Tuesday assorted links



"There are way to many stars on the American flag in that tee pee. " - Sheldon Cooper

#3 - "No people should be allowed to keep their culture just for themselves."

Cultures aren't immutable, but are they transferable?

cultural appropriation!11!111!1

Good call. The culture that is appropriationists.

I agree. That's why I'm leading a campaign to ban rock music and pizza bagels. We mustn't let the cultures mix!

Pizza bagels? No way. Peak of Western civilization.

Bob Marley though? Definitely need to ban him. I mean the marijuana and dreadlocks are Indian. Appropriated for sure. But how about the Rasta part? Are Ethiopians close enough to Afro-Caribbeans for this not to be appropriation? Marley was almost certainly of West African origin. Not that closely related to Ethiopians. But they all come from Africa. Is this acceptable? Are Afro-Caribbeans more oppressed than South Asians and Ethiopians? I think that would be the social justice criteria.

In the meantime, this sort of thing can be harmless:


Or slightly more serious:


But there is a vast middle ground where it is hard to tell. Edward Said invented himself as an oppressed Palestinian refugee even though his links to the mass of Palestinians was weak. He certainly was not a refugee. But for professional reasons it certainly suited him to cloak himself, as a Middle Class, American-passport-holding Anglophone of mainly Lebanese origin, in the suffering of the Palestinians.

But what to say about someone like Lila Abu-Lughod? Who claims to speak on behalf of the Middle East's women with books like "Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?". But in fact she is a middle class American who has very limited experience of living in the Middle East. Does have a Palestinian father though. Does that mean she is appropriating? Is this sort of thing passed down in the blood?

You didn't build it.

"2. Ashok Rao is optimistic about automation. "

That's an excellent post by Ashok. Or at least it agrees with my biases. Essentially, I fail to logically see how a heavily robotic world doesn't result in a higher average standard of living.

If someone invented a TNG-style replicator, we'd surely be all richer for it, right?

If Comcast owns all of the replicators and charges a monthly fee, probably not.


1) Patents end for a reason

2) Populism would defeat Comcast's property rights to the replicators.

"Populism would defeat Comcast’s property rights to the replicators" hahahahaha, that's a great one. aux barricades, pal.

So Comcast would be stupid if it were to spend lots of money researching replicator technology.

"If Comcast owns all of the replicators and charges a monthly fee, probably not."

The doubters always have to come up with some extremely unlikely scenario as a counter argument.

On the other hand, the internet surely would have been something if the Bell Phone System hadn't monopolized it for the last 40 years.

There was a commenter once at CalculatedRisk who argued with me that the owner of such a replicator would find it useless since no else would have an income with which to purchase either the output or the replicator itself. Probably one of Tyler's VSPs.

"I fail to logically see how a havily robotic world doesn't result in a higher average standard of livint."

Average yes, but median? I didn't read the Rao's post carefully, but some sentences indicate that he doesn't know what he is talking about, outside of econometric models: "there will be a shift in employment among the unskilled laborers from highly substitutable commodities to services that benefit from human interaction (artisans coffeeshops, massage parlors, art vendors, street artists, and botanical gardeners for example)." Is he assuming that these tasks (massage, plant management) are not automatable, or that people really prefer human interaction for most services? Most of the members of the chattering class seem to have never interacted with anyone with IQ below 100...

"Average yes, but median?"

To increase the average standard of living, but not the median, the extra robotic consumption would have to go toward the rich (or at least the above average).

Is your average rich guy really going to be buying a 5th sports car or is he more likely to pay even more money for a famous painting? It seems likely that he won't be spending all of the additional savings on more gadgets. And indeed, I think it's unlikely that the 2nd quintiles of household income would increase their spending on consumables as much as the lower 3 quintiles. They'll be more likely to increase the quality/cost of the plentiful goods they already buy, rather than buy more items.

So the other case is that all the low IQ people can't find a job that they can productively do. However the economic rule of comparative advantage says that's unlikely.

