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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...

How 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...

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...

Some product reviews I wrote over the past year

2007 was a good year, and I wrote a number of interesting product reviews. A recent article I wrote was a list of lens bargains for the Sony Alpha (formerly Minolta Maxxum) lens mount. The article was titled Sony Alpha (Minolta Maxxum mount) lens bargains. I also wrote a review of my main wide-angle lens, the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM. And predictably review was titled Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Review. A couple...

How not to write occult history

The history of the occult is an interesting topic, especially for scholars of Rudolf Steiner. To someone new to esotericism who encounters Rudolf Steiner first, it may seem as if he originated everything. This is not to undervalue Steiner’s substantial original contributions; however Steiner himself was the first to acknowledge that he was working in a tradition with a long history. And Steiner made many references to...

Notes on my other blogs.

I have a few other Blogs out there. Most are mirrors of this one in some form or other. Daniel’s Main Blog at Aelzina Anthroposophy at weblogs.us Daniel at BraveJournal.com Thoghts on Anthroposophy at BlogSpot.com Daniel at BlogSpirit Anthroposophy at Bravewriting.com Daniel at LiveJournal.com Anthroposophy at Blog-City.com Daniel at 22blog.com Daniel at...