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Empirical Laws

Conway's Law

Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure.

A not so clear implication is that dividing work into subgroups allows for specialization and parallelism at the cost of restricting the possibility space by imposing a communication interface between different modules of the organization chart.

Future organization charts inherit past organization chart structures and the resulting code ends up being a merge of the two.


Gall's Law

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.


Hanlon's Razor

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.


Gervais Principle

Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.

Note: "The Losers are not social losers (as in the opposite of “cool”), but people who have struck bad bargains economically – giving up capitalist striving for steady paychecks."

(source, archive)

Gilder's Law

Bandwidth grows at least three times faster than computer power

(source, archive)

Koomey's Law

The number of computations per joule of energy dissipated doubled about every 1.57 years.

Note: The scaling looks to have slowed to about 2.6 years as of 2000.


Metcalfe's Law

The effect of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.


Moore's Law

The number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years.


Norton's Law

All data, over time, approaches deleted, or public.

(tweet, archive)

Occam's Razor

Simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones.


Pareto's Principle

For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.


Peter Principle

People in a hierarchy tend to rise to their "level of incompetence".


Planck's Principle

Scientific change does not occur because individual scientists change their mind, but rather that successive generations of scientists have different views.


Proebsting's Law

Compiler Advances Double Computing Power Every 18 Years

(source, archive)

Reed's Law

The utility of a group forming network of $n$ members scales as $O(2^n)$.

There are $2^n$ subgroups of a set of $n$ members.

Whereas Sarnoff's law is one to many, thus linear. Metcalf's law is many to many, but only on an individual connection basis, like a telephone network. Reed's law considers subgroup formation as an added factor to the utility and points out that Metcalf's law might undervalue network effects significantly.


Sinclair's Law

It is difficult to get a person to understand something, when their salary depends on not understanding it.


Sarnoff's Law

The value of a broadcast network is proportional to the number of viewers.

That is, the value of a network, in this above case a broadcast network, scales as $O(n)$.


Spolsky's Observation

Smart companies try to commoditize their products' complements.

Note: In this context, there are 'substitutes' and 'compliments', where a substitute is a product you buy that replaces the core product and a compliment is a product you buy with the core product.

(source, archive)

Ucaetano's Addendum to Spolsky's Observation

Create a desert of profitability around you.

(source, archive)

Swanson's Law

The price of solar photovoltaic modules tends to drop 20 percent for every doubling of cumulative shipped volume.

Note: at present, costs halve at every 10 years.


Wagner's Law

The advent of modern industrial society will result in increasing political pressure for social progress and increased allowance for social consideration by industry.


Wright's Law

Production doubling leads to a constant percent decrease in cost.

aka Experience curve effects.

The above is paraphrased. Wright noticed that every time total aircraft production doubled, the required labor cost fell 20%.

For unit number $n$, cost $P_n$ is approximately:

$$ P_n = P_1 n^{ \lg(\beta) } = P_1 n^{-\alpha} $$

Where $(1-\beta)$ is the reduction proportion and $\alpha$ is the "elasticity of cost" ($\alpha = -\lg(\beta)$). Note that $ \frac{ P_{2n} }{P_n} = 2^{-\alpha} $

It appears that $(1-\beta)$ estimates can typically range from $0.1$ to $0.25$.

Also note that economies of scale might be intertwined with with the experience curve effects and that it might be hard to separate the two.


Wu's Razor

For sufficiently powerful actors, Hanlon's Razor is invoked to give malice plausible deniability.

The above is paraphrased from the original:

I've come to the conclusion Hanlon's Razor isn't particularly useful. It's catchy, popular- but as a cognitive tool it's almost never applicable and it's usually invoked not to aid the determination of truth, but as rhetorical squid ink to give malice plausible deniability.

(tweet, archive)