Wednesday assorted links


"Will self-driving cars have windscreen wipers?"

Why do airliners still have windows for passengers, when passengers obviously don't need them?

Why do houses have windows?

And why are there no windows in truck trailers, or in the cargo area of air cargo planes?

Well, airliners and houses have windows because people like windows. And my guess is that people also like being able to see out the windscreen of a moving car, even if there's no technical need for them to do so.

There are no windows for cargo because cargo does not care about such things, but, people don't much appreciate being treated like cargo.

So, my guess is that the wipers on Google's cars are going to make a comeback.

I wouldn't think it is controversial for houses to have windows. My office building is basically four big windows and a roof. The benefit is from energy efficiency apparently. Having windows isn't always about needing to see.

Energy efficiency???

Windows are heavy and expensive. A car without windows would be cheaper and more fuel efficient. If you want to see outside, an outside camera and an interior display screen could give you that. In a generation, even that will become something old people want, like phonebooks and paper newspapers.

Think of the summer heat, man!

Wouldn't it be better to lack windows in the summer heat? The windows are just fighting the air conditioner.

That said, windows are probably necessary for a lot of people to avoid motion sickness, and I'm not sure displays will take care of that.

Well, for starters, you can usually open windows to improve air circulation. Having spent a lot of time inside vehicles that don't have windows in them, they also seem to reduce motion sickness.

You still need windows that open to go through drive throughs.

It's actually much easier than you think to look out the window without windshield wipers. When the windshield is completely covered with water, you have a image that blurs marginally, depending on wind. It's only when it's covered with water spots in some areas and clear in others that things are most confusing.

To be fair, neither house windows nor plane windows have wipers.

House windows tend to be vertical, gravity works really well here. Plane windows tend to be parallel to the air flow, air is the wiper. Car windshield is not vertical and perpendicular to air flow, it needs wipers.

#5- Poland hates China? Had no idea. Is it because they're nominally communist? Any Poles care to chime in on this one?

Here's a better link with the full picture and some explanation:

"The top suggested search for Poland asks why it hates China, with most results linking to an essay cataloging a range of slights extending from the 1919 Paris Peace Conference to the 2008 Beijing Olympics."

There are some weird subtexts on that map. I imagine a US map with the states would be even more hilarious. I can't imagine that your average Chinese knows very much about most of the US states. Ergo, the misconceptions would probably be ripe.

I believe the first subway cars were built without windows because the designers could not imagine that anyone would be interested in seeing the inside of a tunnel. Consumers quickly demanded windows, and every subway car you've ever been on probably has windows.

Driverless cars will have windshield wipers by the time they are rolled out to the mass market.

Wouldn't early cars have needed windows so people could see the station names? Today you might get by with reader boards and announcements but in the early days of subways that wasn't an option.

They could put a conductor on each car to announce the stop. I don't know if they did, but obviously they had something.

Could probably get by with some sort of rain guards or even rain repellant. Will not need to see perfectly out the window, but for safety reasons people at least need to be able make out what is happening outside.

#4. Not fully automated -- just the ordering and payment (which could be done almost any existing restaurant and probably will be soon enough)

pretty soon, a human waiter will be a "luxury" signal

I'm pretty sure that's been true since the advent of fast food. Why else do you think NYT writers look down on McDonald's?

let me count the ways....

Well, servers may still come to deliver your food and clear away the dishes, but they'll no longer do the whole 'servant theater' thing of taking your order by dictation, running it back to the kitchen, then bringing the bill, picking up the credit card, and finally bringing the bill back for a signature. For me, all that wasteful nonsense can't disappear fast enough.

Some restaurants already have credit card kiosks at the table. It shouldn't be hard to add ordering to that as well.

No steering wheel, no pedal, only goes 25 mph, stops for pedestrians....I hope the google algorithm knows which hoods to not drive through

Would there be a point in carjacking a self-driving car?

jack the passengers

Not if the car has MagnaVolt

My fear is that self-driving vehicles will in many cases turn into "party buses" for some people. The kind of people who now drive through residential neighborhoods with window rattling stereos complete indifferent to the people living there or people walking by. I have a feeling we'll see some people outfitting there cars to be rolling advertisements of their personal tastes in music and liquor.

There's not reason they can't do the music now, but I see the liquor thing blowing up. Good idea!

