- A podcast on tribe and belonging (in contrast to “neoliberal” life)
- Ethereum (a crypto-currency) will cut its energy use by 99 percent.
- China’s share-bike schemes are crashing and burning
- The podcast revolution is here to stay.
- A profile of the Chinese who censor the country
- Read this review of Surveillance capitalism: “Behavior modification is the thread that ties today’s search engines, social networks, and smartphone trackers to tomorrow’s facial-recognition systems, emotion-detection sensors, and artificial-intelligence bots. What the industries of the future will seek to manufacture is the self.” Related: Facebook knows everything about you when it sells adverts but not when politicians are asking about manipulation. I’m betting they are lying about how much they know and don’t know.
- Your friends may not be happy is you try to live without a smart phone.
- Forget counting calories. Eat good food.
- People have a hard time understanding logic and data. That doesn’t mean — IMO — that they should be voting on policies that affect the rest of us.
- How the Ostrom School limited Tragedies of the Commons
- “Giving back” is inadequate if you’re a robber (or Silicon Valley expropriator).
- Why is “share data” the default? Smart cities are not for us.
- Life is too short for bullshit (so choose your priorities)
- Ralph Pentland on the past and future of sustainable water management in Canada [pdf].
- Economists (including me) on the world economy in 2019
- China’s economy is in real trouble, and its leaders are doubling down on control
- I’m glad to see Gillette asking men to do better #metoo. Related: Men taking “pick up” classes so they can “score”. FAIL.
- Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and the Fourth Amendment
- Andrew Yang for President!
- A great summary of how megaprojects go wrong
I sent this article (“I’m a Developer. I Won’t Teach My Kids to Code, and Neither Should You.”) to Jan, who graduated from LUC a few years ago and taught coding to some of our students as part of a start-up idea.
I thought his reply was interesting, and Jan agreed I could share it:
- Real estate scams mess up the market in Russia
- Vegan junk food may save the Earth by delivering flavor without righteousness
- Fraud and ruthless competition at Amazon.com
- A dentist takes on Big Sugar by exposing their own damning research
- China’s white-elephant dam thrice screws over Ecuadorian citizens
- America is allowing Greek levels of tax cheating (“only suckers pay tax”)
- A fascinating investigation on the world’s NOT oldest woman
- A debate on the role of government in innovation (I agree with her, but yes, it’s hard to get government — a monopoly — to perform)
- The French battle over notions of place, community
- This article from 8 months ago details how peer-to-peer lenders lost investors’ money by failing to monitor borrowers. Here’s my explanation as to the perverse incentives.
Course announcement: “Fundamentals of Water Utility Regulation” will take place in March in Budapest. The registration fee is €1000-plus. (I taught there a few years ago but will not be this year.)
Michelle Coles, owner of the Cinema Augusta, Port Augusta, South Australia, (49C on Tuesday)
“I didn’t think it was that hot yesterday, if you want an honest answer. Yesterday at the cinema was very quiet. People tend to stay home. We’re quite used to it. Every summer is hot. A couple of degrees hotter doesn’t make that much difference.”
“Honestly I’d much rather be in 48C heat in Port Augusta than in the city – you’ve got so much concrete and it’s closed in, but here it’s quite open. You just don’t stand out in the sun though, that’d be stupid.”
“Most of us have got pretty good air-conditioning. Our local sporting centre is open with the aircon running for anyone who doesn’t have any. The one thing I do, is for the elderly people I know, I go and visit them.”
“We don’t take our dogs for a walk early in the morning, we take them out at night. Even then, the concrete can still be quite hot. I walk out and actually stand in my bare feet to check.”
“I think it’s different these days to what it was 20 or 30 years ago. You notice that people walk around with water bottles. Everyone has water bottles. I think people are sensible. We’ve got a couple of homeless people who pop into the cinema, and our girls are instructed to give them a drink. We have a really amazing community spirit here – everybody looks after everybody else.”
- A podcast on rethinking economics (something I’ve been doing for awhile)
- The institutions of a liberal society depend on trust, which is under assault. [This is one of the best essays I read in 2018.] Related: The Republican party is using authoritarian methods in a power grab.
- Facebook isn’t just showing you ads. It’s selling your data to companies and showing that revenue as “advertising”. Here’s an example:
- Humans have some terrible tendencies: lie, betray and more
- OTOH: Here’s the paper describing the “general purpose” AI that learned (from zero) how to beat the best chess computer in 4 hours.
- Are we getting sick because we’re killing the helpful bacteria in our gut?
- Bill McKibbon on how badly we’re screwing up the planet. Sad.
