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Comment math is hard (Score 1) 702

Everyone knows that the US penny is no longer worth anything. There's no national shame in it, it's simply a byproduct of macroeconomics over time, just like the equivalent of every other major currency is longer worth anything. Let it die. The penny dish on store cashier counters can go away. The clerks at a lot of places I buy things already ignore pennies when making change: if they owe me $.73 in change they give me three quarters.

And while we're at it, the US nickel isn't worth much of anything either. Let it die too.

Getting rid of both of them at the same time would solve the math-is-hard problem involved in rounding to nearest five-cents: rounding everything to the nearest tenth of a dollar is much easier for people to do in their base-10 heads: less than .05 = .00, .05 or more = .10.

And also while we're at it, every other major currency on the planet has already discontinued their equivalent of the $1 bill, replacing then with a coin. It's time.

Comment Re:We COULD get by working 10-20 hours a week (Score 1) 729

Maybe 10 hours/week is too much of an extreme, but how about 20? If your team all worked 10am-2pm, 5 days a week, why would you have difficulty communicating with each other? Especially if that was the cultural norm, and all your business associates worked the same hours? (Heck, adjust those standard hours by time zone – because with a workday that short we could do that – and we could avoid all of those incidents where so-and-so in San Diego can't get a hold of whats-his-name in New York because he's gone home already.) You probably already spend 15 hours every day out of touch with your co-workers, and more than 60 consecutive hours every weekend. Why couldn't you stretch that to 20 hours at a time?

Comment Re:Work less spend more (Score 1) 729

If someone retires early and gets bored, that doesn't mean they need a paying job to occupy their time. That's a failure of their imagination. Maybe they were so busy working for that early retirement that they failed to develop any hobbies or non-work-related interests. There are plenty of ways to occupy your time without spending lots of money: write a book, read books, play tennis, code, grow a garden, paint, add to Wikipedia, volunteer for a charity, etc. Face it: if you're bored, it's only because you're boring.

Comment Re:Income inequality has *RISEN* under Obama?!?!? (Score 4, Insightful) 729

The increase in the income gap began around the same time that trickle-down supply-side economics became national policy in the 1980s. Having one president or another in office doesn't magically change the course of the economy. That's driven largely by tax policy, which (last time I checked the Constitution) is controlled by Congress. Which is controlled by wealthy campaign donors who benefit from income inequality.

Comment Re:We COULD get by working 10-20 hours a week (Score 2) 729

I remember watching this contraction begin after the stock market bubble popped in 2008. The company I worked for took big cost-cutting measures in anticipation of an economic downturn, reassuring us that these would protect our jobs. Of course most of them meant more work for employees to pick up. And nearly all of them were clearly going to cost people outside the company their jobs: the people who used to take care of the office plants, the housekeepers who were coming in only half as often, the snow-plow drivers who were told to only clear the parking lot when there was X inches of snow, people at the media outlets where we suspended advertising, the big landscaping project that was cancelled, etc. It was a methodical undertaking whose obvious effect was to help create the economic downturn they were predicting.

Now, I'm no economist, so maybe this is impossible for some reason, but I can't help wondering what would happen if, when the stock market fell everyone just ignored it and carried on with what they were doing. Instead it took the federal government to step in and compensate for everyone going into financial lockdown, spending money which started putting people back to work, allowing them to spend money again, and so on. Maybe if the market wasn't so prone to mood swings of "irrational exuberance" and "financial panic", the government wouldn't have to get involved.

AI

The AI Anxiety (washingtonpost.com) 207

An anonymous reader writes: The Washington Post has an article about current and near-future AI research while managing to keep a level head about it: "The machines are not on the verge of taking over. This is a topic rife with speculation and perhaps a whiff of hysteria." Every so often, we hear seemingly dire warnings from people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk about the dangers of unchecked AI research. But actual experts continue to dismiss such worries as premature — and not just slightly premature. The article suggests our concerns might be better focused in a different direction: "Anyone looking for something to worry about in the near future might want to consider the opposite of superintelligence: superstupidity. In our increasingly technological society, we rely on complex systems that are vulnerable to failure in complex and unpredictable ways. Deepwater oil wells can blow out and take months to be resealed. Nuclear power reactors can melt down. Rockets can explode. How might intelligent machines fail — and how catastrophic might those failures be?"
Biotech

Japanese Company Makes Low-Calorie Noodles Out of Wood 159

AmiMoJo writes: Omikenshi Co, an Osaka based cloth manufacturer best known for rayon, a fibre made from tree pulp, is expanding into the health food business. Using a similar process, Omikenshi is turning the indigestible cellulose into a pulp that's mixed with konjac, a yam-like plant grown in Japan. The resulting fibre-rich flour, which the company calls "cell-eat," contains no gluten, no fat and almost no carbohydrate. It has just 60 calories a kilogram, compared with 3,680 for wheat.

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