Wednesday, June 11, 2008

1000 AD

I'm feeling a bit guilty about leaving the blog fallow for so long, in spite of the fact that, yes, I really don't have any enough time to give it the attention that it deserves.

That said, he's a little something to chew on in the meanwhile.

The Marginal Revolution blog has posted an interesting question: if you were suddenly transported back to the year 1000 AD and found yourself somewhere in Europe with nothing but the clothes on your back, what would you do to survive and prosper?

The comments section is lively with many thoughtful proposals. My own feeling is that people who dream of becoming uber-Edisons would be in for a rude shock: advancing technology is a lot harder than it looks. A lot of people, for instance, suggest inventing the steam engine. That's a great idea that's very likely to get you killed given the poor quality of the metal involved and the fact that even reasonably well constructed steam engines have been known to blow up.

Natalie and I both side with the idea that the real advantage that the average person has is a superior system of arithmatic. It's far easier to do calculation with Arabic notation than in Roman notation (try dividing CLXX into MCMIV without converting the numbers into decimal form if you doubt me). Given this, I think that the smartest course of action would be to hook up with the local nobility as soon as you can manage the language and take over their book keeping. If you know even basic double-book accounting, you'll be a indespensible asset to his lordship.

Once you have some social and financial capital, you can work on more ambitious projects (preferably letting someone else actually do the dangerous experiments).

In any case, the commentary is well worth reading and I invite you to post your own ideas, here.

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