An End In Sight
7 minutes ago
Let's look at some numbers. 2,977 people were murdered on September 11, 2001. How many folks died from the Mexican Drug War in 2010?So I emailed him, and asked him my own question:
More than 12,000.
That suggests another question. Would you rather legalize most drugs... or see the equivalent carnage of four 9/11s happen every year from fighting the black market? That isn't a hypothetical. It's a real choice.
Something like 35,000 people a year die in America from vehicular collisions. So I have a question for you: would you rather ban cars or see the equivalent carnage of nearly twelve 9/11s happen every year from vehicle collisions?
"Cost doesn’t go into why Obama managed to get to the top of politics without being all that good at it. The answer is distressingly obvious: Obama’s the biggest affirmative action baby in history."
Penalize taking longer than four years; incentivize taking less. Student debt figures are inflated by the fact that so many students take more than four years to finish college. Since there clearly isn't much in the way of social expectations pushing students to finish in the traditional four years, it may be time for schools who have to start to enact penalties for students taking longer than four years.
Consider a recent study by economists David Berri and Rob Simmons. While they found that Wonderlic scores play a large role in determining when QBs are selected in the draft -- the only equally important variables are height and the 40-yard dash -- the metric proved all but useless in predicting performance. The only correlation the researchers could find suggested that higher Wonderlic scores actually led to slightly worse QB performance, at least during rookie years. In other words, intelligence (or, rather, measured intelligence), which has long been viewed as a prerequisite for playing QB, would seem to be a disadvantage for some guys.
I couldn't disagree more with Chaplain Mike; The Giving Tree is a horrid, horrid piece of work. It stars a little brat who takes and takes from this poor tree for the entire length of the book. The tree gives and gives and gives until it has literally nothing left; It becomes a pathetic, dying stump. It has nothing left for either itself or anyone else who comes by. And the book presents this as a good thing!Yes, and no. Certainly, "the boy" never gives anything back to the tree, not even love really. That's too bad. But the tree never suggests it needs the love of the boy.
The boy comes and plays with the tree every day, eats apples, and plays in branches for fun. Later he falls in love. The woman he loves is beautiful, fun, and interesting. He loves her so dearly that he cuts the branches from his favorite old tree to build a home for her. Shortly after their marriage she gets pregnant. She dies in childbirth, holding his hand. Her and the baby both die. Something in him dies with her. He returns to the tree, angry at the world. He thinks if he just gets away from here, if he can just go find somewhere...an escape...he can heal the wound in him that tears him apart. The tree gives him its trunk and he sails away. He crosses the whole of the world, seeking a better, happier life. He fights in a war, then two, and watches his friends fall around him. After the wars he lives for a time in New York, and becomes wealthy. At the end of his days, he returns to his old home, ready to face his demons. He visits the graveyard for the first time...sees the gravestones of his wife and child, and falls to his knees and weeps for the life he could have had - the life they should have had with him.
His life was bitter, and tragic, filled with loss. Later, he slowly walks across a field, and comes across the stump of The Tree. He sits down heavily, tired with the weight of the world. He remembers his happy youth spent playing in this tree. Now the tree too is reduced to nothing, and has lost everything. Life is a tragedy, he laments. Then he slowly heads home.
A tiny seedling is born in a field one spring morning. A hundred of its brothers and sisters sprout along with it. The little seedling is ambitious though, and has the tactical advantage of falling far enough from the mother tree that it can get good sunlight. The little seedling grows aggressively - angrily - and quickly begins to overshadow some of its siblings. Starved of light, they disappear. Seasons pass, and the little tree grows. It shrewdly invests most of its energy in its upper branches, and abandons lower ones. This helps it develop a canopy over its peers, and chokes them out.
Its roots begin a war of attrition with the other young apple trees. Because if its location in the field, it is able to send a taproot to a nearby creek, gaining precious water resources. A dry season comes, and wipes out many of its competitors.
Withing a few years, it has become so large it has eliminated all its competitors and now threatens its mother tree. Without regret...without feeling...it attacks, circumventing the root system of the mother tree and choking it out. A late frost comes, and the mother tree is finished. It slowly dies and falls away.
Suddenly faced with total victory, the tree finds itself completely alone. Conquest is great, the tree admits. But as a few years go by, the tree begins to feel lonely. Soon it realizes that it was the competition with its siblings that it loved. The intimate presence of other trees around it were what made each day interesting. Now it has nothing but an empty field to keep it company. Nothing but its own thoughts.
As the seasons go by, the tree laments its own stupid ambition. Why had it been so important to be the dominant tree? What was the point of winning if by winning it lost everyone it cared about? The tree begged God, Nature, or a freak storm to come by and take it out. It produced apples, hoping to have children...but its growth had wrecked the nearby soil so effectively that new seedlings could not grow. Barren, alone, and infinite, the tree despaired.
