January 16, 2019

Buyers Trust Amazon's Delivery Speed



(p. B1) SEATTLE -- Olivia Zimmermann started her holiday shopping early this year, buying a Bluetooth speaker from Best Buy for her sister. It was supposed to arrive by Dec. 10 [2018], two weeks before Christmas.

The speaker never showed up -- and the post office said it had delivered the package to a different town. Best Buy apologized and offered to reship it. But Ms. Zimmermann, who works in marketing in Chicago, was over it.

"I just want a refund," she told the retailer, and then added: "At this point, I have already ordered from Amazon because I know for a fact it will be here when they say it will."

Amazon is far and away the leader in e-commerce, outpacing competitors like Walmart, Target and eBay. But its dominance is never more pronounced than in the nail-biter last-minute sprint before Christmas.

The company, based in Seattle, has had a two-decade-long obsession with shrinking the time from click to doorstep. It has built warehouses in more than 30 states and a sophisticated web of delivery methods, giving it a logistical advantage.

Amazon has used that edge to lead people to expect near instant gratification that, for a while, only it could deliver. The company built trust in its delivery speed with its Prime membership, which costs $119 a year and includes two-day shipping. This year, in the days leading up to Christmas, Amazon's share of online sales will increase by almost 50 percent -- to about half of all digital sales -- while most rivals fade, according to the market research firm Rakuten Intelligence.

"Amazon's ability to fulfill more quickly and effectively than competitors has been a key differentiator back to the earliest days," said Kenneth Cassar, an analyst with Rakuten Intelligence, which is an independent subsidiary of the Japanese e-retailer Rakuten.



For the full story, see:

Karen Weise. "'For Christmas, All They Want Is From Amazon." The New York Times (Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018): B1 & B7.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 21, 2018, and has the title "Last-Minute Shoppers Increasingly Trust Only Amazon to Deliver.")






January 15, 2019

Hollywood Should Respond When "the Audience Starts Voting with Their Feet"



(p. C1) Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Heading into the holidays, there still was no host for the 2019 Academy Awards, following the withdrawal of Kevin Hart over his controversial Twitter history. Next year's ceremony will be the 30th anniversary of the last time the Oscars went emcee-free, in 1989.

The telecast's producer, Allan Carr ("Grease," "Can't Stop the Music"), tried to fill the void by staging a kitschy opening number that is now considered the most cringe-worthy moment in awards-show history: Rob Lowe's duet with Snow White on a reworked version of "Proud Mary." (Sample lyric: "I used to work a lot for Walt Disney, starring in cartoons every night and day.")

"It's fitting and proper that we continue to honor the dark and tragic event that befell our nation 30 years later," Lowe deadpanned. "I'm particularly looking forward to the candlelight vigils."


. . .


(p. C6) Do you think the Oscars learned a lesson from this debacle?

[Sarcastically] It's always been a huge relief to me that after Snow White, the Oscars got their act together and avoided any further controversy and embarrassment. By the way, it's basically a show that nobody wants to do. It's really sad. But honestly, they've got nobody to blame but themselves.

Why do you say that?

Making movies is about the audience, and when the audience starts voting with their feet, like they have been, only people who take themselves so seriously and self-reverentially would be incapable of making the kind of changes that one would need to make to be relevant to the times.



For the full story, see:

Bruce Fretts. "'Rob Lowe Has A Last Laugh At the Oscars." The New York Times (Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018): C1 & C6.

(Note: ellipsis added; bold in original online version.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 21, 2018, and has the title "Rob Lowe on Dancing With Snow White and Getting the Last Laugh." The bold questions are by Bruce Fretts. The answers that follow are by Rob Lowe.)






January 14, 2019

Big Data Crushes "Intuition, Skill and Experience"



(p. 14) Drawing on an eclectic bunch of anecdotes and studies, Tenner makes his way through four sectors in which "intuition, skill and experience" have been effectively crushed by "big data, algorithms and efficiency": media and culture, education, transportation and medicine.

