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Showing posts from February, 2011

Capitalism has no foresight.

Today I heard on the radio how the economy has so drastically turned on the former Irish Tiger that people are being pushed into the security industry since that seems to be one of the few growth industries. Ireland copied a version of the development program Puerto Rico followed out of the forties under operation bootstrap. It gave tax breaks to American Corporations that set up in Puerto Rico, similar to the way Dell set up in Ireland. Puerto Rico also made these tax-breaks subject to being located outside of the capital to encourage development in the country-side, which was a brilliant idea. Since Puerto Rico was mostly undeveloped in the rural areas and only the capital of San Juan and surroundings had been developed. This development program was abandoned in Puerto Rico by pro-statehood government because these tax-breaks would result in an obstacle towards statehood. This had an adverse effect on employment, though I think this was small considering the effect of the brain-drai…

Getting Darwin Wrong

Most people get Darwin wrong by confusing him with Social Darwinism. I just heard an interview with author Lawrence Goldstone and he had really good grasp of Social Darwinism and how it's really more of an excuse for social discrimination than a scientific theory.

Social Darwinism attempts to do something very ancient in Western Tradition which is the application of a "natural law" to social order. Since Darwin had just upended the traditional creationist view of the world at the time, many intellectuals sought to apply this new knowledge to old "natural laws" similar in a way to what Newton did. This turns out to be hogwash. Not too different from kings claiming divine lineage to justify their position in life, now the rich could use Social Darwinism to claim superior fitness, and justify their position in society. A feeling that still lingers today in some circles, with claims of superior intelligence and books like "The Bell Curve." Goldstone's…

Amazon's A-B Testing and Government Applications

One of the benefits of scientific research is that by being empirical or experimentally driven it avoids circular and endless discussions on what works or should work. You can just check it. You test to see what works. Jeff Bezos described in a Stanford lecture how Amazon utilizes this testing in it's site live to verify improvements. The ability to test which option is best increases efficiency as it cuts down not only on inefficient options but also on the time that would have been spent discussing the pros and cons of each approach. At Amazon this approach is called A-B testing. Where one option "A" is tested against option "B" and the results are seen immediately. This data-driven approach is what makes science edge out over other disciplines, and it's one that seems sorely lacking on the social sciences, where argument rather than data still reigns king. It doesn't matter that "trickle down economics" didn't have it's intended eff…

Supply can drive demand

In Puerto Rico there were a few movie theaters: one in each mall, a few independents here and there, and the occasional chains. City theaters which didn't have access to parking died out as they did in most of America, but overall the segment was doing well. Then Plaza decided to build a lot more theaters. I remember when the theater in Plaza was only on the third floor next to the food court close to Sears and on the opposite side from the Gonzales Padín/Borders area.
After college in those blighted days that I was unemployed in Puerto Rico with my Princeton degree (It looks so nice on the wall...) and lacked money to gas my car sometimes I begged for car rides from friends. One time a friend of mine, his girlfriend and I went to catch a movie, and I asked him for a ride since he lived near me. I ended up saving his car from getting robbed that night but more on that later.
So Plaza las Americas the central mall in San Juan, decides to double the movie theater capacity even though…

Los NiNis & The Slackers

NiNis are the youth segment of the population 16-35 that neither study nor work (Ni estudian, Ni trabajan). They are the Spanish and Latin-American equivalent of the slacker. They typically live at home with their parents or other family and are sometimes referred to as leeches on family resources.
I posit that the NiNis like the slackers before them are mislabeled as lazy by society and incorrectly perceived as leeches or drains on normal society.
Slackers were of my generation. Smart people that seemed unable to focus and apply themselves to take work seriously; they spent a lot of their time on seemly wasted hobbies like video games, making videos, or writing blogs (many of which are now rather decent careers). But thinking of them as lazy is wrong. These are people that want to work, sometimes desperately, but they just don't see the point. They're not lazy, just unmotivated.
I recently got Jane McGonigal's book 'Reality is Broken' and I agree with her. It is br…

Health Insurance and House Insurance

Last year I heard on the radio Mike Huckabee, Republican hopeful attacking the Health care bill's no pre-existing conditions requirements by comparing health insurance to property insurance. He says that from a common sense perspective imagine one person trying to buy insurance on a house that burned down the day before.
Unfortunately common sense is the least common of them all.
Yet, houses don't vote. Houses don't pray for recovery. Houses don't suffer. Houses don't have a soul. Houses don't have children they wish to see grow old. Houses don't care for one another. Houses don't love. Housed don't cry, don't laugh, don't hug you back.
It's easy to blame other for the problems of this world. It's hard to stand up and try to do something about it.

Speaking different languages and Climate Change

One of the points I make on my essay on the truth, is that Scientist and Law-makers use different definitions of truth and doubt. But there is a even more obvious disconnect in America between what Scientist talk about and what the average Joe, and average law-maker understands.Today I heard a story about a paper coming out from a scientist here in Cal-tech about an extinction event 420 million years ago that may be tied to climate change. In the tropical seas of the time a 5 degree change seems to have triggered this extinction that wiped out 3/4 of all species on the planet. Now I listened very carefully and heard it very clearly, he said 5 degree Celsius. But how many people really listen to that? Every other degree temperature said on the radio including the one on the recent snow storm in Dallas that shut down the airport for the first time since 9-11 was on Fahrenheit. It's a nice and pleasant 54 degrees Fahrenheit in North Hollywood today. But a freezing 12 degrees Celsius …