Hillaritynomics, pyramids, Syriza, pentaquarks, rival economists, samarium hexaboride and the French Revolution

It is a supreme irony of modern American life that the political movement that terms itself “progressive” is, in the economic realm at least, increasingly passionate about the status quo. Speaking today about the burgeoning “gig economy,” presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton could not help herself but to set modernity firmly within aging ideological tram-lines. Developments such as AirBnB, Zaarly, Uber, DogVacay, and RelayRides, Clinton conceded, are not likely to “go away” any time soon. But they are worrying nonetheless. Indeed, the “sharing economy,” she proposed, is “polarizing” and it is disruptive — guilty of no less than “displacing or downgrading blue-collar jobs.” Technological advances, she concluded, must not “determine our destiny.”

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/421116/hillary-clinton-uber-speech-statist-economics

The period from roughly 2700 BCE to 2500 BCE was the age of the pyramid in Egypt, and one of these was so massive that it remained the tallest building in the world for the next thirty-eight centuries


Syriza’s strategy, insofar as there was one, uncovered a method of failing that was much more complete and all-encompassing than anyone had thought possible at the start of the process.


“The pentaquark is not just any new particle,” said LHCb spokesperson Guy Wilkinson. It represents a way to aggregate quarks, namely the fundamental constituents of ordinary protons and neutrons, in a pattern that has never been observed before in over fifty years of experimental searches. Studying its properties may allow us to understand better how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we’re all made, is constituted.”


The economic causes of the French Revolution are sometimes insufficiently appreciated. In his book The French Revolution: An Economic Interpretation, Florin Aftalion outlines some of those causes. The French state engaged in wars throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. To pay for the wars, it employed complex and burdensome taxation, tax farming, borrowing, debt repudiation and forced “disgorgement” from the financiers, and debasement of the currency. Lord Acton wrote that people had been anticipating revolution in France for a century. And revolution came.

Liberals and libertarians admired the fundamental values it represented. Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek both hailed “the ideas of 1789” and contrasted them with “the ideas of 1914” — that is, liberty versus state-directed organization.


In other words, candidate Clinton is signaling that she’s a member of the economic illiterati – a group that for centuries has warned that ordinary people will be impoverished by expanded opportunities to buy and sell (that is, by globalization), by machinery that releases labor to perform tasks that would otherwise be too costly to perform (that is, by automation), and by innovations that increase the supply of goods and services by encouraging owners of private property to use their properties more intensively to satisfy consumer demands (that is, by the sharing economy).


Biography is no substitute for history, much less for theory and history of thought, and journalism is, at best, only a provisional substitute for biography. But one way of understanding what happened in economics in the twentieth century is to view it as an argument between Samuelson and Friedman that lasted nearly eighty years, until one aspect of it, at least, was resolved by the financial crisis of 2008. The departments of economics they founded in Cambridge and Chicago, headquarters in the long wars between the Keynesians and the monetarists, came to be the Athens and Sparta of their day.


“This is a big shock,” said Suchitra Sebastian, a condensed matter physicist at the University of Cambridge whose findings appeared today in an advance online edition of the journal Science. Insulators and metals are essentially opposites, she said. “But somehow, it’s a material that’s both. It’s contrary to everything that we know.”


PLDD, blended-learning and the beautiful messines of freedom, Science Mag and hiatus redivivus

I would like to tell you about a serious condition afflicting thousands of policy analysts.  It’s called Petty Little Dictator Disorder, or PLDD, and you or someone you love could be suffering from this epidemic sweeping through our think tanks, advocacy groups, and government offices.


By way of comparison, the arrangement of having teachers act as both instructors and assessors is akin to asking the judges in a gymnastics competition to also coach the gymnasts leading up to the event, or asking a restaurant manager to conduct official food handling inspections at his restaurant. In many domains of life, we recognize that we create problematic conflicts of interest if we ask people who produce or perform to also provide the ratings of their outputs for external audiences. Yet, in education it is the norm to ask teachers to both coach their students and rate their students’ academic achievements.


Just five weeks after Science magazine prominently featured a paper proclaiming that the multidecadal slowdown in the rate of the earth’s average temperature rise—aka, the “pause” or “hiatus”—was but a figment of bad data, comes a new paper in Science magazine explaining the physical mechanisms that have led to the slowdown.

