Tuesday assorted links

by on February 17, 2015 at 1:57 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. What kind of deflation is coming to Spain?

2. Johnny L. Matson, editor.

3. I say it is cruel to kick your robotic dog.  (Please note that the associated video is disturbing, though safe for work.)

4. Will we see law firm IPOs?

5. Is it hard to reform disability insurance?  I say wanting to do so is step one.

6. Via Greg Mankiw, a Kuznets heir is selling his Nobel Prize.

7. Six Straussian readings of Fifty Shades of Grey: “Grace’s name is clearly a nod to Alec Trevelyan, James Bond’s antagonist in GoldenEye and the defining cultural representation of post-Cold War Russian treachery in the Anglo-American mind.”

1 Nick L February 17, 2015 at 2:06 pm

#3 So is it cruel to kick my car, or does this only apply to things that look like real animals

2 Mark Thorson February 17, 2015 at 2:17 pm

If it howls in pain and cowers in a corner of the garage, then yes.

3 josh February 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm

I can’t tell if you are joking or not. I don’t think Tyler is, which is pretty stupid.

4 So Much for Subtlety February 17, 2015 at 7:40 pm

If it howls in pain and cowers in a corner of the garage, then yes.

What if I program it so that it howls in pain and cowers in a corner of the garage – and begs for more? Is a Fifty Shades of Grey-style of relationship allowable with your robot car even if there is no freedom of choice in it as far as the robot is concerned?

It is time for robosexuals to come out of the closet I think. It will be the next big wave of liberation. I think we need to firmly reject robosexualphobia!

5 John February 18, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I think the point, howls/cowers, is a good one. Not persay for the robot (presumed inanimate here) but for people: we should not suggest that type of personality is desirable. It may be that the second-best outcome we can hope for is getting such mindsets to focus on the inanimate rather than the animate but best is that those behaviors don’t play out at all.

Of couse the other solution, I one I suspect is in the plans, is to provie a better mount for the robot so when kick it can bite back.

6 JWatts February 17, 2015 at 2:34 pm

“3. I say it is cruel to kick your robotic dog. ”

Reference: Anthropomorphism

Also, is it wrong to cuss in front of your plants?

7 So Much for Subtlety February 17, 2015 at 3:27 pm

But is it wrong to have a BDSM-based relationship with your tomato patch? Or the garden in general. Is it wrong to tie up your peas? Beat your olive tree with a stick? And do things with a knife I don’t even want to mention on a family-oriented blog.

8 Mark Thorson February 17, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Tomato plant? Only if the e-meter indicates overts and/or withholds.


9 Nick_L February 17, 2015 at 3:32 pm

The SPCR would be concerned – see http://www.aspcr.com/

10 JWatts February 17, 2015 at 5:24 pm

I for one welcome are soon to be Robotic Overlords and would like to humbly point out that I was against Robot abuse from the very start.

11 JWatts February 17, 2015 at 5:26 pm

…our soon to be Robotic Overlords…

12 Mark Thorson February 18, 2015 at 1:28 am

. . . our excellent Robotic Overlords . . .

13 Paul February 18, 2015 at 2:37 am

>>is it wrong to cuss in front of your plants?

That depends. If you think it’s wrong only because of social approbation, then you’re likely conceding that cussing is not wrong in and of itself and so, no, it wouldn’t be wrong to cuss in front of your plant. But usually we tend to think of moral questions as possessing a degree of independence from specific situations and consequences (lest the ends become a way to justify means). So, cussing could be wrong because it displays a lack of originality and cleverness, because it improperly frames a given situation, or because you think other responses preferable. I’m a prude when it comes to cussing because it seems more like a nervous tick than a genuine expression of frustration as for example from the few bits of writing I’ve come across from 50 Shades of Grey. I’d prefer to save my cuss words for when it’s warranted and most effectively delivered–and at those points, they’re the only correct words to use. To my plants, I can’t imagine when that circumstance would come.

Cruelty is a quality of the actor/agent and not the object. If you think kicking things with the intent of causing damage is evidence of a violent impulse, then acting out on a telephone pole, a robot, or even the air is evidence for that. Otherwise, you end up defending the impulses of the doctor who went to med school simply because he enjoys cutting people and that profession provided a sanctioned outlet for his impulse.

Granted, there are degrees of cruelty: kicking Spot is less cruel than kicking a baby, but it’s hard to say it’s not on that continuum.

