September 25, 2018

Stylus Line Drawing Found from 73,000 Years Past



(p. A13) Researchers say they've found the world's oldest known line drawing in a seaside cave in South Africa--a red cross-hatched grid sketched on a broken grindstone by early humans 73,000 years ago.

The discovery, made public Wednesday [September 12, 2018] in Nature, offers evidence of an important addition to the artist's tool kit, the scientists said. Experts in human origins have discovered many images of greater antiquity made by engraving or by painting, but this appears to be the oldest example of a picture made by using a stylus.

"It was definitely drawn with a pen or pencil," said archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood at the University of Bergen in Norway, who led the team that analyzed the drawing. If so, the abstract image appears to be about 30,000 years older than other early drawings in Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.


. . .


In the prehistory of human creativity, the invention of drawing combines a new skill and a new tool. Drawing with a stylus of some sort is a breakthrough in portability and spontaneous expression that can turn any surface into a message board. "If you can draw, you can walk across a landscape and leave a message or a symbol anywhere you want," Dr. Henshilwood said.



For the full story, see:

Robert Lee Hotz. "Ancient Hashtag Reveals Origins of Drawing." The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018): A13.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 12, 2018, and has the title "Is This the World's Oldest Hashtag?")






September 24, 2018

When Volunteer Bystanders Save More Lives than So-Called First Responders



(p. A1) In the days after the shootings at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, many stories emerged of bystander courage. Volunteers combed the grounds for survivors and carried out the injured. Strangers used belts as makeshift tourniquets to stanch bleeding, and then others sped the wounded to hospitals in the back seats of cars and the beds of pickup trucks.

These rescue efforts took place before the county's emergency medical crews, waylaid by fleeing concertgoers, reached the grassy field, an estimated half-hour or more after the shooting began. When they did arrive, the local fire chief said in an interview, only the dead remained.

"Everybody was treating patients and trying to get there," Chief Gregory Cassell of the Clark County Fire Department, said of his personnel. "They just couldn't."

The experiences in Las Vegas have implications for the nation. Emergency medical services have changed how they respond to mass attacks, charging into insecure areas and immediately helping the injured rather than standing back. Still, every minute counts, and bystanders can play a critical role in saving lives, as shown in the aftermath to the shooting on Oct. 1 [2017] outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.


. . .


(p. A14) In Las Vegas, several factors impeded the arrival of emergency medical workers at the scene of the shooting itself.

Confusion abounded. One fire crew that happened to be passing by during the first few minutes saw people running from the festival and heard what sounded like gunfire. "You got reports of anything?" a member of the fire crew, Capt. Ken O'Shaughnessy of Engine 11, asked a dispatcher over the radio. "That's a negative, sir," he was told. Three minutes later, the dispatcher confirmed that there was an active call.

Members of that crew remained nearby, and later assisted injured concertgoers.

"From what it sounds like talking to them, they didn't identify the hot zone because they didn't know where it was," said Mr. Cassell, the fire chief. "They just knew they had dozens and dozens of critical patients."

More than 10 minutes after the shooting began, a battalion chief advised firefighters to "stage at a distance" and put on protective vests and helmets as he tried to understand the situation and make contact with a police lieutenant on the scene. The battalion chief radioed in seven minutes later that there were reports of gunfire at both the concert grounds and the Mandalay Bay across the street. "We can't approach it yet," he said.

The injured were already fleeing and being carried out in several directions. "Those crews making their way to the concert venue were met at every turn by patients in the streets," Mr. Cassell said. The fire department helped establish several assembly points, and ultimately, about 160 firefighters and emergency medical workers from departments in the region went to the scene.

Inside the nearly empty concert grounds after the shooting stopped, some volunteers remained, roaming among the fallen near the stage, checking pulses and finding some of them unconscious but still breathing.



For the full story, see:

Sheri Fink. "'First Medics on Scene in Las Vegas: Other Fans." The New York Times (Monday, Oct. 15, 2017): A1 & A14.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 15, 2017, and has the title "'After the Las Vegas Shooting, Concertgoers Became Medics.")


