Daniel Lemire's blog

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My most popular posts in 2015… (part I)


If you want the world to get progressively better, you have to do your part. Programmers can’t wait passively for hardware to get better. We need to do our part.

In particular, we need to better exploit our CPUs if we are to keep accelerating our software. Early in 2015, I wrote a blog post explaining how to accelerate intersections using SIMD instructions. I also wrote about how to accelerate hashing using the new instructions for carryless multiplications with a family called CLHash, showing how it could beat the fastest legacy techniques such as Google’s CityHash. I have since shown that CLHash is twice as fast on the latest Intel processors (Skylake).

Some might point out that using fancy CPU instructions in hardly practical in all instances. But I have also been able to show that we could massively accelerate common data structures in JavaScript with a little bit of engineering.

Economics In Secular stagnation: we are trimming down, I have argued that progress in a post-industrial society cannot be measured by counting “physical goods”. In a post-industrial society, we get richer by increasing our knowledge, not by acquiring “more stuff”. This makes measuring wealth difficult. Economists, meanwhile, keep on insisting that they can compare our standards of living across time without difficulty. Many people insist that if young people tend to own smartphones and not cars, that’s because they can’t afford cars and must be content with smartphones. My vision of the future is one where most people own far fewer physical goods. I hope to spend time in 2016 better expressing this vision.

Innovation Though programmers make up a small minority of the workforce (less than 1 in 20 employees at most places), their culture is having a deep impact on corporate cultures. I have argued that the “hacker culture” is winning. We get shorter cycles, more frequent updates, more flexibility.

In Theory lags practice, I have argued that we have to be willing to act before we have things figured out. We learned to read and write before we had formal grammars. Watt invented the engine before we had thermodynamics. The Wright brothers made an airplane without working the science out.

In Hackers vs. Academics: who is responsible for progress?, I have argued that if you want progress, you need people who are not specialist at self-promotion, but rather people who love to solve hard practical problems. In this sense, if we are ever going to cure Alzheimer’s or reach Mars, it is going to be thanks to hackers, not academics.