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- Joking around with no one in particular, I asked which currently had more value – having a generic four-year degree from Anytown University, or an Instagram account with a million followers?
You’re a CEO in the financial sector. Which would you rather have as your corporation’s main asset, a chain of marble-floor main street bank branches or the payment network of Visa or Mastercard?
Reminds me of the Bill Gates review of Capitalism Without Capital.
- Imagine Ford releasing a new model of car. The first car costs a bit more to create, because you have to spend money designing and testing it. But each vehicle after that requires a certain amount of materials and labor. The tenth car you build costs the same to make as the 1000th car. The same is true for the other things that dominated the world’s economy for most of the 20th century, including agricultural products and property.
Software doesn’t work like this. Microsoft might spend a lot of money to develop the first unit of a new program, but every unit after that is virtually free to produce. Unlike the goods that powered our economy in the past, software is an intangible asset. And software isn’t the only example: data, insurance, e-books, even movies work in similar ways.
A B-52 or something similar just flew over low and loud. I didn't get a good look and couldn't get a photo through the trees.
It didn't show up on Planefinder. I see a pair of Ospreys fly by now and then but they never appear on the app.
ADS-B Exchange shows a number of military flights nearby but no sign of this aircraft; the closest match has only four engines.
Anyone have any tips on military planespotting?
A followup story, from October 2014 e-mail:
I just finished getting soaked for another twenty while walking back getting lunch. As before, as each minute passed from the completion of the transaction, my confidence in not having been scammed dropped from about 90% to something below 50%. I record this story as a case study with the goal of forming actionable goals should this situation arise again.
So I was on the short walk to the office on E Street from Subway on a nearby corner, wondering why cash register drawers still pop open at the conclusion of a credit card payment, as they have since I worked in retail.
A guy positioned himself alongside my path and began talking directly in a way I would have felt awkward to ignore. I noticed roughly in order: a complexion compatible with playing a race card, a jean jacket, some kind of dark shirt beneath, a neck lanyard of the kind worn by government employees and contractors, clean shoes and the generally kempt appearance.
He was talking somewhat rapidly, though politely, and, one might say, smoothly. He works at the the Department of Homeland Security or some such agency. He was driving his wife and kid and hit a curb and got a flat tire. He doesn't have a credit card, or "they" don't take them, and he needed some weird anchoring number like $18.97 to something something resolve the problem. His name was something something and he would give me his information and pay me back tomorrow he was coming down the road and made a U-Turn and struck the curb (here seeming to gesture at E Street, and my mind processing between the fact that E Street is one-way but yes sure enough there are tire marks on the far curb) and the wife and kid—
So I interrupted to ask "So what are you trying to do?"
I am a legitimate and fair mark because to give my mind a moment to process I interrupted the patter, but only to ask for a boatload more patter. He had "currency" and pulled out a small wad with a twenty on the outside and he said he was short for the tow and to buy a spare tire. I was already hooked, he knew, but he still had to reel the fish in.
I had stopped walking to listen, and now turned back the way he had looked when talking about his stranded loved ones, and I said "Let's go take a look." This suddenly was not practical, he was actually parked in front of something something monument and something. I am getting a little annoyed now typing this but want to put it down for science.
I was long since decided on what I would do even though my mind was in some complex eigenstate on the truth value of this guy's proposition, so I walked a few steps to set my drink down and told him I would give him my contact information. For some reason that seemed like the better way to do it. I pulled out a vanity card which won't get him more than my cell number, name, and if he is clever about WHOIS my previous home address. I passed it over and then the banknote and nodded and probably shook hands and he said I would be hearing from him and I said "That's great, good luck" and before or after that he said something like "okay I can get the other four pretty easy now" like some kind of attempted upsell.
There is some consolation in the fact that I didn't put on a convincing display of credulence and could plausibly have felt sorry for a random dude who resorts to trickery to score lunch (or other) money.
What I did that was good:
• Suggested my own method of verifying one of his claims.
• Turned a bit aside while retrieving the ransom, to make a smash and grab operation marginally less obvious.
• Did not loan him my credit card or cell phone or get into any enclosed space with him or give him much more than what a lesson in street smarts might plausibly be worth.
• Gave a needy person money?
What I did that was bad:
• Became utterly mesmerized by his patter while trying to understand the situation.
• Failed to recognize that he immediately dissuaded me from gathering intelligence that would bolster his story.
• Gave a conniving jerk money?
Action items for future encounters:
• Slow down. If you are in a hurry, grunt an apology and move on. If you stop to talk, deliberate. Any time pressure from the other side smacks of tactics.
• Remember the lesson of the Wason selection task. Disregard confirming evidence and seek disconfirmation. The scammer selects only information that is consistent with genuine need, and this information is useless in making the important determination of honesty.
• Tune out the patter. Ask for clarification. Don't rush.
• Think of some piece of evidence and ask for it. Ask to see the called number log on his cell phone. Ask what kind of car it is, then ask to see the car keys.
• Recognize high-risk cliche scams. Car trouble, but no visible car. Short on money, need an uncomfortable but not-worth-calling-authorities amount to pay some urgent need.
That's a good category. One time a guy stopped me on the sidewalk to ask for directions, while holding a smartphone in his hand. Fishy! But his phone was broken and he wanted directions to the Verizon store.
Sometimes people are just crazy. I was walking to the Port Authority bus terminal in NYC one night around 2 a.m. and brushed shoulders with some guy. He dropped a plastic bag, then started complaining to me that he was a boxer and that was his chap stick or Vaseline or something he needed and now it was no good. I offered to buy him a replacement and we walked in to the station together. He was more intent on the mission than I was and he got a few steps ahead, allowing me to take a detour. I had to lie low by my gate until the bus showed up, but survived to tell the tale.
In the old movies they ask if you can spare a dime. I never heard someone ask for less than a quarter, and remember the first time I heard someone ask for a dollar.
Naming a specific price seems to be a good strategy; it lends some credibility. Then there's the guy who appears to have read the tour book guide describing the exact patter to watch out for, because he follows the car-broke-down, need-bus-fare script word for word.
I've often wondered what I would do if I needed some cash and didn't have a way to get it without asking a stranger.
Star Maker is mentioned in the article and was pretty good. “Probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written” according to Arthur C. Clarke; Borges deemed it “a prodigious novel,” the author called it “remarkably bad.”
I'm still miffed that Fermi's Paradox had apparently been resolved a long time before anyone told me.