo observed to take for granted that cars will yield to them
Thousands of vendors observed to offer slightly varied products for sale

Observations

The following observations were made in the streets of Cairo, Egypt:

  • pedestrians wandering across the road packed full of cars
  • inter-weaving cars that seem to hold zero regard for traffic lanes
  • cars abide with the instructions of police offices
  • cars abide with traffic signals
  • car spacing within traffic can be as close as an inch
  • cars do not display observable dent on their body
  • drivers tot the horn as a signal of intent as opposed to an expression of annoyance or frustration
  • cars travel at a low average speed

Reflections on the observation

The relationship between pedestrians and drivers as a group in a city can potentially be used as a proxy into the society’s culture. The contrast is stark when compared with the relationship of similar groups observed amongst coastal cities in the US.

It can be speculated that a seemingly chaotic traffic pattern tends to occur in a highly relationship centric society (Egypt, India and Cambodia) while an orderly traffic pattern tends to occur in a highly rule based society (US, UK and Germany).

In the former, the car and the pedestrian are not seen as distinct classes in the group. One can analogously describe cars as pedestrians on the road that just so happen to have 4 fours and are walking at a faster rate than pedestrians on 2 legs. Every member is always scanning the environment to understand how he or she should behave and respond.

In the latter, all members assume a well defined set of assumptions and operate as such. Execution of tasks occurs at a relatively higher velocity.

Using the legibility versus illegibility framework proposed by Sebastian Marshals, it can be speculated that highly relationship centric societies tend towards organic systems which are illegible by nature hence the observed chaos that counter intuitively seems to work.

It can further be speculated this fundamental difference in world view is the root cause of why relationship centric societies consider the rule based societies as oppressive and rule based societies consider the latter as untrustworthy.

Relevant references

Observed similarities between two semi-normadic settlements

The main similarities between residential setups are carpets and pillows with a lack of observed tables and chairs within living spaces. It should be noted that the Uighur seemed more settled than the Bedouin.

Goats are common lifestocks observed.

Uighur residence in Xinjiang, Western China, 2008

Uighur holding bay for goats, Xinjiang Western China 2008

Bedouin residence in Wadi Rum, Jordan, 2018

Bedouin residence where camels and dogs are allowed to roam freely in Wadi Rum Jordan 2018

Analysis of Saudi Arabia’s revenue model disruption and technology trends within Jordan

While speaking with a Saudi traveler in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan, its been observed that disruption of Saudi Arabia’s revenue model has forced much domestic changes within the country.

The prince has brought about drastic reforms in response to the disruption much to the chagrin of traditionalist hardliners. Women are now given the rights to drive vehicles and also work. For the first time ever Saudi’s were able to see Circ Du Soleil within their country. It can be speculated that these reforms are intended to double the total number of potential workforce in the country and get the thought process of the workforce more in sync with the rest of the world as Saudi Arabia gears its economy for a world that is no longer dependent on oil for energy.

Disruption examined using Micheal Porter’s 5 forces framework

Substitutes

The shale oil innovation has put a max cap on oil prices around the world at USD80 per barrel. Traditionally oil dependent countries within the OPEC could artificially restrict oil supply to drive up oil prices. However, post the era of innovation when such strategy employed, shale oil producers will immediately start pumping supplies into the market when price becomes viable.

New entrants

The Paris Climate agreement has catalyst a movement to shift away from oil to renewable sources of energy. Already China and India have became large players of solar energy. With innovation within this sector continuously driving down costs, it is likely the world will see an inflection point whereby solar energy becomes cheaper to produce than fossil fuel based energy.

Implications

A paradigm shift will occur amongst Saudi’s in relation to their attitude towards women as independent individuals with economic autonomy as opposed to individuals whose sole function is to be on the receiving side of male attention and care.

It remains unclear the impact of social media on the the upcoming shift within population.

Its also been observed via various sources within the Bay Area that Saudi Arabia is increasingly turning to investments in technology to drive the next stage of their economic growth.

Saudi Arabia is seen as the economic trend leader within region. It is likely their eventual model will get mimicked by other oil-dependent middle eastern countries.

Other notable observations within Jordan

Asian companies like Hyundai, Toyota, Kia, Nissan have been observed to dominate the region in terms of manufactured cars. The only other notable brands that are not Asian are Mercedes and Ford.

Android and Asian companies like Samsung, Huawei and Sony have been observed to dominate the region in terms of mobile computing.

Facebook is the only social network that has been observed to deeply penetrate the region. Majority of folks utilize WatsApp. Facebook is less commonly seen on phones of users.

User huddled over Android device in Wadi Rum. To understand their needs, technologist need to become more keenly familiar with the Android OS.

Related references

  • Only the paranoid survives, Andy Grove

Reflections in the Judea desert

Nature has two types of changes

Type 1 Change: Change that is so gradual it is almost not perceptible to the eye

Type 2 Change: Change that is discontinuous, things seemingly stay the same for a long time but dramatically shifts when change happens.

I-Ching, the book of changes might have been a simple framework used by the elders to help predict environmental changes resultant of interactions between the broad categories of Water, Earth, Wood and Fire. It could be speculated the intent was to avoid starting initiatives during natural cycles that are counter productive.

It is likely given the long lapse of time between the originators (people who knew what it was used for) and subsequent users (people who don’t know its intended use), it became shrouded in mysticism and used for spiritual and divination purposes instead. Another explanation for the conflation of function and mysticism can be attributed to the intertwine between nature and of religion.

Nature and space

Nature provides a really vast space for all its creatures. In this space, majority of changes fall into the type 1 category. Given the thorough lack of sensory stimulation for prolonged periods of time, all sense of personal identity inevitably disintegrates. It can speculated man through sheer boredom sets himself apart by putting up walls to shield himself from the vastness of nature. He does so by setting rules and norms, making music and engaging in drama with other men.

Ali the Bedouin huddled over his iPhone to stave off boredom while riding his camel across the unchanging landscape

The desert in the canyon is observed to be flooded after sudden huge volume of rain

Type 1 change a dramatic landscape that formed slowly overtime through gradual erosion of soil

Observation on Israel and the Palestinian states

Isreal in terms of infrastructure, organization and economy is observed to be more developed than Palestine.

Walking the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I barely see any trash. In the Palestinian States, trash is observed all over the place. The former was deliberately planned for. I observe cleaners going about their duties at 5am in the mornings.

Isreali Houses were looked clean and meticulously constructed some powered with solar panels. Some Palestinian houses remained under construction for a long time before completion. The Kibbutz is a spectacular operating stand alone model pioneered by the Israeli.

The military system in Isreal is observed to be more developed than Palestine.

The first thing my Palestinian driver mentioned as I boarded his car was that Palestinians have nothing.

The main contrast I could draw from my interactions between the two groups are the Israelis are formal and organized while the Palestinians  relationship oriented and unstructured in their organization.

The critical question I draw from all these observations is why were the Israeli able to develope their infrastructure at a much faster than the Palestinians and hence dominate the region despite having almost similar starting points post WWII?

If I dare speculate, it’s attributed to inefficient deployment of resources within the latter system due to management corruption. If a country is to be viewed as a GDP compounding machine, corruption should be viewed ad a source of leakage which detracts from the compounding effect.

As a side note, I think the original team that setup Singapore more than just borrowed the military system from Isreal. The clean and green approach to city planning might have been borrowed as well. Sections of Tel Aviv such as parks and sky lines reminds me of sections in Singapore. Last but not the least, the zero tolerance policy to