The Ground Breaking Mathematics That Proves Free Energy Is Possible Has Been Discovered | Collective-Evolution

numbers_math_free _energyIt has been said that the ability to prove that free energy is possible is non-existent because it defies various physical laws. But what if those physical laws are not entirely correct? What if the mathematics that proves the possibility of free energy was just not known, suppressed or hidden? In the video below, Randy Powell discusses Vortex Based Mathematics, which is a concept he was taught by Marko Rodin. He suggests that this mathematics proves that free energy is possible.

On a side note, I remember hearing at one time in the last few years (in a video interview) that there was about 25 equations that help to prove the existence of systems such as free energy, and these 25 equations were purposely suppressed and removed from educational institutions. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate the source of this claim and so it sits as nothing but a memory of once coming across it. If anyone reading this happens to know what I’m talking about, please let me know in the comments.

Free Energy Research
At first glance it might be easy to brush this off as not being possible since one of the main objections going around about free energy is that it simply is not possible. This rumor is spreading with no real evidence and therefore it is important to look into the evidence that does exist to support it. Below will be one example followed by an article which illustrates many examples.

The Casimir Effect is a proven example of free energy. The Casimir Effect illustrates zero point or vacuum state energy, which predicts that two metal plates close together attract each other due to an imbalance in the quantum fluctuations. You can see a visual demonstration of this concept here. The implications of this are far reaching and have been written about extensively within theoretical physics by researchers all over the world. Today, we are beginning to see that these concepts are not just theoretical, but instead very practical and simply very suppressed.

Relatively recent proposals have been made in the literature for extracting energy and heat from electromagnetic zero-point radiation via the use of the Casimir force. The basic thermodynamics involved in these proposals is analyzed and clarified here, with the conclusion that yes, in principle, these proposals are correct

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Simplified schematic of a multistage thermonuclear weapon

Simplified schematic of a multistage thermonuclear weapon

Numbered parts:bomb casinginterior filling (plastic material)detonatorsconventional high explosivepusher (aluminum, others) and reflector (beryllium, tungsten)tamper (uranium-238)fissile core (plutonium or uranium-235)radiation shield (tungsten, others)fusion pusher/tamper (uranium-235 sleeve)fusion fuel (solid lithium-deuteride)sparkplug (uranium-235 or plutonium)Sequence of events in explosion:STAGE 1: fission explosionMultiple detonators (3) simultaneously initiate detonation of high explosives (4).As detonation progresses through high explosives (4), shaping of these charges transforms the explosive shock front to one that is spherically symmetric, travelling inward.Explosive shock front compresses and transits the pusher (5) which facilitates transition of the shock wave from low-density high explosive to high-density core material.Shock front in turn compresses the reflector (5), tamper (6), and fissile core (7) inward.When compression of the fissile core (7) reaches optimum density, a neutron initiator (either in the center of the fissile core or outside the high explosive assembly) releases a burst of neutrons into the core.The neutron burst initiates a fission chain reaction in the fissile core (7): a neutron splits a plutonium/uranium-235 atom, releasing perhaps two or three neutrons to do the same to other atoms, and so on; energy release increases geometrically.Many neutrons escaping from the fissile core (7) are reflected back to it by the tamper (6) and reflector (5), improving the chain reaction.The mass of the tamper (6) delays the fissile core (7) from expanding under the heat of the building energy release.Neutrons from the chain reaction in the fissile core (7) cause transmutation of atoms in the uranium-235 tamper (6).As the superheated core expands under the energy release, the chain reaction ends.STAGE 2: fusion explosionGamma radiation from the fission explosion superheats the filler material (2), turning it into a plasma.The vaporized filler material (2) is delayed from expanding outward by the bomb casing (1), increasing its tendency to compress the fusion pusher/tamper (9).Compression reaches the fusion fuel (10), which has been partially protected from gamma radiation by the radiation shield (8).Compression reaches the fissile sparkplug (11), compressing it to a super-critical mass.Neutrons from the explosion of stage 1 reach the fissile sparkplug (11) through the channel in the radiation shield (8), initiating a fission chain reaction.The sparkplug (11) explodes outward.The fusion fuel (10) is now supercompressed between the fusion pusher/tamper (9) from without and the sparkplug (11) from within, turning it into a superheated plasma.Lithium and deuterium nuclei collide in the fusion fuel (10) to produce tritium, and tritium and deuterium nuclei engage in fusion reactions: nuclei fuse by pairs into helium nuclei, producing a large energy release of gamma rays, neutrons, and heat.The large release of neutrons from fusion in the fusion fuel (10) causes transmutation of uranium-235 atoms in the fusion pusher/tamper (9), releasing additional energy.All reactions end as the superheated remnants expand under the energy release; the entire weapon is vaporized.Total elapsed time: about 0.00002 seconds.© 2001-2003, 2006 by Wm. Robert Johnston.Last modified 10 September 2006.Return to Home. Return to Nuclear Weapons.

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Atheism me

ATHEISM AND ME

Bad Arguments for the Existence of God

BAD ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

Here’s a list of the bad arguments I get, from most to least common:

1. I just know that God exists

I get this argument or claim from the more level-headed folks who respond to me; they’re usually very sincere.  Such sincerity is appreciated when compared to the hellfire I often get, but sincerity without evidence won’t cut it as an argument. After all, there’re thousands of people who deeply believe that Elvis is alive, that UFOs exist, that the earth is flat, and that the Virgin Mary shows up in tortillas. (Or worse, that God is waiting behind the next comet and you have to kill yourself to meet Him.) Problem is, none of them can truly back it up. I can respect when people say “I am certain God exists,” but if your goal is to convince me you’d have to explain why I should take your word over all the other sincere folks who say the same thing about other God(s) or belief systems. (I’ve had such responses from Wiccans to followers of Islam to Satanists.)

2. You’re really just an agnostic: 

Not as far as I’m concerned.  Some definitions are in order:Agnostic: One who believes that there can be no proof of the existence of God but does not deny the possibility that God exists.  “Soft” Atheist: One who presumes there is no god based on lack of evidence.“Hard” Atheist: One who claims with certainty that there is no god.I find myself somewhere between “soft” and “hard” atheism.  “Agnostic” implies a sense that God is just as likely a possibility as No God, but my feeling is that the probability is strongly favoring No God.  In other words, I acknowledge that I can’t know for certain that God doesn’t exist, I also don’t know for certain that unicorns don’t.  I feel that the existence of God is about as likely as the existence of Leprechauns.  If that makes me “Leprechaun-agnostic” to you, then call me an agnostic as far as God’s concerned.  

3: You’re just trying to be rebellious:

Wouldn’t that be easy for you if I were? However, if you really knew me you’d know I wasn’t that type. (Unless you consider dropping by the record store and buying indie music on the way to my suburban home from my 9-to-5 job rebellious.) 

4: Prove that God doesn’t exist, Mr. Smartypants:

I’ll do that as soon as you prove to me there aren’t any green swans, unicorns, or leprechauns.  Difficult, isn’t it?In fact, there’s an entire mock religion based on the undisprovability of Gods: the Flying Spaghetti Monster  If you can disprove the existence if the FSM, then I’ll disprove the existence of your particular flavor of God.  Essentially, the burden of proof is on the person claiming that something does exist. 

5: Pascal’s Wager: If you believe in god, you go to heaven. If you don’t, you go to hell. If God doesn’t exist, you die whether or not you believe.  So why not believe in God just in case He exists?

If I had a Euro for every time I heard this one, I could buy Luxembourg!  Like with most bad arguments, there are some hidden assumptions in this wager:That it would even be possible to truly believe based simply on a decision to believe. Think about it: could you believe in Leprechauns if you simply told yourself to? God wouldn’t see through this ploy. It seems to me He’d be a pretty stupid God to get hoodwinked by this loophole. There’s no harm in believing in God even if He doesn’t exist. Really? How about all those wasted Sunday mornings, where I could’ve spent time reading the newspaper more carefully and learning more about the world as it trulyis?  How about the ongoing worries about God’s disapproval?  Or the wasted energy in deciphering an ancient text?  As one funny page says, “Stay Home on Sundays, save 10%!”God is the Christian version of God, or even the particular flavor of Christian God you’ll happen to choose.You may think I’m being facetious, but think about it! Would I become a Catholic? Seventh-Day Adventist? Mormon? Sunni or Shia Muslim?  I can imagine the reply: “Why,my religion, of course!” 

6: The evidence is everywhere, you just need to believe first. 

You’re making a common logical error called “Begging the Question.”  This is a favorite style of argument among delusional people.  Essentially, you’re saying that I need to be biased and interpret everything with my “God Glasses” on.  As a philosophical Frankenstein monster would say: “Bias baaaaad!”Besides, this argument admits that the evidence for God isn’t really out there, that it’s all a matter of interpretation, not evidence.  Here’s a relevant quote, thanks to atheism.about.com:Every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out, “It is a matter of faith, and above reason.”- John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

7: CS Lewis’ “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” Trilemma: 

The claim here is that if Jesus said what he said in the Bible, that he was either truly the Lord, was an utter Liar, or was a complete Lunatic.  Lewis (and others) then try to argue that “Lord” is the only real option.  However, are those really the only three choices? A more complete set would be “Lord, Liar, Lunatic, Deluded, Misquoted, Fabricated, or otherwise Fictionalized.”  Click here for a more fleshed-out rebuttal.  

8: The Bible is Historically Accurate. Therefore what it says about Jesus is accurate. 

