Thursday, July 22, 2010

New on Kindle...plus science and more...

BeyondHOrizonI ponder the political and psychological gears and wheels that churned in the mind of science fiction master Robert A. Heinlein, in a recent essay for Tor Books, focusing especially on Heinlein's prescriptive utopia Beyond This Horizon.

A few quick marvels:

Cool!  Blimps in our future. See how I use them in my story, The Smartest Mob.

The flying car proceeds apace!

Dean Kamen's low cost water purifier: The Slingshot

Interesting tech notions from Vinay Gupta.

Dolphin bubbles: This is still one of the coolest things I have ever seen!

StartideStartide Rising and Sundiver (and the other Uplift books) are now out on electronic versions including Kindle,  Sony Reader and Nook!  Spread the word!

H+ Magazine is having a reboot.  Have a look!  It is worth your interest and support.

Worries about Corexit and other petroleum “dispersants” continue to grow, as BP pours thousands of gallons of these substances into the Gulf of Mexico (paling in comparison to the amount that Exxon and others use every year, in the Niger Delta.)  Toxity and mutagen potential appears to have a great many people very concerned.

 The same blogger has useful and interesting citations regarding the possible “tipping point” cascade that could result, if we ever see runaway release of undersea methane hydrates, or the volatiles now locked in permafrost. 

When you cough into your hands, you cover your hand in virus," said study author Nick Wilson, an associate professor of public health at the Otago University campus in Wellington. "Then you touch doorknobs, furniture and other things. And other people touch those and get viruses that way," he explained. Health officials recommend that people sneeze into their elbow, in a move sometimes called 'the Dracula' for its resemblance to a vampire suddenly drawing up his cape. But only about 1 in 77 did that.


== More Science High ==

“Our own Universe may be the interior of a black hole existing in another universe." So concludes Nikodem Poplawski at Indiana University in a remarkable paper about the nature of space and the origin of time. The idea that new universes can be created inside black holes and that our own may have originated in this way has been the raw fodder of science fiction for many years. But a proper scientific derivation of the notion has never emerged. Today Poplawski provides such a derivation. He says the idea that black holes are the cosmic mothers of new universes is a natural consequence of a simple new assumption about the nature of spacetime.   

The men who want to be cryonically preserved — and the women who sometimes find it hard to be married to them. (A really fascinating article focusing on my colleague Robin Hanson, who is a future-oriented extropian economist, and his wife, Peggy Jackson who works in a hospice.  A philosophical conundrum.)

I don't know about this, but it shows how far government secrecy has gone Top Secret in its network of government and its contractors:

American creativity scores have been falling since 1990, College of William & Mary researchers have discovered. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. Meanwhile, other countries — in Europe and China especially — are making creativity development a national priority. 

== Angel’s Flight ==

25,000 new asteroids plus brown dwarfs, galaxies found by NASA sky-mapping telescope

Check out the Idea lab: A predictions market in science and technology. The Woodrow Wilson Science & Technology Innovation Program has begun an online predictions market: You can sign in and place a bet with virtual dollars.Predictions markets aggregate public opinion, and have proved fairly successful in forecasting elections and business trends. You can bet on when the number of explanets discovered will reach 500. Or: Which Millennium Prize problem will be solved next? 

A new role playing game: you vs. the national debt. An online game that involves players in reining in government spending

The food industry is investing heavily in nanotechnology. Possibilities: programmable nano-foods customized to individual tastes, nanosize powders to increase nutrient absorption, anitimicrobial nanofilms to prevent spoilage, nano-encapsulated flavor enhancers, self-cleaning cutting boards, nanocapsules that add omega-3 fatty acids, foods that change flavor mid-course. Yet reassuring the public is another matte.

An excellent resource is The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, a partnership with the Woodrow Wilson Intl Center. They list inventories of products on the market, and offer a primer on nanotechnology.

One example of a nano-product is Canola Active Oil, which delivers chemicals via nano-capsules that prevent cholesterol from entering the bloodstream.  The promise of nanotechnology: to efficiently feed billions, meanwhile preventing food spoilage, sickness and bacterial infections – remains a distant vision. The food industry is not publicizing their investments in nanotechnology, as the public is wary of such advances; very little risk assessment has been done on how these particles enter our bodies.  Another field where nano-technology is widely being used, and largely unregulated is cosmetics: sunscreen, make up, anti-wrinkle creams – which offer to penetrate more deeply into the skin.  See:
http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=1360.php
http://www.nanoceo.net/nanorisks/food

A company in Cleveland introduces a program to introduce 3D printers into high schools: Bits from Bytes. Teens design a product on their computer, and then get to manufacture their project…yielding something they can hold in their hand.

Frank Smith sent this link: a self-replicating machine. A desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. If you've got a RepRap you can print another RepRap for a friend…

== A CO2 based acidification crisis for plankton? ==

CO2 is the ubiquitous greenhouse gas emitted by human activity, particularly fossil-fuel and forest burning. As levels rise in the atmosphere (currently at 390 parts per million and counting), the ocean's surface waters absorb more of the molecule. This –CO2 mixture forms carbonic acid, which slightly lowers the ocean's overall pH (the lower the pH, the more acidic). More  means less calcium carbonate—and less material for shell-building  and  of all sizes, including the nannoplankton that constitute the base of the food chain.Of course the present era is hardly the first time the planet has seen higher levels of CO2. In fact, roughly 121 million years ago—during an age known as the early Aptian—global CO2 levels were likely higher than 800 ppm (and possibly as high as 2,000 ppm) thanks to cataclysmic volcanic eruptions. Now  published in Science July 23 shows how ancestors of today's nannoplankton fared in those acidic oceans of long ago.

