Jonathan Brun

Great Goals, Great Peril

Video of JFK Above Found Here

The Great goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him home safely was born out of fear, but gave America its wings to overcome the Soviet Union.

Great article in the NY Times

Since Apollo 11, the missions to space have been of ever decreasing glory. Though notable in the scientific achievement, they fail to grasp the world and make us look, uin unison, towards the heavens and say “We can”.

The sad state of the United States foreign policy will likely drain prestige from their empire, resources from their nation and put pressure on their debt and currency. The catalyst with may possibly re-awaken America is the successful lunar mission by one of the three nations who have announced suich plans: China, India and Japan – all by 2020.

Just as September 11th woke America up to the Islamic world, space exploration by another nation will wake America from their descent into complacency, lack of investment in non-military technology and political apathy.

You need a very powerful electric prod to move a cow.

Published on September 25, 2007

The History of Oil

A very interesting way of presenting the history of oil. 45 minutes long, but worth it.

Published on September 24, 2007

Medicine, a human endeavour

Just read the book “Complications – A surgeon’s notes on an imperfect science” by Atul Gawade. Largely speaking it is about the practice of medicine. Through tightly written stories, it sweeps away many of our preconceived notions of infallible doctors and western medicine. It is absolutely fantastic.

The conclusions I found most pertinent were:

1. Learning

Short bursts with a team who has work history together is better than learning over a spread out timeframe. This is regardless of the skill or intelligence of the person (or group) who is learning.

Learning throughout a career. 75% (or more) of the information and skills you learn in training (school) will be useless. New technology and better practices will inevitably affect you and if you do not continue to learn, you will lose out.

2. Specialization to perfection

The Shouldice hernia clinic in Toronto is the best place in the world to have a hernia operation. This is because that is all they do – hernias – and have thus nearly perfected the process. This treatment of medicine as an industrial process speaks volumes of the possibilities of perfection through repetition.

Anesthesiology has greatly reduced deaths by standardizing medical equipment and practices; removing human intervention and decision making from the process. This may sound undesirable, but in reality if frees up the doctors for more creative thinking. The field of anesthesiology automated their field (thanks to an engineer) much like the airline industry (which is continually improving their safety record).

3. Mental – Physical connection

Obesity and stomach stapling have become part of American culture. After people have their stomach stapled, they still want to eat junk food, but cannot due to physical limitations. After a year or so their actual desire for junk food disappears and they prefer healthy food. This change in appetite goes hand in hand with their loss of weight. The link is between the mental state and physical state is true for most diseases.

4. People want to be told what to do, relinquish responsibility

In a time of increasing awareness of medical diseases and access to information on the web, patients are have become part of the decision making process. Despite this gift, people still want to be told what treatment they should choose. This has more to do with wanting to give up responsibility than anything else. Should something go wrong, it was not their fault. See the book “Stumbling on Happiness”.

5. Cartesian Limitations

Western medicine is based on Cartesian thought – if we know the symptoms, we can find the physical cause, and thus the cure. It is also factored into decision analysis, particularly in business ventures. If I know the risks of decision x and the payoff of the same decision I can calculate the probability of making money. This has been applied to medicine, but it becomes very difficult very quickly. How much do you value a leg, an eye or a life?

Simple cause and effect is very difficult in medicine where so many factors are at play. According to the author of the book, despite the inventions and uses of MRI, CAT scans, and other tools, incorrect medical diagnosis has not decreased in the past 30 years. Scary.

6. Transparency

The ability to openly discuss mistakes and ways to avoid them is absolutely fundamental to improving a system. But because medical practice involves death and harm, this becomes exceedingly difficult to do with pariah lawyers and cautious insurance companies. Yet, it is inevitable, in some ways doctors need to be granted asylum and only prosecuted when a trend of error becomes apparant. Good doctors make mistakes – blame does no one good


Don’t get sick, if you do, trust few.

Favorite quotes from the book:

Talking about free trinkets and medical conferences (pens, pads, stress balls…), “You might think six-figure surgeons would be oblivious to this petty bribery. But you would be wrong.”

And another lesson from trade-shows, “At booths, let people play.”

Published on September 15, 2007

Competence and Confidence

Steve Jobs is the stereotypical executive who predicts greatness for his company. The difference remains that he continuously delivers. His combination of competence and confidence is rarer than most people realize. To have a strong confidence in one’s own abilities is essential to success. Competence in your field is equally essential.

It is of course also necessary to listen and learn from others – something he failed to do the first time at Apple. Without confidence, competence is not worth very much. But with confidence and little competence, your successes will be short lived and fake.

Mystery – of the famous Mystery Method of Picking up Girls – explained he would rather be competent than confident. If you were to ride a motorcycle down a highway, would you prefer to have competence of confidence? He applies the same logic to a structured solicitation of females.

Learning from evolutionary biology and human behaviour, he engineers flawless approaches to any situation (3 guys – one girl, boyfriend – girlfriend, married, shy, hot, with friends…). Through his method, the most insecure guy can slowly become competent enough to get a good looking bird. Logic can triumph, but it can only take you so far.

The management world is awash with gurus, rules, suggestions and trends. All the recent management books (Good to Great, Tipping Point, Freakonomics…) are fantastic. They explain the theories and rules of society, but it is ultimately the person who takes charge who comes out on top. You have to want it, bad.

Here are a couple of Steve’s dramatic (and largely true) predictions:

Babe Ruth knew he was great:

“Perhaps the most famous moment in baseball history, and certainly of Babe’s career, came during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. In 5th inning, after he had already hit one homer, Babe came up to bat. He ran the count to two balls and two strikes. Before Cubs pitcher Charlie Root hurled the next pitch, amid the heckling of Cubs fans, Babe pointed to the center field bleachers. Then he slammed what is believed to be the longest home run ever hit out of Wrigley Field, directly above the spot where he had pointed.”

Published on September 11, 2007

Micro-Finance, the way of the future

Just read this book. Amazing. I cried. It is the way of the future.

Micro-Finance empowers the very poor with small loans to help them overcome their cycle of just having enough money to feed themselves, and not enough to save and invest in their activities or children.

The website has just got a ton of press in the past few day (oprah, SVN…) (i just gave it more). The site allows you to directly loan small amounts of money to people around the world who are trying to improve their lives. This is taking micro-loans and opening it up even more, make the market more liquid and the community more global.

I have been watching the site for while and they seem to have a good set-up.

What I love about micro-finance is that it is based on the same logic as open-source technologies and collaborative work.

Some of the features are

Great stuff, really, run out and get the book.

Published on September 5, 2007