Wait, what?

You read it right. What Science laid to rest but a month ago, Science has now resurrected. Science (with a capital “S”), and those dedicated to it, should not be amused.

But such is the nature of the game. Science the magazine is more interested in generating publicity for itself than in best serving Science the field—a point being increasingly raised by prominent scientific figures.


Fracking and the climate debate, universal daemonization, mathematical rigour, the cult of genius and illegal trolling

The turn against shale gas rests on three beliefs that have calcified into conventional wisdom among many environmental advocates. The first is that shale gas development causes massive damage to communities and the local environment—regardless of what regulations are put in place. This sets a daunting bar for any climate strategy that includes shale gas production. The second is that gas is no better than coal when it comes to climate change—at least not without big changes to the way gas is produced—and might even increase greenhouse gas emissions. This undercuts any imperative to wrestle with trade-offs between local risks and climate benefits from gas. The third is that renewable energy has made such rapid progress that a shift to a zero-carbon energy future is imminent. This makes natural gas unnecessary, and potentially a threat to a complete and speedy transition away from fossil fuels.

But each of these is a myth or half-truth. Strict rules and smart planning can safeguard communities. If policy drives natural gas to displace coal, the result can be much lower emissions. And, while renewables have made big strides, the biggest beneficiary of a setback to natural gas would, for now, still be coal.


People are colossally underestimating the Internet of Things. It’s not about alarm clocks that start your coffee maker, or about making more “things” talk to each other on a global network. The IoT will fundamentally alter how humans interact with the physical world, and will ultimately register as more significant than the Internet itself.


One can roughly divide mathematical education into three stages:

  1. The “pre-rigorous” stage, in which mathematics is taught in an informal, intuitive manner, based on examples, fuzzy notions, and hand-waving. (For instance, calculus is usually first introduced in terms of slopes, areas, rates of change, and so forth.) The emphasis is more on computation than on theory. This stage generally lasts until the early undergraduate years.
  2. The “rigorous” stage, in which one is now taught that in order to do maths “properly”, one needs to work and think in a much more precise and formal manner (e.g. re-doing calculus by using epsilons and deltas all over the place). The emphasis is now primarily on theory; and one is expected to be able to comfortably manipulate abstract mathematical objects without focusing too much on what such objects actually “mean”. This stage usually occupies the later undergraduate and early graduate years.
  3. The “post-rigorous” stage, in which one has grown comfortable with all the rigorous foundations of one’s chosen field, and is now ready to revisit and refine one’s pre-rigorous intuition on the subject, but this time with the intuition solidly buttressed by rigorous theory. (For instance, in this stage one would be able to quickly and accurately perform computations in vector calculus by using analogies with scalar calculus, or informal and semi-rigorous use of infinitesimals, big-O notation, and so forth, and be able to convert all such calculations into a rigorous argument whenever required.) The emphasis is now on applications, intuition, and the “big picture”. This stage usually occupies the late graduate years and beyond.


The popular image of the lone (and possibly slightly mad) genius – who ignores the literature and other conventional wisdom and manages by some inexplicable inspiration (enhanced, perhaps, with a liberal dash of suffering) to come up with a breathtakingly original solution to a problem that confounded all the experts – is a charming and romantic image, but also a wildly inaccurate one, at least in the world of modern mathematics. We do have spectacular, deep and remarkable results and insights in this subject, of course, but they are the hard-won and cumulative achievement of years, decades, or even centuries of steady work and progress of many good and great mathematicians; the advance from one stage of understanding to the next can be highly non-trivial, and sometimes rather unexpected, but still builds upon the foundation of earlier work rather than starting totally anew.


Internet trolls face up to two years’ jail in New Zealand under a controversial new law which bans “harmful digital communications”.

And under a parallel amendment to New Zealand’s Crimes Act, a person who tells another to kill themselves faces up to three years in prison.

The law will help mitigate the harm caused by cyber-bulling and give victims a quick and effective means of redress, supporters said.

But critics said the law harms free speech and its fine print could threaten public interest journalism in the country.