At a gross level the Bible is occasionally historically accurate.  However, with many important details the Bible is the sole source of data, so it’s impossible to independently confirm its claims. Worse, much of the Bible is hearsay (and based on the Gospels, there’s some discrepancy within the Bible between what was heard and what was said.)  Even concerning the issue of the very existence of Jesus, the only independent sources of evidence are suspect (such as a transcribing Monks’ suspected forgery in Josephus, for example). Besides, just because the Bible says there was a war between the x’s and y’s doesn’t validate the whole thing. After all, that’s like saying that everything in “Gone With the Wind” is true because there really was a Civil War. 

9: Being an Atheist requires faith.

Oh, pshaw.  Ever heard of doublespeak?  How can a lack of faith require faith?   It’s not that I have faith that there isn’t a God, I simply lack faith in a God.  Understanding this distinction will help you understand what I believe.

10: Deep down you really believe in God.

Such folks can’t grasp that it’s really possible to disbelieve. It is. In fact, it’s easy.

11: You’ll go to hell, heathen!

Why does anyone think this will convert people? Why would I want to adopt a belief system that condemns free thought?  Why respect a God that uses extortion to get people to worship Him?

12: Evolution is only a theory (and other Creationist claptrap)

Yeah, and so is Newton’s theory of gravity, but you won’t be floating away anytime soon.  (I recommend looking up what the word theory means in science, and why it doesn’t mean “hunch” like it does outside of science.  As Stephen Jay Gould put it, “Evolution is a theory.  It is also a fact.”)  There’s a delicious irony here: those who say there isn’t enough evidence supporting evolution despite tons of concrete data have a shifting set of criteria when it comes to the existence of Jesus, where the evidence is purely anecdotal.  If anything is “only a theory,” it’s Christianity.  But I should get to the main point, in bold and underlined in case the drooling hordes of Creationists miss it:  Anyone who tries to argue against Evolution should make an effort to understand what Evolution claims.  Every single Creationist who has responded to me has been ignorant of some of the basic tenets of Evolution.Chances are, if your evidence against Evolution comes from Creationist literature, your argument has been soundly defeated. My Favorite Bad Creationist Argument: Using the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as evidence against Evolution. Evolution doesn’t break the 2nd Law any more than infant development or even tree growth does. Look up “open versus closed systems” in any science text discussing the 2nd Law, and you’ll see how ignorant and/or dishonest this Creationist argument is.If you insist on spewing Creationist dogma to me, you’d better read The Blind Watchmaker, Science on Trial, and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea before even trying this with me.  At the very least surf to this site and give it a spin.  Don’t even try Behe’s “Darwin’s Empty Box” or other Intelligent Design theories without looking into other Biochemists’ reactions to Behe.  And if you’re not intellectually honest enough to try that, at least go to The General Anti-Creationism FAQ before wasting your keystrokes. Evolution’s support is as strong as the support for a heliocentric solar system. Period.Why am I so hostile to Creationism?  Aside from its willful ignorance and intellectual dishonesty I also feel that Creationists share some responsibility for the fact that American children are slipping when it comes to basic competence in science.  When Biology teachers are afraid to teach a basic tenet of Biology to students, we all suffer.  I can respect religious beliefs I disagree with, but to deny Evolution is as maddening as to deny that the earth is spherical.  There is simply no excuse in the 21st century to be so blindingly ignorant.  FYI, here’s a great quote from Paul Doland on Evolution and Probability: “I will borrow an analogy that I read somewhere, but I cannot remember the source. In this analogy, the person said to imagine someone driving a car, ignoring all signs and just making random turns. A few days later he calls me and tells me he is in Chicago. I explain to him that is impossible. The probability that he would have taken each and every turn necessary to end in Chicago is so small that he couldn’t possibly be there. Of course he had to wind up somewhere. Yet anywhere he ends up, I could calculate the probability that he ended up there to be very small. Any probability discussion on whether life exactly as we know it could evolve faces a similar problem. Yes, the probability that life exactly as we know would evolve is very small, but it proves nothing about the probability of life as we do not know it evolving.”

13: “There are no Atheists in Foxholes”

In other words, when things get stressful, I’ll change my mind.  Usually this one is offered in a nastier way: “You’ll be groveling before the Lord when it’s time for you to die.”  Such respondents apparently relish the idea of 1) my experiencing a horrible event, and 2) getting my comeuppance for simply questioning God’s existence. Either way, it’s a crappy argument.  There are, and there have been atheists in foxholes (and here).  Aside from that, even if there weren’t any, how would this be evidence for God’s existence?  Because people decide to believe in God at their neediest and weakest moments?  What this argument is really trying to say is that atheists don’t have the strength of their convictions.  Again, even if this was true, what would it prove?  Would this be any better of an argument than if an atheist told you that many Christians have crises of faith?  Actually, I have lived through some pretty awful experiences (major surgeries, deaths, layoffs, etc.), and God never crossed my mind during any of them.    

14: You’re Just Mad at God

In other words, I really believe that God exists, but I think he’s a jerk.  While it’s true that I think the Christian God would be (at best) an insecure codependent and (at worst) murderously psychotic if He existed, that doesn’t mean that’s the reason I disbelieve.  Those who make this argument blithely ignore all of my arguments against the existence of God; they feel their only option is to offer a hand-wave like this.   

15: You Just Want to Live an Amoral Life

Here, the claim is that my disbelief arises from pure selfishness.  How better to justify my nonstop orgies, crack addiction, and Napster use than to believe that I won’t be judged in the hereafter?  Of course, if I wanted to live an amoral life, I’m doing a pretty bad job of it.  For the most part I’m a straight arrow: good job, suburban home, pregnant wife, clean teeth and gums…  Sure, I’ve had a few ethical lapses in my life, but I never justified those lapses by invoking the nonexistence of God.  The basis for this argument is the smug assumption that atheists are immoral.  This belief is  so astonishingly ignorant of ethical Philosophy that I can only see it as intellectually dishonest.  

16: “Why do you care so much to create this page?”

I think there’s an implied argument here: “You can’t be an atheist. Why else would you dwell on the issue of the existence of God?” I won’t get into this too much, since anyone with a whit of imagination could come up with some perfectly valid reasons for an atheist to care about the issues I bring up on this site:1. The US faces a religious/spiritual majority, and in my own small way I hope to offer an antidote.The current political climate in the US seems to be “mostly spiritual, with a near-100% chance of Christianity by nightfall.” Lately, everyone from Bible-bumping fundamentalists to the muddle-headed feel-goodian Oprah/Chopra/VanPraaghery have poisoned the country’s intellectual well and are now trying to do the same to our legal and educational systems.In the spirit of living by example, I try to show that there are valid reasons to be skeptical of the claims of religion. I don’t do this necessarily to convert believers to atheism, but to foster respect for atheism. We aren’t amoral goons who eat kitten kebabs for breakfast. Nor are we all sad, bitter people with a “god-shaped hole” in our psyches.2. With my CDA Protest, I hope to show that “Theological Correctness” is more pervasive and dangerous than “Political Correctness” is claimed to be.3. The intellectual exercise.  Even if I lived in a society that valued free thought, I’d probably still keep this page going. After all, arguments about the existence of god interest me on an intellectual level. It fascinates me how wishful thinking colors people’s logic, and it’s fun to pick apart arguments to see where the logic ends and the fantasy begins. (My favorite is the Cosmological Argument, where the wishful thinking starts with the premise and doesn’t let go. No unbiased person would be convinced by it.)3. My religious past.As a former Christian, I have a soft spot for Christianity. Many family members and friends whom I love and respect are devout Christians, and many seem to be deeply disappointed in my lack of faith. With this page I hope to offer a respectful but truthful explanation for my disbelief.4. As a connection to like-minded peopleAnd I don’t necessarily mean those who agree with me to the letter.  Many of my favorite responses have been from deeply religious people who understand the importance of critical thought.5. Fame, Fortune, and Groupies

17: God doesn’t need to be visible to us, since he wants us to have faith.  