A few of his examples:

Search algorithms have extended the ability to find scientific journal articles and books dating to the 19th century. In principle, this means scholars may encounter a broad range of research and discovery, dredge up forgotten work and possibly connect important dots. But in reality, as one sociologist found after studying citations in 35 million scientific journal articles from before and after the invention of the internet, researchers, beholden to search algorithms' tendency to generate self-reinforcing feedback loops, are now paying more attention to fewer papers, and in general to the more recent and popular ones -- actually strengthening rather than bucking prevailing trends.

GPS is great for getting from one point to another, but if you need more context for understanding your surroundings, it's fairly useless. We've all had experiences in which the shortest distance, as calculated by the app, can also be the most dangerous or traffic-clogged. Compare the efficiency of GPS with the three years aspiring London cabdrivers typically spend preparing for the arduous examination they must pass in order to receive their license. They learn to build a mental map of the entire city, to navigate under any circumstance, to find shortcuts and avoid risky situations -- all without any external, possibly fallible, help. Which is the more efficient, ultimately, the cabby or Google Maps?

In the early 2000s, electronic medical records and electronic prescribing appeared to solve the lethal problem of sloppy handwriting. The United States Institute of Medicine estimated in 1999 that 7,000 patients in the United States were dying annually because of errors in reading prescriptions. But the electronic record that has emerged to answer this problem, and to help insurers manage payments, is full of detailed codes and seemingly endless categories and subcategories. Doctors now have to spend an inordinate amount of time on data entry. One 2016 study found that for every hour doctors spent with patients, two hours were given over to filling out paperwork, leaving much less time to listen to patients, arguably the best way to avoid misdiagnoses.

Faced with all these "inefficiently efficient" technologies, what should we do? Tenner wants more balance.



For the full review, see:

Gal Beckerman. " Kicking the Geeks Where It Hurts." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, June 30, 2018): 14.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date June 4, 2018, and has the title "What Silicon Valley Could Use More Of: Inefficiency.")


The book under review, is:

Tenner, Edward. The Efficiency Paradox: What Big Data Can't Do. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.






January 13, 2019

"The Tightest Labor Market Since 1969"



(p. B6) Crystal Romans, a recruiter in North Carolina, set up a face-to-face interview with a job candidate for a position at a large bank. She confirmed the time, 8:30 a.m., the night before and had a colleague stationed to walk the candidate into the room. When morning came, the candidate never showed.

Panicked, Ms. Romans sent text messages. She called. She left the applicant a voice mail. Silence.

"It's a running joke here of the level of audacity," Ms. Romans said of job candidates' escalating bad behavior, which frequently includes "ghosting," or vanishing without a trace on the people trying to hire them.


. . .


These are trying times for the nation's recruiters. Once as popular as prom kings and queens--and often overrun with hundreds of qualified job applications for an open position--recruiters find their standing has shifted in the booming economy. Instead of vying for their attention, would-be workers blow off recruiters' calls and ignore their emails.

Recruiters report they are stood up, kept waiting for appointments and regularly ridiculed online. That's because in the tightest labor market since 1969, job seekers have the upper hand, and they know it.



For the full story, see:

Chip Cutter. "For Job Recruiters, these Are Trying Times." The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2018): B6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 19, 2018, and has the title "The Loneliest Job in a Tight Labor Market.")






January 12, 2019

Drones Bringing Vaccine May Be Interpreted by Some as Cargo Cult Vindication



(p. A10) In the village of Cook's Bay, on the remote side of the remote island of Erromango, in the remote South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, 1-month-old Joy Nowai was given shots for hepatitis and tuberculosis that were delivered by a flying drone on Monday.

It may not have been the first vial of vaccine ever delivered that way, but it was the first in Vanuatu, which is the only country in the world to make its childhood vaccine program officially drone-dependent.

"I am so happy the drone brought the stick medicine to Cook's Bay as I don't have to walk several hours to Port Narvin for her vaccines," her mother, Julie Nowai told a Unicef representative. "It is only 15 minutes' walk from my home."


.. . .