Common planets, incremental change, Moldova, capitalist theory, animal mind-melds and the (not so) Dark Ages

But the biggest surprise is this: there’s a whole class of worlds in between the size of Earth and Neptune, called either super-Earths or mini-Neptunes, where a rocky core is surrounded by a hydrogen-and-helium envelope of gas. This class not only exists, but it’s the most common type of planet in the Universe, to the best of our knowledge.

So why don’t we have even one in our Solar System?

Believe it or not, the chances are very good that we did. Once.


Imagining an effective strategy aimed at social transformation is an intrinsically complex matter, and no single method will succeed. A viable strategic mix must include, among other things, efforts to roll back the size and scope of the state incrementally. Government is unlikely to vanish all at once, so it is illegitimate to object that incremental changes can be reversed. (Of course they can — eternal vigilance, you know.)


Bringing down pro-EU governments fits all too well with Russia’s ambitions in the region. In which case the EU’s denial of budgetary support to Moldova is political suicide. Without that support, Moldova will collapse. And a failed state sandwiched between the unstable Ukraine and fragile Balkans – and featuring a pro-Kremlin enclave described by the FTas a “flashpoint – is the last thing the EU needs. It should think again.


There are other responses to the claim that socialism is more just and humane than capitalism, but I would like to focus on the one that I’ve often used: socialism in practice has always and everywhere tended to lead, to the degree that it is consistently applied, not to freedom and material well-being, but to tyranny and want. In other words, while socialism in theory may be all good things to all good people, the more government has practiced collectivism and central planning to achieve its goals of justice and equality, the farther it has fallen short of those goals.


In recent years, scientists have wondered what brains could do if they were linked together into even bigger networks. Miguel A. Nicolelis, director of the Center for Neuroengineering at Duke University, and his colleagues have now made the idea a bit more tangible by linking together animal brains with electrodes.


The idea that economic integration leads inexorably to political integration or is in itself sufficient was the brainchild of Jean Monnet, the “Father of Europe”. But it is based on a misreading of the unification process of Germany in the 19th century, which involved a customs union called theZollverein. This misconception continues to undermine the single currency because its advocates fail to appreciate that a polity’s primary concern is security rather than trade, as Otto von Bismarck, the “Father of Germany”, well understood. The great perversion for many people across Southern Europe is that the euro, by undermining economic security, has stoked political instability and a widespread feeling of powerlessness.


The aim? To perfect and mass-produce a novel silicon-based version of the transistor. This minute, solid device, no bigger than a fingernail, would be composed of silicon treated chemically in complex ways. It promised unprecedented standards of reliability to electronic devices. Shockley was counting on the reality that, in high-stakes defense markets, performance always trumped mere price. To accomplish his ambition, he urgently needed a competent chemist. He knew that Moore had recently turned down a position at a nuclear weapons lab in California. Might this young scientist be interested in the race to produce a reliable silicon transistor instead?


For many, the Middle Ages are ineradicably reprehensible, as well as comic: knights immobilized in their armor, fat monks panting after licentious nuns, ladies locked into chastity belts. The stand-bys of eighteenth-century derision have stood the test of time. Remember those angels dancing on a pinpoint? They still dance for those who believe that the medieval schools were engaged in a wasted intellectual effort.

Unfair! the medievalists have shouted, from the days when Edward Gibbon cried “Gone Away!” and set the enlightened hounds on the scent of decay and moldy monks that in his nostrils accompanied the fall of the Roman Empire. Unfair because it has been found again and again that our skills, laws, liberties, nations, and languages are the result of hard work in the millennium reputed dark, unlit by reason, and recessive from the sunshine of the classical civilizations, when perfectly formed philosophers sat debating in public colonnades, monk-free.


Programmable gut bacteria, Hayek for everybody, Iran going nuclear, heroes of the Left, Kierkegaard and board games

MIT researchers have developed sensors, memory switches, and circuits that can be encoded in common human gut bacteria. These basic computing elements will allow the bacteria to sense, memorize, and respond to signals in the gut. Future medical applications of programmable gut bacteria might include early detection and treatment of diseases.


Elon Musk’s reading recommendations are quite different. Where Gates’s tastes tend towards the whimsical and Jobs’s towards the metaphysical, Musk’s list is all about science.