The claim here is that it would somehow not be challenging to God if we knew He existed.  So, he hides from us and wants us to have Faith all the while.  (Never mind the punishment if you don’t muster this faith!)  What if your true love decided that it would be best for your relationship if they disappeared for years and expected you to trust in them and have faith in them?  Perhaps this parable is more appropriate:Imagine if an airplane engineer, for his own self-gratification, designed an airplane knowing that a hefty percentage of its passengers would die. Imagine also that this engineer dictated that the only way for a passenger to survive a flight on this plane would be to deliberately contact him and flatter him in some way. Worse, there are different engineers, each with different sets of rules, and the passengers have to figure out which engineer they are supposed to be in touch with.It gets worse. Because this engineer wants his passengers to have Faith in him, there’s no reason for him to make his presence known. That way, the passengers can’t really be sure that any engineer exists at all. If a human behaved like this, most people (including Christians) would want his head on a plate. But since this is God’s doing, this situation is somehow supposed to make sense.18: “Look at all the wonderful things in this world!  They must be from God.” Well, not to be a downer, but look at all the evil, awful, nasty things, too.  Would a loving God allow attacks like the one on the World Trade Center?  Don’t blame all of this on sin and Satan; imagine the countless innocent infants dead from disease and disaster.  And consider that even if Satan is responsible, I remind you that Satan is God’s creation, too. Want to try blaming it all on Free Will?  Don’t you think God would’ve known what humans would do with their Free Will?  God would have to have been pretty dim not to know what Eve would do with the Forbidden Fruit, don’t you think?  Here’s a great quote from Richard Dawkins:“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond alldecent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose thissentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others arerunning for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly beingdevoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dyingof starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a timeof plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in thepopulation until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored.In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces andgenetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people aregoing to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor anyjustice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we shouldexpect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good,nothing but pitiless indifference.”[Richard Dawkins in “God’s Utility Function,”Scientific American, November 1995, p. 85.]19: Somebody had to start everything!  (aka the Cosmological Argument)Here’s the argument in a nutshell: every event has a cause that precedes it in time.  However, time can’t extend backward infinitely, so something has to set the whole thing going, and that “something” is God.   Problems:1: You’re assuming that time is linear and finite.  Sure, it seems so from our limited perspective, but who’s to say that this is the case at the edges of time and space?  Check into modern physics: the “Big Bang” isn’t as stupid a theory as you think.  2: Even if time is linear and finite, does God really solve the infinite regress problem?  Essentially, you’re saying that God extends infinitely backward in time.  Yet again, God is patched into a mystery not because of evidence but because it’s easier to assume there’s a conscious process instead of trying to truly understand the mystery.  Click here if you want to look deeper into this issue.  Especially this article.  20: God is the source of all morality.Sadly, this is one of the most ignorant (and prejudiced!) replies that I get, as well as the most common.  Otherwise intelligent people seem to lack the imagination to understand how moral behavior doesn’t necessarily have to come from the dictates of a deity.  (In fact, when you think about it, it’s frightening to think that the only reason you’re not murdering me right now is that a Big Ghost told you not to do it.)  Because this is such a commonly held belief, I’m drafting a separate page to explain where my standards of conduct come from.  When I’m done, I’ll post a link.  In short, my morals come from the simple fact that certain behaviors allow people to live peacefully together.  We all have one shot at life, and certain codes of conduct mean that you and I can pursue happiness without treading on each other.  This may be familiar to Christians as “do unto others,” but they shouldn’t assume this philosophy is unique to Christianity.Until my essay is done, I recommend surfing here for more on this issue.   21: “You can’t see air, and you believe in that!” (aka Miscast Empiricism)Ugh.  This one’s so bad I don’t even know where to start.First I’ll start with a physiology lesson: we have five senses, not one.  Remarkably, these senses often tell me of things that I cannot see: I can feel air when it moves, and smell it (for better or worse).Most important, “air” is a really bad example for someone to use, since air, unlike God, can be probed scientifically.  (And it can be seen, but I won’t get into that.)People who say this to me are feebly trying to say that empiricism is a terrible way to determine whether something exists.  On the contrary, it’s the best way to determine if something exists!  If a being or object has any bearing on the universe, that means that this entity’s existence is capable of empirical measurement.  Simple as that.  Some versions of this argument use intangible concepts such as “love” instead of “air.”   This is harder to dismiss, though it’s an equally bad argument.  “Love,” for example, isn’t an object or a being like God is claimed to be.  Rather, love is a concept.  The very fact that there’s a word for love proves its existence as a concept, but that hardly means that there’s anobject called love.  The same is true with God: God exists as a concept, but that doesn’t mean he/she/they/it exists as an entity. It’s particularly amusing when creationists accuse me of being overly empirical.  They seem to have a love-hate, all-or-none relationship with this mental power-tool called empiricism.  If I suggest that the independent evidence for Jesus’ or God’s existence is sketchy, they accuse me of being overly empirical.  But bring up evolution, and they’ll claim that because no scientists witnessed human evolution firsthand, there’s no evidence.  (One creationist’s mantra to biologists: “But were you there?”)  I’m just glad these folks aren’t in charge of investigating homicides: “Well, even though Gacy has countless bodies in his basement, nobody ever saw him kill anybody!  Set ‘im free, boys!”Share/Bookmark