Re #4 Chinese GDP: I think it's time to move on from vague discussion of whether Chinese GDP numbers have or haven't been broadly right (I'm pretty sure they were, I strongly doubt they currently are) and narrow in on specifics of where they're most suspicious and why. That said I don't have the answers.

Another thing that China GDP obsessives should consider is that real GDP is blind to some of the problems China has with overcapacity driving down prices. If one year you make a million producing ten million widgets, and the next year you lose two million making twelve million widgets, while your production methods and proportion of imported inputs were stable, your contribution to real GDP rose 20%.

It's worth just eyeballing the trend of China NGDP growth in yuan and dollar terms. Even the official numbers show a dramatic slowdown.

"Already, cars from several automakers have technology that can warn or even take over for a driver, whether through advanced cruise control or brakes that apply themselves."

If such cruise control systems already exist, it seems like a relatively simple step to allowing cities to strictly enforce speed and acceleration limits via GPS. Image a system where a city could define a territory where cars are severely limited in order to have more equitable sharing of the public travel ways with pedestrians and bikes. This could be done now, with existing technology, while keeping the driver behind the wheel.

Within high density zones even the current 25mph speed limit (which is very often ignored) seems way too high. Frankly, withing city limits I'd like to see passenger vehicles restricted to have the profile of basically golf carts, max 15mph and relatively low acceleration. 15mph is the effective speed limit in cities anyway for the most part; it's just that most people race up to the next stop light. This sort of system would also allow a fleet of shareable low speed (maybe actual golf carts) vehicles sharing the road with automobiles.

Once outside the city limits, drive as fast as you want.

But you can't generate fines that way.

I wonder how much surreptitious lobbying police departments have done against self-driving cars.

Even setting aside all the other disruptions from self driving cars, the things will ruin most city and local budgets. I can't wait.

And, why is 25 mph too fast? Those limits are largely based on human reaction times (to the extent that they are based on anything real at all). I expect speed limits to necessarily increase, if for no other reason than they are generally absurdly low already, and self driving cars will make the gap even more obvious. But, I guess there's no underestimating the obstructive power of self-important local bureaucrats.

I think I agree. Assuming self-driving cars work out, they'll effectively lower the costs of having cars. So we'll get more cars, especially in cities where the ability to send the car off to park would be a godsend.

"If such cruise control systems already exist, it seems like a relatively simple step to allowing cities to strictly enforce speed and acceleration limits via GPS."

There's no need for advanced cruise control for that -- a GPS-linked speed governor would be no trouble at all, technically. But it won't happen because most people would hate it and politicians who approved it would lose elections.

"15 mph is the effective speed limit in cities anyway for the most part; it’s just that most people race up to the next stop light."

I think you need to visit more cities because that's not an accurate statement for most American cities.

The average speed might be 15MPH but that's only because traffic lights are so poorly timed in many places.

I found this site:

Atlanta: Average 30 MPH
Nashville: 32
The worst on the list is NYC: 17.6

Without actually crunching the numbers, it looks like the median city on the list is roughly 30 MPH.

In Florida there are no roundabouts nor synchronized traffic lights. It drives me mad. Friends from Italy actualy burst in laughter seeing how desperately slow is the traffic, even with four lane roads and a 45mph speed limit.

My prediction is that within cities it will become illegal to manually drive your own car, because traffic jams are caused by (among other things) subtle variation in speeds from human drivers. See the shock wave created at . Queueing theory shows that a constant speed results in the fewest backups.

Driving as we know it will become a pleasure that is allowed only outside of cities--until it is shut down entirely. People will look back on our time and wonder how we allowed behavior that resulted in thousands of deaths every year.

It's worse than that. Not only will human-driven cars need to be banned, but so will human pedestrians. Because pedestrians will start jaywalking with impunity, knowing that the more-than-human capabilities of the driverless car will prevent the car from hitting them. It won't take much of that to totally disrupt the ability of the driverless cars to actually get anywhere.

That's exactly how pedestrians behave already in Boston -- if you pause because you're afraid a pedestrian will step in front of your car, that's the signal that you're the timid sucker and not only that pedestrian but the rest of the pedestrians who want to cross will exploit your timidity by rushing into the street and preventing you from moving forward. As a driver, you have to show that you know that you have the right of way and are going to use it, by keeping your forward motion.