== A FINAL NOTE ABOUT SETI ==

Here’s a cool article about “Benford Beacons”... describing how my pal (and co-author) Gregory Benford -- along with his brother and nephew -- figured out the real way that advanced aliens would be likely to use radio to contact bright newcomers (like us). It turns out they would not do it the way the SETI Institute has assumed. There is almost no way that their Allen Array would catch anything, because ET would find it up to a million times more efficient to “spot check” our solar system, with brief, occasional beams.

But a network of 5,000 cheaper dishes, scattered in back yards all over the globe, would have a very good chance of catching such brief encounters. As it happens, the Seti League, led by Dr. Paul Shuch, has pioneered the Project Argus effort to get backyard radio receivers set up and networked so that, any future "WOW" signal will be detected, located and big telescopes notified, almost instantly. While lacking the deep sensitivity of the Seti Institute's Allen Array, the Seti League's effort would do as Sagan asked and shift "the heavy lifting" to the advanced aliens.  It would also mean we'd not miss blatant opportunities. Shuch says Argus seemed stalled at 150 or so out of 500 stations needed.  But one millionaire's $10M gift would set the whole thing in motion, FAR cheaper than the Allen Array! If you are (or know) an amateur radio type with some computer skills, you could become an important part of the search! 

Two background papers on this topic.
http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2009.0393
http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2009.0394

SpeculationsScienceFictionOff to Comicon!

62 comments:

Ian said...

Yet another lab-scale prototype that'll change everything - if it ever gets off the ground.

New process for capturing carbon dixoide from the atmosphere uses both photovoltaics and solar thermal energy.

Supposedly. the process can produce either solid carbon for disposal or carbon monoxide for further processing as a fuel source or chemical feedstock.

http://www.physorg.com/news199005915.html

Ilithi Dragon said...

The 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence has been deemed legal under international law.

Of particular note to Dr. Brin and past discussions here is how it breaks away from the long-standing precedent of a slavish insistence on maintaining current national borders as sacrosanct, and establishes a precedent for the division of existing nations.

Robert said...

I've noticed a dearth of news articles about the Coffee Party, the civil and more-intellectual counterpart to the Tea Party. I suspect part of this is due to the fact that the Coffee Party isn't news - who cares about people holding intelligent and mature dialogues on politics and society? If it weren't for the presence of radical elements in the Tea Party groups, I suspect they would suffer death through media abandonment.

Well, I just stumbled across an article on the Coffee Party which presents a comparison between the Coffee Party and Tea Party. One interesting thing both groups have in common is their feelings of Corporate influence on Congress:

"What also unites the Coffee Party and the Tea Party is a growing cynicism toward Congress' susceptibility in being unduly influenced by big corporations. It is in this skepticism of their government that both grassroots organizations can work together toward the common good."

It's a shame we don't see more on the Coffee Party in the news; I suspect we'd see a lot of people join them if they only knew of their presence. There is a strong undercurrent of discontent with the direction Congress is taking our government. But many voters disagree with the Tea Party. Seeing there is an alternative that believes in civil dialogue and in discussion and compromise might encourage these voters to remain in the system... and perhaps even draw people away from the Tea Party (which seems to emphasize shouting out the voices of reason).

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

John Kurman said...

Here's a 3-D printer application you can sink your teeth into:

Cornucopia

David Brin said...

Ilithi, one of thje great tragedies was that Britain & France did not chair a great big conference, in 1960, to recast the colonial borders along more sensible geo, commercial, ethnic lines.

I wish we would all join the Coffee Party movement. How do we find local chapters?

If Coffee and Tea could agree on corporate influence, it'd be a great jiu jitsu move to demand either (1) public financing of election campaigns or

Lessig's suggestion. A simple law that incumbents can spend no more in an election than their opponents spend.

occam's comic said...

I found this article :
http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100712VenkatasubmanianFai.html
and this paper :
http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/12/6/1514/

That a lot of people around here might find interesting.
This professor of Econophysics is trying to apply the statistical concept of Entropy to economic activities in an ideal market. He is specifically looking at salary distributions and finds that in the US most of salary distribution matches his model. The part of the distribution that doesn’t fit is at the very top end, they receive far more income than is “fair”.

What I find really interesting is that you could potentially use this model to compare different countries around the world to see in which countries the wealthy and powerful use their power to distort the marketplace. ( I am willing to bet all, but not in equal measures.)

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin, and anyone else interested in the Coffee Party:

The official site is here.

The event locater utility is right near the top of the main page, and is great for finding upcoming events in your area. Not all groups post their meetings there, but most do. You can also search past events to see if there is a group in your area that posted a previous event, but hasn't posted their next event yet.

The CP also asks all members to sign the Civility Pledge when they join:

As a member or supporter of the Coffee Party, I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.

Chapters/local groups aren't very structured or formalized; there's no set pattern or structure, aside from some regional coordinators, just whatever the local organizer(s) put together themselves.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Oh, and for the social networkers: the Facebook page, which currently has a quarter million subscribers.

Tony Fisk said...