. . . , about 20 percent of Vanuatu's 35,000 children under age 5 do not get all their shots, according to the United Nations Children's Fund.

So the country, with support from Unicef, the Australian government and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, began its drone program on Monday. It will initially serve three islands but may be expanded to many more.

In the future, that expansion may run into some unusual turbulence -- Vanuatu is one of the few places where "cargo cults" are still active, and the drones match their central religious dogma: that believers will receive valuable goods delivered by airplane.

That will have to be handled carefully, a Unicef representative said.


. . .


. . . : Vanuatu still has adherents of the John Frum movement, one of the South Pacific cargo cults whose adherents pray for valuables arriving from the sky.

The cults date back more than 100 years, but reached their zenith during and after World War II.

Islanders whose ancestors had been kidnapped by whites to work on plantations in Australia and Fiji watched "silver birds" flown in by the Japanese and American militaries disgorge vast amounts of "cargo" -- food, medicines, tools and weapons -- which was sometimes shared with them.

The legend spread that the cargo was gifts from the ancestors, but that it had been intercepted and stolen by the foreigners. After the war ended, the cults built airstrips and model planes to lure the "birds" back.



For the full story, see:

Donald G. McNeil Jr. "'A Buzzing Thing in the Sky' Delivers Vaccines to Vanuatu." The New York Times (Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018): A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 17, 2018, and has the title "An Island Nation's Health Experiment: Vaccines Delivered by Drone.")






January 11, 2019

Iowa Regulations Require Cosmetologists Get 16 Times the Training of Medics



(p. 6) The amount of time Ms. Lozano spent learning to give haircuts, manicures and facials was enormous, but the requirement was set by the state, and she didn't much question it. She was determined to earn enough money to move out of her mother's house. Only a few weeks after getting her cosmetology license in 2005, she was hired at a local Great Clips.

The job, though, paid just $9 an hour, which meant that her days double-shifting at Pizza Hut weren't over. Even with tips, Ms. Lozano didn't earn more than $25,000 in any of her first few years as a cosmetologist. For years, she relied on food stamps and health insurance from the state. She couldn't cover living expenses and keep chipping away at her loan payments. Thirteen years after graduating, she still owes more than $8,000.


. . .


Each state sets its own standards. Most require 1,500 hours, and some, like New York and Massachusetts, require only 1,000. Iowa requires 2,100 -- that's a full year's worth of 40-hour workweeks, plus an extra 20. By comparison, you can become an emergency medical technician in the state after 132 hours at a community college. Put another way: An Iowa cosmetologist who has a heart attack can have her life saved by a medic with one-sixteenth her training.

There's little evidence that spending more hours in school leads to higher wages. Nor is there proof that extra hours result in improved public safety. But one relationship is clear: The more hours that students are forced to be in school, the more debt they accrue. Among cosmetology programs across the nation, Iowa's had the fourth-highest median student debt in 2014, according to federal data.


. . .


(p. 7) Iowa, with its 2,100-hour standard, remains "an embarrassment," said Dawn Pettengill, a Republican state representative who will retire next month. Hoping to lower the profession's barrier to entry, Ms. Pettengill this year introduced legislation that would drop the hours to 1,500. Republicans in the Senate proposed a similar bill.

Schools and their lobbyists mounted a fierce pushback. The schools "were livid," said State Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican subcommittee chairman. "I didn't expect the amount of opposition."

The school association's political action committee had given more than $20,000 to Iowa candidates since 2014. It also had three lobbyists registered with the state; for the last session, the organization paid the lobbyists' company $12,500.

While the dollar amounts weren't huge, a little goes a long way in Des Moines. Hearings weren't publicized, or even required, giving an advantage to the well-organized group.



For the full story, see:

Meredith Kolodner and Sarah Butrymowicz. "For-Profit Cosmetology Schools Can Entangle Students in Debt That $10-an-Hour Jobs Barely Dent." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018): 6-7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 26, 2018, and has the title "A $21,000 Cosmetology School Debt, and a $9-an-Hour Job.")






