There are a lot of experiences people go through which I might term decision sicknesses. These are things like anxieties, decision paralysis, waffling, decision avoidance, bubbling (a form of decision avoidance), trusting one’s gut/intuition, etc. In other words, behaviors and emotions which take someone further away from healthy decision making. To be clear, here, by healthy decision making, I mean decision making which is dynamic and balances the needs of exploration and exploitation.
When stress hits it’s easy to shut down. It’s easy to tune things out, to burn out, to shrink down. When uncertainty grows, it’s easy to focus on short-term tactics, to discount the future, to lose energy. What’s up with that? To be clear, genuine uncertainty does require non-standard investment in future plans. If you have no way of knowing what direction the ship will turn then you have to do the strange thing and be somewhat prepared for both.
Let’s say we can neatly divide the world into two groups: people who have problems and people who have solutions. Commerce happens because people who have solutions offer those solutions to the people with the appropriate problems. There’s a matching problem. Not all problems have solutions. Not all solutions apply to any given problem. Just because you have a problem doesn’t mean it’s going to be solved. Just because you have a solution doesn’t mean it’s of any value.
Oh how I loathe the term: capital-A-Agile. It’s a common refrain. Software is difficult, teams are tough, projects change, companies learn, clients don’t know what they want, nobody knows what they want. Oh, but they do know that they want it in 6 weeks. What do you do? The obvious thing was to write out a detailed 6 week plan which captured all of the needs of the project, minimized known risks, delivered confidence that the project would succeed, and delivered success at rates only slightly higher than chance.
Sometimes it can feel like it takes all the running in the world just to stay in place. Heraclitus says that the only constant thing is change, but “keeping up” is expensive. It’s easy to consider this with respect to business or other organized endeavors. You might have a competitor who is working to upset your current flow. You might be trying to serve an audience which is itself changing.
Differentiable programming is getting a little exciting nowadays. The core idea is that you can build a language from the ground up that simultaneous supports both (a) computation of direct numerical results and (b) cheap, cheap computation of the derivative. The most popular implementation of this idea is TensorFlow. TensorFlow is by most accounts a tool for constructing neural networks. The principal way you build a neural network is by designing its architecture as a series of interacting “layers” that compute a forward prediction based on input data and then you train that architecture through a process known as _gradient descent_—which essentially requires computing the derivative of the forward prediction over and over and over.
Reading list. Digital junk pile. List of tabs. One Tab. Pinboard. Goodreads. That stack of books on your bookshelf, kitchen table, living room table, in a series of 6 stacked boxes in your basement. Papers. Mendeley. That voice of residual guilt nagging you. Amazon wish list. Amazon Kindle library full of aspirations. Stacks of papers strewn about your desk. Enough assorted guilt. If you’re like me then you already know what I’m talking about: the indefatigable list of things you’d like to read and learn, be inspired by, be challenged by, enjoy, take notes on, write a rebuttal to, mine for new things to read, etc.