F.A. Hayek was a brilliant thinker in economics, politics and philosophy. But he was not as good a rhetorician as his great intellectual competitor, John Maynard Keynes, who was a witty, appealing popularizer and journalistic writer, as well as a famous theorist, intent on producing government interventions by whatever arguments worked. In the 1930s, this led, Boudreaux relates, to “Keynes’ victory over Hayek [and] that victory was total.”  However, in the hands of Keynes’ devoted macro-economic followers (and shortly after then-President Nixon purportedly announced that “We are all Keynesians now”), his victory led to the utterly disastrous great inflation of the 1970s and consequent financial collapse of the 1980s—the victory in time produced a memorable defeat. Hayek, his professional reputation redeemed, got the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974.  He used the occasion of his acceptance speech to skewer “the pretense of knowledge” displayed by macro-economists, and to suggest they needed a “lesson in humility.”


The Obama administration has trapped America. It is now ever clearer that current negotiations will not achieve a reliable, verifiable halt to Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Absent such terms, a non-nuclear Middle East rests on Iran’s “good faith” and on Iran’s neighbors’ faith in her — both thin reeds. No magic rescue looms. Very hard choices and dark fates may await.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420973/dark-possibilities-nuclear-iran

Nat Simons controls a hodgepodge of dodgy investment concerns that focus on renewable energy. He wants government not only to finance his business experiments but to harass and limit the effectiveness of other competitors in the energy market.

He wants Americans to pay substantially more for gasoline, household energy needs and every other product that requires energy. He wants a carbon tax that would hurt the poor far more than the rich. He is willing to get in bed with the oligarchs who run Russia and certainly do not have the interests of American taxpayers at heart to get the money to pressure the system to produce the outcomes he wants.

That he is a hero of the left and the Kochs are arch-villains tells you all you need to know about the moral vacuity of America’s liberals. How long can even they look the other way?


Kierkegaard was a scathing critic of the Denmark of his time, and he paid the price when in 1846 The Corsair, a satirical paper, launched a series of character attacks on him, ridiculing his gait (he had a badly curved spine) and his rasping voice. Kierkegaard achieved the necessary condition of any great romantic intellectual figure, which is rejection by his own time and society. His biographer, Walter Lowrie, goes so far as to suggest that he was single-handedly responsible for the decline of Søren as a popular first name. Such was the ridicule cast upon him that Danish parents would tell their children ‘don’t be a Søren’. Today, Sorensen — son of Søren — is still the eighth most common surname in Denmark, while as a first name Søren itself doesn’t even make the top 50. It is as though Britain were full of Johnsons but no Johns.


The game ends in nuclear war only about 5 percent of the time. That’s a good thing. It gives Ananda Gupta faith in humanity.

The game is called Twilight Struggle, and it’s the top-ranked board game in the world. It occupies the No. 1 spot on the authoritative gaming-world website BoardGameGeek.


Genghis khan, deep history, minimum wage, Lao-Tzu, peaks, information and 20 years of the Commercial Internet

“In twenty-five years, the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans had conquered in four hundred years. Genghis Khan, together with his sons and grandsons, conquered the most densely populated civilizations of the thirteenth century. Whether measured by the total number of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history. The hooves of the Mongol warriors’ horses splashed in the waters of every river and lake from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. At its zenith, the empire covered between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of the African continent and considerably larger than North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean combined. It stretched from the snowy tundra of Siberia to the hot plains of India, from the rice paddies of Vietnam to the wheat fields of Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans. The majority of people today live in countries conquered by the Mongols; on the modern map, Genghis Kahn’s conquests include thirty countries with well over 3 billion people. The most astonishing aspect of this achievement is that the entire Mongol tribe under him numbered around a million, smaller than the workforce of some modern corporations. From this million, he recruited his army, which was comprised of no more than one hundred thousand warriors — a group that could comfortably fit into the larger sports stadiums of the modern era.


Because Sapiens summarily dispatches over 13 billion years of cosmic and terrestrial history in its opening paragraphs, focusing instead on our species’ trials and tribulations during the past 70,000 years, it might more accurately be defined as “Deep History,” another recent approach to historiography that extends the historian’s remit to the origins of the human species. Like Big History, Deep History views the lack of written records for human “prehistory” as an inspiring challenge to historians rather than an insurmountable obstacle, one that can be overcome by recent scientific findings and techniques.