The passages quoted above, provide one more example of one of the main messages of:

Ripley, Amanda. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why. New York: Crown Publishers, 2008.







September 23, 2018

Jeff Bezos Prefers 'Entrepreneur Jeff Bezos' over 'Richest Person in the World Jeff Bezos'



(p. B3) Mr. Bezos said his primary job each day as a senior executive is to make a small number of high-quality decisions.


. . .


The insight into Mr. Bezos' philosophy on time management came as the Amazon founder Thursday [September 13, 2018] addressed a crowd of roughly 1,400 at an event held by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.

He reminisced on the early days of Amazon and the lessons he has learned during decades of rapid change as he went from founding the online bookstore in his garage to overseeing a massive company with several business lines and offices around the world.

That explosive growth helped push Amazon last week to briefly become the second U.S. company to reach a $1 trillion market value, after Apple Inc., and has made Mr. Bezos the richest person in the world.

It is a title Mr. Bezos said he has never sought. "I would much rather if they said like, 'inventor Jeff Bezos' or 'entrepreneur Jeff Bezos' or 'father Jeff Bezos.' Those kinds of things are much more meaningful to me," he told the audience.



For the full story, see:

Laura Stevens. "A Few Life Lessons from Bezos." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018): B3.

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

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 14, 2018, and has the title "Leadership and Life Lessons from Amazon's Jeff Bezos.")






September 22, 2018

Genetics Entrepreneur Compares FDA to DMV



(p. 1) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- In 2007, Anne Wojcicki, then 33, lassoed the moon.

She was getting her new company, 23andMe, a mail-order genetics testing firm, off the ground with her "Party 'til you spit" celebrity get-togethers.

She married Sergey Brin, the cute co-founder of Google, also 33 and already one of the richest men in America, at a top-secret Esther Williams extravaganza in the Bahamas. The bride in a white bathing suit and the groom in a black one, they swam to a sandbar in the Bahamas and got hitched in the middle of the sparkling aquamarine ocean.

Soon after the marriage, as Mr. Brin accumulated more power, a yacht, and a fleet of jets, Ms. Wojcicki became pregnant with the first of their two children and Google invested millions in her start-up, named after the 23 paired chromosomes that consist of our DNA.

But six years later, the Silicon Valley fairy tale was shattered by two public humiliations: Mr. Brin got involved with a beautiful young Englishwoman named Amanda Ro-(p. 12)senberg, who provided a public face for Google Glass -- an attachment that broke up his marriage. And the Food and Drug Administration shut down the primary function of Ms. Wojcicki's business, calling her D.N.A. spit vial "an unapproved medical device" and imposing stricter rules for consumer genetic testing. Her business, once so ripe with promise to tackle health issues, was curtailed to its ancestry testing division.


. . .


"In some ways, when you have that many bad things happen, it's a sense of disbelief," she says. "This was one of those situations where there's two aspects. A divorce and the F.D.A. There was no workaround in either. So it was one of the first times in my life where you have to accept, you have to actually change. Like, I need to come up with a different way of approaching both of these relationships."


. . .


(p. 13) She's focused for now on her children, her new Bengal cats and her company, which has more than three million customers and its own drug-development program. It started selling kits in CVS and Target, got the F.D.A.'s permission to resume giving consumers health reports on 10 conditions, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and the $99 ancestry kit won a spot as one of "Oprah's favorite things" this year, with Oprah calling it "The Ultimate Selfie." Fast Company portrayed Ms. Wojcicki as the Comeback Kid of tech.

She realized that she had a treasure trove of DNA data and began teaming with Genentech and Procter & Gamble, which started mining it to make breakthroughs in Parkinson's, depression and skin care.

In many ways, her struggle with the F.D.A. was a microcosm of the increasingly tense battle between hidebound regulatory agencies and freewheeling tech companies.

Although some people thought Ms. Wojcicki would have to sell her company, she healed the breach with the F.D.A. the same way she healed the breach with Mr. Brin. She did not huff away and seethe and backbite. She "put one foot ahead of the other," as her mother advises, hired the best regulatory experts and found a respectful new configuration for the relationship.

