Weekend reading

  1. The rise of the administrative state — a move that aided populist revolt.
  2. What Ayn Rand really meant by “selfishness”
  3. Great podcast on creativity (and how to protect it from “the system”)
  4. Know with the Flow” shows how to use tech to teach people about water
  5. Ride-share drivers make about $15 per hour, but they want more
  6. An update on Italian wines… and politics
  7. China’s social credit system might improve public behavior and interactions in the commons, but it also isolates and punishes. I predict that it will cause groups of excluded individuals to revolt.
  8. How futurists get it wrong (too much tech bros)
  9. Where will the next financial crisis come from? Views from me and 25 others
  10. CIty and utility bonds are getting downgraded as climate change risk grows.

H/T to MM

Stuff I wrote for other places…

Some industry blogs and magazines look for “thought bites” — short opinions on a topic. I wrote two recently that might interest you. (No sense in waiting for publication somewhere obscure 😉

Question from Source Magazine: Facing diminishing health, access, and supply-side options, how can water professionals ensure that markets become increasingly attractive, effective, and equitable?

My answer: Water markets, like markets for houses, cars, phones, etc., depend on clear property rights and low transactions costs to move water to its highest and best use. Water’s bulk, low value per unit, and dependency on green/gray infrastructure for storage and movement means that markets will only work at the wholesale level, i.e., among farmers and/or water/wastewater utilities. This structure can work as well for retail customers as the current structure for distributing oil works for consumers of gasoline. Equity in water markets is more tricky due to a past negligence for quantifying rights, missing information on the quantity of water available in time and place, and a failure to set aside environmental flows that should be owned in common (Public Trust). In cases where right remain with the State (and thus the people), some water should be reserved for the commons while the rest is sold to the highest bidder and revenues are distributed among citizens (the real owners of a nation’s water). In cases where rights are private property, some rights should be taken back from current owners and restored to the commons they should never have left.

Question from FE Insights blog: It’s been said that there’s a financial crisis about every 10 years. Currently, it’s been about a decade since the last one and with many analysts forecasting the global economy to begin slowing in the near future, we were wondering if you’d care to comment on when you think the next financial crisis will hit and what the catalyst(s) will be.

My answer: The next crisis has already begun, but we do not yet see the signs. The most likely sources of stress are opaque accounting and questionable governance at Chinese firms, Donald Trump’s fiscally irresponsible tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and the rise of various other populist leaders (besides Trump) who prefer mercantilist trade policies. Other factors of interest are over-compliant central banks that value economic growth over economic stability and the rising costs of climate disruption. In terms of a global recession, I think that corporate debt markets might be the first to run into trouble either due to fraud or regulatory interventions that reduce liquidity or the perceptions of risk. Although the international trading system is fairly robust relative to the situation in the 1930s, I could see a Trumpian-style war of all-against-all as a likely first casualty of any sizable macro disruption, in the same way that rising tariffs in the US (Smoot-Hawley) and elsewhere were erected in the years after 1929’s Black Friday. Although companies with large domestic revenues might appear as beneficiaries in an isolationist world, I think that their share prices will fall after a brief increase as they experience disruptions and other collateral damage from populist policies.

Here are all the answers from me and 25 other people

What would you answer to either of these questions? 

Weekend reading

  1. 250 things an architect should know… after a lifetime as a dilettante (fun)
  2. Bankers being bankers (ripping off citizens via legal fraud in Europe)
  3. The story of Ubernomics
  4. The World Bank launches a much-needed “human capital index” that should help clarify educational and health priorities in nearly 200 countries. How is yours doing?
  5. A few ideas on reshaping cities for people (rather than cars)
  6. My colleague Paul explains why carbon capture is more hope than solution
  7. A well-meaning, but counterproductive climate regulation on roofs
  8. Florida’s “tire reef” is now an environmental disaster
  9. The revelations of a first time (and not last time) hitchhiker
  10. Carl Bauer reviews Water Policy in Chile.

H/T to CD

Weekend reading

  1. How selfies are changing gym workouts
  2. When CEO Pay Exploded
  3. Amazing video showing Amsterdam’s mix of music, culture, technology and sustainability. 
  4. End cyclist injuries by re-learning how to open your car door
  5. The origin of modern computers: “Second World War, a conflict — unparalleled in history in the degree to which it yoked entire peoples, body and mind, to the chariot of war — permanently transformed the relationship between states on the one hand, and science and technology on the other, and brought forth a vast array of new devices.”
  6. Global ecological disasters: “How to Write About a Vanishing World
  7. “The Water Point Data Exchange is the global platform for sharing water point data” (an example of what I was trying to do with my water data hub)
  8. Desire paths: People vs planners
  9. Time to fight back against Russian spies?
  10. The guy who fought back against fake reviews

Weekend reading

  1. Lebanon’s electricity mafia is hindering its development
  2. Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian pivot into modernity
  3. China’s Hayekian (market-innovative) communism 
  4. How Twitch (vlog) streamers make $20k/month (or more)
  5. The foundations of Eastern Europe’s populism? “…many eastern and central Europeans want… to rid themselves of the humiliation of having been imitators, followers of the West rather than founders.”
  6. What’s Financial Independence really about?
  7. The illness (and cure?) for American journalism
  8. It’s a miracle that peer review works as well as it does. And its function is to produce quality-controlled academic output, not to spot fakes.
  9. Risk management comes down to serially avoiding decisions that can’t easily be reversed, whose downsides will demolish you and prevent recovery.
  10. How have the farm animals of today been shaped by centuries of domestication and selective breeding?

