1. Chris Dixon Why Decentralization Matters. Dixon in top form. He covers how the decentralized internet of the 1980-2000s was built on open protocols. But then the internet became centralized in the current 2000-present era, under companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. Then posits how decentralization will happen again under a new set of protocols built around cryptonetworks. I find the second half endorsing cryptonetworks as the obvious next wave of decentralization more speculative, especially since the killer app for cryptonetworks remain unclear. But Dixon is very sharp and my inclination would be he’s generally correct. Link. Also, if you subscribe ($), Ben Thompson comments on Dixon as well. Here’s one key chart from Dixon’s post.
2. Neatherthal art. European cave paintings originally thought to be made by modern humans, now dated to 64k years ago, were made by Neanderthals. Modern humans didn’t arrive in Europe until 45k years ago. The general trend of the past decade is behaviors once thought recent (from <60k years ago), and limited only to modern humans, are now are getting pushed back in time. And often pushed back into other hominins. Carl Zimmer with a good pop article. Or if you want a deep dive on the paper try this post by Rebecca Wragg Sykes.
2. More gender equality, fewer women in STEM. Good article by Olga Kahzan. There’s a reverse correlation between gender equality in a country, and what percentage of college women go into STEM fields. That is, more discrimination means a higher percent of women go into STEM. A seemingly paradoxical result.
What appears to be happening is rough equality of capability, but woman (on average, not all!) tend to prefer STEM fields less than men. So if woman have fewer opportunities in unequal societies, going into STEM is choosing financial independence. But in a more equal societies, there’s more opportunity to pick what you prefer. I’ve seen this result several times in the past. And what normally happens is it never sticks. Why? My guess is the facts undercut arguments on both sides of the political spectrum. So they get puzzled over, then dropped down the memory hole and ignored. Only to be rediscovered again later. Look for rediscovering this again in, say, 2023.
3. Direct instruction. The direct instruction method breaks learning into repetitive drills. Flash card style. And teachers have to just follow the plan with no flexibility. Kids get grouped by ability. It’s obvious why teacher hate it, as it makes them factory workers. And why school systems hate it, as grouping by ability makes parents hate you. So while I’m a bit skeptical until I read more, Alex Tabarrok uses a recent paper to argue: “What if I told you that there is a method of education which significantly raises achievement, has been shown to work for students of a wide range of abilities, races, and socio-economic levels and has been shown to be superior to other methods of instruction in hundreds of tests?” And “Even though Direct Instruction has been shown to work in hundreds of tests it is not widely used. It’s almost as if education is not about educating.” Here is Tabarrok’s post.
4. Magic Leap becoming Segway. Magic Leap announced they’ll partner with the NBA to provide augmented reality experiences for some NBA content. I think there is a trap tech companies can get into by waiting too long to release their first product. Each round of funding forces launch promises to be an order of magnitude larger. So if they wait too long, the exponentially growing expectations for launch become impossible. Once that happens they are locked on to the impossible launch treadmill. They can either launch and fail (to crazy expectations), or take even more funding hoping an even bigger tech breakthrough will save them. I called it The Segway Effect on twitter. Segway might have been a fine success if they had launched as a “toy” for security guards. But they kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and eventually it fell apart. To be clear, if Magic Leap succeeds that will be awesome! I hope they do. It would be great to be wrong! But every delay in launch ratchets Magic Leap farther up the impossible launch treadmill. It’s a tech tragedy. This NBA announcement/non-announcement is a good example of how it happens, step by step by step by step.
5. Five year predictions for Scott Alexander. I’ve always liked tech predictions, but doing annual predictions can be boring because not too much changes in any given particular year. So I liked the idea of Scott doing 5 year predictions. Far more interesting to read and than his usual annual list. Good for him.
6. Quetzalcoatlus. Let me finish with this tweet because it’s awesome. Hard to believe they could fly. Wikipedia says up to a 52 foot (15.9 m) wingspan!