Quotulatiousness

January 6, 2018

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs meets the blockchain

Filed under: Economics, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Tim Worstall explains why sensible economists aren’t worried about robots taking all our jobs:

CryptoKitties is also so new that it needs explanation. It works on blockchain, so it’s sexy (Bitcoin!), although there’s no great reason why it should. It’s simply a collectible, as much as cigarette, football or baseball cards were. AN Cat exists digitally, others do too, they can breed and, as in a pretty standard Mendelian model, attributes are inherited to varying degrees.

People are willing to spend real money on gaining the attributes they want. All the blockchain element is doing is keeping track of who owns what – a pretty good use for blockchain even if a payment system might not be, an ownership registry being a different thing.

Apparently, 180,000 people are into collecting CryptoKitties now, having spent some $20m of real-world resources on their fun.

And this is why economists aren’t worried about automation leaving us with nothing to do. Partly, it’s this inventiveness on display, the things that humans will find to do. Breeding digital cats? But much more than that, it’s about the definition of value.

And here’s where Maslow enters the discussion:

there’s something called Maslow’s pyramid, often known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We humans like our sleep, water, food and sex – and in roughly that order too. Only when one need earlier in the chain is at least partially sated will we get excited about finding more of the next. In a modern society most of these are well catered to, which is why we also desire, even demand, things further up the pyramid, such as TV shows, ballet, Simon Cowell, collectibles and so on.

It’s also true that economists insist this value is personal. It’s whatever value the individual places upon the whatever, market prices being the average of those summed. Just as we cannot say that one form of production creates more value than another, we cannot say that £10 of value in a collectible is lesser than £10 in food. We can, as in the pyramid, say that if the food desire isn’t partially sated then the collectible won’t be thought about, but order of desire isn’t the same as value.

All of which leads to “no worries she’ll be right” about automation. Say the robots do come in and steal all our jobs, and the algorithms do all the thinking – we’re not going to be left starving and bereft with nothing to do.

We’ll not be starving because the machines will now be doing everything. If they fail to do something as obvious as growing food, then we’ll all have jobs growing food. In fact, given the machines are making everything so efficient, we’ll all be stunningly rich – for all production must be consumed, that’s just an accounting identity.

But what are we going to do if we’ve not got those jobs? One answer is that we’ll start producing things further up the pyramid. More ballet, more poetry, more trifles like that. Why not? That’s what we’ve done every other time we’ve beaten the scarcity problem with more basic items, it’s the basis of civilisation. Only once we don’t need 100% of the people in the fields growing food can we have some portion of everyone off doing the civilisation bit.

But doesn’t this mean that we’re all going to end up doing terribly trivial things? Yep, it sure does. There are people out there making a very fine living from kicking a ball around, something that four centuries ago would have been considered total frivolity compared to growing food or chopping heads off enemies. The machine-driven future will have people doing what we today consider to be frivolous.

THE GREAT WAR and C&RSENAL Special Hangout – Russian Rifles and Pistols of WW1

Filed under: History, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Streamed live 6 hours ago

Check out C&RSENAL: http://youtube.com/candrsenal
Ask questions here: https://www.reddit.com/r/TheGreatWarC…

The EU and its many separatist movements

Filed under: Europe — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Theodore Dalrymple explores an odd thing in Europe which has often puzzled me: that movements to separate linguistic or economically distinct regions from their parent country are almost all equally eager to remain part of the EU:

[…] But having said all this, we still have not explained why nationalist centrifugalists, if I may so call them, are so eager to form an alliance with EU centripetalists, who wish to efface the very thing the nationalists claim to be seeking. Several hypotheses are possible, and none susceptible of final proof.

The first is that that these nationalists are not even aware of the contradiction. Few of us are logical calculating machines who work out the full implications of our beliefs, let alone always act in our own best interests. I am only too aware that I have no consistent doctrine of life, morality, or politics, that I am not even consistent from day to day or moment to moment, and am, on the whole, quite untroubled by this. Entirely consistent men are apt to be spine-chilling.

Second, nationalist dislike of immediate neighbors, whether the explanation for it be reasonable or unreasonable, may loom so large that it overcomes logical thought. Jumping out of frying pans into fires is a well-known human phenomenon.

There is a third explanation, which is that the leaders of the nationalist parties or separatist groups want there to be more places at the top table — vacancies that they would then fill. They might even rise to the dizzying heights of the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who has long bestridden the world, or Europe at any rate, like a colossus. This he could never have done without the existence of the EU. In other words, personal ambition and the megalomania of petty potentates.

But what should be the attitude of leaders of the European Union toward the potential fracturing of the EU member states as they are at present constituted? In the short term, EU leaders have to pretend to support the current arrangements, because for the moment power is concentrated in the hands of the leaders of those member states. If the power in Madrid or London begins, however, to seep away, the path to a Europe not of the nations but of (as Professor Guérot puts it) “the regions” is cleared. Then, as she says, the citizens of Europe “will elect their president by direct universal suffrage. Finished with the system of checks and balances … ”

I can’t wait for all those terrible checks and balances to be swept away. And, while we are at it, why should this process be confined to Europe? Is Professor Guérot a closet nationalist — even a racist? If Europeans can, why can’t the entire population of the world, elect their president (of a Republic of the World) by direct universal suffrage?

The language of most separatist leaders draws on the airy — and usually not defined in detail — concept of independence, being in charge of their own destiny, Maîtres Chez Nous, out from under those foreign rulers in [London|Madrid|Rome], etc. Yet the very next most important issue always seems to be jumping right back into a different form of foreign rulership. Almost as if the whole “independence” thing was merely a vehicle to getting better parking spots in Brussels.

Caesar in Gaul: REVOLT! (54 to 53 B.C.E.)

Filed under: Europe, France, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Historia Civilis
Published on 21 Jun 2017

QotD: The teacher as social worker

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Here we come to one of the most pernicious aspects of identity politics as it reshaped the American university — the confusion of teaching with social work. The issue of improper advocacy in the classroom has never been adequately addressed by the profession. Teaching and research must strive to remain objective and detached. The teacher as an individual citizen may and should have strong political convictions and activities outside the classroom, but in the classroom, he or she should never take ideological positions without at the same time frankly acknowledging them as opinion to the students and emphasizing that all students are completely free to hold and express their own opinions on any issue, no matter how contested, from abortion, homosexuality, and global warming to the existence of God or the veracity of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Unfortunately, because of the failure of American colleges and universities to seek and support ideological diversity on their campuses, the humanities faculties have trended so far toward liberal Democrats (among whom I number myself) that they often seem naively unaware that any other beliefs are possible or credible.

Camille Paglia, “The Modern Campus Has Declared War on Free Speech”, Heat Street, 2016-05-09.

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