Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Externalities (Score 1) 222

by ThosLives (#48434515) Attached to: Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

If A and B have to decide whether to make a transaction, while C will be harmed if the transaction happens but has no say in whether it happens, that's an externality and market forces do not account for it under any economic model I've ever heard of.

Except with the environment, it's a little murky, because A, B, and C are all affected (perhaps not equally or at the same time, I'll admit). So it's not a "pure" externality at least.

...pretty much all economists agree that a carbon price is the most market-efficient way of doing that...

But what price do you pick? There's no "free market" way to do this. Cap-and-trade will result in a free market price for the available credits or whatever, except the amount of credits is arbitrary. If there was a way for the "market" to determine the available credits, that would be one thing - but there isn't; it's all done by decree. (Kind of a reverse externality if you will - groups A and B decide that this is the level of emissions that's allowed, C's opinion or needs be damned.)

That said, yes, an artificial price on emissions may result in people reducing consumption of those things that emit, depending on the elasticity of demand for those things.

Comment: Re:That was 3 years ago (Score 1) 222

by ThosLives (#48426367) Attached to: Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

This is one place I wish market purists would get on board--put a price on carbon, and solutions will come out of the woodwork and plummet in price.

Except market purists balk at this because "putting a price on carbon" is an artificial thing - it's screwing around with the markets. The markets have already spoken: the externalities of climate change (relocation costs, war, health costs) have a lower cost than trying to develop alternatives. These costs are already really accounted for, even though they aren't necessarily applied at the source of "carbon" emission.

Comment: Re:Priorities? (Score 3, Insightful) 231

by ThosLives (#46912263) Attached to: How To Prevent the Next Heartbleed

Rigorous testing is helpful, but I think it's the wrong approach. The problem here was lack of requirements and/or rigorous design. In the physical engineering disciplines, much effort is done to think about failure modes of designs before they are implemented. In software, for some reason, the lack of pre-implementation design and analysis is endemic. This leads to things like Heartbleed - not language choice, not tools, not lack of static testing.

I would also go as far as saying if you're relying on testing to see if your code is correct (rather than verify your expectations), you're already SOL because testing itself is meaningless if you don't know the things you have to test - which means up-front design and analysis.

That said, tools and such can help mitigate issues associated with lack of design, but the problem is more fundamental than a "coding error."

Comment: Re:Clock Radio! (Score 1) 702

by ThosLives (#46789393) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

Mine is similar - I have a GE AM/FM alarm clock radio with red LED segmented display, but mine is a bit newer - I got I think in 1993. 21 years is pretty good - 100% fully functional (go go pre-ROHS analog radio!) and still keeps accurate time. Only thing wrong with it is the tab on the 9V backup battery compartment broke, so the door falls off if you lift the thing off the nightstand. I refuse to keep my phone by my bedside, so I still use the alarm function.

Contrast to a new one - it was either Emerson or Panasonic, can't remember which - I bought while on an extended work trip where I was put up in an apartment. This was in 2008, and the clock was so inaccurate it would gain 15 minutes a month.

Comment: Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (Score 1) 516

I'd rather choose "Make it easier for people to make their own widgets or form companies to make widgets."

IP laws, some zoning laws, licensing laws, tax laws, accounting laws, and the like all make both making your own stuff or forming companies difficult; limited availability of low-cost machine tools and education makes it difficult to do stuff yourself. These are the things I would reform, not minimum wage or windfall profits tax.

Comment: Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (Score 1) 516

I suppose I could have been a bit more precise: when I said we don't need higher incomes but things to cost less, what I should have said was "things to cost less relative to income, regardless of level of income." That said, my original assertion still stands: raising minimum wage will not reduce costs of items relative to wage in the long run (in the immediate short term it does, granted; but prices for most goods change much faster than wages so catch up quickly.)

Incidentally, removal of barriers to market entry is exactly the method to "rein in" corporate profits: profits are a sign of an inefficient market. Huge profits can only exist when it is too hard for competitors to enter a market - no invisible hand necessary. (Note: "too hard" to enter a market doesn't always mean something like a regulatory barrier; if a company out-innovates others, that is also a type of barrier.)

Comment: Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (Score 1) 516

Price floors have never worked in all of history; I don't know why people think a wage price floor is a good idea. At best, with minimum wage, the long term effect is "nothing".

We don't need people to have higher incomes; we need things to cost less.