A rough guide to the finances of the fast food industry is as follows. 30% goes on wages, 30% of revenues goes on ingredients and the other 40% is everything else. Rents, advertising, capital costs and, of course, profits. Those profits are pretty low. 5% of revenues isn’t an out of order estimation of the net profit margins in the business (and, of course, that’s an average, as some locations and some whole chains lose money).

So, if we by legislative fiat raise the price of one of those inputs then something, somewhere, has to give. Those profit margins are already pretty thin and so they’re not going to be where that extra cost comes from. More than that if we reduce the returns to capital in a particular line of business then less capital will be invested in that line of business in the future. This means fewer jobs in that line of business: This is one of the ways that a rise in the minimum wage destroys jobs. Fewer will be created in the future than would have been in the absence of the rise in the minimum wage.


“Let go of fixed plans and concepts and the world will govern itself”

The roots of libertarianism are traced back through classical liberalism from a few hundred years ago, but here is the “Tao Te Ching” stating what looks to be the libertarian argument more than 2000 years ago (When Lao-Tzu wrote the “Tao Te Ching” is unknown, but it is believed to be at least B.C.E.). The argument is that the world is governed by the Tao (the way), or the laws of nature. Nature is orderly by it’s very nature. What economists would call emergent order, Lao-Tzu would call Tao.


“[A]bout 1970 a great reversal began in America’s use of resources. Contrary to the expectations of many professors and preachers, America began to spare more resources for the rest of nature, first in relative and more recently in absolute amounts. A series of decouplings is occurring, so that our economy no longer advances in tandem with exploitation of land, forests, water, and minerals. American use of almost everything except information seems to be peaking, not because the resources are exhausted, but because consumers changed consumption and producers changed production. Changes in behavior and technology liberate the environment.”


When Schrödinger asked in the 1940s how a germ cell stores genetic information, he reasoned that both a liquid and an amorphous solid had physical structures that were too irregular to be useful for storing information. On the other hand, a crystal was too regular and too hard to change. In particular, it could not be altered by x-ray radiation, which was known to cause changes in the traits that an offspring inherits. So he suggested that the information in a gene might be stored in a linear aperiodic (or irregular) crystal. In making this case, he was building on ideas that other physicists (most notably Max Delbrück) had advanced, but his presentation in a short book was widely read and influential. Crick and Watson were among his readers. They eventually showed that DNA has precisely the structure that he and Delbrück had proposed.


Looking back on these events with a wide lens, it is now possible to ask, why did the privatization of the Internet turn out so well? How could such an event unleash a wide and profound set of economic outcomes?

The answer involves “innovation from the edges”—multiple perspectives originating from multiple places in an industry with little or no concentrated decision making. Innovation from the edges played an important role in all the key events.


Trillions of nanomachines, black phosphorus, Illuminati, bitcoin, von Mises, Freud and de Tocqueville

As a prelude to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, the American Press Association asked 74 of America’s best thinkers to predict what the 1990s would be like. The answers ranged from the grossly wrong to the freakishly prophetic.


Keep in mind that hardly anyone believed that it would be possible to invent a new global currency built entirely of code, outside the banking structure, backed by no physical assets or government promises, with no capital investment, no big names behind it, and no institutional backing.


In the aftermath of the French Revolution, many supporters of the ancien régimeconvinced themselves that the revolution had been carried out by secret cells within the Freemasons called the Illuminati. This belief was popularized in two widely read books published in 1798, Memoirs Illustrating the History ofJacobinism by Abbé Augustin Barruel and Proofs of a Conspiracy Against all the Religions and Governments of Europe by John Robison.

The idea of a secret society undermining institutions for nefarious purposes provided the template for future conspiracy theories, and conspiracy theories involving Freemasons in particular continued to have considerable influence. In the 19th century, the ideas promoted in those books played a role in the creation of the United States’ first third party, the Anti-Masonic Party. In France, they were widely believed among conservatives, and were promoted in Catholic schools and in the popular press.


“There is a great emerging interest around the world in black phosphorus,” Szkopek says. “We are still a long way from seeing atomic layer in a commercial product, but we have now moved one step closer.”

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-07-black-phosphorus-silicon.html#jCp

Few people know of the link between the most famous psychologist and most famous free-market economist of the 20th century.

Sigmund Freud was 25 years older than Ludwig von Mises, but they were two of the most significant figures of the interwar Viennese intellectual milieu. Mises cited Freud’s books and adopted many of his analytical concepts to make his case against socialism and for a subjectivist understanding of economics.

When Mises wrote his stunning treatise attacking socialism in 1922, he turned to the work of Freud to make a case against women’s subjugation, for freely chosen gender roles, and for traditional family structure. Against the socialists who wanted the state to raise all children, Freud argued that taking away children from parents leaves permanent scars. And against the advocates of “free love,” who do not believe in partner attachments, Mises cited Freud’s view that civilization requires the channeling and maturation of the sexual instinct.

Mises called Freud a “genius” for having these insights.


Tocqueville embodies what was once meant by liberalism, a word now hopelessly distorted. For him, it meant decentralized government, small government, commercial enterprise as the foundation for social life, a rich structure of voluntary institutions, a robust conviction that freedom is the best way to organize society, a belief that tyranny is always to be despised. He found in his travels to the United States the world’s best realization of the liberal ideal.


one of the most astonishing discoveries of the twentieth century—that our cells are comprised of a series of highly sophisticated “little engines” or nanomachines that carry out life’s vital functions. It is a work full of surprises, arguing for example that all of life’s most important innovations were in existence by around 3.5 billion years ago—less than a billion years after Earth formed, and a period at which our planet was largely hostile to living things. How such mind-bending complexity could have evolved at such an early stage, and in such a hostile environment, has forced a fundamental reconsideration of the origins of life itself.


Diaspora, ‘laocracy’, Nicola Tesla, cognitive prosthesis, the economics of freedom and Linus Torvalds on AI

But people who leave a country have not disappeared. They are alive and socially active. As a result, they may become an invaluable asset not only to their country of destination but also, and importantly, to their country of origin.

One important connection is remittances, which add up to some $500 billion a year worldwide. The largest recipients are India, Mexico, and the Philippines. For countries such as Armenia, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Moldova, Nepal, and Tajikistan, expatriates remit the equivalent of more than one-sixth of national income – an amount that often exceeds exports.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/remittances-not-only-benefit-to-homeland-economies-by-ricardo-hausmann-2015-06#UewJOYfkRGkW45T5.99

Leaving the Eurozone, especially with this chaotic and superficial way, would likely lead to a process of leaving the EU too, with unpredictable and disastrous consequences for the national security and the democratic stability of our country.


Ancient Greek had two words for the people: the “demos” of democracy and the “laos” of the mob. With his puerile call to shift the burden of his own errors and his reluctance to reform onto the shoulders of Greece’s fellow Europeans, Tsipras is leaning toward the latter manifestation – and promoting the worst version of Greek politics.
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/greece-referendum-undemocratic-eu-creditors-by-bernard-henri-levy-2015-07#qvISMVQD4QVtTg0L.99

“When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.” -Nikola Tesla, 1926


There’s a lot of research about transactive memory partners. Take an old married couple recalling their first date. In isolation neither recalls much, but if you put their memories together, they can re-create a richer memory that’s more than the sum of each person’s fragments. Now it looks like a machine can be that transactive memory partner. You plus a search is more than you or the search. It’s just that we think it’s only us.

Plus, searching the internet is almost effortless, and it’s almost always accessible. You never face your ignorance when it’s there. Because we’re so deeply plugged into it, we misattribute the connection to knowledge to actually having the knowledge ourselves. It becomes an appendage. We like to use the term “cognitive prosthesis.”


“…The phenomenal national income growth in the Nordic nations occurred before the rise of large welfare states. The rise in living standards was made possible when cultures based on social cohesion, high levels of trust and strong work ethics were combined with free markets and low taxes….the Nordic success story reinforces the idea that business-friendly and small-government-oriented policies can promote growth.”