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Paradox of the proof

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The Paradox of the Proof

By Caroline Chen

MAY 9, 2013On August 31, 2012, Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki posted four papers on the Internet.The titles were inscrutable. The volume was daunting: 512 pages in total. The claim was audacious: he said he had proved the ABC Conjecture, a famed, beguilingly simple number theory problem that had stumped mathematicians for decades.Then Mochizuki walked away. He did not send his work to the Annals of Mathematics. Nor did he leave a message on any of the online forums frequented by mathematicians around the world. He just posted the papers, and waited.Two days later, Jordan Ellenberg, a math professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received an email alert from Google Scholar, a service which scans the Internet looking for articles on topics he has specified. On September 2, Google Scholar sent him Mochizuki’s papers: You might be interested in this.“I was like, ‘Yes, Google, I am kind of interested in that!’” Ellenberg recalls. “I posted it on Facebook and on my blog, saying, ‘By the way, it seems like Mochizuki solved the ABC Conjecture.’”The Internet exploded. Within days, even the mainstream media had picked up on the story. “World’s Most Complex Mathematical Theory Cracked,” announced the Telegraph. “Possible Breakthrough in ABC Conjecture,” reported the New York Times, more demurely.On MathOverflow, an online math forum, mathematicians around the world began to debate and discuss Mochizuki’s claim. The question which quickly bubbled to the top of the forum, encouraged by the community’s “upvotes,” was simple: “Can someone briefly explain the philosophy behind his work and comment on why it might be expected to shed light on questions like the ABC conjecture?” asked Andy Putman, assistant professor at Rice University. Or, in plainer words: I don’t get it. Does anyone?The problem, as many mathematicians were discovering when they flocked to Mochizuki’s website, was that the proof was impossible to read. The first paper, entitled “Inter-universal Teichmuller Theory I: Construction of Hodge Theaters,” starts out by stating that the goal is “to establish an arithmetic version of Teichmuller theory for number fields equipped with an elliptic curve…by applying the theory of semi-graphs of anabelioids, Frobenioids, the etale theta function, and log-shells.”This is not just gibberish to the average layman. It was gibberish to the math community as well.“Looking at it, you feel a bit like you might be reading a paper from the future, or from outer space,” wrote Ellenberg on his blog.“It’s very, very weird,” says Columbia University professor Johan de Jong, who works in a related field of mathematics.Mochizuki had created so many new mathematical tools and brought together so many disparate strands of mathematics that his paper was populated with vocabulary that nobody could understand. It was totally novel, and totally mystifying.As Tufts professor Moon Duchin put it: “He’s really created his own world.”It was going to take a while before anyone would be able to understand Mochizuki’s work, let alone judge whether or not his proof was right. In the ensuing months, the papers weighed like a rock in the math community. A handful of people approached it and began examining it. Others tried, then gave up. Some ignored it entirely, preferring to observe from a distance. As for the man himself, the man who had claimed to solve one of mathematics’ biggest problems, there was not a sound.For centuries, mathematicians have strived towards a single goal: to understand how the universe works, and describe it. To this objective, math itself is only a tool — it is the language that mathematicians have invented to help them describe the known and query the unknown.This history of mathematical inquiry is marked by milestones that come in the form of theorems and conjectures. Simply put, a theorem is an observation known to be true. The Pythagorean theorem, for example, makes the observation that for all right-angled triangles, the relationship between the lengths of the three sides, a, b and c is expressed in the equation a2+ b2= c2. Conjectures are predecessors to a theorem — they are proposals for theorems, observations that mathematicians believe to be true, but are yet to be confirmed. When a conjecture is proved, it becomes a theorem and when that happens, mathematicians rejoice, and add the new theorem to their tally of the understood universe.“The point is not to prove the theorem,” explains Ellenberg. “The point is to understand how the universe works and what the hell is going on.”Ellenberg is doing the dishes while talking to me over the phone, and I can hear the sound of a small infant somewhere in the background. Ellenberg is passionate about explaining mathematics to the world. He writes a math column for Slate magazine and is working on a book called How Not To Be Wrong,which is supposed to help laypeople apply math to their lives.The sounds of the dishes pause as Ellenberg explains what motivates him and his fellow mathematicians. I imagine him gesturing in the air with soapy hands: “There’s a feeling that there’s a vast dark area of ignorance, but all of us are pushing together, taking steps together to pick at the boundaries.”The ABC Conjecture probes deep into the darkness, reaching at the foundations of math itself. First proposed by mathematicians David Masser and Joseph Oesterle in the 1980s, it makes an observation about a fundamental relationship between addition and multiplication. Yet despite its deep implications, the ABC Conjecture is famous because, on the surface, it seems rather simple.It starts with an easy equation: a +b = c.The variables a, b, andc, which give the conjecture its name, have some restrictions. They need to be whole numbers, and a and b cannot share any common factors, that is, they cannot be divisible by the same prime number. So, for example, ifa was 64, which equals 26, then bcould not be any number that is a multiple of two. In this case, bcould be 81, which is 34. Now aand b do not share any factors, and we get the equation 64 + 81 = 145.It isn’t hard to come up with combinations of a and b that satisfy the conditions. You could come up with huge numbers, such as 3,072 + 390,625 = 393,697 (3,072 = 210 x 3 and 390,625 = 58, no overlapping factors there), or very small numbers, such as 3 + 125 = 128 (125 = 5 x 5 x5).What the ABC conjecture then says is that the properties of a andb affect the properties of c. To understand the observation, it first helps to rewrite these equations a + b = c into versions made up of the prime factors:Our first equation, 64 + 81 = 145, is equivalent to 26+ 34= 5 x 29.Our second example, 3,072 + 390,625 = 393,697 is equivalent to  210 x 3 + 58 = 393,697 (which happens to be prime!)Our last example, 3 + 125 = 128, is equivalent to 3 + 53= 27The first two equations are not like the third, because in the first two equations, you have lots of prime factors on the left hand side of the equation, and very few on the right hand side. The third example is the opposite — there are more primes on the right hand side (seven) of the equation than on the left (only four). As it turns out, in all the possible combinations of a, b, and c,situation three is pretty rare. The ABC Conjecture essentially says that when there are lots of prime factors on the left hand of the equation then, usually, there will be not very many on the right side of the equation.Of course, “lots of,” “not very many,” and “usually” are very vague words, and in a formal version of the ABC Conjecture, all these terms are spelled out in more precise math-speak. But even in this watered-down version, one can begin to appreciate the conjecture’s implications. The equation is based on addition, but the conjecture’s observation is more about multiplication.“It really is about something very, very basic, about a tight constraint that relates multiplicative and additive properties of numbers,” says Minhyong Kim, professor at Oxford University. “If there’s something new to discover about that, you might expect it to be very influential.”This is not intuitive. While mathematicians came up with addition and multiplication in the first place, based on their current knowledge of mathematics, there is no reason for them to presume that the additive properties of numbers would somehow influence or affect their multiplicative properties.“There’s very little evidence for it,” says Peter Sarnak, professor at Princeton University, who is a self-described skeptic of the ABC conjecture. “I’ll only believe it when it’s proved.”But if it were true? Mathematicians say that it would reveal a deep relationship between addition and multiplication that they never knew of before.Even Sarnak, the skeptic, acknowledges this.“If it’s true, then it will be the most powerful thing we have,” he says.It would be so powerful, in fact, that it would automatically unlock many legendary math puzzles. One of these would be Fermat’s last theorem, an infamous math problem that was proposed in 1637, and solved only recently by Andrew Wiles in 1993. Wiles’ proof earned him more than 100,000 Deutsche marks in prize money (equivalent to about $50,000 in 1997), a reward that was offered almost a century before, in 1908. Wiles did not solve Fermat’s Last Theorem via the ABC conjecture — he took a different route — but if the ABC conjecture were to be true, then the proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem would be an easy consequence.Because of its simplicity, the ABC Conjecture is well-known by all mathematicians. CUNY professor Lucien Szpiro says that “every professional has tried at least one night” to theorize about a proof. Yet few people have seriously attempted to crack it. Szpiro, whose eponymous conjecture is a precursor of the ABC Conjecture, presented a proof in 2007, but it was soon found to be problematic. Since then, nobody has dared to touch it, not until Mochizuki.When Mochizuki posted his papers, the math community had much reason to be enthusiastic. They were excited not just because someone had claimed to prove an important conjecture, but because of who that someone was.Mochizuki was known to be brilliant. Born in Tokyo, he moved to New York with his parents, Kiichi and Anne Mochizuki, when he was 5 years old. He left home for high school, attending Philips Exeter Academy, a selective prep school in New Hampshire. There, he whipped through his academics with lightning speed, graduating after two years, at age 16, with advanced placements in mathematics, physics, American and European history, and Latin.Then Mochizuki enrolled at Princeton University where, again, he finished ahead of his peers, earning his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in three years and moving quickly onto his Ph.D, which he received at age 23. After lecturing at Harvard University for two years, he returned to Japan, joining the Research Institute for Mathematical Sciences at Kyoto University. In 2002, he became a full professor at the unusually young age of 33. His early papers were widely acknowledged to be very good work.Academic prowess is not the only characteristic that set Mochizuki apart from his peers. His friend, Oxford professor Minhyong Kim, says that Mochizuki’s most outstanding characteristic is his intense focus on work.“Even among many mathematicians I’ve known, he seems to have an extremely high tolerance for just sitting and doing mathematics for long, long hours,” says Kim.Mochizuki and Kim met in the early 1990s, when Mochizuki was still an undergraduate student at Princeton. Kim, on exchange from Yale University, recalls Mochizuki making his way through the works of French mathematician Alexander Grothedieck, whose books on algebraic and arithmetic geometry are a must-read for any mathematician in the field.“Most of us gradually come to understand [Grothendieck’s works] over many years, after dipping into it here and there,” said Kim. “It adds up to thousands and thousands of pages.”But not Mochizuki.“Mochizuki…just read them from beginning to end sitting at his desk,” recalls Kim. “He started this process when he was still an undergraduate, and within a few years, he was just completely done.”A few years after returning to Japan, Mochizuki turned his focus to the ABC Conjecture. Over the years, word got around that he believed to have cracked the puzzle, and Mochizuki himself said that he expected results by 2012. So when the papers appeared, the math community was waiting, and eager. But then the enthusiasm stalled.“His other papers – they’re readable, I can understand them and they’re fantastic,” says de Jong, who works in a similar field. Pacing in his office at Columbia University, de Jong shook his head as he recalled his first impression of the new papers. They were different. They were unreadable. After working in isolation for more than a decade, Mochizuki had built up a structure of mathematical language that only he could understand. To even begin to parse the four papers posted in August 2012, one would have to read through hundreds, maybe even thousands, of pages of previous work, none which had been vetted or peer-reviewed. It would take at least a year to read and understand everything. De Jong, who was about to go on sabbatical, briefly considered spending his year on Mochizuki’s papers, but when he saw height of the mountain, he quailed.“I decided, I can’t possibly work on this. It would drive me nuts,” he said.Soon, frustration turned into anger. Few professors were willing to directly critique a fellow mathematician, but almost every person I interviewed was quick to point out that Mochizuki was not following community standards. Usually, they said, mathematicians discuss their findings with their colleagues. Normally, they publish pre-prints to widely respected online forums. Then they submit their papers to the Annals of Mathematics, where papers are refereed by eminent mathematicians before publication. Mochizuki was bucking the trend. He was, according to his peers, “unorthodox.”But what roused their ire most was Mochizuki’s refusal to lecture. Usually, after publication, a mathematician lectures on his papers, travelling to various universities to explain his work and answer questions from his colleagues. Mochizuki has turned down multiple invitations.“A very prominent research university has asked him, ‘Come explain your result,’ and he said, ‘I couldn’t possibly do that in one talk,’” says Cathy O’Neil, de Jong’s wife, a former math professor better known as the blogger “Mathbabe.”“And so they said, ‘Well then, stay for a week,’ and he’s like, ‘I couldn’t do it in a week.’“So they said, ‘Stay for a month. Stay as long as you want,’ and he still said no.“The guy does not want to do it.”Kim sympathizes with his frustrated colleagues, but suggests a different reason for the rancor. “It really is painful to read other people’s work,” he says. “That’s all it is… All of us are just too lazy to read them.”Kim is also quick to defend his friend. He says Mochizuki’s reticence is due to being a “slightly shy character” as well as his assiduous work ethic. “He’s a very hard working guy and he just doesn’t want to spend time on airplanes and hotels and so on.”O’Neil, however, holds Mochizuki accountable, saying that his refusal to cooperate places an unfair burden on his colleagues.“You don’t get to say you’ve proved something if you haven’t explained it,” she says. “A proof is a social construct. If the community doesn’t understand it, you haven’t done your job.”Today, the math community faces a conundrum: the proof to a very important conjecture hangs in the air, yet nobody will touch it. For a brief moment in October, heads turned when Yale graduate student Vesselin Dimitrov pointed out a potential contradiction in the proof, but Mochizuki quickly responded, saying he had accounted for the problem. Dimitrov retreated, and the flicker of activity subsided.As the months pass, the silence has also begun to call into question a basic premise of mathematical academia. Duchin explains the mainstream view this way: “Proofs are right or wrong. The community passes verdict.”This foundational stone is one that mathematicians are proud of. The community works together; they are not cut-throat or competitive. Colleagues check each other’s work, spending hours upon hours verifying that a peer got it right. This behavior is not just altruistic, but also necessary: unlike in medical science, where you know you’re right if the patient is cured, or in engineering, where the rocket either launches or it doesn’t, theoretical math, better known as “pure” math, has no physical, visible standard. It is entirely based on logic. To know you’re right means you need someone else, preferably many other people, to walk in your footsteps and confirm that every step was made on solid ground. A proof in a vacuum is no proof at all.Even an incorrect proof is better than no proof, because if the ideas are novel, they may still be useful for other problems, or inspire another mathematician to figure out the right answer. So the most pressing question isn’t whether or not Mochizuki is right — the more important question is, will the math community fulfill their promise, step up to the plate and read the papers?The prospects seem thin. Szpiro is among the few who have made attempts to understand short segments of the paper. He holds a weekly workshop with his post-doctoral students at CUNY to discuss the paper, but he says they are limited to “local” analysis and do not understand the big picture yet. The only other known candidate is Go Yamashita, a colleague of Mochizuki at Kyoto University. According to Kim, Mochizuki is holding a private seminar with Yamashita, and Kim hopes that Yamashita will then go on to share and explain the work. If Yamashita does not pull through, it is unclear who else might be up to the task.For now, all the math community can do is wait. While they wait, they tell stories, and recall great moments in math — the year Wiles cracked Fermat’s Last Theorem; how Perelman proved the Poincaré Conjecture. Columbia professor Dorian Goldfeld tells the story of Kurt Heegner, a high school teacher in Berlin, who solved a classic problem proposed by Gauss. “Nobody believed it. All the famous mathematicians pooh-poohed it and said it was wrong.” Heegner’s paper gathered dust for more than a decade until finally, four years after his death, mathematicians realized that Heegner had been right all along. Kim recalls Yoichi Miyaoka’s proposed proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1988, which garnered a lot of media attention before serious flaws were discovered. “He became very embarrassed,” says Kim.As they tell these stories, Mochizuki and his proofs hang in the air. All these stories are possible outcomes. The only question is – which?Kim is one of the few people who remains optimistic about the future of this proof. He is planning a conference at Oxford University this November, and hopes to invite Yamashita to come and share what he has learned from Mochizuki. Perhaps more will be made clear, then.As for Mochizuki, who has refused all media requests, who seems so reluctant to promote even his own work, one has to wonder if he is even aware of the storm he has created.On his website, one of the only photos of Mochizuki available on the Internet shows a middle-aged man with old-fashioned 90’s style glasses, staring up and out, somewhere over our heads. A self-given title runs over his head. It is not “mathematician” but, rather, “Inter-universal Geometer.”What does it mean? His website offers no clues. There are his papers, thousands of pages long, reams upon reams of dense mathematics. His resume is spare and formal. He reports his marital status as “Single (never married).” And then there is a page calledThoughts of Shinichi Mochizuki, which has only 17 entries. “I would like to report on my recent progress,” he writes, February 2009. “Let me report on my progress,” October 2009. “Let me report on my progress,” April 2010, June 2011, January 2012. Then follows math-speak. It is hard to tell if he is excited, daunted, frustrated, or enthralled.Mochizuki has reported all this progress for years, but where is he going? This “inter-universal geometer,” this possible genius, may have found the key that would redefine number theory as we know it. He has, perhaps, charted a new path into the dark unknown of mathematics. But for now, his footsteps are untraceable. Wherever he is going, he seems to be travelling alone. Contact the Author:www.carolinechen.net | Twitter@CarolineYLChen Great stories are worth something. Help us figure out how much.How much is this story worth to you?Please enter an amount:$All proceeds go to the authors.Read More Stories© Project Wordsworth 2013 | Illustrations byEléonore (Léo) HamelinAuthors  |  Facebook  Twitter