Be it political parties in the pockets of big business, utilities who obstruct and discourage home solar, or telecommunication companies who *really* want you to use their mobile base stations. 'corporate influence' is a recurring meme.

Tea and coffee parties are one form of push back (as are the Transition Towns people, I suppose)

'Green tea' is another.

The coming Australian election has the possibility for general dissatisfaction for the 'big two' to be expressed in a third option. The Greens are probably going to receive a significant portion of the primary vote from Labor.

It doesn't necessarily mean that the Liberals are going to romp it in, though: most of that vote will slosh back into the Labor camp on preferences: in seats where it doesn't get the Greens over the line that is. The latter point is a real possibility.

To recap in 20 point type for non-oz readers: Labor have been flailing around helplessly, while Libs offer more of the same things we voted them out for in 2007.

Shall we stumble forward or stride backwards into the future?

Or shall it all come down to a Masterchef cook-off?

Ian said...

Tony,

I expect Labor to be returned with a reduced majority with the Greens picking up only 2-3 seats, if any.

I do though expect the Greens to have the balance of power in the Senate.

All of which means poor old Joe Hockey is probably going to be stuck with Leader of the Opposition.

Lorraine said...

There is almost no way that their Allen Array would catch anything, because ET would find it up to a million times more efficient to “spot check” our solar system, with brief, occasional beams.

Unless ET is afraid to do so because someone talked them out of 'shouting out to the cosmos.'

Tony Fisk said...

I suspect you're right, Ian.
(I *hope* you're right: Abbott is Sarah Palin, with brains... Aargh!)

On SETI:

I have in mind a cartoon:

A galaxy of sentient lifeforms, all just... listening.

Caption: 'The Earie Silence'

(possible sub caption of some B-grade boffins clustered round an apparatus and excitedly exclaiming "Look, there! Could it be.. tinnitus!?')

Tim H. said...

I seem to remember reading an Asimov essay where he suggested a singularity with the mass of the known universe would be the size of the known universe. And I do sneeze into my sleeve, better it becomes a biohazard 'til it hits the washing machine than have your hand look like something from a Gahan Wilson drawing.

Brendan said...

Tony & Ian. I think Tony Abbott(Liberal or Republican equivalent for the US readers) is a lost cause. When the default image by political cartoonists (including the picture that was on the front of most of the dailies when the election was announced) is him in his speedos, how is the electorate ever going to take him seriously?

Anonymous said...

The video at this link:

http://www.allwaterpurification.com/dean-kamen-water-purifier.html

does not play.

Tony Fisk said...

Problem is: I've seen an inept government get ousted in favour of a group of carnivores before (and the verb 'to Jeff' entered the vernacular). I think the situation that led to Kennett coming to power were a bit more clear-cut than now, but I see the parallels.

And, as if we don't have enough to worry about:
Less than a year until internet addresses run dry

(apparently no ISP wants to be first to incur the pain of upgrading their infrastructure to ipv6. Sound familiar?)

niners: alien critters dreamt up by Eric Frank Russell, which featured eight genders of male. (It's scary what things lurk in the recesses of memory)

Robert said...

They truly are insane: Republicans have embraced the concept of being the Party of No. To the point they are proud of denying unemployment benefits to millions of Americans, feeling that the Deficit is more important than the economy and unemployment (despite polls that claim otherwise). I am quite puzzled by this... insane behavior. I mean, the elections looked like it was going to be a Republican wash, with Republicans restoring a balance of power in the House and Senate (not gaining control, probably, but still strong gains).

How many Republicans are going to be painted by the thought "Republicans have no problem with you going hungry because they feel the unemployed are too lazy to get jobs, instead of the fact that the unemployed have been trying for over a year to get employment to no avail ... and have vetoed every effort except giving tax breaks to the very rich to increase job programs and programs for small businesses to hire people."

It doesn't matter if this is the truth or not. Democrats are going to cling to this message like a life preserver... and I have a feeling it's going to work. Republicans have just poisoned the well of voters out there... millions of unemployed, who don't matter to Republicans. You honestly think the unemployed will vote for the party who "feels they're lazy and need to starve a little to encourage them to get jobs?"

Rob H., growing increasingly cynical about both Democrats and Republicans... sort of a Negative Sum Game for both parties, with the Republicans still with a negative rating worse than Dems

Tony Fisk said...

They possibly think that all those 'loser' unemployed are too despairing and apathetic to vote.

rewinn said...

@Tony -

...and/or that a significant fraction of the unemployed (or their families) are authoritarian enough to back the Aristocracy even as it crushes them.

Anecdotally: I know several of such people. Their anger and distrust of "liberals" is such that regardless of any mere "fact" you may present to them, they *know* their plight is the fault of liberals and they're willing to cut their own throats to enjoy the feeling of throwing the liberals out.

Monty Python would've had a good time with this.

David Brin said...

No. Merely wanting to deny the poor help because it causes deficits is REGULAR conservatism ... and I miss it terribly.

What we are seeing is the utter hypocrisy of SOB liars trying to claim that the dems created the deficit situation, the calamity of GDP collapse and threatened deflation that absolutely demand deficit spending, after THEY trashed America top to bottom, either through utter stupidity or bona fide treason.

It is Obama's turn. The people turned to him and the dems, by big majorities, because the gops were proved to be at-best monstrous-corrupt fools. Now the Goppers are surging back based on one awful message:

"Yes, we're awful! But we assert the dems are even worse!"