January 10, 2019

Michael C. Munger Offers Advance Praise for Openness to Creative Destruction



Creative destruction is the mainspring that animates growth and prosperity. Few people fully understand creative destruction; fewer still can explain it. In this remarkable book, Diamond uses compelling stories and plain English to construct the case for creative destruction, extending Schumpeter's deep insights into the 21st century.


Michael C. Munger, Professor of Political Science, and Director, PPE Program, Duke University. Author of Tomorrow 3.0: Transaction Costs and the Sharing Economy, and other works.



Munger's advance praise is for:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming June 2019.






January 9, 2019

Entrepreneurial Farmers Benefit from Global Warming



(p. A1) LA CRETE, Alberta--The farm belt is marching northward.

Upper Alberta is bitter cold much of the year, and remote. Not much grows other than the spruce and poplar that spread out a hundred miles around Highway 88 north toward La Crete. Signs warn drivers to watch for moose and make sure their gas tanks are filled. Farms have produced mostly wheat, canola and barley. Summers were so short farmer Dicky Driedger used to tease his wife about wasting garden space growing corn.

Today, Mr. Driedger is the one growing corn. So are many other northern-Alberta farmers who are plowing up forests to create fields, which lets them grow still more of it. The new prospect of warmer-weather crops is helping lift farmland prices, with an acre near La Crete selling for nearly five times what it fetched 10 years ago.

One reason is the warming planet and longer growing seasons. Temperatures around La Crete are 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer on average annually than in 1950, Canadian federal climate records show, and the growing season is nearly two weeks longer.

"A few degrees doesn't sound like much," said Mr. Driedger, 56, who has farmed for three decades in the area roughly as far north as Ju-(p. A6)neau, Alaska. "Maybe it doesn't make such a big difference on wheat or canola, but on corn, it sure does."


. . .


Agricultural giants such as Bayer AG , Cargill Inc., DowDuPont Inc. and Bunge Ltd. are pushing to develop hardier crops, plan new logistics networks and offer new technologies designed to help farmers adapt. DowDuPont, maker of Pioneer brand seeds, said its scientists are developing crops that mature faster and in drier conditions for farmers in regions growing hotter. It is marketing weather services to help farmers better anticipate storms and weather-driven crop disease.


. . .


"I look for places that don't yet grow soybeans, that will eventually grow soybeans," said Joelle Faulkner, chief executive of Area One Farms, a Toronto investment firm that buys land in partnership with farmers.

On Area One land where farmers have planted soybeans, farmers' profitability has grown 30% over three to five years, boosting the land's value by roughly the same amount, she said. The spread of warmer-weather crops, she said, represents "the less negative effect of climate."


. . .


Seed and pesticide giant Bayer, which bought U.S. seed purveyor Monsanto this year, is breeding corn plants to be faster-maturing to produce crops in cooler climates. Those efforts help farmers in borderline areas take advantage of climatic shifts.

A decade ago, Monsanto's fastest-growing corn needed about 80 days to mature for harvesting, said Dan Wright, who oversees Bayer's Canadian corn and soybean research from Guelph, Ontario. Next year, he aims to begin selling corn that will mature in 70 days, targeting farmers in places like Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Red Deer, Alberta. For corn and soybeans, the company's two biggest crops by sales, he said, such areas represent the "edge opportunity."



For the full story, see:

Jacob Bunge. "Warming Climate Pushes Corn North." The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Nov. 25, 2018): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 26, 2018, and has the title "A Warming Climate Brings New Crops to Frigid Zones.")






January 8, 2019

Regulations to Keep Herds Small May Destroy Reindeer Herding



(p. A6) Jovsset Ante Sara, a boyish-looking 26-year-old, knows his section of the tundra as if it were a city grid, every hill and valley familiar, the land acquired over generations through the meticulous work of his ancestors.

He can tell his reindeer from any others by their unique earmark. And he and his family need them to live and preserve their claim to the land as well as their traditions.

