3rd January 2021
If you’ve watched Bridgerton on Netflix you may have heard some fun reduced classical cover versions of popular songs playing in the background at the balls.
These were the Vitamin String Quartet. There is a playlist on Spotify:
They’ve actually been at this for years - they have an extensive catalogue going right back to 2008. For example:
I’ve been thinking about reductionism (expect to hear more about this later). Some songs convert well. Others not so much. Just scrolling through their list it’s difficult to predict in advance which will be which.
Q: What’s the pattern?
Bonus: on the same topic, this recent episode of the always excellent Switched On Pop, about trying to reduce Wham’s Last Christmas for piano:
The holidays have allowed me to attack the giant pile of non-fiction that has built up during the past year.
This is the best I’ve finished so far:
tl;dr Many of the things that we find odd about the aristocracy (which dominated between ~1750 and ~1880) can be explained by the incentives it established based on patronage and personal interdependence. Before we could measure the world accurately we needed institutions based on trust and honour.
But by the end of the 18th century we got much better at measurement and established shared standards for things such as time, location, output and performance. This lead to big improvements in many areas of life - agriculture, employment, transportation, construction, manufacturing, communications etc. After that there was no longer the need for many of the institutions that had existed previously.
Q: Where do we still struggle to measure things accurately - i.e. to separate luck from skill, understand the 'hazards of variance' and determine who is responsible for good and bad outcomes? What are the institutions that exist in those areas as a result of that uncertainty? How might those evolve, or be replaced, if/when we get better at measurement?
I’m so old I have a feed reader to keep track of some interesting writers. One of the few people I followed who still post regularly (regularly enough) is Matt Webb.
He is in London, so his thinking on the impact of Covid is written from a UK perspective, and makes me think better about what’s happening in places I can no longer easily visit:
First you cope and then you adapt. The kicker: once you adapt, you may not want to go back.
He links to this earlier post from May:
Because the lockdown in NZ was so “early and hard” we had to cope with extreme changes for a short time but haven’t really been forced to permanently adapt as much as others elsewhere in the world.
For example, when I first started regularly travelling internationally (in the late twentieth century!) I discovered that EFT-POS was something we took for granted in NZ but which was uncommon elsewhere. We were early adopters. However the longer term impact of that was we were slow to switch to the next generation contactless technology which is now common in many parts of the world (ironically it was the lockdown here which has been the tipping point for that to finally become much more widely supported).
There is maybe a comparison here to the flightless birds that evolved in Aotearoa due to the long absence of predators.
Q: Where are we now getting out of sync with most of the rest the world, as a result of our success so far in limiting the impact of the virus? Are some of these things we could be doing anyway, from our position of strength, rather than because we’re being forced to?
Either way, I’m grateful that people like Matt are still writing in a format that is so much easier to read and share than a Twitter thread.
When I grow up I want to be like him.