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KSR is one of the more thought-provoking SF writers currently writing, IMO; for example, he's one of the few authors that really delves, in a meaningful way, into how science, politics, economics, ecology, and culture interact. (See, most especially, the {Red, Green, Blue} Mars trilogy.) This interview is long, but worth reading.
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Sunstein saw in the housing collapse, he told me, a “cascadelike process.” People thought they could handle more risk than they really could, and the regulatory system permitted too much systemic risk. Some of these errors were a result of legislation, but many were caused more quietly, by tiny rules issued by federal agencies — the kinds of regulations over which Sunstein now has some authority.

If you think about it — and Sunstein certainly has — you can see a similar problem in one of the fields OIRA deals with often: the environment. The small risks that people or companies take (in adding increments of carbon to the atmosphere or — as in the case of the recent Gulf Coast oil spill — maintaining drilling rigs) sometimes threaten to cascade into a catastrophe. So how can the government change the framework of choices that particular people are faced with so that their own small errors in risk perception don’t expose the whole of society?
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As a coworker said, this sort of explains why open-source developers (and, to a certain extent, Googlers) do what we do...and provides an interesting commentary on incentives, especially in the tech industry.
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Another opportunity to get royally pissed off and despairing relating to what's been going on with the current financial crisis, its antecedents, and various bailout-related program activities.


Honestly, I don't know if there's anything that I can actually do about this, other than to attempt to light a fire under my senators to at least go add some damned oversight and regulation to the banking business.

Seriously, this whole situation just seems surreal.
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Not technical in nature (go to the Wikipedia article for that), but an interesting look at the attitudes and geneses (genesises? genesi?) of a financial problem that makes that of the US look almost minor. (It also reminds me somewhat of the planet with the shoemaking economy described in Douglas Adams' Restaurant at the End of the Universe.)
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Interesting that it all comes down to this, in a sense.

The real question is this: how do we learn from this, and put in place safeguards against this kind of thing happening again? Clearly the real problem is that the model was applied without regard for its limitations, so it's not clear that better models are the right answer here.
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Of course--as long as we're being intellectually snarky here--they're missing a potentially significant cost: that incurred when one believes that the seat is down and acts accordingly...and it's not.
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Not exactly "peer-to-peer", IMO, but interesting.

Hmm. If this takes off, I predict that Paypal is going to jump in there; they have the infrastructure to support it.
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In response to "driving past an empty cemetery" (courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] vito_excalibur), I offer the following thoughts, which have been running around in my brain for a few years now.

scampering thoughts )
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National Budget Simulation: allows you to play with different assumptions about how money will be spent, relative to current spending patterns.

I like the concept of this sort of thing. But you know what? _Anybody_ that plays with this will be able to come up with budget savings; it doesn't require any particular virtue, just a less diffuse set of priorities than Congress has. If you want me to be impressed with your economic acumen, get together with 534 people of diverse interests and backgrounds in different areas of the country and come up with a budget that you can get 51% of them to support. I doubt you'll be able to cut it as far under those circumstances.

Representative democracy sure sucks when not everyone agrees with you, huh? (Or even when most do, but hold out for quid pro quos anyway.)

iPod baby costumes (from BoingBoing)

The iron-on graphic is especially nice.

Daily Illuminator: Iraq Agrees on Constitution

"Next up for discussion is Dexterity."

heh heh heh...


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May 2011

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