That's why, Mr. Sara says, he has refused to abide by Norwegian laws, passed more than a decade ago, that limit the size of reindeer herds. The measure was taken, the government says, to prevent overgrazing.

Mr. Sara's herd was capped at 75. So every year, if the herd grows, he must pare it down. At least, those are the rules. He has refused to cull his 350 to 400 reindeer, and took the government to court.


. . .


For decades, the Norwegian government has designated reindeer herding as an exclusively Sami activity, providing herding licenses tied to ancestral lands.

The regulations limiting herd sizes were passed in 2007, forcing Sami to eliminate 30 percent of their reindeer at the time.

Mr. Sara said the limits have been devastating. If he obeyed the limit, he said, he would make only $4,700 to $6,000 a year.

"Clearly it's not possible to make a living as the job has become quite expensive, requiring snowmobiles and all the equipment that goes along with that," he said.

The law also states that any herders who are no longer profitable can lose their license. But that is not all Mr. Sara said he would lose.

"I would lose everything my ancestors worked their entire lives to create for us today," he said. "I will lose the land."



For the full story, see:

Nadia Shira Cohen. "The Hinterlands Where Reindeer Are a Way of Life." The New York Times (Monday, Dec. 17, 2018): A6.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 16, 2018, and has the title "NORWAY DISPATCH; Where Reindeer Are a Way of Life.")






January 7, 2019

Scientists Optimistic That Great Barrier Reef Is Resilient to Global Warming



(p. A12) Among the threatened corals of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world that has been ravaged by global warming, researchers have found a reason for optimism -- or at least a reason not to despair completely.

Coral reefs, which by some estimates support a quarter of all ocean life, are harmed by warming oceans. The effects can be seen in the loss of their vibrant colors, a phenomenon known as bleaching. But after ocean temperatures surged in 2016 around the Great Barrier Reef, causing severe damage, researchers found that the corals that survived were more resistant to another period of extreme warmth the following year.

"It's one enormous natural selection event," said Terry Hughes, an expert on coral reefs at James Cook University in Australia and the lead author of a study published Monday [December 7, 2018] in the journal Nature Climate Change. In effect, the 2016 heat wave killed off many of the most heat-sensitive corals and selected for the corals that could handle higher ocean temperatures.

"So when the heat returned in 2017, the susceptible corals had been substantially depleted," Dr. Hughes said. "The new coral assemblage, if you like, at the beginning of the second heat waves, was made up predominantly of the more heat-tolerant species, the more robust ones."


. . .


The study provides a measure of hope that coral reefs may be able to survive as oceans warm over the coming decades.



For the full story, see:


Kendra Pierre-Louis. "What Doesn't Kill Reefs May Make Them Stronger." The New York Times (Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018): A12.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 10, 2018, and has the title "Scientists Find Some Hope for Coral Reefs: The Strong May Survive.")


The official citation to the print version of the article mentioned above, is:

Hughes, Terry P., James T. Kerry, Sean R. Connolly, Andrew H. Baird, C. Mark Eakin, Scott F. Heron, Andrew S. Hoey, Mia O. Hoogenboom, Mizue Jacobson, Gang Liu, Morgan S. Pratchett, William Skirving, and Gergely Torda. "Ecological Memory Modifies the Cumulative Impact of Recurrent Climate Extremes." Nature Climate Change 9, no. 1 (Jan. 2019): 40-43.









Eight Most Recent Comments:



PaulS said:

The "Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity" argument and the no-human-obsolescence argument seem to talk directly past each other. After all, the present-day world is stuffed to the brim (and well beyond) with government and other regulations expressly designed to suppress "creativity" at all cost, in the name of "safety". That is, in a context of irrationally radical risk aversion - the quest for absolutely zero risk - the societal "we" often seek to rid ourselves of "creativity".