Read More Paradox of the proof

Wealth esay

 Want to start a startup? Get funded by Y Combinator. May 2004(This essay was originally published in Hackers & Painters.) If you wanted to get rich, how would you do it? I think your best bet would be to start or join a startup. That’s been a reliable way to get rich for hundreds of years. The word “startup” dates from the 1960s, but what happens in one is very similar to the venture-backed trading voyages of the Middle Ages.Startups usually involve technology, so much so that the phrase “high-tech startup” is almost redundant. A startup is a small company that takes on a hard technical problem.Lots of people get rich knowing nothing more than that. You don’t have to know physics to be a good pitcher. But I think it could give you an edge to understand the underlying principles. Why do startups have to be small? Will a startup inevitably stop being a startup as it grows larger? And why do they so often work on developing new technology? Why are there so many startups selling new drugs or computer software, and none selling corn oil or laundry detergent?The PropositionEconomically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Instead of working at a low intensity for forty years, you work as hard as you possibly can for four. This pays especially well in technology, where you earn a premium for working fast.Here is a brief sketch of the economic proposition. If you’re a good hacker in your mid twenties, you can get a job paying about $80,000 per year. So on average such a hacker must be able to do at least $80,000 worth of work per year for the company just to break even. You could probably work twice as many hours as a corporate employee, and if you focus you can probably get three times as much done in an hour. [1] You should get another multiple of two, at least, by eliminating the drag of the pointy-haired middle manager who would be your boss in a big company. Then there is one more multiple: how much smarter are you than your job description expects you to be? Suppose another multiple of three. Combine all these multipliers, and I’m claiming you could be 36 times more productive than you’re expected to be in a random corporate job. [2] If a fairly good hacker is worth $80,000 a year at a big company, then a smart hacker working very hard without any corporate bullshit to slow him down should be able to do work worth about $3 million a year.Like all back-of-the-envelope calculations, this one has a lot of wiggle room. I wouldn’t try to defend the actual numbers. But I stand by the structure of the calculation. I’m not claiming the multiplier is precisely 36, but it is certainly more than 10, and probably rarely as high as 100.If $3 million a year seems high, remember that we’re talking about the limit case: the case where you not only have zero leisure time but indeed work so hard that you endanger your health.Startups are not magic. They don’t change the laws of wealth creation. They just represent a point at the far end of the curve. There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars’ worth of pain. For example, one way to make a million dollars would be to work for the Post Office your whole life, and save every penny of your salary. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years. In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years. You do tend to get a certain bulk discount if you buy the economy-size pain, but you can’t evade the fundamental conservation law. If starting a startup were easy, everyone would do it.Millions, not BillionsIf $3 million a year seems high to some people, it will seem low to others. Three million? How do I get to be a billionaire, like Bill Gates?So let’s get Bill Gates out of the way right now. It’s not a good idea to use famous rich people as examples, because the press only write about the very richest, and these tend to be outliers. Bill Gates is a smart, determined, and hardworking man, but you need more than that to make as much money as he has. You also need to be very lucky.There is a large random factor in the success of any company. So the guys you end up reading about in the papers are the ones who are very smart, totally dedicated, and win the lottery. Certainly Bill is smart and dedicated, but Microsoft also happens to have been the beneficiary of one of the most spectacular blunders in the history of business: the licensing deal for DOS. No doubt Bill did everything he could to steer IBM into making that blunder, and he has done an excellent job of exploiting it, but if there had been one person with a brain on IBM’s side, Microsoft’s future would have been very different. Microsoft at that stage had little leverage over IBM. They were effectively a component supplier. If IBM had required an exclusive license, as they should have, Microsoft would still have signed the deal. It would still have meant a lot of money for them, and IBM could easily have gotten an operating system elsewhere.Instead IBM ended up using all its power in the market to give Microsoft control of the PC standard. From that point, all Microsoft had to do was execute. They never had to bet the company on a bold decision. All they had to do was play hardball with licensees and copy more innovative products reasonably promptly.If IBM hadn’t made this mistake, Microsoft would still have been a successful company, but it could not have grown so big so fast. Bill Gates would be rich, but he’d be somewhere near the bottom of the Forbes 400 with the other guys his age.There are a lot of ways to get rich, and this essay is about only one of them. This essay is about how to make money by creating wealth and getting paid for it. There are plenty of other ways to get money, including chance, speculation, marriage, inheritance, theft, extortion, fraud, monopoly, graft, lobbying, counterfeiting, and prospecting. Most of the greatest fortunes have probably involved several of these.The advantage of creating wealth, as a way to get rich, is not just that it’s more legitimate (many of the other methods are now illegal) but that it’s morestraightforward. You just have to do something people want.Money Is Not WealthIf you want to create wealth, it will help to understand what it is. Wealth is not the same thing as money. [3] Wealth is as old as human history. Far older, in fact; ants have wealth. Money is a comparatively recent invention.Wealth is the fundamental thing. Wealth is stuff we want: food, clothes, houses, cars, gadgets, travel to interesting places, and so on. You can have wealth without having money. If you had a magic machine that could on command make you a car or cook you dinner or do your laundry, or do anything else you wanted, you wouldn’t need money. Whereas if you were in the middle of Antarctica, where there is nothing to buy, it wouldn’t matter how much money you had.Wealth is what you want, not money. But if wealth is the important thing, why does everyone talk about making money? It is a kind of shorthand: money is a way of moving wealth, and in practice they are usually interchangeable. But they are not the same thing, and unless you plan to get rich by counterfeiting, talking about making money can make it harder to understand how to make money.Money is a side effect of specialization. In a specialized society, most of the things you need, you can’t make for yourself. If you want a potato or a pencil or a place to live, you have to get it from someone else.How do you get the person who grows the potatoes to give you some? By giving him something he wants in return. But you can’t get very far by trading things directly with the people who need them. If you make violins, and none of the local farmers wants one, how will you eat?The solution societies find, as they get more specialized, is to make the trade into a two-step process. Instead of trading violins directly for potatoes, you trade violins for, say, silver, which you can then trade again for anything else you need. The intermediate stuff– the medium of exchange– can be anything that’s rare and portable. Historically metals have been the most common, but recently we’ve been using a medium of exchange, called the dollar, that doesn’t physically exist. It works as a medium of exchange, however, because its rarity is guaranteed by the U.S. Government.The advantage of a medium of exchange is that it makes trade work. The disadvantage is that it tends to obscure what trade really means. People think that what a business does is make money. But money is just the intermediate stage– just a shorthand– for whatever people want. What most businesses really do is make wealth. They do something people want. [4]The Pie FallacyA surprising number of people retain from childhood the idea that there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world. There is, in any normal family, a fixed amount of money at any moment. But that’s not the same thing.When wealth is talked about in this context, it is often described as a pie. “You can’t make the pie larger,” say politicians. When you’re talking about the amount of money in one family’s bank account, or the amount available to a government from one year’s tax revenue, this is true. If one person gets more, someone else has to get less.I can remember believing, as a child, that if a few rich people had all the money, it left less for everyone else. Many people seem to continue to believe something like this well into adulthood. This fallacy is usually there in the background when you hear someone talking about how x percent of the population have y percent of the wealth. If you plan to start a startup, then whether you realize it or not, you’re planning to disprove the Pie Fallacy.What leads people astray here is the abstraction of money. Money is not wealth. It’s just something we use to move wealth around. So although there may be, in certain specific moments (like your family, this month) a fixed amount of money available to trade with other people for things you want, there is not a fixed amount of wealth in the world. You can make more wealth.Wealth has been getting created and destroyed (but on balance, created) for all of human history.Suppose you own a beat-up old car. Instead of sitting on your butt next summer, you could spend the time restoring your car to pristine condition. In doing so you create wealth. The world is– and you specifically are– one pristine old car the richer. And not just in some metaphorical way. If you sell your car, you’ll get more for it.In restoring your old car you have made yourself richer. You haven’t made anyone else poorer. So there is obviously not a fixed pie. And in fact, when you look at it this way, you wonder why anyone would think there was. [5]Kids know, without knowing they know, that they can create wealth. If you need to give someone a present and don’t have any money, you make one. But kids are so bad at making things that they consider home-made presents to be a distinct, inferior, sort of thing to store-bought ones– a mere expression of the proverbial thought that counts. And indeed, the lumpy ashtrays we made for our parents did not have much of a resale market.CraftsmenThe people most likely to grasp that wealth can be created are the ones who are good at making things, the craftsmen. Their hand-made objects become store-bought ones. But with the rise of industrialization there are fewer and fewer craftsmen. One of the biggest remaining groups is computer programmers.A programmer can sit down in front of a computer and create wealth. A good piece of software is, in itself, a valuable thing. There is no manufacturing to confuse the issue. Those characters you type are a complete, finished product. If someone sat down and wrote a web browser that didn’t suck (a fine idea, by the way), the world would be that much richer. [5b]Everyone in a company works together to create wealth, in the sense of making more things people want. Many of the employees (e.g. the people in the mailroom or the personnel department) work at one remove from the actual making of stuff. Not the programmers. They literally think the product, one line at a time. And so it’s clearer to programmers that wealth is something that’s made, rather than being distributed, like slices of a pie, by some imaginary Daddy.It’s also obvious to programmers that there are huge variations in the rate at which wealth