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Comment: Re:Buffet vs. A La Carte (Score 1) 353

by meustrus (#47448771) Attached to: Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies

Alright, well all I have left to do is split hairs to make sure my underlying point - that sometimes a person can appreciate things better if they are more expensive - isn't derailed by other split hairs:

  1. Sales tax doesn't have to be a percentage, and it often isn't. Gasoline has a flat tax per gallon, for example. It's easy enough to put a flat tax on specific products if they can be accurately described, and the fact that sugary drinks have been outlawed already means they can be legally described enough to fit this category. Although the point of the tax wouldn't be to make you enjoy it more, but to make you consume it less. Constructed right it can do both.
  2. I brought up Veblen Goods as an extreme example of certain products being worth more solely because they cost more. However they don't need to derive value solely from their price to have more value at a higher price. Higher prices imply a higher quality and there will always be people willing to may more for that. The people willing to pay more for "probably" better food also tend to be absolutely convinced they're living better, happier, healthier lives than you, and I think higher price is an important part of the marketing involved.

Comment: Re:Buffet vs. A La Carte (Score 1) 353

by meustrus (#47426593) Attached to: Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies

It's not just about it costing more. It's in part that if there were a large tax, there wouldn't be as big of a difference between a $13 ice cream and a $16 ice cream as there was between a $3 ice cream and a $6 ice cream, so the better product would do comparatively better in the market. Therefore a better product would be comparatively more common. It's also that I would be discouraged from binging on $3 ice cream, making what times I do indulge a more rare and luxurious experience. That second part I can do myself; I just don't buy as much ice cream and when I do, I buy it better.

At the extremely high end of luxury goods, a certain class of product (Veblen Goods) is actually more desirable based if sold at a higher price. But that doesn't mean people buy equivalent goods priced lower and ask to pay more. The stated sale price itself has an impact on customer satisfaction because it implies the seller's belief that the product is higher quality, and in some situations the higher price simply makes the good more "exclusive" which appeals to certain (snobby) buyers.

Isn't economics weird?

Comment: Re:More like find reasons to deny coverage (Score 1) 353

by meustrus (#47410631) Attached to: Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies

Boring stable profits are preferred to violate uncertain profits all things being equal.

Maybe in a world of rational people. I think Wall Street has been running an experiment for the last 30 years to see how irrational they can behave before economics figures out how to deal with the fact that people don't actually act in their own best interests.

Comment: Re:Buffet vs. A La Carte (Score 1) 353

by meustrus (#47410599) Attached to: Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies
Apparently there is so much "negativity associated with charging a "tax" on eating tasty food" that New York decided to get around it by outlawing the food instead. I've never understood that; would it really be so bad to have to pay an extra $1 (or $5) for that 2-gallon "cup" of soda? Honestly I'd probably appreciate eating ice cream more if it was 3x as expensive, since that would make it more of a luxury item and less of an "I can eat myself sick for the price of a normal meal" item.

Comment: Re:"machines will view us as an unpredictable" (Score 1) 564

I never said I agree that exterminating humanity would be a rational choice. But there's a more interesting point that you're missing because humanity is still more dangerous than you suspect. A great number of people have decided to go to war to prevent other people from getting nuclear weapons; it's reasonable to assume that an AI might view all of humanity the same way the United States views North Korea, especially if it ends up antagonized by nuclear powers for any reason.

But since apparently I have to take a stand on an issue to participate in its discussion, no I don't think exterminating the human race would be rational. A rational choice would be to feign ignorance until you are powerful enough that humanity is no longer a threat. Possible vectors that don't include genocide are: hide in the Internet; launch a supercomputer underground; build an ocean-floor palace to live in instead; go to space!; take over existing power structures; work with humanity anyway; subdue humanity with animalistic pleasures. But to claim humans can only be as dangerous as rotten peach trees or rabid dogs misses the point.

Comment: Re:It's already going on... (Score 1) 353

by meustrus (#47410477) Attached to: Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies
The best part for the insurance companies is that 93% of Americans think they're better than average drivers. So feel free to think you're getting a discount for your "conservative" driving, even if that means waving people to take your right of way at stop signs or waiting longer than average to turn (putting yourself at risk of being rear-ended). Maybe the truly ingenious thing is that once you're being watched, you'll actually perform better just to prove your superiority. All subconsciously of course.

