79 points by ealexhudson
4 days ago
Kind of reminds me of the apocryphal Shackleton newspaper ad:
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success."
Glad you prefaced it with apocryphal, there is $100 on the line for anyone who can find the original ad: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/shackleton-probabl...
Thank you for posting that. I did not know it was apocryphal. Funny how they have lots of artic historians looking for it.
Reminds me also of Orwell's Godwinning parallel:
"I offer you struggle, danger, and death..."
What is this? Mississipi Mound builders? Lost Mayan Temples? The lost source code of Half-Life 3? Nicholas Cage's National Treasure 4?
Whatever it is, its silly enough that Nat Friedman feels like people will ridicule him if he actually says it out loud. That, or JJ Abrams style mystery box storytelling is a skill mastered by tech founders.
This would have name recognition, but not rewrite history. No high impact.
> Pay range is $120-250k/yr. Think of this as an adventurous interlude between your more lucrative commercial gigs.
Is that not already pretty excellent pay? I'm aware FAANG engineers and high level technical leaders make $300k+ or double that or more when you include their stock value, but for at least 90% of engineers even in the US "$120-250k" is a pretty top tier rate.
His expectations seem to be on the level of faang tech lead or staff, probably even more involved consider he keeps using “CTO”.
Starting up and maintaining any sort of community sounds like an intense position, especially over 3-6 months. This sounds like a “sleep at your desk” situation
$250/6 mos is excellent pay, but 1/2 of that, $120/6mos is just normal "sr eng" pay.
But considering this is contract work, with no benefits, and involves solving a puzzle - aka success may be completely out of your control - it's not really that good of an offer, imho.
Someone may take it up for the fun though, or if they just happened to be laid off.
I'd agree with you and reaffirm that I think his statement is more focused towards the types of tech leads, as millionaires, from the Bay Area.
Maybe decoding Herculaneum scrolls? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herculaneum_papyri#Virtual_unr...
Would I be reading into the timing too much, if I noted the timing of this post and how recently Ancient Apocalypse aired (and subsequent Rogan appearance)?
Perhaps specifically, trying to make sense of the data from the Sundeland (Indonesia) hilltop:
Or recent unearthings in Turkey such as Karahan Tepe:
"We have the technology" to make sense (specifically, to make 3D models) of old and emerging underground sensing techniques, but haven't pulled something cohesive and coherent together yet.
Such a tool could then be applied to these and more sites around the planet which at present are still painstakingly investigated using techniques from the 1800s one toothbrush at a time.
That was my first thought as qell, especially with the rewriting history part. It is a fascinating topic in any case.
I really hope this historical puzzle is about cracking the elusive ancient Indus Script .
The fact it's very difficult to crack because unlike other ancient scripts it does not have multiple languages reference or its own equivalent version of Rosetta Stone . In order to crack it most probably massive datasets and AI are required.
Why Is Indus Script Language Still Undeciphered?
 Rosetta Stone:
Oddly, I in a previous life I was a product manager for an significant ML pipeline, and I can state with some confidence that the key to this effort as described will be someone to keep everyone focused on the objective and mitigate the tendency to bikeshed and yak shave. The risk is that the team loses its focus and individual engineers think achieving some novel result in the discipline will be the sufficient (and then, necessary) condition, where "if only we solve this ML problem I can coincidentally speak at conferences about, we will succeed." The other risk is where you get into a fundraising death spiral, where you can't produce or admit concrete results because you need to keep the ball in the air and hope alive to get your next round of funding. The way to avoid this is to have someone leading the effort who DGAF about social climbing with investors, particularly the kind of family money who will be drawn to this, imo.
I guarantee this project will not be solving new problems in ML, and everything they do will be implementing, scaling, and optimizing the compute required for existing methods. This is engineering problems applied to archeology, and not the need to solve computer/data science problems that require new science to achieve. Maaaybe you get some new IP for using ML to process lidar and gravimetry data (I know some people involved in doing this from space), but if I were pitching on this, I would lead with being open to new science, but demonstrate a track record on getting solved problems implemented. Make sure the incentives of your team are aligned and that they can commit to the mission, as side of the desk science projects are probably the main risk to this effort, I would speculate.
Any guesses on the puzzle? I'm not familiar with this guy at all. I hope it's not something dumb like finding Atlantis.
