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Thoughts on Income Inequality

In an article so blind to the obvious that it might as well be willful, The Wall Street Journal opined, “Americans Are Richer Than Ever, But They Don’t Feel That Way: U.S. household net worth is expected to hit another record, but that won’t mean much to most people”. And not once does the article mention income inequality. Boiling the problem down to the simplest example, let me point out that, between us, Bill Gates and I...

Why I don’t trust our society to run nuclear...

The social problem with nuclear power is this. If some fool blows up the economy (or if a perverse structure of incentives drive a whole herd of bankers to blow up the economy) we all suffer for a few years, or even decades. But our grandchildren will be ok. If the same dynamic leads to a full reactor meltdown somewhere, then you could have 1% of the US uninhabitable for the next ten millennium (to say nothing of premature...

Are polls lies?

The recent recent election has prompted a lot of comments like, “all polls are lies”. I disagree. Polls are a very fuzzy take on a moment in time. A poll two weeks before election day can’t tell you how the election will turn out, only how people feel about it two weeks before the event. And even for its moment in time it is fuzzy – sample size, etc. Most have a 5% margin of error. The polls, at least...

The danger of being too smart (overconfidence)

There is a fascinating article on 538 about the cognitive traps extraordinarily smart people are prone to as a result of usually knowing more than most people around them. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/who-will-debunk-the-debunkers/ ) I suppose it is another angle on the physicists who think they can solve any problem in unrelated domains just because they are so much smarter than other people. But it turns out that...

Random notes

I was talking to my friend Stephen Usher today about the website we designed for the Austin Branch of the Anthroposophical Society. We are still trying to decide if we like the color of the background. It is nice to have a soft watercolor – it gives a bit of an ethereal feel – but it could be distracting. I brought this up after talking to Caron of Sontec Instruments, who is looking to put a website together for...

Wikipedia page views

A new beta program is going around that counts Wikipedia page views. I tried it on a really obscure page, and none the less found that the page was getting just over 1000 views per week! At first I chalked it up to theh global reach of Wikipedia. But then I started to think about it more. I have to wonder if that number doesn’t include hits from all of Wikipedia’s bots. Wikipedia employs a number of automated software...