This book is an attempt to explain to the world at large what goes on in the world of computers. So it’s not just for programmers. For example, Chapter 6 is about how to get rich. I believe this is a topic of general interest.
This book is to explain how things really are in our world, I decided it was worth the risk to use the words we use.The earlier chapters answer questions we have probably all thought about. What makes a startup succeed? Will technology create a gap between those who understand it and those who don’t? What doprogrammers do？And the next chapter is all about the things outside the computer stuffs.
And this book, probably the most intellectual book i have read in 2012,is an intellectually Western.Paul would want us to read it if a spirt of thinking and duty.
If you like ideas,this book ought to be fun：）
只是，《Hackers&Painters》不仅仅是给programmer读的，特别是第一章“ Why Nerds Are Unpopular”，第三章“What You Can’t Say”，和自己觉得最精彩的第六章“How to Make Wealth ”这几章都值得一读再读。
不过这并不妨碍自己对本书的崇拜。就好像当时读《How life imitates chess》（棋与人生）的感觉一样。
《How life imitates chess》是棋王加里·卡斯帕罗夫的自传。这本书写的不是一个人如何下棋的故事。而是一本人生指南。他告诉你如何完成人生棋局的完美对弈。
棋王的<How life imitates chess>和现在这本“硅谷创业教父”Paul Graham的<Hackers&painters>能教给我们的是一种严密思维的方式，是一种高瞻远瞩的决策习惯，是独立思考的力量，这些东西才是真正应对“未来不确定性”最有力的武器。
How can you see the wave, when you’re the water?
Another reason kids persecute nerds is to make themselves feel better. When you tread water, you lift yourself up by pushing water down. Likewise, in any social hierarchy, people unsure of their own position will try to emphasize it by maltreating those they think rank below. I’ve read that this is why poor whites in the United States are the group most hostile to blacks.But I think the main reason other kids persecute nerds is that it’s part of the mechanism of popularity. Popularity is only partially about individual attractiveness. It’s much more about alliances. To become more popular, you need to be constantly doing things that bring you close to other popular people, and nothing brings people closer than a common enemy.
If I remember correctly, the most popular kids don’t persecute nerds; they don’t need to stoop to such things. Most of the persecution comes from kids lower down, the nervous middle classes.
The other thing that’s different about the real world is that it’s
much larger. In a large enough pool, even the smallest minorities can achieve a critical mass if they clump together. Out in the real world, nerds collect in certain places and form their own soci- eties where intelligence is the most important thing. Sometimes the current even starts to flow in the other direction: sometimes, particularly in university math and science departments, nerds de- liberately exaggerate their awkwardness in order to seem smarter. John Nash so admired Norbert Wiener that he adopted his habit of touching the wall as he walked down a corridor
Teenage kids used to have a more active role in society. In pre- industrial times, they were all apprentices of one sort or another, whether in shops or on farms or even on warships. They weren’t left to create their own societies. They were junior members of adult societies.
Teenagers seem to have respected adults more then, because the adults were the visible experts in the skills they were trying to learn. Now most kids have little idea what their parents do in their distant offices, and see no connection (indeed, there is precious little) between schoolwork and the work they’ll do as adults.
And if teenagers respected adults more, adults also had more use for teenagers. After a couple years’ training, an apprentice could be a real help. Even the newest apprentice could be made to carry messages or sweep the workshop.
Now adults have no immediate use for teenagers. They would be in the way in an office. So they drop them off at school on their way to work, much as they might drop the dog off at a kennel if they were going away for the weekend.
Teenagers now are useless, except as cheap labor in industries
like fast food, which evolved to exploit precisely this fact. In almost any other kind of work, they’d be a net loss. But they’re also too young to be left unsupervised. Someone has to watch over them, and the most efficient way to do this is to collect them together in one place. Then a few adults can watch all of them.
When I was a kid I was constantly being told to look at things from someone else’s point of view. What this always meant in practice was to do what someone else wanted, instead of what I wanted. This of course gave empathy a bad name, and I made a point of not cultivating it.
