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Comment Re:Sometimes I wonder (Score 1) 54

A cognitive bias is really just a heuristic strategy that's being applied in circumstances where it isn't effective. The things that people believe are driven by a mixture of their assessments of the frequency of events and the priority the weight they assign to different outcomes. The brain doesn't really adequately distinguish between the assessment of frequency and the priority piece.

This is the state of things. People's perception of the facts is muddled up with what's important to them. And you can't live with other people if you dismiss what's important to them, regardless of how much you think they're wrong. Democracy is the manifest reality of what you have to do in order to cooperate with people who you think are wrong.

While there are some genuinely pathological people and some genuinely pathological ideas, they really don't play as much of a role in the world as people tend to think. The world really is as bad is it is even despite the fact that most people are making their best efforts to improve it. The state of the world reflects how tiny and futile people's best efforts are.

The only way forward is to try to find a basis for agreement. Most people aren't completely wrong and occasionally they pick up on something that's worth paying attention to even if you don't agree with them. The key is to address people's fears rather than dismissing them as something insidious that just needs to be swept away by history.

To Smitty's credit, there's not a great history of successfully ruling nations made up of two groups of people who can't talk to each other. See,, and There is some validity to the theory that not pressuring immigrants to assimilate and adopt the common language undermines national unity.

Comment Re:Sometimes I wonder (Score 1) 54

One time amnesty deals do nothing to address the underlying cause of illegal immigration which is that there's an underlying economic benefit to Mexican workers in seeking American income and that benefit significantly exceeds the hardships imposed by immigrating illegally. Really it's not much different than the flow of ions across a semipermeable membrane; it's going to continue until the underlying difference in potential is neutralized.

Past attempts at dealing with the issue by increasing the hardships imposed on illegal immigrants haven't been effective and now, I've presented the question to you if you feel it is morally correct to impose those hardships on a particular individual. What do you feel is best to put this specific situation right? What is important to you? Are individual human concerns subjugated to the macro-level goal of prevention of illegal immigration?

Comment Re:Sometimes I wonder (Score 1) 54

I've had an illegal immigrant do work on my house for me. I didn't know he was illegal when I first hired him. He speaks perfect English. He runs his own business, with business cards and shirts with the name of the business and everything.

He's married to an legal immigrant and their son is also legal.

I'm not going to argue that there aren't any people in the US that we shouldn't deport if we have the option. But for people who broke the rules once, but have since then made themselves into contributing members of American society, why shouldn't we offer amnesty? What good would be accomplished by deporting this guy? If applying the rules strictly creates bad outcomes, then the rules need to be changed.

As an aside, I'd say that the traditional strength (and also the traditional source of dysfunction) of the US is that we take in people who are undervalued in their home countries. To that end, I think we should make immigration available to most people who don't have a warrant outstanding for their arrest.

Comment Infrequent (Score 3, Informative) 176

The Carrington Event caused aurora borealis to be visible around the world. I'm not aware of anything else like that being reported in recorded human history. Even if it had happened before the development of writing, you would think it would be the sort of thing that would have a major impact on legends across all world cultures. So my best guess is that from the span of time from, let's say, 3000BC to 2013AD, this has happened exactly once.

Wikipedia says that ice core studies show that events like this which produce high energy protons comparable to the Carrington Event occur with a frequency of roughly once every 500 years, however it briefly mentions that these other events aren't necessarily comparable in terms of geomagnetic impact.

Comment Re:Is the data outdated? (Score 1) 541

Not necessarily. The data as of 2010 (a census year) is going to be more detailed and more authoritative since BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) makes use of census data where available and computes estimates of some figures between censuses. I would only call it outdated if there's newer data that contradicts the trend.

Comment Re:Good riddance (Score 1) 539

There are many externalities where I can come up with plausible sounding assumptions that give it whatever value I want.

I'm not sure you can get as far out ahead in resource planning as you might hope. Making decisions on this basis often requires making decisions that can't be made objectively and if you fail to anticipate a shift in which resource constraints are binding, the objective decisions you did make may not provide a useful advantage.

That said, I tend to think that most functions can either be performed by the private or public sectors, but depending on the structure of the issues, one or the other may have an edge in efficiency. There are trade offs between improved efficiency through microspecialization (favors decentralization) and improved efficiency through fluidity of capacity (favors centralization). Efficiency isn't the only element, though. Individual determination, community determination, and national determination issues can also come into play.

Comment Re:Shouldn't it double? (Score 2) 196

Dunno. Napkin: 250000000000000 / (120*60*48*2); ~2 hour movie (120 minutes), 60 seconds per minute, 48 frames per second, one for left-right eye (2); or ~360MB per-frame. Perhaps a dozen or so layers per frame (different lighting models, shadow models, etc.,) leaves ~30MB per ``frame layer'' in super-duper-master resolution losslessly compressed. Animation paths/models/textures/voices, etc., also probably take up quite a bit, but likely not nearly as much as the raw image data.

Imagine... All of that just to render a napkin.

Comment Re:Ironic (Score 2) 437

Scalar theories of value all break down in the end. I identify four fundamental quantities that aren't generally interchangeable: energy, mass, information, and computation power.

You may think that, for example, computation power is a function of energy, but instead it's a function of energy, resources arranged so as to do computation with that energy, and time to do the computation. If tomorrow you gave me enough energy to power all of the world's computers for a year, I still wouldn't be able to do two day's worth of computation in one day, but if instead you gave me two days I could do two days worth of computation.

Gathering information requires energy. If you spend one joule gathering information, are you sure you're one joule wiser, or might there be some information that might save less energy than the cost of collecting it? The existence of r-strategist species in nature seems to indicate there are times when that is the case.

