Book Review: The Death of Expertise

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Expertise

“The Death of Expertise” by Tom Nichols is a timely piece to the ongoing information endemic, especially in America. Quoting Issac Asimov:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just a good as your knowledge.”

The book describes the author’s view of why experts are so important in a democracy and the relationship between expertise the public. And it also goes on to decry the ongoing decay in this relationship, where citizens are increasingly losing trust in experts, and experts are increasingly finding it difficult to communicate with their audience.

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Reading Summary: 11/06/2020

Technology

Edsger Dijkstra: The Man Who Carried Computer Science on His Shoulders

The often untold story behind a mastermind of Computer Science: Dijkstra, whose name has been an important
algorithm widely used in GPS navigation.

The blog described a wise, hard-thinker, a great mind who made unparallel contributions to both Computer
Science as a mathematical and logical view, as well as Software Engineering which focuses on building
software and hardware components.

He’s most famous for his private reports, named “EWD”, and continued for more than forty years,
describing his views on Computer Science and Software Engineering in general, and sometimes worked
as reviews for others’ work. One of the most influencing “EWD” report was “Notes on Structured Programming,”
which argued programming as a serious form of skill that demands intellectual rigor.

In 1972, Dijkstra received the ACM Turing Award, he was recognized for:

contributions to programming as a high, intellectual challenge; for eloquent insistence and practical demonstration that programs should be composed correctly, not just debugged into correctness; for illuminating perception of problems at the foundations of program design.

He has great passion for his art, and his strong personality sometimes sparked controversies.
One of the most famous was the discussion on critiquing “GOTO” statements as harmful. It
brought widespread, heated debate, yet Dijkstra’s view finally prevailed, and his insistence
made a monumental change to programming paradigm.

There are much more interesting details around his personal and academic life in the original post,
too long to be summarized here. For example, his had a mini-van in Austin, which he often drove to
national parks with his wife, and it was named the “Touring Machine.” If you are passionate with computers and software,
have a long weekend afternoon, it’s worth a good read.

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Reading Summary: 07/20/2020

Social

A Sino-American bond, forged by Chinese students, is in peril $

How Chinese-American relationship is impacting the lives of many “stuck in between.”

How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump

The author had the foresight about the dangerous impact social media has on a society, and he was right.

He also proposes: the cure cannot be a pure technological one, it requires fixing the vulnerabilities inside economics, political, and social systems.

Technology

Testifying at the Senate about A.I.‑Selected Content on the Internet, from Stephen Wolfram

Stephen Wolfram’s testimony at the Senate, on A.I. selected content, his ideas on why algorithmic bias is dangerous, and how we can address it with proper regulations, transparency, and user choice.

He basically proposed that users should have an idea of what algorithm is feeding them data, and the capability to choose. This requires some open benchmarks on recommendation algorithms, and frameworks for users to choose.

Programming

The Rise of Embarrassingly Parallel Serverless Compute

What is serverless computing, why it is on the rise, and why is it useful for parallel data processing (data processing, CI/CD, compilation, ML, visualization, …, you name it).

NoSQL Data Modeling Techniques

A detailed guide for modeling your NoSQL data schemes.

Book Review: Data and Goliath

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Bruce_Schneier_Data_and_Goliath_The_Hidden_Battles?id=MwF-BAAAQBAJ
https://www.amazon.com/dp/039335217X/

“Data and Goliath” is an excellent book a friend recommended.
It’s a summary of all the dangerous and negative ways data, and the “Big Data” technology can
shape our societies. The author Bruce Schneier is
a prominent expert in cryptography who published impactful works on
cryptography and issues on privacy. He’s also on the board of directors of Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Reading Summary 2019-08

Cassandra Time Series Bucketing

How to model timeseries data with Cassandra.

Simple GoRPC

The best way to understand something, is to build one yourself. This tutorial covers basic network programming in Go, struct design and the usage of reflect package.

Optimizing M3: How Uber Halved Our Metrics Ingestion Latency by Forking the Go Compiler

A great experience sharing blog on how to debug a performance issue in their services. And with profiling and analysis tools, the Uber team was able to pinpoint this issue in worker pool and goroutine stack allocation, and then they forked the Go compiler to prove it’s a regression in the Go compiler. A very nice read and analysis process.

Book: Programming Models for Distributed Computation

A programming book on topics in distributed computation, from teaching experience in distributed system course, from Northeastern University.

Spotify Engineering Culture

A very nice engineering blog from 2014. A excellent overview of Spotify culture, and an introduction on how to build the “agile” team.

How We Helped Our Reporters Learn to Love Spreadsheets

NYTimes has released its in-house course to teach journalists data science. Journalism can also benefit from a little coding/data analytics skills.

Reading Summary 2019-04

An Overview of Go’s Tooling

If go is one of your favorite languages as well, this is a must read: it introduces all the basic tooling that comes with Go’s ecosystem, which might greatly save your time.

HackerNews thread on TLA+:

A thread from HackerNews, discussing the importance of formal verification for distributed systems.

TLA+ and formal verification is notoriously known for its complexity and steep learning curve. This might be one of my very future goals.

Are You a Software Architect?

What it takes to be a software architect, a great blog post from InfoQ.

InfluxData is Building a Fast Implementation of Apache Arrow in Go Using c2goasm and SIMD

TIL that it is possible to convert your C/C++ assembly into Go’s assembly, and call from Go’s code. InfluxData leverages the tooling to embed AVX/SSE instructions into Golang’s assembly, thus boosts Go code’s performance, sometimes by orders of magnitude.

More information on this tool, c2goasm, work from Minio.

Org-Mode Is One of the Most Reasonable Markup Languages to Use for Text

I think so, too. But it’ll require a community and proper tooling to see it really prosper. Hope to see that some day.

Why and How Capitalism Needs to Be Reformed

A great piece from Ray Dalio, the founder of investment firm Bridgewaters, a seasoned investor, discusses in his recent long post why American capitalism is sick in distributing resources, especially educational resources, and needs to be reformed to stay healthy.

Reading-Summary 2019-01

Becoming a magician

If you want to become a ‘magician’, the ones that with intricate moves and skills to amaze the audience, you’ll need to adopt a growing mindset:

you cannot become a ‘magician’ with the same progress rate, or by simply imagining a better self: sometimes the way to changes involves a fundamental shift in how you see the world. And to achieve that you’ll need to observe fellow ‘magicians’, learn the difference, and make non-linear progresses.

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