Tag: Division of Labor

Abstraction, Power, Virtue, and Vice


Abstraction is the flip side of Division of Labor. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Adam Smith’s pin factory example, so forgive me if I’m fuzzy on the details. Suppose that the operation consists of the wire stretcher upstream of me, myself on the point grinder, and the guy down below me puts the heads on, shooing away any dancing angels. Smith teaches us that by focusing on my job, on grinding pins, that me and my two fellows will make vastly more pins than we would have separately. And indeed our experience with society bears this out; I’ve never made a pin myself but I can purchase as many as I’d like at almost no cost.

So huzzah Division of Labor, right? That’s where Abstraction comes in. To focus on grinding pins I’ve got to stop worrying about cutting the wires and placing the heads. If I’m trying to cut my own wires then I’ve lost whatever advantage I’d gained from Division of Labor and now my pin output has plummeted. So I abstract away those concerns, contenting myself with the knowledge that there will always be a stretched wire for me to reach out and grab, and that the sharpened wires will always have heads placed. Because I’ve abstracted those away to the other guy’s concern I’ve necessarily given that other guy Power over me.

How to Build a Computer 22: Hard Disk Drives


We’re going to take a jaunt entirely out of sequence here, moving from circuits and silicon into larger scale components. Today we’re talking about hard disk drives. Why? Because it’s a fun and interesting technology, because I know a thing or two about it from first-hand experience, but mostly because I’ve got a book to return. And so we’ll take a quick dive into the world of hard disk drives to see what, as the bear over the mountain intended, we can see.

An example HDD. Entirely too dusty to be functional.