And here is Milton Friedman on the subject of the euro. This is from before we even knew what the final form was going to be and who the participants were going to be:

The drive for the Euro has been motivated by politics not economics. The aim has been to link Germany and France so closely as to make a future European war impossible, and to set the stage for a federal United States of Europe. I believe that adoption of the Euro would have the opposite effect. It would exacerbate political tensions by converting divergent shocks that could have been readily accommodated by exchange rate changes into divisive political issues. Political unity can pave the way for monetary unity. Monetary unity imposed under unfavorable conditions will prove a barrier to the achievement of political unity.

Pretty much letter perfect description of what has been happening, don’t you think? Or have you not noticed the Greek government calling today’s Germans a bunch of Nazis who owe them €1 trillion euros?


Some computer experts like Marvin Minsky, Larry Page, Ray Kuzweil think A.I. will be a great gift to Mankind. Others like Bill Joy and Elon Musk are fearful of potential danger. Where do you stand, Linus?

Linus: I just don’t see the thing to be fearful of.

We’ll get AI, and it will almost certainly be through something very much like recurrent neural networks. And the thing is, since that kind of AI will need training, it won’t be “reliable” in the traditional computer sense. It’s not the old rule-based prolog days, when people thought they’d *understand* what the actual decisions were in an AI.

And that all makes it very interesting, of course, but it also makes it hard to productize. Which will very much limit where you’ll actually find those neural networks, and what kinds of network sizes and inputs and outputs they’ll have.

So I’d expect just more of (and much fancier) rather targeted AI, rather than anything human-like at all. Language recognition, pattern recognition, things like that. I just don’t see the situation where you suddenly have some existential crisis because your dishwasher is starting to discuss Sartre with you.

The whole “Singularity” kind of event? Yeah, it’s science fiction, and not very good SciFi at that, in my opinion. Unending exponential growth? What drugs are those people on? I mean, really..

It’s like Moore’s law – yeah, it’s very impressive when something can (almost) be plotted on an exponential curve for a long time. Very impressive indeed when it’s over many decades. But it’s _still_ just the beginning of the “S curve”. Anybody who thinks any different is just deluding themselves. There are no unending exponentials.


Ignorant intelligentsia, cosmic ray spallation, sinister advisors, integrative medicine and the speed of thought

The intelligentsia … have encouraged the poor to believe that their poverty is caused by the rich – a message that may be a passing annoyance to the rich but a lasting handicap to the poor, who may see less need to make fundamental changes in their own lives that could lift them up, instead of focusing their efforts on tearing others down.

The intelligentsia have acted as if their ignorance of why some people earn unusually high incomes is a reason why those incomes are either suspect or ought not to be permitted.


The next time you see a plant, think not only of the evolutionary story that allowed it to be so, but the cosmic one, that enabled the elements essential to it to even exist. Without the most catastrophic, energetic events in the Universe, three of the lightest elements, lithium, beryllium and boron, simply would not be.


Russian urban explorer and photographer Ralph Mirebs discovered an enormous, abandoned hangar in Kazakhstan.


If there is any doubt about the Pope’s total adherence to an anti-capitalist, anti-growth, and eco-hysterical agenda, you only need to look at his closest science advisors.  The most recent “advisor” to the Vatican this week is Canadian journalist Naomi Klein.


Basically, starting around the late 1960s and early 1970s, in a bid to gain respectability for what was then called quackery or health fraud, the term “alternative medicine” was coined, which didn’t have all the harsh connotations of the usual language. Around that same time, James Reston, a New York Times editor, wrote about his experience undergoing an emergency appendectomy while visiting China in 1971. His story was represented as successful “acupuncture anesthesia,”when it was anything but, stimulating popular interest in “alternative” medical approaches. However, the word “alternative” implied that this was not “real” medicine, that it still was somehow unrespectable (which it was and still is, for good reason). Consequently, in the 1990s, around about the time Rothenberg Gritz was in high school admiring her dad’s woo-filled medical practice, a new term was born: complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The idea was that you need not fear these quack medical practices because they would be used in addition to medicine, not instead of it. This term contributed greatly to the increasing embrace of CAM by medical academia, but it was still not good enough for its advocates. After all, the word “complementary” implies a subsidiary status, that CAM is not the main medicine but just icing on the cake, so to speak.