"We were not communicating in the right way," she says of the period the F.D.A. felt it was being ignored. "We were not showing Silicon Valley arrogance. We just were running around with our shoes on in a Japanese house. We were not a cultural fit and we weren't expressing what we were trying to do in the right way.

"Some companies are trying to circumvent the regulators. We weren't. We just got caught in the cross hairs. We clearly pissed them off. It took us a long time to generate a lot of data to prove that our intentions actually were right. But I feel like we're doing the right thing in terms of proving that the customer is capable of getting this information on their own.

"I see it from the F.D.A. perspective. It's a new product. It's genetics. It's direct to consumer. It caused anxiety. So, you know, the onus was on us."

She had to explain to her team: "Listen, when you go to the D.M.V., you don't argue about the vision test. You don't say, 'Oh, I just had a vision test. I don't need to do the vision test.' Like, you just do it. The F.D.A. is in charge of public safety, and I have a respect for the job that they have to do. And we're just going to do the job that they're asking us to do."



For the full story, see:

Maureen Dowd. "'Adapt and Evolve." The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017): 1 & 12-13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 18, 2017, and has the title "'The Doyenne of DNA Says: Just Chillax With Your Ex.")






September 21, 2018

Long Lines at California DMV's Fumbling Bureacracy



(p. 12) LOS ANGELES -- They were lined up by the dozens clear down the street on a recent afternoon -- hot and frustrated in the sun, trying to attend to the most routine (and unavoidable) encounters with local government: renewing a driver's license.

Inside the Hollywood office of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the wait was close to two hours. Folding chairs, all filled, were set up three-deep against three walls.

"There's a six-week wait just to get an appointment," said Alfred Kendrick, a fitness trainer from West Hollywood who, like many people here, showed up without one. "Come on. This is 2018. I can order a bowl from China in less time than it takes to get a driver's license in California."

Few states have embraced the idea of an expansive government as fervently as California, with its vast public university system, $100 billion high-speed rail project and even, the other day, the passage of legislation outlawing plastic straws. California's leaders are on the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change and the Democratic challenge to President Trump.

But these days, to the embarrassment of Democrats who control the state government, California is fumbling one of its most basic tasks. Waiting times at motor vehicle offices have increased as much as 46 percent from a year ago, spotlighting a departmental bureaucracy marked by green computer screens and computers that still run on DOS.

California is by no means the only state where motorists have had to endure long lines. Complaints could be heard this summer from Texas to North Carolina to Connecticut. But the breakdown is particularly striking here in a state whose identity is defined in no small part by the automobile and by a sprawling view of government.



For the full story, see:

Adam Nagourney. "'To Get on Road, California Drivers Spend Hours on Sidewalk." The New York Times (Monday, Sept. 10, 2018): A12.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 9, 2018, and has the title "'A Scourge for California Drivers: Hours on a Sidewalk to Renew a License.")






September 20, 2018

"Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity"



(p. A11) New York

"I rarely have an urge to whisper," says George Gilder--loudly--as he settles onto a divan by the window of his Times Square hotel room. I'd asked him to speak as audibly as possible into my recording device, and his response, while literal, could also serve as a metaphor: Nothing Mr. Gilder says or writes is ever delivered at anything less than the fullest philosophical decibel.


. . .


Citing Claude Shannon, the American mathematician acknowledged as the father of information theory, Mr. Gilder says that "information is surprise. Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it wasn't surprising, we wouldn't need it." However useful they may be, "machines are not capable of creativity." Human minds can generate counterfactuals, imaginative flights, dreams. By contrast, "a surprise in a machine is a breakdown. You don't want your machines to have surprising outcomes!"

The narrative of human obsolescence, Mr. Gilder says, is giving rise to a belief that the only way forward is to provide redundant citizens with some sort of "guaranteed annual income," which would mean the end of the market economy: . . .


. . .