is created. At Viaweb we had one programmer who was a sort of monster of productivity. I remember watching what he did one long day and estimating that he had added several hundred thousand dollars to the market value of the company. A great programmer, on a roll, could create a million dollars worth of wealth in a couple weeks. A mediocre programmer over the same period will generate zero or even negative wealth (e.g. by introducing bugs).This is why so many of the best programmers are libertarians. In our world, you sink or swim, and there are no excuses. When those far removed from the creation of wealth– undergraduates, reporters, politicians– hear that the richest 5% of the people have half the total wealth, they tend to think injustice!An experienced programmer would be more likely to think is that all? The top 5% of programmers probably write 99% of the good software.Wealth can be created without being sold. Scientists, till recently at least, effectively donated the wealth they created. We are all richer for knowing about penicillin, because we’re less likely to die from infections. Wealth is whatever people want, and not dying is certainly something we want. Hackers often donate their work by writing open source software that anyone can use for free. I am much the richer for the operating system FreeBSD, which I’m running on the computer I’m using now, and so is Yahoo, which runs it on all their servers.What a Job IsIn industrialized countries, people belong to one institution or another at least until their twenties. After all those years you get used to the idea of belonging to a group of people who all get up in the morning, go to some set of buildings, and do things that they do not, ordinarily, enjoy doing. Belonging to such a group becomes part of your identity: name, age, role, institution. If you have to introduce yourself, or someone else describes you, it will be as something like, John Smith, age 10, a student at such and such elementary school, or John Smith, age 20, a student at such and such college.When John Smith finishes school he is expected to get a job. And what getting a job seems to mean is joining another institution. Superficially it’s a lot like college. You pick the companies you want to work for and apply to join them. If one likes you, you become a member of this new group. You get up in the morning and go to a new set of buildings, and do things that you do not, ordinarily, enjoy doing. There are a few differences: life is not as much fun, and you get paid, instead of paying, as you did in college. But the similarities feel greater than the differences. John Smith is now John Smith, 22, a software developer at such and such corporation.In fact John Smith’s life has changed more than he realizes. Socially, a company looks much like college, but the deeper you go into the underlying reality, the more different it gets.What a company does, and has to do if it wants to continue to exist, is earn money. And the way most companies make money is by creating wealth. Companies can be so specialized that this similarity is concealed, but it is not only manufacturing companies that create wealth. A big component of wealth is location. Remember that magic machine that could make you cars and cook you dinner and so on? It would not be so useful if it delivered your dinner to a random location in central Asia. If wealth means what people want, companies that move things also create wealth. Ditto for many other kinds of companies that don’t make anything physical. Nearly all companies exist to do something people want.And that’s what you do, as well, when you go to work for a company. But here there is another layer that tends to obscure the underlying reality. In a company, the work you do is averaged together with a lot of other people’s. You may not even be aware you’re doing something people want. Your contribution may be indirect. But the company as a whole must be giving people something they want, or they won’t make any money. And if they are paying you x dollars a year, then on average you must be contributing at least x dollars a year worth of work, or the company will be spending more than it makes, and will go out of business.Someone graduating from college thinks, and is told, that he needs to get a job, as if the important thing were becoming a member of an institution. A more direct way to put it would be: you need to start doing something people want. You don’t need to join a company to do that. All a company is is a group of people working together to do something people want. It’s doing something people want that matters, not joining the group. [6]For most people the best plan probably is to go to work for some existing company. But it is a good idea to understand what’s happening when you do this. A job means doing something people want, averaged together with everyone else in that company.Working HarderThat averaging gets to be a problem. I think the single biggest problem afflicting large companies is the difficulty of assigning a value to each person’s work. For the most part they punt. In a big company you get paid a fairly predictable salary for working fairly hard. You’re expected not to be obviously incompetent or lazy, but you’re not expected to devote your whole life to your work.It turns out, though, that there are economies of scale in how much of your life you devote to your work. In the right kind of business, someone who really devoted himself to work could generate ten or even a hundred times as much wealth as an average employee. A programmer, for example, instead of chugging along maintaining and updating an existing piece of software, could write a whole new piece of software, and with it create a new source of revenue.Companies are not set up to reward people who want to do this. You can’t go to your boss and say, I’d like to start working ten times as hard, so will you please pay me ten times as much? For one thing, the official fiction is that you are already working as hard as you can. But a more serious problem is that the company has no way of measuring the value of your work.Salesmen are an exception. It’s easy to measure how much revenue they generate, and they’re usually paid a percentage of it. If a salesman wants to work harder, he can just start doing it, and he will automatically get paid proportionally more.There is one other job besides sales where big companies can hire first-rate people: in the top management jobs. And for the same reason: their performance can be measured. The top managers are held responsible for the performance of the entire company. Because an ordinary employee’s performance can’t usually be measured, he is not expected to do more than put in a solid effort. Whereas top management, like salespeople, have to actually come up with the numbers. The CEO of a company that tanks cannot plead that he put in a solid effort. If the company does badly, he’s done badly.A company that could pay all its employees so straightforwardly would be enormously successful. Many employees would work harder if they could get paid for it. More importantly, such a company would attract people who wanted to work especially hard. It would crush its competitors.Unfortunately, companies can’t pay everyone like salesmen. Salesmen work alone. Most employees’ work is tangled together. Suppose a company makes some kind of consumer gadget. The engineers build a reliable gadget with all kinds of new features; the industrial designers design a beautiful case for it; and then the marketing people convince everyone that it’s something they’ve got to have. How do you know how much of the gadget’s sales are due to each group’s efforts? Or, for that matter, how much is due to the creators of past gadgets that gave the company a reputation for quality? There’s no way to untangle all their contributions. Even if you could read the minds of the consumers, you’d find these factors were all blurred together.If you want to go faster, it’s a problem to have your work tangled together with a large number of other people’s. In a large group, your performance is not separately measurable– and the rest of the group slows you down.Measurement and LeverageTo get rich you need to get yourself in a situation with two things, measurement and leverage. You need to be in a position where your performance can be measured, or there is no way to get paid more by doing more. And you have to have leverage, in the sense that the decisions you make have a big effect.Measurement alone is not enough. An example of a job with measurement but not leverage is doing piecework in a sweatshop. Your performance is measured and you get paid accordingly, but you have no scope for decisions. The only decision you get to make is how fast you work, and that can probably only increase your earnings by a factor of two or three.An example of a job with both measurement and leverage would be lead actor in a movie. Your performance can be measured in the gross of the movie. And you have leverage in the sense that your performance can make or break it.CEOs also have both measurement and leverage. They’re measured, in that the performance of the company is their performance. And they have leverage in that their decisions set the whole company moving in one direction or another.I think everyone who gets rich by their own efforts will be found to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. Everyone I can think of does: CEOs, movie stars, hedge fund managers, professional athletes. A good hint to the presence of leverage is the possibility of failure. Upside must be balanced by downside, so if there is big potential for gain there must also be a terrifying possibility of loss. CEOs, stars, fund managers, and athletes all live with the sword hanging over their heads; the moment they start to suck, they’re out. If you’re in a job that feels safe, you are not going to get rich, because if there is no danger there is almost certainly no leverage.But you don’t have to become a CEO or a movie star to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. All you need to do is be part of a small group working on a hard problem.Smallness = MeasurementIf you can’t measure the value of the work done by individual employees, you can get close. You can measure the value of the work done by small groups.One level at which you can accurately measure the revenue generated by employees is at the level of the whole company. When the company is small, you are thereby fairly close to measuring the contributions of individual employees. A viable startup might only have ten employees, which puts you within a factor of ten of measuring individual effort.Starting or joining a startup is thus as close as most people can get to saying to one’s boss, I want to work ten times as hard, so please pay me ten times as much. There are two differences: you’re not saying it to your boss, but directly to the customers (for whom your boss is only a proxy after all), and you’re not doing it individually, but along with a small group of other ambitious people.It will, ordinarily, be a group. Except in a few unusual kinds of work, like acting or writing books, you can’t be a company of one person. And the people you work with had better be good, because it’s their work that yours is going to be averaged with.A big company is like a giant galley driven by a thousand rowers. Two things keep the speed of the galley down. One is that individual rowers don’t see any result from working harder. The other is that, in a group of a thousand people, the average rower is likely to be pretty average.If you took ten people at random out of the big galley and put them in a boat by themselves, they could probably go faster. They would have both carrot and stick to motivate them. An energetic rower would be encouraged by the thought that he could have a visible effect on the speed of the boat. And if someone was lazy, the others would be more likely to notice and complain.But the real advantage of the ten-man boat shows when you take the ten bestrowers out of the big galley and put them in a boat together. They will have all the extra motivation that comes from being in a small group. But more importantly, by selecting that small a group you can get the best rowers. Each one will be in the top 1%. It’s a much better deal for them to average their work together