Nerd Corner #34: Skin in the Game, Code For Venezuela and more! 😷

Hi All,

This email should have gone out last night but most of my plans have been scrambled due to COVID-19. Thanks for your keeping up with me!

While I’ve been working from home for the past week, last night the Bay Area announced a “shelter in place” order until early April. This means that it is mandatory to stay home and go out only if strictly necessary (to buy food, supplies, medicines). Most countries are implementing similar measures. Our lives will be different and weird for the next few months at least. Follow the guidelines, stay safe, and hopefully, all this will be behind us soon.

What I am reading 📚

A good thing about the lockdown is that I have an excuse to sit down and read. My 2020 reading list still has plenty of books for me to go through.
Last week I mentioned I read Coders at Work by Peter Siebel. It was such a wonderful read that I think every programmer should read at some point. I will be revisiting it in the coming weeks to squeeze out some good nuggets from it.

I am still reading Girard’s Things Hidden Since The Foundation of the World. There is so much material in it and so he tries to debunk so many sociology and ethnology theories that most of the time I find myself on Wikipedia and on Stanford’s Philosophy Encyclopedia learning new concepts and ideas. This book has been a surprising read in different ways. First, I didn’t expect it to be so dense and interesting and second, it has exposed me to so many new concepts and ideas that I feel overwhelmed—in a good sense—from time to time.




In other news, I’ve been writing a curation piece about a couple of Nassim Taleb’s ideas that have had a huge impact on me over the years. This is an assignment for Write of Passage, the online writing course that I’m taking and that has blown my mind. Online learning is not only possible but it can be fun and making friends on the Internet is fascinating.

As part of this, I’ve been revisiting Taleb’s books, in particular, Antifragile and Skin in the Game, my favorite ones. Here are some of my favorite passages from Skin in the Game:

We are much better at doing than at understanding.

I recently Tweeted about this one:

By definition, what works cannot be irrational; about every single person I know who has chronically failed in business shares that mental block, the failure to realize that if something stupid works (and makes money), it cannot be stupid.

Replacing the "natural", that is age-old, processes that have survived trillions of high-dimensional stressors with something in a "peer-reviewed" journal that may not survive replication or statistical scrutiny is neither science nor good practice.

I have no other definition of success than leading an honorable life.

Compendiaria res improbitas, virtusque tarda—the villainous takes the short road, virtue the longer one.

A doctor is pushed by the system to transfer risk from himself to you, and from the present into the future, or from the immediate future into a more distant future.

Freedom entails risks—real skin in the game. Freedom isn't free.

True intellect should not appear to be intellectual

Nerd Corner 😷

The pandemic will hit countries in different ways. Some will suffer more than others. Venezuela is in a particularly difficult situation because of the political and social instability that we’ve been for the past 2 decades.

At Code For Venezuela, we’ve been working around the clock to provide tools and services to help our fellow citizens stay informed and prepared. We’ve made public a dashboard that keeps track of the epidemic throughout the country. You can check it out here. Keep track of our Twitter and Instagram accounts as we release more tools and services, and help us spread the word!



During these stressful times, it is good to steer away from the news cycle to preserve our sanity. I don’t read/watch the news and have been trying to keep my Twitter time to a minimum. But I still feel an urge to keep track of how the situation develops and how our understanding of this virus evolves. Below are a few resources that are my go-to for this:

  • Petter Attia’s COVID-19 Instagram updates. Start here. The second one is a must-watch.

  • Luca Dellanna. I’ve mentioned him in previous updates. His updates and analysis of the dynamics of the epidemic are top-notch. I get informed and learn new things at the same time.

  • Covid-19 Dashboards. There are plenty of sites with charts and data about the virus. Most of them take their data from the WHO updates. I like this site because the charts are clean and they provide all the code in case you want to play and generate your own. If you live in the US this chart is very important, it shows the number of cases over time in each state.

  • If you live in San Francisco like me, the best way to keep track of what the city is doing about the virus is to subscribe to the city’s text alerts. In this way, there’s no need to keep track of the news and you will get a text message whenever something important happens.

Cool Finds 🤯

  • Not exactly cool but humbling. The world is in panic mode and so are the markets. The S&P500 erased more than two years of gains in a few days.

  • Risky Conversations is a YouTube channel that I am digging. It has some nice episodes like this one about Complex Finance.

  • When this crisis ends I expect many governmental institutions and think tanks to come under fire. Countries and companies have spent billions for certain people (what Taleb calls IYI) to discuss and come up with big emergency plans but when this crisis hit, nobody was prepared. This article argues that “we need disagreeable people to fix our dishonest institutions”, it has a couple of ideas that we should consider moving forward.

Before you go 😎

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Stay healthy and safe!
Alberto

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