The Best of 2023
All the best stuff from 2023. Favourite blog posts, books, games, podcasts, and other fun. Previous years: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014.
Great articles and blog posts
The Games People Play With Cash Flow
- From reading about economics, I've come to a vague understanding that taking on debt is probably a good thing for many organizations but without understanding exactly why. This post explores a number of concrete examples showing how reliable income changes the economics of many businesses. Favourite quote: "cash flow is a fact; profit is an opinion".
Adversary Drones Are Spying On The U.S. And The Pentagon Acts Like They’re UFOs
- This article from 2021 about the deployment of spy drones makes particularly interesting reading after the Chinese spy balloon incidents of 2023, and the role of FPV self-destructing drones on the frontlines of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Bing: “I will not harm you unless you harm me first”
- There have been a number of interesting articles showing the sometimes funny, sometimes dark outcomes from companies who deployed poorly-engineered LLM interfaces, but this collection of logs from an early roll-out of Syndey by Microsoft was a highlight for me.
The Age of Average
- The age of the global internet audience appears to be driving aesthetics in architecture, fashion, and design across the world towards a common and utterly boring "international style."
The Mystery of the Bloomfield Bridge
- There's a nondescript but out-of-place pedestrian bridge crossing the I-494 just west of the Minneapolis Airport, and the author wanted to know why it was built. He documents his years-long research project chasing down every lead to understand why.
God Help Us, Let's Try To Understand AI Monosemanticity
- Understanding how neural networks produce their results has been somewhat of a mystery, but recent work from Anthropic has gone a long way towards laying the groundwork for explaining them. This post attempts to explain that work so that someone who isn't an AI researcher might be able to understand it.
Favourite books read
Now You See It
- Few's most recent book feels like a continuation of the Tufte classic, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. But while Tufte is focussed on communicating your point, Few is using graphics to learn new facts from a dataset.
- The only novel I read in 2023 is a real mind-bender, and the fictional account of Silicon Valley politics particularly resonated during the drama this year when OpenAI fired their CEO.
Favourite games played
King of Tokyo
- While I only managed to get a few rounds in this year, it was enough to appreciate the combination of simple dice rolling mechanics with the depth of the ability cards that make for a game that's easy to get into and seems to play out quite differently every time.
- The latest open-world RPG from Bethesda hasn't been as well received as Skyrim was 12 years ago, but there's a lot of depth and interesting stories to be had in this package regardless of what the crowd on Reddit thinks.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
- Bethesda's spiritual sequel may have met with mixed reaction, but the sequel to Breath of the Wild only improved on one of the best games ever made. Despite the familiar world, the new box of toys Link is given makes TotK a unique adventure.
Favourite musicians discovered
- Andress is a described as a country singer-songwriter, though to my ears she leans more towards a pop sound. According to last.fm, I was #37 in the world last year in a ranking of her top listeners.
- Bryan's 2023 self-titled album was the top-selling country album for 5 weeks this past year. Not all the tracks on it land for me, but solid writing and a good variety of sounds keep it interesting.
- Williow's 2022 album <COPINGMECHANISM> is her 5th, and brings a distortion-heavy guitar sound with an aesthetic that reminds me of the mid-early 2000s.
Favourite podcasts discovered
Articles of Interest
Trufelman had another podcast called Nice Try! that appears to have ended now, but it was just as well crafted as Articles of Interest. - Avery Trufelman is a former apprentice of Roman Mars, the voice of the 99 Percent Invisible podcast. She has struck out on her own and taken Articles of Interest with her, and continues the thorough research and careful storytelling about the things that we see every day but tend not to think about.
New programming languages tried this year
- The precision of Rust's type system helped me to approach the type system in TypeScript with new insight. But there's still more for me to learn here.