with a small group of their peers than to average it with everyone.That’s the real point of startups. Ideally, you are getting together with a group of other people who also want to work a lot harder, and get paid a lot more, than they would in a big company. And because startups tend to get founded by self-selecting groups of ambitious people who already know one another (at least by reputation), the level of measurement is more precise than you get from smallness alone. A startup is not merely ten people, but ten people like you.Steve Jobs once said that the success or failure of a startup depends on the first ten employees. I agree. If anything, it’s more like the first five. Being small is not, in itself, what makes startups kick butt, but rather that small groups can be select. You don’t want small in the sense of a village, but small in the sense of an all-star team.The larger a group, the closer its average member will be to the average for the population as a whole. So all other things being equal, a very able person in a big company is probably getting a bad deal, because his performance is dragged down by the overall lower performance of the others. Of course, all other things often are not equal: the able person may not care about money, or may prefer the stability of a large company. But a very able person who does care about money will ordinarily do better to go off and work with a small group of peers.Technology = LeverageStartups offer anyone a way to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. They allow measurement because they’re small, and they offer leverage because they make money by inventing new technology.What is technology? It’s technique. It’s the way we all do things. And when you discover a new way to do things, its value is multiplied by all the people who use it. It is the proverbial fishing rod, rather than the fish. That’s the difference between a startup and a restaurant or a barber shop. You fry eggs or cut hair one customer at a time. Whereas if you solve a technical problem that a lot of people care about, you help everyone who uses your solution. That’s leverage.If you look at history, it seems that most people who got rich by creating wealth did it by developing new technology. You just can’t fry eggs or cut hair fast enough. What made the Florentines rich in 1200 was the discovery of new techniques for making the high-tech product of the time, fine woven cloth. What made the Dutch rich in 1600 was the discovery of shipbuilding and navigation techniques that enabled them to dominate the seas of the Far East.Fortunately there is a natural fit between smallness and solving hard problems. The leading edge of technology moves fast. Technology that’s valuable today could be worthless in a couple years. Small companies are more at home in this world, because they don’t have layers of bureaucracy to slow them down. Also, technical advances tend to come from unorthodox approaches, and small companies are less constrained by convention.Big companies can develop technology. They just can’t do it quickly. Their size makes them slow and prevents them from rewarding employees for the extraordinary effort required. So in practice big companies only get to develop technology in fields where large capital requirements prevent startups from competing with them, like microprocessors, power plants, or passenger aircraft. And even in those fields they depend heavily on startups for components and ideas.It’s obvious that biotech or software startups exist to solve hard technical problems, but I think it will also be found to be true in businesses that don’t seem to be about technology. McDonald’s, for example, grew big by designing a system, the McDonald’s franchise, that could then be reproduced at will all over the face of the earth. A McDonald’s franchise is controlled by rules so precise that it is practically a piece of software. Write once, run everywhere. Ditto for Wal-Mart. Sam Walton got rich not by being a retailer, but by designing a new kind of store.Use difficulty as a guide not just in selecting the overall aim of your company, but also at decision points along the way. At Viaweb one of our rules of thumb was run upstairs. Suppose you are a little, nimble guy being chased by a big, fat, bully. You open a door and find yourself in a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs his bulk will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you but even harder for him.What this meant in practice was that we deliberately sought hard problems. If there were two features we could add to our software, both equally valuable in proportion to their difficulty, we’d always take the harder one. Not just because it was more valuable, but because it was harder. We delighted in forcing bigger, slower competitors to follow us over difficult ground. Like guerillas, startups prefer the difficult terrain of the mountains, where the troops of the central government can’t follow. I can remember times when we were just exhausted after wrestling all day with some horrible technical problem. And I’d be delighted, because something that was hard for us would be impossible for our competitors.This is not just a good way to run a startup. It’s what a startup is. Venture capitalists know about this and have a phrase for it: barriers to entry. If you go to a VC with a new idea and ask him to invest in it, one of the first things he’ll ask is, how hard would this be for someone else to develop? That is, how much difficult ground have you put between yourself and potential pursuers?[7] And you had better have a convincing explanation of why your technology would be hard to duplicate. Otherwise as soon as some big company becomes aware of it, they’ll make their own, and with their brand name, capital, and distribution clout, they’ll take away your market overnight. You’d be like guerillas caught in the open field by regular army forces.One way to put up barriers to entry is through patents. But patents may not provide much protection. Competitors commonly find ways to work around a patent. And if they can’t, they may simply violate it and invite you to sue them. A big company is not afraid to be sued; it’s an everyday thing for them. They’ll make sure that suing them is expensive and takes a long time. Ever heard of Philo Farnsworth? He invented television. The reason you’ve never heard of him is that his company was not the one to make money from it. [8] The company that did was RCA, and Farnsworth’s reward for his efforts was a decade of patent litigation.Here, as so often, the best defense is a good offense. If you can develop technology that’s simply too hard for competitors to duplicate, you don’t need to rely on other defenses. Start by picking a hard problem, and then at every decision point, take the harder choice. [9]The Catch(es)If it were simply a matter of working harder than an ordinary employee and getting paid proportionately, it would obviously be a good deal to start a startup. Up to a point it would be more fun. I don’t think many people like the slow pace of big companies, the interminable meetings, the water-cooler conversations, the clueless middle managers, and so on.Unfortunately there are a couple catches. One is that you can’t choose the point on the curve that you want to inhabit. You can’t decide, for example, that you’d like to work just two or three times as hard, and get paid that much more. When you’re running a startup, your competitors decide how hard you work. And they pretty much all make the same decision: as hard as you possibly can.The other catch is that the payoff is only on average proportionate to your productivity. There is, as I said before, a large random multiplier in the success of any company. So in practice the deal is not that you’re 30 times as productive and get paid 30 times as much. It is that you’re 30 times as productive, and get paid between zero and a thousand times as much. If the mean is 30x, the median is probably zero. Most startups tank, and not just the dogfood portals we all heard about during the Internet Bubble. It’s common for a startup to be developing a genuinely good product, take slightly too long to do it, run out of money, and have to shut down.A startup is like a mosquito. A bear can absorb a hit and a crab is armored against one, but a mosquito is designed for one thing: to score. No energy is wasted on defense. The defense of mosquitos, as a species, is that there are a lot of them, but this is little consolation to the individual mosquito.Startups, like mosquitos, tend to be an all-or-nothing proposition. And you don’t generally know which of the two you’re going to get till the last minute. Viaweb came close to tanking several times. Our trajectory was like a sine wave. Fortunately we got bought at the top of the cycle, but it was damned close. While we were visiting Yahoo in California to talk about selling the company to them, we had to borrow a conference room to reassure an investor who was about to back out of a new round of funding that we needed to stay alive.The all-or-nothing aspect of startups was not something we wanted. Viaweb’s hackers were all extremely risk-averse. If there had been some way just to work super hard and get paid for it, without having a lottery mixed in, we would have been delighted. We would have much preferred a 100% chance of $1 million to a 20% chance of $10 million, even though theoretically the second is worth twice as much. Unfortunately, there is not currently any space in the business world where you can get the first deal.The closest you can get is by selling your startup in the early stages, giving up upside (and risk) for a smaller but guaranteed payoff. We had a chance to do this, and stupidly, as we then thought, let it slip by. After that we became comically eager to sell. For the next year or so, if anyone expressed the slightest curiousity about Viaweb we would try to sell them the company. But there were no takers, so we had to keep going.It would have been a bargain to buy us at an early stage, but companies doing acquisitions are not looking for bargains. A company big enough to acquire startups will be big enough to be fairly conservative, and within the company the people in charge of acquisitions will be among the more conservative, because they are likely to be business school types who joined the company late. They would rather overpay for a safe choice. So it is easier to sell an established startup, even at a large premium, than an early-stage one.Get UsersI think it’s a good idea to get bought, if you can. Running a business is different from growing one. It is just as well to let a big company take over once you reach cruising altitude. It’s also financially wiser, because selling allows you to diversify. What would you think of a financial advisor who put all his client’s assets into one volatile stock?How do you get bought? Mostly by doing the same things you’d do if you didn’t intend to sell the company. Being profitable, for example. But getting bought is also an art in its own right, and one that we spent a lot of time trying to master.Potential buyers will always delay if they can. The hard part about getting bought is getting them to act. For most people, the most powerful motivator is not the hope of gain, but the fear of loss. For potential acquirers, the most powerful motivator is the prospect that one of their competitors will buy you. This, as we found, causes CEOs to take red-eyes. The second biggest is the worry that, if they don’t buy you now, you’ll continue to grow rapidly and will cost more to acquire later, or even become a competitor.In both cases, what it all comes down to is users. You’d think that a company about to buy you would do a lot of research and decide for themselves how valuable your technology was. Not at all. What they go by is the number of users you have.In effect, acquirers assume the customers know who has the best technology. And this is not as stupid as it sounds. Users are the only real proof that you’ve created wealth. Wealth is what people want, and if people aren’t using your software, maybe it’s not just because you’re bad at marketing. Maybe it’s because you haven’t made what they want.Venture capitalists have a list of danger signs to watch out for. Near the top is the company run by techno-weenies who are obsessed with