Somewhere along the way, society went from improving standard of living by creating new efficiencies to improving standard of living by taking as much profit from others as possible. The former is a sustainable non-zero-sum game, where the latter is zero sum and results in massive wealth concentration.

Raising minimum wage won't reduce the cost of rent, won't reduce the price of a new car, won't reduce the price of a gallon of milk, won't reduce the cost of health care. The only thing that will reduce prices is removing barriers to entry for things that don't need barriers - not adding more barriers.

(I wish, for instance, one of the provisions of the ACA was a new medical school in every state for instance and/or reduced requirements for general medical practice - bumps and bruises kind of stuff. That would reduce costs, not simple spreading costs among more people.)

Comment: Re:An overview, IMHO: (Score 1) 516

Give it another 10 years and the gap will be getting near the,"let's form an angry mob and kill the rich guy, we can feed the whole city off of what is in his house.

I don't know many rich people that have a food warehouse in their residence. People tend to forget that most of the wealth of rich people is "paper" wealth - it still has to be converted to real goods and services at some point in time.

In the extreme situation you proposed - how are you going to ensure that farmers are still going to be producing food, and food delivery people are still going to be delivering food, so that taking the stuff in a rich person's house can still "feed the whole city"?

If there is a situation as you describe - all that "paper" wealth of the rich vanishes immediately... so are they really wealthy? The wealth of the rich really does depend heavily on the willingness of the masses to participate...

Comment: Re:A tax on advertising, though... (Score 1) 210

by ThosLives (#45787191) Attached to: Could an Erasable Internet Kill Google?

I'd rather go the other way, get the government out of picking winners/losers here and institute across the board apt tax while wiping out income/capital gains/inheritance taxes (keeping ss and gas taxes because they correspond with payout).

Depending on what your goals for a taxation system are, that's downright terrible. I agree with wiping out income tax, but not all capital gains tax. (I would eliminate capital gains tax on investments that produce new wealth - like profit made off buying new machines to build new products, but keep the tax for all "buy low sell high" gains) Inheritance tax I'd change along with property tax in general, which I'd change to be percentile based; that is, your tax rate is higher if you are in a higher percentile bracket of total wealth.

Consumption taxes are bad, because you are taxed if you have to consume (or the system must have complicated exemptions for "minimum allowed consumption"), but if you have extra to spend, you will (on average) consume less (in nominal terms) if consumption is taxed and you have the option of not consuming. Unless the taxing entity (government) adequately creates evenly-distributed demand with its tax revenue, consumption taxes will be a drag on the economy.

Comment: Re:Huh? (Score 3, Insightful) 38

by ThosLives (#44965121) Attached to: Sparkfun's Entire Open Hardware Catalog Made Available On Upverter

Unless you care about EMC or heat dissipation or something else that depends on the interactions between the components, yes, you can think of electronic circuits that way.

I suppose for logic-only devices this works, but as soon as you start wanting to do something that requires power, you can't just drop circuits together like that.

Comment: Re:Yes. (Score 1) 414

by ThosLives (#44448659) Attached to: Are We At the Limit of Screen Resolution Improvements?

Personally I really *hate* watching blue ray movies in full resolution. Usually the material just looks cheesy to me, where you can see the boundaries of the CGI sequences, makeup smudges on the actors, obvious short cuts on the set construction and all kinds of things that just are not right. It actually makes it more difficult for me to suspend reality long enough to enjoy the movie.

Change the settings on your TV and/or BD player. Usually it's some kind of strange over-scan or post-processing mode with a name like "cinema view" or something unequally helpful. But I agree that "feature" makes movies look like they are stage plays - and it is crap, because SFX are made assuming you can't see it in that much clarity.

Comment: Re:Once in a Hundred-Year storm... (Score 1) 148

by ThosLives (#44304833) Attached to: Hurricane Sandy a 1-in-700-Year Event Says NASA Study

The fact that the storm was larger in area and impacted regions with higher population density and correspondingly greater economic devastation was what made it newsworthy.

Indeed - I wish that, instead of just saying "most expensive storm ever!" they would normalize it somehow - perhaps to something like cost relative to annual mean salary per unit population density. This way you'd weed out all the effects of inflation and higher concentrations of development.

Perhaps mean salary isn't the correct metric - perhaps it's mean property value or something, but essentially something that would indicate indicate the relative damage of the storms rather than the relative amount of stuff we put in places that get hit by storms.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay