Posts tagged with career

I loved being a rifle company commander. Having the responsibility for 211 men. Being totally in charge of their welfare and their training. That was the happiest period of my life, professionally, looking back on things.

Estonians are amenable to marriage. They have a liberal, “eh, what the heck” approach to it and see it as a manifestation of romantic love, as opposed to the US where it has been viewed as a phase in life that occurs sometime after a big promotion at work.

Tyler Cowen says that super hackers will benefit from improving computer technology and reap the high wages of the post-recession economy.

I’m sorry to say I too have used the lazy robo-programmers metaphor. That was uncareful non-thinking on my part.

Trying to be more logical, what should we really conclude from the assumption that observed ↑ growth in “computer stuff” will continue apace?

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What jobs do the 1% have? by Bajika, Cole, and Heim

BCH and the US government did all the work here. My only contribution was to highlight

  1. professions I didn’t expect to see like pilot, farmer, government, teacher
  2. some “standard narratives”:
    • the one about “lawyers and doctors”
    • (I don’t know why these two get grouped together, since one works in abstractions and the other works in gore…but whatever, that is a narrative)
    • the one about “study hard and you’ll get ahead” (scientists, professors, computer, maths)
    • and “real estate developers”

Obviously the top 1.5M earners aren’t important to the exclusion of the other 311M Estadounidenses, the 145M employed Estadounidenses, or everyone else.

Equally obvious is that

fraction of lawyers in the one percent is not the same as fraction of one percent who are lawyers

(some lawyerly deeds are more lucrative than others … same for doctors.)

Still, if you’re 

  • choosing a career
  • thinking about social justice
  • trying to understand how the world works

then you might want to find out about rich people. It might be better to do so with, you know, actual facts, rather than for example listening to a bunch of programmers b*tch about how much money lawyers and doctors make.


Back to Bajika Cole & Heim. Why is it that this basic information wasn’t known? BCH, Pikkety Saez, and a few others who have bothered to parse data to answer simple questions seem to get fairly good citations. Are economics researchers so bent on complicated research that they won’t “arb” citations by doing something a non-PhD could do?

It is well known that the share of US income going to the top percentiles has increased dramatically over 1986–2006.  Piketty and Saez found that the top ¹⁄1000’s share of pre-tax income (ex cap gains) in the United States that was received by the top ¹⁄1000 rose from 2.2% to 8.0%.

But we don’t know what these people typically do for a living. Kaplan and Rauh (2010) looked through publicly-available information on top executives of publicly-traded firms, financial professionals, law partners, and professional athletes and celebrities. Despite making various extrapolations beyond what is directly available in publicly-available data sources, they were only able to identify the occupations of 17% of the top ¹⁄1000 of income earners.

We tabulated individual income tax return data from the U.S.Treasury Department on what share of top income earners work in each type of occupation. Through this method we are able to account for the occupations of almost all top earners – for example, for over 99% of primary taxpayers in the top ¹⁄1000.

(I liberally edited without [] or ….)

They also looked at spouses of the well-paid, computed income shares, computed growth rates, and broke down the incomes into

  • 1% ex ½% (rank 1,500,000–750,000)
  • ½% ex 0.1% (rank 750,000–150,000)
  • 0.1% (rank 150,000–1)

. All of this is at the end of the PDF, after the bibliography.

Anyway let’s give BCH a hand for providing us with useful information.

"Theory is easy. Data are hard."

(Source: web.williams.edu)

Most advice for young people is so terrible it makes me want to throw heavy objects at the adviser. Like

But the founder of Wikipedia has chosen advice related to (a) making money and (b) other people trying to get you to give it to them. Maybe it’s his experience with diverse Wikipedians that helps him think outside the rich-person bubble?

In my experience, costs are easier to control than revenues.

Wales’ advice to young people is also similar to advice my great-grandfather gave to my grandfather about work and money.

And it’s similar to my favourite equation from economics, which I summarise as:


I know many of you tumblr readers are young and some of you are interested in hearing advice from older people. If you read Wales’, let me know what you think?