solving interesting technical problems, instead of making users happy. In a startup, you’re not just trying to solve problems. You’re trying to solve problems that users care about.So I think you should make users the test, just as acquirers do. Treat a startup as an optimization problem in which performance is measured by number of users. As anyone who has tried to optimize software knows, the key is measurement. When you try to guess where your program is slow, and what would make it faster, you almost always guess wrong.Number of users may not be the perfect test, but it will be very close. It’s what acquirers care about. It’s what revenues depend on. It’s what makes competitors unhappy. It’s what impresses reporters, and potential new users. Certainly it’s a better test than your a priori notions of what problems are important to solve, no matter how technically adept you are.Among other things, treating a startup as an optimization problem will help you avoid another pitfall that VCs worry about, and rightly– taking a long time to develop a product. Now we can recognize this as something hackers already know to avoid: premature optimization. Get a version 1.0 out there as soon as you can. Until you have some users to measure, you’re optimizing based on guesses.The ball you need to keep your eye on here is the underlying principle that wealth is what people want. If you plan to get rich by creating wealth, you have to know what people want. So few businesses really pay attention to making customers happy. How often do you walk into a store, or call a company on the phone, with a feeling of dread in the back of your mind? When you hear “your call is important to us, please stay on the line,” do you think, oh good, now everything will be all right?A restaurant can afford to serve the occasional burnt dinner. But in technology, you cook one thing and that’s what everyone eats. So any difference between what people want and what you deliver is multiplied. You please or annoy customers wholesale. The closer you can get to what they want, the more wealth you generate.Wealth and PowerMaking wealth is not the only way to get rich. For most of human history it has not even been the most common. Until a few centuries ago, the main sources of wealth were mines, slaves and serfs, land, and cattle, and the only ways to acquire these rapidly were by inheritance, marriage, conquest, or confiscation. Naturally wealth had a bad reputation.Two things changed. The first was the rule of law. For most of the world’s history, if you did somehow accumulate a fortune, the ruler or his henchmen would find a way to steal it. But in medieval Europe something new happened. A new class of merchants and manufacturers began to collect in towns. [10]Together they were able to withstand the local feudal lord. So for the first time in our history, the bullies stopped stealing the nerds’ lunch money. This was naturally a great incentive, and possibly indeed the main cause of the second big change, industrialization.A great deal has been written about the causes of the Industrial Revolution. But surely a necessary, if not sufficient, condition was that people who made fortunes be able to enjoy them in peace. [11] One piece of evidence is what happened to countries that tried to return to the old model, like the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent Britain under the labor governments of the 1960s and early 1970s. Take away the incentive of wealth, and technical innovation grinds to a halt.Remember what a startup is, economically: a way of saying, I want to work faster. Instead of accumulating money slowly by being paid a regular wage for fifty years, I want to get it over with as soon as possible. So governments that forbid you to accumulate wealth are in effect decreeing that you work slowly. They’re willing to let you earn $3 million over fifty years, but they’re not willing to let you work so hard that you can do it in two. They are like the corporate boss that you can’t go to and say, I want to work ten times as hard, so please pay me ten times a much. Except this is not a boss you can escape by starting your own company.The problem with working slowly is not just that technical innovation happens slowly. It’s that it tends not to happen at all. It’s only when you’re deliberately looking for hard problems, as a way to use speed to the greatest advantage, that you take on this kind of project. Developing new technology is a pain in the ass. It is, as Edison said, one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Without the incentive of wealth, no one wants to do it. Engineers will work on sexy projects like fighter planes and moon rockets for ordinary salaries, but more mundane technologies like light bulbs or semiconductors have to be developed by entrepreneurs.Startups are not just something that happened in Silicon Valley in the last couple decades. Since it became possible to get rich by creating wealth, everyone who has done it has used essentially the same recipe: measurement and leverage, where measurement comes from working with a small group, and leverage from developing new techniques. The recipe was the same in Florence in 1200 as it is in Santa Clara today.Understanding this may help to answer an important question: why Europe grew so powerful. Was it something about the geography of Europe? Was it that Europeans are somehow racially superior? Was it their religion? The answer (or at least the proximate cause) may be that the Europeans rode on the crest of a powerful new idea: allowing those who made a lot of money to keep it.Once you’re allowed to do that, people who want to get rich can do it by generating wealth instead of stealing it. The resulting technological growth translates not only into wealth but into military power. The theory that led to the stealth plane was developed by a Soviet mathematician. But because the Soviet Union didn’t have a computer industry, it remained for them a theory; they didn’t have hardware capable of executing the calculations fast enough to design an actual airplane.In that respect the Cold War teaches the same lesson as World War II and, for that matter, most wars in recent history. Don’t let a ruling class of warriors and politicians squash the entrepreneurs. The same recipe that makes individuals rich makes countries powerful. Let the nerds keep their lunch money, and you rule the world.Notes[1] One valuable thing you tend to get only in startups is uninterruptability. Different kinds of work have different time quanta. Someone proofreading a manuscript could probably be interrupted every fifteen minutes with little loss of productivity. But the time quantum for hacking is very long: it might take an hour just to load a problem into your head. So the cost of having someone from personnel call you about a form you forgot to fill out can be huge.This is why hackers give you such a baleful stare as they turn from their screen to answer your question. Inside their heads a giant house of cards is tottering.The mere possibility of being interrupted deters hackers from starting hard projects. This is why they tend to work late at night, and why it’s next to impossible to write great software in a cubicle (except late at night).One great advantage of startups is that they don’t yet have any of the people who interrupt you. There is no personnel department, and thus no form nor anyone to call you about it.[2] Faced with the idea that people working for startups might be 20 or 30 times as productive as those working for large companies, executives at large companies will naturally wonder, how could I get the people working for me to do that? The answer is simple: pay them to.Internally most companies are run like Communist states. If you believe in free markets, why not turn your company into one?Hypothesis: A company will be maximally profitable when each employee is paid in proportion to the wealth they generate.[3] Until recently even governments sometimes didn’t grasp the distinction between money and wealth. Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations, v:i) mentions several that tried to preserve their “wealth” by forbidding the export of gold or silver. But having more of the medium of exchange would not make a country richer; if you have more money chasing the same amount of material wealth, the only result is higher prices.[4] There are many senses of the word “wealth,” not all of them material. I’m not trying to make a deep philosophical point here about which is the true kind. I’m writing about one specific, rather technical sense of the word “wealth.” What people will give you money for. This is an interesting sort of wealth to study, because it is the kind that prevents you from starving. And what people will give you money for depends on them, not you.When you’re starting a business, it’s easy to slide into thinking that customers want what you do. During the Internet Bubble I talked to a woman who, because she liked the outdoors, was starting an “outdoor portal.” You know what kind of business you should start if you like the outdoors? One to recover data from crashed hard disks.What’s the connection? None at all. Which is precisely my point. If you want to create wealth (in the narrow technical sense of not starving) then you should be especially skeptical about any plan that centers on things you like doing. That is where your idea of what’s valuable is least likely to coincide with other people’s.[5] In the average car restoration you probably do make everyone else microscopically poorer, by doing a small amount of damage to the environment. While environmental costs should be taken into account, they don’t make wealth a zero-sum game. For example, if you repair a machine that’s broken because a part has come unscrewed, you create wealth with no environmental cost.[5b] This essay was written before Firefox.[6] Many people feel confused and depressed in their early twenties. Life seemed so much more fun in college. Well, of course it was. Don’t be fooled by the surface similarities. You’ve gone from guest to servant. It’s possible to have fun in this new world. Among other things, you now get to go behind the doors that say “authorized personnel only.” But the change is a shock at first, and all the worse if you’re not consciously aware of it.[7] When VCs asked us how long it would take another startup to duplicate our software, we used to reply that they probably wouldn’t be able to at all. I think this made us seem naive, or liars.[8] Few technologies have one clear inventor. So as a rule, if you know the “inventor” of something (the telephone, the assembly line, the airplane, the light bulb, the transistor) it is because their company made money from it, and the company’s PR people worked hard to spread the story. If you don’t know who invented something (the automobile, the television, the computer, the jet engine, the laser), it’s because other companies made all the money.[9] This is a good plan for life in general. If you have two choices, choose the harder. If you’re trying to decide whether to go out running or sit home and watch TV, go running. Probably the reason this trick works so well is that when you have two choices and one is harder, the only reason you’re even considering the other is laziness. You know in the back of your mind what’s the right thing to do, and this trick merely forces you to acknowledge it.[10] It is probably no accident that the middle class first appeared in northern Italy and the low countries, where there were no strong central governments. These two regions were the richest of their time and became the twin centers from which Renaissance civilization radiated. If they no longer play that role, it is because other places, like the United States, have been truer to the principles they discovered.[11] It may indeed be a sufficient condition. But if so, why didn’t the Industrial Revolution happen earlier? Two possible (and not incompatible) answers: (a) It did. The Industrial Revolution was one in a series. (b) Because in medieval towns, monopolies and guild regulations initially slowed the development of new means of production. Comment on this essay.Russian TranslationGerman TranslationSpanish Translation You’ll find this essay and 14 others in Hackers & Painters. 

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