In itself a horrid argument that only flies if you hurl assertions (never facts) that portray your opponents as pure, distilled evil.

Culture war is treason. Nothing has weakened us so much in my lifetime.

It is even treason against conservatism.

f said...

It's a bit off-topic for the article in question, but I'm curious to hear Dr.Brin opinion about the current pubblications of Afghanistan war logs by Wikileaks, and related to this the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, as these facts quite strongly relate with his idea about a transparent society.

Btw, a small note for Dr.Brin: your idea about a transparent society totally conquered me.
Before hearing your arguments, I was reflexively in favour to maximum privacy measures, but you made me reflect.

It's a pity that your book was not translated in my language, because if it was I would have an easier time comunicating these ideas to people that does not speak english...

Tacitus2 said...

A few months back Republicans were being taken to task here for opposing the so called PayGo provisions of the law....that is, you can't authorize more spending unless you either raise taxes to cover it or make cuts to counterbalance it.

That is what is being demanded in this instance, and the Dems have zero interest in doing so.

A bit of criticism for this cynical attitude if you please.

Of course, the Dems say this spending does not count because it is an emergency, and thus exempt from PayGo.

A fair question, and one with less partisan brimstone in it, is whether extending unemployment bennies is truely an emergency. And if yes, how long will it remain an emergency.

I am completely sensitive to the plight of our all too many unemployed, but on a policy basis should unemployment benefits be a matter of months, years, decades?

It is obviously a losing issue politically for the Republicans. But not evidence of insanity.

Tacitus2

rewinn said...

@Tacticus:

Today's soi-disant conservatives demand PAYGO for programs that benefit ordinary Americans (and not for programs that benefit the Aristocracy) but denounce any attempt to pay for the programs except to cut other programs that benefit ordinary Americans.

I don't mind the hypocrisy. The problem is that the math don't work. In large economic terms, that means the stimulative effect of driving up demand is offset by cutting demand elsewhere. In grassroots terms, that means there's no net benefit to ordinary Americans.

The center has the choice of continuing to play by Marquis of Queensbury rules ... and therefore not helping our nation ... or betraying PAYGO. What would you have?

Would you agree that there is a difference between putting wars of aggression off budget, and providing a minimal standard of living of Americans who would gladly work if there were any?

However, we can have PAYGO for unemployment; simply roll back tax rates for the Aristocracy to where they were when Reagan came into office: problem solved! In the larger economic realm, that would move money back into the real economy: out of the hands of speculators, back onto Main Street. In everyday terms, that means the Princes would make do with cheaper hookers.
===

Nice little summary of how Sspeculators are attacking our economy, one commodity at a time, at Southern Beale: Got Price Controls? Key point: commodity speculation is different today than ever before but our "leadership" doesn't get it; if AQ really wanted to cause trouble, they'd get a mole into Goldman Sachs.

Tim H. said...

Rewinn, like your point on the tax rates. Do you ever wonder if wealthy folk who amassed fortunes in spite of high tax rates look down on younger ones who've never known really high rates?

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

A fair question, and one with less partisan brimstone in it, is whether extending unemployment bennies is truely an emergency. And if yes, how long will it remain an emergency.

I am completely sensitive to the plight of our all too many unemployed, but on a policy basis should unemployment benefits be a matter of months, years, decades?


A fair answer to your fair question must take into account the clear and present danger of a depression/recession/deflation crisis this country is desperately trying to avert. I'm not accusing you of this, Tacitus (seriously), but it is disingenuous in the extreme for Republicans to accuse Democrats of hypocricy for taking very specific actions in this very specific crisis that they (Democrats) would oppose under ordinary circumstances.

The crisis demands putting money into the hands of consumers because the crisis is driven by lack of demand. The case for extending unemployment benefits is not just the bleeding-heart liberal desire to help poor people, but the fact that poor people with money in their pockets will spend it, which is what is necessary to get business going again.

The depression is not what is causing unemployment--rather unemployment is causing the depression. Unemployment was rampant even in the good times, because jobs are being outsourced and transnational monopolies have zero interest in investing in America, either in our people or our infrastructure. Ideally, the win-win solution to the economic crisis is to put more people back to work in private employment, which (as I said) puts money in their pockets, which they spend, which increased demand, which...

But there ARE no private jobs to be had because we're competing in a race to the bottom with Mexico and India and China for employment conditions. So the inferior but next-best solution is to put those same people to work in PUBLIC employment or (failing that) to give them a public stipend.

Anonymous said...

The "Coffee Party" is purely reactionary, without goals of any sort.

It's entirely about defusing criticism from the Left, which is why it's got a 50% membership overlap with OFA.

Some folks just can't smell astroturf right under their noses.

David Brin said...

Hello "f" and welcome to this community. Your English is good.

I wish there had been more translations for The Transparent Society. I am glad you found it logical. I have mixed feelings about WikiLeaks. They do not seem to be careful enough or prudent enough to protect themselves and the general concept. It is an excellent general idea. But I suspect it could have been better handled.

Tacitus, you keep turning your gaze toward legitimate issues that SHOULD be the basis of argument between Republicans and Democrats. Were the matters at stake simply those that you described in your note (above) I would have no trouble debating them, without resorting to terms like "insanity."

