Assorted links

by on July 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm in Web/Tech | Permalink

1. Blog of MIT Professor Erik Brynjolfsson, a very smart guy.

2. Video of Conan Doyle, talking about Sherlock Holmes and supernaturalism.

3. Markets in everything: ice cream truck for dogs.

4. Driverless vehicles from Italy to China?

5. Will eating green really help the environment?

6. Natasha's Twitter feed.

7. What do most people argue about in the car?

8. What spending cuts are the British preparing?

9. DeLong on Rogoff (progress in dialogue).

Michael F. Martin July 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Re Doyle: Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George is a very good read.

Andrew July 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm

“if, economy-wide, 10 per cent of the spending that ought to be there is missing”

And exactly how much spending ‘ought’ to be there?

Andrew July 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm

And my thing with the 50 year budget projection. They think that if they simply shift the cost of healthcare away from the government (which would be quite a feat in itself) that’s the end of it. Even if they succeed shifting it off the government’s books, they haven’t actually done anything, unless they truly agree that a lot of government spending is total waste and will just disappear once it is no longer subsidized.

rob July 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm

This may be hansonian, but I’m guessing that navigation related arugments in the car are not really about navigation.

floccina July 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I would rejoice at a car that could drive itself only on USA interstates? It seems we are getting close to that.
I wonder if the interstates were in private hands if we would have that already. It might make for more profits for raod owners in that a driverless lane would allow more traffic per lane. Perhaps cars could be pushed along by LIMs (linear induction motors). Hey maybe a investment in such could help balance the budget.

Bill Stepp July 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Why do you take DL seriously? He famously wrote that housing prices wouldn’t fall, then erased his post about that. Yet he thinks he can predict stuff decades out, something no normal person thinks anyone can do, even those who thought there was a housing bubble near a breaking point a few years ago.
Why not call him to account the next time he calls for closing down the New York Times, Washington Post, etc.? Or is that okay?

US July 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Finished the first third of The Complete Sherlock Holmes collected works a week ago – just loved that Conan Doyle link, thank you!

E. Barandiaran July 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Tyler, I’m in the Bay Area for a few weeks just to be away from the cold winter in the Andes. I’m spending most of my time in Piedmont and Berkeley and I have yet to see significant differences with my Summer 09 visit. There are a lot of houses and apartments empty –yes, I know their owners and tenants are on vacation somewhere, as they were last Summer. Berkely’s coffee shops close to the campus –including those on Euclid St.– are as crowded or as emptied as usual depending on the time you pass by or visit them. Last Saturday I visited SF and it was as crowed as last Juy –a lot of tourists in the streets and a lot of locals in Market St.’s shopping centers and stores. Indeed I cannot say whether there were spending more or less than last year.
No change, but no hope either. I can tell you similar stories about my many summers in Argentina –my country’s has been declining slowly for decades despite the many big ups and downs that from time to time were in the front page of the international press. California is not suffering because of the Great Recession –it has caught Argentina’s structural disease (high risks of hyper-inflation and government default have always been measures of the gravity of our problems but not causes of the disease).

TGGP July 21, 2010 at 11:11 pm

mulp, I’ve heard that in America the rail-system is primarily dedicated to shipping freight. I don’t know how easy or difficult it would be to shift it to passengers.

JWill July 21, 2010 at 11:44 pm

#5 Eating green.

The article argues that the optimal amount of world consumption of meat is not 0%, since some land that goes to meat production would be unusable otherwise. Therefore we should all eat a little meat.

1) the math on that is more complex than you think, since to make “use” of the otherwise worthless pastureland you have to take useful fertile land and reduce its productivity immensely by using it to grow feed rather than human-edible food.

2) But ok, assume the math works out and that the true optimum amount of meat consumption is, at a societal level, something like 5% of calories (just to pick a number). That can mean that 100% of the people consume 5% of their calories from meat. Or it can mean that 5% of of people (let’s call them “Americans”) consume 100% of their calories from meat. In actuality, the world consumes enormously more of its calories in meat than is efficient. For anyone who accepts the premises of the article in the first place (that meat consumption should be at a much lower level than it is at present), they ought to reduce their consumption to considerably below the average optimum level in order to make up for those who are either too unaware of the facts or consuming more than their “fair” share.

markus July 22, 2010 at 5:06 am

# Eating green.

Strange rubric for an article that argues that the environmental benefits of eating a lot less meat are big.

Why not “Eating green will really help the environment!”

Sean July 22, 2010 at 9:02 am

@TGGP:

The answer is; ‘very’. Our passenger rail infrastructure has declined enormously in the past few decades to the point where most towns have no access and no potential access without starting from scratch. Even in places where old infrastructure is still in place, it would most likely have to be entirely rebuilt to comply with new regulation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Case in point: Commuter service from Pittsburgh to points east out to Derry, PA. (About 50 miles)

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=E+Busway&daddr=derry,+pa&hl=en&geocode=Fe8haQIde207-w%3BFYdyZwIdU_tF-ynpCr7HPjHLiTGN4ukZGxINAw&mra=pr&sll=40.372705,-79.646759&sspn=0.798271,1.234589&ie=UTF8&z=10

In this case, there is good track that currently serves freight traffic and sees two passenger trains a day going from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. Stations are in use in Greensburg and Pittsburgh, but these would both need some modification and another half dozen would need to be built from scratch as other towns along the route either no longer have a station or have seen there’s fall into such disrepair that it is no longer usable. Still, with good track in place and some other infrastructure, this is a best case scenario. Cost: $35 million. Quickest potential completion: 12 years.

Not happening any time soon.

There was a time when a person could have traveled all of the way from Derry to *Wheeling, WV* by street car, let alone proper trains. Pity we let this slip away.

IVV July 22, 2010 at 11:54 am

JWill:

Regarding your point about otherwise useless pastureland is not true. The idea is that you use the pastureland (hillsides in the Scottish Highlands for sheep and Highland cattle, for example) to fully feed the cattle. Since the animals can eat the plants growing from land that cannot economically grow food that we could survive on, it is land that is in use, freeing up land that would have gone into feed production into human-use grain production. Given a small water supply and enough insects, chickens can survive just fine in arid, forested, or even urban environments. The real trick is not trying to transform one land into another use, but to maximize the use of the land as it is. Eating meat is a very natural consequence of this best-use goal. We cannot support our present levels of meat-eating with these best-use practices, but we can achieve an environmentally responsible agricultural base and still eat meat–indeed, eating a little meat would be more responsible than eating none.

(At least, until we figure out how to take care of our nutritional needs with genetically engineered algae, fungus, and bacteria in orbital vats alone.)

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