The cruelty of kicking this robot is small and there is sufficient warrant in the action for the purposes of testing, verifying, filming, and publicly confirming a demonstration as a result. But if the new national pastime became a game of kicking a robotic dog to see who could deliver an unrecoverable kick, that would warrant careful study to see if it became an accurate marker of psychopathy.

Challenge for those who disagree: suppose someone unintentionally bred a strain of high-strung non-housebroken pink teacup poodles (can we all agree that high-strung non-housebroken pink teacup poodles are already on the cusp of deserving a good kicking?) that was born without any pain receptors, would it be cruel to kick the pup with the intent of causing pain to demonstrate that it could indeed feel no pain? That, too, is in the continuum of what we saw in this video.

14 Nick L February 18, 2015 at 12:40 pm

According to your definition of cruelty, it’s cruel for a wrecking crew to tear down a building.

15 btdnyc February 17, 2015 at 5:24 pm

I suppose it is only cruel to kick your *self-driving* car.

I would teach my 2 year old not to kick my robot dog but that has nothing to do with cruelty to the robot dog.

16 JC February 17, 2015 at 5:39 pm

At least it did not make the trending topic list…

17 Mark Thorson February 17, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Someone should kick the robot that makes that list.

18 ChacoKevy February 17, 2015 at 9:13 pm

I think the Onion has already answered your question. Warning at link: Video/Language

19 asdfG February 17, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Re #4

It’s mentioned at the end of the article, but just to reiterate it can’t and won’t happen because non-lawyers can’t have an ownership interest in law firms in any state in the union and the bar isn’t likely to change those rules anytime soon.

The best you are likely to see is some sort of creative debt financing that skirts the ownership rules while allowing some sort of upside participation.

20 JWatts February 17, 2015 at 2:39 pm

“because non-lawyers can’t have an ownership interest in law firms ”

This seems to be a form of blatant discrimination. Are there many laws limiting ownership in medical practices to doctors? Or accounting firms to CPAs?

21 Todd February 17, 2015 at 2:50 pm

Direct ownership by a non-doctor in a medical practice is forbidden, just like law firms. Of course, banks can and do provide loans to such professional organizations.

22 asdfG February 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm

I don’t know if you are making a fairness argument or a legal one. If the latter, under Lee Optical, a state government can discriminate in commercial laws or rules not touching on suspect or quasi-suspect classes, so long as they have any rational basis at all for doing so.

That case dealt with opticians complaining that an Oklahoma law discriminated against them in favor of optometrists and ophthalmologists and the court basically said we don’t care.

23 Tom West February 17, 2015 at 2:29 pm

(5) The inability to distinguish between “I don’t want to get up and go to work” from “I can’t get up and go to work” make disability reform impossible (except for obvious physical disabilities, which seem to be a minority of cases).

Right now, we our system is mostly “make it so difficult to get benefits that most people who aren’t disabled won’t bother”, which *is* slightly better than rolling a die to determine validity, but requires that claimants have the mental wherewithal to persist to the process.

24 Michael February 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm

The problem is that we are making it easier to get disability, and the uptake is increasing.

I don’t buy the article, primarily because it ignores some of the most commonsense and difficult to oppose reforms– most notably, requiring periodic re-certifications that one requires disability. IIRC, a one-time re-certification last year in Great Britian resulted in a significant drop in the disability rolls.

Another commonsense reform is to require the disability certification to be performed by a physician who is not their treating physician. Many docs work hard to build rapports with patients to get them to exercise/quit smoking/quit drinking/actually take their meds, etc, they they will certify in order to avoid conflict. The treating physician should make a diagnosis only, with a confirmation from an unrelated third party for the actual disability approval.

Mostly though, reforms can be made non-legislatively through reforms inside of SSDI. For example, my physician wife filled out a disability form saying “the patient can work if they take their meds”, and the disability was approved anyway. The incentives on the bureaucrats doing final approvals is to approve permanent disability: it gets their stats, up, patients off their desk, and limits irate phone calls. Simple reform concentrating on their incentive structure could do wonders.

25 JonFraz February 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Except it isn’t particularly easier to get disability. Pretty much anyone not severely paralyzed or on their death bed will be turned down initially. Generally, it requires the assistance of a lawyer, and months of appeals. The increase in disability roles is largely due to A) the aging of the population and B) the crappy job market which results in people who are turned down continuing to try since they have to other options.

