Thanks to Akshay for his comment. From it, I learned something important (see the end of this post.) I love pushback because then I get off my lazy ass and actually write a post.
Both Carl Sagan and Freeman Dyson are excellent exemplars of people who are both well-informed and well-meaning. I would add that they were not just highly intelligent but were also exceedingly wise. However they differed in their assessment of how critical the climate change issue was. This is not surprising because the matter is one on which reasonable people could disagree. It is important to note their divergent opinions and explain it. Continue reading “Experts”
Having lived most of my adult life in the San Francisco Bay area, I naturally think of it as home. I’ve been a citizen of California for decades.
I have made life-long friends here, worked here, gone to graduate school here, taught at various universities here, owned a home here, vacationed in the many national parks here. In short, I am a Californian. Therefore seeing what’s happening to it is distressing, to say the least.
Why the decline and fall of California? Questions about complex phenomena that begin with “why” are “over-determined” (as economists are fond of saying.) There are multiple causal factors, none of which are individually sufficient but various different combinations of them could be responsible. These factors could be economic, technological, social, cultural or historical. Analysis of complex phenomena is never entirely settled. In other words, it’s not rocket science; it’s social science. Continue reading “California”
On Fridays once in a while I engage with a few teenagers and a couple of my adult friends. We discuss matters of mutual interest. Lately it’s been about climate change and global warming.
I am persuaded that the young are being systematically misled by a committed group of interested parties that have an agenda to profit from misdirection and misinformation.
The image of a TV meteorological report at the top of this post exemplifies my point about misdirection.The top part is colored green and the bottom part red. They are five years apart. The impression conveyed is that the world is melting due to high temperatures but if you care to notice, you’d see that the temperatures reported are pretty much the same.
This has to be resisted. In the following, I present a bit of what I recently wrote to the group of teenagers I engage with on Fridays. Here it is, for the record. Continue reading “Learn Before We Act”
Today was the coronation of King Charles III of the UK. Pretty big day for some people — around 130 million of them who have him as the head of 15 countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, etc.
But we’d have to admit not all of them are his loyal subjects. Celtic fans at the Scottish Cup Semi-finals at Hampden Park last week sent a clear message to his royal highness (note the lack of capitalization). They were not pledging their loyalty. Instead they told him what to do with his coronation. Continue reading “Coronation”
I concluded the post on well-being with: “The trend of increasing wealth, income and consumption is undeniable. The question is what is the trend in inequality? And what of well-being? While the level of well-being is undoubtedly rising around the world, is it also becoming more unequal?”
The world is unequal in terms of wealth and income for certain. Empirical evidence shows that inequality in wealth and income is increasing monotonically. Since wealth and income are positively correlated with consumption, and are also causally linked, one can conclude that inequality of consumption must be growing as well. It is.
That much is clear. Now let’s talk about well-being. What is it? It’s a feeling of being well. It’s about having our needs — physiological, psychological, emotional — satisfied. These needs are met through consumption. We consume water to meet the physiological need to satisfy thirst, for instance. We need stuff to meet our needs; stuff that may be in short supply relative to demand. Continue reading “Convergence”
In the previous bit, I claimed that the monotheistic religions’ concept of god has no counterpart in the dharmas (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.) In the former set, you have an entity that creates the world much like a watchmaker fabricates a watch. The watchmaker and the watch are necessarily distinct. They describe the world with an engineering metaphor. The world is a fabrication.
In Hinduism, however, the world is not a fabrication but is an expression of the ultimate reality or “Brahman.” Nobody knows what Brahman is but whatever it is, it pervades the entire world, and is in fact congruent with the world. Brahman is not a creator god because all of existence and Brahman are identical. Continue reading “Good God – Part 2”
Even if syntactically correct, some questions and propositions are not well-formed. Chomsky famously illustrated this with a sentence — “colorless green ideas sleep furiously” — which though grammatically correct is meaningless. It is syntactically fine but devoid of any semantic content.
I think the question “Do you believe in god” to be an example of a question that is syntactically fine but is semantically pure nonsense. Why? Because the word “god” is imprecise and undefined in the general context. The most appropriate response to that question is “what do you mean by that?” Continue reading “Good God – Part 1”
In a recent comment, Anirudh wrote: “I notice that the RISC model is in contrast to the development of SEZs( Special Economic Zones), where the focus is on developing certain areas, and giving them special privileges like tax cuts, etc… What do you think about SEZs, which were originally conceived as engines of economic growth? Should we have more of them?”
The RISC model is indeed distinct from “Special Economic Zones”. The RISC model is immersed in the prevailing economic rules. RISC is about what can be done under prevailing rules. SEZs are special, by definition. They have special rules.
I keep insisting that outcomes are a result of rules which govern economic activities — what’s allowed, what’s mandated, what’s prohibited. As I wrote in a recent post, “People as individuals are fairly indistinguishable across the world, save for their history, their culture, the geographies and so on. But as groups, their destinies are astonishingly diverse. I believe that this divergence is due to different set of rules. Rules and norms matter enormously.” Continue reading “SEZ”
Weather reports a few days ago predicted severe rainfall and flooding in Northern and Central California but it turned out to be a storm in a teacup.
After a few weeks in San Jose CA at a friend’s home, I was in Palo Alto CA at another friend’s home for a few days. Being in Palo Alto was interesting for two unrelated events. First, the mega-fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried of the FTX and Alameda Research fame was/is confined at his parents’ home in Palo Alto. So “SBF” was a neighbor of sorts for a bit.
As it happens, SBF was at a New York court on Jan 3rd for his arraignment and pleaded not guilty to all the charges. We’re sure to hear more about his embezzlement in the coming months. Continue reading “Weather Report”
The iron pillar in Delhi is an amazing object. At over 7 meters in length and weighing over three tonnes, it was made about 16 centuries ago from forge-welded wrought iron pieces. It is so corrosion resistant that it has survived the ravages of nature, and is strong enough that it even withstood destruction by cannon fire by Nadir Shah’s army about three centuries ago.
The people who cast that pillar had the technology to make that pillar. Which means that they knew how to make an iron pillar which resists corrosion for over a millennium and a half. The operative phrase in the previous sentence is “knew how to” — which is the definition of technology that we focus on. Continue reading “Technology”