Computer programs are resources. Institutional policies are resources. Networks of relationships are resources. All of these things take energy to build and maintain, but there is never a guarantee that they can be built for a fixed quantity of energy. How do you plan to account for happy accidents where a good solution was happened upon quickly with little energy investment, or for situations where a great deal of energy was wasted pursuing an unworkable idea? I don't think you can analyze away the underlying stochastic nature of information when analyzing the value of these kinds of resources.

Comment Re:fuck you iceland. (Score 1) 684

You're missing some finer nuances here. There are some definitions of free will that are clearly impossible to implement. If you throw out those, and look at where we are out of the remaining options, I'd say that our universe's structure is the most "free willish" of those remaining options.

If the universe had processes that were non-deterministic and intractable to stochastic analysis, which I gather would meet your criteria for free will, they would actually render efforts to predict future outcomes impossible. Generally I understand free will to mean the concept that we have a notion of decisions, these decisions are based on anticipation of future events, and those future events can to an imperfect extent be predicted by analysis of past events.

The universe we live in is the middle ground between a deterministic screenplay and a universe without any kind of organizing principles that you can inscribe a story on. I'd say that a pure idealized notion of free will with both unconstrained action and meaningful decisions is impossible to achieve, but we live in a universe that actually achieves an approximation of the ideal with actions that are constrained, but with occasional surprises, and decisions that are meaningful, but always have a chance to fall short of our aims.

Comment Re:Easy there (Score 1) 30

Take a look at this video:

I know it's long but it's got some thought provoking material. The short summary is that hedgehogs (people who view the world in terms of one big idea) are more likely to make incorrect predictions but occasionally they pick up on a major development early, while foxes (people who keep a sort of bag of tricks of different ideas) tend to make better predictions, in part by gathering up ideas from hedgehogs.

I think that you are a classic hedgehog. You primarily view the world through a lens colored by your concern for issues of economic liberty. I will further add that I believe you are correct in your identification of the trade offs involved in social welfare functions in government and you are a faithful advocate of the importance of one end of the trade off.

I don't think you're right about the collapsing scenario, at least not yet. There are definite concerns about some functions being unnecessary or inefficient at the federal level, although in other cases, the deficits the federal government is experiencing are a symptom of macroeconomic deficits which I'm not sure that we currently have any options for addressing. We suffered a drop in our income but the cost of our needs continues to rise.

As it happens, I work as an actuarial analyst in pension consulting. Everyone has a fundamental actuarial liability for the income they will need to live should they survive to be too old or too disabled to work. You can fund this liability yourself by saving for this eventuality, although going this route you will bear all of the longevity, inflation, and investment risks and there is a significant chance that even if you practice diligent saving and safe investing that this money will not be sufficient. If you have a pension, your exposure to these risks is reduced. Pension related shortfalls reflect the adverse impact of these risks on the backer of a pension.

The unfunded pension liabilities we are seeing right now are due to recent investment losses combined with an increasing difference between average lifetime and average working lifetime. However, these factors affect every single person who does not have a pension as well. A person who does not have a pension is effectively the sole backer of their own personal pension. Or maybe you can regard their friends and family who may be called upon to support them backers of their pension as well. The underfunding of retirement is much more severe than you realize and this is one of many problems we face competing for resources.

(For the record I personally advocate for a policy that pursues funding retirement through a combination of social security, pension plans and personal saving in a manner such that someone who completely forgoes personal saving or loses their savings would need to cut back on their standard of living significantly, but not unachievably so. There are pension plans which exceed this standard which may consider cuts, although the impact of plan design on the employer's staffing requirements also needs to be considered.)

Returning to the original topic, my expectation is that both the federal problems you highlight and the broader structural problems will play out more slowly than you, hedgehog, expect and given the current lack of policy options to address the broader issues it may be necessary to concede a current priority of simply surviving in the short term while some other matters develop. There are some prospects for a revival of the growth of American GDP and if that comes to pass there will be substantially more breathing room on the broader structural problems.

There are also some problems brewing in other countries and I'm not sure if they will harm the US or if they might create opportunities for us. China's demographic crisis due to it's one-child policy has yet to play out. Japanese and Chinese nationalism is on the rise and could lead to some form of indirect conflict between the two of them. India has its corruption problem and has been passing laws to limit foreign investment. Europe still hasn't come to terms with the fact that the Euro was a bad idea. There's always the possibility of countries in Africa of reaching a turning point where economic development speeds up in the same manner as it died for China and India.

Comment Re:Easy there (Score 1) 30

I was just giving a flippant reply since it looked like I hit a nerve with the math. I can defend my assertion though. It's something I've given a significant amount of thought to.

In the early 20th century, there was this belief that the scientific and philosophical advances which had made so much progress in the 19th century could be extended to all problems, including social problems. So you have the nazis thinking that you could get rid of crime by studying criminals and then killing off all of the people with criminal traits. You had the communists believing that they could implement a perfect society by wiping out the elements that resist those efforts.

Both of these movements were characterized by a belief that the only way to fix problems was to get serious about them and stop all of this debate "nonsense". I believe this is what Winston Churchill was referring to when he said that "no folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism."

So there's no sense in getting indignant when I've stepped on your idealist toes. Suck it up, and if you really think your original argument that a deficit of twice what was projected is an egregious and unforgiveable error on the part of the Obama administration, then the way that you can win the argument is to identify specific spending increases tied to Obama administration executive policy that caused the error. I'm too lazy to look it up myself, but then, I'm not the one who's trying to win an argument.

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