I would still use "hypcrisy" and "irony." The only DEregulation the GOP ever pursued (despite their rhetoric) was to unleash first S&L and then banking CEOs to run wild. Actual demolition of stodgy agencies like the ICC and CAB was done by democrats. Likewise, you have heard my riffs about military readiness and policing the borders -- both huge GOP rhetorical issues, but it is the dems who act.

As for deficit spending, we are teetering at the edge of a DEFLATION cliff. The government needs to spend lavishly NOW, in order to pull us back from the edge. That is, if Keynsianism has any validity at all... which it has been Proved to have, across 70 years... in contrast to the Total Lie of Supply Side. The proof of dem sincerity is that they were true to the other side of Keynsianism under Clinton, who paid down debt! That proof of sincerity ought to lend credibility...

...but all of that would be my argument IF THE ISSUES WERE THOSE YOU LAID DOWN.

But those are not the issues. Amid Civil War Phase III, the issue is maniacal crazed-paranoid assertion-spewing, lies, slander, populist hate-festivals aimed at one end... to portray the dems as "even worse" than the proved-horrific neocons. In order to shore up the base.

That "even worse".. in order for redders to vote for goppers as the "lesser evils" - has to be so exaggerated that 1/3 or Americans are encouraged to portray their liberal neighbors as satanic beings.

Anonymous, of course Coffee parties are reactionary. I would despise them for abetting culture war... except that war is what has already commenced. It has been crammed down our throats by the same factions that spurred civil war in 1861. For many of the same reasons.

gmknobl said...

On the coughing move...

The childcare center my wife works at teaches this "Dracula" move to all their kids and has for over a year to my knowledge. However, I'd say my knowledge of all that goes on there is limited. They could have been doing this for longer. It was publicly funded Virginia civil servants that got the word out on this to them. Of course, that's one of the things our "good" Virginia governor wants to cut. Or maybe he's changed his mind. Hard to tell...

rewinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rewinn said...

Tim H. wrote...
"Do you ever wonder if wealthy folk who amassed fortunes in spite of high tax rates look down on younger ones who've never known really high rates?"


"J. Pennysworth Moneybags coughed discreetly.

'I built Moneybags Gravel & Widgets from nothing, buying low and selling high. And I wasn't going to let the Communist Eisenhower get a penny of it, nosir!

He was a commie you know. Look up his Uncle Milton in your internets if you doubt me.

Most every year, our receipts were a lot higher than our expenses. That's profit, m'boy, and never look down on it! But if I took it as income, those vultures in DC would have their share. So I put it back into the business he-he! and they never saw a dime unless I said "boo!"

I expanded in town, then across the state and beyond. We had our ups and downs but as long as the marginal tax rate was high enough to discourage taking it as income, I took only enough to keep me and the missus in comfort and we reinvested the rest in plant and labor. And we rode high, yessireebob! We were gods!

Remember, our competitors paid the same tax rate as we did. In a competitive market, we didn't have any tax disadvantage.

But now..."

Moneysbags hacked and spit.

"These kids can't make a dollar. Even the presidency is run by money brokers now, ever since Reagan. They're living off the value stored up by my generation in physical plant and organization and human capital. Look at the bridges falling and not being replaced! Look at the real estate sold to foreigners! Detroit is turning back into farmland.

Because it's easier now to move money around than to actually make something. Instead of working hard, building something, figuring out the competition ... low marginal tax rates means you take it out of a real business, pay a little income tax, and put the rest into wheat derivatives or tulip bulbs or South Seas islands.

They make me sick. You don't have to be smart or tough to gamble; you just have to not care what your manipulations do to the real people that used to work in my factory.

I won't live to see the end of this. But as they say, 'apres moi, le deluge'"

rewinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim H. said...

Rewinn, you've exquisitely described one aspect of the compound failure the United States is enmeshed in. Re-establishing balance will be no mean feat.

Ian said...

The idea thaT American workers or develoepd world workers mroe broadly are engaged in "a race to the bottom" with worekrs in the developing world is a dangerosu fallacy.

US unemployment fell sharply after the ratification of NAFTA. Current high levels of unemployment in the US are accompanied by unprecendeted wage increases in India and China.

Workers in the develoepd world eanr mroe than their developing world counterparts for one major reason they are more productive.

An American autoworker is paid several times more per hour than a Chinese autoworker becasue their output in terms of added value is several times higher.

That's becasue where the Chinese worker is assembled components by hand and using a blowtorch to weld
body panels, the American is supervising and maintaining robots that perform those tasks far more rapidly.

Free trade creates jobs and icnreases income in both developed and developing countries and in both groups it is the poor who benefit the msot, trade barriers do the exact opposite.

Tim H. said...

"Free trade" seems to increase incomes in a very small number of people, as practiced, is cruelly exploitive. Great for perpetuating olgarchies.

rewinn said...

Trying to think of one advanced nation that got that way via free trade ...

UK? Nope, the Tudor plan was basically protectionist.

USA? Nope, Hamilton's "Report on Manufacturies" lead the way to protecting domestic industries.

Japan? Uhm, no. Toyota benefitting for Japan restricting American imports.

Korea? see "Japan"

India? See "Korea"

China? (mad cackling laughter ....)

====

Certainly tariffs or other protectionist measures can be done badly. There never was ANYthing that could not be done badly.

That is no reason not to do something well.

====
"Free trade creates jobs and icnreases income in both developed and developing countries and in both groups it is the poor who benefit the msot, trade barriers do the exact opposite." ... is simply false on the facts.

Ian said...