That did not sit well with advocates, who wanted their woo to be fully part of medicine, even though they didn’t have the evidence for that to happen naturally. Thus was born the current term “integrative medicine.” No longer did CAM practitioners have to settle for having their quackery be merely “complementary” to real medicine. They could use this term to claim co-equal status with practitioners of real medicine. The implication—the very, very, very intentional implication—was that alternative medicine was co-equal to science- and evidence-based medicine, an equal partner in the “integration.”


In the human context, the signals carried by the large-diameter, myelinated neurons that link the spinal cord to the muscles can travel at speeds ranging from 70-120 meters per second (m/s) (156-270 miles per hour[mph]), while signals traveling along the same paths carried by the small-diameter, unmyelinated fibers of the pain receptors travel at speeds ranging from 0.5-2 m/s (1.1-4.4 mph). That’s quite a difference!


Mobile memories, sharing, Iran deal, the bristlemouth, rare earths, dying neurons and the 4th industrial revolution

“The thought is that memories are gradually moved around the brain,” said Schnitzer, who is also a member of Stanford Bio-X and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute.

“The neocortex is a long-term repository, whereas considerable evidence indicates that memories stay in the mouse hippocampus only about a month.”


In 1936, reflecting on how easily photography could duplicate and disseminate paintings, the German philosopher Walter Benjamin worried that mechanical reproduction threatened to strip history’s glow from artifacts and works of art. “Every day,” he wrote, “the urge grows stronger to get hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction.” Of course, such reproduction has a proud history of its own. Roman casts provide our only evidence of some Greek statues. Medieval manuscripts survive thanks to diligent copiers.


When the verb “share” showed up in the mid-1500s, it meant to cut into parts or cut off, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s ultimately derived from scearu, an Old English term for cutting.


But the impending deal is not a good one. It legitimizes a rogue state, shifts regional power to the world’s most aggressive state sponsor of terror, strengthens the mullahs’ hold on power, and guides Iran to nuclear threshold status. Those are not our “core objectives.” They are Iran’s.


the bristlemouth — a fish of the middle depths that glows in the dark and can open its mouth extraordinarily wide, baring needlelike fangs — is the most numerous vertebrate on the earth.


The Supreme Court made a decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case today that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Here’s how the people who want to be president in 2016 reacted


Until the 1990s, the U.S. was the dominant producer of rare earths and China mined almost none. That would soon change as the largest U.S. mine shut and Chinese producers took advantage of cheap labor and more relaxed environmental regulations. By the early 2000s, China supplied 97 percent of the global market, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.


That scene from The Life of Brian always reminds me of what America has to put up with. We do more for the world than any other 10 nations combined and then all we hear is endless complaining that we’re not saving the world the right way. Maybe instead of whining so much about how lousy America is, more people should appreciate everything we’ve done.


Each of those tiny little cells in your brain has a destiny to fulfill from the very beginning. Before we are even born, our neurons are programmed to find their precise spot in the multi-structured, layered tissue that makes up our brain. And unlike many other types of cells, like those found in the skin or muscle tissue, neurons are built to stick around.


Describing Estonia’s digital government makes it sound like a futuristic fantasy world. The list of bureaucratic tasks Estonians can complete online is seemingly endless:  as well as completing tax returns, they can set up businesses, sign contracts, obtain prescriptions, manage pensions, interact with utilities companies, apply for visas and permits, and vote. The Prime Minister, Taavi Rõivas, can even approve government bills using his iPhone.


The first industrial revolution was started by James Watt’s steam engine, enabling mass production. The second was electrification and division of labour in the late 19th century and third started in the late 20th century with the introduction of IT.

Capitalism is ever-changing. The fourth revolution is about integrating data from sensors and machines with the physical processes in production. It is the production counterpart of the consumer’s Internet of Things, where everything from cars to dishwashers are connected to the internet. The name Industry 4.0 was launched by a German industrial initiative in 2011, with the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Similar visions are becoming common, such as the American Industrial Internet Consortium.


In fact, as the world has become more capitalist and more globalized, the quality of life for the average person, and especially for the average poor person, has increased substantially.