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Comment: Re:Oh no (Score 2) 421

by kcbrown (#41954733) Attached to: Amid Fiscal Uncertainty, Venture Capital Is Way Down In Silicon Valley

Anybody as freaked out by current government borrowing as you describe is simply being hysterical. Sure the deficit at a historical high in absolute terms, but its nowhere near a historical high as percent of GDP.

While that's true, it's highly misleading. The only time the deficit was higher than it is now was during World War 2 and its immediate aftermath. The current deficit as a percentage of GDP is now even higher than it was during the Great Depression: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Publicly_Held_Federal_Debt_1790-2009.png

Remember that government debt is actually money that is borrowed by the government from the private sector and spent on government expenses, which means that, aside from that which is borrowed from the federal reserve system, it is money that could otherwise be invested in private business ventures. In the case of World War 2, there was good reason for such a high deficit: we were fighting a war of global proportions and diverting the majority of the country's resources towards it. There is no such excuse today. The deficit we have today exists solely because the government is too large and is overspending (on the wrong things, no less -- it would be one thing if it were spending most of that on infrastructure improvements that would benefit the country in the future, but instead it is squandering it on things that yield no significant return on the investment).

Comment: Re:It gets old--and so do we (Score 2, Interesting) 515

by kcbrown (#40572097) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Old Dogs vs. New Technology?

"The problem with learning everything about a system is that once that system becomes obsolete, all that work was wasted. After doing that a few times, we all drift toward learning the minimum required for the immediate problem. When that's not enough, we're grateful to have young folks around who still want to learn every little detail."

This is why the best approach, in my experience, is to nail the fundamentals, which do not change significantly over time. The rest can be looked up as needed or learned (and then discarded) as needed.

Is that as fast as simply knowing what you need to know outright? No, of course not. But it makes you far more adaptable.

Finally, when you learn that something doesn't work, it's important to learn why it doesn't work. Merely that it doesn't isn't terribly useful, because without knowing why it doesn't work, you'll have no means of evaluating whether or not it will work under different circumstances.

Learning without understanding is what I refer to as "cargo cult learning", and is to be avoided. Sadly, a lot of people engage in it, and as a result you wind up with people who are experienced but who lack understanding, and it's important to be able to distinguish between the two when hiring (this is why mere examination of a resume may largely be a waste of time -- there is no substitute for interviewing someone properly, and selecting someone for an interview based on their apparently massive or specific experience can, and often does, yield someone who will ultimately be less successful than would someone who has a solid grasp on the fundamentals but not as much and/or as directly targeted experience. All of which is to say that it's something of a crapshoot as regards resumes).

People make the mistake of buying into the notion that technology "changes quickly". It doesn't. The specific implementations do, but the fundamentals remain just that: fundamental. Understand those well and you'll be pretty much set for life, unless a sea change occurs on your watch (e.g., quantum computing becoming mainstream, and at that point you simply have new fundamentals to learn and master).

Comment: Re:Coincidence (Score 1) 465

by kcbrown (#35514682) Attached to: Microsoft On List of Most Ethical Companies

I was attributing this to Forbes malice, then i noted the message at the bottom of the slashdot page: Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity

In my experience, the reverse of Hanlon's Razor is far more often true: Never attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by malice.

Note that this doesn't exclude the possibility of both stupidity and malice at the same time, but regardless, it's generally easy to tell the difference between the two: stupidity affects the choice of actions and their execution, as well as the probability of getting caught, while malice affects the goals and the decision of which actions to take only, and is otherwise independent of execution. Actions which are inconsistent in both their effect and their apparent motive are generally the result of stupidity, since stupidity tends not to account for luck, and stupidity results in luck playing a larger role in both the choice of action and the execution. Actions which are inconsistent in their effect but consistent in their apparent motive are generally the result of malice attempting to masquerade as stupidity. Actions which are consistent in their effect are always the result of malice (when the effect is malicious or "evil", of course).

And in my experience, malice is much more often seen when measured that way than is stupidity. Hence the preference for the reverse of Hanlon's Razor (Hanlon's Rozar?).

The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.

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