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Comment: Adam Smith [Re:*ehem*] (Score 1) 195

While traditional "Adam Smith" style economic models say that "free" trade, even lopsided trade, and automation will benefit the overall economy in terms of aggregate GDP; the model says little if anything about the distribution of the benefits of such. For the past 35 years we've seen nearly all of the GDP expansion go to the wealthy. The benefits haven't "trickled down", if you will.

Thus, the 99% may have a good reason to be weary of lopsided trade and automation. It's not just ignorance or fear of change.

Comment: Re:With the best will in the world... (Score 1) 259

by swb (#49561743) Attached to: Audi Creates "Fuel of the Future" Using Just Carbon Dioxide and Water

Making synthetic fuel when you have energy to spare could be a pretty smart storage mechanism.

Wonder what the efficiency is like though.

Since you're using "spare" energy which you can generate "for free" does the specific efficiency even matter? The efficiency of not using the energy is zero.

The only efficiency that seems to matter is the money cost of the equipment relative to the value of the produced synthetic fuel.

If you have 10 wind turbines and on a windy day you can only use the power from 5 of them, you would probably brake the other 5. The only cost to turning them for synthetic fuel usage is the wear associated with having them turn. I don't know how significant this is -- maybe they aren't designed for a 25 year lifespan of continuous rotation, maybe all those wind surveys and grid analysis they do get plugged into the engineering so that they can say the finished product has a 25 year lifespan because they know they will be idle/braked for 15 of those years.

Thus the free power is a lot less free because it will wear your turbines out much faster because you're spinning them more than for grid power.

Comment: What's the biochemistry of this? (Score 1) 242

by swb (#49561537) Attached to: Pepsi To Stop Using Aspartame

What's the biochemistry associated with aspartame or sucralose and an insulin response?

AFAIK, artificial sweeteners trick the tongue into tasting sweet but don't contain the chemistry (namely sugar) to induce an insulin response.

Now, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen (insert complex biochemistry here) and I wonder if there is possibly some kind of adaptive learned response associated with the taste of something sweet triggering it, sort of like a Pavlovian response. Or maybe there is some indirect connection with our taste buds and our insulin response -- it's not hard to see where taste and an instantaneous biological response would be beneficial, either in helping us reject poisons or in making some foods more quickly absorbed.

It also makes me wonder if could be un-learned -- if a person never ate anything sweet tasting that had sugars, would the body stop associating the taste of something sweet with an insulin response if there wasn't a corresponding increase in blood sugar?

Comment: Re:Curse you, Entropy! (Score 2) 259

All well and good, but doesn't exactly solve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

Sure it does. (Not that one small pilot project solves the problem, I mean if the tech is scaled up.) It's carbon-neutral just like biofuels are, it does not add any net CO2 to the atmosphere: it only puts in what it took out to make the fuel in the first place. (I suppose your could even use it to remove CO2, to get us back to 350ppm via carbon sequestration -- make up a bunch of "blue crude" and then stick it underground, running an oil well in reverse.) The problem with greenhouse gas emissions is fossil carbon, which puts in carbon that was captured millions of years ago.

Comment: "Need" definable for social integration? (Score 5, Insightful) 196

It's easy to talk about material goods as being "unnecessary" especially if they do not contribute to one's physical safety or health, like shelter, food and water.

For better or for worse, though, we are a consumer society and some things almost start to seem to become needs not because they contribute to our physical safety or health but because they contribute to our ability to integrate socially.

You may not "need" the latest smartphone but at the same time, especially among younger people, you could almost say you need to have a smartphone capable of accessing social networks in a reasonable manner because it's extremely difficult to integrate with many peer groups without one. You will not be able to participate in group dynamics or posses the same social information as other people.

The same thing could be said (more tentatively, because there are other outlets) about Netflix. If you're not able to engage with people socially because you are unaware of the types of programs they consume and cannot participate in discussions about them you are also hindered in group dynamics.

Outside the electronics/media sphere, you can make similar judgements about clothes. You don't "need" clothes that fit a specific fashion or brand paradigm -- you can buy used clothes or dollar store clothes and meet the minimal functional needs for clothing. But style and manner of dress is very important for engaging in peer groups, and like it or not people are in/excluded or find it easier or harder to engage in social activities if their mode of dress is compatible with their peer groups.

Now it's easy to make a lot of value judgements -- especially about social networking (the companies, phenomenon, etc) -- but their existence, usage and impact on social life is a reality and at some point I think some of these things become needs for reasonable social integration. Excluding them because they don't meet some minimalist description of "need" starts to sound myopic and mean spirited because I don't know anyone who just lives based on minimal need.

Comment: Online poker .com would pay BIG (Score 1) 85

This would be very profitable. If I were an evil asshole with no ethics I would love to buy or rent such software out and put in a fake virtual player for each session. No way I would ever lose money unless through very odd anomalies. Oh hell who am I kidding this is how half of Las Vegas works where they hire statisticians to favor the house as much as possible.

You are dumb to ever think you can win and are just smarter than the other guys

The time spent on any item of the agenda [of a finance committee] will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved. -- C.N. Parkinson