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Intellectually honest headline of the day

Intellectually honest headline of the day: “CERN Scientists Conclude that the Universe Should Not Exist”.

Social media as operant conditioning

Insight of the day: Social media is a massively distributed operant conditioning machine that rewards people into conformity. Conformity to what? Here’s the novel wrinkle: anything. The owners of social media really don’t care where the bandwagon you jump on is going, as long as a lot of people jump on; people whom they will be able to sell. Social media networks alter society through the intrusion of information...

Facebook is Bad for Democracy

On Facebook I recently noticed an increase of the following message on the comments of political articles: “Top Comments is selected, so some replies may have been filtered out.” So Facebook is so intent on feeding us only what its algorithm thinks we want to hear that it won’t even let us see opposing viewpoints. Facebook obviously know I’m liberal, and not just from clicking “Like” on...

The problem with share buybacks

Recently many publicly traded companies have spent huge amounts of money buying back their own shares. Why is this happening, and why is it a problem? Economics 101: be careful what you incentivize. CEO’s are incentivized primarily on share price performance. In theory that means incentives are structured to grow the business. But markets respond primarily to growth in profits, which is not necessarily the same thing...

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...