One reform that would be worthwhile would be to make it easier for people to transition off disability if they do improve: rather than a hard cut-off instead allow a phase-out of benefits– and an easier reapplication if in fact the person gets worse again. Also, we need to make sure that medical coverage remains seamless in such transitions– allow Medicare coverage to continue for,say, a year, with the payment income pro-rated premiums. And also, repeal any restrictions on formerly disabled people receiving unemployment if they are subsequently laid off– some states have as long as a seven year exclusion on collecting benefits, which is lunatic.

26 ummm February 17, 2015 at 2:30 pm

3. i wonder what Issac Asimov would say

27 NeedleFactory February 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm

I suspect I know what Leda Cosmides and John Tooby would say: humans have not yet psychologically evolved appropriate emotional responses to robots.

28 Zeitgeisty February 17, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Straussian readings are not the same things as metaphorical readings.

But then again, I’m certain that that Vox writer wouldn’t be capable of reading and summarizing a single page of Strauss’ Natural Right and History (for example) if his sneering career depended on it.

29 SPENCER February 17, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Is the Spanish deflation that different from what the US is experiencing?

The US core CPI for goods peaked in June 2012 and actually appears to be accelerating to the downside in 2014.

30 JWatts February 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm

“Spanish housing offers us a clear example of something whose price has fallen considerably, around 40% since the 2007 peak, and whose price continues to fall (currently in the 3% to 5% per annum range).”

Yes, it’s quite a bit different.

31 Meets February 17, 2015 at 5:30 pm

#3 We shouldn’t be able to shoot and kick dogs in video games either.

It’s desensitizing!

32 RR February 17, 2015 at 6:06 pm

6. Perhaps the heir is putting a true “economic ” value on the Prize. Might make him the Nobelest winner of them all.

33 Todd Kreider February 17, 2015 at 6:37 pm

“SFW” is so late 90s, 2000s.

Sigh… Tyler really should enter the 21st century at some point. I’m optimistic that he will and be quite interesting when he takes the leap.

34 rayward February 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm

4. Who’s your advocate? Well-trained lawyers are advocates of their clients’ interests, not their own interests. Sure, the interests intersect but they are not identical. When you engage an investment adviser, is she promoting her interests or your interests? It may seem anachronistic, or even naive, to think that someone you do business with is primarily concerned about promoting your interests and not her own interests. But that’s the tradition of the well-trained lawyer. Professionalism has long since passed from accounting, as accountants seek to sell their clients everything from accounting services to securities to life insurance. With lawyers, self-promotion in the form of advertising was the beginning of the end for professionalism in law. The end is the law firm owned by investors rather than professionals.

35 Judah Benjamin Hur February 18, 2015 at 1:33 am

#6 Does the “title” go along with the medal? (if you haven’t noticed, “Nobel prize winning/something” is always included in the same sentence as a recipient’s name, no matter the context). At the very least, you could wear it everyday, telling people to “look at my Nobel Prize medal.” That would be cool. Go all out and buy an Oscar statuette, a Super Bowl ring, and a Scottish title.

36 The Anti-Gnostic February 18, 2015 at 8:38 am

#4 – it will probably happen. Like somebody commented at the linked article, large law firms represent large public companies which are swimming in cash, and they want in. LLC’s used to be prohibited; debt-financing of litigation used to be prohibited; advertising used to be prohibited.

37 ChrisA February 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm

On the deflation analysis by Hugh – totally agree that deflation in Spain is not a good thing. But it is not a good thing not in it self, but in what it signifies which is a very significant lack of demand. Hugh is making fun of people who are welcoming the deflation as a good thing for shoppers. Which is kind of missing the point – it is actually a good thing for shoppers. Also I don’t like his description of deflation as being caused or sustained by habits of shoppers. Shoppers are always looking for bargains – that is what they do. It’s like criticizing bankers for being greedy. Shoppers have always looked for bargains and bankers have always been greedy; what has changed is monetary conditions, not shopping habits.

On the kicking robot dogs – another example of how morality is just a genetic kludge to get a small band of hunter gathers to cooperate rather than murdering each other if they got the chance. But you can’t fight your genetic programming, or that of others – so if robots do become very close to humans, we can expect that they will be granted rights and protections against violence. The only way to avoid this would be make it illegal to make close simulations of humans. For instance it is illegal to make photographically identical images of of children being sexually abused – even if no children were harmed or even involved in the making of the images, we can extrapolate that this will occur with robots as well. Just realize that this is not “rational” in the sense of analysis starting from some moral principle, such analysis is not possible, or at least not defensible from another such rational analysis. So please don’t bother.

38 Floccina February 18, 2015 at 4:44 pm

#5 the first step in to allow the recipients to work full time.

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