For all the gloom about Silicon Valley that appears to suffuse his new book, Mr. Gilder insists that he's not a tech-pessimist. "I think technology has fabulous promise," he says, as he describes blockchain and cryptocurrency as "a new technological revolution that is rising up as we speak." He says it has generated "a huge efflorescence of peer-to-peer technology and creativity, and new companies." The decline of initial public offerings in the U.S., he adds, has been "redressed already by the rise of the ICO, the 'initial coin offering,' which has raised some $12 billion for several thousand companies in the last year."

It is clear that Mr. Gilder is smitten with what he calls "this cryptographic revolution," and believes that it will heal some of the damage to humanity that has been inflicted by the "machine obsessed" denizens of Silicon Valley. Blockchain "endows individuals with control of their data, their identity, the truths that they want to assert, their transactions, their visions, their content and their security." Here Mr. Gilder sounds less like a tech guru than a poet, and his words tumble out in a romantic cascade.



For the full interview, see:

Tunku Varadarajan, interviewer. "Sage Against the Machine; A leading Google critic on why he thinks the era of 'big data' is done, why he opposes Trump's talk of regulation, and the promise of blockchain." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Aug. 31, 2018.)


The "new book" by Gilder, mentioned above, is:

Gilder, George. Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 2018.






September 19, 2018

E-Commerce Creates "More and Better Jobs than It Destroys"



(p. A17) . . . , the men and women who go to work each day in e-commerce fulfillment centers are much better-equipped with information technology--and therefore more productive and better-paid. Our research shows that fulfillment center weekly wages are 31% higher on average than brick-and-mortar retail in the same area.


. . .


But does e-commerce destroy more jobs than it creates? So far the answer seems to be no. From the third quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2017, brick-and-mortar retail full-time-equivalent jobs fell by roughly 123,000, or about 1%, according to my think tank's analysis of the latest Labor Department data.

Over the same two-year stretch, the e-commerce industry has added some 178,000 jobs in fulfillment centers and electronic shopping firms. In addition, express delivery companies and other local couriers boosted their full-time-equivalent workers by another 58,000.


. . .


The Internet of Goods--our term for the fast-growing digitization of the production, sorting and movement of physical products--will be the next major step in the internet's evolution.

If e-commerce is any guide, the jobs created for the Internet of Goods will require workers who have a good mix of physical and cognitive skills, just like the industrial jobs of the early-20th century. Moreover, they will be more evenly spread around the country, boosting growth in America's heartland as well as the coasts.



For the full commentary, see:

Michael Mandel. "Get Ready for the Internet of Goods; Already, e-commerce has been creating more and better jobs than it destroys." The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Oct. 15, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 15, 2017.)






September 18, 2018

Drones Reduce Worker Danger of Many Tasks



(p. B3) Small, swift and agile, drones have all but replaced the more costly and less nimble helicopter for tasks that involve inspections, measurements and marketing images.


. . .


On building sites, drones are saving money and time by providing digital images, maps and other files that can be shared in a matter of minutes, said Mike Winn, the chief executive of DroneDeploy, a company founded five years ago in San Francisco that creates software for, among other uses, operating drones with mobile apps.

Drones are reducing the travel time for busy executives, Mr. Winn said. "The head office can see what's going on, and the safety team, the costing team, the designers -- all of them can contribute to the project, share data and comment on it, without actually going to the job."

They could also improve safety. In the days before drones, Mr. Winn said, measuring the roof of a house for solar panels would require "a guy with a tape measure to climb up there," which often produced inaccurate results and, like anything involving heights, was dangerous.

Such peril is magnified in the construction of skyscrapers, said John Murphy Jr., a contractor on the Paramount Miami Worldcenter, a 58-story condominium tower being built in downtown Miami. Before drones, Mr. Murphy said, workers seeking access to the exterior of a high-rise were "dropped over the side" in so-called swing stages, small platforms that hang from cables. Often used by window cleaners, swing stages are precarious in high winds.

"No one wants to go out there," he said. "It's scary."



