Sunday, March 25, 2012

Are you human?

I ran into banking issues, so I decided to do an online chat. Didn't my helper seem to be just a little...robotic? I decided to test him/her/it.

The test was passed, but was it challenging enough? My thought is that a good test to see whether or not something is human is to probe for a sense of creativity or the ability to be illogical.

I'm still not completely convinced that Maya is human.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Enjoy your right to drive a car, part 2

I wrote a post two years ago where I predict that we will see manual driving of cars in our lifetimes be outlawed. One advantage of automated driving?

"No need to stop at red lights. Automated cars could perfectly time passage such that we travel through intersections seamlessly from all ways without slowing down. This might be a little harrowing at first, I'll admit."

Now you can watch a video representation of that prediction. It's kind of cool.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

America is not stealing the world's doctors

Response to a recent NYT column:

Forget concerns about brain drain; opening international borders to immigration and free movement of individuals is by far the best policy. Its hard for me to believe that dysfunctional nations are better off because their brightest talents are kept captive by political barriers. Certainly, the individuals themselves are worse off.

I happen to think the originating nations benefit in was that aren't appreciated, beyond simple remittances. Well-trained expats around the world can serve as a go-between between the local (originating) economy and the international economy. If anyone is poised to catalyze positive change in troubled nations, it would be these expats, who will be unique in understanding the local economy and the global system.

Another advantage of open borders: dysfunctional nations whose talented citizens consistently emigrate elsewhere have a very strong incentive to reform, do they not? If dysfunctional nations don't have to compete for talent just because it happens to be local, they are less likely to nurture it. Consider if top American researchers started emigrating to China: I bet you that the USA would jack up spending on R&D in response, to keep the talent here.

Ultimately, we should be less concerned with the success or failure of specific nation-states, and focus on what is best for humanity and the world as a whole. Humanity benefits when every individual is able to reach his or her full potential, period. Where that happens is less important than whether it happens. What if Einstein had been born in a nation with few opportunities for science or education? An even more troubling question: how many Einsteins has the world already missed out on?

For further reading, Tyler Cowen wrote this rebuttal to the piece that suggested that recruiting African workers should be a crime.

I guess this is another one for the "I told you so" file.

Maybe I'm jumping the gun. Approximately two years ago, I took stock of the Tea Party Revolution:

"I do not believe political gains made by [false intellectual pretenses] are sustainable. Republicans may have accomplished electoral victory this year but there will be a big question whether or not they accomplish legislative victory; the former is worth nothing without the latter. When you gain political momentum on false pretenses...for example, by lying about Obama and demonizing his intentions, you aren't winning an argument in the minds of the American people, you're just scaring them.

...Conservatives should be less short-sighted. The foundation of a strong conservative movement won't come from cheap sound bytes put forth by idiot news casters on Fox. They'll come from real thinkers who don't need to beat their political adversaries with lies - they can beat them with better ideas and stronger arguments. That was the movement that Buckley and Goldwater supposedly started and it lasted a generation. The movement of intellectual hacks like Palin and Gingrich will last two years. If that."

The conservative resurgence in 2010 was based on a large degree on generating emotional reactions by describing a simplistic view of complicated issues. Simplistic views, by definition, are extreme in that they do not appreciate nuance. This was successful in electoral terms, for sure (its easy to get people to the polls when you convince them that Obama is a radical socialist who is remaking America). It has been a disaster in legislative terms. Many republicans, who were elected as purists, have had no ability to appreciate the complexity of the serious issues this nation has faced. This has made it impossible for them to organize a coherent agenda and come up with bills that are sane enough that they can all agree on, much less get any Democratic support.

The Republican Party has not achieved one significant legislative victory since taking the House. They have not secured not a single compromise that advances their agenda; they have not cut spending a single iota. They have squandered their electoral mandate on useless fights over reproductive rights and settling political scores. To appeal to such a party that has become so detached from reality, their candidates for president are either insane or have had to become so extreme that they may be unelectable in a general (the rest didn't even bother running). Less and less we are hearing talk of the GOP taking the Senate and the White House, and more we are hearing about whether or not they will even hold onto the house.

America has serious issues facing it. This country cannot move forward without two functioning political parties. Until the GOP has members who understand the complex issues we face and are capable of compromise, the political system will remain gridlocked and real conservative change will remain elusive. I have argued before: in the absence of real reform, big government wins by default. The road to a single payer health care system - actual government run health care, will be paved with a lack of compromise.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Fantastic thread on predictions

On Marginal Revolution.

One of my favorite lines, for some reason:

"Kids are always at least one step ahead of their parents where technology is involved. Much in the way that banks are with regard to regulators."

Link here

Friday, March 02, 2012

America is getting punked by congress.

Mitt Romney wrote Obama in 2009 urging him to include an individual mandate??? Wait a minute. I've seen this before. This isn't real. This was a TV show starring Ashton Kutcher. Our government has to be pranking us. In my mind, this is more or less how the conversation went:

"OK guys here's the plan. Everyone just say really crazy things about Obama. At the same time, Mitt, make sure there is zero daylight between you and Obama on all political and social issues. You should routinely criticize the things that you have both done. The only difference between you and Obama is that you should be sure not to relate to people in a human way, and occasionally make comments that perfectly caricature what liberals think about rich people.

Mitt, when you run for president in 2012 the only people who will compete with you should be completely unelectable. I'm thinking we either go with people who would not be out of place in an asylum...Bachmann and Perry, I'm looking at you...or we dig up some has-been politicians from the 90's who left office defeated and in disgrace. Does anyone have Newt or Santorum's number?

Lets come up with plenty of slogans that don't really mean anything and that aren't internally coherent. Sarah, I love your "keep your government off of my medicare" and "death panel" bits, keep them up! While peddling those, we'll bring up issues that we have already argued about and solved in previous decades.

Liberal Americans will feel like they've entered the twilight zone. The narrative will be so convoluted that they won't even know where to begin. Conservative Americans will be found sobbing on the floor in the fetal position with Rush ranting in the background.

Right then, we all run out and yell "you got punked!" Then we pass the "We Sure Got You Good Act" which balances the budget next year, pays off the deficit in 5, includes the Iran peace treaty that we negotiated last year, funds entitlements, lowers taxes, implements effective financial regulation, simplifies the tax code, and expands military spending. Then we can adjourn for the rest of the year since there will be nothing else to do."

Thursday, March 01, 2012

No, employers cannot do whatever they want.

I've seen some attempts to defend the "right" of employers to infringe on the rights of their employees because those employees, after all, can quit and find a new job.

We have in fact already fought this battle, and it is already established that an employer cannot do whatever they want to their employees.

They can't pay women less.  They can't discriminate against minorities.  They cant sexually harass their employees.  They can't force them to work 100 hours per week or force them to go without lunch.

I could go on.  This fight has already been had.  It's unbelievable to me sometimes how much perspective and sense of history Americans can lack when having a political debate.

The end result is Americans completely lose the ability to approach things in a balanced way.  Nobody is going to make priests hand out condoms.  It doesn't follow that employers can do whatever they want.  Sheesh.