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Comment Re:I don't get it (Score 1) 219

Actually there was a guy at one of the big think tanks (Bell Labs or something) that started reducing his arguments to really small steps, skipping nothing. He kind of set up subsets of the proof like subroutines, referring you to later pages to get the details, etc. He found that a lot of things he thought he had proven actually had holes in them. He went back and looked at his previous papers and found that some large fraction of them were wrong (I don't remember the number, something like 1/3). At first he thought that he had been fooling himself all along and that he was a terrible mathematician. Then he started applying the same analysis to other published work, and he found the same ratio.

It wasn't that the results were necessarily wrong. In other words, what they were claiming might still be true. It was just that they hadn't proven it. There were holes in the places they had glossed over with a "clearly" or "we know from X that Y".

Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the guy or find his paper now. (Look! I'm a crackpot!)

Anyone else remember reading that?

Comment Re:I don't get it (Score 0, Flamebait) 219

The harm, I think, is that it's not a well-enough-known crackpot theory; a respectable publisher (NY Times et al) has given him a plethora of journalists as his own private fan club. This makes it more difficult for the electorate trying to intelligently guide policy (e.g. moveon.org) to sort the wheat from the chaff. It also allows other crackpots to come off as more credible by citing crackpot articles which have a veneer of respectability. Imagine if a "documentary" based on Hollywood's belief about global warming were being played off as if it were real science by the media, and you have some idea of how big a problem this is.

There, fixed that for ya.

Comment Re:I don't get it (Score 1) 219

Perhaps it's an experiment: He's a mathematician. Now he's just demonstrating how the Impact Factor is a poor metric, and will soon present a superior measure that correctly ranks the journal poorly. ;)

And another article on the problem of where to publish the article describing that measure.

Comment Re:Sorry... (Score 1) 664

Yeah, that too. I think it's a good thing to have it pointed out that, at least in America, you can blame "the people" for how things are. You want to change the way a company does business? Boycott their products until they listen. If you don't like the way things are in the government, elect someone else. There are controls here and there that are hard to get around, but in general I think we're still free enough that we could have just about any change we want.

Sadly when people do get off their butts it's usually in hysteria...

But getting back to the point, it's not lawers, the government, corporations, it's the people that hire the lawyers, the people that don't do what a jury should do when faced with absurdity, the people that buy the products of the corporations, and the people that elect the government that we should be angry with and trying to change the behavior of.

Comment Re:Sorry... (Score 1) 664

If we can't get people upset and up in arms about trampling of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Police SWAT teams acting like mini-Army battalions, what the hell makes you think they'll get motivated enough to stop buying Apple stuff?

Beautifully said!

Comment Re:Exactly !!! (Score 1) 404

But understand this: copyright and patents are not natural rights, they are granted by the society.

All rights are.

No, no, no, no, no!

The government in America is granted certain powers by the people. The government does not grant us our rights.

Read the Famous Constitution.

Comment Re:the problem with smart people in government (Score 1) 498

Your solution is that they should be experts on economics in order to pick their bank?

Yes. But in practice you would have stuff like consumer reports, local conventional wisdom, etc, which aren't there now because there isn't really that much to decide. You have stuff decided for you. If you knew that it was in the hands of private companies, you would not just lazily assume the government was making sure that nothing really bad could happen to your money.

And that's actually another problem--when the government steps in and controls stuff, people start thinking things like "if [mortgage-backed securities] were a horrifically dumb idea, there would be a regulation against them". People get dependent on the government to protect them from their own stupidity, and when that doesn't work out, they introduce something that is supposed to fix it (Sarbanes-Oxley) which further cripples innovation.

In any system, you are going to have bubbles, because you are always going to have people who want to gamble and get rich quick. But when the regulations force/push/influence people into doing things a certain way, the bubbles get artificially huge and so do the ripple effects when the burst.

Comment Re:the problem with smart people in government (Score 1) 498

Actually, I was indeed talking about reserve requirements placed on banks. Currently it's like 1/9th or something iirc. What I was saying was that there should not be a central power dictating what that is and forcing you to use that currency. If some people want to put their stuff in a 1/9th fractional reserve bank, let them. If someone else thinks that's bunk and the fraction should be 1/2, let them start their own thing, and let the market set the rate of exchange between the two currencies. Don't force everyone to use the same one, because then, no matter what the policy, it will be wrong for somebody. A heterogeneous system is more likely to be resistant to problems. Instead of "the" economy you would have more local control, and if people did something really stupid it would serve as a cautionary tale for the next state or next town over, rather than taking down everyone.

As for the great depression, that's a great example of the failure of central economic authority. Even when local innovation in currency started helping one town in Austria get out of the Great Depression, their central government was concerned about losing control so they stopped it.

http://mig76en.wordpress.com/2006/05/09/a-local-currency-to-revive-the-local-economy-in-austria/

The federal monetary dictatorship is not constitutional, which is reason enough to reject it in my opinion. But the bigger problem is that it stifles local innovation. One single neighborhood could innovate themselves out of economic crisis if they were allowed to do so. Currently, most people don't even know that innovation in currency is possible. That is what life is like in a dictatorship--you start losing even the ability to think about the world in a different way.

Just to be clear on the initial point--I have no problem with fractional reserve banking. I have a big problem with the federal gov't unconstitutionally shoving their particular blessed instance of it down our throats. What you are seeing now is the result of a devastated financial ecosystem that suffers from, among other things, a lack of diversity.