He founded Xamarin and ran Github after the acquisition. So he has the money and is clearly competent as a manager. The lack of detail makes me think it's probably something dumb though, or something that domain experts have already told him is unlikely to succeed. I wish he'd post more info!
Fountain of youth?
Lost City of Gold?
I Am Rich 2.0?
It will be dumb, he's an alt-right "hardcore work" guy:
Hah, this would be a fun marriage between my archaeologist past and robotics present.
The qualifications unfortunately make it sound like yet another one of those "do CV to find relationships between probably unrelated objects" projects that have been so problematic in the past though.
This sounds like a dream job.
Why not advertise the puzzle too? Isn't the point to get it solved?
Point is likely to solve it first, and get the treasure before other people.
As a former archaeologist, a surprisingly large portion of my job was telling people that puzzles leading to treasure hoards aren't really a thing, so they should stop looting their local heritage sites.
And hope Nat Friedman doesn't betray you after your services...are no longer required.
A dream job? In the US, an entry level return offer for an intern is at least $160K at most major tech companies. Your average enterprise CRUD developer can get $120K after 3 years and one job hop (no insult that’s what I spent most of my career doing).
If I have the technical skills to solve the types of problems that he wants solved, he needs to offer a lot more money and stability than 6 months.
I mean to me part of the dream job aspect would be doing a archeological puzzle, which sounds way less boring than programming CRUD apps day to day. And the remuneration seems fair to me.
The more interesting work in the world is often the least paid and most volatile. The hard part of CRUD work is the mental infrastructure you have to develop to accept how uninteresting it is.
People don't become paramedics or archaeologists for the paycheque, because often there's not that much monetary outcome from doing the work.
You apparently don't understand that jobs that are actually desirable come at a huge wage discount. Sure, if you want to use your ML skills to push self-destructive ads or play in the stock market, you get a lot more money. But if you use the skills to do something fun/respectable, you get less.
I would find the infrastructure work and scaling of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and AWS (I currently work at AWS on the consulting side) to be very interesting. Working at scale is very interesting to me.
So you're an part of making sure monopoly power is consolidated into the hands of an elite few? Cool. That's right up there with saving the climate, facilitating world peace, et cetera. I couldn't ever think of why chasing mythical treasure would be as fun an stuffing Bezos's mouth with a few more billions.
Yes and I’m sure you value your work at startups where the founders and VCs are putting themselves in a position to sell out to the monopolies? Where pray tell is AWS a “monopoly” where there are two major competitors and the CEO himself said that only 5% of IT spend is on any cloud provider?
Are you feeding starving children in Africa at a non profit? Do you not exchange labor for money? Have you somehow overcome your addiction to food and shelter?
Lol. If you think I think I do good things for a living, you need to tweak your algorithm. I'm just telling you the economics of it.
Really bright people rarely value this kind of “stability”. Their inboxes are always full of offers. That’s their stability.
I bet they value stability now…
I valued stability a lot in 2000, 2008, 2020 and now.
I don’t know… I quit a well paying freelance gig in 2008 and started a startup.
It's not the best paying job, but I would take this in a millisecond if I was qualified.
US tech people are so spoiled.
Lost treasure, a la <<Cryptonomicon>>, or King Solomon's mine?
Ah Nat Friedman the guy who was fired from GitHub for being a terrible manager and has been doubling down all over Twitter to circle the wagons with Paul Graham and Elon Musk:
Avoid this guy like the plague.
FWIW, I have heard about that guy being a clown in a waaay different context (when he was at Novell / Suse). Making big, splashy and unrealistic promises and delivering nothing. Self promotion expert apparently.
Nat is doubling down on hard working builders and smart people. Oh no.
Envy is a hell of a drug. Avoid it like the plague.
Nat is aligning himself with those who have money and are pushing for poor working conditions. Nat himself has never built anything.
Highly skilled tech people don't sleep at their desk for Elon Musk. No one is envious of that.
I've noticed a lot of sycophant like behavior on Twitter towards Elon as well. He bought himself a big microphone and people are lining up to get in the spotlight. I don't blame them. You want an audience with the king. And given the background of the Twitter layoffs, some of the big VC principals are now posting that everyone in SV is lazy and overpaid. That pay packages are too high etc... This narrative is funny because it was these managers and executives that approved these pay packages and cause all of that. Instead blame the workers, right...
What is the puzzle?