""Free trade" seems to increase incomes in a very small number of people, as practiced, is cruelly exploitive. Great for perpetuating olgarchies."

"Seems" based on what?

Certainly not any actual research by any reputable economist i've ever come across.

Ian said...

'"Free trade creates jobs and icnreases income in both developed and developing countries and in both groups it is the poor who benefit the msot, trade barriers do the exact opposite." ... is simply false on the facts."

Since you state that with such onfidence feel free to state the facts which support your position.

As for you're assertiosn abotu various coutries feel free to back that up with facts too - like tghe average trade-weighted effective rate of protection at various times in their history.

Ian said...

As for "The Tudor Plan" not only have I never heard of it my entire University studies in economics or in my career as a professional economist, I can also find nothign relevant searching on Google.

I assume it had some relation to the Tudor dynasty.

Need I point out that the Tudor dynasty ended approxiamtely 200 years prior to British industrialization.

I'd suggest that, just maybe, the Corn Laws are slightly mroe relevant.

Ian said...

Oh look here's The Tudor Plan

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=t3PK2aUBOvcC&pg=PA4&lpg=PA4&dq=%22Tudor+Plan%22&source=bl&ots=sMpf5munkC&sig=Y8dDbhTerpHEm52snneP7YWZ2Mg&hl=en&ei=P1hOTKvBNoi2vQOe2vwp&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBzgK#v=onepage&q=%22Tudor%20Plan%22&f=false

What relevance this has to Britain's emergence as a developed economy in the 19th century I couldn't really say.

David Brin said...

The notion that trade did not help the world's poor is one of the most profoundly counterfactual assertions I have ever seen. Half the world's human beings have risen into some rough semblance of the middle class, because of commerce, much of it international.

True, nations that practice mercantilism sometimes benefit, but under limited circumstances. The great mercantilists of the last 60 years got away with it for one reason... the generous leniency of Pax Americana and Marshall's policies of counter-mercantilism in US trade with others. It has lifted most of the world.

Want to see how things work out when everybody tries to be mercantilist at the same time? Look up the Hawley Smoot Tariff.

Ian said...

Oh look here's The Tudor Plan

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=t3PK2aUBOvcC&pg=PA4&lpg=PA4&dq=%22Tudor+Plan%22&source=bl&ots=sMpf5munkC&sig=Y8dDbhTerpHEm52snneP7YWZ2Mg&hl=en&ei=P1hOTKvBNoi2vQOe2vwp&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBzgK#v=onepage&q=%22Tudor%20Plan%22&f=false

What relevance this has to Britain's emergence as a developed economy in the 19th century I couldn't really say.

Ian said...

Unexpected good news on climate change: current emissions growth scenarios may be based on overly optimistic estimates for future coal production.

http://www.physorg.com/news199375442.html

(I say "may" based on pure gut-level reactions given my knowledge of the Queensland coal industry.

There are almost incalculable amounts of coal under Queensalnd and successive Queensland governments have proven that they'l ltolerate almost any level of environmental and social harm in order to dig it up.

Queensland alone could probably provide 100% of the world's coal demand at current levels for the next century.)

Ian said...

The latest physicist (and SF writer) Dr Robert Forward proposed that it woudl be possible to maintain a satellite in geosynchronous orbit over any part of the globe, not just over the equator and at any altitude by using a solar sail to generate thrust.

This proposal has now been verified:

http://www.physorg.com/news199363299.html

Lots of interesting implications for this.

- Wider dispersal of satellites means less risk of space junk

- satellites in lower orbit reduce the power required for satellite to ground communication

- geosynchronous space has been gettign icnreasingly crowded for com-sats. Satellites using the same EM spectrum need to be spaced a sufficient distance apart and we've simply been running out of space.

rewinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rewinn said...

"The notion that trade did not help the world's poor is one of the most profoundly counterfactual assertions I have ever seen...."

*I* didn't say that. Reality is complicated; ask the Mexican farmers driven off their land by American corn whether they're better off than when their markets had some protection. You might find some of them might be around the corner from you taking jobs from Americans.

BTW Smoot-Hawley came AFTER the Depression, and certainly it's a good example of how to do things badly. Let's not forget more than a century of more sensible tarriff policy preceeding it.

@Ian

Are you seriously claiming that SK and Japan did not use protectionist policies post-WW2 to build up their industrial infrastructure?

You say that you're a professional economist, well enough: you would therefore be able to find what sort of tarriffs or other barriers they employed in the period, and also the barriers China currently throws up against American imports.

"What relevance this has to Britain's emergence as a developed economy in the 19th century I couldn't really say..."
History didn't start in the 19th century; England became a major European power somewhat earlier which is why we speak English instead of French or, perhaps, Iroquois.

Was it not the case that Pre-Henry VII England was an agricultural backwater? The King (or some of his smart advisors, who knows?) decided to change that by protecting local manufacturies; more here.

@All

The issue is not whether some trade is beneficial to all, where there are natural advantages.
The issue, which professional economists in service to the Aristocracy never say out loud, is how the situation changes when trading nations adopt unnatural advantages, e.g. develop industries. When capital and resources flow between markets and industries, the prettily balancing diagrams change, and never to the advantage of the factor of production known as "labor" ... because the people who decide how things flow between markets seek (naturally) to maximize profit by minimizing the costs of the factors of production. This is no tragedy to factors such as technology, but "labor" consists of human beings and we care about them.