Boy, was I wrong. It turns out that looking at things from other people’s point of view is practically the secret of success.
Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean being self-sacrificing. Far from it. Understanding how someone else sees things doesn’t imply that you’ll act in his interest; in some situations—in war, for example— you want to do exactly the opposite
Whatever the reason, there seems a clear correlation between intelligence and willingness to consider shocking ideas. This isn’t just because smart people actively work to find holes in conven- tional thinking. Conventions also have less hold over them to start with. You can see that in the way they dress.
It’s not only in the sciences that heresy pays off. In any compet- itive field, you can win big by seeing things that others daren’t.
Training yourself to think unthinkable thoughts has advan- tages beyond the thoughts themselves. It’s like stretching. When you stretch before running, you put your body into positions much more extreme than any it will assume during the run. If you can think things so outside the box that they’d make people’s hair stand on end, you’ll have no trouble with the small trips outside the box that people call innovative
When you find something you can’t say, what do you do with it? My advice is, don’t say it. Or at least, pick your battles.
Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot.
The most important thing is to be able to think what you want, not to say what you want. And if you feel you have to say everything you think, it may inhibit you from thinking improper thoughts. I think it’s better to follow the opposite policy. Draw a sharp line between your thoughts and your speech. Inside your head, anything is allowed. Within my head I make a point of encouraging the most outrageous thoughts I can imagine. But, as in a secret society, nothing that happens within the building should be told to outsiders. The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club
The trouble with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can manage it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it’s also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know.
Perhaps the best policy is to make it plain that you don’t agree with whatever zealotry is current in your time, but not to be too specific about what you disagree with. Zealots will try to draw you out, but you don’t have to answer them. If they try to force you to treat a question on their terms by asking “are you with us or against us?” you can always just answer “neither.”
To see fashion in your own time, though, requires a conscious effort. Without time to give you distance, you have to create dis- tance yourself. Instead of being part of the mob, stand as far away from it as you can and watch what it’s doing. And pay especially close attention whenever an idea is being suppressed
Labels like that are probably the biggest external clue. If a
statement is false, that’s the worst thing you can say about it. You don’t need to say that it’s heretical. And if it isn’t false, it shouldn’t be suppressed. So when you see statements being attacked as x-ist or y-ic (substitute your current values of x and y), whether in 1630 or 2030, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong. When you hear such labels being used, ask why.
Especially if you hear yourself using them. It’s not just the mob you need to learn to watch from a distance. You need to be able to watch your own thoughts from a distance. That’s not a radical idea, by the way; it’s the main difference between children and adults. When a child gets angry because he’s tired, he doesn’t know what’s happening. An adult can distance himself enough from the situation to say “never mind, I’m just tired.” I don’t see why one couldn’t, by a similar process, learn to recognize and discount the effects of moral fashions.
You have to take that extra step if you want to think clearly. But it’s harder, because now you’re working against social cus- toms instead of with them. Everyone encourages you to grow up to the point where you can discount your own bad moods. Few encourage you to continue to the point where you can discount society’s bad moods.
How can you see the wave, when you’re the water? Always be questioning. That’s the only defence. What can’t you say? And why?
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
Economically, 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.
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.
The Pie Fallacy
A 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.
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.
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
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 man- agers are held responsible for the performance of the entire com- pany.
Because an ordinary employee’s performance can’t usually be measured, he is not expected to do more than put in a solid ef- fort. 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.
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.
To 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.
f 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.
If 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.
That’s the real point of startups. Ideally, you are getting to- gether with a group of other people who also want to work a lot harder, and get paida lot more, than they would ina 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.
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 big- ger, 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.
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 proposi- tion. And you don’t generally know which of the two you’re going to get till the last minute.
The closest you can get is by selling your startup in the early stages, giving up upside (and risk) for a smaller but guaranteed pay- off
I think it’s a good idea to get bought, if you can. Running a busi- ness 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 finan- cially wiser, because selling allows you to diversify
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.