Jamie on Software

This is the blog of Jamie Rumbelow: a software engineer, writer and philosophy graduate who lives in London.

tags: aesthetics ai books climate decentralisation economics effective-altruism ethereum fintech food housing javascript links london music personal philosophy politics productivity progress science space startups statistics urbanism

months: March 2023 February 2023 January 2023 December 2022 November 2022 October 2022 September 2022 August 2022 July 2022 June 2022 May 2022 April 2022 March 2022 January 2022 May 2021 February 2020 January 2020 December 2019

Links, June 2022

Found myself in somewhat of a funk this month, low on energy and motivation. My usual menu of neuroses bubbling up and my usual response; fits-and-starts of bouyancy followed by lethargy. Unhappy with my work. I think I need a holiday. And twenty more IQ points.

Anyway, not much writing, just Wallets As Identity, a rough first draft of a chapter from the Ethereum book.

I began five books but only finished one: Feyerabend’s Against Method. I intend to write in more detail about it, because it was both very good and also rather illegible. After some effort, I think I have a clear idea of what he is trying to do, but I can’t see how his arguments don’t collapse into a much broader scepticism. Here’s a Twitter thread with some quotes I enjoyed.

The unabridged edition of Simon Schama’s History of Great Britain series is wonderful – Schama writes so well – and it’s currently included with any Audible subscription, although that will change this month.

A collection of memos ‘written for an internal audience’, mostly business and technology but some politics too. Diaries and letters and other documentary on how the sausage gets made gives you a good sense for 1. the trade-offs involved in absolutely everything, something that is easy to consider intellectually and much harder to feel intuitively, 2. how chaotic and unregimentable progress is a priori, and 3. the sheer variability of approaches and styles of success and failure.

Michael Nielsen writes on effective altruism and his take on its problems providing a moral core for an individual’s life.

A friend pointed me to this Dylan B-side, from the Blood on the Tracks sessions. Lovely and sad and detached. Dylan’s narrator is always at arm’s length from his subject, even when he’s singing about himself.

Two useful reviews of The Future of Fusion Energy, one from Martin Kleppman, the other from the Astral Codex Ten book review contest: the former reviews the book, the latter reviews its content.

Toby Ord on the knowability of the Edges of the Universe; and a fun lecture from Stuart Armstrong on how we might get there.

For a bit of context on the jurisprudential questions that underly the Roe v Wade debates, a chat between Scalia and Breyer.

And here’s a beautiful photograph of a new(-ish; May 2020) impact crater found on Mars:

Impact crater on Mars

8:30pm. July 2, 2022.

Links, March 2022

A lot of spacey content this month, and a lot of crypto, as I left my old job at Pactio and moved into crypto full-time:

Finally got round to reading Values by Mark Carney. Seesaws from economic theory to memoir in a not-uninteresting way. Carney writes well, but sets things up in such a manner as to make his premises seem more interesting than this conclusions. A very safe book. I imagine he’s going to run for public office in Canada some time soon.

Also enjoyed The Power Law by Sebastian Mallaby. Clean writing, thoroughly researched.

Curricula for self-teaching maths and physics from Susan Rigetti.

I wrote a couple of posts on being an enthusiastic amateur.

The first test image from the James Webb Telescope, of the star HD 84406 is pretty spectacular (and even more so the more you learn about it.) You can clearly see the spiralling of the galaxies in the background, each one comprising on average 100 billion stars, and many of them billions of lightyears away. The scale of space is very hard to comprehend.

Nadia Eghbal is writing again, which is always a joyous event, this first new essay a gesture toward a broader project on philanthropy and the tech industry. Her prose is both incisive and imagistic, twisting and deforming ideas in the best way possible, finding their veins, snapping them like kindling.

An essay on infinite ethics, an approach to ethics that takes the existence of infinites seriously, and how infinity fits into the logical structure of existing mainstream ethical theories.

All of physics in nine lines. I’m surprised the basic theoretical scheme of physics is so parsimonious. (Although it might not actually be that parsimonious and this is expository slight-of-hand. What, for instance, explains why there are 27 constants?)

A fun collection of weird ERC-20 contracts, mostly exploits or incompatibilities with conventions.

I enjoyed watching this episode of Solidity Fridays with transmissions11. He articulates trade-offs very well. I took voluminous notes that I’ll type up soon.

On top of my normal reading, I listened to three audiobooks this month. The first, Spacefarers by Christopher Wanjek, is freely available to Audible subscribers, and a smart and deeply technical look about the next thousand years of spaceflight.

The second, The Planets by Andrew Cohen and Brian Cox, is a book about the history and physics of the Solar System, a companion to the 2019 BBC television series (which is itself really excellent.) Samuel West’s narration is extremely good, and Cohen is a talented science writer.

The third, also available for free on Audible, was a collection of Scientific American articles about Exoplanets. The article format is helpful, and the narrator’s voice is just monotonal enough to fall asleep to.

Emily St. John Mandel wrote a series of notes on GoodReads, discussing various passages from her excellent novel Station Eleven.

Vitalik on the roads not taken.

The user experience problems of quadratic voting. It’s easy to evaluate an approach to some problem in terms of its technical feasibility, or how attractive it is with respect to various theoretical constraints. A lot of the time, its success hinges simply on whether people can understand it.

A very, very good blog post on NHS performance. We need more LessWrong-style analyses of British government policy.