The only solution that I can see if draconian enforcement of traffic laws, not just against the drivers described in the article, but the pedestrians as well. It'll be like those cameras at traffic lights, except it will be every street, every driver, and every pedestrian being watched all the time. Because that's the only way that I can see to prevent pedestrians from totally clogging the driverless cars.

#1: Why would the insides of self-driving cars have "anything" at point-of-sale? I would think the insides will become highly customized with some sort of interface standard to attach furniture, etc. Autos come full circle back to the days of engine manufacturing and coach outfitters like in the days of old.

#6 Trump and immigration

>They might even take comfort from examples in history of nearly impregnable walls. East Germany managed to close itself off from the West from 1961 to 1989 with an effectiveness of 95 percent.

>It was expensive, though. It took nearly 30,000 guards to defend a boundary less than half the length of the Mexico-United States border. Border guards used land mines and shot to kill. They got help from the Stasi, monitoring every aspect of East Germans’ lives.

Wouldn't be surprised if this is what the Trumpeteers will end up arguing for, given that they seem to more or less be the modern equivalent of the waves of support for fascist and authoritarian governance that swept Europe in the '30s. And all for a problem that is in no way an actual problem, unless the sight of brown people causes you physical pain, at which point your status should probably be lowered into the negative digits anyway.

Donald Trump's ideas on immigration control strike me as largely unworkable. However, that whole political meme of attempting to classify everyone who wants to decrease illegal immigration into the US as a Racist is some of the worst demagoguery ever.

"the worst demagoguery ever". Strike the word "ever". I should have said, "some of the worst demagoguery in modern American politics".

Racism is a spectrum, and I don't think it is unfair to place those who are frightened or angry at "foreigners" as being on that spectrum. And in any case, if we're talking specifically about Trumpeteers, I think its telling that actual Racists(TM) are coming out in support of him. I.e. check out the recent New Yorker piece titled "The Fearful and the Frustrated" about the views of white nationalists on Trump and the larger political changes happening in the West around issues of nationality and race.

I don't think it is telling or in any way surprising that racists are against immigration or support Trump as a result.

That said, it does not make you a racist because you oppose unlimited illegal immigration. If it did, that would make pretty much everyone in the world racist including Mexicans. A points-based immigration system like Canada's or Australia's makes a lot more sense. Particularly considering the differential outcomes experienced by each type of immigrant over 3-4 generations.

"I think its telling that actual Racists(TM) are coming out in support of him."

It's telling that you are so prone to falling for a logical fallacy.

My guess if someone pointed out that the La Raza supported Hillary Clinton as proof that her policies were racist, you'd think that was absurd.

"Racism is a spectrum, and I don’t think it is unfair to place those who are frightened or angry at “foreigners” as being on that spectrum."

Saying that racism is a spectrum is a rhetorical device that would get people labelled a racist for the most minute reasons. You're white and you'd like to marry someone white? That's on the spectrum, and enough for others to label you a racist.

The ambiguity allowed by claiming racism is a spectrum would allow one to find racists anywhere and everywhere, sort of like the "communists under the bed" scares of the Cold War.

Arjun sounds like he's a racist for his own racial group. It's perfectly understandable human nature to try to benefit your own people by namecalling other people to get them to give up what's their's, but it's dumb to fall for such lowbrow trick.

given that they seem to more or less be the modern equivalent of the waves of support for fascist and authoritarian governance that swept Europe in the ’30s.

Historical illiteracy is a spectrum as well, and you score highly on it.

He might be better off paying people to stay in Mexico. A USA funded BIG for Mexico and Central America. Coase's theorem. It might be cheaper and more effective.
I am not completely serious though.I doubt it would work.

I seem to dimly remember the fascist and authoritarian movement that built the wall is the same one you shill for.

Sumner's response to Balding (in the comment section) is pretty weak. Balding at least backs his case up with actual research. Sumner's response is that the economic data must be broadly correct because hes been to China and here are some impressive pictures. As if Sumner's Chinese vacations could tell him if their GDP was 9% or only 8%.

"3. First fully automated restaurant, "

That's really not accurate. The design shown is functionally similar to automated diners from the 1910's. Known as Automat's. Indeed, the pictures from the 1912 NY Automat, look like a fancier version of the Eatsa minus the iPads.