Comment Re:Terrible Idea (Score 1) 498

The general public needs to get over its delusion that scientists are some sort of priesthood that exists to tell them The One True Way and save them the trouble of having to understand issues well enough to make their own informed decisions about what is best.

I'm not sure the general public actually thinks this, but the media are exactly like that, and they see their job as trying to "get that story out to" (i.e. convert) the general public. It is funny how much it is exactly like a religion (as the aren't generally scientists themselves, so "whatever the scientists do to get the answer" is pretty vague in their heads, much like most people in most religious congregations have only vague notions of what their churches actually teach as doctrine. Funny because most of them would take great pains to point out that they are being "rational", when you can see from the outside how completely religious it is.

Comment Re:Terrible Idea (Score 1) 498

as a Nobel winner, he has been proven to be extremely intelligent and a good choice

That's exactly what I'm talking about! Imagine you had said this: "I'm glad you married him, because as a Nobel winner, he has been proven to be extremely intelligent and a good choice." See how it's the part after the "and" that is completely unfounded? OK, so maybe everyone's bad at relationships. How about this: "I'm glad he was made dean of the college of arts and sciences, because as a Nobel winner, he has been proven to be extremely intelligent and a good choice."? People can be really good academically, and catastrophically poor administrators.

You've never noticed how people can be extraordinarily good at one thing (say, coding) and spectacularly bad at something that is nominally very closely related (like customer support for the very code he himself wrote)?

Comment Re:the problem with smart people in government (Score 1) 498

If there's any truth to this, it's inconceivable to me that someone skilled in locating what they do not know, would make the unforgivable blunder of thinking they know enough about an overly complex system to control it.

I agree that it's inconceivable, but it's the inconceivable situation we have right now. Academics are overwhelmingly left leaning, and the left is very much into setting the "right policies" to control that overly complex system.

Comment Re:the problem with smart people in government (Score 1) 498

So, how do you feel about reserve requirements placed upon commercial and investment banks?

I'm not sure whether I'm reading you correctly, but are you demonstrating the exact problem that I'm trying to illustrate? You aren't, by any chance, thinking that because you know something about reserve requirements (while 90% of the public does not), you would be able to set a better policy (e.g. 100% reserve! Then there will be no crashes!)? Forgive me if you meant something else.

If it's just a straight question, well, what I think about reserve requirements is that if you're going to play with trust-based or market-based currency, it ought to be up to you what reserve requirements you personally set as a minimum before doing business in that currency. If you're wondering whether I think the federal government should attempt, by force, to control banks, to prevent private individuals from doing business in whatever currency they choose, to declare by fiat that certain private companies shall control an artificial money supply that everyone is forced by the government to accept the currency of, well, no, I don't think the government has any right to do that.

Really, though, this is the point. You shouldn't have to be an expert on economics to figure out who you pick to vote for for president. But you have to be, because he is going to be able (and expected) to use the massive power of the federal government to (attempt to) control it. That's idiotic. You're swinging this giant thing around, destroying all kinds of small economic ecosystems. No one should have that kind of power. The constitution did not want the government to take that kind of power. And what is happening right now financially is a great example of why.

Comment Re:the problem with smart people in government (Score 1) 498

You are correct, the phrase "smart people" is really way too vague. I didn't want to go through and put quotes (but not "smart" quotes!) around the use of "smart" either, because I didn't really mean smart in a sarcastic way. I really do mean people with a significant amount of education and/or intelligence.

The people I am expressing my concern about are people with legitimate reason to believe that they have a significantly greater ability to think/reason than most of the general population. A Nobel prize winner in Physics might reasonably believe this about himself, for example. It is very easy for such "smart people" to jump to the conclusion that their intelligence is equal to the problem of government. In general, when someone believes this, they are incorrect.

Certain things like allowing people to suffer the consequences of their poor decisions are emotionally difficult to accept. It is hard (for most of us) to see people suffer. It is very tempting to think you can come up with a law to fix their problems. In the case of religious people they will generally consider the law to be a good law because it reflects the laws of whatever God they believe in. In the case of academics, they think it's a good law because they believe it is based on sound reasoning.

It is very difficult to {be that highly educated and highly regarded by your peers as being intelligent}, and yet still {have the humility to realize that the problems you solved in science are dwarfed by the complexity of things like markets and human behavior}.

Many educated people fear, with good reason, those who would govern by imposing their religious beliefs. They fail to fear those who would govern by imposing their "logical conclusions" or imposing the "thinking of the best minds on the subject". Forcing your ideas on others never ends up being a good thing. The only thing that works is to find the smallest set of rules that have to be imposed by force, and relentlessly eliminate anything else that well-meaning meddlers try to introduce.

Comment the problem with smart people in government (Score 0, Flamebait) 498

The think they are smart enough to make decisions for the rest of us. In reality, no one is that smart, and that's one reason you want a very limited government. You get intellectuals in there, they think they know better than the dumb masses, and make "intelligent" policy. The vast complexity of human behavior and market forces then show how poorly they actually understood things. For example, look at the intellectually planned economy of the Soviet Union. For an example closer to home, look at environmental regulations like the ones that seize control of private property when, say, a particular woodpecker nests in it. The result? People clear cut the rest of their land to make sure they don't lose any more of it. It seemed smart, but it was really dumb.

That's what scares me the most about the coming administration. You've got scads of people thinking they are smart enough to fix things. The only smart thing to do is to undo the stupid things and go back to a constitutional gov't.

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