Until one day a boy came hopping across the field, and began to play in its branches. Desperate for this company, the tree promised itself that it would do whatever the boy wanted, as long as it could make this little boy happy...it would be happy.
I got the worst grade of my whole college career in Theda Skocpol’s class on American social policy, and that’s never stopped me from writing about American social policy.
A gas tax increase doesn’t kidney punch consumers as much as in previous years. When gas was $1.75 a gallon, a gas tax increase looked pretty nasty, as it would proportionally add a great deal to the cost of transportation. But now that fuel-efficient cars are far more common and gas prices are already higher, even a large increase in the gas tax would not proportionally raise transportation costs all that much.
And to the extent that it might impact the working poor who must rely on older and less fuel efficient cars to get to work (especially given the continuing lack of reliable and safe public transport in many cities), the effect could be mitigated by a needs-based voucher system entitling them to discounts and operated through the food stamps program.
There is only an infinitesmal chance that any one vote will be decisive. So individual voters have strong incentives to remain ignorant. But not every form of rational behavior is morally defensible. Sometimes, rational individual behavior leads to terrible collective outcomes. Consider the case of air pollution, where individuals might rationally choose not to limit their emission of dangerous pollutants because any one person’s behavior has only a tiny effect on overall air quality in the area.
That means that any real budget deal is going to have to, somehow, bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats. The Ryan plan is fine as a starting point for talks. It is not fine if the GOP refuses to accept that it cannot also be the ending point.
A human-machine integration is far beyond current technology, of course. But technology advances by integrating. That is, when one system improves, it spurs improvement in other systems so they can keep up. When those systems improve, they in turn spur the first system to improve. The systems become increasingly dependent on each other. Their futures become mutually bound.Morost goes on to suggest the future:
Take, for example, desktop computers and the software that runs them. Better computers let software engineers write bigger programs. Bigger programs create a demand for better computers. The computer manufacturers are happy to oblige, and the cycle starts all over again. A push is matched by a pull, which evokes a new push. That push-pull dynamic has rammed innovation into overdrive.
A push-pull dynamic is hobbled, though, when one system can’t improve as fast as the other. The Internet is improving very fast. The human body improves very slowly. Our hands evolved to grip spears and plows, and so can type only so many emails in a day. Our senses evolved to monitor a largely unchanging savannah for friends and predators, and so can pay attention to only a handful of events at a time. To be sure, some human attributes like IQ appear to have risen in the twentieth century, but the rate of increase is much slower than technology’s. There is no Moore’s Law for human beings.
This mismatch between humans and the Internet imposes inherent limits on how much either can improve. This is unfortunate, because they are a natural match for a push-pull dynamic driving each other upward. Their strengths are complementary. The Internet is fast, while humans are slow; capacious, while humans are forgetful. Conversely, humans are self-aware while the Internet isn’t, and humans can interact with the physical world while the Internet can’t. But they also have aligned strengths: they are both intensely networked, intensely communicative entities.
One way to overcome the separateness of humans and the Internet is to increase the speed and density of their information exchange. Nature has already solved an engineering challenge like this, in fact, in your own head. Your brain has two hemispheres, each of which controls the opposite side of your body. Your left hemisphere controls your right hand and the right side of your face, for instance. In a normal brain the two halves work together smoothly and efficiently because they are connected via the corpus callosum, a bundle of 200 to 250 million nerve fibers. Their separateness is overcome by what scientists call “massively parallel connectedness.”
But if a surgeon severs the corpus callosum, as has sometimes been done in last-ditch attempts to control epilepsy, it soon becomes clear that the two hemispheres have very different desires and intentions. One hand buttons a shirt while the other simultaneously unbuttons it. One hand pulls down one’s trousers, while the other pulls them back up. In his book The Bisected Brain Michael Gazzaniga wrote that splitting the hemispheres “produces two separate, but equal, cognitive systems each with its own abilities to learn, emote, think, and act.” In an intact brain the corpus callosum lets the hemispheres exchange so much data so quickly that functionally they behave as a unified brain. The rapidity and density of the connection effectively erases their differences.
As I said, the lack of a fast and efficient interface sets inherent limits on how much humans can do with the Internet. If human minds could work directly with the Internet, two grand unifications would happen at once. First, humans would become more closely connected with each other. As I will explain later in the book, we would have entirely new ways to sense each other’s presence, moods, and needs. A person with a suitably wired brain could be aware of other people as if they were part of her own body, the same way she knows where her own fingers are. Second, humanity and its tool, the Internet, would become a single organism with entirely new powers. Not just a mere hybrid, but a new species in its own right.Well, that might be a bit poetic for me. Readers can read my version of this concept here. I want to touch on a brief problem with the future. Imagine he and I are right, and not far in the future it become possible, either by surgery or by less invasive means, for a computer and a human being to directly connect via the nervous system. The floodgates are opened.