Links #1

What I found interesting over the week

Hey friends,

I’ve been writing a longer piece that should come out soon on Lapus Lima, so in the meantime, I’ve compiled a set of links centered around what I’ve found most interesting this week.

I also just wanted to say a quick word of thanks for the terrific response I’ve received this last month since I started Dreams of Electric Sheep. I appreciate all those that have reached out – I always welcome the new questions and insights that arise from conversing with you. Feel free to message me over email or DM me on Twitter if you’d like to chat.

Now, on to the links.

  1. Skunkworks Rules for Success

    The most successful aerospace program of its day, the Skunkworks program most notably lead the creation of the SR-71 Blackbird, the first stealth fighter jet. It was such a well-designed plane that during its service life, no plane was ever shot down. This feat was only possible because of Kelly Johnson’s rigorous 14 rules for success. Link.

    Some of my favorites include:

    • “The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people (10% to 25% compared to the so-called normal systems).”

    • “Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn't have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.”

    • “The Skunk Works manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher.”

  2. What are the best introductory books, academic and otherwise?

    When I was younger, I spent more than a few hours – probably weeks – researching this question. I think we all needlessly waste time hunting for knowledge others have already accumulated; case in point, I’ve been trying to improve my Mandarin recently and I struggled when looking for an accurate resource.

    • Topics include aeronautics, hunting, lexicography, ancient Egypt, animation, architecture, biology, linguistics, oceanography, microfabrication, and typography. Link (h/t David Perell).

    • The best textbooks on every subject. Link.

  3. Robots, China's Disruptive Industrial Strategy and National Power

    What is China’s strategy for R&D? One of my favorite writers on China and technology, You Shu elaborates:

    “China’s Disruptive Industrial Strategy. For the uninitiated: Identify a key sector, throw massive, uncoordinated fiscal subsidies and government equity injections at it, seduce a weak foreign firm to share its technology and/or turn a blind eye to IP “borrowing”, sit happily by as loads of firms build a ton of capacity, panic a bit when prices collapse, allow the private firms dumb enough to have jumped in die, but bailout a few of half-decent state-backed firms. Now, wait for a few years as the survivors develop real expertise and a competitive low-end product, and subsidize their losses as they build up a genuine client base.” Link.

  4. Are we living in the age of decadence?

    Great piece on whether events like the Fyre Festival, Theranos, and Uber signal the fact that as a society, we’re collectively holding our breaths awaiting the promises of technology that never seem to come. It reminds me of the singularity hype that captivated technologists in the early 2000s. Are these the ill-effects of late stage capitalism?

    “What fascinates and terrifies us about the Roman Empire is not that it finally went smash,” wrote W.H. Auden of that endless autumn, but rather that “it managed to last for four centuries without creativity, warmth, or hope.” Link.

What I’ve been reading:

A dream library?

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