I can imagine a lot of 80 IQ gardeners in the future that boss a squad of lawn maintenance robots. Assuming that we don't get AI, the gardener will still be the most cost efficient method of handling the unforeseen but daily occurrences that would leave a robot stuck in an infinite mowing the driveway loop. It will also be an easy job. Less like the current work and much more like a modern security guard, who mostly just monitors cameras and takes a security cart on a visual site check once every two hours.

The 10% of the population with an IQ below 80, that aren't already on government stipend will be added to the disability roles. But, the cost will be a trivial addition.

And once we get true AI?

Then all bets are off.

(Assuming true AI is actually possible.)

"And once we get true AI?" ... "Then all bets are off."


Assuming true AI is actually possible.

Its not possible, I assure you.

6. I would like to see some in depth study on the optimal amount of EE measures for homes. Surely basic insulation has a positive return on investment. Do double-pane windows? What about more expensive types of insulation?

Basic insulation when planning a new home usually has a positive return on investment. For existing homes, not so much. This is because a big chunk of the cost of insulation is installation, and if you build a new home, you need those workers anyway. Then there's the fact that not everyone lives at the same latitude, some people needing less days of heating than other people.

"Surely basic insulation has a positive return on investment."

Compared to what? Most homes already have insulation. In the vast majority of cases you aren't going from 0 insulation to fully insulated. Instead you are going from R-6 (older) to R-18 in walls. And re-caulking the house. How much money are you going to save? Maybe $100-200 per year for an average home If it costs more than $2,000, it's probably not economically viable.

I mean when building a new home. Basic installation compared to none seems like it would obviously have a positive ROI.

It's a no brainer for new homes, but the government program examined in the study are for existing structures, not new building construction.

"Participating WAP households receive free energy audits and a home retrofit that typically includes some combination of insulation, window replacements, furnace replacement, and infiltration reduction."

It'll depend on the home and how old it is. I participated in such a program in AZ. My house was built in 1969. Annual savings is between $400-$600 per year so ROI is much quicker. That came mainly from insulation and sealing the ducts. I had already replaced the windows in the house the previous year (they were originals, and in one room the panes had become detached from the frames), but the energy savings there seemed to be only around $50-$100 per year. Of course, it's hard to provide specifics since the reasons for energy use fluctuates and it's hard to know exactly why it was lower. However, in both terms of money and watts, I noticed a considerable difference throughout the year especially in the summer (where 80% of the savings are) and winter.

So I think getting insulation and sealing ducts has better impact than upgrading windows, but it really depends on what your existing home has. A house built in 1969 will have a better ROI than one built in 1989 or 2001 because existing insulation in the later homes are better.

Another advantage to me is that the new insulation was also fire resistant while the old was not.

$2,000 buys a lot of caulk.

'Surely basic insulation has a positive return on investment.'

Not for the company selling the energy used for heating or cooling.

Not for the company selling the energy used for heating or cooling.

Seeing that demand for cooling it often comes at peak demand, are you sure of that?

Double pane windows significantly reduce noise from outside. Even if the energy efficiency doesn't pay off, the reduction in noise will.

My backyard overlooks America's largest urban oil field and the pumpjack's rocking and squealing is one of the most enjoyable lullabies around. It's like...civilization's feuillage.

Here they're set on a timer to turn off at night. I only have gas valves and shut offs on my property though, just a constant hiss.

Nothing about today's passing visit to the ninth and final planet in our solar system? Only Not Very Serious People will respond that Pluto is not a planet.

Pluto is the King of Dwarf Planets!

If you believe Pluto is a planet, then what, in your view, is the reason the IAU has said that Pluto is not a planet?

Attention whoring. How else are astronomers going to access the mainstream? They are probably jealous of the attention Climate "Scientists" get.

If they called Pluto a planet, they'd definitely have to call Eris a planet, and perhaps a bunch of the other Trans-Neptunian objects, and perhaps more would be discovered, and we could end up with 20 planets or something, which apparently the IAU doesn't want.

Really, Tyler, a Davies is turning into a VSP when he writes about how Greece's government has been hoarding cash this year?

The way the government has been doing this has been by “stretching its receivables” — delaying payment on any bills which could be delayed.

What does it really take to be Very Serious Person in the first place?

The lists of dos and don'ts for pushing a wheelchair was excellent. I wish I had read that list before having to do it last year for a time.

