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Comment Re:They tell you upfront it isn't going to be good (Score 1) 113

Are all men equal by that definition of "equal"? Or all women exactly like all other women?

"Men" aren't stamped out of some kind of archetypal "man" mold, nor are all women exactly whatever you think a "woman" is or should be. Both men and women are going to be distributed along a normal curve (or maybe log-normal) when it comes to their fitness for some particular job.

So this raises the question: how much overlap do those populations have? The traditionalist view is that there are manly jobs for which no woman is suitable; the radically opposite viewpoint is that there are no differences at all between the populations for any job. But leaving aside jobs like NFL offensive lineman or surrogate mother, I'd say that unless you take one or the other of these extreme positions it's not necessary to have an opinion on precisely how much overlap there is. The only thing that really matters is the individual you are evaluating for the job. If a woman is the best candidate for an engineering position or CEO or whatever, it literally doesn't matter whether or not men are usually better at that sort of thing.

Comment Don't just think "change"; think "rate of change". (Score 1) 184

I have known or at least met many environmental luminaries in the course of my career, and as one of them put it: I = P*S/T -- that is to say environmental impact is proportional to population and standard of living, but is inversely proportional to technology.

So the key to avoiding a dystopian future is to keep the rate of technological improvement greater than the rate of population growth. The way to do that is to invest in people. Societies who have lower infant mortality rates have lower birth rates; societies with better education are more innovative.

Will the future way we do things look radically different from today? Yes! Just as the way we do things today look radically different from the past. Change happens in both the environment and human society; it's inevitable. The question is whether it happens at a rate organisms and people can adapt to, and in particular whether we make a conscious decision to direct that change or have it forced upon us.

Comment Re:Positive development (Score 1) 166

The abundance of one species does not a healthy ecosystem make. I have a friend whose family owns a 1700 acre island off the coast of New England. It used to support an enormous white tail deer population -- and not coincidentally it had a plague of ticks, because everything in nature is food for something else. You would not have wanted to visit there back in the 1970s because the tick problem was insane. Everyone in his family has had Lyme disease, which also feasted on the swollen deer population.

Then in the 1980s the Western Coyote made it to New England, and a pack swam out to the island. In a single season they took down most of the deer herd, and now the island is a pleasant and sanitary place to live. And this is not some kind of odd aberration; this is how ecology works. If you disturb an ecosystem (say by killing off all the native timber wolves), weed species take over and they end up riddled with disease.

Weed species the ones who by sheer luck can live in conjunction with or off of large human populations. In a healthy ecosystem they may be cute, but an ecosystem dominated by weed animals can be nightmarish. I know lots of natural science geeks, and for the most part animals don't scare them. I once went for a walk with a girl who picked up a rotting coyote head and put it in her jacket pocket. She was TA'ing an anatomy course and wanted to show it to her students. But even she wouldn't go near a racoon, because unchecked by predation suburban raccoons are chock full of leptospirosis, salmonella and roundworm -- not to mention rabies. Those diseases can and do cripple, even kill people.

A world dominated by weed species would be quite horrible to live in.

Comment Re:More condoms less climate change (Score 1) 166

People per se have almost no impact on climate. It's what people do and how much in aggregate they do it.

Environmentalists are often stereotyped as pessimists, but really most of the people I know who've dedicated their careers are optimistic that technology can address many environmental problems. Sure, they'd like to see the global population stabilized, or even somewhat reduced, because that makes the job of preserving the environment much easier. But they actually believe the sustainability problem can be licked, even without reducing the global population by much.

I'll give you one example of how an actual environmentalist thinks. I was at a meeting with the sustainability director of a major sportswear manufacturer, and he was describing the research they were doing into improving the recyclability of polyester fleece clothing. He made the point that scale is critical to assessing the environmental impact. For a small band of hunter-gatherers, wild animal pelts would be the source of clothing with the least impact; wool would have intermediate impact; a chemical plant that reprocesses coke bottles into polyester resins would have a ridiculously large impact. But if you are making hundreds of thousands of garments, the impacts are actually reversed: the chemical plant has the least environmental impact. Once you turn those bottles into fleece you can continually recycle those molecules into more fleece. He describes recycling as "living off your environmental income instead of your capital."

Environmentalists -- by which I mean the people who are actually working on solutions to environmental problems -- generally believe that even with a large population we can make use of the products of ecosystems without disturbing the equilibria that sustain those systems. As one civil engineering environmentalist I know put it: I = P*S/T ; impact is proportional to population and standard of living but inversely proportional to technology. You can reduce the environmental impact of home heating by reducing the number of people; or you could do it by people getting used to being colder. But you can get the same result by insulating your house and heating it with renewable energy.

It's actually the anti-environmentalists who are the pessimists; they don't believe in people's ability to adapt, and they anticipate nothing but suffering from trying to do anything about problems. Their version of "optimism" is to discount any evidence that problems exist, or to convincing themselves if we do nothing everything will work out for the best.

Comment Re: Sociopaths gonna sociopath. What's new? (Score 4, Insightful) 237

Yep, GP loses at bad-research bingo. Also, he missed the actual problem with this research: the subjects are divided into classes by self-reporting. So the headline should read, "People who consider themselves above other people pay less attention to others." It's not an un-interesting result, but it is not quite as interesting when you put it that way.

I've worked with people of all classes, and anecdotally at least I've found that F. Scott Fitzgerald was right: the rich aren't like you and me; they have more money. Old money at least lives a little bit like the people you read about in Jane Austen books; a lot of their energy goes into socializing with others of their class. So it would be interesting to look at old money/new money this way. Another interesting confounding factor is urban/rural. Rural people tend to be poorer. Urban people actually get more human interaction per time while participating in less per person encountered.

In most interesting social science research it's not the first and obvious way of dividing up people that draws your attention (e.g. rich/poor, young/old, male/female); it's the second cut. That's because most of our pop-psych deals in the first cuts (men are from Mars, women from Venus); the second cut tells us the ways our intuitions are limited.

User Journal

Journal Journal: As predicted ACA and insurance are incompatible.

An article in nytimes shows that millions of Americans choose not to pay insurance premiums but instead only get insurance coverage when they need it because the premiums are more expensive than government penalties of not buying insurance and because simultaneously the government forces the insurance companies to cover anybody regardless of any pre-existing conditions.

Comment Re:and if I shoplift a rack full of CD's it's just (Score 4, Insightful) 117

Because copyright law is bunch of crude analogies hacked together that used the physical encodings of information as a proxy for a creator's financial interests in a work. It worked great in the age of print when mainly you were talking about books which were cheap to mass produce but expensive to copy.

But today, conceptualizing an author's rights to a work as a monopoly on copying leads to nonsensical results. Suppose I download a song to the same computer twice, as can easily happen. Technically because the thing I did wrong was copying, I infringed *twice*; however it hardly does twice the harm to the author's interests. On the other hand if I copy that song once but listen to it a thousand times, you could reasonably argue I'm doing more harm to the author's interest than if I downloaded it a thousand times but *never* listened to it.

It's all just a way to get content creators paid; a ridiculously complex and arcane way, but it's familiar because it's traditional. You can't expect it to make sense, especially by trying to draw subtly different analogies.

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