The real use of money is to buy freedom

As the founder of a profitable software company, I happen to make more money than most office-goers of my age. There’s no shame or pride in admitting that. I don’t dislike money. Having quite a bit of it is simply a fact. Though there must me many thousands of people who have enormously more money than me, I consider myself lucky to have more than I need right now. However, more than the money, what fascinates me is the nature of money, its ubiquity and how our behavior gets unknowingly influenced by it.

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Power of Simplicity

Blaise Pascal once famously ended a letter with an apology: I’m sorry that this was such a long letter, but I didn’t have time to write you a short one. Computer science has pretty much the same problem. It’s a young field, and young fields are messy. They get weighed down with excess Jargon. There are multiple names for the same ideas and the ideas themselves are often snarled together. It’s a complicated science, because we haven’t had enough time to make a simple one.

Read the article: Pascal’s Apology

Goldman Sachs and the $580 Million Black Hole

James and Janet Baker spent nearly two decades building Dragon, a voice technology company, into a successful, multimillion-dollar enterprise. It was, they say, their “third child.” So in late 1999, when offers to buy Dragon began rolling in, the couple made what seemed a smart decision: they turned to Goldman Sachs for advice. And why not? Goldman, after all, was the leading dealmaker on Wall Street. The Bakers wanted the best. This, of course, was before the scandals of the subprime mortgage era. It was before the bailouts, before Occupy Wall Street, before ordinary Americans began complaining about “banksters” and “muppets” and “the vampire squid.” In short, before Goldman Sachs became, for many, synonymous with Wall Street greed.

And yet, even today what happened next to the Bakers seems remarkable. With Goldman Sachs on the job, the corporate takeover of Dragon Systems in an all-stock deal went terribly wrong. Goldman collected millions of dollars in fees — and the Bakers lost everything when Lernout & Hauspie was revealed to be a spectacular fraud. L.& H. had been founded by Jo Lernout and Pol Hauspie, who had once been hailed as stars of the 1990s tech boom. Only later did the Bakers learn that Goldman Sachs itself had at one point considered investing in L.& H. but had walked away after some digging into the company.

Read the article: Goldman Sachs and a Sale Gone Horribly Awry

Steve Jobs on Average vs Best Software Developers

“I observed something fairly early on at Apple, which I didn’t know how to explain then, but have thought a lot about it since. Most things in life have a dynamic range in which average to best is at most 2:1. For example if you go to New York City and get an average taxi cab driver versus the best taxi cab driver, you’ll probably get to your destination with the best taxi driver 30% faster. And an automobile; What’s the difference between the average car and the best? Maybe 20% ?  The best CD player versus the average CD player? Maybe 20% ? So 2:1 is a big dynamic range for most things in life. Now, in software, and it used ot be the case in hardware, the difference between the average software developer and the best is 50:1; Maybe even 100:1….”

Read the article: Why You Need To Hire Great Developers

The 7 Greatest Ideas in History

Just a few stand out above all the rest. They change the course of history and affect the lives of millions who aren’t even aware of them. Amazingly, they are often the work of a single person. Those ideas are truly great and seven really stand out. To make my selection, I applied three criteria: Longevity (i.e. they survive a long time without being amended or surpassed in any significant way), impact (i.e. they greatly affected the lives and work of others) and authorship (i.e. they can be traced to one person).

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Why You Won’t Quit Your Job — Premature optimization

When I began writing Passion & Purpose in 2009, I met Susan, a young woman on the brink of quitting her investment banking job to pursue her lifelong passion of starting a nonprofit. A year later, when I asked how her new venture was going, I was surprised to hear that she “couldn’t bring herself to quit” in the first place. And when we bumped into each other last week, I found her toiling away in exactly the same role, still dreaming of her nonprofit venture, but now more depressed than ever.

Why can’t Susan just leave the job she despises? More generally, what powerful forces are pulling us back toward the “devil we know”?

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Human survival depends on space exploration – Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking says the colonization of outer space is key to the survival of humankind, predicting it will be difficult for the world’s inhabitants “to avoid disaster in the next hundred years”… Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain lurking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.

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Russia plans $65bn tunnel to America

Russia has unveiled an ambitious plan to build the world’s longest tunnel under the Bering Strait as part of a transport corridor linking Europe and America via Siberia and Alaska. The 64-mile (103km) tunnel would connect the far east of Russia with Alaska, opening up the prospect of the ultimate rail trip across three quarters of the globe from London to New York. The link would be twice as long as the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France. The $65 billion (£33 billion) mega-project aims to transform trade links between Russia and its former Cold War enemies across some of the world’s most desolate terrain. It would create a high-speed railway line, energy links and a fibreoptic cable network.

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