  • copy editor
  • anti-trust economist
  • "international development" (anti-poverty, microfinance)
  • fair-trade certifier
  • logistician
  • bookie
  • statistical data analyst
  • (web) venture-capital business development / strategy
  • assistant domain-specific language (DSL) programmer
  • research potential new markets for industrial petroleum products
  • novelist
  • bank analyst
  • government statistician
  • (financial) trading assistant
  • (oil rig) roughneck
  • musician
  • casino attendant
  • distressed debt investor | liquidator | manage companies temporarily in receivership
  • miner
  • dockworker
  • OTC derivative synthesiser
  • computer engineer
  • (oil-drilling) mud log analyst
  • machine-learning quant

I cringe whenever an old person asks a young person "What do you want to do in life?" As if the answer could ever be simple. I’m sure I can’t remember everything I ever thought I might want to do but failed to. (And I’d guess it’s the same for most people.) Each of the above represents a potential alternative history now, and at the time, a superposition.

Girl in an expensive American city tells me to travel often and quit my job.

Chuck Palahniuk holds a gun to a man’s head and makes him promise to follow his dreams.

Paul Ryan Spending Final Day Of Campaign Reminding Homeless People They Did This To Themselves

(As I tried to submit this to @pastabagel, I saw an ad by an institute of higher learning suggesting that I further my career by giving them money. A nice coincidence made possible by the fact that ads for higher degrees are more ubiquitous than weight-loss ads.)

(Beware: some of the images beyond “Read More” are violent.)

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Functional programming jobs salary estimates by Indeed
(had to use “Haskell programming” rather than “Haskell” because of Haskell, TX, Haskell Corporation, Haskell Law offices, etc)

scala $98,000

haskell programming $106,000

erlang $105,000

clojure $108,000

ruby $90,000

python $92,000

fortran $81,000

rails $84,000

View Larger Salary Graph


The universe is receding behind you every second. One of the lessons of special relativity is the −ct term:
(− + + + )

  • you can stand still where you are,
  • you can run away as fast as you can,
  • you can stop and go and wander around,
  • you can focus like a nail and pound deep into something,
  • you can get bored or be excited,
  • you can build something & raise the Lagrangian or veg & leave it low,

time is still flowing past you, that metric subtracting −ct ticks at a rate of one tick per tick.


I think about the Eagles song Desperado.

"Your prison is walking through this world all alone"

In other words, freedom and independence, too, have a cost, perhaps exactly equal to the cost of

  • never leaving your village
  • or spending your “best years” raising children instead of “achieving” career-wise.

A tumbleweed sees more but also less than a tree.

The Taking Tree

old man sitting on the tree stump, even in death the giving tree still gives and he takes, takes, takes, takes...

If you want to think about lifetime as being a fixed length (ignoring that its length comes from a probability distribution, which itself is conditional on your choices) then you can derive my favourite equation:


the tradeoff between work, leisure, and wealth. That idea as well is symplectic. And many other such tradeoffs ∃. Symplecticity is the theoretical basis of all budget constraints. It’s another way of talking about all the tradeoffs that make choice meaningful and also unavoidable (even not-choosing is a choice). You can strain and strive as much as you want, all you will do is slide amongst alternatives and never do everything.

economic decision paradigm

If you want to use a picture of the form of Christopher Alexander’s


and just substitute in names of various other things that you want—then the “metric signature”, due to time flowing over and beyond us like a river always, is in so many of the pursuits one might like to do, such as

  • making money
  • learning algebraic topology
  • spending time with kids
  • learning to do a backflip
  • travelling in Asia
  • playing guitar
  • starting a(nother) business
  • writing an opera
  • living so you get to Heaven after this life (ok, I said I wouldn’t bring in any probability distributions but I had to cheat on this one. It’s an interesting measure theory question, isn’t it? If there is even a finite chance of getting an infinite payoff, then unless the utility function becomes flat above a certain payoff, then the only logical thing to do is make 100% sure you get the infinite payoff. OK, /rant)
  • making the sex, many times. Or, not:


Sure, sometimes one lucks out and there is a positive association between two things, like learning mathematics and being a quant—but the magnitude might be less than you expect. (Pure maths alone is insufficient and unnecessary to finance.)

In terms of the 10,000-hours-to-expertise paradigm—despite some complementarities (+)—there are only so many 10,000-hour blocks in your life. And the Type A personality who squeezes out the most 10,000-hour blocks, gets the most toys or becomes the world’s best cyclist or visits all the countries, learns the most languages, or whatever, still miss out on something.