My favourite was:

Be forgiving of your passenger. They have no control and that may make them grumpy. Wheelchair

This is true. Your passenger will bite your head off with words if you screw up.

Employers in wheelchairs have no reason to suffer fools gladly. You might think they have plenty of time to become cool calm masters of their sitution, and the do, all the irritations caused by incompetent carers have an equal amount of time to grate on their nerves.

Also a good idea for passengers to be forgiving. I have pushed my elderly parents around museums, tourist traps and (worst of all) Disney World. It requires 8 eyes, iron muscles and athletic stamina. Do not get impatient if your pusher stops at the top of an incline or sits down after an hour or so. Do not bark at them if they make a sudden swerve to miss the small child that darted out of the crowd. Give them a little time to walk ahead and scout out the most unobstructed path. Let the pusher determine if they can control the chair better going forward or backward down a slope. You might not like going down backwards but you will like it a whole lot less if they lose control. And most of all, buy a chair with properly sized wheels and handles placed so your pusher will not need back surgery afterwards.

BTW, if your relative volunteer to push your wheelchair rather than rent a mobility scooter, it may reflect their broken ankles and the 37 small children you ran over during the last trip.

6. Do Energy-Efficiency Investments Deliver?*
*When targeted solely at low income customers (weatherization assistance program), when the cost/benefit includes things like health improvements where costs were counted but benefits not, in one small part of the country, during a "SPEND THE MONEY" stimulus period, assuming that natural gas prices will stay at historic lows forever.

This paper makes a few good points, but generally uses one small and extreme example to paint all energy efficiency efforts with a very broad brush, necessitating one of the authors (Fowlie) of the study to state “This is one study in one state looking at one subpopulation and one type of measure,” she says. “I would not feel comfortable generalizing from our study in Michigan.” The other authors and most newspaper headlines don't make this distinction. I look forward to more analysis of future programs that are more representative of the sector as a whole.


>So here is a challenge for anyone who believes technology will result in both unemployment and a broad-based decline in living standards for the unskilled. Describe the precise mechanism in this world that will prevent the old equilibrium – that is both preferable both for the marginal capitalist and the working class as a whole – from reemerging.

Given how resource and energy-intensive technological development is, and the fact that scientists who study ecology, climate, and oceans have been shouting for years about how our society is being increasingly unsustainable and our global economy is depleting our ecological foundations at a faster and faster rate, I think its ridiculous to ignore the ecological and energetic limits of technology and its affects on what future equilibria look like.

"Given how resource and energy-intensive technological development is...our global economy is depleting our ecological foundations at a faster and faster rate"

None of that's necessarily true. Modern manufacturing is less energy-intensive than it the norm from 40 years ago. Certainly, almost all of the software, computer industry, entertainment industry, etc, don't compare to steel and cement plants in resource and energy consumption. As farming productivity has gone up, the amount of developed land in the US has been dropping for decades.

So, that statement would have made a lot of sense in the 1970's, but it's not particularly accurate at this point. Indeed, it looks very similar to something Paul Ehrlich would have written.

> Modern manufacturing is less energy-intensive than it the norm from 40 years ago.

In some places of the world, yes; other places of the world, no. And all of this also means nothing from the perspective of ecological limits, since total production and consumption has still gone up and continues to go up, even if each unit of product is created in a more efficient manner.

>Certainly, almost all of the software, computer industry, entertainment industry, etc, don’t compare to steel and cement plants in resource and energy consumption.

This actually isn't certain at all, although I can't fault people for thinking so. The amount of energy and resources that are put into creating basic things like semiconductors is staggering--just think about what it takes to get input materials to their required purity levels, compared with basic industrial manufacturing processes. Consider this study: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es025643o

"The production chain yielding silicon wafers from quartz uses 160 times the energy required for typical silicon, indicating that purification to semiconductor grade materials is energy intensive. Due to its extremely low-entropy, organized structure, the materials intensity of a microchip is orders of magnitude higher than that of “traditional” goods."

In mass terms, its found that the mass ratio of inputs to outputs is around 1:630, compared with a 2:1 ratio for "older" goods like cars.

