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Comment Re:Plenty of low-wage jobs to go around... (Score 1) 419

Well, if you want data, according the social security adminsitration the average wage has gone up by about $8000 since 2010; however the median wage has gone up by something more like $3000.

This pretty much tells you what you'd expect under trade liberalization: it helps higher wage workers with specialized skills more than it does commodity labor.

The key to understanding data like this, as a sociology professor once told me, is to disaggregate it. If you do you'll see that while the averages and even median that looks fairly rosy over the last thirty years, the picture for median and below has been almost flat for a generation.

That doesn't sound too bad. Sure the wealthy and the well-to-do are getting richer, but nobody (at least no economic slice -- geography tells a different story) is doing worse. But even that result has to be disaggregated. On one hand you have only a modest increase in the overall cost of consumer goods (thanks free trade!); this modest increase along with modest compensation increases produces no growth or loss of purchasing power below median income.

On the other hand if you break out just health incurance, medical care and college tuition, median purchasing power has collapsed in the last thirty years or so.

What this means is that median income people can buy a lot more TVs and home entertainment crap than they could in the 70s, but as that stuff has become cheaper paths to upward mobility have been closing and paths to downward mobility have been opening.

Comment Re: Farewell and Thanks for My First Job! (Score 1) 24

It's remarkable how young so many of these pioneers were, which is why a few of them are still alive today.

I started mucking around with computers in high school in the 70s and when I got my first job in the 80s some of these guys were still working. I once sat next to a guy at a banquet who was probably only ten years older then than I am now. He regaled me with tales of his lab getting the IBM 701 in the mid 50s, which was exciting because it was, in his words, "a stored program jobbie." We could talk each other's language because the obsolete hardware I learned on wasn't much more advanced than the stuff he worked on as a young man. I look at the front panel of the 701 or the Stretch, and it makes perfect sense to me.

When these guys started dying off in the 90s, I remember a kind of stunned disbelief. Computer guys just didn't die. That was something that happened to old people.

Comment They've got it backwards. (Score 0) 232

Get rid of paper money first. Replace it with large denomination coins. This would eliminate the cost of printing paper money, which is more expensive because paper is less durable. It maintains most advantages of paper currency, except for one: making large cash purchases.

That's the reason this has been suggested as a way to curb drug trafficking. The highest denomination coin currently in US circulation is $1, and weighs about 8.1 grams. At around $20,000 per kilogram, to buy a kilo of coke a middleman would have to fork over 357 pounds of Sacajaweas. Even if you minted $20 coins that weighed about twice as much, you'd still need over thirty pounds of coins to by a kilo. However transactions in the sub-thousand dollar range would remain quite easy. It'd be a cinch to carry enough cash to cover dinner for two, with wine, at a three star restaurant in Manhattan. Or penny candy, although that cost a dime these days.

The basic strategy is the same: discourage some cash transactions. It's just that it makes more sense to discourage big cash transactions.

Comment Re:Slashdot Trolling? (Score 2) 180

Well, I don't really see that this is a Trump trolling. It's a genuine news story, and it is an interesting question what the new administration will do about it -- if anything. Especially as Trump's proposed Secretary of Defense (Jim Mathis) really, really wants to contain Iran, and Iran's cyberwarfare is one of the issues he's mentioned. Mathis is aggressive and sometimes impolitic, but he doesn't come across as a fool.

On the other hand the Secretary of State position is up in the air. Currently in the running according to transition team leaks: Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Rudy Giuliani, and John Bolton. That's quite a range there.

Comment Re:"Hate speech" is protected by the 1st Amendment (Score 1) 992

But we also have companies, which occupy a space between an individual and society in total.

Not necessarily. I agree in the case where a company has an entrenched monopoly which is protected by serious barriers to entry. But in the case of Twitter there are alternate social media platforms available. And even if they all banned you for your KKK activities, it's not really that hard to create a social media app that can support a broadly unpopular viewpoint.

Comment Re:We need fewer rocket launches, not more (Score 1) 57

All the rocket fuel used annually is absolutely dwarfed by, e.g., automotive fuel.

Check out this flowchart of where roughly 97.4% of US energy comes from/goes to. Note the massive waste (rejected energy) in transportation AND electric generation. However a move to electric vehicles over the next few decades will still reduce wastage because of lower amounts of energy consumed overall. Plus the wastage in energy generation and transmission can also be greatly reduced.

But we have to admit this is a problem. For example shifting from coal to natural gas, which is happening because gas is a lot cheaper, could save us a lot of energy wastage and carbon emissions -- if we're careful to regulate methane emissions from natural gas production and distribution. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a very potent greenhouse gas. Thus scrapping environmental regulations would actually hurt coal production because the gas industry would be able to externalize its costs and sell at an artificially low price.