- China is buying up media and journalists world-wide to promote “its good side” in yet another step into an illiberal world where power decides truth. 🙁
- A really nice history of the synthetic drugs that are messing up so many people
H/T to CD
As an economist, what unique perspectives do you bring or how do you weigh in on the increasingly anecdotal if not manichaean (morally bipolar) debate of porn-good / porn-bad? Is porn’s ubiquity symptomatic of a larger cultural dysfunctionality that has yet to be articulated in clarity, and is porn’s popularity a (or the) cause of this so-called “sex recession”?
If you’re interested in the role of sex in society and our sexual habits, then read the linked article above to think over the many reasons why younger people may be having less sex, fewer partners, and (perhaps) unfulfilling relationships.
Out of all the possible reasons listed in that article, I would emphasize how younger people are stressed about success, their “place” in social groups, and the paradox of (too much) choice. Back in the 90s, it wasn’t so easy to browse dozens of potential hook-ups per hour or compare your “success” to hundreds of “friends” and influencers filling social media feeds. Back then (and for all of human history), people hooked up according to their choices from a local pool of potentials. These days, you can compare yourself to the (artificial) profiles of far more people and get distracted/attracted to “horny locals” who are only a few clicks away.
Sadly, young people today are going to be less confident (and thus less attractive and less experienced at sex and relationships) if they get trapped in a downward spiral of “everyone has love… except me.” We see this problem at its worst with the InCel (involuntary celebrate) “movement” of guys who blame women for withholding sex. InCels didn’t exist 20 years ago (in any meaningful way) because it was harder to lust vicariously. With nothing to distract you at home, you went out and met other humans who were also looking for some action.
Turning to porn, I think that it is worsening this problem by creating false impressions of how people meet (“Hey pizza guy, how about anal?”); the role of romance, flirting and foreplay in sex (pizza guy is busy — drop your pants!); and conflating pay-for-view transactions with give-and-take relations.
I’ve never been a fan of porn (or prostitution), but I can see — as an economist — how there will be supply to meet demand. The drop in the price of porn has led to an increase in its variety and rate of consumption, which has probably had a negative impact on young men (usually) who spend time consuming porn rather than awkwardly learning how to flirt. (Girls tend to be more comfortable with the nuances of communication, but I’m sure those skills are underdeveloping as they too turn to social media fantasy, selfie narcicissm, and text-jibberish chatter.) Does porn contribute to cultural dysfunction? Absolutely: It offers an escape for guys trying to avoid the awkward phase of making themselves vulnerable by asking for others’ attention. It’s much easier to live in a fantasy relationship, just as it’s much easier to pretend you’re talking to someone by liking their update or texting some emoji’s.
(The alt-sex scene is different, but I think that gays and lesbians are experiencing similar issues. When it comes to trans-, queer- and gender-identity, I think that sex and relationships are going to be complicated by social norms and psychological wandering. Feel free to comment.)
So my one-handed conclusion is that porn is not the problem, nor the solution, but a symptom of young people having a harder time learning how to let go, take a chance, face rejection and get laid. We need more of this.
And a random question: First of all, is social capital a valid notion? And if so, why does it seem that social capital is not transactable via social media? Said differently, why is it impossible to actually make new friends on Facebook, get a job through LinkedIn, find a companion on OKStupid, etc? No matter what stage of trust one is at with someone else, it would seem that our social capital can only be accrued and spent in handshake transactions. And so, what can social media do for social capital at all? Simply squander it through embarrassing hyperbole or tactless attention-grabbing screeds?
This is a good question on one of my favorite topics. I’ll begin by referring you to my post (“Social media is neither social nor media“) but add a few more comments in response to your particulars.
First, social capital is indeed a real and important type of capital. People with more social capital are better insulated against shocks (insurance), better able to find work and other resources (information) and happier (collective identity). The bad news is that there is no short-cut to social capital: Money can’t buy you love. Relationships and trust need time and commitment.
Second, markets tend to displace social capital (relationships) by supplying substitutes at lower (transaction) costs. Thus, we can buy food from the store rather than bartering with the neighboring farmer. Thus, we hire babysitters for our kids and put grandma in the retirement home rather than living in extended families. In many cases, these market substitutions are better, but we also lose positive externalities (unintended benefits) when we replace relations with transactions. That’s why I worry sometimes that we’re overdoing it when it comes to outsourcing.
Third, most social media companies are promising something for nothing while manipulating you and selling your data. If you want to see what they really do, then read their financial and investor-facing documents. Facebook is NOT “connecting the world,” it’s selling advertising. LinkedIn is NOT about your career, but revenue from HR departments. OKCupid is NOT about love, but selling your personal details to marketeers. I can guarantee that any reader on this post is more likely to get friends, jobs and romance by meeting people face-to-face (at parties, bars, through friends, etc.) than putting in a few more clicks.
