LARGE x RARE == DIFFERENT: Why scaling companies is harder than it looks

Source: LARGE x RARE == DIFFERENT: Why scaling companies is harder than it looks

The insight is that scale causes rare events to become common.

Sure, without automated monitoring we’d be blind, and without automated problem-solving we’d be overwhelmed. So yes, “automate everything.”

But some things you can’t automate. … You can’t “automate” the recruiting, training, rapport, culture, and downright caring of teams of human beings who are awake 24/7/365, with skills ranging from multi-tasking on support chat to communicating clearly and professionally over the phone to logging into servers and identifying and fixing issues as fast as (humanly?) possible.

And you can’t “automate” away the rare things, even the technical ones. By their nature they’re difficult to define, hence difficult to monitor, and difficult to repair without the forensic skills of a human engineer.

with high growth, the surprise appears quickly

Brittleness comes from “One Thing”

Source: Brittleness comes from “One Thing”, by Jason Cohen

If there is only one of something in a system, and the loss of that one thing would break the system, then that “one thing” is a source of brittleness for the system.

The obvious solution, although expensive, is to duplicate One Things in order to acquire robustness.

As you scale, the size of the “chunks” that create brittleness also scale

Swatting is Attempted Murder

RE: Kansas Man Killed In ‘SWATting’ Attack | Krebs on Security

Swatting is not a “dangerous hoax”. It is not a “prank”. Swatting is attempted murder — in this case, successful murder.

The police are not the target of swatting — they don’t receive the call and possibly break their station with their breach equipment or shoot each other. The innocent people at the address the SWAT team is sent to are the target; they are at risk of property damage at best and getting shot by police at worst.

The swatter is sending 10-60 officers, mostly lethally equipped and expecting a dangerous situation, sometimes including snipers, to the swatting target’s address. This can reasonably be expected to eventually and occasionally lead the the death of the swatting target.

+ How SWAT Teams Work | HowStuffWorks

Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White House

Source: Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White House, by Michael Lewis (2017/07/26)

“Just give me the top five risks I need to worry about right away. Start at the top.”

At the very top of his list is an accident with nuclear weapons … “I would encourage you to spend an hour reading about Broken Arrows.”

“North Korea would be up there,” says MacWilliams. … the people inside the national labs are the world’s most qualified to determine just what North Korea’s missiles can do.

“This is in no particular order,” he says with remarkable patience. “But Iran is somewhere in the top five.” He’d watched Secretary Moniz help negotiate the deal that removed from Iran the capacity to acquire a nuclear weapon. There were only three paths to a nuclear weapon. … enriched uranium … plutonium … buy a weapon … The national labs played a big role in policing all three paths. … At any rate, the serious risk in Iran wasn’t that the Iranians would secretly acquire a weapon. It was that the president of the United States would not understand his nuclear scientists’ reasoning about the unlikelihood of the Iranians’ obtaining a weapon, and that he would have the United States back away foolishly from the deal. Released from the complicated set of restrictions on its nuclear-power program, Iran would then build its bomb. It wasn’t enough to have the world’s finest forensic nuclear physicists. Our political leaders needed to be predisposed to listen to them and equipped to understand what they say.

His more general point was that managing risks was an act of the imagination. And the human imagination is a poor tool for judging risk. … What was most easily imagined was not what was most probable. It wasn’t the things you think of when you try to think of bad things happening that got you killed, he said. “It is the less detectable, systemic risks.” Another way of putting this is: The risk we should most fear is not the risk we easily imagine. It is the risk that we don’t.

I realized later that the fifth risk did not put him at risk of revealing classified information. To begin, he said simply, “Project management.” … the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions. … It is delaying repairs to a tunnel filled with lethal waste until, one day, it collapses. … It is what you never learned that might have saved you.

It turned out no one wanted to make a serious study of the risks at Hanford. Not the contractors who stood to make lots of money from things chugging along as they have. Not the career people inside the D.O.E. who oversaw the project and who feared that an open acknowledgment of all the risks was an invitation to even more lawsuits. Not the citizens of Eastern Washington, who count on the $3 billion a year flowing into their region from the federal government. Only one stakeholder in the place wanted to know what was going on beneath its soil: the tribes. A radioactive ruin does not crumble without consequences, and yet, even now, no one can say what these are.

A Nobel Prize-winning economist thinks we’re asking all the wrong questions about inequality

Source: A Nobel Prize-winning economist thinks we’re asking all the wrong questions about inequality

“Inequality is not the same thing as unfairness; and, to my mind, it is the latter that has incited so much political turmoil in the rich world today.”

— Angus Deaton
economics professor at Princeton and recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in economics

What’s unfair

Each year, the US wastes a trillion dollars ($8,000 per family) more than other wealthy nations on healthcare costs, with worse outcomes.

Many industries, like tech, media, and healthcare, are now run by a few, large companies.

Twenty percent of workers sign non-compete clauses, which prevent them from taking on side-hustles, reducing their incomes and bargaining power. What’s more, over half of non-union, privately employed Americans—some 60 million people—have signed mandatory arbitration agreements, which means they can never sue their employers.

Companies are increasingly replacing full-time, salaried workers with contractors.

As median wages have stagnated, corporate profits relative to GDP have grown 20% to 25%.