From social networks to social manifolds

More than a concept for websites, social networks are a metaphor about our lives, one in which we are related to other people by relatively strong and stable links. By and large, this is an accurate image; after all, it was originally developed by anthropologists attempting to understand the basis of human societies. Continuer la lecture de « From social networks to social manifolds »

Humans are from Earth, financial markets might as well be from Mars

Our belief that people do things out of clearly understandable reasons is, at best, dubious. To apply that logic to countries is pointless. To try to explain in psychological terms the behavior of financial markets — which are not just large groups of people, but very large groups of very nervous people working with or for very fast networks of computers running very experimental algorithms — is to take anthropomorphism into dangerous territory. Continuer la lecture de « Humans are from Earth, financial markets might as well be from Mars »

The Jobless Century

Statistics indicate that the slow, uneven recovery of the global economy is not being accompanied by significant growth in wages. That was to be expected, and is in line with recent economic history. The long post-WWII trend of economic growth overwhelmingly improved incomes for the most wealthy and for a fast-growing global group of working poor/lower middle class. The gradual integration of the Third World into a world economy to which they contributed not only raw materials but also manufacturing capabilities and even some services, together with much improved logistical and transport systems, has had a negative effect on middle class income in many economies across the world. Continuer la lecture de « The Jobless Century »

Counting Calories

Agricultural productivity progressed astoundingly during the Green Revolution. In many ways this was one of the defining technological achievements of the 20th century, as it made possible robust population, health, and lifespan growth in most parts of the globe. But agricultural productivity has all but leveled off, and new technologies like genetically modified organisms, due to a convergence of genuine scientific difficulties, excessive regulatory controls, aggressive monopolies, and public resistance to the concept, have failed to pick up the slack. Continuer la lecture de « Counting Calories »

The Ignorant Computer

Consider the (likely tens of gigabytes of) software in your computer. What sorts of knowledge does that software embody? What things does it “know” so you don’t have to? A lot of details about hardware management, at a minimum: how to interact with thousands of different devices, the details of interfaces and protocols, the often complex algorithms necessary to make the best use of large but limited resources. Continuer la lecture de « The Ignorant Computer »