"don’t compare to steel and cement plants in resource and energy consumption."

"This actually isn’t certain at all, although I can’t fault people for thinking so. "

Sorry, but that's just a ridiculous statement. Sure semi-conductors are worse on a per mass basis, but that's not what I said. There is more energy and resources used on making cement every year than has been used to make every piece of semi-conductor in the last decade. Semi-conductors are measured in grams, cement is measured tonnes. That's a million to one scaling factor.

Apparently, the use of almost free (comparatively) Asian labor to produce manufactured goods for Americans (who pay for it with US dollar bills, accumulated in vast reserves in East Asia) has the precisely same effect as an almost perfect automation of manufacturing in a closed economy: in both cases labor costs are near zero.

#3: Mein Gott! Those are some pasty Germans.

The Last of the Mohicans was a very very popular book in Eastern Europe back in the days. Since there weren't many American or Western novels that were allowed to be read, this one was one of the few (along with some other Western-type novels). Same thing with movies: westerns were pretty much it. So it's quite possible this trend started back then, although I've never seen it in the wild in Eastern Europe.

The Russian picture, however, makes a bit more sense since the people there seem to be native Siberians masquerading as Native Americans; the two people being related.

I don't know about any of those people or are native anything, or about anthing making sense. But certainly that woman brandishing the Russian flag is magisterially unhappy about whetever the hell she is doing.

I couldn't help reading the energy efficiency link in light of the recent post on the behavioral analysis of regulators. Short term thinking by consumers is a typical problem in need of regulation like subsidies for energy efficient purchases (even though a perfect market would not need it). Well, I guess consumers have leaned that caveat emptor while regulators never do.

7. I get the upside of down; after all, when you're down, where else is there to go but up. That was the thesis (and title) of Megan McArdle's book, which she and Cowen discussed in a dialogue moderated by Tim Carney from AEI. Carney, impolitely, asked the two how the upside of down applied to bankers. Cowen responded with an impressive Junior League wave. McArdle responded with a long-winded answer that had nothing to do with bankers. http://www.aei.org/events/the-up-side-of-down-why-failing-well-is-the-key-to-success/ Cowen is "pessimistic" and believes that wages will continue to fall even as the economy continues to recover. The dismal science? Or the dismal economists?

#1 - Bitcoin is not really spiking up as much as the author claims, it's only at its March 2015 year high, it's been much higher. Speculative article.

Incomprehensible article.

Anyone who doubts the ubiquity of free lunches will not be surprised that the market discounted NPV on energy efficiency investments is often negative (outside of periods when borrowing rates are exceptionally low during periods when NGDP growth is below target). The important policy question is, at what carbon tax do NPV's of which investments turn positive?

#3: Native American culture and its trappings used to be a lot more popular among (white) Americans, too, before the advent of identity politics. The fading of personal hatred against the Indians after the last conquests in the 1890s lined up pretty neatly with the emergence of the USA as a great power in a European-dominated world, and the Indians were something distinctly American that could be used as a mascot. E.g. the insignia of the Second Infantry Division raised to fight in the Great War: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/2_Infantry_Div_SSI.svg/514px-2_Infantry_Div_SSI.svg.png. Now, most of that fascination is vestigial and unfashionable in America.

The Europeans dressed in what they believe to be native American regalia really aren't much different than Euro-Americans togged in parts of the uniforms of their favorite sports teams or the cosplay goofs in Japan. Apparently many people are unhappy with their own culture.

Re Davies on Greece, he seems uniquely to understand the degree of fiscal stimulus/austerity to be equal to the level of the fiscal position. Everybody I know thinks the degree of fiscal stimulus/austerity is equal to the delta of the fiscal position.

If the deal lasts we will get short-lived lump of quicker spending that you might call stimulus as arrears are cleared and actual spending catches up with the budget. But I think overall for 2015 fiscal policy will tighten relative to 2014, and that trend will continue, if the deal holds.

I agree with him that the deal wouldn't be disastrous, and that fire-sale privatization could be a very good thing (if it really happens). Not much about anything else.

#3 The flag is upside down.


"a nation's flag is commonly flown inverted as a sign of protest or contempt against the country concerned"

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