November 17, 2012

“3D printing will be bigger than the web”

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:46

While I’m not quite willing to go as far as Chris Anderson (quoted above), I do think 3D printing is going to be a fantastic development in our very-near future:

Chris Anderson has exited one of the top jobs in publishing — Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine — to pursue the life of an entrepreneur, making a big bet that 3D printers represent a massive new phase of the industrial revolution.

He spoke at a Wired “Culturazzi” event, at the Marriott Union Square and to sign copies of his latest book: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.

Mr Anderson is always an excellent speaker and his talk covered the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, which he picked out as the invention of the Spinning Jenny in 1764 — a hand powered machine for spinning yarn.

I’d have pinned the start of the Industrial Revolution to the invention of the steam engine and its ability to power large numbers of machines thus enabling the first factories — which represented aggregated labor energy. Scale makes factories viable.

But I can see why Mr Anderson would favor the Spinning Jenny as it was a high-tech machine that was kept in a home — just as 3D printers are home based, completing a neat cycle of history.

Reason.tv: Lance Armstrong Cheated to Win. Is that Wrong?

Filed under: Health, Media, Science, Sports — Tags: — Nicholas @ 12:35

After months of bad press, the greatest competitive cyclist of all time has officially hit rock bottom: The Lance Armstrong Foundation has dropped the name of its eponymous creator and will now be known as the Livestrong Foundation.

Rest easy, Lance, it can’t get much — or is that any? — worse.

He may be a sanctimonious jerk whose doping denials are less convincing than a Lindsay Lohan rehab stint, but should he be pilloried for doing what all top cyclists — and increasingly, all of us — are doing: pursuing better living through chemistry?

Reason TV correspondent Kennedy defends performance-enhancing drugs from steroids to Viagra to that special memory pill we can’t remember the name of…

Steve Landsburg says paying off the national debt would be a bad idea

Filed under: Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:41

Here’s an interesting argument:

How high should taxes be? High enough to cover expected outlays going forward — but no higher.

That’s because any additional revenue would be used to pay down the federal debt, which is a bad idea. It was almost surely a mistake to run up this much debt in the first place, but now that we’ve got it, the best thing to do is to keep it forever.

Here’s why:

Every $100 in outstanding debt commits the government to making payments with a present value of $100, and hence to collecting tax revenues with a present value of $100. In a world where the interest rate is 3%, the options include collecting (and paying off) $100 immediately, or $50 this year and $51.50 next year, or $11.38 a year for ten years running, or $3 a year forever. Because deadweight loss (i.e. the economic damage due to the disincentive effects of taxes) is roughly proportional to the square of the tax rate, it turns out that the latter — the policy of paying interest forever without ever making a principal payment — is (at least roughly) the policy that minimizes the present value of deadweight loss.

A new low in patents?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:35

Apple has patented the “page turn”:

If you want to know just how broken the patent system is, just look at patent D670,713, filed by Apple and approved this week by the United States Patent Office.

This design patent, titled, “Display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface,” gives Apple the exclusive rights to the page turn in an e-reader application.

Yes, that’s right. Apple now owns the page turn. You know, as when you turn a page with your hand. An “interface” that has been around for hundreds of years in physical form. I swear I’ve seen similar animation in Disney or Warner Brothers cartoons.

(This is where readers are probably checking the URL of this article to make sure it’s The New York Times and not The Onion.)

The argument for a guaranteed annual income program

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:16

In the National Post, Andrew Coyne lays out the benefits of instituting a GAI to replace existing poverty programs:

The basic idea behind the GAI is sound: to consolidate a number of federal and provincial programs, some in cash and some in kind, into a single, universal, unconditional cash benefit, delivered through the tax system. The base amount would be modest: perhaps $10,000-$12,000 per person. Critically, it would be taxed back only gradually, say at 25 cents on the dollar, as earned income rises. Compare that to current practice, where benefits are often withdrawn dollar-for-dollar, or in the case of benefits in kind like free dental care or prescription drugs, are denied altogether to those who leave social assistance: an effective marginal tax rate of 100% or more.

You can see why the people who design and administer these systems do this. They’re trying to save money; they want to target assistance only to those who “need” it; they worry what people would do if given the cash to buy what they want, rather than the services government thinks they should have. But the result of all this careful selection and monitoring is not just condescending and intrusive: it effectively punishes people for taking a job, or working longer hours. This is the key insight of the GAI: dependence is created not so much by giving people money when they don’t work — certainly not at $10,000 a year — as by taking it away from them when they do.

So if all of this makes sense, why hasn’t it been done? One barrier is cost. The more gradually you reduce the transfer as income rises, the more paltry the base amount must be to stay within a given limit; conversely, set a more generous minimum, and you have to impose a steeper clawback. Of course, the arithmetic becomes less stark if you include the revenues saved from the programs the GAI would replace. But here you run into other obstacles.

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