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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Guess Who's Back- Back Again-

Shady's back; Tell a friend. - Marshall Mathers

No, I'm not dead as such, but rather coming off a long trip. Cross country, that is to say, not within the bowels of my own mind. And now a bowel movement:

Many breakthroughs come from comparing analogous situations and finding the points where they do not match; changing one so that it matches the other can be fun and profitable. Maxwell, of thermodiabolical fame, did this with oh, Ampere's law and the one... uh, the other one, with magnetic waves. Beautiful. Others have done the same thing by sticking clocks into otherwise tacky household objects. Still others have found that the situations cannot be made analogous, but that the cause of the difference is itself a useful property.

Many disparate situations, such as business models, conversations, security systems, and sonnets (to illustrate the potential breadth of the disparity), are all composed of variables that are related to each other in the same ways.

I know that a leaf cannot last as long as the tree, and must be replaced. This information is mildly useful. I know that the same is true of human hair. This might be good to know. These are two facts which might or might not come in handy.

If we abstract ourselves a level, we can say that some biological systems must be replaced during the lifetime of the organism. This is a generally useful principle, much more so than than the observation of toenails being replaced over time.

We can then apply this principle to the belt running a water pump in a Bel Air, and here, with little prior automotive knowledge, we can know that the car can be fixed. We may even be able to fix it, when we see the belt stuck to the carburator, shredded and smoldering.

We can hire a new CEO when the founder dies, allowing the company to live on.

These are not particularly brilliant insights, but examples. Perhaps this whole operation is familiar to you. The abstraction can be made again, then. Eventually, we reach a point of empty spaces connected by invisible wires, and any problem can be resolved to fit the pattern. Then we see which space is unfilled, fill it, and the problem is solved.

Or you can shoot first and ask questions later. Whatever.

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