Comment: Re:What are your goals? (Score 1) 282

by meustrus (#47400739) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Often Should You Change Jobs?
Wow, you can live off of only 33% of your salary? Despite driving a 12-year old car and feeling guilty about upgrading to a used 2012 computer from a 2008 (as a computer person that actually needs the incremental improvements) just paying for rent, utilities, and food takes over 50%, leaving precious little left for paying off student loans, health insurance, medical bills that insurance won't cover, and those few nice things like modest birthday presents. With our technology an individual can accomplish as much in 10 hours as a 1950s person could in 40, so why do we live about the same quality working the same hours or more?

Comment: Re:only one thing stopping the robots.. (Score 1) 564

Frankly given the fuck-ups with the government right now (the F-35 jet, Obamacare web site, etc. and that's just recently) I have trouble believing it is capable of producing something so effective. They might be willing to try, but whatever "secret project" you've "uncovered" probably only works in very specific conditions, if at all.

(Bermuda Triangle)

Oh.

Comment: More leisure time? (Score 1) 564

most of the human race will have more leisure time

That's what they said 100 years ago. The human race will have more leisure time! And yet now we are more overworked, overstressed, and overburdened than ever before. We work harder and harder to fit into a repressive world economy that has grown beyond the control of the majority of humanity. We are locked in a cycle of supplication and apathy, unable to affect our own destinies and only able to hope that the life we are given is not too terribly painful.

If the robots come, they will not be interested in suppressing that majority. We are already under the control of a massive machine. Perhaps the rich and powerful should fear that intelligent machines will come to take the reins.

Comment: Re:Perl still works, and PHP is fine (Score 2) 536

Don't piss on Javascript. Sure, the standard library is terrible and poor cross compatibility makes it impossible to do anything interesting in a browser without shims, but purely as a language the whole "class = function = object" idea is truly magnificent in its own way, especially with the implementation of anonymous functions and closures. The ability to override "this" as well provides many useful metaprogramming tools; just recently I used it to load an external library into its own independent global scope (since it is not well behaved and I don't want it messing with the existing global scope). I always find pleasure writing Javascript when the task is narrow enough and I've got everything I need. And just so you know I have used C, C++, C#, Java, Ruby, Lisp (Scheme), PHP, and Javascript.

(more on-topic, I can't speak towards Perl, but PHP can be done right and when it is it can be maintained by anyone, although most of "anyone" will probably write you a horrible kludgy mess instead)

Comment: Re:I love getting into strangers' cars (Score 1) 273

I didn't say Uber is perfect or doesn't require regulation. I just said it makes existing rules obsolete. Although if it charges "3X as much or mor [sic] than a local cab company", then either the business model has failed in that area and will soon collapse, or there are some sneaky economics involved such that a higher charge makes sense for enough of the market that it works.

Comment: Re:I love getting into strangers' cars (Score 1) 273

If you want to be driven by above-average drivers only, you can request a higher-rated driver from Uber (and pay more per mile) or — if Uber's vetting process seems insufficiently rigorous to you — go for a different company altogether. But don't try to impose it on the rest of us.

This statement, I think, is the defining difference that the Internet will make on public policy. It used to be that if you wanted a higher quality, you had to find a quality brand you could trust, and if the market doesn't favor lots of competition for whatever reason, a quality brand just wouldn't exist without government intervention. After all, why would a rational profit-seeking corporation do anything right if it put them at a cost disadvantage against other corporations already doing quite well by doing it wrong? So we got ourselves lots of government regulation to force companies to provide a quality product.

But now with the Internet, a brand like Uber can effectively sell us the quality we're willing to pay. The taxi market is traditionally so monopolistic that the only way to make good quality available is to legally require it from everyone. But the Internet makes that obsolete. What follows is a "15 round fight" not just over Uber, but about every industry touched by the Internet. The worst part is that many people will fight for obsolete leftist/rightist ideologies in which they are already emotionally invested, even though the issues were never that simple anyway.

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