Thus, "creativity" has become largely restricted to a minuscule minority (further shrunken by metastasizing copyright and patent regulations that concentrate funds ever more narrowly), and/or, sometimes, to tasks that matter little, such as entertainment. Most "jobs" or "gigs" are left as tightly controlled drone work. "True" artificial intelligence is thus utterly unnecessary to obsolete most of the humans performing them. "Big Data" and "Big Software" will completely suffice. (The last thing you want in a self-driving taxi, or even in a political-correctness-driven professorship, is "true" AI: at least for now, it would be a lawsuit magnet, far too unpredictable.)

With the definition of "safety" steadily metastasizing to include even the most utterly trivial discomforts (viz. the campus 'snowflakes'), the only excuse left for most jobs to exist might be a desire for "the human touch". Indeed, the lack of said touch is one complaint about kiosks that replace restaurant counter clerks or waiters.

But once the primary justification for jobs to exist is to enable the most affluent to go on receiving "the human touch" - i.e. to enable them to pull rank - the process will not end well. People hate to be on the receiving end of rank-pulling. We will become stuck with either a guaranteed-income approach, or else a widespread, intensely Luddite reaction.

This is all destined to become "interesting" - but likely, alas, mainly in the accursed sense.



PaulS said:

Probably this should be unsurprising for a number of reasons, even going beyond the article.

Today's zeitgeist, of course, tells us that everyone should become a Web designer living four to a tiny dorm room in a skyscraper in grossly overpopulated urban California. As if most tech products haven't been fully mature for years or even decades, with updates mainly confined to befuddling customers with never-ending capricious changes to the functions of device or software controls (e.g. quick, how exactly do you summon up the "home screen" this week? Or is said screen now a wholly inscrutable tri-level icon-menu?)

So, what use are more techies? But even if there are better things to do, many such things "don't get no respect" amidst the STEM panic.

Then there's the seasonal aspect. The great majority of construction - homes and otherwise - seems to be done, these days, in the torrid (and ever-rising, especially in paved-over urban areas) heat of high summer. This is not completely new, but, well, air-conditioning has been widespread for decades now. There's no longer much need or desire to go outside to escape the even worse heat inside buildings and houses. Even poor-ish countries like China are rapidly acquiring A/C.

Now, once central heat became widespread, people stayed inside to escape the freezing, dark depths of winter. That is a trope, for example, with Christie's Hercule Poirot, derided as a "dandy" by his presumably more manly fictional contemporaries, for disliking cold, chilly old English houses lacking proper heat. And indeed, rather little outdoor construction goes on in the north in January.

Given that, why wouldn't sensible people now also want to stay inside during the blistering heat of high summer? Certainly, there are many ways to earn a living without torturing oneself in a furnace. (And, ignore all the caterwauling, why wouldn't sensible kids want to play video games in a nice comfortable living room instead of parboiling miserably outside?)

At the end of the day, construction - i.e. working under awful conditions few humans wish to tolerate any longer - seems like a great opportunity for robotics. Alas, what is hyped as "artificial intelligence" (AI) is usually nothing of the kind, or else is so ultra-narrowly specialized (think chess or go) as to be of little or no broad use. Nonetheless, a great deal of robotics can be built already without true AI, and such AI will eventually arrive too.

So why isn't more robotics used? Why isn't more outdoor construction shifted away from high summer, as it is from the worst of winter, i.e. to spring and fall? Why isn't there tremendously more factory prefabrication? Why do so many construction sites - buildings and highways - still look, despite the use of diesel engines and such, so very nineteenth-century?



PaulS said:

Wonderful. Let's go for strict temporal gating as well as spatial gating. Exile everyone not made of money to the anti-social hours of the clock as well as the monster commutes of the far reaches of Queens and Staten Island. How about fixing the subways, and abolishing the nonsense that makes it take 90 years to build one small 2nd Ave line? How about dispersing the overconcentration of people a bit? It's a huge country and modern communication exists. How about paying for same by taxing the living daylights out of the billionaire rentier class who create the problem by forcing ever more people to cram into highly dysfunctional megacities as the price of having any income at all? You gotta love the nexus between airheaded liberals who want to pile everyone on Earth with a sob story into a few US-ian megacities (rather than fix their own governments and problems), and economics types who then want to punish the very same folks by blocking off absolutely everything with an extortionate toll gate. Not.



