Thursday, February 23, 2006

Psychological benefits of working in pairs

When assigning people in a company to do knowledge- or research-intensive work, I can see the benefits of working in pairs. When I'm working as part of a pair on a difficult problem, I don't feel like I'm alone, incompetent, or somehow not measuring up whenever I run into unavoidable (but formidable) obstacles. I don't feel so bad because my partner is going through the same thing. When we report on our progress, it's less psychologically taxing because the burden of responsibility is halved. It might be an ideal way to do things in a lot of cases, because it doesn't completely alleviate the workers of responsibility, but distributes the load on each person to make it more bearable.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Extended racial profiling

As an Asian-American, it might be alarming to read Bush's details on a foiled terror plot in Los Angeles. The article states that Southeast Asians were recruited to carry out the planned attack. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm figuring that Asians will be profiled from now on. I'm okay with that and I understand the concern for security, but I'm guessing that the whiny Asian-American activist types will not be happy to hear this. They'll make a stink about it.

Eventually, the smart thing to do would be just to profile young people everywhere. Once Middle Easterners and Asians are profiled, al-Qaeda may turn to other ethnic groups to carry out their plans.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Delusional comfort and anarchist terrorism

I was reading Eric Hobsbawm's Industry and Empire this weekend. One interesting argument in the book is that Britain suffered decline because it got complacent about its dominant position. If it was being out-produced or out-innovated, it could retreat back into the comfort of its world empire. Having a power base is useful to buffer against shock or sudden change, but the factors causing the shock or change shouldn't be ignored. Even though it's reassuring to have something to fall back on, this comfort is a temporary solution and something must be done about the root cause of the problem.

Another book I read this weekend was Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America. Its thesis is that the man who shot McKinley was only one part of the "murder." The McKinley legacy was also wiped out by his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. (The author of the book, Eric Rauchway, is a professor at UC Davis. I took his course on the Gilded Age and Progressive era.) From reading the book, I noted that America and the world have dealt with terrorism before, during the anarchist movement around a hundred years ago. The anarchists managed to cap several European heads of state. I wonder if there are lessons to be learned from that anarchist movement that we haven't bothered exploring.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Theft and economic development

I was reading Eric Hobsbawm's Industry and Empire last night, and he wrote about how factories in Europe and the United States were often set up by Englishmen, or--more interestingly--through illegally copied designs. It was interesting to me because something that was illegal grew to something legitimate, even to the point that this initial "theft" went on to transform national economies.

It reminded me of how pirating in Taiwan and South Korea used to be a big problem. Despite that short-term loss in revenues to software companies, their tools proliferated and they gained market share. People learned to use that stolen software, developed skill in using it, and even went on to create their own. As a software industry pops up, people learn to appreciate the effort that goes into writing software. With this, a respect for intellectual property is instilled.

This just reminds me how messy the world is. Things end up working out in the end, though. It just seems funny when the lucrative sectors of national economies are founded on theft.