In particular, Chinese workers are not cheaper because they use lower technology; they're cheaper because they cannot demand American wages. Because they are cheaper, they tend to use lesser technology because (as any economist will tell you) it doesn't make sense to use technology to displace cheap labor.

Were it the case that wages were tightly linked to productivity, American wages would have increased over the past decades as our productivity increased; but in fact inflation-ajusted wages have fallen for the past decades. American workers are more productive than ever but the collapse in their buying power is driving us into recession and below, only slightly retarded by public spending, first in the form of the Bush wars & now the Bush/Obama "stimulus" packages.

We can argue all the theory and religion that we want but look at the facts: Americans are being impoverished as our jobs and economy are sailing overseas. If "THEORY" says we should be better off then ever, then obviously "THEORY" is wrong!

Fortunately there *is* a more-or-less free-market solution, and that is to restore the balance between natural advantages of the various economies by removing the artificial differences in the productivity-ajusted cost of labor. Since we have (and should have) no ability to regulate wages here or abroad, the obvious solution is what is commonly known as a "labor-equalization tariff". Unlike Smoot Hawley, it merely adds the productivity-adjusted labor cost to goods crossing a border so that a widget made in Vietnam has the same labor cost as one made here.

rewinn said...

I must apologize for duplicate postings. It may be Win7/IE or blogger or just a new effect of my Chaotic Technology Field.

Ian said...

"Are you seriously claiming that SK and Japan did not use protectionist policies post-WW2 to build up their industrial infrastructure?"

Actually I'm simply asking you to support your claims.

But since you ask:

1. Just as British history didn't start with the 19th century Japanese history didn't start in 1945.

Japanese indiustrialisatio nstarted durign the Meiji Restoration when the Unequal Treaties prevented Japan from imposing ANY trade barriers on western imports.

2. The average effective rate of protection on Japanese and South Korean industries has consitently been lower than in most other developed countries.

3. Both Japan and south Korea engaged in protectionism - to a much lesser extent than is acknowldged by western advocates of protectionism.

Furthermore the industries that Japan in particular chose to protect and subsidise after World WAr II (including aviation, petrochemicals and shipbuilding)actually grew more slowly than the economy as a whole.

The successful Japanese industries such as cars and consumer electronics received far less government support.

(Just for the record, I got my degree from the Division of Asian and International Sutdies at Griffith University with a double specialization in Japanese Studies and International Economics. There aren't a lot of areas on which I consider myself an expert. Japanese economic history is one of the exceptions.)

BTW, seeing as Japanese manufacturing wages are higher than American manufacturing wages I assume you would support Japanese teariffs on American imports. You know, to protect American workers from being unfairly exploited.

Ian said...

If we were discussing Young Earth Creationism, I'm sure Tim and Rewinn would be appalled at the prospect of nonscientists disputing environmental biology with biologists.

I'm sure they're as disgusted as the rest of us at the prospect of the Texas Board of Education presuming to rewrite the history curriculum prepared by historians and educators and by the persistent refusal of abstinence-only sexual education advocates to acknowledge the empirical evidence that it simply doesn't work.

But, for some reason, the same standards don't apply when it comes to economics.

Yet another reason to refer to it as dismal science I suppose.

Tim H. said...

Hardly appalled, if the biologists can't handle it, they should write about something less controversial. And Texas is a special case, their "Republicritters" came on the short bus. If you've gotta' have a credentialed opinion that the U. S. economy is hurting and free trade, as practiced leaves somewhat to be desired, read Paul Krugman, I think he might have a credential or two.

Robert said...

Yet when an economic theory is disproven, the economists who believe in that theory claim that "outside influences" from the government or the like and then insist on continuing the same broken policies.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Ian:

That's becasue where the Chinese worker is assembled components by hand and using a blowtorch to weld
body panels, the American is supervising and maintaining robots that perform those tasks far more rapidly.


Serious question--what is the correct way to order a society in which technology allows for much, MUCH less human toil to produce an abundance of goods. I mean, isn't the point of technology to FREE people from drudgery? A few hundred years ago, there could literally be no food on the table without everybody at that table putting in a long, hard day's work to produce it. Cruel as it sounds, a "work or starve" system makes a certain amount of sense in those circumstances. It's being imposed by nature, not by society, and it's not fair to take food off of the table of those who worked for it to feed those who didn't.

But what's the correct way to order things when technology allows (say) five man-hours of work a month tending the machinery to produce all the necessities and many of the luxuries of life? To me, it makes a lot of sense to say that anyone who puts in the required (small) amount of work has earned his living and that of his dependents. But in practice, unfettered capitalism means that the less human labor is required for the system, the LOWER everyone's standard of living becomes, because they are "deprived" of a method of earning a living.

By what measure does it make sense that in this potential techologcal paradise called America, one's right to eat is still dependent on one's utility to those who skim and hoard all the cash? How does it make sense that the right to eat is something to be withheld by corporations except to those few who can make themselves useful to the corporation on the corporation's terms?

I'm not saying the free-market capitialist system NEVER made sense, but reality has shifted in ways the system has not caught up with.

And to the tea-partiers who seem fanatically concerned with the threat of government-imposed slavery at the point of its guns, how are you any more "free" when corporations are able to impose that same slavery upon you by witholding the necessities of life?

rewinn said...

@Ian
"Both Japan and south Korea engaged in protectionism - to a much lesser extent than is acknowldged by western advocates of protectionism."

