A Rant on Complexity and Stock Markets

Zoran Perkov is one of the heroes portrayed in Flash Boys. Someone liked my review of the book, which made me re-read the review and setup a Google alert on him. This video was one of the first hits on a search for him. His thing is:

Failure is feature of complex systems.

Basically when you build a complex system, you risk failure. Complexity allows us to more easily adapt to customer need. Complexity also increases the risk of novel failure. Things we did not even know could go wrong (unknown unknowns) probably will. The trick is, responding to them.

Something he mentioned I want to study more of:

Ashby’s The Law of Requisite Variety: The larger the variety of actions available to a control system, the larger the variety of perturbations it is able to compensate.

Basically, we should have mechanisms in place which act to reduce the effect of performance spikes. The more options we have to deal with these events, the better we will be able to handle them. The smaller the toolkit, the less capable we are to respond.

The delivery is not that great, but the ideas behind it is something I’ve agreed with for a long time.

Difficult To Use Is Good

I enjoyed reading Why We Should Design Some Things to Be Difficult to Use by Brian Millar for WIRED. It caught my attention and held it by referencing Dan Pink’s book Drive. I posted his TED Talk on Drive back in 2009. The sections of the piece:

  1. The Pleasures of Mastery
  2. Difficulty Makes Things Exclusive
  3. Danger May Be Safer
  4. Expert Mode and the Pro Am Phenomenon
  5. Are You Making It Easy to Do Something Badly?

It made me think about my decision to own a dSLR camera back in 2006. When I finally learned how to take good photos in a single take using Manual mode, I felt accomplished. It was something over which I felt proud. Even when I used a Point-n-Click or cellphone, my photos were much improved. Even looking at the work of others took on a new element of having some idea what went into creating such a gorgeous piece of art. (Or what shortcuts some took to create a sloppy mess.) Getting to know other photographers seeking to learn and improve and help each other changed the game for me. I understood why artists build a community.

Risk homeostasis, aka the concept that people will change behavior until the risk level is back up to the prior amount, was new to me. You know where to find me. (At my laptop Googling more.)


QotD: Pass The Dice

What is your favorite board game?
Submitted by I'm Unique.

A strong temptation is to put Dungeorns and Dragons which is not really a board game so much as a role-playing game (hint it has dice but no board and tons of paper). So I'll put Greyhawk Wars, a board game related for the D&D game world of Greyhawk. To describe it, think of Risk only with multiple types (infantry, calvary, etc.) and each territory generates different kinds. Additionally, there were hereos who could augment the abilities of the armies. On had to be more calculating in whether or not an army could take the other.

Another game I liked was Buck Rogers: Battle for the 25th Century Game, another Risk-like game, in which one fights to win planets instead of continents. Instead of just getting armies, one also tries to get starships. Great stuff!

My grandmother enjoys Rummikub. So my family plays this game. Nothing says I love you than to play seven tiles in a 5 minute turn for the win!

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