Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Wonder of it all: Skin Gun and 3D Printer

Amazing technology.


Could this be the first generation star trek replicator?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Red Herring

A red herring is an argument which is used to distract from the original issue by introducing some irrelevant issue or topic. This seems to be thought of as both a logical fallacy and a debating tactic. I guess it is a rhetorical tool when used consciously but is always a fallacy. Its basic structure is; 1) A is the topic of discussion, 2) B is introduced as a distraction from topic A, 3) A is abandoned. Supposedly, the etymology of this fallacy came from the training of dogs in the sport of fox hunting. The dog trainer would drag a cured red herring across the trail of a fox to confuse the dogs. Eventually the dogs would be able to follow the scent of the fox rather than the scent of the herring.

An example might be; "This new computer program is too slow for me to be able to get my work done on time and it is missing some of the necessary features the old program used to have." Steve replies "What you have failed to understand is that the new software cost half as much as the other program and is much easier to learn." With this example Steve's argument does not in anyway address the original topic which is that the program is too slow and missing necessary features. Instead he introduces an irrelevant argument regarding costs and learning time which distracts from the original issue. This is not to say that Steve's argument is irrelevant to some other issues but it does not in anyway address the original issue.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Behold

Makes me feel as if I am leaving my corporeal body and moving on to an ethereal plain.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Over regulation

Though I tend to be somewhat libertarian minded, I do believe that a minimal degree of smart regulation is beneficial. Unfortunately the words minimal, smart and regulation don't seem to go together in the United States. Our government seems to find red tape aesthetically pleasing and wants to wrap every business in it.

An example of the ever growing nature of government regulation can be understood with this 2009 report from the Mercatus Center which tracks the budgets and staff of federal regulatory agencies. Figure 1 from the report shows budgetary cost of federal regulatory agencies in inflation adjusted dollars.




Figure 3 from the report shows the number of employees working for these regulatory agencies.



It is plain to see that in terms of cost and staffing, regulatory agencies are getting bigger. So what might be the end result of all this regulation and government control? Though history provides us with many examples, India is the first that comes to mind. After World War II, many industries were effectively nationalized while others were subject to harsh regulation and licensing requirements. Though the objectives of these measures were to pool technical and managerial manpower, prevent a concentration of wealth, and the steady expansion of gainful employment, the results were corruption among government regulators and an economy limping along for decades. Finally during the 1990's a policy shift toward deregulation allowed the country to gradually become one of the fasted growing developing nations. The following clip from the documentary Commanding Heights is an excellent summary.







Now I am not suggesting that we have the same level of government control that India had, but I do believe that government regulation has reached a level where it is negatively affecting the economy. If we don't get off this path of ever increasing government control we will become less competitive globally and our standard of living will drop dramatically.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Warren Buffett And Inflation

Inflation? Deflation? In these perplexing economic times it is hard to predict what might happen next. I certainly don't know. There are so many opposing forces pushing against each other it is hard to say which ones are strongest.

From the perspective of Warren Buffett, inflation is going to be the economic right cross to hit us next. According to this article on seeking alpha, Buffett has been banging the inflation drum for a few years. His reasoning is simple and not at all uncommon. He says that there are three ways for the government to deal with it's debt issues: 1) It can default, 2)It can raise taxes/reduce spending, 3)It can inflate its way out. Since the government's debt is in US currency, he doesn't see default as a viable option since the U.S. can simple print more money. He doesn't see the politicians raising taxes/cutting spending since these actions are unpopular and thus will damage their chances of re-election. With only one option left, he believes politicians will take the easy way out and resort to inflationary measures.

Back in February, I wrote this paper/blog entry considering the same three possible methods of dealing with the debt but came to the conclusion that it was more likely that the government would raise taxes/reduce spending rather than pursue inflationary measures. My reasoning was that the negative effects this sort of policy (rolled over outstanding debts and all future debts would have to be financed at higher rates to compensate investors for inflation)would be enough to persuade politicians to pursue the tax and cut option. Though I still feel this will be the predominant measure taken, I am a little less sure after witnessing the debt ceiling debacle we just went through. As Buffett predicted, during the debt ceiling debates neither side wanted to do what they thought would be politically harmful. Republicans did not want to increase taxes and democrats did not want to cut spending. I'm not trying to make a point here regarding the right amount of taxes vs. spending cuts, only that a great deal of political fighting resulted in very little action.

Since the passing of the debt ceiling bill, nothing has really changed. We still have a massive debt problem which could explode tomorrow or 30 years from now. So what are we going to do about it?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Wonder of it all1

Though it is easy to get bogged down by the nuts and bolts of our daily lives, I think it is important to step back and reflect upon all the beautiful and amazing things this world has to offer. I believe that doing so helps to free us from our monotonous routines and allows us to cultivate a sense of wonder. So to help facilitate that cultivation, I am going to start a series of post sharing some of the various things I have come across which leave me feeling a sense of wonder.

I saw this on TED talks and found it to be amazing:



And this beautiful cyr wheel performance