What I'm Reading (Mar. 31)

Operation Warp Speed, everyone loves watching a controlled building demolition, know your adversary, and social media and the “slap heard round the world.”

“Operation Warp Speed was a tremendous success and one that I was pleased to support from the beginning. Many people, however, are concluding from the success of OWS that big Federal funding can solve many other problems at the same speed and scale and that is incorrect.

First, it’s important to understand that OWS did not create any scientific innovations or discoveries. …. Second, it’s important to understand that we got lucky. OWS made smart bets and the portfolio paid off but it could have failed.”

What can we learn from our experience with Operation Warp Speed? Marginal Revolution offers up some answers. What Operation Warp Speed Did, Didn’t and Can’t Do

“How do you demolish a massive building – in the middle of a populated city – in a matter of seconds… safely? Counterintuitively, you do it with explosives. We explore how chemistry, engineering, and more than a little artistry come together to safely bring down massive structures.”




“It was December 1989, the Berlin Wall had fallen, and in Dresden, crowds were gathering outside the headquarters of the Stasi, the East German secret police, shouting insults and demanding access. Nearby, frantic KGB officers—the Soviet advisers whom the Stasi had long referred to as “the friends”—were barricaded inside their villa, burning papers. “We destroyed everything,” remembered one of those officers, Vladimir Putin. “All our communications, our lists of contacts and our agents’ networks … We burned so much stuff that the furnace burst.”

Understanding Vladimir Putin can help us recognize that the current “Ukrainian crisis” has been a long time coming. While not necessarily predictable, it is not the actions of a “madman” as much as those of a man shaped by his lived experience. From The Atlantic, A KGB Man to the End

We have all heard now of “the slap heard round the world.” Charley Warzel, who writes Galaxy Brain for The Atlantic, has some thoughts.

“Twitter explodes, first with confusion and then with a general shock. Likely even before there was any real clarity about what really happened, the first strident opinions trickle in, blaming Chris Rock or Will Smith for the confrontation. These opinions are confidently voiced and confidently amplified by like-minded people, enough that they catch the eye of people who think that opinion is bad or perhaps even dangerous. The incident itself, thanks to quickly available hi-res images, becomes a meme around the same moment. Some people will be having fun with the meme, while others, viewing the event through a more serious lens, will be quite upset with those making jokes. As soon as Smith wins the Oscar, you’ll get the takes about whether he deserves the award. But most everything after is mostly a second-order take—a commentary on the commentary. By the show’s end, the slap has achieved Mass Attentional Event status, which means it is a vessel for content of any type. Any bit of expertise in a related or unrelated field can be affixed to the attentional event, and any other news or cultural event can be viewed through the lens of the Mass Attentional Event. So naturally, you’ll get at least a few Ukraine/Slap remixes.”

The Predictability of a Social-Media Discourse