The division of powers among the layers of civilization allows us to relax about a few of our worries. We should not deplore rapidly changing technology and business while government controls, cultural mores, and so-called wisdom change slowly; that’s their job. Also, we should not fear destabilizing positive-feedback loops (such as the Singularity) crashing the whole system. Such disruption usually can be isolated and absorbed. The total effect of the pace layers is that they provide many-leveled corrective, stabilizing negative feedback throughout the system. It is precisely in the apparent contradictions of pace that civilization finds its surest health.

- Stewart Brand, The Clock of the Long Now


Kid: Can I watch squirrel video?
Me: Sure, after you do your chores for the day.
Kid: How many chore skips do I have left this week?
Me: I think you’ve used them all.
Kid: [thinking…] Can I use one from next week?
Me: Clever! You’ve invented the advance. Well…sure, why not.
Kid: [thinking more…] Could I pay money from my allowance to get more chore skips?
Me: …
Kid: …wait, and then if I do extra chores, could I get money for them? Ooh, and then could I trade chore skips with my friends for their money? I wonder how many chore skips they get, maybe we could put all our chore skips together and…
Me: OK so listen, I know these all seem like great ideas, but they can actually end up pretty badly. Let me tell you about 2008….

essay, Uncategorized

We’re drowning

Matthew Childs / Reuters

We live in a golden age of software reuse. We’ve never before had such a wealth of freely available code, in so many languages, so easy to find and install.

And yet, we’re drowning. We slap together rickety rowboats and toss them out on PyPI Ocean and npm Sea, then act surprised when the changes flood in. We ignore the flood as long as we can, then patch the holes with duct tape and bilge pumps as if they can hold back the tide. They cannot.

It’s a wonderful, horrible problem, and I don’t know what to do about it. Continue reading


Took the 7 year old to Disneyland for the first time. Plenty of new stuff since I was there last, almost 20 years ago, but I love how much of the original park is largely unchanged. Main Street, Castle, Small World, New Orleans Square, Tiki Room! Still a magical place, especially seeing it through a kid’s eyes for the first time.

The app and Genie and Lightning Lanes were…mixed. To Disney’s credit, we spent far less time in lines overall, for both rides and food. If their goal was spreading people out and maximizing throughput, I’m sure it’s working.

We definitely spent more time on our phones, though, working through logistics instead of being present in the moment and enjoying the atmosphere. Disappointing, but probably worth it, and the whole group benefited.

Oh, and the huge candy store on Main Street is as amazing as ever. Some things never get old.


Had a big new project idea just now. Deep, compelling, fun to build, fun to use, may not exist yet. Added “research X” to my todo list, tabbed to the notes field, couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with all the follow-up thoughts and ideas.

Only happens to me every few years or so. That very first explosion of potential, the idea unfurling layer upon layer in every direction, is always exciting.

Now to see how many other people have already conceived and built it better than I ever could have.

Next comes the hardest part: not buying a domain name. Yet.