PaulS said:

"when the alternative is to have $10 and go thirsty"

In the real world, the politics will get "interesting" with respect to folks who *don't* have $10 to pay for what normally costs $1 or $0.10, and will therefore go thirsty, or be stranded, or worse. Then, also be aware of simple resentment. Then, aggravate the anger with runaway inequality so extreme that the elites running the show will not be inconvenienced in the slightest by any likely level of 'gouging'. Then brace for a social explosion.

All told, it seems fatuous to expect very many people to be happy about being charged, say, an entire car payment just to get home across town from the holiday party. (It seems even more fatuous to expect happiness when the 'gouging' comes as an ongoing life-upending surprise, as with I-66 in Virginia.)

It helps to instead ground oneself in reality. After doing so, it's ridiculously easy to imagine the relevant government and/or employer simply declaring, for example: "If you wish to be allowed to drive a taxi at all, then you will make yourself available, to some specified extent, even at times that may be inconvenient for you."

Indeed, such rules and regulations are utterly banal and commonplace. Nary a soul would weep for Uber if it and its drivers were regulated - even rather harshly - in such a manner. Of course, some souls would become exercised over the minor economic inefficiency of such regulation, but they would number far too few to matter.



PaulS said:

"Dr. Gray was skeptical about the causes of climate change, prompting vitriolic exchanges with other scientists. Judith A. Curry, who was chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, accused him of 'brain fossilization.'"

I had no idea. These days, after all, Curry is very much in the doghouse as a "climate denier". Wow. What, then, can we deduce about the typical (or merely politically-correct?) level of hysteria in the "climate community"? Of course, many in said "community" would force most of us back into the Stone Age while they themselves continue to jet across the world at whim to attend "conventions" in order to signal virtue by delivering half-hour diatribes on saving the "planet" from impending doom.

Maybe, then, The Donald is right (???!) that it is fairly safe to behave just as the doomers do, and ignore the threat - and their own diatribes - as a practical matter? Wouldn't that be weird?



PaulS said:

Another case in point: between them, Google, Tesla, and others have spent countless billions on mapping the USA, enough for at least $1000/mile including every last obscure Forest Service track. That should be more than enough to catalog everything down to the embossing style on every manhole cover. And yet a person can find their way to Grandma's new house with vague turn-by-turn directions or a vague line-sketch that shows no details whatsoever about the road surface or the sidewalks or the crosswalks. And a person will manage the task without needing, in advance, a finely detailed map of the current construction projects, including lane changes etc. But that severe incompleteness won't stop morally-posturing politicians from forcing autonomous cars onto the populace years or even decades before they are actually ready for unsupervised consumer use. That is the essentially only kind of use they will get in the real world. After all, politicians love to posture, they love to toady up to rent-seeking billionaires, and they love photo-ops of themselves gawking at shiny new tech gadgets. Note that when signals were first installed on the Chicago El, the accident rate went up for a time, as trained motormen became careless about watching where they were going. Not-so-trained consumers will be far too busy fiddling with their phones to be ready to take over on a split-second's notice.



PaulS said:

And there will be unicorns. So we'll have some remote working, but we'll be jailing ever more techies in a few obscenely overcrowded, otherworldly-expensive megacities. Just as Microsofties once told us wasting two days on the now-infamously godawful airlines just to physically attend an hour meeting was going away, but both the meetings and the airlines only got worse and worse.

So not really a big deal, just another stylistic business fad. Those come and go like mayflies - while being crammed, confined, and nailed down, remains eternally.



rjs said:

there's a lot GDP doesnt capture, but i'm not sure where Feldstein is coming from about statins...the consumption of drugs is included in the non-durable goods component of PCE, consumption of health care services by themselves account for 12% of GDP, and R & D would be included in investment in intellectual property products.. the problem is that everyone is trying to make GDP into something it's not...it's a measure of goods and services produced by the economy, full stop. it's not intended to measure increases in life expectancy or well being, or any other intangibles..





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