AMA – Extreme Stupidity is not Natural

I don’t believe that extreme stupidity is natural.

We are cognitively endowed by nature to, say, learn our mother tongue without instructions but reading and writing are unnatural because it is a learned skill. So also it is natural to be about average in intelligence (and therefore about average in stupidity) but extreme, off the chart stupidity is not natural. It has to be learned. I am guessing that one has to be immersed in some pernicious ideology to achieve a level of gross stupidity the mere observation of which makes your head hurt.

With this lead in, I am giving you fair warning that the YouTube video below may damage your mental health. So here goes.   Continue reading

Ask Me Anything — The Silicon Valley Founders Edition

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard

This is inspired by  my friend Rajan Parrikar’s post “Portraits of Success.” He references Carolyn Caddes‘s book, Portraits of Success – Impressions of Silicon Valley Pioneers (1986), which is a photographic tribute to the pioneers of Silicon Valley.

Among those featured in the book is Prof Terman (1900 – 1982) of Stanford University who is identified as “the Father of Silicon Valley.” Two of his students, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, were the first to follow his advice to start up their own electronics company. Thus was Hewlett-Packard Company formed in 1938 in a garage in Palo Alto, CA.

As it happens, I worked at HP in Cupertino, CA for a few years starting in the mid-1980s and even saw Bill and Dave in the facilities.  Continue reading

Government and Education

In a comment Ram wrote, “What are your thoughts on governments (or quasi government bodies) deciding what subjects should be taught in schools. For physical and social sciences, yes, I could think of market deciding it. But specifically what about languages? Can a government decide? But again, if we leave it to the market, some languages may not survive. I find it abhorrent that in some Indian states one could complete schooling all the way until Grade 12 without learning the local language.”

TL;DR version: Government should never get into any aspect of education — funding and running schools, dictating content, etc. That’s the job of parents, and if necessary, the job of society. Regarding languages, people decide what survives and what doesn’t. It’s a pity when a language dies but the use of force to keep a dying language alive cannot be morally justified.

Self-ownership

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Ask me anything — Hope for Humanity edition

All problems that humanity faces will ultimately be solved through better intelligence. After all, it is human intelligence that produces all that we have for our survival and prosperity. Nature-provided raw materials are strictly speaking worthless without the application of intelligence. Until very recently, all we had was human intelligence and human labor to get things done. More recently, human labor was augmented with machines. Machines are ultimately the product of human intelligence and human labor. Now we are getting to the point where human intelligence would be augmented by artificial or machine intelligence, and then in short order artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence (just as machine labor has surpassed human labor.)

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Ask me anything: I am always amazed edition.

This ad is probably from the mid-1980s. A massive 26MB hard drive for only $5K. As the ad points out, that’s less than $200 per MB. Now that’s a deal you couldn’t have refused. We should note that $5K in those days is equivalent to $10K in today’s dollars. Imagine, paying $10K for storage just enough for a few mp3 songs! Continue reading

Private Goods, Club Goods and Public Goods

Lighthouse at Point Reyes
Lighthouse at Point Reyes

Charging home owners’ association dues based on the size of the property is common practice in many places across the world. Is that economically efficient and is it equitable? The short answer to the question raised by reader Mr Baransam1 is yes. The longer answer needs to start with distinguishing different categories of goods that are produced, traded and consumed.

Private Goods

The most common category are called “private goods.” These are formally defined by being “rival” and “excludable.” The rivalrous characteristic arises from the fact that one’s consumption of the good precludes any other person from consuming it. If you eat an apple, that apple is not available for consumption by others. Excludability means that one can be prevented from consuming the good. You can lock up the apple and exclude others from consuming it.
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