Leaving aside that the human encyclopedia and Tony Hawk also will turn back to dust, just even evaluating only the finite path [0,1] life , that busy body necessarily misses out on

  • the down moments,
  • the still time,
  • the zoning out,
  • the chilling,
  • the doing nothing and being OK with it,
  • the taking in instead of forcing out,
  • and perhaps those have some value as well.

In English it sounds so obvious to be trivial: you can’t do everything, because nothing is also something and if you’re doing something you can’t be doing nothing.

Naoya Hatakeyama, courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery

But the mathematical language, in addition to sounding more exotic and smartypants, adds something real, at least for me—which is the sense of those signs attaching me to everything. Every time I do something, I’ve lost some other opportunity. Every person I become, I drift further away from the possibilities of who else I might have been. Every commitment loses a freedom and every freedom wastes a commitment. Every nothing wastes a something and every something forgoes a nothing. Everything is receding, decaying, entropying, with or without me, until eventually the waters will cover my head and I never surface again.

Raistlin's eye 

Sufficiently convolved with the


all the paths sum to a constant and that constant quantity eventually runs out.

369 Plays • Download

The Enclosures (45 min)

I had no idea that so recently people roamed about each other’s land, no fences dividing the farms and folds.


File:Mott Mounds Coles Creek culture HRoe 2011.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Eaker_Site.jpgMoundville site
Mound and pit

Uxmal Mexico Map

File:View from Pyramide de la luna.jpg






The modern structure of towns, like so many things, is an outcome of economic structure.

  • When shepherds no longer roamed freely through the hills
  • and it became efficient for homes to be built in a rotary array around some kind of centre,
  • then pubs (public houses = free houses) became the meeting place

This is one of the most influential things I’ve heard, period. Think about how much longer you have to walk and how much lonelier life became once you don’t cut across another person’s land.


My pessimistic image of the culture that I live in is

  • city people all in their separate flats, with their separate computers, or separate televisions, on separate couches, alone in the space they’ve paid for with the career they fought to dominate
  • going out to a restaurant, pub, or coffee shop to experience the unexpected bumpings into people
  • so everything costs money. It costs money to have friends, costs money to hang out, costs money to flirt, costs money to meet people, costs a lot of money to meet rich people, costs money to put yourself in a place where people will happen to encounter you—unless you do it over the internet—and then people wonder why nobody makes friends after college
  • suburban people the same, except also having their own pools instead of sharing a community pool
  • having their own medium-sized lawns — big enough to keep the neighbours from peeping in the window, or seeing you on the porch and say hello — instead of sharing a large park cutting all the medium lawns down to small lawns (not that they individually choose this — the decision is made by real estate developers)
  • country people even more isolated because land tracts are so huge
  • and nobody, but nobody, knows their neighbours.

William GedneyYoung girl standing on a porch leaning against a support beamKentucky, 1964[via the Duke University Libraries]

Coney Island, 1984

More old New York


Danny Lyon/ NARA
Apartment house across from Fort Green Park in Brooklyn

On Bond Street in Brooklyn

Boys in Brooklyn

Fourth Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic
Fourth Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic

Basketball playground in Brooklyn


Crooklyn told you what to dream

This is no 1970’s Brooklyn or 1950’s Appalachia, with people sitting on their porches and knowing each other and generally being outside and around each other at the same time.

  • When I think about more "primitive" cultures, I imagine if I’d been part of them then my identity would be so tied up in my relationships to other people—what I was born into, tight & maintained family relations, never redefining myself or my history, never escaping childhood, but with a sense of self and belonging and continuity from youth to parenthood to old age. Imagine if you slept this close together:

    (and of course, relatives and friends would hear or even—gasp—see you having sex—but which is more normal, to hide it or display it?)

