Need to Read More

I’m so behind on my reading that only now am I getting round to reading about things that happened at last year’s Emerging Technology conference.

The second basic pattern that Bion detailed: The identification and vilification of external enemies. This is a very common pattern. Anyone who was around the Open Source movement in the mid-Nineties could see this all the time. If you cared about Linux on the desktop, there was a big list of jobs to do. But you could always instead get a conversation going about Microsoft and Bill Gates. And people would start bleeding from their ears, they would get so mad.

If you want to make it better, there’s a list of things to do. It’s Open Source, right? Just fix it. “No, no, Microsoft and Bill Gates grrrrr …”, the froth would start coming out. The external enemy — nothing causes a group to galvanize like an external enemy.

So even if someone isn’t really your enemy, identifying them as an enemy can cause a pleasant sense of group cohesion. And groups often gravitate towards members who are the most paranoid and make them leaders, because those are the people who are best at identifying external enemies.

Clay Shirky, A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Texas Hold'em Communication Protocol

It’s seems that computers can now play poker better than I can.

Using new abstraction techniques, we have produced viable “pseudo-optimal” strategies for the game of 2-player Texas Hold’em. The resulting poker-playing programs have demonstrated a tremendous improvement in performance. Whereas the previous best poker programs were easily beaten by any competent human player, the new programs are capable of defeating very strong players and can hold their own against world-class opposition.

– Billings et al, Approximating Game-Theoretic Optimal Strategies for Full-scale Poker [PDF]

Boring Life

Marc wants to live his life as an A5. I don’t. If getting an A requires no effort then I feel that I’ve achieved nothing. If I could do everything without effort I reckon I would do nothing.