You concede my major point; I'll grant you your minor one.

The issue of Creationism vs. Economics points out a difference between the "hard" sciences and "sciences" of human organization. Economics has a political component that biology et al lack. Fossils and isotopes and DNA and suchlike really don't care how we theorize about them. In contrast, economic actors *do* care how we theorize about them. It is only rational on the part of our political and economic leadership to encourage we peasants to believe in a New Soviet Man or an Economically Rational Man or some other mythical creature.

If the Soviets or the J. Pennysworth Moneybags promote creationism or Lysenkoism or a theory that airfoils work by blocking gravity rays or some other theory that does not match well with objective reality, bad stuff happens eventually: their planes won't fly, their medical science will fall behind. But if they promote fealty to their economic theories, then GOOD stuff happens ... to THEM anyway ... and bugger-all the peasantry.

Granting the evidence of maximum sincerity on the part of Ian and most other economists, we really do not live in a world where political science, economic science and so forth are so well established and so divorced from the self-interest of political and economic leadership that they cannot be meaningfully commented on by mere amateurs.

Some day there may be philosopher-kings who know more than we do about self-government that we hoi polloi should not comment but today is not that day.

rewinn said...

"I'm not saying the free-market capitialist system NEVER made sense, but reality has shifted in ways the system has not caught up with..."

I would endorse this and add one more thing:

Extremes of any theory of human organization usually have bad results. Whether it's North Korea today or Iceland last year, too much or too little control of human organizations such as the market leads to bad stuff.

Why this is, I'm not quite sure, but it fits with the observed facts. In my reading of history, some free trade is good, some concerted action to protect local jobs is good, extremes of either are bad. If that seems a little mealymouthed, so be it; I just don't think that it is advances a search for truth to argue against moderate protection by pointing out that extreme protectionism is bad.

LarryHart said...


Extremes of any theory of human organization usually have bad results. Whether it's North Korea today or Iceland last year, too much or too little control of human organizations such as the market leads to bad stuff.

Why this is, I'm not quite sure, but it fits with the observed facts.


I think you're stating something we've discussed on this site before. That the Enlightenment experiement in both democracy AND in capitalism (two very different things) that made the 20th Century what it was--was essentially an experiment in ENGINEERING. A system--a sort of machine if you will--was CONSTRUCTED which magnificently channeled human motivation INTO self-sustaining, beneficient directions.

Now in the 21st century, the right-wing is cheerfully dismantling the Great Machine under the bizarre theory that because that machine worked so well, it has proven that human motivation NATURALLY tends toward self-sustaining, beneficient directions, and that machines actually get in the way of this process.

It's analogous to a claim that the functioning of the internal combustion engine proves that the best way to make use of hydrocarbons for motive power is uncontrolled explosions--that the engine itself is somehow retarding the process.

David Brin said...

Sure the Japanese used mercantilist methods to drive an export-propeled development scheme, that's copied all over the world, especially China. So? What irritates me is that they give no credit where it is due... to deliberate decisions to LET them do this. Those decisions lifted them out of poverty. We, too, could have been mercantilist, like every empire before us. We chose not to be and that decision made the modern world.

rewinn said...

"...What irritates me is that they give no credit where it is due... to deliberate decisions to LET them do this. Those decisions lifted them out of poverty. We, too, could have been mercantilist, like every empire before us. We chose not to be and that decision made the modern world."

I don't disagree. We (or rather, our honored ancestors) certainly could have imposed any trade terms we wanted on our defeated foes, and didn't.

At the grassroots level, there may be a huge reservoir of goodwill toward America around the world based on that history - that we could've tried to be an old-school empire but chose better. Above the grassroots ... well ... organizations (whether private or governmental) are not noted for gratitude.

Perhaps it's time to ask those we helped back then for a little payback.

BCRion said...

"Perhaps it's time to ask those we helped back then for a little payback."

Sadly, I do not think this possible anymore. Perhaps it was a decade prior, but following neocon rule, we lost much goodwill in this world. Unfortunately, as a further consequence, we have also lost a lot of our material standing in the world as well. We are still strong, but we are no longer in control of our own destiny, let alone anyone else's really.

This, to be blunt, was the greatest crime (whether acts of malfeasance or gross negligence) perpetrated upon American in over a century. For this reason, I can never forgive those in power during much of the 2000s. Even more disturbing, they continue to march on perpetuating their madness even further. Sadly, the democrats have proven intelligent, well intentioned, but ultimately politically ineffectual against an opponent whose chief still seems to be winning elections.

David Brin said...

BCRion yes. The biggest crimes of the Bushites were crimes that ALL Americans should resent. Those would be crimes against America's health, influence, prestige and ability to act for good in the world.

True, if you are a liberal, you would heap on lots of other indictments. But it is purely from a conservative perspective that the neocons are revealed as utter traitors to the thing they claim to love above all else - Pax Americana.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hello Dr Brin

Some time ago you mentioned that Bush had cut border security funding and Clinton had increased it

Can you please point me to the source of this information

Thanks

Tim H. said...

"Utter traitors"?, No incompetent conservatives who forgot that excess is not a conservative virtue.

Tony Fisk said...

ie 'self-servatives'

Tony Fisk said...

...Speaking of which.

according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, 96% of the $9.1bn budget is unaccounted for.

bubrisb: the noise my brain makes when trying to accept that these things happen.