    ^ Apparently the Holocene (little ice age) is the reason NW European culture with its individualism and small family norms—which propagated the world over thanks (I guess) to guns, germs, and steel—changed that NW European culture from a practice of public sex (in the manor—like a barn, sleeping to private.
  • Would people be kinkier? Or maybe it would depend on the initial conditions (if sex-copying is like an Ising spin then perhaps the first mover (wink wink) decides whether the culture becomes kinky or not)….
  • Can you imagine flirting, teasing, when you’re young, and then seeing the one you wanted to be with have sex with the one you competed with? I can’t fathom what would happen next. Would it be easier to move on? Harder? Would things just be so different that I can’t even conceive it? (yuk yuk)
  • …And I won’t even go into the sexual norms of Babylon or Sparta
  • I can’t say which culture I would prefer to live in, because my preferences are a function of the way I was raised. Economists usually leave aside where utility hypersurfaces come from and just treat them as good (or at least, unimpeachable—or, at the very least, immalleable).
  • But from a deep-past, anthropological perspective like this, it’s easy to see, “Yeah, maybe I just think monogamy is good because, duh, I live in a monogamous culture”. More broadly, I live in a culture of monogamy, where crushes and attraction are repressed, where physical attraction should not be confused with “real love”, where you probably have never met your spouse yet when you’re 16, where what the family thinks of him/her is less important than what you think, where equality among the sexes is valued, where young people don’t date anymore, they just party and eventually have sex with their friends (except for certain religions where that subculture exerts a dominating influence or sometimes the subculture itself has been magnetised toward the prevailing culture), where ambition is good, where people want to be footballers, where monetary compensation is negotiated in secret and kept secret, where compensation is based on measurable individual achievement rather than arguable perceptions of morality, where shame and guilt are not uncommonly attached to sex, where people opine about who should have sex with whom and why and when and where and how, where people break up because they finish school and get a job in a different city, where classically sexual relationships are supposed to happen with one person over a lifetime but serial monogamy seems to be taking over, where people puff themselves up to impress strangers or newly-met friends-of-friends, especially when they’re afraid or ashamed of themselves on the inside.
  • I mean of course there are various arguments you could make (at least I’ve heard some) as to why monogamy is good, or why love as it’s conceived by us is the right way to conceive it, or why everybody having sex in public would be weird, or gross, and people in my culture argue back and forth both directions about these things—but at least for me, I really can’t extricate myself enough from the expectations and the learned behaviours and the way things have always worked for me and my expectations of others and … so on.
  • Things I take for granted. Anyway, back to private property

One of my least favourite aspects of modern capitalist life is the segregated non-interaction of private persons with each other and each other’s property.

  • Everyone lives in their own place—or cramp in with flatmates—they can at least be a network of friends, since the formula for friendship requires proximity and random encounters. That is, if you don’t work opposite hours….
  • Everyone rides the tube to work while not speaking to each other. Or goes running alone, listening to their own iPod’s, dreaming of a career success or thinness/sexiness and people liking them-which idea was implanted by yet another commercial interest….
  • Or outside major cities, everyone drives in their own car and listens to the radio by themselves. At least drivers who talk on their mobile phones are enjoying some person-to-person interaction.
  • Rich suburban people all have their own pool. (And if a neighbour drowns in it, it’s your fault—so better put up a fence.)

Things are too entangled, too complex, for me to state a preference. Although, I guess by staying where I am, I’m tacitly putting up with and agreeing to the norms I was raised by. Maybe I am being too pessimistic, or maybe someday I will seek out something new … or try to get together with people who want to make something new….

I would link this up to some other thoughts I’ve had about charity and need. In a clear sense, somebody who accepts charity (say thanking you for giving something that’s actually rather crappy but they won’t tell you that since they want to be polite) does something back for the giver; if we had an fMRI we could measure the utility upticks in the donor and if we knew all of the neurochemistry we could say which dopamines are flowing where.

That’s undeniably true but the first time someone pointed it out to me, it clashed with my simple and straightforward view that the rich giver is the one doing the good act and the poor receiver should be grateful. But human interactions are more complicated than that, clearly. And something similar could maybe be said of the ever-escalating wealth and comfort of our age—or at least how my culture chooses to make use of that wealth.


girls with dirty dresses in kentucky 1960's

When people are poor they lean on each other, and maybe in reaching the goal of standing fine alone something else is therefore symplectically lost. We should call up some of the boomerang millennials and ask how their failure to fly out of the nest really turned out—if being a loser didn’t have its upsides in terms of strengthening familial relationships. And then I’ll ask myself what it is I’m aiming for.