There's every reason to believe we can make a big dent in the roughly 60% of energy that is simply wasted, and if on top of that we develop more carbon neutral sources like nuclear, wind, and biofuels we can over the course of a twenty years or so really reduce our carbon footprint while improving our energy independence. We're almost energy independent now, and if things continue on the path we've been on for the past six years or so we'll be a net exporter of energy in the next two or three years.

Conservation and clean energy will allow us to grow our economy, become independent of foreign oil supplies from unstable regions, and create jobs. But it will take changing the status quo, which is why people who benefit from the status quo don't want us to acknowledge the problem.

As for rocketry, it may not be a big deal in aggregate, but single orbital launch still puts out a lot of CO2 -- about the same as an average car driven for almost 50 years. However I think that could be reduced too, by introducing more biofuels as well as developing alternative launch technologies.

Comment Re:Realistic (Score 1) 89

I developed for the Newton. Then I developed for the Palm Pilot. Then I developed for PocketPC. Then I got out of the business when the iPhone came along:)

I did come back to help out a team of scientists who'd just returned from a three year expedition in the tropical rainforest. I'd equipped them with PocketPCs before they left, which was just before the iPhone came out. When they returned they felt like Rip Van Winkle.

You have to build products around the limitations of the technology, and that means the appeal of every product you build is constrained in some way. The Newton was a product of genius, but the combination of size, weight, and limited capabilities meant the market for the device was limited. The Palm Pilot desigers, with similar technology available to them, made the definition to trade everything off for form factor -- and that was a great choice. They sold a lot of them to people who wanted to replace their daytimers and Franklin Covey planners.

The limitations of pre-iPhone converged devices (I tested a number of them) wasn't technological; it was marketing. The carriers dictated limitations to devices used on their networks to protect various added-charge services they made a lot of money from. They used to make you pay to get your pictures off your phone! That's why Apple introduced the iPhone as an AT&T exclusive. AT&T was an unpopular carrier that badly needed a hit product. It was in no position to say "no".

The essential property of a true smartphone is net neutrality. It's not tied to a particular carrier's services.

Comment Re:"Hate speech" is protected by the 1st Amendment (Score 4, Insightful) 992

This is tricky bit when you stop using "freedom" as a glittering generality and start tying to live it as a practicality: freedoms impinge on each other. Your freedom to say whatever the hell you want impinges on Twitter's freedom to set whatever ground rules it wants for its privately funded and hosted service. And vice versa.

Which means nobody gets unlimited freedom; or at least most people can't have it; if one person has unlimited freedom than everyone else has no actual rights -- we call that a dictatorship. Or a small group can have almost unlimited freedom, but everyone else has limited rights -- an oligarchy.

To maximize freedom for most people you need rules which adjudicate conflicting freedoms. One such principle is that we can't, as a society, punish things which we are allowed as individuals to punish. The KKK is perfectly legal, but you don't have to let them use your premises or services as a platform.

And it means drawing lines, and whenever you do that you end up with similar looking cases on either side of the line. You can't (in most states) deny gays or blacks housing or other essential services. But you can deny Klansmen housing, if you have the courage to do so. You can redraw the lines elsewhere, but no matter where you choose to draw the line there'll be similar looking cases on either side.

Comment The root of all evil is careerism. (Score 2) 332

Too often developers choose to use a technology because it will look good on their resumes, not because it serves the interests of the system's users or the people paying for it. It's what economists call "agency costs".

Every time a new golden hammer comes up, developers rush to use it before they get left behind. And you can see the corrupted focus right in the code. I remember when Model-View-Controller was the buzzword du jour, and people without any sense of irony whatsoever would bake MVC framework dependencies into practically every single file. Ugh.

But here's the rub: part of taking care of user and customer needs is considering the impact of future brainshare. Sure, COBOL may be just perfect for this app (OK, probably not), but should you really saddle them with having to find someone with COBOL expertise? It's possible to be too puritanical about avoiding technology fads.

So part of your job as a developer is to track the emergence of new golden hammers, to study good and bad examples of their use, and to truly understand each of them as much as possible. Where possible you should try the latest thing; if you're a team manager assign slack personnel to do spikes that evaluate it (this is a great perk to hand out). It's part of your job to stay on top of where things are going, without committing customers to something that might not meet their needs.

Comment Re:Childish, unprofessional, pathetic. Creative? N (Score 2) 524

I'm guessing you didn't do that well in your torts class. We aren't talking defamation, we're at least potentially talking about trademark tarnishment.

There of course has never been any case like this one would be -- a trademark so intimately tied to a personality who is also a public political figure. My guess is what *should* happen is First Amendment should beat trademark law, in that the intent was political rather than commercial.

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