"Eventually, more than 40 Automats and cafeterias opened in New York. ... At its peak, Horn & Hardart, through its Automats, the waiter-less cafeterias that often accompanied them and its retail shops, was feeding as many as 750,000 people a day. ...With no cash registers, the cost of several courses was never computed."

Wow, great addendum!

Great find. See, it's ok to correct our esteemed host.

Due to continuing budget cutbacks, my high school eliminated its on-site kitchen staff and switched to an automat-style cafeteria. This was decades ago, but even then the signs on the machines were getting faded, so instead of "COLD FOOD" and "COFFEE" they appeared to read "OLD FOOD" and "OFFEL". One evening teachers from other schools in the district had a meeting in the cafeteria and noticing the signs, one of them said to another "I'd rather eat old food than offal".

Some of the cafeterias in the Smithsonian Institution used to have a version of the automats; the food wasn't behind glass doors, instead it was on a big rotating carousel and when you saw what you wanted you grabbed it and put it on your tray. And then took your tray to a cashier as in a regular cafeteria. Halfway to the concept of kaiten-zushi, those restaurants that serve sushi on conveyor belts.

That NY Times article did a remarkable job of researching (or remembering) popular cultural history. I was unfamiliar with most of the example, but I do remember the scene they cited from "That Girl" where Marlo Thomas, lacking money, tried to make tomato soup from hot water and ketchup at an automat. A co-worker mentioned that same scene, out of the blue a few weeks ago. So that scene, and perhaps automats in general, seem to have a strong grip on our memories. Except maybe for Tyler's.

2. Being able to see out of car windows helps prevent motion sickness, or at least it does for many people. Not having windcreen wipers is not a huge problem as people are still likely to pick up enough visual cues to prevent nausea, but it certainly wouldn't help. Some people even like to drive rather than be a passenger specifically to help prevent motion sickness. So until a sure fire cure for motion sickness is developed, there is always likely to be those who will prefer a car with a steering wheel and other manual controls, even if the car always automatically takes over when ever there is a hint of danger.

Controlling the vehicle sure helps with motion sickness in small airplanes

2. Will self-driving cars have windscreen wipers?

I need one now! My 89 year old mother is refusing to stop driving. I have an appointment with her MD to try to convince her or pull the license. The DOT was no help.

I keep warning folk that they are wasting time even thinking about self-driving cars in this decade. The real AI necessary for one, one where you can go to sleep, or sit in the back with champagne, not needing to look out the windscreen, are decades away.

This week people are "surprised" that self-driving cars are dumb, and easy to confuse. Go figure.

Remember the similar cycle a few years ago, when everyone misunderstood 3d printers, and thought that "print your own cellphone" (or steel handgun) was right around the corner?

This is a similar cycle of people not quite getting the technology, or its limitations.

Getting a car that drives itself 95% of the time is great but there's a world of difference between that and a purely autonomous self driving vehicle.

In the first case I still have to watch the road. In the second case I can take a nap.

Unless you actually work at GoogleX on the car it is pretty hard to understand exact how close (or far if you prefer) they are from fully autonomous driving.

#6: “Enforcement increases the cost of crossing the border but also increases the payoff, because it raises the wage of those who get through,” because there are fewer of them, Ms. Orrenius noted. (Pia M. Orrenius is an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.)

The law of supply and demand affects wages for immigrant labor, too?

Therefore, it is unquestionably in native workers' interests to support border controls.

As far as OUR costs, the fact that Germany has accepted 800,000 Syrians indicates to me the Germans clearly have no problem with foreign invasion and we are no longer needed to guard the Fulda Gap. So there's 38,000 troops freed up to patrol the US-Mexican border right there. There's also another 49,000 in Japan. 11,000 in Kuwait.

We could lock that border down tighter than Israel's.

I'd rather interpret the whole immigrant vs. native wages debate to mean, "It is unquestionably in 'native' workers' interests to organize with their immigrant comrades for their rights to fight for better wages, better working conditions, and civil rights". This also means that downward pressures on wages are reduced, with the added bonus that you don't have to rely on nationalist and xenophobic mentalities.

I applaud your idealism, Arjun. I believe that you mean well.

But how would this proposed set of labor regulations prevent the next set of undocumented workers from entering the newly reformed labor market -- and violating these new regulations too?