Fourth, social media has lowered the cost of connecting, which means that any given “demander” will be overwhelmed by supply. Influencers have so many friends that they cannot possibly say “hi” in response. Companies advertising jobs need bots to filter thousands of applicants. Attractive people on OkCupid and Tinder spend so much time saying no that they miss opportunities. Even when they do take a chance, they are nearly always tempted to drop someone with a slight flaw for a virtual perfection who pops into their feed.
(Stronger labor markets, btw, are reducing noise in this system as companies compete for workers and employed people waste less time on social media fantasies.)
My one-handed conclusion is that social media companies are making our lives worse by giving us false hopes, wasting our time, and selling our data. As above, I suggest spending more time in meat-space and less time in cyber-space.
- Trolls, Trump and college professors (?!) are responsible for America’s loss of civil discourse.
- The lessons of the financial crisis have not been learned.
- The best (?) supermarket in the US? (I think so.)
- This podcast with James Kenneth Galbraith (son of the more famous Galbraith) is interesting, even if he’s a bit smug.
- Would women with “real” rights stop carrying babies and instead focus on community? Related (?): Communists had a sex-positive culture.
- We all use drugs.
- Cities are getting better at using “meanwhile” spaces.
- “Reagan’s true legacy is a hollowing out of the middle class… that ultimately led to the financial crisis, a stupendous increase in the national debt, and a rise in inequality that gave rise to an oligarchy… and the resentment that elected Trump.” Read the paper [pdf].
- Housing cannot be affordable AND a good investment. Choose one.
- Veganism can “save the world” one soy-sausage at a time!
H/T to CD
- An update on the massive damage from palm oil plantations in Indonesia. What’s driving the destruction? American biofuel policies.
- Amazon delivers fast and cheap, but that’s the price of heavy workloads and stress. A 10 percent price increase might mean the difference between their misery and a sustainable work environment.
- Investors might cause a real revolution in climate policy if Exxon loses this lawsuit on deceiving investors over its climate change risk.
- Cryptoprices are down 80+ percent from their high, but the “decentralized web” (Web 3.0) is carrying on. Here’s an interesting tale of a social media site that was shut down because it was not decentralized enough.
- “In Pontevedra, 80 percent of kids age 6 to 12 walk alone to school“
- Who earns the most? Not the selfish (defectors) or generous (cooperators) but the mostly but not entirely unselfish. According to my research [pdf], about 70-80 percent of people are in this last category.
- Some insights into Russia’s “Silk Road” [Darknet market]
- How to get organized.
- “Weather and climate disasters in the United States cost an estimated $306 billion in 2017, about $100 billion more than ever before. Climate change isn’t an abstract threat for our grandchildren. It’s here.“
- A bribery case highlights how Venezuelan officials are making $billions off government controls and currency manipulation. Citizens suffer.
H/T to PB
I thought I’d have this book out last May, but it takes a lot of time to choose 445 posts (out of 5,460), edit them into a manuscript, and then make editing corrections (with the help of nearly 20 people).
But now that process is done, and The Best of Aguanomics is available!
What does that mean to you? Read on…
Should you buy it?
Not unless you’re going to read it. I am selling the book at cost (Amazon has added its 60 percent markup but that’s not money to me), so don’t buy it to send me money 😉
Should you read it?
The book is nearly 700 pages, but it’s not meant to be read cover to cover. I included posts if they contributed either to discussions on important topics or to exploring how I developed my thinking on ideas over the 11-year history of the blog. For examples of “important,” consider posts I wrote on agricultural policy, water auctions, important books, psychology, political corruption, academic failure, and many other topics (MOT). For examples of “development,” consider the collections I wrote on pricing water, climate change, and MOT. See below for MOT.
My main goal with this book was to summarize the best out of a massive body of work. I think it’s best read as a sampler that gives you a new topic each day (the average post is 500 words).
The book is available in paperback only on Amazon.com ($15.40), Amazon.co.uk (£12.80) and Amazon.de (€16.00). FYI, I am not providing kindle or PDF versions of the book because I want to encourage people to sit with a physical thing and think at their leisure about interesting ideas.
Here’s a short video introduction to the book:
How about a sample to give me an idea of MOT?
This PDF has the table of contents, Introduction and bits of 2 chapters.
Bonus: This spreadsheet has links to all 445 posts, grouped by chapter. You can use this as a “cheat” way to read the book, but I don’t recommend it because (1) there are so many posts and (2) I wrote a little bit about every post to put it into context (see the PDF sample).