Business models compared

I just spent 2 hours making this pretty picture for you:It shows the relative relations of 4 “business models”

For-profits make more than they spend for the private benefit of owners and customers.

B-Corps (or social enterprises) often make less and spend more because they are targeting a sub group of customers and/or spend more on their “inputs” of materials and labor because they are trying to combine social value with a sustainable business model.

Non-profits spend what they make to minimize costs to customers for providing the best service possible at that cost. (That’s the nice way to see them. Those that are abusive or corrupt can overcharge for shoddy service while overpaying their incompetent staff.)

Charities don’t earn revenue but “depend on the kindness of strangers” for support of their charitable works. Charities are more vulnerable to collapse due to a shift in donor attention, but that means that the arrival of an enthusiastic patron can produce a lot of action in a short time.

Is this figure helpful? Any other thoughts? 

Addendum (18 Oct via DC): 

Weekend reading

  1. A really great essay on the bourgeois roots of privilege.
  2. A software engineer calls for less bloat more smart.
  3. Blame consumers or manufacturers when tons of new clothes are burned?
  4. How to become great at anything? Deliberate practice
  5. Maybe Japan’s economy has been doing better than we think?
  6. How Jane Jacobs turned from pro-planner to pro-neighborhood
  7. All of life is suffering — the evolutionary edition
  8. USAID is running a comparison to see if cash helps people more than “programs,” but there’s a lot of resistance from its bureaucrats 🙁
  9. The “people’s canteens” at the center of China’s mass starvation.
  10. The President of the World Bank is pretty impressive.

Weekend reading

  1. Watch “why every social media site is a dumpster fire” as it’s the best concise analysis I’ve seen in awhile.
    My gym needs to shut one of these doors…
  2. When are you really Dutch?
  3. The WikiTribune (a crowd-sourced news website) is looking for water stories(and thus writers). At the moment, the proposed titles look more like opinion than journalism, but hopefully they will do an objective job.
  4. A fascinating history (one in a long series) on the rise of the telegraph.
  5. Cities are trying to get access to data on “scooter shares” because they don’t want to get “Uber’d” again. I don’t think they need the data, as much as a policy on parking/using common spaces.
  6. “YouTubers are not your friends” — they’re selling you stuff — or themselves.
  7. Want less frustration and more effectiveness? “Stick with first impressions. Don’t extrapolate.”
  8. The real potential of AI.
  9. The best (short) explanation of the financial crisis I’ve read.
  10. A Neanderthal warns Sapiens of our folly.

H/T to GC

Weekend reading

Now THIS is Upcycling!
  1. Some insights from the people Trump hates: Farmworkers and Abortionists.  Let’s thankful they’re helping us.
  2. Name and Praise? Cape Town’s water map shows houses that are meeting use targets.
  3. Correlation is not causation, but maybe we don’t understand causation?
  4. Looking back at 1968: “Antiwar radicals, recoiling from soullessness, challenged the church of technocratic rationality.” At some point, this goal was lost, and we’re still suffering the consequences.
  5. Design thinking: “Solving the problem without addressing the people, or focusing on the people without truly resolving the problem will only lead to frustration, alienation, and failure.”
  6. Psychoanalyzing Americans’ insecurities: “Trump’s deepest appeal lies in an unspoken promise… to undo the Enlightenment, to free us from the burdens of living rationally in a world where nothing is settled and where everything—economic well-being, national borders, gender identities, domestic arrangements—is up for grabs, let the strongest prevail.”
  7. Are the Poles taking advantage of Dutch labor laws or are the laws flawed?
  8. So maybe humans will not vanish in nuclear war or climate disruption catastrophe but because they cannot reproduce? Chemicals in our environment have already reduced male sperm counts by 50%, and it’s still dropping!
  9. “If you work a job with payroll, get products delivered from Amazon, or own a smartphone assembled from parts, you are a beneficiary of the relational-database industrial complex. And a victim of it, too…
  10. A fantastic analysis of the Trump Administration’s failures in Puerto Rico

H/Ts to FD and AM

Weekend reading

  1. The first “Nigerian scammers” were French prisoners from 100 years ago.
  2. A conversation on triggers, political correctness and free speech
  3. Fail fast for happiness.
  4. A look back from a future in which we only talk to others in our bubble.
  5. “Fox News has normalized racism, lying, scapegoating and corruption”
  6. How is (maybe) Tesla disruptive?
  7. A 1989 report from the Berlin Wall, on the future…
  8. A modern What Color Is Your Parachute? (thoughts on career)
  9. How technology will be used to control us: “In the 20th century, the masses revolted against exploitation… Now the masses fear irrelevance, and they are frantic to use their remaining political power before it is too late. [Thus]… Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump.” 
  10. “There is no controversy in calling Winston Churchill a white supremacist or in noting that the British Empire was predicated on racism.

H/T to FD