Put another way, how would the hypothetical reforms you enact be any more defensible than current federal law against the next wave of undocumented workers who are more than willing/able to undercut it?

It kind of looks like this hypothetical coalition of native workers and their immigrant comrades would be putting itself into pretty much the same situation the Border Patrol is in now: enforcing a set of regulations which millions of new immigrants would prefer to defy.

What am I missing? Would such an arrangement really work? Where is it working in the world today?

Thank you.

In my mind, native-immigrant coordination isn't about creating new sets of regulations; it is about creating those networks and organizations that can fight for *all* workers' rights, regardless of nationality or immigration status. So its not about pushing for top-down reforms, so much as bottom-up organizing that cuts across borders and nations. So in my organizing framework, the "next wave of undocumented workers" would have an avenue to join up with such organizations, as well as have better legal statuses from which to also struggle for rights on their own terms. Given the benefits of collective action, I do not see why new immigrants would inherently prefer to defy and undercut wages; at that point, you just have the same problem as any union that has to deal with scabs during a strike.

The larger point I think you are kinda getting at is how to deal with people desperate for any sort of wage in an economy with limited jobs willing to work for lower wages in secret, and this is a tricky point, and raises a lot of different cans of worms with regards to the feasibility of "full employment" and deficits in our political and economic institutions. All I'll say for now is that I think transnational mass organizing is a necessary step in order to deal with those deficits and those larger questions of "full employment".

Ultimately the division you make between between scabs and workers is exactly the same as the one you criticise between undocumented vs documented workers. You have just moved the whole debate into a moral sphere that you recognise and assume the problem vanishes. For nativists undocumented workers are self evidently bad in the same way as you believe scabs to be. Furthermore unions generally propose the same measures to deal with scabs that Trumpists propose. A combination of Non-state interventions (pickets, fences, violence, public lobbying) and or (state interventions Deportation etc). Again there is no difference.

@ Dough

Actually I *don't* think that scabs deserve moral blame, but I was very unclear on that point so I apologize. In fact I am inclined to blame unions and the left for not working harder to address those questions of "full employment" that I mention that leads to the very conditions where scabbery emerges.

I do agree that unions and anti-immigrants tend to adopt the same mentality toward scabs and immigrants, and this exclusionary mentality is precisely what needs to be fought. It is an uphill battle, to be sure; American unions seem to have long been entrenched in xenophobia and racism, the low point being during the Civil Rights Movement when white workers went on strike *against* their fellow Black workers when they started agitating for equal rights and against discrimination.

I like the idea, Anti-gnostic, but I've always thought the cheapest way to block illegal immigration would be to use large fines to punish businesses which employ illegals. Offer anyone (legal or otherwise) who reports an employer who is employing illegals half the amount of the total fine (say, 50k per illegal) charged against the employer. So if a business employes 50 illegals, it has to pay a 2.5 million dollar fine, and the first illegal to defect against their employer gets $1.25 million, plus a first-class, one-way ticket back to the old country. They'll turn on their employers really quickly, and employers will just as quickly take legal residency verification very seriously.

The fact that we haven't done something like that is an indication of how seriously the leadership of the country takes the issue. The Democrats want the votes and the Republicans don't want to upset the large employers. The lower working class gets caught in the squeeze with increased competition for their labor and downward pressure on their wages.

It's why Trump is doing so well despite his poorly thought out ideas. Many people think he might actually do something.

Some people (myself included) have long wondered if the beginning of American's relative decline on the global stage would be exacerbated by precisely such thinking.

#2, they don't have wipers because they don't work in the rain.

It's true these cars have a long way to go, but that article is a year old, maybe they've handled it?

6. I notice that the first five paragraphs advance an ad hominem attack on those who might not agree that illegal immigration is a good thing. The New York Times is not a good source for reasoned argument.

Or economic literacy. If tighter border controls raise the payoff for making it into the country, that must mean that those who do make it get higher wages than formerly, which means that the illegal immigrants are exerting less downward pressure than formerly on white working-class wages. So the white working class is right to support those border controls.

But I don't expect Prof. Cowen to employ economic analysis when it conflicts with political correctness. You could take a lantern to any number of university campuses, and you wouldn't find that kind of intellectual integrity.

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