Byrne Hobart

A blog post is a very long and complex search query to find fascinating people and make them route interesting stuff to your inbox

Henrik Karlsson has the canonical piece on why to write online, even if you’re initially writing to a tiny audience: your writing is a way for the people who share your interests to find you. If you write the blog post that you can’t believe hasn’t been written yet, you’ll be delighted by the people who read it and think “I’m so relieved—I was worried nobody had written this.” 

Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine

What’s it like to hire Richard Feynman as your startup’s summer intern? Danny Hillis found out! It’s a good look at how very effective people work (and at how being sufficiently good at some things leads to underinvesting in others—Feynman only programmed in Basic and hand-simulated it rather than learning a new language). 

Mother Earth, Mother Board

In the golden age of tech journalism, Wired was willing to pay a sci-fi novelist to travel the world looking at the physical hardware the Internet actually ran on. If you’ve read Cryptonomicon, some bits of this essay will have a dreamlike déjà vu quality to them, since some of the details in that work of fiction come from entirely nonfictional experiences. 

The Universal Drink

After 1945, America kept on conquering the world, but with a new set of shock troops—multinational corporations with globally-recognized brand names. This piece, from 1959, shows just how universal Coke had already become (in 1956, Coca-Cola was looking for a PR stunt, so they sent someone “a hundred and fifty miles into the jungles outside Lima, Peru,” to find someone who had never tasted it before. Coke’s representative found a candidate, and told her the purpose of his mission—she reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of Coca-Cola.)

The Bench Burner

Richard Posner is a prolific writer and thinker who also served as a Federal judge. His big contribution to legal theory was taking the idea of Coasian economics seriously—that the goal of law is to create optimal incentives that are as information-aware as they can be. From the subject himself: “I have exactly the same personality as my cat… I am cold, furtive, callous, snobbish, selfish, and playful, but with a streak of cruelty.”

Wealth: The Toxic Byproduct | Melting Asphalt

We start with a thought experiment about making money from the zero-sum task of commodities trading, and move on to the question of where wealth comes from and why we have such odd ideas about it.

Scarcity Truthers - by Philo - MD&A

Economic scarcity exists, but in rich countries it’s often introduced artificially. Health care would be cheaper (perhaps worse, but much cheaper) if the supply of doctors weren’t artificially controlled; housing would be cheaper if it were legal to build more of it in places where people want to live; education would be cheaper if Harvard decided to scale the way some of its most famous attendees-but-not-alumni.