Welcome to Res Extensa

Res Extensa is my attempt to understand how we build things, and the influence of emergent, complex systems on the everyday. You'll find (usually) weekly essays on adaptive systems, design, history, and the creative process. The milieu is broad, but the power of tinkering and bottom-up experimentation are fascinating to me, so you'll see recurring ruminations on those themes. I'm chasing after better understanding of innovation.

For a general sense of the vibe, check out some of these past issues:

  • The Superpower of Small Teams — "Bigness" of company size isn't a virtue. On the "Ringelmann effect" and the benefits of staying lean.

  • Gall's Law: But First, Simplify — For a complex system to function, it has to evolve from a simpler working system. You can't build complex systems from scratch.

  • Hard Edges, Soft Middle — The value of setting hard objectives, with space for experimenting with solutions; falling in love with the problem; setting boundaries & appetites

  • MIT's Building 20: a Masterpiece of Utility — Building 20 was home to countless innovations in physics, mathematics, engineering, and linguistics, all in a slapdash "temporary" wood building thrown together during World War II. A pillar example of "low road" adaptable architecture.

  • Book Notes: The Nature of Technology — I'll occasionally publish notes and takeaways from books I've read. Here are my thoughts on W. Brian Arthur's excellent book on the striking similarities between innovation and biological evolution.

I'm on 𝕏 at @colemanm, and if you're into the decentralized rebel networks, @coleman on Warpcast.

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A newsletter on adaptive systems, innovation, and how we build things in the face of complexity.


Interested in technology, progress, philosophy. Striving for clear, insightful thinking.