For the full story, see:

Nick Madigan. "'It Can Leap Tall Buildings and Save Money and Lives." The New York Times (Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018): B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 14, 2018, and has the title "'Need a Quick Inspection of a 58-Story Tower? Send a Drone.")






September 17, 2018

N.Y.C. Regulation of Uber and Lyft Hurts Poor Blacks and Hispanics



(p. A1) Jenine James no longer worries about getting stranded when the subways and buses are unreliable -- a constant frustration these days -- or cannot take her to where she needs to go. Her Plan B: Uber.

So Ms. James, 20, a barista in Brooklyn, sees New York's move to restrict ride-hail services as not just a threat to her own convenience and comfort but also to the alternative transportation system that has sprung up to fill in the gaps left by the city's failing subways and buses. She does not even want to think about going back to a time when a train was her only option, as unlikely as that might be.

"It was bad, so imagining going back, it's terrible," she said.

The ride-hail cars that critics say are choking New York City's streets have also brought much-needed relief to far corners of the city where just getting to work is a daily chore requiring long rides and multiple transfers, often squeezed into packed trains and buses. The black cars that crisscross transit deserts in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island have become staples in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods where residents complain that yellow taxis often refuse to pick them up. They come to the rescue in the rain, and during taxi shift changes, when rides are notoriously hard to find even (p. A19) in the heart of Manhattan.

New York became the first major American city on Wednesday [Aug. 8, 2018] to put a halt on issuing new vehicle licenses for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hail services amid growing concerns around the world about the impact they are having on cities.

The legislation calls for a one-year moratorium while the city studies the booming industry and also establishes pay rules for drivers. It was passed overwhelmingly by the City Council and is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, who attempted to adopt a similar cap in 2015 but abandoned the effort after Uber waged a fierce campaign against him.



For the full story, see:

Winnie Hu and Mariana Alfaro. "'At End of Line, A Cap on Uber Causes Distress." The New York Times (Friday, Aug. 10, 2018): A1 & A19.

(Note: bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 9, 2018, and has the title "'Riders Wonder: With Uber as New York's Plan B, Is There a Plan C?")






September 16, 2018

Alibaba's Jack Ma Retires Early as Chinese Communists Intervene in Ventures



(p. B1) HONG KONG -- Alibaba's co-founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, said he planned to step down from the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education, a changing of the guard for the $420 billion internet company.

A former English teacher, Mr. Ma started Alibaba in 1999 and built it into one of the world's most consequential e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming how Chinese people shop and pay for things. That fueled his net worth to more than $40 billion, making him China's richest man. He is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put his portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth.

Mr. Ma is retiring as China's business environment has soured, with Beijing and state-owned enterprises increasingly playing more interventionist roles with companies. Under President Xi Jinping, China's internet industry has grown and become more important, prompting the government to tighten its leash. The Chinese economy is also facing slowing growth and increasing debt, and the country is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the United States.

"He's a symbol of the health of China's private sector and how high they can fly whether he likes it or not," Duncan Clark, author of the book "Alibaba: The House Jack Ma Built," said of Mr. Ma. "His retirement will be interpreted as frustration or concern whether he likes it or not."

In an interview, Mr. Ma said his retirement is not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era." He said he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education. "I love education," he said.

Mr. Ma will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management. Mr. Ma turns 54 on Monday, which is also a holiday in China known as Teacher's Day.

The retirement makes Mr. Ma one of the first founders among a generation of prominent Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down from their companies. Firms including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com have flourished in recent years, growing to nearly rival American internet behemoths like Amazon and Google in their size, scope and ambition. For Chinese tycoons to step aside in their 50s is rare; they usually remain at the top of their organizations for many years.



For the full story, see:


Li Yuan. "Founder Sees A 'Beginning' As He Retires From Alibaba." The New York Times (Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018): B1 & B3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 7, 2018, and has the title "Alibaba's Jack Ma, China's Richest Man, to Retire From Company He Co-Founded.")


The book by Duncan Clark, that is mentioned above, is:

Clark, Duncan. Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2016.









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..





HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg






Archives















The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."


View My Stats